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World Not Ending (Today) – Digging out from Midwest Blizzard

21 Dec 2012, 7:23 am
Paul’s Bunker-Cast



I’ve grown a beard, cans of rations and MRE’s piled up nearby, a single lightbulb illuminating my fallout shelter. Did I cancel the papers? Ugh, I should have paid the bills. Next apocalypse.



I’m always wary of conspiracy theories, whether it relates to the Mayan calendar or climate change. Maybe it’s in our DNA to fixate on wild rumors. Like bad reality TV – it helps us (temporarily) forget our own issues.



With any luck you’re reading this column, and life (warts and all) goes on – all of us swept up in The Holiday Swirl.



Iowa and Wisconsin are digging out from the biggest storm in 3 years. Winds ease today, giving road crews a chance to excavate some 2-4 foot drifts. If you can delay your trek across I-94 or I-35 until tomorrow you’ll have less of a white-knuckle drive.



Good news for travelers: no big storms are brewing into New Year’s Day. The sun comes out today; highs stuck in the teens and 20s the next 8-10 days. Old Man Winter may pull his punch a little: it doesn’t look as numbing for early January; maybe a night or two near zero in the metro. OK.



In today’s weather blog: 2012 will be the second costliest year for weather disasters in the USA; second only to 2005. Details below.


Mad-Town Lives Up To Its Name. Matt Porcelli sent in this photo of the snowy craziness in Madison, Wisconsin. At one point Thursday heavy snow was accompanied by thunder and lightning. It must have looked like the (snowy) End of the World.

Living On The Edge. The Twin Cities National Weather Service has an interactive map showing snowfall amounts, about 1-2″ over the southern and eastern suburbs, very little now west of I-35 in the metro area. Red Wing picked up 3″ with 7″ from Lake City to Winona.

Snowy End Of The World? 19.5″ in Middleton, Dane County – Madison area, winners of the coveted Golden Snow Shovel Award. This was as of 8 pm yesterday – my gut is that some lucky towns will wind up with 20-22″ by the time flakes wind down this morning. Impressive. Map above courtesy of the Madison office of the NWS.

Where’s The Hot Tub? Thanks to Shannon Kreuziger, who snapped this photo of (2 feet?) of snow near Portage, Wisconsin.

Good Grilling Weather. Emily Rice snapped this photo in Madison Thursday. Perfect weather for steaks and burgers!

Snowy Panorama. Katelynn Matheny took this photo near Madison Thursday morning, just as the heaviest snow was moving in. Thanks to WeatherNation TV for providing all the pics.

2012: Second Costliest Year For Weather Disasters? Between the drought (worst since 1956 nationwide) and “Sandy” damage should easily go over $100 billion. Here’s an excerpt from USA Today: “Led by the devastation from Hurricane Sandy and the Midwest drought, 2012 will likely be the second-costliest year for weather and climate disasters on record, according to data released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The costliest year for damages in the USA was 2005, when four hurricanes lashed the nation, including Katrina. The USA has endured 11 separate weather and climate disasters so far this year that led to damages of at least $1 billion, NOAA reported today. This follows 2011, when an all-time record of 14 separate billion-dollar disasters were reported…”

Photo credit above: “The Casino Pier’s wrecked Jet Star roller coaster in Seaside Heights, N.J., Nov. 28, 2012. A month after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the Jersey Shore, the area is slowly starting to recover.” (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

349 Americans lost their lives due to extreme weather so far in 2012, 131 of them in Hurricane Sandy. Source: NOAA.

Duluth-Superior Ski Hills Seed Clouds With Snow. I’ve seen this phenomenon show up in the metro area, when atmospheric conditions are ideal. The Duluth News Tribune has more details: “…He’s not certain exactly what happens, but Packingham said the snowfall is not simply snow from the snowmaking machines blowing into town. Conditions had to be just right; the temperature at about 20 degrees and a light southwesterly wind, he said. Too much wind or temperatures too warm or too cold and the particles wouldn’t have made it up to the clouds. Packingham said he thinks tiny particles from the snowmaking machines drifted up into low-hanging clouds, in effect seeding the clouds, spurring snowfall downwind of the ski hills for more than a mile. That’s farther than falling snow can blow from those machines, he said…”

Hey – You Think This Is Fun? That’s one brave Corgi – Emily Rice snapped this pic in Madison yesterday. No, her dog was not amused.

Climate Stories….

Image courtesy of

2012: Another Record-Setter, Fits Climate Forecasts. Maybe the professional deniers aren’t looking at the same data I am – we’ve had 2 years of some of the most extreme weather ever recorded, not just in the USA but worldwide. Here’s a summary of the atmospheric craziness from AP: “… This past year’s weather was deadly, costly and record-breaking everywhere — but especially in the United States. If that sounds familiar, it should. The previous year also was one for the record books. “We’ve had two years now of some angry events,” said Deke Arndt, U.S. National Climatic Data Center monitoring chief. “I’m hoping that 2013 is really boring.” In 2012 many of the warnings scientists have made about global warming went from dry studies in scientific journals to real-life video played before our eyes: Record melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean. U.S. cities baking at 95 degrees or hotter. Widespread drought. Flooding. Storm surge inundating swaths of New York City…”

Map: NOAA, National Climatic Data Center.

Goodbye New York, Hello Minneapolis. I’ve gone on record speculating that climate change will probably wind up being a good thing, overall, for my home state of Minnesota. We have amazing water resources, and most of the computer models show the worst drying taking place south and west of Minneapolis – St. Paul. That’s the one big wild card: will we wind up wetter or drier? Here’s an interesting video clip from The Economist: “WILL parts of Manhattan be left by people seeking higher, dryer ground? In the aftermath of another UN climate conference, our correspondents discuss migration and adaptation.”

WSJ’s “Climate Dynamite” Is A Dud. I like the Wall Street Journal. I’m a subscriber, in fact. But when it comes to climate change and their editorial pages they’re seriously out to lunch by not acknowledging the science. Here’s a review of a recent WSJ post that diminished the perceived risk caused by a warming planet, from Media Matters: “In a Wall Street Journal op-edMatt Ridley attempted to cast doubt on the severity of manmade climate change, arguing that future warming will be modest and “good” for the planet. But experts say the author flubbed the science, and continue to project that the earth will warm between 2 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (or about 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit), unless mitigating action is taken. Ridley’s argument goes something like this: climate models are “unproven.” Therefore, it is now possible to rely solely on “observations” — which show that temperatures are “no higher than they were 16 years ago”–to determine that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the end of the century would cause modest warming. Further, that amount of warming would be a “net good.” Putting aside the fact that Ridley cites a “semiretired successful financier” and an unnamed scientist to support his claims, his arguments are not well-founded. Or, as John Abraham, an IPCC reviewer and the director of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, put it to Media Matters: the column “has such elementary errors in it that [it] casts doubt on the author’s understanding of any aspects of climate change.….”

Error-Riddled Matt Ridley Piece Lowballs Climate Change, Discredits Wall Street Journal. World Faces 10F Warming. Here’s another retort to the WSJ “story” from Joe Romm at Think Progress: “Every major projection of future warming makes clear that if we keep listening to the falsehoods of the anti-science crowd and keep taking no serious action to reduce carbon pollution we face catastrophic 9°F to 11°F [5°C to 6°C] warming over most of the U.S. (see literature review here). The Wall Street Journal, however, has published a piece, “Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change,” that (falsely) asserts observations suggest global warming will be so low as to “be benificial.” This risible piece by Matt Ridley is so riddled with basic math and science errors it raises the question of how the Journal can possibly maintain its reputation as a credible source of news and financial analysis. Ridley and the Journal apparently don’t know the difference between water vapor and clouds. They don’t understand the basic concept of climate sensitivity. And they can’t do simple math. Naturally, the climate deniers have embraced this nonsense and spread it across the internet…”

Graphic credit: “Projected warming even with (an unlikely) low climate sensitivity of between 1.5°C and 2.0°C from Michael Ring et al 2012. A WSJ op-ed that cites this work absurdly concludes “Evidence points to a further rise of just 1°C by 2100.” Not even close.

Notice Any Trends? Many people are fixated on the aerial coverage of ice, when volume may be a better determination of what’s really going on at the top of the world. The graphs above show volume of Arctic Ice, which has dropped an estimated 80% in recent years. We set a record minimum for Arctic ice in September of this year; the previous 6 years have seen the lowest ice levels ever observed. 2013 predictions show a projected decrease of 2,000 cubic kilometers of ice. Source here.

How Bad Will Climate Change Get For The Eastern U.S.? Look At These Crazy Maps. Here’s an excerpt from a story at “…This latest data comes from a recent study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, which used a high-resolution climate modeling system to project bad news down to an impressively local level, examining what we might see in the 20 largest cities east of the Mississippi come the late 2050s. By then, researchers from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have calculated, heat waves in New York City could be 3.58 degrees Celsius hotter in intensity than they are now, with the average one lasting nearly two days longer (these projections are compared to a baseline of climate data between 2001 and 2004). Cleveland has it the worst, with a heat wave temperature increase of 3.71 degrees Celsius, followed by Philadelphia (3.69). The researchers project that heat waves will grow worse particularly across the Northeast and Midwest, bringing the North and South to roughly equal hot-weather fates…”

Link Found Between Global Warming And Volcanic Activity. This one made me do a triple-take; here’s an excerpt from “It’s no secret that volcanic eruptions can cool the planet by spewing ash and droplets of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere that obscure the sun. Now researchers at Germany’s GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Harvard University have found evidence that suggest the reverse could also be true. The researchers have discovered a strong historical link between global temperature increases and increases in volcanic activity…”

Photo credit above: “Researchers have discovered a strong historical link between global temperature increases and increases in volcanic activity.” (Photo: Shutterstock)

Global Warming Experts Should Think More About The Cold War. Here’s an excerpt of a thought-provoking article from “Every year the United Nations convenes diplomats from more than 190 nations to negotiate a climate change treaty, and in many years negotiators go home with little more than the promise of another annual meeting. After the failure of the 18th such event earlier this month in Doha, diplomats and organizers should focus less on the UN exercise than on combing history for a more suitable model. They might find at least three lessons from the history of arms control…”

A 10 Year Old’s Reflections On Global Warming. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Mother Nature Network: “A few weeks ago, my daughter was assigned to write an essay for her fourth-grade class about an issue that she felt was worth speaking up about. The topic she chose was global warming. As the daughter of a greenie, this was not surprising to me. She has been hearing about environmental issues in general since the first time I read “The Lorax” to her as an infant. Still, contrary to what some might think, I try not to harp on eco-issues too much at home. My kids are taught to recycle and turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth. They know littering is a no-no. But we have never before sat down and had a frank conversation about global warming. So what did surprise me about her essay was her understanding of the issue and the importance of doing something about it….”



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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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