Warm Oceans, Displaced Polar Air: Why the Eastern U.S. is Likely to See Very Severe Rainfall During May

During recent years, warm ocean surfaces have loaded up the atmosphere with increasing levels of moisture. This moisture, in turn, has fueled more powerful rain storm events across the globe. Meanwhile, climate change is generating regions of increased instability by placing much warmer than normal air masses in confrontation with cold air displaced from a warming Arctic Ocean region.

(How climate change is impacting severe weather potentials across the U.S. East Coast during May. Data provided by Earth Nullschool, Climate Reanalyzer, and the National Weather Service.)

During the coming days, this kind of pattern will generate the potential for severe rainfall events across the U.S. East Coast. NOAA is predicting that between 3-7 inches of rain is likely to fall over the next 5-7 days. But due to the unusual situation, locally extreme and unexpected events may occur.

This severe weather potential has been fed by a combination of factors. A warmer than normal Arctic Ocean has shoved cold polar air south over the Hudson Bay region. The resulting trough is generating stormy conditions and atmospheric instability over much of Eastern North America. To the south and east, much warmer than normal sea surfaces have loaded up the atmosphere with extremely high moisture levels.

(NOAA shows that heavy rainfall is likely to dominate large portions of the Eastern U.S. over the coming weeks. With a number of climate change related influences at play, the potential for outsized severe weather events exists. Image source: NOAA.)

It’s the kind of pattern — within a highly charged atmosphere — that is capable of producing serious instances of severe weather. Heavy rainfall, hail, lightning and tornadoes are all more likely. Factors associated with climate change contributing to the situation include — much warmer than normal ocean surfaces off the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast, a much warmer than normal Arctic Ocean region for this time of year, displaced polar air near Hudson Bay, and warmer than normal temperatures over much of the U.S.

As Greenland melt comes more into play, and as temperatures continue to spike higher over the Arctic Ocean in coming years, we can expect to see similar patterns producing greater instability and more intense storms. Particularly for the land zones near the North Atlantic. And so what we are seeing now is a likely prelude of events to come as the Earth continues to warm coordinate with continued fossil fuel burning — with mitigating factors primarily involving reduced carbon emissions.

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  1. wili

     /  May 16, 2018

    It looks like the severe storms may have already started out there on the East Coast. Are these hitting where you are, robert? https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Rain-Possible-Every-Day-This-Week-Severe-Weather-Likely-482518211.html

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve had night after night of thunderstorms here since Saturday. Hail, tornado warnings, wind gusts, downpours throughout the area. As I type this, thunder rumbles in the background. We’re kinda right on the frontal boundary. So we keep getting socked.


  2. Connecticut Gordon

     /  May 16, 2018

    Here in New Fairfield, CT we had a mega thunderstorm/tornado this afternoon. I have lived here for 18 years since getting my green card. I have never witnessed anything like it. It was like watching hell at the movie theatre. Around 4.30 EST we went from fairly tranquil conditions to almost hurricane force winds in less than 5 minutes. The wind possibly touched 100 mph for a short time. The violence lasted perhaps 15 minutes, but in that time there was unbelievably severe damage. In our small road of 40-50 houses there were 6 trees down and many downed cables. I tried to drive to Danbury railway station just 6 miles away to pick up my son. I never made it. There were hundreds of trees down and every major road was closed. My son called me 3 hours ago to say he had to get off the train he was on as there were trees on the line. He was at a station 15 miles away from here and had fortunately found someone who lived close by us who would drive him here. That was the last I have heard, so I am somewhat concerned. That is not the point of my comment. It is that we had three or four major nor’easter storms in March and now this. It is hard to even think what may happen next. God help us all.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Connecticut Gordon

       /  May 16, 2018

      I apologise for having made this unnecessarily personal. My son just called me [the cellphone service was out for over 4 hours in our area]. He is about a mile away and safe. I was concerned they had a tree come down on them or that they had touched downed electric cables. It makes me feel very humble when I think about the poor people in Haiti or Puerto Rico. I thought I knew how they felt, but clearly I didn’t until now.

      Liked by 5 people

      • No reason to apologize. I’m very glad to hear that your son is safe. The severe weather threat is exceptional right now. Your worries and concerns have sympathetic ears here.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Abel Adamski

     /  May 16, 2018

    And from the other side of the divide, which will impact the deniers as well as everyone else and maybe put a spanner in the mid term campaigns works.
    Note this relates mainly to the US Industry

    Insurance industry dangerously unprepared for extreme weather, study finds

    As historic flooding caused by climate change devastates communities in New Brunswick and British Columbia, new research from the University of Waterloo reveals the insurance industry hasn’t considered a changing climate in their practices, putting homeowners at financial risk.

    The study which looked at data from 178 insurers, found that most insurance companies assumed the risk to property from extreme weather is static and based their premiums on historical data. However, as extreme weather events are increasing in severity, frequency, and unpredictability, insurers have not adjusted.

    “As extreme events become more frequent, insurers that ignore climate change will not put away enough money to cover their claims. To re-coup those losses, they’ll have to raise rates or pull coverage from high risk areas,” said Jason Thistlethwaite, a climate change economist at the University of Waterloo. “When this shift happens, thousands of people will lose coverage or it will be unaffordable.”

    Another finding in the report outlined how reinsurers, insurers for insurance companies, have been better at reacting and adapting to climate change-related financial risk. This dynamic could lead to significant disruption in global insurance industry.

    “Some insurers are better at understanding climate change than others. These organizations will survive, and likely be able to sell climate services to their counterparts struggling to understand the problem,” said Thistlethwaite. “Those that don’t, will fail. Insurers are supposed to watch our backs by looking into the future and protect us from unexpected events. We pay to not worry about these things.”

    That impacts on the holy grail/God of the conservatives and the deniers, asset value and profit.

    It will start becoming why weren’t we warned and why didn’t someone do something to prevent this. The denier spin will be of rapidly diminishing influence as the wallets get drained

    Liked by 3 people

    • Abel Adamski

       /  May 16, 2018

      This will impacts Trumps beloved share market, not just the value of the insurers and re insurers, but also the fact that the cover money and reserves are invested in stocks/shares and bonds, these will have to be sold to cover liabilities (Last year Swiss Re had to sell their entire stock portfolio of over 980 Million Euro) and in substantial volumes pulling the stock markets down, apart from the impact on other companies and businesses and Government disaster/flood/fire relief at a time of reduced Govt. income due to the Huuuge tax package.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Vaughn An

     /  May 16, 2018

    Minor flooding is now occurring on the lower Columbia River in Washington and Oregon near Vancouver WA and Portland OR from the snowmelt in British Columbia and the tiny bit of Alberta that feeds Divide Creek. Minor flood level is 16′ and the Columbia River is forecast to be near 16′ for the next week or so. May 13 and 14, 2018 both exceeded 90 degrees F locally which is indicative of how much heat there is in the system this year. This ridge of heat has extended up over British Columbia for the past week or so causing rapid snowmelt. This ridge is reminiscent of the RRR of past years.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Abel Adamski

     /  May 16, 2018

    And for an inspirational story about an inspirational person down under – caution concerns Religion and the ecosphere and climate change

    Di Rayson, PhD runs theology and climate change conference at University of Newcastle

    “It’s a real honour to be awarded a PhD because it recognises that you’ve contributed original knowledge and it also acknowledges the amount of research and work that you’ve done to be awarded that,” Di says.

    “The thesis doesn’t get the degree, it’s the person, and that’s because you become a researcher, and you become an expert in your field. To think that you’ve crossed over that line is really quite humbling. And it’s great!” she laughs again.

    To complete the degree Di undertook three years of rigorous research and writing. Her two-year studies for her Masters in Theology contributed to the PhD research.

    To think that you’ve crossed over that line is really quite humbling.
    Dianne Rayson, PhD

    Di’s thesis is titled Bonhoeffer’s Theology and Anthropogenic Climate Change: In Search of an Ecoethic.

    “It’s about how from a religious point of view we understand what’s happening with climate change and what we should do about it, so developing an ecoethic,” Di explains.

    “For regular people who don’t really think very much about it, it’s hard for them to understand it from a theological point of view. But there’s actually quite a lot of resources within Christianity, and the other major faiths as well, to help us understand what’s going on and why we should be thinking about what action to actually take to deal with it.

    “Within Christianity there’s been a long tradition of thinking about our relationship with the earth. And I actually usually don’t use the term ‘the earth’ when I’m talking about this, I usually just say ‘Earth’ with a capital ‘E’ to acknowledge that the earth has agency and is one of the created beings alongside the animals and the plants and the humans.

    “So when we’re thinking about our relationship, I don’t think only about relationships with people, but what Christianity has to say about our relationships with all of creation, so with the animals, the plants and with Earth herself.”


    • Abel Adamski

       /  May 16, 2018

      A little more on Dr Di
      Putting her thesis to work

      While writing a thesis for a doctorate degree is one of the most intellectual tasks a person can undertake, Di is not content to let it rest at that.

      She, along with a committee of like minded people, have created the Inspiracy Festival, a four-day festival in Newcastle that is running for it’s second year this coming weekend, Thursday May 17 to Sunday May 20.

      The festival starts with a Youth Film Festival on the Thursday night, and continues on the Friday with Di’s part of the Inspiracy program, ‘The Sacred Earth – Conversations in Ecotheology’. Saturday and Sunday’s programs are full of workshops to entice festival goers.

      “I’m running Sacred Earth, which is an ecotheology conference but it’s trying to think about climate change and respond to climate change, not just intellectually but also through the arts and through activism,” Di said.

      It’s trying to think about climate change and respond to climate change, not just intellectually but also through the arts and through activism.
      Di Rayson

      “Over the weekend we’ve got a whole range of activities to do with the other parts of our brain so a lot of music and food and workshops on how to do things – how to create community gardens, using poetry as a form of activism, just a whole range of stuff. Even just chilling out with music and chants, and participating in different choral activities.

      “The idea is to try and engage people on all levels. Some people are really intellectual and think about this stuff, but other people engage with ideas through music, or through poetry, or through hands-on doing stuff,” Di says.

      “We’re trying to say that all of these approaches are valid and are really valuable in trying to deal with the the bigger issue of climate change and climate justice, so we’re trying to meet people at whatever really interests them. wherever their passion is.”

      For more information on the Inspiracy Festival visit inspiracy.org.au.

      On a more local level, Di is keen to work with local churches and is available for preaching.

      This is where grass roots activism has a serious place among those that may otherwise not be touched deeply


  6. Abel Adamski

     /  May 16, 2018

    Fire and water
    The Global interconnection, Australian (State of Victoria)
    Climate change impacts Vic emergency fight
    Climate change is impacting on Victoria’s emergency services, including access to firefighting aircraft, Emergency Services Minister James Merlino says.

    Victoria’s emergency services are coming under increasing strain due to climate change, a state parliamentary inquiry has been told, with access to internationally-shared firefighting aircraft negatively affected.

    Emergency Services Minister James Merlino told a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday the state’s fire season was starting earlier, lasting longer and was more intense, and the state needed more aircraft.

    “Climate change is real and it’s having an impact on our emergency services,” Mr Merlino said.

    “It’s getting quite challenging in terms of our aviation fleet and those large air tankers … those planes fly around the world, (in) the northern hemisphere they want and need to keep the planes for a longer period of time, we want and need those planes earlier.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Abel Adamski

     /  May 16, 2018

    Interesting book and innovative approach
    DRAWDOWN: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming


    • I’ve read this. Unfortunately, it overstates the potential of negative carbon techniques and downplays that of renewable energy. We will certainly have to try to draw down carbon from the atmosphere by changing how we manage land, grow food, and through other technical methods. But we would have to work very hard to get to 1 billion tons per year of carbon sequestered that stays sequestered over long periods.


  8. Abel Adamski

     /  May 16, 2018

    An interesting analysis of Global and UK wind energy
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the extent to which it can supply our future energy needs


  9. Abel Adamski

     /  May 16, 2018

    Instead of a music clip
    The awesome art of Nature,

    It’s an unusual move for Eskenazi, the Mayfair-based Chinese-art dealer and gallery. Normally, the owners are in the market for intricate objects created by the human hand – delicately glazed tea bowls and jade buffalo are the sorts of things visitors can expect to find within the elegant London townhouse. This time however, they have chosen to celebrate the hand of nature. Welcome to the little-known world of gogottes.
    You’d be forgiven for not knowing about gogottes. On first impression they could be man-made, though they are in fact rare sandstone rocks, excavated from an ancient sand dune near Fontainebleau in northern France. Dusted down and displayed on plinths, Eskenazi has elevated these curvaceous lumps of stone from natural phenomenon to art.
    How gogottes form is only partly understood. By studying their composition, scientists know that they were moulded into life when silica-rich water filtered through loose sand, eventually cementing the grains together into smooth contours. A recent analysis by the Natural History Museum, London discovered they are predominantly composed of quartz, rather than the chalk previously presumed. But exactly where the water came from, and whether it bored its way upwards or came trickling down is still unknown. Likewise, no one knows how old the gogottes are. All that’s certain is that very occasionally, a miner in Fontainebleau discovers one, lying flat in the dunes like a fallen statute.


  10. OT and purely climate modeling, but potentially a factor in the fact that our NC forests are wilting. Maybe not only forests. Just two days after a rain where I live the top layer of the soil is dessicated, even in what seems to be more atmospheric humidity than I remember growing up. Not too good for a lawn. Again I am reminded that Guy McPherson is professor emeritus of natural resources and ecology and evolutionary biology.

    Forest loss in one part of US can harm trees on the opposite coast. U. of Washington
    A University of Washington-led study published May 16 in Environmental Research Letters shows that forest die-offs in specific regions of the United States can influence plant growth in other parts of the country. The largest impacts seen were from losing forest cover in California, a region that is currently experiencing dramatic tree mortality.
    “These smaller areas of forest can have continental-scale impacts, and we really need to be considering this when we’re thinking about ecological changes,” said first author Abigail Swann, a UW assistant professor of atmospheric sciences and of biology. Such far-off effects are accepted in the atmospheric sciences community, Swann said, but the idea is only beginning to be accepted by ecologists.
    . . . Of all the regions, the Pacific Southwest region, which covers most of California, has the smallest total area of tree cover. But removing those trees had the biggest influence on growing conditions nationally, by reducing vegetation in the Eastern U.S.

    The precise mechanisms would require further study, Swann said, but in this case it seemed to make Eastern summers slightly warmer, which was harmful to plant growth.

    “Forest loss is disrupting or changing the flow patterns in the atmosphere that is leading to a slightly different summertime climate in the eastern part of the country,” Swann said. “It’s very analogous to El Niño or ‘the blob,’ something that’s occurring that causes the atmosphere to move around, which causes these warmer or cooler conditions, or wetter and drier conditions, somewhere else.”

    Compared to an El Niño cycle, Swann said, “the changes we made here were smaller and over land, but it’s very analogous.

    The results also showed other Western regions, such as the Northern Rockies and the Great Basin region, as having negative effects on plant growth in the eastern half of the country. These regions are currently losing tree cover: California forests have lost more than 130 million trees since 2010, largely due to the combined effects of drought, warm temperatures, insects and disease.

    “In some case trees may be killed by drought, but in many cases they’re being weakened by the drought and then being finished off by the beetles or other stresses,” Swann said.

    The study suggests that current forest loss in Western regions is big enough to trigger changes in plant growth, though it might not be possible to detect these small changes over large areas of the country.

    “There’s some pretty extensive, widespread forest loss going on,” Swann said. “The changes we made in the model are bigger, but they’re starting to converge with things that we’re actually seeing. . .

    Liked by 1 person

  11. wili

     /  May 16, 2018

    I hadn’t heard of “meteotsunamis” before, but it makes sense given the severity of these storms:

    “Storms that moved across the area yesterday ended up creating a meteotsunami across the Mid-Atlantic & up into the SNE coastline. You can see the meteotsunami in the water fluctuations from area tidal gauges, esp in the New Haven gauge. Learn more here: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/meteotsunami.html

    Liked by 1 person

  12. bill h

     /  May 16, 2018

    Robert, there’s something of a transatlantic dipole here: UK, along with a lot of Europe is enjoying warm, dry weather at the moment that looks set fair for the rest of May. Looks like yet another case of a sluggish and highly wavy jet stream. There was something reminiscent in late Feb early March,when the UK had a cold snap (the “Beast from the East”). Meanwhile in the eastern U.S. you had incredibly hot weather for that time of year followed by heavy and damaging storms. You’re certainly taking a pounding so far in 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. wili

     /  May 17, 2018

    “Just like Ellicott City, MD on 7/30/16, nearly 8 inches [200 mm] of rain fell in Frederick, MD in just a few hours last night (2 months worth). In the last 7 decades the amount of water falling in heavy rain events has increased ~71% in the northeast U.S., likely related to #climatechange ”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not far from Frederick here. The pattern has been quite intense. That region saw a massive train of storms roll in.

      This region of MD is quite prone to flash floods due to steep land grade and numerous streams running down toward the river and bay.


  14. kassy

     /  May 17, 2018

    Satellite Study Finds Major Shifts In Global Freshwater

    Thu, 05/17/2018 – 1:30am
    by University of Maryland

    A new global, satellite-based study of Earth’s freshwater distribution found that Earth’s wet areas are getting wetter, while dry areas are getting drier. The data suggest that this pattern is due to a variety of factors, including human water management practices, human-caused climate change and natural climate cycles.

    More including a video of 15 years of GRACE data on:

    Liked by 1 person

  1. How Climate Change Contributed to Ellicott City’s Back-to-Back Historic Flood Events | robertscribbler

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