Weather Around The World, 9/15: Change Of Seasons; Ancient Viruses; And — Oooops!

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Washington and Oregon had record hot summers. Only a few states in the midwest were significantly below normal. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

Washington and Oregon had record hot summers. Only a few states in the midwest were significantly below normal. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

The fall equinox next Monday marks the beginning of celestial fall (meteorological fall began September First). Natural changes are taking place, moreso in some spots than others, and it is a good time to look back at summer and ahead to the winter forecasts.

In the arctic, there’s a new threat caused by global warming. And this column made a very bad forecast last week.

Let’s go Around The World.

June-August, 2015 Temperature And Precipitation In US

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) has issued its analyses of summer (June-August) temperature and precipitation across the United States.

In general, it was a hot summer. The west, south, and east coast were warmer than normal, while only the midwest was cool:

  • Washington and Oregon had their warmest summers ever, with records going back to 1895.
  • It was California’s second warmest summer.
  • In eight other states, this summer was one of the ten warmest on record.
  • By contrast, no state had much below normal temperature.

It was a soggy summer, with nine states, mostly in the midwest, recording much above normal precipitation. Only Washington state had precipitation that was much below normal.

Interestingly, Texas, inundated with record rainfall in June, was drier than normal for the entire summer after a very dry July and August.

Looking Ahead To Winter

With the most powerful El Niño since 1998 looming in the Pacific, all long-range forecasts call for wet and cool weather over the southern US this winter. Temperatures across the northern states are predicted to be above normal.

Giant 30,000-Year-Old Virus Found In Arctic. Does It Bite?

French scientists recently discovered a giant 30,000 year old virus in the melting arctic permafrost. These virus specimens have retained their potency through their cryo-period of existence, and there is some talk that they could become active and mutate into a human pathogen. Such a scenario is popular with science fiction fans, but the likelihood that it will happen is small.

Still, the specter of a Frankenvirus for which there is no cure is a warning that the results of global warming will not be confined to rising sea level, agricultural dislocations, and unfettered Arctic shipping lanes.  The spreading of diseases is already noticed in coffee fungus and mosquito-borne human pathogens. Other surprises are likely in store — and many of them probably won’t be good.

We Got It Wrong; Lesson Learned

Last week we wrote that Tropical Storm Etau would strike Japan with below-typhoon-strength winds and have little impact. Sometimes it’s the half of the glass that’s full that’s important and sometimes the half that’s empty; sometimes it’s the half of the forecast that’s right that’s important, and sometimes …..

The wind forecast for Etau was accurate: wind damage was minimal. But we neglected to factor in the rain. Two feet of rain overwhelmed river capacities and caused mudslides in the hilly terrain north of Tokyo. People clinging to their rooftops in Joho to avoid the rising waters would have had little interest in the half of the forecast that was right.

So what went wrong? Sometimes tropical systems, despite the weakness of their circulations, contain deep moisture that can cause flooding rains. Etau was one of those. We wrote some weeks back that the most dangerous hurricanes for Japan were the ones that approach from the south, where the water is warm. The warm water not only provides the energy to increase the winds — it also provides a lot of water vapor that can turn into flooding rain.

Lesson learned; crow eaten.

New Threats In The Atlantic

A minor tropical disturbance over the western Gulf of Mexico has no chance to become a tropical storm, but will still cause heavy rain in Mexico. Two waves in the Atlantic have a better chance of developing. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

A minor tropical disturbance over the western Gulf of Mexico has no chance to become a tropical storm, but will still cause heavy rain in Mexico. Two waves in the Atlantic have a better chance of developing. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

The first frontal system of fall to reach the Gulf of Mexico is increasing the probability of a tropical cyclone forming in the area.

A small area of low pressure persisted for the last couple of days in the western Gulf, and though it will never even reach tropical storm wind intensity, we will not, after last week’s debacle, underestimate the possibility of flooding in Mexico.

This time the trouble stems not so much from the moisture content — high, but not extremely so — but from the fact that the system moved so slowly and the rains lasted several days. We can confidently say that flooding will not be on the scale of that of Etau.

The Cape Verde hurricane season is not over, though past its peak, and two waves have a better than even chance to develop into named storms according to the National Hurricane Center.

The Atlantic is still a generally hostile place for tropical cyclones, with vertical wind shear across most of the ocean. A change to more favorable conditions cannot be ruled out, but neither potential storm appears to be a threat at this time.

Seasons Are Changing Fast

It may not feel like it for the next few days over the northeast, with temperatures in the 80s, but fall is here. El Niño Eggplant will undoubtedly have significant implications for fall and winter weather in the US and beyond.

What’s the weather doing where you live?

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