WeatherNation Blog

Tracking Winter Weather

Round Two Begins

Snow fell across portions of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin yesterday as a fairly week system moved through the region.  Consider this the trial run.  A more significant storm is right on its heels will bring heavier snow, higher winds, and colder temperatures for the rest of the weekend.  Even though round one only produced 1 to 2 inches with a few areas getting over 3 inches (Highest we found: Romona, SD at 3.5″), it still packed quite a punch.

Snow hit the metro area of Minneapolis and St. Paul just in time for the evening rush resulting a one fatality, countless fender benders, and traffic slowing to a crawl for hours.  Folks in these areas are not strangers to winter weather driving but the season so far has been mostly snow-less. So it takes a few storms like this get reacquainted with those winter driving habits.

Higher snow totals were reported in Montana, even setting a new record. Snow will wind down in Montana today but it will stay very cold.

That was round one. This next system will be a bit more substantial, but still manageable.  Fortunately for most, the timing is just right.  Arriving over the weekend, there won’t be concerns for dangerous commutes, school cancellations, etc.  Model forecast for 6:00 tomorrow morning:

Notice tightly packed isobars behind the low pressure sitting over western Minnesota.  That’s where the winds will be highest tomorrow morning and Blizzard Warnings are already in effect for those areas.

Models have been back and forth on projected snow totals.  Latest runs are now coming to a more general consensus that the highest totals will be in a line stretching from the north shore of Lake Superior to southern North Dakota. Projected snow totals:

Warnings and Advisories as of this morning:

Cold, windy, and blustery conditions will be invading the region behind this storm.  Wind chill forecast for mid Monday morning show below zero wind chill values from the Dakotas down to Nebraska.  Hats, mittens, and boots will all be a necessity for the little ones (and everyone) at the bus stop on Monday morning.

A quick overview of the rest of the nation: The east remains mild but soggy out ahead of the this Midwest system. Record rainfall was reported in Louisville with over 2″ of rain in the past 48 hours.  A few showers and snow showers will linger in the Northwest but the persistent and heavy rain will come to an end.

Tomorrow, the cold hair plunges into the central plains with the potential of severe thunderstorms from Memphis to Little Rock to Northeast Texas.

More updates to come!

Gretchen Mishek

Winter Storm For The Upper Midwest

 

Probably “Plowable”

 

 

“Paul, spare me the weather-babble. How many inches of snow in my yard by noon Sunday. Please be precise.” Right. The only thing harder than pinpointing a tornado touchdown is calculating, down to the inch, how much snow will fall.

 

 

My favorite college professor bemoaned the utter futility of giving inch amounts. He suggested 3 flavors of snowfalls: nuisance (enough to slow things down a bit), “plowable” (self-explanatory), and crippling, where everything shuts down.

 

 

I would put Sunday morning’s snow in the plowable range. And for purists who need their diet of inches, I’m thinking 2-4 inches in the immediate metro, 5 inches north metro, maybe 8 inches Brainerd and over a foot for Duluth. Hey, it’s human nature: if I predict 2-4, you’ll probably remember 4. Yes, we all like to round up.

 

 

Today will be the better travel day; a 7-10 hour burst of snow from late tonight through midday Sunday.

 

 

Leave extra time to get around tomorrow. This is the first legitimate “storm”, and we’re all a wee bit rusty driving on snow.

 

 

 

 

Winter Storm Warning. The watch has been upgraded to a warning, which pretty much means it’s imminent. What can possibly go wrong? I know you’re skeptical. I don’t blame you. We’ll get some snow – not sure we’ll see 6″, but 2-4″ seems like a fairly sure bet, with the best chance of 5″ or more north metro. Details from the local National Weather Service:

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TWIN CITIES/CHANHASSEN MN
839 PM CST FRI DEC 7 2012

...LIGHT SNOW TAPERING OFF THIS EVENING...THEN A LARGER WINTER
STORM EXPECTED SATURDAY NIGHT INTO SUNDAY EVENING...

.THE FIRST OF TWO SYSTEMS HAS BEEN PRODUCING LIGHT SNOW ACROSS
MOST OF SOUTHERN MINNESOTA...BUT THE SNOW WAS TAPERING OFF. ACCUMULATIONS
THE REST OF THE NIGHT IN SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA WILL BE LESS
THAN ONE INCH.

IT APPEARS THE SECOND SYSTEM FOR THE WEEKEND WILL DEVELOP INTO A
WINTER STORM. A WINTER STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT NORTH OF A LINE
FROM MADISON MINNESOTA TO THE TWIN CITIES AND LADYSMITH WISCONSIN SATURDAY
NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY EVENING. SNOW WILL SPREAD INTO WESTERN
MINNESOTA BY EARLY SATURDAY EVENING...AND THEN PUSH EAST...ACROSS
EASTERN MINNESOTA INTO WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN BY LATE SATURDAY
EVENING. THE SNOW COULD BE HEAVY AT TIMES. SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS
IN THE WINTER STORM WARNING AREA WILL RANGE FROM 5 TO 8
INCHES...WITH THE HIGHEST TOTALS NORTHEAST OF INTERSTATE 94.

A WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR A PORTION OF SOUTHERN
MINNESOTA INTO WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN...FROM GRANITE FALLS AND REDWOOD
FALLS TO RED WING...THEN TO EAU CLAIRE AND CHIPPEWA FALLS WISCONSIN.
SNOWFALL AMOUNTS IN THE WINTER STORM WATCH AREA COULD REACH 6
INCHES...IF THE STORM SLIDES A LITTLE SOUTH.

 

 

Prediction: We Will Not See This Much Snow. This file photo was taken in northern Japan. Surreal. Yes, this would qualify as a crippling snowfall. And no, we won’t see quite this much. Not yet.

 

WSI RPM Model. The high-res 12km RPM model from WSI Corporation continues to show some 4″ amounts near MSP, with 6-8″ possible from Lake Mille Lacs to the Iron Range, maybe a foot of snow along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

 

 

12z NAM Model: More Impressive. NOAA’s latest NAM model is hinting that the eastern suburbs may pick up almost twice as much snow as the far western suburbs; some 3-6″ amounts predicted across the metro area, lake effect and orographic lifting spiking snowfall amounts up near Two Harbors and Lutsen. Gentlemen (and women), start your snowmobiles.

 

NAM Guidance. The 00z model shows a total of .48″, which would translate into about 3-5″ of snow by midday Sunday.

 

 

Bufkit Analysis. NOAA’s Bufkit tool, which does a good job of isolating snowfall amounts, shows a couple hours of rain mixing in at the height of the storm Sunday morning. That would obviously keep amounts a bit lower. Bufkit shows a storm total of 4.1″ in the MSP metro area.

 

Record Snow Drought For Chicago? WGN-TV weather legend Tom Skilling reports that, as of Sunday, Chicago will have gone 280 days without measurable snow, an all-time record for the Windy City.

Very Plowable. No, we won’t see this much snow either. But a guy can dream…

Climate Stories…

2012: Still Off The Scale. Here’s an update from NOAA NCDC on what will be the warmest year ever observed for the USA. I know – another coincidence. They’re piling up: “This time series also shows the 2012 year-to-date temperature through November. Outcome scenarios based on persistence of temperature for December, the remaining month of 2012, are shown. The January-November 2012 contiguous U.S. average temperature was 57.1°F, 3.3°F above average. The nationally-averaged temperature for December 2012 would need to be more than 1.0°F colder than the coldest December (1983) for 2012 not to be the new record warmest year. The data for 2012 are preliminary.”

Global Warming Gives Ski Industry Chills. Live Science has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…POW and the Natural Resources Defense Council have issued a report, “Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States,” detailing the numerous effects that global warming is expected to have on the $12.2 billion U.S.ski and snowmobile winter sports industry, which supports an estimated 211,900 jobs nationwide. “Winter as we know it is on borrowed time,” Elizabeth Burakowski, a co-author of the POW/NRDC report, told The New York Times. The 2011/2012 winter season was the fourth-warmest on record since 1896 and had the third-lowest snow cover since record-keeping began in 1966….”

Photo credit above: “Ski resorts are expected to suffer from global warmng.” Marcin Moryc, Shutterstock.

Global Warming Good News For Russian Shipping. Marketplace has the story; here’s the introduction: “There’s been a breakthrough in the shipping industry, and a milestone in the story of global warming.  A large tanker named Ob River has just sailed eastwards from Northern Europe to Japan through the Arctic Ocean. This is the first time a ship of this type has completed the voyage. It’s bad news for the planet. It shows how far the north polar ice cap is melting.  But it also  shows how climate change is creating new commercial opportunities — especially for the Russians. Ob River is not the first cargo ship to make the crossing, but it is the first big tanker to do so carrying Liquefied Natural Gas — perhaps the first of many. Gunnar Sandar of the Norwegian Polar Institute says global warming is creating a viable new trade route through the Arctic Ocean…”

Photo credit: “Melting ice means a Russian gas company can now send tankers to Japan through the Arctic Ocean, instead of the Suez Canal.” Tim Lucas – Creative Commons.

Projection: The IPCC 2007 assessment projected a worst-case temperature rise of 4.3° to 11.5° Fahrenheit, with a high probability of 7.2°F.

Reality: We are currently on track for a rise of between 6.3° and 13.3°F, with a high probability of an increase of 9.4°F by 2100, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other modelers are getting similar results, including a study published earlier this month by the Global Carbon Project consortium confirming the likelihood of a 9ºF rise.

* excerpt above from Scientific American. Details below.

“Bleak Forecast”. The recent interview I gave to Jim Poyser at NUVO in Indianapolis is being picked up by other publications, including Utah’s City Weekly. Yes, my dermatologist is calling 911 right now. I’ve never had Doppler on my face, even worse than egg on my face. Here’s an excerpt: ”…I’m not saying we don’t take advantage of our natural resources. The message I’m trying to get out is that by fixating exclusively on fossil fuels, not only are we endangering future generations, we are endangering our competitiveness downt he road. Because there is no debate about climate change in Europe or China. They are moving forward with clean alternatives to creating energy. If we totally focus on mining and drilling and extracting ever last bit of carbon at the exclusion of solar and wind and geothermal and battery technology and everything else that’s out there, we are going to be crippled as a country, competitively…”

Report: Global Warming Hits Utah’s Ski Industry Hard. A preview of coming attractions here in Minnesota? I hope not, but there’s little doubt that snowfall is becoming increasingly fickle, sporadic, and unreliable. No, it’s not your father’s or grandfather’s winter. Here’s an excerpt from The Salt Lake Tribune: “Every lean-snow winter batters Utah and its $1 billion-a-year ski industry, according to an economic study on global warming released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Comparing snowfall to visitation records since 1999, the NRDC report said Utah resorts attracted 14 percent fewer skiers in the driest winter compared to the snowiest. That difference cost the state $87 million in revenue and 1,000 jobs, it said...”

Photo credit above: (Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) “Skiers ride the lower lift at Park City Mountain Resort on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. A new report warns that global warming will make low-snow years more prevalent and batter the ski industry.”

World’s Largest Mining Company Admits Climate Change Is Real. Here’s a clip from theenergycollective.com: “Sure, those of us who call ourselves environmentalists take those as truths, but a major coal company? Yet that’s exactly what the Australian BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, has just copped to. Explaining the company’s decision to retrofit one if its coal-exporting facilities against significant weather events, BHP Billiton executive Marcus Randolph was quoted as saying, “As we see more cyclone-related events … the vulnerability of one of these facilities to a cyclone is quite high. So we built a model saying this is how we see this impacting what the economics would be and used that with our board of directors to rebuild the facility to be more durable to climate change.…”

How The IPCC Underestimated Climate Change. “Those alarmist scientists?” It turns out climate scientists, as a rule, underestimated the rate of warming and subsequent outbreaks of severe weather (intense rains, more severe hurricanes, etc). Here’s an excerpt from Scientific American: “Scientists will tell you: There are no perfect computer models. All are incomplete representations of nature, with uncertainty built into them. But one thing is certain: Several fundamental projections found in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports have consistently underestimated real-world observations, potentially leaving world governments at doubt as to how to guide climate policy…”
Photo credit above: “Today, ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica is trending at least 100 years ahead of projections compared to IPCC’s first three reports. Pictured: Rajenda Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).Image: Flickr/kk+

Accelerating Warming Driving Arctic Into New Volatile State. Meteorologist Andrew Freedman at Climate Central has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…Since the report card effort began in 2006, each iteration has issued more shrill alarms about the pace and extent of the changes taking place in the Arctic. This year’s report is noteworthy for what it says about the acceleration of climate change in the Far North. Despite air temperatures that averaged nearly equal to the average for the past decade — which is warmer than the 30-year average — 2012 saw the most extensive loss of Arctic sea ice ever seen in the 33-year satellite record. When the melt season finally ended in late September, the Arctic Ocean managed to hold onto less than half of the average sea ice extent seen during the 1979-to-2000 period…”

Image credit above: “Departure from average of Arctic surface temperatures during the first decade of the 21st century, as compared to the 1971-2000 average. This map illustrates that no part of the Arctic experienced cooler than average conditions during this period.” Credit: NOAA.

Arctic Climate Change’s Unglacial Pace. The story is from The San Francisco Chronicle; here’s an excerpt: ”The Arctic’s sea ice is shrinking, Greenland’s ice cover is melting faster, areas of once-frozen tundra in Alaska are alive with plant growth, and wildfires during Southern summer heat waves are carrying soot to darken northern snowfields and speed the melting. And a year-end report from more than 140 scientists around the world concludes that climate change caused some of the strongest-ever environmental effects on the Arctic this year and the pace of change is far from slowing…”

Photo credit above: “A technician stands on an iceberg in Columbia Bay, Alaska, during filming of “Chasing Ice,” which follows a photographer recording the changing Arctic.” Photo: James Balog, Associated Press / SF

Climate Change Risk Looms As 2 Degree Limit Now Unlikely. Here’s an excerpt from The Energy Collective: “With global greenhouse hitting a record high in 2011 and 2012 on track to break that record, the prospects of limiting average atmospheric global warming to within a 2 degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial is now considered unlikely according to the Emissions Gap Report from the U.N. Environment Programme. The report warns that even if nations adhere to their strickest current reduction goals, CO2 output won’t be reduced in time to stop runaway global warming in the coming decades.Scientists from the Global Carbon Project (GCP) estimate CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels in 2012 will exceed 1990 levels by as much as 58 percent. In 2011 38.2 billion tons of CO2 was pumped in the atmosphere – equal to 2.4 million pounds every second….”

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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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