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2017 January

CYGNSS Micro Satellites Usher in New Era in Ocean Wind Measurements

A new era in measuring hurricane winds began on December 15, 2016, when a constellation of eight micro-satellites called the CYGNSS satellites were launched. The satellites are equipped with scatterometer-like instruments that measure GPS signals reflected off the ocean, leading to a surface wind speed estimate, even in heavy rain.

Jeff Masters • 2:45 PM GMT on January 30, 2017

"Dante's Inferno" in Chile: All-Time National Heat Record Smashed by 6°F

The first all-time national heat record of 2017 was set in spectacular fashion on Thursday in Chile, where at least 12 different stations recorded a temperature in excess of the nation’s previous all-time heat record. The hottest station on Thursday was Cauquenes, which hit 45.0°C (113°F). The margin by which the old record national heat record was smashed: 3.6°C (6.1°F), was extraordinary.

Jeff Masters • 3:28 PM GMT on January 27, 2017

Will Global Warming Make Hurricane Forecasting More Difficult?

A new paper by MIT hurricane scientist Dr. Kerry Emanuel argues that the most dangerous storms—tropical cyclones that intensify rapidly just before landfall, catching forecasters and populations off guard, thereby risking large casualties—are likely to become increasingly frequent and severe as the globe warms, increasing from one such storm every 100 years to one every 5 - 10 years.

Jeff Masters • 3:29 PM GMT on January 25, 2017

At Least 18 Killed in Midwinter Tornado Outbreak

After the least-deadly year for U.S. tornadoes in three decades, 2017 is off to a troublesome start. At least 18 people died over the weekend in two consecutive nights of tornadoes across the Deep South, compared to the total of 17 fatalities recorded for the entire year of 2016.

Bob Henson • 1:27 PM GMT on January 23, 2017

More than 20 Deaths Feared in Italian Hotel Buried by Avalanche

An unusually frigid and snowy winter across southern Europe delivered its most dramatic blow yet on Wednesday evening, when a four-star resort in central Italy was buried in an avalanche. Six survivors were found on Friday, but more than 20 other people inside the hotel may have perished. The avalanche was fueled by extreme snowfall across the mountains of central Italy, part of a weeks-long siege of cold and snow from Europe into far northern Africa. Meanwhile, another weekend of wild weather is in store for much of California as well as the Gulf Coast states.

Bob Henson • 4:14 PM GMT on January 20, 2017

Confirmed: 2016 the Warmest Year in History of Global Recordkeeping

For the third year in a row, Earth has experienced the warmest surface temperatures in global temperature data extending back to 1880. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) calculated that the average global temperature across both land and ocean surfaces for 2015 was 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th-century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F).

Jeff Masters and Bob Henson • 4:28 PM GMT on January 18, 2017

A Swarm of 31 Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters Socked the Planet in 2016

Earth had a tough year for billion-dollar weather-related natural disasters in 2016, with 31. This is the third-largest number on record going back to 1990, said insurance broker Aon Benfield in their Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report, issued on Tuesday. The U.S. had the most billion-dollar weather disasters of any country, with fourteen catalogued by Aon Benfield and a fifteenth by NOAA.

Jeff Masters and Bob Henson • 5:41 PM GMT on January 17, 2017

From Freezing Rain to Giant Hail, Great Plains Endure An Icy Weekend

Freezing rain materialized as expected during the weekend over a large swath of the central U.S., from Texas to Illinois. The ice has been widespread and prolonged, yet the ingredients haven’t come together as they could have for an intense, truly catastrophic ice storm. At least six highway deaths have occurred during the storm, and more than 20,000 customers have lost power in Texas and Oklahoma.

Bob Henson • 4:47 PM GMT on January 16, 2017

Icy Weekend for Central Plains; La Niña’s Days Are Numbered

Near-record levels of moisture for January will be flowing toward the Central Plains this weekend atop a paper-thin cold air mass at the surface—a classic set-up for widespread freezing rain. Ice storm warnings were in place Friday morning along a strip from northwest Oklahoma to southwest Illinois. These warnings indicate that at least 1/4” of freezing rain is expected, enough to cause significant problems. Lesser amounts are covered by freezing rain advisories that flanked the south side of ice-storm-warning belt from the Texas Panhandle all the way to western Virginia. Meanwhile, the La Niña event that began in late 2016 appears to be on its last legs.

Bob Henson • 5:33 PM GMT on January 13, 2017

As Earth Warms Up, The Sun Is Remarkably Quiet

Solar activity has been below average for more than a decade, even as global surface temperatures on Earth have jumped to record highs. Several top solar researchers now expect the next solar cycle, which will peak in the 2020s, to be only about as strong as the current cycle--the least active in a century--and perhaps even weaker.

Bob Henson • 8:09 PM GMT on January 11, 2017

Second-Warmest Year in U.S. Weather History, and Among the Wettest

Only 2012 ranks ahead of 2016 for average global temperature across the 48 contiguous states, said NOAA in its annual U.S. climate summary.

Bob Henson • 5:33 PM GMT on January 10, 2017

Winter Storms Hustle Across United States; Ice Potential Rears Its Head for Late Week

The much-anticipated twin winter storms affecting the U.S. West and East Coasts over the weekend brought many, if not most, of the predicted impacts. A nose of warm air pushed further inland than expected over the Southeast, which kept snow totals near the low end of hopes and/or fears from northern Georgia to southeast Virginia, though more than a foot of snow inundated parts of New England. Meanwhile, residents of central California and western Nevada dodged floods and mudslides on Monday after a powerful Pacific storm system blitzed the area, and conditions are aligning for a potential major ice storm across parts of the southern Great Plains late this week.

Bob Henson • 7:00 PM GMT on January 09, 2017

From California to Virginia, Winter Storminess Will Gird the U.S. This Weekend

Two storms carried by a powerful Pacific jet stream will play havoc with the lives of millions of Americans during the first full weekend of 2017. We can expect some of the heaviest wind-whipped rain and snow in years to strike parts of central California this weekend. In the Southeast, a significant belt of snow and/or ice will stretch from Atlanta to Norfolk, accompanied by high winds and bitter cold.

Bob Henson • 5:05 PM GMT on January 06, 2017

Top Ten Weather Events of 2016: #1 is No Surprise; #2 Will Surprise You

The top weather story of 2016: Earth had its warmest year on record (again!). In second place: Air Pollution in 2016 Likely Killed Over 5 Million and Cost Over $5 Trillion Globally

Jeff Masters • 2:27 AM GMT on January 05, 2017

California's New Year Is Awash in Moisture--and There's Much More to Come

After five years dominated by a grinding, near-statewide drought, it’s a bit disorienting to find ourselves looking at a dramatically wet pattern enveloping much of California as 2017 gets under way. One major slug of heavy rain and mountain snow moved through the heart of the state from Tuesday into Wednesday, and an even more intense round of heavy precipitation is on track to strike California this weekend, setting the stage for a potential major flood threat in some areas.

Bob Henson • 5:10 PM GMT on January 04, 2017

How to Save $23 Trillion Per Year: 100% Renewable Energy for the World

Here’s a 2017 New Year’s resolution I’d like to see the nations of the world adopt: an immediate international effort to invest in a world where 100% of our electricity will be generated by wind, water, and solar power by 2050. Such an effort is technically and economically feasible, and has been championed by Stanford professor Mark Jacobson since 2009.

Jeff Masters • 4:02 PM GMT on January 02, 2017