April’s Not Foolin’ for New England & Update on Opening Day

Here’s just an updated forecast on Thursday and Friday’s home openers.

Opening Day Thursday

Detroit at NY Yankees
Atlanta at Washington
Still looking at clouds, chilly temps, and scattered showers. I think NY is safe right now, but there are some signs that rain will envelope DC before game’s end, so keep an eye on that.

Milwaukee at Cincinnati
Still looks: Partly cloudy to mostly sunny and generally in the 40s.

LA Angels at Kansas City
San Diego at St. Louis
Still tracking a shower threat in KC. But those look more hit/miss, so I’m not anticipating any major disruption. Saint Louis looks pretty solid with sun and clouds. I’d take mention of showers out.

San Francisco at LA Dodgers
5 PM local time for first pitch at Chavez Ravine, and it will be postcard LA weather. Sunny, with temperatures probably 85-90 for first pitch, slipping into the upper 70s by the end of the game. Second place “Pick of the Weekend.”

Friday’s Home Openers

Minnesota at Toronto
Baltimore at Tampa
Dry and 70s…dome sweet dome.

Houston at Philly
It still looks like the worst of the weather will be in the morning in Philly. The snow/rain will lift into New England during the afternoon. It will be cold, breezy, raw, damp, gross. Should be some flurries around. Despite the fact that the worst will be long gone by game time, I would label this game as a risk to be rained or snowed out though, just because of how miserable the weather will be.

Pittsburgh at Chicago
Mostly cloudy here with some rain showers likely. I doubt it’s delay inducing stuff, but it may make Wrigley an unpleasant experience…sort of a raw, damp day.

Chicago at Cleveland
Still looks partly cloudy here. Looks like low 40s…a pleasant day for baseball, but still a bit chilly.

Boston at Texas
No changes in the ideas here either, except it could be a couple degrees warmer…low to maybe mid 80s in Arlington Friday. The Red Sox will be happy they’re opening there and not in Boston.

Arizona at Colorado
Not what you’d expect in Denver for baseball this early. Sunny, mild, and temps in the low 70s. This is the State of Occlusion “Pick of the Weekend!”

NY Mets at Florida
Taking out any mention of t’storms here. Looks good for the Mets/Fish. Temps upper 70s/low 80s at first pitch.

Seattle at Oakland
Partly cloudy after a nice day when highs should push into the 70s. We’ll see temps around first pitch in the 60s, easing back into the low 60s or upper 50s at game’s end.

Northeast Snow

The map to the left is this morning’s GFS model forecast for snow in the Northeast from Earl Barker’s model website. This is a pretty significant storm, for any time of winter, let alone early April. The GFS forecast is reasonable. Here’s how it breaks down.

NYC-Philly-DC: AM Rain, perhaps ending as some steady snow north and west, with a little coating possible there, and maybe some flurries into the cities.

Northwest NJ/Sussex County: Snow to rain to snow. Ending as a slushy 1-3″ accumulation I think. Higher elevations there could see snow continue longer, and there is definitely a risk that higher snowfall totals occur here. Still model disagreement in this area.

Boston: Mainly a mix in the city, but they could get 3-6″+ just north and west.

Interior CT/MA/Albany: 6-12″ easily, with higher amounts in the higher elevations. Some of those higher terrain areas may see 12-18″ of heavy, wet snow.

Interior NY west of I-87 to I-81 (Albany-Syracuse): Gradually diminishing snowfall gradient of 6-12″ near ALB to 1-3″ near SYR…. 5-10″ for Binghamton/Scranton.

This is just based on a cursory glance, so expect some changes, and refer to the NWS for the most local info. Either way, we’re looking at a large storm, with strong winds possible in New England as well, that could lead to power outages and downed trees/power lines. Just brutal for April.

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The Meteorologist’s Guide to Opening Day(s)

Well, we’re only a couple days away from Opening Day for baseball. Baseball, of course, has what feels like the longest season of the major sports. But its opening day is probably the most significant, because it means summer really is almost here. March is still a winter month, so no matter how warm it gets, most of the time, you know it’s going to get cold again, at least for a time. So baseball reminds us that we are at the end of winter…and it’s time to look to summer.

So with that in mind, let’s look at Thursday and Friday’s opening games and how the weather may impact them.

Opening Day Thursday

Detroit at NY Yankees
Atlanta at Washington
Right now, I feel the worst of the weather in the Northeast will be Wednesday and Friday. So it will be chilly, raw, but under partly to mostly cloudy skies.

Milwaukee at Cincinnati
Partly cloudy to mostly sunny and generally in the 40s.

LA Angels at Kansas City
San Diego at St. Louis
Looks like there will be some showers in Missouri on Thursday. I think the best chance in Kansas City is earlier in the day than the 4 PM first pitch, but in St. Louis they could see some raindrops. I don’t anticipate a rainout at either game, but it’s worth watching. Temperatures at both stadiums will be around 50, slipping back into the 40s by the end of the game.

San Francisco at LA Dodgers
5 PM local time for first pitch at Chavez Ravine, and it will be postcard LA weather. Sunny, with temperatures around 90 for first pitch, slipping into the 80s by the end of the game.

Friday’s Home Openers

Minnesota at Toronto
Baltimore at Tampa
Dry and 70s…dome sweet dome.

Houston at Philly
Expect a miserable morning in Philly. Looks like rain, possibly ending as some snow flurries. And right now, flurries couldn’t be ruled out for the game, with temperatures during the game in the 30s, to maybe around 40 degrees. I would label this game as a risk to be rained or snowed out though, just because of how miserable the weather will be.

Pittsburgh at Chicago
Mostly cloudy here with some rain showers possible. Doubtful this game will be delayed or rained out, but with temps in the 40s and the threat of some showers, it will be another miserable game.

Chicago at Cleveland
Partly cloudy here. Looks like low 40s…a pleasant day for baseball, but still a bit chilly.

Boston at Texas
Nice weather developing in Texas later this week, with sunshine and temps around 80 or in the low 80s.

Arizona at Colorado
Nice and mild in Denver Friday, with sunshine expected right now and temperatures well into the 60s to perhaps near 70 degrees.

NY Mets at Florida
Can’t rule out a stray shower or thunderstorm in South Florida Friday evening, but the worst of the weather should clear the coast during the day. Looks like low to mid 80s around game time.

Seattle at Oakland
Partly cloudy after a nice day when highs should push well into the 70s. We’ll see temps around first pitch in the 60s, easing back into the low 60s or upper 50s at game’s end.

So there are your opener. Admittedly, they could be worse (for instance a Friday game in NY or Boston would be a disaster). But it still looks cool, raw, and unpleasant in most areas…typical late March/early April weather. Unless of course, you are in Los Angeles, Oakland, or Denver.

So welcome baseball season!

As an aside, this storm on Friday WILL be of interest to a lot of folks. We are looking at potential for snow, possibly some significant snow, in interior Pennsylvania, New York, and much of New England. The track is right…let’s see if it actually materializes.

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Cold, Flooding, Snow…Just Another Spring!

Trying to hit a few key issues today. First, the potential for accumulating snow in the Mid-Atlantic over the weekend. It’s snowed, sleeted, thundered, etc. across much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast in the last 36 hours…why not add something else to the mix?

12Z NAM Snowfall Forecast (From Earl Barker's Site: http://wxcaster4.com)

Map to the left is the NAM model depiction of snowfall for the next 72 hours. It shows you snow stretching from Omaha to Kansas City to St. Louis to Louisville to Cincinnati to just south of Washington, DC. This has been shown off and on throughout the week on all the models. It looks like we’re game on for a snow event. The problem is (of course) the exact storm track. The GFS forecast is *slightly* further north, which would bring more snow into DC and much less around Richmond. I would side in between the two right now…with light snows south of Baltimore to south of Richmond, with an axis of heavier snow, probably in the middle, through, say Fredricksburg, VA. Could be a decent event for the  northern part of the Blue Ridge. This will not be a *major* event, but given that it’s almost April, every snow event is extra painful.

So if you have weekend plans, specifically Sunday, keep this in mind. It is the time of year where it’s tougher to get snow to stick on the roads, but given that we’re leading into this event with several cold days, we could see more sticking than we normally would in late March.

In other news, spring may be delayed somewhat in the East. Just got a look at the latest weekly forecast from the European model…and, yeah, it looks cold if you live anywhere north of about Florida. Not guaranteed to verify, but this is certainly not what you want to see if you live in the Northeast, Plains, Great Lakes, or Mid-Atlantic.

However, this may help slow snow melt some over the northern tier…which is good because the latest river forecasts show major flooding likely on the Mississippi near St. Paul. Could be another painful Upper Midwest flooding season.

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Winter Doesn’t Give Up That Easily…

If you’ve lived in the Northeast for any length of time (in years), you know full well that spring almost never comes without a price. Temps in the 60s, 70s, and even 80s over the last week are going to give way to the harsh reality that winter can still rule in March and even April.

Latest plot of recent and forecasted NAO from CPC

To the left you’ll notice a plot of the NAO..the North Atlantic Oscillation. You’ve probably heard of it before, but in layman’s terms, it’s a measure of atmospheric blocking (high pressure) in the vicinity of Greenland. Traditionally in winter, a negative phase of the NAO spells more troughing and thus colder conditions in the Eastern US. You’ll notice from the graph that since the beginning of February, the NAO has been almost locked in a neutral or positive phase. As such, you haven’t seen quite the harsh conditions you all experienced earlier in the winter. But the red lines indicate the forecast, and that, my friends, is what we call a tanking NAO.

Latest Plot of Recent and Forecasted PNA from CPC

Off to the right, you’ll see another, similar chart…this for the PNA, or Pacific-North American Oscillation. This measures blocking near the West Coast. When this is positive, there is traditionally a ridge present out west, which usually can translate to a downstream trough. When you have the NAO in a negative phase and the PNA in a positive phase, that’s a usual rock solid combination to generate warmth out West and cold in the East. It appears, we have these factors ready to lock in for a good 10+ days, with the +PNA holding on a little longer perhaps than the -NAO.

What’s this mean? With them both in concert, it spells strong cold conditions for the Eastern US and a developing warm pattern and end to storminess out West. As the NAO starts to fade, but the PNA stays relatively positive, it means the cold in the East will ease some, but there’s absolutely no sign of a return to the 60s and 70s you’ve seen recently. Expect some 30s, 40s and maybe occasional 50s if you live in the Northeast Corridor through at least next weekend.

How about snow?

A few snow chances exist over the next week or so. I won’t go into many details about the one on Sunday and the one next Wednesday, but suffice to say, the conditions do exist for potential snow.

3/22 12Z GFS Snow Forecast from Earl Barker's Model Site: http://wxcaster.com/regional_snowfall.htm

In the immediate term, we’ve got a situation tomorrow. The map to the left is this morning’s projection of accumulated snowfall from the GFS model. If you live in NYC, you can ignore this for the most part (think the model is a little too aggressive with snow there). This is mainly west of I-287 and north of I-80…but you can clearly see the risk. For Northwest NJ and the Scranton area, despite what this model is showing, I’d be shifting those bands south a bit, and a solid 6-10″ thumping seems likely…very elevation sensitive this time of year, so the higher up you are, the better your odds for snow. The highest amounts seem banded in an area east of I-81, north of I-80, west of I-87, and south of US Route 20. There is some model debate as to how far south the snow will get (one model brings heavy snow as far south as Central NJ). I am going against that model for now due to a poor track record this winter. But you will want to keep an eye on this situation. And if you live in Northwest Jersey/Northeast PA, tomorrow and tomorrow night look very unkind.

Wish I had better news, but enjoy this last gasp of winter if that’s your thing.

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Following Up on Japan and Media Mismanagement

NOAA HYSPLIT Model Run for Japan, from Dr. Jeff Masters' blog at Wx Underground (http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1767)

A pretty cool link I stumbled upon today allows you to actually listen to the devastating Japan earthquake. The Japanese Lab of Bioacoustics has a network of undersea instruments that allows for this. It’s rather incredible.

Also, here’s a link to a  pretty nifty animation someone’s created that shows the foreshocks, the 9.0, and the subsequent aftershocks pop up in sequential order. Amazing how much seismic activity continues over there. Note that this is not at all uncommon. Most major quakes like this have aftershocks (some that can still be large) continue for weeks, months, or even years after the main shock.

Along the lines of what I wrote about earlier in the week, it’s been incredibly frustrating to read and hear some of the coverage in the media about this incident and what actually should matter to people here (besides the recovery effort and how we all can help). There’s been an intense debate about nuclear energy, which is certainly fine, but I think that needs to wait until after we at least figure out how to solve the issues in Japan.

There continues to be this implied comparison to Chernobyl. Here’s a good link that details the worst nuclear incidents in the world. To this point, this is not Chernobyl. The IAEA rates events (similar to tornadoes and hurricanes) in a seven category scale. Chernobyl is the equivalent of Andrew, Katrina, or Camille. So far to this point, the Fukushima incident ranks as a 5 out of the seven. This is terrible on every level, but again, this is NOT Chernobyl.

There also continues to be a wishy-washy bit of media coverage regarding how radiation will impact Americans. You get headlines like this…even though the article has very little to do with direct radiation impacts in California (it’s mainly discussing how LA is activating a lesson’s learned sort of campaign to help mitigate and prepare in case a similar disaster occurred there). But if you just read the headline, you’d assume that even if there is no direct impact, they’re still concerned enough that they have to activate emergency procedures.

In the New York Times the other day, they put this movie online showing the plume’s path. Their intent was to show people when *trace* amounts of radiation would be detected at various monitoring stations. If you are an ordinary American, with a limited science background, and you look at this movie, what do you see? Radiation coming to America.  Buried on the righthand side in the text at the bottom, it says that it would, “at worst, have extremely minor health consequences.” First off, this needs to be emphasized ON the movie or IN the headline. That’s the MOST important aspect of this imagery. And what do extremely minor health consequences consist of? Honestly. Vagueness is what will cause people to panic.

Then, you just get completely misinformed articles like this that make headlines on Drudge. But truthfully, why shouldn’t they be making headlines? Heck, the surgeon general earlier in the week implied it was intelligent for people in the West to stock up on Potassium Iodide. And of course she meant that it was good to always be prepared for a disaster, but it was implied that they should stock up directly because of THIS incident.

The fact of the matter is, that this is NOT a threat to Americans here at home. There have been a handful of great articles written on this topic. I’ll direct you to a couple of them.

Dr. Greg Forbes of The Weather Channel discussed dispersion and dilution, the main drivers of why this won’t be a major threat.

Dr. Jeff Masters of The Weather Underground has discussed this for several days now. Granted, the headline isn’t putting the focus on what’s important in all this, but he makes a point to emphasize the lack of a health threat.

The biggest issue in all this is communication. Scientists inherently have issues communicating information in a language and a way that ordinary people can relate to. Perception is everything in these types of situations. If people sense any iota of danger to their health, of course they’re going to react. Scientists, politicians, and, most importantly, the media need to get their acts together and make sure the information they are providing is coherent, clear, and important to people. The reports of “trace” radiation, while interesting, don’t matter in the grand scheme of things to an average American.

The prospect of radiation making it to America from Japan is interesting, but it’s an interesting concept for scientists. As an ordinary American, who probably has enough to worry about,  this is one thing you do NOT need to be concerned with. Over the next few weeks though, this whole disaster should serve as a reminder to you that it *can* happen here. Anything can. Look over your plans if a disaster strikes (any disaster…fire, quake, hurricane, tornado, etc.) and make sure it will work (make contingency plans). And if you don’t have a plan, make one. You might be happy you did.

Clearing Up Some Misconceptions About the Earthquake in Japan

First off…now in Jacksonville, FL, and that is where I shall be for awhile, so expect more insights on hurricanes and thunderstorms as the warm season gets going. New job affords me more time to look at weather data, but less free time, so we’ll see what kind of balance I can maintain going forward.

First off, my thoughts and prayers go out to anyone and everyone impacted by this unspeakable tragedy in Japan. It truly is a horrific disaster, and we all can only hope they can recover as quickly as possible. You’ve all seen the videos, read the stories, etc. I’m not going to get too wordy here, but I have heard a few odds and ends here and there that have sort of irked me the last few days. I’m not a geologist, nor am I a seismologist. I am a meteorologist, though we used to joke in TV that we were supposed to know every field of science because we were the only ones in the station with a legitimate science degree. I digress. Let’s discuss a couple points.

Myth: A tsunami can only occur on the West Coast of the U.S.

I actually heard a nuclear expert say on TV tonight that the East Coast isn’t susceptible to tsunamis. And while the East Coast certainly doesn’t see the frequency of tsunami events that the West Coast sees, history tells us that they have occurred…and they could be substantial. The Capital Weather Gang actually published an entry today with a lot of details on past East Coast events. I won’t recite them all here, but you can click the link and read for yourself. And the NWS in Philly has a really good timeline of past events and details. Landslides off the coast in the Continental Shelf, landslides elsewhere, or a large earthquake in the Caribbean (Lesser Antilles subduction zone) would be the primary culprits for such an event on the East Coast. But they can happen, and you should be aware that they can happen.

Hype: The nuclear power disaster unfolding in Japan could happen here too.

Without getting into the debate of whether nuclear power is good or bad, suffice to say this: Yes, we do have nuclear plants in the Western US in vulnerable areas. However, keep this in mind: The nuclear plants in Japan survived the earthquake. They did as they were supposed to do during the quake, which is not crumble. They did not however survive the tsunami. And that’s where a lot of the focus on the current nuke plants on the West Coast should be made. In California, San Onofre, in between LA and San Diego is a concern, as is Diablo Canyon (Avila Beach). However, both of these plants are equipped with extremely sophisticated technology and able to withstand earthquakes of very powerful magnitude that can occur in those areas.  San Onofre is on the coast and has a wall designed to withstand a 25 foot tsunami. The LA Times had an article today specifically about San Onofre. So with all this in mind, yes this is a serious issue that needs to be revisited, but again, keep in mind that you aren’t going to see a 9.0 earthquake centered in SoCal. In general, northern California is at a much higher risk than SoCal for a tsunami as well.

This is Another Chernobyl

No it is not. Chernobyl had a number of extenuating circumstances that compounded its disaster. All you need to know is here. That being said, that’s not minimizing the magnitude of this disaster or how bad it could get. But these are two completely different scenarios.

Myth: The Japan Earthquake Could Not Happen Here

You probably won’t see anything quite as strong as 9.0 occur on the Mainland of the US, though, yes, we can and will see large earthquakes occur. But an earthquake of the magnitude observed in Japan could occur off the Northwest Coast. The culprit would be the Cascadia Subduction Zone. If you live in the Northwest or have friends/loved ones in the Northwest, make sure they are fully aware that what occurred in Japan WILL one day occur there. It could be tomorrow, or it could be in 200 years. We simply don’t know, but the geology is similar. And we’re not prepared for it. Make sure they/you get prepared as best as you can.

Seattle Times Article

Cascadia Subduction Zone Info

This is just a sampling of the flash points I’ve come up with based on what I’ve read and heard over the last couple days. Hope this helps clear the air a little.