JPL 2017 Eclipse Simulator

Anyone want to know what the 2017 Eclipse will look like at your location with nice graphics and all? Check out this excellent simulator put together by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You’ll be able to animate the eclipse for any given location in the US from beginning to end and find out what to expect. I made a collection of some of the locations which will experience partial eclipses (all at their time of maximum eclipse). All these location were in areas of 75% or greater obscuration of the solar disk. Optical and atmospheric effects begin to take hold with 75% obscuration as incoming shortwave radiation from the sun is significantly reduced. Read more about that in my previous July post HERE if you haven’t already. Remember, however, that even with 99% obscuration, the sun will still be too bright and therefore too dangerous too look at directly without certified eclipse glasses. Direct viewing of the sun for multiple minutes can blind you, any amount can cause eye injury!

Seattle
Seattle, WA. My home city! 92% Obscuration.
Portland
Portland, OR. 99% Obscuration. So close to totality, yet so far!
San Francisco
San Francisco, CA. 75.5% Obscuration.
Denver
Denver, CO. 92% Obscuration.
Brookings
Brookings, SD. The location of my undergraduate alma mater South Dakota State University. 89% Obscuration.
Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN. My Mom and much of my extended family lives here. They’ll take in the show. 83% Obscuration.
Dallas
Dallas, TX. 75% Obscuration.
Atlanta
Atlanta, GA. 97% Obscuration.
DC
Washington, DC. 81% Obscuration.
Jacksonville
Jacksonville, FL. 90.5% Obscuration.

Additional eclipse info for this post (such as max eclipse time) is courtesy of Xavier Jubier’s 2017 Total Eclipse Interactive Map.

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Sky Conditions for August 21, 2017 Eclipse

The Great North American Eclipse is almost here! On Monday, the Moon’s inner shadow or umbra will touchdown over the open Pacific Ocean and rush toward a landfall in Oregon after 10:15 am PDT and exit the South Carolina Coast after 2:50 pm EDT. The shadow will be advancing across at around 1500-2000 mph. An incredible speed.

For an overview of the atmospheric phenomena to expect during the eclipse, see my previous late-July article on the August 21, 2017 Eclipse.

With the eclipse on Monday, the biggest concern is the weather…specifically sky conditions. The National Service, out of national interest in the eclipse (which will ONLY be seen in the United States) now has forecasts available, with special interest in sky condition forecasts.

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US National Weather Service Sky Condition Map (% sky cloud covered) valid 2 pm EDT Monday August 21st. Moon’s umbra will be over Nebraska at this time. 
Much of the eclipse path is *decent* (50% or less sky coverage forecast), although clear skies are extremely ideal. The best skies for totality are expected to be over the Northwest sector of the US, with greater cloud coverage (near 50% over the Central Plains/Missouri). There will be some improvement over Tennessee, but possible afternoon showers and thunderstorms may cloud up skies more significantly over extreme northeast Georgia and into South Carolina.

With that said…just remember…1) There’s more to the eclipse but totality! Regardless of whether you’re in the path or not, dealing with scattered clouds or not, enjoy the eclipse! Watch the crescents form in the shadows of trees, make a pinhole viewer (like this or this for example…I’m planning on making one!), if you have certified eclipse glasses or shades…safely observe the sun directly, and if you’re in a very deep partial (75%+) enjoy the effects of the weakening sun on temperature, sky and the animals. Also…2) For those in totality, all you need is that precious 1 or 2+ mins to be clear around the eclipsed sun. Hopefully, with that 50% or less sky coverage, that will be easier to achieve.


My Plans-

As you all may know, I live in Lincoln, NE…in the path of totality. As the city is literally on the northern edge of the shadow, there is a tight gradient for the length of totality; anywhere from tens of seconds on the north end of town, to 1 min 45 seconds on the south end of town. My house will see around 1 min 15 seconds. We had planned on going to Grand Island, NE about a hour and a half west of here to visit a relative of hers and see the eclipse at 2 min 35 sec (near max possible duration)…but our car has an issue which makes it not reliable for traveling on the highway! 😦 Literally found this out today! Extremely disappointed as there isn’t enough time for us to get the car fixed.  But considering we’re still IN totality vs. not, I can’t completely complain. So instead, we’ll be heading to the south end for the maximum length in Lincoln. I’ll have my GoPro set up on a mini-tripod to capture very high-res video of the last minutes before totality and during it. My fiance and I will also take lots of photographs. I will have updates on my Twitter and FB pages as the partial eclipse advances toward totality (feeds also can be seen from the website…but please follow me directly! 🙂 ).

It should be an exciting day! Everyone have safe viewing and have fun!

Tropical Storm Gert View

Anyone been watching the North Atlantic this weekend. Beautiful view of Tropical Storm Gert this midday Monday. It will remain well offshore the US East Coast and west of Bermuda as it re-curves to the north this week. I may also become a hurricane as it does so by mid-week thanks to interaction with the Gulf Stream and favorable pole-ward outflow as it interacts initially with the westerlies prior to extratropical transition late-week.

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On the docket this week for Weather & Climate News –

  1. The Great American Total Solar Eclipse is ONE WEEK AWAY! Will discuss national weather and other things eclipse-related.
  2. More on potential tropical activity.
  3. Will continue with Part 2 of WxClimoEd discussing impacts of Global Climate Change.

For the Eclipse, my fiance and I’ll be heading to Grand Island, NE for the eclipse where totality will last 2 minutes 33 seconds (compared to the south side of Lincoln where the eclipse will only last 1 min 45 sec). We’ll have our 1 yr old with us (his birthday is August 17!) and will hangout with a couple of my fiance’s relatives in town. Should be exciting!

Category 1 Hurricane Franklin making landfall on the East Coast of Mexico

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Hurricane Franklin is making landfall on the East Coast of Mexico Wednesday night/early Thursday morning (~midnight CDT Thursday) with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph with gusts likely over 100 mph. Besides damaging wind gusts, very heavy rain – up to a foot or more – will be possible in the mountainous terrain once the system moves inland and weakens during the day Thursday.  Life threatening flash flooding and mudslides will be the greatest threats to any populated mountain areas (storm surge will be the hazard for coastal areas in the hurricane warning area tonight).


NOAA Raises North Atlantic Tropical Activity Forecast

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration raised its confidence today that the North Atlantic Basin would have an “very active” season. They called for 14-19 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes, 2-5 major hurricanes. A normal season averages 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, 2 major hurricanes.

The reasoning for this activity forecast include 1) No El-Nino in the Eastern Pacific which would otherwise produce unfavorable vertical wind shear and cooler sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic 2) Above normal sea surface temperatures across the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Main Development Region (open tropical Atlantic) 3) The continuation of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation favoring above normal oceanic heat content.

So far, we are at 6 named storms, 1 hurricane, 0 major hurricanes (assuming no surprise intensification of Franklin prior to landfall).

Tropical Storm Franklin moving over the Yucatan Peninsula this afternoon

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Tropical Storm Franklin made landfall last night near Pulticub, Mexico at approximately 10:45 pm CDT with maximum sustained winds near 60 mph.  Since last night, the system has continued to move over land, remaining fairly well-organized but has weakened some thanks to land interaction with maximum sustained winds now down to 45 mph as of 10 am CDT. However, the National Hurricane Center in Miami anticipates re-strengthening after it enters the Bay of Campeche tonight. The waters in the Bay are piping HOT – 30-32 degrees C (88-90 degrees). These waters are fuel for robust intensification. With that said, northerly wind shear over the Bay is expected to impact Franklin during the day Wednesday as it heads for mainland Mexico, limiting rapid intensification. However, it could be a 70-75 mph tropical storm/Category 1 hurricane when it makes its expected landfall late Wed night/early Thursday morning. If Franklin becomes the first hurricane of the season tomorrow, it would do so around the climatological average time for the North Atlantic Basin (1966-2009) of August 10th. A tropical storm warning and hurricane watch is in effect for the expected landfall region.

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After landfall, there is expected to be 8-12+ inches of rain over the mountainous terrain of Eastern Mexico. Flash flooding and life-threatening landslides are likely.

For those curious and who watch the tropics, you might have been tracking this system since it left West Africa last week.

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Models have continuously wanted to make something of it but of course as it goes, when it comes to tropical cyclones, until it actually develops, the evolution of the system is difficult for numerical models to pin down. This system is no different. However, the wave still has some cohesive structure and therefore potential in the next 5 days to develop into a tropical cyclone as it moves east-northeastward over the open Atlantic. As long as computer models continue to give the wave an opportunity to develop, it is worth watching.

WxClimoEd Series, Post #1, Part 1: Understanding Global Climate Change

Hello Weather & Climate News readers! This post will be the first in what will be my ongoing education article series WxClimoEd. I hope to write educational posts on various topics related to weather and climate to help enhance your understanding of various phenomena and their impact on the environment, individuals and society. These posts will present key ideas and concepts and provide occasional linked sources to further, more detailed information.

Understanding Global Climate Change (Causes)

This article will deal with an introductory explanation of Global Climate Change as we currently understand it and the causes of it, specifically relating to human activity. Part 2 (in the next week) will discuss the known (and unknown) impacts on humanity and wildlife based on impacts on regional climates. Part 3 (in a couple weeks) will discuss mitigation efforts.

  1. Natural Climate Variability vs. Recent Global Climate Change

Earth’s climate has been evolving since the planet was born 4.6 billion years ago. These changes in Earth’s atmosphere have been largely the result of things such as biological modification of the atmosphere, volcanic eruptions, changes in ocean currents, movement of continents over tens of millions of years, variations in Earth’s orbit and other various phenomena. The most recent history of climate has featured periods of glaciation over much of the landmasses known as the Ice Ages.

Earth’s global climate has been in a “interglacial” period with a climate which warmed enough to end major continental glaciation around 11,000 yrs ago.

However, what scientists have seen in the recent climate records is a rate of change -both the climate conditions themselves and the atmospheric gases which can change the climate – at a rate accelerated and in some cases unprecedented in previous times.

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Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels going back 450,000 yrs. There have been multiple periods of glaciation and interglacial periods as part of natural change (high/low CO2 = warm/cold), but CO2 has not exceeded much above 300 parts per million until the 20th century. (NASA)

What scientists in the second half of the 20th century discovered is that for the first time in the history of human civilization we are acting as a force influencing the climate. Human-induced climate change is real.

This has been found after accounting for the natural variability in climate cycles and from our understanding of how carbon dioxide works in the atmosphere. This extremely rapid change in global temperatures, a top signal of climate change, has been driven by CO2 pollution, beginning after 1850 and the during the Second Industrial Revolution.

2017EarthDay_TempAndCO2_en_title_lg
Graph showing the correlation between global temperatures (anomaly relative to the 1881-1910 average) and CO2 concentration 1880-2016. CO2 is known physically to be capable of “trapping” heat in higher concentration. (Climate Central)

One of the first questions which many non-scientists have about global climate change is “Well hasn’t the climate always been changing?” The answer is yes, but with a caveat…it has NOT changed this rapidly in the history of humanity on Earth (Homo sapiens sapiens have been around ~200,000 yrs). Since Earth began the process out of the last glaciation 22,000 yrs ago, global temperatures have varied up to a 4 degrees C. But this process of variability has occurred over the course of centuries to a couple of millennia because of the long cycling of natural processes. Human activity in the form of burning fossil fuels since the latter 19th century has caused around 1 degree C of warming within a 100-150 yr period. This comic comparing the average temperature of Earth to the end of the Ice Age and achievements of human civilization across millennia strongly illustrate the climate stability we’ve come to flourish under. (zoom in at the top and scroll down…it’s long, but worth the read and look!). Humans have essentially acted as a continuously spewing ‘volcano’ of carbon products. And as a result, we have compressed warming which would take nature nearly a millennia to do in recent geologic time and accomplished it within a century.

We are transforming our world before our eyes.

2. How does the greenhouse effect work?

The greenhouse effect is a simple concept, but one with major implications for us all in this major environmental issue. In Earth’s atmosphere exists gases which are chemically capable of “trapping” heat in the lower atmosphere, heating the surface. The three most significant “greenhouse gases” are carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane. These gases in higher concentrations are most effective in reflecting infrared (heat) radiation originally emitted by Earth’s surface back to the surface as opposed to allowing it to be lost to space. If it wasn’t for this greenhouse effect, Earth would be literally completely glaciated over and very cold.

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Example graphic showing the “radiation budget” and how the greenhouse effect impacts how much radiation is retained by Earth’s atmosphere. (By Wikipedia user ZooFari)

Methane is very potent, but short-lived without constant replacement as direct sunlight breaks the molecules apart. Water vapor varies seasonally with some balance because of the water cycle. Therefore carbon dioxide or CO2 ends up being the most important changing variable for warming/cooling the climate. Such changes, along with other variable cycles, have influenced previous periods of ice ages. But human “eruption” of CO2 since the 2nd half of the 19th century has led to clear changes in Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

This YouTube video shows 131 yrs of global warming (1880-2011). The “anomalous temperature” is relative to the average planetary temperature of 1880-1910. The average temperature of Earth has continued to warm above this average to record levels since 2011. The planet is known to have warmed by ~1 degree C (nearly 2 F) since the late 19th century. The most dramatic warming (as can be seen in the video) began to ramp up significantly since 1980. Depending on the scenario, human-induced warming of Earth may reach 1.5-2 degrees C (2.7-3.6 F) above pre-industrial levels by 2050 and (depending on human efforts to decrease CO2 pollution) the warming may hit 2-4+ degrees C (3.6-7.2+ F) by 2100.

3. The importance the rate of warming

Such rapid rates of warming are what alarms climatologists and those who understand the importance of climate stability for life and society on Earth. Remember the last time you saw a wholly mammoth, saber-toothed cat, wholly rhino, or an indigenous North American horse? Never because they all went extinct from the “rapid” climate change of the final end of the ice age glaciation 11,000 yrs ago. What’s “rapid”? Temperatures warmed more than 2.5 degrees C over the course of 1500 years. We may accomplish that in 150-200 yrs! Incredible. But yet the “rapid” natural changes were not non-consequential. Many more species than listed which couldn’t adapt died out over hundreds to a couple thousand years. And minor variations in global climate by 0.5 degrees C or less – or even significant regional variations which barely showed up on the global signature – have led to major losses in agriculture and economics producing stresses on some nations (poverty, famines, wars) and in some cases, isolated civilizations simply died out. Having such rapid, unprecedented warming is a cause for concern because too many species (and many socio-economic or geographically vulnerable peoples) may face significant harm in the face of an inability to adapt to transforming climate regimes.

In Part 2, later this week, I’ll discuss the effect climate change has on regional climates and likely impacts being faced by humans and wildlife as the climate continues to heat up extremely quickly.

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The North Atlantic Tropics Looking to become Active Again This Weekend or Next Week

It’s August and with that it’s time for the North Atlantic to show its tropical cyclone “muscle”. Tropical waves become more numerous as mesoscale convective systems form over the tropics of West Africa and race off into the open Atlantic; their mid-level “vorticity” or spin the seed for possible further development. The National Hurricane Center in Miami has pegged one Thursday with an 80% chance of development between now and Tuesday (40% chance between now and Saturday).

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Shortwave infrared image (sometimes known as “nighttime visible”) taken at 8 pm EDT Thursday. This shows a cloud mass moving off West Africa associated with a new tropical wave south of the Cape Verde Islands. (NOAA)

Mid-range models suggest the system will develop possibly into a depression or tropical storm, moving generally westward toward the Lesser Antilles heading toward Tuesday. Much more on what will happen will depend on the system’s development. Mid-level dry air brought in from the Sahara Desert will be an issue for this system as it approaches the Lesser Antilles if it moves north of 15N. As far as upper-level winds, forecast shows a modestly favorable environment for development, but details will wait until down the road. Water temperatures in this part of the Atlantic – known as the Main Development Region (MDR) – are running up to 1.5 C (~3 F) above average with abundant warm sea surface temperatures above 26 C (79 F) west of 35 W.

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Current Sea Surface Temperatures over the tropical Atlantic Ocean. The orange-red and red shades indicate temps at and above 26 degrees C. (Wunderground.com)

Because of the strong semi-permanent “Bermuda High” expected to dominate the Central and Western Atlantic next week, this system will need to be watched by interests in the Western Atlantic Basin for potential impacts in case it does not curve northeastward out to sea because of the subtropical high pressure system to its north (assuming it develops).

Also of interest is a system in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. It is in a more hostile environment (shear and dry air main problems) and only has a 40% chance of development over the next 5 days.

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Shortwave IR image at 8:45 pm EDT showing generally disorganized thunderstorm activity associated with a tropical wave in the Eastern Caribbean. (NOAA)

The Atlantic has been running about a month ahead of schedule on named storms, but has been dead quiet on hurricanes. The 1966-2009 average for the first hurricane in the basin is coming up (August 10th), but given recent years of activity, the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) thru Aug. 2nd is running at its lowest level in the basin since 2009. But still 90% of the ACE on average occurs from here on out, so much can still happen, especially given the lack of one otherwise major hindering presence in El-Nino.

I’ll keep track of these disturbances in the coming days and have more for you if they develop into organized systems. Stay tuned!