WEEKLY WEATHER AND CLIMATE NEWS
20-24 May 2013
Items of Interest:
- North American Safe Boating Week -- This week of 18-24 May has been declared 2013 National Safe Boating Week, to help kick off the 2013 North American Safe Boating Campaign. Check the Safe Boating Week site maintained by the Safe Boating Council.
- National Heat Awareness Day -- The National Weather Service has declared this coming Friday, 24 May 2013, as Heat Awareness Day across the nation. For more information consult the National Weather Service's webpage entitled "Heat: A major killer." Attention is directed to the cases where deaths of small children have been left unattended in closed vehicles.
- Climatology of Indy 500 Race Day-- Next Sunday, 26 May 2013, is the scheduled running of the 97th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. The Indianapolis Forecast Office of the National Weather Service has a list of the pertinent weather and climate statistics for race day, including the average high and low temperatures, rainfall and wind for the 1911-2012 period and a listing of the top 20 temperature, precipitation and wind extremes for the races.
- Zenithal Sun -- The noontime sun should be at the zenith or directly over the heads of those on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu (Honolulu metropolitan area) late this week (25-27 May). [US Naval Observatory, Data Services]
Weather and Climate News items:
- Eye on the tropics --- On last Wednesday, the first day of the official 2013 hurricane season in the eastern North Pacific basin, Tropical Storm Alvin formed from a tropical depression approximately 650 miles to the south-southwest of Acapulco, Mexico. Alvin, the first named tropical cyclone of the season, was relatively short lived, becoming a remnant low within two days of formation as the minimal tropical storm traveled to the west-northwest over the waters of the eastern North Pacific away from the Mexican coast. For additional information on Tropical Storm Alvin along with satellite imagery, see the NASA Hurricane Page. NOTE: The earliest hurricane of the season in the eastern North Pacific basin was Hurricane Alma, a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale that formed on 12 May 1990 and reached hurricane status on the 15th.
In the North Indian Ocean basin, Tropical Storm Mahasen traveled to the northwest across the southern Bay of Bengal over last weekend before gradually turning to a northward and then northeastward direction across the central and northern sections of the Bay during the week. Tropical Storm Mahasen, the first tropical cyclone of 2013 in the North Indian Ocean basin, eventually made landfall along the southern Bangladesh coast last Thursday. Torrential rains from rainshowers and thunderstorms associated with Mahasen fell across Bangladesh, India and Myanmar (formerly called Burma). At least 13 fatalities attributed to Mahasen were reported in Bangladesh. As many as 50 people were feared to be drowned after their boats capsized in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of western Burma due to the strong winds associated with Mahasen. The NASA Hurricane Page has additional information and satellite images on Tropical Storm Mahasen.
- Ice on Minnesota lakes late to leave -- A true color image made early last week by the MODIS sensor on NASA's Terra satellite showed ice on many of the large lakes in northern Minnesota, including Mille Lacs Lake, the second largest in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." A comparison is made with a corresponding MODIS image made in 2009 when the lakes were open. [NASA Earth Observatory] An unseasonably cold spring had delayed the annual ice-out of the lakes, with ice finally leaving Mille Lacs Lake last Thursday afternoon, the latest such occurrence in 56 years of record. [Mille Lacs Messenger]
Earlier, the strong winds produced an "ice tsunami" on the lake, with ice shoves reaching lakeshore dwellings. [CBS Minnesota WCCO]
- Citizen science effort helps classify tropical cyclone imagery --A collaborative project reached a milestone last week with 200,000 classifications of tropical cyclone images. This project represents a collaboration between NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites-North Carolina, the University of North Carolina-Asheville, and the Citizen Science Alliance (CycloneCenter.org) The project's aim is to address uncertainties in the global tropical cyclone record by enlisting volunteers from the public to help classify tropical cyclone imagery. [NOAA NCDC News]
- Final service assessment report on Hurricane Sandy released -- During the last week, NOAA released a report entitled Hurricane/Post Tropical Cyclone Sandy Service Assessment reviewing the performance of NOAA's National Weather Service during Hurricane/post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy that made landfall along the New Jersey coast last October. The report indicates that NWS provided accurate forecasts for Sandy, which gave people along the Atlantic Seaboard early awareness of this weather system. However, certain problems were found with NOAA's ability to communicate the impending impacts associated with the storm surge that represented one of the most significant hazards associated with Sandy. The report also includes 23 recommendations designed to improve NWS products and services that would help meet future needs of the public and other governmental agencies.[NOAA News]
- National weather and climate reviewed for April 2013 -- Scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that their analysis of preliminary April 2013 data indicates the monthly average temperature for the 48 coterminous states was 1.4 Fahrenheit degrees below the 20th-century (1901-2000) average, which made this past month the 23rd coolest April since 1895 when comprehensive climate records became available nationwide. Furthermore, the month was the coolest April since 1997. States across the nation's midsection had statewide temperatures that were below to much below average. Seven states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and Wisconsin) in the northern Plains and the upper Midwest had statewide April average temperatures that were in the top eight on record; North Dakota had its coldest April in 119 years. On the other hand, several states along the Atlantic Seaboard and in the Southwest had above average temperatures. California had its 12th warmest April on record.
Monthly precipitation across the lower 48 states for April 2013 was approximately 0.47 inches above the 20th-century monthly average, which tied the month with April 1953 as the 19th wettest April on record. States across the nation's midsection along with the Southeast reported above to much above average precipitation. Several states across the Midwest had April precipitation totals that were within the top dozen on record, with Iowa and Michigan reported their wettest April. In addition, the state of Washington in the Pacific Northwest also had much above average statewide precipitation. On the other hand, states in the Northeast and the Southwest experienced dry conditions in April 2013. In the Northeast, Connecticut had its 6th driest April, and Rhode Island its 11th driest, while in the Southwest, New Mexico had its 12th driest April. Late season snowstorms traveling across the nation's midsection helped in making the April 2013 snow cover across the 48 coterminous United States the fifth largest in the 47-year period of record. However, snow cover across the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the West was well below average. [NOAA NCDC State of the Climate]
Additional information and maps of temperature and precipitation anomalies for April 2013 across the coterminous United States are also available. [NOAA ClimateWatch Magazine]
- April national drought report -- The National
Climate Data Center has posted its April
2013 drought report online. Using the Palmer Drought Severity
Index, approximately 21 percent of the coterminous United States
experienced severe to extreme drought conditions at the end of
April, while three percent of the area had severely to extremely wet
- New Seasonal Climate Outlooks for this summer issued -- Near the end of last week, forecasters at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) released their new national Three-Month (Seasonal) Climate Outlooks for the upcoming summer season. These three months, running from June through August 2013, are identified as meteorological summer for the Northern Hemisphere. Specific details of their outlooks include:
- Temperature and precipitation outlooks -- According to their temperature outlook, most of the 48 coterminous United States should experience a high chance of above average temperatures for these three upcoming months, with the greatest probability of such an occurrence across the southern and central Rockies along with the adjacent high Plains. Most of the Northeast would also have a better than average chance of a warmer than average summer. The only sections of the 48 coterminous states not expected to have above average summer temperatures would be along the West Coast and along the northern tier of states from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes States.
These regions were anticipated to have nearly equal chances of warmer or cooler than normal conditions. No areas of the country were expected to have below average summer temperatures.
Their precipitation outlook calls for better than even chances of dry conditions for summer 2013 across several large area of the West, primarily centered upon the interior Northwest in Idaho and adjacent states, as well as across the high Plains to the east of the central and southern Rockies. On the other hand, the outlook would suggest a good chance of a wet summer along the central Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley. The rest of the coterminous states should have equal chances of below and above average summer precipitation.
Outlooks for June are also available. A summary of the prognostic discussion of the outlook for non-technical users is available from CPC. These forecasts were based in part that the current ENSO-neutral conditions (ENSO = El Niño/Southern Oscillation) should continue through the end of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, where neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions should prevail.
- Seasonal Drought Outlook released -- The
forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center also released their US
Seasonal Drought Outlook last week that would run from mid-May through August 2013. Their outlook would call for development or persistence of drought conditions across most of the western third of the nation, extending from the California and Oregon coasts eastward across the Intermountain West and the Rockies to the southern and central high Plains. Only areas of the Northwest along the Canadian border would not experience significant drought conditions. On the other hand, the forecasters foresaw improvement of the drought conditions across the eastern half of the nation, which would include sections of New England, the Florida Peninsula and the eastern sections of the Plains, including the upper Midwest. They also envisioned some slight improvement across sections of the central Plains. Note: a Seasonal Drought Outlook Discussion is included describing the forecasters' confidence.
- Iowa experiencing a "tornado drought" -- As of this past Wednesday, 356 days had passed since the last occurrence of a tornado anywhere in the state of Iowa. This string of consecutive days without a tornado represents a record for the Hawkeye State. [National Weather Service Forecast Office, Des Moines] Editor's note: No tornadoes were reported across Iowa through early Sunday, adding four additional days to this record-setting string.
- Taking inventory of atmospheric methane levels over Los Angeles -- NOAA scientists and their colleagues from academic research institutions recently reported on their study of sources of the greenhouse gas methane in the Los Angeles basin of southern California. While earlier inventories of methane sources appeared to seriously underestimate the levels of atmospheric methane, this current research indicates the high methane levels in air over Los Angeles could be attributed to fossil-fuel sources, including leaks from natural gas pipelines and other oil/gas activities, as well as seepage from natural geologic sites such as the famous La Brea tar pits. The researchers based their analysis on data collected during the "CalNex" study from ground stations in the Los Angeles area and from instruments carried on a NOAA research aircraft during flights over the basin. [NOAA Research]
- Methane levels monitored on cross-continent road trip -- A scientist from the University of California Santa Barbara measured the atmospheric methane concentrations as he traveled across the southern United States from Los Angeles to Florida with a rented camper equipped with special sensors including a gas chromatograph. He found that methane emissions in many areas of the nation were higher than previously determined. The data collected during this road trip was compared with maps of estimated methane emissions from the US Department of Energy and satellite methane maps. [University of California Santa Barbara News Release]
- Major field campaign commences to improve thunderstorm predictions -- A major month-long field experiment called Mesoscale Predictability Experiment (MPEX) commenced last week along Colorado's Front Range and across the adjacent Great Plains. Participants from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR); Colorado State University; the University at Albany, State University of New York; Purdue University; the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee; and NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory will collect data from radiosondes and high-flying aircraft and use high resolution computer simulations. The goal of MPEX is to help improve thunderstorm predictions during the crucial 6- to 24-hour window along Colorado's Front Range and across the adjacent Great Plains. [UCAR/NCAR AtmosNews]
- Large asteroid should pass Earth safely by end of the month -- According to a radio astronomer with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an asteroid identified as 1998 QE2 should safely pass Earth on 31 May 2013, getting no closer than about 3.6 million miles, or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon. This asteroid, which is believed to have a size of approximately 1.7 miles, will mark the closest approach made to Earth by an asteroid for at least the next two centuries. [NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory]
- Tiny satellite to gather Earth energy imbalance measurements -- A team of scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and their colleagues from Johns Hopkins University recently won a berth to place a miniature instrument on the small Multi-Mission Nanosatellite (also known as Cubesat) that would measure the amount of solar energy reflected by Earth and the amount emitted to space as infrared radiation or heat. The goal of the mission is designed to explore the imbalance in Earth's energy budget and the extent to which fast-changing phenomena, such as clouds, contribute to that imbalance. [NASA Goddard Space Flight Center]
- Phenological study shows "false spring" of 2012 was earliest on record - A team of scientists associated with the USA National Phenology Network recently reported that spring 2012 was the earliest over the coterminous United States since systematic data became available in 1900. The Network had a suite of "spring indices" that were used to assessing the occurrence of phenological events in the spring. The historical trend of spring indices suggests that the 2012 growing season advanced as much as 20-30 days in the East and Midwest from the 1900-2012 long-term mean. However, the spring's quick start in 2012 were subsequently offset by a late spring frost in April and summer drought. The unusually early spring of March combined with late frosts in April to produce a so-called "false spring" that damaged fruit trees across the Upper Midwest. [USGS Newsroom]
- Ecosystem remains resilient in Arctic tundra -- Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara and colleagues from several other research institutions who have been participating in a study at the U.S. Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site at Toolik Lake in northern Alaska that has extended for nearly 25 years to assess how long-term warming in the Arctic has affected carbon storage in the tundra. These researchers had anticipated thawing of the permafrost would lead to massive increases in carbon dioxide emissions from the ancient permafrost, but they found that the amounts of carbon in the soil had not changed significantly, as taller plants with deeper roots spread into the area. [University of California Santa Barbara]
- Satellite data helps determine role of glaciers in sea-level rise -- An international team of researchers using data obtained from NASA's Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and from its Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) missions have determined the contribution of glaciers worldwide to the changes in sea level. They found that those glaciers exclusive of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets lost an average of 571 trillion pounds of mass every year during the six-year study, making the oceans rise 0.03 inches per year. These glaciers contain only one percent of all land ice, but contributed to about 30 percent of the total observed global sea level rise between 2003 and 2009. [NASA Headquarters]
- Shrinking tropical glaciers impacts tropical climate history ....-- The field work conducted by the noted glaciologist Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University and his colleagues along will satellite imagery from NASA's Landsat 5 satellite indicate that the Quelccaya Ice Cap in Peru is shrinking. Ice cores extracted from this high-altitude tropical ice cap by Thompson yield climatic information including year-by-year records of temperatures and atmospheric composition over the last 1800 years. The chemical signatures of the El Niño and La Niña cycles can also be detected. However, the retreat of the Andean ice cap has not only created meltwater lakes, but also exposed ancient plants that according to radiocarbon techniques date back to between 4700 and 6300 years ago. [NASA Earth Observatory]
- Loss of snow cover across the Rockies due to warm spring conditions -- A study conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) indicates that the increased spring temperatures across the West since 1980 have been responsible for an estimated 20 percent loss of snow cover over the Rocky Mountains. The snowpack decline in the northern Rockies has been most severe. USGS scientists developed a regional snow model that uses monthly temperature and precipitation data from 1895 through 2011. [USGS Newsroom]
- An All-Hazards Monitor-- This Web portal provides the user information from NOAA on
current environmental events that may pose as hazards such as tropical
weather, fire weather, marine weather, severe weather, drought and
- Global and US Hazards/Climate Extremes -- A review and analysis of the global impacts of various
weather-related events, including drought, floods and storms during the
current month. [NCDC]
- Earthweek -- Diary of the Planet [earthweek.com] Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.
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Prepared by Edward J. Hopkins, Ph.D., email firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright, 2013, The American Meteorological Society.