Milder With a Risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder

I identify with people who miss seeing the sun. Me too. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) sends some of us into a dark funk. Friday was the 23rd day this month with cloudy or mostly cloudy conditions. It was the cloudiest January since solar radiation records were first kept in St. Paul in 1963.

As always, when it comes to the atmosphere, pick your poison. It tends to get sunnier in January and February as cold (dry) air flushes southward from the Yukon. But for the better part of 2 months prevailing winds have been blowing from Seattle, not Whitehorse. A persistently mild, moist flow has
saved us from serious subzero pain, but the clouds are pushing some of us closer to a primal scream.

No big storms are imminent as the mercury cools off to average next week. A few days in single digits and teens by mid-February may be accompanied by a ration of sunshine. A valid trade-off?

In the meantime Sunday’s record high is 48F, set in 1991. We may come close.

Is it too early for spring fever? I thought so.


Sun-Starved. January was gloomy, but warmer than average statewide. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley at Minnesota WeatherTalk: “Over the past week I have heard many people talking about the lack of sunshine. Indeed 22 days this month in the Twin Cities have brought mostly cloudy skies or completely cloudy conditions. And this followed nine consecutive days of cloudiness to conclude December in most places. The National Weather Service observations also show that fog or haze have plagued the Twin Cities on more than half of the days this month. Further according to measurements of solar radiation from the University of Minnesota St Paul Climate Observatory the solar radiation received so far this January is the lowest amount in the records for the month which started back in 1963, worse than the very dim Januarys of 1969, 1980, 1998, and 1999…”

Photo credit: Paul Douglas.









Snowfall Stats and a Warming Trend Into Sunday. Maps above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Sunday Flash of Spring, Then Falling Back to “Average”. With enough mixing of the air we should see low to mid 40s; a few thermometers may go higher. And then temperatures fall to average by midweek, even a few degrees above average by late next week. ECMWF forecast: WeatherBell.

Questions About Mid-February. Some of the GFS runs bring single digits into Minnesota by mid-month, but the 500mb forecast above for the evening of February 14 looks milder than that with a persistent Pacific component to the steering winds aloft. I think it will get colder by mid-February, but not the extreme polar cold of late January, 2019.

Why Do We Use a Groundhog to Forecast the Weather? Great question! Mental Floss has the answer; here’s an excerpt: “...In Europe, the idea that winter’s duration could be foretold was carried over to animal behavior. Hibernating animals like bears, marmots, and hedgehogs were observed to see when they’d emerge from their dens. In Germany, the weather was anticipated by badgers. When Germans began settling in Pennsylvania, however, badgers weren’t so readily available: The easiest hibernating animal to locate was the groundhog. In 1887, a newspaper editor began circulating the idea that one groundhog in particular, Punxsutawney Phil, was a meteorological wonder. Before long, the entire country became preoccupied with Phil’s prognosticating, and an annual tradition was born…”


PETA: “Hang It Up Phil”. CBS News reports: “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling for Punxsutawney Phil to be retired from Groundhog Day duty. Every year on February 2, Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog is removed from his dwelling and held high in front a crowd of anxious onlookers, waiting to see if the large rodent sees his shadow. The outcome is said to predict whether we look forward to an early spring or six more weeks of winter. But PETA is hoping to put an end to the tradition. “Times change. Traditions evolve. It’s long overdue for Phil to be retired,” the organization’s president said in a letter…”



Not Missing the Polar Vortex. Do you remember late January last year? It’s hard to forget. The coldest air since the mid-90s came hurtling south of the border. The Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office takes a frigid walk down memory lane: “The arctic outbreak from January 27-31, 2019 had some of the lowest air temperatures to visit Minnesota since 1996, and the lowest wind chills since the 1980s. Strong winds and arctic air on the heels of a feisty clipper-like snow storm  brought extreme cold to Minnesota, the likes of which have not been seen in decades. The bitter cold brought some natural gas shortages just north of the metro and power outages to about 7,000 in the southern and western suburbs. Xcel Energy asked customers statewide to reduce their thermostat setting to 63 degrees. There were also broken water mains, and emergency personnel were busy with frostbite reports. Schools were closed for four days for many in the Twin Cities and outstate. The University of Minnesota was closed on the 30th and postal mail service was stopped statewide…”

Map credit: “Map of lowest recorded wind chills as of 5 AM on Jan 30, 2019.” Courtesy: La Crosse National Weather Service.



“Category 5” Winter Storm? Weather Service’s New Rating Scale is a Promising New Communication Tool. I wrote a story with Jason Samenow at Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang; here’s an excerpt: “…It’s only a matter of time before a simple numerical winter storm rating scale shows up in your local forecast on a routine basis. But it’s naive to believe you can capture the essence of any storm with just one number. Just like hurricanes, winter storms are complex, and the types and severity of hazards can change during the course of a storm. A number offers a convenient overview but is no substitute for detailed briefings from trusted sources on how a storm will evolve, regional differences, uncertainties and how to best prepare. Any winter storm is a golden opportunity for meteorologists to provide the things an app cannot: context, perspective and analysis. Every swirl of snow, ice and wind is a new creation — a unique, vexing puzzle for meteorologists to unpack. The challenges for meteorologists are twofold: accurately predict the weather and then accurately communicate impending weather to the public. Winter storm ratings, combined with supporting information, are another tool for advancing weather communication.”

File WSSI Index Map: NOAA.


Top Weather and Climate Stories of the 2010s. The Minnesota State DNR Climatology Office has a great recap: “The 2010s began with a severe weather barrage, pivoted towards heat and drought, and then finished with a spate of precipitation records, punctuating the wettest period on record in Minnesota. Toss in the 1st, 2nd, and 5th warmest, as well as the 7th coldest extended winters on record, and add to that some impressive late-winter snowfall statistics, and the decade had more than a typical share of variety and extremes. After considering all of the normal ups, downs, and surprises we expect from Minnesota’s climate, two main themes appear to dominate the decade’s big stories: aggressive precipitation increases, and winter swinging wildly between historically warm, very cold, and very snowy. Following is a quick summary of the top weather and climate highlights from each year of the 2010s…”

Photo credit: “Scenes of flooded streams like this one, from Minnehaha creek on May 8, 2019, became increasingly common across Minnesota during the 2010s.” Credit: Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office.


Living Near Major Roads Linked to Risk of Dementia, Parkinson’s and MS. The New York Post has the story; here’s the intro: “If you want to avoid getting dementia or Parkinson’s disease, get out of town. Literally. A new scientific study in Canada has added to the growing body of data that people who live in polluted or urban settings, especially if they live near major roads and far away from any parks, may be at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis…Living within 50 meters of a major road, or 150 meters of a highway, seem to be major risk factors...”

Photo credit: Paul Douglas.



How Much Would You Pay for a Gatorade Bath? Fox Business has the “creation story” of this ongoing tradition: “...For Gatorade, the surprise sports drink baths at the end of the Super Bowl have been a massive marketing coup. Since 1987, Gatorade baths that aired on television during the Super Bowl have generated more than $20 million in equivalent advertising value across television, radio and other mediums, according to calculations by Apex Marketing, an analytics firm. The Pepsi-owned company paid nothing to gain the additional exposure… The tradition began during the 1986 NFL season, when New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson started pouring coolers of Gatorade over the head of head coach Bill Parcells after victories. Even Gatorade officials were surprised…”


Unpleasant Discovery in the Seat Cushions. Mental Floss has the cringe-worthy story: “If you think you’ve lost something, there’s a good chance it’s fallen between your couch cushions—this goes for wallets, keys, electronic devices, and apparently, giant snakes. On Monday morning in Rose Hill, Kansas, a man innocently checked the cracks of his living room couch during a hunt for his keys and instead discovered a 6-foot red-tailed boa constrictor lurking beneath the cushions. Beyond the obvious issue of there being a deadly reptile on the loose in his house, there was another mystery: The man doesn’t own a snake, and Kansas definitely isn’t known for its native boa constrictors...”


.6″ snow fell yesterday at MSP International Airport.

34 F. high on Friday in the Twin Cities.

25 F. average high on January 31.

-3 F. high on January 31, 2019.

February 1, 1931: A ‘heat wave’ develops across southern Minnesota. St. Peter hits 60.


SATURDAY: Skies brighten, milder. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 36

SUNDAY: Breezy and mild. Feels like late March. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 33. High: 46

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, turning cooler. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 34

TUESDAY: Leftover clouds, average temperatures. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 15. High: 24

WEDNESDAY: Patchy clouds, few flurries. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 16. High: 25

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, quiet out there. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 18. High: 27

FRIDAY: Clouds and flurries. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 17. High: 28


Climate Stories…

Not to Ruin the Super Bowl, but the Sea is Consuming Miami. Ground Zero for sea level rise in the USA. Here’s an excerpt from WIRED.com (paywall): “…When there are king tides, or even when there’s an offshore storm or wind event, the ocean water level can be higher than the canal level. So they cannot open that gate because the salt water will come into the interior,” says Jayantha Obeysekera, a hydrologist and civil engineer at Florida International University. Hard Rock Stadium has a problem: It sits right smack on canal C-9, which Obeysekera says has been flagged as particularly vulnerable to this issue. (A request for comment sent to Hard Rock Stadium reps was not immediately returned.) Not that it’ll be a problem this Super Bowl weekend, but Hard Rock Stadium doesn’t exist only for the Super Bowl—it’s rockin’ year-round with concerts, too. And, as the Miami Herald points out, a city under siege isn’t exactly attractive to tourists, or to an NFL considering it for future Super Bowls…”


Climate Change: Worst-Case Scenario is “Misleading”, Experts Say. USA TODAY explains: “Scientific studies that use the worst-case, business-as-usual scenario for future levels of climate change are “misleading,” experts claim. “Stop using the worst-case scenario for climate warming as the most likely outcome – more-realistic baselines make for better policy,” wrote climate scientists Zeke Hausfather and Glen Peters in a commentary in the British journal Nature that was published on Wednesday. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the worst-case scenario predicts the globe will warm by 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century. This is “a dystopian future that is fossil-fuel intensive and excludes any climate mitigation policies,” the authors said...”


The Trump Administration is Helping 9 States Prepare for Climate Change. Grist has details: “...In 2018, Congress devised a plan to help disaster-ravaged states actually prepare for extreme weather for a change, and President Trump signed off on it. It’s the first time national legislation has designed block grants to help states prepare for future disasters, rather than just clean up damage from ones that have already occurred. That money, $16 billion of federal funding, will soon be released — more than half will go to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the rest will go to nine mainland U.S. states. The states that got the most money to prepare for climate change all went for Trump in 2016 and are all under at least partial Republican control: Texas is getting upwards of $4 billion, Louisiana is getting $1.2 billion, Florida $633 million, North Carolina $168 million, and South Carolina $158 million…”

Map credit: NOAA NCDC.


Climate Change is Making it Much Harder to Be a Young Farmer. Old farmers don’t have any easier either, sadly. Mother Jones explains: “…There are about 340,000 farms in the United States—17 percent of the total—whose operators have been farming for less than 10 years, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey. Two-thirds of these farmers say they are already experiencing climate change, a 2017 survey by the National Young Farmers Coalition found. “With climate change, it’s hard to put your finger on single events,” says Ben Whalen, who has farmed for three years at Bumbleroot Organic Farm near Portland, Maine. “But we’re accepting the reality that the weather is just going to get more extreme and unpredictable. That’s the mindset that we’re adopting as we start planning for the future of the farm...”



The Guardian Stops Accepting Ads from Fossil Fuel Companies Over Climate Change. Details via TheHill: “The Guardian announced Wednesday that it will no longer accept advertising from fossil fuel companies, citing the industry’s “decades-long effort” to prevent climate action. The policy, effective immediately, will apply across Guardian Media Group, including the newspaper’s British edition as well as digital versions in the U.S. and Australia, print editions of the Observer and Guardian Weekly, and the company’s digital apps. In its statement, the company notes that it has received feedback asking it to go further and ban advertising from industries that are major contributors to carbon emissions, such as the automobile or vacation industries...”