World Climate Stays in Uncharted Territory as May of 2017 Hits Second Hottest on Record

We’re currently in what should be a relatively considerable temperature trough following a strong 2015-2016 El Nino. But the globe hasn’t really cooled off that much.

In contrast, during the two year period following the 1998 super El Nino, annual global temperature averages subsequently cooled by around 0.2 C to about 0.64 C warmer than 1880s averages as a strong La Nina swept in. This post El Nino cooling provided some respite from harmful global conditions like increasingly prevalent droughts, floods, fires and coral bleaching events set off by the 1998 temperature spike. It did not, however, return the world to anything close to average or normal temperature conditions.

Warming Out of Context

(So far, 2017 temperature averages for the first five months have remained disturbingly close to what should have been an El Nino driven peak in 2016. Temperatures remaining so warm post El Nino are providing little respite from this peak warming. Meanwhile, the longer significant La Nina conditions hold off, the more extreme and out of context the post-2013 period looks from a global weather/climate perspective even relative to the significant warming occurring from the late 1970s through the early 2010s. Note the steep temperature spike following 2013 in the graph above. This should flatten out, step-wise, as La Nina conditions ultimately push against the larger surface warming trend [driven primarily by fossil fuel burning]. We thus await a La Nina stronger than the very weak late 2016 through early 2017 event with bated breath… Image source: NASA.)

During 2015 and 2016, the world was forced to warm much more intensely than during the 1998 event as very high and rising greenhouse gas concentrations (400 ppm CO2 +) met with another strong El Nino and what appeared to be a very widespread ocean surface warming event. Temperatures peaked to a troubling 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages during 2016. An annual peak nearly 0.4 C warmer than the 1998 temperature spike. But unlike the period following the 1998 event, it appears that 2017 will probably only back off by about 0.1 degrees Celsius at most.

This counter-trend cooling delay is cause for some concern because a larger portion of the global surface heat added in during the 2015-2016 El Nino appears to be remaining in the climate system — which is lengthening some of the impacts of the 2015-2016 temperature spike and putting the world more firmly outside of the weather and climate contexts of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

(2017 temperatures aren’t trailing too far behind 2016’s record spike. A trend that is, so far, considerably warmer than 2015, which was the second hottest year on record. Image source: NASA.)

Record heat, drought, rainfall events, unusual storms, coral bleaching, glacial melt, wildfires, sea ice melt and other effects related to extreme global temperature will, therefore, not abate as much as some would have hoped. Furthermore, though current science does not appear to identify a present perturbation in the ENSO cycle (which may produce more El Ninos as the world warms), monitoring of that cycle for warming-related change at this time seems at least somewhat appropriate.

Second Hottest May on Record

According to NASA, May of 2017 was 0.88 degrees Celsius hotter than its 20th Century baseline — or 1.1 C warmer than 1880s averages when the world first began a considerable warming trend clearly attributable to fossil fuel burning and related human carbon emissions. This reading is just 0.05 C shy of the record warmest May of 2016. It’s also slightly warmer than the now third warmest May (0.01 C warmer) of 2014. And all of the top four warmest Mays in the present NASA record have now occurred since 2014.

(NASA’s second hottest May on record brought above normal temperatures to much of the globe. Disturbingly, the most extreme temperature departures above average occurred in the vulnerable Coastal regions of Antarctica. Small regions including parts of the North Pacific, the Northern Polar Region, the extreme South Atlantic, and the Central U.S. experienced below average temperatures. But these outliers were few and far between. Image source: NASA.)

Add May of 2017 into the present 2017 running average and you get a total of 1.19 C warmer than 1880s conditions. This is the second warmest first five months on record following 2016 at a very considerable 1.38 C above 1880s. It is, however, just about 0.01 C behind 2016’s annual average of 1.2 C above late 19th Century global temperatures.

It’s worth noting that most of the temperature spike attributable to the 2015-2016 El Nino occurred beginning in October of 2015 and ending in April of 2016. Somewhat milder months comparable to April and May 2017 averages followed from June through December of 2016 as a very weak La Nina followed. Since about February, Pacific Ocean conditions warmed into an ENSO neutral state where neither El Nino or La Nina dominated. NOAA’s present forecast calls for ENSO neutral conditions to continue as the Equatorial Pacific slowly cools again. So a continuation of present trends could leave 2017 rather close to the 2016 spike.

Forecast Trends

GFS model guidance for June shows somewhat cooler global conditions than in May. If this trend continues we will likely see the month range from 0.7 to 0.82 C above NASA’s baseline. If the GFS summary is accurate and this meta-analysis is correct, then June of 2017 will likely range between 1st and 4th warmest on record. Meanwhile, ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) neutral conditions should tend to keep 2017 as a whole in the range of 1 C to 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages — likely beating out 2015 as the second hottest year on record and keeping the globe in what basically amounts to uncharted climate territory.




NOAA’s Weekly ENSO Report

The Rains of Antarctica are Coming — Warm Summer Storms Melted Texas-Sized Section of Ross Ice Shelf Surface During 2016

“In West Antarctica, we have a tug-of-war going on between the influence of El Niños and the westerly winds, and it looks like the El Niños are winning. It’s a pattern that is emerging. And because we expect stronger, more frequent El Niños in the future with a warming climate, we can expect more major surface melt events in West Antarctica (emphasis added).” — David Bromwhich, co-author of a recent study identifying massive summer surface melt in West Antarctica during 2016.


If you’re concerned about human-caused global warming, then you should also be concerned about ice. In particular — how warming might melt a miles-high pile of the frozen stuff covering the massive continent of Antarctica.

During recent years, scientists have become more and more worried as they’ve observed warming oceans eating away at the undersides of floating ice sheets. This particular process threatens numerous cities and coastal regions with swiftening sea level rise as ice margins melt and glaciers the size of mountain ranges clamor for release into the world’s oceans.

Major Antarctic Surface Melt Event During 2016

But another potential process in a still warmer world threatens to compound the impact of the heating waters that are already melting so many of the world’s glaciers from the bottom up — large scale surface melt.

(A major warming event during January of 2016 turned a Texas-sized section of Antarctica’s surface into slush. This occurred as a storm running in from the Southern Ocean delivered warm air and rainfall to sections of West Antarctica. Scientists are concerned that more major surface melt is on the way for Antarctica as the Earth’s climate heats up and that repeated warming and rainfall events in this typically-frozen region may further quicken rates of sea level rise. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

During January of 2016, as a very strong El Nino was combining with human-caused global warming to spike atmospheric temperatures to 1.2 C above 1880s levels, something pretty strange and concerning happened. Over the course of about 15 days, a 300,000 square mile section of the Ross Ice Shelf surface and nearby lands over West Antarctica experienced melting. This mass slushing across Antarctica’s surface occurred as a warm storm swept in from the Southern Ocean (see image above) to deliver an unheard of rainfall event to the region.

West Antarctica is typically too cold for such weather. It is also often too dry. The region is well know by climate researchers as a frozen desert. But as human-forced climate change has warmed the nearby ocean, warm, moist winds blowing in from these heating waters have become more frequent.

Westerlies Interrupted by Warming Ocean

Antarctica is typically protected by strong westerly winds that keep both heat and moisture out. But a warming ocean environment, according to Ohio State researchers, is enabling El Nino to interrupt these westerlies and hurl increasing volumes of heat and moisture over the glaciers of Antarctica. In 2016, countervailing winds pushing against the typically prevailing westerlies bore with them an odd rainstorm that set off a massive surface melt event.

(Surface melt over a large section of West Antarctica lasted for as much as 15 days as heat and moisture from the surrounding ocean beat back a protective barrier of westerly winds and invaded the frozen continent. According to scientists, these events are likely to become more frequent and long-lasting as the climate warms. Image source: Ohio State University.)

When combined with already-active melt from ocean warming, surface melt could further serve to destabilize ice sheets and swiften sea level rise. This was exactly the concern that David Bromwich, an Antarctic researcher at Ohio State and co-author of the paper that identified this strange event highlighted in this statement (please see related Washington Post article here):

“It provides us with a possible glimpse of the future. You probably have read these analyses of West Antarctica, many people think it’s slowly disintegrating right now, and it’s mostly thought to be from the warm water eating away at the bottom of critical ice shelves. Well, that’s today. In the future, we could see action at the surface of these ice shelves as well from surface melting. So that makes them potentially much more unstable (emphasis added).”

It’s worth noting that this particular storm, though unusual and noteworthy, did not produce too much in the way of surface melt ponding. Instead, the storm turned a large section of the Antarctic surface to a slurpee-like slush. But this event did deliver a considerable amount of heat to the Ross Ice Shelf region. And repeated instances could serve to seriously soften this massive ice formation.

Eventually, as warming worsens, significant surface melt and flooding could help to shatter large buttressing ice shelves like Ross or even generate risks of surface glacial outburst flooding in instances where permanent surface melt lakes form behind an ice dam. But the primary concern at this time is that these warm rain events provide a compounding melt influence that adds to risks for more rapid sea level rise this Century.


Widespread Snowmelt in Antarctica During Unusually Warm Summer

Scientists Stunned by Antarctic Rainfall and Melt Area Bigger Than Texas

Scientists Report Large Scale Surface Melting Event in Antarctica During 2015-2016 El Nino

The Ross Ice Shelf

Earth Nullschool

Hat tip to TodaysGuestIs

With New El Nino Predicted, 3rd Hottest January on Record May be Cool Mark for 2017

Last month was pretty darn hot as global temperature measures go.

According to NASA, the world’s thermometer averaged 1.14 C warmer than 1880s temperatures or about 0.92 C warmer than NASA’s 20th Century baseline. These readings were the third warmest for January since NASA record keeping began in 1880.


(A record hot world cools a little during January of 2017 relative to 2016. Unfortunately, with La Nina fading and a new El Nino predicted and with atmospheric CO2 measures continuing to climb, more record breaking or near record breaking global heat appears to be on the way. Image source: NASA GISS.)

2016-2017 La Nina — Not Very Cool

For a temperature measure that has consistently been producing ‘hottest months on record’ throughout 2016, the dip back to top 3 during January represents an ephemeral respite. More to the point, the fact that this third hottest ever reading occurred during the cool phase of natural variability called La Nina presents little cause for reassurance.

The Pacific Ocean has merely been drawing in more atmospheric heat on balance, as its periodic cycles dictate, during the months of September 2016 through January 2017. But despite a heat draw-down due to this variable cool ocean phase, the period produced consistent second and third hottest months on record globally. In particular, warming at the poles (and especially in the Arctic) appeared to substantially counter the cooling influence of the weak La Nina.


(With a weak La Nina fading, a weak to moderate El Nino apparently on the way, and with atmospheric greenhouse gasses at record high levels, it appears that 2017 temperatures will range close to the record global warmth that occurred during 2016. Image source: NASA.)

Overall, the average temperature of these five cooler La Nina months was 0.876 C above NASA’s 20th Century average (1.096 C above 1880s). A reading considerably warmer than the 1998 super El Nino year average of 0.63 C above 20th Century baselines (0.85 C above 1880s). An average unsettlingly close to the 0.98 C above baseline (1.2 C above 1880s) measure for 2016 as a whole.

Predicted 2017 El Nino Would Push us Back to Near Record Hot Too Soon

With a La Nina period so greatly exceeding 1998 El Nino averages, we can confidently say at this time that the old cherry previously used by climate change deniers for so many frequent misrepresentations has now been left in the dust and ash of the great global burning of fossil fuels continuing unabated since that time and that this year will push CO2 and CO2e levels to above 410 ppm (peak) and 493 ppm respectively.


(Warm Kelvin Wave now propagating across the Pacific indicates that a weak-to-moderate El Nino may form by Summer of 2017. Such an event, when combined with record levels of atmospheric greenhouse gasses, would tend to keep 2017 temperatures closer to record warm ranges established during 2016. Image source: NOAA.)

For the coming months, we can say with some confidence that global temperatures again appear likely to start rising. NOAA model guidance now points toward a likelihood of a new weak El Nino forming by May or June. An event that will possibly expand into a moderate strength event come the Fall of 2017. Already, a plug of warmer than normal water is propagating from west to east just beneath the Equatorial Pacific’s sea surface. And this warm water is expected to expand off South America and then spread westward along the Equator in a classic El Nino scenario for the coming months.

El Nino forecasts for this time of year can be rather uncertain. However, if NOAA models are correct, the added warmth over so much surface water in the Equatorial Pacific will also tend to push an atmosphere already loaded with an abundance of heat-trapping gasses to again warm.


(NOAA CFSv2 model runs show a moderate El Nino forming by late Summer or early Fall. Image source: NOAA.)

So the La Nina range of 0.95 to 1.15 C above 1880s will tend to tip toward 1.05 to 1.25 C above 1880s during a weak to moderate El Nino event. A range very close to what we recently saw during the record warm year of 2016.

Risks for Heat Related Climate Disruptions to Remain Heightened

So much re-warming so soon on the tails of 2016 is not very good short or medium-term news for the global climate system. It means that issues such as severe droughts and floods, disruption of monsoonal weather patterns, increasingly prevalent wildfires, climate related stresses to crops, global coral bleaching, and immediate melt stresses to polar zones are likely to fail to abate during 2017. The one silver lining being that 2017 is less likely to hit a new record global high temperature mark than 2016 was. But global temperatures hitting so high already at the tail end of three record warm years in a row is little cause for comfort.



The Climate Prediction Center


Warm Atmospheric River Aims Parade of Storms at U.S. West During La Nina Year of 2017

A river of moisture arises from the Pacific Ocean and links up with a procession of enormous storms that bring heavy surf, flooding rains, and mountain snows to the U.S. West. It’s a weather narrative that one usually associates with a strong El Nino during winter time. But the powerful El Nino ended last year and it failed to bring the expected rains. Meanwhile, in early 2017, during a La Nina year in which typical trends would tend to point to drier conditions for the U.S. West, a procession of severe storms is now slamming into California.

El Nino Pattern During a La Nina Year

So what the heck happened? What could possibly cause such a crazy weather flip-flop in which record drought conditions extend through a time of El Nino but severe and extreme rains come with the onset of La Nina?

The answer appears to be that a record warm ocean combined with a strongly positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation to produce a powerful river of moisture aimed directly at California. And when the associated storms arrived it was with an extreme intensity — setting off numerous flash flood events.


(Water vapor models show an atmospheric river running out of the Western Pacific — crossing that vast ocean before engorging storms slamming into the U.S. West Coast on January 17 of 2017. This is a severe weather feature more typical of an El Nino year that is now occurring during a period of weak La Nina conditions. The difference being that rivers of moisture running into California typically issue over Hawaii. The present ‘Pineapple Express’ is coming all the way from the Philippines. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

An almost continuous spate of heavy downpours since the first week of January has now unloaded enough moisture to fully slake severe drought conditions over Northern California and to considerably reduce the drought in the south. Overall, precipitation totals for the past 30 days have been as much as 2.5 times above the normal amount for California.

Another Batch of Heavy Rain on the Way

This week, NOAA expects another batch of powerful storms to come blasting out of the Pacific. Sections of Southern California are predicted to get hit with around 9-13 inches of rain over the next seven days while the north receives another 10 to 15 inches. These are notably severe rainfall totals for California. And NOAA model predictions have tended to range higher over the past 24 hours.



(NOAA 7-day precipitation forecast indicates a severe rainfall event for the U.S. West Coast with heaviest amounts hitting parts of Northern California. Image source: NOAA.)

According to Accuweather, the heavy rains are expected to spur flash flooding, increase the risk of mudslides and to possibly push some rivers over their banks. However, since many rivers are still at low levels following persistent drought during the last five years, over-topping is less of a risk than it otherwise would have been.

Storms tend to bring cooler weather to this region and the Western U.S. has cooled somewhat during 2017 compared to past years. However, the conditions in which these storms are firing are warmer than they have been in the past. As a result, mountain snowfall has occurred higher up on the slopes. Consistent with the warmer than normal storms, Accuweather predicts this week’s storm system will not produce big snowfall totals for the Cascades as snow levels are driven above 7,000 feet by the warmer than usual temperatures.

Very Warm, Moist Pacific; Positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation

There’s been very little weather and climate discussion as to why heavy rains are falling in California during a year when the odds stacked against such an event would tend to be higher due to La Nina. The elephant in the room at this time is a major excursion of global surface temperatures in the range of 1.2 C above normal during 2016. A notably severe climate change related insult to the Earth system. Such extreme atmospheric warmth will tend to hold more water vapor aloft in suspension. As a result, when the rains do fall, they will tend to be heavier and come more in the form of downpours and deluges than as moderate or lighter precipitation.


(This sea surface temperature anomaly map shows that despite La Nina, the Pacific Ocean, on balance, is much warmer than normal. These warmer than normal sea surfaces are pumping out a considerable amount of moisture — which is helping to feed the powerful storm systems running into the U.S. West Coast. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

To this point, despite a La Nina blanketing the Pacific’s central Equatorial region in cooler than normal waters, most of the Northern Pacific is considerably warmer than normal. And all this extra warmth is helping to pump a lot of water vapor into the atmosphere above the ocean zone. A feature that is not typically consistent with La Nina, but one that is consistent with a considerably positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation acting in conjunction with overall global warming. Positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) values are associated with above normal sea surface temperatures in the Eastern and South-Central Pacific. Positive PDO tends to produce longer and strong El Nino events. And it is also associated with strong storm tracks running from west to east along the 40 N latitude line.

Storm Track Runs All the Way to U.S. West Coast

To this  point, it’s worth noting that PDO has been in a positive range for the past three years running. But it wasn’t until recently that a persistently strong storm track stretching all the way to the U.S. West Coast has developed. During past years, strong storms veered north into Alaska and Canada, deflected by powerful ridges over the U.S. West.


(The crazy, wavy jet stream with a strong storm track hitting California and a ridge riding up into Central Canada is rather changed from the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge blocking pattern that helped to spark severe droughts along the U.S. West Coast during 2013-2015. Now, severe flooding rains are the rule of the day. Under human-caused climate change, we can expect weather patterns to tend more toward extremes. For the U.S. West Coast extreme drought has been replaced by heavy rains. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Assisting the process of storms running toward the U.S. West Coast was the removal of a hot blob of water off coastal Washington and Oregon as a zone of somewhat cooler than normal waters formed. These cooler waters extended from just off Northern Japan to south of the Aleutians and on toward the U.S. West Coast. This zone is providing a dipole temperature anomaly between the cooler than normal surface waters in the north and the warmer than normal waters in the south. As a result, the Jet Stream has a nice slot along which to produce a powerful, flat storm track. These two features — a strong temperature dipole between the 40 and 50 degree latitude lines and a very warm Pacific producing copious amounts of moisture south of the 40 degree latitude line — are the key ingredients that appear to be fueling the powerful West Coast storms in a counter-La Nina fashion.

In contrast to the 2013 to 2015 period, high pressure ridging along the U.S. West Coast is not now strong enough to deflect the storms running across the Northern Pacific. In other words, it appears that the influence of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge and hot Ocean blobs off Washington and Oregon during 2013 to 2015 is has now faded out. However, the new climate and weather trends driving this most recent influx of heavy rainfall to the U.S. West Coast are almost as odd and notable.


Threat of Flooding For U.S. West Coast

West Coast Storms Cause Dangerous Flooding in California

U.S. Drought Monitor

Climate Reanalyzer

GISS Temperature Data

Climate Reanalyzer

Pacific Decadal Oscillation

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

There’s a La Nina Developing — So Why is the World Still Heating Up?

Long term, there’s no doubt what’s in control of the world’s temperature trend. The vast belching of greenhouse gasses by fossil fuel industry and related non-renewable based machinery has caused atmospheric carbon levels to hit 405 ppm CO2 and 490 ppm CO2e this year. All this added carbon has caused the world to warm by a record 1.22 C since 1880s levels during 2016 (approx). But superimposed over this long term warming trend is the natural variability based ebb and flow of atmospheric and surface ocean heat that is the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.

ENSO — A Wave Pattern Overlying the Long Term Warming Trend

Think of it as a smaller wave pattern that overlaps the current global upswing in temperatures. As El Nino builds and comes into the fore, natural forcings caused by periodic ocean surface warming in the Equatorial Pacific push global temperatures higher. This tends to add to the human forced global warming trend. So, often, El Nino years are also record warm years.


(El Nino to La Nina temperature variations create a wavy pattern in the overall global warming trend. Note — the record warm year of 2016 is not included in this graph. Image source: NOAA.)

Conversely, La Nina, which generates a periodic cooling in the Equatorial Pacific tends to pull a bit against the long term warming trend. So periods of La Nina tend to show average global atmospheric temperatures in the annual measure drop off by about 0.2 to 0.4 C from the peak periods of atmospheric heating during El Nino. Of course, since the ENSO variability typically follows a range of +0.2 C to -0.2 C but does not affect long term temperature trends, it only takes about a decade for La Nina years to be about as warm as recent El Nino years.

Slight Warming During Fall of 2016 Despite La Nina

During fall of 2015 and the winter and spring of 2016 a powerful El Nino helped to push global surface temperatures into new record high ranges. This happened because greenhouse gasses the world over had been loading heat into the Earth System for some time and the strong El Nino served as a kind of trip wire that opened the flood gates for a surge of atmospheric heat. Which is why 2016 will be about 1.22 C hotter than 1880s temperatures (1 C hotter than NASA 20th Century baseline temps) and why the years from 2011 to 2016 will average above 1 C hotter than 1880s values overall (0.8 C hotter than 20th Century baselines).

But now, with the 2016 El Nino in the rear view mirror and with a La Nina forming in the Pacific, we would expect global temperatures to cool down somewhat. For the most part, this has happened. Back in January and February, monthly average temperatures were as much as 1.5 C above 1880s averages. Since summer, the averages have dipped to around 1 to 1.1 C above 1880s values.


(Global temperatures bottomed out at around 1 C above 1880s or 0.4 C above the 1981 to 2010 average in this GFS based graph by Karsten Haustein during June then began to slowly climb through fall even as a weak La Nina began to develope.)

With La Nina continuing to form, we would expect these monthly values to continue to fall for a bit as La Nina strengthened. But that doesn’t appear to be happening. Instead, global atmospheric temperatures bottomed out at around 1 to 1.1 C above 1880s levels in June, July, August and September and now they appear to be rebounding.

Polar Amplification Signal Shows Up as a Blip in the Global Measure

In other words, we see a rise in the global temperature trend when we should see a steady counter-trend decline forced by natural variability.

Why is this happening?

The climate evidence points to a rather obvious set of suspects. First, the long term Pacific Decadal Oscillation value has continued to push into the positive range. And this state would tend to favor more heat radiating back into the atmosphere from the ocean surface.

However, if you look at the global climate maps, the major anomaly drivers are not coming from the Pacific, but from the poles. For this fall saw extreme warming both in the northern and southern polar regions of the world. Today, temperature anomalies in both the Arctic and the Antarctic were 5.84 and 4.19 C above average respectively. A rough average between the two poles of +5 C for these high latitude regions. As we’ve mentioned many times before, such severe warming is an obvious signal of climate change based polar amplification where temperatures at the poles warm faster relative to the rest of the Earth during the first phase of greenhouse gas forced warming.


(Extreme warming of the polar regions continued on November 4 of 2016. This warming is pushing against the La Nina trend which would tend to cool the world temporarily. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

By themselves, these abnormally high temperatures at the poles would be odd enough. But when taking into account that La Nina should still be cooling the globe off, it starts to look like this severe polar warming has jostled the La Nina cooling signal a bit — turning it back toward warming by late fall. And if that is what’s really happening, then it would imply that the natural variability signal that is produced by ENSO is starting to be over-ridden by polar amplification based influences. In other words, there appears to be another signal that’s starting to intrude as a polar amplification based temperature spike.

It’s something that has popped up from time to time as a blip in the observational data over the past few years. But fall of 2016 provides one of the stronger signals so far. And it’s a signal related to a set of feedbacks that have the potential to affect the overall pace of planetary warming. Something to definitely keep an eye on.



Karsten Haustein

Climate Reanalyzer

NOAA El Nino

Hat tip to June

Hat tip to ClimateHawk1

Hat tip to JCH

Bad Rains Fall Across Globe — 700,000 Evacuated in Kyushu Deluge as Worst Flood in 100 Years Inundates West Virginia

In Kyushu, Japan on Friday, government officials urged 700,000 residents to evacuate as record heavy rains and severe flooding inundated the city for the fifth day in a row. Half a world away in West Virginia, another unpredicted record deluge dumped 8.2 inches of rain, washed out roads, cut off shopping malls, flushed burning homes down raging rivers, and left more than 14 people dead and hundreds more stranded.

Individually, these events would be odd. But taken together with what are now scores of other extreme flooding events happening around the world in the space of just a few months and the context begins to look a lot like what scientists expected to happen due to human-forced climate change.

700,000 Urged to Evacuate in Kyushu Deluge

Kyushu Rains

(Heavy rains fall over Kyushu on Friday in the most recent wave of extreme storms to blanket the island. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

In Kyushu, the skies opened up on Monday. An extension of a seasonal front draped across China and feeding on moisture bleeding off of record hot ocean surfaces edged out over Japan. Mountainous cloud banks unloaded. Record rains in the range of five inches an hour then began to inundate the southern Japanese island. This mass dumping of water eventually accumulated to half a meter (or 1.6 feet) over some sections of the island over the course of just one 24 hour period.

The rains set loose raging rivers of water through Kyushu streets and saturated hillsides already weakened by an April earthquake. The flooding and resulting landslides killed 6 people on Monday alone and resulted in calls for tens of thousands of people to evacuate the hardest hit areas. Over the week, hourly rainfall totals of 1-3 inches and daily rainfall rates of 4-8 inches continued as more and more of the region succumbed to flooding. By Friday, bridges and roads had been washed out, an elderly man, a university student, and a child had gone missing, trains had been blocked by mudslides and the evacuation calls extended to include 700,000 people.

Unexpected Record Floods Hit West Virginia

By early Wednesday in West Virginia the weather was starting to get a little rough. Strong storms had been running over the region since Tuesday as an unstable air mass funneled lines of thunderstorms into the Appalachian Mountain region. The forecast did indicate some potential for severe weather, but nothing near so extreme as what emerged.

NOAA QPC predictions called for peak rainfall amounts in the range of 3.24 inches from Wednesday through Friday. But the inundation that occurred on just Thursday alone resulted in rainfall totals of more than two and a half times that:

Forecast Beat By Climate Change Again

(In another instance that calls into question whether current forecast models are keeping up with the heavy rainfall potentials that are now made possible by a record hot global atmosphere NOAA’s predicted rainfall totals are again greatly exceeded by events — this time in West Virginia where 14 people have been reported dead due to flooding. An indication that weather prediction may not be fully taking into account the added threat posed by human-forced warming. And also an indication that endemic climate change denial in the US political system [in vast majority among republicans] — which has resulted in a dramatic failure to fund needed and necessary climate change monitoring — is having a harmful overall impact to public safety and disaster preparedness. Image source: NOAA QPC.)

Reports indicate that 8.17 inches of rain fell in just one 24 hour period in Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. But it was just the center mass of the worst flood in a century for parts of the state. One that has so far resulted in the deaths of more than fourteen people. Five hundred people are also currently stranded in a shopping mall that has now been cut off by the flood.

(A burning home floats down a West Virginia creek swollen to a raging torrent by the worst flood to hit the state in 100 years.)

Numerous homes and hundreds of cars have also been lost due to the flash floods that swept through West Virginia’s valleys. In one instance, a burning house was filmed floating down a river. As a result of the severe and unexpected rains, 44 of the state’s 55 counties have now been declared a disaster area.

Conditions in Context — Global Warming Fuels More Extreme Rainfall Events

These severe flooding events add to those this week occurring in China, Australia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Great Britian over just the past seven days. In addition, extreme floods have swept through Texas, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, Ghana and Argentina over the past couple of months.

The floods occur at a time when global temperatures are just coming off of new record highs during the first part of 2016. Temperatures that, in February peaked near 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than 1880s averages. For each 1 degree Celsius that you add to global temperature, you increase the atmospheric moisture loading by about 7 percent. This is a physical fact of the Earth’s climate system. If you heat the atmosphere, you increase evaporation and that results, in turn, in more moisture held up in the world’s airs.

It’s this well understood dynamic of atmospheric physics that scientists have long warned would result in more extreme droughts and downpours as a result a human-forced warming of the world. Chris Fields, a climate scientist cited by US News and World Report in an article covering the record Paris floods earlier this month also noted:

“One of the clearest signs of climate change, over much of the world, is the increase in the fraction of the rain that falls in the heaviest events.”

So not only does a loading up of the hydrological cycle with moisture result in heavier rainfall events generally, it also results in a greater fraction of overall rainfall coming in the form of heavy rain. In other words climate change causes heavier rain on top of heavier rain. The worst events, as a result do not just get worse, they get much, much worse. And this is due to the added convection — or updrafts — that keep moisture in the air longer. In other words, the rain in a hotter world needs to be heavier to fall out of clouds that are pushed higher and with greater force by heat rising up off the Earth’s surface.


(In a record-warm world, a transition from El Nino to La Nina can result in an unprecedented amount of moisture being wrung out into trough and storm zones. Extraordinarily heavy rainfall events like those experienced across the world over the past few months is the all-too-likely result. It’s a feature that has been added by global temperatures that are now about 1.2 C hotter than 1880s in the annual average. As global temperatures increase, heavy precipitation events will continue to grow more intense even as droughts in other regions worsen. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

As for the timing of the most recent heavy rainfall events — the last element to the equation has been a transition from El Nino to La Nina. During the most recent El Nino, the Equatorial Pacific warmed and new record global temperatures were achieved. But as the Equatorial Pacific cooled, so did the atmosphere. And now, some of that record atmospheric moisture load isn’t recieving quite as much heat from beneath keeping it all aloft. So a greater portion of it tends to fall out in the post El Nino period.

And none of this is to say at all that El Nino is causing the increased rate of flooding. The El Nino to La Nina transiton is a natural variability based event that is instead being influenced by human-forced warming in such a way that is resulting in an increasingly extreme period of rainfall. And we’re experiencing that globally now.


Kyushu Deluge Continues, 700,000 Urged to Evacuate

Flooding, Landslides in Southwest Japan Kill 6

Heavy Rains Kill 6 in Kumamoto

14 Dead in West Virginia Flooding, Body of Missing Child Found

Flooding in West Virginia is So Bad a Burning House Flooded Down a Creek

French President: The Paris Floods are Exceptional

NOAA (please support funding for public climate change monitoring)

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Climate Hawk

Heatwave Mass Casualties Strike India in April Amidst Severe Drought, Water Shortages

Loss of water from snow melt in the Himalayas, increasing temperatures and instances of drought over the food-producing plains, and a potential endemic weakening of the annual monsoonal rains. These are all climate change related impacts that appear to be settling in over India as global temperatures consistently begin to hit levels higher than 1 C above 1880s values. Impacts that are setting up conditions for sustained and increasingly severe droughts and heatwaves.


Yesterday, temperatures rocketed to 114.44 degrees Fahrenheit (or 45.8 degrees Celsius) in Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha, on the Indian east coast. It was the hottest April reading ever recorded for a region that typically sees daily highs in the upper 90s this time of year. A level of heat that’s excessive even for this typically warm region.

India Heatwave

(Most of India baked under a severe heatwave yesterday [April 11] as the number of lives lost to heat stroke mounted and a water train was dispatched to far-flung drought-stricken regions. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Bhubaneshwar, however, was just one of many locations experiencing temperatures above 110 Degrees (F) yesterday. For a broad heatwave and a related severe drought has sprawled over much of India throughout early April — hitting a peak intensity for many locations this week. Heat so intense that it had already resulted in the tragic loss of more than 110 lives due to heat stroke by April 9th.

India’s Two Year Drought

The drought itself is an ongoing feature — one that has lasted now for two years in many provinces as abnormally high temperatures and reduced monsoonal rains have produced severe and widespread impacts. In total, 10 of India’s 29 states are now suffering under drought conditions. Some locations, like the Maharashtra town of Latur, east of  Mumbai, are experiencing water shortages so severe that Indian officials have dispatched a drought relief train — containing a half a million liters of water — to provide aid. For hardest hit areas, the situation is so dire that riots are now a risk — prompting authorities to outlaw gatherings of more than 5 people near some water distribution sites. Maharashtra itself is experiencing some of the most severe losses with reports indicating that reservoirs there are at less than 5 percent capacity. Average capacity for all reservoirs throughout India amounted to just 29 percent by the end of March — and the annual monsoonal rains are still at least two months away.

Overall impacts are quite widespread. Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand has declared a water emergency. And the Ganges River is now so low that it is unable to provide water to cool one of the largest coal-fired electrical power stations in West Bengal — forcing it to suspend operations.The great river is dramatically shrunken — causing islands of mud to emerge even as pollutants concentrate in its thinning thread. A diminishing flow that India’s 1.3 billion people rely on for much of their water. It’s a greater crisis so extreme that late last month one of BBC’s India correspondents asked — is this the worst water crisis India has ever faced?

Such broad-ranging and long-lasting drought has hit India’s farmers hard. Last year, more than 3,500 farmers committed suicide after facing some of the worst conditions ever to strike India. This year, the situation is arguably even worse — forcing some desperate regions to consider cloud seeding as a means of possible drought alleviation.

Stronger Monsoon for 2016? Or Will A Warming Globe Dim India’s Hopes For Rain?

Reports from India’s Meteorological Division have called for a normal to above normal monsoon to provide replenishing rains this year. However, monsoonal predictions over the past two years were overly optimistic, which is cause for caution over last week’s forecast.

Overall, the early extreme record heat and drought over India provides a barrier to any influx of monsoonal moisture. In addition, El Nino conditions — possibly hanging on in the Central Pacific through June — may help to dull or delay monsoonal development even as a predicted progression to La Nina later in the year provides some hope for additional moisture during late Summer and Fall. A switch to rains that may well be quite intense for some regions given the unprecedented atmospheric moisture content as a result of record high global temperatures.

Longer-term, there are growing indications that climate change is starting to impact India’s breadbasket. Record high temperatures over the Gangetic Plain — India’s productive farming region south of the Himalayas — are starting to take hold as a result of a human-forced warming of the globe. A condition that IPCC reports indicate could decimate (reduce by ten percent) wheat, corn, soy and sorghum yields over the coming years. So even as a shift to La Nina provides some hope for an alleviation of India’s current drought woes later in 2016, the larger trend is for an increasing prevalence of drought and extreme heat as a reckless fossil fuel emission continues to force the globe to warm.


India Scrambles to Alleviate Severe Drought

Is India Facing its Worst-Ever Water Crisis?

Water Train Reaches Latur

Heatwave Claims 111 Lives in India

India Meteorological Division

With Months to Go For Rains, this is the Drought Map of India

Earth Nullschool

Drought, El Nino and a Weak Monsoon Conspire to Hit Indian Farmers

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to TodaysGuestIs

The Roof is On Fire — Looks like February of 2016 Was 1.5 to 1.7 C Above 1880s Averages

Before we go on to explore this most recent and most extreme instance in a long string of record-shattering global temperatures, we should take a moment to credit our climate change denier ‘friends’ for what’s happening in the Earth System.

For decades now, a coalition of fossil fuel special interests, big money investors, related think tanks, and the vast majority of the republican party have fought stridently to prevent effective action to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. In their mad quest, they have attacked science, demonized leaders, gridlocked Congress, hobbled government, propped up failing fossil fuels, prevented or dismantled helpful regulation, turned the Supreme Court into a weapon against renewable energy solutions, and toppled industries that would have helped to reduce the damage.

Through these actions, they have been successful in preventing the necessary and rapid shift away from fossil fuel burning, halting a burgeoning American leadership in renewable energy, and in flooding the world with the low-cost coal, oil, and gas that is now so destructive to Earth System stability. Now, it appears that some of the more dangerous impacts of climate change are already locked in. So when history looks back and asks — why were we so stupid? We can honestly point our fingers to those ignoramuses and say ‘here were the infernal high priests who sacrificed a secure future and our children’s safety on the altar of their foolish pride.’

Worst Fears For Global Heating Realized

We knew there’d be trouble. We knew that human greenhouse gas emissions had loaded the world ocean up with heat. We knew that a record El Nino would blow a big chunk of that heat back into the atmosphere as it began to fade. And we knew that more global temperature records were on the way in late 2015 and early 2016. But I have to say that the early indications for February are just staggering.

Extreme Global Warming

(The GFS model shows temperatures averaged 1.01 C above the already significantly hotter than normal 1981-2010 baseline. Subsequent observations from separate sources have confirmed this dramatic February temperature spike. We await NASA, NOAA, and JMA observations for a final confirmation. But the trend in the data is amazingly clear. What we’re looking at is the hottest global temperatures since record keeping began by a long shot. Note that the highest temperature anomalies appear exactly where we don’t want them — the Arctic. Image source: GFS and M. J. Ventrice.)

Eric Holthaus and M. J. Ventrice on Monday were the first to give warning of an extreme spike in temperatures as recorded by the Global satellite record. A slew of media reports followed. But it wasn’t until today that we really began to get a clear look at the potential atmospheric damage.

Nick Stokes, a retired climate scientist and blogger over at Moyhu, published an analysis of the recently released preliminary data from NCAR and the indicator is just absolutely off the charts high. According to this analysis, February temperatures may have been as much as 1.44 C hotter than the 1951 to 1980 NASA baseline. Converting to departures from 1880s values, if these preliminary estimates prove correct, would put the GISS figure at an extreme 1.66 C hotter than 1880s levels for February. If GISS runs 0.1 C cooler than NCAR conversions, as it has over the past few months, then the 1880 to February 2016 temperature rise would be about 1.56 C. Both are insanely high jumps that hint 2016 could be quite a bit warmer than even 2015.

It’s worth noting that much of these record high global temperatures are centered on the Arctic — a region that is very sensitive to warming and one that has the potential to produce a number of dangerous amplifying feedbacks. So we could well characterize an impending record warm February as one in which much of the excess heat exploded into the Arctic. In other words — the global temperature anomaly graphs make it look like the world’s roof is on fire. That’s not literal. Much of the Arctic remains below freezing. But 10-12 C above average temperature anomalies for an entire month over large regions of the Arctic is a big deal. It means that large parts of the Arctic haven’t experienced anything approaching a real Arctic Winter this year.

Looks Like The 1.5 C Threshold Was Shattered in the Monthly Measure and We May Be Looking at 1.2 to 1.3 C+ Above 1880s For all of 2016

Putting these numbers into context, it looks like we may have already crossed the 1.5 C threshold above 1880s values in the monthly measure during February. This is entering a range of high risk for accelerating Arctic sea ice and snow melt, albedo loss, permafrost thaw and a number of other related amplifying feedbacks to a human-forced heating of our world. A set of changes that will likely add to the speed of an already rapid fossil fuel based warming. But we should be very clear that monthly departures are not annual departures and the yearly measure for 2016 is less likely to hit or exceed a 1.5 C departure. It’s fair to say, though, that 1.5 C annual departures are imminent and will likely appear within 5-20 years.

If we use the 1997-1998 El Nino year as a baseline, we find that global temperatures for that event peaked at around 1.1 C above 1880s averages during February. The year, however, came in at about 0.85 C above 1880s averages. Using a similar back of napkin analysis, and assuming 2016 will continue to see Equatorial sea surface temperatures continue to cool, we may be looking at a 1.2 to 1.3 C above 1880s average for this year.


(El Nino is cooling down. But will it continue to linger through 2016? Climate Prediction Center CFSv2 model ensembles seem to think so. The most recent run shows the current El Nino restrengthening through Fall of 2016. Such an event would tend to push global annual temperatures closer to the 1.5 C above 1880s threshold. It would also set in place the outside potential for another record warm year in 2017. It’s worth noting that the NOAA consensus is still for ENSO Neutral to weak La Nina conditions by Fall. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

NOAA is currently predicting that El Nino will transition to ENSO neutral or a weak la Nina by year end. However, some model runs show that El Nino never really ends for 2016. Instead, these models predict a weak to moderate El Nino come Fall. In 1998, a strong La Nina began to form — which would have helped to suppress atmospheric temperatures by year-end. The 2016 forecast, however, does not seem to indicate quite as much atmospheric cooling assistance coming from the world ocean system. So end 2016 annual averages may push closer to 1.3 C (or a bit higher) above 1880s levels.

We’ve Had This Warming in the System for a While, It was Just Hiding Out in the Oceans

One other bit of context we should be very clear on is that the Earth System has been living with the atmospheric heat we’re now seeing for a while. The oceans began a very rapid accumulation of heat due to greenhouse gas emissions forcing during the 2000s. A rate of heat accumulation in the world’s waters that has accelerated through to this year. This excess heat has already impacted the climate system by speeding the destabilization of glaciers in the basal zone in Greenland and Antarctica. And it has also contributed to new record global sea ice losses and is a likely source of reports from the world’s continental shelf zones that small but troubling clathrate instabilities have been observed.

Nature Global Ocean Heat Accumulation

(Global ocean heat accumulation has been on a high ramp since the late 1990s with 50 percent of the total heat accumulation occurring in the 18 years from 1997 though 2015. Since more than 90 percent of the greenhouse gas heat forcing ends up in the world ocean system, this particular measure is probably the most accurate picture of a rapidly warming world. Such a swift accumulation of heat in the world’s oceans guaranteed that the atmosphere would eventually respond. The real question now is — how fast and far? Image source: Nature.)

But pushing up atmospheric heating will have numerous additional impacts. It will put pressure on the surface regions of global glaciers — adding to the basal melt pressure jump we’ve already seen. It will further amplify the hydrological cycle — increasing the rates of evaporation and precipitation around the world and amplifying extreme droughts, wildfires and floods. It will increase peak global surface temperatures — thereby increasing the incidence of heatwave mass casualty events. It will provide more latent heat energy for storms — continuing to push up the threshold of peak intensity for these events. And it will help to accelerate the pace of regional changes to climate systems such as weather instability in the North Atlantic and increasing drought tendency in the US (especially the US Southwest).

Entering the Climate Change Danger Zone

The 1-2 C above 1880s temperatures range we are now entering is one in which dangerous climate changes will tend to grow more rapid and apparent. Such atmospheric heat has not been experienced on Earth in at least 150,000 years and the world then was a much different place than what human beings were used to in the 20th Century. However, the speed at which global temperatures are rising is much more rapid than anything seen during any interglacial period for the last 3 million years and is probably even more rapid than the warming seen during hothouse extinction events like the PETM and the Permian. This velocity of warming will almost certainly have added effects outside of the paleoclimate context.

Arctic Degree Days Below Zero Anomaly

(Anyone looking at the temperature anomaly graph on the top of this post can see that a disproportionate amount of the global temperature anomaly is showing up in the Arctic. But the region of the High North above the 80 degree Latitude line is among the regions experiencing global peak anomalies. There, degree days below freezing are at the lowest levels ever recorded — now hitting a -800 anomaly in the Arctic record. In plain terms — the less degree days below freezing the High Arctic experiences, the closer it is to melting. Image source: CIRES/NOAA.)

One final point to be clear on is then worth repeating. We, by listening to climate change deniers and letting them gum up the political and economic works, have probably already locked in some of the bad effects of climate change that could have been prevented. The time for pandering to these very foolish people is over. The time for foot-dragging and half-measures is now at an end. We need a very rapid response. A response that, at this point, is still being delayed by the fossil fuel industry and the climate change deniers who have abetted their belligerence.


The Old Normal is Now Gone


Hot, Hot, Hot

Michael J. Ventrice

No Winter for the Arctic in 2016

Big Jump in Surface and Satellite Temperature Measures

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Industrial Era Global Ocean Heat Uptake Doubles in Recent Decades


Republican Governors Sue to Stop Clean Power Plan


As a Titanic El Nino Begins to Fade, What Fresh Trouble Will a Record Warm World Bring?

Today the globe is feeling quite a bit of backlash from a human-warmed sea surface and atmosphere. As it ends up, Dr. Kevin Trenberth was right. Deep ocean warming set off by heat-trapping fossil fuel emissions and building up through the first two decades of the 21st Century did re-surge from the depths to haunt us in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In that wrenching global climate system shift to the hot side of natural variability, a titanic El Nino emerged. It was one of the top three strongest such events in the modern record. One that by NOAA’s measure appears to have tied the extreme event of 1998 at its peak intensity.

ONI sea surface temperature anomalies in Nino 3.4

(Sea surface temperature departure from average in the benchmark Nino 3.4 zone shows surface ocean heat anomalies for the 2015-2016 El Nino equaled peak 1997-1998 values. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

Expected Heat, Drought, and Storms Together With a Few Ominous Surprises

This event did push the world into extreme warmth even as predicted related severe weather flared in some of the typical regions. Annual average global temperatures rocketed to about 1.06 C above 1880s baselines during 2015 even as monthly departures hit 1.2 to 1.3 C or more higher than the same benchmark during December and January.

Amidst this great upheaval of global heat, the world also experienced yet one more wave of freak droughts (this time over Northern South America, the Caribbean, large swaths of Africa and Southeast Asia), heat-related mass casualty events, floods, and strongest hurricanes on record. Arctic and global sea ice measures are once again plunging to new record lows. A global coral bleaching event, perhaps the worst such instance ever experienced, was also set in motion.

The predicted patterns and potential worse-case events (such as heatwave mass casualties, coral bleaching, and sea ice loss) were also contrasted by a number of surprises. The first and perhaps most ominous was the failure of El Nino to bust the California drought. Though the West Coast of the US did experience a number of storms, the pattern was more typical of normal Winter moisture for the Northwestern US even as drought continued throughout the Southwest.  Moisture instead tended to split fire-hose fashion — with storms either cycling northward into Alaska, the Aleutians, or the Bering Sea, or south over Southern Mexico or Central America, up across the Gulf and on out into a particularly severe storm zone forming in the North Atlantic.

30 day precipitation anomaly shows southwest drought continuing

(Over the last 30 days the southwest drought re-emerged as a blocking pattern again began to take hold over Western North America and the Eastern Pacific. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

This continued loss of moisture for the US Southwest despite a record El Nino is particularly apparent in the Climate Prediction Center’s most recent precipitation anomaly measure for the last 30 days. Here we find that large parts of Central and Southern California have received just 10 to 50 percent of typical rainfall for this period. Coupled with 1-3 C above average temperatures for the month, this loss of rainfall during what would typically be California’s wettest period has come as a disappointment to many who were hoping a strong El Nino would help break the state out of a crippling drought. Now, the window for late Winter and early Spring rains is starting to close even as the blocking pattern appears to be strongly re-established in both the present weather pattern and in the forecast model runs.

But perhaps the biggest surprise coming from this El Nino year was a set of weather events in the North Atlantic that were likely more related to climate change. There, severe storms hammered a flood-beleaguered UK as a greatly distorted Jet Stream heaved Equatorial heat and moisture northward — rushing it up over a ridiculously warm and apparently backed-up Gulf Stream before slamming it on into a likely Greenland ice melt-outflow related cool pool. There the heat and moisture collided with cold to produce the epic storms that then vented their fury upon the UK.

Warm Arctic Storm

(December 29th saw temperatures rise above freezing at the North Pole — the first time temperatures have warmed so much for this high Arctic region so late in the year. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

During one such event, a daisy chain of heavy-hitting North Atlantic lows hurled high winds, heavy rains and epic surf at the UK even as the meridional flow set up by these powerful beasts shoved above-freezing temperatures all the way to the North Pole during late December. Yet one more unprecedented and unexpected event during a record warm year. One that looks more like a human forced warming which has overcome the traditional influences of El Nino, rather than an El Nino related impact in itself.

As El Nino Fades, Equatorial Heat Tends to Move Pole-ward

Though we may see these two events — the failure of El Nino to provide heavy rains to the US West Coast, and the massive northward pulses of storms, heat and moisture hitting the North Atlantic — as unrelated, the twain patterns appear to be linked to an ongoing polar amplification. Overall, heat within the Arctic has tended to weaken the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream over these two zones. And even during El Nino, when the Jet would have typically strengthened, we have continued to see high amplitude wave patterns forming over these regions.

But as El Nino weakens and the Equator cools, the Jet Stream would tend to slow even more. Such an atmospheric state would tend to further exaggerate already significant Jet Stream wave patterns — transferring still more low-Latitude heat poleward. In addition, the ocean gyres tend to speed up as El Nino fades or transitions to La Nina. The result is an amplified pulse of warmer waters emerging from southern Latitudes and entering the Arctic.

It’s for these combined reasons — tendency to amplify south to north atmospheric heat transfer into the Arctic post El Nino and tendency to flush warmer waters toward Arctic Ocean zones during the same period that it appears we are entering a high risk time for potential new sea ice melts and possible related Greenland land ice melts during 2016 and 2017.

Hot Blobs

(Northeastern Pacific Hot Blob remains at high intensity even as its size is predicted to expand through July. Meanwhile, very warm sea surface temperatures are predicted to remain in place off the Eastern Seaboard. The net effect of these two hot blobs may be to shove the Jet Stream far northward over North America during the summer of 2016 — potentially increasing the risk of widespread and potentially record heat and drought. Predicted very warm sea surfaces in the region of the Barents and Greenland seas — in excess of 3 C above average for a large region — is also cause for concern. This is not only due to risk for sea ice loss through this zone, but also due to its potential to set off blocking pattern and heat dome formation over Eastern Europe and Western Russia. Image source: NOAA/CFS.)

In addition, we are at serious risk of seeing the high amplitude blocks and wave patterns re-establish and persist, especially in the zone over Western North America were a related Northeastern Pacific Hot Blob is expected to restrengthen as El Nino fades. In fact, large regions of the US may fall under record to near record heat and drought this summer due to the combined influences of two very warm ocean zones surrounding her shores. Models now indicate a particular late spring drought risk for the Great Lakes region as well as an extended period of far above average temperatures for pretty much all of the Continental US during summer. Meanwhile, predicted above average spring-time precipitation for the Southwest appears less and less likely to emerge.

Finally, extreme above average sea surface temperatures are predicted to intensify over the Barents and Greenland seas through to end of Summer 2016. This is an area to watch. The added ocean heat would tend to pull the Jet Stream northward over Eastern Europe and Western Russia — generating risk of heatwaves and drought for this region even as Central Asia fell under risk of floods. Long range CFS precipitation and temperature model runs for Europe have not yet picked up this risk. However, given the intensity of heat predicted for Barents sea surfaces and the related tendency of warmth over oceans and in the far north to influence the formation of blocking patterns, heat domes, and high amplitude troughs, it’s worth keeping a weather eye on the situation.

El Nino to Weaken and Then Return; or is a Shift to La Nina Now Under Way?

Related to a polar and ocean warming-enhanced tendency to generate high amplitude Jet Stream waves — as well as associated persistent heatwaves, droughts, and floods — is the heat balance of the Equatorial Pacific. Strong El Ninos, or even a tendency to remain in or near an El Nino state, has historically aided in the breaking of new record global high temperatures when linking up to the greenhouse gas warming trend. Meanwhile, the shift toward La Nina has tended to enhance a range of global heating related issues including record rainfall events and large injections of heat toward the poles in the drop off from El Nino to La Nina.

The cause for increased risk of major precipitation events is due to the fact that El Nino is providing a massive moisture bleed into the atmosphere at times of peak intensity. With the current El Nino topping out near record levels and with global temperatures at above 1 C higher than 1880s averages, global atmospheric moisture levels are hitting new record highs at this time. If global temperatures subsequently drop by around 0.1 to 0.2 C during a transition into La Nina (into a range about 0.9 to 0.8 C hotter than 1880s values) then the atmosphere will be unable to keep a larger portion of that extra moisture in suspension and it will fall out as precipitation — primarily wringing out where the major trough zones tend to set up. We should be very clear here in saying that the drought risk related to a global warming intensification of ridge and heat dome formation is not reduced during such instances — just that the risk of extreme precipitation events is enhanced.

Russian Heatwave Pakistan Floods Jet Stream

(During 2011, as the 2010 El Nino faded into La Nina conditions, a high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream set off record heat, drought and wildfires over Russia even as Pakistan was hit by a month-long deluge that was the worst rainfall event for the region in the last 1,000 years. La Nina’s tendency to wring excess water out of the atmosphere can enhance the risk for such events to occur in a warming climate state. Image source: NASA.)

As for risks to sea ice, we’ve provided some of the explanation above. However, it’s also worth noting that the mobility of heat poleward tends to be enhanced during the periods when El Nino drops off toward La Nina. During these times, Equatorial heat tends to propagate in wave fashion toward the Poles — especially toward the Northern Hemisphere Pole which has already lost its strong Jet Stream protection warding away warm air invasions.

These two factors are major issues when considering whether La Nina or an ENSO Nuetral state will appear post El Nino during 2016. But there is a third — rate of global temperature rise. Though the primary driver of global warming is a massive human fossil fuel emission, the response of the world ocean system can significantly wag the rate of atmospheric temperature increases on a decadal time scale. If the ocean tendency is for La Nina, this would tend to somewhat suppress the overall decadal rate of temperature increase — and we saw this during the 2000s. But if the ocean tendency is to produce El Ninos (in a switch to a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation, as appears to be happening now), then the overall pace of global atmospheric temperature increase would tend to be enhanced.

La Nina Emerges

( IRI/CPC consensus model runs show a drop off to a weak La Nina by late in the year. However, CFS model runs [image below] have shown a tendency to predict a resurgence of El Nino conditions by Fall. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

To this point we find that the official model forecast consensus published by NOAA (IRI/CPC figure above) shows a transition to ENSO neutral states by May, June, and July which then proceeds on to a very weak La Nina by Fall. In such a drop off, we would likely still see record global high temperatures during the period of 2016 (in the range of 1.03 to 1.15 C above 1880s values).

However, the late 2016 and 2017 tendency for temperatures to recede from new record highs would be somewhat enhanced (likely dropping below the 1 C above 1880s mark in 2017 or 2018 before again making a challenge to the 2015-2016 record with the potential formation of a new El Nino in the 3-5 year time-frame of 2019 through 2021). It’s worth noting that this scenario shows an increased risk of a stronger warm air pulse heading toward the Northern Polar zone together with added fuel for extreme precipitation events as global temperatures would tend to drop off more swiftly from late 2015 and early 2016 peaks.

El Nino Continues

(CFSv2 model run — shows El Nino continuing on through the end of 2016. Over recent months, the CFSv2 series has shown a high accuracy. However, NOAA’s current forecast preference is for the IRI model set predictions [previous image above]. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

In contrast, the CFSv2 model forecast from NOAA (above image) shows El Nino only weakening through to July and then re-strengthening in the October-November time-frame. This CFS model scenario would result in higher atmospheric temperatures in 2016 — practically guaranteeing a lock on an unprecedented three back-to-back-to-back record warm years for 2014, 2015, and 2016. But such a scenario — implying that the Pacific Ocean had entered a new period of El Nino tendency — would also tend to keep atmospheric temperatures nearer to the newly established record highs.

Under the CFSv2 scenario, we may expect annual average global temperatures to rise as high as 1.08 to 1.2 C above 1880s values during 2016 (a very extreme departure and one uncomfortably close to the 1.5 C warming mark). These extreme values would, perhaps, recede to around between 0.9 and 1.1 C during 2017 so long as the second El Nino pulse did not remain in place for too long. However, if the bounce back toward El Nino conditions was strong enough in late 2016, there would be an outside chance that the globe may experience not 3, but an absolutely obnoxious 4 back-to-back record warm years.

NASA temperature trend

(During 2015 global annual temperature rocketed to above 1 C hotter than 1880s values. There’s at least an even chance that 2016 will be hotter still. Considering the considerable heating tendency imposed by a fossil fuel-forced warming of the world, how much worse can it get during the 21st Century’s second decade? Image source: NASA GISS.)

Meanwhile, the warm air pulse heading toward the poles may be somewhat muted under this scenario. A statement that should be qualified by the fact that we’ve already seen a substantial amount of El Nino heat heading poleward during the present event. In addition, potentially heavy rainfall events may not receive the added oomph of a decent global temperature drop to wring out more moisture. A statement that requires the further qualification that overall atmospheric moisture loading is enhanced by rising global temperatures — so comparatively less heavy rainfall is a relative term here.

At this time, NOAA favors a transition to La Nina forecast stating:

“A transition to ENSO-neutral is likely during late Northern Hemisphere spring or early summer 2016, with a possible transition to La Nina conditions by fall.”

However, it’s worth re-iterating that the CFSv2 model forecasts have been quite accurate in predicting the path of the current record El Nino to date.




Hothouse Mass Casualty Event Strike Eqypt

Southern Hemisphere’s Strongest Storm on Record

Punishing Four Season Storm Grips US

A Monster Arctic Melt Season May Have Already Begun

Deep Ocean Warming is Coming Back to Haunt Us

Warm Arctic Storm to Unfreeze the North Pole

More Signs of Gulf Stream Slowdown as Floods Devastate Cumbria England

Deconstruction of Asia’s Wild Weather

Hat tip to Caroline


Polar Amplification vs a Godzilla El Nino — Is the Pacific Storm Track Being Shoved North by Arctic Warming?

It’s an El Nino year. One of the top three strongest El Ninos on record. The strongest by some NOAA measures. And we are certainly feeling its effects all over the world. From severe droughts in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America, to Flooding in the Central and Eastern US, Southern Brazil, and India, these impacts, this year and last, have been extreme and wide-ranging. During recent days, Peru and Chile saw enormous ocean waves and high tides swamping coastlines. Record flooding and wave height events for some regions. All impacts related to both this powerful El Nino and the overall influence of human-forced warming by more than 1 C above 1880s temperatures on the whole of the hydrological cycle.

Amped up by a global warming related 7 percent increase in atmospheric water vapor (and a related increase in evaporation and precipitation over the Earth’s surface), many of these El Nino related impacts have followed a roughly expected pattern (you can learn more about typical El Nino patterns and links to climate change related forcings in this excellent video by Dr Kevin Trenberth here). However, so far, some of the predicted kinds of events you’d typically see during a strong El Nino have not yet emerged. A circumstance that may also be related to the ongoing human-forced warming of the globe.

Storm Track Not Making it Far Enough South

Particularly, there has been an absence of powerful storms running in over Southern California then surging on into Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. During strong El Nino events, heat and moisture bleeding off the super-warmed Equator have typically fed powerful storms racing across the Pacific. These storms have tended to engulf the entire US Pacific Coast from San Diego through to Seattle. However, much of the storm energy is often directed further south toward Central and Southern California.

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge Returns

(A massive Pacific storm being warded off by high pressure systems over the US West Coast on Tuesday, January 26th. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

These storms tend to run over regions that are typically much drier. So strong El Ninos of the past have often generated abnormal and memorable storms and rains. But this year there has been, mostly, an abscense of such events. Storms have slammed into Northern California, Oregon, been deflected back into the coasts of Canada and Alaska, or even been bottled up near the Aleutian Island Chain.

But today, a high pressure cell dominates the western US, warding off a powerful storm system. The storm, howling just south of Alaska and pushing out average 60 foot wave heights and hurricane force winds across the Pacific, is predicted to rebound toward Alaska where it will become bottled up in the Bering sea and push above freezing temperatures into the Arctic Beaufort Sea during Winter. The storms and rains will steer far away from Southern California and even much of California altogether.

Rainfall Patterns Have Tended Toward the North, Contrary to NOAA’s Seasonal Predictions


NOAA Precipitation

(NOAA precipitation quantities prediction for the coming week is indicative a continued northward shift of the Pacific Storm track. Image source: NOAA.)

It’s a pattern more reminiscent of some strange ridiculously resilient ridge (RRR) than that of a strong El Nino. And though storms later this week are again predicted to slam into the Northwest and weekly rainfall totals are expected to rise to near 1 inch for parts of Southern California, the path of these storms and related moisture flows are quite a bit further north than one would expect for a year in which strong El Nino was the dominant feature.

The moisture flow, instead, so far has tended northward across the upper and central tiers of the US even as the El Nino related moisture bleed toward the Gulf and East Coasts has remained quite intense. Such observed weather is both contrary to what we’ve tended to know about Strong El Nino and to NOAA’s seasonal forecasts which had predicted much more rain for the southwest than what we’ve seen so far.

Seasonal Outlook NOAA

(NOAA three month outlook is more in line with traditional strong El Nino forecasts bringing strong storms in through the southwestern US. We currently do not see a prevalence of that particular pattern. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

Polar Warming + Hot Blob Tugging the Storm Track Northward?

Since weather patterns related to El Nino are an aspect of global atmospheric dynamics — teleconnections between the influence of an excess of hot air and heavy rainfall at the Equator and of large scale atmospheric wave patterns downstream, you have to wonder if there isn’t some kind of influence competing with El Nino on a global scale. One with enough oomph to nudge the Pacific Storm Track northward.

Hot Blob Pacific Northwest

(The Hot Blob is still a dominant feature of ocean waters in the Pacific Northwest. Is its influence helping to pull the Pacific Storm Track northward during a strong El Nino year? Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The first likely suspect is the pool of still much warmer than normal sea surface temperatures lurking off the US West Coast. Though somewhat diminished from their peak during 2014 and 2015, the waters in the hot blob off California, Oregon, Washington, Canada and Alaska are still in the range of 1 to 3 C above average. A very large region of significantly warmer than normal ocean surfaces that wasn’t present during the 1982-83 and 1997-1998 super El Ninos. And much of the warmest anomalies are now centered much further to the north along the coast of Alaska.

But the second potential player is likely even more significant. And that would be an ongoing and extreme warming of the northern polar region. Heating at the Pole generates less thermal gradient between the higher Latitudes and the Equator. And such a lessened gradient would tend to impact the strength of the circumpolar winds that drive weather systems and storm tracks. In particular, the overall warming of the globe would tend to pull these storm tracks northward even as the loss of thermal gradient would tend to enhance wave patterns in the Jet Stream.


Polar Amplification January 26

(Polar Amplification shown as very intense in the January 26 Climate Reanalyzer graphic. Is Polar Amplification helping to shove the Pacific Storm Track northward even during a record strong El Nino year? If so, it’s bad news for long term moisture levels in the US Southwest. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Perhaps also specifically related to this ongoing polar amplification, we find that two warm slots — one over the Barents and far North Atlantic east of Greenland and another over the Bering — have tended to develop during recent Winter years. These slots have often served as staging areas for warm air invasions of the Arctic. But what they also represent are regions of water that have been freshly liberated from their sea ice coverings. As such, these vast regions of water serve as heat transport and ventilation zones. And all this extra heat energy may be sucking the related North Atlantic and North Pacific Storm tracks into what may well be described as an oceanic and atmospheric trap.

If such a situation where the case, we’d tend to see a dipole of warm east, cold west in the storm trap regions. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen more and more of with Greenland and Siberia serving as the backdrops to reinforce this tendency. Thus setting up the stage for cold air slots cutting through Northeast Siberia and Northeast Canada and warm, wet air slots over Alaska and the UK.

The question to be asked is, then, are these new influences related to human-forced warming also now doing battle with El Nino for control over the Pacific Storm Track? And has that influence increased enough to dramatically nudge that track northward? We may find the answer to that question in what happens to the direction of powerful Pacific Storms over the next few months. But early indications seem to be that polar warming and the related hot blob may have thrown a wrench in the kinds of El Nino storms that we’ve been used to.


El Nino Related Waves, Floods Strike Chile

Dr Kevin Trenberth on El Nino and Climate Change

Earth Nullschool

Climate Reanalyzer

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center


The United States Drought Monitor

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego

The Ominous Greenhouse Gas Accumulation Continues: Peak Methane Approaches 3,000 Parts Per Billion as CO2 Growth Rate Jumps Higher

The world finally appears like it’s slowly starting to wake up from the grips of a fossil fuel influence-induced fever dream. Slowly, despite endemic political meddling by these powerful entities, some changes are starting to happen. Global carbon emissions growth remained flat during 2014 and likely 2015. Renewable energy adoption ramped up. Some major international commitments to reducing global carbon emissions were made.

But the very pertinent question must be asked — are we waking up fast enough? And the still rapidly growing concentrations of gasses that heat the Earth’s atmosphere would seem to supply the answer in the form of a resounding, thunderous — “NO!”

Another Troubling Methane Spike

On January 8th of 2016, we saw another record methane reading for the global atmosphere. The most recent single point peak for NOAA’s METOP measure hit a new all-time atmospheric high of 2,963 parts per billion or just 37 parts per billion shy of the milestone 3,000 parts per billion threshold.

Peak Atmospheric Methane Levels Approach 3,000 Parts Per Billion

(Another record methane spike rockets its way toward the ominous 3,000 parts per billion milestone in the NOAA METOP satellite array. The location of the current spike appears to be in the region of the Arctic where a number of very large carbon stores are now starting to warm up. Image source: NOAA OSPO.)

As has been typical of this particular sensor array, peak methane readings appear directly over the upper Latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere — hinting that this particular spike may have been generated by some Arctic amplifying feedback related carbon source. It’s also worth noting that the array continues to pick up the overall methane overburden pattern centered atop the Arctic. A troubling overburden that has showed up in a number of sensor arrays over recent years and has been one key bit of evidence pointing toward a potential new trend of amplifying carbon feedbacks in the Arctic.

Atmospheric Methane Averages Continue Measured Upward Trend

In the broader context, we continue to see rising average global methane concentrations after a pause in atmospheric increases during the 1990s through the mid 2000s. This rate of increase is a sign that either new human sources, new global feedbacks from methane sources, or a combination of the two are pushing global totals higher. It is worth noting that the lower Latitude measures like Mauna Loa, however, did not pick up a signal that some kind of major-to-catastrophic environmental methane emission was underway. A situation some observational scientists fear may be possible, but that other, more well-established specialists tend to consider far, far less likely. Regardless of the current scientific conjecture, heightened and rising methane readings in the Arctic remain rather troubling.

To these points, methane readings at Mauna Loa by end of 2015 had hit a range of around 1855 parts per billion even as peak atmospheric averages for the year had hit around 1840 parts per billion. Continuing a general trend of rapid atmospheric methane accumulation of about 7-8 parts per billion per year that started in 2008.

Mauna Loa Methane

(Significant rates of atmospheric methane increase that began during 2008 continue in the ESRL/Mauna Loa measure. Though these rates of increase are troubling, they do not at this time indicate that a major or catastrophic release from the global environment has taken place. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

Next to CO2, methane generates the second strongest atmospheric heat forcing. Its accumulation in the Earth’s atmosphere since the beginning of major industrialization at the end of the 19th Century has primarily been driven by a number of human sources — chiefly through the activities of coal, oil and gas extraction, industrial agriculture (meat farming), and waste accumulating in landfills. During recent years, there has been some signal that global wetlands — including the thawing permafrost zones of the world — are also starting to contribute to the overall methane load as the world warms up and the carbon cycle starts kicking into higher gear.

Rates of Atmospheric CO2 Accumulation are Also Ramping Higher with El Nino

To this point, rates of atmospheric CO2 accumulation (the primary heat trapping gas in the atmosphere) also appear to be ramping higher coincident with the influence of a monster El Nino now taking place in the Pacific acting together with global greenhouse gas emissions from human fossil fuel burning that remain near all-time record highs. As large regions of the global ocean warm, the ocean’s ability to act as a carbon sink becomes inhibited. In more extreme cases, where the sea surface temperatures of an ocean that’s already saturated with human-emitted carbon become too warm, then CO2 starts to vent back into the atmosphere. And with what is possibly the strongest El Nino on record occurring coincident with a period of massive fossil fuel based carbon emissions, impacts to the rate of atmospheric CO2 accumulation can become quite dramatic.

It’s for this reason that El Nino years in the context of massive, human-based burning can see spiking global CO2 readings. And it appears that just such an event may now be underway.

Mauna Loa 3 ppm CO2 increase december to december

(Atmospheric CO2 levels pushing rapidly above 400 parts per million is the ugly legacy of human-based fossil fuel burning. Most recent two-year section of the Keeling Curve shows a substantial accumulation of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere that is well above the current and already very rapid average annual accumulation of 2.2 parts per million each year. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

According observations taken by Dr Ralph Keeling and fellow researchers at the Mauna Loa Observatory, atmospheric CO2 concentrations jumped by more than 3 parts per million from December of 2014 through December of 2015. This jump in concentration is pretty far in excess of average annual rates of increase in the range of 2.2 parts per million CO2 each year that have been ongoing since the early-to-mid 2000s.

With El Nino still ongoing, we should continue to see such ocean-warming related impacts on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue into 2016. Impacts that may be further enhanced as another strong westerly wind burst along the Equatorial Pacific will likely serve to reinvigorate the current El Nino — making its already substantial influence more long-lasting.




The Keeling Curve

CO2: The Principle Control Nob Governing Earth’s Temperature

A4R Global Methane Tracking

Hat Tip to mlparrish

Hat Tip to islandraider



A World in Hot Water sees Floods, Floods Everywhere

2015 was the hottest climate year in the global record by a long shot. According to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, temperatures were a full 0.18 degrees Celsius hotter than 1998, which is now the third hottest climate year on record, and a whopping 0.13 C above just last year (the second hottest year on record).

It’s a part of a larger warming trend that began during the latter 19th Century. One that has now seen more than 1 degree Celsius of total overall global warming. And so, in a little more than one hundred and thirty years, humans through a massive burning of carbon based fuels, have forced the world to warm by about 20 percent of all the warming seen at the end of the last ice age. But at that great glacial termination it typically took about 2,000 years for the world to warm by the amount we’ve now seen over little more than a Century.

A World in Record Hot Water

That’s a lot of heat accumulation for a very short period of time. A massive heat build-up that saw its most recent high point just this past year (2015). And all that extra heat accumulating over 2014-2015 blew an extraordinary amount of water vapor into the Earth’s atmosphere. Water vapor that primarily boiled off of Ocean hot spot zones. One of these zones, the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, experienced some of its hottest temperatures ever recorded as a monster El Nino blew up through that region. But other ocean surface hot spots abounded. The Northeastern Pacific, the Atlantic Ocean off the US East Coast, regions of the upper Northern Hemisphere Latitudes including the Barents and Bering Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Southern Pacific, the Southern Atlantic off South America and Africa and many other regions in between all experienced much warmer than normal surface temperatures.

Hot Water, Hot Water Everywhere

(Extremely warm sea surface temperatures around the world are dumping an extraordinary amount of moisture into the global atmosphere. As global temperatures hit peak just after El Nino, a heavy volume of this moisture is likely to come down in the form of extreme precipitation events. And with global temperatures at record levels, the resulting storms could be extroardinarily powerful. We’ve already seen some of this weather. But there’s all-too-likely more in the pipe. Image source: NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory.)

These hot waters generated unprecedented plumes of moisture. The water vapor flooded into the record hot atmosphere. And as we neared peak global temperature readings, or even worse, started to come off that peak, some of that massive volume of water hanging in the air began to precipitate out.

River Threatens to Devour 16th Century Castle in Scotland

One of the heaviest hit regions — Northern England and Scotland — has experienced the worst floods in its history this Winter. Residents of this waterlogged country now all-too-often report rivers of water running down the streets just outside their homes. And time after time during storm after storm, hundreds to thousands are forced to flee the record high and rising waters. Last week, a powerful North Atlantic low pushed river levels so high that a bridge that had lasted through more than three Centuries of floods finally succumbed to the epic torrent.

Today, the raging Dee River devoured 250 feet of bank and is now threatening to undermine Abergeldie Castle — a structure that has stood against storms for the past 450 years. But one that is now no match for the hydrological events arising in a record hot world.

According to some, climate change was only supposed to threaten the poor. But the particular natural disaster that we’ve brewed up apparently didn’t get the message. Abergeldie is the residence of an Scottish Baron and friend to the Queen — John Gordon (76) together with his wife. Sadly, these well established people have also recently joined the ranks of refugees to a disaster that does not discriminate. One that can devour homes and residences of any variety — those of any people of any nation and of any walk of life. Baron Gordon may not know it yet, but he stands in solidarity with the people of island nations around the world, with Bangladeshis, and with the hundreds of thousands of people all displaced by extreme weather events just this year. All of whom are deserving of our best efforts to help them and to, most of all, prevent ever worsening extreme weather events of the kinds we are now experiencing on a global basis.

John’s neighbor described a very distraught family in this recent Guardian posting:

“The castle is in imminent danger and John is at his wits’ end. It’s not only a home. It’s the heritage, the history. Nothing can be done while the river is in spate like it is. It’s just thundering down. It swept away and smashed the mature trees at the back of the house like matchsticks. It also took 250ft of the bank away and all the ground at the back. The river is right at the back door.”

160,000 Displaced by Floods in South America

For many in South America last week, the situation was just as dire. Regions suffering from a two year long drought suddenly found themselves facing off against some of the worst rainfall events in at least the last 50 years. Powerful storms driven by the massive heat and moisture bleed off the Equatorial Pacific ripped through the region — sparking high winds, ripping down power lines and inundating the area with flooding rains.

By December 27th, when the rains had mostly abated, tens of thousands of people were displaced by rising flood waters. In Paraguay alone more than 100,000 people were forced to flee the floods. And throughout the rest of South America including sections of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina another 60,000 were made refugees by the raging waters.

(Floods, floods everywhere. NASA tracks the global extreme weather events of 2015 in the stunning composite video above. Video source: NASA.)

The floods swamped thousands of homes — ripping apart roads and other critical infrastructure as the region reeled to respond to the disaster. By Monday, December 28 the only form of transportation through much of the vast impacted area was by boat.

Missouri, Illinois Inundated

At about the same time historic floods were ripping through England and Paraguay last week, a massive storm system was in the process of dumping more than a foot of rain over some sections of the Central US. The heavy rains swamped Missouri spurring the government there to declare a state of emergency even as heavy impacts spread over a multi-state region of the Central US. The storm — dubbed The Four Season Storm — by Dr Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground, immediately put over 1.5 million people in the affected region under flood warnings as town after town was swamped by the torrential downpours associated with the powerful system’s eastern edge.

Mississippi Flooding over Missouri

(The Mississippi leaps its banks amidst freak, unseasonable storms during December of 2015 and January of 2016. This image taken at 39,000 feet by pilot Chris Manno in a 737 over Missouri on January 3rd.)

By today, the heavy rains dumped by the storm were well on their way through the Mississippi River basin and its tributaries. As a result more than 7 million people across the Central US are now impacted. In Illinois, levee breeches sent waters flowing out over lands up to six miles away from the Mississippi — swamping roads, homes and vehicles. Meanwhile, back in flood-soaked Missouri Governor Jay Nixon was inspecting the aftermath.

After touring St. Louis, he seemed aghast:

“I’m from this part of the state and, quite frankly, it’s almost hard to believe. It’s almost as if you’re living on some other planet.”

Heavy Weather Takes Aim at US West Coast

As multiple regions of the world reel under freak and historic flooding, the storm track in the North Pacific is now angling in at the US West Coast. A strong storm system is now battering California with heavy winds and rains. The system, which raged in out of the Pacific upon the backs of 27 foot waves, is now venting its fury over California. It’s the first of a series of storms that are, in total, predicted to dump as much as 7 inches of rain over the region by the end of this week.

Liquid precipitation accumulations 7 day

(NOAA’s 7 day liquid precipitation equivalent forecast shows 4 to 7 inches of rain or equivalent snow predicted to fall over Coastal California, the Sierra Nevada range and Central Arizona. For southwestern desert regions, especially, the predicted weather is expected to be unusually heavy. Image source: NOAA Weather Prediction Center.)

With three storms expected to impact the region over the next four days, it appears the flood risk is now taking aim at California. The extreme moisture of a record warm atmosphere again appears to be set to unload. Lets hope that our fellows on the US West Coast are prepared.


Japan’s Meteorological Agency

NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory

Climate Change Driven Storms Wreck 300 Year Old Bridge in England

450 Year Old English Castle Threatened by Flood Waters

100,000 Displaced by Floods in Paraguay


The Four Season Storm

Weather Underground

Chris Manno

Mississippi Inundates Southern Illinois — Memphis is Next

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Join me with Dr. Jeff Masters and Dr. Steven Amstrup at live at 12:30 PM EST tomorrow, Tuesday January 5th

Climate Change and El Nino Locked in Tempestuous Embrace — Teleconnection Between Hot Equatorial Pacific and North Atlantic Cool Pool?

The troubled and tempestuous North Atlantic. It’s a place where the most ominous kinds of atmospheric bombs just keep going off. From the Cumbria floods — the worst seen since at least the Middle Ages — to the 300-year-old bridge wrecking Frank, to above-freezing temperatures at the North Pole during Winter, weather features throughout this region have increasingly taken on the ugly markings of systems twisted by the hand of human-forced warming.

One issue that’s been raised is what, if any, influence El Nino might have had on this most oddly extreme North Atlantic weather? There, such anomalous storms are more than likely the off-shoots of three new features related to climate change. One is a Stefan Ramhstorf-identified cool pool of water just south of Greenland. A freakish region of colder than normal sea surfaces that is, all-too-likely, the result of increased glacial melt outflows from a heat-harrowed Greenland. A second climate change related feature is a zone of very hot water along the Gulf Stream off the US East Coast. This odd warmth is likely due to a kind of Gulf Stream train wreck caused by the blocking lid of fresh water Greenland melt has thrown over that current’s driving circulation. So as the zone south of Greenland cools, the area just off the Eastern Seaboard heats up. A third and final feature is a polar warming related heating of the Barents sea surface along with a related massacre of sea ice in that previously frozen region.

These three features have radically altered the heat and moisture exchange patterns of the North Atlantic and are all too likely the primary factors involved in the crazy increase in extreme weather we’ve seen there during 2013, 2014, and 2015.


(Teleconnection between El Nino and the three freak weather patterns in the North Atlantic? River of moisture running up from the El Nino heat bleed in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific all the way to a storm forming in the North Atlantic cool pool just south of Greenland on January 1 of 2016. Note the above image is a graphical measure of total precipitable water content. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

But one factor that has been somewhat murky is what, if any, influence a near record or record El Nino may be having on the weather bombs going off over this climate change hotspot? At issue is the fact that teleconnections — or atmospheric energy and moisture exchange — between El Nino and the North Atlantic are somewhat difficult to tease out in the model essays and observational data.

However, this year, there does appear to be quite a lot of heat and moisture issuing from the monster El Nino raging in the Equatorial Pacific. For one, the record rains over South Carolina and the Central United States this year are certainly tied to an extremely heavy flood of moisture coming from this major atmospheric and ocean event. The moisture bleed has originated from the Eastern Pacific, lofted over Mexico and Central America to saturate airs over the Gulf States, the Central and Eastern US.

Recent observational data, in addition, also hints that this extraordinary moisture flow may well be linking up with another major moisture bleed off of sea surfaces in the range of 5-7 degrees Celsius above average off the US East Coast before feeding directly into the storm bombification zone over the North Atlantic cool pool.

Teleconnection between El Nino and North Atlantic Cool Pool

(River of moisture sets up between Equatorial Pacific and North Atlantic on January 1 of 2016. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

It’s initial observational evidence that may well be the answer to a question we’ve been asking in the forum here since summer time — could such a teleconnection set up between these two ocean surface temperature anomaly features? In other words, could we be seeing a link up between El Nino and features that are all-too likely related to climate change resulting in some extraordinarily severe weather? Well, on January 1, as identified by the cracker-jack spotting of Andy in San Diego, the atmosphere appeared to present a very strong tell-tale of just such a link up between moisture flows.

In the above NASA MODIS satellite shot we find what appears to be an atmospheric river of moisture running along a cloud pattern issuing from the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, across Mexico and the Southern US, out over the raging hot waters off the US East Coast and finally terminating in the North Atlantic cool pool zone east of Newfoundland and just south of Greenland.

If this is indeed what’s happening, then what we’re seeing is El Nino enhancing an already extremely intense North Atlantic storm generation pattern that is all-too-likely related to climate change. An El Nino + Climate Change teleconnection between the Pacific Equator, the North Atlantic, and, earlier this week, the North Pole that’s about just as unprecedented as all the never-before-seen weather we experienced during 2015. Something that could well turn weather forecasting as we know it on its ear.

In any case, something to look for in the post event reports on this, very disruptive, El Nino and possibly related North Atlantic extreme weather.



Earth Nullschool

Warm Storm Pushes Above Freezing Temperatures at North Pole

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego (fantastic spotting!)

NASA: Worst of El Nino Still to Come. With Climate Change in the Mix, 2015-2016 Event May Equal Most Devastating On Record

Like and not like.

When we look at the 2015-2016 El Nino and compare it with the 1997-1998 monster we find both similarities and differences.

First the differences. The 2015-2016 El Nino is firing off in a global atmosphere that is on the order of 0.25 C hotter than 1997-1998. It’s an event that’s spring-boarding off an unprecedented hot blob of water in the Northeastern Pacific. One that some studies have linked to human-forced climate change and that has been associated with a plethora of ills ranging from failing ocean health, to the California drought, to strange and troubling warm air and water invasions entering the Arctic. It’s an event that’s occurring in the context of yet another extreme warm air invasion of the Arctic now ongoing in the North Atlantic. And, likely, it’s an event that has, overall, been torqued and twisted by the ongoing pressure of atmospheric and ocean influences associated with human-forced climate change.

Now the similarity. Though a bit more widespread, the heat content of the current El Nino is about equal to that of the monster 1997-1998 El Nino. In other words, there’s an enormous punch of heat hitting the atmosphere from this thing. As a result, you’re bound to get some extraordinarily profound weather impacts. You can see this heat evidenced in the sea surface heights map provided by NASA yesterday below:

NASA TOPEX Sea Surface Heights

(Sea Surface Heights graphic by NASA shows a very intense El Nino currently ongoing in the Equatorial Pacific. Image source: NASA.)

These extreme and very widespread sea surface heights represent a massive load of heat energy steaming off of Equatorial Pacific waters. And what this means is that more severe weather due to the El Nino influence alone is likely in store.

NASA notes that A Still-Growing El Nino is Set to Bear Down on The US:

The current strong El Niño brewing in the Pacific Ocean shows no signs of waning, as seen in the latest satellite image from the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 mission. El Niño 2015 has already created weather chaos around the world. Over the next few months, forecasters expect the United States to feel its impacts as well. The latest Jason-2 image bears a striking resemblance to one from December 1997, by Jason-2’s predecessor, the NASA/Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) Topex/Poseidon mission, during the last large El Niño event.

El Nino May Hit New Peak Amidst Another Strong Westerly Wind Burst

NASA also hints that the current very strong El Nino may not have even reached peak yet. In evidence to NASA’s statement, this week another strong westerly wind burst (WWB) roared out across the Equatorial Pacific. The winds howled with near gale force intensity against the prevailing trades along a broad stretch of water between New Guinea and the Date Line. Such westerlies tend to increase the intensity of El Nino by generating strong down-welling Kelvin Waves that deliver yet more heat to the sea surface in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Heat that then pools out, radiating its energy load into the atmosphere to far-ranging weather impact.


(Another strong westerly wind burst runs against the trades on Tuesday, December 29th in the above Earth Nullschool/GFS graphic. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Long range models, though pointing toward a peak in December (which may be subject to revision given the intensity of the current WWB), also indicate a rather long lasting event. NOAA’s CFSv2 ensemble, for example, doesn’t show a transition to Nino neutral status until summer — possibly even late summer. As a result, El Nino effects will likely linger for quite a few more months at least while a second peak in intensity over the coming month would further extend and intensify El Nino-related impacts.

Severe Impacts On the Horizon

Regardless of peak intensity timing or overall duration, there’s rough weather expected in the pipe. Even though we’ve already seen instances of severe weather likely associated with El Nino such as the severe four season storm in the Central US, the Eastern US heatwave, droughts across Central America, India, the Carribean and Brazil, Australian heatwaves and a shift of the storm track toward Iceland in the North Atlantic among other impacts, many forecasters believe the worst is still to come.

As an example, Oxfam International recently warned:

“The El Niño weather system could leave tens of millions of people facing hunger, water shortages and disease next year if early action isn’t taken to prepare vulnerable people from its effects.”

But perhaps some of the most devastating impacts could come as storms finally roar into the US West Coast or even as heavy weather continues over the Central US and Northern England. The recent severe weather is expected this week to bring some of the highest Mississippi River levels on record. But if a new set of severe storms emerge, the floods could repeat or worsen — much as we’ve seen during the historic floods gripping North England this year. Floods that could continue hitting the UK through to April. For the West Coast, the heavy storms could come suddenly, unexpectedly and all at once.

NASA notes that recent strong El Ninos have delivered as much as twice the typical amount of rainfall to Southern California:

In 1982-83 and 1997-98, large El Niños delivered about twice the average amount of rainfall to Southern California, along with mudslides, floods, high winds, lightning strikes and high surf.

Although, historically, very extreme events have been capable of delivering quite a bit more. Something to consider when human-forced warming of the globe by about 1 C since the 1880s has amped up the rate of evaporation and precipitation by about 7-8 percent globally. And to this point, though NASA isn’t saying it directly at this time, it is all-too-possible that human forced climate change is adding more intensity to the El Nino related severe weather events we’ve already seen and are likely to see over the coming months. So when you hear it’s the worst flood ever or the worst drought ever or, especially, the hottest day ever, don’t just think El Nino. Think El Nino on climate change steroids.


A Still Growing El Nino to Bear Down on US

Sick of El Nino? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

Punishing Four Season Storm Grips US

UK Floods

Extreme Missouri Floods

Warm Arctic Storm Pushes North Pole Above Freezing

Earth Nullschool

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to Alex Vasquez

Hat Tip to DT Lange





Monster El Nino Hurls 43+ Foot Waves at US West Coast

For NOAA, it looks like we’re well on the way toward seeing one of the most powerful El Ninos ever recorded. And already, there’s some brutal Fall and Winter weather events starting to emerge as a result. One event, in particular, is today roaring into the US West Coast like a Godzilla-hurled freight train.

It’s just one upshot of a Monster El Nino in a record warm world. A weather and climate event — one likely pumped up by an overall atmospheric warming of 1 C above 1880s levels — that will likely continue to have severe and worsening global impacts over the coming months.


(Ocean waves hit insane heights of 43 feet [13.2 meters] today as another powerful storm roars into the US West Coast. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

One of the 3 Strongest El Ninos On Record

NOAA’s September, October, November ONI Index, the key zone for measuring El Nino strength, hit a +2.0 degree Celsius positive anomaly this week. That’s just 0.3 C shy of the most powerful El Nino ever recorded — 1997-1998 which peaked out at +2.3 C in the same monitor. With October, November and December likely to show even hotter overall readings for the Central Equatorial Pacific, it appears that the 2015-2016 El Nino will strike very close to this ONI high mark. Peak weekly sea surface temperature values already exceeded top 1997-1998 temperature levels for NOAA (+2.8 C for 1997-1998 vs + 3.1 C for 2015-2016). So we wait on the ONI three month measure for October, November and December to give broader confirmation.

The other major El Nino monitor — the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Australia — has weekly sea surface temperatures peaking at +2.5 C in the same zone. This is 0.2 C short of peak 1997-1998 values. BOM notes that the current El Nino is near peak and that, according to its own measures, is unlikely to exceed 1997-1998 but will likely hit within the top 3 strongest events. According to BOM:

The 2015–16 El Niño is strong, and likely to rank in the top three events of the past 50 years. Presently, several key indicators fall short of their 1997–98 and 1982–83 values, both in the ocean (e.g. sub-surface temperatures, which have peaked around +8 °C this year, compared to +12 °C in 1997–98), and atmosphere (e.g. SOI, for which monthly values peaked around −20, while 1982–83 had several months at −30).

NOAA sea surface temperature anomalies

(NOAA Equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature [SST] anomaly tracking appears to indicate that the 2015-2016 El Nino may have hit peak during mid November. Though a second peak is possible in December, atmospheric and ocean trends will tend to push for gradual SST cooling over the coming months. Overall, the 2015 to 2016 El Nino is likely to be among the top 3 strongest on record. A climate event that in a world warmed by 1 C above 1880s values has the potential to set off some very extreme weather over the coming months. Image source: NOAA SST Anoms 5N to 5S.)

Based on a reading of these two analysis by expert agencies, we revise our previous statements to come into line with NOAA and BOM forecasting. Though it’s still possible that 2015-2016 may exceed peak 1997-1998 intensity, it is more likely that the current El Nino will fall into the range of the top three most intense such events. This is likely due to the fact that El Nino has probably already peaked and that though some indicators show 2015 as exceeding 1997-1998 in intensity (NOAA weekly SST values), the broader, long-term indicators still rank 1997-1998 as the most intense in the modern record.

Potentially Very Severe Weather on The Way

That’s not to say that related weather events won’t be quite extreme. In some respects, hottest ever atmospheric and ocean temperatures on a global basis provide even more available energy for storms, heavy rainfall, droughts, and wildfires. Globally, the Earth has warmed by between 0.2 and 0.3 C from peak 1997-1998 atmospheric temperature values to those we are likely to experience during 2015 and 2016. That means rates of evaporation and precipitation have increased by about 2 percent overall. In addition, new climate instabilities have tended to arise due to increased rates of glacial melt, polar amplification (especially in the Northern Hemisphere), and related ocean surface warming along with the weakening of some of the major oceanic heat conveying currents.

A top 3 strongest El Nino firing off in this global climate environment is, therefore, not entirely the same creature as a Monster El Nino firing off during the 1980s or even the 1997-1998 El Nino. In particular, the added atmospheric moisture loading, the slowing down of the Gulf Stream off the US East Coast and related back-up of warm water in that region, and the added rates of evaporation due to overall warming of the Earth-Ocean system present potentially more severe drought hazards for regions like Brazil and Australia, potentially more severe extreme storm hazards for the US West Coast as the storm track ramps up, and potentially more severe Winter oceanic and coastal storm hazards for the US East Coast, the North Atlantic and the United Kingdom.

Disaster Officials Worry, Make Calls For Readiness

Federal disaster officials are keenly aware of these risks and have been issuing warnings for regions of the US West Coast since October. NOAA and FEMA bulletins have urged people to keep extra food and water on hand and to prepare for extended periods of sheltering in place during heavy rainfall, landslide, snowfall or coastal flooding events. Statements today continue to urge preparedness for what is likely to be a very extreme Winter weather season. In San Jose Mercury News, FEMA emergency manager Bob Fenton expressed his extreme concern today after a disaster preparedness drill in Sacramento:

“It is critical that citizens take the risk seriously. If you hear a warning to evacuate, act accordingly. People often want to ‘wait and see’ — but, please, don’t wait. Everything can be replaced, but your life can’t.”

The US Southwest and South-Central California are especially vulnerable to severe flooding events during strong El Ninos in the December, January, February timeframe. Such events can deliver powerful rivers of tropical moisture to this region. Called Pineapple Express, these atmospheric rivers can develop along an arc running from the Equator, through Hawaii and then terminating over the US Southwest. The most extreme of these events have the potential to deliver 200, 500, or 1000 year deluges resulting in many feet of rainfall for the Central Valley region. A situation that some researchers have called an Ark-Storm and have linked to the (likely El Nino-related) Great Flood of 1862.

In today’s context, we have one of the top 3 strongest El Ninos firing off in an atmosphere that, due to human forced warming in the range of 1 C, sees an overall 7-8 percent increase in the rate of evaporation (vs 1880s contexts) and precipitation. So any river of moisture that does develop may likewise become further engorged than was previously typical, thus resulting in more severe rain storms and a related heightened flood risk. It’s a risk, that in any case, FEMA disaster managers are taking very seriously.

43 Foot Waves off US West Coast

As officials issued warnings and FEMA managers drilled in Southern California, another powerful storm packing 60-80 mile per hour winds, heavy rains, and 43+ foot waves roared into the US West Coast this week. The 960 mb storm kicked off coastal flood, gale and storm warnings from Northern California through Washington State.

West Coast Storm

(Another powerful storm roars into the US West Coast bringing with it flooding rains, heavy surf, coastal storm surges, and mountain snows. The currently very strong El Nino is likely deliver more severe storms of this kind over the coming months. Image source: NOAA GOES.)

Interior flood warnings were also issued as between 4 and 18 inches of rain fell over the past 3 days with 2-4 inches more expected today. The event had already spurred over 9 landslides even as, according to the Weather Channel, more than two dozen river gauges had topped flood stage across Washington and Oregon. It’s a heavy soaking that began in November and just keeps getting worse with each new storm.

These storms are fueled by a powerful flood of heat and moisture boiling off the Godzilla El Nino in the Pacific. A dynamic that’s generating an extraordinarily powerful Pacific storm tack. This week, models predict another extreme storm — one that is expected to bomb out as a 930 mb monster packing 75 kt winds and 52+ foot waves in the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska. And given the way El Nino is charging up the atmosphere, these Pacific beasts are bound to keep roaring on in.



Climate Prediction Center — Cold and Warm Episodes by Season

Monster 2015 El Nino May Be Most Intense Ever Seen

Earth Nullschool

Pacific Northwest Storm Parade to Bring Rain, Wind and Snow

NOAA SST Anoms 5N to 5S

Federal Officials Warn Californians to Prepare for Onslaught


NOAA Ocean Prediction Center — Pacific

Hat tip to DT Lange



More Weather Weirding — Godzilla El Nino vs a Mean Polar Amplification

We may have never seen heat like this before in the Equatorial Pacific. And as for atmospheric temperatures, 2015 is already locking in to shatter all-time global records set just last year. But despite a Monster El Nino raging across the world’s mid-section, despite a strengthening Jet Stream and a roaring storm track, the greatest warm atmospheric temperature anomalies are still centering in on the Arctic.

In other words, it appears that human-forced warming has taken so much cold out of the poles that there isn’t much of it left for the strengthening circumpolar winds to lock in.

A Godzilla El Nino

Equatorial Red Scar

(The angry red scar of anomalous ocean heat that is the tell-tale of a monster El Nino is plainly visible in today’s Climate Reanalyzer Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly [SSTA] graphic.)

All you have to do is look at the great red scar spanning more than half of the Equatorial Pacific Ocean on the upper Climate Reanalyzer map to tell it’s a Monster El Nino year. A zone that in this measure is now showing an amazing +1.26 C sea surface temperature anomaly above the already hotter than normal 1979-to-2000 average. A region where weekly average sea surface temperatures in NOAA’s El Nino monitor are now tied with the record 1997 event. There, according to NOAA, temperatures last week hit 2.8 degrees Celsius above average along an Equatorial band stretching from 120 to 180 West Longitude. As a result, the Equatorial atmosphere continued to heat up, continued to contribute to global temperatures that for 2015 will be the hottest ever recorded over the past 135 years.

Considering such a massive amount of heat boiling up off this key Equatorial zone, we’d tend to think that this region would also show atmospheric temperatures that are much warmer than average. And it does. But strangely, perhaps ominously, the highest average atmospheric temperature departures do not reside over these record hot waters. They instead show up where we might least expect them during a record El Nino year — at or near the poles.

Odd Polar Amplification

Atmospheric temperature anomalies

(El Nino is already contributing to stronger circumpolar wind fields, so why are the Antarctic and Arctic regions still so warm? Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

For both within the Arctic and Antarctic — it’s still much warmer than normal. In the Antarctic, a zone from 70 to 90 South features air temperatures that are between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius hotter than average. In the northern polar zone an even warmer region ranging from 14 to 20+ degrees Celsius above average stretches over the fractured and greatly thinned sea ice along an arc just north of Svalbard and on into Russian Siberia. Overall, the Arctic as a whole shows an extraordinary +1.27 C positive anomaly. The Antarctic is at +0.90 C. And the tropics, which includes our massive El Nino still lags at an admittedly impressive +0.64 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average.

Why is this temperature anomaly pattern so darn weird? It all has to do with atmospheric physics. During times of strong El Ninos, the temperature difference between the poles and the Equator tends to increase as the Equator warms. This, in turn, strengthens the Jet Stream. A strong Jet Stream, for its part, tends to keep cold air locked away at the poles. So, ironically, as the Equator warms with El Nino, the poles have a tendency to cool off a bit.

So far, for the Fall of 2015, this isn’t really what we’ve seen. Sure, the Equator has warmed up quite a bit. Concordantly, the Jet Stream appears to have strengthened somewhat. We still have a big ridge that tends to keep forming over the ridiculously and persistently warm Northeastern Pacific, but it’s not stretching all the way into the Arctic like it did last year. Meanwhile, Jet Stream velocities and related storm track intensities are hitting rather high values. Arctic Oscillation has also recently hit extremely high positive values. A strongly positive Arctic Oscillation traditionally tends to result in cold air remaining locked away in the Arctic, but considering the temperature anomaly maps, Arctic cold hasn’t really been all that cold of late.


(North America — surrounded on all sides by ridiculously hot water. How will the influences of this off the charts ocean warming impact North American and North Atlantic weather systems this Winter? Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Is Human Forced Warming Meddling with the El Nino-Polar Interplay?

So why are the poles still tending to remain very warm even as the Equator warms? The first answer is that high greenhouse gas concentrations from human fossil fuel emissions tend to preferentially warm these regions. This is due to the fact that greenhouse gasses have their greatest warming impact during times of darkness or when the sun is at a low angle. Compounding this impact for the Arctic is the fact that a high overburden of both CO2 and methane hangs over the region — possibly due to heightening emissions from thawing permafrost, increasing forest fires, and increasing ocean-to-atmosphere carbon fluxes.

A second answer is that the overall atmospheric impacts of the current Monster El Nino may not have come into full swing yet. We do still have a very warm pool of water in the Northeastern Pacific and this warm pool has tended to somewhat resist the polar wind field intensifying effects of a strong El Nino. This warm pool has also given the current El Nino a springboard upon which to further intensify. So the push and pull between these two hot water zones may not be over yet.

All in all, this pattern points to more and more weather weirding on tap for this Winter. Jet Streams and storm tracks may run further to the north as a result — especially in the areas of the Pacific Northwest and in Northern Europe. Troughs may also tend to dig a bit deeper along the Central and Eastern US and on out into the North Atlantic. This is not exactly the forecast we would expect with such a strongly positive Arctic Oscillation. But the related cool air pool has retreated so far north as to, at least for now, not fully result in a strong El Nino + strong Arctic Oscillation related weather pattern. Instead, for now, what we are seeing is a weird kind of hybrid weather pattern that appears to be incorporating the influences of a Monster El Nino, of ongoing polar amplification, of the cool pool in the North Atlantic, of the abnormally warm Barents Sea, and of the Hot Blob still firmly entrenched in the Northeastern Pacific.


NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

NOAA’s Arctic Oscillation Index

Weather Underground El Nino Reports

Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Nullschool

Hat Tip to Ryan in New England

The Frankentides are Coming — US East Coast to See Season of Flooding From El Nino + Sea Level Rise This Winter

According to preliminary reports from NOAA, this Fall, Winter and Spring will likely bring an abnormal number of flooding tides to the US East Coast. These emperor and king tides are primarily driven by sea level rise — a knock on impact of human-forced warming. But during an El Nino year, as with this year, wind patterns along the East Coast tend to drive tides even higher. At El Nino times, lows tend to form off the US East Coast. These lows tend to generate a consistent northeasterly wind that pushes against the northward flow of the Gulf Stream. This action reduces the Gulf Stream’s ability to pull water away from our shores, and some of that water rebounds against the US East Coast.

During a normal year, this would somewhat increase the height of East Coast tides. But, due to Greenland melt pumping fresh water into the North Atlantic, the heat and salt driven circulation that generates the Gulf Stream is weakening (See Signs of Gulf Stream Weakening). So this year’s series of El Nino lows are forming over seas that are already rebounding against the US East Coast. Forming in seas that have already risen due to the melting of glaciers around the world. A NOAA press release from September notes that recent findings:

“…build upon two nuisance flooding reports issued last year led by NOAA scientists William Sweet and John Marra. The previously published reports show coastal communities in the United States have experienced a rapid growth in the frequency of nuisance tidal flooding, a 300 to 925 percent increase since the 1960s, and will likely cross inundation tipping points in the coming decades as tides become higher with sea level rise”

“We know that nuisance flooding is happening more often because of rising sea levels, but it is important to recognize that weather and ocean patterns brought on by El Niño can compound this trend,” said Sweet.”


(The 2015 El Nino — the year sea level rise came home to roost for the US East Coast. NOAA predicts a significant increase in the number of tidal flooding events all up and down the East Coast due to a combination of El Nino and impacts related to human-forced climate change. Image source: NOAA.)

It is due to this confluence of factors that we are likely to see some pretty extreme flooding tides anywhere from Miami to Maine. Flooding tides that, according to NOAA, are 33 to 125 percent more frequent than even the recently elevated trend. Tides that, as we have already seen (see below) are much higher than during any typical year — El Nino or no. Such impacts are likely to occur even without the influence of strong Nor’easters. But for the East Coast, Nor’easters and El Nino tend to go hand in hand.

So it’s shaping up to be a flooding season. One that wouldn’t have happened before. One brought on by the impacts of a human-forced warming. And one that is but a harbinger of more flooding to come.

Fall of 2015 Already Seeing Substantial Inundation Events

Over the past few weeks, a freak series of high tides inundated large sections of the U.S. East Coast. In Charleston, South Carolina, on October 27, a high tide peaked at 8.67 feet above mean low water. That’s the highest tide for Charleston since Hurricane Hugo roared ashore in 1989. But in this case, there was no category 4 hurricane. Just a ridiculous amount of water flooding in from the ocean. In Savannah, Georgia tides ran 10.43 feet above mean low water on the same day. Again, no storm, just a rising ocean flooding out roadways and inundating homes and neighborhoods. Only a couple of days later, on October 29th, large sections of Boston Harbor flooded under perfectly blue skies.

Tybee Flood

(Flooding, primarily due to sea level rise and an extreme high tide, inundates coastal lands near Tybee, Georgia on October 27th. It was the worst flooding since a category 2 hurricane hit the region in 1935. This year, there was no hurricane. Just sea level rise caused by human forced warming combined with the typical impacts of El Nino on East Coast tides. Image source: Blame Sea Level Rise.)

For stormless days, this level of tidal flooding is unprecedented. It’s a validation, just one month later, of NOAA predictions. If anything, these tides were even higher than expected. Tides influenced by sea level rise, glacial melt in Greenland, and by an El Nino driven shift in wind patterns. Had these tides coincided with a strong Nor’easter or a Hurricane, what we’d be looking at is a level of flooding that would almost certainly have exceeded the worst such events ever to strike the US East Coast. In effect, what we see is that sea level rise due to human forced warming of the globe is starting to have a greater and greater impact on these shores. An awful and early impact that will only worsen as time and human warming progress.

A Global Problem Set Off By Human Warming

Over the longer term, there are a lot of people in the path of this global trend of rising waters. In the US alone, more than 143 million people live in coastal communities. And the seas, due to human-forced warming are on the rise.

But its not just the US East Coast that’s in trouble. Practically everywhere, seas are rising. Global temperature increases of about 1 degrees Celsius above 1880s values are causing the oceans to thermally expand. In addition, glacial melt from mountain systems, Greenland and Antarctica is contributing ever-increasing volumes of water to the global ocean, forcing on the waters’ rise at ever-increasing rates. Currently, long term trends indicate a 3.3 millimeter per year average increase in the height of the world’s oceans (from 1993 to present). And as the world starts to close in on 2 degrees Celsius above 1880s averages, the pace of that rise is expected to ramp up and up.

Already, current sea level rise presents increasing problems to coastal regions across the globe. Much of the impacts we presently see are due to salt water invasion of low lying regions, nuisance flooding events, the amplification of storm driven tides, and increasing instances of what are now called king and emperor tides. Adding complexity to this global warming related problem is the fact that seas do not rise in a uniform manner. This lack of global uniformity of sea level rise results from gravity’s affects on the displacement of waters and from the influence of water outflows from glaciers on ocean currents. As a result, global sea level rise can generate hot spots where rates of rise are significantly in excess of the global average.

US East Coast as Sea Level Rise Hot Spot

Global Sea Surface Height Anomaly NOAA

(Over the past few months, a bulge of water more than 1.3 feet higher than the 1981 to 2013 global average has expanded off the US East Coast. This bulge is driven by a combination of Gulf Stream slowdown due to Greenland melt, overall sea level rise due to global warming, and due to an El Nino pattern that drives northeasterly winds off the US East Coast. This year, this extreme bulge is expected to bring on a significant increase in the number of flooding tides. Tides that could be compounded by the effects of strong nor’easters that tend to be generated during El Nino years. Image source: NOAA CPC.)

Unfortunately, as we have seen above, the impacts of gravity rebound and current changes related to glacial melt put the East Coast of the United States directly in the path of a significant rise in ocean water. Specifically, Greenland melt results in a slowing down of the Gulf Stream. And it is the northward draw of the Gulf Stream that pulls about 3 feet worth of sea level rise away from the US East Coast. Slow down the Gulf Stream by dumping cold water into the North Atlantic and you can get about a foot of sea level increase off the US East Coast. Stop it completely and all that 3 feet of water comes sloshing back. Add any global sea level rise due to ocean warming and glacial melt on top of that and you can see why the US East Coast can quickly get into trouble.

All in all, scientists expect sea level rise for the US East Coast to be nearly double the global average predicted for this Century. And what this means is that more and more coastal flooding is on the way.


The State Did Warn Us

Can’t Get Home? Blame Sea Level Rise

NOAA: El Nino May Accelerate Nuisance Flooding

Melting Ice in West Antarctica Could Raise Seas by 3 Meters

Historic Tides From Sea Level Rise and Supermoon Flood US East Coast


Hat Tip to Greg

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to DT Lange

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!


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 Satellite Pictures

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Greg

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Japan Meteorological Agency — September of 2015 was Hottest on Record — NASA not Far Behind

With a monster El Nino firing off in the Pacific and with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations now in excess of 480 parts per millions CO2 equivalent, global temperatures for 2015 continue to shatter new all-time records. It’s a sad upshot of continued energy dominance by myopic fossil fuel special interests and the big money investors who have backed them now for the better part of 135 years.

As of September of 2015, temperatures in the global measure provided by Japan’s Meteorological Agency rocketed to 0.5 C above the 1981 to 2000 average or about 1.2 C above average temperatures last seen at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Global temperature anomalies September of 2015

(Japan’s Meteorological Agency shows that global temperatures sky-rocketed to a new record in September. Image source: JMA.)

This departure is a whopping 0.4 C above baseline rates of increase and a significant 0.15 C above the old record high for September set just last year (2014). Perhaps more notable is that all of the five hottest Septembers have occurred since 2009. A very strong global warming signal for the month and one that has left the 1997-1998 El Nino years in the dust.

NASA Shows September of 2015 was Second Hottest on Record

Though NOAA has yet to chime in with its monthly global temperature and climate analysis, NASA’s own GISS temperature monitor also shows September hitting near record heat. According to NASA, September of 2015 came in 0.81 C hotter than its own 20th Century benchmark average and about 1.01 C hotter than 1880s averages. This puts September of 2015 as a solid 2nd hottest in NASA’s record and just behind the new record set for September just last year.

NASA’s measure shows that four of the five hottest Septembers have all occurred since 2012 (ranking 2014 first hottest at +0.90 C, 2015 second hottest at +0.81 C, 2013 tied for third hottest with 2005 at +0.77 C, and 2012 as fourth hottest at +0.75 C). 2015’s +0.81 C departure is also well in excess of the +0.56 C departure seen in 1997 during the ramp up of what was then the strongest El Nino on record with averages for Septembers of 2014 and 2015 now at about +0.30 C above 1997 levels. A jump that falls neatly in the range of temperature increases predicted by IPCC and following the +0.15 to +0.20 C per decade accelerated rate of increase seen globally since around 1980.

Despite Strong El Nino, Northern Hemisphere Polar Amplification Really Heats up in September

NASA’s geographic distribution of temperature anomalies map tells a rather interesting tale for September. One that may have implications for Northern Hemisphere weather further down the line as Fall and Winter progress.

Land Ocean Temp Map September of 2015

(NASA’s global temperature anomalies map shows strong warming at both the Equator and the Northern Hemisphere Pole during September. A signature that hints strong south to north heat transfers are at play. Image source: NASA GISS.)

As expected with a strong El Nino, we see a lot of heat building up along the Equatorial zone and especially in the Eastern Pacific where land-ocean temperatures hit a strong range of +2 to +4 C above average. A bit odd, however, is a strong heat plume visibly rising off this hot zone, traversing the western land mass of North America and entering the Arctic through the gateway of the Canadian Archipelago (CAA). Notably, high Arctic temperature anomalies in the zone north of the CAA also spike to levels in the range of +2 to +4 C above average. It’s a kind of south to north heat transfer that we would expect to see less and less of as El Nino strengthens and the storm track flattens out. But ridging over the North American West along with associated heat continued to remain in force throughout September providing a pathway for heat to enter the upper Latitudes.

Other strong, though somewhat less robust, Equator to Pole heat transfers appear visible over Europe on up through Scandinavia, and ranging along a diagonal between India, China, Mongolia and Kamchatka. It’s a heat signature picture of a mangled Jet Stream completed by trough zones and cool pools over Alaska, in the ominous region of the North Atlantic between Greenland and England, in Central Asia, and just east of Japan. Most notably, the cool pool associated with a weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and all-too-likely due to the decadally increasing rates of glacial melt outflows from Greenland remains a dominant feature in the North Atlantic. It’s a cool pool signature that was predicted in almost all the global climate models in association with overall human forced warming of the atmosphere and ocean. One that can drive weather instability in the North Atlantic. And one that has been a nearly constant features since at least 2012.

NASA zonal anomalies

(Zonal anomalies graphic also shows strong equatorial and polar warming. Image source. NASA.)

NASA’s zonal anomalies map paints a picture of both Equatorial and Northern Hemisphere Polar heat with temperatures well above average over most regions of the world. The primary exception is Antarctica and the Southern Ocean which, during recent years, has acted as an atmosphere-to-ocean heat sink. Notably, a very strong storm track in the region of 50 South Latitude has driven powerful winds which have forced atmospheric heat into the ocean depths while also forming an atmospheric barrier to heat conveyance over Antarctica.

High Latitude regions between 85 and 90 North showed the most extreme temperature departures with a +1.6 C positive anomaly for the region. Temperatures drop somewhat to between +1 and +1.3 C from 30 to 70 North before rising again to around +1.4 C near the Equator. Anomalies drop off southward ranging from near +0.7 C around 30 South before dropping into negative values in the atmosphere to ocean heat uptake zone in the Southern Ocean near 60 South.

Winter Weather for 2015 May Feature Some Unexpected Twists

Overall dispersal of heat shows a notably high degree of Northern Hemisphere polar amplification at a time when El Nino should be spiking heat at the Equator, increasing Jet Stream strength, and pushing the Northern Hemisphere Polar zone to cool somewhat. The fact that the Pole remained at higher positive temperature anomalies than the Equator during September even as El Nino cracked +2 C above average heat in the Nino 3.4 zone hints that this Winter may show more waviness in the Jet Stream than is typical during a strong El Nino year. As a result, weather patterns typical to El Nino during Northern Hemisphere Winter may show marked variance.

If this is the case, rainfall amounts for Southern and Central California may be less than expected for a typical strong El Nino year. Heavy rainfall events may shift northward toward Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. A northward angling storm track over Western North America would tend to reinforce trough development in the east while providing major storms for the US East Coast and Northeast as the higher amplitude Jet Stream wave taps more Arctic air than is typical. Meanwhile, warm waters off the US East Coast in the range of +2 to +5 C above average will provide both heat and moisture as fuel for storms moving down any trough feature. Extra heat and moisture provided by El Nino will also tend to preferentially increase storm intensity all along the storm track even as temperature differentials at the sea surface in the North Atlantic provide further instability for storms that are likely to hit high intensity along a track between Iceland and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, these features, combined with warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the newly ice-liberated Barents, could result in warmer and stormier conditions for Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Globally, we are likely in for a record hot Northern Hemisphere winter for 2015. Combined with one of the strongest El Ninos on record, such a high temperature excession may well put us into a number of entirely new, and potentially very stormy, weather contexts. Comprehensive monitoring and updates to follow.


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