We may not make it, but we’re closing in on the record from 1979 of the greatest ice coverage ever on the Great Lakes.
In 1979, the Great Lakes reached 94.7 percent ice coverage, effectively locked up in ice. You can track the latest coverage maps here as we approach the end if the “ice making” season on the Great Lakes in the coming days.
It’s common sense, the coldest winter in 35 years produces the most Great Lakes ice in 35 years. While it may be tempting to some to suggest our frigid U.S. winter is evidence against climate change, it is not.
That would be like looking out your window and assuming the entire world is snow covered based on what you see here and now. January was the fourth warmest on record globally. The numbers for February will come in in the next week.
It’s quite interesting to note that Minnesota and the eastern U.S. were among the coldest places on earth in January.
Parts of Siberia also shivered, while Alaska, Europe, Greenland, China and much of the southern Hemisphere basked in warmth. More details from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
The combined global land and ocean average temperature during January 2014 was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20thcentury average. This was the warmest January since 2007 and the fourth highest since records began in 1880.
This marks the ninth consecutive month (since May 2013) with a global monthly temperature among the 10 highest for its respective month. The Northern Hemisphere land and ocean surface temperature during January 2014 was also the warmest since 2007 and the fourth warmest since records began in 1880 at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above average. The Southern Hemisphere January 2014 temperature departure of +0.55°C (+0.99°F) was the warmest since 2010 and the fourth warmest January on record.
During January 2014, most of the world’s land areas experienced warmer-than-average temperatures, with the most notable departures from the 1981–2010 average across Alaska, western Canada, Greenland, Mongolia, southern Russia, and northern China, where the departure from average was +3°C (+5.4°F) or greater.
Meanwhile, parts of southeastern Brazil and central and southern Africa experienced record warmth with temperature departures between 0.5°C to 1.5°C above the 1981–2010 average, contributing to the highest January Southern Hemisphere land temperature departure on record at 1.13°C (2.03°F) above the 20th century average. This was also the warmest month for the Southern Hemisphere land since September 2013 when temperatures were 1.23°C (2.21°F) above the 20th century average. Some locations across the globe experienced departures that were below the 1981–2010 average.
These areas include the eastern half of the contiguous U.S., central Canada, and most of Scandinavia and Russia. The most notable cold anomalies were in Russia, where in some areas the departure from average was 5°C (9°F) below average. Overall, the Northern Hemisphere land surface temperature was 1.17°C (2.11°F) above average—the warmest January since 2007 and the fourth warmest since records began in 1880.
Sustained thaw next week
Temps finally managed to crack the thawing point Friday for the first time in two weeks. Another cool push filters in through Saturday. The next push of milder air Sunday looks much more impressive.
Here’s the Global Forecast System take on a cool Saturday, and the next temperature spike Sunday afternoon.
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts model is even more aggressive on next week’s warm up. Four days in the 40s next week? We’ll see, but the trend of a more sustained warm up looks solid.
The geographic coverage and magnitude of the warmer air pushing into the Midwest next week is impressive. Take a look at the 60s and 70s expected to warm ground, and melt snow to the southwest of Minnesota.
This is an important part of the process we call spring in the Midwest. As the southwest edge of snow cover disappears next week, successive air masses are able to push even warmer air into Minnesota without being “modified” by upstream snow pack.
With 50s into Sioux Falls, S.D., I fully expect the southwest edge of the snow pack to be receding into southwest Minnesota by early next week. Expect this snow cover map to look very different in one week.
Fundamental jet stream shift
This is how spring happens in Minnesota. The jet stream finally lifts north into Canada. Here’s the upper air forecast from Climate Reanalyzer for Monday.
For the first time in months, a wave of red means above average temps streaming into the Upper Midwest next week.
The longer range outlook products still strongly support a sustained warming trend into late March.
Here’s the GFS 16-day outlook, which has consistently cranked out a string of highs in the 40s and even a rare 50+ degree temp in recent days.
Warm enough for rain around March 21? We’ll see. That could easily be snow for parts of Minnesota.
But if that pans out for the metro, our snow cover will be fading fast in about two weeks. Stay tuned!
U.S. still chasing Europe on forecast models
I’ve written about this several times in the past year. I’ve spoken with Cliff Mass about the supercomputer gap the U.S. faces in our daily operational forecast models. Here’s an interesting update from Cliff as to where we stand.
Where is the National Weather Service’s New Supercomputer?
It is nearly a year since the U.S. Congress supplied the money for a new cutting-edge National Weather Service weather supercomputer, using Superstorm Sandy supplemental funds.
The computer promised to greatly improve weather prediction in the U.S. and was cited as a “game changer” by the head of the National Weather Service.
It offered the U.S. a chance to finally catch up with or exceed the state-of-the-art predictions of the European Center, resulting in saved lives, improved warnings, and large economic benefits for the United States.
Now a year later, the computer has not even been ordered, while the the European Center has just secured a brand-new American computer to push the envelope of weather prediction far beyond that practiced in the U.S.
By objective verification statistics (see below for an example) and the admission of National Weather Service leadership, the U.S. trails behind many other nations in global weather prediction,with groups like the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting and the UKMET office consistently outperforming the U.S. operational numerical weather prediction center (the National Weather Service’s Environmental Modeling Center, EMC).
Lately, the Canadian Meteorological Center has been superior as well. As shown inthe above figure, the U.S. would not even get the bronze medal in weather prediction.
This inferiority was made clear to the general population during the period before Superstorm Sandy’s landfall, when the U.S. models took several days to come into line with the highly accurate 6-8 day forecasts of the European Center model (discussed in my previous blogs here and here).
More seriously, U.S. weakness in numerical prediction is not limited to global modeling: for example, we are failing to run high-resolution ensemble forecasts that would allow far better prediction of severe thunderstorms and other local weather features.
Cliff makes some great points in his recent post. Stay tuned as the war of big data and weather forecast models unfolds.