Weather Pattern Favors Mild and Storm-Free

“As the days lengthen the cold doth strengthen.” Yes it doth.

We’ve already picked up 5 minutes of additional daylight since December 21, but temperatures don’t usually bottom out until the third week of January. There’s a lag after the Winter Solstice. A higher sun angle takes a month to compensate for snow cover and long winter nights to finally coax the mercury higher.

NOAA’s CFSv2 climate model predicts a milder than average January for most of Minnesota and the eastern half of the USA, but colder for the west and MUCH colder for Alaska.

Thanks to a persistent breeze from the Pacific (vs. the Yukon) temperatures should remain above average into late next week, with a run of 30s (above zero!) It could easily be -15F, so I’m counting my atmospheric blessings.

One day at a time, right?

A coating of snow is possible Friday, again Sunday but (forgive me if you’ve heard this before) the pattern isn’t ripe for jumbo storms.

This is halftime. Intermission. For now Old Man Winter is behaving himself.

Dry Today – Snowy Coating on Friday? Maps above courtesy of Praedictix and AerisWeather.

More Friday Snow South/West of MSP. ECMWF (European) guidance prints out about a half inch of slush on Friday for the metro, but plowable amounts over parts of southwestern Minnesota. Map: WeatherBell.

Above Average Temperatures Next 7-8 Days. More 20s and a few 30s (above zero!) into late next week before an inevitable correction as we push into mid-January. Yes, at some point we’ll get smacked around by numbing air, but it remains to be seen whether we’ll experience an extended period of polar pain later this month. ECMWF (top) and GFS (bottom) courtesy of WeatherBell.

Reality Check? Peering out over the horizon nearly 2 weeks into the future NOAA’s GFS model looks seasonably cold by mid-January; suggesting single-digit highs and a few subzero lows. We’ll see how quickly a zonal flow bounces back with a rerun of milder, Pacific air.

Snowfall Data. Winter snowfall is over 25″ for the Twin Cities, to date, nearly 4″ snowier than average. Duluth’s 56.3″ is nearly 2 feet above average, to date. Maps: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Australian Wildfires Trap More Than 4,000 People on Beach in Mallacoota. Daily Beast has the jaw-dropping details: “More than 4,000 people, including residents, hundreds of tourists, and children, are trapped on beaches near the town of Mallacoota on Australia’s east coast, surrounded as raging wildfires fueled by strong winds are barreling toward them. Officials are telling them they may need to jump into the sea to save themselves. David Jeffrey, a local business owner, told BBC News that he and other residents sheltering on an adjacent beach nearby were preparing to jump into the sea before sudden winds pushed the flames in the other direction…”

Top Five Weather Events of 2019 in Minnesota. Thanks to Pete Boulay and his colleagues at the Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office: “Here are the results of voting for the top five weather events of 2019 from the Minnesota State Climatology Office. Votes were cast from various weather enthusiasts including the National Weather Service, the University of Minnesota, State agencies and Facebook followers. Please visit us on Facebook  and post your own top five weather events for Minnesota.

#3 Record Snows of February 2019

February is not typically known as a snowy month. February 2019 was an exception. The Twin Cities total of 39 inches broke the old record of 26.5 inches by over a foot. There were five calendar days of at least 4 inches of snow. A typical winter usually sees two or three such events. Rochester also set its record of 40.0 inches, St. Cloud had 27.6 inches. This was also the snowiest February on record at 47 of Minnesota’s older National Weather Service cooperative observing stations, from all corners of the state.

#2 Another Very Wet Year in Minnesota

2019 was excessively wet across central and southern Minnesota. This caused many issues with high water and high stream and river flows for a good part of the year. Some annual precipitation records fell for major cities, including over 43 inches in the Twin Cities and over 55 inches at Rochester. Despite these high totals, no location threatened the statewide record of 60.21 inches, set at Harmony in 2018.

#1 Cold Outbreak: January 27-31, 2019

This arctic outbreak followed in the wake of a vigorous Alberta Clipper. It was noteworthy for having the coldest air measured in Minnesota since 1996, and the lowest wind chills since the 1980s. Cotton, MN had an air temperature of -56F and the Twin Cities saw -28 F. Many schools were closed for four days in a row, including the University of Minnesota on the 30th. US Postal mail service was stopped statewide. The Minnesota State Climatology Office was open as usual...”

2019 Was a Brutal Year for American Farmers. No kidding. Vox has a good summary of what was an awful year: “US farmers have taken a particularly harsh beating this year from a one-two punch of nasty flooding exacerbated by climate change and a trade war with China. Severe floods spurred by record rainfall soaked the southeast and the Midwest this summer, delaying plantings of corn and soy crops. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that the 12-month period ending in May of this year was the wettest 12 months on record in the United States. (NOAA’s full climate and weather assessment for 2019 will be available in January.) Flooding on the Mississippi River this year also set records for how long it lasted in several locations. In August, the US Department of Agriculture reported that farmers weren’t able to plant more than 19.4 million acres of cropland in 2019, the most since reporting began in 2007. Most of this area was spread across 12 states in the Midwest and Great Plains...”

Map credit: “Corn planting was significantly delayed this year in states like Illinois and Indiana due in part to severe floods.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Decade in Review: 10 of the Biggest U.S. Weather Stories of the 2010s. SFGate has a pretty good list and recap of what made news since 2010, including Superstorm Sandy: “…This massive tempest, part-hurricane, part extratropical storm, killed at least 100 people in the United States and cost $65 billion, primarily due to massive amount of water it pushed into the Northeast coast and the resulting coastal flooding. The storm formed in the Caribbean, reaching peak strength as a Category 3 hurricane when it hit Cuba on October 25, 2012. From there, Sandy quickly swept northward ahead of an approaching cold front over the United States. The European’s ECMWF weather model latched onto the idea of Sandy’s virtually unprecedented left-hand turn toward the U.S. Northeast coast as much as a week in advance. The National Hurricane Center’s forecast called for a hit to New Jersey the evening of October 26, three days in advance. The storm roared ashore just south of Atlantic City, N.J. with 80 mph sustained winds on October 29...”

Sandy file image: NASA.

20 Experts Predict the Most Significant Weather and Climate Advances of the Next Decade. Dr. Marshall Shepherd has some interesting predictions at Forbes: “…As we move into the next decade, I wanted to pull out a “crystal ball” and see what’s next on the horizon for the weather and climate community. I reached out to a cohort of 20 weather and climate experts for their projections…”

I see the next decade featuring a significant application of machine learning methods to numerical weather prediction output. Systems like MOS will likely be replaced by such algorithms making for even better local point forecasting. Think of it as using statistical downscaling on output with horizontal grid spacings likely 1km (by the end of the decade) for hyperlocal forecasts. I do wonder if we have the proper calibrated observations to train such models, but perhaps we will see improvements in this area over the next ten years too. We may also see the first “operational” convection permitting global climate model by the end of the decade. That would be a significant leap for the climate research community.

Dr. Victor Gensini, Professor at Northern Illinois University

Photo credit above: “NASA’s ECOSTRESS is using AI and other advanced technology to study Earth.” NASA.

Amazon Rainforest Lost Equivalent of 8.4 Million Soccer Fields This Decade Due to Deforestation. has a harrowing update: “The Amazon rainforest has lost the equivalent of 8.4 million soccer fields over the past decade due to deforestation. That’s about 24,000 square miles, or about 10.3 million American football fields. Put another way, it’s the equivalent of losing Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The stunning figure is from the Royal Statistical Society, which chose it as its international statistic of the decade. The British organization is comprised of statisticians from around the world. “The statistic only gives a snapshot of the issue, but it really provides an insight into the dramatic change to the landscape that has occurred over the past decade,” Liberty Vittert, a visiting scholar at Harvard University and one of the statisticians on the judging panel for the RSS, told CNN...”

10 Worst Tech Product Launches of the 2010s. (paywall) looks back with a mix of nostalgia and horror: “…Apple wrote the manual for the smartphone: Control the platform, lock users in, and win the game. Amazon, looking to cut out the various middlemen between customers and its services, figured it could do the same … by launching a new smartphone platform in 2014. The company utterly failed at nearly every aspect of this endeavor, proudly unveiling a slow and a tragically unhip device with an unfinished operating system at an iPhone-worthy price. Users and critics laughed, and within six weeks Amazon slashed the cost to 99 cents. It still didn’t sell (though Amazon never released sales statistics), and the company wrote off $170 million in unsold phones before discontinuing it altogether...”

2020 in Science: A SpaceX Bonanza, Lab-Grown Brains, and More. takes a look at what is imminent: “…In May, SpaceX launched its first batch of 60 Starlink satellites, which the company hopes to use to bathe the Earth in broadband internet. Since then the company has tossed 60 more Starlink satellites into orbit, and before the end of the decade it will add 60 more. This already makes Starlink the largest satellite constellation in history by a large margin, but the company is just getting started. In early January 2020, SpaceX will begin an even more aggressive launch schedule for its internet satellites. A few months ago, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said the company could do as many as 24 Starlink launches next year.This amounts to some 1,440 new satellites in orbit, which is just shy of the total number of operating satellites around Earth today. To complete its constellation, SpaceX will need roughly 12,000 satellites, but it is already drawing heat from astronomers who claim the Starlink satellites are ruining the night sky for science...”

Texas Preteen Gets Magnifying Glass – Sets Front Yard on Fire. Whoops! The Washington Post has the story: “Two Texas parents are now laughing and looking at some melted outdoor Christmas lights on their front lawn because of a present they gave their son. Cayden Parson, 12, asked his parents for a magnifying glass, among other things, for Christmas. Because their son loves books so much, his parents thought he would use it for reading, Nissa-Lynn Parson, 42, told The Washington Post. The former Boy Scout had another idea in mind: He wanted to see if he could burn holes in a newspaper. The boys marveled at how hot the newspaper got until wind came along, causing the lit newspaper to blow out of Ashton’s hand and onto the dry, brown Texas grass. As soon as the kids yelled about the blaze, family members rushed outside in their matching Christmas pajamas to do whatever they could to contain it…”

Photo credit: “Eight-year old Brady Parson takes in the aftermath of the fire in his family’s front yard his older brothers accidentally started.” (Nissa-Lynn Parson).

5″ snow on the ground at MSP.

34 F. maximum Twin Cities temperature yesterday.

24 F. average high on January 1.

11 F. high on January 1, 2019.

January 2, 1941: Grand Portage gets over 4.5 inches of precipitation in 24 hours. That’s roughly how much normally falls there during the ‘winter’ months from November to February. Data: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, mild. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 35

FRIDAY: Coating of light snow possible. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 21. High: 29

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, a quiet pattern. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 12. High: 28

SUNDAY: Slushy coating of snow possible. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 22. High: 34

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, should be dry. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 25. High: 33

TUESDAY: Flurries taper, skies slowly clear. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 18. High: 28

WEDNESDAY: Sun gives way to increasing clouds. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 6. High: 26

Climate Stories…

Australia’s Angry Summer: This is What Climate Change Looks Like. Scientific American reports: “…The fires raging across the southern half of the Australian continent this year have so far burned through more than 5 million hectares. To put that in context, the catastrophic 2018 fire season in California saw nearly 740,000 hectares burned. The Australian fire season began this year in late August (before the end of our winter). Fires have so far claimed nine lives, including two firefighters, and destroyed around 1,000 homes. It is too early to tell what the toll on our wildlife has been, but early estimates suggest that around 500 million animals have died so far, including 30 percent of the koala population in their main habitat. And this is all before we have even reached January and February, when the fire season typically peaks in Australia…”

Climate Solutions: Technologies to Slow Climate Change. EcoWatch has a list of promising technologies that can slow the rate of CO2 emissions: “…Battery storage will be critical,” said Joao Gouveia, a senior fellow at Project Drawdown, a research organization that analyzes climate solutions. “It will allow the integration of more and more renewable tech. We cannot have 70 percent [of renewable energy by 2050] coming from wind and solar if we don’t apply battery storage systems.” Holding batteries back are aging electricity grids and costs that, despite falling each year, remain high. But electric vehicles could act as a storage system, said Gouveia, with owners buying electricity at night to charge their cars and selling it to the grid when demand is high and cars are parked, idle, during the day. “We are finding new lithium reserves because this is a tech for both markets, so we’re innovating more and more...”

Climate Change Investing Catches on With Millennials Who Believe It’s Pressing – and Profitable. Here’s an excerpt from a post at “Investing for climate change had been a niche on Wall Street, often generating sub-par returns, but in the coming decade it is expected to become a much broader and more critical investment strategy, driven by a new generation of investors. The millennial investor is the most interested in impact investing, with nearly 90% setting it as a first investment criteria, in an investor survey, according to Bank of America Securities. That contrasts with just under half of baby boomers, who invest with a similar top priority on ESG or environmental, social and governance criteria…”

Greta Thunberg and Mass Protests Defined the Year in Climate Change. NBC News reports: “Most climate scientists will be quick to say that 2019 was the year that Greta Thunberg truly became a force to be reckoned with. The 16-year-old Swedish activist staged solo “Fridays for Future” school strikes that triggered a global phenomenon drawing millions of people into the streets to protest climate inaction. The teen has since become the face of that newly energized climate movement and was recently named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. “She represents the best of humanity,” said Benjamin Houlton, a professor of global environmental studies at the University of California, Davis. “She frightens those in power right now because she has a very clear message and she’ll continue to be an important crusader...”

Image credit: “The influence of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg helped launch a global movement of climate action.” Chelsea Stahl / NBC News.

A Year of Climate Records and Three Great Climate Change Investments. A post at Forbes caught my eye: “…Carbon Engineering has found a way to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (called “Direct Air Capture” or DAC) and put it to use in industrial applications (specifically Enhanced Oil Recovery or EOR) or turn it into transportation fuel that can be used in any internal combustion engine…The exciting news for the team at CE is that Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, has commissioned the firm to build the first commercial-scale DAC plant in the Permian Basin in Texas. In September, the firm announced the plant’s capacity was being increased to 1,000,000 tons per year of CO2 capture. This is a big deal for Carbon Engineering’s investors and stakeholders, of course. But I don’t think it is too much to say that this project holds great potential for humankind…”

Photo credit: “Carbon Engineering’s test facility in picturesque Squamish, BC.” Carbon Engineering.

How Some Florida Communities Are Adjusting to Climate Change. Keep an eye on south Florida, which will be ground zero for adaptation and resilience in the USA. Here’s an excerpt of an interview at NPR: “…Well, in Florida, Miami Beach has really been at the forefront of this. For about a decade now, they’ve been dealing with this thing that sometimes people call sunny day flooding. It’s when the sun’s shining. There’s no rain, but the streets get flooded because of seasonal high tides. Sometimes, they’re called king tide, happens mostly in the fall. So several years ago, the city committed to begin spending several hundred million dollars on infrastructure – you know, pumps, seawalls, raising the roads. And you’re seeing other local governments throughout Florida follow suit. It’s a problem that they’re facing right now in the Florida Keys, you know, the island chain just off the coast here in Florida. On Key Largo this summer, because of a series of king tides, one community found its streets were flooded for at least three months...”

File photo: Emily Michot, Miami Herald.