Tag Archives: Hurricane

The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season: Ian

September 29th

The key news about former hurricane Ian is that it is about to become a Lazarus hurricane. Ian will re-strengthen shortly, in the global warming enhanced warm waters of the Atlantic, into a hurricane before it hits South Carolina, in just over 24 hours from now, as a physically large Category 1 hurricane.

Key Messages:

  1. There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge through Friday
    along the coasts of northeast Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
    Residents in these areas should follow any advice given by local
    officials.
  2. Hurricane-force winds are expected across the South Carolina
    coast beginning early Friday, where a Hurricane Warning has been
    issued. Hurricane conditions are possible by tonight along the
    coasts of northeastern Florida and Georgia, where a Hurricane Watch
    is in effect. Preparations should be rushed to completion since
    tropical-storm-force winds will begin well before the center
    approaches the coast.

  3. Ongoing major-to-record river flooding will continue across
    portions of central Florida, with considerable flooding in northern
    Florida. Considerable flash and urban flooding is expected across
    coastal portions of northeast Florida through Friday. Local
    significant flooding in southeastern Georgia and eastern South
    Carolina is expected through the end of the week.

September 28, mid morning

Ian is a strong Category 4 hurricane and is expected to maintain this level until it is very close to, and overtaking, the coast. It is close enough to a Category 5 hurricane that it could venture into that territory at any moment. The very dangerious eyewall is moving on shore now, maybe a little earlier than expected because the eye grew stronger and larger overnight. This landfall event will go on for the next 12 hours, near the end of which the storm will weaken slightly.

Storm surge is now estimated to be between 12 and 16 feet above GROUND level in areas where it will be at maximum, on top of which will be destructve waves, along the Florida coast from Englewood to Bonita Beach and including Charlotte Harbor. If that is where you are you have to get out of there right away.

Wind gusts of nearly 200 mph is the right front quadrant will remove buildings and trees in or near Port Charlotte, Came Coral, and Fort Meyers, and very strong winds will affect areas from Naples to Sarasota. So yes, locally, and freqruently, buildings, trees, infrastructure, will experience the equivalent of F3 or F4 tornado winds. (Plus there will likely be actual tornado outbreaks spawned by the hurricane). Hopefully people will be out of these areas in time.

Ironically, the biggest risk of spawned tornados and very heavy rainfall may be on the opposite side of the Florida Peninsula from landfall, over by Cape Canaveral, and Daytona Beach.

From the NHC:

Key Messages:

  1. Catastrophic storm surge inundation of 12 to 16 feet above ground
    level along with destructive waves are expected somewhere along the
    southwest Florida coastline from Englewood to Bonita Beach,
    including Charlotte Harbor. Residents in these areas should urgently
    follow any evacuation orders in effect.

  • Catastrophic wind damage is expected along the southwestern
    coast of Florida beginning in the next few hours where the core of
    Ian makes landfall. Preparations to protect life and property
    should be urgently rushed to completion.

  • Heavy rainfall will spread across the Florida peninsula through
    Thursday and reach portions of the Southeast U.S. later this week
    and this weekend. Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic
    flooding is expected across portions of central Florida with
    considerable flooding in southern Florida, northern Florida,
    southeastern Georgia and coastal South Carolina. Widespread,
    prolonged major and record river flooding expected across central
    Florida.

  • September 28

    It is now estimated that Ian will approach landfall as a strong Category 4 hurricane with maximum windspeeds of 155mph. That makes it an F2 tornado in strength, but a gazillion times bigger. Landfall will very likely be as expected for the last day or so, with the eye crossing somewhere near Englewood, and the right front quadrent pushing water up Charlotte Harbor. It looks to me like the storm surge and inundation maps have been updated to show a larger area of extreme flooding.

    The worst of the hurricane effects are from about now, through the day, and through tonight, and into the morning. More a little later after the morning update from NHC.

    September 27th

    Added at 6PM central:

    Ian the hurricane, as they do, got stronger than projected, a little, and is expected to potentially be a full on Category 4 (or just barely a 4) storm while it is off the coast of Florida just prior to landfall. Forces that were supposed to weaken Ian did not materialize. This has been sufficiently important and rapid that it seems that the NHC put out an update a little sooner than usual. After landfall the storm will remain at hurricane strength or nearly so for many hours (maybe 24 hours?) At roughly 5 or 6 PM local time tomorrow, the eye will be passing over the shore, probably somewhere between St. Petersberg and Naples, with the center of the prediction range being near Port Charlotte. So tomorrow mid day through late Thursday, Florida is going to be a mess.

    And now the bad news. If the hurricane obeys the laws of probability very strictly and stays right on track, the dangerous right front quarter is going to bash into Bokeelia, Cape Coral, Sanibel, St. James City, and Port Charlotte. There are two inlets there, a narrow one going up to Fort Myers, and a much broader one that goes up to Port Charlotte, either of which could have really severe highly concentrated coastal flooding. The NHC experimental storm surge and flooding models show these two areas suffering flooding greater than 9 feet above sea level. But it will be a wavy, wind blow 9 feet, so this is bad. In the following graphic, the red is over 9 feet, the orange over 8 feet. Much of this land is less than 10 feet above sea level. These are neighborhoods with numerous homes.

    Now here I have to say something really important. If the storm does not come in with the eye over Englewood and the right front quadrant hitting these embayments, then there would be much less flooding here. The way to read this map, I’m pretty sure, is not “this is where the flooding will be and how much.” Rather, it is “if the flooding hits maximum at this spot, this is what the flooding would likely be.” That is a much better planning tool, but is a little difficult to grok.

    The two most important updates regarding Hurricane Ian are:

    1) It is now projected to very likely come ashore between Tampa/St Petersburg and Bonita Springs, but it, as is true of most hurricanes, is a large storm. Therefore storm surge, high winds, and some degree of flooding can be expected anywhere from Steinhatchee to the Keys.

    2) The storm will likely remain as a major (probably Category 3) hurricane right up to landfall.

    The keys are under direct and immediate threat, and we will be seeing worsening and maximally bad conditions there just as we are hearing news from Cuba about their local devastation. Landfall on the Florida coast will be as soon as late tomorrow, but tropical force winds will be arriving in the keys today (Tuesday) mid afternoon, and by nightfall tonight on the mainland in the southern part of the state. Wednesday will be a day of high wind, torrential rain, and coastal flooding in much of Florida, and that will continue for a day. Storm surge of up perhaps 10 feet will occur in the worst areas, but the exact location and severity will not really be known until it happens given the vagaries of wind, coastline, and hurricane track.

    Since this is not a dynamic up to the second medium, I probably won’t be keeping up here on this blog post. For now, just take these items from the NHC into consideration:

    Here is a link to the moving GIF of the storm. It is a beaut.
    Key Messages:

    1. Life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, flash floods
      and possible mudslides are expected to continue in portions of
      western Cuba today. Devastating wind damage is expected near the
      core of Ian.

  • Life-threatening storm surge looks increasingly likely along much
    of the Florida west coast where a storm surge warning is in effect,
    with the highest risk from Fort Myers to the Tampa Bay region.
    Residents in these areas should listen to advice given by local
    officials and follow evacuation orders if made for your area.

  • Hurricane-force winds are expected in the hurricane warning area
    in southwest and west-central Florida beginning Wednesday morning
    with tropical storm conditions expected by this evening. Residents
    should rush all preparations to completion today.

  • Heavy rainfall will increase across the Florida Keys and south
    Florida today, spreading into central and northern Florida tonight
    and Wednesday, into the Southeast U.S. by Thursday and Friday,
    likely causing flash, urban, and small stream flooding. Considerable
    flooding is expected across central Florida into southern Georgia
    and coastal South Carolina, with widespread, prolonged moderate to
    major river flooding expected across central Florida.

  • FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

    INIT 27/1500Z 23.0N 83.5W 100 KT 115 MPH
    12H 28/0000Z 24.4N 83.3W 115 KT 130 MPH
    24H 28/1200Z 26.0N 83.0W 115 KT 130 MPH
    36H 29/0000Z 27.1N 82.5W 110 KT 125 MPH
    48H 29/1200Z 27.8N 82.1W 75 KT 85 MPH…INLAND
    60H 30/0000Z 28.5N 81.7W 60 KT 70 MPH…INLAND
    72H 30/1200Z 29.5N 81.5W 50 KT 60 MPH…INLAND
    96H 01/1200Z 33.0N 81.8W 35 KT 40 MPH…INLAND
    120H 02/1200Z 35.0N 81.5W 25 KT 30 MPH…POST-TROP/EXTRATROP

    The interactive track map is a handy tool for planning your week if you live in Florida. Like this:

    Finally, watch the rain. Rainfall up op to two feet is predicted near the coast and some ways inland, near Tampa Bay. Predictions vary, but I believe it is hard to predict rain at the higher end of the scale. It will rain everywhere in Florida and nearby Southeastern State of Georgian and South Carolina, and in mamny areas the rainfall amount will be round 6 inches or well over that amount.

    The storm is expected to track diagonally across Florida to come near the Atlantic coast near Jacksonville by around Friday, then pass through Georgia and the Carolinas, affecting Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, later on. Presume that in hilly or mountainous areas, heavy rain will cause deadly flash flooding.

    Continue reading The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season: Ian

    Isaias is coming to an Atlantic Coast near you.

    Tropical Storm Isaias is now affecting, and is in the process of leaving, Hispaniola, and will spend the next few days transiting the Bahamas pretty much at the worst possible angle. During that time it will turn into a hurricane. Expectations are that it will not likely be a major hurricane, but the trend lately has been for hurricanes to be worse, or speedier, or both, than expected, so expect worse. By next Monday afternoon, the hurricane will be in a good position to make some sort of landfall in South Carolina or North Carolina. It will hug the coast as a hurricane or a storm all the way to Massachusetts and possibly beyond.

    Harvey The Hurricane: Truly Climate Change Enhanced

    Harvey the Invisible Rabbit: Did not exist.

    This is a picture of some men.

    Since they are men, they have some abilities. They can, for example, knock each other over, and they can play with balls. This is what men do, and this is what these men can do.

    This is a picture of some professional NFL foodball players.

    They are also men. They can also knock each other over, and they can also play with balls. But the NFL football players are much better at knocking each other over, and you wouldn’t believe how great they are at playing with balls.

    They are NFL enhanced. They are trained, embiggened with special diets, and they are clad with armor and vibrant, often scary, colors.

    This is a picture of a hurricane from 1938.

    It was a big one; It did lots of damage when it slammed into New England and New York.

    A hurricane is a large storm that forms in the tropics, and sometimes hits land. The energy from a hurricane comes from a combination of the earth’s spin, trade winds, and so on, but mainly, from the heat on the surface of the sea. The rain that falls from the hurricane also comes mainly from the sea surface indirectly, and any water that evaporates into the atmosphere.

    This is a picture of Harvey the Hurricane, the remnants of which are still circulating around in Texas.

    Harvey is a lot like the 1938 hurricane, in that it formed in the tropics, in the Atlantic, and was a big spinny thing. It got its energy in the same way, and formed in the same way, and both slammed into land and scared the crap out of everybody.

    But they are different, the 1938 Hurricane and Harvey the Hurricane. How are they different? Have a look at this map:

    The pairs of photos above show “then” and “now” for two different things (men and hurricanes). This map shows both then and now in the same graphic. This map represents the current sea surface temperature anomalies, meaning, how much warmer or cooler the current sea temperatures are compared to the same time of year but at some time in the past, averaged over a long period, in this case, from 1971-2000. Global warming was well underway during that period, so present sea surface temperature readings that are above that baseline are not only high but are actually very high, because the baseline is high.

    In this map, red is more, blue is less. Look at all the nearly ubiquitous more-ness in sea surface temperatures around the world. That causes the atmosphere across the entire globe to potentially contain much more water vapor than it could have contained during that that baseline period. Look at the sea surface temperature anomalies for the gulf of Mexico, where Harvey formed. They are high. This means that any hurricane that formed over that extra warm water will be stronger, and any tropical storm system that occurs pretty much anywhere on this map (or round the other side of the Earth as well, for that matter) will contain more water, than it would if it existed and all else was equal several decades ago.

    This is a picture of a Unicorn.

    A unicorn poops rainbows and pees mimosas. Or so I’m told. This is another view of Harvey the Hurricane.

    What is the difference between the unicorn and Harvey? Harvey is real, and the unicorn is not.

    I won’t quote you or give you links. Why? Because I find this whole thing a bit too embarrassing. But here is the thing. Otherwise intelligent and well informed individuals have stated in various outlets, including major media, and including twitter, that it is simply inappropriate to claim that Harvey the Hurricane is in any way global warming enhanced.

    This is wrong. There is no such thing as a storm of any kind that is not a function of the current climatology. The current climatology has widespread and persistent, and in many cases alarmingly high, sea surface temperature anomalies. There will not be a tropical storm, including hurricanes, that escape the physics and poop out rainbows and pee mimosas. They will all be real. They will all have greater power and more moisture than they otherwise would have, had they formed decades ago before the extreme global warming we have experience so far.

    There was a time when Harvey was a rabbit, an invisible rabbit only seen by a delusional character in a movie, played by Jimmy Stewart. Today, we have Harvey the Unenhanced Storm, playing that role. It is a fiction, something seen by a few but that is no more real than the above depicted unicorn.

    As I was writing this post, Michael Mann posted an item in the Guardian that makes this case.

    He says (click here for the whole story):

    Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades … That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.

    … sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F).

    … there is a roughly 3% increase in average atmospheric moisture content for each 0.5C of warming. Sea surface temperatures in the area where Harvey intensified were 0.5-1C warmer than current-day average … That means 3-5% more moisture in the atmosphere.

    That large amount of moisture creates the potential for much greater rainfalls and greater flooding. The combination of coastal flooding and heavy rainfall is responsible for the devastating flooding that Houston is experiencing.

    … there is a deep layer of warm water that Harvey was able to feed upon when it intensified at near record pace as it neared the coast….

    Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human-caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage and a larger storm surge…

    Mann mentions other effects as well, but I’ll let you go read them.

    The extra heat at depth Mann mentions is now recognized as responsible for the extra bigness and badness of some other famous hurricanes as well, such as Katrina and Haiyan. Harvey might be a member of a small but growing class of hurricanes, deep-heat hurricanes I’ll call them for now, that simply did not exist prior to global warming of recent decades. Further research is needed on this, but that’s the direction we are heading.

    Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth recently noted that “The human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so up to the total rainfall coming out of the storm,”

    Aside from Michael Mann’s Guardian article, he has this facebook post making the same argument.

    Harvey the Hurricane is real, and so was the 1938 Hurricane. Climate change enhancement of Harvey is real, but unicorns are not. Sadly.

    I really thought we had stopped hearing this meme, that “you can never attribute a given weather event to climate change.” But, apparently not. That is a statement that is technically true in the same way that we can’t really attribute an Alberta Clipper (a kind of snow storm) to the spin of the Earth. Yet, somehow, the spin of the Earth is why Alberta Clippers come from Alberta. In other words, the statement is a falsehood that can never be evaluated because it is framed incorrectly. Here is the correct framing:

    Climate is weather long term, and weather is climate here and now. The climate has changed. Ergo … you fill in the blank. Hit: Unicorns are not involved.

    Weather, Climate Change, and Related Matters in 2015

    I had considered writing an accounting of all the outlandish weather events of 2015, but that project quickly became a tl:dr list of untoward happenings which is both alarming and a bit boring, since it is so long. So, I decided to generate something less comprehensive, focusing more on the context and meaning of the diverse and impressive set of outcomes of anthropogenic global warming, an historically strong El Niño, and, well, weather which is already a pretty whacky thing.

    See: Highlights of Climate Change Research in 2015

    It should be noted right away that 2015 is the last year in which any human alive will see CO2 levels dip below 400 parts per million.

    What is the biggest single weather related news of 2015?

    Floods, probably. Around the world, there were a lot of floods, and a lot of them were very damaging and deadly. Also, many of these floods appeared with little warning, even in places like Texas, where the meteorology is pretty good. Those Texas floods were of special note, as were the floods in the Carolinas. But outside the US there were major floods in Asia, especially Vietnam and Myanmar, as well as Yemen. Alaska, Oklahoma, Atacama in South America, also saw severe floods.

    Why were there so many floods?

    I’m pretty sure it is accurate to say that there was more flooding, and more severe flooding, than typical for, say, 20th century climatology. We had many 1,000 year flood events, too many to assume that these events remain as 1,000 year events.

    See: Global Warming Changing Weather in the US Northeast

    There are probably two or three reasons for increased flooding, which of course is caused by increased and concentrated rainfall along with other factors such as land use changes that cause rainfall to result in more flooding. One is the simple fact that a warmer atmosphere, due to global warming, contains more water, and thus, we get more rain. How much more? Not a lot, but enough to make a difference. If you put together a bunch of weather data and plot the annual precipitation rate over the last century or so, and fit a line to the data, the line will look flat. It isn’t really flat, and in fact, a properly fitted line on good data will show a statistically significant upslope. But still, the total amount of extra precipitation is a small percentage of the usual amount of precipitation, so the slope is not impressive unless you draw it out using heavy-handed graphing methods.

    _____________________
    A few other places are doing end of year reviews. Inside Climate is doing a series of 2015 retrospectives. Skeptical Science has an overview of the year. Environmental health news has a wish list pivoting on 2015 and a year in review. And Then There’s Physics summarizes 2015. Critical Angle takes a critical look at 2015 here. If you see any more out there in the wild, let me know. Media Matters has “The 15 Most Ridiculous Things Conservative Media Said About Climate Change In 2015.” Media Matters also has 5 New Year’s Resolutions For Reporting On Climate Change. HotWhopper has The Fake Sceptic Awards for 2015 here.
    _____________________

    A second factor is a set of changes in how, when, and where the rain falls. Normally, in the temperate regions, rain storms move along with trade winds, guided or influenced by jet streams, fairly quickly. But if the jet streams slow down, the storms slow down, so we may see 4 inches of rain fall in one place that normally would have been spread out over a larger area, never exceeding half (or less) of that amount in any given area. The jet streams have slowed down and also become curvier, which both increases the amount of rain that falls in a give area but also may transfer moisture from and to places that are normally not involved as much in such a process. For example, the storm we are expecting today in the upper Midwest and Plains is not a typical Canadian Clipper, but rather a Gulf Coast storm related to the deadly blizzards and tornado swarms we’ve seen over the last few days to the south.

    See: Does global warming destroy your house in a flood?

    This clumping of rain in smaller areas also means that other areas that would normally have received some rain don’t, causing what my colleague Paul Douglas refers to as “flash droughts.” These are dry periods that don’t last long enough, and are not severe enough, to register on any official drought-o-meter, but nonetheless stress local water systems (such as farming) enough to be a nuisance.

    A third factor is sea surface temperature. This really relates to, and is probably one of the main causes, of the first factor (increased precip overall), and feeds into the second factor (clumping of rain) but deserves its own consideration. Elevated sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic off the US coast last winter caused a lot more moisture than normal to feed into nor’easter storms, which in turn have become more common (because of increased sea surface temperatures and other factors), thus dumping large quantities of snow in the US Northeast. The same thing dumped lots of extra snow in a region that normally gets very little snow, the US Southeast, the winter before.

    See: A selection of books on climate change

    These changes have been happening for decades, and are due to global warming. The warming caused by the human release of extra greenhouse gasses, and other human effects, increase the warmth, thus the evaporation, thus the precipitation. Part of this warming trend involved increasing the warmth of the Arctic at a much higher rate than most of the rest of the planet. This, in turn, seems to have caused the jet stream to become wavy and slow down. The jet streams and trade winds are ultimately caused and controlled by the Earth spinning, which has not changed, and the temperature differential between the warm equator and the cold poles, which has changed quite a bit.


    See: Weather Whiplash Is Like My Old Broken Sprinkler

    But what about El Niño?

    Didn’t El Niño cause these changes, and thus, aren’t these weather events unrelated to global warming?

    No, and for two reasons.

    First, many of these events happened during the first half of the year, before the start of the current El Niño, which is in fact the strongest El Niño so far observed directly, and possibly the strongest El Niño in millennia.

    The second reason is that the heat released by the El Niño (the release of heat stored in the Pacific Ocean is what an El Niño is, in functional terms) is added to an already warmed world. It may even be that the extra severity of this year’s El Niño is upscaled by anthropogenic global warming. In any event, any records we set during the current El Niño exceed earlier El Niño years because the El Niños we experience are shorter term warming events on top of a steadily increasing global warming phenomenon.

    We had a lot of fires

    Last year and this year, or really, the last few years, have seen excessive, above normal rates of forest and brush fires in various regions. We have seen major fires in Australia, North America, and Southeast Asia during this period, with North America breaking several recent records this year.

    See: Forest fires in Indonesia choke much of south-east Asia

    These fires are caused by a combination of factors, but ultimately heat increasing evaporation, prior rainy years increasing available fuel, and warm winters increasing tree death to parasites (thus increasing fuel), all have contributed.

    North America, in the old days, had much more fire-heavy years than anything recent because we were busy cutting down the forest, piling up “slash” (left over tree parts) and running sparky old fashioned coal-driven railroad engines up and down between the slash piles, catching them on fire. In addition, just burning the slash on purpose contributed to the overall amount of fire, especially when the slash fires got out of control.

    We also saw some pretty impressive fires a couple of decades ago because of what we now know were bad fire management practices, which had actually grown out of those earlier decades of logging related fires. In other words, the frequency and distribution of forest and brush fires is complex. During aridification, probably global warming related, in Africa during the 70s and 80s, vast areas started to burn more regularly than usual. In those days, I would fly at night over Libya, Chad and the Sudan a couple of times a year, and could observe the entire region was burning all the time, easily visible from 26,000 feet.

    The bottom line: The frequency and extent of fires is variable and chaotic, but anthropogenic global warming seems to have contributed significantly to us having more of them.

    Were there more storms in 2015?

    Record breaking tropical storms occurred in 2015. All of the tropical cyclone/hurricane basins saw interesting activity, with the Atlantic being the most quiet, and the Eastern Pacific, possibly, being the strangest.

    There were 22 Category 4 or 5 storms this year in the Northern Hemisphere, a record number. The last record year was recent, 2004. Studies have shown overall that the total energy that forms up in tropical cyclones has increased with global warming, though the actual total number of storms is highly variable.

    It is reasonable to expect an increase in the frequency and severity of tropical storms with global warming, while at the same time, in some areas, smaller storms may become less common. This is partly because smaller storms are more readily abated by some of the global-warming related changes in weather systems such as increased wind shear and increased dust in the tropical atmosphere. At the same time, extremely high sea surface temperatures, and also, high water temperatures as depth (100–200 meters) increase the potential strength of storms that do get past that initial formation.

    Hurricane Patricia, in the Eastern Pacific (landfall in Mexico) was an especially important storm. It was a physically small storm, but had more powerful winds than ever seen in a tropical storm. The storm went from nothing to a full hurricane in several hours (instead of several days).

    The significance of this can not be underestimated. We have a situation where the conditions that might cause a hurricane to form are extreme, because of global warming (and this year, more so because of El Niño). So, when when these conditions are in place, a hurricane can form faster, and get more powerful, than normal. Consider the prospect of a land falling Category 5+ storm forming offshore from an area with low lying terrain (not like where Patricia struck land) with a high population density (not like where Patricia struck land) and moving on shore immediately. Like for instance, an Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico version of Patricia making landfall near Miami or NOLA.

    Most of the really large hurricanes of this year were in the Pacific basin, distributed across the entire region, but Hurricane Joaquin, which was a very large and powerful storm in the Atlantic, did have us on the edge of our seats for a while when some of the better weather predicting models suggested it might make landfall. Also, nearly unprecedented tropical storms formed near the Arabian Pennensula.

    This was a hot year

    Other than February, which was merely hot rather than really hot, globally, every month so far this year has broken or nearly broken one or more records, depending on which database one uses. The running 12-month average of surface temperatures started to break records before El Niño kicked in, and continued to do so since. This will continue for several more months, even if the El Niño phenomenon itself stops soon, because it takes several months for surface temperatures to show the El Niño effect.

    More specifically, there were killer heat waves in the Western Cape of South Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Australia recorded its hottest day ever. North America experienced numerous record breaking days, in the US and Canada. Cherry trees thought it was spring and bloomed last week in Washington. I saw birds building a nest outside my house in Minnesota two weeks ago, and our lawn was green(ish) through last weekend.

    Ocean Oddness and Other Events

    Let us not forget the Great Blob of Hot Water in the northern Pacific. This non El Niño phenomenon, which has been going for a couple of years no, has had El Niño like effects in the region, and probably relates to the non normal weather in along the western coast of North America, including record breaking heat in Alaska, major storms in or near Alaska, and of course, the California Drought.

    A Haboob-Nado in China involved some of the strongest winds ever seen in the region, and may have, very unusually, contained an embedded tornado. We had a mild tornado season in the US, in Tornado Alley, until a few days ago when a not-very-seasonal tornado season sprung up and killed close to 50 people in just a few days. The American southeast does get winter tornadoes, but Michigan does not. But this year, there was a first ever recorded December tornado in that state.

    The Arctic Sea ice has been diminishing in its minimum extent for a few decades now, and this year we saw the third lowest amount. The volume of Arctic sea ice continues to shrink.

    You all know about the Syrian Refugee crisis. This is the latest chapter in the collapse of the Syrian state, which in turn happened because of long term drought in that country killing off the agricultural system and forcing farmers into the cities, where many became involved in the Syrian Civil War, which opened up the opportunity for the Islamic State to take a large amount of territory in the region. And so on. The Syrian refugee crisis is likely to be an early version of more of the same to come over future decades. And, I quickly point out, this is not likely to have been the first climate refugee situation, just much worse than prior events related to the spread of deserts in North Africa and drying out in West Asia.

    Research on Climate Change

    This year saw some interesting research in climate change.

    One team studies major oscillations in climate that relate to oceans (of which El Niño is a shorter-term smaller part). This research suggests that the last couple of decades have seen less warming than we might expect over the long term, and further suggests that an uptick in the rate of warming is in our medium term future.

    Related research also shows that accelerated melting of northern glaciers, especially Greenland, could alter Atlantic currents, so while the Earth generally warms due to increased greenhouse gasses, weather may change to a colder regime in Europe, some time over the next few dedades.

    We are seeing an increased rate at which climate and weather experts are attributing bad weather to global warming. This is partly a shift in thinking and methods among the experts, and partly because of an actual increase in such events.

    There has been interesting research in the Antarctic. We are seeing increased concern about, and evidence for, destabilization of huge inland glaciers that could start to fall apart and contribute to sea level rise at any time in the next several years. At the same time we saw one study that seemed to suggest that Antarctic is gaining ice, rather than losing it. If that is true, than recent decades of sea level rise are partly unexplained. Alternatively, the research, which has some known flaws, may simply be wrong. Look for some interesting results related to Antarctic glacier during 2016.

    The famous #FauxPause in global warming, claimed by many climate change deniers to be a real thing (no warming in X years, etc.) was already known to be Faux, but this year saw several independent nails being driven into that coffin. Rather than a pause that disproves global warming, we have a better understood series of changed in the long term warming in the planet’s surface temperature.

    See: In a blind test, economists reject the notion of a global warming pause

    Sea floor biotic diversity was shown to be threatened by warming, coral bleaching is more likely and in fact happening at a higher rate, and probably mostly due to El Niño, there has been some odd ocean animal migrations.

    The planting zones, the gardening and agricultural zones we use to decide which crops to plant and when, have over the last several years shifted in most places in North America by one or two zones. This year, the people who make the zone maps came out with a new one.

    Sea levels continue to rise, and the rate of rise is rising. Rare nuisance flooding in coastal areas, most famously but not only Miami, have become regular events. Sales in waterproof shoes are expected to increase.

    Communication and Politics

    Across meteorology we see the graph and chart makers scrambling to find new colors for their maps showing heat. Y-axes are being stretched everywhere. We seem to be stuck with a five level category system for tropical cyclones/hurricanes, but we are seeing so many storms that are way stronger, bigger, more destructive than earlier Category 5 storms that talk of adding a category is no longer being responded to with angry mobs of pitchfork wielding weather forecasters who came of age with the older system.

    See: How to not look like an idiot

    There has been a great deal of significant climate change related activism, and COP happened, with a strong message to address the human causes of climate change sooner than later. Climate change has actually become an issue in US elections. For the first time a major world leader, President Obama, has faced off with the deniers and told them to STFU. Major news outlets such as the Washington Post and the Guardian have started to take climate change seriously. The idea that reporters must give equal weight to the “two sides of the story” (science is real, vs. science is not real) is disappearing.

    Denial of climate change and climate change science reached its high water mark over the last 12 months. It will now fade away.

    And that is a short and incomplete summary of weather and climate in 2015.


    A note for my regular readers: Yes, I chose the burning Earth graphic to annoy the denialist. Check the comments below to see if that annoyed anyone.