Category 6™

2014 Holiday Shopping Guide for the Weather and Climate Change Enthusiast

By: JeffMasters, 3:02 PM GMT on November 28, 2014

Every serious weather enthusiast deserves a Personal Weather Station (PWS) in their backyard! Not only can you enjoy seeing what the weather is in your backyard, you can share the data with everyone else on the Internet by uploading to the Wunderground Personal Weather Station network, which boasts data from over 30,000 stations. You don’t need to have a computer on all the time to collect the data and send it to the Internet—a company called Ambient makes a weather bridge that will keep the data flowing to the Internet even when your computer is turned off. A full list of wunderground-compatible PWS models, software, and add-ons like the Ambient WeatherBridge is available from our Personal Weather Station page, or check out our "promotions" page which highlights special deals for our WU users.



Weather station for a smart phone: Netatmo
The Netatmo Weather Monitor ($179) contains a unique set of sensors to monitor your living environment and wirelessly transmits all your data to your Smartphone. The Netatmo App displays your station’s indoor and outdoor measurements into clear and comprehensive dashboards, graphs and notifications.

A low-end PWS choice: Davis Vantage Vue
The Davis Vantage Vue + WeatherBridge Package is $595 from ambientweather.com. Combine the convenience of WeatherBridge with Davis Instruments' Vantage Vue™ station which is fully featured, highly accurate and affordably priced.

A high-end PWS choice: Rainwise
I have had a Davis Vantage Pro2 in my backyard for the past six years, and have been very happy with it, but I also recommend the RainWise Direct to Weather Underground Package, $999 from rainwise.com. The RainWise RapidFire™ enabled weather station doesn't need a PC to upload to us, and with an ultra-fast refresh rate of every 3-5 seconds, new data is updated instantly.

A webcam choice: Ubiquiti Networks AirCam
The AirCam Indoor/Outdoor IP Camera from Ubiquiti Networks ($103) combines advanced industrial design, powerful performance, and market-leading cost effectiveness.


Figure 1. A prototype Air Umbrella.

An air umbrella? No way!
Since the invention of the umbrella 3,000 years ago, not much has changed in its design. The revolutionary Air Umbrella, from designers in Nanjing, China, aims do away with the frustration of inside-out metal ribs during a strong wind, by creating an overhead dome of jetted air that shields you from the rain. It might also be handy for keeping ash off of your head during a volcanic eruption! So far, the Air Umbrella is just an idea, but the project raised over $100,000 in October 2014 in a KickStarter campaign (ten times their $10,000 goal). The designers aim to have Air Umbrellas available for purchase in December of next year.

Holiday books for the climate science enthusiast
If you're bewildered by the complexity of the climate change/global warming issue, and want a comprehensive, easy-to-understand guide that presents an unbiased view of the important issues, look no further than Robert Henson's ”The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change”, published in August 2014. The book is an updated version of his "Rough Guide to Climate Change", which I reviewed back in 2008. I've thought so highly of this book that I've purchased over 200 copies over the years, giving them to students, TV meteorologists, politicians running for U.S. Congress, and the leadership of The Weather Channel. If I were teaching a course on climate change at the high school or introductory college level, this would be the text. Mr. Henson is probably the world's premier science writer in meteorology and climate change, and has been a writer/editor/media relations specialist since 1990 for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, where he updates their their excellent AtmosNews website. The Big News: I'm pleased to announce that Bob will be leaving NCAR in early January and joining Wunderground, where he will be making regular posts in my blog on weather and climate change topics. ”The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change” is $20.90 from Amazon.com. I give it five stars out of five.

“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”, by Naomi Klein, is my #1 must-read climate change book of 2014. This book has relatively little to say about the science of climate change, but rather focuses on how the climate change crisis has its roots in the unsustainable form of neo-liberal capitalism that dominates the global economy. Klein writes, "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity's use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it's not the laws of nature." Ms. Klein discusses how we must make radical changes to rein in corporate power, rebuild local economies, and restore democracy in order to reform a corrupt out-of-control political and economic system that is wrecking the natural systems needed to sustain life. The changes needed are daunting and will not come from the existing political power structure, she argues. The changes must come from below, from the the rapidly evolving social movements that are rising to combat the crisis. Naomi Klein is a journalist who wrote the #1 international best seller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and is a contributing editor for Harper's Magazine, a reporter for Rolling Stone, and a syndicated columnist for The Nation and The Guardian. The New Yorker called her "the most visible and influential figure on the American left," and many conservatives will find the philosophy espoused in her book abhorrent. The paperback version of “This Changes Everything” is $14.17 from Amazon.com. I give it four stars out of five.

Have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

Jeff Masters

Book and Movie Reviews

Updated: 6:29 PM GMT on November 28, 2014

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Pre-Thanksgiving Nor'easter Snarls Holiday Travel

By: JeffMasters, 3:54 PM GMT on November 26, 2014

Nearly nineteen million people in the Eastern U.S. are under a Winter Storm Warning as a poorly-timed Nor'easter socks it to travelers hitting the roads and skies in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. The storm was bringing heavy rain to the big cities of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. Wednesday morning, and heavy snows inland over the higher terrain. As of 9:30 am EST, widespread snowfall amounts of 1 - 3" had been reported over Western Virginia and West Virginia, with a maximum of 8" reported at Frenchburg, WV and 6" at Mount Rogers, VA. The rains falling closer to the coast will change to snow on Wednesday afternoon at the same time that millions of people hit the roads, bringing a major pre-holiday travel mess. Little or no accumulation is likely in Washington D.C., but Philadelphia is under a Winter Weather Advisory for 1 - 3" of snow. Snowfall amounts of 1 - 3" are also expected in New York City, and Boston is likely to get 1 - 2" of slushy snow and sleet. The heaviest snows from the storm will come Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening, and may take some time to accumulate on the roads due to stored heat from the warm temperatures of the past few days. Heavier snows will fall inland from the coast, where widespread snow amounts of 6 - 12 inches are likely along a swath from Northeast Pennsylvania and Northwest New Jersey into Maine, including Hartford, Connecticut and central Massachusetts cities like Worcester. The most serious impacts may be in Portland, Maine, which is under a Winter Storm Warning for 8 - 12" of snow.


Figure 1. Satellite image taken at 9:45 am EST November 26, 2014 of the pre-Thanksgiving Nor'easter affecting the U.S. East Coast. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Air travel will be heavily impacted
Low visibility and low cloud ceilings due to heavy rain in the major cities along the East Coast on Wednesday morning were causing extensive flight delays across much of the U.S. These delays will increase on Wednesday afternoon as the snow moves in. The FlightAware.com MiseryMap showed 490 delayed flights and 12 cancelled flights between 8 am and noon EST on Wednesday, with 42% of the delays occurring in DC, Philadelphia, Newark, NYC, and Boston.

As of 10 am EST, the FAA was reporting the following average flight delays for flights whose destinations were these airports:

NYC La Guardia: 3 hours, 9 minutes
Newark, NJ: 3 hours, 18 minutes
Philadelphia, PA: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Minneapolis, MN: 1 hour, 23 minutes


Figure 2. Snowfall forecast for the New York City area made on Tuesday morning, November 26, 2014. Image credit: NWS New York City.


Figure 3. Snowfall forecast for the Boston area made on Tuesday morning, November 26, 2014. Image credit: NWS Boston.


Figure 3. Snowfall forecast for the Philadelphia area made on Tuesday morning, November 26, 2014. Image credit: NWS Philadelphia.

Have safe travels and a great Thanksgiving holiday, everyone!

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

Updated: 4:01 PM GMT on November 26, 2014

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Unwelcome Nor'easter Poised to Snarl Wednesday Travel

By: JeffMasters, 2:44 PM GMT on November 25, 2014

After basking in record warm temperatures in the 60s and 70s on Monday, the Northeast U.S. is bracing for a Wednesday winter onslaught, as a significant Nor'easter will bring heavy snows to the roads at the same time that millions of people hit the roads in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. The unwelcome storm will form off the coast of South Carolina Tuesday night and track north-northeastward, parallel to the coast, on Wednesday. Snow will begin in the Southern Appalachians late Tuesday night and spread northeastwards on Wednesday. Areas to the east of the I-95 corridor will start off with heavy rain, but the rain will transition to wet, heavy snow on Wednesday afternoon as cold air spills southwards along the coast. Little or no accumulation is likely in Washington D.C., which hit a pleasant 74°F on Monday. The story is different, though, in Philadelphia, where a Winter Storm Watch for 2 - 3 inches of snow was posted on Monday--even as the temperature rose to a record high for the date of 72°F. Higher snowfall amounts of 4 - 8" are possible in New York City, which also experienced a record high on Monday--64°F at Kennedy Airport. Boston will also be severely impacted beginning late Wednesday afternoon, with snows of 4 - 6" possible. Portland, Maine, which hit a record 63°F on Monday, is under a Winter Storm Watch for 4 - 8" of snow. The heaviest snows will come Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening in the big cities, and may take some time to accumulate on the roads due to stored heat from the warm temperatures of the past few days. Traveling earlier in the day Wednesday is definitely recommended if you have the flexibility, as road conditions will steadily deteriorate through the afternoon into evening. The worst conditions will be experienced inland from the coast, where widespread snow amounts of 6 - 12 inches are likely along a swath from Northeast Pennsylvania and Northwest New Jersey into Maine, including Hartford, Connecticut and central Massachusetts cities like Worcester. As usual with a storm of this nature, small changes in the forecast track of the system can cause large changes in the amount of snowfall near the coast, so stay tuned to the latest forecasts.


Figure 1. Snowfall forecast for the New York City area made on Tuesday morning, November 25, 2014. Image credit: NWS New York City.


Figure 2. Snowfall forecast for the Boston area made on Tuesday morning, November 25, 2014. Image credit: NWS Boston.


Figure 3. Snowfall forecast for the Philadelphia area made on Tuesday morning, November 25, 2014. Image credit: NWS Philadelphia.

Air travel will be heavily impacted
Heavy rains will cause flight delays at the large airports of the Northeast beginning Wednesday morning, and these delays will increase on Wednesday afternoon as the snow flies. All of the major airlines are allowing people to change their tickets for free at the airports expected to be affected by Wednesday's storm; here is one such list of cities from United:

Albany, NY (ALB)
Allentown, PA (ABE)
Atlantic City, NJ (ACY)
Baltimore, MD (BWI)
Bangor, ME (BGR)
Boston, MA (BOS)
Buffalo, NY (BUF)
Burlington, VT (BTV)
Harrisburg, PA (MDT)
Hartford, CT (BDL)
Manchester, NH (MHT)
New York/Newark, NJ (EWR - Liberty)
New York, NY (JFK)
New York, NY (LGA - LaGuardia)
Philadelphia, PA (PHL)
Portland, ME (PWM)
Providence, RI (PVD)
Rochester, NY (ROC)
Syracuse, NY (SYR)
Washington, DC (DCA - National)
Washington, DC (IAD - Dulles)
White Plains, NY (HPN)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA (AVP)

Safe travels, everyone!

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

Updated: 4:16 PM GMT on November 25, 2014

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Weather Whiplash: Floods Hit Buffalo as 62°F Temperatures Melt Huge Snowpack

By: JeffMasters, 3:54 PM GMT on November 24, 2014

It's weather whiplash in Buffalo, New York, where the temperature surged to 62°F at 11 am EST Monday, following a week of near-record cold and heavy snow. The exceptional warmth would be welcome if not for the massive snowpack on the ground along a swath across the southern and eastern suburbs of Buffalo, where last week's extreme lake effect snow storm dumped up to 88" (7 feet, four inches) of snow at Cowlesville. The water content of the snow, if it all melted at once, is huge--equivalent to up to 6.3" of rain at Orchard Park, NY, as measured last Friday. Fortunately, today's warmth has been accompanied by rainfall amounts less than .10" so far, and only one area river is at moderate flood stage--Cayuga Creek at Lancaster, where over six feet of snow fell last week. With freezing temperatures expected to return on Tuesday night and continue for most of the remainder of the week, widespread damaging flooding is not expected, and the forecast is for mostly minor flooding in the Buffalo area on Monday and Tuesday. The large and powerful November storm responsible for Buffalo's remarkable warmth is bringing high winds to an exceptionally large area of the U.S. and Canada this Monday morning, with High Wind Watches and Warnings posted for a 17-state area 1,000 miles across, from North Dakota to New York and southwards to Arkansas.


Figure 1. Dump trucks pile snow at Buffalo's Central Terminal on Sunday, November 23, 2014 after a lake effect snow storm brought over seven feet of snow to nearby regions. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) 


Figure 2. Strong winds blowing over Lake Erie on Monday are predicted to bring waves up to 18 feet high to the north shore of the lake at 10 pm EST Monday night, November 24, 2014. A Lakeshore Flood Warning is posted for Buffalo, New York at the east end of Lake Erie, where waters levels are expected to rise to flood stage--eight feet above the low water datum--on Monday night into Tuesday. Image credit: NOAA/GLERL.


Figure 3. Severe weather map for the U.S. at 10:30 am EST Monday November 24, 2014. High Wind advisories (blue colors) extended in a 1000-mile swath from North Dakota to New York, and southwards to Arkansas. Winter weather advisories (white colors) were in effect over portions of the Northeast for a new storm system expected to bring 6+" inches of snow to the region on Wednesday.

Thanksgiving travel trouble ahead for the Eastern U.S.
A significant Nor'easter will form off the coast of South Carolina on Tuesday night and track north-northeastward, parallel to the coast, on Wednesday. Snow will begin in the Southern Appalachians late Tuesday night and spread northeastwards on Wednesday. Areas to the east of the I-95 corridor should be all rain, with Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City seeing a wintry mix of rain and snow with snow accumulations of an inch or less. Farther inland, snow amounts of 6+ inches are likely along a swath from Northeast Pennsylvania and Northwest New Jersey into Maine, including Hartford, Connecticut and central Massachusetts cities like Worcester. Small changes in the forecast track of the system will likely occur over the next day, so stay tuned to the latest forecasts.

Moroccan floods kill at least 31
Torrential rains in Morocco on Monday have triggered extreme flooding responsible for at least 31 deaths, reported Al Jazzeera on Monday morning. Dozens remain missing after storms dumped more than 4" of rain (101.6 mm) on the southern part of the north African country. Thanks go to wunderground member barbamz for posting this info in my blog comments.



Jeff Masters

Winter Weather Flood

Updated: 4:14 PM GMT on November 24, 2014

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October 2014: Earth's Third Consecutive Warmest Month on Record

By: JeffMasters, 12:42 PM GMT on November 21, 2014

October 2014 was the warmest October on record, and the year-to-date-period January - October was Earth's warmest such period since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on Thursday. NOAA also rated the past 12 months--November 2013 through October 2014--as the warmest consecutive 12-month period among all months since records began in 1880. "It is becoming pretty clear that 2014 will end up as the warmest year on record," said Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief for NCDC in an interview with Associated Press. NASA also rated October 2014 as the warmest October on record, tied with 2005. October is the fifth month of 2014 ranked by NOAA as the warmest on record; May, June, August and September 2014 were also the warmest such months on record, and April 2014 was the second warmest April on record. Global ocean temperatures during October 2014 were the warmest on record. This marks the sixth month in a row (beginning in May 2014) that the global ocean temperature broke its monthly temperature record. Global land temperatures in October 2014 were the 5th warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in October 2014 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 9th or 1st warmest in the 36-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), respectively.


Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for October 2014, the warmest October for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record warmth in much of southern South America and large parts of southern and western Australia contributed to the record high average land surface temperature observed during October in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, record warmth was also observed in parts of southern Europe, the western coastal regions of the United States, and much of Far East Russia. On the other hand, parts of central Siberia observed temperatures 4 - 5°C (7 - 9°F) below average. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) .


Figure 2. Global departure of temperature from average for each year since 1880. The ten warmest years in Earth's recorded history are shown in red; after a relatively cool start, 2014 is now on pace the break the warmest year record set in 2010. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

One billion-dollar weather disaster in October 2014: India's Cyclone Hudhud
One billion-dollar weather-related disaster hit the Earth during October 2014: India's Cyclone Hudhud, according to the October 2014 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield. This brings the global number of billion-dollar weather disasters for the first nine months of 2014 to 22. This is well behind the record-setting pace of 2013, which had 36 billion-dollar weather disasters by the end of October, and ended up with a record 41 by the end of the year.



Tropical Cyclone Hudhud powered ashore near Visakhapatnam in the Andhra Pradesh state of India on Sunday, October 12 as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 135 mph. With damage estimated at $11 billion, Hudhud was by far the most expensive tropical cyclone in India's history, and their third most expensive weather-related natural disaster, according to EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database. The previous most expensive Indian tropical cyclone was the October 28, 1999 Orissa Cyclone, which killed 9,843 people and did $2.5 billion in damage (1999 dollars.) India has had just one other billion-dollar tropical cyclone disaster, the November 8, 1996 cyclone that killed 708 and did $1.5 billion in damage (1996 dollars.) The staggering damage from Hudhud came just one month after India's most expensive natural disaster in its history--torrential monsoon rains of over 12" (305 mm) that lashed the India-Pakistan border region of Kashmir and Jammu Provinces on September 3 - 7, triggering devastating floods that swept through the mountainous region, killing over 600 people and doing $16+ billion in damage. India's previous most expensive natural disaster was the $11.6 billion (2014 dollars) in damage from the July 1993 monsoon floods.


Figure 3. The Vishakapatnam airport building that was damaged by Cyclone Hudhud in Vishakapatnam, India, as seen on Oct. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Press Trust of India)

Hudhud's death toll was relatively low
Hudhud killed 68 people in India, but after dissipating, the storm's remains continued to the north and reached Nepal on October 14, unleashing a terrible snowstorm in the Himalayas that killed at least 43 people. According to Andrew Freedman of mashable.com, it was the worst disaster in the history of Nepal's mountain-climbing industry. However, the total death toll from Hudhud was extremely low in comparison to similar-strength cyclones that have hit the coast of India in recent decades. The October 28, 1999 Orissa Cyclone, which hit the coast just north of where Hudhud did, was also a Category 4 storm, but killed 9,843 people. Thankfully, due to improved warnings, civil defense efforts and awareness, the days of tropical cyclones killing 1000+ people in India are likely over.

El Niño conditions grow stronger
Remarkably, the record-warm global sea surface temperatures over the past six months have occurred in the absence of El Niño, a large-scale warming of the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean that historically has been present whenever record global ocean temperatures have occurred. October 2014 officially featured neutral El Niño conditions in the equatorial Eastern Pacific, but sea surface temperatures rose to 0.5°C above average in mid-October in the so-called Niño 3.4 region (5°S - 5°N, 120°W - 170°W), where SSTs must be at least 0.5°C above average for five consecutive months (each month being a 3-month average) for an El Niño event to be declared. The warmth in the Niño 3.4 region has increased into mid-November, reaching 0.8°C above average this week. Most models predict El Niño will develop in late 2014 and continue into early 2015, and NOAA is continuing its El Niño Watch, giving a 58% chance of an El Niño developing this winter. If an El Niño does emerge, it is likely to be a weak event. Wunderblogger Steve Gregory took has a detailed look on the status of El Niño and the likely winter weather for December - February in his Thursday, November 20, 2014 post.

Arctic sea ice falls to 6th lowest October extent on record
Arctic sea ice extent during October 2014 was the 6th lowest in the 36-year satellite record and was similar to October 2013 levels, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Most spectacular weather videos of October
Nicolaus Wegner's Stormscapes 2 video is the most impressive collection of time-lapse severe storm footage I've ever seen. His 7-minute time-lapse compilation of his May - September 2014 adventures in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado feature an impressive rainbow at 0:40, an incredible orange cumulonimbus at 4:00, a sequence of spectacular funnel clouds and tornadoes beginning at 5:10, and some stunning mammatus clouds at 6:04. Highly recommended.

Commentary
Earth's temperature so far in 2014 has been the warmest ever recorded. This comes despite the absence of an El Niño event, which is usually required in order for a new temperature record to be set. If NOAA's predicted 58% chance of an El Niño event this winter verifies, we could easily have two consecutive warmest years on record--2014 and 2015. Opponents of climate action have pushed the idea that Earth's climate has not warmed since 1998, but that is false assertion that uses a cherry-picked year in an attempt to confuse people about the long-term climate warming that is occurring. Earth's climate is warming, and based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists have concluded that humans are responsible. Climate change is already causing significant impacts to people and ecosystems, and these impacts will grow much more severe in the coming years. We can choose to take economically sensible steps to lessen the damage of climate change, and the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action.


Video 1. We used to set global cold records every few years, but that hasn't happened since 1909. Video commentary is available at Climate Central.

Jeff Masters

Climate Summaries

Updated: 2:15 PM GMT on November 21, 2014

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New Lake Effect Snowstorm Pounding Buffalo With an Additional 2 - 3 Feet of Snow

By: JeffMasters, 3:46 PM GMT on November 20, 2014

A new lake effect snowstorm is pummeling snow-weary Buffalo, New York once again, where over a foot of new snow has fallen over regions that received five feet of snow on Tuesday. Once again, a persistent band of heavy snow coming off of the relatively warm waters of Lake Erie has settled over the southern and eastern suburbs of Buffalo, delivering prodigious snows of 3 - 5" per hour. The Buffalo Airport reported a heavy thunderstorm with snow at 4 am Thursday morning, and the band had dumped 10.7" of snow there as of 7 am EST. Buffalo radar shows that snow band then shifted to the south, and had set up about 10 - 20 miles farther south than Tuesday's band, over the southern suburbs of Buffalo. Lancaster, which was paralyzed by 63" of snow on Tuesday, has received another 12" so far today, giving them an astonishing 75" of snow--over six feet--this week. The snow band will move little until Thursday night, allowing up to 2 - 3 feet of snow to fall over some of the same regions that received 4 - 5 feet of snow on Tuesday. Extreme atmospheric instability due to relatively warm waters in the lake and near-record cold temperatures aloft are responsible for the intensity of the storm. Water temperatures are 45 - 54°F over the eastern end of Lake Erie, and were 45°F at the Environment Canada Port Colborne buoy at the east end of Lake Erie on Thursday morning. Temperatures at 5,000 feet altitude (850 mb) were 7°F (-14°C) Thursday morning, resulting in a phenomenal 45°F temperature difference between the surface and air aloft--a huge amount of instability.

Shifting winds will end the snow storm over the Buffalo region by Friday morning. The concerns for the region will shift to flooding this weekend, as a warm air mass with moderate rain moves in. The NWS in Buffalo advised Thursday morning that the combination of at least some rain and major snowmelt will bring the risk for significant flooding to the lake effect areas...both for small streams as well as some of the larger creeks and rivers. This would include the Buffalo area creeks...Cattaraugus Creek…and the creeks that drain the Tug Hill region. In urban sections of South Buffalo ponding/flooding may also occur as the large volume of melt water overloads drainage systems.


Figure 1. A snow canyon from the front door of a home in Orchard Park, New York, after 4+' of snow feel there on November 18, 2014. Image credit: Tanya Weston Muscato.


Figure 2. Buffalo radar at 10:12 am EST November 20, 2014 showed a band of heavy lake effect snow had set up just south of Buffalo, New York.

Most extreme Lake Erie snowstorm on record?
According to wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt, Tuesday's snowfall totals near Buffalo may challenge the official 24-hour snowfall record for the state of New York. The State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) lists the official record 24-hour snowfall for the state of New York as 49.0” on November 14 - 15, 1900. At least five suburbs of Buffalo on its south and east sides beat this mark on Tuesday, recording 51 - 60" of snow in 24 hours. The champions were was Lancaster and Gardenville, with 60" of snow in 24 hours. It is yet not clear if any of these reports will be worthy of official status, recognized by the SCEC. Mr. Burt notes, though, that the SCEC is rife with errors and probably should not be taken too seriously. Much greater 24-hour totals have been reported from various observers/sources over the years at multiple locations in New York. The greatest unofficial 24-hour total he is aware of is 68” at Adams, NY on Jan. 9, 1976. Also, 77” fell in Montague Township in 24 hours on Jan. 11 - 12, 1997. This value was discounted by the SCEC as a result of a small technicality due to one too many snow board measurements being taken (7 instead of 6). However, the figure itself was accepted as accurate, but not official since the observer made a small error in the timing of his snow accumulation measurements. Note that all of these record 24-hour snowfalls came in Lake Ontario's lake effect snow band, where higher terrain helps lift the air streaming off the lake to extract more snow. In Mr. Burt's words, "So far as Lake Erie events, I think this week's event one will go down as the most extreme on record.


Figure 3. A lake effect snow storm brought 57" of snow to West Seneca, New York on November 18, 2014. When you look at all the snow piled of the roof of this house, you can understand the concern about roof collapses, due to the weight of additional snow falling today, plus rain on top of the snow this weekend. Image credit: Kathryn Prociv.

Buffalo's worst snowstorm: January 1977
This week's storm did not significantly affect the mid through northern portions of metro Buffalo, including downtown, which is typical for a Lake Erie lake effect snowstorm--the heaviest snow falls south of the city. However, back in January 1977, a 5-day blizzard hit all of Western New York, including Buffalo. The combination of blowing snow, wind and Arctic temperatures resulted in hundreds of people being stranded in their cars. Because of constant whiteout conditions and life threatening wind chills, as well as the fact that nobody had cell phones back then to communicate in an emergency, 29 people lost their lives. Many were asphyxiated in their cars or froze to death from exposure.

Mr. Burt documents the history of lake effect snowstorms in his 2013 post, Lake Effect Snow Totals and Historical Perspective.


Video 1. Where's the fire hydrant? A dog attempts to deal with 5' of snow in Lancaster, New York after the lake-effect snow storm of November 18, 2014. Thanks go to wunderground member barbamz for posting this link in my blog comments.

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

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Buffalo Belted With Five Feet of Snow; Is Jet Stream Weirdness to Blame?

By: JeffMasters, 4:30 PM GMT on November 19, 2014

America's remarkable mid-November Arctic blast continued Wednesday morning, with hundreds of daily record low temperatures falling again. Charlotte, North Carolina bottomed out at 14°F, the coldest temperature ever measured so early in the season, and January-like cold brought temperatures 15 - 35°F below average to most of the eastern half of the country. Hardest hit by the unseasonably early Arctic outbreak was Buffalo, New York, where a record lake effect snowstorm was being blamed for at least five deaths. Three of the deaths were from heart attacks, one from a traffic accident, and one was a 46-year old man who was found dead in his stranded car. Up to five feet of snow fell along the south and east sides of the city in the 24 hours ending at 10 pm EST Tuesday, thanks to an intense band of heavy lake effect snow coming off of Lake Erie. The extreme snow band was very narrow; in the 24 hours when Lancaster on the city's east side was pummeled with 60" of snow, the Buffalo Airport, just six miles to the northwest, received only 3.9". Extreme atmospheric instability due to relatively warm waters in the lake were responsible for the intensity of the storm; water temperatures were 47°F at the Environment Canada Port Colborne buoy at the east end of Lake Erie on Tuesday. A state of emergency has been declared in Erie County, New York, which includes Buffalo, and the National Guard has been called out to help dig people out. Thankfully, the band of heavy snow responsible for the extreme accumulations shifted northwards out of the city on Wednesday morning, and only minor accumulations will occur during the remainder of Wednesday. On Thursday morning, though, a new lake effect snowstorm will set up. The NWS in Buffalo is forecasting that while this storm will not be quite as intense, up to two feet of additional snow could fall in the same regions that received up to five feet of snow already this week.


Figure 1. A lake effect snow storm brought five feet of snow to Lancaster, New York on November 18, 2014. Image credit: Melinda Stoldt, via Facebook.


Figure 2. Radar loop of an intense lake effect snow band affecting the Buffalo, New York region between 6:36 - 9:07 am EST November 19, 2014. The band, which had been nearly stationary over South Buffalo for over 24 hours, is seen finally lifting northwards out of the city, thanks to a wind shift caused by an approaching trough of low pressure.

Most extreme Lake Erie snowstorm on record?
According to wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt, yesterday's snowfall totals near Buffalo may challenge the official 24-hour snowfall record for the state of New York. The State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) lists the official record 24-hour snowfall for the state of New York as 49.0” on November 14 - 15, 1900. As of 10 pm EST Tuesday, at least five suburbs of Buffalo on its south and east sides had beaten this mark, recording 51 - 60" of snow in 24 hours. The champions were was Lancaster and Gardenville, with 60" of snow in 24 hours. It is yet not clear if any of these reports will be worthy of official status, recognized by the SCEC. Mr. Burt notes, though, that the SCEC is rife with errors and probably should not be taken too seriously. Much greater 24-hour totals have been reported from various observers/sources over the years at multiple locations in New York. The greatest unofficial 24-hour total he is aware of is 68” at Adams, NY on Jan. 9, 1976. Also, 77” fell in Montague Township in 24 hours on Jan. 11 - 12, 1997. This value was discounted by the SCEC as a result of a small technicality due to one too many snow board measurements being taken (7 instead of 6). However, the figure itself was accepted as accurate, but not official since the observer made a small error in the timing of his snow accumulation measurements. Note that all of these record 24-hour snowfalls came in Lake Ontario's lake effect snow band, where higher terrain helps lift the air streaming off the lake to extract more snow. In Mr. Burt's words, "So far as Lake Erie events, I think this week's event one will go down as the most extreme on record.


Figure 3. MODIS satellite image of the lake effect snowstorm over Lake Erie on Tuesday afternoon, November 18, 2014. Strong updrafts due to relatively warm lake waters of 47°F created a towering line of clouds that cast a shadow to their north. Image credit: NASA.

Buffalo's worst snowstorm: January 1977
This week's storm did not significantly affect the mid through northern portions of metro Buffalo, including downtown, which is typical for a Lake Erie lake effect snowstorm--the heaviest snow falls south of the city. However, back in January 1977, a 5-day blizzard hit all of Western New York, including Buffalo. The combination of blowing snow, wind and Arctic temperatures resulted in hundreds of people being stranded in their cars. Because of constant whiteout conditions and life threatening wind chills, as well as the fact that nobody had cell phones back then to communicate in an emergency, 29 people lost their lives. Many were asphyxiated in their cars or froze to death from exposure.  

Mr. Burt documents the history of lake effect snowstorms in his 2013 post, Lake Effect Snow Totals and Historical Perspective.

Is the jet stream getting weird?
This week's intense cold blast is being triggered by an unusually extreme jet stream pattern, featuring a sharp ridge of high pressure along the U.S. West Coast and a deep trough of low pressure diving to the south over the Central United States. This configuration allows cold air to spill out of the Arctic behind the trough into the Central U.S., and be replaced by anomalously warm air flowing northwards along the West Coast of the U.S. deep into the Arctic. This extreme jet stream pattern is due, in part, to the influence of Super Typhoon Nuri, which caused a ripple effect on the jet stream after the typhoon became one of the most powerful extratropical storms ever recorded in the waters to the west of Alaska eleven days ago. However, we've seen an unusual number of extreme jet stream patterns like this in the past fifteen years, which happens to coincide with the period of time we've been observing record loss of summertime Arctic sea ice and record retreat of springtime snow cover in the Arctic. Could it be that these changes in the Arctic are causing the wacky jet stream behavior of recent years? That's the theory being advanced by a number of prominent climate scientists. I've written extensively about the topic, and my most recent post on the subject was in April, California Drought/Polar Vortex Jet Stream Pattern Linked to Global Warming. A updated story that I wrote for the just-published December issue of Scientific American discusses the theory and its detractors, and you can read it on-line for $6 (or buy a copy at the news stand.) My conclusion in the article: If Arctic changes are truly to blame for wacky jet stream behavior, losing the remaining 50 percent of the Arctic sea-ice coverage between now and 2030 will bring even greater antics. If the Arctic is not involved, that is worrisome as well—because that means jet stream changes are due to an unknown mechanism, leaving us with no idea how the jet stream will respond as climate change progresses. Thus, my forecast for the next 15 years: expect the unprecedented.


Video 1. A time-lapse view of Lake Erie from Buffalo, New York during the lake-effect snow storm of November 18, 2014. Note the rising motion of the clouds, showing the extreme instability of the atmosphere due to relatively warm waters at the surface (47°F at the Environment Canada Port Colborne buoy at the east end of Lake Erie.)

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

Updated: 4:57 PM GMT on November 19, 2014

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Epic November Arctic Blast Brings Record Cold, 4 Feet of Snow to Buffalo

By: JeffMasters, 5:00 PM GMT on November 18, 2014

A wicked cold blast of January-like Arctic air is smashing records as it pours southwards over the eastern two-thirds of the United States, with temperatures 15 - 35°F below average common on Tuesday morning across much of the country. Freezing temperatures pushed all the south into the Florida Panhandle, where Pensacola hit 28°F. The cold air flowing over the unfrozen waters of the Great Lakes has unleashed an epic lake effect snow storm in the lees of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where the west-southwesterly winds of the storm have aligned with the long axis of these lakes, allowing the air to pick up large amounts of moisture.


Figure 1. Lake effect snow storm over Buffalo, New York at 7:53 AM EST November 18, 2014. Image credit: Mark T. Branden via Twitter.


Figure 2. Radar image of lake effect snows affecting all five Great Lake at 9:30 am EST November 18, 2014. Image taken from our wundermap.

Hardest hit: Buffalo, New York
A Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect for Buffalo, New York, where areas just south and east of the city had received over three feet of snow by Tuesday morning. As of 10:15 am EST Tuesday, the Buffalo suburb of Lancaster on the city's east side had received an amazing four feet of snow in 24 hours, with snowfall rates of 4" per hour and occasional rumbles of thunder. With the band of heavy lake effect snow responsible not expected to move much through Tuesday night, the NWS is forecasting that Lancaster will receive a total of nearly six feet of snow before the winds shift by Wednesday morning. A state of emergency has been declared in Erie County, New York, which includes Buffalo. All travel except for emergency vehicles is banned, and a 13-mile section of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) was closed from the east side of Buffalo southward. To avoid traffic backups, a 37-mile stretch of the Niagara Thruway (I-90) southbound from Niagara Falls to the I-90 interchange was also shut down on Tuesday morning.


Figure 3. Open your door…and see winter! Those are cars out there under those giant snow humps. Image taken from the Park Lane Apartments in Buffalo, New York, on November 18, 2014. Image credit: Ben Oship, via Instagram.

Heavy snows are also piling up in the lee of Lake Ontario near Watertown, New York, where over three feet of snow is expected. Lesser snow amounts are expected in the lees of the other Great Lakes, where the wind will not be blowing over such long stretches of open water. In the lee of Lake Michigan, up to 15" had fallen in northern Lower Michigan at Boyne Falls by Tuesday morning.


Figure 4. Departure of temperature from average at 2 meters (6.6') as diagnosed by the GFS model at 00 UTC November 18, 2014. A sharp kink in the jet stream (Figure 4) allowed cold air to spill southwards out of the Arctic over the Eastern two-thirds of the United States. Compensating warm air flowed northwards into the Arctic beneath a ridge of high pressure over Alaska. Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer™ (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.


Figure 5. Winds at a height where the pressure is 250 mb show the axis of the jet stream, seen here at 00 UTC November 18, 2014. A strong trough of low pressure was present over the Central U.S., and an unusually strong ridge of high pressure was along the U.S. West Coast. Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer™ (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.

An extreme jet stream pattern responsible
The intense cold blast is being triggered by an unusually extreme jet stream pattern, featuring a sharp ridge of high pressure along the U.S. West Coast and a deep trough of low pressure diving to the south over the Central United States. This configuration allows cold air to spill out of the Arctic behind the trough into the Central U.S., and be replaced by anomalously warm air flowing northwards along the West Coast of the U.S. deep into the Arctic. This extreme jet stream pattern is due, in part, to the influence of Super Typhoon Nuri, which caused a ripple effect on the jet stream after the typhoon became one of the most powerful extratropical storms ever recorded in the waters to the west of Alaska ten days ago. The extreme jet stream pattern will moderate by Friday, with near-normal temperatures expected across most of the U.S. by Sunday.

Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt has a post on the history of lake effect snowstorms, Lake Effect Snow Totals and Historical Perspective. Some U.S.-record point snowfalls from the Great Lakes region from lake effect storms include:

12.0” in 1 hour at Copenhagen, New York on Dec. 2, 1966
17.5” in 2 hours at Oswego, New York on Jan. 26, 1972
22.0” in 3 hours at Valparaiso, Indiana on Dec. 18, 1981
51.0” in 16 hours at Benetts Bridge, New York on Jan. 17-18, 1959
77.0” in 24 hours reported in Montague Township on the Tug Hill Plateau of New York on Jan. 11-12, 1997

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

Updated: 5:02 PM GMT on November 18, 2014

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Early Winter Weather Brings Snow Cover to 50% of U.S.

By: JeffMasters, 4:14 PM GMT on November 17, 2014

The winter of 2014 - 2015 is off to an early start over the continental U.S., where snow covered 50% of the nation as of November 17, 2014. This is an unusually high percentage for mid-November; over the past ten years, the percentage of the continental U.S covered by snow on November 17 has ranged from 4% - 20%. Most of this year’s November snow cover is going to stick around this week, as a renewed Arctic blast will keep temperatures 10 - 30°F below average through Friday for most of the nation. Temperatures will not moderate to near average levels until next Sunday. Extremely cold air flowing over the waters of the Great Lakes will create an epic lake effect snow storm today through Wednesday, particularly in the lees of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where the west-southwesterly winds of the storm will align with the long axis of these lakes, allowing the air to pick up large amounts of moisture from the unfrozen water. A Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect for Buffalo, New York, where almost two feet of snow is expected to pile up by Wednesday afternoon. Southwest winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 45 mph blowing off of Lake Erie are expected late Monday night through Tuesday night, and may create blizzard conditions with visibilities near zero. Blizzard conditions are uncommon in lake effect snow storms, and this week’s storm will likely be one of the worst lake effect snow storms for Buffalo in the past five years. Up to three feet of snow is expected in the lee of Lake Ontario near Watertown, New York. Lesser snow amounts are expected in the lees of the other Great Lakes, where the wind will not be blowing over such long stretches of open water. Up to 18” of snow is expected in the lee of Lake Michigan in northern Lower Michigan near Bellaire, and in the lee of Lake Superior near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.


Figure 1. U.S. snow cover as of 1 am EST November 17, 2014 showed 50% of the lower 48 states were covered by snow. Image credit: NWS NOHRSC (thanks to TWC’s Tom Moore for providing the graphic.)


Figure 2. Snowfall forecast for this week's lake effect snow storm. Over 2' of snow is expected in the lee of Lake Erie just south Buffalo, and in the lee of Lake Ontario near Watertown. Image credit: NWS Buffalo.

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

Updated: 4:55 PM GMT on November 17, 2014

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U.S. Lightning Strikes May Increase 50% Due to Global Warming

By: JeffMasters, 4:04 PM GMT on November 14, 2014

A warmer world will have much more dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning capable of igniting more forest fires, according to a study published Thursday in the Journal Science. The research found that for each degree Centigrade (1.8°F) of global warming, lightning in the U.S. is expected to increase by 12%. This would result in about a 50% increase in lightning by the year 2100, assuming business-as-usual emissions result in a world that is 4°C (7°F) warmer. Main author David Romps of the University of California-Berkeley said in a press release, “This has to do with water vapor, which is the fuel for explosive deep convection in the atmosphere. Warming causes there to be more water vapor in the atmosphere, and if you have more fuel lying around, when you get ignition, it can go big time…the faster the updrafts, the more lightning, and the more precipitation, the more lightning.” The study looked at U.S. lightning statistics for the year 2011, and discovered that a simple measure of atmospheric heat and moisture--the precipitation rate multiplied by the stability of the atmosphere (expressed as the Convective Available Potential Energy, or CAPE)--could describe 77% of the variation in lighting. By applying this simple measure to predicted levels of heat and moisture in a future warmer world, the scientists came up with their predictions for more lightning. The study makes sense from basic principles, and brings up three major concerns about the impacts of a future world with more lightning:

1) More lightning-caused fires
2) More lightning-caused ozone pollution and thus global warming
3) More lightning direct strike deaths and damages


Figure 1. Lightning sparks a grass fire near Granite, Oklahoma on June 8, 2008. Image credit: wunderphotographer Glenn Patterson.

The costs and death toll from lightning-caused fires in the U.S. and Canada
Over the ten years from 2003 - 2012, 42 U.S. firefighters were killed as a result of lightning-caused fires. An additional 19 firefighters were killed by the lightning-caused Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona in 2013. U.S. wildfire fighting costs averaged $1.8 billion annually during 2009 - 2013, according to Headwaters Economics. Although only 15% of U.S. wildfires were ignited by lightning between 2001 - 2010, these accounted for approximately 60% of the acres burned, and much of the annual costs of firefighting, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. For example, in 2012, the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, the largest fire in New Mexico history, and the Rush Fire, the 2nd largest in California history, were both triggered by lightning strikes. Lighting also causes building fires through direct strikes. The National Fire Protection Association says that lightning-caused fires that are responded to by local fire departments in the U.S. killed an average of nine people per year and did $451 million in direct property damage per year between 2007 - 2012.

Environment Canada estimates that lightning strikes are responsible for 45% of all wildfires in Canada and 81% of the total area burned. The cost of lightning-related damage and disruption to the Canadian economy was estimated to be between $600 million and $1 billion each year (Mills et al. 2009).


Figure 2. Smoke rises from the uncontrolled northern front of the lightning-ignited Gap fire on July 5, 2008 near Goleta, California. President Bush declared a state of emergency for all of California in July 2008 in response to more than 1,400 fires that were mostly started by dry lightning storms on June 20, 2008. More than 19,000 firefighters from 42 states battled the California wildfires. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Death and damages due to direct lightning strikes
In addition to killing people in lighting-caused fires, lightning kills people with direct strikes. In 2006 - 2013, an average of 33 people per year died as a result of lightning strikes, according to NOAA. So far in 2014, 25 people have been killed. Fishing, camping and boating were the three highest risk activities for people dying from lightning strikes, according to a 2013 NWS study. The insured costs of direct lightning strikes have been rising in recents years, due to an increase in valuable home electronics that get fried in a strike. These damages were approximately $1 billion per year in 2010 - 2011, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Lightning-caused forest fires may increase at a lesser rate
Climate models show that the increase in instability (higher CAPE) due to global warming is not expected to be uniform over the U.S., with strong increases over the Southeast U.S., and little increase over the Western U.S., where the majority of lightning-caused fires originate. The 12% increase in lighting per °C of global warming the study found is averaged over the entire U.S., and the increase in lightning is likely to be much lower over the Western United States--perhaps a factor of six less. A 2007 study by Del Genio et al. found that increasing the global temperature by 2.7°C would cause drying over the Western U.S. that would lead to fewer thunderstorms overall. However, the strongest thunderstorms increased in number by 26%, leading to a 6% increase in the total amount of lighting hitting the ground each year, or about a 2% increase per °C of global warming.

Increased lightning will create more ozone pollution and more global warming
Lightning creates nitrogen oxides, which in turn react to make significant amounts of ozone in the lower atmosphere--a dangerous pollutant that seriously impacts human health and crop growth. Ozone is also a greenhouse gas, so global warming-caused increases in lightning could potentially cause additional global warming of a few percent. How much is uncertain, as estimates of lightning-produced nitrogen oxides vary by up to a factor of four. Lower-atmosphere ozone was responsible for about 12% of human-caused global warming due to greenhouse gases in 2011, according to the 2013 IPCC report. However, increased ozone due to lightning could be offset somewhat by the fact that lightning-created nitrogen oxides trigger chemical reactions that help destroy methane, another potent greenhouse gas.


Video 1. ‪Every Lightning Strike in America in 2011, In One Minute‬. Data from the National Lightning Detection Network, UAlbany; animation by David Romps, UC Berkeley, and Phil Ebiner, UC Berkeley Public Affairs. Thursday's study in Science studied lightning over the U.S. in 2011 to come up with a simple way to represent lightning frequency based on how much heat and moisture is in the atmosphere.

Jeff Masters

Severe Weather Climate Change

Updated: 5:01 PM GMT on November 14, 2014

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U.S., China Reach Historic Climate Change Agreement

By: JeffMasters, 4:44 PM GMT on November 13, 2014

Stunning and welcome climate change news came out of China on Tuesday, when President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a historic joint climate commitment. The U.S. pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 - 28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. In turn, China agreed to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030--and sooner if possible--and to get 20% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. In order to achieve its part of the bargain, the U.S. will need to double the pace of carbon pollution reduction from 1.2% per year from 2005-2020 to 2.3 - 2.8% per year between 2020 - 2025. In order to achieve its part of the deal, China must deploy an additional 800 - 1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030--more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today, and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.   


Figure 1. U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a joint press conference at the Great Hall of People to announce a historic climate change deal on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

A step in the right direction, but a long ways to go
Humanity has a budget to keep. In order to keep global warming below the agreed-upon definition for the threshold of dangerous climate change, 2°C above pre-industrial levels, cumulative human CO2 emissions since 1870 must remain below about 2900 GtCO2. About two-thirds of that budget--1900 GtCO--had already been emitted by 2011, according to the November 2, 2014 IPCC Synthesis Report. The International Energy Agency warned in 2012 that "almost four-fifths of the CO2 emissions allowable by 2035 are already locked-in by existing power plants, factories, buildings, etc. If action to reduce CO2 emissions is not taken before 2017, all the allowable CO2 emissions would be locked-in by energy infrastructure existing at that time." If China and the U.S. follow their new commitments, humanity will exceed its carbon budget by 2042, just five years later than if they continue to follow their current "business as usual" course, according to analysis by Frank Melum, Senior Point Carbon Analyst at Thomson Reuters. “We do not expect these new targets to significantly alter the world’s trajectory for emissions growth, but the joint announcement will probably alter the pace of negotiations, and could in time could lead to improved ambition levels,” said Melum.


Figure 2. Of the proven fossil fuel reserves still in the ground (equivalent to emitting 2795 Gt of CO2, dark grey oval with a black oval of the maximum we can burn embedded in it), between 66% - 86% must stay in the ground if we are to have at least a two-in-three chance of keeping warming below 2°C, according to three groups who have done carbon budget analyses, the IPCC, the International Energy Agency, and the Carbon Tracker Initiative. Reserves are those quantities able to be recovered under existing economic and operating conditions (split as 63% coal, 22% oil, and 15% gas, according to the International Energy Agency.) These reserves were valued at $27 trillion (nearly 40% of the global yearly GDP), according to The Capital Institute. The IPCC, quoting Rogner et al., 2012, Global Energy Assessment–Toward a Sustainable Future (Chapter 7: Energy Resources and Potentials), says that these reserves are a factor of 4 - 7 more than what can burned. Fossil fuel resources are those where economic extraction is potentially feasible, and could become reserves in the future (e.g., methane hydrate deposits under the ocean floor.) The IPCC estimated these resources were an additional factor of 31 - 50 higher than the maximum we can burn. If only a small fraction of the these resources are developed and burned, Earth would have a hot-house climate like occurred during the age of the dinosaurs.

Commentary: A game-changing agreement
While the new deal is not binding and doesn't go far enough on its own to stop dangerous climate change, it is a huge political step forward in the fight against climate change. One of the key arguments being made in the U.S. against taking climate change action--that China was doing nothing to limit their emissions--has now been nullified. And over the next fifteen years, China is planning on installing enough renewable energy from sources like solar and wind to power the entire United States--guaranteeing continued explosive growth and price drops in green energy that will make it able to out-compete fossil fuels even with the massive subsidies they enjoy. When you add in last month's European Union (EU) pledge to cut total emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, we now have countries representing more than half of all global emissions making serious commitments to reduce carbon pollution. This gives real hope that a significant binding treaty to limit greenhouse gases can be successfully negotiated in Paris in December 2015 at the critical ‪United Nations Climate Change Conference‬.

Links
U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation: White House Fact Sheet.

Why The U.S.-China CO2 Deal Is An Energy, Climate, And Political Gamechanger: November 12, 2014 blog post by Joe Romm at ClimateProgress.org.

IPCC Final Report: We've Blown Two-Thirds of Our Carbon Budget: my November 2, 2014 blog post.

What You Need to Know About U.S.-China Climate Pact: November 12, 2014 blog post by Brian Kahn of ClimateCentral.org.

Jeff Masters

Climate Change Politics Climate Change

Updated: 6:46 PM GMT on November 13, 2014

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Wyoming Hits -26°F in Arctic Blast; 3 Feet of Snow in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

By: JeffMasters, 3:30 PM GMT on November 12, 2014

A bitter cold blast of Arctic air more typical of late December is plunging south over the Midwest, and will immerse most of the eastern two-thirds of the country in December-like cold for much of the coming week. Casper, Wyoming bottomed out Wednesday morning at a numbing -26°F, their coldest November temperature since weather records began in 1937. Casper's previous November record cold temperature was -21°F, set on Nov. 23, 1985. Laramie, Wyoming hit -22°F Wednesday morning, a record low for the date, and Yellowstone hit -20°F. The storm brought very strong winds with it, with several mountaintop locations recording wind gusts in excess of 80 mph earlier this week: 81 mph at Pikes Peak, Colorado, and 84 mph at Snowbasin, Utah. According to the Wednesday morning NOAA Storm Summary, a whopping three feet of snow (36.1") fell at Ishpeming in Michigan's Upper Peninsula over the past three days, and numerous locations in Michigan received more than 20" of snow, including Marquette (20") and Negaunee (32.5".) Snow amounts in North Central Minnesota were as high as 16.5", and northern Wisconsin got a peak of 26" at Gile. The storm and associated intense cold is being triggered by an usually extreme jet stream pattern, featuring a sharp ridge of high pressure over Alaska and a deep trough of low pressure diving to the south over the Central United States. This extreme jet stream pattern is due, in part, to the influence of Super Typhoon Nuri, which caused a ripple effect on the jet stream after the typhoon became one of the most powerful extratropical storms ever recorded in the waters to the west of Alaska last Saturday.


Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average at 2 meters (6.6') as diagnosed by the GFS model at 00 UTC November 12, 2014. A sharp kink in the jet stream (Figure 2) allowed cold air to spill southwards out of the Arctic over the Midwest U.S. Compensating warm air flowed northwards into the Arctic beneath a ridge of high pressure over Alaska. Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer™ (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.


Figure 2. Winds at a height where the pressure is 250 mb show the axis of the jet stream, seen here at 00 UTC November 12, 2014. A sharp trough of low pressure was present over the Midwest U.S., and an unusually strong ridge of high pressure was over Alaska. Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer™ (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

Updated: 2:35 AM GMT on November 13, 2014

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El Niño Temperatures Highest Since 2012, but NOAA Drops El Niño Odds to 58%

By: JeffMasters, 3:50 PM GMT on November 11, 2014

NOAA dropped their odds of an El Niño event forming this winter from 67% in their October outlook to 58% in their November outlook, but a surge of warm water over the equatorial Eastern Pacific over the past week could signal the onset of El Niño. The departure of sea surface temperature (SST) from average in the equatorial Pacific region 120°W - 170°W, 5°S - 5°N (called the Niño 3.4 region) crossed the +0.5°C from average threshold in mid-October, and as of November 10, these temperatures were +0.8°C from average--the greatest weekly anomaly since late August 2012. By definition, an El Niño episode occurs when SSTs are at least +0.5°C from average in this region for five consecutive months, with each month representing a 3-month average. Furthermore, ocean currents along the Equator flowing from east to west have weakened significantly over the past week, as apparent from plots made using NOAA's Ocean Surface Current Analyses - Real time web site. This sort of weakening typically happens at the onset of an El Niño event.


Figure 1. Departure of sea surface temperature (SST) from average in the equatorial Pacific region 120°W - 170°W, 5°S - 5°N (called the Niño 3.4 region.) By definition, an El Niño episode occurs when SSTs are at least +0.5°C from average (above the red line) in this region for five consecutive months, with each month representing a 3-month average. Niño 3.4 temperatures crossed the +0.5°C from average threshold in mid-October, and as of November 10, were +0.8°C from average--the greatest weekly anomaly since late August 2012. Image credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Why we may not get an El Niño episode
While the progression towards El Niño over the past week may seem to be compelling evidence that El Niño is imminent, we've been fooled before. One of the strongest sub-surface waves of warm water (a Kelvin wave) ever recorded in the Eastern Pacific pushed eastwards earlier this year, giving rise to speculation back in May that a strong El Niño event might be on the way. However, the westerly winds needed to push this warm water to the east towards South America never got strong enough, and progress towards El Niño conditions faltered. A similar sequence of events unfolded in September 2012. Forecasting El Niño is hard, and has been made more difficult in recent years since the character of El Niño itself seems to be changing on decadal (10-year) or longer timescales. Emily Becker, a researcher at the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), provides some insight as to why NOAA dropped their El Niño odds in NOAA's latest ENSO Blog post (ENSO is the acronym for “El Niño - Southern Oscillation”, which is the more scientifically rigorous term for what I typically refer to as “El Niño.") One key reason she gives: "We’re still not seeing much of an atmospheric response to the surface warming, so there is now concern that if El Niño conditions are achieved, they won’t persist for the five overlapping seasons required for this to be called an El Niño event."

An El Niño event typically brings cooler and wetter than average winter weather to the Southern U.S.

Jeff Masters

Atmospheric Phenomena

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Early-Season Winter Storm Blasts North Central U.S.

By: JeffMasters, 3:52 PM GMT on November 10, 2014

The winter of 2014 - 2015 is off to an early start over the Northern Plains, where a December-like blast of Arctic air is bringing heavy snows and wintery cold. The early season cold air outbreak is due, in part, to the influence of Super Typhoon Nuri, which caused a ripple effect on the jet stream when the remains of the typhoon "bombed" over the weekend into one of the most intense extratropical storms ever observed in the waters west of Alaska. This superstorm forced the jet stream to bulge far to the north over western North America, bringing a strong ridge of high pressure responsible for numerous daily record high temperatures in California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington over the weekend. A compensating southwards dip in the jet is now materializing over the North Central U.S., where an unusually powerful trough of low pressure is pushing southeastwards. This trough will give most of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. high temperatures 10 - 20°F below average by late in the week.


Figure 1. Jack the snowman takes shape after an early season snowfall on Sunday November 9, 2014, in Pellston, Michigan. Image credit: wunderphotographer jpboris.

The wintery fun is in full swing this Monday morning in Central Minnesota, where a Winter Storm Warning is posted, with snow amounts of 6 - 16" expected. According to NOAA's latest storm summary, the storm had a 990 mb surface low pressure in Nebraska at 9 am EST Monday, and brought 3 - 5" of snow across portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, with heavier snows of up to 14" recorded in Montana. Strong winds pouring south out of Canada brought numerous wind gusts in excess of 50 mph to Montana, Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming, with the top gust an impressive 68 mph at Driggs, Idaho. The heaviest snows from the storm will likely fall in North Central Wisconsin, with 8 - 16", and in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where lake effect enhancement by Lake Superior will bring widespread snows over 12", with some areas seeing up to 24".

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

Updated: 3:55 PM GMT on November 10, 2014

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Ex-Typhoon Nuri Bombs to 924 mb in Bering Sea

By: JeffMasters, 12:43 AM GMT on November 09, 2014

What was once Category 5 Super Typhoon Nuri bombed into one of the strongest extratropical storms ever observed in the Pacific Ocean, reaching 924 mb at 06 UTC Saturday morning--a pressure rarely achieved by an extratropical storm. The only two Pacific storms I am aware of that compare are the October 25 - 26, 1977 storm near Dutch Harbor, Alaska that set Alaska's all-time low pressure record (925 mb), and a storm from December 24, 1975 that hit 926 mb near 49°N 158°W. Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt has all the details in his latest post. Thanks go to wunderblogger Steve Gregory for supplying the images below.


CLICK IMAGE to open full size image in new window
Figure 1. MODIS satellite image of the mighty extratropical storm Ex-Typhoon Nuri became in the Bering Sea on November 8, 2014. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 2. Surface analysis for 06 UTC Saturday (1 am EST) November 8, 2014 from the GFS model. Note the large area of storm-force winds greater than 50 knots (57.5 mph, red colors) near the 933 mb low. The low was analyzed as being much deeper (924 mb) by NOAA's Ocean Prediction Center.


Figure 3. Analysis of Geopotential Heights in decameters (black lines), temperature in Centigrade (white lines), and winds in knots (colors) at 500 mb (roughly 19,000 feet altitude) for 06 UTC Saturday (1 am EST) November 8, 2014 from the GFS model. Note the strong jet stream winds in excess of 110 knots (126 mph, pink colors) just south of the low pressure system over the Bering Sea.


Figure 4. Analysis of Geopotential Heights in decameters (black lines), and winds in knots (colors) at 200 mb (roughly 40,000 feet altitude) for 06 UTC Saturday (1 am EST) November 8, 2014 from the GFS model. Note the very strong jet stream winds in excess of 140 knots (161 mph, white colors) just south of the low pressure system over the Bering Sea. A pilot report of winds of 170 knots (196 mph) at 200 mb altitude was recorded near this time.

Jeff Masters

Winter Weather

Updated: 12:43 AM GMT on November 09, 2014

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Rare Medicane Hits Malta and Sicily With Tropical Storm-Like Conditions

By: JeffMasters, 11:54 PM GMT on November 07, 2014

A rare "Medicane"--a hybrid storm with characteristics of both a tropical storm and an extratropical storm--formed over the South Central Mediterranean Sea on Friday and moved over the island of Malta, bringing them tropical storm-like conditions. Winds at the Luqa, Malta Airport looked suspiciously like what one would observe with a tropical storm passing overhead--a double peak with a near-calm in between, with the pressure falling to 984 mb during the calm. Winds peaked in Malta at 47 mph, gusting to 66 mph, at 6:37 pm local time, and the island was lashed with flooding rains. At least one funnel cloud was also observed. A Personal Weather Station (PWS) on the north coast of Malta recorded sustained winds of 69 mph, gusting to 96 mph, with a minimum pressure of 979 mb. Lampedusa e Linosa, Italy, an island between Malta and Tunisa: sustained at 53 mph, gusting to 84 mph. A PWS on Linosa Island recorded a minimum pressure of 982 mb and wind gust to 61 mph. As of late Friday night, the storm was moving northwards along the east coast of Sicily, Italy, bringing them heavy rain and strong winds.


Figure 1. Radar image of the November 7, 2014 Medicane as the storm passed along the east coast of Sicily, Italy. Sure looks like an eyewall is trying to form. Image credit: Protezionecivile Italy. Other radar images are available from girovaghi.it.


Figure 2. MODIS satellite image of the November 7, 2014 "Medicane" near Malta in the Mediterranean. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 3. Wind damage at Calatabiano along the east coast of Sicily, Italy, from the November 7, 2014 Medicane. Photo credit: Cosimo Manitta.

Is it a hurricane?
Today's Medicane, which has been dubbed "Qendresa I" by the Free University of Berlin, derived part of its energy from last weekend's Nor'easter that brought early snows to portions of the Eastern U.S., according to TWC's Stu Ostro. So, it got its start from a non-tropical storm, but has definitely acquired characteristics of a tropical storm, making it a hybrid. The NHC does not have responsibility for naming storms in the Mediterranean. If they were responsible, there is a good chance that they would have named this Medicane, labeling it a subtropical storm. A radar loop out of the the Malta Airport Metoffice showed the storm appeared to be forming a banded eye-type structure typical of a tropical storm approaching hurricane strength as the storm moved over the island.


Figure 4. Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) near Malta are about 23°C (73°F), which is warm enough to support a subtropical storm, but probably not a tropical storm. Ocean temperatures are cooler on the east side of Sicily, about 21°C (70°F.) The coldest waters I've seen an Atlantic tropical storm form in were 22°C during Hurricane Epsilon of 2005. Cool air aloft can offset cold SSTs and create the instability needed to create a Medicane. Image credit: U.S. Navy.

Hurricanes may begin forming in the Mediterranean by 2100
According to research published by Gaertner et al. (2007), an increase in ocean temperatures of 3°C in the Mediterranean by the end of the century could lead to hurricanes forming there. Miguel Angel Gaertner of the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo, Spain, ran 9 different climate models with resolutions of about 50 km and found that some (but not all) of the models simulated hurricanes in the Mediterranean in September by the end of the century, when ocean temperature could reach 30°C.

Though the Mediterranean may start seeing hurricanes by the end of the century, these storms should be rare and relatively short-lived for three reasons:

1) The Mediterranean is quite far north and is subject to strong wind shear from jet stream activity.

2) The waters are shallow, and have relatively low heat content. There is no deep warm water current like the Gulf Stream.

3) The Mediterranean has a lot of large islands and peninsulas poking into it, increasing the chances that a tropical storm would weaken when it encountered land.


Figure 5. The Medicane of January 1995 (dubbed "Celeno") emerged off of the Libyan coast into the central Mediterranean Sea toward the Ionian shoreline of Greece on 13 January as a compact low-pressure area, the precursor low maintained winds reaching up to 108 km/h (67 mph) as it traversed the Ionian Sea, while the German research ship Meteor noted winds of 135 km/h (84 mph). Celeno intensified over waters that were just 16°C (61°F), far below the 26°C threshold usually needed to sustain a tropical storm.


Figure 6. Hybrid subtropical storm of October 8, 1996, off the coast of Italy. According to Reale and Atlas (2001), the storm had characteristics similar to a hurricane, but formed over water of 21.5°C. "The maximum damage due to wind occurred over the Aeolian Islands, at 38.5°N, 15°E, to the northeast of Sicily: assistance for disaster relief was required. Unfortunately, no weather station data were available, but the media reported sheds, roofs and harbor devices destroyed, and houses and electric lines damaged, due to "extremely strong westerly wind." The perfect agreement between the observations at Ustica, the storm scale, the eye-like feature position and the damages over the Aeolian Island reasonably suggest that the hurricane-level intensity of 32 m/s (72 mph) was reached over the Aeolian Islands." A similar hybrid low affected Algeria on 9 - 10 November 2001. This storm produced upwards of 270 mm (10.6") of rain, winds of 33 m/s (74 mph), and killed 737 people near Algiers, mostly from flooding and mud slides. Image credit: Dundee satellite receiving station.

References
Wikipedia has an excellent "Medicane" page.

Gaertner, M. A., D. Jacob, V. Gil, M. Dominguez, E. Padorno, E. Sanchez, and M. Castro (2007), Tropical cyclones over the Mediterranean Sea in climate change simulations,, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L14711, doi:10.1029/2007GL029977.

Reale, O., and R. Atlas. 2001: Tropical Cyclone-Like Vortices in the Extratropics: Observational Evidence and Synoptic Analysis, Weather and Forecasting, 16, No. 1, pp. 7-34.


Video 1. Heavy flooding in Malta on November 7, 2014 from the "Medicane." Thanks go to wunderground member barbamz for posting this video in my blog comments, as well as many of the other links.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane

Updated: 1:26 PM GMT on November 02, 2016

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Long Range Winter Outlook

By: Steve Gregory , 6:21 PM GMT on November 06, 2014

Analysis and Forecast by Steve Gregory...



COLDER THAN NORMAL GREAT LAKES - NEW ENGLAND AND GULF COAST

A colder than normal winter, especially during the first half appears likely for the Great Lakes, Upper Midwest and New England region, while below normal Temps are also likely across the entire Gulf coast region. However, while Temps will likely average below normal, it’s very unlikely that this winter will be even remotely close to last years’ frigid winter.

In contrast to the east, the western half of the nation should see another unusually mild winter – but should be significantly stormier than last year – with above normal Precip expected from northern California to Washington State as the mean storm track shifts further south compared to last year - especially by January. Near normal Precip appears likely for southern California, allowing for at least some recovery from the extreme drought of the last several years.


FORECAST MODEL GUIDANCE – AN ENSEMBLE OF TECHNIQUES

Based on the extended range GFS and EURO global ensembles, dynamical trends, along with forecasts and tools available from NOAA, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and various University and Research group models (all of which call for at least some further strengthening of El Niño) – point towards a generally cold start to winter. However, unlike last year when we had long duration cold air events that included several cross-polar flow patterns – there should be a more progressive and stronger maritime influence as a more westerly flow of air moves into western North America due to an El-Niño like wind pattern. Using the CFSv2 and NMME Model Ensembles (that are made up many well known global and specialized climate models) an El Niño-like driven winter pattern should develop by late DEC or by mid JAN. This should lead to larger precipitation events compared to last year in the west and along the Gulf coast region, with a simultaneous lessening of the cold anomalies over the eastern half of the nation that will likely highlight the upcoming 6 weeks.

The colder pattern that is now developing across the US is partially the result of an enormous and very powerful West Pacific cyclone developing from the remnant of Typhoon Nuri (with the GFS forecasting a central pressure of 918mb by SAT morning). This super storm is building a strong ridge ahead of it – with an even stronger downstream TROF expected to form over North America next week. These type of strong tropical storm forcing mechanisms on the overall hemispheric wind pattern generally last 10-15 days – but rarely, for longer periods - IF there is a lack of pattern forcing from the Eastern Pacific (EPAC).

Another, albeit small, input to the Long Range Outlook is a fairly well studied phenomena related to the early development of a large AND unusually deep snow cover in Siberia during October. Absent a strong Pacific ENSO event influence, a deep Siberian snow cover in the Fall often leads to a cold North American winter as the large, low level source of cold air over Siberia ‘sets up’ a jet stream pattern that favors deep, arctic air mass intrusions into much of North America. Unfortunately, real-time snow depth reports from the Euro-Asian region (and especially Siberia!) is simply not available. Snow extent (derived from Satellite imagery) is, however, available on a daily basis, and current snow extent (and arctic basin ice coverage) is slightly greater than at the same time last year, and significantly more widespread than in OCT 2012. Although I’ve only given small weighting to these indicators, it was enough to forecast a colder winter than that given in the official NOAA outlook, but not nearly as cold as most every other private forecast services are calling for.


WHAT COULD DERAIL THIS FORECAST?

Numerous things could negate the expected impact from the warm Pacific waters – including the near impossible to forecast development of a strongly negative Arctic and/or North Atlantic Oscillation (AO and NAO respectively, even when we have a moderately strong El Niño event. Strongly negative NAO and AO indices typically results in a very cold winter in the eastern half of the nation. (Ironically, last year’s AO and NAO averaged near to above normal – and were a very big exception to the above ‘rule’.) However, there are other, lesser known ‘oscillations’ or Teleconnection patterns like the PNA, EP-NP, and PT. Most of these teleconnections do not become established until early DEC – but even then, these teleconnections can vary dramatically over the course of the winter.

In addition to the above uncertainties, ‘spectacular’ and Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) tends to occur every few years that can bring about major hemispheric pattern changes – with very cold weather resulting in either Asia or North America. These events are even harder to predict than teleconnections which themselves can only be reliably forecast about 2 weeks in advance at best.

But at the moment, the most uncertain aspect of the below Winter Outlook has to do with Pacific Basin Temperature anomalies. This includes the slowly strengthening El Niño, but just as importantly, the very warm conditions off the west coast of North America that extends into the Gulf of Alaska, with another large warm water anomaly extending from the California coast westward to past the Date Line. A wedge of colder waters divides this mid-latitude warm water from the very high latitude warm water in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) region. As explained in some of the below Figures, the Pacific Basin SST anomaly pattern has been continuously evolving over the past year, and is quite unlike last year at the same time, and will likely remain significantly different from last winter. This seemingly non-stop SSTA pattern 'evolution' has introduced even greater uncertainty in the current Long Range Winter Outlook. But one thing is clear – last year saw the development of a strong, Negative Phase of the PDO, whereas we are now in a Positive PDO phase pattern (which dominated the later 1980's and 1990’s). And whereas last winter featured a weak La Niña event, this years equatorial SST anomaly is clearly in the El Niño camp.

Overall, confidence in my current forecast is considered average, or a ‘3’ on a 1-5. It would be a ‘4’ if not for the larger than normal uncertainty for the overall Pacific Basin SST anomalies going forward (both relating to the PDO and intensity of El Niño) . An updated (and final) Winter Forecast will be issued at the end of the month, with a mid-winter update in JAN.


CLICK IMAGE to open full size image in new window

Fig 1: The evolution of Total Heat Content anomalies in the Equatorial Pacific over the past year. Starting in DEC 2013, cooler than normal conditions developed across the Equatorial EPAC, leading to a weak La Niña episode. By FEB, however, the strongest SSTA reversal on record developed, with heat content in the Equatorial Pacific reaching El Niño like levels (and which is why NOAA and most everyone else at the time began calling for the strongest El Niño event by this winter since 1997/98). This reversal was due to 3 strong westerly wind bursts related to a strong MJO signal over the west central Pacific. However, the pattern suddenly reversed again, with heat content falling off rapidly by the start of Summer. It was during the summer that the full impact of the early spring warming began showing up in the Atmospheric pattern, and this began a resurgence in warm Equatorial waters with a generally weak but warm ENSO episode now in progress.




Fig 2: One of the ‘noisier’ indicators for an ENSO episode is the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). Despite the noisy aspect of the SOI, a negative SOI has taken hold over the past several months – and 5 month running means of -8 or lower are indicative of an El Niño event.




Fig 3: The above SST anomaly analysis charts show the stark differences in SSTA’s (Sea Surface Temp Anomalies) this year compared to last year across the Pacific Basin (Charts A and E). By the middle of last winter (Chart B), we had a significant cold ENSO event, but also a pool of very warm waters in the Gulf of Alaska. This anomalous combination, along with a basin wide Positive PDO SSTA pattern was the primary driver to the non-stop frigid winter weather over the US. By June (Chart C) we saw the cold ENSO event reverse to a weak warm one, with a continual warming across much of the Pacific Basin throughout the summer. This warm anomaly pattern peaked in AUG, but by SEP (Chart D), the SSTA pattern began changing yet again. The very warm GOA/Bering Sea SSTA’s reversed with much smaller warm anomalies in the northern GOA and a spreading wedge of cooler than normal SST’s from off the Japan coast eastward into the southern GOA (Chart F). In addition, a slow warming has continued in most of the Equatorial Pacific (Chart G shows the very large CHANGE in SST’s during the month of OCT alone). Finally, Chart H shows the subsurface SSTA’s in the upper 300 meters of the Equatorial Pacific. Though I have not included a time based animation of this chart, the typical ‘trend’ is for SSTA’s at depth in the western Pacific to spread eastward and rise ever closer to the surface in the EPAC over the ensuing 6-8 week period. For this reason, I expect warmer than normal SST’s in the EPAC to continue through the winter season.



Fig 4: The above SSTA patterns depict the ‘idealized’ PDO pattern for the Positive and Negative Phases that tend to last 15-25 years before reversing. Using the above SSTA charts, you can see that we are now in a Positive PDO Phase with a weak El Niño, unlike last year’s Negative Phase PDO, which also featured a weak La Niña event superimposed on it.




Fig 5: The above charts show the evolution of Sea Surface HEIGHT (SSH) anomalies courtesy of NASA’s JASON Satellite derived datasets, and considered the ‘Gold Standard’ for interpreting thermal based circulation characteristics of the oceans. Above normal SSH’s indicate relatively deep, warm waters, while lower heights imply colder waters at depth. What makes this image so useful right now is to compare it to the standard SSTA charts. Overall SSH’s have risen sharply from the central Equatorial Pacific to off the west coast of California, and have increased again over the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea – both of which show near to even below normal SST’s right now. This only makes sense when you realize that with the onset of winter, cold air moving across the Bering Sea and Aleutians is chilling down the surface waters in those regions. But at depth, warm water is again developing. In addition, the very low (cold) ocean heights in the far western and to some degree central Pacific is displaced south of the axis of cold water shown on the SSTA charts. Because of these differences, an even stronger Positive Phase of the PDO appears likely to develop over the next few months, with a warm ENSO episode superimposed on it. This is totally opposite of last years Negative PDO Phase and cool ENSO waters. As far as I know, in depth correlations and seasonal impact composites of such patterns (especially their relative intensities) has not been compiled. We ‘know’ what happened last year (and I believe the PDO and ENSO patterns contributed to at least 70% of last Years US Winter pattern) – but exactly how the reversal of the pattern this year will impact our weather remains unclear – but I expect it to play a major role.




Fig 6: Besides the ONI metric used by NOAA to determine the strength of ENSO events, another, more ‘complete’ metric is the Multivariate ENSO Index MEI which takes into account both SST’s and several atmospheric indices (the Index is expressed in Standard Deviations). This particular chart shows the evolution of ENSO events since 1950 that started off well in Neutral territory during the prior year. There were 4 statistically significant analogs to this year’s values, and in 3 out of 4 cases, a weak to moderate El Niño followed.




Fig 7: The above chart shows the top 7 El Nino’s since 1950. The true standouts remain the 1982/83 and 1997/98 events, when the index reached 3 standard deviations from normal. Both of those events induced extremely warm winters in the US. The remaining events ranged from 1 to 2 Std. Deviations, which were considered Moderate to Strong events. The current ENSO state is around 0.6 Std. Dev., but is expected to approach 1.0 by JAN (a weak to Moderate El Niño). But just as important is the warm water off the west coast, which when combined with a weak-moderate El Niño, should lead to a more pronounced El Niño atmospheric pattern than the ONI or MEI metrics alone would imply.




Fig 8: In support of the above position for El Niño is the POAMA index forecast from the Australian BOM that calls for additional strengthening of El Niño to well within the El Niño event category which is shown lasting into next summer.




Fig 9: A more detailed break-out of specific model forecasts for the Niño 3.4 region courtesy of the AUSI BOM for JAN and March, 2015. The NASA, EURO and Canadian models show the strongest warming, but all models call for at least weak El Niño conditions.



Fig 10: The above charts the ONI Index used by NOAA, and the CFSv2 Ensemble member forecasts for this index through mid summer 2015. Although the Niño 3.4 region serves as the basis for the ONI (and MEI) metrics, this ‘one size fits all’ – especially when there are significantly different SSTA intensities within the other Niño regions (like we have now) has more times than not led to busted seasonal forecasts. The warmer SSTA’s outside the 3.4 region, plus the warm water off the West coast and the positive PDO phase, tends to support (IMHO) the development of a well developed El Niño like atmospheric circulation pattern this winter.



Fig 11: The above representation of an El Niño pattern shows the impact on equatorial convection with warmer than normal SST’s in the EPAC. Convection is enhanced due to the warm waters, which forms a bit of a feedback loop with anomalous westerly winds spilling out of the T-storms in the Equatorial EPAC, which further reduces the normal upwelling off the South American coast and eastern Pacific waters in general. The convection also impacts the development, mean location and intensity of the winter season sub-tropical jet stream.




Fig 12: In a ‘classic’ moderate, and especially strong, El Niño episode, a relatively warmer flow off the Pacific tends to dominate North America – with above normal Temps and drier than normal conditions over the northern tier of states, and cooler, wetter conditions in the south due to the stronger sub-tropical jet.



CLICK IMAGE to open full size image in new window

Fig 13: A look back at the NMME Ensemble Model suite forecast for the month of OCT that was issued in early SEP. Two of the NCAR models had the best overall ‘pattern’ forecast, easily beating out the NMME ensemble itself. The NCAR model caught the cool anomaly in the east, but did not have the correct anomaly magnitude in the west. OTH, the NCAR CCSM4 model caught the general PATTERN overall, including the Temp anomaly magnitudes in the west, but was too warm in the east (though significantly cooler than in the west). With this in mind, a little extra weight in my forecast was given to these models than would normally be the case.




Fig 14: The latest available Winter Season (DEC-JAN-FEB) forecasts from the NMME model suite. While the ensemble solutions shown (NMME and IMME) call for a generally mild to ‘warm’ winter in most areas, the NCAR model was considered the best overall model – though it’s now in conflict with the CCSM4 model. (The CFS model, not shown, shows above normal Temps nationwide this winter. )




Fig 15: My Month-By-Month Temp anomaly forecasts for DEC-FEB. The cold start shown for DEC (but again, not nearly as cold as last year) is expected to gradually give way to warmer anomalies by later in Jan and in FEB. Temps should average above normal in the west throughout the winter, as will cooler conditions across the Gulf states region.




Fig 16: The full winter Temp Outlook is simply the arithmetic mean of the individual monthly forecast charts.




Fig 17: The primary storm tracks should result in above normal Precip in the PAC NW, and closer to normal over the SW US. Significant Gulf of Mexico and Ohio valley storm tracks are also indicated – all of which are typical of an El Niño circulation pattern.




Fig 18: The latest available NOAA forecast for DEC-FEB reflects a full fledged El Niño winter.

Steve Gregory

Winter Weather long range winter outlook

Updated: 7:54 PM GMT on November 06, 2014

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Typhoon Nuri Poised to Become an Alaskan Super Storm; TD Vance Hits Mexico

By: JeffMasters, 4:22 PM GMT on November 05, 2014

Typhoon Nuri is down to Category 1 strength as it steams to the northeast at 11 mph towards Alaska. Satellite loops show that Nuri has maintained a large area of heavy thunderstorms, but the eye is no longer visible, and high wind shear of 20 - 30 knots is significantly disrupting the storm. Nuri will lose its tropical characteristics on Thursday as it becomes embedded in a cold front. As the extratropical version of Nuri moves into the Bering Sea to the west of Alaska on Friday, a very powerful jet stream will interact with the storm and cause it to rapidly intensify into one of the strongest low pressure systems ever observed in the Pacific Ocean. Ex-Nuri's central pressure is forecast to drop from around 970 mb late Thursday night to about 918 mb late Friday night. The 00Z Wednesday run of the European model predicted that ex-Nuri would bottom out near 918 mb at 03Z Saturday, about 300 miles west-northwest of the westernmost Aleutian Island, Attu. The 00Z Wednesday GFS model had the storm reaching 918 mb 300 miles north of Attu. The NWS in Anchorage is predicting that a large swath of hurricane force winds will be possible from Shemya eastward to Adak and Atka in the Aleutian Islands late Friday into Saturday, with seas building to 45 feet or higher. A storm surge of 2' is predicted at St. Lawrence Island on Saturday morning, and over 1' at Nome.


Figure 1. MODIS satellite image of Typhoon Nuri in the Pacific at 04:10 UTC November 5, 2014. At the time, Nuri was a weakening Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 105 mph. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 2. Predicted sea level pressure for 03 UTC Saturday (10 pm EST Friday, November 7, 2014) from the 00Z Wednesday run of the European model. Ex-Nuri is predicted to be at peak intensity at that time, with a 920 mb closed isobar falling between the Russian station Nikol'Skoe and Attu Island in Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

Ex-Nuri predicted to become one of Earth's strongest storms on record
According to wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt, the all-time Alaska low pressure record is 27.35" (926 mb) at Dutch Harbor on October 25, 1977. Ex-Nuri would have a chance to beat that record if its center passed over one of the Aleutian Islands on Saturday morning, but it appears that when the storm is at peak intensity, the center will miss any Aleutian Islands by a wide margin. Ex-Nuri is also likely to fall short of the lowest estimated pressure for any extratropical storm world-wide, the 26.96" (913 mb) pressure estimated for a January 11, 1993 storm off the Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic (documented in Christopher C. Burt's book, Extreme Weather.) Mr. Burt has a comprehensive post on all these records in his November 10, 2011 post, Super Extra-tropical Storms; Alaska and Extra-tropical Record Low Barometric.


Figure 3. Surface analysis for late evening October 25, 1977 when Alaska’s strongest storm in history deepened to 926 mb (27.35”) over Dutch Harbor on the Aleutian Island of Unalaska. Chart drawn by and supplied by wunderblogger Steve Gregory, who worked with the Ocean Routes Company (now WNI) in Alaska at the time.

Vance makes landfall in Mexico as a tropical depression
What was Category 2 Hurricane Vance on Tuesday morning made landfall on Mexico's Pacific coast southeast of Mazatlan Wednesday morning as a mere tropical depression with 30 mph winds. High wind shear of up to 50 knots rapidly tore apart the storm as it approached the coast. Vance is pushing inland to the northeast at 13 mph, and will dissipate Wednesday afternoon. Moisture from Vance is streaming to the northeast over Texas, and Flash Flood Watches are posted from Del Rio to Austin for 1 - 2 inches of rain, with isolated amounts up to 4 inches.


Figure 4. MODIS satellite image of weakening Tropical Storm Vance off the Pacific coast of Mexico on Tuesday afternoon November 4, 2014. Image credit: NASA.

Steve Gregory plans on doing a guest post in my blog Thursday afternoon: the forecast for the coming winter.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane

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Typhoon Nuri Poised to Become an Alaskan Super Storm; Vance Drenching Mexico

By: JeffMasters, 3:47 PM GMT on November 04, 2014

Typhoon Nuri lost its "Super" designation Monday night, after the top winds fell below 150 mph, but remains poised to transition this weekend to one of the strongest extratropical storms ever to affect Alaska. Nuri intensified from a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds to a very high-end Category 5 with 180 mph winds on Sunday, tying Super Typhoon Vongfong for strongest tropical cyclone of 2014 (as estimated by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.) Satellite loops show that Nuri remains a formidable storm, with a large area of heavy thunderstorms with cold cloud tops and a prominent eye. Fortunately, Nuri is not expected to directly threaten any land areas, with the storm passing far enough from Japan on Thursday to keep the heavy rain area out to sea. However, once Nuri loses its tropical characteristics and moves into the Bering Sea to the west of Alaska on Friday, a very powerful jet stream will interact with ex-Nuri and cause it to rapidly intensify into one of the strongest low pressure systems ever observed in the Pacific Ocean. The GFS and European models continue to predict that the extratropical version of Super Typhoon Nuri will become a powerful sub-925 mb low with hurricane-force winds in the western Aleutian Islands on Friday night and Saturday morning. The 00Z Tuesday run of the European model predicted that ex-Nuri would bottom out at 920 mb at 06Z Saturday, a few hundred miles west of the westernmost Aleutian Islands. The 00Z Tuesday GFS model had the storm reaching 924 mb a few hundred miles northeast of there. According to wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt, the all-time Alaska low pressure record is 926 mb at Dutch Harbor on October 25, 1977. Ex-Nuri would have a chance to beat that record if its center passed over one of the Aleutian islands on Saturday morning, but this morning's model runs predicted that the center would miss the westernmost Aleutian Island, Attu, by several hundred miles. Ex-Nuri will bring substantial impacts to the Aleutian Islands and coastal areas of southwest Alaska over the weekend, with the threat of damaging winds near hurricane force and a significant storm surge.


Figure 1. MODIS satellite image of Super Typhoon Nuri in the Pacific at 01:55 UTC November 4, 2014. At the time, Nuri was a weakening Category 4 storm with top sustained winds of 150 mph. Image credit: NASA.

Hurricane Vance a heavy rainfall threat to Mexico
Hurricane Vance in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Mexico is steadily weakening as high wind shear of 35 - 40 knots tears into the storm. Satellite images show that Vance is barely recognizable as a hurricane, with an elongated disorganized appearance. Wind shear is expected to rise even higher before Vance reaches the Mexican coast late Wednesday morning, and this may be sufficient to tear Vance apart before landfall. Regardless of whether or not Vance makes it to the coast as a tropical storm, flooding rains will be the primary threat; heavy rains of 4 - 8" will affect the Mexican coast northwest of Puerto Vallarta on Tuesday and Wednesday. In their 10 am EST Tuesday Wind Probability Forecast, NHC gave a 3 - 12% chance that Vance would bring tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph to Puerto Vallarta and the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Moisture from Vance is streaming to the northeast over Texas, and Flash Flood Watches are posted from Del Rio to Austin for 2 to 4 inches of rain, with isolated amounts up to 7 inches, though Wednesday morning.


Figure 2. MODIS satellite image of Hurricane Vance of the Pacific coast of Mexico at 20:50 UTC November 3, 2014. At the time, Vance was a peak-strength Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 110 mph. Strong upper level winds from the southwest were disrupting the heavy thunderstorms on Vance's southwest side. Image credit: NASA.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane

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Remarkable Super Typhoon Nuri Maintains 180 mph Winds for 24 Hours

By: JeffMasters, 7:12 PM GMT on November 03, 2014

In the Western Pacific, Super Typhoon Nuri exploded into a mighty Category 5 storm with 180 mph winds on Sunday, and has maintained that strength for a remarkable 24 hours. Nuri intensified from a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds to a very high-end Category 5 with 180 mph winds on Sunday. The central pressure dropped 65 mb in 24 hours, down to 910 mb, as estimated by the Japan Meteorological Agency. Nuri is tied with Super Typhoon Vongfong for strongest tropical cyclone sustained wind speed of 2014; both had sustained winds estimated at 180 mph by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Vonfong hit Japan's Okinawa Island on October 11 as a Category 1 storm, and killed 9 people and caused $68 million in damage. However, Vongfong was slightly more intense as rated by minimum pressure--the Japan Meteorological Agency put Vongfong's central pressure at 900 mb at peak intensity, 10 mb lower than Nuri's. Nuri may pass close enough to Japan on Thursday to bring them heavy rain, but a direct hit is unlikely. The GFS and European models are both predicting the extratropical remnants of Typhoon Nuri will become a sub-925 mb low in the western Aleutian Islands on Friday night and Saturday morning, with the 12Z Monday run of the European model predicting ex-Nuri will bottom out at 916 mb at 06Z Saturday. According to wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt, the all-time Alaska low pressure record is 926 mb at Dutch Harbor on October 25, 1977, so ex-Nuri has a chance to beat that record.


Figure 1. Infrared VIIRS image of Super Typhoon Nuri as seen at 04:44 UTC November 2, 2014. At the time, Nuri was an intensifying Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds. Image credit: Dan Lindsey, NOAA/NASA and RAMMB/CIRA.


Figure 2. Visible VIIRS image of Super Typhoon Nuri as seen at 04:25 UTC November 3, 2014. At the time, Nuri was a peak-strength Category 5 storm with 180 mph winds. Image credit: Dan Lindsey, NOAA/NASA and RAMMB/CIRA.


Figure 3. MODIS satellite image of Super Typhoon Nuri in the Pacific at 04:20 UTC November 3, 2014. At the time, Nuri had top sustained winds of 180 mph, tying it for strongest tropical cyclone of 2014. Image credit: NASA.

Nuri is Earth's fifth Category 5 storm of 2014
Nuri is Earth's fifth Category 5 storm of the year, and the third in the Western Pacific. In addition to Super Typhoon Vongfong, the other Western Pacific Cat 5 in 2014 was Super Typhoon Halong, which topped out at 160 mph winds on August 3, eventually making landfall in Japan on August 10 as a tropical storm. Another Western Pacific Super Typhoon, Rammasun, was only rated a Cat 4 when it hit China's Hainan Island on July 17, killing 195 people and causing over $7 billion in damage. However, a pressure characteristic of a Category 5 storm, 899.2 mb, was recorded at Qizhou Island just before Rammasun hit Hainan Island. If this pressure is verified, it is likely that the storm will be upgraded to a Category 5 in post-season reanalysis. The Eastern Pacific has had two Cat 5s in 2014 that did not affect land: Marie (160 mph winds) and Genevieve (160 mph winds.) The South Indian Ocean has had one Cat 5 this year, Tropical Cyclone Gillian in March (160 mph winds.) Gillian did not affect any land areas. Between 2000 - 2013, Earth averaged five Category 5 storms per year, with 51% of these occurring in the Western Pacific.


Video 1. The cameras on the International Space Station captured this video of Super Typhoon Nuri on November 2, 2014. At the time, Nuri was an intensifying Category 4 typhoon.

Hurricane Vance a heavy rainfall threat to Mexico
Hurricane Vance in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Mexico has likely peaked in intensity and should steadily weaken as high wind shear of 20 knots tears into the storm. Satellite images show that Vance has an impressive area of spiral bands and heavy thunderstorms, except on its southwest side, where strong upper-level winds are disrupting the storm. Vance was getting pulled to the north by a trough of low pressure on Monday, will turn to the northeast on Tuesday, but might not make it all the way to Mexico. The 8 am EDT Monday run of the SHIPS model predicted that wind shear would rise to 40 knots by Tuesday morning, which will likely be able to tear Vance apart before landfall. Flooding rains will be the primary threat from Vance; heavy rains of 4 - 8" will affect the Mexican coast northwest of Puerto Vallarta on Tuesday, and heavy rains of 3 - 6" may affect portions of Texas by Wednesday. In their 11 am EDT Monday Wind Probability Forecast, NHC gave a 4 - 12% chance that Vance would bring tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph to Puerto Vallarta and the tip of the Baja Peninsula.


Figure 4. Hurricane Vance off the coast of Mexico as seen by GOES West at 9:45 EST (1445 UTC) on November 3, 2014. At the time, Vance was a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds. Image credit: NOAA Visualization Laboratory.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane

Updated: 2:00 PM GMT on November 04, 2014

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IPCC Final Report: We've Blown Two-Thirds of Our Carbon Budget

By: JeffMasters, 3:08 PM GMT on November 02, 2014

"Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems", said the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today, in the final installment of their once-every-seven-year report on the climate. Today's Synthesis Report summarizes the key messages from Parts I, II, and III, issued in September 2013 - April 2014. The Synthesis Report warns that "continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks." During the press conference accompanying the report release, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "action on climate change can contribute to economic prosperity, better health and more livable cities,” but warned that inaction would “cost much, much more.” I'll comment on just three key themes from today's report:

We're Blowing Our Carbon Budget
The IPCC said today: "Limiting total human-induced warming to less than 2°C relative to the period 1861-1880 with a probability of >66% would require cumulative CO2 emissions from all anthropogenic sources since 1870 to remain below about 2900 GtCO2. About 1900 GtCO2 had already been emitted by 2011."

Keeping warming below the agreed-upon definition for the threshold of dangerous climate change, 2°C above pre-industrial levels, will be very difficult, since we've already blown two-thirds of our budget, and there is little time to act. Despite growing efforts to slow them down, CO2 emissions increased by 2.2% per year between 2000 - 2010, hitting the equivalent of 38 Gigatons (Gt) of CO2 per year in 2010. If we continue to follow this "business as usual" course, we will reach the 2,900 Gt limit just 17 years from now, in 2031, according to an analysis done by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. The International Energy Agency warned in 2012 that "almost four-fifths of the CO2 emissions allowable by 2035 are already locked-in by existing power plants, factories, buildings, etc. If action to reduce CO2 emissions is not taken before 2017, all the allowable CO2 emissions would be locked-in by energy infrastructure existing at that time."

The combined value of all fossil fuel reserves is $27 trillion, as estimated by The Capital Institute. According to three groups who have done carbon budget analyses, the IPCC, the International Energy Agency, and the Carbon Tracker Initiative, between 66% - 86% of those proven fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we are to have at least a two-in-three chance of keeping warming below 2°C. The fossil fuel companies, whose stock value is based on burning all of those $27 trillion worth of reserves, are fighting very hard to keep to preserve their stock value, and plan to burn all of those unburnable fossil fuel reserves.


Figure 1. Of the proven fossil fuel reserves still in the ground (equivalent to emitting 2795 Gt of CO2, dark grey oval with a black oval of the maximum we can burn embedded in it), between 66% - 86% must stay in the ground if we are to have at least a two-in-three chance of keeping warming below 2°C, according to three groups who have done carbon budget analyses, the IPCC, the International Energy Agency, and the Carbon Tracker Initiative. Reserves are those quantities able to be recovered under existing economic and operating conditions (split as 63% coal, 22% oil, and 15% gas, according to the International Energy Agency.) These reserves were valued at $27 trillion (nearly 40% of the global yearly GDP), according to The Capital Institute. The IPCC, quoting Rogner et al., 2012, Global Energy Assessment–Toward a Sustainable Future (Chapter 7: Energy Resources and Potentials), says that these reserves are a factor of 4 - 7 more than what can burned. Fossil fuel resources are those where economic extraction is potentially feasible, and could become reserves in the future (e.g., methane hydrate deposits under the ocean floor.) The IPCC estimated these resources were an additional factor of 31 - 50 higher than the maximum we can burn. If only a small fraction of the these resources are developed and burned, Earth would have a hot-house climate like occurred during the age of the dinosaurs.

Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change is Affordable if We Act Now
The cost of keeping global warming under the "dangerous" level of 2° C will only reduce "consumption growth" of the global economy by 0.06% per year if we start immediately and act strongly. Since consumption growth is expected to increase between 1.6% and 3% per year in the coming decades, we’re talking about annual growth that is, for example, 2% rather than 2.06%. This is a small price to pay to greatly decrease the risks of increased hunger, thirst, disease, refugees, and war that will result otherwise.

We're On Course For 4°C (7°F) of Warming By 2100
Our current business-as-usual emissions path (RCP 8.5) is more likely than not to cause 4°C (7°F) warming by 2100. That amount of warming is expected to result in "substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaptation in some cases (high confidence). "

In a world that is 4°C warmer, the regional summertime temperatures in the continental United States will be of order 6°C (11°) hotter, wunderground's climate change blogger Dr. Ricky Rood pointed out in a 2012 post, The World Four Degrees Warmer: A New Analysis from the World Bank. Think about the crazy hot summer of 2012; now add ten degrees. It's going to be tough to grow crops in that kind of heat, and provide water to all 450 million Americans. The past 12 months--October 2013 through September 2014--was Earth's warmest consecutive 12-month period among all months since records began in 1880, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on October 20. We are on pace for 2014 to be the warmest calendar year on record, and many more warmest years on record are on the way.

Commentary
Even an increase in Earth's temperature below the agreed-upon definition for the threshold of dangerous climate change, 2°C above pre-industrial levels, carries huge risks. As of 2014, the 0.85°C (1.5°F) of global warming that has occurred since 1880 has likely contributed to deadly and destructive heat waves, droughts, and heavy precipitation events that have killed tens of thousands of people and caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage. Further warming to the "dangerous" 2°C threshold will be capable of provoking unprecedented droughts and storms that could challenge civilized society, leading to the conflict and massive suffering that go with failed states and mass migrations. There is no “critical threshold” that will be crossed when warming exceeds 2°C, sending us into a dangerous climate regime with greatly increased risks. Given the wildly erratic behavior of our jet stream in recent years, I believe we have already crossed one critical threshold into a more dangerous climate. The 2°C limit is more like a speed limit--a convenient mark to set, above which the dangers are much greater. A more reasonable speed limit for the climate is 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a level we passed back in 1987. The climate activist group 350.org based their name on this lower speed limit. Since CO2 levels passed 400 ppm this year, I argue that we are already traveling 15% higher than the "safe" speed limit of 350 ppm. If we do manage the very unlikely feat of keeping warming to 2°C, atmospheric CO2 levels will stabilize near 500 ppm--like traveling 100 mph on an expressway where the speed limit is 70 mph, an extremely risky proposition. If an ambitious global legal climate agreement is signed at the critical December 2015 Conference of Parties (COP) negotiations in Paris, and followed up with strong action over the next twenty years, we have a fighting chance of keeping warming to 3°C (about 700 ppm of CO2.) Otherwise, we are more likely headed for a future with warming of 4°C (1000 ppm of CO2)--like careening down the highway at speeds of 200 mph or greater. If we are to preserve any hope of a livable climate for our children, the fossil fuel industry cannot be allowed to burn anywhere close to the $27 trillion worth of fossil fuel reserves on their books, or be allowed to develop significant new resources. Given the massive wealth and political power of a fossil fuel industry intent upon preserving this $27 trillion stock value, it's no wonder that the dire messages on climate change given by the Nobel prize-winning IPCC, a volunteer organization with almost no PR budget, are drowned out by a stupendous amount of industry-funded misinformation, echoed by politicians they help elect and sympathetic media outlets.

Links
The World Four Degrees Warmer: A New Analysis from the World Bank, a November 2012 post by wunderground climate change blogger Dr. Ricky Rood.

9 Significant Scientific Findings too Recent to Be Included in the New IPCC Report, today's post from the World Resources Institute.

New Blockbuster IPCC Climate Report: Comprehensive, Authoritative, Conservative, my September 2013 post on who the IPCC is, and how they write their reports.

Landmark 2013 IPCC Report: 95% Chance Most of Global Warming is Human-Caused, my September 2013 post on Part I of the 2013 - 2014 IPCC report: the physical science behind climate change.

IPCC: Climate Change Increasing Risk of Hunger, Thirst, Disease, Refugees, and War, my March 2014 post on Part II of the 2013 - 2014 IPCC report: climate change impacts and how we can adapt to them.

IPCC: Cost of Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change Super-Affordable if We Act Now, my April 2014 post on Part III of the 2013 - 2014 IPCC report: how we can mitigate (reduce) climate change impacts.

The Burning Question: We Can't Burn Half the World's Oil, Coal, and Gas. So How Do We Quit? by Duncan Clark, an excellent analysis of the issue of unburnable fossil fuels.


Video 1. The IPCC released this video to accompany the release of their 2014 Impacts and Adaptation report.

I'll have a new post Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.

Jeff Masters

Climate Change

Updated: 3:20 PM GMT on November 02, 2014

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Vance a Potential Heavy Rain Threat to Mexico

By: JeffMasters, 3:29 PM GMT on November 01, 2014

Satellite images show that Tropical Storm Vance has an expanding area of heavy thunderstorms that have improved in organization since Friday. Vance is over warm waters with low wind shear, so intensification into a Category 1 hurricane by Sunday is a good bet, but the storm's heaviest rains will remain well offshore from Mexico through Sunday. Vance will get pulled to the northeast by a trough of low pressure on Monday, but might not make it all the way to Mexico. The 8 am EDT Saturday run of the SHIPS model predicted that wind shear would remain low, 5 - 10 knots, though Monday, then ramp up significantly on Monday night and Tuesday as Vance gets caught up in the trough of low pressure that will sling it towerds Mexico. The higher wind shear will likely be able to tear Vance apart before landfall, making heavy rain the primary threat. In their 11 am EDT Saturday Wind Probability Forecast, NHC gave a 7 - 11% chance that Vance would bring tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph to Puerto Vallarta and the tip of the Baja Peninsula. The 06Z Saturday run of the GFDL model predicted that Vance's moisture would bring a swath of heavy rains of 4 - 8" from just northwest of Puerto Vallarta into Texas, Tuesday night into Wednesday.


Figure 1. VIIRS satellite image of Tropical Storm Vance off the Pacific coast of Mexico on Thursday, October 31, 2014. At the time, Vance had top sustained winds of 40 mph. Image credit: NOAA Visualization Lab.

Tropical Storm Nuri may brush Japan
In the Western Pacific, Tropical Storm Nuri is near typhoon strength, and is headed towards Japan. Nuri may pass close enough to Japan on Thursday to bring them heavy rain, but a direct hit appears unlikely.

Quiet in the Atlantic
The Atlantic is quiet today, with no areas of concern to discuss. None of the three reliable models for predicting tropical cyclone genesis predicts any development in the Atlantic over the next five days. With November at hand and El Niño-like atmospheric conditions in place, the odds of getting Tropical Storm Isaias before the end of the Atlantic hurricane season on November 30 are probably around 30%.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane

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The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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