Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mid-Size Snowfall Mostly Hitting Pa. To S. New England

For the first time in more than two weeks, I was created
by blue skies over my yard in St. Albans, Vermont this morning.
However, clouds will come back in later today. 
One thing's for sure, we've had a lot of "overperforming" storms in the nation this winter.

Overperforming storms are ones that create more snow, more rain, more wind and more rough weather than most forecasters had anticipated before the storms actually  hit.

One such storm is heading into the Northeast now.

This one is certainly no blockbuster. It's wimpy but not as wimpy as you'd expect.

It's an Alberta Clipper, one of those storms that zip on through from the High Plains of Canada through the northern Tier of states into the Northeast.

Alberta Clippers usually don't have much moisture with them, and typically don't drop much snow.  The usually good for a dusting, maybe one or two inches of snow before quickly slinking away.

That's true with this one, too, but it's still outperforming  most clippers, and will drop a stripe of three to six inches of snow from Pennsylvania to southern Maine.

It was snowing pretty hard in Pennsylvania this morning, and by this afternoon, it'll snow at a pretty good rate into southern New England

Winter weather advisories are up for the lower Hudson Valley of New York north of the Big Apple and pretty much all of southern New England into tonight. Up to six inches of snow could fall in this region. That's especially true in southeastern New England, and maybe up into far southern Maine.

Up here in northern Vermont, we awoke to the first bright and clear and sunny day in more than two weeks.   A nice relief from the long-lasting gloom we endured.

Some of this Alberta Clipper snow will work its way north later today and tonight, and into Wednesday morning. Most of Vermont is in for one to three inches of fluff from this one.

No big deal, but a bit of icing on the powdery cake for the ski areas.

As advertised in earlier posts, temperatures will trend to below normal levels later this week and through the weekend, but it won't be extreme for early February. Just the kind of stuff we're used to in a typical winter, is all.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Last Week's Ice Storm REALLY Clobbered New Brunswick

Trees laid low in New Brunswick, Canada after last week's
ice storm. 
Remember that ice storm in Vermont last Tuesday, the one that made that morning's commute hell, closed most of the schools and dropped a few trees and power lines.

That storm got much worse once it got to New Brunswick, Canada, just east of Maine, and they're still reeling up there.

There's videos, too at the bottom of this post.

The storm in New Brunswick cut power to at least 130,000 people there. Nearly a week later, about 25,000 people were still without power, mostly in New Brunswick's Acadian peninsula, which was hardest hit.

The Canadian government is sending troops in today to help with cleanup and power restoration, says the Globe and Mail.  In some places, ice is still on the trees, and gusty winds are making some of them fall, leading to new power outages.

At least two people died in the New Brunswick storm and at least 31 people have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from generators used during power failures.

We here in Vermont really dodged a bullet with this one, didn't we?  I'm still slipping on the ice, but at least the electricity is still on, and the trees in my yard remain pretty much intact.

Here's some videos out of New Brunswick:

First, a train makes its way through sagging trees and branches laid low by the ice:



ere's a view from inside a house at night as a big tree gives way under the weight of the ice:




Power flashes in Moncton, New Brunswick at night as power lines fail under the ice:


Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Way To Run Winter: Mountain Snow, But Not Much In Valleys

Jay Peak, in far northern Vermont, typically does well with
the weather pattern Vermont is in, and this weekend is no
exception. This photo taken at the resort Saturday, came
after a foot of new snow in the previous 24 hours.
It was still snowing up there Sundayy 
The past couple of days has been my kind of winter weather in Vermont: Not much snow in the valleys to get in the way, but some decent accumulations up in the ski areas.

It hasn't been cold, either, which is a bonus.

As always, changes are coming, but for at least the next couple of days, we'll continue with the light stuff in the valleys, and the somewhat heavier snows in the mountains.

We will finally go back to a long interrupted, true winter

Today is the fourteenth consecutive day that the temperature has gotten above freezing in Burlington, Vermont. That's an incredibly long streak for January. Especially since on seven of those days, the low temperature never got below freezing, either.

We might be in the running for one of the top 10 warmest Januaries on record.

However, the shift back toward winter has already started, as progressively colder and colder air is filtering in.

The first salvo in this process was a strong upper level disturbance that went through Friday evening interacted with quite a bit of moisture over northern Vermont to really dump some surprising amounts of snow in parts of the north and mountains

Westfield, Vermont picked up 11 inches of new snow and Eden Mills clocked in with 10 inches. Many of the northern Vermont ski areas picked up six or more inches of snow.

Another disturbance is coming through today. It doesn't have as much moisture to work with as Friday night's system, but expect snow showers this Sunday afternoon, again especially across the north and mountains.

The snow showers, when they come through, could be briefly heavy anywhere in Vermont, so watch out for possible slick roads and briefly low visibility.

Expect just a dusting to a couple inches in the valleys with more than that in the valleys.

Then it's into a couple days of normal midwinter weather -- highs in the 20s, lows around 10.

A small weather system Tuesday might drop a dusting to a couple inches of snow, then, for the first time in a month, really, we'll actually get into some colder than normal weather for awhile.

Oh, don't worry, you hardy Vermonters, it won't be anything extreme. Just highs in the teens and lows a few degrees either side of zero toward the second half of this week and next weekend.

You can handle it.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Nominee For Dumbest Person To Ever Ignore A Weather Warning

I'll admit it.

Some idiot drove his pickup truck onto a California coastal jetty
amid huge, crashing storm waves. It ended poorly.
If I were near a coastline and there was a big storm kicking up humongous waves and surf, I'd go down and watch it - provided I was well away from the waves and far above them, and had an easy, safe escape route if flooding started.  

Not so for a dumb guy in northern California. There's a video of him and his exploits at the bottom of this post.

On Thursday, there was a high surf advisory in northern California, including Humboldt Bay.

Photographers flocked down there to enjoy the view of the picturesque, but dangerous large waves crashing into the rocks - from a safe, dry distance. Ah, the beauty of long lenses.

Suddenly, one of the photographer had an astonishing sight: As turbulent, scary waves crashed against and over a jetty, some idiot drove his Nissan pickup truck with Arkansas plates out onto it,   apparently to get a better view of the stormy seas.

As you might have guessed, this didn't end well at all.

One of the photographers who was safely on shore, H. Phil Hanes said he and his wife watched the whole scene. And photographed and filmed it, of course.

Soon, waves overwhelmed the truck and battered it around. The video appears as if the truck would be swept off the jetty, but somehow it wasn't. But the guy driving the Nissan was stuck.

"It was just stopped on the part you shouldn't even be driving on.....The waves were so big" Hanes told the Eureka, California Times-Standard.

Somebody called the Coast Guard, which sent a helicopter to the scene. Because of the dangerous waves, a rescue swimmer was lowered via rope to the stranded Nissan driver. He was plucked from the jetty and brought up to the helicopter.

Nobody was hurt, but this idiot sure put other peoples' lives in danger. We don't know who this moron is. The Coast Guard said the guy didn't have any identifying information with him.

At last report, the battered pickup truck was still out on the jetty. The Coast Guard said it is the driver's responsibility to remove it, when there's no storm waves.

Could get expensive to do, but oh well, his fault, right?

Heed those weather warnings folks, no matter what the hazard is.

Here's the video. You can see what an idiot this guy was. Waves are pretty, though:

An Idaho Snow Disaster, And A Beautiful Avalanche In Patagonia

Cracked back wall of an Idaho
supermarket after the roof collapsed
under heavy snow earlier this month.
While we here in Vermont struggle with frequent bouts of mixed precipitation and lackluster snow cover, the ski areas in the Rockies have been rejoicing in, in some cases record breaking amounts of snow.

There's feet and FEET of it on the ground in many spots out there.  

There can certainly be drawbacks to this, and that's the case in northern Idaho, where unprecedented amounts of snow has collapsed many buildings, leading to fear and paralysis among the snow drifts up there.

The city of Weiser in western Idaho is especially hard hit. Much of Idaho doesn't usually get all that much snow, and Weiser's climate is fairly mild. Usually.

But the city of more than 5,000 people is buried under four feet of snow. Many building roofs have collapsed,  including that of Weiser's only supermarket,

That's a problem, since the nearest other supermarket is 15 miles away, and it's hard for some people to travel that far, especially with all that snow in the way.  The Idaho Foodbank set up an "emergency store" in Weiser to help the city get past the crisis, says television station WBOI.

Shane McInroy, the manager of Ridley's Family Market, was on the roof with 11 other people when it began to collapse.

They were up there to shovel away the heavy snow load, but it was too late. The roof collapsed. Witnesses rushed over with ladders to rescue the pople who had been on the roof, says the Idaho Statesman newspaper.

The snow collapses have unfortunately killed at least one person in the hardest hit region of Idaho. According to television station KLEW, a woman either stepped out onto her porch or was trying to get into the house from the porch when the roof collapsed.

Family members found her body trapped beneath the snow and wreckage of the porch roof.

Other collapses in Idaho involved a mill and a church.

The Washington Post says about 100 buildings have collapsed under the weight of the snow in or near Weisner.

The area is a big onion growing region, and many onion sheds have collapsed under the snow, destroying produce and stock.

The snow siege in Idaho recalls the epic snow years  here in New England that have led to multiple building collapses.

Numerous roofs collapsed in eastern and southern New England during the winter of 2015 when record snowfalls buried the region.

Here in Vermont, the last time we had a winter severe enough to collapse roofs was in 2011, when one of the snowiest winters on record - which included snowstorms that featured wet and heavy snows instead of the usual powdery variety, led to numerous roof, barn and porch collapses.

So far, no problems like these in Vermont last year. Though I did pick up a semi-surprise three inches of snow last night at my house in St. Albans.

Meanwhile, I came across a video from August of a large avalanche in Patagonia, seen on a sunny blue sky day in the region.

Avalanches are of course extremely dangerous, but the video captures the powerful beauty of these things.

Watch:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Weird Vermont January No Drought Breaker

Despite an seemingly endless spell of damp, gloomy
weather in Vermont this January, almost all of the state
is still abnormally dry or in drought. (yellow and
orange shading on map.)
For the last eight days in Burlington, Vermont ending Wednesday, the temperature spread has only been 16 degrees.

That is very strange, because this time of year, in the depths of winter, the temperature spread is usually all over the place.

It's completely normal for the temperature to say, be 45 degrees on a Wednesday, then be 15 below zero by the subsequent Saturday.

Yeah, that would be a 60 degree temperature spread within four days, but it's something that happens at least once most winter.

However, the recent teeny, tiny temperature spread, which I swear must be some kind of record but I  can't prove it, is a hallmark of an odd weather pattern.  One that has been gloomy and depressing, but has a very slight silver lining which I'll get to in a bit.

We've been stuck in a situation with no big Arctic outbreaks and no dramatic changes in weather patterns that are normal for mid-winter in the North Country.

It has been damp, foggy, drizzly, sometimes icy, almost always dark and overcast with relatively frequent bouts of precipitation. The last sunny day we had was 10 days ago, and that's a weirdly long stretch of weather without any real sun in Vermont.

You'd think, then, with this damp weather, that drought that we had which got so much publicity in the summer and autumn would be long over.

Think again.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of Thursday, about 65 percent of Vermont is still in moderate drought, and only  tiny sliver of the Northeast Kingdom is not abnormally dry.

Droughts in a Vermont winter are not that noticeable unless precipitation is far below normal. That's because it's hard to dry things out more than they already are in the Green Mountain State during the cold season.

Here's why: When the mostly forested Vermont is all leafed out, all those trees suck up tons of moisture from the ground. Now, trees are dormant, so they're not taking all our groundwater.

The sun angle is low, and it's really cloudy, so evaporation isn't much of a factor. Besides the ground is largely frozen, and not much moisture evaporates from frozen soil.

And here's our slight silver lining I told you about: The long stretch of gloomy weather has added some moisture to the mix, which is slightly easing th drought that began last year.

Still, that drought  still lurks, and it can still bite us in the butt this spring if weather patterns don't stay wet and turn even wetter.

It's hard to find evidence of the possibly ominous dryness in Vermont right now, but if you look, you find it.

Here's an example: About a week and a half ago, I decided to burn much of the brush that I had accumulated in piles around my St. Albans, Vermont property.

I had one pile burning, and was pullling branches from another pile to throw into the fire. Once I got down a ways into the second pile, I encountered lots of dust, and dryness and brittle dry branches.

Great for the burn pile, but bad if you're worried about drought. It's still dry out there if you dig down enough under foot.

We could use quite a few more wet storms.

True, things have gotten better. December's precipitation in Vermont was close to normal, and it looks like January's precipitation won't be far from average, either.

Lake Champlain's lake level has responded to the modestly better precipitation. The lake level had fallen to below 95 feet below sea level in early July, which is quite low. The lake level stayed at that low level until right around mid-January when it got just above 95 feet.

Still low, but an improvement.

It's been a stormy winter for the United States, so areas of severe drought have eased in a lot of places. California and the Southeast are much improved from the very bad droughts they were enduring just months ago.

The improvement in Vermont has been slower, but it IS there.

The U.S. Drought monitor says that three months ago, 29 percent of Vermont was in severe drought. Now, that figure is three percent. Just a tiny portion of Vermont along the Connecticut River in Windam County is in severe drought.

Almost all of the rest of the state is either in moderate drought or abnormally dry.

If we really want to finish off Vermont's drought once and for all, here's a recipe of what should happen:

We ought to get above normal snowfall in February and the first half of March. (Ski resorts probably wouldn't complain about that.)

Then in late March through the spring, we should get frequent moderate rainfalls. Nothing extreme, no big gigantic downpours, but frequent, long lasting run of the mill rain storms.

Yeah, I know you all want a sunny, warm spring. but I'm going to quote the old Lynn Anderson country song "Rose Garden":  "Along with the sunshine, there's gotta be a little rain sometimes."

Warm sunshine in the spring is good. Maybe we can hope for great timing: Rainy nights and sunny days.

Wouldn't that be nice. Dream on.

Think of it this way: A rainy spring would be a great alternative to more dried up wells and out of control brush fires, wouldn't it?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Weather Disasters Were Big In 2016

One of the multi-billion dollar weather disasters in 2016
was severe European flooding in late May and early June.
Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images via Weather Underground
Now that the nation seems to have entered a break from a one or two month long stretch of seemingly constant big storms, let's look at weather disasters from 2016.

According to the Category 6 Blog by Jeff Masters and Bob Henson at Weather Underground, the world in 2016 experienced 31 disasters that caused a least $1 billion in damages.

That's the fourth highest number of such disasters since people started keeping detailed track of these calamaties back in 1990.

The monetary figures for these disasters are inflation-adjusted, so the reason for the uptick is not that everything is more expensive.  The expensive year of 2016 also appears to be part of an upward trend in enormous disasters.

Some people might be quick to blame global warming for the uptick in terrible, expensive disasters, and climate change could well be part of the mix.

But there are other big factors as well. The disaster statistics come from the Aon Benfield 2016 Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report. 

The report says:

"It can be concluded that there have been an increase in both annual and individual weather disaster costs in the last nearly four decades. It can reasonably be assumed that the combination of effects from climate change, more intense weather events, greater coastal exposures and population migration patters are all equal contributors to the loss trend."

The bright side to the report is that deaths from big disasters was smaller than most years. Natural disasters, including earthquakes, killed about 8,250 people worldwide in 2016, compared with a yearly average of around 71,000.

Scouring through the details of the 2016 disaster report and Masters' and Hensons' post:

"Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurance firm, put global losses from natural disaster at $175 billion in 2016, compared to $7.1 billion in 2015. the high losses in 2016 were driven by increasingly powerful storms and an exceptionally high number of severe floods, with flooding causing more than a third of all losses, well above the 10 -year average of 21%."

The most expensive weather disaster in 2016 was flooding in China's Yangtze Basin, around the first of August, which caused about $28 billion in damage and left 475 people dead.

Fifteen of the world's 31 billion dollar weather disasters occured in the United States. Most of the disasters were floods, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, but drought in different parts of the nation contibuted to the total.

The death toll from all the billion dollar American disasters in 2016 was 106. Very bad, but not as bad as it could have been, considering the losses involved.

Of course, we don't know whether 2017 will follow the upward trend in expensive disasters. I don't even know yet if this month's slew of California storms, or the tornadoes in the South caused damages of a billion dollars or more.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Favorite New Word "Factivsm" Saving Science Under Trump

In recent days, signs point to scientists really ramping up
"factivism" to counter the Trump administration's climate denial.
You might have heard of the daring social media manager for the Badlands National Park, who in a welcome fit of resistance on Tuesday, tweeted out a series of facts about climate change.

The people at Badlands did this to protest the Trump administration's apparent silencing of science - and facts- to suit what is more comfortable for him anyway, Trump's "alternative fact" universe.

Trump is no fan of climate science, having famously called that very climate science a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and others to thwart United States economic development.

Or something.

Since taking office less than a week ago, Trump's administration has ordered employees at the Environmental Protection Agency to not discuss a new freeze on grant funding and told personnel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from releasing research documents.

And, famously, the Trumpsters at least temporarily told the National Park Service from tweeting photos of the crowd size at Trump's inauguration because it depicted crowds smaller than in the president's fantasy world.

All these agencies deal with climate change a bit, and these gag orders were all too much for somebody at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

So they tweeted the following on Monday:

"Flipside  of the atmosphere: Ocean acidity has increased 30% since the Industrial Revolution. "Ocean Acidification #climate #carboncycle." 

And tbis: "Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years #climate."

AND this: "The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of of December, 2016, 404.93 ppm."

These three statements are just Climate 101, something any serious student of climate change knows.

But these facts, tweeted in apparent defiance of Trump, are a form of resistance that has been dubbed "factivism"   It's the act of combating Trump and his minions and their alternative reality with facts.

I really like this. Especially when it comes to climate change, when there's so much science going on in that field and so much temptation to silence the science among the climate deniers in the White House and elsewhere.

As New York Magazine points out, the Badlands tweets from Tuesday are only a minor form of insult to the Trump administration. But Trump can't bear even minor insults and if there's multiple cases of factivism going on, that could be a real weapon against Trump's fight against the climate change fight.

The Badlands Twitter account was silenced after this, and whoever tweeted those climate facts will probably be fired. (Though I'm not too worried about him or her, I bet there's a lot of science organizations that need a good social media communicator like that person.)

The famoust Badlands tweets have been deleted, but so many people saved screenshots of them that they are still being widely distributed 24 hours later.

All kinds of other factivsm resistance organizations, media and efforts have cropped up even before Trump was inaugurated, and that has accelerated in the past week.

In an apparent response to Tuesday's Badlands tweets, another Twitter account, @AltNatParkSer bills itself as the "unofficial "resistance" team of U.S. National Park Service.

By midafternoon eastern time Wednesday, @AltNatParkSer had accumulated 535,000 followers, including me. Two hours later, it was up to 608,000 followers.

Some of @AltNatParkSer Tweets poke mean fun at President Trump to try to get under his skin, like this one: "Reports of an unidentified orange haired mammal close to President's Park. Possibly invasive species. DC animal services have been notified."

Some bring up science: "The @USGS has a full list of US agencies running climate change programmes. Could they all be wrong, Mr. President?"

Other tweets note the admittably scary thing the people behind the account are doing: "This account should not have to exist & we are sorry for any problems we are causing our colleagues. But we didn't start this."

But they will continue, and the effort seems to be spreading.

There's a movement to organize a Scientists March On Washington, modeled after the highly successful Women's Marches last weekend.

I doubt 500,000 scientists will descend on Washington, but you never know.

There's also a move to get more scientists to run for public office, and encourage people to support those politician/scientists.

The organization is called 314 Action, and it's kinda modeled after Emily's List, the group that encourages women to run for office and others to support them.

Climate scientists, and any other scientist for that matter, are also being directed to an internet archive site where they can save climate change web pages and data before the Trump administration scrubs it away from U.S. government sites.

There's a lot of talk about resistance to Donald Trump. Trump, meanwhile, appears not to want the public to know the true facts about climate change, or practically anything else for that matter.

Scienced are taking on the unlikely role of resisting the Trump administration's climate denial. These scientists might turn out to be our most important factivists.

California Clobbered Again, But Will Get At Least Brief Break

Flash flood destruction in Gaviota, California last Friday
While we were distracted by tornadoes in the South and a gusty, wet, icy nor'easter blasting the Northeast over the past couple of days, California got pounded again by another tremendous storm off the Pacific Ocean.

Unlike in the past few storms, southern California got particularly blasted, with floods, mudslides and other havoc in the Los Angeles basin and other areas of the Golden State's southern half.

At least four deaths have been blamed on the latest California storm.

The Los Angeles Times reported that both the 110 Freeway in Carson and the 710 Freeway in Long Beach shut down due to flooding. The Long Beach area was perhaps the hardest hit, with a record one day rainfall of 3.87 inches reported there Sunday.

Brett Albright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Servcie in San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times that the latest storm poured four inches of rain down on some places.

"Today was very intense," Albright said of Sunday's California weather. "It's not a normal event. It was definitely a culmination of perfect circumstances: We had a very intense atmospheric river witha lot of moisture and an area of lift in the atmosphere right over coastal Los Angelese and Orange counties. It forced all that moisture out. "

This kind of weather closed Malibu roads because of rock slides and had some houses and apartments teetering on the edge of mudslides. On Monterey Bay, there was a new record high wave height during the storm, just over 34 feet.

In the mountains, feet upon feet of snow piled up. Snowfall in the Sierra Nevada this winter has been the deepest in 20 years, according to some reports.

While the drought is not over in California, it is slowly getting eroded away by this winter's parade of storms.

Los Angeles has had double its normal amount of precipitation this winter. And, about 42 percent of California is no longer in drought. Ninety-seven percent of the state was in drought this time last year.

Also, just two percent of California remains in "Exceptional Drought" category, the severest level. At this time last year, 43 percent of the Golden State was in exceptional drought.

Of course the water works could shut off abruptly in California, and the drought could re-intensify. It's too soon to say whether that will happen.

What will happen is California will get a break from the wet, stormy, snowy, destructive weather for at least the next few days.

Very little, if any rain and snow is expected in most of California for the next seven days or so. However, there are hints that more storms could start hitting at least central and northern California again in early February.

That last storm that hit California ended up in the central Plains states yesterday and last night, dumping more than a foot of snow in places like the southern half of South Dakota. The big winner for snow so far, according to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is right where most of my in-laws live in Yankton, South Dakota at 16 inches.

That storm is weakening as it heads east, so for us here in Vermont, we can expect frequent bouts of light snow over the next several days. It could even mix with rain the valleys Thursday before colder air moves in.

Only a few inches of snow at most are expected in Vermont's valleys in the next few days, but it should pile up fairly nicely in the mountains, with six inches to a foot on some ski areas over the next five days.

And the western New York Great Lakes snow blasts should also get really cranking in the next few days.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Scenes From An Ice Storm: Staying Yucky In Vermont

An ice-encrusted view of my St. Albans, Vermont house today.
It remains icky across Vermont this Tuesday evening as the lingering, big nor'easter continued to provide us with icy weather, and not the nice powdery snow we're used to this time of year.

There's a series of photos in this post that I took around my St. Albans, Vermont house today. I decided not to venture out into the ice. The home "ice" photos will suffice.

As always, click on any photo you want to view to make it bigger and easier to see.

As I noted yesterday, a nor'easter of the strength we had today, moving along the path just off the coast as it did today, would normally provide a nice big fat powder day for Vermont.

Instead, with the lack of deep cold air in place, we got an ice storm. Oh, sure, we did get a burst of snow during the mid to late morning, but it wasn't all that impressive.

Iced over berries on a shrub in my St. Albans, Vermont yard today. 
Then we spent the afternoon stuck amidst "snizzle" a gloomy, foggy mix of freezing drizzle, mini snow pellets, sleet and yuck.

The forecast discussion from the National Weather Service in South Burlington, Vermont late this afternoon said it best:

"What a waste. It's late January, we've got a strong nor'easter off the southern New England coast and all we get out of it is ice, ice, and more ice! Story of the winter of 2016-17, I guess. "

Going into this evening, more light freezing rain and drizzle, sleet and a little snow seem likely at least until midnight, and the winter weather advisory for the icky weather has been extended into the night.

The side view mirror of my truck didn't look very useful today.
Expect this evening's commute to be a bit on the dicey side. Not as bad as this morning, but still nasty enough for you to be careful.

The continuation of freezing drizzle and sometimes gusty north winds has continued to break a few trees and power lines, so more than 2,500 Vermonters remained without electricity as of 5:30 p.m. today.

This has been an odd January in Vermont. Yes, we get an awful lot of cloudy days in the first month of the year and the short days are often dark and depressing.

But we've had a long stretch of warmish, but deep and dark and quiet and damp days. Even the relative excitement of a nor'easter continued this foggy and gloomy stretch today.

The next couple of days will be the same, but with a cooling trend into the weekend. Perhaps, in the next few days, during or beyond this weekend, we might sneak in a couple of days of sun.

That would be nice.

Meanwhile, enjoy today's Vermont ice storm photos. (Scroll down from this point, because there are more beyond this verbiage. And feel more than free to send me your icy photos from today as well.

The staircase to the upper deck of my St. Albans, Vermont
house didn't look very safe today.

Icy branhes in my St. Albans,
Vermont back yard today. 
Power lines leading to my St. Albans, Vermont house
sag under the weight of ice today. So far, knock on wood,
the electricity has stayed on. 

Tree branches weighed down by ice rest on the roof of
my garden shed in St. Albans, Vermont today. 

Dangerous Ice Here In Vermont This Morning

Quite a bit of ice on the trees already as dawn broke outside
my St. Albans, Vermont house this morning. 
UPDATE: 8:30 AM.:

At least for now, freezing rain has changed to snow in much of Vermont as colder air aloft is working into the storm system.

This isn't exactly helping, since the snow on top of the ice if anything makes the ice more slippery.

And this is wet snow. It'll pile up on top of already ice-encrusted trees and power lines, causing even more power failures and damage.

The number of power failures in Vermont as of 8:30 a.m. has ticked up to about 2,100.

Expect wet snow, maybe mixed with sleet and freezing rain and rain at times, to continue this morning off and on.

But it will continue to become lighter and lighter in intensity as we go through the morning. It will even come to a complete stop at times. The very heaviest precipitation is over, or will be ending soon.

Still, we'll get light periods of mixed precipitation well into this evening.

PREVIOUS 7:15 A.M. DISCUSSION

I awoke this morning in St. Albans, Vermont to a pounding rain. Freezing rain, to be exact.

Everything is covered in ice. Trees are sagging under the weight of the freeze. Not good.

We knew there would be an ugly mix of precipitation in Vermont today, but it was unclear what would predominate.  It turns out freezing rain is the main story.

In many if not most areas of the state, it turns out to be a dangerous freezing rain. Although some areas still have sleet and snow mixing in.

Some areas of northern Vermont received two to three inches of snow overnight in addition to the ice.  Other areas, like the Champlain Valley, have received mostly freezing rain.

There was already about a quarter inch of ice on the trees and all other surfaces outside my house in St. Albans, Vermont. That's nearing the threshhold at which branches and power lines start to fail.

Given the complicated, near 32 degree temperature through a fairly thick layer of the atmosphere over Vermont today, expect unexpected switches to sleet and snow, then maybe back to freezing rain at random times today, too.

I notice Burlington had several hours of freezing rain, then switched to snow, at least for a time, around 7:30 a.m

The bottom line: No matter what happens to be falling from the sky at the moment, don't travel this morning if you don't have to. If you must, take it slow and easy. The roads are absolutely terrible. Even where they salted the hell out of them, the rain washed the salt off, then the roads re-freeze.

By the way, pretty much every school in Vermont is closed because of the weather, so don't bother to take your kids in this morning. Several businesses are closed, too.

It's dangerous underfoot, too. I could barely walk across the driveway and lawn when I took the dogs out for their morning business. One of my dogs slipped and fell. (Jackson is fine.)

As of 7 a.m., about 1,400 homes and businesses were without power in Vermont, according to Vermont Outage Map. I expect that number to rise.

On the bright side, this won't turn out to be nearly as bad as the epic ice storm of 1998, or even the nasty Christmas week ice storm of 2013.

The heaviest precipitation will have ended, I think, before there's any real widespread, extensive damage to trees and power lines. Still, expect some broken lines and fallen branches today.

The mixed precipitation, mostly freezing rain, will continue in Vermont at least through the rest of this morning. In a few valley locations, there will be a break in which temperatures sneak a little above freezing, and ice will change to rain for a time.

That might allow some of the weight of the ice on trees and power lines could diminish a bit,  and some of the ice would melt off the roads, which is a good thing.

Things will refreeze tonight, with scattered light freezing rain, sleet and snow likely. Precipitation won't be nearly as heavy later today as it is this morning, so it'll be a little better by then. Not much, though.

Unfortunately, the ice that's now underfoot will pretty much stay there. It might get above freezing for a few hours Wednesday and possibly Thursday afternoon, but maybe not long enough to melt all the ice.

I'm sure the emergency room at hospitals will be busy over the next few days from people falling on the ice.

Kinda depresssing, but it is winter in Vermont.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Evening Update: Huge Mess Of A Storm Coming To Vermont, Elsewhere In Northeast

The National Weather Service Office in South Burlington
Vermont is expecting generally two to six inches of wet
snow, ice, slush and crud by tomorrow night.
If you live in Vermont, northern New York or the rest of northern and central New England, expect a real doozy of a mess for Tuesday morning's commute.

The atmosphere temperatures will be right near the freezing point through a deep layer of the atmosphere in Vermont late tonight and Tuesday.

The result will be that ugly mix of sleet, snow, freezing rain and rain that we've been advertising.

It's really impossible to say exactly what will be falling when at any given place in Vermont or surrounding places.

Don't expect any forecast you hear this evening to turn out to be completely accurate. There could be more or less snow, more or less ice, more or less rain than current specific forecasts are calling for.

Just expect, snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain or all of the above any time late tonight and Tuesday.  It'll start first later tonight in southern Vermont and spread through the rest of the state by Tuesday morning.

Unfortunately, at this point, (I'm writing this late afternoon Monday) it looks as if the heaviest precipitation, whatever it is, will come down during the Tuesday morning commute. Not surprisingly, we're under a winter weather advisory.

Give yourself LOTS of extra time to get to your destination. Or don't bother going out at all, if possible. I bet there will be plenty of school closings, too.

I'm also worried about power failures. The combination of ice, wet, heavy snow and wind could easily bring down a number of trees and power lines. Total accumulation still looks to be generally two to six inches of slush, ice, crud and yuck in most of Vermont.

There might be a lull in the precipitation during the middle of the day (we'll see) but it could pick up somewhat again in time for the evening commute.  A brief foray to above freezing temperatures Tuesday afternoon in some valley locations (but not all of them!) could create a temporary reprieve. Don't count on it, though.

Things will taper off Tuesday night, but there will still be some snow or mixed precipitation around.

If this makes you feel any better, this large storm is causing a lot of problems for a lot of other people. Western New York and southern Quebec are in for a nasty snow and sleet storm with six inches or more of accumulation.

Worse, the storm is causing high winds and coastal flooding from Virginia to Maryland. Coastal areas from New Jersey north can expect flooding tonight and possibly Tuesday, along with damaging winds gusting to as high as 70 mph.

By the way, no time to discuss this in detail, but California had a nasty storm yesterday and today, too.

Tornado Recap, And Now Our Nor'easter Is Coming With A Mess

Marilyn Bullard walks through what was the living room
of her parents' house n Adel, Georgia after a weekend tornado
there. Photo by Branden Camp/AP 
As expected, more tornadoes broke out Sunday across the South, including a huge wedge tornado that  killed four people and caused extensive damage in Albany, Georgia.  

At least 19 people died in the Southern tornadoes over the weekend, more than the number of people who died in tornadoes during all of 2016 in the United States.

Last year was near a record low in tornado deaths for the nation, but it looks like our luck has run out.

Our luck seems to have run out, at least for now, with a dearth of tornado disasters in past few years.

Thankfully, though, this tornado outbreak is over and there is no signs of another blast of severe weather in the next week, probably more.

Also as forecast, the storm system has consolidated into what is becoming a nor'easter, which means a lot of wind and mixed precipitation is coming to the Northeast later today, tonight and tomorrow.

A variety of winter storm warnings, watches and advisories are up for the interior Northeast. This type of storm usually creates a nice big powdery snowstorm for the North Country, but not this time.

There's too much warm air, and no nearby supply of cold air to feed into the storm.

As many of you have noticed, Vermont and many surrounding regions have been entombed in a dense, low, foggy, drizzly, warm overcast for nearly a week now. (Mountain summits have been above the inversion that has caused this and have poked into the sunshine.)

The spate of warm, gloomy weather we've had is very unusual for January.  This is the kind of air the storm is running into. Not the usual cold stuff.

So, we've got a mix coming. Places furthest north and west from the storm as it moves along the coast will get the most snow. Central and western New York, for instance, is under a winter storm warning for four to eight inches of snow.

Environment Canada has alerts for heavy snow, mixed with sleet, in places like Montreal and Ottawa.

Along the coast, high wind warnings are up for gusts to 70 mph tonight, especially over Cape Cod and the Islands. Coastal flood alerts are also in effect for much of the New England shoreline.

VERMONT IMPACTS

This will definitely be a mixed precipitation event here in the Green Mountain State. It looks like most places will get a blend of sleet and wet snow starting later tonight and continuing through Tuesday.

Winter weather advisories are up for an expected three to six inches of snow and sleet through most of Vermont, with a little more on the summits and east facing slopes of the Green Mountains, and a little less in low elevations of southern Vermont.

There's a chance the advisories might be upgraded to a winter storm warning if newer data later today points towards heavier precipitation that currently expected.

For most of us, there might be a little freezing rain thrown in for good measure, but at this point, it doesn't look like freezing rain will be the main story. Mostly sleet and snow.

Having said that, don't be surprised if a few locations do get a fair amount of freezing rain. It just depends on how the complex dance of different air tempeatures at different elevations plays out.

The storm has slowed down some, and the snow and sleet and yuck will arrive a little later than first thought. So the commute home from work tonight should be OK. The trip TO work Tuesday morning looks like a mess, though.

Power failures might be a problem, too on Tuesday, since we'll have that heavy wet snow combined with gusty winds to 30 mph or even a little higher in spots.

The precipitation is going to be a pain to shovel, too, since this is another one of those storms in which the stuff that accumulates in your driveway will almost have the consistency of wet cement.

Following the storm, temperatures will remain warmer than normal in Vermont through the weekend, but will be trending downward with time.

Instead of each day being a whopping 15 to 20 degrees warmer than normal for the past week, we'll trend down to something like five degrees warmer than normal by the weekend. That'll keep temperatures below freezing in most spots, even during the day.

Weak weather disturbances will keep zipping past Vermont through the weekend, which will keep occasional light snow going. This will keep slowly piling up in the mountains, which is good news for the ski industry.




Sunday, January 22, 2017

Deadly Southern Tornado Outbreak Getting Even Worse Today

Shines McMorris in the ruins of her Hattiesburg home.
She, her husband and two children were in the house
when a tornado tore it apart, but thankfully, they were
 not hurt. Photo by Rogelio Solis/AP
Tornadoes in the South continued last night as expected, but today could very well feature some, huge, very disastrous tornadoes that would make the ones over the past couple of days look like child's play.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed northern Florida and southern Georgia under a high risk of severe weather. That's the highest level of alert on five level scale of alarm.

A high risk zone for severe weather is rather rare, maybe only happening a couple times a year anywhere in the nation, except in the odd years when tornadoes are unusually frequent.

A high risk zone in January is extremely rare since major tornado outbreaks are rare in the dead of winter. (April through June are the peak months for this sort of thing.)

Some of the tornadoes that break out today in southern Alabama, most anywhere in Georgia, the north half of Florida, and later, in South Carolina and southern North Carolina, could be intense, long lasting and have an incredibly fast forward motion.

This is obviously dangerous for several reasons. The area under alert is fairly highly populated. Cities in the high risk area include Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Gainsville, Florida and Savannah and Albany, Georgia.

A surrounding area of moderate risk, (the second highest alert level) might also get these super intense tornadoes. Some of the ciities in this zone are even more populous ones like Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida, and Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina.

When you're under a tornado warning, the safest place to be is in the basement, or if you don't have a basement, a first floor, interior room with no windows, like a bathroom or closet.
A dorm room at William Carey University trashed
by a tornado Saturday morning. Photo by Rogelio Solia/AP

For most tornadoes, you're safe if go to these places. But you're not necessarily safe in super intense tornadoes as homes would be completely leveled and things could actually be sucked out of basements.

Also, if a tornado is moving along at a very fast forward speed, as many of today's tornadoes will likely do, people won't have a lot of time to take shelter.

Already, there have been at least 30 reports of tornadoes in the past couple of days, with at least 15 fatalities reported. 

As noted yesterday, four people died in and around Hattiesburg, Mississippi as a strong early morning tornado tore through that region.

The Associated Press just had a breaking news alert that 11 people had died and 23 were injured this morning in central and southern Georgia tornadoes.

Many houses are in ruins. A church in Petal, Mississippi was destroyed two years after another tornado did the same.

As of 9 a.m. Sunday, tornado warnings were still up southern Georgia as a nasty band of supercell thunderstorms moved through. The Georgia storms are the second round of severe weather that developed with this storm system.

The first was the Saturday morning and afternoon round that caused the Hattiesburg tornado and spread damage from Louisiana to Georgia.

The second band, over south Georgia and northern Florida this Sunday morning, originated in east Texas and dropped tornadoes and severe weather from Texas, through the Gulf Coast states to Florida.

The third and most potentially most dangerous band, which I've already discussed, will fire up in southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle later this morning and spread northeastward into Georgia and the rest of northern Florida into the Carolinas. (There were signs this was already starting to happen as of 9 a.m. Sunday)

The severe weather will move off the coast tonight as the parent storm system will consolidate into a nor'easter and move up the coast.

While the effects of the storm won't be nearly as dire in the Northeast as they are in the Southeast, high wind warnings and flood watches are already up for parts of coastal New England for Monday as the storm heads in that direction.

Here's some videos:

Damage in Petal, Mississippi



Operation Chase filmed a large tornado and very big, damaging hail late Saturday afternoon near Vivian, Louisiana, close to the Texas border:




Here's drone footage of Hattiesburg by Sam McAlister. It includes views of severe damage to William Carey University:


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Deadly Tornadoes, Severe Weather Blasting South, To Become Northeast Storm

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.

Severe tornado damage in Hattiesburg, Mississippi today.
Photo by Ryan Moore/WDAM via Twitter.
This morning's round of tornadoes have killed at least four people, injured many others and caused widespread destruction in the South.

So far, most of the destruction has been in and around the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Other possible tornadoes were reported in Alabama and Georgia. NOAA's Severe Storm Center has reports of at least nine tornadoes so far.

This morning's squall line is heading off to the east and weakening, though there still might be a few brief tornados and damaging winds in eastern Georgia this afternoon.

However, the potential is high for new rounds of tornadoes and severe weather that could be at least as bad as this morning's carnage. .

The sun is out in much of the area hit by the first round of storms from Louisiana and Arkansas into western Alabama. The heating created by the sun, combined with a strong jet stream and a strong disturbance that will make winds veer with height, will trigger another batch of tornadic and severe storms later today in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Those storms will march eastward overnight. There is a moderate risk of severe storms in parts of the South, which is fourth highest among five levels of concern. Such a high risk is rare in the United States in January. (Though somewhat more common from March into the summer, when severe storms tend to be more likely.)

The Hattiesburg tornado came through at 3:45 a.m., when it was dark and people were sleeping. People didn't hear warnings, and nobody could see the tornado coming.

For those reasons, tornadoes tend to be more dangerous at night.

A bright flash of lightning illuminates what
appears to be severe tornado damage in Hattiesburg,
Mississippi before dawn this morning. Photo by Ryan
Moore/WDAM
Unfortunately, timing is bad with the next round of deadly storms. There is a definitely lull in the activity, with not many storms during the remaining daylight hours today.

However, activity will pick up dramatically again after dark, so everyone from Arkansas to northern Florida better be on their toes overnight.

People in this area should have one of those weather radios in their bedroom that blare loud and obnoxiously when there's a severe storm or tornado warning.

That would give time for people to go to basements or windowless rooms and closets on the ground floors of houses, where it is safer.

Stay tuned for updates.

PREVIOUS DISCUSSION 8 a.m. Saturday:

As expected, severe weather and tornadoes were breaking out across the South early this morning, as the first in a series of severe storm clusters moved through that region before dawn today.

The most ominous warning so far were warnings before dawn of a "large and extremely dangerous tornado" reported in southwestern Alabama heading rapidly toward the northeast.

This tornadic storm had gone through the Hattiesburg and Petal, Mississippi areas earlier, and there are initial reports of significant damage, plus dangerous flash flooding in that area.

There are reports of dorms badly damaged by a possible tornado with some minor injuries among students at William Cary University in Hattiesburg.

On Twitter, Ryan Moore of WDAM-TV was reporting widespread damage in Hattiesburg with the sounds of people calling for help within the rubble and darkness. Damage and gas leaks extended into the city's downtown, he said.

Ohio Storm Chasers released a video this morning in which you can barely make out a large tornado in Hattiesburg among the power flashes and hear the roar in the darkness of what must have been an immense twister.

Obviously, as I write this, I have few details on that particular tornado situation,  but we might hear more later an I'll do an update as needed.

The big batch of storms that stretched from southern Louisiana to Alabama early this morning will keep moving east, taking its risk of damaging storms and tornadoes with it into northern Florida tonight.

Then, NOAA' Storm Prediction Center thinks a second batch of nasty storms will crank up aroud Arkansas and Louisiana later today and head east toward Mississippi and Alabama once again this evening, with another threat of tornadoes and giant hail and dangerous straight line winds.

A third round of severe storms might get going late tonight and Sunday toward Georgia and Florida.

It's a bit unusual to get several rounds of severe weather in one outbreak over two or three days like this during January, but there you go. (There's been bouts of severe weather and tornadoes in the Gulf Coast states since Thursday.)

NORTHEAST:

The storm system causing all the severe weather in the South will consolidate into a strong coastal storm that will move up along the Eastern Seaboard  into New England by Tuesday.

Normally, this time of year, such a strong storm moving along the New England coast would have skiers and riders rejoicing at the prospect of a big dump of snow up here in Vermont and the rest of the North Country.

However - and there's always a however isn't there - there's an odd lack of cold air to supply the snow around here. That's very unusual for mid to late January. There's almost always a decent cold air supply now, normally the coldest part of winter.

Instead, interior New England, including Vermont, is in for another mess of sleet, wet snow, freezing rain and rain Monday night and Tuesday. Some of the ski areas might manage a few inches of "wet cement" accumulation out of this, so it might not be a complete loss.

Winds could be a problem with this storm, too, especially along coastal New England and in some mountainous terrain, like the west slopes of the Green Mountains.

High wind watches are already up for Cape Cod and the islands and southern Connecticut for Monday

We'll have more details as this storm gets closer.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Two Videos Show Two Scary Winter Moments

Aftermath of a gym roof collapse amid heavy snow in
the Czech Republic. Video shows people inside the
building fleeing as the roof comes down 
No doubt winter can be hazardous, as the two videos in this post prove.

Up in Minnesota, there's been a thaw after a fairly long bout of frigid weather.

Minnehaha Falls becomes beautiful this time of year as giant icicles hang from the cliff where the falls is.

You're supposed to stay at a high overlook to view the falls in the wintertime.  Going down to the actual falls is dangerous, as big chunks of ice can collapse.

But as the video shows, tons of people go down there anyway. Even after, as you see in part of the newsclip that is the video, a woman got hurt when a big chunk of ice recently gave way.

Despite the obvious danger, people are still going right up to the falls. Even more dangerously, they're going behind the big ice cliffs that have formed there, which is really scary.

Watch:



Next, as I mentioned yesterday, central and eastern Europe is having a rough time with big snowstorms ane intense cold lately.

In the Czech Republic, a bunch of people were playing floorball in a brand new gym. (They hadn't even had the offiicial opening ceremony yet.)

Suddenly, as you see in the video below, the players and spectators heard and saw something, so they bolted for the exits.

Then the roof comes down under the weight of 15 inches of snow. Luckily, the collapse happened slowly enough so that everybody got out of the building safely.

Watch:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Next Big Storm Threatens Severe Storm, Tornado Outbreak In Southeast

This house in Mississippi was destroyed by a likely
tornado this morning. The twister marks the start
of an expected several days of severe weather in the South 
At least one likely tornado touched down in Mississippi this morning, causing damage to several homes and businesses and toppling hundreds of trees.  

That, and the severe flooding that hit the Houston, Texas metro area yesterday, marks the start of what could be a very nasty severe storm outbreak in the Southeast over the next few days.

After a brief bout with winter weather early this month, the Southeast has been unusually warm and humid the past several days.

For instance, Thursday was the eighth consecutive day that Atlanta, Georgia has reached 70 degrees, the most consecutive days in January in at least 67 years. (Normal high temperatures this time of year in Atlanta are in the low 50s.)

The warm, humid air, interacting with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and relatively weak disturbances in the atmosphere, are contributing to today's rough weather in the Southeast.

It's very likely going to get worse.  Several days of severe weather look likely.

SOUTHEAST STORM THREAT 

That strong storm that hit the West Coast over the past couple of days is going to trudge eastward and southeastward.

This storm will come through in pieces, with each package containing rising air, winds that veer with height and plenty of warmth and humidity. The first two initial pieces will go through the Southeast Friday and Saturday, each containing their own packages of heavy rain, severe thunderstorms and potential tornadoes

A third, more potent piece of atmospheric energy will pass through the Southeast Sunday and Monday, spinning up a storm system that will be unusually strong for one that far south. (Storm systems in the winter usually really crank up once they get up to the Midwest or Northeast, not the Deep South)

Of course, things are uncertain as always this far ahead of the Main Show, but the potential is there for some very bad storms, possibly some strong tornadoes in the Deep South, from Louisiana to Florida, and on up into Georgia and possibly the Carolinas.

This kind of thing sometimes happens in late February or March, but it's a bit unusual for January. But hey, it's a weird winter nationwide.

If there's a bright side to this scenario, it's that the storm will almost surely dump a LOT of rain on much of the Southeast. Huge sections of the region is still in a drought. (Remember the big wildfire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in late November and early December ) so a good slug of rain is always helpful.

Of course, some of the rain might turn out to be torrential causing some unwelcome flash floods. So there's a little good and potentially a lot of bad with this storm.

This big storm will eventually lift north and east toward New England early next week, but up here in the Northeast, including Vermont, the effects don't look so dire at this point. Too soon to tell precisely what will happen with this in our neck of the woods, but we're looking at the potential for some mixed precipitation, rain and maybe some gusty winds.

A MOVE BACK TO WINTER?

It also looks like this powerhouse storm will help trigger a pattern change that would bring more typical wintry weather to the eastern two thirds of the nation. The pattern change would also at least temporarily diminish much of the extreme storminess the West Coast has endured for the past month or two.

It has been quite a warm January in the East. I mentioned Atlanta, but here in Vermont, you know it's warm when there's scarcely any snow on the ground at the time of year that is normally the coldest of the entire winter.

Actually, this January in Vermont is so far warmer than last January, which was part of the warmest winter on record.

I don't know precisely how the upcoming weather pattern change will affect Vermont. But it's very likely the constant thawing will end.

Also,  we've got a shot at getting those periodic storms that would bring  frequent light to possibly moderate snowfalls to the Green Mountain State in very late January and the first half of February.

The ski resorts would certainly love that!

You never know, but so far the indications are that when this pattern change hits, it won't be a turn to extreme winter weather in the Northeast, but something that we're pretty used to in the North Country.

Time will tell.

Fatal Italy Avalanche Part Of A Current Brutal European Weather Pattern

In the lobby of the avalanche-destroyed hotel in Italy
a wall of snow and debris is seen pressing into the building
on the left.  
We awoke to the sad news today that a giant avalanche smashed into a resort luxury hotel in Italy, which is likely to have claimed 30 lives.

The avalanche came after incredibly heavy snows hit the mountainous Abruzzo region of central Italy in recent days.

The area has also been hit by swarms of earthquakes in recent months. More earthquakes Wednesday apparently sent the deep snow hurtling down mountainsides.

Incredibly severe weather also hampered rescue operations. Drifts were reported to be 16 feet deep, and it took many hours for rescuers to reach the hotel through blizzard conditions.

Some of the avalanche victims might have survived the snow slide, but froze to death awaiting rescue.

Plus, some of the guests might have already left before the slide hit because they had checked out. However, they were still there when the avalanche hit, waiting at the hotel for crews to clear snow-blocked roads so they could leave, Reuters reported.

The Italy avalanche tragedy is the worst part of a brutal weather pattern that is causing misery in much of central and eastern Europe.

Another huge concern is the refugee crisis in the region combined with the harsh winter conditions.

Snow and freezing cold have hit normally temperate areas of southern Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Even before the latest blast of frigid weather hit this week, at least five refugees had died as of last week from the cold and many others suffered from frostbite and hypothermia, The Guardian reported.

Some refugees in Greece have been moved to warmer buildings, but many others in Greece and elsewhere are stuck in flimsy tents, unprotected from the cold.  
Refugees in Belgrade, Serbia try to wash clothes
and themselves in hard winter conditons over
barrels filled with water and heated from below
with scraps of wood. Photo via Getty Images

In Serbia, women and children are mostly in warm shelters, but up to 1,200 men and unaccompanied boys are outdoors, unprotected as temperatures plunge into the single digits Fahrenheit.

Some countries, and people, are hostile to the refugees, and there are reports of police confiscating clothes and mobile phones from them, preventing them from calling for help or staying warm in the horrible weather.

This is beyond cruel. So-called humans have quite a capacity to destroy others, don't they?

No real relief is in sight as renewed cold and snow are due through the weekend in Greece, Italy, Turkey and the Baltic nations



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

World's Hottest Year On Record Was 2016. What's Next?

A mashup of several data bases show the dramatic
increase in global temperatures, especially in the last
few years.  
To pretty much nobody's surprise, a slew of data out today confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year for the Earth as a whole in modern record.

NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, NASA and satellite data from the Universityof Alabama at Huntsville  all agreed the past year was the hottest.

Although El Nino boosted the 2016 warmth a bit, the vast majority of climate scientists say the warmth in the data is being driven mostly by human-induced climate change.

I'm still stunned by this even though I knew months ago it would happen, but 2016 was the third year in a row that the globe had a record high temperature.  That's quite a streak!

Another tidbit I found was also pretty wild. Environmental scientist and climate blogger Dana Nuccitelli pointed out on Twitter this morning that between 1945 and 1979, no years had global record high temperatures.

But between 1980 and 2016, twelve years - or one out of three of them - had record warm temperatures.

All of the 12 hottest years in the NOAA data have occured since 1998. Their records go back to the 1880s.

The first eight months of 2016 all had record high temperatures, and the remaining months of the year all scored in the Top 5 hottest.

Due to factors that have little if anything to do with global warming, many scientists expect 2017 to fall short of a new world's record for warmth, but it will still be much toastier than in years and decades past.

The different organizations came up with different actual temperatures for the year, because each one measures things a bit differently.  Varying calculations that differ from one another by a few hundreds of a degree are common when measuring the Earth's temperature.

NASA's calculations had Earth's warmth galloping forward a little faster than NOAA's data showed.

Another sign that global warming is behind the spike in the Earth's temperatures is that while we had the hottest year on record, the higher level stratosphere had its coldest year on record.

That's a sign that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are trapping heat in the lower atmosphere instead of letting it escape up to the stratosphere.

There's quite a split between the alarm bells being sounded by climate scientists and the dismissiveness toward global warming repeatedly displayed by the incoming Trump administration.

Scientists are often terrible at quotes, talking about their work in quiet, sober, unremarkable language.

But many now are displaying a much more Yikes! attitude toward climate change. Take Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona, quoted in the Washington Post today:

"2016 is a wake-up all in many ways.....Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is serious."

Trump, meanwhile, has famously called climate change a hoax. As proof, he has cited an unusually chilly winter day in New York a couple years back as "proof" the world is not warming.

Trump's pick for Director of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, just happened to be having his Senate confirmation hearing on the same day the new climate data became available.

Pruitt admitted to Senators that climate change is not a hoax and that "the climate is changing and human activity contributes to that in some manner."

Still, people don't trust Pruitt that much. Many of those cite Pruitt's op-ed in the National Review last May, in which he said global warming scientific "debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."

See the kind of spin he's got there? True, there are lots of quibbles about how fast global temperatures will rise in the future and what effect that would have on mankind. But scientists almost uniformly agree it's pretty dire.

Looks to me that Pruitt wants absolute agreement among scientists on every last detail, something that will never happen. Classic delaying tactic, in my opinion.

As Mother Jones points out, another Republican climate change talking point is already returning.

In Senate confirmation hearings for would-be Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the nominee did say climate change is happening and man has an influence on it.

However, Zinke said "there's a debate" on what precisely is the human influence on climate change and among scientists, "There's a lot of debate on both sides of the aisle."

That prompted Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont to counter there really isn't any debate in the science community that humans are causing climate change.

And Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, dismissed the "I am not a scientist" excuse. After Zinke said he is not an expert in the field of climate science, Franken retorted,  "That to me is a cop-out... I'm not a doctor, but I have to make health care decisions."

Expect a lot more of this in the coming few years, even as the planet almost certainly will continue to warm.

It'll be interesting to see if the government under Trump tries to suppress research on climate change, as many have feared in recent months. 

We might have to rely on scientists from elsewhere in the world, or at least those that already get no U.S. government funding, to keep us apprised as to how the world's climate is changing.