Weather 2015 | Extreme and Variable

Remember the record snowfall this winter in Boston and surroundings? It seemed endless. The record total for Boston was 108.6 inches. This image is from early February.

Charles Krupa | Associated Press

Charles Krupa | Associated Press

This map from NOAA shows liquid precipitation over the region for the recent 180 days since late November 2014. There are widespread locations with 20 inches. One in yellow near Boston had over 25 inches.


Things have changed. For the past 30 days, the same region is very dry with about 0.5 inches of precipitation. That is much below normal.



What about Alaska and northern Canada? Between May 17-24, that region had record warmth. This map from NASA Earth Observatory shows the deviation from the 2001-2010 average for the same dates. The darkest reds are up to 12 C˚ (22 F˚) warmer. Fairbanks had a high of 85˚F in that period of time.

NASA Earth Observatory

One reason is a large buckle in the jet stream. I drew in green the path of the jet for May 20. It arced up to Alaska, back down to the Pacific, west of California, where there is unusually warm water. It then crossed the central U.S. A large stationary High was bringing warm Pacific air into the region from the Pacific with the clockwise circulation. Also shown is a Low pressure system in the southwest states. These lows formed each of the past several weekends and tracked slowly across with the jet.



As the lows tracked across, they caused huge amounts of rainfall in the Oklahoma and north Texas areas. The following map from NOAA shows the precipitation for the past 30 days. Normal is from 3 to 5 inches. Some places have six times normal amounts. The most recent heavy rains caused deaths and damage from great flooding in the Houston, Texas area.



What about the globe as a whole? I quote from NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for April 2015. Not good to set records here. Emphasis is mine.

The year-to-date global land surface temperature was 1.48°C (2.66°F) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–April in the 1880-2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2007 by 0.03°C (0.05°F). The average global ocean surface temperature for January–April was the second highest in the 136-year period of record, at 0.55°C (0.99°F) above average, trailing 1998 by 0.02°C (0.04°F). Record high temperatures in much of the northeast to central equatorial Pacific, along with large parts of the western equatorial Pacific, contributed to the overall record warmth.

The record high equatorial Pacific temperatures have spawned earlier typhoons and stronger ones than ever before. At this early date, there have been 5 category 5 typhoons. Fortunately, forecasters are predicting a quieter than normal Atlantic hurricane season this year.


23 thoughts on “Weather 2015 | Extreme and Variable

  1. And yet people insist nothing is happening. And even if it were, it certainly isn’t caused by people! As we say at our house, these people are swimmin’ in denial.
    One of the problems I perceive is how very hard it would be to live lightly in the way things are currently set up. Ride a bike? Good luck. The question isn’t whether you’ll be hit, but when and how badly. Housing is packed too tightly to grow food, generally, and located well away from things like grocery stores and coffee shops. So we change our light bulbs and write to our congressmen and wonder what else we might do…

    • Most of our bulbs are changed. It made a difference in our bills. Automobile mileage standards are improving by legislation. That makes a big difference since we all drive everywhere. We are getting ever increasing energy supplies from solar, wind, and the like.

      I want to be an optimist if possible. So, those things are moving us in the right direction. But, there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic.

  2. The numbers and the maps tell the story. Great job, Jim.

    Isn’t it ironic that the state hardest hit by this climate change is the one that has been most paranoid about the federal government, whose citizens have seriously considered seceding from the Union, and whose governor has been publicly suspicious of U.S. armed forces exercises? “Freedom” and “Independence” look different when you’re hurting.

    Also, I see a lesson here about the likelihood of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. The Earth is in a Goldilocks setting. Just the right distance from the sun with just the right axial tilt and just the right ratio of water to land, and yet just look at how tenuous and unstable our environment is! I’m more certain than ever that this is the only home humanity will ever have.

    • You bring up two interesting points. I’ve seen the F and I issue in other situations. I wonder if those ‘go it alone’ factions would still want that if we encountered an attack by super-Goldilocks aliens. Or, more likely, a devastating asteroid aimed at their heartland.

      Thanks, Jim. It is always good to see you here.

  3. One gift I have always had is the ability to take the long/strategic view. Climate change over time is an existential threat to human existence as we know it. Not sure our various political and religious system are able to respond in any meaningful was before it is too late and Goldilocks’ porridge is no longer “just right.”

    • Yes. What I’ve read shows it is too late to see any rapid change for the better no matter what we do. I don’t want to be a pessimist. But, that is the way it seems to be. The natural cycles of carbon removal from the atmosphere simply can’t do it fast enough. We’ve pumped too much into it.

      I do think it is conceivable to modify the long term outlooks to some degree. That would take monumental efforts and agreements worldwide. Don’t hold your breath for that.

      I feel the responsibility to be a good steward of the earth, regardless of how the rest of humanity treats it. From what I see and read of your actions on the AT, you have similar feelings.

  4. Jim, how would you describe what a “jet stream” is, and how it relates to the oceans? I’m fascinated by the GFS model map you have displayed here of the 300 mb Jet Stream. For example, would you describe jet streams as “independent currents of air” that move a certain way because of atmospheric changes in temperature? How is it tied with ocean currents? Why do jet streams form in some areas, and why not in others?

    • They are fast streams of air flowing to help the atmosphere balance differences in temperature and pressure.

      They are somewhat like ocean currents since they move large quantities of fluid in a fairly consistent pattern. But, they are not tied to each other in any way.

      From this site:
      “Jet streams are fast flowing, relatively narrow air currents found in the atmosphere around 10 kilometers (6 mi) above the surface of the Earth. They form at the boundaries of adjacent air masses with significant differences in temperature, such as the polar region and the warmer air to the south. The jet stream is mainly found in the tropopause.”

      From wikipedia: They tend to form in certain boundary places due to circulation patterns set in the atmosphere. Those don’t occur everywhere. Only in certain latitudes.

      Does that help?

      • Yes, it does, thanks! And yes, I did read about the troposphere also, and how jet planes have to rise to it in order to avoid turbulences. I don’t know if jet streams were named so because of this, or because of it meaning: to spout forth : gush (Webster’s definition)

      • from

        “American pilot Wiley Post, the first man to fly around the world solo in 1933, is often given some credit for discovery of jet streams. Post invented a pressurized suit that let him fly above 6,200 metres (20,300 ft). In the year before his death, Post made several attempts at a high-altitude transcontinental flight, and noticed that at times his ground speed greatly exceeded his air speed. German meteorologist Heinrich Seilkopf is credited with coining a special term, Strahlströmung (literally “jet streaming”), for the phenomenon in 1939.”

      • It’s interesting that in 1933 the only option to be able to reach these altitudes was to wear a pressurized suit. When you say that his ground speed greatly exeeded his air speed, does that mean that he was probably caught flying in a jet stream? Thanks so much for this information Jim!

      • Yes, it does. Suppose you are driver a boat down a river. Your boat speed says 20 mph. The river is flowing 5 mph. Your speed over ground is 25 mph.

        Pilots can gain over 100 mph over their air speed by getting into a jet stream in their direction of travel. It saves time and fuel.

      • Amazing Jim, I suppose that in a big jet plane one may not feel it as much, but in a smaller plane, perhaps, like Wiley Post did.

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