Weather Around The World, 3/17: Rivers Overflow; Temperatures Fluctuate; Boston Breaks Record; And Decoded Science Settles An Old Argument

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Home / Weather Around The World, 3/17: Rivers Overflow; Temperatures Fluctuate; Boston Breaks Record; And Decoded Science Settles An Old Argument
Heavy rain and flooding 1936

Heavy rain on top of a deep snow pack caused flooding in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1936. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

The inevitable warmup that accompanies an increasingly higher angle of the sun brings on its own problems.

And winter isn’t over yet in Boston, where the citizenry has endured the snowiest winter ever.

Meanwhile northern Europe and Asia continue to enjoy unusually mild weather.

And let’s not forget the passing of one important day, the coming of another, and Decoded Science’s contribution to how they relate to Spring. Let’s go Around The World.

Eastern US Thaw Produces Flooding

The Ohio River is forecast to stay above flood stage in  Cincinnati until Thursday. Graphic courtesy of NOAA

The Ohio River is forecast to stay above flood stage in Cincinnati until Thursday. Graphic courtesy of NOAA

Every spring brings the potential for flooding along rivers covered with melting ice.

This year’s combination of thick ice due to very cold temperatures, rapid thawing due to a sudden warmup, and heavy rain have combined to cause flooding on many rivers in the midwest on a scale that hasn’t been seen for decades.

The worst of the river flooding is along the Ohio River, especially from Cincinnati to Louisville.

In addition to the problem caused by the sheer volume of water, as the heavy ice breaks up, it flows downstream and piles up at riverbends and bridges, blocking the flow.

The problem will work its way north in the next month as the warm temperatures overspread the frigid northeast and upper midwest.

Temperature Trampoline In The US

As the polar vortex alternately retreats and charges south while warm Gulf air tries to push north, temperatures have see-sawed in the upper plains. Rapid City, South Dakota has earned the name See-Saw City this winter.

Eleven times since December 30 the high temperature has changed more than 30 degrees in two days or less, and today will mark the twelfth:

  • December 30: 3 degrees; January 1: 38 degrees.
  • January 3: 38 degrees; January 4: 6degrees; January 5: 37degrees (Here, we see two consecutive one-day swings of 33 degrees or more.)
  • January 30: 51 degrees; February 1: 14 degrees; February 3: 45 degrees.
  • February 4: 22 degrees;February 6: 71 degrees ( Here, we see a change of 49 degrees in two days.)
  • February 20: 49 degrees; February 22: 18 degrees; February 24: 55 degrees; February 26: 10 degrees (Here, there was a change of more than 30 degrees for three consecutive two-day periods.)
  • March 2: 48 degrees; March 4: 16 degrees; March 6: 56 degrees.
  • March 15: 84 degrees; March 17 (forecast): 41 degrees.

Boston Breaks Its Winter Snowfall Record

Boston received three inches of snow on Sunday to put it over the top —  a new record for snow in a single winter.

The exact numbers are: 2.9 inches added Sunday; total for the season, 108.6 inches of snow in Boston.

Not that it will make Bostonians feel any better, but the Italian town of Capracotta reported 100 inches of snow on March 5. The reading is now considered unofficial, but if it holds up it would smash the recognized World Meteorological Organization’s 24-hour snowfall record of 75 inches set in Silver Lake, Colorado in 1921.

Europe Basks In Unusual Warmth

The trough in the jet stream off the east coast of the US is causing the ridge that covers northern Europe. Temperatures have been above normal in Europe for over a month. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.

The trough in the jet stream off the east coast of the US is causing the ridge that covers northern Europe. Temperatures have been above normal in Europe for over a month. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.

While the eastern US has shivered under the influence of a south-plunging bend in the jet stream, northern Europe has been the beneficiary of the downstream northward bulge.

Temperatures will remain well above normal for the next few days, but a change is coming next week.

Here are some examples of northern European winter warmth (all things are relative):

  • Berlin, Germany: From February 7 to March 10, the temperature was above normal every single day.
  • London, UK: Matched Berlin with a month-long period of above average temperatures beginning on February 13.
  • Moscow, Russia: Their current unbroken string of above-normal-temperature days goes back to January 22. That’s 54 days in a row on which the temperature has been above normal.
  • Oslo, Norway: Hasn’t been below normal since February 7.

Tropical Cyclone Pam Whacks Vanuatu

Tropical Cyclone Pam, the equivalent of a category five hurricane, scored a direct hit on the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Saturday.

Vanuatu, formerly known as New Hebrides, in its colonial days before it became independent in 1980, comprises over 80 islands. Sixty-five of the islands are inhabited; they have a land mass about the size of Connecticut and a population of barely a quarter million.

Twenty-four people are confirmed dead, and rescuers have yet to reach some of the remote islands.

Pam weakened as it headed southeast, but still brought gales to the northern coast of New Zealand as it transitioned to an extra-tropical cyclone and passed about 200 miles from Auckland.

Last Saturday Was A Pi Day To Infinite Precision

3/14 is as close as a date can come to duplicating the value of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, universally denoted by the Greek letter π. This year was particularly significant, since 3/14/15 extends pi to four decimal places, and at 9:26 and 53 seconds the time was precisely pi to nine decimal places.

Using decimal representation for fractions of a second, this exercise could continue to the twelve trillion decimal places to which pi has been calculated. That moment would indeed have been fleeting.

The exact time that coincided with pi could not be calculated with a decimal, as the number pi is irrational.

Decoded Science Settles A Longstanding Dispute

Since human beings first noticed the rebirth of plant growth and the return of warmth that followed the winter season, well-meaning scientists have disagreed on the exact definition of “Spring.”

The meteorological definition is: The three months following the three coldest calendar months;  the astronomical definition: The three months beginning with the Vernal Equinox — March 20 this year. Decoded Science proposes a new definition that is both more sensible and more precise.

Inasmuch as the earth is round, Decoded Science feels it is appropriate to define the seasons according to the fundamental constant of circles. By the new definition, spring will begin on March 14, Pi Day, and summer, fall, and winter will begin on June, September, and December 14, respectively.

This definition is superior to the meteorological definition because winter and summer will now correspond more closely in most places to the coldest and warmest three-month periods. And it is more precise than the astronomical definition because the vernal equinox varies from March 19 to March 21.

Spring will henceforth begin on March 14; the matter is settled. Graphic courtesy of V'ctoria Nicks.

Spring will henceforth begin on March 14; the matter is settled. Copyright image courtesy of Decoded Past

Spring Is Here

Decoded Science is pleased to be able to proffer its perspective on this previously perplexing problem.

Now that Spring is officially here, having started last Saturday, the weather is changing fast: Up and down as in Rapid City or slowly warming as in Europe.

What’s the weather doing where you live?

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