Pinball Blizzard

Everyone has their favorite blizzards. One of mine is this one, the blizzard of '78, which I missed by about 21 years and 3,000 miles, growing up on the West Coast as I did. When you move to Rhode Island it seems as if the blizzard is all anyone talks about, but if you're a weather nut like me it's actually a good thing. No one is saying the forthcoming blizzard will look anything like this one, but it is a NESIS storm, and it is what I would like to see repeated personally.

Everyone has their favorite blizzards. One of mine is this one, the blizzard of ’78, which I missed by about 21 years and 3,000 miles, growing up on the West Coast as I did. When you move to Rhode Island it seems as if the blizzard is all anyone talks about, but if you’re a weather nut like me it’s actually a good thing. No one is saying the forthcoming blizzard will look anything like this one, but it is a NESIS storm, and it is what I would like to see repeated personally.

Saturday January 7 4:36 pm Update:

Five days after the WeatherBell chat rooms and others around the U.S. were buzzing with rumors of a serious Nor’easter, the so-called Pinball Blizzard has actually materialized.

The NWS office in Taunton and the bulk of the region’s meteorologists were caught flat-footed by a storm really only seen by the Navy’s new high-resolution model, the NAM WRF-3km, which is far from the go-to model for those in the biz.

After the Pinball Blizzard, though, who knows?

As the storm continues to pound Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, enjoy the lyrics below to the tune of Pinball Wizard, with apologies to Pete Townshend.

(With hat tip to the good people in the WeatherBell chat room.)

Ever since I was a young boy,
I’ve played in white sky fall
From Bangor down to Buxton
I must have played in all
But I ain’t seen nothing like it
In any met chat hall

That deep, wet and blocked storm
Sure makes a big snowfall

It stands like a NESIS
Becomes part of hist’ry
Playing with the snow geese
Always flirts so mean
It changes run to run
The model watchers fall

That deep, wet and blocked storm
Sure makes a big snowfall

It’s a pinball blizzard
There has to be a twist
A pinball blizzard’s got model watchers blissed

How do you think it does it?
I don’t know!
What makes it so good?

Ain’t got no consistent runs
Can’t be caught by models
Don’t see snow geese a-cryin’
It plays by sense of smell
Always jumps out to sea
Then stays suppressed

That deep, wet and blocked storm
Sure makes a big snowfall

Even in my own backyard
It can beat my best
Board disciples lead it in
And it just does the rest
It’s got a crazy 540 line
Pressure heights will fall

That deep, wet and blocked storm
Sure makes a big snowfall

Posted in blizzard, noreaster, snow | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Additional Winter Storm Names, As Needed

Weather Channel naming of winter storms.

Not everyone loves the Weather Channel’s naming of winter storms. If it needs more names than 26 this year, the situation could get serious in New England.

As most readers will know, the Weather Channel began giving winter storms names in 2012.

With the operating idea that the names would focus the public’s attention and, perhaps, give the Weather Channel a bit of the type of august authority possessed by the National Hurricane Center, which has been naming hurricanes since 1953, the Weather Channel risked the wrath of purists and gave people buying bread and milk one more thing to talk about in the checkout line.

Most meteorologists not employed by the Weather Channel have continued some version of thinly veiled disdain for the winter storm naming process, although for the biggest storms the name has occasionally broken through. An example: Winter storm Nemo, which dumped as much as 40 inches of snow in Connecticut and a couple of feet over a wide swath of New England, is widely remembered by its Weather Channel name, even among meteorologists.

All of this predates the winter from hell that 2014-15 has become in New England. The very idea that the Weather Channel’s final eight names from this year’s list will get used is enough to send most New Englanders looking for their next turbo-shot loaded Dunkin Donuts iced coffee.

The concept that additional names might be needed, well, that’s just beyond the pale. Like, way beyond.

So, as a public service for my fellow citizens of New England, I wanted to provide a list of the first six names, starting with the A storm, that the Weather Channel might want to consider employing, should the impossible happen. For those keeping track at home, the Weather Channel’s final eight storm names from its current list are: Sparta, Thor, Ultima, Venus, Wolf, Xander, Yuli, and Zelus. (Also, for those keeping track at home, these names, in and of themselves, should be enough to have someone put the winter storm naming program to sleep, forever, but that’s another story.)

So here are some suggested names from just one humble New Englander, with affectionate hash tags, no less:

Winter Storm #AreYouFreakinKiddinMe

Wintier Storm #BetterNotBeSnowingAgainImSerious

Winter Storm #CouldGodHateUsAnyMore?

Winter Storm #DudeJustKillMeNow

Winter Storm #EvenSnowLoversAreOverThisCrap

Winter Storm #FrickinStopItWithTheSnowSeriously

Additional names will be offered on an as-needed, and less subtle, basis.



Posted in blizzard, Nemo, the weather channel | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

You Might Live in New England

Cold weather in New England

If you have ever walked on water, you might live in New England.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy …

If you currently own between three and five snow shovels, you might live in New England.

If there are half-empty bags of melt salt strewn around your home, you might live in New England.

If you consider checking the weather online, on the radio, and on TV upwards of 12 times a day to be “normal,” “acceptable,” or “mandatory,” you might live in New England.

If you’re currently pretending that the trees will ever have leaves on them again, you might live in New England.

If the quaint harbor you made a point of moving near enough to see is currently choked with sea ice, you might live in New England.

If you drink iced coffee all winter in some kind of psychotic Stockholm syndrome identification with your winter torturers, you might live in New England.

If you no longer look where you’re throwing snow with your shovel after the latest storm because your whole world right now is one big snow pile, you might live in New England.

If it is becoming less and less clear to you that you’re the same person who once went to the beach and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon, you might live in New England.

If you’re thinking seriously about buying a fourth pair of thermal underwear, you might live in New England.

If you have never bought a pair of thermal underwear and look down your nose at people who do, you might live in New England.

If it would disturb you in the night NOT to hear the snowplows driving by, you might live in New England.

If your kids demand to go night sledding after being cooped up all day during a raging snowstorm and you actually take them, you might live in New England.

If you have conflicted feelings about snow, you might live in New England.

If you have ever seen time come to a complete stop during wintertime, you might live in New England.

If you know what a roof rake is, you might live in New England.

If you know what a roof rake actually looks like, you might live in New England.

If you spent about five hours raking snow from your roof this week and are thinking about squeezing in just a few more later today, you might live in New England.

If you needed to replace your windshield wipers about 5 storms ago and may or may not get to it before spring, you might live in New England.

Feel free to add more in comments.



Posted in cold weather, winter, you might live in New England | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Day That Not a Single Snowflake Hit My House

Navy computer model said we'd have a foot of snow at my house near Greenwich Cove in Rhode Island. Not a single snowfall fell.

Navy computer model said we’d have a foot of snow at my house near Greenwich Cove in Rhode Island. Not a single snowfall fell.

On a day when I had already accepted that my location near Greenwich Cove in Rhode Island would not be favored for snow, I had nonetheless looked forward to the inevitable interludes of wet flakes mixing in here or there.

At least, that’s what made sense, given the soundings of the various levels of the atmosphere, and given what most meteorologists had thought would happen. I mean, the Navy computer model printed out nearly a foot of snow for my house less than 24 hours before the nor’easter started its way up the coast, and the model has handled nor’easters pretty well in the last

It got as cold here, 35 degrees, as it did in nearby places where plenty of snow fell, by the way. But by some miracle, for nothing else could achieve it, not a single snowflake fell at my family’s location. Several million raindrops fell both here and everywhere my car needed to go. But, again, not one fell at the family homestead.

What this felt like:

  • Coming downstairs on Christmas morning and finding no presents
  • Going to the bank and finding that the account was cleaned out
  • Getting unexpected bad news about the health of someone held dear

I will recover, eventually, from the experience. Miracles are supposed to make us happy, after all. And it really did take some doing for the atmosphere not to let one unmelted snowflake reach the ground here yesterday.

The people on the weather board that I frequent were talking about the snow flooding down from the sky all day – in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Just wasn’t meant to be here. Maybe next time.

As a post script: Just took the dog for his first walk of the day, and saw no fewer than four snowflakes, tiny ones, tumble from the sky. Did they make me feel any better? Yes, yes they did.

Posted in snow, weather | Tagged , ,

UNISYS pulls down map showing dramatic ocean cooling

UNISYS ocean cooling not real

As some have jested in the climate blogosphere, UNISYS’ recent SST anomaly map looked like the onset of an ice age. UNISYS has pulled the product down for the time being, citing data processing issues.

Many around the climate blogosphere have noted that UNISYS’ recent sea surface temperature anomalies were showing radically different values from various NOAA products.

I decided to reach out to UNISYS directly to find out what might be behind the discrepancies, mentioning that it was confusing that UNISYS was showing Hudson Bay cold, water off the East Coast of Russia frigid, and most of the Northern Hemisphere dramatically cooler than 6 weeks ago, when NOAA was showing nothing of the kind.

UNISYS’ weather program manager, Brian Hughes, sent along the following response:

After further thought and additional analysis, I’ve asked that the images be taken down temporarily.

NOAA map of ocean temps is accurate

NOAA SST anomaly map for October 31, 2014. The values represented on the map are accurate.

What originally appeared to be a simple color bar/enhancement table issue looks to be an issue with our anomaly product itself. I took more looks at areas where our product is indicating cooler than normal, the corresponding NOAA product appears to show warmer. That tells me something is off with our processing.

In July, we had to switch to the higher resolution RTG-SST product as the input because we had been using a legacy SST product from NOAAPort that NWS discontinued in June. The SST anomaly product may be suffering from amplified cooling as we transition into NH winter, an error not originally seen when we first switched in the summer.

The dataset used to process and create the anomaly appears to also be an issue, perhaps our software is not calculating the correct temp since the switch to the RTG-SST hires.

We are going to evaluate this and work on a solution.

Posted in global cooling, NOAA, sea surface temperature | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Antarctica’s sea ice sets all-time record for second day in row – how high can it go?

As discussed in Don't Sell Your Coat, Antarctica's sea ice is confounding climatologists who predicted that it would decline in the era of manmade global warming.

The year 2014’s ice is plotted on this graph of satellite-derived sea ice area in yellow. Antarctica’s impressively expanding sea ice is doing something that climatologists said wouldn’t happen: grow.

UPDATE as of 9/21/14, 9:58 am: When I posted this the headline the other day with the words “how high can it go” I didn’t imagine that we would see the ice flirt with the 17 million square kilometer threshold, but that is what has happened. As of Sunday, September 21, the most recent Antarctic sea ice area as measured by satellite now stands at 16.80 million square kilometers. I will ask again: How high can it go? Both NASA’s Walt Meiers and Gavin Schmidt have not responded to requests for comment.

For the second day in a row, sea ice area in the Southern Hemisphere has set its all-time record maximum. The new record is 16.48 million square kilometers. The previous record, set yesterday, was 16.39 million square kilometers.

Prior to the last two days, the previous record for sea ice ringing Antarctica was 16.23 million square kilometers, which occurred in 2007, and which I wrote about in my book.

Unlike Arctic sea ice, Antarctic sea ice has steadily increased in spatial coverage throughout the period of satellite measurement that started in 1979.

The increasing resilience of Antarctic sea ice, an accordion-like fringe collapsing and expanding seasonally around the southernmost continent, has surprised scientists, including a group attempting to visit Antarctica during the Southern Hemisphere summer earlier this year. The group’s vessel, the Akademik Shokalskiy, was caught by the ice, as were the vessels of two rescue parties sent to free the researchers.

The Antarctic sea ice has set a slew of records during 2014.

In June and July, records were set for greatest ever deviation from normal – what scientists refer to as an anomaly.

The year began with the sea ice setting a record for the calendar date, and it has set more than 100 such daily records since then.

Generally speaking, climatologists have downplayed the significance of Southern Hemisphere sea increasing during the past four decades, arguing that it may in fact result from manmade global warming via a number of possible mechanisms that have been posited, and that, whatever is causing it, the increase in ice is no counter-proof of global warming.

There is no disputing that the overwhelming number of global circulation models, the computer models climatologists rely upon to give the public information about the most likely future of the ocean-atmosphere system, originally predicted diminished Antarctic sea ice.

The incorrect predictions include NASA’s own computer model, as overseen by now-retired James Hansen, at the time the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, one of the premier climate research groups around the globe.

Hansen’s successor at the helm of Goddard, mathematician Gavin Schmidt, did not respond to requests for comment.

Talking About the Weather also reached out to NASA’s Walt Meier, who has been on the record previously, indicating that Southern Hemisphere sea ice is less important to climate than Northern Hemisphere ice, that it shows significant regional variation around the Antarctic continent, and that examining the metric known as global sea ice, an anomaly figure derived by adding the anomalies of the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere, is an act without scientific merit.

If and when Meier responds to today’s all-time record for Southern Hemisphere sea ice, I will add his comment.

Antarctica’s sea ice is almost surely not done making headlines, if not history, in 2014.

Posted in Antarctic sea ice, Antarctica, don't sell your coat, Gavin Schmidt, GISS | Tagged , ,

Were there Signs of Cooling? Yes, There Were

Earliest snowfall in South Dakota history - just another reason not to sell your coat. Best book about climate change.

Earliest snowfall in South Dakota history – just another reason not to sell your coat.

South Dakota’s earliest-ever recorded snowfall today is the kind of lovely weather morsel that both sides of the climate debate have been feasting on for decades.

“It’s hot!” one side yells.

“It’s cold!” the other side yells.

“It’s getting hotter!” the warm side yells.

“It’s getting colder!” the cool side yells.

During all this time, and all this debate, during the feasting on individual weather events like today’s, it has become a commonplace that those arguing that manmade global warming is a clear and present danger are allowed – by the media, most of the populous, and by themselves – to point to individual weather events as proof that the heat they’re so concerned with is swamping the system.

And conversely it’s a commonplace that those arguing that the planet is demonstrably within historic bounds, climate-wise, are not allowed – by the media, most of the populous, and sometimes even by themselves – to point to individual weather events to show that heat is not swamping the system.

Certainly, when it comes to taxpayer-funded media outlets like NPR and PBS, not to mention the newspapers of record for our country (The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post), the traditional big-three television networks’ news programs, and nearly every university in the country, the conviction is there that only fools and those who are corrupt would ever argue on the side of skepticism about global warming.

Most people who follow climate closely wouldn’t quibble with any of that.

Well, if the solar physicists, oceanographers, geologists, and meteorologists who not only dispute catastrophic global warming but argue that we’re on the verge of some form – presumably mild – of global cooling are right, the question will emerge:

Were there signs of the cooling before it took place?

The answer to that question will be: Yes, there were. Here are some of them:

  • Steadily increasing Antarctic sea ice from 1979 to present
  • Cooling temperatures at the South Pole for the past 50 years
  • Increased winter snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere during the last decade
  • A dramatic increase in wintry weather in the UK during the past decade
  • Frozen water mains bursting in northern Michigan during the 2013-’14 winter
  • Snow in Baghdad
  • Snow in Cairo
  • The U.S. electric grid very nearly failing during winter 2013-’14 during the polar vortex
  • The Great Lakes being frozen more deeply and longer than ever recorded
  • A pause in global warming of 17 years, going on 18 years, according to NASA satellite measurement
  • And, finally, today’s earliest-ever snow in South Dakota

Do these constitute proof of global cooling as of September 11, 2014? Absolutely not!

What they will constitute, if the cooling indeed materializes, are signs that could have been noticed to indicate that cooling was a possibility, if open-mindedness and independent thinking had been allowed, let alone encouraged, by the scientific, journalistic, and political establishment of the United States, the United Kingdom, and many (though not all) countries of the world.

Time will tell.

Posted in best book about global warming, best book on climate change, global cooling, global warming, south dakota snow | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

White House desk made from ship used in Franklin search

A fascinating side story, that of the Resolute desk, from the best book on climate change.

Clockwise from left: JFK Jr. plays while his father works; Obama makes a call; Caroline Kennedy plays on the Resolute desk.

With today’s announcement that one of the two ships used by Sir John Franklin in his ill-fated quest to navigate the Northwest Passage in 1845 has been located, more people may come to learn of a fascinating side story.

That story has to do with the fact that the primary desk used by the President of the United States comes from ship timbers in one of the vessels sent by the British to search for Franklin and his crew.

Most of the search trips merely compounded the tragedy of the Franklin Expedition, but not the one whose timbers would eventually be used for what is now called the Resolute desk. It’s a story that I relate in my book:

Not all of the Franklin-rescuing trips ended in tragedy. The best-known of the many individual ships, British and American, to seek the fate of, or potentially rescue, the Franklin expedition was the Resolute, captained by Henry Kellett. Part of a four-ship flotilla led by Edward Belcher, Kellett’s ship became frozen in sea ice deep in the Canadian Archipelago in the fall of 1852, remaining trapped for two winters. When the ice showed no sign of releasing his ship, Kellett led his men on sleds to another of the expedition’s ships that was bound fast. Captain Belcher, in the end, decided that all hands should be transferred to the only ship that had managed to find open water. The decision to abandon Resolute led to a court martial in which both captains were acquitted.

As it turned out, moving pack ice carried the abandoned ship 1,200 miles, from Dealy Island down into Davis Strait, between Baffin Island and Greenland. It was there that the crew of an American whaler, George Henry, noted it. The Americans were able to free Resolute, re-rig it, and sail it to New London, Connecticut. Although the British waived all rights to the ship, an American merchant, Henry Grinnell, convinced the U.S. government to restore Resolute to immaculate condition and sail it back to England as a friendship gesture. The ship was presented to Queen Victoria at a ceremony held in Cowes harbor on the Island of Wight on December 17, 1856. A couple of decades later, the British government had a desk made from the timbers of the by-then decommissioned Resolute and presented that desk in 1880 to President Rutherford Hayes. It has been the principal desk used by U.S. presidents in the Oval Office ever since.

While we like to imagine that the efforts to exploit Arctic waters are somehow “new,” I learned while researching Don’t Sell Your Coat that the Arctic has been navigated, historically, far more than it is fashionable to believe.

The Resolute desk is proof of the longstanding western obsession with the Arctic and a literal relic of a fascinating piece of history between the United States and Britain.

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Antarctic sea ice hits second all-time record in a week

A graph of the latest all-time record of Southern Hemisphere sea ice area, expressed as an anomaly, courtesy of The Cryosphere Today.

A graph of the latest all-time record of Southern Hemisphere sea ice area, expressed as an anomaly, courtesy of The Cryosphere Today.

Antarctic sea ice has hit its second all-time record maximum this week. The new record is 2.112 million square kilometers above normal. Until the weekend just past, the previous record had been 1.840 million square kilometers above normal, a mark hit on December 20, 2007, as I reported here, and also covered in my book.

Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, responded to e-mail questions and also spoke by telephone about the new record sea ice growth in the Southern Hemisphere, indicating that, somewhat counter-intuitively, the sea ice growth was specifically due to global warming.



“The primary reason for this is the nature of the circulation of the Southern Ocean  – water heated in high southern latitudes is carried equatorward, to be replaced by colder waters upwelling from below, which inhibits ice loss,” Serreze wrote in an e-mail. “Upon this natural oceanic thermostat, one will see the effects of natural climate variations, [the rise] appears to be best explained by shifts in atmospheric circulation although a number of other factors are also likely involved.”

There was one part of his response that was hard for me to understand. What would heat the water at high latitudes, those closest to the South Pole?   (I also didn’t understand why he was talking about ice loss being inhibited when what was happening was the record growth of ice.)

Over the phone, I asked Serreze if he could clarify what was heating the water. His full response is below:

What we’re talking about is water that is 60 degrees south and more southerly than that, and so the basic thing is you have got surrounding the Antarctic continent a band of fairly strong and somewhat steady west-east winds, which they call the Roaring 40s, but then you’ve got this thing called the coriolis force, which wants to turn things to the left. What happens is that water at the high latitudes, what happens is that as we heat that water, you set up what’s called an Ekman drift, which at the surface transports that water from the high southern latitudes toward the equator.

What happens is you have to set up a continuity that has to occur so that what happens is that there’s an upwelling of cold waters from below, there’s a whole circulation loop where water sinks in the lower southern latitudes, then there’s a return flow that brings the same amount of mass to the higher latitudes. 

Basically, what happens is that in the Arctic you can warm that surface water up and it doesn’t get transported away. It stays there, and it helps melt more ice, but in the Antarctic, the water gets carried away. 

I thanked Serreze for his response but told him that I still didn’t know what heated the water at high latitudes. Was it, simply, global warming?

“Exactly!” he said.

“How many degrees is the water heated, before it is transported toward the equator?” I asked.

“I don’t have data on that,” Serreze said. He indicated that Marika Holland, a sea ice specialist and climate modeler at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, would possibly have some data as well as, perhaps, a fuller description of the mechanism warming the water nearest Antarctica and the associated growth of sea ice.

Holland did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Gavin Schmidt, director of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.



Posted in Antarctic sea ice, Antarctica, best book on climate change, best book on global warming, don't sell your coat, Gavin Schmidt, global warming, Marika Holland, Mark Serreze, Record sea ice, Southern Hemisphere sea ice | Tagged , | 137 Comments

Antarctica sets new record for sea ice

Antarctic sea ice has set a new all-time record maximum over the weekend of June 28-29, 2014.

Antarctic sea ice has set a new all-time record maximum over the weekend of June 28-29, 2014.

The sea ice surrounding Antarctica, which, as I reported in my book, has been steadily increasing throughout the period of satellite measurement that began in 1979, has hit a new all-time record high for areal coverage.

The new record anomaly for Southern Hemisphere sea ice, the ice encircling the southernmost continent, is 2.074 million square kilometers and was posted for the first time by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s The Cryosphere Today early Sunday morning.

It was not immediately apparent whether the record had occurred on Friday or Saturday. Requests for comment to Bill Chapman, who runs The Cryosphere Today, were not immediately returned.

The previous record anomaly for Southern Hemisphere sea ice area was 1.840 million square kilometers and occurred on December 20, 2007. Continue reading

Posted in Antarctic sea ice, Climate change, computer models, don't sell your coat, global warming, harold ambler, sea ice, walt meier | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments