Mississippi, Alabama, and Some Odds & Ends

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about anything, and I think it’s time to try and work back into it. Maybe I’m just more inspired now after attending talks at the AMS Conference in New Orleans about how totally awesome social media in severe weather is. Or it could just be that I enjoy doing this, and I tend not to do it enough, and I post too much on Facebook when I can package a lot of things in here. Just to catch you up on some things….

I started contributing to another blog on a weekly basis in my free time, with just some more in depth “whys” about the weather…just some color on what’s going on with the weather, maybe a postmortem or two, or some interesting links and info. I usually don’t touch forecasting issues, as I keep that minimal because of my job. Anyway, be sure to visit PhillyWeather.net. Bookmark it, read it, love it, like it on Facebook. I post Wednesday evenings.

I went to the American Meteorological Society conference in New Orleans last week. The conference was solid…some good talks. But, man, New Orleans is a great city. I visited it for the first time last year, and it’s rapidly climbed my list of favorite cities in the US. I think my top 5 is probably

1.) Philadelphia
2.) Madison
3.) Chicago
4.) New Orleans
5.) Houston

Six through 10 would probably feature NYC, Boston, Pasadena, Seattle, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

There were a lot of talks at AMS about the springtime tornadoes, some of which were extremely sobering. I recalled many of the details of those tornado talks last week in a blog over on PhillyWeather. I won’t repeat myself here, but you can check those out if you want.

After AMS, my wife and I, as we seem prone to do, took a detour on the way home and spent a couple nights in Central Mississippi and Alabama. It’s a part of the South I’ve never visited before. It’s worth a visit. We spent the first night in Jackson, MS and the second night in Birmingham, AL. Jackson is a very old city, but seems to have quite a bit of Southern charm to it. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn downtown, which I strongly recommend if you find yourself in Jackson…just a lovely old hotel converted into a modern HG Inn. We didn’t spend much time in Jackson, so I’d like to go back, but we did check out the State Capitol . Lovely grounds, like most state capitols, with a handful of other monuments.

After Jackson we visited Vicksburg and spent a few hours exploring the Vicksburg National Military Park there….site of the 1863 Civil War Siege and Battle. It’s a good place to visit…lots of history as it really was a major turning point in the War…not so much from a strategic perspective (though it was that), but from a morale perspective in the Union.

We drove back east through Jackson again on our way to Birmingham. Birmingham is a great city as well. The Little Five Points area is pretty cool..hip, with some eclectic individuals, but cool. We also visited the giganticĀ statue of Vulcan in Vulcan Park overlooking the city. The area really reminded me of a mini Atlanta. If you’re in that region, it’s worth a trip to the city. We overnighted in Birmingham before heading home through Montgomery and Dothan. The Alabama State Capitol is very, very nice. Lots of monuments (an intriguingly high proportion of them were devoted to the Civil War). Definitely worth a visit. Some very friendly people in both Mississippi and Alabama. I look forward to exploring more of those states eventually.

Backtracking a bit… On our way to Birmingham, I had my wife navigate us into Tuscaloosa, AL, following the path of the horrific EF-4 tornado that ravaged that city back in April. I’ve seen one tornado in my life…a meager F-1/EF-1 tornado that hit Somers Point in 2001. I was a cashier in a grocery store there and watched it move across the parking lot. I was stunned. It did a minimal amount of damage, but it was the most intriguing thing I had ever seen meteorologically.

I anticipated we’d see a fair amount of damage, but we were honestly not prepared for what we saw. Everyone’s seen pictures and everyone knows how awful it was. But to actually see firsthand just how much of a scar this left on this city. I never expected it. Seeing pictures is one thing, but seeing it with your own eyes is another entirely. I really wanted to take photographs of some of the damage and the scope of how much damage there was, but I was very conflicted…I really didn’t want to be that guy who gawks over something as awful as what these people went through, and honestly, after seeing some of it with my own eyes, I didn’t want to photograph it. I took about 3 photos, one or two of which actually came out. That photo is posted at the left, which shows what used to be a full neighborhood, now completely vacant, barren, empty. Amazing to see how close the tornado was from the University of Alabama (literally about 5 blocks). It was a real eye opening experience, one that really brought home the fact that what we as meteorologists love so much and are so passionate about can really devastate communities and people’s lives. A lot of people were somewhat annoyed at the social science talks at the AMS conference. I think some of those people need to visit some of these communities devastated on April 27th and on other days and understand that weather isn’t just science or something that inconveniences people…it impacts people’s lives directly. Here’s to hoping the 2012 severe weather season is much, much quieter.

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Polar Pain

First a quick reminder that S of O is now on Facebook, so if you haven’t already, “Like” the page, and I’ll be posting intriguing links from time to time, as well as posting snowfall forecast maps as needed a little faster than you’ll get them here. Click here to “like” State of Occlusion, and feel free to tell anyone you pass snow forecasts on to!

In what’s turning out to be quite an interesting winter across the entire US this season. We’ve had a blizzard in the Northeast, record low pressures in the Upper Midwest, a blizzard there too, one of the coldest Decembers on record in spots, snow in Vegas, graupel in Phoenix, and snow in many of the foothill and desert communities north of Los Angeles, record rainfall and snow in California, flooding in the Northwest, record brutal cold and snow in Europe, and on, and on. And that may have just been the appetizer.

6-10 European Ensemble 850 mb T Anomalies - Credit: Allan Huffman's Weather Model Site: http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models

What’s coming over the next 1-3 weeks is nothing short of awesome to watch unfolding on the weather maps. Over the next 10-15 days there will be some of the coldest air of the season draining into the Central part of the country and possibly into the Southern and Eastern parts as well, at least 2-3 *chances* at storms in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, the potential for the Southeast as well, and possibly even a winter storm deep into Texas. All *possibilities* in this pattern.

The image I posted (click it or any other image to enlarge) is a map from Allan Huffman’s model site (http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models), which illustrates the European ensemble mean 850 mb temperature anomaly over the period 6-10 days from now. Basically, just an average of how much warmer (yellow) or colder (blue/purple) than normal this model is predicting over the period 6-10 days from now. And notice how almost the entire US (except Maine) is in the below normal range. Keep in mind, 850 mb temperatures are just temperature about 5,000′ above sea level. Translate this down to the ground and under clear skies and/or calm winds…that is cold, even for January, even for these areas. Also keep in mind that these temperature anomalies are in degrees C, not F, so 23F colder than normal aloft could be 30-40+ degrees colder than normal at times on the surface. And I’m not posting it, but the 11-15 day forecast looks equally as cold, if not even colder.

Does it get any better? One of the main drivers (probably the easiest to explain, but certainly not the only driver) is the Arctic Oscillation, or a measure of atmospheric blocking in the Arctic region. High pressure can set up there aloft, and it basically displaces the cold air that’s supposed to be there and dumps it southbound into the US, Europe, etc. The AO tanked in December and really has not recovered, and it seems to be reinforced this month. This happened last winter and helped make it one of the colder winters in recent years for the Southeast and parts of the Central US. This looks as impressive as anything that was seen last winter or this past December. Coupled with things we’re seeing elsewhere, this adds up to what looks to be a long-duration and impressive period of cold in the US. The biggest question is whether or not the extreme cold can spread south and east far enough to impact larger population areas. But for the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains, this looks awful.

GFS Forecast for Saturday Morning, credit: NCEP

So what about snow? This will be the more challenging forecast to make. The map to the left is the GFS forecast for this coming Saturday. Last night’s European model absolutely bombed areas from Baltimore northeast into Boston with extremely heavy snow. Today’s GFS tries to do something similar, displaced further north a bit and behaving differently. This is the first of several threats. I’m not on board with this being a major storm at this point, but a weakish “clipper” type system with a widespread light snow, isolated pockets of heavy snow (potentially a squall line type of scenario with embedded thunder as it moves through NY/PA and New England). Right now there’s a low risk of this being a big system for most of PA/NJ and south, and a medium risk for New England. Stay tuned.

GFS Forecast for Next Wednesday Evening, credit: NCEP

The more important storm comes early to middle next week. The image to the right shows the GFS forecast for next Wednesday evening. Depending on how things play out over the next week, this one could be the one that presents a major threat to the I-95 corridor again. There are threats beyond that, but primarily for Texas and the Deep South….in other words, it may be “too cold to snow,” as they say.

I’m going to be non-committal on any of these threats at this time, but if you live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic, keep an eye on this Friday-Saturday and next Tuesday-Thursday, and load up on cold weather essentials…when us as meteorologists start saying that the winter weather is interesting, that’s usually not a good sign. I will keep you posted however.

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

Tomas & Haiti? Plus Storm, Heat, and MeteoPolitics!

Wind shear and 24 hour change in the Atlantic Basin, credit: University of Wisconsin CIMMS

Tomas continues along in the Caribbean today, about 265 miles west of St. Lucia, chugging off slightly north of due west around 10 mph. Tomas bumped up to a Cat 2 storm overnight, but has since weakened, back to a minimal 75 mph category one storm. Reconnaissance aircraft visited the storm earlier and helped quantify what satellite had been showing all day. It looks pretty ragged, as some dry air and shear have begun to take their toll on Tomas. You can seeĀ  the ragged structure of Tomas here. The darker area to the west of the storm indicates the presence of at least some drier air too. The image to the left shows the current wind shear analysis in the Atlantic, as well as the trend. The red area near the hurricane symbol indicates that Tomas is in an area of enhanced shear. Assuming things gradually progress from west to east, it would appear things are only going to get more hostile for Tomas the next day or so. In fact, the model guidance suggests that the shear remains over Tomas into Tuesday, before pulling away. Provided Tomas can maintain its core and overall structure, even if it weakens into, say, a tropical storm, it will have an opportunity later Tuesday and through Wednesday to intensify, and given the water temperatures in that region, it could be explosive strengthening if the conditions are right.

In terms of the track of Tomas, while things may change some in the next day or two as the storm fluctuates in intensity,

Morning Model Guidance Spaghetti Plot of Tomas' Tracks, credit: South Florida Water Management District

you can see that most of the models track Tomas to just south of Hispaniola. After that, they generally either stall or it lift it northward. In reality, given the normal uncertainty of tropical systems, anything is possible, from Cuba to east of the Dominican Republica. Unfortunately though, Haiti looks to be right in the middle of the possibilities. And again, unfortunately, regardless of the intensity of Tomas at landfall, this is really looking like it could be a very grim situation for that country, and if you thought things couldn’t get worse in Haiti, this would be how it can. Current model projections (which generally do a poor job handling specifics of tropical system precipitation totals) are dropping 8-10″ on southern Haiti. This is really a disheartening situation to watch, and hopefully precautions are already being taken to ensure the safety of residents and relief workers.

Elsewhere…

Still watching this storm for next week. In my forecasting for California next week, it was pretty obvious the differences in the main models (Euro and GFS). The GFS cuts down the western ridge and slides it to the Lee of the Rockies on Friday/Saturday, which has almost no support from any other model or its own ensemble members.

Euro Depiction of a Mess in the East, credit: Allan Huffman's Weather Model Page: http://raleighwx.easternuswx.com/

So what it’s doing is forcing everything in the east to develop further east, and therefore not as amplified. The Euro however last night took a deeper low out of the gulf and up the Appalachians into Western NY, wrapping the possibility of at least a few inches of snow on the backside for much of the mountains of Tennessee/North Carolina, up through West Virginia, eastern Ohio, western PA, Michigan, and western NY and Ontario, along with some lake effect or lake enhanced snow on the wrap around. The European has some support from the Canadian model (which is taking a 980 mb landbomb from the Carolinas northwest into OH/IN), which is also encouraging for confidence. This morning’s verison of the Euro was a little further east, and brought the chances for snow from the mountains of NC/TN up through WV’s mountains, and perhaps some in W PA and Eastern Ohio/Western NY, as well as Ontario and northern Michigan. It has to hit a fairly narrow window for snow, but if I had to place bets right now, I’d lean on Ontario/Michigan and not much more than that at the moment. Stay tuned.

Election Day Weather

With the big midterm elections coming up, there are all sorts of anecdotes about weather and people’s voting habits. Well, we’ll test the theory again this year, but primarily in the south. It looks like areas from Houston to New Orleans up through Mississippi and into Memphis and over to Little Rock will see the worst weather in the US on Election Day (as the late week storm begins to develop). Otherwise, other than a couple showers in the Northwest and parts of Minnesota it looks dry. So no excuses to stay home…go vote.

Cali Heat

I discussed how the European model keeps the western ridge in tact. Well that ridge is going to lead to searing autumn heat in California, with Santa Ana winds possibly leading to temperatures into the mid or upper 90s here in SoCal. It looks blazing hot Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday’s record high for Downtown LA is 99 degrees, and Wednesday’s is 95 degrees. Tuesday’s looks a lot safer than Wednesday’s at the moment. I suspect we could be talking record heat for a day or two in parts of SoCal. Been a year of some ridiculous temperature extremes out here.