Weather Around the World 2015: Week by Week, Month by Month

Weather Around the World 2015
Week by Week, Month by Month




Copyright 2016 by Jon Plotkin

Published by Decoded Science: Shakespir Edition


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[] Table of Contents


Introduction: 2015 Weather: The Year In Review, Week By Week, Month By Month. And What Might Lie Ahead

Prologue: 2014

Chapter One: January

Chapter Two: February

Chapter Three: March

Chapter Four: April

Chapter Five: May

Chapter Six: June

Chapter Seven: July

Chapter Eight: August

Chapter Nine: September

Chapter Ten: October

Chapter Eleven: November

Chapter Twelve: December


About the Author


2015 Weather: The Year In Review, Week By Week, Month By Month. And What Might Lie Ahead

(Return to Table of Contents)


Decoded Science published a weekly Weather Around The World column every Tuesday in 2015, as well as monthly analyses of NOAA’s global land and sea temperature reports. This book follows these events chronologically.


What Was 2015 Like?


Besides being by far the hottest year on record, with new high temperatures for ten of the twelve months, 2015 featured significant weather events around the world: typhoons, extended heat waves, snow records, El Niño and other water temperature anomalies, droughts, and floods.


What Does 2015’s Weather Imply For The Future?


The big news of 2015 was not only the temperature and an unusual number of extreme weather events, but also the admission of politicians worldwide that man is tampering dangerously with the environment.


The Climate Agreement that came out of COP21 was unprecedented in scope, if not in actual action. 2015 will go down as the Year of the Promise; 2016 may indicate whether the promises will be kept.


As of the publication date of this book, things don't look that great -- climate-change-wise.


The US Supreme Court stayed the implementation of Obama Administration coal-fired power plant emissions rules pursuant to the Paris Agreement, which pundits take as an indication that the Court may rule that the regulations are an unconstitutional overreach of executive power.


China and India have already reacted negatively to the news.


If the COP21 Agreement figuratively goes up in smoke, the Earth may literally follow.


This compilation is not intended to be a political statement. But following from week to week and month to month, the possible role of human civilization in affecting the workings of the atmosphere cannot be ignored.


As you follow Weather Around The World around the calendar, see how it related to what you observed about our changing climate -- or just enjoy reading about the vagaries of Mother Nature.


[] Prologue: 2014

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2014 Worldwide Land-And-Sea Temperature Soars To Record High


The 2014 land-and-sea temperature anomaly map shows that four continents were nearly entirely above normal. The major cold spots were eastern north America and western Asia. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.



Possessing a sizable lead after 11 months, the forces of Global Warming could have coasted to a warmest-year-ever with a desultory December. Instead, the sixth monthly record in the last 8 months propelled 2014 to a record-warm global land-and-sea average temperature that has both advocates and skeptics shaking their heads in disbelief.


The former are scrambling to re-work their forecasts of future global temperatures upward, while the latter seek refuge in any argument to try to salvage their case.


How Warm Was It In 2014?


2014 set new standards in a variety of ways. The following are just a few highlights:

The average global land-and-sea temperature was 58.24 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the record set in 2010.

p<>{color:#000;}. The average land-and-sea temperature surpassed the previous record by .07 degrees, the greatest increase for any new record year.

p<>{color:#000;}. The global land-and-sea temperature set new monthly records in six months, all from May to December.

p<>{color:#000;}. The global sea temperature set new records in every month from May to November.

p<>{color:#000;}. 2014 was the 38th consecutive year in which the average global land-and-sea temperature was above the 20th century average.

p<>{color:#000;}. New land-and-sea temperature records have been set three previous times since 1998, but this is the first record year in which there was no El Niño.


Global Temperatures Lurching Higher


The upward spiral of temperatures in the last two-thirds of 2014 caught climatologists by surprise, though the trend has been discernible for some time. The average global land-and-sea temperature has increased by .11 degrees per decade since 1880 and by .28 degrees per decade since 1970.


At the more recent rate of change, the earth will reach a rise of 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels within 80 years. Many scientists have warned that a 3.5 degree increase could be a tipping point, beyond which catastrophic changes in the weather are inevitable. If the upward acceleration of the rate of temperature change continues, the threshold will be reached sooner.


And Still, Some Have Their Heads In The Sand


The temperature trend since 2000 is about the same as the longer-term trend. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.


Even the latest year’s temperature data do not convince the most determined climate-change deniers. But their arguments are disintegrating, and their ranks are beginning to thin.


It is inevitable that some scientists, for reasons of ego or enrichment, will retain mistaken beliefs long after those beliefs are proven wrong. Some continued to doubt the roundness of the earth even as Magellan approached from the east after having set sail to the west.


Concerning the 2014 temperature data, Dr. John R. Christy of the University of Alabama said,


“Since the end of the 20th century, the temperature hasn’t done much. It’s on this kind of warmish plateau.”


This myth has been perpetuated by right-wing talk show hosts, but a Professor of Atmospheric Science should know better. The claim is demonstrably hogwash. Any reasonable statistical smoothing of the data shows that the increase in temperature since 2000 is at close to the same rate as over any other time period since the end of the 1800s.


The Hot And The Cold Spots In 2014


The earth is not warming at the same rate everywhere. Here are some highlights of 2014:


p<>{color:#000;}. The Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of the rest of the planet, while the Antarctic actually cooled.

p<>{color:#000;}. Eastern North America was colder than normal.

p<>{color:#000;}. Western Asia was colder than normal.

p<>{color:#000;}. Europe had its warmest year.

p<>{color:#000;}. 19 separate nations in Europe had their warmest years.

p<>{color:#000;}. Virtually the entire continents of Africa, South America, Europe, and Australia were above average. Each continent had large areas of record heat.


Extreme Weather In 2014


One of the predicted results of global warming is an increase in extreme weather. Though no single event can be linked directly to climate change, some are worth noting:


p<>{color:#000;}. Eastern North America had its 33rd coldest year since 1880, bucking the trend of every other continent.

p<>{color:#000;}. England had a record wet winter followed by a record dry September.

p<>{color:#000;}. Austria received barely half the normal amount of precipitation in winter 2013-14, but had record rainfall in May.

p<>{color:#000;}. Six Super-Typhoons formed in the western Pacific Ocean.


What Will Be Done To Stop The Runaway Temperature Increase?


It’s quite obvious that humanity, collectively, has the ability to stop global warming before it reaches a point of no return. Decoded Science has pointed out two hopeful precedents: CFCs, which were causing a hole in stratospheric ozone, were phased out; and testing of nuclear weapons was banned. But the problem of global warming so far seems intractable. For one thing, the CFC problem wasn’t particularly difficult to solve because other chemicals could do the same thing.


Nuclear weapons present an existential threat to those making the decisions, so it was relatively easy to get agreement on banning their use. Global warming also threatens great harm to civilization — at some unspecified time in the future. Many people, including political leaders, seem to have the attitude that climate change doesn’t pose much risk now, and probably won’t in the lifetimes of those making the decisions.


Each of us must decide whether it is our right to leave a different, and almost surely far less hospitable, world to our descendants.



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Week One:


As we await official word that 2014 was the warmest ever, global warming seems to be on hold in the eastern United States, thanks to an outbreak of arctic air.



This forecast for Friday, courtesy of NOAA, shows cold air continuing to pour into the central US from Canada. Image by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The equatorial Pacific is warm enough for Decoded Science to declare an El Niño. And there’s weather news from Turkey and the Far East. Let’s go Around The World.


Arctic Air Outbreak in Central and Eastern US


It’s always there in the winter. Most of the time it minds its own business and covers Canada, making an occasional foray into the northern plains. But once in a while it gets up a head of steam and barrels through much of the eastern two-thirds of the United States.


We’re talking about cold, winter-time air that originates in central and northern Canada and Alaska. With little sunshine in this region, the earth radiating continuously, and the snow cover reflecting what little solar radiation there is, temperatures routinely fall to 40 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit).


The unleashing of the normally bottled-up cold air correlates with the position and orientation of the jet stream. The jet stream then, in turn, governs the position and intensity of the polar vortex. The polar vortex has generally bifurcated in the past couple of years, and last winter a lobe refused to budge from central North America.


The US experienced a return of the arctic air in November, but since then the vortex has behaved and December was warmer than normal. Now, it’s ba.a.a.a.ck — and with a vengeance.


Temperatures are already below zero in the northern plains and upper midwest, and they will get colder through Thursday. Dangerously cold temperatures will linger in the plains, midwest and northeast through the end of the week at least, as fresh surges of cold air plunge south.


The Weather and Flight QZ1801


Early Tuesday morning The western Pacific was covered with thunderstorms in connection with the ITCZ. The bad weather extends westward to where the AirAsia flight went down. Satellite image courtesy by US Navy.


We can blame the weather for many things, including some airplane crashes, but the AirAsia flight that went down between Indonesia and Singapore last week is not one of them. It’s clear that there was no excuse for this accident, and that human errors caused it:


AirAsia did not have license for this flight. The airline was licensed to fly this route four days a week, but not on Sunday. How do air traffic controllers allow an unlicensed flight to take off?

There was bad weather on the route, but many other planes traversed the area without trouble.

No one transmitted the weather report, which clearly predicted strong thunderstorms, to the pilots.


An unlicensed plane with no weather briefing. Don’t blame the meteorologists.


Bad weather continues to hamper the search for bodies and black boxes. The crash area is in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), an equatorial band of thunderstorms, which is especially active at the moment.


Western Drought Continues Despite Recent Rain


The recent rains connected with Extreme Weather Event Cucumber helped some, but much of California is still in extreme drought. Hopefully an El Niño will bring additional rain to the US southwest.


This jet stream forecast for next Monday, courtesy of National Centers for Environmental Prediction, demonstrates the tug-of-war going on between El Niño and the high pressure over the eastern Pacific. A new surge from Canada will compete with low pressure from the central Pacific for dominance. Image by National Centers for Environmental Prediction.


At the present time, there is a tug-of-war between simmering El Niño conditions (see below) and the anomalously high water temperatures over the Gulf of Alaska.


The former, El Niño, would bring a branch of the jet stream from the central Pacific into California; the latter, unusually high water temperatures, would cause high pressure over the west coast. This week, the Pacific Coast high is dominant and is coupled with the Canadian polar vortex to bring the cold weather to the eastern US.


Long range forecasts are ambiguous, so either side could be ascendant two weeks from now.


Another Snowstorm in Turkey


Decoded Science pointed out that the jet stream over Europe split in the fall, with a southern branch flowing across Italy and the rest of southern Europe.


Turkey has been particularly hard hit with storms, including one going on currently. Snowfall is exacerbated by a ‘Lake Effect’ from the Black Sea. As the saturated air hits the mountains of central Turkey, the uplift causes heavy snow.


Decoded Science Names El Niño Event Eggplant


The water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean is anomalously warm, and though the departure from normal and duration of the anomaly do not yet meet NOAA’s criteria for declaring an El Niño event, Decoded Science feels there’s no justification for the formal criteria. Proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the recent episode of the pineapple express (to continue the gastronomic metaphor) is just one instance of the effect the warm Pacific is having on weather around the world.

Australia has just experienced two record warm and very dry months, and this is another of the metrics that correlates with El Niño.


Decoded Science will have a full explanation of the current event Eggplant and its ramifications for weather in many parts of the world later this week.


Let’s Not Let Naming Winter Weather Events Get Out of Hand


In the last ten days, The Weather Channel has named three storms, none of which amounted to anything more than normal seasonal variations in snowfall. Decoded Science has been in favor of naming winter weather events for the purpose of accurate communication. But it serves no purpose to name every modest occurrence. At the rate The Weather Channel is going, they’ll be giving names to individual thunderstorms and snow squalls. They are beginning to justify the claims of critics who say TWC names winter storms just for publicity.


Decoded Science believes that extra-tropical weather cannot be defined precisely enough to provide the same kind of criteria for naming used in the case of tropical cyclones. We hope we can exercise good judgment in naming weather events that are either very unusual or affect a large number of people. El Niño Eggplant is already implicated in drought in Australia and record rain in California, so it meets these criteria.


Decoded Science invites TWC to engage in a discussion about standards for naming winter storms and other weather events.


How Are Record Cold Temperatures Related to Global Warming?


Climate change will involve more than just an increase in temperature. Models of the atmosphere indicate that more extreme weather will occur. The current cold spell is, therefore, consistent with global warming.


What changes in the weather do you see in your neighborhood?


Week Two


The recent cold snap brought snow to the deep south, but didn’t damage crops in Florida or Texas.


Dangerous Weather Event Fennel is still producing ice, while cold and/or rain for next weekend’s football showdowns, snow in Jerusalem, a tropical cyclone and El Niño Eggplant in the Pacific Ocean also spice up this week’s weather.

The forecast for Sunday indicates cloudy weather with spotty showers and moderate wind and temperature in both Foxborough and Seattle for the NFL conference championship games. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.


Let’s go Around The World.


Dangerous Weather Event Fennel Producing Slippery Conditions On Many Streets And Sidewalks


The worst of Fennel’s freezing rain is over, with just a few icy spots today in the Carolinas. But the danger continues due to daytime melting and nighttime re-freezing.


The earth radiates in the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and this radiation is blocked by clouds, so on cloudy nights the temperature falls slowly. But when the sky is clear, temperatures near the ground can fall rapidly after sundown.


Under clear skies, snow banks at the sides of roads and sidewalks will melt in the daytime sun. Even if the temperature doesn’t rise above freezing, the heat of solar radiation can turn piled up snow and ice to liquid water. The liquid will re-freeze as soon as the sun goes down.


The result is black ice, a thin covering of transparent slipperiness that is virtually invisible on roads and sidewalks. Shoes and tires have little traction on ice; falls and car crashes are common results.


El Niño Event Eggplant Still Simmering


Last week, Decoded Science named El Niño Event Eggplant. Since then, water temperatures across the Pacific have declined slightly, and NOAA has reduced its forecast probability for El Niño to 60%.


However, some effects of El Niño Eggplant are being felt, and whether or not this event fulfills the NOAA definition of El Niño, there will be ramifications in the weather across the US and elsewhere. Decoded Science will have a full explanation tomorrow.


Weather For NFL Conference Championship Games


Football games next Sunday at the northern corners of the country will determine the Super Bowl participants. Weather looks pretty good — considering it’s mid-winter — in both Greater Boston and Seattle.


The Indianapolis Colts are used to playing indoors, but they had no trouble dispatching the Broncos in the open air of Denver this past Sunday. They catch a break when they play the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts next Sunday, as the temperature should be relatively mild — in the thirties — with light to moderate winds. There could be a little rain, but no deluge. Decoded Science’s prediction: Colts run out of Luck — Pats by three.


Seattle used to play in an enclosed stadium. The new CenturyLink facility’s field-of-play is open to the elements, though a roof covers most of the spectator seats. It rains a lot in Seattle in the winter, and next Sunday will not be an exceptional day. Temperatures will be in the 40s. Decoded Science’s prediction: Seattle in a cakewalk. The Seahawks’ defense would be too good, even for a healthy Aaron Rodgers, the limping Green Bay quarterback. And the slippery field could make Russell Wilson, Seattle’s quarterback, even more elusive than he normally is.


Citrus Growers In Texas And Florida Escape With A Scare


The current cold weather that covers the eastern two-thirds of the US didn’t push quite far enough to the south to damage the citrus crops in the southern parts of Texas and Florida. Though it snowed in Jacksonville, temperatures in the southern part of the state barely dipped into the thirties. The same was true of Texas, where the northern sections experienced snow, freezing rain, and temperatures well below freezing, while the southern areas were frost-free.

Cold weather is a double-edged sword for fruit. What doesn’t kill it makes it sweeter, as the fruit produces more sugar during cold weather. Texas and Florida citrus growers should be sending the best-tasting grapefruits and oranges to market in the next few weeks.


Unusual Snowstorm In Israel Closes Schools


Decoded Science reported last week that a southern branch of the jet stream was bringing heavy snow to Turkey, especially in the mountains, which forced moist air from the Black Sea to rise to the condensation level.


On Friday, a storm in that same southern branch of the jet stream brought snow to Jerusalem and much of the rest of Israel. The snow caused school closings and traffic disruptions.


The split in the jet stream has now healed, and the weather in the Middle East will be seasonably cool for the next week with minimal precipitation.


Tropical Disturbances On Both Sides Of The Equator


The typhoon season runs all year in the western North Pacific Ocean, where the water stays warm enough even in the winter to support tropical storm formation. An area of disturbed weather south of Guam is expected to become a tropical storm in the next few days, but probably will encounter hostile conditions before it can develop into a typhoon.


In the South Indian Ocean, a powerful tropical cyclone, Bansi, is spinning a few hundred miles from Madagascar, but is heading slowly out into the open ocean.

The forecast for Tropical Cyclone Bansi indicates that it may reach category five intensity but not affect any large land area. Forecast courtesy of US Navy.


Bansi is forecast to become the equivalent of a category five hurricane before petering out over colder water, never directly affecting any land mass bigger than a tiny island. However, waves from this storm will probably disrupt the search for MH370, the Malaysian airliner missing since last March and believed to be at the bottom of the ocean a thousand miles west of Perth, Australia.


It’s Midwinter, Which Means Spring’s A-comin’


Averaged over the globe, signs of spring come earlier each year with global warming. The solstice is nearly a month in the rear view mirror and days are getting longer.

Do you notice any harbingers of spring where you live?


Week Three


It’s midwinter in the northern hemisphere and midsummer in the southern, and the weather is a lot of what you’d expect: Dangerously icy conditions in the US; tropical downpours in Africa; two new reports showing that 2014 featured unabated global warming, especially in the arctic.

Let’s go Around The World.

Warming of the arctic has been twice the global average for the last few years, as ice melts and the albedo lowers. Image courtesy of NOAA.


Slippin’ And a-Slidin’: Massive Car And Truck Pileup On Icy Roads In Philly On Sunday


Dangerous Weather Event Fennel caused a smashup of 50-plus vehicles in Philadelphia on Sunday, as temperatures hovered just below freezing at the surface, while warmer, saturated air surged in from the Atlantic just above the ground. This is the recipe for freezing rain, and roads were covered with a slick glaze.


Fennel is an ongoing event, as arctic air plunges south into the eastern United States on the western side of a lobe of the polar vortex, then holds its position near the surface due to its high density as warm air from nearby bodies of water overruns it periodically. New cold fronts are expected this week, and another round of freezing rain is possible next weekend. Slippin’ and Slidin’ could occur anywhere from Texas through the Mississippi Valley to the mid- or north Atlantic coast.


Flooding In Malawi


At least 176 people have been killed, with many more still unaccounted for, in flooding in the southern part of Malawi and adjacent Mozambique. Heavy rain is common during the African summer; 90% of Malawi’s 40 inches of annual precipitation falls from November to April, with a peak in January.


The affected region is between 15 and 20 degrees south latitude. In the southern hemisphere’s winter (May to October), tropical moisture moves north and high pressure from the sub-tropics settles over the area. Little or no rain falls in most winter seasons.


An entirely different weather regime brings heavy rain in the summer half of the year, especially the months December through March. Tropical easterly trade winds deliver moisture from the Indian Ocean; instability associated with the intertropical convergence zone wrings out the moisture.


This year’s massive floods threaten to eclipse the historic deluge of March, 1991, which killed nearly 500. Another round of heavy rain is possible later this week, as additional moisture from the remnants of tropical cyclone Chedza reaches the area.


Tropical Cyclone Mekkhala Swerves Away From Manila As Pope Commemorates Haiyan Victims


A visit by Pope Francis to the Philippines to commemorate the 7,000 victims of 2013’s Super-Typhoon Haiyan was threatened by a tropical cyclone, but the 50-mile-per-hour storm veered north at the last moment, allowing the Pope, attired in a plastic raincoat, to hold a service in Manila.


Divine intervention? You decide. Meteorologists only know the atmospheric flow changed slightly to push Mekkhala farther north than they had initially anticipated.


December, 2014 And Full-Year 2014 Are Warmest Ever


NOAA and NASA have both issued their final accounting of temperature for December and full-year 2014. It was a foregone conclusion that temperatures would set new records. December was the sixth month of the year to establish a new record for warmth; 2014 is the hottest on record and the first to break the old record in a year in which there was no official El Niño.

Decoded Science will have a full review of the data on Wednesday.

Decoded Science Tectonics expert Jennifer Young reports that the wind has subsided in Edinburgh, Scotland. Courgette is over.


In a separate report, NOAA finds that the arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world.


Measurements of the albedo over Greenland confirm the feedback mechanism that is suspected to be at work: The reduction in ice cover is lowering the albedo, the reflective power of the surface of the earth.


As a result, the ground is absorbing more of the sun’s radiation and in turn heating the arctic atmosphere.


Winter’s Not Over In Northern Europe, But Extreme Weather Event Courgette Has Ended


The unusually cold and windy weather that northern Europe has experienced the last month, named Extreme Weather Event Courgette by Decoded Science, is officially over.

The weather in that region will return to normal, which is to say merely awful rather than abominable. Temperatures will moderate and winds will calm down to simply strong as opposed to hurricane-force.

The jet stream forecast for next Monday shows the ridge on the west coast holding, while the dip over the eastern United States continues to bring cold weather. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.


Who’s Winning The WAR?


The acronym for Weather Around the World (WAR) is a fitting description of what goes on in the atmosphere. Decoded Science has pointed out that one of the flashpoints in this ongoing battle is between the nascent El Niño and the unusually warm water in the eastern North Pacific. El Niño had the upper hand for a while and brought heavy rain to southern California. But recently the omega block of high pressure in the jet stream has returned to the west coast.

Long term forecasts suggest that a continuation of this pattern will keep El Niño at bay — and keep the eastern part of the United States in a deep freeze.


On the other side of the Atlantic, the jet stream flow has eased, Courgette is over, and a new pattern is emerging, with a southern branch of the jet stream bringing storms to northern Africa.


Another Year. Another New Record For Warmth?


The average global air and sea temperature in 2014 was 58.24 degrees Fahrenheit. If Las Vegas was setting odds, the over/under for 2015 would probably be 58.31, an increase of the same amount by which 2014 broke the old record.


As the global air and sea temperatures set new monthly and yearly records, flora and fauna are changing their ranges and habits. How is global warming affecting things where you live?

Week Four


Naturally the big news this Tuesday is the massive snowstorm in the northeast United States — Winter Storm Garbanzo Bean.

But the west is balmy and tranquil. In addition, there’s a tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean, a continuing drought in California, and a favorable forecast for the Super Bowl.

Let’s go Around the World.

This map says it all: Winter storm warning (pink); blizzard warning (bright orange); storm warning (purple); hurricane-force wind warning (not-so-bright orange). Graphic courtesy of NOAA.


Juno (AKA Garbanzo Bean) Will Long Be Remembered For Wind, Snow, And Cold


Winter Storm Garbanzo Bean is nearly a perfect storm.

All the periodicities of the atmosphere have contrived to create a massive whirlpool a couple of hundred miles off the Atlantic coast. Here are some of the features of Garbanzo Bean:

As the pressure drops, the wind will increase to near hurricane force.


The after-effect of the previous storm was a mass of very cold air which came south as the storm raced into Canada. High pressure building to the north is keeping the cold air in place, so that all areas will receive snow.


As the storm occludes (the cold front catches up with the warm front, forcing the warm air to rise), it will become vertically structured with low pressure at all levels. When a storm reaches this stage, it moves slowly, so the snow will fall for a long time.


An inch of rain is about equivalent to a foot of snow, with variations that depend on temperature. The Atlantic Ocean is an unlimited pool of moisture, and three inches would not be considered an excessive amount of rain. Yet this much rain would produce three feet of snow.

With temperatures so cold, the snow is lighter than normal and may pile up at a rate of 15  inches to an inch of melted water.


With winds commonly gusting over 40 miles per hour, snow will be driven into drifts that can be many feet high. Plowed roadways may fill up quickly with blowing snow.

Salt loses effectiveness in melting snow as the temperature drops. Especially as Garbanzo Bean passes and winds shift to the north, no longer traveling over warm (relatively) water, the temperature will drop and the water-salt mixture on roads could re-freeze.


Coastal Flooding Will Not Be As Severe As It Could Have Been


Tides along the Massachusetts coast will be about average today and tomorrow. If the storm had occurred last week, tides would have been running one to two feet higher. Some coastal areas will flood, but probably not extensively.


The outer beaches of Cape Cod will see significant changes. In particular, Chatham and Nauset inlets may move as sand covers the existing openings and gouges out new ones.


It Isn’t Cold And Stormy Everywhere


When the jet stream contorts to produce a storm in one place, it probably compensates somewhere else:

p<>{color:#000;}. Many cities in Washington, including Olympia and Seattle, have reported high temperature records the last three days.

p<>{color:#000;}. Buffalo, Wyoming broke its high temperature record yesterday — a record which stood for 111 years — with a balmy 67.

p<>{color:#000;}. A reading of 60 degrees at South Lake Tahoe, California Monday broke the old record set 101 years earlier.

p<>{color:#000;}. Redmond, Oregon had a new high temperature record Monday.

p<>{color:#000;}. Wichita, Kansas reached 73 on Monday, a new record for the date.


In all, high temperature records were broken in at least ten states.


Tropical Cyclone 08S is spinning harmlessly in the Indian Ocean. Another storm could form farther west and eventually threaten Madagascar. Satellite photo courtesy of US Navy.


New Tropical Cyclone In The Indian Ocean


A tropical cyclone has formed in the Indian Ocean. So far it only has the unimaginative name 08S. Most likely it will acquire a more distinctive name today, reach strong tropical storm strength on Wednesday, and then peter out in the cold water of the south Indian Ocean.

It may briefly affect the ongoing search for the missing Malaysian airliner MH370 with some moderate waves off the coast of Australia.

Another area of disturbed weather west of 08S could develop into a tropical cyclone during the week and eventually head for Madagascar.


The Polar Vortex Settles In Over Eastern Canada


The overall weather pattern resembles that of winter 2013-14 except that the polar vortex is farther east, allowing the warm dry weather to settle over the intermountain west, while the east coast suffers extreme cold and storminess. The midwest gets a break, feeling some of the western warmth between periods of cold, but no extreme weather.


Extreme drought conditions continue in much of California. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

Drought Continues In California


Despite the heavy rains of November, southern and central California are still in extreme drought. A return to the dry pattern that has persisted through the past several years promises no relief.


Modest El Niño conditions still prevail in the tropical Pacific, but nascent El Niño Eggplant is having trouble growing a root system and producing any fruit. The water temperature anomaly (much warmer than normal) in the Gulf of Alaska still is the dominant force in the weather of the west coast of the United States.


Super Weather For Super Sunday


There could be some showers in Glendale, Arizona Thursday through Saturday, but the weather should clear by Sunday and temperatures at game time will be in the 60s, perfect for football.

Decoded Science went 2-0 with predictions for the conference championships. Intrepid we remain, and boldly and confidently forecast a Repeat for the Seahawks, as Brady is unable to handle the properly inflated balls or Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom. Seattle 19, New England 10.


Latest Reports On Garbanzo Bean


New York seems to have ‘escaped’ with only a foot of snow, as Garbanzo’s snow shield moved past more rapidly than expected. Twenty-inch depths are reported on Long Island, and Boston is sure to surpass two feet. A historic storm for sure. But a legacy of global warming? Only a definite probability.


January Global Temperature And Precipitation: Some Surprises, But Basically Warm



This map shows departures of temperature from the January average. It was cold in eastern Canada, the northeast US, Australia, and northwest Russia. Europe, eastern Russia, China, and the western US and Canada were warmer than normal. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.


NOAA released its detailed monthly analysis of global temperature and precipitation this week. For the first time in six months, January was not the warmest of any corresponding month — just the second warmest — when air and sea temperatures were averaged.


Overview Of January Temperatures


During the last half of 2014, sea surface temperatures (SST) set new monthly highs, while land temperatures, while in the top ten warmest years, generally didn’t threaten the records.

In January, land temperatures were the second highest ever recorded, while SSTs were only the third highest for any January. The years with higher ocean temperatures both had strong El Niños.


Highlights Of The January Temperature Analysis


The Gulf of Alaska and nearby northeast Pacific Ocean were very much warmer than normal in January, continuing the trend of the past fifteen months. Adjacent areas of Alaska, western Canada, and the northwest US were influenced by the ocean water temperatures and recorded well-above-normal readings.


Surface temperatures are highly correlated with bulges in the jet stream, and the past 15 months have been characterized by a ridge in the jet stream over the eastern Pacific and western North America.


The corollary to this has been a pronounced dip in the jet stream over eastern North America (the polar vortex), and that shows up in colder than normal temperatures at the surface.


In the Pacific Ocean, warm anomalies along the equator and in the Gulf of Alaska are fighting for control of the weather pattern over North America. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.


Waters of the equatorial Pacific continue to run above normal, as they have for about six months. This very modest El Niño — Decoded Science calls it El Niño Eggplant, though it does not quite get over the bar of NOAAs definition — has influenced the weather in the western US a couple of times, most notably in November, when southern California received considerable rain.


In January, however, the warm waters of the northeast Pacific were dominant, and little rain fell in all of California — in fact no rain at all in San Francisco. This was the first time San Francisco has had a rainless January.


The waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and western North Atlantic were all above normal. Other things being equal, this would imply a busy hurricane season to come.


China recorded its warmest January, but records only go back to 1961. Nevertheless, China is a big place, and a record temperature over such a large area is significant.


Different Atmospheres For Different Hemispheres


Though the northern and southern hemispheres both measured well above average temperatures, there were significant differences:


p<>{color:#000;}. Land temperatures were third warmest in the northern hemisphere, but only 19th warmest in the southern hemisphere.

p<>{color:#000;}. Ocean temperatures were the warmest ever in the northern hemisphere and fifth warmest in the southern hemisphere.

p<>{color:#000;}. Land and ocean combined were second warmest in the northern hemisphere and seventh warmest in the southern hemisphere.


A Possible Explanation For The Differences Between The Hemispheres: Sea Ice

The extent of sea ice in Antarctica in January was the greatest on record. This would account for the cold temperature anomaly of waters in the southern oceans, and the relatively colder southern hemisphere as a whole relative to the northern hemisphere.


Arctic sea ice extent in January was the third lowest on record. Arctic temperatures as reported by the Danish Meteorological Institute continue to run about five degrees above the long-term average as they have every winter since 2006.


The map of global precipitation over land in January, 2015 shows that California and Brazil were dry, while moat of Europe and Argentina were wet. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.


January Precipitation Highlights


Precipitation is highly variable from month to month. Nevertheless, we can discern some trends.

Europe was mostly wetter than normal, with the exception of the Iberian Peninsula.

Western Australia was dry.


p<>{color:#000;}. Portions of western and extreme southern Africa were dry.

p<>{color:#000;}. The northern and southern tips of south America were dry.

p<>{color:#000;}. Part of Argentina was extremely wet.


The map of state-by-state January precipitation shows the west coast very dry, with wet spots in the southwest and mid-Atlantic. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.


Precipitation In The United States


Aside from the very dry January in the US west, part of an ongoing drought, there were variations in the rest of the country.

Only parts of the southwest and mid-Atlantic received above-normal precipitation.

Much of the rest of the country was drier than normal, including the central plains, central Rockies, intermountain west, and midwest.


Nature’s Tug Of War Continues


El Niño Eggplant is fighting with the warm Alaskan waters for control of the weather pattern over the US west coast. This, in turn, determines the weather in the eastern US.

Northern and southern hemispheric polar areas have diverged in their temperature anomalies; this trend has been in place for years and is hard to explain.

The future of the climate is up in the air — but it would be foolish to bet against warm.


(Return to Table of Contents)



Week One


Residents of the northeast had just finished digging out from record-breaking Winter Storm Garbanzo Bean when double-whammy Horseradish put down more snow yesterday as meteorologists debated whether they were blizzards or not.



The jet stream forecast for Saturday shows a flattening, which will bring rain to California and less storminess in the east. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.


In the Pacific, a low-level El Niño persists, the California drought sets a record, and there’s health news off the coast of Africa. Let’s go Around The World.


Were Winter Storms Garbanzo Bean And Horseradish Blizzards?


Controversy swirls around the definition of ‘blizzard’ the way snow swirled around Boston Common in the recent storms.


The National Weather Service has stealthily tweaked its definition, and Garbanzo was much more of a blizzard than it would have been by the old standard. Horseradish, a relatively modest storm, also qualified.


What was the change? The words “or frequent gusts” were added to the 35-mile-per-hour sustained wind requirement.


It makes a difference, especially in urban settings, where buildings alter the natural flow of air. Lulls in the wind interspersed with violent gusts are common in cities.

By the new definition, Boston had blizzard conditions for over 9 hours in Garbanzo Bean and Chicago reached the threshold of three hours of qualifying conditions in Horseradish.

A storm is a storm, and a big storm is a big storm. Regardless of whether or how long Garbanzo was a blizzard, it was a blockbuster storm. Let’s review some of the details:


p<>{color:#000;}. Winds gusted to hurricane force over Cape Cod and Nantucket.

p<>{color:#000;}. A swath of 30 plus inches of snow crossed Connecticut and Massachusetts, with some locations topping out at over three feet.

p<>{color:#000;}. The wind toppled a replica of a Continental Tall Ship in Newport, Rhode Island.

p<>{color:#000;}. More than a foot of snow fell from New Jersey to Maine.

p<>{color:#000;}. Wind-whipped waves breached a seawall in Marshfield, Massachusetts and destroyed homes.

p<>{color:#000;}. Due to the advance warning for Garbanzo Bean, governments restricted travel in an unprecedented number of states. Boston was completely closed last Tuesday. Because of the preparations, recovery has been more rapid than after past storms.


El Niño Eggplant Simmers On


NOAAs El Niño update as of January 26 continues to indicate warmer than normal water temperatures across the equatorial Pacific, and Decoded Science has named this event El Niño Eggplant even though it does not reach the NOAA definition of El Niño. NOAA predicts a better than even chance of an official El Niño in the next couple of months, ending in spring or summer.


Regardless of the official status of this warm-water event, NOAA predicts that the slightly above-average SSTs will continue through the summer, with worldwide weather implications.

This is the longest period between official El Niños in records dating to the mid 20th century. The reason for and likely results of this are not clear.


A January Rainfall Record For San Francisco: Nada


The official rain gauge in downtown San Francisco was high and dry the entire month of January, the first time that has ever happened in 165 years of record-keeping.

The average rainfall in San Francisco in January is over four inches, and the previous record of .06 inches was set — last year. And the drought goes on. December rains brought hopes of a permanent change in the weather pattern, so January was a disappointment.

Indications are that the northern half of California, including San Francisco, will receive substantial rain later this week. But not nearly enough to break the drought.


Phil Sees His Shadow: Brrrrr


Punxsutawney Phil (a groundhog) came out of his hole yesterday long enough to forecast six more weeks of winter. Then he crawled back in.

Rumor has it that there is wifi in Phil’s burrow. If that’s true, Phil knows that the latest two-week forecast indicates colder than normal temperatures in Pennsylvania.

If Phil has consulted his almanac, he knows that the temperature will rise, on average, about a quarter of a degree per day from now until March 16, slowly at first and at an accelerated rate in March. By mid-March it will be warm enough — about 44 in the daytime — for him to emerge, whether it’s sunny or not.


More Rodent News: Rats Spread Plague In Madagascar After Heavy Rains


Twin January Tropical Cyclones Bejisa and Chedza left Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa, soggy this week, raising the prospect of increasing numbers of cases of bubonic plague, which is endemic to the island.


Fleas spread plague from rats to humans. The recent rains have flooded rat habitat, and forced them into more flea-friendly territory. Flea eradication programs are endangered by the growing resistance of fleas to insecticides.


In addition, in about 8% of bubonic plague cases, the infecting bacteria reach the lungs, turning the disease into pneumonic plague, which can then spread from human to human.


World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Says 2014 Hottest Year


The WMO has joined NOAA, NASA, the UK Met Office and others in telling us what we already knew: 2014 was the hottest year in modern history. In a press release dated Feb. 2, the WMO notes that 93% of the heat from the burning of fossil fuels ends up in the ocean. It also reminds us that the extreme weather events of 2014 are “consistent with the expectation of a changing climate.”

The warm water in the Gulf of Alaska is fighting with the warm water along the equator for dominance over the weather pattern in the US. Graphic courtesy of NOAA


The Tug-Of-War Goes On In The Pacific


As Decoded Science has been reporting, there is a battle in the Pacific Ocean for meteorological dominance between the warm water in the Gulf of Alaska and warm equatorial water. The former produces the pattern we’ve had for January and the latter gave California its December rain.

The Gulf of Alaska forces have clearly had the upper hand recently, but the pattern is again changing. A more neutral jet stream is developing, so rainy weather systems will reach down the west coast to at least central California.


Spring: When Will It Come?


Consistent with a flattening jet stream, the polar vortex will relax and the stormy weather in the eastern US will ease, but longer-range forecasts, always of questionable validity, indicate a return to stormy weather on the east coast towards the end of February.

Though Phil crawled back in his hole, spring is sure to come. What are the signs of it in your neighborhood?


Week Two


Record cold temperatures in the eastern US are balanced by record heat in the west. Record snow falls in Boston; rain floods Albania; downpours douse parts of California that haven’t seen a drop of rain in over a month.


El Niño Eggplant is still cooking, and there’s even a typhoon in the northern hemisphere. Let’s go Around The World.


The forecast for high temperatures for the next five days shows who’s red (warm) and who’s blue (cold). Forecast courtesy of NOAA.


Storm-A-Week Boston Gets Its Third


After a very slow start to the snowy season in the northeast (less than 8 inches in Boston before mid-January), the jet stream has delivered a triple whammy in the last three weeks.

Children cheered and commuters complained as weather system Cayenne added a foot in the last few days to the several feet deposited by Garbanzo Bean and Horseradish. As of Monday morning, Boston’s 61 inches had broken its record for snowiest 30-day period since meteorologists started keeping track in 1880. And snow was still falling.


Boston normally gets 60% of its winter precipitation in the form of rain. But a cold high pressure system has pressed down from Canada to make these three storms all snow. An inch of rain is equivalent to a foot of snow, so it really doesn’t take much to pile up the white stuff.

The average melted precipitation in Boston is about 3.7 inches per month in the winter. Melted, the total precipitation is only 40% above normal this year — but that’s little consolation to weary shovelers.


Bitter Cold To Follow Snow


As Cayenne departs, the polar vortex will plunge south and bring bone-chilling temperatures to the entire eastern half of the country. The cold is likely to set records and will probably last at least two weeks.


US Split Between Red And Blue States — And We’re Not Talking Politics


Though the temperature of the earth has been rising by a degree per century, there is little fluctuation from day-to-day. So if it’s cold in one place, you can be sure it’s warm in another.

While the east gets ready for record cold, the west has been basking in the opposite. High temperature records were set in 11 states on Monday. The graphic above makes the temperature pattern clear.


What’s Causing The Extreme Temperatures?

This large low pressure system near Alaska has brought the movement of weather systems to a crawl. The typhoon is just discernible at the lower left. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.


In the long-term, climate change is likely to produce more extreme weather. But the identifiable culprit this time is a large low pressure center south of Alaska which has brought atmospheric movement to a standstill. Instead of moving west to east, weather systems are moving north to south or just not moving at all.


As the Alaskan low has deepened, the high pressure ridge over the western US has intensified, and so has the low pressure swirl — the polar vortex — over eastern Canada.

High pressure in the west and low pressure in the east sets up a direct pipeline (no Congressional approval needed) from high latitudes to the heartland.


In the Deep South, the cold is likely to be muted. But the northeast and midwest will experience a feedback effect that will make it just a little bit colder than it would otherwise be.


Albedo And Temperature


Some of the radiation that reaches the earth from the sun is absorbed by the ground (and a little bit by the atmosphere itself). But some of it is reflected back to space. The percentage of incoming radiation reflected is called the albedo.


Different types of materials produce different albedos; lighter colors reflect better than darker ones. Snow’s albedo is very high; so where there is a heavy layer of white stuff on the ground, much of the sun’s heat is sent zooming back where it came from.


The Weather Is Bogged Down Everywhere


When the jet stream gets bent out of shape in one place, it’s likely to happen around the globe. A slow-moving low pressure system has been dumping heavy rain on the Balkans, and Albania has experienced serious flooding.


There is no indication that the clogged arteries of jet stream flow will clear any time soon, so southern Europe should prepare for more stormy weather.


El Niño Eggplant Still Simmering


NOAAs February 5 update on El Niño is highly unchanged from the previous month’s: 50-60% chance of an El Niño this winter or spring. Decoded Science has named this event El Niño Eggplant because, though water temperature departures from normal don’t quite meet the requirements of NOAAs El Niño definition, they are sufficiently warm to produce worldwide effects like the November and recent rains in California.

Typhoon Higos is moving north over the Pacific Ocean and will be absorbed by the low pressure system near Alaska. Forecast courtesy of US Navy.


It’s Typhoon Season In The North Pacific Ocean All Year


A typhoon in the dead of winter. It could only happen in the western Pacific.

Tropical Storm 02W became Typhoon Higos yesterday. It is headed out into the open waters of the Pacific, probably to be absorbed in the low south of Alaska.

Top winds will reach 140 miles per hour, making Higos an unusually strong winter typhoon. Super-Typhoons (winds over 150 miles per hour) are confined to the summer months.


How Long Will The Jet Stream Be Clogged?


As of now, there is no certainty that the cold in the eastern US or the rain in the Balkans will ease any time soon. Pretzelization of the jet stream occurs from time to time. Undoubtedly the pattern will return to normal at some point.


But the end result of global warming is unknown. What’s changing where you live?


Week Three


What a wild week of weather the US has experienced. But signs of spring are popping up. Europe is back to above normal temperatures, and the few residents of northwest Australia get a tropical cyclone.


Let’s go Around the World.


The forecast for Friday evening shows that the lobe of the polar vortex associated with Yeti has a firm grip on the eastern US. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.


Yeti, Iceberg, Dill, Neptune, Octavia. Who Can Keep Track Of The Names?


Decoded Science has consolidated Extreme Weather Events Iceberg Lettuce and Dill into a single ongoing weather event — Yeti. It saves space and is more expressive.

The Weather Channel insists on naming every foul weather entity a ‘storm,’ so they now have Neptune and Octavia. Until TWC can define ‘storm,’ Decoded Science thinks it’s better just to name the longer-term events.

Yeti is characterized by a displaced polar vortex with an embedded powerful jet stream around its periphery. Stormy weather is possible anywhere along the axis of the jet stream.


Northeast Tries To Dig Out But The Snow Keeps Coming


For several weeks, the vortex associated with Yeti has been centered over eastern North America. Storms have particularly impacted Boston and northern New England. Boston has surpassed every record available for the breaking, including snowiest all-time month.

Interestingly, February’s 46 inches and counting surpasses the old record set in January, 2005; the two snowiest years in 142 years of record-keeping have come in the 21st century — possibly a derivative effect of global warming, which is forecast to produce more extreme weather events.

The latest incarnation of Yeti will mostly bypass New England and concentrate on the mid-Atlantic after blanketing the midwest with snow and the deep south with ice, but Boston could end up with a couple of inches of snow.


Yeti’s Axis Of Action Shifts South


As the polar vortex has shifted south in the last few days, Yeti has taken aim at the Ohio Valley and the Deep South. A significant snowstorm has dropped up to a foot of snow on parts of Kentucky and Ohio, but the most serious consequesces of Yeti are from ice.


How Does An Ice Storm Develop?


Freezing rain storms are not common, but they can cause major damage due to superslick roads and toppled power lines. The specific ingreients are:

p<>{color:#000;}. Cold air at the surface — lower than 32 degrees.

p<>{color:#000;}. Warm air above the cold — higher than 32 degrees.

p<>{color:#000;}. The right amount of each.


Freezing rain scenario: Precipitation forms as snow at high altitudes, falls into the warm layer and melts, then freezes on contact with the ground. If the cold layer is too thick, the raindrops will re-freeze into sleet before they hit the ground; if the warm layer is too thin, the snowflakes will survive unmelted to the ground.


The South-Central And Southeast US Are Prime Spots For Freezing Rain


Cold air masses frequently invade the US from Canada in the winter. At the southern extent of a cold air mass, the temperature is just below freezing and the cold air wedge is shallow. The area from Oklahoma eastward to the Carolinas is close enough to the Gulf of Mexico so that when warm air streams north and rides over the cold air at the surface, freezing rain will fall.


The current flows of cold and warm air masses have created the perfect conditions for freezing rain, and damaging amounts have fallen from central Tennessee eastward to North Carolina. The primary harm comes from ice-coated tree limbs. When the thickness of the ice exceeds 1/4 inch, the added weight can cause the limbs to break and fall on power lines.


Ice-coated roadways and sidewalks are also dispruptive to orderly and safe movement of quadripedal vehicles and bipedal animals. Authorities reported 189 motor vehicle encounters of an unpleasant kind in Nashville alone on Monday.


Ice will continue to accumulate today in North Carolina. No doubt the 300,000 already without power in the south will be joined by others.


Crocuses Bloom In February In The Northwest


As the jet stream dips south in the east, it bulges north in the intermountain west and the west coast. While the the east suffers extreme cold, the West experiences record warm temperatures.  Unseasonal blossoming of spring flowers dots the landscapes of Washington and Oregon.

The new push of Yeti’s cold air will reach the Rockies but not be able to cross, as warm air holds its ground. Denver and Cheyenne will be on the battlefront, with temperatures seesawing from well below freezing to the fifties.

Decoded Science will have more on the western heat wave on Friday.


Tropical Cyclone Lam Will Strike Australia


Tropical Cyclone Lam is forecast to reach the strength of a category two hurricane before it makes landfall. Forecast courtesy of US Navy.

A small tropical cyclone, Lam, has developed over the Arafura Sea between Australia and Indonesian New Guinea. A tropical low in this part of the world has a hard time getting anywhere without smacking into a cyclone-killing land area.


Lam could reach category two hurricane strength (100 mile per hour winds) before making landfall in the Gore Peninsula, a relatively uninhabited part of northwest Australia. A buaxite mine and a few thousand people could be minimally affected before Lam blows itself out.

The Australian tropical cyclone season runs from November to April, but the most intense storms tend to come near the beginning or end of the season. At 84 degrees, the water is warm enough to support powerful cyclone formation. Last year, two category five cyclones formed in March.


Above Normal Temperatures Return To Northern Europe; Southern Europe Remains Rainy


After a bout of unpleasantly cold and windy weather (Severe Weather Event Courgette), northern European weather has reverted to last winter’s pattern of generally above average temperatures:

Berlin has been above normal since February 7, and the forecast calls for warm temperatures through the end of the month.


p<>{color:#000;}. Moscow has been above normal since early January and is forecast to stay warm through early March.

p<>{color:#000;}. Madrid had a recent cold spell, but has been warm for five days and is forecast to remain above normal through mid-March.

p<>{color:#000;}. Oslo has been above normal for the last ten days and is forecast to remain warm throgh early March.

p<>{color:#000;}. A southern branch of the jet stream is keeping southern Europe warm but rainy. The severe flooding that caused 82 deaths in Albania in the first week of February has subsided, but the weather pattern still indicates a threat of storms across southern Spain, Italy, Greece, Albania, and Bulgaria.


Spring, Anyone?


While residents of the east coast are sick of winter, westerners have hardly noticed that there was one. Weather patterns seem to be stuck in place, and there is little evidence that things will change any time soon.


Is it global warming that has gummed up the weather gears? Extreme weather is consitent with models of the atmosphere given increased greenhouse gases.

So what evidence of change do you see?


Week Four


There’s extreme weather thanks to the polar vortex. We learn that January’s global temperatures were not a record, and air pollution scales are tipped toward India. Also, a well-known climate change denier has been embarrassed by corporate funding tied to his research. Finally, NYCPCC has issued a dire warning, and ice has shut down the Great Lake-effect snow. 

Let’s go Around The World.


This map of the average high temperatures for the next five days shows Yeti firmly in control of the temperature. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.


Yeti Still Stomping On Eastern and Central US


Decoded Science (DS) and The Weather Channel (TWC) have diverged in their descriptions of the current weather over the eastern United States. TWC is naming storm after storm. DS prefers to think of the storms as interconnected, caused by an unusual repositioning of the polar vortex from northern Canada to southern Canada and the eastern US. DS has named the ongoing severe weather event Yeti.


Yeti has produced a series of pulses of precipitation along its southern boundary. Most recently, icy precipitation shut down the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is now affecting parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas with a mix of sleet and freezing rain.

Yeti’s Historic Cold Outbreak Of Air From Siberia


The pronounced loop in the jet stream associated with Yeti is allowing air to traverse a path from Siberia across Canada into the US. This is the coldest it can ever get in the central and eastern US, and temperature records have fallen faster than gas prices. Here is a sample of some of the temperature records set:


p<>{color:#000;}. Dallas: Yesterday (February 23) was the latest date on which the temperature did not go above freezing.

p<>{color:#000;}. Lynchburg, Virginia: Reached an all-time record low of -11 on February 20.

p<>{color:#000;}. Cleveland, Ohio: Set a new record low for the month of February at -17 on February 20.

p<>{color:#000;}. Erie, Pennsylvania: Tied the all-time record low of -18 on February 15.

p<>{color:#000;}. The cold is so widespread that if you threw a dart at the eastern US away from the immediate Gulf coast and Florida, you would hit a spot with new daily records.


Global Temperatures For January Did Not Set A New Record

The global temperature anomalies for January, 2015 showed it to be the second warmest on record. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.


For the first time in many months, the January average land and sea temperatures were not the warmest ever recorded — only the second warmest.


The most interesting part of the recent report is the change in the mix of temperature anomalies from warmer oceans to warmer land temperatures.

Decoded Science will have a full rundown of January temperatures worldwide on Thursday.


Who’s Got The Most Polluted Air? Surprise, It’s Not China


Three of the four most polluted cities in the world are now in India; New Delhi tops the list. The pollution is so bad that recent research shows that an average Indian lives three years less than he would if he breathed clean air.


The recent stopover in India by President Obama dramatized the problem: He is estimated to have lost six hours of life due to his brief visit.

Wheat and rice yields are starting to show the effects of pollution, and though the Indian government pays lip service to the problem, they are plunging ahead with an economic plan that includes doubling the use of coal in the next five years.


Anyone think that will solve the problem?


Well-known Climate-Change Denier’s ‘Research’ Explained


The oil industry loves Wei-Hock Soon, known to his friends as Willie. In fact they have loved him enough to give him over a million dollars to fund his research. Not surprisingly, that ‘research’ shows that global warming is a hoax and anyway the fossil fuel industry has nothing to do with it.

Willie Soon has been called to testify before Congress and is often cited by those with vested interests and those who are simply misguided in their beliefs to show the other side of the climate change debate. That’s one scientist, whose background is in aerospace engineering, against virtually every qualified meteorologist. But it has been enough to prop up the proposition that the planet is not warming at an alarming rate.

Now it turns out that Willie has published work in many journals that require disclosure of possible conflicts of interest without disclosing his funding by the fossil fuel industry.

In the end, the question is not whether the fossil fuel industry can find someone with a PhD who will say what they want to hear, but how long they will cling to the idea that burning fossil fuels does no harm the way the major tobacco companies clung to the notion that smoking wasn’t harmful.


New York City Panel On Climate Change (NYCPCC) Presents Dire Scenario


The NYCPCC, in its 2015 report, reviews evidence for climate change and the likely outcomes. They conclude that the debate has essentially ended; the question is not whether the earth is warming but how much.


In the worst case scenario, they find that sea level could rise six feet by the year 2100. They leave it to engineers and politicians to decide what to do if that happens.


Great Lake Effect Snow Shut Down


85% of the water of the Great Lakes is now covered with ice, and the percentage is likely to grow as Yeti holds the midwest in its icy grip. The flow of  air over open water creates Lake Effect snow, so the process is mostly shut down for the year.

Even areas of the larger lakes, Superior and Michigan, which often stay open for most of the winter, are now ice-covered.

Last year ice on Lake Superior lasted well into June, and this year those brave enough may have to wait even longer to have a swim that’s unimpeded by an encounter with a chunk of ice.


Winter In The Central U.S.


It’s still winter in the central U.S. – but spring can come on fast. Are there any signs of springtime where you live?

February 2015: Global Temperatures Start The Way 2014 Ended: Hot

This global analysis of land and sea temperatures for February shows very cold temperatures in the eastern US and very warm temperatures in Europe. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

NOAA has published its global air and sea temperatures for February of 2015. It was the second warmest February in the 135 years since atmospheric scientists began keeping records, following the second warmest January.

But, lest climate-change-deniers jump on this as evidence that global warming is leveling off, the data should be taken in longer-term historical context.

Together, January and February was the warmest such period ever, as was the Northern Hemisphere’s winter (December, January, and February), and the most recent calendar year (March, 2014 through February, 2015).

In fact any period ending with February and longer than a month is warmer than any preceding comparable period.

February Temperatures

For the second consecutive month, the air temperature was second warmest and the sea surface temperature (SST) was the third warmest. This follows several months of soaring SSTs and stagnant air temperatures. Though the average departure was about a degree and a half above the long-term average for combined land and sea temperatures, several large departures (both positive and negative) are conspicuous. Here are some of the highlights:

p<>{color:#000;}. Cold temperature departures of more than five degrees in the eastern United States stand out in dark blue on the map in contrast to the warm temperatures (red) almost everywhere else.

p<>{color:#000;}. Much of the US west of the Rocky Mountains had temperatures more than five degrees above normal.

p<>{color:#000;}. Very warm temperatures — as much as ten degrees above average — stretched across northern Europe and northern Russia.

p<>{color:#000;}. Australia was very warm — the second warmest February on record.

p<>{color:#000;}. The warm water anomaly in the Gulf of Alaska continued. Temperatures in Alaska followed suit.

p<>{color:#000;}. The SST in the central Pacific Ocean continues to be somewhat above normal — a weak El Niño condition.

p<>{color:#000;}. Large parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America were well above average.

p<>{color:#000;}. Spain and adjacent northern Africa bucked the global trend by recording below average temperatures.

The land-only temperatures for February were more than three degrees above the 20th century average for only the second time.

The sea-only February temperatures were the third highest on record, behind 1998 and 2010, both years with strong El Niños.

This jet stream analysis from February 13 is typical of the month. It shows a trough in the eastern US and a ridge in the west. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.

The Weather Pattern Over The US In February

A relentless deep trough in the jet stream brought record-breaking cold and snow to the eastern US in February, while a ridge on the west coast caused record-breaking warmth and a continuation of the California drought.

This general pattern has been in effect since last winter.

There are indications that the El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, despite the fact that it’s weak, could break the pattern and bring beneficial rain to California and relief from the cold in the eastern US.

Seeing will be believing, and in any case, the change of seasons will inevitably bring a warmup to the eastern states.

Temperatures For December, January, And February Combined

Global temperatures for the winter months were similar to those of February, but there were hemispheric differences:

The Northern Hemisphere had a clean sweep of hottest temperatures for combined land and sea, land only, and sea only. The Southern Hemisphere reported their fourth, ninth, and fourth warmest respectively. Keep in mind that it was summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The map of February precipitation for land-based observations shows the drought in California continuing. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

February Precipitation

Trends in precipitation are much harder to discern because they are subject to large single-occurrence events.

Consider this about precipitation statistics for all but the rainiest places. The mode (the number that occurs most often) of daily precipitation is ZERO. In other words, more days have no rain than have rain.

The median (the middle number if you line them up from least to greatest) is, therefore, also ZERO.

The arithmetic mean (what we normally think of as the average: the sum of all the numbers divided by the number of numbers) is about a tenth of an inch, but more than ten inches can fall in a single day.

Some of the highlights of February precipitation:

p<>{color:#000;}. The terrible drought in California, now in its fourth year, continued.

p<>{color:#000;}. Central Europe was very dry.

p<>{color:#000;}. A swath of wet weather, coinciding with a southern branch of the jet stream, stretched from the Mediterranean across the Middle East and into central Asia.

p<>{color:#000;}. Parts of southern South America were very wet.

p<>{color:#000;}. Guam in the North Pacific Ocean had its driest February ever.

p<>{color:#000;}. Vanuatu in the South Pacific had a very dry February before devastating Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam struck in March.

Ice And Snow Cover

The total sea ice extent for the Arctic and Antarctic combined was 120,00 Square miles below the 1980-2010 average. As usual, the Arctic ice extent shrank and the Antarctic ice extent grew. there is still no adequate explanation for this dichotomy.

The Northern Hemisphere’s snow cover in February was 230,000 square miles above the 1981-2010 average. This is consistent with global warming because warmer air holds more moisture. There are still plenty of places where it’s cold enough to snow.

The World Is Getting Hotter

The earth is warming due to an increase in greenhouse gases. Birds migrate earlier; fish spawn earlier; flowers bloom earlier. What evidence of climate change do you see?

Let Decoded Science know with a comment.


(Return to Table of Contents)



Week One


In most places in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, the temperature rises more during March than during any other month.


In addition, temperatures in the north rise more rapidly than in the south. The difference in average maximum temperature between Chicago and Dallas is 26 degrees at the end of January; 23 at end of February; 20 at the end of March; and 14 at the end of April.

This graph shows that the temperature at O’Hare Airport in Chicago normally rises the most during March. But will it do so this year? Graph courtesy of NOAA.


A weakening of the temperature gradient (change of temperature with distance) is correlated with a weakening of the jet stream.

Currently, the powerful jet stream associated with Weather Event Yeti is holding fast in the eastern US. But long-range forecasts suggest a change is coming by mid-March. Not only will the jet stream weaken, bringing an end to Extreme Weather Event Yeti — the pattern of waves might reverse.

The US, with its ongoing battle against Yeti, is the focus of this week’s weather, but there’s news from the Pacific Ocean and Asia too. Let’s go Around The World.


The Long And The Short Of Waves In The Jet Stream


The long-wave pattern in the jet stream tends to have four or five dips around the globe. These dips (troughs) move slowly, if at all.

As the long waves hold their positions, short waves ripple through. An especially strong short wave can reconfigure the jet stream. Depending on where the short wave amplifies, the longer wave may prograde (move eastward, with the flow) or retrograde (move westward, against the flow)

This is the jet stream forecast for Friday. The ridge on the west coast has cut off and a branch of the jet stream is forming to its south. This could become a trough where the ridge was and set in motion a flip-flop of the wave pattern. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.


Cutting Off Can Force A Major Change In The Long-Wave Pattern


Sometimes a low or high pressure system will become so magnified that it cuts itself off from the main flow. When this happens, the entire long-wave structure of the atmosphere can reverse.

When a low cuts off, a ridge can form, bypassing the low and the entire pattern flip-flops. Similarly, when a high pressure cuts off, the jet stream may form a branch at a lower latitude and become a trough where the ridge was.


Some forecasts suggest that such a reversal of the jet stream pattern will occur over the US during March.


El Niño Eggplant Goes On: NOAA About To Recognize It


Water temperatures in the central Pacific are above normal. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.


Decoded Science named El Niño Eggplant a couple of months ago. NOAA’s arcane definition requires five consecutive  3-month overlapping periods of at least a half degree departure from normal in sea surface temperature in the central Pacific.

February marked the end of the fourth such consecutive three-month periods, and unless something unexpected happens in March, NOAA will declare an El Niño at the end of the month.


There isn’t any difference in effect between an official El Niño and El Niño-like conditions. NOAA needs to update its criteria for declaring an El Niño.


El Niños are correlated with a jet stream flow from near Hawaii into the southwest US, often referred to as the Pineapple Express. This flow brings rain to California.


Since the waters near Alaska are still anomalously warm, and this tends to create dry conditions in California, there has been a tug-of-war going on. November and early February were rainy on the California coast and January was dry.


Water temperatures in the tropical Pacific are notoriously hard to predict. The latest forecast calls for the weak El Niño to peak in late spring. Conditions are expected to return to neutral in the late summer and fall.


El Niños are also correlated with subdued tropical storm activity in the Atlantic, so the strength and duration of El Niño Eggplant is of critical importance to next summer’s Atlantic hurricane forecast.


The weak El Niño conditions that began last summer appeared to depress overall tropical activity in the Atlantic (all systems reaching tropical storm intensity), though the numbers of hurricanes and major hurricanes were average.


Another Facet Of Yeti: Fog


As warm air overspreads the cold or frozen landscapes that Yeti visited last week, fog can form. The warm air flowing from the Gulf of Mexico is laden with moisture. As it passes over the colder surfaces, the air is cooled below the dew point. Since cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm, some of the moisture must condense into tiny water droplets: fog.

Raleigh, Savannah, and Houston had visibilities under a mile Monday morning. This morning, Houston and New Orleans are reporting visibilities under one-quarter mile.


As the warm air works its way north and passes over the snow cover, fog could become very widespread today and tomorrow.


Avalanches In Afghanistan


As if the country didn’t have enough problems already, avalanches, the worst in thirty years, hit a mountainous area north of Kabul, Afghanistan last week. Heavy snow appears to have precipitated the fifty or more avalanches that have killed at lest 200 people.

Avalanches occur preferentially in the spring, when the old snow pack has hardened into a layer of compacted ice and snow. Any disturbance can shatter the sheet and the resulting granular frozen particles cascade down a hill. The disturbance is most often an additional heavy snowfall, as was the case here.


Avalanches are related to mudslides in that they depend on the angle of repose (the angle a pile of the stuff would make with the ground if allowed to settle) of the particles of soil or ice involved. Fresh snow has a higher angle of repose than ice granules (as dry ground has a higher angle of repose than water and soil mixed), so when the compacted snow sheet is broken into small ice particles, the whole volume of ice and snow rolls down the hill.

You won’t see this very often. No tropical activity over the Pacific or Indian Oceans. The Atlantic is always quiet at this time of year. Satellite photo courtesy of US Navy.


The Coast is Clear; No Tropical Activity


It should be the height of the tropical cyclone season in the southern hemisphere, and the western North Pacific Ocean can produce tropical storms in any month. But currently there is no tropical activity– not even a suspicious area — anywhere on earth. Nobody is complaining about this.


What’s Up With Spring?


You know it has to come, although in Boston, where four inches of snow will break the all-time winter record, that may not be so obvious. What evidence of spring is there in your neighborhood? Let us know with a comment.

Week Two


It’s a busy week in the weather world: El Niño in the Pacific, tropical cyclones in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, warm weather in Europe, new atmospheric CO2 record imminent, flooding in Kentucky, and hazardous surf for spring breakers in Florida. Let’s go Around The World.


What El Niño? Oh, THAT El Niño


NOAA has finally decided that the warmer than normal SSTs in the equatorial Pacific deserve the designation El Niño. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.


Three months ago, Decoded Science named El Niño Eggplant. Last week NOAA got around to recognizing that there is an El Niño.


It’s not that they didn’t notice; the conditions didn’t quite satisfy their definition. As near as this reporter can tell, they still don’t. But let’s not quibble; there’s been an El Niño for several months. It has already affected the weather and probably will continue to do so at least until summer.


The first noticeable effect of El Niño Eggplant was the heavy rain in southern California in November — the heaviest in two years. Since then there has been another round of rainfall — in record amounts — in early February.


Hurricane forecasters are struggling to determine whether El Niño Eggplant will last long enough to subdue hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean this year.


Europe Warms

The jet stream forecast for this evening shows a split which brings warm wether to northern Europe and cold weather to northern Africa. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.


Last winter’s weather pattern has returned to Europe. A split in the jet stream has produced warm temperatures in northern Europe, near normal in southern Europe, and cool weather in northern Africa and the Middle East. Here are a few highlights:


p<>{color:#000;}. London‘s daytime high temperature has been above average every day since February 15.

p<>{color:#000;}. Edinburgh reached 50 the last five days. (thru Monday).

p<>{color:#000;}. Berlin was 62 on sunday — 21 degrees above average. All of Germany has been above average for over a month.

p<>{color:#000;}. Since a cold spell at the end of January, Moscow has been continuously above average, reaching 50 on Monday for the first time since October.

p<>{color:#000;}. Temperatures in Rome and Athens have been close to average the last month.

p<>{color:#000;}. Temperatures in Libya, Egypt, Turkey, and Israel have been below normal for about a month.


Ohio River Floods Louisville From Snowmelt


Last week’s record snow in Kentucky stopped traffic for days. Now residents have to deal with the aftermath — melting snow leading to rising rivers.

When it rains, the water disburses efficiently as it hits the ground. But snow piles up; if it all melts at once, flooding is more serious than if the same amount of water fell as rain. Much of the snow melted yesterday and flowed into the Ohio River, which flooded parts of Louisville. The river is expected to crest around noon today, as rain exacerbates the flooding.


Rip Currents In Ft. Lauderdale For Spring Break


College students are descending on south Florida for the annual ritual of blowing off steam. Some of that takes place in the surf, and this week surf’s up. Surfers appreciate the four-foot breakers, but there’s a danger in the roiled waters — riptide.

A rip current often forms where there’s a break in the sand bar. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Riptides, or rip currents, are not very mysterious. When the wind blows towards the beach — this is what makes the surfing waves — the water has to go somewhere, basically back where it came from, out to sea.


So while the surface water piles up on the shore, a reverse flow underneath returns the water to the deep. Turbulence or a change in the bottom contour can bring the seaward flowing water to the surface in narrow bands — rip currents.


Rip currents can be powerful enough to thwart the attempts of even the strongest swimmer to return to shore. Luckily, we’re dealing with a conservation principle here: The ocean is staying where it is, so the flows towards and away from the shore must balance. The conventional wisdom is to swim parallel to shore and soon you’ll reach a place where the current is more favorable. Or if you have more time, just ride it out to sea a short distance until it peters out and swim back to shore at an angle.


Cyclones In The Indian And Pacific Oceans


A minor cyclone named Haliba will lose strength as it heads away from Madagascar and into the southern Indian Ocean.

Tropical Cyclone Pam will pass safely northeast of New Zealand. Graphic courtesy of US Navy.


A more important cyclone, Pam, is gathering steam in the Pacific Ocean north of New Zealand. Pam’s winds will top out at 140 miles per hour, which would make it the equivalent of a category four hurricane.

Pam will transition to an extra-tropical cyclone as it passes several hundred miles northeast of New Zealand.

Tropical cyclones affect New Zealand about once each year. Cyclone Bola struck New Zealand the second week of March in 1988 and did extensive damage. Bola, a western south Pacific storm, should not be confused with north Indian Ocean Cyclone Bhola, which made landfall in Bangladesh in 1988.


Carbon Dioxide Goes Higher And Higher


Carbon dioxide concentration reaches a yearly maximum in late spring. The readings at Mona Loa are headed for a new record high. Image courtesy of NOAA.


Here’s a prediction that’s not hard to make: The atmospheric carbon dioxide reading on Mount Mona Loa in Hawaii will set an all-time high when it reaches its seasonal maximum in May.

2015 marks the first year in which the reading exceeded 400 parts per million in the month of February. At over 401 ppm, the CO2 level is almost up to last year’s record set in May. There’s not much doubt we’ll beat the record weekly reading of 402.7 by April — possibly before the end of March.


The pre-industrial CO2 level was 280 ppm.


The Struggle In The Pacific Goes On


Last winter, the sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Gulf of Alaska contributed to a displacement of the polar vortex which dominated the weather over the United States. This winter, the warm water pool has been challenged by an El Niño, which tends to create a jet stream pattern with wet weather on the west coast and warm weather over much of the US.

At the beginning of February, El Niño was ascendant, causing the aforementioned record rains in California. Since then the Alaskan  SST anomaly fought back, producing a bitterly cold spell in the eastern States.


Things are changing again. The jet stream is flattening and the eastern US is warming rapidly as Eggplant flexes its muscles. Current forecasts indicate that by the end of next week, the ridge will return to the west coast and the polar vortex will again descend on the midwest and New England. Boston will probably get the two inches of snow it needs to break its all-time winter snowfall record in about ten days.


Heading Into Spring


A dramatic warmup will overspread most of the US this week. Signs of spring will sprout everywhere. What are the signs where you live?


Week Three


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


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


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


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.


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Weather Around the World 2015: Week by Week, Month by Month

  • Author: Decoded Science
  • Published: 2016-04-19 02:35:31
  • Words: 70952
Weather Around the World 2015: Week by Week, Month by Month Weather Around the World 2015: Week by Week, Month by Month