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2006- An Extreme Year in Weather

Global Weather Observations: 2006, A Year in Review
Jan 01, 2007

MINNESOTA - USA. Much of northeastern Minnesota will finish 2006 in the grip of extreme drought, as a combination of a decade-long moisture deficit and an acute dry spell that began last May have sent water levels across the region to near record lows. The drought conditions have dropped Lake Superior’s level to a degree NOT SEEN SINCE THE 1920s. And without an increase in precipitation soon, the lake could break even that 80-year old record. Climatologists in the state are beginning to watch water levels on inland lakes and streams as well, since many are also experiencing LEVELS NOT SEEN IN DECADES. The region’s acute dry spell began in May, at a time when the area typically receives the bulk of its rainfall. Climate watchers dubbed the dry spell a “flash drought,” a term that suggests its sudden and intense onset. The conditions are reminiscent of 1976, the last time the area was hit with extreme and extended drought. “If we continue with little or no snow, we’re going to really have to watch things.” Winters in Minnesota are typically very dry, with less than an inch of precipitation per month on average. And this winter has been particularly dry and warm so far, which hasn’t helped the situation.

OREGON - USA. The year truly belonged to Mother Nature, from the long, hot summer that saw a rash of drownings, to the late fall storms that claimed the lives of families, fishermen and mountain climbers alike. The year was punctuated by flooding and mudslides, and high snowpack levels across the Cascade mountains - trouble for low-lying valley and coastal counties where rivers spilled over their natural borders. As December arrived, so did the winter weather, whipping up ocean waves that killed four crabbers trying to cross the bar at Gold Beach. The same storms trapped a San Francisco family for days in the mountains of Southern Oregon, where they kept their two young daughters alive on berries, crackers and breast milk, and burned their tires for precious warmth. Days later, three adventurous climbers were stranded atop Mount Hood, setting off a rescue operation that made international headlines. Both those stories ended tragically. The dead zone reappeared off the Oregon Coast last summer, spreading over an area larger than Rhode Island, lasting 17 weeks and leaving the ocean bottom littered with dead crabs, sea stars and sea anemones. The commercial salmon season was drastically curtailed in order to protect shrinking returns of wild chinook to the Klamath River in Northern California. Photo Above: Heavy rains and rock slides wiped out Highway 35 near Mount Hood Meadows.

WISCONSIN - USA. Between mild temperatures and next to no snow, it hasn't seemed like a typical Wisconsin winter. There was the first - and only - snowfall on Dec. 1 that dropped about four inches in Monroe and more than a foot in southeastern Wisconsin, but that snow was nearly gone a week later. And with the sun shining brightly, even the area's plants are confused. "Some plants may be fooled into thinking it's spring because of the abnormally warm weather." Some flowering plants have already begun blooming, which could pose problems come spring. "The arctic cold remains far away to the north of our state. Following a short, dramatic cold period to start the month, we have returned to the warm patterns of this past November. The outlook is for a warming trend and likelihood of above normal temperatures for the season," which, in meteorological terms, begins in December and runs through February. "A slight tendency for less precipitation is also predicted." Wisconsin isn't alone in having an abnormally warm winter this year. "The Netherlands is having the same problem." Over 400 species of plants have flowered there during the month of December.
NETHERLANDS - Weather records tumbled all over the world in 2006, and the Netherlands was no exception. But the difference lies in the fact that the Dutch have been keeping records longer than most, since 1706. 'A very unusual year,' the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute summed up on Friday as the year drew to a close. The first 300-YEAR RECORD was surpassed in July, when the average daily temperature hit 22.3 degrees Celsius, by comparison with the 17.4 degrees regarded as normal. The measuring station Westdorpe recorded a scorching - for the Netherlands - maximum of 37.1 degrees on July 19, BREAKING ALL PREVIOUS RECORDS. July was also extremely sunny, with 310 hours of sun recorded nationally, against a long-term average for the month of 201 hours. At the De Bilt national measuring station in the province of Utrecht, it was the SUNNIEST JULY SINCE 1904. A RECORD AMOUNT OF RAIN fell in August - although this time it was only of around 100 years' standing, as accurate measurements do not reach as far back as with temperature. The average of 184 millimetres that fell in the month smashed the previous record of 152 millimetres set in 1969. Farmers were unable to get harvesting machinery into waterlogged fields. September saw ANOTHER 300-year TEMPERATURE RECORD fall by the wayside. The average daily temperature came in at 17.9 degrees, compared with the normal 14.2 degrees. The ensuing autumn was the warmest - or 'softest' as the Dutch like to say - since 1706. The average daily temperature for September, October and November came in at 13.6 degrees, SMASHING THE PREVIOUS RECORD by more than one degree. The last 10 days of November were the WARMEST EVER RECORDED for that period. The year as a whole had been the WARMEST IN 300 YEARS, with an average of 11.2 degrees. The record was particularly noteworthy, as the first three months of the year had been colder than usual. And it pointed to perhaps the most alarming record of all. On November 1, as the worst storm of the year passed, a water level of 4.83 metres above Normal Amsterdam Level, was measured at Delfzijl on the far northern coast. 'A water level as high as this HAS NEVER BEFORE BEEN RECORDED."

NEW ZEALAND - Wild, unseasonal weather is marking the final days of 2006 - an apt ending to ONE OF THE COLDEST YEARS ON RECORD. New Year's Eve is likely to be accompanied by rain, thunder and shivering southerlies around most areas. Wellington can expect rain, cold southerlies and a frigid high of 14 degrees. Westerlies and south-westerlies in January would bring a cooler than average summer for most of the country, except for the North Island's east coast, which is sheltered by mountain ranges. Auckland and Northland would be drier than normal, with average, warm temperatures as anti-cyclones came over the north of the country. The coldest spots would be on the South Island's west and south coast, with temperatures "just a shade lower than usual".

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