All Weather News

47% of USA Snow Covered (big storm brewing for east coast Wednesday)

22 Dec 2012, 5:56 am


What Happens At The Solstice? Well, the world doesn’t necessarily end, for one. Here’s a good explanation from “The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20 and December 23. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight. Use the Sunrise and Sunset calculator to find the number of daylight hours during the December solstice in cities worldwide. The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living south of the equator. Those living or travelling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year…”

Solstice Trivia. Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest daylight of the year. Today in Minneapolis we pick up 3 seconds of daylight, 4 minutes and 9 seconds of additional daylight by December 21. For the record, MSP has lost about 6 hours and 50 minutes of daylight since the Summer Solstice, on June 21. Thanks to D.J. Kayser at WeatherNation TV for passing this along.

2012: probably the warmest on record for the USA; 8th warmest worldwide.

July: hottest month in record-keeping U.S. history, averaging 77.6 degrees. Over the year, more than
69,000 local heat records set in 2012 in the USA  — including 356 locations in 34 states that hit their highest-ever temperature mark. Source: AP and NOAA.

2,300 U.S. counties declared Agricultural Disaster Areas this year, due to extreme drought, the worst since 1956.

9.2 million acres of land burned in 2012, roughly the size of Maryland – 3rd largest area since 1960.
5 countries set all-time heat records in 2012; no all-time cold records were observed.

18% Summer sea ice in the Arctic dropped 18% from its previous record. Some scientists report close to an 80% drop in sea ice volume in the last 30 years.

Book It: 2012, The Hottest U.S. Year On Record. Here’s an excerpt from Climate Central: “…Last week NOAA announced that 2012 was “likely” to be the warmest year on record in the 48 states, based on temperatures through November. At some point, however, likelihood turns into certainty. Does a warm December push the nation to the point where it is impossible for 2012 to be anything but the warmest year ever recorded in the U.S.? To answer that question Climate Central did the math, and the results are in.

  • There is a 99.99999999 percent chance that 2012 will be the hottest year ever recorded in the continental 48 states, based on our analysis of 118 years of temperature records through Dec. 10, 2012….”


A Very White Christmas. NOAA data shows some 18-12″ snowfall amounts from Thursday’s blizzard in the Madison, Wisconsin area – as much as 15-18″ just south of Eau Claire.

USA Snow Cover. As of Friday morning 46.9% of the USA had some snow on the ground, up from 5.4% on November 21, 2012. Map above courtesy of NOAA.

Christmas Day. The map above shows the ECMWF (European) solution for 18z Tuesday; heavy rain and possible T-storms from Houston to New Orleans and Mobile, heavy, windswept rain for the Pacific Northwest and wet snow for Maine and Massachusetts – otherwise a fairly dry, chilly Christmas Day from coast to coast. Map: WSI.

A Little Snow A Week From Today? Keep your expectations low – do not get your hopes up. We’re in a prolonged drought, and it’s showing up in snowfall totals and storm track trends (most of the big storms detouring south and east of Minnesota). WSI’s ECMWF model shows a little light snow brushing southern Minnesota next Saturday, the best chance of a couple inches south/east of MSP.

Mad-Town Lives Up To Its Name. Matt Porcelli sent in this photo of the snowy craziness in Madison, Wisconsin. At one point Thursday heavy snow was accompanied by thunder and lightning. It must have looked like the (snowy) End of the World.

Graphic courtesy of TVSpy.

Where’s The Hot Tub? Thanks to Shannon Kreuziger, who snapped this photo of (2 feet?) of snow near Portage, Wisconsin.

Good Grilling Weather. Emily Rice snapped this photo in Madison Thursday. Perfect weather for steaks and burgers!

Snowy Panorama. Katelynn Matheny took this photo near Madison Thursday morning, just as the heaviest snow was moving in. Thanks to WeatherNation TV for providing all the pics.

Drought Update. Here’s an excerpt from Mark Seeley’s weekly WeatherTalk Newsletter: “The weekly Drought Update (Dec 18) from Brad Rippey with the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board includes the following comments:

– There was another small drop ­ less than one-tenth of a percentage point ­ in overall U.S. drought coverage, from 61.87% last week to 61.79% on December 18.

– However, the portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category ­ D4, or exceptional drought ­ crept upward to 6.64%, the greatest U.S. coverage since November 22, 2011.

– Hay in drought (64%), cattle in drought (73%), and winter wheat in drought (63%) were all unchanged from the previous week.

– Hay in drought has been at or above 60% and cattle in drought has been greater than two-thirds of the domestic inventory for 24 consecutive weeks (July 10 ­ December 18).

– On the central Plains, winter wheat benefited from widespread snow on December 19. Any improvement in the central Plains’ drought situation will be reflected next week.

* the latest U.S. Drought Monitor information from NOAA is here.

2012: Second Costliest Year For Weather Disasters? Between the drought (worst since 1956 nationwide) and “Sandy” damage should easily go over $100 billion. Here’s an excerpt from USA Today: “Led by the devastation from Hurricane Sandy and the Midwest drought, 2012 will likely be the second-costliest year for weather and climate disasters on record, according to data released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The costliest year for damages in the USA was 2005, when four hurricanes lashed the nation, including Katrina. The USA has endured 11 separate weather and climate disasters so far this year that led to damages of at least $1 billion, NOAA reported today. This follows 2011, when an all-time record of 14 separate billion-dollar disasters were reported…”

Photo credit above: “The Casino Pier’s wrecked Jet Star roller coaster in Seaside Heights, N.J., Nov. 28, 2012. A month after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the Jersey Shore, the area is slowly starting to recover.” (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

349 Americans lost their lives due to extreme weather so far in 2012, 131 of them in Hurricane Sandy. Source: NOAA.

Duluth-Superior Ski Hills Seed Clouds With Snow. I’ve seen this phenomenon show up in the metro area, when atmospheric conditions are ideal. The Duluth News Tribune has more details: “…He’s not certain exactly what happens, but Packingham said the snowfall is not simply snow from the snowmaking machines blowing into town. Conditions had to be just right; the temperature at about 20 degrees and a light southwesterly wind, he said. Too much wind or temperatures too warm or too cold and the particles wouldn’t have made it up to the clouds. Packingham said he thinks tiny particles from the snowmaking machines drifted up into low-hanging clouds, in effect seeding the clouds, spurring snowfall downwind of the ski hills for more than a mile. That’s farther than falling snow can blow from those machines, he said…”

Suddenly There’s A Meadow In The Ocean With “Flowers” Everywhere. Here’s a clip of a terrific story from Robert Krulwich at NPR: “It was three, maybe four o’clock in the morning when he first saw them. Grad student Jeff Bowman was on the deck of a ship; he and a University of Washington biology team were on their way back from the North Pole. It was cold outside, the temperature had just dropped, and as the dawn broke, he could see a few, then more, then even more of these little flowery things, growing on the frozen sea. “I was absolutely astounded,” he says. They were little protrusions of ice, delicate, like snowflakes. They began growing in the dry, cold air “like a meadow spreading off in all directions. Every available surface was covered with them.” What are they?…”

Random Photo Of The Day. A friend sent me this yesterday. No idea why I’m including it in today’s blog. Boredom?

Climate Stories….

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading…” – Lao Tsu, 550 B.C.

Climate Story Of The Year: Extreme Weather From Superstorms To Drought Emerges As Political, Scientific Gamechanger. Here’s an excerpt from Think Progress: “This year brought staggering weather extremes, record loss of Arctic ice and a growing body of scientific analysis linking the two. Those extremes, plus Superstorm Sandy, raised public concern about the immediate threat posed by climate change, providing a palpable debunking of the (mistaken) belief that climate change will impact only future generations or people in faraway lands. The superstorm — which scientists explained was made far more destructive by manmade climate change – hit the media where it lives and may have been a game changer for many of them, as the Bloomberg Businessweek cover suggests…”

Global Catastrophes In Perspective. Here’s an excerpt of a terrific TED Talk, from climate scientist Mark Boslough at Huffington Post: “…One way to compare various threats is to determine how many people die, on average, every year. We can use a theoretical number, based on calculations, for asteroids, and compare it to numbers compiled by the World Health Organization. Here’s the resulting table, based on one in Defending Planet Earth:”

Cause Expected Deaths Per Year
Shark attacks 3-7
Asteroids 91
Firearms accidents 2,500
Earthquakes 36,000
Climate Change 150,000
Malaria 1,000,000
Traffic accidents 1,200,000
Air pollution 2,000,000
HIV/AIDS 2,100,000
Tobacco 5,000,000

Asteroids and climate change are the only two threats in the table that can have abrupt and global consequences, and to which everyone on the planet is exposed, regardless of their lifestyle or personal behavior. In principle, they are both preventable. In both cases mitigation would require international agreements and cooperation. But would such collaboration even be possible if a threatening asteroid were discovered, or would we be bogged down in the same kind of denial and obstruction that has prevented action on climate change?…”

Drought, Icemelt, Superstorms: A Review Of 2012’s Environmental News. The Guardian has a good summary of yet another crazy year, in the U.S and the U.K. Here’s an excerpt: “…By June it was clear that Arctic sea ice was melting faster than usual. But ice scientists and environment groups were shocked when the 2007 record low extent was passed on 9 September, and a further 500,000sq km of ice was lost before it reached its lowest ever point of 3.41m sq km – 18% less than the previous record – on September 16. What worried scientists was that there had not been any major storms or oceanic events to break the ice up more than usual. The National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, along with other satellite ice monitoring organisations in Japan and Norway, attributed the record loss to rapid warming in the Arctic and a continuing loss of older, thicker ice. “We are now in uncharted territory,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze….”

Image courtesy of

2012: Another Record-Setter, Fits Climate Forecasts. Maybe the professional deniers aren’t looking at the same data I am – we’ve had 2 years of some of the most extreme weather ever recorded, not just in the USA but worldwide. Here’s a summary of the atmospheric craziness from AP: “… This past year’s weather was deadly, costly and record-breaking everywhere — but especially in the United States. If that sounds familiar, it should. The previous year also was one for the record books. “We’ve had two years now of some angry events,” said Deke Arndt, U.S. National Climatic Data Center monitoring chief. “I’m hoping that 2013 is really boring.” In 2012 many of the warnings scientists have made about global warming went from dry studies in scientific journals to real-life video played before our eyes: Record melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean. U.S. cities baking at 95 degrees or hotter. Widespread drought. Flooding. Storm surge inundating swaths of New York City…”

Map: NOAA, National Climatic Data Center.

Goodbye New York, Hello Minneapolis. I’ve gone on record speculating that climate change will probably wind up being a good thing, overall, for my home state of Minnesota. We have amazing water resources, and most of the computer models show the worst drying taking place south and west of Minneapolis – St. Paul. That’s the one big wild card: will we wind up wetter or drier? Here’s an interesting video clip from The Economist: “WILL parts of Manhattan be left by people seeking higher, dryer ground? In the aftermath of another UN climate conference, our correspondents discuss migration and adaptation.”

WSJ’s “Climate Dynamite” Is A Dud. I like the Wall Street Journal. I’m a subscriber, in fact. But when it comes to climate change and their editorial pages they’re seriously out to lunch by not acknowledging the science. Here’s a review of a recent WSJ post that diminished the perceived risk caused by a warming planet, from Media Matters: “In a Wall Street Journal op-edMatt Ridley attempted to cast doubt on the severity of manmade climate change, arguing that future warming will be modest and “good” for the planet. But experts say the author flubbed the science, and continue to project that the earth will warm between 2 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (or about 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit), unless mitigating action is taken. Ridley’s argument goes something like this: climate models are “unproven.” Therefore, it is now possible to rely solely on “observations” — which show that temperatures are “no higher than they were 16 years ago”–to determine that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the end of the century would cause modest warming. Further, that amount of warming would be a “net good.” Putting aside the fact that Ridley cites a “semiretired successful financier” and an unnamed scientist to support his claims, his arguments are not well-founded. Or, as John Abraham, an IPCC reviewer and the director of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, put it to Media Matters: the column “has such elementary errors in it that [it] casts doubt on the author’s understanding of any aspects of climate change.….”

Error-Riddled Matt Ridley Piece Lowballs Climate Change, Discredits Wall Street Journal. World Faces 10F Warming. Here’s another retort to the WSJ “story” from Joe Romm at Think Progress: “Every major projection of future warming makes clear that if we keep listening to the falsehoods of the anti-science crowd and keep taking no serious action to reduce carbon pollution we face catastrophic 9°F to 11°F [5°C to 6°C] warming over most of the U.S. (see literature review here). The Wall Street Journal, however, has published a piece, “Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change,” that (falsely) asserts observations suggest global warming will be so low as to “be benificial.” This risible piece by Matt Ridley is so riddled with basic math and science errors it raises the question of how the Journal can possibly maintain its reputation as a credible source of news and financial analysis. Ridley and the Journal apparently don’t know the difference between water vapor and clouds. They don’t understand the basic concept of climate sensitivity. And they can’t do simple math. Naturally, the climate deniers have embraced this nonsense and spread it across the internet…”

Graphic credit: “Projected warming even with (an unlikely) low climate sensitivity of between 1.5°C and 2.0°C from Michael Ring et al 2012. A WSJ op-ed that cites this work absurdly concludes “Evidence points to a further rise of just 1°C by 2100.” Not even close.

Scientists Respond To The Wall Street Journal’s Latest Junk Science Climate Predictions. The WSJ is rapidly losing credibility, at least when it comes to peer-reviewed science. Climate Science Watch has the latest rebuttal here.

Notice Any Trends? Many people are fixated on the aerial coverage of ice, when volume may be a better determination of what’s really going on at the top of the world. The graphs above show volume of Arctic Ice, which has dropped an estimated 80% in recent years. We set a record minimum for Arctic ice in September of this year; the previous 6 years have seen the lowest ice levels ever observed. 2013 predictions show a projected decrease of 2,000 cubic kilometers of ice. Source here.

How Bad Will Climate Change Get For The Eastern U.S.? Look At These Crazy Maps. Here’s an excerpt from a story at “…This latest data comes from a recent study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, which used a high-resolution climate modeling system to project bad news down to an impressively local level, examining what we might see in the 20 largest cities east of the Mississippi come the late 2050s. By then, researchers from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have calculated, heat waves in New York City could be 3.58 degrees Celsius hotter in intensity than they are now, with the average one lasting nearly two days longer (these projections are compared to a baseline of climate data between 2001 and 2004). Cleveland has it the worst, with a heat wave temperature increase of 3.71 degrees Celsius, followed by Philadelphia (3.69). The researchers project that heat waves will grow worse particularly across the Northeast and Midwest, bringing the North and South to roughly equal hot-weather fates…”

Link Found Between Global Warming And Volcanic Activity. This one made me do a triple-take; here’s an excerpt from “It’s no secret that volcanic eruptions can cool the planet by spewing ash and droplets of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere that obscure the sun. Now researchers at Germany’s GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Harvard University have found evidence that suggest the reverse could also be true. The researchers have discovered a strong historical link between global temperature increases and increases in volcanic activity…”

Photo credit above: “Researchers have discovered a strong historical link between global temperature increases and increases in volcanic activity.” (Photo: Shutterstock)

Global Warming Experts Should Think More About The Cold War. Here’s an excerpt of a thought-provoking article from “Every year the United Nations convenes diplomats from more than 190 nations to negotiate a climate change treaty, and in many years negotiators go home with little more than the promise of another annual meeting. After the failure of the 18th such event earlier this month in Doha, diplomats and organizers should focus less on the UN exercise than on combing history for a more suitable model. They might find at least three lessons from the history of arms control…”

A 10 Year Old’s Reflections On Global Warming. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Mother Nature Network: “A few weeks ago, my daughter was assigned to write an essay for her fourth-grade class about an issue that she felt was worth speaking up about. The topic she chose was global warming. As the daughter of a greenie, this was not surprising to me. She has been hearing about environmental issues in general since the first time I read “The Lorax” to her as an infant. Still, contrary to what some might think, I try not to harp on eco-issues too much at home. My kids are taught to recycle and turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth. They know littering is a no-no. But we have never before sat down and had a frank conversation about global warming. So what did surprise me about her essay was her understanding of the issue and the importance of doing something about it….”


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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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