September 15, 2010

Arctic summer sea ice third smallest on record

Arctic sea ice extentThe National Snow and Ice Data Center is reporting that the planet's arctic sea ice extent this summer was the third-smallest on record, behind only 2008 and 2007. It was 625,000 square miles smaller than the long-term average. It has now begun to reform as the northern winter approaches.

Arctic sea ice is important to the regulation of the planet's temperature because ice reflects sunlight. When there is less of it, less solar energy is reflected back into space and more is absorbed by the (much darker) Arctic Ocean.

On the other end of the planet, the Antarctic sea ice extent for the southern winter was the largest on record, 4.1 percent above the 1979-2000 average. Clearly, global warming does not mean everyplace warms up in unison. 

Here's more from the NSIDC.

Also today, NOAA is reporting the 2010, so far, ranks as the warmest year on record globally - tied with 1998 for that distinction. Land and ocean temperatures averaged 1.2 degrees above the 20th century average. Maybe it will get really cold from now on, and all will average out to something unremarkable by Dec. 31.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:04 PM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Climate change

June 15, 2010

Globally, it was the warmest May, spring on record

NOAA has issued its monthly summary of the global climate picture for May, for the springtime months of March through May, and for the year-to-date: January through May. The combined global land and ocean surface temperatures for all three periods were the warmest since record-keeping began in 1880.

Temperature anomalies MayHere are the highlights for May:

* Warmest combined global land and sea-surface temperature on record, 1.24 degrees F above the 20th century average.

* Warmest global land surface temperature on record, 1.87 degrees above the 20th century average

* Second-warmest global sea-surface temperature (after 1998), 0.99 degrees above the 20th century average.

* Despite the averages, unusually cool spots included: western North America, northenr Argentina, interior Asia and Western Europe.

Highlights for the spring months, March through May:

* Warmest March-April period on record globally, 1.31 degrees above the 20th century average

* Warmest global land surface temperature on record, 2.2 degrees above the 20th century May 14, 2010 snow coveraverage.

* Second-warmest global sea-surface temperature on record, 0.99 degrees above the 20th century average.

* Unusually cool places incuded the western U.S.  and eastern Asia.  The United Kingdom had its driest spring since 1984.

Other extremes:

* The Arctic saw its ninth-smallest extent of sea ice on record for May since records began in 1979. The Antarctic saw its fourth-largest sea-ice extent on record.

* Snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere in May (right) was a record 4.3 million square kilometers below long-term averages. North America and Eurasia also set a new record low for snow cover in May. The March-May snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere was the fourth-smallest on record.

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Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:58 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Climate change

May 17, 2010

Jan. - April was planet's warmest on record

This just in from the National Climatic Data Center:

NCDC/NOAA"The April 2010 map of temperature anomalies shows that for the first four months of the year anomalous warm temperatures were present over much of the world, with the exception of cooler-than-average conditions across the higher-latitude southern oceans, the northern Pacific Ocean, along the western South American coast, Mongolia, northern China, northern Australia, the south central and southeastern U.S., northern Mexico, and most of Europe and Russia.

"The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for January–April period was the warmest January-April period on record. This value is 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average.

"Separately, the worldwide land surface temperature ranked as the third warmest on record, behind 2007 (warmest) and 2002 (second warmest), while the worldwide ocean surface temperature ranked as the second warmest January–April on record—behind 1998."

Here's more.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:39 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Climate change

March 17, 2010

February was cool here, warm globally


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published its global and national data for February and for the past winter months. It demonstrates as clearly as anything could that what's happening locally, even nationally, does not necessarily reflect the global trends that we all need to be concerned about.

In the contiguous United States, February was cool, averaging 2.2 degrees below the long-term average.  Nearly two-thirds of the nation experienced below-normal temperatures. The averages were much below normal in the southeast, the Plains and mid-Atlantic states. Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York's Central Park and Wilmington, Del. all had their snowiest winters ever.

Florida had its fourth-coldest February since records began in the 19th century, and Louisiana had its fifth-coldest. On the other hand, Maine had its third-warmest winter on record. It was also warmer than average in the Northwest.

It was also a warm February - and a warm winter globally, according to NOAA. The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for February was the sixth warmest on record. The global land surface temperature alone for the month was tied with 1994 as the 14th warmest.

While it was unusually cold in the U.S., Mexico, Europe and Russia, most of the rest of the globe's land masses were warmer than average in February, especially Alaska, Canada, the Middle East and North Africa.

The winter as a whole was the fifth-warmest on record globally, just over one degree warmer than the 20th century average, NOAA said. Land temperatures were the 13th warmest on record.Australian drought

While the United Kingdom had its coolest winter since 1978-79, much of Australia was warmer than normal. Western Australia, where drought has been a problem (photo), saw its warmest December through February period (summer) on record.

The Arctic saw its 12th consecutive February with below-average sea ice extent. February arctic sea ice has declined by 2.9 percent per decade since 1979. At the same time, on the other end of the planet, Antarctic sea ice has been expanding. The southern continent saw its eighth-largest February sea ice extent on record. It has increased by 3.1 percent per decade since the '70s.

Across the Northern Hemisphere, snow cover in February was the third-largest on record, after 1978 and 1972. For the winter, it was the second-largest snowcover on record. For North America alone, it was the largest, NOAA said. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:41 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Climate change

September 16, 2009

Few 90-degree days here, but the planet was warm

Marylanders enjoyed a relative cool summer this year, at least until August turned things around and ended the three-month meteorological season about average.

August average temperatures But at least there were few 90-degree days - only 10 all summer. That tied with the years 1883, 1884, 1904 and 1907 for the 8th fewest days in the 90s since record-keeping began here in 1871.

But even if the weather seemed relatively cool here for part of the summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reminds us that the planet's land and sea-surfaces were unusually warm.

August temperatures around the globe - land and ocean surface - were the second-warmest on record, after 1998. The NOAA illustration above shows above-average temperatures in pink and red. Below-average temperatures are in blue.

NOAA said that during the last three months - the northern summer, southern winter - the globe's averaged ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for that period. The data go back to 1880. The combined average land and ocean surface temperature was the third-warmest on record, up 1.06 degrees F. from the 20th century average.

And so far this year - January through August - combined average land and sea-surface temperatures for 2009 are tied with 2003 for the fifth-warmest such period on record. You can read more here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:01 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Climate change

September 26, 2008

"Cool" animation shows arctic ice loss

The northern summer of 2007 saw more open water around the North Pole than ever before. The record loss of sea ice is a worry not just to polar bears and seals, but also to those concerned about global warming. The less ice, the less sunlight reflected back into space, and that means NASA/Goddard Space Flight Centermore solar energy absorbed by the Arctic Ocean. And that just reinforces the warming of the northern ocean, which has an impact globally - like switching off the planet's icebox.

Scientists have been watching the annual melt as an indicator of global climate change. Although the melting offers the prospect of commercial shipping in summer through the fabled Northwest Passage, the loss of "permanent" year-round sea ice is worrisome to many.  

And after last year's record melt, scientists were eager to see whether 2008 would exceed that mark. It didn't, although it came close. Here's more from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. And the pace of the melt during August did set a new record.

Anyway, scientists at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio have assembled an animation of the 2008 melting season as recorded by polar satellites. It's fascinating. Have a look.

Here's more from Goddard.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:33 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Climate change

January 28, 2008

Weather report from McMurdo Station

McMurdo Station - NSF 

Peter West, a spokesman for the National Science Foundation's programs in Antarctica, just sent this dispatch from McMurdo Station, where it is mid-summer, and snowing:

Greetings from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, the National Science Foundation’s logistics hub on the southernmost continent, where the forecast for today is cold, with continuing periods of cold for, well, pretty much the foreseeable future.

Actually, as I sit here on Monday afternoon (your Sunday morning: we’re 18 hours ahead of you on New Zealand time) broodily watching the wind-driven snow fall over McMurdo Sound I am in a less-than-jolly mood, as a flight out to the McMurdo Dry Valleys and the Cape Royds penguin colony--two of the most spectacular places on Earth--with reporters from CBS News and National Public radio, seems a diminishing possibility.

Still, it gives me time to write.

People often ask me, and more so lately, as I’ve been to the continent a number of times, "Is it true that the ice is melting and it’ll soon be all gone."

Continue reading "Weather report from McMurdo Station" »

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

December 14, 2007

NOAA: 2007 another Top 10 warm year

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a release noting that 2007 is on track to become another of the Top 10 warmest years on record, both in the contiguous United States and around the globe.

It notes that globally, "including 2007, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997."  Here's more.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Climate change

August 29, 2007

Northwest Passage nearly open

USCG Icebreaker Polarstern 

It's been a dream of navigators since the 15th century - a regular sea route to the Orient without the long, arduous sail around the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. For centuries, snow and ice blocked the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada. Indeed, it made it impossible to know whether it even existed. No one had sailed the route until a century ago, and the way was blocked by ice too much to make it practical.

Now, thanks to unprecedented summer melting of the Arctic sea ice, that sea route has nearly opened to blue water this month.

Here's a satellite view of the northern ice cap, showing the dark blue all-water path through the islands of northern Canada reaches nearly to the open water north of Alaska. The ice has also nearly melted clear of the entire Siberian coast.

Here's more on this summer's record meltdown on the Arctic Ocean. And there's still a few weeks to go before the Arctic Ocean begins to refreeze.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:32 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Climate change

August 23, 2007

Lake Superior nears record low water; warm winters a factor

 Lake Superior - NASA

The water level in Lake Superior has been slipping for years, and is now nearing record lows, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Monitors put the current lake level at 183.028 meters, close to the record low for August of 182.97 meters.

The all-time record low water measurement for Superior - the largest of the Great Lakes - is 182.69 meters, set in April 1926. The record low water for September and October is 183.06 meters, NOAA says, so there is some possibility a new record low could be set this fall.

There are a variety of possible explanations for the falling water levels. The region has been experiencing unusually warm winters in recent years. Higher temperatures and reduced ice cover in winter causes greater rates of evaporation from the lake. And reduced snow cover has meant less runoff into the lake.

Some observers are also blaming years of drought and human factors, including water diversion and dredging, which has increased drainage from the lake. 

The drop in water levels has reduced shipping on the lake as carriers try to lighten their loads to avoid running aground. Marinas are also having to dredge or close as lake levels fall.

You can read more about it here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

July 25, 2007

"Feeling the Heat" in Baltimore

There is virtually no scientific debate anymore about whether temperatures are rising around the globe, and little more about whether human activity is playing a significant part in that global warming. The larger debate now is over how much should or can be done to reduce mankind's contributions to a worrisome process that is well underway.

Environment Maryland, a statewide environmental advocacy group, this week released a report on rising temperatures in the United States at the start of the 21st century, and issued a call for action on a list of remedies that could be advanced in the halls of local, state and national legislatures, and at home.

Among the findings in the group's report - "Feeling the Heat: Global Warming and Rising Temperatures in the United States" - is that 2006 was the second-warmest year on record for the lower 48 states. Some 87 percent of the weather stations studied saw average temperatures in 2006 that were at least a half-degree above the 30-year norm.

The average temperature at BWI during 2006 was 2.9 degrees above the 30-year average recorded between 1971 and 2000.

Well, one warm year does not constitute a trend. The report also notes that the years 2000-2006 at BWI also averaged more than the 30-year norm, by 1.4 degrees. That's not conclusive of anything either. But the science behind the reality of global warming is very compelling, so we won't quibble. Environment Maryland is merely trying to make a point, and to make that point relevant to its constituency - the people of Maryland.

Global warming is real, they're arguing, and it will have far-reaching consequences for our society, for our health and our economy, and for the environment of which we are a part. And, there are things we can and should do to reduce our destructive influence on the planet that gave us life and still must sustain us.

Most of it we have heard or read before. But it is well worth a refresher. You can read the report's Executive Summary here. And there is a link on that page to the full report via pdf file.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

May 31, 2007

NASA's Administrator on climate change

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin was interviewed today on NPR, and the conversation turned to global climate change. He said he thought it "arrogant" to propose that certain people at a certain place or time could decide what sort of climate the planet should have. To listen to the full interview, or read a bit of it, click here.

Some might suggest the arrogance lies with those - all of us - whose daily activities contribute significantly to changes already underway. Implicit in those activities is an assertion of our right as humans to change the planet's climate for all other living things.  Now that's arrogant.

Meanwhile, President Bush seems to be out in front of his NASA administrator, proposing to convene a meeting of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emittors in an effort to do just that - set goals for emissions in order to head off just the sort of climate change Griffin seems willing to accept.

That has drawn a cool response from Eileen Claussen, President of Pew Center on Global Climate Change:

"Six years after rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, President Bush has finally offered an alternative proposal, but it falls well short of what's needed. Agreement among the major emitting countries on a long-term global goal would be helpful. But far more critical is getting binding commitments on near- and mid-term action to reduce emissions.

"From all appearances, what the president is proposing is a strictly voluntary approach that won't deliver real results. We've tried the voluntary approach, both in the United States and internationally, and it doesn't work. The bottom line is we need binding commitments from all the major economies. The president isn't offering commitments and isn't asking for commitments, and without them we won't get the job done."

The unanswered question may be whether human institutions have the capacity to derail or even slow the changes we've helped to accelerate.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

May 17, 2007

April was third warmest globally

The climate data report for April 2007 is in from the National Climatic Data Center, and once again it is full of near-superlatives. For example, last month saw:

* The third-warmest global combined land and sea-surface temperatures on record for April.

* Ocean surface temperatures tied for 7th warmest of the last 128 years.

* The second-rainiest day on record in New York City

* The largest wildfire on record in Georgia.

* The 4th warmest April on record for Alaska.

* Billions of dollars in crop losses due to record cold from Texas to Illinois and Florida.

* Continuation of the driest "water year" (July to June) on record for Los Angeles.

* The warmest January-to-April period on record globally.

Finally, the report notes that global surface temperatures continue to rise at a rate of a third of a degree each decade, an accelerated rate that began in the mid-1970s. Want more? Click here.

Care to comment? Because of the amount of "comment spam" we receive, we have been forced to add a new filter to our software. If you're a real person and not a computer, when you leave a comment, be sure to type in the requested security character at the bottom of the comment form. Thanks. Awfully lonely here without your feedback.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:28 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Climate change

May 10, 2007

Broiling summers for your grandkids

NASA scientists have published a new report on the projected impact of greenhouse gas warming on the Eastern United States over the next eight decades. By the 2080s, they say, average summertime high temperatures may be 10 degrees higher than they are now. That means the typical daytime high in July would be in the mid-90s in Central Maryland, instead of the mid-80s. Highs would rise to between 100 and 110 degrees on days when rain is scarce. 

Here's a story on the report, which is based on computer climate and weather forecasting models. The predictions also assume nothing is done in the meantime to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Here are the average temperatures for BWI in July for the 30-year period from 1970 to 2000.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

March 15, 2007

Winter was warmest ever

Winter0607 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the northern winter just ending was the warmest since record-keeping began in 1880, though it was only average for the United States. Read all about it here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

February 15, 2007

January was globe's warmest

January 2007 clocked out two weeks ago as the warmest January on record around the globe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For the United States, it was just average. Read more about it here.  For Maryland, January averaged 38.7 degrees. That was 6.4 degrees above the long-term average for a January at BWI.

February, on the other hand, is running very cold. We've averaged just 25.6 degrees through Wednesday at BWI. That's 8.3 degrees below the long-term average, and tied with 1979 for the second-coldest February on record for Baltimore, going back to 1871. The coldest February on the books was in 1934, when the city averaged just 24.3 degrees.

It's costing us money. We're running 28 percent ahead of normal on heating degree-days so far this month. That means we've called on 28 percent more heating energy than the long-term average. Still, for the heating season so far, we remain ahead of the game by about 10 percent, thanks to a mild December and January.

We still have half the month to run, of course, and we're headed for the mid-40s next week - a shade above the norms. By the 28th, this month may well have faded back into temperature obscurity.

Note to Readers: We are still seeking a solution to a software problem that is preventing WeatherBlog readers from filing comments. The program just won't load the comments field. The solution is way beyond my pay grade, but we have people in Baltimore and Chicago and elsewhere wrestling with it.

Thanks for your patience. If you want to email me directly with your comments, feel free. Just click on the "froylance" link below. I'll post them directly to the blog as quickly as I can. That, at least, still works.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

September 14, 2006

Hotter future for Maryland?

Environment Maryland, which describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan environmental advocacy organization, has produced a report on rising temperatures in the U.S. and Maryland, which it attributes to global warming.

The report, released today and citing data from the National Climatic Data Center, notes that the first seven months of this year were the warmest January-to-July period on record for the continental United States. In Maryland, the same period was 2.8 degrees above the average for that period during the 20th century. Since 2000, the report said, Baltimore has averaged 0.9 degrees warmer than the average for 1971 to 2000.

The group is calling on Maryland's representatives in Congress to support passage of the Safe Climate Act (H.R. 5642) "to harness clean energy solutions and reduce U.S. global warming emissions by 15 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050."

For the report's executive summary, and a link to the full report, click here. Read it, then leave a comment here.

There's almost no credible scientific debate anymore about the reality of global warming. It's happening. You can explore the temperature trends for Maryland, the region and the nation for yourself, using this tool from the NCDC.

The remaining questions are about how big a role human activity is playing, and whether its potential consequences warrant individual, national and global action to reduce the emission of "greenhouse" gases, and whether such action would make a significant difference in our future in any case. Your thoughts?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

September 29, 2005

Arctic summer ice is shrinking

Scientists say the ice cap on the Arctic Ocean is shrinking. Each summer it melts back some. But long-term observations show that the maximum extent of the summer ice - its total area - is getting smaller over time, and this summer reached a new record. Here is a graphic representation of what's been happening in recent years.

The experts blame human-induced global warming for at least some portion of this phenomenon. And there is concern about its impact on habitat for polar bears, seals and many smaller creatures that depend on the ice and cold waters. The phenomenon appears to feed on itself. Ice reflects solar energy back into space. The more dark, open water becomes exposed to the summer sun, the more the Arctic Ocean heats up, slowing the formation of more ice in winter, speeding its spring melt, and opening still more ocean to the sun.

This could all have a profound impact on climate and weather, not to mention commerce if shippers one day find an ice-free summertime shortcut, through the arctic, between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. Explorers looked for one for centuries. They may finally get it.

The Sun carries a New York Times wire story on the latest discoveries on page A3 today.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

June 27, 2005

Gloomy Tuesday

Sticky, humid, overcast skies to move out by Monday evening. Tuesday's forcast is for partly cloudy skies in the morning, changing to mostly cloudy by early afternoon. High temperatures will be in the mid 80's with south winds at 5 mph. Chance of rain is 40%. Tuesday night will be mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms, low's in the upper 60's and a 30% chance of rain. From the National Weather Service for the Baltimore area.

Posted by Admin at 2:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change
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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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