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Cold Blast for Black Friday, and a Major Pattern Shift?

19 Nov 2012, 8:11 am

Long Shadows

“One kind word can warm three winter months” goes my favorite Japanese proverb. I’m going to give you two kind words: Indian Summer. The mercury brushed 60 yesterday in Minnesota, and may hit 60 today and again Wednesday – the ECMWF model hinting at mid-60s Thanksgiving, close to record territory for the Northern Plains!

Not too shabby, considering the sun is as low in the sky as it was on January 23. You won’t need a snow shovel anytime soon, but sunglasses are required, now that the leaves are off the trees and a lazy sun hugging the horizon makes it blinding on area highways. A nice problem to have.

A mild, Pacific breeze spills over into Thursday; mild enough for a game of football or a brisk walk around the block – to burn off that second serving.

Take nothing for granted.

This makes 10 Novembers (in a row) warm enough to play golf. In Minne-snowda?

Leonid Meteor Shower. Thanks to Steve Burns, who snapped this photo of a lucky shooting star Saturday night, captured at Chengwatana State Forest east of Pine City, Minnesota. Well done!

Why The New Ken Burns Documentary On The Dust Bowl Has Lessons To Teach Us. Are you watching the Ken Burns doc on The Dust Bowl? It’s remarkable, like all of his documentaries, but with a persistent drought gripping much of the Plains, his storytelling takes on a new sense of urgency. Sure, topsoil techniques and land management have improved dramatically since the 1930s, but could something similar ever happen again? After the extreme weather we’ve witnessed the last 2 years I wouldn’t rule anything out. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Time Magazine: “…But while the 2012 drought may have been the worst in a half-century, it has nothing on the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s. That decade-long drought – exacerbated by poor farming techniques that left topsoil crumbling in the wind – changed the face of the U.S. and led to massive migrations out of farming states in the Midwest. As the master filmaker Ken Burns shows in his new documentary The Dust Bowl – airing on PBS Sunday night and Monday night – it’s a man-made disaster that still has lessons for us today. “The Dust Bowl has never gotten the attention it deserves,” says Burns. “But we can see today with this year’s drought, or with climate change, that we can affect the environment, whether we want to acknowledge it or not…”

Revised Winter Outlook (Don’t Hold Your Breath). NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has tweaked the November thru January forecast for the USA, calling for milder than average over the Southwest and Southern Plains with a 30-40% risk of colder than normal conditions across the eastern Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. This is based on a fading El Nino signal in the Pacific, and a negative phase of the NAO, the North Atlantic Oscillation, which may keep prevailing jet stream winds howling from the northwest much of the winter. But CPC admits that this is a very difficult forecast, I get the sense that confidence levels are low. I’m not convinced we’re going to wind up with a colder than normal winter, at least not yet. Maps above: CPC and Ham Weather.

Major Shift In The Pattern Imminent? Both the AO (Arctic Oscillation) and NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) go strongly negative by late November, suggesting a buckling of steering jet stream winds aloft capable of plunging bitter air southward – the greatest potential for heavy rain/snow for the east coast. Notice how low the NAO was when Sandy spun up in late October, as low as -2. The pattern still seems to favor the biggest storms detouring through the Central Plains looking out into mid-December. AO index here, NAO here, courtesy of NOAA.

Arctic Oscillation. The AO and NAO are blocking patterns, impacted by a variety of meteorological factors, including stratospheric temperatures, blocks over Greenland, sea surface temperatures and other forcings. During a positive phase the coldest air remains north over Canada, more of a milder, Pacific influence on the Lower 48. But during a negative phase (like what’s coming up in early December) winds aloft weaken, allowing bitter air to plunge southward, often spinning up significant snow/ice storms in advance. Graphic: UCAR.


An Indian Summer Thanksgiving? The latest ECWMF (European) model suggests record or near-record warmth from the Twin Cities and Chicago south to St. Louis on Thursday, highs reaching the 60s as far north as Minnesota and Wisconsin, 70s possible over the Central Plains and Middle Mississippi valley. Showers are possible over Seattle (and Wichita, Kansas), but otherwise the most reliable model is hinting at a very quiet and dry Thanksgiving, temperatures more typical of late September east of the Rockies. Map above: WSI.

Black Friday? More Like Blue Friday. Blue, as in no feeling in your fingers, toes and nose. A vigorous cold front plows south Friday, holding temperatures in the 20s and 30s from the Dakotas into Minnesota and Wisconsin, an even colder wind chill. Unlike a couple weeks ago we do NOT expect tornadoes to spin up along this push of Canadian air, with little or no snow behind the front – with the exception of some possible lake effect snows for northern Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan. Map above: 18z Friday, courtesy of WSI.

Total Snowfall By Midday Monday. Snowmobiles and cross country skis will collect dust for at least another week, probably longer, I fear. The GFS model keeps the most significant snow just north of the U.S. Canadian border thru next weekend; some 12-24″ amounts for the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest – a litlte lake effect snow kicking in downwind of the Great Lakes by late week and the weekend.

October: 5th Warmest On Record. Details from NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Laboratory: “Recently released analysis by NOAA scientists at the National Climatic Data Center reveals that October 2012 was the 5th warmest on record, dating back to 1880. This image, using data from NCDC’s Global Historical Climatology Network shows areas of warmer (red) and cooler (blue) than normal temperatures. While extreme warmth dominated the high latitudes, higher-than-average monthly temperatures were observed across much of Europe, western and far eastern Asia, northeastern and southwestern North America, central South America, northern Africa, and most of Australia. Meanwhile, much of northwestern and central North America, central Asia, parts of western and northern Europe, and southern Africa were notably below average….”

Sandy’s Hit To The U.S. Economy As Bad As Katrina? It may be close – as reported by Business Insider.

Heroes Of Hurricane Sandy – And How You Can Help. Here’s an excerpt of an excellent story from Huffington Post, one that will reaffirm your faith in human nature: “Hurricane Sandy. Many of us already have filed the disaster away in our dim, damp memory banks. Even for those of us who were caught in the storm, stranded for days without power and cell phone service, the event is securely locked in the past. But not so for those living in the Rockaways, NY and other parts of the Eastern seaboard, where Sandy’s devastating impact is still being felt more than two weeks later. Many — especially the elderly and the poor — continue to go without power or running water. Thousands of homes, stores, and restaurants have been destroyed. Yet amidst the devastation, angels walk. Here are just three whom I know personally, out of numerous individuals and organizations who heard the cry for help and came flying. I’m so impressed with what these everyday heroes have accomplished and how they serve as inspiration for us all…”

New York Will Demolish Hundreds Of Storm-Hit Homes. The New York Times has the story; here’s an excerpt: “New York City is moving to demolish hundreds of homes in the neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, after a grim assessment of the storm-ravaged coast revealed that many structures were so damaged they pose a danger to public safety and other buildings nearby. About 200 homes will be bulldozed in the coming days, almost all of them one- and two-family houses on Staten Island, in Queens and Brooklyn. That is in addition to 200 houses that are already partially or completely burned down, washed away or otherwise damaged; those sites will also be cleared…”

Graphic Credit Above: Mapping Hurricane Sandy’s Deadly Toll: From the NY Times: “At last count, officials were attributing more than 100 deaths to Hurricane Sandy. Some patterns emerged in mapping the deaths in the region. Elderly residents were hit especially hard, with close to half of the people who died age 65 or older. In New York City, the majority of deaths occurred in Queens and on Staten Island, and most people perished at the height of the storm, drowned by the surge.”

Atmospheric Art. Greg Berman captured a wondrous sunset near Lyons, Colorado Sunday evening. Yes, the sky really did look like that.

On November 18 In Weather History. Information below courtesy of the MPX office of the National Weather Service:

1981: Heavy snow with near blizzard conditions resulted in over a foot of wet snow, which caused the inflated fabric of the Metrodome to collapse and rip.

1957: Snowstorm in Southeast Minnesota. A foot is dumped at Winona. Heavy crop losses.

Climate Stories….

Degrees Of Devastation: World Bank Warns Of Four Degrees Celsius Warming This Century. Here’s an excerpt from “The World Bank has warned the planet is on track to warm by four degrees Celsius this century – causing increasingly extreme heat waves, lower crop yields and rising sea levels – unless significant action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In a major report released ahead of the year-end United Nations climate summit in Qatar, the bank says changes associated with four degrees of warming would have dramatic and devastating effects on all parts of the world, including Australia, but that the poor would be most vulnerable. Scientists say global warming must be kept within two degrees of pre-industrial temperatures to give the world the best chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change…”


Has Obama Turned A Corner On Climate Change? The story from The Christian Science Monitor; here’s an excerpt: “…If the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that,” Obama said. “I won’t go for that.” Obama dismissed the inverse relationship some ascribe to environmentalism and job growth. The president instead endorsed an agenda that both advances economic growth while making “a serious dent in climate change.” In what is likely an allusion to hurricane Sandy, Obama emphasized the importance of long-term, proactive investments in infrastructure as a means of reducing the reconstruction costs incurred by extreme weather events…”

Photo credit: “President Obama leaves the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, following his first news conference after his reelection. Mr. Obama addressed the subject of climate change at some length in response to a reporter’s question.” Jacquelyn Martin/AP



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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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