Tagged: NOAA

NOAAWatch — Excessive heat #1 killer weather in USA


August 2013

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. In fact, on average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago area were attributed to heat. In August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives.

North American summers are hot; most summers see heat waves in or more parts of the United States. East of the Rockies, they tend to combine both high temperature and high humidity; although some of the worst heat waves have been catastrophically dry.

NOAA has a page [here's the link] explaining warning levels and including suggestions. Read it. Save the link. Most places in the United States you will need this info sooner or later.

Thanks, Mike

Scientists preparing for major El Niño — just politicians and pundits unready

The weather is preparing to go wild, and will wreak havoc and death around the globe later this year. An El Niño, a splurge of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, is coming. It will unleash floods in the Americas, while South-East Asia and Australia face drought. Yet little is being done to address these consequences.

An El Niño begins when warm water near Indonesia spreads eastwards and rises to the surface of the Pacific. The warm water carries rain with it, so El Niño takes rain from Asia and Australia and dumps it on the Americas…

The effects can be deadly. A big El Niño in 1997-98 killed 20,000 people and caused almost $97 billion of damage.

Meteorologists contacted by New Scientist all expect an El Niño at the end of this year. And it looks like a big one, says Wenju Cai of CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency, in Melbourne. The more heat in the Pacific, the bigger the El Niño, and right now, 150 metres below the surface, a ball of warm water is crossing that ocean. “It’s huge,” says Cai.

Yet official forecasts remain cautious. As recently as 5 May, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration only said the odds of an El Niño would exceed 50 per cent this year.

The reason I’m getting round to posting this is that NOAA’s El Niño/Southern Oscillation diagnostic discussion has climbed to 65% likelihood.

Most El Niño researchers say forecasters are being too conservative. “One thing I hear over and over again is ‘we do not want to create a panic’,” says Axel Timmermann. There is a reason: forecasting a big El Niño would cause a spike in food prices. “But it may be better to have this reaction at an early stage, when farmers can still adapt, rather than later.”

The good news is that El Niño is a known quantity. “We already know what happens when a big El Niño hits,” says Zafar Adeel of the United Nations University in Hamilton, Canada. That means vulnerable populations can be identified and emergency plans put in place. But not everywhere has a plan

Wild weather is coming in 2014/15 with storms and floods, droughts and wildfires expected from region to region; but little is being done to protect people on the front line. Australian meteorologists are among the best in the world. Their government will want to prepare by cutting taxes for corporate miners, their answer for everything. India, Pakistan face the potential of a weak monsoon season which harms domestic farming. The United States faces a range of weather from drought to floods – states like California have appropriate disaster plans while the Confederacy treats weather projections almost as much of a liberal plot as they do climate change.

Frankly, the last El Niño here in New Mexico in 1997/98 brought us a lot of useful precipitation. That was before recent years’ wildfires destroyed lots of forest and natural cover which would limit flooding. And we, too, have a governor who thinks the answer to every question is tax cuts for corporations.

The coming year could be longer than expected.

Thanks, Mike

Nine maps showing ways climate change already affecting the United States

Temperature changes over the past 22 years (1991-2012) compared to the 1901-1960 average, and compared to the 1951-1980 average for Alaska and Hawai‘i. NOAA NCDC / CICS-NC.

This map is the simplest way to see global warming in action. Since the 19th century, average US temperatures have risen by 1.3°F to 1.9°F. (Note, though, there have been some fluctuations here and there: in the 1960s and 1970s, temperatures dipped, partly due to the cooling effect of sulfate pollution that was eventually cleaned up.)

Recent decades have been even hotter: since 1991, every region in the United States has been warming, with the biggest temperature increases occurring in the winter and spring.

Continue reading

Space Weather Prediction Center [Beta]

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is pleased to debut its new website. This completely redesigned site leverages the latest web technologies to reach the broadest possible audience. As a Beta release, the site incorporates the look-and-feel of the final site with major functions and content included. It is still in development and we are adding new content and capabilities nearly every week.

The most immediately visible change is a new home page with more timely information and a more dynamic set of graphics and links. The home page is aimed at the general public rather than the experienced user.

Also, users won’t have to hunt for current conditions. A scrolling bar at the top of the home page and every other page shows the past, current and future space weather conditions using the three NOAA scales.

For experienced users and interest groups, there are direct links to pages of critical interest. These include Aviation, Electric Power, Satellite Operators, Radio Communications, Satellite Navigation, Emergency Management, etc…

Finally, we are investing substantial effort to ensure that the site is mobile-friendly. Users with portable devices will always be able to get their space weather fix.

Please, take some time and wander about. Push buttons and prod scientists with questions. It’s what they respond to. :)

Thanks, Mike

El Niño monitoring system in the eastern Pacific is failing


Nearly half of the buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean array have failed

An ocean-monitoring system that extends across the tropical Pacific is collapsing, depriving scientists of data on a region that influences global weather and climate trends.

Nearly half of the moored buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array have failed in the last two years, crippling an early-warning system for the warming and cooling events in the eastern equatorial Pacific, known respectively as El Niño and La Niña. Scientists are now collecting data from just 40% of the array.

It’s the most important climate phenomenon on the planet, and we have blinded ourselves to it by not maintaining this array,” says Michael McPhaden, a senior scientist at…NOAA. McPhaden headed the TAO project before it was transferred out of NOAA’s research arm and into the agency’s National Weather Service in 2005.

…Researchers from around the world will meet next week at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, to discuss possible solutions. NOAA has indicated that the agency will put additional resources into the program this coming year, but few expect that this will be enough to fully restore the array.

Wouldn’t it be a pleasant change if we repopulated Congress, the White House and relevant agencies with science-literate folks to a point where projects like this received adequate funding as readily as, say, subsidies for tobacco farmers or Exxon-Mobil?

I doubt if even a virtual sperm whale would be capable of holding its breath long enough to live to see that happen.

Southwest Airlines planes gathering weather data for NOAA

Every 12 hours, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launches weather balloons from approximately 70 locations across the US. While these do provide valuable data, a lot can change between those intervals and those locations. That’s why a new project is taking advantage of something that’s already going up in the sky on a much more frequent basis and in a higher number of locations – Southwest Airlines jets…

So far, 87 of the airline’s Boeing 737s have been fitted with Water Vapor Sensing Systems (WVSS-II) made by SpectraSensors. These are the same sensors already used on balloons, to measure moisture distribution throughout the atmosphere. By observing how that distribution changes over time, aviation weather forecasters are able to make predictions regarding things like “location and timing of fog, cloud formation and dissipation, and altitudes of cloud ceilings.”

The newly-deployed sensors will make measurements hundreds of times in one flight, as each aircraft ascends and descends through the atmosphere during take-off and landing. Readings will be automatically transmitted to the headquarters of Aeronautical Radio Incorporated, then processed and relayed to the US National Weather Service (part of NOAA) for use in weather forecasts and warnings.

The project seems to be doing well enough that it will be expanded throughout more of the Southwest fleet as part of NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation initiative.

Bravo!

Signs of “new normal” in Earth’s climate apparent in hot 2012

Last year was one of the 10 hottest on record, with sea levels at record highs, Arctic ice at historic lows and extreme weather in various corners of the globe signaling a “new normal,” scientists said Tuesday in the 2012 State of the Climate report.

Meant to be a guide for policymakers, the report did not attribute the changes in climate to any one factor, but made note of continued increases in heat-trapping greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide…

The report’s data indicate “new normal” conditions that can inform planning decisions, instead of relying on models that “count on the future being statistically a lot like the past,” Kathryn Sullivan said at a news briefing.

Global surface temperatures – land and water – were the eighth or ninth warmest, depending on which data set was used, since recordkeeping began in the late 1800s, the report found.

However, in the decade leading up to 2012, global temperatures actually declined by .05 degree C, according to Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Karl said the 50-year trend indicates global temperatures have consistently increased about .15 degree C per decade.

The recent decrease in temperatures has been noted by climate change skeptics who question the impact of human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide, on climate.

However, other changes detailed in the report paint a more complex picture:

- Sea levels reached a record high, after a sharp decrease in 2011 possibly linked to the Pacific Ocean phenomenon La Nina, which can have a cooling effect;

- Arctic sea ice shrank to its smallest summer minimum since satellite records began 34 years ago, while Antarctic sea ice reached a record high;

- More than 97 percent of the ice sheet covering Greenland melted at least a bit in the summer of 2012, four times greater than the 1981-2010 average;

- Average sea surface temperatures rose, but not much, making 2012 among the 11th warmest years on record;

- Ocean heat was near record high levels in the upper half-mile of the water, and temperatures also increased in the deep ocean.

The State of the Climate report is being published as a supplement to the August Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is available online.

I suggest reading the whole report. Something in there for everyone, amateur or professional, scientist or advocate for science.

It will bore the crap out of “skeptics” who normally rely on ideologues who tell them what to believe.

Greenhouse gases hit threshold unseen in 3,000,000 years


Republican answer to every climate question

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time since measurements began, breaching a threshold not seen for 3 million years.

The main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming averaged 400.03 parts per million at a monitoring station on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano yesterday, according to data published today on the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. The administration’s data stretches back to 1958.

The reading is considered a landmark by scientists and environmentalists, who say carbon emissions caused by burning fossil fuels are warming the planet and must be reined in before they cause irreversible changes to weather, sea levels and Arctic ice cover.

We are in the process of creating a prehistoric climate that humans have no evolutionary experience of,” Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment…

The last time CO2 levels were this high was at least 3 million years ago, he said. Then, “temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial times, the polar ice caps were much smaller, and sea levels were about 20 meters higher than today,” he said…

Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for as much as a century, so levels now may cause warming for decades. The concentration has now increased by more than 40 percent from the pre-industrial mark of 280 parts per million…

The United Nations in 2007 said stabilizing the gas at 400 ppm to 440 ppm may lead to a temperature gain of as much as 2.8 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s at odds with the goal set out by climate treaty negotiators from more than 190 nations, who have agreed to shoot for limiting the temperature increase to 2 degrees. The global average has already risen by about 0.8 of a degree since pre-industrial times.

As usual, conservative politicians in the United States and their peers in the Flat Earth community pay no attention to landmarks like this – other than to pat themselves on the back for ignoring science. Pimps for the fossil fuel industries, their only notice of ongoing scientific research is to complain that it occurs at all.

In a parallel effect, we have already reached and surpassed the critical mass for stupidity, egregious politics and short-sighted incompetence in the Congress of the United States.

Sea surface temperatures reach highest level in 150 years on Northeast continental shelf

Sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem during 2012 were the highest recorded in 150 years, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). These high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are the latest in a trend of above average temperature seen during the spring and summer seasons, and part of a pattern of elevated temperatures occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, but not seen elsewhere in the ocean basin over the past century…

Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, with historical SST conditions based on ship-board measurements dating back to 1854. The temperature increase in 2012 was the highest jump in temperature seen in the time series and one of only five times temperature has changed by more than 1 C…

“Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing and strength of spring and fall plankton blooms could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature,” Kevin Friedland, a scientist in the NEFSC Ecosystem Assessment Program, said. He noted that the contrast between years with, and without, a fall bloom is emerging as an important driver of the shelf’s ecology. “The size of the spring plankton bloom was so large that the annual chlorophyll concentration remained high in 2012 despite low fall activity. These changes will have a profound impact throughout the ecosystem.”

Michael Fogarty, who heads the Ecosystem Assessment Program, says the abundance of fish and shellfish is controlled by a complex set of factors, and that increasing temperatures in the ecosystem make it essential to monitor the distribution of many species, some of them migratory and others not…”We now have information on the ecosystem from a variety of sources collected over a long period of time, and are adding more data to clarify specific details. The data clearly show a relationship between all of these factors.”

“What these latest findings mean for the Northeast Shelf ecosystem and its marine life is unknown,” Fogarty said. “What is known is that the ecosystem is changing, and we need to continue monitoring and adapting to these changes.”

What is also known is that the average political hack in Congress doesn’t care a tinker’s damn about these changes – or how they may result. So, a comprehensive political response to build understanding and education, policy and best practices among those who earn their livelihood from the Northeast seas – ain’t about to happen.