Cheap Thrills: Forecast of 40s Sounds Amazing

Was Minneapolis too ‘dang-blasted cold to host a Super Bowl? Is Pyeongchang, South Korea too prone to frostbite to host a Winter Olympics? We all have our winter weather coping skills, fine-tuned over many years of shivering. But shivering is anathema to a figure skater or downhill skier, trying to focus muscles on the challenges at hand.

A New York Times article highlighted the ways nations are helping their athletes cope with the cold. Some are putting tape and Vaseline on their skin for another layer of insulation. Canada’s Alpine skiers have battery-powered pants. Or heated socks and “Lungpluses”; small whistle-like devices that warm the air by about 20F. Yes to all of the above.
I got a look at the latest models and did a happy-dance (friends thought I was having a seizure). It looks like low 40s on Valentine’s Day; another shot at 40s next weekend as Pacific air spills inland. Flurries are possible Thursday as cooler air returns, but no more lengthy, subzero blasts are brewing.
For the record, on this date in 1838 a mercury thermometer at Ft. Snelling froze at -40F!

Glimpses of March. We are turning a fairly big corner this week as temperatures finally rebound, after a cold start to February. Not Pioneer Cold, but colder than average to the tune of 10-15F. 40F is possible tomorrow, again this weekend before the next inevitable cold front. But not exactly polar pain.

Dribs and Drabs of Snow. Not much in the way of accumulating snow into Friday; just a coating possible over northern Minnesota and North Dakota, according to NOAA’s 12km NAM model going out 84 hours. Map:

Winter Snowfall, To Date. Ryan Maue has an effective graphic showing snowfall as of February 11, courtesy of Note the patch of 6-7″ over far western Minnesota and northeastern South Dakota, for the entire winter!

Split Flow. A southern branch to the jet stream may dredge enough (Pacific and Gulf) moisture north to fuel a few precipitation events by late February and early March. By the time the storms track farther north temperatures aloft may be warm enough for a mix.

Twin Cities Winter Misery Index Update. More miserable than last winter, absolutely, but still not even close to the Pioneer Winter of 2013-14. Here’s an excerpt from The Minnesota DNR: “…As of February 7, 2018 the WMI for the 2017-18 winter is at 66 points: 39 points for cold, 27 points for snow. The 12.4 inches of snowfall on January 22 made up for lost ground. As of February 7 the winter of 17-18 has 30.6 inches of snow so far, 5.4 inches below normal. The WMI for the winter of 2016-17 finished with 49 points, enough for 2016-17 to be categorized as a “mild” winter. The total WMI points for the 2016-2017 winter were 23 for cold and 26 for snow: 49 points. The WMI for the winter of 2013-14 in Twin Cities was 207 points, or in the high end of the “severe winter” category.  This was the 9th most severe winter on record based on WMI points…”

One-Two Punch of Disease and Irma Has Left Florida Citrus Reeling. NBC News reports: “…Irma knocked 50 to 90 percent of Florida’s citrus fruit to the ground in some areas, according to the state commissioner of agriculture, Adam Putnam, causing $760 million in damage in the worst year for Florida oranges since 1945. But more was damaged than just a year’s crop. Citrus accounts for approximately 45,000 full- and part-time jobs in the state. Hurricane Irma is credited with wiping out nearly 56,000 jobs directly and indirectly tied to Florida’s agricultural sector and dealing a $2.39 billion blow to labor income...”

Is Cape Town Thirsty Enough to Drink Seawater? Desalination technology is getting better (and cheaper), but will it help people living in this South African city? Here’s a clip from a story at “Cape Town is withering. If current projections hold, the South African city of 4 million will run out of water on May 11, known as Day Zero. It’s been three long years of drought—we’re talking a once every 1,000 years kind of problem that Cape Town’s water infrastructure just wasn’t built for. The irony is that a whole sea of water laps at the shores of the coastal city. But if you wanted to drink it, you’d have to build an expensive, energy-intensive desalination facility. Cape Town is indeed rushing to bring such projects online, at least on a temporary basis, and in so doing is exposing a dire reality: Pockets of humanity around the world may have to rely on the sea to survive drought in the very near future. Because it’s likely that climate change is exacerbating this drought.…”

The World Spends $400 Billion Propping Up Oil Companies. Is That Bad? It may depend on who is writing the check, according to a post at The Atlantic: “…Every year, the world’s governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars making it cheaper to extract and burn fossil fuels. Almost as regularly, their representatives get together and beg everyone else to stop doing that. Then they go home and keep doing it themselves. The pattern has worn on for more than two decades. Way back in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol—the first international treaty aimed at fixing global warning—called for governments to stop subsidizing all “greenhouse-gas-emitting sectors.” That didn’t happen, so, in 2009, the leaders of the G20 nations resolved anew to “phase out … inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies.” Three years later, President Obama declared that “a century of subsidies to the oil companies is long enough.” In 2016, when G20 leaders met in China, they again “reaffirmed” the need to end subsidies...”

File image: “Smoke billows from a controlled burn of spilled oil off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico on June 13, 2010.” Sean Gardner / Reuters.

New Study Finds Cutting Oil Subsidies Will Not Stop Climate Change. Scientific American reports.

This May Be The Last Olympics Without Computerized (Artificial Intelligence) Judges. Quartz has another story that more or less confirms the story above: “While robot skiers are taking to the slopes alongside humans in Pyeongchang, an Olympics partner is readying artificial intelligence judges for the next summer games in Tokyo. Japanese company Fujitsu is developing software that uses data from 3D sensors to analyze gymnastics events like the pommel horse and floor routines, according to a video released by the company last year. Fujistu is reportedly introducing this technology at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. To create the judging software, Fujitsu first captured 3D data of professional gymnasts’ performances in 2016, in an effort to create a “bone structure model” for athletes…”

Photo credit: “Quantified.” (AP Photo/Gregory Bull).

Why Denver Said No to the 1976 Winter Olympics. Now I Know has the fascinating tale: “In January of this year, the United States Olympic Committee decided that Boston would be the nation’s applicant for the 2024 Summer Olympics. As of this writing, only one other city — Rome — has applied for consideration, and by early 2016, many others will similarly start on their quest to host the Olympic Games. Even though hosting the event can quickly become a financial boondoggle, it is still a much sought-after honor — one any city would gladly welcome. With one very notable exception…”

The Enlightenment is Working. It’s easy to get bogged down in gloom and doom, but Harvard Professor of Psychology Stephen Pinker has some much needed perspective in an Op-Ed at The Wall Street Journal; here are a few excerpts: “…The proportion of people killed annually in wars is about a quarter of what it was in the mid-1980s, a sixth of what it was in the early 1970s, and a 16th of what it was in the early 1950s….Americans have become 96% less likely to be killed in an auto accident, 88% less likely to be mowed down on the sidewalk, 99% less likely to die in a plane crash, 59% less likely to fall to their deaths, 92% less likely to die by fire, 90% less likely to drown, 92% less likely to be asphyxiated, and 95% less likely to be killed on the job...”

Illustration credit: Robert Neubecker.

The Case for Optimism. Following up on his article and book, Vox has an interview with Pinker. Here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…When cars were introduced, there was a huge increase in the rate of deaths from car accidents and pedestrian fatalities. But those plummeted as safety measures were created and better roads and traffic laws and technologies were introduced. We saw some a similar trajectory in the case of pollution during and after the Industrial Revolution. Initially, air and water quality were drastically diminished, sometimes catastrophically. But then legislation and technologies were introduced to deal with the harms, and we’ve seen steady improvements in air and water quality across the West. Other than the bleak technology of weaponry, which is in a special category because it’s designed to harm people, I think the other technologies can seem more frightening than they ultimately are because when they’re introduced, we have to deal with both the harms and the benefits before we come up with countermeasures...”

File image: Shutterstock.

73 Mind-Blowing Implications of Driverless Cars and Trucks. Geoff Nesnow has the story at Medium: “I originally wrote and published a version of this article in September 2016. Since then, quite a bit has happened, further cementing my view that these changes are coming and that the implications will be even more substantial. I decided it was time to update this article with some additional ideas and a few changes. As I write this, Uber just announced that it just ordered 24,000 self-driving Volvos. Tesla just released an electric, long-haul tractor trailer with extraordinary technical specs (range, performance) and self-driving capabilities (UPS just preordered 125!). And, Tesla just announced what will probably be the quickest production car ever made — perhaps the fastest. It will go zero to sixty in about the time it takes you to read zero to sixty. And, of course, it will be able to drive itself. The future is quickly becoming now. Google just ordered thousands of Chryslers for its self-driving fleet (that are already on the roads in AZ)…”

Image credit: “To drive or to be driven. Is that the question?

Flying Cars Within 5 Years? It’s about time. CNBC has the tantalizing details: “Flying cars could be in the air within five years, the chief executive of Kitty Hawk, a company backed by Alphabet CEO Larry Page, told CNBC on Monday. Sebastian Thrun added that an announcement is due in March about the next stages of the project. Thrun was one of the founders of Google X, the search giant’s moonshot lab, and also a pioneer of the company’s driverless car project. He is now the chairman of an online education firm called Udacity and the CEO of flying car firm Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk unveiled a demonstration video of its flying car in 2017. Thrun said Monday that the company is gearing up for an announcement next month…”

Kansas Scrambles to Change Rules After 6 Teens Enter Governor’s Race. Hey, why not? NPR has the improbable story: “There are a lot of requirements if you want to vote in Kansas. You must be 18 years old. You need to show a photo ID at your polling place and show proof of U.S. citizenship when you register to vote. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says the state’s voter ID laws are among the strictest in the nation. But when it comes to the rules about who can run for state office? There are no rules. “Under Kansas law, there is no law governing the qualifications for governor, not one,” Bryan Caskey, director of elections at the Kansas secretary of state’s office, told The Kansas City Star last year. “So there’s seriously nothing on the books that lays out anything, no age, no residency, no experience. Nothing…”

Image credit:

13 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities on Monday.

28 F. average high on February 12.

40 F. high on February 12, 2017.

February 13, 1872: A snowstorm buries Sibley County with 12 foot drifts. Many people perished in the storm.

February 13, 1866: What may be Minnesota’s ‘Greatest Blizzard.’ It lasted for three days and buried barns in drifts. Luckily, it began at night when many people were at home.

February 13, 1838: In the days before Tower…at 2:00 am the mercury thermometer at Ft. Snelling freezes at 40 below. The actual temperature is unknown.

TUESDAY: Dim sun, milder breeze. Winds: S 10-15. High: 27

TUESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, not as cold. Low: 21

VALENTINE’S DAY: Some sun – feels like March. Winds: SW 10-15. High: 42

THURSDAY: Windy and cooler with flurries. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 31

FRIDAY: Partly sunny and chilly. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 7. High: near 20

SATURDAY: Fading sun, thawing out PM hours. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 15. High: 39

SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, still mild. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 27. High: 42

MONDAY: Wet snow or mix possible. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 30. High: 32 (falling)

Climate Stories…

Does Climate Change Cause More War? The Atlantic looks at recent research to see if you can make a case: “It’s one of the most important questions of the 21st century: Will climate change provide the extra spark that pushes two otherwise peaceful nations into war? In the past half-decade, a growing body of research—spanning economics, political science, and ancient and modern history—has argued that it can and will. Historians have found temperature or rainfall change implicated in the fall of Rome and the many wars of the 17th century. A team of economists at the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University have gone further, arguing that an empirical connection between violence and climate change persists across 12,000 years of human history. Meanwhile, high-profile scientists and powerful politicians have endorsed the idea that global warming helped push Syria into civil war. “Climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world,” said Barack Obama in 2015, but “drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria...”

For Florida Professors, Climate Change Could be Opportunity or Bust. CBS Miami has the story; here’s an excerpt: “Not paying attention to climate change’s effects in Florida may mean the state will pay for it dearly in the future, according to two Florida State University professors. Professors Eric Chassignet and Associate Professor Vasu Misra, both from the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, are urging the community to pay more attention to the Sunshine State. Why?  Because Florida’s climate is one of its ‘most important assets’ and it could change faster than most think...” (File image: NASA).

How Broadcast TV Networks Covered Climate Change in 2017. Media Matters for America has the report; here’s an excerpt: “Broadcast TV news neglected many critical climate change stories in 2017 while devoting most of its climate coverage to President Donald Trump. Seventy-nine percent of climate change coverage on the major corporate broadcast TV networks last year focused on statements or actions by the Trump administration, with heavy attention given to the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement and to whether he accepts that human-caused climate change is a scientific reality. But the networks undercovered or ignored the ways that climate change had real-life impacts on people, the economy, national security, and the year’s extreme weather events — a major oversight in a year when weather disasters killed hundreds of Americans, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and cost the economy in excess of $300 billion…”

America’s Ski Trails Are Vanishing. This Olympian Has Taken Up the Cause. This story strikes close to home, courtesy of The New York Times: “…Before Diggins was an Olympic skier, before she had even taken her first steps, her parents strapped her into a babby carrier and took her cross-country skiing near her hometown, Afton, Minn. But she worries that future generations of American children might miss that opportunity. The risk is real. In the United States, the average time between the last frost of the spring and the first of the winter has expanded by 10 days since the first half of the 20th century. Winter is shrinking in places like Hayward, Wis., a town of 2,300 that swells to more than 12,000 people in late February during the American Birkebeiner, North America’s largest cross-country ski race. Last year, organizers canceled the event for lack of snow...”

Image credit: Star Tribune.

Winter Olympics Future is Murky Unless We Get a Handle on Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at USA TODAY: “…For example, a study released last year found that by 2050, when my daughter will hopefully be putting my grandchildren on skis, the snow season across the U.S. could be cut in half. By 2090, when her children are raising their children, there could be as much as an 80% reduction in ski season length (costing the winter sports and recreation industry hundreds of millions of dollars). The story is the same across the globe. Recent analysis of 21 cities that have held the Winter Olympics found that nearly half won’t be reliably cold enough to host them again by mid-century. Though snow machines have already proved able to take up some of nature’s slack in keeping runs covered, before long many past host cities just won’t be cold enough to sustain the snow and ice necessary to host again...”

What Will America’s Iconic Parks Look Like in 2050? Here’s an excerpt from CityLab: “…[The posters] are representative of a time during which we remember America being very great, and I wanted to take that symbol of greatness and examine what we are likely doing to it through our current actions,” Rothstein said. Rothstein said it was important to her that the posters correctly represent the science of climate change. After reading government websites, academic studies, and news sources, she strove to accurately depict how each of these landscapes might actually change between now and 2050. For example, in her rendition of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina (pictured above), trees are set ablaze as the result of the drought and rising temperatures that climate scientists believe will come to plague the Southeast…”

Image credit: Left: Original WPA poster; Right: Rothstein’s 2017 poster.