US faces brutal hurricane season, while Europe sees “the year without a summer”

More bizarre weather on the horizon as the US may see an unusually brutal hurricane season this year, while summer’s warm weather may skip western Europe entirely as forecasters there warn that this may be “the year without a summer,” Europe’s coldest in 200 years.

And some are saying that we’re seeing the effects of climate change.

First, our Hurricanes

David Mixner points us first to NOAA’s (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Hurricane Season Outlook that just came out a week ago.  In it, NOAA says we should expect above-normal activity this year:

NOAA’s 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook indicates that an above-normal season is most likely, with the possibility that the season could be very active. The outlook calls for a 70% chance of an above-normal season, a 25% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 5% chance of a below-normal season….

Based on the current and expected conditions, combined with model forecasts, we estimate a 70% probability for each of the following ranges of activity during 2013:

  • 13-20 Named Storms
  • 7-11 Hurricanes
  • 3-6 Major Hurricanes
  • Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) range of 120%-205%
Hurricane Sandy entire US image, via NOAA

Hurricane Sandy entire US image, via NOAA

To fully appreciate what those estimates mean, check out the average number of storms each year:

Note that the expected ranges are centered well above the official NHC 1981-2010 seasonal averages of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.

At its max, that’s almost twice the number of storms possible.   NOAA also explains what that ACE is all about – basically, it means stronger, and longer, storms:

An important measure of the total overall seasonal activity is NOAA’s Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, which accounts for the intensity and duration of named storms and hurricanes during the season. This outlook indicates a 70% chance that the 2013 seasonal ACE range will be 120%-205% of the median. According to NOAA’s hurricane season classifications, an ACE value above 120% of the 1981-2010 median reflects an above-normal season, and an ACE value above 165% of the median reflects a very active (or hyperactive) season.

The Coldest Summer in 200 years in Western Europe

Now to Europe.  As many of you know, our writer Chris Ryan lives in Paris, France.  This spring, if you can call it that, has been oddly cold in France, and much of Europe.  And that’s after colder than usual winters the last several years.

Well, now France’s main weather channel, Meteo, is reporting that there’s a 70% chance that the summer is going to be record-breaking cold and wet across much of western Europe.  Meteo says that it’s been the coldest spring in 20 years in France, and the forecast is looking so bad, there’s talk of this being “the year without a summer” across western Europe.  Europe hasn’t had one of those since the unusually brutal year of 1816, when Mary Shelley, reportedly stuck inside due to the bad weather, wrote “Frankenstein.”

European weather forecast for the summer (source: Meteo)

European weather forecast for the summer shows temperatures below normal in much of western Europe, and a rainier summer as well. (source: Meteo)

Is it Climate Change?

Of all the newspapers to say that all of this mess just might be a sign of climate change, is none other than Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, in a story just published:

Mark Wysocki, a climatologist with New York state who works with the Northeast Regional Climate Center, said the jet stream functions like waves along the ocean. “Some of these waves are small choppy waves and they move by very quickly and sometimes you get caught in these big waves that gradually build and move by very slowly,” he said. “We seem to be stuck in a pattern that has these big waves that are moving by very slowly.”

As the wave of air rolls across the country, it causes several problems, he said. The larger waves carry greater temperature contrasts, exposing areas to more dramatic weather shifts.

When the air shifts temperatures dramatically, “that’s where the storm brews and you get heavy rain,” he said. The amount of rain already this month, at 8 inches, is more than double the historical average. He estimated that the world had been in a cycle of large waves for at least a year. Although the factors are complex, “There is enough science to indicate that warming climates could lead to these kinds of conditions,” he said.

His advice to New Yorkers? “Get used to it.”

England’s The Guardian newspaper says that part of the problem is melting sea ice, caused by climate change:

Climate scientists have linked the massive snowstorms and bitter spring weather now being experienced across Britain and large parts of Europe and North America to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice….

According to Francis and a growing body of other researchers, the Arctic ice loss adds heat to the ocean and atmosphere which shifts the position of the jet stream – the high-altitude river of air that steers storm systems and governs most weather in northern hemisphere.

“This is what is affecting the jet stream and leading to the extreme weather we are seeing in mid-latitudes,” she said. “It allows the cold air from the Arctic to plunge much further south. The pattern can be slow to change because the [southern] wave of the jet stream is getting bigger. It’s now at a near record position, so whatever weather you have now is going to stick around,” she said….

recent paper by the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also found that enhanced warming of the Arctic influenced weather across the northern hemisphere.

Do be sure to check out our climate change archives, where Gaius, in particular, has chronicled much of the problem we’re facing.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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