Some of My Favorite Meteorological Pet Peeves

We all have our pet peeves, and meteorologists are no exception. Here are a few of my favorites. “You weather forecasters are never right!” We do get the forecast wrong, especially the 7-Day, but the tomorrow forecast is 88 percent accurate. You just tend to remember the 12 percent of the time we blow it.

“Why do the forecasts change – and why is there such a big difference between forecasters?” The forecast changes as new (better) data arrives; there are 4 major new model runs every day. I’m free to interpret the data and models differently than my competitor across the street. We have the freedom to disagree with the official National Weather Service forecast – or other meteorologists. I feel better now.
Yesterday was a soft, fragrant balm for the senses, a subtle reminder that spring is coming. We cool off today with flurries in the air. Friday starts out near 0F, but another thaw arrives this weekend – and a more moderate, Pacific wind flow dominates our weather into early March. No more lengthy arctic outbreaks shaping up.
Snow? A light, slushy accumulation is possible on Monday.

Photo credit: Studio A at our Praedictix weather studio.

Monday Snow Event? It’s too early for specifics, but models consistently bring a wave of low pressure south of Minnesota by Monday; temperatures aloft potentially cold enough for a period of potentially heavy snow. ECMWF guidance (above) hints at a mix or even rain for southeastern Minnesota and the southern half of Wisconsin, but again – we’re throwing darts in the dark this far out. 18z Monday map: WSI.

No, Spring Is Not Right Around the Corner. I’m not buying the GFS snowfall solution – not yet. Watch how this evolves in the coming days, but last night’s 00z run prints out some (very) plowable amounts from the Twin Cities and Brainerd to Duluth. Map:

Spaghetti Plot. GFS ensemble models print out anywhere fromm 7 to 15″ of snow, but this far out it’s a little like trying to predict where the stock market will close on Monday. Interesting, but not actionable – not yet.

Fairly Consistent 30s. After the first thaw in 18 days we can be excused for getting a little excited. There will be more (minor) temperature relapses over the next 10 days, a few days in the upper teens – but as a rule we end the month with daytime highs in the 30s. Twin Cities ECMWF numbers: WeatherBell.

Increasing Storm Potential Late Month? NOAA’s GFS forecast of 500mb (18,000 foot) winds continues to suggest a split flow or even a phasing of the jet stream, with a possible longwave trough coming out of the Rockies by the end of February. If (a big if) this verifies there would be sufficient moisture flowing out of the Gulf of Mexico. The question then becomes: will it be too warm aloft for all snow, or will we deal with a mix of rain/ice/snow? Too early to tell, but I don’t think we’re done with accumulating snow just yet.

The Science of Winds Affecting the 2018 Winter Games. Dr. Marshall Shepherd has a good explainer, focusing on the wild winds that have impacted PyeongChang, South Korea. Here’s an excerpt at Forbes: “My family and I were watching the Winter Olympics last night. As we watched skiers plummet down mountains at over 60 miles per hour, the commentators continuously referred to the impact of winds. During the opening sessions of the Winter Games, I noticed that a cross-country ski course was shortened because of the winds. The winds have become a significant story during the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Conditions have been so bad that conversations are being raised about the safety of the athletes and the suitability of PyeongChang as a host site. Events have been delayed, and athletes are concerned about the impacts on their performance. It is the first time in history that the Winter Olympics have been held in South Korea, and the winds are stealing the headlines. So why is it so windy?…”

1-KM Model for PyeongChang, South Korea. The NASA model above displays future relative humidity and wind speeds with an amazing level of specificity. Details below.

Tracking Olympic Weather. Thanks to our friends at NASA, you can check out SPORT: Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center, to get an update on weather conditions in South Korea. More details on the model here: “Model fields are output every 3 hours on the 9-km grid, and every 30 minutes on the 3-km and 1-km grids.  The high-resolution output from the 1-km nest centered on the Olympics venue is being delivered in real time to South Korea forecasters for decision support during the games. SPoRT is sending full grids as well as point forecasts of model fields of interest at each specific game site.  Additionally, numerous graphics of temperature, moisture, winds, precipitation, snowfall, etc. are produced for each grid and hosted to a live model web page, accessible to the public...”

The Power of Historical Weather. To be able to have a prayer of predicting future weather it’s imperative to analyze the past. Here’s an excerpt of a post I wrote for AerisWeather:“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
– George Santayana

Meteorologists are preoccupied with predicting some future state of the atmosphere. Too many days it’s a thankless, seemingly impossible task. To have any real success forecasting the weather it’s essential to look back in time to see what already happened, and why? Our humbling new reality: every storm is different, each weather scenario uniquely challenging. The atmosphere has never been identical to the one outside your window right now. The only way to accurately model the future is to analyze the past, with a high degree of reliability and granularity. Counterintuitively, there is much value to be unlocked by carefully examining past weather trends, tracking repeatable patterns in weather and climate that optimize business operations for inevitable swings in temperature, moisture, and severity. Past is prologue. The weather never repeats, but often – it rhymes…”

Cuts at the National Weather Service? A proposed 8% cut at The National Weather Service? Fortune has the story; here’s a clip: “After a year that saw over $300 billion in damages from hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, the Trump administration is proposing significant cuts to the National Weather Service (NWS) and hopes to eliminate the jobs of 248 weather forecasters. The idea, which is part of the 2019 fiscal budget proposal and caught the agency by surprise, is being derided by the NWS’s labor union, which says the cuts will impact the reliability of future weather forecasts and warnings. “We can’t take any more cuts and still do the job that the American public needs us to do…”

La Nina Ending, Here Comes “La Nada”. Which is an absence of an El Nino (warming phase) or La Nina (cooling phase). USA TODAY has a summary of the trends: “Climate troublemaker La Niña, which is partly responsible for the extreme drought now scorching the southwestern U.S. and California, is expected to fade away over the next few months, scientists said. In its place will be the “neutral phase” of the Pacific Ocean climate pattern officially known as ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation). The climate pattern, marked by either unusually warm or cool seawater in the central Pacific Ocean, can affect weather in the U.S. and around the world. The La Niña phase is defined by colder-than-average ocean temperatures in the Pacific. It’s the opposite of El Niño. ENSO-neutral, colloquially known as “La Nada,” is the midpoint between El Niño and La Niña, and occurs when temperatures are near average in the Pacific Ocean…”

Pacific Island of Tonga Cleaning Up From Devastating Storm. Cyclone Gita hit as a Category 4 storm; Quartz details the severe impact on the island nation: “Tonga has been without power, so official reports are only just starting to come in. Early reports suggest that 75% of homes in the capital of Nukuʻalofa have been destroyed. “I’ve been involved in disaster responses for 30 plus years and it’s the worst situation I have been in,” Graham Kenna of Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office told Radio NZ. According to Graham, almost every home in Tonga has been damaged, mostly from fallen trees and flooding…”

The Promise of Indoor, Hurricane-Proof “Vertical” Farms. Everything is getting disrupted, including how we grow our crops, according to The Atlantic: “…In a way, Harvey was a test for Moonflower Farms. Founded by Marques in December 2015, it was one of the state’s very first indoor “vertical” farms—where plants are stacked in trays on shelves, instead of laid out horizontally across larger plots of land. In these high-tech structures, plants don’t rely on sunlight or soil, rainwater or pesticides, but LED lights and minerals instead. The goal of vertical farms isn’t just to save space; it’s also to find a more economical way of producing food for the growing population—and to reduce the costs and consequences of getting that food to where people actually live…”
Photo credit: “A worker at an indoor vertical farm in Newark, New Jersey.” Mike Segar / Reuters

Rural America’s Drinking-Water Crisis. A story at New Republic underscored the importance of clean, safe drinking water – something none of us should take for granted: “…Put all these systems together, however, and rural America’s drinking-water situation constitutes a crisis of a magnitude greater than Flint, or any individual city. From Appalachian Kentucky to the Texas borderlands, millions of rural Americans are subject to unhealthy and sometimes illegal levels of contaminants in their drinking water, whether from agriculture, or coal, or plain old bad pipes. And as the economic gap separating rural America from its urban and suburban counterparts continues to grow, this basic inequality is set to become more entrenched—and possibly more dangerous, as sickness seeps into rural America….”

Image credit: “Photos of tap water in Martin County, Kentucky, each taken by different residents at various points from 2016 to 2018.” Martin County Water Warriors Facebook group.

Could Electric Vehicles Become as Common as Smart Phones. Sacramento Bee has the article: “...The cost of EV batteries – the vehicles’ most expensive component – dropped by 74 percent from 2010 to 2016, even as driving range increased every year. Last year, global electric vehicle sales topped one million for the first time in history. Countries including China, India and the U.K. have announced plans to phase out gas-powered cars entirely. In addition to the market and technological improvements we’re seeing, analysts believe the advent of autonomous vehicles will further change the automotive industry. Fleets of self-driving electric cars that people hail instead of owning their own vehicles may not be that far off. But other factors could slow the growth of zero-emission transportation…”

Photo credit: “Electric cars are parked atop the Los Angeles Police Department parking lot in 2016.” Nick Ut AP file.

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Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook – And The World. If you haven’t read the piece you should right now; here’s a clip: “…This is the story of those two years, as they played out inside and around the company. WIRED spoke with 51 current or former Facebook employees for this article, many of whom did not want their names used, for reasons anyone familiar with the story of Fearnow and Villarreal would surely understand. (One current employee asked that a WIRED reporter turn off his phone so the company would have a harder time tracking whether it had been near the phones of anyone from Facebook.) The stories varied, but most people told the same basic tale: of a company, and a CEO, whose techno-optimism has been crushed as they’ve learned the myriad ways their platform can be used for ill. Of an election that shocked Facebook, even as its fallout put the company under siege. Of a series of external threats, defensive internal calculations, and false starts that delayed Facebook’s reckoning with its impact on global affairs and its users’ minds. And—in the tale’s final chapters—of the company’s earnest attempt to redeem itself…”

Image credit: Eddie Guy.

InfoCalypse Now. The same guy that predicted the 2016 Fake News Crisis is now worried about an information apocalypse. Lovely. Here’s the intro to a story at Buzzfeed: “In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.” The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation...”

8 Sure Habits of Exceptionally Happy People. has an interesting story – here’s the intro: “The best conversations in life are initiated by learning about what other people do, how they do it, and why they do it. In turn, the happiest people show up with the humble gesture of “I want to learn from you” and invite that person to coffee to soak up their wisdom. They know it will make them better for it, and the other person appreciate the gesture and pay it forward. Now, to really take it to another level, seek out someone younger and less experienced who brings real value to your work or life in an area unfamiliar to you, and learn from that person….”

Robots Remind Us How Far Away the Apocalypse Is. I want to be one of the people maintaining the robots. Here’s an excerpt from Quartz: “Robots can ski too, sort of. A short drive from the Olympic games in PyeongChang, South Korea is hosting another winter sporting event: Alpine skiing with robots. Eight teams from universities and companies across the country competed. Each team sent a completely autonomous humanoid down a 70-meter-long ski slope, equipped with sensors to detect obstacles. The result was impressive at times, but mostly comical. Check out the video above to watch the highlights...”

Which Winter Olympic Sport is Best For You? Take the quick 8-question quiz from FiveThirtyEight to get your personalized result. My result is below. Freestyle skiing? Sounds good on paper but it would lead to an untimely death on the slopes, I fear.

Not an Olympic Sport: Swedes Are Literally Skating on Thin Ice. “Wild ice” skaters seek out precarious black ice, which is only a few dozen millimeters thick and emits laser-like sounds as weight passes over it. Details via The Kid Should See This:

This small lake outside Stockholm, Sweden, emits otherworldly sounds as Mårten Ajne skates over its precariously thin, black ice. “Wild ice skating,” or “Nordic skating,” is both an art and a science. A skater seeks out the thinnest, most pristine black ice possible—both for its smoothness and for its high-pitched, laser-like sounds.

File under: Do not try this without experienced wild ice skaters at your side. Mathematician and author Mårten Ajne loves the challenge of long-distance skating on thin, untouched ice, and has written books on the physics and culture of the sport, including safety tips for how to avoid dangerous ice. How does he determine if the black ice is strong enough to bear his weight?...”

North Korean Cheerleaders Caught Off-Guard by Fake Kim Jong Un. Reuters has the story; here are a couple of excerpts: “A group of North Korean cheerleaders were briefly wowed by the apparent, sudden arrival of their leader, Kim Jong Un, at a Winter Olympics ice hockey game on Wednesday. Some cheerleaders immediately averted their gaze as the impersonator, who later only identified himself as Howard, smiled and waved to crowds who came to watch a unified Korean team play Japan at the Pyeongchang Games…He said he was briefly detained inside a police office during Wednesday’s match then “politely asked” to leave.  “My face is too political,” the dejected impersonator said as he walked slowly out of the ice hockey stadium...”

Photo credit: “Ice Hockey – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Women Preliminary Round Match – Korea v Japan – Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea – February 14, 2018. A North Korean leader Kim Jong-un lookalike waves in the stands.” REUTERS/Staff.

43 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities on Wednesday.

29 F. average high on February 14.

43 F. high on February 14, 2017.

February 15, 1921: An early blast of spring weather invades Minnesota. Thunderstorms were reported across the southern portion of the state. Winona had a high of 67.

THURSDAY: Cooler with flurries. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 33 (falling)

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clearing and chilly. Low: 2

FRIDAY: Plenty of sunshine. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 20

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, closer to average. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 13. High: near 30

SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy and milder, wet snow far northern MN. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 23. High: 41

MONDAY: Potential for accumulating snow. Travel may be tricky. Winds: NE 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 33

TUESDAY: Cooler with lingering flurries. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 13. High: 20

WEDNESDAY: Cool sunshine returns. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 8. High: 22

Climate Stories…

Intelligence Agencies Break With White House, Pentagon on Climate: From Climate Nexus: “US intelligence agencies warned that climate change poses a long-term and immediate threat to the United States in a report submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday. The agencies’ annual Worldwide Threat Assessment report for 2018 contains an unambiguous section on the risks posed by environment and climate change, stating that “long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent–and possibly upheaval — through 2018.” The report comes a few weeks after the Pentagon’s updated National Defense Strategy (NDS) broke with Obama-era policy and excluded climate change. In December, the White House introduced its National Security Strategy, which did not recognize climate change as a threat.” (InsideClimate News, Bloomberg).

6 Surprising Ways Climate Change Impacts Health. has an interesting post; here’s a clip: “.. In fact, if you already have a heart condition, a heat wave can increase your risk of mortality by as much as 15 percent. It’s especially dangerous if temperatures spike quickly from day to day. About 25 million people in the U.S. suffer from asthma. Diagnoses have been on the rise, and climate change may be part of the problem. Pollen is a major trigger for many people with asthma, and a changing climate is good news for many pollen-producing plants. Warmer weather means a longer allergy season, which translates to more asthma attacks…”

File image: Thinkstock.

Miami Could Be Underwater In Your Kid’s Lifetime as Sea Level Rise Accelerates. USA TODAY explains: “…At the current rate of melting, the world’s seas will be at least 2 feet higher by the end of the century compared to today, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Such a rise could leave portions of the world’s coastal cities underwater. It would also increase high tides and worsen storm surges. “This acceleration … has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 as compared to projections that assume a constant rate — to more than (2 feet) instead of about (1 foot).” said Steve Nerem, the study lead author and a professor of aerospace engineering sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “And this is almost certainly a conservative estimate,” he added.  Scientists looked 25 years of satellite data to calculate the levels of Earth’s seas…”

Satellite Observations Show Sea Levels Rising, and Climate Change is Accelerating It. Here’s an excerpt from a CNN summary: “…Using satellite data rather than tide-gauge data that is normally used to measure sea levels allows for more precise estimates of global sea level, since it provides measurements of the open ocean. The team observed a total rise in the ocean of 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) in 25 years of data, which aligns with the generally accepted current rate of sea level rise of about 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) per year. But that rate is not constant. Continuous emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans and melting its ice, causing the rate of sea level rise to increase….”

Map credit: “Changes in sea level observed between 1992 and 2014. Orange/red colors represent higher sea levels, while blue colors show where sea levels are lower.” NASA.

Don’t Believe in Climate Change? Energy Companies Do. Here’s an excerpt from The Houston Chronicle: “…While some conservative political leaders still deny that the Earth is heating up due to humans burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases, the people who produce those fuels and chemicals have recognized the imperative to limit global warming to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius. Many of these companies are recommending a carbon tax, and others are calling on governments to keep predictable environmental regulations. The pleas for reason coming from corporate boardrooms contrast sharply with the sloganeering coming from Republican politicians. Sara Ortwein, the president of Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy, last week called for “sound policies and regulations” for methane emissions…”

Exxon Sues the Suers in Fierce Climate Change Case. Bloomberg reports: “As climate-change lawsuits against the oil industry mount, Exxon Mobil Corp. is taking a bare-knuckle approach rarely seen in legal disputes: It’s going after the lawyers who are suing it. The company has targeted at least 30 people and organizations, including the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts, hitting them with suits, threats of suits or demands for sworn depositions. The company claims the lawyers, public officials and environmental activists are “conspiring” against it in a coordinated legal and public relations campaign. Exxon has even given that campaign a vaguely sinister-sounding name: “The La Jolla playbook.” According to the company, about two dozen people hatched a strategy against it at a meeting six years ago in an oceanfront cottage in La Jolla, Calif...”

File image: Reuters.

Sea Level Rise Getting Faster: From Climate Nexus: “Sea level rise is accelerating as the planet warms, new research shows, and the world could see sea levels rise two feet by the end of the century. A study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examines 25 years of sea level data, finding that the pace of sea level rise has become faster as ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica continue to melt. The study calculates the rate of sea level rise has accelerated by .08mm per year, creating a possible overall sea level rise of 2 feet by 2100–an estimate researchers say is conservative as additional ice sheet melting could accelerate sea level rise even more.” (CNN, AP, The Guardian, InsideClimate News, ThinkProgress, Deutsche Welle, Quartz, Newsweek).

File image: National Academy of Sciences.

Coastal Golf Courses Face Climate Change Threat, Claims Report. reports:  “Golf’s governing body has stressed that the game needs help to tackle the “wider issue” of climate change after a report highlighted the risk to coastal courses, including Open Championship venues. Wetter winters and coastal erosion linked to climate change are threatening the future of golf, according to a report from the Climate Coalition, which was published Wednesday. Golf is facing an increase in unplayable holes, winter course closures and disruption to professional tournaments due to increased rainfall, while rising sea levels could jeopardize all of the world’s coastal courses by 2100...”