By Bill Chameides
As we grapple with 2011's weather fare at home (see here and here) and abroad (see here and here), let's review some of last year's remarkably severe, record-setting weather events from around the globe.
January and February
Record high temperatures in Melbourne, Australia. On January 11th temperatures never fell below 93 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the city's warmest night since 1902.
Rio de Janeiro's heat wave. The worst stretch of heat to hit the Brazilian city in 50 years saw temperatures peaking above 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
March and April
Deluges in the northeastern United States. March witnessed record-setting rain in New York City, Boston, and Portland, Maine. While 2010 precipitation levels broke records set in 1953 for all three locales, Providence, Rhode Island set a new all-time record for wettest month and, according to news reports, experienced its worst flooding in 200 years.
Heat waves in the northeastern United States. In early April, record high temperatures plagued several cities in the Northeast. April 7, 2010 became a red-letter day for Boston with the setting of a new high temperature and its new claim to fame as the earliest day of the year with a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
A late record-breaking snowstorm in New England. In late April record snowfall blanketed New England's northern reaches, setting new records for Burlington, Vermont.
June and August
Pakistan hit by its worst natural disaster ever. Monsoonal rains flooded large swaths of Asia, including North Korea and China. Starting in late July, Pakistan's flooded Indus River basin put as much as 17 million acres or one-fifth of the nation under water, killing some 2,000 people, displacing tens of millions, and devastating crops and livestock.
Oppressive heat waves across eastern U.S. and Canada. From July 4-7 temperatures soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, setting record high temperatures from North Carolina to Quebec, Canada. "On July 5th," according to the National Climatic Data Center, "Montfort Hospital in Ottawa, Canada reported the highest number of hospital visits ever recorded in a single day."
Russia devastated by heat, drought, and fire. Russia's hottest summer on record spawned record heat waves, massive droughts, and widespread wildfires that caused scores of deaths and led to a state of emergency. All in all, Russia's deadly heat wave, with its concurrent drought and fire, is estimated to have caused thousands of deaths, damaged 32 percent of the nation's crops, and caused $15 billion in economic losses.
Record cold freezes parts of South America. Polar air from the Antarctic lingered over the continent causing record-breaking lows in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Lima, Peru. In Bolivia, the record cold snap killed millions of aquatic animals, including fish, alligators, turtles and river dolphins.
Record heat roasts the Middle East and north Africa. Peak temperatures broke records in four countries, most notably in Iraq where the mercury hit 125.6 degrees Fahrenheit in Basra toppling its previous record from 1937.
September and October
Heat broils Los Angelenos. After a relatively cool summer, temperatures in L.A. spiked on September 27, sending the mercury to 113 degrees Fahrenheit and making it the city's hottest day ever.
First extreme dry, then extreme wet in Bangladesh. After experiencing one of its driest monsoon seasons in years, torrential storms battered Bangladesh from October 7th through October 9th, causing floods that displaced hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis.
Drought hits Brazil. North and west Amazonia experienced one of the region's worst droughts in the past 40 years in October. The Black River, an important tributary to the Amazon River, dropped to its lowest level since record-keeping began in 1902.
November and December
Australia swamped by heavy rains. Intense rainfall beginning on December 20th has doused Queensland's new year with the worst flooding to hit Australia in a decade. Covering an area larger than Texas, the floods have affected roughly 200,000 people and caused thousands to be evacuated. Estimated losses expected to top $AU1 billion, including damages to cotton and sunflower crops.
December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.
Holiday blizzard slams U.S. East Coast. The sixth-largest snowfall to hit New York City left thousands stranded, as area travelers saw their holiday plans stymied and snowed-in NYC residents wondered where the plows were. (The missing plows gave birth to a new kind of scandal: plowgate.) Of all the states affected by the two-day storm, the Garden State's near-record snowfall in several cities saw the biggest accumulations.
2010 in Toto
All these weather extremes and more, combined with the not-so-extreme-and-downright-normal weather, added up to an extreme weather year overall: 2010 is set to be one of the warmest years on record and, when combined with the temperatures from the past nine years, 2001-2010 is likely to be the warmest 10-year period on record.
So ... What Does All the Weird Wild Weather Mean?
Was the extreme weather of 2010 part of a trend, driven by warming temperatures, or just part of the normal ups and downs of weather? We can't say yet, but if our little CO2/climate/weather experiment continues unabated, we may find out.