Wed. Sep 28th, 2022
January was the warmest on record in the world


We’re off to a hot start to 2020, with January being the warmest ever of that month on record for the world. And as NOAA noted in its monthly summary released Thursday, it happened without the warming impact of an El Niño in the equatorial Pacific, where conditions remain neutral.

Few places in the world had a cool month, with exceptions in much of India and Alaska/Western Canada. Europe to North Asia was particularly warm, with January ranking fifth in fifth place relative to the neighboring US. This was largely due to the remarkably close circulation of the ‘polar vortex’, which helped to trap Arctic air north of the mid-latitudes.

For the US, the weather pattern was dominated by a low pressure area around Alaska and a high pressure area off the coast of California. Alaska and western Canada remained colder in this pattern, which also led moisture over the Pacific Northwest while the U.S. Southwest remained dry. Midway through the month, the low pressure area shifted a little east, bringing just enough cool air over the central US to produce quite a bit of precipitation.

As a result, the drought eased a bit in the Pacific Northwest but continued in the Four Corners region. California was also pushed into drought status and the drought intensified even further in parts of South Texas.

NOAA this month spotlighted the Great Lakes, which are seeing record high water levels. After last year’s wettest year on record, January was warm and wet enough to keep water levels high — about 15-30 cm (0.5 to 1 ft.) above average. Combined with very low ice cover on the lake, this has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage along coastlines as storms produced impressive waves. For example, on January 10 and 11, waves up to 22 feet washed the shores of Lake Michigan between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Yes Madam

Based on historical trends and predictions for slow-moving patterns, NOAA can also provide an overall picture for the coming spring months of March, April and May. (That’s MAM in ain’t-nobody-got-time-for-words climatic parlance.) A big factor is the El Niño/La Niña oscillation in the Pacific Ocean, where models still show a continuation of the neutral conditions that have been around for about a year now.

Over the next month, patterns in the Pacific are likely to lead to high pressures in the western US and low pressures in the east. That would mean warmer, drier weather around California (maybe helped by a low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada) but cooler weather in the Southeast.

Beyond that, models point to above-average temperatures for much of the US, although cooler air could descend to the northern plains. And because sea ice is retreating earlier as the world warms, Alaska is a good choice for above-average spring temperatures. The precipitation outlook, meanwhile, doesn’t look too encouraging for the regions experiencing drought or flooding in Mississippi, with drier weather in the Southwest and more precipitation favoring the eastern half of the US.

At least that’s the way the odds lean. Late spring is a particularly tricky season to predict, so you can still cross your fingers if you’re hoping for something other than the photo shown here.

By akfire1

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