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Looking Ahead to 2013

23 Feb 2013, 5:35 am




A Reluctant Spring?



Last March was a gift, but most years Minnesotans earn their spring. This will be one of those years. We’ll see 32 F next week, but it won’t get warm enough, fast enough, to trigger a sudden snowy meltdown. We’ll have snow on the ground into early March, chilling the air from below, limiting how mild it can get.



I’ve gone on record with my (reckless) 2013 outlook: gradual easing of the drought over Minnesota, but more severe storms and tornadoes. This summer should be warmer and stickier than normal, but not the steamy record-setter 2012 was.



Southern Minnesota has seen 3 separate 1 in 1,000 year floods since 2004. I expect more jaw-dropping “Black Swan” USA weather events in 2013 due to more heat and energy in the system; hopefully not another Sandy.



But expect the unexpected.



No dramatic warm fronts are brewing anytime soon, any snow next Tuesday will be light and slushy – most roads wet – a vague hint of spring to come. With Gulf moisture on the increase, and no rapid temperature spikes, I suspect we’ll pick up at least another 10 inches of snow, on top of the 35″ that’s already fallen.



A 45 inch winter? That’s happened only a third of the winters since 2000; only once since 2005. Nice to see it can still snow!



Photo courtesy: Mike Hall/To Hail and Back



WInter Snowfall Records. Keep in mind official snow (and rain) records were kept at the Chanhassen NWS between 2000 and 2004, but looking back at the least 13 years we’ve only had 4 winters with more than 45″ of snow. The new 30 year rolling average (1981-2010) is 54.4″. At the rate we’re going I wouldn’t be at all surprised for us to see at least 45″ for much of the metro area this winter. 125 years of Twin Cities snowfall records here, courtesy of the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.


March: Slightly Milder and Wetter. The CPC (NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center) outlook for March is above, showing an eventual thaw, a wetter than average moisture bulls-eye over the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes.

Spring Preview. CPC is predicting a warmer than normal spring for much of the United States; wetter from MSP to Detroit and Chicago, but drier for the Deep South, Florida and most of the western USA.

Summer Guess-Cast. Continuing a recent trend, CPC shows another baking summer for most of the USA, although I still suspect it won’t be quite as hot as last summer. I just can’t imagine 2 years like that, back to back. A dry bias is likely over the Southern Plains and Pacific Northwest. Place your bets.

More Snow = Slightly Elevated Flood Risk for Red River Valley? Here’s an excerpt from Mark Seeley in his weekly Weathertalk Newsletter: “NOAA’s National Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center reports that over western portions of Minnesota the snow pack water content varies from 2 to 5 inches as of February 20, 2013. These water contents are relatively high as the moisture content of January and February snows has been more than normal. The higher water contents in the southern end of the Red River Valley are of concern for spring flood forecasting. You can follow the week to week assessments of snow cover and snow water content using their web site at

…”The CPC also sees good chances for some continued alleviation of drought across our state through the end of May. The hydrologic features (lake levels and stream flows) will benefit from above normal precipitation whether it comes as rain or snow. The soil will not benefit much until it thaws out later in the spring. Right now soil frost depths still range from 20-40 inches deep in many areas and will take some time to thaw out…”


Chilly Into First Week of March. The NAEFS experimental long range temperature forecast (first week of March) shows a warming trend across much of Canada, but cooler than average temperatures from the Midwest to Florida. No early spring this year.


Check On That “Gently Used” Car. I would be very careful about buying a used car these days – especially one that originated on the east coast. Here’s an excerpt from The Daily News: “Nearly four months after Hurricane Sandy, the total number of cars damaged in the storm has now past the 250,000 mark, according to preliminary numbers released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The NICB’s numbers are based on Sandy-related claims made to its member insurance companies. NICB member companies make up 88 percent of auto insurance available in the United States…”








Climate Stories…

Arctic Sea Ice Volume Now One Fifth Its 1979 Level. For 30 years professional (in many cases paid) climate deniers have squawked about “alarmists and hype”. When it comes to ice volume in the Arctic the changes are happening faster than even the most aggressive climate models predicted. Here’s an excerpt from Jeff Master’s Wunderblog: “…With two years of data to Cryosat-2 data to analyze, the results of the PIOMAS model have now been confirmed by a study published on-line in February 2013 in Geophysical Research Letters. In a University of Washington news release, co-author Axel Schweiger said, “people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive. What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid.” The U.K.’s Natural Environmental Research Council reported that the team of scientists found that from 2003 to 2012, the volume of Arctic sea ice declined 36% in the autumn and 9% in the winter. The measure of sea ice volume is a good indicator of how the Arctic’s most stable, “multi-year” ice is fairing. As the multi-year ice declines, sea ice extent, the total area covered by sea ice, in an “Arctic death spiral.

Graphic credit above: “Arctic sea ice volume in thousands of cubic kilometers during the September minimum in 1979 compared to 2012, as estimated by the University of Washington PIOMAS model. Arctic seas ice volume has declined by more than a factor of five. Image credit; Andy Lee Robinson.


Poll: Climate Change A Top Concern For Latinos. This caught my eye, and in Fox News Latino, no less. Maybe someone at Fox News Latino will communicate this headline to the Fox Mothership. Wait, aren’t Republicans trying to court Latinos? But many continue to deny that climate change is even a problem. My head hurts. Here’s an excerpt: “…The poll showed 74 percent of Latinos — 1,218 were polled — believe climate change is a very serious problem. This number is almost 10 percent higher than the national average among all American adults. “What was surprising was that once again Latinos have higher support for taking action against global warming,” said Quintero...”

Kerry Comes Out Swinging On Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt of a story at The Hill: “…Kerry again signaled that he hopes to use his role as top diplomat to promote green energy technologies, arguing they can provide a major boost to U.S. industries in the “next great revolution in our marketplace.” He also cited the prospect of new markets for “America’s second-to-none innovators and entrepreneurs.” “We need to commit ourselves to doing the smart thing and the right thing and to truly take on this challenge, because if we don’t rise to meet it, then rising temperatures and rising sea levels will surely lead to rising costs down the road. Ask any insurance company,” he said…”

Solutions For Climate Change Aren’t Either/Or. Here’s the conclusion of an Op-Ed at “…President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL is at the top of our list because it’s the most immediate decision he can make to fight climate disruption. The reason why Americans want to stop tar sands is because they recognize something that short-sighted critics seem to have overlooked: The president cannot be serious about fighting climate disruption and approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This pipeline would open the floodgates for one of the filthiest fuel sources in the world. It would pump some of the filthiest, most carbon-intensive fuels through our country and onto the world market. President Obama can’t have it both ways.”

Photo credit above: “Thousands of protestors gather at the National Mall in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, as well as act to limit carbon pollution from power plants and ‘€move beyond’€ coal and natural gas, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.” (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta).

Unlocking The Conspiracy Mindset. You just can’t make this stuff up. Here’s a snippet of a story from Justin Gillis at The New York Times: “…The strongest finding in the survey was that ideological belief in an unregulated free market tended to be a predictor of someone’s willingness to reject the findings of mainstream climate research. No great surprise there. It was the secondary findings that set off a brouhaha. Dr. Lewandowsky’s survey results suggested that people who rejected climate science were more likely than other respondents to reject other scientific or official findings and buy into assorted fringe theories: that NASA faked the moon landing, that the Central Intelligence Agency killed Martin Luther King Jr., that the AIDS virus was unleashed by the government, and so forth…”

USDA On Climate Change: Adaptation For Agriculture, Forests. Here’s a segment of a story at The Energy Collective: “Crop production may shift along with changing temperature and precipitation patterns, but that doesn’t lessen the likely disruption to lives, livelihoods and communities in agricultural, forest and other areas where local economies across the country depend on natural resources, or to residents of urban areas ultimately dependent on the water, food, fiber and materials ecosystems provide. For example, the annual cost of weed control in the U.S. total more than $11 billion, according to the report. That’s expected to increase with rising temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations, which will add to rising food costs. Similarly, rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns will also have impacts on livestock production. “Heat stress for any specific type of livestock can damage performance, production, and fertility, limiting the production of meat, milk, or eggs…”



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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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