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Hints of a January Thaw – Then Back To The Freezer Across The Country

Rock Bottom



“As the days lengthen, the cold doth strengthen.”



Yes it doth. Byron Gilman asks “what is the coldest day of the year, on average?” Great question. Looking at the last 30 years the mean temperature at MSP bottoms out at 15 F. between January 8 and January 22. So you could make a case that the coldest days are January 15-16.



Of course it varies from year to year, but you may be happy to hear that temperatures rise 2 F. by the end of January. Hints of what’s to come.



No blistering, hair-curling, paint-peeling cold is brewing, but models bring another surge of Canadian Delight south of the border the 3rd week of January; a few subzero nights around January 16-20. Coincidence? I suspect this may be the coldest outbreak of winter.



But first we thaw out a bit: 2 to 4 days at, or just above, freezing next week. It may be warm enough for a rain/snow mix next Thursday. Rain.. in mid-January. Strange. Then again, nothing much surprises me anymore.



This may come as a shock, but I don’t see any significant snow looking out 2 weeks. 98 percent of Minnesota is now in moderate drought or worse. We need moisture.



Today’s blog has my video clip recap of the top weather & climate stories of 2012. Based on my number crunching there’s no doubt in my mind 2012 will be the warmest year ever recorded across the USA.



362 all-time record highs across the USA in 2012.

0 all-time record lows in 2012. Source: Capital Weather Gang and Weather Underground. Details below.


Vikes-Cast. Heading to Green Bay for Saturday’s game? The weather will be pretty tolerable, at least by Green Bay standards: expect game-time temperatures in the low 20s under a partly cloudy sky, a wind chill dipping into the low teens. Could be worse. A detailed forecast for Green Bay from Ham Weather is here.


Coldest Day of Winter? I seem to get this question every year. It’s probably human nature to want to know when we reach rock bottom, and when we can look forward to temperatures trending upward again. The chart above show average and mean temperatures for the month of January. The mean temperature bottoms out at 15 F. from January 8 to 22. The midpoint of the mean is January 15-16, so you could make a case that, statistically, these are the coldest days of winter, on average. Of course you can prove anything with statistics. But this tracks with conventional wisdom that, most winters, the coldest spell of weather arrives the second or third week of January, coming about 3-4 weeks after the Winter Solstice. And cheer up, the mean temperature rises 2 whole degrees between January 22 and 31! Calendar info courtesy of the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.

What A Difference A Year Makes. Here’s one reason why I don’t expect this winter to be nearly as mild as last winter. According to NOAA data snow is currently covering 65% of the lower 48 states of the USA; that compares with 21% of the USA on January 3, 2012. Snow on the ground keeps air temperatures 10-20 F. colder than they would be otherwise (with bare ground), and this acts as a break on temperatures to some degree. Granted, there isn’t that much snow on the ground across the Upper Midwest, in fact I expect snowcover amounts to drop by roughly 50% during next week’s thaw.

Late Next Week: Slop Storm? It’s way too early to launch into specifics, but a southern storm will push a shield of precipitation into the Upper Midwest Thursday and Friday. To get (all) snow temperatures in the lowest mile of the atmosphere will have to be below 32 F. Right now that looks unlikely – models hinting at enough warm air aloft for rain, or a rain-snow mix. Midday Thursday (January 10) guidance from ECMWF courtesy of WSI.

2012 USA Climate Recap. I prepared a 2:30 overview for WeatherNation TV, our new, national weather channel. I could have spent 30 minutes recapping the extreme, bizarre year of 2012. This YouTube clip touches on some of the highlights, including record warmth, no real winter, flowers blooming in March (in Minnesota!), a 1 in 500 year flood for Duluth, the most severe derecho on record, extreme drought and record Arctic ice loss.

2012’s Surreal Record Warmth In The USA. Meteorologist Jason Samenow has a great recap of last year, what will almost certainly be the warmest year in recorded U.S. history, at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang; here’s an excerpt: “We await the inevitable “official” announcement from NOAA that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the Lower 48, by a huge margin. Recall, in mid-December Climate Central calculated there was 99.99999999 percent chance this feat would be achieved. In the mean time, it’s amazing to watch related records stream in at national, regional and local scales. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping record I’ve encountered was posted by wunderground historian Christopher Burton: there were 362 all-time record highs logged in the U.S. in 2012 but ZERO all-time record lows. That is an incredible disparity which – to me- seems like it would be impossible to accomplish without a marked human influence on climate BOTH from urbanization around weather stations and elevated greenhouse gas concentrations…”

Graphic credit above: “2012 temperatures in the U.S. compared to normal. The only large region where temperatures were slightly cooler than normal was the Pacific Northwest. (High Plains Regional Climate Center).”

2012: A Year Of Weather Extremes. Here’s an excerpt of an excellent recap of last year’s jaw-dropping weather from “From unprecedented drought to killer cold, 2012 was a year of weather extremes. In 2012, the United States suffered 11 weather-related events that cost $1 billion apiece, according to a preliminary list released Thursday (Dec. 20) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Economic losses for Hurricane Sandy and the yearlong drought are still being calculated, but NOAA estimates 2012 will surpass 2011 in terms of aggregate costs for disasters (exceeding $60 billion). Severe weather disasters hit beyond the United States, too, as super typhoons slammed into Asia and a cold snap froze Europe’s rivers. Globally, countries battled heat waves and droughts…” (image above: NASA GOES Project).

Sandy Tops List Of 2012 Extreme Weather And Climate Events. The meteorologists and climate scientists at Climate Central have a terrific overview of a wild 2012; here’s an excerpt: “…The statistics are staggering: The first half of the year was so warm that by early August, the U.S. had already exceeded the number of record-high temperatures set or tied during all of 2011. July 2012 was the hottest month on record in the U.S., as a desiccating drought enveloped the majority of the lower 48 states, stretching its misery from California to Delaware. The drought has been the most extensive this country has seen since the 1930s. Ranchers were forced to sell off their herds as their fields turned to dust and the price of feed rose steeply; the Mississippi River neared a record-low level, threatening to curtail commerce; and drought-fueled wildfires consumed tens of thousands of acres across the West and threatened a large population center in Colorado Springs….”

2012 Severe Storm And Tornado Warnings. Here is an interesting YouTube animation, showing all severe storm warnings (blue) and tornado warnings (red) last year. Notice the concentration of tornadoes east of what is traditional “Tornado Alley”, due to drought conditions and excessive heat much of the summer. There were far more tornadoes from Kentucky southward to Alabama – a trend we’ve seen in recent years. Animation courtesy of Greg Carbin at NOAA SPC.

Barge Traffic Stalls Along Drought-Parched Mississippi River. We may be a few days away from the closing of the Mississippi River to barge traffic due to lingering drought and record-low water levels on the (once) Mighty Mississippi. By some calculations over 8 feet of snow would be required to alleviate drought conditions over the Central Plains, water which would eventually help to raise water levels. Here’s an excerpt of a Chicago Tribune story, via The Los Angeles Times: “CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Tim Cox was supposed to be steering an 800-foot string of barges through the twists and turns of the Mississippi River last week, moving tons of grain and coal toward the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, his towboat and about half a dozen others spent nearly 15 hours stationary in the drought-parched river, about 115 miles south of St. Louis. The boats had to stop while crews dredged downstream in a desperate attempt to keep the shipping channel open as the river approaches historically low levels. Cox, second in command on the towboat LJ Sullivan, sat in the captain’s chair high above his barges, looking out the wheelhouse windows in disbelief at sandbars and stone dikes that are usually deep underwater...”

Photo credit above: “Water levels are low along the entire Mississippi River, but the Army Corps of Engineers says the worst stretch is from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill., where the Ohio River flows in. Above, barge traffic on the Ohio River at Cairo.” (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune / December 20, 2012)

Ski Mexico! For months I’ve been telling you how storms are (once again) detouring well south of Minnesota. Who is seeing snow? According to the NAM model (courtesy of Weathercaster) as much as 6-10″ snow is expected west of El Paso, Texas. Good grief.

Nagging Drought. It’s being called the worst U.S. drought since 1956; exceptional drought conditions being reported from South Dakota and Nebraska southward to Texas. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor is here.

“Extreme Rain”: UK Warned Over Flood Risk. While much of the USA suffers through debilitating drought – 2012 was the wettest year ever recorded for the United Kingdom. Sky News has a video report on the parade of storms; here’s an excerpt of their story: “The UK is suffering more “extreme rainfall”, which could have a serious impact on flooding problems, the Met Office has warned. The torrential downpours that have hit the UK this year are of a similar magnitude to those being experienced by China and India, according to the scientists. They have called for more research to be done to help protect the country from flooding in the future as these “extreme” weather events threaten to become more frequent. The disclosure has sparked warnings from environmentalists that it is further evidence of climate change in action…”

“Chilly” In Phoenix. The forecast calls for Phoenix calls for lows in the upper 30s, highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s. I could deal with that. Thanks to Joel Rivera and WeatherNation TV for sharing this photo.

Parhelia. Donna Wick Paul snapped this photo in Piqua, Ohio yesterday, capturing a “sun dog” or mock sun, triggered by sunlight being refracted (bent) by hexagonal ice crystals.

A Good Excuse To Check Out Kickstarter. Crowdsourcing is becoming an increasingly popular way of raising money for projects, products and new services that resonate with people. O.K. I’m a little biased, but I’m a fan of up and coming Twin Cities rock/blues/funk band “The Lost Wheels“, and they’re trying to raise a little money to create a new CD for their growing legion of fans around the state. Even if you don’t want to be a part of this groundswell, check out their Kickstarter video – it’ll give you a much-needed chuckle or two.

I Did Not Know That. Thanks to for clearing this up for us. Suddenly it all makes sense…


Climate Stories…

Another Record-Breaking Year For Climate Change. The Wichita Eagle has another look back at 2012, a year that won’t soon be forgotten for a string of climate calamities; here’s an excerpt: “It’s virtually certain that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the continental United States. When scientists affirm these results, they’ll no doubt make headlines. But we should put that record in perspective. North America covers just 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. Globally, we’re set to have another very hot year, likely in the top 10, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Looking further back, the past 35 years have all exceeded the 20th-century average global temperature. That’s a generational shift. Half the U.S. population is 35 or younger, so half of all Americans have never lived through an “average” year…” (wall cloud photo above courtesy of Brittney Misialek, from NOAA SPC).

In Farewell Speech, House Republican Lists Climate Change As A Top Priority. Here’s an excerpt from Think Progress: “During his farewell speech Tuesday, outgoing House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA) listed climate change as a top problem facing the country — a rare moment when a Republican leader in office openly acknowledged the need for climate action. Taking to the House floor, Dreier said climate change “is a fact of life” that must be confronted, and said it should be an imperative on par with the economy and gun control for his party…”



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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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