Hurricane Season: More Than Just A Coastal Threat

by Meteorologist Steven DiMartino
582679main_Irene-GOES-LARGE-20110828When most people think of hurricane season, they typically think of crashing waves and strong winds battering some beach town along the New Jersey shore or on Long Island.  The threat for locations further inland is rarely considered.

Naturally, the impacts on the coast from even a tropical storm would be significant for the region with a storm surge enhancing coastal flooding and strong winds creating wind damage and power outages.  One of the most devastating aspects of a tropical low pressure system is the storm surge which kills more people than other other factor.  In fact, the Nation Hurricane Center has found that most deaths occur due to the storm surge.  Of course this factor is also enhanced by the fact that there has been a 32% increase in population in this vulnerable coastal locations, which enhances the threat even more so.

So if you live away from the coast, why would a tropical low pressure system be any more of a threat than a rainy day from a Nor’easter?  The answer is in the rainfall.

All one has to do is look back to Hurricane Irene on August 28, 2011.  Irene was one of the most devastating storms to hit the region before another storm a year laster called Sandy.  While the storm surge from Irene, which made landfall as a hurricane (unlike Sandy) in Little Egg Inlet, just north of Atlantic City, New Jersey was impressive at 3 to 5 feet, the primary impact was the heavy rainfall where over 11 inches of rain was recorded throughout the region.  The fact that the region already had a wet Spring and early Summer meant that the ground was already saturated which lead to more flash flooding.

Hurricane Irene was an important lesson as locations away from the coast can have significant impacts from tropical low pressure systems as Irene produced massive flash flooding in the Passaic and Hudson River Valleys.


A primary concern that this meteorologist has for this upcoming season is the heavy rainfall threat beyond just an actual land fall of a tropical low pressure system.  One factor where I think the region is at significant threat is flash flooding throughout the region.  Rainfall amounts throughout the region now are near to above normal, much like what was seen in 2011.

Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 2.13.21 PMWhen a tropical low pressure system makes landfall on the Gulf Coast either as a Tropical Depression, Tropical Storm, or Hurricane; everyone in the Philadelphia and New York City metropolitan areas should still keep a careful eye on the evolution of the storm over the Southeastern United States.  The reason why the population in the Northern Mid Atlantic and New England need to be wary of landfalling tropical low pressure systems on the Gulf Coast and Southeast coast is due to the upper level wind pattern that is developing.  Clearly, the theme this Summer, as forecasted by NY NJ PA Weather, is that a trough will be a predominant feature over the Central Plains and Eastern United States.  This trough will be positioned such that a southwesterly wind component will be in place from the eastern Gulf of Mexico to New England, which will draw any tropical moisture up the East Coast of the United States.  Combine this factor, with a slow moving cold front pressing towards the coast, and the environment for significant rainfall has the potential to be maximized.

Typically, when a tropical low pressure system impacts the region, the western side of the low pressure system tends to be drier, but the flash flooding threat is still present.  The potential for several rainfall threats of two to five inches of rain at a clip from a remnant low pressure system can lead to region wide flash flooding that can cause millions of dollars of damage through the Summer and into the Fall.  This pattern needs to be monitored carefully.

So when a tropical low pressure system makes landfall over the Southeast, keep up to data with NY NJ PA Weather because the threat for heavy rainfall is still a significant threat.  You can count on NY NJ PA Weather to keep you up to date on tropical and all other weather threats.

Hysteria And Climate Science: A Dangerous Mix

by Meteorologist Steven DiMartino

ncep_cfsr_t2m_anom_ytdClimate science news has been a very hot topic over the past several months, which hit a loud peak after the announcement from President Trump that the United States would exit the Paris Climate Accord.  As a result, there have been many articles that this author feels have gone to an extreme on climate science forecasts and analysis.  It is my contention that these extreme approaches hurt the communication of climate science but also leads to a significant back lash from those who do not understand climate science or how CO2 works.  Let’s take a look at a few examples and discuss the reality versus the extreme idea being put forth by these articles.


noaa-extreme_slr_new-york-city-2100Back in April, the Weather Channel sponsored on their front page the case for extreme coastal flooding.  The data was obtained from our friends at Climate Central, which is an organization that clearly feels that the world is in serious trouble.  So is this a likely result from climate change?

The answer is no!  In the second paragraph of this article, it is stated that this solution is “extreme rise scenario, considered unlikely but increasingly plausible”.  In other words, the Weather Channel and Climate Central decided to highlight the worst possible scenario despite the fact there are more likely but less scary solutions from the studies and models they use to develop these maps.

To give you an idea of how dangerous this is, let’s step back to a scenario you are familiar with each winter.  Let’s say that there are hints of a winter storm is coming.  You have various models with solutions, 10 days out.  So, would you think that a meteorologist would be responsible on the front page of a well known weather news site to post the most extreme model solution of snowfall output?  Let’s say it’s the GFS 06Z guidance (one of the worst statistical models) with a 45″ snowfall output.  You know it’s extreme.  You know it’s not likely to happen, but you decide to post that solution on the front page of, you know, for awareness.  That is basically what we have here.


Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 12.20.31 PM

The truth is, yes the sea level is rising, but there is no acceleration.  The trend has been and continues to be 3.4 +/- 0.4 mm/yr or around 1.3 inches per decade.  That means that the sea level with the current warming will reach 1 foot in around 120 years.  Please study the data yourself here.

What is causing the sea level rise?  Three factors.  The first is the warming of the Oceans which is leading to expansion of the oceans.  I should note that much of this warming has been going on the past 40 years when the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) have been in positive phases at the same time.  What would a reversal of these phases into negative, colder phases lead to?  This meteorologist doesn’t know and neither do many climate scientist which have models that fail to recognize these natural phases.  However, that will be an interesting factor to watch.  The other factor is melting of land based glaciers like what is being observed in Greenland.  The third and rarely discussed factor is actually geological, subsidence which can be caused by changes via earthquakes, soil composition, and glacial isostatic adjustment among other factors.

This is an example of trying to scare people into action, not educate people.  This scare tactic will only back fire and reminds me of the same approach from 30 years ago.  These scare tactic approaches started with Doctor Hansen back in 1988 that New York City wold be underwater by 2011.  This announcement was made again by ABC News that by 2016, New York City would be under water and gas would $9.00 a gallon back in 2008.  None of these predictions have come to pass.  What has come to pass is a growing distrust in climate scientists because now everyone can simply search these predictions from 20, 10, even 8 years ago and see the complete failure in these predictions and no admittance of that failure, just doubling down.  This does not advance climate science.


Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 12.52.49 PMThis is from Eric Holthaus who to be fair, is very much up front about his political leanings and his stance on climate change.  I will say this, Eric is very committed and lives by the standards he feels others should, so I have a lot more respect for him.  If you want to get the point of view that CO2 completely controls climate and what to do about it, I would strong suggest following him on twitter and supporting his latest articles.  He has written for over the years.

To be completely fair to the reader, Eric and myself have had several clashes including a running bet on global temperature anomalies and other back and forth “arguments”.  As you can guess, we don’t agree on much.

Stating all this, I couldn’t let the above pass.  In the tweet which has a following of at least 181 thousand followers, Eric tries to connect the exit of the Paris Climate Accord by President Trump to the events happening in Antarctica with the Larsen Ice Shelf.  The tweet tries to make the emotional argument that the United States shouldn’t leave the agreement and what is happening in Antarctic now is one of the reasons why.

REALITY: The process is completely natural.

Yes, you read that right.  What is happening in Antarctica with the Larsen C Ice Shelf is completely natural.  The process is called calving as explained by the MIDAS Project.  In fact, the process happened 15 years ago with Larsen B Ice Shelf.  Further, the process does not lead to any significant sea level rise out of a millimeter or two.  Further, there is potential that the ice shelf can rebuild!  You can read all those facts here.

Given these facts, you have to wonder why would Eric Holthaus make such a misleading statement?  The reason why is clear.  Fear.  Fear is the strongest emotion you can use to drive a political point and there was a lot of fear being used on June 1st that day on social media.  This one frankly is a bald faced lie.  No matter whom was President on June 1st or whether the United States was in the Paris Climate Accord or not; this calving event which was not influenced by climate change, was going to happen one way or another.


rsz_rtx1925r-e1459967660179It’s not just far left climate alarmist who are putting out some misleading nonsense, it is also from the far right.  A perfect example is from Breitbart News due to the sun going into a quiet phase.  This quiet phase would lead to a massive drop in global temperatures according to the news agency leading to a new ice age.  This report uses the study from Professor Zharkova who is a solar physicist at Northumbria University.

REALITY: New Maunder Minimum Possible, Ice Age Is Not

I read the study, which you can read here.  The study discusses how the sun is moving towards an evolution where the magnetic field will go towards zero which will lead to a quiet sun or no sun spots.  This means that the solar cycle will go into a prolonged pause and this will lead to a reduction in solar activity.

Let’s lay the cards on the table.  The sun does and will have an impact on global temperatures.  The reduction of solar activity will have an impact on the stratospheric environment and could lead to an increase in high latitude blocking.  However, the degree of cooling from the upcoming period of a quiet sun is very much debatable.

However, to claim that an ice age is on the way is irresponsible and frankly plain wrong.  The ice ages from the past are due to a combination of factors including yes solar, but also geological like the eruption of super volcanoes and other major events.  This fact is never brought up in this and other articles claiming that an ice age is coming.

So again we ask why is this article being produced?  Fear.  This is the same tactic that, the Weather Channel, and Climate Central.  Take a small fact and then go to the most extreme solution possible or just plain mislead on what the actual data states.  All for the public good right?


These organizations are not trying to educate you.  All of them have a specific political point of view and trying to use fear to get you to act.  The only way to combat fear is to educate yourself.  If you are really interested in climate change or atmospheric science, you have to go directly to the studies seen via NOAA, NASA, and other organization.  You have to think for yourself.  Being skeptical is NOT a bad thing.  It’s not evil, it’s necessary and more to the point it is your responsibility.

In the mean time, if you want to do something about your Carbon Impact, there are a lot of actions you can take.

You can get involved in LEED in your offices and homes.  I am personally a LEED AP, and would suggest getting involved in your office or home to help make your air cleaner and reduce your carbon foot print.

You can also put your money and your retirement where your heart is by investing in green technologies on the stock market.  If you want to see solar panels dominate and coal mining to disappear, the best way is the free market.  When you increase demand for clean green technologies, no government in a free market can deny those changes, at least eventually.  Just ask those that backed coal powered trains and horse buggies.  Here are some of my personal choices:

NRG Yield Inc (NYLD), Tesla Motors (TSLA), NextERA Energy (NEE), PG&E Corp (PCG), and Eversource Energy (ES) among others.  I should be clear that I personally invest in these companies among others.

However, what we can not do is rely on scaring the general public with half truths and bad science.  As an atmospheric scientist, the responsibility to educate the general public is one of the most important responsibilities that I have.  Whether it’s an approaching snow storm or the evolution of the climate, it is my responsibility to explain what is happening, not to hype up the worst case solution to scare you out of your comfort zone.  That’s not science, it’s propaganda.

**NOTE:  Update was made to correct typo from MIDAS Project.

Above Normal Hurricane Season Expected By NOAA

atlantic-hurricane-season-names-2017The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is forecasting an above normal hurricane season for the 2017 season.  Already one tropical storm has formed in the Atlantic Ocean this year back in April with Tropical Storm Arlene.

The forecast is focused on the fact that El Nino is very slow to develop which means that the potential for atmospheric shear will be reduced.  The other factor is the potential for above normal sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTA) in the Caribbean Sea and Tropical Atlantic.  The combination of low shear values and expected above normal sea surface temperature anomalies supported a 45% chance for above normal tropical development and a 35% chance for near normal tropical development.

This forecast from NOAA is in contrast to the going forecast by NY NJ PA Weather, which was issued early in May and can be seen here.  The primary reasoning why a below normal Atlantic Tropical Season is expected.

anomw.5.25.2017First, the Atlantic Ocean is in a process of change from a positive Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) to a negative AMO.  A negative AMO features below normal SSTA which typically leads to below normal activity for the Tropical Atlantic.  These phases can last 25 to 40 years.  The last cold phase was from 1971 to 1994, followed by the warm phase from 1995 to present.  The uncertainty in the forecast comes down to how fast the transition from the warm phase to the cold phase.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 7.55.30 PMThe most pressing factor in these season will be the influence of Saharan dust coming off the African Coast.  This dust is a strong inhibiting factor for the development of tropical low pressure systems.  The dust leads to a drier mid and upper level atmosphere which limits tropical low pressure development.  The evolution of El Nino, though very weak, will help to enhance the transport of dust from the Sahara.  As a result, tropical development off the African coast and around the Bahamas will likely be significantly limited this year.

Regardless if the tropical cyclone activity is above normal or below normal, only one hurricane is needed to have a significant impact on the Eastern United States as we learned back in 1992 with Hurricane Andrew.

Trust in NY NJ PA Weather to keep you ahead of the storms!