Monday, August 31, 2015

As Hurricanes Miss, Pacific Northwest Gets A Big Wind Blast

One of many fallen trees in Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada after a wicked weekemd wnd storm  
Tropical Storm Erika fizzled, Hurricane Fred is way out over the eastern Atlantic, so it looks like the United States is escaping a hurricane, at least for now.

(Though Hurricane Ignacio is going to cause tropical storm conditions in Hawaii.)  

However, the Pacific Northwest in the United States and British Columbia on the west coast of Canada got a hurricane force blow over the weekend from a regular, albeit powerful storm that came ashore.

Winds gusted to 90 mph in Oceanside, Oregon and 85 mph in Nasalle Ridge, Washington.

These kinds of strong storms with wind gusts to hurricane force affect the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia from time to time in the winter.

But it's very rare to get something like this in the summer. There's still leaves on the trees, and in wind storms, the leaves act like a multitude of little sails. The leafy "sails" pull the trees in the wind much more than if they were bare, so more trees than usual toppled in the weekend storm.

Falling trees killed two people in Washington State, and 450,000 or so of the state's residents lost their electricity.

In British Columbia, at least 400,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity. Parks and other outdoor activities were shut down Saturday over fears that trees would fall on people.

The storm has moved on and things have calmed down in the region. With drier air moving in, the wildfires, though, will continue.

Here are some weekend scenes from Vancouver, British Columbia:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Erika Still Dead(it) But Hurricanes/Tropical Storms Abound

Major hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena lined
up in the Pacific Ocean.  
The much-discussed Tropical Storm Erika, now dead as noted yesterday, is still a zombie torturing Florida.

The dead-ish storm is still producing gusty winds and heavy rains in Florida, the Bahamas and Cuba.

There's still a slight chance Erika will regenerate into a bonafide tropical storm as it heads into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but don't count on it.

That doesn't matter anyway. Winds will still gust to 40 mph in parts of Florida, and more importantly, drenching rains will hit the state.

As I said yesterday, to an extent that's good, because South Florida has been in a drought. But these tropical rains are too much too fast, so flooding is definitely a problem.

The remnants of Erika will probably eventually head into the Florida panhandle and the southeastern United States later this week with more heavy rain and possible flooding there.

Now, we have a new Atlantic tropical storm named Fred.

Welcome to the world, Fred!

Fred was a disturbance that came off the African west coast the other day. It developed remarkably rapidly after getting out into the Atlantic. Usually it takes a few days, but this one revved up.

The National Hurricane Center said Fred is only the fourth tropical storm they know of, out of many hundreds, that formed east of 19W longitude.

True, Fred was only packing winds of 40 mph early Sunday morning, but it's expected to strengthen quickly into a hurricane and threaten the Cape Verde Islands in the eastern Atlantic over the next couple of days.

After that, Fred will head out into the open Atlantic, where it might encounter the kinds of strong upper level winds that destroyed Hurricane Danny and Tropical Storm Erika. Even if it survives, Fred poses no immediate threat to land after it leaves  the Cape Verde Islands.

PACIFIC OCEAN

The Pacific Ocean continues to be wild in the hurricane department. For the first time in modern history, there were three major hurricanes lined up in the central and eastern Pacific - Kilo, Jimena and Ignacio.

As you can see in the photo at the top of the post, these three hurricanes lined up are quite a sight on satellite photos.

Ignacio is the one that is being most closely watched. It is expected to skirt east and north of Hawaii, but come close enough to produce tropical storm force winds on the Big Island of Hawaii and other nearby islands. Flooding is a risk, too.

Tropical storm warnings are up for Hawaii, a place that has had a very stormy late summer, with near miss tropical storms and downpours aided and abetted by El Nino.

Hawaii is definitely not the sunny tropical paradise it usually is.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tropical Storm Erika Is Kaput; Done In By Mountains, Upper Level Winds

Tropical Storm Erika, which earlier this week represented a real threat to become the potential first full-fledged hurricane to hit Florida in ten years, instead fell apart earlier this morning.

Since its inception, Erika battled shear, which is defined as strong upper level winds that tear apart the thunderstorms that make up the center of a tropical storm. Dry air also got pulled into the system, which further hurt Erika's chances of developing.
'
What finally finished her off were the mountains of Hispaniola, the island that contains the nation of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Tropical storms and hurricanes weaken when they reach land, especially if those lands are mountainous.

Erika was originally forecast to skirt by Hispaniola, stay over water and potentially strengthen, but it hit land instead.

Erika will still be remembered as a terrible storm that caused a flood on the island of Dominica, killing at least 20 people.

The remnants of Erika are still VERY wet and still headed toward Florida. So while Florida won't get a hurricane, there could still be some flooding in that neck of the woods early next week.

On the bright side, the remains of Erika will probably dump fairly heavy rain on South Florida, which has been in a drought.

Florida's governor had declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Erika. He'll probably be criticized for "needlessly" putting state resources into hurricane preparation.

But, better safe than sorry. Florida would have been really screwed had they not begun preparing, and then Erika hit hard. I hope Florida residents don't get complacent.

The next time there is a state of emergency in Florida because of a predicted hurricane, and there WILL be such an occasion, let's hope people take it seriously.

I suppose Erika could regenerate after its remnants get north of Cuba and into the warm southeastern Gulf of Mexico waters. That's somewhat unlikely but possible. Stay tuned!!!!

Jindal Politicizes Katrina By Begging Obama Not To "Politicize" It

President Obama greeting people in New Orleans this week
as he marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  
One of the strangest sideshows in the current orgy of 10-year Hurricane Katrina retrospectives is Louisiana Governor and Presidential Candidate Bobby Jindal's letter to President Obama.

Obama went to New Orleans to talk about the progress the city has made in the 10 years since Katrina and the sorely lacking things that need to be done.

Before Obama arrived, Jindal wrote the president a note asking him not to talk about climate change, says Think Progress, a left leaning news site.

Jindal wrote in part:

"Although I understand that your emphasis in New Orleans will - rightly - be on economic development, the temptation to stray into climate change politics should be resisted.......While you and others may be of the opinion that we can legislate away hurricanes with higher taxes, business regulations and EPA power grabs, this not a view shared by many Louisianians. I would ask you to respect this important time of remembrance by not inserting the divisi e political agenda of liberal environmental activism."

I suppose the letter is smart politics on the part of Jindal. After all, Republican presidential candidates have to appeal to their base. And this year the base is really base. So to be a viable candidate, you have to pretend climate change doesn't exist in order to keep your potential voters happy.

I love the anti-intellectual part of the letter, too. I guess that's politics, too.   Climate change policies are apparently a goofy attempt to "legislate away hurricanes"? Huh? When did anybody say that they can make hurricanes go away by passing a law banning them?

Bobby Jindal, you're so silly.

Plus, Jindal's letter is a classic example of the political playbook that if you don't talk about something then it doesn't exist. By pressuring Obama to not discuss climate change in Louisiana, everybody an pretend it doesn't exist, or at least can be safely ignored.

Obviously, we don't know for sure if climate change made Katrina a worse storm than it otherwise would have been.

But sea levels are rising because of climate change, and since New Orleans and the rest of coastal Louisiana is so at risk by this rising tide, it makes sense that Obama would throw in a comment about climate change in his visit to the Katrina zone.

In his New Orleans speech, the transcript shows Obama, as expected, focused on the city's recovery, the government's success and failures, the resilience of Louisiana's and what needs to be done.

But he did briefly bring up climate change, which must have irritated Jindal. Or maybe delighted him, by showing Republicans that those evil liberals will insert their climate change bullshit into anything.

However, reality based policy makers like Obama know that something has to be done to make us more resilient to climate change.

I just wish Republicans would give us their conservative options to deal with this, so we can have a realistic debate on how we as a nation should combat climate change.

If you bury your head in the (beach) sand, the rising tide of global climate change will otherwise just drown us.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Erika Struggles, So Does Pacific Northwest With Wind, Fires, Smoke

Rain forecast for the Pacific Northwest will tamp down
some wildfires, but strong winds inland this weekend
could make things worse.  
All weather eyes have been on what Tropical Storm Erika is up to as it relates to Florida, but the real weather trouble in the nation currently is in the Pacific Northwest.

Things will get dicier and weirder there over the next couple days, but first let's do a quick update on Erika. 


STILL MAYBE FLORIDA BOUND, BUT.....

Tropical Storm Erika was still struggling in the Caribbean this morning, battling strong upper level winds and interactions with land.

As suggested yesterday, the track of the storm is a little south and west of earlier predictions. That's making the already badly disorganized Erika struggle to maintain its identity as a tropical storm.

There's even a chance it could dissipate today.

If it survives, Erika is still expected to emerge over warm waters and lighter upper level winds south of Florida.

The predicted track of the storm seems to be much further west, and weaker than originally thought.

Instead of being near the Florida east coast, it now is forecast to head up toward western Florida. Maybe even more west than that. Current projections take it northward up the Florida pennisula as a tropical storm.

Which may actually be good news for South Florida, which is in a drought and needs the rain. If the track verifies, it's less likely Erika will become a full-fledged hurricane, because of interactions with land.

Forecasts for this storm keep shifting, so it's worth it to keep an eye out for Erika. I've outlined the current forecast thinking from the National Hurricane Center, but I still think there will be further changes to the forecast:

PACIFIC NORTHWEST FIRES, STORM

It's good news/bad news in terms of the ongoing fires in the Pacific Northwest, but since the weather there is about to turn more extreme, all in all I think it's mostly bad news, unfortunately.

A strong storm is expected to come ashore in that region over the next few days. It's unusually powerful for so early in the season. Usually you get stronger storms like this later in the fall and winter.

The good news is, it's going to rain up that way. Especially in the Cascades, where even the rain forests caught fire this summer it's been so dry. The National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon says this will be the region's biggest rainstorm since March.

This won't completely solve the fire problem in the Cascades, but a good one to four inches of rain isn't going to hurt.  The fires in the western halves of Washington and Oregon there will be tamped down because of this for at least a week or two, if not more.

The problem is many of the fires are inland, in central and eastern Washington, Oregon, and on into Idaho and Montana.

There won't be much rain with this storm there. But the storm is going to carry powerful winds. True, the humidity and clouds will be up, but the wind will make the fires awfully erratic.

Plus, we're talking VERY strong winds. High wind watches are flying for Saturday for gusts to 60 mph. Maybe even 70 to 80 mph in mountain passes. Talk about spreading fires!

In parts of drier Idaho and Montana, fire weather watches are up Saturday because of the gusty winds.

The western wildfire nightmare of 2015 is far from over, that's clear.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Will Erika Threaten Florida? Everybodys Asking, But Nobody Knows For Sure

Satellite photo of Tropical Storm Erika over the
Lesser Antilles Thursday morning.  
Tropical Storm Erika was struggling westward through the northern Lesser Antilles in the central Atlantic Ocean early this morning, and has a lot of people asking what she's up to.

Like her smaller predecessor, Hurricane Danny, Erika is struggling with dry air and strong upper level winds that are preventing Erika from strengthening much.

Unlike Danny, Erika's larger size gives this tropical storm a shot a surviving the hostile weather conditions around it.

Erika is also a little south of where forecasters thought it might be today. If that's the case, the slightly more southward position might take the storm over the land masses of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, instead of the current forecasts that take it just north of those islands.

If Erika goes over those land areas, it could weaken or even fall apart. Tropical systems feed off warm ocean water, but weaken and die over land.

If Erika manages to survive, it could pose a threat to Florida. If Erika gets to the Bahamas relatively intact this weekend, the tropical storm will encounter weaker upper level winds and very warm ocean waters.

Those are two ingredients that really help tropical storms grow into hurricanes. A lot of computer models do strengthen Erika into a hurricane by the time it gets to its expected position in the Bahamas this weekend.

Then what? A worst case scenario is Erika would indeed strengthen to a hurricane and hit the Florida east coast Monday or Tuesday.

Lately, a lot of models predict Erika will curve northward, just off the Florida east coast.

There's still LOTS of questions on where Erika will end up, and now strong it will be once it gets where it is going.

I'm sure officials in Florida are dusting off and booting up their emergency plans, just in case.

I also bet Lowe's and Home Depot will be SLAMMED with people the next couple of days with people buying hurricane supplies and plywood to board up windows, just in case.

Incredibly, Florida has not had a landfalling hurricane since Wilma in October, 2005, so that's a way, way unusually long time for Florida to go without a hurricane.

I'm sure there will be more surprises with Erika down the line, so don't hang your hat yet on any one forecast for the storm. If you're in Florida or the southeastern United States or planning on going there the next few days, keep yourself updated on what Erika is up to.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cool Time Lapse Of Nighttime Arizona Storm, Dust

The ever-reliable Arizona photographer and videographer Mike Olbinski captured this scene around Phoenix earlier this month of nightime lightning, dust storms and clouds, along with traffic, airliners and city lights in this mesmerizing time lapse video:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dead Danny, New Erika Doing The Atlantic Tropical Storm Shuffle

Here's the National Hurricane Center's thinking on
the track of Tropical Storm Erika over the next
several days. This is obviously subject to change.  
If you haven't been paying attention to what's going on with tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean, you'd think they're just randomly changing the names of the storms out there.

Where once was Hurricane Danny, there's now Tropical Storm Ericka. At least they sort of traded places.

You might remember that small sized Danny Boy blossomed into a strong hurricane last Friday way out in the central Atlantic, with sustained winds reaching 115 mph at one point.

As expected, Danny encountered dry air and strong upper level winds as it headed toward and past the northern Antilles and quickly withered away into a harmless patch of disorganized clouds by yesterday.

Hot on Danny's heels was a much bigger patch of clouds heading west across the Atlantic. These clouds got organized, started rotating, and by last night, became Tropical Storm Erika, which is essentially picking up where Danny left off.

Like would-be Danny's intended path before he got blown apart, Erika looks like she wants to head to near or just north of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and eventually toward the Bahamas by Sunday.

Unlike Danny, Erika has a shot of surviving the strong upper level winds that are in the Caribbean and Atlantic this year. Erika is bigger in size than Danny, so its not so easily torn apart, and the upper level winds, or shear as it's called, aren't as strong as with Danny.

That said, the future of Erika is far from certain. Computer forecasting models sharply disagree on what Erika will look like once it approaches the Bahamas. It could fall apart. It could turn into a pretty strong hurricane. It could be a middling tropical storm.

And, there's a chance Erika could pose a threat to the southeastern United States coast, although some computer models curve Erika to the north away from the United States. Other models have a strong hurricane just off the southeastern coast menacing us.

This monster scenario is the one that I see most on social media, naturally. It's GREAT click bait.

Don't believe any hype with this just yet. Just keep an eye on it if you're in its very iffy path. Look here, and elsewhere, including the National Hurricane Center, for updates.

Meanwhile, remember how last week I was squawking about a potential Hurricane Kilo hitting parts of Hawaii?

In the immortal words of Emily Litella, Never Mind.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center had thought a hurricane named Kilo would develop and threaten the islands of western Hawaii this week. But Kilo has underperformed and is not much of a storm. It's also now not headed anywhere near Hawaii.

Of course, Hawaii is still not off the hook. Heavy moisture associated with El Nino, that periodic Pacific warming that's underway now, set off a tremendous rain storm in parts of Hawaii, including the Honolulu area yesterday.

The air became incredibly humid, leading to the heavy rain. The dew point in Honolulu at one point was 81 degrees. If the dew point is 70, it's considered awfully humid so imagine what 81 felt like, and imagine the supply of water available for the downpours.

There was quite a bit of flash flooding, road closures and damage. Not exactly paradise weather there.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Love This Colorado Supercell Time-lapse

Watch this mesmerizing time lapse video of a supercell thunderstorm spinning like a top in Colorado on Friday.

I'm not aware of it causing much in the way of damage, but way cool:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Got Winter Yet? As Summer Lingers Signs Of Snow

Two proud Canadians enjoy the summer weather
 near Calgary, Alberta on Friday. Photo
by Stella Galbraith via CBC.  
It's the end of August, so it's not surprised I can see the gathering gloom of cold gathering way to the north.

Yeah, you're saying shut up already, I can hear you.

True, where I live in Vermont, summer has shown no signs of waning, like it sometimes does in late August.

Temperatures are expected to get into the low 80s this afternoon, "cooler" than the low 90s of last week.

But the end is near, so we might as well embrace it.

The evidence to the north is clear. The high Arctic is definitely cooling down, and snow is increasingly making an appearance way up there.

The snow has even snuck pretty far south, too.

Friday it snowed near Calgary, in southwestern Alberta. Judging from the CBC reports out of Alberta, it looks like a few inches piled up in a couple of the ski resorts near there.

It does snow in the Canadian Rockies occasionally in late August, so this isn't the weirdest thing that ever happened. Still it's a sign of the times.

But don't worry, there will be plenty of warm days left before winter really gets here. Temperatures are forecast to be well into the 70s all this week in Calgary. Here in New England, there's no sign of anything cooler than the 70s in the forecast for daytime highs for most of us this week.

The early signs of fall are starting to make me wonder where I put the snow shovels, even as I go outside to pick tomatoes out of my lush green Vermont garden this morning.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Danny Weakens, As Expected, But Then What?

Hurricane Danny while it was near peak intensity
Friday in the central Atlantic Ocean.  
As expected, Hurricane Danny is definitely weakening today out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Strong upper level winds and dry air is taking its toll.

The question now is, will Danny completely fall apart soon, or somehow hang in there.

Right now, Danny is still chugging basically westward in the central Atlantic, aiming toward the northern Leeward Islands.

The National Hurricane Center says computer models disagree. It might just become a weak area of thunderstorms in a few days, or it might hold together as a tropical storm by the time it gets past Puerto Rico and Hispaniola early next week.

If Danny hangs on, there could be an opportunity for Danny to regenerate near the Bahamas next week, we'll have to wait and see on that one.

Danny is a little bit bigger in size than it was 24 hours ago, but it's still very small in area for a hurricane. As I noted yesterday, small sized hurricanes are more prone to rapid intensification or weakening than larger sized storms.

Meanwhile, what was Tropical Storm Kilo in the central Pacific Ocean weakened slightly into a depression, with sustained winds of under 39 mph. But it's still expected to strengthen into a hurricane.

It's a bit of a mystery why Kilo isn't strengthening faster. There's not much in the way of strong upper level winds over it, but Kilo is acting like it is being sheared, which is the word they use for a hurricane that is being ripped apart by strong upper level winds.

It looks like they'll send hurricane hunter planes out to Kilo today to see what's going on.

It's still a threat to Hawaii, but it's predicted path is now slower than it was. Kilo could still possibly affect especially the western end of trhe Hawaii island chain next week.

Back in the Atlantic Ocean, a disorganized storm near Bermuda doesn't seem too likely to turn into a tropical storm or become a big threat to land in the near future.

A couple disturbances that have, or are about to exit the west coast of Africa will have to be watched to see if they form into tropical storms or hurricanes over the next week or two.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Hurricane Season In Full Force With Lots To Watch, Right Danny?

This mornings' satellite imagery shows tiny little
Hurricane Danny well east of the lesser Antilles, but headed their way.  
UPDATE:

Boy, Danny Boy got pretty rambunctious since I first wrote about him this morning (see the previous discussion below.)

Maximum sustained winds are up to a whopping 115 mph, making is a strong, Category 3 hurricane.

It's much stronger than I think most forecasters ever thought it would get.

Like I said earlier, small sized hurricanes can strengthen and weaken much faster than normal sized hurricanes.

Danny is a little bigger in area now that what I described this morning, but he's still pretty tiny, in area, for a hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center says Danny appears to be peaking in strength as of mid-afternoon Friday, but will soon start to weaken as upper level winds and dry dusty air interfere with the system.

Still, Danny has surprised us once, he could surprise us again. Even if it does weaken, who knows if it might eventually gain back some strength many days down the road as it possible approaches the Bahamas after going through or near Puerto Rico next week?

Time will tell.

PREVIOUS DISCUSSION
We've known for months the current El Nino ocean and weather pattern would tamp down on tropical storm and hurricane development in the Atlantic Ocean this year.

But nobody said El Nino would get rid of these storms completely. With the peak of the hurricane season now at hand, there's definitely stuff to talk about there.

The main star of this tropical show is of course Hurricane Danny. It's a tiny little thing, giving us the label "microcane" to describe it.

No doubt the wind is strong and dangerous. Sustained winds were 85 mph near Danny's eye. But the area of hurricane force winds is just 10 miles across. If you put Danny in the middle of Lake Champlain off of Burlington, Vermont,  the hurricane force winds would barely touch the Vermont and New York shorelines.

The cloud area of Danny Boy is so tiny that if you put it in the middle of Vermont, the sun would be peeking out near the Canadian and Massachusetts borders.

Compare that to the cloud shield of notorious Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which basically filled up the entire Gulf of Mexico.

FORECAST FOR DANNY 

When hurricanes are teeny, tiny like Danny Boy, they can either intensify super fast, or fall apart just as fast. That makes forecasting Danny a challenge.

The National Hurricane Center says Danny is in a sweet spot today over very warm oceans and low wind shear, which means that strong upper level winds won't blow the top off the storm and wreck it.

These strong upper level winds over the tropical Atlantic are very common and unusually strong when there's an El Nino, so that's why we're not expecting as many hurricanes as we've had in past years.

Also, there's  masses of dry, dusty air from the Sahara Desert that have blown across the Atlantic. That happens a lot, too, and that dry dusty air suppresses hurricanes. Danny is now in a spot that doesn't have such dry air.

Danny is moving to the west, and he's going to encounter two of the things that can weaken hurricanes: OK, the water is going to stay very warm in Danny's path, and hurricanes love warm water to feed off of and strengthen. So Danny has that going for him.

But the wind shear overhead is going to increase, and some of that dusty Saharan air might get scooped into Danny. That would weaken it, definitely. And remember I said Danny is a small little guy, so the wind shear and dusty air could easily bully him into weakening.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say they think Danny is going to go over the the Lesser Antilles, then maybe head toward Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic early next week.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Puerto Rico is going through an intense drought, worse than California, really. They're rationing water there. If the winds of Danny die down, but his heavy rains continue, that could help Puerto Rico some if Danny continues on his expected path.

Land interaction makes hurricanes weaken,  again especially with small ones like Danny, so hitting Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic could possibly even finish Danny off.

If he does survive, I have no idea if he'll make it to the United States eventually. Nobody else does, either. If Danny does manage to get to the United States nobody has any idea where, or with what strength. So ignore the online click bait that says the United States is in for it with Danny. Amirite, AOL.com, purveyors of online weather click bait?

OTHER ATLANTIC THREATS TO WATCH

This time of year, the potentially most dangerous hurricanes come off the west coast of Africa, head toward roughly the Cape Verde islands, and sometimes eventually become monsters as they travel westward over the Atlantic.

We're entering the peak of the Cape Verde type hurricane season, and one disturbance has just emerged off the African coast and is heading west. Another clump of storms is in Africa, and will head off into the Atlantic in a couple days.

Both storms have the potential to turn into horrible hurricanes, but the chances of low. Even in the most favorable hurricane seasons, many of these Cape Verde storms don't develop into anything and just disappear. Or if they do form, some then turn north to die over the chilly waters of the North Atlantic without hitting any land or harming anybody.

Remember, this is an El Nino year, so these African/Cape Verde systems are even more likely than usual to die a quick death as strong upper level winds tear them apart. But these two systems are worth watching to see what, if anything develops over the next week or two.  There's a chance they could make it.

There's another system south of Bermuda. It's just a plain old disorganized low pressure system with a mess of willy-nilly showers and thunderstorms. But it could take on some tropical storm characteristics in the next few days. Even if it does, there's no immediate threat to land.

HAWAII

I'm actually saving the potentially biggest hurricane threat to American soil for last. Out in the eastern and central Pacific, El Nino has the opposite effect on hurricanes than it does in the Atlantic.

The ocean out there is unusually warm because of El Nino, which makes for a better environment for hurricanes to form and grow. Wind shear isn't that high, so hurricanes are less likely to get torn apart than usual.

Hawaii isn't threatened all that often by hurricanes, but occasionally they do get them. Hawaii is much more under threat than usual this year with the strong El Nino heating up the nearby oceans.

Especially if a hurricane takes an unusual track from the south, where the ocean is warmer, rather than the east, where the water is a bit cooler.

Enter something now with the boring name of Tropical Depression 3-C. It's a disorganized mess of storminess way off to the southeast of Hilo, Hawaii. But forecasters think it will strengthen over warm water as it heads west to northwest south of Hawaii.

But here's the problem. Upper level winds might eventually steer the storm northward and it could come close to the western Hawaiin island toward the early or middle part of next week as a full fledged hurricane. They'll name it Kilo if it becomes a full fledged tropical storm or hurricane.

Remember, if would-be Ignacio indeed comes up from the south, it's more dangerous for Hawaii than if something tried to cross cool water and come at Hawaii from the east.

We don't know this for sure yet, but we better keep an eye on it. Especially if you're in, or planning to vacation in Hawaii.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

July Was Earth's Hottest Month On Record

Only a few small areas of the globe were a bit cooler
than average in an otherwise record hot month
for the globe.  
This year has been an incredibly hot one for the Earth as a whole, and July was totally one for the record books, NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information said today. 

The combined sea surface and land temperature for the entire Earth came to 61.86 degrees in July. This was the hottest of the 1,627 months the NOAA has examined since 1880.

July is normally the hottest month of the year on Earth. Yes, it's summer only in the northern hemisphere, and it's winter in the southern hemisphere, but on the whole, July comes out on top most years.

But July, 2015 was really extreme. 

July continued a trend in which the pace of global warming has really, really picked up this year. That's because El Nino has been added to the mix. All other things being equal, El Nino boosts the world's temperature.

This El Nino seems to be becoming a particularly strong one, so the combination of El Nino and global warming is making 2015 an especially hot year.  

With global warming, it's become common for a month or two out of each year to be the hottest on record, or at least scoring up in the Top Five Hottest.

This year, though, has been incredible. Five of the first seven months of 2015 - February, March, May, June and July, were the hottest on record.

So far, 2015 is obviously running as the hottest year on record, and stands an excellent chance of beating the record for the world's hottest year on record. That was set in 2014. Yep, just last year.

"I think, from my perspective, I would say I'm 99 percent certain that it's going to be the warmest year on record," said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden. 

Much has been made about a relative "pause" in the pace of global warming between about 2000 and 2013. Warming continued during that period, but not on as fast a pace as in the previous decades. (Still, 2005 and 2010 were once the hottest on record, or at least tied for that mark, until 2014 came around.)

As I said in previous record warm months this year, it appears the "pause" such as it was, is over, and we're in a period of faster global warming. Once El Nino settles down in a year or two, the pace might slow again.

Which is just a reminder that the pace of global warming never was and never will be steady. Be ready for more slow downs and accelerations. Either way, the planet, or at least many of the people, plants and animals living on it are in danger from this global climate change.


Watch This Plane Get Hit By Lightning In Atlanta

A plane apparently waiting for a storm to clear
at the Atlanta airport was struck by lightning Tuesday.  
Planes in flight get hit by lightning all the time.

Aircraft are designed to take such hits with little or no damage, and passengers inside the planes are pretty much always safe, even if the lightning bolts scare the bejeezus out of them.

The strike here is a bit different.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Tuesday, there was a ground stop at busy Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as a strong thunderstorm with lots of lightning swept through.

Jack Perkins was aboard one of the planes stacked up on the ground waiting out the bad weather, and he decided to film the long line of airliners waiting to take off.

He captured a dramatic lightning bolt smacking into one of those planes.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution had no word if there was anybody on the plane at the time of the strike.

There's no reports of any injuries among anyone aboard the plane, though I've seen a lot of jokes that the plane had to return to the gate for "bio cleaning" the soiled seats left by passengers who had the wits and other things scared out of them by the lightning.

Here's the video:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Heat Wave" Designation A Bit Arbitrary, But What Are You Going To Do?

A hot, hazy view of Vermont's Lake Champlain and Mount Mansfield.
An arbitrarily designated heat wave his underway
in the Green Mountain State now.  
With a forecast high of 90 degrees today, the nearest major weather station to my house, Burlington, Vermont, will have had three days in a row that reached 90 degrees.

That makes for an official heat wave when you get three days in a row at or above 90.

Like most official designations in weather, the definition of a heat wave is kind of arbitrary.

I mean, what looks more like a heat wave to you - three days in a row that barely make it to 90? Or this theoretical sequence of high temperatures for a week: 97, 96, 89, 94, 100, 89, 98.

That week long streak of weather that I invented is not an official heat wave. There's not three consecutive 90s. But to my mind, that sure is a heat wave, and worse than just three days of barely 90 degree weather.

But that's the problem with weather, and keeping weather records. There are so many variables involved. You have to settle on one.

It's probably true with any kind of weather catagorization. A tropical storm does not become a hurricane until its sustained wind reach 74 mph or more. But a 75 mph hurricane zipping through a lightly populated area will cause much less havoc than a 60 mph tropical storm stalling over a big city and dumping torrents of heavy rain.

Likewise, an EF1 tornado has winds of 86 to 110 mph, while an EF5 packs winds of over 200 mph.
But an EF5 passing over open farm country will cause much less havoc than, say, an EF1 sweeping through downtown St. Louis.

But, we humans have a need to compare and contrast everything. At least as importantly, it's good to have a systematic way of catagorizing weather. Is a certain phenomenon becoming less or more frequent? If so, where is this happening most.

That forms the basis for virtually every study as to how and why the weather and the climate is changing

Which means I won't nitpick over tiny little heatwaves like the one underway now in Vermont.



You have to catagorize everything consistently, but


"Firenado" In Idaho Wildfire Is Amazing

Firenado in Idaho this week.  
The heat generated by wildfires, like the massive ones going on in the western United States right now, can often produce whirlwinds of smoke, ash and sometimes fire.  

Firefighter Craig Fluer caught this big smoke whirlwind at a huge fire near Boise, Idaho this week. It extended more than 100 feet up into the air.

Here's the video:

Monday, August 17, 2015

El Nino Putting Progosticators Into A (Probably Wrong) Winter Forecast Tizzy

A looming El Nino might, maybe, bring welcome
rain to California this winter, but could also
bring severe storms that cause mudslides
like this one during the 1997 El Nino.  
There's been TONS of hype this week over what El Nino will do to the winter weather in our Great Nation.

First of all, it's August. Should we really be looking forward to winter that much?

Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Long range forecasts are often wrong. So take anything you hear about this coming winter's weather with a Mack truck sized grain of salt.

First of all, let's update ourselves on El Nino. It's a periodic warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean that disrupts weather world wide.

That's especially true if a particular El Nino is strong. This one is shaping up to be a doozy, possible the strongest on record or close to it.

They're calling the current building pattern the "Godzilla El Nino."

There is some basis for some of the winter forecasts inspired by this strong El Nino. More often than not, El Ninos cause wet winters in California and in the southern tier of the United States. Less reliably, but still quite often, an El Nino will cause a mild winter in the northern Tier of the United States.

So, that means California's drought is going to end, us New Englanders aren't going to shiver to death as we're buried under feet of snow like last year, and the South will have plenty of water for next spring's crops, right?

Not so fast. All kinds of other factors can influence the winter weather. El Nino is not the final arbiter.

The winter forecast is most crucial for California, which is still being crushed by an epic four-year drought.  If El Nino brings those heavy winter rains to the Golden State, happy days will be here again, right?

Well, not totally. Even if the rains materialize, the drought is so deep that it might not be fully erased by a wet winter.

El Ninos also often make California warmer than average. If that happens during the winter, more of the precipitation would fall as rain, not snow in the high Sierra Nevada mountains.

That would be bad, because you want a lot of snow in the California mountains to gradually melt in the spring and summer to feed rivers that supply water to lowland communities.

El Nino rains in California might also come in the form of torrential downpours. Any rain would help of course, but torrential rains would also lead to flash floods, which are obviously bad for people and property caught up in them.

On top of that, maybe the El Nino rains this time might not materialize. Why? Well, there's something called the "Blob" which has been lurking off the west coasts of the United States and Canada for at least a couple years now.

The Blob is an area of unusually warm water that has set up out there. This isn't the same as the hot water associated with El Nino, which is down off the coasts of Central and South America.

The blob of warm water well to the north isn't usually there, especially in an El Nino. This blob could change weather patterns the way it did last year, steering storms away from California and leaving them high and dry again.

This "Blob" also contributed to last year's weather pattern that brought so much snow and cold to the Midwest and Northeast.  Will the Blob attack in the same way this winter? Nobody is sure, and anybody who says they are sure is lying.

There's also the possibility that El Nino could knock out "The Blob" ensuring the hoped for wet California winter. Who knows?

There are other complicated atmospheric and ocean cycles in the Pacific and Atlantic basins which can also screw up those nice, neat El Nino forecasts.

Plus, global warming has screwed up the atmosphere, making things less predictable for any particular location on Earth.

Other outfits are also starting to make their own wacko winter predictions.

The Farmer's Almanac just released its winter forecast, and they insist much of the northern United States, including the Pacific Northwest and New England are in for another bitterly cold and very snowy winter.

That's based on their secret formula for weather predictions. You need a grain of salt bigger than that Mack truck for their forecast, I'm afraid.

Bottom line: I'll tell you in March how the winter weather of 2015-16 turns out.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Videos: Summer Storms Are Scary! Watch These For Proof

Aftermath of August 2 Traverse City, Michigan
storm. Video of it is below. Add caption
A few videos I came across this week show how scary heavy rain and severe storms can get in a big hurry.

We go to Yemen, Italy and Michigan to show what a summer storm can do in just a few minutes.

The first one shows serious flooding in Yemen recently, and a young boy got caught in it.

As he was being swept away, the video will show what happened next. Spoiler: It's scary, but ends well.



Next, we go to Italy, for this flash flood that hit in the past week.  The images in the first half of the video are by far the most interesting:



Finally we go to Traverse City, Michigan on August 2, where an incredible storm caused widespread damage in the northern part of that state.

Here, the storm goes on and on, dismantling the trees in a forested neighborhood in Traverse City. It's a wonder the guy and his house weren't completely smushed. By the way, foul language alert in the video, but you'll understand why:

Friday, August 14, 2015

96 Million "Shade Balls" Are A Calfornia Drought Buster

"Shade balls" being dumped into a Los Angeles
 reservoir to prevent water loss through evaporation
as the long California drought continues.  
The Great California Drought continues to drag on, made worse as the unrelenting summer sun evaporates water from reservoirs.

Los Angeles has one solution: Shade balls.

Shade balls are plastic balls that Los Angeles officials dumped into the city reservoir, the surface of which covers 175 acres, says the Los Angeles Times. 

The shade balls 96 million of 'em in this reservoir - are made out of the same material that your plastic gallon milk jugs are made of.

They float on the water to slow evaporation from the reservoir. Officials think the balls will prevent about 300 million gallons of water a year from evaporating from the reservoir, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The balls also prevent algae growth and help preserve water quality.

Each shade ball costs only about 36 cents, but since they're using 96 million of these things, the cost of the Los Angeles reservoir shade ball project is $34.5 million.

That's a TON of money, but much less likely than another alternative that was dreamed up. Putting protective tarps over the reservoir would have cost about $300 million, says the Los Angeles Times.

Each four inch diameter shade ball will probably last roughly 10 years before they start to degrade and split, and probably have to be fished out of the reservoir.

Environmental officials said the type of plastic used in making the balls poses no risk to humans who drink the water.

Hey, when it doesn't rain, you need to do something to save water, right?  A reservoir covered with plastic balls is surely better than an empty one during a drought.

Here's the local news report on this from ABC7:



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Real Dicks At Accuweather Gave The Shaft To The East Coast This Week

The East Coast sure got dicked over by wet weather
on Tuesday, at least as shown by Accuweather.  
Hat tip to fellow weather geek Scoop Cronin for pointing, and I do mean pointing, out this weather forecast map for this past Tuesday for the East Coast.

As you can see, Accuweather accurately forecasted that Mother Nature gave the eastern United States the shaft with the weather on Tuesday. (Maybe she was wearing a strap-on?)

I particularly like the "heavy rain" near the tip of the, um, weather zone in New England. As a denizen of New England, I'm now REALLY glad it rained pretty hard that day and nothing else came out of the sky, if you catch my drift.

I can understand why the map makers at Accuweather drew Tuesday's forecast map the way they did. I'm always aroused by big storms and loud thunderstorms. Maybe just not aroused the way the people at Accuweather were that day.

The news crew at WGN in Chicago really turned into 6th graders with the weather map, as you can see in the video below:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Wet Microburst" Sounds Wimpy, But This Video Will Change Your Mind.

Arizona storm chaser and photographer Bryan Snider captured what is known as a wet microburst earlier this summer smashing to the ground around Phoenix, Arizona.

It's really cool. Watch it below.

No, a wet microburst is not a small water balloon bursting. Microbursts are when a great gush of wind rapidly descends from a thunderstorm, hits the ground and spread out.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal, an airplane passenger
captured a wet micrburst hitting Las Vegas
this past July.  
Wet microbursts are accompanied by great gushes of torrential rain. (Dry microbursts, on the other hand, have little rain with them, but a lot of wind)

Microbursts cover a small area, usually less than 2.5 miles in scale, says NOAA.  But microbursts in some cases are as dangerous as tornadoes.

Winds often exceed 70 mph in a microburst, and there have been cases where wind speeds in a microburst have gotten to near 150 mph.

Wet microbursts are caused by dry air getting entrained into a thunderstorm, which causes air to start sinking fast in part of a thunderstorm, combined with the weight of all those raindrops suddenly getting caught in that downdraft.

The combination of the sinking air and the weight of the water causes the burst of air to slam into the ground, hence your microburst.

These microbursts can look pretty scary, especially when you see them in a time lapse, like the one from Snider:

Watch:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Little Publicized Intense Summer Heat Melting The Southern United States

Nightime view of Jackson, Mississippi. But
even nights have been sweltering in the Deep South
during this persistently hot summer.  
There hasn't been too much publicity about the unrelenting heat in the Deep South, mostly because it hasn't been spectacularly breaking all time record highs on any given day.

But it's been a long slog of horrible heat and humidity in places like Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for more than a month now.

Today will likely be the 30th day in a row that Jackson, Mississippi has reached at least 95 degrees. Such a long streak is a new record for them.

It's been 90 degrees or better in Jackson every afternoon since July 6. It's been 95 or more every day since July. Only one night has gotten any cooler than 70 degreds since July 7. Since July 25, nine days have reached 100 degrees or more.

Of course, Jackson, Mississippi isn't the place to go if you like refreshingly cool summer breezes. It's usually humid there, and normal daytime highs there are in the low 90s.

But this summer has been horrible. I bet they're sick of it.

If you go to Shreveport, Louisiana, it's not any better. Yesterday was the 8th consecutive day in Shreveport that made it to 100 degrees or more

Relief, such as it is, looks destined to finally reach these areas later this week. Relief is way too strong a word, though. Daytime highs later in the week across the Deep South will "only" reach the low 90s.




Huge Hail, Rain Storm Causes Havoc AGAIN In Colorado

Afttermath of the giant hailstorm and flash flood
Monday on Stoneridge Drive in Colorado Springs.
The video at the bottom of this post shows this street in
full flood mode during the height of the rain and hail 
The area around Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, Colorado got nailed again by immense thunderstorms, severe flash flooding and hail Monday, 

You'll see some videos of the wild flash flood amidst lots of hail and rain on one Colorado Springs street on Monday.

The area around Colorado Springs has had a tough time since 2012  and early in the summer of 2013, when two immense wildfires removed much of the vegetation and trees in the hills across that region.

The Front Range, as the the eastern edge of the Colorado Rockies are known, are prone to strong thunderstorms if the wind blows from the east and other factors conspire to bring moisture and instability to the area.

The east winds are force to rise up the plains of eastern Colorado slope upward the more west you go. Then you hit the mountains, and the east winds are forced to rise even more sharply to get over the mountains.

Often, that results in thunderstorms, often accompanied by a LOT of hail, downpours and the occasional tornado.

With the trees and shrubs and stuff gone from many of the hills near Colorado Springs since 2013, less water soaks into the ground. Plus, the rains can carry fire debris, mud and rocks down the slopes that would have otherwise be held in place by trees, roots and plants.

The result has been numerous flash floods around Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs over the past two years.

It hasn't helped that the summer thunderstorms over the past three summers seem to be more vicious and wet than many in the past.

A new round of storms hit yesterday, forcing airline en route from Boston to Salt Lake City to make an emergency landing in Denver when hail smashed the windshields and nose cone of the plane. Nobody was seriously hurt in that incident. j

It also unleashed a rain and hailstorm on Colorado Springs, that whitened the ground like snow and triggered more incredible flash floods.

Watch this video to get an idea of how it played out:




Here's what it's like to get caught driving in one of these epic Colorado hail and flash flood storms.
The motorist in this video finally pulls over to get out of danger at the end of the video, but I would have pulled over long before he did:



And here's the scene Monday in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Notice it really isn't raining there. All the water came from fairly distant thunderstorms in the mountains above this resort town:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Typhoon Tornado Blows Car Away In Scary Video

A  car in Taiwan gets swept away in a tornado
spun off by Typhoon Soudelor over the weekend. 
Typhoons and hurricanes (both are exactly the same kind of tropical storms, just different names) often spin off tornadoes when they hit land.

Typhoon Soudelor was no exception when it smashed into Taiwan this past weekend.

Here's a dash cam video of a tornado sweeping a car away. I'm not even sure where it ends up, or whether the people inside survived.

I know at least 30 people were killed by the typhoon in Taiwan and China, and there is massive damage.

Here's the really, really frightening video of the tornado in Taiwan spun off by Soudelor:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

An Icy Summer Thrill In Newfoundland As Iceberg Collapses

An icdberg in King Point, Newfoundland last week.  
Beachgoers in Newfoundland got quite a thrill last week when an iceberg showed up at a bay in Kings Point, then collapsed.

The collapse sent a mini-tsunami crashing onto the beach. Everybody got out of the way and nobody was hurt. The collapse was captured on the really cool video you'll see below.

Icebergs make pretty frequent visits to Newfoundland and surrounding areas of eastern Canada.

Most of the icebergs people see in the summer around Newfoundland and Labrador come from western Greenland coastline, as glaciers calve off the enormous chunks of ice.  Ocean currents bring the icebergs southward toward Newfoundland.

Here's the video, followed by more videos of icebergs this summer around Newfoundland and Labrador. Apparently, these iceberg dramas are fairly common up there.



Here's an iceberg collapsing near Twillingale, Newfoundland on July 3:



And here's a drone view of an iceberg collapsing in Labrador back in June:


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Typhoon Soudelor Trashes Taiwan, As Expected

A scene in Taiwan as Typhoon Soudelor approached on Friday.
Photo from Getty Images 
Taiwan took the brunt of Typhoon Soudelor, which made landfall there, Saturday morning their time.

Peak wind gusts on land reached as high as 145 mph. Taipei, home to more than 2.5 million people, had gusts to 86 mph downtown and 93 mph out at the airport.

The big part of this storm was the rain. If you think Taipei's 12 inches and counting is huge, another town in Taiwan has so far reported 51 inches of rain in the past couple of days from the typhoon.

For comparison's sake, most cities in the United States East Coast normally get about 40 or 45 inches of rain per year.

Taiwan is among the most prepared areas for typhoons in the world, but even they can't escape the effects and disruption, of course. At least three people have died so far, two million people have no electricity, and there is massive, massive flooding.

Here are some videos that have so far come from Taiwan and Typhoon Soudelor:

Watch a very scary looking flash flood/mudslide associated with Soudelor's torrential rains:



Waves crash into the coast ahead of the typhoon:



The typhoon's winds blow this ferris wheel like a pinwheel:

Friday, August 7, 2015

Trouble With Unwarned Storm In Alabama, And Ignoring A Warned Storm In New Hampshire

Inside a Troy, Alabama Walmart after a suspected
tornado heavily damaged the store.  
UPDATE: The National Weather Service in Birmingham confirms that it WAS a tornado that trashed that Walmart.

In their defense, as noted in an update in Dennis Mersereau's Vane blog, the rotation in this storm as depicted by radar last night appeared to be fairly weak.

These weakly rotating storms rarely end up producing a tornado, so the National Weather Service usually doesn't issue tornado warnings for such storms.

Weakly rotating storms often pass over Alabama, and the National Weather Service is reluctant to issue tornado warnings for storms that are highly unlikely to actually produce a twister.

If you issue too many warnings with nothing materializing, you get accused of crying "Wolf!" too many times, which would lead people to ignore warnings for more dangerous storms in the future.

In rare cases, and this looks like it might be one of those weird cases, the rotation appeared weak, but the tornado was there, and fairly strong.

To my relatively untrained eye, the rotation signals looked pretty obvious. But obvious does not mean strong, and obviously doesn't always mean a tornado is there, especially if the rotation isn't violently strong.

It all goes to prove that we still have quite a bit more to learn about tornadoes and other severe weather hazards.

I'd bet my next paycheck that a lot of meteorologists will be studying this event in detail to see what could be learned from this situation. It'll also be a topic of seminars and conversations at future meteorological conferences.

PREVIOUS DISCUSSION

Despite a National Weather Service apparatus that can usually detect potential tornadoes, one apparently hit without warning last night in Troy, Alabama.

The storms hit a Walmart and a sports equipment store while people were inside, caving in roofs. Miraculously, nobody died, but at least five people were hurt.

Dennis Mersereau, who writes Gawker's The Vane weather blog, broke some disturbing news about the lack of warnings for this tornado.

Sometimes, tornadoes aren't easily visible in radar and wind velocity detecting equipment, and so warnings don't get issued.

In this case, Mersereau shows radar images that had can't miss signs of a tornado associated with its parent thunderstorm  at least as early as 10:24 p.m. last night. A tornado warning was not issued until 10:39 p.m., after the stores had been hit.

Forecasters sometimes miss tornadoes because there's no clear sign of them on radar. But this one had a pronounced hook echo, and other images on radar called base velocity showed a very tight rotation, indicating a tornado.
.
Overall, the area where the tornado hit in Alabama was not considered at high risk of a tornado on Thursday, but obviously, one likely did hit. Goes to show these things can happen even when conditions are only marginally ripe for severe weather.

Mersereau said he has reached out to the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama, which is responsible for weather warnings in that area, to get an explanation.
Sporting goods store heavily damaged by
 a likely tornado in Troy, Alabama last night. 

As Mersereau notes, the Birmingham NWS office is in tornado country and usually does an excellent job with tornado warnings.

I don't know if there really was a slip up last night with the Troy, Alabama tornado warning. It'll be interesting to see what Mersereau finds out from the National Weather Service.

However, nobody's perfect. There could have been a mistake, or somebody might have been asleep at the switch. We'll find out.

If Mersereau is right with the timing of the events, the National Weather Service in Birmingham has some explaining to do. Not because heads should roll, but because this could be a learning opportunity for monitoring, forecasting and warning people during future storms.

Meanwhile, we have news of the risk of NOT responding to weather warnings. The National Weather Service in Gray, Maine on Monday issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Lancaster, New Hampshire area, where a local fair was going on alerting people to oncoming wind gusts of at least 60 mph.

That's enough to rip a circus tent up.

The warning was issued about 20 minutes before a circus tent collapsed, killing a father and young daughter and injuring several others.

The warning was issued just before the start of the evening's show. Also, forecasters had been saying since at least the day before the storm that there was the possibility of severe weather. 

Plus, severe weather had been reported in neighboring Vermont and further south in New Hampshire earlier that afternoon. That activity was heading north, so it would have been worth it to watch things, with or without official warnings from the National Weather Service.

It's the responsibility of an outdoor venue operator to monitor weather and evacuate people to sturdier shelters when storm warnings are issued. It's still unclear why this circus did not postpone the show and move people to stronger buildings when the warning was issued.

I don't even know yet if somebody was monitoring the National Weather Service for warnings and updates.

It is a bummer when an outdoor event is canceled due to the threat of severe weather, but that disappointment pales in comparison to lives lost.

I've seen how this type of thing is done right. On a sunny Saturday in early June, I was at the annual Rockin' Rib Fest outdoor festival in Yankton, South Dakota.

While I was there, a tornado watch was issued for the area. A watch is a step down from a warning. A watch means a tornado is possible, a warning means a tornado is imminent or at least very likely.

The Rib Fest organizers announced the tornado watch to the crowd less than 10 minutes after it had been issued.   The announcer just told people to keep an eye to the sky and listen for later updates, but the festival continued, which was proper, since there was no severe weather nearby at the time.

Ultimately, there was no tornado that day in or near Yankton, but a lot of lightning developed later that evening. The lightning prompted organizers to shut the whole event down and everyone was urged to leave and get out of harms way as thunderstorms rattled over Yankton for hours that Saturday night. 

Organizers surely lost a lot of money in cancelling the annual event. But imagine how horrible it would have been if lightning or strong winds hit the event with hundreds or thousands of people there.

To me, better safe than sorry. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

You'll Be Hearing A Lot More About Wildfires Over The Next Two Months

Wildfire near Clearlake, California this week
Photo by Noah Berger/EPA  
It seems like wildfires iin the western United Staters have been in the news constantly over the last couple weeks.

You're going to hear a LOT more about the fires.

As expected with the West Coast drought and all, wildfire season is already ridiculous. It usually peaks out there from late August into October, coincidentally the peak of the hurricane season on the East Coast.

While the Atlantic Ocean remains extremely quiet in the hurricane department, the wildfires keep burning like crazy.

The New York Times notes there that as of Monday, state and local firefighters responded to 5,500 wildlfires this year, which is 1,200 more than at the same time last year.

As of Monday, 180,000 acres had burned, which compares to about 87,600 through the same time last year, the Times says. 

The current biggie out west, a gigantic one burning north of San Francisco, has burned close to 40 homes already.  

That one is now partly under control, thanks to a bit of rain, higher humidity and lighter winds

Another fire in Oregon shut down Interstate 84 in the eastern part of the state, says television station KTVB in Boise, Idaho. 

As is the case in the California fire, you'll hear that a little rain or humidity is helping crews battle a particular fire, so the crisis will appear to be over.

But the drought in California and elsewhere in the west has been long and deep. You might get sprinkles of rain here and there, to put a temporary damper on new fires. But things are so dry that the little sprinkles of rain will quickly evaporate, the wind will pick up and the humidity will drop.

From there, you get another round of horrible fires.

Something called dry lightning is responsible for a lot of these fires, and will be responsible for plenty more the rest of the summer and fall.

Here on the East Coast, lightning is usually accompanied by thunderstorms with drenching rains. Out west, you can get thunderstorms with very little rain. So lightning strikes and sets fire to forests, but there's not much in the way of rain to put out that fire, so pretty soon you have a new, big blaze on your hands.

Meanwhile, there's really no chance of any soaking rainstorms until later in the autumn.

Here's hoping that El Nino does indeed drop a lot of rain on California over the coming winter, though there's no guarantee of that. Plus, El Ninos can make places like Washington State drier than normal.

We'll see.

But with all those people living in or near the woods in the western third of the United States, I fear we'll lose a lot of other houses to wildfires in the coming weeks.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

All Hail Boston! And Other Cities That Got Pounded By Wild Storms

A main tries to flee through the large
hail falling on Boston yesterday.  
Yesterday was indeed a wild day in Massachusetts, and in New Hampshire. And Maine. And Rhode Island.

Waves of severe storms rolled through the region all day. Tornado warnings were rampant across Massachusetts in the afternoon. There was a waterspout in Boston Harbor, but no confirmations yet of tornadoes.

However, meteorologists will surely go out today to look at damage paths in southern and eastern New England to find any evidence of tornadoes.

The real story was the hail, which hit many eastern New England communities hard. Lots of reports of golf ball sized hail or even bigger. I wonder how many thousands of cars are dented this morning.

Probably many thousands.

There will be far fewer severe storms in New England today, but some areas will get some hail. A cold pool of air aloft will encourage storms, and since it's so cool upstairs, hail won't melt as much as usual for August on the way down.

Here are a few cool videos: A couple from Boston, and at least one from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, which had its own problems with hail, flooding and storms on Tuesday.

Television station WCVB in Boston has this great time lapse of the city getting swallowed up by the severe storm:



Next, somebody took a video of large hail hitting a Boston roof. The first few seconds show it falling in normal time, then they go into a really cool slow motion video of the falling hail:




Up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the hailstorm there looked like this:




And oh, hell, I'll throw in a video of a small tornado passing over a house in Florida this week:


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Down Under Winter: Rare Snow In Tasmania

Australia Broadcasting Corp gave us
this image of two guys being rescued
from deep snow in Tasmania this week.  
The Tasmanian Devil is probably frozen in his tracks

A rare snowstorm hit Tasmania this week, dropping the most snow in the region since at least 1986.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported two men were rescued from a mountain near Tasmania's capital, Hobart, after the vehicle got stuck amid deep snow and fallen trees.

Elsewhere in Tasmania, cars slid of icy roads, schools closed and people worried about freezing plants and pipes.

Those kinds of issues are common in the winter where I live in northern New England, but are really odd in Tasmania.

A surfer confronts a snowy beach near Hobart,
Tasmania this week.  
Tasmania is an island off the southeastern coast of Australia. Since it's closer to Antarctica than Australia,

Tasmanians do experience winter, but usually there's not much snow except in the higher elevations.

Being in the southern hemisphere, it is winter in and near Australia now. But this year has been tougher than usual. A cold spell in July brought snow to high elevations in much of southern Australia.