WEEKLY WEATHER AND CLIMATE NEWS
18-22 February 2019
Items of Interest:
- Becoming AWARE -- During this coming week (17-22 February 2019), Alabama , Louisiana and Mississippi have scheduled their Severe Weather Awareness Week. If you live in these states, you should take time to become familiar with the various public affairs announcements issued by your local National Weather Service Office. Other states farther to the north will be observing their Severe Weather Awareness weeks in the next ten weeks.
- Perigean spring tide to occur this week with the "supermoon" -- The Moon will be at perigee on at 0907Z on Tuesday, 19 February (4:07 AM EST), when the Moon is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit, coming within 221,681 miles of Earth. This event will be closest approach that the Moon makes to Earth during the entire year. Furthermore, the Moon will attain full phase 6 hours later on Tuesday morning (19 February at 1553 Z). The closeness of the full moon would make it appear larger and brighter than usual, resulting in it being called a "supermoon." The closeness of the moon and increased gravitational pull will cause an increase in the height of ocean tides, resulting in what is called a "perigean spring tide" (or King Tide) during the first several days of this week.
[NOAA National Ocean Service Facts]
According to the NOAA National Ocean Service's High Tide Bulletin for Winter 2018, higher than average tides are expected during this week (18-22 February). These higher than average tides should be found along the Pacific Coast from California north to Alaska; around Hawaii and the Pacific Islands; and along the Middle Atlantic Coast, from Virginia northward to New Jersey. The remainder of the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf Coast will not be affected by these higher than average tides. In addition to the two celestial events (full moon and perigee) responsible for the perigean spring tide, El Niño conditions typically cause sea levels along the west coast to become elevated, while atmospheric conditions can cause storms to make a closer approach to the east coast during El Niño.[NOAA National Ocean Service News]
- Early upper-air weather data were obtained from kites and aircraft -- NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) has posted a "Planet Postcard" that features information about the upper-air observations program operated by the U.S. Weather Bureau (the predecessor to the National Weather Service) from the late 19th century. The weather data collected from tethered kites, aircraft observations and balloons are now achieved at NCEI. [NOAA NCEI News]
- The new GOES-17 satellite becomes operational as GOES-West -- Officials with NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) announced last Tuesday that the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-17 has become operational and designated as GOES-West as it will now monitor weather and other environmental conditions across western North America and the eastern and central North Pacific. GOES-West, which was launched on 1 March 2018, is positioned in its 22,000-mile geosynchronous orbit above Earth above the Equator at 137 degrees west longitude. This new satellite should provide high-quality data coverage of the Pacific Ocean. In addition to tracking weather systems moving across the Pacific, GOES-West should also be able to monitor other environmental conditions of importance to residents of the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii including the dispersal of wildfire smoke and volcanic ash. The onboard Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) will be used for measuring lightning (in-cloud and cloud-to-ground) activity.
[NOAA NESDIS News]
- The NOAA Satellite and Information Service reflects back on 2018 -- A team at the NOAA Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS) selected several different topics that they considered to be some of the agency's proudest moments during 2018. These moments included the launch of NOAA's newest geosynchronous satellite (GOES-17) and the commissioning of its polar orbiting satellite (NOAA-20); supplying four instruments for the new European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites' polar orbiting satellite (Metop-C); the tracking of the North Atlantic hurricanes including Florence and Michael from GOES-East; monitoring of severe weather; the tracking of California wildfires by the NOAA fleet of satellites; observing Hawaiian volcanic eruptions; the mapping of lightning by a satellite-based sensor onboard GOES-East satellite; and the monitoring of Earth's climate. [NOAA NESDIS News]
- Recalling the "Great Arctic Outbreak" of February 1899 -- An arctic air mass spread across the nation during the first two weeks of February 1899 brought unprecedented low temperatures to many Southern and Eastern States. In 2014, NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) reviewed the "Great Arctic Outbreak" of February 1899 when temperatures fell to 61 degrees below zero at Fort Logan, MT. In Tallahassee, FL, the temperature reached 2 degrees below zero, which remains the all-time record low for the Sunshine State. Ice formed on the Mississippi River near its mouth. Over 100 people lost their lives during this "Great Arctic Outbreak." [NOAA NCEI News]
- Spring is on the horizon -- Although meteorological spring (March through May) will not start until late next week (1 March), spring has to be near, especially for baseball fans across northern sections of the nation, as pitchers and catchers for all Major League Baseball clubs have reported to camps in Arizona and Florida as of this past Saturday.
Weather and Climate News Items:
- Eye on the tropics ---Two organized tropical cyclones (atmospheric low pressure systems such as a tropical storm or hurricane that form over tropical oceans) were detected last week over the waters of the Southern Indian and the South Pacific Ocean basins:
- In the Southern Indian Ocean basin, Cyclone Gelena was traveling toward the east-southeast at the start of last week, away from Port Louis, Mauritius but toward the island of Rodrigues. Over the previous weekend, Gelena had briefly become a category 4 tropical cyclone (on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) as maximum sustained surface winds reached an estimated 140 mph. By early in the week, Gelena had weakened to a category 1 tropical cyclone. Gelena was the second tropical cyclone to bring strong winds to Rodrigues in a week, as Tropical Cyclone Funani had passed close to this island. As of early Monday, Gelena was a category 1 tropical cyclone as it was tracking toward the east-southeast approximately 540 miles to the east-southeast of Port Louis, Mauritius. During most of last week, Gelena continued to travel toward the southeast and east-southeast over the central South Indian Ocean away from any land masses. As it traveled, it also weakened to become a tropical storm. By late last Friday, Cyclone Gelena had become a subtropical system and then a post-tropical storm, which is a former tropical cyclone that no longer possesses sufficient tropical characteristics to be considered a tropical cyclone. At that time, Gelena was approximately 1640 miles to west-southwest of Learmouth, Australia. The NASA Hurricane Blog has satellite images and additional information for Cyclone Gelena.
- In the western South Pacific basin, a tropical-storm-force low pressure system (maximum sustained surface winds of 40 mph) formed over the waters of the Coral Sea approximately 330 miles northwest of Port Vila, Vanuatu last Tuesday. This tropical cyclone was named Oma. Initially traveling toward the east and then to the east-northeast, Oma began taking a leisurely course toward the south-southwest over the next several days, as the system occasionally stalled. During this time, Oma strengthened to become a category 1 tropical cyclone. As it traveled toward the south-southwest, the islands of Vanuatu were subjected to the strong winds and torrential rains accompanying Oma, even though this tropical cyclone did not make landfall. Some damage was reported especially on the northern islands of Vanuatu. As of Monday (local time), the center of Cyclone Oma was located approximately 280 miles to the west of Port Vila, Vanuatu. Oma was forecast to continue tracking toward the south-southwest, passing to the west of New Caledonia on Tuesday. Some intensification was anticipated. Additional information and satellite images for Cyclone Oma can be found on the NASA Hurricane Blog.
- Fish in deep water can be affected by hurricanes -- Researchers at NOAA Fisheries' Southeast Fisheries Science Center and the Naval Postgraduate School have shown that fish occupying habitats as deep as 120 feet under the ocean surface can also be strongly affected by hurricanes. The researchers tracked gray triggerfish with attached transmitters in North Atlantic waters offshore of North Carolina during September 2017 as two hurricanes, Jose and Maria, tracked along the coast. As the hurricanes approached, most of the gray triggerfish quickly evacuated the 120-foot deep study area for deeper water, while those few fish that remained in the study area swam much faster than normal. After each hurricane passed, many of the tracked fish returned to the study area within a couple of days and resumed normal swimming behavior. [NOAA Fisheries Feature Story]
- Review of national weather and climate for January 2019 -- Using preliminary data collected from the national network of surface weather stations, scientists at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) have determined that the nationwide average temperature for the contiguous United States for the month of January 2019 was 2.6 Fahrenheit degrees above the 20th century (1901-2000) average. Despite historic arctic outbreaks across the Midwest and Northeast during the late month, this national average temperature makes the recently completed month the 35th warmest January since comprehensive national climate records began in 1895. Twelve states across the western third of the country (with the exception of Utah) experienced above to much above 20th century average January monthly temperatures. California had its 11th highest statewide record average temperature in 125 years. Above average temperatures were also reported across the Southeastern, Middle Atlantic and southern New England States. The remainder of the 48 contiguous states had near average statewide temperatures.
Alaska's statewide average temperature was 5.2 Fahrenheit degrees above the long-term (1925-2000) average, ranking 27th highest since statewide records for the 49th State were established in 1925.
The scientists also found that last month was wetter than average, as the nationwide averaged January 2019 precipitation was 0.18 inches above the 20th century average; thus, January 2019 was the 35th wettest January in 125 years. More than half the Lower 48 States reported above average to much above average monthly precipitation totals. These states stretched eastward from California across the Great Basin, the central Rockies, the central Plains, the Midwest to the Northeastern States, generally along a region experiencing a parade of winter storms. The states of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont had statewide January average precipitation totals that ranked within the top 13 on record for their respective states. On the other hand, five states in the northwestern quadrant of the nation, (Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington) experienced below average statewide precipitation in January. The remaining contiguous states had near average precipitation for January.
The state of Alaska was relatively dry, with a statewide average of 2.48 inches, which was 0.25 inches below the 1925-2000 and 35th driest in 95 years.
The January snow cover across the coterminous United States was the 24th largest in the 53-year period of satellite surveillance record according to the Rutgers Global Snow Lab. [NCEI State
of the Climate]
NOTE: A description is provided of the climatological rankings employed by NCEI for their monthly and seasonal maps. [NOAA/NCEI]
- January national drought report -- NCEI has posted its January 2019 drought report online. Using the Palmer Drought Severity Index as an indicator, approximately six percent of the contiguous United States experienced severe to extreme drought conditions at the end of January, while 30 percent of the area had severely to extremely wet conditions.
- The recent arctic outbreak is investigated in terms of long-term global warming trend -- A NOAA climate scientist recently posted a blog on the ClimateWatch Magazine that focuses on the late January arctic outbreak that spread across the Midwest and parts of the Northeast, resulting in daily record low temperatures for numerous reporting stations, as well as many daily record low maximum temperatures. To investigate the impact of this artic outbreak, he selected the daily maximum and minimum temperatures for 369 land-based stations around the globe from the National Centers for Environmental Information's Global Historical Climatology Network - Daily database. He tracked high and low temperature extremes to see how these recent cold records compare to occurrences of warm records. He found that in January 2019, as many as 138 warm records were set in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, compared to only 17 cold records, which nearly all occurred in the Midwest. Over the previous 12-month period from February 2018 to January 2019, approximately 5.4 times as many warm records as cold records in the region were set. A graph shows that the percentage of earth's surface area experiencing record warmth dwarfs that of record cold in nearly every month during the 20-year period commencing in 1998. [NOAA Climate.gov News]
- Recent winter storm results in snow on Maui and a possible statewide record low temperature for Hawaii -- An intense storm that developed near the Hawaiian Islands at the start of last week brought relatively cold air along with strong winds across the Aloha State. Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources officials reported that snow fell at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area at an elevation of 6200 feet on Maui, which may have been the lowest elevation snowfall ever been recorded in the state. In addition, the cold air associated with the storm resulted in the temperature at the Mauna Kea Weather Center atop the Big Island's 13,770-foot volcano to fall as low as 9 degrees Fahrenheit, which would break the official state record low temperature of 12 degrees set back at Mauna Kea in January 1979. This recent temperature reading needs to be reviewed by the State Climate Extremes Committee before an official ruling is made as to the validity of this potential new record. Winds on Sunday gusted to 191 mph at the Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) station on Mauna Kea. [The Weather Channel News]
- New maximum 24-hour precipitation record for nation is validated -- The National Climate Extremes Committee, which consists of members from NOAA's National Center for Environmental Information, National Weather Service Climate Services Branch, and the American Association of State Climatologists, recently announced that the 49.69 inches of rain that fell in a 24-hour period ending in early afternoon of 15 April 2018 at Waipa Garden, Kauai, Hawaii is now considered to be the new national maximum 24-hour precipitation record, superseding the previous record of 43.00 inches that fell on 25-26 July 1979 at Alvin, TX due to Tropical Storm Claudette. [The Weather Channel News] or [NOAA NCEI Extremes Committee Memo]
- Start of stratospheric ozone layer's recovery is confirmed -- The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently released a document entitled "Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018" showing that actions taken under the Montreal Protocol have led to decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) and the start of the recovery of stratospheric ozone. This report was written by a group of international scientific experts and is based on longer observational records, new chemistry- climate model simulations, and new analyses.
- Long anticipated El Niño finally arrives & El Niño advisory 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 atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the equatorial Pacific had changed sufficiently to declare that El Niño conditions had finally arrived. Earlier, the oceanic component of the Earth's climate system showed conditions reflective of an El Niño, with above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) found across the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean. However, the atmospheric component of the climate system had not appeared to be coupled with the ocean component, leading the forecasters to suggesting an ENSO-neutral condition for the coupled atmosphere-ocean system. (ENSO-neutral means that neither El Niño or La Niña conditions are present or anticipated.) During January 2019, the sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (differences between SST values during the month and the long-term SST values for the corresponding multi-year averaging interval) across those sections of the equatorial Pacific used to estimate the potential for an El Niño, ranged between 0.3 and 0.8 Celsius degrees above normal. In addition, the atmospheric component of the climate system appeared to become coupled with the ocean component, as near surface winds across the western equatorial Pacific showed more of a component from the west, which is indicative of El Niño conditions.
Nearly all the prediction models used by IRI/CPC suggest weak EL Niño conditions to continue through at least Northern Hemisphere spring (March through May) as the atmospheric conditions are now coupled with the oceanic conditions. Consequently, the forecasters issued an El Niño advisory, since El Niño conditions are currently occurring and the likelihood exists (approximately 55%) for continuation of weak El Niño conditions over the next 5 months.
A more technical discussion with several maps and charts are available from CPC as part of its El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion.
[NOAA Climate Prediction Center]
An ENSO blog was written by a contractor at NOAA's CPC describing how her colleagues at CPC and IRI finally decided that atmospheric and oceanic components had reached a point that allowed them to declare the arrival of an El Niño.
[NOAA Climate.gov News]
(Editor's note: Documentation is provided on the maps page of the Climate.gov website of how the SST anomalies are determined for the ENSO monitoring region across the equatorial Pacific Ocean basin and used to determine if El Niño or La Niña conditions are occurring. EJH)
- State of Australia's weather and climate in 2018 from a "Down Under" perspective -- The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia released its "Annual climate statement 2018" report describing Australia's climate during 2018. This past year was the third warmest year on record, which began in 1910. Nationally-averaged rainfall was 11 percent below average for the year. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is a main natural climate driver for Australia, was in a neutral phase for most of the year. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), the other main natural climate driver, was positive during austral spring. [Australian Bureau of Meteorology]
- UK Met Office issues 5-year forecast showing increase in global temperature -- Scientists at the United Kingdom's Met Office released their five-year forecast that indicates the annual global average temperature calculated relative to a baseline of 1850-1900 is likely to exceed 1 Celsius degree above pre-industrial levels (defined as the 1850-1900 interval) between 2019 and 2023. They indicated that the temperature by 2023 could temporally reach 1.5 Celsius degrees higher than the 1850-1900 levels due to increased greenhouse gas emissions and natural variability. If the forecast verifies, the decade from 2014 to 2023 would be the warmest run of years since records began. [UK Met Office News]
- Satellites help rescue 340 people in 2018 -- During last year (2018), 340 people were rescued from life-threatening situations throughout the US and on its surrounding waters in part because of the role that NOAA's fleet of operational satellites played. Nearly two-thirds of those rescued (219) involved waterborne rescues, slightly more than one-quarter (89) were on land and the remainder from aviation incidents. The largest annual total of people rescued through this program was 357 rescued in 2007. By detecting distress signals from emergency beacons, these NOAA satellites helped pinpoint the location of these people and relay this information to first responders who perform the actual rescue. NOAA's geosynchronous and polar-orbiting satellites are part of the international COSPAS-SARSAT (COSPAS a Russian abbreviation for "Space System for the Search of Vessels in Distress" and SARSAT "Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking") system. [NOAA News]
- Glacial melt sand could lead to economic salvation in Greenland -- Scientists from the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Copenhagen, Arizona State University and the Rhode Island School of Design have identified one unforeseen economic opportunity for Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, as a changing climate continues to melt Greenland's glaciers, causing more river sediment to be deposited on the beaches of this Arctic nation. They propose exporting excess sand and gravel abroad, where these raw materials for infrastructure are in high demand. [University of Colorado Boulder News]
- New glacial ice census provides new estimate of global ice thickness -- A glaciologist at Switzerland's Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zurich and colleagues report that their recent census of approximately 215,000 glaciers worldwide indicates that many of the glaciers in southern and central Asia near the Tibetan Plateau contain approximately 50 percent less ice, in total, than previously estimated. The researchers made these findings by using five existing models that predicted ice thickness for each glacier based on satellite-derived glacial topography and ice dynamics; ice volume was calculated for each glacier using the ice thickness and the areal extent of the ice. These new results are important for a variety of applications, ranging from estimates of local and regional water availability in some Asian nations to global mean sea level rise. [American Geophysical Union EOS Earth & Space Science 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]
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Prepared by Edward J. Hopkins, Ph.D., email firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright, 2019, The American Meteorological Society.