Weather Around The World: Typhoon, Drought, Flood — And Lobsters?

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The forecast track of Typhoon Matmo. Courtesy of US Navy

The forecast track of Typhoon Matmo. Courtesy of US Navy

Tropical cyclone maximum is approaching.

There’s too much rain in some places and not enough in others; and the lobsters are hiding. Let’s go around the world.

The Tropics Are Cooking — Even In The Atlantic

The western Pacific Ocean is ground zero for tropical cyclones right now, but there is action in every part of the Pacific, and even a little in the Atlantic.

Western Pacific Ocean:

Right on the heels of Super-Typhoon Neoguri, which hit Japan, and Major Typhoon Rammasun, which battered the Philippines and China’s Hainan Island, we have Typhoon Matmo, steering a middle course toward Taiwan.

The current forecast brings Matmo within 65 miles of Taipei with winds of 110 miles per hour. After that, Matmo will move over China, turn north, and dissipate, probably not coming close enough to Shanghai to cause any damage.

Central Pacific Ocean:

Hawaii is rarely affected by typhoons because the water around the islands is not quite warm enough to sustain a tropical cyclone. However, while the winds rarely reach the islands, the moisture can be carried to them, and when the moisture hits the mountains there can be a lot of rain. In the last couple of days, many parts of Hawaii have experienced flooding from the remains of Tropical Storm Wali.

Eastern Pacific Ocean:

The festering area of warm water south of Mexico is always ready to explode into tropical cyclone activity. There is currently an area of interest to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), but it is not likely to develop. Nevertheless, anything in this area has to be watched closely because the water is so warm.

Atlantic Ocean:

A small swirl in the middle of the Atlantic looks suspiciously like a tropical storm on satellite images.

The NHC is calling it Tropical Depression Two, with winds of 35 miles per hour, but Bertha could be birthed soon. However, the Atlantic is still generally an unfriendly place for tropical cyclones, with strong wind shear and a lot of dry air.

Even if Bertha reaches the 39 mile per hour wind threshold that defines a tropical storm, it will quickly dissipate as it moves into a more hostile environment near the Windward Islands.

A large low pressure system in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is pushing warm, humid air towards the UK. Courtesy of Metoffice

A large low pressure system in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is pushing warm, humid air towards the UK. Image courtesy of Metoffice

Flooding In England

A large low pressure center in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is pumping warm air northward over the United Kingdom, producing bursts of rain. The first rain area, which caused a rescheduling of tee times at the British Open Golf Tournament on Saturday, brought flooding to London on Sunday.

The southerly winds are keeping the temperatures well above normal in all of the UK, and another round of rain could push through on Thursday.

Drought In Jamaica

Jamaica, as well as many of the Caribbean islands, is in the throes of a serious drought. Water-wasting is punishable by jail time in Jamaica. Yet the island receives between 30 and 100 inches of rain annually, depending on the location.

Jamaica’s Environment Minister, Robert Pickersgill, has blamed the drought on climate change, but even if that is a contributing factor, there is plenty of water in Jamaica — it is just poorly managed. Though the current drought is causing agricultural losses, historically hurricane wind and flooding have been the main cause of crop losses.

Rainfall in the tropics tends to come in large doses, but infrequently. Much is lost to runoff. A system of reservoirs would go a long way towards solving Jamaica’s water problem.

Editorial comment: There is a danger that¬†hand-wringing and blaming every weather problem on climate change will lead to inaction. Certainly, warmer temperatures and persistent weather will affect Jamaicans as it will affect us all. Though international action on greenhouse gas emissions is essential, complaining¬†about climate change will not solve Jamaica’s water problems; reforming poor conservation habits will.

Cold Winter Causes Delayed Lobster Season

Arthropods such as lobsters seem to have a good thing going: Their hard outer shells offers protection from just about anything that can’t swallow them whole. Or man, of course, with his big brain, big appetite and big tools.

There’s just one problem when you’re an arthropod — how do you grow? The answer is, you get rid of your shell and form a bigger one. And that presents a predicament for a lobster: It takes a few weeks for the new shell to get hard; during that time the lobster is vulnerable — very vulnerable. So after they molt (shed their shells), the lobsters ‘go under,’ as the fishermen say. They hide under rocks or anything else that will offer safety, and very few are caught.

Lobsters molt once a year, in the summer, normally beginning in June. The time of the molt is water-temperature dependent. This year, because the waters off the Maine coast (Maine produces 85% of American-caught lobsters) have not completely recovered from the cold winter, the molt hasn’t started. Lobstermen are discouraged, and tourists are paying high prices.

Weather Is Never Dull

It’s an active and interesting summer, weather-wise. What’s it like where you are?

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© Copyright 2014 Jon Plotkin, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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