Weather

Matthew Update

As of this writing (10/7/2016) at 11:45 a.m., Hurricane Matthew, now a Category 3, has shown a little mercy by veering slightly northernly and westernly than expected.  Right now, the western eyewall is brushing the Florida coast — the hurricane is located 75 miles southeast of Jacksonville.currentsat

The winds along the Florida coast are rough, but it doesn’t seem to be getting the high forces that normally come at the backend of the hurricane wall.

currentwinds

It apparently is not going to hit land in Florida.  It may just lightly touch land near Hilton Head, South Carolina or even Cape Hatteras further north.

currentlandfall

And then what?  It is thought it will loop around.

track

And hopefully die.  Others have speculated it could revive as it gets back into warmer waters, but the projection now is “not so”.

Nobody is kidding themselves.  Even if hurricane force winds stay offshore FL, tropical storm conditions can be impactful and dangerous.  By this morning, it had knocked out electric power to more than 590,000 customers across Florida.  Even a Category 2 with 120 mph gusts in Charleston could be devestating.

Matthew Bears Down

Florida is going to get hit HARD. Thousands told to evacuate.  Winds up to 140.

From the National Weather Station in Melbourne FL – no mincing of words:

cug08vuukaaht8f

A picture right now from ISS:

iosshurricaen

Gonna be bad.

Where’s Winter?

It’s beginning to look a lot like…. Arbor Day?  Unseasonably mild temperatures are spreading over the eastern half of the country and about 75% of the U.S. population will see the temperature climb over 60°F by the end of the weekend.  Not exactly Christmas season.

This is true even in the winter-whipped city of Buffalo.  There, the first snow normally occurs by November 8 and well over a foot would have accumulated by now on average. Last year the city had received over 20 inches by December 10, and areas in southern Buffalo had already been buried under 80 inches of snow. But they have been snowless so far, and will be snowless for another week at least.

What’s going on?

El Niño.

El Niño is the primary driver for the warm temperatures this winter.  The warming ocean waters in the tropical Pacific alter weather patterns around the globe and directly affect the weather over the United States, especially during the winter.  Yesterday, NOAA announced that the ocean and atmospheric conditions in the Pacific indicate the current El Niño episode is a strong one that has matured and will likely be among the top three on record.

Is the heavy El Niño effect due to global warming?  Meteorologists are against making that leap.  El Niño is only in one part of the world (although it has wider ramifications).

In fact, remember the “polar vortex”?  Yeah, that’s still around.  In fact, it is a stronger than average polar vortex (which is actually a band of strong winds high in the atmosphere that normally circles the North Pole), and because it is stronger, the cold air gets bottled up in the polar region, allowing most of the United States and Canada to enjoy the unseasonably mild temperatures.

So we can’t blame this warm and delayed winter specifically on global climate change.

It is too early to tell if it will be a White Christmas, but the long term projection is a warm winter (having just come from the hottest autumn nationwide in recorded history).

The Most Powerful Hurricane Ever Recorded Is Bearing Down On Mexico

200-mph sustained winds and even more powerful gusts.  Patricia is “the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins,” according to a Friday morning forecast discussion.

The closest contender, at this point, might be Hurricane Camille when it battered the U.S. Gulf Coast in 1969. Regardless, Patricia looks to be more powerful than Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Katrina in 2005 and many others.

151023060912-hurricane-patricia-friday-530-a-m-satellite-image-exlarge-169

When it hits land, it will be devestating.  This potentially catastrophic destruction would occur in a small area of Mexico’s Jalisco State, between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta, according to the NHC’s projected path on Friday morning.  Fortunately, that is not a heavily populated area.

Note that hurricane-force winds (74+ mph) extend out 30 mph from the center of Patricia. This means that a small part of Jalisco’s coast will see the most extreme winds at landfall. A destructive storm surge will also occur near and to the right of where the center makes landfall.

map_tropprjpath20_ltst_5nhpao_enus_650x366

Here is a live feed of Minerva, Mexico (about 120 miles inland from landfall):

Aid For Me And Not For Thee

What a jerk

Washington (CNN)Sen. Lindsey Graham is asking for federal aid for his home state of South Carolina as it battles raging floods, but he voted to oppose similar help for New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

“Let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs,” Graham told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” on Monday of the devastating floods in his home state.

Graham was among the Republican senators who opposed a federal aid package in January 2013 to assist states hit by Hurricane Sandy, but now he doesn’t remember why.

“I’m all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don’t really remember me voting that way,” Graham said.

This is a pretty common thing with Republicans.  Cruz did it too.

The objection from Graham and other Republicans at the time was that the Sandy relief bill supposedly contained “pork”, i.e., helping people pay for flood insurance.  That’s supposedly “pork” — when you help taxpayers in need..

Hurricane Joaquin Deadly But Could Have Been Worse

It seems the biggest damage was caused by rain and subsequent flooding in South Carolina, although Joaquin only played a part.

Technically, here’s what happened:

As Hurricane Joaquin tracked north, well east of the coast, a separate, non-tropical low pressure system was setting up shop over the Southeast late last week. This system drew in a deep, tropical plume of water vapor off the tropical Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, this upper-level low pressure system tapped into the moist outflow of Hurricane Joaquin.

The moisture pipeline fed directly into a pocket of intense uplift on the northern side of the non-tropical vortex. Within this dynamic “sweet spot,” thunderstorms established a training pattern, passing repeatedly over the same location and creating a narrow corridor of torrential rain stretching from Charleston to the southern Appalachians.

Parts of that area got four months worth of rain in one day.

SCrain

The remarkable thing about this process is that it was sustained for three days, resulting in historic flooding in South Carolina. On Sunday, Columbia endured its rainiest day in history, according to the National Weather Service. Much of Charleston was drenched by 2 feet of rainfall.

A total of nine dead related to floods.

Joaquin, again, appears to be only indirectly related to the floods and rain, but the news today is that it might have taken even more lives. El Faro (pictured right) — a 790-foot cargo ship whose name means “lighthouse”—has apparently sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. Coast Guard believes.

Rescuers have been searching for the container ship, which was in the path of Hurricane Joaquin, since the crew last made contact Thursday morning, saying El Faro was listing but the situation was manageable. The vessel was carrying 33 people—28 Americans and five Poles—and while searchers have found debris they believe came from the ship, they haven’t found the vessel itself or any survivors. One body has been found.

Hurricane Joaquin Probably Not Going To Be A Big Deal

In spite of some very premature comparisons to Sandy, new projections show Hurricane Joaquin appears to be heading east and may not make landfall in the United States. Different models gaming out the path of the Category-4 storm were initially split on their forecasts, but as the storm has stalled over the Bahamas, the likelihood of it reaching the U.S. is growing more remote.

“If this forecast holds, Hurricane Joaquin will yield one clear winner: the model from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts — or simply, the European model — which consistently forecast that Joaquin would head off to sea,” writes Nate Cohn at The New York Times. The model successfully predicted Hurricane Sandy’s unusual path three years ago.

Lots of rain for the Mid-Atlantic, including the Ashford Zone home office in North Carolina.  Here’s the latest from NOAA:

145424W5_NL_sm

We are already getting winds and downed trees, and that’ll continue.  But that’s probably all.

North Carolina Is Shark Central

NCShark

Number of shark attacks in NC waters 2004-2014: 25 (average of 2.5 every year)
Number of shark attacks in NC water this year: 4 so far (and it isn’t even July yet)

Why?

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” says George H. Burgess, the director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Burgess says across the United States overall, shark attacks are on pace with an average year, and the chance of getting bit is still very low—an estimated one in 11.5 million for an ocean bather. But, he adds, “clearly, something is going on in North Carolina right now.”

In a nutshell, several factors combine to explain what is going on:

1.  The water is warmer this year.  Actually, the water got warmer earlier this year, drawing both sharks and beachgoers to the ocean.  Some of the blame may be attributed to global warming, but not significantly if at all.

2.  The water is saltier.  North Carolina had a drought, meaning less rainwater flowing into the ocean.  That makes the water saltier, which sharks prefer.

3.  More food.  An abundance of menhaden and other bait (including people) make the NC coast a high-target environment.

4.  Fishing near swimmers.  Fish bait is shark bait.  Sharks go where the food is, and if it is near swimmers, sharks think swimmers are food.

I’m going to the Carolina coast end of August.  Hopefully, they will be done with their gorging.

Hypocrite Cruz

He’s a weasel:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday assured Texans that the state would receive federal relief following major flooding, even though the senator opposed federal funding following Hurricane Sandy.

“There are a series of federal statutory thresholds that have to be satisfied. Initially, it appears those thresholds are likely to be satisfied by the magnitude of the damage we’re seeing,” Cruz said while touring the flooding in Wimberley, Texas, according to Texas television station KSAT. “Democrats and Republicans in the congressional delegation will stand as one in support of the federal government meeting its statutory obligations to provide the relief to help the Texans who are hurting.”

At least 15 people have died due to widespread flooding in Texas, and officials have warned that the flooding may worsen in certain parts of the state.

Cruz voted against a federal aid package in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and claimed that he opposed the bill due to spending in the bill unrelated to storm relief.

These guys just love their own and hate everybody else.

Boston Beats Snow Record

snow-big-8129Just after 7 Sunday evening, with 2.9 more inches of fresh snow blanketing Boston, the National Weather Service in Taunton announced that the city notched its snowiest winter since records started being kept in 1872.

The official total at Logan International Airport reached 108.6 inches — one inch more than the previous record, which was set in the 1995-1996 winter, according to the weather service.

The snow in Boston this winter came all at once, in a blitz from late January through February. The previous record holder, the 1995-96 season, saw its snow spread out throughout the winter.

Comparing the two seasons, we see that 1995-96 actually had a higher seasonal snowfall on 86 of the 122 days from Nov. 13 through March 15. In the aftermath of the “Blizzard of 1996″ on Jan. 7 and 8 and a small storm immediately following it, the 1995-96 season had a seemingly insurmountable 60-inch lead on the 2014-15 season. That lead was erased when 64.4 inches fell in a two-week period between Jan. 24 and Feb. 9 of this year. The 2014-15 season never gave up the seasonal snowfall lead after that point.

Blizzard ’05 SnowCams

You’re welcome:

Cams no longer up.

UPDATE: It missed New York City.  That’s good for NYC but….

For the record, the GFS was right.  Meteorologists largely depend on three major forecast models: the NAM (North American Mesoscale), the GFS (Global Forecast System), and the ECMWF (European Center for Medium Rage Forecasting). Meteorologists will look at all of these and, using their own expertise, local knowledge, etc., formulate a forecast. In this case, the NAM and the ECMWF both showed 2 feet of snow or more for New York City, while the GFS (which has just been upgraded this winter) showed a more conservative six to 12 inches.

So we should rely on the GFS from now on?  Nope.  In 2012, the ECMWF was the media-darling model for properly forecasting Superstorm Sandy to a ‘t’ while the GFS got it wrong. Now it is the opposite.

Sigh.

Irene Update

The latest NOAA discussion notes that Hurricane Irene has weakened slightly, which is (quite obviously) good news.

However, the important word is "slightly".  For the next 12-24 hours, it probably won't change much in strength (either way) which means it will still have maximum winds as high as 105 mph.  Nothing to sneeze at.

By comparison, the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 was a Category 3.  This will only be Cat 1 when it hits New England.

For NYC:

...PROBABILITY OF TROPICAL STORM/HURRICANE CONDITIONS... THE CHANCE FOR HURRICANE CONDITIONS AT THIS TIME IS 4 TO 11 PERCENT. ALSO...THE CHANCE FOR TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS AT THIS TIME IS UP TO 72 PERCENT. THIS REPRESENTS A GENERAL UPWARD TREND SINCE THE LAST FORECAST. THE ONSET OF TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS COULD START AS EARLY AS SATURDAY NIGHT...AND HURRICANE CONDITIONS COULD ARRIVE AS EARLY AS SUNDAY MORNING.  ...STORM SURGE AND STORM TIDE... IT IS STILL TOO EARLY TO DETERMINE THE EXACT HEIGHTS OF COMBINED STORM SURGE AND TIDE WATERS FOR SPECIFIC LOCATIONS WITHIN THE FORECAST AREA TO BE CAUSED BY HURRICANE IRENE. MUCH DEPENDS ON THE PRECISE SIZE...INTENSITY AND TRACK OF THE SYSTEM AS IT APPROACHES THE COAST.  BASED ON THE FORECAST TRACK OF IRENE THERE IS POTENTIAL FOR SEVERAL FEET OF SURGE...PARTICULARLY IN WESTERN LONG ISLAND SOUND...NEW YORK HARBOR...AND THE BACK SHORE BAYS OF LONG ISLAND AND NEW YORK CITY. THESE TIDAL CONDITIONS WOULD BE EXACERBATED BY BATTERING SURF.  ...WINDS... AS HURRICANE IRENE MOVES CLOSER...THE THREAT FOR SUSTAINED HIGH WINDS IS LIKELY TO INCREASE. THE LATEST FORECAST IS FOR STRONG TROPICAL STORM FORCE TO HURRICANE FORCE WINDS FROM SUNDAY MORNING TO EARLY SUNDAY EVENING. TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS ARE CURRENTLY FORECAST TO BEGIN AFFECTING THE AREA SATURDAY NIGHT AFTER MIDNIGHT. A GENERAL CONCERN SHOULD BE FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF AT LEAST DAMAGING WINDS SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE AREA.  ...INLAND FLOODING... A FLOOD WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR THE ENTIRE AREA. SEE LATEST FORECAST FOR LATEST INFORMATION. LISTEN FOR POSSIBLE FLOOD WARNINGS FOR YOUR LOCATION...AND BE READY TO ACT IF FLOODING RAINS OCCUR. 

Nate Silver thinks this could be a very expensive disaster for NYC.  Probably because of the storm surge.

Enhanced-buzz-10631-1314367382-3

For us here in Winston-Salem (central NC), it'll be almost nothing.  The real winds will be in New England, as the chart below shows.

152238

Heat Dome

Some 141 million Americans over nearly 1 million square miles were under a heat alert on Wednesday, the result of a heat "dome" that's only slowly moving away from the central U.S. — and into the East Coast.

Actheat_600x405

Lovely.

Not Sweatin’ Earl

Unless it veers westward, I don't expect Earl to be much of a force in the Piedmont, even though it might be a Category 4 (or even 5!).  Some rain, that's it.  In fact, it look my family in New England is likely to see far worse from Earl than I will.

085331

Thought Of The Day

Whenever, in winter, it would snow – or was extremely frigid – someplace, the climate change deniers would do a little dance and sing, "How can there be global warming???  Look at my snowman!"

Of course, these morons don't know the difference between climate and weather.  Nor are they aware of their complicated relationship, and how "global warming" doesn't necessarily mean lack of snow and cold for every region of the world.

But setting aside their ignorance, shouldn't those global warming deniers — by their own (ignorant) logic – be owning up to global warming now, where colder regions of the country are seeing 100 degree days?

Hurricanes and the Oil Spill

With hurricane season upon us, questions are being asked about the effect of hurricanes on the oil spill and, conversely, the effects of the oil spill on hurricanes.  NOAA has the "answers", although it involves a lot of guesswork, since there's never been a situation where a major hurricane passed through an oil slick of this size.

I have reprinted NOAA's Q&A in its entirety below the fold.