NOAA Gives Annual Overview on Weather Extremes; Begs 'Space' Approach
March 15, 2012 • 11:15PM

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) gave its annual "Spring Outlook" for 2012 expected weather patterns, Thursday, in which the incidence of extremes—drought and high temperatures, raised points about problem impacts. This year's dramatic Warm Winter was a main feature of attention at a phone-forum. The implication—unstated, but clear—was that NOAA and sister agencies at NASA, US Army Corps of Engineers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Agriculture, the US Geological Survey—do not have the means to carry out tasks of satellite and other monitoring, and protective action. Just the opposite is happening, while Obama remains in office.

In short, the patterns in the Lower 48 states include 1) low risk of snowmelt-associated flooding, because of this past Winter's low snowpack; 2) reduced area of drought—as in the south central plains states, but 3) continuing, terrible drought in the Southwest, and parts of the Southeast; and 4) problems arising from the Warm Winter.

Drought of "historic magnitude" was the description offered for West Texas and New Mexico, now in their 51st consecutive week of what is categorized as "severe, extreme or exceptional" aridity. Last year was the worst one-year drought in Texas' history. In New Mexico, 66 percent of the state is in extreme water shortage. Arizona likewise. The reservoir levels are below the danger level. In Texas, water for irrigated rice farming will be shut off for the first time ever, in the lower Colorado River, southeast of Austin.

In part of the Southeast states, there are severe regions of drought. Three-quarters of the state of Georgia is hit. Lake Linnear, Atlanta's water supply, is five feet below its full pool level. The Appalachee-Chatahoochee-Flint Basins are in severe drought.

This week, the warm Winter set records at 400 sites for record high temperatures, and another 177 sites for high minimum night-time temperatures (March 14). But, apart from relief from snow removal and heating expenses, the extreme mildness is posing all kinds of problems. There are explosions of insects—stink bugs, ticks, etc.—and implications for public health and agriculture.

NOAA announced they have a new Memo of Understanding with the CDC, to track consequences from disease vectors. NOAA would like to initiate a new collaboration with NASA on impacts of heat on health.

State agronomists in the Farmbelt are warning of effects of above-average temperatures. For the Cornbelt, Western Illinois Professor Mark Barnards notes that nitrogen applied to fields in the Fall, can alter under conditions of warm soil temperatures, into a nitrate susceptible to loss in Spring rain run-off. He also notes that insects which usually die under deep frigid temperatures, have survived this Winter. He tells farmers to watch for leaf beetles on soybeans, for corn flea, and for aphids, which transmit several diseases.

As for explanations of extreme weather patterns, NOAA officials discussed relevant observations in a limited, 'Earth-bound' sense, including descriptions of the role of the Arctic Oscillation. But, however limited, they refused to be baited by a reporter's assertion that extreme temperatures show climate change. "Yes, extreme [weather] events are consistent with the climate change [model], but it is not possible to connect them."

Under the Obama/Republican reign, the National Weather Service is proposed to have a 6.2% budget cut for FY 2013, down to $872 mil; NOAA is to have a 1.31% increase to $5.18 bil, but not enough to maintain weather satellite programs as required; and the Army Corps of Engineers (which works with the National Weather Service) is cut down to $4.73 bil for FY 2013, down from the paltry $5.002 bil in 2012.