Climate: Warm oceans gone haywire?

Powerful storms in Atlantic and Pacific

MODIS visible satellite image of Hurricane Pali taken at 5:30 pm EST January 11, 2016. At the time, Pali was intensifying into a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

MODIS visible satellite image of Hurricane Pali taken at 5:30 pm EST January 11, 2016. At the time, Pali was intensifying into a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Staff Report

With large parts of the the world’s oceans consistently warming to record-warm levels the past few months, it’s probably not a surprise that there are some big storms spinning out at sea. Basic physics tells us that warmth is energy, and that’s now translating into some unusual developments, including what may be the earliest-ever hurricane in the central Pacific, according to this Twitter post from National Hurricane meteorologist Eric Blake.

Currently, yet another strong storm is developing in the Pacific. The National Weather Service says the system will also generate hurricane-force winds and waves up to 50 feet.

The Atlantic Ocean has also been hyperactive in recent weeks. A storm centered near Iceland developed hurricane-strength winds during the last days of 2015 and sent a surge of air so moist and so warm northward that temps briefly climbed above freezing at the North Pole during the heart of the coldest time of the year.

Another system in the central Atlantic has a 40 percent chance of subtropical or tropical formation in the next 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

 

 

Climate: Arctic sea ice near record-low extent

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Antarctic sea ice is back to a near average extent after running well above average for several years. @bberwyn photo.

End of year heat wave slowed expansion

Staff Report

Arctic sea ice extent in December ended up as the fourth-lowest on record, and is still hovering near a record low in mid-January, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Through 2015, the linear rate of decline for December sea ice extent is 3.4 percent per decade (about 17,000 miles) per year.

For the month, the sea ice extent averaged 4.74 million square miles, about 301,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month. The rate of sea ice growth slowed slightly throughout December and nearly stopped early in January, federal ice trackers said, suspecting that a period of unusually warm temperatures in the Arctic caused the slowdown. Continue reading

NASA tracking this year’s global El Niño impacts

Wildfire risk growing in tropics

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A strong El Niño is peaking across the Pacific Ocean this winter.

Staff Report

Along with being one of the strongest El Niños on record, this year’s edition of the cyclical weather event in the Pacific will be one of the most studied.

NASA, for example, has been tracking the effects of El Niño via satellite data, which shows global impacts, from increasing fire danger in some tropical regions to a reduction of certain types of pollution in other areas.

Some of the findings were presented this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, where researchers said that atmospheric rivers, significant sources of rainfall, tend to intensify during El Niño events, and that California may see some relief from an extreme multiyear drought. Continue reading

NOAA reports record global warmth for October 2015

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Sea ice extent below average at both poles; northern hemisphere snow cover well above average

Staff Report

For the sixth month in a row, the global average temperature broke all historical records in October, soaring to 1.76 degrees Fahrenheit above the monthly average.

According the monthly climate report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, it was by far the warmest October on record, breaking the record set just last year by 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit. It was also the largest the monthly departure from average from any month on record.

Both land- and sea-surface temperatures set records during the month, a sure sign that El Niño is fueling the spike in global temps and all but ensuring that this year will go down in the books as the warmest on record. Continue reading

Epic Death Valley floods leave wake of destruction

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Flash floods in October scoured roads and bridges from the landscape in Death Valley National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Autumn tourism affected by road damage, but many attractions still open

Staff Report

A series of El Niño-fueled storms in October ravaged parts of Death Valley with floods and mudslides, leading to serious road damage and impacting other park resources, including Devils Hole, a spring that’s home to endangered fish.

According to the National Park Service, flash floods heavily damaged historic structures at Scottys Castle. In a press release, the park service floods pushed over a wall and buried some buildings with about five feet of mud.

The park often sees weather extremes, including flash flooding, but geologists said October’s events were near the edge of the historic envelope. Continue reading

Study suggests California weather will be more extreme

More drought, more flooding …

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An intensifying El Niño cycle could affect California weather.

Staff Report

The Pacific Ocean’s El Niño-La Niña cycle may become a dominant factor in West Coast weather by the end of this century and lead to more frequent weather extremes, according to a new study published in Nature Communications. Based on the findings, California could see the number of extreme droughts and floods by 2100, the researchers found.

A better understanding of what gives rise to El Nino and La Nina cycles — together known as El Nino-Southern Oscillation — might help California predict and prepare for more frequent droughts and floods in the coming century. Continue reading

Climate: Antarctic sea ice extent drops off from record levels reached in recent years

Early October peak was lowest extent since 2008

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This year’s maximum Antarctic sea ice extent may have been affected by El Niño. @bberwyn photo.

This year’s El Niño may have been a factor limiting Antarctic sea ice, which peaked on October 6 at the lowest extent since 2008, according to an update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The seasonal maximum extent rached about 7.27 million square miles, falling roughly in the middle of the record of Antarctic maximum extents compiled during the satellite record — in contrast to the past three years, which all set records. Continue reading

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