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Gale After Gale After Gale Dumped Two and a Half Feet of Rain Upon Scotland and Wales This Winter

Reports from the UK Met Office are in. And we can say now with confidence that the UK have never seen weather like what they experienced this Winter. It looks like a storm track super-charged by climate change really socked it to the region this year. That we’ve just passed a winter worse than the then record years of 2013 and 2014 — only two years on.

A Stormy New Climate State for the North Atlantic

For the UK and for North Atlantic weather stability in general, the sea surface temperature anomaly signature in the graphic below is bad news. The cool pool just south of Greenland (indicated by the swatch of pale blue) is a new climate feature. One that appears to be related to glacial ice melt outflow from Greenland.

North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures

(10 degree Celsius above average sea surface temperatures off North America in today’s ensemble sea surface temperature model graphic are just insanely warm. Ocean surface anomalies used to rarely exceed 2 degrees Celsius warmer than average. These spikes off North America are an indication that the Gulf Stream is backing up and that overturning circulation off Greenland is slowing down. Image source: RTG-SST/NCEP /US National Weather Service/Earth Nullschool.)

Such melt outflow tends to slightly freshen sea surface waters. Freshening waters keep more heat locked into the ocean’s depths. They tend to cool the surface waters. And they slow down an ocean overturning circulation that, in the North Atlantic, drives the flow of the Gulf Stream.

A slowing Gulf Stream delivers less heat to this zone even as it piles more heat up off the North American Coast. As a result, a warm west, cool east dipole tends to develop. In the cool region south of Greenland, unusually strong storms have developed more and more frequently — with a dramatic impact on UK weather. The storms feed on this temperature differential even as they have gorged on heat and moisture streaming northward in a meridional flow over Western Europe. The results this year were nothing short of record-shattering.

Hottest and Wettest

For England and Wales, with temperatures ranging about 2 degrees Celsius above average for December, January and February, 2015-2016 probably beat out 2007 and 1989 as the hottest Winter on record. Meanwhile, Wales and Scotland saw the most rainfall ever recorded — with totals for both regions hitting around 756 millimeters or about two and one half feet. That’s even more rainfall than the previous record stormy Winter of 2013 and 2014.

Yet one more Gale

(Yet one more gale sets up to hammer Ireland, the UK and Scotland by Thursday. Four months of ongoing stormy conditions appears set to continue through to at least mid-March. Image source: NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center.)

These heavy rains set off severe floods and damaged homes, roads, and bridges throughout the UK with the worst damage focusing in on regions to the North. One heavy precipitation hot spot — Argyll — saw an extraordinary 1035 mm or 3.5 feet of rainfall over the three month period. The Met Office is quick to point out that though December, January and February were the wettest on record since 1910, heavy rainfall events began in November — resulting in what amounts to a relentless four month pounding as storm followed storm and flood followed flood.

And, it appears, this persistent and ongoing storm pattern has not yet changed. For the North Atlantic remains riled — setting up to hurl a new gale-force low at Ireland and the UK this week. With the weather pattern essentially stuck in stormy since November, folks from these regions have got to be asking — when’s it going to end? As storms continue to fire off in the dipole zone above, it appears it will likely last until at least mid-March.

Links:

The UK Met Office

NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center

World Ocean Heartbeat Fading

RTG-SST/NCEP /US National Weather Service/Earth Nullschool

Winter of 2015/2016 Wettest on Record for Scotland

Mystery Deepens Around Greenland Cold Spot

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to TodaysGuestIs

Hat tip to Dan Combs

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patricia’s Epic Bombification — Monster El Nino + Climate Change Serves Up Strongest Western Hemisphere Hurricane Ever

Now this is scary. A tragic development you’d tend to see in a disaster movie screenplay and not in any typical meteorological record for any 36 hour period. But here we have it.

Patricia, as of 36 hours ago, was a rather mild tropical storm churning through the human hothouse and El Nino warmed Eastern Pacific. The storm was predicted to make landfall in Western Mexico as a hurricane, then turn north into Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi — dumping extreme rains over a drought stricken region. But there was little hint as to what would happen next.

(Patricia becomes the strongest Western Hemisphere storm ever recorded as it sets sights on a swath from the Pacific Mexican Coast and on through to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Video Source.)

Favorable atmospheric conditions and next to zero wind shear set the stage for strengthening. But the main driver was the hot ocean water which Patricia could tap as fuel for rapid intensification. For the entire region now features ocean surface temperatures in the range of 30 to 31 C (86 to 88 F) or about 2-3 degrees Celsius above average. It’s heat fed by an El Nino that could be one of the top three strongest on record. Heat further intensified by a human forced warming of the globe that has now hit about 1 C above 1880s levels. Heat that would allow Patricia to hit never before seen heights of storm force in a period of extraordinarily rapid intensification.

They call it bombification for a reason. Pressures drop rapidly, wind speeds rage to epic force, and the storm presents a tell-tale angry red signature in the infrared satellite shot. During recent years, bombification has become an all-too-common word associated with ocean storms that are now feeding on unprecedented amounts of heat, moisture, and temperature differentials. Some have even claimed that Hansen’s terrifying ‘Storms of My Grandchildren’ are starting to arrive early. But what happened with Patricia was even outside the new abnormal bombification ‘norm.’

Patricia Stadium Effect

(Enhanced image from NOAA’s twitter feed shows stadium effect and a deadly symmetry similar to that of Typhoon Haiyan. As of the 2 PM EST National Hurricane Center update, Patricia featured a 879 mb minimum central pressure — or lower than that of Haiyan at 895 mb. Image source: NOAA Satellite Pictures)

Though weather models did forecast a rapid strengthening for Patricia, the kind of strengthening we ended up with was something freakish, historic and extraordinary. In a 36 hour period pressures plunged from a mild 990s mb storm to a system featuring an 880 mb minimum central pressure. This raging period of ocean-shattering intensification propelled Patricia to a dubious status of most intense storm ever recorded for the Western Hemisphere over centuries of barometric readings. Winds also rapidly strengthened — roaring up from 40 miles per hour to a current top intensity of 200 miles per hour. That’s 160 mph of wind intensification in a little more than 36 hours.

According to meteorologist Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University in USA Today:

Patricia’s winds intensified a whopping 109 mph during Thursday, rising from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane. It was the fastest intensification ever recorded in the eastern Pacific Ocean, according to meteorologist Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University (emphasis added).

It was a never-before-seen pace of intensification. One that begs the question — how can we prepare for major storms if bombification starts to occur more rapidly than we can respond?

At current intensity, the storm is now comparable to the monster western Pacific Storms — Haiyan (195 mph and 895 mb) and Tip (195 mph and 870 mb) — otherwise known as the strongest storms ever recorded. And all this fury now aimed at a well-populated swath from the Pacific Coast of Mexico through to the Gulf Coast of the United States.

An Unimaginably Dangerous Storm Following a Ridiculously Dangerous Path

The potential for tragedy in this situation cannot be understated. A similar strength Hurricane Haiyan — also fueled by abnormally hot waters made hotter by human-forced warming — rendered tens of thousands homeless even as it resulted in the horrible loss of 6,300 souls.

Patricia falls into this high-danger category for a few reasons. The first is that the storm is expected to maintain its extreme Category 5 intensity all the way through to landfall — which is predicted to occur within the next 10-12 hours. Abnormally intense ocean heat content along the path of Patricia, as seen in the graphic below, will continue to provide the powerful storm with fuel as it encroaches upon the Mexico Coast.

Ocean Heat Content and Patricia Track

(Ocean heat content and predicted storm path by Colorado State University.)

As a result, a 15-30 mile swath of the Mexican coast may experience sustained winds near or in excess of 200 mph with gusts up to as high as 250 mph. That’s tornado intensity winds — with the ability to flatten homes or hurl cars through the air — but spread out over an area the size of a small state. Storm surges and related onshore waves are expected to be ‘catastrophic’ (the National Hurricane Center’s words). How catastrophic is unclear (no specific surge height predictions are given), but taking such extreme wind speeds and low pressures into account, we could certainly expect surges near and to the right side of the storm center to be in the range of 20-30 feet+.

If Patricia slams into the coast at a direct angle, then impacts will be limited to a smaller area. But recent tracking has set Patricia on a more oblique path — which means numerous communities may see severe impacts if Patricia spends hours skirting the coast. In total, more than 7 million residents live in the coastal regions along the path of this storm with more than a million in the zone likely to be impacted by the most intense winds and storm surges (see more here).

As Patricia begins to interact with the mountainous terrain near the coast, it should begin to weaken even as it dumps heavy rainfall predicted to be in excess of 20 inches over a broad region. Already, moisture and storm outflow from Patricia are being caught up in the Jet Stream and pulled north and eastward over Texas. By Sunday, the remnants of Patricia are expected to combine with a non-tropical cyclone in a kind of hybrid system which is predicted to, in turn, dump between 5 and 12 inches of rain over a wide section of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas even as it lashes coastal regions with 60+ mph winds.

Severe rainfall Texas

(NOAA 5 day precipitation forecasts show severe rains hitting drought stricken regions of Texas, Arkansas and Lousiana as the remnants of Patrica track northward. Image source: NOAA.)

This storm will provide yet one more weather whiplash to a region that experienced severe flooding this past Winter and Spring only to be replaced by severe flash drought conditions and extreme wildfire outbreaks during late Summer and early Fall. Patricia’s expected flooding rains will begin what is predicted to be an extremely wet Winter for the region — providing no relief from the highly varied conditions that have impacted this area for some time now. The kind of extreme weather variation that scientists warned was also a potential upshot of human-forced climate change. And, in this case, a record strength storm fueled by a near record El Nino, forming in a record hot world, and feeding on record hot Pacific Ocean waters is the delivery mechanism for the predicted switch.

UPDATE: Patricia is now in the process of making landfall about 20-30 miles to the west of Manzanilla, Mexico. According to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center, maximum sustained winds have fallen slightly to a still ridiculous 190 mph even as the minimum central pressure has backed off to around 900 mb. Such an intensity still likely puts it in the range of strongest landfalling storms in North America after the Labor Day Hurricane (892 mb).

Patricia Landfall

(Patricia is making landfall just west of Manzanillo, Mexico. Image source: NOAA/NHC.)

Thoughts and prayers go out to all in the path of this monster. Please stay safe!

Links:

National Hurricane Center

Patricia is the Strongest Hurricane Ever Measured

Hurricane Patricia, The Strongest Storm Ever Recorded

Hurricane Patricia Hits Cat 5 En Route to Mexico Coast

Colorado State University

NOAA

NOAA Satellite Pictures

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Greg

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

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