Are atmospheric flow patterns favorable for summer extreme weather increasing?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:45 PM GMT on March 11, 2013

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In 2010, Russia baked through its most intense heat wave in recorded history, one that killed over 55,000 people. At the same time, intense rains deluged Pakistan, bringing that nation its worst natural disaster in its history. The following year, it was the United States' turn for extreme heat, as the nation sweltered through its third hottest summer on record, and Oklahoma suffered the hottest month any U.S. state has ever recorded. The U.S. summer of 2012 was even more extreme. Only the Dust Bowl summer of 1936 was hotter, and drought conditions were the most extensive since the 1930s. All of these events--and many more unusually extreme summer months in recent decades--had a common feature, said scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, in a research paper published in March 2013 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the authors, "each time one of these extremes struck, a strong wave train had developed in the atmosphere, circling the globe in mid-latitudes. These so-called planetary waves are well-known and a normal part of atmospheric flow. What is not normal is that the usually moving waves ground to a halt and were greatly amplified during the extreme events. Looking into the physics behind this, we found it is due to a resonance phenomenon. Under special conditions, the atmosphere can start to resonate like a bell. The wind patterns form a regular wave train, with six, seven or eight peaks and troughs going once around the globe". Using a complex theoretical mathematical description of the atmosphere and 32 years of historical weather data, the scientists showed that human-caused global warming might be responsible for this resonance phenomenon, which became twice as common during 2001 - 2012 compared to the previous 22 years.


Figure 1. Drought-damaged corn in a field near Nickerson, Nebraska, Aug. 16, 2012. The great U.S. drought of 2012 was the most extensive U.S. drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl. Damage from the 2012 drought is at least $35 billion, and probably much higher. The associated heat wave killed 123 people, and brought the U.S. its second hottest summer on record. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)


Figure 2. Business was slow at the Lake Conroe, Texas jet ski rental in 2011, thanks to the great Texas drought and heat wave of 2011. Texas endured its driest 1-year period on record in 2011, and had the hottest summer ever recorded by a U.S. state. July 2011 in Oklahoma was the hottest month any U.S. state has ever recorded, and the contiguous U.S. had its third hottest summer on record. The total direct losses to crops, livestock and timber from the drought, heat wave, and record fires of the summer of 2011 are estimated at $12 billion, with a death toll of 95. Image credit: wunderphotographer BEENE.


Figure 3. Tourists wear protective face masks as they walk along the Red Square in Moscow, Russia on Aug. 6, 2010. Moscow was shrouded by a dense smog that grounded flights at international airports and seeped into homes and offices, due to wildfires worsened by the city's most intense heat wave in its history. The heat wave and fires during the summer of 2010 killed over 55,000 people in Russia and decimated the Russian wheat crop, causing global food prices to spike. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

Two fundamental atmospheric flow patterns may be resonating more often due to global warming
Earth's atmosphere has two fundamental patterns. One is a series of wave-like troughs and ridges in the jet stream called planetary (or Rossby) waves, which march west-to-east at about 15 - 25 mph around the globe. The other pattern behaves more like a standing wave, with no forward motion, and is created by the unequal heating of the equatorial regions compared to the poles, modulated by the position of the continents and oceans. A number of papers have been published showing that these two patterns can interact and resonate in a way that amplifies the standing wave pattern, causing the planetary waves to freeze in their tracks for weeks, resulting in an extended period of extreme heat or flooding, depending upon where the high-amplitude part of the wave lies. But what the Potsdam Institute scientists found is that because human-caused global warming is causing the Arctic to heat up more than twice as rapidly as the rest of the planet, the two patterns are interacting more frequently during the summer. During the most recent eleven years, 2002 - 2012, there were eight Julys and Augusts that showed this unusually extreme resonance pattern (this includes the U.S. heat wave of July - August 2012.) The two previous eleven year periods, 1991 - 2001 and 1980 - 1990, had just four extreme months apiece. Global warming could certainly cause this observed increase in the resonance phenomenon, but the researchers cautioned, "The suggested physical process increases the probability of weather extremes, but additional factors certainly play a role as well, including natural variability. Also, the 32-year period studied in the project provides a good indication of the mechanism involved, yet is too short for definitive conclusions. So there's no smoking gun on the table yet--but quite telling fingerprints all over the place."



Figure 4. The northward wind speed (negative values, blue on the map, indicate southward flow) at an altitude of 300 mb in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere during July 2011 and July 1980. July of 2011 featured an unusually intense and long-lasting heat wave in the U.S., and the normally weak and irregular waves (like observed during the relatively normal July of 1980) were replaced by a strong and regular wave pattern. Image credit: Vladimir Petoukhov.

Commentary
The new Potsdam Institute paper gives us a mathematical description of exactly how global warming may be triggering observed fundamental changes in large-scale atmospheric flow patterns, resulting in the observed increase in unusually intense and long-lasting periods of extreme weather over the past eleven years. The paper also adds important theoretical support to the research published in 2012 by Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, which found that the amplitude of Earth's planetary waves had increased by over 100 miles (161 km) in summer over the past decade in the Northern Hemisphere. Dr. Francis theorized that this change was connected to increased heating of the Arctic relative to the rest of the Earth, due to the observed decline in late spring Northern Hemisphere snow cover. Humans tend to think linearly--one plus one equals two. However, the atmosphere is fundamentally non-linear. What may seem to be modest changes in Earth's climate can trigger unexpected resonances that will amplify into extreme changes--cases where one plus one equals four, or eight, or sixteen. In some cases, when you rock the boat too far, it won't simply roll a bit more, it will reach a tipping point where it suddenly capsizes. Similarly, human-caused global warming is capable of pushing the climate past a tipping point where we enter a new climate regime, one far more disruptive than what we are used to.

Julys and Augusts since 1980 when quasiresonant extreme conditions were observed
The Potsdam Institute's research lists sixteen July and August periods since 1980 that have had extreme atmospheric flow patterns due to quasiresonance. These months featured severe regional heat waves and destructive floods in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes, detailed below. Half of these months occurred in the most recent 11-year period, 2002 - 2012. During most of these extreme months, there was not a moderate or strong La Niña or El Niño event contributing to the extremes. Summers when a La Niña or El Niño event was present are listed in parentheses, based on the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI).

July and early August 2012: Catastrophic floods in China and Japan, as well as record-breaking temperatures during heat waves in the United States and southern Europe (weak summer El Niño)

July 2011: Record heat wave in the United States, resulting in the fourth warmest July on record nationally and the driest conditions in the southern United States ever (weak summer La Niña)

July/August 2010: Russian heat wave and the Pakistan flood, with the strongest and most persistent extreme weather conditions and the highest death tolls from heat waves and floods ever for these two regions (strong summer La Niña)

July 2006: Temperatures higher than 100°F for only the second time in Britain’s history and much of Europe experiencing a serious heat wave (weak summer El Niño)

August 2004: Much of northern Europe hit by very low winter-like temperatures and sporadic snowfalls (moderate to strong summer El Niño)

August 2003: European summer 2003 heat wave, causing a highly persistent drought in western Europe (weak summer El Niño)

August 2002: Catastrophic Elbe and Danube floods (strong summer El Niño)

July 2000: Destructive floods in northern Italy and the Tisza basin and a simultaneous heat wave in the southern United States, smashing all-time high-temperature records by that time at many sites (strong summer La Niña)

July/August 1997: Disastrous Great European Flood, which caused several deaths in central Europe, and the destroying floods in Pakistan and western United States (strong summer El Niño)

July 1994: Very strong heat wave in southern Europe, with a national temperature record of 47.2°C set in Spain (weak summer El Niño)

July 1993: Unprecedented great flood in the United States that reigned over the country from April (weak summer El Niño)

July 1989: Unusually intense and unprecedented widespread drought in the United States (weak summer La Niña)

August 1987: Severe drought in the southeastern United States (strong summer El Niño)

August 1984: Continuation of the severe heat of summer 1983, with serious drought in the United States (weak summer La Niña)

July and August 1983: Very dry conditions, severe heat, and substandard crop growth (5–35% below normal) in the Midwest United States (weak summer El Niño)

Links
Petoukhov, V., Rahmstorf, S., Petri, S., Schellnhuber, H. J. (2013), "Quasi-resonant amplification of planetary waves and recent Northern Hemisphere weather extremes" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (Early Edition) [doi:10.1073/pnas.1222000110]. No subscription required, but understanding this article requires a graduate-level understanding of the mathematical theory of atmospheric dynamics. Try reading instead this easy-to-read description of the paper by the authors, published at http://theconversation.edu.au.

Press release issued in March 2013 by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), "Weather extremes provoked by trapping of giant waves in the atmosphere."

In this 40-minute lecture presented in 2013 at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University explains the linkage between warming in the Arctic due to human-caused global warming and an observed shift in Northern Hemisphere jet stream patterns.

Linking Weird Weather to Rapid Warming of the Arctic, a March 2012 article by Dr. Jennifer Francis in the Yale Environment 360.

Francis, J.A., and S.J.Vavrus, 2012, "Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes", GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 39, L06801, doi:10.1029/2012GL051000, 2012

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Doppler22:
Got a call from my grandparents in Burbank, CA.... they said they thought of me as soon as it started moving :D


I hope they stayed safe!!
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Got a call from my grandparents in Burbank, CA.... they said they thought of me as soon as it started moving :D
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
I think all of these small quakes might just be aftershocks from the 4.7 earlier today...
The original quake, (the first one), was a 5.2 according to the USGS. All of the aftershocks, etc erode the original. Again as I have said before, this needs to be fixed by the USGS as aftershocks on top of the original earthqauke make it difficult to track seismic activity.

Today.
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Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14418
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Here is one of the global seismic activity sites....Not narrowed down to smaller location but gives you the general picture...........Not too much activity in CA the past few weeks, until today, and not too much overall activity on that side of the Pacific rim.

Link


If you point your computer arrow inside any of the rings on this link, it gives your the location, date and magnitude of the particular quake............4-5 point richter scale quakes are pretty much the norm around the world on any given day.

Hopefully, as noted before, these smaller ones at present in CA are just adjustments/after-shocks after the 5.1 earlier today.
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158. wxmod
Satellite image of most of the world with carbon monoxide overlay. Red is highest level measured.

Member Since: October 4, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1738
Here is one of the global seismic activity sites....Not narrowed down to smaller location but gives you the general picture...........Not too much activity in CA the past few weeks, until today, and not too much overall activity on that side of the Pacific rim.

Link
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Quoting StormTrackerScott:


Was this the 4.7 one or a different one?
the same one
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The Global Wind Oscillation is also a good tool to use when trying to predict short-term equatorial Pacific SST changes. We're in phase 6 of the high AAM; this favors westerlies across the region, and subsequent warming. Notice during December and early January we were in the low AAM, which favored easterly winds and cooling.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31430
Quoting Luisport:
Strong earthquake in the Borrego range near Anza, Southern California UPDATED! Link


Was this the 4.7 one or a different one?
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Strong earthquake in the Borrego range near Anza, Southern California UPDATED! Link
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
I think all of these small quakes might just be aftershocks from the 4.7 earlier today...


One can only hope.
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NEW
Some big rain for some tomorrow in the East Coast...
some localized minor flooding is possible.


click on pic for larger size

this is also in my blog with another picture...
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14870
I think all of these small quakes might just be aftershocks from the 4.7 earlier today...
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 82 Comments: 7607
148. wxmod
Quoting JustPlantIt:
They are saying that the content cannot be loaded. I would get the hell out of S. California if I lived there!!!!


There are ten million people there. That would be one heck of a stampede. But... I personally hear the music. Da fat lady"s gonna sing.
Member Since: October 4, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1738
Quoting bappit:

Source?




Source

also fascinating data from the DEMETER spacecraft showing a significant increase in ultra-low frequency radio signals before the magnitude 7 Haiti earthquake in January 2010
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Quoting Luisport:
try again, i post another link Link
No, could not get in... but saw all the quakes on the loaded screen. This is not ordinary.
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According to the USGS map there have been 14 Earthquakes over 2.5 in Calif in the last week. Anyone can could all the tiny ones and make up a huge number.
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Quoting Luisport:
NOW 240+


Damm! Hopefully the BIG ONE isn't following close behind. Sounds like a lot pressure is starting to get released from that Fault line in SO California.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Right before the great Japan Quake and Tsunami, satellite instruments picked up atmospheric frequencies over that region of the world before the big quake.

Source?
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Quoting JustPlantIt:
They are saying that the content cannot be loaded. I would get the hell out of S. California if I lived there!!!!
try again, i post another link Link
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I think Sandra's center is coming north of the convection:

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Quoting Luisport:
Link
They are saying that the content cannot be loaded. I would get the hell out of S. California if I lived there!!!!
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NOW 240+
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138. wxmod
Aerosol satellite image. China is on the left. Mid Pacific Ocean is on the right. Red is serious pollution. The flow is toward the US.

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Quoting JustPlantIt:
225 , where do you get that information.

Thanks.
Link
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Number of small quakes happening


WOW! 225 so far that's a lot. I know when I was in College my Geology teacher said California was due for a big one.
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Quoting Luisport:
Now currently 225
225 , where do you get that information.

Thanks.

IRIS??????
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Quoting Luisport:
Local San Diego news is definitely saying three quakes two 4.7's and one 4.6


The report from Cal-Tech that I saw on the news said they were a compter screw-up. That came straight from Dr. Hutton. Only one 4.7 Earthquake....
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videos from quakes Link Link
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Quoting StormTrackerScott:


What is 225+? Sorry not familiar with quakes.


Number of small quakes happening
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Quoting RitaEvac:


It's coming


What is 225+? Sorry not familiar with quakes.
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Can't say I much like the Docs use of 1980 as "normal". That year WAS HORRENDOUS!!!!! Worst drought the area had ever seen. Forest fires like I have never seen. 100 nearly everyday for months and months. Got a cold front in July dropping the temps back to upper 90's for a day or two and it felt pleasantly cool. Full grown trees almost leafless. 90's into November. Weeks and weeks without a single cloud in the sky. NO significant rain from early May, till later September. Got to 116 locally in early August. Worst summer of my life, with the summer 2011 close behind, and 2011 close behind that. Wasn't a $#%^#$#$# "normal" about 1980. Doc needs to pick another year.
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Right before the great Japan Quake and Tsunami, satellite instruments picked up atmospheric frequencies over that region of the world before the big quake.
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Quoting Luisport:
Now currently 225+


It's coming
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Oh Boy. Similar to yesterday's 12Z run.


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120. dabirds
Had asked Thurs if anyone else was going to bottom of comments page instead of top when changing pages, still doing that to me today. Have to use IE @ work, so...


Yup, that is still annoying almost everyone.
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Much further south than the 0Z Euro.

12Z Euro
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Quoting Luisport:
Local San Diego news is definitely saying three quakes two 4.7's and one 4.6
Now currently 225+
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Quoting pcola57:
Astronomy Picture of the Day

Sakurajima Volcano with Lightning - 2013 March 11




Explanation: Why does a volcanic eruption sometimes create lightning? Pictured above, the Sakurajima volcano in southern Japan was caught erupting in early January. Magma bubbles so hot they glow shoot away as liquid rock bursts through the Earth's surface from below. The above image is particularly notable, however, for the lightning bolts caught near the volcano's summit. Why lightning occurs even in common thunderstorms remains a topic of research, and the cause of volcanic lightning is even less clear. Surely, lightning bolts help quench areas of opposite but separated electric charges. One hypothesis holds that catapulting magma bubbles or volcanic ash are themselves electrically charged, and by their motion create these separated areas. Other volcanic lightning episodes may be facilitated by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust. Lightning is usually occurring somewhere on Earth, typically over 40 times each second.


true... there is lightning within the thick black smoke ascending into the atmosphere.

example.... "Vesuvius A.D. 79" read about it/watched the movie.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14870
Astronomy Picture of the Day

Sakurajima Volcano with Lightning - 2013 March 11




Explanation: Why does a volcanic eruption sometimes create lightning? Pictured above, the Sakurajima volcano in southern Japan was caught erupting in early January. Magma bubbles so hot they glow shoot away as liquid rock bursts through the Earth's surface from below. The above image is particularly notable, however, for the lightning bolts caught near the volcano's summit. Why lightning occurs even in common thunderstorms remains a topic of research, and the cause of volcanic lightning is even less clear. Surely, lightning bolts help quench areas of opposite but separated electric charges. One hypothesis holds that catapulting magma bubbles or volcanic ash are themselves electrically charged, and by their motion create these separated areas. Other volcanic lightning episodes may be facilitated by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust. Lightning is usually occurring somewhere on Earth, typically over 40 times each second.
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Nature's wake up call is upon us
Local San Diego news is definitely saying three quakes two 4.7's and one 4.6
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Had asked Thurs if anyone else was going to bottom of comments page instead of top when changing pages, still doing that to me today. Have to use IE @ work, so...

Rem that '80 Bermuda high heat dome, hottest June I can remember. Crops were about done when it broke with a huge downpour just prior to tasseling, then another inch during pollination. Similiar in '88, but not as big of rain events. Just enough to save from total failure. Kept looking for that timely rain last year, but it never developed during tasseling/pollination. Worst time for no rain on corn crop. So dry you couldn't even get dew in morning to help a little. Hope it's better this year.

Daughter's classmates didn't get revenge in Friday's semifinal, but did win the 1A 3rd place game. First boy's team to bring home two trophies (other in 7th grade). Team that beat them won State. Harrisburg's boys brought home that community's first BB championship when they won the 2A title game a little more than a year after the devastating tornado.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


It will be a tough forecast even by the experts as there are many factors that look mix for active or average season. The first forecasts by them will come from TSR on April 5th and then CSU on April 10th.


Yup.........The number of majors NHC forecast last year never materialized..........Been a tough few years to forecast recently when juxtaposed against the "norm".
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118. VR46L
Quoting JustPlantIt:
I just wonder what we do here... a year to discover this seems awkward in the world of science. We've yet to discover or even know our own oceans. Lake Volstock... (sorry on spelling), new DNA???? I vote to keep it local as in planet earth AND KEEP HER GREEN. A new owl just discovered. So much we have yet to learn about our own planet.

China... pigs dead in a river. Thousands... and they tell the people that the water is safe to drink. Spread a new virus or plague.

Those rats in Tehran and 45,000 pounds of rat poison. Dead rats between walls, under their homes, etc. ==== a plague!!!!!

Sorry.... oh I can go off.

Love your pics and posts.


I really like this comment ! We have so much still to learn and discover about our beautiful but volatile Planet !
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6820
Quoting ncstorm:


hope this is not setting up to be the "big one"..


Nature's wake up call is upon us
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Hey Yall. We can crunch all the analog numbers/years, and prospective long-term models, in terms of the 2013 Atlantic H-Season all we want but the last several years have been full of surprises; large numbers of storms regardless of enso cycle, large percentage of tropical storms vs. predicted majors that never materialized, and no major landfalls in the US when steering patterns appeared favorable (last year coming to mind the the very fast westerlies kept several storms from blowing up past TS level).

Anything could happen this year is my point and it is all a wait and see...........It will be interesting fo sho to see what this year brings and whether it will also be out of the norm at any given level.


It will be a tough forecast even by the experts as there are many factors that look mix for active or average season. The first forecasts by them will come from TSR on April 5th and then CSU on April 10th.
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Quoting JustPlantIt:
Yes... posted a couple days ago that they also hear the "Booms" that were unexplainable. Try and correlate all of what I am learning with weather, sun and quakes. Seems that all of this has a part in earth and atmosphere.
I just wonder what we do here... a year to discover this seems awkward in the world of science. We've yet to discover or even know our own oceans. Lake Volstock... (sorry on spelling), new DNA???? I vote to keep it local as in planet earth AND KEEP HER GREEN. A new owl just discovered. So much we have yet to learn about our own planet.

China... pigs dead in a river. Thousands... and they tell the people that the water is safe to drink. Spread a new virus or plague.

Those rats in Tehran and 45,000 pounds of rat poison. Dead rats between walls, under their homes, etc. ==== a plague!!!!!

Sorry.... oh I can go off.

PCola57... you are the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Love your pics and posts.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The MJO is in the western Pacific so warming is to be expected. We may see a return of warm Neutral by the end of this month, but an El Ni%uFFFDo is just as likely as a La Ni%uFFFDa at this point--that is, very unlikely.

Actually, the MJO in the west pacific warms the west pacific and eastern Indian Ocean region, not the central and eastern pacific (nino regions 1, 2, and 3) which he was referring to.
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
The good news: troughing in the East, ridging in the West...cold in the East, warm in the West...keeps the severe weather threat at bay through the end of the month.

The bad news: The longer the cold stays around, the more the temperature gradient intensifies = big outbreaks next month.

12z GEFS 8-16 day temperature anomalies:

Temperature gradient between what and what? The east and west?
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Quoting Luisport:
Number of California EQ's now exceeding 150...


hope this is not setting up to be the "big one"..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14418

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.