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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

NOAA: April Global Temperatures are Fifth-Warmest

Most of the globe's land areas experienced warmer-than-average temperatures, resulting in the second-warmest April land temperature, behind 2007 (Credit: NOAA Visualization Lab)

La Niña ends; neutral conditions return over equatorial Pacific Ocean

According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature for April marked the fifth warmest April since record keeping began in 1880. April 2012 also marked the largest departure from the 20th century average temperature in more than a year.

La Niña, typically associated with cooler global temperatures, dissipated and transitioned to neutral conditions during April as sea surface temperatures continued to warm across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, neutral conditions are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere's summer.

April analysis

U.S. Temperatures for April Third-Warmest on Record

Map: April 2012 Statewide Ranks

Past 12 months and first third of the year were warmest nation has experienced

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that several warm periods across the contiguous U.S. during April brought the national average temperature to 55°F, 3.6°F above average, marking the third warmest April on record. These temperatures, when added with the first quarter and previous 11 months, calculate to the warmest year-to-date and 12-month periods since recordkeeping began in 1895.

January-April was the warmest such period on record for the contiguous United States, with an average temperature of 45.4°F, 5.4°F above the long-term average. Twenty-six states, all east of the Rockies, were record warm for the four-month period and an additional 17 states had temperatures for the period among their ten warmest.

On the heels of the warmest March for the U.S., warmer and drier than average temperatures continued for much of the nation with some states in the Ohio Valley having a small, but still above-average, dip in temperatures.  Full briefing

NOAA Near-Term Weather Forecasts Get Powerful Boost from New Computer Model

Rapid Refresh (or RAP, lower right) performed better than the older RUC model (lower left) in predicting severe weather conditions that occurred in the Midwest on June 21, 2011 (upper right).

Research yields new tool to achieve a Weather-Ready Nation

Starting today, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is using a sophisticated new weather forecast computer model to improve predictions of quickly developing severe weather events including thunderstorms, winter storms and aviation hazards such as clear air turbulence.

The Rapid Refresh now provides NOAA's most rapidly updated weather forecast, replacing an older model that served a similar function. The Rapid Refresh, developed by NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. and NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in Camp Springs, Md., updates every hour with a new forecast extending out 18 hours for North America. Such forecasts are especially important in aviation, where fast-developing weather conditions can affect safety and efficiency, but they are equally important for severe weather and energy-related forecasting. | Full release

Earth Day 2012: Commerce Saves Trees—and Money—by Cutting Down on Printing

Image of grass, ferns and a tree

Guest blog post by Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Rebecca Blank

Earth Day is here, and Commerce is seeing the positive results of its year-long campaign to “go green” and drive down costs in print. Just this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce’s largest bureau, announced it has removed over one-third of its desktop printers, bringing total savings from the Commerce print project to $4.7 million per year.

Commerce spends $25 million annually on print–which includes equipment, paper, toner, energy and services. Last year we took a look at where that money was going and found that:

  • Commerce printed 250 million pages on its networked printers.
  • Nearly all of those pages were printed single-sided, and a quarter were printed in color. 
  • We also had a high ratio of employees-to-desktop printers, which use more toner and are more expensive than shared printers.  
  • And we realized we had 350 contracts and 400 vendors, with very little centralized ordering.

NOAA: National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Poster for National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

The first-ever National Severe Weather Preparedness Week begins Sunday, April 22, and Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have partnered to raise awareness and save lives.

Last year, storms raked the central and southern United States, spawning more than 300 tornadoes, claiming hundreds of lives and ranking as one of the largest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. As the nation marks the first anniversary of that historic outbreak, from April 22-28 we’re asking each person across the country to “Be a Force of Nature” by knowing the risk, taking action and being an example. Starting April 22, visit the NOAA homepage, National Weather Service Weather-Ready Nation website and the NOAA and NWS Facebook pages to get daily tips on how you can become a force of nature.

The severe weather of 2012 has already brought to light many forces of nature across the country. There was Stephanie Decker in Indiana, who, after receiving a timely text from her husband about an imminent tornado, took immediate action and gathered her children in the basement. Shielding them from collapsing debris, Stephanie tragically lost parts of both of her legs, but her children were unharmed. Lisa Rebstock in Texas saved the lives of her children by being prepared with a plan and a kit before the storm struck. Eighty-eight-year-old Wilma Nelson survived the deadliest tornado in Oklahoma history in 1947 and proved her force of nature status yet again. She said she owes her life to a NOAA Weather Radio that alerted her of the tornado that struck Woodward, Oklahoma, April 15.

NOAA Releases New Views of Earth’s Ocean Floor

A view of Delgada Canyon offshore Northern California, as portrayed in NOAA’s new online viewer.

NOAA has made sea floor maps and other data on the world’s coasts, continental shelves and deep ocean available for easy viewing online. Anyone with Internet access can now explore undersea features and obtain detailed depictions of the sea floor and coasts, including deep canyons, ripples, landslides and likely fish habitat.

The new online data viewer compiles sea floor data from the near shore to the deep blue, including the latest high-resolution bathymetric (sea bottom) data collected by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey primarily to support nautical charting.

“NOAA’s ocean bottom data are critical to so many mission requirements, including coastal safety and resiliency, navigation, healthy oceans and more. They are also just plain beautiful,” said Susan McLean, chief of NOAA’s Marine Geology and Geophysics Division in Boulder, Colo.

McLean’s division is part of NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center, responsible for compiling, archiving and distributing Earth system data, including Earth observations from space, marine geology information and international natural hazard data and imagery. NGDC’s sea floor data have long been free and open to the public in original science formatting, but that often required the use of specialized software to convert the data into maps and other products.

In Time for Home Opener, NOAA’s National Weather Service Declares Coors Field StormReady®

Ominous Clouds Approaching Coors Field (credit: Rich Clarkson and Assoc)

Just in time for their home opener of the 2012 season, fans of Colorado Rockies baseball can feel safer when severe thunderstorms threaten Coors Field now that the park has earned designation as a National Weather Service StormReady® Supporter. Coors Field is the fourth major league baseball park to earn StormReady distinction.

To become StormReady, Rockies officials worked with local emergency management and NOAA’s National Weather Service to adopt a rigorous set of detection and warning criteria to provide protection from severe weather. Warning coordination meteorologist Robert Glancy will present a StormReady plaque and certificates to the Rockies at the April 13 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The nationwide community preparedness program uses a grassroots approach to help communities and organizations develop plans to handle local severe weather and flooding threats. The program is voluntary and provides clear-cut advice from a partnership between local National Weather Service forecast offices, state and local emergency managers and individual organizations. StormReady started in 1999 with seven communities in the Tulsa, Okla. area. There are now nearly 1,900 StormReady sites across the country. StormReady baseball fields include the Minnesota Twins' Target Field, the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark, and the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium.

NOAA: U.S. Records Warmest March; More than 15,000 Warm Temperature Records Broken

U.S. map showing locations of record-breaking temps

First quarter of 2012 also warmest on record; early March tornado outbreak is year's first "billion dollar disaster"

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists, record- and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, a record that dates back to 1895. Over 15,000 records were broken as March 2012 became the warmest on record.

The average temperature of 51.1 degrees F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5 degrees F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months (or more than 116 years) that have passed since the U.S. climate record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.

This monthly analysis from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders.  Full release  |  NOAA visuaolization

The National Weather Service in the 1940s

Women hovering over weather maps

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today

The 1940s was a pivotal decade for the National Weather Service and the entire field of meteorology. Advancements in technology during the ‘40s, spurred by World War II, provided the scientific foundation for modern day weather forecasting throughout the world.

The agency, founded by Ulysses S. Grant in 1870 and called the Weather Bureau, was originally housed in the War Department. It was later moved to the Department of Agriculture in 1890, and then in 1940 President Roosevelt transferred it to the Department of Commerce. In 1970 the agency was renamed the National Weather Service when it became part of the newly-created National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce.

In the 1940s, most of the modern technology forecasters rely on today had not yet been invented, such as satellites and super computers. Weather observations were painstakingly logged by hand.

By 1940, the Weather Bureau operated 35 radiosonde stations (weather balloons), allowing for the routine measurement of atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind direction and speed. In 1942, the Weather Bureau received 25 surplus radars from the military, launching the network of weather surveillance radars.

Risk of Major Flooding in Spring is Low for the First Time in Four Years

U.S. Spring Flood Risk Map for 2012

Drought lingers in southern Plains and Southeast, expands in West and upper Midwest

For the first time in four years, no area of the country faces a high risk of major to record spring flooding, largely due to the limited winter snowfall, according to NOAA’s annual Spring Outlook, which forecasts the potential for flooding from April to June.

“We’re not forecasting a repeat of recent historic and prolonged flooding in the central and northern U.S., and that is a relief,” said Laura Furgione, deputy director, NOAA’s National Weather Service. “The severity of any flooding this year will be driven by rainfall more so than the melting of the current snowpack.”

The Ohio River basin including portions of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, along with parts of Louisiana and Mississippi are the only areas with an above-normal risk of flooding as soil moisture and river levels are currently above normal. Additionally, odds favor above-average April rainfall for the Ohio River basin.

River and stream water levels are normal to below normal for most of the country and there is less snow pack than in previous years. As a result, there is a normal flood risk from the Northeast, through the mid-Atlantic, across most of the northern Plains and into the Northwest. However, heavy spring rainfall can lead to flooding at any time, even in areas where overall risk is considered at or even below normal.  Drought outlook infographic  |  Full NOAA release