Sunday, May 1, 2016

Today is June 1st: A Very Warm Spring in the Northwest, Again.

Yesterday, I planted my tomato plants in my garden-- about a month earlier than normal.   And I am not worried that are going to be damaged by cold.  If you are a gardener, today is June 1st.

As I look outside this morning, white cottonwood seeds are floating and drifting up and down-- roughly a month earlier.  I love these floating tuffs:  you can see the atmospheric eddies that are normally invisible.

Portland Airport (PDX) has their warmest April on record (going back to 1940).  Essentially May temperatures in April.

Although we had a break last week (see my previous blog), this has been an extraordinarily warm spring and it is highly probable that this warmth will continue for the next few months.

Let's start by looking at the difference of surface temperature from normal for the past month (the temperature anomaly) from the Western Region Climate Center.  The Northwest is a huge hot spot, with temperatures 6F above normal over much of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.  This is a very big warm anomaly.


This warmth has not been from a constant heat wave, but periods of normality interrupted by very warm intervals.  Seattle's temperature for the past week below illustrate this.  As we will show below, the warmest periods are associated with anomalous high pressure aloft, with one major warm period (April 18-23) being the real culprit.
There was good reason to expect a generally warm spring.   Although weakening, an El Nino is still present, with associated warm water along our coast (yellow/orange colors below)  and low pressure offshore that produces enhanced southwesterly flow.  The hated blob of warm sea surface temperatures over the NE Pacific has dissipated.



As I mentioned earlier, our warm temperatures have been associated with anomalously high pressure over the West Coast, which was particularly unusual during mid April.   Here is a map of the upper level (500 hPa, around 18,000 ft) height anomaly from normal (you can think of it as pressure as well).  High height anomaly (yellow colors) over us, with low height anomalies upstream and downstream.  The waviness of the atmosphere was enhanced during this period.


High pressure above the Northwest produces warmth is several ways.   High pressure results in sinking air, which warms as it sinks (compressed).  Such sinking reduces clouds, so we get more sun. On the western side of highs there is warm southerly flow.  And the surface reflection of upper level high pressure (or ridging) is generally east of the Cascades, so we get more offshore (easterly flow), which produces more sinking (warming) over the western slopes of the Cascades and pushes cool marine air away from the lowlands.

A REALLY important point is that this wave-like pattern not only produces a warm anomaly over us, but COLD anomalies where the heights are lower.  Here are the surface temperature anomalies from NOAA for the past 30 days.   Warm over us (orange/red), but much colder than normal over the NE US and eastern Canada.



The situation is not simply a general warming, as one might expect from anthropogenic global warming, but highly localized warm and cold anomalies driven by the enhanced wave pattern aloft.

The question you will be wondering:  could this wave pattern be produced by anthropogenic global warming?    At this point, the best answer is no.   Research, including work done by my past Ph.D. student Matt Brewer, does not suggest this.  In fact, global climate models run through 2100, suggest just the opposite:  a deamplfication of the waves.  But the persistence of ridging for a second year in spring is a bit unnerving.

It appears that natural variability is driving the waviness, but as always in science, we are not 100% sure.

But what about the rest of the spring?   For the next two weeks, there is definite skill.  The latest North American Ensemble Forecast System (NAEFS) guidance, based on combining the US and Canadian ensembles (running our models many times) suggests a warm Monday, followed by cool/wet period midweek, and warmer conditions next weekend (these box and whisker plots, with the yellow boxes showing the range of the 50% of the models closest to the median). The panel are temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and cloudiness.


The forecasts beyond 2 weeks are less reliable.   But let me show you the prediction of the international seasonal ensemble (below):  much warmer than normal for May and June.  I suspect this will be correct.

So go ahead, plant those tomatoes.  Put the seeds in the ground.  If you are a gardener, reset your clock and think of today as June 1st and you will know what to do.

Go ahead, you can buy these for your garden or deck.


44 comments:

smokejumper said...

Seeing warmth across the west and cold over Hudson Bay region is getting old. That has been the pattern 4 years now. Yakima ended being 10.5 degrees above average (daytime highs). I assumed the spread was an all time record for any month but June 2015 was around 13 degrees. It's been 27 straight months of above average temps (February 2014) and a year before that so 38 of 39 months of heat. That doesn't seem variable.

Matt Thompson said...

I agree with smokejumper, enough with constant over average temps! It is getting really old. But I still want to believe that this is just the remnants of El Nino giving up the ghost, and it really is going fast now. Only 3.4 is above 1.0 C, and barely, the other regions are under 1.0 C now and falling fast. If La Nina is coming, it seems that summers are not quite as warm, but I don't really remember. But who knows, it does such though, I agree, living in Eburg, it is hot as well.

jputnam said...

Just planting tomatoes now? Down south of Auburn, mine have been in the ground for a month, and already have tomatoes on them. Already have strawberries on the vine, and peas ready to harvest. Forget June, it's nearly July in the garden already.

Chris said...

Today is my daughter's birthday. It is usually complemented with the wisteria in full bloom. The blooms are now fading. :-(

But I did bring out the sunflowers I started inside and plan to plant them in the yard tomorrow.

Mark said...

http://www.skepticalscience.com/hansens-new-climate-dice-loaded-misunderstood.html
Do a search for Cliff Mass on the above article.

Rod said...

Another nice article, Cliff.

But the last couple of years, it has been more like "April 15th is the new July 5th" in the Seattle area...and July 6th through August is "like Los Angeles".

-Rod

Alex said...

At what point do you stop the climate denialism and admit the ridging is caused by excessive CO2 and methane caused by human activity?

Jim Little said...

Regionally, you suggest no clear evidence for anthropogenic global warming. But NASA graphs for global temperatures from the blog below sure seem convincing. Fig 3 shows high anomalous temperature for March 2016 across much of the upper Northern Hemisphere (+4 deg C in many regions). Fig 5 show high anomalous temperatures for Jan, Feb & March 2016 as +0.3 deg C higher than any year ever recorded. It does not seem likely that an El Nino could explain these world-wide, record-setting temperatures, without a major anthropogenic global warming component.

These figures are from the blog: blog.hotwhopper.com

Elston Hill said...

Did you mean "Today is May 1"?

Cliff Mass said...

Alex,
Since you seem so sure of things, can you tell me what peer-reviewed articles show that warm season ridging along the west coast is caused by greenhouse gases? ...cliff mass

Cliff Mass said...

Jim Little,
You should never believe anything you read on HotWhopper...it is an advocacy site by a non-scientist. The earth is WARMING from greenhouse gases, just slowly and it doesn't explain the ridge-trough pattern over N. America...cliff

Jim Little said...

Cliff,

Did you look at the NASA data in Fig. 3 and Fig. 5. High anomalous temperatures of 4-5 deg C in the Arctic is not a "slow increase" (Fig. 3). A global average increase of 0.3 deg C over all previous years is not a "slow increase" (Fig 5).

Please use your expertise to inform readers of the need to act promptly to transition to clean energy.

JL

Pierre Sodbinow said...

Waiting for the June Gloom. That'll fix everything!

Cliff Mass said...

Jim...my blog is about the Northwest situation and the US, not the Arctic....cliff

Chantelle said...

Say it ain't so... I'm so tired of hot springs and summers. :(

Adella Wright said...

Sigh. I second Chantelle. Make it stop!! I moved here from the East Coast for a reason. I was pregnant last summer. Thought I was going to die. Not even the a/c could keep up. Please don't let us have anything like that this year.

wynneforplants said...

I dislike the hot temps, too. But wishes are not a plan. Time NOW for each of us to reduce our use of carbon fuels (vehicle, plastics, air transport, etc), to put -- and pay -- a real price on the real previously-unaccounted-for cost of carbon, to fight actively against Pacific Northwest export terminals for oil, natural gas, coal, and it's time to support ONLY politicians and businesses that are doing the same (as much as feasible). We've already locked in some temp and sea level increases, but we could reduce the problems.

I ussd to live in Texas, where I planted in February and harvested in June (even tomatoes), then hid indoors until late September. Hated it then, hate to see the shift in weather as well as climate changes here now.

Matt Thompson said...

I do believe that climate change is having an effect. But right now, I believe that El Nino is having a greater effect, here in the PACNW. Just like its influence brought heavy rain and snow, or caused the jet stream to be more north, I believe it is now causing heat spikes here. If you have been following, the El Nino is rapidly dying, rapidly. In the last two weeks, Nino 3.4 has gone from 1.3 or 1.4 C above normal to only .8 C above normal. That is very fast, and none of the Nino regions are above 1.0 C above normal anymore, in fact region 1+2 is already in the negative, -.3 C below normal. That energy and heat has to go somewhere, and it is possible it's contributing to the off and on ridge around here. See latest figures, see page 5 http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf.

I am sick and tired of above average warm temps as well, but this might change when Nino goes to ENSO neutral, probably by the first week of June at this rate. But you can look at sea temps in the north Pacific, and Cliff is 100% correct that the "blob" is dead for now; the temps are much cooler than last year. I don't see it coming back this year, especially if we are going into a La Nina cycle.

faronium said...

Two things

First: this almost seems like a "scorpion" El Nino in which the action is coming again late. Southern California has been seeing cut-off lows and has been above normal precip-wise for the last 30 days and we are in the SWerly warmth and relatively dry. And from the perspective of a surfer, the winter swell season has been staying relatively active. I haven't looked at the stats on the bouy measurement, but have noticed that there have been a lot of long-period swell events. Usually by now those have tapered off and the ocean is beset by north winds, windswell and freezing cold upwelling conditions.

Second: It also seems like we are early into the S-SEerly, subtropical-type thunderstorm season. Tonight is the second such in the forecast (albeit pretty weak) in the past few weeks. A more typical spring configuration gives us thunder from post-frontal convection driving out of the NW along with our normal spring weather of heavy rain, hail, bits of sun, groupel, and some snow all in 45 minutes.

Also: should remind people that the springs of 2011 and 2012 were no picnic. Cold and rain that lasted well into July.

Chantelle said...

I was pregnant last summer as well. It was the worst! I won't be pregnant this summer but I still am a wimp when it comes to the heat.

Chantelle said...

2011 was the gloomiest summer I've ever seen here. But honestly I would take that over the blob of 2015!

Rod said...

Chantelle: Yes, as I recall it was pretty bad. But were you here for the summer of 1964? I think that was the year the slugs took over the Puget Sound area, and are just now relinquishing their territory. hehe

I remember taking swimming lessons at Juanita Beach in June 1964. There were like three kids in the class. One of the three just huddled next to the dock. He was shivering and was blue in color.

tom said...

Cliff: Re: KPLU. 1. Is anyone approaching the FCC about preventing anyone other than the community from purchasing KPLU? 2. Have the politicians been kept up to date, and asked for their influence with the FCC? 3. Shouldn't there be a letter writing campaign to the responsible official in the FCC to support the communities purchase of KPLU?

It seems to me that the public could foul up any attempt by PLU or UW to see that the station is sold to UW. My feeling is that the PLU Regents ought to see the public image value in helping the community to purchase KPLU, and as $4.5 Million has already been raised agree to only sell it to the community.

I'm surprised these questions are not otherwise being raised!

Andrew said...

Dear Cliff,

Your are a wussy; I planted my tomatoes a month ag. #aprilisthenewmay.

Matt said...

We've set 52 straight record high-for-the-dates, without a single record low-for-the-date. 123 days into the year, we've had 10 days in 2016 that were hotter than it had ever been for that date. That's a record-setting, outlier, type of event happening better than once every 2 weeks. At a certain point, you kind of have to look at the reality of the situation and say to yourself "Huh, that's not normal." Will Seattle EVER set a record low temperature again?

Alex said...

But of course it's just El Nino, it couldn't possibly be man-made global warming.

Unknown said...

All,

Two seasons of "above average" spring conditions do not constitute global warming. That is like a fruit fly saying that Seattle has an arctic climate because its two-day life span happened in the middle of a January cold snap. As Cliff points out there are naturally occurring variations and oscillations in climate that last 50, 75, even 500 years. Observed change is a matter of perspective and the climate experienced by the fruit fly that is mankind may only be a small slice of larger epochal natural variation.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2171973/Tree-ring-study-proves-climate-WARMER-Roman-Medieval-times-modern-industrial-age.html

Karl Fredrickson said...

Let's say these heat waves *are* mostly natural variability. What happens when we get a heat wave like this in 2050, on top of the additional warming from climate change? 100 degree springs in Seattle? I sure hope we get our act together soon and cut emissions, because it needed to happen yesterday.

JewelyaZ said...

The thing is, you can't say it's El Nino OR it's global climate change... isn't there evidence? - and it seems to this layperson that there might well be - that the El Nino was so strong BECAUSE of climate change? It's a continuum. It's not on or off. The earth is getting warmer; the evidence is locally all around us (irises and clematis blooming, safely planting tomatoes on May 2??) and also globally all around as well (Greenland, Alaska, Ukraine). Of course, SOME of the heat is natural variability, too, but looking at the last 10 years, it just defies common sense to say it's ALL "natural" variance.

Rebecca Timson said...

Tom, many have contacted the FCC about KPLU. You can do so too. But the best influence on FCC decision-making about this is the existence of a viable alternative to KUOW as a buyer, so there's been a valid emphasis on fund-raising to create that alternative. Reminds me to donate again.

Rebecca Timson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Thompson said...

Great comments here, except any deniers of climate change. My own thoughts were a concern over climate change and El Nino. I do believe things are going to change when it gets to ENSO neutral, which is only weeks away at this rate. But to anybody else, if you are serious that climate change isn't occurring, I think you need to do research. And even more so, that it is man made climate change. This article is almost a year old, but still has good info http://www.climatecentral.org/news/sea-levels-rise-20-feet-19211 All this says is that unless things are brought under control ASAP, the seas are going to rise much higher than previous estimates. And actually it says if the temps are held down to 2 degrees Celsius, no higher frankly. Another article I posted the other day, about Washington State water, stated a startling fact that the October to March temps were 4.7 degrees F above 20th Century temps for the same time. That is not a cycle, that is a massive spike, and again, most likely man made. STOP with this cyclical nonsense already! This is a serious issue that should and could have been addressed decades ago, but has not been adequately addressed. Final: Not a cycle, the world is on a spike to hell (literal and figurative, heat as well).

Alex said...

Matt - I am with Bjorn Lomborg on this. I agree there is AGW, but I don't think wrecking capitalism is the solution.

Dominic Holdem said...

if this is how climate change is going to affect the northwest then we need to put up some fences ASAP. because this weather is GLORIOUS, and people are going to want in on it.

Bruce Kay said...

The above post -Matt Thompson - deserves a considered response I think. Not from me mind.... I can't possibly improve on it.

As an aside, up here in Squamish the forest is already dry as toast, at least for early June...... er, sorry, did I say Early May?


I'm just curious. The resevoirs are flush, but the snowpack is fast depleting and there never was much below about 1500 meters anyway. What does this complexity of variables mean for the famous drought index?

Kevin Unknown said...

The forecast over at weather.com has two more days in the forecast set to reach 80 and it also doesn't see the highs dropping back into the 60's aside from a dip in temps later in the week. Whatever the cause for this stretch of nice and warm spring weather is, it's welcome by me. We have winters here that don't ever get warm so it's nice to see a little payback for the preceding five months of gloom. Besides, every day during the high sun season is potentially a nice, warm day and we don't want to waste that potential on overcast and 62 - that's perfect winter weather.

Cliff Mass said...

Matt...if it really is an isolate "spike" then it is probably not due to global warming, which would logically be associated with a long-term trend.

faronium said...

This "spike" was wholly expected by the climate community. NOT because of climate change, but because of the dynamics of decadal climate variability that are inherent to how the Pacific Ocean stores and releases heat. The so-called hiatus, among other things, was a period of heat storage by the Pacific Ocean during a span of more frequent La Nina episodes than El Nino episodes. When La Nina predominates, the Pacific Ocean stores very substantial amounts of heat while the atmosphere experiences relatively cooler temperatures. When a strong El Nino, or a period of more predominant El Nino episodes occurs, that heat is exchanged back into the atmosphere.

Colleagues of mine who monitor the waters off the BC coast had been waiting for the other shoe to drop after the double La Nina that we experienced in 2010-11-12. In fact, during the span from 1998 through then the earth experienced more La Nina episodes than El Nino. The El Ninos that did occur were relatively weak. This gave the ocean 14 years to uptake heat and give us a false sense that the rate of warming had slowed. But it hadn't, excess energy was streaming into the climate system at the same, or gradually increasing, rates. Similarly, the switch to warmth gives the impression of accelerated warming even though the rate of energy input hasn't changes much in the last couple years.

Because we have a steady background warming, the transition from cool to warm phases appears very steep. Think of a plot of a sine wave -- if you tilt the wave-form upward, eventually the declines become relatively flat, and the inclines become steeper. This doesn't mean that the rate of climate change is any larger nor that the natural variability spikes are any larger nor that the earth has undergone any tipping point threshold. It just means that natural climate variability is doing what it has always done on top of a background warming signal caused by humans. There are several other times in the climate record where we see similar spikes after "hiatus" periods. The 1976 to 1977 transition is one example.

Matt Thompson said...

Cliff: I know what you are saying, I guess I was trying to make a point that things are going more rapidly than ever before. I guess spike is the wrong term, but that temps are rising not gradual, as the geologic record would indicate, but rising quite fast, and I guess I misused the word spike.

Alex: Fair point but I am not going to get into politics. However, that being said, if things continue at the current rate, there won't be a great society, or anything to have "capitalism." Read Eastern philosophy; everything must be in balance, especially in Taoism. I believe in industry as well, but it is so far out of balance right now, needs to go back the other way, and new technologies need to be developed in order to keep any sort of economy well and healthy.

Ansel said...

I'm growing grapefruits in Bothell. I have a seven foot tree in my backyard, planted in the ground. Every winter I erect a tent over it. Last winter I only had to close and heat it twice.

Matt Thompson said...

Faronium: Thank you for that explanation. I hadn't thought about the connection with heat to La Nina and El Nino, and how the ocean can be a heat exchange, just like in a furnace. But as other people have pointed out here, where are the record lows? We only ever have record highs anymore. I was always of the belief that climate change made extreme highs and also lows. Why is this place any different? It seems as if moderate weather is going going gone from the PACNW, which stinks frankly.

John Murphy said...

Cliff Mass said,
"Jim...my blog is about the Northwest situation and the US, not the Arctic....cliff"

sooo....

Cliff, are you saying they are not thermodynamically connected and can not have influences upon each other that we have not yet perceived in our confirmatory models?

Another question Cliff...

Cliff Mass said,
"Matt...if it really is an isolate "spike" then it is probably not due to global warming, which would logically be associated with a long-term trend."

Are you including the amplitude and frequency patterns that might be the underlying factors of the impulse functions that "Spike" any singular condition?

I'm an ecologist, and you do good math, but I think you need to go back to the models and understand that models are just models and we are obviously missing something.

My interest Cliff, is that the more information we get, the worse the models look... in concordance to this and i am saying this very intuitively, it seems the observables are also looking worse than we expect. So in the spirit of John Tukey... the the confirmatory is off base with our instinct.

If my children live in a terrible hostile world because we were not reactionary enough because we wanted to not be sensational... did we "Win"?

Alex said...

John - such thinking as yours is what leads to things like the Russian Revolution and millions of deaths and 75 years of misery. Oh wait, Russia is still mired in misery despite officially ending Communism. You really don't want to go down that path...

Unknown said...

Cliff,

Clearly some people seem eager to discount reason, ignore findings published in peer-reviewed papers, and and allow misinformation to fuel their fires, as long as it is convenient for them. Just know, there are still those of us out there who appreciate the perspective, and are enthralled by the ambiguity of all things scientific. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, and enjoy the warm spring!

Bryce