It was a busy year when it came to weather and earth science in 2019. Beyond floods and wildfires on Earth, humankind continued to push the boundaries of space travel, achieving many historic milestones. The biggest story of 20189 was the dramatic eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. Fortunately, the volcanoes on Hawaii have been silent all year, giving residents a chance to recover from that historic lava flow that destroyed more than a thousand homes. A year later, thousands of homeowners find themselves still trying to pick up the pieces from the year’s biggest weather story: Hurricane Dorian.
The year kicked off with a new weather model and working weather satellite. . In January, IBM unveiled a new weather forecasting model. Each January, companies showcase the latest in technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It was at this event that BM unveiled their new weather forecast model, known as GRAF. GRAF, short for Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System was unveiled by The Weather Company unit of IBM. The Weather Company is the data and analytics arm of IBM that powers the digital assets of the Weather Channel including the Weather.com Mobile App and the Weather Underground website. The Weather Company also provides data to The Weather Channel, which was sold in early 2018 to Entertainment Studios. The Weather Channel is merely a client of The Weather Company even though weather content is nearly entirely sourced by it. In February, the GOES-West weather satellite became operational.
In government, meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier was named science advisor to the Office of Science and Technology. To help play down fears of any conflict of interest, AccuWeather’s Barry Meyers exited the company he founded to pursue his NOAA Administrator nomination in January. However, in December, Meyers gave-up the nomination, citing health reasons. A government shut-down which left National Weather Service meteorologists unpaid for weeks finally ended. Before it did, media outlets, including Weatherboy Weather, delivered meals to government meteorologists. Jeffrey Byard was nominated to lead FEMA but withdrew it in the fall. The U.S. also launched a new branch of the military: The Space Force.
In politics, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy made the “Rain Tax” law in the Garden State. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio outlawed the use of processed meats like hot dogs and bacon to help tame-down severe weather. Towns in California ban the use of gas stoves while Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington consider following their lead, all hoping to stop “climate change” by doing so.
2019 was a very active year in space. China landed on the Moon, helping set the stage for a modern-day space race to colonizing the Moon. An attempt by Israel to land on the moon ended in failure. SpaceX made history for launching their unmanned soon-to-be-crewed Dragon capsule to the International Space Station for a picture-perfect rendezvous. Boeing failed with their attempt to dock the Starliner capsule to the International Space Station, but was successful in returning it to the Earth safely. Things looked up for Americans in space with the concept of a mini-spaceport being built on Hawaii’s Big Island. However, land owners decided to not move forward with the endeavor later in the year, quickly killing Hawaii’s aerospace endeavors. The International Space Station saw many deliveries over the year from rockets, including a Mid Atlantic launched rocket that brought DoubleTree cookies to the station to be baked.
The spring brought epic floods to portions of the midwest. Severe weather rocked the country throughout the summer. In places like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, an above normal volume of tornadoes were confirmed on the ground. A rare Tornado Emergency was even declared for Ohio. Moore, Oklahoma, with a history of major tornadoes, saw more violent weather in 2019 as Tornado Alley lived up to its name.
The magnetic poles continued their dramatic shift, with the North Pole moving faster than scientists had predicted.
it was a busy year in television weather too. In January, an on-camera meteorologist jumbled the phrase, “Martin Luther King Jr.”, leading to people labeling him as a “racist” which lead to his dismissal. Meteorologist Joe Crain was fired for not hyping severe weather threats on his station. Fans of the Weather Channel rejoiced when Verizon added it back to the FIOS line-up in the summer. Sadly, a New Jersey-born television meteorologist took his own life after being on-air at his Texas television station.
While Kilauea was no longer erupting, many other volcanoes around the world did. In December, White Island erupted while tourists were walking around inside its crater. Due to that disaster, tour operators began scrubbing vacation trips to other volcano locations, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Wildfires made headlines around the globe in 2019. In California, millions were plunged into darkness has a preventative measure; utility companies there killed the electrical grid with the hopes of preventing wildfires. While most of the effort work, fires were triggered and spread there. In Australia, fires continue today, claiming homes and human and koala lives.
The biggest story of the year, though, was massive Hurricane Dorian. An absolutely catastrophic impact to the Bahamas occurred as Major Hurricane Dorian, a top Category 5 hurricane, smashed through the Abaco Islands. As the second most potent hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts over 220 mph, Dorian was roughly 1,300 times more potent than Sandy was when it came ashore New Jersey in 2012, devastating portions of New Jersey and New York when it did so.