A Little Metro Slush – Plowable Snow Up North

My back hurts from all the shoveling! Uh huh. A plowable snow was observed up north; a cool half foot for Duluth with up to 10″ for the North Shore. Here in the metro area? A slushy disappointment.

It’s helpful to take snow predictions and divide by 2 1/2. That’s often closer to reality. As a profession meteorologists over-predict snow. Because our biggest fear, after missing a tornado, is predicting flurries; only to wake up to a FOOT of flurries. Exhibit A: Halloween Superstorm of 1991. I still have nightmares.

Ground temperatures were too warm for snow to stick in the metro area but a few roads will be slick this morning with air temperatures in the upper 20s. Winds ease today but temperatures hold in the 30s; 15F cooler than average. Welcome to late November!

The atmosphere may be just warm enough aloft for rain showers on Sunday. A colder front sparks flurries Monday, but Halloween should be dry with temperatures stuck in the 30s. A far cry from last year when the high was 58F!

It’s been 4 years since an above-average winter snowfall for most of Minnesota. Place your bets.

Snowfall Totals. As much as 10″+ near Duluth, according to the National Weather Service. Some northern and western suburbs picked up 1-2″ of slush, but much of that melted on contact.

Late November Comes Early. We’ll see a few more days in the 50s, maybe even another 60-degree high. But no time soon. ECMWF guidance keeps highs in the upper 30s and low 40s through the first week of November. Graphic: WeatherBell.

How Unusual is Measurable Snow in October? Dr. Mark Seeley has the answer at Minnesota WeatherTalk: “Historically, back to 1877 the data show measurable October snowfalls in the Twin Cities about 29 percent of all years, the most recent of which was 2009 (on October 10 and 12 of that year). The most snowfall in October was in 1991, on Halloween when it snowed 8.2 inches, while October of 1925 brought the most days with measurable snowfall, a total of 6 days (that was also the coldest October in Twin Cities climate history with a mean temperature over 10 degrees F cooler than normal). For today’s date (Oct 27) in the Twin Cities measurable snowfall has been recorded in the following years: 1910, 1919 (record daily amount of 2.6 inches), 1925, 1959, and 1967. So today’s snowfall marks only the 6th measurable amount historically on this date. For relative comparison, at Duluth the climate record shows measurable snowfalls have occurred in 62 percent of all Octobers, while at International Falls they have occurred in 68 percent of all years…”

Snow Stats. The Minnesota DNR has information on earliest and average one-inch snowfall and snow depth in the Twin Cities.

Twin Cities Snowfall Since 1996. The last time we had an above-average snowfall? 4 years ago, the winter of 2013-2014, when a total of 69.8″ fell. Since then it’s been pretty tame with snowfall as much as 20″ less than average.  The 30-year average at MSP is about 54″, if anyone asks. Source: Minnesota DNR.

Minnesota Normal Annual Snowfall: 1981-2010. Here’s an update on what is considered “normal” in the snowfall department, statewide, courtesy of the Minnesota DNR: “A climate normal is defined as the average of a variable over a continuous three-decade period. At the end of each decade, a new 30-year average is calculated. The statistic is a measure of the central tendency of the variable. Minnesota’s highly variable climate leads to large year-to-year swings above and below this benchmark value. The map (above) depicts normal annual snowfall for the normal period, 1981-2010. Click on the map to view a larger rendition. The normal snowfall map incorporates data from the MNDNR Snow Rules project. The project gathered high spatial density snowfall data from 2002 through 2011 in three northeastern Minnesota counties (St. Louis, Lake, and Cook). Despite the nine-year time-span being less than the 30-year normal period, these data were included to offer an picture of the unique snowfall patterns found along Minnesota’s North Shore…”

Maria’s Historic Blackout Continues: From Climate Nexus Hot News: “Hurricane Maria caused the largest blackout in US history, according to a new report. An analysis released this week from the Rhodium Group finds that the hurricane caused a net loss of 1.25 billion hours of electricity since hitting the island on September 20—the largest in recorded history. Nine of the 10 most severe power outages in the United States were the result of hurricanes, according to the report. Weeks after Hurricanes Maria and Irma passed over the region, 75 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million inhabitants remain without power. The US Virgin Islands were hit especially hard, as 98 percent of St. Croix and all of St. John remain powerless. Whitefish Energy, an obscure firm given the $300 million contract to repair Puerto Rico’s power grid, is now under several government reviews after lawmakers expressed concerns with the bidding process and the firm feuded publicly with San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Twitter this week.” (Rhodium group: The Hill, Buzzfeed, Vice, NPR. Whitefish: CNN Money, Bloomberg, the Hill. Twitter spat: BBC, NBC, the Hill. Commentary: New York Times editorial $, The Hill, Ross Marchand op-edSan Diego Union-Tribune editorial)

Minnesota: Relatively Safe from Natural Disasters. GoMN reports on a little bit of good news: “The forest fires in California and the devastating hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico have cost billions of dollars in damage and put natural disaster preparation back in the spotlight. But Twin Citians at least can sleep easy, as they live in one of the metro areas least at risk from natural disasters. That’s the finding of ranking website Sperling’s Best Places, which identified the Top 10 Safest Cities from disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding and earthquakes. Sperling’s analysis weighed eight risk factors by severity and frequency of the threat, with tornadoes and hurricanes considered the biggest threat, followed by flooding and earthquakes, then drought, hail, wind and wildfires. The Twin Cities ranked 7th safest on the list, which was topped by Portland, Seattle and Salt Lake City…”

Map credit: Sperling’s Best Places.

Deep Impact of Flood Insurance. A post at Realtor Magazine caught my eye: “...Unfortunately, large numbers of uninsured Houston-area residents, as well as those in Florida, Puerto Rico, and other devastated areas, are facing bleak prospects for repairing or rebuilding their homes. Especially vulnerable are those who reside in areas outside of designated flood zones, which are increasingly affected by extreme weather. Stronger storms are bringing more widespread devastation, yet a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP remains in limbo. In September, Congress extended the program, which provides flood insurance policies to 5 million property owners, through Dec. 8. But such a short-term fix gives little certainty to owners who may lose access to any insurance option if the NFIP lapses. A growing number of private insurers are offering flood policies, but not in every state...”

Hurricane Season 2017: “What Just Happened?” Here’s an excerpt of a good summary at Grist: “…Since the beginning of the season, Klotzbach has been obsessively keeping track of the storms in a way, he says, that straddles the line of work and hobby. And he’s compiled a lot of records. Here are a few, by his count, as of October 15:

  • 2017 ranks among the highest in terms of number of major hurricanes, with six achieving Category 3 (111-plus mph winds) or higher. The record since record-keeping began in 1851 is seven. (Though keep in mind we’ve only been tracking hurricanes with satellites since the 1970s, so the early records likely aren’t very comprehensive.)
  • 2017 had 19.25 days with a major named storm in the Atlantic, the sixth-highest number of such days.
  • 2017 is the seventh highest for accumulated cyclone energy in the Atlantic.
  • Here’s the entire record sheet compiled by Klotzbach...”

Image credit: NOAA, NASA.

Graphic credit: Philip Klotzbach.

Down Hundreds of Staff, Weather Service “Teetering on the Brink of Failure”, Labor Union Says. The Capital Weather Gang has the post: “After the onslaught of devastating hurricanes and wildfires, the United States is enduring one of its most costly years for extreme weather.  A near-record 16 separate billion-dollar weather disasters have ravaged the nation. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service workforce is spread razor thin, with hundreds of vacant forecast positions. The National Weather Service Employees Organization, its labor union, said the lack of staff is taking a toll on forecasting operations and that the agency is “for the first time in its history teetering on the brink of failure.” Managers are being forced to scale back certain operations, and staff are stressed and overworked. “It’s gotten so bad that we’re not going to be able to provide service that two years ago we were able to provide to public, emergency managers and media,” said Dan Sobien, the president of the union. “We’ve never been in that position before…”

Atlantic Hurricanes Wipe Out Reinsurers’ Profits in Europe. The New York Times reports.

Women Are Being Passed Over for Chief Meteorologist Jobs At an Alarming Rate. Angela Fritz reports at Capital Weather Gang; here’s an excerpt: “…The announcement that a man would become the new chief shouldn’t have come as a surprise. A new study confirmed (again) what women in the field have long known: that they are grossly underrepresented in TV meteorology. The study was conducted by Alexandra Cranford, a TV meteorologist in Louisiana. She found that, nationwide, women make up just 29 percent of all TV weathercaster positions. That number in itself is alarming and unfortunate. But even if you attempt to rationalize that fraction, you can’t excuse the study’s next finding — that just 8 percent of women are in the “chief meteorologist” role. It’s a pitifully low fraction of a pitifully low fraction. “Naturally, it’s not that we aren’t qualified,” Johnson told The Washington Post. “Although strides to advance women up the ladder have been made, we continue to see struggles in the workplace...”

Same Lake, Unequal Rates. Why are some of the poorest neighborhoods in the Chicago area paying more for the (same) water from Lake Michigan? Here’s an excerpt from The Chicago Tribune: “Lake Michigan water rates have been surging throughout the Chicago region in recent years, squeezing low-income residents and leaving them with little, if any, recourse, a Tribune analysis shows. In this tangled network that delivers water to the vast majority of the region’s residents, the Tribune found an upside-down world, one where people in the poorest communities pay more for a basic life necessity than those in the wealthiest. And the financial pain falls disproportionately on majority-African-American communities, where residents’ median water bill is 20 percent higher for the same amount of water than residents pay in predominantly white communities, the Tribune’s examination revealed...”

Photo credit: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune.

Electric Cars Emit 50% Less Greenhouse Gas Than Diesel, Study Finds. The Guardian reports: “Electric cars emit significantly less greenhouse gases over their lifetimes than diesel engines even when they are powered by the most carbon intensive energy, a new report has found. In Poland, which uses high volumes of coal, electric vehicles produced a quarter less emissions than diesels when put through a full lifecycle modelling study by Belgium’s VUB University. CO2 reductions on Europe’s cleanest grid in Sweden were a remarkable 85%, falling to around one half for countries such as the UK. “On average, electric vehicles will emit half the CO2 emissions of a diesel car by 2030, including the manufacturing emissions,” said Yoann Le Petit, a spokesman for the T&E think tank, which commissioned the study…”

Wall Street Loves Electric Cars, America Loves Trucks. Here’s an excerpt from Reuters: “Wall Street may love the shares of Silicon Valley electric carmaker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), but Americans love big, fuel-thirsty trucks like Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) bestselling F-Series pickups and are paying ever higher prices to buy them. The auto industry is at a crossroads, with the future of legacy automakers like Ford, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI) uncertain as governments float proposals to ban internal combustion engines over the next two decades. But in the present, consumer enthusiasm for trucks and sport utility vehicles is strong, especially in the United States. And that is providing Ford, GM and other established automakers with billions in cash to mount a challenge to Tesla…”

Photo credit: “Joe Hinrichs, Executive VP and President, The Americas for Ford, introduces the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, January 11, 2016.” REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Want a Job? Look to Wind & Solar: From Climate Nexus: “Solar installer and wind technician positions are expected to be the fastest-growing jobs in the United States over the next decade, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of solar installers and wind technicians is expected to roughly double by 2026. CBS reports that many of these new positions are expected to be in red states, as clean energy projects move forward in the Midwest and the South.” (CBS, Bloomberg, Quartz, AP).

File image: Midwest Energy News.

Tesla Turns Power Back on at Children’s Hospital in Puerto Rico. Here’s an excerpt from NPR: “Tesla has used its solar panels and batteries to restore reliable electricity at San Juan’s Hospital del Niño (Children’s Hospital), in what company founder Elon Musk calls “the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico.” The project came about after Puerto Rico was hit by two devastating and powerful hurricanes in September, and Musk reached out about Tesla helping. Musk’s company announced its success in getting the hospital’s power working again less than three weeks after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted on Oct. 6, “Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities...”

Nerds and Nurses Forecast to Take Over U.S. Economy. Here’s a clip from The Atlantic: “Manufacturing will fall. Retail will wobble. Automation will inch along but stay off the roads, for now. The rich will keep getting richer. And more and more of the country will be paid to take care of old people. That is the future of the labor market, according to the latest 10-year forecast from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These 10-year forecasts—the products of two years’ work from about 25 economists at the BLS —document the government’s best assessment of the fastest and slowest growing jobs of the future. On the decline are automatable work, like typists, and occupations threatened by changing consumer behavior, like clothing store cashiers, as more people shop online. The fastest-growing jobs through 2026 belong to what one might call the Three Cs: care, computers, and clean energy…”

Front-Facing Cameras Were Never Intended for Selfies. Thank goodness we’re not vain. Here’s an excerpt from Quartz: “…But front-facing cameras were never intended for vanity. Sony’s mobile-phone designers, for instance, thought the camera-flip feature would be used for video-conference meetings so that users would no longer have to be tethered to a desktop or laptop to convene Skype calls. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 in 2010, he demonstrated the new front-facing camera’s intended use by making the first FaceTime call to Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “I grew up here in the US with The Jetsons and Star Trek and communicators, and just dreaming about this—dreaming about video calling—and it’s real now,” Jobs gushed...”

Photo credit: “Better than a mirror.” (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov)

Can the Minnesota Vikings Avoid the Super Bowl Host Curse? A story at GoMN made me sit up (spit up?) and do a double-take: “If you’re set to host a Super Bowl, odds are, you’re going to have a miserable season. Coming into this 2017 regular season, host teams have compiled a record of 295-400-4 – or a winning percentage of 42 percent. Some call it the Super Bowl Host Curse. There have been 51 Super Bowls, yet a host team has never made it to the big game or even the conference championship for that matter. Hell, even making the Divisional Round is next to impossible…So let’s assume the Vikings beat the Cleveland Browns this week. If that happens, Minnesota will own a record of 6-2 – a winning percentage of 75 percent. They’d need just four wins over their last eight games to be just the fourth host team to have ever secured double-digit wins. According to ESPN, the Vikings have the second easiest schedule remaining in the NFC...”

Photo credit: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn.

Europe’s First Underwater Restaurant to Open in Norway. Yes, but is fish on the menu? CNN has the scoop: “Europe will soon see its first underwater restaurant, according to the project’s Norwegian architects. The planned concrete structure features a 36-foot wide panoramic window and is designed to become part of the marine environment. It’s expected to be completed by early 2019, with construction work starting in February 2018, at the southernmost point of Norway’s coastline. The restaurant has been designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, known for its work on the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. Called “Under,” the restaurant will stand on the sea bed five meters below the surface, its thick walls designed to withstand the most variable sea conditions…”

Photo credit: “A view of the dining room area.” Credit: MIR and Snohetta.

1/10th of an inch of snow fell at MSP International Airport on Friday.

36 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities yesterday.

53 F. average high on October 27.

49 F. high on October 27, 2016.

October 28, 1960: A 29-day dry stretch in west central Minnesota ends.

TODAY: Cloudy, cold (slippery) start. Slow clearing, chilly. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 37

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase again. Low: 30

SUNDAY: Next clipper, few rain showers. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 44

MONDAY: Colder wind, few flurries in the air.  Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 32. High: 41

HALLOWEEN: Partly cloudy, scary cool. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 28. High: 39

WEDNESDAY: Foul, another round of showers. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 30. High: 43

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, cooling off again. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 32. High: 41

FRIDAY: Cool sunshine, a quiet day. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 26. High: near 40.

Climate Stories…

Are Antarctica’s Ice Sheets Near a Climate Tipping Point? It’s alarmist-hype…until it happens. Then it’s “why weren’t we warned?” Here’s an excerpt from InsideClimate News: “The world needs to eliminate nearly all carbon dioxide emissions from coal burning by 2050 to avoid pushing Antarctica’s ice sheets past a tipping point that could cause a major surge in sea level rise, new research shows. If CO2 emissions from fossil fuels continue at their present pace, many Pacific islands and millions of people along low-lying shores like the U.S. Gulf Coast and the Bay of Bengal could be swamped by 1.3 meters (more than 4 feet) of sea level rise before the end of this century, an international team of scientists found in a new study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The researchers said their work supports evidence that global warming of more than 1.9 degrees Celsius could push parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet past a melting threshold that would rapidly increase the pace of sea level rise. “What we are increasingly seeing is that we have been on the conservative side in estimating sea level rise,” said study co-author Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, a climate physicist at Climate Analytics, a climate science and policy institute…”

Photo credit: ““Parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appear to already be in substantial decline. If that continues, it’s not a matter of how much, but how fast sea level will rise,” climate physicist Carl-Friedrich Schleussner said.” Credit: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA.

How Climate Change Affects Cartography. Atlas Obscura explains another consequence of rapidly melting arctic ice: “The maps in National Geographic’s 10th edition of its Atlas of the World, released in 2014, were similar to those in 50 years’ worth of previous editions, from the familiar outlines of continents to Nat Geo’s patented font. But there was an important difference—the shape of the Arctic. Using data from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Nat Geo remapped the area in 2013 to show how the Arctic’s ice sheet had receded. The change was so extensive that President Barack Obama mentioned it in a speech on global warming. But as soon as the cartographers had finished drawing, their map was already out of date. “The sea ice changes monthly and daily so it’s very hard to capture it in one static image,” explains Rosemary Wardley, a senior GIS cartographer at National Geographic Maps, and part of the world atlas team…”

Map credit: “The 8th and 10th Edition Arctic maps.” National Geographic.

Was the Extreme 2017 Hurricane Season Driven by Climate Change? Scientific American looks at what, if any, role warming oceans are playing with storm frequency and intensity: “…Many experts are confident that a warmer world will create stronger storms—and already is doing so. Since 1981 the maximum wind speed of the most powerful hurricanes has risen, according to research (pdf) by Jim Elsner, a climatologist at The Florida State University. That’s because higher ocean heat provides more energy for storms, fueling their intensity. Hurricane Patricia, in 2015, set the record at the time for top wind speed—215 miles per hour—in the north Atlantic. The next year Winston shattered records as the most intense cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere. The dynamic between storms and warming oceans occurs in part because of the role hurricanes play in our climate system: they rebalance Earth’s heat. The storms remove heat from tropical oceans in the form of moisture and pump the heat up into the atmosphere, where heat is redistributed and radiated out into space...”

September 24 Hurricane Maria file image: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Rising Seas Are Flooding Virginia’s Naval Base, and There’s No Plan to Fix It. Seas are warming and rising; that’s not a climate model, but based on actual observations. InsideClimate News explains the challenges the U.S. Navy is facing: “…Once or twice a month, seawater subsumes steam lines that run along the bottom of the piers where the fleet’s ships are moored. It bubbles up through storm drains and closes roads. “It can actually shut down operations, or make it very difficult for people to get around,” Bouchard said. Climate change poses an immediate threat to Norfolk. The seas are rising at twice the global average here, due to ocean currents and geology. Yet while the region is home to the densest collection of military facilities in the nation, the Pentagon has barely begun the hard work of adaptation. A detailed study in 2014 by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center identified about 1.5 feet of sea level rise as a “tipping point” for the base that would dramatically increase the risk of serious damage to infrastructure. But there is no plan to address this level of rise, which scientists expect within a few decades. The city of Norfolk, which surrounds the base, is also under siege. Sections of the main road that leads to the base become impassable several times a year. Some residents check tide charts before leaving for work or parking their cars for the night…”

Photo credit: “The water was a foot and a half lower when the naval station was established at Norfolk. Today, parts of the base are close to sea level.” Credit: U.S. Navy.