Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Thanks to Nicholas Erwin for this picture out of Waterbury, VT. Showers and thunderstorms exceeded the severe threshold for wind (58mph) and hail (1″) in a few spots.
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For the most part, it was another fairly quiet May day (severe weather-wise). There were only 35 total severe weather reports with NO tornadoes reported.
This is interesting… pulling up the numbers for this May 2012. Statistics show that we are on track for a below (3 year) average tornado count. Through the 16th, there have only been 71 PRELIMINARY tornadoes and we are on pace for around 137 this month. The 3 year average for May is 279 and in May of 2011 we had 326 tornadoes with a staggering 178 fatalities!
Why So Quiet?
Typically, May is a transition month with cold air retreating toward the North Pole as the sun’s intensity increases and brings warmer weather back to northern hemisphere. The clash between the cold and warm air churns up storm systems that help to crank out severe weather across the U.S.. May 2012 has been plagued by warmer than normal conditions and our recent bubble of warmth out west has pushed into the central part of the country keeping severe weather chances at a minimum. Ridges of high pressure generally promote dry, sinking air, which is not conducive of widespread thunderstorm activity.
Storms Return by the Weekend
Quiet weather won’t last forever, a trough of low pressure sliding into the western half of the nation through the end of the week will eventually swing into the Plains by the weekend. This will help to promote thunderstorm activity and bring severe weather chances back into the picture.
The trough of low pressure will be associated with a surface low pressure system, which will help to trigger thunderstorms across the Plains. The Storm Prediction Center has a SLIGHT RISK of severe weather for parts of Central Plains from Oklahoma to Nebraska. There could be a few strong to severe storms along the cold front as far north as the Dakotas or Minnesota Saturday afternoon/evening.
The Hydrological Prediction Center shows heavier rain associated with this next storm system across the Central and Northern Plains through the end of the week and weekend. By early next week, the precipitation associated with this storm moves into the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes Region.
Stunning NASA Images
“This is a composite of a series of images photographed from a mounted camera on the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, from approximately 240 miles above Earth. Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit said of the about photographic techniques used to achieve the images: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.” A total of 18 images photographed by the astronaut-monitored stationary camera were combined to create this composite.”
Our first named storm of the 2012 Eastern Pacific Hurricane season developed May 15th… Aletta didn’t do much and now has been downgraded to a Tropical Disturbance.
“Tropical Storm Aletta formed on May 15, 2012, becoming the first tropical cyclone to be tracked by the National Hurricane Center during the 2012 season. A Northeast Pacific storm, Aletta is south of the Baja Peninsula and heading west with no threat to the mainland. The recently launched Suomi-NPP satellite, operated by NOAA and NASA, flew over the storm on May 15th, providing a glimpse inside the storm. The satellite’s ATMS sensor can detect subtle differences in moisture using microwave energy, allowing it to “see” through the cloud tops.“
Active Eastern Pacific
Another cluster of storms has developed and the National Hurricane Center is keeping close tabs on it… At this point, there is a 30% to 50% chance that it will grow into another tropical cyclone.
Ongoing wildfires in the Southwest have been making news, but how about the fires in western Mexico? Thanks to Earth Snapshot for the picture below:
“Fires have been burning by the western coast of Mexico, near the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, over the last week (click here for images captured earlier this month). Here, plumes of smoke from the fires can be observed just west of an area of cloud-cover. There does not appear to be much wind, or winds blowing constantly in the same direction, as the plumes of smoke are remaining confined near the source of the blazes.”
Fires continues in Arizona and Colorado. The biggest fire is east of Phoenix, the Sunflower fire, which has consumed nearly 12,000 acres.
Thanks for checking in on this Thursday, have a great rest of your week/weekend!
Don’t forget to check me out on Twitter @TNelsonWNTV
-Meteorologist Todd Nelson-
“But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.” – Benjamin Disraeli
Gardening can help to cure depression and lift your spirits. Really. Trust me, I’m a weatherman. Details below.
Frequent Floods Force Farmers To Rethink Age-Old Practices. It sure seems like a boom-bust cycle with the weather: drought or flood, with little in-between. Here are some interesting facts and figures in an article from insideclimatenews.org; here’s an excerpt: “In 2008, Katy Lince watched the vegetables she had nurtured at Hawthorne Valley Farm in upstate New York float down a rushing river that days before had been a peaceful creek nowhere near her crops. “We thought, that was a weird flood,” said Lince, the farm’s field vegetables manager. “That’s not going to happen again.” It did. The next year. The floods forced Lince and Steffen Schneider, the farm’s director of operations, to reconsider an agricultural practice that farmers have followed for thousands of years: planting in flood plains, where the soil is particularly fertile.”
Photo credit above: “A flooded vegetable field at Hawthorne Valley Farm. Credit: Steffen Schneider, the farm’s director of operations.”
It Really Is Hot In Here: U.S. Has Warmest 12 Months On Record. The full story at theLos Angeles Times; here’s an excerpt: “Americans just lived through the hottest 12 months ever recorded, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Tuesday. The announcement came as NOAA reported that the U.S. also just experienced its third-warmest April on record. “These temperatures, when added with the first quarter and previous 11 months, calculate to the warmest year-to-date and 12-month periods since recordkeeping began in 1895,” the agency reported. NOAA said that for the period from May 2011 to April 2012, the nationally averaged temperature was 55.7 degrees, 2.8 degrees higher than the 20th century average. The national average temperature for April was 55 degrees, 3.6 degrees above average.”
Photo credit above: “Texas State Park police officer Thomas Bigham walks across the cracked lake bed of O.C. Fisher Lake, in San Angelo, Texas, in this August photo. Record average temperatures scorched central Texas, the upper Midwest and much of the Northeast over the last year. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press / May 15, 2012).”
Globe Records 5th Warmest April On Record. Climate Central has the story; here’s a snippet: “According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report released Tuesday, last month was the fifth warmest April on record (record-keeping began in 1880, so we’re talking 132 years). NOAA’s analysis of global temperaturesshowed that the planet’s thermometer stood at 57.87°F for the month, averaged over night and day, land and sea, from the poles to the equator. That’s 1.17°F higher than the 20th -century average — the biggest such departure from average of any month since November, 2010. The last time April was below that average was in 1976, when Gerald Ford was president.” (Image credit above: NOAA).
NASA’s Latest Hit: Ice Show From Space. Climate Central is on a roll; here’s an excerpt of another must-read story: “If you don’t know what causes the seasons, you’re not alone: a mini-documentary made in the 1980’s showed that lots of Harvard grads don’t, either. For the record, the reason is that Earth’s spin axis is slightly tilted. In the months surrounding June, the Northern Hemisphere leans toward the Sun. There’s more sunlight, days are longer, and the north experiences summer. Down below the equator, there’s less sunlight and less heat, so it’s winter. In the months surrounding December, it’s vice versa. OK, lecture’s out. Now you get to watch a new video from NASA that shows one important effect of the waxing and waning of the seasons. It shows satellite views of Earth over both the North and South Poles, side-by-side, demonstrating how sea ice expands in summer and melts back in winter, see-sawing from one pole to the other as summer and winter alternate.”
Vermont Storm Front. Yesterday severe storms swept across much of New England. This photo near Waterbury, Vermont was captured by Nicholas Erwin. Here’s a full-screen version at the WeatherNation TV FB site.
“Mamma”. Here’s a nice example of cumulonimbus mammatus, from the Albany National Weather Service.
Waiting (Patiently) For Spring. This photo was taken midday Wednesday at Crater Lake National Park; photo courtesy of Facebook: “Lunchtime for the park’s hard working Road Crew. Time to eat, laugh and refuel (both people and equipment).”
Is Climate Change Research Holding Back Advances In Weather Forecasting?Meteorologist Jason Samenow from The Capital Weather Gang connects the dots: “We’ve discussed, to some extent, the question of whether large expenditures in NOAA’s budget on satellites (relative to funding of the National Weather Service) has slowed progress in numerical weather prediction. University of Washington’s Cliff Mass, who hasaddressed that issue as well, posed another critical question today in a thoughtful, provocative blog post: “Why is the U.S. government providing hugely more computer resources for climate prediction than weather prediction?” Mass contends that the Federal emphasis on long-term climate prediction is a mistake, and that improving our short-term weather forecasts should be a much higher priority.”
Hurricane Andrew Remembered At Hurricane Conference. The Miami Herald has the details: “The National Hurricane Center’s director says his successor will face the same problem that has perplexed forecasters since Hurricane Andrew made a catastrophic landfall in Florida two decades ago. Forecasters say they’ve significantly improved their ability to predict a storm’s path, giving coastal residents more time to prepare. Hurricane center director Bill Read says the challenge that remains is seeing a day or two in advance how big a storm could be, or whether a storm will rapidly intensify the way Andrew did as it approached Florida.”
* hopefully limited to the lavatories. If not…I smell riot. Photo courtesy of Dan Frommer.
My Definition Of A “Good Evening”. This may be my favorite spot on the planet: overlooking a lake, loitering in my favorite Adirondack chair, a stack of magazines and newspapers, my trusty iPad, maybe a jolt of java. No cell phone please. For a couple of hours a day it’s nice to disconnect. In fact, I find it essential when I’m attempting to recharge my muddled, frazzled brain. Who needs therapy when you have this?
Federal Flood Insurance May Be Extended Until End Of June. Details from The Insurance Journal: “The House is expected to vote today on an extension of the federal flood insurance program until the end of June but the fate of program in the Senate is still uncertain. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is now scheduled to expire on May 31 unless both houses of Congress act to reauthorize it.” Photo credit: FEMA.
Why Gardening Makes You Happy And Cures Depression. I think there’s something to this – connecting with nature, disconnecting from FB, Twitter and e-mail. Time to think, ponder, daydream. I get the appeal of gardening – just wish I didn’t kill every plant I came into contact with. Here’s an excerpt of an article at Permaculture: “While mental health experts warn about depression as a global epidemic, other researchers are discovering ways we trigger our natural production of happy chemicals that keep depression at bay, with surprising results. All you need to do is get your fingers dirty and harvest your own food. In recent years I’ve come across two completely independent bits of research that identified key environmental triggers for two important chemicals that boost our immune system and keep us happy – serotonin and dopamine. What fascinated me as a permaculturist and gardener were that the environmental triggers happen in the garden when you handle the soil and harvest your crops.”
“Human destiny is bound to remain a gamble, because at some unpredictable time and in some unforeseeable manner nature will strike back.” – Rene Dubos, “Mirage of Health” (1959)
North Dakota Tops Alaska In Oil Production. How did this happen? One word: “fracking”. Details from The Wall Street Journal; here’s an excerpt: “North Dakota has passed Alaska to become the No. 2 oil-producing state in the country, reflecting how the embrace of new drilling technology is redrawing the U.S. energy map. North Dakota’s daily production of oil rose 3.1% to 575,490 barrels in March, according to preliminary state data, 1.4% more than Alaska’s daily production of 567,480 barrels for the month. Texas, which pumped 1.7 million barrels a day in February, holds a firm grip on first place.”
Climate Change Consequences – Often Unexpected. I tell people the truth: we are conducting a massive experiment on the atmosphere and hoping things turn out OK. It reminds me of an 8th grade sex-education video they forced us to watch. The title of the clip was “Hope Is Not A Method.” I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I remember the title of that stupid film. So it goes with our climate, as reported byskepticalscience.com: “An increasingly common fallback position once climate change “skeptics” accept that the planet is warming and humans are the dominant cause is the myth that climate change won’t be bad. In fact, this particular myth comes in at #3 onour list of most used climate myths. It’s an ideal fallback position because it allows those who reject the body of scientific evidence to believe that if they are wrong on the science, it’s okay, because the consequences won’t be dire anyway. One of my colleagues, Molly Henderson recently completed a Masters Degree program class on scientific research which focused on climate change, which she aced (way to go, Molly!). For her final research paper, she examined the consequences of climate change on the prevalence of water-borne diseases in the US Great Lakes region.”
How Will Global Warming Impact Water Availability? The story from UPI.com; here’s an excerpt: “A general increase in average temperatures means there’s less snowmelt feeding river basins in the United States, a study found. The U.S. Geological Survey saidclimate change projections indicate a general warming trend through the 21st century. This should result in snowpack reductions, which could play a role in everything from soil moisture to stream flows. So far, the USGS said it reviewed expected changes in water availability in 14 different river basins across the country.”
Almost One Tenth Of Western Hemisphere Mammals In Danger From Climate Change. Redorbit.com has the story; here’s an excerpt: “A new study led by Carrie Schloss, an analyst in environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington, finds that nine percent of the Western Hemisphere’s mammals, and nearly forty percent in particular regions, will fall victim to the changing climate. Some mammals are merely too slow to escape climate change in their natural habitats and are unable to move into different areas. The study seeks to understand if the mammals can actually adapt to these conditions by moving or not.”
Photo credit: photos.com.
Arctic Drilling Opponents Swarm The White House. Huffington Post has the story – here’s a clip: “Because sometimes to get your point across you need to dress up as an Arctic Tern, scores of anti-drilling activists on Tuesday gathered outside the White House dressed in fuzzy onesies and polar bear masks. The demonstration — organized by Green Peace, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, 350.org, Credo Action and Alaska Wilderness League, among other environmental groups — comes as part of alarger effort to pressure President Barack Obama to stop drilling in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, home to such iconic species as the polar bear, bowhead whale and walrus. “We’re out here today to deliver a million comments to Obama asking him not to allow Shell to drill this summer,” Leah Donahey, western Arctic and oceans program director at Alaska Wilderness League, told The Huffington Post at Tuesday’s rally.” (Photo credit: AP).
Tiny Frigid Bubbles Get To The Core Of Climate Change. Here’s a snippet of an article at Climate Central: “As Michael Bender prepared to lead the way into the storage area of his lab at Princeton University, he gave a visitor a quizzical look. “You really might want to put these on,” he said, holding up a bulky red parka and a pair of thick gloves. “Oh, I’ll be fine,” said his guest. “No, really,” Bender insisted gently. “It would be a good idea.” A minute later, it all made a lot more sense. The storage area is a refrigerator the size of a walk-in closet, chilled to minus 30°F, and with a powerful fan blowing just to ensure the frigid air circulates evenly to every corner of the cramped space. Plastic foam coolers and cardboard boxes lined with insulation cover most of the floor, with more piled on top. Bender reached into one of the coolers, pulled out a plastic bag with a lump of ice inside and held it to the light.”
Photo credit above: “A researcher inspects a freshly drilled ice core. Credit: Kendrick Taylor/WAIS Divide Ice Core Project Research Professor.”
More On Extreme Weather And The Greenhouse Effect. Here’s a snippet from Andy Revkin at The New York Time’s Dot Earth blog: “Martin P. Hoerling, a federal research meteorologist specializing in climate dynamics, faced a lot of pushback after he criticized some assertions made in an Op-Ed article on climate change by James E. Hansen of NASA. One critic is Dan Miller, an engineer and venture capitalist focused on non-polluting energy technologies who blogs on climate at ClimatePlace.org and helped Hansen craft his Times piece. At roughly the same time, Hoerling sent an amplification on his arguments and Miller sent a critique of Hoerling’s initial post. You can read both below. Keep in mind that neither writer has seen the other’s piece. (I asked Hansen for his thoughts on the complaints of Hoerling and Kerry Emanuel, another climate scientist who weighed in on Dot Earth. His response is at the end of this post.)”