34 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
25 F. average high on January 29.
34 F. high on January 29, 2014.

Trace of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.
January 29, 1994: Duluth has a record low of -35.
January 29, 1893: Blizzard hits the state with temperatures falling 40 degrees in five hours at Park Rapids.

Half a Winter?

My future in-laws live in Newton, Massachusetts, just west of Boston. They sent me a nice photo of the 21 inches of new snow in their yard. In one blizzard the Boston area picked up more snow than the Twin Cities has seen all winter. I don’t know whether to be jealous or grateful. Or baffled.
A few months ago some meteorologists were beating the Polar Vortex gong, convinced this winter would rival last year’s polar pain. It isn’t quite work out that way.

Based on heating degree days we’ve used 2 percent less energy to heat our homes this winter. Last year was 7 percent colder. So far 13 subzero nights, compared with 29 nights of negative fun as of January 30, 2014.

20.4 inches of snow at MSP is 13 inches less than average, to date. A TRACE on the ground? Bizarre for late January.

Models show a parade of clippers the next 2 weeks, any big storms (with names) snubbing Minnesota, sailing off to our south. Old Man Winter administers a light spanking next week; a couple of nights dipping below zero. But not as cold as the first 10 days of January. And a thaw returns by late next week.

Six more weeks of winter seems like a pretty sure bet at this northerly latitude, but I’m banking on an early spring this year. Nothing like the past 2 springs with snow in May. Place your bets.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable. Yes, our recent spree of 30s and 40s has been welcome (by many, not all). Last week felt more like March than January, more brown than white. Snow lovers are not amused. A particularly beefy clipper arrives next Tuesday (ECMWF) and could give us a few inches of powder before much colder air arrives; as many as 3 subzero nights the end of next week before thawing out around Saturday, February 7.

2 Week Temperature Trend. GFS and GEFS ensemble data shows a brief subzero stretch the end of next week, followed by a fairly rapid rebound with highs rising above freezing by February 8-10. No evidence of polar air stalling overhead, or nearby, into mid-February. Source: Aeris Weather.

The Gathering Storm. Could air pollution in Asia be strengthening storms thousands of miles downwind over the USA? Here’s an excerpt of an eye-opening story at onEarth: “Increasingly intense storms in the United States might have an unexpected origin: Asian air pollution. Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have found that aerosols from across the Pacific strengthen extratropical cyclones—a type of storm system that drives much of our country’s weather. Asia is home to the world’s 20 most polluted cities, but that dirty air doesn’t stay put, as the above animation of aerosol emissions shows…”

What Happened To The Blizzard of 2015? Wait, there was a blizzard? I had no idea. Greg Laden has an interesting post at scienceblogs.com; here’s an excerpt: “…More importantly, the forecast was for a huge blizzard with up to three feet of snow across a blob shaped region of the Northeast approximately 475 miles along its longest dimension (see graphic above). The blob ended up being off, on the southwest end, by about 40 or 50 miles. So the spatial extent of the storm was misestimated, days in advance, by about 10%. An object the size of a country was off by the distance a healthy adult can walk in a long day. That was, ladies and gentleman, an excellent, accurate prediction…”

Photo credit above: “Bruce Raymond shovels snow from the roof of his Chaplin, Conn. home on Jan. 28, 2015, after yesterday’s storm that brought more than 20-inches to parts of the state. More snow and freezing temperatures are forecast for most of next week.” (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS).

Why The Forecasters Got It So Wrong For New York City. Bloomberg takes a look at dueling models, and how all the models (sucked) for New York City’s snowfall totals; here’s an excerpt: “…Everyone went with the Euro and it was wrong,” Carolan said. “This winter the Euro hasn’t been the model it has been in the last two winters.” While the GFS, which was upgraded earlier this month, did a better job forecasting how the storm played out, another U.S. model also erred on large snowfall amounts, Uccellini said. “Our own NAM model was right there with the European Centre,” he said…” (Image: Aeris Weather).

Leaders In New York and New Jersey Defend Shutdown For A Blizzard That Wasn’t. The New York Times reports; here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…The weather laid bare the civic and political high-wire act of the modern snowstorm — pocked with doomsayer proclamations and sporadic lapses in communication. At the episode’s heart is the sort of damned-if-you-do decision that has bedeviled politicians for decades: Play it safe with closings, all but guaranteeing sweeping economic losses, or try to ride out the storm?…”
Photo credit above: “Jeff Williams widens the walking path in front of the storefront where he works in Patchogue, N.Y., Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. While much of the New York City region breathed easier after eluding serious damage from a deadly blizzard, highway crews helped eastern Long Island residents recover from a storm that dumped more than two feet of snow in some places.” (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

There Once Was A Storm on Nantucket. Boston.com has an amazing collection of photos and tweets from Monday night’s storm, which hit the island of Nantucket, Mass. with the fury of a category 1 hurricane.

The Adult Snow Day Is Dying, And That’s Sad. Amen. New York Magazine has the essay; here’s a snippet: “…The grown-up world has a tendency to strip things of their magic a bit, but the snow day still served as a wonderful stop sign from the heavens for myopic, overworked adults. What else could grind to a halt, even temporarily, the exhausting, striving adult world of meetings and reports and office memos? What else could not only suggest to the workaholic that he take a day off, but force him to because the roads were too icy, the subways all closed? What else could unite father and son on a sled on a snowy hill in the middle of a weekday?…”

Central American Fires May Intensify U.S. Tornadoes. Really? Science News has an overview on how smoke can amplify conditions necessary for tornadoes, which I found to be non-obvious; here’s a clip: “…Smoke wafting across the Gulf of Mexico from Central America can help spawn intense twisters in and around North America’s Tornado Alley, new research suggests. Reconstructing the extreme April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, which sired 122 twisters across the Southeastern United States, researchers found that smoke particles in the atmosphere further enhanced conditions already favorable for intense tornado formation...”

The Coming Food Disaster. My new diet just kicked in after reading this story at CNN; here’s an excerpt that got my full attention: “…To accommodate the fact that weeds are becoming glyphosate resistant, thereby requiring more herbicide use, the EPA has steadily increased its allowable concentration limit in food, and has essentially ignored our exposure to the other chemicals that are in its commercial formulation. As a result, the amount of glyphosate-based herbicide introduced into our foods has increased enormously since the introduction of GM crops. Multiple studies have shown that glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and likely public health hazards…”

All Sports Everything. The Verge takes a look behind the scenes at ESPN, and how it is transitioning beyond live, linear television into social media and multiple platforms, simultaneously. Here’s a clip of a fascinating story: “…By any measure – it’s the most popular cable channel by a mile; it commands a per-subscriber fee from cable companies equal to the next five most expensive combined; it’s valued at more than $50 billion, 13 times as much as Disney-owned ABC — ESPN is the country’s most powerful media company. The calculus is as simple as it is devastatingly effective: sports is practically the only TV that millions of people still insist on watching live, and ESPN owns almost all the sports….”

More of an observation…I was out for a noon-time walk on Tuesday, Jan 27, near Rice Creek Parkway in Shoreview, when I spotted this little fellow walking alongside me.  Air temp was about 35 F, and he was definitely moving (albeit very slowly).
I don’t recall ever seeing a live caterpillar in the middle of winter before.
– Jason Torgerson

TODAY: Partly sunny, close to average. Winds: S 8. High: 26
FRIDAY NIGHT: A few clouds, no drama. Low: 20
SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, turning colder late. High: 27
SUNDAY: Chilly Super Sunday. Clearing. Wake-up: 9. High: 15
MONDAY: Clouds increase, nighttime coating? Wake-up: 5. High: near 20
TUESDAY: Stronger clipper, few inches possible. Wake-up: 17. High: 21
WEDNESDAY: Blue sky. Nippy. Wind chill: -20. Wake-up: -2. High: 9
THURSDAY: Crunchy extremities. Fading sun. Wake-up: -10. High: 6

* ECMWF guidance is hinting at another thaw by the end of next week.

Climate Stories…

The U.S. Is A Country Divided By Seasons and Warming. The rate of warming is fastest in winter, when we are probably least equipped to register the trends. Scientific American has a fascinating story; here’s an excerpt: “…While winter is the fastest-warming season in most states, spring and fall are making strides in this dubious race, particularly in the western part of the country. And then there’s the Lone Star state, which stands alone as the only state where summer is warming the fastest. Don’t mess with Texas. The one thing that unites the country is that each and every season has been warming since 1970 nationally and that the rate of warming has accelerated compared to the past. In summer, the Lower 48 has warmed by 0.4°F per decade. In the winter, the U.S. average temperature has risen by about 0.6°F per decade…”

Even With Global Warming, It Still Snows. If it gets to the point where it’s too warm for snow, even at far northern latitudes, there won’t be any homo sapiens around to notice. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Rock Hill Herald Online: “…And as for that business about how can we have blizzards when the climate is warming, there’s a reasonable explanation for that, too. In fact, global warming could increase the number of severe weather events such as blizzards, droughts and hurricanes. Even if the overall amount of snowfall in a year remains about the same, we are more likely to get more intense storms that dump more snow on us all at once. Climatologists note that warmer air masses – mostly those produced by warming ocean waters – can hold more moisture. When those air masses collide with frigid Arctic air, we get storms, including blizzards, which can be more powerful because of more moisture in the atmosphere…”

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2015/01/29/6750313_even-with-global-warming-it-still.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Climate Coverage on TV Is Rising. That’s Not Always A Good Thing. Vox puts things into perspective; here’s an excerpt: “…In 2014, the networks devoted 154 minutes to the subject. That’s more than the year prior, though it’s still well below 2009 levels. The leaders were CBS and NBC, with 56 and 47 minutes respectively. Fox had the least coverage, with 19 minutes — largely because it doesn’t have a nightly news program. About 22 million people in America still watch the evening news on ABC, NBC, or CBS, so this is a fairly big media source, though obviously the networks don’t have anywhere near the vast reach they once did…”

Climate Models Don’t Overpredict Warming, Study Shows. The Los Angeles Times has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…A study that combined 114 possible 15-year trends since 1900 found that there was nothing statistically biased in the ways model-generated data differed from actual measurements of global mean surface temperatures. These short trends cannot predict “chaotic” fluctuations in such factors as ocean currents, according to the study. A similar analysis of every possible 62-year trend was much better at picking up the effects of human activity on rising global temperatures, the study found…”

U.K. Flood Victims Less Likely To Be Climate Skeptics. Climate change only hits home when it…hits home. And it will be hitting home with greater frequency and ferocity in the years to come. Here’s a clip from The Guardian: “…A new study released today by the Understanding Risk team at Cardiff University provides some fascinating answers to this question. In the months following the flooding, a nationally representative survey of around 1,000 people was conducted, asking about people’s views on climate change, on the floods, and whether they saw a link between the two. The results were striking. Most respondents (85%) felt that flooding had become more common, and that it would continue to get worse in the future. At the same time, scepticism about climate change was at its lowest for 10 years: very few people disputed the link between human activity and climate change…”

File photo credit: AP Photo/Scott Heppell.

U.S. To Enlist Pope Francis’s Help On Climate Change. Here’s a snippet of an article at VOA, Voice of America: “In a bid to bolster the Obama administration’s “moral” case for combating climate change, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency will meet senior Vatican officials Friday to enlist papal support for its policies. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Pope Francis, who has become a vocal climate advocate since his 2013 election, can be an ally for President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan…” (File photo: AP).

Pope Francis Turning Into A Headache For Catholic Presidential Hopefuls. Bloomberg Politics has the story; here’s a clip: “…Those clashes with Francis may prove relatively minor compared to what may ensue when the pope visits the United States next fall, smack in the middle of the campaign to decide who will win the Republican nomination, to promote his forthcoming encyclical that declares man-made global warming a problem that Catholics have a duty to try and address. “I don’t know if it [human activity] is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” Francis said earlier this month. “We have in a sense taken over nature…”

Corn Belt Farming Boosts The Global Carbon Cycle. I thought this was interesting, a snippet of a story at KCUR.org: “…Scientists have noticed a change in the atmosphere. Plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter. Recent research shows the massive corn crop in the Corn Belt may be contributing to that deeper breath. It comes down to the Carbon Cycle. Over the winter when corn fields lay dormant, corn stalks and roots break down, sending CO2 into the air. Then in the summer when a new crop is growing, it takes up carbon from the atmosphere…”

Yes, We Can Live Well And Avoid Climate Disaster, Says UK Government. The Guardian has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…Dealing with greenhouse gas emissions will require a transformation of electricity generation, including an expansion of renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as more public transport and changes to the built environment, according to the key findings of the Global Calculator, an online software tool developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), with partners. The calculator is intended to show the likely outcomes of a variety of choices that policymakers and the public can make to tackle global warming, such as investing in nuclear, insulating houses, making electrical appliances more efficient and using electric vehicles…” (Image: FEMA).

What A Warming World Means For Major Snowstorms. Warmer air and ocean water has already resulted in an increase in water vapor, more fuel for flash floods in summer, and higher snowfall amounts in winter. Here’s a clip from Quartz: “…About half of the current anomalous ocean warmth, and therefore the enhanced moisture, can be attributed to climate change, Trenberth said. As the oceans and atmosphere warm due to the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, that moisture source could continue to grow, to the tune of 4% more water vapor in the atmosphere for every 1 °F rise in global temperatures…”

Why Climate Scientists Shouldn’t Testify Before Congress. Science 2.0 has an interesting story about the politicization of science, here’s a clip: “…Of course, the purpose of congressional hearings on science most often is not to actually expand or clarify the scope of choice available to decision makers, nor to convince neutrals or to win over the other side to one’s point of view. Rather, these hearings are meant to show and confirm solidarity with one’s own side. In this sense, they mark a breakdown of democratic deliberation…”