Thursday, July 31, 2014

Totally Awesome Timelapse Of Supercell Storm Over Barcelona

This video has it all. Scenic location, good production values, and best of all, a rotating supercell thunderstorm.

Video was taken in the past week in Barcelona, Spain. Totally amazing!!

Even MORE Severe Weather: Today, NY, VT. NH Are The Targets

This hailstone, about the size of a tennis ball, fell
on Charlotte, Vermont Sunday. More big hail
is possible in Vermont today. Photo byTom Gardner
via NWS/Burlington  
I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Northeast just can't catch a break from severe weather this summer.

A couple days ago, a cold front passed off the coast, ending a bout of severe storms that brought tornadoes from Tennessee to Massachusetts and Maine, and flash flooding from places as diverse as Ohio and Vermont.

You'd think in the cool air that followed the front we'd be free of the bad storms for awhile.


An unsually strong upper level disturbance was coming out of Ontario and headed into New York, and then on into Vermont and New Hampshire today.

It's not hot or humid out there, so that's a couple ingredients we don't have for severe weather. But this disturbance is so strong it doesn't matter there isn't much heat for the storms to feed off of.

The disturbance is an area of higher upper level winds, which would be brought down to the surface by thunderstorms. So damaging winds are a threat with these storms.

An even bigger threat today across eastern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire is giant hail. This disturbance is essentially a pool of very chilly air several thousand feet overhead.

Since the freezing level isn't that high above us, hailstones can easily form. The violent updrafts within the storms can keep sending hail back up into the cold air, where they'll get bigger and bigger.

The hailstones won't have as big a layer of warm air to fall through than they typically do during the summer, they won't melt as much as they often do. So when they land, some of the hailstones will be pretty damn big.

Not everybody will get big, damaging hail, of course. Most towns won't get any hail at all.  Most of the storms that do produce hail will only bring pea to dime sized hail, which really isn't THAT big a deal. But a few towns could get much larger hailstones than that.

Vermont has not had a good year in the hail department. A supercell in late May brought bucket loads of damaging hail to Rutland County, especially around Proctor and Pittsford.

Another hailstorm caused damage in the Rutland area on July 3. And just last Sunday, hail as big as tennis balls pelted Charlotte, Vermont.

I'm really hoping today's hail avoids the apple growing regions of New York, Vermont and surrounding areas. The fruit is especially vulnerable now.

The thunderstorms will quickly end this evening. More daily shows and thunderstorms are possible every day, Friday through Wednesday, though at this point, it doesn't look like they'll be severe.

Then again, you never know.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Alabama Officials: God Gave Us Coal. Maybe The Lord Wants Global Warming?

Chip Beeker said God gave
Alabama coal so it can do
anything it wants with it.  
Some Alabama officials have come up with the wackiest reasoning yet for continuing to extract coal, burn it and add to global warming:

God wants us to do it.

According to, an Alabama news site, some officials said the federal EPA's attempt to regulate coal emissions is against God's will, an affront to God, if you will.

Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh (love that name!) said the EPA is also taking away Alabama's way of life.

Here's the money quote from

"At their news conference...Cavanaugh and PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker invoked the name of God in stating their opposition to the EPA proposal. 

Beeker, a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God's plan.

'Who has the the right to take what God's given a state?' he said."

OK, I've got a few questions.

God wants us to burn coal and worsen global warming? Maybe God wants the second Great Flood? Paging Noah!!!

How does Beeker know God gave Alabama the coal?  Yes, it's there, but who's is it? What about the landowner where the coal is? What about the people, or the plants that will burn it?  Maybe God secretly gave the EPA control over the coal and didn't tell anybody else?  Did God specifically appoint Cavanaugh and Beeker to administer the coal He gave them? If so, where's the paperwork?

This hue and cry started when the EPA announced back in June it wanted to curb carbon emissions from coal in an effort to curb global warming.

In any event, Cavanaugh implored the fine citizens of Alabama to seek God's help. "I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done," she said.

Well, there's something Cavanaugh and I agree on. Although I doubt her idea of the "right thing" and mine match.

Lightning Strikes: Heed The Warnings

Parmedics help one of the people who
was struck by lightning last weekend
in Venice Beach, CA. This man was not
seriously hurt.  
The lightning strike that hit Venice Beach, California a few days ago, killing one person and injurig more than a dozen, was extremely unexpected.

It hit pretty much without warning. Witnesses said the first hint of lightning from the approaching storm cloud is the one that caused the death and injuries.

Since lightning is extremely rare along the coast of southern California, it's not surprising that people had no idea this was coming.

Lightning deaths have declined in the United States in recent years, mostly because of greater public awareness. Weather historian Christopher Burt at Weather Underground has an excellent summary of the Venice Beach strike, and lightning strikes in general in the United States. 

But most of the time, in most of the rest of the country, we know when a thunderstorm is coming. We see the darkening sky, we hear the distant rumbles of thunder. That's your cue to get out of the water, off the golf course, off the beach, off the mountain and into a building or your car.

Watch the video below for a close call to illustrate what I mean. The couple was snorkeling at a resort in Mexico when lifeguards kicked everybody out of the water because a thunderstorm was approaching.

The couple, the guy still in his snorkeling mask, decided to take a selfie instead of getting into a building, you know, maybe the hotel bar for a nice cocktail.

This is what happened:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tornadoes And Floods End In East, Start In West

Areal view of homes damaged by the tornado
in Revere, Mass. on Monday.  
I'm sure you all saw on the news that strange tornado that hit Revere, Mass. on Monday morning.  

One thing I'm extremely surprised and pleased about: There were no serious injuries in Revere, despite the fact its 120 mph winds roared through a heavily populated area with many houses and businesses, a main thoroughfare with lots of traffic, pedestrians and people out and about at around 9 in the morning.

The Boston Globe has a series of amazing photos from the damage in Revere. Again, shocking nobody was badly hurt.

Here's some video of the storm, this being a surveillance camera shot at Revere High School. More about the nation's storminess below the video:

Up here in Vermont during Monday, there were no severe thunderstorms, just drenching rains and some local flash floods.

The worst of the flash flooding happened around Chester and Andover, Vermont, where at least one house was extensively damaged or destroyed, some others likely got water in their basements, and some roads were closed for a time.

It seems to have become a summer ritual in Vermont: Local flash floods causing surprise, extensive damage in one town, while nearby towns are spared.

The two-day rainfall total at Burlington was 2.67 inches, and I'm sure we'll hear reports of a lot more than that as we get through the morning.  Even before Monday's rain began in earnest, more than two inches of rain had been reported from Newbury, Montpelier and Weston, Vermont from Sunday's storms.

Meanwhile, people were cleaning up from storms and tornadoes in the Tennessee Valley on Sunday. Here's a video taken by a guy who was surprised when a small tornado passed between his house and his neighbor's as he filmed from his porch.

He was damn lucky the tornado was quite weak, a EF-0 with winds I'd guess at 65 to 70 mph. Had it been stronger, he might have been blown away and killed.

Here's the video:

Now it's the west's turn. The opening salvo came yesterday, when a tornado touched down in the Denver metro area.  The bigger threat is today and tomorrow, but not from tornadoes.

Torrential thunderstorms are likely in a wide area covering most of Colorado, much of New Mexico, and western Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Expect lots of dangerous flash floods in that region today and tomorrow.

It's a set up similar to what happened last September, when Colorado had some of its worst flooding in history. Let's hope there's no repeat.

Meanwhile, here's a news report of some guys who filmed the Denver tornado forming directly overhead at their shop:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sunday's Storms In Vermont Created Amazing, Sometimes Rare Clouds

Many thunderstorms, some of them severe, raked Vermont and parts of northern New York Sunday.
A roll cloud precedes a weakening thunderstorm
approaching St. Albans, Vermont Sunday evening.  

It was part of a massive severe weather outbreak in the eastern third of the United States that produced damaging tornadoes in Tennessee, Kentucky and elsewhere, wind damage, hail and flooding.

There were 378 reports of severe weather across the nation Sunday, including six tornadoes.

The damage wasn't so widespread here in the North Country, with reports of flash flooding near Plattsburgh, N.Y, one-inch diameter hail in Ferrisburgh, Mendon, Westford and Williston, Vermont, and tree damage in places like Charlotte and Peacham, Vermont.

Outbreaks of summer thunderstorms often create the most interesting clouds imaginable, and Sunday's bout of storms did not disappoint.

I was treated with the rare sight of a well developed roll cloud preceding a non-severe thunderstorm rolling toward my home in St. Albans, Vermont.

The roll cloud in St. Albans, Vermont Sunday evening
scrapes against a low hill as it crosses the community.  
Later, the setting sun, lit up some mammatus clouds, a relatively rare sight in the Green Mountain State, and a sign somebody off to my east or northeast was getting a really nasty storm.

I also saw some shelf clouds yesterday, too.

I'd better explain my terminology.

A shelf cloud looks like just that, a low, dark, shelf like feature in the front of a thunderstorm.

When you see a shelf cloud, it's time to take cover, because the parent thunderstorm is probably severe. When the shelf cloud goes overhead, you're likely to get  really nasty burst of strong, damaging winds and maybe some hail.

You'll see just after the middle of a time lapse video a shelf cloud Sunday evening over Malletts Bay, Colchester, Vermont.

Mammatus clouds are lit up by the setting sun
over St. Albans, Vermont Sunday evening.  
A roll cloud like the one I saw yesterday looks dramatic and scary to people unfamiliar with them, but they really aren't dangerous at all.  

They're usually caused by a downdraft from a decaying thunderstorm that lifts a bit of warm and humid air from the surface.

The air rises and curls toward the dying thunderstorm, and you get something that resembles maybe a weird, horizontal tornado.

When the roll cloud moved overhead in St. Albans, we had a wind gust to perhaps 20 mph, followed by a brief burst of rain. Nothing scary.

The decaying thunderstorm that caused my roll cloud was ceding energy to a strengthening thunderstorm to my south, near and to the northeast of Burlington, Vermont.

Another view of the mammatus clouds over
St. Albans, Vermont Sunday evening.  
That storm complex continued toward the northeast. When it got to near St. Johnsbury, in northeastern Vermont, it had become quite strong and was producing a few damaging wind gusts and probably some hail.

As the sun was setting, it lit up the anvil shaped top of the thunderstorm, way up there maybe at 30,000 feet above sea level.

The anvil top curved back many miles toward the west, as they often do in strong storms. The top of this thunderstorm was easily visible from my house in St. Albans, 50 west of the storm's core.

The anvil top of a thunderstorm consists of moisture that spreads out as its upward momentum dies off.

Developing thunderstorms early Sunday afternoon made
for a pretty sky over Lake Champlain near South Hero, Vermont.  
Sometimes, some of the ice in the air within this anvil starts to sink, giving you those pouches that you see in mammatus clouds.

Mammatus clouds are always connected to thunderstorms, and the thunderstorms they're connected to are often, but not always strong or severe.

But if you see mammatus clouds overhead, like I did Sunday evening, don't worry. Usually, they're on the back side of a storm, which has already gone by.

Of course, days with thunderstorms create more routine, but very pretty and interesting cloud patterns.

It was fun to watch thunderheads bubble up to become storms during the course of the afternoon. They you could see big blasts of rain come out of the storms, then a rainbow to finish it off.
A thunderstorm dumps a heavy load of rain in this
view from Lake Champlain looking toward Colchester
and Burlington, Vermont.  

Very pretty.

Today, there's more storminess in Vermont and New England.

There could be some interesting clouds again amid the possibly strong storms in eastern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

But places more to the west will likely see rain and a dull overcast. Not nearly as interesting as Sunday.

Here's that time lapse, produced by Dan Russell, of thunderstorms in Malletts Bay, Colchester, Vermont to give you another glimpse of Sunday's stormy, changeable and fascinating skies:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Once Again, Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic States To Be Slammed With Severe Weather

The Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic states can't seem to catch a break this summer.
Areas in and near the yellow are at risk of severe
storms today. The area in red has the highest risk
of high winds, tornadoes and hail.  

Since mid-May, really, that region has been slammed hard and often by severe storms packing damaging winds, huge hail, floods and a occasional tornadoes.

They've been as bad or worse than the Great Plains often are.  

And another severe outbreak, possible one of the biggest of the year, is set to strike the area again today.

The problem this spring and summer has been some unusually deep dips in the jet stream centered over the Great Lakes that have set up repeatedly.

It's the same pattern that caused the cold winter in the East back in January through March.

This time of year south winds bring lots of heat and humidity to the region, and the unusually active jet stream adds instability and energy to the atmosphere, so you get those big storms.

This latest dip in the jet stream setting up now is a doozy. It's got a lot of energy to play with, so there you go.

The National Storm Prediction Center thinks the biggest concern today is in southern Ohio, eastern Kentucky and much of West Virginia. 

There could even be some strong tornadoes in this area, not the weaker EF-1s or EF-0s that pack winds of "only" 80-100 mph or so.  A few of today's tornadoes might get stronger than that.

There's also a flash flood watch up today for southern Ohio and West Virginia, since many of the thunderstorms will produce incredibly intense rains.

In any event, Kentucky and West Virginia, and for that matter a whole area from southern New England, back west to Indiana and south to Tennessee and North Carolina are in for scattered areas of destructive thunderstorm winds, huge hail, and flash flooding.  
A thunderstorm looms over St. Albans, Vermont last
week. More stormy weather is due in likey in the
eastern United States today and Monday.  

More to the north, up here in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, a few storms might get kind of strong today, but nothing like the chaos more to the south.

This big dip in the jet stream will spin up a storm by Monday morning that will have some characteristics of a winter storm.  Don't panic, though. No snow, sleet or freezing rain. Just lots of plain rain.

From western New York into northwestern Vermont, it looks like the storm will produce a steady, drenching rain. Kind of like a winter storm in February would cause a day long snowfall.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if western and northern New York, and the northern half of Vermont get more than two, even three inches of rain between this Sunday morning and Monday evening, though official forecasts call for less than that.

There is a flash flood watch in western New York. In Vermont, it's been slightly dry lately, so at this point I don't think we have much to worry about from flash flooding. But keep an eye out. Unexpectedly heavy downpours are still possible, which could cause some local flooding in Vermont between now and Monday evening.

In the southeastern half of New England, there could be more strong storms and supercells Monday, depending upon how much instability gets going. There could even be a few brief tornadoes on Monday east of the Connecticut River Valley.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Virginia Tornado Targeted People With Nowhere To Hide

Overturned campers after a tornado in
Virginia Thursday morning.  
That tornado that hit a Virginia campground Thursday morning demonstrates what can happen when a twister, even one that's not that strong, targets an area where there's nowhere to hide.

Two people died and 36 were injured when the tornado hit the campground. There were more than 1,300 people in the heavily forested area at the time.

The tornado was rated an EF-1, with winds of about 100 mph. So it was a dangerous tornado, but not the strongest you can get. Most people weather EF-1 tornadoes just fine if they are in a well constructed house and hide in the basement or interior room during the storm.

But people at the campground had no sturdy structures to go to.  They were basically sitting ducks.

And it was hard to spread the word that a tornado was coming. Not everybody had TVs or weather radios to warn them.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area about  10 to 20 minutes before the campground was hit.

It's also rare for supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes to form during the early to mid morning, as this one did, notes the Capital Weather Gang.    Most occur in the afternoon and evening, so this was rather unexpected.

There was a rare confluence of instability and jet stream energy that prompted this morning tornado.

It also didn't help that even parts of the campground that didn't get the tornado had straight line winds of up to 70 mph and hail between the sizes of golf and baseballs. That caused added destruction to the flimsy campers and added to the danger faced by the people inside them.

The wind, mostly from the tornado but also the straight line winds,  easily tipped over campers and felled trees on tents. The two people who died were a married couple from New Jersey in a tent when a tree fell on them. Their 13 year old son was badly injured in a nearby tent when a tree fell on him.

Here's a terrifying view from inside one of the campers

Here's a CBS news video of the tornado's aftermath:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

As Expected, Strong Storms Raked New England, Including Vermont

Storm clouds move into Sheldon, in northwestern Vermont shortly
before noon Wednesday.  
The storms in the Northeast on Wednesday pretty much played out as expected: Almost everyone in Vermont, northern New York, much of New Hampshire and Maine got some pretty good thunderstorms today.

The storms developed during the morning in northwestern Vermont, and moved rapidly eastward, as the line the storms were traveling along slowly sank southward across the state during the day.

Also as expected, only a handful of locations got storms that could genuinely be described as severe and damaging.

Most of that happened in central Vermont, where there were reports of trees down and power failures.

Storm clouds near St. Albans, Vermont Wednesday.  
Other areas with severe weather reports were western and northern New Hampshire, western Maine, western Massachusetts and an area east of Albany, New York.

One of the things I noticed in particular with the waves of storms that crossed Vermont during the day was the large amount of cloud to ground lightning and super loud thunder.

There were quite a lot of lightning strikes across most of the state.

I was also struck, no pun intended, of people out in the storms during the worst of the lightning strikes as I traveled through western Vermont today.

Storm clouds darken the sky over Hinesburg,
Vermont Wedneday afternoon.  
In Sheldon, a guy holding a "Slow/Stop" road construction sign stuck it out through the lightning in an open, exposed area.

In Georgia, a guy stubbornly rode his bike through the lightning and downpour. Another guy in Milton mowed the lawn in the lightning. A couple women in Bristol enjoyed their outdoor swimming pool as the sky flashed overhead.

As far as I know, nobody got struck. But still.

The storms were tapering off, as expected Wednesday evening.

More showers and storms will return by Sunday in New England, but at least for now, I'm not expecting severe weather.

Some Severe Storms in New England Today

Most of Vermont and the resto of
New England will see thunderstorms
today, and some might have
strong, damaging winds.  
Dawn broke this morning under mostly clear, if hazy skies, a good south wind and lots of humidity around my house in St. Albans, Vermont.  

Those kind of conditions mean there will be some pretty good thunderstorms around today as a cold front bumps into this warm, humid air.

Morning sunshine will also help make the air unstable, aiding and abetting the storms.

There were already a few showers and storms approaching New York State's St. Lawrence Valley as of 6:30 a.m.

The cold front is on New England's doorstep, and will come through northern New York before storms can really fire up, so there won't be many strong storms there.

The storms will really get going in eastern New York and Vermont early this afternoon and then they will march east and intensify.

To be honest, while almost everyone in the northern two thirds of New England will get showers and storms today, only a few communities will actually get bonafide severe storms.

There's not a HUGE amount of energy in the atmosphere to fuel a widespread severe outbreak, so only some of the storms will get nasty.

The area with the biggest risk of severe storms is the southeastern half of Vermont, most of New Hampshire, the western half of Maine, the Albany, N.Y. Capitol District and the western half of Massachusetts.

The principal threat from any severe storms that do form is briefly strong, straight line winds with gusts over 60 mph. The risk of tornadoes is very low to nonexistent.

The atmosphere is warm to a great height, so that would make it hard for large hail to make it down to the ground. Still, one or two storms could produce hail big enough to damage crops and ding cars.

It's really humid out there, so a lot of these thunderstorms, even the ones that aren't severe, will produce very torrential rains. That could cause issues with street flooding in urban areas.

But since it hasn't rained much in the past week, and today's storms will move right along and not dawdle, I don't expect any real widespread flash flooding.

People in New York and Vermont will notice it start to get less humid later today and that dry air will spread in to the rest of the Northeast by tomorrow. We then get into a few nice days.

A slow moving weather system sets off the chances for showers and storms Sunday through at least Tuesday,  but from this vantage point, it doesn't look like those storms will be severe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not Exactly The Hottest Summer Ever For Much Of The U.S.

OK, it hasn't been THAT bad, but much of
the eastern third of the nation hasn't exactly had
the hottest summer ever.  n
Except for the far western United States, it's clear this summer isn't exactly going to go down in history as the hottest ever.

Which is OK, since we've had a lot of heat and/or drought in much of the country in recent years.

Weather patterns have favored a ridge of high pressure in the western United States and a southward dip in the jet stream around the Great Lakes for a year and a half now.

That pattern breaks down every once in awhile, of course, as the weather is ever-changing. But it's remarkable how long this has been going on.

The result was a frigid winter in much of the eastern half of the nation, and now a summer in which heat waves keep getting interrupted by blasts of cool air from Canada.

Last week, an epic shot of cool air caused hundreds of record low temperatures to fall across the Midwest.

It got hot this week from the Plains to the East Coast, but more cool air is on the way.

This next batch of cool air won't be as intense as the last one, but I think it will last longer. A week or more in many places in the Midwest and Northeast.

The initial cold front with this set off severe thunderstorms in the Dakotas and Minnesota yesterday, will in the Great Lakes today, and maybe cause more severe weather in spots across northern New England on Wednesday.

Then, the cool is coming back.  Not frigid, but not oppressive, either.

Since New England is going to be on the eastern fringe of this cool air mass for several days, it might turn somewhat humid there Sunday through Tuesday with showers and thunderstorms a good bet.

Actually, where I sit in Vermont, we've been just to the east of the major cool spells all summer. Temperatures have been running at or just a scratch above normal since May here.

It's interesting that it's been so cool in the Midwest, when the world as a whole has been experiencing record warm temperatures.

There's no telling when this persistent pattern might change. Climatologists have some things figured out. But there's still a lot of research to go.

Monday, July 21, 2014

June, 2014 Was World's Hottest, Says Climate Data Center

Lots of red on this global map depicting
the world's hottest June on record.  
To the surprise of few climate scientists, the combined ocean and land temperature on Earth during June, 2014 was the hottest on record,  the National Climatic Data Center announced this morning.    

The combined land and sea temperature was 0.72 degrees above the 20th century average. That doesn't sound like much to those of us who can easily tell the difference between 50 and 60 degrees.

But worldwide climate records involve small numbers, and this warm departure from normal makes June the hottest month globally since they started really keeping track of this stuff in the late 1800s.

If you count just land areas, June was the 7th warmest on record. The oceans were the hottest on record, of course.

The first six months of 2014 were tied for the third hottest on record for the world as a whole.

The last cooler than normal June for the world was in 1976. The last time any month of the year was cooler than average on a global basis was February, 1985.

Basically if you're 29 years old or younger, you've never experienced a month where the Earth has a whole was cooler than average. (Though of course there were a few individual months where you live that were locally colder than normal. If you lived in the Upper Midwest or Northeastern U.S. in January or March, you know what I mean.)

If trends continue, 2014 might actually turn out to be the hottest year on record on a global basis.

The latest global report comes on the heels of a NOAA assessment of 2013 that revealed little if any good news on the global warming front.

Last year was somewhere between the second and sixth warmest year for the world, depending upon who you asked. (Different sets of data yielded slightly different results)

The 2013 assessment also said carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continued to rise, sea levels were still slowly but steadily rising, and Arctic ice extent stayed at low levels.

With the last several months being at or near the top warmest on record, I'd love to see how the global warming denialists spin THIS latest report.

Maybe they'll say the fine folks at the National Climatic Data Center are part of a huge conspiracy to somehow tell us it's hot so they can take our guns and liberty away.  Or something.

I'm not sure how saying the world is warming will take our guns and liberty away, but I'm sure some of the denialists will come up with something.

Here's something the denialists don't understand: If there is some huge conspiracy that hundreds or thousands of people are in on, you're going to get a few loudmouths, or ethical people, or people who don't want to break laws, to whistleblow.  And if that happened, the media, including me, would Eat. It. Up.


But all I hear is crickets, and the rustle of aluminum foil hats on the heads of the most extreme denialists.

More Recent Images: Storms Everywhere!

As is the case across much of the northern hemisphere, summer storms are a rite of passage in July.
A Yosemite Park storm last week 

We've seen some beautiful or interesting images come across on social media.

The first photo in this post is a thunderstorm bearing down on Yosemite National Park.

The area is in a drought, so the rain is welcome. However, there was lightning, too, which could set off forest fires.

And the rain, where it did come down, came in a short intense burst. That didn't give it a chance to settle into the ground, and ran off quickly, prompting flash flood alerts

A severe thunderstorm and shelf cloud
approach a town in Britain recently.  
Next, we go to Britain, where that country, and western Europe, have been subject to severe thunderstorms the past few days.

We don't associate that area of the world with severe weather. You don't think "tornado alley" when you think of, say, Belgium, after all.

But Europe can easily get very severe supercell thunderstorms, giant hail and even the occasional damaging tornado.

Here, we see a shelf cloud as a storm approaches a British town the other day.

Finally we go to high above Minnesota Sunday evening as thunderstorms broke out in that region.

If you look carefully at the combination radar and visible satellite image, you'll see the storms casting long shadows across northern Minnesota and into Wisconsin. (Click on the picture to make it bigger and easier to see)

The sun's angle was low, explaining the long shadow. You sometimes see "premature" sunsets when there are big storms to your west in the evening.  
Evening thunderstorms in Minnesota
Sunday cast long shadows ino Wisconsin.  

The weather system that sparked Sunday's storms will create an even bigger outbreak of severe weather today across much of Minnesota.

Strong winds, sometimes with gusts to hurricane force can be expected in some towns.

At least the storms and the cold front accompanying them, will break a brief but intense heat wave in the upper Midwest.

The storm system will push the severe weather into the Great Lakes area Tuesday.

New England, including Vermont, might get severe thunderstorms Wednesday as this cold front and energy in the atmosphere crash into some hot, humid air expected to be over the region by then.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Huge Forest Fires Are Bad In More Ways Than You Think

Friday afternoon and Saturday, the sky over my house in northwestern Vermont took on a brassy pallor.
A massive fire in Northwest Territories, Canada last week.  

The deep blue sky had turned milky, the sunshine had sort of an orange-ish color, and a bit of haze made some of the Green Mountains seem bluish and blurry.

Blame the big forest fires in Washington State and western Canada for that.

Smoke from the huge fires, hoised aloft, blew thousands of miles in high upper atmospheric winds and went clear across the country to New England.

That the smoke slightly dulled a bright Vermont summer day is the smallest negative effect that these huge fires have around the world.

Yes, the fires destroy forests and the homes of people who live there. That's the most obvious reason out of control wildfires are bad things.  The fire in Washington, for instance, has destroyed more than 100 homes as of Sunday. 

But the fires are also a health hazard for people with breathing problems, probably worsen global warming, and cause huge problems when the droughts that helped start the fires end and the rains begin.
A big forest fire in Oregon last week. 

Many observers see the many of these fires, like the one in Washington State, the big blazes underway in Canada's Northwest Territories, and epic conflagrations in recent years in Siberia, as signs of global warming. 

The far north in particular, northern Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, have warmed up a LOT in recent decades, more than the rest of the world.

That means there's snow on the ground for a shorter time of year and the boreal forests up that way have a bigger chance to dry out in the warm season.

Then they catch fire.

Even worse, these fires set the stage for even more global warming. Soot from the fires can travel thousands of miles, and settle on ice in the Arctic Ocean, and on the great ice sheets of Greenland.

Normally, this ice is pretty white and reflects the summer sun away, so melting is minimized to an extent, even when the Arctic is warmer than normal.

But these tiny particles of soot settling on the ice collect the sun's heat, and hasten melting. That might be partly why the polar ice cap has gotten so much smaller in recent decades (though a warmer Arctic climate still takes most of the blame)

In Greenland, the soot has helped melt the ice sheet faster, and that's even worse than the ice on the Arctic Ocean melting.  That ice melt runs off into the oceans, contributing to worldwide rises in sea levels.

Ultimately, those fires in northwestern Canada, then, are helping to drown cities like Miami and Norfolk Va.

The fires are also very bad for those of us who like to breathe. This is true even for people who live far away from the blazes.

In 2002, fires in northern Quebec blew smoke southward to where I live in Vermont.  The same thing happened in 2010 and 2013. There were air pollution warnings galore during these episodes, because the tiny particulates in the air could cause lung damage.

With the fires burning in Washington this week, air pollution alerts extended into Idaho and Montana, two places you normally don't think of as having dangerous air pollution. But there you go.

After the fires are out and the rains come, the blazes still cause huge problems. There's no vegetation left to soak up the rain.  The downpours cause runoff, which leads to flash floods, mudslides and debris flows.

That is a constant problem in California after the seasonal fires when the winter rains return. (At least we hope they do this year.

Last year, after fires in the Waldo Canyon area of Colorado, heavy thunderstorms hit later in the summer. So you get scenes like this:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

California City Orders Couple To Water Their Lawn Despite Worst Drought Ever

This couple faces fines in Glendora, CA because
they're not watering their lawn because of the intense drought.  
Michael Korte and his wife, Laura Whitney thought they were doing the right thing. They live in Glendora, California, pretty much ground zero in the state's intense drought.  

So they stopped watering their lawn. They didn't want to waste water. State officials have been telling people like the Glendora couple to not waste water.

The couple's lawn turned brown. Korte and Whitney weren't concerned. They were doing what they thought was right.

Not in the eyes of the city of Glendora, they aren't.  The city threatened the couple with a $500 fine if they don't start watering their lawn and making it nice and green again. 

Apparently, lush green lawns in Glendora are much, MUCH more important than the question of whether they'll run out of water.

According to SFGate:

"Local officials says conserving water and maintaining healthy landscaping are not mutually exclusive goals. They caustion that even in times of water shortages, residents shouldn't have free rein to drive down property values, and they can use drought-resistent landscaping or turf removal programs to meet local standards."

So, dumping water on grass to keep it green is not wasting water?  California state officials, with a little more wisdom, have been running a "brown is the new green" campaign, to make it cool to have a brown lawn in a drought.

I guess that doesn't apply in Glendora.

I also don't think a brown lawn is going to drive down property values, unless it's in the form of tall weeds. And wouldn't having no running water in houses at all due to drought drive down property values even more?

Ironically, Korte and Whitney would have faced a $500 fine if they had lived in other parts of the state and HAD watered their lawn to keep it green. Those fines are meant to restrict wasteful water usage.

So yes, the couple is a little confused by some government agencies telling them to conserve water or else, and other agencies telling them to waste water, or else.

I guess to the people that run the fair city of Glendora, it's OK to make a drought worse, as long as the lawns are lush and green while you do it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

That Upcoming El Nino Might Not Be Such A Big Deal After All

The experts, or at least some of us weather geeks who watch the experts, have been hyping a major El Nino that was forecast to get going later this year.  
Like most recent months, June, 2014
on a global bais ranked in the top 10 warmest.  

El Nino is that Pacific Ocean pattern which brings warm water to the eastern side of that ocean.

The phenomenon, especially if it's strong, can screw up worldwide weather patterns, causing intense droughts in some areas, like Indonesia, and soaking other areas, like the southern United States.

El Nino tends to raise global average temperatures, so the thought was that if this El Nino is strong, it would combine with the general trend of global warming to really skyrocket the average temperature across the world.

But hold on. As Eric Holthaus writes in Slate, this El Nino might not turn out to be the Big Deal we thought it might be. The warm water in the eastern Pacific has materialized, but the atmosphere hasn't really responded so far to any huge degree.

It still looks like we're in for an El Nino, but it might not be the blockbuster that people like me hyped earlier this year.

Still it might be having an effect, or at least still might have an effect later this year, even if it turns out to be the mild to moderate El Nino some forecasters are calling for.

The monsoon in India is sluggish, leading to drought fears. That might be in part related to El Nino.

The opposite pattern to El Nino, called El Nina, brings cool water to the eastern Pacific and tends to suppress worldwide temperatures on average, so the cool El Nina would slightly tamp down the effects of global warming.

Now that we have at least a mild El Nino trying to cook up, I have noticed in recent months global temperatures have spiked, the chill in the U.S. Midwest in the winter, and this week notwithstanding.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said this week that the period April 1 through June 30 was the hottest on record since they starting keeping track of these things in the late 1800s.

As Holthaus points out, a weak El Nino might mean California is even more screwed. A strong El Nino tends to focus winter storms on California, which gave the state some hope that heavy winter rains in a few months would diminish the Golden State's epic drought.

Now, with intense drought covering much of the state, weak winter rains in 2014-15 would mean things would get totally dire in California, as if they weren't already.

Like most weather forecasts, we're not going to cast this latest El Nino prediction in stone. It still could prove strong, or it could be even weaker than we thought.

We'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weather Images: Fires, Storms And An Autumn-Like Satellite Photo

The Northwestern United States is still burning, as is western Canada.

There's big storms and flash flooding around Texas, and that cool air is hanging on, for now in the Midwest.

Which leads us to today's random images. (Click on each one to get a bigger, better view)

The first shows a apocalyptic scene in British Columbia in a view of a forest fire in that neck of the woods. Forecasts call for more hot, dry weather, in British Columbia, so no relief seems to be on the way.

A little rain might come down more to the north, so that might help. Meanwhile, the city of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories is choked in smoke, and there have been evacuations in British Columbia.

Elsewhere in Canada, storms are a problem. The second image, from @PrairieChasers on Twitter, shows a supercell storm in Alberta yesterday.

Today, supercells, severe weather and tornadoes are forecast in southeastern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, the American Midwest has been engulfed in cool, autumnal weather this week. This satellite photo shows how the warm July sun stirs up lots of little cumulus clouds as the sun warms the land, creates little updrafts, which condense into clouds as the updrafts rise into the cold air.

Near lakes, the sun doesn't warm the water so much, so you can see how clear it is, with no clouds over and near lakes.

It's going to warm up dramatically in the Midwest over the next few days, as summer comes back for a return engagement.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Weather Calms, For Now. Faux "Polar Vortex" To Wane Quickly

That stubborn eastern United States cold front, kept moving only grudgingly by that cool air mass plunging southward instead of eastward in the Midwest, is finally getting ready to leave.
From @RobWhite11 on Twitter, this huge
tree fell in York, Maine Tuesday. Do
you think the car beneath it can be saved? 

With it will go the severe storms and the flooding that have plagued the Northeast for the past few days

As of early Wednesday morning, there was still a band of heavy rain through New England, and the eastern half of that region is still at risk for flooding through much of today.

Everybody else in the Northeast will start drying out today.

Severe weather was reported in the Northeast again yesterday and there was LOTS of flash flooding, especially in places like New Jersey, the New York metro area and southwestern New England.

Maine took the brunt of the severe storms, and weather experts will likely investigate today whether any tornadoes touched down. There were tornado warnings last evening in central Maine, and  a lot of wind damage was reported up that way.

And that Midwest cold snap that everybody is fighting about whether to call a "Polar Vortex" or not?  That is weakening fast under pressure from the warm July sun and a jet stream that is snapping back into a more normal summer pattern.

Here's how storms can cause false alarms. In this
photo I took during a thunderstorm in Milton, Vt
Tuesday, it looks like a funnel is forming. But it was
just a harmless scud cloud hanging from the base
of the thunderstorm. The storm was somewhat
strong but not severe and caused little if any damage.
There were some daily record lows and record low high temperatures in the Midwest yesterday, and maybe there will be some today in the central Plains and mid-Mississippi Valley today.

But it will warm up. Places that were autumn like early this week could go into the 90s by the weekend or early next week.

Here in Vermont, the "cold wave" isn't going to be that cold.

Temperatures over the next couple of days will be well in the 70s during the day, which is maybe five degrees cooler than average. We ALWAYS get occasional spells of weather like that in mid-summer.

By the weekend and next week, temperatures will be back up into the 80s.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From Maine To Virginia, Severe Storms and Floods Today

Lightning hits near the U.S. Capitol Monday. 
That big dip in the jet stream over the Midwest, call it the Polar Vortex if you want, or loathe the term - either way, it's causing some real havoc. And will cause havoc today.

Today, expect severe storms and floods in the Northeast and forest fires, heat and drought from the West Coast all the way to northwestern Canada.

The problem is, the jet stream forms a big, deep "U" with the bottom of the "U" right in the middle of the country.

The left side of the "U" has hot, dry air pumping up the West Coast and way, way up all the way into northwestern Canada. In that entire region, the weather pattern is worsening drought, and encouraging forest fires, some of them huge and epic, to continue to spread and intensify.

On the East Coast, the right side of that "U" the pattern is bringing up very humid, unstable air from the south, causing repeated rounds of severe thunderstorms and flash flooding.

In the Midwest, an autumnal chill settled in over the past few days, interrupting summer, but at least the cold isn't particularly destructive.

On Monday, there were also damaging thunderstorms from Kansas to Illinois to Tennessee ahead of the cold front introducing the chilly air in the Midwest. Those areas should be calmer today.

Since this pattern hasn't moved much in the past few days, the western heat and the eastern wetness  haven't gotten out of our hair. The longer it lasts, the worse it gets.    
From @timbutz70 via Twitter, a menacing storm
moves through Maryland Monday.  

The big dip in the jet stream does show signs of flattening out in the next few days and that will calm the weather some.

But in the meantime, the Northeast can expect another destructive day of damaging wind gusts in thunderstorms, a tornado or two, and a lot more flash flooding.

According to the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, the best chances of severe thunderstorms extend from central Vermont and central New Hampshire on down the East Coast to North Carolina.

In that zone, some storms this afternoon and evening will cause huge, scary, tree smashing wind gusts, maybe an isolated tornado, a few pockets of large hail and dangerous lightning.

If that wasn't bad enough, the rain from these storms will become torrential again. In some spots, the dreaded "training storms" might get going. That's when storms line up like boxcars on a railroad track and repeatedly go over the same spot, causing inches and inches of rain in narrow bands and creating intense flash floods.    
Colorado got into the act Monday. From@JermeyDanMoore
via Twitter, the aftermath of a hailstorm in Berthoud, Co.  

It's really hard to guess where, and even if, these training storms will set up much in advance, so I don't know where the worst flash flooding will be today.

The biggest potential for flash floods goes from Maine, through New Hampshire, into southern New England, southern New York State, and on down through New Jersey into the Mid-Atlantic states.

Those areas have already had a lot of rain. Which means the ground is soaked, and it won't take all that big a downpour to cause flash flooding

Further west in most of Vermont, especially the northwestern half, and in northern New York, there is a chance of flash flooding, but the rain might not be as intense. Plus, those areas haven't had as much rain over the past couple of months as points south and east so the chances of flooding aren't as great.

Finally, finally, the zone of heaviest rain with this weather pattern will shift off the coast tomorrow, and things will dry out. At least for now.

Monday, July 14, 2014

More Big Hailers In The Year Of The Hailstorm. Wild Videos!

More videos continue to come in from all over the world of incredible, dramatic hailstorms. Such an icy spring and summer:

Here's a beach scene in Siberia. It was awfully hot for Siberia recently, drawing a big crowd to the sand and water. Then this happened, as you can see in this video which has gone totally viral:  (Ouch!)

Next, we go to Cheyenne, Wyoming, just after a HUGE hail storm that made the city look like early spring: White ground looking snow covered, with lots of street flooding from rain and melting "snow." Of course, it's an incredible amount of hail. Watch:


In one Spanish town on July 3, there was so much hail they had to call out the snowplows and find some snow shovels to deal with inches or even feet of hail that piled up:

Another Day, Another Round of Severe Storms, Floods In Eastern U.S.

A possible tornado north
of Watkins Glen, N.Y on Sunday.
Photo by Mike Taylor via
It's turning into a bit of a broken record in parts of the Northeastern United States and the Ohio Valley.

Severe storms paraded across the region Sunday, setting off some tornado warnings in Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia.

So far, there have been a couple suspected tornadoes in that region, but no confirmations yet. But there was quite a lot of tree and power line damage, and some damage to homes and other structures.

 Less than a week after a tornado killed four people in upstate New York, another tornado might have touched down north of Watkins Glen, N.Y. Sunday. There were no injuries, and the National Weather Service is investigating.

(UPDATE: National Weather Service in Binghamton, N.Y. has confirmed the storm in Reading, NY, north of Watkins Glen was an EF-1 tornado)

We'll do it all again today as a weather system out ahead of cool spell pushing in from the Midwest will set off more bad weather today.

Severe storms will again rake the Ohio Valley, and in the Northeast from Connecticut south to below Virginia and on into Tennessee and Kentucky.

A weak cold front snuck through northern New York and northern New England last night,  so places like the Adirondacks, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine will actually have a fairly nice day today, with partly sunny skies and just a slight risk of a minor shower or garden variety, minor thunderstorms.

Back in the severe zone, torrential rains might fall as repeated rounds of thunderstorms lumber through today. It already rained a lot in many of those places Sunday, so flash flood watches are up in southern New England and the New York City metro region.

More showers and storms will break out Tuesday in the east. Northern New England, in the sun today, will get into the action Tuesday, though the storms won't be severe there. It'll just be wet day. There will still be a risk of severe storms and flooding in southern New England and on down the coast to North Carolina again.

Finally, the cold front from the Midwest will clear the coast Tuesday night, ending the severe threat, at least for a few days, in the battered Ohio Valley and Northeast.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Definitely NOT Polar Vortex And The July Chill In The Great Lakes

Chilly for July, but nothing like this. So relax and enjoy.  
I've been struck by how many weather watchers, geeks and bloggers have been more excited to inform us that the current cool spell in the upper Midwest is NOT the polar vortex, and less excited to tell us just how cool it is.  

"Polar vortex" came into the national vernacular last January, when a sharp cold snap, caused in part by a spinning upper level low pressure system that drifted much more south than usual, got everybody both shivering and all warm and gooey with the new weather term.

Turns out, the weather term isn't all that new. A polar vortex is a normal feature in the high Arctic much if not most of the year, and that January cold wave wasn't really a true polar vortex getting lost.

After that chilly January week, every hint of chill has been referred to in some circles as the polar vortex. Same with this cold wave at a time of year when we don't have cold waves that often.

The Weather Powers That Be have been sounding the alarm for days now: Don't call this the polar vortex because it's not. The chill is almost besides the point.

They're right. This is just an unusual southward dip in the jet stream causing the cool weather.  Believe it or not, a typhoon that hit Okinawa, Japan last week is partly the cause of this cool spell. The typhoon pushed the jet stream far northward out ahead of it, which helped make the entire jet stream temporarily wavier than usual for July in the Northern Hemisphere.

That means a big push of hot air way into northwestern Canada, and the big southward dip in the jet stream that is giving the Continental U.S. it's current cool spell.

To be honest, it is a pretty sharp cold wave for July, but it's not unprecedented. The worst of it will hit Upper Michigan, where the next couple of days will feature high temperatures only in the 50s. But it's been that cold there before in July.

There might be a smattering of daily record low temperatures during this, but I doubt there will be all-time record lows for July.

The cool spell is probably welcome in the South, where it will push a cold front much further south than they normally get this time of year.  In Oklahoma, where temperatures are routinely in the 90s to around 100 this time of year, high temperatures midweek should only make it into the 70s.

The push of cool air will sort of run out of gas as it approaches the East Coast, so the Northeast will get what will be some nice, refreshing air, but not an unusual cold snap.

Here in Vermont, for instance, high temperatures during the second half of the week will be in the mid 70s, which is only about five degrees cooler than normal.

The big problem with this cool air is it's invading the normal hot, humid air that usually sits over the country this time of year. The invasion looks like it will set off another outbreak of severe thunderstorms today through Tuesday in parts of the Midwest and Northeast.

Today, Sunday, the severe storms will be most focused from western New York through the Ohio Valley and on toward Illinois, the same areas that got hammered last Monday and Tuesday by wicked storms.

Monday, the worst of the storms will hit from the Mid-Atlantic area back into Tennessee.

This July cool spell won't last long in most places in the country.  By next weekend, almost everyone in the nation will be at least starting to approach normal July temperatures.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Some Totally Awesome Random Weather Images From The Past Week

A big storm in Texas producing a big gust of wind
I love wandering through social media to see what kind of weather images, weather video, or as I call it, weather porn I come across.

I found some good ones. The first image, from @NewsChannel10 in this post is a downburst near Amarillo, Texas.

You can see the big blast of rain slamming down on the right, and that curl of dust blowing out to the left. That shows a huge gust of wind coming from that downburst of rain.

They make those storms wild in Texas, don't they?

Lava, ocean and water spouts in Hawaii in this image
from Bruce Omari.  n
The next photo was taken by Bruce Omari. It shows lava in Hawaii flowing into the ocean.

The turbulance caused by the clash of hot lava, cooler water and everything else caused all those waterspouts to spin up beneath the steam and ash cloud. Absolutely amazing.

The third photo, from @JustMePat is a web cam grab at dawn looking out onto Lake Erie from Toledo, Ohio.

You can see a waterspout out there, partly lit up by the rising sun. Awesome!!
Dawn waterspout, Lake Erie

Finally, from June 9, scroll down for a video of massive hail on June 9 in North Platte, Neb.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Break In The Severe Weather, But More Next Week?

More severe weather managed to break out in the Northeast yesterday, part of a year that has brought repeated rounds of destructive weather to the Midwest and eastern United States.  
Destruction from Monday's tornado east of
Syracuse, N.Y. that killed four people.  

It's just that kind of year, I guess.

The good news is we're getting a break from the rough weather over the next few days. The bad news is the severe weather might return early next week.

An odd, springlike weather pattern will develop over the next few days.

That means there's more of a wiggles, big dips and big ridges in the jet stream than usual. And of course the jet stream largely controls where weather systems go.

It'll get pretty darn cold for this time of year in the Great Lakes area for this time of year. Highs will only reach the 50s in northern Minnesota around Monday. And that cold air will bump up against some warm and humid air that will have built along the East Coast.

It is not a certainty yet, but that set up could spawn more strong and severe storms in the Northeast Monday and Tuesday. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Yesterday, most of the storm reports came from southwestern New England and eastern New York down the coast into the Carolinas. Luckily, it wasn't nearly as bad as the day before, when strong storms and tornadoes killed at least five people.

That storm in New York near Syracuse that killed four people turned out to be an EF2 tornado.

Even in places that got no severe weather yesterday, rather nice weather was interrupted by storms.

I shot the brief video, below, in Richmond, Vermont. Five minutes before I took this video, it was sunny, and I was weeding a garden on this property. Five minutes after I shot this video, the sun was starting to come out again, go figure.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Climate Change Doesn't Exist Because Earth And Mars Temperatures Are Identical, Says Wacko "Politician"

Public officials now seem engaged in a competition on who can appear the most incredibly stupid when talking about climate change.
Vacationland in Mars? He says the Red Planet's
temperature is the same as ours and therefore
there is no global warming on Earth.
I don't follow it either.  

My nominee for the STOOPEDEST goes to Kentucky State Sen. Brandon Smith, a Republican, who said climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuel doesn't exist here on Earth because the temperature on the Earth and Mars are exactly the same.

Here's what he said: "I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that."

Cue NASA, which, together with a zillion scientists, "disputes that." 

According to NASA, the average temperature on Earth is 57 degrees above zero, while the average temperature on Mars is 81 degrees below zero. 

Um, I think there's a wee bit of a temperature difference there.  But maybe I'm being too picky. The temperature difference between the two planets is only 138 degrees. It's just a rounding error. 

Maybe NASA is involved in some liberal plot to lie about the temperature on Mars? I wish I knew where our Esteemed State Senator got his information. I'd love to read more. Sounds fascinating. 

No matter what the temperature is on Mars (bundle up if you're headed up there!) I'm a little confused about how a weather report from Mars has to do with global warming on Earth.

I can't wait for another hearing for Brandon to enlighten us on that one. 
Our Esteemed State Senator from Kentucky goes on to say there are no mines on Mars, no factories on Mars, so that's another reason climate change doesn't exist on Earth.

Well, I give him this much. He's right that there are no mines or factories that we know of on Mars.  But just for fun, I'd like to know how the (alleged!) lack of factories on Mars tells us there is no climate change on Earth, which I can tell you does have factories. 

Since we're learning so much from Sen. Brandon Smith of Kentucky, I have a proposal. Since he's so interested in the weather on Mars, let's send him there!  He can verify there are indeed no factories up there.

And since the temperature is the same as ours, he'll be quite comfortable. 

The expected high temperature today in Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky, is 85 degrees. Since the temperature is the same on Mars, at least in our Esteemed State Senator's mind, all he has to do is pack shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops for his excursion to Mars. 

I wish him a warm, happy trip to the Red Planet. 

At Least 5 Killed In Northeast Storm; Vermont Among Areas With Damage

Sadly, five people are reported to have died in the massive outbreak of severe weather that struck the Northeast yesterday.  
Damage from a possible tornado that killed 4 people
in Smithfield, N.Y. Photo by John Haegar, Oneida
Daily Dispatch.  

One storm that carried a tornado warning between Syracuse and to a point east of Utica,  killed four people in the town of Smithfield, east of Syracuse. 

Their house collapsed in the strong winds. It looks like it was probably a tornado, but the National Weather Service will go out for a look-see today to confirm that.

Another death was reported in Maryland when a tree limb fell on a boy at a summer camp.

As expected with this storm, there was widespread damage to buildings and cars, lots of trees down and lots of power failures.

Here in Vermont, the damage was hit and miss, as it was throughout the region. In the south end of Burlington and in the city of South Burlington, I took a quick tour after the worst of storm passed and found many downed trees, widespread power failures and street flooding.

Some of the trees hit cars and buildings, causing additonal damage. It was hard to see how bad it was, but I do know several streets in Burlington were closed due to fallen trees and branches.

To give you an idea how localized this damage can be, I'd estimate winds had to at least 60 mph or a little more to cause the kind of damage I saw in the South End of Burlington. But at the National Weather Service office in South Burlington, maybe a mile or two away from the damage zone, the top wind peaked at 29 mph.

At one point more than 18,000 homes and businesses throughout Vermont had no power.  As of 7 a.m. this morning, at least 4,000 in Vermont still had no electricity.

It was the second time in a week destructive storms hit Vermont. Last Friday, another round of storms caused a lot of power failures and tree damage, especially in Rutland County.

Today, there will be a few more scattered thunderstorms in parts of New England and New York State, including all of Vermont, but we won't get anything nearly as severe as what happened Tuesday evening.

The humidity is lower now that a cold front has gone through. A series of weather disturbances will come through today and this evening, however, touching off the hit and miss showers and storms.

Some of the stronger storms might create some briefly gusty winds and small hail, but it won't be tremendously scary, that's for sure.

Calmer weather comes in Thursday through Saturday before more thunderstorms and showers arrive Sunday through Tuesday. It's too soon to tell if any storms Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will turn severe.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Round 2 Of Severe Weather in Northeast, Ohio Valley Today

After a wild ride in some areas on Monday and a quieter than expected day up in northern New York and Vermont, expect more severe storms this afternoon and evening across the region.
A rotating supercell thunderstorm with
a possible funnel cloud passes just
north of downtown Boston Monday in
this Weatherbug view from Fenway Park. 

Those areas that missed out on the big storms Monday might end up with some today.

In yesterday morning's post, I said that an early Monday morning area of rain in western New York would either kill potential severe storms in some areas by limiting sunshine, or encourage strong storms in some areas by forming gusts of cool air that would act like mini-cold fronts to set off rough weather.

It turns out both things happened.

In the summertime, a key ingredient to severe storms is morning and early afternoon sunshine. The sun heats the atmosphere near the ground, increasing the temperature contrast between the surface and tens of thousands of feet up, where it's much colder.

That contrast helps form the billowing clouds that form thunderstorms. On Monday in northern New York and most of Vermont, the dying batch of showers, and their clouds, pretty much kept the sun out of the picture, limiting the atmospheric temperature contrast and, for the most part, prevented thunderstorms.

More to the south, that batch of morning showers had a push of coolish air coming out it's south end.

That acted a bit like a snowplow creating enough lift to set off a line of thunderstorms that went through the Capital District of New York and then moved toward the east and southeast into far southern Vermont and New Hampshire.

The line of storms kind of stalled along the Massachusetts border, and, as sometimes happens along or near these boundaries, a few supercell thunderstorms formed. The most notable one went across northeastern Massachusetts, through many of Boston suburbs and then just north of the city and out to sea.

That storm was rotating and had a distinct hook echo, indicating a tornado. Funnel clouds were spotted and photographed, but so far I have no confirmation a tornado touched down.

Today, another weather front looks like it will punch into the warm, humid air covering the Ohio Valley and Northeast, so another round of severe thunderstorms seems likely.  Up in northern New York and the northern halves of Vermont and New Hampshire, it looks like some storms there could get strong, unlike the false alarm of Monday.

There's a fair amount of sun out there, it's quite humid, so that's the fuel needed to get strong to severe storms going.

However, though there is the threat of severe storms in northern New England the upper tip of New York, it looks like the biggest threat for severe weather goes from southwestern Vermont, across much of New York State and Pennsylvania and into the Ohio Valley (Just like yesterday!)

Especially in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, there's the risk of some supercells, which maybe could drop a tornado or two. In any event, any place in a stripe from New England to Arkansas is at risk for damaging winds, hail, dangerous lightning, torrential rains and maybe some flash flooding.

Things will calm down somewhat in the Northeast and Ohio Valley by Wednesday.