Heavy Wet Snow Potential on Saturday?

If we lived in Atlanta they might be mobilizing the National Guard. Although driving home yesterday I felt like I was living in Atlanta. A coating of snow turns into a commuting Snowpocalypse? How on Earth did that happen?

Dallas? An inch of snow is an existential crisis. But snow, in late November, in Minnesota? A rounding error.

My favorite Penn State meteorology professor (John Cahir) teed up the snowfall ranking scale I’ve been
borrowing for 40 years: nuisance, plowable and crippling. “Consumers believe you can predict snow down to the inch but the science isn’t there yet!” he preached. It’s still not there. And yet that’s the expectation. Amounts can vary wildly over 5-10 miles, and everyone wants to know how much will wind up in their yard, not the airport.

An icy start gives way to a drying sky today into Friday with thawing temperatures both days. ECMWF brings heavy snow into southern Minnesota Saturday, but NOAA’s models keep this system farther south. The “Euro” has been fairly consistent; I’m leaning in that direction. Yes, it could be plowable, but temperatures near 32F may keep metro freeways wet and slushy.

Colder air returns next week, but long-range models suggest some moderation in temperature by mid-

ECMWF: Total Snowfall by Sunday Evening. This is the 12z Wednesday run (I’ll update this with new data today to see if there is model consistency from run to run). Heaviest amounts Saturday PM into early Sunday are forecast to set up over far southern Minnesota, but a few slushy inches may fall on the metro area. Map: WeatherBell.

NAM Solution: Snowfall by Sunday Evening. The 00z Thursday run shows a northward shift in the axis of heaviest snow Saturday and Saturday night, coming closer to the European solution (above), with very plowable amounts predicted for far southern Minnesota – a few inches possible in the MSP metro.

Already a Severe Winter – And It’s Not Even Winter Yet. The scale is called AWSSI, for Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index, and it shows a harsh start to the winter start for the eastern two-thirds of the USA. How is the scale calculated? Here’s an overview from Midwest Regional Climate Center: “Winter seasons have significant societal impacts across all sectors ranging from direct human health and mortality to commerce, transportation, and education. The question “How severe was this winter?” does not have a simple answer. At the very least, the severity of a winter is related to the intensity and persistence of cold weather, the amount of snow, and the amount and persistence of snow on the ground. The Accumulated Winter Season Index (AWSSI) was developed to objectively quantify and describe the relative severity of the winter season.”

AWSSI Data for the Twin Cities. We’ll see how the rest of the winter season unfolds, and whether a much-advertised El Nino mellows things out over time. Data courtesy of Midwestern Regional Climate Center.

Slight Moderation by Mid-December? It may be wishful thinking, but a more zonal flow is forecast to set up by the second week of December, with more frequent days in the 30s, even a shot at 40F. I keep waiting for a true (consistent) El Nino warming signal to kick in – not seeing it yet.

Destructive 2018 Hurricane Season Draws To An End. NOAA has a good summary of yet another very destructive year: “The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season officially concludes on November 30, and will be remembered most for hurricanes Florence and Michael, which caused significant damage in the southeastern U.S. In total, the season produced 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes of which two were “major” (Category 3, 4 or 5). An average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. “From the start of the 2018 hurricane season to its conclusion, NOAA and its dedicated staff of scientists, researchers, and forecasters have remained on the frontlines, saving countless American lives with critical and accurate data,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Time and again,  NOAA and NOAA resources have proven their value to the American people during the most urgent of circumstances.” Hurricane Michael, at a Category 4 intensity, was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Florida panhandle. It was the third-most-intense hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. on record in terms of central pressure (919 mb) and the fourth-strongest in terms of maximum sustained winds (155 mph)…”

This aerial image shows extensive damage along the coast in Mexico Beach, Florida, caused by Hurricane Michael. NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey began collecting damage assessment imagery in the aftermath of the storm October 11, 2018. (NOAA NGS)

Climate-Warming El Nino Very Like in 2019, Says UN Agency. Here’s an overview from The Guardian: “There is a 75-80% chance of a climate-warming El Niño event by February, according to the latest analysis from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. The last El Niño event ended in 2016 and helped make that year the hottest ever recorded by adding to the heating caused by humanity’s carbon emissions. The 2019 event is not currently forecast to be as strong as in 2016. El Niño events occur naturally every few years and stem from abnormally high ocean temperatures in the western Pacific. They have a major influence on weather around the globe, bringing droughts to normally damp places, such as parts of Australia, and floods to normally drier regions, such as in South America. The high temperatures also cause major bleaching on coral reefs…”

IRA ENSO forecast courtesy of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Details here.

What’ll Become of The NFIP? Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Nearly 37,000 homes and properties across the US have been rebuilt repeatedly with funds from the National Flood Insurance Program, costing almost $7.4 billion in claims before this year’s hurricane season began, the AP reported Monday. Rob Moore at NRDC told the AP that more than 80 percent of properties repeatedly bailed out were single-family homes, with damage claims of $150,000 for homes worth an average of $115,000. “Many people that find themselves in a situation of living in a repeatedly flooded house would like nothing more than to never file another flood insurance damage claim ever again,” Moore said. “But the only assistance that’s readily available to them after a flood is to rebuild if they have flood insurance.” Congress must reach a solution for the program this week before it expires on December 1, and a bipartisan group of senators from flood-prone states are advocating for a temporary six-month extension to the program that would extend the question of a long-term solution into the next Congress.” (Flooding: AP. Congress: Politico Pro $, North Jersey Record. Commentary: The Hill, John Smaby op-ed)

File image: Louisiana Coast Guard.

The Science is Clear: Dirty Farm Water Is Making Us Sick. WIRED.com takes a look at increasing levels of produce contamination: “…For more than a decade, it’s been clear that there’s a gaping hole in American food safety: Growers aren’t required to test their irrigation water for pathogens such as E. coli. As a result, contaminated water can end up on fruits and vegetables. After several high-profile disease outbreaks linked to food, Congress in 2011 ordered a fix, and produce growers this year would have begun testing their water under rules crafted by the Obama administration’s Food and Drug Administration…”

Photo credit: “Gary (left) and Kara Waugaman, food safety coordinators for Lakeside Organic Gardens, inspect rows of lettuce, kale and rainbow chard at Seascape Ranch near Watsonville, Calif. Salad greens are particularly vulnerable to pathogens because they often are eaten raw and can harbor bacteria when torn.” Susie Neilson/Reveal.

Rivian Wants To Do For Pickups What Tesla Did For Cars. Go for it – I’ll be one of the first in line to check this out (if it’s real and they can scale up). Here’s an excerpt from WIRED.com: “…The most striking visual elements are the wraparound LED lights, red at the back, and white, punctured with Tic Tac headlights at the front. “We’re going to take the traditional tradeoffs that exist in the segment—poor fuel economy, not fun to drive, not good on the highway—and make them strengths,” Scaringe says. He promises his vehicle will be fast, fun, and extremely capable. Rivian is using four motors, which should allow a 0-60 mph sprint in three seconds—insane for a truck—and also give the R1T a tow rating of 11,000 pounds. The company is also experimenting with off-road abilities. Having one motor per wheel gives it the kind of traction control you want for, say, rock crawling...”

Photo credit: Ben Moon/Rivian.

New Study Confirms That E-Cigs Damage Your Heart. Big Think has a post focused on new research that suggests safe-vaping is a myth: “…Vaping might be “healthier” than smoking, but the idea that it’s not dangerous is laughable. For example, in August a study at the University of Birmingham discovered that vaping liquid produces inflammatory cytokines, which over the course of decades could contribute to heart problems. Now a new study that was recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions confirms that, like traditional cigarettes, e-cigs cause endothelial cells to produce less nitric oxide, leading to heart damage. Nitric oxide (NO) is a byproduct shared by almost all forms of organic life. The inner lining of blood vessels (endothelium) use nitric oxide in vasodilation, widening blood vessels, to increase blood flow...”

China Researcher Claims First Gene-Edited Babies. Talk about a slippery slope. Details via AP: “A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies — twin girls born this month whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life. If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics. A U.S. scientist said he took part in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes...”

A Vaccine for Alzheimer’s? This one hits close to home; a ray of hope in an article at Forbes: “Researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center reported Tuesday that they have developed a vaccine that could arm the body to attack Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles before they even start to shut down the brain. They hope to begin testing the vaccines in humans soon. Their new vaccine for the first time has targeted both amyloid-containing plaques and tau—both considered hallmarks for a definitive identification of Alzheimer’s disease—in a mouse with the disease. The shot uses DNA from Alzheimer’s proteins to teach the immune system to fight these compounds and keep them from accumulating in the brain...”

Elon Musk: To Avoid Becoming Like Monkeys, Humans Must Merge With Machines. I’m exhausted just thinking about this, but Elon has a way of being out front on a lot of big ideas. How do we grapple with AI? Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post: “…Now the 47-year-old billionaire inventor and Tesla chief executive has unveiled a potential way for the meager human brain to compete with a superior force that Musk has compared to “an immortal dictator” and “the devil.” During an interview with Axios co-founders Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen that aired Sunday on HBO, Musk said humans must merge with artificial intelligence, creating a “symbiosis” that leads to “a democratization of intelligence.” “Essentially, how do we ensure that the future constitutes the sum of the will of humanity?” Musk said. “And so, if we have billions of people with the high-bandwidth link to the AI extension of themselves, it would actually make everyone hyper-smart...”

Photo credit: “Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said that autonomous machines are more dangerous to the world than North Korea and could unleash “weapons of terror.” (Kyle Grillot/Reuters).

In South Korea Overworked People Go to Prison on Purpose. Call me crazy but this just sounds like a bad vacation (with no cell phones). Quartz reports: “A mock prison called “Prison Inside Me” has become a retreat for harried South Koreans looking for a clean break from the daily demands of their careers. Located in the Hongcheon county, in Gangwon province east of Seoul, paying visitors are issued a standard blue uniform and must follow the facility’s strict rules. The “inmates” can’t speak to each other, nor do they have access to their phones, or even a clock. Meals, slipped under a swinging door to their cell, are fairly spartan. Prison Inside Me has hosted a few thousand visitors in the past few years, Reuters reports. Many of them are seeking temporary solace from the stresses of South Korea’s competitive schooling and job market...”

Photo credit: “Prison Inside Me, a mock prison facility, is shrouded by fog at dawn in Hongcheon, South Korea on Nov. 11.” Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji.

More Money Than Sense? Now You Hire Someone to Instagram For You. Another head-scratching post from Quartz: “A hotel chain in Switzerland is offering a new service: a “social media sitter” who will take photos of a guest’s vacation and post them on Instagram on their behalf. This is the world we are now all living in. Visitors to Ibis hotel locations in Geneva and Zurich this month had the option to buy a room package that includes a hired Instagram influencer to ostensibly let the vacationers take a break from social media, while still maintaining a jealousy-inducing presence online. The $90-and-up service is called “Relax We Post…”

27 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

34 F. average high on November 28.

53 F. high on November 28, 2017.

November 29, 1991: Parts of central Minnesota receive heavy snow including a record 16 inches of snow in New Ulm.

November 29, 1835: A low of 11 below zero is reported at Ft. Snelling.

THURSDAY: Icy start. Clouds linger. Winds: S 5-10. High: 35

THURSDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Low: 27

FRIDAY: Cloudy and a bit milder. Winds: SE 5-10. High: 38

SATURDAY: Heavy wet snow. Potentially plowable? Winds: NE 15-25. Wake-up: 30. High: 34

SUNDAY: Flurries taper, travel improves. Winds: N 10-20. Wake-up: 30. High: 32

MONDAY: More clouds than sun, dry. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 22. High: 28

TUESDAY: Still drab and gray. Winds: W 10-20. Wake-up: 20. High: near 30

WEDNESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, brisk. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 19. High: 27

Climate Stories…

Human Behavior Might Be the Hardest Part of Climate Change to Predict. FiveThirtyEight has some interesting perspective: “…This is where we edge away from physics and into sociology. The consequences of sea level rise are about more than just flooding. Politics, legal systems, social and cultural histories all play a role in determining humanity’s response. What infrastructure will get built and when? What laws will be written? Which communities will be forced to move? As the assessment released last week states, “The ability of adaptation to reduce severe climate impacts like these will ultimately depend less on scientific uncertainties and the ability to implement engineering solutions than on perceived loss of culture and identity, in particular identities associated with unique cultural heritage sites and a sense of place.” That’s true for a number of ways that climate change will complicate our lives…”

“I Was Wrong on Climate Change. Why Can’t Other Conservatives Admit It Too? Conservative columnist and pundit Max Boot talks about an acceptance of the scientific consensus in an Op-Ed at The Washington Post: “I admit it. I used to be a climate-change skeptic. I was one of those conservatives who thought that the science was inconclusive, that fears of global warming were as overblown as fears of a new ice age in the 1970s, that climate change was natural and cyclical, and that there was no need to incur any economic costs to deal with this speculative threat. I no longer think any of that, because the scientific consensus is so clear and convincing. The Fourth National Climate Assessment, released Friday by the U.S. government, puts it starkly: “Observations collected around the world provide significant, clear, and compelling evidence that global average temperature is much higher, and is rising more rapidly, than anything modern civilization has experienced, with widespread and growing impacts…”

Photo credit: “A firefighter searches for human remains in a trailer park destroyed in the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.” (John Locher/AP).

15 Take-Aways From The U.S. Climate Change Report. Here’s an excerpt from CNN.com: “…Higher temperatures will also kill more people, the report says. The Midwest alone, which is predicted to have the largest increase in extreme temperatures, will see an additional 2,000 premature deaths per year by 2090. People who live in Rhode Island could see an additional 1,500 heat-related ER visits by 2095, and some of those visits will end in death, according to the report. Poor air quality can also lead to more strokes and heart attacks. The heat will be a problem for elderly people with chronic conditions, increasing the death rate by 2.8% to 4% with each increase of approximately 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) in summer temperature…”

Fourth National Climate Assessment. Here’s a link to the government report that came out on Black Friday; an excerpt: “…The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities. Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality. Impacts within and across regions will not be distributed equally. People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts…”

Graphics above courtesy of the Fourth National Climate Assessment and NOAA.

Topline Findings of Latest National Climate Assessment. Climate Nexus has a good summary; here’s an excerpt:

Human activity, primarily burning fossil fuels, is causing climate change. There is no credible alternative to global warming emissions to explain the warming.

  • Global average temperatures have risen 1.8°F (1.0°C) since 1901, predominantly because of human activity, especially the emission of heat-trapping gases.
  • Globally, 16 of the last 17 years are the warmest years on record.
  • Depending on the region, Americans could experience an additional month to two month’s worth of days with maximum temperatures above 100°F (38°C) by 2050, with that severe heat becoming commonplace in the southeast by 2100.

Economic losses from climate change are significant for some sectors of the U.S. economy.

  • In some sectors, losses driven by the impacts of climate change could exceed $100 billion annually by the end of the century…

Bill Gate’s New Crusade: Sounding the Climate Change Alarm. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Axios: “…Why he matters: I know him as an advocate for climate change and clean energy. Gates has long worked on these issues, but here’s what’s new for the tech visionary: He’s increasingly worried not enough people understand the dimensions of the problem and that it’s going to prevent progress. This escalation was on display in an interview with “Axios on HBO.” The intrigue: Talking recently at his private offices overlooking the water in Kirkland, Washington, near Seattle, Gates went wonky more than he went visionary. He didn’t criticize President Trump’s positions dismissing climate change, even though he’s spent a significant amount of energy trying to change his mind…”

Illustration credit: Sarah Grillo/Axios.