Cold But Quiet: Only 2 Words for Minnesota Snow?

Eskimo have about 50 words for snow, including “matsaaruti” (wet snow) and “pukak”, powdery snowthat resembles salt. Helpfully, Minnesotans have whittled the list down to 2 categorys. “Yay!” and “Ugh”.

Will we see anything close to the 78 inches of snow that fell last winter at MSP? I doubt it, but I’m holding out hope. I’m seeinga few more El Nino signals on the weather maps; a pattern characterized by an energized, west-to-east wind flow from the Pacific

El Nino winters are usually milder for Minnesota, with many of the biggest, sloppiest storms tracking too far south for heavy snow here. This may turn into a weaker El Nino, so all bets are off.

I’ve temporarily unplugged the Doppler, because a cold, quiet, storm-free pattern is shaping up. A reinforcing swipe of Canadian air sparks flurries late Wednesday, with a cold (but sunny) end to this week. A slight warming trend kicks in by the weekend and a string of 30s should feel good next week.

Note: just because our winter started out on a numbing note doesn’t mean the entire winter will be Nanook.

Light a candle.

Ice is Never 100% Safe. The Minnesota DNR could not have said it any better: “The DNR does not measure ice thickness on Minnesota lakes. Your safety is your responsibility. Check ice thickness at least every 150 feet. Temperature, snow cover, currents, springs and rough fish all affect the relative safety of ice. Ice is seldom the same thickness over a single body of water; it can be two feet thick in one place and one inch thick a few yards away. Check the ice at least every 150 feet…”

Forecast Graphics. Tuesday highs and accumulated snow through 7 PM Wednesday courtesy of AerisWeather and Praedictix.

Tornadoes Rip Off Roofs in Midwest, Flip Coastguard Ship in Georgia. CBS News has details on extreme weather last weekend: “Residents in central Illinois on Sunday assessed the damage after rare December tornadoes, including one the day before that was a half-mile-wide, ripped roofs off homes, downed power lines and injured at least 20 people. The severe weather in Illinois was part of a line of thunderstorms that raked areas of the central U.S. late Friday and into Saturday, killing one person in Missouri. The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes in Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma.A tornado also struck a Georgia naval base, flipping a Coast Guard ship and injuring at least one person.  Two sailors were thrown from a boat at Kings Bay Naval base but were able to get themselves to safety, CBS affiliate WJAX reports...”

Trending Milder and Wetter. Here are a few clips from this week’s Minnesota WeatherTalk from Dr. Mark Seeley: “Cold and dry are the words for November. It was the coldest November since 2014 with average monthly temperatures around the state ranging from 5 to 7 degrees F below normal. Approximately two-thirds of the days brought cooler than normal temperatures…A quick assessment of the first 11 months of 2018 in Minnesota shows that mean temperatures around the state are slightly warmer than normal (significantly cooler thought than the last three years). Seventeen of the last 20 years have been warmer than normal. Also the first 11 months of 2018 rank among the wettest 15 in state history. Fourteen of the past 20 years have been wetter than normal in Minnesota…”

2018 Minnesota Weather Recap (thanks to Kenny Blumenfeld and Pete Boulay at the Minnesota DNR for helping me with the biggest weather stories of this year).

Third Warmest Growing Season on Record. Data from the Minnesota DNR and State Climate Office.

Insane Extremes. Going from nearly 16″ of snow in mid-April to 100F air temperature 6 weeks later? I haven’t seen that before.

September 20 Tornado Swarm. 25 tornadoes on the 20th day of September, 2018 makes it the 3rd highest daily tornado count on record in Minnesota.

Another Year of Record Floods. Southern Minnesota was hit hardest with numerous flood events. With 55.55″ of precipitation, Caledonia, Minnesota is closing in on a state record (56.24″ in Waseca during 2016).

Wildfires Fouled Up California’s Air: Links and headlines courtesy of Climate Nexus: “This year’s wildfires in California released the equivalent of a years’ worth of carbon emissions from the state’s power sector, the Department of Interior said Friday. Data analyzed by the US Geological Survey shows that 2018’s wildfires released 68 million tons of carbon dioxide–15 percent of the state’s overall emissions this year–while November’s fires, which include the deadly Camp Fire, alone released 5.5 tons of carbon dioxide. In his statement on the analysis, Secretary Ryan Zinke continued to push the Trump administration’s messaging that forest management would help cut fire risk and reduce emissions from wildfires. In California and other Western states, human-caused climate change has been directly linked to drier conditions and increases in forest fire activity.” (AP, The Hill. Background: Climate Signals)

How Supercomputers Can Help Fix Our Wildfire Problem. How do we warn for super-fires like what just struck Paradise, California (the Camp Fire)? has an interesting post: “…Still, advances in computing are allowing researchers to crunch ever more data. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, atmospheric scientist Alexandra Jonko is using a supercomputer and a system called FIRETEC to model fires in extreme detail. It models, among other things, air density and temperature, as well as the properties of the grass or leaves in a particular area. Jonko runs a bunch of simulations with different wind speeds, typically on the scale of 40 acres. “It’ll probably take me about four hours to simulate between 10 and 20 minutes of a fire spreading,” she says. FIRETEC produces valuable physics-based data on fire dynamics to inform how fire managers do prescribed burns…”

File image: Noah Berger, AP.

Japan Restarts Five Nuclear Reactors in 2018. I can’t say I’m crazy about nuclear power, at least the generation of large, massively-expensive reactors we have now. But if we’re serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions nuclear should be part of the energy mix going forward. Here’s an excerpt from Daily Energy Insider: “While Japan has been reluctant to return wholesale to nuclear power since the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima reactor, a total of five nuclear reactors have been restarted in-country by the end of October 2018. The reported restarts follow the suspension of the country’s nuclear fleet in 2013 for mandatory safety checks and upgrades. To start up again, both Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) and the central government must sign off, alongside local prefectures. Subsequently, most did not return to operation. In the years following, only four were restarted, making 2018 a significant year for Japan’s nuclear resurgence...”

Chinese Influence and American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance. YouTube has a good overview video here. A story at Fortune CEO Daily by Clay Chandler caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…Speaking of China watchers, on Thursday, a distinguished group of American China specialists—nearly all of whom have previously championed the idea of “strategic engagement” with Beijing—issued a lengthy report urging the U.S. to take new precautions against Chinese efforts to undermine democratic values. It’s an extraordinary document, produced by 32 experts convened by Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. The report’s title—“Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance ”—reflects its recommendations that government agencies at all levels, as well as universities, think tanks and other institutions, adopt more aggressive measures to prevent the risk of economic espionage by China…”

Future-Proofing Higher Education Starts With Reinventing the College Degree. Because what worked in the 80s and 90s may not work in the 2020s and 2030s. Quartz has a story that resonated: “…The jobs of the future will require a hybrid set of skills from a variety of subject areas. But our current education model has us spending at least three years studying the same singular discipline. As the en vogue skills will change several times as our careers progress, higher education degrees are also adapting, focusing on flexible and customizable credential offerings. In this future, imagine that instead of graduating with a single degree from one university, you will design your own personalized degree from many online or residential programs. Smaller, modular chunks of education will reign, and our learning experience will become incredibly flexible and customizable…”

Photo credit: “In the future, your degree won’t come from one university, or even be on one subject.” AP Photo/Jessica Hill.

In the Age of Amazon, It’s Time to Rethink Monopolies. The big get bigger – in the Internet Age is that always a bad thing? Food for thought from Quartz: “…In many markets for goods and services, there are fewer domestic producers. So instead of going to the local pharmacy, we now go to a chain store. There are fewer airlines, insurance companies, and companies that operate hospitals. In newer industries created by advances in technology there is also lots of concentration. We buy most of our books from Amazon, network socially on Facebook (which also owns Instagram), and have a cell phone contract with one of a few providers. But are we any worse for it? Traditionally, the problem with monopolies is they stick it to consumers. When there is only one or a few producers of a good, they can charge whatever they want, and we’ll have to buy it if we need it. However, while market concentration has increased since the 1980s, prices on many goods have not...”

Science is Getting Less Bang For Its Buck. The Atlantic explains: “…The picture this survey paints is bleak: Over the past century, we’ve vastly increased the time and money invested in science, but in scientists’ own judgement, we’re producing the most important breakthroughs at a near-constant rate. On a per-dollar or per-person basis, this suggests that science is becoming far less efficient. Now, a critic might respond that the quality of Nobel Prize discoveries isn’t the same as the overall rate of progress in science. There are certainly many limitations of this measure. Parts of science are not covered by the Nobel Prizes, especially newer areas like computer science. The Nobel Committee occasionally misses important work…”

Photo credit: Fernando Vergara / AP.

The “Loneliness Epidemic”. A post at Quartz provides some sobering perspective: “One of the great ironies of our age of hyper-connectedness is that loneliness is spreading like a virus. It’s blamed for contributing to the opioid epidemic and rising rates of suicide. Social isolation is similar to physical indicators like obesity in being a risk factor for disease and early death. By some accounts, it plagues young people even more than the elderly. (On a somewhat lighter note, it has also been theorized to explain the trend of watching people eat on YouTube.) As a result, governments from Australia to Denmark to Japan are starting to take loneliness seriously. This year, the UK government announced a government-wide strategy to tackle the issue after naming a minister for loneliness. In the US, the Senate Committee on Aging held a hearing on the subject at the same time in 2017 that a senator launched the social capital project, a multi-year study of the web of social relationships. And the World Health Organization now lists “social support networks” as a determinant of health…”

Fewer Entrepreneurs in the USA? A paper at The American Economic Association underscores fewer Americans willing to start up new businesses: “… It is difficult to prescribe what the optimal pace should be, but evidence accumulating from multiple datasets and methodologies suggests that the rate of business startups and the pace of employment dynamism in the US economy has fallen over recent decades and that this downward trend accelerated after 2000. A critical factor in accounting for the decline in business dynamics is a lower rate of business startups and the related decreasing role of dynamic young businesses in the economy. For example, the share of US employment accounted for by young firms has declined by almost 30 percent over the last 30 years. These trends suggest that incentives for entrepreneurs to start new firms in the United States have diminished over time...”

“Juul’s a Business, and They’re Behaving Like a Business”. Many kids don’t even realize they’re addicted. Here’s an excerpt from The Atlantic: “…Even in comparison with other, similar American products, Juul’s nicotine content is quite high. “The legacy of Juul is that it’s reset the level of nicotine across the vapor industry, from 1 to 2 percent to up to 6 percent and more,” Jackler told me. Most Juul pods contain the equivalent of almost two packs of cigarettes. (Two flavors have a lower, 3 percent option.) Juul has not announced any plans to lower the nicotine content in its American offerings. Jackler doesn’t buy Juul’s new image as a product that takes public health seriously by offering a cigarette alternative for adult smokers. Even if it’s a reasonable tactic from a marketing standpoint, it’s still a sleight of hand, given that a significant number of Juul users don’t smoke cigarettes and aren’t adults...”

New Jersey Teacher Told Students Santa Isn’t Real. Say what? AP News explains: “A New Jersey school district is apologizing for a substitute teacher who told first-grade students that Santa Claus isn’t real. Cedar Hill School Principal Michael Raj sent a letter to parents following the incident Thursday at the school in Montville. Raj noted that as a parent himself, he understands the “sensitive nature” of the topic. Montville Schools Superintendent Rene Rovtar said in a statement that she was “troubled and disheartened by this incident.” Rovtar explained that “childhood wonder associated with all holidays and traditions” is special to her…”

Royal Mail Delivers: Postman, Can You Take This to Heaven? Another story at AP News helped to restore my faith in humanity: “A 7-year-old Scottish boy who sent a birthday card to his father in heaven has received a heart-warming reply. A Royal Mail official responded to Jase Hyndman after seeing the card addressed: “Mr. Postman, Can you take this to heaven for my dad’s birthday.” The Royal Mail’s Sean Milligan wrote back, saying, “This was a difficult challenge avoiding stars and other galactic objects on route to heaven. However, please be assured that this particular important item of mail has been delivered.” Jase’s mother, Teri Copland, posted images of the letters on Facebook, which have been shared more than 260,000 times…”

Photo credit: “In this file photo dated Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, Royal Mail vans lined up at London’s largest sorting office Mount Pleasant. A 7-year-old Scottish boy who sent a birthday card to his father in heaven has received a heart-warming reply, from a Royal Mail official, and the boy’s mother posted images of the letters on Facebook, which have been shared more than 260,000 times.” (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, FILE)

28 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.

31 F. average high on December 3.

50 F. high on December 3, 2017.

December 4, 1886: Minneapolis hits a record-setting 15 degrees below zero.

TUESDAY: What a shock: still gray. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 25

TUESDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Low: 18

WEDNESDAY: Coating of flurries possible late. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 28

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, colder wind. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 13. High: 22

FRIDAY: Chilly, but the sun should be out. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 6. High: near 20

SATURDAY: Blue sky, feels a little better. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 10. High: 29

SUNDAY: Sunny periods, risk of a thaw. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 17. High: 32

MONDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, still quiet. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 19. High: 34

Climate Stories…

Five Myths About Climate Change. Climate scientist and Evangelical Christian Katharine Hayhoe takes on the conspiracy theories that just won’t go away in this post at The Washington Post. They’re in it for the money? “…The reality is that nearly every climate scientist could make at least the same amount of money — and often much more — in a different field, including the oil industry. And the money we do receive in grants doesn’t go into our pockets. A $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation provided me with a mere $37,000 a year, all of which went to paying for the proposed work, including a graduate researcher, a computer and publication fees. (In summer, I do some climate-focused consulting with cities and water districts to cover my salary when I’m not teaching.) Santorum, meanwhile, receives a substantial income from serving as a consultant to Consol Energy, a coal company; and according to, DeLay has received nearly $740,000 from the oil and gas industry…”

Image credit: “Hurricane Florence is one of many signs of climate change, and those who deny it are complicit in the destruction, meteorologist Eric Holthaus says.

The small number of voices supporting the science have been largely drowned out. The House Climate Solutions Caucus, co-founded in 2016 by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and once thought of as a catalyst for climate-friendly legislation, lost 24 of its 45 Republican members to retirement or election defeat this year — including Curbelo. An analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund found that 61 percent of Republicans in Congress have in some way raised doubts about climate change, deflected the question, claimed that the climate is always changing, or questioned the extent to which humans contribute to climate change…”

Photo credit: “Scientists say global warming nears an irreversible level, President Trump has been promoting business growth instead of climate change.”

There’s something else that may be at play at the subconscious level that allows us to disregard the evidence that’s in front of us. “A big part isn’t the experience; it’s the motivation,” said Paul Thagard, professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo’s Department of Philosophy, who specializes in cognitive science. “Psychologists talk a lot about ‘motivated inference’ … when people have strong motivations, they’re very selective in the sort of evidence they look for.” Even though there is consensus that climate change is occurring and that humans are exacerbating it, there are still people — including politicians — who refuse to acknowledge the evidence...”

Emmanuel Macron and Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness at The Wall Street Journal: “…In the coming months, we call on governments, the global business community and financial executives to work with us to help build on these successes with three objectives in mind: First, mobilize public investments in combination with private capital flows to support vulnerable countries and communities. Second, ask companies how they manage climate risks while anticipating the opportunities of a low-carbon future. Third, promote standardized methods for climate-related disclosure and investment decision-making. The private sector must be prepared to get in the front seat with world governments to avert a climate crash. In September 2019, major government and corporate leaders will convene for another U.N.-sponsored climate conference in New York. Let’s seize this opportunity to help land planet Earth safely.”

What if the Courts Could Save the Climate? I’m not holding my breath, but my sense is that we’re just seeing the tip of the (melting) iceberg when it comes to levering the courts to take a stand, and a wildfire of litigation, including class action lawsuits. Here’s an excerpt from Intelligencer: “…But a lawsuit proceeding through the U.S. courts gives hope even in this deeply dispiriting context. That lawsuit is the much-mooted Juliana v. United States, often called “Kids vs. Climate,” because the plaintiffs are all minors, and because their claim is that the federal government has violated the equal-protection clause by choosing to expose them to climate suffering rather than take action during the lifetime of their parents. It is, of course, very unlikely that this argument would get a sympathetic hearing at the Supreme Court, especially one with Brett Kavanaugh sitting on it. But in a surprising decision earlier this month, that same Supreme Court declined the federal government’s request to throw the lawsuit out, allowing it to proceed to trial in district court in Oregon…”

We Broke Down What Climate Change Will Do, Region by Region. Grist interprets the 4th National Climate Assessment: “…What’s in store for the Midwest? Oh hello there, crop diseases and pests! Hold onto your corn husks, because maize yields will be down 5 to 25 percent across the region by midcentury, mostly due to hot temps. And soybean hauls will decline more than 25 percent in the southern Midwest. Beyond wilting crops, extreme heat puts lives at risk. The Midwest may see the biggest increase in temperature-related deaths compared to other regions, putting everyone from farmworkers to city-dwellers at risk. In one particularly bad climate change scenario, late-21st-century Chicago could end up seeing 60 days per year above 100 degrees F — similar to present-day Las Vegas or Phoenix…”

Farmers, Don’t Count on Technology to Protect Agriculture from Climate Change. Will the climate evolve faster than our technological ability to keep up with the changes? Here’s an excerpt from InsideClimate News: “…Of all the U.S. industries threatened by climate change, agriculture—and the broader food system it supports—is especially vulnerable to unchecked global warming, the new National Climate Assessment released by 13 federal agencies warns. Amid the report’s grim projections for agriculture, the authors make an especially notable prediction: Advances in science and technology, like precision irrigation, drought-resistant crops and targeted fertilizer treatments, will only go so far toward helping farmers and ranchers cope with increasingly erratic weather. The effects of climate change on American farms and ranches will likely outpace technological fixes within decades, even with the present pace of agricultural innovation, the report says...”

Photo credit: meteorologist Rob Koch.

Climate Change and Air Pollution Damaging Health and Causing Millions of Premature Deaths. A summary of new research at ScienceDaily caught my eye: “…The 2018 Report of the research coalition The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change shows that rising temperatures as a result of climate change are already exposing us to an unacceptably high health risk and warns, for the first time, that older people in Europe and the East Mediterranean are particularly vulnerable to extremes of heat, markedly higher than in Africa and SE Asia. The risk in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean stems from aging populations living in cities, with 42% and 43% of over-65s respectively vulnerable to heat. In Africa, 38% are thought to be vulnerable, while in Asia it is 34%. The report also states that ambient air pollution resulted in several million premature deaths from ambient fine particulate matter globally in 2015, a conclusion from IIASA researchers confirming earlier assessments. Since air pollution and greenhouse gases often share common sources, mitigating climate change constitutes a major opportunity for direct human health benefits…”

File photo: Reuters.

Republicans Waking Up to Climate: Links and headlines courtesy of Climate Nexus: “Nearly 8 in 10 Americans acknowledge climate change is occurring, and an increasing number of Republicans are also getting on board, new polling shows. A poll released Thursday from Monmouth University shows that 64 percent of Republicans think climate change is happening, up from 49 percent three years ago–trends that align with poll results released earlier this year from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which found a growing number of Republicans are beginning to think climate change is a reality under Trump’s presidency. While 82 percent of Democrats and half of independents polled ranked climate change as a “very serious” problem, only a quarter of Republicans said the same–up from just 18 percent three years ago.” (The Guardian, The Hill, Quartz, Washington Examiner)