MAY, 2015 WETTEST IN U.S. HISTORY

April showers, as the saying goes, bring May flowers. Apparently, in Earth's new climate regime, we are a month behind – at least for 2015. According to data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, May was the wettest month on record in the lower 48 states. According to NOAA, May’s average precipitation total was 4.36 inches – 1.45 inches above average. In short, this was the wettest May on record, and the wettest month of any month since instrument record-keeping began in 1895. For the spring season, the contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 9.33 inches, 1.39 inches above average, and the 11th wettest on record. Two states — Oklahoma and Texas — blew away their enduring records for the wettest month, as flooding inundated areas from Lubbock to Oklahoma City, killing about three dozen people. Climate science studies have shown that extreme precipitation events, such as what Texas, Oklahoma and parts of adjacent states saw in May, are becoming more likely to occur due to a warmer, more moist atmosphere. While these states were drenched with record rainfall, severe drought continued in California and drought conditions crept into the Northeast U.S. as well. The heavy rains erased the longstanding Southern Plains drought, leading to the smallest drought footprint in the lower 48 states since February 2011, a NOAA report said. In fact, parts of Oklahoma went from "exceptional" drought conditions, which is the worst on the Drought Monitor's scale, to no drought at all in just a four week timespan.

Source, NOAA

Can It Get Any Colder?

November, 2014 featured frequent bouts of early-season arctic air and snow, setting records in parts of the nation from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and the East Coast. Some of these were new records for the month of November, a November calendar day, a snowstorm, or the earliest in the season it has been so cold or there has been so much snow. Let's recap some of the notable records we saw across the nation during the month, starting with the cold. Here are a few November, 2014 records of note:

Record coldest November: Marquette, Michigan; Rhinelander, Wisconsin. One of top three coldest Novembers: Alma, Georgia (2nd coldest), Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Florida (each 3rd coldest). Casper, Wyoming: -27 (Nov. 12) and -26 (Nov. 13) each was colder than previous record of -21 (Nov. 23, 1985). Burlington, Colorado: -10 (Nov. 13) bested previous record of -3 (Nov. 30, 2006). Redmond, Oregon: -17 (Nov. 15) and -19 (Nov. 16) each was colder than previous record of -14 (Nov. 15, 1955) and Joplin, Missouri: 6 (Nov. 18) bested previous record of 7 (Nov. 29, 1976). There were also several record-long November streaks, including Dallas/Ft. Worth: Six straight days of highs of 45 degrees or colder (Nov. 12-17); Chicago: 180 straight hours below freezing (late on Nov. 11 until late morning Nov. 19); and Des Moines, Iowa: 10 straight days with subfreezing highs (Nov. 11-20).

Then there were November snow records, given the abundance of cold air in place. Columbia, South Carolina: Earliest trace of snow on record (Nov. 1), leap-frogging the previous earliest record date by eight days (Nov. 9, 1913). Blairsville, Georgia: Earliest snow on record (Nov. 1). The previous earliest snow was believed to be Nov. 10, 1968. Sugar Mountain, North Carolina: Second earliest opening on record (Nov. 2). Only the Appalachians snowstorm from Super Storm Sandy in 2012 prompted an earlier opening.

This storm went on to bring Caribou, Maine, its earliest-in-season double-digit snowfall (10.1 inches on Nov. 2). Winter Storm Astro delivered St. Cloud, Minnesota its record heaviest November calendar day snow (13.2 inches on Nov. 10). This winter storm saved its biggest wallop for tiny Gile, Wisconsin, to the tune of 50.1 inches of snow over a four-day period from Nov. 10-14. After Winter Storm Bozeman dumped the heaviest November snowstorm of record in Boise, Idaho (7.6 inches on Nov. 13-14), heavy snow clobbered many of the lake-effect snow belts, particularly western New York, northern Lower Michigan, and the state's Upper Peninsula. 88 inches of snow (over 7 feet) was measured from both rounds in the Buffalo, New York’s Southtowns from Nov. 17-21. This prolonged push of very cold air over the relatively warm Great Lakes also squeezed out a record three-day snowstorm, not just for November, but for any time of the year, in Gaylord, Michigan (29.6 inches Nov. 18-20).

Source, NOOA

Can It Get Any Hotter?

The summer of 2014 was officially the hottest since the modern instrumental record began more than 130 years ago, according to the latest state of the climate report from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. The month of August, 2014 also was the hottest August worldwide in records dating back to 1880, the report adds, as the combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.35 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 60.1 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the previous record set in 1998. Warmer-than-average temperatures abounded across most of the world's land surfaces, except for parts of the eastern United States, Western Europe and parts of Asia and Australia. There was no cool down for the world's oceans, however. NOAA reports that the average August temperature for the world's oceans was 1.17 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, topping the previous record set in 2005. NOAA notes that the oceans were "a major contributor to the global average" warmth in August, as the departure from average for the world's oceans during the June-August period this year was also highest on record, at 1.13 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.


Source, NOOA

A Waterspout Record

You may have heard of waterspouts in the Florida Keys and the Gulf Coast, even over the Great Lakes. But how about over a mile high? On May 31, 2014, the National Weather Service office in Riverton, Wyoming, reported a waterspout briefly producing a spray ring on Dollar Lake at an elevation of 7,782 feet above sea level on. This is believed to be the highest elevation waterspout witnessed, according to the International Centre for Waterspout Resesarch. Dr. Greg Forbes, severe weather expert for The Weather Channel, says there have been other higher-elevation tornadoes, including a tornado over Rockwell Pass, California in 2004, which is believed to have touched down at least 12,000 feet. But that didn't happen over a lake.


Source, International Centre for Waterspout Research

2014 Blizzard Sets Record in Buffalo, N.Y.

Buffalo, N.Y. residents will long remember the blizzard of 2014. In fact, known for its epic snows, this blizzard may be the one residents tell their grandchildren about.


In November, 2014, an extreme lake-effect storm dumped as much as 65 inches of snow — more than five feet — just south of Buffalo, claiming six lives across the region and trapping hundreds of people in their homes and cars, then trapping the ambulances and emergency vehicles trying to help them. And the monster storm isn’t over yet.


Lake-effect snow is produced during cooler atmospheric conditions when cold winds move across long expanses of warmer lake water, providing energy and picking up water vapor, which freezes and is deposited on the leeward shores.


Snow accumulations rivaled the deepest snowfall on record in Buffalo, 81.6 inches in 2001, or about seven feet. The spokesman for the Buffalo Bills told the Associated Press that the National Football League team had an estimated 220,000 tons of snow to remove from Ralph Wilson Stadium before the 11/23/14 game against the Jets. The game was cancelled.


“This is an historic event. When all is said and done, this snowstorm will break all sorts of records, and that’s saying something in Buffalo,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said during a visit to the city, according to the Associated Press.

2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season a Dud. Not so in the Pacific.

The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season was, well, a dud. Of course that’s good news. NOAA and other weather agencies predicted a quiet season. Fortunately, much of the U.S. coastline was spared this year with only one land falling hurricane along the East Coast.


According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a combination of atmospheric conditions acted to suppress the Atlantic hurricane season, including very strong vertical wind shear, combined with increased atmospheric stability, stronger sinking motion and drier air across the tropical Atlantic. Also, the West African monsoon was near- to below average, making it more difficult for African easterly waves to develop.


However, the eastern North Pacific hurricane season met or exceeded expectations with 20 named storms – the busiest since 1992. Of those, 14 became hurricanes and eight were major hurricanes. NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook called for 14 to 20 named storms, including seven to 11 hurricanes, of which three to six were expected to become major hurricanes. Two hurricanes (Odile and Simon) brought much-needed moisture to the parts of the southwestern U.S., with very heavy rain from Simon causing flooding in some areas.


Conditions that favored an above-normal eastern Pacific hurricane season included weak vertical wind shear, exceptionally moist and unstable air, and a strong ridge of high pressure in the upper atmosphere that helped to keep storms in a conducive environment for extended periods.


In the central North Pacific hurricane basin, there were five named storms (four hurricanes, including a major hurricane, and one tropical storm). NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook called for four to seven tropical cyclones to affect the central Pacific this season. The most notable storm was major Hurricane Iselle, which hit the Big Island of Hawaii in early August as a tropical storm, and was the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in the main Hawaiian Islands since Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Hurricane Ana was also notable in that it was the longest-lived tropical cyclone (13 days) of the season and the longest-lived central Pacific storm of the satellite era.

Source: NOAA

Tips for pet owners during a disaster.

When disaster strikes, the same rules that apply to people apply to pets. Following is a partial checklist for protecting and managing pets during a disaster. (1) Food and water for at least five days for each pet, and include bowls and a manual can opener for canned pet food. (2) Pet medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a pet-specific first aid kit. (3) Five days supply of cat litter, litter box and scooper and garbage bags to collect pet waste. (4) Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely and prevent their escape. (5) Blankets or towels for bedding and warmth. (6) Current photos and descriptions of pets in case of separation. (7) Pet beds and toys to reduce stress. (8) Written information about pets such as feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues, as well as vet’s name and phone number. (9) Other useful items such as newspapers, hand wipes, etc.  For more information, visit www.humanesociety.org.

What exactly is mitigation?

Mitigation is a word that applies to more than disaster preparedness. By taking aspirin to lessen a headache, you are “mitigating” by lessening the force or intensity of something unpleasant. There are a range of potential mitigation actions for reducing risk to family, home and business during a severe weather event or earthquake.  There are mitigation actions covering all of these events, but specific mitigation is applied to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and flashfloods, lightning, tornados, severe winter weather, storm surge, and wildfires. Mitigation actions are summarized into four types: (1) local Planning and regulations, (2) structure and infrastructure projects, (3) natural systems protection, and (4) education and awareness programs. To learn more about mitigation, visit http://www.fema.gov/plan-prepare-mitigate.

New threat levels added to minimize alarmed citizenry.

Beginning Oct. 22, 2014, The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center will be adding two new threat levels to its weather outlooks so people aren't surprised by really bad storms on days with just a "slight risk" of tornadoes, hail or high winds. Forecasters can say whether slight risk days are "enhanced" or "marginal" or just plain "slight." Other categories remain, including "high" and "moderate." The Norman, Oklahoma-based center traditionally targeted local forecasters and broadcasters across the U.S. with their advisories, known as "convective outlooks," but the Internet makes that data available to anyone with a computer and basic scientific knowledge. There were also concerns from broadcasters fearing that their viewers were interpreting terms such as “slight risk” as “no risk.” The system now mimics scales for tornado damage, hurricane strength and the former Homeland Security terrorist threats.

Hurricane names by gender affect preparedness.

Apparently sexism isn't just a social problem if you're in the path of a hurricane. Gender bias might actually kill you. A study suggests people prepare differently for hurricanes depending on whether the storm has a male or female name. Feminine-named hurricanes versus masculine-named hurricanes cause significantly more deaths, apparently because they lead to a lower perceived risk and consequently less preparedness according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In other words, a hurricane named "Priscilla" might not make people flee like a hurricane named "Bruno" would.

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