Weather and Climate

Words on Weather & Climate — June 10, 2010

June 10, 2010 // 0 Comments

The 2010 Hurricane Season by CRAIG JAMES Most of the forecasts I have seen for this hurricane season are indicating a very active season may be on tap. In fact, if the final numbers reach the upper end of many forecasts, this will be one of the most active seasons on record. The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and ends November 30. There have certainly been named storms before and after those dates, but this is when the majority occur, with the greatest concentration August through October. All of the forecasts I have seen except one are calling for an above-normal season this year. The National Hurricane Center has just recently released its outlook, which calls for “an 85% chance of an above-normal season. The outlook indicates only a 10% chance of a near-normal season and a 5% chance of a below-normal season.” With the majority of the forecasts indicating an active year, I’d be little nervous if I lived in Florida. There are three main reasons for this year’s forecast: 1. an expected la niña condition, which favors little wind shear in the Tropical Atlantic; 2. the current warm phase of the Tropical Atlantic, which has contributed to the high-activity era in the Atlantic basin since 1995; 3. exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. You can see on the map here all the warm colors indicating above average sea surface temperatures around Central America, the Gulf of Mexico and the Tropical Atlantic. You can also see the cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific and the Central Atlantic. The band of cool water along the Equator in the Pacific is the developing la niña. This season’s setup is quite the opposite of last year’s season and I am very glad to see that the Hurricane Center did not mention global warming once in their forecast discussion, which can be found at The Hurricane Center home page at contains a great “frequent questions” section. One of the more interesting answers deals with how tropical storms, or tropical cyclones, are named. Here is a sample: The first use of a proper name for a tropical cyclone was by an Australian forecaster early in the […]

Words on Weather & Climate — May 13, 2010

May 13, 2010 // 0 Comments

Snowfall by CRAIG JAMES I didn’t see any snowflakes in our area this past Saturday, May 8, but they weren’t far away. There was a light dusting on the ground Saturday morning as far south as Cadillac. Farther north, up to four inches fell east of Atlanta in Montmorency County with considerable damage to tree branches reported. In the Upper Peninsula, almost seven inches fell in Baraga County east of L’Anse, but I’ve seen it snow there in June. Temperatures Sunday and Monday morning, May 9-10 , dropped into the teens in parts of the Upper Peninsula. We don’t usually see snow in southern Michigan in May, but it has certainly happened. On May 8, 1923, an Arctic cold front moved across the area that dropped temperatures from the low 60s at 1 p.m. to the mid 30s by 6 p.m. On the following day, May 9, 5.5 inches of snow were officially recorded in Grand Rapids. However, up to a foot of snow fell in a band from Muskegon to Greenville to Lansing. I’ve seen pictures of that snowfall and I imagine it was enough to get some people to consider moving to a warmer climate. It probably wasn’t very well forecast either. But the snow didn’t last long. By the afternoon of May 10, it had all melted and apparently didn’t cause a lot of damage to vegetation. We ended up this current season with 72.5 inches of snowfall in Grand Rapids, which is exactly average and about 32 inches less than last season. If I may say so, it is also very much in line with the forecast made in my first article for The Rockford Squire of “snowfall totals much closer to average, perhaps around 70 inches in Grand Rapids, so you won’t be shoveling as much.” We only had two inches of snow this past March and just a few flakes in April for another fairly snow-free spring. I’ve written in earlier articles about the very snowy season in places like Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. In Washington, D.C., 56.1 inches of snow fell, which is more than 370% above the average of 15 inches. The 78.7 inches in Philadelphia was 407% above the average of 19 inches. To give you […]

Words on Weather & Climate — April 29, 2010

April 29, 2010 // 0 Comments

What’s the name of that volcano? by CRAIG JAMES I imagine the people from Iceland have been driven to fits of hysterical laughter when they hear broadcasters trying to pronounce the name the volcano that has been erupting in their country. It is spelled “Eyjafjallajoekull.” You can hear someone from Iceland pronounce it on a video from YouTube at It certainly made me laugh. The English pronunciation is “Aye-ya fyah-dla jow-kudl.” Let’s just call it “that Icelandic volcano.” You can see absolutely stunning photos online at If you don’t own a computer, go to the library or visit a friend who has one and look at the pictures. It is worth your while. I’m sure all of the stranded passengers and the airline companies didn’t find the volcano a laughing matter, but it came as no surprise to me to find out there are people blaming the volcano on global warming. Scientific American recently ran an article claiming that climate change caused the volcano to erupt. (Can you hear me laughing hysterically in the background?) I am certainly not a geologist or volcanologist, but there is enough evidence to show that volcanoes don’t erupt due to climate change, but they can change the climate. The eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 caused the year without a summer in 1816. It has been hypothesized by a volcanologist at Los Alamos that the Dark Ages were triggered by agricultural collapse following the 535AD eruption of Krakatoa. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa lowered global temperatures about two degrees. The eruptions of El Chicon in 1983 and Mt. Pinotubo in 1991 also lowered global temperatures. I could go on and on. A geologist writing in a blog called WattsUpWithThat, explained why melting ice had no effect on the Icelandic volcano: “Iceland is an above sea level manifestation of the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The ridge is of course an active constructive margin (It is actually the principle prime-mover of continental drift at this point in time). Upwelling of hotter (i.e. less dense) magma along the ridge is pushing the Eurasian plate and North American plate in opposite directions at about the speed that human nails grow. The Eurasian plate heads east, the North American plate heads west. “So […]

Words on Weather & Climate — March 11, 2010

March 11, 2010 // 0 Comments

Your Carbon Footprint by CRAIG JAMES There are many places you can go online to calculate what is called your “carbon footprint,” or how much carbon dioxide your daily activities release into the atmosphere. A Google search of “CO2 calculator” brought up over 700,000 hits in .36 seconds. I’ve even seen carbon dioxide emissions included on new automobile stickers lately. The goal of these calculators, of course, is to encourage you to cut back on CO2 emissions to “save the planet.” The numbers are usually presented in tons of CO2, so they sound quite impressive. If you really feel guilty about driving that SUV, you can send money to several companies (such as NativeEnergy), and they will take that money and invest in wind and methane power to offset the amount of CO2 you have produced, in case you actually don’t want to give up your SUV. However, wouldn’t it be helpful to know just how much impact our reduction of CO2 will actually have on the climate? How much human-induced climate change is being prevented by changing your light bulbs, from biking to work, or from slashing national carbon dioxide emissions in whatever ways possible? Isn’t this the number we really need to know? Unfortunately, this is the number the calculators don’t tell you. Since climate model projections of the future climate are what are being used to attempt to scare us into action, climate models should very well be used to tell us how much of the scary future we are going to avoid by taking the suggested/legislated/regulated actions. I’ve never seen that number published anywhere. But even though you and I don’t have access to the global climate models, there is a fairly simple way, with the use of a handheld calculator, we can determine how many tons of CO2 emissions are required to change the atmospheric concentration of CO2 by one part per million (ppm). Then we can figure out how many ppm of CO2 it takes to raise the global temperature one degree Celsius (1°C). There is a little math involved here, so if you don’t want to follow along, you can jump ahead to the answer, but it won’t be nearly as much fun that way. I will keep […]

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