Friday, January 27, 2012

Seven degrees warmer in January 2012!

 [click on graph to enlarge]

Mild winters and scorching hot summers may now be the new 'normal' as our planet comes increasingly under the gripe of of a 'greenhouse effect' run wild. This past January was no exception as the mean temperatures soared over seven degrees above the thirty year average. And, that may only represent the tip of the climatic iceberg.

For starters, it's a fact that this has been the warmest decade since1880. And, just a couple of years ago in 2010, global surface temperatures tied 2005 as the warmest on record. This was according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration so I guess I believe them. Scientists say that the earth could warm by an additional 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit sometime during the 21st century if we fail to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. That's no likely. What is certain is that the rise in average temperatures will have far-reaching effects on the earth's climate patterns and on all living things. Unfortunately, many of these changes have already begun.

What can we expect? How about heavier downpours (twice as often), strengthened heat waves, altered river flows and extended growing seasons! Changes that will directly stress existing water, energy and transportation systems in a country that is still reeling from over 13 billion in weather related losses in 2011!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 2012 looks to end on a wet note!

With less than half an inch in the rain bucket for much of the month, it was sure nice to see a 'soaker system' role in from the southwest for the morning of the 25th. A persistent zonal flow from west to east has made the month both warm and dry overall. And, while I'm no expert, I think I might see some evidence of a change towards wetter conditions when viewing the northern hemispheric jet streams!

January historically sees a little over three inches of precipitation and with the drought conditions that have so plagued regions like Texas and Oklahoma, I was wondering if southwest Missouri was also heading in that direction. The arrival of this very timely moisture will sure help to alleviate those fears for the short term.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weather Summary for first half of January 2012 in Taney County!

“The winter of aught twelve has been rather strange
Flying on past me like a freight train.
Boxcars repeat and flash before my eyes
In cyclical patterns that none could denigh
Telling a tale of warmth followed by cold
As high follows low, a story unfolds.”

And that poor attempt at a rhyme pretty much sums up the zonal flow pattern that has been our weather here, not only in southwest Missouri, but across the Nation. The fronts have come through pretty much from west to east, never seeming to stay very long. As a result, even though there have been a few cold spells, they haven't lasted more than a few days before another warmup builds in behind them. Not that I'm complaining, mind you!

The first two weeks of January have certainly followed this see saw pattern, as you can see in the graph of temperature highs and lows. And, because the incursions of cold Canadian air have had limited opportunities, it's also been a rather warm two weeks. The average or mean temperature has been 6 degrees above the historical average. That's huge! That fact combined with the lack of snow across much of the country is unusual and has me guessing again about global warming.

It has also been a dry two week period with only just about an inch of rain. Traditionally, we will have over three inches for the month, so there is also some concern over the deficit. Everyone, especially the farmers, are concerned as to the possibility of drought conditions as we head on into late winter. I know that in Texas, this is a major concern, so everyone is watching the skies these days.

Poles are melting much faster than previously thought!

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in their 2007 analysis of sea level rise for the next one hundred years, decided to exclude both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets from their calculations. A decision that may come back to haunt them in the long term. Rather than a two foot rise in sea levels, scientists now estimate they could rise as high as seven feet or more!

According to an article published in the Yale College publication 'Environment 360' - “The ramifications of a major sea level rise are massive. Agriculture will be disrupted, water supplies will be salinized, storms and flood waters will reach ever further inland, and millions of environmental refugees will be created — 15 million people live at or below three feet elevation in Bangladesh, for example. Governments, especially those in the developing world, will be disrupted, creating political instability.' But, that's not all!

Now, new evidence has come to light which indicates that both the arctic ans antarctic polar ice sheets are under attack by warm water from below. This disclosure, according to a recent article published in Nature Geoscience. Preliminary findings from the Arctic suggest that a key buffer layer of fresher cooler water – which lies beneath the ice and warmer Atlantic Ocean waters flowing into the area at a greater depth – is being lost. This is causing the glaciers to be melted from the bottom up even as global warming is attacking it from above. The full analysis of this research is expected to be published later this year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter weather comes back with a vengence!

 [click on map for animation]

I’m not sure if you’d call this blast of cold air heading our way a Siberian something or rather, but it will sure feel that way come Wednesday evening in most parts of southwestern Missouri. At 2:45 PM CST when I posted this the front is clearly visible on radar maps and if you look outside to the west you can see clouds a coming our way.

The National Weather Service has also just issued a ‘Winter Weather Advisory’ that also hints at the possibility of some snow area wide! So, make sure to keep a weather eye out especially if you plan to make any trips later on this evening or early on Thursday.

Temperatures on Thursday will be brutally cold and may provide quite a shock to those venturing out.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Perhaps 2012 will see the Texas drought come to an end.

Now this is more like it!

'Houston roads were flooded and thousands of residents lost power on Monday after powerful thunderstorms plowed through the area, with a possible tornado damaging and shutting down a nearby mall. Several inches of rain fell in the drought-stricken area over a two-hour period. Roads rapidly flooded and drivers became stranded on major arteries that connect the city’s sprawling neighborhoods and suburbs. In Texas City, about 40 miles southeast of Houston, a possible tornado damaged the roof and wall of the Mall of the Mainland. The building was evacuated and shut. In North and West Texas, the National Weather Service said, a steady downpour will drop an inch or two of much-needed rain. Texas got an estimated 14.89 inches of rain in 2011, compared with a normal average of 29.39 inches.'

Even though some flooding occurred, I'll wager that not too many Texan farmers were much put off by all the rain. And, this has happened in just the second week of the year!

Is the weather getting more wacky?

Looking back on the weather of 2011, one would have to admit that things were rather strange (to say the least) as the United States experienced everything from extreme drought, heat waves and floods to unprecedented tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms. All told the damage bill came to over twelve billion dollars spread over twelve separate events. This was an all time record, by far. According to a short video featuring Jack Hayes, Director of the National Weather Service, we can expect more of the same in 2012 as the world climate changes. “ The world must be prepared for more frequent weather extremes in the future”, Mr. Hayes was quoted as stating in the video.

That bring us to the winter of 2011-12. And yes, it has already been a little extreme in one regard. Only in this case, the extreme has been the warmth! It's been so warm that the average for the first week of January was a full eight degrees above the historical average for my location here in southwest Missouri. One has to wonder, however, just when the pendulum will swing over to the opposite side? Will the warmth of early January turn into a deep freeze by month's end? I don't know and neither does anyone else. What the experts are now warning everyone, is that increasingly the 'weather dice' are becoming more and more loaded in the direction of chaotic events.

So, keep an eye to the sky and make sure you are as prepared as you can be for whatever Mother Nature might decide to throw your way.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wow! A warm start to January 2012!

True, it’s only the seventh day of the month, but already we’re eight degrees above normal for the month! I was out basking out on my porch on Friday, January the 6th in temperatures that reached 67F. And, while global warming may not be a good thing for the earth, it sure is welcome in January for a simple hominid like me. We’ll close out the first week with another nice day topping out at 63F.

So, while the days have been warm, the nights have dropped to more at seasonable levels. That’s due to the fact that the atmosphere has also been very dry with clear skies (see below) and winds that die down overnight. This condition supports diurnal atmospheric radiation which results in the mercury dropping into the twenties most nights, but then warming rapidly during the daytime. I remember, as a youth, seeing the same kind of weather in the Colorado mountains where a day would start below freezing and then get to eighty by noontime.

 [photos taken on consecutive days look like carbon copies]

Coming up for next week looks to be more of the same with some rain on about Tuesday the 10th. The really cold arctic air that normally makes an incursion this time of year has been bottled up in Alaska and Canada. At this time there is no mechanism that will allow them to get much closer than the northern tier of states, at least for the foreseeable future. That may well result in January being much warmer than average, a thought that is also shared by the National Weather Service.

Monday, January 2, 2012

December 2011 bucked the normal temperature trend!

December 2011 was a most interesting month from the standpoint of weather. As the graphed illustrates, it was not only significantly warmer than the year before but the trend was also a warming one. Most unusual for a month that normally sees a cool down to a more winter like regime.

I was (and am) particularly interested in this trend as January has just begun and I see a repetitive pattern emerging whereby we have a very zonal flow that results in first a cool down as a cold front passes over, and then a warm up on the backside as the area of high pressure moves off to the east.  While such a pattern is not unusual, what has seemed strange is the degree to which the nights have maintained a warmer than normal profile. Note that this pattern was also seen, abet much more slightly, last year also. This same deal is now repeating itself for the first week or so of January with little in the way of precipitation seen on the horizon. It will be most interesting to follow this as we make our way through the month.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

December 2011 weather summary

December 2011 was normal if you allow for it being on the warm side of average of that figure. Temperatures versus the historical average were four degrees Fahrenheit warmer (39F vs. 35F). The factor that made this so was the nighttime temperatures were somewhat more warm that in times past. However, all readings were in the ‘normal’ range.

Precipitation was also a bit above average; 4.64 inches versus 3.98 inches (source: West Plains, Mo. data). I was very thankful for this added moisture when, combined with the warmer temps, has allowed my cold frame plants to do well. This reading put the entire year at 54.46 inches versus an average of 46.27 inches. Notice in the graph that compare the average versus actual rainfall, that had we not gotten the heavy downpours in April and May, we’ve of found ourselves in a drought situation. Getting all that water, over such a short period of time, really bollixed up the works for a large chunk of real estate in the Central US.