Tag Archives: forecast

Weird weather: Seeing global warming’s fingerprints

A new scientific report finds man-made climate change played some role in two dozen extreme weather events last year but not in a few other weird weather instances around the world.

An annual report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found climate change was a factor in 24 of 30 strange weather events.

They include 11 cases of high heat, as well as unusual winter sunshine in the United Kingdom, Alaskan wildfires and odd “sunny day” flooding in Miami.

The study documented climate change-goosed weather in Alaska, Washington state, the southeastern United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the western north Pacific cyclone region, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Ethiopia and southern Africa.

“It has to be measureable. It has to be detectable. There has to be evidence for it and that’s what these papers do,” said NOAA scientist Stephanie Herring, co-editor of the report.

In six cases — including cold snaps in the United States and downpours in Nigeria and India — the scientists could not detect climate change’s effects. Other scientists, though, disputed that finding for the cold snap that hit the Northeast.

Herring highlighted the Miami flooding in September 2015. Because of rising sea levels and sinking land, extremely high tides flooded the streets with 22 inches of water.

“This one is just very remarkable because truly, not a cloud in the sky, and these types of tidal nuisance flooding events are clearly become more frequent,” she said.

The report also found an increase in tropical cyclone activity and strength in the western Pacific can be blamed partly on climate change and partly on El Nino, the now-gone natural weather phenomenon. But similar storm strengthening hasn’t increased noticeably around the United States yet, said study co-editor Martin Hoerling, a NOAA scientist.

The report was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Using accepted scientific techniques, 116 scientists from around the world calculated whether the odds of the extreme weather events were increased by global warming. They based their calculations on observed data, understanding of the physics of the climate and computer simulations — techniques that the National Academy of Sciences said were valid earlier this year.

Columbia University meteorology professor Adam Sobel, who was on the national academy panel but not part of this report, praised the NOAA study but noted it wasn’t comprehensive. It picked only certain but not all weather extremes to study.

For the February 2015 Northeast cold snap, other scientists have connected the polar vortex pushing south to shrinking ice in the Arctic Ocean.

Judah Cohen, seasonal forecasting chief at Atmospheric Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, said he even predicted the 2015 polar vortex because of the low sea ice. He said the same thing is happening with the bitter cold hitting the U.S. this week.

NOAA’s Hoerling said the research found a connection between the shrinking ice and the polar vortex but didn’t see one causing the other.

On the web

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Tardy El Nino finally arrives

A long anticipated El Nino has finally arrived. But for drought-struck California, it’s too little, too late, meteorologists say.

The National Weather Service late last week proclaimed the phenomenon is now in place. It’s a warming of a certain patch of the central Pacific that changes weather patterns worldwide, associated with flooding in some places, droughts elsewhere, a generally warmer globe and fewer Atlantic hurricanes. El Ninos are usually so important that economists even track them because of how they affect commodities.

But this is a weak, weird and late version of El Nino, so don’t expect too many places to feel its effects, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center. He said there may be a slight decrease in the number of Atlantic hurricanes this summer if the condition persists, but he also points out that 1992’s devastating Hurricane Andrew occurred during an El Nino summer, so coastal residents shouldn’t let their guard down.

There’s about a 50 to 60 percent chance the El Nino will continue through the summer, NOAA predicts.

Ever since March 2014, the weather service has been saying an El Nino was just around the corner. But it didn’t quite show up until now. Meteorologists said the key patch of the Pacific was warming but they didn’t see the second technical part of its definition – certain changes in the atmosphere. Halpert said he didn’t know why this El Nino didn’t form as forecast, saying “something just didn’t click this year.”

“What we’ve learned from this event is that our definition is very confusing and we need to work on it,” Halpert said.

Last year, some experts were hoping that El Nino would help the southwestern droughts because moderate-to-strong events bring more winter rain and snow to California – even flooding and mudslides during 1998’s strong El Nino. But this El Nino arrives at the end of California’s rainy season and is quite weak, Halpert said.

“This is not the answer for California,” Halpert said.

The U.S. Southeast may see some above average rainfall, which is typical for an El Nino, Halpert said.

This is the first El Nino since spring of 2010.

Allan Clarke, a physical oceanography professor at Florida State University, said as far he’s concerned, El Nino has been around awhile and the weather service didn’t acknowledge it. But he agrees that this doesn’t look like a strong one.

That fits with the pattern the last 10 years, when El Nino’s flip side, a cooling of the central Pacific called La Nina, has been more common. From 2005 to 2014, there have been twice as many months with a La Nina than with El Nino, weather records show. More than half of the time, the world has been in neither.

On the Web…

Climate Prediction Center’s El Nino page: http://1.usa.gov/1jSaUB3

Feds: No sequel to polar vortex

If you thought last winter was a horror show, with cold blasts from the polar vortex and a lack of California rain, here’s some good news: No sequel is expected this year, federal forecasters say.

Mike Halpert of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this week that the upcoming winter looks pretty average in general. He doesn’t expect a lot of extreme conditions like last year’s cold outbreaks when Arctic air dipped south with the polar vortex.

“A repeat of last winter is not particularly likely,” said Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be cold air and snow, which is normal for much of the country during winter, Halpert said. It just won’t persist as much as it did last year, when extreme weather seemed to be stuck in place, he said.

Similarly, the high pressure ridge off the Pacific coast that last year kept rain out of California during its crucial winter rainy season is unlikely to return in force, Halpert said.

NOAA didn’t predict last winter’s extremes in last year’s winter forecast.

For December through February, NOAA forecasts warmer-than-normal winter temperatures for most of the West, northern tier and northern New England, with cooler weather in the Southeast, and average temperatures elsewhere.

The agency predicts wetter-than-normal conditions stretching from Southern California to Florida and up to northern New Hampshire, with dry patches in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes. Average precipitation is forecast elsewhere.

A long-expected El Nino – a warming of the tropical Pacific that changes weather worldwide – makes last year’s extremes less likely and the wetter, cooler south more likely, Halpert said.

Other private weather forecasters are predicting a slightly cooler winter than NOAA.

Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecast at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, has pioneered winter forecasts that link colder Eastern U.S. weather to years when there is more snow on the ground in Siberia in October. It’s still early and October isn’t finished, but the month has started out unusually snowy in Siberia, which preliminarily points to a cooler winter for east of the Mississippi River, he said.

Halpert said Cohen’s method is intriguing but NOAA needs more years to show that it works as forecast tool.

Ryan Maue of the private WeatherBell Analytics of New York predicts that “a vast majority of the nation will experience significant periods of below-normal temperatures this winter, with the coldest temperatures (relative to normal) occurring in the Ohio Valley and up through the Eastern Plains.”

On the Web…

NOAA winter outlook: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2014/20141016-winteroutlook.html 

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Farmers’ Almanac predicts another nasty winter

The folks at the Farmers’ Almanac can be forgiven for feeling smug: The 198-year-old publication correctly predicted the past nasty winter while federal forecasters blew it.

Memories of the polar vortex and relentless snowstorms won’t soon be forgotten. And the editors of the publication are predicting more of the same for the coming season.

“Shivery and shovelry are back. We’re calling for some frigid conditions, bitter conditions,” said managing editor Sandi Duncan.

The latest edition, which officially goes on sale this week, forecasts colder-than-normal and wetter-than-usual weather for three-quarters of the country east of the Rocky Mountains. Drought-stricken California, along with the Pacific Northwest, will see normal precipitation and cool temperatures this winter, the almanac said.

The publication, not to be confused with the New Hampshire-based Old Farmer’s Almanac, uses a secret formula based on sunspots, planetary positions and lunar cycles for its long-range weather forecasts.

Modern science doesn’t put much stock in the formula.

But even modern meteorologists can stumble on long-term forecasts. The national Climate Prediction Center forecast a strong likelihood of above-normal temperatures from last November through January.

“Not one of our better forecasts,” Mike Halpert, the Climate Prediction Center’s acting director, said at the time. There’s still no good explanation as to why the polar vortex moved so deep into the U.S., he said.

Of the Farmers’ Almanac, he said, “Good for them if they got it right last year, and I’ll leave it at that.”

The almanac’s editor, Peter Geiger, can also gloat over his Super Bowl forecast. The almanac forecast a snowstorm Feb. 1-3 in New Jersey. It was 49 degrees at the start of the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, but a snowstorm created havoc the following morning.

The almanac wasn’t spot on everywhere: The Pacific Northwest was wetter than expected, and California and the Southwest were drier than projected.

The almanac also contains gardening tips, trivia, jokes and natural remedies, like catnip as a pain reliever or elderberry syrup as an immune booster, in this year’s edition.

But it’s the weather prognostications that tend to grab headlines.

The editors encourage readers to be prepared — and to make the best of it. “When it snows you have two choices: Shovel or make snow angels,” Duncan quipped.

On the Web…

http://www.farmersalmanac.com

Wild winter? Not likely says NOAA

The weather forecast for this winter is mostly a shrug of the shoulders.

For most of the nation, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration predicts equal chances for unusual warmth, cold, snow, rain and even average weather. That’s because of an absence of certain global weather factors, like El Nino – a warming of the central Pacific that affects temperatures and rainfall worldwide.

NOAA’s Mike Halpert said this week that the winter isn’t likely to be too memorable or unusual, except in the South where drought should deepen in the southwest and develop in the southeast.

Forecasters expect unusual warmth from Arizona to Alabama and also in New England. The extreme U.S. north, around the Dakotas, is likely to be colder than normal.

Just because forecasters are predicting equal chances for nearly everything, that doesn’t mean it has to be a normal year, said Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md. It just means the large-scale climate factors that forecasters use, such as El Nino, aren’t giving them strong signals or patterns, he said.

But extremes tend to happen with El Ninos, so Halpert added, “we’re probably more likely to see something more benign” for the winter.

And the winter weather is likely to change more from week to week, rather than persisting heavy cold and snowy or mild for weeks on end, Halpert said.

NOAA’s forecast doesn’t look for individual blizzards or events, just averages. So a winter that doesn’t look extreme doesn’t mean it will be free of snowstorms, Halpert said. He said residents in snow-prone areas shouldn’t put away their snow shovels.

And in places like the mid-Atlantic, where the national’s capital has had less than 5 inches of snow for two years, the odds are against the snow-drought continuing for a third year, Halpert said.

Private weather forecast companies also cited mixed and lack of signals in their forecasts, which ranged from warm to cold.

The Weather Channel sees a winter that’s warmer than normal for the coastal Northeast and mid-Atlantic, the South, the West and much of the lower Midwest. The country’s northernmost states should be a bit cooler than normal, the company forecasts

Accuweather sees a late start to winter in the East, near record warmth in the South, but plenty of snow and extreme cold in the North, upper Midwest, Northwest and the Rockies. Weather Bell Analytics sees a colder and snowier winter for much of the country, centered around the nation’s heartland.