WEEKLY WEATHER AND CLIMATE NEWS
21-25 January 2019
Items of Interest:
- Federal Shutdown continues-- As of the start of this past weekend, parts of the U.S. Government remained closed during the first week of January because of the Federal Shutdown that started on Friday, 21 December 2018. Therefore, many of the NOAA and NASA websites and social media channels have either been closed or are not being updated due to a lapse in appropriation. Only those NOAA websites, such as those maintained by the National Weather Service will be maintained as they are deemed to be necessary to protect lives and property. As of this past weekend, when the shutdown will be resolved remains unclear.
- A "super blood moon, a total lunar eclipse --A full moon occurred early Monday morning (or late Sunday night, depending on location). The official time of the full moon was at 0416Z on 21 January (12:16 AM EST on Monday, 11:16 PM CST, etc. on Sunday). This particular full moon is called a "super moon" as the moon appears to be larger and brighter than usual because the Moon is closer to the Earth than usual, as perigee (the closest Earth-Moon distance) will occur later today at 1959Z (2:59 PM EST, 1:59 PM CST, etc.). At that time, the Moon will be 222,040 miles from Earth. Finally, this month's full moon is called a "blood moon" as a total lunar eclipse occurred. The lunar surface took on a dark reddish or copper appearance during the eclipse as some light passing around the Earth would reach the Moon. Otherwise, the January full moon is often called the "Old Moon" or "Wolf Moon."
As the Moon reached full phase late Sunday night, it passed completely through the Earth's shadow, resulting in a total lunar eclipse, which was the only total lunar eclipse to occur in 2019 and 2020. The entire eclipse (when the Moon entered and left the Earth's umbra or dark shadow) lasted for approximately three hours and should have been visible in cloud-free areas of both North and South America, as well as Greenland, Iceland, the British Isles and coastal sections of western Europe. The remainder of Europe and Africa would have seen a partial eclipse before moonset. Totality spanned one hour, with the main part of the eclipse occurring at 0513Z (12:13 AM EST). The particulars of this eclipse are provided on the [NASA Eclipse Page]. The next total lunar eclipse will be May 2021.
- Perigean spring tide to occur this week with the "supermoon" -- The Moon will be at perigee (smallest distance to Earth during the Moon's monthly orbit) on at 1959Z on Monday, 21 January (1:59 PM EST), when the Moon is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit, coming within 222,040 miles of Earth. Furthermore, the Moon attained full phase earlier on Monday morning (21 January at 0416 Z). The closeness of the full moon would make it appear larger 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" 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 between 19 and 24 January along the coast of Alaska and between the 23rd and 25th for the remainder of the nation's coastlines, with the exception of the Gulf of Mexico coast where no significant impacts are anticipated. The combined effects of the full moon and lunar perigee are responsible for these higher tides. Anticipated 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]
Editor's Note: This NOAA site is not accessible during the Federal Shutdown. EJH
- Quantifying this winter's severity across the nation -- At the midpoint of the meteorological winter season (December, January and February), the Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC) has been calculating and posting the Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI) for approximate 100
stations around the 48 contiguous United States and Alaska. The AWSSI was developed by a former
director of MRCC and a weather
forecaster at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Omaha, NE as an objective index that uses commonly available weather data to
quantify and describe the relative severity of the winter season. Click on the stations displayed on the map to reveal the daily sequence of AWSSI values through the current date. [MRCC]
- Free admission into the National Parks --
This Monday, 21 January 2019, has been designated by the National Park Service as a fee-free day in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. 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]
- End of a long polar night -- After being below the horizon for approximately 66 days, the Sun should rise at Barrow, the northernmost city in Alaska, for the first time this new year on this Wednesday, 23 January 2019, at 1:04 PM Alaska Standard Time (AKST). However, the Sun will only remain above the horizon for only 71 minutes, as it will set again at 2:15 PM. Although the Sun set for the final time last year at 1:44 PM AKST on 18 November 2018, residents of Barrow had roughly three hours of some diffuse sunlight each day that is equivalent to civil twilight, provided the cloud cover was not too thick. To check the sunrise and sunset times of Barrow or any location in the United States go to the US Naval Observatory's on-line, interactive service for the entire year.
- Worldwide GLOBE at Night 2019 Campaign for February commences -- The second in a series of GLOBE at Night citizen-science campaigns for 2019 will commence this coming Sunday (27 January) and continue through Tuesday, 5 February. GLOBE at Night is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program designed to encourage citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of their night sky by matching the appearance of a constellation with the seven magnitude/star charts of progressively fainter stars. This constellation is Orion for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Activity guides are also available. The GLOBE at night program is intended to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution. The third series in the 2019 campaign is scheduled for 26 February-7 March 2019. [GLOBE at Night]
Weather and Climate News Items:
- Eye on the tropics --- The weather across the tropical and subtropical ocean basins in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres was relatively quiet last week. Only one organized tropical cyclone (an atmospheric low pressure system such as a tropical storm or hurricane that forms over tropical oceans) developed over the waters of the Mozambique Channel in the western South Indian Ocean basin. This system was identified as Tropical Cyclone 10S or Tropical Storm Desmond and at the time, it was more than 150 miles to the southwest of Europa Island, which is situated between Mozambique in southeastern Africa and Madagascar. Desmond traveled toward the north on Sunday. As of early Monday morning (local time), Tropical Storm Desmond was located nearly 140 miles to the northwest of Europa Island. Current forecasts indicate Desmond should travel toward the north-northwest, making landfall along the Mozambique coast by early Tuesday. No intensification was anticipated before landfall.
- Upgrades in weather forecasts are being affected by the Federal Shutdown -- A hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center (NHC), who is also the NHC's Union Steward to the National Weather Service's Employee Organization, recently was interviewed by CNN. He described how the current Federal Shutdown was preventing continuation of work by NHC researchers and forecasters on improving forecasting models, methods and techniques during the non-hurricane season in an effort to enhance the accuracy of their weather predictions. In addition to the impacts on the tropical weather models run by NHC, the shutdown is also negatively affecting the upgrades to the Global Forecast System (GFS) model by the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) in NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction that is run across extratropical latitudes. The GFS is often referred to as the "American model" and has been scheduled to undergo a significant makeover in the next month, according to the EMC union steward to the NWS Employee Organization.
[WTOP Government News]
- All-time record high temperatures established Down Under -- The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia reported that during the four days between 12 and 15 January 2019, some of stations reported all-time hottest days, which represents four of its most sweltering days in Australian history. Parts of central and northwestern Australia had daytime high temperatures ranging from 112 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Marble Bar in northwest Australia experienced the hottest temperature since the weekend, topping out at 120.4 degrees Fahrenheit (49.1 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, 13 January. [Weather Underground News]
- An animation is made of a solar flare -- A team of scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory were involved in producing animation of a solar flare using a single, cohesive computer model. This simulation was of the entire life cycle of a solar flare: from the buildup of energy thousands of kilometers below the solar surface, to the emergence of tangled magnetic field lines, to the explosive release of energy in a brilliant flash. The model extended from the approximately 10,000 kilometers below the solar surface in the convection zone to 40,000 km above the surface in the solar corona in the photosphere. [NCAR & UCAR News]
- Arctic cyclones can change Arctic sea ice -- Researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center have used satellite data to track cyclones (low pressure storm systems) that travel across the Arctic Ocean between 2012 and 2016, determining how these cyclones affected the sea ice concentrations in the Arctic for two days following storm passage. Temperature changes appear to be the main reason why sea ice concentration fluctuates. Satellite observations indicate temperatures can rise by as much as 10 Celsius degrees in the wake of a traveling cyclone. Strong winds surrounding the cyclone can also create ice movement that breaks up ice. With the continued loss of Arctic sea ice due to a changing climate, more powerful cyclones could develop in this region. [American Geophysical Union EOS Earth & Space Science News]
- Satellites used for monitoring hurricanes also track flooding -- A constellation of eight 30-kilogram (66-pound) satellites called the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) that was launched by NASA in 2016 to track ocean winds near the eyes of tropical cyclones (such as hurricanes) has been found to provide high resolution images of soil moisture and flooding over land surfaces. In fact, the images from CYGNSS were of higher resolution than those obtained from the now-inoperative radar onboard NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive mission (SMAP). CYGNSS is in a low earth orbit with an altitude of approximately 325 miles above Earth's surface, while SMAP is a sun-synchronous orbit at 428-mile altitude. [Spacenews.com]
- Lightning strikes across the nation decreased in 2018 -- Dr. Marshall Shepard, the Director of the University of Georgia's Atmospheric Sciences Program and a former President of the American Meteorological Society, recently wrote a blog for Forbes in which he noted that an annual report for 2018 published by Vaisala, a Finnish company that operates the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN), reveals that the number of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes across the U.S. decreased by approximately 11 percent in 2018. This reduction in last year's lightning activity appears to be related to fewer large and severe thunderstorms that developed during spring and summer 2018 across the central Plains and Upper Midwest as this region had fewer days with strong contrasts in air masses. Fewer strong tornadoes (high end of the Enhanced Fujita Scale) across the region in 2018 is also consistent with the decreased lightning activity. [Forbes]
- Research instrument makes 22,000-mile journey aboard a research vessel -- A portable research lab known as SPARCLET that was developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently returned stateside after traveling onboard the University of Washington's research vessel Thomas G. Thompson between mid-August and mid-October 2018 during the heart of the Asian monsoon season. This research mission was to aid in a study called the Propagation of Intra-Seasonal Tropical Oscillations, or PISTON over the Philippine Sea. PISTON is aimed at better understanding how pollutants and turbulent conditions over the Philippine Sea affect the region and influence global weather. SPARCLET, which was designed and built at the UW-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center, carried the High Spectral Resolution Lidar used to make atmospheric measurements of aerosols. These airborne particles are found in high concentrations over the Philippine Sea and can affect weather through convective processes and cloud seeding. [University of Wisconsin-Madison News]
- Grant awarded to combine multiple resources for improved water forecasts and emergency management planning -- A civil engineering professor at the University of Texas at Arlington recently received a $216,103 subaward from a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant to devise a method to collect forecasts and metrics from multiple sources in order to merge them into a single, integrated forecast that will be more easily understood and useful during major weather events. Weather and water information during major events is provided by the National Weather Service, while many other entities, such as the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and universities also produce flooding and other water-related information. [University of Texas Arlington News]
- Space weather can provide a quiet, but deadly, threat to Earth -- A broadcast meteorologist from Buffalo, NY wrote a feature that describes how "space weather" can create a distinct threat to Earth residents and how NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, CO monitors space weather and makes forecasts for to alert the public of the hazards. "Space weather" is concerned with the varying conditions within the Solar System, especially involving the interactions of the solar wind in the upper atmosphere surrounding Planet Earth (in the magnetosphere, ionosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere).
[The Buffalo News]
- Seasonal weather outlook for nation released -- Forecasters at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center recently released their new national Seasonal Outlook for the next three months of 2019 (February-April) that includes the last month of meteorological winter (December-February) and the first two months of meteorological spring (March-May). Specific details of their outlooks include:
- Temperature and precipitation outlooks -- According to their temperature outlook, most of the western half of the nation (including Alaska) should experience a high chance of above average temperatures for these three upcoming months. The greatest probability of above average temperatures was expected across the Northwest, centered in western sections of Oregon and Washington, and across essentially all of Alaska. In addition, sections of southern Florida, primarily along the Florida Keys, would also have a better than even chance for warmer than average conditions. Conversely, sections of Ohio and Tennessee Valleys centered upon Kentucky and middle Tennessee were considered to have a better than average chance of below average late winter-early spring temperatures. The remainder of the eastern half of the nation from the high Plains to the Atlantic Seaboard were considered to have nearly equal chances of warmer or cooler than normal conditions.
Their precipitation outlook calls for two areas across the 48 contiguous states to have a better than even chance of below average precipitation for the upcoming three months of 2019. One of these areas is located in the Northwest, centered over Oregon and northern California. The other area expected to be relatively dry was located across a large section of the Midwest, centered primarily upon Indiana, along with adjacent areas in Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio. On the other hand, two areas across the "lower 48" where given high probabilities of above average precipitation. One of these wet areas was across the Southeast, particularly across Florida and coastal regions of Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. The other area that could experience above average precipitation between February and April was located across the central and southern Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico, along with adjacent areas of the high Plains to the east of the mountains. The remainder of the contiguous U.S. was expected to have essentially equal chances of below and above average precipitation for the end of winter and the first two months of meteorological spring. South central and southeastern Alaska could also have above average precipitation over this time span.
A summary of the prognostic discussion of the 3-month outlook for non-technical users is available from CPC. These forecasts were based in part that the anticipated development of El Niño conditions was being delayed because of the lack of coupling between the oceanic and atmospheric components of the Earth's climate system. Currently, the oceanic component would suggest El Niño conditions due to above average sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, but the atmospheric component is closer to average conditions, punctuated by a Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) that has been causing variations in the atmospheric flow patterns of less than a seasonal time scale. The current ENSO (El Niño/Southern Oscillation)-neutral situation when neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions would prevail, should transition into a weak El Niño by spring in the Northern Hemisphere (March-May 2019). Until then, the ENSO-neutral conditions could continue, punctuated by MJO activity. A description is also provided as how to read these 3-class, 3-month Outlook maps.
- Seasonal Drought Outlook -- The forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center also released their US Seasonal Drought Outlook last week that would run from mid-January through April 2019. Their outlook would call for persistence and expansion of drought conditions across the western third of the 48 contiguous U.S. This region stretches across the Great Basin in Utah and Nevada, as well as across a large section of California and Oregon. The Four Corners area (where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet), which is currently under extreme and exceptional drought conditions, could see improvement in drought conditions, with some areas seeing sufficient improvement that they would possibly be removed from drought status. Improvement in drought conditions were also anticipated in southern Florida. Note: a Seasonal Drought Outlook Discussion is included describing the forecasters' confidence.
- Billions of dollars could be saved by the nation with adequate flood and fire preparation -- The National Institute of Building Sciences recently released an update to their earlier report entitled "Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves" noting that the nation's communities that act now to protect themselves from future hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and wildfires can save themselves as much as $11 for every $1 that they initially invest. [University of Colorado Boulder News]
- Ways of adapting to climate change are gaining steam -- An article was prepared in conjunction with the National Geographic Society that recognizes increased efforts made by communities to build resilience to climatic and coastal threats even as the world seeks ways to curb emissions driving global warming. [National Geographic]
- Antarctic Ice Sheet affected by orbital variations and changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels -- Researchers from New Zealand's Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently reported on the results of their matching of the geological record of the Antarctic Ice Sheet with the periodic astronomical motions of the Earth's orbit and its spin axis over the last 34 million years. More than 100 years, scientists began suspecting that these astronomical motions have had an impact upon planetary climate because these create changes in the amount solar radiation received by Earth at various latitudes and during the seasons; these variations often have been called the "Milankovitch cycles." The current researchers have found that the variations in the Earth's obliquity (or tilt of its spin axis) appear to have significant implications for the rise and fall of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. They argue that their research indicates a warming world caused by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide when coupled with periodic changes in the Earth's obliquity could warm oceans, leading to a loss of sea ice, which would result in a dramatic retreat of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and a worldwide elevation of sea levels. [University of Wisconsin-Madison 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright, 2019, The American Meteorological Society.