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2016 April

Food System Shock: Climate Change's Greatest Threat to Civilization

The greatest threat of climate change to civilization over the next 40 years is likely to be climate change-amplified extreme droughts and floods hitting multiple major global grain-producing "breadbaskets" simultaneously. A "Food System Shock" report issued in 2015 by insurance giant Lloyds of London outlined a plausible extreme shock to global food production at least 18% likely over the next 40 years that could cause rioting, terrorist attacks, civil war, mass starvation and severe losses to the global economy.

Jeff Masters • 4:00 PM GMT on April 29, 2016

Joaquin, Patricia, and Erika Get Their Names Retired From the List of Hurricanes

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced last week that three tropical cyclones from 2015 would get their names retired--Hurricane Joaquin and Tropical Storm Erika in the Atlantic, and Hurricane Patricia in the Eastern Pacific.

Jeff Masters • 3:32 PM GMT on April 28, 2016

A Twist to Tuesday’s Severe Weather: Tornadoes Missing

Tornado chasers scanned the skies fruitlessly on Tuesday, while residents of the Southern Plains breathed huge sighs of relief, as a bumper crop of severe thunderstorms produced buckets of large hail and high wind while spinning up only a handful of twisters. Only five tornado reports were received by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. High wind and large hail were far more plentiful, with more than 200 reports of each.

Bob Henson • 5:15 PM GMT on April 27, 2016

Southern Plains Bracing for Potential Tornadoes, Huge Hail

Damaging tornadoes--and hailstones larger than baseballs--may crop up later Tuesday along a swath from southern Nebraska to central Texas, as a long-predicted outbreak of severe weather takes shape. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has draped a moderate-risk area--the second-highest of SPC’s risk categories--from southern Nebraska into northern Texas.

Bob Henson • 4:45 PM GMT on April 26, 2016

Busy Week of Severe Weather Ahead for Nation’s Midsection

In classic late-April fashion, the ingredients are coming into play for severe thunderstorms to prowl the central United States across several days over the coming week. The whole gamut of severe threats is likely to materialize before the week is out, from tornadoes to enormous hail, strong downburst winds, and torrential downpours. Residents of Texas and Louisiana hard-hit by flooding in recent weeks face another stretch with the potential for very heavy rain that would add to record amounts observed in the past 12 months.

Bob Henson • 4:08 PM GMT on April 25, 2016

A WunderPhoto-graphic Salute to Earth Day

Today is the 47th annual Earth Day, a day to celebrate the beauty of the atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere of the planet that sustains us. In keeping with our Earth Day tradition. are a few favorite WunderPhotos uploaded to our website over the past year. Our thanks go out to all of you who have participated in making ours the largest (now 1.9 million!) and best weather photo gallery on the Internet.

Bob Henson • 4:55 PM GMT on April 22, 2016

Atmospheric CO2 Leaps into Uncharted Territory: 408 ppm

Even as it fades, the 2015-16 El Niño has given a big boost to the annual spring peak of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Preliminary CO2 data from Mauna Loa, Hawaii, for the week ending April 16 showed a concentration of 408.69 parts per million (ppm). Since records began at Mauna Loa in 1958, no week had shown a concentration greater than 405 ppm until the past month. The surge is related to El Niño as well as the long-term increase in greenhouse gases produced by human activity.

Bob Henson • 5:08 PM GMT on April 21, 2016

Warmest March in Global Recordkeeping; 2016 Roars Ahead of Pack

March 2016 was by far the planet's warmest March since record keeping began in 1880, and was also the warmest month relative to average of any month in the historical record, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI] on Tuesday. In the NOAA database, March 2016 came in a full 1.22°C (2.20°F) warmer than the previous warmest March, in 2010--a huge margin for breaking a monthly global temperature record, as these are typically broken by just a few hundredths of a degree. For the year so far, NOAA's global surface temperature is an astounding 0.29°C (0.52°F) warmer than the previous record, set in 2015.

Jeff Masters and Bob Henson • 4:39 PM GMT on April 19, 2016

Fantala Tied for Strongest on Record for Indian Ocean; Massive Flash Flood in Houston

Fierce Tropical Cyclone Fantala stormed to Category 5 strength north of Madagascar over the weekend with an impressive burst of strengthening. Fantala's 175-mph sustained winds made it the most powerful tropical cyclone recorded anywhere in the Indian Ocean, with reliable records going back to 1990. Meanwhile, a huge thunderstorm complex dumped 6" to 18" of rain across the Houston area, throwing the region into turmoil on Monday morning as a major flash flood unfolded.

Bob Henson • 8:47 PM GMT on April 18, 2016

Bill Gray: A Towering Figure in Hurricane Science

Famed hurricane research William Gray passed away at his home in Fort Collins, CO, on Saturday, April 16, 2016. His death came just as colleagues were gathering in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the American Meteorological Society’s 32nd Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology, a meeting that Gray had attended regularly since the 1960s. Gray’s best-known research contribution was his founding of seasonal hurricane prediction techniques, which both emerged from and led to a growing understanding of how phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña influence the likelihood of tropical cyclones. Gray published many dozens of peer-reviewed papers, mainly in tropical meteorology.

Bob Henson and Jeff Masters • 7:46 PM GMT on April 17, 2016

Central U.S. Dousing on Tap; Heavy Spring Snow in CO, WY

Soon to be abandoned by the jet stream, a strong upper-level low will park near the Four Corners this weekend, pulling in a rich moisture feed from Texas to Nebraska that will dump near-record April rain on the High Plains and tree-challenging wet snow along the Colorado/Wyoming Front Range. As of midday Friday, winter storm warnings encompassed most of the Colorado high country as well as the urban corridor from near Colorado Springs, CO, to Cheyenne, WY. Snowfall totals predicted by the NWS through Sunday range from 8” - 14” in Denver and 6-12” in Cheyenne to a whopping two to four feet in the mountains and foothills just west of Denver, including areas within a few miles of Boulder.

Bob Henson • 5:52 PM GMT on April 15, 2016

CSU Projects a Near-Average Atlantic Hurricane Season in 2016

The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season started off with a surprising bang in early January, when Hurricane Alex formed in the far Eastern Atlantic. However, a near-average Atlantic hurricane season is likely in 2016, said the hurricane forecasting team from Colorado State University (CSU). The CSU team is calling for an Atlantic hurricane season with 13 named storms, 6 hurricanes, 2 intense hurricanes,

Jeff Masters and Bob Henson • 4:00 PM GMT on April 14, 2016

NWS LOWERS ITS VOICE: All-Caps Phaseout Starts in May

A new era of commas, colons, parentheses, and lower-case letters--and maybe even the occasional question mark?--starts in May, when local NWS offices begin converting to mixed-case products. Until now, though, forecasters at the National Weather Service (NWS) could use only a limited set of 30 characters to translate supercomputer output and other data into the worded watches, warnings, advisories, and discussions that millions consult each day.

Jeff Masters and Bob Henson • 8:59 PM GMT on April 12, 2016

New Re-Analysis Sheds Lights on the Mysteries of Hurricane Camille

Thanks to a reanalysis effort published last week in the Bulletin if the American Meteorological Society, 1969's Hurricane Camille has has now been officially downgraded to 175 mph winds at landfall. The re-analysis puts Camille in second place for the strongest landfalling hurricane in U.S. history, behind the Great 1935 Labor Day Hurricane that hit the Florida Keys.

Jeff Masters • 1:45 PM GMT on April 11, 2016

The North Atlantic Blob: A Marine Cold Wave That Won’t Go Away

A large area of cooler-than-normal water has persisted in the far North Atlantic for more than two years. This "marine cold wave" has connections to the North Atlantic Oscillation, and it may also be related to longer-term climate change, which threatens to cause a significant slowing of the Atlantic's conveyor-belt circulation.

Bob Henson • 6:01 PM GMT on April 08, 2016

March in the U.S.: Crazy Mild, Inconsistently Wet

After the mildest winter in U.S. history, last month ended up as the 4th warmest March in records going back to 1895, according to NOAA. It was also the 26th wettest March on record for the 48 contiguous states, but the regional patterns were complex: for example, New Mexico had its driest March on record, while Texas had its 12th wettest.

Bob Henson • 4:51 PM GMT on April 06, 2016

California’s Water Supply for 2016: Context is Everything

The pivotal end-of-March snow survey results are in from California’s Sierra Nevada--and whether the results are good or bad depends largely on your point of view. The survey found that the snow water equivalent--the amount of water held in the soggy 58.4-inch snowpack--was 26 inches, or 97% of the long-term average for the date. The current snowpack is about average when viewed from long-term climatology, bountiful against the backdrop of four years of punishing drought, and paltry next to what other “super” El Niño events have produced, especially across Southern California.

Bob Henson • 4:15 PM GMT on April 04, 2016

Maybelline to Sponsor Hurricane Eye Flights in 2016

NOAA's Hurricane Hunters will have a new mission when they fly into the eyes of hurricanes this summer: issue plugs for their new corporate sponsor, eye makeup manufacturer Maybelline, who outbid eyedrop manufacturer Visene for the exclusive sponsorship.

Jeff Masters • 1:12 PM GMT on April 01, 2016