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Blog

Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

Filtering by Category: Climate Info

11:50 AM | *Weekend hurricane threat for Louisiana/Texas…recent changes in El Nino may have an impact on the remainder of the Atlantic Basin tropical season*

Paul Dorian

Low pressure that pushed southward yesterday from Georgia to the northeastern Gulf of Mexico is now showing clear signs of strengthening and it is very likely to reach named (Barry) tropical storm status over the next day or two.  While only slow intensification is expected for the next day or two, there are reasons to believe that the combination of favorable atmospheric and oceanic conditions will allow for more rapid strengthening beyond 48 hours and this could result in a category 1 or 2 hurricane this weekend over the Gulf of Mexico.  A key player in the eventual path of soon-to-be named “Barry” will be a strong ridge of high pressure to the northwest that may steer this system towards a landfall Louisiana or Texas by the latter part of the weekend.  In addition, with the building ridge to the northwest, there is the chance that this system becomes a slow mover and this will only enhance chances for some serious rainfall in the Gulf of Mexico region from eastern Texas to the western Florida Panhandle.  Elsewhere, the centrally-based El Nino in the Pacific Ocean is now showing signs of weakening and this could result in a more active Atlantic Basin tropical season during the next few months.

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7:15 AM | *The deadly heat wave of July 1936 in the middle of the hottest decade ever for the US*

Paul Dorian

One of the most widespread and destructive heat waves ever recorded in the US took place in the summer of 1936 which fell right in the middle of the hottest and driest decade ever for the nation.  The decade of the 1930’s is renowned for the “Great Depression” and the “Dust Bowl”, both of which caused calamitous human suffering in this country.  Not only were huge numbers of crops destroyed by the heat and lack of moisture in the “Dust Bowl” era, but thousands of lives were lost as a result of the heat, drought and economic hardship. Many of the all-time high temperature records that were set in the decade of the 1930’s still stand today.  The heat wave experienced in 1936 began in late June, reached a peak in July, and didn’t really come to an end until September.  This extreme heat wave was particularly deadly; especially, in high population areas where air conditioning was still in the early stages of development.

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10:50 AM | *Noctilucent clouds continue to dazzle around the world*

Paul Dorian

Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds on Earth and are quite rarely seen in the US as they are primarily visible at high latitudes above 55°N.  For the past several weeks, however, they have been seen much more often than normal around the world and at unusually low latitudes. Two possible explanations for the on-going extraordinary viewing season revolve around the current (low) activity on the sun and the high water vapor levels way up in the atmosphere.  Specifically, noctilucent clouds tend to be more prevalent during solar minimums and we are now entering what may be the deepest solar minimum in more than a century.  In addition, unusually high levels of water vapor have been detected in the mesosphere creating favorable conditions for the formation of noctilucent clouds.

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10:30 AM | *Now entering a deep solar minimum and the latest forecast for solar cycle 25 suggests it may be the weakest cycle in 200 years*

Paul Dorian

The sun continues to be very quiet and it has been without sunspots this year 62% of the time as we approach what is likely to be one of the deepest solar minimums in a long, long time. In fact, all indications are that the upcoming solar minimum may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century.  In addition, there are now forecasts that the next solar cycle, #25, will be the weakest in more than 200 years.  The current solar cycle, #24, has been the weakest with the fewest sunspots since solar cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continues a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980 and if the latest forecasts are correct, that trend will continue for at least another decade or so.

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1:20 PM | *Rare noctilucent clouds – the highest clouds on Earth - have been unusually prevalent in the US in recent days*

Paul Dorian

Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds on Earth and are quite rarely seen in the US as they are primarily visible at high latitudes above +55°N.  This weekend, however, noctilucent clouds were seen across many spots in the US including as far south as Freedom, Oklahoma (+36°N) which according to spaceweather.com, may be the lowest latitude sighting ever. Research studies have shown that these clouds tend to become more prevalent during solar minimums and we are now entering into what is likely to be a deep and perhaps historic solar minimum.   

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3:25 PM | *The snow just won’t stop for the Sierra Nevada mountains in California*

Paul Dorian

According to the latest “US Drought Monitor” report, the long-term drought in California is now “officially” over following the very wet winter season of 2018-2019. For the first time since 2011, the state has no region suffering from prolonged drought and the vast majority of the state California is “normal”. The reservoirs are full, the lakes are full, and there is a ton of snow in the higher elevation locations.  In fact, the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada – a major source of California’s water supply – has reached incredible amounts by doubling in the month of January and then doubling again in February and despite the calendar showing mid-May, more significant snow is on the way. 

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7:15 AM | *Deep solar minimum fast-approaching and cosmic rays continue to rise*

Paul Dorian

The sun continues to be very quiet and it has been without sunspots this year more than half the time as we approach what is likely to be a deep solar minimum. In fact, all indications are that the upcoming solar minimum which is expected to begin later this year may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century.  Solar cycle 24 has been the weakest sunspot cycle with the fewest sunspots since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continues a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980. The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless.  That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913.  One of the natural impacts of decreasing solar activity is the weakening of the ambient solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows more and more cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system. The intensification of cosmic rays can have important consequences on such things as Earth’s cloud cover and climate, the safety of air travelers and as a possible trigger mechanism for lightning.  

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7:15 AM | *2019 Tropical and Mid-Atlantic Summertime Outlook*

Paul Dorian

The overall numbers are likely to be slightly below-normal this year in terms of the number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin (includes the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico) with around 11 named tropical systems, 5 hurricanes and 2 majors. In a normal Atlantic Basin tropical season, there are about 12 named storms with 6 reaching hurricane status and 3 actually reaching major status (i.e., category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).

The major factors involved with this year’s tropical outlook include the likely continuation of El Nino in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  In addition, the Atlantic Ocean is sending mixed signals in terms of the prospects for tropical activity this season with some sections featuring (unfavorable) colder-than-normal sea surface temperatures and others featuring (favorable) warmer-than-normal waters.  The sea surface temperature pattern in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic Ocean (i.e., warmer-than-normal) makes the southern and eastern US somewhat vulnerable to what I call “home-grown” tropical hits during this upcoming tropical season.  

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7:15 AM | *Long-term California drought is over and an incredible snow pack will help for months to come*

Paul Dorian

According to the latest “US Drought Monitor” report, the long-term drought in California is now “officially” over following the very wet winter season of 2018-2019. For the first time since 2011, the state has no region suffering from prolonged drought and the vast majority of the state California is “normal”.  The reservoirs are full, the lakes are full, and there is a ton of snow in the higher elevation locations.  In fact, the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada – a major source of California’s water supply – has reached incredible amounts by doubling in the month of January and then doubling again in February and more snow is coming this week. 

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9:00 AM | *Extreme cold air outbreaks in recent history have their roots in the tropics and stratosphere*

Paul Dorian

Four extreme cold air outbreaks in recent history have been analyzed in order to determine if there were similar atmospheric signals in the weeks prior to these events.  The four extreme cold air outbreaks examined here include the most recent one that took place across parts of Canada and much of the eastern half of the US during late January 2019 (Figure 1). This analysis shows that there were strikingly similar characteristics in all four of the extreme cold air outbreaks with the roots of each traced to the tropics and to the upper part of the atmosphere known as the stratosphere.  In all four cases, a recurring tropical disturbance known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) contributed to a major stratospheric warming event which ultimately led to the extreme cold air outbreaks into the middle latitudes. 

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