extreme weather


It’s Official: 2011 a Record-Breaking Year for Climate Extremes

Two more events added to the dozen with $1 billion-plus in damages

"And it's going to keep on falling," he shouted, "until your whole great marble palace tumbles down!"

From droughts and wildfires to tornadoes and hurricanes – and let’s not forget flooding, hail and that Halloween snowstorm — last year will go down as one of the most extreme weather years on record.

This week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the final tally for 2011.

The two latest disasters to make the grim list are September’s Tropical Storm Lee which swept up the East Coast to cause record flooding and 21 deaths, and July’s severe weather that brought high winds, hail, and flooding to the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest, and took two lives.

Across the planet it was the 15th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. Here in the U.S., the portion of the nation in extreme drought or very wet conditions was the highest ever:  58%, and that’s nearly three times normal. No surprise that temperatures in Texas made for the second warmest year on record, with the drought there surpassing the severity of ones in the 1930s and 1960s.  Seven states across the Midwest and Northeast had their wettest years ever. Continue reading

Governor’s Climate Conference: Renewed Pledges But No New Initiatives

The one-day conference reinforced the need to prepare for coming climate impacts

Governor Jerry Brown.

Governor Jerry Brown says he wants to “intensify California’s leadership” on the climate front, but his climate conference at the California Academy of Sciences on Thursday offered no new initiatives toward that end.

The one-day event was a series of panel discussions emphasizing the importance of science and how it can reinforce policy decisions on climate change.

The invitation-only event included several noteworthy speakers, including Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, business mogul and biofuels-for-planes evangelist Sir Richard Branson, and White House environmental advisor Nancy Sutley. Continue reading

Take Your Pick: Wetter, Drier, and Hotter for California

New science forecasts include everything except moderation

Scientists say there's a little bit of everything on the horizon for California -- except maybe funds to study it.

Two days before Governor Jerry Brown hosts his own conference on “Extreme Climate Risks and California’s Future,” scientists and a smattering of state and local officials spent a rainy Tuesday at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, talking about just that.

It began with calls to keep the funding for statewide climate research. Sacramento legislators may be looking at cutting money to the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program in particular, and California Energy Commission vice chair James Boyd told the crowd “all is not well.”  He said that research funding is “under assault again” with the weak economy used to question the focus on climate at a time when predictions are becoming more severe. Continue reading

NOAA Chief Wants Nation “Weather-Ready” for More Extreme Events

Fifty-two billion dollars and counting, one thousand deaths — double the yearly average — from 12 extreme weather events in 2011 alone.


Those grim numbers are part of the reason why the country’s top weather official is calling for better and smarter observation tools, new climate models and a new national readiness.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco shared those stats with scientists here at the American Geophysicial Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco (#AGU11), many of whom are giving presentations about how to better forecast these events and measure them.”

I think that people have to appreciate how very bizarre the weather has been this year,” Lubchenco told us in an interview following her keynote presentation. “And it’s pretty clear that for some of those events like heat waves, droughts, really big intensive rainfall events – those we can connect the dots to climate change pretty convincingly.” Continue reading

UN Panel Says More Severe Weather On the Way

But it’s still hard to pin down what, where and how bad

Climate change is likely driving some of the extreme weather events we’ve been seeing and more such weather is on the way, according to a much-anticipated report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“This is a pretty hard-hitting report,” says Chris Field, a Stanford climatologist and one of the co-chairs for the report. “What we can say is that some kinds of extremes are occurring more frequently,”

Some kinds. The UN panel carefully couches all of its findings in terms of probabilities and confidence levels, which vary widely depending on the type of weather event. Hence (italics are mine):

Sea Level Rise: “It is very likely (90-100% probability) that mean sea level rise will contribute to upward trends in extreme coastal high water levels in the future.” Continue reading

How California Dodged the Summer from Hell

If the nation’s epic heat this summer seems like a distant bad dream, you must live on the West Coast. Not only did California largely escape the bake, it moved in the opposite direction, with temperatures running anywhere from one to five degrees (F) below normal in many areas.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a map that provides a telling snapshot of summer aberrations around the nation.

While most of America cooked this summer, California bucked the trend.

David Kroodsma’s recent post for Climate Central provides excruciating detail of what the rest of the country was going through:

Using Climate Central’s record temperature tracker which draws on the National Climatic Data Center’s database, we found that June, July, and August saw more warm temperature records tied or broken than any other summer in the past decade: more than 26,500 record warm temperatures were set across the nation. By comparison, fewer than 3,500 record low temperatures were set — the fewest of any summer in the past decade.

It was a summer that brought new meaning to the term “Texas barbecue,” with NOAA confirming that the Lone Star State suffered the hottest summer on record for any state in the nation. Continue reading

What’s Up With This Weather?

While most of the nation bakes, California keeps its cool–and not just along the coast

Climate scientist Phil Duffy and meteorologist Jan Null joined Michael Krasny on KQED’s Forum to discuss California’s cooler-than-usual summer and what it might reveal about climate change in the region. The upshot? We don’t really know.

“I think we’re seeing plain old climate variability,” said Duffy, who is a visiting scholar at Stanford and the Carnegie Institution for Science and chief scientist for Climate Central, a Climate Watch content partner.

Null agreed with Duffy, saying that in any given year, “stuff happens,” which can’t necessarily be attributed to a larger trend.

“It’s hard to take an individual year and say ‘This is the result of climate change’,” said Null. “It could be just the roll of the dice. If we see a lot of stuff happening over the next decades, then we’re talking about climate change.”

Null said this summer’s cool weather is due to a persistent trough of low pressure along the west coast.

“Anytime you have that for an extended period of time, you get what people call ‘unusual’ or ‘freakish’ weather,” he said. Continue reading

Climate Change and the Phoenix Dust Cloud

Hotter temps could set the stage for more — but the science is complex

On July 5, a massive dust cloud, or haboob, swept across Phoenix, Arizona, brought by the North American monsoon. (Photo: Greg Gorman/Flickr)

By Alyson Kenward

On Tuesday night, a massive dust storm rolled into Phoenix, Arizona knocking out power in much of the city, reducing visibility to nearly zero, and grounding flights overnight. Photos of the 100-mile wide dust cloud swallowing the city circulated yesterday, and the event looked practically apocalyptic. In fact, if the photos weren’t in color, and there weren’t YouTube videos of the dust storm, I would have thought I was looking at old-timey images from the 1930’s dust bowl. Now, a couple days later, lingering dust in the air has triggered allergy-like symptoms for many people. Continue reading