Due to El Niño and global warming, 2015 natural disasters are much less costly than expected, according to a study by an insurance industry group. The insurance industry’s largest losses in recent years are due to severe winter weather. Global warming and El Niño — a weather event that warms up ocean temperatures in South America, causing the United states to get unusually warm for a year — abated these insurance costs, according to Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. Historically, hurricanes are the insurance industry’s biggest weather related expense, but no hurricane made landfall in the United States during 2015. In fact, no major hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. in the last 10 years, setting a new record. –Andrew Follett, Daily Caller News Foundation, 5 January 2015
Sea surface temperature across the equatorial Pacific basin have cooled roughly one-half a degree over the last four weeks. At the same time, a large pool of cold water beneath the surface in the western Pacific has been expanding eastward, nearly doubling in size over the past two months. The consensus of some 25 models is for a decline in sea surface temperature in the Pacific. The El Nino is expected to remain strong through the Northern Hemisphere in the winter with a transition to neutral conditions expected during late spring or early summer 2016. Exactly how long the El Nino conditions persist will determine how warm 2016 will be. If neutral conditions are reached in the Spring and La Nina by the final quarter then 2016 will be somewhat cooler than 2015 though perhaps a little warmer than 2014. With the advent of La Nina, though, 2017 could be much cooler than many recent years. –David Whitehouse, Global Warming Policy Forum, 6 January 2015
The Version 6.0 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for December, 2015 is +0.44 deg. C, up from the November, 2015 value of +0.33 deg. C. This makes 2015 the third warmest year globally (+0.27 deg C) in the satellite record (since 1979), behind 1998 (+0.48 deg C) and 2010 (+0.34 deg. C). —Roy W Spencer, 5 January 2015
Despite the potential for flooding and mudslides, storms moving toward California were welcome news for a state suffering from a severe drought. But officials warned against reverting to old water-use habits. As the first of the storms drenched the state on Tuesday, authorities cautioned that even the wettest of winters can’t replenish depleted reservoirs and aquifers unless everyone keeps pitching in. California’s water deficit is so deep after four years of drought that a “steady parade of storms” like these will be needed for years to come, said Mike Anderson, climatologist for the state’s Department of Water Resources. “We’re at least on a good trajectory,” he said. “We’ve got to keep it going.” –Kristin J Bender and Scott Smith, Associated Press, 6 January 2015
The 2015-16 El Nino weather event, one of the three strongest in the past 50 years, has peaked in recent weeks and will likely return to “ENSO Neutral” by the second quarter of this year, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said on Tuesday. “A number of El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indicators suggest that the 2015–16 El Nino has peaked in recent weeks,” the BOM said in a statement. “Climate models suggest the 2015–16 El Nino will decline during the coming months, with a return to ENSO neutral likely during the second quarter of 2016.” –Matt Siegel, Reuters, 6 January 2016
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