Monday, November 30, 2015

Really Cool Photo Of Road Sign In Melting Oklahoma Ice Storm

The epic ice storm that hit Oklahoma over the weekend is starting to melt now, though heavy snow continues further north in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.

The melt yieided the cool photo in this post, as the melt caused the ice on this speed limit sign in Mustang, Oklahoma to slide downward, making pretty much a carbon copy of the original sign.

The photo went viral after meteorologist Brad Taylor of KWAX in Waco shared it on Facebook. The photo was taken by @barbiereif on Twitter.

Really cool!

Desperation In Vermont Garden As Winter Sets In

My attemps at fall cleanup and digging away rocks
and clay for a new perennial bed carried on yesterday
in St. Albans, Vermont despite snow and a
temperature of about 30 degrees. 
Winter always arrives despite the fact that nobody is ever really ready for it.

Yesterday was a case in point as I struggled to work on my St. Albans, Vermont gardens and property.   Autumn yard projects are never truly done. We gardeners always want to do more before winter really sets in.

The forecast for Sunday around my place was for partly to mostly cloudy skies, with temperatures in the mid-30s. No mention of precipitation.

Not exactly gorgeous, but nice enough to get some raking done, as long as I dressed fairly warmly.

As late morning progressed, the sky grew darker. I stepped outside to get to work. Was that a snowflake?

Yep. It ended up snowing all afternoon. Not heavily, but constantly. It started accumulating.

So much for the raking. But I soldiered on, putting up fencing around some evergreens to keep the winter deer away, and cleaning up the autumn debris that had accumulated especially heavy near the cedars and pines.   I ended up raking a combination of leaves and snow in a tarp to be carted away

The ground wasn't yet frozen, so I  turned to digging up some rocky, clay soil to make room for eventual perennial beds.  As I worked, the temperature dropped, and the soil started to freeze, sticking to the shovel, clinging in clumps. That idea stopped working.

Especially since there was now about a half inch of snow on the ground.

So I started hauling the debris from the trees we cut down to the burn pile. As I did that, I heard a sickening crunch on the road just below my house. The hill had iced up. A pickup truck spun out and hit the guardrail. I went down and checked on the driver. She was OK. She'd already called the police, so I went back to work.

This is Vermont, after all. Light snow and a late afternoon temperature of 30 degrees is perfectly normal weather for the end of November. With lakes still ice-free and the ground largely unfrozen, it doesn't take much for the early winter atmosphere to take up moisture and release it as snow.  Often unexpectedly.

In this case, all it took was a very weak cold front sinking south from Canada. The snowflakes flew down from the gray November overcast. The cold front gave Burlington, Vermont its first measurable snow of the season. A paltry 0.2 inches.

Often by now, the ground is frozen hard. We should  have had several inches of snow, at least by now. It's been mild.

We've been blessed by a November that will be among the warmest on record in Vermont. Precipitation is well below normal. I, ,and my fellow Vermonters, should have had oodles of time to get our fall chores done.

This autumn, I did manage to do everything that HAS to get done. The garlic, roses and sensitive flowers are safely mulched. The raised beds are cleaned up. More daffodil and hyacinth bulbs have been planted. The perennial beds are cut back and neatened up. The most visible parts of my property are raked and tidied, thanks to that unexpectedly pleasant November.

But you always want to get more done before winter shuts you down. Which explains why I was out there, in the falling snow and the gathering afternoon darkness, trying to get more done. You might think I was crazy, but I think a lot of us do such things.

Yard work is one way to imagine we are fending off the inevitable winter.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

No Rest For The Winter Weary In The Plains States

Icy conditions over the weekend caused this
multi-vehicle crash involving a truck, several cars
and a building on Interstate 40 near Soncy, Texas
says the Amarillo Police Department 
In the past couple of weeks there's been two nasty rounds of winter storms in the middle of the country, especially in the central Plains and, yep, here comes a third one.

Icing is still a problem in parts of Oklahoma and Kansas this morning. In fact, parts of eastern Kansas, ice storm warnings are still up.

Precipitation there hasn't been as heavy as in hard-hit Oklahoma, but the ice has been slowly building up on trees and power lines all weekend.

It's gotten to the point around Manhattan, Kansas and environs that the tree branches and wires are now snapping.

This long icy storm that began the day before Thanksgiving has been responsible for at least 11 deaths in the region, according to the Weather Channel.

A new storm coming out of the Rockies is about to spell more trouble for the region. A wide area of winter storm watches is up for places like South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota for Monday into Tuesdsy -- all places that have been getting hammered by early winter so far this month.

This storm will be more snow that ice, and a widespread six to 12 inches of snow is expected in this region. With, of course, locally higher amounts.

As has been the case with so many storms this month, this one will head northeastward across the Great Lakes Wednesday, putting the East Coast into the warm side of the storm.

Some rain will fall there midweek, but very little if any snow will come down in the ski resorts of New England, so winter enthusiasts there will just have to keep waiting.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

El Reno, Oklahoma Is Eplcenter Of Ice Storm Disaster

Ice storm damage Saturday in El Reno, Oklahoma.
Photo from television station KOCO. 
When I think of weather disasters, El Reno, Oklahoma comes to mind for a 2013 epic record wide tornado that was among the widest, strangest and most unpredictable on record.

That tornado was a record 2.6 miles wide at its peak, and killed eight people traveling in vehicles caught up in the huge and abruptly expanding tornado. Three experienced storm chasers were among the dead from the twister.  

It was probably and EF5 -the strongest possible - packing winds of up to 295 mph.

But the storm was categorized as an EF3 because it fortunately stayed away from El Reno proper and stayed mostly over rural farmland. So there wasn't really that much damage. Tornadoes are categorized largely by the severity of local damage they cause.

A much worse disaster unfolded in El Reno the past couple of days. As I've been reporting, a wide area of northern Texas and much of Oklahoma has been experiencing a crippling ice storm the past couple of days.

Power lines coming down in an ice storm, El Reno, Oklahoma
on Saturday. Photo via Twitter @ChanceTColdiron and KOCO
El Reno appears to be the epicenter, with the thickest ice accumulations, over an inch in many areas around the community.

The damage pattern is the opposite of that famous 2013 tornado.

Out in rural areas, slammed in 2013, there's not that many trees. Which means the heavy weight of ice on trees is a minor factor. The ice (almost) harmlessly accumulated on fallow late November farm fields.

El Reno proper has a lot of trees and powerlines lining its streets and yards, typical of communities in the Plains and Midwest.

There were lots of branches and wires for the freezing rain to accumulate upon. Which means lots of trees and power lines to collapse under the weight of the ice.

On the very bright side, I have heard of no fatalities from the ice storm around El Reno.

Still, things got really bad in town. You can tell from this video:

Southern Plains Ice Storm and Floods Grind On For Third Day

Ice making a street very scary in Amarillo, Texas.
Photo by Sean Steffan/ 
Early Saturday morning, it was still raining hard in parts of the southern Plains and a nearly continous dousing of freezing rain was plaguing other areas, especially northern Texas and much of Oklahoma.

This storm is playing out pretty much as expected, which is cold and wet comfort to the people experiencing the storm.

It does seem as if this is another over-performing winter storm, though, as the ice seems more widespread than many thought, and in some areas, the ice accumulation is thicker than many forecasts.

(It does seem that storms this fall have consistently produced deeper snowfall, more rain, stronger winds and more violent weather than forecasts ahead of these storms)

Black Friday was slick Friday in many areas, including Amarillo, Texas. The Amarillo Globe News reported dozens of car wrecks, and up to 13,000 homes and businesses without power in much of North Texas.

Most of western two thirds of Oklahoma aren't worth driving through, either, at the moment because of widespread icing. Some of the ice is more than a half inch thick there, so trees and power lines are really coming down now. Widespread power failures are reported in much of Oklahoma..

Flash flooding was ongoing early this morning in wide areas of southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, southwestern Missouri and parts of northeastern Texas after more than half a foot of rain fell in some areas. And it was still pouring early Saturday morning.

Ice storm damage Saturday in Oklahoma, via KOCO

The Dallas Morning News reports at least three people have died in that region in the flash flooding that's been going on there for the last couple of days.

As of yesterday, Dallas, Texas has picked up 55.26 inches of rain so far this year, so it's already their wettest year on record, besting the 53.54 set in 1991, says Dr. Jeff Masters Bob Henson in their Weather Underground blog

A few places in Oklahoma and eastern Texas have gotten an incredible 70 inches of rain so far this year. Baytown, Texas as gotten 90 inches of rain this year. Pretty damn soggy. 

Of course, many factors went into the epic Oklahoma and Texas rains this year. El Nino, stuck weather patterns and bad luck are all reasons.

But the situation is consistent with scientists' assertion that global warming is causing more extreme and intense rain storms, so it makes sense climate change might have played a role here, too.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dangerous Flooding, Icing Continues In Southern Plains

Bad weather in the central and southern Plains today.
Ice storm, winter storm and winter weather advisories
(in purple, pink and blue) and flood alerts (in green)
Some of the worst possible weather you can get this time of year is going on in the southern Plains extending into the Ozarks.

Where it isn't very icy, there's a major flood threat in the region. And where neither is happening, it's snowy and windy.

More often than not, storm systems during the late fall, winter and early spring zip right along, meaning any one location usually ends up with just a day of bad weather before things improve.

This thing is slow, slow slow. An upper level low pressure system is in the region, a mass of cold air has plunged southward through the Plains, and the set up has created a very sharp cold front that is just inching eastward as little ripples of low pressure run northward along the front.

As expected, wetness from Hurricane Sandra off the west coast of Mexico is getting into the Plains system.

By the way, this hurricane adds to what has been an incredible hurricane season in the eastern Pacific. Sandra intensified to a Category 4 storm yesterday with sustained winds of 145 mph. This is latest in the season that a major hurricane has been observed in the Western Hemisphere.

This follows Hurricane Patricia off the Mexican west coast in October, which was the most intense hurricane on record in the western hemisphere.

Very weird indeed.

Anyway, back to the southern Plains. Some areas in the central panhandle of Texas and southwestern Oklahoma can expect a half inch or more of freezing rain/ice accumulation through Saturday. Combined with gusty winds in the region, that will be more than enough to bring down trees and power lines.

Travel through that area will be next to impossible today. I hope people don't drive around there looking for Black Friday Christmas bargains. Is a cheap flat screen TV really worth sliding your car into a telephone pole and getting killed?

I stll think the big story out of this storm will be the flooding. Some areas have already picked up two to four inches of rain, and another four to eight is due through Saturday.

I noticed Dallas has now broken a record for the rainiest year on record. The old record was 53.54 inches in 1991. Through Wednesday, Dallas had 50.55 inches of rain. But by my calculation, Dallas had received 3.83 inches of rain out of this storm through 6 a.m EDT, bringing the year's total to 54.58 inches for a new record.

Additional rain if forecast in Dallas through Saturday.  I'm sure they're thrilled to death at Southfork Ranch over this forecast.

As has been forecast for days, I think the heaviest rain, though, will be in northeastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma and most of Arkansas. I'm sure you'll be hearing on the news about the very nasty flooding that will develop there today.

This slow storm will eventually move off to the Northeast and weaken. The Northeast is due for rain and maybe a little bit of snow inland early next week, but by then, precipitation won't be particularly heavy.


Since this is a Vermont based blog, for my Green Mountain State readers, I'm going to start at least occasional forecast discussions or factoids for our area.

Expect windy conditions in the Champlain Valley today, but it will be warm for the entire state today. It was already 52 degrees in Burlington before dawn today. The normal high temperature for the entire day is 41 degrees.  It'll be way up in the 50s statewide this afternoon. (50s doesn't sound too impressive to people reading this south of here, but really, 50s in late November is considered very toasty in Vermont.)

It'll get cloudy today if it isn't already and rain showers will begin to move in from the west late today, and pretty much everybody in Vermont will get wet tonight.

Near normal high temperatures in the 30s with little if any precipitation is due in Vermont Saturday through Monday.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Under Pressure In New England

Weather map from Thursday morning shows extremely
strong high pressure over eastern Canada
and New England.  
For most of us in New England, Wednesday afternoon and evening's weather seemed unremarkable.

Skies were a bit clearer than they often are in November, and it was a bit warmer than normal. Kinda hazy, too. But surely there was no extreme weather going on, right?

Au contraire! The atmospheric pressure in eastern New England especially was the highest on record for November in many towns.

You can be forgiven for not noticing. Weather patterns are made up of areas of high air pressure, which usually brings fair weather, and low pressure, where there's storminess.

The high pressure system over eastern New England Wednesday was particularly strong, causing the records to fall.

Barometric readings in places like Providence, Boston and Bangor, Maine were around 1045 millibars or around 30.85 inches of mercury.

If there was anything unusual about this high pressure system, other than the strength of it, was the fact it wasn't an Arctic high pressure.

When there's near record high pressure, especially in the cold season, it's usually caused by an intense blast of Arctic air from the North Pole.

This high had polar air, which modified in the mid-latitudes as it crossed the nation. Then, over the Northeast and eastern Canada, the high strengthened to its near record peak.

The high pressure is helping shunt storminess in the middle of the country to the west of New England, toward the Great Lakes.

Since there is a big contrast between the strong high, and the low pressure out west, it'll get windy today, especially in western New England. (If there's a strong difference in pressure across a region, it tends to get windy)

But it will be warm, and when the tail end of the western storm finally reaches New England as the high moves away, only some fairly light rain showers will come through Friday night. With maybe a few snow showers Saturday.

For a record weather event, conditions on the ground do seem pretty blase.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Southern Flooding Biggest Threat From Thanksgiving Weekend Storm

Forecasts call for three to eight inches of rain
in a huge area of the southern Plains through the
weekend (depicted in red on map) 
We're still on track to have a stormy Thanksgiving weekend in much of the western and central United States, with a variety pack of snow, wind, ice, sleet, snow, thunderstorms and especially flooding.

The storm has already been making its way through the far western United States, with more than a foot of snow in parts of California's Sierra Nevada mountains, which frankly need the moisture.

To give a sense of how energetic this storm is, the community of Bend, Oregon received about 14 inches of snow, and four inches of that came within three hours, says The Weather Channel.

Bend is on the eastern side of the Cascades, which normally block moisture from places like Bend. The place is semi-arid. On average Bend gets about two feet of snow in an entire winter, and they're about two thirds there with just one storm.

Eastern skiers are salivating over the Rockies, because they've already gotten some snowstorms and many resorts in the northern and central Rockies can expect another 12 to 18 inches of snow out of this.

Where I live in Vermont, we got just a dusting of snow yesterday and no significant snow is in the forecast through the weekend. Skiers and riders here are dying for a taste of the Rockies, let me tell you.

The storm will emerge out into the Great Plains later today and especially Thanksgiving, and that's where the real trouble begins.

And it's to a great extent Sandra's fault.

Who the hell is Sandra?

Glad you asked. Sandra is a late season hurricane that formed this week off the western coast of Mexico. It's very late season. According to Dr. Jeff Masters in his Weather Underground blog, only six tropical systems since 1949 have formed in the eastern Pacific after November 18. Two of them were this year!

Rick formed a week ago out there there but sputtered to its death when it moved northwestward over colder water and high upper level winds and fell apart.

Sandra is a powerhouse. It had 85 mph sustained winds this morning and is expected to rapidly strengthen in to perhaps the strongest hurricane for so late in the season in that region of the world.

Sandra will encounter strong upper level winds and start to fall apart tomorrow and especially into the weekend, but still might make landfall in Mexico as a tropical storm -- the latest on record.

Blame El Nino for all this. It made the water off Mexico unusually warm, which helps feed tropical storms.

Since Sandra IS supposed to weaken into just a big patch of moisture in a couple or few days, why am I making such a big deal out of it?

Again, glad you asked.

This big plume of moisture from Sandra will feed into that storm I talked about that's moving into the Plains.

Combined with the wetness the storm will already be drawing off the Gulf of Mexico, we'll get a very big area of torrential rains Thursday into Sunday, especially in northeastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma and in most of Arkansas.

I'm talking four to eight inches of rain, possibly locally more, so you can why flash flood watches are already flying for that region. It's been wet there to begin with, so it wouldn't take all that much rain to cause flooding.

By the way,  Dallas, Texas needs only about three inches of rain the rest of this year to make 2015 its wettest year. Dallas will probably get more than three inches of rain in just this one storm.

North of this potential flood zone, a broad stripe of freezing rain, sleet and snow will break out from the Texas panhandle all the way northeastward to Wisconsin and upper Michigan. That's a HUGE area to have ugly driving conditions on a holiday weekend.

Most areas won't have enough freezing rain to bring down an enormous number of trees and powerlines,  but the roads sure will be icy.

An exception to the few trees and powerline down prediction might be the Texas panhandle and parts of Oklahoma, where ice could accumulate up to a half inch thick. That's more than enough to break branches and wires

So yeah, yuck.

By the way,  up here where I live in the Northeast, we stay out of this. We'll get some rain Friday night, changing to some scattered snow Saturday, but as I said, there won't be nearly enough rain to cause flooding, and snow, in the few places it does accumulate, won't amount to much at all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bernie Sanders Climate Change

Bernie Sanders said in a Democratic debate that
climate change is a worldwide security threat.
He was largely correct on this one, it turns out. 
Presidential candidate and fellow Vermonter Bernie Sanders is in hot water from some quarters because of some hot words about a hot climate he discussed during a Democratic presidential debate this month.

The debate came the day after the horrific Paris terrorist attacks and  CBS moderator asked Sanders whether he still believed in his previous statement that the greatest threat to national security is climate change.

Sanders replied: "Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you're going to see countries all over the world --this is what the CIA says -- they're going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops and you're going to see all kinds of international conflict."

The next day, on "Face The Nation, Sanders elaborated, saying when there's more drought, weather extremes and resulting crop losses, you are more likely to get instability, and more people that could be influenced by the propaganda coming from terrorist outfits like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

With those comments, you would have thought Sanders was saying pink giraffes from Mars would give us all free health care, at least if you were listening to right wing media.

Todd Starnes of Fox News said Sanders was nuts, basically. "Icebergs Aren't Blowing Us Up, Sir," was his message to Sanders, via Twitter.

Ben Shapiro of the even more right wing Breitbart News was worse, sarcastically Tweeting, "It's not like the fucking desert has been hot for hundreds of thousands of years."

On the other hand, Sanders had quite a few supporters. In Slate, Eric Holthaus wrote, "Even though the wounds in Paris are still very fresh after Friday's attacks, Sanders appropriately used this moment to highlight the current and future global tragedies that unmitigated climate change will surely cause."

What we miss in the mini-instant sound bites we get in political quotes is that the whole thing about climate change and security is incredibly complex and nuanced, much more so than the he said/she said Jane-You-Ignorant-Slut talk that passes for political discussions these days.

Of course, climate change and unrest are much more convoluted than what Bernie might be telling you.

In the first place, not every weather disaster is caused by climate change.   Plus, not every climate change-induced disaster will cause unrest, war, refugees or things like that.  In any crisis, climate change might be one of many factors that led to the problem.

Brad Plumer in Vox breaks it down for us:

".....climate change is a 'threat multiplier,' and one of the many things that can lay the groundwork for conflict. That doesn't mean more war is guaranteed in a hotter world: Consider that the 2000s were the warmest decade on record, but they also managed to be 'the least conflict ridden decade since the 1970s.' In many places, geographic or political or economic factors will end up mattering more. Still, climate change is one potential driver to take into account."

The bottom line: Climate change won't "cause" conflict. But in certain parts of the world, global warming could make bad stuff more likely, or stress out an area enough to cause bad stuff that otherwise might not have happened.

Which means climate change is indeed a security threat, joining such traditional threats as dictators, corruption, terrorism, rogue states and government mismanagement.

It turns out Bernie Sanders was indeed pretty much correct in his debate comments.

Persian Gulf to hot to inhabit?


[, 11/14/15;, 11/14/15

It Can't Be Thanksgiving Without A Big Messy Winter Storm

Near zero visibiity in snow and blowing snow at
Chicago's O'Hare airport Saturday. A new winter storm
could cause more Thanksgiving travel headaches this week. 
It's Thanksgiving Week!

Which means it's over the hill, and skidding into the ditch and slipping and falling on the way to Grandmother's house we go.

It really is something of a Thanksgiving tradition to have a nasty winter storm sock much of the United States during this busy travel period and there's no exception here.

In fact, one of the few places in the U.S. that won't get icky weather is the Northeast, which had a snowstorm last Thanksgiving. Go figure.

Winter storm warnings and watches were already flying this Tuesday morning or a huge swath of the northern and central Rockies as the storm sweeps in.

In the far western United States, this is going to be a cold storm, with snow levels descending to as low as 2,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada foothills. So travel will be difficult, and not just in the high passes through the Sierra. Strong winds will make matters worse.

On the bright side, winter storm warnings are up for the northern half of the Sierra Nevada range, which will add a bit to the snowpack. The winter snow accumulation is important to ease California's drought.

The snowpack was at record lows this spring, summer and early all, so any accumulation up there is good. Even if you can't actually drive through the Sierra Nevada mountains to get to your Thanksgiving destination. They're expecting a foot of snow up there in those mountains, which isn't huge by Sierra standards, but they'll take what they can get.

Aflter plowing through the Rockies with its snow and wind today and Wednesday, the storm will emerge into the Plains states Wednesday and Thursday.

This one is going to be different than the power house storm that brought tornadoes to the southern Plains, a blizzard further north and howling winds to a huge section of the country.

The storm won't be particularly strong, and will really take the form of a slow moving cold front with waves of low pressure (small storms) rippling northward along it.

That's a setup that would bring a nasty mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain over the holiday to a broad section of the country's middle. It looks like the best chances for several inches of snow at least run from Nebraska, eastern South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Many of those places are recovering from a remarkably heavy snowstorm last Friday and Saturday.

Areas just to the east of that, maybe Kansas, parts of Nebraska, southern Iowa and into parts of Wisconsin and Michigan might get a nasty dose of freezing rain out of this. Great! Icy, impassable roads, highway pileups, broken trees and powerlines and power failures. What fun!

Luckily, in most areas threatened by freezing rain, there might not be heavy enough precipitation to cave in all the trees and powerlines. It might be mostly an icy and dangerous highway kind of thing.

In most of these areas I've just talked about, it'll probably start as rain, transition to sleet and freezing rain, then to snow before ending around Friday.

Ahead of the slow moving cold front, I'm not thinking there will be many severe storms or tornadoes like some of these early winter storms. There might be a few rambunctious thunderstorms, but the main story will probably be flooding rains.

Northeastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma and much of Arkanasas appear most under the gun for flash flooding as many inches of rain are anticipated as the strong, slow cold front trudges through during the holiday.

They're worried a bit about flooding in and around Chicago, too. Between the foot of snow that will be rapidly melting over the next couple of days and an expected one or two inches of rain out of this storm, creeks, streets and other low spots could go under water.

Details of this forecast will undoubtedly change, but the broad brush picture is this: If you're driving or flying through any part of the country west of say, Buffalo or Knoxville or Pensacola,between now and the weekend, expect possible delays, a need to establish a Travel Plan B, and being late getting to your destination.

Monday, November 23, 2015

More Wild Sky Color In Normally Bleak November

Once again, the sky lit up Sunday evening in parts of Vermont during sunset at a time of year that is normally singularly bleak in the Green Mountain State.

A little over a week ago, I shared some photos I took of late afternoon color near Alburgh, Vermont.

Last evening, a much chillier one than that afternoon in Alburgh, yielded a sky over as pretty as the earlier one.

Once again, I was armed with my camera as the sun set over St. Albans, Vermont.

The spectacular skies are welcome as this time of year is normally very gray, very quiet, with a featureless sky and a boring, subdued pre-winter landscape.

This time on Sunday evening, , a cold front had come through earlier in the morning Dry, cold air was trying to flood in from the west, and the setting sun scattered red hues, as it often does when the air lacks moisture.

Meanwhile, that cold front had stalled just off the New England coast, and sent a wave of high level overcast directly overhead, and to our east. The sky to the west remained largely clear.

That wave of low pressure ultimately caused the first snowfall of the season in Downeast Maine, but here in Vermont, it remained dry.

And beautiful, as you can see from the photos I took from St. Albans hill.

Click on each image to make them bigger and easier to see. Scroll down to see all four.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Boy, That Midwest Snowstorm Overperformed

As skies cleared in Iowa, southeastern South Dakota
and northeastern Nebraska Saturday, you could
see the deep snowcover in the region in this real
color satellite image. Click on the pic to make it bigger and easier to see.
Most forecasters thought a snowstorm sweeping across the Midwest would drop a large amount of snow, despite only a so-so supply of moisture to the system.

It would be an energetic low pressure system, so a large area would get 4 to 10 inches of snow, forecasters said.

Well, this was even more wild than that. This was one dump of snow from South Dakota to Michigan.

Snow totals were HUGE Friday and Saturday. Here's some for instances: There was 18 inches of snow in Tea, South Dakota, which is a little south of Sioux Falls. George, Iowa got 17 inches, Waterloo, Iowa picked up 12.7 inches.

Footville, Wisconsin got 17 inches and Howell, Michigan picked up 16.5 inches.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota had its seond snowiest November day on record with 7.2 inches. (The southern side of that city got a lot more, but this was the official reading at the airport) Chicago also had its second heaviest November snowstorm with 11.5 inches.

Chicago O'Hare airport briefly shut down amid zero visibility in very heavy snow and blowing snow Saturday afternoon.

In general, the Midwest often misses out on big snows during El Nino years. But as this storm demonstrates, snowstorms can still sneak into the region even when overall weather patterns don't favor it.

There's no rest for the weary out in the Midwest either. A new storm emerging from the Rocky Mountains threatens to spread a stripe of snow, sleet and freezing rain in parts of the region Wednesday and Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Will Earth's Hottest Month And Year Cause A Familiar Political Arc?

Trend in global tempeatures 1880 through 2014. Click on the map
to make it bigger and easier to see. You'll notice 1998 was WAY
warmer than previous years, but subsequent years were
in the general ballpark of 1998, not much cooler. I'm
predicting similar trends to 1998 as 2015 becomes by far
the hottest global year on record. 
This week we learned that October, 2015 was the hottest month for the Earth has a whole since they started keeping good records in the late 1880s. By hottest month I mean it temperatures were furthest above the long-term average.

This breaks the record for hottest month set way back in.......September 2015, says NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. 

Yep, the month before.  October was the sixth consecutive months with record high global temperatures.

This news adds to the evidence that the year 2015 will by far be the hottest on record.

A super strong El Nino, which tends to release a lot of extra heat into the atmosphere, combined with the overall effects of climate change, caused these record high global temperatures.

I have a feeling this state of affairs might end up causing history to repeat itself. The last time we had a super strong El Nino was in 1997-98. That caused 1998, up until that time, to smash the record for the hottest year.

On charts, 1998 stuck up like a sore thumb, way above the average temperature of previous years. But then a funny thing happened. It cooled off a bit after 1998, but not much, and it wasn't nearly as cool in the early 200s as it was in the early 1990s. , .

The world continued to warm, and we eventually had more global hot records, arguably in 2005, in 2010 for sure and definitely in 2014.

But with 1998 standing up so high, at least temporarily above other years, climate change deniers looked at the charts and claimed global warming "peaked" in 1998 and a cooling trend ensued.

That was nonsense, of course. The global temperature always relaxes back downward a bit after an El Nino fades and that was true in 1998. But the world continued to heat up. You gotta look at the overall trend over a long time, and not cherry pick a year, say, 1998, to show a trend.

I bet the same thing will happen in 2015. This year will probably stick up like that proverbial sore thumb in temperature charts. I imagine 2016, or 2017, or 2018, or maybe all of the above, will turn out cooler than 2015.

But the inexorable rise will continue. I guess 2015 is just a preview of the future, just as 1998 was a preview of the the early 2010s.

Friday, November 20, 2015

First The Incredible Winds, Now A Snowstorm

A giant tree fell on this car in Spokane, Washington
during this week's wind storm. The woman inside
was miraculously not badly hurt. Photo by Ryan
Simm of KREM-TV. 
The northwestern United States, basically a broad stripe from Washington State to the Dakotas, is cleaning up from a massive wind storm earlier this week.

And now a snowstorm is developing across the middle of the country.

The wind storm was the main show.

At least four people were killed by falling trees and a million residents lost power, says the Weather Channel. (Note: Obnoxious auto play in link.)

Spokane, Washington had its  strongest non thunderstorm wind gust on record  at 71 mph. Things got so bad there amid the gusts and the blowing dust that the Greater Spokane Department of Emergency Management told everyone to stay inside during the storm, stay away from windows and don't call 911 unless there was a life-threatening emergency, according to television station KREM.

White Pass, Washington, in the Cascade Mountains, reported a gust of 119 mph. Gusts to 109 mph were reported near Boulder, Colorado.  Strong winds brought trees down onto houses in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

The strong winds, some of the worst the Northwest has seen in many years, were caused by screamingly extra strong jet stream winds over the region. The winds came from the west, hit the coast of Washington, then went east to southeast over the Rockies.

This kind of orientation can sometimes mix these strong upper level winds down to the surface, especially near mountains, notes Dr. Jeff Masters in his Weather Underground blog.

Next up, a snowstorm. A winter storm warning is up for southeastern South Dakota (hi, relatives in Yankton, South Dakota! Expect a good seven inches of snow or so today!)

The winter storm warning for 6 to 12 inches of snow extends across most of Iowa and through northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Winter storm watches are up for much of the lower penisula of Michigan.

The snowstorm is being generated by a storm heading east across the middle of the country. The moisture supply for the storm is only moderate, but it's a vigorous system, so it's able to take full advantage of whatever wetness is in the air to generate snow. And it's cold enough along the winter storm warning path to allow snow, and not rain.

In fact, after the snow passes by, some areas of the upper Midwest could find nighttime temperatures in the upper single numbers at night over the weekend.

After that, we expect the first major Arctic outbreak of the winter over the middle of the country. Temperatures across the Northern Plains will probably fall well below zero, but that's actually not unusual for late November and early December.

It's been so warm, it will just see odd.

Winter appears to be finally here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nasty British Flood Fails To Deter Pub Crawl

These two British guys were not going to allow a
little weekend flooding let them stop enjoying a
relaxing afternoon at the beer garden. 
A nasty flood from a strong early winter storm hit parts of Britain over the weekend.

There was some pretty extensive flooding, especially around Cumbria.

Two storms, one named Abigail, the other, hitting Monday, called Barney also caused widespread wind damage.

During Abigail - the storm with more flooding - two guys decided to go to a beer garden for an afternoon brew.

A little flooding wasn't going to deter them. It was Sunday afternoon, and they were going to have their pint, dammit!

I love how nonchalant they're pretending to be, too

Maybe The Coolest Tornado Photo Ever

I'm no expert, but I imagine it's next to impossible to photograph a tornado at night.

It can be dangerous to photograph tornadoes any time of day, what with their unpredictability, all that wind and annoying flying debris you get with these things if you're too close.

But at night it's even worse. You don't see them except during brief lightning flashes or electrical power flashes that happen when a tornado trashes its way through a utility line or transformers.

That's why I haven't seen too many good nighttime tornado photos and videos.

But mostly nocturnal tornado outbreak in Texas and Kansas Monday evening proved to be photogenic for some talented photographers.

This included one of the best photos I've ever seen of a tornado, at any time of day, the one in this post. It was taken by Jenny Brown of Texas Storm Chasers. 

Click on the image to make it bigger and easier to see.

The photo shows a Texas supercell near Pampa, lit up by a big lightning bolt. You can see at the base of the supercell, way off in the distance, a large tornado. Above the supercell, you can see stars serenely twinkling.

The image is somehow calming, even though you know there's a dangerous tornado in the photo. I love the bluish tint to the clear skies above contrasted with the redish llight at the bottom, presumably from car headlights.

The composition and light of this photo is so perfect. Congratulations to Jenny Brown for this awesome photo. Go to  her Facebook page and check out more. And maybe you could contact her to buy prints of this photo, or maybe some of her other awesome images.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tornadoes, Storminess Is Sign El Nino Is Raging

Massive nighttime tornado illuminated by lightning
last night near Miami, Texas. Photo from @stormpics. 
It was a wild night in the Plains last night and things continue wild this morning.

There were no fewer than 38 preliminary reports of tornadoes from Monday afternoon through this morning from Nebraska to Texas.

Some of those tornado reports might be duplicates, but I'd bet there were at very least 20 tornadoes yesterday.

The tornadoes evolved into a nasty squall line, along which there were a few tornadic spinups, that was roaring across northern Texas this morning. This includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where there were numerous damage reports. 

It looks like Louisiana and Arkansas might be under the gun for severe weather much of the rest of today.

Meanwhile, a blizzard is raging in the High Plains of eastern Colorado into far western Kansas. High wind warnings cover an enormous area basically from Seattle all the way eastward to around the Dakotas.

Flood watches cover a large area of the lower and mid Mississippi Valley as several inches of rain are forecast over the next couple of days. Flood watches and warnings also continue in the Pacific Northwest as massive amounts of moisture flood in from the Pacific.

I do believe all this excitement is due in part to El Nino, which has become the strongest on record by many measures. 

El Nino, the periodic warming of eastern and central Pacific Ocean waters, tends to energize the jet stream, particularly when the El Nino is strong, like this one.

That means the nation is due for a very stormy winter. Not necessarily a particularly cold one, but a stormy one. That's particularly true across the southern third of the nation and along much of the Wst Coast.

So far, southern California has largely escaped the beginning of the storms, which is too bad because they need drought relief. Little or no rain is forecast there for at least the next week, and there is an elevated fire danger.

The Pacific Northwest is usually relatively dry in El Nino years, but so far, that's not the case. Possibly, the storm track off the Pacific will slip southward as we get more and more into winter, which would dry out the Northwest while soaking California.

At least the Sierra Nevada mountains, which had the lowest snowpack on record earlier this year, is starting to get winter storms. On the other side of the range. Reno, Nevada is off to its wettest start to its wet season on record.

I would also like to see research on whether this El Nino was boosted by climate change. I'm sure strong El Ninos have always happened, and El Ninos are naturally occuring, with or without climate change.

But I wonder if the water temperatures were already elevated by climate change, making it easier to attain this very strong El Nino.

That idea makes sense. An extreme weather event or weather pattern gets more extreme because it's juiced by climate change.

Plus, there is research that suggests that climate change could increase the number of "super El Ninos" like the one we're in now.

If that's the case, then the already rising trend of extreme storms could continue. In any event, with this El Nino underway, expect plenty more severe storms, floods, blizzards, wind and maybe southern tornadoes through the upcoming winter.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Massive, Dangerous Tornadoes Sweeping Texas, Kansas This Evening

Lightning illuminates a huge tornado southwest of Dodge City,
Kansas Tuesday evening. Add caption
As of 8 p.m. EDT some very scary photos and radar images are emerging from Texas and Kansas as what appear to be some massive, dangerous tornadoes are sweeping the region.

All the signatures of very damaging, deadly tornadoes are in the radar images.

Tight rotations, evidence of a lot of debris being flung into the air, and lightning illuminating what appear to be tornadoes up to a mile wide.

So far, the worst tornadoes were near Liberal, Kansas, near Pampa, Texas, and approaching Dodge City, Kansas. Early reports indicate the worst damage so far is south of Pampa, with major structural damage and gas leaks reported.

Some tornado activity has been reported in western Oklahoma and Nebraska, too. At around 8:45 p.m. EST, there were 15 simultaneous tornado warnings and seven confirmed tornadoes on the ground.

That's pretty incredible, as it's rare there's that many known tornadoes spinning at the same time. In that regard, this is one of the more intense tornado outbreaks in recent years.

Scary classic hook echo on radar of what was likely
a big tornado approaching Dodge City, Kanass Tuesday evening. 
Details are still sketchy as I write this at 8:45 p.m EST, but I'm sure there will be a lot of news about this tomorrow.

All the ingredients appear to have come together to produce the tornadoes: Especially strong, high speed jet stream winds, a powerful storm system, air moving in different directions with height, and a massive influx of humid air from the Gulf of Mexico.

Large tornadoes are especially dangerous after dark. You can't really seem them coming, often until they're right on top of you.

These tornadoes are moving fast, too, which can also reduce the time between the moment a warning is issued and the time it hits. That doesn't give much of an opportunity to take shelter.  Let's hope everybody in the region has their weather radios on.

Tornado outbreaks do occasionally hit parts of the nation in November, but these are further to the west than most November tornadoes. If you get a swarm of tornadoes this time of year, it's usually in the Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley, or parts of the Midwest east of the Mississippi River.

Later tonight, the supercells producing the tornadoes will probably merge into a squall line. That would perhaps reduce the chances of more strong tornadoes, but would probably cause wide areas of damaging straight line winds.

Meanwhile, a blizzard is underway in parts of Colorado, and those blizzard conditions will spread east into western Kansas tonight. I find it incredible that as of 8:30 p.m. EST, there was a blizzard warning just 50 miles west of an active tornado warning.

I don't remember the last time I saw tornado and blizzard warnings in such close proximity. This storm system in the middle of the country is a monster to be respected, for sure.

To add insult to injury, a tornado caused damage in Denair, California yesterday as the same storm system as tonight moved through the west coast.

Almost All Americans Live In Weather Disaster Zones, Many Don't Realize It

Environment America says almost everyone
in the nation lives in a county that's had
a weather disaster in the past five years. 
An outfit called Environment America recently came out with a nifty interactive map that indicates 96 percent of Americans live in a county that's been declared a disaster zone because of severe weather at least once in the past five years.

I know, I know. Many of you reading this don't feel like you're the victim of a disaster. That, of course is because disaster is capricious, causing devastating losses for one family, while the people who live next door are totally untouched.

Or, the disaster isn't particularly extreme for anybody in particular, but proves enormously expensive for local governments that have to clear and repair the roads, utilities that have to fix electrical lines and water mains and such.

A good for instance of the two points I've made is the county where I live, Franklin in northwestern Vermont. According to Environment America's map, Franklin County has suffered through 11 disasters in the past five years, definitely more than most places in the nation.

It's true that a few spots in my county suffered severe damage from river or Lake Champlain flooding, and from severe summer thunderstorms and a tornado. A few Franklin County residents have endured terrible financial strain due to property damage and hassles getting everything fixed.

But like most people in Franklin County, I've been mostly unscathed. One of the floods damaged my driveway and gardens, and it took quite a bit of work on my part to repair. (but not much financial pain) The other storms either caused very light damage on my property or none at all.

Environment America, a federation of state-based, citizen funded environmental advocacy groups,  is highlighting these disaster statistics to demonstrate that climate change is causing more and more extreme weather.

That assertion is true. Climate change is causing more extreme droughts, floods and storms, not to mention additional heat waves and other dramatic temperature swings.

Still, as cool as Environmental America's interactive disaster map is, I'd love to learn if disaster declarations have increased over the decades and by how much?

If the number of disaster declarations have indeed gone up, what proportion of that is due to more extreme weather, or the possibility more people live in areas prone to weather damage than in the past? Has the U.S. government is just more likely to issue disaster declaration when a bad storm, drought or flood hits?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Another Big Storm For The United States Next Week

The National Weather Service is depicting a strong storm
in the middle of the country  next week. 
Hot on the heels of a strong storm that spun up tornadoes in Iowa, a near blizzard in western Kansas and high winds on the Great Lakes, another possibly stronger storm is set to disrupt things once again, especially in the middle of the country.

As I've noted before, strong storm systems are fairly common in November, and this month is living up to that reputation.

As usual in these kinds of storms, we'll get a variety of extremes, including, but not limited to, a blizzard, severe weather, possible tornadoes, flooding and high winds.

Some of the ingredients for this storm have already come ashore in the Pacific Northwest, leading to flooding there.

That storminess will contribute to the development of a strong low pressure system that will take shape in the southern Plains Monday and Tuesday and then head off toward the Great Lakes, kind of like the last storm did.

The two storms are not carbon copies, so not everyone will get exactly the same type of weather they got in the last storm. But there will be similarities.

This far out, there's always some uncertainty as to where the focus of various types of weather will be, but it looks like the heaviest snow, and possible blizzard conditions in a couple spots, will get going in the central Rockies.

The ski season there is off to a rip roaring start, for sure.

The snow will then spread out into Kansas (again!) Nebraska and the western Dakotas.

The snow might extend further south than last time, possible reaching the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas.

It's almost always warm and humid and wet with an unstable atmosphere east of this type of storm, and next week's tempest is no exception.

That raises the possibility of more severe weather.

Again, nobody is quite sure yet how extensive the severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes will be, and exactly where they'll set up shop.

At this point, the target area looks to be Texas and Oklahoma on Monday and Tuesday, spreading into the western Gulf states later Tuesday and Wednesday.

Flooding could be a problem in spots in and near the lower Mississippi Valley with this one, too.

I expect, just as in the last storm wind advisories and high wind warnings will extend across a huge area in the middle of the country as the storm makes its move northeastward toward the Great Lakes.

For those of you on the East Coast, another bonus with this one: The storm moving by to your west will push another wave of warm air into the region, continuing what has been a remarkably warm November so far.

Friday, November 13, 2015

I'm Not The Only One Seeing Cool Clouds: See Cape Town, South Africa

Lenticularis clouds over Cape Town, South Africa last
Sunday. Photo by Liza Vaun Bezuidenhout, via Twitter.  
In a post in this here blog thingy yesterday, I went off on some beautiful clouds I photographed in Alburgh, Vermont.

Of course, beautiful clouds can happen anywhere, so it's always good to look up occasionally to see what's going on overhead.

Case in point: Cape Town, South Africa last Sunday.

Lenticularis clouds formed over the South African city. These clouds are fairly common, and most often form when winds fairly high up in the atmosphere are quite strong.

Clouds often form when air rises over a mountain, and moisture in the rising air condenses into a cloud, the the air drops down over the mountain or other obstruction, limiting the size of the cloud.

Sometimes the air going up and over the mountain continues in waves downstream, much like the waves you see downstream from a submerged rock in a fast moving river.
Another view of the lenticularis clouds over
Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Kyle Mihof.  

Then you get these smooth, shaped lenticularis clouds. They're relatively common, but sometimes they're quite spectacular, looking at like UFOs or something.

Because these clouds are a visible reflection of a wave in the wind over a mountain, they don't move much. And the wind screaming through this clouds often sculpts them into smooth, rounded, layered shapes.

Lenticularis clouds are not dangerous, and are not a sign that scary, stormy weather is approaching. However, they are a sign for airplane pilots that the air is very turbulent.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Most Incredible Vermont November Sky Imaginable

Late afternoon on Lake Champlain in Alburgh, Vermont
November 11, 2015.  
One of my jobs is a gardener, and as late afternoon arrived yesterday, November 11, it was time to pack it in for the day where I was doing some fall cleanup.

The place where I was working was at a summer camp on a picturesque shoreline along Lake Champlain in Alburgh, in far northwestern Vermont.

The day was good, because much of the job involved raking leaves.

The shores of Lake Champlain are usually very gusty in November, making leaf cleanup not exactly a breeze (Ha!)

Same view, but a vertical shot this time. A
Yesterday was oddly calm, an oasis of windlessness as a strong storm kicked up tornadoes and widespread gusty winds across much of the nation. It was also very warm for November, so the job went well.

As I put my tools away, I noticed the sinking sun really starting to light up the broken deck of midlevel clouds overhead. The light was also reflecting on the rare situation of a calm November Lake Champlain.

I bring my camera pretty much everywhere I go, because you never know what you'll see.

Lugging the Canon from place to place paid off big time, as you can see the kinds of shots I captured on that Alburgh lakefront property.

Click on the photos to make the bigger and easier to see.

Today as I write this, it's more typical November in Vermont. It's windy, there's bursts of rain, the the sky is a featureless, uninteresting dark winter gray.

But I got my gift yesterday, so I can't complain!
A little while later, the sun set over Lake Champlain in Alburgh. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Snow, Wind, Severe Weather Continue Today

The first big storm system of the winter season is in the Plains now.
Like in basically every other winter that has ever existed,
expect many more windy storms between now and spring.
Photo here of a February 2013 New England storm
by Bryan Snyder.  
It was snowing in Denver this morning. And winds are howling across a huge area of the Great Plains as that big November storm is winding up.

We're still expecting severe thunderstorms and a few tornadoes in parts of maybe Iowa, Illinois and Missouri today as this system gears up.

Expect more windy storms for the rest of the winter. This fairly intense storm is the first really strong system that becomes fairly common across the nation about now.

Winter time low pressure systems like this one tend to affect wide areas with a variety of weather, including snowstorms to the west, heavy rain and even storms to the east, and almost always, lots of wind.

Where the snow sets up and where the rain sets up always depends on the location of the storm, of course.

Nor'easters may not even give you any rain, because the warm side of the storm is offshore, so it those cases you get your classic New England snowstorm. Sometimes, the storms move across the middle of the country and up through the Great Lakes, giving a blizzard to the Plains and gusty rains to the East.

Tornadoes and severe storms get more and more rare as we move into the heart of winter come January but they are still possible in the deep south if enough warm, tropical air comes in off the Gulf of Mexico  ahead of storm systems.

Windy storms are creatures of contrast. The contrast between polar cold and tropical heat are not as great in the summer, so you get weaker storms. In the winter, the Arctic is frigid, the tropics are still tropical, and if the two types of air get into fairly close proximity, more often than not, you get stronger, windier storms, as the storms feed off of this temperature contrast.

So, hang onto your hat in a broad region in the middle of the country, and if this winter is like every other one that has existed, expect more wind storms, whether the season is cold or warm, wet or snowy.

Special note to those of you in the area expecting severe weather today: Really be careful. These storms will develop fast and move even faster. You won't have much time to take shelter once you get a warning or see threatening skies. Move quickly to shelter if know a storm or potential tornado is coming

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Busy Week: Tornadoes, Blizzards, Winds And Overperforming Kate

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center is still saying
the Midwest is a target for a severe weather outbreak Wednesday.  
We've suddenly found ourselves in one of the busiest weather weeks in months across the Good Ole USA.

We've still got a tornado coming, there's a blizzard -  yes a blizzard - due in parts of Kansas and Colorado, a nasty wind storm in much of the rest of the Plains, a sneaky little nor'easter along the New England coast, and of course Tropical Storm Kate, which is more vigorous than I thought it would be.

Let's break it down:


We're still looking at a Midwestern severe weather outbreak in the Midwest Wednesday. In fact, if anything, forecasters are even more confident of tornadoes and damaging thunderstorms in the region than they were yestereday.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center still expects the main action to be the most focused in southern Iowa, most of Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas, and down into northeastern Texas and Louisiana.

A very strong storm is set to emerge out into the Great Plains. Very strong winds aloft associated with the storm will help encourage thunderstorms to rapidly develop tomorrow in Kansas and Nebraska, and race eastward while strenghtening.

The thunderstorms will form into a line, and these storms will tap into incredibly strong jet stream winds aloft, drive some of that to the surface and cause lots of damaging winds with these thunderstorms.

Worse, out ahead of this line, discrete thunderstorms and supercells will develop. The strong storm is creating an atmosphere conducive to make these storms spin, which raises the real threat of tornadoes. Some of these tornadoes could turn out to be strong, too.

All major severe weather outbreaks are dangerous, but one thing will make this particularly bad: The storms and tornadoes will be moving along much faster than most springtime systems. That gives people less time to take cover when a tornado or dangerous storm approaches.

It also gives less lead time when the National Weather Service issues a tornado or storm warning. So these warnings might not get to people in time.

Take care tomorrow, Midwesterners!


While the tornadoes are spinning up Wednesday along the warm, humid east side of the strong storm system in the Plains, cold north winds will blow on the north and west side of the storm.

And boy will they blow! It'll be cold enough for snow with this in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. There will only be two to six inches of accumulation, but with winds gusting to 60 mph or more, there will be blizzard conditions.

That means travel will be next to impossible with low visibility and drifting snow tonight and much of Wednesday. Power failures are also a good bet. Thundersnow is also possible late tonight and early Wednesday, so this area is in for quite a bit of excitement.

More to the east, in central and eastern Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, it will be too warm for snow, but the winds will howl with this storm, gusting to at least 60 mph.

As I said, this storm is a powerhouse. There's some of your proof.


A storm is making it's way up the East Coast with rain and somewhat chilly temperatures. Nothing too odd for November, but still, it's raw.

This storm is going to get some support from disturbances in the upper atmosphere later today and tonight, so it'll develop into a real nor'easter.

It won't be the strongest nor'easter ever to hit to New England, that's for sure, but expect a fair amount of rain, and raw northeast winds gusting over 40 mph tonight and tomorrow over the eastern end of New England. Just a sign that the winter storm season is coming.


Like so many tropical storms and hurricanes across the globe this year, Tropical Storm Kate is stronger than expected. Storms like Patricia, Joaquin and those two cyclones in Yemen have fed off record and near record high water temperatures in the oceans they pass over.
Tropical Storm Kate Tuesday morning.  

Kate is no exception. Water temperatures in and around the Bahamas are well above normal, and Kate is using that as fuel as it heads north through, then away from the Bahamas.

Top sustained winds were 60 mph early Tuesday, Kate looked healthy on satellite imagery, and I wouldn't be surprised if it reached hurricane intensity later today.

Luckily, Kate is still forecast to miss the United States. It'll take a hard turn to the northeast later today. It'll eventually lose its tropical characteristics in the cold North Atlantic by the end of the week, but will still be a powerful storm up there this weekend.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Late Kate: Tropical Storm Forms In the Bahamas

Tropical storm Kate now gaining some steam
in the Bahamas. Expected to miss the United States. 
Tropical Storm Kate has formed in the Bahamas, but it looks like it will miss the United States.

The National Hurricane Center says Kate is in the Bahamas, with sustained winds of 40 mph, and it's moving to the west-northwest.

At first glance, that would put its path toward the southeastern United States, but rellaaaxxxx! Don't worry! 

All indications are a separate trough of low pressure along the East Coast, plus maybe that big storm I told you about earlier today that's expected to produce a severe storm outbreak in the Midwest will help push Kate north, then northeast, then east, pretty sharply, away from the United States.

So, basically, a severe thunderstorm and potential tornado outbreak might help save us from experiencing a tropical storm. Hurray, I guess.

The National Hurricane Center says Kate is never going to be a powerhouse like Joaquin in the Bahamas earlier this year. Joaquin blasted parts of the Bahamas with sustained winds of up to 150 mph or so.

Current forecasts have Kate getting up to 50 mph or so, maybe a little stronger.

Hurricanes and tropical storms do occasionally form in the Atlantic basin during November, though we are well past the peak of hurricane season. We've had a November tropical storm in the Atlantic once every two years since 2009.

Unlike Kate, sometimes November tropical storms or hurricanes do make landfall in the United States, too. Just not this time.


Midwest Severe Weather Outbreak Due Wednesday

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center outlines areas under
threat for severe weather Wednesday. 
Parts of the Midwest, especially Missouri, southern Illinois and northern Arkansas, are bracing for an outbreak of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms on Wednesday.

This could be the biggest round of nasty twisters and storms the nation has seen in weeks or months.

The typical height of the tornado season is the late spring and early summer, when strong sun energizes the atmosphere, and hefty storm systems can add spin, suck up hot, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico, and pull down chilly, wintry air from Canada.

These are most of the ingredients you need for a severe weather outbreak.

Once you get into the summer, the contrasts of air masses isn't so great, and you don't get big, strong low pressure systems moving into the Plains to set off tornado outbreaks.

You still get tornadoes in the summer, but usually not many big ones at once.

In the fall, we start to get strong low pressure systems moving into the middle of the country again. The sun's strength is much weaker, and that's one reason why these autumn storms don't usually cause a lot of tornadoes.

Still, some of these autumn storms are pretty damn dynamic, and can cause big severe weather outbreaks. Forecasters are worried that one such developing storm has the potential to do this.

Autumn tornado and severe weather outbreaks can be deadly. Just two years ago, on November 18, 2013, a huge outbreak of tornadoes - as many as 81 of them - swept the Midwest. One, an EF4, destroyed about 250 or so homes in Washington, Illinois.

The tornadoes and a squall line that race to the East Coast in this outbreak killed 11 people and caused a bit over a billion dollars in damage.
Aerial view of damage in
Washington, Illinois after
 a November, 2013 EF4 tornado. 

You can watch the terror inside one of these homes destroyed by one of the November, 2013 tornadoes in Washington, Illinois in the video at the bottom of this post.

There have been other immense November tornado outbreaks in recent years, including 105 tornadoes in November, 1992 and 93 tornadoes in November, 2004. 

We have a strong El Nino this year, and that can encourage unusually dynamic and strong storm systems across the southern United States this fall and winter.

This gives us the potential for more tornadoes - more than the small numbers we usually get - along the Gulf Coast states and Florida over the winter.

As for Wednesday's expected storm outbreak, the devil as always, is still in the details.

As is the case with many of these types of storms, especially in the autumn, the storms could rapidly form into a squall line, which could possibly reduce the number of tornadoes but still cause widespread wind damage.

A number of the storms within such a squall line could maintain rotation, and continue to spin off tornadoes.

If you live anywhere in the Midwest and Tennessee Valley, keep an eye to the sky and an ear to NOAA weather radio or other reliable media to listen for tornado or severe storm warning.

If they tell you to hide in your basement, get into a sturdy building or take any similar precautions, just do it. The life you save might be your own.

The two people in this scary tornado video from November, 2013 survived exactly because they fled to the basement. You see the guy filming the tornado, then joining his daughter in the basement, the screen goes black as you hear them terrified in the basement, then they emerge after the tornado passes to see what's left of the house: