Scientists are expecting a very large “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and a smaller than average hypoxic level in the Chesapeake Bay this year, based on several NOAA-supported forecast models.
NOAA-supported modelers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium are forecasting that this year’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic “dead” zone will be between 7,286 and 8,561 square miles which could place it among the ten largest recorded. That would range from an area the size of Connecticut, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia combined on the low end to the New Jersey on the upper end. The high estimate would exceed the largest ever reported 8,481 square miles in 2002 .
Hypoxic (very low oxygen) and anoxic (no oxygen) zones are caused by excessive nutrient pollution, often from human activities such as agriculture, which results in insufficient oxygen to support most marine life in near-bottom waters. Aspects of weather, including wind speed, wind direction, precipitation and temperature, also impact the size of dead zones.
The Gulf estimate is based on the assumption of no significant tropical storms in the two weeks preceding or during the official measurement survey cruise scheduled from July 25-August 3 2013. If a storm does occur the size estimate could drop to a low of 5344 square miles, slightly smaller than the size of Connecticut.
The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is the Nation’s Scorekeeper in terms of addressing severe weather/climate events in their historical perspective. As part of its responsibility of monitoring and assessing the climate, NCDC tracks and evaluates climate events in the U.S. and globally that have great economic and societal impacts. NCDC is frequently called upon to provide summaries of global and U.S. temperature and precipitation trends, extremes, and comparisons in their historical perspective. Found here are the weather/climate events that have had the greatest economic impact from 1980 to 2012. The U.S. has sustained 144 weather/climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2013). The total cost of these 144 events exceeds $1 trillion.
NOAA predicts active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season
In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year.
For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
WMO Annual Climate Statement Confirms 2012 as Among Top Ten Warmest Years
Source: World Meteorological Organization
The World Meteorological Organization’s Statement on the Status of the Global Climate says that 2012 joined the ten previous years as one of the warmest — at ninth place — on record despite the cooling influence of a La Niña episode early in the year.
The 2012 global land and ocean surface temperature during January–December 2012 is estimated to be 0.45°C (±0.11°C) above the 1961–1990 average of 14.0°C. This is the ninth warmest year since records began in 1850 and the 27th consecutive year that the global land and ocean temperatures were above the 1961–1990 average, according to the statement. The years 2001–2012 were all among the top 13 warmest years on record.
A New Harvard Report Probes Security Risks of Extreme Weather and Climate Change
Source: Harvard University Center for the Environment
Increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, severe storms, and heat waves have focused the attention of climate scientists on the connections between greenhouse warming and extreme weather. Because of the potential threat to U.S. national security, a new study was conducted to explore the forces driving extreme weather events and their impacts over the next decade, specifically with regard to their implications for national security planning. The report finds that the early ramifications of climate extremes resulting from climate change are already upon us and will continue to be felt over the next decade, directly impacting U.S. national security interests. “Lessons from the past are no longer of great value as a guide to the future,” said co-lead author Michael McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies at Harvard University. “Unexpected changes in regional weather are likely to define the new climate normal, and we are not prepared.”
Changes in extremes include more record high temperatures; fewer but stronger tropical cyclones; wider areas of drought and increases in precipitation; increased climate variability; Arctic warming and attendant impacts; and continued sea level rise as greenhouse warming continues and even accelerates. These changes will affect water and food availability, energy decisions, the design of critical infrastructure, use of the global commons such as the oceans and the Arctic region, and critical ecosystem resources. They will affect both underdeveloped and industrialized countries with large costs in terms of economic and human security. The study identifies specific regional climate impacts—droughts and desertification in Mexico, Southwest Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean, and increased flooding in South Asia—that are of particular strategic importance to the United States.
The report concludes that the risks related to extreme weather require that the U.S. sustain and augment its scientific and technical capacity to observe key indicators, monitor unfolding events, and forewarn of impending security threats as nations adapt to a changing climate. The study recommends a national strategy for strategic observations and monitoring— including greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions, ocean temperatures, and satellite observations of the Arctic—and improved forecast models. “Our critical observational infrastructure is at risk from declining funding,” added co-lead author D. James Baker, Director of the Global Carbon Measurement Program at the William J. Clinton Foundation and former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “Without that knowledge, the needs of civil society and national security for mitigation and adaptation will go unmet.”
Source: Carbon Balance and Management
A regional-scale sensitivity study has been carried out to investigate the climatic effects of forest cover change in Europe. Applying REMO (regional climate model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology), the projected temperature and precipitation tendencies have been analysed for summer, based on the results of the A2 IPCC-SRES emission scenario simulation. For the end of the 21st century it has been studied, whether the assumed forest cover increase could reduce the effects of the greenhouse gas concentration change.
Based on the simulation results, biogeophysical effects of the hypothetic potential afforestation may lead to cooler and moister conditions during summer in most parts of the temperate zone. The largest relative effects of forest cover increase can be expected in northern Germany, Poland and Ukraine, which is 15–20% of the climate change signal for temperature and more than 50% for precipitation. In northern Germany and France, potential afforestation may enhance the effects of emission change, resulting in more severe heavy precipitation events. The probability of dry days and warm temperature extremes would decrease.
Large contiguous forest blocks can have distinctive biogeophysical effect on the climate on regional and local scale. In certain regions of the temperate zone, climate change signal due to greenhouse gas emission can be reduced by afforestation due to the dominant evaporative cooling effect during summer. Results of this case study with a hypothetical land cover change can contribute to the assessment of the role of forests in adapting to climate change. Thus they can build an important basis of the future forest policy.
See: Planting Trees May Not Reverse Climate Change, but It Will Help Locally (Science Daily)
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The latest State of the Climate National Overview report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reveals that 2012 was the United States’ warmest year on record by a wide margin.
According to the latest statistics from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, the average temperature for the contiguous United States for 2012 was 55.3° Fahrenheit, which was 3.2° Fahrenheit above the twentieth-century average and 1.0° Fahrenheit above the previous record from 1998. Every state in the contiguous United States had an above-average annual temperature for 2012. The year consisted of the fourth-warmest winter, a record-warm spring, the second-warmest summer, and a warmer-than-average autumn.
NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record.
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis Tuesday that compares temperatures around the globe in 2012 to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago.
See: 2012 Sustained Long-Term Climate Warming Trend, NASA Finds (Science Daily)
2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year.
The average precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. for 2012 was 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below average, making it the 15th driest year on record for the nation. At its peak in July, the drought of 2012 engulfed 61 percent of the nation with the Mountain West, Great Plains, and Midwest experiencing the most intense drought conditions. The dry conditions proved ideal for wildfires in the West, charring 9.2 million acres — the third highest on record.
The U.S. Climate Extremes Index indicated that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation. The index, which evaluates extremes in temperature and precipitation, as well as landfalling tropical cyclones, was nearly twice the average value and second only to 1998. To date, 2012 has seen 11 disasters that have reached the $1 billion threshold in losses, to include Sandy, Isaac, and tornado outbreaks experienced in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
November 30 marks the end of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season, one that produced 19 named storms, of which 10 became hurricanes and one became a major hurricane. The number of named storms is well above the average of 12. The number of hurricanes is also above the average of six, but the number of major hurricanes is below the average of three.
Based on the combined number, intensity, and duration of all tropical storms and hurricanes, NOAA classifies the season as above-normal. 2012 was an active year, but not exceptionally so as there were 10 busier years in the last three decades.
This season marks the second consecutive year that the mid-Atlantic and Northeast suffered devastating impacts from a named storm. Sandy, and Irene last year, caused fatalities, injuries, and tremendous destruction from coastal storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, and wind. Storms struck many parts of the country this year, including tropical storms Beryl and Debby in Florida, Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana, and Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy in New Jersey.
Source: Energy Information Administration
U.S. households are expected to use more heating fuel this winter compared with last winter because temperatures are expected to be near normal this winter compared with last winter’s above-normal temperatures in many parts of the country.
Household natural gas heating demand this winter (October through March) is expected to be up nearly 14%, heating oil up 17%, electricity up 8%, and propane up 17%, according to EIA’s Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook for the 2012-13 U.S. heating season. While demand is expected to be higher than last winter, consumption is forecast to be less than the five-year average for all the major heating fuels except heating oil.
EIA’s forecast for higher household heating demand mainly reflects a much colder winter east of the Rocky Mountains compared with last winter, with heating degree days in the Northeast, Midwest, and South expected to be 20% to 27% greater this winter, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) forecast.
At the same time, supplies look plentiful for most heating fuels this winter…
Environmental temperatures, physiology and behavior limit the range expansion of invasive Burmese pythons in southeastern USA
Source: Integrative Zoology
A well-established population of Burmese pythons resides in the Everglades of southern Florida. Prompted in part by a report that identified much of southern USA as suitable habitat for expansion or establishment of the Burmese python, we examined the plausibility of this snake to survive winters at sites north of the Everglades. We integrated daily low and high temperatures recorded from October to February from 2005–2011 at Homestead, Orlando and Gainesville, Florida; and Aiken, South Carolina, with minimum temperatures projected for python digestion (16 °C), activity (5 °C) and survival (0 °C). Mean low and high temperatures decreased northward from Homestead to Aiken and the number of days of freezing temperatures increased northward. Digestion was impaired or inhibited for 2 months in the Everglades and up to at least 5 months in Aiken, and activity was increasingly limited northward during these months. Reports of overwinter survivorship document that a single bout of low and freezing temperatures results in python death. The capacity for Burmese pythons to successfully overwinter in more temperate regions of the USA is seemingly prohibited because they lack the behaviors to seek refuge from, and the physiology to tolerate, cold temperatures. As tropical Southeast Asia is the source of the Everglades Burmese pythons, we predict it is unlikely that they will be able to successfully expand to or colonize more temperate areas of Florida and adjoining states due to their lack of behavioral and physiological traits to seek refuge from cold temperatures.
Options for Modernizing Military Weather Satellites: Working Paper 2012-11
Source: Congressional Budget Office
Over the next several years, the Department of Defense (DoD) will launch the last of its weather satellites, which it uses to plan military operations and generate weather forecasts. Long-running efforts to develop replacements for those satellites encountered schedule and cost difficulties, and in December 2011, the Congress directed DoD to cancel its latest program and to prepare for a follow-on program. DoD’s plans now call for a new development effort, but it has not yet determined the capabilities it wants in that satellite. In this paper, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) examines three different satellite design concepts that DoD might consider and compares the cost and capability of those designs. The paper also discusses alternative approaches that DoD might take, such as fielding single instruments on several small satellites instead of several instruments on a single satellite and foregoing a new generation of military weather satellites altogether and instead relying on other sources for weather data.
DOC OIG — Testimony on Mismanagement of Funds at the National Weather Service and the Impact on the Future of Weather Forecasting
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General
I appreciate the opportunity to testify today about the Department of Commerce’s response to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service’s (NWS’) mismanagement of budgetary resources. Our testimony will address three areas:
1. Numerous whistleblower complaints, dating back to 2010, many of which have since been validated by multiple reviews of NWS financial mismanagement;
2. Separate Departmental and NOAA internal inquiries, resulting in both the Department and NOAA undertaking significant corrective action; and
3. Recent and current Office of Inspector General (OIG) follow-up reviews, to measure the sufficiency of the internal inquiries and the resulting corrective actions.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
High winds, especially when combined with precipitation from seasonal storms, can cause damage to electricity utility systems, resulting in service interruptions to large numbers of electricity customers. While most such power outages are caused by damage from trees and tree limbs falling on local electricity distribution lines and poles, major power outages tend to be caused by damage to electricity transmission lines which carry bulk power long distances. Depending on the severity of the storm and resulting impairment, power outages can last a few hours or extend to periods of several days, and have real economic effects. Power outages can impact businesses (primarily through lost orders and damage to perishable goods and inventories), and manufacturers (mainly through downtime and lost production, or equipment damage). Data from various studies lead to cost estimates from storm-related outages to the U.S. economy at between $20 billion and $55 billion annually. Data also suggest the trend of outages from weather-related events is increasing.
Suggested solutions for reducing impacts from weather-related outages include improved treetrimming schedules to keep rights-of-way clear, placing distribution and some transmission lines underground, implementing Smart Grid improvements to enhance power system operations and control, inclusion of more distributed generation, and changing utility maintenance practices and metrics to focus on power system reliability. However, most of these potential solutions come with high costs which must be balanced against the perceived benefits.
A number of options exist for Congress to consider which could help reduce storm-related outages. These range from improving the quality of data on storm-related outages, to a greater strategic investment in the U.S. electricity grid. Congress could empower a federal agency to develop standards for the consistent reporting of power outage data. While responsibility for the reliability of the bulk electric system is under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (as per the Energy Policy Act of 2005), no central responsibility exists for the reliability of distribution systems. One possible option could be to bring distribution systems under the Electric Reliability Organization for reliability purposes. Recovery after storm-related outages might be enhanced by a federal role in formalizing the review or coordination of electric utility mutual assistance agreements (MAAs). This would not necessarily mean federal approval of MAAs, but may help in the cooperative coordination of additional federal and state resources, especially in a wide, multi-state weather event. While there has been much discussion of transmission system inadequacies and inefficiencies, many distribution systems are in dire need of upgrades or repairs. The cost of upgrading the U.S. grid to meet future uses is expected to be high, with the American Society of Civil Engineers estimating a need of $673 billion by 2020. While the federal government recently made funding available of almost $16 billion for specific Smart Grid projects and new transmission lines under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, there has not been a comprehensive effort to study the needs, set goals, and provide targeted funding for modernization of the U.S. grid as part of a long-term national energy strategy. Such an effort would also require decisions about the appropriate roles of government and the private sector.
Power delivery systems are most vulnerable to storms and extreme weather events. Improving the overall condition and efficiency of the power delivery system can only serve to improve the resiliency of the system, and help hasten recovery from weather-related outages. Ultimately, however, electric utilities are responsible for this infrastructure. They are in the business of selling electricity, and they cannot sell electricity if their power delivery systems are out of service.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.
Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season – June 1 to November 30 – NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:
- 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
- 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
- 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)
State of the Climate — July 2012: hottest month on record for contiguous United States
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the hottest July and the hottest month on record for the nation. The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936 when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4°F. The warm July temperatures contributed to a record-warm first seven months of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.
Precipitation totals were mixed during July, with the contiguous U.S. as a whole being drier than average. The nationally averaged precipitation total of 2.57 inches was 0.19 inch below average. Near-record dry conditions were present for the middle of the nation, with the drought footprint expanding to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48, according the U.S. Drought Monitor.
IntroductionReviews of mass gathering events have traditionally concentrated on crowd variables that affect the level and type of medical care needed. Weather and environmental hazards at mass gathering events have not been fully researched. This review examines these events and aims to provide future suggestions for event organisers, medical resource planners, and emergency services, including local hospital emergency departments.MethodsA review was conducted using computerised data bases: MEDLINE, The Cochrane Library, HMIC and EMBASE, with Google used to widen the search beyond peer-reviewed publications, to identify grey literature. All peer-review literature articles found containing information pertaining to lessons identified from mass gathering disasters due to weather or environmental hazards leading to participant death, injury or illness were analysed and reviewed. Disasters occurring due to crowd variables were not included. These articles were read, analysed, abstracted and summarised.Results20 articles from literature search were found detailing mass gathering disasters relating directly to weather or environmental hazards from 1988 – 2011, with only 17 cases found within peer-review literature. Two events grey literature from 2011 are due to undergo further inquiry while one article reviews an event originally occurring in 1922. Analysis of cases were categorised in to heat and cold-related events, lightning and storms and disease outbreak.ConclusionsMass gathering events have an enormous potential to place a severe strain on the local health care system, Prior health resource and environmental planning for heat & cold-related illness, lightning & storms, and disease outbreak can advance emergency preparedness and response to potential disasters.