Fickle February forecasting
First things first: we’ve missed any hard freeze or icing this week and according to the American Model we will continue to have “above freezing” temperatures (even mild) through at least the middle of the month. Below is the American Model precip forecast which has just rain and that looks to be the 9th-10th and again on Valentine’s Day!
How strong were the winds?
Determining just how strong a tornado’s winds were, like the ones that came through last week, is not as easy as it might seem. First, the winds aren’t measured like the winds you hear about on the weather report every day---those are from a wind gage in real time from area observations. Tornado winds are estimated, based on the damage they caused. This task was first tackled in 1971 by Dr. Ted Fujita whose scale of F-0 to F-5 tornadoes looked like this:
The supercell set up
If you were affected by Tuesday’s tornado outbreak, you probably don’t care much if this weather set-up compared to the Channelview tornadoes back on Nov. 21, 1992. The comparison, however, is remarkable and we can always learn from the past when it comes to just how weather situations come together.
I’ve seen the light (house) come shining!
We love our lighthouses, don’t we? These days mostly iconic and automated, lighthouses always stood as a brave, lone soldier weathering the storms to protect our ships. All alone on the edge of the water, the lighthouse shown the way as the beacon of hope to struggling sea captains. Come this way! Or Don’t! Until recently, I didn’t know that much about lighthouses. For instance, the highest number of lighthouses of any country in the world is right here in the United States, the first being built in 1716 near Boston. From Florida to Hawaii we boast more than 700 lighthouses in the USA of the more than 18,000 around the world!
An end in sight? Not yet, but close
After weeks of winter storms, the atmospheric rivers that have been inundating California look to finally dry up a bit. However, today is another dangerously wet day with 2-4″ of rain and as much as 2′ of snow in the mountains forecasted. You can see plenty of flood and winter warning areas on this map below.
Fly me a river
We’re all used to the hurricane hunters out there flying into, well, hurricanes, to collect wind, temperature, pressure, and moisture data. The airplane shown above is the WC-130J which flies directly into these storms at 24,000-30,000 feet dropping what basically amounts to small computers (dropwindsondes) which sample the atmosphere as they fall to the ocean floor. That information is transmitted back to supercomputers to help create our hurricane forecasts.
The plant rant
My landscape friends, the ones who make their living off all things growing in your yard, seem to be hearing the same question from customers: Why did my plants do so much worse during the last freeze than the big one in February of 2021?? We had plenty of notice on this freeze--10 days out even and beautiful weather leading up to it, so there was plenty of time to gets plants covered and protected. And yet....
Below-normal 2023 hurricane season?
Believe it or not, 2023 hurricane forecasts actually showed up last month and a group out of England, Tropical Storm Risk, issued theirs on Dec. 9, calling for a “below-normal” hurricane season. TSR has been in the forecasting business since the early 1990s and most recently is headed up Dr. Adam Lea from University College London.
Our January skies
We’re on to a new year and our January moon is full THIS Friday, and while you’ve heard of Supermoons this one is the opposite: a Micromoon. Supermoons are simply full moons that are closer to Earth in orbit (perigee) while Micromoons are farther away (apogee). While Supermoons are generally 226,000 miles away from Earth, Micromoons are 250,000 miles away--this month’s full moon is 252,600 miles out! Here is a fifteen second video from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory illustrating the two:
A re-tired reminder!
All the talk about pipes, plants, pools, pets and people this week and I haven’t heard a word about those four important players in your life--your tires! So with that in mind, I’ve brought back a blog about keeping you safe on the roads! This blog is from October when our temperatures dropped into the 30s and 40s! Well.....herewith....
Of course it’s the Polar Vortex!
Climatologist Dr. Judah Cohen points out that Siberia is the world’s ice box and temperatures last week there were running in the MINUS 70s! So if those fast winds at the north pole (the polar vortex) weaken due to some undue warming, then that cold air crosses right over into Canada and the USA. You can get a sense of that happening from the Global temperature forecast here as those purple/white/blue colors---cold air---spill from Russia across the north pole and eventually into Texas!
Ghosts of Christmas past
Different Christmas mornings are remembered for many reasons and, hopefully, not for the weather! With any luck, you recall that first toy train, or doll, or bike....family reunions...engagements and celebrations! Saying that, I like to check out the data for the extremes of weather and decided to look not only at Houston’s full historical record, but also to this century (as in the last 21 years).
Was this “model-cold”?
A lot of talk the past couple of days has been about a Christmas Cold Arctic Blast...which seems to be warming up with each new model run. I’ve had a number of emails concerning single digit or teens Christmas Eve and Day. Well, we know that can happen...my first Christmas working in Houston I was on duty for these miserable temperatures:
An Occultation Celebration?
First, let’s get this definition out there: “occultation” simply means “the act of blocking or concealing from view”. All of that sure sounds like a verb, but it’s a noun! And tonight, almost everywhere but HERE, the moon will pass between Earth and Mars, hiding Mars from view. The planet Mars literally goes behind the moon. What’s nice is that the moon is full tonight and the occultation occurs in the late evening (10pm to midnight), so lots of people will be able to see this happen. A big deal? Well, to some degree since lining up the Sun, the Earth, the full moon and Mars all at the same time only happens every couple of years.
What to expect this December
Welcome to Meteorological Winter! For the sake of climate record keeping, December-January-February is considered winter although the actual solstice doesn’t occur this year until the 21st at 3:48pm. That’s when the sun crosses to the Tropic of Capricorn and, more than anything, the least daylight occurs. From that day forward we move back toward ever so slightly longer daylight hours! Temperatures cool down (usually) with average highs in the mid 60s and lows in the mid 40s, although we’ve dropped to single digits in this month and also reached the mid 80s!
2022 Hurricane forecast....and the winner is....
Today marks the official END of the 2022 hurricane season which began June 1st (interestingly we had no pre-season storms this year for the first time since 2014). The season proved pretty interesting with three systems before July 1st and then NOTHING until September! Thank you Saharan Dust and dry air!
What’s in a cloud name?
I get sent beautiful cloud pictures via Click2pins and email, very often asking “what kind of cloud is this?” So imagine a world where scientists didn’t really know because they looked at clouds individually: clouds come and go, come in different sizes and shapes, different colors at different heights...a couple of hundred years ago no one thought of actually classifying clouds! They were just clouds, moving along in the sky each day. Something to paint.
Fall temps aren’t falling!
Despite the cooler temps we’ve had this week and last, the fall season generally has continued to be warmer than normal. Climate Central recently studied 245 cities looking at how average temperatures have continued to climb since 1970 and almost all of them have, some by more than two degrees! Houston, not surprisingly, was one of them and our average fall temperature has increased almost 4 degrees in the past 50 years!
Moist turkeys this year
The American and European models have been going back and forth the past few days as to whether we’d have a wet or dry Thanksgiving and while they are now both on board for wet weather Thursday, they still differ as to the weekend! Here’s the synoptic set up, which is to say, where the incoming cold front will be Thursday morning and Friday morning, and you will see that it’s a pretty fast mover!
How a cloud can stop a launch
We have liftoff! Those three words are music to NASA ears as Artemis has faced a number of delays over the past several weeks. I think we can all understand mechanical concerns, high winds, thunderstorms and hurricanes as launch-blockers. What I didn’t realize until yesterday is that one good healthy cumulus cloud can stop a rocket launch in its tracks! A cumulus cloud? Those puffy, fair-weather innocent-looking clouds against a beautiful blue sky? The kind that don’t even produce rain? Yep. Those clouds.
Time to bundle up!
If you’re one of those looking for a reason to pull out the sweaters, scarves and jackets then I have a weather change for you! As you know from summer, a strong High Pressure system can settle in place and control the weather which is why we had relentless hot, dry days last June and July. Get ready for a similar set up as High Pressure settles in over the northwest and those winds around it shuttle in cold Canadian air all the way to Texas:
How accurate are those long range forecasts?
From golf tournaments and baseball playoffs to running marathons and throwing weddings, this is a time of year that forecast accuracy can be paramount. Generally, the weather is perfect this time of year which is why so many activities get scheduled, but those pesky raindrops can really get in the way!
Crystal ball for winter?
In today’s cover photo, that’s actually a frozen bubble, not a crystal ball, but that hasn’t stopped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) from issuing a December to February Winter forecast. They hail their new supercomputers as able to give better and better long-range prognostications (more on those computers from a great article here).
This drought needs to moo-ve on
My cover photo today with a rolled bale of hay illustrates an important point: it’s rolled because it was purchased somewhere else and brought to the dry farm in Hempstead that obviously isn’t producing. Look at this drought shot on click2pins from Iamdan in Plantersville, between Magnolia and Navasota in Grimes County:
Yesterday’s crazy hazy sky
Yesterday in the early morning hours, a lumber yard on the northeast side of town went ablaze calling in more than a hundred firefighters! Our story on that massive fire is here. A light wind from the northeast sent roiling smoke across downtown skies resulting in, if nothing else, a spectacular smoky sunrise as you can see in my cover shot above! But for most of the morning the skies looked more like a really bad dose of Saharan dust! Here’s a morning shot from yesterday’s smoke-filled sky:
Beautiful skies, but too dry!
Gorgeous morning skies like the one above continue and, with the exception of a slight warming trend, the forecast keeps us under pleasant conditions at least until the end of next week! Even then, the better rain chance would come closer to mid-month with a big cold front diving down. However, that forecast as you see below is really beyond the scope of reliability. Here’s the American model:
Perfect skies this last September week continue into the first weekend of the new month with lows in the 50s and highs in the 80s! This is why we call it Aaahhhh-ctober! We don’t always start with a sigh of relief, but right now we’re feeling a “latte” pumpkin love from Mother Nature!
Understanding Rapid Intensification
Hurricane IAN underwent Rapid Intensification overnight and now stands with winds of 155mph. At 10pm yesterday, those winds were at 120mph and THAT is the classic definition of Rapid Intensification: when winds increase by 35mph or more in 24 hours or less! Couldn’t be more on spot.
A salute to Vernon!
Imagine a well-developed hurricane way out in the Atlantic. We need to know just how powerful its winds are, but it is too far way to send in a Hurricane Hunter. We would need a way to estimate the storm’s wind strength and just how strong it’s becoming. Here’s an example of Hurricane Isabel back in 2003, way out there, between the African coast and the Caribbean:
Get your head in the clouds!
I have blogged before about the Cloud Appreciation Society, the society for people who love the sky, which offers daily cloud pics and other cloud-loving memorabilia to its members (join for as little as $37 a year). I was gifted my membership after speaking to a senior group in Brenham a few years back. Honestly, it’s a nice way to start each day with a fabulous cloud pic submitted from one of its tens of thousands of members.
Is weather a pain in your back?
I first heard about biometeorology back in the 1980s -- studies were being done in Arizona with seniors relating chronic pain and the weather. The better the weather, the less the pain. That’s part of what biometeorology is, the study of weather conditions on the well-being of humans and other living organisms. We all experience some of this often. For instance, high pollens or winds blowing in dust can send a lot of us to the pharmacy, if not the ER. And even today we have an air quality alert for anyone with respiratory problems due to wildfire smoke coming in from the Northwest.
Move along, nothing to see here
For a week now, we’ve been watching the potential of a Caribbean cloud or two to develop into a monster Gulf hurricane--one that by the American model threatened anywhere from Destin, Florida to New Orleans to Houston to Corpus and, as of Friday and the weekend, Mexico. Here is the Friday forecast with that big storm moving in just south of Brownsville over Labor Day weekend:
1000 year floods? Let’s get real
Five years ago today, we were suffering the stunning realization that Hurricane Harvey had dumped 30-50″ of rain on southeast Texas--in fact, an area of flooding happened that would cover the entire state of New Jersey. Nine Trillion gallons of water fell from that storm and while I called it “Biblical” proportions, we know that storm easily made the list of 1,000 year floods. In fact, consulting group MetStat declared Harvey to be a one in 500,000 years flood event. That’s right, the odds of a Harvey are twice in one million years, according to their research. And you were here for it. But given the odds of you even being a live human being are one in 400 Trillion, this starts to make some sense, doesn’t it?
The eclipsed Eclipse
Can you remember the fanfare of the August 2017 Full Solar Eclipse that crossed the country from northwest to southeast? Not since June 8, 1918 had such a celestial event occurred in the United States! We had a partial glimpse here in Houston that Monday afternoon of August 21st as you can see from the cover photo above: three meteorologists walk into an eclipse....below is the “path of total darkness”:
A-B-C before June 1!?
Houston, TX Here we are the end of May with the official beginning of hurricane season on Monday and weve already had two named storms--Arthur and Bertha--with a third possible. The photo above is Cristobal in 2014 and because the list of hurricane names rotates every six years, that C storm is back on the list. In fact, only 1951 has recorded three tropical or subtropical systems before June 1st: one in January, followed by Hurricane Able and a tropical depression in May. Well, for starters there were 17 depressions, 12 of those became storms, 8 of which became hurricanes (three major hurricanes). Notably, a January start will make for a long year and the 1951 season didnt end until December 11th!
The backup plan for SpaceX
On Sunday, Jan. 19, an eight-minute test took place, one all-important test to make sure that if SpaceX should need to abort after launch then the crew could safely make it back down to Earth. credit SpaceXThe capsule, pictured below, fell perfectly and safely to the ocean water. Watch that first as its very interesting and helpful when understanding what really took place. As of this writing the launch itself is at a 60% chance of happening as the sky really needs to be rain- and cloud-free. But its comforting to know that if things do go awry during the launch, there is an emergency plan.
Get ready: Busy hurricane season now official
The NHC anticipates a 60% chance for an ABOVE-normal season, a 30% chance for an AVERAGE season, and a 10% chance for a BELOW-normal season. Water is the fuel for hurricanes in that warm water creates warm air and that warm air rises into the atmosphere creating showers and thunderstorms. Above Normal Water water temps in the Gulf, Caribbean and Atlantic. Courtesy tropicaltidbitsBut if that rising air is disrupted by the wind then, of course, the storms wont form. And when you already have storms moving over the ocean you bypass that first step of rising air to create the storms to form a hurricane!
NOAA: A warmer world is making hurricanes stronger
This week, with near-record highs every day, it might seem like were always talking about a warmer world -- and we are. This year is now expected to be in the top five warmest years for the world and were not even halfway through it! Scientifically, in a warmer world, it only stands to reason that the fuel for hurricanes, which is warmer water, will create stronger storms -- and it is. Last Monday, a study of 40 years of data was released examining satellite information to determine stronger hurricanes over the period, in line with yearly warmer temperatures. and his paper in 2018 proposed that hurricanes are slower-moving over land due to a warmer world thereby causing more flooding (e.g.
Does an early start to hurricane season mean anything?
Tropical Storm Arthur said hello over the weekend, starting our hurricane season -- once again -- before the official June 1 date. So there are two obvious questions:Does an early start mean well have a shorter season? In 2003, we had an April system show up and the season didnt end that year until December 11th. Hurricane Jerry October 1989, our latest hurricane to strike the Texas coastDoes an early start mean well have more hurricanes? What can we learn from an early start?
Here are all of the models we are looking at for Saturdays storm
Houston, TX Models for tomorrows flooding are updating and I wanted to share with you some of what we are looking at here at the KPRC2 Severe Weather Center. First, we always like to compare the Euro and American models and I can tell you that while the Euro does have a good reputation for more accuracy, the two are both strong. In fact, the Euro USES American satellite information so without the American influx of data, the Euro wouldnt be where it is. The RPM has only 1-2 of rain for Houston with perhaps 2-3 in spots with more down south:RPMThe HRRR on the other hand shows heavy rain south of I-10 and into downtown. If we do not see heavy rain in southeast Texas then consider ourselves plain lucky.
How coronavirus is affecting the weather forecast
HOUSTON Ive written before about the role of airplanes taking and reporting weather observations as they ascend and descend, as well as at flight altitude. Known as the AMDAR program, these commercial aircraft flights traditionally produce 700,000 observations a day (temperature, humidity, and wind). With stay home orders around the globe, there are weather offices with no weather person to physically read and report the data! In addition, the WMO notes that over time even automatic stations will need repair and calibration, so we may see more data dropping out in the next weeks or months. Still, and thankfully, there are a LOT of ways to observe the weather these days.
Hurricanes 2020: Forecasters are looking at 4 major hurricanes that could impact the United States this year
Houston, TX The coronavirus clearly dominates the headlines, but, over the next few weeks, different forecasts for the Atlantic 2020 Hurricane Season will be edging into our news cycle. Normal count is for 12 tropical storms and of those 6 become hurricanes with 3 becoming major hurricanes. ACCUWEATHER published their forecast this week calling for not only a higher than normal number but also adds the number of impacts to the United States. You can read the full Accuweather hurricane forecast right here. Ive also talked about Dale Links forecast which doesnt predict number of hurricanes but rather where theyll go.