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Be a good scientist.

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From the “things you won’t see on tonight’s six o’clock news” category… Storms don’t have to be worse for their damage to be worse.

In a recently posted article to the American Meteorological Society’s journals section of its website titled “Continental United States Hurricane Landfall Frequency and Associated Damage: Observations and Future Risks,” study authors Philip J. Klotzbach, Steven G. Bowen, Roger Pielke, Jr., and Michael Bell scrutinized past hurricanes and came to what some people may claim is a surprising conclusion:

“While United States landfalling hurricane frequency or intensity shows no significant trend since 1900, growth in coastal population and wealth have led to increasing hurricane-related damage along the United States coastline.”

In other words, there is no trend that storms are getting bigger, worse, or more frequent despite what you might have heard on TV or read on social media.

Harvey image

Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Some people might claim that at least one of the authors (Pielke, Jr.) should be discredited since, in the past, people who have disagreed with him have attempted to besmirch his reputation by calling him a “climate denier.”

Personally, I think it’s a positive step forward that the AMS is publishing their paper and has released a preliminary version on its site.

I sit on the sidelines of the battle over whether man-made climate change is “settled science.” I read studies and articles from both sides. I think critically about what I read, and I don’t take anything at face value. I ask questions and look for answers down rabbit holes. I also pay attention to the unfortunate fallout – when credible scientists suffer public smear campaigns and career-path roadblocks – all because they are not willing to submit to the so-called consensus and continue to do research that shows that the science isn’t settled.

Science should never be settled. If it were, the earth would still be flat. The sun would revolve around us. There would be nothing smaller than an atom. Gravity would be some god’s way of holding us down… Okay. Maybe that last one was more myth than science, but you get my point.

I’ve written before about how politicizing science causes more damage than good. It causes outsiders to distrust science as a whole, especially when the in-fighting among academics and popular scientists that have suddenly become TV personalities play out on twitter and national media networks. How can you be in search of truth and knowledge if you dismiss anyone who disagrees with what you think you know?

To be a good scientist is to have an open-mind and be willing to entertain more ideas than just the popular ones. A good scientist isn’t gullible or naïve. A good scientist is thoughtful, asks questions, and earnestly searches for answers – even if those answers disprove his own hypotheses. My challenge to all scientists is to strive to be good scientists.

Weather Blog

Drought risk should be considered at all times

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Despite the moist air mass that’s been in place all week, the Triangle really hasn’t had that much rain. Today’s updated United States Drought Monitor map shows good bit of central North Carolina is still abnormally dry. The story is much different for the western side of our state. The mountains have seen a greater amount of rain and are no longer experiencing dry conditions. If the trend continues, next week could see the rest of N.C. removed from the drought map.

USDM map

The United States Drought Monitor map for the week of February 15, 2018, shows improvement across North Carolina over the previous week’s map.

North Carolina’s story is very different from places like California and Cape Town, South Africa, which was in the news recently for having run out of water. Those locations have a stronger tendency toward long periods of dry conditions. Both regions should be in a constant state of conservation – even during wetter periods – in order to be prepared for times of extended drought. It’s up to their populations and their elected leaders to make plans and decisions to mitigate their risk for extreme periods of little to no rainfall.

While N.C. does not often suffer long-term drought conditions, it does happen. The years 1998-2002 brought extended drought across the state. During the peak of that episode, nearly 250 municipalities and communities “had implemented voluntary, mandatory, or emergency conservation procedures.” (See page 63 of this report by the United States Geological Survey.)

Drought can be difficult to predict, but there are certain situations that can lead to long, dry spells. The effects of El Nino/La Nina in certain regions can trigger drought. Persistent high pressure over an area that typically has a more active weather pattern can limit rainfall to unusually low amounts. Around here, summer is a drier season for us, and if you add persistent high pressure to the mix, our area easily slips into the abnormally dry category, or worse.

When I read news articles about towns running out of water, I often wonder if the situation was avoidable. Is it possible that by practicing water conservation at all times, people could avoid those dire situations, or at least mitigate the risk? For the most part, I think it is possible, but the difficulty lies in getting people to change their behavior without the immediate threat of dreadful consequences.

There are ways to conserve water voluntarily that shouldn’t cramp our style too much. The use of rain barrels for home gardening and lawn watering is one example. By harvesting the rain that falls – when it does fall – for use outside, we can put less strain on community water resources and our own wallets. Along the same lines, making sure that outdoor plants are appropriate for our climate and drought resistant also reduces the need for water usage.

Inside, small changes can make a big difference over the course of a year. For example, don’t let the water run while you’re brushing your teeth; turn it off while the toothbrush is in your mouth. Only run the washer and dishwasher when you have full loads. Repair toilets that run when they shouldn’t. Fix drippy faucets. These things really should be common sense, but it is amazing how easily people get lax about them when we are not in a drought.

Changes can be made on the community level, too. Publicly-owned property can benefit from rain barrels and water cisterns for landscaping as much as a small house can. Restroom sinks with automatic off/on sensors are another good tool. By implementing conservation efforts in a public way, governments can lead by example.

I’ll admit there will always be people who wait until conservation is mandatory before changing their habits. Those people will probably revert to their old ways when the mandate is lifted, too. Not everyone is a team player. But if the rest of us greatly outnumber them, I think we can make a difference in the long run, and maybe we won’t get to the point where conservation efforts need to be mandated in case of emergency because we will avoid the emergency altogether.

Weather Blog

Thoughts of warmer days lead to garden planning

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If it seems like we’ve had an unusual winter so far, it’s true. According to the North Carolina Climate Office’s blog post, “A Cold, Snowy January Brings Drought Relief,” we just survived “the 11th– coolest January on record dating back to 1895, and the coldest since 1988.” I speak for most of my friends when I say that I’m happy that frigid month is over.

Normal high temperatures for this time of year in the Triangle are in the low-to-mid 50s: normal lows are in the lower 30s. We’re creeping back toward normal-to-above normal as a trend, and it looks like the worst of the unusual cold may be over. However, it is still early February, so there will still be cold days, and our potential for winter weather doesn’t really end until mid-to-late March. My point is that it looks like the trend will be for the normal or warmer-than-normal days to outnumber the unusually cold days from this point forward as we move toward spring.

As I happily look ahead to warming temperatures, I have a small garden plot on my mind.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I bought my first house last fall. One of the many reasons I fell in love with the little ranch was the fact that it had a garden in the yard, producing tomatoes, peppers, and mint. What an exciting idea – an opportunity to grow my own produce the way my grandparents did when I was growing up! Every time I look at the plot, it reminds me of my Papop. Despite those happy memories, I admit that I have very little idea of what I’m doing out there. I have a lot to learn.

My helpful neighbor is an avid gardener, and she loaned me her favorite book on the subject. As I’m reading, it has me thinking about the weather and our climate – of course! This week, my goal is to decide what I want to plant. Part of me would like to plant some unusual seeds so that my garden isn’t exactly like everyone else’s. Unfortunately, every interesting plant I look up doesn’t grow in our zone. No wonder no one around here grows them. Yes, I’m learning about plant hardiness zones, and wondering how many people know that they have changed within the last decade and will probably change again in the next one.

Your zone may be higher than you think.

An article on Rodale’s Organic Life website explains that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated its Hardiness Zone Map in 2012. The map is based on the 30-year average of the coldest days of the year for each area. Those averages are calculated and tracked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and are the same climatology that meteorologists use when talking about “normal” temperatures and precipitation. Our current 30-year period is 1981-2010, so that is what the new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is based upon.

According to the USDA map, my neighborhood in eastern Wake County is in zone 7b, but very close to 8a. Plants that do well in either zone should be fine in my garden.

The Arbor Day Foundation has taken zone mapping a step further and created one just for trees – their primary focus. Unlike most garden plants, trees will be around for decades, so the future climate should be considered when deciding what kind of tree will thrive in your area. According to the Arbor Day map, most of our area is solidly in zone eight.

Larger operations need to plan for future plant hardiness zones.

Reading about hardiness zones has reminded me of a local American Meteorological Society chapter meeting at the State Climate Office two years ago. Then-State Climatologist Ryan Boyles introduced us to the PINEMAP Decision Support System – a tool for forestry professionals and tree farmers to use in determining what trees to plant both now and in future decades. Large scale operations should be thinking well beyond the next ten years if they want to continue to produce strong results.

The tool is specifically geared toward planted pine forest owners, and provides some interesting predictions based on current data and climate research. Its interactive map can let you see how the plant zones may change in coming decades if the climate changes according to the models’ predictions. It is truly meant to help tree farmers adapt and thrive, which is a fantastic use of climate prediction models.

Personally, I’m not planting any more pine trees in my yard because I have enough to supply pine straw to a small town for years. Still, I found the PINEMAP DSS fascinating. For my garden though, I’ll look at the current forecast trends, the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, and other local information to decide what to plant in my little garden. Who knows? Maybe I will find something unique to add to the tomatoes, peppers, and mint that the previous owners produced last year. I am open to suggestions.

Weather Blog

Why does I-95 seem important to NC weather?

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I’ve been asked this question a few times: Why does it always seem like storms are going east of I-95, west of I-95, or right along I-95 in North Carolina? Is it just a convenient landmark that most people recognize, or is there something else to it?

As recognizable as I-95 is, the answer is that there’s more to it. I’ll explain, although I am running the risk of over-simplifying it here.

If you look at a road map of North Carolina and a relief map of North Carolina next to it, you will see that I-95 basically runs along the border between the state’s coastal plain and the piedmont – two of the three major geographic regions of the state.

Each region has its own characteristics that can affect the weather and climate including elevation, soil types, and available moisture. The mountains’ higher elevations tend to get more snow. The piedmont tends to have greater variations in weather through the year. The coastal plain has more available moisture and more moderate temperatures with the ocean on its eastern edge.

Often when storms are moving across the state from west to east, they lose some of their energy as they cross the mountains. Depending on many factors, a storm might reorganize as it reaches the piedmont, or it may not regain its former glory until it hits the coastal plain.

On the flip side, if a hurricane or other coastal storm is approaching from the Atlantic side of the state, it may only affect the coastal plain if it stays far enough out to sea. If it moves closer to shore, the piedmont might be affected, but in a different way than the coastal plain. Take, for example, our typical winter coastal storms that move up the Atlantic coast to become Nor’easters. If the storm stays far enough off shore, the coast may just see rain. If it moves right up the coast line and cold air is in place over the piedmont, we in the Triangle may see snow or a wintry mix. Sometimes the mountains get snow from those systems and sometimes they don’t. It depends on the size of the storm and its proximity to shore, among other things.

During the winter, the ocean tends to moderate the temperature near the coast by keeping it warmer because large bodies of water take longer to lose their heat than the drier air in the atmosphere. (They also take longer to gain heat once the weather starts to warm back up.) The warmer ocean waters affect the air nearby and keep temperatures at the coast milder than they are inland.

Elevation and soil types can also play a role in the weather, but I will save those topics for future blog posts.

In the meantime, the next time you hear a meteorologist say, “along or east of the I-95 corridor,” you will know why.

road map of NC

Road map of North Carolina, credit:

Weather Blog

Models need (and will get) improvement

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Two news stories about forecasting models caught my eye this week. The first dealt with a shortfall in the climate models and the second was good news about continuing improvements in our daily forecasting models.

I’ve written before about potential problems with initial data and assumptions in climate forecasting models – the ones used by climatologists to predict our global conditions decades in the future. Like it or not, they are not perfect.

NASA climate map

Credit: NASA, 2015. “NASA global data set combines historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature (shown here) and precipitation might change up to 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.”

Some researchers from Princeton University drove that point home with a recent paper in the journal Nature Communications. Jun Yin and Amilcare Porporato’s paper, “Diurnal cloud cycle biases in climate models” details how they carefully analyzed satellite data from 1986 to 2005 and compared the information they gleaned to what the models produce.  The two determined how the time of day that clouds form in reality versus the time of day averaged in the models can affect the amount of solar radiation the models predict.

In the climate models, the cloud cover peaks in the morning. In reality, the cloud cover peaks in the afternoon – the same time the radiation coming from the sun peaks. The amount of clouds and types of clouds between the earth’s surface and the sun make a difference in how much energy from the sun we receive. The climate models’ were over-estimating that amount and potentially forecasting hotter and drier conditions based on it.

The paper states, “Thus, on the one hand, consistent biases in DCC [diurnal cycle of clouds] between present and future climates give rise to similar TOA [top of the atmosphere] reference irradiance, so that the model tuning made for current climate conditions still remains largely effective for the global mean temperature projections. On the other hand, consistent biases have the potential to increase the uncertainty of climate projections.” In simpler terms, the researchers don’t think the temperature forecasts are completely wrong, but they have shown the margin of error may be much greater than most scientists have acknowledged up to this point.

The hope is for the results of the study to be used to improve the current models.

In another story, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), released the news on Tuesday that they are in the third phase of a massive supercomputer system upgrade. This year’s improvements increase the processing speed to 8.4 petaflops and 60 percent more storage capacity. The added speed and storage will allow for more initial conditions data – extremely important information for forecasting – and higher resolution, which will help with accuracy with respect to geographical space and time.

The goal is to improve our forecasting capability, especially when it comes to warning of dangerous storms. The forecasting model specifically mentioned in the press release is the Global Forecasting System (GFS), which has a reputation among many forecasters of often being less than accurate more than two or three days out, even though it produces predictions for 10 days out. Improvements to the GFS are needed and quite welcome!

If you’re not a meteorologist or climatologist, you likely don’t know the frustration of making a forecast based on science and technology – much more than we had fifty years ago – and still knowing that there is a chance the models we rely on are missing critical input and getting it wrong. While most people may not consider a few degrees error in temperature a horrible thing, they’d probably agree when the temperature happens to be around 32 degrees, a few degrees in either direction can make a big difference in our weather reality.

Weather Blog

Obsessing over fractions of an inch

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It’s 11:00 on Wednesday morning, and I’m obsessing over every little change in the HRRR (High Resolution Rapid Refresh) model’s update. Will it be one inch or 2.5 inches of snow in eastern Wake County? Is that just half-an-inch in northwestern Wake? That’s different from what it said the last hour.

potential snowfall totals

A slide from the NWS Raleigh Office’s 10:30 AM, Wednesday, January 3, 2018 weather briefing

The HRRR is the model we put more stock in for short-term forecasting – of less than 24 hours – because it shows more detail than most of the rest. It’s usually pretty spot on because it updates so often. Each run has a better handle on where the storm will go, or at least, it should. So, we meteorologists watch it like hawks and bog ourselves down in fractions of an inch.

I literally just reminded myself that a half-inch more or less than two inches will still be a mess tomorrow morning on the roads. Yes, snow is much nicer than mix of ice and snow, but face it: we live in the south, and not everyone is a safe driver in the rain, much less on snow.

The major roads are brined thanks to the Department of Transportation. I could see the coating on my way into work early this morning on Highways 64, 96, and 98. The side streets will be another story. If you wake up tomorrow, and the news is reporting that emergency officials are asking you to stay off the roads, please heed that call if you can. I know some jobs are literally essential, but most of us can postpone our driving for better conditions.

If plows are needed, they require room to work to clear the roads. More cars for them to compete with for space means slower progress. Plus, driving before the roads are clear puts yourself and other drivers at risk. Remember what I noted above about not everyone being a safe driver? You might be the ultimate professional at driving on snow, but the guy in front of you could make a rookie mistake that leaves both of you in bad shape. Why risk it? Let the DOT and tomorrow’s sunshine do a little work first.

As for me and my obsession with how this forecast verifies… if we only get a trace of snow, I will be thankful – even if that means a busted forecast.

Weather Blog

La Nina fail?

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We are in the midst of a La Nina winter. I discussed in my blog two weeks ago how in a La Nina year, we should experience above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. While we did have a few days of warmer-than-normal temperatures following that blog post, the cold returned with a vengeance, and it looks like it will stick around for a while.

On December 21, the Climate Prediction Center updated its outlook maps for January and the three-month period of January through March. According to those maps, North Carolina now has “equal chances” of having above-normal, normal, or below-normal temperatures and precipitation through January. I usually interpret that prediction as “your guess is as good as mine.”

CPC Jan Temps

The Climate Prediction Center’s Temperature Probability map for January 2018

Based on the long-range forecast models, it looks like we will have below-normal temperatures through at least the first full week of the month. While I don’t really trust the models almost two weeks in advance, I don’t see anything today that would make me think this cold pattern will break before January 8. So, at least the first week of January should be colder than normal.

If that first week ends up being wetter-than-normal as predicted in the CPC’s 8-14 Day Outlook, we could have some wintry precipitation. While that possibility should be expected in January, it does make me wonder where my milder winter went? Granted, climatological winter lasts through the end of February, but much of December was cold and the first part of January looks even colder. I’m feeling a little gypped and wondering if we are experiencing a La Nina fail.

But I digress.

The updated outlook for January through March still shows the likelihood for warmer-than-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation. That map tells me that the forecasters at the CPC are still clinging to the idea that La Nina will win out over all the other factors that go into seasonal forecasting. I’m having a hard time buying it as I look at the local forecast today. Since I’m not a cold weather fan, I will cross my fingers that they are correct.

One thing to keep in mind is that these monthly outlooks are basically about average temperatures over a month or three-month period. If January verifies as a warmer-than-normal month, that would mean the last three weeks in January were likely well-above normal. Another point to remember is that a winter storm only takes a day or two to make a mess of central North Carolina. Just because the next three months could be warmer on average doesn’t mean we can’t have late season wintry weather. Ice storms happen pretty regularly for us in February and early March.

I’m always curious to see how these seasonal forecasts pan out. Every one that verifies true gives us more confidence. Each one that turns out to be a bust teaches us something. For now, all we can do is bundle up against the current cold streak and wait to see what the new year brings.

CPC JFM temp map

The Climate Prediction Center’s Temperature Probability map for January through March of 2018

Weather Blog

La Nina’s effects may finally take hold in NC

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It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of cold weather. Short, gray days alter my mood for the worse. Bitter cold makes my joints ache. Snow and ice cause transportation issues. I can’t help it. I’m a summer lover, which is why I live in the south. So, back in October, when the Climate Prediction Center issued a statement that La Nina was settling in for the winter, I did a quiet little happy dance.

La Nina tends to bring warmer and drier-than-average weather to the Southeast.

As you can imagine, the first half of December has been disappointing for me. I mean really! Near record-breaking cold, our first wintry mix of the season, and deceptively sunny, brisk days have had me crying foul. Some good La Nina is doing, right?

The reality is that La Nina is not the only factor in our weather. Our recent cold snap has been the product of a more active, wavy pattern over North America – one that brings arctic air from the northwest to the southeast. Its persistence has been good news to my friends who require chilly temperatures to get into the holiday spirit. I think they’ve enjoyed it quite a bit based on the photos of snow all over my Facebook feed last weekend.

Next week, the pattern will change and bring a more horizontal flow across the country. Our storms will be coming from the southern part of the United States, and our temperatures will warm to above normal levels. The cold air will stay to our north, where Snow Miser says it should be. (If you don’t get the reference, please watch “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” or look him up on Youtube.)

cpc map

The Climate Prediction Center’s temperature probability map for December 19-23, shows above-average chances for above-normal.

The Climate Prediction Center forecasted November, December, and January to have better-than-average chances at being warmer than normal back in October, when they noted La Nina’s cooler waters taking hold in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. North Carolina has not really seen that forecast verify so far, but the Global Forecasting System (GFS) long-range model shows a warm-up starting early next week. It’s possible that La Nina’s moderating effects on the South’s weather may finally be coming into play.

Does that mean a white Christmas is highly unlikely for the Triangle? Maybe. Maybe not. It may be a wet Christmas or sleet-filled Christmas if the latest run of the GFS verifies. While rain or sleet will make gift delivery a soggy – or even treacherous – ordeal, our area could use the precipitation. As of today, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows much of North Carolina under abnormally dry conditions with the central portion of the state experiencing moderate drought.

Don’t be too upset or excited about the Christmas forecast. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know any model predictions longer than five days away are not as trustworthy as we’d like them to be. I expect the forecast to change several times between now and December 24.

drought map

U.S. Drought Monitor map issued December 14, 2017

Weather Blog

Impending wintry mix on big event weekend

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Those people who say they need cold weather to get into the Christmas spirit ought to be happy about this weekend’s forecast… unless of course, they are planning on attending the Wake Forest Christmas Parade or the Wake Forest High School football playoff in Winston-Salem. In that case, they may be a little stressed over the fact that it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

A few days ago, the forecast looked like we would see mostly rain with some flakes mixed in at times. This morning, the forecast is leaning more toward rain mixing with and possibly changing to snow, and in some places, sleet could fall. On Saturday, as the temperature warms with what little daytime heating we’ll get, the precipitation could change back to rain before exiting the region. The models are agreeing on the fact that there will be precipitation, but what kind, how much, and when it will end is still a little up in the air (forgive the pun).

Typically, this is the type of storm I write about in February or March. You know – the ones that have meteorologists obsessed with the freezing line at the surface, just above the surface, and up in the clouds. Where those freezing lines are mean everything in a situation like this weekend’s. If the air is at freezing or below in all the levels of the atmosphere, we see snow. If the air is warmer at the surface, we get cold rain with maybe a few flakes or ice pellets mixed in. If the air is colder at the surface, but above freezing up higher, we’ll see more ice pellets or freezing rain.

Each model run over the last 24 hours has moved the freezing line at the surface in one direction or the other.  Wake County is a big county! With 857 square miles, it often happens with these kinds of storms that one part of the county gets snow dumped on it, and the opposite side sees nothing but rain. At this point, we aren’t expecting any area to get more than an inch of snow on grassy areas around here because the snow will be wet, and the ground is still warm.

Other than a few cold early mornings in recent weeks, the temperature has not spent much time below freezing. For that reason, the roads around here should be in relatively good condition Saturday morning even if we have a change from rain to snow early Friday night. If you happen to be driving to Winston-Salem for the football game at noon, the drive between here and there on the way to the game could take you through rain, sleet, and snow. Just take it easy on bridges and overpasses because they are more exposed to cold air above and below them, which means they could be a little slippery.

The western Triad has a slightly better chance of seeing snow versus rain Friday night and Saturday morning. Because the system will be moving from west to east, whatever precipitation does fall will end in Winston-Salem before it ends in the Triangle. As of this writing on Thursday morning, one model has the snow ending there early in the morning on Saturday, but another shows snow or rain showers could linger into the afternoon.

In any case and whether you are staying in town or traveling for the game, leave yourself time and stopping space while driving, wear warm layers, and make the most of the first winter storm of the season.

Saturday map

The National Weather Service forecast map shows one possibility of where the precipitation may be and what type could be falling at 7:00 AM Saturday.

Weather Blog

Could Mount Agung’s latest eruption cool the planet?

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Nearly 60,000 travelers have been stranded after yesterday’s eruption of Mount Agung in Bali. The volcano has been threatening a major eruption since earlier this year. In September, residents within a six-kilometer radius of the crater were told to evacuate for their own safety. Some did and have not returned, while others returned daily to feed and care for their livestock.

Yesterday’s eruption was the second in a week. According to reports, it spewed “ash 13,000 feet (4,000 meters [or nearly 2.5 miles]) into the atmosphere, and created plumes as high as 3.7 miles (6,000 meters).” The alert for the area has been raised, and people within 10 kilometers of the crater have been told to evacuate due to fears of a larger eruption to come.

Mount Agung map

Google Map showing Mount Agung’s location in Bali, Indonesia.

Bali is a small island in Indonesia, north of Western Australia. It’s proximity to the equator and mild weather make it a popular tourist destination for holiday travelers. It also gives Mount Agung the potential to affect weather on a global scale after a massive eruption.

If yesterday’s eruption is the worst of this round, then the weather in the region will be affected only in the near term. Ash contains sulfur dioxide, which when combined with water forms sulfuric acid aerosols. Those aerosols can “reflect incoming sunlight and influence cloud formation.” Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology predicts the weather could return to normal within a few weeks if the current wind direction continues.

If a larger eruption occurs – large enough to send ash into the stratosphere (18,000 meters) – the entire planet could be cooled for a year or more. While that sounds impressive, we’re really only talking about an estimated one degree Fahrenheit or less (0.55 degree Celsius or less).  Considering the upward global temperature trend in recent years, that much of a temperature drop would only take us back to 2014’s average temperature according to a report published by Carbon Brief back in October.

There have been major volcanic eruptions in the past that affected the earth’s temperature on a grand scale. Mount Tambora’s eruption in 1815 – just a few small islands east of Bali – may have caused the “year without a summer” as it is referred to in historical records in North America and Europe in 1816.

On their website, Climatologist Cliff Harris and Meteorologist Randy Mann have graphed global temperature swings over the past 4,500 years and correlated times of cooling to low solar activity and high volcanic activity. Alternately, periods of higher warming tend to be associated with peaks in solar activity and fewer eruptions. They also point out that El Nino and La Nina also play a role in global temperatures on smaller time scales.

Currently, we are seeing La Nina conditions in the Pacific, which is often associated with cooler-than-average global temperatures. If we were to add a major volcanic eruption to the mix, we could easily see that drop scientists are hypothesizing of a degree or more in the next year. It definitely bears watching, even from the other side of the world.