Wet Weather in 2018 Makes Record-Breaking History (Credit: The Washington Post, NOAA, WMO, The Weather Channel, GlobalChange.gov, xmACIS2, Live Science)
Image: Credit The Washington Post
Discussion: 2018 has been another active weather year featuring more extreme droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, extreme flooding events, and tornadoes. As 2018 comes to a close, the topic of discussion is how many cities broke their record for total precipitation this calendar year. Many are wondering if the wet weather will continue and for just how long.
Image: NOAA GOES GeoColor satellite image taken on December 15, 2018
Hurricane Florence dumped 24.06” of rain in Wilmington, North Carolina which contributed to its three-digit total precipitation record of 101.45” for 2018. More cities that have already set records include Wilmington, NC at 101.45”, Asheville, NC at 75.00”, Washington, D.C. at 64.78”, Baltimore, MD at 70.05”, Green Bay, WI at 38.68”, and Mason City, IA at 49.98”. Several cities still have a shot of setting a new record before the ringing in the New Year. Pittsburgh, PA currently sits at 56.98”and its record is 57.38”, Raleigh, NC sits at 58.54” and its record is 59.10”, and Jackson, TN sits at 73.49”and its record is 74.76”. All of these stats were collected from xmACIS2on December 28, 2018.
So just what factors contributed to all of the rain in 2018? The Washington Postexplained that, “The extreme rainfall in the Mid-Atlantic has stemmed from a weather pattern unleashing a parade of storms through the region since May. Except for brief pauses in the first half of Julyand this month, it has seldom relented. The jet stream, which is the high-altitude air current along which storms track, has persistently directed moisture-packed storms through the region”. The Weather Channelfurther explained that an upper-level weather pattern has been another driving factor for wetter weather east of the Rockies. Furthermore, the federal government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, released in November 2018, stated that “Extreme precipitation, one of the controlling factors in flood statistics, is observed to have generally increased and is projected to continue to do so across the United States in a warming atmosphere.”
Images: WMO estimated ENSO probabilities for December 2018-February 2019, The Weather Channel Precipitation Forecast adapted from NOAA’s January-March 2019 Precipitation Outlook, NOAA’s January-March 2019 Temperature Outlook
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), we are going into 2019 with a 75-80% chance for a weak El Niñoby February 2019. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is also predicting a weak El Niño in its 2018-19 Winter Outlook. An El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). If ENSO verifies, three-quarters of the U.S. will most likely experience warmer than average, as opposed to colder than average, winter temperatures. Additionally, wet weather will continue to dominate the southern states. So, keep your umbrella handy.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Amber Liggett
Weather History Revisits the Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010 (Credit: Erik Taylor and National Weather Service- New York WFO)
DISCUSSION: December through February is considered as the official meteorological winter season, so it is of no surprise that snow is the predominant precipitation type with winter weather systems. On this date back in 2010, most of the mid-Atlantic and New England states were dealing with the brunt of a rather powerful winter storm. Heavy blowing and drifting snow affected much of New Jersey, New York, and points north of that as the system rapidly made its way off shore and away from the U.S. mainland. The synoptic setup for this storm system was centered on the rapid deepening of a low pressure system that originally formed on the lee side of the Rocky Mountain range which quickly tracked eastward across the central Plains and southeast U.S. By late evening on the 26th, an upper-level jet streak maximum of near 150 kts (175 mph) was observed over northwestern Florida while significant pressure height falls were observed over the northeast. Moisture from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico was dragged northward along the poleward flank of the trough and observed radiosonde (weather balloon) data showed that the atmosphere through 600 hPa was at near-full saturation. This high amount of low-to-mid-level moisture, coupled with the already present favorable frontogenesis dynamics, set the stage for a significant snowfall event while the system tracked north and east through the mid-Atlantic and New England states.
The result was significant snowfall totals ranging from 20-30” with higher totals primarily along the New York City-New Jersey-Hudson Valley corridor. Heavy convective snow bands trained over the same areas for many consecutive hours, compounding on the snow already on the ground. In addition, a very tight pressure gradient was focused over much of the mid-Atlantic as the low pressure system advanced and upper-level winds sustained winds of 25 to 40 mph with higher gusts at the surface. which led to hazardous conditions for travel and infrastructure. Storms of this nature can occur during this time of year so it is always important to be vigilant to developing winter weather systems and alert to the latest forecasts from local weather forecast offices and the Weather Prediction Center.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Brian Matilla
DISCUSSION: Over the last two centuries, there is little to no doubt that atmospheric science observational and forecasting capabilities have come quite a long way. One of the premiere technologies which is associated with how far atmospheric science over the past 200 + years is the invention of the world-famous Doppler Radar technology which is based upon the fundamental principle known as the Doppler Effect. The so-called “Doppler Effect” which is what the modern Doppler Radar observational platform is based upon was invented by Christian Doppler. This was a historic discovery during the earlier part of the 19th century since this was a discovery which would go on to forever change the course of history.
Attached below is an excerpt which is from a corresponding Physics Today article: “Born on 29 November 1803 in Salzburg, Austria, physicist Christian Doppler proposed the phenomenon that enables astronomers to determine the velocity of distant objects. He studied mathematics at the Vienna Polytechnic Institute and math, mechanics, and astronomy at the University of Vienna. Doppler had shaky health throughout his life, and he had trouble securing a stable professorship. Nonetheless he produced several important papers, none more influential than “On the colored light of the double stars and certain other stars of the heavens” in 1842. He theorized that the colors of two stars orbiting each other would appear to change slightly, due to one star moving away from the observer and the other moving closer. More generally, Doppler proposed that the apparent frequency of light or sound waves emanating from an object changes depending on the object’s motion toward or away from the observer. Scientists in many fields, particularly astronomy, depend on the Doppler effect. Stars and galaxies moving away from Earth shift toward the red part of the color spectrum (red-shifted), while astronomical objects moving toward Earth are blue-shifted. Scientists analyzing the distance to and motion of stars and galaxies have determined that the universe is expanding at an ever-faster rate.”
Upon discovering the Doppler Effect concept which is described in the excerpt attached above, this transformed the way in which mankind was able to interpret how sound and velocity works in the context of time and space in order to anticipate the movement of hydrometeors. Therefore, this is the concept which instigated the development of the modernized Doppler Radar which uses the Doppler Effect to produce velocity data to project and predict the speed and directional movement of different types of objects from a given distance.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
On this day in 2013, an unordinary late season tornado outbreak occurred across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio. This particular tornado outbreak was the deadliest and costliest in Illinois to occur in the month of November and the fourth largest in recorded Illinois state history. This event resulted in 73 tornadoes, with reports of over 100 injuries and 11 fatalities.
Forecasts for the development of this event had been well anticipated, with initial forecasts led by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center five days in advanced. These storms were associated with a strong trough in the upper levels of the atmosphere, as well as having forecasts of a potent mid-level jet moving across the Mississippi River valley. The pressure gradient force, or in other words the force which results when there is a difference in pressure across a surface, tends to bring stronger winds in November compared to the summer or spring months. This leads to greater wind shear. The morning of the outbreak showed there was a particularly strong vertical wind shear, providing the perfect setup for long-tracked tornadoes to occur.
Two of the tornadoes, both in Illinois, were rated EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. These were the strongest documented tornadoes during the outbreak resulting in five deaths. In addition to tornadoes the system also produced baseball sized hail peaking at 4.00 in (10.2 cm) in diameter in Bloomington, Illinois, as well as damaging winds estimated as strong as 100 mph (160 km/h) in three separate locations. There were also seven tornadoes rated EF3, 23 tornadoes rated EF2, 28 tornadoes rated EF1 and 13 tornadoes rated EF0.
Tornadic events, especially of this magnitude, are an uncommon occurrence in the month of November. Normally in late autumn and into winter there is not sufficient warmth and moisture for thunderstorm development. However, in this case, a low pressure system across the plains had pushed tropical warmth and moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico for nearly two days. This moisture was akin to that typically observed during summertime, given dew point temperatures in the mid to upper 60’s. Combine this with air temperatures of around 70° F (21° C) and these combined factors aided in the generation of instability to get thunderstorms to form. The warmth combined with the high wind shear was the perfect setup for these supercell storms to develop. This is just a reminder that people should stay vigilant throughout the entire year because tornadoes can happen at pretty much any time especially throughout the midwestern portion of the United States.
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© 2018 Weather Forecaster Michael Ames
DISCUSSION: It goes without saying that 5 years ago today there was history made over in parts of the eastern and central and eastern Philippines. To be more precise, 5 years ago today, the eastern and central Philippines bore witness to the full force of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Super Typhoon Haiyan was an intense tropical cyclone which formed in early November of 2013. This powerful tropical cyclone was particularly intimidating since this storm had nearly a perfectly symmetric structure associated with it right up to the point of landfall over in the eastern Philippines. To be more precise, this tropical cyclone had developed sufficiently clear characteristics to allow it to be referred to as an annular tropical cyclone. An annular tropical cyclone is a tropical cyclone which has a near-perfect to perfect energy distribution across the entire span of the system from north to south and from east to west.
Moreover, Super Typhoon Haiyan was also an incredibly large tropical cyclone which also increased the overall flooding as well as flash flooding threat (i.e., from both heavy rainfall and record-breaking storm surge levels). Having said that, the storm was ultimately quite destructive and unfortunately quite deadly as well in the wake of well over 6,000 people losing their lives during the impacts and aftermath of this powerful tropical cyclone. Thus, it in looking back to Super Typhoon Haiyan, there is absolutely no question whatsoever that this was a storm which will go down in history as one of the worst tropical cyclones of all-time.
To learn about just some of the many intimidating details associated with this storm, here is a quote from the article attached below which reflects just a portion of what Super Typhoon Haiyan did. “Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally named Yolanda) made its first landfall at 4:40 a.m. local time (20:40 Universal Time) on November 7. Preliminary reports suggested the storm roared ashore near Guinan (Samar Province), where ground stations recorded sustained winds of 235 kilometers (145 miles) per hour and gusts to 275 kilometers (170 miles) per hour. According to remote sensing data from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, sustained winds approached 315 kph (195 mph) just three hours before landfall, with gusts to 380 kph (235 mph).”
Attached above is also a first-person perspective on this event from Award-Winning Storyteller and Cameraman Jim Edds from Pensacola, Florida.
To learn more about this historic tropical cyclone event, feel free to learn more about it from the NASA Earth Observatory link, which can be found right here!
© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
The Deadliest Hurricane in U.S. History (credit: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The History Channel)
The deadliest hurricane in U.S. history struck the coast of the Gulf of Mexico devastating Galveston, Texas, an island located off the coast of Texas. On September 8, 1900, a category four hurricane reached land from the Gulf of Mexico. The people in the affected area were not aware of the hurricane in time to evacuate. This is due to the lack of weather knowledge during the early 1900’s according to the History Channel.