Cloud streets, Hawaii calls, Commutageddon, communication, and climate change
There have been lots of interesting and entertaining weather and climate nuggets in the news in recent days, too many to write about as individual items. So here is an aggregation of them, woven together (kind of like a cloud street) for your reading pleasure...
Cloud streets: There had to be a purpose for all of that cold air crossing the U.S., right? You bet: for mother nature to airbrush long, picturesque streets of clouds in the skies over the western Atlantic (as shown above). NASA tells us how these form: "Cloud streets form when cold air blows over warmer waters, while a warmer air layer--or temperature inversion--rests over top of both. The comparatively warm water of the ocean gives up heat and moisture to the cold air mass above, and columns of heated air--thermals--naturally rise through the atmosphere. As they hit the temperature inversion like a lid, the air rolls over like the circulation in a pot of boiling water. The water in the warm air cools and condenses into flat-bottomed, fluffy-topped cumulus clouds that line up parallel to the wind."
Hawaii tourism booming: The cold and sometimes stormy weather blowing over the lower 48 states this winter (forming cloud streets on the downwind waters) has caused mainlanders to flock in droves in the opposite direction. The New York Times reports domestic air passenger arrivals to Hawaiian islands increased 10 percent in January 2011 relative to the same period in 2010.
Keep reading for more...
Winter 2010-2011 records & extremes: Wunderground has a great compilation of the various snow records which have been set this winter from Glasgow, Montana's record 42 inches in January to New York City's two top 10 blizzards.
Winter 2010-2011 lessons learned: Stu Ostro at Weather.com discusses the patterns that have led to the remarkable weather conditions across much of the U.S. this winter. In his conclusion, noting the multiple instances of traffic fiascos across the country as well as mass power outages and roof collapses, he aptly states: "...this season has dramatically illustrated, in both the U.S. and Europe, how vulnerable we are to severe winter conditions."
Commutageddon again and again: The American Meteorological Society's Front Page blog, recalling all of stranded vehicle incidents this winter, discusses the challenges of communicating our vulnerability to winter hazards. It notes despite warnings from forecasters and public officials about paralyzing blizzards "people continue to miss, misunderstand, or simply ignore the message for potentially dangerous winter storms to stay off the roads." The blog cites some of ideas I put forth for enhancing communication post-Commutageddon. WJLA's Bob Ryan weighs in on this as well, stating: "The forecast process is a three-part system: We meteorologists make the forecast, we effectively communicate the forecast information and you the public make a good-weather related decision. If any part fails, the entire process fails."
Communication failure during Pakistan's summer floods: In my commentary following Commutageddon, I wrote about the importance of the greater community working together to effectively communicate the risk when severe weather threatens. My colleague Brian Vastag wrote an excellent article (that appeared in Monday's printe edtion) that demonstrates how that is much easier said than done in parts of the developing world where resources are scarce and warning systems insufficient. He describes the devastating flood in Pakistan that drowned 2,000 people despite the fact the European computer model simulated the extreme rains more than a week in advance. "The incident highlights both the growing sophistication of computer programs to predict extreme weather and the difficulties in communicating that information to an anxious public," Vastag wrote.
Increasing greenhouse gases to lead to more flooding? Post Carbon summarizes the results of two new studies published in the journal Nature this week that find strong linkages between increasing greenhouse gases and the concurrent increasing intensity of rainfall events.
January 2011- Regionally cool but globally warm:NOAA's Environmental Visualization Laboratory features an image (shown above) which nicely shows that while the U.S. was colder than average, the planet was warm overall...the 11th warmest on record, in fact.
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