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The Polar Vortex Surges South Again Next Week (cold to rival early January?)

25 Jan 2014, 8:57 am

Running Out Of Colors. It’s so cold the color table drops off at -20F. By Sunday the core of the Polar Vortex (I get a dollar every time I use that expression) pushes south out of Canada, subzero Monday and Tuesday from the Upper Mississippi Valley into the Great Lakes. Spring is nowhere in sight. NAM 84-hour 2-meter temperatures from NOAA and Ham Weather.


Flakes in New Orleans? A rhetorical question, I know, but yes, a little slush is possible as far south as Galveston and The Big Easy. The heaviest snows fall on the snow belts downwind of the Great Lakes.

Dangers Beyond Frostbite. Although heat claims more lives in the USA than winter cold, consistently low temperatures constrict blood vessels and increase blood pressure, increasing the potential for heart-related ailments, including heart attack. Today’s edition of Climate Matters includes a look at how (and why) the pattern has been stuck for nearly 2 months, and how the same holding pattern is impacting weather from Honolulu to Sochi: “It seems like the weather, increasingly, is getting stuck.” Meteorologist Paul Douglas explains this weather pattern that seems to be stuck in a rut. Swells, drought and a polar vortex! Learn how it is impacting everywhere from Hawaii/Alaska all the way to Europe. The Winter Olympics may feel more like the Summer Olympics!


January School Closings May Lead To Makeup Days In June. I have a strong hunch that most Minnesota schools will close again Monday, probably Tuesday of next week. Kids should enjoy their days off now, because there won’t be much celebrating in June, according to a story at The Star Tribune; here’s a clip: “Can’t bear the thought of another snow day? Find the scroll of school closings painful to watch? Just wait until summer arrives and Minnesota schools are still in session. Some school officials are contemplating scheduling makeup days in June as their school calendars are on the verge of being blown up by a particularly bitter winter. Teachers and parents also have found their best-laid plans badly buffeted. Most Twin Cities metro area schools have canceled classes for three days this month, and Monday’s forecast of 5 below zero makes a four-peat appear possible…”


Freak Rains In Alaska. Looking to thaw out – head to Anchorage, or even Fairbanks, where a freakish late January rain froze on surfaces Thursday. Here’s a clip from a story at Anchorage Daily News: “…Organizers have canceled the Northern Lights 300  sled dog race slated to start Friday in Big Lake because of unfavorable weather and trail conditions, according to the race’s website.  The 300-mile race trail begins in Big Lake, goes to Finger Lake and loops back around. It’s an Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier. Freezing rain iced roads and tangled transportation in Fairbanks on Thursday as warmer weather blasted usually frigid Interior Alaska...”

File photo above: “Matt Goff and his daughter Rowan check out a flooded Swan Lake Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Sitka, Alaska. The Goffs were spending the day looking at flooded sites around town. More than 4.5 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period.” (AP Photo/Daily Sitka Sentinel, James Poulson).


Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2014/01/23/3287457/some-mat-su-schools-closed-as.html#storylink=cpy

Predicting Super Bowl Snow Is An Epic Forecasting Challenge. LiveScience does an admirable job tackling the complexities and impossibilities of a 2-week weather forecast (for a specific point, like The Meadowlands in New Jersey). Here’s an excerpt: “…This suggests that no one should put too much stock in any single prediction two weeks out. Even the official NWS local forecasts that go out seven days need to be viewed with some caution at the far end, since their skill is little better than climatology at that point.In other words, the average high, low and precipitation amounts observed on February 2 over the last 30 years may come nearly as close to being correct as a typical weather forecast issued seven days beforehand. It’s also important to distinguish between “skill” and “accuracy.” One could offer a firm prediction of “no snow” a month in advance of the Super Bowl, and chances are greater than 80 percent that the forecast would be correct — but not necessarily skillful...”

Image credit above: “The variable-mesh MPAS grid can be customized to feature higher resolution where added detail is desired, as illustrated here for North America.” Courtesy MPAS.


Hundred Years Of Dry: How California’s Drought Could Get Much, Much Worse. Time Magazine provides some historical perspective for the deepening drought afflicting California and the West Coast; here’s an excerpt: “…Californians need to be ready, because if some scientists are right, this drought could be worse than anything the state has experienced in centuries. B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, has looked at rings of old trees in the state, which helps scientists gauge precipitation levels going back hundreds of years. (Wide tree rings indicate years of substantial growth and therefore healthy rainfall, while narrow rings indicate years of little growth and very dry weather.) She believes that California hasn’t been this dry since 1580, around the time the English privateer Sir Francis Drake first visited the state’s coast...”

Photo credit above: “A marina on Lake Folsom sits dry and useless as an unseasonably dry winter in California stokes fears of a severe drought, near Folsom, Calif., Jan. 15, 2014. Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency on Friday, which will allow California to seek federal aid as it grapples with what could turn out to be the driest year in recorded state history for many areas.” (Max Whittaker/The New York Times)


California Drought Spurs Some Cities – Not All – To Conserve. Climate Central weighs in on a deepening sense of crisis in California. With a little luck the rains will arrive in the coming weeks, but by then it may be too little too late. Here’s a clip: “Californians are hoping big rains will relieve the drought emergency declared in the state last week. It could be in the form of a miracle March rainstorm, or a sudden drastic shift in the weather pattern that is keeping the winter rains away. The state is drying up quickly, but cities across the state are responding to the drought in a variety of ways — from imposing water restrictions immediately to doing nothing at all. Though scientists aren’t yet certain if climate change has contributed to the severity of the drought in California, the state just experienced its driest year on record in 2013 after an extremely dry decade with no end to the dry spell in sight. A persistent high pressure ridge is lingering off the West Coast, deflecting California’s typical winter storms away from the state...”

Photo credit above: “A panoramic view of an extremely low Folsom Lake in Northern California in January.”
Credit: Stuart Rankin/flickr.

Rare Winter Wildfires Erupt In Northern Coast Range. Unusual for late January? Absolutely. KGW.com in Portland, Oregon has the story and video; here’s a clip: “Rare winter wildfires in the Coast Range, visible from as far as 20 miles away, continued to burn early Friday morning east of Arch Cape. The first was reported about 3 p.m. Thursday and second one about midnight south of the original fire, according to Seaside police. A Forestry official told KGW Friday morning that the first fire was about 25 acres and the second about 100 acres…”


Researchers Digging Into Data On Quiet Hurricane Season. Last year’s hurricane prediction was a bust – it was the quietest year in the Atlantic since 1982. What happened, and can a long-range hurricane forecast even be trusted? Here’s a clip from a story at The Coloradoan: “…Gray and Klotzbach believe a significant cooling of waters in the eastern Atlantic associated with a weakening of the thermohaline circulation — or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation — in the spring months was the primary reason for the inactivity. But there are significant disagreements between historical datasets about the conditions of the atmosphere during the June-November hurricane season…”

Graphic above: RMS.com.


Tsunami Alert. Russia’s Emergency Ministry is predicting a significant earthquake/tsunami later this year off Sakhalin Island, in the far east. When did anyone start predicting quakes and tidal waves months in advance? Details from turkishweekly.net. What, you don’t read this on a regular basis? And yes, I need some new hobbies…


Large Fault Zone Still A Threat To Central U.S. One of these days the New Madrid fault will rupture, and people will wonder why nobody was talking about the threat. Here’s an excerpt of a good reminder from Discovery News: “More than a century ago in December of 1811 and January of 1812, residents in the 600,000 square kilometers around New Madrid, Mo., suffered damages from some of the most powerful earthquakes in United States history. Seismologists recently warned that the New Madrid fault didn’t die and still threatens the area where Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas meet. During those 19th century New Madrid fault quakes, buildings suffered damage as far away as St. Louis and Cincinnati. As the ground fell out from underneath the Mississippi River, waves swept northward, creating the illusion that the river had reversed its course and whole islands disappeared. Closer to the epicenter of the quake, sand erupted from the ground, which dropped up to 6 meters in places…”


The Last Place On Earth Without Human Noise. Greenland? Antarctica? Good luck finding a remote spot with zero noise pollution, according to this story at The BBC. One hint: Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area is near the top of the Quiet List, so we have that going for us. Here’s an excerpt: “…Unfortunately, Hempton says that there is absolutely no place on Earth that is completely free from human sound all of the time. A map of the established flight paths over the US, for example, “looks like a plate of spaghetti,” he says. Hempton is not alone in this pronouncement. “There are no places on Earth that I’ve been that haven’t been affected by human sound,” agrees Bernie Krause, an expert in bioacoustics and one of the founders of the field of soundscape ecology. “All over the Earth, not a day goes by when you don’t hear something…”

Image credit above: “Satellite imagery of artificial light, like this picture of Italy, can reveal the human activity you might want to avoid.” (NASA).


The Geography Of The American Dream. The Atlantic takes a look at upward mobility and where, statistically, the most people are getting closer to that dream; here’s an excerpt: “One of the most important lessons from today’s blockbuster social mobility report is that place matters. (And, because your parents choose the place where you’re born and live, parents matter.) Tucked into the appendix are two colorful maps of America that tell you where social mobility—the chance to move up the income ladder, a.k.a. The American Dream—is living and where it’s not. First, the graphs. Then, five facts…”


A Death In The Database. As I gently remind my friends and colleagues, if the product is “free”, YOU are the product. Here’s an excerpt of a shocking and sobering tale from The New Yorker: “…Segmenting potential customers based on their traumas is the funhouse-mirror inversion of a popular retail strategy known as “life-stage marketing.” The idea is that during certain transitions—weddings, births, new homes—people will spend a lot of money, obviously, but will also be especially open to changing their habits. Crate & Barrel hosts engagement parties not only to persuade couples to register at its stores but to build new brand loyalties. Companies race to be the first to find these lucrative shoppers, which is how Target got in trouble several years ago for revealing that a teen-age girl was pregnant before she had told her father...”


C’mon Kids – Let’s Go See The Creepy Robots That May Someday Take Your Jobs! Remind me not to visit South Korea anytime soon, and I suspect Disneyworld has nothing to worry about. Here’s a clip from Gizmag: “Since 2007, the South Korean government has dreamed of Robot Land, a robotics research park and themed destination with rides, exhibitions, shopping, and even housing. Although the originally planned open date of 2012 has come and gone, ground was officially broken for the 300-acre park last year and a new timeline seems to indicate that Robot Land may now be on target to deliver on its promise of a themed world dedicated to robots…”


What Reviewers Said About The First Mac When It Debuted 30 Years Ago. It’s been 30 years? Amazing, and now I’d be lost without my iMac and iPhone and iPad. I should get an iLife huh? Here’s a clip of a great recap of that audacious moment from Smithsonian: “Nearly thirty years ago, on January 24, 1984, a 28-year-old Steve Jobs appeared onstage in a tuxedo to introduce a new Apple computer that had been in the works for years: the Macintosh. Two days earlier, during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, Apple aired a commercial that brought already-high expectations for the Mac to a fever pitch. In the ad, a nameless heroine runs through a dystopian setting, where a face projected onto an enormous screen commands a room full of conformists to obey. Evading police in riot gear, the heroine smashes the screen with a giant hammer, freeing the audience. The message: IBM was 1984’s Big Brother, and Mac was the audacious liberator…”

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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 startribune.com/weather And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather.

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