NOAA beefs up its computer capacity with major upgrade

Computer capacity

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

NOAA is poised to triple its computing capacity over the next two years, the agency announced Thursday.

In a news release, NOAA said it added “two new Cray computers” the so-called supercomputers from Hewlett Packard, each with a capacity of 12 petaflops, which will become operational in 2022.

“Coupled with NOAA’s research and development supercomputers in West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Colorado, which have a combined capacity of 16 petaflops, the supercomputing capacity supporting NOAA’s new operational prediction and research will be 40 petaflops,” the agency said.

“This increase in high-performance computing will triple the capacity and double the storage and interconnect speed, allowing NOAA to unlock possibilities for better forecast model guidance through higher-resolution and more comprehensive Earth-system models, using larger ensembles, advanced physics, and improved data assimilation.”

I know what you’re thinking: What’s a petaflop?

I googled it and found this definition: “A unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million floating-point operations per second.”

Does that clear it up? No, it doesn’t for me, either. But it sounds like these are some heavy-duty, ultra-high-tech, sci-fi-quality mega-machines, so get ready for some pinpoint forecasts.

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RECORD WATCH: Marathon tied a record high Thursday with 86. The original record was set last year. Record warm minimum temperatures were set or tied in Miami (74); Naples (73); and Key West (77).

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SPRING-SUMMER SNEAK PEEK: In addition to the new March forecast released Thursday by NOAA (see yesterday’s post), the agency also issued updated long-range predictions. Below are the forecasts for April-June, the top graphic for temps and the bottom for precip. (Image credits: NOAA/ CPC)

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New March forecast for Florida: Cool and wet

March temps

(Image credits: NOAA/ CPC)

March precip

THE UPDATED MARCH FORECAST IS OUT: The forecast, released by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center Thursday, calls for equal chances of above- or below-normal temperatures in Central and South Florida in March, but below normal temps in the panhandle and North Florida.

Above normal rainfall is predicted throughout all of Florida, including the panhandle.

Taking a closer look, Thursday runs of the GFS suggest that a strong cold front will knock temperatures back to end the month, with lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s next weekend across the peninsula. Ditto for the first weekend of March, as lows sink into the single digits in the Upper Midwest.

In fact, long-range models show a cool first half of March across the country, from California to New England.

In any case, normal highs and lows around Florida start ticking up impressively in March. On March 1, normal highs and lows in Miami are 79 and 71; and 82 and 74 on March 31. Orlando: 76 and 54 to 80 and 58; and Tampa, 74 and 56 to 78 and 60.

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COOL WEEKEND: Forecast highs and lows on Saturday include 71 and 66 in Miami; 67 and 53 in Orlando; and 70 and 51 in Tampa. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph in some areas, the National Weather Service said, so it looks like a rather blustery weekend.

A warm-up begins on Monday.

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RECORD WATCH: Orlando tied a record high Wednesday with 88, matching the mark set in 1962. It was 87 in Marathon, which also tied a record high for February 19 set just last year.

Record warm lows were set or tied in Orlando (67); Miami (75, beating the old record of 74 set in 1929); Fort Lauderdale (75); West Palm Beach (75); Naples (73); Key West (78); Daytona Beach (67); Sanford (68); and Leesburg (69).

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Severe Drought (D2) has taken hold in the central Panhandle, mostly Franklin and Liberty counties. The Tallahassee area is under Moderate Drought (D1), according to the report released Thursday. Northwest Florida is Abnormally Dry as is the Tampa area.

Naples posts earliest 90-degree day on record

Naples record

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Tuesday was the first official 90-degree day of the year in Florida as Naples checked in with a high of 90 — the earliest 90-degree day on record for the city. Previously, the earliest 90-degree day in Naples occurred on February 19 of last year.

It was the first time Naples hit that summery mark since November 7. The last time Miami hit or topped 90 was on November 1.

The normal high in Naples for this time of the year is 78. The normal high doesn’t hit 90 in Naples until June 6.

There have been several unofficial 90-degree days, mostly in the inland areas of Collier County. And Orlando came close on February 13 — but no cigar — with a high of 89.

Tuesday’s 90-degree high in Naples smashed the previous record high for the date of 86, set just two years ago in 2018.

Other record temps around the state:

RECORD HIGHS (TIED): Orlando, (87); Tampa (84); St. Petersburg (83); Lakeland (86) and Leesburg (86).

RECORD WARM LOWS (SET OR TIED): Orlando (65); Sarasota (66); Leesburg (67); Miami (74); Fort Lauderdale (75); West Palm Beach (74); and Key West (78). In the case of Key West, the 78-degree low beat the old record of 77 set just one year ago.

Key West ties 93-year-old high temperature record

Key West record

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Meteorological spring begins a week from Sunday, but spring-like temperatures are already in place across the Florida peninsula, with some 90-plus readings in inland parts of South Florida.

In Broward County, Weston hit 90 and an observer near the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport reported a high of 92.

In the Keys, Key West tied a 93-year-old high temperature record Monday with 84. And in Central Florida, Leesburg tied a record warm minimum temperature with 65.

Toasty temps are set to continue until Friday, when a cold front knocks temperatures back into the 60s and 70s for the weekend. until then, expect more record warm temperatures.

“Naples will have to be watched as the records there are mid to upper 80s and we will certainly be in that ballpark,” the National Weather Service said in its Tuesday discussion from Miami.

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FINANCIAL STORM WARNING: There are plenty of pins that have the potential to pop the economic bubble that has been pumped up by artificially low interest rates set by world banks over the last 10 years. One of them is the spread of the coronavirus, which is already doing damage to the Asian economies.

Here’s another one: extreme weather.

A paper published Monday by experts at the University of California at Davis argues that there’s too much unpriced risk in the energy market due to weather-related events, especially excessively high temperatures.

“Unpriced risk was the main cause of the Great Recession in 2007-2008,” said author Paul Griffin, an accounting professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. “Right now, energy companies shoulder much of that risk. The market needs to better assess risk, and factor a risk of extreme weather into securities prices.”

Excessive heat has the ability to impact agriculture, interfere with delivery of energy and water, and disrupt transportation.

“Despite these obvious risks, investors and asset managers have been conspicuously slow to connect physical climate risk to company market valuations,” Griffin said in the paper published by the academic journal, Nature Energy. “Loss of property is what grabs all the headlines, but how are businesses coping? Threats to businesses could disrupt the entire economic system.”

He added: “While proprietary climate risk models my help some firms and organizations better understand future conditions attributable to climate change, extreme weather risk is still highly problematic from a risk estimation standpoint,” he concluded in the article.

“This is because with climate change, the patterns of the past are no guide to the future, whether it be one year, five years or 20 years out. Investors may also normalize extreme weather impacts over time, discounting their future importance.”

Climate change shocker: Third of all species could be extinct by 2070

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An Alligator Juniper in Prescott, Arizona. The species is being pushed up into the mountains by climate change, a new study says. (Image credit: Tom Check via Wikimedia Commons)

Most people consider sea level rise the biggest problem related to climate change, and that is a critical issue, especially if you live in coastal areas and states like Florida. But here’s another dire consequence: a third of all plants and animal species could be extinct in the next 50 years.

Researchers at the University of Arizona looked at localized plant and animal extinctions in the past that have occurred in specific areas. They found that up to 50 percent of species suffered local extinctions if maximum temperatures increased by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius and 95 percent if they increased by more than 2.9 degrees.

As a result, the rate of extinction is highly dependent on how much warming occurs in the coming years, according to the researchers, Cristian Román-Palacios and John Wiens, of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.

“In a way, it’s a ‘choose your own adventure,'” said Wiens. “If we stick to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, we may lose fewer than two out of every 10 plant and animal species on Earth by 2070. But if humans cause larger temperature increases, we could lose more than a third or even half of all animal and plant species, based on our results.”

As one example, they considered the Alligator Juniper tree in Arizona. In flat lands, the plants are dying due to rising daytime temperatures. “Repeated surveys have shown that this species is literally being pushed up the mountain slopes under the impact of climate change,” the university said in a news release.

Here’s the kicker: Extinctions are projected to be two to four times more common in the tropics than in temperate regions. “This is a big problem, because the majority of plant and animal species occur in the tropics,” Román-Palacios said.

Both plant and animal species will be equally affected, the researchers said.

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SPRING IN THE AIR: Clear skies with plenty of sunshine will give temperatures a boost through at least Thursday of this week, with highs rising into the low 80s on the East Coast and as high as the upper 80s in southwestern parts of the Florida peninsula, according to the National Weather Service.

Beyond that, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for below normal temperatures in all of Florida from next Saturday into the following week.

NOAA will release its full March forecast on Thursday. The latest long-range CFS model shows cooler weather hanging on the first week of March followed by above normal temperatures as we head into the second half of the month.

RECORD WATCH: Vero Beach posted a record warm low Sunday of 71 degrees. It beat the old record of 70 set in 1965.

Nice week on tap for Florida peninsula; January was record warm worldwide;

With strong easterly winds and a cold front stalled out over the Keys, some decent rainfall totals were occurring over southeastern Florida and the Keys. A CoCoRaHS observer for the national precipitation network reported 1.54 inches in Key Largo from Saturday through early Sunday morning.

An observer in North Miami Beach reported 1.24 inches; and an observer in Fort Lauderdale reported 1.45 inches.

Palm Beach County reported around a quarter of an inch. Lighter amounts fell along the Treasure Coast.

Another nice warm-up is scheduled for the coming work week, but then a cold front knocks temperatures back to below normal next weekend, just in time for the start of the exhibition baseball season.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

The Climate Prediction Center is calling for February to go out on a slightly cooler note, especially the southern tier of states from New Mexico all the way to the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic States on the East Coast.

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Global temps

(Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

ANOTHER JANUARY, ANOTHER RECORD: Earth had its warmest January in the 141-year-old record, the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) said on Thursday.

Temperatures worldwide were 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, which beat the previous record for the warmest January by 0.04 of a degree. That occurred in January 2016.

“The four warmest Januaries on record have occurred since 2016, while the 10 warmest Januaries have occurred since 2002,” NCEI, a NOAA agency, reported. “The only Januaries with a global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average above 1.0°C (1.8°F) occurred in 2016 and 2019.”

The contiguous U.S. had its fifth warmest January, with records in that category going back 126 years. Hawaii had its second warmest January but Alaska had its coldest January since 2012. In fact, it tied 1970 as the 13th coldest January on record.

Every state in the Lower 48 had above normal temperatures, including Florida, which was above average but not record warm. Highest temperature anomalies were found in Texas and Oklahoma, the Great Lakes States, and the Northeast.

The Caribbean had its second warmest January, also behind 2016.

So I figured it was a good time to take a peek at sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean and the Main Development Region of the tropical Atlantic. It’s early, of course, but very warm water temperatures seem to be setting up shop from the coast of Africa all the way west into the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Particularly high temperature anomalies are in place off the U.S. East Coast, with the highest being in the Mid-Atlantic.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

Earth saved as giant space rock whizzes harmlessly past planet

Today was rumored to be the end of the world as we know it. But it turned out to be no biggie after a space rock called 2002 PZ39 sped past Earth at a (relatively) safe distance of 3.6 million miles at 6:05 a.m.

The non-event had been built up on social media as a potential planet killer, since the asteroid is 3,250 feet long, larger than the tallest skyscraper in the world.

One media outlet said that “the energy from its explosion would be enough to trigger a global nuclear winter that could last for years. The harsh environmental changes triggered by the asteroid’s impact could lead to the mass extinction of different species.”

But on Spaceweather.com, science writer Tony Phillips said: “There was never any danger. NASA has been tracking the 0.5 km asteroid for 17 years and long ago determined that a collision would not happen.”

Phillips posted a video taken via telescope of 2002 PZ39 sailing across the early morning sky. In celestial terms, 3.6 million miles is a close encounter, but it’s 15 times the distance to the moon.

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RECORD WATCH: Naples tied a record warm low Friday with 70 degrees. The record was originally set in 1948. In the Keys, Marathon broke a record warm low with 77, beating the old record of 75 set in 2001.