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A look at weather extremes and the big-picture climate connections.

Ferocious Storm Set to Explode in North Atlantic

Some of the most powerful storms on earth form in the North Atlantic Ocean during wintertime, spelling peril for sailors unfortunate enough to encounter them. For the past few days, the meteorologists at the Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) in College Park, Md., whose job it is to warn vessels of weather hazards, have been highlighting the likelihood of a treacherous storm event that is taking place in the open ocean, to the south of Iceland.

Satellite image of the intense North Atlantic storm, taken by the NASA MODIS imager on Saturday Jan. 26.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: NASA.    

A storm that was rather inoccuous when it affected the U.S. is exploding, through a process known to meteorologists as “bombogenesis,” into a ferocious storm over the North Atlantic. The storm has intensified enough to become stronger than Hurricane Sandy was, as measured by the minimum central air pressure. That storm devastated the northern Mid-Atlantic coast in late October and the lowest pressure recorded during it was 940 mb. The current storm intensified all the way to 933 mb, if not even lower than that, based on information from the OPC on Saturday.

In a Facebook post on Friday, the OPC said the storm is expected to undergo “incredible, explosive cyclogenesis” during the next 24 hours, with the central pressure plummeting from 988 mb on Friday down to 927 mb by late Sunday. (In general, the lower the central air pressure, the stronger the storm.)

At its maximum intensity, the storm will be capable of producing winds to 90 mph, and waves of greater than 50 feet, the OPC said.

Fortunately, the storm is exp...


Monster Storm Lashing Outer Reaches of Alaska

An extraordinarily powerful ocean storm, packing hurricane-force winds and waves towering up to 62 feet, has been spinning its way toward Alaska's Aleutian Islands after undergoing a phenomenally rapid intensification process in the Western North Pacific Ocean since Sunday. This satellite image, which captured the storm near its peak intensity on Tuesday, offers a rare glimpse at a storm system of this magnitude.

This visible satellite image shows a massive and intense low pressure system swirling over the Western North Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: Facebook/Stu Ostro via. University of Dundee, Scotland.

At its most intense point, the storm had an air pressure reading of about 932 mb, roughly equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, and more intense than Hurricane Sandy as that storm moved toward the New Jersey coastline in October. (In general, the lower the air pressure, the stronger the storm.) The storm's central pressure plunged by 48 to 49 mb in just 24 hours, making it one of the most rapidly intensifying storms at a mean latitude of 34°N since 1979, according to a data analysis by Ryan Maue of Weatherbell Analytics.

On Tuesday, the storm spanned a staggering 1,440 miles, according to David Snider, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Alaska. That's equivalent to the distance between Denver and New York City.

Satellite image with notes provided by NOAA's Ocean Prediction Center, pointing out the center of the storm and its associated features.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: Facebook/Ocean Prediction Center.

In Alaska, the National Weather Service has issued high wind warnings and hurricane force wind warnings for the sparsely populated, but strategically important central and western Aleutian Islands and surrounding coastal waters starting on Wednesday. “Tonight winds may howl up to 85 miles-per-hour over the...


Heat and Threat of Wildfires Blaze on in Australia

As Climate Central reported on Wednesday, a delayed monsoon is helping to heat Australia to record levels, with weather forecasters adding new colors onto weather maps to indicate temperatures up to 129°F. While the wildfires have diminished some, the heat is forecast to return to Queensland and other areas during the weekend into early next week, and the fire danger remains "extreme" in some places, such as the capital region surrounding Canberra. In addition, a photogenic, otherworldy dust storm swept into the town of Onslow in Western Australia, leading to some amazing images.

Australian Heat Wave, Wildfire Threat Continues

The four hottest days in Australian history have all occurred in 2013.

Storified by · Fri, Jan 11 2013 12:07:32

After some relief in the past couple of days, extreme heat is expected to develop again in large parts of Australia during the weekend and part of next week. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has designated the Australian Capital Territory, which includes the capital city of Canberra, as being in "Extreme Fire Danger."  

The heat that has gripped the country since early January has been unprecedented. 

According to the Associated Press and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the national average temperature on Monday was a sizzling 104.6°F. That eclipsed the previous mark of 104.3°F set in 1972, and is now...


5 Charts Help Illustrate 2012 As Warmest Year on Record

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2012 was far and away the warmest year on record in the lower 48 states, beating 1998 by a full degree Fahrenheit.

These charts put that warmth into historical perspective for the country as a whole, and for a few select cities.

The 1°F margin between 2012 and 1998 may not seem like much at first, but usually such temperature records are set by just a few fractions of a degree. As seen in this NOAA chart, 2012 towers above the pack of warm years.

Temperature departures from average throughout 2012 as compared to the previous 5 warmest and 5 coolest years.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: NOAA.

Every state in the continental U.S. had temperatures that were above average, and 19 states, from Utah to Massachusetts, had record warm annual average temperatures. In South Dakota, annual average temperatures were 4.4°F above average, putting 2012 in the top spot on the list of warmest years there.

A total of 45 states had annual average temperatures that ranked among their top 10 warmest on record. The three exceptions in the lower 48 were Georgia, which had its 11th-warmest year, Oregon, where 2012 was the 12th-warmest year, and Washington, which was the coldest state in the contiguous U.S. this year, with its 30th-warmest year. (Here is a list of the annual temperatures for each of the lower-48 states, as well as a Climate Central interactive on 2012 state temperatures.)

Statewide ranks of 2012 average temperatures. Any state marked "118" had its warmest year on record in 118 years of recordkeeping.
Credit: NOAA/NCDC.

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C., has a treasure trove of climate data, and on Tuesday they released a slew of city-b...


Tell Me Why: Questions Swirl Around Climate & Tornadoes

Tell Me Why: Questions Swirl Around Climate & Tornadoes

Does a warming world affect the formation of tornadoes? The answer is one that scientists and researchers are trying to ascertain. In this edition of Tell Me Why, a NOAA-funded series that explains key climate concepts, climate scientist Deke Arndt explains why questions continue to swirl around any kind of connection between climate change and tornadoes.

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Tell Me Why: The Climate Extremes Index Matters