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Climate Change Related Extreme Weather Rocks World, Weird Major Hurricane Forms East of Bermuda, Cyclone Energy Closing in on Records

Around the world, the litany of climate change related extreme weather events reached an extraordinary tempo over the past week. And it is becoming difficult for even climate change deniers to ignore what is increasingly obvious. The weather on planet Earth is getting worse. And human-caused global warming is, in vast majority, to blame…

Climate Change Related Extreme Weather Spans Globe

(Climate and Extreme Weather Events for September 17 through 24.)

Puerto Rico is still knocked out a week after Maria roared through. With Trump basically ignoring this worst in class blow by a hurricane ramped up by human-caused climate change, it will be a wonder if this territory of 3.4 million U.S. citizens ever fully recovers.

In other and far-flung parts, Brazil is experiencing an abnormally extreme dry season. Australia just experienced its hottest winter on record. In Teruel, Spain, thunderstorms forming in a much warmer than normal atmosphere dumped half a meter of hail. Antarctic sea ice is hitting record lows after being buffeted by warm winds on at least two sides. And in Guatemala, Mexico, Poland, the Congo, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Oklahoma, there have been extreme or record floods.

Weird Major Hurricane in Central Atlantic

More locally to the U.S., in the North Atlantic warmer than normal surface waters have fueled the odd development of hurricane Lee into a category 3 storm. It’s not really that strange for a major hurricane to develop in the Atlantic during September. It’s just that we’d tend to expect a storm of this kind to hit such high intensity in the Gulf of Mexico, or over the Gulf Stream, or in the Caribbean. Not at 30.6 N, 56.8 W in the Central North Atlantic south and east of Bermuda and strengthening from a weaker storm that was torn apart in the Inter-Tropical-Convergence-Zone, before drifting considerably to the north over what would typically be a less favorable environment.

But typical this present hurricane season is not. Maria, which is still a hurricane after ten days, is presently lashing coastal North Carolina with tropical storm force gusts as it moves ever so slowly to the north and east. With Irma lasting for 14 days, Jose lasting for 17, and Lee lasting for 13 so far, 2017 may well be the year of years for long duration, intense storms. Meanwhile, a disturbance to the south of Cuba shows a potential for developing into yet another tropical cyclone.

Closing in on Record Accumulated Cyclone Energy

(2017 Accumulated Cyclone Energy for the North Atlantic. Image source: Colorado State University.)

Storms lasting for so long and hitting such high intensity produce a lot of energy. And the primary measure we have for that expended energy is ACE or Accumulated Cyclone Energy. 2017 is bound to achieve one of the highest ACE measures for any Atlantic Hurricane Season. Since 1851, only 8 years have seen an ACE value hit above 200. Present 2017 ACE is at 194 and climbing. Highest ever ACE values were recorded in 2005, at 250, and 1933 at 259.

Individual storm ACE values are also impressive with 2017 presently showing 3 storms with an individual ACE higher than 40. Only 27 storms with a 40+ ACE value are ever recorded to have formed in the Atlantic. Irma, so far, is the highest ACE for 2017 at 66.6 — which is the second highest individual storm ACE ever for the Atlantic. Jose produced an ACE of 42.2 (24th) and Maria an ACE of 41.4 (26th).

If 2017 continues to produce strong, long-lasting storms over a record hot Atlantic, it is easily within striking distance of a record ACE year. The restrengthening of Lee to major hurricane status so far north and out in the Atlantic was yet one more surprise that shows how much energy the Atlantic is bleeding off this year. Such a tendency will likely continue through October but with storms probably not forming quite so frequently as during September and originating in regions closer to the Caribbean and U.S.

Links:

Puerto Ricans Waiting For Aid a Week After Maria’s Devastation

When Does it Rain Again in Brasil?

Hail Storm Causes Chaos in Teruel

Antarctic Sea Ice Hits Another Record Low

Colorado State University

The National Hurricane Center

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Accumulated Cyclone Energy

Hat tip to Suzanne

Hat tip to Vic

Hat tip to Umbrios

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Record Heat Predicted for Fort McMurray Wednesday as Fire Danger Spikes

Just a little more than one year after freakish global warming-spurred wildfires forced a near complete evacuation of the tar sands production town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, record heat and extreme fire hazard are again settling in over this subarctic region.

(Subarctic sections of Alberta are expected to experience temperatures in the upper 80s and lower 90s [F] tomorrow. Such heat is expected to spike fire dangers throughout the region. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The weather forecast for Wednesday, May 31, 2017 tells a story of predicted extreme heat for a typically cool region of Northwest Canada. High temperatures for the day are expected to range from 86 to 90 F (30 to 32 C). That’s a hot day anywhere. But it’s particularly impressive for a region that shares a common climate with places like historically cold Alaska and Hudson Bay.

Average high temperatures for Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada for this time of year typically top out at a rather cool 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 C) — closer to the expected Wednesday morning low of 62 F (17 C). Wednesday’s forecast high, meanwhile, is quite considerably outside the normal range and exceeds 30 year averages by fully 22 to 26 degrees F. If such heat does emerge, it will tie or break the 2007 all-time record for May 31 of 86 F (30 C).  Such record heat is now predicted to occur after today’s expected, well above average, high of 80 F (26 C).

(A spike in fire hazard early this week coincides with predicted record temperatures across Alberta. Image source: Alberta Fire.)

Unseasonable warmth — which deepened over the weekend and is expected to peak by Wednesday — is presently resulting in spiking fire dangers for the region. According to the government of Alberta, fire risk for Fort McMurray is now listed as very high through Wednesday due to above average to near record high temperatures and low humidity. Fire hazard for a large swath of Northern Alberta is now also rated very-high-to-extreme.

It is worth noting that the overall fire situation for Canada to-date is presently much-improved from 2016. Last year, outlandish warmth combined with high winds and dry conditions to fuel an unusually large fire outbreak over Central and Northwestern Canada during early May. This year, wetter than normal conditions have suppressed fire activity over much of Canada over the same seasonal period. And we have some regions in British Columbia that are now experiencing evacuations due flooding rivers.

(Wildfires are flaring over British Columbia even as rapidly rising temperatures are causing large snow packs to melt far more swiftly than normal. Such heat and rapid melt is producing a dual threat of flood and fire at the same time. Image source: BC Wildfire Service.)

Rising fire risks coinciding with hot and dry conditions are coming at the same time that this year’s moisture-engorged snow packs are melting at far faster than normal rates. Large fires are thus breaking out in British Columbia and along the Alberta border as heat and dryness spread northward even as creek and lake levels in places like Okanagan, BC are facing the highest flood stages ever recorded.

Overall, despite 2017’s rainy spring weather, the tale is still one of unusual warmth. May temperatures have ranged from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius above average over Northern and Central Canada during 2017. Such departures are in keeping with the ongoing trend of rapid warming in the upper Latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. A trend that has considerably worsened overall fire hazard by lengthening the fire season, by adding new fuels for fires, and by increasing the number of lightning strikes which help to provide ignition sources for wildfires. A warming that is directly caused by ongoing human fossil fuel burning and by related activities such as the tar sands extraction that continues unabated in Alberta.

(UPDATED)

Links:

Earth Nullschool

Fort McMurray Weather

Weather Underground: Fort McMurray Climate

Alberta Fire

BC Wildfire Service

Thousands Forced to Evacuate Fort McMurray Due to Wildfires

Wildfires, Rising Water Levels Hamper Okanagan

Earth Observatory

2017’s Warming Climate Produces Unprecedented Floods Across the Globe

“A robust result, consistent across climate model projections, is that higher precipitation extremes in warmer climates are very likely to occur.” — IPCC

“As the climate has warmed… heat waves are longer and hotter. Heavy rains and flooding are more frequent. In a wide swing between extremes, drought, too, is more intense and more widespread.” — Climate Communications

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It’s a tough fact to get one’s head around. But a warming climate means that many regions will both experience more extreme droughts and more extreme floods. The cause for this new weather severity is that a warming planet produces higher rates of evaporation together with more intense atmospheric convection. Warmer air over land means that the moisture gets baked out of terrain, lakes and rivers faster. And this warming effect causes droughts to settle in more rapidly, to become more intense than we are used to, and to often last for longer periods.

(As the climate warms, instances of extreme weather — both droughts and floods — increase. Image source: NOAA/UCAR.)

On the flip side of this severe weather coin, more moisture evaporating from the world’s lands and oceans means that the atmosphere contains a greater volume of moisture overall. This heavier moisture load enters a hotter, thicker, taller lower atmosphere (troposphere). One that is becoming increasingly stingy about giving up that moisture in the form of precipitation much of the time. All that heat and added convective energy just serves as a big moisture trap. So the load of moisture has to be heavier, overall, to fall out. When the atmospheric moisture hoarding finally relents, it does so with a vengeance. Thicker clouds with higher tops drench lands and seas with heavier volumes of rain and snow. And when the rain does fall from these larger storms, it tends to come, more and more often, in torrents.

California Record Drought to Record Flood in Just 4 Years

A set of facts that were drawn into stark relief recently in California which over the past few years experienced one of its driest periods on record but, in 2017, is on tap to see its wettest year ever recorded for broad regions. In a section of hard-hit Northern California, the cumulative 2017 rainfall average had, as of yesterday (April 9), hit 87.5 inches. The record for the region in all of the past 122 years is 88.5 inches for the entire year.

(Cumulative precipitation in Northern California set to beat all time record during 2017. Data Source: California Department of Water Resources. Image source: The Sacramento Bee.)

It is just early April. But the region tends to receive most of its moisture from January through March. However, all it would take is a relatively minor storm system to tip the scales into record territory. And it now appears likely that this region will see in excess of 90 inches for the present year.

Infrastructure damage from this year’s flood for the state is likely to considerably exceed $1 billion. Damage to roads alone is nearly $700 million. And that does not include stresses to dams — like the one at Lake Oroville where an eroded spillway threatened structural integrity and forced 200,000 people to evacuate. Overall, the cost of the repairs combined with the cost of hardening California’s infrastructure to these new extreme weather events could top $50 billion.

New Zealand — Debbie Brings 500 Year Flood Event with More to Follow

In New Zealand, a Tropical Storm Debbie (which struck Australia as a Category 4 Hurricane and flooded 1,800 homes in the town of Rockhampton) engorged with the extraordinarily high volume of moisture evaporating from the very warm waters of the Pacific Ocean produced a rain event that, under normal climate conditions, would have occurred only once every 500 years. The storm blanketed much of New Zealand with strong winds and heavy rains — sparking flooding and power outages. On North Island, the system hit a new extreme as it dumped a record two months worth of rain (7.5 inches) in just two days upon the town of Edgecumbe. The torrent swelled the nearby Rangitaiki River, forced a levee breach, flooded the city, and spurred thousands of residents to evacuate.

(Cyclone Cook takes aim at New Zealand and a link-up with a trough dipping through the region. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Across New Zealand, flooding damage estimates from the event are expected to considerably exceed 1 billion dollars and could track into the billions.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Cook, similarly engorged with moisture, is in the process of combining with a large trough extending down from the Southern Ocean and over New Zealand. Cook is predicted to track toward New Zealand across ocean waters that are 1-2 C warmer than normal over the next few days. It is expected to feed energy into a long frontal system extending up from the ocean region just north of Antarctica. Present model predictions indicate the potential for extremely high cloud moisture loading in the range of 3.5 kilograms of water per square meter over parts of North Island near Tauranga in the 26-30 hour time-frame. A worrisome potential extreme precipitation hot spot in a mated system that is expected to again blanket New Zealand with flooding rains over the next three days.

Peru, Colombia, Ecuador Floods

In isolation, each of these extreme events would be odd enough. But right now the issue is that the heightened frequency and widespread geographic dispersal of extreme flooding is a considerable concern. And to this trend of more widespread incidents, we can add the extraordinarily severe flooding that has impacted several South American nations during early 2017.

(Strong El Nino events are often associated with flooding in western South America. Though an El Nino is expected during 2017, it is predicted to be weak-to-moderate in intensity. So it is likely that the very warm waters feeding extreme rains in the region were given an assist by human-forced climate change. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Very warm sea surface temperatures off South America this winter and spring have fed into record rains across Peru, Ecuador and Columbia. In Peru, what was arguably the worst flooding ever recorded for the state during March destroyed tens of thousands of buildings, rendered 700,000 people homeless, resulted in the loss of about 100 souls, and wrecked 6,000 miles of highway and scores of bridges. The number of people made homeless by this single series of extreme weather events is particularly staggering — amounting to about 1 out of every 40 people living in the state. For Peru alone, an estimated 9 billion dollars is now needed to recover.

Nearby Ecuador also experienced record rains. Tens of thousands of acres flooded as 20 people lost their lives and thousands of people were forced to evacuate. And in the Colombian town of Macoa near the Ecuador border, a severe, rain-bomb type, thunderstorm associated with this extraordinarily moist weather pattern unleashed mudslides and torrents of water so violent that 254 victims were unable to escape.

Conditions in Context

(Atmospheric rivers are often associated with extreme rainfall events as was the case with California this winter and spring. Global water vapor tracking enables us to track these atmospheric rivers streaming out from the moisture-rich Equatorial region. Image source: CIMSS.)

It is worth noting that each of these instances of severe rainfall around the globe rank as either the worst on record or nearly the worst on record for the impacted regions. They occur in a similar temporal space but over a widely varied geographical extent. In the instance of apparent cyclone flooding amplification in Australia and New Zealand — very warm and above average sea surface temperatures appear to have been involved. This is also the case with the severe rains seen in South America. In California, a shift in the weather pattern from extremely dry to extremely wet followed a receding of hot ocean conditions and an associated blocking pattern. The warm Pacific waters which pushed storms north into Alaska and Canada instead shifted to a cool-north, warm-south pattern that intensified the storm track and enabled the direction of record high atmospheric moisture plumes near the Equator toward California. All of these various patterns are consistent with what we would expect from a human-forced warming of our climate.

Links:

IPCC

NOAA/UCAR

California Drought Area

The Sacramento Bee

California Flood Damage Likely to Exceed $1 Billion

California Flood Control Price Tag $50 Billion

Catastrophic Floods From Debbie Force Thousands to Evacuate

LANCE-MODIS

Earth Nullschool

Cyclone Cook Could Bring Further Floods to New Zealand

Peru Floods

Peru Floods to Cost 9 Billion

Ecuador Floods Force Thousands to Evacuate

For Colombia, the Rain Bombs of Climate Change Fell in the Dark of Night

CIMSS

Hat tip to Vic

Hat tip to Climatehawk

A Halo of Storms and Heatwaves — New Study Confirms that Global Warming is Wrecking the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream

“We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events.”Michael Mann

*****

The Earth is warming, the weather is growing more extreme, and from the observational perspective, it appears that the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream has undergone some seriously disturbing changes. Over the past five years, this subject has been one that’s spurred heated debate among scientists, meteorologists, and global climate and weather watchers. Now, a new model study finds that it’s likely that the Jet Stream is being significantly altered by human-forced climate change and that this alteration is helping to drive extreme weather events like the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and Russian heat wave, the 2011 Texas heat wave and recent floods in Europe.

(More extreme variation in upper level wind speeds is an upshot of polar warming during boreal summer. The result is that risks of severe heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods increases as the Earth warms. Image source: Michael Mann, Penn State.)

From the study:

… our analysis of both historical model simulations and observational surface temperature data, strongly suggests that anthropogenic warming is impacting the zonal mean temperature profile in a manner conducive to wave resonance and a consequent increase in persistent weather extremes in the boreal summer.

What this means is that the new study provides still more evidence that the Jet Stream’s north to south variance is increasing during summer. As a result, it is enabling powerful heat domes to form in regions where winds run from south to north. In regions where the upper level winds run from north to south, it creates cooler zones in which powerful storms can flood large swaths of countryside. In other words, increasingly juxtapposed zones of extreme temperature anomalies and higher atmospheric instability and moisture loading tend to form more and more often. And this results in weather patterns that we have never really seen before.

(An Inconvenient Sequel is a call for action on climate change like we’ve never seen before. And the imperative to act on climate is now stronger than it ever was.)

The fact that the Mann study uses observational and model assessments to find that such changes are likely to very likely now being caused by human-forced warming and related polar amplification is a highly significant scientific finding. It adds one more attribution tie to the extreme weather events that we’ve been seeing with increasing frequency. A tie directly to global warming. And it does so through model studies that identify the underlying physical mechanisms at work. It’s a pivotal moment in the atmospheric sciences. And everyone needs to sit up and pay attention.

Credits: 

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Cate

Scientific hat tip to Dr Michael Mann

(Please support publicly-funded, non-special interest based science that is now under assault by the climate change denying Trump Administration)

Mangled Jet Stream, River of Moisture Set to Deliver Extreme Flooding to Mississippi Valley

The potential rainfall totals for a broad region centering just west of the Mississippi River Valley are absolutely extraordinary. For even a strong spring storm, this event may hit unprecedented levels. It’s the kind of abnormal event we’ve now come to expect in a world driven 1 C + warmer than 1880s levels by a merciless burning of fossil fuels that just won’t quit.

****

Mangled Jet Stream Aims River of Moisture at Central US and Gulf Coasts

Over the past few weeks, a record warm El Nino has been slowly cooling down in the Equatorial Pacific. One of the top three strongest events on record, this particular warming of sea surfaces in the Pacific coincided with never before seen global heat as atmospheric CO2 levels spiked to above 405 parts per million on some days during February and March. The record warm sea surface and atmosphere held a never before seen excess of water vapor and moisture in suspension — primarily over the Equatorial Ocean zones. And as the world hit peak temperatures during early March and began to back off a little, some of that massive excess of moisture was bound to wring out somewhere.

For such events, all you really need is a trigger. And over the past two days, forecast models have been predicting an insane dip in the Jet Stream. Today, we got it. A raging storm track over the Northeast Pacific roared its 200+ mph upper level winds down over the Western US and Mexico. It drew deep from a rich, record global warming intensified, low Latitude moisture flood as its tail end reached all the way to the Equator itself. This insanely deep trough then turned north, aiming an unprecedented atmospheric moisture flood fire-hose style at the storm-tossed airs above the Mississippi River Valley.

Huge Dip in the Jet Stream March 8

(An extreme dip in the Jet Stream stretching through the Western US and all the way to the Equator is aiming both Pacific and Gulf moisture at the Mississippi River Valley today. The severe storms that are now firing and that are predicted to continue over the next three days may result in an unprecedented flooding event. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Severe storms are now firing off along a line stretching from the Gulf Coast to Nebraska. Coastal flooding, gale force winds, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and hail are all expected as part of what can best be described as an epic storm system. But perhaps the most dangerous feature of the whole event is the severe rainfall totals that are expected to accumulate over the next three days.

Foot of Rain or More over Mississippi River Valley in the Next Three Days

Rain that is expected to be extraordinarily intense and long lasting. Reports from the Weather Channel indicated the risk for rainfall rates in the range of 3 inches an hour in some of the heaviest storm cells. Meanwhile, model runs earlier today indicated a potential for as much as 20 Inches of rain for some regions over the next 72 hours. Official NOAA models are now indicating nearly a foot in peak rainfall regions in Eastern Texas and Western Louisiana with the potential for greater than five inches along a broad swath running from the Gulf Coast through to Illinois.

72 Hour rainfall totals NOAA NCEP

(NOAA predicts very extreme rainfall totals over a broad region of the Mississippi River Valley during the next three days. Image source: NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center.)

According to NBC news reports, more than 15 million Americans are falling under risk of flooding from this very severe weather system. One that has been compared with the South Carolina floods of 2015 due to its potential to produce severe rains. But one that is also much wider in coverage — capable of impacts over a far broader region.

In addition, those flooding rains will fall all over the Mississippi River Valley — resulting in an extreme threat of very severe flooding all along this great river and its tributaries. As such, we are likely to be dealing with a flood situation for many days after the initial rain event tapers off. With Spring on the way, with so much moisture still bleeding off the Pacific, with a record level of global warming greatly amping up the hydrological cycle, and with a trough development tendency setting up for this region — this particular extreme rainfall event may, sadly, be but the first of many this season.

Links:

Earth Nullschool

NOAA El Nino

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center

The Roof is On Fire

Models Predict Big Jet Stream Dip

National Weather Service Radar Loop

National Weather Service Alerts Map

The Weather Network

The Weather Channel

Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana Face Drenching, Possible Tornadoes

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Anthony Sagliani

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.

Links:

NOAA/CPC

NASA GISS

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

 

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.

Links:

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

NASA

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 www.voanews.com live at 12:30 PM EST tomorrow, Tuesday January 5th

Song of Flood and Fire Refrain: Epic Canadian Floods Wreck 5.5 Million Acres of Cropland

For the Northwest Territory of Canada, the story this summer has been one of record-setting wildfires. Fires casting away smoke plumes the size of thunderstorms, fires that burn regions of tundra the size of small states. Fires that just burn and burn and burn for weeks on end.

But to the south and east in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the story is drastically different. For over the past month, unprecedented flooding in this region has wrecked untold damage to Canada’s farmlands.

Canada floods

(Powerful storms over Manitoba and Saskatchewan on July 23rd, 2014. Image source: LANCE-MODIS)

This situation is the result of an odd and wreckage-inducing tangle in the Jet Stream. For hot air has been funneling up over the Northwest Territory for the better part of two months now, pushing temperatures in this Arctic region into an unprecedented range topping the 70s, 80s, and even 90s on some days. This high amplitude ridge in the Jet Stream has been reinforced and locked in place, a result some scientists attribute to the loss of Arctic sea ice during recent years, setting up a hot weather pattern favorable to wildfires.

As the massive Arctic wildfires ignited and burned, they cast off giant streams of smoke, burdening the down-wind atmosphere with aerosol particles — an abundance of condensation nuclei for cloud formation. These smoke streams fell into a trough flowing down over Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The deep trough, often extending far into the Central US formed a kind of trap for storms and, like the fixed ridge over the Northwest Territory, it has remained in place for months on end.

Given this mangled positioning of atmospheric heat and moisture flows, it was only a matter of time before massive rainstorms erupted in the wake of the large-scale Canadian fires. And the result was an unprecedented flooding. The offspring of an unprecedentedly powerful and persistent atmospheric pattern set off by human warming.

Major Floods Wreck Canadian Crops

For some local farmers, the past couple of days have seen 48 hour rain totals in excess of 10 inches. A 100 year rain event at a scale few farmers in the region have ever seen. And the recent floods are just the latest in a series of heavy rainfalls that have been ongoing ever since early July. Flood follows flood follows flood. A progression that has left most farms swimming in inches to feet of water and mud.

In total, farmland encompassing 3 million acres in Saskatchewan and 2.5 million acres in Manitoba are now under water and are unlikely to produce any crops this year. As a result, wheat plantings are expected to decline by 9.8 percent from last year, canola is expected to decline by 5.8 percent from the June forecast, and oat is expected to decline by 6 percent, according to estimates from Bloomberg.

July flooding in these regions has so far resulted in over 1 billion dollars in damages to farmers. As much as half of these losses may not be covered as insurers are still reeling from severe moisture damages during 2011, just two years ago. As a result of the ongoing parade of storm casualties, insurers have also raised deductibles, leaving farmers more vulnerable to the odd and powerful new weather coming down the pipe.

The Part Played By Climate Change and a Mangled Jet Stream

We often hear of the expanding droughts of human-caused climate change wrecking croplands. But the upshot of expanding drought in one region is record downpours in another. And downpours, if they are intense enough, can have a negative impact on crops as well.

The cause of this is as simple as warming’s enhanced ability to evaporate water. For it is estimated by climate scientists that each degree C in temperature increase amplifies the global hydrological cycle by 7-8 percent. That means that current warming of about 0.8 C since the 1880s has resulted in about a 6% increase in both evaporation and precipitation. At the level of weather, this translates into more intense droughts under dry, hot weather, and more intense rainfall events under wetter, cooler weather.

High Amplitude Rossy Wave Over North America July 2014

(High amplitude Jet Stream wave pattern fueling wildfires in the Northwest Territory and record floods in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Note the extreme northward projection of the Jet over the Northwest Territory and the strong, deep, trough back-flowing from Hudson Bay into Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the northern tier of the Central US. Image source: University of Maine.)

One mechanism that has tended to amplify drought and rain events during recent years has been a weakening and intensifying waviness of the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream. This weakening has been attributed by some scientists to a large-scale recession of Arctic snow cover and sea ice. For since 2007, not one day has seen an average sea ice extent and the range has typically fallen into a zone between 20-50 percent below levels seen during the 1970s and 1980s. New major record low years in 2007 and 2012 have also fueled speculation that sea ice may completely melt away during one summer between now and 2030, 2025, or even 2020 — 50-100 years ahead of model predictions.

As the sea ice serves as a haven for cold air masses, its loss is bound to impact the resiliency of these systems and since a solid pool of cold air to the north is a major driver of Northern Hemisphere upper air currents, the weakening of this cold pool has had dramatic impacts on climates.

Dipole hot-cold pattern associated with mangled jet stream

(Extreme dipole hot/cold pattern associated with Jet Stream mangled by climate change. Image is for July 14, a match to the above Jet Stream shot. Note the extreme heat in the ridge and the much cooler air in the trough. This is exactly the kind of pattern we would associate with sea ice retreat and Jet Stream weakening. Image source: University of Maine)

For this year, the ridge over Canada’s Northwest territory was a direct upshot in a northward retreat of the Jet Stream over Canada and, at times, into the Arctic Ocean. This set the stage for severe wildfires in the zone of warmth underneath this ridge pattern. To the east, a powerful downsloping trough pulled cooler air into Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as over the Central and Eastern US. This set the pattern up for cooler than average conditions as well as for strong rainstorms.

The crop-shattering events of July were a direct result of this climate change induced ‘Song of Flood and Fire.’ A pattern we’ve seen repeat again and again over the past few years and one that may well intensify as both time and human-caused warming advance.

Links:

Canada’s Record Rains Cut Wheat Averages to Three Year Low

Is Global Warming Causing Extreme Weather via Jet Stream Waves?

Top Climate Scientists Explain How Global Warming Amps Up the Hydrological Cycle, Wrecks the Jet Stream to Cause Dangerous Weather

LANCE-MODIS

University of Maine

A Song of Flood and Fire

Hat-tip to Colorado Bob

 

 

Monsoon At Dead Halt: Chances For Summer El Nino Jump to 70% as India Swelters

mon-prog

Current advance of the Indian Monsoon indicated by the green line vs typical historic advance indicated by the dashed red line. Image source: India Meteorological Department.

The Indian Monsoon arrived in Sri Lanka on June 2nd, 8 days late, with extreme force. Dumping excessive rainfall even for a typically powerful event, it forced 2,500 to flee and resulted in the loss of 22 souls. There it stalled, battening into a Bay of Bengal moisture flow that hasn’t budged since May 23rd.

*   *   *   *

By today, June 5th, powerful storms should be dumping rain over a wide swath including the entire southern tip of India, almost all of the waters between Myanmar and the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh coasts, and over most of Bangladesh. But in the satellite shot only scattered storms are visible where powerful, wall-to-wall squalls should now cover an impressive swath.

By this time last year, more than a third of India was obscured by cloud. Today, the skies of this nation of 1.25 billion people are ominously clear. The steely-gray aerial tint of coal ash smog is the most impressive feature in an otherwise open expanse from the northwest deserts to the southeast coast. A massive zone showing only sparse hint or hope of rain.

Even Sri Lanka seems mostly cloud-free. The monsoon and, more importantly, the crop-essential rains it brings are walled out, pushed into the margins by El Nino and some of the hottest global temperatures on record.

India monsoon stalled

Blazingly clear skies laced with ominous coal ash over India during a time when monsoonal storms usually advance. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.

Forecasts indicate that some of the long-delayed rain could arrive to the coast by tomorrow through Sunday. Sparse comfort to sweltering interior sections that may not now see the cooling monsoon until after July 1st.

Unrelenting Heat Risks Late Switch to Violent Storms

In the north, the heat and drought just builds and builds. Jaipur recorded its highest temperature in 33 years on Thursday at a scorching 46.3 degrees Celsius (115.3 F). Meanwhile, New Delhi hit a new record high for the day of 45 C (113 F). Forecasts for New Delhi on Saturday and Sunday show the potential for even more extreme heat with temperatures projected to climb to 116 F. Over the coming ten days, the coolest is expected to be Friday of next week at 109 F.

The continued delay of monsoonal rain combines with record heat throughout northern and western sections of India to enhance risks of drought and loss to crops. Heatwave conditions have already reduced Lychee fruit crop yields by 40%. But an extended stalling of the monsoon and ongoing heat could result in increased damage.

Atmospheric thickening that comes with such extreme heat can also spur intense rain and hail events causing another kind of damage to crops. So a flash switch from heat to heavy storms like those seen earlier this week in Sri Lanka may not be so much of a boon as a terrible jolt to affected lands.

Moderate to Strong El Nino Ever More Likely

This year’s monsoonal delay and related extreme weather were likely amplified by a combination of record atmospheric heat due to human-caused greenhouse gas forcing and a growing and strengthening El Nino. In April, global atmospheric temperatures hit new record highs of +.91 C above 1880s values even as El Nino rapidly gained ground in the Pacific through May.

Multivariate ESNO Index values catapulted to +0.93 in May hitting the seventh highest values on record for the month and pushing the current El Nino into Moderate-Strong range for this time of year. During previous years, similar high values resulted in strong El Ninos on 3 of 5 occasions in the climate record. So historical indicators point toward a 60% chance of a strong event emerging by later this year.

From to NOAA’s El Nino Discussion Page:

The long anticipated breakthrough to El Niño conditions in 2014 is clearly under way, leading to the next question of how big it will get. Of the 10 nearest-ranked April-May values, five had clearly come up to this level over the previous three months. Among those five, four continued at El Niño levels through the rest of the year, while one (1993) dropped back to borderline neutral conditions by the end of the year. One (2002) ended up as a weak-to-moderate event, while the other three (1957, 1987, and 1997) are classified as strong El Niño events in the MEI sense. In other words, the simple-minded odds for El Niño remain at or above 80% through the remainder of 2014, and are consistent with previous discussions on this website. The odds for a strong El Niño are perhaps slightly higher than before, somewhere around 60%.

Meanwhile, the official NOAA forecast is more cautious, with model interpretations pointing to a higher likelihood for a moderate El Nino during 2014.

Consensus El Nino Forecast

El Nino probability graph. Image source: CPC.

Overall, chances for evolution to full-blown El Nino rose significantly with today’s forecast now showing a 70% chance for El Nino development by this summer and nearly an 85% chance for El Nino development by Fall-Winter.

Regardless of El Nino strength, such an event is likely to have broad-ranging global impacts in the context of human-caused warming.

India’s Heightening El Nino + Climate Change Threat to Crops

For India, history shows numerous cases of severe monsoonal disruption during strong, moderate, and, recently, even weak El Nino events. In addition, record high atmospheric temperatures enhance extreme drought and flood potentials by amping up the hydrological cycle and thus increasing the rate of both evaporation and precipitation. Storms, where they do occur tend to be both tall and abnormally powerful under current human-warming related stresses even as droughts tend to develop with higher velocity and to persist for longer periods.

It is possible, due to both changes to the hydrological cycle and to atmospheric circulation, that the Indian monsoon has become even more sensitive to the El Nino pattern under current human-caused warming. This year’s monsoonal delay with El Nino just emerging shows an almost instant response to the forcing coming from increased temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. As such, conditions of heightening threat for crop damage throughout a land where 1.25 billion people rely on the annual rains is a critical issue.

nepac_anomaly_ophi0

(Extraordinary sea surface temperature anomalies in the Northeast Pacific including numerous pools of +2.25 to +4 C or higher departures are indicative of both a strengthening El Nino pattern and a general warming of Ocean surface waters through human greenhouse gas heat forcing. Image source: NOAA Environmental Modeling.)

Overall, the forecast remains for continued monsoonal delay and disruption, continued heatwaves and a likelihood for extreme rainfall and storms in the regions where the monsoon finally arrives. With El Nino conditions in place over the Pacific now, with atmospheric temperatures rising into record range, and with an official El Nino status likely to be declared by summer, this forecast is lent yet more certainty and urgency.

Links:

India Meteorological Department

LANCE-MODIS

NOAA’s El Nino Discussion Page

CPC

North India Reels Under Heatwave

Monsoon Delayed Across India, Deadly Flooding in Sri Lanka

Weather Underground Ten Day Forecast for New Delhi

(Hat Tip to Timothy Chase)

 

Radio Ecoshock Interview: Record Floods, ENSO, Methane Release, and Slope Collapse

ecoshockradio_header

Last week, I discussed the issues of recent record floods, record ocean temperatures despite the negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation, methane release, slope collapse and ocean stratification along with other environmental and ecological issues surrounding our ongoing climate change crisis with Alex Smith at Radio Ecoshock. The program became available online late Tuesday and will be airing on various radio stations around the US this week. You can click on the image above to listen to my 30 minute interview or you can listen to the entire 60 minute program which also includes an interview with Oxford marine biologist Dr. Alex Rogers here.

The professionally produced program will air on 71 radio stations over the coming week and will be continuously available online at Radio Ecoshock. This is, perhaps, one of the best interviews I’ve conducted and Alex Smith is a fantastic host providing fantastically insightful questions and analysis. So, if you have the time, I wholeheartedly suggest you listen to the entire program.

Those familiar with my blog will probably be well acquainted with the topics discussed. In addition, Dr. Rogers provides an excellent analysis of his recently published State of the Oceans 2013 report which is available here. In it Dr. Rogers explores ongoing threats to the world ocean system resulting from human activity and carbon emissions to include ocean acidification, increasing instances of ocean anoxia (both in the deep ocean and near coastlines), as well as the ongoing impacts caused by over-fishing. Rogers also hints at the growing problem of ocean stratification which combines with a warming ocean system to greatly increase anoxia.

State of the Oceans

(Link to 2013 State of the Oceans report here)

Perhaps most alarming is his explanation that fish species such as marlin are already altering their migration patterns due to changes in ocean water oxygen content — an ominous sign that we are already moving to a more stratified ocean state.

For reference, the following blogs will be helpful to those listening:

August 2013: Hottest Ocean Temperatures on Record Defy ENSO, Spur Continental Deluges

Growth Shock and our Climate Change Choices: Mitigation, Adaptation or Harm

A Requiem for Flooded Cities: Russian Flood Disaster Worsens, Amur River to Hit 30 Feet

I Have A Confession to Make: We Are In Trouble

The Methane Monster Grows New Teeth: Sea Level Rise Found to Cause Methane Release, Tsunamis, Slope Collapse

A Song of Flood and Fire

A Deadly Climb From Glaciation to Hothouse, Why the Permian Extinction is Pertinent to Human Warming

Climate Monsters We Want to Keep in the Closet: Heinrich Events, Superstorms, and Warming the Deep Ocean

Drought, Burning Rings of Fire out West, Severe Flooding in the East: How Climate Change and a Mangled Jet Stream Wrecked US Weather

Earlier this summer, I had a weather conversation with my mother. She was excited about a new business venture my sister had undertaken (Adventure Kayaks) and for an upcoming trip to Yosemite in August to celebrate her and my father’s 45th wedding anniversary. She wondered about the weather, hoping it would be a good summer for both the new business and the trip. Without thinking too much, I said:

‘Rain, cooler weather, and storms in the east, drought, heat and fires in the west.’

Immediately after saying this, I felt reticent. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoken? Maybe I would scare my mom. What good would it do to ruin her enjoyment or her looking forward to both the trip and to my sister’s potential success?

It’s worth noting that, thankfully, the storms and cooler weather that did emerge with fury and flood in the east did not ruin my sister’s kayaking venture (although it did result in numerous interruptions both during spring and throughout summer). Should a tropical storm or hurricane make landfall on the US east coast this August, September or October, however, the devastation could be vast, perhaps exceeding a 1 billion dollar disaster event (more on this below).

But as my mother boarded her plane to California and a potential date with Yosemite yesterday morning, these were the satellite images I was looking at:

Yosemite Fire NASA Earth Observatory

Yosemite Fire NASA Earth Observatory

Image source: Earth Observatory

The vast Rim fire that had grown to consume over 192,000 acres as of today was steadily devouring the western border of Yosemite. You can see it on the above infrared satellite picture provided by NASA as a ring of bright white steadily inching into the indicated yellow border of Yosemite.

Jennifer Francis, Stu Ostro and How I Knew

Earlier this summer, my mother chided me on my ‘attempts to predict the weather.’ In a phone conversation last night, she asked ‘how did you know?’

It’s fair to say that in the overall prediction of more storms and rains in the US east, with more risk of flooding, and more heat and dryness out west, with more risks of fire, that I wasn’t entirely certain. However, I’d recently read the work of climatologist Jennifer Francis and had been listening to and following the statements of Stu Ostro. During early spring and summer, I observed a Jet Stream pattern setting up over the US that appeared to be settling into a ‘stuck position’ that would result in the high likelihood of the conditions I communicated with my mother. It’s worth noting that in looking at these Jet Stream patterns it’s not difficult to make such predictions because the patterns change slowly, they lumber and tend to remain stuck for long periods. Once a pattern settles into place, it’s a good bet that it will stick around for at least a few months these days, a fact that the models nail but which meteorologists, in general, have failed to communicate. In short, this is a climate change driven change in the weather.

In fact, some meteorologists and climatologists seem entirely reticent to accept this new weather pattern, despite the fact that it is a powerful tool for weather prediction and will tend to result in less surprises. The big troughs equal record floods sticking around for a long time and the big ridges equal record heat, drought, and probably fires sticking around for long periods of time.

In an example of this reticence, a recent paper by a University of Colorado researcher concluded that Jennifer Francis did not have enough evidence to support her claims of an observed slowing in the Jet Stream. Unfortunately, the paper included, as a part of its findings, a cross section of the atmosphere in which the Jet Stream does not typically reside even while the paper included a sample during which changes were already occurring, which would have likely biased its results. Despite these biases and errors, where the paper actually did measure Jet Stream flows, it corroborated Francis, showing Jet Stream slowing during the periods measured. This is odd considering the fact that the concluding statement contradicts the papers own findings, a point which Dr. Francis, herself, provides.

It’s easy to understand why reticence still lives in the science. As I noted above, it’s understandable to feel reticent when being the bearer of bad news. No one wants to be the messenger that gets metaphorically ‘killed.’ But without making use of the clear understanding provided by Francis and Ostro, we will continue to be surprised by extreme floods, storms, fires, heatwaves and droughts that can be easily predicted by simply looking at how the Jet Stream sets up and where it gets stuck. Instead, ‘surprise’ after ‘surprise’ just keeps coming our way.

When Rossby Waves Get Stuck: Changing to a More Radical Jet Stream

Dr. Jennifer Francis has observed that loss of sea ice and snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has resulted in a slowing of the Jet Stream in recent years. Sea ice volume, the measure of total ice in the Arctic Ocean, since 1979 had declined by as much as 80% when measured at its low during 2012 (this measure may rally back to around 75 to 78 percent lower than 1979 this year, but the overall trend remains a death spiral). Greenland melt is unprecedented at 500 gigatons per year and with Arctic heatwaves blasting the tundra both permafrost and snow cover are at record and near record lows. 80 to 90 degree temperatures now often advance to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, with the coldest air pushed back above the 80 degree north latitude line, confining it to a shrinking region that, increasingly, huddles closer to the remaining large ice sheets in Greenland. Overall rates of warming for much of the Arctic are about .5 degrees C temperature increase each decade, more than twice the global average.

A more quickly warming Arctic results in changes to the atmosphere’s heat balance. According to Francis, the height of the atmosphere over the Arctic is rising relative to atmospheric heights in the lower lattitudes, this loss of slope results in lower gradients from north to south and since temperature, atmospheric height and pressure gradient drive Jet Stream speed, the Jet Stream slows down. And as the Jet Stream slows, it tends to seek out the highest gradients it can find. The result is more northward invasions of the polar region of the Jet Stream ridges and more southward invasion of the Jet Stream troughs. This amplification creates a rather large and elongated sine wave called a Rossby wave pattern.

Jet Stream Pattern Change. Image source: NOAA.

Jet Stream Pattern Change. Image source: NOAA.

In the sequence above, we see the progression of a flat Jet Stream to a Rossby wave ridge/trough configuration to, eventually, cut off lows and highs. In the past, such waves tended to set up for briefer periods, extending for days or weeks before returning to the usual, more flattened motion of the Jet. In more recent years, large Rossby type waves have been the typical pattern, one that transitions to cut off lows before it returns to a configuration more similar to (b) in the diagram, before setting up as a Rossby-type wave again.

Perhaps more importantly, this b, c, d progression has tended to occur again and again and again over the same geographical region for months and months on end. And, looking back at Jet Stream maps over the past months, this is exactly what we find.

Below is a progression of images I’m providing from this blog’s archive. It includes either direct temperature measures that indicate Jet Stream patterns or a mapping of air flow speed indicating the Jet Stream’s path.

Clover leaf Jet Stream Pattern April, 2013.

Clover leaf Jet Stream Pattern April, 2013.

(Image source: ECMWF)

In ‘For Central US, Climate Change and a Mangled Jet Stream Means Drought Follows Flood Follows Drought’ I described how the Jet Stream pattern had consistently switched from large trough to large ridge configurations over the past few years bringing either heatwaves and droughts or storms and floods. But the left hand portion of the image provides a good record of the Jet Stream configuration as of mid April this year. Following the temperatures, on the west coast we see a large, hot ridge and in the central and eastern US we see a deep, cool and stormy trough.

Wednesday July 3, Rossby wave still in effect over US.

Wednesday July 3, Rossby wave still in effect over US.

(Image source: ECMWF)

Throughout May and into June, this ridge over west, trough over east, pattern continued. By late June, a massive, record-shattering heatwave had set up over the US southwest. I described this highly anomalous event in ‘Mangled Jet Stream and Global Warming to Shatter Earth’s Highest Recorded Temperature This Week?’

Looking at the ECMWF image above we again see the highly exaggerated ridge/trough dichotomy setting up over the US with very hot, dry conditions out west and cooler, wet and stormy conditions in the east.

At this point, I want to tap Stu Ostro’s own observations to add to the Jennifer Francis mix. What Stu has found is that large, powerful high pressure systems have tended to develop more and more often. These extraordinarily dense systems seem to be exploding to new heights in a thickening atmosphere. Primarily, these monsters are driven by heat and so they tend to live in the massive ridges provided by our new, exaggerated and slowed, Jet Stream pattern. That said, these beasts can spring up almost anywhere there is a massive abundance of heat to tap, as one did over a super-heated region of ocean near Shanghai this summer sparking its own monstrous heat wave.

These large heat domes have major and far reaching effects. To understand them, we must first step back to think about the broader effects of human caused warming before looking at how heat domes manifest in the atmosphere. Based on models of the Earth’s atmosphere, we know that for each 1 degree Celsius of Earth temperature increase we get a corresponding 8% amplification of the hydrological cycle. What this means is that evaporation happens 8% faster and condensation happens 8% faster — OVERALL.

Since 1998, we have observed temperatures that are, on average, .8 degrees Celsius above those seen during the 1880s. What this means is that the hydrological cycle has amplified by 6% over this same time period. Because of this dynamic, droughts are more intense, but rainfall events are also more intense. Yet since the atmosphere is uneven we can expect this 6% amplification to manifest in somewhat more extreme fashion at the locations where more extreme Jet Stream patterns set up.

Mangled Jet Stream Dumps Deluge on US Midwest

Mangled Jet Stream Dumps Deluge on US Midwest

(Image source: California Regional Weather Server)

What goes up must come down. And that massive heat dome over the western US and Canada had been baking moisture out of the soil at unprecedented rates over an extended period from April to August. The moisture injected into the heat dome rose and rose, The high pressure system suppressed cloud formation so the moisture had no where to go but up and out. Eventually, this moisture found the edge of the massive high and spilled over into the storms riding along the Jet Stream trough rushing down from the Arctic Ocean and into eastern Canada and the US (hat tip to Colorado Bob).

The result was multiple flood events starting with the Midwest floods of April, then the massive Canadian floods (Calgary) of June, then the Toronto floods, then the Midwest floods of early August, and lastly the east coast floods of mid to late August. The Calgary floods were the worst ever recorded in Canada, the Toronto floods were the worst recorded for that region, and in the Midwest floods of early August, four months worth of rain fell in just one week.

Monthly rainfall estimates August 2013.

Monthly rainfall estimates August 2013.

(Image source: The Weather Channel)

On 8 August, the time of the second barrage of major Midwest floods this year, we find the Jet Stream in the same elongated configuration with a large northward ridge extending all the way from the southwestern US to the Arctic Ocean and with a deep trough diving back down into the central and eastern United States. As noted above, the mangled Jet Stream delivered its overburden of moisture directly to the US Midwest, dumping four months worth of rain in just one week.

A second pulse of moisture rode far south along this Jet Stream flow to dump massive amounts of rain over the southeastern US about a week after pummeling Missouri. This flow combined with a compromised tropical system to saturate the southeast, with some regions receiving as much as 300 percent their annual rainfall totals by late August.

One of the hardest hit areas is Lake Okeechobee. Water levels there as of mid August hit 16 feet at the Hoover Dike, a level that requires weekly monitoring for cracks or ruptures. The dike stretches over 140 miles along the perimeter of lake Okeechobee and was intended to keep the lake in check during major storms and hurricanes after large outburst events in the early 20th Century resulted in thousands of lives lost. The dike is 25 to 30 feet high and is as wide as a football field. The US Army Corps of Engineers has been working feverishly to shore up the dike in a project that will take years to complete.

At 16.5 feet water level, the dike will require daily monitoring. For each inch of increase above that level, the pressure put on the dike would greatly increase risks of catastrophic failure. The causes of such high water, this year, were neither tropical storms nor hurricanes. Florida has been, thus far, spared the wrath of these strong storms. Deep Jet Stream troughs and a constant Atlantic moisture flow have, instead, resulted in day after day rain events for much of southern Florida, pushing August totals near Lake Okeechobee above 16 inches, filling the massive lake and putting the dikes at risk. Should a hurricane or tropical storm strike Florida during late August, September, or October, the dike could overtop or rupture, unleashing the massive lake on communities sitting beneath it. (Hat tip to Colorado Bob).

As the threat of massive floods continued to increase in the east, the west was erupting with wildfires. Fire containment efforts went into high gear both exhausting the Forest Service Fire budget and briefly pushing the national fire alert level to 5. The Rim Fire, so close to my parents’ vacation site, expanded to 192,723 acres today making it the 6th worst in California history.

Rim Fire on August 28th, 2013

s Rim Fire on August 28th, 2013

(Image source: Lance-Modis)

You can see this massive fire, now 23% contained, burning to the west of Yosemite in the Modis shot below. A more detailed report of this major wildfire is provided by WeatherUnderground here and here.

Mangled Jet Stream Temporarily Edges Eastward

My parents wanted to see Yosemite’s amazing waterfalls. A major source of my reticence in telling them the likely pattern for this summer was that the heat and drought out west would probably dry out many of those magnificent falls. And, sadly, this has happened. So even if they brave the smoke and fires to reach Yosemite, the one attraction my mom had been most excited to see will likely be somewhat less magnificent.

But a cloud has suddenly appeared in this wrinkle. For the Jet Stream had edged slightly east.

As of the middle of last week, reports of heatwave conditions had emerged throughout the US Midwest with North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri experiencing temperatures in the range of 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) above average. With heat index values hitting as high as 110 degrees, communities sweltered and school systems declared closings. In California, where temperatures had remained in the upper 90s to lower 100s for much of summer, the trough advanced, pushing temperatures back down to the 70s. An upper level low flirting with the west coast may even toss a few fog clouds and rain showers toward California. Such an event would be a welcome change for both my parents and for beleaguered fire fighters in the region.

In any case, the shift is expected to be short lived with ECMWF models showing the Jet Stream again backing up and reforming a hot and dry ridge pattern over the US west. So the Midwest can expect cooling and a return to more stormy, rainy conditions while the US west, after only a brief respite, continues to bake:

Mangled Jet Stream Early September

(Image source: ECMWF)

The September 7 ECMWF forecast again shows a large and powerful Rossby-type wave pattern with a very large and hot ridge setting up over the US and Canadian West with a deep trough digging down toward the US East Coast. It is the same pattern we’ve seen since at least April, a pattern that has delivered numerous rounds of heat and drought to the US west and an equally vicious and persistent pattern of storms and flooding from the central US to the east coast. The Jet Stream has, essentially, been stuck these past 5 months and there is no end in sight. For even if this configuration of the Jet were to move, it would likely simply re-distribute the locations of heatwaves and droughts and storms and floods.

If anything, this past summer has been yet one more validation in evidence of the work of Dr. Francis. And it is because of her work that I, a relatively untrained observer, can make the accurate prediction that a large region from the Mississippi west to California will continue to stay hot and dry and will continue to see risk for large fires, while the region to the east will remain cooler and stormier so long as the current Jet Stream configuration continues to persist. The western region will risk periods of record heat, continued drying of lands, rivers and aquifers, and fires of record size. The eastern region will continue to risk record floods and storm events. As summer proceeds to fall, shifts in these weather patterns have the potential to grow violent with the possibility of powerful nor-easters or hybrid storms developing near the US East Coast. Both the southeast and Florida remain very vulnerable to continued large rain events or tropical storms and hurricanes as time moves forward and in the event of pattern persistence. Meanwhile, long range model forecasts show this general pattern continuing to persist until at least early to mid September.

At this point, the current US Jet Stream pattern will have been in place for at least 6 months.

 

 

 

Mangled Jet Stream Delivers Four Months Worth of Rain in One Week to Missouri; Central, Eastern US to Remain Under Severe Flood Threat

Mangled Jet Stream August 8

(Image source: California Regional Weather Service)

The Jet Stream over North America is a complete basket case. It is far less a river of air flowing between colder northern regions and warmer southern regions than it is a disassociated hodgepodge of cut off air flows. In the far north over a region of coastal Alaska and the Northwest Territory, an Arctic heat dome has formed and grown more prominent setting off temperatures ranging from the high 70s to high 80s as far north as the shores of the Arctic Ocean. This system, which has already lasted for nearly a week over this region is expected to persist until at least mid August as it ever so slowly drifts south and east. Over the west coast of the US, another cut off low sits almost motionless. Over a region between the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay a second upper level low meanders, drifting slowly west, if it moves at all. To the south, a large high pressure system also sits over the Gulf of Mexico. And from the east, a final low moves from east to west riding the tropical flow in toward Florida.

Between them all sits a stationary storm system that simply cannot move. And so it dumps rain day after day after day.

The Jet Stream is so weak over North America that these systems are essentially locked in place. And that means more persistent weather. In the case of Missouri and Tennessee, where these upper level systems are combining moisture flows from the southwest monsoons, the Pacific Ocean, from the Atlantic and from coastal and western Canada over a stalled frontal boundary, it means a great, daily dumping of rain.

NOAA water vapor August 8

(Image source: NOAA)

The net effect of these colliding and stagnate flows is a kind of storm sandwich that is focusing in on Missouri and Tennessee even as it spreads broader impacts over a twelve state region. You can clearly see these convergent and stationary systems in the water vapor image above provided by NOAA. Note the low pressure swirls off the US West Coast, in Canada, and off the US East Coast. You can also see numerous streams of moisture flowing from the Gulf of Mexico, from the monsoonal systems over Mexico and Texas, from the west coast low, and being pulled down through a still moderately active Jet Stream flow over western Canada. The swirl of whites and blues over the Central US represents an ocean of atmospheric moisture readying to dump yet more rain over Missouri, Tennessee and the central and eastern US.

Over the past week, satellite shots show persistent storms popping up again and again over the same region:

Aug 2 rains August 3 rains August 4 rains August 5 rains August 6 rains August 7 rains

(Extreme rainfall over Central US from August 2 through August 7. Image source: NASA/Lance-Modis)

What this series of satellite shots represents is a constant, six day heavy storm pattern. Adding in the NOAA water vapor image above, it appears that today makes for day seven. And looking at the forecast, it appears this system is now set to expand eastward even as it continues to dump rain over already hard-hit ares.

The results of this continuous dumping of moisture over the Central US has been nothing less than staggering. In eastern Missouri, in a region near Fort Leonard Wood, over 14 inches of rain has fallen during the past week. Richland in central Missouri has received a whopping 17 inches. This massive dumping of rain represents the delivery of four months worth of precipitation in just six days. Brandon, another Missouri town, received a total of 8 inches of rain within the 24 hour period from Wednesday to Thursday. A broader region stretching from Kansas to Missouri and Arkansas and on through Tennessee received between 3 and 17 inches of rain over the same one week period. And a still larger area encompassing Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama and Kentucky also experienced abnormally heavy rainfall, washed out roads, and destroyed houses.

In the west, rivers which, in some cases were near record low levels, surged to new record highs. The east, which has endured far above average precipitation since mid spring, saw already swollen rivers leap their banks.

According to AccuWeather:

The Gasconde River at Jerome, Mo., set a record high level of 31.81 feet, breaking the old record of 31.34 feet set on Dec. 5, 1982. A near-record crest is forecast by National Weather Service hydrologists farther downstream on the river at Rich Fountain, Mo.

[Meanwhile,] the Maries River in Missouri crested just below record levels.

These very intense periods of rain set off flash flooding that inundated roads and destroyed at least 50 homes. Hundreds of homes were also inundated over a broader area with residents forced to flee to roof tops as water levels rapidly rose. The scenes of highways flooded, homes inundated, rivers reaching record or near record levels, and people being forced to flee from raging flood waters repeated again and again in a large swath from Kansas stretching eastward to the Carolinas. In total, more than 12 states have been seriously impacted.

ABC News last night, in the below video, aptly described the hardest-hit areas as turning into ‘a water world.’ The coverage shows storm shocked residents staring in awe at lakes forming in roadways, being rescued from the roofs of their homes, or being forced to rescue heavy equipment from flash floods. One beleaguered Georgia resident, after watching flood waters sweep his dog away, states: “I can’t live here no more, I’m through…”

However in depth and accurate, the above video misses the broader overall storm context of stalling Jet Stream flows, cut off upper level lows, and converging upper level moisture streams. ‘Stationary front’ is, therefore, a shallow and inadequate explanation of the patterns involved. The reporters would have done well to interview Stu Ostro and Dr. Jennifer Francis as individuals who could give this very extreme event a proper context as it relates to ongoing changes in the world’s climate to include meandering Jet Streams triggered by loss of northern hemisphere snow cover and sea ice, an amping up of the hydrological cycle due to increased rates of evaporation and rainfall under a regime of rising temperatures, and powerful, dense high pressure systems arising from a thickening atmosphere that just want to sit in place for longer and longer periods. All these emerging factors combine to increase the likelihood of extreme, persistent weather patterns like the ongoing series of storms now driving major US floods.

Unfortunately, the forecast calls for this weather pattern to continue to dump rain over an expanding area. For today and tomorrow, a stretch from the US Midwest to the east coast is under the gun for additional heavy rainfall and powerful, sudden storms through at least the next four days. These weather systems aren’t moving and the powerful flows of moisture converging over the central and eastern US are predicted to remain in place. So it is likely that flooding will continue to intensify over the coming days.

Links:

California Regional Weather Service

NOAA

NASA/Lance-Modis

AccuWeather

(Hat tip to Commenter Steve)

Mangled Jet Stream Brings Worst Storms in Five Decades to Sichuan China; Approach of Super Typhoon Soulik to Result in Hybrid Rain Superstorm?

A persistent south-north flow of the Jet Stream has dredged moisture up from the Indian Ocean, India and Bangladesh and deposited it in a deluge that has persisted over Sichuan, China for at least the past five days. Rainfall in many areas were the worst seen since weather records began in 1954. In one example, the city of Dujiangyan experienced 37 inches of rainfall over the course of 40 hours.

The floods forced nearly 100,000 people to evacuate and have impacted at least 2 million people across the region. Over 200 people are feared dead or missing. With some towns buried under as much as 20 feet of water, thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed or damaged with transportation brought to a stand-still in many of the effected regions. In hard-hit Dujiangyan, a local resort was buried when a hillside collapsed, burying the area to tree-top level in mud and debris and spurring the evacuation of 352 tourists. Raging floodwaters also caused a nearby bridge collapse that sent at least six vehicles into raging flood waters.

In the video below, provided by KIDgrownup, we can see the raging floodwaters washing away buildings and heavy equipment as people flee the disaster site:

Changed Jet Stream Causes Dangerous, Persistent Weather Pattern as Super Typhoon Approaches

A dwindling, but still significant, number of media sources continue to claim that we cannot attribute single events such as the most recent Sichuan Floods to climate change. Unfortunately, this claim is simply untrue. Climate is a measure of weather over a given area during a long period of time. As climate changes so does the weather. In Europe, for example, major flood events are now twice as likely as they were forty years ago. This 100% increase in floods can be directly attributed to changes in Europe’s climate and, as such, fully 50% of each new major flood is, therefore attributable to climate change. And the fact that the most extreme floods are getting more extreme can also be attributed to climate change. In this case, saying a single record flood event, like the current Sichuan flood, cannot be attributed to climate change is at least 50% untrue. Would a flood like this have occurred, eventually, if climate hadn’t changed? Probably. But it likely would have happened 50, 100, 200 years or more later. Would it have happened this year, the way it did, without climate change? Absolutely not.

At the micro level, we can also look at weather patterns and clearly point out how they are not normal and how they’ve changed as a result of human-caused climate impacts. In the example of this week’s Sichuan Floods, the Jet Stream created conditions where heavy rains, so far, have stalled over Sichuan to inundate the region.

Sichuan Floods July 8

(Sichuan Floods, July 8. Image source: Lance-Modis)

In the above image we can see a thick blot of clouds hovering over Sichuan in Central China. This dense band of clouds is the result of a cut off upper air flow of the Jet Stream forming a strong, persistent upper level disturbance. To the south, we can see a broad band of clouds and moisture being drawn into the system from the Indian ocean and over India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam. To the east, a tropical system in the Korean Sea also contributes moisture to feed this large storm.

What is most unusual about this particular weather pattern is that it doesn’t move. And we can see this when we switch to today’s Lance-Modis shot. The below image is 4 days later than the July 8 shot. But the storm over Central China has hardly budged.

Sichuan Floods July 11

(Sichuan Floods July 11. Image source: Lance-Modis)

In this shot, the cut off upper level flow in the Jet Stream remains, the dense cloud pack over Central China remains, the strong upper level low remains, and the moisture flow from the Indian Ocean and related regions remain. Ominously, the only marked difference in this shot is the looming approach of super typhoon Soulik from the China Sea. This major typhoon packs winds in excess of 140 miles per hour and could cause severe damage to Taiwan. However, it’s the ability of this system to deliver moisture into an already moisture rich upper level air flow that may result in even worse conditions for Eastern and Central China over the next few days as the storm is projected to make landfall in Eastern China, then track as far as 200 miles west of Shanghai. At this point, some weather models, including the ECMWF ensemble, show Soulik getting absorbed by the cut-off upper level low now parked over China. Were this to happen, the resulting rain event could be far more substantial than even the record floods seen over the past few days.

The Climate Change Link To Extreme Weather

So how did climate change create the conditions in which this dangerous situation emerged?

  1. The upper level Jet Stream was caused to meander due to a climate change induced loss of sea ice and summer snow cover.
  2. These changes resulted in a slower progression of weather patterns and more cut-off upper level disturbances.
  3. The added atmospheric heat content added both moisture and instability, adding fuel for storms like this one.
  4. Increased ocean temperatures made moisture and heat delivery from ocean systems and tropical cyclones more likely.

Without these conditions, the Sichuan floods were unlikely to have happened with such force, violence and to have been so persistent and long-lasting. And now, a bad situation is made worse via the ocean delivery of a super typhoon, just one of many more frequent storms to plague this region over the last 40 years. An increased frequency a recent scientific study also attributes to climate change.

Hybrid rain superstorm to form over China? Hopefully, not. But, at this point, things aren’t looking too good.

Links:

Lance-Modis

Rainstorms Flood Sichuan China

China Floods Death Toll Rises

Taiwan Evacuates 2,000 Tourists as Super Typhoon Soulik Looms

ECMWF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blocking Patterns: Rivers of Moisture to Converge in Major Rain Event For Eastern US?

Water Vapor July 2

(Image source: GOES/NOAA)

Today, a very muscular blocking high pressure system located over the Western US flexed. After having set off record fires and heat waves it reached deep into the Arctic and drew moisture and more unstable air down from over Hudson Bay across the Rockies and over top of Arizona and New Mexico, igniting powerful thunderstorms which blanketed large areas in hail, heavy rainfall and lightning. A second moisture stream drawn into the high’s circulation from the Pacific also fed these storms.

You can see the bright, high, cold cloud tops now firing over Arizona and New Mexico.

To the east, an upper level low pressure system is just now starting to draw this concentrated moisture into two other feeding, damp air flows. The largest draws straight up from the Caribbean over Florida and then rushes up the US East Coast. The second, pulls moisture from tropical storm Dalila in the Pacific, draws it over Mexico, then pulls it over Mississippi and up the back side of the Appalachians.

The action of this powerful blocking high over the US West and associated upper level  low over the East is likely to result in very moist, rainy conditions for a large section of the country east of the Mississippi River. On the Gulf Coast, as much as 5-8 inches of rain is expected. But a wide swath shows potentials for 1-5 inches over the coming week.

This persistent wet and extremely moist flow raises the risk of flash flood conditions where major storms light off. Record rainfall over many areas has already left the ground saturated and atmospheric conditions are very unstable, setting off the potential for powerful storms.

The broad sweep of these convergent moisture flows also sets up the possibility that even more violent conditions may emerge. Large blocking highs were associated in all the major flood events that have occurred around the world so far this year. In one example, noted by commenter Colorado Bob, Pakistan suffered 120 degree heat under a blocking high during May and June. The high then swept a massive flood of moisture up over India and into the Himalayas. The result there was devastating floods that left hundreds dead in a virtual tsunami of mud and water.

The strength of the current upper level pattern, drawing moisture from the Arctic, the Pacific, a tropical weather system, and from the Caribbean sets in place the components for major instability to meet with four rivers of moisture over the Eastern US. It’s a dangerous set of circumstances that may result in current rainfall forecasts under-shooting long-term totals. This week has already seen a number of torrential downpours over broad sections of the US East Coast. But this flow taps even more moisture than what was previously in place, drawing from multiple sources across an area spanning more than 4,000 miles to link rivers of moisture with unstable air. Let’s hope these convergent flows don’t set off flood events similar to those seen in Europe and India this year.

Fair warning: the mangled Jet Stream now has the Eastern US under the gun.

(Hat tip to X-Ray Mike for his comments on strange storms in Arizona today).

 

Climate Change and Jet Stream Erosion Again: Epic European Floods Drive Thousands From Homes

According to news reports, a broad swath of central Europe is suffering severe impacts from major flooding.

In the Czech Republic, over 3,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as raging flood waters threatened both lives and property. Officials in Prague shut down the subway system and erected flood barriers to protect valuable historic districts from waters that were still rising as of Tuesday. In Germany, at least 10,000 were forced to evacuate as 1,700 soldiers were called up to manage major water rises. The German Chancellor noted that damage from this week’s floods appeared likely to exceed the devastation experienced in 2002, Germany’s worst flood in modern memory.  In Passau, where the Danube reached 12.2 meters above flood stage, the historic city center was under water higher than any level recorded since 1501, the year flood records began. Austria also suffered severe impacts as all three countries remain crippled with road, rail and river service suspended due to immense flooding.

The 2002 flood was called a ‘millennial flood’ because this kind of event is supposed to happen only once every thousand years. Yet flood levels have rivaled that of the 2002 flood at least on one occasion with the most recent flood already exceeding 2002 levels in a number of locations. Unfortunately, human-caused climate change has resulting in 1,000 year floods happening about twice a decade in Europe. And as greenhouse gas emissions continue to ramp up, the situation is likely to grow worse.

This year, extreme weather induced by just this kind of climate change has continued to persist. A major dip in the jet stream plunging down over Greenland and invading Britain and Europe resulted in severe weather throughout this winter and spring. Germany so far has received nearly double the amount of rain of a normal spring. Britain has suffered its wettest spring on record, while Italy saw its wettest conditions in 150 years. Since the early 2000s, four record floods have impacted Europe causing between $1 billion and $40 billion dollars in damages. The current event is likely to rival the most damaging of these floods.

Increasingly, scientists are showing that loss of Arctic sea ice caused by human warming is a primary contributor to these extreme weather events. Sea ice volume is down as much as 80% since 1979. This major erosion, scientists note, results in a slowing of the polar Jet Stream. This slowing, in turn, creates a higher frequency of blocking patterns that cause weather conditions to persist for long periods over a given area. In Europe, the northwest-southeast dip in the Jet Stream has resulted in cooler, stormier conditions to persist through southern and central regions since winter. It is a pattern that has been stuck in the same mode for months, bringing storm after storm to the region.

Back in April, the UK Met Office held an emergency meeting to discuss the impacts of climate change on the Jet Stream and attempted to plan for the severe weather now in store. Earlier this spring, the European Environmental Agency warned of the potential for record flooding. Now these predictions appear to be born out.

Links:

Record Floods Inundate Central Europe

Historic Flooding in Central Europe

Rising Global Temperatures Spawn Worldwide Rash of Summer Disasters

Natural disasters spurred by human-induced climate change are ravaging the globe. Wildfires raged in the US, Russia, and Spain. Massive Floods took the lives of scores and left millions homeless in India and Bangladesh. In North Korea, a 100 year drought is worsening a decades-long hunger crisis. And, again in the US, a thunderstorm packing more than five times the energy of a normal summer rumbler formed over Chicago before ripping a 300 mile wide swath of destruction to the Atlantic Ocean, leaving 22 dead and millions without power amidst one of the worst heatwaves on record.

Fires

Image

The above image, shot from space, shows scores of fires raging over the Siberian tundra where heat combined with methane seeps and lightning strikes to form a combustible brew. Massive smoke plumes bellowed from these fires intermingling in an Earth-spanning haze with fires all over the Northern Hemisphere. Unprecedented summer heat, five, ten, fifteen degrees hotter than normal fueled the blazes speckling the Earth’s surface like scattered embers. In the US, an enormous conflagration claimed over 350 homes and multiple lives. In Spain, the city of Valencia was blanketed by ash as a 45,000 hectare blaze roared through the countryside. Many of the fires were massive, covering scores of square kilometers. The High Park fire in Colorado, seen in the image below, sprawled to a massive inferno covering 235 square kilometers.

Image

In Spain, Colorado, and Russia, the fires were the worst in years to decades. But that they were so numerous, all burning away at the same time, was unprecedented.

Floods

If the terrible fires raging over the globe weren’t enough, massive floods again struck southeast Asia, claiming lives and making millions of people climate change refugees. A massive flood spanning eastern India and Bangladesh left 2.3 million people homeless and killed 180. Rivers overflowed and claimed lives, often engulfing entire villages. More than 700 refugee camps were erected to shelter with the displaced. But the threat of illness abounded in the disaster’s wake.

Image

Droughts

All across the United States, much of the country suffered from dry or drought conditions. NOAA’s sensors showed more than 56% of the US toiling under various stages of drought, and more than 70% of the nation experiencing abnormally dry conditions. The signal sent in most places was the same: the country was drying out. In many places conditions were expected to persist or worsen over the coming weeks and months. This continent-spanning drought threatened the largest corn crop in US history. This crop was planted, in part, to help improve US energy security, providing immense volumes of corn for use in a more than 1 million barrel per day ethanol industry, a key bastion against oil imports. Should this crop be hampered by drought it could harm both US energy security and world-wide food security.

Image

Perhaps most tragically, North Korea which has suffered from sporadic hunger and famine for more than a decade, is now experiencing the worst drought conditions in 100 years. The drought, caused by temperatures more than 8 degrees higher than summer averages, became so severe that North Korean soldiers were dispatched to aid in the watering of crops. According to the UN, this ongoing drought threatens more than 3.5 million people with starvation.

The Derecho

Returning to the US, an unprecedented and powerful storm that many compared to an inland hurricane spawned just west of Chicago on Friday. Fueled by atmospheric instability and temperatures that, in some places, measured over 115 degrees Fahrenheit, this storm blossomed into a monstrous system spanning as much as 300 miles along its intense gust front. The storm ejected powerful volleys of lightning, torrential downpours, and winds that in some cases exceeded 80 miles per hour. Ripping through Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, and New Jersey, this unprecedented storm knocked out power to millions of customers, uprooted and ripped the tops off trees, and killed more than 22 people. The intensity of this storm was equally excessive, measuring more than five times the energy of a normal thunderstorm on the storm intensity index.

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Looking at the above image, it is easy to see why so many meteorologists compared this storm to an inland hurricane.

Severe Impacts of Global Warming Happening Now

Given all this terrible warmth, drought, fire, and weather, it is increasingly clear that the conditions climate scientists have warned us about are happening now. In fact, many scientists are saying just that. In an interview on PBS, Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research stated:

I don’t think there has been anything quite like this before. The odds are changing for these to occur with the global warming from the human influences on climate. You look out the window and you see climate change in action.”

Links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/korean-drought-worst-in-century_n_1626932.html

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/157473#.T_OuI_X9Ufw

http://www.universetoday.com/95889/huge-wildfires-burn-on-opposite-sides-of-the-planet/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/07/03/510481/media-connecting-the-dots-on-us-storms-heat-and-wildfires-this-is-what-global-warming-looks-like/

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Global Warming Induced Heat, Fires, and Floods Ravage US

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The mainstream media isn’t saying it. But the truth is obvious to anyone with a clear pair of eyes and a mind unadulterated by ideology: the US is getting pummeled by the effects of global warming induced fires and floods. Over the past week, scores of fires have burned through Colorado and California, leaving hundreds of square miles burned, hundreds of homes lost, injuries and at least one death. In Florida, the fourth named storm of a hurricane season that began far earlier than usual slammed into Florida, dumping over 30 inches of rain in some locations.

The combined one, two punch comes after the hottest spring on record in the United States and during a period of time when dust bowl era temperature records are being smashed one after another. In the mid-west, temperatures ranging from 105 to 115 degrees shattered old records, in some cases by as much as 12 degrees.

It is only June. So the early onset of high temperatures, wildfires, and tropical storms doesn’t bode well for the rest of 2012. Both wildfire and hurricane seasons usually peak during the months of August through October. The onset of record storms and fires in June is an unprecedented beginning and hopefully not a forerunner to even worse weather and fires to come.

Hellish afterglow

Victims of wildfires in Colorado, after being forced to evacuate their homes, described some of the unreal scenery as they drove through the state Tuesday night. One observer said that the sky was lit with the red glow of fires raging all over the state, comparing the scene to ‘hell on Earth.’

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Unfortunately, Wednesday morning saw one of the most threatening of the many fires ravaging Colorado double in size. The exploding Colorado Springs fire has now forced more than 30,000 people to flee their homes. With only 5% of the blaze contained, officials are now rushing more than a thousand firefighters to the scene. Pre-evacuation orders have also been issued in counties adjacent to the blaze and it appears that even more people may be displaced before the expanding fire is contained.

Warnings from climate scientists ignored, under-reported

Over the past three decades, climate scientists have been warning that increased global temperatures caused by human emissions of greenhouse gasses would result in more heatwaves, fires, and extreme weather events. Over the past five years, with about 1.5 degrees of warming, these kinds of events have been growing in scale and intensity. With business as usual climate estimates predicting another six degrees of warming over this century, unless greenhouse gas emissions are substantially curbed, one can only expect the extreme weather, temperatures and fires to worsen.

Links:

http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_20949290/wildfire-devours-homes-colorado-springs?source=most_viewed

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/06/27/507119/hell-and-high-water-strikes-media-miss-the-forest-for-the-burning-trees/

http://capitalclimate.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-high-plains-high-heat-yet-another.html

 

Please help support our continuing efforts.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

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