GOES-16 Satellite Loop of California Wildfire Smoke

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The new geostationary weather satellite, GOES-16 captured this high spatio-temporal resolution loop of the smoke plume over the Bay Area of Northern California this evening before sunset. The deep smoke is embedded in the low-level north winds, while the white, high cirrus clouds are in southwesterly flow. You can right click to save or open in the new tab to see the larger version of it. It’s amazing but frightening to know what’s happening under all that smoke.

–Meteorologist Nick Humphrey

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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.

Hilary and Irwin making plans for a Fujiwhara waltz over the open ocean

Let’s learn something cool about the tropics!

The past couple of weeks, the Eastern Pacific Basin has been quite active with multiple active tropical cyclones churning, dying and new ones forming. All while the North Atlantic Basin has been largely silent. We’ll get into the pattern set up for tropical activity between the two basins in the coming few weeks in a moment. But first, let’s discuss two interest systems in process in the EPac – Hilary and Irwin.

(Intensities are as of 4 pm CDT Thurs)

Hurricane Hilary is currently a Category 1 with max winds of 75 mph moving to the west-northwest. Meanwhile, ~480 nautical miles southwest of Hilary is Tropical Storm Irwin. It has max winds of 60 mph and drifting westward. Neither system is a threat to populated land masses and both are quickly heading for cooler waters north of the subtropical Pacific, where much drier air also exists in the mid-levels of the atmosphere. Both will lead to rapid deterioration of the cyclones this weekend.

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Visible satellite image showing Tropical Storm Irwin and Hurricane Hilary in close proximity at 4 pm CDT July 27, 2017. Cooler waters are noted to the north producing stable air mass near the sea surface, including deep marine stratus clouds and “closed cell” cumulus cloud deck. Stable air mass is non-conducive for thunderstorms hurricanes need to sustain themselves.
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Same image at same time as above in the “water vapor” infrared channel, where mid-level water vapor is detected. The circled area is a fairly dry area where air is experiencing sinking motions, coinciding with the cooler surface waters and the lack of thunderstorm activity for deep atmospheric moisture. Deep dry air can disrupt thunderstorm activity in tropical cyclones and weaken them.

Later Sunday and into Monday, an amazing phenomenon is expected to occur. Because of the very close proximity of Hilary and Irwin – only several hundred miles apart – the two cyclones are expected to undergo a Fujiwhara Interaction. This describes when two vortices in close proximity begin to rotate around a common center or one around another if one is more dominant. It is named after the Japanese meteorologist Sakuhei Fujiwhara who first described the interaction scientifically in a 1921 paper.

It does not happen very often, but it is typically more common in the Western Pacific basin where a very large surface area of favorable tropical development and maintenance exists and many cyclones can develop simultaneously and sometimes in close proximity.

Numerical models have shown the possible interaction for days.

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The slideshow above displays the Hurricane Weather Research & Forecasting Model forecast initialized at 11 pm PDT Wednesday with the forecast valid 5 pm PDT Sunday – 11 am PDT Monday. This model is “nested” on Hilary to show its evolution (the colors are surface temperatures in degrees C and wind barbs are in knots). However, you can see Irwin orbiting around it on its south and east sides Sunday evening – Monday morning. Irwin will likely weaken and die (along with Hilary, not long after), or will become absorbed by Hilary.

Nature never ceases to amazes in what it can do with the laws of physics!

 

Northern Plains becoming hard hit by severe to extreme drought

The Northern US Great Plains into the southern Canadian Prairies are suffering from a growing drought problem. The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln released their weekly drought monitor which updates on the drought situation for the entire country (every Thursday based on Tuesday data). Drought overall across the United States has begun to grow in coverage and intensity. This can happen just from the local abnormalities in a summer season. However, a persistent pattern of dryness has developed over the Northern Plains beginning in May where significantly below normal rainfall has caused soils and hydrologic sources to begin to dry out.

I took a look at some meteorological stations for their recent climate records. Rapid City, SD (currently in the moderate drought zone) is running 3.37 inches below normal in rainfall for the May 1st-July 21st period. In Bismarck, ND (in severe drought) is even worse at 4.01 inches below normal for the same period. May dryness hit the region hard with a major monthly deficit then it simply continued into the summer. At least moderate drought covers ~28% of the above region (ND, SD, NE, KS, WY, CO). Moderate conditions can result in some damage to crops and reduction in stream/river flows and lowering of lake levels. Extreme – which now exists in spots of southwest ND – can mean widespread and devastating agricultural losses and severe reductions in hydrologic sources.

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Above average temperatures likely over the Great Plains (and rest of the country) over the next 3 months. (Climate Prediction Center)
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Meanwhile, there are equal chances (~33% each) for above, near, or below normal precipitation during the same 3 month period. (Climate Prediction Center).

Obviously, “equal chances”- which is based on the expected evolution of various climate patterns – means that there could very well be above average rainfall, which the region really needs at this point to get out of the growing deficit. However, if it ends up being near-normal, they may continue to simply lag behind with similarly bad impacts. Below normal means a worsening and spreading of drought conditions and further difficulty removing the existing drought (anyone remember the difficulty California had in getting out of drought?). Folks in these areas should be prepared for any further water restrictions and do what they can now to conserve in case the dryness lasts longer than expected.

Elsewhere, dryness and moderate drought has begun to spread into parts of the Intermountain West and Four Corners.


Quick update from the Eastern Pacific tropics…new tropical depression! Tropical Depression Ten-E is rolling around between Tropical Storm Greg and TD Nine-E. It’s expected to become a tropical storm in the coming days as it generally moves westward over the open ocean. So there are now 4 existing cyclones in the tropical North Pacific east of 180 longitude. Although Fernanda is dying quickly over cooler waters and dry mid-level air and will likely dissipate by tomorrow.

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Good weekend to you all!

Intense heat dominating Central US; Active Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season continues

Welcome to the inaugural post of Weather and Climate News! There’s much going on this week, but the most significant has been the intense heat over the center of the country as very strong high pressure system has entrenched itself over the region. This, in combination with dew points of 70-80 degrees, was allowed for heat indices of 105-115 degrees F to steam much of Plains, Midwest and Deep South. This, while periodic areas of thunderstorms, some severe, form around the periphery of the clockwise high pressure system. Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings are in effect today as a result of the potential health hazards of the heat.  Be safe and drink lots of water! Particularly in areas with heat or heat indices in the triple digits when you may be outdoors for long periods.

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Analysis of features over the United States (July 21, 2017).
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National Weather Service Forecast map for 7 pm CDT Saturday evening. The cold front will depress the intense heat and humidity over the Central Plains, restricting it to the Southern Plains and Midwest.

The intense heat will relax a bit over the Central Plains this weekend as a result of a “cold” (more like cool?) front with temperatures closer to seasonal norms.


The Central and Eastern Pacific is quite active with the tropical cyclone activity! Eastern Pacific activity can of course impact Mexico, but (more typically later in the season) enhance the Southeast US monsoon with either additional atmospheric moisture for afternoon thunderstorms or (rarely) move ashore Mexico or into the United States as an organized tropical depression or weak tropical storm. Today, however, neither country has any issues from any of these systems today. Three to be exact, with a four likely imminent. All of these cyclones…Tropical Storm Fernanda (born in the East, but now in the Central Pacific west of 140W longitude), Tropical Storm Greg, and Tropical Depression Nine-E are all moving away from major land masses and populated areas.

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The Eastern Pacific Basin (defined as 140W east to the continents and north of the equator) is running ahead of schedule in terms named storms to date (7), hurricanes (3) and major hurricanes…defined as Category 3 or higher strength (2). Fernanda was at one point the most intense hurricane of the season in the Eastern Pacific with maximum winds of 145 mph on July 14-15.

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It’s now a shell of its former self and while it’s heading in the general direction of the State of Hawaii, it should continue to weaken dramatically as it encounters drier mid-level air and cooler waters. High surf and hazardous rip currents are the biggest threats to anyone doing recreational activity around the Big Island the next couple of days as the dying system moves to the north.