Category Archives: stuff

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!)

Astronomical Spring arrives at 5:58 this evening

Wed., March 20, 2019

Is the Equinox equal?

The Spring (or vernal) Equinox arrives this evening as the sun will be directly above the Equator at 5:58 EDT.  And, even though the word equinox roughly translates into “equal night”, that’s not exactly true.  The common interpretation for the day of the equinox is 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night.   But if you look at the sunrise/sunset table, you’ll see today has 12 hours 8 minutes between sunrise and sunset.  So, day and night are not 12-12 as most people think.

What accounts for the extra 8 minutes?  Our atmosphere! On its roughly 93 million mile journey to Earth, sunlight travels through a vacuum.  For the last 10-20 miles, however, the sunlight encounters a higher density medium (the atmosphere).  The closer it comes to the surface, the higher the density.  When light travels into a region of higher density, it bends.  This bending is properly called refraction.  Or, in the case of the sunlight and Earth, atmospheric refraction.

Courtesy: timeanddate.com

So, when we see the sun sitting on the horizon, it is actually below the horizon.  But, we still “see” the sun because the atmosphere refracts (bends) the sunlight back to our eyes.  From the time we perceive the sun on the horizon until it drops out of our vision, four minutes go by.

So, if the Earth had no atmosphere (we’d be in BIG trouble), sun rise and set would be exactly 12 hours apart.  Because we do have an atmosphere, you must add the extra 4 minutes at sunrise and four more at sunset. Thus, the day of the Equinox has 12 hours 8 minutes between sunrise and sunset

Full moon tonight

The March full moon is most commonly called the Worm Moon (think robins in the early spring).  It has many lessor known names as well…Lenten Moon,  Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Chaste Moon, Sugar Moon and Sap Moon.

Our moon will be “full” at 9:42 P.M.  Moon rise tonight at 7:38 PM EDT.

Wait, one more thing…

Just trying to wrap things up in a neat little package…

Q.  Why does the moon look much larger near the horizon than it does higher in the sky?

Ans:  atmospheric refraction (plus something called the apparent shape of the sky)                         Note:  The moon on the horizon problem is still considered as the Moon Illusion.  People have been trying to explain it for over 2000 years.  Ptolemy was one the first to try.  His suggestion was very similar to the one I gave above.  But, it’s still under debate.

Severe Storm “potential”, take 3

Wed., March 13, 2019  6 P.M.

Thunderstorms likely tomorrow

This is the third time in recent weeks that the Storm Prediction Center(SPC) has put us in an area of potential severe storms.  We are in a “slight risk” region tomorrow.

The first two times, the situation was the same.  Very strong dynamics (wind fields) but little support from the thermodynamics (heat and humidity).  As the old song goes, it takes two to tango.  Both times, the partnership never happened, so the weather didn’t get to dance.

As is common in the early spring, the (almost) same situation exists again.  But, there are some differences.  Strong dynamics (upper winds, strong surface storm) are once again the prominent feature.  But, the dynamics over the midwest/Ohio Valley will be weakening through tomorrow.  Northward flow of heat and humidity is currently strong, but it also is expected to weaken.

So, overall the threat for severe storms over KY and southern IN tomorrow looks pretty small.  The GFS is weak with storm development while the NAM is a little stronger and more in line with the SPC ideas.  However, it keeps storms pretty weak over KY, but does point out a stronger threat over the northern two-thirds of IN tomorrow afternoon.

Here’s my forecast:

Mostly cloudy and breezy tonight…low…58.  70%  chance for showers and/or thunderstorms after 4 A.M. continuing into mid-morning.  (Rain/storms will be most likely along and west of I-65.)

Another area of showers and thunderstorms will likely cross the area between 4 P.M. and 7 P.M.  tomorrow.  Gusty winds around thunderstorms, but severe weather threat is quite low.  Cooler weather arrives Friday.

Stuff

Tomorrow is Pi Day.  3.14 on the calendar.  Use some math, it won’t hurt (much).

 

Calmer weather for a couple of days

4 P.M. Feb. 20, 2019

Ohio River on the rise again.

Current hydrological forecasts have the Ohio in Louisville rising to just a inch or so from flood stage by Monday morning.  In the short term, I think that forecast will be revised downward since rainfall last night and today has fallen, in general, a half-inch to one inch shy of forecasts.  Plus, the highest amounts (southwestern Indiana) fell in areas that will drain into the Ohio downriver from Louisville.

Mostly light rain will move east of I-65 by 6-7 P.M. this evening.  Then two dry days lie ahead.  We’ll keep plenty of clouds around, but temperatures will reach about 50 tomorrow and a few degrees warmer on Friday.

Looking ahead

The next big storm to reach us will arrive Saturday and persist about 24 hours.  This one also projects as a big rain-maker.  Current estimates are in the 1″ to 2″ range, down a bit from earlier forecasts.  This storm will determine the fate of the Ohio River here in Louisville.  Another rain in the forecast range could easily put the river out of its banks by early next week.

Looking farther ahead

A lot has been said about an abrupt change back to a much colder pattern around March 1.  Call it “Polar Vortex, Chapter 2”!  Well, the GFS has been predicting some snow on arrival (now looks like Feb.28th) and a substantial snow about March 4 or 5.

Unfortunately, that all changed with this morning’s GFS.  It is now pushing much less cold air southward, as happened last time.  We could still have some light snow upon the cold air’s arrival, but it won’t hang around long enough to prevent the March storm from being rain.

DON’T give up hope!  The GFS has been acting very shaky (wild forecasts) since yesterday’s 18Z (1.P.M.) run, so it could all shift again.

Stuff

Of the world’s “big cats” (lions, tigers, leopards and cheetahs), only the cheetah cannot roar. They , however, can purr.  They also can accelerate to 70 mph in three seconds!

 

 

 

More heavy rain ahead, but first…

4:30 P.M. Monday, Feb. 18, 2019

Most likely rain will start as snow

A quick look at the primary weather charts today would give you the idea that there’s no chance for snow tomorrow night.  But, today’s forecast models allow you to dive much deeper – and they say we’ll see a few hours of snow/sleet before we warm enough for rain.

The  mid and upper atmosphere will warm rapidly tomorrow, but there be some air in the lower 5000 feet of the atmosphere that remains cool enough to create snow before rain takes over.  Even though surface temperatures should reach 40 or higher, the near surface air will remain very dry.  So, as precipitation begins aloft, it will be evaporated before it reaches the surface. Evaporation of water cools the air.  In this case, just enough cooling to allow the snow from aloft to NOT melt before reaching the surface.   Temperatures will probably only drop into the mid 30’s, so it’ll be a very “wet” snow.  Nevertheless, much of the area along and north of I-64 could easily see a 1″-2″ accumulation on grassy areas before the changeover to rain.  Areas south of I-64 will see a rapid drop in snow  – probably 30-40 miles south – should expect no accumulation.

Roadways may see a brief slushy period, but little (if any) accumulation.  Rain will wash away icy spots on the roads by shortly after Midnight, so no trouble with the morning rush – expect for water.  Rain tomorrow night until midday Wednesday should be add up to about 1″-1.5″.  While that’s a good sized rain, it will not be enough to bring back flooding.  After that the next heavy rain is not expected until Saturday.

Stuff

36 degrees    If something is falling out of the sky and it’s 36, there’s 50% chance it’ll be rain and 50% chance it’ll be snow (or some other frozen type).  Above 36, the odds increasingly move toward liquid.  Below 36, the odd increasingly favor frozen types of precipitation.

Update on “No snow tonight”

4 P.M. Fri., Feb 15, 2019

Slight model changes

Most recent runs of HRRR and RAP are shifting the expected precipitation northward.  1″ – 2″ of snow still remain likely over the lower two-thirds of KY.  The Louisville area still looks like a strong “no accumulation” but some spots south of I-64 could get a dusting this evening.  Chances for measurable snowfall still fall in the 10% – 20% range.

Presidents Day

The Federal holiday commonly called Presidents Day will be Monday – the third Monday in February.  But something is wrong with the that statement!  Here’s the story…Congress approved a holiday named Washington’s Birthday in 1879.  By 1885 the February 22nd holiday became widespread across the country.  Later Lincoln’s birthday also became a federal holiday.  When Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Act of 1968, the date was changed to the third Monday of February BUT the name was never changed.  So, Monday’s holiday we’ll celebrate will be Washington’s Birthday, not what most people call it.

Forecast models still at odds

Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019  4:30 P.M.

Snow possible tomorrow night!

Happy Valentines Day!

First of all – tonight.  A weak cold front will cross the area.  It has little upper air support and slim moisture available.  Nevertheless, it could squeeze out a few, brief light showers tonight.  Only about a 30% chance for a measurable amount.  Temperatures tomorrow should stay near 40 during the day.

Snow situation

The northwest U.S. is being pounded by yet another winter storm.  A small piece of upper air energy is breaking away from the parent system and will move eastward across the country over the next two days.  Both the GFS and NAM portray this system a little stronger than yesterday.  They still differ on the storm path and consequences for us.

The GFS is gung ho on snow for us as the surface system slides south of us tomorrow night.  GFS snow totals are around 2″ for Louisville area with heavier totals (up to 4″) over  SW Indiana and western Kentucky.  Snow forecast is even higher along a path from near Evansville to south of St. Louis to Kansas City.

Then, there is the NAM.  Like yesterday, it isn’t taking the snow very seriously for the Louisville area.  It projects the storm track to be a little farther south.  That puts us on the northern edge of the snow threat.  Southern KY will see a mix of snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain creating major road problems tomorrow night and early Saturday.  It also has the heavy snow from far western KY back into Missouri.

So, which model is correct?

Good question.  Can you wait until Sunday morning for the answer?  Of course not!  We want to know beforehand.  So, I’ll give you my thoughts on the situation.

In general, most of the forecasting fraternity will go with the GFS.  Over the long haul, it seems to be the better of the two.  But, this winter the GFS has had snow lovers salivating over two big snow forecasts.  Both times local media and National Weather Service followed the GFS and went into hype mode only to have both forecasts fail.  Overall, the GFS has been in a slump but the NWS is going along with its 2″ forecast for tomorrow night.

But, what about the NAM?  It’s a good model, too.  But the wide differences between the two models for this forecast must mean something.  If tomorrow night’s weather solution were “settled science”, the two models would be very close.  The fact that they are not close tells us there is something about this atmospheric setup that they can’t quite resolve.  In essence, neither model can be ignored.

So, here’s my best shot.  I’m leaning toward the NAM ideas having the surface storm taking a more southerly track.  That means less snow for the Louisville area.  I’m expecting less than one inch for Louisville metro.  Snow totals will increase south of the city and could get an inch or two down to the E’town area.  South of the parkway they’ll see the wintry mix described above.

West of Louisville snow accumulate along and south of I-64.  The farther west in IN/KY, the more snow – as high as 4″ near Evansville.  North of Louisville, little or no snow will fall.

Again,  I believe the Louisville area will be on the northern edge of the snow system.  I expect less than 1″…probably closer to the lower end of the range.

Valentines Day

For hundreds of years BCE (B.C.), the Romans celebrated a Spring ritual known as Lupercalia.  It was a fertility rite to welcome back the growing season, among other things.  It was celebrated around February 14th.  About 500 CE (A.D.) the Catholic Church  decided that Lupercalia was a little too bawdy  for its flock, so it was banned.  It was replaced by a new Church holiday they named Valentines Day in honor of an Italian saint who had been decapitated (by the Romans).

Weather’s dry, but flooding continues

Wed., Feb. 13, 2019  5 P.M.

Two chances for wintry weather later this week

Big winds last night, but they couldn’t push in much cold air.  Wind direction stayed from the SW to W last night and today, so not much cold air pushed southward.  And as winds go back to SW  tomorrow, a very quick warm up is due.  Temperatures are expected to reach about 60 tomorrow.

Then, a weak cold front will pass by tomorrow night with a small (20%) chance for some rain showers after midnight.  Then some colder air arrives for Friday.  And with the colder air, the chance for some light snow returns as well.

Weekend snow?

Two weak upper air disturbances will arrive from the west coast.  The first one arrives Friday night and (at this time) appears as though the southern half of KY could see an inch or two of snow by Saturday morning.  We’ll be on the northern edge of this system and any snow we get would be less than an inch.  NOTE:  At this time, this system is very “iffy”.  The description above is portrayed only by the GFS.  The NAM pretty much ignores this system.  So, I suspect we’ll be hearing changing forecasts in the next few days.

The second system is expected to be a little stronger.  It arrives Saturday night and continues into Sunday.  Temperatures are likely to remain above 32 during this event.  The majority of the precipitation will be rain and/or drizzle.  However, it may start briefly as some light snow.  The GFS and NAM are in pretty close agreement with this system.

Ohio River

The Ohio’s still above flood stage and climbing slowly.  Crest is still expected Friday at around 28′ to 28.5′.  However, the river will fall slowly and will not drop below flood stage until next week.

Strange weather in Hawaii

A major storm rocked Hawaii Sunday and Monday.  Some coastal waves were estimated to be as high as 60 feet!  A wind gust of 191 miles per hour was recorded.

The Haleakala Observatory, which sits atop the 10,023 foot Haleakala Volcano on Maui, contains several of the worlds finest telescopes.  They were frozen in place and covered with snow. The photo below is from Monday’s snow. More snow was expected Wed/Thu.

Photo from http://www.spaceweather.com

 

Very wet weather for a few days

Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019

Possible flooding late this week

Winter rains are the perfect setup for flooding.  The Ohio’s been running quite high for the past few weeks.  Smaller rivers have had frequent up and downs recently, as well.  During the winter our soil is almost always saturated.  So heavy rains have nowhere to go except to run off into nature’s rain-collecting system.  The next possible flooding system is knocking on our door right now.

A strong upper air trough will be working its way eastward from the Great Plains into the Ohio Valley.  Ahead of the system, huge amounts of moisture are rapidly moving northeast from the Gulf of Mexico.  As the system slides our way, a series of smaller upper air disturbances will race from southwest to northeast ahead of the surface cold front.  Each one will bring along the opportunity for rain.  Light to moderate rain tomorrow (mostly during the morning), then heavier rain tomorrow night and Thursday.  Rain should end Thursday night.

How much rain?

Models today are a little less generous with rain than they were a couple of days ago.  Nevertheless,  they are still high.  Both the GFS and NAM are forecasting 1.5″ to 3″ for much of southern IN and northern KY.  They also suggest as much as 4″ over southern KY.

With water levels already elevated, I’d expect many area rivers and streams could reach flood level by Thursday evening.  The Ohio River should not reach flood stage.

Cold air arrives again Friday, but only for a brief stay.  It won’t be anything like last week.

Stuff

Of the millions of birds which migrate from the north into the United States for the winter, 35% never make it back to their nesting grounds.  Of all the millions of birds which migrate southward from the United States each fall, 25% don’t make it back. (Audubon Society)

Transition to warmer weather is underway

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019

Possible light snow tonight.

The last Alberta Clipper for awhile (for us) will race across Il and IN into Ohio by early tomorrow.  This one continues to show up pretty weak, but will put down a swath of 2″-4″ snows across northern parts of IL, IN and Ohio tonight.

Clippers have been an almost daily feature recently.  I’ve pointed out that it’s rare to get precipitation south of the surface path of the clipper.  An exception was the small amount of rain earlier this week.  That clipper was much stronger than the current one.  As warmer air moves northeastward into the Ohio Valley tonight, it may squeeze out a little snow.  Then, again, based on our position relative to the clipper, history isn’t too fond of that idea.

The models’ stories

Both the GFS and NAM run about 50-50 on the chance for a measurable amount of precipitation.  Overall, the NAM is a little more aggressive toward snow.  The ultra short term models (HRRR and RAP) are drier.  Neither one predicts a measurable amount of precip. but both do open the door for a dusting of snow.  Also, neither the HRRR or RAP predicts rain tomorrow – contrary to the ongoing NWS forecast.

And the winner is…

The HRRR and RAP have outperformed the bigger GFS and NAM during the recent cold weather outbreaks.  This will be that last clipper for awhile as the upper air parent trough is shifting eastward to allow for warming trend.  Meanwhile, I’ll stick with the little guys one more time.

Clouds increase tonight and temperatures slowly rise into the mid to upper 20’s.  If anything falls from the sky it’ll be snow (or possibly sleet).  Any precipitation should exit east of Louisville by 8 A.M. tomorrow.  Then, warmer air pushes temperatures into the 40’s during the afternoon.  If any snow falls overnight, should be only a dusting – may a few spots may even get a generous dusting.

Then, thoughts of snow will disappear for at least a week.

Think snow!

Stuff

Chicago’s “bean” looks great even in the snow!

By the way, the bean’s official name is “Cloud Gate.”

Photo by Tyler LaRivieve/Chicagoist