Paul Douglas

Storm Impact? Check Timing and Temperature

”I beseech you Paul, how many inches!” That never gets old, by the way. My favorite meteorology college professor was right. Americans are preoccupied with inches, demanding a level of specificity and precision the science can’t provide. So we give a range of inches (if I say 2-4 inches you’ll probably remember 4) and a much-borrowed snowfall rating scale: nuisance-plowable-crippling.

Yesterday was a rude reminder that when temperatures are cold enough, inches don’t matter. A snowy coating of fluff turned roads into skating rinks. Inches are a factor, but so are temperatures and timing.

A quick thaw today gives way to a couple of subzero nights by late week, probably as cold as it’s going to get through early February. Another quick shot of snow arrives Saturday into early Sunday. And yes, there may be a few inches of accumulation. Sorry. Tough habit to break.

Long range GFS guidance shows another Pacific thaw arriving in late January with a relatively mild start to February. “Paul, is winter almost over?” Um, nope.

An Erratic Winter, But Snowfall Running Above Average in the Twin Cities. A record snowy October, 70s in November – we should be talking about “usable snow”. Here are the latest numbers: MSP and DLH snowfall, to date, is 4.4” above average, but much of central and northern Minnesota is seeing an ongoing snowfall deficit.

Couple of Cold Nights Later This Week – Weekend Brush with Snow. The Twin Cities have only experienced 2 nights below 0F, to date. Last winter at this time we had picked up 9 nights of negative numbers. So no, it hasn’t been all that bad from the perspective of prolonged cold. A dome of chilly air will set the stage for a period of snow Saturday PM into Sunday morning, and yes, a few inches of snow may result.


Turning Colder, but Not That Cold. My definition of cold has morphed over time. 20 below is cold. 0F? Just chilly. NOAA’s GFS has, in recent days, been suggesting that Old Man Winter may pull his punch, with a renewed Pacific breeze blowing milder air into Minnesota as we end the month of January.

Relatively Mild Start to February? Looking out 2 weeks is awkward and potentially reckless, but NOAA’s GFS model predicts major storms for the west coast, turning our prevailing winds to the southwest the first few days of next month, suggesting a spell of relatively mild weather to start next month. Will we see polar air by mid-February? I wouldn’t rule that out. I can’t believe we’ll escape winter without at least one or two Siberian Slaps.

Bay Area office of the National Weather Service

Fire Season Just Won’t Quit. Record warmth, high winds and lingering drought are fanning more flames across California, as reported by Capital Weather Gang: “An unusually strong and far-reaching high wind event is descending upon California today through Wednesday, bringing damaging winds and the threat of fast-moving wildfires from Sacramento to San Francisco and southward to Los Angeles. The region is dry enough, with hardly any rain having fallen recently in Southern California, that the high winds are prompting concerns about midwinter wildfires after the state’s worst wildfire season on record in 2020. The winds follow several days of record-breaking heat that has amplified fire danger, particularly in Southern California, which saw temperatures soar into the 80s and 90s in the middle of a largely dry winter...”

NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Western Drought Forecast to Persist. NOAA CPC predicts a continuation of drought conditions over roughly the western half of the USA, with drought development likely over much of the southern U.S. between now and late March.

NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory

Welcome to “Hail Alley”, a U.S. Region Prone to Pelting Ice. Discover Magazine has a post speculating what, if any, impact a warmer, wetter climate may have on hail frequency and size: “…Childs and other researchers have found that in the coming decades, climate change could push hailstorms to become more frequent and drop larger ice pellets in Hail Alley. One study Childs co-authored, for example, predicts three extra days of hail per year come 2100. This shift seems likely because a few major hailstorm influences will grow stronger and more common over time. For one, a warming atmosphere will evaporate more moisture into the air. Increasing the amount of water in thunderstorms will potentially make them more likely to develop hail, Childs says. Research also suggests the upward winds of thunderstorms might grow stronger in an increasingly warmer climate, allowing hail to grow larger and keep reaching the cold-enough atmosphere high above. Larger ice pieces, then, stand a better chance of coming all the way to land, boosting the likelihood that a given storm drops significant ice chunks...”


Using Artificial Intelligence to Manage Extreme Weather Events. I was interested in a press release from McGill University: “Can combining deep learning (DL)— a subfield of artificial intelligence— with social network analysis (SNA), make social media contributions about extreme weather events a useful tool for crisis managers, first responders and government scientists? An interdisciplinary team of McGill researchers has brought these tools to the forefront in an effort to understand and manage extreme weather events. The researchers found that by using a noise reduction mechanism, valuable information could be filtered from social media to better assess trouble spots and assess users’ reactions vis-à-vis extreme weather events. The results of the study are published in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management…”

Warm Signature Persistence. Dr. Mark Seeley tracks the mild, Pacific signal in the latest edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk: “Since November 1st 75 to 80 percent of all days have brought warmer than normal temperatures to most parts of Minnesota. This is unusual persistence of warmth in terms of longevity (75 days) and rivals the similar November through January of 2015-2016, which started a very warm year for Minnesota (2016 was the 5th warmest year in state history). The other unusual aspect of the warmth has been the amplitude or wide deviation from normal. International Falls has been measuring temperatures that are 20 to 25 degrees F above normal so far this month. In fact for the entire first half of January the nation’s “Ice Box” has seen an average temperature that is over 19 degrees F above normal…”

NOAA File Image

2020 Lightning and Tornado Numbers Were Down – But Not Tornado Fatalities. has details: “There was some good news to come out of 2020: fewer tornadoes and fewer lightning strikes across the United States. But sadly, fewer tornadoes did not mean fewer fatalities — a stark reminder that the timing and location of such storms can be critical. With a preliminary tally of 1,053, 2020 saw the lowest annual number of tornadoes since 2015, when 971 were recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center. Still, tornadoes last year killed 78 people, the highest count since 2011, when a super outbreak in late April led to 553 deaths…”

Source: by the MIT Trancik Lab | Note: The chart shows data for new cars, SUVs and other models that retail for $55,000 or less. The most fuel efficient trim for each car is included and additional trim levels are shown for cars over $35,000 if they have a lower fuel economy rating than other trims shown (they are less efficient) by at least 4 miles per gallon.
New York Times graphic

Electric Cars are Better for the Planet – and Often Your Budget, Too. The New York Times (paywall) reports on something I’ve noticed, a very real ROI (return on investment) over time, saving money on maintenance and service costs: “Electric vehicles are better for the climate than gas-powered cars, but many Americans are still reluctant to buy them. One reason: The larger upfront cost. New data published Thursday shows that despite the higher sticker price, electric cars may actually save drivers money in the long-run. To reach this conclusion, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology calculated both the carbon dioxide emissions and full lifetime cost — including purchase price, maintenance and fuel — for nearly every new car model on the market…”

@halfastro and Twitter

.5” snow fell at KMSP yesterday, 6” on the ground in the Twin Cities.

21 F. high temperature yesterday in the cities.

24 F. average high on January 19.

12 F. high on January 19, 2020.

January 20, 1982: Just over 17 inches of snow falls in the Twin Cities. Amazingly, it was to be outdone two days later.

January 20, 1917: 16 inches of snow falls in the Twin Cities.

Dippin’ Dots Unlikely Hero of Coronavirus Pandemic. I did not have this on my 2021 Apocalypse Bingo Card. Here’s an excerpt from “…But the “ice cream of the future” may just provide a key component needed for distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The vaccine must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit to remain effective at fighting the coronavirus, not an easy feat for many facilities. Dippin’ Dots operates freezers that dip to -122 degrees Fahrenheit. PopSci’s Maddie Bender first reported that we could learn a lot of tips about allocating this vaccine from Dippin’ Dots, who have managed to successfully distribute their pelletized ice cream on a massive scale for years…”

WEDNESDAY: Some sun, thawing out. Winds: W 15-30. High: 36

THURSDAY: Sunny intervals, gusty winds. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 26. High: 32

FRIDAY: Sunny, familiar January sting. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 0. High: 9

SATURDAY: Snow develops PM hours. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: -2. High: 20

SUNDAY: Flurries taper, some PM clearing. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 15. High: 25

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, seasonably chilly. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 13. High: 23

TUESDAY: Cloudy, few flakes. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 19. High: 24

Climate Stories…


“The President Needs to Hit the Ground Running on Climate”. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from friend and climate scientist Michael Mann at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “…As a climate scientist, I know all too well that we are running out of time to avert climate catastrophe. In fact, we’ve already run out of time. It’s too late to protect everyone. From “zombie storms” in superheated oceans to wildfires so widespread and intense that they’re creating “smoke waves” that blanket the country, befoul the air and endanger public health, to an unprecedented Atlantic hurricane season that can be tied to a bathtub-warm tropical Atlantic, the past year alone has provided ample evidence that climate change is now an ongoing, rolling threat from one place to another. The carbon we either do or don’t choose to emit could shape not only the climate threats we must contend with in the decades ahead, but those that loom over the next 10,000 years. At this point it’s a matter now of limiting, rather than preventing, the damage...”

Home Sweet Home
Jeff Williams, NASA

Biden To Rescind Keystone, Rejoin Paris On Day One: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “President-elect Biden is expected to revoke permits for the Keystone XL pipeline as one of his first acts upon taking office Wednesday. The cancellation of the $8 billion pipeline would be a major victory to environmental advocates and Indigenous groups and a demonstration of Biden’s commitment to making climate actions a top priority of the new administration. Rescinding the cross-border permit would be just the latest twist in the project’s tumultuous, 15-year history. President Obama delayed construction in 2015 under pressure from protests led by Lakota and other Indigenous front line groups, only to see Trump reinstate it in 2017. This week, in an apparent – and seemingly unsuccessful – bid to get Biden to change his mind, TC Energy Energy Corp, the pipeline’s Canada-based developer, pledged to spend $1.7 billion to install renewable energy and eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline’s operations, as well as hire an all-union workforce to build it. By stopping the pipeline, Biden would be “showing courage and empathy to the farmers, ranchers and Tribal Nations who have dealt with an ongoing threat that disrupted their lives for over a decade.” Jane Kleeb, founder of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska, told the Washington Post. “Today marks healing, hope and a path for the clean energy that builds America back better.” (CBC, Washington Post $, New York Times $, Wall Street Journal $, Reuters, Politico, The Guardian, BBC, The Hill, Earther, Climate Home, Truthout. Biden’s first 10 days: Wall Street Journal $, CNN, The GuardianBloomberg $, Bloomberg $)

Tim McCabe, USDA

How Consumers Could Drive More Farmers to Fight Climate Change. has the post; here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…Efforts are underway across the country to propel the idea of sustainable agriculture beyond the term “organic” and bring regenerative farming into the mainstream. This type of farming — which includes things like planting cover crops, not tilling the soil and grazing livestock on pasture — can build nutrients in the soil, prevent erosion and improve overall soil health. It also creates a vast carbon sink that pulls the greenhouse gas out of the air and stores it in the ground. But it doesn’t come without a complete overhaul to how farmers do what they’ve done their whole lives...”

Map of 2020 annual average temperature anomalies from the NOAAGlobalTemps data.

Official Global Climate Data Now in ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. A post at caught my eye: “…All of the top ten warmest years on record since the late 1800s have occurred since 2005. The top five have all been since 2015. Every year since 1977 has been warmer than the 20th Century average. You get the idea. Want to explore this data for yourself? Now you can by using Living Atlas of the World. Three new feature layers are available from the NOAAGlobalTemp dataset: the latest monthly temperature analysis, the full monthly archive from 1880 – present, and the annual average from 1880 – present. All of them compare the observed temperature to the 1971-2000 base period** (so -2oC means 2o cooler than the 1971-2000 average)…”

NASA Earth Observatory

“After Alarmism”. Climate denialism is fading, now the question is how to reach (bipartisan) deals on climate action that accelerate a clean-energy economy and add more good-paying jobs in the energy sector. Here’s an excerpt of a post at Intelligencer: “…The change is much bigger than the turnover of American leadership. By the time the Biden presidency finds its footing in a vaccinated world, the bounds of climate possibility will have been remade. Just a half-decade ago, it was widely believed that a “business as usual” emissions path would bring the planet four or five degrees of warming — enough to make large parts of Earth effectively uninhabitable. Now, thanks to the rapid death of coal, the revolution in the price of renewable energy, and a global climate politics forged by a generational awakening, the expectation is for about three degrees. Recent pledges could bring us closer to two...”

Climate Central

2020 Was One of the Hottest Years on Record. (paywall) has an overview: “Earth was on fire last year (in case you forgot), with record-breaking West Coast wildfires, Siberian heat waves, and Atlantic hurricanes. Now government scientists have crunched the numbers behind the planetary chaos. NASA just released its yearly report on annual temperatures, and it says that 2020 surpassed or tied 2016 as the hottest year on record. A similar announcement by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) differed slightly, saying 2020 came in a close second or third. Both agencies presented their findings on Thursday during a virtual town hall at a meeting of the American Meteorological Society. The two agencies released their findings together, although they used slightly different methods to calculate their results…”

Politics & Global Warming, December 2020

Most Democrats and Republicans Think the Government Should Make Climate Change a Priority. Some hopeful trends from “A new study has found widespread support for climate-friendly energy policies among registered Republicans and Democrats. The study, conducted by Yale University and George Mason University’s climate change communication programs, surveyed nearly 1,000 registered voters from across the political spectrum — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — in December. The survey found 53 percent of registered voters think global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress while 66 percent feel the same about developing clean energy sources. There was also broad support from both Democrats and Republicans for eight energy policies that would help address climate change...”

Warming last 2020 years
Ed Hawkins