Yeah It’s Cold – But It’s a “Dry Cold”

“I’ll zipper up my light jacket and put on gloves when the mercury dips below zero” said WCCO Radio Chief Engineer Craig Walters. He was serious. I marvel at high school students, walking around in shorts on numbing days. Minnesotans keep finding new and exotic ways to thumb their collective noses at Old Man Winter.

It’s cold but it’s a “dry cold”; a persistent wind flow out of Canada whipping up stinging wind chills, making it impossible for moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to reach Minnesota with real storms. A little southern moisture arrives Friday; by then the atmosphere should be just mild enough for rain. Seems like an odd

Brown Thanksgivings aren’t all that unusual. Data shows only 1 in 3 Thanksgiving Days have an inch or more of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.

Rain Friday gives way to a drying sky on Saturday. Models show a storm passing just to our south/east Sunday into Monday. If you’re traveling into Iowa or Wisconsin you’ll want to pay close attention.

A more active and potentially wetter (whiter?) pattern arrives by early December.

Thanksgiving Day Climatology in the Twin Cities. The Minnesota DNR has some timely perspective: “Because Thanksgiving Day occurs at the transition period between autumn and winter, Thanksgiving weather can be balmy to brutal. A typical Thanksgiving Day in the Twin Cities has high temperatures in the 30’s and at least a bit of filtered sunshine. Having a mild day in the 50’s on Thanksgiving Day is relatively rare, looking at the historical record back to 1872. A maximum of 50 or more has happened only eleven times in 144 years, or about once every 13 years or so. The warmest Thanksgiving Day is a tie of 62 degrees in 1914 and 1922. The mildest recent Thanksgiving Day was 60 degrees on November 22, 2012. This tied 1939 as the third warmest Thanksgiving back to 1872 for the Twin Cities. On the other side of the spectrum it is common to have a high temperature below 32. The average Thanksgiving Day temperature is right around freezing…”

Photo credit: “Turkey Race – 1955.” Courtesy: Minnesota Historical Society.

Thanksgiving Travel Maps courtesy of AerisWeather and Praedictix.

Early December: Growing Storm Potential? Yesterday’s GFS solution looked more zonal (west to east) but the latest 2 week outlook for 500mb winds suggests a wavier, higher amplitude pattern, with a much more active southerly branch of the jet stream potentially spinning up a series of storms. That said, with flip-flopping solutions, confidence levels remain low.

December Wish-Cast. NOAA’s CFSv2 climate model hints at a colder December for much of the eastern USA, with milder than average conditions predicted for central and western states. First signs of a brewing (milder) El Nino? Map credit: WeatherBell.

“Smoke Wave” Impacting California. Late last week air quality from the Camp Fire wildfire smoke a couple hundred miles upwind was the rough equivalent of smoking 10 cigarettes a day. Popular Science explains the health risks: “…Breathing in air polluted by wildfire smoke is associated with a range of health effects: it’s linked to increased risk of hospitalization for respiratory or cardiovascular problems, for example. Like the flu, spikes in particulate matter concentrations generated by fires are most dangerous to the very young, the very old, and those who already have health problems. People over 65 are the most likely to have cardiac problems after smoke exposure, and respiratory problems primarily affect children. Others at risk include people who spend large amounts of time outside, like agricultural workers, people who are homeless (and can’t get out of the smoke), and athletes, who might keep exercising at high levels, Avol says…”

Data as of midday Friday, November 16, 2018. Infographic by Sara Chodosh.

Wildfires Have Changed California. They’ve Changed Journalism Too. Check out a powerful and poignant story at The San Francisco Chronicle: “…The Camp Fire in Butte County, like the Carr Fire earlier this year near Redding and the Wine Country fires last year, feels uncomfortably personal. To live in our natural paradise, we accept certain risks. An earthquake could destroy your home; a flood could wipe out your neighborhood. Accepting, on top of that, this new reality of unmitigated and unyielding wildfires feels like our pact with California has been changed, even for those of us blessed to escape the direct devastation. These new fires — so immediately explosive and destructive — have changed what we do in the field as well as in the newsroom. Today, evacuated residents send pleas via Twitter, begging our reporters on the fire lines to check on their homes or loved ones. If they can, they do…”

Photo credit: “Chronicle photographer Jessica Christian hugs Cathy Fallon, 62, last week. Fallon survived the Camp Fire, but all of her neighbors’ homes on Edgewood Lane in Paradise (Butte County) burned.” Photo: Evan Sernoffsky / The Chronicle.

With Disease in Shelters and Hotels at Capacity, Wildfire Evacuees Desperately Seek Refuge. A story at The Washington Post highlights the “disaster after the disaster”. I am reminded of the aftermath of Hurricanes Michael, Florence and Maria – people survive the initial storm, but the weeks and months that follow bring new threats: “…More than 120 people have been taken to hospitals in recent days with stomach ailments that resemble the symptoms of norovirus, a highly contagious infection. The symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhea and, like many such infections, fall hardest on children. Casey Hatcher, a Butte County spokeswoman, said state and local authorities are trying to respond to the scale of the displacement. “People keep using the word ‘unprecedented,’ and I keep looking for a different word, but I can’t find one because it works so well,” Hatcher said. “We have an entire community that is displaced...”

How Air Pollution Shortens Lives: Climate Nexus reports: “Air pollution reduces life expectancy around the world by nearly two years, new research shows. A new index developed by researchers at the University of Chicago measures the impact of particulate pollution—largely caused by burning fossil fuels—on health outcomes worldwide, finding that average life spans in India are 4.3 years shorter because of air pollution, while life expectancy in China is 2.9 years shorter. In terms of life expectancy, air pollution “is the greatest threat to human life in the planet,” lead author Michael Greenstone told Marketplace. “It has a larger impact than AIDS and even cigarette smoking. And war and terrorism.” (Washington Post $, Marketplace, Axios, Thomson Reuters Foundation).

Disaster After Disaster, California Keeps Falling Short on Evacuating People From Harm’s Way. The L.A. Times delves into the difficulties of alerting people in the path of rapidly-spreading wildfires: “…But when the worst fire in California history moved into Paradise this month, the evacuation plan fell short, with officials using an older alert system that reached only a fraction of the town instead of the federal government’s Wireless Emergency Alert system, known as WEA, which would have reached far more people. “In both the [wine country] fire and the [Paradise] fire, if you look at the growing number of fatalities — they were people who were in their house or running to their car. That’s indicative of a population that was never alerted. They didn’t see anything on their TV, radio, nothing,” said Thomas Cova, director of University of Utah’s Center for Natural and Technological Hazards. “We are not using all the tools we could to communicate with people...”

Photo credit: “A bus that many people had to abandon to make it out of the Camp fire area, on Skyline Drive in Paradise, Calif.” (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times).

Why It’s So Hard to Issue a Fire Warning. Andrew Freedman reports for Axios: “…But there’s a catch: such a warning must be requested by someone outside of the National Weather Service, such as an emergency manager, rather than being initiated by Weather Service staff themselves. That’s the rule even if forecasters can see on Doppler radar or by looking out the window that a fire is headed for a populated area. “It’s really up to the emergency management community,” Heffernan said of the fire warning product, which she says has been used at least once by the NWS forecast office in Norman, Oklahoma, in response to requests from officials in that state.

  • But if it originates outside the government, then the fire warning depends on awareness that it exists.
  • Private sector meteorologists, including one in Northern California, told Axios they did not know that there is an option for such a warning, although it’s on a website…”

Illustration credit: Aïda Amer/Axios.

Dead Fish to Power Norwegian Cruise Ships. Say what? The Guardian has an unlikely story: “Waste fish parts will be used to power ships in a new initiative to use green energy for polluting cruise liners. The leftovers of fish processed for food and mixed with other organic waste will be used to generate biogas, which will then be liquefied and used in place of fossil fuels by the expedition cruise line Hurtigruten. Heavy fossil fuels used by ocean-going transport are an increasing problem as they are even more polluting than fuels for land-based vehicles, emitting sulphur and other contaminants. The fuels contribute to air pollution as well as to climate change. Converting vessels to use biogas will cut down on pollutants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Hurtigruten operates a fleet of 17 ships, and by 2021 aims to have converted at least six of its vessels to use biogas, liquefied natural gas – a fossil fuel, but cleaner than many alternatives – and large battery packs, capable of storing energy produced from renewable sources…”

Photo credit: “Hurtigruten aims to have converted at least six of its vessels to use biogas, liquefied natural gas and large battery packs by 2021.” Photograph: Franz Gingele/EPA.

Why Covering the Environment is One of the Most Dangerous Beats in Journalism. A story at Nieman Journalism Lab caught my eye: “…Covering the environment is one of the most hazardous beats in journalism. According to one estimate, 40 reporters around the world died between 2005 and September 2016 because of their environmental reporting — more than were killed covering the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Environmental controversies often involve influential business and economic interests, political battles, criminal activities, anti-government insurgents or corruption. Other factors include ambiguous distinctions between “journalist” and “activist” in many countries, as well as struggles over indigenous rights to land and natural resources. In both wealthy and developing countries, journalists covering these issues find themselves in the cross-hairs. Most survive, but many undergo severe trauma, with profound effects on their careers...”

The Best Way to Save People from Suicide. A story at HuffPost Highline caught my eye – must reading in a day and age when far too many people are taking their own lives: “…Over the last two decades, suicide has slowly and then very suddenly announced itself as a full-blown national emergency. Its victims accompany factory closings and the cutting of government assistance. They haunt post-9/11 military bases and hollow the promise of Silicon Valley high schools. Just about everywhere, psychiatric units and crisis hotlines are maxed out. According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are now more than twice as many suicides in the U.S. (45,000) as homicides; they are the 10th leading cause of death. You have to go all the way back to the dawn of the Great Depression to find a similar increase in the suicide rate. Meanwhile, in many other industrialized Western countries, suicides have been flat or steadily decreasing. What makes these numbers so scary is that they can’t be explained away by any sort of demographic logic…”

If you or someone you know is struggling, here is a list of resources.

The Egregious Lie Americans Tell Themselves. Here’s a clip from a post at truthdig: “…The social wealth of a society is better measured by the quality of its common lived environment than by a consolidated statistical approximation like GDP, or even an attempt at weighted comparisons like so-called purchasing power parity. There is a reason why our great American cities, for all of our supposed wealth, often feel and look so shabby. The money goes elsewhere. Seville, a pretty, modest city of less than a million people in the south of Spain, built 80 kilometers of bike lanes for $40 million in less than two years, and eliminated a lot of ugly, on-street parking in the process. Imagine a commensurate effort in New York City, a far wealthier place on paper. Well, its supposedly liberal mayor is going to give Amazon $1.5 billion in tax breaks instead…”

Photo credit: “Commuters crowd into a subway car in New York City.” Mark Lennihan, AP.

“Nothing On This Page is Real”: How Lies Became Truth in Online America. At the end of the day people believe what they want to believe, and there’s always a dubious web page or post to support (any) claim or theory, no matter how crackpot-worthy. The Washington Post explains: “…We live in an Idiocracy,” read a small note on Blair’s desk, and he was taking full advantage. In a good month, the advertising revenue from his website earned him as much as $15,000, and it had also won him a loyal army of online fans. Hundreds of liberals now visited America’s Last Line of Defense to humiliate conservatives who shared Blair’s fake stories as fact. In Blair’s private Facebook messages with his liberal supporters, his conservative audience was made up of “sheep,” “hillbillies,” “maw-maw and paw-paw,” “TrumpTards,” “potatoes” and “taters.”“How could any thinking person believe this nonsense?” he said. He hit the publish button and watched as his lie began to spread…”

Photo credit: “Christopher Blair, 46, sits at his desk at home in Maine and checks his Facebook page, America’s Last Line of Defense. He launched the political-satire portal with other liberal bloggers during the 2016 presidential campaign.” (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post).

Silicon Valley Wages Have Dropped For All Except Highest Paying Jobs. Wealth inequality is alive and well in Silicon Valley, reports Mercury News: “Nine out of every 10 Silicon Valley jobs pays less now than when Netflix first launched in 1997, despite one of the nation’s strongest economic booms and a historically low unemployment rate that outpaces the national average. While tech workers have thrived, employees in the middle of Silicon Valley’s income ladder have been hit hardest as their inflation-adjusted wages declined between 12 and 14 percent over the past 20 years, according to a study from UC Santa Cruz’s Everett Program for Technology and Social Change and the labor think tank Working Partnership USA, which examined the economic impact of technology companies...”

The Unintended Consequences of the “Free” Internet. The old adage, sadly, is true. There is no free lunch. Never has been. If the product or service is “free” YOU are the product, your data, your personal information, your privacy. Here’s an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: “…Apple makes its money by charging premium prices for its products. Google and Facebook make theirs by giving away their products and then selling ads. Yet this is not just some internecine battle of billionaires. The zero-price business model is a source of many of the problems plaguing the Internet. It’s no coincidence that Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc. —which garner more than 80% of their revenue from advertising—are the ones most often accused of propagating toxic content and eroding privacy, while Microsoft Corp. and Apple, whose revenue comes from selling software, hardware and services, fly under the radar. Think about why price matters: It’s how the market rations precious resources. A price signals to suppliers how much to invest in a product. It’s how a consumer decides whether that product is the best use of her budget...”

Image credit:

Stores Use These Tricks to Get You to Spend Money. Don’t Fall For It. Good luck trying to avoid the hype. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Vox: “…These holidays feed on herd mentality, where everybody is rushing to shop because there’s all this hype,” Benson says. “People need to be asking themselves, ‘is it really true I won’t get these deals any other time of year?’” Sometimes the prices are indeed slashed, but most of the time, she says, the deals will likely reappear throughout the year because “it’s more about pressure on you to spend money than about you saving money.” Benson adds that tying the sales to certain days works because it feeds anxiety. Shoppers hate to miss out on a deal, so there’s a rush to spend money, even when it’s on something they don’t need. The FOMO of missing a sale can often outweigh the logic that you’re spending unnecessarily in the first place, albeit at a discount…”

Image credit (not a real Walmart, BTW) courtesy of

Navigating Thanksgiving Dinner Pitfalls. How can you possibly avoid talking politics on Thursday? The Daily Beast has a few suggestions: “…I’m a big fan of being politely direct. I often will give a big smile and say ‘Oh, I’m not going there tonight, but I really want to hear about that trip you just took’ (or something you know they love). Or, ‘Ohhhh, haha, it was on my goal list not to talk politics tonight, so help me out with that!’ [Try a] ‘Haha, I’m not going to do this!’ tone; nothing says you have to participate in that conversation. Once I saw a tasteless joke told at Thanksgiving and it cleared the room. I felt bad for person who told the joke, but I was also like, well that’s what you get for telling a joke that was funny—or perceived as funny—70 years ago. That was one of those awkward moments where I was like, well, that probably went the way it should have...”

How Did Netflix Get Started? Legend has it that the Netflix founder and CEO came up with the idea for the DVD-by-mail rental business that would go on to shutter video-rental stores nationwide and upend the world of media 20 years ago today because he was late returning a videotape. Turns out the “creation story” may have been embellished just a bit. Quartz explains: “In the mid-Nineties, he was said to have rented Apollo 13 from his local Blockbuster Video store and lost it. The penalty for such an infraction was a $40 fine. I remember the fee because I was embarrassed about it. That was back in the VHS days, and it got me thinking that there’s a big market out there. So I started to investigate the idea of how to create a movie-rental business by mail. I didn’t know about DVDs, and then a friend of mine told me they were coming. I ran out to Tower Records in Santa Cruz, California, and mailed CDs to myself, just a disc in an envelope. It was a long 24 hours until the mail arrived back at my house, and I ripped them open and they were all in great shape. That was the big excitement point...”

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

30 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

38 F. average high on November 20.

48 F. high on November 20, 2017.

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.

Thanksgiving Pie Preferences courtesy of climate guru Brian Brettschneider.

Thanksgiving Side Dish Preferences courtesy of FiveThirtyEight.

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, brisk. Winds: E 7-12. High: 28

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 24

THANKSGIVING DAY: Mix of clouds and sun, milder. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 41

BLACK FRIDAY: Dry start, light rain/drizzle PM hours. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 35. High: 46

SATURDAY: Damp start, then partial clearing. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 33. High: near 40

SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy, colder wind. Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 26. High: 31

MONDAY: Numbing breeze, few flakes in the air. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 19. High: 25

TUESDAY: Partly sunny, less wind. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 14. High: 28

Climate Stories…

Climate Solutions: Is It Feasible to Remove Enough CO2 From the Air? Yale E360 looks at the technologies available today: “…First of all, in the last 15 years, wind and solar went from extremely expensive green luxury items maintained by subsidy to the cheapest forms of energy ever. That happened because government subsidized wind and solar, made a market for it that companies competed over, and they relentlessly drove the cost down. It’s a remarkable achievement – that conservatives should relish – of market success, but through government subsidy. What else happened during the same time? Natural gas, 15 years ago, had an uncertain supply and we didn’t know how to do carbon capture and storage, really. We had done the tiniest bit of it. Since that time, the whole fracking and unconventional gas thing happened. Whether or not you like that, the fact of the matter is that fuel is now super-abundant and would last centuries. Carbon capture and storage has gone from, “Well, maybe it’s possible to do,” to a big business. Sixty-one million tons of CO2 are going into reservoirs and staying there this year in the Lower 48 [U.S. states] alone. That’s a big number…”

Graphic credit: “Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs) range from low-tech, such as planting more trees, to more high-tech options, such as developing machines to scrub CO2 from the air. National Academy of Sciences, 2018.”

U.S. Fleet’s Threatened by Storms and Rising Seas. Yes, the Navy is taking climate change and rising seas seriously. Here’s an excerpt from InsideClimate News: “...Rising seas will likely engulf the shipyard by century’s end, but the reckoning for Norfolk and nearby military installations could come much sooner. “They’re going to disappear” unless the Pentagon acts quickly to protect them, said Ray Mabus, Navy secretary under President Barack Obama. The most immediate worry is a direct hit from a major storm. “It would have the potential for serious, if not catastrophic damage, and it would certainly put the shipyard out of business for some amount of time,” Mabus said. “That has implications not just for the shipyard, but for us, for the Navy.” The shipyard is among the American military sites most vulnerable to climate change. Because of its role in maintaining the fleet, damage to the aging facility could undermine the Pentagon’s ability to respond to military and humanitarian crises and to counter China’s growing naval ambitions…”

Is Climate Change Only Contributing “A Little Bit” to California’s Fire Season? A story at Pacific Standard offers up some perspective on the contributing factors: “...Since the 1980s, climate change has doubled the area of forest in the U.S. considered vulnerable to fire—and research shows this will only grow. Projections suggest that carbon emissions, poor air quality, and a drying landscape will lead to more frequent fires across a greater expanse of land. One 2007 analysis projected heavy fire damage from warming in the Bay Area and the Sierra Nevada foothills, where two destructive fires—Camp and Woolsey—have burned hundreds of thousands of acres. Despite Trump’s doubts, climate change’s role in this endless fire season has been widely accepted in the scientific community for years and has prompted calls for new suppression strategies among land management agencies. “Although numerous factors aided the recent rise in fire activity, observed warming and drying have significantly increased fire-season fuel aridity, fostering a more favorable fire environment,” wrote a pair of researchers in a 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences...”

An Action Movie We Won’t Want to See: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Unchecked warming could trigger a slew of simultaneous climate crises in parts of the world by the end of the century, with some areas being hit by as many as six climate-influenced disasters at a time, according to new research. A multidisciplinary study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change identifies 467 different ways climate change is already impacting society—including warming, droughts, fires, sea-level rise, changes to food systems and health problems—and predicts that these disasters will begin to compound on top of one another if warming continues at current rates. “Facing these climatic changes will be like getting into a fight with Mike Tyson, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Jackie Chan—all at the same time,” lead author Camillo Mora told CBS. “I think we are way above our heads.” (New York Times $, CBS, USA Today, NBC).

“Like a Terror Movie”. How Climate Change Will Cause More Simultaneous Disasters. The New York Times highlights new research: “…Global warming is posing such wide-ranging risks to humanity, involving so many types of phenomena, that by the end of this century some parts of the world could face as many as six climate-related crises at the same time, researchers say. This chilling prospect is described in a paper published Monday in Nature Climate Change, a respected academic journal, that shows the effects of climate change across a broad spectrum of problems, including heat waves, wildfires, sea level rise, hurricanes, flooding, drought and shortages of clean water. Such problems are already coming in combination, said the lead author, Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He noted that Florida had recently experienced extreme drought, record high temperatures and wildfires — and also Hurricane Michael, the powerful Category 4 storm that slammed into the Panhandle this summer...”

Photo credit: “A search-and-rescue team looking for human remains in the aftermath of the recent Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. The state is also suffering from drought, extreme heat waves and degraded air quality.” Credit: Eric Thayer for The New York Times.

In California, Climate Change Has Turned Rainy Season into Fire Season. As I understand the science, a warming climate has resulted in a longer period of warm/dry conditions for California and much of the west; low humidity and tinder-dry conditions increasingly coinciding with peak Santa Ana season, when powerful east winds can spread fires rapidly, with deadly consequences. Here’s an excerpt from Intelligencer: “…In the California of that future, every season would be fire season. In fact, that is already how climate scientists and firefighters are now describing the state’s wildfire season: year-round. Multiply the devastation, as the coming decades almost surely will, and it begins to seem all-encompassing: the burning nearly nonstop, and the fearsome prospect of new fires looming just over every crest and down every valley in a state full of them, nearly every week of the year, with no meaningful reprieve. Against that possible future, the simple inversion of November from rainy season to fire season is a powerful poetic reversal — and a sort of map for how all of us will wake up to climate horrors in the decades ahead…”

The New Politics of Climate Change. A mixed bag after the midterms, according to an analysis at The Atlantic: “…Last Tuesday was only one election, encompassing thousands of candidates who campaigned on issues that mostly weren’t climate change. It would be ludicrous to try to extract lasting takeaways for the climate movement from that range of specific, never-to-be-repeated contests. It would generate some flawed conclusions. It might even be a fundamentally silly exercise. But let’s try it anyway. I looked closely at climate advocates’ theories of change, to see which could claim vindication from the midterm results, and I’m not sure a single one emerged looking vastly stronger and more obviously correct than it did before...”

File image: Yale Climate Connections.