WEEKLY WEATHER AND CLIMATE NEWS
11-15 February 2019
Items of Interest:
- Those loud bangs could be frost quakes -- Many residents of the northern states recently have been hearing loud bangs, often at night, over the last week following the recent arctic outbreak. According to the experts, these loud bangs are most likely frost quakes or cryoseisms, that are seismic events caused by a sudden and explosive release of stress within frozen soil or rock that is saturated with water or ice. The stress that had built is typically due to the freezing of water that had drained into the ground, resulting in an expansion due to temperatures that rapidly fall to below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Such events are reported across the Midwestern and Northeastern States and areas of southern Canada near the Great Lakes. [Mother Nature Network]
- Rapid changes in Earth's magnetic field necessitates updating "World Magnetic Model" for safe navigation -- The rapid shift of the Earth's north magnetic pole from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia has forced the NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information to release an interim "World Magnetic Model" (WMM) during the past week. The WMM was developed jointly by the National Geophysical Data Center (now NCEI) and the British Geological Survey. Usually, a new updated version of the WMM is released every five years; the previous version was released in 2015, with the next one to have been scheduled for 2020 based upon predicted changes in the Earth's magnetic field. The magnetic north pole is currently experiencing erratic changes in the rate of movement due to unpredictable flows in Earth's core. During the last year, the magnetic north pole was wandering at approximately 34 miles per year, which is faster than any time in human history. Navigation units that use GPS are not affected because they are satellite-based. [NOAA NCEI News]
Some experts speculate that the current rapid movement of the north magnetic pole may signal the beginning of a complete pole reversal, due to a flip in the Earth's magnetic field. Although the last pole reversal occurred 780,000 years ago, these flips usually have occurred once every 400,000 years on average. [Mother Nature Network]
- Reflecting on state climate extremes records and reports -- Deke Arndt, Chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), posted a Beyond the Data blog last year in which he features a look at climate extremes by state. (The list of extremes in maximum, minimum temperature, 24-hour precipitation, 24-hour snowfall and snow depth for each state officially recognized by NCEI is provided.) He provides some insight into the importance of having volunteer weather observers who are part of the Cooperative Network to not only report measured values from the instruments but also make commentary about unusual weather events in their area. [NOAA News]
Weather and Climate News Items:
- Eye on the tropics ---During the past week, three organized tropical cyclones (atmospheric low pressure systems such as a tropical storm or hurricane that form over tropical oceans) were detected over the waters of the Southern Indian and the South Pacific Ocean basins:
- In the Southern Indian Ocean basin, the first of two tropical cyclones developed at the start of last week east-northeast of Port Louis, Mauritius or to the northeast of Madagascar. This tropical cyclone, identified as Funani, underwent explosive intensification as it headed toward the south and then south-southeast. Over the course of two days, Funani strengthen from a tropical storm with maximum sustained surface winds of 40 mph to a category 4 tropical cyclone (on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) as maximum sustained surface winds surrounding it tight central eye were estimated to have reached 135 mph. These winds were helping create 50-foot high ocean waves. Continuing toward the south-southeast, Cyclone Funani weakened rapidly by this past weekend. The NASA Hurricane Blog has satellite images and additional information on Cyclone Funani.
The other tropical cyclone to develop last week over the South Indian Ocean was Cyclone Gelena, which became a tropical storm to the north-northwest of La Reunion Island (or off the northeast coast of Madagascar) approximately 12 hours after Tropical Storm Funani formed to the southeast. During the early part of last week, Gelena traveled toward the south before curving toward the southeast. By this past Saturday, Gelena passed to the north and east of Mauritius, but headed toward Rodrigues. Gelena had intensified to become a category 4 tropical cyclone (on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) as maximum sustained surface winds reached an estimated 140 mph. As of Monday (local time), Gelena was a category 1 tropical cyclone as it was tracking toward the east-southeast approximately 720 miles to the east-southeast of Port Louis, Mauritius. Gelena was forecast to weaken as it would travel toward the east-southeast over the open ocean away from any land masses during this week. Additional information and satellite images for Cyclone Gelena can be found on the NASA Hurricane Blog
- In the western South Pacific basin, a tropical cyclone formed over this past Saturday off the coast of Fiji. This tropical cyclone with minimal tropical-storm strength (maximum sustained surface winds of 40 mph) was named Neil. Over the course of the weekend, Neil headed to the south and south-southeast toward Tonga, a Polynesian kingdom of 170 islands. However, Neil was relatively short lived as it diminished in intensity by late Monday (local time) as it was traveling toward the south-southeast approximately 425 miles southwest of Niue, a small island nation located approximately 1500 miles to the northeast of New Zealand.
- The talk about snowpack across the Sierras -- A public media outlet based in San Francisco, CA posted a feature entitled "Why We Can't Stop Talking About California's Sierra Snowpack" at the end of January in which they talk in glowing terms about the winter storms that resulted in the building of a sizeable snowpack across the Sierra Mountain Range in California following meager amounts of snow during November and early December. Two satellite images showing the Sierra Mountains surrounding Crowley Lake (a reservoir to the south of Yosemite National Park) are displayed that provide striking comparisons between early and late January showing the widespread increase in snow across the region. A large section of California depends upon the snowpack built during the winter for its water needs throughout the year. The snowpack monitoring efforts made by California Department of Water Resources and other organizations monitor the snowpack are also discussed. Finally, attention is turned to how increasing temperatures in the future could mean a smaller snowpack. A climate modeler at the U.S. Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory warns that more than three-quarters of Sierra's snowpack could be gone by the end of the 21st century. [KQED Science]
Editor's Note: Several storms traveling across the Sierras during this past week have resulted in more than three feet of new snowfall. EJH
- Winters are warming across the nation -- A contractor at NOAA's Climate Program Office wrote a "Beyond the Data" blog for the ClimateWatch Magazine describing how winters across the nation have changed over the last 123 years. She provided maps of the 48 contiguous states depicting the patterns of the changes in monthly and winter season temperatures for the meteorological winter (December-February) between 1895 and 2017. These four maps reveal winter is warming across much of the nation, especially in northern locations and higher elevations, with February experiencing the most widespread and extreme warming trends. Many areas had temperature trends that ranged between one and two Fahrenheit degree increases per century. She also provided a graphic that shows the changes in the fraction of the area of the Lower 48 states that experienced extremely cold winters since 1910, expressed as wintertime minimum temperatures that ranked in the bottom 10 percent of that location's historical record running between 1910 and 2018. This graph shows a mixture of mild winters and severely cold ones occurred prior to the 1980s, but since the 1990s, the winters in which large areas of the U.S. experiencing extremely low temperatures have become rarer. However, an occasional severe winter can occur, such as in 2013-14. How this winter will stack up to these statistics will be forthcoming. [NOAA Climate.gov News]
- States and cities across the nation are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions to save lives and money -- Cities and states across the U.S. are already engaging in emission mitigation activities to improve resilience and preserve environmental quality. A map taken from Chapter 29 of the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II (NCA4), entitled “Reducing risks through emissions mitigation,” shows the number of mitigation-related activities in each state as of 2017. Reducing emissions is expected to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars. The Fourth National Climate Assessment is a congressionally mandated report on climate science produced once every four years by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The second part of this Fourth National Climate Assessment was released in November 2018 and focuses on climate change impacts, risks and adaptations occurring in the U.S. [NOAA Climate.gov News]
- A model created for long-term water security for Caribbean nations -- Spurred by over a year-long extreme drought caused by below average precipitation, officials in the community of Salinas, Puerto Rico used a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant to subsidize what was to become the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) mitigation project. This unique, relatively low-cost project in Salinas can serve as a model for long-term water security strategies across the Caribbean. Once the project becomes operational, the average recharge volume should provide the aquifer with twice as much water as is currently withdrawn by Salinas for municipal supply. Consequently, the local economy and community development should be resuscitated. [U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit]
- Review of national weather and climate for the 2018 calendar year -- Scientists at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) have released reports based upon their preliminary analysis of temperature and precipitation data collected through the end of 2018 from across the nation. Based upon the data processed through late last week, they report:
- The preliminary average temperature for the coterminous United
States during the recently concluded 2018 was 53.5 degrees Fahrenheit,
which was 1.5 Fahrenheit degrees above the 20th-century average. As a result, 2018 was the nation's 14th warmest year since 1895. For comparison, the warmest year of 2012, which had a national average annual temperature of 55.3 degrees, and 2016 with a 54.9-degree reading. With the exception of seven states across the Upper Midwest and the northern and central Plains, the remainder of the Lower 48 states reported annual statewide temperatures that were above to much above the 20th century average temperatures. Thirteen states across the West and along the Eastern Seaboard from New Jersey southward to Florida had average temperatures for 2018 that ranked within the top ten highest on record for that each state. Arizona reported its second highest annual statewide temperature on record, while New Mexico had its third highest and California its fourth highest. While the average maximum (afternoon) temperature across the nation was the 27th highest on record, the average minimum (or predawn) national temperature for 2018 was the seventh highest on record.
Alaska had its second warmest year in its record extending back to 1925 with a statewide average temperature of 30.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 Fahrenheit degrees above 1925-2000 average.
The nationwide average precipitation across the 48 contiguous states for 2018 was 34.63 inches, or 4.69 inches above the 20th century average. Therefore, 2018 was the third wettest year on record since 1895. More than half of the states (36) running from the Plains States eastward to the Atlantic Coast reported above to much-above statewide annual precipitation totals. Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia experienced its wettest years since 1895. On the other hand, six states across the West had below average annual precipitation.
Alaska had above average precipitation in 2018, with a statewide average of inches, which was 1.22 inches above average or the 41st wettest in 94 years. [NOAA/NCEI State of the Climate]
NOTE: A description is provided of the climatological rankings employed by NCDC for their monthly, seasonal and annual maps. [NOAA/NCEI]
- Animation shows how drought persisted across U.S. Southwest in 2018 -- A series of national U.S. Drought Monitor maps collected once every four weeks was assembled to produce an animated “US 2018 Drought Recap.” This animation clearly shows that extreme drought continued through 2018 across the U.S. Southwest, with exceptional drought persisting in the Four Corners region (where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet). The drought lingers into 2018, although recent storms are providing much needed precipitation to some of the region. [NOAA Climate.gov News]
- Historic year of extreme weather/climate events in US during 2018 -- NCEI recently reported that according to preliminary data, 14 separate weather and climate disaster events with each producing at least $1 billion in losses occurred across the nation during 2018. These events included two land-falling tropical cyclones (Hurricanes Florence and Michael), eight severe convective (thunderstorm) events, two winter storms, one drought event and one wildfire event. These 14 events in 2018 represent the fourth highest total number of billion-dollar events in an entire calendar year (since 1980), behind the record 16 events that the nation experienced in 2011 and 2017 and the 15 events in 2016. The events in 2018 caused 247 deaths across the nation, well below the record year of 2011 when 764 people were killed by these events. Furthermore, the estimated cumulative cost of these events in 2018 was $91 billion, which is the 4th highest total number of events, behind the years 2017, 2011 and 2016. Further updates to this tentative list for 2018 will be made in the next several months. [NOAA NCEI News]
A description is made of how NCEI calculates the cost of weather and climate disasters is posted along with "Seven things to know about NCEI's U.S. billion-dollar disasters data"[NOAA NCEI News]
Additional graphics and a long-term perspective is provided by an article posted in the ClimateWatch Magazine.
[NOAA Climate.gov News]
- Global weather and climate for 2018 reviewed -- Scientists at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) reported that based upon their preliminary analysis of worldwide land and ocean surface temperature data, the calendar year of 2018 was the fourth warmest since sufficiently detailed world-wide climate records began in 1880. The average global temperature across land and ocean surface areas for 2018 was 1.42 Fahrenheit degrees (0.79 Celsius degrees) above the 20th century (1901-2000) average of 57.0 degrees Fahrenheit (13.9 degrees Celsius). For comparison, the highest global temperature departure was set in 2016 with a temperature anomaly (difference between annual and 20th-century average temperatures) of 1.71 Fahrenheit degrees, followed by the 2015 temperature anomaly of 1.64 Fahrenheit degrees and 1.53 Fahrenheit degree anomaly in 2017. The 2016 and 2015 record years were influenced by a strong El Niño episode involving anomalously high sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The year 2017 represents the warmest year without an El Niño present. On the other hand, 2018 began with a La Niña event that meant that large sections of the equatorial Pacific Ocean had below average temperatures.
When considered separately, annually-averaged temperature for ocean surfaces in 2018 was 1.19 Fahrenheit degrees higher than the 20th century average, which was the fourth highest departure for ocean temperatures behind the record set in 2016. The 2018 land surface temperature was 2.02 Fahrenheit degrees above the 20th century average, which also was the fourth highest temperature over land since 1880.
The annual average Arctic sea ice extent for 2018 was the second smallest for the period of record beginning in 1979 when satellite surveillance of the polar ice caps began. During the winter growth season, the sea ice covering the Arctic experienced its second smallest annual maximum extent, while at the end of the summer melt season, the sea ice was the sixth smallest minimum summer extent on record, tying 2008 and 2010. The annual average sea ice extent around Antarctica also the second smallest on record. During the winter growth season, the ice around that content reached the fourth smallest annual maximum extent for the satellite period, while during the summer melt season, the ice extent was the second smallest minimum on record. [NOAA/NCEI State of the Climate]
NCEI also provides a map showing the Global Significant Weather and Climate Events map for 2018.
Using a slightly different areal averaging technique on the near-surface air temperatures from essentially the same stations as used by NCEI, scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, determined that Earth's global surface air temperatures in 2017 were the fourth highest since 1880, ranking behind the annual global air temperatures in 2016, 2017 and 2015. (Note: NASA compares the annual global air temperatures with respect to the 1951 to 1980 means, while NCEI makes its comparisons with the 1901-2000 averages.) [NASA Press Release]
In a joint news conference held last Wednesday, the director of NASA GISS and the Chief of the Monitoring Branch of NCEI announced their findings that are summarized in graphical format on 15 slides.
[NASA/NOAA Press Briefing ]
- Earth experienced 39 weather-related natural disasters that reached $1 billion in 2018 -- Aon Benfield Analytics, a global reinsurance intermediary and full-service capital advisory firm, recently released its 2018 annual report entitled “Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight” in which it noted that 2018 was the fourth most costliest year on record for weather-related disasters around the world, amounting to $215 billion, based upon preliminary insurance reports. The cost for weather-related disasters in 2018 trails the previous year (2017), which was the costliest with $344 billion in losses. A total of 39 weather-related disasters were recorded worldwide in 2018. When considering the combined economic losses (insured and uninsured) from all 394 weather and earthquake disasters the total costs catalogued by Aon in 2018 was $225 billion. [Weather Underground]
- Wind chill temperature denial may be on the rise -- Dr. Marshall Shepard, a meteorology professor at the University of Georgia and a past president of the American Meteorological Society, posted a blog last week in which he focused upon "an anti-wind chill factor" attitude that he has seen emerging during the previous week's historic arctic outbreak. He mentioned that some of the public had the feeling that meteorologists in the media were using wind chill temperatures rather than ambient air temperatures in their forecasts to sensationalize or hype the weather. Dr. Shepard also touched upon the use of the term "polar vortex" to explain the recent arctic outbreak and how various segments of the public are either using this event to refute climate change or to argue that a changing climate was causing changes in atmospheric circulation that would foster more arctic air intrusions. [Forbes]
- 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.