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2008 Temperatures, Atlantic Hurricane Season & More

I wanted to write a post about some datasets that encompass 2008 to put my recent discussions and future posts on climate in perspective.  First up, the World Meteorological Organization’s global temperature dataset.  In a preliminary report issued on 16 Dec, 2008’s global mean temperature was 14.3 °C, making it the 10th warmest year on record going back to 1850.  Despite a lingering La Nina, which is characterized by cooler than normal temperatures, 2008 was warmer than the 1990’s average temperature.  It was almost as warm as 1997, in the runup to the strongest El Nino on record.  It was only 0.2 °C cooler than the 1998 record temperature anomaly.  Those 10 warmest years on record?  All have occurred since 1997.

The La Nina that developed during 2007 and hung around through 2008 was easing back by the end of the year.  November was the 4th warmest all-time (land and ocean combined), as measured by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

  • The November combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 1.06 degrees F (0.59 degree C) above the 20th century mean of 55.2 degrees F (12.9 degrees C).
  • Separately, the November 2008 global land surface temperature was fourth warmest on record and was 2.11 degrees F (1.17 degrees C) above the 20th century mean of 42.6 degrees F (5.9 degrees C).

How much did the La Nina affect global temperatures?  According to NASA, the 2008 meteorological year (Dec 2007 – Nov 2008) was the coolest year since 2000, yet was still the 9th warmest on record (dating back to 1880).  So the coolest year since 2000 is a good thing, right?  Well, until the La Nina subsides.  2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 were as anomalously warm as the record 1998 year, which had an extreme El Nino event.  How anomalously warm will the next El Nino year be?

More importantly, the trend in the Met Office/WMO and the NASA data continue to show a large and rapidly increasing warm anomaly.  Of particuar worry is the very large warm anomaly found over the Antarctic peninsula and eastern Russia.  The former has seen massive ice sheet calving episodes in recent years and increased ice flow toward the ocean from land as a result.  The latter has seen increasing emissions of methane as the permafrost thaws.  The former will lead to rising sea levels if trends don’t change.  The latter will release a greenhouse gas 20x as effective as CO2 is in energy absorption.  There is a lot of methane trapped in the permafrost.  Thawing the permafrost could initiate a positive feedback loop in which even more methane is released from the ground, which would warm the region and the globe even more.

The above temperature record also occurred in a period of low solar activity, which many climate change deniers claim is the most important factor driving our climate.  Most climatologists acknowledge the sun’s activity as being one input into our climate system, but also recognize that human forcing has likely become a more important climate driver.

NOAA’s 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Report details some of the noteworthy accomplishments of the season:

  • Bertha was a tropical cyclone for 17 days (July 3-20), making it the longest-lived July storm on record in the Atlantic Basin.
  • Fay is the only storm on record to make landfall four times in the state of Florida, and to prompt tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings for the state’s entire coastline (at various times during its August lifespan).
  • Paloma, reaching Category 4 status with top winds of 145 mph, is the second strongest November hurricane on record behind Lenny in 1999 with top winds of 155 mph).

More items of interest:

Overall, the season is tied as the fourth most active in terms of named storms (16) and major hurricanes (five), and is tied as the fifth most active in terms of hurricanes (eight) since 1944, which was the first year aircraft missions flew into tropical storms and hurricanes.

For the first time on record, six consecutive tropical cyclones (Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) made landfall on the U.S. mainland and a record three major hurricanes (Gustav, Ike and Paloma) struck Cuba. This is also the first Atlantic season to have a major hurricane (Category 3) form in five consecutive months (July: Bertha, August: Gustav, September: Ike, October: Omar, November: Paloma).

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Water Shortages, Al Gore’s Goals, Waxman vs. Dingell

Global water shortages could occur by 2080. As the effects of climate change make themselves known, don’t be surprised to see that date moved up.  3.2 billion people without access to clean water will cause massive geopolitical problems.

Check out these cool cartograms.

Gore outlined a 5-point plan he sees as necessary to work toward in the early 21st century to transition to a renewable energy economy [h/t Joe Romm]. 1) Large concentrated solar thermal plants in the southwest. 2) National smart grid.  3) Plug-in hybrid car development. 4) Retrofit existing buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting.  5) Put a price on carbon that reflects its actual total costs.

More on Waxman vs. Dingell. Who will win the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair?  The older Dingell who has protected the foot-dragging auto industry from mean-old government regulations, or the younger Waxman who would usher in much needed envrionmental regulations and an overhaul of U.S. auto manufacturing.  My vote would go to Waxman.  Dingell has held this country back for too many decades.  I think I read an inital vote today put Waxman on top.  I’ll have to check.  A second vote with a larger caucus could come tomorrow.

A significant record was set during the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season: 2008 is the only year when a major hurricane formed in five different months [2nd h/t to Joe Romm].  Also, 2008 is second on the list of damage during one year: $52 billion.  Remember that a number of storms weakened prior to U.S. landfall this year.  Remember further that those landfalling hurricanes barely missed a number of very large U.S. cities.  If those storms had maintained their strength longer or their tracks were just slightly adjusted, that damage total would have been much higher.  We can’t keep dodging bullets forever.


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Atlantic Tropical Weather Update 11/8/08

Hurricane Paloma made landfall on Cuba’s southern coast tonight as a Category 4 storm.  Her growth has really been nothing short of extraordinary.  In just a couple days’ time, she organized into a Tropical Storm and then steadily intensified to Category 4 strength … in November.  She has already weakened some as she interacts with the island.  Her vitals tonight:

Center located at 20.9N, 77.7W; maixmum sustained winds of 115mph; moving NE @ 7mph; minimum central pressure of 958mb.

Hurricane Paloma will continue to weaken as she makes her way across Cuba.  By tomorrow morning, she will reemerge over the Atlantic Ocean.  Weakening should continue thereafter as well, dropping down to Tropical Storm strength tomorrow and Tropical Depression status by Monday morning as she slowly moves toward the Bahamas.  A shift in her track could take her back toward the northwest starting on Tuesday, most likely as a remnant low.  She should interact with the Bahamas for a few days, then could affect Florida later in the week.


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Atlantic Tropical Weather Update 11/6/08

2008’s Atlantic Tropical season isn’t done yet.  I saw the potential for a storm sometime in the past couple of days, but with the 2008 election taking most of my “free time” attention, I hadn’t blogged about it.  Well, the potential for a storm turned into the latest 2008 Atlantic named system.  Meet Paloma:

Center located at 17.2N, 81.8W; maximum sustained winds of 75mph; moving N @ 8mph; minimum pressure of 987mb.

Hurricane Paloma is located in the western Caribbean, between Nicaragua and Cuba.  Unfortunately, she is headed for Cuba, which will experience its fourth landfalling system just this year.  Numerous deaths and extensive damage has been done to the island this year.  Paloma will likely move over the center of the island.

Hurricane Paloma is expected to turn toward the northeast starting tomorrow night.  That motion should be maintained over the following four days.  On her way toward Cuba, Paloma is forecasted to strengthen to Category 2 status tomorrow night, then Category 3 status Saturday morning.  Then, slight weakening is forecasted to occur prior to Paloma’s landfall.  The storm will of course weaken as she makes her way across Cuba.  When Paloma enters the Atlantic Sunday night, she is forecasted to be a Category 1 storm again.  Further weakening to Tropical Storm strength is expected as she makes her way through the Bahamas.  She could still be a Tropical Storm Tuesday in the open Atlantic.

Paloma is the 16th named storm of the season.  She is the 8th hurricane of the season.  If she manages to strengthen to Category 3 status, she will be the 5th major hurricane of the season.  After the season, the National Hurricane Center will release a collection of interesting statistics, such as total storm days and total hurricane days this season.  Comparing that information to previous years’ will be interesting, to say the least.


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Atlantic Tropical Weather Update 10/16/08

Yesterday, we saw Omar rapidly intensify.  Late last night, he nearly strengthened to a Category 4 storm.  Overnight, vertical wind shear and dry air have weakened Omar back to a Category 1 storm.  The rapid change in conditions and their impact on storm strength will always amaze me.  Omar impacted the northern Leeward Islands last night on its way to the Atlantic.  Here is a quick look at his current conditions:

Center located at 20.2N, 61.3W; maximum sustained winds of 85mph; moving NE @ 23mph; minimum pressure of 980mb.

Hurricane Omar is forecasted to keep moving NE through the central Atlantic.  His motion should take on an increasing eastward componenet throughout the 5-day period.  He is now officially expected to weaken to Tropical Storm status tomorrow.


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Atlantic Tropical Weather Update 10/15/08

[Update 11P MDT]:

Geez.  Hurricane Omar is officially a Category 3 hurricane (a major hurricane, the fourth of the 2008 season).  His maximum sustained winds are now 120mph.  I noted earlier that the lowering central pressure could lead to additional intensification and that’s exactly what’s happened.  Omar is located at 17.4N, 64.5W and is moving NE @ 20mph.  His central pressure is about 967mb, lower than it was just a few hours ago.  Some slight intensification could still occur in the next 12-24 hours.

Hurricane Omar is moving between the Virgin Islands and Anguila/St. Kitts.  Hurricane force winds are confined to a relatively small area around the center.  Tropical Storm force winds extend a good distance out from the center.  Hurricane Omar could remain at Category 3 strength for the next 24-36 hours as he transits the western-central Atlantic.  Weaknening to Category 2, then Category 1 strength should occur as he moves between 25N and 35N.  By Saturday night, Omar should turn more toward the east and he should continue to slowly weaken as he makes his way across the north-central Atlantic.

[Image of 5-day forecast of predicted track, and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

***

[Update 6P MDT]:

Hurricane Omar is officially a Category 2 hurricane.  His maximum sustained winds now clock in at 105mph.  His pressure continues to drop.  Continued strengthening could occur.

***

[Update 4P MDT]:

Hurricane Omar has continued to strengthen throughout the day and is now a strong Category 1 storm.  He is close to intensifying to Category 2 status.  That is now expected to happen prior to his impacts on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Here are his vitals this afternoon:

Center located at 15.9N, 66.1W; maximum sustained winds of 90mph; moving NE @ 15mph; minimum pressure of 973mb.  That falling pressure is indicative of likely future intensification.  We’ll see how long it lasts.  I’ve been able to locate additional historical hurricanes that share Omar’s forecasted path.  It was weird that I couldn’t do so yesterday.  In fact, one such hurricane moved due north from Omar’s approximate current position and made landfall just to the east of Maine.  Omar’s path should take him northeastward for the next few days before turning more toward the east, staying well north of the Azores.

***

Omar strengthened to hurricane status overnight, as expected.  Here are his vitals:

Center located at 15.2N, 67.2W; maximum sustained winds of 85mph; moving NE @ 9mph; minimum pressure of 982mb.  Omar continues to look good on satellite imagery.  As of this morning, I still don’t see evidence of an eyewall.  But convection is strong and banding features are setting up today.

Hurricane Omar’s forecasted track continues to take him over the Virgin Islands and east of Puerto Rico.  The smaller islands now have Hurricane Warnings posted, while Puerto Rico still has a Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch.  The islands should be impacted by the stronger portion of Omar starting later tonight through tomorrow morning as he moves out of the Caribbean and into the Atlantic.  Shortly after that, Omar is expected to strengthen to a Category 2 storm.  He could maintain that intensity for 24-36 hours as he moves northest through the Atlantic.  By Saturday morning, the official forecast calls for Omar to weaken back to Category 1 status.  By Monday (5 days out), Omar should be in the north Atlantic (~45N).  He should have weakened to a Tropical Storm by that time.

So after moving over the Virgin Islands and lashing Puerto Rico for a few days, no further direct impacts on human populations are expected during Omar’s life.

Elsewhere, Tropical Depression Sixteen remains off the northern Honduran coast.  In fact, T.D. 16 is incredibly close to the Central American landmass.  It is forecasted to keep moving more or less west during the next couple of days.  Officially, it has a small chance of intensifying to Tropical Storm strength, but I think this is less likely than it was yesterday.  Regardless of its official classification, the storm is producing plenty of rain in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize.  It will continue to do so over the next 3 days as it slides to the west.  By the time T.D. 16 moves over Guatemala, it should only be a remnant low on its way toward the Pacific Ocean.


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Atlantic Tropical Weather Update 10/14/08

[Update 4P MDT]:

Not too much to update this afternoon.  There haven’t been any surprises today in terms of intensification of existing storm or development of new storms.  I’ll start with a review of storm vitals:

T.D. Nana has officially become disorganized enough so that the NHC isn’t monitoring it anymore.  A weak area of disturbed weather remains to her south.  Development isn’t likely to occur there in the next 12-24 hours.

Tropical Storm Omar continues to strengthen today.  His center is now located at 14.0N, 68.5W; he has maximum sustained winds of 70mph, just below hurricane strength; he is now moving ENE @ 7mph.  T.S. Omar looks very impressive on satellite imagery this afternoon.  A very large area of cold cloud tops can be seen.  A couple times today I thought that perhaps the center of the storm was becoming visible as cloud top temperatures were warm over a limited area, but no definitive eye has formed that I can tell.

T.S. Omar’s path still should take him to Puerto Rico’s east, over the Virgin Islands.  Due to the strengthening that occurred today, however, he is now expected to do so as a hurricane.  By the time he makes it to the Islands, on Thursday, Omar could be a Category 2 storm.  Tropical Storm Warnings and Hurricane Watches have been issued for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the northern Antilles.  Interestingly, I can’t find evidence of an October storm moving northeast from the Caribbean into the Atlantic in the historical records.  That doesn’t mean much, I just wanted to point it out.

Tropical Depression Sixteen is still moving through the southwest Carribean off the Honduran coast and is expected to organize into a Tropical Storm sometime tomorrow.

[Image of 5-day forecast of predicted track, and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

***

There are a couple of storms and disturbances in the Atlantic this morning.  Temperatures remain warm enough for tropical development across the southern North Atlantic.  Starting with Tropical Depression Nana’s vitals:

Center located at 18.4N, 43.3W; maximum sustained winds of 30mph; moving WNW @ 14mph.

T.D. Nana continues to spin away in the central Atlantic at just below Tropical Storm strength.  She will continue to do so over the next 36 hours or so.  She isn’t expected to threaten any human population centers.

Tropical Storm Omar has strengthened from Tropical Depression 15 overnight, as expected.  His vitals:

Center located at 14.0N, 69.0W; maximum sustained winds of 40mph; moving ESE @ 2mph; minimum pressure of 1001mb.  Omar looks more organized on satellite imagery today.

T.S. Omar is still expected to begin moving toward the NE later today.  Due to his meandering overnight, his path is no longer forecasted to take him directly over Puerto Rico.  Instead, his official track forecast takes him to the east of Puerto Rico, which would take him over or just to the east of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and to the west of Anguila.  Once he moves past the Islands, Omar is forecasted to continue strengthening to hurricane status.  In contrast to yesterday’s forecasts, Omar is now forecasted to maintain hurricane strength for the remainder of the 5-day period.  His projected track takes Omar toward the NE throughout the 5-day period.  Whether or not that holds after Day 3 is mostly irrelevant – Omar will be in the middle of the Atlantic, far away from any landmass.

Okay, the Atlantic isn’t finished there.  Tropical Depression Sixteen formed overnight from the disturbance nearby Nicaragua and Honduras.  Here are T.D. 16’s vitals as of this morning:

Center located at 15.6N, 83.0W; maximum sustained winds of 30mph; movingNW @ 7mph; minimum pressure of 1004mb.  T.D. 16 is characterized by a broad area of convection.  Those features should become more organized throughout the day.

T.D. 16 is forecasted to continue organizing and strengthening over the next 24-36 hours.  The official intensity forecast brings it to Tropical Storm status by tomorrow morning.  The official track forecast takes the T.D./T.S. NW along the Honduras coast in the next 24 hours, then W along the northern Honduran coast until coming ashore along the Belize coast Thursday morning as a Tropical Storm.

I should mention that a small area of disturbed weather to the south of T.D. Nana is being watched.  T.D. Nana could absorb this disturbance as most of the models show it moving north toward Nana.  Right now, there aren’t any other disturbances worth mentioning.  That’s a pretty busy basin for October.