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.”
Abundant moisture from heavy rains and snows that fell during two major Midwest storms in late February put only a slight dent in the great Midwest drought of 2012 – 2013. According to the February 28, 2013 Drought Monitor, the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. suffering moderate or greater drought shrank from 56% to 54%, and the area in the worst category of drought–exceptional drought–fell from 6.7% to 5.4% over the past week. These are the largest 1-week improvements in these drought categories that we’ve seen for 9 months and 15 months, respectively. The improvements were most noteworthy in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and the Southeast U.S., where drought improved by a full category (using the level 1 to 4 categories of the Palmer Drought Severity Index.) However, the dry pattern that has been dominant over the U.S. for most of the past year will re-assert itself during the coming ten days, and most of the drought region will receive less than 0.5″ of precipitation through March 9. There exists the possibility of a significant Midwest storm on March 10, according to recent runs of the GFS and ECMWF computer models, but it is too early to assess if this storm may be able to provide significant drought relief. In general, droughts are more likely in the Midwest U.S. when warmer than average ocean temperatures prevail in the tropical Atlantic, with cooler than average ocean temperatures in the tropical Eastern Pacific (La Niña-like conditions.) This is what we had in during most of 2012, and continue to have in 2013. Equatorial East Pacific ocean temperatures are currently 0.5°C below average. This is similar to the ocean temperatures seen in the spring of 2012, just before the Great Drought of 2012 began. Most of the U.S. drought region needs 3 – 9″ of precipitation to pull out of drought. Unless the Midwest receives a top-ten percent wettest spring on record, drought is going to be a huge concern as we enter summer.
Figure 1. Drought conditions as of February 28, 2013 showed that drought still gripped a majority of the U.S. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.
Figure 2. Predicted 7-day precipitation for the period ending Thursday, March 7. Less than 10% of the U.S. drought regions are predicted to receive as much as 0.5″ of precipitation (dark green color.) Image credit: NOAA/HPC.
The top winds of Tropical Depression Isaac have fallen to 25 mph, but the storm continues to be a potent rain-maker as it heads north-northwest at 11 mph into Missouri. Isaac has spawned up to 20 suspected tornadoes, brought storm surges as high as 13.6′ to the coast (in Lake Borgne, LA), and dumped 20″ of rain at one station in New Orleans. The 13.27″ of rain that fell at Hattiesburg, MS broke the record for wettest August in the city’s history (previous record: 13.03″ in 1987.) Major flooding is occurring on seven rivers in Louisiana and Mississippi. Isaac is being blamed for at least four deaths in the U.S., 24 in Haiti, and five in the Dominican Republic.
A few notable rainfall totals from Isaac, through 11 am EDT on Friday:
20.08″ New Orleans, LA
15.02″ Marion, MS
13.99″ Pascagoula, MS
13.27″ Hattiesburg, MS
10.85″ Gulfport, MS
10.39″ Slidell, LA
10.17″ Biloxi, MS
9.85″ Mobile, AL
7.38″ Pine Bluff, AR
5.95″ Baton Rouge, LA
A major reason for Isaac’s heavy rainfall totals has been its very slow motion. This slow speed was due to the fact Isaac has been bumping into a ridge of high pressure that is unusually strong, due to the intense drought over the center of the U.S.; strong drought-amplified high pressure areas are very resistant to allowing any low pressure areas to intrude into their domain. The high pressure area was strong enough this week to allow several all-time records for heat this late in the year to be set:
112° on August 29 at Winner, SD
108° on August 29 at Valentine, NE
107° on August 29 at Corpus Christi, TX
97° on August 29 at Denver, CO (2nd highest so late in the year)
Figure 1. Nighttime view of Hurricane Isaac taken at 1:57 am CDT August 29, 2012, by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi-NPP satellite. The VIIRS day-night band detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared, and uses light intensification to enable the detection of dim signals. In this case, the clouds of Isaac were lit by moonlight. Image credit: NASA.
Isaac’s beneficial rains falling in drought-stricken regions
Hurricanes get a lot of attention because of the billions in damage they cost, and the lives they disrupt. AIR Worldwide estimated today that insured damage from Isaac would cost up to $2 billion. This does not include damage to infrastructure or uninsured damage, so the final price tag of Isaac’s rampage will be more like $3 – $5 billion. However, Isaac is now dumping beneficial rains over Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky–regions stricken by the worst drought since the 1950s or 1930s, depending upon the exact location. These regions need 9 – 18 inches of rain to pull them out of drought. Isaac’s 3 – 6 inches of rain will not end the drought, but will put a pretty good dent in it. I expect that 3 – 6 inches of rain for a wide swath of prime agricultural land in extreme drought is probably worth at least $5 billion, when you consider that a recent estimate by a Purdue economist put the cost of the great drought of 2012 at more than $77 billion. Only Hurricane Katrina ($146 billion) and the drought of 1988 ($78 billion) have been more expensive disasters, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Unfortunately, Isaac’s arrival is poorly timed, as the storm is arriving during harvest season. The strong winds associated with the storm will flatten many crops, making it more difficult to harvest them, and Isaac’s winds may cost farmers several hundred million dollars due to unharvestable crops. Still, the rains from Isaac will be highly beneficial for the success of the upcoming winter wheat season, and for next year’s growing season.
Figure 2. Predicted precipitation for the five-day period ending on Tuesday evening shows that Isaac is expected to bring a large region of 3 – 6 inches of rain (red, orange, and brown colors) to Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.
Figure 3. The great drought of 2012 has brought so little rain to the Midwest that some areas require over 15″ of rain (dark purple colors) to end the drought. Image credit: NOAA/CPC.
Unanswered questions about Hurricane Isaac
1. Did the passage of Hurricane Isaac stir up oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? Isaac was the first hurricane to pass over the site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We know that large hurricanes are capable of creating currents in deep water at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico; Hurricane Ivan caused upwelling currents of 0.5 cm/s at a depth of about 500 meters. In an August 28 article in the Huffington Post, Nick Shay, professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami, said: “Winds will push water away from the center of a storm, which causes an upwelling as the ocean tries to adjust. It brings whatever is near the bottom up higher in the water column and currents can then push it towards the coast.” Up to 1 million barrels of oil from the spill are estimated to still be present in the deep water sediment, on beaches, and in the marshes of Louisiana, and it is possible some of this oil will wash up on the Gulf Coast in coming months. The storm surge of Isaac also likely flushed out oil lodged in the coastal marshes of Louisiana, but it is unknown how much of a concern this might be.
2. What’s the deal with these super-sized Category 1 and 2 hurricanes that have been hitting the U.S.? The past three landfalling hurricanes in the U.S.–Isaac (2012), Irene (2011), and Ike (2008)–have all been exceptionally large, among the top ten on record for horizontal extent of tropical storm-force winds. Each of these storms had an unusually low pressure characteristic of a storm one full Saffir-Simpson category stronger. Is this the new normal for U.S. hurricanes?
3. Did the new $14.5 billion upgrade to the New Orleans levee system cause worse flooding elsewhere? Whenever a new levee or flood control structure is created, you make someone else’s flood problem worse, since the water has to go somewhere. Where did the water was stopped by the new $1.1 billion, 1.8 mile-long Lake Borgne flood barrier on the east side of New Orleans go? Did it flow south and contribute to the overtopping of the levees near Braithwaite? Or did it go north and contribute to the 36 hours of storm surge in excess of 5′ observed along the Mississippi coast at Waveland? I posed this question to NHC’s storm surge expert Jaime Rhome, and he said it was impossible to know without doing detailed storm surge modeling studies.
4. Can only hurricanes beginning with the letter “I” hit the U.S. now? Isaac (2012), Irene (2011), and Ike (2008) are the last three hurricanes to hit the U.S. It turns out that hurricanes that begin with the letter “I” and “C” have more names on the list of retired hurricanes than any other letter (nine each.) I’m thinking Isaac will get its name retired, letting storms beginning with “I” take over sole possession of first place on the retired storms list.
Hurricane Kirk in the Central Atlantic Hurricane Kirk intensified into a 105 mph Category 2 hurricane this morning, becoming the 2nd strongest hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Gordon was the only stronger storm; Gordon hit sustained winds of 110 mph just before reaching the Azores Islands on August 18. Kirk has probably peaked in intensity, and is about to move over colder waters and gradually decay. Kirk is not a threat to any land areas.
Figure 4. Morning satellite image of Tropical Storm Leslie.
Tropical Storm Leslie a long-range threat to Bermuda, Canada, and the U.S. East Coast Tropical Storm Leslie formed on Thursday in the Central Atlantic. Leslie’s formation date of August 30 puts 2012 in 2nd place for earliest formation date of the season’s 12th tropical storm. Only 1995 had an earlier formation date of the season’s 12th storm. With records dating back to 1851, this year is only the second time 8 total storms have formed in August. The other year was 2004, when the first storm of the season formed on August 1 (Alex), and the 8th storm (Hermine) formed on August 29th. Satellite loops show that Leslie has a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity, and respectable low-level spiral bands and upper-level outflow. Conditions appear ripe to allow Leslie to intensify into a Category 2 hurricane by Sunday. Fortunately, Hurricane Kirk is weakening the ridge of high pressure to the north of Leslie, and Leslie is expected to turn to the northwest and miss the Lesser Antilles Islands. However, steering currents for Leslie are expected to collapse early next week, as Leslie gets stuck between two upper level lows. The storm will then slowly meander over the open ocean for many days, potentially threatening Bermuda. Leslie will stay stuck until a strong trough of low pressure approaches the U.S. East Coast around September 8. This trough should be strong enough to pull Leslie to the north and then northeast by September 9. At that time, Leslie may be close enough to the coast that the storm will make landfall in New England, Canada, or the Mid-Atlantic states. Leslie could also miss land entirely; this all depends upon the timing and strength of the September 8 trough of low pressure. Regardless, Leslie is expected to bring an extended period of high waves to the U.S. coast. According to NOAA’s Wavewatch III model, large swells from Leslie will reach Bermuda by Monday, and arrive along the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday. These waves will be capable of creating dangerous rip currents and beach erosion.
Portlight disaster relief charity responds to Issac
The Portlight.org disaster relief charity, founded and staffed by members of the wunderground community, are in Mississippi, helping out with Isaac relief efforts. You can check out their progress or donate to Portlight’s disaster relief fund at the portlight.org website.
People around the world are noticing that our planet’s weather is dramatically changing. They are also beginning to notice the long lingering trails left behind airplanes that have lead millions to accept the reality of chemtrail/geoengineering programs. Could there be a connection between the trails and our severe weather? While there are many agendas associated with these damaging programs, evidence is now abundant which proves that geoengineering can be used to control weather. In this documentary you will learn how the aerosols being sprayed into our sky are used in conjunction with other technologies to control our weather. While geoengineers maintain that their models are only for the mitigation of global warming, it is now clear that they can be used as a way to consolidate an enormous amount of both monetary and political power into the hands of a few by the leverage that weather control gives certain corporations over the Earth’s natural systems. This of course, is being done at the expense of every living thing on the planet. Directed/Produced by Michael J. Murphy and Produced/Edited by Barry Kolsky.. Written by Michael J. Murphy and Barry Kolsky. www.witwats.co
Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEfJO0-cTis