Is There Any “Winter” Left in Winter?

February 13, 2012 0 Comments

There is a little hope yet for snow-lovers, snowmobilers, and Winter enthusiasts. It looks like the jet stream pattern will change a bit for the next week or two and become more active across the upper Midwest. There is no guarantee that we will have some “big snow” or that any snowmobile trails will open around central Wisconsin, but the odds look a little better than during the very quiet weather during the last week or so of January and the first 10 days of February.

For most of this Winter we have seen jet stream energy move in from the Pacific ocean and become cut-off across the southern half of the U.S.

More Active Jet Stream Pattern

It hasn’t been what I would call a true “split jet stream” but the results were pretty similar. It was good news for Texas as they ended up with more precipitation than normal in many parts of the drought-stricken state. It was bad news for Winter tourism in Wisconsin. While these cut-off weather system across the south produced copious precipitation, the northern branch of the jet stream remained far enough to the north to not affect us with many storms or outbreaks of cold air.

Now it appears that the jet stream will consolidate a bit over the mid section of the country. This will bring the cold arctic air in closer contact with storms developing over the lower 48 and it means more potential for significant snow. The second half of February could be one of the more colder and snowy periods of the entire Winter (again, no guarantee).

Very Preliminary Snow Potential for Thursday

The first chance of snow will be tonight for areas south of Wausau. A dusting up to an inch will be possible in a few areas – nothing to write home about. The second chance of snow will be Thursday morning when a stronger storm system will track through Illinois. It should be close enough to bring some accumulating snow to the southern and eastern parts of the area, mainly south and east of Marathon county. How much snow, current projections are for 2 to 4 inches for locations such as Adams, Wautoma, and Waupaca. We will continue to update you on the snow potential over the next couple days.

After Thursday there will be slight chance of snow on Friday and Saturday with chances of more significant accumulation holding off until next week. This week will not be a panacea for snow-lovers, but it might be the beginning of a trend which lasts through late October. If none of the potential heavier snowfalls tracks right through central Wisconsin, then hopes for the snowmobile trails to open will rest upon something happening in the first week of March. After that, it is all over. Even if a blizzard strikes in mid to late March, the clubs/counties will not open the trails.

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I have been following the sad tale of government backed alternative energy companies for a while now (Solyndra, Evergreen, Ener1, etc.) and unfortunately there are a couple more in trouble. Fisker – the electric car maker, which got a loan from the government and their primary battery provider A123 Systems, are experiencing financial trouble. Fisker is seeking out some new private capital to continue operations and if they don’t find some soon, might have to file for bankruptcy. A Fisker bankruptcy would most likely lead to an A123 banruptcy because Fisker is their biggest customer. Fisker has already nixed expansion plans at a New Jersey manufacturing plant. It would be a shame if Fisker did not make it because their Karma electric car is a beautiful sight to behold.

The problem with the battery-makers is that they ramped up production too quickly. Electric cars are still expensive so the market remains small. The battery makers ramped up production to reap the savings from economies of scale but are now sitting around with no one to sell to.

Tesla Model X

Another company with a government guaranteed loan is Tesla and they seem to be hanging in there, but I am worried about them as well. They produce an expensive electric vehicle for which there is a very small market. I suspect they are coming close to saturating the market for electric sports cars that sell for over $100,000. They are now moving into production of a $60,000 sedan and an $80,000 SUV – the Tesla Model X. The Model X was recently unveiled in Los Angeles and it looks hot, but how many people can afford one? That is the question.

Now even though companies go bankrupt, they can still sometimes rise from the ashes. Remember that Think filed for bankruptcy last yearafter putting 10,000 EVs on the road.

The Think City EV

They emerged from banruptcy with the help of a Russian billionaire, and might yet find a way to bring down the cost of EVs. They will need to because even their tiny electric cars run about $30,000.

When it comes to biofuels, the news is not too great either. Several start-ups have ceased operations recently and we can add another one to the list – Amyris. The problem? They could not scale promising lab results up into a profitable commercial operation. Their biofuel creation process was unique and interesting, but not profitable. This is something I often remark about here in the blog when reporting upon new inventions in the alternative energy and transportation industries. Promising lab work does not always mean commercial success!

More grain-based ethanol production would go under as well if it were not for ethanol mandates here in the U.S. The mandates for E85 and other blands are now the only thing keeping the industry going at full steam. In a blow to grain-ethanol, a new study claims it is not the best or cheapest way to achieve a cleaner energy future (something that critics have been saying for years). If it were not for the mandate, most people would choose cheaper regular gas. I know I would. All the cars I have driven over the last decade have gotten over 30 mpg, so I feel I am doing my part. If I didn’t have to pay and extra 10 or 15 cents per gallon for E85 (or other blends), I wouldn’t. I would rather have our corn be used for animal and/or human food.

Have a good Monday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.

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