Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Study: ’2013 ranks as one of the least extreme U.S. weather years ever’


Fort Thomas is not alone in its sub-zero temperatures.
If you're social media pages are like mine, you'll totally get this reference.

Whether you’re talking about tornadoes, wildfires, extreme heat or hurricanes, the good news is that weather-related disasters in the US are all way down this year compared to recent years and, in some cases, down to historically low levels.


  • Tornadoes: 'lowest total in several decades'
  • Number of wildfires: 'On pace to be the lowest it has been in the past ten years'
  • Extreme Heat: The number of 100 degree days may 'turn out to be the lowest in about 100 years of records'
  • Hurricanes: 'We are currently in the longest period (8 years) since the Civil War Era without a major hurricane strike in the US (i.e., category 3, 4 or 5)(last major hurricane to strike the US was Hurricane Wilma in 2005)


There have been many forecasts in the news in recent years predicting more and more extreme weather-related events in the US, but for 2013 that prediction has been way off the mark. Whether you’re talking about tornadoes, wildfires, extreme heat or hurricanes, the good news is that weather-related disasters in the US are all way down this year compared to recent years and, in some cases, down to historically low levels.
To begin with, the number of tornadoes in the US in 2013 was the lowest total since 2000 and it may turn out to be the lowest total in several decades. The table below lists the number of tornadoes in the US for this year (through 10/17) and also for each year going back to 2000.


Year, # of Tornadoes

2013-771

2012-1119

2011-1894

2010-1543

2009-1305

2008-1685

2007-1102

2006-1117

2005-1262

2004-1820

2003-1374

2002-938

2001-1219

2000-1072

Second, the number of wildfires across the US so far this year is on pace to be the lowest it has been in the past ten years and the acreage involved is at the second lowest level in that same time period (table below).
(Source: National Interagency Fire Center; http://www.nifc.gov/)

2013            Fires: 40,306          
2012            Fires: 67,774           
2011            Fires: 74,126           

2010            Fires: 62,471           
2009            Fires: 78,792          
2008            Fires: 80,094           
2007            Fires: 85,822           
2006            Fires: 96,358          
2005            Fires: 66,552           
2004            Fires: 63,608          

In addition to wildfires, extreme heat is also way down across the US this year. In fact, the number of 100 degree days across the country during 2013 is not only down for this year, but it is perhaps going to turn out to be the lowest in about 100 years of records.

(Source: NOAA, USHCN reporting stations; through August)

The five summers with the highest number of 100 degree days across the US are as follows: 1936, 1934, 1954, 1980 and 1930. In addition to the vast reduction in 100 degree days across the US this year, the number of high temperature records (ie hi max and hi min records) is way down compared to a year ago with 22,965 records this year as compared with 56,885 at this same time last year.
(Source: NOAA, http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/records/; through 10/17/13).

Finally, as far as hurricanes are concerned, there have been only two hurricanes so far this season in the Atlantic Basin (Humberto and Ingrid) and they were both short-lived and weak category 1 storms. Also, the first forming hurricane this year occurred at the second latest date going back to the mid 1940’s when hurricane hunters began to fly. Overall, the tropical season in the Atlantic Basin has been generally characterized by short-lived and weak systems.

In addition, this suppressed tropical activity has not been confined to just the Atlantic Ocean. The eastern Pacific Ocean has had no major hurricanes this season meaning there has been no major hurricane in either the Atlantic or eastern Pacific which only occurred one other year in recorded history – 1968. This is actually quite extraordinary since the two basins are generally out of phase with each other i.e. when one is inactive the other is active.

One of the best ways to measure “total seasonal activity” in the tropics is through an index called the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) which is a metric that accounts for both intensity and duration of named tropical storms. Indeed, the ACE for this tropical season so far in the Atlantic Basin is only 29% percent of normal (through 10/17) when compared to the climatological average from 1981-2010 and it is the 7th lowest since 1950. Elsewhere, the ACE across the northern hemisphere is only 58% of normal and global ACE is 62% of normal.
(Source: Dr. Ryan Maue at Weather Bell Analytics; http://models.weatherbell.com/tropical.php)


Finally, another interesting stat with respect to hurricanes has to do with the fact that we are currently in the longest period since the Civil War Era without a major hurricane strike in the US (i.e., category 3, 4 or 5). The last major hurricane to strike the US was Hurricane Wilma during late October of that record-breaking year of 2005 – let’s hope this historic stretch continues. By the way, just as a point of comparison, in 1954 the US was hit by 3 major hurricanes in less than 10 weeks.

This article was originally run on Climate Depot. 

3 comments:

  1. From an article on slate ("you can't trust liberal sources"). Basic idea=looking just at the US and just this year or season and making judgments on the whole is similar to looking at a clock that says noon and assuming everyone is enjoying a nice lunch right now too.
    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2014/01/climate_change_deniers_cite_snowstorm_debunking_donald_trump_et_al.html

    1. Statements about climate trends must be based on, er, trends. Not individual events or occurrences. Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.

    2. Global warming is actually expected to increase “heavy precipitation in winter storms,” and for the Northern Hemisphere, there is evidence that these storms are already more frequent and intense, according to the draft U.S. National Climate Assessment.

    3. Antarctica is a very cold place. But global warming is affecting it as predicted: Antarctica is losing ice overall, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, sea ice is a different matter than land-based or glacial ice. Antarctic sea ice is increasing, and moreover, the reason for this may be climate change! (For more, read here.)

    Finally, just one last thing: When it’s winter on Earth, it’s also summer on Earth ... somewhere else. Thus, allow us to counter anecdotal evidence about cold weather with more anecdotal evidence: It’s blazing hot in Australia, with temperatures in some regions set to possibly soar above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming days.

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  2. I'm so sick of rude commenters. This Khrys chick on the Facebook page needs to back the heck up. If you don't agree with the article that's one thing, but there's zero need to name-call. I feel bad for the writers. If you guys read these, please know that most people are not as heinous as the people you encounter on the Internet.

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  3. Thanks for your concern. It's really no big deal, though. Most of the time those people don't know me so I really can't take offense to their insults.

    Besides, I didn't write the article and doubt that person read it.

    You have to realize most people that comment on an article or FB post have a strong opinion either way. The counterpoint that surfaces is an opportunity they have to show how right they are and how stupid you are.

    Sometimes you just have to let them have it.

    ReplyDelete