The El Niño that has been helping to spawn wild and wacky weather in many parts of the world for months now is still very strong. But the latest analysis from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center suggests that it should start to weaken and transition to neutral conditions by late spring or summer.
If the cooling of the eastern and central tropical Pacific characteristic of a weakening El Niño progresses enough, we could well find ourselves in a La Niña by next fall or winter. That’s the opposite of an El Niño, and it typically brings dry winters to California. That, of course, would be bad news for the state — which is still struggling to emerge from an epic drought.
Ok. Before I go any further, I need to emphasize an important caveat: Right now, the Climate Prediction Center puts the odds of a La Niña developing at 50/50. That’s a coin flip. Still…
There’s a good chance you’ve heard about that Royal Caribbean cruise ship that negligently blundered right into the maw of a powerful, hurricane-strength Atlantic cyclone on Sunday. (If not, keep reading — details are coming.)
Now, click on the image above to watch a spectacularly detailed animation of satellite images showing the development and rapid intensification of the storm off the U.S. East Coast on Sunday, Feb. 7.
The animation, originally posted at the CIMSS Satellite Blog, consists of imagery from the GOES-14 weather satellite. GOES-14 actually is a spare that can be put into a “rapid scan” mode in which the satellite captures an image at the speedy pace of one a minute. This is in contrast to its two siblings, which have a much more leisurely pace of one image every 15 minutes.
With one-minute imagery, scientists and forecasters can do a better job of tracking the development of weather, most especially a rapidly developing storm like the one that Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas steamed right into.
Despite Royal Caribbean’s Tweeted claim that the 168,666-ton cruise ship — one of the world’s largest — “encountered an unexpectedly severe storm off Cape Hatteras,” there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for that to have happened.
The following graphic is a forecast for Sunday issued by NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center at 1 p.m. EST on Friday, Feb. 5th — 48 hours before the mishap. It clearly demonstrates that the storm was predicted far enough in advance for the ship to have avoided danger. I’ve annotated the graphic to draw your attention to two aspects: Read More
As frigid air poured out of western Siberia and out over the Sea of Okhotsk two days ago, it helped create one of the atmosphere’s more striking phenomena: long bands of cumulus clouds arranged in roughly parallel rows called “cloud streets.”
When I saw an image of the action captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite, my mind’s eye went to work. I saw that with some cropping to emphasize abstract patterning over immediately recognizable features, as well as modest enhancements to bring out detail, a beautiful work of Earth art (or “eARTh”) could be created.
The result is the image above. Read More
I spotted this beautiful animation of a powerful Pacific Ocean cyclone in the Twitter feed of Scott Bachmeier from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. It’s so awesome that I just had to share it.
The storm, as seen in the animation of GOES-15 weather satellite images above, has been spinning up in the Pacific Ocean and is headed into the Gulf of Alaska. As I’m writing this, the National the National Weather Service has issued a hurricane-force wind warning, which means the storm has either achieved hurricane strength (sustained winds of greater than 74 miles per hour), or it is predicted to do so. (For the latest Pacific high seas forecast, go here.) Read More
Juiced up by El Niño, extreme weather raked the United States from the last week of January through the beginning of February.
And thanks to satellites above, as well as cameras on the ground, we can witness all of the action — with synoptic views of a swirling winter storm and a beautiful visualization of total precipitation; a closer view of the atmosphere bubbling like stew in a cauldron; a look right into the heart of a massive thunderstorm; and right down to an individual tornado touching down near a house in Georgia, prompting a little girl to ask her mom, “Are we gonna’ die?” Read More
In my previous article here at ImaGeo, I featured a Norwegian icebreaker with no winter sea ice to break in the high Arctic. Since then, the National Snow and Ice Data Center has published its monthly update on sea ice conditions — and the news is pretty dramatic.
Record warm Arctic air temperatures running an astonishing 11 degrees F above average at the surface helped drive sea ice to a record low in January.
A significant part of the 402,000-square-mile deficit came from unusually low ice coverage in the Barents Sea, including off the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Here, sailors aboard Norway’s KV Svalbard icebreaker were surprised by just how little ice they saw while on patrol recently.
During a recent mission off the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, a Norwegian Coast Guard icebreaker encountered unusual winter conditions for an area just 800 miles from the North Pole.
At this time of year, sea ice usually closes in around Svalbard’s northern and eastern coasts. But not this year. The sturdy 340-foot-long, 6,375-ton KV Svalbard had no ice to break, reports Oddvar Larsen, the ship’s First Engineer.
I spoke with Larsen and other sailors on board the icebreaker during the kickoff event of the 10th Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway on Jan. 24, 2016. This is the first post of several I have planned based on reporting I did at the conference. (Please see the note at the end for important details about the reporting that went into this story.)
Larsen told me that he has observed “big changes” in the Arctic during his nearly 25 years at sea. In addition to shrinking in extent, “most of the ice we encounter now is young — just one year old.”
In the past, thicker, multi-year ice was dominant, including old ice greater than nine years of age. Today that oldest ice is almost gone.
You can watch the Arctic’s old sea ice disappear, literally before your eyes, in this animation: Read More
This past year was by far the warmest in records that stretch back more than a century, two U.S. federal agencies announced this morning.
Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, began the briefing by saying, “2015 was by far the warmest year in the records we have put together.”
“We’re really looking at a long-term trend,” he said. “This is just a symptom of that long-term trend.” The cause: “increasing burning of fossil fuels and the carbon dioxide that come with that.”
While El Niño contributed to the warmth seen this past year, “the trend over time is why we’re having a record warm year,” he said.
NASA and NOAA reached their conclusions based on independent analyses. Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina, said his agency’s analysis concurred with NASA’s.
“In our data set we were by far warmer than any other year, breaking the temperature record set previously in 2014 by a quarter degree Fahrenheit,” he said.
He noted that there was “quite a large separation from the previous record, set just last year.” This was a “rather remarkable part of the story this year.”
I am getting ready to leave for the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway, so I’ll have to leave it there. But for more detailed information, go here. And I’ll have more to say soon about the warming we saw in 2015 — from a part of the world that has actually warmed twice as fast as any other.
Note: If you’re not old enough to know what the headline alludes to, please make sure to read through to the bottom of this post.
Saucer-shaped clouds are not all that unusual in mountainous regions like the American West. But the ones that formed over Flagstaff, Ariz., on Jan. 14, 2016, and then over Colorado’s Front Range two days later, were particularly long-lasting — and beautiful.
They’re called altocumulus standing lenticular clouds. (But how about we make things easier from here on out by just calling them lenticular clouds?)
Click on the screenshot above to watch a timelapse video of the cloud over Flagstaff, posted to Twitter by the National Weather Service.
Here is a still photograph of the same lenticular: Read More
Storminess is really kicking into high gear in the eastern Pacific now, helping to drive more rainfall into northern California.
As I’m writing this on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 17, flood warnings are out for rivers and streams in the northwestern part of the state. (Click on the thumbnail at right for a graphic showing predicted flooding on four rivers.)
Over the past two days, much of the moisture has come from two hurricane-force low pressure systems that actually did a kind of meteorological do-si-do off the coast. Click on the screenshot above to watch it happen. (And make sure to watch in high definition.) Read More