All Weather News

A Rare Quiet Day & The Impact Of El Nino On Upcoming Winter

The Official Winter Forecast. Stop the presses (does anyone say that anymore? Probably not. Sorry). I picked up a copy of the 2012-2013 Farmer’s Almanac yesterday, the bootleg copy I keep in my (locked) desk drawer. A winter forecast that may surprise you below.


“…Today urban areas — ranging from Times Square to a small  town in India — cover perhaps 3 to 5% of global land. But Seto and her co-authors calculate that between now and 2030, urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 sq. mi. (1.2 million sq. km). That’s equal to 20,000 U.S. football fields being paved over every day for the first few decades of this century.” – from a Time Magazine story about urban sprawl and the potential impact on the environment. Photo:

Arctic sea ice extent shatters 2007 record for lowest minimum by an area the size of Texas. Last 6 years have had lowest 6 extents on record (since 1979, when satellite measurements began).” – details from The Capital Weather Gang.

The National Research Council reports that for every degree Celsius (1.8F) of temperature increase, the size of the area burned in the Western U.S. could quadruple. According to the IPCC 4th Assessment Report, summer temperatures in western North America could increase between 3.6F and 9F by the middle of this century.” – excerpt from a Climate Central story; full details below.

“…At one point this summer, 97 percent of the surface of Greenland’s massive ice sheet was melting. At current rates, Arctic waters could be ice-free in summer by the end of the decade, scientists say. “Things are happening much faster than what any scientific model predicted,” said Dr. Morten Rasch, who runs the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring program at Aarhus University in Denmark.” – excerpt from a New York Times article; details and links below.

Today’s Weather Map. The WRF model (valid 4 pm today) shows heavy showers and T-storms lingering over Florida, the latest Alberta Clipper whipping up showers over the northern Great Lakes. Otherwise a dry, quiet day is shaping up for most of the USA.


Hints Of Slush. The GFS model is still printing out a few snowflakes from the Minnesota Arrowhead into Wisconsin late Friday night and Saturday morning. Do I think we’ll see a few flakes in the metro? No, but the atmosphere aloft will be marginally chilly enough for a few flakes, best chance east of the St. Croix. A sign of the seasons…

Race Is On As Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures. Ironically, warming and melting accelerated by the burning of fossil fuels is melting polar ice, making it easier to drill for additional oil and gas, which may further accelerate warming and melting (and exploration). Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “NUUK, Greenland — With Arctic ice melting at record pace, the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence and economic position in outposts like this one, previously regarded as barren wastelands. At stake are the Arctic’s abundant supplies of oil, gas and minerals that are, thanks to climate change, becoming newly accessible along with increasingly navigable polar shipping shortcuts. This year, China has become a far more aggressive player in this frigid field, experts say, provoking alarm among Western powers.”

Latest Arctic Sea-Ice Monitor courtesy of JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Earth Observation Research Center.

Massive Greenland Iceberg Now Adrift. Details from EarthSky; here’s an excerpt: “NASA has released a new image from space of a massive iceberg – widely heralded in July 2012 to be twice the size of Manhattan – calved from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier in mid-July 2012. NASA’s Terra satellite saw it in September 2012, drifting slowly away from the glacier. It’s drifting in the Nares Strait between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Greenland.”

Entergy Reports Hurricane Isaac Power Restoration Costs Up To $500 Million. Details from Johnny Kelly at “The extensive damage caused to utilities following Hurricane Isaac, which left hundreds of thousands without power, will cost up to $500 million, the New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation said Tuesday. Hurricane Isaac made two landfalls on the southeastern Louisiana coast, both south of the city of New Orleans as the storm moved very slowly to the west and northwest. The first was just southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish and occurred the evening of Aug. 28, and the second was just west of Port Fourchon and occurred in the early hours of Aug. 29 with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.”

Signs Of U.S. Drought Are Underground. A new generation of low-orbiting NASA “Grace” satellites are very powerful, able to detect not only surface soil moisture, but what’s happening deep underground. Check out the “Ground Water Storage” map in the upper right, and how it varies from what’s happening at ground-level (upper left). Details from NASA’s Earth Observatory: “A deep and persistent drought struck vast portions of the continental United States in 2012. Though there has been some relief in the late summer, a pair of satellites operated by NASA shows that the drought lingers in the underground water supplies that are often tapped for drinking water and farming. The maps above combine data from the twin satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) with ground-based measurements to map the relative amount of water stored near the surface and underground as of September 17, 2012. The top map shows moisture content in the top 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) of surface soil; the middle map depicts moisture in the “root zone,” or the top meter (39 inches) of soil; and the third map shows groundwater in aquifers. The wetness, or water content, of each layer is compared to the average for mid-September between 1948 and 2009. The darkest red regions represent dry conditions that should occur only 2 percent of the time (about once every 50 years). For a long-term view, download the animation below the third image, which shows the storage of groundwater from August 2002 through August 2012. (The animation is also available on YouTube.)

Report: The Age Of Western Wildfires. A combination of factors: little snowcover last winter, drought, extreme heat, strong winds, have all contributed to another major wildfire season out west. It’s a trend, according to this article at Climate Central; here’s an excerpt: “The 2012 wildfire season isn’t over yet, but already this year is shaping up to be the one of the worst on record in the American West. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, with nearly two months still to go in the fire season, the total area already burned this year is 30 percent more than in an average year, and fires have consumed more than 8.6 million acres, an area larger than the state of Maryland.”

“Ask Paul”. Weather-related Q&A:

Good afternoon,

John Prusak here from Snow Goer magazine, a North American snowmobiling magazine based right here in the good old Twin Cities. I am putting together a story for an upcoming issue about “types” of snow and getting at the question of who has the best snow and most consistent snow in North America. Yeah, Utah has had the “Best Snow On Earth” tagline on its license plates for years, but how much of that is marketing fluff instead of powdery, fluffy snow?! My main focus is on western states/provinces in the mountains, but I’d like to tie it to lake effect snows here and in the Northeast as well.

In speaking with another meteorologist, he shared a few generalities about the amount of moisture in snow and how temperature has such a great influence on whether an area gets bottomless powder or the “Sierra Cement” found around Lake Tahoe… are there other factors I should work into my story? Would you have time for a quick phone interview to discuss this?

Any help would be much appreciated.”

John Prusak

Executive Editor and Group Publisher

Snow Goer Magazine and GS Media & Events


John – thanks for an excellent question. Is this marketing spin or is there some truth to Utah’s claims? I’m over my skis (or tracks) on this one, so I teed up your question with a few people I trust, dedicated snowmobilers who are serious about hitting the trails. Full disclosure: Polaris is a valued customer, so we have a bit of an inside track there as well. Here is the response I got back to your query:

Good snow starts with a wet, heavy snowfall, followed quickly by a deep freeze to start a base for thhe trails, covering rough terrain. A frozen base gives a snowmobile the proper consistency for carbides to steer responsively. Thereafter, the best snow is light and fluffy. Snowmobiles require light and fluffy snow to run properly. Radiator coils on a snowmobile depend on a mist of cold snow to cool the two-stroke motors.” – Cory Allar, St. Michael

The best snow depends greatly on the type of riding you plan on doing. Trail riding requires an adequate snowpack so you don’t end up in the dirt, but the conditions are perfect when you get a fresh 3-4 inches of snow and temperatures of 10-25 degrees F. Riding powder, regardless of mountain location or in-field, requires consistently low humidity to both maintain the snow condition, but also to eliminate crusting of the snow surface” – Todd Frostad, Media Logic Group (by friend and business partner).

So there you have it: the PR folks in Utah probably have a legitimate claim, since humidity levels are consistently lower in the western mountains for much of the winter. But I would argue that from December thru February, with a consistent wind flow out of central Canada, Minnesota’s humidity levels are just as low as Utah’s, and our snow (nearly) as perfect. Sorry, couldn’t resist waving the flag a little. Good luck, and happy riding. If it was up to me we’d have 80″ of snow and temperatures in the 20s all winter. Sadly, it’s not up to me.

Free Snowmobiling App. Yeah, I’m a little biased, since my company created this (free) app, “Snow Trails“, geared to snowmobilers. But in the spirit of planning ahead, download this for Apple or Android. It shows where the snow is on the ground (now) and how much is predicted. It also has every trail (and nearby restaurants, dealers, bars, etc), so it’s a great resource for getting the most out of your sled. Give it 4-6 weeks and you’ll be able to use it.


Hey Paul,

I enjoy reading your On Weather blog, but had a question. You mention frequently the Arctic ice shelf and its record reduction in size. What thoughts or explanation do you have for the record ice GROWTH in the Antarctic region? I’m not refuting the numbers in the northern hemisphere, but just wanted to know what you thought about what’s going on down south…WAY down south.” 🙂


Daniel Lammert
Information Technologies Engineer
Physical Electronics, USA


Daniel – thanks for the note. You’re right – there’s nothing to refute when it comes to trends at the top of the world. The data is the data. As for Antarctic trends I teed up your question with a couple of climate scientists I know (and trust). Here is what Rob Honeycutt wrote back:

“Both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent are characterized by fairly large variations from year to year. The monthly average extent can vary by as much as 1 million square kilometers (386,102 square miles) from the year-to-year monthly average. The area covered by Antarctic sea ice has shown a small (not statistically significant) increasing trend.”

Gareth Renowden e-mailed me this response:

“1: The Arctic and Antarctic are literally polar opposites – one’s an ocean surrounded by land, the other’s a cold continent surrounded by ocean, and they’re not expected to behave the same way as warming progresses.

2: Despite that, the Antarctic peninsula’s one of the fastest warming places on the planet, ice shelves have been crumbling, and satellites suggest the continental ice sheet is losing mass – particularly in West Antarctica.”

Christian Shorey writes:

“From a centurey scale view, there are indications that Antarctic sea ice has declined 20-25% mainly from the 40s to the 70’s. See:


* A good explanation of the difference between Arctic and Antarctic ice trends can be found here, courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Skeptical Science has another helpful page that highlights the polar opposites (sorry) between the North Pole and the South Pole; here’s an excerpt: “Skeptic arguments that Antarctica is gaining ice frequently hinge on an error of omission, namely ignoring the difference between land ice and sea ice. In glaciology and particularly with respect to Antarctic ice, not all things are created equal. Let us consider the following differences. Antarctic land ice is the ice which has accumulated over thousands of years on the Antarctica landmass itself through snowfall. This land ice therefore is actually stored ocean water that once fell as precipitation. Sea ice in Antarctica is quite different as it is generally considered to be ice which forms in salt water primarily during the winter months. In Antarctica, sea ice grows quite extensively during winter but nearly completely melts away during the summer (Figure 1). That is where the important difference between antarctic and arctic sea ice exists.

Graphic credit above: Coverage of sea ice in both the Arctic (Top) and Antarctica (Bottom) for both summer minimums and winter maximums Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

University of St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham wrote:

“Here is the key site (The Cryosphere Today). The southern hemisphere varies wildly. Sometimes it is positive, sometimes negative.  There is a very slight positive trend in Antarctic ice area because of the ice shelf growth relate to ozone holes and the circumpolar current.  There is a net ice LOSS in the south (land ice loss exceeds the very small ice shelf gains). When you add it together, a small area increase in the south, huge area decrease in north = net area decrease worldwide.”

* image above courtesy of The Cryosphere Today, courtesy of the Polar Research Group at the U. of Illinois.


Hello Paul Douglas

Would love your expertise on this question!  We follow your weather expertise in the StarTrib daily.

What do you think the weather will be Saturday October 6?? Our son and our “nearly” daughter -in-law will be married outdoors at 2PM in the Brooklyn Center area.  There is an outdoor courtyard and fountain and we hope it will be beautiful with color!

FYI….  October 15 1977 was 63 degrees and beautifully sunny for us with a hard frost that night.”

Thank you,

Kris and Bob Rhodes

Kris and Bob – first of all congratulations on the impending nuptials! Very happy for you and your family. In all honesty October 6 is still a long way off. The models and forecasts will change between now and then. Count on it.

Long-Range Outlook. The GFS (which goes out thru October 5) shows a mild spell for the first week of October, highs in the 60s and 70s. Buyer beware: although I can’t guarantee anything at this point, based on the latest, greatest available guidance it looks like you may just salvage a lukewarm day. We’re in a drought – the odds of the pattern reversing between now and October 6 are slim to nil. Check the GFS Outlook yourself for the Twin Cities. I’ll kick the Doppler and hope for the best!

Late Monsoon Leads To Drought In India. ClimateWatch at has more details: “The rainy season in India arrived late and delivered far less precipitation than usual in summer 2012, leading to severe drought across large parts of the country. More than 50 percent of the labor force in India—the world’s second most populous country—makes a living in agriculture. Compare that to the United States, where the figure is less than 1 percent, and you can start to imagine the widespread hardship that a drought can cause.”

Graphic credit above: “Difference from average rainfall from June–July 2012 compared to the recent historical average (1981-2010). Greens indicate 3-10 inches more rain than average; brown indicate 3-10 inches less rain than average.” (Map by Dan Pisut, NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory, based on NCEP reanalysis data from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.)

Farmer’s Almanac: No Major Winter Weather Worries. Here is a summary of November – March weather for the nation, found on page 80 of the 2012-2013 Farmer’s Almanac. Cold and dry for New England, cold and snowy (for Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas!) and “mild and dry” for Minnesota, Wisconsin and most of the Upper Midwest, a little wetter/snowier as you head toward the western Dakotas and northern Rockies. This is based on a fading La Nina, solar activity, and secret ingredients that shall not be revealed! Hey, they have as good a shot at the winter outlook as anyone else. Another data point. My gut: last winter was Minnesota’s 3rd warmest on record. I doubt this winter will be warmer than last, in fact I’d bet a bagel that it’ll be colder than last winter, but still warmer than average overall.

Long Island Sunset. This was the scene over Great South Bay, Long Island on Wednesday – truly postcard-worthy. Thanks to mmbusch66 for sharing this via Twitter.

Photo Of The Day: Out Of This World. Here’s a terrific photo from NASA and their Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Is it art? Earlier this month, space station astronaut Aki Hoshide (Japan) recorded this striking image while helping to augment the capabilities of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS). Visible in this outworldly assemblage is the Sun, the Earth, two portions of a robotic arm, an astronaut’s spacesuit, the deep darkness of space, and the unusual camera taking the picture. This image joins other historic — and possibly artistic — self-portraitstakenpreviously in space. The Expedition 32 mission ended yesterday when an attached capsule undocked with the ISS and returned some of the crew to Earth.”

Apple’s Magic Is In The Turn, Not The Prestige. An interesting (marketing and innovation) take on the latest iPhone 5 from TechCrunch: “…Apple is not and will not change things just for the sake of change. And while some may now be clamoring for this change, the paradox is that if Apple did make some big changes, many of the same people would bitch and moan about them. Apple is smart enough to know that in this case, most people don’t really want change, they just think that they do because that’s the easiest way to perceive value: visual newness. Apple’s focus remains on The Turn, the process by which they make the ordinary extraordinary. But even with a masterful Prestige, it’s hard to convey that commitment. That is, until you walk into an Apple Store and pick up the product.”

A Road Crew Painted A Stripe Over This Dead Racoon. Good grief, can’t we have a little more respect for roadkill? This would never, ever happen in Minnesota, right? Right? The story from Jalopnik; here’s an excerpt: “Why is roadkill is so funny? Whatever that sticky patch of mangled fur used to be probably suffered and unfortunate demise, yet it can still cause a chuckle, especially when it has a road stripe painted over top of it. A Pennsylvania line painting crew failed to notice — or care about — this raccoon as they engaged in what has to be one of the most dull jobs in the world. A motorcyclist told the Tribune Democrat that he laughed so hard he almost crashed his bike.”


El Nino = Warmer Winter? Maybe Not

I stand by my official winter outlook. “Colder with some snow.” Back to you, Earl.<p>Oh, you want dates and details? Here, let me shake my Ouija Board for you!

Historic melting in the Arctic is a wild card (warmer, high pressure over the North Pole may push the bitter, “polar vortex” farther south). That would make for a long, cold winter for Minnesota.

An El Nino is brewing, but that does NOT mean another mild winter is a foregone conclusion.

Katsumi Matsumoto is an oceanographer and climate model specialist at the U. of Minnesota. Monday he shared new research, showing ENSO events (El Nino & La Nina) have been focused more in the central Pacific vs. the eastern Pacific in recent years. This shift has influenced winter temperatures over the northwest and southeast USA. “There is little impact of the latter ENSO on the Midwest” he e-mailed. Moral of the story: don’t count on El Nino to insulate us from cold & snow. We could still get whacked.



* graphic above courtesy of NOAA’s El Nino page.


Climate Stories…


“Zeal without knowledge is fire without light.” – Thomas Fuller

Should The GOP Champion Climate Change As A National Security Issue? Here’s an excerpt from a thought-provoking story at “Yes, argues Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in The Atlantic (Sep. 17, 2012). Gartenstein-Ross is the author of Bin Laden’s Legacy: Why We’re Still Losing the War on Terror. I haven’t read the book, but judging from the favorable reviews, Gartenstein-Ross has the ear of defense hawks of both parties. Does he offer sound advice on global warming? In his Atlantic article, Gartenstein-Ross chides Republicans for taking a “decidely unrealistic tack” on climate change. “The available evidence overwhelmingly suggests that climate change is real; that extreme weather events are increasing; and that this dynamic will have an impact on American national security, if it hasn’t already,” he avers.”

PBS NewsHour’s Climate Change Report Raises Eyebrows. Details (and the original PBS NewsHour video that raised a furor among climate scientists) from Huffington Post; here’s an excerpt: “A recent report from “PBS NewsHour” on climate change has drawn sharp criticism from climate groups that feel it provides a false sense of debate around the facts of climate change. The segment, which aired on September 16, features interviews with “converted skeptic” and University of California, Berkeley professor Richard Muller, along with climate skeptic Anthony Watts, a retired meteorologist. Despite PBS’ acknowledgement that climate scientists almost unanimously concur that manmade climate change is occurring, critics charge that featuring Watts “propagates confusion” and obscures the distinction between a scientific consensus and a very small, but vocal, minority who has a vested interest in this confusion.”

* photo courtesy of Media Matters, which has another angle on the (odd) PBS NewsHour story that has triggered an outcry in the scientific community.

Urban Planet: How Growing Cities Will Wreck The Environment Unless We Build Them Right. Time Magazine has an interesting story; here’s an excerpt: “It’s easy to miss amid the day to day headlines of global economic implosion, Presidential campaign foibles and Mideast rage, but there is a less conspicuous kind of social upheaval underway that is fast altering both the face of the planet and the way that human beings live. That change is the rapid acceleration of urbanization, as more and more people in every corner of the world put down their farm tools and move from the countryside or the village to the city. In 2008, for the first time in human history, more than half the world’s population was living in towns and cities. And as a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows, the process of urbanization will only increase in the decades to come — with an enormous impact on biodiversity and potentially on climate change.”

Climate Change: Optimizing Regulatory And Market Forces. The story from EnergyBiz; here’s an excerpt: “Caught in the shelling between those who think that addressing climate change is urgent and those who think such action is farcical, voters are thoroughly confused. The issue has become increasingly partisan with fossil fuel interests funding one side and green technology providers bankrolling the other. Beyond the money and the loud voices that seek to distort the debate, some important environmental and economical factors are surfacing. Consider the severe summer heat waves and the subsequent droughts, all of which has hurt food production this year. Then add to that the number of typhoons rolling across Asia, and it is fueling concerns that man-made global warming is dawning right now.”

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