Monday, August 26, 2013

My winter 2013-14 weather prediction for North America!

NOAA has released its graphs for the winter forecast of winter 2013-14 and I'd say it was rather boring. Precipitation – average, temperatures – average. Well, you get the picture. On the other hand the newly released Farmer's Almanac is going to the extreme of calling for really COLD conditions!

So, who's right?

My best guess is that the reality will lie somewhere in between. But, let's take a look anyway at four of the things that actually do influence our global weather from time to time:

Solar insolence – This is a fancy way of talking about how much heat old Sol puts out. Right now, we are climbing out of a rather prolonged and wimpy solar maximum that has not seen much in the way of sunspots, solar storms or anything else for that matter. Historically, when the sun behaves this way we can look for cooler weather globally.

ENSO – The  El Niño Southern Oscillation refers to variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean (warming and cooling known as El Niño and La Niña respectively). We have been locked in a ENSO neutral phase for quite some time and it looks like that trend may persist on into the early portions of the coming winter. So, to me, that implies a more or less average influence for cold winter-like conditions. Neither good or bad.

Vulcanism – Of the eighty or so active volcanoes located all around the world (any one of which can go bonkers and spew enough particulates into the atmosphere to cause a measurable drop in temperature), it's a throw of the dice. When, where and how severe such an eruption might be is very uncertain and so this is a climatic wild card in the deck that could change the dynamics of our coming winter overnight.

CO2 – Carbon dioxide is a so-called 'greenhouse gas' that has been steadily climbing ever since the Industrial Revolution. It's measured in part per million (ppm) and in lieu of the presence of mankind, would read at around 272 ppm. The official level of the gas in our atmosphere, aka the Keeling Curve, put it at 394 ppm when this post was written in late August. That's higher than it's ever been over the last three million years and, yes Victoria, it does play a major role in warming the earth's atmosphere!

Taking just those factors into consideration, (I've left out the Milanovitch Cycles for this discussion), I've come to feeling that this winter will be a little on the cold side, but still well within the historical averages. That said, (the fly in the ointment being CO2 and the anthropogenic climate forcing it causes), we may see some really weird winter storms this time around. Time will tell...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Could dust from forest fires be causing some local climatic effects?

The jet stream is superimposed over a map of recent forest fires.
Are recent forest fires dumping inordinate amounts of particulates high in the atmosphere that are being carried aloft over mid western states?

For anyone who's lived in southwest Missouri for some time, they can attest to the fact that this August has been somewhat unusual. It's been notable for two reasons; more rain than average and cooler temperatures. Here in Forsyth Missouri, we garnered 5.49 inches of rain (through August 19th) compared to an average of 3.15 inches according to the 30 year historical standard. Other nearby locations, such as West Plains, have had over ten inches! Could part of the reason for all this rain be the extra dust coming our way from the persistent forest fires in western states? I don't know.

In addition, August is normally thought of as a really hot month (think Dog Days) and in this respect too, it's been something of a disappointment. The average daily highs have averaged 7°F below average so far this month. Could that have been partly the result of extra dist particles in the air? Once again, I'm not sure. But, it's still interesting to speculate.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A wacky August 2013!

"I'm always attuned, these days, to any sort of internet story concerning the ill effects of global climate change. Whether it be real change or imagined change, I often wonder at what point weather scientists will be able to say that the climate is or is not moving in a direction that would impact humanity in a bad manner. Thus far, that day has yet to arrive..."

By most statistical criteria, this August has been somewhat strange. Whereas a typical August down here in southwest Missouri sees lots of hot and dry days (the so-called dog days of summer), this month (through the 11th ) has not followed anywhere near true to form. Beginning late in July, the entire region became entangled in a wet patterns that saw rain fall just about every day. Where I live in Forsyth MO, we've had 5.60 inches of rain with places just to the north and west seeing much higher amounts. (The West Plains weather station has recorded 10.6 inches thus far in a month that historically sees only about 3)! This hefty amount of water has now also caused flooding to occur in locations close to my home (see above) including cities like Hollister where a flood swallowed a home and Branson.

Rainfall means cloudy skies and due to the persistent cloud cover, our temperatures have responded by being cooler during the day and warmer during the evening hours. (The actual variance was 6 degrees Fahrenheit cooler for daytime and 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer at night). Just what you might expect with all those clouds hanging around. The end result was a statistical wash as the high and low have canceled themselves out. This resulted a 'normal' average reading for the month, even though it's been pretty cool! Like I said earlier, wacky!

The really interesting thing about this month will be; a, to see how it turns out at the end and b, to see if the cooler and wetter trend will continue for September and beyond.What? Is that the sound of thunder outside my home? Why, yes it is...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Will area parks flood in the fall of 2013?

Water levels above 668' will insure some flooding
After a couple of bouts of heavy rainfall early on in August, a couple of people inquired as to the possibility of some flooding occurring in either River Run or Shadow Rock Park. These two, side by side, parks are popular spots for campers and RV'ers who visit the Forsyth area in here in southwest Missouri. This year has seen a steady stream of vacationers with the best of the fall season yet to come.

Now, as I do not proclaim to be any sort of meteorological or hydrological expert, my opinions carry
Boat launch at River Run Park
little if any (ahem) water. But, living right next to the Bull Shoals river way does give me a chance to view the water levels on a day to day basis. And, this year, close to and slightly above normal rainfall has lead to water levels that have hovered at or near the 665 foot mark with 654 feet being the lower limit of the so-called 'flood pool'; a target level which the Corps of Engineers strives for. The above graphic shows, we've been above that level for most of the summer. Now, what with all the rainfall across the much of the southern portion of the state, these levels are sure to rise over the next week or so. A situation that would only be exacerbated if more rain does fall as predicted by the weather service.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that we stand a good chance of seeing some flooding of the River Run side with little or no flooding of Shadow Rock Park.

Sunday, August 11 Update: The water level at Bull Shoals hit 664.60 feet this morning and as you can see some of the lower parts of the park are just beginning to flood. I'm guessing that no real problems will be encountered until the level hits and surpasses the 670 foot mark. At the current rate of water level rise (.82' per day) that would be on or about the August the 18th.