WEEKLY WEATHER AND CLIMATE NEWS
16-20 April 2018
Items of Interest:
- Sunrise is getting earlier "Way Up North" -- The station technician at NOAA's Barrow Atmospheric Observatory in northern Alaska recently provided a photograph using a drone of sunrise above the flat headland jutting out into the Arctic Ocean. The Barrow Atmospheric Observatory, which is located at 71 degrees North latitude, is one of NOAA’s stations for monitoring long-term changes in the global atmosphere. With the passage of the vernal equinox late last month, sunrises occur earlier in the day at a rapid pace, while sunsets are getting later. As of the first week of April, Barrow is gaining approximately 10 minutes of sunlight each day. [NOAA Feature Photo]
- Becoming AWARE -- During this coming week of 15-20 April 2018, Colorado will conduct its Severe Weather Awareness Week. These weeks are usually scheduled before the onset of the severe weather season in that particular state. If you live in the Centennial State, you should take time to become familiar with the various public affairs announcements issued by your local National Weather Service Office. By this point in spring, most of the other states have observed their Severe Weather Awareness weeks, with fewer than one dozen states yet to conduct their weeks.
- Free admission into the National Parks and Monuments-- In observance of National Park Week (21-29 April 2018), the National Park Service will waive entrance fees this coming Saturday (21 April). This fee waiver will cover entrance and commercial tour fees in many of the national parks and monuments administered by the Park Service. [National Park Service Fee Free Days]
- Celebrate Earth Day --This Sunday (22 April 2018) marks the 49th Earth Day, first proposed by the late Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin in 1970 as a teach-in to heighten awareness of the environment. The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has posted a website called "Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day: The Making of the Modern Environmental Movement" that highlights Senator Nelson and his idea became Earth Day. Several governmental websites provides links to various activities and resources planned for this week, including a website maintained by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
NASA has produced a high resolution printable Earth Day poster for 2018 that features an artistic illustration of a solar eclipse around Earth. This year's poster can be downloaded as a pdf file along with a collection of illustrated posters in NASA's annual celebration of Earth Day. High resolution printable PDF files are available for each Earth Day since 2010. [NASA Science Toolkits]
Weather and Climate News Items:
- Eye on the tropics -- During the last week one tropical cyclone developed and traveled across the waters of the western South Pacific Ocean, as Tropical Storm Keni formed at the start of last week between Fiji and Vanuatu. Traveling toward the east-southeast, Keni strengthened as it passed close to Viti Levu, the largest island in the Republic of Fiji and crossed over Kadavu, another island in Fiji. By midweek, Keni became a category 2 tropical cyclone on the Saffir-Simpson Scale as maximum sustained surface winds reached 98 mph. Torrential rains accompanying Keni fell across the Fiji islands, causing flooding [Aljazeera]. Continuing to the southeast, Cyclone Keni weakened before dissipating well away from any land masses. Satellite images and additional information on Cyclone Keni can be found on the NASA Hurricane Page.
- Names of four hurricanes in 2017 are retired from the active name list -- The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Region IV Hurricane Committee recently retired the names of Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate from the internationally recognized Atlantic list of hurricane names because these hurricanes were very destructive or so deadly that the future use of the names would be insensitive. With the inclusion of these four names, this list now contains 86 retired names.
The WMO has selected the names Harold, Idalia, Margot and Nigel to fill the list of storm names when it will be used again in 2023. NOAA's National Hurricane Center is a member of this WMO committee. [NOAA News]
- Harvey, a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast during the last week of August 2017 before stalling. Over the next four days after landfall, torrential rains from Hurricane Harvey resulted in catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas where nearly 60 inches of rain fell. Consequently, Harvey is the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history (after inflation). At least 68 people died from the direct effects of the storm in Texas.
- Hurricane Irma, which reached category 5 status during the first week of September 2017 made seven landfalls as it traveled across the northern Caribbean islands before crossing the Florida Keys and then reaching the coast of southwest Florida as a category 3 hurricane during the second week of September. Irma was responsible for 44 direct deaths as a result of its strong winds, heavy rain and high surf, including seven in the U.S. An additional 85 people died because of indirect causes.
Hurricane Maria crossed the island of Dominica as a category 5 hurricane in mid-September, resulting in at least 31 direct fatalities. Maria then slammed into Puerto Rico as a high-end category 4 hurricane, causing as many as 65 deaths and destruction of property and infrastructure to cause Maria to be rated as the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Hurricane Nate was a category 1 hurricane as it made landfall along the Mississippi Gulf Coast during the first week of October. However, Nate had earlier tracked across Central America as a tropical storm following initial landfall in Nicaragua and Honduras, with the loss of at least 45 lives in Central America.
- Northern California gets another soaking from an atmospheric river in early April -- A meteorologist with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center wrote a feature for the ClimateWatch Magazine describing another atmospheric river that gave sections of northern California torrential rains during the first week of April. These rains caused local flooding and some melting of the snowpack in the high country of the Sierras. The atmospheric river represents a plume of water vapor, clouds and precipitation that is typically carried long distances from the oceanic areas of tropical and subtropical latitudes to midlatitude landmasses, where abundant precipitation can be produced. An image was generated showing the forecast of precipitable water for a day in early April, with the plume directed at northern California. Precipitable water is a measure of the water vapor in a vertical column in the atmosphere, expressed as the depth of the water that would condensed from this water vapor. [NOAA Clim.gov News]
- March 2018 weather and climate for the nation reviewed -- Scientists at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)
recently reported on their analysis of preliminary weather data collected during the month of March 2018. When averaged across the contiguous United States, the monthly temperature for March 2018 was 42.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 1.1 Fahrenheit degrees above the 20th-century
(1901-2000) average. Therefore, this past month was the 49th warmest March since a comprehensive climate network began in 1895. Eight states along the Atlantic Seaboard, running from Pennsylvania southward to Florida, had below-average statewide temperatures for March that rank within the lowest third on record for their respective states. Conversely, nine states across the southern Plains, the southern and central Rockies, and the Southwest had statewide average temperatures that were in the top third of the record. Maine also experienced an above-average March temperature. The remainder of the 48 contiguous states in the West and across the northern Plains and Mississippi Valley had near-average statewide temperatures in March.
The average maximum (or daytime) temperature for this past March across the "lower 48" was the 55th highest on record, while the average minimum (or nighttime) temperature was the 41th highest. Virginia reported its eleventh lowest maximum monthly temperature on record.
Alaska reported its ninth warmest March in their 94-year period of record, with a monthly average temperature that was 6.9 Fahrenheit degrees above the long-term average.
The average precipitation across the contiguous U.S. for March 2018 was 2.42 inches, which was 0.09 inches below the 20th-century average, making the month the 55th driest March since 1895. Sixteen states scattered across the Southeast, New England, the Great Lakes and the Four Corners region of the Southwest reported below-average precipitation. On the other hand, seven states scattered primarily across the West and the Dakotas had statewide precipitation totals that were above the long-term average. North Dakota reported a statewide March precipitation total that was eleventh highest in the 124-year record. The remaining two dozen states that comprise the "Lower 48" had statewide precipitation levels that were close to average.
Data analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab indicate the March snow cover extent across the contiguous US was the sixth highest areal extent for the 52-year period of record across the 48 contiguous states, as well as being the largest March snow cover extent since 1979. Above-average snow cover was reported across the northern tier of states, running from the Northwest eastward across the northern Rockies, the northern Plains to the Midwest and in the Northeast. On the other hand, below-average snow cover was found across the southern Rockies, the central Plains and the Great Lakes. [State of the Climate NOAA/NCEI]
NOTE: A description is provided of the climatological rankings employed by NCEI for their monthly and seasonal maps. [NOAA/NCEI]
The Chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NCEI, Deke Arndt, posted a "Beyond the Data" blog in which he discusses this past "cold season", the six months running from Oxctober 2017 through March 2018 in context with the temperature trends across the nation over the last 50 seasons. The cold-season average temperature has increased by 6.3-Fahrenheit degrees per century across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS), which is more than the 5.2-Fahrenheit degrees per century rise in annual average temperatures for CONUS. The Southwest has been experiencing warmer cold-seasons, with the average October-March temperatures in Arizona increasing by 7.0-Fahrenheit degrees per century over the last 50 years. However, this increase pales in comparison with the 17.1-Fahrenheit degree per century increase across Alaska's North Slope. Deke also discusses the addition of three weather/climate-related disasters to the Billion Dollar Disaster list recently released by NCEI (see item below).
[NOAA Climate.gov News]
- Nation experiences three billion-dollar disasters attributed to weather and climate during first quarter of 2018 -- NOAA’s NCEI recently reported that during the first three months of 2018, the United States experienced three weather and climate disasters, each resulting in losses that exceeded $1 billion. One of these was a severe thunderstorm outbreak in mid-March (18th-21st) across the mid-South and Southeast, accompanied by tornadoes, strong winds and hail. Over 20 tornadoes were reported in Alabama. Total damages exceeded $1 billion and at least three people died. The other two billion-dollar disasters were two winter storms in the eastern U.S, with one Nor'easter occurring along the Eastern Seaboard from the Carolinas to Maine in early January (3rd-5th) that resulted in 22 fatalities, while the other Nor'easter hitting the Middle Atlantic and New England States during the first three days in March, resulting in nine fatalities. [NOAA News]
The NCEI list of billion disaster events in the U.S. beginning in 1980 and running through early April 2018 is available.
- New online "snow drought" page is launched -- NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) recently unveiled a "snow drought" web page that provides data, maps and other resources to those who are concerned with the ongoing snow drought across the West. A snow drought represents a time interval with abnormally low snowpack for the time of year, caused either by below-normal cold-season precipitation (dry snow drought) or a lack of snow accumulation, despite near-normal precipitation (warm snow drought). This new webpage is the result of a multi-agency collaborative effort designed to increase awareness of snow drought and provide data and necessary tools to decision makers and resource managers. [U.S, Drought Portal News]
- Updated El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion is released -- Late last week forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) released their monthly El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion. They reported that La Niña conditions continued to weaken through March 2018 as below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were reported across the east-central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, but a warming was detected of the ocean waters below the surface. Atmospheric conditions across the tropical latitudes of the Pacific basin were also suggestive of a weak La Niña. Many of the prediction models used by the forecasters indicate further decay of the La Niña and a transition to ENSO-neutral conditions by the end of May, with neither La Niña nor La Niña conditions prevailing. The forecasters consider this transition from La Niña conditions to be likely, with a 50 percent chance of occurring. The ENSO-neutral conditions were expected to remain through Northern Hemisphere summer. Therefore, the CPC's ENSO Alert System Status still maintains a La Niña advisory since the La Niña conditions were still being detected. [NOAA Climate Prediction Center]
An ENSO blog was written by a contractor with CPC describing the weak La Niña conditions that remained across the equatorial Pacific, describing how the SST anomalies (differences between observed and long-term temperatures) across the eastern Pacific remained close to the threshold that would be considered a La Niña. Subsurface temperature anomalies in the Pacific Ocean along the Equator were described. In addition, the atmospheric conditions involving convection, outgoing long-wave radiation and winds were also considered. [NOAA Climate.gov News]
- An El Niño forecast from Down Under -- Forecasters with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology recently reported that ENSO-neutral conditions were currently occurring in the region near Australia. They foresaw these conditions would continue for the next six months. Therefore, the Bureau's ENSO Outlook status remains as ENSO-Inactive. [Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology]
- Nation’s businesses and economy are helped by weather data services -- A report was recently released that examines user engagement with the climate and weather data that are archived b' NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The value that the free and publicly available provision o' NCEI’s information to the weather service provider industry, which then creates value-added products and services to serve a range of sectors. Interviews were conducted with key sector stakeholders' NCEI’s information provides an important resource to more than 250 weather service providers that contribute $7 billion annually to the U.S. economy. [NOAA NCEI News]
- Major North Atlantic circulation system is weakening with changes in redistribution of ocean heat -- Direct oceanographic measurements have found that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a large-scale system of ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean, has been slowing over the last several decades. A team of researchers from Europe and the U.S. report that their computer model simulations appear to confirm these observations that show the AMOC has slowed or weakened by about 15 percent since the 1950s. One of NOAA's global climate model was used to identify the characteristic sea surface temperature patterns. The slowing of AMOC, attributed to a changing climate associated with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, has caused the redistribution of heat in the North Atlantic Ocean. The resulting changes have been felt along the Northeast U.S. Shelf and in the Gulf of Maine, which has warmed 99 percent faster than the global ocean over the past ten years. These changes are impacting distributions of fish and other species and their prey. [NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center News]
- West Coast ecosystems may be destabilized by extreme climate variability -- A team of researchers have found that extreme climate variability over the last century across western North America may be destabilizing both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. They claim that climate is increasing its control of synchronous ecosystem behavior in which species populations rise and fall together. This increase in the synchrony could expose marine and terrestrial organisms to higher extinction risks. [Oregon State University News]
- An All-Hazards Monitor -- This Web portal provides the user information from NOAA's National Weather Service, FAA and FEMA on
current environmental events that may pose as hazards such as tropical
weather, fire weather, marine weather, severe weather, drought and
floods. [NOAA/NWS Daily Briefing]
- Earthweek -- Diary of the Planet [earthweek.com]
Return to RealTime Weather Portal
Prepared by Edward J. Hopkins, Ph.D., email email@example.com
© Copyright, 2018, The American Meteorological Society.