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New England Digs Out – Cold Rain Upper Midwest

9 Mar 2013, 7:12 am
First Spring Showers



March is a troubled month – capable of blizzards, subzero cold, river flooding and tornadoes. Sometimes all in the same week.



We spring forward to Daylight Saving time late tonight, and Mother Nature must have gotten the memo. A surge of milder air aloft sparks rain much of today, which is problematic.



The ground is frozen to a depth of 20-40 inches. Melting snow may spark minor flooding of streets, intersections and poor drainage areas. So many years we go from drought to flood in the blink of an eye. I wonder if 2013 will be one of those years?



A changeover to wet snow tonight may drop a few inches of slush; heavier amounts over Iowa. As if the atmosphere can’t quite decide whether it’s spring or winter. We’re on the cusp.



Skies clear Sunday, a puff of cooler air gives way to another thaw late next week; long range models hinting at 50F after March 20.



No more bitter blasts brewing; we’ve probably seen the last of the subzero chill for the metro area.


On the weather blog below: NOAA NCDC reports over 65,000 new daily warm weather temperature records, nationwide, in the last 12 months. Compared with 17,000 cold weather records.



More data points in the climate puzzle.




First Spring Showers. In reality it will be more of a steady rain today, possibly freezing on contact with sub-freezing surfaces early (watch the bridges and side-streets before 8 am). As much as 1″ of liquid precipitation may fall by tonight, falling mostly as rain. Had the mercury been 3-5 F colder we’d be looking at 8-12″ of slushy snow, instead of (mostly) rain.




European Model Snowfall Prediction. The ECMWF is no magic bullet, but it seems to (fairly consistently) outperform most of the U.S. weather models; everything from storm track to precipitation amounts. The model is keeping the heaviest snow south of Minnesota, maybe an inch or two of slushy snow tonight.




Ice – Rain – Snow. The Twin Cities metro is under a Winter Weather Advisory, Winter Storm Warnings posted from St. Cloud to Morris, Alexandria and Fergus Falls (for more ice and wet snow mixing with rain). Details on the advisory from the NWS:









Amazing Numbers. From Dr. Mark Seeley’s WeatherTalk Newsletter:

Score card for USA climate records in the past 12 months

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center reported the following new daily record values in the USA for the past 12 months (March 6, 2012 to March 5, 2013), an extraordinary year for record setting:

32,398 new daily maximum temperature records
32,753 new daily warm minimum temperature records
10,525 new daily cold maximum temperature records
6,757 new daily minimum temperature records
28,398 new daily precipitation records
5,979 new daily snowfall records

Obviously the warm signal of climate is dominant in these statistics, with over 65,000 new daily warm temperature records (both max and min) set across the USA in the past 12 months.”

Lopsided Temperature Records. Looking at the last 12 months, NOAA NCDC reports nearly 4 times more record highs than record lows, nationwide. Granted, one year does not a trend make. But there’s a larger trend: 335 months/row with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century historical average. Details in this edition of WeatherNation Climate Matters: “While this winter may have seemed harsh, temperatures were above normal for more than half of the United States. And when you look at the last 12 months as a whole, warm weather records far outweighed cold weather records. Meteorologist Paul Douglas takes a look at the big picture temperature trends.”


Climatology Update. Here’s a highlight of the latest update from Minnesota State Climatologist Greg Spoden:

– February average monthly temperatures in Minnesota were 2-4 F below the historical average. For a number of communities it was only the second time in 21 months that the mean monthly temperature was below average.

– February precipitation totals were above historical averages statewide. Monthly precipitation totals topped the historical average by approximately one-half inch in many locations, and by over 1″ in west central and north central Minnesota counties.

– For most of the state, the water content of the snow pack is estimated to be 2-4 inches. Some west central , north central, and northeast Minnesota counties report snow water equivalence values in excess of 4″.

– Because of solidly frozen topsoils and high snow water content in west central Minnesota, the National Weather Service warns of a high risk of moderate to major spring flooding along the Red River. This could lead to an ironic paradox where most of the soil profile will remain dry after floodwaters recede.

– The U.S. Drought Monitor continues to place large portions of Minnesota in the Extreme Drought category. In total, 70% of Minnesota’s landscape is considered to be in Extreme Drought or Severe Drought. This is down from 84% in late January. A one-category improvement was assigned to some west central and north central Minnesota counties due to heavy February snowfall.

– Despite the amount of water on the landscape, the drought situation will likely remain unchanged until spring. The deeply and solidly frozen soil assures that very little winter precipitation will make it into the ground. As of late autumn, the soil moisture content in the plant rooting zone was near an all-time low evel at many locations. Without abundant spring rains, a number of critical drought issues involving agriculture, forestry, horticulture, tourism and public water supply will begin to emerge.

Flood Risk Increases With March Snowfall. Fargo’s INFORUM has more details on the snow pack over the Red River Valley impacting the (growing) risk of spring river flooding: “Early March snowfall has raised the risk of major flooding on the Red River, the National Weather Service said today in its latest flood outlook. In Fargo, the chances of the Red River topping major flood stage of 30 feet jumped from 79 percent to 88 percent since the last flood outlook on Feb. 21. There’s a 50 percent chance the river will rise above 33.8 feet, up from a 50 percent chance at 33.2 feet in the Feb. 21 outlook. The Red has a 5 percent chance of surpassing 38.2 feet, up from 37.8 feet in the last outlook. City officials say Fargo is well-protected to 38 feet without the need for sandbagging…”

In A Warming World Storms May Be Fewer, But Stronger. Here’s a clip of a story at NASA’s Earth Observatory: “…Given all the change that has already take place, it’s reasonable to wonder if climate change has affected storms as well. “After the tornadoes in 2011, I was flooded with calls from reporters,” says Anthony Del Genio, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). “People wanted quick, definitive answers. The trouble is that’s not where the science is.” Historically, research on tornadoes, hurricanes, and other types of storms has focused on short-term forecasting, not on understanding how storms are changing over time. Reliable, long-term records of storms are scarce, and the different reporting and observing methods have left many scientists and meteorologists feeling skeptical. But the study of storminess and climate has begun to mature, says Del Genio, and a consensus is emerging: for several types of storms, global warming may prime the atmosphere to produce fewer but stronger storms…”

Photo credit above: “Hackleburg High School in Alabama was destroyed by a tornado in April 2011.” (Photograph courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency.)

Storm Aftermath Photos That Will Leave You Looking For Higher Ground. Suddenly Minnesota’s lakes look even more inviting. They freeze up in winter, you can drive on them, but at least we don’t have to worry about towering storm surges. Here’s an excerpt from Wired: “Mario Tama spent more than his fair share of 2012 in a helicopter, surveying and photographing the destruction of some of that year’s many powerful storms. But it was on the ground where he felt the real impact, as he photographed the people affected by these extreme meteorological events. Like Melanie Martinez, a resident of Braithwaite, Louisiana, as she looked through her flooded house after Hurricane Isaac. “There was no specific plan to focus on climate change in 2012, as much of what we do as photojournalists is reactive,” says Tama, a photojournalist for Getty Images. “But I suppose the evolution of the project was a natural progression given the multitude of weather-related events of 2012 in this country.” His edit of these photos, titled 2012 Climate Change: A New Normal in America?, just won a Judge’s Special Recognition award in the Environmental Awareness Award category at Picture of the Year International contest. Climate change is a broad, diffuse subject, and it’s hard to illustrate it with photographs, but Tama’s photos capture the sheer size of the destruction while also humanizing the impacts…”

Photo credit above: “A living room filled with sand washed in by Superstorm Sandy on Nov. 14, 2012 in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.

Arctic Ice Loss Amplifed Superstorm Sandy Violence. Details in this post from Cornell University: “…The researchers assert that the record-breaking sea ice loss from summer 2012, combined with the unusual atmospheric phenomena observed in late October, appear to be linked to global warming. A strong atmospheric, high-pressure blocking pattern over Greenland and the northwest Atlantic prevented Hurricane Sandy from steering northeast and out to sea like most October hurricanes and tropical storms from the Caribbean. In fact, Sandy traveled up the Atlantic coast and turned left “toward the most populated area along the eastern seaboard” and converged with an extratropical cyclone; this, in turn, fed the weakening Hurricane Sandy and transformed it into a monster tempest. Superstorm Sandy’s extremely low atmospheric pressure and the strong high-pressure block to the north created violent east winds that pushed storm surge against the eastern seaboard. “To literally top it off, the storm surge combined with full-moon high tides and huge ocean waves to produce record high water levels that exceeded the worst-case predictions for parts of New York City,” write the researchers.” (Image above: NASA Earth Observatory).

Shrinking Ice Worries Great Lakes Scientists. Here’s an excerpt of an article at The News-Messenger: “...Ice cover has decreased nearly 70 percent on the five Great Lakes since the early 1970s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The five Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh water and have more than 11,000 miles of shoreline.
Every one of the lakes has endured the winter meltdown:

• Lake Ontario saw the most dramatic decrease with an 88 percent drop in ice coverage.
• Lake Superior lost 76 percent of its ice.
• Lake Michigan saw a decrease of 77 percent…”

Japan Earthquake, 2 Years Later: Before And After. The Atlantic has a remarkable story about the Japan earthquake and tsunami, with some of the most incredible photos I’ve ever seen; damage on an unimaginable scale: “In a few days, Japan will mark the 2nd anniversary of the devastating Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami. The disaster killed nearly 19,000 across Japan, leveling entire coastal villages. Now, nearly all the rubble has been removed, or stacked neatly, but reconstruction on higher ground is lagging, as government red tape has slowed recovery efforts. Locals living in temporary housing are frustrated, and still haunted by the horrific event, some displaying signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Collected below are a series of before-and-after interactive images. Click on each one to see the image fade from before (2011) to after (2013)…”

Photo credit: “The tsunami-devastated Kesennuma in Miyagi prefecture, is pictured in this side-by-side comparison photo taken March 12, 2011 (left) and March 4, 2013 (right), ahead of the two-year anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that damaged so much of northeastern Japan.” (Reuters/Kyodo)

You Spend 23 Days/Year On Your Phone, Survey Says. CNET has the amazing details. Photo:

Climate Stories…

Global Temperatures Highest In 4,000 Years. Here’s a snippet of a story from Justin Gillis at The New York Times: “Global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years, scientists reported Thursday, and over the coming decades are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last ice age. Previous research had extended back roughly 1,500 years, and suggested that the rapid temperature spike of the past century, believed to be a consequence of human activity, exceeded any warming episode during those years. The new work confirms that result while suggesting the modern warming is unique over a longer period. Even if the temperature increase from human activity that is projected for later this century comes out on the low end of estimates, scientists said, the planet will be at least as warm as it was during the warmest periods of the modern geological era, known as the Holocene, and probably warmer than that...” (Apollo 17 image courtesy of NASA).

Graphic credit above: “Temperature change over the past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming this century on humanity’s current emissions path (in red, via recent literature).” Courtesy: Think Progress.

Rate Of Warming Since 1900 Is 50 Times Greater Than Rate Of Cooling In Previous 5000 Years. Here’s an excerpt from Think Progress: “A stable climate enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population. Now, the most comprehensive “Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years” ever done reveals just how stable the climate has been — and just how destabilizing manmade carbon pollution has been and will continue to be unless we dramatically reverse emissions trends…” (photo: Wanda Brandt).

Documentary “Greedy Lying Bastards” Targets Climate Change Deniers. Here’s a clip from Politico: “The new documentary “Greedy Lying Bastards” takes on contributors to and deniers of climate change and accuses many in the energy industry of lying and putting profits before people. And although director Craig Rosebraugh says it’s an unfortunate coincidence, he says that recent events could have helped the marketing of the film. “I don’t think we could have asked for a better time to release the film,” Rosebraugh told POLITICO, noting that “thankfully — if you can call it thankfully — the climate has responded with the severe weather patterns in 2011 and 2012…”


Study: In Just A Century, Globe Shifted From One Of The Coldest Decades In 11,000 Years To Warmest. The Star Tribune has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…Research released Thursday in the journal Science uses fossils of tiny marine organisms to reconstruct global temperatures back to the end of the last ice age. It shows how the globe for several thousands of years was cooling until an unprecedented reversal in the 20th century. Scientists say it is further evidence that modern-day global warming isn’t natural, but the result of rising carbon dioxide emissions that have rapidly grown since the Industrial Revolution began roughly 250 years ago. The decade of 1900 to 1910 was one of the coolest in the past 11,300 years — cooler than 95 percent of the other years, the marine fossil data suggest. Yet 100 years later, the decade of 2000 to 2010 was one of the warmest, said study lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University. Global thermometer records only go back to 1880, and those show the last decade was the hottest for this more recent time period. In 100 years, we’ve gone from the cold end of the spectrum to the warm end of the spectrum,” Marcott said. “We’ve never seen something this rapid. Even in the ice age the global temperature never changed this quickly….” (graphic credit here).

* Andrew Revkin has more on this story at The New York Times.

Ships To Sail Directly Over The North Pole By 2050, Scientists Say. Well this is certainly great news! Who needs that polar ice anyway? It’s probably just there for show – it can’t possibly serve a purpose in nature, right? Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “Ships should be able to sail directly over the north pole by the middle of this century, considerably reducing the costs of trade between Europe and China but posing new economic, strategic and environmental challenges for governments, according to scientists. The dramatic reduction in the thickness and extent of late summer sea ice that has taken place in each of the last seven years has already made it possible for some ice-strengthened ships to travel across the north of Russia via the “northern sea route”. Last year a total of 46 ships made the trans-Arctic passage, mostly escorted at considerable cost by Russian icebreakers. But by 2050, say Laurence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson at the University of California in the journal PNAS on Monday, ordinary vessels should be able to travel easily along the northern sea route, and moderately ice-strengthened ships should be able to take the shortest possible route between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, passing over the pole itself. The easiest time would be in September, when annual sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean is at its lowest extent…”

Graphic credit above: “Projected Arctic shipping routes.” Photograph:

Climate Change Might Open Up Northwest Passage To Shipping By The Middle Of The Century. Here’s an excerpt from Scientific American: “Investigating what is sometimes seen as one of the more favorable effects of climate change, a pair of scientists from UCLA has done a careful analysis of the melting of Arctic sea ice and concluded that it could lead to ships traversing the ice-free Northwest Passage (NWP) by 2050. It would also lead to much shorter transit times through the existing North Sea Passage (NSR). These developments may greatly reduce the time and cost of shipping but would also lead to unforeseen economic and geopolitical complications…”

Graphic credit above: “Differences in transit routes for two kinds of vessels (red and blue) enabled by shrinking Arctic ice levels and opening of the Northwest Passage by 2050.” (Image: Smith and Stephenson, PNAS, Early Edition)

Climate Change Will Open Up Surprising New Arctic Shipping Routes. The Washington Post has the story – here’s an excerpt: “Right now, the Arctic Ocean is still too icy and treacherous for open-water ships to traverse with any regularity. The Northwest Passage is only navigable during the summer months once every seven years or so. Too unreliable for commercial shipping. But that will soon change. As the planet keeps warming, the Arctic’s summer sea ice is vanishing at a stunning pace. That rapid melt is expected to have all sorts of sweeping impacts, from speeding up climate change to wreaking havoc on weather patterns. On the flip side, the loss of sea ice could also open up some potentially lucrative new trade routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.”

An Inevitable Headline in 2014? CO2 Levels Pass 400 PPM For First Time In Human Existance. Here’s the intro to a story at “Sometime, about one year from now, the front pages of whatever decent newspapers are left will carry a headline like the one above, announcing that for the first time in human existance (or in nearly a million years, or 3 million years, or 15 million years), the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide – the principal gas causing climate change – will have passed 400 parts per million. That’s a significant and shocking figure. Unfortunately, it is only a temporary marker on the way to even higher and higher levels. Here (Figure 1 below) are the most recent (March 2013) data from the Mauna Loa observatory showing the inexorable increase in atmospheric CO2 and the rapid approach to 400 ppm…”

Graphic credit above: “The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere measured by Scripps/NOAA at Mauna Loa. We’re rapidly approaching 400 parts per million.”

Most Insurers Lack A Plan To Address Climate Change, CERES Says. Bloomberg has the story – here’s a clip: “Almost 90 percent of insurance companies lack a comprehensive plan to address climate change and fewer than half of them view it as a likely source of financial losses, according to a report released today. Only 23 of 184 insurers surveyed demonstrated a “comprehensive climate change strategy” and 88 said they consider climate change a future loss driver, Boston-based Ceres said today in a report. “Climate change exists, it’s happening, it’s going to have an impact,” Mike Kreidler, Washington State insurance commissioner, said in a phone interview. “It has the potential of being a real game changer” for investments and underwriting…”

Climate Change And The U.S. Strategy. AOL Energy has an interesting story about the viability of a tax on carbon – here’s a clip: “At a federal level, major regulation is not foreseeable in the near future because it will not receive bipartisan support. However, according to Dr. Joseph Aldy (Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School), a carbon tax policy project is more possible now than ever before. Dr. Gilbert Metcalf (MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change) supported this view noting that fiscal problems faced by the US are driving government to seriously consider a carbon tax that will generate around $100 billion in revenue. Most of the regulation within the next few years will probably be generated at a state level, where the new EPA director, Gina McCarthy, will closely work with states to create new approaches to tackle the climate change problem…”

Critical Part Of Keystone XL Report Done By Firms With Deep Oil Industry Tries. Inside Climate News has the story; here’s a clip: “The State Department’s recent conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline “is unlikely to have a substantial impact” on the rate of Canada’s oil sands development was based on analysis provided by two consulting firms with ties to oil and pipeline companies that could benefit from the proposed project. EnSys Energy has worked with ExxonMobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Imperial Oil, one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon…”

Kevin Trenberth: So What Should Be Done About Climate Change And The Vested Interests? Who are the real radicals? Is it the people protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline? Or is it the fossil fuel CEO’s who are selling a product that is altering the chemical composition of our atmosphere? Kevin Trenberth is one of America’s leading climate scientists; here’s a portion of his commentary related to a new documentary about climate denial (“Greedy Lying Bastards”) which is being released this month: “…This is a global problem.  It is an international problem. It involves not just the environment, but also the economy, trade, foreign policy, security, sustainability, and the human condition.  It involves not just the current peoples of the Earth but future generations.  And many small countries are powerless to influence their own fate. The huge denial machine exposed by the documentary “Greedy Lying Bastards” is very well funded by vested interests.  Too many politicians in the United States are bought and sold, and owned by their supporters for their own selfish interests, and with nary a care about the well being of the planet. This necessarily is a problem of the “tragedy of the commons”.  In this case the commons is the global atmosphere, shared by all.  The air over China one day resides over the United States five days later, and then Europe five days after that.  But the atmosphere is a dumping ground for all sorts of pollution…”

Cherrypicking To Deny Continued Ocean and Global Warming. As much as 90-93% of all the additional heat from greenhouse warming is going into the oceans, specifically deep-ocean waters. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting post at Skeptical Science: “…Despite showing a larger ocean warming trend than Levitus, climate contrarians likely prefer the Lyman data because it does not include the ocean layers below 700 meters.  However, even if we cherrypick this shallow ocean data and cherrypick 2003 as the starting point, the 0–700 meter ocean heat accumulation for 2003–2012 in the Lyman PMEL data is equivalent to 1.2 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second over the past decade.  For 1993–2012, this rate increases to the equivalent of 3.7 detonations per second, and when including global heat accumulation in Nuccitelli et al. (2012) including the 0–2,000 meter oceans, the Earth has accumulated the equivalent of 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second over the past decade. When we consider all the available data, it becomes quite clear that ocean and global warming continue unabated at a rapid rate.  Cherrypicking cannot change that reality…”

Graphic credit above: “0–700 meter ocean heat content data from NOAA NODC (Levitus) and NOAA PMEL (Lyman) using the same baseline.  The yellow arbitrary denialist line is shown, followed by the linear trends for 2003–2012 and 1993–2012 in red.  Standard error bars are also shown.



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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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