Monday, January 30, 2023

Record cold and the ozone layer

| January 23, 2023 1:07 AM

We may see the “tale of two winters” before the snow season ends later this year. As I mentioned last week, after we had periods with big snowfalls in December, there has been very little snow in January. In fact, there was no measurable snow at Cliff’s station in northwestern Coeur d’Alene for the first 9 days of the month. Since then, we’ve only seen about 2-3 inches across the region. According to Cliff’s records, the period from late December through Jan. 23 has been the most snowless in recorded history.

The normal snowfall for this month is 21.4 inches and the long-range weather forecast models are not showing much in the way of big snows across the Inland Northwest for the rest of the month. However, weather patterns start to look more promising for snow in early-to-mid February. Although, it has recently turned much drier than normal, Cliff and I do believe that we’ll see another period of normal to above average snow across the region in February and March.

Our current snowfall for 2022-23 season is over 51 inches and when the snow eventually returns to the Inland Northwest, we’re still predicting that Coeur d’Alene will end up with a slightly above average total of between 80 and 85 inches for the season. Our seasonal normal for snow in Coeur d’Alene is 69.8 inches.

We’re still watching the changes in sea-surface temperatures in the waters of the south-central Pacific Ocean. Within the last week, the cooler La Niña event has weakened. Forecasters have updated their prediction that a new La Nada, the in-between cooler La Niña and warmer El Niño, will replace the La Niña by next month. There are some reports and computer forecast models that indicate that we could still see the formation of a new El Niño as early as the summer season. The new forecasts are showing that the new El Niño would be weak, but we’ll have to wait and see on how this develops in the next several months.

This week’s weather looks cloudy and cold across the Inland Northwest with highs mostly in the 30s. It’s certainly going to be chilly this week, but it doesn’t compare to the intense cold in Siberia.

A Russian town in northern Siberia called Zhilinda, reported its lowest January temperature on record with an air temperature of -79.8 degrees Fahrenheit last Tuesday. It’s the lowest temperature in Siberia in several decades. It’s very possible that some isolated locations may have had readings colder than -80 degrees. Zhilinda’s all-time low temperatures was -82.3 degrees.

By the way, the coldest temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere was -93.3 degrees in Greenland on Dec. 22, 1991. Officially, the coldest reported temperature on Earth was -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit at the Vostok Station in Antarctica, in the Southern Hemisphere, on July 21, 1983. However, there was an unofficial satellite observation along a ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji at an elevation of nearly 13,000 feet in Antarctica of -135.8 degrees Fahrenheit. In other higher elevations in Antarctica, there have been estimates of low temperatures colder than -140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Speaking of the Southern Hemisphere, according to the most recent summary of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, the ozone layer has been progressing in a positive direction and could be completely recovered by 2040 across most of the planet. The polar regions would likely take another 5 to 25 years with the hole over Antarctica taking the longest to recover.

Back in 1974, scientists argued that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a chemical used for refrigeration, hairsprays and other aerosols were harming or depleting the ozone layer. This critical layer that is primarily located in Earth’s stratosphere, typically absorbs about 98% of the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. If the ozone layer did not exist, then scientists say that life on this planet would be unsustainable.

The ozone layer is thinnest above Antarctica where a “hole” is seen. Each year, the hole in the ozone in this part of the world would appear during their spring season, which is during the months of September, October and November. By their summer (December, January and February), the hole would usually fill. However, with the increase of CFCs, the filling of the ozone hole was decreasing as it was getting noticeably bigger in the 1970s and 1980s.

Since the late 1980s, most of the countries agreed to dramatically decrease the use of those harmful chemicals. As a result, the latest report on the ozone hole is encouraging.

Australia is close to Antarctica and has one of the highest rates for skin cancer in the world. During their summer season, which can be intense, government officials will constantly issue warnings for those who are planning to stay outside for an extended period of time to use sunscreen or at least try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. It’s good advice and sunscreen should be considered when venturing out in the sun anywhere on Earth.

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