Minnesota Winter Olympics Is Well Underway

With apologies to NBC, Minnesotans participate in the Winter Olympics every year. Aerobic shivering. Advanced boot-stomping. Vehicular ice dancing is a personal favorite (no flips please!) Unless you’re fleeing to Florida or Arizona, every one of you should get a gold medal for participating.

A Pioneer Thursday is shaping up: subzero with a windchill dipping to -25F. Air temperatures bottom out around -17F Friday morning before recovering above zero by afternoon. We collectively exhale on Saturday with a high near 32F, before another arctic slap Sunday and Monday. 20s and a few 30s are possible late next week, but the pattern looks colder than average into much of January. Which isn’t shocking, considering January is our coldest month of the year. No big snow events are shaping up anytime soon.

In today’s blog, the Top 5 Minnesota Weather Events of 2021, courtesy of the MN DNR. A February Polar Vortex event, drought, smoke, and the biggest tornado outbreak of the year, coming on December 15.


Twin Cities National Weather Service


Snowfall Amounts. Here’s a good link to keep up with the latest snowfall totals for your zip code.

Thursday Future Clouds/Precipitation

Partly Polar. I sure hope this is some of the coldest air of the winter – coming in January, which isn’t unusual at all. Maybe if we get the negative numbers out of the way (now) February ‘22 will be kinder and gentler than February ‘21? Then again, I’m not feeling lucky.

ECMWF Temperatures for MSP
NOAA GFS Temperatures for MSP

Pass the Barf Bag Please. A numbing stretch into early next week, but both ECMWF and GFS hint at a longer stretch of “moderation” by the latter half of next week.

Partly Polar 2.0. Looking 2 weeks into the future 500mb GFS forecasts position a big, fat chunk of the Polar Vortex over Hudson Bay. If this verifies it would imply an extended stretch of very cold weather for much of the USA east of the Rockies by the third week of January.


Winter Outlook: NOAA CPC predicts warmer for the south and colder for the far west, a coin-flip for Minnesota. Place your bets.

Map extent of traffic standstill on Interstate 95 (The Washington Post)
NOAA, Google Traffic, Washington Post

I-95 Reopens in Virginia After Winter Storm Forced Closure That Stranded Motorists. What a mess. Who is to blame? The Washington Post (paywall) delves into the details: “…State Police and transportation officials took to the air to monitor progress because highway traffic cameras went dark amid power outages, Northam said. While expressing sympathy for stranded motorists, Northam said more should have heeded warnings to stay off the roads. “We gave warnings, and people need to pay attention to these warnings, and the less people that are on the highways when these storms hit, the better,” he said. “I feel for these people that are stranded but just want to let them know we’re doing everything we can to get to them in a very challenging situation.” But some motorists said they aren’t to blame for what they saw as government officials’ poor planning...”

Could Being Cold Actually Be Good For You? Man, I hope so. Minnesotans are “well preserved”. A post at WIRED.com (paywall) explains the potential benefits: “…Researchers know that your body reacts when it’s cold. New fat appears, muscles change, and your level of comfort rises with prolonged exposure to cold. But what all this means for modern human health—and whether we can harness the effects of cold to improve it—are still open questions. One vein of research is trying to understand how cold-induced changes in fat or muscle can help stave off metabolic disease, such as diabetes. Another suggests it’s easier than you might think to get comfortable in the cold—without blasting the heat. To Haman, these are useful scientific questions because freezing is one of our bodies’ oldest existential threats. “Cold, to me, is [one of] the most fascinating stimuli because cold is probably the biggest challenge that humans can have,” he says. “Even though heat is challenging, as long as I have access to water, and to shade, I will survive fairly well. The cold is completely the opposite…”

A fire-ravaged section of Original Town Superior (foreground) lies amid fresh snow cover on January 2, 2022. Few if any modern U.S. wildfires have seen suburban communities devoured by fire and then covered by snow less than 36 hours later. After 11.2” of snowfall, the temperature in nearby Boulder dipped to –2°F on the morning of January 2.
Image credit: Bob Henson

A Month of Unprecedented U.S. Weather Disasters Ends with Colorado Fire Catastrophe. Bob Henson summarizes last week’s wild fire northwest of Denver for Yale Climate Connections: “Several weeks of truly bizarre December weather in the United States – ranging from eerily pleasant to horrific – ended with a fierce windstorm on December 30 that drove Colorado’s most destructive wildfire on record. A preliminary count showed 991 structures were consumed by the Marshall Fire in exurban and suburban areas between Boulder and Denver. The blaze is just behind California’s Thomas fire (Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, December 2017) as the nation’s most destructive wildfire in modern records for meteorological winter (December through February). The Thomas fire took two lives and destroyed 1,063 structures, according to Cal Fire. Two people remained missing from the Marshall Fire as of Tuesday morning, January 4…”

Number One for 2021: December 15 Severe Storms and Tornadoes.
Courtesy: The Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office

Top Five 2021 Weather Events in Minnesota. The Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office has the official list, including the top meteorological story of last year: “…#1 Historic Mid-December Severe Weather and Wind Event, December 15-16, 2021. This runaway #1 would have been a top-five candidate any time of year, but its out-of-season timing, as much as its potency, made it a “career” or “generational” event that had never before been recorded in Minnesota. A powerful cyclone brought warm air, high dew point temperatures and summer-like severe weather into Minnesota. As of December 29, twenty tornadoes have been confirmed, the strongest of which, rated EF-2, struck the town of Hartland in Freeborn County. Damaging thunderstorm winds tracked across several states and qualified as a “derecho,” and the same system brought additional damaging non-thunderstorm winds due to the pressure gradient. The warm air out ahead of the storm brought the fastest snow melt seen in December in the Twin Cities. The snow depth went from 12 inches on December 11 to zero on the 16th…”

Paul Douglas

The Wild Idea to End Droughts by Triggering Artificial Rain. The Daily Beast focuses on the difficulties of nudging Mother Nature one way or another: “…Studies have shown cloud seeding may increase precipitation by anywhere from 5 to 15 percent. Friedrich cautions, however, that this can vary wildly, and we still don’t have a great sense of what interfering with condensation and precipitation in the atmosphere will actually lead to. “Once you manipulate the cloud, you don’t really know what this cloud would have produced in terms of precipitation without the manipulation,” Friedrich said. “It’s really important to run models where you can maybe simulate the impact of these different technologies…”

Ford F-150 Lightning

The 20 Best EVs Coming in 2022. WIRED.com takes a look at a new crop of all-electric options, and the variety will just keep on growing over time: “…To say the Lightning electric pickup truck is a huge deal for Ford is, frankly, putting it mildly. After all, the regular internal-combustion F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle of any kind in the US for over 40 years. This may explain why the look has largely been left untouched. However, everything else has changed. Some 563 hp and 775 pound-feet of torque are provided by dual electric motors. Two battery options offer 230 miles of range from the standard pack and 300 miles for the Extended Range model. You also get a huge “frunk” (front trunk), thanks to the lack of an engine, the ability to tow up to 10,000 lbs, and the Pro Power Onboard system, which provides up to 9.6 kW of power for all manner of tools, electronics, microwave ovens, and other appliances via 11 outlets spread across the cab, bed, and front boot…”

Coming Soon: Lickable TV Screens. Hard pass. Mental Floss explains new technology that I suspect few will want: “You’re watching The Great British Bake Off when someone whips up a treat so enticing that you momentarily contemplate licking your TV screen. The idea isn’t as outrageous as you might think. As Nerdist reports, Homei Miyashita, a professor at Tokyo’s Meiji University, recently developed a television that you can actually lick—and it’s more hygienic than it sounds. Basically, the so-called “Taste the TV” device, or TTTV, has 10 canisters that each contain a flavored spray. Those sprays create different flavor combinations, which then get deployed onto a disposable plastic sheet that covers the TV screen. All you have to do is request a flavor, wait for the machine to work its magic, and lick away…”

22 F. Twin Cities maximum temperature on Wednesday.

24 F. average high on January 5.

34 F. MSP high on January 5, 2021.

January 6, 1942: The temperature rises from 32 below zero to 41 above in 24 hours in Pipestone.

THURSDAY: Some sun, feels like -25F. Winds: NW 10-15. High: -5

FRIDAY: Chilly start. Partly sunny skies. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: -17. High: 8

SATURDAY: Sunny breaks, feeling better out there. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 7. High: 32

SUNDAY: Arctic winds return. Chill: -20 to -30. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: -7. High: -3

MONDAY: Coating of flurries possible. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: -11. High: 3

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy and quiet. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: -8. High: 13

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, closer to average. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 7. High: 24

Climate Stories…

FEMA, The Washington Post

More Than 40 Percent of Americans Live in Counties Hit by Climate Disasters in 2021. The Washington Post has perspective on last year’s unnatural disasters: “2021 ended as it began: with disaster. Twelve months after an atmospheric river deluged California, triggering mudslides in burned landscapes and leaving a half-million people without power, a late-season wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes in the suburbs of Denver. In between, Americans suffered blistering heat waves, merciless droughts and monstrous hurricanes. People collapsed in farm fields and drowned in basement apartments; entire communities were obliterated by surging seas and encroaching flames. More than 4 in 10 Americans live in a county that was struck by climate-related extreme weather last year, according to a new Washington Post analysis of federal disaster declarations, and more than 80 percent experienced a heat wave...”


Another Sign Things are Getting Weird: Lightning Around the North Pole Increased Dramatically in 2021. CNN.com reports: “As extreme weather wreaked havoc across the globe in 2021, a stunning change was happening in the far northern Arctic, largely out of sight but detectable by a network of sensors. Lightning increased significantly in the region around the North Pole, which scientists say is a clear sign of how the climate crisis is altering global weather. Vaisala, an environmental monitoring company that tracks lightning around the world, reported 7,278 lightning strokes occurred last year north of 80 degrees latitude, nearly twice as many as the previous nine years combined. Arctic lightning is rare — even more so at such far northern latitudes — and scientists use it as a key indicator of the climate crisis, since the phenomena signals warming temperatures in the predominantly frozen region…”


New York Times

Biden “Over-promised and Under-delivered on Climate. Now, Trouble Looms in 2022. The New York Times (paywall) has an analysis worth your time: “As the new year opens, President Biden faces an increasingly narrow path to fulfill his ambitious goal of slashing the greenhouse gases generated by the United States that are helping to warm the planet to dangerous levels. His Build Back Better Act, which contains $555 billion in proposed climate action, is in limbo on Capitol Hill. The Supreme Court is set to hear a pivotal case in February that could significantly restrict his authority to regulate the carbon dioxide that spews from power plants and is driving climate change. And the midterm elections loom in November, threatening his party’s control of Congress. Since Republicans have shown little appetite for climate action, a Republican takeover of one or both chambers could freeze movement for years...”


To Fight Climate Change, First You Have to Measure It. A post at WIRED.com (paywall) is a worthy read: “From devastating wildfires to polar bears clinging to melting ice floes, there’s no shortage of shocking images to illustrate the need for action on climate change. But collecting reliable data to track the rate of change—and help determine how to tackle it—is much less straightforward. Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, South West London, are using precise monitoring equipment to measure pollutants and track our impact on the planet more accurately than ever before. The lab’s latest tool is Boreas, a laser spectrometer designed to collect and analyze methane—a greenhouse gas emitted by dozens of human activities, from agriculture to burning fuel. At an unassuming telecommunications tower in Heathfield, Surrey, Boreas works 24 hours a day in all weather conditions to sample large volumes of air…”


Climate Satire ‘Don’t Look Up’ Tops Netflix: I’ve seen the movie and it strikes the right tone when it comes to science-denial, something climate scientists have been dealing with for decades. Climate Nexus has details and links: “Netflix’s star-studded satirical climate allegory Don’t Look Up debuted for streaming on Christmas Eve as the platform’s top movie. Reactions were mixed about the thinly-veiled allegorical saga of politicians ignoring scientists about the threat of an impending planet-killing comet before a tech billionaire tries to mine it. The volume of discourse generated by the film — fueled in part by a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep — illustrates popular culture demand for art and media on the climate crisis.” (Earther, Atmos; Commentary: Slate, Tyler Austin Harper review, CNN, Brian Lowry review, TIME, Justin Worland commentary, NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour, CNN, Holly Thomas review, New York Times, Manohla Dargis $, Reuters, Antony Currie review).

Karen Kosiba and Josh Wurman study Doppler Radar imagery of the Marshall Fire on Dec. 30, 2021.
Photo: Josh Aikins, University of Illinois

Climate Scientists Grapple with Colorado Wildfire Disaster. Axios points out the earth scientists and meteorologists who were close to ground zero for the recent conflagration northwest of Denver: “…Karen Kosiba of the Center for Severe Weather Research helped to deploy a “Doppler on Wheels” (DOW) unit — a truck with a rotating, highly sensitive radar attached to it — to scan the smoke plume. The data her team gathered on Thursday could prove valuable to fire scientists, insurance adjusters and others. Accustomed to deploying to tornado outbreaks and landfalling hurricanes, Kosiba said watching this event unfold was more emotionally taxing than usual. “If we are there with a DOW, that’s usually not a good thing,” Kosiba said. “Usually, I am looking in from the outside. This time I was on the inside,” watching parts of her community burn. “I could see tufts of black smoke popping up and you just knew that was someone’s house that just caught fire. I could see flames...”

Climate Change is Making Your Seasonal Allergies Worse, According to New Research. It seems allergy season is nearly year-round now. A post at Martha Stewart (please don’t laugh) explains: “Itching, sneezing, and watery eyes are all things you’re familiar with if you struggle with seasonal allergies. While these cold-like symptoms are triggered by outdoor and indoor allergens—think pollen and dust mites—that are typically more rampant during spring, a new study suggests that climate change has lengthened hay fever season. The research, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that global warming is causing extra weeks of seasonal allergies. To obtain their findings, the researchers analyzed measurements of airborne pollen and mold across the United States and Canada between 1990 and 2018 as documented by the National Allergy Bureau. The measurements were collected between those years and hand-counted by staff at 60 stations across both countries...”

File image
Star Tribune

As the Climate Changes, New Efforts Arise to Diversify What’s Grown in the Corn Belt. Food and Environment Reporting Network has details: “…Linda Prokopy, a professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue and the lead investigator on the project, says that diversifying beyond traditional corn and soybean systems can have both ecological and economic benefits for farmers, as well as help them adapt to climate change. “Growing corn and soybeans exclusively in the Midwest is not sustainable in the long run,” she said. “As the climate continues to change, corn is not expected to yield very well in this area.” A diversity of crops means that as the weather changes, farmers will have a range of crops to fall back on if one fails. “The more diverse crops that a farm plants, the more resilient they’ll be” to the variable conditions produced by climate change, said Prokopy…”

File image

Future Hurricanes Will Roam Over More of the Earth. YaleNews has a press release; here’s an excerpt: “A new, Yale-led study suggests the 21st century will see an expansion of hurricanes and typhoons into mid-latitude regions, which includes major cities such as New York, Boston, Beijing, and Tokyo. Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, the study’s authors said tropical cyclones — hurricanes and typhoons — could migrate northward and southward in their respective hemispheres, as the planet warms as a result of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. 2020’s subtropical storm Alpha, the first tropical cyclone observed making landfall in Portugal, and this year’s Hurricane Henri, which made landfall in Connecticut, may be harbingers of such storms. “This represents an important, under-estimated risk of climate change,” said first author Joshua Studholme, a physicist in Yale’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and a contributing author on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sixth assessment report published earlier this year...”