Friday, April 10, 2015

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200 Years After Tambora eruption, Some Unusual Effects Linger - Frankenstein, famine poetry, polar exploration — the "year without a summer" was just the beginning.
On April 10, 1815, the Tambora volcano in Indonesia roared into action, producing the largest eruption of the last 10,000 years and killing thousands of villagers living on the mountain’s slopes. The volcano produced some 36 cubic miles of ash and rock and injected large amounts of small particles, or aerosols, into the stratosphere, which produced brilliantly colored skies on the other side of the world.
Tambora was “a tragedy of nations masquerading as a spectacular sunset." Those aerosol particles stayed in the stratosphere for two years, blocking sunlight and causing havoc on Earth’s climate. The year 1816 was so cold that it snowed in New England in June, and the period became known as “the year without a summer.” Grain shortages and famine occurred across the globe, and Tambora’s far-reaching death toll would eventually claim more than 100,000 according to some estimates.
The gloomy, rainy weather that followed the eruption influenced Gothic novelists. Author Mary Shelley, for instance, spent the summer of 1816 at Lake Geneva in Switzerland, and the weather there trapped the party indoors for days on end. Mary Shelley incorporated the dreary atmosphere into her classic book Frankenstein.
The months and years following the cold summer of 1816 were tough for many around the world. China's Yunnan province suffered a particularly devastating famine. “Famished corpses lay unmourned on the roads; mothers sold their children or killed them out of mercy; and human skeletons wandered the fields, feeding on white clay.”
While the United States didn't experience a famine, American merchants were able to make a lot of money by shipping wheat to Europe, and rising grain prices at home caused hardship for many. In New England, people who could not afford the high-priced wheat or corn changed their diets to include the green tops of potato plants, wild pigeon, hedgehog and oats, a grain that could survive a cold summer.


* In the South Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Joalane is located approximately 502 nm east-northeast of Port Louis, Mauritius.

* In the Southern Pacific -
Tropical cyclone Twentythree is located approximately 581 nm northwest of Noumea, New Caledonia.
Hurricane forecasters predict another quiet season - Forecasters from Colorado State University predicted a "well below-average" Atlantic hurricane season Thursday, anticipating seven tropical storms will form, of which only three will become hurricanes. A typical year, based on weather records dating to 1950, has 12 tropical storms, of which seven become hurricanes. A tropical storm has sustained winds of 39 mph; it becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph.
The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and the chances of a moderate to strong El Niño event this summer and fall appear to be quite high. Historical data indicate fewer storms form in these conditions." El Niños, a periodic warming of tropical Pacific Ocean water, tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity, but often spur eastern Pacific hurricanes.
The forecast team predicts that of the three hurricanes, only one will attain "major" hurricane status. A major hurricane is a hurricane with wind speeds of at least 111 mph (Category 3) on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. If the forecast is accurate, it would be the second straight below-average season. The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season had eight named tropical storms, the fewest since 1997. Overall, in the past 20 years, every season but four has recorded above average numbers of named tropical storms.
Gray's team was the first organization to issue seasonal hurricane forecasts back in 1984; this is the team's 32nd forecast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be issuing its hurricane forecast in May. The first named storms of the Atlantic hurricane season will be Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny. Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th in the Atlantic basin.

Ex-cyclone Ikola dumps big rain across southern Western Australia — and more to come. The ex-cyclone over the Indian Ocean is delivering a rainfall bonanza to much of southern Western Australia — and there is more on the way for Perth.
Cyclone Ikola emerged in the central Indian Ocean this week and fizzled into a tropical depression as it moved towards the southern WA coast, bringing solid rain since Easter Monday. A new low pressure system was likely to form over the South West on Thursday, intensifying the rain and bringing the possibility of strong winds and severe thunderstorms.
The system has already dumped fantastic rains across the Wheatbelt with Eneabba, 280km north-east of Perth, getting 58mm to 9am Wednesday. Farmers from Kalbarri east to Southern Cross and south to Esperance have all received wonderful opening rains — on the back of some decent falls from decaying Cyclone Nathan two weeks ago. Widespread falls of 20mm, with isolated falls of 40 to 50mm, were possible across the South West land division on Thursday and Friday. There was also a chance of flash flooding across the region and the possibility of severe thunderstorms developing north of Perth later on Thursday.


3 tornadoes leave 50-mile path of damage across central, northern Illinois - A tornado destroyed several homes and a restaurant Thursday night in northern Illinois — part of a storm system that was moving toward Chicago, which was under a tornado watch. The tornado flattened at least four houses in Rochelle, along with a restaurant. About a dozen people who were trapped in the restaurant's basement were believed to have been rescued safely, but fire crews were conducting a secondary search Thursday night. Any injuries were minor and didn't require ambulances.
There was also significant damage in the towns of Kings and Hillcrest. There was no immediate word on injuries there. The tornado crossed Interstate 39 several miles north of Rochelle, shortly after 7 p.m. (8 p.m. ET), according to The Weather Channel, which aired the incident live. It also hit Fairdale and damaged an undetermined number of structures northwest of Ashton. "This was a violent, long-track tornado."
The tornado was one of several that were spun off across Illinois and Iowa on the second day of a monster storm system that has peppered a 1,500-mile arc with grapefruit-size hail and winds up to 80 mph from Texas up to the Great Lakes and across to North Carolina. Forecasters for The Weather Channel described it as the biggest severe weather event so far this spring.
UPDATE: One dead as tornadoes lash central US - 8 injured. A tornado touched down near Rochelle, Illinois, Thursday evening, leaving one dead, as well as substantial damage. The fatality took place in Fairdale, about 60 miles northwest of Chicago. A large twister crossed Interstate 39, and the tiny hamlet of Fairdale in DeKalb County took a direct hit. "All structures in town are damaged."
One woman died in the Indianapolis area Wednesday night when she was swept away by a flash flood. Further north, the seemingly endless winter of 2014-15 continued to hang on. Winter storm advisories and warnings were in effect across northern Wisconsin, northern Michigan and northern New England. On Friday, the severe storm threat area will shift to the Southeast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast.

Severe Weather Rumbles Eastward; Hail, Wind was widespread on Wednesday - Fast-moving thunderstorms were zipping across the Mississippi Valley on Thursday afternoon, as an upper-level storm accelerated through the region. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center placed a large part of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys and lower Great Lakes under an enhanced risk of severe weather for Thursday afternoon and evening.
The day’s first tornado watch was posted for northeast Missouri, southeast Iowa, and far northwest Illinois, effective until 8:00 pm CDT, with a second watch in effect until 11:00 pm CDT for most of northern Illinois and parts of extreme southern Wisconsin and far western Indiana. The strongest and longest-lived tornadoes typically form within discrete supercell thunderstorms, as opposed to squall lines or large thunderstorm clusters. Other storms could become supercells ahead of the line, particularly in northern Illinois.
Heavy rains and severe weather are again plaguing the Ohio Valley, which has endured several days of large thunderstorm complexes called mesoscale convective systems moving along a persistent east-west frontal zone. By Wednesday afternoon, the warm front had shifted to the southern Great Lakes, with temperatures ranging from 40s to its north to 60s and 70s just to its south. However, the final push of this week’s upper-level storm system may still bring one more round of severe storms and heavy rain across parts of Kentucky and West Virginia as well as southern Indiana and Ohio.
A severe thunderstorm watch was issued Wednesday afternoon for the upper Ohio Valley, and a solid swatch of flash flood watches extend from the St. Louis area eastward to the Virginia/West Virginia border. On Wednesday afternoon, a supercell thunderstorm in south- central Kansas produced eight tornado reports, with two others in southeast Missouri and western Oklahoma.
Wednesday’s storms: few tornadoes, but plenty of hail and high wind The nation was spared major damage on Wednesday despite an extensive arc of severe weather from Texas to North Carolina. The most impressive storms were along the dry line from western Oklahoma into south-central Kansas. One long-lived supercell near the intersection of the dry line and the nation-straddling warm front produced several tornadoes near Medicine Lodge, KS. Storm chaser Mike Prendergast captured this impressive cone-shaped tornado near Deerhead, KS, with a faint rainbow visible. Another supercell dropped hail up to 3” in diameter in west-central Oklahoma. Large hail was the favored mode of the day’s severe weather, with more than 200 reports nationwide. Baseball-sized hail was reported in Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana, as well as Oklahoma.
Forecasters had correctly anticipated that the dry-line storms would be sparse but intense, although the coverage was even less than some had expected. Thin high clouds that overspread much of Kansas and Oklahoma cut down on daytime heating and reduced the available instability, which weakened the day’s severe potential somewhat. In addition, a layer of very warm, dry air atop the moist surface air served as a formidable cap for any thunderstorms attempting to draw on the surface air (although some less severe “elevated” thunderstorms did develop above the cap).

Iowa tornado damage - video.


Western U.S. enduring record warmth, historic drought - Record warmth engulfed the West in the first three months of the year, while more than third of the country is enduring a drought. But thanks to below average temperatures in the South, Midwest and Northeast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association on Wednesday said temperatures across the United States were only the 24th warmest on record for the first quarter.
The year-to-date contiguous U.S. average temperature was 37.2 degrees F, 2.0 degrees F above the 20th century average. The March contiguous U.S. average temperature was 45.4 degrees F, 3.9 degrees F above the 20th century average; it was the warmest March in three years. The warming conditions out West will come as no surprise to Californians, who are living through a fourth year of drought and facing draconian limits on water use imposed by the governor.
Seven states had record warm temperatures, and an additional five states, including Alaska, had temperatures that were much above average. California's year-to-date temperature of 53.0 degrees F was 7.5 degrees F above average and bested the previous record set just last year by 1.8 degrees F. The warmer conditions continued a trend that saw the warmest winter on record across the globe and the hottest year in 2014.
In contrast to conditions out West, 16 states had a much cooler than average January-March period. New York and Vermont actually experienced record cold conditions, with the Empire state marking a year-to-date average temperature of just 16.9 degrees F, 6.8 degrees below average and below the previous record set in 1912. The Vermont January-March temperature was 13.3 degrees F, 6.4 degrees F below average, tying the same period in 1923.
It was also a dry start to the year. Precipitation totals across the United States from January to March were 5.66 inches, 1.30 inches below the 20th century average. It was the driest three months since 1988. As a result, increasing parts of the United States have been gripped by drought.
According to the March 31st U.S. Drought Monitor report, 36.8 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 31.9 percent at the beginning of March. Drought conditions worsened across parts of the Central Rockies as well as the Central and Northern Plains and the Upper Midwest, where spring drought could impact the upcoming growing season. Drought remained entrenched in the West, where mountain snowpack was record low for many locations in the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains. Drought improved in the Southern Plains and the Mid- to Lower-Mississippi River Valley.

‘Blood rain’ to fall on Britain as red Saharan dust blows in from Africa. Storms in the Sahara desert have whipped up sand into a fine dust which is being carried to Britain on northerly winds. When the rain falls it looks a reddish colour and when it dries it leaves a thin layer of dust capable of coating houses, cars and garden furniture.
Although it is more common in Spain and the South of France, it has been known to travel longer distances and fall in areas like Scandinavia. In some parts of India the colour has been vibrant enough to stain clothing. In ancient times ‘blood rain’ was believed to be actual blood and considered a bad omen, heralding death and destruction. It is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s tales of King Arthur.
Health officials have issued a warning about the high level of pollution in Britain in the coming days. Adults and children with lung or heart problems, and older people have been advised to avoid strenuous activity. People are also advised to reduce physical exertion, particularly outside, and asthma sufferers were warned that they may need to use their inhaler more frequently.
Temperatures on Friday are expected to 72F (22C) which is due to be the hottest day since last year’s Halloween heatwave saw conditions peak at 73F (23.6C) on October 31. In fact, conditions on Friday could nudge the record for the hottest ever April 10, 73F (23.3C) which was set in Devon in 1909. The high temperatures have already sparked dozens of blazes including a two square mile grass fire in Darwen, Lancashire and a 20-acre grass fire in Cheddar, Somerset.
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