Jonas 2016: ♫ People Are Blowing Snow ♫

If you haven’t thought of the Weezer song with regard to this storm, you’ve failed me. It deserves some parody. I tried. Oh well. Onward…

What’s changed since yesterday, Matt?

Not much. Other than bread and milk supplies in the grocery store being dwindled.

  • The storm is still coming.
  • It still appears the metro Washington, DC area is the bullseye for snow.
  • Coastal flooding is still a serious concern.
  • Blizzard Watches have been expanded to include much of Jersey, Philly, and the New York City area and Blizzard Warnings are posted for DC and Baltimore.
  • The northern edge of the storm is still going to drive most meteorologists to their local bar.

So how much snow for me?

Here’s my updated map:

012116_Snow_Forecast
My own personal snow forecast as of 5:30 PM ET Thursday. Again, not official, but my way of expressing it.

Again, I’ve highlighted the two key areas of uncertainty. The northern fringe is going to be a royal pain. There are some models that still bring good snow 8-12″ to NYC, but I don’t personally buy that scenario right now. Based on my experience, these sorts of storms have disappointed on the northern fringe, so I’d rather take a conservative stance there.

From Philly into Baltimore and DC, it gets complicated too. You’ll have a number of factors driving snow totals. I expect there to be issues with mixing in spots. Convection (thunderstorms…yes, thundersnow) will also be likely with this storm. In those cases, sometimes strong bands of snow setup over one place and effectively “rob” another of snowfall. So it’s possible that the final snow totals will not look this uniform. You could easily go from 18″ one place, to 10-12″ a couple towns over, back to 18″ a couple towns over from that. It’s chaotic. Snow forecasts aren’t meant to be simple.

What about the blizzard part?

Yes, Blizzard Watches and Warnings are posted all over. Fun fact: The amount of snow you see has 0 factor in whether or not a storm is defined as a blizzard. Why is that? My honest answer is because we like to make things difficult on ourselves as forecasters and communicators. That aside, it has to do with impacts mostly. A blizzard is supposed to mean wind, which limits how many storms meet the criteria of one…thus making it special and making it stand out.

For a storm to be a blizzard, it has to have 3 hours of winds sustained at or frequently gusting to 35 mph and visibility below 1/4 mile. That’s all. So we’ll see if that gets achieved, but based on model data, yes, it looks like blizzard criteria will be met at many places. For the sake of yourself, stay home Saturday.

How about the coastal flooding?

Here are the very latest tidal forecasts for Cape May, Atlantic City, and Sandy Hook. You can select others from those sites.

I heard this was going to be like Sandy?

Here’s something that agitated me today. I heard from several people somewhat panicked, thinking this was going to be Sandy II. Sandy was a 940 mb monster storm to the south of NJ, that was dragging days of water across the Atlantic Ocean directly into Jersey and New York. This storm will be strong, but it will be moving away from the coast. It won’t have nearly the same characteristics as Sandy did. Meteorologically, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

But in terms of actual impact what does it mean? It means something worse than what you saw back in October with Joaquin, but short of what you saw in Sandy. It means a lot of water, yes, and major coastal flooding and a top 10 event perhaps. It means problems. The coast is more vulnerable now than it was 5 years ago.

That said, it does not mean mass devastation like was seen in Sandy. So you are right to be preparing and be concerned. But should you panic? No. Make your preparations as you would for any major coastal storm. Remain calm and heed the forecasts of the National Weather Service.

This will likely be my final forecast post on this storm. Thanks for reading and hope you have some time to enjoy the power of nature without being impacted too hard.

Follow me on Twitter @mattlanza.

Advertisements

Jonas 2016: Make Snow Forecasting Great Again

I don’t have any mom texts to run with today, but I do have a map. We’ll get to that shortly. Let’s break things down.

So what’s changed since yesterday, Matt?

Honestly? Not much really. We still have a storm. It’s still early in the game for snow forecast maps, but we can at least make some assumptions. We still have a major coastal flooding issue to deal with. We do have blizzard watches posted, among other NWS watches and warnings. All this means is “prepare for a snowstorm.”

Where are the watches and warnings?

Glad you asked. Here:

012016_snowwarnings
National Weather Service Watch/Warning Map as of 5:45 ET Wednesday

In the East, the purple are winter weather advisories, the blue winter storm watches, the pink winter storm warnings, and the green near DC is a Blizzard Watch. Consult your local NWS office website for what it all means exactly, but the bottom line is a major winter storm is going impact places from Central Arkansas to New York City.

Has the coastal flooding idea changed?

Not really. There have been some forecast tweaks, but overall you’re still looking at a top 5-10 coastal flooding event along the Jersey and Delaware Shore, and possibly for places south and north of there also. Basically, this should be the worst you’ve seen since Sandy. It should *not* match Sandy in most places (though in Cape May and Delaware it’s going to come close), but I don’t want that to diminish the significance. The coast is far more vulnerable in spots now than it was then, so just because it’s not Sandy II, does not mean it’s going to bust. This is a big deal. Here are the very latest tidal forecasts for Cape May, Atlantic City, and Sandy Hook.

This flooding event will rival some of the great nor’easters in memory. Think Ash Wednesday 1962, Halloween 1991, December 1992. This storm will have elements of those storms and it should be treated seriously if you live on the coast or back bays.

Alright, so talk to me about snow.

Here is *my* snow forecast thinking. This is not an official forecast. It’s subject to change, and you should always consult the official NWS forecast or local TV for the most up to date info. Yes, I’m a native of Jersey and spent 5 winters drawing snow maps in Upstate New York when I worked in Syracuse and Utica, but I live in Texas now. I can only do so much.

012016_Snow_Forecast
My snow forecast as of Wednesday evening. Not an official forecast, just my own opinion.

What do I think? Some key points.

The northern fringe of this storm is an absolute nightmare. If you live north of I-195 in NJ or I-76 in PA, this is going to be an incredibly difficult forecast to peg down. The tight gradient in snowfall that I spoke of yesterday is going to wreak havoc. A 20 mile shift in track of the storm (highly possible) could lead to a 6-12″ difference in snow totals, if not more. This is going to be a big problem for North Jersey, possibly the Harrisburg metro area, New York City and extreme southern Connecticut/Long Island.

The Jersey Shore is oscillating between a total mix scenario and a thumping snow. I don’t think this is like the storms of 2009 and 2010, where coastal South Jersey absolutely raked in snow totals. This will be more complex, and I’ve cautiously gone about 3-6″ there, but I do see risk for higher amounts depending on the exact final track.

The thump zone for this will be Northern/Western Virginia through DC and Baltimore. While I don’t expect a uniform 18-24″ in that zone, I do expect some locations to push 30″, contingent on mixing and thunderstorm potential. Other areas will see less than 18″. That’s the nature of snowstorms like this.

Yes, thunder is going to be likely from VA through NJ with this I think.

Winds of 30-50 mph are likely, and some gusts could be even stronger. This will create blizzard conditions. I would not be shocked to see Blizzard Watches expanded tomorrow.

Anything else I should know?

Snowstorms are fun. This one is going to be big, massive, and historic. While fun, it has a very serious element to it that should be respected. If you have plans on Saturday, I would strongly consider rescheduling them. Heed the warnings from NWS. They’re not just throwing this stuff out there. It’s serious.

And please consider taking pictures of something other than your patio furniture. Seriously. Get creative!

Follow me on Twitter @mattlanza.

Facebook Us…Oh, And Snow.

It’s been a disruptive month for State of Occlusion! Transitioning my life offline from the West Coast to the East Coast, so haven’t had time to blog. I’ve discovered Facebook to be an extremely useful tool to communicate short bursts of information and post maps quickly. I will occasionally use this blog to elaborate on various significant events, but in the meantime, for the latest thoughts and information from me, like the Facebook page and tell your friends. We’ve already got 100 fans…let’s go for 200!

Follow State of Occlusion on Facebook for the latest!

In the meantime, while many in the Northeast enjoyed record warmth this Friday, winter is around the corner ready to take its season back. It will be cooler and extremely windy Saturday, followed by a leveling off of temps Sun and Mon. One storm will swing through Monday, potentially dropping heavy snow on Upstate NY, far N PA, into Connecticut and Southern/Central New England. Round two will affect areas south of I-80, somewhere between DC and New York, bringing the potential for very heavy snow on Tuesday as colder, Arctic air pours in. Right now the best odds for this appear to me to be between Baltimore and Allentown, back west across all of PA into Ohio and east into NJ. Potential does exist for 6″ or more with this storm, so this may cause significant travel issues in the Mid-Atlantic on Tuesday. Cold Wednesday followed by another semi-thaw (though not to the extent you saw this week).

I will post updates on Facebook through the holiday weekend.

Here We Snow Again!

Snowfall Forecast for Tues/Wed.

There’s the snow map at the left. Here’s some ideas by region.

– Boston area could see some very high snow amounts of 16-20″, depending on the exact track of the storm. If the storm tracks just right, they could get slammed, as some models suggest. Interior Southern New England right now would appear to be the jackpot, but I wanted to emphasize the risk to the Boston area. Parts of CT and MA may see some 20″+ amounts, with generic 8-16″ amounts as you approach the coast (some coastal areas and the CT River Valley may see lesser amounts). Cape Cod will likely be close enough to the storm to mix or change to rain. This will cut down on snow amounts a bit there. Additionally, wind will crank on Wednesday, leading to blizzard conditions in parts of New England.

– Metro NYC area/NE NJ won’t be the jackpot this time around. However, this still appears to be a respectable, business hampering snow. Think of the last system that went through, think of post-Christmas, and expect this storm to end up somewhere in between the two. There will yet again be a very sharp cutoff to significant snows, somewhere within the I-287 corridor. Blowing and drifting snow will occur in this region Tuesday night and Wednesday.

– Southern NJ will be close to the center of the storm, so I do expect the possibility of a mix. It also appears the storm will really explode a little too far away from this area this time. I still expect a respectable 4-8″, with the potential for higher amounts in mainland Cape May, Atlantic, Burlington, and Ocean Counties (6-10 perhaps?). Coastal sections may even see less, primarily in Cape May County. If mixing for some reason does not occur, tack on an additional 2-4″ to these forecast amounts. Blowing snow will cause a few problems Wednesday.

– Philly/Trenton will be solidly in the 4-8″ range, with potential for higher amounts (8-12) as you get closer to Trenton/New Brunswick and slightly lesser amounts as you slide south and west of Philly. Blowing snow will be a problem on Wednesday.

– DC/Baltimore appear to be in the 1-4″ range, with again potential for higher amounts in the northeast corner of the map. Much of the interior back through OH/MI will average 1-4″ as well, with potential for a few 4-6″ amounts in spots, depending on how things shake out.

And that’s that! After this storm, it appears we’ll head into a relative period of calm in the Northeast. So enjoy this if you like big storms and snow. Winter is certainly not over though, so stay tuned.

————-

Just a reminder… State of Occlusion is on Facebook. I’ve posted some additional cool links, quick model updates, and snow maps early on that page. “Like” the blog by clicking here!

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.

The Weather History Post

Came across a bunch of information on some historical weather on this, the 35th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I wrote briefly about the Edmund Fitzgerald a few weeks ago during that bomb of a storm in the Upper Midwest. Today there are many perspectives and talking points on this storm. And there’s also another storm celebrating its 97th anniversary today: The White Hurricane of 1913.

From the Updraft Blog in Minnesota, Paul Huttner discusses whether or not modern weather forecasting may have saved the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s more than likely the case that it would have. Modern forecasting would have done a lot to minimize losses in some past events. And if you’ve noticed, there has not been a wreck of quite that magnitude on the Lakes since that storm.

In the Watts Up With That? blog, Ric Werme discusses some of the other great storms of the Great Lakes. A great historical summary. Of note, the first storm he describes from 1913, is that White Hurricane. A book with that same name was written a few years back. Anyone with any interest in shipping, storms, or weather history would enjoy that book thoroughly. Also, WROC in Rochester, NY has a brief entry on that storm. While the Edmund Fitzgerald takes the modern cake for big storms on the Lakes, the White Hurricane of 1913 was an amazing tragedy and meteorologically mesmerizing storm.

The 40/29 Weather Blog in Northwest Arkansas has another look at the weather from that day, and it also has some cool video about the Edmund Fitzgerald.

So this was truly one of the more memorable storms in our nation’s history. And of course, we can thank Gordon Lightfoot for immortalizing it in song.

Other Historical Tidbits

Some other odds and ends about past weather today:

WLFI in Indiana has a cool blog entry on historical autumn severe weather outbreaks in that part of the Midwest. A lot of people associate severe weather with spring, but it’s certainly true that autumn can produce some ferocious severe weather outbreaks.

The NWS in Washington, DC (Sterling, VA) has gone through and re-sorted snowfall data for Baltimore. They’ve now compiled the top 10 list of snow there, with some new rankings of the biggest storms. Not surprisingly, 2010 shows up on that list a lot. Interesting to note that the big time 3 day events have been extremely rare since 1960.

The Capital Weather Gang has a nice retrospective on Black Sunday and the Dust Bowl. Just an awful event.

Other Links

WCPO TV in Cincinnati has some information and some helpful tips on protecting your home from severe weather.

Some perspective on this hurricane season. I don’t like to talk about places being overdue or “lucking” out in the weather. But given the extreme amount of activity this hurricane season, the United States truly dodged a bullet. Despite 19 storms and 12 hurricanes, the US was spared this season for the most part. But remember, it only takes one storm (see the hurricane season of 1992 and Hurricane Andrew).

Contentious climate scientist Michael Mann speaks out on the issue and how he feels that community has lost control of their message.

And lastly, some video of a dust devil impacting a soccer game! This one has been floating around for awhile, but it’s always worth another look.

Fun With Radar + Latest on Tomas and More

I’ve had this post brewing awhile, but I was inspired today by a friend’s photos on Facebook. I want to show you a couple cool radar images from the last couple weeks, from the Weather Underground weather website. Radar is obviously primarily used to track precipitation and thunderstorms. But, it can also be used to find hail cores in thunderstorms, areas of rotation in thunderstorms that may be producing tornadoes, rain/snow lines, areas of gusty winds, birds, and more!

Well, a couple recent examples of cool stuff you can see on radar.

Radar Loop from San Francisco Bay Area, credit: Weather Underground

If you click the map to the left, it will open up a radar loop from the San Francisco Bay Area that I caught a couple weeks ago. It was generally a quiet day, with just some showers offshore. But, if you look at the image, you’ll see a couple stationary areas, which, if you didn’t know better, you might assume are thunderstorms. Those areas are west of Modesto and south of Sacramento. Well, we know that it was a quiet morning, so it wasn’t a thunderstorm. So what’s going on?

Well, if you know about that area, there’s a gigantic wind farm in Altamont Pass. It’s the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world, with a capacity of 576 MW…through 4,900 turbines! So it’s huge. The other large wind farm there is north of that little lake: Shiloh Wind Power Plant. Smaller, with 300 MW of capacity and about 175 turbines. So what happens with radar in simple terms: The radar emits an electromagnetic beam, which will reflect off of objects and bounce bank to the radar, producing a pixel at the location where the beam bounced from. The radar almost always aims upward (so it doesn’t bounce off of ground level objects and can “look” into the clouds, where the rain/snow falls), so if there are any objects in the line of sight, they will reflect back a pixel. Given the location of the radar, just south of Sacramento, and assuming the line of sight is higher up…but not too terribly high (the radar beam was probably aimed low to look for patchy drizzle this morning), it’s obvious that the radar is picking up the turbines at those wind farms. The radar beam is hitting the rotating turbine, and firing back to the computer that “something” is there. That something is the wind turbine.

A lot of good, easy to understand information is here from the NWS Milwaukee, in a case study on their Butler Ridge wind farm.

More technical details are here…a website from the NWS explaining the issues with wind turbines and radar.

Example II

Radar loop from Fort Dix, NJ, zoomed in on Raritan Bay, credit: Weather Underground

This afternoon, there’s a fairly large brush fire burning near Edison, NJ. Well, in addition to picking up a lot of the other cool things I talked about above, radar can also detect smoke from large fires. If you look the image at right, you’ll see a great example of this happening…as the fire grows and the smoke plume rises, you can see it on radar. Essentially, the same process is at work. The radar beam is looking up into the clouds and instead of seeing a wind turbine, now it’s seeing (the many) particles contained within the smoke. We see this a lot.

Occasionally these fire plumes can put off enough heat to help clouds actually form above the fire, often in the smoke plume, called pyrocumulus clouds. These essentially are formed by the same process that forms thunderstorms, and like those, they can occasionally have lightning too. I do have a few photos from last year’s massive Station Fire near LA on Flickr here. More on that another time though.

Here’s a link with more ways radar can be interfered with…from the NWS Milwaukee, which seems to be a treasure trove of cool links.

So there’s some of the “fun” we can have with radar.

Hitting the Links

Here are some links I’ve encountered the last few days.

Ahead of the impending disaster likely from Tomas, Haiti is trying to get refugees from the earthquake as far out of harm’s way as is humanly possible. Tomas does not appear to be as big of a threat in terms of wind potential. However, it is equally as disheartening to watch as I warned you over the weekend from a rain potential. Tomas nearly fell apart this morning, as it was downgraded to a tropical depression. It has since restrengthened into a 45 mph tropical storm. The good news is that, as previously mentioned, everything got to this storm and it will likely NOT reintensify into a major storm. The bad news is that it’s still going for Haiti, and they should expect 5-10″ of rain, with upwards of 15″ possible in favorable upslope areas. Just a terrible situation. Stay tuned on this.

A trio of links for folks in the Mid Atlantic…

Part II of Wes Junker’s detailed analysis of last winter’s record snow in Baltimore/DC and surrounding areas from the Capital Weather Gang.

An article that claims last winter could have been far colder, possibly prevented by global warming!

Visualizing just how much snow fell last winter in the Mid Atlantic.

And lastly, Minnesota set a record for most tornadoes in a year in 2010.

Go Rutgers tonight…beat USF!