It is the dead of winter right now. Trees are bare, temperatures are cold, and some parts of the country are covered in snow – or just old, grey slush. You might be wondering – why am I reading an article about heat? Well, as plans for summer activities and vacations begin to take shape in the coming weeks and months, it is important to keep in mind that hot summer temperatures can have negative effects on your health.
Many people are very active during the summer, taking advantage of warmer, sunnier days. Perhaps you’re a runner, a biker, or a hiker. Maybe you like to get together with friends to play soccer or volleyball or basketball after work. Children especially love to spend their time free from school in the great outdoors, from playing on the playground to attending sports training camps. Increased body temperatures from outdoor activities, on top of baseline, hot summer temperatures, provide an increased risk for heat-related illness.
However, even those who prefer to spend their summer perched in a beach chair are not immune to such illnesses. If you are outside, you should be alert for heat stress and heat stroke symptoms in yourself and others. Beaches can be particularly hazardous as sun reflects off of hot sand and shade is limited. Additionally, air conditioning may be a few blocks’ walk away to your hotel or beach house. Baseball games, too, can have you roasting in the sun for hours on end, much like those peanuts you’re probably eating.
Alright – how can you prevent heat-related illness? One of the best precautions to take is to drink plenty of water. Water breaks should be a staple in all outdoor athletic endeavors, from morning runs to after-work games to week-long elite sports camps. A water bottle should be the hottest accessory every beach season. One way to remember to take water breaks is to make a playlist for the day with a designated “water song” added multiple times, preferably once for every 15-20 songs. Every time this song plays, everyone must stop what they’re doing and hydrate.
Shade is another key tool in fighting heat illness. From tailgate tents to beach umbrellas, there are many options for making your own shade when no natural shade is readily available.
A final way to avoid heat illnesses is to take indoor, air-conditioned breaks when spending an entire day outside. Going back to a beach house or to a nearby restaurant for lunch when spending a day at the shore is a great way to break up the day. The same thing applies for outdoor sports camps. Overall, lunch breaks indoors are ideal because heat is often most intense in the early afternoon hours when the sun is directly overhead. Lunch is a great time to escape peak heat.
Signs of heat stress and heat stroke are included in the above image. Know them so that you can spot them in yourself and your friends, and seek help when necessary!
©2020 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
(Image from www.weather.gov)
For more information on how to prepare for dangerous weather, visit https://www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/weather-safety-educational-topics
DISCUSSION: There is no question that as the 2019 – 2020 winter season continues to move forward from late December and on into early January, millions of people spread across coastal sections of the Northeast U.S. will be wondering when and if there will or will not be a “true Winter.” However, it goes without saying that year in and year out there are always many questions from people all over the world regarding whether a given Winter season will be at least partly consumed by snowy and colder conditions.
Often, meteorologists from across the operational and private sector will respectfully do their very best to answer such questions in an appropriate and an accurate fashion despite any and all criticism they expect to receive. Nonetheless, whether it is for energy trading companies, domestic and/or global travel concerns, this can be a challenging question to correctly answer for several reasons. And, it is quite important to understand a little bit about some of the reasons for why this task can be so challenging.
First, it is important to understand that during any given winter season there are several climatological patterns effect large-scale atmospheric flow regimes. More specifically, a few prime examples include the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) as well as the Arctic Oscillation (AO) are two major players with respect to global climate variability that affect the likelihood of there being or not being a storm track as well as longer duration temperature trends which are more favorable for winter storm development. The ENSO will have an influence on larger scale atmospheric flow regimes since whether there are warmer or cooler sea surface temperatures across the central to Eastern Pacific Ocean basin will be a direct link to the frequency of more ridge or trough dominated patterns across North America. Whenever there are more ridge-dominant atmospheric flow regimes in place across western to central portions of the United States, this can often be unfavorable for winter storm development along the U.S. East Coast. However, it is important to note that depending upon the latitudinal position of a given ridge or trough, this can allow or not allow colder air filter in towards higher calculated regions of the northeastern U.S. which under the right conditions can set the stage for winter storm potential. And, the AO is often the factor which will predominantly control whether or not colder air masses are unleashed on the contiguous United States based on the strength of the low-pressure system(s) in place at the time. The key reason for this is because whenever there is a winter storm threat, the most critical factor is the presence of a deep cold air mass in the general area where the corresponding low-pressure is expected to develop. This is a critical factor since without cold air, there will not be sufficient support for snowfall development over a long enough period.
Thus, as far as the next few to several weeks are concerned during the 2019 to 2020 winter season, it goes without saying that although the current larger scale setup is not favorable for winter storm potential, this can and could potentially change rather quickly over the next few weeks. This is simply because the atmosphere is always in a state of gradual or more rapid transition and that any given Intraseasonal pattern is never locked in place for more than a week or two (generally speaking) with some very common exceptions to this rule. The most common winter storm potential indicated that is looked for during a given winter season with respect to the U.S. East Coast is the presence of a blocking high pressure system over Greenland as well as persistent trough development across the central U.S. the reason for this is because more persistent trough development (i.e., to the north of the Gulf of Mexico) as well as the presence of persistent deep cold air can set the stage for winter storm threats in such (or comparably similar scenarios). Therefore, even though the current and upcoming larger scale atmospheric flow regime is more than likely going to remain unfavorable for winter storm development, the 2019 to 2020 winter season is just getting started and let us also remember that the climatological peak for winter storm development along the US East Coast is during the month of February.
So, before going ahead and writing off anything just yet, it is important to keep some of these helpful winter weather tidbits in mind as time moves along.
To learn more about other weather education and preparedness topics from around the world, be sure to click here!
©2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
As this Fall season is wrapping up, and Winter starts for many across the country, the threat for avalanches in states like Colorado increases. For those that experience them yearly, avalanches are scary, but an average part of life in the Winter months within this region and are to be expected. When planning a ski trip, having a game plan on what to do in an avalanche, especially for those not acclimated to the area or with skiing, is a necessity. In fact, having an avalanche game plan for Colorado is just as important as having a tornado-safety game plan for the Midwesterners and Southerners. So, what is an avalanche and what does one do when it happens?
An avalanche occurs most commonly in the Winter and is when a mass of snow, ice, and rock fall down a mountainside. Because they are unpredictable in occurring and how intense they can get, they are rather dangerous. Many variables can be the culprit of causing these nasty events, such as snowpack, weather conditions, or even the terrain. The three ingredients to avalanches are a surface bed of snow, an unstable layer of snow in the middle, and a snow slab overlaying the top. They can travel as fast as 100 miles per hour, so if a person tries to outrun one, they will not be successful. The most dangerous type of avalanche is when a large chunk of snow and ice becomes disheveled and tumbles down the mountain side; this type is typically the fastest and deadliest to be caught in.
There are three key zones in an avalanche, the starting zone, the avalanche track, and the runout zone. The starting zone is the area where the avalanche begins, typically higher on the slope. As it continues to flow down the mountain side from this point, it becomes the avalanche track and as it stops near the bottom of the slope, the pile of debris left behind is the runout zone.
The way to survive an avalanche if skiing or snowboarding is to ski/snowboard down at a 45° angle to avoid getting caught in it. If not skiing or snowboarding, or if one can’t get out of the way in time, reach and grab for trees and hold on tight. If there are no trees in sight, swim through the snow and stick one arm directly up because as the avalanche intensifies and gets to a settling point at the end of the mountain, it will condense like concrete and there will be no way to make any sort of movement. There are gadgets now that can send one’s coordinates constantly to other members of their group if they happen to be stuck in an avalanche so being located is much more probable. There are also dogs that rescue teams will use that are trained to sniff out anyone in avalanches if there is believed to have been someone that was caught up in it.
Avalanches are scary and can be very dangerous, but with knowledge and a game plan, they can be conquerable. They are similar to mudslides, but more deadly due to the amount of ice and snowpack that can occur in them. Whenever planning a trip to Colorado, make sure to stay on the slopes and avoid back country skiing unless one is a professional or an expert as to avoid any possibility of creating a man-made avalanche and never being found.
To learn more about topics like this, click here!
©2019 Meteorologist Ashley Lennard
There are a number of hazards associated with snowstorms. Trees may fall down and take power lines with them. Roads and sidewalks may become slick and icy. Air travel may be halted, and of course – you may need to shovel your sidewalk. Although this is mostly considered a mundane, if bothersome and annoying chore, it can pose a very real health threat to some people.
Snow can be heavy, even if it’s just the powdery, “dry” snow. Wet snow is even heavier and more cumbersome to shovel. As many people know, shoveling snow is exhausting, especially wet snow. This overexertion, especially in the cold, is dangerous for the elderly and those living with cardiac conditions. The quick transition from sitting on the couch watching Christmas movies with a cup of hot cocoa to shoveling tens or even hundreds of pounds of snow can put a major strain on one’s heart. Cold weather can increase heart rate, increase blood pressure, and make blood more likely to clot – the main cause of a heart attack.
There are a few ways to keep your heart health in mind when faced with the task of shoveling snow. First, try warming up a little bit before starting to shovel. Not only does this prepare your body for the strain of shoveling, it might help get your muscles ready and alleviate aches and pains later. You could also fill your shovel a little bit less/more often, as opposed to shoveling fewer and heavier snow loads. Do you live on a street with an elderly person? Offer to take care of their driveway and sidewalk for them! Are you an elderly person? Offer a local teenager or college student home for break some money to shovel your sidewalk and driveway! More tips can be found at this link: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/protect-your-heart-when-shoveling-snow-201101151153
©2019 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
PWinter is kicking into full gear across much of the United States and many have already seen their first significant snowfall and snowstorms. Driving in snowy, foggy, or icy conditions can give even the most experienced motorist a challenge on the road. According to the Department of Transportation, there are approximately 1.2 million vehicle accidents per year related to weather, which leads to on average 6,000 fatalities and approximately 445,000 injuries due to these dangerous road conditions. So, what do you need to know to get to your destination in tricky, slippery winter weather safely?
Make sure you check your local forecast and road conditions before you leave the house! There are many ways to do that between television, social media, and even radio! This can help tremendously and keep you informed and prepared for what you could face on the road. The National Weather Service issues snow squall warnings which notify the public when a quick burst of snow occurs that can cause limited visibility and hazardous road conditions. Snow squalls are defined as intense, limited duration periods of moderate to heavy snowfall, which are accompanied by gusty surface winds. A snow squall is associated with strong cold front passages. Snow squalls approximately last a half hour to an hour in duration. They are common in the winter and can produce sudden whiteout conditions. If temperatures rapidly fall while a snow squall is occurring, surfaces can become very dangerous to travel on. These weather conditions can cause accidents if motorists are not careful when caught in one.
For more significant storms in the wintertime, the National Weather Service issues winter weather advisories, winter storm watches/warnings, and in the most severe case blizzard warnings. A winter weather advisory is issued when winter weather conditions will cause significant inconveniences outside. Winter storm watches are issued twelve to thirty-six hours in advance of severe wintry weather like heavy snow or ice accumulation. The amount and timing of the precipitation might not be fully known at the time of the watch but it allows the public time to prepare. A winter storm watch is upgraded to a warning when meteorologists forecast four inches or more of snow or sleet in a twelve hour time period, six inches of snow in a twenty-four hour period or more than one fourth in ice accretion. The fourth winter weather warning is a blizzard warning. Blizzard warnings are issued when conditions are forecasted or are producing strong winds and heavy snow which can cause blinding conditions (zero visibility) on the roadway, deep snow drifts and below zero wind chill temperatures. When one of these alerts are issued for your area, it is important to pay attention to the details that could impact not just your travel, but your life.
Regardless of the type of winter precipitation you’re facing this season, it's always important to take safety precautions to keep yourself and others safe! Tune into local meteorologist’s forecasts for the latest updates on your local weather, have an emergency kit in your car and when traveling in hazardous conditions, reduce speed and make sure your vehicle is in top shape to handle winter! For more information on winter weather alerts and safety click here!
©2019 Meteorologist Shannon Scully
Photo Credit: National Weather Service
When severe weather is in the area, your local weather station will issue either a watch or a warning. But what exactly is the difference between a watch and a warning? A watch means the weather conditions in the area have the potential of becoming dangerous to potentially life-threatening, while a warning means severe conditions are more than likely going to happen. Some examples of watches and warnings can include tornado, severe thunderstorm, hurricane, freeze, and flash floods. If your local weather station issues a weather watch for your area, you should prepare to seek shelter if need be. This means being prepared to move to a safer area or evacuate entirely, if necessary. However, if your local weather station issues a warning, specifically tornado or severe thunderstorm, this means you need to seek shelter immediately. It means that a tornado has been spotted, or that the thunderstorm cell has moved into the area. Some warnings don’t always require you to take shelter immediately, for example hurricane warnings simply mean that the impact of the hurricane will be more severe than if issued a watch. In either case, you should still be prepared to take action if issued a warning.
You should always have a plan ready in case of the issuance of any giving weather watches and/or warnings. If you live alone, then it’s easy to set that plan in motion, since you only have to worry about yourself. But if you live with others, you should sit down and have a serious discussion about what your plan is going to be. Figure out where you can go if you need to evacuate, or where you can seek nearby shelter. Weather can change in the blink of an eye, so always be ready.
©2019 Weather Forecaster Sarah Cobern
To learn more about weather safety, visit https://www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/weather-safety-educational-topics
As winter approaches, it is the perfect time to consider whether you are prepared for extreme cold or a snow emergency. Extreme cold brings the risk of frostbite to exposed skin, whereas heavy snowfall can cause downed trees and powerlines, extended power outages, and dangerous road conditions, among other hazards.
The best thing you can do is to prepare for winter storms before they happen. Some important preparedness staples include testing your carbon monoxide alarm, ensuring that you have extra batteries, and creating emergency supply kits for your car and your home. These supply kits should include blankets, bottled water, flashlights, a radio, batteries, and nonperishable food. Another great addition to your supply kit is a charged external battery for your cell phone. Having power for your phone will help you keep up to date with forecasts and emergency information.
When a winter storm does hit, it is important to stay off of roads. Slippery ice can cause deadly accidents, and if you’re not on the road, you greatly lessen your chance of being involved in one. Time outdoors in general should also be limited, and caution should be taken when shoveling snow, as elderly people can experience heart attacks from the exertion of heavy snow shoveling. Additionally, know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia, and some basics of how to treat these dangerous conditions.
Perhaps the most important part of winter weather safety is knowing the forecast in your area. Go to the National Weather Service website, www.weather.gov, or your local news station, for the most up-to-date coverage of any winter weather threat to your area. More information on winter weather preparedness can be found at this link: https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather#targetText=Have%20extra%20batteries%20for%20radios,%2C%20and%20non%2Dperishable%20snacks.
©2019 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
For more about weather preparedness, visit https://www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/weather-safety-educational-topics
DISCUSSION: With the tropical Atlantic basin now coming up on the climatological peak of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, there are several things which are imperative to continue thinking about as time moves along. First and foremost, the biggest thing tied to tropical cyclone awareness is ALWAYS being adequately prepared for any and all situations. More specifically, this should involve having critical supplies and personal emergency kit(s) at the ready and in a convenient location, so all crucial essentials are ready to go if the situation should call for it.
The predominant reason for why it is so important to have personal emergency supplies ready to go at any time is because if and/or when a powerful tropical cyclone develops and intensifies under specific circumstances, it can often be quite challenging to get all the proper emergency supplies together. Thus, anytime where there happens to be a legitimate tropical cyclone threat developing, be sure to collect and organize any and all emergency supplies such as personal medications, a first aid kit, 4 to 7 days of food and water, important legal documentation, portable electronic charging station(s), etc. as soon as possible. The reason for why this is so important is due to the fact that there can often be a good likelihood that such items will quickly sell out through both in-person as well as online retailers as a consequence of the increased demand with the approaching tropical cyclone (or threat thereof).
In addition, ALWAYS know where you plan to go if you are mandated to evacuate your hometown and how long it will take to get to the given location. If you are aware of a tropical cyclone threat being incredibly legitimate, then it is crucial to take any evacuations orders and/or recommendations incredibly seriously since tropical cyclone forecast tracks can often be hard to anticipate more than 3 days out to within 100 miles of total accuracy.
So, in short, the next time there happens to be a particularly concerning tropical cyclone threat in the vicinity of where you are or where you may be planning to travel to at a given point in time, be sure to ALWAYS heed the best advice provided by local officials and law enforcement since they are only ever trying to prevent the unnecessary loss of life and critical infrastructure.
To learn more about other weather safety and preparedness topics from around the world, be sure to click here!
©2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
It’s back to school time for students of all ages, and with this comes numerous extracurricular activities. Some of the most popular activities are sports, both competitive and intramural. When it comes to sports, an athlete, fan, or coach also has to pay attention to something else: the weather.
Most schools have divided their sports based on the season of the year: fall, winter, and spring. While they do not quite meet up with the meteorological or astronomical definition of the season, each sport has to deal with its own threat. For example, many high school and college football teams play in the fall, but they practice throughout their summer breaks. As a result, teams have to contend with the heat. Players have to worry about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, along with learning how their coaches want to play.
Some school districts will take practices indoors when the heat index is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, for some sports, such as football, this only applies to practices and not during season games. Even when the practices are indoors for football, teams may not be able to practice as per standards because of the size of the program and lack of proper equipment within their facilities.
So, fall teams have to deal with the dog days of summer, but they also have to deal with the first taste of winter. As the season comes to a close, some teams will be playing in sleet and cold conditions. Now, players have to worry about hypothermia and finding ways to stay loose and limber. Some teams will be lucky enough to play indoors due to how their sport is played, but some, like football, will not be as lucky.
These weather changes occur quickly as well, so players have to worry about becoming ill Most winter sports are indoors, but for those who play in the spring, they have to contend with the same issues as the fall sports. Spring sports have to deal with the transitions that the fall sees, only in reverse order. Winter still can hold a grasp at the beginning, but towards the end, the first rays of summer can cause the same issues.
So, as athletes practice for their sport, how can they stay safe in various weather conditions? For the heat, the Center for Disease Prevention states that practices should be taking place during the cooler parts of the day, and longer breaks should be taken. They also recommend that heavy clothing should be limited in usage because of the heat.
As for the cold weather, athletes should dress in layers and should watch out for hazards like ice. Extremities should not be excluded when dressing up in layers because these areas are the first to experience frostbite. Athletes should also drink plenty of fluids despite not realizing the importance of remaining hydrated during the colder and warmer months equally.
While the weather poses its threats to sports throughout the school year, coaches, athletes, and spectators alike will enjoy them. Best of luck this sports season, and remember to watch the weather before playing.
To look at more articles about weather safety, be sure to go to https://www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/weather-safety-educational-topics .
©2019 Weather Forecaster Shannon Sullivan
If you’ve seen a hurricane forecast, you’ve probably seen a graphic like the one below for Tropical Storm Dorian (as of August 27, 2019, 8:00 am):
There’s a lot going on in this graphic, but let’s focus on the cone. This is the white shaded or polka-dotted part of the map that is shaped like, well, a cone. The cone, as described in the graphic, represents the probable path of the storm center. But let’s break it down even further.
The black circles in the center of the cone show the forecasted classification of the storm at the noted day/time. In this case, Tropical Storm Dorian is projected to remain a tropical storm (sustained winds 39-73 miles per hour) as it travels towards Florida.
The white shaded portion of the cone represents the potential track from the time the forecast is issued until three days out. It is shaded because there is more certainty in the forecast to three days out than there is to five days out, which is represented by the white dotted portion of the cone. Although forecasters are less sure of the storm track four to five days out, this can help with hurricane preparation. People living in or near the dotted part of the cone should be sure to take the appropriate cautionary measures. In some cases, like 2017’s Hurricane Irma, this is evacuation. However, Tropical Storm Dorian may not have the same devastating impact as Irma. Precautionary measures should include stocking up on nonperishable food, one gallon of water per person per day, and making sure to have a method of receiving weather information. A portable power bank for a cell phone is a good idea to have, so that you can keep your cell phone charged to make calls, send texts, and receive information from the National Weather Service. NWS also offers a weather radio app that can be downloaded from the iTunes store or Google Play. Of course, monitor your local forecast and listen to any advice given by local officials.
But why is the cone shaped like a cone? The closer in time to the forecast, the more confidence forecasters have in the storm path. The farther out you go, the more uncertain the storm path. The cone gets wider because it encompasses the wider range of tracks that the storm’s center could take.
It is important to remember that the cone does not represent the size of the storm, only potential tracks for the storm’s center. As the graphic says, hazardous conditions can occur outside of the cone! If you live near the edges of the cone, you, too, should prepare for stormy weather.
©2019 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
Image Source: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at5+shtml/204140.shtml?cone