Sun Activity Picking Up As It Approaches The Peak Of 11 Year Cycle
With all the crazy things going on in our weather over the past 13 months or so, you can add something else. However, this latest development involves something beyond our atmosphere. The sun has been sending out solar flares and massive coronal ejections over the past few weeks, and they should continue as our star approaches the peak of its 11 year cycle.
The latest solar flare and coronal ejection occurred a little over a week ago, and the flare did cause a disruption of radio communication. The flare was classified as an X1.9 flare, which is the most powerful one that the sun can release according to an article on Space.com. Within a few hours, a coronal ejection occurred on another part of the sun, and headed toward Venus.
A solar flare is defined as a powerful release of energy that brightens the sun, and is often linked with increased magnetic activity on the star. This latest flare came from a large and very active part of the sun known as AR11339, and is approximately 50,000 miles wide. More of this kind of activity is expected from the sun, which will reach the peak of its 11 year cycle around 2013. Within the past two months, there have been other solar flares that have made news.
Back in late September, there was a solar flare that created an electromagnetic storm which resulted in quite a display of aurora in the higher latitudes according to an article from the Washington Post. A little more than two weeks ago, another solar flare brought northern lights as far south as the Southeastern United States. These two instances of solar flares were graded as G1 and G2, but there can be stronger ones.
Some solar flares can be rated as G5 on the high end of the scale. Those flares are capable of causing significant electromagnetic storms capable of knocking out electricity and affect spacecraft and satellites. The most notable solar storm was back in 1859. The storm was so powerful that it provided enough light to read in the middle of the night, and disrupted telegraph service for two days. Another solar storm in 1921 was only one fourth as powerful as the one in 1859. However, if the 1921 storm were to occur today, it will knock out power to 130 million people, cost up to $2 trillion in damage, and take 4 to 10 years to recover from.
Massive Storm Brings Snow And Category Three Hurricane Force Winds
Over the past couple weeks, there have been some notable storms across the United States. Locations along the front range of the Rockies such as Denver, Colorado have seen a couple snowstorms already while the Northeastern United States experienced its biggest October snowfall on record when a Nor’easter came up the coast two days before Halloweeen. For the state of Alaska, these storms are commonplace even this time of year.
However, earlier this week, the worst storm to hit that state in 40 years, came roaring ashore with blinding snow, tremendous winds, and even storm surge. The storm was the most powerful since a Bering Sea storm back in 1974. It generated a 10 foot storm surge along with blizzard conditions thanks to blinding snow and 100 mile per hour winds according to a post to the weather blog on CNN.
The Huffington Post stated that emergency responders dealing with the storm said it was one of “epic proportions.” There was coastal flooding while roofs were torn up, and power lines were downed. I had seen some video footage of the storm from several morning shows on the cable news circuit, and it reminded me of the part of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when Burl Ives, playing the part of the lovable snowman telling the story said, “the storm of storms.”
This massive and powerful storm has passed, and is now being replaced by a much weaker storm with winds only between 20 to 40 miles per hour. However, the energy from this historic system is being transferred further to the south and east, and is expected to impact the Canadian province of British Columbia within the next day or two. Parts as far south as Oregon could also be affected. While the storm, which is forecast to break up into several parts, will not be as strong, it could be the most powerful storm to strike the Northwest this season.
Places from Norton Sound to Point Hope along the West Coast of Alaska such as Kivalina, Tununak, and Kipnuk were hard hit. Many flights to Western Alaska out of Ted Stevens International Aiport in Anchorage were cancelled. The surge levels from this storm rivaled only the 1913 storm. The system was forecast to bring up to 8 inches of snow to Anchorage. The year of weather extremes continues across the United States, and is no longer limited to the lower 48 states.
Latest Named Storm Gets More Tropical Characteristics, But Only A Threat To Bermuda
Another storm has emerged in the Atlantic Basin this week, and once again, it will not be a threat to the United States. After becoming a subtropical storm on Tuesday, Tropical Storm Sean gained more tropical characteristics and was reclassified. However, it is in the Western Atlantic, heading to the Northeast, and is only expected to threaten Bermuda at this current time. So far this season, there has been 19 tropical depressions, 18 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes.
As of the 11:00 AM EST Advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, Tropical Storm Sean is located approximately 360 miles to the West-Southwest of Bermuda, and moving to the Northeast at only 7 miles per hour. Maximum sustained winds have increased to 65 miles per hour with gusts over hurricane force. Minimum central pressure is at 990 millibars, or 29.23 inches of Hg. Tropical storm force winds extend some 255 miles from the center of circulation.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the island of Bermuda, where tropical storm conditions are expected to develop by this evening. Other effects include one to three inches of rain and rough surf from the swells generated by the system. Portions of the Southeast Coast of the United States should also feel effects from the swells in the form of rip currents. Bermuda has been a popular destination for tropical storms and hurricanes this year. Only two storms have come ashore in the United States this season. Hurricane Irene made an historic trip through New Jersey, New York City, and New England while Tropical Storm Lee came ashore in the North Central Gulf Coast before dumping torrential rains in the Mid-Alantic and Northeast.
The latest forecast discussion from the NHC indicates that the storm really hasn’t changed much in intensity or structure over the past few hours. Tropical Storm Sean still has a chance to become a hurricane over the next 12 to 24 hours since it is in an environment that is marginally favorable for development. After that, it will begin to enter cooler waters and encounter wind shear. The storm is also expected to continue its current track, and begin accelerating in forward speed. Sean should become extratropical by 36 hours, and be absorbed by another storm system moving off the East Coast of the United States within 48 hours.
Prior to Sean, the tropics had gotten off to a quiet start in November. Hurricane Rina had ended the month of October as a powerful hurricane that fizzled after threatening the Yucatan Peninsula. Traditionally, November, the last official month of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, is usually a quiet month with one storm every two years, a hurricane every six years, and a major hurricane every twelve years. There have been storms after November 30th as well. Back in 2005, there were storms that formed in December, and lasted well into the new year. Common places for development in November are usually in the Southwestern Caribbean and Western Atlantic.
This Year’s Autumnal Display Has Been Quite Special
Before this year, I was never really a big fan of fall. The days get shorter, and the temperatures get colder. It also marked the beginning of the school year, which I didn’t like much when I was a kid. However, this year, I’ve become very enthusiastic thanks to the great blend of color that has been on display for the past several weeks. I guess I just never really paid attention to it before.
In the last month, I have traveled around to several locations in Central Jersey, and have been able to see the yellows, reds, and oranges from the leaves on the trees combine with the clear blue sky and the lighting from the sun to make a terrific show. In the past, I recall noticing it in places such as Bedminster, where I worked for a spell, but didn’t get a chance to appreciate it until now. Having an HD camera that really captures the colors helps me understand how special this time of year really is. The colors have been amazing.
Last year, I don’t recall that there was as much color since many of the leaves on the trees were drying up thanks to the drought that we were having during the summer. This year, there has been plenty of rain, and recently, temperatures have become cold enough to cause the leaves to change there colors. The fall foliage has peaked here in Northwestern Middlesex County as well as the rest of Central Jersey. Leaves are now coming off the trees, and with a storm system coming up from the south, and another one pushing eastward today, more leaves will fall.
So, if you have not been able to get a chance to take in the spectacular colors, do so now because time is running out.
Here is video footage of the fall foliage that is peaking in South Plainfield, New Jersey on November 9, 2011. After temperatures reached near 70 degrees on Tuesday, there was another nice day in Northwestern Middlesex County on Wednesday with the mercury climbing into the mid 60s. It was a great day to view the fall colors again.
Here is video footage of the fall colors peaking in the Raritan Center section of Edison, New Jersey on November 7, 2011. There are a nice blend of fall colors here in this part of Jersey. Couple that with a bright blue sky, and it was quite a visual treat.
Here is weather footage of the fall foliage peaking in Northwestern Middlesex County on the first Friday in November 2011. With the recent rash of cold weather including a rare October snowstorm, the leaves are beginning to burst with color. Couple that with plenty of sun and blue sky, and you have quite a visual display.
Here is weather footage of the fall colors that began to dim as clouds approached from the October Nor’easter that brought record snowfall the next day. The fall foliage is gradually reaching their peak here in Central Jersey.
Remnants Of Tropical Cyclone Keila Brings Heavy Rains And Gusty Winds
While the Hurricane Season is winding down in the Atlantic Basin, things are getting interesting in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Oman region. Over the past few days, Tropical Storm Keila has dissipated into a remnant low, but it has been producing torrential rains and gusty winds along the Oman and Yemen border.
Of all the basins on the planet, the Indian Ocean produces the fewest storms in comparison to the Western Pacific, Eastern Pacific, and Atlantic. However, because of the low lying terrain that lies along the Indian Ocean including the shallow depth of water along coastlines. Places such as Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh are known for their devastating and deadly cyclones that have left tens and even hundreds of thousands dead. Such storms have been the reasons for wars in that part of the world.
The most deadly of these cyclones was the one that struck Bangladesh back in November 1970. Then called East Pakistan, the country was struck by a powerful cyclone that left between 300,000 and 500,000 dead. The geopolitical ramifications from this storm were tremendous. Due to the lack of response by the central government of Pakistan, which was based in the western part of the country, East Pakistan declared its independence, and war erupted. Neighboring India became involved, and the result of the conflict was the rise to power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Recently, there have been some notable cyclones. One was in early June, 2007 when Cyclone Gonu threatened Oman. At one point, the storm was as powerful as a Category Five Hurricane with 160 mile per hour winds. It was rare to see such a powerful storm in that part of the world at that time of year because weather conditions in that part of the world are usually not favorable to such strong storms. In addition, Oman and Yemen are on the Arabian Peninsula, which is desert. Remember, tropical storms don’t like dry air. Another notable cyclone in the past few years was the one that struck the Myammar Republic in May 2008.
The cyclone struck as the equivalent of a Category Three Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with 120 mile per hour winds. The storm may have left 100,000 dead, but the actual death toll is not know due to the very isolated military government in Myammar, which not only refused to help its own people, but also kept the media from coming in to cover the disaster. Returning to Keila, the storm has not had a very long life. It formed as a tropical depression on October 29th, and has basically hugged the coast of Oman over the past couple of days.
Keila has strengthened to become the equivalent of a minimal tropical storm before moving into the interior of Oman. According to the article on the web site, Earthweek: Diary of a Planet, the storm has left 6 dead from flash flooding. Tropical Cyclones are quite rare in the Arabian Sea region. Storms only form during two brief periods each year. However, there has been a growing concern that pollution created by the industries in the growing economic power of India is creating more favorable climatic conditions in the Arabian Sea for powerful storms like the one in June 2007.
Looking at the latest satellite imagery out of that part of the world, there appears to be another tropical disturbance in the making to the east of Keila in the heart of the Indian Ocean.
Last week was quite a week in weather around North America. Weather forecasters were dealing with a hurricane and a historic nor’easter that brought snow to many parts of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Hurricane Rina was a major hurricane that ultimately fizzled thanks to the influence of dry air pushing into the Gulf of Mexico, and strong wind shear from the south.
What happened with Rina is typical of Atlantic Hurricanes this time of year. As we transition from summer to winter, the jet stream changes. With the days getting shorter, there is less daylight so the planet is giving off more energy than it is taking in. Moreover, the major circulation belts around the planet begin to migrate south in response to the sun’s retreat toward the Tropic of Capricorn, which ends on the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
Consequently, the jet stream pushes farther south, and brings cooler and drier air along with hostile shearing winds. The dry air and shear are two things that tropical systems do not like. Tropical storms and hurricanes like warm moist air, and light upper level winds. So, when you get into the latter part of October and November, tropical cyclones become rare in the Atlantic. There are exceptions to the rule though. Hurricane Kate in 1985, Hurricane Gordon in 1994, Hurricane Lenny in 1999, and Hurricane Michelle in 2001 are notable examples.
The common area of development for tropical systems in the Atlantic in November is usually in the Southwestern Caribbean where sea surface temperatures are still very warm. With these waters very close to the equator, they get plenty of exposure to the sun, which oscillates between the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees North latitude) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23 degrees South Latitude). In addition, the Southwestern Caribbean sees very little in the way of wind shear even this time of year.
On average, there is about one storm every two years during the month of November. Despite that, there has only been one storm that has emerged in the Gulf of Mexico since 1950, and that developed in the Bay of Campeche region. Of those 30 or so storms, a hurricane has emerged every two or three years, and a major hurricane has developed once every dozen years. Right now, there are no threats as the final month of the season is off to a quiet start.
There are several areas of disturbed weather being tracked right now. One is in the Eastern Caribbean creating showers and storms for Puerto Rico. A couple are in the Central Atlantic although one of them appears to be a trough. The last one is in the Eastern Atlantic to the southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. None of these disturbances are showing any signs of development at the moment.