The cyclone that won’t go away!

Just about two weeks ago the tropical storm that became cyclone Giovanna generated over the central Indian Ocean near the equator. Since then this storm grew in size and strength reaching category 4 intensity one week ago before making landfall in Madagascar on 13 February, near the capital of Antananarivo. Weakened by its interaction with the topography of the island the cyclone still managed to traverse it to emerge over the Mozambique Channel the next day as a tropical depression.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image showing two tropical cyclones active over the southern Indian Ocean on 20 February 2012

Once over the warm waters between the African continent and Madagascar the cyclone strengthened once again becoming a tropical storm and reaching category 1 strength on 19 February, which it maintained until earlier today 20 February 2012. The cyclone has been downgraded to tropical storm category and late in the day was moving generally south by southeast some 500 kilometers south of Reunion in the southern Indian Ocean. While it appears Giovanna will continue to weaken as it tracks over progressively colder waters, this storm has traveled close to 7,000 kilometers over the past 14 days.

Tropical storm Giovanna is being chased by a cyclone currently designated as Tropical Storm 13, which formed as a tropical depression over the south-central Indian Ocean some 4-5 days ago, and is near the island of Rodrigues in the Mauritius archipelago on 20 February 2012 moving in a generally southward track toward the course being followed by Giovanna.

Current cyclonic activity and the long lasting course of cyclone Giovanna are testimony of the coupled ocean-atmosphere condition that prevail over most of the Indian Ocean and the tropical South Pacific. Evidence of this cyclogenesis-favorable environment is apparent in the satellite image above, in the form of very cold cloud tops over a vast region of disturbed weather and rainfall reaching from the western Pacific across the Indian Ocean all the way to just off-shore eastern Africa.

Elsewhere in around the world the Caribbean and most of the tropical Atlantic basin north of the equator are calm and cool on20 February, but both the northeastern Pacific and Northern Atlantic are different stories. Over the Pacific it appears the Pineapple Express is quite active interacting with a polar jet stream near Alaska to create pulses of disturbed winter weather over large regions of North America reaching all the way into Texas and the southeastern USA. The satellite image below illustrates these conditions on 20 February 2012.

Satellite view for the aviation industry showing the calm, mostly col and dry Caribbean, Gulf and a good portion of the tropical Atlantic basin on 20 February 2012

Color enhanced infrared satellite image showing stormy conditions over portions of the northeastern Pacific Ocean and North America on 20 February 2012

These pulses of winter stormy weather are pushed beyond North America over the northern Atlantic and Europe beyond, where extreme weather events over the past few weeks have caused considerable damage and death in many areas. The satellite image below partially illustrates some of those prevailing conditions over Europe and beyond.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image showing large regions of disturbed winter weather over the North Atlantic and Europe on 20 February 2012

The reality of this northern hemisphere winter in 2011/2012 is that it has been anything, but typical. Late in coming in some regions, extreme in others, warmer than usual, wetter than usual, rare etc. It is clear that patterns have been changing as the effects of global climate change are becoming more apparent.

What will the rest of 2012 brings us in terms of climatic conditions? What will happen by way of cyclogenesis around the various basins worldwide? Only time will tell, but if current and recent activities are any indication, it is certain to be interesting! Keep watching!

State University System Climate Change Taskforce Workshop

  Last 14-15 November 2011 I had the opportunity of participating in the SUS CLIMATE CHANGE TASK FORCE WORKSHOP, organized and hosted by Florida Atlantic University [FAU], Florida State University [FSU], the University of Florida [UF], and The Florida Climate Institute. The event’s venue was Emerson Alumni Hall at UF in Gainesville.

Speaking as someone who has organized, hosted, participated in and otherwise attended a number of events on the topic of climate change over the past fifteen years I can attest to the fact that at times, for some of us with an interest in this critical field, as we have continued to see many of the same participants and to debate the same issues, and listen to the same topics being presented, it may have appeared repetitive, as it happens when you are preaching to the choir, or as if we were long on questions and short on solutions.

With regard to the above, I am pleased to report that this specific workshop was indeed refreshingly different. Although we took a look at the state of the science and other similarly traditional presentations, there was a much welcome emphasis on solutions, applications and on the business side of climate change. For example we heard from two non-academics, one the former mayor of the City of Gainesville who described for us how this Florida municipality and college town used the Climate Protection Agreement subscribed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing 1054 municipalities from all 50 states plus DC and Puerto Rico, as a blue print to promote grants and incentives for business and government to become more energy-efficient and reduce its climate-damaging emissions.

The net result of these initiatives by the City of Gainesville  has been the stimulation of businesses, and the creation of jobs, in sectors related to building insulation, roofing systems, more efficient heating and air conditioning systems, manufacturing and installation of solar energy systems and the installation of a 100 MW plant to generate electricity from biomass to replace previously purchased electrical power generated by fossil fuel plants. While generating all of these economic activity, that has benefited so many, the city has reduced its carbon footprint, it has become much more energy efficient, and it is on target to have achieved a 7% reduction in total emissions below the 1990 levels by the end of 2012. This is an excellent case-study of a community that will achieve the targets set by the controversial Kyoto Protocol, while also stimulating its economy and generating jobs, contrary to the dire predictions of nay-sayers and those who deny global climate change on the basis of ideology rather than facts.

Another speaker, this one from the private business sector, who addressed solutions and results rather than uncertainties and doomsday predictions, was the Director of Environmental Services Strategic Planning for Florida Power and Light. This speaker discussed major industry policies and program to address climate change, and in the process described specific programs by this giant utility company to increase the installed capacity for generating solar and wind energy, programs to increased zero-emission nuclear power generation, the hardening of existing infrastructure and of new buildings through programs of design criteria and retrofitting to incorporate adaptation to climate change impacts.

Several other speakers and panelists continued to provide examples of actual solutions and success stories, painting a picture of a paradigm shift in the climate change arena. It is clear numerous communities, pushed by both public and private sector programs, have moved from dwelling on the uncertainties of research and the need for more research to identifying and implementing actual solutions. Rather than waiting for the federal government to act of for directives from other sources, these communities have taken a proactive approach to contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation, while also showing this can be accomplished collaterally with beneficial economic results.

For a summary report of the full workshop please use the following link: SUMMARY REPORT

I had the privilege of presenting a poster [Presentation1 ] regarding what I see as a critical knowledge gap in  the criteria used for designing and building structures and houses in the coastal regions, which are vulnerable to hurricanes and storm surge that will become increasingly more damaging as these hazards are exacerbated by sea level rise driven by global warming. Following is a link to the abstract of my poster presentation [Poster Abstract] which was titled Storm Surge and Climate Change: The Forgotten Factor.