Friday, December 17, 2010

Extreme weather sparks global commodities rally - Around the globe, the weather has turned extreme, driving up prices for commodities running the gamut from sugar and wheat to heating oil and orange juice. Australia, for instance, is suffering from both extremes -- with drought in the west and deluges in the east. Heavy snow in Europe and sub-freezing temperatures in the United States are likewise fuelling the weather rally in commodities. Australia typically ranks as second in the league of global SUGAR exporters after Brazil, but rains have forced its top sugar exporter to consider buying raw sugar from its South American rival and from Thailand to keep up with its export commitments to sugar buyers. Brazil too has felt the effects of harsh weather on its sugar. Dryness has hurt yields and cut the volume of cane its crushers expect to process. ICE sugar futures were still hovering near a 30-YEAR HIGH.
Farmers across eastern Australia are assessing the effect of the wettest spring on record. The quality of the waterlogged WHEAT crop is suffering, and much of what is expected to be a record harvest has been downgraded from high-quality wheat used to make noodles in Asia and flat bread in the Middle East to grain fit for animal feed. And in the western part of the continent, drought has cut the annual wheat yield by two-thirds. In China, dry late fall weather may have affected pre-winter development of wheat in some areas. In Europe, snowfall has helped young wheat plants withstand a spell of freezing weather in the European Union's top two producers, France and Germany, but is contributing to sowing delays that threaten Italy's next crop.
In the United States, ice on key grain shipping waterways has slowed the flow of CORN AND SOYBEAN barges from elevators in the U.S. Midwest to export terminals at the Gulf Coast. The thickening ice may close northern sections of the Illinois River later this week. U.S. ORANGE juice futures rallied to a 3-1/2 year peak early this week amid fears that frigid weather would damage the orange crop in the top producing state Florida. And earlier citrus growers in Florida said their groves got mauled by sub-freezing weather overnight.
U.S. HEATING OIL futures hovered near 26-MONTH HIGHS as bitter cold descended on the heavily populated U.S. Northeast, the world's biggest consumer of the wintertime fuel. New snowfalls and frost were expected across Europe from Thursday. French power usage hit an ALL-TIME HIGH Tuesday as temperatures dipped below zero, forcing households to turn up their heating. European spot power prices doubled over the past days with Germany's spot day-ahead prices reaching a year-high, exceeding last January which was one of the coldest months on record. In France, a new power usage peak was expected Wednesday although spare import capacity and a restart of a number of nuclear reactors would help meet demand. In Britain, where the majority of heaters are fuelled by gas, prices were still not far off the peaks observed during the supply crisis this summer.
In China, some parts of the country could run short of COAL, OIL, POWER or GAS at times during the next few winter months. Australia and Indonesia's coal miners have lost production due to flooded mines, and rain has also hampered transportation. The La Nina weather anomaly, which is raising concerns over Argentina's corn and SOY crops, could hit the South American country again next season and cause even worse damage to yields.

**I do not participate in any sport that has ambulances at the bottom of the hill.
Erma Bombeck

This morning -

Yesterday -
12/16/10 -

CALIFORNIA - A RARE "quake swarm" has set off more than 100 earthquakes in southern California, including Wednesday's 4.4 magnitude quake that hit east of San Diego. "You could hear the rumble before you felt the earthquake." More than 130 of them have been recorded in Brawley since Monday with the strongest one Wednesday's 4.4 quake."It's an exciting place to be right now. You don't go an hour without feeling an earthquake." A "swarm" doesn't happen anywhere else in the United States. "Brawley is a very famous area for earthquakes, known worldwide for all its earthquakes." The last swarm took place in 1975, when Brawley shook for four days with 339 quakes, with the strongest being a 4.7. Brawley is located between the Imperial Fault and the San Andreas Fault and is surrounded by hot magma rocks that heat the water and absorb a lot of the volatile energy. "So we're getting a different style of earthquakes, numerous small earthquakes in warm rock rather than saving up a lot of energy and having a more violent rupture."

No current tropical cyclones.


CALIFORNIA - A series of tropical storms is expected to hit this morning bringing rain, wind and snow to Northern California and with it the possibility of urban flooding and power outages. It's going to be wet for days, with the inclement weather continuing through the first half of next week. That means lots of snow and tough travel conditions in the Sierra and gusting winds in coastal areas, where trees and power lines could fall.
The National Weather Service said residents should anticipate the possibility of small stream and high wind advisories, as well as power outages.
Another storm forecast to hit late Tuesday or Wednesday was expected to pack a more powerful punch but appeared to be aimed at Central California like “a big hose pointed right at Big Sur." Tahoe-area resorts are preparing for another big dump of snow on the heels of a welcome Thanksgiving holiday storm. It could be another early exclamation mark on a season that's off to a running start. “It was THE MOST PRE-THANKSGIVING SNOW WE'VE HAD FOR 15 YEARS and I think this is going to set us up historically to have a pretty huge December." More than 10 feet of snow is expected between Friday and Wednesday. Power outages were likely because of wind gusts ranging up to 35 or 40 mph. Sonoma County so far has above-average rainfall for the year, with statistics for Santa Rosa showing 133 percent of normal, or nearly 12 inches of rain. (photo)


Arctic Oscillation Chills US and Europe - The first week of December was a chilly one for much of Europe and parts of the United States. 2010 was cooler than average in northern Europe and the eastern United States. Greenland and parts of northern Canada, however, were exceptionally warm. This temperature pattern was caused by the Arctic Oscillation. The Arctic Oscillation is a climate pattern that influences winter weather in the northern hemisphere. It describes the relationship between high pressure in the mid-latitudes and low pressure over the Arctic. When the pressure systems are weak, the difference between them is small, and air from the Arctic flows south, while warmer air seeps north. This is referred to as a negative Arctic Oscillation. Like December 2009, the Arctic Oscillation was negative in early December 2010. Cold air from the Arctic channeled south around a blocking system over Greenland, while Greenland and northern Canada heated up.
The UNUSUAL cold brought heavy snow to Northern Europe, stopping flights and trains early in December. Cold temperatures and snow also closed roads and schools in the eastern United States and Canada during the first week of December. The diagonal path of a powerful winter storm is visible as a streak of cold across the Upper Midwest of the United States. (image)
U.S. and Europe both dealing with extreme weather; video of tornado in Portugal. Many locations experiencing RECORD SNOW AND COLD. Over the past week to two weeks, both the United States and Europe have been hit with extreme weather. Arctic air has gripped the eastern two-thirds of the nation. Wind chill and freeze warnings have been issued as far south as Miami. Last week, Fort Lauderdale broke a 169 year record low temperature with a morning reading of 40 degrees. Monday, Caribou, Maine recorded a warmer temperature (55 degrees) than Orlando, Florida, where a temperature of just 51 degrees was recorded. Atlanta, GA recorded its coldest high (29 degrees) in 31 years. Duluth, MN recorded its 4th snowiest meteorological autumn (a period from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30) with over 35 inches of snow. Minneapolis, MN experienced its largest snowfall ever for the month of December and its 5th largest snowfall ever with 17.1" of snow this past weekend. In Chicago, they are off to one of their coldest December opens ever. 10 out of the first 13 days have registered below normal.
Extreme weather affecting several areas in Europe - More than 30 inches of snow fell in Edinburgh, Scotland last week. Last Wednesday, flights had to be suspended, public transportation came to a halt, and even the Eiffel Tower had to be shut down after heavy snow fell in Paris, France. The 11cm or 4.5 inches of snow that fell was the heaviest in a quarter century (since 1987). Authorities there said 66 people had lost their lives since the severe wintry weather began in late November. A rare tornado hit Portugal last Thursday injuring up to 40 people.
Stormy weather with fierce winds, heavy rains and snow is blamed for killing at least 18 in Egypt. The area has been dealing with severe weather over several days.
Blocking pattern to blame - The main reason for the extreme weather conditions has to do with a blocking pattern that has been sending warmer than normal temperatures across parts of Greenland while leaking Arctic air into the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. and into a good portion of Europe. This pattern known as a "Greenland Block" doesn't seem to be letting go and will continue to persist over the next several days.

FLORIDA - STRONGEST MID-DECEMBER COLD SNAP IN A HALF CENTURY; regional cold records topple for 3rd straight night. Three nights of record-breaking, teeth-chattering, crop-threatening cold marked the most profound such event for mid-December in a half-century. One more round of "very cold," but not freezing, temperatures early Thursday. "The good news is we are nearing the end of this cold snap."
It will take awhile to gauge the fallout from the most bitter freeze since a historic one in 1962. Across the region, temperatures were 20 to 25 degrees below normal for this time of year. Wednesday's low of 35 at Palm Beach International Airport broke the 1962 record of 36. The wind chill was 31. Records fell in Vero Beach, Clewiston and Okeechobee, and were tied in Belle Glade and Okeechobee. The other side of the cold snap, a stressed water supply and high wildfire potential, won't moderate as rapidly as the chill. "This year is not the typical wildfire year,. We did not receive enough tropical moisture in the summer months. In addition, the cold fronts are not bringing in substantial rain." And it will be awhile before the extent of damage is known in the interior, where farmers sent helicopters over fields again Wednesday morning in a bid to save crops hit by three cold snaps in as many weeks. Soon, after this latest round of cold, "we'll know what's alive and what's dead."


Magnetic filaments have been erupting on the sun with uncommon frequency these past two weeks. The latest event occurred On Dec. 16th around 0800 UT when a filament lifted off the stellar surface and propelled a coronal mass ejection into space. Earth was not in the line of fire; no planets were. The cloud is heading up and away from the plane of the solar system where it will dissipate with little effect a week or two hence. Like all the recent eruptions, this one missed our planet, but it is only a matter of time before a scattershot CME reaches Earth. When it does, you'll want to be alert for auroras.