Uncertainty Over Next Week’s Storm Risk

Like a pack of smokes, weather forecasts should come with a warning label. Or maybe a “confidence level”. Every now and then the outlook is black and white. No ambiguity. More times than not there’s a lot of gray: the edge of the storm – too close to the rain/snow line – or the models just disagree.

As it stands, most people can’t remember the specifics of a typical 7-Day forecast. The last thing we want to do is add more minutia, but I would argue that when a storm is approaching, meteorologists should include a confidence level. High? Medium? Low? Level with people about how sure you really are.

Confidence levels are high that rain ends as a few flurries this morning with wet roads into midday. Confidence levels are high we’ll enjoy a no-drama-weekend, with 40s and a stray rain shower late Sunday.

Confidence levels are low about next week’s storm. ECMWF prints out a few snowy inches Thanksgiving Day. NOAA’s GFS model suggests a little snow Wednesday with a cold rain late next week.

I’m confident my headache is back.


Model forecasts above valid next Thursday evening, November 28 – courtesy of WSI.











Moderately Cold Start to December. GFS guidance suggests occasional slugs of numbing air from the Upper Midwest into the Great Lakes and New England as we sail into the first week of December, but the wind flow for much of the USA is modified Pacific air, with a slight mild bias south/west of Minnesota.

Thanksgiving Day Climatology in the Twin Cities. Yes, it can snow a fair amount on Thanksgiving Day, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years. Here’s a clip from The Minnesota DNR: “…Measurable snow fell on 29 of the past Thanksgivings back to 1884, about every five years or so. The most snow that fell on Thanksgiving was five inches in 1970. The last time there was measurable snow on Thanksgiving was in 2015 with 1.3 inches of snow. Historically, about one in three Thanksgivings have at least one inch of snow on the ground. The deepest snow pack is a tie with 1921 and 1983, both with 10 inches on the ground by Turkey Day. It occasionally rains on Thanksgiving Day as well. In 1896, a two-day event in the Twin Cities doused Thanksgiving travelers with nearly three inches of rain.”


The Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter. Maybe watch it on a webcam from a long beach? Kidding! Here’s an excerpt of a post at KOTTKE.ORG: “…When she asked people “Why don’t you have seasonal depression?” the answer was “Why would we?” It turns out that in northern Norway, “people view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured,” says Leibowitz, and that makes all the difference. The people in the Norwegian communities Leibowitz studied, they got outside as much as they could — “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” — spent their time indoors being cozy, came together in groups, and marveled at winter’s beauty. I’d tried all that stuff my previous two winters but what seems to have moved the needle for me this year is a shift in mindset.…”

The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter. Here is an excerpt of the Fast Company post referenced above: “…First, Norwegians celebrate the things one can only do in winter. “People couldn’t wait for the ski season to start,” says Leibowitz. Getting outside is a known mood booster, and so Norwegians keep going outside, whatever is happening out there. Notes Leibowitz: “There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets. There’s a community aspect to it too; it’s not just an excuse to sit on the couch watching Netflix. Leibowitz reports that Tromsø had plenty of festivals and community activities creating the sense that everyone was in it together…”
File photo: Lake Minnetonka in December, Doug Kruhoeffer.

Combining Satellites, Radar Provides Path for Better Forecasts. Data assimilation can pay off, especially with short-fuse severe storm events. Here’s a clip from ScienceDaily: “…Doppler radar observations provide 3D scans of the storms, leading to more accurate information about the storm’s structure and potentially cutting down on false alarms, according to the researchers. The scientists found they could increase warning times by up to 40 minutes, which supports the findings of their previous work. According to the researchers, current warning times for tornadoes average about 14 minutes. “Say you have severe weather heading toward a football game or a large event,” Zhang said. “If you can have a longer forecast lead time of 20 to 40 minutes, you have more time to evacuate. I believe that more human lives can be saved by increasing forecast times.

Image credit: Weather Matrix, YouTube.


Amazon Declining at Alarming Rate Under Bolsonaro: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Deforestation in the Amazon is at its highest rate in over a decade under right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, new data shows. The data, released by the Brazilian government Monday, shows that 3,769 square miles of rainforest–around 12 times the size of New York City, or two football fields per minute–was destroyed in the period between July 2018 and 2019, representing a 30 percent increase from the previous 12-month period and the highest rate since 2008. The New York Times reported in July that that enforcement actions, like fines and warnings against loggers, ranchers and miners illegally operating in the Amazon, have dropped by 20 percent since the Bolsonaro administration took power seven months ago. Major international donors like Norway have also suspended donations to Brazil this year in protest of the Bolsonaro administration’s pro-industry policies and lack of action on deforestation.” (CNN, The Guardian, NPR, Vox, BBC, WSJ $)

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.


Secretive Energy Startup Backed by Bill Gates Achieves Solar Breakthrough. A newer/better way to do solar? Here’s an excerpt from CNN.com: “…Essentially, Heliogen created a solar oven — one capable of reaching temperatures that are roughly a quarter of what you’d find on the surface of the sun. The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution. “We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions,” Bill Gross, Heliogen’s founder and CEO, told CNN Business. “And that’s really the holy grail...”


Solar Thermal Tech Heats Up: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: “A new startup backed by Bill Gates says that it has developed a system to push solar thermal technology forward, potentially revolutionizing the use of clean energy to create industrial materials and solve a big emissions problem. Founders of the company Heliogen said Tuesday that it has developed artificial intelligence to better concentrate the sun’s rays with mirrors used in solar thermal plants. The company says it has created solar energy up to 1,000 degrees C–nearly double the heat other solar thermal projects have generated. This heat opens the door for the technology to be used in industrial processes like the manufacturing of steel and cement, which represent around 20 percent of global carbon emissions.” (Vox, CNN, CNET, Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo, Ars TechnicaMIT Technology Review)


Can America’s First Floating Wind Farm Help Open Deeper Water to Clean Energy? Some days it’s hard to keep up – I had no idea they could put a wind turbine on floats, but why not? InsideClimate News explains the advantages: “…Conventional offshore wind farms require foundations to be built in water no deeper than 196 feet, limiting the number of sites feasible for construction. Floating platforms would open up site development in deeper waters like Maine’s, and farther away from shore. The technology could be particularly useful in California and other states that have a lot of coastline but face fierce political pressure to maintain property values, said Clifford Kim, an analyst with Moody’s Investors Service who specializes in wind energy. “People don’t want to see a big offshore wind turbine right outside their oceanfront property,” Kim said. “It has to be much further offshore. That means deeper water, and fixed bottom technology doesn’t work…”

Photo credit: “Hywind, the world’s first commercial-scale floating deep-water wind turbine, launched in Europe in 2009. The University of Maine is now preparing what would be the first full-scale offshore floating turbine in the United States.” Credit: Lars Christopher/CC-BY-SA-2.0


Renewable Energy: Climate Crisis “May Have Triggered Faster Wind Speeds”. A post at MSN.com has more details on new research: “…Dr Zhenzhong Zeng, a professor at Princeton University and the lead author of the report, said the research team was surprised by the findings after setting out to study the slowdown in global wind speeds. The faster than expected wind speeds could help increase the amount of renewable electricity generated by windfarms by more than a third to 3.3m kilowatt hours (kWh) by 2024. Zeng said the unexpected acceleration is likely to have played a bigger role in improving the efficiency of windfarms in the US than technological innovations. The research paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that faster global speeds may continue for at least another decade in what would be a major boost for windfarm owners…”

File photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune.


Scientists Want to Use Mountains Like Batteries to Store Electricity. Things we can’t even imagine today are coming, new, cleaner, sustainable ways to keep the lights on and the economy powered up. Here’s an excerpt from Big Think: “Can we use mountains as gigantic batteries for long-term energy storage? Such is the premise of new research published in the journal Energy. The particular focus of the study by Julian Hunt of IIASA (Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) and his colleagues is how to store energy in locations that have less energy demand and variable weather conditions that affect renewable energy sources. The team looked at places like small islands and remote places that would need less than 20 megawatts of capacity for energy storage and proposed a way to use mountains to accomplish the task…”

Graphic credit: “The MGES system.” IIASA.


Flat Earth Conspiracy Spreading Around the Globe. Does it Hide a Darker Core? An update at CNN.com caught my eye: “…But flat Earthers don’t pretend to have all the answers. “People don’t really know 100% what (the Earth) is, we’re just questioning what we’re being told it is,” Davidson explains. Several members of the community have carried out their own experiments, like bringing spirit levels onto airplanes, that have supposedly proved their thesis. They haven’t. To be absolutely clear, the Earth is not flat — as NASA explains in a fact sheet aimed at fifth to eighth graders. But most adherents say they’re just curious, as all good scientific minds should be. “We love science,” Davidson insists…”

File image: NASA.


Why Do We Eat Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving? I learned something at Mental Floss: “…Abraham Lincoln eventually declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 (to near-immediate outcry from Southerners, who viewed the holiday as an attempt to enforce Yankee values). Southern governors reluctantly complied with the presidential proclamation, but cooks in the South developed their own unique regional traditions. In the South, sweet potato pie quickly became more popular than New England’s pumpkin pie (mostly because sweet potatoes were easier to come by than pumpkins). Now, pumpkin pie reigns supreme as the most popular holiday pie across most of the United States, although the Northeast prefers apple and the South is split between apple and pecan, another Southern staple.”


Tom Hanks Just Found Out He’s Related to Mr. Rogers. Life imitates art, again. CNN.com explains the crazy coincidence: ” Tom Hanks is taking getting into character to a whole new level. He’s actually related to one.  Hanks just found out Sunday that he’s related to Fred Rogers, who played Mister Rogers on the children’s TV show.  The two are sixth cousins, Ancestry.com discovered. “It all just comes together, you see,” Hanks told Access Hollywood when the show informed him of the relation…Here’s why it’s especially notable: Hanks is playing Mister Rogers in the upcoming film, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood…”


45 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

38 F. average high on November 20 at MSP.

33 F. metro high on November 20, 2018.

November 21, 2001: Record highs are set in west and north central Minnesota, ranging from the upper fifties to lower sixties. Redwood Falls set their high with 68 degrees Fahrenheit and Little Falls had a high of 65 degrees.

November 21, 1980: On this date, around 28 thousand Canadian geese spent their nights on Silver Lake in Rochester.


THURSDAY: Rain ends as flurries. Winds: NW 15-30. High: 36

FRIDAY: Sunny and brisk. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 20. High: 37

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, nicer day of the weekend. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 27. High: 42

SUNDAY: Clouds increase, late rain shower? Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 30. High: 44

MONDAY: Chilly breeze with flurries. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 31. High: 37

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, few flakes. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 28. High: 36

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy skies. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 23. High: 34


Climate Stories….

We’re Living Through the Earth’s Second Hottest Year on Record, NOAA Reports. Here’s the intro to a summary at Capital Weather Gang (paywall): “This year is increasingly likely to be the planet’s second- or third-warmest calendar year on record since modern temperature data collection began in 1880, according to data released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This reflects the growing influence of long-term, human-caused global warming and is especially noteworthy, as there was an absence of a strong El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean this year. Such events are typically associated with the hottest years, since they boost global ocean temperatures and add large amounts of heat to the atmosphere across the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest...”



It’s Not Just Venice. Climate Change Imperils Ancient Treasures Everywhere. Grist puts the threat into perspective; here’s a snippet: “…It’s a vivid testament to the risks climate change poses to many of the world’s cultural treasures. In a fitting irony, minutes after Venice’s regional council rejected measures to fund renewable energy and replace diesel buses with cleaner ones, the council’s chamber was swept by floodwaters. Since 2003, the city has been working on an infrastructure project known as Mose (as in Moses) for protection against high tides, but it’s still not up and running, having been bogged down in scandal, cost overruns, and other delays. Venice has plenty of company — some 86 percent of UNESCO World Heritage sites like Venice in coastal regions of the Mediterranean are at risk from flooding and erosion, according to a study last year in the journal Nature…”


North America’s Economy is the Most Resilient Against Climate Change. Here’s a clip from a post at CNN.com: “…Global GDP growth will be 3% lower by 2050 thanks to the impact of climate change, and that means the developing world will bear the brunt of the bad news. Africa is the most vulnerable to negative economic impact, according to the EIU report. The continent’s economy stands to shrink by 4.7% over the next 30 years. It is already at a disadvantage because average temperatures are higher and economic development is lower compared to the United States, for example. Latin America and the Middle East are rounding out as the top three of the least resilient regions. Asia-Pacific falls in the middle, with an expected hit of 2.6% to its economy thanks to climate change…”


Regional Weather Patterns Are Viewed Through Partisan Lenses, Poll Finds. SFGate.com has results of new polling: “People from North Carolina to Texas’s Gulf Coast agree that their areas have been hard hit by extreme storms and hurricanes in recent years. But they disagree with one another on whether climate change is a major factor – and political allegiances make up the dividing line. Across the United States, different regions have felt the effects of extreme weather in the past few years, whether horrific wildfires in California and other Western states, historic flooding in parts of the Midwest, or extraordinary heat in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast. But those common experiences have not produced a political consensus on the causes. Democrats are likely to cite global warming and climate change as the force behind some of the new weather patterns. Republicans are likely to discount climate change as the culprit...”


Why a TV Station Recruited Climate Skeptics to Go on a Fact-Finding Road Trip. A novel concept, highlighted in a post at Poynter: “…After weeks of listening to experts and traveling all the way from Texas to Alaska, Fain said that he is now convinced, “that something is happening at an alarming rate.” “My opinion was changed. What we have seen in Alaska, like how quickly things are melting, there is something going on with the climate. But how much is caused by man? I would say we humans are probably doing something, but how much, who knows?” As the WFAA segment ends, Fain stands against the retreating ice of Alaska. He’s asked on a scale of zero to 10 how big a problem climate change is. He says that when he started this discovery process, he’s rank it at about a 2. Now, he would “probably be up to a 6 or 7 at least now,” he said…”

Photo credit: “The Road Trip project included two photojournalists on each shoot. WFAA photojournalists Chance Horner and Bradley Blackburn were the photographers in Alaska while Martin Doporto (not pictured) was the second photographer with Horner on location in Texas.” (Courtesy WFAA).


The Last of the Climate Deniers Hold On, Despite Your Protests. VICE.com has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…While people around this warming earth protest inaction—locking legs and locking arms, blocking roads and blocking bridges, wielding signs that say there is no planet b and i’m sure the dinosaurs thought they had time too—the United States, which is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, actively represses climate science throughout federal agencies and slashes environmental regulations to the glee of the network that bolsters these contrarian celebrities. The Trump administration, infamous for alternative facts, has vigorously renewed demand for an alternative science that was losing salience. Many of the alternative scientists and nonscientists have died, retired, or gone quiet since Christy discovered the earth wasn’t warming. But I found eight other professors who linger—call them the holdouts...”

File image: Matt Brown.


Climate Talk Isn’t on the Thanksgiving Menu for Most People. Morningconsult.com has an interesting post: “…While only about 1 in 5 adults expect to have a climate change discussion this holiday, 42 percent said in a new Morning Consult poll that they are now more likely to start a conversation with friends or family compared to a year ago. And almost half of adults (48 percent) said they have started a conversation about the issue with friends or family in the past year, according to the Nov. 6-8 poll of 2,187 U.S. adults, which had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. But the proportion of Americans that reports ever having initiated a climate conversation with various people in their lives is significantly lower than the share of Americans concerned about climate change, according to Morning Consult polling. A June survey found 71 percent of adults were very or somewhat concerned about climate change and its impact on the U.S. environment…”


As Governments Bicker, CEO’s Could Be Our Best Hope for Fighting Climate Change and Income Inequality. A post at Fortune caught my eye: “...Polman left Unilever a year ago and is now co-founder of Imagine, which rallies business leaders to make social change a core part of their business imperative. These CEOs, many of whom are business rivals—what Imagine calls “the courageous collective”—have begun to tackle inefficiencies in their business models and supply chains with an eye to using the power of big business to address climate change and income inequality. “Our theory of change is very simple: when it’s difficult for governments to function, which is what we see right now… we focus on the CEOs,” he said. “What many CEOs discover is that many of the issues that really need to be addressed simply cannot be done alone...”