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A Truly Unusual Year For Weather

Ithink nearly everyone who reads this will admit that we have seen some unusual and record-breaking weather over the last year or so across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. If you are feeling that you might be alone, that it is only our part of the world seeing these weather extremes, you would be wrong. It appears that 2010-11 might just go down as one of the most extreme years for weather across the whole planet.

Weather Underground cofounder and weather blogger Jeff Masters has written a rather lengthy article about this topic, and if you would like to read it in its entirety you can go to the following website: http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/article.html. If you want the condensed version then keep reading, as I will try to hit the key weather highlights from his article.

The first extreme weather event for 2010 was that the planet as a whole tied 2005 as the hottest year since reliable records began back in the late 1800s. What is really interesting about this, and I have talked about this several times, is that this record warm came during a period of historically low solar energy output. With the planet seeing a record

warm year, it wasn’t surprising that a record 19 countries recorded all-time record highs.

Also associated with the record heat is our next big weather event for 2010, and that was the devastating heat wave that hit Russia. During this heat wave Moscow had an amazing 33 consecutive days with high temperatures breaking 30 C. It has been estimated that nearly 55,000 people died from this heat wave, making it the deadliest heat wave in recorded history.

Our next unusual weather events have to deal with areas of low pressure. Globally, the planet saw a record low number of tropical cyclones (hurricanes) during 2010, with only 68 being recorded. At the same

time, the Atlantic Ocean saw its third busiest period of tropical cyclone activity with a rare tropical cyclone forming in the southern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil (there have only been seven known cyclones to form in this region).

The tropical regions are not the only places that saw the development of deep areas of low pressure during 2010. The American southwest saw a storm system move in off the Pacific in January 2010 which brought the strongest (or deepest low pressure) system in over 140 years to that regions. Sustained wind speeds in some areas of Arizona were reported at over 72 mph, which is the starting point for hurricanes. Our part of the world also saw a record-setting storm system move in during late October 2010. An area of low pressure moving through Minnesota and into Ontario deepened rapidly on Oct. 26 and it broke the record lowest pressure for a non-ocean- based storm. For our region, this storm brought heavy rains and prolonged winds that were gusting to over 100 km/h in some areas.

RECORD-SETTING RAINS

Going hand-in-hand with these strong storm systems, there was a large number of record rainfalls and flooding during 2010-11. Pakistan and Colombia both saw record-setting flooding during this period – and who can forget the flooding that occurred in northern Australia, which resulted in the most expensive natural disaster in their history? Last May saw a truly remarkable rainfall event in Tennessee, when over 450 mm of rain fell over a two-day period creating what was described as a one-in- 1,000-year flood. Finally, we have the record-setting rains that have hit a large part of western Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan and southern and western Alberta over the last two months.

So the question is, will this pattern of extreme weather become the new normal for our planet? The real answer is, we’re still not sure, but when you add extra energy (heat) to the atmosphere there are going to be changes as to how it behaves. The general feeling among weather and climate researchers is that as the planet warms, this type of extreme weather will occur more and more often. Every year will probably not be like the last year; the atmosphere will go through some quieter periods. But, as we continue to add more and more energy into the atmosphere it will be primed to go into extreme mode more often, sometimes with devastating results.

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Whenyouaddextraenergytothe atmospheretherearegoingtobe changesastohowitbehaves.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

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