Where Is The Snow?
I love winter. Maybe you don’t believe that, or disagree (as you probably should!) – but as someone who spent the first formative years of their life in the Chicago and Minneapolis areas, I’ve ended up just accepting the cold air and snow.
Winter, for those of us in the Midwest, has been missing for the past year and a half, however, and it forces us to look elsewhere for snow. While the mountains out west are continuing to pick up a few snowstorms here and there, with places like Jackson Hole and Sun Valley (in Wyoming and Idaho, respectively) picking up a few feet of snow in the past few storms alone.
While these totals are fairly impressive, let’s take a look away from skiing (for a moment) and look at some scenarios taking place over in Europe…
Here is a video of some snowfall in Stockholm, Sweden:
Tobias Hellsten shot this time-lapsed video showing the massive snowfall in Europe, where a shift in the upper-level jetstream has allowed winter to set in, in a fairly major way. They picked up 8 inches of snowfall in Stockholm, Sweden, with close to 1.5 feet (40cm if you’re into the metric system) of snowfall in peak spots in Sweden. Winds were being recorded at 35-40mph as well – just compounding their issues.
So somebody is seeing snow… but where else in Europe? How about France? Paris is under a “snow warning” from their meteoroligical forecast center. Some ski resorts in France have picked up the top tallies we can find *in the world.* Take a look at this list of the top ski areas for snow throughout Europe… how would you like to ski on 87 inches of fresh snow? That’s more than SEVEN FEET of snow!
So those are just a few spots in Europe getting massive winter storms… but how about the rest of the region? Russia has been seeing their own sequence of intense winter weather.
Here’s a nice video to start with:
Check that out. How would you like to be stuck in traffic (annoying already) and then get a blast of snow, along with whatever else is mixing in – like rocks and such, shot at you from a plow. Not pleasant. That was the scene in one Russian location.
Also, there was a SEVERAL DAY long traffic jam as massive snowfall hit the St. Petersburg region of Russia. People, and their cars, were stranded for days along the M-10 Federal Highway Tver – St. Petersburg. They didn’t get the most snow there (30cm, or rougly a foot of snow) – but did also see some freezing rain. Still, though…
In fact, there is now an investigation being launched as to why they failed to keep traffic flowing. This is the link from the Russian news source Pravda, if you are interested in learning more: http://english.pravda.ru/news/russia/06-12-2012/123047-gigantic_traffic_jam-0/
Kind of makes you appreciate the fact that many major cities in the United States have had a snow drought for the past year or so.
Snow Drought Could End
Finally, we’ll talk briefly about the snowfall potential in the Midwest for the weekend. There are a few smaller chances – but the bigger picture shows what I’d say is now up to a 60-70% chance of actually *accumulating* snow in Minneapolis. Minneapolis, known for its cold weather, hasn’t seen more than an inch of snow since the end of February.
Here is the outlook for snowfall (in inches) from today through Sunday for the Midwest:
Those light teal shades? Those are indicating the potential for close to 2 inches of snow! We will see. Stay tuned the next couple of days as we’ll likely focus more on snowfall potential for both Minneapolis and the rest of the Midwest.
WeatherNation Meteorologist Aaron Shaffer @ashafferWNTV
“Paul, why can I still see my puke-colored lawn on December 6?” Proving cause and effect with something as complicated as the atmosphere is always problematic, but my gut? Drought. With a dash of climate change thrown in for good measure.
Some numbers: we should have seen 11.5 inches of snow by now. Last year 7.8 inches of fluff had already fallen. So far in 2012? A whopping 8 tenths of an inch of snow.
Heating degree data from the National Weather Service shows a warm bias since July; we’ve saved about 11 percent on heating bills during that period. It feels like December in Tulsa. Again.
Snowy rumors are filling the airwaves for this weekend. My advice? Keep your expectations low. Saturday still appears to be the better travel day; a streak of wet snow may drop an inch or two of slushy snow Sunday; heavier snow north of the metro area. Plowable up north? Perhaps. Here at MSP? Enough slush to stare out the window and pretend it’s winter.
Significantly colder air arrives by mid-December; highs in the 20s. Another storm late next week may drop a light accumulation; once again the best chance north of the cities.
At this rate Santa may have to ditch the sleigh for a big, red SUV.
Snowfall Departure From Normal. The MSP metro area is running a 10.7″ snowfall deficit, to date. Even Duluth and International Falls are seeing a snowfall slump; the only (reliable) snow coming from lake effect downwind of Lake Superior.
72 Hour Snowfall Prediction. WSI’s high-res “RPM” model is printing out some 2″+ amounts over central and southern Minnesota by Saturday night, maybe as much as 3-5″ south and west of the Twin Cities. Not buying it just yet, but there’s certainly a chance of accumulating snow this weekend.
USA Snowcover Comparison. The (NOAA) map in the upper left is from December 5, 2010, snow on the ground as far south as the Carolinas, significant snowcover over Minnesota and Wisconsin. 38% of the USA had snow on the ground 2 years ago. The map in the upper right shows a thin gruel of snowcover from Montana and North Dakota into Minnesota’s BWCA and the U.P. of Michigan, resembling something out of early October, rather than early December, with snow reported over just 7% of the Lower 48.
Stay Off The Ice. As we stumble into another potentially anemic winter, with sub-freezing temperatures alternating with thaws, the quality and quantity of ice will be problematic, at least until we get a few (sustained) weeks below freezing. Remind your kids (and spouses) that the ice is far from safe. More details from the Minnesota DNR.
Sunday Slush? The ECMWF forecast for 12z Sunday (courtesy of WSI) shows the best chance of a fast-moving burst of snow over central and northern Minnesota; a potentially “plowable” accumulation up north. It’s still too early to go into specifics, but if you’re traveling this weekend you’ll want to stay up on the latest forecast.
Accurate Flood Forecasting Gets Closer. Flash flooding and river flooding is a short-fuse meteorological challenge. Predicting flooding severity is literally a science within a science. Phys.org has an interesting story on new technology that may help to pinpoint extreme rainfall amounts and subsequent flooding.
Hurricane Warning Definition Modified By NHC In The Wake Of Sandy. NOAA received a fair amount of criticism for dropping hurricane warnings as Sandy’s warm core center became absorbed into a massive extra-tropical storm, a classic Nor’easter, but one on a gargantuan scale. Here’s an excerpt from Accuweather and Huffington Post: “Following the criticism of the National Hurricane Center’s handling of Hurricane Sandy and the non-issuance of hurricane warnings north of North Carolina, it has been decided that the NHC will now have more flexibility in their policy regarding the issuance of advisories. Beginning in 2013, the NHC will have the flexibility to issue multiple advisories on post-tropical cyclones for landfalling systems or close bypassers. According to the NHC, this required a revision of the Hurricane Warning definition, which will now be as follows:
An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a tropical, sub-tropical, or post-tropical cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds. The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.”
Earth At Night. Here’s a look at how these new nighttime images were created, courtesy of NASA: “This new global view of Earth’s city lights is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and 13 days in October 2012. It took 312 orbits to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth’s land surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet. The image was made possible by the satellite’s “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires and reflected moonlight…”
Forecasting Denial: Why Are TV Weathercasters Ignorning Climate Change? Here’s an excerpt of a Rolling Stone story, focused on denial within the TV meteorology community. Why are some TV forecasters still leaning on ideology vs. acknowledging legitimate scientific trends? Here is what I told R.S. environmental writer Jeff Goodell: “…It’s not always a matter of ideology, though. Many broadcasters are simply afraid that any talk of global warming will dampen ratings and scare off advertisers. “Talking about climate change is kryptonite for TV meteorologists,” says Paul Douglas, a veteran TV weathercaster and reformed climate skeptic who is now the chief meteorologist at Alerts Broadcaster, which specializes in severe weather alerting services. “They tend to abhor anything that might turn viewers off and make it harder for them to renegotiate a big, fat, six-figure salary. By even bringing up the topic, you know you’re going to alienate the percentage of the audience who still link global warming with Al Gore and conspiracy theories. Why run into the buzz saw of denial? It’s easier to stick to safe topics, like dew point and hot weather survival tips….”
Climate Out Of Control. Why are so many TV meteorologists reluctant to talk about climate change during their weather reports? There’s a long list of reasons, some legitimate. I was recently interviewed by Jim Poyser (along with TV meteorologists in Orlando) for an article that appeared in Orlando Weekly. Here’s an excerpt:
“JP: When did you begin to actually talk about climate change as part of your job as a broadcast meteorologist?
PD: In the late ’90s I began including it in my weather statements.
JP: Was anybody else doing it at that time?
PD: No, no. The pervasive feeling at the time was that … if you even mention the term global warming or climate change you will instantly alienate 30 percent of your audience and they will tune out. So, you know, it’s kryptonite.
Every day I would get scores of emails like, “Flaming liberal. You crazy crackpot. Why are you buying into this Al Gore conspiracy? You’re going to cripple our economy.” It is the equivalent of sticking your finger in the electrical socket. Most of us are conditioned to avoid pain, to avoid controversy. Everybody on television wants to be loved and your contract – whether you’re renewed – really depends on your ability to attract an audience. Just by reporting on this you know that you’re alienating people with a certain ideology.…”
* Hurricane Sandy satellite image above courtesy of NASA.
CNN Gives Climate Change Denial A Platform. I watched this spectacle Tuesday evening. Bill Nye (the science guy) did an admirable job, but why they didn’t have a climate scientist to talk about the trends is baffling. The media wants “balance”? Then CNN should have had a panel of 98 peer-reviewed scientists debating 2 fossil-fuel industry shills. That would have been journalistically balanced. But a TV food-fight makes for better ratings, right? Media Matters has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…If the role of the media is to inform its audience, anchors must recognize how people are informed and misinformed. When people are repeatedly exposed to a myth, it becomes more familiar and they are more likely to believe it. By giving Morano a platform to claim that average temperatures have not warmed in nearly 20 years, Morgan enabled him to familiarize CNN’s audience with climate myths. It’s not surprising that Morano seized the opportunity to spread confusion about climate change. His website is sponsored by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, an organization that has received funding from oil companies. As New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin explained, “industry-funded groups have used the media’s tradition of quoting people with competing views to convey a state of confusion even as consensus on warming has built.” Morano has promoted extreme attacks on climate scientists and those that accept global warming. His website often publishes the email addresses of scientists, leading to a barrage of hate mail, and he defended a billboard campaign comparing those who accept climate science to the Unabomber, saying it was “edgy.”
Bill Kurtis On Global Warming. One of the (few) good things to come out of my brief stint in Chicago was working with Bill Kurtis, a legendary anchor, reporter and award-winning journalist. And a decent human being, the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with. Here is his take on climate change, an excerpt of a recent Op-Ed at The Chicago Sun Times: ”…A small number of skeptics have managed to take the adrenaline out of the global warming movement; and by creating the impression that there are actually two sides to the issue, they have stalled efforts to do something about it. I’ve been producing documentaries on global warming for 20 years and have seen the early warnings of extreme weather events come true. Predictions of stronger hurricanes now have names — Katrina and Sandy. Greater forest fires recall the Colorado Springs fire last June. More droughts — this year’s drought in the Midwest is the worst in more than 50 years. The prediction that glaciers will be gone from Glacier National Park has been moved up by 10 years to 2020, the same year it’s predicted the Arctic Sea will be ice-free in the summer…”
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.