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It's been a wild start to 2024

by RANDY MANN
| January 8, 2024 1:05 AM

We’re barely a week into 2024 and some parts of the world have experienced extreme weather and natural disasters. Since the beginning of the year, major earthquakes, floods, snowstorms and frigid weather have been making headlines.

 On New Year’s Day, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake in the northeastern tip of the Noto Peninsula in western Japan. It was the deadliest earthquake since April 16, 2016, when a 7.0 earthquake hit southern Japan. The earthquake was strong enough to shift the coastline of western Japan by over 800 feet in some areas. A tsunami of approximately 14 feet was also recorded along the Sea of Japan coastline. Total damage from this event is estimated at over $6 billion U.S. dollars and there have also been thousands of aftershocks since the big quake.

 This region has been experiencing earthquake swarms for the last three years. There was also a large earthquake in May 2023 that had a magnitude of 6.3 that also shook the Noto Peninsula area.

However, one of the worst natural disasters in Japan was March 11, 2011, as a 9.0-9.1 magnitude earthquake stuck off the eastern Japan coast. That was the fourth most powerful earthquake ever measured on Earth and it triggered a powerful tsunami. The event was also the costliest natural disaster in history with economic costs at least $235 billion.

We also had the first strong volcanic eruption of 2024 in Indonesia. Mount Merapi, one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes erupted Jan. 4 and sent ash nearly 2 miles into the air.

Japan and Indonesia are situated along the notorious “Ring of Fire.” This is an area that looks like a horseshoe that extends from New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, southern Alaska, along the western U.S., Central American and South American West Coasts. The Ring of Fire is the result of the movement and collisions of the tectonic plates that have led to the creation of over 450 volcanoes, especially along the U.S. West Coast. Approximately 90% of the world’s earthquakes are recorded in this region.

In terms of weather, despite the very strong and warm El Niño sea-surface temperature event, extremely cold temperatures along with gale-force winds and snow have pounded the Nordic region in northern Europe over the last week. The frigid temperatures have caused transportation disruptions and power outages were reported. Air temperatures have been reported as low as an unbelievable -45 degrees Fahrenheit near the border of Norway and Sweden, according to an Australian news report (ABC). The extreme cold has also affected western Russia with temperatures down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit in Moscow.

In addition to the frigid temperatures in Europe, flooding rains were reported in early January across Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Many of these areas have seen these massive floods since late December. The United Kingdom in western Europe has also been hit with floods, very strong winds, and power outages. Wind speeds off the coast in southern England were measured as high as over 90 miles per hour, which would be a very strong Category 1 hurricane.

Here in the U.S., a strong storm brought around 1-3 inches of snow to Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. South of these regions, thunderstorms dropped heavy amounts of rain along the Gulf Coast with the potential for severe weather. This same system tracked to the Northeast and delivered moderate to heavy snowfalls to parts of the Northeast over the weekend. More storms and colder weather are expected across the center of the country this week.

In California, a series of storms brought widespread rain and flooding last month. However, thanks, at least in part, to the warm El Niño, snowpacks in the higher mountains are well below normal. Some stations are reporting around 25% of the historical average.

In terms of our local weather, it’s going to be a wintry week across the Inland Northwest with plenty of new snow expected in the lower elevations. By this weekend, we should see around 1-2 feet of new snow in the lower elevations. As of Sunday, only 10.5 inches has fallen at Cliff’s station, but that will change.

In addition to the snow, very frigid temperatures are likely toward the middle to the end of the week. It’s very possible that we could have morning low temperatures below the zero mark in Coeur d’Alene this Friday and Saturday, and especially in the outlying areas. If there are exposed pipes, I would consider having them covered. The last time we had readings below zero in Coeur d’Alene was Jan. 30, 2023, with a low of -1 degrees. On Dec. 22, 2022, Coeur d’Alene dropped to a frigid -12 degrees.

The long-range computer models are showing warmer air invading the region next week. The rest of the month looks like periods of rain and snow.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.