Natural Climate Patterns

IRI's Walter Baethgen gives an overview of El Niño's potential impacts on global food production.

  • IRI's Walter Baethgen gives an overview of El Niño's potential impacts on global food production.

  • Earth’s hottest periods occurred before humans existed. Those ancient climates would have been like nothing our species has ever seen.

  • From the strongest typhoon ever observed to historically high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, the State of the Climate in 2013 report provides a complete rundown on the state of Earth's climate and how it is changing.

  • CarbonTracker is a tool for modelling sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. Users can download the code, carbon dioxide data, and the tool's carbon flux estimates to conduct their own analyses or to help improve the system.

  • Like a prehistoric fly trapped in amber during dinosaurs' days, airborne relics of Earth's earlier climate can end up trapped in glacial ice for eons. How do climate scientists turn those tiny relics into a story about Earth's ancient climate?

  • A few days of unusually cold weather in the U.S. and Canada aren't a sign that a century-or-more trend of rising global surface temperatures has reversed itself. In fact, the cold wasn't even all that widespread for the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Meteorologists have known for years that the pattern of the polar vortex determines how much cold air escapes from the Arctic and makes its way to the U.S. during the winter. Climate scientists are wondering if a warmer Arctic could explain its odd behavior in recent years.

  • The most likely explanation for the lack of significant warming at the Earth’s surface in the past decade or so is that natural climate cycles caused shifts in ocean circulation patterns that moved some excess heat into the deep ocean.

  • Tampa Bay Water Supply Manager Allison Adams knows water is precious for the millions of residents who rely on the water agency for drinking water and recreation, and for the region’s natural ecosystems, including wetlands and lakes. Adams and colleagues discuss how their evolving water management approach allows them to balance diverse water needs in the face of often unpredictable water sources and cycles.

  • Tampa Bay Water provides safe, potable drinking water to 2.3 million people in the Tampa Bay region.  But future availability of surface water can be hard to predict, and drought is a recurring challenge there.  The water utility managers are increasingly using seasonal climate forecasts to track climate variability, which helps them better plan their water supply and reduce their vulnerability to seasonal climate impacts.

  • NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has issued its 2013 Atlantic hurricane seasonal outlook. In this video, Gerry Bell, a NOAA CPC meteorologist, explains that as of May 23, 2013, the outlook favors an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 through November 30.

  • On any given day or any given month, somebody somewhere– maybe even where you live– experiences colder-than-average temperature, even though the globe as a whole is warmer than average.

  • Much colder-than-average temperature during March and a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation Index reminded people in the United States how important this index is to our own climate conditions.

  • NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its Spring Outlook on March 21. The big story for the upcoming spring? Relief for many drought-stricken areas of the United States is not likely.

  • As the whole ocean gets warmer, NOAA scientists must redefine what they consider “average” temperature in the central tropical Pacific, where they keep watch for El Niño and La Niña.

  • Deke Arndt, Chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch, at the National Climatic Data Center talks about the influence of La Niña on the 2011 global average temperature. 

  • Deke Arndt, Chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch, National Climatic Data Center

  • NOAA released the 2012 installment of the annual Arctic Report Card on December 5, 2012, as part of the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting. This image collection is a gallery of highlights based on the report's major themes. It was developed by the NOAA Climate.gov team in cooperation with Arctic Report Card authors and other Arctic experts.

  • On the Rio Grande—historically the wellspring for more than five million people in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico—coping with scarcity has become a reality, and water management and use in the region may be a leading example of how to adapt to drier times

  • In the wake of historic flooding along the Missouri River in spring and summer 2011, NOAA scientists are exploring how climate patterns like La Niña and others can set the stage for floods or drought in the Northern Rockies and the Upper Great Plains.

  •  

    In a place routinely afflicted by drought, water managers in Tampa Bay use climate forecasts to ensure a water supply to people’s taps without sucking the region’s rivers, wetlands, and groundwater dry. The limits of their innovation might be tested in a future which could pose even more challenges to ensuring the oasis remains green.

     

  • A series of unusually strong, long-lasting high pressure systems has parked over Greenland this summer. As many a weather forecaster has explained, high pressure generally leads to calm winds and sunny skies, both of which boost temperatures during the all-day sunshine of mid-summer at high latitudes. The conditions contributed to widespread melting of the ice sheet.

  • The current drought in the Southwest is not drier or longer-lasting than historic episodes documented in tree rings, but the current dry conditions stand out from the historical record by being hotter, according to Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona.

  • The lead character in the 2011 climate story was La Niña—the cool phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation—which chilled the central and eastern tropical Pacific at both

  • La Niña—the cool phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation—dominated the Pacific Ocean at the start of 2011, subsided in summer, and returned in fall.

  • Check the fine print on many cans of hairspray or shaving cream these days, and you’ll probably find a reassurance that the product you are holding contains “No CFCs or chemicals known

  • In 2011, La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation cooled parts of the Pacific Ocean, but unusually warm temperatures predominated elsewhere.

  • In early 2011, stratospheric temperatures rose over the tropics due to La Nina while temperatures over the poles fell below the long-term average.

  • Spring storms across Europe and the Mediterranean Sea finally swept away a high pressure system that had been fostering increasingly dry conditions over the Horn of Africa in early 2011.

  • Although they are related, meteorology and climatology have important differences, particularly in how scientists develop and use weather and climate models. What makes climatologists think they can project climate scenarios decades into the future when meteorologists cannot accurately predict weather more than two weeks in advance? This presentation by Wayne Higgins of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center clarifies the relationships and differences between weather and climate, as well as the differences between natural climate variability and human-induced climate change.

  • This animation of photo-like satellite images documens the extreme variability of surface melt on part of the Greenland Ice Sheet in the past decade.

  • During spring 2011, the Northern Great Plains experienced record flooding. This video explains how a La Niña climate pattern helped set the stage for this extreme event.

  • Doug Kluck, Central Region Climate Services Director, and Kevin Low, Missouri Basin River Forecast Center Hydrologist, share their perspectives about NOAA's involvement in responding to the Missouri River floods of 2011.

  • In the mid-1980s, the winter sea ice pack in the Arctic was dominated by multi-year ice—ice that had survived at least one summer melt. Today, less than half of the sea ice at winter maximum has survived at least one summer.

  • Brazos River in drought stage

    An intense drought has gripped the southern tier of the United States for several months, accompanied by destructive wildfires, low water supplies, and failed crops.

  • An expert on climate conditions and food security explains why some parts of East Africa are so vulnerable to climate shocks like the ongoing drought.

  • An expert on climate conditions in East Africa describes the climate factors behind the 2011 drought, which has contributed to food insecurity and famine.

  • Dr. Gerry Bell, the Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, talks about the 2010 Revised Hurricane Outlook and the importance of coastal residents having a preparedness plan.
     

  • From drought in the Amazon to Australia's record spring rains, this interactive map highlights significant regional climate events in 2010 that were influenced by El Niño and La Niña.

  • A pattern of unusually warm and cold spots alternated around high northern latitudes in 2010—a classic sign of the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation.

  • In early 2010, water temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific were warmer than average, but a summertime reversal cooled the region off over the rest of the year.

  • Between January and April 2010, temperatures in the Pacific were under the warming influence of a fading El Niño episode. Meanwhile, higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere were dominated by a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation.

  • In 2010, global temperatures were marked by near-record warmth and strong natural variability. This is the first in a series of posts highlighting findings from the "State of the Climate in 2010" report.

  • Above-average sea surface temperatures, a natural cycle of increased hurricane activity, and a fading La Nina have influenced the 2011 Atlantic hurricane outlook.

  • Near the Earth’s equator, solar heating is intense year round. Converging trade winds and abundant water vapor all combine to produce a persistent belt of daily showers known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone.

  • As far back as August 2010, NOAA's seasonal climate models predicted that rainfall would be heavier than normal across Indonesia and Southeast Asia in early 2011. The cause? La Niña.

  • Arctic sea ice extent for the month of March was the second lowest in the satellite record. Ice cover at winter maximum continues to be dominated by young, thin ice.

  • Natural climate phenomena—the North Atlantic Oscillation & La Niña—can explain much of this winter's temperature patterns across North America.

  • globes showing pressure patterns during positive and negative phases of the Arctic Oscillation

    Large-scale shifting of the weight of the atmosphere between mid- and high latitudes creates climate patterns known as the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations. These patterns have a big influence on winter weather in the Eastern U.S.

  • The ocean is the largest solar energy collector on Earth. More than 90 percent of the warming that has happened on Earth over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean. Not all of that heating is detectable at the surface because currents move some of the heat to deeper layers of water, where it can "hide" for years or decades.

  • Drought conditions have become more widespread and severe in the Southwest in the first part of 2011.

  • Most of the southwestern United States is having a very dry winter. The northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico were clipped by a few drenching storms exiting California in December, but dry conditions are more the norm.

  • Deep snow that fell across the Great Plains and the Northeast in late January and early February is the latest installment in the second very wintry winter in a row for the eastern U.S.

  • Will climate change affect frequency or intensity of El Niño and La Niña? There is still little consensus among scientists on this, explains the International Research Institute for Climate and Society’s Lisa Goddard.
     

  • Computer climate models help scientists such as Dave Dewitt predict the life cycles of individual El Niño or La Niña events and their effects on weather patterns throughout the world. While the accuracy of these models continues to improve, they still have limitations.
     

  • El Niño and La Niña can significantly alter seasonal climate conditions, such as temperature and rainfall patterns, in many parts of the world. Scientists Brad Lyon and Paul Block explain the potential impacts of La Niña in different parts of Africa.

  • The early wet season of 2010 was typical of La Niña, with rainfall in December 2010 between 200 and 400 percent above normal in much of Queensland, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

  • In early June 2010, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center reported that the ocean and atmosphere conditions across the Pacific were favorable for the development of a La Niña episode.

  • Weather in the Southeast this fall and winter is keeping up with the dry part of the typical La Niña pattern. Precipitation across most of the Southeast was "below" or "much below" normal for October-December.

  • Almost two months after a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti, nearly half a million people there are displaced from their homes, and a million more are living without proper shelter. What climate-related risks will they face in the coming months?

  • Has global warming stopped? That's what some people claim, based on global temperatures recorded since 1998. But, scientists say, not setting a new record high temperature each year doesn't mean the globe is cooling.

  • For years, people have been pointing to El Niño as the culprit behind floods, droughts, famines, economic failures, and record-breaking global heat. Can a single climate phenomenon really cause all these events? Is the world just a step away from disaster when El Niño conditions develop?

  • The Pacific-North American teleconnection pattern influences regional weather by affecting the strength and location of the East Asian jet stream, and subsequently, the weather it delivers to North America.

  • The Southern Oscillation Index tracks differences in air pressure between the eastern and western sides of the tropical Pacific.

  • The Arctic Oscillation (AO) refers to an atmospheric circulation pattern over the mid-to-high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The most obvious reflection of the phase of this oscillation is the north-to-south location of the storm-steering, mid-latitude jet stream.

  • Over the span of days or weeks, the strength of surface air pressure over the North Atlantic seesaws between Iceland and the Azores Islands. The shifting pressure reflects changes in atmospheric circulation that have a big impact on mid-latitude weather in the U.S. and Europe. 

  • El Niño and La Niña conditions occur when abnormally warm or cool waters accumulate in tropical latitudes of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. The Oceanic Nino Index is the tool NOAA scienitsts use to watch for these temperature changes.