Godzilla El Niño stormed ashore in Southern California today, offering up a good drenching that has caused flooding, closed roads, and transformed the usually trickling Los Angeles River into a raging torrent.
Today’s fast-moving tempest will be just the first in a parade of storms this week. An El-Niño-energized subtropical jet stream promises to help deliver at least two more rounds of copious rainfall to the drought-plagued region between now and Sunday.
All of this was expected from the El Niño that has been growing in the tropical reaches of the Pacific Ocean for months. But now, it seems to be getting a boost from another climatic phenomenon: the Madden-Julian Oscillation.
The active phase of the MJO is moving eastward through the tropical Pacific, and it is helping to enhance El Niño there.
“We’re essentially seeing a mash-up of both El Niño and the MJO at the moment,” says Michelle L’Heureaux, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Wherever MJO goes, it tends to increase storminess. And it’s doing precisely that right now in the central tropical Pacific Ocean — where El Niño has been doing the same thing.
This is very far from California. But the weather that happens there doesn’t just stay there. It tends to influence events much farther afield.
What impacts on U.S. weather can we expect from the El Niño-MJO mashup? Read More
From preternatural Christmas warmth enveloping the eastern U.S., to deadly tornados raking the nation’s midsection, to historic flooding that followed close behind, and most recently to a monstrous storm that unfroze the Arctic, the past several weeks have brought a pronounced bout of meteorological mayhem.
A monstrously powerful North Atlantic storm has done the unthinkable: By drawing warm air up from the south into the Arctic, it likely pushed up temperatures at the North Pole today to just above the melting point.
The North Pole unfreezing — in winter? That’s seems like a fitting way to end a year that will go down as the warmest on record, by far.
One caveat is in order: There is no permanent weather station at the North Pole, so an actual measurement of the temperature has not been taken there. But weather models using data from satellites and the nearest weather stations provide good estimates of what’s happening in the Arctic, including at the North Pole.
In the graphic above, you can see the powerful storm swirling over Iceland, as visualized using data from weather models. The lines indicate wind direction, and colors are indicative of temperature. The green shows warm air being sucked up from south of the Arctic by the storm, and flung on a beeline over Svalbard and on to the North Pole. Read More
During 2015, one global warming record after another has fallen. And if you’re looking for relief in the new year, you can probably forget about it.
More about the forecast for 2016 in a minute. But first, let’s wrap up 2015:
The latest global warming record to fall for the year now ending was the one for the month of November: According to data released this past week, the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces last month was an astonishing 1.75 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average of 55.2 degrees F.
That means November 2015 shattered the previous record, set in 2013, for warmest such month in the 136-year period of record.
With this tally in, it’s now clear that September through November also set the mark for highest departure from average temperature for the season — by far. In fact, nine of the first eleven months of 2015 have been record warm, as has been the period January through November.
So now there really is just one significant question remaining: By how much will 2015 beat the previous mark — set in 2014 — for warmest year on record? We’ll have to wait until the analyses are published, probably in the second week of January, to get an answer.
In the meantime, let’s delve a bit deeper, with the help of some graphics — starting with the one above. Read More
After a bit of a blogging hiatus, I’m back — and I thought I’d lead off with the image above. I find it singularly striking.
Make sure to click on the image to fully take in the beauty of the home planet.
It consists of a composite of photographs acquired on Oct. 12, 2015 by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. At the time, LRO was above the Compton crater on the Moon’s far side.
It looks like LRO captured a picture of Earthrise on the Moon — and that’s how NASA has headlined it. But this is a bit of poetic license — because a stationary observer on the Moon actually would never see the Earth rising or setting.
Here’s why: Read More
Click on this arresting photograph of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano, shot from orbit, and then see if you can make out a series of white structures on the summit.
See them? They form a ‘C’ right at the top. (For an original, high resolution version of the image, go here.)
These are some of the 13 working telescopes near the volcano’s summit, as seen from the International Space Station on Nov. 1, 2015 and posted today by NASA’s Earth Observatory.
Every once in awhile, a kind of hole blows out in the Sun’s atmosphere — a “coronal hole,” as it is called. And it has happened again, this time on top of the Sun.
You can see it above in a sequence of images captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, or SDO, in different wavelengths of light. Look for the big dark area on the Sun’s cap.
Not to worry! This is completely normal.
SEE ALSO: Has the Sun blown its top?
Ordinarily, the Sun’s magnetic field lines extend up through the atmosphere, or corona, and then loop back down to the surface. This bottles up solar particles near the surface, where they heat up and glow.
But sometimes, magnetic field lines extend up and out into space without reconnecting to the surface. Here, the opening in the magnetic field allows particles to blow out into space. Wherever this happens, the surface becomes darker and cooler, giving the impression of a hole in the Sun.
I created the animation above to illustrate this process. It consists of SDO images of the Sun captured in different wavelengths. Read More
| UPDATE: The lunar puzzler is solved! For the answer, read through to the end of this post. — T.Y. |
Last Thursday marked the anniversary of a significant event in human history: the Apollo 12 Moon landing on Nov. 19, 1969.
This was just the second time humans ever stepped foot on our cratered satellite. But the occasion passed us by last week largely unheralded.
That’s understandable, because the landing wasn’t a first — the astronauts of Apollo 11 hold that honor. And a 46th anniversary isn’t as resonant as, say, a 50th would have been.
“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence,” said Auric Goldfinger in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel. (*See the end for the rest of the quote.) But Apollo 12 showed just the opposite: Landing on the Moon a second time wasn’t just coincidence.
It showed that humans were capable of more than just one giant leap. We could leap a second time across across more than 220,000 miles of space and then land with breathtaking precision — within walking distance of the mission’s target, the robotic Surveyor III spacecraft that had touched down back in 1967.
So I think it is fair to say that with Apollo 12, humans became true spacefarers.
To mark the anniversary of the landing, NASA published the image above. Read More
NASA is out with its monthly analysis of global surface temperatures, and the verdict is unsettling: This past month positively obliterated the previous record for warmest October.
The global average temperature in October according to NASA’s analysis was 1.04 degrees C warmer than the long-term average for the month. The previous record of 0.86 degrees C was set in October of last year.
This corroborates the picture drawn by data released a couple of days ago by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
The jump in global temperatures in October was also the greatest departure from average — by far — for any month in NASA’s entire record, which dates back to 1880. We’re talking 1,630 months here. Read More
I spotted this stunning image on Instagram this morning, and I just had to share it. Make sure to click on it to see an enlarged version.
Shot by NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren aboard the International Space Station on Nov. 11, 2015, it shows a desert region of Oman dissected in a beautiful filagree pattern by dry water-courses.
On Twitter, Lindgren described it this way: “The delicate fingerprints of water imprinted on the sand. The #StoryOfWater.”
For the exact location of this spectacular example of Earth art, click here.