Friday, November 12, 2010

Ellen's Weather Report Analysis

Ellen Degeneres critiques the weathercast (h/t weathermatrix):

Weather Wagering: Reducing Rainfall Risk

For over a century, commodity exchanges have provided a way to hedge against (or speculate on) price fluctuations for crops, livestock, metals, and other materials. More recently, financial products have been developed which allow investment directly in the weather conditions which can in turn affect commodity prices. Last winter, for example, the CME Group introduced options based on the amount of snowfall in 5 U.S. cities. Joining the existing snowfall and temperature products, the exchange last week began offering contracts on rainfall amounts.

The 9 cities involved with the new investments are:
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (WBAN 94846)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (WBAN 03927)
  • Des Moines International Airport (WBAN 14933)
  • Detroit Metro Airport (WBAN 94847)
  • Jacksonville International Airport (WBAN 13889)
  • Los Angeles Downtown USC Campus (WBAN 93134)
  • New York LaGuardia Airport (WBAN 14732)
  • Portland International Airport (WBAN 24229)
  • Raleigh/Durham International Airport (WBAN 13722)
CNBC this morning interviewed the president of Chicago Weather Brokerage, which specializes in this type of product. Although acknowledging that trading in the new contracts has been negligible, Jeff Hodgson was bullish on potential market opportunities.

More background from Medill Reports of Northwestern University:
A new Chicago brokerage plans to take uncertainty out of the weather

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Facebook Friends Carolina Climate;
Building Data Center in "Isothermal" Area

An AP story, posted at, reports that Facebook has picked North Carolina for its second dedicated data center. The site is located near Forest City in Rutherford County, which is in the western portion of the state near the South Carolina border.

One of the factors cited in the choice of location is "relatively inexpensive power", although the NYT Bits blog notes that "about half of the electricity in Forest City, North Carolina, is coal-generated, in line with the national average." On the other hand, the Prineville, Oregon site of Facebook's first data center has been criticized because the local utility there generates its electricity mainly from coal.

Another factor reported in the AP/WSJ article is the climate, since "extremes of cold and heat are a challenge for facilities with huge amounts of sensitive electronic equipment." Isothermal Community College, in nearby Spindale, was in fact named for the moderate "thermal belt" in the region. Interestingly, the current Weather Underground forecast for Rutherfordton, the county seat, shows a variation of only 5° in the high temperatures for the next 5 days. However, the daily record highs and lows for Rutherford County-Marchman Airport (KFQD) show maximums over 100° in August and minimums below 10° in January.

A more likely explanation for picking this location is the business climate, in the form of considerable tax breaks and government incentives. The NYT's Bits reports that "Facebook will receive approximately $17 million in local subsidies and tax breaks over 10 years" and "will also be exempt from paying state taxes on all equipment, electricity and construction materials for the data centers."

More from Information Week:
Facebook 'Friends' North Carolina With Data Center

Image (click to enlarge): Campus sign from Isothermal Community College; Daily record high and low temperatures at Rutherfordton, NC from Weather Underground

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mid-Atlantic 2010-2011 Winter Outlooks

As noted earlier, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center expects the 2010-11 U.S. winter to be dominated by a strengthening La Niña sea surface temperature pattern in the equatorial Pacific. For the Mid Atlantic region, this implies nearly equal chances of above or below average temperatures and precipitation.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has analyzed the temperature and precipitation for December-January-February (DJF) in years since 1950 with La Niña conditions. They find that there is a statistical correlation between the strength of La Niña and Washington/Baltimore area temperatures: Weak La Niña years have slightly below-average temperatures, while moderate years are slightly above average, and strong years are more above average.

Winter precipitation in La Niña years on average is below normal by about 10%. This is true pretty much independently of the strength of the La Niña. For snowfall, however, weak La Niña years average above the long-term mean, but moderate and strong years have below-average amounts. This is especially true for the main snowfall months of January and February. The NWS concludes that this is the result of the more westerly storm tracks and warmer temperatures which are associated with the stronger La Niñas: "More storms tracking to the west of the Appalachians would imply the mid-Atlantic region being located on the warmer side of storms, resulting in more mixed or rain events for the area and less snow events."

Washington and Baltimore have each had only two double-digit snowstorms in La Niña winters since 1950:
Dates              Washington Baltimore
6–8 January 1996 17.1" 22.5"
16–17 December 1973 10.2" 7.7"
25 January 2000 9.3" 14.9"
Images (click to enlarge): Washington, DC winter average temperature, precipitation, and snowfall for average, weak, moderate, and strong La Niñas, from National Weather Service, Sterling, VA

Another winter 2010-11 Washington winter outlook, from Bob Ryan, WJLA-TV (Channel 7):

Monday, November 8, 2010

October 2010: Yet Another Warm Month in U.S.

Following September's record heat in some areas, October 2010 was another warm month in the U.S. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) preliminary analysis, posted within the last hour, shows that warmer-than-average temperatures were widespread across the country. In fact, not a single state was classified below normal, "while more than half were above-average." Of all the climatological divisions within the contiguous 48 states, only the extreme southeastern corner of Oklahoma was as much as 1°F below average. Overall, it was the 11th warmest October in 116 years of records. The NCDC reports:
  • The average temperature for October was 56.9 degrees F (13.8 degrees C), which is 2.1 degrees F (1.2 degrees C) above the 1901-2000 average, the eleventh warmest on record in the United States. Warmer-than-normal conditions prevailed throughout the western U.S. and into the Midwest. Of the nine climate regions, none had below normal temperatures and only two, both along the Eastern Seaboard, experienced an average temperature that was near normal.
  • No state had below normal average temperatures, while more than half were above-average. Wyoming had its fourth warmest October and Montana its seventh.
For the latest 6 months (May-October), it was the 5th warmest on record, and "31 states, mostly east of the Rockies, had average temperatures among their top ten percent historically."

For the 10 months of 2010 to date,
Record warmth persisted throughout the year in the Northeast, where the average year-to-date temperature was 3.0 degrees F (1.6 degrees C) above the 20th century average. Five northeastern states (New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island) were having their warmest year on record to date. The East North Central climate region was also abnormally warm for 2010 to date, 2.5 degrees F (1.4 degrees C) above the long-term average.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

Latest 3-month temperature outlook from Climate Prediction Center/NWS/NOAA.