-3 F. low in the Twin Cities Thursday morning.
11 F. high yesterday afternoon at KMSP.
33 F. average high on February 26.
20 F. high on February 26, 2014.

1″ of snow on the ground.

February 26, 1981: Thunderstorms move across Minnesota dumping 1.61 inches of rain at Montevideo. Many places were glazed over with ice.
February 26, 1948: Severe ice storm over central Minnesota. At the St Cloud Weather Office 1/2 inch of clear ice was measured. 65 telephone poles were down between St Cloud and Rice.

Kinder and Gentler?

I don’t want to bury the lead: it may “snow” next Tuesday. The atmosphere will be shifting gears to a milder, March-like pattern as the storm track lifts north. No guarantees, but I wouldn’t retire the old snow shovel just yet.

The GFS is hinting at 40s within 2 weeks, so expect volatility and big weather swings in the weeks to come. Pretty typical for March.

We all experience weather, not climate, which makes it hard to notice the big trends. If I’m cold how can the planet be warming? Or as John Oliver quipped: “I just ate so there must be no global hunger.” We live in our bubbles and rely on scientists to analyze the big picture and remind us why it matters.
You may be shivering, but 4 of the 5 smallest “winter cold pools” on record over the Northern Hemisphere have been observed since 2004. And Minnesota is one of the 5 fastest warming states in the USA. Winter temperatures here have warmed at least 4F since 1970, according to Climate Central. Details below.

Warmer air and oceans are increasing water vapor; more fuel for major winter storms and excessive snows. Boston just picked up 100 inches in about a month – 10 times more than average. The statistical odds? 1-in-26,315. Good grief.

* weather model output above valid 18z next Tuesday courtesy of WSI.

Boston’s Astounding Month of Snow a 1-in-26,315 Year Occurrence. 100″ in a month is pretty impressive, but it’s off-the-charts-amazing for Boston, where normal February snowfall is closer to 10″. What are the odds? Here’s an excerpt of a good story from Eric Holthause at The Washington Post: “…To do this, he parsed through every three-day period (to maintain meteorological plausibility and prevent the possibility of back-to-back-to-back 20-inch snowstorms) and then randomly generated a set of hypothetical winters consistent with the city’s climate history. His analysis shows that given a static climate, Boston can expect a winter with a 30-day stretch like this one only once approximately every 26,315 years — 38 out of a million...”

Photo credit above: “A sign advertising a home for sale peaks from a mound of snow, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, in Marlborough, Mass. Real estate agents have found that purchase closings are being held up because of the heavy snowfall in the Boston area.” (AP Photo/Bill Sikes).

Even As The Eastern U.S. Freezes, There’s Less Cold Air In Winter Than Ever Before. The winter cold pools are trending smaller over time over the Northern Hemisphere, but they seem to be (consistently) setting up over the eastern USA and eastern Canada as polar air becomes displaced south by a rapidly warming Arctic. But temperatures aloft, about 1 mile above surface level, show the trends. Here’s an excerpt of a Jason Samenow story at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang: “…In a study accepted for publication in the Journal of Climate, Martin found that four of the five smallest Northern Hemisphere cold pools on record — averaged over the winter — have occurred since 2004. “Only 12 of the 43 winter seasons before 1990-1991 had below average seasonally averaged areas whereas 20 of 24 winter seasons have had below average seasonally averaged areas since,” the study says…”

Graphic credit above: “Blue and red bars illustrate the annual difference from the long-term average in the area of the Northern Hemisphere cold pool. The light gray line portrays the surface temperature difference from average from the UK Hadley Centre.” (Jonathan Martin, Journal of Climate).

Warming Winters: U.S. Temperature Trends. We experience weather, not climate, which is one (of many) factors that makes this issue so complex. If you’re freezing your butt off how ON EARTH can the atmosphere be warming? Not at my house! Keeping a global perspective is difficult, but essential when discussing climate trends. Here’s an excerpt from Climate Central focused on the rate of winter warming across the USA: “…Since 1970, winters in the top 5 fastest-warming states — Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont and South Dakota — heated up four-and-a-half times faster than winters in the 5 slowest-warming states: Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington. The five fastest-warming states have seen at least 4oF warming in winters since 1970…”

Cold Bias Into Next Week. The next thaw may not come until a week from tomorrow, based on the latest guidance. Temperatures recover into the mid and upper 30s over the weekend, pathetically reasonable I guess. The next chance of accumulating snow (remember that?) is Tuesday, and it could be a few inches, even enough to shovel and plow, depending on the final storm track and how much moisture surges north. I’m going way out on a limb, but there’s a chance subzero lows late next week may be the last, or among the last, of the winter season, based on the significant warming I see for mid and late March.

Zonal Winds Aloft by Mid-March. We’ll see more cold fronts, but the odds of subzero nighttime lows should drop off significantly within 2 weeks as winds at 500 mb (18,000 feet) blow from Vancouver, instead of Saskatoon. By mid-March much of the Lower 48 will be easing into a more springlike pattern. Map: GrADS:COLA/IGES.

Worth The Wait? This has been a chilly February (8.5F colder than average, to date) but temperatures may rebound just as quickly in March. An extended period above freezing is forecast by the GFS after March 10 or so, even a few days in the 40s to near 50F. Amazingly it may be warm enough aloft for rain within 10-12 days.

Videographer Captures Elusive Green Flash at Sunset on Hawaii’s North Shore. I’m very jealous – I’ve looked for the green flash for the better part of 40 years. Still no luck. Here’s a story excerpt and video (proving it does exist!) at Huffington Post: “…When it comes to the green flash at sunset, people fall into one of two camps: those who have seen it with their very eyes and swear by its majesty, and those who say it’s just a figment of our imagination. Hawaii-based videographer Eric Sterman falls into the former, having recently caught the flash while making a time-lapse video of the sunset on the north shore of Oahu…”

By The Time You Read This, They’ve Slapped a Solar Panel on your Roof. Bloomberg Business takes a look at the trends; here’s a snippet: “Solar is so cheap, the problem now is how to pay for it. Prices for panels are down more than 65 percent in five years, to less than 70¢ a watt. What’s next?  One word, Ben: financing. Building a solar generating facility—either a massive one in a desert or a tiny one on the roof—involves serious up-front costs…”

Tesla Gearing Up For Release of Batteries for the Home. I have yet to meet (anyone) who doesn’t like free stuff. That applies to free energy, free electricity, harvesting the free power that hits your home every day. Gizmag has the details on how you’ll soon be able to benefit from home solar panels and a well-positioned battery: “…The same lithium-ion battery technology that powers Tesla’s electric vehicles will be used to develop a battery for the home, according to a statement by CEO Elon Musk during a recent conference call with analysts. The batteries would be used by homes and businesses to store excess energy generated from solar panels during the day, and drawn from at night when panels sit idle...”

Image credit above: “Tesla home battery, which is currently produced for SolarCity’s home energy storage system.” (House Photo: Shutterstock)

Close-Up Lightning Strike Compilation. No, don’t try this at home – some of these close calls are truly amazing. Check out the YouTube clip, which has received 3.7 million views.

Jordan’s 6,000 Mosques Will Soon Have Rooftop Solar. This is a trend I see with churches, synagogues and mosques worldwide as houses of worship realize there’s plenty of free energy to harvest and the ROI is significant. Here’s a clip from ThinkProgress: “…Ahmad Abu Saa, a representative of the renewable energy department at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in Jordan, told the Jordan Times this week that a new project to be implemented this year aims to install photovoltaic solar systems on all of the country’s 6,000 mosques. The project will start by covering 120 mosques…”

Photo credit above: “The Abu Darweesh Mosque in Amman, Jordan.” CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons/David Bjorgen.

The Robots Are Coming. Is your job in danger of being disrupted by robotics in the not-too-distant future? Here’s an excerpt from a fascinating read at the London Review of Books: “…Frey and Osborne’s conclusion is stark. In the next two decades, 47 per cent of employment is ‘in the high-risk category’, meaning it is ‘potentially automatable’. Interestingly, though not especially cheeringly, it is mainly less well-paid workers who are most at risk. Recent decades have seen a polarisation in the job market, with increased employment at the top and bottom of the pay distribution, and a squeeze on middle incomes. ‘Rather than reducing the demand for middle-income occupations, which has been the pattern over the past decades, our model predicts that computerisation will mainly substitute for low-skill and low-wage jobs in the near future...”

8 Foods That Help Improve Your Memory. Details has the article – what I would give to take a daily memory pill, in the meantime I’m trying to get more salmon in my diet after reading the story; here’s an excerpt: “…Forgot what you’re looking for? Bad with names? Writing down a lot of lists but then misplacing them? Like most people, you’re experiencing some memory loss—and growing older doesn’t help matters. Luckily, researchers all over the world are scouring the earth looking for ingredients that might organically improve human recall. Scan the menu of ingredients below and, if you make the right diet changes, you too could develop a champion’s memory…”

Mapped: These Are The Quietest Spots in America. Northern Minnesota is looking pretty good in the quiet-category; here’s an excerpt of a story at Quartz: “…Researchers used sound data collected from 546 sites around the US over the past 10 summers, then estimated the noise levels in the remaining areas based on factors like population density, roadway sizes, and proximity to airports, Fristrup tells Quartz…”

Map credit above: “The dark blue areas are the quietest, and the yellow to white are the loudest.” (National Park Service, Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division).

A New Definition of Recyled: KFC To Roll Out New, Edible Coffee Cups. TIME Magazine has the curious details: “KFC is planning to serve its customers coffee in a cup they can eat. The fast food chain will soon debut edible cups at all its U.K. franchises, the New York Times reported. The cups will be made from wafers lined with heat-resistant white chocolate and wrapped in sugar paper, and will be introduced to KFC along with Starbucks brand Seattle’s Best Coffee…”

How To Identify The One Thing You Were Born To Do. For me the answer is “napping”. I’m damn good at it too. Here’s an excerpt from PBS Next Avenue: “…
1. Even if you didn’t get paid a cent for it, would you still do this?

2. Would doing this inspire you every day?

3. Does doing this come as naturally to you as breathing?

4. Do you feel you’ve been given a special gift to do this?

5. Does time seem to fly by when you’re engaged in this activity?

6. Can you possibly make money doing this?

People often have difficulty answering yes or no to Questions No. 4 and No. 6. For Question No. 4, keep in mind that while you might not yet be a master of this activity, if you feel passionately about it and/or spend a lot of time engaging in it, you may have been given a special gift to do it. In such cases, your answer to Question No. 4 is likely to be yes...”

The Number One Song On The Day You Were Born? You can also find out the #1 song on the day you were conceived, but that’s just too painful to imagine, so let’s keep it basic. Thanks to playback.fm for doing the heavy lifting.

Frozen Waves? This is a new one – I can’t recall ever seeing such a thing before. Thanks to Facebook and FOX 13’s Paul Dellegatto for passing on photos from Nantucket. Think those folks are looking forward to spring: “The images from the record setting winter in the northeast have been incredible…here are a few more….near frozen waves – like rolling slurpees – on the beaches of Nantucket.” (Photo credit: Jonathan Nimerfroh). Original photos courtesy of Stay Wild Magazine.

TODAY: Sunny and brisk, lighter winds. Winds: SW 5-10. High: 15
FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 6
SATURDAY: Sunny start, clouds increase. High: 26
SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy, colder breeze. Wake-up: 18. High: 27
MONDAY: Blue sky, cooler than average. Wake-up: 11. High: 26
TUESDAY: Wet snow or mix. Plowable amounts? Wake-up: 20. High: 28
WEDNESDAY: Flurries taper early. Drying out. Wake-up: 7. High: 15
THURSDAY: Partly sunny, feels like February. Wake-up: -2. High: 14

Climate Stories…

Yes, Global Warming Has Slowed Down A Little. And Yes, You Should Still Worry. Warming of the oceans has accelerated, temperatures over land holding nearly steady since the turn of the century. New research suggests any land-based temperature plateau may be temporary; here’s a snippet from The Washington Post: “…Ever since, climate scientists have been trying to explain why the world has seen a somewhat slower rate of warming in recent years — and publishing multiple papers on the topic. Now, though, a new study in the journal Science suggests that  that the global warming “pause” may soon run its course, and, anyway, it seems to have been caused by natural variability in the climate system. Thus, the slowdown, such as it was, certainly is no reason not to worry about a longer-term climate trend driven by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions…”

* an abstract of the new research is available at Science Magazine.

New Study Directly Measures Greenhouse Effect at Earth’s Surface. Carbon Brief has the story and video; here’s a clip: “…The researchers used a set of instruments to take thousands of measurements at the Earth’s surface. The instruments record the longwave energy that is re-emitted by greenhouse gases back towards the Earth’s surface, which causes the warming. Making these sorts of measurements on the ground is difficult, says lead author Dr Daniel Feldman, a geological scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US. With weather systems passing overhead, and temperatures and humidity changing frequently, it’s tricky to take energy measurements without other factors getting in the way…”
Graphic credit above: “How carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have changed (blue line) and their warming effect (‘forcing’) on the climate over the same time period (orange line), for the southern Great Plains site (first graph shown) and the northern Alaska site (second). The seasonal fluctuations are caused by the rise and fall in plant photosynthesis in summer and winter, respectively.” Source: Feldman et al. (2015).

You Want Jobs? Try a Carbon Fee and Dividend. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at syracuse.com that resonated: “…The proposal I’m talking about is George Shultz’s Carbon Fee and Dividend. Shultz, former Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, promotes this plan as the conservative answer to climate change, because it won’t increase the size of government. It works like this: A steadily rising fee – starting at $15 per ton of carbon-dioxide – is placed on fossil fuels at or near the first point of sale, increasing by $10 per ton of CO2 each year. Revenue from the fee is divided up equally and returned to all households…”

Climate Change Will Hit America in the Breadbasket. NBC News has the story – here’s an excerpt: “…Theoretically, reduced production along the southern edge of the country’s grain-producing regions should be offset by increased production along the northern edge. The Corn Belt (and Soybean Belt) is already pushing up past the Canadian border, and Canada’s wheat-producing zone is creeping farther north. But in reality, the shift is still likely to produce a net loss in crop production, said Jerry Hatfield, director of the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment...” (File photo: Star Tribune).

Sea Levels in Northeast Jumped 5 Inches In Just 2 Years, Study Says. Some of this is sea level rise, some is land subsidence, but the net effect is clear; higher water levels are making coastal storms even more damaging, especially when you superimpose a storm surge and surface waves on top of the rising Atlantic. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Mashable: “Sea levels in northeastern North America jumped by more than five inches in a two-year period between 2009 to 2010, a rate unprecedented in the history of tide gauge records, a new study found. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, found that the temporary acceleration in long-term sea level rise resulted in coastal flooding and beach erosion along the Northeast coast from New York northward to Atlantic Canada…”

Sea Spike Details. Here’s an excerpt from the new research referenced above via Nature Communications: “…The analysis of long-term tide gauge records identified an extreme sea-level rise (SLR) event during 2009–10. Within this 2-year period, the coastal sea level north of New York City jumped by 128 mm. This magnitude of interannual SLR is unprecedented (a 1-in-850 year event) during the entire history of the tide gauge records…”