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EL NINO! More Extreme Snowstorms and Flooding Events Possible This Winter

The Gilmer Free Press

Of recent years, we’ve experienced a barrage of winter storms, incredible amounts of flooding and unbelievable severe weather reports with more tornadoes. At times, Appalachian weather can be rough.

Can this weather pattern become even more extreme? Yes, it can get crazier than before and the answer is “El Nino”.

According to forecasters with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, this one is already the second strongest on record for this time of year. It could be one of the most potent weather changers in 65 years. Unofficially it’s been named “Bruce Lee”, after the action hero.

“Satellite measurements show that this El Nino is now more powerful than a king-sized one in 1997-98, which started weaker and finished stronger.“ NASA oceanographer Bill Patzert says.

So what is El Nino and why is it strong? El Nino is not a hurricane or a type of storm. It’s simply a weather pattern where warmer ocean temperatures, across the Pacific, alter the global weather pattern including the West Virginia regions.

Calmer Weather Helps Crews Tamp Down Western Wildfires

The Gilmer Free Press

U.S.A.—Fire crews were stepping up their attack Monday against wildfires that have destroyed dozens of homes and forced hundreds to flee in Western states.

Calmer weather on Sunday helped firefighters tighten their grip on the blazes, but dry, hot weather is expected in the days ahead.

A look at conditions:


WASHINGTON

More crews, including some from the Washington National Guard, are being mobilized in the battle Monday with several large fires threatening homes in the Chelan area in central Washington.

The blazes have destroyed more than 50 structures, forced about 1,500 residents to flee and scorched more than 155 square miles. Scores of homes remain threatened.

Fire incident spokesman Wayne Patterson says air tankers have established lines to keep the flames from reaching downtown Chelan, a popular resort town.

Helicopters have been dipping into Lake Chelan to pull up water to battle blazes north of the lake.

“There were literally people on the beaches near that lake, in their swim wear out on the lake right near it,“ Patterson told The Associated Press.

Improved weather helped firefighters Sunday, but hot temperatures and low humidity are expected this week.


OREGON

Higher humidity and lighter winds allowed crews to slow the spread of wildfires burning up eastern Oregon.

A lightning-sparked fire near John Day has grown to nearly 60 square miles and has destroyed at least 26 homes. Roughly 300 firefighters were assigned to the blaze over the weekend and more are expected.

South of Baker City, the improved weather helped firefighters make progress on the state’s largest wildfire. The blaze has charred almost 140 square miles and destroyed six homes.

Meanwhile, hundreds of evacuated residents on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation were allowed to return home Sunday as danger eased from the County Line 2 Fire. Containment of the 85-square mile blaze increased to 25 percent.


IDAHO

Wildfires have destroyed 42 homes and at least 79 outbuildings in northern Idaho near the town of Kamiah.

More than 700 firefighters on Monday along with 40 fire engines and four helicopters are fighting the blazes trying to protect homes but residents along an 11-mile section of U.S. Highway 12 have been told to be ready to flee.

The group of lightning-caused fires has scorched about 70 square miles of mainly forest and is 15 percent contained.

A 70-year-old woman was killed when she fell while preparing to flee from the wildfire, the Idaho County Sheriff’s Department said Saturday. Cheryl Lee Wissler of Adams Grade died Friday from a head injury she suffered when she fell, authorities said.

On the Idaho-Oregon border some 800 firefighters had a giant 443-square-mile wildfire 70 percent contained.

The week-old fire has scorched grassland needed for cattle and primary habitat for sage grouse, a bird under consideration for federal protections.


CALIFORNIA

A fire that has been burning for more than a week about 100 miles north of San Francisco has destroyed nine homes and charred more than 39 square miles

But firefighters are gaining ground against the wildfire with 85 percent containment reported Monday.

Fire officials say that over the weekend smoke from the fire drifted into the San Francisco Bay Area and especially east of the city, where it was trapped in valleys for several days, causing hazy skies and breathing difficulties for some.

The fire is the second of two blazes that have charred land near dry Lower Lake. The first one, which was contained Friday after more than two weeks, destroyed 43 homes.

In Southern California, crews working through the night stopped the spread of two Los Angeles County fires that burned several structures, charred hundreds of acres of dry brush and led to the arson arrest of one person.

A brush fire sparked near a riverbed in Montebello, a suburb east of downtown Los Angeles, halted operations at an oil field and prompted the evacuation of a park. The fire, which grew to about 200 acres, is 20 percent contained Monday.

Montebello authorities say a 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson.

To the north a wildfire that burned buildings at an abandoned rehabilitation center in rural Castaic has charred about 300 acres in Angeles National Forest. It is 10 percent contained.

Meanwhile, a 2-and-a-half-square-mile fire in the forest above the suburbs of Glendora and Azusa is 60 percent contained.


COLORADO

Lightning across northwestern Colorado is suspected of sparking about 30 fires over the weekend, keeping firefighters running from one blaze to another.

The largest of the wildfires is the Four Mile Fire, which is burning on just over 1,000 acres 20 miles north of Craig. It was 80 percent contained Monday.

Many of the smaller fires have been contained.

The Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit says over 4,000 lightning strikes hit northwestern Colorado on Saturday and Sunday.


MONTANA

So many wildfires have ignited across the Northern Rockies this month that fire officials are allowing some that might have been snuffed out under normal circumstances to burn.

There were 86 active fires burning across Montana and Idaho as of Monday, and seven in Montana were listed as unstaffed due to a lack of resources, according to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center. All seven are small fires burning in remote areas in northwestern Montana.

More than 100 aircraft, 75 crews and 229 fire engines were being used to fight fires in Montana and Idaho, according to the coordination center. Additional crews and equipment were being used for fires outside the Northern Rockies.

Montana Department of Natural Resources Administrator Bob Harrington said only skeleton crews remained to respond to any new fires, while state officials were relying on local fire departments to respond if there were outbreaks in relatively quiet eastern Montana.

NOAA: El Niño Is ‘Significant and Strengthening,’ Could Rival Strongest on Record

The Gilmer Free Press

A new forecast from NOAA says this El Niño is “significant and strengthening,” with the potential to become very strong — even rivaling the strongest on record.

This is the strongest forecast NOAA has issued so far this year.

In order for El Niño to be classified as “very strong,” the temperature in the tropical Pacific Ocean needs to be running at least 2 degrees Celsius warmer than average for at least three months in a row. That can be a difficult hurdle to jump, and it’s only happened twice since meteorologists started to monitor conditions in the tropical Pacific: the winters of 1982-1983 and 1997-1998.

As of early August, this year is running neck and neck with the record 1997-1998 season, and NOAA forecasters are confident we will see an increase in tropical Pacific ocean temperature that would push this El Niño event into at least the “strong” category, potentially reaching or even exceeding the 2-degree “very strong” criteria.

NOAA forecasters say there’s a 90 percent chance that El Niño will continue through the winter months, and an 85 percent chance (up from 80 in July) that it will last into early spring next year. Looking at the models, oceans temperatures and atmospheric patterns, NOAA says they see a “significant and strengthening El Niño.”

What does this mean for winter?

In the West, a very strong El Niño would greatly increase the chances for torrential rain storms this winter — something that drought-stricken California direly needs, though these storms come with a cost. The 1997-1998 super El Niño brought widespread flooding and landslides that killed 17 people and caused more than half a billion dollars in damage, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Even if this winter delivers a super El Niño, it probably still won’t be enough to end the drought. As of this week, anywhere from 12 to 20 inches of rain is needed over the course of six months in order to squash the drought in California’s Central Valley.

In the Mid-Atlantic, results have been a mixed bag, and highly dependent on El Niño’s final strength. Moderate or strong El Niños could potentially deliver a very white winter, while a very strong El Niño could mean conditions too warm for snow in the Mid-Atlantic.

“El Niño events have had a remarkably varied history in our region when it comes to snowfall,” said Matt Rogers in an early winter outlook. “Our most recent El Niño event (2009-2010), a moderate one, gave us the snowiest winter on record (56.1 inches), while the strongest one (1997-1998) was very warm and only delivered 0.1 inches the entire season, our least snowy outcome!!”

But El Niño is not the only game in town, and the winter outcome will highly depend on what else is going on across the Northern Hemisphere. For example, as of July, the North Atlantic Oscillation, which meteorologists use to measure the strength and location of the jet stream during wintertime, was running very negative. Historically, this pattern has continued into the winter months and means the Eastern United States could have plenty of cold air to play with come December.

Combine a few Arctic blasts (polar vortex, anyone?) with ample moisture from a very strong El Niño pattern and we might be looking at a gangbuster, snowy winter. Even more so if El Niño ends up being slightly weaker than predicted.

Heat Index Soars in Iran as ‘Heat Dome’ Settles Over Middle East

The Gilmer Free Press

BANDAR MAHSHAHR, Iran—In Iran on Friday afternoon, July 31, 2015 the heat index touched 163 degrees Fahrenheit—a blistering total, rare even for one of the hottest regions on earth.

A temperature reading of 109 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, on Thursday. A day later, it was 115 degrees. The apparent temperature (heat index) was even worse.

It’s thought to be among the highest readings in history. But Bandar Mahshahr isn’t alone.

Heat index is a measurement that combines temperature and dew point. An unbelievably high dew point of 90 degrees is only further exacerbating the already miserable and dangerous temperatures currently being witnessed across the Middle East.

“That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,“ remarked AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Saglia.

Meanwhile, Baghdad, Iraq, scored an all-time record with a reading of 124 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Gilmer Free Press


The unofficial heat index record is 178 degrees Fahrenheit, measured in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 08, 2003.

Meteorologists say the stagnant heat is the result of a high pressure system that’s created a “heat dome” atop the Middle East, magnifying rising temperatures and high humidity. Unfortunately, there’s currently no relief in sight.

“The ridge of high pressure will remain in place across the Middle East through at least the next week, so more oppressive heat and humidity, and more astounding apparent temperatures, are likely through the next several days,“ Sagliani said.

Municipalities are reportedly struggling to keep up with high electricity and water demands, as residents crank up their air conditioners and douse themselves in cool water.

Canada Tornado One of Longest in History

The Gilmer Free Press

The amount of time tornadoes spend on the ground is usually measured in minutes. That won’t quite do for the behemoth that hit the Canadian province of Manitoba Monday night—figure nearly three hours. Given that the longest on record is the three-and-a-half-hour Tri-State tornado of 1925 in the US Midwest, the Manitoba tornado is right up there among the world’s longest, reports USA Today. Officials with Environment Canada haven’t provided a final assessment yet, notes the Winnipeg Free Press. One big break is that the storm didn’t hit any towns, though it took down utility poles, trees, and damaged roads in rural areas. No injuries were reported.

“The wind intensity was so strong that there were parts of Highway 256 in the southwest part of the province that literally had the asphalt stripped off the road’s surface,“ storm chaser Greg Johnson tells the CBC. “I’m still on an adrenalin kick right now, I’m not gonna lie.“

Friday’s Rare Blue Moon the Last Until 2018

The Gilmer Free Press

When Friday’s blue moon arrives, don’t expect it to be blue—a blue moon isn’t actually that color, reports CNN, though some full moons can indeed have a bluish hue. The phrase “once in a blue moon” refers to something that is rare, and it was once used this way in the Maine Farmers’ Almanac when describing the third full moon in the rare season that has four (typically, there is only one full moon a month, thus a three-month season will have three full moons). But in 1946, Sky & Telescope magazine published an article that misunderstood this definition, instead calling the second full moon in a calendar month a blue moon. And it is indeed fairly rare: It happens once every 2.7 years or so.

This has become the modern definition and is used to describe Friday’s full moon, which is the second this month (the first was on July 02); it’ll be the last of its kind until January 2018. Interestingly, while the most recent blue moon according to this modern definition occurred at the end of August of 2012, the most recent blue moon according to the original definition occurred more recently, in August of 2013, when the full moon was the third of four that summer. As for the blue moon on July 31, while it may seem to last all night, it’s technically an “instantaneous event” that occurs at 6:43 AM EDT on the nose, reports Space.com.

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