Climate Cast: 2012 10th warmest globally; What +5F warming by 2050 means for Minnesota?

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These days it seems like we are witnessing climate changes unfold right before our very eyes.

It’s not our imagination.

The nature of our seasons is changing. Spring blooms come earlier. Summer is more humid with a documented increase in extreme localized flash flood events…and more frequent droughts. Fall lingers longer. Lakes freeze up later. Winters are shorter and noticeably, measurably milder.

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Weather Lab roses in full bloom on October 13, 2011.

Image: Paul Huttner – MPR News

We’re all living witnesses to rapid climate changes in our lifetime. This is no longer your grandparents “Minnesota.”

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Lilac buds ready for bloom on March 23, 2012.

Image: Paul Huttner MPR News

In 2013 at MPR we’re devoting more coverage to the growing effects of our changing climate in Minnesota and around the globe. You can hear me discuss the week’s top climate stories in our new “Climate Cast” every Thursday morning at 9:50am with Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit.

Every Thursday, MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner joins The Daily Circuit to talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences that we’re seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.

Climate Cast for Janaury 17th, 2013

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This week on Climate Cast, we talked about 2012 coming in as the 10th hottest year on record globally.

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We also discussed a new forecast that predicts Minnesota’s average temperature warming 5 degrees by 2050 with current greenhouse gas emissions.

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Image: National Climate Assessment

Here is an edited transcript of the conversation:

Here are some additional climate stories this week:

Seeley: January trending warmer in Minnesota

Mark Seeley highlights some interesting trends toward warmer Januarys in Minnesota in this week’s Weather Talk. Here’s a preview.

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Topic: A measure of persistence in recent January warmth

In addition to the absence of below 0 F January cold, it is noteworthy to examine the signals of persistent warmth in the recent climate data for the month.

Over the past 15 winters the mean value of January temperature on a statewide basis has been below normal in only three years (2004, 2009, and 2011). The other twelve have all been warmer than normal, and four have ranked among the 12 warmest months of January in state history (2001, 2002, 2006, 2012).

In addition over 62 percent of all daily measures of temperature in January have been above normal values. These are measures of persistence. Some individual days have been 25 F or more above normal, such as last January 10 (2012) when the Twin Cities reported a high of 52 degrees F and a low of 27 degrees F. As Paul Huttner has shared on his Updraft blog, the signal of warmth in the winter months has been very pronounced in recent years.

New NOAA CPC outlook favors wetter spring for Minnesota & Upper Midwest:

Looking at the maps, I have a hunch we may trend into a snowier pattern for the second half of winter. NOAA’s CPC seems to agree.

Here’s the latest precip outlook from NOAA released Thursday.

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This could mean more snow in February & early March…and potentially more rain by late March & April.

It would be a godsend if we can manage a second wet spring in Minnesota for 2013.

Drought eases in South & Ohio Valley but persists in West:

The rain falling on my head in Austin Texas last week felt good, and any rainfall was a welcome sight to Texans.

In fact, it’s been a good two weeks of heavy rainfall for the south central USA into the Ohio Valley, with some 5″ to 10″ rainfall totals.

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This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor shows the positive effects of that rain, but shows drought hanging tough from the central Plains into Minnesota.

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NOAA seems hopeful about some easing of drought for Minnesota and the Upper Midwest by spring. That would be truly good weather news indeed.

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Monster Storm Lashing Outer Reaches of Alaska: This is a big one, and impressive from space. 62 foot waves? That’s why the call the show “The Deadliest Catch.

Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman has details:

An extraordinarily powerful ocean storm, packing hurricane-force winds and waves towering up to 62 feet, has been spinning its way toward Alaska’s Aleutian Islands after undergoing a phenomenally rapid intensification process in the Western North Pacific Ocean since Sunday. This satellite image, which captured the storm near its peak intensity on Tuesday, offers a rare glimpse at a storm system of this magnitude.

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This visible satellite image shows a massive and intense low pressure system swirling over the Western North Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Credit: Facebook/Stu Ostro via. University of Dundee, Scotland. Click to enlarge the image.

At its most intense point, the storm had an air pressure reading of about 932 mb, roughly equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, and more intense than Hurricane Sandy as that storm moved toward the New Jersey coastline in October. (In general, the lower the air pressure, the stronger the storm.) The storm’s central pressure plunged by 48 to 49 mb in just 24 hours, making it one of the most rapidly intensifying storms at a mean latitude of 34°N since 1979, according to a data analysis by Ryan Maue of Weatherbell Analytics.

On Tuesday, the storm spanned a staggering 1,440 miles, according to David Snider, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Alaska. That’s equivalent to the distance between Denver and New York City.

Black Carbon Second Only to CO2 in Heating the Planet:

This one caught my eye. It turns out good old “soot” may be one of the most powerful greenhouse agents.

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New research says the second most important heat-trapping pollutant isn’t a gas at all: it’s black carbon, generated mostly from the burning of diesel fuel, coal and woody plant material.Credit: A6U571N/flickr.

Climate Central’s Michael D. Lemonick elaborates:

No discussion of climate change can get very far without focusing on greenhouse gases — pollutants including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and more, which are trapping heat and driving the planet’s temperature upward.

But according to a report published Tuesday in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, the second most important heat-trapping pollutant isn’t a gas at all: it’s black carbon, more commonly known as plain old soot, generated mostly from the burning of diesel fuel, coal and woody plant material. “There’s a relatively small amount in the atmosphere,” said the study’s lead author, Tami Bond, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in an interview. “But it’s very powerful.”

Climate Cast resources:

Want to know more about climate change? Here are few quick links to credible climate change sources.

-Read the Minnesota Public Radio primer on Climate Change

-NOAA NCDC’s “State of the Climate” report

-AMS Statement on Climate Change

-NASA key evidence of climate change

-Great summary of Modern Day Climate Change from SUNY-Suffolk

-Minnesota Climate Working Group climate change resources

-Mark Seeley’s Weather Talk

-Common climate change myths

-Climate change in the news from Climate Central