January 7

Hints of a Late January Polar Vortex Signature – Dangers of Leaving Weather Predictions to AI – 40% of US Counties Impacted by Climate-Fueled Weather Extremes in 2021

Tracking a Variety of Cold (and Colder) Fronts

Hi, my name is Paul. Hobbies include napping, tinkering with the Doppler – and tracking cold fronts. Big fronts. Little fronts. Sloppy little dribbles of chilly air and full-frontal Siberian Assaults.

In defense of cold fronts: they insulate us from some of the worst storms on Earth (hurricanes, I’m looking at you). We get our fair share of weather extremes, but I’m enjoying a lack of yard work and no allergies this month.

Our coldest days tend to be sunny, which helps, at least a little. After a numbing start, the mercury recovers to single digits above zero this afternoon. 30 (above) will feel great tomorrow before the next (weaker) slap of subzero air early next week. Models hint at 2-3 days of a January Thaw late next week.

Long range weather models suggest the Mother Lode of arctic air may surge south between January 17-22, and this could rival February of last year.

It may not last quite as long, but late January could test your cold weather mettle. Lovely. Hey, why should any of this be easy?


Polar Vortex, the Sequel? It’s a little early, but GFS is consistent in bringing a massive scoop of polar (Siberian) air across Canada into the northern USA by the third week of January. This could be the coldest shot of them all, perhaps the better part of a week below zero. That’s going way out on a limb – I hope I’m wrong.

Paul Douglas

The Danger of Leaving Weather Prediction to AI. The most accurate forecasts are still man + machine: Humans with the right skill sets can still add value to the models, resulting in more accurate, actionable weather forecasts. A post at WIRED.com (paywall) explains; here’s an excerpt: “…Similarly, research published by NOAA Weather Prediction Service director David Novak and his colleagues show that while human forecasters may not be able to “beat” the models on your typical sunny, fair-weather day, they still produce more accurate predictions than the algorithm-crunchers in bad weather. Over the two decades of information Novak’s team studied, humans were 20 to 40 percent more accurate at forecasting near-future precipitation than the Global Forecast System (GFS) and the North American Mesoscale Forecast System (NAM), the most commonly used national models. Humans also made statistically significant improvements to temperature forecasting over both model’s guidance. “Oftentimes, we find that in the bigger events is when the forecasters can make some value-added improvements to the automated guidance,” says Novak...”

Could Being Cold Actually Be Good For You? Man, I hope so. Minnesotans are “well preserved”. A post at WIRED.com (paywall) explains the potential benefits: “…Researchers know that your body reacts when it’s cold. New fat appears, muscles change, and your level of comfort rises with prolonged exposure to cold. But what all this means for modern human health—and whether we can harness the effects of cold to improve it—are still open questions. One vein of research is trying to understand how cold-induced changes in fat or muscle can help stave off metabolic disease, such as diabetes. Another suggests it’s easier than you might think to get comfortable in the cold—without blasting the heat. To Haman, these are useful scientific questions because freezing is one of our bodies’ oldest existential threats. “Cold, to me, is [one of] the most fascinating stimuli because cold is probably the biggest challenge that humans can have,” he says. “Even though heat is challenging, as long as I have access to water, and to shade, I will survive fairly well. The cold is completely the opposite…”

A fire-ravaged section of Original Town Superior (foreground) lies amid fresh snow cover on January 2, 2022. Few if any modern U.S. wildfires have seen suburban communities devoured by fire and then covered by snow less than 36 hours later. After 11.2” of snowfall, the temperature in nearby Boulder dipped to –2°F on the morning of January 2.
Image credit: Bob Henson

A Month of Unprecedented U.S. Weather Disasters Ends with Colorado Fire Catastrophe. Bob Henson summarizes last week’s wild fire northwest of Denver for Yale Climate Connections: “Several weeks of truly bizarre December weather in the United States – ranging from eerily pleasant to horrific – ended with a fierce windstorm on December 30 that drove Colorado’s most destructive wildfire on record. A preliminary count showed 991 structures were consumed by the Marshall Fire in exurban and suburban areas between Boulder and Denver. The blaze is just behind California’s Thomas fire (Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, December 2017) as the nation’s most destructive wildfire in modern records for meteorological winter (December through February). The Thomas fire took two lives and destroyed 1,063 structures, according to Cal Fire. Two people remained missing from the Marshall Fire as of Tuesday morning, January 4…”

File image

Air Pollution in Cities Causes 1.8 Million Deaths Globally Each Year, Studies Find. UPI.com has details: “Exposure to unhealthy levels of air pollution causes 1.8 million deaths in cities worldwide each year, two studies published Wednesday by The Lancet Planetary Health estimated. In addition, nearly 2 million asthma cases among children globally are linked with exposure to nitrogen dioxide pollution from motor vehicle emissions annually, with two in three occurring in urban areas, the data showed. Children and the elderly bear the brunt of the health complications associated with exposure to air pollution, the researchers said. “Avoiding the large public health burden caused by air pollution will require strategies that not only reduce emissions but also improve overall public health to reduce vulnerability,” Veronica Southerland, a co-author on both studies, said in a press release…”

Climate Stories…

Apollo 11 file

Why is the U.S. So Bad at Passing Climate Policy? It’s By Design. A post at Grist explains; here’s a clip: “…Indeed, the last three decades of U.S. climate policy look like a graveyard of failed bills: Carbon taxes have died on the Senate floor and been torched by attack ads. Cap-and-trade systems have been endorsed — and then abandoned — by Republicans and Democrats alike. According to the Climate Change Performance Index, the U.S. is 55th in the world when it comes to climate policy; another analysis by Yale University and Columbia University ranked the country 24th for environmental performance. Now, as Democrats struggle to regroup after current West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s refusal to support President Joe Biden’s landmark climate and social welfare bill, it seems to be happening again. The U.S. is within reach of passing climate policy, but perilously close to falling short…”

Paul Douglas

The Transportation of Tomorrow Will Address Climate Change. Reuters explains: “As the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, the transportation industry will play an enormous role in efforts to reduce emissions in the face of climate change. When releasing in November the administration’s long-term climate-change strategy, which presents a vision of achieving the United States’ goal of net-zero emissions economywide by no later than 2050, President Biden emphasized the role of electric vehicles (EVs) in attaining that goal. But it’s not only the auto industry that will help drive change in the transportation arena. The aviation and shipping industries must embark upon similar, if not more rigorous, efforts at innovation and the application of cleaner technologies if the world is to reach a state of net-zero emissions…”

Schoonschip, a floating home development in Amsterdam.
Isabel Nabuurs

Embracing a Wetter Future, the Dutch Turn to Floating Homes. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature! Yale E360 has another fascinating story; here’s an excerpt: “…Koen Olthuis, who in 2003 founded Waterstudio, a Dutch architectural firm focused exclusively on floating buildings, said that the relatively low-tech nature of floating homes is potentially their biggest advantage. The homes he designs are stabilized by poles dug roughly 65 meters into the ground and outfitted with shock-absorbent materials to reduce the feeling of movement from nearby waves. The houses ascend when waters rise and descend when waters recede. But despite their apparent simplicity, Olthuis contends they have the potential to transform cities in ways not seen since the introduction of the elevator, which pushed skylines upward. “We now have the tech, the possibility to build on water,” said Olthuis, who has designed 300 floating homes, offices, schools, and health care centers...”

The conditions leading Thwaites Glacier to lose ice are accelerating, scientists say
Sky News

Climate Change: Scientists Embark on Two-Month Mission to Explore “Doomsday” Thwaites Glacier. Sky News has the story: “A team of scientists are setting sail to the “hardest” place to get to in the world to investigate how much and how quickly sea levels will rise as global warming eats away at Antarctica’s vast ice sheet. Thirty-two experts will spend more than two months on board an American research ship to explore the crucial area where the enormous, melting Thwaites Glacier meets the sea. The Britain-sized glacier has earned the nickname the “doomsday glacier” because of the threat its melting would pose to the world, with the potential to raise sea levels eventually by more than two feet. It is already shedding around 50 billion tons of ice into the water a year and the British Antarctic Survey says it is responsible for 4% of global sea rise…”

FEMA, The Washington Post

More Than 40 Percent of Americans Live in Counties Hit by Climate Disasters in 2021. The Washington Post has perspective on last year’s unnatural disasters: “2021 ended as it began: with disaster. Twelve months after an atmospheric river deluged California, triggering mudslides in burned landscapes and leaving a half-million people without power, a late-season wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes in the suburbs of Denver. In between, Americans suffered blistering heat waves, merciless droughts and monstrous hurricanes. People collapsed in farm fields and drowned in basement apartments; entire communities were obliterated by surging seas and encroaching flames. More than 4 in 10 Americans live in a county that was struck by climate-related extreme weather last year, according to a new Washington Post analysis of federal disaster declarations, and more than 80 percent experienced a heat wave...”

“Don’t Look Up”: Hollywood’s Primer on Climate Denial Illustrates 5 Myths That Fuel Rejection of Science. Here’s an excerpt from The Conversation: “…The first question President Orlean (Meryl Streep) asks the scientists after they explain that a comet is on a collision course with Earth is, “So how certain is this?” Learning that the certitude is 99.78%, the president’s chief of staff (Jonah Hill) responds with relief: “Oh great, so it’s not 100%!” Government scientist Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) replies, “Scientists never like to say 100%.” This reluctance to claim 100% certainty is a strength of science. Even when the evidence points clearly in one direction, scientists keep exploring to learn more. At the same time, they recognize overwhelming evidence and act on it. The evidence is overwhelming that Earth’s climate is changing in dangerous ways because of human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, and it has been overwhelming for many years…”


Another Sign Things are Getting Weird: Lightning Around the North Pole Increased Dramatically in 2021. CNN.com reports: “As extreme weather wreaked havoc across the globe in 2021, a stunning change was happening in the far northern Arctic, largely out of sight but detectable by a network of sensors. Lightning increased significantly in the region around the North Pole, which scientists say is a clear sign of how the climate crisis is altering global weather. Vaisala, an environmental monitoring company that tracks lightning around the world, reported 7,278 lightning strokes occurred last year north of 80 degrees latitude, nearly twice as many as the previous nine years combined. Arctic lightning is rare — even more so at such far northern latitudes — and scientists use it as a key indicator of the climate crisis, since the phenomena signals warming temperatures in the predominantly frozen region…”


New York Times

Biden “Over-promised and Under-delivered on Climate. Now, Trouble Looms in 2022. The New York Times (paywall) has an analysis worth your time: “As the new year opens, President Biden faces an increasingly narrow path to fulfill his ambitious goal of slashing the greenhouse gases generated by the United States that are helping to warm the planet to dangerous levels. His Build Back Better Act, which contains $555 billion in proposed climate action, is in limbo on Capitol Hill. The Supreme Court is set to hear a pivotal case in February that could significantly restrict his authority to regulate the carbon dioxide that spews from power plants and is driving climate change. And the midterm elections loom in November, threatening his party’s control of Congress. Since Republicans have shown little appetite for climate action, a Republican takeover of one or both chambers could freeze movement for years...”

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