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More Weather Whiplash: Weekend Snowstorm for Chicago, 60s & 70s Out East


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Whiplash – Outrageous Swings In Temperature Into Christmas. A storm pushing into California will drop significant snow across the Midwest and Great Lakes this weekend, complicating travel and shopping plans. Out ahead of the storm thoughts may turn (prematurely) to spring, with 60s as far north as Washington D.C. and Baltimore by Sunday. In today’s edition of Climate Matters we take a look at unusually big swings in temperature looking out the next week: “WeathernationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at another case of “weather whiplash” going from slush to almost 70°F in some areas. Just how warm can we expect it to be as we do some last minute holiday shopping?

Weekend Storm Midwest And Great Lakes. California is experiencing its driest year on record; the storm pushing ashore won’t spark much rain. It will tap moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and fling it at the Midwest and Great Lakes, in the form of accumulating snow Saturday and Sunday. GFS model guidance above shows 10-meter wind speeds and surface pressures, courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

84 Hour Snowfall. The map above shows predicted snowfall amounts into early Saturday morning; significant amounts for the central and northern Rockies and downwind of the Great Lakes, the snow just starting up from near Tulsa and Wichita to Kansas City and Moline. NAM guidance: Ham Weather.

Weekend Snow Event. GFS guidance into midday Sunday shows a stripe of 6″+ amounts from north of Kansas City to the Quad Cities, Rockford and possibly the suburbs of Chicago and Milwaukee.

Care For A Dip? Gulf stream waters are still unusually mild for mid-December; 70s off the coast of Florida, 60s are far north as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. At some point this stain of warm water may set the stage for a series of very intense Nor’easters. Stay tuned. Graphic: Wilmington, NC office of the National Weather Service.

2014 Super Bowl: Let It Snow – Just Not Too Much. We can only hope and pray for a blizzard at The Meadowlands. Because with snow on the field it’s an entirely different game.  I enjoyed Sam Farmer’s take on Super Bowl 2014 weather at The Los Angeles Times; here’s an excerpt: “A snowbound Super Bowl? Yes, please. If last weekend’s NFLgames reminded us of anything, it’s that snow makes everything interesting. It turns the nation’s No. 1 sport into a goofy game show, with contestants struggling to perform impossible tasks, such as snapping the football or finding the line of scrimmage. Detroit fumbled seven times in a Philadelphia blizzard…”

Photo credit above: “The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions play on a snow-covered Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Sunday. Will this season’s Super Bowl at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey play out a similar scene?” (David Maialetti / Associated Press /December 8, 2013)

The 10 Worst Weather Places In The World?  Weatherwise Magazine has the award nobody really wants – here’s the introduction: “…Possibly due to an enduring “grass is always greener” fixation—and a craving to seek out and experience these supposed lusher pastures—many of us have a perennial fascination with “best places” lists: best places to live, work, and vacation; best places to slice into a porterhouse or dine on lobster. Often lavishly illustrated, publications of all flavors showcase the purported top beaches or resorts in a particular country or even throughout the world. In virtually all of these analyses (studies impossible to design and conduct truly objectively, of course), weather and climate play at least a salient, if not a pivotal, role. Year-round clement conditions make a good beach into a heavenly one and an otherwise unremarkable city a “quality lifestyle destination.” But what about places characterized by skyward conditions on the opposite end of the weather-comfort spectrum? What are the “worst weather places” in the world?…” (Images: Wikipedia).

Tornadoes May Be Getting Stronger – Or Not. When in doubt, obfuscate. How will a warmer, wetter, potentially more buoyant atmosphere impact the dynamics that drive tornado formation? The jury is still out, but at least one researcher believes there’s a strong chance of larger tornadoes. Here’s an excerpt from Scientific American: “Sometimes scientists can’t help themselves from showing dramatic curves, even though they have so many caveats that no firm conclusions can be made from the data. James Elsner at Florida State University has a killer curve, and lots of caveats. The curve indicates that tornadoes in the U.S. may be getting stronger. The caveats indicate they may not be. “If I were a betting man I’d say tornadoes are getting stronger,” he noted on Tuesday during a lecture at the annual American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. But when asked directly at a press conference whether that is the case, he would not commit…”

Unraveling The Mysterious Impacts Of Lightning On The Human Body. Remind me not to get struck anytime soon. Here’s a clip from National Geographic: “…Randolph-Quinney hopes the emerging research will help forensics investigators pinpoint cause of death from lightning. That’s currently a challenge, he said, because there are 17,000 unclaimed bodies in Johannesburg-area morgues each year. When it comes to lightning injuries, there has also been little research on the mechanisms of what exactly happens to the human body when struck, other than well-established complications that can arise, such as memory loss, insomnia, and depression, said Wits electrical engineering graduate student Harry Lee….” (Photo: AP).

Does Travel Insurance Cover Weather Problems. Ed Perkins has an interesting story at The Chicago Tribune; here’s the introduction: “The several big recent storms — and the many airline cancellations that resulted — raise the question of the extent to which travel insurance can help to recoup your travel investment. The short answer is that at least some of it does, at least sometimes. But you find lots of variation: Policies vary substantially in what they specify as “covered reasons” to provide payment. So you have to take a close look at the fine print, as well as the price, before you buy. Three different coverages apply. Trip cancellation/interruption (TCI). TCI covers whatever expenses, caused by delay or cancellation, that you can’t recover from your airline or hotel...”

Moving Out Of Harm’s Way. We have to worry about many forms of annoying and, at times, dangerous weather here in Minnesota. At least we don’t have to worry about rising sea levels. Millions of Americans will be impacted by rising seas, as outlined in this story from The Center for American Progress. Here’s a clip: “…So what are the consequences of having more ocean at our back doors? According to Princeton University earth scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who was interviewed in October by the Associated Press, 50,000 people experienced flooding from Superstorm Sandy who would have otherwise been spared in the absence of global warming. By the time the storm dissipated, it had exacted an economic cost of more than $68 billion, resulted in the deaths of 117 Americans, and taken the lives of 69 more people throughout the Caribbean and Canada. Blunting the intensity and reducing the rise in frequency of storms like Sandy is one of the most pressing reasons to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. According to a September 2013 report from the American Meteorological Society, global-warming-caused sea-level rise is significantly reducing the time between major coastal flood events…”

Photo credit above: AP/Richard Drew. “Cars are submerged at the entrance to a parking garage in New York’s Financial District in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, October 30, 2012.”

How To Get The Flood Coverage You Need. Here’s a snippet of a timely article at Money Magazine and CNN: “To ensure you’re adequately protected against the flood damage a storm like Sandy can render, follow these tips.
Don’t skimp. About 25% of flood insurance claims come from outside high-risk areas. If you live near any body of water, consider buying a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (few private carriers offer policies). Even melted snow can cause flooding.
Brace for price shock. FEMA is phasing out subsidies for pre-1970s homes, raising rates roughly 25% a year…”

Photo credit: Christopher Sturman. “Staten Islanders Michael Motherway and Jennifer Schanker point out how high the storm waters from Superstorm Sandy rose.”

Fukushima’s Worst-Case Scenario. Much Of What You’ve Heard About The Nuclear Accident Is Wrong. A nuclear meltdown capable of evacuating Tokyo and much of Japan? Not so much. The nuclear accident, although dangerous, never posed a significant threat to Tokyo, or U.S. forces stationed in Japan, contrary to popular media reports at the time. Kudos to Slate for some excellent original reporting on what really happened; here’s an excerpt: “…Key details of this episode are revealed here for the first time, based in part on U.S. government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. These revelations, together with additional new information, debunk some powerful myths about Fukushima and have weighty implications for the debate about nuclear power that has raged in the accident’s aftermath. (The revelations are unrelated to the plant’s current water-leakage problem, which by some reckonings is less severe and more solvable than recent headlines suggest.) What was Fukushima’s worst-case scenario? That question consumed the thoughts of millions of people in March 2011, and it remains highly relevant today…”

File photo above: AP Photo/Japan Pool.

Wind Power Rivals Coal With $1 Billion Order From Buffett. Bloomberg has the story; here’s the introduction: “The decision by Warren Buffett’s utility company to order about $1 billion of wind turbines for projects in Iowa shows how a drop in equipment costs is making renewable energy more competitive with power from fossil fuels. Turbine prices have fallen 26 percent worldwide since the first half of 2009, bringing wind power within 5.5 percent of the cost of electricity from coal, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a unit of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., yesterday announced an order for 1,050 megawatts of Siemens AG wind turbines in the industry’s largest order to date for land-based gear. Wind is the cheapest source of power in Iowa, and the deal indicates that turbines are becoming profitable without subsidies, according to Tom Kiernan, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association trade group…”

Photo credit above: Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg. “The silhouettes of Vestas Wind Systems turbines are seen in this photograph taken with a tilt-shift lens at a wind farm in Lowville, New York. The market value of Vestas, Europe’s biggest turbine supplier, increased 86 percent in the second half through yesterday and it’s expected to report net income in the current quarter for the first time since since mid-2011.”

Analysis: Clouds Over Hawaii’s Rooftop Solar Growth Hint At U.S. Battle. Talk about disruptive trends; here’s a good summary of how people installing solar panels on their homes (expecting a rebate or discount) are running afoul of local regulations and power utilities. Here’s an excerpt from Reuters: “…What’s happening in Hawaii is a sign of battles to come in the rest of the United States, solar industry and electric utility executives said. The conflict is the latest variation on what was a controversial issue this year in top solar markets California and Arizona. It was a hot topic at a solar industry conference last week: how to foster the growth of rooftop solar power while easing the concerns of regulated utilities that see its rise as a threat. The Oahu rule created a dispute between the island’s solar power companies and Hawaiian Electric…”

Photo credit above: “A view of houses with solar panels in the Mililani neighbourhood on the island of Oahu in Mililani, Hawaii, December 15, 2013.” Credit: Reuters/Hugh Gentry.
Having A Dog Protects Against Asthma And Infection, Study Says. I’ve heard this before, and the data seems to suggest that there may, in fact, be a link. Here’s an excerpt from a story at The PBS NewsHour: “….Dog owners already know their four-legged friend is good for their health, but they have more proof thanks to a recent study from scientists at the University of California San Francisco and University of Michigan. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a child’s risk of developing asthma and allergies is reduced if the child is exposed to a dog in a household during infancy. While the results of the study come from mice, researchers believe the results explain the reduced allergy risk of children who were raised in homes with dogs from birth….”

5 Surprising Things That Will Happen In The Next 5 Years. Local retail will beat online shopping? And I won’t have to try and remember 52 different passwords? That’s one of 5 counterintuitive claims by IBM, highlighted in a Gizmodo story; here’s a clip: “IBM Research’s 5 in 5 list—five things that will happen in the next five years—is here. Some are quite surprising and awesome. The bad news: no flying cars and/or realistic sex robots yet. The good news: doctors routinely using your DNA information to heal you effectively. But even while that may seem kind of surprising, given the current state of things, their futurists are always pretty accurate—perhaps because they’re scientists who base their estimates on actual data rather than dumb planet alignments and tea leaves. So, without further ado, here are five things that, according to them, you will see as normal by 2018…”

Artificial Sweeteners Found In River Water And Drinking Supplies. This story may illicit One Giant Yuck, something to keep in mind the next time you take a dip in your favorite lake or river. Here’s an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: “…The research, detailed in a paper published Dec. 11 in the online journal PLOS ONE, adds to a growing body of evidence that people are spiking waterways and their drinking supplies with an array of compounds that pass through not just them, but even advanced treatment systems. Antidepressants, antibiotics, steroids and fragrances are among the products that have been detected in surface waters. Some of the contaminants have been found in fish tissue. Some compounds not only get through sewage plants, they also survive purification of drinking supplies and have been measured in trace amounts in municipal tap water…”

Your Wireless Router Could Be Murdering Your Houseplants. And here I thought it was just neglect and incompetence. Here’s an excerpt of an eye-opening story at The Daily Dot: “Are you slowly killing your houseplants? Probably! But there might be a reason (other than neglect) why they’re all yellow and wilty: your Wi-Fi router. Anexperiment by a handful of high school students in Denmark has sparked some serious international interest in the scientific community…”

What Did The World Search For In 2013? Don’t Ask. But if you absolutely must knowGoogle has kept a record of the people and events that topped their lists this year.

In Denial That You’ve Reached Middle Age? A Survey Identifies Some Telltale Signs. Here’s a clip from a (sobering) article at The Washington Post: “…So beyond comfort shoes and ear hair, what are some signs that you’re no longer young? Here’s the full list offered up by respondents to the survey. Some are particularly British (e.g., joining the National Trust, taking a flask of tea on a day out). But you’ll get the point.
●Losing touch with everyday technology such as tablets and TVs
●Finding you have no idea what “young people” are talking about
●Feeling stiff
●Needing an afternoon nap…”

Climate Stories…

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 slowly – raising 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 andOregon 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

Water Scarcity Seen Worsening As Climate Changes, Study Shows. Here is one of many implications and complications of a warming, more volatile climate – as described in this story at Bloomberg BusinessWeek; here’s an excerpt: “Climate change will increase the number of people at risk of absolute water scarcity by 40 percent this century, according to a German institute. Ten in 100 will have less than 500 cubic meters (132,000 gallons) of water available a year, up from 1-2 today, should Earth warm by 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and populations grow, according to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The global average is about 1,200 cubic meters, and much greater in industrialized nations, PIK said, citing its and other analysts. “Water scarcity is a major threat for human development as for instance food security in many regions depends on irrigation,” said Qiuhong Tang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who co-wrote the study. “Agriculture is the main water user worldwide…”

The Global Temperature Jigsaw. More on the alleged temperature “pause” fromRealClimate: “…First an important point: the global temperature trend over only 15 years is neither robust nor predictive of longer-term climate trends. I’ve repeated this now for six years in various articles, as this is often misunderstood. The IPCC has again made this clear (Summary for Policy Makers p. 3):

Due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends.

You can see this for yourself by comparing the trend from mid-1997 to the trend from 1999 : the latter is more than twice as large: 0.07 instead of 0.03 degrees per decade (HadCRUT4 data)…”

Graphic credit above: “The global near-surface temperatures (annual values at the top, decadal means at the bottom) in the three standard data sets HadCRUT4 (black), NOAA (orange) and NASA GISS (light blue). Graph: IPCC 2013.”


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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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