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Nature — Plants Belched 3 Billion Tons of Carbon into Atmosphere During Monster El Nino of 2014-2016

El Nino. This periodic warming of the Equatorial Pacific has long been known to trigger droughts, wildfires, and higher temperatures throughout the tropics. And, according to a new satellite data based report out of the scientific journal Nature, these very same El Nino feedbacks combined with record global heat to squeeze a massive volume of carbon out of the world’s tropical forests during 2014-2016. From the report:

The monster El Niño weather pattern of 2014–16 caused tropical forests to burp up 3 billion tonnes of carbon, according to a new analysis. That’s equivalent to nearly 20% of the emissions produced during the same period by burning fossil fuels and making cement.

Global Warming + El Nino Sparked Massive Fires, Droughts and Heatwaves in the Tropics During 2014-2016…

The monster El Nino of 2014 to 2016 created serious disruptions to the world’s weather and climate patterns. Emerging during a time when human-forced global warming was rapidly ramping up, this strong natural variability feature generated a severe heat spike in the tropical regions. With the heat near the Equator already at high tide due to human-caused warming, this very strong El Nino produced some of the most severe heatwaves, droughts and wildfires ever experienced during modern times in places like Brazil, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

(Massive Southeast Asia wildfires during a record warm El Nino like these in Borneo during September of 2015 helped to squeeze 3 billion tons of carbon out of tropical forests. A feedback feature related to El Nino and human-caused climate change. Image source: Earth Observatory.)

The Amazon Rainforest, according to a seperate study, experienced record-breaking heat and drought — with the area of drought stretching 20 percent further than during past El Nino years. Temperatures in the Amazon were 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than during the extreme El Nino event of 1997-1998. Both signals that a climate change + El Nino interaction was amplifying the severity of impacts to this crucial tropical forest system.

In Africa and Southeast Asia, the heat was similarly intense — producing numerous 30-100 year or worse droughts, fires, and record high temperatures. Another signal that this harmful interaction was in full swing.

… This, in Turn, Generated a Major Release of Forest-Stored Carbon …

As the droughts and heatwaves were baking deep, and as the forests were stunting, burning, or exhaling more CO2, high overhead, one of Earth’s climate sentinel satellites — the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 — was dutifully taking measurements. And what it found was that all this extra tropical heat resulted in a severe loss of soil and vegetative carbon. That the heat and droughts were sparking forest fires, causing stress, and stunting forest growth. That these processes were dumping prodigious volumes of carbon back into the Earth’s atmosphere.

From the study:

Measurements taken by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, which measures the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, suggest that El Niño boosted emissions in three ways. A combination of high temperatures and drought increased the number and severity of wildfires in southeast Asia, while drought stunted plant growth in the Amazon rainforest, reducing the amount of carbon it absorbed. And in Africa, a combination of warming temperatures and near-normal rainfall increased the rate at which forests exhaled CO2.

Overall, the Nature study notes that 3 billion tons of carbon were added to the atmosphere as a result of harm done to forests and soils during this particularly hot El Nino period.

… Which Helped to Spike Annual Rates of Atmospheric CO2 Accumulation

(Record rates of atmospheric CO2 accumulation during 2015 and 2016 correspond with large belches of carbon from tropical forests as a result of severe heat. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

Elsewhere, this added burst of carbon did not go unnoticed. And measurements from NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory indicates that rates of atmospheric carbon accumulation sped up as El Nino and global warming based heat baked the tropical lands. During 2015, rates of atmospheric carbon accumulation accelerated to their fastest pace on record — growing at 3.03 parts per million per year. And in 2016, the second fastest rate of atmospheric CO2 accumulation on record was recorded — 2.98 parts per million per year. This compares to an average 2.2 parts per million annual accumulation that’s primarily driven by fossil fuel burning.

So what we have here is evidence that a heat and El Nino based carbon feedback occurred in the tropics during 2014-2016 and that this feedback resulted in a significant spike in the rate of atmospheric CO2 accumulation even as human based carbon emissions were leveling off (at record high ranges). With El Nino fading, that tropical carbon feedback should abate. But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to breathe too easy. For with Earth now in the range of 1 to 1.25 C warmer than preindustrial times, carbon stored in soil, forests, permafrost and oceans is now being placed under increasing heat related stress. And continuing to burn fossil fuels keeps adding to the heat gain that further increases the risk of a warmth-amplifying release from all of these stores.

Links:

Massive El Nino Sent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Soaring

Record Heat and Drought Seen in Amazon During 2015-2016 El Nino

NASA’s Earth Observatory

NOAA ESRL

Hat tip to mlparrish

Hat tip to Spike

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Even a Monster El Nino Can’t Beat the Southwest Drought

For those who follow weather, it’s a rather strange and disturbing story.

A powerful Pacific Ocean storm forms about 500 miles south of the Aleutian Islands. Heavily laden with rains, strong winds, and trailing a long squall line, the system takes aim at the US West Coast. It’s a burly beast of a thing. Pumped up by an enormous bleed of moisture rising off of one of the mightiest El Ninos ever seen. An instance of extreme Equatorial heat that’s been firing off since October.

Another Pacific Storm Deflected

(Another Pacific Storm is deflected northward by increasingly persistent high pressure systems as the US Southwest swelters under unseasonable warmth. GFS climate reanalysis by Climate Reanalyzer shows this disturbing weather pattern again and again in the February forecast. In short, it doesn’t look like the California Drought is going to end anytime soon. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

The towering El Nino-fed storm clouds chug east, steaming along toward what appears to be an inexorable collision with California, Oregon, and Washington. But, at the last moment, the storm slams into a heavy pile of atmospheric heat. Warm air building over the US Southwest and nearby ocean zones has shoved the upper air steering current called the Jet Stream pole-ward. The great storm is sucked up into this atmospheric train, delivering its rains along an arc from Washington State on northward.

And so the seemingly impossible has happened. A powerful El Nino’s rains and snows — usually bound directly for California, Oregon and Washington — have been diverted by a new kind of atmospheric pattern associated with climate change.

El Nino’s Rains Gone or Just Taking a Break?

Ever since late January, strong ridges have tended to develop over Western North America. By February 4th, the National Weather Service (NWS) had begun to report on the pattern — describing  it as El Nino taking a 5-10 day break. But the ‘break’ had already begun to show up on January 26th — about ten days prior to the February 4 NWS announcement. And now, on February 10, we’ve seen two full weeks of warm, dry weather settling in over California and the US Southwest. Meanwhile, long range model forecasts indicate that the ‘break’ from El Nino conditions will continue through at least February 16th.

Upper 60s to upper 80s California and Arizona

(Temperatures in the upper 60s to upper 80s is predicted for a large sections of California and Arizona on Tuesday, February 16th. It’s the kind of hot, dry air that brings back memories of recent years when formations of strong, ridiculously resilient ridges pushed California into one of its worst drought episodes on record. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

It’s all just terrible timing. First, California snow packs during December and January began to recover due to strong, El Nino associated, storm systems barreling in. However, now during what should be the peak of the Southwestern rainy season, we have what could be a month long pause in storms hitting the region. It’s as if the rainy season is being hollowed out. And not just any rainy season — a strong El Nino rainy season which should have been far, far rainier than most.

Last week, Climate Central and Peter Gleick — a climate expert at Pacific Institue — made the following warning:

seven days of sustained warmth could melt as much as 30 percent of California’s snowpack. The hot, dry weather is exactly what baked in exceptional drought in California over the past four years. Some signs indicate the heat is driven in large part by climate change, but the role of the ridiculously resilient ridge is still an area of active investigation.

Well, by tomorrow seven days will have come and gone. But the end to the anomalous warm, dry spell is still nowhere in sight.

California Drought Really Hasn’t Budged

Meanwhile, a four-year-long California drought appears to be making a strong run at year five. In fact, if you look at the US Drought Monitor, you’ll find that a large swath of the West is currently suffering under moderate to exceptional drought conditions.

West Still Suffering From Drought

(Severe Drought remains in place over the US West. El Nino appears to have lost at least some of its ability to deliver heavy rains as an intensifying regime of human-forced warming pushes typical weather patterns further and further off-kilter. All bad news for an area that has been suffering from one severe drought after another since the early 2000s. Image source: Drought Monitor.)

Quite frankly, it’s insane that we’re still seeing these conditions during a monster El Nino. These droughts should be rolling back as the storm track intensifies and hurls severe weather at the US West Coast. But that’s not what’s happening. At least not consistently. Instead, we keep getting these extreme ridge patterns in the Jet Stream over western North America. We keep getting these very warm, very dry spells of weather during the wet season. And now, we have California Snowpack melting away in February of all times.

A Ridge-Trough Pattern That’s All-Too Likely Related To A Human-Forced Warming of the Arctic

The fact that these weather patterns emerged after the warmest January and lowest sea ice extents on record for the Arctic is a point that should not be missed by weather and climate analysts. It appears that what we are seeing is yet more evidence that polar amplification is driving a consistent high amplitude bulge in the Jet Stream over Western North America together with severe periods of warmth, dryness and snowpack melt during Winter. The hot side of a dipole pattern that is also setting up more extreme storm potentials as cold air is driven out of the Arctic along a deep trough over the Eastern US, slams into a record hot Gulf Stream, and then sets off a series of atmospheric bombs along a storm track running all the way across the North Atlantic and into Western Europe. Yet more evidence that what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.

Links:

Climate Reanalyzer

Drought Monitor

Hot, Dry Weather Could Cut California Snowpack

Polar Amplification vs A Godzilla El Nino

NWS: El Nino Taking a 5-10 Day Break

Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral Continues

BBC: Storm Imogen Takes Aim at UK

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

 

 

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

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

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

Storm Track Not Making it Far Enough South

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

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge Returns

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

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

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

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

 

NOAA Precipitation

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

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

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

Seasonal Outlook NOAA

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

Polar Warming + Hot Blob Tugging the Storm Track Northward?

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

Hot Blob Pacific Northwest

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

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

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

 

Polar Amplification January 26

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

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

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

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

Links:

El Nino Related Waves, Floods Strike Chile

Dr Kevin Trenberth on El Nino and Climate Change

Earth Nullschool

Climate Reanalyzer

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

NOAA

The United States Drought Monitor

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

Teleconnection between El Nino and North Atlantic Cool Pool

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

LANCE MODIS

Earth Nullschool

Warm Storm Pushes Above Freezing Temperatures at North Pole

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

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

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

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

image

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

One of the 3 Strongest El Ninos On Record

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

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

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

NOAA sea surface temperature anomalies

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

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

Potentially Very Severe Weather on The Way

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

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

Disaster Officials Worry, Make Calls For Readiness

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

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

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

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

43 Foot Waves off US West Coast

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

West Coast Storm

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

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

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

 

Links:

Climate Prediction Center — Cold and Warm Episodes by Season

Monster 2015 El Nino May Be Most Intense Ever Seen

Earth Nullschool

Pacific Northwest Storm Parade to Bring Rain, Wind and Snow

NOAA SST Anoms 5N to 5S

Federal Officials Warn Californians to Prepare for Onslaught

NOAA GOES

NOAA Ocean Prediction Center — Pacific

Hat tip to DT Lange

 

 

Brazil’s Great Amazon Rainforest Burns as Parched Megacities Fall Under Existential Threat

One need only look at today’s satellite image of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest to notice something’s terribly wrong. A vast 1,000 mile swath of what should be some of the wettest lands on the globe running south of the world’s largest river is covered by a dense pall of smoke. Scores of plumes boil up out of the burning and sweltering forest. Pumping dark clouds into the sky, the fires’ tell-tale streaks out over a drought-parched Brazil, across the Atlantic, and over to Africa where the plume is again thickened by yet more wildfires.

Amazon Rainforest burns

(Massive wildfires belch smoke over a vast section of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest. These fires are occurring as much of the country suffers from drought. In the north, the current drought is the worst in at least 50 years. In the southeast, drought is now said to be the worst in at least 85 years. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

The greatest rainforest in the world, sometimes called Earth’s lungs, is burning, blackening, and belching out a thick pulse of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere that is already greatly over-burdened with industry-emitted greenhouse gasses. The world’s largest watershed and remaining largest rainforest combined now finds itself in a crisis of human making. A set of insults that may not now be reversible as the forest begins to succumb to both drought and fire.

It’s a crisis that threatens to turn South Brazil into a desert, to turn one of the world’s vast carbon stores into a carbon emissions source, and to eventually convert the great rainforest itself into dry grasslands. Such a transition would result in yet one more major contributor to increasing global greenhouse gas concentrations even as it puts Brazil’s mega-cities under threat of collapse. And it’s a transition that’s happening now. A violent transformation that likely started during the early 2000s. One now reaching catastrophic new intensities.

Human-Forced Warming, Slash and Burn Agriculture, Godzilla El Nino

The causes for the fires are three-fold and all too often missed in the sparse mainstream media reports of the ongoing catastrophe. First, human-caused warming of the globe is pushing the great rainforest to slowly heat up and dry out. Alone, such warming would be enough to take down the great rainforest if the Earth warmed by between 2 and 4 degrees Centigrade. Since we’ve already seen Earth System warming on the order of 1 degree Celsius above 1880s values, the great forest is now feeling the stress of this added heat. But the forest is now also suffering the insults of what amounts to a half century of slash and burn agriculture. Immense swaths of the forest have been cut and burned away, converted into farmlands. Increasingly, large sections of the forest are isolated into smaller, less productive islands. In addition, the ongoing burning of vast tracts of woodland adds a fire pressure to an already heat-stressed rainforest.

Carbon dioxide hotspots Copernicus

(The Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring System [CAMS] shows a significant carbon dioxide plume rising up off of the fires now burning in the Amazon Rainforest. It was a prediction made by global climate models that human forced warming could turn the Amazon into a net carbon emissions source by the middle of this Century. For the period of Fall 2015, heat and drought have done exactly that. Image source: CAMS.)

Finally, this year, Brazil is experiencing the effects of what is likely to become the strongest El Nino ever recorded. Such Pacific Ocean warming events have a tendency to push the rainforest to dry. And with the great Amazon already suffering from at least a decade of drought, the new, extremely intense El Nino is providing yet one more severe insult on top of all the other damage inflicted by both human warming of the atmosphere and by slash and burn agriculture.

Megacities Suffering Severe Water Shortages

As the Amazon rainforest suffers clear cutting, wildfire, and drought, it pumps less and less water into the atmosphere. Its once massive ‘flying rivers’ are drying out. The loss of these immense atmospheric moisture flows has a particularly acute impact on lands bordering the Amazon — especially in the region of Brazil’s coastal cities. Over the past two decades, the massive cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have suffered from increasingly frequent droughts. However, over the past three years, drought has been particularly extreme.

In Sao Paulo, unofficial water rationing began about two years ago and has remained in effect ever since. Today, the region’s largest reservoir — the Cantariera — remains below dead pool levels even as other reservoirs have fallen under increasing stress. The result is that many of the area’s 20 million people are starting to migrate to cities with better water security. Cities like Jundiai where water conservation policies have prevented shortages despite an ongoing drying of the surrounding countryside.

Brazil Drought NOAA El Nino

(In the July-September 2015 rainfall graphic measure provided by NOAA, we see the Amazon Rainforest experiencing severe water deficits in conjunction with the warmest global temperatures on record and what is likely to become the strongest El Nino on record. A heat pressure that has resulted in severe wildfire outbreaks throughout the Amazon this month. Such impacts will further reduce the moisture content of the flying rivers the cities of Southern Brazil depend on. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

In Rio de Janeiro, the situation is still somewhat better than in Sao Paulo. Water cut-offs have not yet begun in this city of 10 million even though local reservoirs are also starting to dry up. But if dry conditions continue, 2016-2017 will almost certainly see Brazil’s second largest city fall into a crisis similar to that of Sao Paulo.

A recent report by NPR highlights the severity of Brazil’s coastal cities drought:

And [Sao Paulo] is not alone. Brazil’s second largest city, Rio de Janeiro, is also facing water troubles, as are other coastal areas. It’s been an enormous shock to Brazilians, who are used to their country being called “the Saudi Arabia of Water…” But not anymore. Satellite data from NASA shows that the drought in much of southeast Brazil — also home to the region’s breadbasket — is much worse than originally believed.

If these droughts continue, they will threaten to collapse the cities of eastern Brazil. They will put a strain on electricity supplies, on commercial activity, and on practically every aspect of city life — which is largely dependent upon access to water. In eastern Brazil, more than 30 million people now face the threat of this climate change induced destabilization. But what’s worse is the fact that the ongoing burning and drought in the Amazon to the north practically ensures that the flying rivers will continue to wilt, that the droughts in the southeast will grow to become city-killers.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

CAMS Atmospheric Monitoring

As Brazil’s Largest City Struggles with Drought, Residents are Leaving

Drought Takes Hold as Amazon’s Flying Rivers Disappear

New NASA Data Shows Brazil’s Drought Deeper than Previously Thought

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Drought Threatens Water Truck Lifeline in Northeastern Brazil

Is Brazil Nearly Out of Water?

Brazil, Land of Water, Goes Thirsty

Polar Amplification, El Nino or Both? NASA Shows October of 2015 Was Hotter Than All of the Previous 1617 Months

If it seems we are doing a never-ending marathon of hottest posts, it’s simply because the world right now is ridiculously hot. Hotter than at any time ever seen before and being driven inexorably hotter by a combination of human greenhouse gas emissions and what appears to be a global warming weirdified El Nino that doesn’t look anything like a normal El Nino, but instead shows up as an intense blob of extreme heat sitting in a massive hot blob that makes up pretty much all of the Pacific Ocean from the Equator on north.

Busting the Top of the Global Temperature Graph

It’s in this rather crazy weather context that we find, according to NASA, October of 2015 set the bar for new hottest month in the global climate record for all of the past 135 years. That’s right, out of 1618 months in NASA’s global climate record, when comparing current readings to rolling baseline temperature averages, October of 2015 was the hottest one ever seen. A confirmation of the Japan Meteorological Agency’s findings from earlier this week. But one that, in true NASA fashion, also provides a boatload of additional data worth peeping at.

NASA global temperature graph

(With one month remaining in the December-through-November climate year, global temperature averages for the first 11 months of 2015 are now +0.819 C above the 1950-1981 NASA baseline. With November also likely to come in between +0.90 and +1.1 C hotter than normal, the 2015 yearly average is likely to come in well above the top of the chart. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Taking a glimpse at NASA’s Land-Ocean Temperature Index (LOTI), we find that October of 2015 came in at an extraordinary +1.04 C hotter than the 1950 to 1981 average or about 1.26 C hotter than 1880s averages. That’s an extreme temperature departure hitting within 0.74 C of the so-called safe limit of 2 C warming set by the UN. To put into perspective how weird and scary it is to hit such a high temperature departure, the last time temperatures were so high globally for any period of note, sea levels were between 10 and 30 feet higher than they are today. It’s another unfortunate passing of another bad climate marker on the way toward worse and worse to come if we can’t manage to stop emitting so much carbon into the atmosphere.

Overall, October of 2015 beat out the previous record hot month of January of 2007 (0.97 C above the NASA baseline) by 0.07 C. It is also the first month in the NASA monitor to exceed 1 C above the mid-to-late 20th Century range. In total, all of the top five hottest months in the global climate record have now occurred since 2007 with October 2015 (+1.04 C) coming in as hottest, January of 2007 (+0.97 C) coming in as second hottest, March of 2010 (+0.93 C) third hottest, March of 2015 (+0.90 C) fourth hottest, and September of 2014 (+0.89 C) as fifth hottest. But with the monster El Niño blowing up in the Pacific and with atmospheric greenhouse gasses pushing above 400 ppm CO2, it’s likely that many of these top five months could be replaced by new records into early next year. Moreover, the three month period of September, October, and November of 2015 now looks like it will be the first quarter year to exceed +0.9 C above the 1950-1981 baseline in the NASA record.

Warm Equator, Heating Poles

Moving on to NASA’s geospatial temperature anomalies map for the month of October, we see that much of the abnormal heat remains centered at the Poles. This despite a Godzilla El Nino belching hot air into the Equatorial region and pushing a strongly positive Arctic Oscillation. High polar temperature anomalies are an odd result during powerful El Nino periods due to the fact that warming at the Equator tends to strengthen the Polar wind field, locking cold into the upper and lower Latitudes. But over the past two months, Polar temperatures have remained extremely high despite what looks like the most powerful El Nino ever recorded tearing its way through the Pacific.

Global temperature anomalies map October of 2015

(This is what a record hot world looks like in NASA’s global temperature anomalies map. Note both the heat at the Poles and Equator along with the melt and ocean heat uptake related cool pools in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean. Image source: NASA GISS.)

With such high polar temperatures giving what amounts to an atmospheric back-hand to the strongest El Nino on record, it’s a sign that a raging greenhouse gas driven polar amplification is becoming ever more heavily entrenched. The poles, in short, are more sensitive to global temperature swings and tend to amplify any overall warming or cooling trend. Such an additional sensitivity is due to a number of unique feedbacks that come into play in the upper Latitudes as greenhouse gas levels and global temperatures rise or fall. A circumstance that was predicted in even the earliest global climate model runs forecasting the impacts of a human forced heating of the Earth System. And it appears that this feedback-generated added warming is starting to take hold with a vengeance.

Overall, we find the highest temperature deltas in the Arctic Ocean just north of the Kara Sea, over various regions of the far South Antarctic, and over Central and Western Australia. These regions ranged into an extreme +4 to +5.1 C positive anomaly for the month. Broader warm regions featuring +2 to +4 C above average temperatures surrounded these hot zones. Strong warm temperature departures in this range also held sway over the Eastern Equatorial Pacific El Nino hot spot, over a band from North Africa through the Middle East, over the Lake Baikal region of Russia, and over South Africa.

Equator-to-Pole heat transport — another feature we really don’t like seeing — also remained plainly visible in the October NASA anomalies graphic. Two slots of warm air transport into the northern polar zone show up clear as day in the above graphic — one maintaining over Western North America and another holding sway over Northeastern Asia.

Somewhat cool regions include the heat sink zone in the Southern Ocean, the tip of South America, Eastern Europe, and the ominous Greenland melt related cool pool in the North Atlantic (something we also really don’t want to see). Overall, most of the world showed above average readings with cooler regions increasingly isolated on the NASA map.

zonal anomalies NASA

(Zonal anomalies map shows a strong polar amplification despite El Nino. Image source: NASA GISS)

At last coming to the zonal anomalies graphic, we again observe a very strong polar amplification for the month of October. Here we note that the highest global temperature anomalies occur at both the South and North Poles. These extreme temperature spikes in the range of +3.3 to +3.5 C above average for the month are plainly visible in the upward tilting ‘devils horns’ (another unfortunate climate change indicator) at both the left and right border of the graph. As we move toward lower Latitudes, temperature departures rapidly fall off into the global cool and stormy zones between 50 and 60 North and South Latitudes. Anomalies then steadily climb to an El Nino-warmed Equatorial region (+1.2 to +1.4 C).

November of 2015 Also Likely to Test New Records

Looking toward November, early indications are that both the record or near-record global surface temperatures and the tendency for polar amplification continue. Land and ocean temperatures appear to have extended their October jump into new record ranges. El Nino, which under the regime of human-forced warming has often nudged global temperatures toward ever-hotter extremes, likely pushed sea surface temperatures to new all-time highs in the Equatorial Pacific for the month. Such a huge amount of heat bleeding off this broad ocean zone will likely to continue to spike global surface temperatures. Given such a context, it appears that we’ll be under the gun for new global surface temperature records for a period of at least the next 4 months. So what we saw during October was almost certainly just the start of the current global temperature spike.

Links:

NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

NASA GISS

NASA Land Ocean Temperature Index

Polar Amplification

October of 2015 Shaping up to be Hottest Month Ever Recorded

 

Monster 2015 El Nino May Be Most Intense Ever Seen

For nearly two years now, we’ve had every indication that Dr. Kevin Trenberth was right. A human-forced warming of the deep and middle ocean was indeed coming back to haunt us. Back during early 2014, signs were that a Monster El Nino was building in the Equatorial Pacific. This slow bleed of added heat to the Earth’s mid-section, in turn, forced global temperatures higher, leading to a record hot year during 2014, what will surely be a record hot year during 2015, and what may well also become a record hot year during 2016.

A primary driver of this record global surface heat was a period of extreme warming throughout the Pacific Ocean. A warming that increasingly centered upon the Equatorial Pacific as a Monster El Nino emerged and grew ever stronger.

The Strongest El Nino on Record

By mid summer, we had early indications that the 2015 event was likely to come in as the 1rst to 3rst strongest on record. Since that time, temperatures within the key NINO 3.4 region gradually built up.

Sea Surface temperature anomalies Nino 3.4

(Sea surface temperature anomalies in the benchmark NINO 3.4 zone hit an extreme high temperature departure of 3.0 degrees Celsius above average in the NOAA monitor this Monday. These temperatures are the hottest ever recorded for this region of the Pacific. An indication that the 2015 El Nino is shaping up to beat out even the 1997-1998 El Nino as the strongest such event ever in the modern meteorological record. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

Two weeks ago, according to NOAA’s weekly El Nino monitor, average temperatures for the zone hit a +2.8 C positive anomaly. This extreme high temperature reading tied the weekly peak recorded by the NOAA measure in the same region during the record 1997-1998 El Nino. It looked like the 2015 El Nino was on track to at least tie the all time most intense El Nino ever recorded in the NOAA measure.

The 2015 El Nino, at that time had rocketed into record range. Any further strengthening and 2015 would be a monster El Nino year to beat out every other. And through the intervening time heat continued to build, spilling out of the ocean surface, pumping out volumes of heat and moisture that would have been considered unimaginable just a year and a half ago.

1997 vs 2015 El Nino

(The 1997 El Nino ramped up and peaked rapidly. In contrast, 2015 gradually built up from a start during 2014 and didn’t hit a rapid ramp until summer and fall of 2015. Currently, sea surface temperatures in the critical Nino 3.4 zone well exceed that of the 1997 event in the NOAA monitor. It is also worth noting that overall heat content throughout the 2015 event has been greater — with higher temperatures so far lasting longer than during the 1997-1998 El Nino. Image source: Jan Null at Golden Gate Weather via Twitter and Weather Underground.)

As a result, NOAA this week marked the hottest sea surface temperatures ever recorded in the NINO 3.4 zone of the Equatorial Pacific. Sea surface temperature anomalies for the region hit an extraordinary 3.0 degrees Celsius above the climatological average. This new reading shatters the old weekly record set for the 1997-1998 El Nino and is yet one more indication that the 2015 El Nino is a monster event without precedent in the global climate record. In other words, we’ve never seen anything like this before.

Early Indications that Heat Continues to Build

Despite the fact that the current El Nino has already shattered weekly temperature records, it appears that warming for the critical NINO 3.4 zone continued to build through November 16 and 17. Daily Sea Surface Temperature monitors, as provided graphically by Earth Nullschool give us a basis for comparison with the NOAA measure. And over the past two months a very rudimentary grid analysis of the data reimaged through Earth Nullschool has shown sea surface temperatures about 0.2 C hotter than the weekly NINO 3.4 averages provided by NOAA.

Yesterday, this analysis provided a reading of 3.4 degrees Celsius above average in the NINO 3.4 zone — roughly corresponding with a NOAA reading in the range of 3.2 C above average. Today, the reading is in the range of 3.3 C hotter than average — corresponding with a NOAA reading near 3.1 C above average.

image

(The Equatorial Pacific Ocean splits open and disgorges a record amount of heat in today’s Earth Nullschool sea surface temperature anomaly graphic. What we are seeing, at this time, is what is shaping up to be the strongest El Nino ever recorded in the climate record. An event that is likely driven, at least in part, by the extraordinary volume of greenhouse gasses human beings have dumped into the Earth climate system. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Overall, the appearance, during recent days, of a band of 4 to 4.5 C above average sea surface temperatures stretching from 120 to 160 West along and near the Equator is yet one more indication that the current record El Nino has continued to intensify. And a broader look at the entire northern Pacific Ocean shows abnormal heat stretching all the way from Equator to Pole. This extra North Pacific heat, especially the hot zone off the West Coast of North America is providing an atmospheric and ocean inertia which pushes El Nino toward further strengthening even as it aids in the maintenance of El Nino conditions overall.

In other words, we may be near the peak of the 2015 El Nino. But the overall ocean picture and trend still points toward the possibility for more strengthening in store. And what this means is that more records are likely to fall over the coming weeks. That El Nino related weather around the world is likely to hit some amazing and potentially very dangerous extremes over the next four months. And that global temperatures are likely to explore new extreme record ranges, as we have already seen during October, over the coming 4-6 months.

Links:

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Deep Ocean Warming is Coming Back to Haunt Us

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths?

El Nino of 2015 Hits All Time Record Strength For A One-Week Period

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Monitor

Earth Nullschool

Hat tip to Todaysguestis

 

 

 

 

Japan Met Agency Confirms Early Concerns — October 2015 Shaping up to Be Hottest Month Ever Recorded

There’s no rational reason at all to doubt that the globe is heating up. In fact, those born after 1985 haven’t experienced a single year of average temperatures. For them, even the brief two year period following Pinatubo’s massive injection of shading aerosols into the stratosphere was but a minor less-hot spell. One that failed to, for even a short while, return the world to more normal temperatures.

30yearsofabo

(The global temperature record from 1880 through 2014 as provided by NOAA. As is plainly visible, the temperature increase since 1880 has been extraordinary — particularly during the years following 1975 as greenhouse gas buildup rates rapidly climbed to unprecedented levels. Image source: NOAA Global Analysis.)

Those living in this time of increasingly rarefied and weirded weather may as well be named, not by the colloquially meaningless terms generations Y and Z, but by the more contextually appropriate monikers — generation climate destabilization (Y) and generation climate chaos (Z). It’s worth noting that such names may seem unfair due to the fact that neither generation made the choices that would force them to experience such severe disruptions. No, instead they were the unwitting victims of choices made by the many previous generations who failed or neglected to rein in the power of the fossil fuel giants before climate catastrophes could begin to take hold. These new generations, instead, are the unfortunate ones who would inhabit the years when humankind left any climate context it had ever experienced — at least since the dawn of human civilization itself, and possibly since the birth of humankind altogether. The first of many generations we have doomed to face the long, bad years of a worsening climate disruption.

This year, the year of 2015, is shaping up to be the most recent worst of a hot bunch. And October of this year is looking like a horrendous outlier hot month. A month testing the new extreme range of record heat that continues to build throughout the global climate system. A ramping warmth we have no chance of stopping at all unless we also swiftly halt the burning of fossil fuels.

October of 2015 Starting to Come in as Hottest Month Ever Recorded

As I type these words that represent my 799th plea for the global community to act decisively on climate change, to turn away from the wretched industrial interests that are dragging increasingly large chunks of our world into a climate chaos of ever-worsening scope, the temperature where I live in Gaithersburg Maryland is a balmy 66 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about 8 degrees hotter than the typical high temperature for today. Overall, the month of November will come in, if forecasts are correct, between 1 and 2 degrees C hotter than average for my location. This may not seem like much. But since the region has been sitting in a trough zone — with storms and frontal systems tending to drive in from the north and bring in Canadian and Arctic air, these continuous high temperature departures seem rather odd. Especially when one considers them from the meteorological and climate perspective.

November 16 Temperature Departures

(Polar amplification again starkly visible in the November 16, 2015 Climate Reanalyzer temperature anomalies graphic.)

As we look at the global temperature anomaly map for today, we can see that most places around the globe are experiencing above average heat for even the hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 base period. Sections of Asia, Alaska, East Greenland and parts of the Southern Ocean are the noted exceptions. But when one considers that this snapshot is in the context of a 1979-2000 average that, as we can seen in the NOAA graph (top of this post) was much hotter than normal, we begin to realize that even most of the white and light blue sections should be showing up in various shades of orange. And this is especially true when we consider how much the world has warmed up since the late 1800s.

Most ominous, however, is the massive bloom of heat over the Arctic spiking into the range of 36 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) above average. This heat spike, directly over a section of the Arctic that some have noted could become a hotbed of oceanic and permafrost methane and CO2 feedback to human heating of the globe, is yet one more plainly visible burst of what is called polar amplification. A kind of tilting of heat toward the poles as the Earth warms up. An unevenly rapid heating of the regions that contain most of the world’s ice capable of raising sea levels. An ominous warming of a zone that contains a great portion of the world’s vast carbon stores. Extreme warming where we want to see it least.

And it is all happening in a time that is certainly the hottest in the 125-135 year global climate records of the major reporting agencies. A period likely hotter than during any time in the Holocene. A period potentially hotter than at any time during the last 110,000 years.

For according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, October of 2015 came in as the hottest month ever recorded in all of its 125 year global climate record. The departure at +0.53 C above the 1981-2000 baseline, +0.85 C above the 20th Century average, and about +1.25 C above temperatures during the late 1890s is far into a range that would well be considered more normal for the Eemian interglacial occurring between 110,000 and 130,000 years ago than for any normal time during the current interglacial. It is also +0.02 C above September of 2015’s new record high set just last month. A continuation of this year’s trend of extreme warming in Japan’s global monitor.

October of 2015 hottest on record

(Global average temperatures for October of 2015 were the hottest for any month in all of Japan’s 125 year global climate record. Image source. Japan Meteorological Agency.)

There’s quite a lot of heat in this graph. For what we see is a temperature range that’s about 0.75 C away from the UN’s so called ‘safe limit’ of 2 C total warming above 1880s values. And what we also see is that the last monster El Nino year of 1997-1998 is increasingly being left in the dust. In fact, 1997 doesn’t show up as any of the top 5 record hot years for October. According to JMA, the new top five record holders are now: 1st. 2015 (+0.53°C), 2nd. 2014 (+0.34°C), 3rd. 2003 (+0.24°C), 4th. 2006 (+0.23°C), and 5th. 2012 (+0.22°C). 1997 now holds the place of sixth hottest on record for October at +0.21 C above the 1981-2000 benchmark or around 0.32 C behind October of 2015. A widening gap that plainly shows that though strong El Ninos have the climatological force to drive new records, the underlying driver pushing the entire record inexorably higher is an unimaginable pace of burning fossils fuels pushing an equally unprecedented rate of global greenhouse gas accumulation.

Pushing us to higher and higher extreme temperature thresholds that are straining the climate and geophysical Earth Systems with which we are currently accustomed to the breaking point.

Links:

NOAA Global Analysis

Climate Reanalyzer

Japan Meteorological Agency

30 Years of Above Average Temperatures Means the Climate Has Changed

October of 2015 May be the Hottest Month Ever Recorded

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

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

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

A Godzilla El Nino

Equatorial Red Scar

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

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

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

Odd Polar Amplification

Atmospheric temperature anomalies

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

NOAA’s Arctic Oscillation Index

Weather Underground El Nino Reports

Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Nullschool

Hat Tip to Ryan in New England

October of 2015 May be the Hottest Month Ever Recorded — A Record That May Stand For But a Month

One thousand six hundred and eighteen (1618) — that’s how many months we have in all of the global temperature record starting in 1880. And early indications are that October of 2015 was possibly the hottest month out of them all. A record hot month, during a record hot year, in a record hot world. A new extreme temperature record that may just stand for one or two months as temperatures are likely to continue to climb coordinate with the peak of a Monster El Nino in the Pacific.

* * * *

As of today’s NOAA El Nino report, sea surface temperatures in the key Nino 3.4 zone had hit a range of 2.7 degrees Celsius above the climatological average. These temperatures are about equal to maximum weekly values achieved during the 1997 El Nino — which in many respects was considered to be the strongest on record. This most recent heat spike puts the 2015 El Nino within striking distance of being the most intense El Nino ever witnessed.

ocean-heat-content

(A sky-rocketing global ocean heat content is, through the agency of a monster El Nino, in the process of backing up into the atmosphere — pushing global temperatures to new all-time record highs. Image source: NOAA NODC.)

As with most El Ninos, the result is that excess ocean heat is backing up into the atmosphere at a heightened rate — pushing global temperatures higher. In a normal year, on a normal Holocene Earth, this would have temporarily spiked atmospheric temperatures. But this year, the record El Nino is being fueled by oceans that are taking in an unprecedented amount of heat. Heat re-radiated by an atmosphere loaded with greenhouse gasses in the range of 400 ppm CO2 and 485 ppm CO2e. And now the oceans, being the greatest store of heat energy on Earth and sucking up more than 90 percent of the added heat due to human forced warming, are returning the favor.

Hottest October on Record

As a result, the world is now experiencing some of the hottest temperatures ever seen. The year of 2014, when the Pacific began to settle into the current El Nino trend, was the hottest on record. But that new global high temperature mark didn’t last long. For as that human-accumulated ocean heat continued to bleed back into the atmosphere, 2015 set a path to supplant 2014 as the new record holder. Global temperatures were raging to new heights. But the worst was still to come.

With a record El Nino starting to hit its peak in a hothouse world what we’re in for over the next few months is likely to be something, yet again, unprecedented. And already, early NCAR data reanalysis points toward October of 2015 being the hottest month ever recorded.

NCAR reanalysis

(Reanalysis of NCAR global temperature data shows that October of 2015 was the hottest month in the global climate record. Temperature averages in the above graph are comparable to a 1994 to 2013 baseline that’s about 0.7 degrees Celsius hotter than 1880s averages. The new departure, according to Nick Stoke’s reanalysis is +0.2 C hotter than September and +0.15 C hotter than the previous hottest month ever recorded — January of 2007. Image source: Moyhu.)

According to early reports from Nick Stokes (a retired CSIRO scientist) at the climate blog Moyhu, NCAR temperature reanalysis has put October at the hottest in the global climate record at +0.567 C above the 1994 to 2013 average. This shoves October into the range of +1.18 C above the 1951 to 1980 average and about +1.38 C above 1880s averages (in the NCAR context). Since GISS has tended to range a bit cooler than the NCAR figures this Fall, Nick estimates LOTI temperatures from the NASA analysis are likely to hit a range of +1 C above the NASA baseline or about +1.2 to +1.3 C above 1880s values in that measure.

If these NCAR comparisons bear out, they would make October of 2015 the hottest month in all of the global climate record in both the NCAR and the GISS measures. Notably, Nick Stokes NCAR figure shows a substantial +0.15 C departure above the previous record during January of 2007. A NASA GISS figure of +1 C would also beat out January of 2007 as the hottest month ever in the global climate record, but by a somewhat smaller +0.03 C margin.

Even so, as a record or near record El Nino continues to hit maximum warmth in the Pacific, it is likely that more monthly global temperature records are in the pipe. Peak surface global temperatures typically occur during the months after El Nino hits top intensity. So it is both possible and likely that November, December, January, February and even March could continue to explore new maximum monthly temperature thresholds. Meanwhile, the inertia of all that extra ocean heat bleeding back into the atmosphere presents a decent chance that 2016 could even beat out 2015 as the new yearly record holder. It all really depends on if El Nino spikes still higher and if that peak extends significantly into next year.

In any case, the human hothouse is again re-writing the record books.

Links:

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

NOAA NODC

NCAR/NECP Index up 0.2 C in October

NASA GISS

Hat Tip to Wharf Rat

A World Where Heat Haunts Us — 2015 May See Worst El Nino Ever as Global Temperatures Rocket Past 1 C Mark

It’s a world that’s adding more than 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gasses to the atmosphere every single year. It’s a year where, according to Ralph Keeling, we are likely to never see atmospheric CO2 levels in the 300-399 parts per million range ever again in our lifetimes. And it’s a time when global temperatures are at their hottest ever recorded by human instruments — likely to hit a very dangerous range between  1 and 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages during 2015 and 2016.

Tracking the 2 C limit

(As of August 2015, 12 month averages were in the range of 0.926 C below the so called ‘safe limit’ of 2 C warming since 1880. What may become the worst El Nino on record may combine with a growing overburden of human hothouse gasses to push global temperatures to within between 0.9 to 0.8 C of the +2 C limit during 2015 and 2016. For reference, the current pace of warming at approx 0.17 C per decade is more than 25 times faster than at the end of the last ice age. Image source: Skeptical Science.)

This is the context we all live in today. A world that’s sweltering in a toxic atmospheric stew of human hothouse gas emissions. But underneath that heat-amplifying context, the traditional ebb and flow of natural variability still has its own set of influences. And this year, the warm side of natural variability — in what may become the strongest El Nino ever recorded — is coming back to haunt us with a vengeance.

Previous Worst El Nino On Record

Forget the so called ‘2 C safe limit’ set by international government bodies for a moment and think about all the extreme weather, the droughts, the wildfires, the loss of access to water, the increasing rates of sea level rise, the increasing rates of glacial destabilization, and the rapid declines in ocean health that have all happened since 1997 — the previous worst El Nino year on record.

Back then, atmospheric CO2 levels had just breached the 360 parts per million mark. And, in that year a powerful El Nino — the peak of the natural variability hot side — shoved global temperatures into the range of 0.85 C above 1880s averages. It was the strongest El Nino ever recorded in the modern age. And it was occurring in a climate in which greenhouse gas concentrations were the highest seen in about 1 million years. It was a confluence of forces that propelled the Earth toward a new, more violent climate state. One not seen for millennia and one that was increasingly outside the ice-age and inter-glacial norm in which human beings evolved and learned to flourish.

Over the 2000s and early 2010s, despite a swing in atmospheric natural variability back toward ‘cool,’ negative PDO, conditions, global temperatures continued to climb. Greenhouse gasses were building up in the atmosphere at record rates. Rates about 6 times faster than during the Permian hothouse extinction event that wiped out 75 percent of life on land and more than 90 percent of life in the oceans. As a result, new global high temperature records were hit in 2005 and 2010 even as the oceans drew in a massive amount of atmospheric heat. Heat that, according to Dr, Kevin Trenberth, would again back up into the atmosphere as the natural limits for ocean heat uptake were eventually reached.

By 2014, as CO2 levels climbed into the 400 parts per million range and atmospheric heat uptake built, it appeared those limits had, indeed, been overwhelmed. Heat in the upper Equatorial Pacific Ocean began to spike as massive and powerful Kelvin Waves rippled across the world’s largest ocean, setting the stage for a new, monster El Nino. An El Nino that appeared to be building toward an event that would rival even the record 1997 El Nino.

2015 El Nino May Become Worst Ever Over Next Few Weeks

At first, the climb toward a record El Nino was slow. Even as ocean heat hit El Nino thresholds during the summer of 2014, the atmospheric response lagged — resulting in a steady climb into weak El Nino conditions through early 2015. Despite this slow advance, underlying conditions hinted at an extreme amount of available heat. The Oceanic hot pool was widespread and very intense — generating a heat bleed that pushed global atmospheric temperatures to new records for the year of 2014 and intensifying into 2015. By late Fall of 2015, atmospheric temperatures had rocketed into a range near 1.1 C above 1880s averages. But the top of the temperature spike was likely still to come.

For throughout October El Nino continued to strengthen, reaching a new height of 2.5 C above average in the benchmark Nino 3.4 zone last week. This temperature spike is comparable to a record in the same region at 2.7 C above average for peak weekly values during the 1997 El Nino.

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(Setting up for a strongest El Nino on record? Global climate measures now show the Equatorial Pacific is becoming hot enough to challenge ocean surface temperature records previously set by the 1997 El Nino. If new record values are set, they could occur by early to mid November. Ocean temperature anomaly image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Unfortunately, heat continues to build in this benchmark region of the Pacific. A rudimentary grid analysis of ocean models and readings for this week indicate daily measures in the range of 2.5 to 2.8 C above average. Daily measures that show a consistent warming trend. A trend that, if it continues, is likely to push Nino 3.4 temperatures into a range comparable with or exceeding the 1997 El Nino high temperature mark by early-to-mid November.

In other words, the 2015 Monster El Nino event appears to be setting up to tie or beat the record-shattering 1997 El Nino over the next few weeks.

Max Temperature Spike is Coming

Regardless of whether we see the 1997 record shattered, it is likely that heat bleeding off the current Monster El Nino will continue to amplify atmospheric temperatures on through early Spring of 2016. What this means is that we haven’t seen the hottest global temperatures out of this event yet. Preliminary estimates for October are coming in the range of 1.1 to 1.3 C+ above 1880s values. Meanwhile, a peak in atmospheric temperature is likely to occur within 1-4 months after El Nino itself peaks. So though 2015 has been a record breaker so far, we may see global heat intensifying through to 2016 with new monthly temperatures testing never before seen ranges. This added heat provided from a Monster El Nino makes it a distinct possibility that we will see three back-to-back record hot years — 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Links:

Is This the Last Year Below 400 ppm CO2?

Global Development of Policy Regimes to Combat Climate Change

Deep Ocean Warming Coming Back to Haunt Us

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths

NASA GISS

Skeptical Science

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

Earth Nullschool

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

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

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

Global temperature anomalies September of 2015

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

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

NASA Shows September of 2015 was Second Hottest on Record

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

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

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

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

Land Ocean Temp Map September of 2015

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

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

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

NASA zonal anomalies

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

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

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

Winter Weather for 2015 May Feature Some Unexpected Twists

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

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

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

Links:

Japan’s Meteorological Agency

NASA GISS

Monster El Nino + Climate Change Means Not Normal Winter is On the Way

World Ocean Heartbeat Fading?

Living in a World at 480 CO2e

NASA: Monster El Nino + Climate Change Means ‘Not Normal’ Winter is On the Way

“Over North America, this winter will definitely not be normal. However, the climatic events of the past decade make ‘normal’ difficult to define.”  — Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA’s JPL speaking in Earth Observatory today.

****

It’s official, as of this Monday’s weekly NOAA ENSO report, a still growing 2015 El Nino had taken yet one more step into monster event territory. Hitting a +1.5 C sea surface temperature anomaly in the benchmark Nino 3.4 zone over the period of July through September even as weekly values rocketed to an amazing +2.4 C above average, the 2015 El Nino heightened yet again — making a substantial jump in overall ocean heat content. But according to a recent report out of NASA’s Earth Observatory, it appears we’re just beginning to see the full potential of this thing.

As Big or Bigger in Ocean Heat Content Than 1997-1998

For the 2015 El Nino, an event that NASA scientists are now calling ‘too big to fail,’ appears bound to continue strengthening through late Fall and Early Winter. Growing into a climate and weather wrenching oceanic and atmospheric heavyweight that will significantly impact North American weather patterns during the Winter of 2015-2016. This extreme climate event — which is currently building to an extraordinary ocean heat content anomaly in the Central and Eastern Pacific — is now comparable to the top three strongest El Ninos on record. In other words, and according to NASA: “El Niño is strengthening and it looks a lot like the strong event that occurred in 1997–98.”

Sea surface height anomalies

(Sea surface height anomaly graphic provided by NASA shows a pattern very similar to 1997. Positive ocean surface height anomalies, indicated in red above, are the hallmark of an El Nino that is currently ranked among the top three strongest events observed for October. Image source: NASA.)

Ocean surface heights, as seen in the Earth Observatory graphic above, now show a pattern very similar to the monster 1997-1998 El Nino.

In a typical El Nino, Kelvin Waves transfer Equatorial Pacific Ocean heat from west to east which in turn sets off a rise in sea surface heights by thermally expanding the water column throughout the traditional Nino zones. And during the Fall of 2015 what we’re seeing is a big thermal and related ocean surface bulge swelling seas throughout the Eastern and Central Equatorial Pacific. To this point, Earth Observatory notes: “October sea level height anomalies show that 2015 is as big or bigger in heat content than 1997.”

Strong Westerly Wind Burst Lends More Energy to El Nino

Supporting NASA’s conclusions that El Nino intensity during 2015-2016 may hit near or beyond the top of the chart is a recent intensification of westerly winds over the Western Equatorial Pacific. Throughout 2014 and growing into 2015, these westerly wind bursts have fed El Nino by pushing warmer, Western Pacific waters eastward — thus increasing ocean heat content in the El Nino zone to near record levels.

Over the past week, another very strong westerly wind burst was again supplying El Nino with a warm water recharge. By tomorrow, the Global Forecast System model shows not one but four cyclones driving a strong westerly wind pattern from the Philippines all the way to the Date Line:

image

(Yet one more strong westerly wind burst is providing the already powerful 2015 El Nino with another boost. Note the extensive reverse trade wind pattern stretching all the way to the Date Line. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

It’s a pretty significant westerly wind pattern — near to par with some of the related weather events (MJO) earlier this year that were among the strongest in the meteorological record. These winds will rise to near gale-force gusts in some regions and provide a dominant fetch from west to east across a 1,500 mile section of Pacific Ocean. According to NASA:

“This [weakening of the trades] should strengthen this El Niño. All multi-model averages predict a peak in late fall/early winter. The forecaster consensus unanimously favors a strong El Niño…Overall, there is an approximately 95 percent chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015–16.”

Not Normal Winter Weather on the Way

A typical powerful El Nino of this kind would tend to drive a very intense train of moisture into the West Coast of the US, make for a cool and very wet winter across the southern US, and drive warmer temperatures and drier conditions across the northern tier. Climatologists, however, are uncertain how interactions between the current powerful El Nino and a globally changing weather pattern set off by a human-forced warming of the atmosphere to 1 C above 1880s levels (or about 1/4th the difference between the 20th Century and the last ice age, but on the side of hot) will interact.

Very warm sea surface temperatures, likely due to both a climate change-forced heating of ocean surface waters and a weakening of the Gulf Stream, off the Eastern Seaboard hint that storms along the US East Coast and particularly for the US Southeast may hit extreme intensity if an El Nino associated trough digs in. Meanwhile extraordinarily intense sea surface temperature anomalies in the range of +2 to near +6 C above average off the US West Coast associated with a ‘hot blob’ that has lingered in this region for many seasons has caused some to question whether California will see the high intensity rainfall events typical of powerful El Ninos during the latter half of the 20th Century.

image

(Extreme sea surface temperatures off the US West Coast can generate a kind of atmospheric inertia in which high pressure systems tend to develop — deflecting or weakening storms moving across the meridional Pacific northward toward Canada, Alaska and even the Polar region. Alternatively, an El Nino strong enough to over-ride this ocean and atmospheric block is likely to generate some very extreme storms — spurring events possibly exceeding those in the modern climate record. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

For the US West Coast, the region may be balancing on a razor’s edge. If El Nino is strong enough to overwhelm the atmospheric and ocean inertia generated by the hot blob, storms running into that region could be extremely intense. On the other hand, if the hot blob holds or deflects the moisture stream northward, California may not see a drought-busting delivery of rainfall (See Godzilla El Nino vs the Hot Blob).

To this point, we’ll leave Earth Observatory with the next to last word:

“[The] elements of our changing climate are too new to say with certainty what the winter will bring.”

A pretty significant statement when one begins to fully take in its meaning — that climate change may be starting to set weather forecasting out of the context of the latter 20th Century. That it’s NASA’s view that aspects of modern weather prediction for El Nino events may have already been set off kilter by ‘elements of our changing climate.’

New Global Temperature Records For 2015 Likely a Lock

But what we do know is that the ocean-to-atmosphere heat back-up generated by what could be a record El Nino, when combined with the enormous added heat forcing provided by human fossil fuel emissions, will almost certainly set new global high temperature records for 2015 and possibly for 2016. This, unfortunately, means that we’ve already started on a dangerous path toward the far more disruptive +1.5 and +2 C above 1880s benchmarks. A range that many scientists associate with a greatly increased risk of hitting climate tipping points.

Links:

Earth Observatory: El Nino Strengthening

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

Earth Nullschool

Godzilla El Nino vs the Hot Blob

Dr. Lenton’s (somewhat conservative) Exploration of Climate Tipping Points

Climate Change’s Hot Blob Still Blankets Northeastern Pacific

Halfway to 2 C

Nasty Signs North Atlantic Overturning Circulation is Weakening

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

 

 

 

2015’s Cruel Climate Count Continues as NASA Shows July Was Hottest On Record

Andrew Freeman is right. It’s been a cruel, cruel summer. Hothouse mass casualty events, spurred by a ridiculous accumulation of heat trapping gasses in the Earth atmosphere, have spanned the Northern Hemisphere. The result has been thousands of lives lost and the hospitalization of tens of thousands more as global temperatures rocketed to levels not seen in probably 100,000 years (related — Hothouse Mass Casualties Strike Egypt).

July of 2015 Hottest on Record

Now, in a record-shattering hot year featuring extreme weather weirdness and an emerging monster El Nino, yet one more record has fallen. For according to both NASA and Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA), July of 2015 squashed and smashed previous record hot Julys 2011 (NASA) and 1998 (JMA) to take the title as hottest July yet.

July Temperatures Japan Meteorological Agency

(Japan’s Meteorological Agency shows July of 2015 was the hottest on record by a wide margin.)

In the JMA graph, beginning in 1890, you can plainly see the new July record is well above the +0.67 C per Century warming trend line of the last 125 years. A new high that leaves the 1998 super El Nino year in the dust.

For JMA, that’s 0.72 C above the 20th Century average and about 1 C above 1890.  For NASA, global temperatures also hit a similarly hot range. July of 2015 was 0.75 C above their 20th Century base line — putting it at about 0.95 C hotter than 1880s values when annual record keeping began. Now we only wait on NOAA’s report coming out in a few days for a final confirmation of this obscene July heat.

2015 On Track For Hottest Year By a Wide Margin

Focusing in on the NASA measure, we find that January through July temperatures are setting a course for a record shattering 2015. Overall, global temperatures during that seven month period were 0.8 C above NASA’s 20th Century benchmark and about 1 C above 1880s values. A level of heat that, if it were simply maintained, would beat out previous record hot year, 2014, by a substantial margin (0.07 C).

To the layman, these may seem like small numbers except when one considers that just 3.5 C of cooling from Holocene climates means the start of a new ice age. In just 135 years we’ve hit 30 percent of the difference between the Holocene and an ice age — but on the side of hot. Moreover, an annual temperature climb of 0.07 C equals 7 degrees Celsius warming if maintained for one Century. So a one year jump in that range is a pretty wide margin, especially when we consider that we’re now experiencing back-to-back hottest years on record.

El Nino + Climate Change In the NASA Graphic

NASA Temp Map July 2015

(NASA’s July distribution of hot and cold temperature anomalies shows a world that’s tipping more and more toward climate extremes. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Geospatially, the representation of hot and cold temperature extremes in the NASA map hints at an absolute mess for July weather patterns. While abnormal and extreme warmth dominated the East Siberian, Chukchi, and Beaufort airs, a plug of below average temperatures hovered over the Laptev. Two substantial chimneys of heat extended into the Arctic — one exploding up from the Hot Blob in the Pacific and another stretching diagonally over the Lake Baikal region of Russia (Related: The Dry Land Burned Like Grass). Most of Western Europe baked while the Yamal region cooled. In the North Atlantic the Climate Change signature and storm generating cool pool maintained — gearing up to throw a few wicked cyclones at the British Isles in the midst of, what should be placid, summer.

And all across the equatorial region anomalous heat built — pushing monthly temperatures from 1-4 degrees Celsius above average in some of the typically hottest regions of the world. In this analysis we must pause for a moment to point out the awesome and terrible wave of heat building up from the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, telegraphing through the Hot Blobs off the North American West Coast and extending on up through the Bering Sea. A teleconnection feature that must fall if California is to have any hope of receiving a drought busting set of storms this Winter — monster El Nino or no.

The mid-to-equatorial latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere were also abnormally warm with few regions showing any departure into cooler than ‘normal’ in this zone. Meanwhile, the Southern Polar Region was a mess of hot ridges and cold troughs indicative of a very wavy Jet Stream pattern for the zone. In particular, a ridge blazing south through the Weddell Sea set off some much warmer than normal readings for Coats Land and the Ronne Ice Shelf.

El Nino Zonal Signature

(Zonal temperature anomalies for July show a clear signature of El Nino and a climate change related heat sink in the Southern Ocean. Image source: NASA GISS.)

In the NASA zonal map, we can clearly see the signature of El Nino. Equatorial temperatures are the hottest in the measure pushing to +1.3 degrees Celsius above average over the world’s belt-line. To the north, heat gradually tapered off — still maintaining near +1 C through the 40 degree line before dipping down to around +0.8 to +0.3 C in the 50s, 60s, and 70s and then rising again to around +0.7 C at the pole.

To the south, anomalies rapidly plunged throughout most zones — dipping to +0.35 C in the range of the furious fifties (50 degrees South Latitude). In the oceanic heat sink region where fresh and icy water met the warmer, saltier waters of the Southern Ocean, heat uptake by that ocean-atmosphere interface hit an extreme level as negative zonal anomalies spiked to -1.4 C in the range of 65 South Latitude. This ocean heat uptake and related atmospheric cooling is associated with a global warming related fresh water outflow due to Antarctic glacial melt — the Southern Hemisphere version of the North Atlantic cool pool.  Zonal temperatures swing again higher, hitting +0.6 C at the land glacier edge in the region between 70 and 80 South, before dipping to around -0.7 C in the Antarctic interior near 90 South.

Conditions in Context

During the record hot July of 2015 temperature and weather hit new extremes. Variation between hot and cold temperatures became greater over many regions of the globe as hot and cool pools grew in prominence and related weather influence. Glacial melt and ocean current change related cool pools dominated the North Atlantic and a band near 70 South in the Southern Ocean. Meanwhile, extreme equatorial heat associated with El Nino developed teleconnections with high amplitude ridges — especially with the Hot Blob related Ridiculously Resilient Ridge over the Northeastern Pacific.

In addition, a synergy developed between high ocean temperatures, related high humidity, and a number of dangerous heatwaves. Near record and record hot waters in the regions of India, Pakistan, and Japan synergistically enabled deadly, mass-casualty producing heatwaves in those regions. This is due to the fact that hot waters enable higher wet bulb temperatures over land — pushing wet bulbs, at times, close to the human survival limit of 35 C.

With Global temperatures now at 1 C above 1880s levels we begin to witness hints of what a human-forced hothouse may look like. But what we see now are only the early, easy outliers.

Links:

Japan’s Meteorological Agency

NASA GISS

2015’s Cruel Summer

Hothouse Mass Casualties Strike Egypt

India Sees Worst Flood in 200 Years

El Nino Crosses Monstrous Threshold

(Please support public, non special interest based science, like the fantastic research produced by NASA and JMA without which this report would not have been possible.)

El Nino Crosses Monstrous Event Threshold

What’s the worst sin of all? If you agree with the Greek playwrights it would have to be hubris — or pride so terrible that it results in blindness. For the fossil fuel industry and its sock puppets — like Anthony Watts and Bob Tisdale — hubris probably best describes their response to anything climate change related.

Hollow Laughter at Climate Monsters

A year and a half ago, these fossil fuel industry supported purveyors of climate change denial quackery derided this blog for reporting on the risk of a potential Monster El Nino emerging in 2014 and 2015. They claimed the researchers and experts here knew nothing about El Nino. They used the fact that I sometimes write fiction as a kind of flimsy ad-hominem support to this blatantly false claim. Lacking any creativity or freedom of expression, they continued to rattle off their authoritarian, scripted, boiled-down, Heartland-produced talking points.

Kelvin Wave Monster El Nino Emerging

(The warm Kelvin Wave that never really went away. Strong Westerlies during 2014 and 2015 shoved extremely warm Pacific Ocean waters eastward where they eventually backed up to the surface, setting off a series of record and near record ocean temperature events. Image source: NOAA.)

The misrepresentations they developed were as contrived as they were tortured — Pacific Ocean heat content was normal, they said. The underlying heat imbalance was not capable of resulting in a monster El Nino event, they claimed. Global warming didn’t exist to the point that it could have any impact on El Nino, they asserted. It was all just one more scam in their endless bid to de-inform the public and pretend the climate change elephant in the room doesn’t exist at all. Just one more fossil fuel industry cover-up at the tail of a nearly endless list.

They did this even as they continued to ignore and attack the relevant science and its scientific luminaries — both standard and climate change related. And so blinded, they laughed and laughed like fools drunk on their own special interest inspired logical fallacies as the potential for a monster event grew.

More than anything else, it’s a cautionary tale. If you listen to Bob Tisdale or Watts (a man who uses his last name to throw derision at our understanding of Earth’s Energy imbalance), more than likely you’re going to end up being surprised by what’s coming down the pipe. So better not to buy into their nonsense and end up as blind to future risks as they are, or worse, contribute to those risks by failing to support a rapid reduction of fossil fuel burning.

Hitting 5 C Positive Anomaly

In July of 2015, as we initially warned may happen, sea surface temperature anomalies hit above 5 C in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Though the first Kelvin waves failed to achieve this mark, the ocean and atmospheric heat imbalances remained and wave after warm wave just kept shoving more heat into the El Nino firing zone.

El Nino Starting to Look Monstrous

(On July 10, 2015, something that Anthony Watts and Bob Tisdale believed wouldn’t happen happened — sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific hit a +5.1 C positive anomaly. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

These waves were fed by an endless series of Westerlies in the Western Pacific pushing the hot surface waters down and eastward. Firing off throughout 2014 and 2015, some of these MJO related westerlies were so strong as to have hit record marks. A monstrous El Nino was fighting to break out and there wasn’t any kind of oceanic or atmospheric inertia that appeared to be able to hold it back.

Subsurface heat was skyrocketing. And by Spring of this year upper ocean heat anomalies had hit and were maintaining a range between 1.4 and 1.8 C above average. By August, a westerly wind burst that continued for more than 40 days running had shoved the upper ocean anomalies into the range of nearly 2 C above average.

The massive heat pulses hit the surface and then steadily rippled westward. The spiking temperature anomalies were so strong as to set off a record longest period for +1 C above ‘average’ temperatures for all El Nino zones. A period that finally ended with this week’s NOAA El Nino report as values again dipped to 0.9 C positive anomaly in the Nino 4 zone.

Central Pacific Heat Rockets into Monster El Nino Range

But in the critical Nino 3.4 zone, temperatures continued their steady climb. As of this week, readings had hit a +1.9 C anomaly in that benchmark. In other words, the current El Nino just rocketed past the 1.8 C monster event threshold without so much as a blink.

It’s a very high reading for August when we’re still supposed to be building toward an El Nino predicted to peak in October or November. A reading that is already in the range of a monster event in the weekly monitor. A reading that, even if it were to simply maintain, would mark one of the most intense El Ninos on record.

NINO zones SSTA

(Nino 3.4 hits Monster event threshold in the NOAA monitor as of this week’s most recent update. Image source: NOAA.)

But the heat build into Nino 3.4 appears to be steadily ramping up. The warm Kelvin wave and powerful upper ocean heat anomalies continue along their path of rebound to mid ocean. An upper ocean heat pulse as strong as it’s ever been throughout 2014 and 2015. All of it on a rendezvous with the Central Pacific over the next 4-12 weeks.

Heat Pulse Ahead of Most Models

The jump to 1.9 C thresholds this week came as a bit of a surprise as the corrected consensus models NOAA uses point toward only 1.5 C to 1.7 C departures for August steadily warming to around 1.9 to 2.1 C above average readings by October and November. Such predictions are still enough to put the 2014-2015 El Nino in the range of top 3 events on record. But the jump to 1.9 C follows more along the pathways predicted by the UKMO to ECMWF ensembles — whose guidance shows mid ocean warming hitting 2.2 to even 3 C above average readings. Temperatures hitting such high marks in the Equatorial Pacific would exceed the maximum values seen during even the record 1997-1998 event.

image

(It’s getting very warm in the Central Equatorial Pacific. Sea surface temperature anomalies, which this map tracks, are at 3 C hotter than average in many regions of the Nino 3.4 zone ranging from 180 to 120 East Longitude. A level of heat that’s well ahead of some of the more conservative model guidance. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Overall, it looks as though the most likely 3 month average for the 2014 to 2015 event is in the range of +1.6 to +2.5 C putting the current El Nino tracking in the strong-to-monstrous range that we’ve been highlighting as a possibility for the past year and a half.

Conditions in Context

In the context of human-caused climate change such a powerful El Nino occurring during 2015 means that global average temperatures are likely to continue to hit new record high marks. The heat bleed off the Pacific Ocean is, for lack of a better word, massive. And not just in the Equatorial regions. The vast majority of the North Pacific features above average temperatures. The hot blob in the Northeastern Pacific remains firmly entrenched and a related south to north heat transport over Alaska and into the Pacific side of the Arctic remains firmly in place.

With these conditions so dug in, there is rising risk that the heat plume coming off a near record El Nino may be headed north. This could have severe implications for an already terrible set of polar amplification related conditions in the Arctic. Such a powerful heat plume would also reinforce storminess along a broad band from the south and eastern US and on across the North Atlantic where a climate change related cool pool (associated with Gulf Stream slowdown, AMOC weakening, and Greenland melt) is already in the process of intensifying the storm track. The result is a potential teleconnection between El Nino and a number of already well established climate change related patterns.

Climate Change Denial vs Active Event Tracking Aimed at Informing the Public

As for the fossil fuel industry funded deniers — I’m sure they’ll have a number of derisive things to say about this science-based analysis. For though I’m not a scientist (I’m an emerging threats expert), I do read the science (over 1,000 reports and papers so far on climate change alone). I listen to what scientists have to say rather than constantly attacking and attempting to undermine their positions. And to help me, I have scores of other experts and laypersons who often post their own fantastic analysis and reports in the comments section here. So what you find here is an honest effort by concerned people to keep track of a growing climate crisis and what you have over at Watts and Tisdale is, conversely, an active industry-based cover-up.

Since jump, those fossil fuel industry serfs have been attacking the pillars of climate science and the great scientists who’ve advanced our understanding of human caused climate change. Luminaries like Hansen, Mann, Schmidt, Francis, Trenberth, Wadhams, Shakhova, and Archer. They’ve attacked even the conservative reports of the IPCC. And they’ve attacked the people here — in some way thinking that we quail at the over-used term ‘alarmist.’

But we need not worry about them. Their endless quibbling represents little more than a constantly running and vicious commercial for the fossil fuel industry. Just as slanted, inaccurate, manipulative, and special interest focused. And as with any other annoying commercial the best thing to do is to simply hit the off button. We have far more important things to do than to overly concern ourselves with such shallow corporate mercenaries. We have threats to identify, policies to support, and lives to save. Them we’ll leave to their foundering and increasingly amoral corporate masters.

Links:

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths

NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Earth Nullschool

Record MJO During Spring of 2015

(Please support public, non-special interest based science like the fantastic work done by NOAA and without which this report would not have been possible.)

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