Friday, September 30, 2016

Matthew Is Now Most Dangerous Atlantic Hurricane Of 2016

The beast Hurricane Matthew over the Caribbean early Friday
Hurricane Matthew strengthened a lot yesterday and overnight and is now packing 100 mph winds in the Caribbean Sea.

It is also now a big threat to Jamaica and/or Cuba.

Matthew managed to strengthen a lot despite fairly strong upper level winds that usually weaken such storms. It's moving over very warm water,  and the upper level winds are forecast to eventually weaken, so this hurricane might just become a huge powerhouse.

It's stlll heading toward the west, but forecasters are still predicting a sharp northward turn, starting Saturday. That would bring the powerful storm near Jamaica and Cuba, which would be a terrible disaster for them.

There's still some questions as to when exactly Matthew will turn north, and that will determine where in these to countries get the worst hit.

Hurricanes always weaken over land, and Matthew will end up in the Bahamas as a not as strong version of itself early next week.

It could restrengthen over waters east of Florida, though.

Many forecasting computer models take Matthew northeastward, off the East Coast, which would make it not so terrible for the United States.

However, some of the computer models have Matthew hitting the eastern Carolinas or New England, so it's still something to be watched, for sure.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Matthew Strengthens, Mid-Atlantic Floods

A strengthening Tropical Storm Matthew looked
healthy on visible satellite imagery Thursday morning.  
As expected, Tropical Storm Matthew was continues to strengthen as it cruised westbound through the Caribbean Sea,

At 8 a.m. Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said Matthew had top sustained winds of 70 mph, just short of hurricane strength. The Center said Matthew will very likely grow into a hurricane later today or tonight.  

The storm has already caused problems as it moved through the Lesser Antilles islands on Wednesday.

One person was killed by the storm on St. Vincent, a wind gust of 89 mph was reported at a high elevation station in St. Pierre, Martinique, and damage was reported in Barbados as well.

Matthew is over very warm water, and strong upper level winds over the storm that would interfere its development are forecast to weaken. Matthew could become a pretty damn strong hurricane

Most of the forecasts are still saying Matthew will take a sharp right turn northward Sunday or Monday, which would make the then-hurricane a threat to Jamaica, Cuba and/or Hispaniola.

After that, we still don't know what will happen. Matthew will likely weaken as it goes over the land masses and mountains of these islands, but could strengthen again once it gets by there.

Where it goes is an even bigger question. Some still take it up the Eastern Seaboard, some skirt it off the coast more so it wouldn't be a threat, and still others steer Matthew back westward into the Gulf of Mexico.

It all depends on how a strong high pressure ridge over the North Atlantic, a storm coming across the nation from the west, and that pesky, floody cut off low in the Ohio Valley and Northeast I talked about yesterday all interact. All those will determine the path of Matthew.

Speaking of that cut off low:

FLOODING:

As expected, flooding is ongoing and expected to continue today amid the heavy rains brought in by the cut off storm system that I talked about yesterday.

Southern parts of North Carolina, in and around Fayetteville, got the worst of it. So far, five to eight inches of rain has fallen there, and a flash flood emergency is ongoing.  Television station WNCN reported many water rescues from cars and homes in that region.

There are also numerous flood and flash flood warnings in parts of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and New Jersey. Several roads along the I-95 corridor were shut down by high water early this morning so I'm sure the commute into the Washington DC area this morning was an absolute joy.

More areas of heavy rain are forecast for the region today, so flooding will continue.

I still don't think much rain will make it into New England, which really needs it, but at least a little rain will come down over the weekend up there.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tropical Storm Matthew Forms. Could Be East Coast Threat, But HIGHLY Uncertain

Tropical Storm Matthew is still disorganized over
the Lesser Antilles as of Wednesday, but is
forecast to consolidate and strengthen.
As expected, Tropical Storm Matthew formed near the Lesser Antilles this morning.

Even though it has barely formed and is still disorganized, it's got sustained winds of 60 mph.

As it consolidates itself, it will likely strengthen into a hurricane as it initially heads westward into and through the Caribbean Sea. 

It will be going over very warm water, record warm, in fact, so that's one big factor that favors strengthening.

There is potential Matthew, my namesake storm, could affect the East Coast, but before you panic, I'd hold off. The future path of this thing is highly uncertain from the point at which it gets to a position south of Hispaniola or Cuba.
It'll turn northward. Many of the forecasting computer models have a sharp northward turn, but when Matthew decided to head north is really open to question.

If it turns north sooner than expected, Matthew would slide east of Florida and probably head north out to sea, or at least far enough off the coast to not be a terrible thing for the East Coast.

OR, it could go east of Florida and then go directly north into New England from there, which would be really bad.

OR, if it turns north a bit laterit could smack right into Florida and cause big trouble there, then ride up along the East Coast as a weakening but still dangerous and flood-producing tropical storm,

OR if Matthew turns north even later than expected, the threat would be along the Gulf of Mexico.

So at this point, it's anybody's guess, so I suppose we'll all have to stay tuned, wait and see if Matthew will be disaster, or just another tropical puff of wind that evaporates before anything bad happens.

It's a waiting game at this point.

Odd Storm To Cause Mid-Atlantic Flooding

Heavy rain and flooding are likely in the Mid-Atlantic States
over the next few days as a cut-off low in the Ohio
Valley encourages heavy rains
You're going to hear a lot about something called a "cut-off low" in the next few days, mainly because it's going to flood parts of the Middle Atlantic States.

Cut off lows are named appropriately because they are "cut off" from the jet stream.

Usually, storms ride the jet stream, that river of fast moving air that generally goes west to east, with sharp wave, in the northern hemisphere.

Since the jet stream pushes storms along, it usually doesn't rain all that hard in any one area, so flooding from most storms is unlikely, unless they have an unusual amount of moisture with them and/or the rain falls are already soaked ground.

A cut off low usually just sits and meanders aimlessly, often staying in roughly the same place for days, sometimes a week or more. A particularly energetic one is currently settling into the Ohio Valley, and that spells trouble for the Mid-Atlantic states

The low will cause lots of wet air to be drawn in from the east and southeast and dump it on the Mid-Atlantic region. The wind will also be forced to rise as it reaches the Appalachian mountains. When air rises, it cools and condenses, and extra moisture is wrung out as rain.

This means the rain might be particularly heavy, with the greatest danger of flash flooding over the next couple of days in the hills and mountains of western Virginia, eastern West Virginia, western Maryland and southern Pennsylvania.

Many areas in the Mid-Atlantic are expecting three to five inches of rain, with locally more in some areas.

It's already raining in the Mid-Atlantic, with a few inches of new precipitation reported in a couple spots.

Unfortunately, not a lot of rain will move north into New England, which is still having a drought. Some rain will get in this weekend, especially in the southern half of New England, but it won't be a blockbuster storm, that's for sure.

Our cut-off low will weaken and finally move north this weekend, bringing some of those showers north all the way to the Canadian border, but it won't be much.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Looks Like My Namesake Tropical Storm Is Going To Form Soon

An area of disturbed weather east of the Lesser Antilles and
northeast of South America is getting organized,
and will probably become Tropical Storm Matthew soon.  
It looks very, very likely Tropical Storm Matthew will form way out over the Atlantic Ocean soon.

Great. They're naming wannabe hurricanes after me now.

The potential is there for this thing to actually become a dangerous hurricane, but there is so much uncertainty with this thing I'd hate to hazard a guess.

Wannabe Matthew is heading toward the Lesser Antilles and will produce squally weather there tonight and Wednesday.

From there, it will head toward the Caribbean Sea, where water temperatures are wicked hot to a pretty far depth. That's bait for storms like this to strengthen rapidly, so it could quickly become a hurricane in the coming days.

That is, if things like interaction with land or unfavorably strong winds don't mess with it. We'll have to wait and see.

With the potential for Wannabe Matthew to become a hurricane, it's something to watch.  Cuba and Hispaniola are two places that should really watch this thing.

It could become a threat anywhere from southern Mexico to the southeastern U.S. coast next week, or it could turn sharply northeast and avoid the United States altogether. As you can see, nobody knows what Wannabe Matthew has up its sleeve.  

Wannabe Matthew is just like me: It doesn't know how big a punch it wants to land, and it doesn't really know where it's headed.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Iowa Floods Have Gotten Really Nasty

Flooding in Iowa in the past week. Photo
by Jim Slosiarek via Twitter.  
At least 5,000 people are evacuating from their homes in and near Cedar Rapids, Iowa this morning thanks to storms that dumped more than a foot of rain in some sections of that state and Minnesota in the past week.

The Des Moines Register reports this will be the worst flood since at least 2008, when the same area was inundated by record flooding.  

The good news is predictions for flood crests have been scaled back a little bit, so it won't be quite as bad as 2008.

But there's a caveat: More rain is in the forecast, and if the downpours are bad enough, it will actually make the rivers rise more than forecast. We'll have to wait and see.

Another good thing is what happened after the 2008 flood. The Des Moines Register said authorities bought out the owners of 1,350 homes that flooded in Cedar Rapids then. The houses were torn down, and the area is now green space. It's really not that bad if open parklands go under water

Better than if houses do.

Up in southern Minnesota, flood alerts remain up in that area, too. More rain and thunderstorms are due today. Already, homes and businesses in Albert Lea, Minnesota are flooded. 

The amount of rain forecast in southeastern Minnesota today - around an inch in quick downpours- would not normally be cause for worry. But since the ground is so saturated, it won't take much to renew flooding there. 

The Iowa flood is another example of what we've been through this summer in terms of flooding. As we know, extreme floods have hit West Virginia, Maryland and Louisiana in recent months. I guess the trend is continuing.

More Frost In Vermont, Rest Of New England Tonight

Looks like there might be a little frost on the ground
in this webcam image taken at dawn Sunday
in the Nashville section of Jericho, Vermont.
As expected, a fair number of valleys in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine had frost this morning.

It got as low as 26 in Saranac Lake, New York this morning and several 30 to 32 degree readings popped up in northern and central Vermont.  

If you got frost this morning, you'll get it again tonight. And if you came close to getting a frost this morning, it'll be a little chilllier than last night by Monday morning.

So some of you who escaped a frost in your garden this Sunday morning might not be so lucky by dawn Monday.

So, uncover those plants you hid with sheets last night, so they can recover in today's sun. But cover those same plants up this evening, even if you didn't get a frost Sunday morning.

Just like this morning, if you live right near Lake Champlain, you'll probably be safe. If not, it's risky.

The good news is if your late plants survive this weekend of seasonably chilly autumn weather, it looks like there will be no frost after Monday through at least through next weekend

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Get Those Plants Covered: Frosty Weekend In Vermont, Northeast

Don't let your Vermont garden look like this over the
weekend. Unless you live close to Lake Champlain,
better cover up tender plants and veggies
because a lot of places have a chance of frost both
tonight and Sunday night. 
The autumn chill has settled in for the weekend, and it's time to start worrying about the outdoor plants you want to save.

Frost is a fairly good bet across much of Vermont, northern New York, New Hampshire and parts of Maine this weekend.

Here in Vermont, the cold spots in the Northeast Kingdom will certainly go below freezing tonight and Sunday night, so the growing season is kaput there. Same is true for valleys in the Adirondacks, like Saranac Lake.

Elsewhere, there's generally a 50/50 chance of frost, tonight and Sunday night, unless you're right near Lake Champlain.

The warm waters there influence the airn and make you safe from anything that will nip your plants.

The chances of frost are even higher than 50/50 once you get into the valleys of northern and central Vermont away from the Champlain Valley.

Which leaves us to ponder the relatively heavily populated suburbs and towns in the Champlain Valley that are more than, say five miles away from Lake Champlain.

Will communities and sections of communities like St. Albans, Milton, Williston, Middlebury, and Rutland with those zillions of backyard or front yard gardens get any frost this weekend?

Maybe, maybe not. It really will depend on local conditions. I mean very local. A back yard might get cold enough for a light frost, but the front yard is just dewy.

The rain we got Friday in northern Vermont might help a tiny bit. Wet ground holds the heat a little more than dry ground. But don't count on the Friday rain to save you from a chilly nip in the flowers.

My advice: Whether or not it will frost, get tender plants indoors or cover them up both tonight and Sunday night.  Just to be on the safe side. Old sheets or blankets will do.

I know this would be extra work, but remove the covers from the plants during the day Sunday, then cover them back up in the evening. Plants don't do well covered up all day.

By the way, the kind of cool weather we're getting this weekend is perfectly normal for late September. We're just not used to it because it's been so warm for so long.

If your plants survive well over the next couple of nights, the good news is that frost looks highly unlikely all of next week

Friday, September 23, 2016

Utah Hit Be Tornado, Severe Storms

Damage from Thursday's tornado in Washington Terrace, Utah.
Photo by Patrick Benadict  
That was quite a cold front that went through Utah Thursday, spinning off at least one tornado and causing other damage.

In Washington Terrace, Utah, the tornado destroyed one home, damaged at least 30 others and caused several relatively minor injuries, says the Salt Lake Tribune.

A second, smaller tornado hit the town of Panguitch, Utah, the second time in less than a month that town had a twister, says the Salt Lake Tribune.

Utah isn't exactly the tornado capital of the world, but they do occasionally get them. (Almost every place in the United States could get a twister). A tornado famously tore through downtown Salt Lake City in 1999.

Utah averages about two tornadoes per year, most of them weak, says the Deseret News. On average a tornado as strong as an EF2, with winds of 111 to 135 mph, occurs only once in seven years. Thursday's tornado in Washington Terrace, Utah appears to have caused at least EF2-scale damage.

Thursday's storms in Utah also produced strong, damaging winds, as you'll see in one of the videos at the bottom of this post.

The severe weather is gone from Utah today, but in the chilly air behind the cold front, there's a winter weather advisory in the Wasatch Mountains. Six to 12 inches of snow is likely at elevations higher than 7,000 feet, says the National Weather Service

Winter is coning

Here's a video of yesterday's tornado in Utah:




And here's a video of a LOT of tree damage in Utah from the storm:



Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fire And Rain: Trouble Spots Brewing In U.S. Weather

Cars stranded by floodwaters in Brooklyn Park,
Minnesota. Photo from Maury Glover of
Fox 9 News.  
As we get more and more into autumn, the type of bad weather turns away from the summer pattern of localized roughness to more widespread problems that crop up periodically.

That's going on now.

There are a few areas in the nation that are now having some real weather trouble. The hot spots:

1. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa: Repeated heavy rounds of torrential rain were sweeping this area early Thursday.

This has been going on for a day or two there. Flash flood and flood warnings are widespread because up to 10 inches of rain has already fallen.

In Maple Grove, Iowa, 3.5 inches of rain poured down in just an hour, says Minnesota Public Radio

Many roads are closed, cars are stranded and houses flooded. Things should start to taper off later today and tomorrow in this region.

2. Southern California: It's been a bad fire season in California and it looks like it might be about to become worse. In the autumn, you tend to get bouts of strong winds and very low humidities coming off the deserts into California and that's happening now.

Widespread red flag warnings and critical fire danger alerts are up for much of southern and central California and southern Nevada. These kinds of conditions will go on for several days.

That's especially bad news. More often than not the very critical fire weather only lasts a day or two, so firefighters typically start getting the upper hand on wild fires after three days or so. This time, things might continue to escalate through the weekend if fires do break out.

3. Intermountain West. Meanwhile, a little to the east of the fire danger zone, the problem is too much water, again. Moisture from what once was Hurricane Paine off the northwest Mexican coast is streaming in. This will set off lots of showers and heavy thunderstorms. People are being warned to stay out of canyons, dry washes and low lying areas. 

Those flash floods can really come seemingly out of nowhere. Hikers beware!

There are also some high wind warnings in the Rockies as well as a strong cold front will get winds gusting to 60 mph in some places.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fall Weather Arriving And This Time I Mean It

OK, this time it's real. Vermont and New England's never ending summer really is about to end.
Snow on autumn leaves last
October. It won't be cold enough
for snow in Vermont this weekend,
but you'll notice a definite shift to chill

Oh, sure, as advertised, there was a brief foray into seasonable weather last week, in which some of the cold mountain hollows of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire had a bit of frost.'

But the temperature quickly recovered back to mid summer levels, where they've stayed for the past several days. It'll be summery today, too, and kind of like that tomorrow, but then.....

It really is time to find the fleece.  

The timing of this upcoming cool spell is just right. Astronomical autumn starts on the East Coast at 10:21 a.m. tomorrow, and the cold front comes through the next day - Friday.

Unlike last week's cool spell, this one is going to stick around for awhile.

In northern New England, temperatures will hold in the 60s Friday as the cold front moves through. Some towns will stay in the 50s Saturday and Sunday in the cool northwest air flow. The warmer valleys will touch 60 over the weekend.

Also over the weekend, many places are at risk of frost in Vermont and surrounding northern areas.

The warm spots near Lake Champlain will probably avoid the frost, but gardeners in the rest of the region want to pay attention to later forecasts.

The cool weather is going to seem shockingly chilly after such a long stretch of warm weather - basically since May. I don't even know where I left some of my warmer shirts, fleece and flannel. I'd better check the closets pronto.

Still, the temperatures we're going to experience are not at all unusual for this time of year. It always happens. Every year.

It's just that it's been so warm, it'll seem like record cold, when in reality it'll just be average.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rising Seas Are Killing East Coast Trees

From Climate Central: White Cedars dying near the
Jersey Shore because of rising sea levels.  
You'd think just about all of the Middle Atlantic Coast is just beach communities, amusement parks and vacation getaways. Think the Jersey Shore, Asbury Park, all that.

But there are areas in New Jersey and other areas along the East Coast that are relatively remote. Just marshes and forests.

Some sections of these coastal forests are now dead, and climate change is partly to blame. Seems like it always is.

According to Climate Central, these dead "ghost forests" are an increasingly common feature in places like coastal southern New Jersey.

Sea levels are rising faster in the Mid-Atlantic than elsewhere in the world. Sea level rise around the world is not uniform. It depends upon whether the water in that area is warming faster in other areas, or if ocean currents are changing, and whether the land is sinking for other reasons.

In parts of the Mid-Atlantic, the land is sinking due in large part from groundwater pumping and natural geological processes. Plus the Gulf Stream has nudged closer to this part of the coast. Warmer water expands, so it's a little deeper than cold water. And of course, with ice and glaciers melting around the world, the oceans are slowly getting deeper.

When the water rises, salt water infiltrates the roots of coastal trees, killing them.

(This is why you see roadside sugar maple trees turning color earlier than other trees this time of year. Road salt used in the winter gets into the tree roots, damaging the trees and making them sickly and causing the leaves to turn color early.)

Climate Central says when the coastal forests die, they turn into marshland. And former marshland eventually succumbs to the rising seas.

The rate at which these forests are dying provide more clues as to where and how sea levels are rising.



Monday, September 19, 2016

Arctic Ice Loss Tied For Second Greatest Despite Chilly Summer Up There

The white area is the Arctic sea ice
extent in mid-August The orange line
is the average extent for that time of year.
Map from National Snow and Ice
Data Center.  
It's mid-September, so summer is way over in the high Arctic, and the ice up there is just starting to expand as it does every year around this time.

We've been closely watching the ice in the Arctic because it started the spring this year with the lowest extent on record for that time of year.

Would the ice be the least extensive on record in the Arctic by the time it reached its minimum for the season in September?

The answer is no, we found out this week. The extent of the ice was tied with 2007 as the second lowest on record, says the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The summer in much of the Arctic was cooler and cloudier than in recent years, so ice melted more slowly than it otherwise would have. The NSIDC said it was remarkable the ice diminished this summer as much as it did, given the weather conditions up there.

Keeping tabs on Arctic ice is important because that ice - and that in Antarctica, helps act as the world's air conditioner. The white ice deflects much of the sun's heat back up into space. The more open water there is in the Arctic, the less heat bounces back to space, and is instead absorbed by the darker water.

Such a situation is referred to as a positive feedback, because global warming causes ice to melt, which exposes ocean water, which absorbs heat and makes climate change even worse.

What wasn't all that surprising to the NSIDC is that the record low ice extent for spring did not correlate to a record low in September. The agency said it is often the case where a trend in the beginning of the summer doesn't last all year.

The low ice extent comes in a year in which every month so far set a record for warmth for the Earth. Early data shows August will become a record warm month as well. 

El Nino, a periodic warming in eastern Pacific Ocean waters near South America,  combined with global warming to help us set those high temperature records. El Nino is gone, but there's usually a several months long lag between when El Nino fades and its effects on global temperatures goes away.

2017 might end up being a tad cooler than 2016 because of El Nino's disappearance, but the overall trend of a warming planet will continue as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Julia The Weirdo Continues To Confuse Forecasters

Tropical Depression Julia was still a disorganized mess
off the Southeastern U.S. coast Sunday morning
but the weird little storm still has life in her.  
When last we left Tropical Storm Julia, we were remarking how weird it was that a cluster of thunderstorms that pretty much no chance of developing into a tropical storm did so.

And Julia did form into a tropical storm. Over land, which almost never happens. Over northeastern Florida, to be specific. Almost all tropical storms and hurricanes form over warm ocean water.

We thought Julia would live its entire short life over land, which would be unprecedented. But nope, she fooled us again, jumping to just offshore Georgia and dumping heavy rain on the coasts of that state and South Carolina.

Next, we were assured that strong upper level winds would tear Julia apart and it would be a nothing burger by now.

Wrong again!  Tropical Depression Julia, downgraded from a tropical storm a few days ago is still east of Georgia and South Carolina, just further offshore now, and showing signs of making a comeback.

Julia is still a disorganized mess, with those strong upper level winds keeping thunderstorms well away from its center. Tropical systems don't develop or get stronger when this kind of thing happens.  You want the powerful thunderstorms to fire up near the center of the storm.

Usually, when the upper level winds keep up, the thunderstorm production finally dies, and so does the wannabe tropical system.

Julia is still firing up thunderstorms, though. Persistent little devil. And now, those strong upper level winds might relax, and that would give Julia a chance to restrengthen. Also some signs point to Julia drifting north toward North Carolina.

Julia has confused and put eggs on the faces of just about every hurricane forecasters since she formed last week. I bet she will continue to do so. Which means anything could happen with Julia. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile Tropical Storm Karl is out there in the middle of the Atlantic. Unlike Julia, Karl's generally behaving, taking a very typical path from the west coast of Africa and traveling westward across the tropical Atlantic.

He's expected to be upgraded to a hurricane in a few days, which is not unusual for this type of system. It's also expected to recurve to the north, away from the East Coast. Again, this happens a lot.

However, a small number of forecast models nudge Karl a little closer to the East Coast eventually. Doubt that will happen, but it's worth keeping half an eye on anyway.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Lightning Bolt In Oklahoma Was Almost 200 Miles Long

A lightning bolt extends far outside a thunderstorm
in Darwin, Australia in 2015. This is impressive but
nothing compared to the nearly 200 mile long
lightning bolt in Oklahoma back in 2007
We know that lightning doesn't stay neatly inside thunderstorms.

Conventional wisdom is that lightning can hit the ground 20 miles or more from the storm, so even if you just hear thunder in the distance, you're close enough to get struck by lightning. 

However, this latest bit of news is ridiculous. Researchers said a new record was set back in 2007 for the longest lightning bolt ever seen.

It extended nearly 200 miles from around Tulsa, Oklahoma all the way west to that state's panhandle, says the World Meteorological Organization. Lightning detectors on the ground tracked the bolt.

This particular bolt of lightning was dangerous, as all lightning is. This one was just more so. It originated about six miles above Tulsa and hit the ground several times on its extension out to the plains of western Oklahoma, reports the Tulsa World.

Such long lightning strikes might have us rethinking what is generally called the 30/30 rule. That rule is if you see a lightning bolt, start counting off 30 seconds. If it takes longer than 30 seconds to hear the thunder, it's generally safe to stay outside. If it's less than 30 seconds, time to head indoors.

"These kinds of rules need to be looked at. It's going to depend on the kind of thunderstorm....You really need to know where it (lightning is occurring. There could be a lower risk - the lower the flash rate - but it's not no risk," said Timothy Lang, a researcher at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, according to the Tulsa World.

Thunderstorms are rattling around Oklahoma today. Let's hope they don't get any lightning strikes like the one in 2007!

Meanwhile, another lightning record was discovered in France - the world's longest lasting lightning bolt. Researchers said the French bolt in 2012 doubled back on itself, helping it last a whopping 7.74 seconds. Lightning bolts usually last about a second.







Timothy Lang, a researcher at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama


"These kinds of rules need to be looked at. It's going to depend on the kind of thunderstorm," Lang said. "You really need to know where it (lightning) is occurring. There could be a lower risk — the lower the flash rate — but it's not 'no-risk.'"




The epic lightning bolt hit during a day of crappy weather over eastern Oklahoma on June 20, 2007.  A big complex of thunderstorms formed, causing a lot of wind, rain, and a tornado or two that caused a bit of damage to some homes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Not Sure Why This Scooter Rider Was Out In A Typhoon, But Bad Idea

A guy on a scooter should not have been
out riding during Typhoon Meranti in Taiwan. 
Typhoon Meranti, the strongest of the year so far, battered far southern Taiwan this week.

It then moved into China, where at last report it was causing high winds, destructive storm surges and torrential flooding rains.

There will be a lot of damage.

A video surfaced of a man on a scooter out in the typhoon in Taiwan.

I'm not sure why he thought it was a good idea to be out like that in such scary weather, but it didn't end well. Not sure of his condition now, but watch:



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tropical Storm Julia Might Be Sneakiest, Weirdest Tropical Storm Ever

Satellite photo of Tropical Storm Julia forming
over northeastern Florida Tuesday afternoon,
confounding just about every forecaster and tropical
storm expert. 
UPDATE: During the day Wednesday, the center of Tropical Storm Julia jumped to a position just a bit off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.

Which means, that unlike earlier estimations, it won't oddly live its entire life inland. In other words the pesky little storm was continuing to be unpredictable.

Julia weakened to a tropical depression Wednesday night, but will still cause heavy rain along the southeastern coast as its remnants meander a little offshore.

PREVIOUS DISCUSSION: 

Early yesterday morning, I mentioned in passing a weak disturbance off the coast of Florida that would never amount to anything.

By the end of the day it had confounded forecasters and experts by becoming Tropical Storm Julia. 

The storm produced, and is still producing winds of 40 mph along the U.S. southeast coast, along with torrential rains.

The tropical storm unexpectedly formed even though winds high over head were strong enough that they would normally preclude such a system from forming.

Much weirder, Tropical Storm Julia formed while just inland in northeastern Florida.

Virtually always, tropical storms form over the water, where the feed of the warm moisture in the late summer oceans. They never form over land, where there's too much friction from the rough terrain to help spin up these things.

Not Julia. It formed barely inland. Turns out it formed over very low country, and was close enough to nearby ocean water to feed off that warm moisture and form into Tropical Storm Julia.

The forecast track of Julia takes it further inland this morning and will eventually dissipate over Georgia. Before it does, it will continue to dump heavy rain over mostly coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina. There's definitely a flood threat there.

If the forecast direction of Julia  holds, it will be something I've never seen before: A tropical storm that spent its entire existence inland. Some tropical storms have formed over land in the past, like the notoriously destructive Hurricane Agnes in 1972, but I've never seen one stay over land through its entire life.

Julia is a very, very, very weird tropical storm.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Super Typhoon Meranti Threatens Taiwan, China

Massive Typhoon Meranti in the eastern
Pacific ocean yesterday.  
Here in the United States, the tropical storm and hurricane is quieter than it usually is this time of year.

Tropical Storm Ian is way out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and is no threat to anybody.

There's a little tropical disturbance near Florida, but that won't amount to anything. Something else is coming off the west coast of Africa, but that won't be a threat to anybody in particular for several days at least, if ever.

Out in the eastern Pacific, it's a different story. There's a massive typhoon named Meranti approaching southern Taiwan. This one's a monster and would mow down anything it hits. It's got sustained winds of 185 mph, the strongest tropical system in the world so far this year.

Everybody's hoping the center of Meranti misses the southern tip of Taiwan. It's going to be close.

The further offshore it stays from southern Taiwan, the better, but even then, horrible winds and flooding rains will trash that neck of the world. If the center of Meranti comes ashore in Taiwan they have a HUGE disaster on their hands.

Meranti will then head towards China. By then, its ferocious winds will have died down some, but it would unless torrential rains that would cause epic flooding in parts of China.

This isn't a good one, folks.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Four Ways New England Could Get Out Of Its Wicked Drought

A pond belonging to one of my gardening
clients in Vermont shows the effects of this year's drought. 
UPDATE:

The U.S. Drought Monitor's latest report issued today, September 15, 2016 shows worsening drought in much of New England.

The area of extreme drought in southeastern New England has expanded to cover most of eastern and central Massachusetts, southeastern New Hampshire and the southern tip of Maine.

Extreme drought covers a good chunk of western New York, too.

Here in Vermont, things got worse, too. Moderate drought now covers much of western and central parts of the Green Mountain State.

It might rain some this weekend, but the way it looks now,  it's not going to be that big of a drencher at all.

PREVIOUS DISCUSSION:

In case you haven't noticed, it's terribly dry across New England and other parts of the Northeast.

If you like dust, New England is now strangely the place to be.

Pretty much the whole area is in drought, or at least close to it. Parts of southern and eastern New England are in extreme drought.

Thunderstorms yesterday brought a little brief rain. Another cold front due Wednesday should bring just a bit more. And a new system Sunday might help a little too.

But all these weather systems are focusing their mediocre rains on northern New England, where the drought isn't quite as bad.  Not as much fell, or is expected to fall, on more serious drought zones in southern New England and New York's southern tier.

But hope springs eternal. Autumn is arriving, and with the change of seasons, we get a change in weather patterns. The drought could drag on through the winter, but some seasonal weather arrangements in the fall and early winter could put a dent in the drought or even erase it.

Here's some things we hope will happen:

A HURRICANE. BETTER YET, LOTS OF 'EM

No, I'm not advocating the destruction of New England in a series of hurricanes. We don't need massive storm surges or destructive winds. We have enough problems.

But it would be nice if weaker tropical systems came by, or the remnants of hurricanes from somewhere else crossed New England.

Or at least, we could get a hurricane or two passing northward harmlessly offshore, but in the process making a cold front stall over us with the hurricane throwing  rain-making moisture into it. Hey, a boy can dream, right?

We're at the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, and there will be the possibility of tropical systems at least through October.  We can always hope.

NOR'EASTERS, PLEASE

The more we get into autumn and toward winter, the more likely we might get nor'easters. Nor'easters are those strong, windy, rainy or snowy storms that head toward the northeast along the New England and southeastern Canadian coasts.

To set up a nor'easter, you need a deep dip in the jet stream centered over the eastern Great Lakes, so we'll look for that. '

Preferably, we get several nor'easters, and also preferably, they track right along the coast or even inland a bit to make sure the storms' heavy rains hit the entire region.

There's good thing that could fuel nor'easters. Ocean temperatures just off the Northeast coast are warmer than normal. Warmer water could fuel nor'easters, making them stronger and wetter than they otherwise would be. Wetter is better this year.

TEXAS BLUE NORTHER

How the hell did I get Texas into a discussion about a New England drought?  Well, let me tell ya, pard'ner.

Later in the autumn and into the early winter, we start getting those familar Arctic high pressure systems from Canada that bring us those miserable cold waves. Those highs tend to head southeast from Canada toward New England.

Sometimes, though, the Arctic outbreaks plunge directly southward from central Canada, across the Plains down into Texas. Texans call these things blue northers.

With this set up, the Arctic cold front will sometimes slow down dramatically or stall in a north-south orientation somewhere in the eastern United States. Little storms ripple north along the stalled front. These little storms pick up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and dump it as pretty heavy rains near and just to the east of these stalled fronts.

Bonus: By the time these north-south Arctic cold fronts actually make it into and through New England the Arctic blast has weakened. So instead of getting freezing-your-bippy off cold, it just gets kind of chilly.

WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD STORMS, WITHOUT THE SHIPWRECKS

In November especially, storms sometimes get going in the middle of the country, then head into the Great Lakes. The water in the Great Lakes is still relatively warm that time of year, so the storms feed on that warmish water and get really, really strong.

It's the kind of wild storm that was made famous by Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald," about a ship sinking on Lake Superior during one of these times when "the gales of November come slashin'"

Of course we don't want another ship to sink in the Great Lakes "in the face of a hurricane west wind."

But these Great Lakes storms do swing their active cold fronts eastward into New England. Typically, rainfall with these fronts isn't great, usually on the order of a half inch to sometimes an inch per Edmund Fitzgerald cold front.

If several of these cold fronts come through, though, the precipitation would add up and ease the drought.

I don't know if any of these scenarios will happen. But for the sake of dried up wells and water restrictions, we should hope we get all of the above.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Vermont Big Storms Moving Out; Autumn-Ish Weather Arrives As Planned

The Shelburne News in Shelburne, Vermont
had this photo of the burning Old Dairy Barn
this morning. The fire might have been
started by lightning. Photo from
Twitter via NECN and Shelburne News
Boy, that was a humdinger of a thunderstorm that went over my St. Albans, Vermont house around 4:30 a.m.

It wasn't severe, but there was TONS of lightning.

There was a severe thunderstorm warning out for my area during that storm, but there's no damage immediately around my house.  Trees were reported down, though, on power lines in Grand Isle and Franklin, towns that are pretty darn close to my house.

But there was damage. The worst - and saddest - might have been in Shelburne, Vermont.

The historic and beautiful Old Dairy Barn at Shelburne Farms, built in 1891,  burned to the ground this morning, the Burlington Free Press reports.

Though the cause of the fire has not yet been determined (It was still burning at 10 a.m. Sunday as I write this) the thought is the blaze might have been started by one of many hundreds of lightning strikes that hit Vermont this morning as the squall line went through.

More than 4,000 homes and businesses across Vermont had no electricity earlier this morning because of the storms. Fallen trees brieflly blocked roadways in Northfield and Jay, among other places.

Yesterday, it seemed like there was the possibility of a tornado or two forming in northwestern New York, especially in the St. Lawrence Valley, but I've seen no reports of twisters, so that's good.

Trees - some starting to turn color, bend in gusty, cool
winds this morning after a sharp cold front
moved through. Damaging thunderstorms hit
Vermont earlier in the morning. 
As I write this, the strong storms were moving into eastern New England and will no longer be a bother by this afternoon.

It was cloudy, breezy and much cooler across much of Vermont after the storms. September is finally here, a week and a half late.

Burlington already set its high temperature for today. It was still a whopping 81 degrees at 12:01 a.m. this morning. It's in the 60s now, and won't get much past 70 this afternoon, even as skies clear.

Tonight will get into the 40s for the first time since early June.

After a brief return to summer - 80 degrees on Tuesday - and even stronger cold front arrives Wednesday with more showers. After that, it'll be really cool for a couple days.

Just low to mid 60s Thursday afternoon, and the first frost of the season in sheltered cold mountain valleys in Vermont and surrounding states looks like an increasingly safe bet Friday morning.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tornado Watch Possible In N. New York Ahead of Autumnal Cold Front

Areas shaded in yellow are at risk for severe storms
later today and tonight. Areas in dark green have a
marginal chance of severe weather. In Vermont, if there
are any bad storms, it would hit later tonight. 
UPDATE 3:30 P.M. SATURDAY.

As of 3:15 p.m. Saturday, NOAA's Storm Prediction Center was considering issuing a tornado watch in northern New York for later this afternoon and early tonight.

The tornado watch, if it is issued, would cover New York's St. Lawrence Valley and the western and central Adirondacks.

A couple of tornadoes are also possible in southern Ontario.

Strong winds aloft, winds that shift directions at different heights, could touch off a few rotating supercell thunderstorms along and just south of a warm front that's now moving northward through the region.

It's possible that if these supercells develop, they could create a tornado or two.

At this point, it looks like the storms will weaken somewhat as they move into Vermont tonight, but there is still a chance of strong, damaging wind gusts in the Green Mountain State tonight. The risk of tornadoes in Vermont with this is very low.

If there are strong, damaging winds with storms in Vermont tonight, they're most likely in the northwestern half of the state.

PREVIOUS DISCUSSION

There are actually Vermonters who are done with this never ending summer. Done with the heat and humidity.

They're ignoring the fact that we will eventually have our long, cold winter to contend with, but whatever. 

Fans of cooler weather can rejoice, though: We have one more humid day coming today, one more round of potentially strong thunderstorms feeding off that humidity, and then September weather will arrive a week and a half late.

The details:

A warm front will come through Vermont today from the south. It's the remnants of that weak "cold" front, which wasn't that cold, that came through Friday morning.

Anyway, we'll be back in the soupy air by this afternoon, and we'll have to endure a terribly muggy night tonight just as we did Thursday night.

But a cold front is coming and it's got some ooomph. It won't come through Vermont until early Sunday morning. That's a good thing, despite tonight's humidity, because it it would come through earlier, it would trigger some strong to severe storms this afternoon and tonight, possibly quite a few of them.

That won't be the case. Still, we might get some strong storms later tonight. because as I said, this cold front is fairly strong and has some pretty strong upper level winds with it.

The Storm Prediction Center has a slight risk of severe storms late today and tonight across northern New York and a marginal risk in western Vermont.

The thinking is the storms will get going in Ontario later today and move east. (There might be a couple of tornadoes in Ontario today. They've had a busy time with tornadoes there for the past month or so, go figure)

 Some of the storms that do get going will be able to grab those strong upper level winds up above and drag them down to the surface. That means the possibility of damaging wind gusts, especially across northern New York tonight.

The Storm Prediction Center said there's a chance that some of the storms in New York might start spinning, so there's a very minimal chance of a brief tornado in the St. Lawrence Valley and northern Adirondacks tonight.

This is the same system that set off a few tornadoes in Illinois Friday, but of course any twisters in the Northeast are less likely than they were in the Midwest Friday.

The storms will weaken somewhat as they get into western Vermont a little before dawn then sweep across the rest of the state during the first half of Sunday morning.

Some of the storms might set off some gusty winds that could locally take down some trees and power lines. The storms could produce briefly heavy rain, so you might get a half inch or a little more rain in a few spots.

That's not much drought relief, especially since the rain, where it falls, will come down in a sharp heavy burst and not be the kind of slow soaker we'll need.

You'll totally feel a change in the air Sunday after the cold front goes by. It will be cooler and less humid. September-ish.

Sunday night, areas that haven't seen temperatures below 50 degrees since mid-June will probably get into the 40s.

It'll turn warmer - but not summery - Monday and Tuesday before the next strong cold front gets here.

High temperatures will only make it into the 60s Wednesday and Thursday, and we might well get our first frost of the season in the cold hollows of New York, Vermont and the rest of northern New England.

The frost won't be widespread, but tis the season!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Winter Will Be Colder Than Last Year, But Other Than That, Who The Hell Knows?

I don't have any clue what the weather will be like
this winter in Vermont and neither does anybody else.
 
We're finally going to get some belated September cold fronts Sunday and next week here in Vermont, so the air will finally have an autummal feel to it, at least on some days next week.

Which means, of course winter is coming. You didn't think this ever lasting summer would actually last forever, did you?

The big pasttime this time of year is to predict what this winter will be like. Cold? snowy? All over the place?

The bitter truth is nobody has a clue as to what this winter will be like here in Vermont or anywhere else for that matter. As I've said before, long range forecasts are very iffy indeed.

I can pretty much guarantee this coming winter will be colder than last winter. That's because the winter of 2015-16 was easily the warmest on record in Vermont. It's hard to get warmer than that, what with temperatures last Christmas Eve around 70 degrees.

Other than that, who knows what's in store for winter in Vermont for 2016-17.

I'm going to shamelessly rip off Capital Weather Gang, which told us what could happen around Washington DC this winter, and I can extend that by offering a couple scenarios for the upcoming winter in Vermont.

Just understand this is NOT a forecast. Just speculation.

Last winter's warmth was influenced by El Nino, a periodic warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean waters that influences weather world wide.

The thought was there would be a La Nina in that region this winter, which is a periodic cooling of that water.

But now, the prospect of a La Nina has turned iffy at best. The guess is the water temperature in the eastern Pacific will be kind of close to normal. Which doesn't give us any clues whatsoever as to what the weather will be like this winter. Especially since it's still possible that La Nina will develop.

Even if we were sure La Nina would develop, it wouldn't tell us everything. Winters in Vermont sometimes tend to be colder when there's a La Nina, but that doesn't always happen. Again, it's a guessing game.

Another interesting thing is what might be the return of "the blob" in the northern Pacific Ocean.

The blob, famously, was, or perhaps is,  a patch of unusually warm water off the west coast of the Pacific Northwest and the west coast of Canada, and just south of Alaska.

That blob helped create a ridge of high pressure along the western side of North America in the winters of 2014 and 2015.  It deflected storms away from California, which worsened the drought there. It's still dry in California, so a return of the blob would be terrible news or the Golden State.

It's not great for us here in Vermont, either, if you don't like cold weather. That ridge of high pressure in the western United States has a corresponding dip in the jet stream over the Midwest and Northeast.

That would mean repeated shots of bitter Arctic air into New England. Not good for the fuel bill, eh?

The water in the northern Pacific Ocean is now abnormally warm, which hints at the blob's possible return, but it might not last. Who knows? And even if the blob forms, it's no guarantee we'll have a cold winter in New England. It would just increase the chances of it.

By the way, don't rely on the Old Farmer's Almanac to tell you what this winter 's going to be like. I'm not criticizing the Almanac, because it's a lot of fun. It's just that the forecasts they give are no better than rolling a dice to get a winter prediction. Don't take it as gospel, please.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

A thunderstorm looms over St. Albans, Vermont on
August 28. More storms, some with welcome rain
but umwelcome gusty winds, are possible
in Vermont today. d
As anyone up here in Vermont knows, it's awfully warm for September.

Sometimes with the heat comes the storms, and there's actually a risk of severe thunderstorms both today and Saturday.

Certainly, only a few areas will get severe weather today. Some areas, especially in the southeastern half of Vermont, might not get any storms or rain at all.

Which is too bad, because everybody needs the rain, and the need for wetness is stronger in southern Vermont than the north.

At least up north there were a few rounds of storms back in the closing days of August. Those Augusts storms missed the south.

So overall, most storms that do get going today will do more good than harm. Because, you know. Rain.

Still, there's the risk that some storms could produce strong, damaging wind gusts. This is especially true in the northwestern part of Vermont and northern New York. Again, most people will escape the damage, but a few unlucky folks will lose a tree, or a few branches, or have their electricity cut for a little while

Actually, the low, but real risk of a few severe thunderstorms runs in a long stripe from Kansas to western New England, including western Vermont. 

Up in our neck of the woods, storms should get going in northern New York near or shortly after noon, then wander into Vermont this afternoon and evening.

The humidity has creeped upward, so some of the storms could have torrential rains. Not the kind of rain we need. It would be better if we got something slow and steady.

On the bright side, there's an even better chance of rain Saturday when a warm front, then a cold front are expected to pass through Vermont.

However, it's beginning to look like some storms Saturday afternoon could turn strong to severe, so we'll have to keep an eye on that.

More details to follow as we get closer to Saturday.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

When Will Vermont's Never Ending Summer End?

Participants in the Burlington Criterium
Bike Race sweat it out and stay hydrated
amid sunny, mid-80s heat on Monday. 
It's well into the first week of September and we're still getting mid-summer weather here in Vermont.

In Burlington, yesterday, it got up to 85 degrees, the 40th time it's been 85 or hotter this year. That's the 8th most for any year, notes WPTZ-TV meteorologist John Hickey. 

The record for most days of 85 or better is 50, back in 1949. I doubt we'll reach it, but you never know by the way this year is going.

It's going to be very warm in Vermont for the rest of the week. with temperatures well into the 80s through Thursday and remaining above normal after that.

It could even touch 90 degrees in a few of the broader, warmer valleys in the Green Mountain State on Thursday.

This has been going on for quite awhile. The first 90s of the season hit in late May.

 It's been continuously above 50 degrees in Burlington, Vermont since June 11, which is longer than I've ever seen it stay that mild that long. (It often gets down into the upper 40s once or twice each July and August, but not this year.)

That's 86 consecutive days above 50 degrees so far. The people at the National Weather Service in South Burlington got back to me and said the record number of consecutive days above 50 was 101, ending on September 6, 1899.

We're the fifth longest so far this year, but it's the longest stretch above 50 degree since at 1943, when Burlington's weather observations moved to the airport, a bit further away from the warming influence of Lake Champlain.

And as previously reported, Burlington had the hottest August on record this year.

By now, there's usually been at least one light frost in the coldest hollows of the Northeast Kingdom, but I haven't heard of any yet this year.

At this point, I don't see signs of really autumnal weather coming through at least through mid-month. It IS September, so the occasional turns to cooler weather will be chillier than anything we had in July and August.

Still,  don't put away your summer stuff yet. I see more spells of summery weather coming at least into the third week of the month.

I really have no idea whether or how this extended warmth will affect the timing and quality of Vermont's famed fall foliage season.

It's been very dry this summer, too, and that stresses trees, which could make them turn color a bit early. Then again, continued warmth could keep some of them green longer. Dry summers sometimes bring out the reds more in the fall, but that's a shaky premise.

We'll just have to wait and see.


Meteorologists Are Bald Now Because Hermine Has Them Pulling Out Their Hair

Hermine continued to spin south of Long Island this morning. 
Post-tropical storm Hermine, or whatever you want to call that stupid storm that's now south of New England, has frustrated EVERYBODY with its unpredictability.

I suppose the very good news is damage along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts is far, far less than initially feared.

But since the storm went more east than anybody thought it would and things weren't all that bad along the coast, the next dangerous storm might inspire people to not flee low lying areas because they'll assume forecasters are crying wolf.

Hermine kind of did what was forecast, performing stalls and little loops off the coast. It just did it further offshore than anyone imagined.

Forecasting the tracks of hurricanes, tropical storms and related storms has gotten much better in recent years, but there's still a lot to learn.

For instance, kudos to the National Hurricane Center for absolutely nailing their forecasts for the strength of Hurricane Hermine and its landfall location in Florida last week.

Hermine tracked along the southeastern United States coast Friday and Saturday as expected, but things really went off the rails starting Saturday night with the forecasts for Hermine.

It was supposed to stall much closer to the coast than it did, and it was supposed to hang out over the very warm Gulf Stream waters, and would have strengthened back up to hurricane power.

But it went further east out to sea before stalling.

As hurricane expert Bryan Norcross wrote in Weather Underground, forecasting the path of tropical systems in notoriously difficult when atmosphering steering currents are weak, as has been the case for Hermine off the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Forecasting computer models were all over the place with this.  The National Hurricane Center did acknowledge the forecasting problems as they were trying to track this thing but might have underplayed the uncertain in their statements that went out to the public.

The NHC was probably trying to act out of an abundance of caution and figured it would be better to get people out of harm's way, rather than throw some uncertainty into the minds of the public that could lead them to stay on dangerous shorelines.

Which in the case of Hermine turned out to be not so dangerous.

Hermine is still harassing the Northeast. It's now finally turned back toward the west. Yesterday, it gave parts of Cape Cod and the Islands tropical storm conditions with peak wind gusts of 55 to 60 mph in spots like Nantucket.

That wind blew down quite a few trees and branches and caused pretty widespread power failures in southeastern New England.

 Conditions aren't so bad today, but the continued presence of Hermine will continue with the wind, the rough seas, the dangerous rip currents and beach erosion. That state of affairs should continue much of this week

Forecasters think - and we hope - Hermine will finally dwindle away and head away from the coast toward the end of the week or the early part of next weekend.

Good riddance!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Pot Tornado Strikes Oregon! (Really A Marijuana Devil)

A "pot devil" crashes through a marijuana
farm in Oregon recently.
You've heard of tornadoes. Firenadoes.. Even Sharknados.

But a security camera in Oregon captured a Potnado.

It wasn't a tornado, but it WAS an unusually strong dust devil blasting through a marijuana farm in southern Oregon that ripped at least one pot plant from the ground and tossed it 15 feet into the air, says Oregon Live.

The potnado was at Siskiyou Sungrow, a legally sanctioned regulated marijuana production farm in Oregon.

It was really a dust devil, something I've written about before.

They form on sunny, warm days with light winds. The sun heats the ground, air rises, and a slight breeze tilts the updraft sideways. That sideways updraft will sometimes concentrate itself into a whirlwind, which is the dust devil.

Dust devils resemble tornadoes, but are never nearly as destructive as twisters. Still, dust devils can cause minor damage.

Here's the video:




Sunday, September 4, 2016

Quick Hermine Update: Bad But Not End Of World

As of Sunday morning, it looks like Hermine, that monster storm about to stall off the Mid-Atlantic coast, is a little more to the east than many forecasts indicated.

That means it will still be bad along the East Coast, with storm surge flooding, gusty winds, dangerous surf and LOTS of beach erosion.

But it likely won't be a full-on Superstorm Sandy like disaster. Just bad, damaging weather.

Still, stay out of the ocean water on the East Coast today, and stay out of low lying areas through Tuesday along the Northeast Coast, especially in the Mid-Atlantic. Storm surge flooding is still a good bet in many areas.

Even though its a little further east, Hermine looks like it will still become hurricane force for a time by tomorrow. It's moving over the super warm Gulf Stream, which should fuel thunderstorms that will power up Hermine.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Hermine Update: Entire Coast From North Carolina To New England Still Under Threat Big Time

Damage from Hermine's storm surge in Florida on
Friday. Many coastal homes and structures from North
Carolina to New England could face damage
like this as Hermine continues to spin off
the Mid-Atlantic coast. 
Hermine, whether you want to call it a hurricane, a tropical storm or some weird big regular storm, continues to cause massive problems today and will continue spreading these coastal problems more and more toward the north over the rest of the Labor Day weekend.

A tropical storm watch has been upgrade to a warning for the New York City area, New Jersey, Long Island and the southern New England coast all the way to Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

A new tropical storm watch is up further north and east along the New England coast to include all of Cape Cod and the islands. 

The National Hurricane Center is still warning of "life-threatening inundations" for storm surges along the coast from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (ongoing now!) all the way up through New Jersey.

Storm surges along the coast could reach five feet, near record highs in some spots. I don't think this will be quite as bad as Superstorm Sandy, but bad enough.

Plus, we have to get more people out of the way than we did with Sandy. More people are near the shore on Labor Day weekend than the time of year Sandy hit, which was late October in 2012.

If you're on the Jersey Shore, or Long Island, or down in Delaware and Maryland and Virginia and near the coast and they tell you to leave. Do it! The life you save might be your own, goes the cliché and it's true here.

You'll also want to leave before the tides and storm surges start coming in, because the escape roads are usually the first to go underwater or get washed away.

There already has been quite a bit of storm surge in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, you know, the area around Norfolk and Virginia Beach, reports the Virginia Pilot.

Storm surge flooding from Hermine in southeastern Virginia
this morning. Photo by Kimberly Pierceall, Virginia Pilot 

As I said before, Hermine isn't really a tropical storm anymore, but ignore that distinction. It's actually gotten stronger in terms of winds and waves and that kind of thing.

Gusts I'm coastal Duck, North Carolina reached 84 mph this morning as Hermine re-entered the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern United States.

Hermine is still heading out to sea, and will end up just offshore. She'll meander and do loop de loops off of New Jersey, possibly getting very close to the coast at some point Sunday or Monday.

And it'll keep strengthening into Monday and probably be a hurricane or at least hurricane strength Sunday and/or Monday.

The storm surges, the winds and the rains will hug the coast, and you won't have to go too far inland in New Jersey and elsewhere in the East for the impacts to be much less dangerous and extreme.

If you're, say, 25 miles inland, it might be gusty and cloudy and sometimes rainy, but I don't think there will be tremendous damage away from the coasts.

But the Northeast coastline is so built up, there's a lot of property along the shore to get trashed.

The forecast track into early next week for Hermine has trended a little north, which is why southern New England is now under a tropical storm watch.

Up here at my perch in Vermont, we're still expecting few impacts from Hermine. Since it's going a little further north, many of us will gradually find ourselves under more and more high, thin clouds as we head toward Sunday and especially Monday.

Far southern Vermont might even get a few showers out of this, maybe, but don't hold your breath on that one.

Weird Thunderstorms In Norway and Siberia

A large isolated thunderstorm in Siberia recently
looked like a very bad nuclear bomb going off. 
Last week, there must have been quite a lightning bolt in Norway.

Hunters discovered 323 dead reindeer in the Hardangervidda region of Norway, home to thousands of reindeer. 

Apparently, a lightning bolt did them in.

Turns out, this isn't a once in a lifetime event for groups of animals dying in lightning strikes. Writing in Forbes, Marshall Shepherd documented several cases of lightning killing herds of animals.

About 600 sheep in Utah once died in a lightning storm. Just this past May, 21 cows were killed in McCook County, South Dakota when lightning struck as they were feeding out of a metal container. About a decade ago, a giraffe died from a lightning strike at Walt Disney World in Florida.

So yes, lightning is dangerous for us humans. It's also a risk for animals caught out in thunderstorms.

Lightning is something to be afraid of, and people in Siberia recently found something else to fear.

As you can see in the photo in this post, a distant thunderstorm photographed recently near the Siberian city of  Kemerovo really, really looked like a nuclear explosion, and of course such explosions are something to fear.

Local emergency services were inundated with calls from people who were afraid a nuclear war had started and everybody was about to die.

Happily, this was just a thunderstorm.  Nobody died.

Usually, the anvil top of a thunderstorm, that big outstretched flare of clouds you see at the top of the storm, heads mostly in one direction or another, as winds blowing near the top of the storm push the clouds along.
Another view of the scary, but basically harmless
mushroom shaped cloud in Siberia that was NOT a nuclear
explosion, but just a thunderstorm. 
Upper level winds must have been near calm above this thunderstorm, so the anvil top of the storm pushed out equally in all directions.

The storm was also isolated, with no sign of other storms developing around it, which is also unusual.

The atmosphere must have been "capped," meaning a warm layer of air was preventing the updrafts that usually lead to thunderstorms. 

However, something made the air start rising forcefully where that thunderstorm developed, so the rising air broke through the "cap" and continued upward, creating this big thunderstorm.

I'm guessing the thunderstorm was probably severe, or at least borderline so, with strong, gusty winds, maybe hail, torrential downpours and dangerous lightning.

But, on the bright side, it wasn't nuclear. It was just beautiful instead. Phew!