Weather Around The World, 8/2/16: Hawaiian Hurricane; El Niño; Global Warming; Maryland Flood


Home / Weather Around The World, 8/2/16: Hawaiian Hurricane; El Niño; Global Warming; Maryland Flood

Tropical Storm Darby, one of eight named storms that originated in the eastern Pacific in July, hit Hawaii on July 23. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

El Niño is finished. The last comparable one was followed by three years of La Niña, but the odds of this have diminished.

Water temperatures are above normal almost everywhere in the northern tropics and subtropics. So far only the eastern Pacific has been active with regard to tropical cyclones.

Will the Atlantic and western Pacific follow suit?

July was hot. So what’s the outlook for global warming?

Let’s go Around The World.

Latest News On El Niño and La Niña

The weather can sure be exasperating. Not only is day-to-day forecasting frustrating to weathermen, but long-term trends can suddenly refuse to follow the expected pattern.

The historical record, admittedly a short one, indicates that strong El Niños are followed by strong La Niñas. That may still be the case with this one, but there are disturbing signs that the tropical Pacific is prepared to misbehave.

Water temperatures have not risen as expected, and NOAA has lowered its estimate of the likelihood of La Niña this fall from 75% to 60%, and the probability is now that it will be a minimal event. Another month or two should be decisive.

La Niña normally increases the chances of tropical storm formation in the Atlantic and lowers it in the eastern Pacific. Judging by July’s record-breaking performance in the eastern Pacific, La Niña is not doing its job. Atlantic hurricane season normally doesn’t ramp up until August, and other factors may influence the number of named storms and hurricanes.

Active Eastern Pacific

The satellite view of the eastern Pacific for July 19 shows a tropical storm, a hurricane, and two areas of potential development. Graphic courtesy of National Hurricane Center.

Last year, a long succession of storms formed off the coast of southern Mexico and moved northwest parallel to the coast.

Many of them hit or threatened Mexico. This year, the same breeding ground produced a record July, but the storms are moving west or west-northwest towards Hawaii. The water is just warm enough to support tropical storms all the way to the islands.

And indeed, Former Hurricane Darby, downgraded to a tropical storm, made landfall on the Big Island on July 23. It moved near or over all of the islands, but because it stayed to the south of most of them, the rainfall was heaviest on the east sides, which are accustomed to precipitation.

Up to a foot of rain fell in some places, but not as much on the normally dry western flanks of The Big island and Maui, as the east winds dropped the rain on the eastern slopes of the mountains.

Global Warming: One Step Forward …..

Probably the most significant achievement of governments with respect to man’s interference with the thin blanket of gas that sustains life on earth is the Montreal Protocol of 1989, which banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a refrigerant. CFCs were causing a depletion of ozone in the upper atmosphere; the ozone protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation which causes skin cancer.

That binding treaty was very far-sighted, stipulating that it could be amended if the substitutes for CFCs proved to be harmful in any way. And those substitutes, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) turn out to warm the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Most estimates put the warming at about one degree Celsius per century.

On July 23, negotiators met in Vienna to try to agree on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Though some obstacles still exist to an agreement (negotiations have been going on for seven years), they hope to finalize one at a meeting in Rwanda in October.

The main objection to a rapid change to a less damaging refrigerant comes from India, a hot country without the money to pay the increased costs associated with switching to a more expensive chemical. But hopes are high, because, unlike the case with respect to switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, industry is on-board. Chemical companies have been working diligently on a replacement for HFCs (Honeywell Corporation has spent nearly a billion dollars in its effort).

If a method can be worked out to reimburse the hot and poor countries for some of the cost of conversion, the Montreal Protocol will be amended, and the amendment will have the force of law.

And Two (Maybe Three) Steps Back

June was hotter than average over virtually the entire globe. The July analysis will be published next week. Meanwhile, COP21 is moving forward in slow motion. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

The Paris Agreement (COP21) to curtail carbon emissions, signed last December, is another matter.

For one thing, it is not a treaty, and many of its provisions are voluntary.

Still, most nations made substantial promises to reduce carbon emissions. But political leaders come and go; voluntary contributions to fighting global warming change with the changes of leadership.

Two setbacks are already notable: Turmoil in Brazil with respect to impeachment of its President has thrown that country’s policy into the uncertain category; and the new President of the Philippines has already stated that he will not follow through on his country’s promises.

Then there’s the United States, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. One of the two major candidates for President embraces efforts to combat global warming.

The other? Well, it’s hard to tell what his position is. He has railed against EPA regulations and stated (he said he was kidding) that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. At best, he is unlikely to be a forceful voice for carbon reduction. And some in his party deny global warming altogether.

Another Killer Flood

On July 30, Ellicott City, Maryland received seven inches of rain in two hours.The result was predictable, given the position of the town between two mountains — massive flooding. Two people lost their lives and the whole downtown was under water.

As Decoded Science has pointed out many times, no single event can be positively linked to global warming. But facts are facts: A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor; and weather systems appear to be moving more slowly. The logical result would be more floods, as the atmosphere drops its increased moisture content in one place for a longer time.

What evidence of change do you see where you live?

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