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2013 February

Late February storms put only a slight dent in U.S. drought

Abundant moisture from heavy rains and snows that fell during two major Midwest storms in late February put only a slight dent in the great Midwest drought of 2012 - 2013. The percentage area of the contiguous U.S. suffering moderate or greater drought shrank from 56% to 54%, and the area in the worst category of drought--exceptional drought--fell from 6.7% to 5.4% over the past week.

JeffMasters, • 4:14 PM GMT on February 28, 2013

Category 1 Rusty hits Australia; Chicago gets its biggest snow of the winter

Tropical Cyclone Rusty rumbled ashore over the coast of northwest Australia near 06 UTC (1 am EST) on Wednesday near the small town of Pardoo. Rusty peaked at Category 2 strength with 110 mph winds about 12 hours before landfall, but weakened to a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds as it approached the coast. Rusty has dumped over 7" of rain on the coast.

JeffMasters, • 3:53 PM GMT on February 27, 2013

Category 1 Rusty drenching Australia; major winter storm hits Midwest U.S.

Tropical Cyclone Rusty is intensifying as it remains nearly stationary off the coast of northwest Australia, and poses a dangerous heavy rainfall threat to the coast. Recent satellite loops show that Rusty's eyewall clouds now have colder tops, and the eye has shrunk, indicating that the storm is strengthening.

JeffMasters, • 4:06 PM GMT on February 26, 2013

Category 1 Rusty Australia's strongest tropical cyclone of 2013

Australia's most dangerous tropical cyclone of the season so far is Tropical Cyclone Rusty, which has intensified to Category 1 strength and is lumbering southeastwards towards the northwestern coast of Australia at 6 mph. Rusty is expected to intensify further into a powerful Category 3 storm, and is predicted to make landfall near the town of Port Hedland (population 15,000) on Tuesday near 18 UTC (1 pm EST in the U.S.)

JeffMasters, • 1:36 PM GMT on February 25, 2013

January 2013 Earth's 9th warmest on record; Category 2 Haruna hits Madagascar

January 2013 was the globe's 9th warmest January since records began in 1880. January 2013 global land temperatures were the 13th warmest on record, and global ocean temperatures were the 8th warmest on record. Satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were 4th or 2nd warmest in the 35-year record. Tropical Cyclone Haruna hit southwest Madagascar at 00 UTC Friday, February 22, as a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds.

JeffMasters, • 5:33 PM GMT on February 22, 2013

Largest winter storm of the season helping dent Midwest drought

The largest snowstorm of the winter for the Midwest drought region is winding up, and promises to bring more than a foot of snow to portions of Kansas and Nebraska. Rain and snow from the storm will put a noticeable dent in the Great Drought of 2012 - 2013 over the Midwest. A second storm due to move through the region on Monday will provide a bit of additional help. The twin storms promise to drop more than an inch of precipitation.

JeffMasters, • 3:00 PM GMT on February 21, 2013

Arctic sea ice volume now one-fifth its 1979 level

A new study shows that Arctic sea ice volume in September 2012 collapsed to one-fifth of its levels in 1979. Co-author Axel Schweiger said, "people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive. What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid."

JeffMasters, • 2:52 AM GMT on February 19, 2013

U.S. gets unusually boring January weather; Thursday storm to ease Midwest drought

After an unusually intense period of extreme weather during 2011 and 2012, the U.S. had its quietest month in nearly two years during January 2013, according to NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI). The index tracks the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% and bottom-10% extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought. The CEI during January 2013 was 14%, which was the lowest since the 12% value during February 2011.

JeffMasters, • 9:59 PM GMT on February 16, 2013

Meteor over Russia causes shock waves that injure at least 950

A meteor streaked through the skies of Russia over the Ural Mountains near 9:20 am local time on Friday. The shock waves from the meteor blew out windows, collapsed the walls and ceiling of a zinc factory, and injured over 950 people. While meteors of this size enter Earth's atmosphere every 5 years or so, the number of injuries reported from today's event is unprecedented.

JeffMasters, • 3:12 PM GMT on February 15, 2013

NHC upgrades Sandy to a Cat 3 in reanalysis, affirms changes needed for warnings

The National Hurricane Center released their final analysis of Hurricane Sandy this week, upgrading Sandy to a Category 3 hurricane in post-analysis. Data from the Hurricane Hunters showed that Sandy had 115 mph sustained winds at landfall in Cuba, making Sandy the second major hurricane of the 2012 season. NHC's report reaffirmed that Sandy was not a hurricane when it made landfall in New Jersey, having transitioned to a post-tropical cyclone when it was 2.5 hours and 50 miles away from landfall.

JeffMasters, • 4:01 PM GMT on February 13, 2013

First EF-4 tornado of 2013 injures 82 near Hattiesburg, MS

The strong tornado that swept through Hattiesburg and Oak Grove in Lamar County, Mississippi, on Sunday has been rated an EF-4 with 170 mph winds, making it the first violent EF-4 tornado of 2013. The tornado hit Hattiesburg at 5:12 pm CST February 10, injuring 82 people and causing widespread damage over a 20-mile-long path. Miraculously, there were no deaths.

JeffMasters, • 1:10 AM GMT on February 12, 2013

Climate change impact on Nor'easters: An increased storm surge threat

Climate models predict that intense winter storms will become more common globally, and will shift closer to the poles. However, in the Atlantic, intense Nor'easters affecting the U.S. are not predicted to increase in number (but several studies predict an increase in intense winter storms for Northwest Europe.) The number of intense Nor'easters affecting the Northeast U.S. has not increased in recent decades, but their damage potential is increasing, due to rising sea levels.

JeffMasters, • 3:53 PM GMT on February 11, 2013

Snow measured in feet, not inches: historic Nor'easter pounds New England

A historic Nor'easter roared through New England overnight, bringing snowfall measured in feet, not inches, hurricane-force wind gusts, and serious coastal flooding. The snow was heaviest in coastal Connecticut, where snowfall rates of 6"/hours were recorded, and an astonishing 38" piled up in Milford. An all-time snowfall record was set in Portland, Maine, where 29.3" fell, and numerous cities in the Northeast recorded top-ten snowfall amounts.

JeffMasters, • 4:50 PM GMT on February 09, 2013

Snows begin in Northeast U.S. as historic Nor'easter strengthens

Snow has begun falling from New York City to Massachusetts, where blizzard warnings are flying in anticipation of the arrival of one of the most severe and dangerous Nor'easters in U.S. history. Unusually warm waters off the coast of New England will pump large quantities of moisture into the air, which will be capable of feeding record-breaking snows over New England.

JeffMasters, • 3:17 PM GMT on February 08, 2013

Historic Nor'easter poised to slam Boston and the Northeast U.S.

A potentially historic Nor'easter is brewing for the Northeast U.S., where blizzard watches are up for much of eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The storm is expected to bring heavy snows of 1 - 2 feet, coastal wind gusts over hurricane force, and moderate to major coastal flooding. During the peak of the storm, Friday night into Saturday morning, snowfall rates of 2 - 3" per hour can be expected.

JeffMasters, • 3:43 PM GMT on February 07, 2013

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron hit all-time low water levels

During January 2013, water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron fell to their all-time lowest values since record keeping began in 1918, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday. The two lakes fell to a water level of 576.02'. This is 0.4" below the previous record low of 576.05' set in March 1964.

JeffMasters, • 1:00 PM GMT on February 06, 2013

QuikSCAT replacement funded; NWS fires former NHC director Proenza

NASA announced that a new QuikSCAT-like instrument called ISS-RapidScat will be launched in 2014 on a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, and installed on the International Space Station (ISS.) In a clever reuse of hardware originally built to test parts of NASA's QuikScat satellite, the cost of the new instrument will be much lower than any previous scatterometer launched into orbit.

JeffMasters, • 2:20 PM GMT on February 04, 2013

Wild weather week ends; Mississippi River rises out of danger zone

One of the most unusual weeks of January weather in U.S. history has drawn to a close, and residents of the Southeast are cleaning up after a ferocious 2-day outbreak of severe weather. NWS damage surveys have found that at 34 tornadoes touched down on January 29 - 30, making it the 4th largest January tornado outbreak since records began in 1950.

JeffMasters, • 2:44 PM GMT on February 01, 2013