As summer morphs into winter via fall, contemplation of the cold and snowy days becomes an obsession in parts of the US. Will the polar vortex again visit the northern plains with a vengeance and spill down into the rest of the eastern United States?
At the other end of the weather spectrum, tropical weather is still festering, and El Niño continues to play hide-and-seek. Then there’s the problem of salt — not enough to go around, so prices are bid sky high. Let’s go around the world.
El Niño? Yes Or Noño?
For some time now, long-range forecasts have been predicated on the appearance of an El Niño this fall or winter. And though water temperatures in the Pacific are above normal overall, the progression towards El Niño conditions has paused and even backslid. The National Weather Service now estimates about five chances in 8 that there will be an El Niño, down from about six in eight a couple of months ago.
Looking Forward To Winter 2015: Will It Be A Repeat Of 2014?
Last winter was characterized by a large sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly in the Gulf of Alaska. That appeared to anchor high pressure over the eastern Pacific and set up an undulation in the atmospheric flow that included cold air plunging from Canada into the eastern United States. Ergo, the awful winter.
The SSTs are still well above average off the west coast, and if the El Niño doesn’t develop, there’s no reason to think we won’t have a repeat of the weather of last year.
Tropical Cyclone Season Isn’t Over Yet; But The Atlantic Is Quiet
Though September is the peak month for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin by many metrics, Florida gets hit more often in October. There is a secondary peak of activity in October, basin-wide, as the Caper Verde season winds down and storms begin to form on cold fronts that penetrate into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
This year has been exceptionally quiet across the Atlantic, with only five named storms. Dry air from the Sahara combined with strong vertical wind shear produced hostile conditions for cyclone formation most of the summer. No storms will form in the foreseeable future, but with a front due to penetrate the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the week, next week could be more interesting.
Eastern Pacific Continues To Be Active
A warm pool of water south and southeast of the southern Mexico coast has produced what seems like a never-ending series of storms. Most of them drifted harmlessly out to sea, but Hurricane Odile stayed close enough to the coast to ravage the southern tip of Baja California. Subsequently moisture from Odile caused a round of flooding in Arizona and New Mexico.
Then came Polo and Rachel, which both dissipated well offshore.
And here comes another one. A new disturbance will become Tropical Storm Simon in a few days. At this time of year there is always the possibility that a dip in the jet stream will push the storm towards the Mexican coast.
Activity Resumes In The Western Pacific After A Lull
The western Pacific typhoon season went gangbusters earlier in the summer, with four Super-Typhoons (winds over 150 miles per hour), but then went quiet. Activity has now picked back up.
Tropical Storm Kammuri is now headed safely out to sea, but right on its heels is Tropical Storm Phanfone, which will probably be a hurricane when it passes about 150 miles north of Guam tomorrow.
Phanfone could reach Super-Typhoon status as it heads for Japan, but the storm will almost certainly be steered out to sea by the jet stream.
Road Salt Prices Soar
You can still sprinkle it liberally on your food. But if you need salt in large quantities — for example, to spread on roads to keep them free of ice — it’s going to be an expensive winter. Because of the extremely snowy winter across much of the eastern United States last year, many communities have depleted their supplies of salt. Prices which were in the mid-30 dollar per ton price range last year are now near $100 per ton. Some states were smart enough to lock in long-term rates before last year, but many will now pay through the nose.
Weather Casts A Wide Net
The weather affects life in surprising ways: high coffee prices because coffee fungus is spreading due to global warming; an increase in skin cancers as CFCs were carried into the ozone layer; and now salt prices going through the roof.
Look around. What weather effects do you see?