Wind-Whipped Snow, Then More Subzero Fun
Maya Angelou had it right: If you don t like something, change it. If you can t change it, change your attitude. Don t complain. And yet and yet: we are genetically engineered to complain, which often makes things better.
Weather is an exception. As proud as I am of my Doppler, I can’t do a thing to stop arctic air.
The latest Siberian Spanking whips up plowable snow today (maybe 3-5” with more north of MSP). Measuring that snow may be problematic as winds gust to near 40 mph, creating blowing and drifting, with ground blizzards over much of Minnesota. Take it easy out there.
Temperatures hold below zero Thursday and much of Friday before rebounding to near freezing Saturday. The latter half of next week looks relatively mild, but a few more subzero swipes are likely in mid and late January.
Going way out on a fragile limb I suspect most of the subzero air this winter will come in January, not February, like it did last winter. Just a hunch. No prolonged Polar Vortex signature showing up yet.
Some Moderation Third Week of January? Insert additional question marks here. We’ll see a few days in the low 30s the latter half of next week, and GFS guidance suggests more of a Pacific vs. Arctic flow returning for much of the USA the last 10 days of January. We’ll see.
Top Five 2021 Weather Events in Minnesota. The Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office has the official list, including the top meteorological story of last year: “…#1 Historic Mid-December Severe Weather and Wind Event, December 15-16, 2021. This runaway #1 would have been a top-five candidate any time of year, but its out-of-season timing, as much as its potency, made it a “career” or “generational” event that had never before been recorded in Minnesota. A powerful cyclone brought warm air, high dew point temperatures and summer-like severe weather into Minnesota. As of December 29, twenty tornadoes have been confirmed, the strongest of which, rated EF-2, struck the town of Hartland in Freeborn County. Damaging thunderstorm winds tracked across several states and qualified as a “derecho,” and the same system brought additional damaging non-thunderstorm winds due to the pressure gradient. The warm air out ahead of the storm brought the fastest snow melt seen in December in the Twin Cities. The snow depth went from 12 inches on December 11 to zero on the 16th…”
2021’s Worst 10 Disasters Caused $170+ Billion Insured Losses: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “The ten worst extreme weather disasters in 2021 caused more than $170 billion in insured losses, according to a report from Christian Aid, a UK NGO. The full costs are certainly higher, however, because the $170.3 billion does not account for impacts not covered by insurance. The damages represent the rising cost of climate change as it worsens extreme weather, like Hurricane Ida which caused $65 billion in insured losses. “The costs of climate change have been grave this year, both in terms of eyewatering financial losses but also in the death and displacement of people around the world,” report author Kat Kramer said in a statement. “Be it storms and floods in some of the world’s richest countries or droughts and heatwaves in some of the poorest, the climate crisis hit hard in 2021.” In addition to Hurricane Ida, the report tallied costs of the European flooding, the Texas winter storm, flooding in China’s Henan Province, British Columbia flooding, April’s French wine freeze, and Cyclone Tauktae.” (Axios, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Bloomberg $, Democracy Now, The Hill, Deutsche Welle, AFP; Climate Signals background: Hurricanes and cyclonic storms; Flooding, 2021 Polar vortex breakdown)
Historic US Weather Events in 2021, by the Numbers. Capital Weather Gang examines the biggest extreme-weather stories of last year: “From record-shattering heat to frigid waves of cold, torrential downpours to relentless drought, 2021 has been a year of extremes in the United States. As personal stories and images illuminate the devastation wrought by the events, the raw numbers also underline the widespread impacts and extraordinary nature of this year’s weather…The United States experienced 18 billion-dollar weather disasters in the first nine months of 2021, totaling more than $104 billion. Driven largely by severe thunderstorms and a relentless hurricane season, this year has so far seen the second-most billion-dollar disasters of any year since 1980, and it could surpass 2020 for the record when events from October, November and December are tallied…”
We Can Build Homes to Survive Tornadoes. We Just Haven’t. An Op-Ed at The Washington Post (paywall) caught my eye; here’s a clip: “…No one believes all tornado damage can be avoided. But most tornadoes — more than 95 percent — have ground-level wind speeds of 135 miles per hour or less. Researchers from Texas Tech University who conducted the post-tornado surveys in Lubbock stated that while best estimates suggested maximum wind speeds at ground level were 200 miles per hour, most of the damage was caused by winds in the range of 75 to 125 miles per hour. With better building construction, we can narrow the width of the most catastrophic destruction — the distance away from the tornado’s centerline — so that homes, while possibly experiencing damage, remain occupiable immediately after a tornado. For a house to withstand wind loads, which pull up against the building’s structure and away from the ground against gravity, they must have strong, continuous lines of mechanical connections that tie every component, from the roof through the walls, down to the foundation...”
The Causal Effect of Environmental Catastrophe on Long-Run Economic Growth from 6,700 Cyclones. A new paper at NBER highlights the “long-tail” effect of tropical cyclones on local economies; here’s an excerpt of the summary: “… Income losses arise from a small but persistent suppression of annual growth rates spread across the fifteen years following disaster, generating large and significant cumulative effects: a 90th percentile event reduces per capita incomes by 7.4% two decades later, effectively undoing 3.7 years of average development. The gradual nature of these losses render them inconspicuous to a casual observer, however simulations indicate that they have dramatic influence over the long-run development of countries that are endowed with regular or continuous exposure to disaster. Linking these results to projections of future cyclone activity, we estimate that under conservative discounting assumptions the present discounted cost of “business as usual” climate change is roughly $9.7 trillion larger than previously thought…”
The Wild Idea to End Droughts by Triggering Artificial Rain. The Daily Beast focuses on the difficulties of nudging Mother Nature one way or another: “…Studies have shown cloud seeding may increase precipitation by anywhere from 5 to 15 percent. Friedrich cautions, however, that this can vary wildly, and we still don’t have a great sense of what interfering with condensation and precipitation in the atmosphere will actually lead to. “Once you manipulate the cloud, you don’t really know what this cloud would have produced in terms of precipitation without the manipulation,” Friedrich said. “It’s really important to run models where you can maybe simulate the impact of these different technologies…”
To Fight Climate Change, First You Have to Measure It. A post at WIRED.com (paywall) is a worthy read: “From devastating wildfires to polar bears clinging to melting ice floes, there’s no shortage of shocking images to illustrate the need for action on climate change. But collecting reliable data to track the rate of change—and help determine how to tackle it—is much less straightforward. Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, South West London, are using precise monitoring equipment to measure pollutants and track our impact on the planet more accurately than ever before. The lab’s latest tool is Boreas, a laser spectrometer designed to collect and analyze methane—a greenhouse gas emitted by dozens of human activities, from agriculture to burning fuel. At an unassuming telecommunications tower in Heathfield, Surrey, Boreas works 24 hours a day in all weather conditions to sample large volumes of air…”
Climate Satire ‘Don’t Look Up’ Tops Netflix: I’ve seen the movie and it strikes the right tone when it comes to science-denial, something climate scientists have been dealing with for decades. Climate Nexus has details and links: “Netflix’s star-studded satirical climate allegory Don’t Look Up debuted for streaming on Christmas Eve as the platform’s top movie. Reactions were mixed about the thinly-veiled allegorical saga of politicians ignoring scientists about the threat of an impending planet-killing comet before a tech billionaire tries to mine it. The volume of discourse generated by the film — fueled in part by a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep — illustrates popular culture demand for art and media on the climate crisis.” (Earther, Atmos; Commentary: Slate, Tyler Austin Harper review, CNN, Brian Lowry review, TIME, Justin Worland commentary, NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour, CNN, Holly Thomas review, New York Times, Manohla Dargis $, Reuters, Antony Currie review).
Climate Scientists Grapple with Colorado Wildfire Disaster. Axios points out the earth scientists and meteorologists who were close to ground zero for the recent conflagration northwest of Denver: “…Karen Kosiba of the Center for Severe Weather Research helped to deploy a “Doppler on Wheels” (DOW) unit — a truck with a rotating, highly sensitive radar attached to it — to scan the smoke plume. The data her team gathered on Thursday could prove valuable to fire scientists, insurance adjusters and others. Accustomed to deploying to tornado outbreaks and landfalling hurricanes, Kosiba said watching this event unfold was more emotionally taxing than usual. “If we are there with a DOW, that’s usually not a good thing,” Kosiba said. “Usually, I am looking in from the outside. This time I was on the inside,” watching parts of her community burn. “I could see tufts of black smoke popping up and you just knew that was someone’s house that just caught fire. I could see flames...”
Climate Change is Making Your Seasonal Allergies Worse, According to New Research. It seems allergy season is nearly year-round now. A post at Martha Stewart (please don’t laugh) explains: “Itching, sneezing, and watery eyes are all things you’re familiar with if you struggle with seasonal allergies. While these cold-like symptoms are triggered by outdoor and indoor allergens—think pollen and dust mites—that are typically more rampant during spring, a new study suggests that climate change has lengthened hay fever season. The research, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that global warming is causing extra weeks of seasonal allergies. To obtain their findings, the researchers analyzed measurements of airborne pollen and mold across the United States and Canada between 1990 and 2018 as documented by the National Allergy Bureau. The measurements were collected between those years and hand-counted by staff at 60 stations across both countries...”
As the Climate Changes, New Efforts Arise to Diversify What’s Grown in the Corn Belt. Food and Environment Reporting Network has details: “…Linda Prokopy, a professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue and the lead investigator on the project, says that diversifying beyond traditional corn and soybean systems can have both ecological and economic benefits for farmers, as well as help them adapt to climate change. “Growing corn and soybeans exclusively in the Midwest is not sustainable in the long run,” she said. “As the climate continues to change, corn is not expected to yield very well in this area.” A diversity of crops means that as the weather changes, farmers will have a range of crops to fall back on if one fails. “The more diverse crops that a farm plants, the more resilient they’ll be” to the variable conditions produced by climate change, said Prokopy…”
Future Hurricanes Will Roam Over More of the Earth. YaleNews has a press release; here’s an excerpt: “A new, Yale-led study suggests the 21st century will see an expansion of hurricanes and typhoons into mid-latitude regions, which includes major cities such as New York, Boston, Beijing, and Tokyo. Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, the study’s authors said tropical cyclones — hurricanes and typhoons — could migrate northward and southward in their respective hemispheres, as the planet warms as a result of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. 2020’s subtropical storm Alpha, the first tropical cyclone observed making landfall in Portugal, and this year’s Hurricane Henri, which made landfall in Connecticut, may be harbingers of such storms. “This represents an important, under-estimated risk of climate change,” said first author Joshua Studholme, a physicist in Yale’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and a contributing author on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sixth assessment report published earlier this year...”
More Hurricanes Could Hit New York, Boston and Other Northern Cities as Planet Warms. USA TODAY has a summary of new research: “A warming planet means hurricanes this century could spin farther north in the Atlantic than they used to, potentially affecting such cities as New York and Boston, a new study published Wednesday suggests. The study said systems such as 2021’s Hurricane Henri, which hit New England in August as a tropical storm, could be harbingers of such future storms. “This represents an important, under-estimated risk of climate change,” said study lead author Joshua Studholme of Yale University, in a statement. “This research predicts that the 21st-century’s tropical cyclones will likely occur over a wider range of latitudes than has been the case on Earth for the last 3 million years,” he added…”
The World Paid a Huge Financial Price for Climate-Driven Extreme Weather in 2021. TIME.com has a summary of what went wrong last year; here’s an excerpt: “Ten of this year’s most destructive weather events cost a combined $170 billion in damages, according to a new study. Hurricane Ida, a tropical storm that pummeled much of the eastern U.S. with lashing rain in August, killed at least 95 people and cost the economy $65 billion. A month earlier, floods in Europe caused 240 deaths and an economic loss of $43 billion, according to research published by U.K. charity Christian Aid. Floods in China’s Henan province in July killed more than 300 and cost in excess of $17 billion. “The costs of climate change have been grave this year,” said Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead and author of the report. “It is clear that the world is not on track to ensure a safe and prosperous world…”
“Doomsday Glacier” in Antarctic Could Collapse Soon: New Research. Rolling Stone reports; here’s a clip: “…A few weeks ago, scientists participating in the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a $25 million five-year-long joint research program between the National Science Foundation in the U.S. and the Natural Environment Research Council in the U.K., presented their latest research. They described the discovery of cracks and fissures in the Thwaites eastern ice shelf, predicting that the ice shelf could fracture like a shattered car window in as little as five years. “It won’t scatter out into sea as quickly as what you saw when you were down there,” Erin Pettit, a glaciologist at Oregon State University and one of the lead principal investigators in the ITGC, later told me. “But the basic process is the same. The ice shelf is breaking up and could be gone in less than a decade...”