January 21

Texas Grid Concerns – Storm Surge Flood Potential in Tampa Bay – Insurers Can’t Adequately Price Wildfire Risk in California

Total (ECMWF) Snowfall by Midday Monday after 3 separate Alberta Clippers
weatherbell.com

A Triple-Header of Alberta Clippers Coming

”It’s so cold we chopped up the old piano for firewood. We only got 2 chords.” Sorry. After a mild fall and very weird December, Minnesota got its Cold Weather Boasting Rights back. More subzero fun is likely next week, but I do see some moderation later next week into early February.

An average winter (if there is such a thing) brings 23 subzero nights at MSP. This morning was the 10th subzero night, to date. In spite of this cold stretch, we may end winter with slightly fewer than normal subzero nights. No gasp-worthy storms are brewing, just a series of 3 Alberta Clippers over the next 3 nights. An inch or two falls tonight, another inch Saturday night, while the third clipper late Sunday into Monday may be most significant, dropping 2-4” of powder.

Models suggest 20s and a few 30s returning by late next week. A few more negative nights in February? Probably, but I suspect this may be our coldest stretch of winter.

Meanwhile Beijing is in a snow drought. They’ve been making artificial snow for the Winter Olympics. Wow



Slight Moderation Into Early February. We are due for a shift in the pattern – it remains to be seen whether a tough of low pressure will form over the west coast in late January and early February, capable of forcing our steering winds to blow from the west or southwest – which could signal a slightly milder (potentially snowier) pattern returning to Minnesota.


NOAA CPC
NOAA CPC
NOAA CPC

Climate Models: February Through April
NOAA NCEP

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.



IEM, Twin Cities National Weather Service

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…”


Flooding Will Get Worse in Tampa Bay. Tropical Storm Eta Showed How. Tampa Bay Times has an eye-opening analysis about storm surge flooding in the Tampa Bay area; here’s the intro: “It was only a tropical storm. In November 2020, Eta’s eye brushed by Tampa Bay, winds blowing about 70 mph offshore. The storm sent waves crashing onto the Howard Frankland Bridge, flooded thousands of properties and caused millions of dollars in damage, stunning people who expected a soft blow. Within a generation, the toll could be much worse. Eta, hitting as tides peaked, was a preview of the way sea level rise around Tampa Bay will make even weak storms more destructive. The Tampa Bay Times, in a first-of-its-kind partnership with the National Hurricane Center, sought to measure how much. The results are daunting. If the same storm struck again 30 years later, 17,000 properties might flood, nearly twice as many. That’s the best case. The worst would be more than 40,000 properties inundated, almost five times as crippling. Tampa Bay faces an inescapable, and growing, threat…”


File Image: November 2018 “Camp Fire”
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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...”


Rich Californians Losing Homeowners Insurance Over Wildfire Risk: Climate Nexus has more perspective, headlines and links: “Insurance companies have been pulling out of the California homeowner insurance market for years but the problem is really starting to hit home for wealthy homeowners, the Wall Street Journal reports. Climate change, primarily caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is supercharging wildfires. California, however, prohibits insurance companies from increasing premiums based on future risk projections, something insurance companies say prevents them from accurately pricing in the risks posed by wildfires, leading them to pull their coverage, and homeowners across the state scrambling to find policies that will cover them.” (Wall Street Journal $; Climate Signals background: Wildfires).


The control room at CPS Energy, in San Antonio.
Photograph by Jeff Wilson

The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up. So says Texas Monthly in an analysis – here’s an excerpt: “…Nobody yet knew just how widespread the blackouts would become—that they would spread across almost the entire state, leave an unprecedented 11 million Texans freezing in the dark for as long as three days, and result in as many as seven hundred deaths. But neither could the governor, legislators, and regulators who are supposed to oversee the state’s electric grid claim to be surprised. They had been warned repeatedly, by experts and by previous calamities—including a major blackout in 2011—that the grid was uniquely vulnerable to cold weather. Unlike most other states that safely endured the February 2021 storm, Texas had stubbornly declined to require winterization of its power plants and, just as critically, its natural gas facilities. In large part, that’s because the state’s politicians and the regulators they appoint are often captive to the oil and gas industry, which lavishes them with millions of dollars a year in campaign contributions...”


Climate Stories…

Climate Change Will Limit Choice for Winter Games Hosts, Says Study. Reuters has an analysis; here’s an excerpt: “Of the 21 cities to host the Winter Olympics, only Sapporo, Japan would be able to provide fair and safe conditions to stage them again by the end of the century if greenhouse gases are not dramatically reduced, said a University of Waterloo study released on Tuesday. An international team of researchers, led by the University of Waterloo, reviewed historical climate data from the 1920s along with future climate change trends. They determined that winter playgrounds such as St. Moritz and Lillehammer could become Olympic relics by the mid to late century, with unreliable conditions ruling them out as Games hosts…”


Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one.
WMO/Paul Strauss

2021 Joins Top 7 Warmest Years on Record: WMO. UN News has details: “Although average global temperatures were temporarily cooled by the 2020-2022 La Niña events, 2021 was still one of the seven warmest years on record, according to six leading international datasets consolidated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Global warming and other long-term climate change trends are expected to continue as a result of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the agency said. The average global temperature in 2021 was about 1.11 (± 0.13) °C above the pre-industrial era levels. The Paris Agreement calls for all countries to strive towards a limit of 1.5°C of global warming through concerted climate action and realistic Nationally Determined Contributions – the individual country plans that need to become a reality to slow down the rate of heating…”


https://www.terrapower.com/

How We Might Finally Get Over Our Fear of Nuclear Power. The Daily Beast reports on a new generation of smaller, cheaper (safer) reactors: “…This wouldn’t be an issue if we could just all agree that solar and wind will save the world, but there are some concerns with putting all our eggs in these few baskets. Sometimes the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. That’s called the “intermittency problem,” and it could potentially leave people stranded without power for hours or even days at a time if there’s no backup energy to taper things over. One solution to this is using grid-scale batteries to store the excess electricity wind or solar generate when conditions are ideal so it can be distributed when conditions are less than ideal. However, we’re still working on improving battery technology to make sure we can accommodate energy needs for long durations if needed, so that’ll take some time. Nuclear power could solve the intermittency problem. In fact, it can be used to meet a constant energy demand—in theory, we could use it to power everything, all the time, without any severe limits...”


Paul Douglas

How Climate Change Will Hit Younger Generations. Here’s a clip from Scientific American: “Babies born today will experience far more disruptions fueled by climate change than their parents or grandparents. In a study published recently in Science, Wim Thiery of Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium and his colleagues combined climate model projections under three global warming scenarios with demography data to calculate the lifetime exposure to six types of extreme weather for every generation born between 1960 and 2020. Even as a climate scientist acutely aware of the dangers of rising temperatures, “seeing the numbers as a person, as a parent, is a punch in the stomach,” he says. Young people in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa and those in low-income countries will see the largest increases in exposure. These estimates examine only changes in the frequency of extreme events—they do not represent how those events may become more intense and longer-lived…”


Trends: Future Sub-Freezing Nights
Climate Central

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?

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…”

Climate Central

NOAA NCEP Climate Summary
https://statesummaries.ncics.org/chapter/mn/

File image
Paul Douglas

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…”



DoD, The Economist

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…”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL9aJcqrtnw

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…”

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