May 2019: Second Wettest Month on Record for US

When it rains, it pours! This old adage was proven to be true last month. With national weather data dating back to 1895, May 2019 was the second wettest month ever recorded in the contiguous United States. Only May 2015 was wetter.

According to NOAA, an average of 4.41 inches of rain fell across the lower 48 states, which is 1.50 inches above average. Heavy precipitation was reported from the West Coast through the Mid-West, and into parts of the Northeast. Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri each experienced their wettest May on record.

This relentless rain caused deadly and destructive flooding in several states along the Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers.

While there were a number of factors that contributed to May’s excessive rainfall, including El Nino, climate change also likely played a part.  As the National Climate Assessment points out, heavy precipitation events are increasing in both frequency and intensity across the United States as the atmosphere warms.

As greenhouse gases heat the atmosphere, the air is able to hold more water vapor. More specifically, according to the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, for every increase of 1°F, the saturation level of the atmosphere increases by about 4%. In other words, warmer temperatures lead to more evaporation from oceans, rivers, and lakes, and therefore more water vapor is available to condense and fall as precipitation.

Sadly, with our global temperature continuing to rise, experts say we should expect to see more extreme rain and flooding events in the future.

Credit: NOAA

May 2019: A Soggy Month for NYC

May was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. Producing several cases of weather whiplash, highs ranged from a chilly 48°F to an unseasonably balmy 86°F. In the end, however, these extremes balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 62.2°F, which is only 0.2°F below average.

On the precipitation side of things, May was unusually wet. The month brought the city a relatively rare spring nor’easter and several impressive thunderstorms. One of which produced golf ball sized hail on Staten Island, one the city’s five boroughs. Overall, 19 out 31 days posted measureable rainfall that added up to 6.82 inches for the month. While that is a soggy statistic, it was not the wettest May the city has seen. That dubious honor belongs to May 1989 when 10.24 inches of rain was measured in Central Park. The city, on average, gets 4.19 inches for the month.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

A Springtime Case of Weather Whiplash in NYC

Spring is a transitional season where a few cold snaps and warm spells are not that uncommon. This week in New York City, however, it felt like we jumped from March to July in only seven days.

On Monday, May 13, the high topped out at a mere 48°F. This set a new record for the coldest high temperature for the date. The previous record of 49°F had been in place since 1914.

Then, on Monday, May 20, the mercury soared to 85°F.  While not a record breaker, it was the warmest day of the year in the city, to date.

The normal high for this time of year is in the low 70s.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

April 2019: Earth’s Second Warmest April on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with April 2019 marking the second warmest April ever recorded on this planet. Only April 2016 was warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.37°F. That is 1.67°F above the 20th-century average. April was also the 412th 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.

While heat dominated most of the planet in April, some places were particularly warm, including parts of Greenland, Scandinavia, and Asia. These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change.

For many people in the contiguous US, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, this April was relatively cool. To put this disparity into context, consider that the United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail also highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather conditions that are happening in any one part of the world.

Year to date, the first four months of 2019 were the third warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

April 2019 was Earth’s second warmest April on record. Credit: NOAA

Atmospheric CO2 Levels Reach Yet Another Record High

Our planet’s atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has broken yet another record. April’s average reading of 413.52 parts per million (ppm) set a new record high, according to Scripps’ Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This marks yet another high point on the definitively upward trend of the Keeling Curve, a well-known climate change indicator.

To put this rapidly increasing number into perspective, consider that when the observatory was first established in 1958, the CO2 level was 315 ppm, slightly higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. Going back even further, ice-core research shows that today’s level of atmospheric COis unprecedented in the last 800,000 years.

CO2  is one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. While it is a vital part of our atmosphere’s mix of gases and helps keep the planet from freezing, too much of it causes problems. Simply put, more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap more heat and increase the planet’s average temperature.

Since the pre-industrial era, according to the IPCC, Earth’s mean temperature has increased 1°C (1.8°F).  As temperatures rise, long established weather patterns are shifting. Some areas are getting wetter, while others are getting dryer, and coastal communities are feeling the impacts of rising sea levels.

This new COmilestone, therefore, is not good news. The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C released this past autumn clearly states that the impacts of climate change will be greater at a lower degree of warming than previously thought. To avoid the worst of these various impacts, the report says greenhouse gas pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and slashed to net zero by 2050.

This type of reduction will require massive action and enormous political will.

Credit: Scripps/NOAA

April 2019: Eighth Warmest April on Record for NYC

April 2019 was unusually warm in New York City. It produced 18 days with above average readings, including one day where the temperature reached a summer-like 80°F. Overnight lows were also mostly warmer than normal.  In fact, on April 14, the mercury only fell to 60°F, setting a new record warm low temperature for the date. In the end, the city’s mean temperature for the month was 55.5°F, which is 2.5°F above average. That means April 2019 is now tied with April 1985 as the city’s eighth warmest April on record. The city saw its warmest April in 2010, when the average temperature for the month was 57.9°F.

This April was also above average in terms of precipitation, with 18 out of 30 days producing measurable rainfall. In all, 4.55 inches of rain was measured in Central Park. Of that total, 1.03 inches fell on a single day. The city, on average, gets 4.50 inches of rain for the entire month.

April 2019 was NYC’s 8th warmest April on record. Credit: The Weather Gamut

After Review Hurricane Michael Upgraded to Rare Category-5 Status

Hurricane Michael, which pummeled the Florida panhandle in October, has been upgraded from a category-4 to a category-5 storm, the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

According to a report by the National Hurricane Center, the storm’s winds reached 160mph when it made landfall near Mexico Beach, FL. That is a 5mph increase from the estimate used last autumn. The agency says the uptick was the result of a re-analysis of reams of data, including aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates, and Doppler radar velocities.  The review also took into account data that was not available in real time.

In the grand scheme of things, an increase of 5mph may not sounds like a lot, but it puts Michael in rare company. It now ranks as the fourth category-5 storm on record to make landfall in the US. The other three were the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Michael is also the third cat-5 storm to hit the Sunshine state.

Regardless of the technical upgrade and historic statistics, Hurricane Michael was a devastating storm that will be long remembered by those it affected. The storm claimed the lives of 16 people and caused an estimated $25 billion in damage. More than six months after coming ashore, much of the area is still recovering.

Hurricane Michael making landfall as a Category 5 storm along the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018. Credit: NOAA

March 2019: Earth’s Second Warmest March on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with March 2019 marking the second warmest March ever recorded on this planet. Only March 2016 was warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 56.81°F. That is 1.91°F above the 20th-century average. March was also the 411th 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.

While heat dominated most of the planet in March, some places were particularly warm, including Alaska, northwestern Canada, as well as  large parts of Europe and Asia. These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change.

For many people in the contiguous US, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, this March was relatively cold. To put this disparity into context, consider that the United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail  also highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather conditions that are happening in any one part of the world.

Year to date, the first three months of 2019 were the third warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

March 2019 was the planet’s second warmest March on record. Credit: NOAA

 

March 2019 Came in Like a Lion and Went Out Like a Lamb in NYC

March 2019 felt like a weather roller coaster in New York City. Producing several days of weather whiplash, highs ranged from a frigid 26°F to an unseasonably balmy 75°F. In the end, however, these extremes nearly balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 41.7°F, which is only 0.8°F below average.

In terms of precipitation, rainfall was also slightly below normal. In total, Central Park reported 3.87 inches of rain, which is 0.49 inches below average for the month.

Snowfall, on the other hand, was abundant. After experiencing a snow drought for most of the winter, the first few days of March produced 10.4 inches of snow in Central Park.That is more snow than the city saw in November, December, January, and February combined. March, on average, typically only brings the city 3.9 inches of snow.

March 2019 felt like a temperature roller coaster in NYC. Credit: The Weather Gamut

Earth Posts 5th Warmest February and 4th Warmest Dec-Feb Season on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month. February 2019 marked not only the fifth warmest February, but also closed out the planet’s fourth warmest December – February season on record.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for February – over both land and sea surfaces – was 55.32°F, which is 1.42°F above the 20th-century average. This February also marked the 410th 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 December, January, and February – meteorological winter in the northern hemisphere – was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.51°F above the 20th century average of 53.8°F. That makes it the fourth warmest such period on record.

While heat dominated most of the planet this season, some places were particularly warm, including Alaska, Europe, Australia, and parts of Russia and Asia. Here in the contiguous US, this winter ranked among the warmest third of the nation’s 125-year period of record.

Coming on the heels of 2018 – the Earth’s fourth warmest year on record – these soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

Credit: NOAA