Saturday, October 31, 2015

Extreme Texas Flood, Storms Signs Of Things To Come?

Part of a trailer on the roof of a three-story
Holiday Inn Express in Texas after
an early morning tornado Friday.  
Friday was as horrible a day as you can imagine in much of Texas, especially in and near Austin, as tremendous amounts of rain caused immense flooding, and early morning tornadoes trashed parts of several communities.

Austin received nearly six inches of rain in just an hour, which is almost unheard of. A trailer, probably used to tow cars or ATVs or something, ended up on the roof of a three-story Holiday Inn Express, tossed there by a violent pre-dawn tornado.

At least two people are dead in the storms.

The worst of the flooding hit in some of the same areas slammed by deadly flooding in May. The Blanco River near San Marcos, Texas crested above 40 feet for only the second time since 1920. The other time it was above 40 feet was in May.

Flooding continued overnight and into Saturday as heavy rounds of thunderstorms continued across much of Texas. The threat spread east from central Texas.

Before dawn Saturday, the action shifted to the Houston metro area. Just like central Texas was being slammed by tornadoes and flash flood early Friday, there are reports of tornado damage and widespread flash flooding, evacuations and water rescues this morning in a broad area in and around Houston. 

Flash flood watches for the possibility of heavy rain have also spread east into Louisiana and Mississipi. Already this morning there has been at least one tornado warning in Louisiana this morning, and flash flood warnings are popping up there, too.

This storm in Texas was epic, in a year in which many parts of the nation and the world have been hit by some of the most extreme rainfall in modern times.

It's hard to pin one or two storms on any particular global phenomenon, but we can plausibly tie Friday's Texas storms, coming on the heels of another extreme downpour last week to two things going on. Or at least we can use Friday's storms as examples of what can happen under two big picture atmospheric trends.

The most immediate of these is El Nino. That's the periodic warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean we've been hearing so, SO much about. It's one of the strongest ones on record.

Floods sweep through houses near Austin, Texas Friday.
Photo by Kaitlan Ross via Twitter.  
The upshot is during the winter, El Ninos often really supercharge the jet stream along the southern tier of the United States from California to Florida.

Under this regime, that region of the country is particularly prone to strong storms, severe thunderstorms and flooding rains.

This Texas nightmare weather of late could well be the start of this winter stormy pattern in the South. We'll have to wait and see on that, but occasionally, we could well be hearing of nasty storms in the South all the way into March or possibly beyond.

Next, some of you will roll your eyes, but I have to say it. Global warming can take some bad storms and make them worse. The warmer atmosphere with a warmer planet can hold more moisture. Which means downpours can get heavier.

One of the main effects of global warming, say many scientists, would be an increase in extreme precipitation events. What would be a flooding downpour can on many occasions turn into a record or near record inundation.

Obviously, I can't say for sure whether global warming had anything to do with Friday's Texas floods, but we are seeing an uptick in extreme precipitation storms both in the United States and in many other parts of the world.

The trouble with these extreme downpours is they can happen almost anywhere, and they can cause extreme damage, as we saw in Texas yesterday.

I hope climatologists are wrong about the expected further increase in extreme storms in the coming years and decades, but I have no reason to believe they are wrong.

Here's a video taken by a guy in a car swept rapidly down a flooded creek in Texas yesterday. Extremely scary. Thankfully, he was later rescued from a tree:

Friday, October 30, 2015

In Vermont, November Comes In October

The joy of October is over, and dark November
looms over Vermont. Here are some leaves from
newly barren trees in Burlington, Vermont. 
November arrived here in Vermont over the past couple of days.

I know, I know, it's October 30. But what I'm talking about is the mood of the month, which doesn't line up with the calendar. I think that's true of almost any time of year.

October is bright and beautiful. November is funereal.

Autumn - the part involving brilliant foliage, bright sunshine and hordes of tourists, this year lasted longer than it usually does up here. All thanks to a record warm September and bursts of mild weather earlier this month.

On Sunday, October 25, I took a drive from my home in St. Albans, in the northwestern corner of the state down to West Rutland, in the southwest to visit family.

I stuck pretty much to the "tropical" Champlain Valley, or at least tropical compared to the rest of the state. The foliage usually hangs on longer here than in the more mountainous parts of Vermont.

Still, I was stunned by how pretty the landscape still was. Usually by October 25, the foliage is gone except for some leftover pockets of brilliant birch or larch or maybe part of one or two particularly vigorous sugar maples.

But on Sunday, the foliage was still gorgeous, especially along reliable scenic Route 30 through rural Cornwall, Sudbury and Whiting.

Of course this state of affairs couldn't last forever. On Wednesday, a gusty rainstorm - fueled in part by Hurricane Patricia, arrived to darken the sky to deep gray November hue and start stripping the remaining leaves from the trees.

If I had to pick an exact moment November arrived for me here in Vermont, it was at 12:58 p.m. yesterday.

I was working for a client, cleaning up their garden. It had been quite a mild morning ahead of a cold front, with intervals of sun interspersing with fitful bursts of rain.

At 12:58, that cold front arrived with a volatile sky, another burst of rain, and a strong westerly gust of wind that set off a blizzard of leaves from the trees that still had foliage. The temperature plunged. I was sweating in my t-shirt a few minutes earlier. Now I was shivering.

There's probably no two months in Vermont with such opposing personalities as October and November.

October is a wild celebration of color and lingering warmth. November is somber and gray and quiet and dead as we button down for our traditional long, cold winter.

Of course, it's not like November is all doom and gloom. You can still  get some sort of decent days. In fact, there are signs an Indian Summer might sneak into Vermont next week.

Yesterday, I gave up at the client's house amid the rain and wind and chill.

I went home to St. Albans. The showers stopped. As strong west winds peeled the dead leaves from the poplar trees, I rushed to plant daffodil, hyacinth and crocus bulbs in my yard. You want to prepare for the joy of spring, because you know it will be a long, cold winter.  You want to spend the winter anticipating the joyful return to color and life.

Night fell. Now that the leaves are largely down, the view of northern New York State from my hillside property opened up, no longer blocked by foliage.

To the southwest, I could see the Lights of Dannamora in the distance, set against the Adirondack foothills, which all sounds so romantic. But Dannamora is a prison, and what we see is the big patch of lights that helps guards keep watch on the inmates.

After the freedom and joy of summer and autumn, we Vermonters - like me - are preparing for a sort of prison, too.

Our prison isn't necessarily grim, like Dannamora.  But the upcoming winter is a restrictive prison of wearing heavy coats, gingerly driving and walking on ice, and fretting about how we're going to pay the heating bill.

This jail sentence will last until April, when some of those crocuses and daffodils I planted as November loomed come back, to return color to our Vermont world.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

El Nino Makes Barren Chilean Desert Bloom Gorgeously

The Atacama Desert in Chili is normally one of the most desolate places on Earth.

It's on the east side of the Andes mountains, and is pretty much blocked from any moisture that wants to sneak in from the Pacific Ocean.

Moisture from places like the Amazon, and the Atlantic Ocean way, way, way off to the east are also blocke by moisture.

So the Atacama desert is barren. It's one of the driest places on Earth. In many places in this desert, you can go years without measureable rain. There are actually little sections of this desert where it hasn't rained in 400 years! 

However, during a very strong El Nino, the kind we are having now, the ocean on the Chilean coastt warms, which encourages particularly strong storms to form near that Chilean coast.

The strong storms then allow some moisture to force its way over the mountains into the Atacama desert, and it will rain a little in parts of what looks like a wasteland.

Then a miracle happens. According to the Bored Panda web site this is what happens in those rare occasions when it rains:

"The flowers 'hibernating' beneath its surface suddenly bloom with an explosion of color, eager to take advantage of the rain.'

The Atacama desert then turns into a flowery psychelic paradise, as the photos in this post from Bored Panda indicate. (Click on the pics to make them bigger and easier to enjoy.)

Daniel Diaz, the National Tourism Service director in Atacama said in 2015, this bloom has happened twice in the same year, whih has never been seen in recorded history.

I'll just enjoy the photos of the flowers, and for once in my life, I'll wish I was in the Atacama desert.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Evening Update: Stormy, Interesting 24 Hours Vermont, Rest Of Northeast

A tree toppled by strong winds near Watertown, New York blocks
traffic Wednesday. Photo from Watertown Daily Times.  
If you live anywhere in the Northeast, you probably already noticed it's been an unpleasant day out there.

Here in Vermont where I live, it's raw, with drenching rain and occasionally gusty winds.

Over the next 24 hours, expect the weather to yo-yo all over the place as a series of fronts associated with a strong storm system sail through.

What's impressive about this storm system is the screamingly strong winds just above the surface, maybe a couple, few thousand feet up.

At times, atmospheric conditions will allow the strong winds to dip down to the surface, causing damaging winds in various locations.

That has already happened in a few places today, and that will continue tonight into tomorrow.

Here in Vermont, it's been really interesting today. A temperature inversion has kept the strong winds above us from coming down to the surface, except in a few locations and only occasionally.

Outside my house in St. Albans, Vermont, winds today beneath the inversion and in the drenching rains have been mostly under about 15 mph almost all of the time. But every once in awhile, maybe once every hour or two, we get a rogue gust to roughly 45 mph as the winds manage to break through the inversion.

A temperature inversion, which is cold air in the valleys and warm air aloft, acts as a lid preventing the strong winds aloft from penetrating the top of the cold air and making it into the valleys.

There are exceptions to this. Winds from the southeast are going up and over the Green Mountains, and up and over the northern Adirondacks of New York. When the wind gets to the peak of the mountains, it can grab some of those strong winds, and blast them down onto the valleys just to the west of the Green Mountains, and just to the northwest of the Adirondacks.

That's why gusts have been close to 50 mph on some of the western slopes of the Greens today, and may increase a little more tonight.  Sometimes, the strong winds struggle to break through the inversion, which explains the spotty but strong wind gusts outside my house today.

As warm air comes in overnight, the chances of some of those strong gusts will increase.

That massive surge of warm air  coming in ahead of an approaching cold front tonight is another slightly odd aspect of this storm.

As this surge of warm, humid air comes in and the winds continue to scream strongly a few thousand feet overhead, there's a minimal, but not zero chance of severe thunderstorms or even a brief tornado from southern New England down the coast to the Carolinas tonight.

It's been raw in New England today, but overnight, temperatures will rise through the 50s into the low 60s by dawn in some areas. A few record highs might be set in New England Thursday before the cold front crashes through.

There will probably be a break in the rain during the warm part of this storm system on Thursday.   A gusty line of showers and thunderstorms might accompany daybreak in southern New England.

Then the cold front blusters through during the day, and it means business!  It will probably be accompanied by a narrow band of showers or even thunderstorms, which will have a brief period of strong gusty winds with it.

Here in Vermont, temperatures will probably climb well into the 60s to low 70s before that band of gusty showers arrive, but then temperatures will probably fall by something like 20 degrees in an hour or so as the quick downpours and cold front pass through.

In other words, when you leave for work tomorrow, pack changes of clothes so you'd be ready for approximately 1,458.298 different kinds of weather on Thursday.

The band of strong showers, and the tumbling temperatures after it, will race into New Hampshire and Maine during the afternoon and evening.

After that, things settle down into the usual not that extreme pattern of temperatures and precipitation for the next few days.

By the way, this gusty, wet, strong storm we're getting now is partly energized by the remnants of Hurricane Patricia, which was briefly last week the strongest hurricane on record in the Northern Hemisphere as it spun off the Mexican coast.

I guess we're lucky we might get wind gusts in the 50 to 55 mph range, and not 200 mph, right everyone?

"King Tides" Submerged Some U.S. Coastal Areas Yesterday

Tuesday's King Tide swamping Charleston, South
Carolina Tuesday. Photo from WCIV.  
So called "King Tides" gave some U.S. coastal areas - especially around South Carolina - more than they bargained for on Tuesday.

Tides reached near record highs in the southeastern United States, despite the absense of any storms. Usually, tides that come close to record heights come during hurricanes or other severe coastal storms as hurricane winds push a storm surge inland.

This time, no storms. And hate to say it, but climate change had a role in Tuesday's coastal flooding.

Some perspective:

Around the time of the full "supermoon" in the autumn, when the moon is a little closer to the Earth than usual, tides are higher than normal. This is nothing new.

Making it a little worse, winds were from the east along the southern Atlantic seaboard, which drove water toward the coast, making the tides a bit higher than they normally would. Again, this is fairly normal and has happened before. It was just bad luck that the wind was from the east, rather than the west, during this extra high tide.

Had climate change not been around, this would have been a high tide with some coastal flooding but the flooding would not have been too extensive.

Global warming has driven sea levels up by, on average 8 inches since the late 1880s. It's worse along the U.S. East Coast for reasons I'll explain below.

Tides just several inches deeper than in the past don't seem like much, but in flat coastal areas like those around South Carolina, southeastern Virginia or Louisiana, a few extra inches of ocean water can go surprisingly far inland and cause a lot of flooding. The land just doesn't increase in elevation much as you go inland from the beaches.

Making matters worse along the East Coast is that a massive Atlantic Ocean current heading northeastward away from the United States has slowed. That current tends to draw water away from the East Coast.

With the current slowing, less water flows away, so it collects near North America more. Again, we're only talking about a few extra inches of water, but as noted it adds up.

The result, was Tuesday's King Tides, that scored in the Top 10 highest on record in some locations. This is really odd, because as I said, there were no hurricanes around to create a storm surge. Most of big memorable tidal floods are associated with hurricanes.

As Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang notes, "Seemingly overnight, spurred by sea level rise, we've entered an era where king tides compete with hurricanes in the water level record books."

Tuesday's high tide in Charleston, South Carolina peaked at 8.69 feet. That was short of the record high of 12.56 during the epic Hurricane Hugo in 1989, but still high enough to be in the top 5 biggest tides on record for Charleston.

The high tide Tuesday at Savannah, Georgia reache 10.43 feet, the third highest on record. Only two high tides there were slightly higher - those during hurricanes in 1940 and 1947.

Flooding was reported in other areas besides South Carolina and Georgia. Some water invaded Miami Beach, and minor flooding was reported near New Orleans.

This type of non-storm coastal flooding is going to keep getting worse.

Already, a NOAA study has concluded that "nuisance flooding," the type that shuts down very low lying roads and sneaks into parking lots, streets, basements and storm drains, has gone up between 300 and 925 percent along all three U.S. coasts since the 1960s.

Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland have had the biggest increase in these nuisance tidal floods. The NOAA report says this problem will keep getting worse and worse as sea levels increase.

This can't be good for coastal residents.

Here's how the Miami Herald described Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday:

"Just east of the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale, even before the highest tides, seawater flooded the street outside Shooters Restaurant and lapped at sidewalks.

'I love everything about the neighborhood and the location and the restaurants nearby, but it seems to be getting worse,' said Robert Owen, who purchased his condominium at the nearby Tides at Bridgeside Square about seven years ago. 'It can't be good for property values.'"

No, it can't Mr. Owen! And as the high tides worsen and become more frequent along the coasts, this is going to be a nightmare for insurers, and low lying towns who face expensive work to hold back the tides, plus lower tax revenue from lower property values or people just moving away from the enroaching water.

Meanwhile, another round of King Tides is expected this morning. The tides shouldn't be as bad starting Thursday.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Everyone Knows It's Windy Season Now

An intense storm over the Great Lakes in late
October, 2010.  
In Burlington, Vermont,  the closest major weather station to my home, aeven of the past ten days in  have had wind gusts of over 30 mph.

Early Sunday, gusts reached 44 mph in Burlington, and to around 50 mph or a little more on and right near Lake Champlain.

A lot more wind is due later this week as a vigorous storm arrives.  The windy season is here for sure!

As we head through fall and into winter, the winds across much of the Northern Hemisphere really crank up. We sure feel that here where I live in Vermont. I bet you notice it, too, readers in the Northeast, Great Lakes, Great Plains and Canada.

True, we sometimes get our strongest, most damaging winds in summer thunderstorms and severe weather, but that never lasts long in any one place.

During the cold season, the wind might not be as strong as during a severe thunderstorm, but boy it lasts a long time.

Storm systems tend to be weak in the summer, even if they occasionally produce rambunctious thunderstorms and flooding downpours. Since the large scale summer systems are pretty puny, they don't produce much wind in large areas.

During the cold season, the jet stream in the northern hemisphere cranks up to something much stronger than it was in July. The temperature contrast between the Arctic and the tropics increases, and the result is stronger low pressure systems, aka storms.

These stronger storms crank out a lot of wind. Commonly, this time of year, we get "The Gales Of November," made famous in the Gordon Lightfoot classic song "The Wreck Of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

This time of year favors a weather pattern in which storms move north from the southern Plains or Gulf of Mexico, and then intensify to monsters over or near the Great Lakes.

These Great Lakes storms tend to intensify in the late fall because the water temperatures there are still comparatively warm, which adds energy to the atmosphere to give the storms more oomph.

One of those most intense Gales of November sank the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior 40 years ago this year. 

Right now, a storm system is forming in that classic November pattern (which often happens in late October and into early December, too.)

Jet stream energy from the north will combine with remnants from Hurricane Patricia along with boatloads of Gulf of Mexico moisture. That will create a hefty Great Lakes storm, not on par with the Edmund Fitzgerald storm, but still pretty hefty.

Later this week, the Gales of November will blow across the Great Lakes, and into the Northeast, including here in Vermont.

Upper elevations in Vermont could see gusts to 60 mph Wednesday night, and the slightly more populated northern Champlain Valley and northwestern New York especially could have gusts over 50 mph Thursday.

High wind warnings are already up in New York near Lakes Ontario and Erie for expected gusts over 60 mph Wednesday.

These gales of November are a sure sign winter is coming, as if you didn't know that already.

 It you haven't gotten a good enough taste of late autumn Vermont winds, here's a brief, slightly shaky video of my yard in St. Albans, Vermont late in the afternoon of November 1, 2013. Winds were gusting to 50 mph at the time:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Surprising Iowa Tornado This Past Friday

Large tornado near Hospers, Iowa Friday.  
Here's proof that despite all the good forecasting systems now in place, you can still get an unexpected tornado outbreak.

At least five tornadoes spun up in western Iowa, north of Sioux City on Friday. They hit mostly rural areas, but there was damage. This included at least one house that lost its roof.

The weird thing about these tornadoes is they weren't highly anticipated at all. And they took advantage of just the briefest window of conditions that were conducive to twisters.

Almost always, hours or even a day or so before a cluster of tornadoes, NOAA's Storm Prediction Center will release maps showing at least a marginal risk of severe storms in an area where twisters eventually hit.

This time, the Storm Prediction Center only said there might be thunderstorms in the area, but they wouldn't be severe.

All this goes to prove the Storm Prediction Center is great at forecasting severe weather, but sometimes - not often - conditions break out unexpectedly to prompt bad storms at the last minute.

Even when the tornadoes were ongoing, the prediction center Friday evening put out one of their forecast discussions, saying they would not issue a tornado watch for the area, since the conditions that helped create the tornadoes would rapidly come to an end.

Sure enough, shortly after that statement was released, the thunderstorms producing the tornadoes rapidly weakened Friday evening.

The takeaway for all of us: If there are predictions of possible severe weather hours or days in advance, yes definitely pay attention.

But also keep an eye to the skies, and take any last minute, unexpected warnings seriously.  Things can and do develop in a moment's notice.

Here's a video of one of the Iowa tornadoes:  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Texas Flooding Again After Drought, Flood And Other Drought - Weather Whiplash

This train was derailed by flash flooding near Corsicana, Texas
over the weekend.  
You might have seen on the news Texas is drowning again.

It's been raining hard for the past couple of days in much of the state, and things just kept intensifying during the day Saturday.

A strong trough of low pressure is moving into that area, and there's a big feed of intense moisture coming off the Gulf of Mexico.  That's producing coastal waterspouts, a few tornadoes and southeast Texas, but most importantly, TONS of rain.

Just as importantly, the remnants of Hurricane Patricia moved into northern Mexico, then on out into the Gulf of Mexico, where it has generated a new non-tropical storm.

That low pressure around Texas is tapping into that deep moisture from Patricia's detritus to produce the flash flooding and storms in Texas.

Already, as of early Saturday afternoon, up to 20 inches of rain had drowned an area southeast of Dallas, especially near the community of Corsicana, which was inundated.

This has caused all kinds of intense problems, such as numerous water rescues, a freight train that was washed off the tracks, derailing 46 cars, and prompting flash flood warnings through huge sections of the state.

Another foot or more of rain is expected, especially in the southeastern half of the state. And on into Louisiana. That's going to lead to big trouble.

This storm is yet another example of the kind of extremely heavy rain storms that keep plaguing different parts of the United States and much of the rest of the world. (Remember South Carolina a couple weeks ago?)

This Texas flood is also another example of "weather whiplash" in which conditions go from one extreme to the other. This is also getting more common.

You might remember up until early this year, Texas was in the throes of an intense drought. Towns were running out of water, crops dried up, and wildfires broke out.

Then in May intense rains hit Texas, pretty much erasing most of the drought in just a few days. These torrential rains also caused disastrous flash floods. At least 11 people died in the flooding, and Texas had its wettest month on record.

Just as suddenly, the rain abruptly stopped in early June, and it pretty much didn't rain there again until the past few days.

Crops were dying again. Earlier this month, brush and forest fires consumed at least 64 buildings  outside of Austin, in the Bastrop County pines.

Now the rains are back, big time, and so are the floods.  The same areas of Bastrop County that had devastating fires less than two weeks ago were inundated with flash floods So were large areas of central and southern Texas over the weekend.
Motorists unwisely drive into Dallas floodwaters Friday
The vehicle on the right unsurprisingly stalled.  

The torrential rain was moving into Lousiana Sunday, where flood alerts were in effect.

This year's yo-yo weather in Texas is a pretty dramatic example of weather whiplash, which seems to have become more common.

Scientists are increasingly convinced that global warming is leading to more instances of weather whiplash. 

The thought goes like this: The Arctic is warming up faster than the tropics with global warming. That means the constrast in temperature between the two regions is less. The diminished temperature contrast allows the jet stream to meander in bigger dips toward the midlatitudes, and bigger ridges up toward the Arctic.

The bigger troughs and ridges in the jet stream allows for larger storms, bigger and more intense heat waves and sometimes stronger cold waves.

Plus, these big dips and ridges and such in the jet stream are showing an increasing tendency to "get stuck" in place, prolonging things like intense rains or big heat waves or a series of snowstorms in a particular geographic location.

The translation: Places like Texas get stuck for months in unrelenting drought, then get stuck for days or weeks in torrential rains. South Carolina was in a fairly nasty drought just before the devastating floods a couple weeks ago.

This, of course isn't just happening in Texas. It's happening pretty much everywhere.

Although I get a little leery about pinning a single weather event on global warming, examples of these stuck jet stream patterns resulted in California's brutal drought, the intense winter onslaught of snow and cold in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada last winter, and the parade of devastating storms in Britain during the winter of 2013-14.

It's impossible to know weeks in advance where exactly these huge stuck jet stream dips and northward bulges will set up. And it's hard to know when weather whiplash will set in. California is a prime candidate for whiplash this winter, as El Nino is widely expected to bring heavy rain and storms to the Golden State in the upcoming months.

But if a number of climate scientists are right, weather whiplash will become more and more the "new normal" for most of us.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Did Climate Change Cause Super Hurricane Patricia?

Intense super Hurricane Patricia off the Mexican
west coast Friday morning.  
Hurricane Patricia, the most intense hurricane in modern records seen in the western hemisphere, slammed into Mexico as expccted Friday afternoon and evening.

The wildest winds with Patricia hit in a relatively sparsely populated spot on the Mexican west coast.

The worst of the winds appeared to miss the busy resort city of Puerto Vallarta and the port of Manzanillo so it could have been worse.

Both of those two bigger cities got nasty, damaging winds, but not the full blow of Category 5 winds of over 150 mph.

We are still awaiting full damage reports. So far it doesn't seem too, too bad, but we haven't heard from remote areas yet. So there will surely be more news on this.

There's no doubt Patricia was a meteorological shocker. Nobody expected it to get that strong.

It's leading to the inevitable question: Did climate change, global warming, however you want to describe it, cause Hurricane Patricia? Or at least make it worse?  Should we have renamed Patricia Hurricane Exxon, after the fossil fuel giant, as some social media wags suggested, because of global warming?

More on that in a moment. First, some perspective.

As I said, Patricia was the strongest hurricane on record in the western hemisphere. I'm resisting the urge some people have had to call it the strongest hurricane ever.

Scientists are much better at measuring hurricanes over water via satellite estimations and hurricane hunter flights than they were many decades ago. Perhaps a stronger western hemispheric hurricane occured over water, say, a century ago and we missed it.

Nor was Patricia "big." It was a compact hurricane, with the 200 mph winds limited to a 10 mile wide area, and hurricane force winds sometimes confined to within as little as 35 miles across

Even with these caveats, Patricia was in a rare class of intense hurricanes. It weakened a bit to sustained winds of165 mph at landfall, but that's still extremely intense ande extremely dangerous.

Imagine one of those immense, super strong Midwestern tornadoes sitting over your house for more than an hour, instead of the exceptionally frightening couple of minutes a tornado would.

So why was Patricia such a monster?

The two main things you need for an intense hurricane are light upper level winds and warm ocean water. The calmer the upper atmospheric winds and the warmer the water, the stronger the hurricane, at least usually.

Patricia took advantage of calm upper level winds. That was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The hurricane formed under these conditions.

The water beneath the storm was at record high levels. Aha! Global warming caused Patricia, right?

Well, it certainly could have been a contributor, but that's not the whole story. Yes, the water was record warm. That was largely due to El Nino, the periodic warming of eastern Pacific waters.

This El Nino is stronger than almost all of them in the past 100 years or so, so this El Nino has more warm water than usual. That the water was at record temperatures could well have been given that boost due to global warming.

So yes, climate change might have influenced Hurricane Patricia, but the story is even more muddier than I let on.

First of all, it's hard to pin one extreme event like Patricia on global warming, when there are so many complicated factors that went into Patricia's formation.

We do know that global warming is causing, and will cause, more extreme heat events, extreme droughts and extreme rainfall events. That's pretty well established by scientists, who I trust a lot more than Donald Trump, who disagrees with this assessment.

Patricia was one more extreme event amid many others that have happened recently. Like the big flash floods in Texas Friday that will probably become more intense when moisture from Patricia's remnants enter the picture today.

The basic question remains: Will there be more serious and stronger hurricanes and typhoons because of global warming?

Individual cases suggest yes. Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 along the U.S. East Coast seem to have given a boost by unsually warm water temperatures, a hallmark of climate change.

But does climate change also disrupt upper level winds? Does it increase those winds, making it harder for hurricanes and typhoons to form? If so where? It seems the science isn't totally settled there.

Maybe global warming will change where hurricanes and typhoons hit. If warmer water is more north than it used to be, it stands to reason that hurricanes would travel more north than they used to. That, again, depends on whether upper level winds also cooperate to help form these monster storms.

Some research also suggests that perhaps the overall number of hurricanes might not increase, but the number of really strong ones, like Haiyan and Patricia would rise due to tropical systems using all that newly hot ocean water as a fuel source. 

A bunch of scientists are studying hurricanes and typhoons and how they relate to global warming.

The bottom line: The science on specific super Hurricane Patricia is a little murky, but climate change is probably - but not definitely- making vulnerable coastal locations in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceams more prone to stronger hurricanes like Patricia.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hurricane Patricia, Strongest, Most Dangerous On Record, Blasts Mexico

Hurricane Patricia with its tiny pinhole eye early
this morning. It is the strongest hurricane on
record in the Western Hemisphere.  
Hurricane Patricia is incredible. It went from a so-so Category 1 storm with 85 mph yesterday morning to the strongest hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere, with 200 mph sustained winds.

It's going to come ashore today not far from the resort city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico as a Category 5 storm. Winds will probably still be sustained near 200 mph when it blasts ashore. Of course there will be higher gusts.

You always hear, historic storm, historic storm for every seemingly bad tempest. But Hurricane Patricia is truly historic.

It is, as noted, THE strongest hurricane ever officially observed in the Western Hemisphere - which includes the eastern Pacific Ocean and the entire Atlantic Ocean.

The way to gauge a hurricane's strength is to measure how low the air pressure gets at the center. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.

At last check the air pressure at the center of Patricia was 880 millibars, or 25.99 inches of mercury. That beats the record set by Hurricane Wilma in the western Caribbean Sea exactly 10 years ago, which got down to 882 millibars.

Sunrise on monster Hurricane Patricia this morning
Of course, Patricia is the strongest hurricane on record in the eastern Pacific, beating Hurricane Linda in 1997.

El Nino, the periodic warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean, contributed to Patricia's strength. It's no surprise that both Linda and Patricia hit during strong El Ninos.

The warmer the water, the more likely a hurricane will be able to strengthen. So there you go.

Hurricane Patricia also intensified far, far, more quickly than most hurricanes do. As I noted, 85 mph to 200 mph in less than 24 hours is incredible.

Incredible is the word to use when describing how the impact is going to be on the Mexican coast.

At this point, it looks like landfall will be a little south of Puerto Vallarta. It looks like it might come ashore close to the city of Manzanillo, which has a population of over 100,000.

With winds of 200 mph, basically imagine one of those ultra strong Oklahoma tornadoes that destroy entire towns. But instead of the tornado being a mile wide, the destruction with this will be like a strong tornado that is more than 20 or 30 miles wide.

And the full force of Hurricane Patricia will last hours in any one place, not minutes, like a tornado would. I don't know how you survive that.

Waves on the Mexican coast could reach 40 feet high, too. Plus up to a foot of rain will fall in a short period of time.

Once Hurricane Patricia moves inland, it will smack into tall southwestern Mexican mountains. Such tall mountains will make Patricia fall apart fast, and will be remnant low over central Mexico with just 25 mph winds by Saturday afternoon.

But even then, Hurricane Patricia won't be done, uh-uh!

A non-tropical storm system is likely to get going along the Texas coast this weekend. That storm will draw incredible amounts of moisture from Hurricane Patricia or its remnants.

Texas has already had some flooding from a slow moving storm system this week, and the Patricia moisture will  unleash even more high water. Much more. Up to 10 inches of rain is forecast for parts of Texas in the upcoming week.

The storm system with its moisture from Patricia is likely to spread heavy rain as far north as New England by next Thursday.

Meanwhile, let's hope people were able to evacuate ahead of Patricia in Mexico. And lets pray that the strongest part of Patricia hits very sparsely population sections of Mexico.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

World's Hot Times Got Even Hotter In September

Most of the Earth's surface was definitely running
 a fever in September, 2015.  
The latest monthly global temperature assessment is out from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, and it shows September was pretty much off the charts temperature wise.

It was the world's hottest September since record keeping got serious in the 1880s.  Temperatures were also above normal by the widest margin of any month since records began 136 years ago.

Yeah, 1.62 degrees above normal doesn't sound like much, but it's HUGE when you're talking about global average temperatures for a month.

Most months in 2015 have broken records for the hottest on record, so it's pretty much a sure bet that this year will easily be the hottest year on record. Probably by a large margin.

We're in the throes of a strong El Nino, and El Ninos always boost global temperatures, so it's no surprise that temperatures were above normal globally.

However, there have been other El Ninos about as strong as this one, and 2015 is still running way above normal. I think we're definitely seeing the hand of global warming here.

I've noticed we're no longer hearing about the "pause" in global warming that many climate change deniers were talking about when global temperatures seemed to be increasing a little more slowly back a few years ago.

I'm sure we'll hear that "global warming is over" when El Nino fades and we get some months and probably a few years that are not hottest on record like this one.

Don't buy it. This warming trend is entrenched and the world will keep getting hotter, even if it does come at an uneven pace.

That means keep looking out for more weather extremes to come, too. Drought, floods, heat waves, oh joy!

Dramatic View Of Athens, Greece Tornado Earlier Today

Tornado in Athens, Greece today.  
A tornado is reported to have touched down right in Athens, Greece today.

This just happened a couple hours ago as of this writing (8 a.m. EDT, United States) so I don't have many reports to go on.

Judging by the wild video below, which appears to have been taken through a window of a high rise, the tornado doesn't look too strong.

 I don't see a lot of debris being hoisted aloft, which is a good thing. In general, the stronger the tornado the more stuff goes flying high into the air.

On the other hand, the tornado seems to have suction vortices, which are whirls within the  main tornado circulation that can intensify damage.

 Here's the video:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mexican Drought Makes Ghost Church Reappear

Ghost church reappears in a Mexican reservoir
as drought lowers water levels there.  
A drought has hit the state of Chiapas, Mexico and reservoirs have gotten low, low, low.

So low, that in one reservoir, a ghost church has emerged from the receding water.

According to The Independent, the Temple of Quechula was built in 1564 by Spanish colonists, who thought the area would become a major population center.

It didn't, and an outbreak of plague further reduced the population. The church never got that busy, and eventually, a dam was built in 1966 and the church disappeared beneath the new lake.

Now, local entrepreneurs are ferrying people out to the church for a look-see. It's pretty spooky looking, and it's amazing part of the structure is still around after being submerged like that for so long.

This isn't the first time the church has reappeared. In 2002, a drought made water so low that people could walk around the church and explore its rooms.

I'm sure the people of Chiapas are hoping the drought ends, but I guess the re-emergence of the church is one small bright spot to enjoy while waiting for the rains to return.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Indonesian Peat Forest Fires Big Disaster, Plus Worsening Global Warming

Viewed from space: Peat fires emit smoke on
the Indonesian island of Sumatra in September.
Image from NASA Earth Observatory. 
Bad land management practices in Indonesia, El Nino and global warming are teaming up to cause a nasty disaster in and around Indonesia, and this particular mess will actually worsen global warming a bit.

Farmers and land owners and others set fires in peat forests to clear land. Most of the land clearing is illegal, by the way.

Largely because of El Nino, that periodic warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean that's underway now, there's a drought in Indonesia.

The fires have developed into these hard to put out underground fires in peat that area really, REALLY smoky. Peat is soil consisting mostly of partly decayed plant material often found in wetlands.

Of course these Indonesian wetlands dried out in the drought, and are now ablaze.

The smoky fires blanketed the region in a thick, thick haze, causing respiratory harm in a wide area, including Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, as well as Indonesia.

The smoke and haze could kill, or at the very least contribute to the deaths of at least 10,000 people, making the Indonesian peat fires the deadliest disaster of 2015, notes Dr. Jeff Masters in his Weather Underground blog.

Masters also said an estimated 120,000 people have already sought medical attention because of respiratory illnesses related to the Indonesian peat fires.

The fires are also described as "carbon bombs" because they're emitting huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The peat normally stores the carbon dioxide, but when it burns, it goes into the atmosphere.

Since carbon dioxide is the main gas contributing to global warming,  this is a bad thing. By some estimates, the current Indonesian peat fires are emitting as much carbon dioxide as the entire nation of Germany does in a year.

The Washington Post notes that the peat fires contribute perhaps 20 percent of the annual carbon emissions in the world.

Regular forest fires emit a lot of carbon dioxide, too. But when the trees grow back, some of that released carbon dioxide is sequestered back into the returning trees and is thus removed from the atmosphere where it can do harm.

Not so with the peat fires. The peat has been slowly accumulating for thousands of years, and once it's gone in a fire, it's gone. The released carbon dioxide just sits in the atmosphere, worsening global warming.

Here's a compilation video from Greenpeace showing the extent of the fires and the haze from these peat fires in Indonesia. It's pretty scary.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mike Olbinski Strikes Again With Awesome Storm Time Lapse Compilation

Mike Olbinski strikes again with his new monsoon
storm time lapse compilation. Just awesome.  
I've become a big fan of photographer and storm chaser Mike Olbinski.

Some of his work has already been featured in this here weather blog thingy.

However,  you can never get too much of Mike Olbinski.

He says he logged 48 days and 17,000 miles, mostly in Arizona during the summer monsoon storm season capturing these storms.

He's collected images of the storms into an artistic time lapse compilation that is just mesmerizing to watch over and over again.

This is true whether or not you're a weather geek.

I love how in many of the segments, you can see the thunderstorm microbursts heavily crashing to the ground. I'm sure whoever or whatever was under those microbursts had quite a jolt of wind and rain, to say the least!

He captures the bubbling up of towering thunderheads, strobe light lightning at night that makes you almost feel like you're in a bad 1980s nightclub, and dust storms blasting across the desert landscape.

Here's the video:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Now Its Phillippines Turn To Get Incredible Rains

Dangerous Typhoon Koppu approaching the
Phillippines on Friday. 
It seems like every day, there's a new spot on the globe that gets unprecedented rains.

Earlier this month it was South Carolina, which got nearly two feet of rain in what was described as a "1,000 year flood."

Thursday and Friday, it was parts of southern California, where localized intense storms led to epic floods and mudslides that trapped probably a few hundred people in their cars and blocked a piece of Interstate 5.

Next in the news, you'll be hearing about the Phillippines and their bout with incredible rains.

Typhoon Koppu has arrived on the main northern island of Luzon. It made landfall packing 140 mph winds.

Yes, yes, I know, the Phillippines gets a typhoon seemingly every five minutes so why is this news?

It's because Koppu is strong, and is basically going to stall for a couple days around the northern Phillippines. That will unleash literally feet of rain, and everybody who knows anything about Phillippines weather knows there's going to be a terrible flood.

Actually, it's already started but it will keep getting worse over the next couple of days. It's over land, so the winds are rapidly weakening. But as is the case with most landfalling tropical systems, the rain is still cranking, big time.

Also, Koppu is moving very, very slowly, so it's going to sit and spin over Luzon for a few days, all the while dropping incredible amounts of rain.

One computer model I saw spits out 98 inches of rain in one spot in the Phillippines. That's over eight feet of rain!

 I seriously doubt they'll get anywhere near that amount, but for a computer model to even suggest that is something.
Typhoon Koppu striking the Philippines Saturday. 

I still wouldn't be surprised if three or four feet of rain falls in one or two locations in Luzon.

Government officials told the at least 6 million people in the storm's path to be ready to evacuate. The Phillippine military has also been deployed to northern Luzon to be ready for this monster.

No detailed word yet on casualties and damage so far, but BBC reports rescue workers spotting at least two bodies floating in flood waters.

I'm sure we will be hearing more about the destruction in the Philippines as one disaster after another seems to strike.

There's already a few videos coming out showing the increasing floods in Luzon. Here's one:

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Scary Video Inside Car During California Flash Floods

Flash flooding hit parts of California for a second day in a row Friday, causing more destruction and more cars and trucks getting caught up in the midst of mudslides and flash floods.

Here's video from inside a car in Thursday's epic flood, given to  television station KERO in Bakersfield, California.

Totally scary. Imagine what it was like for the people inside:

And here's a video of a similar fright on a California highway Thursday:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Big California Mudslide Sign Of El Nino Things To Come

Cars buried in California mudslide yesterday.  
Here's the problem: California desperately needs the rain, given its crushing four-year drought.

They want a wet rainy season, and a lot of experts see the current El Nino weather and ocean pattern as just the ticket to give the Golden State a good dousing over the winter.

However, a lot of the rain might come in tremendous gushes instead of a nice steady drizzle, so mudslides and floods could end up being the big problem

California got a taste of that dilemna yesterday when rain fell on the Los Angeles area. Yay!

But the cheering wasn't that loud because in some areas north of L.A.  the rain came in torrents, leading to mudslides and flash floods that trapped drivers on many roads, including a section of Interstate 5.

The Associated Press says at least 14 people and eight animals were rescued from the floods and mudslides.

Interstate 5 near Fort Tejon, California yesterday.  
On Interstate 5, mud and rocks up to five feet deep covered northbound portions of the highway. Traffic was backed up for miles, and lots of cars and trucks were left askew and partly submerged in mud.

Some cars were almost completely buried in mud. Aerial footage showed one ranch almost entirely buried in mud and debris.

With the prospect of more storms this winter, this kind of problem could become a fairly common thing over the coming months.

That's even as other residents rejoice in the rain.

What makes things worse is ocean water temperatures along the California coast are much warmer than normal, which would add fuel to storms and make downpours more likely and heavier than they otherwise would be.

Here's a video of some of the California storm and flood damage from yesterday:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fascinating Tornado In Australia A Couple Months Back

Tornado sweeps through Dubbo Australia in August.  
A tornado hit the community of Dubbo, Australia back in late August, damaging at least seven homes and causing quite a bit of other destruction in a section of that town in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Yeah, I know this is ancient history, but I just find this particular tornado fascinating.

Two things strike me about the two videos you'll see below.

One is, it's a pretty narrow tornado, but as it gets close in the first video, you can tell how strong it is by how loud it gets as it draws near, and how violently debris is thrown into the air.

The second thing that's interesting in both videos the surrounding areas seem to be having pleasant evening weather conditions. There's quite a bit of blue sky, and the clouds in the background don't seem all that menacing.

Just goes to show that tornadoes don't always have to look black and fearsome to do some serious harm

Here are the videos:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shelf Cloud Adds To Joy Of Vermont Foliage

A pretty shelf cloud approaches my home in
St. Albans, Vermont last evening. The orange
patch near the horizon is the setting sun.  
Cameras are justifiably aimed at the trees here in Vermont now, as the fall foliage season is in full swing.

Sometimes, though, the sky, feeling left out, wants to put on an October show.

Last evening, I was surprised as the sky suddenly turned dark over my St. Albans, Vermont home. I looked and to my surprise there was a shelf cloud approaching.

Shelf clouds form in front of strong showers and thunderstorms, and can be a sign of severe weather approaching.

Click on the photos to make them bigger and easier to read. I earlier posted a couple photos of these clouds taken on my iPhone but the images came out a little blurry. These images were taken on
a Canon Rebel. Much better.

Another view of last night's
 approaching line of showers that
added drama to the sky. 
In this case, the cloud's bark was worse than its bite. When the storm arrived, it lacked lighting. Winds gusted to only about 35 mph and there was a brief downpour.

The clouds you see in these still photos I took from my the end of my driveway appear as it they've developed a spin and want to form a funnel.

 However, if you were watching in real time, there was absolutely no sign of rotation and the weather setup was such that there wouldn't be rotation, or funnels or anything like that.

It was just a line of showers ahead of a cold front passing through.

Still a fun sight for a weather geek, though.

Snow In Poland, Snow Forecast For New England. Winter's Coming!

Snow in the Czech Republic this week.
A few high elevation places in New England might
look a little like this by Sunday.  
We here in New England are now watching a series of cold fronts cross our area. It'll get a little colder behind each one.

One particularly strong cold front is due to come through later Friday into Saturday, and that should bring the first accumulating snow of the season to New York's Adirondacks, Vermont's Green Mountains and New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Parts of Maine are going to turn white over the weekend, too.

Several inches of snow will probably pile up in the highest elevations, making skiers salivate.

I suspect elevations as low as 1,000 feet will get at least a slushy coating in some areas. Lower valleys might escape with light flurries.

Meanwhile, early season snows are hitting elsewhere, like in central Europe. Leaves are still on the trees in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany as parts of those countries got a good half foot of snow.

With the snow piling up on leafy trees, branches snapped, cutting power to at least 9,000 Polish home and businesses. 

I don't think things will get that bad in northern New England, but I imagine there could be a few scattered power failures as snow falls on some of the trees that have leaves in higher elevations over the weekend.

Plus, as I noted before, the snow and the foliage will make for some pretty photography on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Watch That Strong Waterspout In Tampa Trash That Mail Truck

Waterspout blowing a postal truck and other
objects apart over the weekend near Tampa, Florida
In case you missed it, a strong waterspout blew onto Tampa, Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge over the weekend, hitting a poor unfortunate U.S. Postal Service tractor trailor.

Waterspouts are usually pretty weak, at least compared to land based tornadoes, but this one was strong.

When it came ashore onto the bridge, it tipped the mail truck over, then righted it back up while blowing it to pieces.

It also sent mail flying, to I don't know, Venezuela by the looks of the video.

Luckily the driver wasn't really injured, though of course he had quite a fright

Meterologist Ginger Zee with ABC News has a very good report on this:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Incredible Summer Heat Blasts Parts Of The U.S. In October

Summer in October, for sure!
After record heat in much of the nation this week
it'll cool down temporarily in the eastern half of the nation.
However, as this map shows, heat could build back
into the center of the nation around Oct. 20.  

That's certainly the case in the central and western parts of the country as incredible October heat has been cooking some areas long after the time when autumn chill usually takes hold.

Way up in Fargo, North Dakota, it was 97 degrees on Sunday, easily the hottest October day on record there. (the old record for October in Fargo was 93 degrees.)

Sunday was also the hottest day of all of 2015 in Fargo. The normal high temperature in Fargo this time of year is in the upper 50s.

Grand Island, Nebraska also had its hottest October day on record with 97 degrees. It was 98 degrees in Broken Bow and Norfolk, Nebraska and 97 degrees in Yankton, South Dakota.

International Falls, Minnesota, the "Icebox of the Nation" with its cold reputation, was 88 degrees on Sunday, tying it's record high for the month of October.

All these readings are way above normal for July, never mind October!

Many other record highs were set across the Plains Sunday, according to AccuWeather. 

Several cities that registered hottest for so late in the season records on Sunday also had their earliest 90 degree readings on record back on March 16 of this year, says The Weather Channel.

Talk about a never-ending summer!

Further west, it's hot in California, too. Los Angeles on Sunday completed its third consecutive day of temperatures above 100 degrees. It's the first time that's happened since 1989.

On Saturday, Camarillo, California reached 108 degrees, breaking its all time record high of 103 degrees set in September, 1978.

Big heat waves have hit California and the Great Plains in October from time to time at least since people started keeping records. But this one was way over the top compared to most past autumn warm spells.

I have to think climate change added a bit of a boost to what otherwise would have been a very hot weekend, but not the extreme we had this weekend.

In the Northwest and Northern Plains, strong winds accompanied the warmth in many areas. Winds gusted to 70 mph in Billings, Montana. Blowing dust and smoke from a grass fire cut visibility on an eastern Washington State highway, causing a multi-car pileup. 

The Northeast is only getting a glancing blow from the warmth today, with highs in the 70s well up into northern New England.

A change in the weather pattern to a more winter like one will bring much cooler temperatures to the central and eastern parts of the nation for the middle and end of the week. Snow might fall in places around the Great Lakes and northern New England by late in the week or the weekend.

The heat might build back into parts of the central United States next week. Alaska look to be unsually warm, too.

Meanwhile, the West Coast will stay hot. Bad news because of the ongoing drought and wildfire risk there.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

New England: Did Someone Say Snow?

There might be some combined
autumn/winter scenes like this
 in New England in about a week.  
Despite a warm summer and early fall, some New Englanders are understandably touchy over the mention of snow, after the epic winter of 2014-15.

But snow is inevitable, and it's starting to be the season where it can get a little white out there.

That said, prepare for next weekend!  

It's already snowed in some corners of New England of course. Caribou, Maine has had a trace of snow in two of the past three days. The summits of northern New England mountains were white yesterday.

Plus, it does normally start to snow in the Northeast this time of year, at least occasionally.

Now, computer models are starting to focus on snow for much of New England next weekend and early next week.

Before you get too alarmed, we're not talking about any kind of blockbuster blizzard. It also won't snow everywhere in New England. Plus, forecasts can change and it might prove a little warmer than current forecasts.

As I see it now, though, there's the potential for several inches of snow in the upper elevations of northern New England, and flurries on valley floors in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and maybe western Massachusetts.

This could set us up for something really pretty. Foliage season is running late, thanks to a record warm early autumn. Snow and fall foliage can make for some pretty striking photographs.

Of course, you don't want too much snow. If you get many inches or feet of heavy wet snow with foliage still on trees, you get disasters that involve thousands of fallen and broken trees and power failures that last for weeks.

This happened famously in October 1987 in Vermont, New York and Massachusetts, and in much of southern New England, New York and New Jersey in October, 2011. 

Luckily, I'm so far not anticipating anything close to that extreme.

But this is the week to buy your winter boots, and consider getting those snow tires for your car. Even if the temperature does make it to 70 degrees on Monday ahead of the upcoming chill.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Alaska Is Kinda, Almost Getting A Hurricane

Click on this map to make it bigger and easier to see.
This shows the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms
that made it unusually far north in the Pacific.
Yellow parts of tracks indicate it was at hurricane status
green is tropical storm strength. From Dr. Jeff Masters'
Weather Underground blog.  
A hurricane this week managed to sneak much further into the northeastern Pacific Ocean than is normal, which means Alaska and British Columbia are in for a mean, mean storm later today and tonight.

Hurricane Oho cruised through the central Pacific and headed north during this past week.

Usually, hurricanes die out or turn into regular old storms well before approaching Alaska or other points in North America.

Oho indeed stopped being a hurricane and turned into a regular mid-latitude storm, but did so much further north than almost every hurricane in recorded history.

This, and the fact that the remnants of Oho are going to interact with a strong jet stream, mean winds to near hurricane force might hit some coastal sections of Alaska's panhandle.

Hurricanes need very warm water to survive, and the Pacific Ocean off the coast of North America, even off the coast of far southern California, is normally way to chilly to support tropical systems.

However, northeastern Pacific Ocean temperatures are at or near record high levels, so many hurricanes that manages to move north would hang on to their tropical characteristics longer than they otherwise would.

According to Dr. Jeff Masters in his Weather Underground blog, only two other hurricanes since 1949 - an unnamed storm in 1975 and Hurricane Ana last year got as far north as Oho.

Ana also took advantage of record hot water in the Pacific to latitude 36.3 North, which is about as far north as Monterrey, California. The 1975 hurricane made it as far north as the Washington/Oregon border, but like Ana and Oho, was well offshore at that time.

Both Ana and Oho remained potent and dangerous storms, though no longer hurricanes, when the hit the coast of North America.

Masters says another tropical system is forming in the eastern Pacific, and this one, too, has the potential to get much further north than most hurricanes off of the West Coast.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Australia Is Hot And Burning Again

A home destroyed by Australian bush fires this week.
Photo by Justin McManus, via Sydney Morning Herald.  
Australia in recent years seems to have been beset by lots of heatwaves, bush fires and extreme storms.

After a winter in which cold spells gave Aussies a break from the unrelenting above normal temperatures, the heat is back as spring arrives. (It's spring in the southern hemisphere, 'natch.)

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne on October 6 had the earliers 35 degree Celcius reading on record for that city.

The previous earliest 35 in Melbourne was on October 12, 2006. 35 Celcius is about 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

On October 5, Canberra had its earliest 30 degree reading on record, besting the old mark set on Oct. 9, 1944. Thirty degrees is about 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the state of Victoria, the record high temperatures contributed to an early season outbreak of bush fires.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, this will be a very bad brush fire season in Australia:

"Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Stuart Coombs said part of the state's west had received about 50 percent of the expected rainfall for the past two years, which had left trees and other vegetation dry.

"To have that drop for two years is very significant, particularly in forests. Trees get stressed and don't cary much water so they'll burn quickly.

Mr. Cooms aid El Nino, which usually lasts about 12 months, was unfolding strongly in the Pacific and was unfavourable for producing rain across the country."

Early season heat records in Australia are most likely to be set during El Nino years, says the country's Bureau of Meteorology.

South Carolina Flood Includes Alligators, Snakes, Fire Ant Islands

A floating island of thousands of fire ants in the
South Carolina flood. Definitely scary.  
The terrible flooding that is finally receding in South Carolina brought some other scary problems other than water.

Residents were warned to be alert for displaced alligators and snakes lurking around their ruined homes, businesses and neighborhoods.

Plus there's another problem. Fire ants, which are horrible insects that can really attack and bite and bite and BITE, have formed floating islands.

They were kicked out of their nests by the floods, and now have formed floating islands of thousands of ants that you DON'T want to tangle with.

Here's a video of the menace, taken by WSAV photojournalist Chris Murray:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Westboro Baptist Church Weirdos To Picket National Weather Service Because Gays

Westboro Baptist Church has been reduced
to protesting at the National Weather Service 
Westboro Baptist Church is that tiny group of loonies from Kansas who noisily protest at all kinds of random events and places because that's what they do.

Their latest target is the National Weather Service, according to The Vane, the weather portion of the Gawker web site. 

Why, did it rain on one of their protests when the NWS forecasted clear skies?

Nope. It's not quite that simple. It never is with the Westboro loonies.

Here's part of their press release:

"Westboro Baptist Church will picket the National Weather Service to remind them that ONLY by God's mercy and power do you gather intelligence on His weather. The day comes when all weather rules, as you know them, will be gone. America crossed the Rubicon when by force of law, you permitted same sex marriage."

Yes, it's the gays. It's always the gays. I'm sure the gays caused the South Carolina floods, like they seem to cause all disasters.

I'm also unclear on why the National Weather Service shouldn't "gather intelligence" on "God's weather." I kinda want to know if God wants me to bring an umbrella with me today, and you'd think God would get the National Weather Service to tell me what to do.

Apparently, according to Westboro, God hates it when people predict the future. And of course the National Weather Service is ALWAYS in the habit of predicting the future.

Anyway, I do like how Westboro has renamed meteorologists. They said: "NOTE to weather reporting rebels: Nothing happens in this earth without the direct command of God. HE is sovereign of all!"

I'm sure God forecasts the weather better than any meteorologist on Earth, but I do approve of calling meteorologists "Weather Reporting Rebels." It just sounds cooler.

So, if you happen to be in Norman, Oklahoma on Thursday head on down to the National Weather Service office or the national Storm Prediction Center and check out the Westboro loonies.