Blizzard Envy – Mourning Minnesota Winters of Old

Nobody likes to be wrong, but Friday’s vitriolic reaction to a blizzard shifting south of MSP may have been more than a mocking “schadenfreude”. The fact that it couldn’t/wouldn’t snow was another reminder of Minnesota’s increasingly wounded winters.

Spotty snow, shaky ice, more winter precipitation falling as rain? Twin Cities winters are now 5.4F warmer than 1970. That’s not a climate model, but based on observations.

We’ve been sprinkling CO2 hot sauce on our ice cream sundae, then acting indignant when most Minnesota winters don’t have the cold, crunchy sweetness we grew up with.

The patterns are shifting – spring routinely comes a few weeks earlier now. To date, February 2017 has set 9,544 records for warmth across the USA; just 137 new records for cold.

A mild bias spills into March with more 40s than 30s for highs; April-like 50s blow in again next weekend. A little rain falls Tuesday, but no big storms of any flavor are on the horizon.

I’d keep a heavy jacket handy but Old Man Winter should pull his punches into mid-March. Another tame/lame Minnesota winter? Yep.

Not Your Grandfather’s Winter. You’ve heard this before, but the numbers are fairly dramatic, especially at northern latitudes. The warming signal is most pronounced during the winter months. Meteorological winter is now 5.4 F. warmer in Minneapolis/St. Paul than it was in 1970. Nationwide winters are close to 3 F. warmer than 46 years ago. Data: Climate Central.

Daily Record Highs Across the USA. So far this month records for warm weather records outnumber cold weather records, 9,544 to 137. Over the last year warm weather records have outnumbered cold weather records 15,723 to 2,636. One year does not  a trend make, but keep in mind the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. Data courtesy of NOAA NCDC.

84-Hour Future Radar. NOAA’s 12 KM NAM pulls yet another Pacific storm across the Intermountain West today, spreading more rain than snow into the Midwest Tuesday – a cold rain spreading into the Northeast and New England by Wednesday and Thursday. California sees a break from the conga-line of storms Tuesday PM into Friday. Animation:

In Search of Winter. The ECMWF (European) model shows a warm bias looking out 15 days; 40s the next couple of days before cooling down later in the week. 50s are possible next weekend, especially Sunday. Typical for early or mid April. MSP numbers: WeatherBell.

March: Ditto. Meteorologists call it “persistence”, which means your first best (guess) is to go with the flow – don’t deviate much from the current pattern. With a weak La Nina cooling phase possibly shifting into another weak El Nino warming phase a forecast of warmer than average is probably the smart bet. Predicted NOAA CFSv2 March temperature anomalies: WeatherBell.

Meteorological Spring Outlook. NOAA CPC (Climate Prediction Center) is forecasting milder than average for much of the USA over the next 3 months, with a wet bias from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes. Place your bets.

Close Call. Here is Saturday’s high-resolution (10 meter) image of Minnesota and western Wisconsin from CIMSS/SSEC at The University of Wisconsin, showing just how close the snow came to the Twin Cities.

The U.S. Geological Survey Hails an Early Spring – And Ties It To Climate Change. The Washington Post reports: “As the nation basks in some of the warmest February weather it has seen in decades, the U.S. Geological Survey has been quick to point out that the early spring conditions are another symptom of climate change. On Thursday, the USGS shared a new analysis just released by the USA-National Phenology Network, which the agency helps to fund, showing that an early spring has already swept through the Southeast and is continuing to work its way across the country. As the agency points out, the new analysis reaffirms a fact scientists have known for at least a decade now — that “climate change is variably advancing the onset of spring across the United States.” The analysis relies on a special “spring index,” which defines the start of spring as the point when temperatures allow for certain early-season events in plants, such as the emergence of leaves and blooms…”

Map credit: “How do you know when spring has begun? Is it the appearance of the first tiny leaves on the trees, or the first crocus plants peeping through the snow? The Spring Leaf Index is a synthetic measure of these early season events in plants, based on recent temperature conditions. This model allows us to track the progression of spring onset across the country. The map (above) shows locations that have reached the requirements for the Spring Leaf Index model (based on NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction Real-Time Mesoscale Analysis temperature products).”

San Jose Flood Photos: Dramatic Images of This Week’s Disaster. The Mercury News in the Bay Area has a photo essay that puts this week’s historic flooding of San Jose into stark perspective: “Here are dramatic images of the flooding in San Jose neighborhoods following heavy rains on President’s Day weekend. The flooding, the worst the city has seen in decades, prompted the frantic evacuation of 14,000 people.”

Photo credit: “San Jose Fire Department rescuers evacuate the last residents from their homes along the flooded streets on Welch Ave and Needles Drive near Kelley Park in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.”

Flood Insurance: Does Your Excuse Hold Water? With flash flooding on the rise it might be wise to review your coverage. Here’s an excerpt from The Orlando Sentinel: “We know the old saying: when it rains, it pours… and when it pours, it floods. With winter snow storms coming to an end, the threat of flooding increases as the snow begins to melt and the rivers and creeks begin to swell. It’s easy to forget about how powerfully destructive water can be. In fact, nine out of 10 natural disasters include flood, making it the number one disaster in the United States according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). However, only 15 percent of homeowners have flood insurance. From 2006 to 2015, total flood claims cost more than $1.9 billion per year and the average claim was more than $46,000 during that time…” (Fort Lauderdale flood file photo: NOAA).

Tracking Lightning From Space. The GOES-16 GLM, or Geostationary Lightning Mapper should become operational later this year with a potential to revolutionize severe weather forecasting and tracking – providing a continuous stream of cloud to cloud and cloud to ground lightning, which often spikes before a major outbreak of severe storms or tornadoes. More details via NOAA/NASA: “GLM will collect information such as the frequency, location and extent of lightning discharges to identify intensifying thunderstorms and tropical cyclones. Trends in total lightning that will be available with the GLM have the promise of

Such storms exhibit a significant increase in total lightning activity, often many minutes before the radar detects the potential for severe weather. Used in combination with radar, satellite data, and surface observations, total lightning data from GLM has great potential to increase lead time for severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings and reduce false alarm rates.Knowledge of total lightning activity and its extent will help improve public safety…”

Saudi Arabia to Curb Oil Use With $50 Billion Renewable Energy Plan. Here’s a clip from Good News Network: “Saudi Arabia, the nation ranked as one of the world’s top crude oil exporters, has launched a $50 billion initiative to phase out fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy. The country plans on harnessing 10 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023 by constructing several wind and solar plants throughout the nation. Saudi Arabia plans on completing the initiative with 700 gigawatts. The initiative will not only be economically beneficial for the nation’s residents, but will also help steer Saudi Arabia’s main federal income away from crude oil as well as help the country meet worldwide sustainable energy goals…”

Photo credit: D.H. Parks, CC.

Study Finds Cyclists 6 Times Healthier Than Other Commuters. Because it’s harder to eat chips on a bike. Here’s an excerpt from Momentum Mag: “…When many people consider the health impacts of cycling, they think of the sport-oriented form of cycling that involves long-distance, fast rides and lycra, or at the very least a pair of sneakers and a workout shirt. Casual commuter cycling is better for you than sitting in a car or on the bus, sure, but it can’t be that much better, can it? A recent study undertaken at Brunel University in London, England, found that English people who regularly commute by bike are four times more likely than other commuters to get the 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week recommended by the World Health Organization. With its focus narrowed to London rather than nationwide, bike commuters were six times more likely to meet the recommended activity guidelines…”

Photo credit: Kamyar Adl

For Marketers, TV Sets Are an Invaluable Pair of Eyes. How would you like your TV set to watch YOU? For science, of course – and to tell marketing companies whether you’re really paying attention during the commercial breaks. What can possibly go wrong? The New York Times reports: “While Ellen Milz and her family were watching the Olympics last summer, their TV was watching them. Ms. Milz, 48, who lives with her husband and three children in Chicago, had agreed to be a panelist for a company called TVision Insights, which monitored her viewing habits — and whether her eyes flicked down to her phone during the commercials, whether she was smiling or frowning — through a device on top of her TV. “The marketing company said, ‘We’re going to ask you to put this device in your home, connect it to your TV and they’re going to watch you for the Olympics to see how you like it, what sports, your expression, who’s around,’” she said. “And I said, ‘Whatever, I have nothing to hide…’”

Photo credit: “Dan Schiffman of TVision, demonstrating the software. “The big thing for TV advertisers and the networks is, are you actually looking at the screen or not?” he said.” Dolly Faibyshev for The New York Times.

Listen Technology Holdouts: Enough is Enough. Having trouble finding parts for that 8-track player or 1997-era fax machine? The Washington Post feels your pain: “…But in some cases the devotion of the laggards can cause major headaches. When the market for outmoded products shrinks, most manufacturers just stop making them. By law, however, some technologies can’t be put to sleep until regulators give permission — usually long after the dying market has become unprofitable. Car manufacturers must keep up to a decade’s worth of spare parts, for example, even for discontinued models. And the U.S. Postal Service, teetering on bankruptcy for over a decade, still has to deliver mail to 155 million households, even as first-class volume continues to decline precipitously. As the post office has learned, the cost of keeping old technologies on life support skyrockets when expensive networks of equipment and people must be spread over a dwindling number of users…” (Photo credit: iStock).

Dubai to Test Passenger-Carrying Drones. Sign me up. Wait, not sure I want to beta-test this, but version 3.6? I’m your guy. Here’s a clip from The Economist: “AT TIMES it can feel like we are living in an episode of “Travel Futurama”. This week: flying drone taxis. Dubai, a city that sometimes seems to inhabit a time zone five years ahead of the rest of the planet, has embraced another improbable travel innovation, to go alongside its enthusiasm for hyperloop trains and long driverless metro lines. This week, the Emirati metropolis announced it is to test passenger-carrying drones in its skies by July. The unpiloted drone taxis won’t exactly replace the traditional earthbound sort, since they will be able to carry only one passenger, who together with luggage cannot weigh more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds). And it will have a range of just 50 kilometres (31 miles), or half an hour of flying time…”

40 F. high temperature Sunday in the Twin Cities.

33 F. average high on February 26.

42 F. maximum temperature on February 26, 2016.

February 27, 1981: Thunderstorms move across Minnesota, dumping 1.61 inches of rain at Montevideo. Many places were glazed over with ice.

February 27, 1948: A severe ice storm occurs over central Minnesota. At the St. Cloud Weather Office 1/2 inch of clear ice was measured. 65 telephone poles were down in St. Cloud.

TODAY: Some sun, milder. Winds: S 8-13. High: 44

MONDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 36

TUESDAY: Light rain and drizzle. Winds: SE 8-13. High: 44

WEDNESDAY: Cloudy and cooler, few flurries. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 27. High: 36

THURSDAY: Intervals of sun, brisk breeze. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 22. High: 32

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, turning milder. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 19. High: near 40

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, not bad at all. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 29. High: near 50

SUNDAY: More April than March. Feverish again. Winds:SE 8-13. Wake-up: 37. High: 56

Climate Stories….

St. Paul Launches Climate Action Plan Effort to Become Carbon Neutral. Here’s an excerpt from Star Tribune: “To offset St. Paul’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions, the city would have to install 985 wind turbines. Or it could preserve more than 31,086 acres of forests or somehow prevent 575,901 homes from using electricity for a year. But adding a turbine every few blocks or having hundreds of thousands of people go off the grid probably is not the answer, so the city is launching an effort to come up with a Climate Action Plan that provides a feasible path to reduce pollution. St. Paul’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2050, completely offsetting emissions so there would be no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is one of 633 communities across the world that agreed, as part of a compact of mayors, to develop plans to address climate change…”

File photo: St. Paul Chamber of Commerce.

Is It Okay To Enjoy the Warm Winters of Climate Change? No, it probably shouldn’t be in the 60s and 70s in February, but should I feel guity for enjoying early pangs of spring fever? Here’s an excerpt from a timely article at The Atlantic: “…For the climate-concerned, this is an encouraging theory of change—and it fits with a body of research that suggests people experiencing unusual warmth are more likely to tell pollsters they believe in global warming. But a study published last year in Nature should make advocates pause. It found that, for the vast majority of Americans, the weather became more favorable and pleasant from 1974 to 2013. Over all, winters have gotten generally warmer and more pleasant for “virtually all Americans,” while summers have not yet become scorching and oppressively humid. This change has occurred on a shocking scale: On the “pleasantness index” used by the study, Boston in 2013 was as favorable as New York City was in 1976; and present-day St. Louis is nicer than D.C. or Baltimore four decades hence…”

Map credit:

It Might Feel Good, But February’s Intense Heat is a Very Bad Sign. Which makes it a little harder to fully enjoy these freakish February warm fronts. ThinkProgress reports: “…This change in weather patterns does not come without a cost. For those living in frigid Midwestern states, a balmy day in February is a welcome respite from the typical winter chill. But the early thaw — what scientists call “season creep” — can have disastrous consequences for ecosystems. Flowers are already beginning to emerge in Chicago, which has gone a record 67 days without an inch of snow. Early blossoms may wilt before they can be pollinated. Farmers in the region may see their crops bud after an early thaw only to perish in a late-season frost…”

Map credit: “Plants are regrowing leaves days or weeks earlier than they typically do.” CREDIT: National Phenology Network

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