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Crazy Extremes (heavy weekend snow Midwest – 60s and 70s much of East Coast)

19 Dec 2013, 6:13 am


2013, A Year Of Meteorological Contradictions. It was all or nothing this year, especially when it came to severe weather. Although the overall tornado count was low, a deadly tornado ripped into Moore, Oklahoma in May, 74 tornadoes on November 17, including an unprecedented EF-4 at Washington, Illinois. In today’s Climate Matters we start to take a look back at 2013 and some of the extreme weather we were tracking: “WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas takes a not so memorable walk down memory lane and looks at some of the biggest weather events of 2013. While wildfires were down this year, we saw one of the worst firefighting disasters in recent memory. Tornadoes were in short supply, but Moore, OK got hit by its 3rd EF5! How was Colorado able to go from a wildfire disaster to biblical flooding in 3 months?


A Week’s Worth Of Records. Speaking of extremes, at least count: 804 daily records across the USA in the last week, many of them 24-hour snowfall records from Iowa and Illinois into New England, numerous nighttime low records as far south as Lajitas, Texas, only a handful of record highs for the far west and Florida. Map: Ham Weather.


Sunday Snow-Streak.A storm over the southwestern USA will track across the Plains into the Great Lakes, putting down a narrow carpet of snow from Kansas City to the Quad Cities, Rockford, Madison, Milwaukee and the Chicago area, probably enough to shove and plow. Source: NOAA’s 12km NAM and Ham Weather.


An Early Case Of Spring Fever? Forget the January Thaw, we’re talking a glimpse of April-like warmth for much of the eastern USA on Saturday on the warm side of the storm: 70s into Washington D.C., 60s into Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York City, where there are still piles of slushy snow from a series of recent storms. GFS guidance: WeatherBell.


From Record Lows To Record Highs. More evidence of weather whiplash in Denver; details from the Denver office of the National Weather Service: “Going to Extremes in Denver: From Record Lows to Record Highs. An 83°F temperature swing from the -15° on the 5th through today’s record high of 68°.”


Close To Average Late December into First Half of January?Perhaps that’s just wishful thinking, but NOAA’s CFS (Climate Forecast System) extended model shows temperatures in the 20s and even a few low 30s the last few days of 2012 and roughly the first half of January, 2014. Will we see more arctic fronts? Count on it, but I still think there’s a slightly better than 50-50 chance that January will be milder, overall, than December. Map: NOAA and Ham Weather.



Toasty November Vaults 2013 Into Top 5 Warmest Years. Here’s a snippet from an Andrew Freedman story at Climate Central looking at global temperatures trends in 2013: “…According to NOAA, November’s warmth catapulted the year-to-date to the 4th warmest year on record, up from the 7th warmest, which is where it stood as of the end of October. That puts 2013 on track to be the warmest year on record without an El Niño event, depending on where December temperatures rank. El Niño events feature warmer-than-average ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and tend to alter weather patterns and ocean currents in ways that provide an added boost — on top of manmade global warming and other climate cycles — to global average surface temperatures. NOAA said that while milder-than-average global ocean conditions contributed to November’s record warm, the month was the 19th straight without an El Niño or La Niña event present in the tropical Pacific Ocean…”

Image credit above: “Global average surface temperatures departures from average for November 2013, compared to the 30-year average from 1981-2010.” Credit: NOAA.


NASA Orders Urgent Spacewalks On The ISS. Here’s an excerpt of a good update from Gizmag: “Christmas will be another work day for the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) this year. While many Earthlings are sitting down to turkey and plum pudding, NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins will be carrying out the third and final of three spacewalks announced by NASA managers on Tuesday. The spacewalks are being conducted to deal with an ammonia leak in one of the station’s cooling systems. The spacewalks, scheduled for December 21, 23 and 25, are aimed at replacing a faulty pump module that stopped working on December 11…”


Top Scientific Discoveries Of 2013. Wired has done an admirable job of summarizing many of the major breakthroughs and ah-ha moments of 2013. Here’s an excerpt, entitled “Billions and Billions of Earths”: “…There’s no place like home? Well actually, according to scientists there are about 10 billion places like home in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope – which hunts for exoplanets but unfortunately suffered a crippling hardware failure this year – allowed astronomers to estimate the number of alien worlds that orbit sun-like stars at just the right distance for liquid water – and perhaps life — to exist. They calculate that about one in five of the 50 billion sun-like stars in our galaxy should have an exoplanet where the temperatures are balmy and nice….”

Image credit above: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech.


When Is The Next “Supermoon”? I had no idea there even was such a thing. Earthsky sets me straight in this article – here’s a clip: “The year 2014 gives us a total of five supermoons: two January new moons, and the full moons of July, August and September. January 1, 2014 is the first supermoon of the year, and January 30 is the second. Thus January 2014 has two supermoons in a single calendar month. We won’t have a single calendar month with two supermoons again until January 2018. Follow the links below to learn more about the supermoons of 2014, about what makes a moon a supermoon, and more…”

Image credit: “Photographs or other instruments can tell the difference between a supermoon and ordinary full moon. The supermoon of March 19, 2011 (right), compared to an average moon of December 20, 2010 (left).” Image by Marco Langbroek of the Netherlands via Wikimedia Commons.


Delta CEO Grounds In-Flight Calls. When I read this I got down on my knees and thanked the Sweet Lord for an early Christmas present. Looks like I’m going to keep on flying Delta and try to satisfy my raging MQM-fever. Here’s a clip from a story at Tech Crunch: “The FCC may have taken the first steps toward lifting the ban on in-flight cell use, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be listening in on any of your neighbors private conversations anytime soon. At least not on Delta. The airline’s CEO Richard Anderson sent out a company-wide memo to all 80,000 Delta employees, saying that Delta will not be allowing cellular or VoIP calls on any Delta flights. However, Anderson did say that “Delta will move quickly to enable customers to use text, email and other silent data transmission services gate to gate,” once the ban is officially lifted…”


Top Products In Two Decades Of Tech Reviews. We will miss you, Walter Mossberg. I’m fairly sure the Wall Street Journal will miss your detailed, pithy (and usually dead-on) tech reviews. Here’s a video and summary of Walt’s top picks for game-changing, consumer-based technology, looking back 22 years: “…Though most were hits, a couple weren’t blockbusters, financially, and one was an outright flop. Instead, I used as my criteria two main things. First, the products had to improve ease of use and add value for average consumers. That was the guiding principle I laid down in the first sentence of my first column, in 1991: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault…”

Video caption above: “Remember the Apple Newton? How about Netscape? Even if these products did not last until the present, they left their mark in the evolution of personal technology. For his final WSJ video column, Walt Mossberg takes us through the last 20 years.”


20 Sustainability Apps That Made Waves In 2013. has the story – here’s an excerpt: “Whether it’s improving energy efficiency, driving out toxic substances or supporting barters and exchanges as part of the “sharing” economy, sustainable business practices have a lot to do with encouraging the right behavior. And with more people than ever glued to smartphones, tablets and Web-connected notebook computers, mobile apps and cloud services can influence change for good — and track progress….”


An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away, And Statins Do, Too. NPR explains why apples (and statins) are a very good idea, especially for people older than 50; here’s a clip: “…So researchers at the University of Oxford calculated what would happen if 70 percent of Britons over age 50 ate an daily, and compared that with putting that same group of people on drugs. They estimated 8,500 deaths would be avoided annually because of the apples, and 9,400 due to statins, out of 17.6 million people. Their conclusion: “Prescribing either an apple a day or a statin a day to everyone over 50 years old is likely to have a similar effect on population vascular mortality,” the article concludes…”


There Is Not A Red America And A Blue America. There Is A “Y’all” America And A “You Guys” America. I had no idea. In Pittsburgh they say “yins”, but I didn’t realize we had such a serious linguistic divide. Here’s a fun nugget from The Washington Post: “When all of your friends are making fun of you for listening to Avril Lavigne’s new album on Spotify and they’re being really mean about it, do you say:

a) “Come on you guys, it’s actually pretty good, give Avril a chance.” or b) “Come on y’all, it’s actually pretty good, give Avril a chance.” Definitely an important question, answerable through geography, as the above map shows. Kentucky remains a bizarre outpost of “you all” usage which just sounds overly formal if you ask me...”

Map credit above: Joshua Katz, Department of Statistics, NC State University.


Tourist Walks Off Australia Pier While Checking Facebook. She was checking Facebook and did a subsequent Faceplant. Not good. You’ve been warned. Here’s an excerpt from “A Taiwanese tourist walking in Melbourne, Australia fell into the icy waters of Port Philip Bay after walking off a pier while chekcing her Facebook page on her phone, BBC News reports. The woman, who was not identified, was rescued about 20 minutes later after a witness saw her and alerted police…”


How The Media Will Report The Apocalypse. The people at Buzzfeed have a wicked sense of humor. Once again, they nail it. Check out how various media sources will probably report their (last) story.


This Dad Has Taped His Kids Coming Downstairs For Christmas For The Last 25 Years. This is very cool; makes me wish I had thought of this. Here’s the video and clip from Times NewsFeed: “…While Charles Dickens made a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past seem like a terrifying notion, you’ll want to grab a tissue before you take this trip down holiday memory lane. Nick Confalone’s father recorded his family coming down the stairs for Christmas every year for the last 25 years. Just in time for the holidays, Confalone has edited together the home movies into an ode to holiday joy, and released the adorably sweet compilation soundtracked by Vince Guaraldi’s bittersweet “Christmas Time is Here...”





Climate Stories…

Climate Change Threatens Retirement Savings. Do you have a 401K or a few mutual funds? At some point you may want to check and see how many fossil fuel companies are in the investment mix, according to this article at Scientific American – here’s an excerpt: “The Asset Owners Disclosure Project asked 1,000 of the world’s largest asset owners what they were doing to guard against the possibility that their investments in fossil fuels could, in future, become worthless. Together, the owners manage more than $70 trillion. The Project found that only 27 of the 458 investment funds replying to its request are addressing climate risk at what it considers a responsible level. Only five of the 458 achieved the AODP’s top score, AAA. An additional 22 rated A or above. Only these groups, says the Project, “will survive a carbon crash in any kind of good shape...”

Image credit above: Katrina Tuliao/Wikimedia Commons.


Rising Sea Levels Torment Norfolk, VA, And Coastal U.S. Here’s an excerpt from a story and video provided by USA Today: “…Flooding has become so common in this city, where water is the lifeblood, that residents talk about it in the supermarket. Home to the world’s largest naval base, Norfolk sits on flat land — much of it filled-in marsh that’s now at sea level and sinking. Add to that the sea-level rise from global warming, and the city faces what it deems a $1 billion-plus problem. As the 10th part of its year-long series on climate change, USA TODAY traveled to Virginia’s picturesque Tidewater region — bound by creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay — to look at how rising sea levels are affecting America’s coastal communities, where more than a third of its people and wealth reside…”


Documenting The Swift Change Wrought By Global Warming. Here’s a clip from a photo essay at Yale Environment 360: “For 25 years, photographer Peter Essick has traveled the world for National Geographic magazine, with many of his recent assignments focusing on the causes and consequences of climate change. In a Yale Environment 360 photo essay, we present a gallery of images Essick took while on assignment in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung locales. The photographer says that what most struck him was the dedication of the scientists who have committed themselves to documenting the effects of global warming…”

Photo credit above: Peter Essick. “Inuit people harvest potatoes in southern Greenland, where temperatures have been rising rapidly.” View the photo essay.


Global Warming As Haiku. Chris Mooney has the story at Mother Jones; here’s an excerpt: “Recently at the annual American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, a number of climate researchers and communications specialists sounded off about the problems involved in conveying climate science information to the public. Naomi Oreskes, the Harvard science historian, noted one of the many challenges: There’s a huge gap between how grave the climate issue actually is, and how clinical and detached climate scientists seem to sound when they discuss it. “Our tone doesn’t match our words,” Oreskes said. As a result, climate communications often lack emotional authenticity...”

Graphic credit above: .


6 Ways Climate Change Is Waging War On Christmas. I found this article curious and timely, from tracking the odds of a white Christmas to reindeer to cocoa and your favorite local Christmas tree, changes in the Arctic are having an impact. Here’s an excerpt from Surprising Science at “…If Santa really lived at the North Pole, he would have drowned long ago. But any fantasies we have about him making a home on floating sea ice will surely die within the century. The extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic has been shrinking, and it could be gone entirely within decades. The U.S. Navy predicts an ice-free summer Arctic as early as 2016. “We really are heading towards an ice-free Arctic in the summer,” Andreas Münchow, an Arctic scientist at the University of Delaware, told the Guardian. “It just takes a freak event eventually, in the next five or 10 or even 20 years…. The long-term trend is that the ice is disappearing in the summer in the Arctic…”

Photo credit above: “Santa could make his home on floating sea ice, but the Arctic may be ice free as early as 2016, according to the U.S. Navy.” Image via NOAA.


Why Our Turbulent Weather Is Getting Even Harder To Predict. This article at The Guardian is from April, but it seems more relevant and timely than ever, one (of many) possible explanations for some of the additional volatility we’re seeing in weather patterns over the Northern Hemisphere, especially for weather systems to become amplified (and stuck), resulting in disastrous flooding – or drought. Here’s a clip from The Guardian: “…The trouble is that the gradient between the atmosphere in the lower latitudes and in the Arctic is being disrupted by global warming,” said Francis. “As the Arctic heats up disproportionately, so does the atmosphere at the north pole and as it warms up, it rises. The net effect has been to erode the gradient between the top of the atmosphere over the tropics and the top of the atmosphere over the Arctic. Less air pours down towards the north pole and less air is whipped up by Earth’s rotation to form the jet stream. It is becoming less of a stream and is behaving more like a sluggish estuary that is meandering across the upper atmosphere at middle latitudes.” The effects of this meandering are now being felt. As the jet stream slows, weather patterns tend to stick where they are for longer. In addition, the modest waves in the stream have increased in amplitude so that they curve north and south more frequently, bringing more weather systems northwards and southwards…”

Graphic credit: Met Office. Graphic: Giulio Frigieri, Pete Guest.


Global Warming Explained, In About A Minute. Here’s an excerpt of a very good explanation at NPR: “…Michael Ranney, the lead author on the , offers this 35-word explanation:

Earth transforms sunlight’s visible light energy into infrared light energy, which leaves Earth slowly because it is absorbed by greenhouse gases. When people produce greenhouse gases, energy leaves Earth even more slowlyraising Earth’s temperature.

In a second study reported in the same , Ranney and his colleagues presented college students with a somewhat longer version of this explanation (a full 400 words), and found that doing so not only increased students’ understanding of global warming, but also their acceptance that it’s actually occurring…”


Obama And Climate Change: The Real Story. Are actions on the ground matching the rhetoric? Bill McKibbon has the article at Rolling Stone; here’s an excerpt: “…If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine. You could argue that private industry, not the White House, has driven that boom, and in part you’d be right. But that’s not what Obama himself would say...” (Photo: AP).


Global Warming: New Maps Show Temperature And Precipitation Projections Down To The County Level. Here’s a clip from the Summit County Citizens Voice: “…The jury may still be out on exactly how hot the Earth will be by the end of the century, but as climate models improve, scientists are narrowing the range. In a recent effort to show changes on a regional scale, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Oregon State University created a set of maps and summaries of historical and projected temperature and precipitation changes for the 21st century, down to a county level. Find your local global warming forecast here. The maps and summaries are based on NASA downscaling of the 33 climate models used in the fifth annual Climate Model Intercomparison Project and the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report. The resulting NASA dataset is on an 800-meter grid with national coverage…”


Arctic Sea Ice – Methane Release – Planetary Emergency? Alarmist hype? I sure hope so. Could continued melting of the Arctic trigger a significant methane release? There are a number of scientists concerned about this. Again, it’s the “unknown unknowns”, the tipping points in the climate system we’re not aware of (yet) that keep a lot of researchers up at night. Here’s an excerpt from The Arctic Methane Emergency Group: “…Research from US scientist, Jennifer Francis, suggests that the retreat of sea ice is causing a disruption of jet stream behaviour, producing weather extremes.  Evidence was given to the UK government last year that the weather extremes being experienced in the UK and elsewhere could be due to this disruption of weather systems as the Arctic warms relative to the tropics.  This evidence was reported by Robin McKie in the Observer, on 7th April in an article entitled: “Why our turbulent weather is getting harder to predict”. The weather extremes from last year are causing real problems for farmers, not only in the UK, but in US and many grain-producing countries.  World food production can be expected to decline, with mass starvation inevitable.  The price of food will rise inexorably, producing global unrest and making food security even more of an issue…”


Snow On Italian Alps Melting At “Unprecedented Rate”, Ohio State University Study Finds. Here’s an excerpt of an update from International Business Times: “…A six-nation team of glaciologists, led by Ohio State University, drilled a set of ice cores above the Alto dell’Ortles glacier in northern Italy and found that, for the first time in thousands of years, the glacier had shifted from a state of constantly below-freezing to one where its upper layers were at — note below — a melting point. “Our first results indicate that the current atmospheric warming at high elevation in the Alps is outside the normal cold range held for millennia,” Paolo Gabrielli, research scientist at Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State said. “This is consistent with the rapid, ongoing shrinking of glaciers at high elevation in this area…” (Image: NASA).


Reddit’s Science Forum Banned Climate Deniers. Why Don’t All Newspapers Do The Same? Here’s a clip from Grist: “…Instead of the reasoned and civil conversations that arise in most threads, when it came to climate change the comment sections became a battleground. Rather than making thoughtful arguments based on peer-reviewed science to refute man-made climate change, contrarians immediately resorted to aggressive behaviors. On one side, deniers accused any of the hard-working scientists whose research supported and furthered our understanding of man-made climate change of being bought by “Big Green.” On the other side, deniers were frequently insulted and accused of being paid to comment on reddit by “Big Oil.” After some time interacting with the regular denier posters, it became clear that they could not or would not improve their demeanor. These problematic users were not the common “internet trolls” looking to have a little fun upsetting people…”

Photo credit above: Shutterstock/alphaspirit



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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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