Sunday, October 22, 2017

Driver Gets Caught In Oklahoma Tornado (Luckily Not A Big One)

Upper part of an exterior wall at a Norman, Oklahoma
casino and hotel damaged by a tornado last night
Yesterday, as expected severe weather broke out in parts of the southern Plains, especially in Oklahoma, where a few tornadoes were reported.

As an aside, this outbreak of severe weather is an ingredient that will lead to quite a big of wet weather here in Vermont during the middle of the week. It's still unclear how much rain we'll get, but it could be a lot.

Which is OK, because we need it.

Anyway, here's the view last night from inside a vehicle in a Norman, Oklahoma parking lot: This tornado was near the Riverwind Casino, which suffered some damage in the storm. A Beach Boys concert was in progress inside the casino when the tornado hit. There are no reports of serious injuries.

Here's the video:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

West Coast Is Where Weather Action Is At, But Things Will Get Active Here, Eventually

Northern California fires are now largely contained, but
weather conditions could prompt new wildfires over the
next few days, especially in southern California.
Most of the weather action over the next couple of days will take place out west, especially along the West Coast, as we Vermonters bask in the very warm, sprawling high pressure system that's stuck over us and much of the rest of the East.

Here, temperatures will be way, way above normal all weekend with wall to wall sunshine, so perfect if you want to get outside to check out the lingering foliage, or just get yard work done.

But expect bad weather for that kind of thing on parts of the West Coast.

In Washington State, a very strong, wet storm is moving in this weekend. Enough rain could come with it to touch off some flash flooding. That's especially true in areas that had forest fires this summer. The trees and plants and such that held soil in place burned away, so the heavy rain get wash away dirt and fire debris and anything else. This could be dangerous.

It had been hoped that some of this rain would sneak down into the San Francisco Bay area and the Napa and Sonoma areas of California, since this is where those big, deadly wild fires were earlier this month. Some of those fires are still burning, and it would have been nice if a little of the rain from the Washington storm would move south.

Unfortunately, it's not to be. All the rain looks like it's going to stay north of this burn area. On the bright side, it did rain a little in this region Thursday, with Napa, California picking up 0.19 inches of rain. Not much, but a help. On the dark side, it looks like it's going to turn hotter and windier and drier in northern California next week.

Meanwhile, there's a strong risk of new wildfires erupting in southern California today through Tuesday. A Santa Ana event is taking shape, which would bring strong winds from the deserts, high, near record heat and very low humidity to much of southern California.

Fire warnings and excessive heat watches are in effect for much of southern California, as you's expect.

The other hotspot in the weather today is the southern and central Plains, especially around Oklahoma, where tornadoes and severe thunderstorms could erupt today.

Eventually, some of this activity out west will consolidate and set up some storminess in the eastern United States by midweek. The rain will affect Vermont, which is great since it's been so dry. We're not yet sure how much rain will come down, but we'll take anything we can get.

I had originally thought we'd get a winter preview by the end of the upcoming week. It will cool down by then, but only down to slightly warmer than normal conditions, compared to the much  warmer than average weather we're having this weekend.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Global Hot Streak Continues: September Was Fourth Hottest

September, 2017 was the fourth warmest on record
for the Earth as a whole
It wasn't just us Vermonters who sweated their way through one of the hottest Septembers on record.

For the globe as a whole, September, 2017 was the fourth warmest on record, says NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. The only warmer Septembers were all very recent: 2014, 2015 and 2016.

That echoes what happened locally here in Vermont. The hottest Septembers on record in Burlington were 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Climatologists had expected 2017 to cool off slightly from the record global warmth of 2015 and 2016. So far it appears 2017 did cool, but barely. It's hardly noticeable. We're still on track for 2017 to be either the second or third warmest year on record for the Earth as a whole.

To me and many others, this is part of mounting evidence that global warming continues unabated, as if we needed more proof.

By the way, NOAA says this was the 24th consecutive September and 283rd consecutive month that Earth's land temperatures were about the 20th century average.

Also, there were two weather disasters in September that each caused at least a billion dollars in damage, says Dr. Jeff Masters in the Category 6 blog. Those disasters were Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. That makes 21 billion dollar disasters so far this year, which is about average for this point in the year.

Since then, Hurricane Maria and the recent northern California wildfires have happened and those are likely to also be disasters each costing more than a billion dollars.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Big Weather Changes In Store For Vermont, Eastern U.S. Next Week

A bit of snow on maple leaves in October, 2014 in St.
Albans, Vermont. It's possible we might see
a similar scene around or just prior to Halloween.
After a brief excursion into normal autumn weather Monday into Tuesday morning, it is back to sunshine and warmth around Vermont and the rest of the Northeast.

Temperatures around here flirted with 70 degrees yesterday, and warm southerly winds overnight in the Champlain Valley kept pre-dawn temperatures in the upper 50s this morning. Such temperatures at that time of day would not be unusual in July.

After a brief cool down to only slightly warmer than normal conditions Friday, it's back to the warmth and sunshine over the weekend.

We are in the running for the warmest October on record. If not that, at least the top 10.  This after one of the warmest Septembers on record.

There is a big potential drawback to all of this warm, dry, sunny, breezy weather. There's a rising risk of wildfires in Vermont and other parts of the Northeast. Leaves are falling, grasses, weeds and shrubs are brown and drying out.

The National Weather Service in South Burlington put out the alert today to avoid outdoor burning, since any sparks can get away from you and start a brush or forest fire.

But big changes are afoot, changes that will bring us a bunch of welcome rain, and then at least a brief cold blast later next week.

A deep trough of low pressure is likely to set up in the eastern half of the nation for awhile next week, bringing the storminess and eventually the cooler weather.

You'll see the first signs of this on Saturday, when the developing storm system will likely bring a bout of severe weather to parts of the Plains state.

From there, a very slow moving cold front will trudge eastward, making it to New England Tuesday and Wednesday. That's when I expect we'll get a good dousing of needed rain.  Especially since a rather wet storm might ride northward along the front, tracking from somewhere in the southeastern U.S. to over or near New England.

Eventually, after the rains midweek, I think it will cool down to at least seasonable levels in Vermont and the rest of New England. This certainly won't be the Great Cold Wave of '17, but it'll be a sign that winter is approaching

I expect by or before Halloween, the northern New England mountains will probably be snowcapped, and there might even be a few wet snowflakes in the valleys.

You knew "endless summer" 'had to end sometime, right?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Portugal Fire Videos Show How Scary They Were

Wildfires menacing Braga, Portugal this week
The death toll from the wildfires in Portugal and Spain over the past couple of days has reached 36.

Between this fire and the ones in Portugal back in June, 99 people have died in wildfires in that country this year. Previously, the most fatalities from fire in a single year in Portugal was 25.  

It's been a bad year for wildfires in many parts of the world. Just ask people in northern California, where the death toll from fires this month is now at 41 and could still rise. And western Canada spent most of the summer on fire.

Here's the fire advancing on a bunch of people along a road in Portugal. I don't know how the guy with the big branch in his hand thought he was going to beat back the flames with it, but hope springs eternal, I guess:



Chaos and panic brought on by the fires in Galacia, Spain:



An amazing fire tornado in Portugal during the height of the fires. For scale, look for the person and the car to the left of the fire twister:


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Will Hurricanes Migrate North With Climate Change?

A woman photographs giant coastal waves in southern England
created by ex-hurricane Ophelia. Photo by Matt Cardy/
Getty Images
As expected, ex-hurricane Ophelia trashed Ireland with strong, damaging winds Monday, killing at least three people, unroofing buildings, tossing down countless trees and leaving more than 360,000 people with electricity.

Was Ophelia a rare one-off, just one of those storms that were still almost hurricanes by the time it reached Europe?  After all, this has happened before, with Debbie in 1961 being the most cited example.

However, there are indications that with global warming, hurricanes are drifting further and further north. These storms thrive on warm water. If warm water is further north, the logic goes, hurricanes would go further north, too.

This has implications for Europe, of course. If a storm retains hurricane status further north, then the storm's inevitable transition to non-tropical storm status would come further north. But that poleward shift means these storms would be stronger than they would be had they lost their tropical characteristics further south.

Is Europe due for a lot more Ophelias? The jury is out, but the signs are there. A 2014 University of Wisconsin study noted there has been a "pronounced poleward migration in the average latitude at which tropical cyclones have achieved their lifetime maximum intensity over the past 30 years."

If global warming brings tropical storms and hurricanes further north, that has implications for us New Englanders.

Of course, we are already sometimes hit by hurricanes and tropical storms - even major ones. The Great Hurricane of 1938 was Category 3 when it reached Long Island and New England, killing more than 600 people.

Even weaker tropical storms can wreak havoc. Just ask any Vermonter who had to deal with the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Aftermath of the Great New England hurricane of 1938
in Connecticut. Will global warming drive more such
storms northward? More research is needed.
However, tropical storms and hurricanes, even ones that reach New England and southeastern Canada, usually weaken as they approach because the waters off the Northeast coast are cool. Remember, hurricanes need very warm water.

If ocean waters off the coasts of New England and Canada warm, perhaps this weakening trend in most northward moving tropical storms and hurricanes could lessen, creating more powerful storms for us.

Some studies suggest New England could be more prone to tropical storms and hurricanes in a warmer future, but more research is definitely needed to confirm this.

That future is not cast in stone. More research is needed. But it is something to consider.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ophelia, Wildfires Trash Europe, And A Word About Vermont Frost Tonight

A stadium damaged by Ophelia
today in Ireland.
I know frost during October in Vermont is not exactly unusual or a disaster, especially compared to the weather extremes and dangers in Europe most of this post will be about.

We're talking what was Hurricane Ophelia, now a powerful storm trashing Ireland. And we're talking scary, deadly wildfires in Portugal and Spain.

VERMONT FROST 

But, I'm based in Vermont, so I'll get our frost out of the way first: Although much of Vermont has already had frost this autumn, the Champlain Valley and a few other places have not. Which is pretty late in the month to go frost-free.

That will change tonight. A freeze warning is in effect for the Champlain Valley tonight, which means most of us will go below freezing. Anything that's still growing outside that you want to keep should either come inside, or you should try covering them up.

Even covering them might not totally be enough in many areas, especially away from the lake, since it will be so cold.

There are no frost warnings away from Lake Champlain because the growing season is considered done there. But some garden plants survived earlier cold weather elsewhere in Vermont, where temperatures will be in the 20s tonight.

Warmer weather returns for the rest of the week, but it won't be quite as toasty as the near-record mid and upper 70s we saw on Sunday.

OPHELIA

As I write this Monday morning, Ireland was being trashed by what was Hurricane Ophelia. It has finally lost its tropical characteristics but not its power. Ophelia had set a record over the weekend as the most north and east in the Atlantic a major hurricane has reached.

The peak of the storm in Ireland arrived at around mid-morning local time. There's already a report of a woman killed by a falling tree. About 120,000 people were without power and officials warned of coastal waves the height of a double decker bus.

Social media posts are showing roofs blowing off buildings, large waves crashing into shorelines and many, many trees down.

A 118 mph gust has already been reported at one coastal Irish location.

Ophelia was forecast to slam Northern Ireland, Scotland and parts of northern England this afternoon local time.

Ex-hurricanes that were full-fledged hurricanes just prior to hitting the British Isles are rare. The last time this happened was in 1961, when Hurricane Debbie, which had just transitioned from hurricane to powerful mid-latitude storm, killed 11 people in Ireland.

In another odd twist, Ophelia brought Saharan dust all the way north to Great Britain, so places where the sun was still out yesterday and this morning had an eerie red disc for a sun as all the dust in the air  caused this effect.

WILDFIRES IN PORTUGAL

Well east of Ophelia, southerly winds, partly associated with the storm, brought hot, dry conditions to Portugal and Spain, and wildfires on par with the recent ones in California resulted.

At least 30 people have died in the fires in Portugal and Spain, and the death toll is expected to rise. Record heat in the mid 80s to mid 90s contributed to the fires, as did strong winds on the outer fringes of Ophelia. The region also experienced an extremely hot, dry summer.

Sadly, it appears that most of the fires over the past couple of days were deliberately set, so some arsonists killed all these people and burned hundreds of homes and businesses.

Slightly cooler, somewhat wetter conditions are forecast over the next few days, which should help firefighting efforts.

This is the second major wildfire calamity in Portugal this year. June wildfires in that nation killed 64 people.