January is Missing. Welcome to March-uary

Welcome to “March-uary”! Limited January daylight with Marchlike temperatures. I’m a snow guy – I like a good storm (preferably not during my commute) but yesterday was a salve for the senses. As if Old Man Winter had a nervous breakdown, gave up and went home.

Of course, we’ll be wrestling with more arctic fronts in the weeks ahead, but this year’s thaw promises to be
super-sized; Pacific warmth spilling into at least the 3rd week of January.

The “January Thaw” is a meteorological oddity, most likely to unfoldnover the eastern USA. After the first of the year many towns enjoy a brief hiccup of milder air. According to climate historian Mark Seeley, since 1948 the odds of 2 or more consecutive days above 32F in the Twin Cities is a whopping 91 percent.

After yesterday’s record Twin Cities high in the low 40s I’d keep my Cadillac Escalade off the backyard pond until further notice. Expect low 40s today (more typical of March 20) with another 40F high on Monday, after waking up to a little rain. In early January. In Minnesota.

I see a mild, Pacific bias the next 2-3 weeks.

10 Day Snowfall Potential. ECMWF shows lake effect snows, but precious little additional accumulation looking out 240 hours, through Monday morning, January 14. Map credit: WeatherBell.

Odds of a January Thaw? Dr. Mark Seeley has insights at this week’s WeatherTalk: “…Indeed for many central and southern Minnesota locations a January thaw is quite common or frequent. The definition of a January thaw is variable. Some consider it to be any single day with a temperature above 32 degrees F. But consequences associated with a January thaw, like loss of snow cover, melting and drying of street surfaces and sidewalks, softening of lake ice, etc are generally not realized unless daytime high temperatures rise above the freezing mark for two or more days. Using this as a sorting criteria we can look at the historical frequency of such temperatures for various locations. These frequencies of January thaws (listed below) are highest in most of southern Minnesota, and even parts of central Minnesota, but more like a 50/50 probability in the far northern sections of the state.

Historical frequency of January thaws at various locations since 1948 (defined as two or more days with daytime high temperatures greater than 32 F):

Twin Cities 91 percent      Rochester 95 percent      Pipestone 92 percent
Fairmont 92 percent      St Cloud 87 percent      Morris 80 percent.

Ditto. We cool down a bit next week (only 5-10F above average) but the 2 week outlook for 500mb winds shows a persistent zonal, west to east flow aloft at 500mb, meaning more unusual warmth the third week of January. Consider this intermission. At some point the second half (of winter) kicks in. But this may wind up being one of the longer and stronger January Thaws I’ve ever witnessed.

Hundreds of Scientists to Miss World’s Largest Weather Conference Due to Federal Shutdown. Jason Samenow reports at Capital Weather Gang: “…Each year, several thousand weather forecasters, researchers and climate scientists from all over the world gather for the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting to exchange ideas to improve weather prediction and understanding of climate change. This year, due to the partial federal government shutdown, hundreds of scientists will not attend the conference set to begin this weekend in Phoenix. Employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including the National Weather Service, received the directive to cancel travel arrangements Thursday…”

Photo credit: Stephen Volz, NOAA’s assistant administrator for satellite and information services, presents at the 2017 American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting.” (NOAA)

Early Forecast for 2019 Hurricane Activity: Two Factors Will Dictate Activity. Here’s a snippet of a good update from Palm Beach Post: “An early outlook for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season offers hope the atmosphere will take a break following two punishing years of tropical cyclone activity but notes that Mother Nature is giving no clear signal of her intent. Colorado State University’s first review of global climate patterns that could influence the 2019 hurricane season found a 65 percent chance that a near average or less active hurricane season will unfold, giving an above-average season a 35 percent chance of occurring…”

September 10, 2018 file image of Hurricane Irma: NOAA and weather data API provider AerisWeather.

Storm Chaser Reed Timmer Recounts Top 5 Intercepts of 2018. Here’s an excerpt from a summary at MSN.com: “…Reed wasn’t the only one on Interstate 90 with shattered windows and this certainly wasn’t the first rental car he was bringing back dinged up. “I think I went through about six rental cars this year, mostly in terms of hail and some flash floods as well,” said Timmer. “I brought that one back and returned it and the employees at the rental car company are actually clapping because they had 165 claims I think due to hail at that point.…”

Los Angeles Releases Earthquake Detection App. CNN.com explains that a few seconds could make all the difference in a life or death scenario: “Los Angeles officials are urging residents to download a new earthquake detection app that’s designed to give users a heads-up before the next “big one” hits. The ShakeAlertLA app is connected to the US Geological Survey’s network of early warning sensors. Users in the Los Angeles County area will receive a push alert on their phone when the system senses an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater. The alert would read “Earthquake! Earthquake! Expect strong shaking Drop, cover and hold on. Protect yourself now!…”

Yes, Your Joints Do Hurt More When It’s Cold Outside – Here’s Why. Self has a good explainer; here’s a clip: “…The research suggests that in colder weather, the body will conserve heat, and it will send more of the blood to the organs in the center of the body, like the heart or the lungs,” Armin Tehrany, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care, tells SELF. “So when that happens, the arms, legs, shoulders, knee joints, those blood vessels will constrict,” he says. Less blood flow makes those areas colder and stiffer, which can cause discomfort and pain.The other common theory is that “when it is cold and/or damp out, changes in barometric pressure can cause an inflammatory response in the joints,” Farrell says. “This response could lead to increased joint pain, due to changes in circulation and possible nerve fiber sensitivity.…”

Germany Running on Renewables: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Renewables became Germany’s main energy source in 2018, overtaking coal for the first time, new research shows. The German research organization Fraunhofer Institute said Thursday that renewable energy provided 40 percent of the country’s energy mix last year, while coal provided only 38 percent. Wind power made a particularly strong showing, providing more than 20 percent of the country’s total power output alone. Germany shuttered its last coal mine in November, and is pursuing an aggressive plan to ensure renewables provide 65 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.” (Reuters, Ars Technica, The Hill)

File image: Greentech Media.

A Clean Energy Revolution is Rising in the Midwest, with Utilities in the Vanguard. Because, strangely enough, utilities hate to lose money. They will consistently opt for the cheaper, more secure and resilient energy options, according to InsideClimate News: “…In the Midwest in particular, renewable energy is a win-win for utilities and the ratepayers at this point,” said Travis Miller, director of utilities research at Morningstar. Wind energy is rising in prominence at the same time that fossil fuel plants are looking increasingly risky from a financial and regulatory perspective, he said. This is the change that environmental advocates hoped for, following a tantalizing few years that pointed in this direction. “2018 has been a turning point, as some utilities are beginning to make decisions based on the market of the future rather than that of the past,” said Howard Learner, president and executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center...”

The Demographic Time Bomb That Could Hit America. It’s already hitting Japan, according to a story at The Washington Post: “In 2017, the United States saw the fewest babies born in 30 years, a stat that produced a lot of hand-wringing. But it turns out things could be worse — a lot worse. We could be Japan, whose unfolding demographic crisis provides some lessons for where America might be headed. According to a new report from the Japanese government, Japanese women had 921,000 babies in 2018. That’s the fewest births since comparable records began in 1899 — when the country’s population was a third its current size. Meanwhile, deaths in Japan hit their highest level in nearly a century. Put together, that means the country’s population is shrinking rapidly, experiencing its largest natural decline on record…”

File image: Nippon.com.

12-Year-Old Boy Survives Avalanche That Buried Him for 40 Minutes. Huffington Post has the story: “A 12-year-old boy in the French Alps was found alive and uninjured after being buried under an avalanche for 40 minutes, an event his rescuers are calling a true “miracle.” French police in the town of Bourg Saint-Maurice said the boy was skiing off piste at the La Plagne ski resort in a group of seven skiers Wednesday when he was swept away. The boy started going down ahead of the others and was the only one caught when a large section of snow detached and roared down the mountain, police said. He was dragged at least 100 meters (110 yards) by the force of the avalanche…”

Image credit: NBC News.

47 F. record high at MSP on Friday, breaking the old record of 41 F. set in 2007.

24 F. average high on January 4.

2 F. maximum temperature on January 4, 2018.

January 5, 2012: Record warmth is felt across the state. Many locations in western Minnesota soared over 50 degrees, with temperatures reaching the 60s at Marshall, Canby, and Madison. This was the first record of any 60 degree temperatures in Minnesota during the first week of January.

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, pleasant. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 42

SUNDAY: Clouds increase, drizzle at night. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 36

MONDAY: Early rain/snow shower, then clearing. Wake-up: 31. High: near 40

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, few flurries. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 27. High: 31

WEDNESDAY: Blue sky, winds ease up. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 10. High: 20

THURSDAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 8. High: 27

FRIDAY: Next clipper, few flurries around. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 22. High: 31

Climate Stories…

Tonight at 11: News, Sports and Climate Change. Nieman Journalism Lab describes a growing need to connect the dots between a warming climate and weather disruption – TV meteorologists are in a unique position to make this happen: “…We’ve reached a point in climate reporting where we don’t need more studies. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. We need impactful, visual, explanatory reporting. We need storytellers who can connect the large and complex story of climate to the local community. Local TV meteorologists have the weather expertise, the trust of their local communities, and the visual explanatory skills and graphics tools to tell this story in a way that will have impact. They also have the audience. The past two years have seen strong tune-in for local weather events like hurricanes, blizzards, flooding, and wildfires. Local TV is at its best covering these highly visual stories that directly affect their communities. Climate news is hitting home, and hitting harder…”

File photo: UCAR.

Are We Close to a “Political Tipping Point” on Climate Change? Al Gore seems to think so. The Atlantic interviewed him recently and here’s an excerpt of what he had to say: “...I think that we are extremely close to a political tipping point. We may actually be crossing it right about now. The much-vaunted tribalism in American politics has contributed to an odd anomaly, in that the core of one of our political parties is uniquely—in all of the world—still rejecting not just the science, but also the messages from Mother Nature that have pushed toward, and perhaps are pushing across, this political tipping point right now. More and more people on the conservative side of the spectrum are really changing their positions now. This election, in 2020, is almost certainly going to be different from any previous presidential election in that a number of candidates will be placing climate at or near the top of their agenda…”

Photo credit: Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters.

Why Are Sea Levels Rising Unevenly? NexusMedia has a good explainer; here’s an excerpt: “…They found that post-glacial rebound accounted for most of the variation in sea-level rise along the East Coast. But even after eliminating the post-glacial rebound factor, “sea level trends [still] increased steadily from Maine all the way down to Florida,” Piecuch said. “The cause for that could involve more recent melting of glaciers and ice sheets, groundwater extraction and damming over the last century. “Sea level is a complicated problem,” he continued. “Lots of processes can lead to sea-level rise, for example, geological processes like post-glacial rebound compounding the problem of climate change and its impacts on the coast...”

File photo: Jim Cole, AP.

Pelosi: “Climate Change is Existential Threat of our Time”. Politico has the story; here’s an excerpt: “Democrats put climate change back on the forefront of their governing agenda Thursday, portraying the issue as an “existential threat” even as the caucus remains split over how forcefully to respond. Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought up the issue in her opening address while touting a new select panel to come up with ideas on how to solve it, and the Energy and Commerce Committee announced that climate change would be the subject of its very first hearing this year...”

A Surge of Lawsuits Target Human Rights, Damage from Fossil Fuels. The lawyers will do very, very well in the years ahead. The forecast calls for a rash of class action lawsuits and big awards. Here’s an excerpt from InsideClimate News: “…What began with a handful of California cities and counties in 2017 spread across the country this past year, as New York City, Baltimore, Rhode Island and local governments in Colorado and Washington State sued fossil fuel companies. The plaintiffs are seeking compensation to help pay the costs of protecting residents from rising seas, worsening wildfires, extreme heat and other effects of climate change. Two law firms are arguing most of these cases. They allege that energy companies knew about the dangers associated with their products, but lobbied against capping emissions anyway while sowing doubt about climate science…”

Counterpoint: It’s Time to Put In a Good Word for Carbon. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Star Tribune: “…The last 150 years of tillage in U.S. agriculture has resulted in our soils losing between 30 and 70 percent of the soil carbon, which contributes to soil degradation, excessive runoff, erosion, water pollution and costly environmental degradation, including climate change. It is time we develop a “climate smart agriculture.” The pilot program in the new farm bill enables farmers to try sustainable agriculture systems that employ regenerative soil health principles that are environmentally friendly. Farmers can evaluate on their own land the economics of how healthy soil benefits both their bottom line and our natural resources…”

Image credit: WCCO Radio.

3 Big Take-Aways from the Disasters That Hammered the U.S. in 2018. Vox has a good summary of how a warmer, wetter background climate is impacting (and amplifying) specific weather events; here’s an excerpt: “…Flash floods following huge rain storms also struck other parts of the country. In May, Maryland was drenched in more than 8 inches of rain in just two hours, turning streets into rivers. It was the second time in two years such a flood occurred. Both the amount and the rate of rainfall are some of the strongest signals of climate change. As air heats up, water evaporates faster. And for every degree Celsius increase in temperature, air can hold 7 percent more water. According to the National Climate Assessment, average annual rainfall across the US has gone up by 5 percent since 1990. Extreme rainfall events are also increasing in part due to climate change, and nine of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events have happened since 1990...”

Graphic credit: EPA and NASA.

85% of Republicans Reject that Climate Change is a Serious Problem That Requires Action. C’mon GOP, let’s debate solutions and policy, not the science. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Esquire: “…It is not exactly a winding maze to get to the conclusion here. Republican voters are far less likely to accept climate change because, first and foremost, their political leaders represent the interests of fossil-fuel companies who pay their campaign bills. As a result, Republican leaders continually dispute the scientific consensus. They are supported by conservative Washington think-tanks that accept millions in donations from those same energy interests and then, in another coincidence, continually pump out studies that muddy the waters around climate change. Sometimes, they straight-up offer scientists $10,000-a-pop to dispute the consensus...”