Weather alert for Toronto, 4 January 2014

I like these detailed weather alerts.

City of Toronto
5:23 PM EST Saturday 04 January 2014
Special weather statement
for City of Toronto continued

Winter storm with heavy snow later Sunday and Sunday night, with mixed precipitation for some regions. Windy and sharply colder again Monday with some blowing snow and lake effect snow-squalls.

Old man winter is about to have another go at Southern Ontario as a winter storm developing over Oklahoma threatens the region.

A weak cold front from a separate weather system affecting Northern Ontario will slip into Southern Ontario tonight. This front will give a few centimetres of snow to many areas by Sunday morning, with 5 cm or more falling in locales east of Lake Huron to the south of Georgian Bay. This front will likely stall north of lakes Erie and Ontario on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a low pressure system developing over Oklahoma today will intensify and track northeastward along the line of the stalled front, crossing Southern Ontario Sunday night.

Some disorganized snow is expected on Sunday over some regions. As the deepening low approaches, the snow will become heavy over Southwestern Ontario Sunday afternoon and over the remaining regions Sunday evening. The snow will likely change to some rain near Eastern Lake Erie and Lake Ontario as well as parts of Eastern Ontario later Sunday evening. There is also a threat of some freezing rain in these areas. Any freezing rain that occurs will have virtually no impact on hydro for those areas impacted by the recent ice storm. But more significant freezing rain may impact travel to some degree over Eastern Ontario. Freezing rain warnings will likely be issued later tonight. The precipitation will taper off overnight Sunday or by early Monday in the east.

It appears that regions north of a line from roughly Leamington to London to Barrie to Pembroke will receive snowfall amounts of 15 to 20 cm. Amounts will likely be up to 5 cm south of that line with locally 10 cm in some areas.

In the wake of the storm, bitterly cold west to northwest winds will return on Monday, producing blowing and drifting snow in areas which receive the most snow from the storm. Furthermore, intense snow squalls are forecast to develop off Lake Huron and Georgian Bay Monday and persist into mid week.

Travel conditions are expected to deteriorate and become hazardous due to accumulating snow and poor visibility in heavy snow over Southern Ontario Sunday. If freezing rain falls, untreated surfaces may quickly become icy and slippery.

There is still some uncertainty as to the exact track of the storm centre and where the freezing rain and heaviest snow will fall. Environment Canada will continue to monitor this evolving situation and issue warnings accordingly.

It should be noted that widespread dangerous wind chills are likely especially from Monday night through Wednesday as some of the coldest air in years seems poised to settle across the region accompanied by brisk winds.

The public is advised to monitor future forecasts and warnings as warnings may be required or extended. Please monitor the latest forecasts and warnings from Environment Canada at

Which air temperature records are valid

Jeff Masters has a detailed analysis of heat records around the world: “Hottest air temperatures reported on Earth.”

Conclusion: Death Valley has the hottest verified records, but much of Africa is not monitored by properly sited instruments.

This March was the warmest on record for much of the U.S.

Temperature anomalies for March 2012 compared to average since 1981

The map above shows anomalies compared to the average from 1981-2010, which in itself is a shifted baseline since temperatures started to warm up noticeably in 1986.

Over 16,000 high-temperature records were broken in the U.S. during March 2012, and by large margins of around 4.5° Centigrade or 9.8° Fahrenheit. The U.S. Northeast was particularly warm, which enabled tornadoes to form. The Pacific Northwest coast was cooler than usual right along the ocean. All regions except the Pacific Northwest had unusual temperatures, with either above-average temperatures or an unusual number of warm days: “NOAA confirms unprecedented warmth in March.” Maps are available at NOAA.

The map below shows state temperature records for March. The red is warmest in 118 years. The orange is warmest in 113 – 117 years, and so on.

Temperature records: warmest/coldest in this many years

Rogue waves on the Great Lakes

What really happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald? Some new evidence from Dive Detectives suggests that it was broken up by extra-high rogue waves during a hurricane-force storm. The investigating board was quick to blame employee error in leaving hatch covers improperly latched–although the sailor’s lives depended on doing it right. However, other ships on the Great Lakes are known to have broken in half without warning. If it weren’t for the testimony of a single survivor, it, too might have been written off as employee error. Another ship manufactured in the same way developed cracks and broke up while being towed away for demolition. At the time the Edmund Fitzgerald sank, the load limits had been increased so that it was carrying more than it was designed for and riding lower in the water. It had been inspected for structural safety only ten days before.

The Edmund Fitzgerald

Both ships are lakers, long, broad ships limited by the size of the smallest locks that they’ll pass through. The assumption in building them is that the lakes do not develop waves large enough to, say, lift the ends of the ship and leave the middle unsupported or vice versa, or to twist it like a sponge. Ocean-going ships, or salties, are shorter, with the bridge in the middle to help reinforce the ship’s body. The superstructures of lakers are at the ends, leaving a large area free for cargo loading–but leaving the middle weaker.

Global warming in Bangkok

This fall’s flooding in Thailand killed more than 700 people while costing 54 billion dollars in damage and lost revenue.

partial map ofT hailand with northen sections flooded

Flooding in Thailand, Oct. 2011


Scientists and weather forecasters are worried about the fate of the capital city, Bangkok. It’s built on a delta of the river Chao Phraya, and has canals as well as roads (flood map).

* Weather patterns are changing and rainfall patterns are becoming more erratic.Typhoons may appear in unexpected places.

* Typhoons have increased from one every 7 or 8 years to one every 3 or 4 years

* The temperature in Thailand has risen two degrees in the last forty years. Consequently, storms have more energy and are more intense.

* Precipitation during the monsoon has risen by 15%. During the rainy season, a metre of rain can fall in less than an hour.

In addition, the city will end up under water:

* The sea level is rising 3 mm per year.

*The city is based on a river delta. Bangkok is sinking into its soft clay substrate about 4 cm a year as water is pumped out.

* In a really big storm, as much as 30 square km will be flooded with overflow from the river and polluted water from the canals.

map of city of Bangkok with winding river through it

Bangkok's flood embankments

The King, a hydrological engineer, has made flood control a priority for thirty years. The city is protected from flooding by overflow ponds and channels that take water from upriver directly to the sea. Pumps can lower the level of the canals 20 cm, helping the city to drain. But it’s not enough to control the damage from typhoons and rising sea levels.  But there’s no magic in mega0projects. People are leaving their homes near the canals. They remember the great flood of 2538 (1995 in our calendar). They’re piling up sandbags and building barriers and raising their houses.

Coastal erosion is fierce and soil is constantly being washed away in the southern part of the city. One temple has been surrounded by water in the last twenty years and the lower levels are flooded. The village it served has been washed away in the last fifteen years.  Only the telephone poles remain.

New York City is another city that is vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Ovenless in Seattle

This appears to be working! I’ll have to try it one day!

trays of cookies baking on the dashboard of a closed car, seen through the windshield

Penguin chicks are losing their feathers

Naked Magellanic penguin chick

…and we don’t know why. However, for some reason we’re not guessing organic toxins from oil spills and industry: “So far, the possible causes include pathogens, thyroid disorders, nutrient imbalances, or genetics.”
The loss of feathers means that chicks lose heat, grow more slowly, and are more likely to die. The disorder appeared in 2006 on both sides of the South Atlantic in different penguin species, Magellanic and African. To me, that suggests a wind-borne or water-borne problem, perhaps contaminating food, not “genetics.” I suspect organochlorines, CFCs, and the like. Has anyone done a biological assay of a dead chick?

The problem began in 2006, peaked in 2007 with 97% of the chicks suffering feather loss, and subsided in 2008 (for now).

Great Lakes feel like bath water

This summer has been so warm that the Great Lakes are as much as 8 degrees Centigrade above their normal temperatures. The Hamilton Spectator.

(Aug 13, 2010) The combination of an unseasonably mild winter and spring followed by a hot summer has led to record-breaking water temperatures in the Great Lakes. Lake Superior is a stunning 8° C above normal for this time of year—and the big lake they call Gitche Gumee will get warmer still for another few weeks.

“It’s really remarkable,” said Jay Austin, a professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Large Lakes Observatory. “The surface waters on Superior at one site are over 70 degrees Fahrenheit right now (21° C),” Austin added. “Usually, Lake Superior doesn’t break 60 (16° C).”

Lake Michigan has also reached record temperatures, at about 4° C above normal. The other three Great Lakes haven’t set records, but they are all above normal. As recently as last weekend, Lake Ontario’s surface temperatures reached 24 C, and by early July, Lake Erie had reached 27 C. “That’s bath water,” said Austin.

The warm water is a result of an unusually warm winter, which drastically reduced the amount of ice that formed across the Great Lakes, but most particularly in Lake Superior. Austin said he preferred to hedge his bets when asked to explain why there was so little ice cover. Part of the reason, he said, was the natural cycle of an El Nino winter in 2009-10, which traditionally means milder weather in eastern Canada. “But at the same time, it’s on top of a general trend over the last 30 years towards less ice and warmer summers and that trend is consistent with the whole idea of climate change,” Austin added….

That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll have a mild winter.

“Work that we did a few years ago showed that winter conditions will play a very important role in determining what happens the following summer,” said Austin. “But it doesn’t appear that it works the other way around….

What we might enjoy, however, is a slower decline into winter, said Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips. “It may take a little longer for the ice to form and it may also mean huge amounts of lake-effect snow,” said Phillips. “It’s so Canadian to worry about winter when we’re still in the middle of summer,” he added with a chuckle.

What has surprised Phillips is the consistency of warmth that southern Ontario has enjoyed since last fall. Nine of the past 10 months have been warmer than normal, and we’re on track to set a record for the warmest first eight months of a year. And there’s no end in sight, Phillips noted happily. Environment Canada’s medium-range forecast predicts above-normal temperatures for southern Ontario for the rest of August, September, October and November.


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