Snowy Coating? Call Out The National Guard

It snows every winter. And going into every winter many of us are surprised, indignant and fearful. “Will I remember how to drive on snow?” It’s less driving – more of a controlled skid, a little like snowboarding on 4 wheels. Tap the brakes, leave more room between vehicles, allow more time to get around. Never gets old, huh?

Looking at DNR data since 1891, the Twin Cities experience an average of 14.4 days every winter with a 1-inch snowfall or more. It’s not just the amount of snow, it’s the timing and the temperature. Colder storms tend to result in more chaos on the highways.

The first accumulating snow of the winter season streaks into town tonight, but latest models keep the heaviest stripe of accumulation over far southern Minnesota. The MSP metro may pick up a coating to an inch or two. More south, less north of the Twin Cities.

Highs hold in the 30s this week but a taste of late December arrives early next week, with highs in the teens and 20s. Omens of a brutal winter? Not necessarily.

Brushed With Slush. Both NOAA and ECMWF keep the heaviest snow amounts south of MSP, but all it takes is a slight, 50 mile northward jog in the track of this fast-moving system for a quick 1-2″ in the metro tonight. Maps above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

A Cool and Wet October. Here are a few highlights from Mark Seeley’s latest installment of Minnesota WeatherTalk: “…Average temperatures for the month ranged from 3 to 5 degrees F cooler than normal. This ranked as the 21st coolest October in state history back to 1895. Extremes for the month ranged from 91°F at Thielman (Wabasha County) on the 1st to just 12°F at Brimson (St Louis County) on the 29th. October of 2019 ranked as the 6th wettest in state history, with a statewide average precipitation of just under 4.5 inches. Portions of Faribault, Lake, Todd, Mower, and Hennepin Counties reported over 7 inches for the month. Across the state’s climate station network 34 daily precipitation records were set or tied during the month, including 2.09 inches at Caledonia (Houston County) on the 2nd…”

Winter Yard Work Checklist. Lake Minnetonka Patch has a few timely tips. Frankly, I’m looking forward to not weeding for the next 6 months: “…If you didn’t reseed in the fall, it’s not too late to start the lawn renovation process. This begins with a thorough raking to open up the ground and expose the soil. Next, the lawn should be leveled and reseeded as needed. Add fertilizer and humus or compost to keep birds from ripping up the seeds before they can germinate. The advantage to renovating your lawn in the winter is that nature typically provides enough water to germinate the seeds by the spring. If you don’t want to take a DIY approach to lawn renovation, there are plenty of lawn care professionals available for the job this time of year, many of whom offer special pricing and deals during the off-season…”

Some Moderation Third Week of November. The next 1-2 weeks will look and feel more like December, but long-range GFS guidance continues to hint at a more moderate, Pacific breeze by the third week of November. By then 40s may feel like a bad vacation.

All Hail the Weather Ball! Yes, Doppler radar has taken meteorology to the next level. Mark Olson at Channhasen News reminds us what life would be like without Doppler: “…Radar is the most useful tool we have to monitor all modes of precipitation, ranging from severe thunderstorms with tornadoes to light snow and drizzle. By using the dual-polarization and Doppler radar capabilities of our radar, we are able to see signatures of tornadoes forming sometimes half an hour or more before they actually touch down. The number of casualties from tornadoes would certainly increase, as lead time on our warnings would drop. Our radar is essential during heavy rain and flooding events, as well as we can estimate how much rain is falling in areas where we have no measurements of rainfall…”

File photo image: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

“Extreme Flooding Event” at Mohave River Dam Could Put Thousands of Californians at Risk, Officials Say. Here’s an excerpt from ABC News: “An “extreme” flooding event at the Mojave River Dam could put hundreds of thousands of Southern California residents nearby at risk, according to officials. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that it has changed the risk characterization of the dam, located in San Bernardino County, from low to high urgency of action after assessing that water during an extreme flood event could exceed the design capacity of the dam and overtop it. The dam failure that could possibly result would flood the communities adjacent to the Mojave River, such as Hesperia, Apple Valley, Victorville and Barstow, according to the news release…”

File photo credit: “The Mojave River Dam is pictured in this undated photo.” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District.

If Facts Don’t Make You Prepare for a Hurricane, What Does? The only thing harder to predict than the weather is human nature and rational decision-making. Grist reports: “North Carolina is a magnet for hurricanes. Hurricanes Matthew and Florence both paid a visit in recent years, inundating towns and causing billions in damage. So if anyone in the United States knew firsthand that climate change was here, it would be the residents of New Hanover County, home to Wilmington and one of most vulnerable places in the country to hurricanes and sea-level rise. A new study published in the journal Climatic Change looked at whether homeowners in this coastal county accepted climate science, and whether that made a difference in how they safeguarded their house against a future storm. The short answer: It didn’t. The conventional wisdom is that if people knew the threat they faced and believed measures to protect their home would work (and had the money to act) they’d do the logical thing and try to keep their family safe...”

Image credit: Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA.

Top 3 Plastic Polluters on the Planet? OneGreenPlanet has the story; here’s an excerpt: “An annual global audit from the Break Free From Plastic movement has found the largest sources of plastic pollution. Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are the top three most identified companies as sources of plastic pollution around the globe. As part of their audit, Break Free From Plastic conducted 484 cleanups in 50 countries, on six continents. According to the audit, part of the problem is that plastic is not recyclable. Only 9% of plastic produced since 1950 has been recycled. The rest is incinerated, in landfills or left pollution in oceans, land and other areas. When plastic is burned it causes toxic pollution. If not incinerated or recycled, it breaks down into microplastics, which cause harm to ocean life…”

The First Map of America’s Food Supply Chain is Mind-Boggling. Buy local whenever possible; it’s good for your local community (and the environment). Here’s an excerpt from Fast Company: “…Now, residents in each county can see how they are connected to all other counties in the country via food transfers. Overall, there are 9.5 million links between counties on our map. All Americans, from urban to rural are connected through the food system. Consumers all rely on distant producers, agricultural processing plants, food storage like grain silos and grocery stores, and food transportation systems. For example, the map shows how a shipment of corn starts at a farm in Illinois, travels to a grain elevator in Iowa before heading to a feedlot in Kansas, and then travels in animal products being sent to grocery stores in Chicago…”

Image credit: “This map shows how food flows between counties in the U.S. Each line represents the transportation of all food commodities, along transit routes, such as roads or railways.” [Image: Environmental Research Letters (2019)]

Cirrus’ Private Jet Can Now Land Itself – No Pilot Needed. If I could afford a private jet this is the one I would buy (talk about a great life insurance plan). (paywall) has more: “…That was thanks to the Safe Return Emergency Autoland System, developed by avionics company Garmin with input from aircraft manufacturers including Cirrus and Piper, both of which unveiled the technology this week. When activated, it finds the nearest suitable airport, calculates a flight path that avoids mountains and menacing storm fronts, communicates with air traffic control, and autonomously guides the aircraft onto the runway and to a complete stop. It could have also notified emergency services…”

Photo credit: “The Safe Return system comes with the $2 million Vision Jet’s avionics system, using autopilot functionality and the small jet’s simplified engine management system to steer the aircraft to a smooth landing and brake to a stop.” Courtesy of Cirrus.

A French Space Startup is Launching Wine Into Orbit. Sounds smart to me. Tastes like stupid-money to me. Here’s a clip from Quartz: “…Now, the French entrepreneur and his co-founder Emmanuel Etcheparre have a new company, Space Cargo Unlimited, which aims to perform biological research in the microgravity of Earth’s orbit. Begun in 2014, it plans to fly experiments on rockets made by Blue Origin and SpaceX as soon as next year. But, first, on Nov. 2, they will launch a dozen bottles of the finest wine to the International Space Station on a rocket built by Northrop Grumman. They are believed to be the first glass bottles flown to the orbiting laboratory…”

Photo credit: “Sunlight, held together by water.” Space Cargo Unlimited.

40 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities Monday.

48 F. average high on November 4.

39 F. high on November 4, 2018.

November 5, 1941: A snowstorm hits southern Minnesota, with the heaviest snow at Fairmont.

TUESDAY: Fading sunshine. Winds: W 7-12. High: 34

TUESDAY NIGHT: Wet snow tonight. Coating to 2″ Low: 29

WEDNESDAY: Slow, slushy start, drying out quickly. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 32

THURSDAY: Bright sunshine, chilly. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 18. High: near 30

FRIDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, light winds. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 17. High: 34

SATURDAY: Clouds increase, late snow showers. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 25. High: 38

SUNDAY: Icy start? Windy and colder. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 19. High: 29

MONDAY: Feels like late December! Numbing. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 10. High: 18

Climate Stories….

How to Understand Natural Disasters in a Climate Change Age. Some good perspective at FiveThirtyEight; here’s a clip: “…Behind every natural event that becomes a disaster is a tangle of causes — some natural, some man-made. Climate change might be a part of it, but it’s never the only thing going on. “When I look at any of these events and see the headlines, it’s almost always a situation where [the disaster] is caused by natural variability … and the climate change part of it is making it worse,” said Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University. For example, drought in the West is linked to an increased risk of wildfire, but the droughts we’ve seen over the last couple decades are natural cycles, Goddard said. Combine those with climate-change induced higher average temperatures, though, and you’ve got a natural problem made bigger by human-caused change…”

File image: NOAA.

The California Fires Show How Unprepared We Are for Climate Change. Because climate change doesn’t hit home until…it hits home. Here’s a clip from a post at The Verge: “…The slow-moving nature of the climate crisis means that, under even the best scenarios, these fires will keep growing for the next 40 years. The longer we keep going this way, the more powerful they’ll get. If a foreign country had caused something like this, we would be mobilizing for war. If the threat had appeared suddenly, you might expect emergency declarations from Congress and wall-to-wall press coverage. But the response to the fires has been strangely muted. There’s been no address from the president and no particular attention from lawmakers. After last year’s Camp Fire, Congress was unable to pass a disaster relief bill until the following June, and Congress’ looming appropriations fight suggests it will be no easier this time around. California’s governor has called for a state of emergency and FEMA has pledged funding, but there’s a creeping sense that our institutions just aren’t up to a challenge of this magnitude. As the fires grow, that’s a profoundly frightening thought...”

File photo: Michael Owen Baker, AP.

Blame Climate Change for More Frequent California Fires. Star Tribune’s Editorial Board has an Op-Ed; here’s an excerpt: “…It’s clear that conditions are getting worse throughout the state. Five of California’s 20 deadliest wildfires have occurred during the last two years. And 10 of the 20 most destructive wildfires, in terms of structures lost, occurred over the last 10 years. And it’s also woefully apparent that the state’s infrastructure cannot handle this new normal. The power outages left many regions without cellular service, emergency information, traffic lights or the other essentials of a modern, functioning community. Roads clogged as people tried to evacuate. And the fires have proved again and again that even homes and commercial areas in suburban-style neighborhoods seemingly far from forests or chaparral can be torched by embers carried for miles by hurricane-force winds...”

Photo credit: Noah Berger • Associated Press. “Flames from a backfire consume a hillside in Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday.”

“This Will Only Get Worse in the Future”. Experts See Direct Line Between California Wildfires and Climate Change. CBS News reports: “California is likely to continue to experience larger and more destructive wildfires as the nation’s most populated state gets hotter and drier. A recent study published in Earth’s Future suggests that the increasing size of wildfires occurring across California in the last 50 years is attributable to climate change drying out the landscape. “Since the early 1970s, California’s annual wildfire extent increased fivefold, punctuated by extremely large and destructive wildfires in 2017 and 2018,” the researchers wrote. “This trend was mainly due to an eightfold increase in summertime forest‐fire area and was very likely driven by drying of fuels promoted by human‐induced warming...”

Why Carbon Capture Hasn’t Saved Us From Climate Change Yet. FiveThirtyEight has an interesting post; here’s a clip: “…Today, there are 19 large-scale commercial carbon capture and sequestration facilities1 operating around the world, 10 of which are in the United States, according to the Global CCS Institute. All of them are pulling carbon dioxide out of the emissions from an associated factory or power plant. Systems that pull CO2 out of the ambient air, like the ones Andrew referenced in his question, do exist. They’re just harder and more expensive to operate because the concentration of CO2 in the air is so much lower, Nemet said. “At a power plant, 10 to 20 percent of what goes up the smokestack is CO2, compared to .04 percent in the air,” he said…”

Image credit: Wikipedia.

Warming Fall Nights. Climate Central looks at Halloween extremes for MSP and connects the dots with larger trends: “… In recent analyses we found that average fall temperatures in the United States have increased by 2.5°F over the past half century. While this increase has contributed to many daytime record high temperatures recently, it is actually overnight low temperatures that are warming fastest.This week, we examine this trend by updating our analysis of warming fall nights, this time focusing just on the month of October. Of the 242 cities analyzed, 78% (188) have warmed by more than 1°F in the past half-century, while only 3% (7) have cooled more than 1°F. The West and Gulf Coast have seen the most warming—Reno, Nev., topped the list with 12.3°F of warming, followed by Las Vegas (9.3°F), El Paso, Texas (8.9°F), Panama City, Fla. (7.6°F), and New Orleans (7.1°F)…”