Remember the reading this early in the winter season of snow/water information is a bit misleading. The South Platt for instance @ 141% might mean there is 10″ of snow and maybe 1″ of water equivalent rather than 3″ of snow and .03″ of water (normal). It’s way too early to get excited about how big the winter will be when the information is the first sampling of SNOTEL sites and can drop the other direction just as quickly.
This is the fifth straight month with record or near-record heat.
October was the warmest such month on record globally, narrowly edging out October 2015 for the top spot, according to a new analysisfrom the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. The finding, released Tuesday, is significant because it shows that 2019 is certain to be one of the warmest years on record, continuing a trend scientists attribute to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities.
According to Copernicus, global average surface temperatures were 1.24 degrees above average when compared to the 1981-2010 average, and 0.02 degrees above the 2015 record. The month was a solid 0.2 degrees above the third-warmest October, which occurred in 2017.
During October, the Western United States and parts of Canada stood out for being cooler than average. However, temperatures were “markedly above average” over much of the Arctic, where sea ice extent hit a record low for the month. Europe was warmer than average, as was the Eastern United States and Canada, the Middle East and much of North Africa and Russia.
The new data released Tuesday also sheds light on global average temperatures during the past 12 months, beginning in November 2018. Looking at this data helps climate scientists get a better idea of longer-term trends, since some of the natural variability gets smoothed out over time.
It finds that most of the Arctic, particularly central parts of Siberia, were far above average during the period. Parts of Alaska set mild temperature milestones during October as sea ice surrounding the state continued to be absent.
Other areas were above average, compared to the 1981-2010 period, including the Middle East, Australia, parts of the Antarctic, southern Africa and northeastern China.
This puts the planet perilously close to one of the temperature guardrails outlined in the Paris climate agreement, in which policymakers agreed to limit global warming to “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, above preindustrial levels by 2100. The aspirational goal in the agreement is to hold temperatures to a 2.7-degree increase, or 1.5 Celsius, above preindustrial levels, which is a target that was pushed by the countries considered most vulnerable to climate impacts, such as small island nations.
Scientists say it’s technically feasible to meet the 2-degree target, but extremely difficult practically, given the present course of greenhouse gas emissions, political difficulties surrounding the issue — such as the impending U.S. departure from the Paris agreement — and the sheer magnitude of near-term emissions cuts it would require.
The October record is also noteworthy because it occurred in the absence of an El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Such climate cycles, which involve interactions between the sea and atmosphere above it and can alter weather patterns thousands of miles away, tend to boost global average surface temperatures. The hottest year on record, 2016, took place amid a strong El Niño, for example.
Copernicus’s global temperature tracking adds to the data gathered by other groups, including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which use independent data sets and various methods of analyzing global land and ocean temperatures. The temperature rankings of these agencies and others often differ slightly, though the underlying numbers tend to match up quite well.
One major reason for disagreements between the data sets concerns how each organization takes into account the rapidly warming but sparsely populated Arctic region.
All of the data sets show that the planet is warming at an average rate of about 0.32 degrees per decade, and has been since the late 1970s. They also each show that the planet’s warmest years have come since 2015.
Colorado River Otter
On a cool spring day, in the bewitching crystalline light for which New Mexico is famous, I stood in the middle of the Acoma Sky Cityand looked out into the ocean of desert at an island of pale red and dun colored rock called Enchanted Mesa.
My tour guide, Marissa Chino, a young Acoma woman, said it isn’t known if her people once lived there. There are tales, though, that say they did. One story holds they descended to the valley to tend their squash and corn and, while they were farming, a violent storm washed away a stone ladder that was their only access. With no way back up the monolith they abandoned their home and moved to the 357-foot tall mesa where the village sits now.
This is only one of the great many mysteries about the ancient Puebloan civilization that once flourished across the desert landscape of the American Southwest and, for a long time, was believed to have vanished.
Its fate has become clearer in recent years, as researchers have peered more deeply into where this civilization went on its ‘final migration’ and listened more closely to the descendants of those once called the Anasazi — Navajo for Enemy Ancestors — who are now known as Ancestral Puebloans.
Fun to see the Don Bachman photo of the crew putting up the Campbell unit back in the day. “How many forecaster’s does it take to put up a Campbell unit?”…. seven or eight? Hey look, this group even had a ladder with them!
Left to right, standing is: Sam Parker and Chuck Tolton (field techs for Campbell); Knox Williams and Nick Logan (CAIC); and Tom Sharp, (Telluride Helitrax pilot.) In front: Mark Mueller, CAIC forecaster and Mark Frankman, Helitrax ski guide.
Photo by Don Bachman. Fall 1993
Site: Mt Abrams, (East Riverside)
same crew of reprobates on Red Mt. #3
Denny Hogan photo credit
Imagine someone telling you the weather forecast for New Year’s Day today, two months in advance, with exact temperature bounds and rainfall to a hundredth of an inch. Sounds too good to be true, yes?
A new study in Science says it’s simply not possible. But just how far can we take a day-by-day forecast?
The practical limit to daily forecasting
“A skillful forecast lead time of midlatitude instantaneous weather is around 10 days, which serves as the practical predictability limit,” according to a study published in April in the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences.
Those limits aren’t likely to change much anytime soon. Even if scientists had the data they needed and a more perfect understanding of all forecasting’s complexities, skillful forecasts could extend out to about 14 or 15 days only, the 2019 study found, because of the chaotic nature of the atmosphere.
The American Meteorological Society agrees. Their statement on the limits of prediction, in place since 2015, states that “presently, forecasts of daily or specific weather conditions do not exhibit useful skill beyond eight days, meaning that their accuracy is low.”
Beyond the limit
Although the American Meteorological Society strongly advises against issuing specific forecasts beyond eight days, popular weather vendor AccuWeather has, for years, churned out detailed predictions many days further into the future. It initiated 45-day forecasts in 2013, which it extended to 90 days in 2016 — and has been heavily criticized for it.
On Oct. 12 this year, AccuWeather even wrote a news feature headlining specific snow forecasts for major cities 30 to 90 days into the future:
“There will be snow on Thanksgiving or the day after in Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay,” AccuWeather wrote, while also calling for snow around New Year’s Day in Boston, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.
“We just don’t have the data available to be able to do [what AccuWeather does],” wrote Beth Carpenter, a consulting meteorologist who owns and operates Thermodynamic Solutions. The forecasts, she said, are “not feasible and should not be trusted.”
We asked AccuWeather for its justification and goals for continuing to issue these forecasts, including the snowfall forecast. “Keep checking the AccuWeather forecast day by day out through 90 days,” responded communications director Rhonda Seaton.
Why does AccuWeather issue such forecasts if they are beyond the bounds of modern-day science?
“Personally, I think it’s marketing,” said Victor Gensini, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at Northern Illinois University, who specializes in long-range predictions of severe weather.
“[AccuWeather] is only doing half of the work,” Gensini said. “It’s easy for anybody with social media or a large successful company to do long-range forecasts. … I don’t take any forecast seriously unless there’s a verification that goes with it. If they show they are [accurate], we can start having that discussion.”
When put to the test by outsiders (see here, here, here and here), AccuWeather’s long-range forecasts generally showed no value starting between nine and 11 days into the future (in many cases offering less accurate predictions than historical averages would), right in line with what science says is the limit of such specific predictions.
“These long-range specific weather forecasts are hurting the weather enterprise,” wrote Beau Dodson, a meteorologist who operates his own forecasting business. “This causes a loss of trust in meteorologists.”
How long-range forecasts can have value
Whereas the lines have been drawn as to the limits of highly specific predictions, known as “deterministic forecasts,” meteorologists have developed and continue to advance techniques for more generalized long-range outlooks expressed using likelihoods or probabilities.
You see this with seasonal forecasts, with phrases like “above-average chances of a cool winter” or “below-average hurricane activity is likely.” For example, the federal government’s official winter outlook, released in October, called for above-average chances of a relatively warm winter for much of the United States, but it did not specify precipitation amounts and temperatures each day.
These probabilistic forecasts are an attempt to qualify the likelihood of something occurring. Thanks to a better understanding of how the ocean and atmosphere work, as well as increased computing power, researchers and forecasts have been able to improve these kinds of forecasts.
Gensini, for example, recently published a study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters explaining how his team was able to “anticipate the potential for an extended period of favorable severe weather conditions nearly four weeks in advance” leading up to this past May’s historic tornado outbreak. His forecast was conveyed using probabilities.
The Washington Post is a customer of AccuWeather for weather services and forecasts in its print edition, for predictions no more than 10 days into the future.
Dougal McCarty, Denny Hogan photo credit
“where’s the ladder?”, Denny Hogan.
Photo credit D00g McCarty