Category Archives: commentary

Computer models, part 3

Tuesday, May 5, 2020  6 P.M.

Current weather:  A strong upper air disturbance over upper midwest now will rotate southeast toward Kentucky tonight.  This system will provide some reasonably potent lifting motions over the lower Ohio Valley late tonight.  Not much moisture is available, but additional periods of light rain/drizzle are likely late tonight into tomorrow’s morning rush hour.

We’ll get to see some sunshine as tomorrow wears on, but temperatures will remain unseasonably cool.  The below normal temperatures will likely continue through the next week or two.

Computer models, part 3

The past two posts have told the story how weather forecasting and computers have been wedded since the beginning of electronic computing.  Today there are computer models/projections for just about everything.  Even one that predicted Secretariat to win the Super Derby last Saturday.

We all know that weather forecasts certainly are still not perfect, even though meteorologists have been at it the longest.  Other forecast models have the same problem, but do get better with age.  That leads us to the Coronavirus Models,  Unlike sports, weather, economics, etc., the available data on pandemics is pretty sparse.  Luckily not many pandemics occur.  Nevertheless, models have been built and put into action.  As expected we are hearing a variety of conflicting reports.  Pandemic modelling is a relative new field…its going to take some time for the model errors to shrink.  But with more data rapidly becoming available, improvement will occur.

Early talk of millions of deaths possible in the U.S. were simply “potential”.  They assumed no precautionary steps taken.  When precautions/restrictions went into effect across the country, the oft-quoted University of Washington model predicted 100,000 to 240,000 fatalities.  Our PIC (prevaricator in chief) just laughed that off.  Meanwhile, as the volume of data escalated, a few weeks later, UW lowered its prediction to 60,000.  Subsequent revisions went to 68,000 and then to 76,000.  All the recent revisions have been ridiculously low.  I’ve been watching the case/death numbers closely.  They just didn’t mesh with the predictions.  For example, Monday UW estimate was still in upper 70,000’s.  Just following the daily data, it was obvious we’d exceed that this week.  But, then, yesterday…

Kudos to the New York Times

For some (obvious) reason, it appears that PIC and his gang have been withholding information from an internal government forecast model.  That model predicts total U.S. deaths at 135,000.  To me, that number seems about right.  But with the recent rush to reopen the country, even that number could be low.  Thanks to the Times for breaking this story.  PIC, however, will likely just discard it as “fake news.”    (The only thing worse for PIC was if Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post had broken the story.)

A little rain tonight

Sunday, March 22, 2020  6 P.M.

A weak upper air system will pass over the area tonight.  However, it’s not likely to bring much rain.  Low level moisture is very low, so it’s going to take a long time for the rain/snow above us to saturate the air to bring us some rain.  A few sprinkles or patches of light rain are possible this evening.  However, our best chance for some light rain will be for rush hour tomorrow morning.  Overall, total rainfall from this system will most likely be a trace to a couple hundredths of an inch.

If you’ve been watching radar this afternoon, you’ve been seeing in action what I described above.  If you have watched Louisville radar, you’ve seen rain all around us, but none close to us.  However, if you’ve seen so-called “composite” radar, it looks like we’ve had rain for the past few hours.  In fact, it has been raining aloft, but not reaching the ground.  It’s evaporating before it hits the ground.  You may see gray vertical streaks coming from the clouds.  That’s called virga – falling precipitation evaporating before it reaches the surface

Note:  Composite radar, which most media outlets show, integrates data from all NWS radars in the area.  Locally, what we are seeing is a merging of radar data from our radar (at Ft. Knox) with data from Nashville, Cincinnati, Indy and Evansville.  While our radar sees no rain, the others all show rain aloft over Louisville.  Compositing also creates problems for accurately locating thunderstorms.

Stuff

Being of a certain age, I’ve been closely following the spread of the coronavirus.  I’m also a scientist and have been closely watching the numbers.  As a result, I’m convinced we’ve reached the point of no return. Within the next day or two,  I expect the U.S. healthcare system to become completely overrun.  Our Prevaricator In Chief (PIC) constantly tells us we have all the medical supplies we need.  But where are they?  (Perhaps he sent them to our friends in North Korea?)  It’s obvious PIC has no sense of science.  Many of his serious science statements have been just harmlessly funny.  But, this time, his failure to even consider his science/medical advisers has allowed a great plague to take hold of our citizens.  He was advised of the possible consequences of coronavirus as early as January.  Instead, we got “It’s just the flu” , “Don’t worry about it” and it’s a “Democrat Hoax!”

It looks to me as though the next two weeks (at least) are going to be very bad.  PIC and Congress will throw trillions of dollars at the problem, but it’s not going to do much good.  That’s a lot of money to spend on a “Democrat Hoax”.

 

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.