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Another Punch of Polar Pain (how winter-weatherwise are you? Take the quiz)

24 Jan 2014, 8:42 am

Another Major Canadian Leak. Truth be told meteorologists have been talking about the “Polar Vortex” since the 1960s. It’s not a new term. It simply means a buckle in the jet stream capable of pushing arctic air as far south as the USA, and it’s not as rare as some have made it out to be in recent weeks. It’s just one more thing to promote/hype, right? The 84-hour temperature animation shows subzero air across the Upper Midwest into the Great Lakes and New England early next week. NAM guidance: NOAA and Ham Weather.


Ski Texas. Enough cold air will penetrate south (an old fashioned “Blue Norther”) for a little slush from near San Antonio to Austin, but the heaviest snows into Sunday fall downwind of the Great Lakes.


Paul’s Nearly Semi-Annual Winter Weather Quiz. Enough pontificating, pointing and gesturing. In today’s edition of Climate Matters we track the Polar Vortex, ask the rhetorical question “Is Canada about to run out of cold air?” and pose a series of questions to test your winter weather knowledge: “WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas does a weather Q&A. Who or what can feel wind chill? Does it matter how cold the storm is to create treacherous conditions? What do you do if you get frost bite? He dispels some old wives (and husbands) tales as another hunk of the polar vortex is forecast to make its way into much of the United States.”


Temperature Anomalies Next Thursday. Climate Reanalyzer shows temperature departures from normal; some 20-30F colder than average for a big chunk of real estate from the Dakotas and Minnesota into the Mid Atlantic Region, while much of Canada, Alaska and the Arctic runs 20-30F above average by the end of next week. Could it be that Canada is about to run out of cold air? Dream on.


Serious Lake Effect. Thanks to my friend, Pete Schenck, who lives up in Herbster, Wisconsin, on the southern shoreline of Lake Superior, who snapped this photo of the (new) snow on his patio. Good grief.


How To Measure Snow. Yes, it’s fairly straightforward, but you want to take an average of several measurements, and how many of us realize that a “snowboard” increases the accuracy of the measurement? Graphic courtesy of NOAA and the Lake Charles (Louisiana!) National Weather Service.


Snow Cover From Space. You can see how far south the snow bands from the early-week snowstorm extended, into the hills of North Carolina and Tennessee. Visible image courtesy of the Charleston, West Virginia National Weather Service office.


Largest Swell In Decades Hits Hawaiian Shore; 40-50 Foot Waves Roll In. Good grief. Much of America is freezing (or worse), California is in an epic drought with surreal January wildfires, and Hawaii is being battered by monster waves. Other than that it’s going well. Here’s a clip from Hawaii News Now: “Giant waves with 40 to 50 foot faces are pounding north shore beaches. An intense storm northwest of the Hawaiian Islands triggered the super swell, which has been rapidly building throughout the day and should hold well into the evening. The National Weather Service says around 9 a.m. Buoy 101, which measures open ocean swells northwest of the Hawaiian Islands, reported an ocean swell of 31 feet at 17 seconds. That translates to 50+ feet on the north shore around 7 p.m. tonight.  North shore beaches are seeing 35 to 50 foot faces, west shores 20 to 30 feet and west shores of the Big Island 12 to 18 feet…”


A Home Designed To Stand Up To A Tsunami. I found this story from Gizmodo intriguing; here’s an excerpt: “Little can actually be guaranteed to survive the high-velocity wave walls and pummeling winds of a tsunami—but this house will at least put up a damn good showing. Designed by Dan Nelson of Designs Northwest Architects, this building has become known as the Tsunami House. It’s structure has been carefully created to withstand 7.8 scale earthquakes and 85 mph lateral winds, as well as the flooding that comes with the territory. That was achieved by positioning the two vital living floors nine feet above the ground, so the main part of the house stands on massive support columns, reinforced by steel framing…”


Greek Scientists Propose New Tsunami Intensity Scale. Keeping with today’s theme, here’s a clip from a story at Greek Reporter that caught my eye: “…Researchers explained that they had the idea of creating a 12-grade scale when they were studying the Japanese tsunami. “We classified the criteria into groups so that we can assess the tsunami. The first category has to do with its physical characteristics such as the wave’s height and its distance from the beach. The second concerns tsunami impact on humans, the third is the impact on the environment and the fourth is the impact on coastal infrastructure (ports). The fifth category is the impact on mobile objects (boats, cars) and the sixth is the impact on structures (houses, stores),” researchers stated.…”


Historic California Drought Called A Red Flag For Future Of U.S. The Christian Science Monitor has the article and video – here’s a clip: “…Water shortages have widespread impacts. Agriculture and energy generation account for 80 percent of the nation’s clean water use, says David Dzombak,  head of Carnegie Mellon University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. And even when cities meet their water demands during a drought, the costs can leave them “exposed to significant risk of financial failures,” says Patrick Reed, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, in an e-mail…”

Photo credit above: “A sprinkler waters an orchard along Highway 32 west of Hamilton City, Calif., after Gov. Jerry Brown formally proclaimed California in drought emergency Friday.” Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record/AP.



Wildfires: San Diego’s Ecological Elephant In The Room. This story caught my eye, at The San Diego Free Press. I hadn’t realized how close San Diego came to a potentially devastating conflagration in 2007. Here’s an excerpt: “…But I’m not sure most San Diegans realize the extent to which we dodged a bullet in 2007.  If the wind direction at a key moment in that firestorm had not suddenly switched from the westerly course it was locked on, to a southerly path (and then later to its more normal easterly flow), San Diego might today be the west coast icon for “greatest urban disasters in U.S. history.” A huge swath of our urban region could have burned to the ground.  Hundreds of thousands of buildings might have been destroyed, and tens of thousands left homeless.  Untold numbers might have lost their lives. We’ve forgotten those details from October 2007:  two raging mega-fires, poised like pincers heading from two directions toward the very heart of our city...” (Image: Wikipedia).


In this Nov. 14, 2013 file photo, Typhoon Haiyan survivors walk through ruins in the village of Maraboth, in the Philippines. Last year was tied for the fourth warmest year on record around the world. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday released its global temperature figures for 2013. The average world temperature was 58.12 degrees (14.52 Celsius) tying with 2003 for the fourth warmest since 1880.(AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

Read more at:


The average world temperature was 58.12 degrees (14.52 Celsius) tying with 2003 for the fourth warmest since 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday.
At the same time, NASA, which calculates records in a different manner, ranked last year as the seventh warmest on record, with an average temperature of 58.3 degrees (14.6 Celsius). The difference is related to how the two agencies calculate temperatures in the Arctic and other remote places and is based on differences that are in the hundredths of a degree, scientists said.

Read more at:


Air Pollution In China Is Spreading Across The Pacific To The U.S. Turns out all the money we pay to China to produce cheap (crap) is coming back to bite us, in the form of smog, which doesn’t seem to want to respect international borders. has the report – here’s a clip: “…The dynamics of cloud formation are quite complex, but the study’s conclusions were surprisingly straightforward. This air pollution, the model showed, has powerful consequences for cyclone formation, increasing overall precipitation over the Northwest Pacific by 7 percent over what it would be otherwise. The particulate matter, the researchers found, is also producing a regional greenhouse gas effect, siginificantly contributing to climate change. These findings are, naturally, pretty worrisome. But for U.S. readers, the results of the study on the global spread of Chinese air pollution, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, might be even more troubling, both because they show the effects of Chinese pollution here in the U.S. and because they trace much of the responsibility back to American consumers, who buy a large proportion of the goods manufactured in China...”

Image credit above: “Clouds of haze rise above China, largely the result of the country’s massive manufacturing industry.” (Image via US NASA SeaWiFT project).

Researchers Find Connection Between Asia Pollution, Changes In Weather. The Eagle, serving Bryan- College Station, Texas, has the story – here’s the introduction: “A team of researchers has been using a supercomputer at Texas A&M University for the past two years to find out if Asia’s unchecked pollution problems are affecting your weekend weather forecast. While the details remain hazy, initial findings published this month in Nature Communications show that three decades of industrial exhaust billowing into the atmosphere is changing the way clouds and storms form over the northwest Pacific Ocean. “Asian pollution affects cloud formations, precipitation, and storm intensity over the north Pacific and eventually impacts regional and global climate,” Caltech post-doctoral scholar Yuan Wang wrote in an email…”

Photo credit above: “In this March 3, 2009 file photo, factory chimneys pour out smoke in Shanghai, China. Despite a global economic slump, worldwide carbon dioxide pollution jumped 2 percent last year, most of it from China, new figures show.” AP Photo.


Feeling Better About Our Snow. Bring your steel and concrete-reinforced umbrella! Skiers heading out in South Korea should be on the look-out for “acid snow”, the result of otherwordly amounts of pollution/smog swirling in from China. No, sadly this is not a parody clip from The Onion. Here’s a video clip and excerpt from Arirang News: “Let’s go over to our Kim Bo-gyung at the weather center for a checkup. Bo-gyung, it has been a dark day here in Seoul, with snow falling from time to time. That’s right, Ji-hae. Please be sure to have an umbrella with you, as the snow that’s falling in the central regions right now is acid snow, which is a mixture of snow and yellow dust…”


What Jobs Will The Robots Take? Will some of us soon be outsourced/replaced by robots imbued with a capability of “thinking”, even reasoning? I don’t pretend to know, but this story at The Atlantic caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…Whatever name you prefer, some form of it has been stoking progress and killing jobs—from seamstresses to paralegals—for centuries. But this time is different: Nearly half of American jobs today could be automated in “a decade or two,” according to a new paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, discussed recently in The Economist. The question is: Which half? Another way of posing the same question is: Where do machines work better than people?…” (Photo: Reuters).


Peyton Manning’s “Omaha” Audibles Become Super Bowl Prop Bet. Did the Omaha Chamber of Commerce put Peyton up to this? Inquiring minds want to know. Here’s a clip from Bloomberg: “…Online sportsbook is taking wagers on the number of times the Denver Broncos’ quarterback yells “Omaha” as one of his pre-snap calls during the National Football League’s Feb. 2 championship game against the Seattle Seahawks. The over/under is 27 1/2 and is among a series of more than 400 proposition bets, or props, released today by Bovada…” (Image: Wikipedia).


Cheerleaders File Suit Against Raiders. And it had nothing to do with their wins and losses. Here’s a clip from a curious story at ESPN: “The Oakland Raiders are being sued by current and former cheerleaders claiming wage theft and other unfair employment practices. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Alameda County Superior Court alleges that the organization withholds all pay from the Raiderettes until the end of the season, does not pay for all hours worked and forces the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses. “It’s as if the Raiders’ owners believe that the laws that protect all workers in California just don’t apply to them,” attorney Sharon Vinick said, according to the San Jose Mercury News…”


Perfect. Thanks to KDWB for sharing this via Faceplant. I had no idea the new Mustangs were so small.



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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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