Taking a Look at some Spooktacular October Climate Facts (Credit: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information)
It’s the spookiest day of the year, so the weather does not hesitate to bring tricks or treats. NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information has released some spooky climate facts for the month of October. October is a month where states can start to see the tricky change over from rain to snow or enjoy one last fleeting treat of summer warmth. The warmest October for the contiguous United States occurred back in 1963, with an average temperature of 54.9° F. The coldest October for the contiguous United States had an average temperature of 48° F in 1925. Climate records date back to 1895, and since then temperatures have approximately warmed at 0.8° F per century.
As the days grow colder in October, some locations begin to see their first snowfalls. Places such as the Rockies, the Northern Plains, and the Central Plains into the Upper Midwest region are often some of the first to experience snow. Higher elevations along the East Coast can also experience the tricky nature of this early snowfall. These places don’t need to fear because October snowfall usually only averages out to about two inches. The driest October for the contiguous United States was recorded back in 1952, where only 0.54 inches of precipitation had fallen. Not as much time travel is needed to recount the wettest October on record. 2009 was the wettest October where an average of 4.29 inches of precipitation fell across the United States. October precipitation has increased at a rate of 0.4 inches per century. In the image above, check out some climate normals for some spooky named places across the United States.
October is the last full month of Hurricane season, and while typically the season would start to wind down, we have seen some dangerous and deadly storms within the month. One such instance occurred earlier this month; a Category 4 Hurricane Michael which made landfall in Mexico Beach, Florida as the strongest landfalling hurricane to impact the United States during the month of October. It was the strongest in regards to pressure since Camille in 1969, and in wind strength since Andrew in 1992. Other notable Tropical October records include Hurricane Wilma in 2005, Hurricane Opal in 1995 and Superstorm Sandy. As a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, Wilma recorded the lowest centralized pressure ever at 882 millibars and then went on to make landfall in Southwest Florida as a category 3 storm. Superstorm Sandy made landfall on October 29,2012, near Atlantic City, NJ and caused 159 fatalities and 72.2 billion dollars worth of damage. Opal was also a dangerous storm and caused billions in damage. Even though Hurricane Season ends on November 1st, October shows us that we can’t let our guard down even as the season dwindles.
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©2018 Meteorologist Shannon Scully
DISCUSSION: Flooding is generally associated with the presence and aftermath of strong storms and organized weather systems such as hurricanes. However, tidal flooding is an instance of flooding that often times goes unsaid. Even though no rain is associated, nuisance ponding of otherwise busy pedestrian sidewalks and local roads presents challenging situations, especially in high-impact areas of coastal U.S. cities including Miami, FL, Boston, MA, New York City, NY, and Atlantic City, NJ.
Through a basic understanding of physics, the nature of tides is quite intuitive – as the moon orbits Earth, the ensuing gravitational pull acts as a force on the oceans that cause the oceans to bulge ever so slightly towards the moon on both sides of Earth. During either a new moon or full moon, the alignment of the sun and moon cause the highest tides of the month known as spring tides, and this is where the highest high tides and lowest low tides are observed. Perpendicular orientation between the sun and moon leads to neap tides, or more tempered changes in tidal heights. Granted, the overall gravitational force of the moon is only a miniscule fraction compared to that of the Earth (and the sun), but the close proximity of the moon compared to that of the sun and Earth’s centrifugal force created by its own spin is what makes the moon the primary mechanism for generating tides.
Tides are innocuous enough and a normal, periodic harmony between Earth, solar, and lunar forces. At certain times of the year, though, the spring tides are exacerbated enough that tidal water encroaches on infrastructure and the public, causing tidal flooding. An example of this is the annual “king tide” flooding event that occurs primarily over portions of eastern south Florida during September and October. During the “king tide”, coastal cities and communities surrounding Miami are exposed to flood waters that overrun roads and ground floors of houses and businesses. Easterly winds and late rainy season thunderstorms compound the flooding situation by spreading the excess water inland. A more recent episode of significant high tide occurred in Venice, Italy where roughly 75% of the city was inundated to some degree with flood waters (in combination with heavy rains and strong onshore winds). Water levels in the Italian city rose well over 150 cm before gradually receding, leading to significant impacts.
A growing concern with these tidal floods is the interaction of tides with sea level rise. Previous research has shown that more tidal flooding events are likely to occur as mean sea level increases, accelerated primarily by the melting and runoff of land-based glaciers into the oceans. Whether or not this increase will be large or small with time will depend on many other factors, but projections from coupled ocean-atmosphere models yield a common result of increased flooding events. Alluding back to the effects in south Florida, most residents there source their drinking water from the nearby Biscayne Aquifer. With an increased frequency of coastal flooding events, salt water intrusion into the aquifer can adversely affect the water quality for a heavily populated area of the state. More frequent and prolonged coastal flooding events may lead to enhanced salination which can pose challenging problems for both infrastructure and agriculture. It goes without saying that these impacts are on a global scale and coastal low-lying cities in other countries are prone to the same issues and concerns.
As before, while the exact changes and impacts remain a challenge to pinpoint, it highlights the importance of monitoring. Enhancements to the coupled ocean-atmosphere models will allow for scientists to better understand the changes and subsequent impacts of coastal flooding events.
Image Credit: Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images
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© 2018 Meteorologist Brian Matilla
You may have recently seen or heard about an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report stating that unless we stop carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, we will not be able to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change, or overall warming of two degrees Celsius or more. But what does that mean? Two degrees might sound like a small change in overall global temperature, but that number is a metric that represents all sorts of other events that are related to climate change and the overall increase in global temperature.
In a world that is overall two degrees Celsius warmer, we will very likely see heatwaves that last one and a half months, decreases of up to 16% in production of major crops like wheat and rice, and a 17% decrease in freshwater availability. These are not the only ramifications of climate change, check out the link below to see more of the effects:
But what does all of this mean? Will this affect our daily lives?
Let’s take that 16% reduction in wheat crops. Wheat is a huge food source for Americans. It is the base of cereals, breads, cakes, and pasta, among other things. Perhaps we won’t see dramatic reduction or rationing of these goods, but they will become more expensive. This is true of other crops, not just the big staples. Chocolate, coffee, and certain types of wine are also threatened by our changing climate.
Heat waves that last one and a half months means it will be dangerous to spend prolonged periods outside for these six weeks. Construction workers will have to take longer midday breaks, or maybe even take days off, for their own health and safety. Children will not be able to play outside as much as they may want to, which means that summer camps will have to revisit how they schedule their days. Your air conditioning bill will go up, because you’ll probably have to use it longer; and people who can’t afford air conditioning, especially elderly people and small children, will become more susceptible to heat related illness or even death.
Finally, a reduction in freshwater availability will affect international relations, causing tension and perhaps even war in countries with water shortages. Water is a necessity for cleaning, bathing, for life itself. As already unstable countries in the Middle East such as Yemen, Libya, and Jordan face water scarcity, it is highly likely that they will engage in warfare to gain access to water. It is estimated that by 2025, 50% of the world will be experiencing water scarcity. This will lead to a great deal of unrest and conflict on our planet.
This is a dire situation for our planet, but that is no reason to give up. There are individual actions that you can take to combat climate change, and these are important. It is also important to drive the economy towards lower carbon emissions. Many power companies offer renewable energy sources, it’s easy to make use of them. Shop local, and do your best to shop with companies committed to a greener planet. Finally, and most importantly: urge your senators, congresspeople, or even local authorities to support decarbonization and legislation that will help reduce our carbon footprint and save our planet.
©2018 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
Image - https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/
History of the Thornthwaite Climate Classification System (Credit: Encyclopedia, Iowa State Agriculture)
On March 7, 1899 in Pinconning, Michigan, Charles Warren Thornthwaite was born to Ernest and Mildred Thornthwaite. Like all other settlers in the area, education had a high value, and with Pinconning not having a school, Charles Thornthwaite moved to Mt. Pleasant, MI in order to attend school. Growing up in a farming family, Thornthwaite had great interest in agriculture and what goes into farming such as the weather and climate of an area. After high school, Thornthwaite attended Central Michigan Normal School, which is now Central Michigan University, and graduated in 1922. Upon graduating, Thornthwaite and a friend from CMU, John Leighly, both traveled to California to attend graduate school at UC-Berkeley. Their mentor, Carl Sauer, was a renowned geographer and encouraged both students to study the climate classification of Vladimir Koppen. With Thornthwaite’s interest in climatology and climate’s relation to agriculture already high, he had no hesitation to study the classification made by the German climatologist.
Upon graduating from UC-Berkeley, Thornthwaite moved to Louisville, Kentucky to work for the Kentucky Geologic Survey. Because of Thornthwaite’s interest in geography and climate, his mentor, Sauer, suggested that Thornthwaite conduct doctoral research on the city of Louisville. In 1930, he was awarded a doctoral degree with a dissertation titled “Louisville, Kentucky: A Study in Urban Geology.” While conducting his research in Louisville, he was also hired as a professor of geography at the University of Oklahoma in 1927. While at OU, and before his final doctoral dissertation, Thornthwaite published an article on meteorology titled: “The Polar Front in the Interpretation and Prediction of Oklahoma Weather” in 1929. This was published in the Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science. This article was the first article that captured nationwide attention for Thornthwaite and his classifications.
In 1931, based on his research in Oklahoma, Thornthwaite published “The Climates of North America According to a New Classification.” From the knowledge he learned at UC-Berkeley about the Koppen system, Thornthwaite noted that Koppen did not consider how moisture can play a factor in climate classification. Also, Thornthwaite noted that Koppen did not have a category for a sub-humid climate. Based off of these two findings, Thornthwaite decided to write his new classification article. In the 1931 article, he noted that evaporation and transpiration along with temperature and precipitation were better indicators than just temperature and precipitation. Thus, the Thornthwaite Climate Classification system was born.
This system divides climate into groups according to the vegetation characteristics found within them. Thornthwaite found that climate and vegetation are directly correlated in his studies, thereafter basing his system on this fact. The system which is the sum of monthly P/E (precipitation and evaporation) is defined into five different humidity provinces associated with vegetation. A P/E index of more than 127 (wet) indicates rain forest; 64–127 (humid) indicates forest; 32–63 (subhumid) indicates grassland; 16–31 (semi-arid) indicates steppe; less than 16 (arid) indicates desert.
From creating a new climate classification system to becoming the first president of the Commission for Climatology of the World Meteorological Organization, C. Warren Thornthwaite gave his life to climate science. He provided climate science with a whole new array of science and data to be observed. The Thornthwaite Climate Classification system is still heavily used today to calculate climate systems.
To learn more about other interesting stories related to global climate issues, be sure to click on the following link: www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/climate
©2018 Weather Forecaster Alec Kownacki
DISCUSSION: Regardless of personal experiences and/or personal beliefs, there is little to no debate that humans have been, are currently, and likely will continue to have a substantial impact on issues directly and/or indirectly connected to global climatic variability. This is a result of the fact that a number of different (and often the simplest) things which people do on a daily basis around the globe have a profound impact on what demands mankind places upon the Earth and its resources. And, many of these demands are more clear and simpler than you may have ever thought.
For starters, for well over 50 years, hundreds of millions of people around the world have developed the simplest needs for refrigeration and air conditioner resources. Many of the older models/versions of refrigerators and/or air conditioners were packed with chemical known as hydro-fluorocarbons. Hydro-fluorocarbons are artificial chemicals which when released into the atmosphere will act to modify the chemical make-up of the middle to upper parts of the Earth’s atmosphere. Thus, hydro-fluorocarbons act to impact the chemical composition of the Earth’s natural protective layers which prevent harmful and dangerous ultraviolet rays from harming people and natural ecosystem present on planet Earth.
Another premier example of how mankind has and will continue to impact the stability of Earth’s ecosystems are the impacts of fossil fuel and general meat consumption. First, through an increasing global population, there is a corresponding increase in the demand for fossil fuels for day-to-day drivers, air travel (i.e., helicopter travel as well as commercial and/or private aircraft travel). Thus, in doing so, this pumps more and more greenhouse gas emissions into the global atmosphere which will only act to further enhance the greenhouse effect which will continue to exacerbate positive planetary warming trends with time. Furthermore, the gradually global increases in meat demand will also act to generate greater amounts of methane as a by-product of cattle existing. Therefore, the increased global methane generation will also act to further exacerbate the impacts of planetary warming trends. Hence, despite how contentious of a topic this may in fact be, it is important to recognize and understand that our decisions always have consequences regardless of how we go about living our lives.
To learn more about this topic from the article that inspired this article, click on the original article which can be found here.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz