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Michael S. Halpert
and
Gerald D. Bell

The climate of 1996 can be characterized by several phenomena that reflect substantial deviations from the mean state of the atmosphere persisting from months to seasons. First, mature cold-episode conditions persisted across the tropical Pacific from November 1995 through May 1996 and contributed to large-scale anomalies of atmospheric circulation, temperature, and precipitation across the Tropics, the North Pacific and North America. These anomalies were in many respects opposite to those that had prevailed during the past several years in association with a prolonged period of tropical Pacific warm-episode conditions (ENSO). Second, strong tropical intraseasonal (Madden–Julian oscillations) activity was observed during most of the year. The impact of these oscillations on extratropical circulation variability was most evident late in the year in association with strong variations in the eastward extent of the East Asian jet and in the attendant downstream circulation, temperature, and precipitation patterns over the eastern North Pacific and central North America. Third, a return to the strong negative phase of the atmospheric North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) during November 1995–February 1996, following a nearly continuous 15-yr period of positive-phase NAO conditions, played a critical role in affecting temperature and precipitation patterns across the North Atlantic, Eurasia, and northern Africa. The NAO also contributed to a significant decrease in wintertime temperatures across large portions of Siberia and northern Russia from those that had prevailed during much of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Other regional aspects of the short-term climate during 1996 included severe drought across the southwestern United States and southern plains states during October 1995–May 1996, flooding in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States during the 1995/96 and 1996/97 winters, a cold and extremely snowy 1995/96 winter in the eastern United States, a second consecutive year of above-normal North Atlantic hurricane activity, near-normal rains in the African Sahel, above-normal rainfall across southeastern Africa during October 1995–April 1996, above-normal precipitation for most of the year across eastern and southeastern Australia following severe drought in these areas during 1995, and generally nearnormal monsoonal rains in India with significantly below-normal rainfall in Bangladesh and western Burma.

The global annual mean surface temperature for land and marine areas during 1996 averaged 0.21°C above the 1961–90 base period means. This is a decrease of 0.19°C from the record warm year of 1995 but was still among the 10 highest values observed since 1860. The global land-only temperature for 1996 was 0.06°C above normal and was the lowest anomaly observed since 1985 (−0.11°C). Much of this relative decrease in global temperatures occurred in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics, where land-only temperatures dropped from 0.42°C above normal in 1995 to 0.04°C below normal in 1996.

The year also witnessed a continuation of near-record low ozone amounts in the Southern Hemisphere stratosphere, along with an abnormally prolonged appearance of the “ozone hole” into early December. The areal extent of the ozone hole in November and early December exceeded that previously observed for any such period on record. However, its areal extent at peak amplitude during late September–early October was near that observed during the past several years.

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Gerald D. Bell
and
Michael S. Halpert

The global climate during 1997 was affected by both extremes of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), with weak Pacific cold episode conditions prevailing during January and February, and one of the strongest Pacific warm episodes (El Niño) in the historical record prevailing during the remainder of the year. This warm episode contributed to major regional rainfall and temperature anomalies over large portions of the Tropics and extratropics, which were generally consistent with those observed during past warm episodes. In many regions, these anomalies were opposite to those observed during 1996 and early 1997 in association with Pacific cold episode conditions.

Some of the most dramatic El Niño impacts during 1997 were observed in the Tropics, where anomalous convection was evident across the entire Pacific and throughout most major monsoon regions of the world. Tropical regions most affected by excessive El Niño–related rainfall during the year included 1) the eastern half of the tropical Pacific, where extremely heavy rainfall and strong convective activity covered the region from April through December; 2) equatorial eastern Africa, where excessive rainfall during October–December led to widespread flooding and massive property damage; 3) Chile, where a highly amplified and extended South Pacific jet stream brought increased storminess and above-normal rainfall during the winter and spring; 4) southeastern South America, where these same storms produced above-normal rainfall during June–December; and 5) Ecuador and northern Peru, which began receiving excessive rainfall totals in November and December as deep tropical convection spread eastward across the extreme eastern Pacific.

In contrast, El Niño-–elated rainfall deficits during 1997 included 1) Indonesia, where significantly below-normal rainfall from June through December resulted in extreme drought and contributed to uncontrolled wildfires; 2) New Guinea, where drought contributed to large-scale food shortages leading to an outbreak of malnutrition; 3) the Amazon Basin, which received below-normal rainfall during June–December in association with substantially reduced tropical convection throughout the region; 4) the tropical Atlantic, which experienced drier than normal conditions during July–December; and 5) central America and the Caribbean Sea, which experienced below-normal rainfall during March–December.

The El Niño also contributed to a decrease in tropical storm and hurricane activity over the North Atlantic during August–November, and to an expanded area of conditions favorable for tropical cyclone and hurricane formation over the eastern North Pacific. These conditions are in marked contrast to both the 1995 and 1996 hurricane seasons, in which significantly above-normal tropical cyclone activity was observed over the North Atlantic and suppressed activity prevailed across the eastern North Pacific.

Other regional aspects of the short-term climate during 1997 included 1) wetter than average 1996/97 rainy seasons in both northeastern Australia and southern Africa in association with a continuation of weak cold episode conditions into early 1997; 2) below-normal rainfall and drought in southeastern Australia from October 1996 to December 1997 following very wet conditions in this region during most of 1996; 3) widespread flooding in the Red River Valley of the north-central United States during April following an abnormally cold and snowy winter; 4) floods in central Europe during July following several consecutive months of above-normal rainfall; 5) near-record to record rainfall in southeastern Asia during June–August in association with an abnormally weak upper-level monsoon ridge; and 6) near-normal rainfall across India during the Indian monsoon season (June–September) despite the weakened monsoon ridge.

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Gerald D. Bell
and
John E. Janowiak

This paper presents an observational analysis of the large-scale atmospheric circulation prior to and during the Midwest floods of June–July 1993. The floods developed and persisted in association with three major circulation features, none of which alone would likely have produced such intense and prolonged flooding. First, a persistent, positive phase of the North Pacific teleconnection pattern was observed throughout the Pacific sector for four months prior to the onset of the floods. This anomalous circulation was associated with much above-normal cyclone activity over the middle latitudes of the North Pacific and with below-normal cyclone activity over the western and central United States. Second, a major change in this pattern occurred over the western United States in late May, which established very strong zonal flow from the western Pacific to the eastern United States. This flow provided a “duct” for the intense cyclones to propagate directly into the Midwest throughout the month of June. These storms triggered a series of intense convective complexes over the Midwest, resulting in major flooding. Third, during July a persistent wave pattern with highly amplified southwesterly flow became established over the western and central United States. This circulation, in conjunction with a quasi-stationary frontal boundary and sustained moisture transport into the central United States, was associated with a continuation of excessive rainfall and flooding in the Midwest.

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Alan Basist
,
Gerald D. Bell
, and
Vernon Meentemeyer

Abstract

Statistical relationships between topography and the spatial distribution of mean annual precipitation are developed for ten distinct mountainous regions. These relationships are derived through linear bivariate and multivariate analyses, using six topographic variables as predictors of precipitation. These predictors are elevation, slope, orientation, exposure, the product (or interaction) of slope and orientation, and the product of elevation and exposure.

The two interactive terms are the best overall bivariate predictors of mean annual precipitation, whereas orientation and exposure are the strongest noninteractive bivariate predictors. The regression equations in many of the climatically similar regions tend to have similar slope coefficients and similar y-intercept values, indicating that local climatic conditions strongly influence the relationship between topography and the spatial distribution of precipitation. In contrast, the regression equations for the tropical and extratropical regions exhibit distinctly different slope coefficients and y-intercept values, indicating that topography influences the spatial distribution of precipitation differently in convective versus nonconvective environments.

The multivariate equations contain between one and three significant topographic predictors. The best overall predictors in these models are exposure and the interaction of elevation and exposure, indicating that exposure to the prevailing wind is perhaps the single most important feature relating topography to the spatial distribution of precipitation in the mountainous regimes studied. The strongest (weakest) multivariate relationships between topography and precipitation are found in the four middle- and high-latitude west coast regions (in the tropical regions), where more than 70% (less than 50%) of the spatial variability of mean annual precipitation is explained. These results suggest that in certain regions, one can estimate the spatial distribution of mean annual precipitation from a limited network of raingauges using topographically based regression equations.

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Kingtse Mo
,
Gerald D. Bell
, and
Wassila M. Thiaw

Abstract

The association between rainfall over the Sahel and Sudan region and tropical storm activity in the Atlantic is examined using the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis and sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) from 1949 to 1998. Evidence indicates that both are influenced by global SSTAs. The SSTA modes generating favorable atmospheric conditions for tropical storms to develop are also in favor of a wet rainfall season in the Sahel and Sudan region. The easterly waves over West Africa become tropical storms only if the atmospheric conditions over the Atlantic are favorable. These conditions are responses to SSTAs.

In addition to ENSO, a multidecadal trend mode also plays a role. The positive phase of the trend mode features positive loadings in the North Pacific and the North Atlantic, and negative loadings over the three southern oceans. The positive (negative) phases of both modes are associated with increased (reduced) Atlantic tropical storm activity, and with wet (dry) West African monsoon seasons. The SSTAs over the tropical South Atlantic (S-ATL) are related to the rainfall dipole over West Africa, but the influence on tropical storms is not large. Warm (cold) SSTAs over the tropical North Atlantic enhance (suppress) the occurrence of tropical storms, but have little influence on rainfall over West Africa.

The most prominent circulation features associated with the positive phases of SSTA modes are enhanced upper-level 200-hPa easterly winds and reduced vertical wind shear in the main development region of the tropical Atlantic, which are well-known features of active Atlantic tropical storm seasons. The associated low-level flow shows enhanced anomalous westerly winds across the Atlantic to Africa. That allows more moisture transport into Africa and, therefore, more rainfall.

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Christopher W. Landsea
,
Gerald D. Bell
,
William M. Gray
, and
Stanley B. Goldenberg

Abstract

The 1995 Atlantic hurricane season was a year of near-record hurricane activity with a total of 19 named storms (average is 9.3 for the base period 1950–90) and 11 hurricanes (average is 5.8), which persisted for a total of 121 named storm days (average is 46.6) and 60 hurricane days (average is 23.9), respectively. There were five intense (or major) Saffir–Simpson category 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes (average is 2.3 intense hurricanes) with 11.75 intense hurricane days (average is 4.7). The net tropical cyclone activity, based upon the combined values of named storms, hurricanes, intense hurricanes, and their days present, was 229% of the average. Additionally, 1995 saw the return of hurricane activity to the deep tropical latitudes: seven hurricanes developed south of 25°N (excluding all of the Gulf of Mexico) compared with just one during all of 1991–94. Interestingly, all seven storms that formed south of 20°N in August and September recurved to the northeast without making landfall in the United States.

The sharply increased hurricane activity during 1995 is attributed to the juxtaposition of virtually all of the large-scale features over the tropical North Atlantic that favor tropical cyclogenesis and development. These include extremely low vertical wind shear, below-normal sea level pressure, abnormally warm ocean waters, higher than average amounts of total precipitable water, and a strong west phase of the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation. These various environmental factors were in strong contrast to those of the very unfavorable conditions that accompanied the extremely quiet 1994 hurricane season.

The favorable conditions for the 1995 hurricane season began to develop as far back as late in the previous winter. Their onset well ahead of the start of the hurricane season indicates that they are a cause of the increased hurricane activity, and not an effect. The extreme duration of the atmospheric circulation anomalies over the tropical North Atlantic is partly attributed to a transition in the equatorial Pacific from warm episode conditions (El Niño) to cold episode conditions (La Niña) prior to the onset of the hurricane season.

Though the season as a whole was extremely active, 1995’s Atlantic tropical cyclogenesis showed a strong intraseasonal variability with above-normal storm frequency during August and October and below normal for September. This variability is likely attributed to changes in the upper-tropospheric circulation across the tropical North Atlantic, which resulted in a return to near-normal vertical shear during September. Another contributing factor to the reduction in tropical cyclogenesis during September may have been a temporary return to near-normal SSTs across the tropical and subtropical North Atlantic, caused by the enhanced tropical cyclone activity during August.

Seasonal hurricane forecasts for 1995 issued at Colorado State University on 30 November 1994, 5 June 1995, and 4 August 1995 correctly anticipated an above-average season, but underforecast the extent of the extreme hurricane activity.

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Michael S. Halpert
,
Gerald D. Bell
,
Vernon E. Kousky
, and
Chester F. Ropelewski

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is a major contributor to the observed year-to-year variability in the Pacific Ocean and in the global atmospheric circulation. The short-term climate system witnessed the return to the mature phase of warm ENSO conditions (commonly referred to as the El Nino) during early 1995 for the third time in four years. This frequency of occurrence is unprecedented in the last 50 years and is comparable to that observed during the prolonged 1911–15 ENSO episode.

These warm ENSO conditions contributed to a large-scale disruption of the normal patterns of wind, rainfall, and temperature over much of the tropics and middle latitudes, particularly during the December 1994–February 1995 period. This period was followed by a dramatic decrease in sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific, resulting in a complete disappearance of all warm episode conditions during June–August and in the development of weak coldepisode conditions during September–November.

Changes in the tropical Pacific were accompanied by pronounced, large-scale changes in the atmospheric circulation patterns from those that had prevailed during much of the early 1990s. Particular examples of these changes include 1) a dramatic return to a very active hurricane season over the North Atlantic, following four consecutive years of significantly below-normal hurricane activity; 2) the return to above-normal rainfall throughout Indonesia, northern Australia, and southern Africa, following a prolonged period of below-normal rainfall and periodic drought; and 3) a northward shift of the jet stream and storm track position over the eastern half of the North Pacific during the latter part of the year, following several winter seasons (three in the last four) characterized by a significant strengthening, southward shift, and eastward extension of these features toward the southwestern United States.

Other regional climate anomalies during 1995 included extreme warmth throughout western and central Asia during January–May and colder than normal conditions in this region during November–December, severe flooding in the midwestern United States (April–May), abnormally wet conditions in California and the southwestern United States (December–February) combined with near-record warmth over eastern North America, deadly heat waves in the central United States (mid-July) and India (first three weeks of June), drought in the northeastern United States (August), a drier-than-normal rainy season in central Brazil (September–December), and an intensification of drier-than-normal conditions over southern Brazil, Uruguay, and northeastern Argentina at the end of the year.

The global annual mean surface temperature for land and marine areas during 1995 averaged 0.40°C above the 1961–90 mean. This value exceeds the previous warmest year in the record (1990) by 0.04°C. The Northern Hemisphere also recorded its warmest year on record during 1995, with a mean departure from normal of 0.55°C. The global annual mean surface temperature for land areas only during 1995 was the second warmest since 1951.

The year also witnessed near-record low ozone amounts in the Southern Hemisphere stratosphere, with minimum values only slightly higher than the record low values observed in 1993. The areal extent of very low ozone values during 1995 was as widespread over Antarctica as in the record low year of 1993.

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Gerald D. Bell
,
Michael S. Halpert
,
Chester F. Ropelewski
,
Vernon E. Kousky
,
Arthur V. Douglas
,
Russell C. Schnell
, and
Melvyn E. Gelman

The global climate during 1998 was affected by opposite extremes of the ENSO cycle, with one of the strongest Pacific warm episodes (El Niño) in the historical record continuing during January–early May and Pacific cold episode (La Niña) conditions occurring from JulyñDecember. In both periods, regional temperature, rainfall, and atmospheric circulation patterns across the Pacific Ocean and the Americas were generally consistent with those observed during past warm and cold episodes.

Some of the most dramatic impacts from both episodes were observed in the Tropics, where anomalous convection was evident across the entire tropical Pacific and in most major monsoon regions of the world. Over the Americas, many of the El Niño– (La Niña–) related rainfall anomalies in the subtropical and extratropical latitudes were linked to an extension (retraction) of the jet streams and their attendant circulation features typically located over the subtropical latitudes of both the North Pacific and South Pacific.

The regions most affected by excessive El Niño–related rainfall included 1) the eastern half of the tropical Pacific, including western Ecuador and northwestern Peru, which experienced significant flooding and mudslides; 2) southeastern South America, where substantial flooding was also observed; and 3) California and much of the central and southern United States during January–March, and the central United States during April–June.

El Niño–related rainfall deficits during 1998 included 1) Indonesia and portions of northern Australia; 2) the Amazon Basin, in association with a substantially weaker-than-normal South American monsoon circulation; 3) Mexico, which experienced extreme drought throughout the El Niño episode; and 4) the Gulf Coast states of the United States, which experienced extreme drought during April–June 1998. The El Niño also contributed to extreme warmth across North America during January–May.

The primary La Niña–related precipitation anomalies included 1) increased rainfall across Indonesia, and a nearly complete disappearance of rainfall across the east-central equatorial Pacific; 2) above-normal rains across northwestern, eastern, and northern Australia; 3) increased monsoon rains across central America and Mexico during October–December; and 4) dryness across equatorial eastern Africa.

The active 1998 North Atlantic hurricane season featured 14 named storms (9 of which became hurricanes) and the strongest October hurricane (Mitch) in the historical record. In Honduras and Nicaragua extreme flooding and mudslides associated with Hurricane Mitch claimed more than 11 000 lives. During the peak of activity in August–September, the vertical wind shear across the western Atlantic, along with both the structure and location of the African easterly jet, were typical of other active seasons.

Other regional aspects of the short-term climate included 1) record rainfall and massive flooding in the Yangtze River Basin of central China during June–July; 2) a drier and shorter-than-normal 1997/98 rainy season in southern Africa; 3) above-normal rains across the northern section of the African Sahel during June–September 1998; and 4) a continuation of record warmth across Canada during June–November.

Global annual mean surface temperatures during 1998 for land and marine areas were 0.56°C above the 1961–90 base period means. This record warmth surpasses the previous highest anomaly of +0.43°C set in 1997. Record warmth was also observed in the global Tropics and Northern Hemisphere extratropics during the year, and is partly linked to the strong El Nino conditions during January–early May.

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Hui Wang
,
Jae-Kyung E. Schemm
,
Arun Kumar
,
Wanqiu Wang
,
Lindsey Long
,
Muthuvel Chelliah
,
Gerald D. Bell
, and
Peitao Peng

Abstract

A hybrid dynamical–statistical model is developed for predicting Atlantic seasonal hurricane activity. The model is built upon the empirical relationship between the observed interannual variability of hurricanes and the variability of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and vertical wind shear in 26-yr (1981–2006) hindcasts from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Climate Forecast System (CFS).

The number of Atlantic hurricanes exhibits large year-to-year fluctuations and an upward trend over the 26 yr. The latter is characterized by an inactive period prior to 1995 and an active period afterward. The interannual variability of the Atlantic hurricanes significantly correlates with the CFS hindcasts for August–October (ASO) SSTs and vertical wind shear in the tropical Pacific and tropical North Atlantic where CFS also displays skillful forecasts for the two variables. In contrast, the hurricane trend shows less of a correlation to the CFS-predicted SSTs and vertical wind shear in the two tropical regions. Instead, it strongly correlates with observed preseason SSTs in the far North Atlantic. Based on these results, three potential predictors for the interannual variation of seasonal hurricane activity are constructed by averaging SSTs over the tropical Pacific (TPCF; 5°S–5°N, 170°E–130°W) and the Atlantic hurricane main development region (MDR; 10°–20°N, 20°–80°W), respectively, and vertical wind shear over the MDR, all of which are from the CFS dynamical forecasts for the ASO season. In addition, two methodologies are proposed to better represent the long-term trend in the number of hurricanes. One is the use of observed preseason SSTs in the North Atlantic (NATL; 55°–65°N, 30°–60°W) as a predictor for the hurricane trend, and the other is the use of a step function that breaks up the hurricane climatology into a generally inactive period (1981–94) and a very active period (1995–2006). The combination of the three predictors for the interannual variation, along with the two methodologies for the trend, is explored in developing an empirical forecast system for Atlantic hurricanes.

A cross validation of the hindcasts for the 1981–2006 hurricane seasons suggests that the seasonal hurricane forecast with the TPCF SST as the only CFS predictor is more skillful in inactive hurricane seasons, while the forecast with only the MDR SST is more skillful in active seasons. The forecast using both predictors gives better results. The most skillful forecast uses the MDR vertical wind shear as the only CFS predictor. A comparison with forecasts made by other statistical models over the 2002–07 seasons indicates that this hybrid dynamical–statistical forecast model is competitive with the current statistical forecast models.

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Gerald D. Bell
,
Michael S. Halpert
,
Russell C. Schnell
,
R. Wayne Higgins
,
Jay Lawrimore
,
Vernon E. Kousky
,
Richard Tinker
,
Wasila Thiaw
,
Muthuvel Chelliah
, and
Anthony Artusa

The global climate during 1999 was impacted by Pacific cold episode (La Niña) conditions throughout the year, which resulted in regional precipitation and atmospheric circulation patterns across the Pacific Ocean and the Americas that are generally consistent with those observed during past cold episodes. The primary La Niña-related precipitation anomalies included 1) increased rainfall across Indonesia, and a nearly complete disappearance of rainfall across the east-central and eastern equatorial Pacific; 2) above-normal rains across northwestern and northern Australia; 3) increased monsoon rains across the Sahel region of western Africa; 4) above-average rains over southeastern Africa, 5) above-average rains over the Caribbean Sea and portions of Central America, and 6) below-average rains in southeastern South America.

The La Niña also contributed to persistent cyclonic circulation anomalies in the subtropics of both hemispheres, which flanked the area of suppressed convective activity over the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific. In the Northern Hemisphere this anomaly feature contributed to a pronounced westward retraction of the wintertime East Asian jet stream, which subsequently impacted precipitation and storm patterns across the eastern North Pacific and western North America. The La Niña-related pattern of tropical rainfall also contributed to a very persistent pattern of anticyclonic circulation anomalies in the middle latitude of both hemispheres, extending from the eastern Pacific across the Atlantic and Africa eastward to Australasia. This anomaly pattern was associated with an active Atlantic hurricane season, an inactive eastern North Pacific hurricane season, above-average rains in the African Sahel, and an overall amplification of the entire southeast Asian summer monsoon complex.

The active 1999 North Atlantic hurricane season featured 12 named storms, 8 of which became hurricanes, and 5 of which became intense hurricanes. The peak of activity during mid-August–October was accompanied by low vertical wind shear across the central and western Atlantic, along with both a favorable structure and location of the African easterly jet. In contrast, only 9 tropical storms formed over the eastern North Pacific during the year, making it one of the most inactive years for that region in the historical record. This relative inactivity was linked to a persistent pattern of high vertical wind shear that covered much of the main development region of the eastern North Pacific.

Other regional aspects of the short-term climate included: 1) above-average wintertime precipitation and increased storminess in the Pacific Northwest, United States; 2) above-average monsoonal rainfall across the southwestern United States; 3) drought over the northeastern quadrant of the United States during April–mid-August; 4) hurricane-related flooding in the Carolinas during September; 5) drought over the south-central United States during July–November; 6) below-average rainfall in the Hawaiian Islands throughout the year, with long-term dryness affecting some parts of the islands since October 1997; 7) a continuation of long-term drought conditions in southeastern Australia, with most of Victoria experiencing below-average rainfall since late 1996; and 8) above-average rainfall in central China during April–August.

Global annual mean surface temperatures during 1999 for land and marine areas were 0.41°C above the 1880–1998 long-term mean, making it the fifth warmest year in the record. However, significant cooling was evident in the Tropics during 1999 in association with a continuation of La Niña conditions. In contrast, temperatures in both the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere extratropics were the second warmest in the historical record during 1999, and only slightly below the record 1998 anomalies.

The areal extent of the Antarctic ozone hole remained near record levels during 1999. The ozone hole also lasted longer than has been observed in past years.

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