Though the Atlantic hurricane season technically runs from June through November, most major storms occur in the August to October time frame.
This year’s blockbuster, Hurricane Matthew, came in October, killing hundreds in Haiti, dozens in the US, and causing historic flooding long after it had left the building.
Receiving much less attention, but certainly much more important in the long run, negotiators hammered out an agreement to curb the use of HFCs, potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration.
Let’s go Around The World.
Matthew Smashes Haiti, Drowns North Carolina
Hurricane Matthew developed from an almost insignificant easterly wave, blossomed in the central Caribbean to a category five monster, threaded the needle between Haiti and Cuba, and raked the southeast coast of the US. But the most far-reaching effects occurred far from the canter of the storm, far from the coast, and far from the strongest winds.
Once Matthew, a product of the equatorial easterlies, became entangled with the mid-latitude jet stream flow, moisture rapidly moved north and swamped the already saturated parts of the eastern Carolinas. Flooding persisted for weeks after Matthew had moved off the coast and disappeared into the Atlantic.
As Matthew Goes, GOES A No Go
The first in a new series (R) of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) was scheduled to be launched by NASA on November 4, 2016. Touted as ‘next generation’ by NOAA, the new satellite will deliver information faster and with more precision than its ancestors.
Though the satellite and its launching rocket were not affected by Hurricane Matthew, some of the facilities at Cape Kennedy suffered minor damage from the storm, so the flight was postponed. GOES-R is now scheduled to enter a geosynchronous orbit, occupying the same position over the western hemisphere equator as it travels at the same rate (in angular terms) as the Earth turns, on November 16.
Just as a note of interest to trivia fans, the time it takes for the satellite to orbit the earth will not be 24 hours; it will be 23 hours, 56 minutes and four seconds. No, the earth’s rotation hasn’t suddenly sped up; the 24 hour day is measured, at a given spot on the earth’s surface, from one time facing the sun to the next. Since the earth is moving in its orbit, the earth has to spin an extra 1/365th of a turn to face the sun again.
Another Typhoon Hits Philippines
Typhoon Haima joins the list of Super-Typhoons that have caused havoc in the Philippines in the last few years.
Making landfall on the northern island with winds up to 140 miles per hour, Haima went on to whack the coast of China as a 100 mile-per-hour storm and then dump heavy rains inland.
At least 13 people died in the northern Philippines.
NOAA Says US Winter To Be Moderately Warm
On October 20, 2016, NOAA issued its forecast for December through February.
All of the continental US except the northern midwest and plains is forecast to have an equal or greater than equal chance of warmer than normal temperatures.
A swath from California through the central Rockies and plains to the mid-Atlantic coast has a 33% chance of warmer than normal temperatures. The odds of a warm winter increase southward to 60% along the Mexican border of Texas and New Mexico.
The precipitation forecast calls for generally drier than normal conditions in the southern part of the country, with greater than normal precipitation near the Canadian border.
Long range forecasts, even those couched in statistical terms, are problematic at best, downright wrong at worst.
Given the uncertain state of La Niña, Decoded Science takes these forecasts with a pretty good pile of salt.
Climate Change: A Historic Agreement
Negotiators in Kigali, Rwanda agreed to limit hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the chemicals responsible for about one-quarter of the earth’s greenhouse warming.
In 1987, the nations of the world, panicked over a hole in the ozone layer which protects earthlings from the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the major chemicals in refrigerants. Those who crafted that agreement were prescient in allowing for amendments, should any of the replacement chemicals prove troublesome. The primary replacements, HFCs, have no effect on the ozone layer, but turn out to be potent greenhouse gases — about a thousand times more powerful on a volume basis than carbon dioxide.
The agreement was not reached without contention. In particular, poor countries, particularly India, where economic conditions have improved to the point where air conditioning is becoming affordable to the middle class, objected to early implementation, which will raise the price of cooling. The result was a three-tier system, with wealthy, developed countries responding fastest, then poorer nations complying in two more steps. Interestingly, several African countries, eligible for the last step, volunteered to comply in step two.
The good news is that the rules are legally binding (most of the requirements of last year’s Paris agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions are voluntary), with penalties for non-compliance made clear. The bad news is that the dates for implementation are far in the future — as far as 2047. It’s definitely not too little, but will it be too late?
Hot Off The Press
The forecast for Cleveland for tonight’s World Series game calls for near-record warm temperatures for November first — more like mid-summer.
The overall pattern indicates that temperatures will be generally mild over the US for the first half of November.