Climate Assessment for 1996

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  • 1 Climate Prediction Center, NCEP/NWS/NOAA, Washington, D.C.
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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.

Corresponding author address: Michael S. Halpert, Climate Prediction Center, NCEP/NOAA, W/NP52, NSC, Rm. 605,5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746

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.

Corresponding author address: Michael S. Halpert, Climate Prediction Center, NCEP/NOAA, W/NP52, NSC, Rm. 605,5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746
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