World weatherwatch: snow blankets US east coast as rain swamps California

While the US is hit by storms, Australia suffers devastating bushfires

The east coast of the US celebrated its first day of spring blanketed in several inches of snow from North Carolina to New England, from its fourth “nor’easter” storm in three weeks. A nor’easter is a macro-scale cyclone that develops as a result of the sharp sea surface temperature gradient between the warm waters of the Gulf and the cold Canadian air mass, most intense in winter. The term nor’easter is a contraction derived from north-easterly – in reference to the strong north-easterly winds that deliver these storms.

Across the US, a channel of tropical moisture flowing from the South Pacific, coined the “Pineapple Express”, has been pushing a series of storms and heavy rains to California. While rainfall is usually a relief from drought in California, the sheer volume of water that was emptied on land scorched by wildfires caused a cascade of fatal mudslides, with mandatory evacuations in order.

After one of the driest winters on record, fanned by hot, dry winds, devastating bush and grassfires swept across Australia’s south-east last week. Temperatures climbed to 41C (106F) across parts of New South Wales, with blazes claiming more than 100 homes. Peat fires across south-west Victoria have continued to burn, though controlled, owing to the flammable nature of drained peatlands, in addition to an unrelenting wind. Carbon monoxide from smoke has led to the evacuation of some areas.

Tamsin Green (MetDesk)

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