Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Severe Weather Season DEFINITELY Here Now

Large, damaging hail is possible in parts
of the Plains in South much of this week, but
I don't think the hailstones will get as big
as the ones this guy is holding in
Dante, South Dakota on August 21, 2007
Photo by Megan Cimpl.  
It was a long time coming, but severe weather season is here in earnest for the United States.

We had that opening salvo back on March 25, which, tragically, led to at least one tornado-related death, a number of injuries and a lot of wrecked houses and businesses.

For the next four days in a row, NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has a slight risk for severe storms covering pretty big areas in the Plains and South.

This won't be a huge, huge severe storm outbreak, and it's looking like there won't be all that many tornadoes, which is a good thing. The primary threat seems to be hail and high winds.

Hail seems to be the big deal today, especially in southern Oklahoma and much of Arkansas. Strong thunderstorm winds could extend this evening into parts of Mississippi and Alabama.

Tomorrow, the severe threat shifts into eastern Nebraska, northern and central Kansas, western Iowa and northwestern Missouri.

There might be a tornado or two as supercells first develop tomorrow, but again, Wednesday's severe weather seems like it will mostly take the form of big hailstones and strong, damaging thunderstorm winds.

On the bright side, rains from these thunderstorms look like they might clip some areas of the Plains that have gotten pretty dry so far this spring.

However, the rains look like they'll miss much of the central and western Plains from Oklahoma to North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. All of this area has been hit by record high temperatures, very low humidity, little precipitation and wildfires. They could use a good soaking, but I don't see it in the cards.

By Thursday, the severe threat shifts back into Oklahoma and Arkansas. Again, while there might be a tornado or two then, the largest threat from Thursday's storms will be high winds and big hailstones.

The northern Gulf Coast states could see some scattered severe storms Friday.

As the storm responsible for the rough weather heads into the Northeast Thursday and Friday. it will briefly warm up winter-socked New England and drop some rain. With a lot of snow on the ground in much of New England, this could trigger scattered areas of flooding.

Cold air returns to the Northeast Friday night and Saturday, and a secondary storm could drop several inches of wet snow on places like interior New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

That's still highly uncertain, but stay tuned on that one.

Back in the Plains, after a lull, there's the possibility of more severe storms during the middle of next week, too.

Monday, March 30, 2015

TV Meteorologist In MInnesota Has Serious Hangups

Minneapolis television station Fox 9 meteorologist Steve Frazier was about to launch into his morning forecast when he started figeting.

His suit didn't feel right. 

Then he discovered the problem. He'd left the hanger on his jacket.  The anchors on the news desk were not impressed.

Watch the hilarity here:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Are Tenants Being Evicted For Complaining About A Locked Storm Shelter During Moore, OK Tornado?

Damage from Wednesday's tornado in Moore, Oklahoma
Residents of one senior housing complex
said they were locked out of a tornado shelter during the storm.  
A tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma Wednesday continues to produce weird news.

First of all, as I previously noted, Moore has been repeatedly hit by tornadoes, including three monster, fatal ones in the past 16 years. There have been 12 tornadoes within Moore city limits since 1950.

The one that hit Moore Wednesday was weaker than those monsters, but it developed so quickly that there was no tornado warning in effect, even though local television stations were showing it sweep through town from their news helicopters.

Then, Accuweather set off a debate by saying how much better it is for warning about the tornado when the National Weather Service did, though people in Moore had no access to the Accuweather warnings unless they had previous paid for their services.

Now, television station KOCO in Oklahoma City brings us a disturbing story about a storm shelter that was locked when residents of a Moore senior living community tried to gain access to it as the tornado approached.

Says KOCO:

"When Tommie Grunhof and other seniors living on her side of the property rushed to one of the shelters, the door would not budge.

'It scared me half to death,' Grunhof said. 'I looked around at all the other people that were coming, the look on their faces, frightened and scared, and there were kids, too.'"

Luckily, the tornado bypassed the senior community, known as Langley Village.

However, there's no doubt the people trying to get into the shelter would have been in big danger had the tornado hit them. 

The storm ripped roofs from homes and businesses, overturned cars and hurled down power lines. At least 20 people were injured in Moore by the tornado.

Langely Village Manager Linda Minnick said a contractor had been told two months ago to make keys for all the residents that would get them into the storm shelter, but they keys were not ready in time for Wednesday's tornado.

That contractor should have made sure the keys were in the hands of residents immediately, and the managers at Langely Village should have REALLY pressured the contractor for those keys. (They were finally distributed on Thursday.)

Minnick also suggested that maybe the reason Grunhof and others couldn't get into the shelter was that somebody already made it in there, locked the door in a panic, thus not letting anybody in.

Grunhof rejects that argument. "Nobody is that cruel that they're going to go in and leave the rest of us out."

But here's the worst part, says KOCO:

"Grunhof and another resident who complained about the locked shelter, however, said they received termination letters.

'Grounds of terminating tenancy: Menacing or verbally or physically abusing the manager or other employees.'"

That's right. She and another person are being evicted. For complaining about no access to a tornado shelter.

The two under threat of termination probably were upset. Maybe yelled at Minnick or somebody else. But it was an upsetting situation. Evicting them seems a little extreme.

Maybe it's retaliation for telling their story to KOCO, I don't know.

I hope this is just a big misunderstanding. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chile: Driest Spot On Earth Suddenly Gets Very Wet

Severe flooding this week in Capiapo, Chile.
Photo from Aton Chile.
If you live in especially the damp eastern half of the United States or the Pacific Northwest, and you get an inch of rain in a day, that's really not a big deal.

An inch of rain in 24 hours definitely makes for pretty rainy, sopping wet day, but it's not exactly scary.

But if you live in Antofagasta, Chile, in the Atacama Desert, an inch of rain is basically the Biblical 40 Days and 40 Nights.

That desert town indeed got nearly an inch of rain in 24 hours at midweek.

Because the landscape there is not used to such rains, there was some devastating flooding.

The normal dryness in this Chilean desert is remarkable. The town of Antofagasta on average gets about 0.07 inches of rain per year, so that storm of nearly an inch is basically almost 14 years' worth of rain in a day, notes Dr. Jeff Masters on his Weather Underground blog. 

For perspective, many cities on the United States East Coast get, on average, between 35 and 40 inches of rain per year, or about 500 times the amount Antofagasta, Chile typically gets.

This Chilean desert region is normally so dry for two major reason. The Pacific Ocean off Chile is normally, well, chilly.  The cool ocean stabilizes the air, preventing the kinds of updrafts that can cause rain and thunderstorms. So it's dry.

California is dry like that in the summer for much the same reason.

Also, the very tall Andes Mountains form a huge barrier between the Chilean coast and the Atacama desert. What little moisture can arise from the coastal regions can't make it over the mountains.

So, the Atacama Desert is a barren moonscape, dry and devoid of almost all vegetation.

That this desert got all this rain suddenly is a sure sign that an El Nino is underway. El Nino is that weather pattern that warms the eastern Pacific Ocean and can disrupt weather patterns in much of the world.

The eastern Pacific ocean touches Chile, so that patch of water is now much warmer than usual. Warmer water is more conducive to the updrafts that can cause those thunderstorms and rains.

On top of that, an area of low pressure moved north to near the Chilean coast. Such low pressure systems, originating from near Antartica, don't usually get that far north, but this one did.

That weather system added even more lift to the atmosphere, further encouraging rains. There was so much rain and wetness that some of this excess moisture was able to move up and over the normally inpenetrable Andes, so it poured in that dry desert.

Severe flooding hit other parts of Chili as well, reportedly leaving seven people dead and 19 missing, Reuters reported. 

Neighboring Peru got hit by severe floods, too. It was also unusually warm in many of these regions. The highest mountains usually receive snow instead of rain, but even on the peaks, it rained. That contributed to the flooding.

Here's a dramatic video report from the BBC:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Was Latest Moore Tornado Forecast Well? If Not, Who, What Is Better, Who Should Pay For It?

The Moore, Oklahoma tornado develops on Wednesday
The tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma the other day hit before a tornado warning was issued. Is the National Weather Service to blame for not issuing a timely warning?

It's possible they could have done better, but more investigation I think is needed before you can draw that conclusion, in my opinion.

Accuweather's Enterprise Solutions is making hay of this by saying they were warning clients well ahead of the National Weather Service so you should buy their product.

Of course, you probably have to pay money for that, and the National Weather Service is free.  Is Accuweather's services actually better? And if Accuweather's warnings are better and more timely, should people pay to potentially save their lives? There's an ethical question for you.

It's true that the National Weather Service didn't issue a tornado warning for Moore until a few minutes after local television stations began broadcasting live images of the twister blowing out countless power lines and hurling dust and debris into the air.

Radar images showed the tornado developing rapidly in a particularly strong thunderstorm in a line extending from well southwest of Oklahoma City all the way past Tulsa, which had its own problem with tornadoes and severe storms.

Judging from Accuweather's description, and perhaps their assessment of a 2012 Oklahoma tornado, it appears their forecasts were better and gave people warning earlier than the National Weather Service.

But were those exceptions to the rule? Whose forecasts are consistently better? The National Weather Service? Accuweather? The Weather Channel? Some amateur weather geek typing away on a battered laptop in his mom's basement in Idaho?

I have no idea. It would be interesting to see if there are any independent studies of who does severe weather forecasting the best.

This isn't just an academic exercise. If we can find which outfit is doing the best forecasting, maybe we can cherry pick the best methods from each weather outlet's best successes and really amp up tornado forecasting. That would save lots of lives in the long run.

Once we do that, we then need to decide whether it's morally acceptable for the public to have to pay for superior life-saving warnings, or should it be freely distributed to everyone?

That said, tornado and severe weather forecasting is much better than it used to be.

Shortly after Moore was hit by the devastating, deadly EF5 tornado in 2013, CBS news noted that meteorologists were able to give the public a general sense that a bad tornado was likely in the Oklahoma City area several hours before the tornado hit.

Still, nobody was able to pinpoint the EF5 Moore tornado's expected path until minutes before it carved its deadly path.

There were timely warnings once the storm was on the ground CBS News said that the average lead time for a tornado warning was about five minutes in the 1980s to about 13 minutes today. That's eight extra minutes to get into a basement or other relatively safe place before the tornado hits.

But can warnings someday be issued one, two or even three hours before the tornado strikes. CBS noted that some meteorologists think so.

Of course, the length of time people have to get out of the way of a tornado don't matter much if the public, usually because the message hasn't gotten through, that there are do's and don't on how to react to a tornado warning.

People in cars still stop beneath overpasses, ever since a famous video of a 1990 Kansas tornado showed motorists doing just that. But stopping at an overpass is the worst thing you can do during
a tornado because the span funnels and speeds up wind and air borne debris associated with a twister.

If the public in the future get a two or three hour warning before a tornado hits, will they try to drive away from danger? If so, will that cause huge traffic jams where people are still in harm's way in their cars when the tornado hits instead of pretty safe in their basements?

We had a taste of that last year in Oklahoma. When the massive El Reno tornado seemed headed toward Oklahoma City, television meteorologist Mike Morgan told people on air to drive south, away from the expected path of the tornado

That contributed to incredible gridlock on the highways, and had the tornado not lifted, hundreds of people stuck on the highways could have been killed.

So was the warning to drive away a bad idea? Many people say yes.

Which means not only to we have to find the best ways to predict tornadoes we also have to find the best way to warn people, and the best ways to react to those warnings

Anyway here's a couple more videos from Moore, this week and in 2013.

Here's a video of the wall cloud that produced Wednesday's tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, taken from a neighborhood destroyed and largely rebuilt from the 2013 storm. Very otherwordly and scary, especially for the tornado battered people who live there:

Of all the videos of the Moore tornado of 2013, I hadn't seen this dramatic one until yesterday:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

UPDATED: Tornado Magnet Moore, Oklahoma Hit Again On Wednesday

Tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma
on Wednesday via @RebeccaFox25 on Twitter.  
(Editor's Note: This is the Thursday morning update of a post released at 9 p.m EDT Wed)

A tornado caused quite a bit of damage in Moore, Oklahoma Wednesday evening.

If Moore, Oklahoma and tornadoes sound familiar to you, it should. Three massive  and unusually strong tornadoes, two of the the strongest possible, have hit the community in the past 16 years.

Wednesday's tornado wasn't as strong as a tornado can get, but early reports indicated there is a fair amount of damage in Moore, but unlike the other three tornadoes, it doesn't look like vast stretches of Moore have been obliterated.

There are reports of injuries, but so far no super bad injuries or deaths in Moore. We do know an elementary school roof was ripped off, many homes were damaged, vehicles were overturned on highways and thousands have no electricity, reports Reuters. 

Tornado debris in Sand Springs, Oklahoma Wednesday
evening. Photo by Joey Johnson/Tulsa World.  
Televison reports showed dramatic footage from a helicopter depicting a swirl of dust and debris with the tornado in Moore, with dozens of power flashes as the twister's winds broke electrical lines and transformers.  

You can see of of those videos at the bottom of this post.

Other towns in the Plains were hit Wednesday by severe storms and tornadoes, too. At least one damaging tornado touched down near Tulsa, Oklahoma for instance.

At least one death has been reported at a mobile home park in Sand Springs, OK, and there have been in at least 15 injuries with this tornado and severe weather outbreak.

People had to be rescued from a gymnastics studio in that town when the tornado collapsed the structure. Sixty people were in the studio when the tornado hit, but none of them were injured, says Reuters.

As of early Thursday morning, NOAA's Storm Prediction Center had received eight reports of tornadoes, 31 reports of wind damage and 122 reports of large hail.

The high number of large hail reports isn't a surprise. Forecasters had expected this severe weather outbreak to be mostly a damaging hail event. The number of damaging tornadoes is, to me, a bit of a surprise with this one, though.    
Scary storm clouds menace Tulsa, OK. Wednesday.  

Today, there is a marginal risk of a couple strong to severe storms right along the East Coast from North Carolina to central New Jersey. There won't be nearly the number of severe reports as there was yesterday.

There also might be a few severe storms in the southern half of Florida on Friday. No widespread severe weather outbreaks are forecast at least into the middle of next week.


I don't think there's any town in the world that has been hit as often and as hard by tornadoes as Moore, Oklahoma. The chances of this happening are incredibly small. 

A mammoth EF5 tornado, the strongest possible, destroyed a big chunk of heavily populated Moore in May, 2013, killing 24 people.

Another EF5 tornado hit Moore in May, 1999. It was the strongest known tornado ever measured, with winds as high as 318 mph.

Yet another severe tornado hit Moore hit Moore in May, 2003. This one was a borderline EF3/EF4,. Not as strong as the other two, but still among the nastiest you can get.

Four videos of the storms next:

Here's some of that dramatic video from a helicopter as shown on News9 in Oklahoma City as Wednesday's tornado toucned down in Moore.

Here's some storm chasers that got too closer to the tornado in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Extra demerits to them for parking under an overpass.  Some people think it's safer parking there in a tornado but it's actually especially unsafe, because the underpass accelerates wind and debris.

The video was shot by a tornado chasing group called Basehunters, and they're usually pretty good. There might be some extenuating circumstances or they accidentally got caught at the overpass.

Here's the vid:

Next, from Stormchasingvideo.com, we have more images of the Sand Spring, Oklahoma tornado, along with incredible views of wall clouds and severe weather in and around Tulsa. Turn down the volume for this because there's a lot of wind noise. Unavoidable, because, duh, it's windy near tornadoes:

Also from Stormchasingvideo.com, we have this video of tornado damage in Moore, and big hail.

Bus Sinks Washes Away; Streets Awash In Icy Water In South American Storms

A bus falls into a sinkhole in Brazil. Luckily everybody got
out in time before it went under  
While we here in the United States are watching for the possibility of severe storms in the central part of the country today, there's been wild weather elsewhere.

First, we have today's viral weather video of a tourist bus in Brazil passing a flooding area. The high water has undermined the road, and the bus sinks into it.

Luckily, the bus was merely stuck at first, so everybody on the vehicle was able to get off of it and get to safety.

Then the bus plunges. Pretty dramatic. Watch:

Bogota, Columbia had its own share of rough weather in the past few days. Here's a video of what happens when a tremendous amount of hail and rain fall in a short period of time.

Today's Threat of Severe Weather In Plains Greater Than Yesterday

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has
 a broad area under risk of severe storms today
with a particularly concentrated risk
over parts of Oklahoma.  
Yesterday was the unofficial start of severe weather season in the United States.

Belated, because as I've noted, the month of March had until now had virtually no severe storms, which is very unusual.

You can tell there was a pent up "demand," if you will, for severe storms, as it seems there were zillions of storm chasers driving willy nilly around Missouri looking for the most photogenic storms.

I hate to use the word "demand." That's why I put it in quotation marks. I'm sure the people who suffered property damage to roofs and cars from hail that was bigger than golf balls in some towns weren't exactly "demanding" a hail storm.

But, to put it crassly, there's also a market for severe storms and the storm chasers were taking advantage of it. I'd much prefer there be no destructive storms and no property damage ever, but it's going to happen.

So the storm chasers go out and capture the drama, for better or worse.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center said there were no reports of tornadoes or significant wind damage from the storms in Missouri yesterday. Some storms got to rotating, and there was a tornado warning or two, but there have been no reports of any twisters touching down.

However, on Tuesday there were no fewer than 70 reports of big hail, mostly in Missouri in Arkansas.

The storm chasers will be out in force today, because the risk of severe weather is greater and more widespread than it was on Tuesday.

The main threat once again will be hail and strong winds, with a much lesser chance of tornadoes. That said, there is a somewhat greater chance of tornadoes than yesterday.

This is especially tree in northeastern Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas and extreme southwestern Missouri, where supercell thunderstorms, separate from a main batch or line of severe storms, could produce a couple of tornadoes.

In that region, there's a 5 percent chance of a tornado within 25 miles of any given point in the area I outlined. For that neck of the woods, the 5 percent chance isn't all that high, so we're definitely not talking about a major, widespread tornado outbreak here.

Then again, it only takes one nasty tornado to trash a town, so let's hope that if any tornadoes do form, they stay out in open country away from where anybody lives.

The risk of severe weather is upgraded by the NOAA's Storm Prediction Center to Moderate in parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. That's the second highest level of risk the storm center puts out when it assess the chances of severe weather on a daily basis.

Hail is a particular concern. I noticed the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore is advising people to try and avoid Interstate 44 in northeastern Oklahoma after 2 p.m. today because that area seems to be under the greatest threat from hail.

Overall, there's a chance today and tonight of damaging thunderstorms from northern Texas, most of Oklahoma, the northwestern half of Arkansas, southern Missouri, extreme southern Illinois and Indiana and extreme northwestern Kentucky.

Things should settle down tomorrow as the storm system causing this heads to the Northeast.

I'm still watching for the possibility of some local flooding in parts of New England Thursday afternoon and night as rain from the storm moves in and starts to break up river ice, leading to the possibility of ice jams.

There could be a fairly strong thunderstorm or two in the southeastern United States Thursday and in Florida Friday, but nobody is expecting anything widespread.

The chances of severe weather anywhere in the United States look pretty low into the middle of next week as well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Severe Storms, Other Threats Widespread But At Least It's More Springlike

A good chunk of the Midwest should be on the
lookout for severe thunderstorms with
big hail today and tomorrow.  
The first severe thunderstorm watch of the year was issued for parts of the Midwest this afternoon, the latest in the year on record such a watch was issued.

There were a couple tornado watches earlier in the year, but not severe storm watches.

It's a sign of the season that there is some severe weather due. And it's well north of the Gulf Coast, too, on up into eastern Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri.

That the severe weather threat is drifting to the north a bit is a sure sign of spring, so I guess that's the silver lining with this thing.

The other silver lining is that although a couple brief tornadoes might spin up in the area under threat from severe storms, it doesn't look as if there's going to be any of those big honking EF3, EF4 or EF5 monsters that can blow away whole towns.

That's not to mean people in the watch area should kick off their shoes, put their feet on the ottoman and relax for the evening. I'd pay close attention to the forecasts and warnings it I lived out there.

There could be gusts as high as 70 mph and hail bigger than golf balls in some of the storms within the watch area.

The severe thunderstorm watch is in effect until 10 p.m. local time tonight, and there's nothing stopping the National Weather Service from issuing more watches either in the same spot or more likely elsewhere later tonight.

There are a few things going on that make this whole thing feel like spring. For one thing, areas near and to the southeast of the storm watch could get some flooding from heavy rain and thundestorms.

West of the storm system causing this, it's very dry and windy in through eastern Colorado, western Kansas -- that general neck of the woods. There's a red flag warning for a high fire danger in those regions.

Again, that kind of situation happens a lot when there's severe weather a few hundred miles to the east.

North of the severe weather zone, there's some wintry weather to talk about. This, too, sometimes happens during springtime severe weather, especially early in the season.

There's a winter weather advisory in a stripe from northern Iowa through central Wisconsin and into northern Michigan later tonight and tomorrow for a few inches of wet snow.

The severe weather will likely continue Wednesday, especially in and near Oklahoma. This storm really isn't the type to create a lot of tornadoes, so at worst, there will only be a handful of relatively weak ones.

However, damaging winds and giant hail are probably even more of a widespread threat on Wednesday than they are this evening.

The storminess and wet weather is going to head northeast over the next couple of days.

It'll get to New England eventually. The good news for that region is for once this isn't going to be a snowstorm. Yay!

No severe thunderstorms up that way, either.
An ice jam caused this flood in Montpelier,
Vermont in 1992. If ice jams form in
New England this week, we'd better hope they
form in unpopulated areas.  

The bad news is there's already a lot of snow and ice around, and it's going to rain on top of all that.

Areas of northern and central New York and much of New England could get some flooding out of this.

There's not going to be a widespread flood. There won't be enough rain for that. But snow and ice-clogged drains could prevent water from flowing away.

The bigger threat is ice jams. There's still an awful lot of ice on rivers in New York State and most of New England. Not much of it has melted, and the ice probably actually strengthened in the past couple days.

After all, it was below zero in some towns in northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine just this morning.

Enough thawing and rain will come down to maybe get some of the ice breaking up and moving on some rivers. If the ice gets stuck behind an obstruction, it can very quickly dam the river and flood areas behind the area where the ice is all jammed up

If these ice jams happen in the middle of nowhere, so what? A few fields might get flooded and littered with ice chunks.

But if the ice jams happen near a town along a river, there could be a very damaging flood. People who live and work in Montpelier, Vermont are still spooked by a March, 1992 ice jam that seriously flooded pretty much the whole of downtown Montpelier

I don't know if that will happen again, but it probably wouldn't be the dumbest idea in the world for Montpelier shopkeepers to start hauling stuff out of basements, just in case an ice jam dumps water into town again.

Is Cold Spot In North Atlantic Dangerous? And Is It Climate Change?

Graphic indicates how much almost all of
the world has warmed up since 1901. But note
that spot in the North Atlantic that
has actually cooled in that time frame.  
Climate and weather watchers have been focused this winter on the patch of cold weather in the eastern United States in Canada in a world that has otherwise been really, really warm over the past few months.  

But there's another patch of chilliness that keeps appearing over the North Atlantic between Greenland and Ireland that might ultimately be more important.

It could mean that the Gulf Stream, that warm, huge current of air that flows north and northeast through the Atlantic toward Europe might be slowing down.

This has been predicted since at least the 1990s in computer models that depict the future of global warming.

It was also the plot device in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow," in which global warming shuts down the Gulf Stream, setting off a meteorological chain reaction that ultimately flooded, then sent New York City and many other parts of the world into a deep, deep fatal ice age.

Before you start panicking, we're not about to plunge into a scary ice age. The very cold and snowy winter and early spring in New England and southeastern Canada this year appears to have nothing to do with the developing cold pool in the North Atlantic.

Still, it's cause for some worry.

Eventually, if this slowing trend in the ocean currents in the North Atlantic continues, it could muck up fisheries, accelerate sea level rise along the United States and Canada east coasts, and really screw up the weather in northwestern Europe, says the online publication Vox. 

Scientists refer to the whole pattern of warm water flowing north, and colder water flowing south in the eastern Atlantic as the Atlantic overturning circulation, or if you like jumbles of letters, the AMOC.  And this circulation seems to be getting less vigorous.

Says Vox in a discussion about newly released research on the matter:

"'Nature Climate Change' argues the Atlantic overturning circulation already appears to be weakening. The researchers, led by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research created an index of regional climate conditions going back centuries.

They find that the weakening of the AMOC appears unprecedented in the past 1,100 years, possibly due to an influx of freshwater from Greenland's melting ice caps."

As the planet warms, more and more ice melts from Greenland. That meltwater isn't salty, like the ocean. That fresh water coming into the Atlantic from Greenland reduces the density of the water in the North Atlantic, and that in turn would weaken the circulation patterns.

Like I said, climate scientist have thought this was a possibility for quite a few years now. What's surprising about the study is that the circulation pattern appears to be slowing down faster than anyboy expected.

"The slowdown we see in the data is not what you see in the climate models," Rahmstorf said.

Of course, it's always been hard to directly observe the ocean current in the Atlantic, and even harder to reconstruct how they behaved in the past.

There's always been a lot of variability to it. Sometimes it's stronger, sometimes it's weaker. The new data shows this variability, but also an overall downward trend amid the little peaks and lulls in the pace of the water's movement.

Obviously, more study is going to have to go on to figure out exactly what's happening out there.

Plus, scientists have even less of a clue about what a slowing Atlantic circulation would have on climate and the ecosystem.

There are glimmers of knowledge. Scientists do know that fisheries might collapse or change threatening the livelihood of some coastal communities in North America and Europe.

Worse, as I mentioned, slowing currents could mess with sea levels on the U.S. East Coast. Sea levels are slowly rising worldwide, but the water's going up faster in some areas than others. That has to do with ocean currents, whether the land itself is rising and sinking due to geological factors, or other issues going on.

Since the circulation as it has been working pulls warm water north, cooler water comes in to the immediate coastal areas of the East Coast to replace the warm water that flowed away. Cool water is more dense than warm.

If the circulation slows more warm water could linger near the East Coast. Since warm water is less dense, it expands a bit, which would contribute to a faster pace of sea level rise over the decades in places like New York and Boston.

Then there are uncertainties as to what effect the slowdown in circulation would have on climate. The slowdown would probably affect something called the North Atlantic Oscillation.

When the oscillation is in its positive phase, an area of low pressure that's normally near Iceland gets stronger. When that low is strong it tends to pull winds eastward, faster in eastern North America during the winter. That prevents Arctic air from plunging south very often, so you get milder winters there.

If the oscillation is negative the Iceland low is weak, there's not as much wind moving west to east, so Arctic air masses can plunge south into places like southeastern Canada and the eastern half of the United States.

The big question is, will the slowdown in the Atlantic circulations weaken or strengthen the Icelandic low in the winter? As you can see, that would have a big effect on what kind of weather we get during future winters.

Though the Atlantic Ocean circulation is expected to continue weakening, at least in general, as the climate warms, it is highly unlikely to completely shut down this century.

Which is a good thing.

The makers of that movie, "The Day After Tomorrow," got their idea from the last time the Atlantic circulation shut down, about 13,000 years ago.

The last glacial period was ending, and scientists think a big amount of freshwater melted off Greenland. Plus, something holding back a big freshwater lake that was expanding from meltwater let go, causing an immense surge of water into the North Atlantic.

All this shut down the current (remember the fresh water mucks it up), says NOAA.

That caused the northern hemisphere to plunge back into an ice age for a little while.  (In geological terms, "little while" often means thousands of years.)

The flow of freshwater abated, and then the northern hemisphere emerged from the last glacial period, and warmed up to the point we're at today.

"The Day After Tomorrow" exaggerated the speed and strength of all this, but you get the idea.

It was below zero in Vermont this morning. As I noted, this early spring cold has pretty much nothing to do with the North Atlantic and we're certainly not plummeting into another, temporary ice age.

Yet, nobody wants to inflict on distant, future generations springtimes that makes this frigid early season feel like a balmy walk along the beach in Barbados.

The North Atlantic research also demonstrates how in the long term, climate change can really screw things up in all parts of the Globe. And we don't know exactly how, or what extent this might happen, if it happens at all.

The science that climate change is certainly settled. But the eventual consequences of this change is very, very far from certain.

There will be lots and lots of work from scientists trying to sort this out in the coming years.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lots Of Tennis Ball Sized Hailstorms Bombard Part of Australia Over The Weekend.

Some of the hail that fell on Chinchilla, Australia
a couple days ago.  
As I noted previously, it's been a quiet severe weather season in the United States so far, though the season is young and lots could happen.  

Meanwhile, different parts of Australia have been getting blasted, pummeled, drowned and twirled in a series of severe thunderstorms, huge wind storms, giant hail, big wildfires, cyclones and flooding.

The severe storms have hit in many parts of the country, even causing some flooding earlier this year around the desert town of Alice Springs. 

Plus, there's been well-publicized cyclones like Marcia and Olwyn causing destruction in parts of Australia.

As this weekend demonstrated, the severe weather isn't done yet, as a severe hailstorm struck the area in and around Chinchilla, Queensland, Australia.

Judging from the videos, this is one of the most intense, biggest hailstorms I've come across since the town of Norfolk, Nebraska was trashed by baseball sized hail and near hurricane force wind gusts last June

As the videos you'll see below show, you don't want to be caught outside in one of these storms.

Here's one video of a bunch of people watching their cars get destroyed in Chinchilla:

Another video of the storm, but like seemingly everybody else in the world, they didn't know how to hold their smart phone when filming. Vertical image alert:

And in this video, you can understand play at whatever sports event this was at was suspended, at least until the weather improved.

Coldest Spot In Northern Hemisphere Was in Quebec, New England

This graphic generated by the National Weather Service
office in South Burlingotn, Vermont shows
a Sunday depiction of the core of the coldest
air over Quebec and Ontario. Click on the image to
make it bigger and easier to read.  
Congratulations, residents of southern Quebec and maybe northern New England!

By one measure, you were probably the coldest spot in the northern hemisphere last night and this morning.

When analyzing data for forecasts, meteorologists look to levels of the atmosphere above the Earth's surface in layers from a few thousand to tens of thousands of feet above the ground.

That helps the meteorologists understand flow patterns of temperature, moisture and wind, and from there, they can forecast what's going to happen down where we live.

Starting at just a few thousand feet above the Earth's surface, the coldest temperatures found anywhere in the northern hemisphere was southern Quebec last night. That cold spot pretty much extended into northern New England as well.

This area of cold was more frigid than the North Pole, the ice caps of Greenland and the most northern remote regions of Siberia.

Down at the Earth's surface, where we live, there was probably a few places up by the North Pole, extreme northern Alaska and Greenland that were colder than Quebcc, southeastern Ontario and New England.

That's because the sun's angle is still higher here than points north, so the ground levels can be heated more efficiently than at the North Pole. Plus, there's less snow and ice here that in places like Greenland, so what meager heat comes from the sun won't be reflected back to space as much.

The "heat," if you want to call it that, from the sun lingers to a small extent in more southern places like Montreal and Maine during the night, so yeah, we're probably warmer than the high elevation ice cap of Greenland.

And the top of Greenland's ice cap is at a much higher elevation than Quebec or New England, so it is colder there.

Still, the fact that Quebec and New England are colder a few thousand feet above the surface is remarkable to say the least.  The coldest pool of air in the northern hemisphere usually doesn't settle this far south.

Though it might be colder in one or two places at the top of the world, it's certainly cold enough here. Subzero readings this Monday morning are reported in spots across Quebec, Ontario, northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Especially in Quebec, the other eastern provinces of Quebec and New England, it was quite windy Sunday and last night, and will continue to be very gusty today. Wind chills were in the teens or even 20s below in some areas Monday morning.

I don't think I've ever seen wind chill advisories in Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and Maine this late in the season.

Highs yesterday and today in the teens are colder than the normal overnight lows this time of year. A few record lows will fall.

The cold air will retreat north closer to where it belongs starting Tuesday, and there will be a brief period of near normal temperatures Wednesday and Thursday.

Then it gets cold again for next weekend. But not as cold as it is now. It most likely won't be this frigid again in Quebec, Ontario and New England until next November or December.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Some Severe Weather Likely In South, Midwest This Week

A tornado near Alma, Georgia on January 4,
one of only a handful of tornadoes
reported in the United States so far this year.  
After the quietest start to severe weather and tornado season in memory, things will finally start to get a little more active this week.

Of course, severe weather is almost always bad news, but it is a sign of spring, so there's that.

I don't think this will be a blockbuster event, which is good, but around Tuesday or Wednesday, areas in and near Missouri could get some strong winds, big hail and maybe a tornado or two.

We'll have to wait and see.  

In the meantime, one or two strong storms might get going to today in parts of southern Georgia and Alabama today.

On Monday, there might be a couple fairly hefty storms in northern Florida, and Monday night some big hailstones could bombard a town or two in Kansas.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center said no tornado or severe thunderstorm watches have been issued anywhere in the United States this March. Nobody at the SPC can remember such a quiet start to severe weather season.

Says the SPC:

"We are in uncharted territory with respect to a lack of severe weather," said Greg Carbin, SPC's warning coordination meteorologists. This has never happened in the record of SPC watches dating back to 1970."

The SPC says there's little correlation between storm activity in March and the peak of tornado season in April, May and June.

Some years that start quietly, like 1984, get very busy later in the spring. Other years, when March has a lot of tornadoes, like 2012 end up being on the quiet side later in the spring.

Like I said,  the spotty rough weather coming this week looks to be a fairly modest severe storm outbreak compared to what often blasts the United States. But it's the opening salvo of what will be the yearly spring blossoming of occasionally dangerous weather in the South, Midwest and Plains.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy Spring! Now Watch It Keep Snowing

Spring's arrival gets the cold shoulder in
New York's Central Park on Friday. Via
Twitter, @EverythingNYC  
Astronomical spring arrived on the United States East Coast yesterday but you'd hardly know it.

Snow socked a pretty big area from around Washington DC, up the coast all the way to New York City and along the southern New England Coast.

Many areas received anywhere from two to eight inches of snow.

I'm sure people were thrilled.  Much of the new snow will melt today in the mid-Atlantic states as they briefly warm up into the 50s today.

Up here where I live in northern New England, we were able to laugh a little bit since Friday's snow missed us and temperatures were even able to get a little above freezing (though it was still colder than normal.)

In the North Country, the laugh's on us today and Sunday, though.

There's quite a powerhouse of a cold front on a door step that will blast through later this afternoon and tonight, and it's going to plunge temperatures back down low enough that might make us pine for the balmy days of January.

And it's going to snow. A little.

There will be lots of mixed rain and snow showers around today in northern New York and Vermont, then spreading into New Hampshire and Maine as the day wears on.

This cold front doesn't have huge amounts of moisture with it, so it's not like we're going to get inche sof rain or feet of snow.

But the front does have a lot of energy with it. Which means I wouldn't be surprised if some pretty nasty snow squalls get going in some areas.

With falling temperatures turning wet roads to ice in some spots, suddenly horrible visibility as the squalls move in and strong, gusty winds, there could be some nasty surprises out on the roads.

It's going to be kind of hit and miss, so in some areas things won't be too, too bad, and others, conditions will get bad fast.

Snow squalls almost never last long, so any place that gets blasted by them will recover pretty fast, and nobody will get more than an inch of snow, except some places in them mountains. And maybe in northeastern Maine.

This time of year, high temperatures in northern New England are in the low 40s. In January, normal high temperatures are in the 20s. On Sunday, as thoughts should be turning to spring high temperatures won't get out of the teens in much of northern New York,  Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Add in winds gusting past 30 mph, and maybe to 50 mph in Maine, and you get below zero windchills.

Like I said, January is better.

So let me guess: You won't be out tilling the soil in your backyard garden on Sunday, will  you.

Poor Maine is getting the worst of it, as has been the case this winter. It'll be a little colder and a little windier there than in the rest of New England.

Bangor, Maine, which had its coldest month on record in February and is having its snowiest winter on record, is not improving much.

Bangor so far is having its coldest year on record, at least to date. That city also has a good shot of having its coldest March on record, based on what's already happened and on the bone-chilling forecast for the next few days.

Winter-blasted southeastern Canada is also in for bone chilling cold, strong winds and some snow over the next couple of days, too.

I know you're sick of my pessimistic New England forecasts, but the outlook into early April doesn't look so great, either.

Temperatures will ease up temporarily at midweek, bringing in some thawing. But it's back in the ice box by next weekend, though it won't be as cold as it will be tomorrow.

No big warm ups are likely into early April, either.

Friday, March 20, 2015

"I'm Melting!!!" Says Arctic Ice Cap As It Reaches It's Smallest Winter Peak On Record

This winter's maximum extent of winter
ice in the Arctic was on the lame
side, says NASA  
As the first day of astronomical spring arrives today around where I live in St. Albans, Vermont, it's still wintry cold where I live.

As dawn broke, it was just 12 degrees outside my window.

But, as I noted the other day, it's warm pretty much everywhere else. We got new evidence of that yesterday, when we learned the ice in the Arctic sure ain't what it used to be.

In late February, the size of the Arctic ice cap surrounding the North Pole reached its smallest winter peak on record, says NASA. 

The ice in the Arctic waxes and wanes greatly with the seasons, obviously reaching its greatest extent in the late winter.

It appears that this year, the ice cap reached its greatest size on February 25 and then began to retreat and melt a bit after that.

The ice at its peak this year covered 5.61 million square miles, said the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center.

That's about 50,000 square miles less than the previous record smallest winter peak, set in 2011.

The start of this year's melt was a good two weeks earlier than normal. There's still a chance that there could be another good freeze up and the peak could come later, but NASA says that's pretty doubtful.

The ice will keep melting like it does every spring and summer and reach a minimum extent for the year somewhere around September.

The trend toward less and less ice in the Arctic has been continuing for a few decades now, but the seasonal minimum in September has been getting smaller at a faster rate.

That this year's maximum was a record low doesn't necessarily mean the ice extent will hit a record low when it hits its annual minimum in September.

It all depends upon temperatures, wind patterns and currents between now and September.

Says NASA:

"'The winter maximum gives you a head start, but the minimum is so much more dependent on what happens in the summer that it seems to wash out anything that happens in the winter,' said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 

'It the summer is cool, the melt rate will slow down. And the opposite is true, even if you start from a fairly high point, warm summer conditions make the ice melt faster. This was highlighted by 2012, when we had one of the later maximums on record and extent was near normal early in the melt season, but still the 2012 minimum was by far the lowest minimu we've seen."

A very low September minimum is more important, scientifically, than a low late winter maximum.

A lot of the ice up there now is stuff that just formed over this past winter. That ice is pretty thin and will melt fairly easily. It the September minimum is really low, that means some of the permanent ice that formed years ago and got thicker and harder is melting.

That would be a sign of climate change.

Also, declining ice expanses up in the Arctic could worsen global warming. Ice is pretty white, and much of sun's light hitting the ice is reflected off of it back into space, and doesn't warm things up much.

But if the sun hits open water, a lot of ole Sol's heat is absorbed into the ocean, and acts as what scientists call a positive feedback that accentuates and accelerates the Earth's rate of warming.

The bottom line: It's fine for us up here in New England to hope for months and months of warm spring, summer and autumn weather as a salve for this winter's bitter cold and snow.

But we also want to hope that the Arctic stays on the chilly side this summer, and the rate of melting slows.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What IF California Runs Out Of Water In Its Big Current Drought?

A scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech caused a stir earlier this month when he said California's drought has gotten so bad there's only a year's worth of water left.  
All of California is in drought, and much
of the state is still in exceptional drought (dark red) 

In a Los Angeles Times op ed, the scientist, Jay Famiglietti, pulled no punches:

"Right now the state has only about a year of water supply left in its reservoirs and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus year mega-drought) except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain."

Famiglietti's statement created headlines around the world. It did seem dire. What does a state with 38.8 milliion residents do when the water taps run dry?

Famiglietti said groundwater is being pumped out so fast that land is sinking by a as much as one foot per year in California's Central Valley.

We also know that snow in the Sierra Nevada at the moment is something like 12 percent of normal. The snow is important because as it slowly melts in the spring and summer, it fills reservoirs and supplies cities and agriculture through a large chunk of the state.

Of course, every water faucet in California won't stop running in one instant exactly one year from now. Different parts of the state have different degrees of drought, though the entire state is in trouble with the dry, hot weather that has persisted for four years now.

Some people dispute Famiglietti's assertion about the state having only a year's supply of water left.

News10 ABC in Sacramento quotes Jeanine Jones, the Interstate Resources Manager with the California Department of Water Resources as saying the situation isn't as dire as Famiglietti suggests.

"Jones said the LA Times article was not entirely accurate, especially the claim about the state only having on year of water left in the supply. 

'I thnk it's perhaps written from the perspective of an academic who is less familiar with how water operations actually work at the water agency supply level,' said Jones."

Jones told ABC 10 said some rain this winter has filled reservoirs above last year's low levels.

Still, there's no doubt California is short on water, and no major rains are in the forecast as the quote, unquote rainy season comes to a close.

The Sacramento Bee reported this week that the California Water Resources Control Board ordered every water agency in the state to restrict how much everyone can water their lawns and landscaping.

This is the first time any state has imposed emergency water conservation measures on every local water agency within its borders, the Sacramento Bee said.

Among the restrictions are rules that ban landscape irrigation on rainy days and withing 48 hours of measureable rain. Restaurants must not serve water to patrons unless the customers ask for it, and hotels should offer guests the option to skip washing linens, according to the Sacramento Bee article.

But will this go far enough?

The Gizmodo blog offered some suggestions, including letting the grass on lawns and golf courses statewide turn brown rather than watering them.

Gizmodo says most bottled water comes from California so that should stop, too. And how about closing car washes? Planting native plants instead of water-sucking landscapes? Having techies develop alternative water supplies, such as desalination plants?

Whatever happens, it's not going to be easy to get through this drought in California. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to deal with.

It's going to be a long, hot fiery, dry, thirsty summer in California.

Let's hope that NASA scientist is too pessimistic.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

This Winter Was The Hottest On Record. Seriously!

With the glaring exception of eastern North America
the world was wicked warm in February, 2015
says a new report from NOAA.  
My fellow Vermonters and my neighbors in New England will surely throw big, heavy but inexpensive things at me for saying this, but this now-concluding winter was the warmest on record.

Before the debris flies, I'm talking about the world as a whole having the warmest on record. New England and southeastern Canada were the glaring exception to this.  

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center released its closely watched monthly analysis of the global climate today said the period December 1 through February 28 marked the warmest winter on record for the globe. Their data goes back to about the late 1880s.

Overall, February itself was the second warmest on record for the entire Earth. Here where I live in little tiny Vermont, we endured our second coldest February on record.

For the United States as a whole, it was the 19th warmest winter on record. While New England froze, large swaths of the western United States had a very warm winter.

From the Climate Data Center report:

"In February, 2015, cooler to much cooler than average conditions overtoook the entire eastern half of the United States and the eastern third of Canada, with some record cold pockets seen around the Great Lakes region and parts of northeastern Canada near Hudson Bay. 

The majority of the world's land surfaces, however, were warmer than average, with much warmer than average temperatures widespread across Central America, northern and central South America, Australia, most of Africa and much of Eurasia, including a broad swath that covered most of Russia. 

In stark contrast to the eastern United States, the western United States was encompassed by record warmth. The warm-cold pattern over the country has been observed over much of the past two years."

By the way, that warm-cold pattern seems to be in a continual stuck position. March has been behaving much of the same way, and this pattern should hold at least through the first week in April, and probably beyond that.

I don't know what it will take to get it unstuck.

The NOAA report also said that February Arctic sea ice extent was the third lowest on record.

Cyclone Pam Trashed Vanuatu. Should We Blame Climate Change?

Adrian Banga surveys his home, destroyed by
Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Photo by Dave Hunt/Associated Press  
After Cyclone Pam wrecked his Pacific island nation last weekend, Vanuati president Baldwin Lonsdale pointed an accusing finger at climate change for the disaster.

Was he right?

The answer probably is that Londsale was probably partly right.

Whis is usually the case when people discuss weather disasters.

This was a biggie, destroying or damaging most of the buildings on Vanuatu, killing at least 11 people and slamming the islands with winds of 165 mph, gusting to 200.

Some weather extremes can be tied pretty well to climate change. Other extremes are probably due to a variety of factors, and sometimes it's hard to tease out what, if any, effect climate change had.

Mashable this week had an analysis of whether Londsale was wrong or right.

Their conclusion: Global warming probably made things worse on Vanuatu, but other phenomenon also contributed to Cyclone Pam's power.

An excerpt from the Mashable article:

"Scientists say unusually mild sea surface temperatures and added atmospheric water vapor helped the storm intensify before slamming into Vanuatu. At the same time, rising sea levels likely made the storm more damaging than it would have been just a few decades ago."

The upshot was the unusually warm water temperature in the area, more than three degrees above normal, fueled the storm. Tropical systems tend to get stronger faster when water temperatures are above average.

One scientist Mashable quoted said part of the higher than average ocean temperatures in the area of Cyclone Pam is attributable to global warming - perhaps a third of the 3.6 degree warm temperature anomoly.

The rest of the warmth that fed Pam was probably part of a natural cycle and the El Nino cycle of warm Pacific Ocean waters.

Says Mashable, quoting Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher at the Natinal Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado:

"The atmosphere all around there has 10 to 20 percent more moisture in it than a comparable storm in the 1970s would have had. The high sea surface temperature and the water vapor fueled the storm and undoubtedly increased its intensity and size, Trenberth said in an email conersation. "The winds were stronger, the storm surge is greater on higher sea levels."

Another influence on the storm was Madden-Julian, or MJO, a weather cycle that, as I noted in an earlier post, contributed to the intense winter this year in New England.

Again, Mashable:

"In certain instances, the MJO can encourage the air to rise, forming thunderstorms as well as tropical cyclones. Think of the MJO as a helping hand that likely aided the storm's rapid intensification."

It was a strong helping hand, too. As Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground notes, this was the strongest MJO on record. Reliable measurements of the phenomenon date back to the 1970s.

On the sort of bright side, the strong MJO also gave a boost to the chances a pretty strong El Nino weather pattern could develop in the eastern Pacific. El Ninos tend to suppress, but not entirely eliminate hurricanes off and along the U.S. East Coast, so there's that. There might not be that many hurricanes to threaten the United States later this year, which would be a good thing.

In the grand scheme of things, global warming's effects on tropical cyclones is not totally clear, but early evidence seems to suggest there might be fewer of them in many parts of the world, but the ones that do get going will tend to be stronger than in the past.

There's a chance that might have been the case with Cyclone Pam, but of course we might never know for sure.

Of course, the most destructive part of any tropical cyclone is usually the storm surge. Air pressure is very low in these storms, so it doesn't press down on ocean water as much as areas that are getting normal air pressure, away from big storms.

When the tropical cyclone moves onto land, the ocean depth is greater at that point, so higher water rushes onto shore, propelled and made worse by strong winds and battering waves.

Global warming is also making ocean levels rise as ice caps melt. Plus ocean water, when it gets warmer, expands a little bit, also contributing to sea level rise.

If sea levels are higher than they used to be because of global warming, they have a higher starting point when the tropical cyclone arrives with its storm surge. So the flooding with the storm would be higher and deeper and more destructive than it would be without the underlying global warming.

Other scientists chimed in with their take on how climate change is affecting tropical cyclones and most think there's a link.

In a fairly technical report in RealClimate.org,  atmospheric researcher Kevin Emanuel cited
Cyclone Pam, and Typhoon Haiyan which trashed parts of the Phillipines in 2013, as evidence that climate change might be making such storms worse.

"While Pam and Haiyan, as well as other recent tropical cyclone disasters, cannot be uniquely pinned on global warming, they have no doubt been influenced by natural and anthropogenic climate change and they do remind us of our continuing vulnerability to such storms."

Lonsdale, the president of Vanuatu, and other leaders of vulnerable, small Pacific island nations, certainly seem to have gotten that memo.

Those leaders are pointing to Vanuatu to drive home a need to create a globally funded insurance pool to help with the recovery from these mega-disasters, Reuters reported.

They'll make their case at climate change talks later this year.

Here's some drone footage of the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam:

Aurora Borealis Was Widespread Last Night. Did You See Any Of It

The International Space Station caught this
view of the Northern Lights last night.  
A large geomagnetic storm from the sun set off incredible displays of aurora borealis across much of the Northern Hemisphere, and parts of the Southern Hemisphere, both Monday night and especially last night.

Monday night, much of New Zealand was treated to the spectacle.

Last night, much of Northern Europe, including Britain, and North America, including pretty much all of the parts of Canada that had clear skies, and much of the northern United States got the great sky show.

The view of the Northern Lights from Yellowknife, Northwest
Territory, Canada last night. By Yuichi Takasaki  
This was probably the most intense electromagnetic storm in the past several years, even stronger than the one last September that also caused spectacular shows.

As EarthSky.org notes, these geomagnetic storms, outbursts from the sun really, send lots of charged particles which bombard the Earth's upper atmosphere if the sun's outburst is aimed at us.

This causes electrons in the upper atmophere to go into a higher energy state.

When the electons get over this excitement and revert back to their lower energy, they release a photon, otherwise known as light.  

Saginaw, Minnesota last night. Photo by Mark Tarello
via Twitter @mark_tarello.  
Of course, there are zillions of electrons up there, so when a whole bunch of them get together and release those electrons, you get the type of aurora borealis a lot of people saw last night.

If these space storms are super intense, the can disrupt power grids on Earth. In fact some scientists say a really bad one could cut electrical power to much of the Globe for weeks or months.

Imagine how disruptive that would be.

Nothing that bad has happened yet in modern times.

Sweden last night. Via Twitter, @AndersJilden. 
But an intense geomagnetic storm cut electrical power to pretty much the entire Canadian province of Quebec in March, 1989 for 12 hours. There have been smaller scale power outages in the United States caused by this.

This geomagnetic storm wasn't intense enough to screw up power grids. But it did give us quite a show.

Here in Vermont, it was kind of cloudy, but there were occasional clear moments. I saw a kind of a green, flickering haze near the northwest horizon as I took the dogs outside at around 4 a.m. today.

And there are nice photos and videos coming in from people who were watching the sky from on or near Lake Champlain.

Malletts Bay, Colchester, Vermont. Photo by
Dan Russell.  
It's hard to say whether there will be another show tonight, but the geomagnetic storm has peaked, so a display as widespread as last night's is unlikely.

I've also got a couple videos, below to show what happened last night.

The first is a largely unedited series of time lapse images of the aurora over southern Saskatchewan, Canada:

Another time lapse, this one by Dan Russell o Northern Lights Now, over Malletts Bay, Lake Champlain, Colchester, Vermont:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Like Weird Weather? This March Has Been Your Month

Wildfire near Woodward, Oklahoma
Monday after record heat, gusty winds
and very dry conditions.  
I swear we've packed a year or two worth of weather extremes into one simple little month, March 2015, and we've still got a couple weeks to go.

Between record cold, flooding, ice, snow records, punishing drought and especially an amazing expanse of record March heat in the nation, this is really making me want to say, "Mother Nature, you're drunk. Go home."

I told you about the record heat over the weekend in the Great Plains. Monday the central Plains really got into some incredible hot weather for this time of year.

Temperatures soared into the 90s as far north as Kansas and southern Nebraska, the furthest north I've seen such temperatures so early in the season. Some of these areas had their hottest temperatures on record for the entire month of March.

It was an incredible 94 degrees in Hill City, Kansas, and 93 in McCook, Nebraska, which are pretty typical readings in those towns for mid-July.

North Platte, Nebraska had an all time March record high of 91 degrees, breaking the old all time high for the month of 88 degrees.

This is the first time it's been known to reach 90 degrees in Iowa and Nebraska before the spring equinox. (Sioux City, Iowa reached 90 degrees on Monday.)

A day earlier, on Sunday, Fargo, North Dakota had its highest temperature for so early in the season with a reading of 75 degrees. Grand Forks, in the same state, also set a so early in the season record of 70 degrees. Average high temperatures in eastern North Dakota this time of year are in the mid-30s.

Also on Sunday, Rapid City, South Dakota reached the highest temperature on record for the month of March, with 84 degrees.

It was "colder" in North Dakota on Monday with highs in the upper 40s, still well above normal.

On Sunday, several West Coast cities also experienced their all time hottest temperatures for the entire month of March. Those included 92 degrees in Salinas, California, 91 in Fresno, California, and 89 in San Jose, notes Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground. 

Masters noted that downtown Los Angeles experienced four days in a row of 90 degree temperatures. This is the first March dating back to at least 1877 that L.A. has had four 90 degree days in March, consecutive or otherwise, Masters said.

After it experienced the snowiest February on record, Denver, Colorado on Mondayset a record for the earliest in the season the temperature has gotten above 80 degrees.

All this heat led to a variety of problems. Last evening a wildfire that had expanded to more than 9,300 acres forced evacuations near Woodward, Oklahoma, television station KOCO reported. 

Flooding along the Ohio River in Cincinnati, via
A Guy and His Drone, Facebook. 
In the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in California, they were expected one of the best poppy blooms in recent memory, but the heat was so strong most of them wilted and died. Poppy plants can withstand heat, but this was too much.

Meanwhile, the Ohio River continued to run above flood stage after an abrupt snow melt and heavy rain last week, the Cincinnati Inquirer reported. The Red Cross had to open shelters for some families who were flooded out.  

Winter, of course, is still  hanging on in New England, particularly in Maine, which is just having the toughest time. Today, yet another winter storm warning is in effect for the snowbound eastern part of the state for another six to 10 inches of snow.

Bangor, Maine, which has already by far set the record for the snowiest winter on record with 130.7 inches, is expecting another two to five inches of fresh powder today.

It was even worse in parts of southeastern Canada. The storm that clobbered Maine Sunday was even worse in Prince Edward Island.

Charlottetown, P.E.I. got 21 inches or so of snow Sunday and Monday, bringing the snowfall for the season to 182 inches (463 cm.) That beats the old seasonal winter snowfall record of 177 inches (451 cm) set just last year.

St. John, New Brunswick also set its winter snowfall record by Monday with a total so far of 170 inches, besting 167 inches in 1962-63.

A new storm in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick is expected to dump an additional eight inches or so of snow by tomorrow night.

By tomorrow, all of New England will be colder than the normal temperatures in the depths of winter in January. Some towns in northern New England won't make it out of the teens Wednesday afternoon.

Another shot of frigid air is expected to blast into New England Sunday. Temperatures then could easily be the most below normal of any place in the Northern Hemisphere.

It seems like the weather might become a bit less extreme in the United States as we head into the second half of the month, but I'm sure there will be some pretty big surprises, given how things have been going.