Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, Colin Lies Over the Sea;
Revised 2010 Hurricane Forecast Still Shows Strong Season

Evening Update: Reconnaissance has determined that Colin has strengthened back to a tropical storm with peak winds of 60 mph. The official National Hurricane Center forecast track indicates a possible threat to Bermuda and then later to the Canadian maritimes, although the path of the center is currently expected to pass west of Bermuda and southeast of Newfoundland.

PM Update: As of 2 pm, the remnants of Colin are now getting a 70% chance of regenerating, and an Air Force reconnaissance flight has been sent to investigate.

Original post:
Following a strong early showing by Hurricane Alex, Tropical Storm Bonnie fizzled in the Gulf of Mexico after crossing southern Florida. The remnants of Tropical Storm Colin are now about 300 miles north of the Virgin Islands, where they are given a 50% chance of regaining tropical storm status.

As the usual peak of the hurricane season approaches, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center has lowered the high end of its forecast. The current prediction sets a 70% probability of:
  • 14-20 Named Storms
  • 8-12 Hurricanes
  • 4-6 Major Hurricanes
A Major Hurricane is defined as Category 3 or higher.

Yesterday, the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University released its revised hurricane season forecast:
  • 18 Named Storms
  • 10 Hurricanes
  • 5 Major Hurricanes
Earlier, WSI, a division of The Weather Channel, also lowered its forecast to a similar range:
  • 19 Named Storms
  • 11 Hurricanes
  • 5 Major Hurricanes
Although slightly lower than earlier forecasts, these all indicate a more active season than average. Overall, NOAA is forecasting a 90% chance of an above-average hurricane season. In addition to record warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures, this is also a reflection of the development of La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific. La Niña is associated with a reduction in the wind shear in the Atlantic Basin which weakened Bonnie and Colin. There is also a long-term trend for more active hurricane seasons which began in 1995.

Images (click to enlarge): NOAA revised 2010 hurricane season forecast and associated climatic factors from Climate Prediction Center

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Climate Consequences: Heat 'N' Wheat
Russian Roasting Propels Prices

Aug. 5 Update: The Russian government announced today that it would implement a total ban on grain exports starting August 15. As wheat prices continued rising to a 22-month high, CNBC had a discussion this morning of the implications for the commodity markets. Here's a piece of good news for consumers: Packaging and advertising account for so much of the cost of cereal production that the prices of the finished product won't go up nearly as much as the raw materials. Here's a piece of good news for investors: The food companies will use the increase in ingredient prices to raise prices anyway.

Original post:
Climate has consequences. The unprecedented heat wave and accompanying drought and wildfires in Russia have seriously impacted agriculture; the world's largest supplier of wheat has seen its crop reduced by 15-20%. Russian exports are expected to be slashed by 30% or more. Meanwhile, heavy rain in Canada's wheat-producing areas has also impacted that country's crop. The shortage in production is driving up wheat prices at the highest rate since the 1950s, rising 40% in the past month. In an interview with CNBC, hedge fund founder and commodities investor Jim Rogers predicts that food prices will be rising "much higher" in the near future.

Other commodities are also affected. Excessive heat in the northeastern U.S. has reduced milk production, leading to higher prices for liquid milk and cheese. Milk Class III (hard cheese) has risen in price by 50% in the past year.

CNBC this morning reviewed the current situation and future prospects with a wheat trader and milk trader:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Featured Question

"Featured Question" is an irregular feature in which we highlight interesting questions asked by blog visitors. If your question is interesting enough, you might get a T-shirt. Or not. Other questions have previously been highlighted here.

The Goog is a wonderful resource; it's used almost continuously here at the CapitalClimate Capitol. However, contrary to popular belief, it can't read your mind. Sometimes, you don't get what you're looking for, even though the information is out there somewhere. From looking at our traffic statistics, it seems that some users are getting to CapitalClimate with what we would call "drive-by Googling". If they don't find the exact phrase they wanted staring them directly in the face, they go away. There are a multitude of carefully vetted links on this site, along with over 5 years of archives. If you don't immediately get your question answered, look around a little or even pose the question directly as a comment; we'll do our best to respond promptly.

Today's featured question comes from Rocky Ford, Colorado, where a user was searching for "average aug 28 temp in wash d.c.". For some reason known only to the gnomes of Googleland, the link which came up was to a recap of January 2010 monthly temperatures. The phrase "average aug 28 temp in wash d.c." is what is technically known as a Googlenope. In all the vast reaches of the Galactic Internet, this particular phrase doesn't exist. (Or at least it didn't until this blog post.)

The data, however, are readily available. Here's how. (Follow along in a separate browser tab or window so you don't get lost.)
  • Look at the top of this page. Right below the title header, there's a header called "Climate Data Links".
  • Right below that, there's a large blue header "Local:".
  • The very first link is called "Washington, DC climate data." Click on it.
  • It takes you to a page where we've conveniently collected up some National Weather Service (NWS) links (Your tax dollars at work!) on Washington, DC climate.
  • Look at the header "Daily Means and Extremes". There's a link for each of the 12 months. Click on "August".
  • It takes you to a NWS page which handily includes just about everything you might want to ask about August weather for each day in Washington.
  • Looking down the rows to the one labeled "28" in the first column, you can see that the average high is 84 (in the next column) and the low is 67.
  • What could be easier than that? You're welcome.
If you've made a reasonable effort to look around and still don't find what you need, please leave a comment and the Googling Monkeys of CapitalClimate will do their best to help.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

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