New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA show that for the 35th year in a row, the globe was warmer than average during 2011, and about the 10th-warmest year on record since 1880. Officials said warming was hindered somewhat by a La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean, but owing in part to the influence of manmade global warming, this was the warmest La Niña year on record.
La Niña, which is characterized by cooler-than-average ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, tends to lead to cooler years compared to when water temperatures are near or above average in that region.
Looking only at global land temperatures, 2011 was the 8th warmest year on record. It was the warmest year for Spain and Norway, and second warmest for the U.K. Continuing recent trends, the Arctic region was once again much warmer than average.
In a press release, NOAA said all years of the 21st century so far have ranked among the 13th warmest on record, and only one year during the 20th century, 1998, was warmer than 2011.
Last year was the second wettest year on record globally, just under the wettest year, which took place in 2010. Major droughts occurred in East Africa, where a food crisis resulted in thousands of deaths. Drought also gripped the Southern Plains states and the Southwest along with northern Mexico, and central and southeastern Europe.
Norway had its wettest year on record, and it was the third wettest ye...
The major winter storm affecting the Pacific Northwest today has already dumped about 2 feet of snow in areas southwest of Seattle, with about
4 inches 6.8 inches in the city. This is just shy of the more than the typical annual snowfall for Seattle, which is 5.9 inches, but nowhere near a record storm. The seasonal total is now 9.3 inches.
In the mountains, though, the snowfall amounts are even more impressive, with 5 or more feet likely to accumulate by the end of the week.
Heavy snows are unusual in Seattle due to the mild air flow off the Pacific Ocean. To illustrate the city's snowfall history, Climate Central data analyst Dennis Adams-Smith examined the snowfall data from weather stations in the Seattle area, dating back to 1895. As the interactive chart below shows, heavy snows of more than 6 inches are quite rare.
The chart shows the largest 24-hour snowfall amounts (in inches) for each month dating back for each of the Seattle area observation stations, including Sea-Tac airport and the University of Washington. The straight line across denotes six inches of snow.
The much-heralded winter storm has arrived in the Pacific Northwest, already dropping close to 2 feet of snow in some areas south of Seattle. What had earlier appeared to be an historic snowstorm in Seattle, with at least a foot of snow, has turned into a decidedly more modest event, with about 3-6 inches expected today. The storm is taking a track a bit too far to the south of Seattle to result in a major snowstorm there, and frigid and dry air from Canada is being drawn into Northwest Washington, eating into the precipitation totals. Still, considering that Seattle's average snowfall in an entire year is 5.9 inches, this still ranks as a significant storm.
It's mostly a rain event now in Portland, Ore., but travel in that area has been slowed by snow in higher elevations. Speaking of higher elevations, many ski areas that had been hurt by an early winter snow drought are quickly making up for it. Mt. Hood, Ore., is projected to receive upwards of 8 feet by week's end and there is a danger of avalanches in coming days. As the storm moves further inland, it will dump much-needed snow in the Tetons and Bitterroots mountains as well, potentially benefiting ski areas such as Sun Valley, Idaho.
In addition to the heavy rain and snow, very strong winds are affecting coastal regions, with wind gusts up to 100 mph possible. According to a statement from the National Weather Service, "WINDS OF THIS MAGNITUDE MAY RESULT IN WIDESPREAD POWER OUTAGES AND DOWNED...
It often seems like weather forecasters blame everything unusual on El Niño or La Niña, be it a drought, a heat wave, or a snowless winter. But this natural climate cycle in the equatorial Pacific Ocean may actually have much greater — and far deadlier — impacts. A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explores the possibility that La Niña helps make conditions more favorable for deadly global flu pandemics. The study finds that the past four flu pandemics, including the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Asian Flu of 1957, the Hong Kong Flu of 1958, and the Swine Flu of 2009, were all preceded by La Niña conditions. The Spanish Flu alone killed tens of millions.
Not to worry you, but we are currently in the midst of our second year of La Niña conditions, with tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures running cooler than average. La Niña conditions are expected to continue through the winter before weakening during the spring or summer, according to recent forecasts.
But the study doesn't say that La Niña causes flu pandemics. It does, however, provide insight into a relationship that could help scientists improve their public health monitoring and prediction efforts.
The study, by Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Marc Lipsitch of Harvard's School of Public Health, proposes that La Niña-related weather pattern shifts in turn alter bird migrations, thereby changing the inte...
Major snowstorms have missed most major cities in the U.S. so far this winter, but a gathering storm is about to plaster the Pacific Northwest, including cities that don't normally see much snow, including the Seattle and Portland metro areas. Forecasts for Seattle call for up to a foot or more of snow to fall during the next few days. The heaviest snow is expected to fall Tuesday night through Wednesday, with more snow possible later this week.
Considering that Seattle typically sees just 5.9 inches of snow during an entire winter, this storm is likely to cause major problems for the city. According to the National Weather Service, snow amounts at Sea-Tac airport could surpass anything seen since November 1985. Forecasters are trying to determine if/when the snow will change to rain at lower elevations, which would affect snowfall amounts. This is especially likely to take place in Portland, Ore., and other areas south of Seattle, but depending on the track of the storm, precipitation could remain all snow in Seattle.
Here's University of Washington weather blogger Cliff Mass' take on the situation on Monday:
"Cutting to the chase, Seattle may well get 6+ inches of snow during the next two days. SW Washington could get more. The mountains, particularly the central Cascades southward could get feet -- like 3-4 feet. In short, one of the biggest events we have had in years...
There has been some hype about this event...it is NOT going to be as ba...