Couple of Chances for Accumulating Snow

What an odd winter. Rain and ice in late December, again yesterday, with a polar vortex sandwiched in-between.

Last week brought some of the coldest readings since 1996; all-time low temperature records were set in Illinois. But scientists say the spatial extent of the extreme cold was much smaller than 1982, 1985, 1994 and 2014. That said, I’m hoping I won’t have to sample a 55-below wind chill again anytime soon.

Colder air is spilling south of the border, spinning up a few opportunities for fresh snow. Some 2-3 inch amounts are possible later today and tonight; another 2-4 inches possible Wednesday night into Thursday. Skies begin to clear Friday with improving travel. Daytime highs Friday may languish near 0F, but that’s hardly the polar vortex wobbling south; just a generic arctic front.

I don’t see any more thaws for a week or two, just a stretch of teens and 20s into mid-February. A higher sun angle lowers the risk of subzero slaps by late month, and El Nino may still kick in. But sorry, Punxatawney Phil, spring is NOT right around the corner.

Map above showing ECMWF total snowfall by Friday evening courtesy of WeatherBell.

Two Surges of Snow. On some level I’m very happy to be talking about snow vs. freezing rain (glaze ice). At least you can drive on snow. Ice is an entirely different matter. It looks like 3-5″ today and tonight; a break on Wednesday – then a few more inches of snow Thursday. Let’s cover up the ice and dirty snow. Two plowable snow events. Graphic: Iowa State.

Split Flow Returns Mid February. More storms for California and the western USA means a milder, Pacific flow returning within a couple of weeks with 20s and 30s. An early spring? I doubt it, but the way this winter is going nothing is off the table.

Think This Polar Vortex Was Cold? It Should Have Been Colder. In a warming world occasional spasms of polar air feel even worse than 30-40 years ago, but what are the trends with these extreme cold outbreaks? Here’s an excerpt from National Geographic: “...On Thursday, Bloomberg’s Climate Changed team helped cut through the noise by citing the “cold-wave index” developed over more than 20 years by Kenneth Kunkel, a researcher at North Carolina State University who for three decades has studied extreme weather in the long-term context of climate. The index sifts weather-station data from across the country to estimate the duration and intensity of regional extreme cold spells, going back to 1895. In an interview Thursday with National Geographic, Kunkel, who also works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rattled off some of the worst North Americans cold waves—1936, 1970, 1977, 1983, 1989, but he ended with 1996. “Nothing since then has approached the magnitude of those,” he said. “Since that time they’ve been kind of wimpy, really...”
Graphic credit: Bloomberg.

January Temperature Departures. The Twin Cities metro area was only 1-2F. colder than average for entire month (due to the fact that the first halfof January was 10F warmer than average). Temperatures were considerably colder than average from northern Minnesota into northern Michigan; warmer than average for much of the west and southeastern USA. January temperature anomalies:

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Monday, February 4th, 2019:

  • Ice and freezing rain are falling this morning across parts of northern Wisconsin and into the upper peninsula of Michigan. Overall totals today of a quarter to a half an inch of ice are possible across this region, and due to that heavy ice threat Ice Storm Warnings have been issued including Rhinelander (WI) and Marquette (MI). Due to slick road conditions, no travel is being advised this morning across parts of northern Wisconsin.
  • Blizzard Warnings are in place across parts of the Sierra due to the potential of at least 50+ mph wind gusts along with heavy snow causing whiteout conditions. These are in place through 10 PM local time.

Upper Midwest Morning Radar. Ice and snow was falling across parts of the upper Midwest Monday morning. The area of greatest concern was across parts of northern Wisconsin and into the upper peninsula of Michigan where freezing rain and ice was being reported. The National Weather Service office in Negaunee, MI, reported 0.14″ of freezing rain at their location as of 7 AM. Due to the icy roads, no travel was being advised across parts of northern Wisconsin this morning. Here are links to local DOT agencies for the latest road information:

Ice Storm Warning. Due to the continued threat of ice throughout the day, Ice Storm Warnings have been issued across parts of northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. A quarter to a half an inch of ice could fall across these areas through this evening. This warning is in effect for areas like Rhinelander and Phillips (WI) as well as Ironwood (MI) through 3 PM, Marquette (MI) through 7 PM, and Sault Ste. Marie (MI) through 10 PM. Map credit: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Additional Ice Potential. Overall a quarter to a half an inch of ice could fall across parts of northern Wisconsin into the upper peninsula of Michigan throughout the day, which will lead to slick roads especially on untreated surfaces. This amount of ice could also cause power outages due to ice accumulations on power lines. Further south, the ice totals you see from Iowa into southern Michigan (including Chicago, Milwaukee, and Michigan) are from a separate system which will impact the region late Tuesday into Wednesday.

Sierra Blizzard Warning. Out in the Sierras, Blizzard Warnings have been issued due to expected heavy snow along with winds that will gust to at least 50 mph (with 100+ mph gusts possible on ridgetops). This will cause zero visibility with whiteout conditions expected, making travel extremely dangerous. These Blizzard Warnings – including areas like South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and Mammoth Lakes – are in effect through 10 PM tonight. Winter Storm Warnings in the region are in effect into Tuesday.

Expected Snow Totals. Additional snow totals of at least 3-6 feet (mainly above 5,000 feet) are expected through Tuesday, which will continue to impact travel across the region.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix.

Power Companies vs. the Polar Vortex: How Did The Grid Hold Up? Interesting perspective on last week’s polar fun from InsideClimate News: “The Midwest’s utilities managed their way through a deep freeze this week with few major service interruptions in part by working with customers to reduce demand. There were a few problems, with wires down in the Chicago area and a fire at a natural gas compressor station in Michigan, but overall the system coped with the cold and increased demand. Utilities in some of the coldest parts of the Midwest and grid operators say their preparations before the temperature plunged below zero were informed by lessons from cold snaps in 2014 and 2018. Those events illuminated some of the problems and workarounds of managing a grid that relies increasingly on natural gas and renewables, and less on coal…”

File map of the U.S. electrical grid: FEMA.

Bring Your Pets Indoors! Here’s some timely advice from the ASPCA:

  • “Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
  • Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death…”

Solar is Thriving in Low-Income Minneapolis Neighborhoods. A story at Star Tribune caught my eye: “Minneapolis is starting to see an influx of solar installations in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, an early result of a new program to target investment in those areas without displacing existing residents and businesses. The city’s “green zones” program — years in the making and now finally taking shape — targets two areas of the city for special incentives intended to spur solar and energy efficiency projects, along with other priorities focused on healthy food and water…”

Winter Has Come for Electric Cars. Yes, extreme cold does deplete the battery (and range) faster. Someone will figure out a fix, right? Here’s a clip from Fortune: “…Winter has come for Tesla Inc. and its army of car owners, which swelled in size last year. And some of those customers have cooled on the company along with freezing temperatures. Model 3 owners have taken to social media and online forums to air issues they’ve had with their sedans due to the frigid weather of the last week. Cold conditions are a drain on battery range, no matter the car brand. But other predicaments are particular to Tesla. Ronak Patel, a CPA auditor in New Jersey, bought a Model 3 last August. He’s driven about 150 miles in the cold over the last few days. “My biggest concern is the cold weather drained my battery 20 to 25 miles overnight and an extra five to ten miles on my drive to work,” he said.…”

Hand Grenade Found in Shipment of Potatoes. reports: “War relics are often discovered in unusual places, but few finds are as unexpected as this one. A German-made grenade from World War I was discovered in Hong Kong on Saturday among a shipment of potatoes, police have said. The shipment had come from France, headed for an industrial estate that includes a potato chip factory. “The grenade was imported from France together with the other potatoes,” Superintendent Wong Ho Hon Wilfred told media Saturday. Police detonated the grenade on site at the industrial estate…”

Pass the Squirrel Please. The Telegraph explains the advantages of squirrel consumption; here are a couple of excerpts: “Grey squirrels are finding a warmer welcome to the dining table, as chefs and retailers report increasing interest in eating the furry rodent. The rise in popularity is believed to stem from diners’ growing interest in sustainable, cruelty-free food, which sees them turn to “wild meat” from animals which would have been culled anyway… To reduce waste, chefs are using the carcasses of culled squirrels in pancakes, croquettes and even lasagna. He said that customers are increasingly interested in eating cruelty-free wild meat and minimizing their carbon footprint, which makes squirrel a popular choice...”

Photo credit: “Chef Kevin Tickle and his “critter fritter”, which contains confit squirrel.” Credit: Jon Super.

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

26 F. average high on February 4.

9 F. high on February 4, 2018.

February 5, 1834: Unseasonably mild temperatures are felt at Ft. Snelling with a high of 51.

TUESDAY: Winter Weather Advisory. Snow develops. Slick roads by afternoon. Winds: NE 5-10. High: 18

TUESDAY NIGHT: Snow tapers with 3-5 inch totals. Low: 12

WEDNESDAY: Light snow and flurries. Winds: NE 5-10. High: 24

THURSDAY: More snow – potentially plowable again. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 19. High: 21

FRIDAY: Partial clearing. “Cold enough”. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: -5. High: 4

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, still chilly. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: -10. High: 10

SUNDAY: More clouds than sunshine. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 4. High: 18

MONDAY: Sunny start, light snow arrives late? Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 3. High: 22

Climate Stories…

Scientists Sees Even Conservatives Now Worried Over Climate Change. KQED Science has an interview with Katharine Hayhoe; here’s an excerpt: “…If you rephrase the question, “Are people connecting the dots now?”, my answer to that is yes. Now, in very conservative Texas a lot of people aren’t willing to go so far as to say it’s humans yet. But over 70 percent in Texas are willing to say, “Something is different. Climate is changing.” So today, I’m getting calls from organizations that I never would have heard from 10 years ago: farmers and producers, ranchers, land managers, oil and gas companies, water managers, they’re calling me in and they’re saying, “We know there’s something going on. We want to have a conversation,” and I think that’s actually a very positive thing...”

CLIMATE IMPACTS: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: “Climate change will even change the color of the oceans, study says (CNN), California has a weird new desert–it’s in the Pacific Ocean (Washington Post $), who stands to lose the most from climate change? Red states (Grist), part of eastern Australia hit by once-in-a-century floods, braces for more rain (Reuters, New York Times $), is deep freeze the latest sign climate change is accelerating? (The Guardian), desperate Mongolians send children into countryside to escape choking winter smog (Reuters), ‘the devastation of human life is in view’: what a burning world tells us about climate change.” (The Guardian).

The Role Climate Change Plays in Weather Extremes. Here’s an excerpt of an interview at NPR: “…We are seeing fewer cold spells, and that is what the data shows. But part of this is actually psychological because winter is warming. And so we have gotten used to what would have been considered remarkably mild winters 30 or 50 years ago. So now, when we have a cold outbreak, we’re like, oh, my goodness. This is unbelievable. Where did this come from? And the reality is a lot of our cold weather is we’re just not used to anymore. And then, of course, we still do break cold temperature records. In fact, in 2017 – across the United States, over 10,000 cold temperature records were broken in 2017 alone. But, the same year, over 30,000 hot temperature records were broken. So it’s that ratio that’s showing us that, yes, we can feel break cold and hot temperature records. That’s just weather. But long-term, decade by decade, we’re breaking many more high-temperature records because the planet is warming...”

File images: Associated Press.

How Frigid Polar Vortex Blasts Are Connected to Global Warming. Counterintuitive? Absolutely, but follow along and connect the dots. The Conversation has a good explainer: “…Because of rapid Arctic warming, the north/south temperature difference has diminished. This reduces pressure differences between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, weakening jet stream winds. And just as slow-moving rivers typically take a winding route, a slower-flowing jet stream tends to meander. Large north/south undulations in the jet stream generate wave energy in the atmosphere. If they are wavy and persistent enough, the energy can travel upward and disrupt the stratospheric polar vortex. Sometimes this upper vortex becomes so distorted that it splits into two or more swirling eddies. These “daughter” vortices tend to wander southward, bringing their very cold air with them and leaving behind a warmer-than-normal Arctic…”

Graphic credit: “Dark arrows indicate rotation of the polar vortex in the Arctic; light arrows indicate the location of the polar jet stream when meanders form and cold, Arctic air dips down to mid-latitudes.L.S. Gardiner/UCAR, CC BY-ND

Are Record Snowstorms Proof That Global Warming Isn’t Happening? NOAA’s explains: “…While the explanation for these trends remains elusive, warming has made the atmosphere wetter and this may be leading to more extreme rain and snowfall in these storms. Scientists have measured a significant increase in water vapor in the surface atmosphere over land and ocean relative to the 1970s. This global increase is consistent with the long-term warming trend in our planet’s average surface temperature. Warmer air temperatures fuel more evaporation, leading to a wetter atmosphere, which increases rain or snow totals. The precipitation boost may be especially significant for coastal winter storms like Nor’easters, such as the one that buried Boston in mid-February. These storms draw much of their intensity from the extreme contrast between cold air over land and warmer, wetter air from over the ocean. Warmer ocean temperatures may make the air aloft warmer and moister, amplifying the contrast. That wetter air is then brought into the storm system, producing large amounts of snow...”

Image credit: “Warmer ocean temperatures may make the air aloft warmer and moister. That wetter air is then brought into the storm system, producing large amounts of snow.”  NOAA cartoon by Emily Greenhalgh.

Gone in a Generation. A rapidly changing climate is already disrupting lives, according to a story at The Washington Post: “The continental United States is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was a century ago. Seas at the coasts are nine inches higher. The damage is mounting from these fundamental changes, and Americans are living it. These are their stories.”

Climate Change Could Hit These Companies Hardest. Food for thought from Barrons: “Climate change could be big trouble for cruise companies like Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruises . The same goes for pharmaceutical firms Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb , utility company Consolidated Edison, and semiconductor player Micron Technology . That’s all according to Four Twenty Seven, a market intelligence firm that does climate-risk analytics. Its ranking of the S&P 500 companies most at risk—and least at risk—from the effects of climate change appeared exclusively in this week’s Barron’s cover story…”

Photo credit: Yolanda Sun.