Enter Sandy

Oh hi, blog. I haven’t seen you in about 9 months. Let’s talk about Sandy. Numerous friends/family have asked me questions about this storm already. Hype is in overdrive, but we don’t do hype here.

Sandy is Jamaica’s problem at present, en route to Cuba, the Bahamas, and a brush with coastal South Florida. Not a severe storm relative to what is often experienced in these areas (though it’s interesting to note this is Jamaica’s first landfalling storm since Gilbert in 1988). So where’s it going from here?

ImageWe have two main models we look at (among many others): The GFS and European (Euro). For the last few days the GFS has kicked Sandy out to sea harmlessly, whereas the Euro has blown Sandy up into a monster superstorm, with varying landfall points from New Jersey to New England. The GFS is not a very skillful model with tropical systems in most cases. During Isaac, for several days the GFS suggested the storm would hit the Big Bend of Florida, while the European model went between Pensacola, FL and west of New Orleans. It wasn’t until we got within 48-72 hours of landfall that the GFS showed skill. We’re presently 4-5 days from first impacts with Sandy. That said, even the GFS began to come around today. I pasted an image above of the GFS ensemble members from this morning, which shows multiple ones with a big hit somewhere between NJ and New England.

Now, I do believe the European model is grossly overdoing the intensity of the storm (it missed Irene last summer by about 30 mb of pressure). It’s currently showing 930-940 mb for a central pressure, which is massive. I suspect that comes in reality between 955 and 970 mb. Either way, we’re talking about a big storm.

What does this mean for you?

I am not prepared to make a call on exactly where Sandy will go or how strong it will be or specific impacts, but I will give you some ideas of my thinking:

– Sandy will come ashore later Monday or early Tuesday somewhere between southern NJ and New England.

– Impacts will include strong tropical storm force winds across most of the Northeast and Mid Atlantic, with possible hurricane force gusts on the coast (highest risk of this right now seems to be the New England coast). Whether we get those really strong gusts remains to be seen.

– A full moon will enhance coastal flooding, as a long duration “fetch” over the open ocean could lead to very high tides from NJ north into New England, with west side flooding possible in Delmarva/Hampton Roads.

– Extremely heavy rain will fall, especially inland I believe. The inland flooding threat is difficult to peg down. It may not rival Irene…or it may; it just may occur in a different place. Do not underestimate this angle of the storm.

– Snow will be possible in western Maryland, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania as cold air wraps in behind the storm.

What should you do right now? Well, not much. First: Do not panic. Unnecessary….this is not the end of the world. It may just end up like your usual strong nor’easter. That said, it may not be a bad idea to get out in front of this storm and get some hurricane supplies set up before the media hype goes into overdrive (that should occur tomorrow evening). I would advise this for anyone living from NJ into New England, including NYC. Stay tuned to the forecast, and if you have plans Sunday night through Tuesday, start coming up with backup plans you can implement, just in case.

I will be less accessible than usual due to work obligations, so I may not post frequently about this.

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!

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.

Catching Up

Been out of town the last few days for a conference, so here’s a rundown of some things I’ve marked of interest. Plus we’ll talk about the weather for the weekend.

 

CIMSS Satellite Blog Capture of Satellite Loop/Lightning From Weekend Midwest Snow Blitz

So the Upper Midwest got absolutely spanked over last weekend. Just a massive snowstorm, even for that part of the country. Here’s some information on that storm.

 

The image on the right is courtesy of the CIMSS Satellite Blog, showing the development and movement of the storm as it lifted through the Midwest, along with lightning strikes. Thundersnow isn’t too rare or uncommon, but it still seems to be surprising when it happens. That usually means though that you’re dealing with a bigtime storm or some very heavy snowfall.  The storm set a few daily records at Minneapolis and Duluth. But the snow was quick to compress…it is still somewhat early in the snow season. Overall, the maximum totals looked to sit around 6-12″ in a band from Duluth back through MSP, Mankato, and down to the Iowa border.

The NWS in Minneapolis has a fantastic write up on the storm.

Another solid write up from the NWS in Duluth for Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin.

Also a good write up from Minnesota Public Radio on some of the more unique aspects of this storm…particular the convective aspect, as well as the fact that temperatures were in a prime range for good accumulations.

Keeping on the topic of winter weather and convection: Big Sky Convection’s Dann Cianca has a good write up and very nice pictures from catching some convective snow in Denver on Tuesday.

Congrats to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang for having the phrase “Snowmageddon” make the list of the top words of 2010. They were likely the original ones to coin this term. I’m not sure who coined “Snowpacalypse,” but while it was clever and useful for last winter, I hope this trend of coming up with clever catch phrases for every snowstorm stops. I’m still comfortable with “Super Bowl Snow” or “President’s Day Storm.” But in rare instances (and last winter was very rare), it’s manageable.

Shifting gears to climate stuff. Here’s the statement from Judith Curry for today’s Rational Discussion of Climate Change. The word is that the hearing was relatively uneventful, save for a few occasional heated discussions here and there. Setting the tone for the next couple years perhaps. More details and links for the testimony from the Dot Earth blog at the NY Times. So check that out if you have some interest.

A lot of times you’d think supercells were strictly an American thing. But you’d be mistaken. Check out some photos from this beauty off the French coast. The article is written in French, so if you don’t know French, oh well..the pictures tell the story.

As hurricane season winds down, Greg Nordstrom has a look at how the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) stacks up compared to some other hyperactive years. This year isn’t in the top 5, despite I think being there for actual *number* of storms. There was some pretty pathetic named storms this year (Nicole and Bonnie come to mind). Now, ACE is a decent gauge of a season or storm’s intensity, but it only factors in wind velocity and duration. We’ve learned in recent years especially that there is a LOT more to a hurricane than wind speed, pressure, surge, etc. Not all 125 mph storms are alike. So while this season may go down with the perception of sort of a bust (since the US was spared) and even ACE to some extent, this season was definitely hyperactive and worth the insane forecasts put out prior to the start of the season. I think we just simply dodged a bullet this year. It doesn’t make anyone more overdue or less overdue or anything…it just is what it is.

Here’s just a pretty simple overview as to why this may have been…sort of explaining how the pattern from last winter translated into what occurred this summer/autumn.

In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this morning, what a mess. Some crazy gusty winds, as well as tornadoes. A friend of mine had some family in and crazy pictures from the Town of Ghent in Upstate NY, which was hit by an EF-1 tornado. Wind gusts seemed to be widespread in the 35-55 mph range from Virginia up through New England. The wind did a lot of damage to an inn under construction in New Canaan, CT. The Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing, NJ was especially hard hit with a number of small planes that got flipped over. A link to The Trentonian here. This sort of thing is more common earlier in autumn, but still wicked, but I don’t think too unprecedented. And lastly, the CIMSS Satellite Blog with some mountain wave captures…never fun if you’re flying.

Lastly, in what could be the coolest minor league sports move ever, the Omaha Royals have changed their name to the “Storm Chasers!” I don’t know if the Royals “brand” has been tarnished in recent years, which prompted the change, but it’s really cool regardless. The article does point out that things have changed in recent years (see: Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Richmond Flying Squirrels, etc.). I’m all for cool minor league team names.

PSU E-Wall GFS Model Map for Saturday Evening

Just a quick synopsis here on what’s coming. The image to the left shows the GFS model’s depiction of weather on the West Coast come Saturday evening. This is a MUCH different look than we’ve seen of late out here, with almost 60-70% of days I would suspect having offshore flow, dry weather, and oodles of sunshine…a nice respite after an awful summer. Well, the storm door has officially opened. And it starts this weekend. Strong low pressure off the British Columbia coast is driving a series of cold fronts, rain, and snow into the Northwest and eventually down the coast. By Saturday evening, that low pressure parks along the Oregon coast. As we go through the next few days, each one of the cold fronts swinging through is going to reinforce and strengthen cold air over the Northwest, driving down snow levels to around 2,000′ initially, then below 1,000′, and then perhaps down to “ground level” by the time we get to late in the weekend, so places like Seattle and Portland may not be exempt from snowfall. And this could set the stage for a White Thanksgiving for a lot of places in the Northwest.

Down here in California, it’s going to get colder as well, with Sierra snowfall likely, and even snow in the SoCal mountains. Just assuming from the maps, without specifically forecasting, that snow levels will approach or dip below 5,000′ in the San Gabriel and/or San Bernardino Mountains early next week. The question I guess becomes whether or not we see any precipitation at that time. This is a very interesting and cold pattern for the West Coast though, so the next few days definitely should be fun to watch.

This cold air should also work its way to the east during Thanksgiving week, bringing a  pretty strong cold shot to the East cities just after Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!

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.

Talking Tomas and Scary Shary

We currently have two storms in the Atlantic, both of which are hurricanes. It’s October 30th…this is just slightly bizarre. According to Dr. Jeff Masters, this is the second latest point in the hurricane season we’ve ever had two hurricanes at once in the Atlantic (at least in the historical record). The latest was November 7-10, 1932.

Hurricane Shary

Shary is a weak category 1 storm (75 mph winds), and is currently beginning the transition to a non-tropical storm. Shary will continue to race toward Europe, likely bringing them a significant storm sometime this coming week. This will probably be the last we hear about Shary.

Hurricane Tomas

Radar Image From Meteo France of Hurricane Tomas near St. Vincent

Tomas is not quite as simple. We talked about the threat to the bigger islands later this coming week, but as you can see from the radar image from Meteo France to the left, Tomas is clearly bearing down on the smaller islands now. The current advisory as of 2 PM Atlantic Standard Time has Tomas as a 75 mph hurricane, near St. Vincent or about 25 miles south of St. Lucia. The pressure is still 992 mb, so we’re not looking at a very deep storm right now. This is just the humble beginnings.

Tomas will continue across the Caribbean, gradually building strength (the current NHC official forecast is for a 115 mph major hurricane by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning). And as you can see from the track forecast, it looks like the brakes get put on somewhere southeast of Jamaica and south of Haiti. As it either gets caught in a squeeze play..or the models are having issues resolving what’s next.

Morning Models Forecast Spaghetti Track of Hurricane Tomas from the South Florida Water Management District

Either way, this will likely be a prolific rain maker in some parts of the Caribbean and should it start to pull north late in the period, could be, again, a real serious blow to Haiti.

But another aspect that’s interesting regarding Tomas, is how it might interact with whatever system develops in the East next week. Just looking at new model data rolling in, the GFS is interesting, in that it it brings one storm up well into Northern New England on Thursday and Friday, with the potential for snow well north into Maine and Quebec, but the possibility of lake effect snow into New York and upslope snow in Vermont on the backside. It then takes a second storm out of the Gulf and up the East Coast, pretty far offshore and into Eastern New England, Maine, and the Canadian Maritimes. This storm would grab Tomas and inject it right into the system, so it would be very moist and potentially very strong (ironic as we’re celebrating the 19th anniversary of the “Perfect Storm” today).

The new European model coming in leaves Tomas behind in the Caribbean, but opens up a moisture plume all the way down there. So the storm deepens, but actually tracks up the Appalachians and west of Buffalo into Lake Huron. This would bring heavy snow potentially to parts of Michigan, and a heck of a lot of rain to parts of the East Coast and New England.

What does this mean? It means there is a LOT of uncertainty next week, and now that we know we have an organized tropical system possibly getting involved, well…that certainly makes the whole pattern more intriguing. It is interesting to note however that this European model solution has some similarities to the Canadian model we also look at. I’ll be watching this over the coming days.

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