Record high temperatures were tied or broken in over a dozen states from the Plains to the mid-Atlantic, including some all-time records for the month of December.
After a busy evening of severe weather and tornadoes, 34 tornadoes were reported from Texas to Alabama on the 25th, with high winds affecting the same areas, plus Florida on the 25th. At least 14 people were injured and one man killed.
After Christmas, a powerful winter storm system pounded the heartland before moving into the north-east, where residents faced high winds and heavy snow that disrupted holiday travel, knocked out power to thousands of homes and were blamed in at least six deaths. More than 1,600 flights were cancelled or delayed on Wednesday, scores of motorists were stuck on icy roads or slid into drifts, and blizzard warnings were issued on Thursday, amid snowy gusts of 30mph that blanketed roads and windshields.
2012 is officially named the warmest year on record in the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced. In November, when temperature trends showed October to be the fifth warmest across the globe since record. The average temperature for 2012 (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) 12.9C or 1.8 deg C above the 20th-century average, and 0.56 deg C above 1998, the previous warmest year. Every contiguous U.S. state had an above-average annual temperature for 2012, with 19 states boasting a record warm year and an additional 26 states experiencing one of their 10 warmest in 2012. Last year also was second only to 1998 in terms of extreme climate, as measured by U.S. Climate Extremes Index, which takes into account factors like high temperatures, dry spells and rainy periods. The historic ranking for 2012 was driven mostly by warm daytime maximum temperatures, warm night-time maximum temperatures as well as the footprint of the drought that swept much of the country.
Powerful Typhoon Bopha has torn its way through the southern Philippines with winds as high as 130 mph at landfall. The storm left at least 418 with many people reported missing. The system weakened on the 6th near the southern end of Negros, about 350 miles south of Manila, heading towards the west-northwest at about 15 mph. Bopha, keeping well south of Manila, was on track to clip the southwestern island of Palawan before entering the open South China Sea. As Bopha bore down from the east, it was upgraded by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center to a "super typhoon", having Category-5 equivalent top sustained winds of about 160 mph. It was the second stint of super typhoon status for Bopha, the other being on Sunday, as Bopha menaced Palau.
Cold, continental air flowing over the Yellow Sea gave the Korean Peninsula its first widespread snow cover on 11th. Snow has also fallen as low as sea level in western and northern Japan, as the first widespread "sea-effect" snows hit the country. By Tuesday, Sapporo had built up a 27 cm snow cover. Also in Hokkaido, but inland, Asahikawa has had as much as 50 cm of snow cover since late last week. The cold has been significant. Seoul, South Korea, has been an average of 5.3 deg C colder than normal for the first 10 days of December. Average temperature in Beijing, China, has been 3.1 deg C below normal.
Three people were killed and several injured after an unusual storm, described by witnesses as a "mini tornado", hit New Zealand's largest city of Auckland, toppling trees and ripping debris from a construction site. The tornado, driven by a powerful storm cell, tore concrete slabs from a building site and dropped them onto a truck, killing two people inside. Details on the third death were not immediately available. At least seven people injured in the storm were sent to hospital.
Western and northern Argentina through much of Paraguay baked under a nearly overhead sun. Highest temperatures were over the dry inter-mountain basins of the Argentina Cuyo: 43.1C at La Rioja and 43.5C at Catamarca.
Many eastern Canadians received their first true taste of winter early on the 10th s a storm spread snow, sleet and freezing rain from central Ontario to southern Quebec. Widespread snowfall of 15-30 cm by Tuesday was forecast for a wide swathe of Quebec and Labrador.
The last two weeks have had a number of snow outbreaks, some of heavy snow, across central and eastern Europe. Southern Germany, eastern Sweden, western Ukraine, western Russia and parts of the Balkan Peninsula are among the snowy spots. Not surprisingly, the cold has coincided with a sharp cold outbreak. A wide area of Europe has been 2 to 5 deg C colder than normal since the start of December. Scandinavia and Finland, however, have been 5 to 10 deg C colder than usual. Blizzards blocked roads, stranded villages, disrupted power supplies and temporarily shut down an airport in the Balkans, the fourth straight day of tough winter weather in the region of southeastern Europe. In one of the worst-hit areas, snowdrifts and avalanches blocked roads in hilly northern Montenegro, where about 1 m of snow fell overnight. Across the border in southwestern Serbia, heavy snowfall blocked roads to more than a dozen villages, with some left without electricity and schools being closed for the rest of the week. At least nine deaths across the region have been blamed on the snow and deep freeze, with temperatures as low as -15C. To the south, in Kosovo, heavy snow blocked villages in the west, toward the border with Albania, where classes in local schools were suspended. The milder climates of Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, and the nation's Adriatic coast usually escape tough winter weather, but snow is blanketing Podgorica, too, and closed its airport for much of the day on Tuesday. In Bosnia, some areas were left without electricity. And in Croatia, doctors warned the elderly and sick to stay indoors as hospitals reported dozens of cases of broken limbs from falls on the ice and snow. In southern Germany, snow depth reached 82 cm Tuesday at Oberstdorf. Zugspitze mountain, Germany's highest, has picked up a hefty dose of snow lately. Since Sunday alone, snow depth has risen from 125 cm to 170 cm.
At least 170 flights in London have been cancelled and others delayed after a shroud of icy-cold fog settled over much of England. At Heathrow Airport, about 150 flights were cancelled, with more than 20 more being scrubbed at London City Airport.
20thThis year's Antarctic ozone hole was smaller than in recent years, both in terms of area and depth. Using information gathered from the ground, from weather balloons and from satellites, the ozone hole area reached zero on 10 November - earlier than in recent years. The reason for the weak ozone hole this year is twofold: Firstly, relatively warm temperatures in the stratosphere (around 20 km altitude) limited the formation of polar stratospheric clouds which, through a chemical chain reaction between water, nitric acid and halogenated reservoir gases cause ozone loss. In this respect, the 2012 ozone hole was similar to the one in 2010, when a sudden stratospheric warming in July/August gave rise to a smaller amount of polar stratospheric clouds than usual. Secondly, the polar vortex in the stratosphere circle the Antarctic continent - was also relatively perturbed and this led to ozone rich air being transported in from lower latitudes. This transport of ozone rich air affected in particular the stratosphere at around 25 km altitude, which is above the region where most of the ozone loss takes place, which is typically in the 14-20 km height range. Ozone loss in the 14-20 km region took place at nearly the same extent as in recent years.
Tropical Cyclone Freda has brought heavy rainfall to the Solomon Islands and continues to churn over the open Coral Sea. The storm ripped through the Solomon Islands, bringing heavy rain and damaging winds as it passed from north to south over the collection of islands. While not nearly as destructive as Evan was across Fiji or Samoa, the storm still caused flooding and wind damage. While tracking near the Islands of Makira and Rennell, both of which house major populations, the storm was expected to bring sustained winds of 60 mph, with higher gusts. Some locations easily saw over 10 inches of rain thanks to the slow moving nature of the storm.
Tropical Claudia has been the second strong cyclone of the South Indian Ocean cyclone season. The first was Anais, which played out in mid-October north and northeast of the Mascarene Islands (Mauritius, Reunion). Claudia was named on 7 December over the mid-Indian Ocean, southeast of Diego Garcia. Top sustained winds (1-minute average) were reckoned by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) to be 105 kn on Sunday into Monday.
Tropical Cyclone Evan has crossed Fiji on the 17th, leaving a trail of destruction. Evan, which smashed homes, flattened trees and triggered flooding, was called the worst cyclone to strike Fiji in 20 years. Thousands of people had fled ahead of the storm, which last week left a trail of destruction in Samoa. The powerful storm's eye clipped the western shore of Viti Levu, the "big island" of Fiji and home to Nadi. The nation's biggest airport, located at Nadi, registered hurricane gusts for at least six hours; one gust reached 104 mph.
On the 12th-13th slow-moving, strengthening Tropical Cyclone Evan has dealt out destructive winds and flooding rain in the state of Samoa. At least two people in the state of Samoa have been killed with widespread damage reported around the capital of Apia.
Winds and rains of Evan also swept over Pago Pago in neighboring American Samoa, which was bracing for a landfall later in the day. Winds toppled trees and power lines, as crops and buildings were damaged or destroyed by the storm, called the worst to hit Samoa in 20 years. Tropical Cyclone Evan made landfall on the island of Upolu, home to Apia, by early Thursday morning, Eastern Time. Highest sustained winds at the time were 80 kn.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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