Vague Hints of Spring
Spring is coming. How do I know? The Auto Show kicks off this weekend. I’m getting stacks of swimsuit catalogs in the mail. And yesterday, in spite of 28F, roads became wet – evidence of a higher sun angle. Oh, and it may rain here Saturday, so get out and play in that new snow ASAP.
Daffodils won’t be poking up in your yard anytime soon. I’ve gone on record predicting a cooler than normal March; nothing like 2012. That may bode well for our drought, but I suspect a very active severe storm season this year: more hail, high winds & tornadoes, as the jet stream sets up farther south. I hope I’m wrong on that call.
I have family in Washington D.C. My brother in law describes our nation’s capitol as “a perfect combination of northern charm and southern efficiency.” A forecast of flurries can spark panic. A few inches of slush often triggers a stampede for groceries. A foot of heavy, wet, concrete-like snow may shut down D.C.’s suburbs today. New York and much of New England may see similar amounts, thanks to a coastal storm tapping a fresh jolt of Atlantic moisture.
That’s one of many reasons I love Minnesota. 6-10″ snow? No big deal. We groan (or cheer), but we don’t make excuses. Life goes on.
How Much Fell in Minnesota? It was a fairly wide swatch (200 miles, give or take) of 6-10″ of snow. Here’s a good overview of snowfall amounts from March 4-5, statewide, courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service office.
MINNESOTA CITY 11.7″
LAKE CITY 1 SE 11.5″
SPRING VALLEY 3 E 10.6″
RED WING 9.4″
SQUAW LAKE 9.0″
FOUNTAIN 2 W 8.5″
KIMBALL 3 N 8.0″
ROCHESTER 3 NE 7.5″
ST JAMES 7.5″
MINNEAPOLIS 2 NE 7.1″
What A Winter. Here are some interesting snow factoids for record snowfall amounts this winter, courtesy of UCAR:
Heaviest snowfall ever recorded
• Portland, Maine (31.9”, February 8–9)
• Amarillo, Texas (19.0”, February 25)
• Boston, Massachusetts (24.9”, February 9)
Photo credit above: “David Tripp digs out his car in Portland, Maine, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, after it was partially buried by drifting snow in a blizzard dumped that a record 31.9 inches of snow on the city.” (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
“Snowquester”: Why This Forecast Is Even Tricker Than Usual. The same clipper than dumped 6-10″ on much of the metro over 2 days will whip up a coastal storm later today, putting down a blanket of heavy, wet snow from D.C. to Boston. The forecast is rarely black or white, but rather some nebulous shade of gray, especially this time around. Details in today’s edition of Climate Matters, courtesy of WeatherNation TV: “After blanketing parts of the Midwest, a clipper is creeping closer to the Mid Atlantic and Northeast. How much snow will cities like DC and New York see? Meteorologists are divided. WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist, Paul Douglas offers his thoughts on the storm, plus explains all of the factors involved when predicting snowfall amounts.”
Latest Briefing from our Alerts Broadcaster Division:
* Potential for heavy wet snow has increased a few more notches in Washington D.C. – 6-12″ of sloppy wet snow possible, with well over a foot for the northern/western suburbs of D.C. Considering that 1-3″ is a tragedy in D.C. this amount of snow should create something close to total paralysis in our nation’s capitol, land and air (I expect all 3 D.C. airports to be closed to air travel much of Wednesday). Moderate to high risk of power outages.
* Risk of heavy wet snow has increased in New York City. A plowable snowfall is likely, starting late Wednesday afternoon and continuing into Thursday. Some rain may mix in, but some 5-9″ amounts are possible in Midtown, with over a foot for suburbs.
* Boston will see significant snow, with a huge variation from Boston Harbor to the western suburbs, but some 6-12″ amounts are possible by Friday morning. Winds will blow from the north/northeast, preventing warmer air off the Atlantic from turning the storm to rain.
Latest Numbers. Everything in red is forecast to see at least 8″ of snow Wednesday into Friday morning, including much of the D.C. area, metro New York and Boston. Some 12-24″ amounts are predicted for northern Virginia, and from near Providence into southeastern Massachusetts. To be honest I’m not sure why NOAA hasn’t extended Winter Storm Watches or Warnings for the New York City area. I predict the Winter Storm Watch for Boston will be quickly upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning, meaning heavy snow is imminent.
High-Res Models. I’m not convinced Washington D.C. will pick up 12-16″, but the 12km RPM model above seems to think so. West of I-270 in Maryland, from Dulles International to Leesburg? Absolutely. This model predicts slightly less snow for Manhattan (4-8″ slush) but some 10″+ amounts for the suburbs. Boston picks up over a foot of snow. Again, we’re looking for consistency between the models, and a convergence of solutions from run to run. Confidence levels continue to rise: this will be a plowable snow for not only D.C., but much of New Jersey, New York City and New England. Snow won’t be as heavy or widespread as the February 9 blizzard, but this storm is still capable of disrupting operations for at least 36-48 hours.
A Rude Awakening For Washington D.C. Only 1.5″ of snow has fallen so far this winter in D.C. Which will make today’s heavy wet snowfall even more memorable. I expect widespread disruptions to travel in the D.C. area today with a moderate to high risk of power outages.
Classic March Slop-Storm for New York City. Rain may mix in with the snow from time to time, but a north/northeast wind at the height of the storm should keep much of the precipitation falling as heavy wet snow, with the greatest potential for accumulation Wednesday evening into Thursday afternoon. Plowable, but not crippling for NYC, with a moderate risk of power disruptions, especially suburbs.
Snow Potential Increases In Boston. I still expect huge snowfall variations in the Boston metro area, a few inches for the Cape, but enough to shovel and plow for much of Boston, well over 1 foot for the western and southwestern suburbs. The heaviest snow comes during the day Thursday.
Coastal Flood Threat. NOAA has issued Coastal Flood Watches & Warnings for coastal New Jersey and the NYC area, coinciding with high tide. Minor to moderate flooding of lowland areas (within 6 feet of sea level) is possible. Details:
...WIDESPREAD MINOR TO LOCALIZED MODERATE COASTAL FLOODING DURING WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON AND THURSDAY MORNING HIGH TIDE CYCLES... SOUTHERN WESTCHESTER-BRONX-NORTHEASTERN SUFFOLK-NORTHERN QUEENS- NORTHERN NASSAU- ...COASTAL FLOOD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 3 PM TO 8 PM EST WEDNESDAY... ...COASTAL FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT THURSDAY MORNING... * LOCATIONS...ALONG FAR WESTERN LONG ISLAND SOUND AND PECONIC AND GARDINERS BAYS. * TIDAL DEPARTURES...BETWEEN 3 TO 4 FT ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL TIDES WEDNESDAY EVENING...AND 2.5 TO 3.5 FT THURSDAY MORNING. * BEACH EROSION...BREAKING WAVES OF 2 TO 5 FT ACROSS WESTERN LONG ISLAND SOUND AND 4 TO 8 FT ACROSS THE TWIN FORKS OF LONG ISLAND WILL LOCALLY ENHANCE INUNDATION. * TIMING...MINOR TO MODERATE COASTAL FLOODING IS EXPECTED DURING THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE WEDNESDAY EVENING AND THURSDAY MORNING. * IMPACTS...WIDESPREAD MINOR TO LOCALLY MODERATE FLOODING OF VULNERABLE SHORE ROADS AND/OR BASEMENTS DUE TO HEIGHT OF STORM TIDE AND WAVE ACTION. SOME ROAD CLOSURES MAY BE NEEDED. ISOLATED STRUCTURAL DAMAGE MAY BE OBSERVED.
Summary: Snow is already piling up in Washington D.C., and conditions will become increasingly treacherous Wednesday PM and Wednesday night across the New York City area as a classic Nor’easter hugs the coast. Heavy wet snow overspreads Boston late Wednesday night into Thursday. This will be a plowable storm for much of the New York City area, potentially crippling for the northern/western suburbs of Washington D.C. and the far western suburbs of Boston, possibly Providence as well. Expect major disruptions to air and land travel, with a moderate risk of power outages, due to high water content in the snow. Although not as severe as the blizzard that struck in early February this will be the biggest storm in Washington in 3 years, and one of the 3-4 biggest snowfalls of the last 5 years from the suburbs of New York to Boston.
Extreme Weather Makeover: Has Abnormal Become The New Normal? Good question. The short answer is yes. Rick Montgomery has the story at The Kansas City Star; here’s an excerpt: “Those drought-damaged evergreens outside? Regional climatologists say to expect more in the years ahead. And the surreal mounds of snow now hiding shrubs that barely survived summer’s heat? Get used to that, too. It seems contradictory, this weird weather whiplash. But just consider the last couple of years in the nation’s midsection. Floods unleashed by record inflows into the Missouri River basin in early 2011. Then sudden and prolonged dryness. Now 20 to 25 inches of snow heaped on Kansas City in the most dramatic, back-to-back smacking delivered by any winter week that many of us can recall. Yet to experts who study climate change models, it makes sense. Think extreme…”
Photo credit above: “A man pushes a snowblower around a giant pile of snow left by road crews in the Country Club Plaza shopping district of Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. For the second time in a week, a major winter storm paralyzed parts of the nation’s midsection Tuesday, dumping a fresh layer of heavy, wet snow atop cities still choked with piles from the previous system and making travel perilous from the Oklahoma panhandle to the Great Lakes. The weight of the snow strained power lines and cut electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses. At least three deaths were blamed on the blizzard.” (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Predicting The Snows That Matter Most. In 1977 there was one weather model, the LFM. Now there are hundreds, even thousands of weather models. What to believe, when, and why? This article from UCAR delves into how ensemble modeling has revolutionized weather forecasting; here’s an excerpt: “…One reason why these eye-popping snowfall totals didn’t come as a surprise is the growth of ensemble prediction. Little more than a decade ago, U.S. forecasters had access to only a handful of fresh runs of computer models every few hours to guide their snow forecasts. Today, there’s not only a broader range of models, but some of these models are run multiple times, side by side, with small changes in the starting-point conditions that mimic the gaps in our less-than-perfect weather observing network. Such ensembles are helping forecasters deal with such high-impact threats as the “Snowquester” winter storm expected to strike the Washington, D.C., area this week…”
Severe Weather Preparedness Week. March 3-9 marks the official (nationwide) kick-off of Severe Weather Preparedness Week; here are some timely details and reminders of 2012 from FEMA: “Every year, thousands of people are impacted by severe weather threats such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Preliminary data for 2012 shows there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries. Every state in the U.S. has experienced tornadoes and severe weather, and although some more than others, everyone is at risk. You can take steps to prepare for when severe weather strikes in your area. Knowing the most common weather hazards in your area, your vulnerability, and what actions you should take can save your life and others…”
Next Generation Weather Satellite Could Offer Earlier Warnings. GOES-R will enable meteorologists to see real-time lightning within thunderheads (from low-Earth orbit). Lightning, or a lack of lightning, can be a cue for tornado formation, one of many reasons why this new generation of weather satellites may help to improve severe storm forecasting. Here’s an excerpt from redOrbit.com: “…GOES-R, part of a scientific collaboration between NASA and NOAA, will be the next generation of geostationary weather satellites. The team claims GOES-R will provide continuous imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere. Additionally, the GOES-R will monitor space weather, as well. This new satellite will also become the primary method for detection and tracking of hurricanes and severe weather. GOES-R will aid in the improvement of applications and products that will fulfill NOAA’s goals of Water and Weather, Climate, Commerce and Ecosystem. “These storms can spin up pretty quickly which limits warning lead-time,” said NOAA scientist Steve Goodman. “The radar and storm spotter’s view of tornadoes reaching the ground can be blocked by terrain, or visibility is very poor when the tornado is wrapped in rain. And it’s certainly more challenging for storm spotters to observe and confirm tornadoes occurring at night. Sometimes it’s just plain hard to come up with enough advance warning…”
Image Credit: Photos.com
The Dangers Of Space Weather. We’re all fixated on blizzards, tornadoes and meteorites, when our next unwelcome surprise could very well come from Earth’s nearest star. Geology.com has an interesting story on space weather; here’s an excerpt: “…With effective alerts and warning, we can limited the effects of space weather on real-time technology. For example, satellites can be adjusted, power grids can be modified, and polar flights can be rerouted.
Scientists and forecasters work closely with government and university partners to develop prediction models and other tools to improve services to the nation’s space weather community. SWPC also helps move the latest computer models of solar dynamics and sun-Earth interactions into the daily operations of space weather prediction. NOAA and partner agencies in the National Space Weather Program are leading the way in this new era of space weather awareness to provide timely, accurate information and forecasts to help keep our advanced-technology global economy moving forward…” (Photo: NOAA).
“Ask Paul”. Weather-related questions, comments and assorted threats:
Has the definition of drought changed? I grew up during the Great Depression and drought mean farmers getting NO CROPS at all. How can this now be called a drought when the farmers continue to reap the biggest crops in the history of this country? As I peer out the windows of the senior’s bus I see small ponds along the roadside as we travel to Willmar. When one can see ponds, how can this be called drought? When I grew up they could plant tomatoes in lake bottoms (eg. West Norway Lake in Kandiyohi county); there are pictures to prove that statement. Now that was drought – when the lakes dried up! What has happened to the above definition? Could you address this in your column? Thanks.
(Name Withheld By Request)
Great question, and I realize there’s a disconnect when you look out at all that (new) snow in your yard, scratching your head, wondering how most of the state can be in severe/extreme drought? Frost levels are still 20-40 inches deep, which means melting snow will run off and not be able to soak into topsoil, where it’s needed. I teed up your question with Greg Spoden, State Climatologist for Minnesota. Here is his response:
The reader raises a fair point. Modern drought monitoring attempts to describe the continuum between the extraordinary conditions he observed during the 1930s drought and no drought at all. The most widely used tool for doing so is the U.S. Drought Monitor, a multi-agency effort to detect and identify the nation’s drought areas and assign those areas an intensity level. This effort requires a blend of science and subjectivity. Drought intensity categories are determined by the relative rarity of the climate anomaly (precipitation/temperature departures from average, length of the dry spell, etc), and the observed drought impacts. Some of those impacts are offered here.
In modern terms, the drought described by the reader would be classified as “D4 – Exceptional Drought”, the same conditions currently plaguing much of the Great Plains. Thankfully, Minnesota’s present drought status does not reach that level of severity. Minnesota’s drought is the result of a very dry summer and autumn 2012. Minnesota’s 2012 crop drank from subsoil reserves established during an incredibly wet May. Those reserves are now gone. The soil moisture profile is critically depleted. The white veneer of snow on the landscape lies upon a frozen topsoil that will allow little infiltration. To recover from our present drought situation, abundant spring rains are required after the soils thaw.
Greg Spoden, State Climatologist
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources – Division of Ecological and Water Resources
University of Minnesota – St. Paul Campus.
Thanks Greg – appreciate the additional information and perspective on the drought.
Villa Epecuen: The Town That Was Submerged For 25 Years. Well that should cut down on unwanted visitors. Nothing like a good submerging to keep the riff raff out. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Amusing Planet that caught my eye: “Back in the 1920s, a tourist village named Villa Epecuen was established along the shore of Lago Epecuen, a salt lake some 600 kilometers southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lago Epecuen is like most other mountain lakes, except for one important difference. It has salt levels second only to the Dead Sea, and ten times higher than any ocean. Lago Epecuen’s therapeutic powers have been famous for centuries. Legend holds that the lake was formed by the tears of a great Chief crying for the pain of his beloved. It is said that Epecuen — or “eternal spring” — can cure depression, rheumatism, skin diseases, anaemia, even treat diabetes…”
A Golf Cart For People With More Money Than Sense. I got a laugh out of this entry from one of my favorite tech/geek sites, gizmag.com: ”Purveyor of bespoke golf cars Garia has unveiled a brand new model, dubbed the “Garia Mansory Currus.” Boasting enough range to take you around all 18 holes and back home again, the Garia Mansory Currus can be used as a street-legal and rather luxurious mode of transportation in Europe…”
Apple iWatch To Reportedly Release In 2013. Will this help to turn Apple’s stock price around? Details from gizmag.com: ”With Wall Street souring on Apple during the last few months – and with no big product updates expected in the next few months – the company could use some buzz. In what could be a controlled leak, two outlets are adding fuel to the flame of iWatch rumors. They report that Apple plans to release the device later in 2013. First was Bloomberg, with a report that the device could be more profitable than an (also rumored) Apple TV set, adding that the smartwatch could release in 2013. Then The Verge chimed in, saying its sources also point to a planned iWatch release later this year…”
Do We Laugh Or Do We Cringe? Gallery Of Lower Thirds. The text at screen bottom on your favorite news show, that gives the name of the person on-screen and some compelling information, you know, the bane of television news, and one (big) reason why we all have ADHD. Here’s an excerpt of a very funny story at TVSpy.com: “Who doesn’t need a chuckle to start the week? The folks at Buzzfeed have put together a hall of shame/fame of lower thirds aimed at the gleeful 13-year-old living inside all of us. While we all make mistakes, some of the lower thirds are funny because they’ve been taken out of context and some are just plain goofy. We’ve chosen a couple you can see after the jump. But don’t ask Norman Fineman to laugh. He’s seen it all. You can view the gallery by clicking here…”
* photo above courtesy of Jennifer McDonough, who measured 7″ on Cedar Lake, near New Prague, MN.
Study Finds Climate Change To Open Arctic Sea Routes By 2050. Great news for shippers! Bad news for the rest of the planet, I fear. Here’s a portion of a story at NPR: “Climate change will make commercial shipping possible from North America to Russia or Asia over the North Pole by the middle of the century, a new study says. Two researchers at the University of California ran seven different climate models simulating two classes of vessels to see if they could make a relatively ice-free passage through the Arctic Ocean. In each case, the sea routes are sufficiently clear after 2049, they say. The study, published Monday in the journal PNAS by Laurence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson, found that the sea ice will become thin enough that a “corridor directly over the north pole” will open up. “The shortest great circle route thus becomes feasible, for ships with moderate ice-breaking capability…”
Photo credit above: “An iceberg in or just outside the Ilulissat fjord, which likely calved from Jakobshavn Isbrae, the fastest glacier in western Greenland, in May 2012. Polar ice sheets are now melting three times faster than in the 1990s.” Ian Joughin/AP
GAO Warns Climate Change Could Drain Federal Budget. Some of the same Congressional leaders who deny the reality of climate change are now experiencing sticker shock – the price tag for this new weather-on-steroids environment. Here’s an excerpt of a story at usgovinfo.about.com: “Apparently convinced that climate change will result in more frequent and more severe weather-related natural disasters, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that the federal government is not well prepared to deal with the resulting financial losses. The threat of significant losses to the federal budget due to climate change topped the GAO’s 2013 list of government programs it considers to be at “high-risk” of resulting in financial losses or waste, fraud or abuse…”
The Climate Change Rebound. Here’s a clip of an interesting story (and poll) from The Brookings Institute: “…Notably, Obama’s retreat on this topic corresponded not only with policy reversals but also with decreased levels of public belief that climate change was occurring. Between 2008 and 2010, the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment (NSEE) from the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College found a 20 point decline in the percentage of Americans who believed there is solid evidence of global warming. But as American acceptance of global warming rebounded in 2012 to levels approaching the peak level of belief that was found in 2008, Obama has once again taken a more aggressive public stance regarding the need for government action to address the issue…”
Climate-Change Science Poised To Enter Nation’s Classrooms. Here’s a segment of a story from InsideClimateNews.org and Bloomberg: “New national science standards that make the teaching of global warming part of the public school curriculum are slated to be released this month, potentially ending an era in which climate skepticism has been allowed to seep into the nation’s classrooms.The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nonprofit Achieve and more than two dozen states. They recommend that educators teach the evidence for man-made climate change starting as early as elementary school and incorporate it into all science classes, ranging from earth science to chemistry...”
Photo credit above: “A study published on Jan. 6 in Nature Climate Change estimates more melting of the Freenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets than previously thought, which would raise sea levels and have “profound consequences for humankind.” Photographer: Alexandre Trouvilliez/CNRS/ice2sea
The Most Important Figure About The Oil Sands. Here’s an excerpt from Simon Donner at Maribo: ”Are the oil sands a “carbon bomb”? Will the construction of new pipelines unleash this “bomb” on the climate? There’s lots of confusion about these questions. On Friday, the U.S. State Department’s released an assessment that stated the Keystone XL pipeline would have a negligible climate impact, essentially because a market analysis suggested that other options will arise for transporting additional carbon from the oil sands. Environmentalists are crying foul, energy and industry experts are arguing both sides, and pundits are wondering why the report was released on a Friday afternoon, when few people follow the news. It’s hard to know who to trust. The figure (above), based on one figure made by Keith Stewart from Greenpeace and shown to me by Mark Jaccard in the fall, suggests the answer to both questions could be considered “yes”, but not in the way people normally suggest…”
Graphic credit above: “The first column is existing, planned and announced oil sands projects; the orange bars are oil sands production in the IEA future scenarios. Production is assumed to be 80% of capacity, following the IEA methods.”
Greg Hunt’s Unusually Cool U.S. Winter That Wasn’t. A harsh winter for the USA in terms of temperatures? Nope. Here’s an excerpt from readfearn.com: “…Even in a warming world, you’ll still get record cold events – it’s just that the hot ones are outnumbering the cold ones. In Australia, for example, for every record cold temperature there’s three record hot ones. In the US, a 2009 study found record high temperatures were outstripping record colds by two to one. I had a quick look at this unusually cold US winter which Greg Hunt alludes to. The government’s National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has all the figures. Incidentally, January 2013 is the 335th consecutive month where global average temperatures have been above average. Final rankings for the US winter are not expected to be out for a week or so yet but, so far, the chilly winter turns out not to have been that chilly after all. In fact, the period November 2012 to January 2013 ranks 109th warmest in a record going back 118 years…”
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.