It looks like my weather station stayed up and running through the weekend. That is the first time since last summer. Hopefully, it continues.
It looks like we had our last bit of snow for a while. Looking out to March 4, 2012, Arizona will be dry according to this morning’s GFS model run. The GFS outlook to March 4, 2012 has precipitation staying away from Arizona.
NCEP GFS model for total precipitation through March 4, 2012.
During this time, there isn’t even a near-miss. Temperatures should stay pretty close to normal, but there could be cold and warm swings as we have seen for most of February. This morning we are in single digits.
8 day average temperature anomaly - Dr. Ryan Maue at Policlimate.com
Later today, we will see how the Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks match these.
January was warm. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it was the 6th warmest January on record for Flagstaff. So far, mostly because of Friday’s low temperatures, February is off to a chilly start. But the forecasts for the next week point to near normal temperatures.
Looking over the one-week horizon, the Climate Prediction center is pointing to a shift in temperatures. Both the 6-8 and 10-14 day outlooks have below average temperatures on the way to the Western US. This would be a big shift from January.The shift in temperatures doesn’t seem to bring wetter weather with it.
We have a slight chance of snow for the next 3 days. I don’t think we will even see as much as we saw last Wednesday.
6-10 day temperature outlook from the Climate Prediction Center
8-14 day temperature outlook from the Climate Prediction Center
Jared N asked a great question yesterday. Basically, he was asking how long this current dry spell will last and what will the fire outlook be? La Nina and the general cold of the Pacific Ocean is driving our weather pattern and it doesn’t look like a big change is on the way
ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) Outlook from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society - January 19, 2012
El Nino and La Nina are the warm and cold episodes for the sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. El Nino usually indicates a cool wet pattern for the Southwest. La Nina usually means a warm dry winter for the Southwest. In the chart above, most of the models show that La Nina will hang on at least through Spring. The March-April-May (MAM) data point shows the temperature anomaly just crossing above -0.5 degrees C. One half of a degree anomaly is the demarcation of La Nina or El Nino.
La Nina impacts CLIMAS - University of Arizona
With El Nino, the storm track is typically right across the southern United States. With La Nina, the jet stream and storm track stay to the north. Since our last storm in December, we experienced this nearly exact situation. With La Nina predicted to stay in tact, the outlook is for more of the same. While it seems to me that the Climate Prediction Center’s 3-month outlook looks nearly the same for any situation, it actually applies now. Warm and dry conditions are forecast for the next 3 months. The would indicate a potentially bad fire season. However, a single errant storm could dump a bunch of snow and get us back to normal.
3 month temperature out look from the Climate Prediction Center
3 month precipitation outlook from the Climate Prediction Center
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is a climate variability pattern that cycles over decades. An indicator of the phase is sea surface temperature. In the warm phase the eastern Pacific Ocean is warm and the western Pacific Ocean is cool. In the cool phase, the western Pacific is warm and the eastern Pacific is cool. Right now, the eastern Pacific is very cool. Also, notice the equatorial Pacific is cool with La Nina in place.
Pacific sea surface temperature anomaly on January 9, 2012. NOAA
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation Index represents the degree of PDO variability. With the current cool conditions, the November 2011 measurement of the PDO Index is the lowest it has been since 1961. The PDO INdex in November was -2.33. It has been mostly negative since 2005.
PDO Index based on data from Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and the Ocean at the University of Washington
While a number of factors affect Arizona’s climate, a cool or negative PDO Index is typically associated with drier than normal conditions across the southern United States. This seems to fit our current dry pattern.
The National Weather Service office in Flagstaff produced two very nice documents about 2011. One is a review of top weather events in 2011. It’s a pdf of a Powerpoint slide set. The second is their standard text review of 2011. Here they are:
Both pdfs are worth seeing. The only point I would like to make about the year is that overall it was below average on temperature. Sure, it was dry, but we typically don’t hear about things being colder than average.
La Nina drove the dry weather. La Nina and a cold Pacific Ocean could have contributed to the cooler weather. Also, throughout the year the solar cycle continued to underperform to NASA’s models. The Sun has been very dim. Half a degree of temperature swing may not seem like much. The Arizona Daily Sun didn’t report on the cold year in their 2011 Year in Review: Drought in Flagstaff ends article. Keep in mind that this average temperature included one of Flagstaff’s hottest Augusts on record. By comparison, the global temperatures change by a similar amount during El Nino events. That is typically news.
UAH Global Temperature Update for Dec. 2011
It seems to me that half of a degree merits pointing out. Consider it done.
New weather prediction instrument added!!!
My family gave me an “Admiral Fitzroy’s Storm Glass” for Christmas. You can view it next to my Shark Oil Barometer. It has a similar reported behavior. I think it is still getting acclimated. Wikipedia has Storm Glass page. About.com has a Fitzroy’s Storm Glass page. I will be modifying the barometer webpage to include a Storm Glass section. For now, here is how it should work:
If the liquid in the glass is clear, the weather will be bright and clear.
If the liquid is cloudy, the weather will be cloudy as well, perhaps with precipitation.
If there are small dots in the liquid, humid or foggy weather is expected.
A cloudy glass with small stars indicates thunderstorms.
If the liquid has small stars on sunny winter days, then snow is coming.
If there are large flakes throughout the liquid, it will be overcast in temperate seasons or snowy in the winter.
If there are crystals at the bottom, this indicates frost.
If there are threads near the top, it will be windy.
It didn’t seem to change as we had the windy system move through last night. But, we will see what it does in the future. I had to move the barometer out of the window. The storm glass should not be placed in the direct sunlight. I’m not sure where I will leave it.
Stu's weather equipment including Admiral Fitzroy's Storm Glass
Does it seem like we have had a wet fall? It has been. It has also been similar to last fall. In the chart below, I have plotted the daily and cumulative precipitation for the months of September through November for the last 4 years.
Fall Precipitation for 2008-2011 - Source data from the National Weather Service preliminary monthly climate data
The daily precipitation is in the bar chart at the bottom, and uses the right axis. The cumulative precipitation is in the line chart and uses the left axis. The falls of 2008 and 2009 were considerably drier. Both the falls of 2010 and 2011 have seen the onset of La Nina. This could be a reason. Fall of 2008 brought the emergent warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean with El Nino setting in during 2009. Since late 2009, the equatorial Pacific Ocean has cooled with back to back La Nina events.
I also took a look at temperatures for the last four falls. Other than this fall appearing cooler than the last 3, I struggled to find a meaning sign of a trend. With that said, this month to date is more than 4 degrees below normal. October was 0.7 above normal and September was 1.4 above normal.
Cumulative departure from normal daily temperatures, Falls 2008-2011
The chances of added precipitation for the rest of the month keep popping in and out of the forecast models. The GFS and NoGAPs models are not consistent with each other. GFS this morning is showing a snowy Thanksgiving.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the heat wave in the Midwest and it’s expansion to the East Coast. Meanwhile, Flagstaff’s temperatures have been dead on the average for the month to date. The graphic from HAMWeather.com shows temperature records for the last week. New high temperature records we set in a broad fashion across the United States. Just a note that some low temperature records were set in the West.
HAMweather Climate Center - Record Events for The Past Week - Continental US
The rest of the world isn’t exactly following the North American heating trend. Below is a graphic of global surface temperatures for 2009-2011. Notice that global temperatures are lower now than in the last couple years.
Global satellite temperatures - AMSU-A
The real drivers for the lower global temperature are ocean temperatures.
8 day forecasted average temperature anomaly. R. Maue - Florida State University
Europe, Africa, North America, Asia, Australia and Antarctica are all showing up as mostly above normal. But, by and large, the world’s oceans are cooler than normal. Interesting situation.
For Flagstaff, if we can get the daily heating from mostly cloudless morning skies, we should see some nice monsoonal activity this week.
There has been much hype about last year being one of the warmest on record. If you look at the data that hasn’t been “corrected” to fit a model, 1934 was the warmest on record. 1998 was the second warmest and 2010 was below 2010. However, most of the anthropogenic global warming supports have corrected their data over time and have declared 2010 the warmest on record. They have also deleted the Medieval Warm Period. If you delve into the IPCC reports over the years, this is clear. But, there is quite a buzz building about the future.
NASA's historic predictions for Solar Cycle 24 keep dropping
First, the Dalton Minimum is associated with Solar Cycles 5 and 6 from 1798 to 1823. During the Dalton Minimum these solar cycles had sunspot peaks of 49.2 and 48.7 sunspots. At a prediction of 59, Solar Cycle 24 is close to this range. There are very few temperature records that go back to this time period, but 3 stations did show downward temperature trends. Oberlach in Germany showed an average temperature decline of 2 degrees Celsius during this time frame. The famous “Year Without a Summer” happened during this time frame. The Year Without a Summer was probably also affected by a major volcanic eruption. Also, winters were characterized by people being able to skate on the Thames River. The winter of 1813-1814 was the 4th coldest on the Central England temperature record. London had great Christmas snow during this time frame, too:
Christmas Snow in London
The other major solar minium in recent history is called the Maunder Minimum. The Maunder Minimum is associated with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age. The Maunder Minimum lasted from 1645 to 1715. During the Maunder Minimum, lower temperatures were noted across Europe. Given that Central England just had their coldest December in 400 years, it should be noted that their coldest winter in the last 500 years occurred during the Maunder Minimum and is know as the Great Frost of 1709. The London area recorded temperatures of -12C that winter.
Other than our New Years cold wave, we have had a nice, warm winter. That hasn’t been the case elsewhere. The global average temperature has dropped since the El Nino aggressively switched to a La Nina. England, Europe and Australia have all been cold. The climate conference in Cancun in December was greeted with the coldest December temperatures ever recorded.
Personally, I think the long lingering snow and ice of the last few winters, and the associated damages, are a result of the long solar minimum and the current weak solar cycle. But, what really got me started was this recent video blog post from Joe Bastardi at Accuweather:
So, what will we be facing? We should be prepared for colder temperatures and the associated effects. Will it last two solar cycles like the Dalton Minimum, or 60 years like the Maunder Minimum? That is the question.
Sorry folks, I’ve been in Japan for the last week and out of the loop as a result. Sorry the storm didn’t materialize while I was gone. It looks like there will be a couple chances for white stuff in the near future.
The normally conservative AccuWeather forecast has snow forecasted for the week of Christmas. Not just for a single day that week, but the entire week. In fact, they see the snow starting next Thursday and continuing through December 24. To some extent, his is reinforced by the GFS model which shows a strong system on a southerly track hitting Arizona on December 23. The Flagstaff forecast from the National Weather Service has a chance of snow next Thursday.
But, the high pressure off the coast of Southern California has been quite strong and unmovable of late. I am highly skeptical. But, my T-model shows a similar possibility for Christmas Week.
If you have your own rain gauge, I strongly encourage you to supply your data to Rainlog.org.
<from Rainlog.org> Rainlog.org is a cooperative rainfall monitoring network for Arizona. Data collected through this network will be used for a variety of applications, from watershed management activities to drought planning at local, county, and state levels. Precipitation amounts are highly variable across Arizona due to topography and seasonal weather patterns. This is especially true during the monsoon season, when thunderstorms can produce heavy rainfall that is very localized.
Here is a graphic of the data for the Flagstaff Area in October 2010. Their monthly report is attached below. You can see the variability that makes this such a great service. If you don’t have a rain gauge, you can look on this site and find someone near you. This can help you decide if you need to water your plants, or not.
October 2010 Rainfall - Flagstaff
Rainlog Climate Summary for October 2010
Sorry for the delay in sending the October summary. November snuck up on us.
October was full of weather surprises including a record number of tornadoes and unusually wet conditions across the northern half of Arizona. Several strong low pressure systems moved through the Southwest during October, bringing unsettled weather, cooler temperatures and widespread precipitation to parched areas of northern Arizona. Several of these storm systems dropped one-day totals of over an inch of rain in the Kingman and Flagstaff areas.
Rainloggers in northern Arizona reported two-day totals in excess of 3 inches from large thunderstorm complexes that moved from north to south on October 4th and 5th. October 5th was the busiest day with the development of several severe thunderstorms and eight confirmed tornadoes that touched down from Cottonwood to Flagstaff, destroying several homes and flattening over 5,000 acres of forest.
October precipitation amounts were two to four times greater than average across the northwest quarter of the state. The southern half of Arizona has seen far less precipitation with most locations reporting only 50-75% of normal rainfall.
October’s wild, wet weather gave way to a dry and warm weather pattern in early November. This most likely will be the main story for the rest of the winter. A strong La Nina event is underway in the Pacific Ocean and is expected to steer winter storms north, away from the Southwest, leaving us with unusually dry weather and the threat of rapidly emerging short-term drought conditions.
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