Mindless Musings During The Dead of Winter
This time of year it’s the little things. Like glimmers of light when I fall out of bed at 7am every morning. Hints of twilight out the window as we gather for dinner. Hopeful chirps from a family of cardinals circling the back yard.
We’ve picked up 34 minutes of daylight since the Winter Solstice on December 21; daylight is increasing over 2 minutes every day. In 5 days the average high at MSP rises from 23F to 24F. Progress.
I see no sign of a prolonged polar occupation similar to the first half of February, 2021. A few arctic swipes? You bet, but no week after week below zero that I can see, in fact weather models don’t look quite as cold for the next 2 weeks.
A parade of cold fronts into next week will be preceded by low pressure swirls approaching from southern Canada. 1-2” may fall Friday night, with an additional 2-4” of Minnesota powder Saturday night into Monday. ECMWF predicts 4 or 5 more subzero nights into next week. We can handle that.
Long range weather/climate models suggest a mild bias February – April. We’ll see.
Slight Moderation Early February. NOAA GFS guidance hints at more of a zonal flow 2 weeks out as the Mother Lode of arctic air begins to lift northward, with fewer swipes of subzero air as we sail into February. That may be wishful thinking – but I do not expect a rerun of February 2021’s prolonged polar occupation.
Mild Bias Late Winter – Early Spring? That’s what an ensemble of longer-range climate models are hinting at. Confidence levels are low, as they always are this far out.
Historic, Unprecedented Storm of December 15-16, 2021. The Twin Cities National Weather Service has an update on last month’s jaw-dropping derecho and tornadoes: “A low pressure system of historic strength led to a variety of high-end weather impacts from the central Plains to the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes December 15-16. An unprecedented December severe weather unfolded over portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin Wednesday evening, with the Storm Prediction Center issuing their farthest-north Moderate Risk for the month of December. A serial derecho moving at 60-80 mph tracked from Kansas to Wisconsin, resulting in over 560 reports of damaging wind and over 60 tornadoes. A total of 57 “significant severe” wind gusts (75+ mph) were reported, breaking the daily record of 53 set on August 10, 2020. Most of the damage across our area occurred from south-central Minnesota through west-central Wisconsin. Particularly widespread damage occurred in Hartland, Minnesota, and Stanley, Wisconsin where EF2 tornadoes were confirmed. Prior to this event, a tornado has never been reported in Minnesota in December…”
Argentine Towns Sizzle Amid “Hottest Days in History”. Reuters has an update on heat down under; here’s an excerpt: “…“Practically all of Argentina and also neighboring countries such as Uruguay, southern Brazil and Paraguay are experiencing the hottest days in history,” said Cindy Fernandez, meteorologist at the official National Meteorological Service. Many towns have posted their highest temperatures since records began, with some zones heating up to 45 degrees Celsius (113°F), according to the weather service. “In Argentina, from the center of Patagonia to the north of the country, thermal values are being recorded that are reaching or exceeding 40 degrees,” Fernandez said. The heat and a prolonged drought have hit the grains-producing country’s crops, though there is hope that an expected drop in temperature next week will bring a period of rainfall to cool both plants and people…”
Wildfire Risk in California Drives Insurers to Pull Policies for Pricey Homes. The Wall Street Journal (paywall) explains the challenges of pricing fire risk in the most wildfire-prone state in the U.S.: “Worried about wildfire exposure and frustrated by state regulations, insurers in California have been cutting back on their homeowner businesses. Now, affluent homeowners are feeling more of the pain, as two of the biggest firms offering protection for multimillion-dollar properties end coverage for some customers. As early as this month, American International Group Inc. AIG -0.21% will begin notifying about 9,000 customers in its Private Client Group that their home policies won’t be renewed this year. The change is part of a plan by AIG to cease selling home policies in California through a unit regulated by the state’s insurance department...”
Shifting Snow in the Warming U.S. Climate Central has an analysis; here’s an excerpt: “Snow keeps our planet cooler, makes up more than 50 percent of the Western U.S. water supply, and underpins local economies and cultures from coast to coast. So, how is climate change affecting snow across the U.S.?
Snow basics. Two basic conditions are needed to produce snow: both freezing temperatures and moisture in the atmosphere. How are these conditions affected by climate change?
- Fewer freezes. Winter is the fastest warming season for most of the U.S., and the number of days with temperatures below 32°F is expected to continue to decline over the coming decades.
- More moisture. Our warming atmosphere holds about 4% more moisture per 1°F of temperature rise. But where that moisture falls, and whether it falls as rain or snow, is largely based on the season and region.
Seasonal snow trends. In almost all areas of the U.S., snow is decreasing in the fall and spring, according to a Climate Central analysis of snowfall data from 1970–2019…”
Scientists Warn Disastrous Consequences Against Plans of Dimming the Sun. Hopefully it won’t come to this, but a post at Nature World News caught my eye – here’s an excerpt: “…According to a letter and a commentary in WIREs Climate Change, solar geoengineering cannot be regulated worldwide in a fair, inclusive, and effective manner. Solar geoengineering as a climate policy option should not be normalized. A rise of 1.1 degrees Celsius above the mid-19th century level has increased the severity, frequency, and duration of lethal heat waves as well as the frequency and intensity of droughts, according to Science Alert. Global warming has been agreed to be limited to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but UN-backed scientists have predicted that that threshold will be crossed within a decade. As a result of the failure to curb greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, some policymakers are turning to solar geoengineering, which was largely regarded as science fiction not long ago…”
U.S. Military Emits More CO2 Into the Atmosphere Than Entire Countries Like Denmark or Portugal. Inside Climate News reports; here’s an excerpt: “…Crawford’s hunt for a clear statistic on military emissions to show her class led her to a new research focus: trying to puzzle out just how much fuel the U.S. military consumes and thus how much carbon it emits. Using Department of Energy data, Crawford found that the U.S. military is a major polluter. Since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has produced more than 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. Crawford acknowledges her data is likely incomplete—but even with the available data, she found that the U.S. military emits more than entire countries like Portugal and Denmark, and that the Department of Defense accounts for nearly 80% of the federal government’s fuel consumption…”
DiCaprio on Climate Change: “Vote for People That Are Sane”. Always a good idea, highlighted in an interview at TheHill: “Leonardo DiCaprio says if the world has any chance at combating climate change, voters need to pick “people that are sane.” “The main thing that it boils down to is, if you’re an individual, you, A, have to get involved,” the “Don’t Look Up” star and environmental activist said in an interview with Deadline published Tuesday. “You have to vote for people that care about this issue and take science seriously. And we should not have any elected leaders, on a state level, on a city level, or a national level that don’t listen to science, especially in this country,” the 47-year-old Academy Award winner said…”
Exxon Sets a 2050 Goal for Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The New York Times (paywall) reports: “Exxon Mobil, under increasing pressure from investors to address climate change, announced on Tuesday that it had the “ambition” to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2050. The oil company, the largest in the United States, still remains behind several of its major competitors in its public climate commitments. Exxon said it had identified 150 modifications of its exploration and production practices to help reach its goals, including electrification of operations with energy from renewable sources. Initial steps will include elimination of the flaring and venting of methane, a byproduct of drilling that is a powerful greenhouse gas...”
Exxon Joins Net-Zero ‘Beauty Match’: Climate Nexus has additional perspective with headlines and links: “ExxonMobil will continue polluting the planet but will produce net-zero emissions by 2050, a goal its CEO described as a “beauty match” less than two years ago, the embattledcompany announced Tuesday. The pledge only applies to pollution caused by Exxon operations — technically known as Scope 1 and 2 emissions – and does not address the “Scope 3” pollution released when its product is burned. The extraction and combustion of fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change, a scientific reality Exxon knowingly denied for decades.” (Axios, Gizmodo, E&E $, Bloomberg $, Politico Pro $, The Hill, Reuters, FT $, New York Times $, Reuters, Factbox)
Inspired by King’s Words, Experts Say the Fight for Climate Justice Anywhere is a Fight for Climate Justice Everywhere. A post at Inside Climate News explains: “…Terms like “environmental racism” or “environmental justice” were not yet part of the national lexicon when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. And while insider records reveal that the nation’s oil and gas lobby was being briefed that same year on the dangers of rising greenhouse gas emissions, the term “global warming” wasn’t credited with being coined until 1975, seven years after the civil rights leader’s death. Yet leading climate scientists, theologians or environmental and climate justice activists today find much meaning and inspiration from what King wrote, said or did. In advance of this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Inside Climate News reached out to scientists, theologians, ministers and environmental and climate justice advocates to reflect on King’s legacy, as seen through a climate and environmental justice lens more than a half a century after King’s death...”
Race to Cut Carbon Emissions Splits U.S. States on Nuclear. My take, for what it’s worth, if we want carbon-free baseline power for the near term, until renewables can reach critical mass, we need nuclear. Here’s an excerpt from a story at AP News: “As climate change pushes states in the U.S. to dramatically cut their use of fossil fuels, many are coming to the conclusion that solar, wind and other renewable power sources might not be enough to keep the lights on. Nuclear power is emerging as an answer to fill the gap as states transition away from coal, oil and natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stave off the worst effects of a warming planet. The renewed interest in nuclear comes as companies, including one started by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, are developing smaller, cheaper reactors that could supplement the power grid in communities across the U.S. Nuclear power comes with its own set of potential problems, especially radioactive waste that can remain dangerous for thousands of years. But supporters say the risks can be minimized and that the energy source will be essential to stabilize power supplies as the world tries to move away from carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuels…”
How to Prepare for Climate Change’s Most Immediate Impacts. Remediation, adaptation and preparation are all called for, according to a post at WIRED.com (paywall). Here’s an excerpt: “…Climate change is here, now, today. Even if we all became carbon zero overnight—an impossibility—the climate would still keep changing. And while it’s important to keep fighting, lobbying, and making lifestyle changes to reduce the impacts of climate change, it’s also important to admit that our planet has irrevocably changed and each of us needs to learn how to adapt. The biggest challenge of learning to live in a new climate is that there’s so much uncertainty about what’s going to happen, to whom, and when. “Climate change will cause mass migrations and economic disruptions,” says John Ramey, the founder of The Prepared, a website focused on prepping. “What will happen when millions of homes are lost, people move, food and water is scarce, and whole economic sectors fail?” Nobody knows the answer to that question, much less whether it’s guaranteed that will all happen, but here’s a hint: Even a fraction of that is gonna be bad, and you’re gonna be glad that you read and took the advice in this article...”
Climate Change Harms Kids ‘From Preconception Into Adolescence,’ Studies Show: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Climate change is harming fetuses, babies, and infants worldwide, six new studies published in a special issue of Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology show. Increased heat was linked to premature birth, increased hospital admissions for young children, and fast weight gain for babies which can lead to higher obesity risk. Studies also found air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion was linked to reduced fertility, and fetal exposure to wildfire smoke doubled the risk of severe birth defects. “From the very beginning, from preconception, through early childhood into adolescence, we’re starting to see important impacts of climate hazards on health,” said Prof. Gregory Wellenius, who edited the issue. “These extreme events are going to become even more likely and more severe with continued climate change [and this research shows] why they’re important to us, not in the future, but today.” (The Guardian, The Hill).