Torrential rains in excess of 40 inches (1 meter) deluged Thailand's Malay Peninsula this week, triggering floods that have killed at least 17 people. The floods submerged 61 major highways, affected 840,000 people, and forced the helicopter rescue of thousands of stranded tourists. Near-record cold air settled in over the region this week, dropping temperatures to 5 - 10°C (9 - 18°F) below average. Heavy storms accompanied the cold air, and downpours with rainfall rates of up to 2 inches/hour affected the region for many days in a row.
JeffMasters, • 4:47 PM GMT on March 31, 2011
On March 4, the rocket carrying the $424 million Glory satellite failed, and the satellite now lies at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The satellite was designed to study the greatest unknown in climate change science--the emissions, composition, and distribution of dust particles in the atmosphere, and it was hoped that data from the Glory satellite could significantly reduce these uncertainties. There is no replacement mission for Glory scheduled, and Congress' current budget-cutting appetite makes it unlikely a replacement satellite will be funded anytime soon.
JeffMasters, • 3:47 PM GMT on March 30, 2011
The names Tomas and Igor will no longer be used to name hurricanes in the Atlantic. Hurricane Igor made landfall near Cape Race, Newfoundland on September 21, 2010, and was that island's most damaging hurricane in 75 years, with $200 million in damage. Hurricane Tomas smashed through the Lesser Antilles Islands on October 30 - 31, 2010, dealing a particularly harsh blow to St. Lucia, where eight died and damage was estimated at $500 million. Tomas also killed 35 people on Haiti, and contributed to a cholera epidemic that killed thousands.
JeffMasters, • 8:19 PM GMT on March 27, 2011
A major spring snowstorm dumped heavy snow in excess of six inches over a wide swath of the Upper Midwest this week, adding to a snowpack that is already near or in excess of record levels over Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This is bad news for residents in flood-prone areas of the Upper Midwest, as the new storm added more than half an inch of melted rainfall equivalent to the record wet snowpack. When all that snow melts in April, we can expect major and possibly record flooding for North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and the Upper Mississippi River north of St. Louis.
JeffMasters, • 4:52 PM GMT on March 24, 2011
The equatorial waters of the Eastern Pacific off the coast of South America have steadily warmed during March, and it appears increasingly likely that the current La Niña event will be over by June. This week, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over the tropical Eastern Pacific in the area 5°N - 5°S, 120°W - 170°W, also called the "Niña 3.4 region", warmed to 0.8°C below average, according to NOAA. This puts the current La Niña in the "weak" category for the first time since the event began in July 2010.
JeffMasters, • 1:48 PM GMT on March 22, 2011
Radioactive plumes emitted from Japan's troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant are headed to the southwest towards Tokyo today, carried by onshore northeasterly winds. An elongated area of low pressure is located off the southeast coast of Japan, and the counter-clockwise flow of air around this low may bring several periods of onshore northeasterly winds through Tuesday to northern Japan.
JeffMasters, • 1:54 PM GMT on March 21, 2011
Radioactive plumes emitted from Japan's troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant will remain near the plant or move out to sea today, due to weak offshore winds blowing over the region. On Sunday, an elongated area of low pressure will develop off the southeast coast of Japan, and the counter-clockwise flow of air around this low may bring several periods of north to northeast winds Sunday through Tuesday to Tokyo and northern Japan. According to the latest trajectory plots from the NOAA's HYSPLIT model, these winds may be able to transport radioactivity from the Fukushima power plant to Tokyo beginning at 18 UTC on Sunday.
JeffMasters, • 8:17 PM GMT on March 19, 2011
Traces of radioactive substances emitted by Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant will likely arrive over the Western U.S. today, carried by the prevailing west to east winds that have blown over the Pacific Ocean during the past week. Rainfall is expected over California this weekend, and it is likely that the rain will wash radioactive particles out of the air to the surface in quantities that will be detectable at several locations. I want to strongly emphasize that the radioactivity from Japan arriving over the U.S. over the next few days poses absolutely no threat to human health, and is present in only miniscule quantities.
JeffMasters, • 2:11 PM GMT on March 18, 2011
Favorable winds blowing at 10 - 20 mph out of the northwest continue over Japan today, and these winds will take radiation particles emitted by the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant immediately out to sea, without lingering over Japan. The northwesterly winds are blowing in response to the clockwise flow of air around a high pressure system approaching Japan from the southwest. Since high pressure systems are regions of sinking air, the radiation will stay close to the ocean surface over the next day or two as the air spirals clockwise over the Pacific.
JeffMasters, • 1:23 PM GMT on March 17, 2011
If there is going to be a major nuclear disaster with massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere from Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, today would be the best day meteorologically for this to occur. The clockwise flow of air around the high pressure system approaching Japan from the southwest is driving strong northwesterly winds of 10 - 20 mph over the region. These winds will continue through Thursday, and will take radiation particles emitted by the stricken reactors immediately out to sea, without lingering over Japan.
JeffMasters, • 2:16 PM GMT on March 16, 2011
A low pressure system is located over Japan near Tokyo today, and the counterclockwise flow of air around this low is bringing easterly winds over the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which lies to the north-northeast of Tokyo. These easterly winds are blowing radioactivity inland over Japan. As the low tracks northeastward along the coast of Japan today, winds at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will gradually shift to northeast and then northwest, which will move radiation towards Tokyo for several hours, which may be long enough for some radiation to reach the city.
JeffMasters, • 3:28 PM GMT on March 15, 2011
Radiation from Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been detected 100 miles to the northeast, over the Pacific Ocean, by the U.S. military. Westerly to southwesterly winds have predominated over Japan the past few days, carrying most of the radiation eastwards out to sea. The latest forecast for Sendai, Japan, located about 40 miles north of the Fukushima nuclear plant, calls for winds with a westerly component to dominate for the remainder of the week. Thus, any radiation released by the nuclear plant will primarily affect Japan or blow out to sea.
JeffMasters, • 12:53 PM GMT on March 14, 2011
A great earthquake rocked the coast of Japan at 5:46 GMT on March 11, generating a dangerous tsunami that raced across the Pacific. The mighty earthquake was rated 8.9 on the Richter scale, making it the 7th most powerful tremor in world history. The world's 8th largest earthquake, a magnitude 8.8 event, hit Chile on February 27, 2010; never before have two top-ten earthquakes hit so close together in time. Today's quake was the strongest in Japanese history, and will likely be the most expensive natural disaster in world history, surpassing the $133+ billion dollar price tag from Hurricane Katrina.
JeffMasters, • 11:00 PM GMT on March 11, 2011
Earth's second great earthquake in thirteen months rocked the coast of Japan at 5:46 GMT this morning, generating a dangerous tsunami that is racing across the Pacific Ocean. The mighty magnitude 8.9 earthquake is the 7th most powerful tremor in world history, and the planet's second top-ten earthquake in the past two years. Never before have two top-ten earthquakes hit so close together in time. Today's quake was the strongest in Japanese history, and may end up being the most expensive natural disaster in world history, surpassing the $133+ billion dollar price tag from Hurricane Katrina.
JeffMasters, • 1:56 PM GMT on March 11, 2011
The deadliest heat wave in human history--the 2010 Russian heat wave, which killed approximately 56,000 people last summer--was due to a natural atmospheric phenomenon often associated with weather extremes, according to a new NOAA study, "Was There a Basis for Anticipating the 2010 Russian Heat Wave?" The new NOAA attribution study on the Russian Heat Wave of 2010 is a reminder that the atmosphere is capable of generating extreme events on its own, without the aid of climate change.
JeffMasters, • 2:11 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
The winter of 2010 - 2011 ranks as the 39th coldest winter for the U.S. in the 116-year record. Florida recorded its 10th coldest winter. No other states had a top-ten coldest or warmest winter. The winter of 2010 - 2011 featured very heavy precipitation over the Upper Midwest, with South Dakota and Montana recording top-ten wettest winters. The South and mid-Atlantic were very dry, with eight states experiencing top-ten driest winters. This pattern is a typical one for a La Niña winter.
JeffMasters, • 2:45 PM GMT on March 09, 2011
Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a new budget (HR 1) for the remainder of the fiscal year that would slash funding of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by $454 million. This would mean a draconian 28% cut for the National Weather Service, the agency entrusted to protect us from natural hazards such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Today, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee released a proposed alternative to HR 1 that would make a $110 million reduction to NOAA operations for the remainder of the fiscal year.
JeffMasters, • 10:16 PM GMT on March 07, 2011
Greenland's climate in 2010 was marked by record-setting high air temperatures, the greatest ice loss by melting since accurate records began in 1958, and the greatest mass loss of ocean-terminating glaciers on record. One of the largest icebergs in world history calved from the Petermann Glacier, the island's second largest ocean-terminating glacier, on August 4 2010. The 100 square mile ice island four times the size of Manhattan has since broken up into many smaller icebergs.
JeffMasters, • 2:31 PM GMT on March 04, 2011
Strong winds and tinder-dry conditions in Northeast Florida near St. Augustine fanned a 10,000-acre fire that forced closure of I-95 yesterday morning. Other fires are burning in Texas and New Mexico, and a fire in West Texas earlier this week burned over 120,000 acres and caused a fatal traffic accident that killed one person. It promises to be an active fire season across the entire southern tier of states this spring due to a very dry winter.
JeffMasters, • 1:58 PM GMT on March 02, 2011
It's March 1, and meteorological winter--the 3-month December, January, February period--is officially over. However, below-average temperatures and winter-like conditions will continue to affect most of the U.S. through the middle of March. Chicago and Detroit may see a major winter storm on Saturday, and additional significant snows are likely next week over the Upper Midwest.
JeffMasters, • 3:01 PM GMT on March 01, 2011