Super El Nino 2015-2016. Will it have an impact on Ireland’s Winter?

Introduction

There has been much speculation in the media recently about this year’s ‘El Nino’ and its possible impacts on the winter weather both here in Ireland and in the UK. With sources now saying that the winter El Nino of 2015/2016 may possibly be the strongest on record, we will take a look to see if this Pacific Ocean climate phenomena does indeed have a direct impact on winter weather conditions here in Ireland

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Autumnal Chill In The Air

This morning has seen the first real chill in the air as a cold polar airmass and longer nights set it.

According to this morning’s 0600 UTC synop reports the coldest station last night was Gurteen in Co. Tipperary, where clear skies allowed the air temperature to fall to 1.1 C and the grass temperature to a frosty -2 C. Second coldest was Casement, Co. Dublin, on 2.4 C air and -1 C grass, with nearby Dublin Airport on 3.5 C air and +1 C grass. Finner, Co. Donegal, also reported a grass min of -2 C, though the air temperature only fell to +3.7 C.

Mt. Dillon in Co. Roscommon was reporting 2 C air temperature on met.ie at 7 am but as no synops are issued for that station or the other recently-added automatic stations we will have to wait until tomorrow for the exact figures for all stations.

It wasn’t widespread cold, however, as the south was enjoying temperatures above a “balmy” 9 C (Sherkin Island 9.6 C). Along the coast the sea, which is at its warmest now, keeps the temperature much higher than inland, where clear skies allow the land to lose longwave radiation to space, causing the low ground-temperatures and hence chilly air-temperatures.

Comet ISON may be spectacular in December

If we are fortunate, Comet Ison (C2012 / S1) may put on quite a show in the December skies. Right now, the comet is approaching the inner solar system from quite a high angle above the north poles of the Sun, earth and most other planets (Uranus does its own thing by rolling along poles generally pointed in the same directions as the orbital plane).

Comet ISON is expected to hurtle very close to the Sun’s south pole around 28 November and then emerge into a more visible position on the earth’s side of the solar system, heading back into the north (which means above the Sun’s north pole) all through December. At some point early in the month, we’ll know if it survived that close encounter intact, or broke apart, and just how bright it becomes. Some estimates continue to promise a very bright object even brighter than Venus and considerably brighter than Jupiter which will also be prominent in clear December skies. Our closest approach to the comet is 26 December (0.42 A.U.) at which time it will be about the same distance from the Sun as is the earth (1 A.U.). If it is a bright object, Comet ISON should have a long tail pointing up away from the Sun and towards the pole star (Polaris) which it will be aiming towards on its exit from our solar system. By January, a much less prominent comet would be only viewable in binoculars but the earth will go through the remnants of its tail which might produce a minor episode of shooting stars or meteors.

So it’s fingers crossed that Comet ISON will produce unlike some other hyped comets of past decades, and put on a glorious show in December. Then there’s the matter of finding clear enough skies in the cloudiest month of the year in many locations around the northern hemisphere.

To see an orbit diagram for Comet ISON, go to this link:

http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=C%2F2012+S1&orb=1