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March-April 2018

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From the Editor

As I write this, the cold weather is just getting underway here in the northern hemisphere. We are straddling the seasons, not quite officially in winter, which arrives in a couple of weeks, but no longer experiencing fall temperatures in much of the country. We are in the in-between season that can cause so much meteorological confusion. Some areas are still seeing heat; it was 90°F over Thanksgiving at my house here in California! In fact, a lack of rain so far this season in California, combined with fierce Santa Ana winds, is creating a firestorm near Los Angeles that is burning thousands of acres and threatening well-known landmarks. Meanwhile, Houston is enjoying a rare snowfall and temperatures are plummeting across the mountain West.

These strange time periods between seasons always bring some trepidation, I think. We don't yet know what winter will bring for many areas. Last year West Coast flooding and some spectacular snowstorms in the East made headlines, and we must wait to see what the storm track will bring this year. Spring is no different, as Tornado Alley delves into its tornado season and hurricane watchers gear up for summer's storms as winter storms fade. There's not much we can do but sit and wait for what Mother Nature has in store.

Last year at this time, for example, we could not have predicted that the U.S. Atlantic Hurricane season of 2017 would end up being the worst on record. This dubious honor was due in large part to the devastation wrought by the “terrible trio” of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. It was the first time the United States and its territories has been struck by four Category 4 hurricanes at landfall; the first time the continental U.S. was struck by two Category 4s in a single season; and what will likely become the costliest hurricane season ever—coming in at nearly $370 billion dollars.

In this issue, Weatherwise Contributing Editor Jeffrey B. Halverson takes a close look at these hurricanes and the factors at play in “The Worst Hurricane Season in U.S. History.” As Halverson says, “The 2017 hurricane season underscores the human causes of natural disasters,” noting that three of the Category 4 hurricanes hit densely populated, highly vulnerable areas. He adds that while we cannot directly attribute these particular storms to climate change, “Given the trends toward increased storm destructiveness—and whether global warming has anything to do with this—it's best to prepare for more of these tropical-borne nightmares.”

Meanwhile, Ed Darack looks at a survivor of thousands of years of climate change in his article “Unlocking the Secrets of the Oldest Trees on Earth.” In it, he looks at how the ancient bristlecone pine has survived thousands of years in the harshest of climates.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Weatherwise. As always, I welcome feedback from readers!



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