It turns out that the “land hurricane” (technically, a super storm, aka extra tropical cyclone or bomb cyclone) may have been the biggest (most energetic) storm hisorically recorded for the region. Of particular interest is the pressure record (the ultimate measure for a storm) but also, the number of tornadoes and the damage due to winds was also impressive. And, there are interesting tropical things going on in the Atlantic Ocean.
Is this all caused by Global Warming? Yes, probably. Gone are the days when the knee-jerk reaction must be “well, no, no one storm can be attributed to bla bla bla.” Instead, we increasingly recognize that the energy balance sheet has shifted (are my metaphors mixing?) and we live in a stormier world now than we did 100 years ago, because of the release of carbon trapped in antiquity into the atmosphere.
Global warming is like your checking account. Your paycheck is automatically deposited every two weeks (that’s energy from the sun) and varies only a little from time to time. Several bills are paid every month, and thus the money dissipates from your account like the sun’s heat returning to outer space. But then, imagine that the people who bill you delay billing a couple of days each month, until they are a full month out of sync. The same amount of money is going in, the same amount of money is going out, but the money stays in your checking account longer. In this way, instead of the average amount of money in your account hovering around zero (I hope you have overdraft protection!), it hovers around a higher value.
Greenhouse gases retain the energy from the sun longer than usual in the atmosphere. Weather is all about the transfer of the sun’s energy, unevenly (at several scales) distributed on delivery, evening out. A hurricane is a blip in the rush of tropical energy (where there is extra) towards the poles (where there is less), for instance.
A certain amount of this energy simply goes away (returns to space) and plays no further part in the weather, but when that energy is retained longer due to greenhouse gasses, the entire system is more energetic.
So this week, Anthropocentric Global Warming gives you the most intense continental storm ever in North America, and three tropical cyclones trying to get borned in the Atlantic …
The storm peaked here in Minnesota yesterday, and the lowest barometric pressure reading ever recorded in the 48 states outside of a hurricane or nor’easter was measured in Bigfork at 5:13 PM. (That’s up north from here, about an hour past the cabin).
There were 24 tornadoes and hundreds of reports of damaging winds, and the pilot light on my water heater blew out.
Here’s the storm from space:
And click here to read the Weather Underground’s Jeff Master’s excellent blog post on the storm.
Meanwhile, down in the warm parts of the Atlantic Ocean, there are three disturbances that may turn, eventually, into named storms. They would be Shary, Tomas and Virginie. No, that’s not my spell checker acting up. If these all get named and one more storm forms we will be at the end of the list of named storms for the year, an utterly arbitrary yet strangely exciting milestone.
Here is the Atlantic Wide view adapted from the NHPC:
The right eye of the big scary face, northeast of the Antilles, is likely to form into a named storm first, and this could happen by the end of the weekend. The left eye, out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, could become a named storm at about the same time or a bit later. It is reasonably likely that by Monday or Tuesday, we will have two named storms spinning along in the region.
The big O-shaped mouth of the scary face is an odd duck. It is very far to the south compared to where storms normally form, and it is moving farther south. If it forms into a hurricane, it may become one of the very rare Atlantic hurricanes in the Southern Hemisphere (there is no “Southern Atlantic Hurricane Season” and if memory serves, there has been exactly one such storm in recorded history). The mouth storm has the least chance of forming into a cyclone, and whatever it is doing, it is doing it slowly. Only time will tell.