Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Soutwest drought in the US isn't going anywhere

Even a Monster El Nino Can’t Beat the Southwest Drought


10 February, 2016
For those who follow weather, it’s a rather strange and disturbing story.
A powerful Pacific Ocean storm forms about 500 miles south of the Aleutian Islands. Heavily laden with rains, strong winds, and trailing a long squall line, the system takes aim at the US West Coast. It’s a burly beast of a thing. Pumped up by an enormous bleed of moisture rising off of one of the mightiest El Ninos ever seen. An instance of extreme Equatorial heat that’s been firing off since October.
Another Pacific Storm Deflected
(Another Pacific Storm is deflected northward by increasingly persistent high pressure systems as the US Southwest swelters under unseasonable warmth. GFS climate reanalysis by Climate Reanalyzer shows this disturbing weather pattern again and again in the February forecast. In short, it doesn’t look like the California Drought is going to end anytime soon. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

The towering El Nino-fed storm clouds chug east, steaming along toward what appears to be an inexorable collision with California, Oregon, and Washington. But, at the last moment, the storm slams into a heavy pile of atmospheric heat. Warm air building over the US Southwest and nearby ocean zones has shoved the upper air steering current called the Jet Stream pole-ward. The great storm is sucked up into this atmospheric train, delivering its rains along an arc from Washington State on northward.
And so the seemingly impossible has happened. A powerful El Nino’s rains and snows — usually bound directly for California, Oregon and Washington — have been diverted by a new kind of atmospheric pattern associated with climate change.
El Nino’s Rains Gone or Just Taking a Break?

Ever since late January, strong ridges have tended to develop over Western North America. By February 4th, the National Weather Service (NWS) had begun to report on the pattern — describing  it as El Nino taking a 5-10 day break. But the ‘break’ had already begun to show up on January 26th — about ten days prior to the February 4 NWS announcement. And now, on February 10, we’ve seen two full weeks of warm, dry weather settling in over California and the US Southwest. Meanwhile, long range model forecasts indicate that the ‘break’ from El Nino conditions will continue through at least February 16h.

Upper 60s to upper 80s California and Arizona
(Temperatures in the upper 60s to upper 80s is predicted for a large sections of California and Arizona on Tuesday, February 16th. It’s the kind of hot, dry air that brings back memories of recent years when formations of strong, ridiculously resilient ridges pushed California into one of its worst drought episodes on record. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

It’s all just terrible timing. First, California snow packs during December and January began to recover due to strong, El Nino associated, storm systems barreling in. However, now during what should be the peak of the Southwestern rainy season, we have what could be a month long pause in storms hitting the region. It’s as if the rainy season is being hollowed out. And not just any rainy season — a strong El Nino rainy season which should have been far, far rainier than most.

Last week, Climate Central and Peter Gleick — a climate expert at Pacific Institue — made the following warning:
seven days of sustained warmth could melt as much as 30 percent of California’s snowpack. The hot, dry weather is exactly what baked in exceptional drought in California over the past four years. Some signs indicate the heat is driven in large part by climate change, but the role of the ridiculously resilient ridge is still an area of active investigation.

Well, by tomorrow seven days will have come and gone. But the end to the anomalous warm, dry spell is still nowhere in sight.
California Drought Really Hasn’t Budged

Meanwhile, a four-year-long California drought appears to be making a strong run at year five. In fact, if you look at the US Drought Monitor, you’ll find that a large swath of the West is currently suffering under moderate to exceptional drought conditions.
West Still Suffering From Drought
(Severe Drought remains in place over the US West. El Nino appears to have lost at least some of its ability to deliver heavy rains as an intensifying regime of human-forced warming pushes typical weather patterns further and further off-kilter. All bad news for an area that has been suffering from one severe drought after another since the early 2000s. Image source: Drought Monitor.)

Quite frankly, it’s insane that we’re still seeing these conditions during a monster El Nino. These droughts should be rolling back as the storm track intensifies and hurls severe weather at the US West Coast. But that’s not what’s happening. At least not consistently. Instead, we keep getting these extreme ridge patterns in the Jet Stream over western North America. We keep getting these very warm, very dry spells of weather during the wet season. And now, we have California Snowpack melting away in February of all times.
A Ridge-Trough Pattern That’s All-Too Likely Related To A Human-Forced Warming of the Arctic

The fact that these weather patterns emerged after the warmest January and lowest sea ice extents on record for the Arctic is a point that should not be missed by weather and climate analysts. It appears that what we are seeing is yet more evidence that polar amplification is driving a consistent high amplitude bulge in the Jet Stream over Western North America together with severe periods of warmth, dryness and snowpack melt during Winter. The hot side of a dipole pattern that is also setting up more extreme storm potentials as cold air is driven out of the Arctic along a deep trough over the Eastern US, slams into a record hot Gulf Stream, and then sets off a series of atmospheric bombs along a storm track running all the way across the North Atlantic and into Western Europe. Yet more evidence that what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.

Links:
Hat Tip to DT Lange
Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego
Hat


Alexander Mercouris deconstructs media distortion on Syria


The Syrian Army is Not Attacking Aleppo But Defending It
The Syrian conflict has seen many media distortions but there is one especially which I must take vigorous issue with.

Alexander Mercouris


9 Feuruary, 2016

The news media in the West portrays the recent fighting around Aleppo as a Syrian army attack on Aleppo.

Sometimes there is an admission that the government controls part of Aleppo. However overall the impression given is that Aleppo is a rebel city and that the Syrian government's army is attacking it.
This often comes with lurid claims of the Syrian airforce terror bombing ("barrel-bombing") its people — something that has now become part of the standard Western critique of President Assad.

This is an inversion of the truth.
Aleppo was previously Syria's biggest city and economic capital. Until 2012 it was under the government's control and reports from the city confirmed its people largely supported the government.
In mid 2012 the Syrian rebels launched their great offensive ("Operation Damascus Volcano") aimed at overthrowing the government. This included attacks on Syria's two biggest cities: Damascus and Aleppo.

The attack on Damascus was successfully repelled. In the case of Aleppo the rebels managed to capture a significant part of the city. However around half the city — the half which apparently has the majority of the city's people — remained under the government's control.
Aleppo has since been a battlefield between the two sides with many of its historic buildings destroyed.
Over the course of 2015 rebel offensives in Idlib province and in the countryside around Aleppo almost succeeded in cutting off the government controlled part of Aleppo from the rest of the country.  The government could only send reinforcements to Aleppo, and supplies for its garrison and people, by air.
Since the Russian military intervened in the conflict the position has reversed.
The Syrian army backed by the Russian airforce first succeeded in reopening the roads to Aleppo. 

Over the last few days it has managed to cut the road links to the rebel held section of Aleppo — effectively cutting off the rebels there.
In other words whereas it was the government controlled area of Aleppo which until a few months ago was encircled and besieged, now it is the rebel part.
The Syrian army's success has been made all the greater because at the start of January the rebels sent reinforcements to Aleppo to resist what they expected would be a government offensive there.
Now those reinforcements, together with the rebel fighters previously in the city, are encircled and trapped.

It would be a misrepresentation to say that all the people in Aleppo support the government and oppose the rebels.  However back in 2012 a rebel commander admitted that the majority did.
During the protests in 2011 that preceded the war — which properly began with the rebel offensive that was launched in mid 2012 — Aleppo held largely aloof from the protests — a fact the Western media at the time admitted.
That too suggests that the greater part of the people of Aleppo support the government, or at least do not strongly oppose it.
To say therefore that the Syrian army is attacking Aleppo is to distort the truth.
It is akin to saying that the Red Army in 1943 was attacking Stalingrad because the German army had captured most of it.
A more factual way of describing the fighting around Aleppo is to say that the city and its garrison have successfully withstood a three year siege by the rebels, which is now close to being lifted.
A still better way of putting it would be to say that the Syrian army is not attacking Aleppo but is successfully defending it.


Daily Mail: Explosive WWIII Risk

From the Daily Mail
Explosive WWIII Risk: EU and NATO need to cut Turkey Loose, Vladimir Putin is Serious, Turkey, Iran and Saudi playing Dangerous Political Game over Islamic Caliphate

 

Moscow claims Turkey is planning to INVADE Syria after discovering ‘hidden preparations of armed forces’














The Russian military has claimed it has ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect that Turkey is making intensive preparations for a military invasion of neighboring Syria.

Images of a checkpoint on the border between the Turkish town of Reyhanli and the town of Sarmada in Syria taken in late October and late January show a buildup of transportation infrastructure.

The Russian military claims the infrastructure could be used for moving in troops, ammunition and weapons, spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said in an English-language written statement.

He said these were among growing signs of ‘hidden preparation’ of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria.

Turkish soldiers on the Syrian border watch on as an explosion rocks the Syrian town of Kobani in 2014

Maybe, in peacetime, these facts would indicate the expectation of trade turnover growth between the neighboring countries,’ Konashenkov said.

However, during wartime, in such a way the transport infrastructure is preparing on the eve of military intervention.’
russianweaponssystems001
There was no immediate comment from Turkey. 

Konashenkov’s accusations came a day after Russia accused Turkey of violating an international treaty by barring a previously arranged surveillance flight over Turkish territory adjacent to Syria and also over air bases used by NATO warplanes.
RussianBomberwing01
The Treaty on Open Skies allows unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of its three dozen participants, which include the U.S., Russia and Turkey.
 
The Russian military regards this ‘as a dangerous precedent and an attempt to hide the illegal military activity near the Syrian border,’ the spokesman said.
 
He said Russia has extensive intelligence sources in the Middle East, so if Turkey thinks that the prohibition of the observer flight will allow it to hide something, ‘it is unprofessional.’

Russia-Turkey ties have remained tense after a Turkish fighter jet downed a Russian warplane at the border with Syria in November.

 

NATO battalions in full armor are to be sent to Eastern Europe


NATO moves to the east: battalions in full armor are to be sent to Eastern Europe



10 February, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 – 14:38

NATO continues to surround Russia with “a belt of hostility” and brings more and more manpower and military equipment into Eastern Europe. Today the European press reported on NATO plans to place nearly a thousand soldiers in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries. The official reason is the same as that for the UK plans to send five war ships to the Baltic - a deterrence of the notorious “Russian aggression”.
According to The Guardian, such a decision of the UK authorities is a more harsh answer to the policy of the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said that it was the first time since 2010 that London contributed to the permanent NATO naval forces.
The growing presence of NATO is a clear message to our enemies that we are ready to respond to any threat and protect our allies. In 2016 we will significantly focus on the Baltic region,’ he said.
As for NATO land forces, according to The Telegraph, during the meeting of NATO member countries’ foreign ministers there was discussed placing battalions of 500-1,000 men in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
The bulk of the group should consist of soldiers from the US, UK and Germany to make it clear to Russia that any intervention “by the Ukrainian scenario” will cause an immediate reaction from the West and NATO.
The military forces will be deployed in the eastern part of Europe on a rotating basis. The special units will be equipped with missiles “ground-to-air”, helicopters and attack aircraft.
The general outlines of the plan may be agreed by NATO this week, other details will be discussed later.
The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday that the alliance strengthened its presence on the eastern borders of NATO member countries to meet the new challenges, the strengthening of ‘Russia’s aggressive intentions’ among them.
Experts point out that in case of a hypothetical war these forces are highly unlikely to be able to repel the full invasion and “protect” US satellites. In this regard, the most likely purpose of these forces is using them as the vanguard of the invasion mobile forces.
DONi News Agency

Tritium leak at Indian Point



Indian Point tritium leak 80% worse than originally reported

Indian Point Nuclear power plant located on the Hudson River in Buchanan, New York (file photo) © John Mottern
Indian Point Nuclear power plant located on the Hudson River in Buchanan, New York (file photo) © John Mottern / AFP

New measurements at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in upstate New York show levels of radioactive tritium 80 percent higher than reported last week. Plant operator insists the spill is not dangerous, as state officials call for a safety probe.

Entergy, which operates the facility 25 miles (40 km) north of New York City, says the increased levels of tritium represent“fluctuations that can be expected as the material migrates.”

Even with the new readings, there is no impact to public health or safety, and although these values remain less than one-tenth of one percent of federal reporting guidelines,” Entergy said in a statement.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo raised an alarm last Saturday over the reports of groundwater contamination at Indian Point, noting that the company reported “alarming levels of radioactivity” at three monitoring wells, with “radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent” at one of them.

The groundwater wells have no contact with any drinking water supplies, and the spill will dissipate before it reaches the Hudson River, a senior Entergy executive argued Tuesday, suggesting the increased state scrutiny was driven by the company’s decision to shut down another nuclear power plant.

"This should not have happened but I think it’s important to put this into context & that’s what we’ve tried to do"
There are a number of stakeholders, including the governor, who do not like the fact that we are having to close Fitzpatrick,” Michael Twomey, Entergy’s vice president of external affairs, said during an appearance on ‘The Capitol Pressroom,’ a show on WCNY public radio.

The James A. Fitzpatrick plant is located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, near Oswego, New York. Entergy said it intended to close the plant once it runs out of fuel sometime this year, citing its continued operations as unprofitable.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant on the Hudson river © wikipedia.org



"We’re not satisfied with this event. This was not up to our expectations,” Twomey said, adding that the Indian Point spill should be seen in context.
 
Though it has never reported a reactor problem, the Indian Point facility has been plagued by issues with transformers, cooling systems, and other electrical components over the years. It currently operates two reactors, both brought on-line in the 1970s.

In December, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed Entergy to continue operating the reactors, pending license renewal. The facility’s initial 40-year license was set to expire on December 12, but the regulators are reportedly leaning towards recommending a 20-year extension.

By contrast, Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine was only three years old when it exploded in April 1986. To this day, an area of 1000 square miles around the power plant remains the “exclusion zone,” where human habitation is prohibited.

The tritium leak at Indian Point most likely took place in January, during the preparations to shut down Reactor 2 for refueling, according to Entergy. Water containing high levels of the hydrogen isotope reportedly overfilled the drains and spilled into the ground.

According to Entergy, tritium is a “low hazard radionuclide” because it emits low-energy beta particles, which do not penetrate the skin. “People could be harmed by tritium only through internal exposure caused by drinking water with high levels of tritium over many years,” an Entergy fact sheet says.
Environmentalist critics are not convinced, however.
  
This plant isn’t safe anymore,” Paul Gallay, president of environmental watchdog group Riverkeeper, told the New York Daily News. “Everybody knows it and only Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission refuse to admit it.”


Loss of ocean habitat

MYSTERY BENEATH THE ICE - NEW documentary



Tiny, transparent, and threatened, krill are crucial to the Antarctic ecosystem. But the population of krill is crashing for reasons that continue to baffle the experts. 

A leading theory says that krill’s life cycle is driven by an internal body clock that responds to the waxing and waning of the Antarctic ice pack, and as climate change alters the timing of the ice pack, their life cycle is disrupted. 

To test it, NOVA travels on the Polarstern, a state-of-the-art research vessel, to the frigid ice pack in the dead of winter. From camps established on the ice, scientists dive beneath the surface in search of the ice caves that shelter juvenile krill during the winter. There, they hope to discover what’s causing the krill to vanish and, ultimately, how the shifting seasons caused by climate change could disrupt ecosystems around the world.

Tiny, transparent, and threatened, krill are crucial to the Antarctic ecosystem. But the population of krill is crashing for reasons that continue to baffle the experts. 

A leading theory says that krill’s life cycle is driven by an internal body clock that responds to the waxing and waning of the Antarctic ice pack, and as climate change alters the timing of the ice pack, their life cycle is disrupted. 

To test it, NOVA travels on the Polarstern, a state-of-the-art research vessel, to the frigid ice pack in the dead of winter. 

From camps established on the ice, scientists dive beneath the surface in search of the ice caves that shelter juvenile krill during the winter. There, they hope to discover what’s causing the krill to vanish and, ultimately, how the shifting seasons caused by climate change could disrupt ecosystems around the world.



Cyclone in the Pacific

Tropical cyclone looking less 
likely to hit NZ
A rapidly deepening severe tropical storm developing near Vanuatu is set to unleash its fury on the region. Photo / iStock
A rapidly deepening severe tropical storm developing near Vanuatu is set to unleash its fury on the region. Photo / iStock
11 February, 2016
A tropical cyclone forming in the Pacific is looking less likely to make a direct hit on New Zealand early next week, but dangerous beach conditions can be expected on the eastern coasts of the North Island, WeatherWatch head weather analyst Philip Duncan says.
Swells up to three or four metres high could pound the coastlines of the upper North Island in Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay on Monday and Tuesday, Mr Duncan said.
Two lows north of New Zealand appear to be becoming cyclones, with one -- between Vanuatu and Fiji -- looking likely to become a severe storm. The second, smaller low could slide behind the larger low, he said.
"The centre of what we've dubbed Low 1, directly north of NZ will likely come within 800 kilometres of northern New Zealand, based on various models today and bring very dangerous beach conditions.
Low 2 may move into the upper North Island with heavy rain at the same time, making it feel like one system bringing rough seas and tropical downpours.
"There's a chance we may just get some humidity, wind and downpours rather than severe weather ... it will depend on the size of the high to the east of the North Island, as it will directly affect how much wet weather can move into New Zealand and how much gets blocked from tracking southwards towards us."
The larger low was turning into a tropical storm this morning, which meant it would probably be given a name today. Because it is in Fiji's area of responsibility, authorities in that nation will name it. Winston is the next name on their list, Mr Duncan said.
He expected the low would form a tropical cyclone in the next day or two.
American models yesterday showed the weather system was likely to strike the North Island on Monday and Tuesday next week, but this morning the chance of a direct hit had been reduced to 40 per cent, he said.
But that was no reason for complacency.
ECMWF map for Monday shows the low further to the north - and the high to the east pushing back against it - stopping it from reaching the North Island effectively. Image / WeatherWatchECMWF map for Monday shows the low further to the north - and the high to the east pushing back against it - stopping it from reaching the North Island effectively. Image / WeatherWatch
"The big message is while there's complete uncertainty whether the centre of the low will hit New Zealand directly, there's not much of a question that it will bring down dangerous beach conditions for the North Island."
Traditionally, ex-tropical cyclones that reached New Zealand took lives on the water or at the beach, rather than on land, Mr Duncan said.
Meanwhile, Civil Defence Waikato have taken a fun approach to informing Facebook followers of the situation.
They've launched a competition to name the cyclone.
Monday's swell map. Image / MetOcean/Weathermap.co.nz
Monday's swell map. Image / MetOcean/Weathermap.co.nz
"It's not a cyclone yet, and hopefully it doesn't become one. If it does, what name would you like it to have? Cyclone Sharon? Cyclone Garry? Tell us what you want it to be called and you could win one of three 'Calm Your Farm' mugs!," they wrote.
More than 130 names had been suggested by 8.45am, many from parents, such as Katy Poucher.
She wrote: "Cyclone Anneliys, she's a 5 yr old with three big bros she runs rings a around ... till she runs out of puff. I NEED a calm your farm mug..."
Mr Duncan said the competition was a great way to alert people in a fun way.

"I love it."