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First Blizzard of Winter Pushes Across Upper Midwest – Colder Signal for December Across USA?

18 Nov 2016, 3:57 pm

Blizzard Spreads Across South Dakota into Minnesota

Maybe if I put the parka on over my shorts I’ll be OK? I’m just the messenger. Blame a low sun angle. The northern hemisphere has caught a cold – the first real sneeze of Canadian air spinning up an intense storm today over the Upper Midwest,  capable of blizzard conditions.

A blizzard is defined as 35 mph sustained winds (for at least 3 hours) with visibility under 1/4 mile in falling and/or blowing snow. We will have those criteria across eastern South Dakota and much of western and central Minnesota  today.

A tight pressure gradient causes air to accelerate into a partial vacuum (the center of low pressure) at speeds as high as 50-55 mph over western Minnesota, creating white-out conditions. I’d think twice about driving, unless you’re a fan of white-knuckle driving.

The axis of heaviest snow, 8-14 inches or more, runs from Windom to Wadena to Walker – into the Minnesota Arrowhead. ECMWF guidance prints out 5-10″ inches or so for St. Cloud, Brainerd and Duluth; maybe a sloppy inch or two for the Twin Cities, where snow will melt on contact until late afternoon today. Consider this payback for the warmest start to November on record for much of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest.

Skies clear over the weekend with more seasonable air sweeping in behind the storm, but nothing I’d characterize as frigid. Not yet.

No big storms are brewing next week, nothing that will cause extensive or widespread delays. A preview of Thanksgiving Day weather below. We’ve seen worse – far worse.


For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Paul Douglas

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of WeatherNation

Blizzard Warning

The National Weather Service has expanded the area under a Blizzard Warning to Willmar and St. Cloud. An hour or two west of the Twin Cities and travel conditions will range from treacherous to impassable.

Future Radar

4km NAM (WRF) guidance from NOAA shows a band of heavy, wind-whipped snow setting up over western and central Minnesota this morning, but rain may not change over to snow in the Twin Cities until later this afternoon, with a fair amount of melting on contact, which will help to keep amounts  down in the immediate metro, where snow totals should range from a coating to an inch or two.

Source: NOAA and AerisWeather

Big Snow Maker for Central Minnesota?

Latest models push the axis of heaviest snow a bit farther east; NAM guidance hinting at a foot for the Brainerd Lakes – maybe a half foot or more for St. Cloud.

Source: WeatherBell

ECMWF Snowfall Prediction

Although not quite as impressive as the 4km NAM the European model prints out 10-12″ from near Windom to Alexandria to Wadena and Walker into much of the Minnesota Arrowhead.

BPI: Blizzard Potential Index

Our internal models show a high probability of blizzard conditions (35 mph sustained winds with visibility under 1/4 mile) from near Sioux Falls to Granite Falls and Alexandria this morning.

Source: AerisWeather

How To Survive a Winter Storm

Meteorologist Susie Martin at AerisWeather has a review and some good advice as we sail into primetime for wintry precipitation: “…Winter storms can bring a variety of precipitation. For example, a storm may begin to produce rain, but as cold air arrives, that precipitation can change over into freezing rain or snow. It all depends on the depth of the layer of warm air (above 32°F) present. As shown in the chart above, clouds may begin precipitating snow, but as the snow encounters the warmer layer of air, it melts. The degree of melting can mean the difference between snow, ice or sleet. The deeper the layer of warm air, the more liquid the precipitation will become. Freezing rain is, personally, my least favorite. This requires a rather deep layer of warm air above the ground and freezing or subfreezing conditions at the surface. In this scenario, the precipitation freezes on contact with the ground. This can be very dangerous as it’s easy to think it’s simply raining outside, but then you step outside to slip and fall on the slick sidewalk as a thin layer of ice has formed…”

Thanksgiving Day: GFS

NOAA’s GFS model is predicting a cold rain for much of New England next Thursday with snow showers for upstate New York and the mountains of northwest Colorado. The next Pacific storm pushes rain into the Portland and Seattle; otherwise the rest of America looks dry and relatively mild for late November.

Source: WSI

Thanksgiving Day: ECMWF

The European model suggests light showers of rain and wet snow for New England; heavier rain over the eastern Carolinas and Mid Atlantic as well as the Pacific Northwest. Dry weather prevails across most of America with unusually mild weather from the Plains into the southwestern USA.

Source: WSI

Record Warmth in November – But Big Changes Coming?

Jason Samenow tracks the bubble of unusual warmth over North America, and a potential shift in the pattern brewing for December. We’re due. Here’s an excerpt at Capital Weather Gang: “…Beyond Thanksgiving into early December, some forecasters are intrigued by the GFS model, which is advertising a radical change in the weather pattern over North America. It suggests a major destabilization of the polar vortex and for the North Atlantic Oscillation to plunge into the negative territory. When this oscillation is strongly negative, it promotes the flow of Arctic air into the eastern United States, and the pattern is often favorable for snowstorms. “Time to gas up the snow blower across the U.S.,” tweeted Judah Cohen, a seasonal forecaster for Atmospheric and Environmental Research. “IF (big if) pattern verifies, that is as favorable a pattern for snowstorms that I can recall…”

NOAA: U.S. Snow Cover Hits an “All-Time Low” for November

Here’s the intro to an explainer at Engadget: “Researchers just supplied more evidence that climate change-related temperature increases are having a material effect on the planet. America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that snow cover in the lower 48 states is the lowest ever recorded for mid-November. As you can see in the map below, there’s very little snow on the ground in the country — you’d likely have to climb a mountain to see it. For contrast, the average snow cover between 1981 and 2010 reached as far south as New Mexico...”

Second Warmest October Cements Hottest Year

Climate Central has an update: “…But even La Nina years now are warmer than El Niño years several decades ago because of the long-term warming caused by carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases emitted into the atmosphere. Because of the combination of El Niño and manmade warming, 2016 will best 2015 as the hottest year on record, the third record-warm year in a row, the World Meteorological Organization told delegates at the U.N. climate meeting in Morocco...”

Graphic credit: “The year-to-date temperature anomaly (through September) using the 1891-1910 baseline.”

43 Large Fires Burning Across USA

Check out the latest statistics from the U.S. Wildfire Tracker, courtesy of WXshift

A Heartbreaking Hurricane

Hurricane Katrina is linked to heart attacks many years after the storm, according to an analysis at Nexus Media: “…Irimpen and his colleagues also found that patients were significantly more likely to have other risk factors for heart attack post-Katrina than before the hurricane, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They were also more likely to be smokers. The researchers found that these patients were more than twice as likely to abuse drugs, or suffer from a psychiatric disease as their pre-Katrina counterparts. Moreover, unemployment and lack of health insurance were significantly more frequent among the post-Katrina patients, he says. Post-Katrina patients also were more likely to receive prescriptions for medications to treat heart disease, cholesterol and hypertension, but were only half as likely to take them compared to the pre-Katrina group, he says…”
Image credit: “New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina“. Source: United States Navy

King Tide Flooding a Preview of the Daily Norm We Can Expect

The Boston Globe reports: “Did the king tides give us a glimpse into the future? The flooding caused recently by the tides in coastal communities around the world, including here in Massachusetts, may be far more normal in just a few decades, thanks to climate change. Experts warn that eventually sea levels will have risen to the point where such flooding will be routine. “King tides preview how sea level rise will affect coastal places,” the Environmental Protection Agency says. “As time goes by, the water level reached now during a king tide will be the water level reached at high tide on an average day...”

Photo credit: Lane Turner/Globe staff. “Lynda DeBiccari waded in the rising waters during the king tides Tuesday at the Long Wharf in Boston.”

Intensified by Climate Change, “King Tides” Change Ways of Life in Florida

The New York Times provides more perspective on the increasingly “routine” tidal flooding, and how rising seas are making that flooding more problematic: “…Monday’s planetary dance was particularly notable: The moon was both full and at its closest distance to the Earth since 1948. The closer the moon, the stronger the gravitational tug on the oceans, the higher the tide. Rising sea levels exacerbate the flooding, scientists said. In much of South Florida, including Broward County and Fort Lauderdale, finding short- and long-term fixes to the challenges of flooding caused by rising seas is a priority. A new position now exists to deal with it: resiliency chief or sustainability director. Pumps and backflow valves have been put in place. Roads will be or have been elevated (most famously in Miami Beach, which invested $400 million to deal with flooding). Sea walls are being raised. Counties are also beginning to rethink building codes. Taken together, the costs will be enormous…”
Photo credit: “Monday’s supermoon, with its strong gravitational pull, created high tides that flooded some South Florida coastal towns.” Publish Date November 17, 2016. Photo by Scott McIntyre for The New York Times.

Six Reasons Why NOAA’s GOES-R Satellite Matters has a story with context and perspective,  why the launch of GOES-R (soon to be GOES-16) is a very big deal for weather forecasting: “...The primary instrument on the new GOES-R satellite will collect three times more data and provide four times better resolution and more than five times faster coverage than current satellites. This means the satellite can scan Earth’s Western Hemisphere every five minutes and as often as every 30 seconds in areas where severe weather forms, as compared to approximately every 30 minutes with the current GOES satellites…”

Image credit: “Major Hurricane Joaquin is shown at the far eastern periphery of the GOES West (GOES-15) satellite’s full disk extent, taken at 1200z on October 1, 2015.” Credit: NOAA.


The Extraordinary Effects of Dust on Global Weather

Pacific Standard has a fascinating story – here’s an excerpt: “…So what effect will all that extra dust have on Earth’s weather and climate in the future? No one really knows — at least not yet. “One of the greatest sources of uncertainty in global climate models is aerosol-cloud interactions,” says Charlotte Beall, a researcher and graduate student at Scripps. “And that uncertainty impedes our progress with these models, which are our predictive, diagnostic tool for understanding what is going to happen in a changing climate...”

Watch What Camp Life Is Like for Children Who Are Allergic To The Sun

Atlas Obscura has the story: “Summer camp is a great American tradition. And one completely out of reach for the so-called “children of the night”—the name given to kids who are allergic to the sun. This rare condition, xeroderma pigmentosum, makes summer camp, or any daytime outdoors activity, painful and even fatally dangerous. Luckily, there is a place that seeks to reclaim the tradition for children afflicted with XP: Camp Sundown. Opened in 1995, the camp is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, as it continues to grow in attendance and in its efforts to bring attention to the condition…”

Climate Stories

Trump Win Opens Way for China To Take Climate Leadership Role 

Reuters reports: “The election of climate change skeptic Donald Trump as president is likely to end the U.S. leadership role in the international fight against global warming and may lead to the emergence of a new and unlikely champion: China. China worked closely with the administration of outgoing President Barack Obama to build momentum ahead of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The partnership of the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters helped get nearly 200 countries to support the pact at the historic meet in France’s capital...”

Photo credit: “U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gestures as he speaks at election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.” REUTERS/Mike Segar.

Climate Change, Hurricanes and Floods: An LSU Dialogue

Louisiana will be one of the first states to be impacted by rising seas and heavier summer rains; here’s an excerpt from “Climate change, hurricanes and floods were hot topics Wednesday (Nov. 16) during the Louisiana State University International Programs’ intercultural dialogue on weather, water and climate. Whatever the extent of climate change, one speaker said, Louisiana will be in the crosshairs. Jay Grymes, chief meteorologist at WAFB television, opened the presentations with a focus on the state’s wet climate and the potential effects of climate change. He warned that of the lower 48 states, Louisiana might be the most severely affected…”

Photo credit: Max Becherer, AP

Tracking Effects of Climate Change on Human Health

Here’s an excerpt from Huffington Post: “…It is vital that progress on limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane and black carbon, is monitored. Governments must be held accountable for meeting their nationally determined contributions towards global cuts in emissions, and incentivised to go further. Climate change poses major threats to human health but policies to reduce emissions have great potential to improve health in the near-term, including by reducing air pollution and encouraging dietary changes. A new international initiative aims to provide more crucial information on the relationship between climate change and health…”

Sticking To Lower 1.5C Warming Limit Would Protect World Economy

Here’s a clip from Reuters: “Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change, would avoid economic losses by 2050 of $12 trillion, or around 10 percent of the world’s GDP, compared to staying on the current track of at least 3 degrees of warming, the U.N. Development Programme said on Wednesday. Sticking to the 1.5 degree limit is feasible, it said in a report for the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of more than 40 countries most at risk from climate change...”

Image credit: NASA

WMO: Past 5 Years Hottest on Record, Worldwide

Here’s an excerpt from a story at Fusion: “…On November 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22) which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28% below the average of the previous 29 years, not only raising sea levels, but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming…”

Image: NASA

Military Leaders Urge Trump To See Climate As a Security Threat

Scientific American has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…The Center for Climate & Security in its briefing book argues that climate change presents a risk to U.S. national security and international security, and that the United States should advance a comprehensive policy for addressing the risk. The recommendations, released earlier this year, were developed by the Climate and Security Advisory Group, a voluntary, nonpartisan group of 43 U.S.-based senior military, national security, homeland security and intelligence experts, including the former commanders of the U.S. Pacific and Central commands. The briefing book argues that climate change presents a significant and direct risk to U.S. military readiness, operations and strategy, and military leaders say it should transcend politics. It goes beyond protecting military bases from sea-level rise, the military advisers say. They urge Trump to order the Pentagon to game out catastrophic climate scenarios, track trends in climate impacts and collaborate with civilian communities...”

File photo: AP

DC Prepares For Heat Emergencies To Nearly Double by 2020, Among Other Climate Change Effects

Here’s a clip from DCist: “…D.C. currently experiences around 11 heat emergency days per year, which could almost double to 20 days by 2020 and spike up to 75 days by 2080, according to the report. Washingtonians should also expect much warmer average temperatures; longer, hotter, and more frequent heat waves; and more frequent and intense heavy rain and flooding. The city has already begun to see record-breaking heat waves and snowstorms as well as flooding caused by rising sea levels and high rainfall. Climate Ready DC, the city’s readiness plan, looks at current weather patterns and predicts how they will change by 2080. The report, which was developed by consulting with experts inside and outside of District government, then outlines the city’s strategies to adapt...”

Photo credit: SweetJen34

The End of Ice

Check out the photo essay at New Republic: “…The peculiar physics of climate change have played a particularly nasty trick on those who live farthest to the north. The steady, relentless stream of data from satellites, weather buoys, and remote weather stations makes it clear that the Arctic—which has supported human life for millennia—is warming twice as fast as any place on the planet. But you don’t need data to understand what’s happening: Pictures will do...”


For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Paul Douglas

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of WeatherNation

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