January 26

Weather Models are Guides, Not Gospel – Satellites Have Revolutionized Study of Volcanoes

Paul Douglas

Polar Breeze Brings Stiff Winds Today

The Capital of Cold. MinnesoCold. Land of 10,000 Dead Batteries. We hold up frostbitten fingers in a courageously-reckless display of bitter defiance. We will NOT be swayed by polar pain!

Well, maybe a southern vacation or two.

Our coldest days tend to be sunny, which helps me weather negative numbers. Subzero + cloudy = Icy Hellscape. Thank goodness for that.

Snowfall for the winter at MSP stands at 33.2”, or 5.5” above average. Snowfall in the Red River valley is almost a foot above average. Good news for snow-lovers and the rest of us, since we’re still in a drought.

A nearly 45 degree rise in temperature today will turn on strong winds, with another brief cold slap on Friday. 20s will feel disgustingly good from this weekend; maybe 30s early next week.

Weather models hint at snow, ice and even rain next Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by more cold air.

We start February on a chilly note, but not as Nanook as early February 2021. The weather never repeats, but sometimes it rhymes. It’s true.

Second Week of February: Trending Stormier? As the coldest lobe of arctic air lifts into Canada the core of the jet stream, the main band of prevailing westerly winds, will creep north, allowing storms fueled by the Gulf of Mexico to make closer passes to Minnesota. We will add to our snowfall totals in February, little question about that.

Image credit: Simon Proud

How Satellites Have Revolutionized the Study of Volcanoes. Space.com has an eye-opening post; here’s a clip: “Developments in satellite technology over the past decade have allowed the world to witness the devastating Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption and its aftermath in real time and in unprecedented detail. The findings might shed light on the anatomy of rare explosive volcanic eruptions and their effects on the planet. But satellites are also helping volcanologists keep an eye on Earth’s more common (though less eye-catching) outbursts. The last time a volcano erupted as violently as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai was 30 years ago. At that time, satellites monitoring Earth were few and far between. Those watching the planet’s surface were mostly run by the military. The European Space Agency (ESA), now an Earth-observing super-power, was only about to launch its first Earth-observing mission, the Remote-Sensing Satellite-1 (ERS-1)…”

ECMWF Precipitation Types valid next Tuesday evening

Computer Models are Guidance, Not Gospel, a Reminder to Forecasters and Their Users. Preach brother. The models are good, but far from infallible. Good reminders via a post at Capital Weather Gang; here’s an excerpt: “…The issues of forecast flaws are most often related to our overconfidence in those weather models, which simply tell us the range of possibilities of what might happen with the weather on the basis of the latest data. They serve as guides for the meteorologist to develop the forecast (hence called guidance) and are not the forecasts themselves. That’s what I fear often gets lost in the sea of so much information on social media and elsewhere. The models are, after all, just mathematical simulations churned through a computer. Data is ingested, digested and the plumes of atmospheric possibilities then projected. They never should be interpreted by the public as the definitive forecast, yet they too often are, because some meteorologists leave off the fine print…”

File image

How Coronavirus Lockdowns May Have Led to Less Lightning in 2020. Not a headline I was expecting to see. CNN.com connects the dots: “Researchers have discovered a possible link between the coronavirus pandemic and fewer instances of lightning reported during worldwide shutdowns in the spring of 2020. Global lightning activity decreased nearly 8% in 2020 amid lockdowns triggered by the pandemic, according to research presented in December at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a nonprofit scientific organization dedicated to promoting “discovery in Earth and space science.” Scientists who worked on the study discovered a potential cause for this drop in lightning activity: a decrease in atmospheric aerosols, tiny particles of pollution suspended in the air around us. These aerosols — produced through the burning of fossil fuels, among other things — can paint a picture of what’s going on across the earth’s atmosphere, from weather patterns to natural and man-made events, experts say...”

Climate Stories…

A satellite image of Antarctic sea ice on Jan. 6, 2022.

Recent Changes in Antarctic Sea Ice are Unique Since Early 20th Century. The National Science Foundation (NSF) reports: “A U.S. National Science Foundation-funded study led by Ohio University researchers shows that the increase of sea ice surrounding Antarctica since 1979 is a unique feature of the Antarctic climate not seen since 1905 — an observation that paints a dramatic first-ever picture for weather and climate implications on the world’s southernmost continent. Climatologist Ryan Fogt and colleagues’ study, published in Nature Climate Change, is the first to detail sea ice surrounding the entire continent though all four seasons over the last century. Weather, especially winds and temperatures, contributed to the sea ice changes. Previous historical estimates of Antarctic sea ice, before satellite measurements began around 1979, were obtained mostly through a small number of weather stations across the vast continent, human observation along the ice edges, and ice core and ocean sediment samples. However, these estimates all have limitations — most were observing sea ice conditions in a small area or at a specific time of the year…”


Scientists Warn Climate Change Could Unleash “Rivers in the Sky”. Euronews has an interesting post; here’s an excerpt: “The planet’s warming climate could intensify ‘rivers in the sky’ over East Asia, scientists have warned. Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow columns of water vapour flowing through the sky that pick up moisture from warm areas then deposit it in colder regions. When they hit a barrier like a mountain range, it can lead to extreme levels of rain or snowfall. This weather phenomenon is thought to contribute around 20 per cent of the Earth’s total water flow. But, with vast quantities of water being released in a short space of time, they can also cause potentially catastrophic flooding. Wind and temperature control their movements too – both factors that are influenced by climate change...”

A schematic showing interactions between the atmosphere and ocean during a La Niña.
Credit: Bureau of Meteorology

2021 Was One of the Hottest Years on Record, and It Could Also Be The Coldest We’ll Ever see Again. An explainer at Phys.org caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…First, while 2022 may experience a slight cooling influence from the ongoing La Niña, it will still be among our warmest years. To have an individual year as cool as those we experienced as recently as the 1990s is exceptionally unlikely due to our high greenhouse gas emissions. Second, there will be more extreme heat events somewhere on Earth this year, because our influence on the climate has greatly increased the odds of record-breaking heatwaves occurring. Even if we start acting on climate change with more urgency, we will experience more frequent and intense heatwaves in coming years. This means we need to build greater resilience to these extremes and adapt cities and towns to a hotter world…”

Climate Change is Pushing Greenland Over the Edge. Here’s an excerpt from an update at Hakai Magazine: “…The study shows the complexity of a warming climate system, says Anais Orsi, a polar scientist at the University of British Columbia who was not involved with the study. With the right conditions, “you can have warming and ice advance at the same time.” Today, however, pushed by anthropogenic climate change, the ice caps and glaciers along the west coast of Greenland, as in most other places, are rapidly retreating. The contrast makes the implication easy to see: “Our summer warming is unprecedented,” says Orsi. “Our summer warming is larger than during the Medieval Warm Period...”

Apollo 11 file image

How Young People Can Make Effective Change in the Climate Crisis, According to Experts. ABC News reports: “The fate of the world is in their hands. The youngest generations may feel that they have the smallest ability to impact the devastating effects of climate change at the moment but also shoulder the burden of its future effects. This responsibility — along with the prospect of living under a looming humanitarian crisis — sparked by rising sea levels and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change — has caused widespread psychological distress among young people. Many say they don’t trust their leaders to make the right decisions for them and the planet. They are frustrated with older generations for putting them in this position and they are scared about the future of the planet — about what living conditions will look like decades from now…”

Global Temperature Anomalies

A Project to Count Climate Crisis Deaths Has Surprising Results. Some surprising results are highlighted in a WIRED.com post; here’s a clip: “…Putting a number on climate deaths isn’t just an academic exercise. People are already dying because of extreme temperature and weather events, and we can expect this to become more common as the planet continues to heat up. If governments want to put in place policies to prevent these deaths, they need a way of accurately measuring the deaths and ill health linked to warming. The search is on for the true mortality cost of carbon. As part of this search, the UK government has made its first attempt at putting a number on climate change deaths. The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS)—an independent government agency responsible for producing official data—has for the first time reported climate-related deaths and hospital admissions in England and Wales. The report covers the years 2001 to 2020, but future reports will be released annually, revealing for the first time detailed information about the impact that climate change is having on health in the two nations...”

Climate Change: Misinformation on Facebook, YouTube “As Bad as Ever”. USA TODAY explains: “The climate is changing, but misinformation about it on the major social media platforms is not. Climate change falsehoods, hoaxes and conspiracy theories are still prevalent on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube despite pledges to crack down, a new report says. Social media posts and videos denying climate change, disputing its causes, or underplaying its effects not only can still be found on these platforms, they are often missing warning labels or links to credible information, according to Advance Democracy, a research organization that studies misinformation. Climate scientists say they’re frustrated by the lack of progress in stemming the tide of climate change misinformation…”

Ice harvesting on Bantam Lake, in Connecticut. Harvesters in the state and elsewhere once packed lake and river ice in sawdust and shipped it as far away as India and Australia.
Photograph courtesy Bantam Historical Society

How the Refrigerator Became and Agent of Climate Catastrophe. A post at The New Yorker provides perspective; here’s a clip: “…The use of cooling technology is growing worldwide. China now accounts for close to half of global air-conditioner purchases and roughly three-quarters of global production; in Dubai, where life during much of the year would be next to impossible without air-conditioning, hotel swimming pools are chilled. According to a report published in 2018 by the International Energy Agency, refrigeration in 2016 accounted for about six per cent of the world’s energy consumption, and space cooling accounted for about eight per cent. In the same report, the I.E.A. predicted that worldwide energy use by air-conditioners would triple by 2050, “requiring new electricity capacity the equivalent to the combined electricity capacity of the United States, the E.U. and Japan today.” Energy use by refrigerators is on a similar upward path…”

Your Medical History Might Someday Include “Climate Change”. WIRED.com (paywall) delves into the myriad of ways a rapidly-changing climate may show up in our lives; here’s an excerpt: “…Beyond the specifics of Merritt and his patient, the story raises big questions about how medicine can and should handle systemic impacts on health. Merritt wrote “climate change” in a bout of frustration, wanting to document what he was seeing in real time. Other doctors have taken different approaches. Nyasha Spears, a physician at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, takes nearly the opposite tack that Merritt did—rather than quietly writing in a chart to make a broader point, she talks to her patients constantly about climate change and the environment. “As a family doctor, my jam is habit change. This is what I do,” she says. “So my thought with climate change is, can I start peppering my conversations with patients all the time with an argument that habit change is good for them on a personal level, but also good for the environment?…”

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