Tag Archives: Weather

El Nino Effects For This Spring in the US

The US NOAA has this video summarizing what they expect for weather in the US as the result of the current, winding down, El Nino:

2016 Spring Climate and Flood Outlook

As a near-record El Niño begins to wind down, NOAA issued its spring seasonal outlooks for flooding, drought, precipitation, and temperature. Flood risk is highest in the lower Mississippi valley and along the Southeast coast. Learn more at: http://go.usa.gov/c7xYx

Posted by NOAA Climate.Gov on Thursday, March 17, 2016

How scientists unraveled the El Niño mystery

The Road to Paris is a web site created by the ICSU, “…a non-governmental organization representing a global membership that includes both national scientific bodies (121 National Members representing 141 countries) and International Scientific Unions (30 Members),” founded in 1931. If the ICSU had not existed when the UN was formed, the UN would have formed it. Think of the ICSU as the UN of Science. More or less.

(Follow Road to Paris on Twitter.)

Anyway, Road to Paris refers to the 2015 international meetings on climate change, and the purpose of the web site is to provide excellent information about climate change, up to date, so those engaged in that process, either as direct participants or as onlookers, will be well informed.

Fishing in pink waters: How scientists unraveled the El Niño mystery” is an amazing piece of work written by Daniel Gross (I made minuscule contributions), looking at the history of the science of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, which is one of the most important climate or weather related things on this planet. This is timely, because we are expecting an El Niño to form over the winter. Maybe. Well, eventually we will have an El Niño. (It has been an unusually long time since the last strong one.)

Please visit this web page, read it, enjoy it (it is highly interactive), and spread it around.

What will this winter be like in North America?

The Polar Vortex hurt. We who lived in it, through it, with it, are like farm animals that got zapped by the electric fence a couple of times … notice all that long grass growing by the fence. Stay away. It hurt! So we are worried that this will happen again.

It is a reasonable worry, from a scientific point of view. The Polar Vortex visitation last winter was the result of changes to trade winds and jet streams that has characterized our weather for the last few years. One of the big questions on my mind is this: Are wavy jet streams and corresponding changes in the distribution of excessive rainfall and drought likely to become spatially patterned? In other words, is it likely that when the Polar Vortex wanders that it will tend to wander to the same small set of locations, like Siberia or North America? So far this seems to be at least partly true. The drought in California has not been maintained because of a lack of rainfall at that latitude, but rather, a lack of certain seasonal precipitation (winter snows) at that longitude, because of the oft-cited “ridiculously resilient ridge” which is actually one of several standing waves in the polar jet stream that shunts wet air around California, to places the Midwest. It is conceivable that the Polar Vortex, as part of the climate change induced “new normal,” will wanter off-pole and onto a landmass (either Eurasia or North America) often-ish, from now on, or until continued global warming results in some other pattern which we’ll probably call “New Normal 2.0”.

This is a question I’ve asked various scientists who are working on this problem. The answer I’ve gotten so far has been, paraphrased, “Yeah, I don’t know, maybe, we’re thinking about that. Get back to you later.”

But there is hope. I’ve put links to three places you can go for more discussion and information below. Here’s the tl;dr. The National Weather Service does a very good job of predicting what winter will be like in North America, but the accuracy of that prediction, unsurprisingly, drops off month by month. So the current prediction is probably pretty good for November/December, but as January and February come along, what is predicted now may be off. With that caveat, these are the salient predictions:

1) There will not be a Polar Vortex excursion into North America. Probably. The thing is, if this is a recent phenomenon and increasing in likelihood, the predictions may be off, but there are good reasons to believe they are not. Don’t assume the Polar Vortex will visit us, but don’t sell your wool pants at that last garage sale of the year.

2) California may actually get some rasonable precipitation this winter. It is hard to say if it will be drought-breaking rain, but it may help.

3) Although winter seems to be starting early this year (with many inches of snow having fallen or about to fall on the Front Range, the Dakotas, etc.) the overall prediction is a somewhat warmer than average winter for most of North America.

4) The Southwest, California, Texas, North-Central Mexico will have a bit more moisture than average, but other than Pacific coastal Mexico, not a lot more. That won’t translate into huge snowfalls except at high elevations. The middle of the country, from Montana to western Ohio and Michigan, south to a line running from southern Idaho across to Florida, including the Southeast, will have average precip. So, Minnesotans may see early snow if it remains cool, but this will not be an exceptionally snowy winter. Less than usual moisture is predicted for Kentucky, Ohio, western Pensylvaina, parts of New York and most of New England. But, this is only a small amount, so don’t sell your snow blower at that garage sale.

Parts of the Pacific Northwest and inland across to western Montana may be a bit dryer than usual.

Overall, temperature wise, no region is expected to be especially cold, mostly somewhat warm. The regions of Canada and Alaska along the Arctic Circle will be very warm (relatively … so many degrees below zero instead of many more degrees below zero) as we would expect with “Arctic Amplification.” Moisture levels, overall, are not going to be extreme in either direction anywhere, though the dry in the Northwest may be noticeable.

In other words, the average person’s perception of weather, which varies from reality a great deal, will include the actual realized variation, if the predictions hold up.

The NWS predictions can be found via this page.

Eric Holthaus has a discussion of the coming winter here.

Paul Douglas of Weather Nation has more here, with a lot of other info relevant to Minnesota.

Can we attribute specific weather events to climate change?

Yes. Not only that, but we can’t separate climate change from any single weather event that ever happens, anywhere, no matter what. So just stop saying that we can’t. Here’s a thought experiment to explain why this is true.

Imagine that climate science is like it is today with a few significant exceptions. First, humans never messed with fossil fuel, using only solar energy. If you need to, you can add in that there are only a half billion humans on the planet because birth control was discovered and implemented earlier in human history and everybody has Obamacare. Second, the climate scientists have a thousand, no, make that five thousand, years of instrumental records of the planet’s weather. Third, there has been virtually unlimited access to super computers and the field is advanced 30 years beyond the present. So, climate science is like it is now plus way smarter and more informed with way more information. Also, there has never been any kind of science denialism on my imaginary Earth, so the negative effects of that particular nefarious activity were never felt, never slowed down progress.

One day astronomers, who are also very advanced in knowledge, understanding, and technology, discover a star that is identical to the Sun, and around it orbits a planet that is identical to the earth. Same atmosphere, similar distribution of continents that move around and stuff, same amount of free water and ratio of land to sea, same orbital geometry, etc. There is only one difference between H’Trae, which is what they named this newly discovered planet, and Earth. The Earth has an equilibrium level of 250ppm of CO2 in its atmosphere and H’Trae has an equilibrium level of 500ppm CO2 in its atmosphere.

The astronomers sent a probe to H’Trae which sent back five years of satellite images from the entire surface in a number of energy bands, so there is a pretty good picture of what is happening there. A thousand dropsondes were dropped across the planet at random intervals which gave more direct atmospheric measurements, and then recorded data from the surface for another couple of years, until the H’Traeans found them, one by one, and ate them. So there’s a lot of data.

There emerges a literature, on “The Climate and Weather of H’Trae,” and it is peer reviewed and widely distributed and it matures and becomes part of the Planetary Science body of knowledge.

Then one day somebody comes along, probably on the Internet, the first known Science Denialist, and says “The amount of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere has no relationship to the climate or weather on H’Trae. None. Any given study that looks at climate or weather on H’Trae that does not independently test to see if having 200% of the CO2 on H’Trae as compared to earth is invalid. The role of a doubling of this gas must be demonstrated anew each time it is proposed or assumed.”

What would the Earthlings do that that person? Ignore him, of course, though they might also be amused to see their first Science Concern Troll. If he got really annoying they might send him off to H’Trae so the H’Traeans eat him.

But they would not take seriously the idea that an increase in one of the most important gasses in the atmosphere, which indubitably alters temperature on average across every cubic meter of the atmosphere and every square meter of the surface, which indubitably increases the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, which seems to indirectly alter the basic nature of major air currents, has nothing to do with the place where the climate rubber meets the temporal road: The weather. It would be an absurd idea.

So why do people keep repeating that as though it made sense?

When is Tornado Season?

This story:

10 tornadoes confirmed in Ga., including one with winds topping 160 mph

Ten tornadoes, one packing winds of more than 160 mph, touched down in parts of Georgia on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said Friday.

The storms caused an estimated $25 million in insured losses, said John W. Oxendine, the state’s insurance commissioner.

“I spent some time surveying damage and talking to residents in Jasper, Putnam and Hancock Counties” on Friday, Oxendine said in statement. “I believe claims will easily reach $25 million. Actual losses are much higher when you consider things like infrastructure damage and uninsured losses.”

Reminds us that Tornado season is coming. Maybe it is already here in parts of the country, or maybe it is a bit early this year in the south. It is important to keep tornadoes in perspective. It would appear that for the last half century, the frequency of tornadoes in the US is rising, though this could be totally or in part because of increases in reporting. Warming climate should result in more tornadoes in areas where tornadoes already occur, or at least that is a reasonable assumption unless countervailing effects can be demonstrated.

So when is tornado season exactly?

Continue reading When is Tornado Season?