In Defense of Snow Days

”A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water” quipped comedian Carl Reiner. I can live without 20 below but I don’t mind the snow. It’s an insulator, shielding plant life from extreme cold. It’s a moisture supply: melting snow fuels spring’s miraculous rebirth. You can PLAY in frozen water!

You can’t surf a hurricane storm surge, or hike up an active volcano (ill-advised) or savor a heat wave. Pick your poison – I’ll take a white-washed pile of flaky fun any day of the week.

2015 was the last Thanksgiving the MSP metro area had snow on the ground (1.2 inches) and in spite of a Sunday coating, this Thanksgiving will bring crunchy, green(ish) lawns. After 40s Tuesday and Wednesday temperatures cool off late next week. It’ll be cold enough for snow, but moisture is lacking, as if often the case when jet stream winds are howling from Oregon. No chance for southern moisture to bubble north.

I’ll keep the Doppler idling and hope for something to point to soon. For now: all quiet.

Friday Future Clouds/Precipitation

Glorified Lake Effect. A coating of snow is possible over the Minnesota Arrowhead, with a few inches of snow downwind of Lake Superior by Saturday evening.

Could Be Considerably Worse. Considering we could easily be hip-deep in drifts, highs close to average with precious little snow comes at a very good time for Thanksgiving travelers.

ECMWF Temperatures for MSP
NOAA GFS Temperatures for MSP

Growing Snow Potential Early December? With the core of the jet stream forecast to dip south of Minnesota and a building trough of low pressure in the western US the potential for a). a deep layer of cold air in place AND b). wet storms tracking south of Minnesota increases, if you believe the latest NOAA GFS solution above. We’ll see. We’re due.


How an “Atmospheric River” Drenched British Columbia and Let to Floods and Mudslides. The Conversation has a good explainer of what just happened; here’s a clip: “…The weekend storm was noteworthy for both its duration and its intensity. It rained continuously over much of the storm track for more than 24 hours and the rate was higher than normal autumn rains. In both cases, rapid runoff exceeded the carrying capacity of streams and rivers, causing them to spill out onto floodplains. In addition, flat areas like the Sumas Prairie area between Abbotsford and Chilliwack had already been saturated with October and early November rainfall, were unable to drain away the water and were consequently flooded. Furthermore, snow at high elevations melted under the warm rainfall, exacerbating the flooding. Rainfall on Nov. 14 set records for many places in the region…”

Mudslides have cut off entire towns.
Reuters: BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Death Toll From British Columbia Flood Set to Rise, Canadian Government Pledges Aid. ABC News has an update; here’s an excerpt: “…At least three people are missing. Some 18,000 people have been displaced in the Pacific Coast province, Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said. “We expect to confirm even more fatalities in the coming days,” British Columbia Premier John Horgan said, describing the calamity as a once-in-500-year event. “We will bring in travel restrictions and ensure that transportation of essential goods and medical and emergency services are able to reach the communities that need them,” Mr Horgan added, urging people not to hoard supplies…”

Jacob Morse, KFYR-TV

The Science Behind the Northern Lights: From a Solar Flare to Aurora Borealis. in North Dakota has a very good explainer; here’s an excerpt: “…A common myth about the northern lights is that they occur more frequently in the winter, but this is not the case. It’s just that there’s more darkness in the winter allowing for a longer period of time during the night to see the aurora. And with the sun on a 11 year cycle for activity, we’re now entering a new solar maximum where solar flares can occur more frequently, leading to more northern lights viewing opportunities. “We should just start seeing a little more and more activity yearly as we ramp up to the next solar maximum,” said Hargrove. So when the next viewing opportunity for the northern lights is, remember to get away from city lights, find a cloudless sky and look north! But be patient, because forecasts can change quickly as predicting exactly when the mass ejected from the sun will reach the Earth is very tricky. There’s uncertainty in every forecast because we have very limited space observing tools for determining exactly how fast and in what direction the ejection of mass from the sun is moving…”

Thanksgiving Day Climatology in the Twin Cities. The Minnesota DNR has some interesting nuggets about what is considered “average weather” in the metro area on Thanksgiving Day; here’s an excerpt: “…The average Thanksgiving Day temperature is right around freezing. What about extremely cold Thanksgivings? Looking at the past 148 years, odds are about the same to have a minimum at or below zero on Thanksgiving Day, as it is to have a maximum of 50 or above. Below-zero lows have occurred ten times in the past 148 years. The coldest Thanksgiving Day minimum temperature was 18 degrees below zero on November 25, 1880. The coldest high temperature was one below zero on November 28, 1872. The last time it was below zero on the morning of Thanksgiving was in 2014, with four below zero. 2014 had the coldest Thanksgiving high temperature since 1930 with a temperature of 10 degrees. Measurable snow fell on 29 of the past Thanksgivings back to 1884, about every five years or so. The most snow that fell on Thanksgiving was five inches in 1970. The last time there was measurable snow on Thanksgiving was in 2015 with 1.3 inches of snow. Historically, about one in three Thanksgivings have at least one inch of snow on the ground…”

Kemmerer, Wyoming, is a frontier coal town. It was organized in 1897 by coal miners and still employs people in the coal and natural gas industries today.

Bill Gates’ TerraPower to Build First Nuclear Reactor in Wyoming Coal Town. Is there a smarter, safer (vastly cheaper) way to benefit from CO2-free nuclear power? A post at caught my eye: “TerraPower, a start-up co-founded by Bill Gates to revolutionize designs for nuclear reactors, has chosen Kemmerer, Wyoming, as the preferred location for its first demonstration reactor. It aims to build the plant in the frontier-era coal town by 2028. Construction of the plant will be a job bonanza for Kemmerer, with 2,000 workers at its peak, said TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque in a video call with reporters Tuesday. It will also provide new clean-energy jobs to a region dominated by the coal and gas industry. Today, a local power plant, a coal mine and a natural gas processing plant combined provide more than 400 jobs — a sizeable number for a region that has only around 3,000 residents…”


Biden Pushes Electric Vehicle Chargers as Energy Costs Spike. AP News has the story: “President Joe Biden is highlighting billions of dollars in his giant bipartisan infrastructure deal to pay for the installation of electric vehicle chargers across the country, an investment he says will go a long way to curbing planet-warming carbon emissions while creating good-paying jobs. Biden on Wednesday will visit a General Motors plant in Detroit that manufactures electric vehicles. He’ll use the occasion to make the case that the $7.5 billion in the new infrastructure law for electric vehicle chargers will help America get “off the sidelines” on green-energy manufacturing. Currently, the U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle sales is one-third the size of the Chinese EV market…”

People Who Decorate for the Holidays are Perceived as Friendlier. Who knew? Mental Floss takes a deep dive: “If the members of your household complain about you hanging up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving, know that your behavior is justified by science. Research from 1989 found that people who decorate their homes for the holidays tend to appear friendlier to their neighbors, ABC 27 reports. The study, which was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, asked participants to rate the friendliness of strangers based on photographs of their homes. The homeowners had assessed their own sociability by reporting their social contact with neighbors as being either low or high…”

32 F. Twin Cities high temperature on Thursday.

41 F. average high on November 18.

53 F. MSP high on November 18, 2020.

November 19, 1981: Heavy snow with near blizzard conditions is observed over parts of the state. A two day total of 10.4 inches of snow was received at Minneapolis, which caused the inflated fabric of the Metrodome to collapse and rip.

November 19, 1957: Snowstorm in Southeast Minnesota. A foot is dumped at Winona. Heavy crop losses.

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, breezy. Winds: S 15-30. High: 40

SATURDAY: Peeks of sun, not bad out there. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 32. High: 42

SUNDAY: Gusty, PM coating of light snow. Winds: NW 20-40. Wake-up: 30. High: 35

MONDAY: Bright sunshine. Nippy. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 17. High: 29

TUESDAY: Sunny, breezy and milder. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 24. High: 43

THANKSGIVING: Clouds increase, still dry. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 34. High: 45

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, windy and cooler. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 22. High: 34

Climate Stories…

The Climate Action Tracker estimates the global average temperature increase based on national policies.
New Climate Institute and Climate Analytics

After COP26, Five Things to Watch in 2022. The Conversation has perspective on what just happened – and what it means going forward: “How much the world achieved at the Glasgow climate talks – and what happens now – depends in large part on where you live. In island nations that are losing their homes to sea level rise, and in other highly vulnerable countries, there were bitter pills to swallow after global commitments to cut emissions fell far short of the goal to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F). For large middle-income countries, like India and South Africa, there were signs of progress on investments needed for developing clean energy. In the developed world, countries still have to internalize, politically, that bills are coming due – both at home and abroad – after decades of delaying action on climate change. The longer the delay, the more difficult the transition will be…”

Why It Feels So Hard to Understand What Really Happened at COP26. has analysis: “The overarching narrative emerging from COP26 is complicated. The deal that emerged—the Glasgow Climate Pact—wasn’t universally celebrated, nor was it universally condemned. It won’t save the world, but it does move the needle. “We made real and vital progress,” Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, told me just after countries agreed to the deal on Saturday night. But, she added, “there continue to be gaps, and difficult things.” It’s even more complex if you include everything that happened on the sidelines of the official negotiations. The private sector made big commitments to facilitate the energy transition and slash emissions. But will they follow through? Countries committed to ending illegal deforestation. Can they be trusted to do so? The U.S. and China said they would collaborate on climate issues. What, in practice, will that actually mean? The list could go on and on…”

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Washington State DNR

Lawmakers Advance Bill to Reduce Wildfire Impacts Amid Climate Change. Capital Weather Gang explains: “The House Science, Space and Technology Committee advanced legislation Tuesday that aims to reduce losses from worsening wildfires in the United States. The bill — the National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program Act — was introduced last month by representatives from California, Oregon and Colorado in the wake of destructive, climate-change-fueled fire seasons in Western states and harmful smoke that has stretched to the eastern shores of the country. It directs substantial research funds — more than $2 billion over the next five years — to federal science agencies and lays out a national research agenda to better understand wildfires and reduce their impacts. “Wildfires are becoming increasingly devastating, more and more parts of the nation are turning into high-risk fires zones, and the wildfire seasons are now nearly year-long,” sponsor Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said at a Tuesday committee hearing in which the bill was amended and ultimately approved to advance to the full House...”

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Heber-Overgaard Fire District

Number Of Hot Summer Days That Fuel Wildfire Spread Will Rise: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “The number of hot days that carry greatly increased risk of wildfire spread and ignition in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains will increase because of climate change, new research shows. The study, published in Science Advances, found the number of fires could increase by 20% by the 2040s with an even greater increase in acreage burned. “What makes this novel is that we were trying to identify the role of individual temperature extremes on individual dates,” Jim Randerson, UC-Irvine earth systems professor and senior author of the paper, told the New York times.” (New York Times $; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves, Wildfires).

Illustration: Guardian Design

The Forgotten Oil Ads That Told Us Climate Change Was Nothing. Upton Sinclair said it best: “It has difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it”. The Guardian has details on the ongoing misinformation campaign: “Why is meaningful action to avert the climate crisis proving so difficult? It is, at least in part, because of ads. The fossil fuel industry has perpetrated a multi-decade, multibillion dollar disinformation, propaganda and lobbying campaign to delay climate action by confusing the public and policymakers about the climate crisis and its solutions. This has involved a remarkable array of advertisements – with headlines ranging from “Lies they tell our children” to “Oil pumps life” – seeking to convince the public that the climate crisis is not real, not human-made, not serious and not solvable. The campaign continues to this day. As recently as last month, six big oil CEOs were summoned to US Congress to answer for the industry’s history of discrediting climate science – yet they lied under oath about it. In other words, the fossil fuel industry is now misleading the public about its history of misleading the public…”

Wall Street Journal Graphic
Source: American Society of Civil Engineers

America’s Infrastructure Struggles With The New Weather Forecast. It’s naturally-occurring extreme weather events amplified, juiced, by a warmer/wetter climate. Here’s a clip from The Wall Street Journal (paywall): “…American cities have been battered by severe weather for generations, but recently many have had to contend with more extreme events, including some they have little experience with, local government officials said. Compounding the problem: infrastructure that has deteriorated in many places, leaving cities with weakened dams, aging pipes and strained electrical grids. “Our cities and infrastructure…are not appropriate for the current situation,” said Klaus Jacob, a geophysicist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who developed a climate-change adaptation plan for the New York subway system, adding that harsher weather is here to stay. Some local governments are pursuing projects to guard a range of infrastructure, including power lines, roads and water systems, against increasing climate threats. New York City is investing more than $20 billion in adaptation efforts to address storm surge, tidal flooding, heavy rainfall and extreme heat…”


Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Includes $50 Billion to Help Fight Climate Change Disasters. reports: “President Joe Biden on Monday signed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes historic funding to protect the country against the detrimental affects of human-caused climate change. The infrastructure bill designates $50 billion for climate resilience and weatherization, as more frequent and severe droughts, heat waves, floods and wildfires ravage the the country. For instance, it allocates financial resources for communities that are recovering from or vulnerable to disasters, and increases funding for Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers programs that help reduce flood risk and damage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also receive additional funding for wildfire modelling and forecasting...”

The European Space Agency

Satellite Monitoring of Greenland Ice Melting Highlights Increasing Global Flood Risk. SciTechDaily has an update; here’s the intro: “Global warming has caused extreme ice melting events in Greenland to become more frequent and intense over the past 40 years, raising sea levels and flood risk worldwide, finds new research involving University College London (UCL) academics. Over the past decade alone, 3.5 trillion tonnes of ice has melted from Greenland’s surface and flowed into the ocean — enough to cover the UK with around 15m of meltwater, or all of New York City with around 4500m. Published earlier this month in Nature Communications, the new study is the first to use satellite data to detect this phenomenon – known as ice sheet runoff – from space...”

July 8, 2020 file image
Paul Douglas

High Impact Climate Events: Better Adaptation Through Earlier Prediction. A post at caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…Traditional weather and climate forecasting rely predominantly on numerical models imitating atmospheric and oceanic processes. These models, while generally very useful, can’t perfectly simulate all underlying processes—and phenomena like monsoon onsets, floods or droughts might be predicted too late. This is where network-based forecasting comes into play. Ludescher explains: “As opposed to looking at a huge number of local interactions, which represent physical processes like heat or humidity exchange, we look directly at the connectivity between different geographical locations, which can span continents or oceans. This connectivity is detected by measuring the similarity in the evolution of physical quantities like air temperatures at these locations. For instance, in the case of El Niño, a strong connectivity in the tropical Pacific tends to build up in the calendar year before the onset of the event…”

Uganda Red Cross

Could Making Climate Change a Rights Issue Help Boost Action. Thomson Reuters Foundation poses the question: “There are no words for “climate change” in the language of the Turkana people in northern Kenya, something that prompted campaigner Ikal Angelei to take a different approach when she began her environmental activism more than a decade ago. Rather than framing climate change as a global environmental risk, Angelei explained how decreasing rainfall and parched riverbeds threatened local people’s basic right to access water. “It really is the impact on people’s lives and livelihood that allows them to interact with the term climate change,” said Angelei, 41, co-founder of Friends of Lake Turkana, an environmental group in Kenya. From worsening droughts to rising sea levels, climate change is increasingly seen as a human rights risk and a growing number of climate litigation cases that invoke basic rights have been launched against governments and companies around the world. Legal experts said the shift in the narrative on global warming – to focus on the risks it poses to fundamental rights – had been crucial in forcing governments to acknowledge the need for action to protect their citizens…”

The Camp fire erupted on November 8, 2018 near Paradise, California.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Kids and Climate Change: New Book Exposes Why Some Schools Fail to Teach the Science. Great use of the word “flaccid” by the way. The Revelator has an eye-opening post; here’s an excerpt: “…every part of young people’s lives — from the jobs they hold to where they call home. And yet, despite the rise and importance of young climate activists, climate change isn’t even being taught in many U.S. schools. Perhaps worse, some teachers are providing misleading, outdated or false information. That’s what journalist Katie Worth found when researching her new book, Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America. Sometimes, she learned, teachers don’t have the right training or resources to teach climate change. But often, the roots of the problem are much more troubling. “Fossil fuel lobbyists, flaccid text-book companies, networks of free-marketeers and evangelical leaders, and the American political machine have each had a role in the widespread, calamitous, and in some cases, intentional miseducation of American children,” she writes in the book...”

The Sholes Glacier on Mount Baker has retreated 400 feet since 2012.
John Ryan / KUOW

Northwest Glaciers Are Melting. What That Means to Indigenous “Salmon People”. has the post; here’s a clip: “…Whatcom County has warmed about 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1922, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mount Baker’s blankets of ice, which cover about 15 square miles around the volcano’s summit, are getting thinner and smaller. The nearly mile-long Sholes glacier has retreated up the mountain by more than 400 feet since Grah started studying it in 2012. On top of the glacier, the changes can be imperceptible to the untrained eye. Underneath, it’s more obvious: Meltwater gushes off the glacier’s deep-blue underside. Of course, glacier ice melts every summer. Fresh snow replenishes it in the winter. But as the climate has warmed, that annual dance has tilted in favor of melting, and glaciers around the world are melting away...”

Climate Central

Solutions Series: Creating Climate-Friendly Homes. A post from Climate Central shows opportunities to reduce energy demand – and save money: “Residential and commercial buildings account for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. As we switch our energy supply to renewable sources, electrifying our homes, businesses, and work spaces is critical for reaching net zero emissions and limiting climate warming. Adopting efficiency and electrification measures can reduce carbon emissions of single family homes by 24%. These upgrades are also profitable investments for homeowners. For more information, check out our newest Solutions Series brief: Creating Climate-Friendly Homes. The brief provides data, resources, and story suggestions to help tell compelling stories about energy efficiency and electrification in local communities…”

Scott Duncan

In a Stark Letter, and In Person, Researchers Urge World Leaders at COP26 to Finally Act on Science. Or did we just get another heaping diplomatic serving of blah-blah-blah. Here’s an excerpt from Inside Climate News: “As COP26 delegates went into overtime Friday night, shaping the language of their final climate communiques into something all 197 countries could agree on, scientists from around the world issued their latest, and perhaps starkest warning. “We, climate scientists, stress that immediate, strong, rapid, sustained and large-scale actions are necessary to hold global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C,” they wrote in a Nov. 11 letter to the conference. More than 200 scientists from every continent signed the letter to remind delegates at the conference that there’s no negotiating with science, said Sonia Seniveratne, a climate researcher with ETH Zürich and lead author of the latest climate science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…”