El Ninos Could Double as the Pacific Warms
May 15, 2012, Ormond Beach, Florida. Photo by
Oct. 2, 2012 --
NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement satellite mission is working to understanding extreme weather with photos of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. But how do these storms look on the ground? NASA's GPM extreme weather photo contest highlights the beauty and ferocity seen first hand from storm-chasers before they duck for cover. Here are NASA's top five picks from over 100 submissions. This photo by Jason Weingart, a photography student at the University of Central Florida, shows a Volusia County lifeguard signaling to surfers at Ormond Beach, Fla., that it is time to exit the water. "The storm actually pushed back on shore as it moved south, and then became strong enough for tornado warnings on three separate occasions. I saw a large wall cloud, another spectacular shelf cloud, and some very tight rotation in the couple hours I stuck with the storm after I left the beach in Ormond," wrote Weingart. NASA Fun Fact: "A shelf cloud is a type of arcus cloud with a wedge shape. It is a low level, horizontal cloud formation usually associated with the leading edge of thunderstorms. The leading (outer) part of the shelf cloud appears smooth due to rising cloud motions, while the underside often appears jagged and wind-torn."
May 22, 2011 Dane County, Wisconsin. Photo by
Atmospheric scientist Grant Petty of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, was with a photography club on a farm in Dane County when he saw this thunderstorm building several miles to the east. "The storm cell dropped 1-3/4 inch hail near Sun Prairie. Fall streaks barely visible under the right side of the anvil may in fact be the falling hail,” he said.
PHOTOS: Sun Dogs, Halos, and Double Rainbows
July 5, 2011 Maricopa, Arizona. Photo by Megg
“This photo was taken in a wash that runs through my neighborhood in Maricopa, AZ. The wash runs north/south through the neighborhood and the haboob (type of intense dust storm) was rolling in from the east," reported photographer Meggan Wood. "I saw the wall of dust coming and quickly drove to the wash to get a good wide-open view of the height of the dust looming over the houses. I barely had time to get back to my car before it hit and I was engulfed! The darkness was surprising but it only lasted about 10-15 minutes before it thinned out enough to where I could drive back home, only about 2 minutes away. This was the giant haboob that made national news when it rolled through and entirely covered all of Phoenix and some surrounding cities. Maricopa is about a half-hour drive south of the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport."
PHOTOS: After the Dust Settles
September 1, 2012 Arlington, Virginia, lookin
Journalist Brian Allen with the Voice of America was at home in Arlington, Va., when this storm rolled over Washington. "The storm that blew through started off with an incredible amount of lightning and then dumped a significant amount of rain in a short amount of time -- on the other side of the river. DC got drenched and Arlington didn't see a drop,” he reported.
NEWS: Lightning Still Largely a Mystery
May 30, 2012 Kechi, Kansas. Photo by Brian Jo
Writer and photographer Brian Johnson is a also an avid storm-chaser for several Kansas radio stations. “As a large squall line moved through the area. The National Weather Service had warned about a large scale Derecho forming and moving through," he wrote. "This spawned a couple brief severe thunderstorms that dumped hail on rush hour traffic before the main line moved in. As the bigger storm moved into the Wichita area, reports were coming in of 70 mph winds and hail. There is an open farm field roughly two miles from my house that I shot lightning on the previous night. I sat there for about 20 minutes before this large squall line pushed through the clouds. I was hit with a pretty good gust front as it got closer, but as the winds increased, I decided to get to shelter. This photo was one of the last ones I took." Read more about Johnson's storm-chasing adventure here:
NEWS: Photos Catch Monster Storm's Approach: Big Pics
PHOTOS: Twilight: 15 Reasons to Watch
Twice as many of nature’s troublesome children, the El Niños, could arrive to cause havoc in the coming century.
Intense El Niño periods could double in frequency as the Earth’s average temperature continues to rise, warned an international team of atmospheric scientists and oceanographers. The researchers forecast higher warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator, relative to surrounding waters, based on 20 computerized models of the planet.
The difference in temperatures could help spark an extreme El Niño and unleash flooding rains over the west coast of the Americas while parching Australia.
“We currently experience an unusually strong El Niño event every 20 years,” said co-author, Agus Santoso of the University of New South Wales, in a press release. “Our research shows this will double to one event every 10 years.”
El Niño and La Niña together, make up the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). A La Nina event involves abnormally cool water in the equatorial Pacific, while El Niño occurs when the water is warmer than average.
The recent results of the 20 computer models showed that surface temperatures in the equatorial eastern Pacific could rise above 28 degrees Celsius more frequently. At that temperature, an extreme El Niño event can be triggered, warned the simulators. Nature Climate Change Letters published the results of the research.
Extreme El Niño events may cause deluges in the United States and Peru, yet leave the other side of the Pacific deathly dry. The 1982-1983 El Niño caused disastrous flooding in Peru. Yet the same event resulted in droughts in Indonesia and Australia.
The ’82-’83 event also hurt marine life and people dependent upon that life. The warm surface waters of El Niño cut off the circulation of cold, nutrient rich water from deeper in the Pacific. The lack of deepwater nutrients knocked out the base of the marine food chain and thereby starved both fish and fishermen. During the 1997-1998 El Niño , torrential rains flooded California and caused disastrous mudslides (shown above).
Photo: El Niño storms caused the Rio Nido mud slides in northern California, damaging houses and cars, seen here on March, 1, 1998. Credit: Dave Gatley, FEMA News Photo, Wikimedia Commons