Tropical Storm Cindy Batters Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Cindy, the third named storm of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, made landfall between Cameron, LA and Port Arthur, TX early Thursday morning. It battered the area with heavy rain and winds measured up to 40 mph.

Impacts were felt widely across the Gulf Coast, with flash floods reported from New Orleans, LA to Pensacola, FL. The storm also downed trees and knocked out power to more than 32,000 customers across six states.

Moving inland, the storm was soon downgraded to a tropical depression. However, it still spawned a destructive tornado in Fairfield, AL. The NWS has given the twister a preliminary rating of EF-2.

The remnants of Cindy are expected to travel northeast over the next several days, unleashing even more torrential rain as it moves along.

Tropical Storm Cindy in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: NOAA/NWS

Summer Solstice 2017

Today is the June Solstice, the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. The new season officially began at 04:24 UTC, which is 12:24 AM Eastern Daylight Time.

Our astronomical seasons are a product of the tilt of the Earth’s axis – a 23.5° angle – and the movement of the planet around the sun. During the summer months, the northern half of the Earth is tilted toward the sun. This position allows the northern hemisphere to receive the sun’s energy at a more direct angle and produces our warmest temperatures of the year.

Since the winter solstice in December, the arc of the sun’s apparent daily passage across the sky has been moving northward and daylight hours have been increasing. Today, it reached its northernmost position at the Tropic of Cancer (23.5° north latitude) marking the “longest day” of the year. This observable stop is where today’s event takes its name. Solstice is a word derived from Latin and means “the sun stands still”.

While today brings us the greatest number of daylight hours all year (15 hours and 5 minutes in NYC), it is not the warmest day of the year.  The hottest part of summer typically lags the solstice by a few weeks. This is because the oceans and continents need time to absorb the sun’s energy and warm up – a phenomenon known as seasonal temperature lag.

Earth’s solstices and equinoxes. Image Credit: NASA

Powerful Thunderstorm Lashes NYC

A violent thunderstorm lashed the New York City area on Monday afternoon. Strong winds and heavy rain were seen across the region.

After days of hot and humid conditions, a cold front moved in from the west and triggered these powerful storms. According to the NWS, 1.35 inches of rain was measured in Central Park and wind gusts reached 34 mph. Flash floods and downed trees were reported in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Below is a short video of the soaking rain seen near Madison Square Park in Manhattan.

Planet Posts Third Warmest May and Second Warmest Spring Period on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with May 2017 marking not only the third warmest May on record but also closing out the planet’s second warmest March to May period, known as meteorological spring in the northern hemisphere.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for May – over both land and sea surfaces – was 60.09°F, which is 1.49°F above the 20th-century average. Only May 2015 and 2016 were warmer.

This May also marked the 389th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

The three-month period of March, April, and May was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.66°F above the 20th century average of 56.7°F. That makes it the second warmest such period on record, trailing only the 2016 season.

While heat dominated most of the planet this spring, some places were particularly warm, including much of Europe and North America. Here in the contiguous US, it was our eighth warmest spring on record.

These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed in May, which means there was neither an El Niño nor a La Niña in the Pacific to influence global weather patterns.

Year to date, the first five months of 2017 were the second warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

Globally, March 2017 to May 2017 was the second warmest such period on record. Credit: NOAA

Severe Thunderstorms: Watches vs Warnings

A severe thunderstorm is forecast for the New York City area on Monday afternoon. In addition to lightning, it could bring strong winds, heavy rain, hail, and the possibility of a tornado. Simply put, this is the type of weather that can cause property damage and loss of life. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between the various alerts issued by the National Weather Service. They include advisories, watches, and warnings.  All should be taken seriously.

  • Advisory: Issued when significant, but not necessarily hazardous, weather conditions are likely to occur. Residents should exercise caution.
  • Watch: Issued when dangerous weather conditions are possible over the next several hours.  They generally cover a large geographic area.  Residents should be prepared to take action.
  • Warning: Issued when dangerous weather is imminent or already occurring.  They cover a smaller, more specific geographic area.  Residents should take action immediately.

Second Heat Wave of the Year Bakes NYC

The summer solstice is still a week away, but New York City is already sweltering through its second heat wave of the year.

The threshold for what constitutes a heat wave varies by region, but here in the northeast, it is defined as three consecutive days with temperatures reaching 90°F or higher. This week, the mercury in Central Park soared to 90°F on Sunday, 93°F on Monday, and 94°F on Tuesday.

The high temperature on Monday tied the record for the date that was set in 1973. Monday also posted a new record warm low reading – known as a maximum minimum temperature – of 76°F. The previous record of 73°F was set in 2015.

The last time the city saw temperatures reach the mid-90s was August 2016. The average high and low for this time of year in the Big Apple is 79°F and 63°F, respectively.

This dramatic heat was the result of a dominant Bermuda High, a large area of high pressure situated off the east coast. Spinning clockwise, it has been steering hot, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico toward the northeast.

While these conditions can feel oppressive, they can also cause a number of health problems. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for the city and encouraged people to limit their time outdoors.

If you are not a fan of the heat, fear not. Weather that is more seasonable is expected to return later this week.

The second heat wave of the year is baking the Big Apple. Credit: Melissa Fleming

Extreme Heat Can Impact Your Health

The second heat wave of the year is underway in the Big Apple. As temperatures soar, it is important to remember that intense heat can cause serious health problems.

According to the CDC, extreme heat – temperatures that are significantly hotter than the average local summertime high – is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in this country. Claiming hundreds of lives every year, excessive heat kills more people across the U.S. than hurricanes and tornadoes combined.

Extreme heat is deadly because it forces the human body beyond its capacity to cool itself. Linked to overheating and dehydration, heat-related illnesses can range in severity from mild to life-threatening.  Symptoms for each stage include:

Heat Cramps:  Painful muscle spasms in the legs and/or abdomen

Heat Exhaustion:  fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, and nausea

Heat Stroke:  rapid pulse, hot and dry skin, no sweating. This is a medical emergency

To beat the heat, the American Red Cross suggests:

  • Avoid strenuous activity
  • Dress lightly
  • Eat lightly
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Replenish salts and minerals lost through perspiration
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Stay out of the sun
  • Cool off in an air-conditioned building, when possible

New Climate Change Documentary, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”

On Tuesday night, I attended a special early screening of Al Gore’s new documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. 

Credit: Paramount

Nearly a decade after the Academy Award-winning An Inconvenient Truth first hit theaters, this film focuses on the former US Vice President’s continuing mission to combat human-caused climate change. Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, it discusses both the wide spectrum of ongoing problems caused by global warming as well as the actions being taken to tackle this critical issue, including the landmark Paris Agreement.

While progress has been made, Mr. Gore says, “it’s still not enough.” When you add that fact to the Trump Administration’s recent rollback of the Clean Power Plan and withdrawal from the Paris Accord, the film’s call to action – “Fight like your world depends on it” – feels more pertinent than ever.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power opens in theaters later this summer.

President Trump Withdraws US from Paris Climate Agreement

At a special ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, President Trump announced he is withdrawing the United States from the non-binding, international climate agreement known as the Paris Accord.

More than 20 years in the making, the 2015 Paris Accord marked the first truly global deal to address the issue of climate change. With the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and holding global warming to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, nearly 200 countries submitted individual voluntary emissions reduction plans known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

These essentially spell out how much CO2 a country plans to cut based on its own domestic situation. While the current collection of NDCs would only reduce emissions by about half of what is necessary to reach the 2°C (3.6°F) goal, the agreement legally obligates countries to reconvene every five years to report on their progress and present updated plans detailing how they will deepen their cuts.

As a leading voice in negotiating this historic agreement, the US pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 26% – 28% below its 2005 levels by 2025. To meet this obligation, the Obama administration introduced the Clean Power Plan (CPP) via executive order. Developed under the umbrella of the Clean Air Act, this set of EPA regulations aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. However, it was nullified by a new executive order from President Trump in March.

Mr. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, said the Paris Accord is a “bad deal” that is costing America jobs. But, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data, coal mining jobs in the US have been declining for decades largely because of automation and the availability of cheap natural gas.  Moreover, the US Department of Energy reports that the number of coal jobs in the US is less than 75,000 while there are nearly 650,000 people employed in renewable energy.

In announcing his withdrawal from the accord, the President kept a campaign promise and likely pleased his supporters. However, it is not that easy to pull out. The agreement was written to ensure that parties could not begin the withdrawal process until fours years after the accord officially went into effect. Consequently, the US cannot truly withdraw until November 4, 2020. That is one day after the next presidential election.

Therefore, the role that the US will ultimately play in global climate action lies with the voters, 71% of whom support the Paris Accord. Until then, thirty-seven states and four hundred local governments across the US, as well as more than a thousand businesses have pledged to continue to work toward the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Credit: Bloomberg

May 2017: A Month of Weather Extremes in NYC

May was a month of weather extremes is New York City this year. Highs ranged from a cool 53°F to a record warm 92°F. May also produced the city’s first heat wave of the year. However, with 24 out of 31 days posting below average readings, the chill won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 61.1°F, which is 1.3°F below average.

In terms of precipitation, May was unusually wet. In all, 6.38 inches of rain were measured in Central Park. Of this impressive total, 3.02 inches (47% of the monthly total) fell in just a few hours on May 5, setting a new rainfall record for the date. Another 1.61 inches came down during an unseasonable nor’easter on May 13. On average, the Big Apple gets 4.19 inches of rain for the entire month of May.

Credit: The Weather Gamut