In the week the Winter Olympics kicked off, you’d think all the talk of snow and ice would be centred around Sochi in Russia – not the United States!
They called it “Snowmaggedon” this week in eastern states Atlanta, New York, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.
A freezing storm is currently gripping large swaths of the winter-weary US, leaving a dozen people dead and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes.
Thousands of travellers were stranded as flights, including at major air hubs in Atlanta and New York, were cancelled, and nearly 800,000 homes and businesses lost power.
The latest brutal freeze to hammer the eastern states of the country since the start of the year has been dubbed “snowmaggedon”, “mind-boggling” and “historic” by major television networks and forecasters.
CBS News said at least 11 deaths had been blamed on the ferocious conditions.
The USA wasn’t the only Northern Hemisphere place to get it in the teeth this week, the UK and Europe also experienced deadly storm conditions, as thousands of UK homes have been left without power as 70mph winds and heavy rain continue to batter Western Europe.
The Met Office and the Environment Agency have issued severe weather and warnings as forecasters say that there is no let up in sight to the bad weather which has blighted the country since before Christmas.
Around 54,000 homes in the South West, mainly in Devon and Cornwall, lost power on Saturday night, with 6,000 still in the dark on Sunday morning.
The Environment Agency has issued 14 severe flood warnings – meaning there’s a danger to life – along the Thames east of Windsor, about 32 kilometres from London.
On a tragic note, at least 50 people were killed in flooding and landslides in Burundi on Wednesday, the country’s government has said, as a storm swept away homes and cut off roads and power. The rains, which started Sunday night and caused flooding in northern areas around the capital of Bujumbura, also injured scores of people.
On a more global issue, a team of international researchers says there’s a 76 per cent chance of an El Nino forming later this year, and the signs were clear last September.
That’s more certain than the current outlook from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which is only saying there’s a 50-50 chance of an El Nino this year, with no certainty until after autumn.
El Nino events bring drier and hotter conditions to eastern Australia, but storms and wild weather for South America.
Weatherwatch’s head analyst Philip Duncan says this Summer has had plenty of El Nino already, high pressure in the western Tasman Sea, low pressure in the Southern Ocean – strong sou’west flow this summer.
“El Nino tends to bring weather similar to this summer for Auckland. Can be quite dry, a bit cloudy and windy too with more sou’westers. La Nina, on the other hand, brings more easterlies and northerlies, cloud and rain events to Auckland. Not always locked in, but generally that’s how it is.”
Definitely one to keep an eye on…
On a related note, rain is spreading across more than ninety-five percent of Australia, for the first time since La Nina, soaking parts of each state and territory, bringing relief from the heat, leading to flooding and dousing bushfires.
This is likely to be Australia’s most widespread rain event since 2012 (when we were also in a La Nina) with two thirds of the country gaining 15-to-25 millimetres.
Rain has already spread across the tropics, but later this week will soak much of the south of the country before it heads back north. Most places should see their heaviest rain since at least spring or winter.
A little further afield, a team of scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology are looking at dark features on Martian slopes that are finger shaped – and could be clues pointing to the presence of flowing water on the red planet.
These flows represent the best suggestion we know of that Mars has water right now, scientists say.
The study is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Closer to home, Weatherwatch has been warning farmers and growers on Country TV that the summer weather pattern may once again bring drought-like conditions to some parts of New Zealand at the end of this summer, as far back as Spring!
The forecast was made based on a weather pattern that has remained around New Zealand for a number of years now, bringing generally mild weather and an active Southern Ocean.
This pattern has often seen highs west of us and deep lows in the Southern Ocean south or south east of NZ.
Check out Philip Duncan’s article on the chances of dry conditions, here.
And, in the immediate future, check out Weatherwatch’s latest weekend forecast, complete with approaching rainmakers, here.
– Drew Chappell for Weatherwatch.co.nz