January 7

Subzero Air Two Weeks Away – Polar Vortex Splitting – Amazing Earth

Image courtesy of Paul Douglas

Subzero Air Roughly Two Weeks Away

Snowbirds are missing all the fun! While cold weather refugees in Arizona and Florida pick sand out from between their toes, Minnesotans are playing in powder, enjoying 20s and 30s and light winds, with nary a storm in sight.

As a rule our coldest days tend to be sunny, and having blue sky overhead is a coping skill for many of us. Character-building attributes may be put to the test in 2 weeks, when the first blistering shot of arctic air reaches Minnesota. The last 7-10 days of January may be Nanook, with a streak of subzero nights, even a daytime highs below zero as well with dangerous wind chills. It’s too early for details but battery-draining air may envelope Minnesota and much of the USA by the last week of January.


Cold Enough. Record-breaking cold? Too early to tell, but there’s now little doubt that we will be shivering through roughly the last 8-10 days of January. How long this cold phase hangs on into February is very much up in the air.

The American model projection showing the polar vortex shifting southward and elongating across the northeast Atlantic and Northern Europe, extending toward Asia on Jan. 7.

The Polar Vortex is Splitting in Two, Which May Lead to Weeks of Wild Winter Weather. Especially on the East Coast and New England, I might add. Capital Weather Gang has a good explainer: “A dramatic spike in temperatures is occurring at high altitudes above the North Pole, where the air is thin and typically frigid. Known as a sudden stratospheric warming event, experts say it’s likely to have potentially significant repercussions for winter weather across the Northern Hemisphere for weeks to possibly months. This unusually strong event may have profound influences on the weather in the United States and Europe, possibly increasing the potential for paralyzing snowstorms and punishing blasts of Arctic air, with the odds of the most severe cold outbreaks highest in Northern Europe...”

World Climate Service, Twitter

The Florida National Guard used high-water trucks and other rescue equipment to assist residents of Escambia and Okaloosa counties in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally on Sept. 18, 2020.
Florida National Guard, Military Times

New in 2021: Atlantic Hurricane Outlook and Potential Impact. Military Times has a post with an interesting analysis: “…Klotzbach’s team will release a more detailed forecast in April that includes a projected number of storms, but their initial look says the Guard may stay busy in 2021. “One of the big reasons why we think the odds favor an above average season at this point is that we currently have a moderate La Niña event [in the eastern Pacific],” explained Klotzbach in a phone interview. La Niña means cooler Pacific water temperatures, which in turn reduces upper-level winds that “basically tear apart” Atlantic storms. But even if a season has more storms and stronger storms, he said, “We can’t say where the storms are going to go…it’s all about location, location, location…”

Fires and Smoke Engulf Southeastern Australia on January 4, 2020.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview

Amazing Earth: Satellite Images from 2020. NASA has a link to some pretty incredible imagery; here’s an excerpt of their post: “In the vastness of the universe, the life-bringing beauty of our home planet shines bright. During this tumultuous year, our satellites captured some pockets of peace, while documenting data and striking visuals of unprecedented natural disasters. As 2020 comes to a close, we’re diving into some of the devastation, wonders, and anomalies this year had to offer. NASA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites and instruments on the International Space Station unravel the complexities of the blue marble from a cosmic vantage point. These robotic scientists orbit our globe constantly, monitoring and notating changes, providing crucial information to researchers here on the ground. Take a glance at 2020 through the lens of NASA satellites…”

Climate Stories…

Researchers Say Food Prices Don’t Reflect Environmental Costs. Big Think has the story; here’s an excerpt: “Using life-cycle assessment (LCA) tools, the researchers determined when emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane occurred in the food production process. The effects of land use, including deforestation, related to food production were also incorporated. The results were striking. Meat and dairy products are incredibly undervalued according to this measure. Pricing in the climate damage caused by their production would raise their prices by 146 percent and 91 percent, respectively. The prices of organic plant products would also rise, but by a mere 6 percent. Organic foods, in general, saw lower price increases than conventionally produced food products…”


Venus Was Once More Earth-like, but Climate Change Made it Uninhabitable. A post at astronomy.com explains: “Venus is a very strange place, totally uninhabitable, except perhaps in the clouds some 60 kilometers up where the recent discovery of phosphine may suggest floating microbial life. But the surface is totally inhospitable. However, Venus once likely had an Earth-like climate. According to recent climate modelling, for much of its history Venus had surface temperatures similar to present day Earth. It likely also had oceans, rain, perhaps snow, maybe continents and plate tectonics, and even more speculatively, perhaps even surface life. Less than one billion years ago, the climate dramatically changed due to a runaway greenhouse effect. It can be speculated that an intensive period of volcanism pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to cause this great climate change event that evaporated the oceans and caused the end of the water cycle...”

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

2020 Was a Year of Climate Extremes. What Can We Expect in 2021? My (very strong) hunch is that 2020 will go down in the books as the warmest year on record, warmer than 2016. We shall see. Here’s an excerpt from TIME.com: “…A record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season landed a double blow of two hugely destructive storms in Central America. Long-running droughts have destroyed agricultural output and helped to push millions into hunger in Zimbabwe and Madagascar. A super-cyclone unleashed massive floods on India and Bangladesh. And overall, 2020 may end up the hottest year on record—despite a La Niña event, the ocean-atmospheric phenomenon which normally temporarily cools things down. Though it’s historically been difficult to say if single weather events were directly caused by climate change, scientists have proven that many of the events that took place in 2020 would have been far less likely, or even impossible, without changes to the climate that are being driven by the warming of the Earth…”

Paul Douglas

Study: Warming Already Baked-in Will Blow Past Climate Goals. Associated Press reports: “The amount of baked-in global warming, from carbon pollution already in the air, is enough to blow past international agreed upon goals to limit climate change, a new study finds. But it’s not game over because, while that amount of warming may be inevitable, it can be delayed for centuries if the world quickly stops emitting extra greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, the study’s authors say. For decades, scientists have talked about so-called “committed warming” or the increase in future temperature based on past carbon dioxide emissions that stay in the atmosphere for well over a century. It’s like the distance a speeding car travels after the brakes are applied…”

Tim McCabe USDA

Biden Plan Looks for Buy-in From Farmers Who Are Often Skeptical About Global Warming. InsideClimate News has the post; here’s the intro: “When the incoming Biden administration released its policy roadmap in November, it was clear that tackling climate change would be a top priority and agriculture will be a key part of a broad, cross-agency effort. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the administration said, “has not historically received the sustained political attention of other agencies that play a role in climate policy.” But it would become “a linchpin of the next Administration’s climate strategy.” The incoming administration’s clear focus on climate change was remarkable. That it would enlist the country’s farms and farmers—who are largely skeptical of climate change—in the battle was even more so...”

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