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Winter Solstice – Do You Suffer From “SAD” – Christmas Day Rain Storm – Freakish Warmth at the North Pole

21 Dec 2016, 4:56 pm

Welcome Winter Solstice! A Rainy Christmas Day for Midwest

It isn’t the cold, or even the snow and ice that depresses so many people this time of year. It’s a dire lack of daylight, sunshine, all-natural vitamin D, that makes so many of us want to curl up into a fetal position.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) include depression, hopelessness, low energy, irritability, oversleeping, craving carbohydrates and weight gain.

Sitting in front of a “light box” that mimics the sun for 30 minutes can help. So can melatonin. You don’t have to suffer – see a doctor to find the right solution for you.

It turns out decorating evergreen trees, yule logs and mistletoe are vestiges of ancient pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice.

Relatively mild weather lingers this week for much of the USA; a few minor nuisance storms but no major travel hassles. A cold rain sweeps into the Midwest on Christmas Day, which will  be disorienting for people from the Twin Cities and Des Moines  to Madison and Chicago, where temperatures were well below zero a  few days ago. Rain in late December? Unusual but hardly unprecedented. Farther north 1-2 feet of snow may pile up by Monday for eastern North Dakota and the Red River Valley of Minnesota. Colder air follows the storm, but not as Nanook as earlier this week – which I still believe may have been the coldest air temperatures this winter for much of the Upper Midwest. We’ll see.

Today at 4:44 AM the sun’s rays hit the Tropic of Capricorn, in the southern hemisphere. Daylight tomorrow will be 3 seconds longer! for many northern tier cities. Can spring be far behind?



For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Paul Douglas

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of WeatherNation

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Here’s an excerpt from The Mayo Clinic focused on symptoms of “SAD”, which can result in both physical and mental: “Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

…It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.”

It’s A Good Thing Santa Has Rain-Deer. I know, I know, the typo is intentional – just trying to make a point. GFS Future Radar (above) is color-colded; areas of rain in green, snow in blue. A major storm spins up over the Plains and tracks toward the Upper Midwest Christmas Day, pulling enough warm air into its circulation for a cold rain for much of the Midwest. Get out and play in the snow – by Monday it may be slushy, mushy and icy. Animation credit:

10-Day Snowfall Potential

Sunday’s storm may dump 1-2 feet of snow on eastern North Dakota and the Red River Valley of northwestern Minnesota. Otherwise it will be too warm for heavy snow Christmas Day. Minor accumulations are possible downwind of the Great Lakes after Christmas.

Early January: Cold and Stormy East, Relatively Mild Western USA

Looking out roughly 2 weeks GFS guidance shows a longwave trough over the Great Lakes and New England, increasing the potential for significant snows, even a few Nor’easters? Meanwhile relatively dry, mild weather prevails over the western half of the USA.

January 2017 Preview: Milder for Much of USA? This is a low-confidence outlook, but recent runs on NOAA’s CFSv2 climate model have been trending milder for the USA and Canada as Polar Vortex winds are forecast to strengthen, keeping the coldest air bottled up over northern Canada. This is more of a curiosity than an actual forecast, but we’ll keep peering over the horizon to see if long-range forecasts are consistent (or just plain flakey).

Map: WeatherBell.

Freakish Warmth Continues In The Arctic – 50F Warmer Than Average by Thursday

Have we reached a tipping point? Here’s an excerpt from Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang: “It’s not normal, and it’s happening again. For the second year in a row in late December and for the second time in as many months, temperatures in the high Arctic will be freakishly high compared to normal. Computer models project that on Thursday, three days before Christmas, the temperature near the North Pole will be an astronomical 40-50 degrees warmer-than-normal and approaching 32 degrees, the melting point...”

(Map: Climate Reanalyzer).

Arctic Ice Melt “Already Affecting Weather Patterns Where You Live Right Now”

A meteorological domino effect with uncertain results – the experiment continues. A weaker jet stream may already be creating more blocking patterns, more holding patterns capable of amplifying floods and drought. Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “…The northern ice cap has been shrinking since the 1970s, with global warming driving the loss of about three-quarters of its volume so far. But the recent heat in the Arctic has shocked scientists, with temperatures 33C above average in parts of the Russian Arctic and 20C higher in some other places. In November, ice levels hit a record low, and we are now in “uncharted territory”, said Prof Jennifer Francis, an Arctic climate expert at Rutgers University in the US, who first became interested in the region when she sailed through it on a round-the-world trip in the 1980s. “These rapid changes in the Arctic are affecting weather patterns where you live right now,” she said. “In the past you have had natural variations like El Niño, but they have never happened before in combination with this very warm Arctic, so it is a whole new ball game. “It is inconceivable that this ridiculously warm Arctic would not have an impact on weather patterns in the middle latitudes further south, where so many people live...”

(Jet stream simulation: NASA)

Record-Breaking Wave Thunders Through North Atlantic

It took nearly 3 years to verify the size of this monster-wave, according to “…Four times the size of a double-decker bus, the WMO said the huge swell followed the passage of a “very strong cold front” which produced powerful winds of up to 50 mph (80 kph). The organization said the delay in confirming the new record was due to the time it took to analyze, cross-check and verify the data. “This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 meters. It is a remarkable record,” said Wenjian Zhang, WMO Assistant Secretary-General, in a statement...”

How Soil Moisture Can Help Predict Power Outages Caused by Hurricanes

ScienceDaily has a summary of new research that shows a convincing link: “…The project aims to curtail outages by helping power companies allocate equipment and crews in advance of storms, said Steven Quiring, professor of atmospheric sciences at The Ohio State University. Healthy trees that receive just the right amount of moisture are less prone to storm damage, he explained, so soil moisture is a good indicator of where outage crews will be needed. “We see increased numbers of outages at both ends of the spectrum — wherever soils are too wet or too dry,” Quiring said. “Drought makes tree branches more likely to snap off, and over-saturation makes trees more likely to be uprooted...”

(Map creditResearchers at The Ohio State University, University of Michigan and Texas A&M have developed a computer model to forecast power outages caused by hurricanes. The model uses NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite to pinpoint where trees are more likely to contact power lines during severe weather.” Credit: Courtesy of The Ohio State University.)

Where Are Forecasts Most Accurate in the USA?

Perception becomes reality. I found this to an interesting nugget, courtesy of Peter Kennedy’s Daily Devotional: “CNBC looked at how eight meteorological services predicted temperatures and rain across the United States. They found the top two overall were Weather Underground and the Weather Channel with almost an 84% chance of accuracy. Places like Florida, California and Alaska are easier to forecast with high accuracy. In California, apps predicted rain (or more likely, no rain) in some areas with more than 97 percent accuracy in 2015. Likewise, temperature forecasts are strongest in Florida. Overall, the hardest states to predict the weather in are North Dakota and Montana, where apps are only right about 64 percent of the time. Additionally, what is perceived as accurate can change depending on how you use a service. That’s why some weather services have been known to adjust their predictions to better serve their customers. One famous example is the “wet bias” — when a forecaster reports a higher probability of rain than his or her models suggest to help keep people from getting wet if it does rain. The logic is that if consumers see that rain is unlikely and get wet, they’ll be a lot angrier than if they see that rain is more likely and it doesn’t rain. “Sometimes a less accurate forecast is perceived as being a better forecast,” said Eric Floehr, the founder of ForecastAdvisor….”

Timeline of Gatlinburg Wildfires

It reads like something out of a horror movie, but it’s documentation of what really happened, courtesy of The Tennessean. (Image credit: NASA)

China Chokes on Smog So Bad That Planes Can’t Land

Here’s an excerpt from “Major cities across northern China choked Monday under a blanket of smog so thick that industries were ordered shut down and air and ground traffic was disrupted. At least 23 cities issued red alerts for a swath of pollution that has hovered over much of the nation since Friday, China’s Xinhua news agency reported. Alerts are expected to remain in effect through Wednesday. Hospitals set emergency procedures in motion to deal with an influx of breathing-related illnesses…”
Photo credit: “Haze envelops the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, on Dec. 19, 2016.” (Photo: Wu Hong, EPA)

China Smog Alerts Signal New Outlook

I was just in Beijing and Tangshan, and I’ve never experienced that level of air pollution – anytime, anywhere (and I was in Pittsburgh in the 60s). It quite literally takes your breath away, and in my case, it made me sick. It was a reminder to never take clean air for granted. Here’s an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: “Cities across northern China maintained air-pollution measures on Monday after issuing a series of red alerts over the weekend, signaling a new willingness to pay an economic price for cleaner air. With thick, yellow air smothering three provinces as coal-fired power plants ramp up to generate heat, the official Xinhua News Agency said more than 20 cities in the region have joined Beijing in issuing red alerts since Friday, triggering restrictions on factories and traffic…”
(File photo: I snapped this photo of the Beijing skyline from my hotel room on December 3, 2016.)

How Bad Air Came Back

Here’s more perspective from TIME: “…Delhi ranks high on a World Health Organization (WHO) list of cities with unhealthy levels of air pollution, but it is far from alone. WHO research found that 90% of the world’s population lives in areas with unsafe air-pollution levels. And it’s not just cities in the developing world, like Beijing, that face dirty air–Western metropolises like New York City and London are on the list as well. At the beginning of December, Paris was hit by some of the worst air pollution in a decade, leaving the Eiffel Tower cloaked in smog. For all the deserved focus on climate change as the planet’s major environmental threat, a much older one–bad air–is still a persistent danger. Economic growth in places like Delhi and Beijing has led to the rapid construction of coal-fired power plants, quick factory construction and traffic-choked streets. Regulations–to the extent that they exist in these places–receive little attention from the officials charged with enforcing them...”

Republicans and Democrats Alike Want More Clean Energy

Dr. John Abraham at The University of St. Thomas reports for The Guardian: “…A fascinating study was just released by Yale and George Mason Universities that involved a national survey of American opinions. What this survey found was astonishing. Almost 70% of registered voters in the U.S. believe that their country should participate in international agreements to limit global warming. Only 1 in 8 registered voters believe the U.S. should not participate in such agreements. Similarly, 70% of respondents support limits on carbon dioxide, the most important human-emitted heat trapping gas. Moreover, they agree to limits even if that means electricity costs will increase (although they won’t). What this means is that 7 in 10 registered voters agree with President Obama’s signature climate accomplishment, the Clean Power Plan…” (File photo:

Las Vegas’s City Government Is Now Powered by 100% Renewable Energy, And More Cities Will Follow

Quartz has the story: “Ten years of effort finally paid off for Las Vegas this week when officials announced the city government will now be powered entirely by renewable energy. After a large solar array, Boulder Solar 1, came online on Dec. 12, the city was able to buy enough carbon-free electricity to power its 140 buildings, streetlights and other facilities. The power flows from a mix of solar panels and hydroelectric turbines including the Hoover Dam. The renewables, plus energy efficiency savings, are estimated to save the city roughly $5 million per year, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Las Vegas is one of many cities pushing ahead with aggressive efforts to leave fossil fuels behind…”

Photo credit: “How Las Vegas wants to power its neon.” (Jason Reed / Reuters).

The Totally Jinxed Map of Global Superstitions

Some strange ones in here, but who am I to judge? Here’s an excerpt from Atlas Obscura: “…Leaving slippers upside down is bad luck in Syria, Egypt, Nepal and Brazil, while breaking mirrors is bad luck in most of the Western world. Keeping disembodied rabbit feet and avoiding black cats—which has been traced back to Egypt in the year 3,000 BC—are both observed practices in countries across every inhabited continent on Earth. If your palms itch in Ghana, the U.S., Brazil, and much of Europe, something money-related is about to happen. Meanwhile, people in almost every single country in the world are constantly avoiding the “evil eye” (wishes of ill will by one person upon another) by wearing various amulets or ash, crossing their fingers to make a “figas” hand shape, or, as in the Netherlands, painting their farmhouses with a protective black stripe...”

Climate Stories

Obama Bans Drilling in Parts of the Atlantic and the Arctic

The New York Times reports: “President Obama announced on Tuesday what he called a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling along wide areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic Seaboard as he tried to nail down an environmental legacy that cannot quickly be reversed by Donald J. Trump. Mr. Obama invoked an obscure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which he said gives him the authority to act unilaterally. While some presidents have used that law to temporarily protect smaller portions of federal waters, Mr. Obama’s declaration of a permanent drilling ban from Virginia to Maine on the Atlantic and along much of Alaska’s coast is breaking new ground. The declaration’s fate will almost certainly be decided by the federal courts…”

(Photo credit: “The Polar Pioneer was the first of two oil drilling rigs Royal Dutch Shell was outfitting for Arctic oil exploration before the company ended its contract last year.” Credit Elaine Thompson/Associated Press.)

El Niño on a Warming Planet May Have Sparked the Zika Epidemic, Scientists Say

Alarmist hype or is there a causal connection? Here’s a clip from The Washington Post: “In a world characterized by rising temperatures, deforestation and other human influences on the environment, the spread of infectious disease is a hot topic. Many recent studies suggest that environmental changes can affect the transmission of everything from malaria to the Zika virus — and it’s increasingly important to understand these links, scientists say. This week, a new study has provided new evidence that environmental changes can increase the threat of disease. It concludes that unusually warm temperatures caused by 2015’s severe El Niño event — probably compounded by ongoing climate change — may have aided in the rapid spread of the Zika virus in South America that year. And while there are many complex factors at play in the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, the study may help scientists better prepare for the kinds of future effects we might see in our warming world…”

Photo credit: “A female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring blood from a human host.”(James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP).


Climate Change Investing Heats Up 

Forbes has the story: “Climate change could be the most important long-term trend for investors. It will produce winners and losers over the next decades, and all investors should consider how they will “weatherproof” their portfolios to mitigate the risks and take advantage of the opportunities created by a changing climate. Many investors think of green energy, energy conservation, or water as the primary investments for a climate change portfolio. The most sophisticated family offices – which measure portfolio performance over decades, not quarters or years – think more broadly about the risks and opportunities of a changing global climate such as physical, technological, regulatory, and societal risks…”

Image credit: “This natural-color image mosaic, provided by NASA, taken in Aug. 2015, based on data collected during two orbital passes of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) shows typhoons in the western North Pacific. A new scientific report finds man-made climate change played some kind of role in two dozen extreme weather events around the world in 2015.” (NASA via AP)

Pope Francis: “Never Been Such a Clear Need for Science” to Protect the Planet

The Washington Post reports: “…Pope Francis this week implored world leaders not to postpone the implementation of global environmental pacts, an appeal that appeared aimed at President-elect Donald Trump’s vows to end the United States’ leading role in combating climate change. The pope’s remarks came during a gathering of scientists at the Vatican, at which he said there has “never been such a clear need for science” to guide human actions to safeguard the future of the planet. “It is worth noting that international politics has reacted weakly — albeit with some praiseworthy exceptions — regarding the concrete will to seek the common good and universal goods, and the ease with which well-founded scientific opinion about the state of our planet is disregarded,” the pontiff said, according to a translation provided by the Vatican…”

(Photo: AP).

Two Broadcast Meteorologists Working to Separate the Real from the Fake

A tip of the hat to Paul Gross in Detroit and Mike Nelson in Denver, two TV meteorologists I have a tremendous amount of respect for. Here’s an excerpt from AGU Blogosphere: “I’m often asked questions about climate science from colleagues who work in TV (and other media), and even they have a tough time separating the political propaganda surrounding climate change from the facts. Now if college grads, who are trained to sift fact from fiction are getting confused, imagine how it is for the public at large! This is where broadcast meteorologists have really stepped up. For many people, we are the only person connected to science they see on a daily basis, whether on TV or online, and I’ve found that most are very appreciative when I point out propaganda or conspiracy theories that are dressed up to look like science. Yes, nobody likes being told something they want to be true isn’t (confirmation bias), but it continues to surprise me how many people are glad that you removed the clutter. Some of my fellow meteorologist have had a hard time believing this, especially when it comes to something highly politicized like climate change, but I can tell you that it’s true…”

U.K. Met Office Predicts Another Very Warm Year in 2017

Here’s the intro to a press release from the Met Office: “The Met Office global temperature forecast suggests that 2017 will be another very warm year globally but is unlikely to be a new record due to the absence of additional warming from El Niño. The global average temperature for 2017 is expected to be between 0.63 °C and 0.87 °C above the long-term (1961-1990) average of 14.0 °C, with a central estimate of 0.75 °C. Using the 1981-2010 long-term average of 14.3 °C, the forecast range is between 0.32 °C and 0.56 °C, with a central estimate of 0.44 °C. Professor Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at the Met Office, said: “This forecast, which uses the new Met Office supercomputer, adds weight to our earlier prediction that 2017 will be very warm globally but is unlikely to exceed 2015 and 2016: the two warmest years on record since 1850...”


For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Paul Douglas

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of WeatherNation

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