Daily Archives: June 22, 2011

Severe Weather Warning Issued For Winter 2011-12


Matt Talbot Bridge in Dublin, December 2010. Image Anthony McEvoy

irishweatheronline.com | Jun 20, 2011

By Mark Dunphy

A UK-based long range weather forecaster has issued a severe winter weather warning for 2011-2012.  The advisory has been issued following one of the coldest winters experienced in Ireland and Britain more than 45 years.

James Madden from weather organisation Exacta Weather correctly predicted the harsh conditions experienced over the last two years, and is once again forecasting record breaking snowfall and freezing temperatures during November, December and January.

One of Madden’s primary methods of analysing long range weather conditions is his analysis of solar cycles. Last week Irish Weather Online carried a story from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) stating that a missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles are signs that our Sun is heading for a rest period even as it is acting up for the first time in years.

Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network, said of the results: “this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.

National newspapers, including the Irish Independent and Irish Times, subsequently carried stories warning that a decrease in solar activity will bring Arctic Winters to Ireland and Britain over the coming decades.

Commenting on the solar cycle, James Madden said: “Periods of low solar activity at present and what we have seen in recent years influence the Earth’s atmosphere by allowing the stratosphere to cool.  This has a somewhat more profound effect over Northern Europe and the UK in terms of colder and snowier winters, due to jet stream patterns that block warm air from reaching us and create more moisture.”

“Although sunspot activity has increased somewhat this year and there has been an increase in solar flare activity, the activity is minuscule in comparison to what it should be like during a solar maximum and in terms of frequency.  Periods of low solar activity such as this have future repercussions of low solar activity in future cycles and produce extra cloud cover that reflects sunlight with a cooling influence on Earth. The lack of major sunspots and solar flares clearly indicate a slower conveyor belt within the sun.  We are now in a very weak solar maximum and my observations indicate that the next solar cycle will also be weak”, he added.

Commenting on La Nina and the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift and their effect on our weather, Mr. Madden stated: “It is visible to see from recent NOAA satellite images that the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift has drastically altered within the last few years.  The Gulf Stream is basically a huge volume of heated water that brings warmth to the UK in terms of a mild atmosphere.  This softens the climate we experience for the latitude we lie on.  For example let’s take Newfoundland who lie on a similar latitude to the UK, yet they experience much harsher winters as they do not benefit from this valuable heat source.

“La Niña is the cooling of the Pacific Ocean near the equator and influences changes to atmospheric pressure and wind changes.  In terms of the UK this makes the jet streams in the North Atlantic stronger and therefore offers more precipitation in the form of widespread heavy snowfall during below average temperatures as cold easterlies dominate”, he explained.

Mr. Madden also said that the dust and ash particles released by the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland and Chile would also contribute to cooling down of global temperatures.  He continued: “Converted sulphur dioxide emissions from volcanic eruptions can also cause sunlight reflection in the atmosphere. “

He said he expected  the 2011-2012 winter to follow a similar pattern in terms of how November and December was in 2010 for the vast majority of the coming winter.

“It will be exceptionally cold and snowy with well below average temperatures.  I fully expect to see records broken with the highlands of Scotland being once again particularly hard hit.  It is therefore vital to start preparing now in terms of high energy bills and raising awareness amongst the most vulnerable and elderly people of society”, Mr. Madden concluded.

Global cooling: Next solar cycle may be weakest for centuries

We may be heading into what’s known as a ‘grand minimum’ – a period of unusually low solar activity. The last such, known as the Maunder Minimum, took place between 1645 and 1755.

tgdaily.com | Jun 15, 2011

by Kate Taylor

Sunspots could be set to disappear altogether after the next solar maximum, new studies indicate.

Right now, the sun is in the middle of Cycle 24, and is due to reach a maximum in 2013. The next cycle would be expected to start in around 2020.

But separate examinations of the sun’s interior, surface and upper atmosphere all indicate that the next cycle will be significantly weakened.

Indeed, we may be heading into what’s known as a ‘grand minimum’ – a period of unusually low solar activity. The last such, known as the Maunder Minimum, took place between 1645 and 1755. Almost no sunspots were observed during this time.

The studies drew their conclusions from a missing jet stream in the interior of the sun, vanishing sunspots on its surface and changes in the corona and near the poles.

The National Solar Observatory (NSO) says that, based on 13 years of observations, sunspots are weakening. There have been fewer during the present cycle – and, if the trend continues, there may be none at all in the next.

Meanwhile, NSO observations of the jet streams circling the sun, whose strength tends to correlate with solar activity, has shown that activity is near-non-existent. Were the next solar cycle to proceed as usual, they would have appeared two or three years ago.

Finally, the sun’s corona, or upper atmosphere, is also failing to show changes associated with the usual solar cycles. Normally, scientists would expect to see magnetic features in the corona moving north and south in a phenomenon known as the rush to the poles. This time, however, they’re moving at a crawl.

“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory’s Solar Synoptic Network, told Space.com.

“But the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.”

The Maunder Minimum coincided with what’s known as the Little Ice Age, a period of unusual cold. But the scientists say there doesn’t appear to be a link between solar activity and the earth’s climate, with the Little Ice Age having been triggered by volcanic eruptions.

USC Researchers Switch Rat Memories On and Off

dailytech.com | Jun 21, 2011

by Tiffany Kaiser

The use of pharmacological agents to block the normal interactions between the CA3 and CA1 internal divisions within the hippocampus made the long-term memory of rats switch on and off

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) have found a way to switch memories on and off in rats.

Theodore Berger, study leader from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Sam A. Deadwyler, of the Wake Forest University Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, have designed a way of switching a rats memory on and off like a light switch.

To do this, scientists taught the rats a certain task where they must press one lever down instead of the other. When they pressed the correct lever, the rats were given a reward. The rats then received embedded electrical probes that allowed the team to record changes in the rat’s brain activity between the subregions CA3 and CA1, which are two internal divisions in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is known for transforming short term memory into long-term memory.

The team then used pharmacological agents to block the normal interactions between the CA3 and CA1 internal divisions. With these interactions blocked, previously trained rats no longer behaved as they did before with the levers. Berger noted that they still knew to press the left lever first, then the right lever second, and that the levers released water, but they could only remember for 5 to 10 seconds before forgetting which lever they previously released.

In addition, the researchers built an artificial hippocampal system that could mimic the interactions between the CA3 and CA1. When the electronic device was activated, the pharmacologically blocked rats were able to remember their long-term training once again.

The team went on to even strengthen memory through the use of a prosthetic device and associated electrodes that were implanted in an animal’s hippocampus.

“These integrated experimental modelling studies show for the first time that with sufficient information about the neural coding of memories, a neural prosthesis capable of real-time identification and manipulation of the encoding process can restore and even enhance cognitive mnemonic processes,” said the paper.

Berger and his team plan to conduct the same research in primates next, and eventually in humans to help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

A shivering Queensland Australia braces for snow during coldest winter snap in two decades

“We’ve had snow here before, about 20 years ago.”

Snow joke, white stuff for Hinterland

goldcoast.com.au | Jun 23, 2011

by Merrin Jagtman

SNOW could blanket the Gold Coast Hinterland this year as a shivering city enters its coldest — and longest — winter snap in nearly 20 years.

Minimum temperatures recorded at Coolangatta have been below 7C for the past nine days — the longest cold stretch on record since 1983.

This morning’s temperature is expected to plummet to 5C, 6C below the June average.

Weatherzone forecaster Josh Fisher said the cooler conditions were courtesy of a belt of high pressure stretching across Queensland.

“Rainfall on the Gold Coast is expected to be below average this winter, so minimum temperatures are also likely to hold below average,” Mr Fisher said.

“The average for June is 11.5C but so far this year the average is 8.9C.

“The average temperature for July on the Coast is 10C.”

Springbrook residents are bracing for the worst of the cold snap, including snow.

They have been rugging up in temperatures less than 1C and say they could dip below zero in coming weeks.

Andre Clayden, from Springbrook Research Observatory, said snow may also occur on the mountain.

“It’s possible if we have a good frost for the next couple of weeks and have low humidity,” he said.

“We’ve had snow here before, about 20 years ago, and I have seen sleet here about two years ago.”

May in Olympia, WA third-coldest on record

The colder weather wreaked havoc on crops, thinning the selection in the early weeks at farmers markets. When the Tumwater Farmers Market opened late last month, farmers said their crops were about one month behind schedule.

16 hours of sun? Must be summer solstice in Olympia

theolympian.com | Jun 22, 2011

by NATE HULINGS

OLYMPIA – Olympia soaked up nearly 16 hours of sunlight Tuesday, a feat celebrated by dozens who took part in the Native American Summer Solstice Medicine Wheel Ceremony at Heritage Park in downtown Olympia.

From dawn until dusk, group members sang, danced and drummed, celebrating the summer solstice and praying for peace and preservation of the Earth.

Others enjoyed a walk or bike ride around Capitol Lake or a quick lunch break in the sun.

Feeding olives to his two young daughters in the shade, Brian Boulay of Olympia said the warmer weather is nice, but that his family spends time outdoors regardless the temperature.

“We’re of the philosophy it’s not the wrong weather, it’s the wrong clothes,” he said.

As Mike Kelly geared up for his daily bike ride in Olympia, he said living in the Northwest means that if you want to get outdoors, you need to be ready for all types of weather. That’s not to say the sun isn’t a welcome sight.

“It feels good on the bones for sure,” he said. “The best part is everyone is in a good mood. When it’s gloomy, people are gloomy.”

And boy, was there a lot of gloom this spring.

After one of the region’s coldest Mays on record, temperatures in June are below average and long-range forecast models can’t decide what kind of summer Mother Nature is going to provide, said National Weather Service meteorologist Johnny Burg. Temperatures this month are averaging about 1.5 degrees below normal, he said.

Spring took its time delivering the first 70-degree day, holding out until May 18 – only two days before the record for that benchmark’s latest arrival, set in 1948. That’s the year temperatures first were measured in Olympia, Burg said.

“It’s going to be equal chances that it could be above, below or near normal,” Burg said. “It’s kind of a wait-and-see what happens.”

The average temperature in Olympia this May was the third-coldest on record. The colder and wetter spring can be blamed on La Nina, Burg said.

The colder weather wreaked havoc on crops, thinning the selection in the early weeks at farmers markets. When the Tumwater Farmers Market opened late last month, farmers said their crops were about one month behind schedule.

A long stretch of 70-degree days still could be a ways out. Clouds are expected to return today, dropping the temperate about 10 degrees from Tuesday. Drizzle and a chance of showers are forecast the rest of the week, with highs in the low to mid-60s.

As for July 4?

Forecast models show colder conditions and more precipitation than normal through Independence Day, but that doesn’t mean we’ll have a cold, wet holiday, Burg said.