May 2016 was the warmest May on record, 1.56°F (0.87°C) above the 20th century average. It was the first month since November 2013 to have an anomaly less than 1°C above the 20th century average, a sign of El Nino’s demise.
For the year-to-date, temperatures are 1.9°F (1.08°C) above the 20th century average, according to NOAA, putting it 0.43°F (0.24°C) above where 2015 was at this point. A Climate Central analysis that averages NOAA and NASA temperature data and compares them to a 1881-1910 baseline (closer to pre-industrial temperatures) found that the year-to-date is 2.5°F (1.39°C) above that average, edging closer to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures.
So far, it is likely that 2016 will top 2015 as the warmest year on record, but that depends in part on how the rest of the year plays out. If a La Nina forms by fall, as expected, that could depress global temperatures slightly.
In a mark of how hot the last few years (which saw three consecutive record hot years) have been, NOAA compared the top 10 warmest months globally as of November 2013 to the current list. As of last month, all but one of the 10 warmest months on recorded occurred in 2016 and 2015. The lone exception was January 2007, which was tied for tenth place. Back in November 2003, it was the warmest month on record.
Based on the observations of ocean heat content in the North Atlantic Ocean, the climate in the northern hemisphere is on the verge of a change that could last for several decades. This change is associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO)1 – a mode of natural variability occurring, with a period of 60 – 80 years, in the North Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) field.
Observations made by Argo buoys2 have shown that the North Atlantic Ocean (60-0W, 30-65N) is rapidly cooling since 20073. This is associated with the natural variability in the North Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperatures – the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). However, the observed cooling does not only apply to the sea surface, but to the uppermost 700 m (2 296 feet) of the ocean.
The AMO index appears to be correlated to air temperatures and rainfall over much of the northern hemisphere4. The association appears to be high for North Eastern Brazil, African Sahel rainfall and North American and European summer climate. The AMO index also appears to be associated with changes in the frequency of North American droughts and is reflected in the frequency of severe Atlantic hurricanes.
“As one example, the AMO index may be related to the past occurrence of major droughts in the US Midwest and the Southwest. When the AMO is high, these droughts tend to be more frequent or prolonged, and vice-versa for low values of AMO. Two of the most severe droughts of the 20th century in the US occurred during the peak AMO values between 1925 and 1965: The Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the 1950s drought. On the other hand, Florida and the Pacific Northwest tend to be the opposite; high AMO is associated with relatively high precipitation.”
Cooling of the Atlantic is likely to bring drier summers in Britain and Ireland, accelerated sea-level rise along the northeast coast of the United States, and drought in the developing countries of the African Sahel region, a press release for a study by scientists from the University of Southampton and National Oceanography Centre (NOC) published last year said5. “Since this new climatic phase could be half a degree cooler, it may well offer a brief reprise from the rise of global temperatures, as well as result in fewer hurricanes hitting the United States. The study proves that ocean circulation is the link between weather and decadal scale climatic change. It is based on observational evidence of the link between ocean circulation and the decadal variability of sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Lead author of this study, Dr. Gerard McCarthy from the NOC, said: “Sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic vary between warm and cold over time-scales of many decades. These variations have been shown to influence temperature, rainfall, drought and even the frequency of hurricanes in many regions of the world. This decadal variability is a notable feature of the Atlantic Ocean and the climate of the regions it influences.”
These climatic phases, referred to as positive or negative AMO’s, are the result of the movement of heat northwards by a system of ocean currents. This movement of heat changes the temperature of the sea surface, which has a profound impact on climate on timescales of 20 – 30 years. The strength of these currents is determined by the same atmospheric conditions that control the position of the jet stream. Negative AMO’s occur when the currents are weaker and so less heat is carried northwards towards Europe from the tropics. The strength of ocean currents has been measured by a network of sensors, called the RAPID array, which have been collecting data on the flow rate of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) for a decade.
The AMOC, part of which is known as the Gulf Stream, has been seen to weaken over the past 10 years, a study by Laura Jackson of the UK’s Met Office said6. Her study also suggests that this weakening trend is likely due to variability over decades. “The AMOC plays a vital role in our climate as it transports heat northwards in the Atlantic and keeps Europe relatively warm,” Jackson said. Any substantial weakening of a major North Atlantic ocean current system would have a profound impact on the climate of northwest Europe, including the UK. The research also showed a link between the weakening in the AMOC and decreases in density in the Labrador Sea (between Greenland and Canada) several years earlier.
In the diagrams below, courtesy of Ole Humlum4, only original (raw) AMO values are shown.
Humlum writes: “As is seen from the annual diagram, the AMO index has been increasing since the beginning of the record in 1856, although with a clear, about 60 yr long, variation superimposed. Often, AMO values are shown linearly detrended to remove the overall increase since 1856, to emphasize the apparent rhythmic 60 yr variation. This detrending is usually intended to remove the alleged influence of greenhouse gas-induced global warming from the analysis, believed to cause the overall increase. However, as is seen in the diagram below, the overall increase has taken place since at least 1856, long before the alleged strong influence of increasing atmospheric CO2 began around 1975 (IPCC 2007). Therefore, the overall increase is likely to have another explanation; it may simply represent a natural recovery since the end of the previous cold period (the Little Ice Age). If so, the general AMO increase since 1856 may well represent part of a longer natural variation, too long to be fully represented by the AMO data series since 1856. For the above reasons, only the original (not detrended) AMO values are shown in the two diagrams below:”
Annual Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index values since 1856. The thin line indicates 3-month average values, and the thick line is the simple running 11-year average. Data source: Earth System Research Laboratory at NOAA. Last year shown: 2015. Last diagram update January 20, 2016.
Monthly Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index values since January 1979. The thin line indicates 3-month average values, and the thick line is the simple running 11-year average. By choosing January 1979 as starting point, the diagram is easy to compare with other types of temperature diagrams covering the satellite period since 1979. Data source: Earth System Research Laboratory at NOAA. Last month shown: May 2016. Last diagram update: June 13, 2016.
The map below shows the North Atlantic area within 60-0W and 30-65N, for which the heat content within the uppermost 700 m is shown in the diagrams below it3.
North Atlantic area within 60-0W and 30-65N. Credit: Climate4you
Global monthly heat content anomaly (GJ/m2) in the uppermost 700 m of the North Atlantic (60-0W, 30-65N) ocean since January 1979. The thin line indicates monthly values, and the thick line represents the simple running 37 month (c. 3 year) average. The starting month (January 1979) is chosen to enable easy comparison with global air temperature estimates within the satellite period. Data source: National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC). Last period shown: January-March 2016. Last diagram update June 7, 2016.
Global monthly heat content anomaly (GJ/m2) in the uppermost 700 m of the North Atlantic (60-0W, 30-65N) ocean since January 1955. The thin line indicates monthly values, and the thick line represents the simple running 37 month (c. 3 year) average. Data source: National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC). Last period shown: January-March 2016. Last diagram update June 7, 2016.
Interestingly, in a study by Zhou et al.7, a significant correlation was found between the solar wind speed (SWS) and sea surface temperature (SST) in the region of the North Atlantic Ocean for the northern hemisphere winter from 1963 to 2010, based on 3-month seasonal averages. “The correlation is dependent on Bz (the interplanetary magnetic field component parallel to the Earth’s magnetic dipole) as well as the SWS, and somewhat stronger in the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) west phase than in the east phase. The correlations with the SWS are stronger than those with the F10.7 parameter representing solar UV inputs to the stratosphere. SST responds to changes in tropospheric dynamics via wind stress, and to changes in cloud cover affecting the radiative balance. Suggested mechanisms for the solar influence on SST include changes in atmospheric ionization and cloud microphysics affecting cloud cover, storm invigoration, and tropospheric dynamics. Such changes modify upward wave propagation to the stratosphere, affecting the dynamics of the polar vortex. Also, direct solar inputs, including energetic particles and solar UV, produce stratospheric dynamical changes. Downward propagation of stratospheric dynamical changes eventually further perturbs tropospheric dynamics and SST.”
The solar-wind speeds peak about 3 or 4 years after the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) and sunspots peak in each cycle8.
Sunspot number progression observed from 2000 – May 2016. Credit NOAA/SWPC
Based on the current sunspot observations, their number for this solar cycle has peaked in January 2015, and our star is now on a steady path toward its next Solar Minimum, expected to hit the base just after 2020.
Global sea surface temperature anomaly for June 13, 2016 – current deviation of the surface temperature of Earth’s oceans from normal. Credit: NCEP (link leads to the latest map)
North Atlantic Ocean sea surface anomaly for June 13, 2016 – current deviation from normal. Credit: NCEP (link leads to the latest map)
Argo – UCSanDiego – Argo is a major contributor to the WCRP ‘s Climate Variability and Predictability Experiment (CLIVAR) project and to the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE). The Argo array is part of the Global Climate Observing System/Global Ocean Observing System GCOS /GOOS
As always, do your research! But so many feel that September is going to be critical on all levels:
The Big List Of 33 Things That Are Going To Happen In September 2015
By Michael Snyder, on August 19th, 2015
Is September 2015 going to be a month that changes history? For months, there has been an unprecedented amount of buzz all over the Internet about what is going to happen in September. And without a doubt, we are going to witness a convergence of events during that month that is quite remarkable. What I have attempted to do in this article is to put together a list of things that we know will happen next month. Some of the lists that I have seen contain things that cannot be proven or that are simply inaccurate. And of course it is very likely that some things will happen in September that we cannot anticipate right now. I am just providing the information that I have at this time, and it is up to you and your family to prepare for what you believe will happen. The following is my big list of 33 things that are going to happen in September 2015…
September 11 – The last day of trading on Wall Street before the end of the Shemitah year
September 12 – Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour opens in the United States. The first stop is in Washington D.C. and according to Holly Deyo the “opening theme is Desecration of The Bride and Arrival of Fallen Angels”
September 12 and September 13 – Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leading authority in Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, has indicated that the Messiah that the Jewish people are expecting could come at this time
September 13 – The last day of the Shemitah year. During the last two Shemitah cycles, we witnessed record-breaking stock market crashes on the very last day of the Shemitah year (Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar). For example, if you go back to September 17th, 2001 (which was Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar), we witnessed the greatest one day stock market crash in all of U.S. history up until that time. The Dow plunged 684 points, and it was a record that held for exactly seven years until the end of the next Shemitah cycle. On September 29th, 2008 (which was also Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar), the Dow plummeted 777 points, which still today remains the greatest one day stock market crash of all time in the United States. Now we are in another Shemitah year. It began in the fall of 2014, and it ends on September 13th, 2015.
September 14 – The first day of trading on Wall Street after the end of the Shemitah year
September 15 – The 70th session of the UN General Assembly begins on this date. It has been widely reported that France plans to introduce a resolution which will give formal UN Security Council recognition to a Palestinian state shortly after the new session begins. Up until now, the U.S. has always been the one blocking such a resolution, but Barack Obama has already indicated that things may be different this time around. It would be extremely difficult to overstate the significance of this.
September 15 – The Jade Helm military exercises are scheduled to end
September 17 – If there is going to be a rate hike in September, this is probably when the Federal Reserve will do it
September 17 – This is the deadline for Congress to vote on Obama’s deal with Iran
September 17 – Constitution Day – most Americans do not even know that this holiday exists
September 23 – The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, also known as “the Feast of the Sacrifice”, begins
September 23 – Pope Francis arrives at the White House to meet with Barack Obama
September 23 – The 266th Pope will be meeting with the president of the United States on the 266th day of the year. Some have suggested that “something is being birthed” on that day since 266 days is the average length of the human gestation period.
September 24 – The Pope addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress
September 25 – On May 14th, 2014 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius famously proclaimed that we had only 500 days to avoid “climate chaos”. His time frame of 500 days ends on September 25th.
September 25 – The Pope will hold mass in Madison Square Garden in New York City
September 25 to September 27 – The United Nations launches a brand new “universal agenda” for humanity known as “the 2030 Agenda”
September 25 – The Pope appears at the UN to deliver an address to kick off the conference at which the 2030 Agenda will be unveiled
September 28 – The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles
September 28 – This is the date for the last of the four blood moons that fall on Biblical festival dates during 2014 and 2015. This blood moon will be a “supermoon” and it will be clearly visible from the city of Jerusalem.
Due to the ending of the Shemitah year and numerous other factors, there is rampant speculation that a stock market crash is going to happen in the United States during the month of September. Previously, I have expressed my view that a major global financial crisis is imminent, but my warning covers all of the remaining months of 2015. Since I cannot prove that a stock market crash will happen next month, I have left it off the list. But without a doubt, we are entering the danger zone.
There is also lots of speculation about unusual activity at the Large Hadron Collider during the month of September. In my research, I have not yet come across anything that confirms that. If you have solid information concerning this, please send it to me. But certainly, what they are doing with the Large Hadron Collider concerns me greatly. This is something that I covered in a previous article entitled “Will The Large Hadron Collider Open Up A Portal To Another Dimension?”
In addition, I am also aware that there is a tremendous amount of speculation about an asteroid or a meteor that may or may not be heading toward our planet next month. At this time, I have no way of proving this is true, and I have no way of disproving it is true either. I have not come across anything that I can independently verify that indicates that this will or will not happen. In law school I was trained to stick to the facts, and I don’t have any facts. If you do have some solid and verifiable information, please share it with me.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge that there is plenty of speculation about certain natural disasters that may happen in September. They may indeed happen, but I cannot prove anything of that nature right now so I have left those natural disasters off the list.
Needless to say, next month promises to be absolutely crazy, and our time for preparing is running out.
Gallups identifies specific incidents when civil society collapsed, most notably in New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina.
“You ended up with the worst of both worlds,” Gallups observed. “You had widespread criminality, anarchy and disorder, and somehow, at the same time, you had government officials going around enforcing wildly tyrannical guidelines and even confiscating firearms.”
As a result, Americans may be forced to rely on themselves for protection, meaning Christians have to begin planning now.
Even if it doesn’t happen next month, life in America is about to change dramatically.
The infrastructure and government services that we have all come to take for granted may not be there in the future.
It is imperative that we all start to learn how to become more independent of the system, because the system is going to start failing in thousands of different ways.
Photo of “Rocky Fire” in Lake County California, August 2, 2015
Modern industrialized society has inflicted immense damage to our planet and it’s life support systems. Though there are countless forms of anthropogenic destruction, climate engineering is the most expansive and lethal of all. If you don’t believe those in power have the right to control the climate system and your future, then make your voice heard in this battle. Reading this article or a thousand more like it won’t get the job done, we must all make every possible effort to wake others by sharing critical and credible data with them and asking them to also help spread the word. If we do not all take a stand today, we will not have tomorrow. DW
El Niño Brings Wet Summer to Plains; Western Drought Continues
by Becky Oskin, Senior Writer | May 21, 2015
Forecasts for June, July and August in the United States suggest temperatures will be cooler than usual in the central Plains.
The West can expect its warm and dry weather to continue through the summer, while the central Plains will be relatively cool and wet, according to a summer forecast released today (May 21).
The East will be slightly warmer than average, and drought will intensify in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest, a pattern that’s typical of El Niño summers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Texas and Oklahoma have already felt the force of El Niño-influenced weather, NOAA said in a briefing today. Both states were in a severe drought last year, but this spring, drenching rainstorms refilled the states’ parched reservoirs to near capacity. Kentucky also saw a soaking spring, recording its second wettest April on record. “This pattern is partially the effect of El Niño conditions,” said David Unger, a forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The Texas drought began in October 2010 and was the second-driest spell in the state’s history, said Victor Murphy, a program manager for the National Weather Service’s Southern Region. “It looks like the Texas drought is pretty much over,” Murphy said. [The 5 Worst Droughts in US History]
In summer, a strong El Niño often steers heavy rainstorms toward the southern Plains states and the intermountain West, including Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. However, the summer forecast calls for dry conditions in the West and Alaska, Unger said.
An El Niño also tends to tamp down Atlantic hurricane activity and boost Pacific hurricanes; NOAA plans to release its hurricane forecast on May 27.
The El Niño is a cyclic climate phenomenon that involves both the ocean and the atmosphere. One of its hallmarks is warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Although the El Niño fizzled last winter, the pool of warm water stuck around this spring and strengthened into a full-blown event.
With an El Niño brewing in the Pacific, the warm tropical ocean surface has been helping set new global heat records this year. Global temperatures in April 2015 were the fourth warmest on record since 1880, said Jake Crouch, a NOAA climatologist. And the first four months of 2015 shattered old heat records.
During January through April, the average temperature across land and ocean surfaces was 1.44 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average. This surpassed the previous record, set in 2010, by 0.13 F (0.07 C).
“2015 is very warm compared to other years,” Crouch said. “It has been really quite a bit ahead of the pack.”
America’s remarkable mid-November Arctic blast continued Wednesday morning, with hundreds of daily record low temperatures falling again. Charlotte, North Carolina bottomed out at 14°F, the coldest temperature ever measured so early in the season, and January-like cold brought temperatures 15 – 35°F below average to most of the eastern half of the country. Hardest hit by the unseasonably early Arctic outbreak was Buffalo, New York, where a record lake effect snowstorm was being blamed for at least five deaths. Three of the deaths were from heart attacks, one from a traffic accident, and one was a 46-year old man who was found dead in his stranded car. Up to five feet of snow fell along the south and east sides of the city in the 24 hours ending at 10 pm EST Tuesday, thanks to an intense band of heavy lake effect snow coming off of Lake Erie. The extreme snow band was very narrow; in the 24 hours when Lancaster on the city’s east side was pummeled with 60″ of snow, the Buffalo Airport, just six miles to the northwest, received only 3.9″. Extreme atmospheric instability due to relatively warm waters in the lake were responsible for the intensity of the storm; water temperatures were 47°F at the Environment Canada Port Colborne buoy at the east end of Lake Erie on Tuesday. A state of emergency has been declared in Erie County, New York, which includes Buffalo, and the National Guard has been called out to help dig people out. Thankfully, the band of heavy snow responsible for the extreme accumulations shifted northwards out of the city on Wednesday morning, and only minor accumulations will occur during the remainder of Wednesday. On Thursday morning, though, a new lake effect snowstorm will set up. The NWS in Buffalo is forecasting that while this storm will not be quite as intense, up to two feet of additional snow could fall in the same regions that received up to five feet of snow already this week.
Figure 1. A lake effect snow storm brought five feet of snow to Lancaster, New York on November 18, 2014. Image credit: Melinda Stoldt, via Facebook.
Figure 2. Radar loop of an intense lake effect snow band affecting the Buffalo, New York region between 6:36 – 9:07 am EST November 19, 2014. The band, which had been nearly stationary over South Buffalo for over 24 hours, is seen finally lifting northwards out of the city, thanks to a wind shift caused by an approaching trough of low pressure.
Most extreme Lake Erie snowstorm on record?
According to wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt, yesterday’s snowfall totals near Buffalo may challenge the official 24-hour snowfall record for the state of New York. The State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) lists the official record 24-hour snowfall for the state of New York as 49.0” on November 14 – 15, 1900. As of 10 pm EST Tuesday, at least five suburbs of Buffalo on its south and east sides had beaten this mark, recording 51 – 60″ of snow in 24 hours. The champions were was Lancaster and Gardenville, with 60″ of snow in 24 hours. It is yet not clear if any of these reports will be worthy of official status, recognized by the SCEC. Mr. Burt notes, though, that the SCEC is rife with errors and probably should not be taken too seriously. Much greater 24-hour totals have been reported from various observers/sources over the years at multiple locations in New York. The greatest unofficial 24-hour total he is aware of is 68” at Adams, NY on Jan. 9, 1976. Also, 77” fell in Montague Township in 24 hours on Jan. 11 – 12, 1997. This value was discounted by the SCEC as a result of a small technicality due to one too many snow board measurements being taken (7 instead of 6). However, the figure itself was accepted as accurate, but not official since the observer made a small error in the timing of his snow accumulation measurements. Note that all of these record 24-hour snowfalls came in Lake Ontario’s lake effect snow band, where higher terrain helps lift the air streaming off the lake to extract more snow. In Mr. Burt’s words, “So far as Lake Erie events, I think this week’s event one will go down as the most extreme on record.
Figure 3. MODIS satellite image of the lake effect snowstorm over Lake Erie on Tuesday afternoon, November 18, 2014. Strong updrafts due to relatively warm lake waters of 47°F created a towering line of clouds that cast a shadow to their north. Image credit: NASA.
Buffalo’s worst snowstorm: January 1977
This week’s storm did not significantly affect the mid through northern portions of metro Buffalo, including downtown, which is typical for a Lake Erie lake effect snowstorm–the heaviest snow falls south of the city. However, back in January 1977, a 5-day blizzard hit all of Western New York, including Buffalo. The combination of blowing snow, wind and Arctic temperatures resulted in hundreds of people being stranded in their cars. Because of constant whiteout conditions and life threatening wind chills, as well as the fact that nobody had cell phones back then to communicate in an emergency, 29 people lost their lives. Many were asphyxiated in their cars or froze to death from exposure.
Is the jet stream getting weird?
This week’s intense cold blast is being triggered by an unusually extreme jet stream pattern, featuring a sharp ridge of high pressure along the U.S. West Coast and a deep trough of low pressure diving to the south over the Central United States. This configuration allows cold air to spill out of the Arctic behind the trough into the Central U.S., and be replaced by anomalously warm air flowing northwards along the West Coast of the U.S. deep into the Arctic. This extreme jet stream pattern is due, in part, to the influence of Super Typhoon Nuri, which caused a ripple effect on the jet stream after the typhoon became one of the most powerful extratropical storms ever recorded in the waters to the west of Alaska eleven days ago. However, we’ve seen an unusual number of extreme jet stream patterns like this in the past fifteen years, which happens to coincide with the period of time we’ve been observing record loss of summertime Arctic sea ice and record retreat of springtime snow cover in the Arctic. Could it be that these changes in the Arctic are causing the wacky jet stream behavior of recent years? That’s the theory being advanced by a number of prominent climate scientists. I’ve written extensively about the topic, and my most recent post on the subject was in April, California Drought/Polar Vortex Jet Stream Pattern Linked to Global Warming. A updated story that I wrote for the just-published December issue of Scientific American discusses the theory and its detractors, and you can read it on-line for $6 (or buy a copy at the news stand.) My conclusion in the article: If Arctic changes are truly to blame for wacky jet stream behavior, losing the remaining 50 percent of the Arctic sea-ice coverage between now and 2030 will bring even greater antics. If the Arctic is not involved, that is worrisome as well—because that means jet stream changes are due to an unknown mechanism, leaving us with no idea how the jet stream will respond as climate change progresses. Thus, my forecast for the next 15 years: expect the unprecedented.
Video 1. A time-lapse view of Lake Erie from Buffalo, New York during the lake-effect snow storm of November 18, 2014. Note the rising motion of the clouds, showing the extreme instability of the atmosphere due to relatively warm waters at the surface (47°F at the Environment Canada Port Colborne buoy at the east end of Lake Erie.)
May 19, 2014: Every ten days, the NASA/French Space Agency Jason-2 satellite maps all the world’s oceans, monitoring changes in sea surface height, a measure of heat in the upper layers of the water. Because our planet is more than 70% ocean, this information is crucial to global forecasts of weather and climate.
Lately, Jason-2 has seen something brewing in the Pacific—and it looks a lot like 1997.
“A pattern of sea surface heights and temperatures has formed that reminds me of the way the Pacific looked in the spring of 1997,” says Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “That turned out to be the precursor of a big El Niño.”
A new ScienceCast video examines the evidence that an El Niño is developing in the Pacific. Play it
“We can’t yet say for sure that an El Niño will develop in 2014, or how big it might be,” cautions Mike McPhaden of NOAA’s Pacific Environmental Research Laboratories in Seattle, “but the Jason-2 data support the El Niño Watch issued last month by NOAA.”
What Jason-2 has been seeing is a series of “Kelvin waves”—massive ripples in sea level that travel across the Pacific from Australia to South America. Forecasters are paying close attention because these waves could be a herald of El Niño.
The two phenomena, Kelvin waves and El Niño, are linked by wind. Pacific trade winds blow from east to west, pushing sun-warmed surface waters toward Indonesia. As a result, the sea level near Indonesia is normally 45 cm higher than it is near Ecuador. Researchers call that area the “warm pool”—it is the largest reservoir of warm water on our planet.
Sometimes, however, trade winds falter for a few days or weeks, and some of that excess sea level ripples back toward the Americas. “That’s a Kelvin wave,” says McPhaden. “It’s not unusual to see a couple every winter.”
El Niño happens when trade winds falter not just for days, but for many months. Then Kelvin waves cross the Pacific like a caravan, raising sea level and leaving warmer equatorial waters in their wake.
On May 8th, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction forecasted a 65% chance of El Niño developing during the summer of 2014. More
“The El Niño of 1997/98 was a textbook example,” recalls Patzert. “At that time we were getting data from TOPEX/Poseidon, a predecessor of Jason-2. Sea surface maps showed a whitish bump, indicating a sea level some 10 centimeters higher than usual, moving along the equator from Australia to South America.”
“The same pattern is repeating in 2014,” says McPhaden. “A series of Kelvin waves generated by localized west wind bursts in the western Pacific that began in mid-January 2014 are headed east. Excitement is building as a third weakening of the Pacific trade winds happened in mid-April.”
Ocean and atmospheric scientists at NOAA and NASA are carefully monitoring the Pacific trade winds. The tipping point for declaring a significant El Niño will be an even longer lasting, larger collapse in Pacific trade winds, possibly signaling a shift in weather all around our planet.
“It will become much clearer over the next two to three months whether these recent developments are the forerunner of a major El Niño—or any El Niño at all,” says McPhaden.
Everyone is complaining about sky high food prices. Why are they going nuts? The fault is mostly due to harsh weather conditions of drought, vicious storms, floods, soggy soil, hail, frost and ice, and ferocious winds. Escalating extremes have beaten fruits, vegetables and farm animals to death around the world and we’re paying for it – literally. In the last 3 years, America was slammed with 32 multi-billion dollar disasters that for the most part, hit during crop-growing seasons. The 2012 Drought / Heatwave alone took a $30 billion bite out of peoples’ pockets.
For the past three years drought has decimated Texas cattle herds by over 2 million head. Now California’s cattle are getting smacked. This is small potatoes by comparison, but last year South Dakota lost 30,000 head – frozen in a single November blizzard. Our neighbor to the south, Mexico, lost 1.7 million head in 2011 due to drought. There are other cattle losses as well, but there’s not time to document them all.
It used to be that cattle herds took about 3 years to replenish. Experts stated this week it could take the rest of this decade – 6 years – to rebuild America’s beef and dairy livestock. That’s double the norm. Meanwhile, food prices continue to ramp up. That’s if no more catastrophes descend. How much do you want to bet on a lucky break? In the first 3 months of this year, 1/3 of the U.S. is in USDA-declared crop disaster areas.
Gas prices are moving up again with Brent Crude kissing a $100/barrel yesterday. It costs more money to move produce, dairy and meat from farmer to fork. Also, more countries are eating better so farmers ship more food to other nations. This puts a squeeze on our supply. Then there’s the idiocy of bio-fuels, which takes another bite from food stocks. However, the most direct and dire cause of rising food prices is unquestionably weather disasters.
Having your own garden helps counteract rocketing food prices. All you need is a bit of space, some know-how and a little time. Frankly, I’d rather be outside messing in the garden, soaking up the Sun, doing what we can to provide in the face of Nature’s fury, and helping plants spring to life than read depressing news. It’s like my girlfriend’s phone recording: “Hey, I’m out playing in the dirt. Leave a message!”
You don’t need to have this much space dedicated to veggies. Generally speaking, all that is needed is one 4×4 bed for salad greens and one 4×4 bed for vegetables for each adult. See? It requires little space for the basics. However, in light of ever-darkening current events, worsening weather and escalating grocery prices, we’re taking out our own food insurance for pennies on the dollar. Since the world is now a global food store, everyone’s pain is our pain and we all feel it at the grocery store. If you’re a newbie gardener or are bleary-eyed from reading news, here’s a look at our layout for this year’s crops.
DESIGNING YOUR GARDEN GOLD
Stan and I practice what we preach and have greatly expanded our veggie gardens this year. In fact, from 8 years ago, they’ve doubled in size. Some of the harvest will be canned, some frozen, some eaten fresh, some given to friends and some taken to the homeless shelter. Nothing will go to waste. We see hard times coming this year and having an ample garden is one way to fight back.
Image: This year we really concentrated on what we like to eat and grow just that. Figures 1, 2 and 3 show the layout of this year’s gardens. We’ve expanded them considerably in light of much higher food prices. It will save money in the long run. See the first article in this series, How to Beat Coming Killer Food Shortages. Since we grow organically, we won’t fall victim to repeated fruit and veggie recalls due to E. Coli, listeria and salmonella contamination. Numbers in red are the weeks that successive crops will be planted.
For example, the first lettuce, carrot, radish and spinach seeds were sown on March 29. Second crop will be planted April 12 and the 3rd crop on April 26. For radishes, since they only take about a month to harvest, the 4th planting on May 10 will go where the March 29 seeds were and so on. For peas and other lettuces, we’ll plant for Fall crops.
THINK WITH THE BRAIN, NOT THE BELLY
Last year, we had tons too many tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini and ended up giving away more than half of everything. Neighbors were happy to help us with this!
We still have plenty of Jalapeños, Serranos and Big Jim/Nu Mex in the freezer from 2013, so this year, the garden will just grow Santa Fe chilies.
Bell Peppers have a ton of uses whether they’re eaten fresh or grilled or included in salads, omelettes and kabobs. Extras at the end of season can be Ziplocked and frozen to make colorful tasty additions to soups and stews.
Zucchinis over-produce for our use, so there will be just a couple of seedlings planted. Since we adore baked Acorn and Butternut squash we’ve allowed for plenty. They store for months and are super versatile.
My favorite method is to slice them in half lengthwise, scoop out the seed goo, add a bit of butter, white wine and seasoning like Lawry’s or even better, Red Robin. The flavor of a little sweet wine mixed with a hint of Red Robin zing? Yum. Bake them in water about 1/3 of the way up the squash until fork-tender. Baste occasionally. A clone for Red Robin Seasoning goes like this:
Red Robin Seasoning
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon instant tomato soup mix (Knorr tomato with basil works great)
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Store in a covered container. Makes 1/3 cup.
Stan is a major fan of small watermelons, so we’re planting a bunch of Sugar Babies. Ditto for Holly on cantaloupe. The best ever is grown just a few miles away – Rocky Ford. Yes, this is the same ‘loupe involved in the 2011 listeria outbreak. Regardless, they are the sweetest cantaloupes on the planet. To be clear, Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado that was responsible for the listeria drama is not the same as Rocky Ford Grower’s Assn. They are 100 miles apart. To further confuse things, Rocky Ford is both a place and the name of these luscious ‘loupes.
Image: The dotted line represents two different growing areas. The two ‘old beds’ on the left are out by the orchard and the two ‘new beds’ are about 50 feet off the back deck.
We love Snap and Snow Peas and Green Beans and have been known to munch them straight off the vine. 🙂 Plus, they freeze well. Since beans and peas are something we consume regularly, we’re planting a bunch.
And then there’s Pinto Beans. Stan and I must have Hispanic roots somewhere “in another life” because Tex-Mex is our favorite food bar none. Nothing beats a hair-raising, nosebleed-bitingly flavorful bit of really southern tucker. This brings us to that weird patch of cilantro in Figure 1. It is integral to many Tex-Mex meals. This stuff simply won’t die out. It grew throughout winter with no water in sub-freezing temps. So for its faithfulness, we let it live, otherwise I’d dig up this herb and replace it with a veggie.
TIP: Spices can take up as much room as veggies. Economically speaking, it’s more cost-effective to buy them in bulk from Tone’s and save your space for fruits and vegetables. Besides Tone’s for dried bulk buys, check McCormick, Frontier Natural Products Co-op, Monterey Bay Spice Company and My Spice Sage. We’ve purchased most of ours from the first three, not the last two. However, nothing beats the fragrance and flavor of fresh herbs and spices.
KNOW WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM
Four years ago, we put in an asparagus bed with 47 crowns. You’d think that’d be plenty and then some. Mistakenly we thought multiple varieties would be clever. Not so. The Martha Washington, Jersey Giant and Jersey Knights were ready at different times. Some were thicker and some thinner, which meant they steamed at different times. There wasn’t a single instance when more than 4 or 5 stalks were ready to harvest simultaneously. Not exactly a side dish for 2. It was a nice stalk here, 2 more there. Since we live in the high desert, it was a perpetual uphill fight to get them going productively, like pushing a boulder along with a toothpick. Plus, you’re not supposed to harvest the first year’s crop. More waiting. Florence, a town just 30 minutes west of us, has them growing wild by the Arkansas River. When our neighbor lived there his mom sent Jerry nightly to pick all they needed – for free. Lucky dog!
If in having a practical, usable garden, some things are just too difficult and expensive to cultivate, yell calf rope! Enough already! This year, the asparagus patch now holds melons, cucumbers, broccoli and celery.
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER, NOT OBAMA’S “HOPE & CHANGE”
Don’t be surprised if, over the years, your garden beds morph. This is what we started with in 2007: 6 – 4×4-foot beds. The strawberry bed is history. They didn’t produce enough at the same time (like the asparagus) to warrant the space. Unless you have time every week to cut off runners, the bed soon becomes an overgrown, tangled mess. For fruit, these plants were replaced by raspberry, blueberry, grape and elderberry bushes on a berm not pictured. Also in the fruit department are 15 trees consisting of varieties of apple, peach, plum, pear and cherry.
Photo: In eight years our gardens have changed considerably and doubled in size.
The cedar beds (pictured above) didn’t weather well in Colorado’s high altitude and strong UV. Gone are the chicken wire walls and cages. Where the 4 – 4×4 beds were on the left are now 2 – 4×4’s and 1 – 4×8. The two decorative brick beds on the right have morphed into two more 4×8’s. Our total bed space is this: 4 – 4×4’s, 4 – 4×8’s and one goofy-sized 6×7. We use recycled plastic and natural fiber board raised beds from Frame-It-All with nifty animal barriers. They also sell very cool attachable greenhouse tops and trellises.
The image below of a Frame-It-All 4×8 bed is their older model for the animal barrier. Now where “A” is, it has a cap like on “B”. This allows for multiple 2-foot additions of animal barriers – in case you have tall invaders! Numerous other companies manufacture similar raised bed kits. We just happened to land on Frame It All and stuck with them for continuity. You can also build your own as detailed in Garden Gold.
All of our beds are 12″ deep, which makes rotating crops no problem. If you use only a 4″ or 6″ high board, which holds just 3-5 inches of Super Soil, it makes growing potatoes, carrots and some other root veggies nearly impossible, so it greatly cuts down on the ability to rotate crops. With extra depth, there is always flexibility. It’s vital that crops are rotated yearly to naturally prevent bug infestations. Not every bug likes the same veggie so if they’ve visited cauliflower one year, next year’s crop of cauliflower needs to go in a different area. This is one of the main natural preventative techniques used by organic farmers.
SIDEBAR TIP: Also changed is the 500-gallon propane tank pictured above. No, it’s not gone. When natural gas was made available to our area, we chose to go with it. However, we’ve kept the propane tank – always filled – for back-up fuel. In the event of a prolonged power outage – as in months – gas appliances can be switched back to propane. You can’t believe how much less expensive it is to refill your BBQ canisters from this big tank. It’s always available so if you’re cooking and the 20-gallon BBQ tank is unexpectedly empty, it’s easy-peasy-cheapy to fill up.
Back to gardening. Areas around the beds are now grassed in. That, combined with the Chinese bio-intensive growing method of planting everything close together keeps weeds at bay as there’s no place for them to take root. In case you’ve read our accounts and saw this video of massive tumbleweed issues in southern Colorado, it’s best not to give their seeds a place to land. It’s also easier on the feet and knees than surrounding beds with sharp, decorative rock. All it takes is a quick go with the Weedeater to keep grass in line.
A study from climatologists at Princeton University suggests that weather has grown more erratic on a day-to-day basis since the middle of the 80s.
David Medvigy, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton, and Claudie Beaulieu, a postdoctoral research fellow in Princeton’s Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, believe that extremely sunny or cloudy days have become more common and that swings between stormy days and dry days have increased dramatically.
This has obviously occurred at a time when global temperatures have been rising, but it’s impossible to say for sure whether the increase in variability is being caused by climate change. On the one hand, a warmer world means there’s more energy in the atmosphere to generate dramatic weather with, but on the other hand, climate is merely an average of weather over a long period of time.
This increase in variability could have impacts on the stability of ecosystems and on industries like agriculture, renewable energy production and transport. “Our work adds to what we know about climate change in the real world and places the whole problem of climate change in a new light,” saud Medvigy. “Nobody has looked for these daily changes on a global scale. We usually think of climate change as an increase in mean global temperature and potentially more extreme conditions — there’s practically no discussion of day-to-day variability.”
He added: “If you don’t know what role variability is playing now, you’re not in a very strong position for making remarks about how it might change in the future,” he said. “We’re at a stage where we had better take a look at what this research is pointing out.”
The most extreme variations in weather were observed in the tropics, but those effects radiate around the glove, said William Rossow, a professor of earth system science and environmental engineering at the City College of New York. “Wherever it’s raining heavily, especially, or variably is where the atmosphere is being punched. As soon as it is punched somewhere in the tropics it starts waves that go all the way around the planet,” he said.
“Signals end up going over the whole globe, and whether they’re important in a particular place or not depends on what else is happening,” he added. “But you can think of storms as being the disturbances in an otherwise smooth flow. That’s why this is a climate issue even though we’re talking about daily variability in specific locations.”