Happy 40-Degree Winter Solstice!

Meteorologists are great fun at parties. Get us in a corner with a cup of (cheap) eggnog and we’ll babble on about Alberta Clippers, Bomb Cyclones, maybe throw in a scandalous Texas Hooker.

Just to clear up any ambiguity, a “Texas Hooker” is a moisture-laded southern storm that “hooks” northward, tracking right up the Mississippi with a payload of heavy rain or snow.

Nothing nearly that exciting is in our future. The pattern isn’t ripe for significant snow through the first week of January. A Pacific flow dominates, keeping temperatures 10-15F above average.

Daytime highs (as always) will depend on the amount of cloud cover. Yesterday Willmar was 15-20F colder than MSP, due to lingering fog and stratus clouds. If the sun is out for a few hours today and Sunday the metro mercury should top 40F. In Minnesota, in late December, we call this blessed event a “warm front”.

The sun will scrape the southern horizon today on the Winter Solstice, the shortest daylight of the year. Hey, it’s all uphill from here!

2019: Wettest Year on Record, Statewide. Dr. Mark Seeley confirms this fact in Minnesota WeatherTalk; here’s a clip: “As we wrap up 2019, it is still likely that 2019 will go into the record books as the wettest year in Minnesota history on a statewide basis, with average precipitation totals across the state of over 35 inches for the year. Seven of the 12 months delivered above normal precipitation to the state in 2019. February of 2019 was the 2nd wettest in state history while September was the 3rd wettest in state history. In addition, October ranked as the 9th wettest in state history. Portions of Rice, Steele, Olmsted, Dodge, and Houston Counties reported over 50 inches of precipitation for the year…”

7-8 Days of Above Average Temperatures. If the sun comes out today and Sunday (a fairly big if) 40F or even low 40s are likely in the metro. Temperatures cool off a bit next week but still run 10 degrees above average. Twin Cities ECMWF: WeatherBell.

Screaming Zonal. NOAA’s GFS guidance shows a predominately Pacific flow for Minnesota and the Upper Midwest the first week of January; the greatest thrust of bitter air (and heavy snow?) for New England. You watch, last 2 weeks of January will be a joy. At some point we will get to breathe in Siberian air.

Australia Records Hottest Day Ever – One Day After Previous Record. The Guardian has the story: “Australia recorded its hottest day on record on Wednesday, with an average maximum temperature of 41.9C (107.4F), beating the previous record by 1C that had been set only 24 hours earlier. Tuesday 16 December recorded an average of 40.9C across the continent, beating the previous record of 40.3C set on 7 January 2013. But it held the record for just 24 hours. Wednesday was even hotter across the country, with the highest maximum temperature reached in Birdsville, South Australia, which hit 47.7C (117.8)...”

Yes, There’s Microplastic in the Snow. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised; Quartz has the story: “This is the year we found microplastic in the snow.  Although microplastics have been popping up everywhere from the waters of Antarctica to our table salt, the idea that it could blow in the wind or fall as precipitation back down to Earth is extremely new. The main mode of microplastic transport, as far as we knew as recently as last year, was water. It had already shown up in drinking water a few years prior. But microplastic in snow suggests something different: Microplastics carried by wind, and settling out of the air along with the frosty flakes…”

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article238427398.html#storylink=cpy

25 Ideas That Will Shape the 2020s. Fortune.com has a hopeful article; here’s an excerpt: “...McAfee believes capitalism is partly the solution to its own ills. In the U.S. “we’re not using up the earth as much anymore. We’re using it less, even as our growth continues,” says McAfee. Pollution is, in the developed world, decreasing year over year. Electricity use has been effectively flat in America for about a decade even as growth continues. Companies are “locked in nasty competition” thanks to capitalism, McAfee says, and many are fighting to use fewer resources and less energy, which cost money. At the same time, innovations in digital technologies are creating cleaner, more efficient alternatives to material goods. Consider the smartphone. How many fewer cameras and camcorders and answering machines and fax machines are being produced now?…”

Illustration credit: BENEDETTO CRISTOFANI.

Want to Live Longer? Visit a Museum or Art Gallery. CNN.com explains the curious connection: “A trip to the theater, museum or art gallery could help you live longer. And the more often you get that culture fix the better, a new study suggests.  Researchers from University College London (UCL) found that people who engaged in the arts more frequently — every few months or more — had a 31% lower risk of dying early when compared to those who didn’t. Even going to the theater or museum once or twice a year was linked with a 14% lower risk.  They looked at data given by more than 6,000 adults in England age 50 years and older, who were taking part in a wider study on aging…”

Costco on Steroids. Fox Business has a story about some of the high-end items available, including: “...For the survivalist Costco shopper, there’s a $6,000 Doomsday kit containing 600 cans of food, weighing in at a whopping 1,800 pounds. It contains everything from dairy products and freeze-dried fruits and vegetables to grains and more, the majority of which have a shelf life of 25 to 30 years, according to Mashable. There’s sufficient food to feed a family of four for a whole year, yours for just $6,000...”

39 F. Twin Cities maximum temperature yesterday.

26 F. average high on December 20.

37 F. high at MSP on December 20, 2018.

December 21, 1993: Strong northwest winds gust to 35 miles an hour, causing near whiteout conditions over a wide area of southwest Minnesota from the late afternoon on the 21st into the early morning of the 22nd. Several car accidents occurred. A 30 year old man was killed when he lost control of his truck and slid into a ditch in the near blizzard like conditions. Counties affected include: Blue Earth, Brown, Chippewa, Faribault, Lac Qui Parle, Redwood, Renville, Watonwan, and Yellow Medicine.

December 21, 1939: This is the latest date on record for Lake Minnewaska to freeze over at Glenwood.

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, mild. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 41

SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, hints of March. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 29. HIgh: 43

MONDAY: Some sunshine, slightly cooler. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 27. High: 36

CHRISTMAS EVE: Mix of clouds and sun, a dry sky. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 25. High: 35

CHRISTMAS DAY: Cloudy. Numerous Santa sightings. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 28. High: 33

THURSDAY: Cloudy, flurries possible. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 27. High: 32

FRIDAY: Clouds linger, good travel weather. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 24. High: 34

Climate Stories….

Courts Grant a Landmark Climate Victory That Could Reshape the World. This legal trend will snowball in the years to come. Earther has the post: “We have a late entry for climate win of the year, and frankly, it just might be the biggest. On Friday, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled the Netherlands is obligated to reduce carbon pollution because it’s violating its citizens’ human rights. The precedent-setting case provides a huge bump to other court battles happening around the world with citizens’ making similar arguments about government inaction. The case filed by Urgenda, a Dutch foundation focused on sustainability, has been wending its way through courts since 2015. The Dutch government has fought it despite the clear and present dangers sea level rise poses to one of the lowest-lying countries on Earth. But with Friday’s victory, the government now has a little bit of catch up to do, with the ruling calling for the Netherlands to reduce its carbon emissions at a minimum of 25 percent below 1990 levels by the end of next year...”

Photo credit: Doug Kruhoeffer. Damn, he’s got quite an eye.

How We Know Global Warming is Real. The Washington Post (paywall) has an excellent infographic; here’s an excerpt: “...It is that the world is more than 1 degree Celsius hotter than it was before industrialization began pumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere. This warming has fueled new deadly fires, strengthened hurricanes and displaced people. And many areas have warmed far more than the average.  How can that be known? How can it be possible to take Earth’s temperature, not just for this week or this year, but for decades and centuries?  The answer begins with nearly 1,500 weather stations already operating by the time Sonnblick began recording. The telegraph allowed all those readings to be collected and analyzed to show weather patterns...”

A Year of Resistance: How Youth Protests Shaped the Discussion on Climate Change. Greta Thunberg helped to take resistance and activism to the next level; others are following in her footsteps, according to The Conversation: “This moment also builds on environmental justice movements. Young activists like Isra Hirsi, Cricket Cheng, Maya Menezes and others have been building movements where a racial justice lens brings the climate movement into focus. While these leaders may not have been recognized with Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, their work has significantly reshaped the climate movement. They are helping politicize a new generation of climate activists who understand climate change not as an isolated phenomenon, but one with roots in a capitalist system that is inherently racist, colonial, sexist and ableist…”

Photo credit: “Students take part in a climate protest in London in March 2019.AP Photo/Matt Dunham.

Dems Debate Climate: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Democratic candidates talked nuclear power, clean energy and environmental equity as climate change merited more than 12 minutes of conversation time at Thursday’s debate in Los Angeles. All seven candidates agreed that they would help Americans impacted by floods in the Midwest or fires in California to relocate. Billionaire Tom Steyer and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg traded barbs on climate action, while both Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang disagreed on nuclear energy (he’s for new power plants, she’s against them). Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would sacrifice some oil and gas profits in order to transition workers to “high-paying jobs” in clean energy. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) drove the conversation back to climate change at a later point in the debate when asked about racial equity. “People of color, in fact, are going to be the people suffering most if we do not deal with climate change,” Sanders said.” (Politico Pro $, LA Times $, NBC, CNNSacramento Bee, Yahoo! MoneyThe Hill).

This May Be the World’s Oldest Forests, That Might Have Some Links to Climate Change. Mashable India explains: “Scientists have discovered what could be the world’s oldest forest in an abandoned quarry near Cairo, New York. The fossilized woods found in the site, that date back to 385 million years, contain roots of dozens of ancient trees. Scientists believe these findings are remarkable and provide a gateway to understand the modern climate. The title for the world’s oldest fossil forest had previously been given to a site in Gilboa, in the Catskills region of upstate New York, dating back about 385 million years. The new site is an old quarry in the same region, just 40 kilometers further east, near the town of Cairo…”

Photo Credit: William Stein and Christopher Berry.

This Was the Decade We Woke Up to the Climate Crisis – But Failed to Act. Buzzfeed has an effective multimedia presentation: “…Generating the energy that drives the global economy is the biggest contributor to global warming. So replacing coal and natural gas–fired power plants with solar, wind, other renewables, and nuclear offers the greatest possibility to save us from climate chaos. After that, the most important sector is agriculture, changes in land use, and waste — mostly food waste. Here, the problem isn’t just carbon dioxide, but also methane emitted by burping livestock and their manure, plus nitrous oxide, released from both synthetic and natural soil fertilizers. Transport, the main driver of the world’s addiction to oil, comes in third...”

Photo credit: “People take part in a mourning ceremony for the disappearing Pizol glacier in Switzerland, Sept. 22.” Denis Balibouse / Reuters.

Fingerprints of Climate Change Increasingly Appear in Severe Weather. No kidding. Like turning up the volume on an event that might have formed naturally. A warmer, wetter climate is amplifying extreme weather events, as described at Science News: “Extremely low sea ice in the Bering Sea. Heavy rainfall in the mid-Atlantic United States. Wildfires in northeast Australia. Examinations of these and 16 other extreme weather events that occurred in 2018 found that all but one were made more likely due to human-caused climate change, scientists reported December 9 at a news conference at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting. Insufficient observational data made it impossible to assess the influence of climate change on the one event, heavy rains in Tasmania. The new report marks the third year in a row that scientists have identified specific weather events that they said would not have happened without human activities that are altering Earth’s climate…”

File photo credit: “Flash flooding on May 27, 2018, turned Main Street in Ellicott City, Md., into a river. The heavy rains throughout much of 2018 that led to the mid-Atlantic region’s floods were made more likely by human-caused climate change, scientists say. Libby Solomon/The Baltimore Sun via AP.

Earth’s Hottest Decade on Record Marked by Extreme Storms, Deadly Wildfires. Here’s the intro to a post at InsideClimate News: “Deadly heat waves, wildfires and widespread flooding punctuated a decade of climate extremes that, by many scientific accounts, show global warming kicking into overdrive. As the year drew to a close, scientists were confidently saying 2019 was Earth’s second-warmest recorded year on record, capping the warmest decade. Eight of the 10 warmest years since measurements began occurred this decade, and the other two were only a few years earlier. Arctic sea ice melted faster and took longer to form again in the fall. Big swaths of ocean remained record-warm nearly all year, in some regions spawning horrifically damaging tropical storms that surprised experts with their rapid intensification. Densely populated parts of Europe shattered temperature records amid heat waves blamed for hundreds of deaths, and a huge section of the U.S. breadbasket region was swamped for months by floodwater...”

A 3C World is Now “Business as Usual”. Not as bad a previous worst-case projections but potentially bad enough, according to The Breakthrough Institute: “The world is on a path to warm around 3C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 under policies and commitments currently in place. This is a far cry from the 1.5C and 2C targets enshrined in the Paris agreements, but is also well short of the 4C to 5C warming in many “business as usual” baseline scenarios that continue to be widely used. Two recently released reports — the International Energy Agency (IEA) 2019 World Energy Outlook (WEO) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) 2019 Emissions Gap Report — both reflect current trends in clean energy technology costs and deployment and make the case that global emissions will be relatively flat over the next few decades...”

File image: NASA.

General Motors, Ford Among New Funders of Carbon Tax Push. Axios has the story; here’s the intro: “More companies from across the corporate spectrum are joining a long-shot advocacy effort to pass a carbon tax in a bitterly divided Congress. Driving the news: General Motors, Ford, IBM and two electricity companies — Calpine Corporation and Vistra Energy — are putting money toward a lobbying campaign that would put a price on CO2 emissions and refund revenue back to consumers. Where it stands: These companies join several others funding Americans For Carbon Dividends (AFCD), the lobbying arm of the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), which is a coalition of strange bedfellows that includes companies, environmental groups and former Republican lawmakers.

  • The groups’ proposal would impose a $40-a-ton tax on CO2 emissions and cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2035…”

Snow Machines and Fleece Blankets: Inside the Ski Industry’s Battle with Climate Change. The Guardian explains; here’s an excerpt: “…For the Alpine ski industry, which hosts 35% of the world’s ski resorts across eight countries, and serves an estimated 120 million tourists each year, this is potentially an extinction-level event. Val d’Isère is one of the mountain range’s highest resorts, so it will be one of the last to feel the full effects of the climate catastrophe. But farther down the mountains, the disappearance of snow has already begun to devastate the ski industry, as well as the communities that rely on it. Since 1960, the average snow season has shortened by 38 days, while “seasonal drift” has pushed the coldest weather from December to the early months of the year, throwing the ski season out of sync with the lucrative Christmas holidays. In November 2017 the EU launched the Prosnow project, whereby scientists advise Alpine resorts on how to “maintain the same season duration with 30% less snow”...

Photo credit: “Snow cannon in the Swiss Alps.” Photograph: Simon Parkin.

Can the Internet Survive Climate Change. Reading this web page requires energy, which is still reliant primarily on fossil fuels. How do we change this paradigm? Here’s a clip from New Republic: …“One of the reasons why the energy use of the internet keeps increasing is that we are always online, and from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep, we’re connected,” de Decker says. “We thought it was important to question always being online. Do we really need to be connected every minute of the day?” How the internet adapts to the pressures of the climate crisis will change daily life as we know it, from high-speed trading to sh*t-posting, from email to aircraft control. It’s an open question whether the internet of the future will be as reliable as it is today. In fact, it’s likely that internet access will be among the many scarce resources that future generations will fight over, and that this unequal distribution could create two different internets: one for the poor and another for the rich…”