First the bad news. Taiwan is going to get slammed with Typhoon Soudelor over the next day (landfall at about 8:00 AM local time). Soudelor was one of the strongest typhoons earlier during its development but weakened to a Category 1. However, very warm seas, lack of wind shear, and other factors may make Doudelor return to category 3 or even 4 strength before making landfall. Also, it is large.
The storm is likely to hit Taiwan in about the middle, which along the east coast is not heavily populated. But it will bring heavy rains, likely causing landslides and floods, to the mountainous middle of the island. On the other hand, the storm is moving quickly, so if it moves onto land and then moves through quickly, the total rain accumulation may be attenuated. After crossing Taiwan, the storm will hit mainland China.
Bob Henson at Weather Underground has a summary, but it is from yesterday.
Now the good news. NOAA has revised the estimate for the overall strength of the so far anemic Atlantic hurricane season, downgrading it a bit.
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s updated 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook calls for a 90 percent chance of a below-normal hurricane season. A below-normal season is now even more likely than predicted in May, when the likelihood of a below-normal season was 70 percent.
This is largely due to increased vertical wind shear as a result of the strong El Niño we are experiencing. The agency is predicting between 6 and 10 named storms, with only 1-4 of them being hurricanes, with between zero and one being major hurricanes. So far the Atlantic has had three named storms, one of which managed to be hurricanes. A typical (average) season would have about 3 or 4 named storms (so this seems on track to be average) but by n ow on average one of the would be likely to be a hurricane. The El Niño related factors likely to attenuate a storm season are increasing and likely to maintain or increase over coming months.
Humans have been releasing greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere for a long time now, and this has heated up the surface of the planet. This, in turn, has caused a number of alarming changes in weather. Several current weather events exemplify the effects of climate change.
Record High Temperatures Being Shattered
South Asia recently experienced a number of killer heatwaves, and that is still going on in the region. More recently, we’ve seen long standing record highs being broken in the American West. The Capital Climate group recently tweeted this list of records:
Hot Whopper puts this in some context and adds some other sources, here.
The extreme heat has even surged north into Canada. Cranbrook, in far southeast British Columbia at an elevation of about 3,000 feet, set a new all-time record high of 98 degrees (36.8 degrees Celsius) Sunday, according to The Weather Network.
Even Revelstoke, British Columbia – 130 miles north of the U.S. border, about 1,500 feet above sea level and better known for skiing – reached an amazing 103 degrees (39.5 degrees Celsius) Sunday.
As temperatures reached 36.7 °C at Heathrow, commuters were facing difficult journeys on the London Underground. One platform at Kings Cross underground station recorded 33 °C however the temperature on tubes is believed to be even hotter.
Charlotte Dalen, originally from Norway but now living in London, said: “It was pretty warm and very smelly. People were waving pamphlets to keep cool but it didn’t look like it was helping.”
The map at the top of the post of current heat anomaly estimates across the globe is from Climate Reanalyser.
An Unprecedented Tropical Cyclone
Raquel is a Pacific Tropical Cyclone (hurricane) which is the earliest to form in the region (The “Queensland Zone” as tracked by the Australian meteorologists) in recorded history. From the Bulletin:
TROPICAL Cyclone Raquel has formed in the south-west Pacific near the Solomon Islands, triggering the earliest cyclone warning on record issued for the Queensland zone.
“Certainly it’s a unique scenario,” Jess Carey, a spokesman from the bureau’s Queensland office, said. “Since we’ve been tracking cyclones with satellite-based technology, we haven’t seen one in July.”
The storm became a category 1 cyclone early on Wednesday morning and had a central pressure of 999 hPa about 410 km north of the Solomon Islands’ capital of Honiara as of just before 5am, AEST, the Bureau of Meteorology said. It is forecast to strengthen to a category 2 system on Thursday.
“The cyclone is moving southwest at about 16 km per hour and should gradually intensify over the next 24 hours as it approaches the Solomon Islands,” the bureau said in a statement. “The system will remain very far offshore and does not pose a threat to the Queensland coast.”
The official cyclone season runs from November 1-April 30. Any cyclone after May or before October is considered unusual.
Wildfires Gone Wild
Over the last several days and continuing, there have been extensive and unprecedented fires in the west as well. Drought in California has increased fire danger, and now things are starting to burn. This year the fires started earlier, with one of the largest fires having burned during a normally low-fire month, February. Also, fires are burning where they are normally rare. According to Will Greenberg at the Washington Post..
Cal Fire has already responded to 1,000 more incidents this year than they see on average annually. The agency reached that same landmark last year as well — but in September.
By the end of June, officials had fought nearly 3,200 fires.
In total, Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service have responded to fires stretching over 65,755 acres so far this year.
And this is just the beginning for California’s 2015 wildfire season.
Meanwhile, in Washington, where it has been dry and hot, hundreds have been forced to flee from some amazing wildfires. From the Guardian:
The wildfires hit parts of central and eastern Washington state over the weekend as the state is struggling with a severe drought. Mountain snowpack is at extremely low levels, and about one-fifth of the state’s rivers and streams are at record low levels.
Eastern Washington has been experiencing temperatures into the 100s, and last week Washington governor Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation that allows state resources to quickly be brought in to respond to wildfires.
The number of Alaska’s active wildfires is literally off the charts, according to a map recently released by the state’s Division of Forestry.
Over 700 fires have burned so far this summer, the most in the state’s history, and that number is only expected to get bigger as the state is experiencing higher temperatures, lower humidity and more lightning storms than usual, said Kale Casey, a public information officer for the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, which serves as a focal point for state agencies involved in wildland fire management and suppression.