MAY 2013


The World Meteorological Organization’s Statement on the Status of the Global Climate says that 2012 joined the ten previous years as one of the warmest - at ninth place - on record despite the cooling influence of a La Nina episode early in the year. The 2012 global land and ocean surface temperature during January–December 2012 is estimated to be 0.45C ) above the 1961-1990 average of 14.0C. This is the ninth warmest year since records began in 1850 and the 27th consecutive year that the global land and ocean temperatures were above the 1961-1990 average, according to the statement. The years 2001-2012 were all among the top 13 warmest years on record.


Minnesota and Wisconsin experienced a rare May snow day) as a storm dropped up to 16 inches of sticky snow across a beleaguered region that was just starting to enjoy spring.  A two-day storm which dropped a wintry mix of snow and rain Wednesday from Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming into Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa.  It delivered the first May snowfall in Sioux Falls, SD, in 37 years, knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses in several states, forced the closure of major roads and was a factor in at least one fatal crash.  The 11 inches recorded at Forest City and nearby Britt, Iowa, by Thursday morning was the state's largest snowfall in a 24-hour period in May, the state's highest snowfall total from any storm in May, and the state's most snow recorded ever in May.

The Central and Eastern United States are not the only areas experiencing a colder than normal spring. Alaska is also hanging on to winter's chill and snow. The five week period from April 3 to May 7 was the coldest for this period in 109 years of record keeping at Fairbanks, Alaska.

Forecasters say the tornado that claimed six lives and destroyed dozens of homes in North Texas is believed to have had winds up to 200 mph. The National Weather Service  said the preliminary storm estimate for the tornado in Granbury was an EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. That means the storm carried wind speeds of 166 mph to 200 mph. The NWS believes 10 tornadoes raked North Texas in a violent system, including the one in Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Other tornadoes damaged nearby Cleburne and Millsap.

A devastating mile-wide tornado hit Oklahoma, flattening neighborhoods, causing widespread fires and landing a direct hit on an elementary school. Homes and buildings were reduced to rubble in Moore, south of Oklahoma City. Cars were strewn across roadways and entire blocks were flattened. The local medical examiner's office said 51 people had died, including seven children. 24 people died and at least 237 were injured by the effects of the tornado. Authorities said that Plaza Towers elementary school in Moore took a direct hit from the tornado. The winds whipped off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal. Local reports said 75 children and staff were in the school at the time, some of whom were feared trapped in the rubble. It was the second day that tornadoes had hit the area. On Sunday, tornadoes and baseball-sized hail brought destruction to a mobile home park in Shawnee, a suburb of Oklahoma City. Moore was struck by a severe tornado in 1999 that resulted in widespread destruction and resulted in the deaths of dozens of residents. On that occasion winds hit 302mph, registering F5 on the Fujita scale - the highest level. The National Weather Service said Monday afternoon that an area covering population of almost 62 million was at risk of storms. The tornado that struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore today was a rare EF5, the highest rating the National Weather Service assigns in classifying the strength of tornadoes. An EF5 tornado can pack winds exceeding 200 miles per hour and damage is devastating, the service said. Damage assessment teams also determined that the huge tornado cut a path of approximately 17 miles by 1.3 miles wide. EF5 tornadoes are rare in the United States. The twister in Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011, which killed 161 people, was rated an EF5.

Thunderstorms have diminished across southern Texas; however, flooding will continue into Sunday following the heavy rain the area has received since Friday. San Antonia received 9.87 inches of rain on Saturday, making it the second wettest day for the city on record. This also helped make it the second wettest May on record for the city as well. Flooding from the heavy rain did result in two fatalities. A woman drowned when she was swept from the roof of her vehicle during a water rescue. A second person downed when their vehicle was swept into a drainage ditch by flood waters.

It's a snowy Memorial Day weekend for parts of the U.S. On the aptly named Whiteface Mountain in upstate New York, there's at least 34 inches of snow on the ground. Most famous of all cold and snowy late season events would have to be the infamous 1816 'Year without summer' and the snowfall in June that occurred in the eastern U.S. and Canada. Between June 6th and June 8th accumulating snow was observed as far south as the Catskills in New York (where one inch was reported) and highlands of central and northwest Pennsylvania. Snowflakes were seen at sea level as far south as ten miles north of tidewater on the Hudson River just above New York City.

The National Guard has helped evacuate residents from a small community in Alaska's interior where a river ice jam caused major flooding, washing out roads and submerging homes and other buildings. State officials estimate several hundred people have left the town of Galena, which remained mostly underwater Tuesday with the Yukon River ice jam firmly in place. National Weather Service meteorologist Christopher Cox said 90 percent of the community's roads were flooded, and many buildings had 7 feet (2 meters) of water in them. Some of the people who were displaced said they escaped in rafts battered by ice chunks and floating debris.


Australia's year of extreme weather is continuing as Sydney enjoys its longest late-season hot spell in 26 years, inland temperature records tumble and regions around Perth prepare for a cyclonic-strength storm.  The Harbour City is 17 days into its stretch of 20-degree or warmer days. Only once in 150 years of records - in 1987 - has the city had such warm conditions lasting this long this late in the year.   Many other regions have been experiencing unseasonably warm weather this month. Australia has experienced a string of heatwaves, roughly six weeks apart, for the past half-year or longer, climate experts at the Bureau of Meteorology say. Those hot spells produced the hottest month on record, the hottest summer and a blitz of other national heat records. A third of Queensland has already been declared in drought conditions and many parts of south-eastern Australia are recording rainfall far below average for the crucial crop-planting season. The records to fall include some beyond the shores. Sea-surface temperatures along almost all of the southern coastal, for instance, and around most of Tasmania were the highest on record in the first four months of 2013.


Western Uganda has been experiencing its worst flooding since 1976 and authorities are racing to move people to safer ground before more rain hits over the coming days. Over 130 km of main roads in Kibuku district of Uganda have considerably been destroyed by heavy rains experienced currently. A total of 57 bridges along the main routes in the district that lies in the area endowed with numerous natural streams, have been washed away. On Monday movement across the district became difficult as roads became flooded that motorists including cyclists got stuck.


Snow has fallen in parts of Devon in what has been described as "fairly unusual" weather for May. Winds of up to 65mph also struck the South West coast overnight with a number of trees coming down, some blocking roads. Western Power Distribution said homes in Cornwall were still without power after thousands were cut off overnight. Two inches of snow also fell in Shropshire and people were warned to prepare for flooding. The Met Office said the snow which fell in Devon was "a transient feature". The last really widespread snowfall in May was 17 May 1955 when much of England and Wales was affected by several hours of snow. Devon also saw significant snow on 17 May 1935.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes after heavy rain caused flooding in southeastern Norway. In Nesbyen, a mudslide reached properties, filling some basements with water. A river overflowed its banks in Kvam, sending water through the center of the village. Around 250 people had to be evacuated. Roads and rail services have also been affected by the bad weather, including the busy E6 highway, which links Oslo to the Mjosa region and northern parts of the country. Train services through Gudbrandsdalen that connect Oslo and Trondheim have been closed. The flooding in Norway this year is expected to be worst since 1995.


The North Pole’s surprise trip toward Greenland is due to Earth's rapidly melting ice sheets, a new study finds. The distribution of mass across the planet determines the position of Earth's poles. Because Earth is a bit egg-shaped, the North Pole is always slightly off-center. It's also been slowly drifting south, responding to long-term changes since the last Ice Age, as the enormous ice sheets that once covered large swaths of the planet melted and parts of the Earth rebounded from the lost weight. But in 2005, the pole suddenly started making a beeline east for Greenland, moving a few centimeters eastward each year. The cause? Rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, finds a study published May 13 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Ice loss and the associated sea-level rise account for more than 90 percent of the polar shift, Nature News reported.


A tropical storm has lashed coastal areas of Bangladesh, killing 12 people, destroying thousands of huts and forcing up to a million people to flee. Officials had prepared for a cyclone, but the storm, called Mahasen, weakened considerably before making landfall. The storm hit Patuakhali district with heavy rain and wind of up to 100 km/h. The United Nations had warned that 8.2 million people were at risk from Mahasen in Bangladesh, Burma and north-east India. The Bangladeshi government said it had evacuated 956,672 people from coastal areas to more than 3,200 cyclone shelters.


Flooding and landslides across nine southern Chinese provinces have killed more than 50 people and left 14 missing, officials say. Guangdong was hardest hit, reporting 36 deaths after days of heavy rain.


A record-smashing snowstorm has buried parts of Newfoundland under about 70 cm of snow. There were no reports of serious damage or disruption. Gander tallied a heavy, wet snowfall of 69 cm between Saturday morning and Sunday night. Of this amount, 46 cm fell within only 12 hours on Sunday. The snow depth reached at least 55 cm on Sunday and still stood at 51 cm on Monday morning. The snowfall had a water equivalent of about 69 mm, which amounts to the lion's share of the normal May precipitation of 86 mm. Normal snowfall for the month of May is 13 cm, according to Environment Canada. The highest snowfall for all of May was previously 49 cm, set in 1972. An Atlantic storm, tapping cold air off the Labrador Sea, was the trigger for the snowfall. The heavy falls of snow were apparently restricted to parts of central and eastern Newfoundland, mostly above about 100 m of elevation. In the provincial capital, St. John's, the storm brought only cold, windswept rain and drizzle.


The heavy storm clouds have left Chile, having given some heavy rain and snow. The storm left one person dead and 231 people injured. Meanwhile, one metre of new snow was measured by one ski operator near Santiago. Lifts were open as at Ski Portillo, although the highway linking the slopes to cities in Chile and Argentina was closed, the resort website said. Snowfall since Monday was put 100 cm. The storm lifted seasonal snowfall to 126 cm. Resorts at Farellones, east of Santiago, were also hit with heavy snow. Flooding was a problem for coastal and valley cities of central Chile, following a two-day rainstorm, which gave 50-150 mm of rain. Flooded homes were reported, as was a flooding of coastal roads, owing to a heavy storm surge.

Hurricane Barbara hit Mexico's southern Pacific coast, flooding roads, toppling trees and killing two men before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved inland. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Barbara, which had earlier moved close to the country's biggest oil refinery, was 50 miles west of the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in Chiapas state. Winds were blowing at up to 60 miles per hour. The hurricane was churning north-northeast at about 9 mph and should weaken rapidly overnight, the NHC said.


Jim G. Munley, jr.

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