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2-4″ Cape Cod (heading into a stormier pattern again)

16 Feb 2013, 7:30 am
The Big Picture



Every time a cold front sails thru town the e-mails, tweets & FB posts arrive like clockwork. “Hey Paul, global warming is a joke. It’s cold outside!” To which I reply, “what part of GLOBAL warming is so confusing?” It’s human nature (part of our caveman DNA?) to stare out the window and assume this is what’s happening planet-wide.



NOAA reports February 2012 to January 2013 was the warmest on record across the USA.


We’ve now experienced 335 consecutive months with global temperatures exceeding the 20th century average. According to Bill McKibben, who’s coming to Minnesota next week (details on the blog), the odds of this occurring by simple chance are less than 3.7 x 10(-99) – “a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.” A natural warming cycle? Right.



Expect quiet skies thru the middle of next week, a brisk Saturday giving way to a Monday thaw – another surge of “partly numb” next Tuesday & Wednesday.



Storms thrive on Gulf moisture and large north-south temperature extremes. We may have have both factors working in our favor by late next week. It’s too early to get too specific but ECMWF model guidance is hinting a “plowable” snowfall by for the Upper Midwest next Friday. Stay tuned.

Conveyor Belt of Moisture. I can’t remember much from the college days (Penn State, late 70s), but I do remember one college meteorology professor referring to this kind of scenario as a “conveyor belt”, an atmospheric escalator of moisture starting in the Gulf of Mexico, and wrapping around the center of the storm as it flows toward the north/northwest. The ECMWF model forecast above is valid midnight Thursday night, showing a storm west of Kansas City, possible severe storms over the Deep South, a change from rain to snow north/west of Chicago. It’s too early to panic (or get too terribly excited), but we’ve had a few runs/row hinting at “plowable” snow for Minnesota late Thursday into Friday.

Meteorite Hits Russian Urals; Fireball Explosion Wreaks Havoc, Over 900 Injured (Photos – Video). This is what happened when a meteor exploded in the upper atmosphere, creating a shock wave, a pulse of energy and sonic boom. Here’s an excerpt from the Russian web site “Russia’s Urals region has been rocked by a meteorite explosion in the stratosphere. The impact wave damaged several buildings, and blew out thousands of windows amid frigid winter weather. Hundreds are seeking medical attention for minor injuries.


Eyewitness accounts of the meteorite phenomenon, handpicked by RT. Around 950 people have sought medical attention in Chelyabinsk alone because of the disaster, the region’s governor Mikhail Yurevich told RIA Novosti. Over 110 of them have been hospitalized and two of them are in heavy condition. Among the injured there are 159 children, Emergency ministry reported. Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter.”

* more details on the meteor (sonic boom and subsequent damage) from “February 15 a meteor exploded in the daytime skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Shock waves from the blast shattered windows in many buildings and sent onlookers to the hospital with wounds from flying glass. The meteoroid entered the atmosphere just as asteroid 2012 DA14 was approaching Earth for a record-setting close approach later in the day. however, NASA says there is no connection between the two: the Russian meteor and 2012 DA14 have different trajectories. A cosmic coincidence?

Meteor Plume From Space. Meteorologists at Colorado State captured the mega-contrail from Friday’s explosive meteor streaking across Russia. More satellite imagery of the meteor signature here.

Drought Update. Here’s an excerpt from this week’s edition of Weather Talk, from Mark Seeley: “Highlights for the drought-monitoring period ending on February 12 from Brad Rippey at the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board include:

– Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 55.73% of the contiguous U.S., down 1.11% from last week and down 5.36% since the beginning of the year. The decrease came on the strength of heavy rain across the South and some snow in the upper Midwest.

– The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category ­ D4, or exceptional drought ­ dipped nearly one-quarter of a percentage point (0.24%) to 6.61%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 27 consecutive weeks (August 14, 2012 ­ February 12, 2013).

– The percent of hay in drought (57%) fell two percentage points, while winter wheat in drought was unchanged at 59%. Cattle in drought (67%) fell one percentage point

One Fickle January – Giving New Meaning to Blue/Red States. On paper it was the 39th warmest January on record for the USA, according to NOAA. But there were big disparities in temperature and moisture, as described in my latest 2:30 “Climate Matters” update for WeatherNation TV: “Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at how January 2013 stacked up to years past. For a couple of states it was one of their top 10 coldest Januaries. But when you look at the the contiguous U.S. as whole, January was actually warmer than average. In this segment, you’ll see some of the other weather highlights from January 2013. What will you remember?

NOAA: February 2012 To January 2013 Warmest On Record. Here’s a portion of a story at Climate Central: “January was warmer and wetter than average in the contiguous U.S., despite the persistent drought in the nation’s heartland, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. The average temperature in the lower 48 states reached 32.0°F last month. At 1.6°F above the 20th century average, January 2013 ties 1958 as the 39th-warmest January on record. That was still warm enough to make February 2012-to-January 2013 the warmest February-to-January period since record-keeping began in 1880, NOAA said in its monthly State of the Climate report…”

Graphic above: NCDC, National Climatic Data Center.

National Hurricane Center: Sandy Was Second Costliest Hurricane In U.S. Here are some interesting new details about “Sandy” from Insurance Journal: “Superstorm Sandy was the deadliest hurricane in the northeastern U.S. in 40 years and the second-costliest in the nation’s history, according to a report released Tuesday, Feb. 12. The storm’s effects reached far and wide, according to the National Hurricane Center report. While Sandy visited devastation on the East Coast, principally New Jersey and New York, it created wind gusts as far west as Wisconsin and as far north as Canada and caused water levels to rise from Florida to Maine, the center found. The hurricane center attributed 72 U.S. deaths directly to Sandy, from Maryland to New Hampshire. That is more than any hurricane to affect the northeastern U.S. since Hurricane Agnes killed 122 people in 1972, according to the center’s records covering 1851 to 2010…”

Photo credit: “Sandy damage in Ortley Beach, N.J. on Nov. 10, 2012.” Photo: N.J. Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen.

FCC Tells TV Stations To Secure EAS Equipment After Fake Zombie Alerts. And my favorite story of the day, the FCC actually reminding television stations that the equipment that generates emergency messages “This Is A Test” may be vulnerable to hacking from overseas – cyber hanky panky capable of issuing a (fake!) Zombie Alert. As opposed to a real Zombie Alert. TVSpy explains: “The FCC is telling stations to “take immediate action” to secure their Emergency Alert System equipment after hackers took control of the system at several stations to broadcast warnings of an imminent zombie attack. FTV Live has the full memo from the FCC:

Urgent Advisory: Immediate actions to be taken regarding CAP EAS device security.

“All EAS Participants are required to take immediate action to secure their CAP EAS equipment, including resetting passwords, and ensuring CAP EAS equipment is secured behind properly configured firewalls and other defensive measures. All CAP EAS equipment manufacturer models are included in this advisory...”


Image courtesy of






A Logical Reaction To 2.5 Feet Of Snow. I might be crying too – this photo taken somewhere in New England last weekend, courtesy of The Chive. Perfect.

Doggie Snow Angels? Hey, why not? That’s “Willie”, Heidi Rusch’s amazing Jack Russel, enjoying a fresh snowfall from Thursday’s clipper. This one photo brightened an otherwise ho-hum Friday for me.

Climate Stories…

Video: Boston Meteorologist Links New England Blizzard To Climate Change. I know Harvey Leonard; a veteran TV meteorologist in Boston (who knows his stuff). He was initially skeptical of climate change (as most of us were), but – like me – he’s seeing markers of climate change on his maps day in and day out. A link with the recent mega-blizzard in New England? Here’s an excerpt from Think Progress: “The unusually powerful blizzard that slammed into New England earlier this month prompted a Boston meteorologist to speak out unusually bluntly on the ties between climate change and extreme weather events.After being asked about the increase in extreme weather around the world by the interviewer — citing Hurricane Sandy, flooding, the record-breaking drought in midwest — WCVB Chief Meteorologist Harvey Leonard laid out the scientific case for how climate change is driving these recent events: Climate scientists, most of them who have been working on this issue, that’s exactly what they have been predicting: that over time, we would see more extremes — more drought, more heavy precipitation events, stronger storms….”

Thawing Permafrost May Be “Huge Factor” In Global Warming. Here’s an excerpt from Inter Press Service: “Thawing permafrost is emitting more climate-heating carbon faster than previously realised. Scientists have now learned that when the ancient carbon locked in the ice thaws and is exposed to sunlight, it turns into carbon dioxide 40 percent faster. “This really changes the trajectory of the debate” over when and how much carbon will be released as permafrost thaws due to ever warmer temperatures in the Arctic, says researcher Rose Cory of the University of North Carolina. There are 13 million square kilometres of permafrost in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe. As previously reported by IPS, a 2011 study estimated that global warming could release enough permafrost carbon to raise global temperatures three degrees C on top of what will result from human emissions from oil, gas and coal...”

Photo credit above: “Crack patterns in Arctic permafrost as viewed from a helicopter.” Credit: Brocken Inaglory/cc by 3.0

Christian Faith Towards Global Warming. Here’s a clip from Opposing Views: “Global warming, in the view of the vast majority of scientists, is the phenomenon of changing climates on Earth due to human industrialization and pollution with carbon dioxide and other gases, and it has emerged as the 21st Century’s leading environmental issue. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published extensive peer-reviewed studies demonstrating global warming’s disastrous effects in years to come. Yet in the United States, many evangelical Christians still report a disbelief in climate change, campaigning against global warming as an “unfounded and undue concern…”

Photo credit: “Human-emitted greenhouse gases are a leading cause of global warming.”

Senators Propose Long-Shot Carbon Tax Bill For Big Polluters. Reuters has the story; here’s the intro: “Two of the most liberal senators on Thursday proposed a bill to tax carbon emissions, raising up to $1.2 trillion in revenue over 10 years that would largely be returned consumers.Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California, attempted to seize on the momentum from Tuesday’s State of the Union speech when President Barack Obama expressed support for efforts to battle climate change. “We have the opportunity right now, with the president’s commitment in the State of the Union to make major progress,” Sanders said at a press conference Thursday.…”

Smart Water; New Jobs. Water, not gas or oil, will quickly become the most precious natural resource in the 21st century; here’s an excerpt of an article at ScienceBlogs: “Invest in the future. And especially, invest in sustainable, effective job creation in the water sector. The result will be millions of new jobs – a significant result. That is the key message from a new analysis just released today by the Pacific Institute on sustainable water jobs in the United States. That study, Sustainable Water Jobs: A National Assessment of Water-Related Green Job Opportunities, finds that proactive investments increasing efficient water use, improving water quality, expanding smart water treatment and re-use, and more will address growing problems associated with failing water infrastructure, deteriorating water quality, severe drought, and flooding, as well as create jobs in a wide range of professions. The study identifies 136 different kinds of jobs at all levels of skill: from plumbers to landscapers, from technology specialists and engineers to irrigation experts. Thirty-seven of these job types are also projected to have high growth in the overall economy, with each offering more than 100,000 job openings across the country by 2020. That’s millions of new jobs…”



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

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