Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Aliens Landing In Dublin? No, Just Awesome Clouds

Elena Gibson captured this alien spaceship altocumulus
lenticularis cloud over Dublin.  
It was a gorgeous day in often dreary Dublin, Ireland today.

The air was warm, the sky was a deep blue, dotted with just a few.......what are those spaceships from an alien invasion?

No, they were something called altocumulus standing lenticularis clouds, and Dublin got a rare treat, as these clouds usually form over or near mountains, and usually not over Dublin.

I've seen these clouds every once in awhile where I live in mountainous Vermont.

The clouds also usually form in the colder half of the year, not in the summer.

These beautiful clouds when the atmosphere is relatively stable. In other words, there aren't incredibly strong updrafts, the kind that makes thunderstorms.

The lenticular clouds form when fast moving air above us is forced to rise up and over a barrier, usually a mountain or mountain range that's perpendicular to the direction of the wind.

Picture a fast moving brook in which the water is forced up and over a rock protruding from the middle of the river.

Lenticular clouds over Dublin, via @JoeyGartian on Twitter. 
The water goes over the rock, then there's a series of waves downstream in which the water echoes its motion over the rock.

The mountain the air is going up and over is like the rock in that stream, and there's a series of waves downstream in the air. These are called gravity waves.

When the air rises to form the peak of these gravity waves, the air cools and condenses, forming clouds.

Clouds always form when air rises, cools and condenses, so why do these clouds look so cool? It's because the strong winds sort of smooth out the clouds and shape them into something that's lens shaped, hence the name of the clouds.

Looks like the Starship Enterprise is over Dublin
From Twitter via B_Fitsimons.  
The often form into shapes that remind people of alien spaceships. A few people have been known to call 911 when they see these clouds, thinking an alien attack is underway.

These clouds tend to sit in one place, much like the waves you see downstream from that rock in the river.

The atmosphere must also have just the right amount of moisture in just the right layer, and winds must be just the right speed to form these clouds. That's why you don't see them everyday. In many places, like Dublin, they're quite rare.

Upwind from Dublin, there must be some hills or mountains that got these going. Or, there was a pocket of especially stable air that set the air rising up and over it. Maybe a weak warm front? I'm not sure.

Anyway, Dubliners enjoyed the show on a glorious June day.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Why Are These Truckers Driving Into A Tornado?

Two tractor trailers drive into a tornado
near Eolio, Missouri Sunday. Photo by Kholby Martin.  
Yesterday, there were severe thunderstorms and tornados in and around the St. Louis metro area.

Storm chaser Kholby Martin captured one of the tornados crossing a highway near Eolio, Missouri.

Granted, it wasn't the strongest and most visible tornado in the world, but to anyone traveling along the highway, you can tell there was trouble ahead.  

So in the video you see below, why did two tractor trailor drivers keep going down the road right into the tornado instead of stopping and letting it cross?

One of the trucks went off the road because of the tornado, and the other came THIS CLOSE to tipping over.

Somebody really could have gotten hurt, and it would have taken only a minute to stop and let the tornado cross. Another video I saw of the same tornado taken from the opposite side showed cars stopping to let the twister pass.

Anyway, here's the video:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wild, Photogenic Tornado, Supercell Videos From North Dakota

Saturday's tornadic supercell in North Dakota.  
On Saturday, a scary looking rotating supercell thunderstorm raced southeastward from Canada into North Dakota.

StormChasingVideo.com personnel got a lot of it on video.

Saturday was a fairly busy day for tornadoes in the nation, with 24 reports of them, says NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. The tornadoes were in the Dakotas, Minnesota and the Mid-Atlantic States.

One of StormChasingVideo.com's film shows a narrow, but photogenic tornado zipping across the countryside northwest of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This tornado does not appear to have done much structural damage, as it was in a remote location.

Great video,:

StormChasingVideo.com also got shots of hail and rain, which were pretty dramatic, but  I LOVE the time lapse segments of their video.


Weird Storm In New England Is Winterlike

A tree down in today's storm, Lawrence, Mass.
Photo via Twitter @ChrisLemire12 d 
Nor'easters are pretty common in New England during the winter, almost everyone knows that.

They're rare in the summer but a nor'easter-like storm is hitting New England today.

It's not a classic nor'easter, but it has a lot of the ingredients of such a storm. And that's almost unheard of in late June.

The storm had the kind of upper air support you get with winter storms, when there's a large contrast between Arctic air to the north and warmer air to the south.

In the summer, the contrast between Arctic and tropics isn't so strong, and that's one oversimplified reason you don't get large scale low pressure systems like the one over New England now.

But the jet stream is unusually amplified. That means it bulges way north over western North America and plunges far south toward the east.

Once again, that's odd. The bulges and dips in the jet stream aren't usually all that big in the summer. This weekend it is.

Winds aren't all that strong in New England with this storm, compared to some winter nor'easters. There have been gusts over 40 mph in many areas, especially along the coast and on the western slopes of some mountain ranges, like the Green Mountains in Vermont.

Nor'easters, though, usually hit when trees are leafless. Each leaf on a tree acts as a littl sail, so when the wind blows, the leaves act in concert to pull the tree into the direction of the wind. That makes it more likely the tree will fall over under the strain of the wind, compared to times when there are no leaves.

Many parts of the Northeast, including much of Vermont, have had a near record wet June. The ground is saturated. When the ground is that wet, it is of course less solid, so tree roots aren't on such firm ground.

The soft ground makes it easier for winds to uproot trees, so there you go. Several thousand homes and businesses were without power in Vermont this morning due to these trees falling on wires.

Other power failures were pretty widespread in southern New England, especially near the coast.

All that rain with the storm raised the spector of flooding in Vermont and eastern New York, but so far there hasn't been many problems in that regard and I don't expect anything huge.

An inch or two of rain is falling in these areas. Normally that amount of rain would be no big deal at all, but the ground is so wet from previous rains that this could be enough to get some streams and rivers close to the overflowing point.

Worse, if heavy rains develop with a cold front coming along Tuesday night, today's rain could increase the chances of flooding then.

While no nor'easter like storms are due in New England any time soon after today, the overall weather pattern favors fairly frequent wet spells here into July.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

This Weekend, Flooding Worsens. So Does Drought

Flooding in Missouri this week.  
For seemingly the upteenth time, I awoke this morning to news that a flood watch has been posted for Vermont, where I live.

It's been close to a record wet June, and another very soggy storm is on its way, and it will surely make the mudpit underfoot around my are worse.

Over the past couple of days, there's been an amazingly huge area in the eastern half of the United States under flood watches, warnings and advisories.

A huge swath of land from Missouri to New England is, or will get, anywhere from two to six inches of rain.

Last year, I dubbed that summer the Year Of The Flood, since there seemed to be so many local flash floods and torrential rains. I kind of did the same the year before.

But this year is starting to shape up as even worse than the previous two, at least in the eastern half of the nation, away from the epic drought out on the West Coast.

Oklahoma City has already had 34.36 inches of rain this year, almost double what they normally get by now. Louisville, Kentucky stands a substantial 7.5 inches of rain more than they normally get by now, thanks to frequent flooding rains since March.

Friday's flooding pretty much drowned the city of Muncie, Indiana, as a for-instance. There was also a lot of flooding in and around around St. Louis, Missouri. 

Here in Vermont, it had actually been a little on the dry side until June. Burlington, Vermont has received 7.70 inches of rain so far this month. If no more rain falls this month, it will still be the fourth wettest June on record, and more than an inch of rain is forecast for the next couple of days.

The storm that brought the extensive flooding in the Midwest and Ohio River Valley Friday is evolving into a system that is more typical of winter than summer.

Usually, in the summer, weather systems are prettyweak.  In part due to high summer humidity, these weak storms can often cause torrential thunderstorms and downpours, and flash flooding does happen somewhere in the country every summer.

But this storm is more like a nor'easter, though it's traveling more inland. It's got the kind of upper level jet stream support you more typically get in the winter. That means the Northeast is in for widespread heavy rain, not just the local downpours usually get this time of year.

Several places will also get quite windy, especially along the western slopes of Vermont's Green Mountains and New York's Adirondack mountains, and along the New England coast. Again, this type of wind is fairly normal in the winter, but pretty bizarre for summer.

You can never tell for sure if this particular heavy rain and flood episode, or any particular one this spring or summer was caused by global warming. It could have been due to chance, or certain odd weather patterns.

However, this increasing trend toward torrential flooding rains is consistent with global warming. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, and if a storm system comes along, climate change could easily be making the rains with these storms heavier than they otherwise would be.

So a storm that in the past would cause minor nuisance flooding could now, at least theoretically, unleash a huge blast of destructive water.

That's not the problem out west. The drought continues unabated. Worse, the weather pattern that is encouraging the eastern United States storminess is also causing a record heat wave up and down the western third of the nation, and on into western Canada.

Hot weather worsens droughts by increasing evaporation. Plus they encourage wildfires, and several are burning out that way now.

It looks like the weather extremes are going to continue for awhile

Friday, June 26, 2015

Class War In California Drought

The Caliifornia drought has turned the lawn
outside the Capitol brown, but what
about the lush lawns of some of the state's rich?  
Well, I gotta hand it to him, a guy named Steve Yuhas in Rancho Santa Fe, California sure was blunt about it.

Here's him in a recent Washington Post article:

"People 'should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,' Yuhas fumed recently on social media. 'We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,' he added in an interview. 'A no, we're not all equal when it comes to water."

Oh, the humanity! Living on a property with brown lawns! What torture!

Talk about First World problems, jeesh!

Rancho Santa Fe is a rich enclave. When California Gov. Jerry Brown called on everyone in the state to reduce their water use by 25 percent, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent, says the Washington Post.

Take THAT, Jerry!

However. There's always a however.

Next week, on July 1, Rancho Santa Fe is going to be subject to water rationing.

As Jessica Parks of the Santa Fe Irrigation District says, it's no longer a matter of, "You can't water on these days," but it's going to be "this is the amount of water you get during a billing period, and we're going to impose high penalties if you go over those limits.

Water bills are already high, and if, for instance, outdoor use of water for swimming pools, fountains etc. are not cut by half, bills will triple.

And if rich people have no trouble paying the fines and still use tons of water, the irrigation district will install flow restrictors on the property, says the Washington Post.

If one is installed, then it would be hard, to say, shower and do a load of laundry at the same time, says The Post. Officials have even floated the idea of shutting off the taps altogether for the worst offenders.

Some of the wealthy folks around Rancho Sante Fe are OUTRAGED!

"It angers me because people aren't looking at the overall picture....What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres,?" the Post quoted an interior designer named Gay Butler.

Well, maybe having dirt around your house is better than cutting off water to people with less income than you.

People are so used to always getting what they want that they become adrift when something threatenes to hinder that supply.

I also get it that it's easy for me to call out water wasters in California while I sit here in soggy Vermont, with more water than I know how to deal with.

But let's face it.  Some, but not all, people who are very rich expect everyone to jump and give them what they want. If they don't, boy there's hell to pay!

Turning off our taps! Brown lawns! Life is so HARD!!

Let's just hope the California drought ends before the water hogs drain the reservoirs dry.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pope Is Hot Under The Collar Lately. So Is The Climate

Pope Francis annoys climate denial shills.  
Pope Francis came out with his long anticipated encyclical last week, warning of the dangers associated with climate change.

His timing was good, too, at least in one respect. Also last week NOAA  released itslatest monthly report on the world's climate, and it indicates things continue to heat up fast.

Pope Francis and NOAA  caused quite a splash, dominating a news cycle or two.

As expected, a fair number of conservatives say the Pope shouldn't be talking about the climate; he should stick to moral and religious topics.

But the Pope focused his message squarely on the morality of heating the planet. One of my main takeaways on his message was that he was saying God created the Earth, so we ought to respect and maintain His creation.

The Pope's message was squarely in line what he's been saying right along. That the poor ought to be protected (global climate change will adversely affect the poor the most).

But that doesn't matter. The shills for the fossil fuel industry know that what really matters is continued huge profits for these outfits, and they don't need some Pope complaining that their industry is causing some major future dangers for many people in the world.

The NOAA report indicates a continued surge in the pace of global warming. Climate change has, and probably always will go in fits and starts. It'll slow down for a couple years due to natural factors,  then speed up for a few years, slow a bit again, etc.

But the trend is relentlessly upward.

From the climate denial perspective, last week was pretty bad. Pope Francis was spouting off on climate change, and the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information monthly report for May emphasized his point.

The report showed May, 2015 was the hottest such month since accurate records started around 1880. NOAA's update also indicates 2015 is on pace to be the hottest year on record, beating out the previous record set in 2014. Yep, just last year.

The Pope and the NOAA's latest climate report is continuing a trend that is almost as relentless as the changing climate itself: The climate denialists are getting into a more and more tenuous situation as the evidence gradually stacks up against them.

Oh sure, they can point to an odd cold snap, or a slightly counterintuitive scientific report and claim victory. But the march of climate science, and climate change goes on.

I'm not crowing. It would be nice if the denialists were right and the climate wasn't changing dangerously. It would be easier for all of us, including me.

But the denialists are slowly going the way of the cranks and conspiracy theorists that the Earth is flat and the moon landing was staged.

However, policies and ideas to combat climate change are going to be slow to come by as long as very rich people with very strong interests in keeping their money battle efforts on the political front.

You thought the tobacco industry was pretty touch in fighting health claims regarding cancer?  Watch the fossil fuel industry, at least the more mendacious ones, continue a full court propaganda campaign trying to convince us that efforts to fight climate change are just a reason for those awful liberals to take your freedoms away from you.

What about freedom from experiencing the effects of climate change?

No doubt there are good ideas from both liberals and conservatives to fight climate change. I want to hear 'em.

Let's just hope the very loud voices of the Koch brothers and the worst of the fossil fuel industry don't drown them out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Oklahoma Comes To New England

Sky over Philadelphia Tuesday. Photo via Twitter,
As expected, Oklahoma style weather came to New England and other parts of the Northeast on Tuesday.

The region experience a number of tornado watches and warnings, wall clouds, hail, big winds and other staples of the type of weather more common in the Great Plains spring and summer.

As of early this morning, there were no confirmed reports of tornado touchdowns.

However, local National Weather Service offices in Connecticut, New Jersey and elsewhere are investigating pockets of heavy damage to see whether they were caused by tornadoes or straight line winds.

One area of damage is North Haven, Connecticut, where television station WTNH reports several homes severely damaged, evacuated and condemned by the extreme winds. 

A video you'll see below shows what appears to be a tornado at Long Beach Island, New Jersey, and there were other reports of possible tornadoes in New Jersey, and possibly Maryland and Virginia.

A wall cloud, which is often a precurser
to a tornado, over Uxbridge, Mass
Tues. Photo by Pam Martin via Eric
Fisher on Twitter.  
In and around Gloucester, New Jersey, a possible tornado overturned at least one car in a mall parking lot, and a number of homes and businesses were damaged, says NJ.com.

Tens of thousands of people were still without power in much of the Northeast Wednesday morning.

This weather was extreme for the Northeast but not unprecedented. There have been even stronger tornadoes in the past, such as the June 1, 2011 EF-3 tornado in Springfield, Brimfield, and Monson, Mass., and the epic Worcester County, Massachusetts tornado that killed dozens of people and flattened large neighborhoods in June, 1953.

The weather is much calmer in New England today, with maybe just a few widely scattered garden variety showers and thunderstorms in parts of northern New England this afternoon.

But no rest for the weary elsewhere. Parts of the northern Plains and Midwest, pummeled by a derecho and destructive tornadoes Monday are under the gun again today.

Severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding are likely in this area. Severe weather continues in parts of teh Midwest tomorrow, too.

Here's that video of a possible tornado in Long Beach Island, New Jersey:

And here's Tuesday's rough weather in Baltimore County, Maryland:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Proof That You Don't Need A Tornado To Cause Massive Damage

House blow apart by strong thunderstorm winds
Monday in Garretson, South Dakota.  
As expected, a huge round of severe weather raked the Midwest all day yesterday, midnight to midnight and beyond.

There were at least 14 reports of tornadoes, and some of them were quite damaging, especially in parts of Illinois and Michigan.

The outbreak of storms also proved that you don't need tornadoes to cause massive damage.

A huge derecho, or powerful squall line swept through South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa during the first half of the day, and the damage was pretty extreme.

There was a report of a gust to 122 mph in South Dakota with these storms.  An airport in Sheldon, Iowa sustained half a million dollars in damage in the storm's 95 mph gusts

The force of the wind collapsed the first floor of a two story house in Iowa, trapping an elderly couple inside. Houses in Garretson, South Dakota were ripped apart by the straight line winds, too.

The derecho, which is a long-lived packet of fast moving, very powerful and violent thunderstorms, finally died down near Michigan, after traveling from western South Dakota.

But other severe storms popped up. Some of them produced the tornadoes I mentioned. Others caused widespread damage from straight line winds, again.

Today, the severe thunderstorms and a few tornadoes are sweeping into the Northeast.  Given what happened yesterday, it's proof that you should take shelter if you're "only" under a severe thunderstorm warning and not a tornado warning.

In some cases, "just" a severe thunderstorm is every bit as scary and dangerous as a tornado.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Nasty Northern U.S. Severe Weather Outbreak Continues Today, Tuesday.

Tornado near Ludlow, South Dakota Sunday
from @SeanSchoferTVN via Twitter.  
A vigorous weather disturbance is moving generally west to east across the northern United States, and it's leaving a trail of severe storms and tornadoes with it.

Yesterday, Montana, the Dakotas and Nebraska suffered through it. There were unconfirmed reports of some tornadoes with supercells, but the big story was wind and hail.

Hail bigger than softballs plunged through house roofs in parts of Nebraska, and winds gusted to more than 80 mph in storms in parts of Montana and North Dakota.

These same areas were pummeled by storms Saturday, too.

The round of storms managed to hold much of their punch overnight, and before dawn, severe thunderstorm watches and warnings were up in much of South Dakota. This storm system is so strong that thunderstorms don't seem to weaken as much as they usually do in the predawn hours.

As of 5 a.m. local time Monday, Sioux Falls, South Dakota was reporting a thunderstorm with winds gusting to 62 mph.

The heat of the strong June sun tends to encourage updrafts that create stronger storms, so storms usually reach their peak intensity in the late afternoons and evenings. This trend will continue with the current storm outbreak as it travels east.

However, as I've already said, those in the path of this cold front can expect at least some severe storms in the late night and early morning hours, when severe weather is usually less likely.

This afternoon, it looks like the timing is such that the disturbance will be in Wisconsin, Michigan and northern Illinois. With the heating of the day, intense storms will fire up in these areas again.

All kinds of threats are possible with this batch of storms, including a few tornadoes. Most of the havoc will be caused by hail, very strong winds and local flash flooding from today's storms in the Great Lakes region.

Keep an eye to the skies there.

Overnight, the storms will crash into southern Ontario, and on into New York and Pennsylvania, and maybe into western New England, places like Vermont late at night.

The storms might weaken some with the loss of daytime heating, but overnight severe weather with strong winds and hail remains possible, given the strength of the eastward moving storm system.

It's been so wet in northern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. If no more rain falls this month, Burlington, Vermont will still have its sixth wettest June on record, with more than seven inches of rain so far.

Heavy downpours with some of these storms could cause some local flash flooding in the region. That's not a super high possibility, but it's something to watch out for.

Jet stream level winds are also stronger than normal for this time of year, and that will also help encourage severe weather.

Tuesday afternoon, it's the Northeast's turn for severe weather. The biggest threat will depend upon where the best instability and the strongest upper level winds set up during the peak of the sun's heating in the late afternoon and evening.

It also depends upon where and when a subtle line of lower pressure sets up ahead of the cold front by afternoon. It's near this so-called "trough line" where the worst storms will probably fire up

My guess, and the location might shift some, is the highest chance of severe thunderstorm winds, large hail, and even a tornado or two, is interior southern New England, the Hudson Valley of New York, eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

So from the eastern Dakotas this morning on into the Great Lakes today, and on into the Northeast Tuesday, watch the skies and take shelter if storms threaten. Some of these could be really nasty.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Moron Keeps Driving Through Flood, Almost Kills Self, Dog

This man endangered himself and his dog by
driving into a flood this week in Ardmore, OK.   
As has been in the news all week, Tropical Storm, then Depression Bill caused widespread flooding in the southern Plains and the Ohio Valley this week.

One particularly hard hit town was Ardmore, in southern Oklahoma.

An infuriating video is making the rounds of a guy doing almost everything you can possibly do wrong in a flood.

He drives his vehicle at least twice through fast flowing water. He said it was the only way to get to his neighborhood, according to the notes you'll see with the YouTube video, below.

The vehicle naturally stalls out. The man gets out, and retrieves his leashed dog, and staggers out of the flood. Both survived, but only luckily.

First of all, you don't drive through water like that. And then he gets out. The knee deep, rushing water could have washed him, or his obviously terrified dog away.  Plus the dog's leash could have gotten caught on something and dragged the poor thing under.

Was this just macho shit on the part of the guy? Does he like to terrify his dog, or is this just a one-off? Can he be charged with endangering the life of an animal, or himself?

Anyway, here's the video demonstrating exactly what you shouldn't do in a flood:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Former (Maybe Still) Tropical Storm Bill Keeps Causing Havoc

On radar, Bill still looked like a pretty well
organized tropical system over Texas early
this morning. (Click on image to make
it bigger and easier to see.)  
I think Dr. Marshall Shepherd is turning out to be right, regarding super wet, super flood produccing Tropical Storm Bill.

He's the co-author of that study I referenced the other day when I was talking about Tropical Storm Bill.

He and co-author Theresa Anderson said that sometimes, a tropical storm moving well inland over the southern Plains from the Gulf of Mexico can maintain, or even strengthen, under certain conditions.

Normally, tropical storms weaken and fall apart once they move inland, but under these rare conditions, they can maintain their strength as they move over very wet ground.

If the ground is wet enough, it can feed a tropical system much like the ocean does.  Marshall calls this the "Brown Ocean Effect" and he speculated before Bill even formed that this could happen with this tropical storm.

Based on the way weather radar, satellite and conditions on the ground, I think the "Brown Ocean Effect" is indeed keeping Bill alive.

Side note: "Brown Ocean Effect" has become the meteorological/media buzzword of the year. All the media outlets have picked up on this. Let's hope it doesn't become the (inaccurate) buzzword for every wet storm going over wet ground. We don't want this to be another polar vortex fad.

Officially, Bill has been downgraded to a tropical depression, with maximum sustained winds of under 39 mph.

But radar images from early this morning showed a pretty symetrical swirl of heavy rain over east central Texas.  Bill still looks very much like a tropical storm. Winds are still relatively hefty.

Early this morning, Mexia, Texas reported winds of 29 mph gusting to 48 mph close to the center of Bill.

Of course, wind was never the main threat from Bill. Flooding was and is.

Bill came ashore yesterday in southeastern Texas with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. Flash flood warnings were up for parts of Texas this morning, and flood watches were in effect for a bitg swath of the south central United States.

This morning, Bill was moving north through Texas. Cities like Dallas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa are under the gun today, with rainfall in many areas of eastern Texas and Oklahoma in for six inches or more of rain.

This falling on saturated soil will continue the high risk of flooding in these areas.

The remnants of Bill will continue on into the soggy Ohio Valley, threatening flooding there.

And, for the rest of today, at least, it will be interesting to see how the "Brown Ocean Effect" will influence the strength and flooding destruction potential of Bill.

Monday, June 15, 2015

More Big Flooding, And Will Tropical Storm Make It Worse?

What might become Tropical Storm Bill
forming over the Gulf of Mexico Sunday. 
Flood and flash flood warnings and watches were scattered across different parts of the nation this morning as a wet early summer continues in many areas.

It's about to get worse, and some place - like Texas and Oklahoma - that suffered enormous floods last month are going to get slammed again.

There's two main ingredients to this latest bout of flooding. One is a strong ridge of high pressure causing a torrid heat wave in the southeastern United States.

That high pressure is steering lots of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico toward the Texas and Louisiana coast,  up into the southern Plains, then into the Ohio Valley.

Worse, a tropical storm is trying to form in the western Gulf of Mexico. If it forms, they'll name it Bill. 

Hi, Bill.

Bill will never be a powerhouse in terms of wind, but boy will it bring a lot of rain! That's true even if it doesn't get strong enough to get the name Bill.

A great huge arc from eastern Texas, on up into Missouri, the Ohio Valley then east to maybe the New York City area, New Jersey and southern New England could get at least four to eight inches of rain in the next week. Locally more, even, especially the more south you go.

Since most of these areas are already quite wet, the flooding over the next several days could get quite intense. People in this great huge arc of predicted wetness might want to build an ark.

Here's a geeky, interesting thing about would-be Tropical Storm Bill.  Tropical systems and hurricanes rely upon warm ocean water to maintain their strength. Virtually always, tropical storms and hurricanes weaken quickly once they get on to land, largely because the friction of the land slows the winds, and the ready supply of moisture from the ocean isn't there anymore.

(However, tropical storms remnants can cause heavy rain and flooding far inland, well after the winds have died down.)

In would-be Tropical Storm Bill's case, there's a chance it could maintain its strength well inland into Texas and Oklahoma.

This has happened at least once before. In 2007, Tropical Storm Erin moved ashore in the western Gulf of Mexico and quickly weakened once it got over land, as most tropical storms do.

Once it got into Oklahoma, though, favorable upper level conditions helped maintain it. Also, the flat ground of Oklahoma was very wet from previous rainfall. Erin pretty much redeveloped into a tropical storm, complete with winds of 60 mph, spiral rainbands and an eye characteristic of tropical storms and hurricanes.

The National Hurricane Center called it just a low pressure system at this point, but it had all the characteristics of a tropical storm.

Atmospheric scientists Theresa Anderson and Marshall Shepherd studied this, and said wet, flat earth can mimic the ocean's rich moisture source  in some cases to encourage inland tropical storms like Erin. They called this the "Brown Ocean Effect."

Since Texas and Oklahoma are so wet right now, maybe Bill will become or maintain itself as a tropical storm in the southern Plains like Erin did eight years ago?

Maybe.  If the "Brown Ocean Effect" helps Bill maintain its strength once it's well inland, that would likely worsen the flooding that's already almost a sure bet.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

European City On Lockdown After Extreme Flood Frees Dangerous Zoo Animals

A hippo that excaped from a zoo during
an extreme flood in Tbilisi, Georgia this
week stands in the water in the city's downtown.  
In this year of catastrophic floods that seems to be happening with alarming frequency around the globe, another really bad one hit Tibilisi, the capital of the country of Georgia.

The city, home to 1.1 million people or so, was battered by extreme rains and extreme floods that killed at least 10 people in the past couple of days.

The entire city is also on lockdown, because the flood swept through the Tibilis Zoo, freeing all kinds of dangerous animals.

Among the animals that escaped are eight bears, 20 wolves, eight lions, white tigers, jackals and jaguars, according to the Daily Mail. 

Video and photos show people trying to corral a large hippo in devastated downtown Tbilisi. Another photo shows a bear stranded on an apartment building air conditioning unit by the flooding.

An escaped bear clings to a second floor
air conditioning unit at a flood-wrecked
apartment block in Tbilisi, Georgia. 
Sadly, many of the animals died in the flooding.  Only three of the zoo's 17 penguins survived.

(Warning: The link to the Daily Mail includes very heartrending photos of lions and tigers and other animals killed by the flooding)  Other animals had to be shot, city officials reported, because they were menacing people.

At last report, it was unclear whether all the surviving animals that had escaped had been found.

The flooding also destroyed dozens of homes and many people have been left homeless.

The devastation came after extremely torrential rains fell on the area, turning a small river into a huge torrent that swept through much of Tbilisi and surrounding areas.

This video shows chaos and rescues in Tbilisi amid the flash flood:

The next video shows animals loose on the streets of Tbilisi, and destruction to the city:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Flash Flood Video Shows Incredible Wall of Water, Debris

Flash floods in Chile earlier this year
hit normally arid parts of that country.  
There have been a lot of flash floods around the nation this late spring and early summer. Places from Colorado to Vermont have suffered flash flood damage in just the past week.

Obviously, flash flooding can be very dangerous.

A video that emerged recently proves the point.

Heavy rain and flash flooding this past March hit what is normally an arid part of Chile.

The floods killed at least 14 people and as many as 20 people are still missing, according to published reports.

The flash flooding in the video is dramatic, and as flash floods are, very abrupt.

I don't know if I would have stood there and filmed like this guy did, but YIKES!

Here's the video:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

May Was The Nation's Wettest Month On Record, June Starts Wet, Too

A Texas city inundated by floods this May.
Photo from Getty images.  
Taken as a whole, the United States had its wettest month on record during May, according to NOAA's climate monitoring center. 

This was despite continued drought on the West Coast and relatiely dry weather on most of the East Coast.

The deluges in Texas and Oklahoma that brought record flooding more than made up for the relative dryness on the coasts.

If you looked at the precipitation totals for most of the reporting stations across the United States and averaged it out, you'd get a precipitation total for the contiguous United States (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) of 4.36 inches.

That's 1.45 inches more than normal, which doesn't sound like a lot, but if you're talking about the average across the entire Lower 48, that's a huge departure from normal.

Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas had their wettest May on record. A total of 15 states in the middle of the country had precipitation far, far above normal.

These downpours were accompanied by severe weather. There were more than 400 preliminary tornado reports in May, 2015, the most since April 2011. The May, 2015 tornado activity ended a relative tornado drought in the nation that began in 2012.

Quite a bit of warmth embraced the nation, too.  Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Alaska had their warmest May on record.

The downpours have continued into June.

As of this morning, flood watches were up for very large sections of the central Rockies, and in another big area stretching from Nebraska into Wisconsin.

Meteorologists are particularly concerned about Colorado what with the remants of Hurricane Blanca, record high moisture levels in the atmosphere there and conditions that are primed to form intense thunderstorms.

 Here's what National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Hodanish wrote in today's forecast discussion from Pueblo, Colorado:

".....based on our antecedent conditions and computer guidance/simulations, things have the potential to get very ugly later today and tonight. We are dealing in uncharted meteorological territory with this event."

Scientists who study global warming have long said there would be more extreme droughts and floods as the world gets hotter.

The weather pattern this spring is consistent with that. The Texas deluges ended a brutal four year drought there, a really big case of "weather whiplash."
Flash flooding in Richmond, Vermont this week
 threatend to sweep this car away.
Photo by Demeny Politt. 

Here where I live in Vermont, flash flooding caused quite a bit of localized damage this week, especially in the towns of Richmond and Bolton.

Flash floods in Vermont have become a "new normal." There have always been floods in the Green Mountain State, as heavy rains send water rushing down steep mountain slopes.

Now, however, the floods have become almost a yearly event. Spring and summer downpours seem to have gotten more intense.

Damaging floods have hit parts of the state every year since 1995 except 2001. (Though in 2014, flooding was not particularly extreme.)

Some of these floods have been unusually long lasting, instead of the usual quick hit for a few days and then it's over. In the spring of 2011, repeated floods sent Lake Champlain to its highest level on record, and later that summer, Hurricane Irene caused the worst Vermont floods since 1927.

In the summer of 2013, flash flooding hit different parts of the state almost daily over a four week period in June and early July.

Of course, it remains to be seen if severe floods will continue through the summer in parts of the nation. But the summer is not off to a good start, in terms of flooding and severe weather.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

No Tornado, But Cool Clouds In Tornado Watch Zone

Rotating, towering clouds loom
over Yankton, South Dakota Saturday.  
Monday, a broad stretch of the eastern United States from southwestern Vermont to Virginia was under a tornado watch as a vigorous storm system pressed east from the Midwest.

The same system spun off a couple tornadoes and several severe thunderstorms in and around Indiana.

The day before, this system caused severe weather in the northern and central Plains, where I  have been spending the past few days visiting relatives.

The city I'm visiting, Yankton, South Dakota, was smack dab in the middle of a tornado watch Saturday afternoon and evening.

The worst storms bypassed Yankton to the south and north.

Wall clouds and funnel clouds were spotted northeast of Yankton, near Irene and Vermillion, South Dakota. More wall clouds and funnels formed in Nebraska.

Nothing extreme came through Yankon, as I noted. But I loved watching the clouds during the thunderstorm episode.

At dusk, a few rays of sun worked their way
through the storm clouds in Yankton, SD Saturday.  
Lots of towering clouds, ragged clouds, and lightning that crackled back and forth across the sky.

The thunder here is weird during these episodes. It was a continuous rolling back and forth across the sky, with no break.

There was not much weather drama, but it was sure fun watching the clouds.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Maybe Global Warming Didn't Slow Down After All. Now Speeding Up?

A NOAA analysis shows no slowdown in global
warming in recent decades, contrary
to much discussion in recent years.  
The global warming watchers of the world, the scientists and public who are concerned about it, and the dwindling number of people who think it isn't happening, were pretty wild about a NOAA study that came out last week.  

Remember that "pause" in global warming? Where global temperatures supposedly didn't really increase much in the past decade or so? Didn't happen.

It turns out global warming continued roughly on pace the way it has for decades now.

The only mitigating part of this is, global warming should have accelerated over the past decade or two. Instead, it plodded along at the same rate it did in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Maybe "plodding" isn't the right word, since the the rate of warming in the late 20th century was extraordinary, at least compared to global temperature change over eons.

Here's the scary part.  A variety of natural factors seems to have prevented global warming from accelerating over the past decades. These factors included volcanic eruptions that put sun-blocking sulfer dioxide in the air, heat transfer deep into oceans, cyclical shifts in Pacific Ocean currents, the predominance of cooling El Nina weather patterns, and other influences

Many of these temporary phenomenon  are fading. We might have begun an acceleration in the rate of global warming starting in 2014. That year was widely regarded as the warmest year in modern history.

Plus, 2015, is on a good pace to be warmer than 2014.

A group of NOAA scientists, in a study published in Science had this to say, according to ThinkProgress:

"The authors warned that by 2020, human-caused warming will over the Earth's climate system into a regime of rapid multi-decadal rates of warming. They project that within the next few years, 'there is an increased likelihood of accelerated global warming associated with release of heat from the subsurface ocean and a reversal of the phase of decadal variability in the Pacific Ocean." 

Of course, global warming will never go on a steady pace whether we deal with it or ignore it or do something in between.  Some or all of those natural factors we talked about could temporarily slow global warming again after a burst of more rapid warming.

Some years, maybe 2015, will be the warmest on record. There will be other years in the near future warmer than 2015. But a few years, maybe even 2016 will be slightly cooler than 2014 or 2015.

No matter. The trend is there, it's strong, it could be strengthening. Let's hope the debate has moved well beyond whether global warming is happening and instead, we should be debating what we should do about it.

No matter

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Very Early Pacific Hurricanes Providiing Bit Of Southwest U.S. Drought Relief

Because of El Nino, the number of tropical storms and hurricanes along or off the United States East Coast is supposed to be lower than usual this year.
Hurricane Bianca off the west coast of
Mexico on Saturday.  

Not so in the eastern Pacific. Unusually warm El Nino waters have already produced two strong hurricanes out there, which is unprecedented for so early in the season.  

Andrew spun out to sea into cooler waters and died last week. Bianca reached Catagory 4 status this weekend, and is now getting weaker as it moves into cooler waters. 

It should still hit Mexico's Baja Penninsula as a tropical storm. (Hurricanes thrive in warm water, and fall apart in cooler water)

It Baja California does get a tropical storm, it will be the earliest in the season on record that the region has had such a storm, says Dr. Jeff Masters. 

Moisture from these hurricanes won't end the drought in southern California and parts of Arizona, but the storms are providing a bit of unseasonable moisture to the region.

For instance, Phoenix, Arizona recorded 0.16 inches of rain Friday. That's a drop in the bucket, but it's extremely unusual for rain to fall in Phoenix in June.

It's too late in the year for cold fronts to press as far south as Phoenix, so no rain from those. Later in the summer, the desert heat lowers the air pressure in the Desert Southwest, bringing in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and thunderstorms. But that never happens until July or August. June is usually dry, dry dry. 

Moisture from Bianca is going to draw even more unusual moisture into southern California and Arizona, so look for more welcome rain in that region. Just not enough to come close to easing teh drought.

And if there's lightning, that could set off forest fires, so as you see, this weird hurricane rich weather pattern out there isn't going to be all good.

Another problem: Some of this tropical moisture could find its way into parts of flood ravaged Oklahoma and Texas. They surely don't need any rain at the moment, so this could be troublesome.

Some of the moisture from the hurricanes could even interact with weather systems in the Midwest next week, making rain heavier and making local flash floods more likely. Though I'll emphasis most of the moisture for these storms will come from the Gulf of Mexico. 

A wide stripe of the nation from Oklahoma and South Dakota, across the Midwest to northern New England are expecting two or more inches of rain over the next week. 

Further north, from central California on up into Washington, near record heat is forecast for the next few days. (It had been blessedly cooler than normal in recent weeks in this region.) 

The dry heat this week will worsen the already terrible drought along the central and northern Pacific coasts of the United States. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Texas, Oklahoma Start To Dry Out, Finally. Was Flood Climate Change?

This house in Wimberly, Texas was swept
away by flash floods in May. Photo by Jay Janner,
Austin American Statesman.  
Most of Texas and Oklahoma must love this forecast: Little or no rain is forecast there over the couple of days. This after enjoying a few dry days this week.

Instead, the flooding has spread northward into Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.

The rains of May in Texas and Oklahoma were beyond incredible. As Dr. Jeff Masters points out, rainfall records for any month were shattered in many Oklahoma and Texas cities.

Masters writes: "Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon (Texas A&M University) came up with a back-of-the-envelope estimate for how often you would expect such an extremely wet month in his state: About every 2,000 years, assuming the climate of the past century were to persist."

Of course, the climate is changing. I can't sit here and show to what extent global warming influenced this epic flood in Texas and Oklahoma, but events like this seem to becoming more likely as climate changes.

As the left leaning Media Matters points out, the mainstream media, reporting on the Texas floods, has been in some cases a little more aggressive about bringing the subject of climate change into their coverage.

CNN brought in Bill Nye to discuss the possible connections to climate change, and several reports by this news organization brought up the potential climate change connection to the Texas floods in particular and an increase in huge gullywasher floods in general.

Media Matters noted that on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, reporter Miguel Almaguer discussed the "weather whiplash" that brought Texas from drought to epic flood in weeks, and showed how climate scientists think the whiplash is often related to climate change.

The CBS Evening News also brought up climate change in their coverage of the Texas floods.

ClimateChange.org has an interactive map showing the way record precipitation has increased across the United States.

I don't trust the dearth of record events before, say 1900 or so. The records are sparse, and not necessarily all that accurate.

But the trend in more recent years is clear, as you can see in the interactive map:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Colorado Hit By Tornadoes, Floods, Hail

A tornado looms over Simia, Colorado on
Thursday. Photo by John Hallen.  
Another day, another round of severe storms.

It's been a slow drip, drip of severe storms and tornadoes this spring and early summer.

So far, there have not really been any mega huge tornado outbreaks, but the pace of tornadoes, while slower than normal, has picked up above the levels of the previous two years.

Colorado was targeted most the past couple of days.

The Denver Post said about 25 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado along the border of Boulder and Larimer counties.

Hail washed down hills and piled up a few feet deep in Denver streets. People were seen last night digging their cars out with snow shovels, as if there had been a nasty blizzard.

Hail piled deep in Denver streets, as viewed
from a news helicopter.  
Flooding is a spreading problem, too. We'll get into that after the video that's coming next, which I'll set up now.

I'm a little reluctant to show this video, because you can argue it glorifies tornado chasers getting too close to tornadoes.

In this case, chaser Verne Carlson tried to drive away from a tornado that was drawing too close in Simia, Colorado.

The GPS he was using indicated the road kept going, but it was a dead end, so he could go no further as the tornado chased the chaser.

It ran over him, badly damaging his truck, but luckily Carlson suffered no serious injuries.


As I noted, tornadoes aren't the only problem going on. Flooding continues to be a problem in a lot of areas. Now it's spreading out of Texas and Oklahoma, two states that are actually drier this week.

The Denver Post said the tornadic storms dumped eight inches of rain on Lyon, Colorado, sending water coursing through living rooms and blocking roads.

Kansas has had a number of flash warnings, and more flooding is expected there.

Also, a terrible flood hit the city of Lusk, Wyoming, as you can see in this video of scary flood damage.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

More Incredibly Photogenic Supercells In Plains Yesterday

I know I just did this yesterday, but I can't resist posting another time lapse of a supercell storm.

This one is near Jetmore, Kansas last evening is absolutely beautiful, so I have to post it. So here you go:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Plains Storms Yield Awesome Time Lapse Weather Porn Videos

Supercell in western South Dakota on Monday.  
Supercell thunderstorms have raked parts of the northern, western and central Plains this week, producing a few tornadoes, lots of giant hail, winds, and flash floods.

More of that kind of weather is due today, especially in eastern Wyoming and Colorado, and much of Nebraska and Kansas.

I'm sure we'll have lots of chasers making lots of great images and videos today, since I think today's storms will be more widespread than they were Monday and Tuesday.

A lot of storm chasers and videographers are employing time lapse video to capture the movement of these rotating supercells to great effect.

Here's some examples of this week's weather:

For starters, here's a  photogenic supercell that almost produced a tornado in western South Dakota on Monday


Here's another rotating supercell over Strasburg, North Dakota, which produced damaging winds, baseball sized hail, a flash flood, and maybe a brief tornado:

Now, we have a supercell that blew up southeast of Scottsbluff, Nebraska just before sunset last night. It seems to split in two, but no matter what, it's spectacular.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Watching Slow, Very Contrasty Cold Front Raise Northeast Havoc

Ethereal clouds precede torrential thunderstorms
in South Burlington, Vermont Saturday afternoon.   
We have another weather whiplash to report, this time in the Northeast.

It had been very warm and very dry in the region in May, but things changed big time in just a couple days.

This past weekend, and continuing today, a strong cold front, pushing into warm, very humid air in the Northeast, has all but ended a dry spell, but is causing other weather woes such as flash flooding and scattered severe weather.

At least this isn't is bad as the drought to Biblical flood in Texas, but it's still impressive.

The cold front chased my husband and I as we ventured from Vermont to Frederick, Maryland to see our twin nieces graduate from high school. (Congratulations Sydney and Alex!)

The front moved through Vermont early Sunday, preceded Saturday by some drenching thunderstorms, gullywashers, lots of lightning and a few scattered reports of wind damage.

Thunderstorms rapidly fire up behind us, as seen on our
flight from Newark to DC. These storms ended up
causing flash floods in Newark and much of the Northeast.  
By Sunday, after a hot, humid day in the 80s Saturday, topping off the hottest May on record in Burlington, Vermont  temperatures stayed in the chilly upper 40s with rain.

We escaped the chill and flew through the cold front Sunday and landed in humid Newark early Sunday afternoon

We then caught a connecting flight to hot, steamy Washington, DC, south of the cold front. The temperature reached 92 degrees in the DC on Sunday.

As we left Newark, we could see the thunderstorms building rapidly just ahead of the cold front pressing into New York's Hudson Valley and southern New England.

Those storms would go on to produce flash flooding in an extensive, densely populated area, flooding basements, stranding cars in deep street water, prompting water rescues.

The flooding was widespread through the New York metro area, southern New England, New Jersey and Pennyslvania.

Storm clouds over Frederick, Maryland Sunday afternoon.  
More local floods are possible today from the Mid-Atlantic states to coastal New England. Where I am today in Frederick, Maryland, we are under a flash flood watch due to the expected torrential thunderstorms.

Last night we were under a severe thunderstorm warning in Frederick and the lightning light show was fantastic.

After we're done in Frederick, we fly off to South Dakota to visit family on Tuesday. Just in time for a round of severe thunderstorms and torrential rains arrive there.

I guess I'm the type of guy who brings the fireworks. And the water brigade. yeah, the wet times are sure following me.

I also like to chase storms, but in the case, the storms were chasing me all across the Northeastern United States. Go figure.

I probably will end up with more images of storms, if things work out as expected.