Monday, January 9, 2012

Something is up with the jet stream - changes that have meteorologists scratching their heads in wonder. 4 of the last 6 winters have seen record AO and NAO indices. Weather Underground has a fascinating post explaining what's going on, but the whys are still very much up in the air: "The cause of this warm first half of winter is THE MOST EXTREME CONFIGURATION OF THE JET STREAM EVER RECORDED, as measured by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The Arctic Oscillation (AO), and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (which can be thought of as the North Atlantic's portion of the larger-scale AO), are climate patterns in the Northern Hemisphere defined by fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure in the North Atlantic between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. The AO and NAO have significant impacts on winter weather in North America and Europe - -the AO and NAO affect the path, intensity, and shape of the jet stream, influencing where storms track and how strong these storms become. During December 2011, the NAO index was +2.52, which was the most extreme difference in pressure between Iceland and the Azores ever observed in December (records of the NAO go back to 1865.)" "The December Arctic Oscillation (AO) index has fluctuated wildly over the past six years, with THE TWO MOST EXTREME POSITIVE AND TWO MOST EXTREME NEGATIVE VALUES ON RECORD.
The "AO" has been strongly positive for much of the last 3 months, but is predicted to drop off to, or even below, zero after January 16 or so. Positive AO's correlate with strong westerly winds and bitter air remaining dammed over northern Canada; a negative AO corresponds with bitter cold (and frequent snows). Until and unless the AO and NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) drop well below zero, and stay there, it may be tough to get sustained cold and snowy weather into the Lower 48 States. There's precious little snow anywhere over the Lower 48 right now.
"Forecast maps don't look anything like any January I can ever remember," says a Minnesota meteorologist. The GFS forecast valid midday January 23 looks more like early April, the pattern over North America overwhelmed by UNUSUALLY STRONG "zonal" winds from the Pacific; bitter air remaining bottled up over far northern Canada. In Minnesota it's going to cool off later this week, but another warming trend is likely by the 4th week of January. "I've run out of superlatives. I'm simply dazed and amazed." There is no snow and it looks like late March instead of January. "At the rate we're going this may wind up being the most remarkable winter since 2001-2002, when only 2 subzero nights were reported in the metro area." Temperatures today and Tuesday should climb into the 40s, with 50s possible south/west of the Minnesota River Valley - typical for late March or early April. It just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Every computer run looks less and less impressive in terms of cold air.
Temperature Departure From Normal In The Twin Cities:
January 2012: +11.9 F.
December 2011: +8.1 F.
November 2011: +5.5 F.
October 2011: +6.4 F.
Overview of the wild weather Minnesota endured last year: record dew point (82), an urban tornado, and going from the 4th greatest winter snowfall (86.6") to a drought in the span of about 5 months. ATMOSPHERIC INSANITY. Weather memories tend to fade quickly. But two events make 2011 stand out: the May tornado that sliced through the heart of the metro area, becoming the first killer tornado to hit Minneapolis in nearly 30 years, and the lightning-sparked, drought-driven September Pagami Creek forest fire, the state's largest fire in 93 years. The year brought a seesaw of extremes - record snow last winter, record rains in June and record drought to close the year. The first half of the year, with below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation, was followed by six months of the opposite. (graphs & charts)

**Physical strength can never permanently withstand
the impact of spiritual force.**
Franklin D. Roosevelt

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/8/12 -

A 5.3-magnitude quake in the Dominican Republic early Thursday triggered rockslides and damaged several buildings, but no
casualties were reported.

NEW ZEALAND - Earthquake experts insist they are not hiding sensitive information that might cause panic as anxious Christchurch residents worry about what may lie ahead. The long sequence of devastating earthquakes stretching back to September 2010 was not unexpected. Although the quakes are likely to continue - possibly for decades - they appear to be moving offshore, and another serious quake of magnitude 7 or more is seen as very unlikely.
Since the latest spate of quakes that began on December 23, rumours have suggested that scientists were expecting another big quake but were keeping it under wraps. "There are a lot of things we don't know, but we are bringing information forward as soon as we do have something that is coherent to say". The recent spate of quakes did tend to increase the odds of more quakes, but with the latest occurring off Christchurch's coast, there was less potential for damage. "I think we can guarantee there will still be (magnitude) 5s in the coming months. Hopefully they are going to continue to be offshore. Christchurch's city has had a lot of earthquake activity and a lot of stress must be released in the ... area, but for Canterbury there may well be an ongoing sequence over a period of a few decades." The risk of a quake of magnitude 7 or more - such as in September 2010 - is "not zero, but it's low".
Evidence pointed to the quakes since September 2010 being "VERY RARE" in a historical context. "The sequence is now catching up to the number of quakes expected in the time frame." While quakes offshore created a small risk of a tsunami, experts stressed that only very large quakes created a serious risk. A magnitude 7 quake could produce a tidal wave of up up to 2m, but that was still not enough to worry about. Big quakes much further afield, such as in South America, are more of a concern.


7 Indonesian Volcanoes on Alert - The National Disaster Mitigation Agency has warned that seven volcanoes located across the archipelago are on alert statuses. The agency said it has prepared measures for the worst-case scenarios and officials met on Saturday to discuss the measures. The seven volcanoes are Papandayan Mountain in West Java, Karangetang and Lokon in North Sulawesi, Ijen in East Java, Gamalama in North Maluku, Anak Krakatau in Lampung and Lewotolo in East Nusa Tenggara. The agency was closely monitoring each volcano. Mitigation measures varied in each region because of the different characteristics of the volcanos and the territories. In general, the agency has planned evacuation routes, sites for refugees, logistics supplies, machinery and volunteer mapping. “The plan is standardized, but we keep renewing it to adjust to current conditions. For Papandayan, we have a done dry-run three times so the people could get used to the measures." On Friday, Lokon Mountain erupted, spewing volcanic ash up to 1,500 meters high, but it had calmed down by Saturday morning and people living near the mountain were not evacuated. In North Maluku, some 296 people remain in refugee shelters in Dufa-Dufa following Mount Gamalama’s last eruption in early December.
About 500 people residing near Mount Lewotolok, Lembata district, abandoned their homes on Thursday amid the volcano’s mounting activity. “Most of them left for the nearest city, Lewoleba. All related government officials will soon hold a coordination meeting to deal with the latest situation." Although the government had not yet announced an evacuation plan, the local people had chosen to leave due to the increasing activity of Mount Lewotolok over the past few days. “Black smoke columns are coming out of the mountain’s crater, the air is filled with the smell of sulfur while rumbling sounds are heard around the mountain." 10 villages were likely to be affected if the volcano erupted. The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) had since Jan. 2 raised Mount Lewotolok’s status to alert level after detecting an increase in its activity.

Renewed Activity at El Hierro in the Canary Islands - El Hierro is showing renewed vigor. New video from the webcams show that the sea surface is steaming and reports from people at El Hierro say that new pyroclastic chunks have been spotted as well. Diario El Hierro was reporting an increase in seismic tremor at the volcano over 24 hours on Friday. You never know if the activity might continue long enough to produce a subaerial eruption (such as the activity at Jebel Zubair in the Red Sea), but right now, we’re still likely a long way from that. (photos)

In the Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone 05s (Chanda) was located approximately 200 nm west-southwest of Antananarivo, Madagascar.


New study puts cost of US foodborne illness at $77 billion.