Category Archives: commentary

Winter arrives (finally) next week.

9 P.M. Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020

Mild weather continues a few more days

I don’t know how many times over the past six months, our forecast models have predicted a reversal in the upper air pattern over North America, but it’s been often.  Only once (November) did it actually happen.  Now, it’s seems like it will reverse for a second time, starting Sunday.

The shift to west coast ridge/east coast trough is underway.  The strong northwesterly winds aloft will definitely put us into below normal temperatures.  When pattern reversals occur, they generally persist at least 2-3 weeks.  But, this has been unusual winter, to say the least.  When the “cold phase” hit us in November, it lasted about 3 weeks before the “warm phase” took over.  And the warm phase has been around ever since.  Since November 25, we’ve only had six days with below normal temperatures.  For those keeping score, that’s 45 above normal days and only 6 below.

So, are we going to have a “3 week” winter, or will be longer?  Good question.  Answer unknown.

Old rule of thumb:  After 3 weeks, if the upper air winds over us are stronger than when the cold regime began,  it will persist another 3 weeks.  If the winds are weaker than originally, the warm regime will return quickly.

Rest of this week

Official forecast gives Louisville a chance for rain tomorrow.  I’m not buying that although some light rain will be possible over southern KY.

Another midwestern storm is likely late Friday, but it’ll be much weaker than last week’s storm.  We’ll probably see periods of rain from Friday into Saturday.

Then, winter arrives Sunday!  Next chance for snow comes from a weak clipper next Tuesday.

 

Worst of storm is over

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020  1:30 P.M.

Potential damage area moves east.

After following this storm system for a week,  I still didn’t get it right.  The rain and heavy downpours arrived long before I expected them to – the heaviest rain passed through Jefferson County between Noon and 1 P.M.  Also, in spite of the rain acting as a break, wind gusts reached 50+ mph in a few spots.  Surprisingly, the number of power outages locally are less than 1000 customers.  Even an average spring/summer thunderstorm produces many more than that.

So, overall, the system proved to be a pretty typical midwestern winter storm for us.

This afternoon, the rain will continue, then fade away around dark.  The winds have been silenced for awhile.   They’ll get stronger again as the rain ends, but top gusts tonight will be in the 25-35 mph range.  They’ll be pushing colder air across the Ohio Valley, but nothing unusual for January.  In fact, tomorrow’s temperatures will remain above normal.

Take your pick

Sat. Oct 26, 2019 3 P.M

Windy and wet

As I usually do when I get up in the morning, I turn on NOAA Weather Radio to get an idea on what the latest ideas are.  I didn’t get much help today.  Rain…yes, but that has been pretty obvious for the past couple of days.

But, high winds were also expected today.  Here’s what I got… from the “official forecast” the winds were predicted for this afternoon to be 15-25 mph with gusts to 30 mph.  However, there was also a Wind Advisory.  That said late afternoon gusts would be 40-45 mph with a few gusts possibly reaching 50 mph.  Well, there is quite a difference between 30 mph and 50 mph gusts.  Thirty is pretty ordinary; fifty can create significant damage. So we’re getting two very different forecasts at the same time!  Probably should have just used the word “windy” and let everybody decide for themselves.

At least the Noon forecast updated the gusts up to 35 mph, but that doesn’t change the situation very much.

Meanwhile, the latest short term models have been lowering their wind predictions.  Current indications point to the strongest wind gusts should be between 4 and 7 P.M.  My best current estimate is for gusts reaching 35 and 40 mph with perhaps into the low 40’s

U of L’s Homecoming game should see those gusty winds and about a 50-50 mix of showers/no showers during the game.

UK’s game should also see a rain/no rain mix.  However, the winds should be quite a bit weaker.  Top gusts around 30 mph or so.

Mystery forecast?

Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019

Spent some time this morning and again this afternoon looking at the GFS and NAM forecasts for the rest of the week.  Both models move a full-latitude trough into the Ohio Valley Friday and Friday night.  It’ll positive-tilted, so no major storm development is expected here.  But, there’s almost certainly going to be plenty of moisture around with a large area getting rain, especially Friday night.

Then I checked the National Weather Service’s forecast.  This morning they had a 20% chance for rain Friday.  Now, the Friday/Friday night forecast has no mention of rain at all!

I’ve said this thousands of times..things change.  And I’m certain Friday won’t turn out exactly as the models are saying now.  But, if your two most important forecast tools are practically yelling “rain” at you, shouldn’t you at least mention the possibility in your forecast?

Really?!

Nit Picking

Noon Oct.9,2019

Just checked the afternoon forecast from the NWS.  Cloudy with a high in the upper 70’s.

Here we are sitting under cloudy skies, light NE winds at about 60 degrees.  How are we going to get almost 20 degrees of warming over the next 4-5 hours?  We’re not.  Even if the clouds cleared immediately, we’d be hard pressed to get that warm.  In reality, clouds should begin to thin by 3-4 P.M.  Even with thinning clouds, we’ll be lucky to reach the low 70’s.  Around 70 seems more likely.

What’s up?  Isn’t anyone paying attention?

Stuff

A little perspective…

Slashing and burning of the Amazon has been going on for decades.  All of a sudden this year, it became the “climate destruction gang’s” next big thing on the climate agenda.  But why now?  The  average amount of deforestation over the past five years has been only about 50% of what was occurring 20 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong on this, Amazon deforestation is (and has been) a big climate problem.  But, programs have been ongoing for years to reduce the burning.  Success has been modest, but this certainly is not a new problem.

Dorian footnotes

5 P.M. Friday, Sept. 6,2019

Some laughs in a serious situation

Looking back on some things said this week, it appears the U.S. coastline got off pretty easily.  We had plenty of damage, but nothing that could compare anywhere close to the damage sustained by our Bahamian neighbors just 100 or so miles east of Florida.

Meanwhile, I just couldn’t resist laughing at our Prevaricator-in-Chief.  Some really funny sound bites – actually, though, crying should have been my reaction instead of laughter.  But, when the Prevaricator speaks about science, funny things roll out of his mouth.  He’s the classic example of speaking first, thinking later.

1).  Alabama.  He postpones (or cancels) a trip to Poland because of the potential hurricane damage to Alabama.  No National Hurricane Center bulletins on Dorian ever mentioned Alabama.  There was never a potential threat to ‘Bama.  (Of course, now he’ll probably ask the citizens of Alabama to vote for him because he kept the storm away from them.  Prevaricator-in- Chief indeed,)

2). Cat 5.   Numerous quotes earlier this week about…Category 5, nothing like this has ever happened before.  Who can believe this?  Amazing, Category 5’s just don’t happen.  And on and on.  Trouble is, he used the same words over and over and over in 2017 when another Category 5 storm approached the U.S.  Are we talking about memory loss or slow learner or both.

3).  Nuke it.  Hurricanes should be no problem, says the PIC.  We can just nuke ’em.  In any other reality, that just makes matters worse.  Instead of a hurricane hitting the coast, we’d have a radioactive hurricane hitting the coast.  We’d need a far different system to clean up from that hurricane.  Why won’t nuking a hurricane work.? The amount of energy nature works with dwarfs what we humans can do.  The NHC estimates that a typical average hurricane releases an amount of energy equal to about 10,000 average nuclear bombs.  Over an typical 7 day lifetime, that amounts to about one bomb per MINUTE.

Basically, the PIC should keep away from talking about science.

P.S.  I’ve just had an even scarier thought.  What if his science advisers told him to say those things???

Dorian has stopped, for now

Sunday, Sept. 2, 2019  5 P.M.

Northern Bahamas still getting blasted

Dorian has weakened a bit today, down to a Cat 4, but is still very potent.  The weakening trend should continue for awhile due to interaction with land.  More importantly, weakening may be even greater than expected because the storm has essentially stopped.  To simplify things, hurricanes grab a lot of their energy from the warm surface waters  beneath them.  But, when a tropical system stops, the warm surface water gets essentially “used up.”  In fact, cooler water from below the ocean’s surface rises to the surface.  When this happens, the hurricane becomes energy deprived and weakens.  The longer Dorian remains stalled, the better the prospects become for the southeast U.S. coast.

As you might suspect, the closer (in time) Dorian comes to possible landfall, the closer the forecast agreement gets.  But, there are still some very destructive scenarios to consider.

Florida and Georgia Coasts:  Neither the GFS nor the euro models expect landfall along these coasts.  The GFS, however, does nudge Dorian closer to the coast.  Either way keeps any major storm problems away from these coasts.

South and North Carolina coasts:  The GFS continues the northeast movement of Dorian.  As the storm parallels the coast, A very strong storm surge will produce moderate to major damage.  How much damage depends upon how much Dorian weakens by that time – late Tuesday into early Thursday.  Another thing to consider is that the current weakening should be temporary.  Dorian will be riding the Gulf Stream along the coast and that warm water favors reintensification.

Meanwhile, the euro has Dorian closer to the North Carolina coast, with a possible touching of land, over North Carolina.  This is a decidedly worse scenario than the GFS is offering.

So in summary, the Florida and Georgia coastal areas are likely to have strong winds and very heavy rains.  But, extreme conditions are not likely.  However, severe damage is still a possibility for the Carolina coasts, especially from Myrtle Beach northward.  But, things change.  Stay tuned.

More changes, this time it’s better news

Sat.  Aug. 31, 2019  3:30 P.M.

Much better news for Florida!

Over my 50+ years of trying to into harmony with nature, I repeated countless times, “Don’t trust any forecast beyond two days.”  We still miss forecasts in days 1 and 2, but that forecast is usually pretty accurate.  But when you get beyond 2 days, things change.

Hurricane Dorian forecasts this week have been  a prime example.  Early this week Dorian was projected to hit somewhere along the Florida east coast.  Where?  We have many different models looking at the storm (you’ve probably seen the “Spaghetti Diagrams” on tv), but the  U.S. showcase is the GFS and the top model in the world is referred as the EURO.  Let’s just track those two.

Early in the week, the GFS landfall was predicted to be along the FL/GA border.  The euro focused on southern FL.  Over the next day or two, the GFS gradually worked its landfall southward to close to the euro position.  Yesterday, the GFS still predicted a hit north of Miami then at least a two day journey northward over Florida.  That matches the horrific damage projection I mentioned Thursday.

But, yesterday’s morning euro changed!  It no longer predicted Dorian to hit Florida.  Instead, it would get within a 100 miles or so, then turn slowly northward along the coast and probably not hit land until about North Carolina.  That’s VERY important!  As far a potential damage goes, there’s a huge difference between a hit and a near miss.  Meanwhile, the GFS maintained it’s devastating forecast.

This morning, the GFS caught up to the euro  with the “close miss” scenario, but was still putting landfall along the area along the North/South Carolina border.  Today’s euro, however, has shifted the storm track farther east, possibly even missing the Outer Banks.

So, what’s going to happen?

Good question.  We’re still more than two days away from U.S. coastal interaction and “trends” sometimes do reverse.   So, no one from Florida to North Carolina is completely out of danger yet.   But, current trends are indicating a much better situation, especially for Florida.  As it stands now, Florida’s biggest threat will come from beach erosion.   But remember, things change!

GFS vs. euro

Remember earlier this summer when the National Weather Service made a big fuss over it’s introduction of its “new and better” GFS version?  The model was designed to oust the euro as world’s best.  Dorian has been the first big test for the new GFS.  So far, so bad.  But, things change.  Let’s see how it plays out.

Stuff

The director of the Internal Revenue Service during the mid 1940’s later went to jail for failing to pay his income taxes.

Barry “underperforms”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019  4 P.M.

Barry provides a wet night

Remember all the frightful forecasts about the flooding rains Barry would cause last weekend over Louisiana and surrounding states?  Well, the storm did produce the normal heavy rains that a tropical storm does, but the big weather story for the past couple of days has been Barry’s “underperformance.”  A huge part of the damage and destruction predicted never happened.  That’s the good news.  Here’s the bad news:  All the familiar meteorologists’s phrases popped up – “We dodged the bullet”, “We got lucky”, and “The storm underperformed”.  Ah!  The world we live in.  All the reasons given imply that the forecast was correct.  Thus, it was nature that blew it!

Note to fellow forecasters:  Nature does NOT make mistakes, but we do.  Isn’t it about time that forecasters actually own up to their mistakes and just admit them rather than trying to push the blame to “the weather”?

Barry’s moisture finally reaches us.

Barry’s remnants are being picked up by a weak upper air system over the midwest that will push eastward tonight and cross the lower Ohio Valley by midday tomorrow.  Ahead of this system we’ll see periods of rain and a few thunderstorms tonight.  There could be a few lingering light showers tomorrow, but the bulk of the rain will be overnight.  Current model trends are for the heaviest rains to occur over the western third of KY and over the eastern third of KY later tonight and tomorrow.  Both of those areas could see 1″-2″ rain totals with perhaps higher totals in the mountains.  Most of southern IN and central KY should receive up to an inch of rain with a few areas higher if thunderstorms develop.

Break in the heat coming?

For at least a month, the GFS model has been predicting a change in the upper air pattern over North America.  The forecast has always been for the shift/change to occur 10 days to two weeks ahead.  But “next week’s cooling” has never shown up…yet.

Late last week the forecast was for a transition to the cooler pattern to happen Sun/Mon (July 21-2).  Now we’re less than a week away and the forecast hasn’t changed.  Could it be “real” this time?  It sure looks like it.  So, a more comfortable weather pattern should set if next week.

Then, the question becomes whether the cooler pattern will persist for several weeks or just be  a minor “blip” in the summer heat.  Longer range models keep the cooler pattern in place for most of August.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Stuff:

There’s been a lot of news and celebration this week concerning the 50th anniversary of the Apollo II moon landing.  Here’s a tidbit I read this week…

The Apollo II computer system required about 145,000 lines of code.   (Today, Facebook runs about 62 million code lines while Google uses more than 2 billion lines!)

Earth Day 2019

Thoughts on Earth Day 50 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Earth Day should be a day of joyful ceremony and celebration.  But, instead, it’s more of a horror show – full of predictions of death, misery, etc.  In general it’s a day of dire warnings of horrible doom and gloom in our near future.  And, of course, the fault is all ours.

So, why should Earth Day be a time of celebration?  Let’s take a quick look at what’s been going on for the past century, or so.                                                                                                                             1). Earth’s population in 1900 was an estimated 1.6 billion.  Poverty  rates and malnutrition rates were very high.  Disease was rampant.  Today Earth’s population is estimated at 7.8 billion.  Poverty rates and malnutrition rates are the lowest ever.  Many common diseases of the past have been eliminated.  (Or at least they were eliminated until some of today’s enlightened population decided that it might be fun to bring them back.  But, at least they’ve offered their own children as test subjects.  I digress.)

2).  Food was a scarce commodity in the first half of the 20th Century.  Now, thanks to a warming Earth, modern technology and higher carbon dioxide levels, food is abundant.  (So abundant in fact that in the U.S.  much of our corn production is not even eaten.  Rather, it goes to making ethanol which is then mixed with gasoline to make our cars run less efficiently.  In addition, the production/distribution of ethanol produces MORE carbon dioxide than it saves as a fuel!  Only in America!  I digress.)  Today, estimated global food production creates an equivalent of roughly 2800 calories per person per day.  Past Earth Day predictions foresaw mass starvation and global wars over food by now.  Unfortunately, food distribution is largely a political problem, so food is not shared equally.

3).  Earth Day sages have also missed on may other smaller scale predictions.  As it turns out Al Gore’s famous photo of a polar bear floating on a lonely, small iceberg was photoshopped.  Polar bears were not disappearing.  In fact their population is now higher than ever recorded.  Arctic Sea ice has not disappeared.  In fact, sea ice yearly minimums have actually be increasing over the past decade.  Global hurricane production/intensity has not increased in the past 3-4 decades.  (Yes, there’s been a lot more damage – because we keep building stuff on barrier islands.)  The frequency of winter storms has also shown no increase.

In fact, there have been articles floating around the internet recently “grading” 49 years of Earth Day predictions.  So far NOT ONE has come true!  And this year’s theme – species extinction – is sure to keep the Earth Day score unblemished.  Here it is:  30% to 50% of Earth’s species will be on the final road to extinction by 2050.  They’re calling it the 6th Great Extinction.  Interestingly, even if the prediction were to somehow prove to be correct, Earth would still have more species than BEFORE the last Great Extinction 65 million years ago.

So, what’s all the fuss about carbon dioxide?

There’s a very vocal sect with a religious-like  fervor that believes that increasing carbon dioxide is going to kill us all.  They don’t seem to realize that carbon dioxide is an extremely beneficial gas.  After all, life on  Earth is carbon based.  Many times in the past carbon dioxide levels have been much higher than now.  Most of the past 10,000 years Earth’s temperature has been higher than now.  We are still recovering from the Little Ice Age (started in the 16th century and ended about the mid 19th century).  The rate of global warming from the late 1970’s to about 2010 was just .1 deg. F more than a similar 30-year period at the start of the 20th Century.  So, it’s not so unusual.  Only then, nobody thought it was the beginning of the end of the world.

But, there is some concern about rising atmospheric carbon dioxide.  How much?  We just don’t know.  We’ve all heard/read estimates that a rise to about 550 parts per million would warm Earth by 3 to 8 degrees C  (5-14 deg F).  All those estimates come from computer modelling of the atmosphere.  Luckily, none of those models has ever shown much skill at its assigned task.  And, there are also additional problems with some assumptions the models make.

One thing we do know (at least we think we do) is if you only consider carbon dioxide and nothing else, Earth’s temperature should rise about 1 deg F.  for a carbon dioxide level of 550 ppm.  No big deal.

The problem, however, is that carbon dioxide doesn’t act alone.  It interacts with many things in the Earth/atmospheric system.  How much do all those interactions effect warming or cooling of the Earth.  The answer is:  We just don’t know!  Until we know definitively, we have no way to determine how much increasing carbon dioxide will change our world.  So far, the benefits from the increasing carbon dioxide far outweigh the negatives.

That’s why Earth Day should be a day of celebration rather a rant of doom and gloom.