Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Earth Was Surprisingly Warm In February, Various Measurements Show

Parts of eastern Europe, northwestern Siberia and
Alaska were especially warm in February, 2017
The Earth's climate change fever continued in February, as the month turned out to be the second hottest February on record for the globe.

It was also the fourth warmest month of any on record, if you look at it in terms of how far above normal the temperatures were.  

January, 2017 was extraordinarily warm, too.

The year is young, but so far it's not going to plan.

This year - 2017 was - and in most quarters is - expected to break a trend of recent super hot years by being slightly cooler than the previous year or years.

The year 2014 was the world's hottest on record. That is until 2015, with beat that record. Whoops! No, 2016 beat the the previous year for warmest on record. That's three years in a row that broke the world's heat record.

Virtually all climate scientists expcct 2017 to be abnormally warm, due to climate change. However, a big El Nino from previous years has ended. El Ninos tend to heat the atmosphere of the Earth, making hot times hotter.

This year began with a weak El Nina, which tends to cool the atmosphere a tiny bit. So 207 was widely expected to cool off a tiny little bit.  Yet, we're still remaining hot.

And now, some experts think a new heat-boosting El Nino might be brewing later this year.

Long-range forecasters caution that the possibility of an El Nino is still very uncertain for later this year. It's particularly hard to predict these things this time of year.

However, if an El Nino does develop, it would give a boost to global temperatures, which would give 2017 a shot at being another record hot year.

Very iffy at this point, but within the realm of possibility.

As I noted the other day, this climate change news comes amid a United States government that is totally hostile to the science.

The United States can't go it alone in battling climate change, obviously, but we need to be part of the effort.

The Earth's climate keeps showing signs of really being off the rails. Time for the United States to once again be the leader in protecting the world's security.

In this case, nuclear missiles aren't the problem. It's the stuff coming out of our car tailpipes.

Bill Mahar said it best in his monologue Friday. The Trump administration is like a person whose car is breaking down and "solves" the problem by putting black tape over the Check Engine light.

Hope You Like Winter, New Englander! It's Hanging On

Back to winter weather driving this morning, as seen here
in St. Albans, Vermont.
Once again, I awoke to some fresh snow outside my house in St. Albans, Vermont this morning, as winter continues to drag on this year into spring.
True, the new snow only amounted to about an inch, not the two and a half feet we got a week ago.

But it's still dispiriting this time of year, when I, and many others, are anxious to get out there and do spring outdoor work.  

That ain't happening any time soon.

Though much of last week's deep snow has settled and partly melted, there's still a lot left. The Arctic cold front that swept through before dawn isn't exactly going to help that melting process along.

Today's high temperatures - in the low 30s - happened just after midnight and it's all downhill from there.

Afternoon temperatures will be in the teens and a strong north wind will bring subzero wind chills. That's way, way colder than normal for late March.

Tonight will be frigid, too, with pretty much everybody going under 10 degrees and some colder spots below zero once again. Brrr!!

I suppose Thursday will feel better with lighter winds, sunshine and temperatures in the upper 20s, but that's still pretty darn cold for late March here in Vermont.

Then on Friday, a warm front will try to make a run at us.
This is one of a few cars that slid off Interstate 89 in
Georgia, Vermont this morning after another Arctic
front blasted through New England.
Good news, right? Warm front? Mild air?

Um, no. Not this time.

The warm front's progress will be blocked by another cold high pressure area over Quebec. So Friday at this point looks like we'll get some snow and sleet, likely changing to a cold rain the valleys.

That will be good for another one to three inches of sloppy snow and ice and slush in much of the North Country.

That high pressure in Quebec will push that weather front back south Saturday but it might make another run at us Monday.

The forecast beyond the weekend is very, very uncertain. Take anything you hear at this point with a grain of salt. However, it does not look like there will be any kind of great, big warmup heading into next week. And more mixed precipitation is possible next week, too.

At least the skiers and riders are getting some late season joy out of this, so not everybody's bumming about our winter in spring, right?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Southeast Freeze Might Be $1 Billion Disaster. Hope You Won't Miss The Peaches

Destroyed, frost bitten peach blooms in South Carolina means
no peach crop this year. Photo by Cindy Kubovic/Aiken Standard
Farmers in the Southeast are reeling from last week's freeze that might have caused up to $1 billion in damage to crops.

We knew ahead of time there would be serious damage and that came to fruition, as there's not a heck of a lot you can do to stop the damage from a widespread freeze.

In South Carolina, 90 percent of the peach crop was wiped out, according to television station WISTV in Columbia, South Carolina.

State officials said they hoped to get federal aid to farmers, as some could face bankruptcy over this without help.

South Carolina is normally the second biggest peach producing state after California. The South Carolina crop is usually worth $90 million, says the Aiken (South Carolina) Standard. 

Wheat, strawberries, blueberries and corn in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and other states were also severely damaged, the Associated Press reportsd.

The freeze was at least as bad as an epic 2007 freeze that caused about $1 billion in crop losses, the AP says. 

This freeze was so damaging because a record warm February caused plants to grow and bloom prematurely across the Southeast.

Then, that nor'easter that dumped three feet of snow on us here in Vermont last week pumped lots of Arctic air into the Southeast, causing record low temperatures.

It got down to 25 degrees all the way down to Gainesville, Florida, which is the coldest on record there for so late in the season. 
Dead, frost-bitten cherry blossoms in Washington DC
this week. Photo by Kevin Ambrose via Washington Post

In Washington DC, the annual cherry blossom bloom is badly damaged.

Blossoms that had opened have turned brown because of the subfreezing temperatures, though many blossoms that had not yet opened probably survived and will bloom normally.

Perhaps half of Washington DC's cherry blossoms might not bloom, so the season is going to be subdued

Another blast of Arctic air is coming down from Canada this week, which could cause a little more damage to cherry blossoms in Washington.

Still, people in Washington are hoping any remaining buds might bloom and hide most of the dead, brown blossoms. Still, the whole thing is depressing. I haven't seen this cherry blossom frost destruction happen in Washington in my lifetime and few other people have, either.

However, unlike the freeze last week, the cold air will not punch down into the southeastern United States, so this won't cause any additional frost damage there.

In the Northeast, the cold will be deep and mid-wintry Wednesday and Thursday, but plants haven't come far enough along to have them get nipped by the freeze.

I'm pretty sure that everybody east of the Mississippi River is SO ready for spring, despite the super mild winter that just ended.

Random Images And Videos Of Really Cool Weather Phenomenon

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds over Churchchrist, New Zealand.
I often run across images and videos on social media about weather that doesn't exactly fit what I want to tell you about, but are cool nonetheless.

So why not share them anyway?

The first image is of a rather rare cloud formation and one of my favorites: Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds. The photo was taken at an unspecified date over Christchurch, New Zealand.

The clouds, as you can see, look like breaking ocean waves. They are named for Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, who studies the physics of the atmospheric instability that creates the clouds.

The clouds form when two different layers of the atmosphere move at different speeds. The upper layer of air is moving faster than the lower levels of the air when these clouds form. The higher winds in the upper layr will sometimes scoop the top of the cloud layer and form these wave-like clouds.

A gorgeous thunderstorm over Grenada, Spain
Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds are not dangerous, and don't produce severe weather. But they are a sign that the air is very unstable, and aircraft flying through areas with these clouds can get in trouble.

I've never personally witnessed Kelving-Helmholtz clouds, and being a weather geek, seeing the clouds is definitely on my bucket list.

The next photo in this post is not a terribly unusual weather phenomenon, but it's a gorgeous photo of a thunderstorm over Granada, a Spanish city in the foothills of that country's Sierra Nevada mountains.  

The Alhambra Palace, a luxury hotel, is in the foreground. Between that building and those dramatic clouds, it makes for just a gorgeous photo.

A dramatic looking but non-lethal avalanche in Juneau, Alaska recently
It was taken by Jose Luis Hens Terron.

The next photo was taken on March 3 in Juneau, Alaska.

Amid cold, blue skies, an avalanche descended from the steep mountains surrounding the city. The avalanche caused no deaths or injuries, and damage was minimal.

Pretty cool image of such a snow slide.

Finally, we have some cool images of severe thunderstorms developing in Nebraska about a week and a half ago.

The satellite feed here is mesmerizing, if you are a weather geek like me.

I'll have more images in future posts, because they're piling up left and right, but here's that Nebraska storm outbreak video:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Arrives In New England In Uncertain Fashion. Typical

Snow settling in the March sun last Friday in the woods
near my St. Albans, Vermont house created interesting
light and shadow patterns. Snow will continue to slowly
melt - with a couple frigid interruptions - over the next
few weeks.
Astronomical spring arrived this morning at around 6:30 here in New England, while the temperature at my St. Albans, Vermont house was 8 degrees, and there was still more than a foot of snow on the ground.

The old adage is true: The first day of spring and the first spring day are usually not the same thing here in New England.

On the bright side, just like yesterday, temperatures are getting up to 40 degrees or so this afternoon here in northern Vermont.

 The slow melting process will continue, and the maple sugarers will continue - -today and tomorrow at least - to enjoy a freeze/thaw cycle that they like to keep the sap running.

All this snow will be slowly disappearing over the next couple of weeks, in fits and starts, of course.

Spring is always tentative and uncertain in northern New England, and this year is no exception. The weather pattern that brought us some Arctic cold blasts and snow is changing again, which holds out the prospect that we will get a few spring like days in the coming couple of weeks.

But not always.

Before the weather pattern finishes its transition to a somewhat more spring-like one, another HUGE Arctic blast is heading toward the North Country.

A sharp Arctic front will come through Tuesday night, and the bottom will drop out of the temperatures.

Just as we have twice already this month, daytime highs Wednesday will be near record low levels. Highs just in the teens, when it should be at least in the low 40s this time of year.  Record lows are possible Wednesday night as temperatures bottom out near or below zero.

Cold waves like this don't last long this time of year, and it'll start to warm up Thursday afternoon. It'll still be frigid for this time of year in Vermont, with highs in the 20s, but it will be better.

The warmup will continue so that near seasonable temperatures (low 40s-ish) come in Friday and Saturday.

Beyond that, the weather will see-saw, with colder weather possible around Sunday then maybe warmer weather again a couple days after that. (Long-range forecasts like this are always iffy, especially in the spring.)

The overall weather pattern change starting this week and continuing into April will mean a greater risk of occasional tornadoes and severe weather in the Plains, Midwest and South starting Thursday and Friday.

The pattern change would also seem to increase the chances of storminess at times in Vermont and the rest of the Northeast. As we're heading into April, the chances of the storms being rain and not snow are definitely increasing.

However, even in April, you never know. Stay tuned.

Spring is stuttering, but it's getting here!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Best TV Weather Segment Ever Includes Forecasts Of Farts And Toots

A little kid named Houston crashed a Mississippi television
meteorologist''s segment to forecast "farts and toots."
Residents in and near Jackson, Mississippi were probably startled, and maybe delighted, that their televisied weather forecast included the chance of farts.

Probably delighted because the scary news was delivered by a little boy who crashed an adult meteorologist's on-air weather forecast.

The WBLT-TV forecast presented by meteorologist Patrick Ellis on a recent Saturday began benignly enough.

Ellis said the area was under a threat of light showers, but that dry air over Mississippi would squelch most of the showers.

So, nothing extreme to worry about among Mississippi weather watchers.

That's when a young kid named Houston decided to spice up the ho-hum weather forecast a little bit, says Adweek's TVSpy website. 

Houston burst onto the set during Ellis' segment to warn viewers that "farts and toots" were also in the forecast. It looks like Houston demonstrated the threat of this "dangerous" weather by letting one loose himself.

You can see the delightful video at the bottom of this post.

It turns out that WLBT that local lawyers are sometimes invited onto the news set during the station's 6 p.m. Saturday broadcast. Often, these lawyers bring their kids to see how a local television news cast is run.

Usually, this doesn't cause much excitement. This time it did. "This Saturday was a little different....This Saturday our friend Houston decided he wanted to be on television."

When you watch the clip, it's great to see that Ellis just rolls with the situation until Houston's father abruptly pulls Houston off the air, pre-empting what could have been a really glorious weather forecast.

Here's the clip:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The New EPA Chief Has No Idea How Science Works

EPA chief Scott Pruitt willfully denies the science on
climate change because he's beholden to the fossil
 fuel industry, in my opinion and that of many others.
We shouldn't be at all surprised by this of course, but there was Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on CNBC's "Squawk Box" last week saying carbon dioxide is not responsible for climate change.


Pruitt managed to bring most of the same tired climate denying tropes out in one paragraph:

"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to global warming that we see."

Actually, it's extremely easy to measure how much carbon dioxide is in the earth's atmosphere. It's about 405 parts per million, and rising. No matter what Scott Pruitt says.

And pretty much every scientists can tell you that an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase the heating capacity of the atmosphere.

Of course, Pruitt didn't win himself a lot of fans with his comments.

"Anyone who denies over a century's worth of established science and basic facts is unqualified to be the administrator of the EPA. Now more than ever, the Senate needs to stand up to Scott Pruitt and his dangerous views,"  said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, according to CNBC.

Good luck with that, though.

Republicans control the government, and they'll stick to the party line of denying climate change.

Since most people are not scientists, we get the following situation, as outlined in The Atlantic: 

"And yet, few minds are likely to change as a result of this debate. Many Americans will hear Pruitt's comments at the same time they hear the scientific community's response. They will assume that both groups mean well - the their new public servant isn't lying to them - and they will grasp for a false truth somewhere between the two statements. 

These Americas will come to assume there is some debate about climate change, some moderate position between those who say the world is warming and those who say otherwise. 

"These Americans will be intelligent, good-faith, savvy consumers of media - yet they will hve been successfully misled. The moderate position between the truth and a falsehold is still a falsehood."

Vox points out persuasively that the point here isn't "scienceplaining" anyway. The facts of climate change are besides the point with Pruitt's takeover at the EPA.

Vox offers this analogy:

"Imagine you're playing a basketball game. A member of the other team travels. The referee calls the travel, but the opposing player just shrugs and says, 'I don't care.'

He refused to surrender the ball and just keeps going. Then his team starts putting extra players on the court, fouling at will, and pelting your team with refuse. The referee continues to call violations, but the other team simply disregards him. They start appealing to their own referees, friends of theirs in the stands. 'Bob says there was no foul.'"

The basketball game Vox is talking about is climate science and the current political environment.

We all know the reality, the rules, as it were. But the people in authority are ignoring the referee - which is the well established climate science.

As Vox writer David Roberts says:

"Like the basketball team ignoring the referee, they have simplky chosen not to accept the results of climate science. Restating, underscoring, or even strengthening those scientific results won't solve that problem."

"Explaining the basic facts of climate science (again) is utterly futile if the intended audience rejects the authority of climate scientists and scientific institutions. We're eventually going to have to grapple with this crisis of authority."

In other words, it's long become totally besides the point to argue climate science. The argument must be purely political.

It's a matter of mobilizing anyone and everyone who believes the science of climate change is sound (it is!) so that the Powers That Be who are apologists for the fossil fuel industry will be booted out of office. Like Pruitt. Like Tillotson. Like Trump.

It starts at the local level and goes all the way up to the President.

Because things aren't going to get any better with the Trumpsters in charge. Just on Thursday, Trump's Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney said battling climate change is "a waste of your money."

Yeah, right.

I know there will be no major changes in the political makeup in this nation for two years or more. Scientists and activists have an increasing sense of urgency over climate change. Every minute that something is not done is wasted, in that line of thinking.

They're right. The work starts now. It won't be that noticeable at first. It never is.

But we'll get there. We have to.

If someone chooses to simply reject those scientific institutions, procedures, and results, then piling on more facts is beside the point. It’s not about facts any more, it’s about the authority of the institutions.he right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.
I have a longer post on that subject in the works (get excited). But for now, it’s enough to simply note that Pruitt’s comments point to something deeper and more corrosive than mere misinformation or misunderstanding. . Until then, more facts and periodic outbursts of outrage are futile.

"The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere," NASA and NOAA said in January.
Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma attorney general, where he rose to prominence as a leader in coordinated efforts by Republican attorneys general to challenge President Barack Obama's regulatory agenda. He sued or took part in legal actions against the EPA 14 times.
Democrats and environmentalists opposed Pruitt's nomination to lead the EPA due to his close relationship with fossil fuel companies and his history of casting doubt on climate change. Conservatives and the energy industry have cheered his efforts to push back on what they view as over-regulation under Obama.Pruitt maintained on Thursday it's possible to be pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-environment all at once.
"This idea that if you're pro-environment you're anti-energy is just something we've got to change so that attitude is something we're working on very much," he said.
Asked whether he would seek to roll back the EPA's 2009 determination that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a danger to public health, Pruitt suggested he would like to see Congress take up the issue.
"I think all those things need to be addressed as we go forward but not least of which is the response by the legislative branch with respect to the issue," he said.Pruitt also called the Paris Agreement, an international accord aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change, "a bad deal." He said it puts the United States on a different playing field than developing countries like China and India.