GLOBAL WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS
The heavy snowfall that hit northern and central Turkey in the last days of 2015 has continued into the New Year, causing flight cancellations and road chaos. The bad weather prompted Istanbul authorities to warn residents against going outside unless necessary, while officials said they had more than 1,000 vehicles and heavy machinery ready to keep roads open. Turkish Airlines cancelled approximately 300 flights in and out of the main Ataturk airport and many at Sabiha Gokcen, Istanbul's second airport. Ferries across the Bosphorus Strait bisecting Istanbul were disrupted but the waterway remained open to shipping. The problem here was the strength of wind, roughing up the water and bringing blizzard visibility. At least one person was killed and 30 were injured in a mass pile-up on a major road into Istanbul involving 13 cars. Since the snow started on Wednesday evening, 18 cm has accumulated at Ataturk airport, far more in drifts. Northerly winds gusted to between 50 and 60 km per hour throughout Wednesday and Thursday. Every day in December has been unusually warm, registering above 10C, but as a cold front passed over Istanbul that all changed.
Temperatures fell below 0C for the first time this season in New York City on Monday morning (4th), the latest date on record for such an occurrence. The city's previous record for the latest date for temperatures to drop below freezing was 22 December 1998.
The US experienced its second-warmest year on record in 2015, which was also one of the costliest years for climate and weather-related disasters, federal scientists announced on Thursday. The average national temperature in 2015 was 12.4C, 1.3C above the 20th- century average - making it the second-warmest year since record-keeping began in 1895, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said. Last year was the 19th consecutive year where the annual average US temperature exceeded its 20th-century average - only 2012 was warmer, with an average temperature of 12.9C.
At least two people are dead near Sarasota after tornadoes and severe thunderstorms crossed central and South Florida in the early morning hours of Sunday (18th). Tornado damage was reported in Siesta Key and Duette early on Sunday morning between 3-4 a.m. EST. The tornadoes were spawned as a line of strong thunderstorms crossed central and South Florida during the early morning hours of Sunday. The thunderstorms were associated with the storm that brought soaking rain to the rest of the southeastern United States with snow on its northern fringe. This storm followed in the footsteps of a storm that moved across Florida on Friday, producing damaging winds and a tornado across South Florida. Winds from one thunderstorm produced a gust of 82 mph at the Naples Municipal Airport.
Temperatures continued to plunge in Poland over the weekend, killing 21 people (4th). This brings the number of weather-related deaths over the past two months to 40. Poland has been in the grip of a freezing cold spell since the beginning of the New Year, with temperatures yet to climb above -7C. In the capital Warsaw, the temperature dropped to -18C in the first weekend of 2016. This is a complete contrast to the month of December, when the weather was far milder than usual - on December 26, the temperature in Warsaw reached a balmy 14C, 12 degC higher than the usual December maximum. The sudden change in the weather caught some people by surprise, and many of those who died were homeless people sleeping in makeshift shelters. Meanwhile, in the Polish Tatra Mountains, six tourists have slipped and fallen to their deaths since December 25 while trekking on frozen snow and ice. The cold spell over Poland is affecting much of central and eastern Europe. Freezing rain has caused travel disruption in Germany, and Balkan countries have seen the first major snowstorm this winter.
2015 broke the record for the hottest year since reporting began in 1850, according to the first full-year figures from the world's three principal temperature estimates. Data released by the UK Met Office shows the average global temperature in 2015 was 0.75 degC higher than the long-term average between 1961 and 1990, much higher than the 0.57 degC in 2014, which itself was a record. The Met Office also expects 2016 to set a new record, meaning the global temperature records will have been broken for three years running. Temperature data released in the US on Wednesday by Nasa and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) also showed 2015 broke previous records.
Millions of commuters across the eastern US battled disrupted transport systems struggling to recover from a huge blizzard (25th). Slippery pavements, crippled train networks, treacherous roads and cancelled flights were among the problems workers faced on Monday. The US government in Washington, as well as many schools and businesses throughout the region, are shut. As the clean up begins, at least 36 people have been left dead. Many East Coast residents spent Sunday digging out their cars and clearing pathways of snow which reached about 90 cm in five states. Flights resumed in Washington and Baltimore but 1,510 flights are delayed or cancelled throughout the region. Amtrak has limited service throughout the US northeast. Sections of the Pennsylvania turnpike, where over 500 vehicles were stranded over the weekend, have now reopened. It affected some 85 million people, at one point cutting the power to 300,000 people. The heaviest fall was recorded in Glengary, West Virginia, which had 42 inches of snow. In New York City - which saw its second-highest snowfall since records began in 1869 - a travel ban that effectively shut the city down has now been lifted. In New York, the storm was the second-biggest on record, while in Washington and Philadelphia, it was the fourth biggest. By the time the snow had stopped falling after two days, late on Saturday, New York's Central Park had received 26.8in, the second-biggest fall recorded since 1869. The total was just 0.1in shy of the all-time high, 26.9in, recorded in February 2006. However, the 26.6in that fell in the park on Saturday alone was a one-day record for the city. The 36 fatalities were as a result of car accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attacks suffered while shovelling snow.
Tropical Storm Pali formed 1,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, making it the earliest on record that a tropical storm has formed in the central Pacific basin (7th). The storm system is the first tropical cyclone to form in the Central Pacific this year and is also the earliest storm on record, beating Tropical Storm Wiona, which formed on Jan. 13, 1989. But it is actually the second tropical cyclone this year. Tropical Depression 9C formed on New Year's Eve in the Central Pacific near the equator and the International date line, but it weakened and dissipated on New Year's Day.
As snow ends across the Balkans, the most disruptive snowstorm so far this winter moved through Ukraine on Monday (18th). Over the weekend, this snowstorm brought major snowfall across the Balkans, including Bulgaria and Romania, where some locations saw blizzard conditions. Sofia, Bulgaria received 40 cm of snow over the weekend. Heavy snow and wind also moved into southwestern Ukraine on Sunday, leaving Odessa with several inches of snow. The Odessa Regional State Administration closed 10 roads on Sunday, claiming they were unsafe for travel due to the snow.
The South Korean island of Jeju has seen its biggest snowfall in three decades, causing hundreds of flights to be cancelled (24th). Jeju is a popular holiday destination and thousands of visitors are reported to have been left stranded. All 517 flights scheduled for Sunday were cancelled, as well as about 60 on Monday, following 11cm (4.3in) of snow. In Hong Kong, residents shivered in three degrees Celsius, the lowest temperature there in nearly 60 years.
Snow, sleet and icy winds across east Asia have caused deaths, flight cancellations and chaos as the region struggles with record-low temperatures due to an Arctic cold snap that brought snow to several tropical areas for the first time in many people's lifetimes (25th) In Taiwan, the capital Taipei recorded a low of 4C, the coldest in 44 years. Local media said 90 people had died due to the cold weather, mainly from hypothermia and cardiac arrest. Five more died in Japan. Hundreds of flights were cancelled across the region, tens of thousands of holidaymakers were stranded in South Korea, and freezing conditions in sub-tropical Hong Kong caused mayhem on its tallest peak. In northern Vietnam, snow blanketed mountain areas as the wave of cold air arrived on Sunday to Lào Cai province. In the capital, Hanoi, it dropped to a milder 6C, although authorities said that was the coldest the city has been for two decades. The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, which is by the tropic of Cancer, saw sleet for the first time in 60 years, the local meteorological station said. Residents posted photos online of small snowmen they had made, quickly constructed from a thin layer of icy flakes that fell on cars and roads. In Hong Kong, primary schools and kindergartens were closed on Monday after temperatures fell to 3C, a 60-year low. A 100km ultra-marathon race was abandoned as competitors crossing the city's tallest peak, Tai Mo Shan, slipped on icy slopes buffeted by freezing winds. A race official described the scene as one of 'carnage', with dozens of people suffering from hypothermia; firefighters called in to rescue them were filmed slipping and sliding on the icy roads. In Bangkok, labelled the planet's hottest city by the World Meteorological Organisation for its mean air temperature of 28C, the mercury dropped to 16C on Monday. Scarves and padded jackets, normally bought only as winter holiday items by residents of Bangkok, appeared in the city as locals dealt with the unusually cool weather. In China, 24 weather stations recorded all-time low temperatures. Further north, in Inner Mongolia, the temperature dropped to a record low of -46.8C (-52F) and in China's eastern city of Qingdao, fishing boats were stuck fast in the frozen waters.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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