Stumbling Into a “Goldilocks Winter”?
Will this be a Goldilocks Winter? Enough frozen water to satisfy Minnesota snow-lovers, without the polar pain of 25 below? We seem to be moving in that direction this winter.
To date: only 2 subzero nights at MSP and winter snowfall in the metro is running 8 inches above average, with more snow likely this weekend. Wait, we’ve saved 9 percent on our heating bills AND we can go out and romp in the snow? It sure looks that way, studying maps and models.
While residents from Des Moines to Chicago dig out from 5-10 inches, Minnesota will see a dry, chilly week – with ample sunshine. If anyone asks (doubtful) we’ve picked up 46 minutes of daylight since December 21.
Our biggest storms approach from the south, and the pattern may become more interesting next weekend. Models suggest a fire-hose of southern moisture with snow arriving Saturday and lingering into Sunday. Plowable amounts are possible.
The first week of February may bring a thaw but I’d wager on a (real) cold front 2-3 weeks from now.
A Relatively Balmy January. Dr. Mark Seeley has details on lingering warmth in this week’s edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk: “…It looks like this January may end up among the 5 warmest in state history based on statewide climate data so far. Through two-thirds of the month, temperatures are running from 8 to 17 degrees F above normal. The last ten days of the month will not all be warmer than normal, but a mixture of above and below normal values. This will mean that the average temperature for January in Minnesota may not be as cold as December was. Nevertheless, we can anticipate a period of three consecutive months with monthly mean temperatures above normal. The persistence of warmer than normal temperatures has been so strong that the November through January period may end up among the 5 warmest historically as well...”
Chilly (But Sunny) Week Shaping Up. Teens and 20s for highs in late January? Above zero? OK, I can live with this, especially if the sun is out. Temperatures bottom out Wednesday morning before climbing above average by the weekend. And yes, another snow event is shaping up for next weekend.
Long-Duration Weekend Snow Event? It’s too early to speculate about details, but we will have a flow of southern moisture and a fairly deep dome of cold air overhead, meaning all snow, and the possibility of 36 hours of snowfall. Plowable? Possibly – let’s see a few more model runs and see if this is real.
Mellowing Temperatures. ECMWF (top) shows temperatures 5-15F above average in late January and early February, and GFS (below) suggests relative warmth until February 9, give or take a week. Repeat after me: mild, Pacific bias.
Storm Potential Second Week of February. If the GFS solution above verifies Minnesota could be in the sweet spot for a parade of western storms, fattened up with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, with enough cold air in place for mostly snow. Then again, I may be delusional.
World Hammered by Record 50 Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in 2020. Dr. Jeff Masters writes for Yale Climate Connections: “Earth was besieged by a record 50 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2020, the most such disasters ever recorded after adjusting for inflation, said insurance broker Aon (formerly called Aon Benfield) in its annual report issued January 25. The previous record was 46 billion-dollar weather disasters, set in 2010 and 2011. The annual average of billion-dollar weather disasters since records began in 1990 is 29. The combined economic losses (insured and uninsured) from all 416 weather and earthquake disasters cataloged by Aon in 2020 was $268 billion (2020 USD). Most of the 2020 total, by far, came from weather-related disasters ($258 billion), 29% above the 2001-2020 inflation-adjusted average. Those numbers make 2020 the fifth costliest year on record for weather-related disasters…”
Increasing Numbers of U.S. Residents Live in High-Risk Wildfire and Flood Zones. Why? Details via State of the Planet, at Columbia University’s Earth Institute: “The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that around 13 million Americans are living within a 100-year flood zone. But over the last few years, researchers have found that the government’s estimates are far lower than the ground realities. A 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters states that, taking into account the risk of flooding from rivers, about 41 million people are exposed to flood risk. That roughly equals three times more than FEMA’s estimates of residents who live in areas with a 1 percent chance of floods striking during any year. A calculation in mid-2020 estimated that at least 14.6 million properties are located in the 100-year flood zone, according to First Street Foundation, a group of New York-based academics and experts…”
History Made: Renewable Energy Surpassed Fossil Fuels for European Electricity in 2020. CNN Business has the post: “Europeans got more of their electricity from renewable sources than fossil fuels for the first time last year, according to an annual report from Ember and Agora Energiewende. The report, which has been tracking EU’s power sector since 2015, found that renewables delivered 38% of electricity last year, compared to 37% delivered by fossil fuels. The shift comes as other sources, such as wind and solar power, have risen in the European Union. Both sources have nearly doubled since 2015, and as of last year accounted for one-fifth of electricity generation in EU countries, the report found. It’s also the reason why coal power declined 20% last year, making up only 13% of electricity generated in Europe…”
Remembering the Night When Two Atomic Bombs Fell – On North Carolina. National Geographic has the terrifying details: “…Within an hour, in the early morning of January 24, a military helicopter was hovering overhead. Above the whomp-whomp of the blades, an amplified voice kept repeating the same word: “Evacuate!” “We didn’t know why,” Reeves recalls. “We didn’t ask why. We just got out of there.” What the voice in the chopper knew, but Reeves didn’t, was that besides the wreckage of the ill-fated B-52, somewhere out there in the winter darkness lay what the military referred to as “broken arrows”—the remains of two 3.8-megaton thermonuclear atomic bombs. Each contained more firepower than the combined destructive force of every explosion caused by humans from the beginning of time to the end of World War II…”
46 Amazing Facts About All 45 American Presidents. A few nuggets here I absolutely did not know. Mental Floss addresses President Biden’s love of rescue animals: “…Among Joe Biden’s family members making their way to the White House with him are two beloved German Shepherds, Champ and Major—and one of them is making history. Major, who was adopted from the Delaware Humane Association in Wilmington, Delaware, in 2018 will be the first shelter dog to ever occupy the position of First Pet...”
Walz, DFL Leaders Announce Plan for 100% Clean Energy in Minnesota by 2050. KSTP.com has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…The four-part plan includes:
- Achieving 100% clean energy by 2040, requiring all electric utilities in the state to use only carbon-free energy resources by 2040 while setting interim goals along the way. It includes provisions to help workers and communities affected by the transition, while prioritizing local jobs and prevailing wages for large, new clean energy projects.
- Prioritizing clean energy first, so when a utility proposes replacing or adding new power generation, energy efficiency is prioritized over fossil fuels.
- Energy optimization, raising the state’s energy efficiency resource standard for utilities and expanding the Conservation Improvement Program while encouraging utilities to develop new innovative new programs to help consumers and businesses switch to cleaner, more efficient energy...”
Climate Change Will Cause a Shift in Earth’s Tropical Rain Belt – Threatening Water and Food Supply for Billions, Study Says. CBS News summarizes the findings: “By 2100, billions of people are at risk of facing more flooding, higher temperatures and less food and water. A new study published in “Nature Climate Change” found that the climate change will cause the Earth’s tropical rain belt to unevenly shift in areas that cover almost two-thirds of the world, potentially threatening environmental safety and food security for billions of people. The tropical rain belt, otherwise known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, is a narrow area that circles the Earth near the equator where trade winds from the Northern and Southern hemispheres meet…”
Informing the New Administration: Action on Climate Change for a More Sustainable, Resilient Future. The National Academies has some ideas for prioritizing climate action; here’s an excerpt: “…To truly reverse course on climate change, the nation needs a broad portfolio of climate responses that begin now and are sustained for decades. At the core are efforts to limit future climate change by rapidly reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — the focus of several recent and upcoming National Academies reports and initiatives. For instance, a study committee that is examining how to sensibly accelerate decarbonization of the U.S. energy system and move toward net-zero emissions will soon release a report that assesses “no regrets” policies, strategies, and research directions that can be acted upon quickly, considering both technical and socio-economic goals. The committee’s final publication, expected in early 2022, will more broadly identify technology, policy, and social and behavioral changes to put the U.S. on a path to an eventual carbon-free economy...”
Big Oil Hits Brakes on Search for New Fossil Fuels. Reuters has details: “Top oil and gas companies sharply slowed their search for new fossil fuel resources last year, data shows, as lower energy prices due to the coronavirus crisis triggered spending cuts. Acquisitions of new onshore and offshore exploration licenses for the top five Western energy giants dropped to the lowest in at least five years, data from Oslo-based consultancy Rystad Energy showed. The number of exploration licensing rounds dropped last year due to the epidemic while companies including Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Total also reduced spending, Rystad Energy analyst Palzor Shenga said...”
World Leaders Urged to Learn from Pandemic in Adapting to Climate Change. Here’s the intro to an analysis at Thomson Reuters Foundation: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world what it is like to go through a dangerous emergency of the kind that could occur if climate change accelerates – and offers lessons on how to respond, the head of the U.N. climate science panel said Friday. Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the health crisis was “a foretaste of what climate change could do to our society, to nature and to our lives”. “Both climate change and COVID-19 have shown us the risks of an unthinking and rapacious approach to nature and its resources,” he told an event at which scientists stressed the importance of adapting to a warming planet. Lee said leaders should address both crises by investing in a sustainable and resilient recovery…”