A Year of “Extreme” (Duration) Disasters

This year has been interesting in a number of ways from a meteorological standpoint. It’s been tragic from a human standpoint…and it’s been extreme. And I’m not talking about what you may think. The disasters of 2011 have been, for the most part, either extremely quick to occur…or painfully slow. Tornadoes? Almost instantaneous. But drought and river flooding? Slow enough to the point where a lot of meteorologists call them “boring.”

Hydrograph/Forecast of river levels on the Missouri at Williston: http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=bis&gage=wltn8&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1%22

We’ve had the flood on the Mississippi already. But in progress at present is another extreme flood, this time on the Missouri River. To the left is the hydrograph and forecast from the Missouri at Williston, ND…already at a record level and only forecasted to rise further.¬†This winter has been a perfect storm for this sort of setup. With one of the strongest La Ninas in recent memory in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean, snowpack was high in the Upper Midwest (not unusual). The melt of that, combined with a period of extreme rains from March and April’s severe weather helped push the Mississippi to record levels. La Ninas also traditionally hammer the Northwest US with heavy snowfall. This year was a late bloomer, but when it hit, it didn’t stop from late February through mid to late May. That melt in the Northern Rockies is helping to fuel this record flooding scenario. The meteorological factors coming together this past winter/spring have really not happened since the 70s and possibly not to this level since the 30s or 20s…so it’s not a huge surprise that years from those decades are the years a lot of these records were set.

Speaking of the 30s…similar factors seen in the Dust Bowl era seem to be helping to fuel the epic drought in the Southern US this year.

US Drought Monitor's Map of Texas from Today

The map to the right shows the drought in Texas. The D4 (exceptional drought) area from the US Drought Monitor is currently in place across an uncanny 57.83% of Texas. These are tremendously high numbers that will likely only continue to get worse unless a tropical system impacts the entire state (because I don’t think daily isolated thunderstorm activity is going to really help this). D4 areas are also present across Louisiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, and New Mexico. With that La Nina, while northern parts of the country bask in precip and snow, the South usually ends up dry. Western Arizona into Southern California were a notable exception this year, but from Eastern Arizona (where the tremendous wildfires are currently burning) through West Texas, the La Nina helped to serve up dry misery.

These events are certainly troubling and certainly tough to swallow, especially if you live in those areas. But they are really far from unusual. They have happened in the past and will likely happen again in the future. The law of averages in weather:

Normal = ((Negative Extremes + Positive Extremes) / Number of Events)

There is no such thing as “normal” weather. While droughts and floods may be slow moving and “boring” though, they are costly, miserable disasters.

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Short-Term Musings and Hitting the Links!

Some heavy rain/mountain snow in the Pac NW soon!

This time of year can be one of more intriguing times of year from a weather standpoint. The tropics are winding down, but can still produce some fun. Cold air is gradually building and occasionally flexing here in the US, so you can get some fascinating storms. We’re starting to see the pattern build a bit, especially starting over this coming weekend in the Northwest, where it looks like a series of systems promise to start building snowpack and bringing some widespread wind and rain to Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. The graphic shows this morning’s run of the GFS and the total amount of precipitation forecasted through day ten. Notice about 4-6″ showing up in the Pacific Northwest. Not a bad haul.

Outside of that, there’s not much exciting going on weatherwise this week here in the US. Keep an eye on Arizona and the Southwest again Tuesday-Thursday, as another one of these pesky cutoff lows (haven’t seen sun here in SoCal since last Wednesday or Thursday) gradually comes onshore and works inland. This one isn’t as strong as the one we had earlier this month that caused the tornado outbreak in AZ, but still could be enough to pop some decent storms there.

Link Exchange

This article suggests scientists really need to work on how they communicate their information. I think this sort of proves the point that the issue of climate change has been politicized to death. I wish we could move away from climate change as a policy issue and move back toward a “what’s causing it”¬† and “what does it mean” issue.

Super Typhoon Megi Satellite Loop Also, if you like satellite imagery and blogs, this one is one to bookmark, as they often produce some beautiful loops such as this. Megi made landfall in the Philippines and sounds as though it did a fair amount of damage and disruption. We’ll see. Here’s the latest on Megi, which may actually be headed for just south of Hong Kong now, a couple hundred miles further north than the thinking yesterday. Here’s a blog entry from Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground with a link to a beautiful satellite image of Megi. Additional satellite imagery here.

Interesting story in the LA Times today about how a water fight is underway about redirecting Colorado River water from the LA area to the Salton Sea southeast of Palm Springs to help desalinate it and sustain it. I suspect stories like this will become more frequent in coming years as the strain on the water supply out here continues to increase. Along those same lines… Lake Mead records its lowest level…ever.

Zoo With Roy is probably my favorite Phillies blog, and put together this awesomeness depicting Roy Oswalt blowing through the stop sign last night. As an aside, what a great game by the Phillies last night. Hopefully it puts the fan base at ease. I said Phils in six, assuming we beat Lincecum and lost to Sanchez at home. We did the opposite, but the same end result I expected I guess. Should be an interesting game in San Francisco tomorrow. Weather looks fantastic, with mid to upper 60s and a good deal of sunshine. Perfect fall weather by the Bay.

Waste time with the Global Genie! Takes you some random place on Google Street View. Neat way to experience new places.

And lastly, I have to share this link to send a get well message to Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand who was involved in horrific tackle in the game vs. Army over the weekend that has sadly left him paralyzed below his neck. Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Wrapping Up the Nor’Easter, Some Other Things

At the left is a satellite image from NOAA depicting the massive nor’easter hitting New England yesterday. This was a very impressive storm, and it continues to impact with strong winds (as evidenced by watching the Rutgers/Army game at the Meadowlands Stadium). Gusts have generally been in the 35-55 mph range. Though I did see a 69 mph gust in Bennington County, VT (Woodford), that I assume was at a high elevation. Mount Washington in New Hampshire looks to have done just over 72 mph in the last 24 hours.

In terms of snowfall, it appears that an average of 6-12″ fell at some of the higher peaks of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains. I’ve seen 8″ reported at Little Whiteface Mountain, 7″ as of yesterday at Mt. Mansfield, VT, and 14″ at Killington. All in all a fairly impressive event!

Typhoon Megi

As the tropics in the Atlantic slowly wind down, the incredibly quiet Western Pacific is finally seeing some interesting activity. Typhoon Megi is a 120 mph storm, which will likely become a supertyphoon and appears headed for the northern part of Luzon (main island of the Philippines). The current forecast has it making landfall early morning (US Time) on Monday

Typhoon Megi East of the Philippines

. You can track Megi here. Also, Crownweather.com has a nice website with images and information on Megi. After the Philippines, it looks to head toward Hainan Island in southern China.



Arizona Tornado Outbreak

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff has put up a tremendous website with lots of images, graphics, pictures, and information on the tornado outbreak that struck parts of Arizona earlier this month. This event will go down as the largest single day tornado outbreak in Arizona history. Of course, we can assume that, but Arizona has become more densely populated in recent years, so there are probably a number of weather events that have gone unnoticed in that state in years past. That said, this was an incredible outbreak for anywhere west of the Continental Divide. I happened to be at work that morning monitoring some rain here in SoCal, but fixed on the radar in Central and Northern Arizona. Some of those radar signatures were as good as you’d see anywhere in the country. Some good stuff on that website from above.

Scientists and Programming

An interesting final topic for today. I found a link to an article from the Journal Nature’s website. The article discusses how in the wake of Climategate, there was a somewhat undiscussed issue that involved scientists and their ability to write code. One of the emails had a comment from a CRU scientists claiming his programming skills were “awful.” This is somewhat disturbing in the sense that a lot of what is being done in the climate arena (and other areas too) is being programmed and written now by scientists. The bottom line is that the skills of a lot of people has not caught up to the pace of technological development. It’s a good read, and it brings up some interesting points that you wouldn’t normally think about that I think illustrates a larger problem in our field, as well as other science fields. But I think with the discussion and the realization that what some of these scientist programmers do is so important to the field and research, this should help bring some additional awareness to the topic at hand. Hopefully at least in our field of meteorology, some of the graduate programs that exist more rigorously emphasize programming in their curriculum going forward.