Today marks the first day of meteorological winter, comprising the months December, January, and February.
Astronomical winter begins in the northern hemisphere on December 21, the winter solstice (shortest day).
Statistically, the coldest three-month period starts somewhere in between December 1 and December 21 in most places.
Regardless of what definition you use, the weather has been getting colder in the northern hemisphere.
One thing is for sure: It will be a long winter — literally. Because 2016 is a leap year, this winter will be 91 days long rather than the usual 90.
Regardless of whether you call today winter or not, Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons are officially over, one forgettable, one not. Important climate talks began yesterday in Paris, and Dallas has a new yearly precipitation record. Let’s go Around The World.
Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season Ends With Neither A Whimper Nor A Bang
Back in the spring, a number of reputable sources released forecasts of the number of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes that would form in the Atlantic Basin (Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico).
All but Decoded Science forecast below normal in all categories; Decoded Science predicted a normal season in all categories. The result: named storms, normal; hurricanes, below normal; major hurricanes, normal. Call it a wash.
The conventional wisdom was that El Niño years produce below normal numbers of tropical systems in the Atlantic. Decoded Science felt that El Niño would be offset by warmer-than-average water temperatures. So we split the difference.
Many experts are already warning about next summer. With water temperatures still anomalously warm but no El Niño, it could be a blockbuster (maybe more accurately a housebuster) year.
There has not been a landfalling hurricane in Florida, the most hurricane-prone state, in ten seasons, a new record hiatus. Before that, in 2004 and 2005, there were six in two years.
Hurricane Season Ends In The Eastern Pacific; Typhoon Season Continues In Western Pacific
Typical for an El Niño year, it was a busy season across the Pacific this summer. The eastern Pacific hurricane season officially ended on November 30, while the western Pacific typhoon season runs for the entire calendar year.
Especially noteworthy this year was the number of storms that threatened Hawaii — eight. As the oceans warm worldwide, places with marginal sea surface temperatures such as the waters southeast of Hawaii, will become more prone to activity.
In all, there were 26 named storms in the eastern Pacific, second most on record. The number of hurricanes (16) and major hurricanes (11) were the most ever.
At this time there are no tropical storms, nor even any suspicious areas, anywhere in the world. Don’t expect this to be the norm.
Dallas Sets Yearly Precipitation Record
It’s been an up and down year for rainfall in Dallas, Texas, but the ups have been w-a-a-a-y up. And so the year-to-date has already established a new annual record by over four inches at 57.90 inches. No doubt the record will be padded in December.
In keeping with recent trends, Dallas rainfall was either feast or famine (perhaps a better metaphor is imbibe or go dry). The record year was fueled by 16.96 inches of rain in May and 9.82 inches in October. In between, July and August totaled just 1.38 inches. The trend to extreme weather events and persistent weather patterns was certainly evident in Texas and Oklahoma this year. Dallas will most likely not be the only city reporting record rainfall for 2015.
The main culprit producing the rain was persistent southeast wind at the surface, bringing moisture-laden air from the Gulf of Mexico, combined with a jet stream trough that caused lifting to wring out the moisture.
Public Sentiment For Tough Climate Deal Declines; Powerful Business Interests Ramp Up Lobbying
According to a poll of citizens of 20 wealthy countries, public support for a binding agreement at COP21 has declined in the last six years. The percentage that believes climate change is a ‘very serious problem’ declined from 63% to 49%. The survey was taken in January and February, so perhaps the publicity surrounding COP21 will reverse the trend.
Lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry and others opposed to action on global warming have ramped up their efforts to affect the final agreement in Paris. According to The Guardian, the efforts of the polluters center around the argument that limiting fossil fuel emissions will stifle economic growth.
Call me a cynic, but I believe the special interests will succeed in softening any accord reached at this conference.
Weather Channel Names Another Nondescript ‘Winter Storm.’
So-called ‘Winter Storm Delphi’ is simply a continuation of the long-lasting weather event which produced the freezing rain event that Decoded Science named ‘Coldilocks.’
This weather event is characterized by a large low pressure whirlpool over the southwestern US at the jet stream level (centered around 18,000 feet).
The current part of this event is at least a little more winter-like, but the snow is nothing that is terribly unusual for the plains and midwest, and though there is some flooding, it isn’t close to Biblical levels.
The primary phenomenon of significance in the week-long event is still the freezing rain, pockets of which are still affecting the Upper Midwest and Northern New England.
Waiting For The Pineapple Express
El Niño winters are supposed to produce rain in California. The pattern is promising, with an active jet stream and water temperatures back to normal in the Gulf of Alaska.
As we enter the last month of the hottest year since the last interglacial period (over a hundred thousand years ago), what’s the weather doing where you are?