41 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.
26 F. average high on December 20.
32 F. high on December 20, 2014.

December 21, 1993: Strong northwest winds gust to 35 miles an hour, causing near whiteout conditions over a wide area of southwest Minnesota from the late afternoon on the 21st into the early morning of the 22nd. Several car accidents occurred. A 30 year old man was killed when he lost control of his truck and slid into a ditch in the near blizzard like conditions. Counties affected include: Blue Earth, Brown, Chippewa, Faribault, Lac Qui Parle, Redwood, Renville, Watonwan, and Yellow Medicine.
December 21, 1939: This is the latest date on record for Lake Minnewaska to freeze over at Glenwood.

Welcome Winter Solstice! Daylight Drought Peaks

‘Tis a joyfully stressful time of year. So much running around, checking lists, trying to exceed expectations. The fog of consumption makes it hard to remember what we’re really celebrating.

This festive, manic time of year coincides with the darkest days of the year, which can throw some of us into a deep funk. Only 8 hours and 46 minutes of daylight on today’s Winter Solstice.

But December 21 marks a psychological turning point, at least for me. We pick up 3 minutes of daylight by New Year’s Eve, another 54 minutes by the end of January!

Today brings the least daylight but the coldest weather of the year usually arrives in mid-January; there’s a 3 week lag in the atmosphere.

At the rate we’re going we may see half a winter this year. We cool slightly today (only 10F warmer than average) but 40F returns midweek. A light mix is possible Wednesday; models hint at wet snow or a mix Saturday. We chill down next week but a warm signal is still overwhelming the pattern.

Tell that to residents of Washington D.C. 70F on Christmas Eve? Santa may show up in a shiny red convertible.
* Graphic above: timeanddate.com.
Only 10 Degrees Above Average This Week. Factoring in elevated nighttime mins this week will run 5-15F warmer than average for late December; temperatures peaking near 40F Tuesday and Wednesday; Christmas Day should be dry with highs in the mid 30s. We may be brushed by a period of rain changing to wet snow Wednesday; another potential for accumulating slush on Saturday. Don’t get your hopes up just yet.
Snow Potential by Saturday? NOAA’s GFS model prints out some accumulating snow Friday night and Saturday as a storm spins up over the Plains and tracks northeast. We’ve been down this rocky road before – it’s premature even speculating about Saturday (but why should that stop us?) The latest ECMWF run hints at a little wet snow for southern Minnesota Saturday into Sunday morning, but it doesn’t nearly as impressive as it did yesterday, now keeping most of the moisture south of Minnesota. If you’re driving home from Christmas festivities next weekend you’ll want to stay up on the latest forecast. Source: AerisWeather.
Colder Next Week – Brush with Polar Air First Week of January? The maps are looking colder 1-2 weeks out; I’m not yet convinced it’s a polar plunge, but a definite reality check may be brewing for the first week of January as the pattern shifts; the coldest air aimed at New England. It may be a temporary chill – most long range models keep the milder than average phase going into January.
Don’t Write Winter Off Just Yet. GFS guidance 2 weeks out shows a sprawling cut-off low over Hudson Bay pulling numbing air into the Midwest, Great Lakes and New England. We’re due for a correction, but there isn’t as much frigid air to draw from; not as much bitter air over Canada, so that may limit just how cold it can get. Within about 2 weeks neighbors may be griping about the cold again. That’s the Minnesota I know and love.
More of the Same in January? Here’s the January temperature anomaly outlook, courtesy of NOAA’s CFSv2 climate model, showing the warm signal lingering over most of North America, with the exception of the western USA and southern Plains; a distinct El Nino signal is forecast to linger. Source: WeatherBell.

Record-Setting December Continues. It has been a head-scratching month, more March than December. Here’s an excerpt from this week’s installment of Minnesota WeatherTalk, courtesy of Dr. Mark Seeley: “The December climate pattern across Minnesota is tracking much like November did, warm and wetter, only even more amplified.  Average temperature for the month is ranging from 14 to 18 degrees F warmer than normal, and many new warm minimum temperature records have been set such as the low of 38F at MSP and 40F at Rochester on December 13th.  On December 14 the temperature never dropped lower than 44F at Caledonia.  A high degree of cloudiness has accompanied this warm temperature pattern, fueled by a great deal of water vapor in the air.  MSP also set a new high dew point record on December 13th with a reading of 38F. Daily cloud cover has average over 80 percent for the month so far, so little sunshine has made it through...”

December Temperature Anomalies To Date. Over the entire “conus” of North America temperatures are running about 5F warmer than average, but as much as 20F warmer than normal over central Canada. Minnesota is about 14-17F warmer than average as of December 18. Map: WeatherBell.

Which Season is Warming Fastest? The warming signal is showing up most vividly and consistently during the winter months. Here’s a clip from Climate Central: “…Even though these are the same areas that tend to have above average temperatures during El Niño winters, this pattern is also consistent with the long-term trend we are seeing with global warming. Winter is the fastest warming season for the majority of the U.S. The exceptions: the Northwest, where fall is warming the fastest; the Southwest where springs are experiencing their greatest rise in temperatures; and Texas, which is pushing it’s sweltering summer heat to a new level...”

Met Office Forecasts 2016 to be Hottest Year on Record. This, according to the U.K. Met Office; here’s an excerpt from CarbonBrief: “Global average temperatures for next year are expected to hit a new high since records began in 1850, says a UK Met Office outlook. At 0.84C above the 1961-90 average, the Met Office says 2016 “is likely to be at least as warm, if not warmer” than 2015. A few weeks ago, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) announced that 2015 is likely to be ranked as the hottest year in modern observations. Today, the Met Office says 2016 will likely knock it straight off top spot…”

Graphic credit above: “Global average temperature (in degrees C) relative to 1961-90 average, for observed (1996-2014), provisional (2015) and forecast (2016) years. Error bars are +/- 0.1C for observed and provisional data, and +/- 0.12C for 2016.” Data from WMO and Met Office; chart by Carbon Brief.

Haunted by Waters. Too much or too little, increased climate volatility is disrupting the hydrological cycle with troubling implications. You can live without a lot of things, but water isn’t one of them. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: “…In some circles, it’s laughable to suggest that global “weirding” is an international security threat. But in sub-Saharan Africa, where the desert creeps south, or in Bangladesh, where half the population lives on ground less than 16 feet above sea level, or in Syria, where extreme drought was a factor in the collapse of a nation, a warmer earth is already generating refugees. The Pentagon has warned of coming wars over water. If self-interest, or fear, is what it takes to motivate a nation like China to join the world community in saving this troubled little orb of ours, then so be it. Elsewhere, the prospect of 200 million people on the move, most of them Muslim, may finally win over that other block of obstructionists, the Republican Party…”

Is It Time to Rethink What a “Major” Hurricane Really Means? Wind may not be the best measure of destructive force. Here’s an excerpt from WXshift: “Wind might not be the best measure of “major.” Using winds as the only measure of a storm’s major-ness misses rain and storm surge, which can drive flooding and the majority of the damage associated with hurricanes. Hurricane Sandy and Irene were both Category 1 storms (and in Sandy’s case, it wasn’t even technically a hurricane when it made landfall) yet they both cost billions. “Every tropical cyclone is unique,” Steven Bowen, a meteorologist at re-insurer Aon Benfield, said. “As Hurricane Sandy showed the world, just because a storm does not have an official declaration of being a ‘major’ hurricane at Category 3 or above intensity does it mean that consequential societal impacts cannot occur...”

What Just Happened in Solar Is a Bigger Deal than Oil Exports. So says Bloomberg Business; here’s a clip: “The clean-energy boom is about to be transformed. In a surprise move, U.S. lawmakers agreed to extend tax credits for solar and wind for another five years. This will give an unprecedented boost to the industry and change the course of deployment in the U.S. The extension will add an extra 20 gigawatts of solar power—more than every panel ever installed in the U.S. prior to 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The U.S. was already one of the world’s biggest clean-energy investors. This deal is like adding another America of solar power into the mix...” (File photo: Solar City).
Flying in the 60s. What Air Passengers Did Before In-Flight Entertainment. Oh yeah, this looks a lot like my last flight, minus the woman with the hacking cough in front of me, and the screaming kids behind me, and the mystery stains on my tray table. Here’s an excerpt of what it was like flying when flying was “cool”, courtesy of The Telegraph: “A collection of photos has shown how passengers used to pass the time on flights in the Fifties and Sixties – and it was mainly by looking dapper, drinking martinis and smoking. Geoffrey Thomas from airlineratings.com, the website which published the images, told Telegraph Travel the photos are “part of my collection that has been amassed over 40 years from now-defunct airline PR departments”. They probably went out of business when smoking on planes became illegal…”

Photo credit above: Airline Ratings Historical Collection.
101 Gadgets That Changed the World As We Know It. Esquire reminds us about the magical qualities of duct tape. Thank you 3M. Here’s a clip: “NASA astronauts have used it to make repairs on the moon and in space. The MythBusters built a boat and held a car together with the stuff. Brookhaven National Laboratory fixed their particle accelerator with it. And enthusiasts have used it to make prom dresses and wallets. You might say it’s a material, not a gadget, but trust us: Duct tape is the ultimate multitool.”
Be An Astronaut: NASA Accepting Applications for Future Explorers. Yes, if you have the right stuff you too can apply to make a trip to Mars (and back). Here’s more information from NASA: “Recently named the best place to work in the federal government for the fourth year in a row, NASA is looking for the best candidates to work in the best job on or off the planet. The astronaut candidate application website now is live and accepting submissions through Feb. 18. Qualifying U.S. citizens may apply at: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/423817000 The agency expects to announce final candidate selections in mid-2017. Those chosen may fly on any of four different U.S. spacecraft during their careers: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by U.S. companies, and NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle...”

TODAY: Overcast, a bit cooler. Winds: N 8-13. High: 33

MONDAY NIGHT: Clouds linger. Low: 28

TUESDAY: Still gray. Good travel weather. High: 38

WEDNESDAY: Light rain changes to slushy snow. Wake-up: 33. High: 39

CHRISTMAS EVE: Cooler, few fleeting flurries. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 27. High: 31

CHRISTMAS DAY: Cloudy and quiet. Winds: SE 3-8. Wake-up: 24. High: 33

SATURDAY: Chance of a sloppy mix. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 29. High: 33

SUNDAY: Drying out, better travel day. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 28. High: 35

Climate Stories…

Greenland Has Lost a Staggering Amount of Ice – And It’s Only Getting Worse. Chris Mooney reports at The Washington Post; here’s the intro: “A massive new study by 16 authors has calculated just how much ice the Greenland ice sheet has lost since the year 1900. And the number, says the paper just out in the journal Nature, is astounding: 9,103 gigatons (a gigaton is a billion metric tons). That’s over 9 trillion tons in total. And moreover, the rate of loss has been increasing, the research finds, with a doubling of annual loss in the period 2003 to 2010 compared with what it was throughout the 20th century…”

Photo credit above: “Kangiata Nunata Sermia in Southwest Greenland.” (Credit: Nicolaj Krog Larsen, Aarhus University, Denmark).
Even The Charts Used by Climate Change Deniers Show That Temperatures Are Getting Warmer. Business Insider has an interesting perspective; here’s an excerpt: “…Global temperature changes should be shown in absolute temperatures rather than high or low anomalies, which NASA GISS uses. WUWT has an interesting discussion about why the data is presented using only anomalies, and again, to its credit, the site acknowledges that because geographies range over different altitudes, and because many areas have lousy measurement stations (e.g., the Sahara), if you want to detect changes and differences in temperature, you need to take averages of the anomalies. The site also does us a huge service by recalculating the anomaly data into absolute temperatures. And guess, what? It looks like this.”

Graphic credit above: “That is a chart from a group of climate-change sceptics. And it shows global warming. Source: Bob Tisdale, WUWT.
Paris Climate Deal is Great for Solar & Wind, but a $33 Billion (U.S.) Hit to Fossil Fuels. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Clean Technica: “…Energy analysts from the UK-based investment bank Barclays said the Paris deal, which aims to cap global warming well below 2°C, with an aspirational target of 1.5°C, will result in a boost to renewable energy, and will cause a rethink from investors about new investments in fossil fuel sources. Lead analyst Mark Lewis says the implications for the fossil fuel industry are profound, and will likely cause it to suffer a loss in revenue of around $US33 trillion out to 2040 over business as usual…”

Huh? Could Cleaner Air be Worsening Global Warming? Less traditional air pollution, less smog and particulant and sulfer-based haze, we may be inadvertently accelerating the rate of warming, according to new research. Here’s an excerpt of a recap at Live Science: “…What’s more, this unintentional geoengineering may have already impacted global warming, Wild said. Global temperatures held fairly constant from the 1950s to the 1980s, and warming only accelerated starting in 1985, when the global brightening seems to have begun, Wild reported in a study published this month in the journal WIREs Climate Change. He also sees evidence that this unintentional geoengineering affected the world’s hemispheres differently. Temperatures held steady until the mid-1980s in the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the world’s population lives, and spiked up sharply afterward...”

Photo credit: NPR, which has more on the role of sulfer-based pollutants screening warming here.

What Happens When Mother Earth Gets Angry. There is more carbon in the system, a closed system at that. And that is translating into more energy, more volatility, more disruption and dislocation. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: “…In 2009 researchers at the Potsdam Institute, a German research group, determined that keeping the rise in global temperatures at or below 2 degrees Celsius, the goal set by the United Nations, meant that no more than 565 additional gigatons of carbon dioxide could be emitted into the atmosphere. At current levels of global carbon emissions — about 36 gigatons annually — those additional gigatons would be released into the atmosphere by the early 2030s. Then, in 2011, the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a British research group, reported that 2,795 gigatons of carbon was held in the coal, oil and natural gas reserves of fossil fuel companies and carbon-rich countries. If burned, the emissions would vastly exceed the ceiling set by the Potsdam Institute...”