Advertisements

Hot Blob off Southeast Australia Fuels Life-Threatening Rain Bomb Event

Hot Blobs. These pools of severe warmth at the ocean surface have, during recent years, fueled all kinds of climate change related extreme weather ranging from droughts to floods to record hurricanes.

(Hot blob southeast of Australia features ocean temperatures as high as 8 F [4.5 C] above average. This is an extreme climate and severe weather-triggering feature related to climate change. One that has also been associated with strong, persistent atmospheric ridges and related high pressure systems. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The blobs themselves often form under persistent and strong high pressure systems which lock-in both heat and high rates of evaporation. These highs, sometimes called resilient ridges, are thought by a number of experts to be an upshot of changes to both atmospheric circulation and energy balance as a result of the Earth warming. They are an example of the kinds of extreme climate and related severe weather triggering outliers you would tend to expect in a warming world. A new kind of weather phenomena producing new effects.

Today, sea surface temperatures between Australia and New Zealand are ranging as high as 8 F (4.5 C) above average. A very significant warm temperature departure for this area of ocean. One that well meets the qualification for the term ‘hot blob.’ The large blocking high associated with the blob has, for some time now, been circulating very high volumes of moisture evaporating off these much warmer than normal waters over Eastern Australia. This moisture loading provides fuel for powerful storms in the form of both more explosive atmospheric lift and higher rainfall potential.

(Ridge-tough dipole triggers extreme weather in region prepped by moisture venting off an ocean hot blob. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

All that heat and moisture bleeding off the hot blob just needed a catalyst to produce the kind of climate change related event I’ve been calling a ‘rain bomb.’ And, unfortunately for Southeast Australia, just this kind of catalyst in the form of a sharp facing trough in the Jet Stream and related upper level low forming over South Australia is on the way.

From today through late Friday, this low will generate added atmospheric energy that will produce very severe thunderstorms over Southeast Australia. Ones capable of generating extreme rainfall amounts in excess of 2 inches per hour over certain locations. With total rainfall amounts hitting between 4 inches (100 mm) and 12 inches (300 mm) between now and late Friday.

(Predicted extreme rainfall event is being fueled by very warm sea surface temperatures to the east.)

The storm system will also generate strong winds, lightning, and tidal flooding for some locales.

This is a dangerous event risking loss of property and life with a number of climate change related factors involved. Those in the areas affected should stay tuned to local weather (BOM) and government emergency management for storm and response information.

CREDITS:

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Vic

Advertisements

La Nina Fizzles, Pacific Hot Blob Returns, Record Global Heat Likely to Remain

A change of three degrees [Celsius] is an “extraordinary deviation — something you would expect to happen once in a millennium.” — Richard Dewey, www.SkepticalScience.com, on ocean warming in the northeastern Pacific

*****

Four degrees Celsius. That’s the current deviation from the 1981 to 2010 average for sea-surface temperatures over a broad region of the northeastern Pacific, a deviation you typically wouldn’t see once in a thousand years.

During 2013 to 2015 a similar warm-up over this same region of water occurred. Such extreme heat at the ocean surface generated mass loss of sea life. Numerous species from plankton to krill to copepods to starfish and many more on up the food chain were impacted. This great ocean warming also sparked losses of ocean oxygen off Oregon and Washington, pushing waters there into low-oxygen and anoxic states. These states, though they do not support advanced ocean life, tend to support anaerobic microbes that produce various toxins (including hydrogen sulfide gas). At the same time, atmospheric circulation was also impacted, resulting in unprecedented drought conditions for California as a ridiculously resilient ridge of high pressure settled in.

noaa-sea-surface-temperatue-anomaly

(Region of the northeastern Pacific about the size of the state of Washington shows ridiculously hot sea-surface temperatures in the range of 4 C above average. Such once-in-a-thousand-years ocean-surface heat has now occurred for three out of the past five years. As end 2016 nears, this unprecedented blob of hot ocean-surface waters appears to be returning. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

Such a terrible blow to ocean health combined with ever-more-extreme atmospheric conditions are the very hallmarks of a heating climate. As a result, the events associated with the 2013-2015 hot blob will likely, in future years, be seen as one of the warning shots across North America’s bow — an indication that climate change-related impacts were about to seriously worsen.

Hot Blob Re-Forms as La Nina Splutters

Now, after a one-year hiatus, the hot blob is back and northeastern Pacific sea-surface temperatures are again on the rise. A previously-predicted La Nina is abruptly spluttering out, apparently crushed by a periodic warming of the northeastern Pacific called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). This natural variability-related feature is combining with climate change-induced ocean warming to again push ocean surface temperatures into unprecedented ranges.

heat-fire-risk-california

(The northeastern Pacific hot blob is a climate change-related feature that contributes to record heat, drought and wildfire risk for California. Over the coming week, the re-formed hot blob appears ready to plunge the state into 90 to 1oo degree (F) conditions — which will intensify wildfire risk for the state. Image source: Pivotal Weather.)

With the PDO again firing up, the hot blob re-forming, and La Nina starting to splutter, we can expect global temperatures to remain closer to the record-hot levels achieved during 2015 and 2016. This is bad news in that 2017 through 2022 might see another record-hot year coordinate with El Nino, which would push even closer to 1.5 C and 2 C climate thresholds — a clear sign that the age of fossil fuel exploration and burning needs to end as swiftly as possible if livable climate conditions are to be maintained.

Nearer-term, if this heat in the northeastern Pacific remains in place, we can expect worsening hot and dry conditions for the U.S. west coast even as sea life in the affected region again falls under threat. With global temperatures now hitting a range of 1.2 C or more above 1880s averages, there is risk that this event could match or even exceed the related harmful impacts seen during the 2013 to 2015 timeframe.

high-amplitude-jet-stream-waves-rrr

(Unusual high-amplitude Jet Stream ridging over the U.S. west coast like that predicted for Sunday in the GFS model run is associated with both extreme sea-surface temperatures in the northeastern Pacific [the hot blob] and sea-ice loss in the Arctic, both caused by global warming due to fossil-fuel burning. Note the numerous additional powerful ridge and trough formations running downstream of this unusual Jet Stream feature. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Climate Change Links Again Non-reported by Media

Despite an obvious relationship between global warming and extreme regional heating events like the hot blob, some prominent media sources continue to link the formation of the hot blob to natural variability without mention of climate change. To do so fails to tell the whole story. Without that 1.2 C warming of the Earth since the 1880s due to our rampant burning of fossil fuels, we would not be seeing so much heat piling up in the northeastern Pacific. As such, the PDO has been put into a kind of climate change hyperdrive. And that’s what’s creating conditions under which these big, dangerous ocean hot blobs continue to grow.

Links:

Skeptical Science

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge

NOAA ESRL

NOAA ENSO

Pivotal Weather

Earth Nullschool

The Weather Channel

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

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

 

NASA, NOAA — 2015 Was Hottest Year on Record By a Significant Margin. 2016 May be Even Hotter.

“Even without El Niño, this would have been the warmest year on record.” Dr Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA GISS, in a press conference today.

******

2015 was a historic year for global temperatures. A massive accumulation of greenhouse gasses pushing above 400 parts per million CO2 (and hitting in the range of 485 ppm CO2e) combined with one of the strongest El Ninos on record to spike global temperatures in every major climate monitor well beyond the 1 C above 1880s threshold. This marks the first time in the history of human civilization that temperatures have been so hot globally. A severe departure that moves our current world decisively out of the Holocene context and into hitherto uncharted territory.

Global Land Ocean Temperature Index

(NASA Land-Ocean Temperature Index shows a historic record hot year for 2015. A trend line that speaks volumes for how much human-forced warming through fossil fuel burning has altered the world’s climate. Image source: NASA GISS.)

In the NASA monitor, 2015 beat out previous record hot year 2014 by a significant 0.13 C margin. A measure 0.87 C above the 1950-to-1981 NASA 20th Century base-line and fully 1.09 C above 1880s averages. Just one look at the graph above tells a stark story of raging global temperature increases — especially since 1980 where the average decadal increase is now solidly above 0.15 C every ten years.

NOAA’s own monitor tells a similar story with 2015 coming in at 0.90 C above the 20th Century average or about 1.12 C above 1880s averages. That’s just 0.38 C below the increasingly dangerous 1.5 C threshold and just 0.88 C below the very dangerous 2 C mark. If the current rapid warming trend in the global temperature graph were to merely continue, we’d pass the 1.5 C mark in less than two decades time and hit the 2 C mark within just 4-5 decades. That said, if an analysis by Dr. Michael Mann is correct, we could hit the 2 C mark by as early as the middle 2030s if we continue fossil fuel burning at such a ridiculously rapid rate.

Most Heat Concentrated Northward

Though 2015 was the hottest year on record, not all of that heat was evenly distributed. Though practically all of the globe experienced above average temperatures for the year, there were noted exceptions. Greatest above average temperature departures concentrated in the upper Latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Alaska, Western Canada, the Beaufort Sea, the High Arctic north of Svalbard, the Barents and Laptev Seas and most of Northern Continental Asia experienced extreme temperature departures in the range of 3 to 3.6 degrees Celsius above average. Exceptional heat in the range of 2-3 degrees Celsius above average also held sway over the Western United States and an area of warmth in the Northeastern Pacific dubbed the hot blob.

Geospatial Anomalies 2015

(2015 Showed a continued Northern Hemisphere Polar Amplification with regions near and within the Arctic showing the greatest above average temperature anomalies. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Though most of the world showed above average temperature readings, negative departures appeared in the region of the Southern Ocean just north of Antarctica and in the cool pool zone of the North Atlantic south of Greenland. During recent years, atmosphere to ocean heat transfer has been quite intense in the Southern Ocean — the upshot of increasingly powerful storms in the 50s and 60s South Latitude region. The North Atlantic cool pool has also been a persistent feature during recent years — one that is likely related to a weakening of the northward flow of the Gulf Stream, a weakening of overturning circulation in the North Atlantic, and an increased rate of glacial melt outflow from Greenland (as the current signal is stronger than traditional AMOC variability). So, ironically, both cool pools remain as ever more clear indicators that the global climate system is being driven out of balance by a rampant human emission of fossil fuels.

2016 — Third Hottest Year in a Row?

Looking ahead, it appears that 2016 may come in as yet one more hottest year on record. An event that, should it occur, would mark the first time in the global climate record that three back-to-back years set new global atmospheric temperature records (2014, 2015, and 2016).

Heat blowing off into the atmosphere from a record or near-record El Nino still likely hasn’t had its full impact. So the first 4 months or so of 2016 may see some very severe high temperature departures similar to or even higher than what we saw in December (1.42 C above 1880s for JMA, 1.34 C above 1880s for NASA, and 1.33 C above 1880s for NOAA). This probable early-year temperature spike for 2016 may be enough to carry the year forward as the new record holder given the fact that the current El Nino is expected to persist through late spring or early summer. So a record warm 2016 has better than even odds of occurring given the fact that the 2015-2016 El Nino was so strong and since it may hold on well into 2016.

More Warming in the Pipe

Longer term, the rate of greenhouse gas accumulation in the Earth atmosphere on the order of more than 2 parts per million CO2 each year and in the range of 3 parts per million CO2e does not at all bode well. As noted above, simply remaining on the current path of global temperature increase brings the world above 2 C in just 4-5 decades even as risks increase, given current levels of emissions, that the world could see 2 C worth of warming by the mid 2030s. And since greenhouse gasses are the driver in total of the current rampant global temperature increase, we should be very clear that rapid cuts to zero to net negative carbon emissions are necessary for the protection of human civilizations and for the protection of the life-sustaining capacity of the Earth itself.

Links:

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record Shattering Global Temperatures in 2015

NASA GISS

NOAA Global Analysis

Far Worse Than Being Beaten by a Hockey Stick

Exceptional Slowdown in North Atlantic Overturning Circulation

Observing the Atlantic Overturning Circulation

Arctic Report Card 2015

California in Losing Battle With Climate Change as Wildfires Devour 700 Homes, Force 23,000 to Flee

The oceans and airs of the world are warming. The waters of the Northeastern Pacific have concentrated that heat — resulting in the formation of powerful high pressure systems never seen in modern human memory. Highs that have warded off rainfall from the US West Coast for the better part of five years. Highs that have boosted already above average heat for the region so that now California snowpacks are at their lowest levels in at least 500 years. A lack of rainfall and water flow from snow melt setting off the worst drought in at least 1,200 years. One that has greatly contributed to the death of millions of trees across the state and increased fire risk to extreme and likely never before seen levels.

(Escaping the Valley Fire. Central Valley resident flees unprecedented and dangerous climate change spurred fires late Sunday night. Human forced warming is making these fires more common — creating a very dangerous situation for the US West.)

For decades now, researchers have identified drought in the southwestern US as one of the primary hazards of human-forced climate change. But this year, after five years of related drying, some of the worst wildfires in the Golden State’s history are threatening both Sacramento and the Central Valley.

“We Have Nothing”

Now, as of early morning on Tuesday, nearly 150,000 acres of wildfires in Central California have destroyed more than 700 homes and over 1,200 structures, endangered more than 9,000 more, resulted in the calling up of an army of 2,000 firefighters (For this region alone. Across the US West more than 18,000 firefighters are battling blazes), killed at least one person, and forced more than 23,000 to flee (see more here). It’s an egregious human toll. One in which more and more people are saying heart-wrenching words like these — “We have nothing.”

(Climate change refugees in the USA. Thousands of California residents have been displaced and hundreds have lost their homes due to a recent severe wildfire outbreak related to human-caused climate change. Video source: State of Emergency Declared.)

Perhaps the worst thing of all about these globally mounting tragedies is the fact that these increasing instances of extreme, climate change driven weather, were preventable. Now we are forced to live with the damage, danger, and tragic loss of lives and homes we’ve already locked in. Now we are forced to hope that wiser leaders than the ones we’ve had thus far will work as hard as possible to limit the degree of terrible harm that is all too certainly on the way.

There are harsh consequences to dumping 11 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each and every year. A rate faster, as an initial forcing, than at any rate in geological history. Governor Jerry Brown, horrified by the severity of the situation this week stated

“We are really in a battle with nature, … nature is more powerful than we are.”

Partly true. What’s really happening is that we’ve riled nature into a climate change driven frenzy of heat and fire. And it’s becoming too violent for us to manage.

Links:

Nature: California Snowpacks are at Lowest Levels in at Least 500 Years

California Experiencing Worst Drought in at Least 1,200 Years

Escaping the Valley Fire

Climate Change Risks Southwest’s Dustbowlification

One Dead As California Wildfires Rage

Valley Fires Have Destroyed 700 Homes

State of Emergency Declared

California Wildfires Raging

Hothouse Monsters Clash: Godzilla El Nino Pummels Pacific’s Hot Blob

Two climate change spawned monsters are duking it out over thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean waters. And in a human heated world its an epic battle between these two warming fueled atmospheric and oceanic goliaths — the Godzilla El Nino versus the Pacific Ocean’s Hot Blob.

*  *  *  *  *

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. RRR. Blocking high pressure system. All names given to a sprawling heat dome that has plagued the U.S. West Coast for the better part of two years running. It’s a weather system largely responsible for the California drought — the worst in at least 1200 years. A weather system implicated in an extraordinarily intense outbreak of wildfires across the North American West from Alaska through British Columbia and all along the US West Coast — including within the usually moist rain forests of Washington and Oregon.

image

(The RRR is shrinking and increasingly besieged by storms. A sign that the El Nino related Pacific Storm track intensification is beginning to assert. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

It’s a system connected to a climate change-enforced melting of Arctic sea ice and a similarly forced warming of the Northeastern Pacific Sea surface far above typical temperatures (see here, here, and here). An unprecedented and extreme heating of waters into a ‘Hot Blob’ stretching for thousands of miles. A related drying of airs. Oceanic and atmospheric heat energy generating an implacable atmospheric bully. A high pressure system so powerful it typically flung Pacific Ocean storms far off course — as far north as the High Arctic.

But now the RRR is starting to weaken. Its great northward extending ridge has retreated from Alaska. Intense storms exploding out from a system that is likely to rival the strongest El Nino on record (1997-1998) are now surrounding the ridge, nibbling away at its edges, cooling the waters of the hot blob through Ekman pumping, and raging on through Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

image

(Storm-based upwelling is starting to cool Northeastern Pacific Ocean waters in a region that has been dominated by the Hot Blob during recent years. A condition that is undermining some of the RRR’s support. El Nino based storm generation to the south will likely continue to aim blows at this oceanic heat base. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

It’s early sign of RRR collapse. That the Hot Blob is starting to fail. With some of the precursors to likely far more intense Fall and Winter storms starting to get caught up into its spiraling decline. And as sea surface temperature anomalies are likely to hit 2.0 to 2.3 C above average in the Niño 3.4 zone in this week’s NOAA El Niño report, more RRR-challenging storms are likely on the way.

As Ricky Rood over at Weather Underground said this week it’s Godzilla vs the Blob. And Godzilla, at this point, appears to have the upper hand. And once the Blob goes down there’s nothing to keep what are likely to be some seriously epic storms slamming into the west coast of North America this Fall and Winter. But according to recent science, there’s a high risk that the Blob will creep on back as the Godzilla El Nino retreats during mid to late 2016. And for the West Coast that means high risk of a pretty vicious cycle of drought to flood to drought. A dangerous weather pattern intrinsically related to human-forced climate change.

Links:

Earth Nullschool

Godzilla Versus the Blob

California Drought Worst in 1200 Years

Climatologist Who Predicted California Drought Says it May Soon be Even More Dire

Dr. Jennifer Francis: Arctic Sea Ice, the Jet Stream and Climate Change

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Monster El Nino Hurls Record Barrage of Hurricanes at Hot Blob, Sets Sights on Drought-Ravaged California

The Hot Blob in the Northeastern Pacific held its own for quite some time. But it now faces the assault of a barrage of tropical cyclones spat from the maw of a monster El Nino that is now tracking its way toward the strongest such event on record. If this keeps up, the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge warding storms off the US West Coast will be besieged by increasingly powerful cyclonic systems. The Ekman pumping from such storms will cool the ocean surface at its periphery and expanding toward its heart, eventually crushing the ocean impetus for ridge formation. The continuation of such a pattern could then kick Bjerknes feedback into higher gear — opening wide the door for powerful storms striking the US West Coast this Fall and Winter.

*   *   *   *   *

A Record-Shattering Barrage of Pacific Cyclones

Late during the evening of August 29th of 2015 something odd happened. For the first time in the history of modern meteorological record keeping, three category four typhoons simultaneously churned their way northward through the Pacific Ocean. These massive and powerful storms, just one category shy of the strongest typhoons we have a measure for, were hurled out of a region of extremely hot sea surface temperatures near the Equator. A zone, that for late August was also hitting record hot levels amidst a building Monster El Nino. And never before in modern memory had so many storms of such high intensity filled Pacific Ocean waters.

image

(Signs that powerful Fall and Winter storms are coming for the US West Coast? From north to south, strong cyclones are starting to put the squeeze on the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. The Central and Eastern Pacific between 10 and 30 North, in particular, shows an eye-widening number of tropical cyclones. As of Tuesday, September 1, a whopping four tropical systems were churning northward out of an extremely hot El Nino zone. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

By today, the furthest northward cyclones had vented their fury and dropped in intensity. Meanwhile, a fourth storm — tropical depression 14-E — was in the process of exploding over the very hot waters of the Eastern Pacific. It’s an unprecedented number of storms flowing out of what may become the strongest El Nino on record as part of a powerful ocean-atmospheric feedback.

Strong Bjerknes Feedback to Crush RRR?

Now, this strong storm pulse is starting to put the squeeze on the famed Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (RRR). It’s a persistent ridge that for the better part of three years has turned storms away from the US West Coast — deepening already prevalent drought conditions over California and threatening water security across the US West.

But now the RRR is surrounded by storms. A strong frontal trough runs from 30 North across the Central Pacific and on up into the Bering Sea. Another significant late summer low churns off the Pacific Northwest — running south and east toward Seattle and British Columbia. And four tropical cyclones push northward into the ridge’s southern boundary. It’s a full court atmospheric press. One that, through the mechanism of Ekman pumping, will push for the generation of upwelling and related cooling of the Northeastern Pacific waters beneath the RRR.

Bjerknes Feedback

(Sea surface temperature and atmospheric conditions are beginning to fall more in line with an El Nino related pattern called Bjerknes Feedback. Image source: NOAA.)

If this happens, a good portion of the RRR’s atmospheric inertia will fail — opening wide the door for a powerful west to east storm track development fed by heat rising off a Monster El Nino sprawling over the Equatorial zones. It’s a pattern that’s starting to look like a rather significant Bjerknes-type feedback to a record or near record El Nino. One that may well continue to develop and grow ever-stormier as Fall progresses.

2015 El Nino Still Heating Up, Expected to Heat Up More

Feeding the powerful pulse of storms is a still-heating Equatorial Pacific. As of Monday, NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report found that the critical Nino 3.4 zone had warmed 2.2 degrees Celsius above average. This warming follows an inexorable three month rise that began in June and has mostly continued unabated. Furthermore, seasonal trends together with the already powerful observed atmospheric feedbacks would tend to continue to push surface warming through October and November. So it’s likely that an El Nino that has already ventured well into monster event range will warm further over the coming 4-10 weeks — setting the stage for a possible excession of 1997’s record setting intensity.

image

(The 2015 El Nino is starting to look like one of the very intense events some climate models predicted as an upshot of human-forced global warming. It’s only early September and Nino 3.4 is already 2.2 C hotter than average. This Equatorial Pacific region is still heating up as storm-forced up-welling begins to develop cool regions in the RRR supporting zones of the Northeastern Pacific Hot Blob. It will take a boatload of strong storms to crush the RRR, but the still strengthening monster El Nino to the south keeps firing them northward. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Model runs still point toward this possibility with CPC/IRI convergent and dynamic 3 month average predictions in the range of 2.3 to 2.5 C above average (which would beat out 1997’s 2.2 C departure). Meanwhile, uncorrected CFSv2 model runs continue to put the October, November, December 3 month average prediction in the range of 2.75 C above baseline. A level that would basically blow the 1997 El Nino out of the water. To this point it’s worth re-iterating that weekly sea surface temperature departures for the Equatorial Pacific are now entering record setting ranges. Many analysts, like Weather Underground’s Steve Gregory, expecting these waters to continue to warm over the coming weeks.

Conditions in Context: Look Out For Rough Weather Coming to US West Coast

Though it’s too early to lock in the death of the RRR, conditions are lining up that will continue to put the squeeze on this persistent weather pattern. As a result, chances for some very intense storms beginning to slam into the US West Coast starting during October, November and December are on the rise. For those looking to a possible end to the droughts, wildfires and water shortages in the Western US, this potential change in conditions may be seen as a relief.

However, such an extreme switch brings with it the distinct possibility that storms associated with a potential strongest El Nino on record will be very disruptive. The droughts and numerous wildfires throughout the West have established soil conditions that will only enhance flood related impacts. Powerful rains associated with El Nino will likely increase erosion and further damage soils in regions already impacted by the severe droughts, mass tree deaths, and wildfires related to human forced climate change and fossil fuel burning.

California missing two years of rain

(As of August 13, 2015, some parts of California were facing a rainfall deficit of 2 years or more. In order to break the drought, 2015’s monster El Nino would have to set off severe flood conditions during Fall and Winter. With the RRR under threat, is California staring down the barrel of a switch to an equally ridiculous barrage of storms? Image source: National Weather Service, Phoenix.)

To this final point, parts of California are now entering a 2 year rainfall deficit. A deficit that, in some places, equals 30-40 inches or more. A monster El Nino crushing the RRR and massively amplifying the Pacific Ocean storm track and pumping immense volumes of moisture into the mid-latitudes raises the risk that this much water or more could be dumped upon parts of California and the US West Coast in little more than a season. A switch from persistent, crushing drought to flash flood that could be extraordinarily disruptive.

Links:

Earth Observatory: Trio of Hurricanes in the Central and Eastern Pacific

Earth Nullschool

National Hurricane Center

The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge

NOAA: Bjerknes Feedback

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

CFSv2 Model SST Predicted Departures in Nino 3.4

Steve Gregory: El Nino Stronger!

Climate Change Could Double the Likelihood of Super El Ninos

National Weather Service, Phoenix

Hat Tip to Ray Duray

(Please support public, non-special interest based science like the fantastic El Nino reports provided by NOAA and without which this analysis would not be possible.)

US Experiencing Worst Fire Season on Record as Blazes in Washington and Oregon Explode Twelvefold to Over 1 Million Acres

Across the Northwest US — a region known for its damp climate, its rainforests, and for often cool and wet weather — wildfires have been exploding. This summer, heat and dryness settled over the region in a months-long drought and heatwave. By late June, wide areas were seeing their worst fire conditions on record — meaning that heat and drought were generating a never-before-seen potential for wildfire outbreak.

The heat settled in, baking Oregon, Washington and Montana with 90 and, sometimes, 100 degree + heat. Fires sparked and smoldered throughout June, July, and through late August. But over the past twelve days, despite amazing preparation and effort on behalf of fire officials, northwestern wildfires exploded in size by more than tenfold — erupting from about 85,000 acres in coverage to over a million acres burning as of Monday, August 24th.

Astronaught Photo Wildfires August 18

(An astronaut aboard the International Space Station photographs wildfires burning out of control on August 17, 2015. Image source: NASA and TIME.)

In a scene that has become all-too-common in a world that’s 1 degree Celsius above 1880s averages and climbing, firefighters were called in from as far away as Australia to battle the blaze. Prison inmates, firefighters from throughout the US and Canada, and National Guard Soldiers joined with the Australians to form an army to fight the blazes. Numbering more than 20,000, this force’s valiant efforts likely saved hundreds of lives and thousands of structures as fire conditions worsened in Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Montana.

By Thursday, three firefighters had tragically lost their lives as President Obama was calling the situation ‘out of control.’ Through Friday, Saturday and Sunday, acres burned continued to expand as vast plumes of smoke covered large swaths of the United States. Particulates born of the western conflagrations by Monday were hazing skies as far away as Newfoundland.

Massive Smoke Plume from Out of Control Northwest Wildfires

(Massive wildfires burning across the western United States sent out a 1,500 mile long plume of smoke on Saturday, August 22. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Worst US Fire Season on Record Through Late August

As the US Northwest fights valiantly to get its massive wildfires under control, the United States now finds itself in its worst fire season on record through late August. In Alaska alone more than 5.1 million acres have burned. Now, with nearly 7.5 million acres gone up in smoke across the United States since Spring, we are about 300,000 acres ahead of previous worst season 2012.

The US record fire season should not be viewed as an event in isolation. Nor should it be viewed as normal — new or otherwise. It’s an upshot of extraordinarily warm waters in the Northeastern Pacific shoving hot airs northward into regions that typically experience cool, wet weather. The climate of the Desert Southwest has been forced into Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Montana. And the result is that forests, already weakened by rising atmospheric nitrogen levels, and not accustomed to such heat and dryness, are at ever-greater risk of fire. Added dangers and stresses that are the direct upshot of human-based fossil fuel burning and human-forced global warming.

Links:

National Interagency Fire Center

Worst Fire Conditions on Record

LANCE-MODIS

Astronaut’s View of Northwest Widlfires

Resources Scarce as Northwest Fires Grow in Number

Hat Tip to Ray Duray

Monster El Nino Turns Typhoon Eyes Toward Arctic

What does a Monster El Nino look like? In two words — climate change. And by the end of August climate change’s Monster El Nino may have spawned two strong tropical cyclones and hurled their powerful remnant systems into the Arctic.

The 2015 Monster

The Equatorial Pacific is cracking wide open. Heat, at near new records for August, is oozing out. In the Nino 3.4 zone last week, the heat bleed hit a new intensity of + 2 degrees Celsius above average. That puts our current El Nino easily in the running for one of the top three strongest. And the warming there is expected to continue through at least October — possibly setting up conditions in which the 2014-2016 El Nino is the most intense and perhaps longest-running such event ever seen.

image

(Our Monster El Nino and three hot blobs — one off California, one off the Pacific Northwest, and one in the Bering and Chukchi — just keep getting hotter and hotter. The extremity of heat covering this section of the Pacific Ocean is simply extraordinary. And the fact that it keeps building may have some serious impacts on Pacific, Arctic, and North American weather patterns. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Unlike typical El Ninos, the high heat anomalies are not isolated to a band along the Equator. They extend upward across a vast pool that encompasses practically all of the Northeastern and North-Central Pacific. All of the Bering Sea and a chunk of the Arctic Ocean as well. It’s as if the typical El Nino heat has developed a great chimney that runs over thousands of miles from Equator to Arctic. One that encompasses millions of square miles of much warmer than normal ocean surface. An entire zone that, for the ocean, is a blistering 1-5 degrees Celsius hotter than ‘normal.’

The Warming World’s Intense El Ninos’ Dance With Polar Amplification

Scientists have long warned us about this. Warned us that increasing global temperatures through ongoing fossil fuel burning could greatly amplify the intensity and the frequency of strong El Nino events. A recent paper published in Nature has continued this line of research finding that, under human-forced global warming, the frequency of strong El Ninos is doubled. And, right on queue, the 2014-2016 El Nino is shaping up to be one of the nastiest, if not the nastiest such event we’ve yet experienced.

But it’s not just a question of the intensity of heat boiling out of the Equatorial Pacific. It’s also a question of how a strong El Nino behaves in a world that has been forced to warm by 1 degree Celsius. According to Dr. Jennifer Francis, a significant portion of that extra heat has tended to focus in the Arctic. And this extra Arctic heat has, among other things, gone to work weakening the Jet Stream. In some regions, as we see today over the entire Northeastern Pacific, the tendency has been for powerful high amplitude ridges to form. The ridges often extend all the way into the Arctic — developing pathways for yet more heat to hit the high polar zones.

Like El Nino, the ridge over the Northeastern Pacific is involved in an ocean-atmosphere dance. It’s a dance that includes widespread and abnormally warm water (see hot blob strengthens). And it’s a dance that includes the powerful impact of a Monster El Nino stalking the equatorial zones.

El Nino Hurls Twin Typhoons at the Arctic

Last week, this atmospheric dance included the formation of two tropical cyclones. Feeding off the powerful convection rising up over the Equatorial Pacific, these massive cyclones gathered intensity from the easterlies rushing in to feed the El Nino. They steamed north and westward. By today, Typhoon Goni was threatening the Philippines and Taiwan with 125 mph sustained winds. Meanwhile, Super Typhoon Atsani’s 150 mph sustained winds were tearing through Pacific Ocean waters east of Guam.

image

(GFS model forecast graphically displayed by Earth Nullschool finds typhoons Goni and Atsani running into wall of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge by Tuesday. It’s an atmospheric heat bleed from El Nino to Arctic that, according to long range forecasts, has a risk of carrying these strong storms with it. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Over the next few days, the typhoons are expected to turn north and eastward. Goni is predicted to skirt the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. Atsani is expected to remain over open waters to the east of Japan. Both are heading toward the hot, northward moving airs on the backside of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.

Currently, the Ridge is positioned over the Northeastern Pacific Ocean hot pool just south and east of the Aleutians. It’s a strong and very deep high pressure system that’s expected to maintain in the range of 1035 to 1040 mb over the coming days. It’s dredging up the hot El Nino airs of the Equatorial Pacific and flinging them all the way to the Arctic Ocean.

Atsani is expected to plow into the back of this atmospheric wall of hot airs and to then follow the warm flow northward — approaching the Bering Sea edge by next Thursday as a powerful 960 to 970 mb extra-tropical low with Goni’s remnants following in its wake.

RRR meets Atsani With Sights on Arctic

(Forecast sea level pressure map for Thursday, August 27th show Atsani’s powerful remnants on a track for the Bering Sea and Alaska or the Arctic Ocean. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

If Atsani’s remnants enter the Bering as predicted, it will then either track through Alaska or enter the southern Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. At that point, the strength and disposition of the Arctic high will determine its final path. If the high recedes closer to Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago, Atsani’s extratropical system could be projected into the Arctic Ocean proper as a late season cyclone threatening the sea ice. If the Arctic high is more centrally located, Atsani’s remnants would plow down into the facing trough over Western and Central Canada — bringing with it some very stormy weather.

A Very Odd Storm Track

As with last week, we continue to see this odd tendency for a storm track to develop from the Western Pacific through to the Bering Sea, Alaska, and the Arctic itself. It’s a teleconnection-driven atmospheric dance between a powerful summer El Nino, the hot blob of water over the Northeastern Pacific, and the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge riding over top. With such a pattern so firmly entrenched, there’s a risk that this storm track will maintain well into Fall and, perhaps, persist into Winter with Alaska as the destination for Pacific storms. Under such a pattern there is little hope for drought-busting weather to reach California. Which would mean a continuation of terribly dry conditions there unless our Monster El Nino can somehow squash the extraordinarily dogged RRR.

Meanwhile, for the Arctic, the risk of powerful storms plowing through weak, late season ice is looking a little bit less like an outlier event and more and more like a possibility for end August. So we’ll have to keep a close watch on Atsani, Goni, the RRR and the Arctic High.

Links:

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

Earth Nullschool

Frequency of Strong El Ninos Doubles Under Human Heat Forcing

Dr. Jennifer Francis Explains How Polar Amplification Mangles the Jet Stream to Generate Extreme Weather

The Hot Blob Strengthens

Climate Reanalyzer

Wrecked Pacific Storm Track Now Runs from Equator to Arctic Ocean

 

 

 

Wrecked Pacific Storm Track Now Runs From Equator to Arctic Ocean

There’s something not quite right going on in the Pacific.

In the northeast of that great ocean, the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge just keeps growing. A gigantic high pressure cell spreading out to encompass the entire region from the Aleutians to just off the California Coast. This giant, implacable system has lasted now for the better part of two years.  A mountain of atmospheric inertia towering over a deadly, human-warmed, hot pool of Pacific Ocean water.

A Not Normal Storm Track

To the west of our monstrous ridge runs an abnormal storm track. Firing off just north of the Equator and south and east of Japan, the track is fed by tropical systems swinging north and eastward. Merging frontal storms with the warm core cyclones, this storm track runs up along the boundary of the Northwest Pacific and into the Bering. Many of these storms end up bottled there. But a few surge over into the Chukchi and East Siberian seas. In this way, heat and moisture that originated in the tropics is eventually delivered to the Arctic. Exactly the kind of south to north heat and storm potential energy delivery that Dr. Jennifer Francis has been warning us about.

Over the next few days, this storm, heat, and moisture conveyor belt will continue to lend energy to systems firing off over the Pacific side of the Arctic. These storms will generate winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour with higher gusts. They’ll send swells in the range of 4-7 feet rippling across the still ice-smattered waters. And they’ll fling rain, sleet, freezing rain and snow over the still melting ice. An unsettled pattern featuring cold-core systems with an intensity comparable to tropical depressions but firing off in the chill boundary zones along the sea ice melt edge.

Ridge Forms South-to-North Storm Conveyor Belt

image

(Pacific storm track runs from just north of the Equator and on up into the Chukchi in this GFS model forecast for high [white] and low [purple]  pressure systems on Sunday, August 16th. Is this the track that El Nino generated storms take as the world warms? If so, there’s more trouble in store for the Arctic. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Then, according to GFS model runs, things start to get interesting. By Sunday, August 16th our massive Northeast Pacific Ridge starts to really flex its muscles. It heightens to a near 1040 mb high pressure cell and links arms across the Arctic with a 1030 mb high over the Central Arctic Basin and another 1030 mb high over the Barents. In other words, the ridge forms a transpolar daisy chain. And on the left side of this transpolar ridge, the storm and moisture conveyor running toward the Arctic boundary kicks up a notch. Double barrel cyclones fire off in the region of 15 degrees North Latitude spawning from the very strong atmospheric feedback of our monstrous-looking El Nino. Three more storms run in train from 30 North to just past the 70 degree line in the Chukchi.

And all run along a diagonal northeasterly track aimed directly at the Arctic’s thawing heart.

It’s a new, odd storm track. One that, depending on the strength and orientation of the Arctic high either ends in the Bering, or runs all the way to the Pole itself. A heat and moisture delivery system that begins to take form in August but that, during recent years, has churned along through Fall, Winter and Spring. It’s a pattern that in 2015 is fed both by the global warming related hot pool in the Northeast Pacific and an El Nino still plowing toward off-the-charts strong. And due to the immense energy of the weather and climate systems involved it’s an anomalous pattern that risks an extreme storm potential energy delivery running from Equator to Arctic.

Links:

Earth Nullschool

Global Forecast System Model

Hot Pacific Ocean Runs Bloody

The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge

How Climate Change Wrecks the Jet Stream, Amps up the Hydrological Cycle to Generate Extreme Weather

Climate Change’s ‘Blob’ Heats Up In Northeast Pacific

They call it The Blob. No, it’s not some campy 1950s horror flick featuring a gelatinous monstrosity from space aimed at devouring all life in its path. This Blob is a pool of much hotter than normal water that has become increasingly entrenched in the North-East Pacific. A surface zone of record ocean warmth that has persisted and intensified in the same region for the better part of two years.

Though it’s not the sci-fi movie Blob, this particular climate change monstrosity could well be described as stranger than fiction. It’s an ocean feature of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge which has warded storms off the North American West Coast over the past couple of years. A likely upshot of an ongoing Arctic heating — setting off weather conditions that sparked both this year’s massive Northwest Territory Wildfires and the worst drought the California region has seen in at least 1,000 years. And like the sci-fi movie space monster of yore, the Northeast Pacific heat Blob has a nasty penchant for devouring ocean life of all kinds.

image

(Under an ongoing El Nino, the Equatorial Pacific is getting pretty hot with temperature spikes ranging from +2.5 C above normal temperatures at mid-ocean to +4 C above average off the West Coast of South America. But these rather warm temperature anomalies are nothing compared to The Blob [at center frame above] which now features temperatures in the range of +5 C above average. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The news about The Blob today comes in two forms — bad and worse. The bad news is that it’s still there. Still influencing our weather, still threatening sea life and fisheries. And the worse news is that it appears to be heating up. Today’s readings put much of The Blob in the 3.5 to 5.5 C above average temperature range, which is 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius warmer than we’ve seen in this zone since its first heat intensification during the spring of 2014.

Wonky Weather

Back in April, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters and reported in LiveScience found that temperatures over a broad region of Northeast Pacific surface waters had averaged between 1-4 C (2 to 7 F) above normal temperatures.  It covered an area roughly 1,000 miles in diameter and extended about 300 feet below surface waters.

Nick Bond, one of the study’s co-authors (and coiner of the term ‘Blob’), had this statement for the American Geophysical Union:

“In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn’t cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year.”

WarmBlob_April2014_NOAA-2

(Warm Blob T anomalies for April of 2014 as provided by NOAA and AGU. Note that today’s anomalies are well in excess of April 2014 readings.)

The Blob’s large size combined with its failure to cool in spring to set off some rather strange weather impacts, according to the report’s findings. Winds blowing over high heat content ocean waters ran inland over the US and Canadian West Coasts. This invasion pushed warm air over lands and mountains. Snowpacks melted, lands warmed and dried out. Massive wildfires erupted thoughout both the US and Canada.

The hot air mass over the warm water blob has acted as a brutish atmospheric feature since this time. Like a towering wall of air it has consistently deflected oncoming storms that typically charge across the Pacific During Winter and Spring — reinforcing a weird extreme weather regime.

Threat to Sea Life

The AGU report also cited recent severe impacts to sea life as found in a March 17 study by NOAA. Highlights of the NOAA study showed substantial ocean life impacts including weaker copopod production in the warming waters, likely less vital salmon fisheries, bird deaths, marine mammal deaths and starving sea lions due to scarcity of food sources. In addition, the warm temperatures have been linked to a starfish wasting sickness that has killed off millions of sea stars up and down the North American West Coast.

What the NOAA report did not include was growing evidence that warming waters off the US West Coast have (when combined with eutriphication due to atmospheric nitrogen seeding through fossil fuel burning and farm nutrient runoff), since the early 2000s, resulted in increasingly dangerous low ocean oxygen levels (see Starving Sea Lion Pups and Liquified Starfish). It’s a one-two warming and oxygen loss that is pretty amazingly dangerous to ocean life.

The NOAA study further noted that the high sea surface temperatures spurring these impacts were at or near unprecedented levels, a confirmation of the AGU report findings:

We are in some ways entering a situation we haven’t seen before,” said Cisco Werner, Director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif. “That makes it all the more important to look at how these conditions affect the entire ecosystem because different components and different species may be affected differently.”

PDO and Climate Change Not Helping

The current unprecedented warm temperatures in The Blob are, in part, an upshot of a warmer sea surface state now in effect called positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). During these times, Pacific Ocean waters tend to be warmer — especially in the region where the Blob has recently emerged. During December of 2014, PDO hit new all-time record high values — an extreme likely pushed over the top by added atmospheric and ocean heating through human greenhouse gas emissions.

During positive PDO periods, El Nino events both tend to be more prevalent and show higher intensity. And during spring and summer El Ninos, we tend to see increased warming of the Pacific region now dominated by The Blob.

image

(A powerful blocking pattern associated with The Blob remains in place today. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

All these PDO based fluxes are natural variability related. But the real kicker, the icing on the cake of this extreme event is almost certainly climate change. Specifically for the hot Blob zone, general greenhouse gas warming of the adjacent Arctic called Polar Amplification has tended to generate a weakness in the Jet Stream directly over the region. This weakness has tended to aid in Ridiculously Resilient Ridge development and the month on month, year on year heatwaves that have pushed ocean temperatures in this zone into ever more extreme hot values (see Dr. Francis’s “Weird Weather Plot Thickens As Arctic Swiftly Warms“). And though overall global warming now in the range of +0.95 C above 1880s values has also likely contributed in a broader sense, the direct impact to the Arctic has likely aided in the development of a high anomaly heat spike for this particular ocean zone.

So, in total, we have a number of factors pushing record ocean warmth in this region, setting the stage for sea creature death and wrecked North American weather alike. But the primary contributor to these unsettling events is almost certainly climate change. For its influences have made possible the new levels of extreme conditions which we are now experiencing.

Links:

Causes and Impacts of the 2014 Warm Anomaly in the Northeast Pacific

Warm Blob in Pacific Linked to Weird US Weather

NOAA: West Coast Waters Shifting to Lower Productivity Regime

Earth Nullschool

Weird Weather Plot Thickens As Arctic Swiftly Warms

Starving Sea Lion Pups and Liquified Starfish

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: