Why Don’t We Listen?

Imagine for a moment that your state spends $100 billion each year. The nation spends roughly $3.5 trillion each year. Now, what if I told you that between your state and the nation, you could spend about $10 billion to insure against $100 billion or more in future losses? Does that sound like a good deal? What if I told you that in any given year though, you only have about a 0.2% chance of seeing that event you’re insuring against? Seems like a low risk. Do you think that $10 billion would be better spent elsewhere or not spent at all?

This is the issue Southeast Texas is grappling with.

On Thursday, one of the most important pieces of journalism written about the risk of a worst case scenario hurricane in the Houston area was published. The Texas Tribune/ProPublica mashup called “Hell and High Water” is worth your time. It describes, in detail, how a worst case scenario storm would play out in Houston. Without any mitigation or protective measures, the economic, human, and environmental cost of a worst case hurricane would be utterly catastrophic.

I read stories like this a lot. I’m a meteorologist. I work in energy. I’m pretty well acquainted with the concept of risk. And the more I read these stories, the more I ask myself: What in the hell are we doing?

It’s 2016. I fully appreciate the skeptical world we live in, where cable news is shouting at us 24/7 in hyperbolic terms about the next big threat. There is an element of hyperbole that exists in media, and  yes, sometimes in science too. Objectively, this idea of a worst case scenario storm is not hyperbole, not in the least. If Hurricane Rita in 2005 had tracked further south and west, or if Ike had been a tad stronger or bigger and tracked a tad further south and west, Houston would have been in a bad, bad place.

Yes, that’s 2 storms in the last 11 hurricane seasons that had the potential to be a worst case scenario for Houston. It’s not difficult to get monster hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. This area has been hit time and again by big ones. The concept isn’t new. It will continue.

Someone might argue that it’s just that “global warming alarmism.” Here’s the thing. Even if climate change weren’t real (it is). Even if sea levels weren’t rising (they are). This would *still* be as serious a concern as it is today.

So again, I ask: What in the hell are we doing? From this article, there are multiple groups spending millions of dollars to conduct multiple studies on this issue. And no one is committed to implementing any one of these plans. We have the information we need to get this thing moving. But what do we do? Because no major storm has threatened us since Ike, we sit on our hands, dawdle, and just hope and pray it never happens? People don’t see true risks until they’re realities. And over time, interest, concern, and motivation to act fades. Why are we still doing this in 2016, when we have the technology and capability to SEE risks before they happen? Think about that. We have abilities to understand and protect against disasters that even 50 years ago weren’t possible. It’s borderline miraculous.

Everything’s about saving money and gearing up for the next election. We see candidates for president arguing about the size of their hands and who can get married. Newsflash: We have clear evidence that we can mitigate potentially hundreds of billions in losses and unspeakable environmental and human catastrophe for what amounts to a drop in the bucket in terms of what we spend in this state and country. It would be great if we actually acted proactively and did something for the actual good of the people for a change. We have an incredible gift to see trouble coming. We also have a way to help minimize the toll. Why throw that away?

Read the article. Let it sink in. Then let’s get real about this risk.

I’m on Twitter: @mattlanza

Irene Info for Friends and Family

Euro model forecast of wind speeds on the Jersey Shore during the height of Irene: http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap

Note that the only *official* information is what you hear from local emergency management and the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center. I’m just offering you my own opinion on how this may shake out.

If you are ordered to evacuate, do so…this storm isn’t a drill. There’s always a chance it “might not be that bad,” but ALL indications are that it will be that bad. This forecast is not hyped…this is simply what we’re seeing right now from the computer models. Breaking this down region by region….note that the timing could change by 3-6 hours in any given location depending on how fast Irene ultimately tracks.

NC Outer Banks: Should see the brunt of the storm with sustained cat 1-2 hurricane winds and gusts perhaps to cat 3 intensity. Conditions deteriorate Friday afternoon, with the brunt of the storm late Fri night and into early afternoon Saturday. Major wind/flooding from Hatteras north. Models have indicated some increase in rainfall intensity near landfall, so 10″ or more of rain is possible on top of storm surge flooding. Conditions will improve Saturday night.

Norfolk/VA Beach: Area could see substantial Cat 2-3 gusts and some Cat 1, maybe low end 2 sustained winds. In addition to piling of water into the harbor there, rain amount of up to 10″ or more will likely exacerbate flooding there. Height of the storm will be Saturday morning through Saturday evening.

Richmond to Raleigh Breezy conditions, with tropical storm force gusts (40-50 mph) likely in Richmond. Any further west track of the storm will increase the risk of strong tropical storm force wind gusts (60 mph or more). Raleigh will see perhaps a low end tropical storm force gust or two, along with minimal rain (probably an inch or less). Richmond could see substantially more rain depending on the exact track…likely 2-5″, but potential for more. Height of the storm will be Saturday morning through Saturday evening.

Delmarva: You will get hit very hard with storm surge flooding, sustained tropical storm to category 1 hurricane force winds and gusts easily into the category 2 hurricane range (> 90 mph). Very heavy rainfall to the tune of 6-10″ is likely. Height of the storm is mid to late morning Saturday into early Sunday morning.

Southeast NJ (Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland) and the Delaware Beaches: Storm surge flooding is likely at times of high tide, especially Sunday morning…possibly Sunday evening as well if this slows down further. Wind gusts of 80-90 mph. Sustained tropical storm force winds. 6-10″ of rain likely, but any shift further west would knock you down to 4-8″, but increase the storm surge/wind/isolated tornado potential. Barrier Islands will be impossible to get to, and will likely be impossible to get around on Sunday.  The brunt of the storm will hit late Saturday afternoon to early afternoon Sunday.

DC-Baltimore: Heavy rain and flooding will be the major stories. Any further shift west will exacerbate rain totals, which should be 3-6″. Also, any further shift west will allow for more storm surge up the Chesapeake. This would cause substantial tidal flooding…but that is not the main concern right now. Winds should be sustained at least low end tropical storm, with some strong TS gusts likely. Rain will drop off substantially west of the cities. Worst of the storm will be late Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning.

Philly/SW Jersey/Trenton: The current forecast track keeps you in the solid 3-6″ rainfall band, with higher amounts possible with a shift to the west. Significant to record flooding on some rivers is possible. Winds will be tropical storm force, with the potential for a few hurricane force gusts, especially in NJ. Height of the storm will be Saturday evening through mid afternoon Sunday. Also note that tidal Delaware River and Delaware Bay flooding is likely with this storm, especially if the track shifts any further west.

Metro New York City/North Jersey/Long Island: Same story here… heavy rain, up to 6-10″ with locally higher amounts, dropping off west of I-81 in Pennsylvania. Storm surge flooding is a distinct possibility in Manhattan, as well as from LBI to Sandy Hook and obviously on Long Island. Current projections would be Cat 2 storm surge flooding potential from Cape May to Sandy Hook. Strong winds, mostly tropical storm force, but could be hurricane force at times in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. Gusts to hurricane force/80 mph or so in Ocean/Monmouth/NYC/Long Island likely, gusts to tropical storm force in inland Jersey/NY. Height of the storm will be Saturday night into late Sunday afternoon or evening.

Upstate NY (Syracuse-Albany): Heavy rain in the Hudson Valley… 6-10″ south, 4-8″ north. Any shift west will push amounts into the widespread 6-12″ zone. Rain will drop off steadily west of Albany (1″ every 5 miles or so to just some squalls Syracuse/Utica) Winds will gust to tropical storm force, especially at higher elevations, mostly in the Hudson Valley. Wind gusts should edge back to 20-30 mph between Syracuse and Utica. Height of the storm will be from mid to late Sunday morning into Sunday evening or night.

Connecticut/RI/Mass (incl Cape Cod and Boston): Heavy rain likely, especially along and west of I-91…any shift west or east will shift that axis. Rain amounts of 6-10″ west and 3-7″ east. Again, any shift in track shifts that. Winds will gust to hurricane force as you will be on the eastern, or stronger side of the storm. Some sustained category 1 hurricane winds will be possible on the Connecticut shore, southern RI, Block Island, the Cape, and the Islands. Rain may be more squally or sporadic and the potential does exist for brief weak, but damaging tornadoes anywhere at any time. The height of the storm for you looks to be late Saturday night into Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Northern New England/Maine: Widespread tropical storm force wind gusts, with some isolated hurricane force gusts on the Maine/NH coasts. Rain of 6-10″ likely. Height of storm Sunday afternoon into Monday morning.

Some Q&A…

Can this forecast change? Yes. If the track of Irene is a little further west, the storm may weaken a little faster over land, causing less in the way of wind gusts, but it would also put different people on the eastern side of the storm for longer, creating more of a coastal flooding problem. Either way, someone is looking at substantial to serious flooding because of rainfall. It’s just a question of who. The forecast could also change if Irene makes any unexpected wobbles between the Bahamas and North Carolina. A shift in course of 25 miles in either direction will move people’s impacts around rather substantially because of the angle this storm is going up the coast at.

Could Irene go out to sea? Strongly doubt it. Most of the computer guidance has come into very good agreement now, and within 72 hours, such a dramatic change in the forecast would be almost unprecedented. It’s running out of time to make a move that would cause this.

Should I evacuate? I cannot tell you what to do or make that decision for you. Heed the advice of local emergency managers or law enforcement.

How bad will the aftermath be? The storm surge flooding should subside Sunday night and Monday from south to north. This is the type of storm that has the potential to permanently alter the coastal geography and it’s not impossible to think that new inlets could form or water may never recede from certain locations. Be prepared to find that in a few areas. The soaking wet record month in PA/NJ/DE has saturated the ground. Add even modest tropical storm force winds and an average of 6-10″ of rain, and fully leaved trees/power lines will be coming down by the hundreds. Expect widespread, potentially long duration power outages up to a week or longer over a VERY wide swath of the region impacted by Irene.

This has all the makings of an historic storm. Yes, there is the off chance that the storm is “not that bad,” but given all the information we currently have in front of us, it would be very difficult to say that that is a possibility. This is the most serious storm since Hurricane Gloria and possibly back further than that. Please heed all warnings and orders from the appropriate authorities. Hunker down, be strong, be safe, and life will go on!

That “Chance” of Snow is the Midwest’s Snowmageddon

Snow Totals Map for Southeast Minnesota and Western Wisconsin - courtesy of NWS Minneapolis/St. Paul

Well, after all the talk about the chance of snow for this weekend in the interior Northeast, it turned out to be mostly just model error…but kudos to the European model which did a fairly decent job in calling that this would mainly be a Lakes/Midwest beast. Something is just inherently wrong with the GFS that it can’t handle certain things well…especially interesting considering the ensemble track was south and east even of the model. Let’s discuss what’s up.

First the blizzard. Just massive. Most of you know about the Metrodome roof collapsing under the snow (not unprecedented, but they aren’t going to have that place ready for a game tomorrow). More details on the storm’s impact in Minnesota here.

Storm total at MSP is 17.1″, making it the fifth largest storm on record for the Twin Cities.

Storm totals were as high as 23″ in Polk County, WI, 21.5″ in New Market and Shakopee, MN, 21″ at Oakdale, MN, and 20″ at Red Wing and Maplewood, MN.

Blizzard Warnings remain in effect today from eastern Iowa to the NW suburbs of Chicago and Milwaukee and N Michigan. Winter Storm Warnings are posted for Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, parts of Ohio, and the Appalachians from PA to Tennessee. And Winter Weather Advisories are posted all the way into far N Alabama and Georgia! On top of that, freeze and wind chill warnings/advisories are posted for the Deep South all the way into southern Florida, where nighttime lows early this week are going to rival what we saw back in January. Another round of lake effect snow is going to hammer Central and Western New York again this week (though to me the trajectory looks a little more northerly than what occurred last week, which would mean less snow for places like Syracuse). But we’ll see.

Overall, winter is in force in the Eastern US. At the same time, we’re going to break record highs today across SoCal, with widespread mid 80s expected. Amplification…what goes up must come down…strong, deep trough in the East = strong ridge in the West usually. And we are in an extremely amplified pattern…and the anomalous nature of this amplified pattern is going to remain in place for the foreseeable future. That means more fun to come.

So what do I think is to come?

We have a couple systems to watch. With extreme blocking in place, the storm track is going to look a lot like last winter. One weak wave looks to pass through the southern US Wednesday night-Thursday night. It’s a flat wave though, so I question if other than some nuisance freezing rain or sleet if it will pack much punch. It will serve though to reinforce the cold over the East for next weekend.

CPC Graphic Showing Ensemble Forecast of Arctic Blocking

A more important storm is evident on the European model for the end of the weekend or early next week. This shows a more amplified storm, which if taken literally, shows a substantial snow chance from the Carolinas to DC and possibly into New England. The GFS isn’t showing much other than a cold pattern right now and keeps everything offshore (not uncommon for this model to miss a feature like this though). I am getting somewhat on board for at least the threat of a snow/winter weather event in the Mid Atlantic and possibly the Northeast next weekend or early Christmas week.

The pattern is active later this week with a 140+ kt jet stream pointed right into California. This isn’t too unlike what we saw a lot of last winter in the active El Nino pattern. Whether this is too far north or not, I guess we’ll see, but with a load of blocking in Arctic/Greenland and a load of moisture/energy slamming into the West Coast…that to me suggests someone in the East is in for it at some point. It still could track out to sea…it still could track inland…it may be the model misleading us. But it’s evident that the weather pattern is much more intriguing than it has been. We’ll watch this week and see!

Couple things to round this out…

First, if you missed it at all, here’s the incredible video of the Metrodome’s roof collapse in Minneapolis:

Lastly, if you like Google Earth, and if you like hurricanes, here’s a cool post with links to great visualizations of the hurricanes from this past season.

Well, after all the talk about the chance of snow for this weekend in the interior Northeast, it turned out to be mostly just model error…but kudos to the European model which did a fairly decent job in calling that this would mainly be a Lakes/Midwest beast. Something is just inherently wrong with the GFS that it can’t handle certain things well…especially interesting considering the ensemble track was south and east even of the model. Let’s discuss what’s up.

First the blizzard. Just massive. Most of you know about the Metrodome roof collapsing under the snow (not unprecedented, but they aren’t going to have that place ready for a game tomorrow). More details on the storm’s impact in Minnesota here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101212/ap_on_re_us/us_winter_storm_midwest;_ylt=AiVEC47U_j2JGmW7yTsO2MKs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNuNGpramwyBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAxMjEyL3VzX3dpbnRlcl9zdG9ybV9taWR3ZXN0BGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDbWlubm1ldHJvZG9t

Storm total at MSP is 17.1″, making it the fifth largest storm on record for the Twin Cities. http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/updraft/archive/2010/12/storm_update_snowfall_rates_no.shtml

Storm totals were as high as 23″ in Polk County, WI, 21.5″ in New Market and Shakopee, MN, 21″ at Oakdale, MN, and 20″ at Red Wing and Maplewood, MN. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=mpx&storyid=60336&source=0

Blizzard Warnings remain in effect today from eastern Iowa to the NW suburbs of Chicago and Milwaukee and N Michigan. Winter Storm Warnings are posted for Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, parts of Ohio, and the Appalachians from PA to Tennessee. And Winter Weather Advisories are posted all the way into far N Alabama and Georgia! On top of that, freeze and wind chill warnings/advisories are posted for the Deep South all the way into southern Florida, where nighttime lows early this week are going to rival what we saw back in January. Another round of lake effect snow is going to hammer Central and Western New York again this week (though to me the trajectory looks a little more northerly than what occurred last week, which would mean less snow for places like Syracuse). But we’ll see.

Overall, winter is in force in the Eastern US. At the same time, we’re going to break record highs today across SoCal, with widespread mid 80s expected. Amplification…what goes up must come down…strong, deep trough in the East = strong ridge in the West usually. And we are in an extremely amplified pattern.

What’s to come?

We have a couple systems to watch. With extreme blocking in place, the storm track is going to be pushed further south. The classic, “it’s too cold to snow” pattern for much of the north. One weak wave looks to pass through the southern US Wednesday night-Thursday night. It’s a flat wave though, so I question if other than some nuisance freezing rain or sleet if there will be any real wintry precipitation anywhere with it. It will serve though to reinforce the cold over the East for next weekend.

A more important storm is evident on the European model for the middle of week two (Christmas week). This shows a more amplified storm, which if taken literally, shows a substantial snow chance from the Carolinas to DC. The GFS isn’t showing much other than a cold pattern right now. I am getting somewhat on board for at least the threat of a snow event in the Mid Atlantic next week sometime. The pattern is active later this week with a 140+ kt jet stream pointed right into California. This isn’t too unlike what we saw a lot of last winter in the active El Nino pattern. Whether this is too far north or not, I guess we’ll see, but with a load of blocking in Arctic/Greenland and a load of moisture/energy slamming into the West Coast…that to me suggests someone in the East is in for it at some point. We’ll seeWell, after all the talk about the chance of snow for this weekend in the interior Northeast, it turned out to be mostly just model error…but kudos to the European model which did a fairly decent job in calling that this would mainly be a Lakes/Midwest beast. Something is just inherently wrong with the GFS that it can’t handle certain things well…especially interesting considering the ensemble track was south and east even of the model. Let’s discuss what’s up.

First the blizzard. Just massive. Most of you know about the Metrodome roof collapsing under the snow (not unprecedented, but they aren’t going to have that place ready for a game tomorrow). More details on the storm’s impact in Minnesota here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101212/ap_on_re_us/us_winter_storm_midwest;_ylt=AiVEC47U_j2JGmW7yTsO2MKs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNuNGpramwyBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAxMjEyL3VzX3dpbnRlcl9zdG9ybV9taWR3ZXN0BGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDbWlubm1ldHJvZG9t

Storm total at MSP is 17.1″, making it the fifth largest storm on record for the Twin Cities. http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/updraft/archive/2010/12/storm_update_snowfall_rates_no.shtml

Storm totals were as high as 23″ in Polk County, WI, 21.5″ in New Market and Shakopee, MN, 21″ at Oakdale, MN, and 20″ at Red Wing and Maplewood, MN. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=mpx&storyid=60336&source=0

Blizzard Warnings remain in effect today from eastern Iowa to the NW suburbs of Chicago and Milwaukee and N Michigan. Winter Storm Warnings are posted for Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, parts of Ohio, and the Appalachians from PA to Tennessee. And Winter Weather Advisories are posted all the way into far N Alabama and Georgia! On top of that, freeze and wind chill warnings/advisories are posted for the Deep South all the way into southern Florida, where nighttime lows early this week are going to rival what we saw back in January. Another round of lake effect snow is going to hammer Central and Western New York again this week (though to me the trajectory looks a little more northerly than what occurred last week, which would mean less snow for places like Syracuse). But we’ll see.

Overall, winter is in force in the Eastern US. At the same time, we’re going to break record highs today across SoCal, with widespread mid 80s expected. Amplification…what goes up must come down…strong, deep trough in the East = strong ridge in the West usually. And we are in an extremely amplified pattern.

What’s to come?

We have a couple systems to watch. With extreme blocking in place, the storm track is going to be pushed further south. The classic, “it’s too cold to snow” pattern for much of the north. One weak wave looks to pass through the southern US Wednesday night-Thursday night. It’s a flat wave though, so I question if other than some nuisance freezing rain or sleet if there will be any real wintry precipitation anywhere with it. It will serve though to reinforce the cold over the East for next weekend.

A more important storm is evident on the European model for the middle of week two (Christmas week). This shows a more amplified storm, which if taken literally, shows a substantial snow chance from the Carolinas to DC. The GFS isn’t showing much other than a cold pattern right now. I am getting somewhat on board for at least the threat of a snow event in the Mid Atlantic next week sometime. The pattern is active later this week with a 140+ kt jet stream pointed right into California. This isn’t too unlike what we saw a lot of last winter in the active El Nino pattern. Whether this is too far north or not, I guess we’ll see, but with a load of blocking in Arctic/Greenland and a load of moisture/energy slamming into the West Coast…that to me suggests someone in the East is in for it at some point. We’ll see

AM Models: Go Inland, Storm!

European Model Forecast for Sunday Morning: http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models.html
GFS Forecast for Sunday Evening: http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models.html

Good news and bad news if you’re an eastern snow lover today. The good news is that the ability for snow to fall because of cold weather looks to stick around for awhile. This morning’s model runs look quite cold for the Eastern US, and blazing warm for the West over the next 10 days or so. And it looks like at least some lighter snows will fall over a fairly large area for the end of this week. However, the bad news… this morning’s model runs did no one any favors regarding the potential for a significant storm early next week. The top map is the European model forecast…the bottom is the GFS, valid through the day Sunday (All model maps from Allan Huffman’s site here). You can see from both of these models, the center of the low…still a strong one…is pretty far inland. This absolutely crushes parts of the interior, specifically Ohio, NW Pennsylvania, Western NY, and Ontario. The Euro is even further west today, hitting Wisconsin, Michigan, and Central Ontario hard. Again, this does not mean that this is now a dead issue. But, this is modestly decent agreement, and there’s reason for me to think the threat further east (specifically east of I-81) is fairly limited.

 

European Model 500mb Forecast Sunday Morning (http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models.html)
GFS 500 mb Forecast, Sunday Evening (http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models.html)

If you look at the maps to the right, these are the 500 mb maps (slices of the atmosphere about 20,000 feet up) for the same time periods as above. Remember, things in the atmosphere move in waves with ridges and troughs. For a big eastern storm, you usually need a big ridge in the West and a big trough in the East. That exists here. But it’s the orientation that’s key. If you look at the Euro (top), the axis, or center of the ridge, is located through Portland and Seattle. If you look at the GFS (bottom), the ridge axis is along the Idaho border with Washington and Oregon. For a really good storm to impact areas east of I-81 to the big cities, you really need this ridge axis to set up around Boise, ID. If you notice, the GFS is a lot closer to a decent storm than the Euro (which wacks areas way far away from most of the Eastern cities)…and it’s no coincidence that the ridge axis on the GFS is a good 300-400 miles further east than the Euro.

Keep an eye on this in the coming days because this isn’t a slam dunk, as the operational models are not in lockstep with their ensembles, as has often been the case this autumn/winter…and in fact those show the potential for a further east tracking storm. So today wasn’t a great day of runs for snow lovers east of I-81, but this is by no means a dead issue.

Hey, lastly, cool video of the day for you… the entire 2010 Atlantic Hurricane season looping by on satellite. See all 19 storms go by (don’t blink, you might miss some!):

Hurricane Season Ends, European Chill, Cool Video, Quake Off Jersey

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and holiday weekend, did their shopping, etc. Back in California after a fun leg of flights today over the large storm system swirling in the middle of the country. More on that shortly. First, let’s catch up on some of the more interesting stories from the last week or so…

2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Storm Tracks - courtesy NOAA

2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Ends

First and foremost, today is November 30th, which is the last day of the Atlantic Hurricane season. That isn’t to say more storms can’t form, but in terms of statistics, this season is done. How did we do?

19 Named Storms
12 Hurricanes
5 Major (Cat 3+) Hurricanes

Normal is 11, 6 and 2 respectively. Here’s the official NOAA press release on the season. The season ends up tied for the 3rd most active on record (1887, 1995), and it ties for the second most hurricanes on record (1969). The money quote from the release (in my opinion):

“Large-scale climate features strongly influenced this year’s hurricane activity, as they often do. This year, record warm Atlantic waters, combined with the favorable winds coming off Africa and weak wind shear aided by La Niña energized developing storms. The 2010 season continues the string of active hurricane seasons that began in 1995.

But short-term weather patterns dictate where storms actually travel and in many cases this season, that was away from the United States. The jet stream’s position contributed to warm and dry conditions in the eastern U.S. and acted as a barrier that kept many storms over open water. Also, because many storms formed in the extreme eastern Atlantic, they re-curved back out to sea without threatening land.”

KTRK-TV in Houston compares some of the seasonal forecasts.

Some more perspective on the season and hurricanes in general, including a neat satellite derived rainfall map from this season.

Overall,  I think this season is going to go down in the books as a bust in general, namely because the U.S. was spared a hurricane hit for the fifth straight year, despite the hyperactive nature of the season. But the forecasts were very well done for the most part this season, and frankly, I don’t know that you can ask for much more than that, given our limited ability to predict weather and climate.

So what about next year? It’s obviously way down the line and there’s little skill in trying to make a forecast this far out. But, if you look at a couple of key El Nino area forecast, the ECMWF and the IRI, both indicate (an implied and/or average) weak La Nina persisting into next summer. Should that hold together, that would be one factor that would would favor another busier than normal season. Whether it’s even remotely as busy as this year…or busy at all…remains to be seen though. But that just gives you an idea.

Lastly with the tropics, some new online maps are available, indicating flood vulnerability along the coast due to storm surge. If you click the link in the article and tool around with the maps, some of them are interesting. Bottom line, there are a LOT of vulnerable places on this country’s coast to storm surge flooding.

Mildly similarly related…

There was an interesting article published in Friday’s New York Times about how Norfolk, VA is handling frequent bouts of tidal flooding.

Some cool video came out of last week’s big Western storm. This video was courtesy of Dale Ireland in Silverdale, WA (originally published in Cliff Mass’ Washington weather blog). Then of course, there was this priceless video from Seattle last week:

Here’s a radar loop from the snow in Seattle last week as well:

That Seattle snow made it to Salt Lake City last Tuesday, and here’s some really cool time lapse video of the snow rolling in, and a slower video that shows basically a wall of angry weather arriving:

Interesting AccuWeather blog post today about how the West is seeing absolutely phenomenal early season ski conditions…some of the best in years. It has been stormy…and it’s also been cold, helping a lot of ski resorts add more white gold to their slopes. Absolutely great conditions out West this year. Here’s an article on how citrus growers in Central California have been protecting their crops.

Cold in Europe

This winter is behaving (in some regards) oddly similarly to last winter. If you remember last winter, the US and Europe had it especially rough. Well, Europe is off to the races this winter too.

A few inches of snow for London…and a lot of travel disruptions.

The snow is disrupting school and life in the UK.

This follows some of the coldest November temperatures on record in the UK over the weekend!

Sweden is also seeing some of their coldest November weather in years.

The Eastern US will taste some cold weather, sort of driven by similar factors (and relatively, not nearly as cold) as we go through the next ten days or so. The pattern will also be ripe for the potential for at least some snow. More on that in coming days.

A few final things today.

USGS "Did You Feel It?" Map from today's 3.9 magnitude earthquake off Long Island.

From the head scratch department, dust storms can occur in the Arctic…and there’s an interesting driver behind them.

A 3.9 magnitude earthquake occurred around 10:45 AM today, about 120 miles ESE of New York City. The details on the quake are here. A ton of “Did You Feel It?” reports were received by the USGS from Long Island, New England, and New Jersey. Anyone notice this today?

And finally, in what is the most painful story of the day, another tornado hit Yazoo City, MS this morning. If you recall, Yazoo City was hit by a devastating EF-4 tornado back in April that killed 10 and injured dozens. From what I’ve read thus far, there were six injuries from this morning’s storm. More details if I get them.

More on some of the upcoming weather in the next couple days as I get myself caught back up on things after the extended weekend.

The Wild, Wild West

Map of National Weather Service Watches/Warnings/Advisories, November 22nd.

Lots to hit on tonight. The map to the left is the NWS map of watches, warnings, advisories, etc. Just a royal MESS in the West right now. But this is really a phenomenal storm. I give the West a lot of flack for having relatively boring weather overall, but when things like this happen, it’s pretty darn neat. This is round two of wild western weather. Round one is now in the Midwest (more on that in a minute). Let’s go west to east and look at some of what’s going on.

First up, in Alaska, the Fairbanks area (remember they were recently breaking fair weather records) is getting rocked by an ice storm, which is considered “unprecedented” by local standards. According to The Weather Channel’s Stu Ostro, the precipitable water measured at Fairbanks (which is just essentially a measure of how “juicy” the air mass is…measured in inches) came within 0.01″ of setting a November record for that area. These are things you don’t often see in Alaska this time of year. But I think this speaks to the amount of blocking that’s setting up in North America, which is going to make for a very intriguing couple of weeks across the continent.

Next, down south to Seattle. 2.0″ of new snow fell at Sea-Tac today, which is a record for the date, breaking the old record of 1.5″ in 1977. It’s the snowiest November day in Seattle in 25 years, and marks only the 6th time in November since 1948 that Seattle has accumulated 2″ or more. Snow wreaks absolute havoc on Seattle. Here’s all the latest news from the Emerald City. Closed roads because of ice, including some major ones, a 747 cargo plane slid off the runway at Sea-Tac, and Snoqualmie Pass and I-90 is chains only. Down the road in Portland, not as much snow, but they are also expecting some bitter cold, with temps getting to or below freezing tomorrow and overnight lows dipping into the teens.

National Weather Service Description of Blizzard Impacts in Spokane, WA and Adjacent Idaho

Inland from there, blizzard warnings are flying for much of eastern Washington, including Spokane, as well as northern Idaho. The map to the right is the NWS in Spokane’s description of how events should unfold tonight. The latest on news from Spokane is here. I don’t want to say this whole storm caught people by surprise in the Northwest. Much was known about it coming in, but it did get a little stronger than expected, so the impression of a “surprise” exists. Forecasting in the West is extremely difficult sometimes.

from the weekend were exceedingly impressive. Here’s a recap from the NWS in Reno, NV:

 ...LAKE TAHOE AREA...

 HOMEWOOD...              59 INCHES
 TAHOE CITY...            36 INCHES
 SQUAW VALLEY USA...      48 INCHES
 SQUAW VALLEY (8000 FT)...67 INCHES
 ALPINE MEADOWS...        56 INCHES
 ALPINE MEADOWS(TOP)...   77 INCHES
 TRUCKEE...               36 INCHES
 NORTHSTAR...             61 INCHES
 TAHOE DONNER...          59 INCHES
 GLENBROOK...             18 INCHES
 DAGGETT PASS...          28 INCHES
 SOUTH LAKE TAHOE...      30 INCHES

 ...WESTERN NEVADA...

 CARSON CITY...           6  INCHES
 MINDEN/GARDNERVILLE...   12 INCHES
 FALLON...                3  INCHES
 RENO...                  2  INCHES
 RENO (NORTH HILLS)       4  INCHES
 STEAD...                 4  INCHES

 ...EASTERN SIERRA...

 CEDARVILLE...            16 INCHES
 SUSANVILLE...            4  INCHES
 PORTOLA...               16 INCHES
 DOYLE...                 3  INCHES

 ...MONO COUNTY...

 BRIDGEPORT...            6  INCHES
 LEE VINING...            12 INCHES
 MAMMOTH LAKES...         45 INCHES
 MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN(TOP)... 81 INCHES

So those are some crazy totals (specifically the 81″ atop Mammoth!). So how much new snow? Looks like an additional 1-3 feet above 4,000′ seems likely in the Sierra, and it’s likely places like Mammoth (up around 11,000′) will exceed 100 inches for 5 day totals.

Record low temperatures will build in behind this next front..just brutally cold in the interior. Even the potential for a widespread frost or freeze in the San Joaquin Valley…the agricultural capital of America. Here’s a brief article on how farmers will handle it.

In Salt Lake City, they are preparing for a blizzard as well as this system spreads East into the Rockies. Here’s an NWS briefing on the storm.

Storm Prediction Center Radar, Surface, and Watches Map

As we move into the Midwest, the weekend storm that hammered the West has moved in and is creating some very intriguing severe weather…almost like springtime! So far, seven reports of tornadoes have been received from Illinois and Wisconsin, and with a wide area of watches in effect and a potent late autumn cold front moving through, I think we’ll see a few more isolated reports of tornadoes, but more than likely a lot of reports of damaging winds. The upper level support helping to fuel this mess will gradually diminish as we go into tomorrow, so as the front slides to the south and east, we won’t see quite the active severe weather day tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s a radar capture from Chicago, IL earlier today, showing some of the supercells that had formed in that area and had recently produced tornadoes west of the city.

Those storms produced this tornado:

So all in all, extremely active today across the western two thirds of the country.

A couple other quick links…

A summary of the 2010 hurricane season in the Atlantic…but a cool collection of satellite images from all the hurricanes.

An interesting article from the NY Times that explains how South Dakota has had a pretty terrible year weatherwise (you may need to login or register to read).

The blog will be heading on to Thanksgiving break like most of the rest of you. Heading back to visit family in the East. So have a wonderful holiday!

A Rational Review of a Rational Discussion

Some more coming out from yesterday’s Rational Discussion on Climate Change on Capitol Hill. A couple of blog postings and other info from yesterday…

Dr. Judith Curry offers some suggestions for how the science-policy interface should work. They’re very sensible, and sadly, to me, represent a common sense approach to this…something that’s been severely lacking in this debate all along. Another “skeptic” of anthropogenic global warming, Dr. Richard Lindzen, a decorated atmospheric physicist from MIT offered his own take. Lindzen states:

However, my personal hope is that we will return to normative science, and try to understand how the climate actually behaves. Our present approach of dealing with climate as completely specified by a single number, globally averaged surface temperature anomaly, that is forced by another single number, atmospheric CO2levels, for example, clearly limits real understanding; so does the replacement of theory by model simulation.

Some very sensible commentary. Lindzen’s testimony is worth a read, as he delves into some very strong counter-opinions to what is standard climate change belief. And Lindzen (or Dr. Curry) isn’t a typical “rogue” scientist…his opinions carry serious clout.

An article in the Orange County Register today discusses how alarmism may have polluted climate science enough to cause it to backfire and lose popular support. I agree 100% with this. I described a few entries ago how I believe this “science is settled” mantra is unfair and is the undertone for the entire climate science debate. As a scientist, I can attest to the fact that most of us are absolutely dreadful communicators. Most scientists do not know (some notable exceptions do exist) how to explain their research in simple terms that the average person can understand and NOT come off as smug, elitist, or…to a lot of people…frankly, annoying. There’s a significant communication gap between climate science, policy, and the public. And as I have previously stated, it is the job of climate scientists to not be policy advocates, but to explain their research. And it would do a world of good if colleges and universities require basic communications classes for scientists. The clearer and more approachable scientists become, the more likely the public is to not raise an eyebrow with everything they say. Skepticism is good for climate science, as it challenges what have been unchecked beliefs. Meteorology is an inexact science. Climate science is rooted in meteorology to a large degree. The processes driving weather vs. climate aren’t always the same, but the result of uncertainty and doubt at the end of the day still exists.

The bottom line on this: I hope we can continue to engage in a rational debate on climate change…with both sides being open minded to each other’s viewpoints and ideas…and hopefully absent of policy.

Damage in Baltimore from a macroburst and EF-1 tornado, image credit: NWS Sterling, VA: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/lwx/events/svrwx_20101117/

In other news….

The NWS confirmed an EF-1 tornado and larger macroburst in Baltimore, MD from yesterday. Here’s some links on it:

AccuWeather has some decent imagery and a brief synopsis.

The NWS has a full page of damage photos and information from the event.

So a very active November day in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic piles on some more!

Elsewhere, a good read from the Capital Weather Gang on this hurricane season and where it stands historically (starting to get to the recap mode of hurricane season now…expect more of these in the coming days).

Also, a new faultline has been uncovered in the Rocky Mountains in Idaho…apparently capable of producing a 7.5 magnitude earthquake…scary stuff. Fortunately it’s a relatively sparsely populated area, but still certainly worth noting…and it makes you wonder what else we don’t know about!

One last bit of cool weather news: Fairbanks, AK shattered their highest barometric pressure reading of all-time yesterday. It actually was such high pressure that it forced an aircraft to divert! The air pressure was so high, it made reading the plane’s altimeter exceedingly difficult. So a plane was diverted because of…good weather? It can happen. We’ve had a significant amount of low pressure records set this year…so this is an intriguing change-up. The PNS from Fairbanks on the 1051 mb pressure is below:

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FAIRBANKS AK
445 PM AKST WED NOV 17 2010

...FAIRBANKS BREAKS SEA LEVEL PRESSURE RECORD...

AT APPROXIMATELY 1 AM ON WEDNESDAY...THE FAIRBANKS INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT REPORTED A SEA LEVEL PRESSURE OF 1051.4 MILLIBARS.
THIS BREAKS THE PREVIOUS NOVEMBER RECORD FOR HIGHEST SEA LEVEL
PRESSURE IN FAIRBANKS OF 1047.6 MB...WHICH WAS SET ON NOVEMBER 26
1966.