October has been dramatically warm and dry in much of the United States — and relief is not yet in sight

By Tom Yulsman | October 29, 2016 2:36 pm
This animation shows how temperatures are forecast to vary from average for the period starting Monday, October 31 and ending Saturday, Nov. 5. (Images: Climate Reanalyzer. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

This animation shows how temperatures are forecast to vary from average for the period starting Monday, October 31 and ending Saturday, Nov. 5. (Images: Climate Reanalyzer. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

October has continued a streak of remarkably warm and dry weather across large portions the United States. And as the animation above suggests, the heat, at least, is not likely to relent during the next week.

October warmth

Source: Climate Reanalyzer

Halloween will see very warm temperatures across the south and bulging far northward through the nation’s midsection — with temperatures as high as 80 degrees F perhaps reaching as far north as South Dakota. (Click on the thumbnail at right for the temperature forecast.)

And as my colleague Bob Henson points out in Weather Underground’s Category 6 blog, the issue isn’t just extraordinarily high temperatures for this time of year. There has also been a lack of autumnal chill at night.

Read More

Scientists snare their first ever observations of a solar wave erupting upward from a sunspot

By Tom Yulsman | October 29, 2016 12:49 pm

The findings may help explain a deep and abiding solar mystery

The first-ever observations of a solar wave traveling up into the sun’s atmosphere from a sunspot. (Source: NASA/BBSO/Zhao et al)

Sunspot images from two spacecraft plus California’s Big Bear Solar Observatory — which acquired this footage — have allowed scientists to make the first-ever observations of a solar wave traveling up into the sun’s atmosphere from a sunspot. (Source: NASA/BBSO/Zhao et al)

Solar scientists have a problem: They haven’t been able to fully explain why the Sun’s atmosphere is about 100 times hotter than its surface.

Now, observations of a solar wave rising up from a sunspot may help explain at least one of the ways in which the atmosphere, called the corona, gets so hot.

Why should the Sun’s atmosphere be hotter than the region below it? If you think about it, this makes no sense.

Nuclear fusion in the center of the Sun heats this region to an astounding 27 million degrees F. Each successive layer of the sun is cooler than the one below it. In fact, the Sun’s surface is a relatively brisk 10,800 degrees F.

If you’ve ever sat next to a campfire and had to move away a bit because it was too hot, this should make perfect sense.

solar wave

Scientists used data from two spacecraft and a ground observatory to track a solar wave rising into the Sun’s atmosphere from a sunspot, seen here in 16 wavelengths of light. (Source: Zhao et al/NASA/SDO/IRIS/BBSO)

But imagine taking a few more steps away from the campfire and suddenly feeling like you’re going to burn up. That’s exactly what happens with the Sun: Right above the surface, the corona’s temperature soars to more than 1.8 million degrees F.

Scientists call this the “coronal heating problem,” and they’ve been trying to solve it since the 1930s.

Today, there are two main theories. One holds that loops of the Sun’s magnetic field induce electric currents in the corona. These release energy and cause heating.

The other theory posits that waves carry energy from the Sun’s interior up into the corona. The new research illuminates how this can occur. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Physics, select, Sun, Top Posts

With three presidential debates in the can, the loser is…

By Tom Yulsman | October 20, 2016 12:07 am

Earth was hardly mentioned, and that means the loser is actually . . . us

NASA's EPIC camera aboard NOAA's DSCOVR spacecraft acquired this image of the home planet on Oct. 17, 2016 at 11:01:20 GMT. The spacecraft was 902,561 miles from Earth at the time. (Source: NASA EPIC Team)

NASA’s EPIC camera aboard NOAA’s DSCOVR spacecraft acquired this image of the home planet on Oct. 17, 2016 at 11:01:20 GMT. The spacecraft was 902,561 miles from Earth at the time. (Source: NASA EPIC Team)

The pundits will no doubt be yammering on for days about who won and who lost the final U.S. presidential debate.

But I’d say that we don’t need the pundits to tell us who the overall loser was. I think it was humanity.

During the debates, we heard a lot of shouting, but almost nothing about the most profound, long-term issue all of us confront: How 7 billion of us, probably growing to 9 billion in relatively short order, can live sustainably on the home planet. Perhaps I missed it, but during all three debates, not one of the journalist moderators asked a question related to this question. It took a citizen in a red sweater named Ken Bone to sort of bring up the issue.

It wasn’t exactly the sustainability question I had in mind. But at least it was in the ballpark. Maybe he should get a Pulitzer.

Conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, should have a robust debate about the best policies for responding to the sustainability challenges humanity confronts.  These include a warming climate, rising sea level, and increases in extreme weather events. They also include degradation of the ecosystems we depend on for clean air and water, healthy food, and materials to build our homes and economies.

But we’ll never discuss these issues and work towards solutions if during presidential debates they are deemed off-limits by the journalist moderators. Perhaps they were listening to polls that find environmental issues to be a low priority among voters. But how will these issues ever become a higher priority if we don’t challenge politicians to address them?

What a missed opportunity. What a deep and abiding shame.

Watch Super Typhoon Haima cut toward the Philippines in this incredible animation of satellite images

By Tom Yulsman | October 19, 2016 9:33 am
Haima

Super Typhoon Haima takes aim on the Philippines between Oct 17 and 18, 2016 in this animation of images from the Himawari-8 satellite. (Source: RAMMB/NOAA/CIRA)

In just a matter of hours, Super Typhoon Haima is forecast to cut viciously into the northeastern coast of Luzon in the Philippines.

In the most recent update from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, this huge storm’s sustained winds have been pegged at 155 miles per hour, with gusts up to an astonishing 190 mph.

Haima is forecast to weaken a bit before landfall. But it will still be a powerful storm with the potential to kill many people.

In addition to winds that could flatten homes and other structures, it  is forecast to dump 10 to 20 inches of rain in northern Luzon. This will fall on soils already saturated from Tropical Storm Sarika, which crossed the heart of the island last Sunday. That storm dropped 20 inches of rain in places. So the potential for major flooding is high.

Click on the screenshot above to watch a stunning animation of imagery from the Himawari-8 satellite, showing Haima bearing down on the Philippines on Monday and Tuesday. To my eye, it takes on the appearance of a gargantuan circular saw as its arms spin around a tightly defined eye. Read More

Arctic sea ice trends near a record low for this time of year

By Tom Yulsman | October 18, 2016 11:05 am

After tying for second lowest extent in September, Arctic sea ice began expanding rapidly. But that has turned around dramatically in October.

An animation of satellite images shows differences in sea ice in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's coast between Oct. 14, 2014 and Oct. 12, 2016. The first image, captured by the Terra satellite in 2014, shows extensive snow cover around Alaska's Brooks Range and sea ice forming offshore. The second image, from the Aqua satellite in 2016, shows the same region — mostly snow- and ice-free. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

An animation of satellite images shows differences in sea ice in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s coast between Oct. 14, 2014 and Oct. 12, 2016. The first image, captured by the Terra satellite in 2014, shows extensive snow cover around Alaska’s Brooks Range (to the left), and sea ice forming offshore. The second image, from the Aqua satellite in 2016, shows the same region — mostly snow- and ice-free. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

Arctic sea ice has been been growing much more slowly than average during October. Its geographic extent is now in a rough tie with 2007 and 2012 for the lowest in the satellite record for this point in the year.

sea ice

Source: NSIDC

The chart at right compares the evolution of Arctic sea ice extent during 2007, 2012 and 2016. This year is plotted in red. Note how slow the growth of ice has been during October. (Please click on the thumbnail to enlarge it.)

Also check out just how low Arctic sea ice extent went during September, at the end of the warm season. In fact, 2016 tied with 2007 for the second-lowest extent in the satellite record.

But after that, freeze-up actually occurred fairly rapidly — until slowing dramatically at the beginning of October. What’s up with this Arctic sea ice roller coaster ride? Read More

The heat streak goes on: NASA finds that last month was the warmest September on record

By Tom Yulsman | October 17, 2016 11:33 am

With that in mind, I have an urgent request for Chris Wallace, moderator of the next debate: please ask Donald Trump about climate change

warmest

In this temperature anomaly map, yellow, orange and red colors show regions of the world that were warmer than the long-term average in September. (Source: NASA GISS)

Although it is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity, climate change has barely figured in the past two presidential debates. Now, we have news that by all rights should finally prompt at least one question on the subject at the third and last debate, scheduled for this coming Wednesday:

This past month was the warmest September in a record dating back to 1880, according to data just released by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The globe was .91 degrees C, or 1.638 degrees F, warmer than the long-term average for September.

That means 11 of the past 12 months have been the warmest on record, by NASA’s reckoning. (June 2016 was second to June of 2015 as warmest for that month.)

And there is almost no doubt that 2016 will go down as the warmest year on record: Read More

Is La Niña rising from the dead?

By Tom Yulsman | October 15, 2016 6:42 pm

Written off last month as all but a goner, La Niña — El Niño’s cool opposite — now seems to be stirring again in the Pacific, albeit weakly.

The two images in this animation show the evolution of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The first image shows a spear of abnormally warm water along the equator on Oct. 12, 2015, when El Niño was still growing. The second image shows dramatic cooling exactly a year later, as a possible La Niña was brewing.

The two images in this animation show the evolution of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The first image shows a spear of abnormally warm water along the equator on Oct. 12, 2015 indicative of El Niño conditions. The second image, from exactly one year later, shows the dramatic cooling of a possible La Niña. (Source: earth.nullschool.net)

A month ago, forecasters were writing the obituary for La Niña. Still in gestation at the time, it looked like it was going to be stillborn.

Not any longer. The latest forecast from the Climate Prediction Center pegs the odds of La Niña coming to term at 70 percent during fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

Source: Climate.gov

Source: Climate.gov

When a La Niña does develop, it has impacts on temperature and precipitation around the world. For a summary of what typically happens, click on the graphic at right. And for more detail on typical U.S. impacts, check out this explainer on Climate.gov.

But even if this baby does come to term, in all likelihood it will have a low Apgar score (sorry! my wife is a nurse-midwife…). Or as the Climate Prediction Center puts it: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ENSO, select, Top Posts, Weather
MORE ABOUT: ENSO, La Niña, weather

Stunning satellite image shows the powerful Ides of October Storm lit up by moonlight and plowing toward land

By Tom Yulsman | October 15, 2016 4:40 pm
The powerful Ides of October Storm, as seen under moonlight in the early morning hours of Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 by the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. (Source: RealEarth/SSEC)

The Ides of October Storm, as seen under moonlight in the early morning hours of Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 by the Suomi NPP satellite. (Source: RealEarth/SSEC)

As I’m writing this on the afternoon of Saturday, October 15th, the powerful Ides of October Storm is bearing down on the Pacific Northwest, threatening strong winds, high seas, major storm surges, and coastal flooding, starting soon and continuing into the nighttime hours.

The image above, captured by the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite, shows the storm as it was plowing toward Oregon and Washington in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Seen in reflected moonlight, the clouds stand out in beautiful high contrast.

SEE ALSO: The ‘Ides of October Storm’ is gathering strength and charging toward the Pacific Northwest

The latest forecast is for the center of the tempest to make landfall around Cape Flattery in Washington. Atmospheric pressure at its center is expected to plunge to around 970 millibars — equivalent to that of a Category 2 hurricane.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Extreme Weather, select, Top Posts, Weather

The ‘Ides of October Storm’ is gathering strength and charging toward the Pacific Northwest

By Tom Yulsman | October 14, 2016 12:53 pm
Ides of October Storm

An animation of infrared imagery from the GOES-West satellite shows the Pacific Northwest being hit with a potent frontal system. An even more powerful storm, dubbed the “Ides of October Storm,” is gathering strength out to sea behind it and is forecast to hit on Saturday night. (Source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.)

Even as a vigorous Pacific frontal system is moving through western Washington today, the remnants of Pacific Typhoon Songda are pulling together into an even stronger storm and charging headlong toward the region.

It has been dubbed the “Ides of October Storm.” And should it evolve on Saturday as forecast, Western Washington will “likely have its most significant windstorm since the Hanukkah Eve storm of December 2006, which left many people without power for several days,” according to the National Weather Service.

To be more precise, that Hanukkah eve storm stripped 1.8 million people of power in the United States, and it caused more than $250 million of damage (with another $80 million in Canada), according to meteorologist Bob Henson, writing in the new Category 6 blog at Weather Underground.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Extreme Weather, select, Top Posts, Weather

Smoke from raging Russian wildfires blew thousands of miles to the east, reaching out over the Pacific Ocean

By Tom Yulsman | October 12, 2016 2:26 pm
smoke

Smoke streams from multiple Russian wildfires on Sept 28, 2016, as seen by NASA’s Terra satellite. Active burning is marked in red. Lake Baikal is at lower right. (Source: NASA Worldview)

Toward the end of September, wildfires raging near Russia’s Lake Baikal lofted thick clouds of smoke that cast a pall over a huge region. Picked up by east-to-west winds, the smoke was blown more than 3,000 miles to the east, all the way out into the Pacific Ocean.

Make sure to check out the animation lower down in this post showing aerosols from the fires drifting east. But first, some background on these fires: Read More

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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.
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