Monday, May 22, 2017

What's in store for Hurricane Season 2017

Hurricane season starts June 1st and runs through the end of November. This of course, is a man-made timeline since tropical systems can happen at anytime.

The main ingredient for storm formation is hot water, at 80° or above. If this, along with other factors come together, then we can get a named system.

This year we've already had Tropical storm "Arlene", which spawned between April 19th through the 21st over the open waters of the Central Atlantic.

It was only a nuisance for the shipping lanes but it did however, make it into the history books as the second April Tropical Storm since the satellite era began in the 60s.

Last year got off to an extremely early start as well, with Hurricane Alex, forming in the Atlantic on January 7th.

It was the first Atlantic hurricane in January since Hurricane Alice in 1955. It was also the first to form in January since 1938.

On Thursday May 25th, NOAA will release its seasonal outlook for this year. This is only one of many published by universities and private weather firms alike. So far the early consensus is that we may end up with an average season. Typical numbers are 12 named systems, out of which 6 may become hurricanes, and out of that number maybe two could reach major hurricane status. (Category 3 or above / over 111 mph)

 This is a list of the names we will "hopefully" not see this year.

Will El Niño play a factor in this year's forecast?
El Niño is a warming of the Equatorial waters of the Eastern Pacific. This "warming" not only impacts marine currents but atmospheric ones as well. This upper level wind shake-up, tends to disrupt storm formation in the Atlantic.

El Niño's scientific name is ENSO, which stands for El Niño Southern Oscillation.

Most of the models focusing on the ENSO forecast, suggest Pacific Temps will remain average for the short term.

There is a 50% chance the waters could start warming above average between August and December but by then it may be too late for it to have any impact on our tropical season.  We'll be monitoring .

What's new to help us?
Storm Surge Advisories
Our coastline is extremely vulnerable to storm surge from a system. This is basically a wall of water that slams along the coast. It can be devastating. NOAA will officially start issuing Storm Surge advisories offering advance warning of 36 to 48 hours to the areas that could get submerged. This will help you to know when to evacuate. If you live in a trailer or low area that typically gets flooded, plan now so you know where to go if you are ordered out. Don;t wait to the last minute.

Warnings even before a system forms:
Sometimes conditions are such that the weather is beautiful, but models show a storm developing and impacting the coast within a day or two. It used to be the National Hurricane Center waited for a storm to form in order to issue watches and warnings. Now they don't have to wait. NHC will be able to issue warnings even if a storm has yet to form.

Bottom line:
Not one forecast model will ever let you know where and when a storm will make land fall. You should prepare as if you will get hit by a hurricane and plan accordingly. Unlike other phenomena, a hurricane will never take you by surprise.

If an earthquake were to happen, I could not give you any warning. I might be able to alert you within a few minutes of a tornado impacting your area, but with a hurricane, you will grow tired of seeing me on TV (sometimes a week out and ad nauseam) alerting you of its possible strength and path.

So please prepare as if we will get hit and you will be ready for anything Mother Nature throws our way.

Here's to a safe Hurricane Season.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Halley Comet Pieces Aiming for Earth

A "Hot Spot" has shown up in the Aquarius constellation. It was detected by Canada's Meteor Orbit Radar and its a signal that the Aquarid Meteor shower is off and running. The interesting part of all this, these meteors are part of the famous Halley's Comet. Over the next few days the earth will be traveling through a trail of debris from the comet. This show is known as the Aquarid Meteor Shower.


Two leading meteor forecasters have noted the possibility of eta Aquarid outbursts. Mikhail Maslov says meteor activity could increase on May 4th (14h- 18h UT) when Earth grazes a dust trail released by Comet Halley in the year -616. Forecaster Mikiya Sato agrees that that Earth could encounter the -616 dust trail, but later on May 5th (05h - 15h UT), possibly with such a gentle graze that no special increase is detectable. In most years the strongest activity is seen around May 6th, which may still prove true in 2017.
The best time to look, no matter where you live, is during the dark hours just before dawn when the constellation Aquarius is rising in the east. Monitor the meteor gallery for sightings.

This sky map shows where the radar is detecting pings from incoming meteors in broad daylight on May 1st:

Halley's Comet is a short-period comet visible from Earth every 75–76 years.[3][10] Halley is the only known short-period comet that is regularly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime.[11] Halley last appeared in the inner parts of the Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061.[12] - Wikipedia

Friday, March 24, 2017

Out of this world clouds!

These clouds are not from earth, but Mars! The red planet does have a thin atmosphere capable of some weather and NASA's Curiosity rover has been recording it.

The rover captured over 500 clips of cloud formations during its 5 years on Mars. This latest video shows "Gravity Waves" .  These "cloud ripples" are formed on earth by  air trying to even out its vertical balance. 

Gravity Waves on Mars

Scientists hope that by learning how "Gravity Waves" form on Mars, it will lead to figuring out how deep the ice sheets are on the planet. This in turn may lead to a better understanding of the watery past on Mars.

For more Martian Cloud Clips, check out

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Get ready for new clouds!

On Thursday, the World Meteorological Organization will announce the names of two new clouds. They will be known as Volutus and Asperitas. (They sound like planets from the original Star Trek show). 

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which is responsible for categorizing such things, will be updating its "Cloud Atlas" for the first time in 30 years.  They say, the new edition was put together with the help of the digital age. Pictures were submitted from around the world to illustrate all the cloud types, and so the opportunity was taken to add the new entries.
New Entries:
The first addition is actually a species of clouds known as, "Volutus". These are more commonly known as "Roll Clouds".

They occur within the genera of the better known, "Altocumulus and Stratocumulus".

Five other features are being added to describe clouds. These new terms are, "Asperitas", "Cavum", "Cauda" also known as a tail cloud), "Fluctus", and "Murus", (more popularly known as a wall cloud).

According to WMO, the best known of these added features is "Asperitas" (from the Latin meaning roughness).

Asperitas is the Digital Age Cloud:
Whats really cool about this new cloud type, is that it was discovered by regular folks taking pictures. Most of the stills were taken by members of the Cloud Appreciation Society. The founder of the group, Gavin Pretor-Pinney said, "With so many taken from around the globe, it was possible to spot patterns. This is how the proposal for a new classification came about, and we are delighted the WMO has chosen to include it in their definitive reference work for cloud classification”.

The International Cloud Atlas:
This reference guide was first published in the late 1800s. As you can imaging, it contains many descriptions of the clouds that cover the earth. The last time it was updated was 1987.

“This is THE world reference for observing and classifying clouds and other weather phenomena. The Atlas contains pictures, definitions, and explanations that are accepted and used by all WMO’s 191 Member countries and territories,” said Bertrand Calpini, President of WMO’s Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation (CIMO), which oversaw the revision process.

For a complete cloud guide, click on  World Meteorological Organization 


Monday, February 27, 2017

Moon Ride to Solar Flares

Here's a quick look at a few events happening in Space News:

Sun Burped:
A hole in the shape of a canyon has opened up in the sun's atmosphere. This is blowing off solar wind and aiming it towards earth. This solar wind could arrive early Tuesday, Feb. 28th, sparking a northern lights display,  Forecasters at NOAA, say there is a 60% chance of G-1 storms thru March 1st. This may cause some satellite and cell phone outages.
This is what is reporting:
The source of the solar wind is a coronal hole (CH)--a region in the sun's atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the structure, above, on Feb. 27th.  

Researchers call this a "negative-polarity" coronal hole because it contains south-pointing (that is, "negative") magnetic fields that tend to be very effective in causing geomagnetic storms when they reach Earth. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for bright auroras in the nights ahead

Side by Side:

After sunset Monday, look west and you'll see a skinny crescent moon. It will appear near Venus giving you a great 2 for the price of one viewing.

And finally, if you have the cash....

Image result for spacex logoPrivate space firm "Space X" is planning on flying 2 people around the moon in 2018. Allegedly these two folks have provided a significant down payment already for the mission. SpaceX says, they'll "begin initial training later this year".
Apparently, other people, have expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.

Space X adds, "This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them"

Thursday, February 23, 2017

El Niño on the Comeback?

El Niño is a warming of the Equatorial waters of the Pacific ocean which impacts marine and atmospheric currents. This in turn disrupts many weather patterns around the globe.

The last El Niño was during 2015-16. Scientist say it was one of the most powerful weather events of the last 145 years. They add, that winter beach erosion along the west coast was 76% above typical with most beaches in California erodeding beyond historical extremes.

While El Niño creates havoc in many areas around the globe, for us, it tends to make for more hostile conditions in order for hurricanes to grow.

The 2015 season was below average, with 11 named systems, out of which 4 turned into hurricanes, and out of that number, 2 became major hurricanes. (Cat 3 and above) . An average season calls for 12,6,and 3.

Is there a return of "El Niño" for this year?
There are many factor to consider, but NOAA's outlook is calling for warmer ocean conditions starting in July.

The graphic shows warmer ocean temps in red. The Pacific is looking pretty good into the months of Match, April, and May as illustrated in the first upper left hand panel. But by July, August, and September, in the upper right hand panel, the red streak in the Pacific off South America seems to be growing. 

Could this be the start to an El Niño event? We'll have to wait and see.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Polar Opposites

The Nation will be split in half this weekend with brutally cold temps up north and near record warmth in South Florida. The jet stream has taken a dive south and opened the door for the bone chilling arctic air to invade the Northern Rockies, Upper Midwest and eventually the Northeast.

The forecasts suggests that by Saturday morning, the lows could dip to 19 below zero in Billings with windchill readings possibly near 30 below.

The Arctic Blast will churn towards the Dakotas, Minnesota, and the Great Lakes by Sunday.

Minneapolis is expected to drop to 13 below zero with colder windchill readings by Sunday morning.

The cold air will then creep into the Northeast by the start of next week.


But Mother Natures' Winter assault doesn't end there. A big storm is developing in the Plains aiming for the northeast. An area of low pressure with a trailing cold front is setting up from Kansas west through the Pacific Ocean. It will dash northeast over the next 24 hours.

Ahead of the winter storm warm moist air heads up the Eastern Seaboard. This moist air will cause rain, but where it runs into cold air it will lead to snow.

Some areas from Minnesota through Michigan could see significant accumulations.

South Florida will stay under the domain of High Pressure which will keep the wind out of the SSE ushering in very warm air for this time of year. The record in Miami for Saturday is 85° and that is what we are forecasting. By the way Winter starts next Wednesday but I don't think it'll make an appearance here anytime soon.