Dreaming of a Beige Christmas? You’re In Luck!

“Here’s the thing, models suggest a negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation in January, which implies lighter jet stream winds aloft and greater odds of bitter, Canadian air penetrating into the USA. But a weak El Nino developing in the Pacific may sustain a split flow in the jet stream, tilting the odds toward more frequent puffs of milder, Pacific air! And what about the MJO, the Madden Julian Oscillation?”

It’s no wonder I don’t get invited to many holiday parties.

So many factors to consider when contemplating the winter to come. Just remember, when it comes to a 3-month weather outlook, there’s no such thing as an ‘expert’. It’s a little like predicting where the NASDAQ Index will be in late February. Good luck with that.

Now that we’ve lost much of our snow, the sun’s energy can go into heating the air. 40s are possible today
and Wednesday, before we finally cool off.

The East Coast gets slapped by another big rain storm late week, but it’s a generally dry pattern for Minnesota through Christmas Eve. ECWMF (European) guidance hints at a little slush on Christmas Day; another snowy coating one week from Thursday?

Let the record show it’s not my fault. Hey, I’m dreaming of a beige Christmas.



Going, Going… The Geocolor midday image from GOES-East on Monday shows where there’s a little snow still left on the ground; more snowcover south of MSP, but lot’s of brown ground over western and central counties.


I’m Dreaming of a Lousy Inch? ECMWF (above) hints at a coating to an inch of slushy snow Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, with a couple inches over Iowa. With the exception of lake effect downwind of the Great Lakes and snow for Colorado’s mountains, precious little snow is forecast between now and Christmas. Map: WeatherBell.



Negative Phase of Arctic Oscillation? (AO). The meteorological rumor-machine is heating up with talk of an imminent negative phase of the AO, which often corresponds with lighter jet stream winds and arctic air making deeper incursions into the USA. I’ve seen some of the posts about sudden stratospheric warming after the New Year driving a January cold wave. It wouldn’t shock me, but I’m not quite convinced yet. The latest NOAA AO forecast is above; here’s an explainer: “The Arctic Oscillation (AO) is a large scale mode of climate variability, also referred to as the Northern Hemisphere annular mode. The AO is a climate pattern characterized by winds circulating counterclockwise around the Arctic at around 55°N latitude. When the AO is in its positive phase, a ring of strong winds circulating around the North Pole acts to confine colder air across polar regions. This belt of winds becomes weaker and more distorted in the negative phase of the AO, which allows an easier southward penetration of colder, arctic airmasses and increased storminess into the mid-latitudes...”



Temperatures Slightly Above Average Through Late December? That still looks like a modified-zonal flow to me looking out roughly 2 weeks, winds aloft blowing in from Seattle vs. the Yukon. We’ll see glancing blows of colder air, but probably nothing arctic into at least the first few days of 2019.


January Flip-Flop. Latest CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) models are hinting at a colder turn next month for the eastern half of the USA, with unusual warmth for the west. This model has been flip-flopping back and forth between cold and mild solutions, especially eastern USA and Midwest, so confidence levels are low. Will a possible negative phase of the AO be able to overcome any (mild) El Nino signal?


El Nino Watch. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has raised the probability of a winter El Nino event to 90%. Details: “…The majority of models in the IRI/CPC plume predict a Nino3.4 index of +0.5C or greater to continue through the winter and spring. The official forecast favors the formation of a weak El Nino, with the expectation that the atmospheric circulation will eventually couple to the anomalous equatorial Pacific warmth. In summary, El Nino is expected to form and continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2018-10 (90% chance) and spring (60% chance)...”


Historic Rainfall Drowns Northeast, Threatens Southeast Areas Battered by Florence. Here’s an excerpt of a very wet summary from USA TODAY: “The latest round of persistent rain drenching the soggy East has triggered another annual record and brought fears of more flooding to the battered Carolinas. Washington’s Reagan National Airport recorded more than 3 inches of rain since it began raining Friday. That pushed the annual total to more than 61.5 inches, breaking the record of 61.33 inches set in 1889, said Alan Reppert, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. Charleston, West Virginia, broke a record set in 2003, totaling 63.29 inches. Baltimore, swamped by more than 2.8 inches of rain, tallied more than 68 inches for the year. The city had already broken its annual record set 15 years ago…”

Photo credit: “The rain falls at the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018.” (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)


2018 Precipitation Departures, To Date. Parts of southern MInnesota, southern Wisconsin and northern Iowa have picked up more than 15″ more than “average precipitation” so far this year, according to Greg Carbin at NOAA.


2018 Rainfall Records. Climate Central has produced a series of graphics focusing on rainfall records this year; here’s an excerpt: “…Of 2,800 stations analyzed by Climate Central, 133 (across 21 states) saw record precipitation totals this year, and 685 saw yearly totals that were among the top 10 on record. 2018 is already the fifth-wettest year on record in the contiguous United States. Warmer air holds more moisture. Earlier analysis by Climate Central showed that 42 of the 48 states in the contiguous U.S. will see increased runoff risks from heavy rain by 2050. Heavy rain can damage or destroy infrastructure, homes, and businesses. It jeopardizes public health, washing sewage into waterways, kicking up polluting sediments, and creating habitats for disease-carrying insects. By laying down impermeable surfaces like asphalt, communities and developers have limited the soil’s ability to absorb precipitation. Just as climate change has made heavy rainfall more common in some areas, so has it encouraged droughts in others…”


New Evidence Shows Tornadoes Don’t Always Form the Way Scientists Have Always Thought. Actually, it’s been suspected for some time that tornadoes are not “objects”, but rather a process, with rotation spinning up close to ground level and working it’s way up. More clarity in a post at Science Alert: “…Data sets from the three other tornadoes showed similar patterns, although the 2011 El Reno tornado showed rotation at a multiple different elevations simultaneously. That indicates that there may be different modes of tornadogenesis, but even so, it did not start in the sky and work its way down. “It appears that in many cases,” the team wrote in their abstract, “tornadic-strength rotation develops either at near-ground levels first, or contemporaneously throughout the depth of the tornado-bearing layer.” Of course, four is a pretty small sample size, considering that an average of more than 1,000 tornadoes is recorded in the US every year...”

Image credit: Composite image showing tornadogenesis. (JasonWeingart/Wikimedia Commons)


Hurricane Harvey Report Seeks to “Future-Proof” Texas from Climate Change Without Saying So Directly. Dallas News reports: “To protect itself from the next major hurricane, Texas will have to build storm-surge barriers, shore up wetlands, buy out residents who live in vulnerable areas, rethink development plans and raise the first floors of existing buildings, suggests a sweeping report prepared for Gov. Greg Abbott and released Thursday. The recommendations come from Abbott’s Commission to Rebuild Texas, led by Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp. In September 2017, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Abbott charged Sharp with the task of rebuilding Texas “ahead of schedule, under budget and with a friendly smile.” The report calls Harvey a warning that should not be ignored…”

August 25, 2017 file image: NOAA and AerisWeather.


Deadly Air Pollution Shortens Lives By Nearly 2 Years. A story highlighted at emergencyemail.org caught my eye: “Air pollution, caused largely by burning fossil fuels, is cutting global life expectancy by an average of 1.8 years per person, making it the world’s top killer, researchers said on Monday. The tiny particles ingested from polluted air shorten life more than first-hand cigarette smoke, which can reduce it by 1.6 years, and are more dangerous than other public health threats such as war and HIV/AIDS, they said. The University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) shows people in parts of India, the world’s second-largest country by population, could live 11 years less due to high levels of air pollution. Life expectancy averages slightly below 69 in the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion, according to the World Bank…”

File image: EPA.


Safer Cycling? Look to the Dutch. CityLab takes a look at cycling best practices in The Netherlands: “…Some traffic safety advocates refer to the maneuver as the “Right Hand Reach.” Michael Charney, a retired doctor in Massachusetts who has perhaps become the technique’s top evangelist, popularized the term “Dutch Reach,” since it’s a common practice in the Netherlands. Americans are slowly getting the hang of it, too, as more cyclists take the streets in major cities. Starting in January, a number of organizations, including AAA, AARP and the National Safety Council, will teach the reach to both driver-side and passenger-side vehicle users in a range of traffic safety courses, the New York Times recently reported…”

Photo credit: “Do look now: traffic safety experts say that drivers who open the car door with their right hand can save lives.Jim Mone/AP.


7 Easy Ways You Can Tell for Yourself That the Moon Landing Really Happened. If there’s any doubt in your mind, a post at Popular Science may clear things up: “…Even today, you can still spot the landing sites for the Apollo missions on the surface of the moon. Images collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbit (LRO) and published in 2011 sharply illustrate the touchdown points of the Apollo 12, 14, and 17 lunar landers as astronauts made their way to the ground, as well as the paths taken by those crews as they walked and rode around the surface of the moon. A year later, NASA went on to publish other LRO images of the old Apollo 11 site. But wait, you say: what if the space agencies just faked those photos? Besides JAXA, plenty of other independent institutions outside of NASA, as well as amateur astronomers from around the world, have reported sightings of the remnants and signs of the past Apollo missions. If you have a pretty powerful telescope and a clear view of the full moon, you may have an opportunity to see the evidence of these missions yourself…”

Photo credit: NASA.


GE Powered the American Century. Then It Burned Out. The Wall Street Journal documents the rise and fall of a General Electric; here’s an excerpt: “…At its peak, General Electric was the most valuable company in the U.S., worth nearly $600 billion in August 2000. That year, GE’s third of a million employees operated 150 factories in the U.S., and another 176 in 34 other countries. Its pension plan covered 485,000 people. With nearly 10 billion shares outstanding, GE was also among the most widely owned stocks. The company paid dividends to more than 600,000 accounts, from individual investors to major mutual funds that served millions. GE had moved in and out of businesses since 1892: airplane engines, plastics, cannons, computers, MRI machines, oil-field drill bits, water-desalination units, television shows, movies, credit cards and insurance. The big machines were always GE’s beating heart. But it was a willingness to expand into growing businesses and shed weaker ones that helped make it the rare conglomerate to survive the mass extinction of its rivals…”


High-Tech Russian Robot Turns Out To Be a Man in a Suit. Big Think has the head-slapping details: “In a story rich with metaphors, a Russian-made dancing robot named “Boris”, which was trotted out as a high-tech advancement, has been unmasked as being just a man in a suit. While reporting on the Proyektoria technology forum in Yaroslavl, organized each year for the “future intellectual leaders of Russia”, the state-owned channel Russia-24 promoted a “most modern” android as a tech breakthrough that could talk, walk and even dance…”Boris” turned out to be a 250,000 rouble (~$3740) “Alyosha the Robot” costume, featuring a microphone and a tablet-like display. On its site, Show Robots, the company behind the suit, claims its product creates the “near total illusion that before you stands a real robot”...


2″ snow on the ground at MSP International Airport.

36 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

26 F. average high on December 17.

28 F. maximum temperature on December 17, 2017.

December 18, 1923: Southern Minnesota experiences a ‘heat wave’. Temperatures rose into the 60s at New Ulm and St. Peter.

December 18, 1917: Milaca has its fifty-ninth consecutive day with no precipitation.


TUESDAY: Partly sunny and mild. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 45

WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, stray rain shower? Winds: SW 8-13. High: near 40

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy and cooler, few flakes. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 34

FRIDAY: More sunshine, light winds. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 22. High: 35

SATURDAY: Clouds increase, probably dry. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 23. High: 33

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun, quiet. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 24. High: 32

CHRISTMAS EVE: Mostly cloudy, a little wet snow possible at night. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 21. High: 33


Climate Stories…

Apocalypse Now. More like a slow motion death by a thousand cuts. WIRED.com has a post on cognitive dissonance: “…Most people, at this point, believe that climate change is a real thing that will harm future generations of humans. And yet, a cognitive dissonance exists around that knowledge and our sense of responsibility: A much smaller percentage of people believe that climate change is impacting them personally, according to Yale’s climate survey program. It is indeed impacting humans right now, with clear and compelling evidence that the global average temperature is much higher than anything modern society has experienced. And that has lead us to a whole host of issues, some of which WIRED writer Adam Rogers discusses with the Gadget Lab team on this week’s podcast…”

File image: NASA.


Does Climate Change Cause More War? In so much as it impacts the ability to grow crops, access to reliable water supplies and a force-multiplier that can trigger mass migrations the answer may be a qualified yes, according to research highlighted at The Atlantic: “…Ide and many other researchers worry that such research will eventually harm the people that live in the places that are being studied. “In Sudan, Kenya, Syria, people say climate change is causing conflict, and that it will cause more conflict in the future because of droughts and stuff,” Ide said. “This scares investors away. People don’t want to invest there anymore because they’re scared these places are biased, or immature, or barbaric.” Ide also fretted that this will encourage Western philanthropists or militaries to unseat local power in these countries, in effect saying, “You can’t do it on your own, so we have to move in and manage your resources…”

File image credit: Reuters.


Climate Change is “Shrinking Winter”. BBC News reports on new findings: “Snowy mountain winters are being “squeezed” by climate change, according to scientists in California. Researchers who studied the winter snowfall in the mountains there revealed that rising temperatures are reducing the period during which snow is on the ground in the mountains – snow that millions rely on for their fresh water. They presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting – the world’s largest gathering of Earth and space scientists. “Our winters are getting sick and we know why,” said Prof Amato Evan, from the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, who carried out the investigation. “It’s climate change; it’s rising temperatures…”

Image credit: “Satellite images from 2002 (left) compared with 2017 (right) highlight the decreasing snowpack.” NASA.


2018: The Year in Climate Change. The New York Times has a post of climate-related stories this year.


More Floods and More Droughts: Climate Change Delivers Both. The New York Times reports: “More records for both wet and dry weather are being set around the globe, often with disastrous consequences for the people facing such extremes, according to a study published Wednesday that offered new evidence of climate change’s impacts in the here and now. Extreme rainfall, and the extreme lack of it, affects untold numbers of people, taxing economies, disrupting food production, creating unrest and prompting migrations. So, factors that push regions of the world to exceptional levels of flooding and drought can shape the fate of nations. “Climate change will likely continue to alter the occurrence of record-breaking wet and dry months in the future,” the study predicts, “with severe consequences for agricultural production and food security...”

File image: NOAA.


“People Talk About Deep Sadness”: Scientists Study Climate Change Grief. The Canadian Press and The Guardian have the story: “…Mental-health researchers around the world are taking notice of what people feel when the world they’ve always known changes gradually or suddenly from climate change. Some call it environmental grief, some call it solastalgia — a word coined for a feeling of homesickness when home changes around you. The American Psychological Association has released a lengthy report into solastalgia. So has the British medical journal The Lancet. Australian farmers report rising levels of depression as their drought-stricken lands blow away. An international group of climate scientists maintain a website entitled Is This How You Feel? House of Commons committees have discussed it. Health Canada is exploring the topic. “It is gaining more traction,” said researcher Katie Hayes from the University of Toronto…”