Funny Friday

Not sure if this will become a tradition or not, but I’ve got a couple fun videos to tag at the end of this post. First some odds, ends, and links.

I had an opportunity to visit a wind farm today, and I have to say, it’s truly one of the coolest things you’ll see. I’ve passed by on highways before, but I’ve never been up close and personal with turbine blades. Just the size, scope, and magnitude of a project like a wind farm is incredible. Like I’ve said in the past, I don’t know if wind power is cost effective enough (until cost-effective, large battery storage capabilities are developed) to really become a serious mainstay, but just the ability to harness the power of wind…and to see how it’s done…really awesome.

Contrail in the Mojave Desert, 11/12/10

In a somewhat related note, we happened to catch a cool looking contrail while at the farm. You can see it pictured at the left. I just wanted to point this out to you because of last week’s “missile” incident near LA. As you can see, the path of a plane can do some funky things to the plane’s contrail, and this was no exception. Had you not been able to see the plane, you might be asking what’s going on here. So at sunset, things change dramatically.

Now on to some links…

Folks in the Mid-Atlantic won’t have climatology on their side if they want a repeat of last winter. My college buddy Jared of the NWS in Sterling, VA provides some of the hard math on how substantial snow is much more rare in winters featuring a pretty potent La Nina, such as the winter of 2010-2011 will have.

The Capital Weather Gang looks back on the Veteran’s Day snowstorm of 1987 that paralyzed DC.

November 10th, 2002 was an epic severe weather day across the country. Greg Nordstrom looks back on it. The sheer number of reports is staggering.

Cliff Mass has a fantastic article on Seattle’s preparedness for winter snow. It’s a good read for anyone curious as to planning for winter weather or anyone interested in community safety in hazardous weather.

Mt. Rainier is on my hit list of places I have to go see somewhat close up during my lifetime. Here’s an article on lenticular clouds capping the peak, and how it can occasionally put on spectacular visual shows with that.

The CIMSS Satellite Blog shows a skinny band of accumulated snow from Wyoming to North Dakota. Some parts of the Plains and Midwest are getting some heavy snow today and tonight. Winter Storm Warnings are up from Duluth through western Iowa. Should be some interesting storm totals out there when all is said and done.

A follow up on my blog entry from the other night about Dr. Judith Curry. The Republicans will have an additional witness in each panel at the House “Rational Discussion of Climate Change” next week.

Alright on to fun video. First off, a weathercaster in Toronto had an unfortunate run in with a polar bear. Well, not him per se, but his microphone, well…yeah:

And lastly, Ellen DeGeneres tees off on television meteorologists for being silly sometimes during weather, whereas you rarely see news people doing the same thing.

http://addins.kwwl.com/blogs/weather/archives/11296?mediaKey=12eace51-0a04-41e6-be55-de8bdbfe7fea&isShareURL=true

She makes a valid point for sure, and these are some things I was taught once I got into the business. But, also, keep in mind, she is talking about Los Angeles. And everything is a big joke out here with regard to weather (with maybe one or two exceptions…who are actually some fantastic TV meteorologists). But I digress…if you’re a meteorologist…just be resigned to the fact that you’ll never be right, no matter how hard you try. 😉

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!

Twin Tropical Trouble + Latest on Next Week

European Model Surface Plots (Left: Thursday morning, Right: Friday morning), From PSU E-Wall.

Not too much to add this afternoon on next week’s eastern system. There are still glaring differences between the models. The European model continues to go all bomb’s away off the East Coast. The GFS model continues to be flat..dumps some pretty chilly air in, but no storm. I continue to side with the Euro for the most part on this, with maybe not as much of an explosive system to develop later next week. Check this out. The European model (images above) takes the storm from about a 1008 mb weak low on the Carolina coast Thursday morning to a 972 mb beast in Central Maine on Friday morning. One key change with the European model today though is that it is not flinging quite as much moisture back into the cold air on the west side of the storm. This would spell less snow, except perhaps for the higher terrain of Northern New England (which would be hammered if the European model is correct).

So the take home message today is that, there’s still a chance for a pretty interesting storm. There’s a chance snow will be involved in some interior sections. There’s also a slight chance we could be dealing with another bomb cyclone, which could potentially cause significant weather impacts in parts of Northern New England and Quebec. So stay tuned…these sorts of battles aren’t uncommon between the two models. This will be a good test for the upcoming winter. Sometimes if a model shows a radical solution (like the Euro) and ends up correct, you can occasionally give that model some extra confidence through the winter season. In a tough situation, sometimes that can pay off huge if you’re a forecaster. So we will see.

In other news….

Model Spaghetti plot of tracks for Tropical Storm Shary, from South Florida Water Management District

The National Hurricane Center has started issuing advisories on two new tropical systems in the last 24 hours: Shary and Tomas. This brings the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season tally to: 19 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes. Normal is 11/6/2 I believe. So we’re long gone in terms of normal.

So what about these two storms? Shary is more of a nuisance than anything. Expecting a mid-grade tropical storm (current winds 60 mph) that will bring gusty winds and locally heavy rain to Bermuda. Then it should scoot out to sea.

Tomas, on the other hand, has a potentially much more sinister future ahead. Tomas just formed, so its winds are only 40 mph, and it will scoot along in the Caribbean, likely not impacting anyone through the weekend (except perhaps some cruises or some outer rain bands/gusty winds on some of the islands). But Tomas is headed into an area of very favorable ocean and environmental conditions for development.

Model Spaghetti plot of tracks for Tropical Storm Tomas from South Florida Water Management District

The latest image from the LSU Earth Scan Lab shows a whole lotta red in the Caribbean. This spells development if the environmental conditions are right. And it appears they will be as we go into next week. The official track of Tomas from the NHC shows it becoming a major hurricane next week as it begins to turn north toward, sadly, Haiti. If there is one place in the Atlantic Basin that could really use a season without a direct impact from a storm, it’s Haiti. Still a long way to go, but this could very well shape up to be a devastating storm for someone. We’ll see.

More Power/Less Power

Some renewable energy news to close things out.

California is fast tracking several big time solar plants to get in before a critical deadline.

Wind power, however, has slowed down considerably, back to 2007 levels. I do think wind will pick back up with the economy though.

More later…