August Forecaster of the Month

Hurricane Ida made her landfall at the end of August, and continued to the eastern Seaboard to provide devastating rainfall and flash flooding before she expired at the beginning of September. Ida was an extraordinary storm, both for the strength at landfall, (and the forecast accuracy as it arrived, which definitely saved lives) and the flash flooding rains, which led to the second flash flood emergencies ever issued by the New York City office of the National Weather Service — the first was earlier in the month with Henri. It exposed the poor infrastructure of the region, which is ill equipped for torrential rains. which will only become more likely as we head into the future.

We had a lot of forecasts in the month of August, and some were impacted by the broad scope of Ida. Otherwise, heat and a break to some drought issues in the upper Midwest were the theme for the months. The Weather Channel concluded the month of August with the victory, followed closely by Weatherbug, a tandem that owns a tie at the top so far in 2021.

OutletForecast Wins (year)
Weatherbug10.66
Victoria-Weather7
The Weather Channel6.33
Accuweather5.83
Forecast.io3.83
National Weather Service3.16
WeatherNation1.16

Ida will landfall tomorrow in Louisiana

Hurricane Ida sits off the coast of Louisiana, and will descend upon the Bayou State tomorrow. Strong winds are already starting to pick up from Mobile to the Mississippi Delta. At this hour, Ida is a Category 2, but she is slowing down her momentum and is anticipated to strengthen rapidly. The NHC suggests that Ida will become a major hurricane, likely a Category 4 before she comes ashore.

Ida’s swift momentum before this point brings good news, in the fact the storm surge will not be as terrible as it could be, given it’s status as a major hurricane. The rapid development before it makes landfall also limits the fetch and the subsequent coastal flooding. Additionally, if Ida closely follows the forecast track, she will landfall south of Houma, a bayou laden, sparsely populated (relatively) stretch of coastline. This is the good news.

The bad news is that a Category 4 storm is still strong. It will pass near enough to New Orleans to cause significant problems. There will also be a disruption to the platforms in the Gulf, and a hike to gas prices nationally as a result. Also, with Ida’s recent slowdown, heavy rain and flash flooding will become a concern. The gravest concern, and what makes Ida more dangerous than most, is that because she is expected to develop so quickly, mass evacuations were not issued. There are simply far more people in the line of fire than there would be typically when a major hurricane is bearing down.

Another bit of good fortune is that Ida is a compact storm, and as a result, will not impact even the entire state of Louisiana. Where she will impact though, will struggle to recuperate. Ida will landfall tomorrow evening, and will finally pull away from Louisiana on Monday evening.

Wrong place at the wrong time

There are presently three named features in the north Atlantic and North America. Fred is continuing his slow spin into oblivion over the eastern US, while Tropical Storm Grace is moving through the Caribbean and Tropical Storm Henri is spiraling out by Bermuda. You can see them all on satllite.

Well, at least you can see the tail end of Fred. He is a spiraling storm presently threatening rain and tornadoes to the central Appalachians. The rotational energy will dissipate through tomorrow, but rain will continue in the mid-Atlantic tomorrow.

Off shore, Henri is presently the stronger storm, and likely will be the case until Grace reaches the open Gulf again. Henri will disrupt travel to and from Bermuda, but is not going to affect the island directly. Grace, the weaker seafaring storm, has never really been able to muster herself to become a hurricane, and looking at the wind history, hasn’t been a significant storm.

Of course, there are times when the numbers don’t tell all the story. Even when considering Fred, Henri is the strongest of these three storms (though Grace may eventually overtake him), and Fred has been dropping tornadoes in the western Carolinas all day, but it is indeed Grace that has been the most problematic.

Grace passed through Haiti at a time when the country was struggling with the aftermath of a strong earthquake that left thousands dead. Grace brought flooding rains to the country as relief efforts were underway. There is a point at which the death toll from the earthquake and Grace are inextricably linked, but at this point, no loss of life has been assigned to the storm. Whatever the statistics bear out, Grace, in all her disorganization came at the worst time to the worst place, something that will never describe Henri, even if he is the bigger storm.

July Forecaster of the Month

It is absolutely a credit to the meteorological community that we are now 7 months into the year, and we still have at least 4 outlets that are legitimate contenders for the Forecaster of the year title, with a 5th not far off the pace. On the strength of a strong summer, and another winning month in July, Accuweather has ensured that they are not to be forgotten, keeping pace with Weatherbug, The Weather Channel and Victoria-Weather. The National Weather Service was second, and showed that they aren’t out of this race yet either. Congratulations to Accuweather!

OutletForecast Wins
Weatherbug7.66
Accuweather5.83
Victoria-Weather5.5
The Weather Channel4.83
National Weather Service3.16
Forecast.io2.83
WeatherNation1.16

Smoke choking much of the country

Another summer and we are plagued by wildfires. If there is any difference between this year and the last couple, it is that the bulk of the fire activity is in the northern Rockies, as well as in Alaska, rather than within the state of California. Surely, this is some relief to relatives of the Golden State, and it is definitely a good thing that the fire threat isn’t as imminent to as many people, however it is a burden for the rest of the country.

As this map, from Airnow.gov shows, there is smoke in the air for about 3/4th of the country. Air quality is below normal for all of those locations.

It is rare that the jet intercepts California during the summer, and it isn’t often that smoke can blanket the country as it is right now during a typical fire season. Also frustrating for many of the people getting smoked out right now, is that the flow bringing the smoke in is from the northwest. Were there no fires in the Pacific Northwest and particularly Alaska, the air would be cool and refreshing after a very hot month of July.

Smoke advisories continue to get extended for the region, as relief is not yet right around the corner. Fires, of course, need to be extinguished, but a more immediate source of relief would be a change in the prevailing pattern, but unfortunately, even that doesn’t look to change until at least late in the week.

Cold front wasteland

In many summers, I find myself rolling my eyes at other outlets’ analyses of the surface. There is often a stationary boundary, left for days along the Gulf Coast of the US. Perhaps a cold front had descended from the Ohio Valley a week prior, but eventually, you need to call a spade a spade. There is onshore flow, and it causes thunderstorms. Not every boundary is a cold front.

This year, and especially right now, we haven’t been seeing those straggler boundaries populating the coast. Right now, it’s evident that there is an off shore boundary pointing into the Carolinas

One might be inclined to analyze something along the band of thunderstorms through north Florida, or perhaps even further north on the clearing line from southern Kentucky to central Oklahoma. In fact, most outlets are keeping truncated fronts, and there is a very good reason for that.

All of those orange and red shades are heat advisories. It is astonishingly hot throughout the Plains and Mississippi Valley. It’s really hard to say there is a cold front when there is a heat wave immediately behind the boundary. The WPC, proponent of the long ranging front, parlays the cold front into a warm front hugging those advisories to the west.

The jet is still somewhat active, but it remains well north of the domestic US. A cooler start to July in the southeast and a blistering start in the north is also starting to level off, but is making for a challenging environment for cold fronts to survive. If a change occurs, it will have to come from the west, which may happen next week.

Severe weather batters Europe, Canada

The United States is experiencing it’s own catastrophes this year. Growing wildfires and drought in the west, with flash floods in the southeast, along with heatwaves in the north. A lot of the worst weather in the world seems to afflict the United States in an outsized fashion, but it seems that is not the case in recent weeks.

First is the story of flooding in central Europe. Relentless and heavy rains have been hammering Benelux and western Germany, leading to river flooding on the Rhine in Germany and the Meuse in Belgium in particular, with subsidiaries an other rivers also spilling out of their banks. The intensity of the rains also led to flash flooding in these areas, while the river flooding is continuing to disrupt lives, with the threat of disease adding onto threats to infrastructure and livelihood.

The flooding was the result of a stalled, training pattern of showers and thunderstorms that lasted for the better part of last week. The good news is that the flooding is going to be allowed to abate over the next week, at least. High pressure over the British Isles is going to drift toward the Low Countries and barricade them from additional rainfall for the week. The next real threat for showers and thunderstorms is next weekend, and we can all hope that the feature moves as quickly as the models presently suggest.

A bit closer to home, tornadoes are in the news. The US has had an incredible string of good fortune, in that there were no tornadoes stronger than EF2 in May or June. Unfortunately, in Barrie, Canada, the tornado news was worse. A tornado – measuring at an EF2 – struck residential parts of the community, taking roofs off of houses, but fortunately, doing structural damage and sparing the residents of the houses it hit.

Listen to the tale of Natalie Harris, a City Councilor in Barrie, who saw significant damage to her home during the twister on Thursday.

The greatest damage was to the far southeastern part of town. The damage would surely have been more significant if it had been just a couple miles to the north.

More heat on the way

Another massive heat wave is in the forecast according to the CPC’s outlook, and this time, the region expected to be baked is the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Curiously, while the northern US roasts, the southern part of the country looks to be well below normal. In the summer, that’s comfortable, so it’s not the story,

Unlike the blocking ridge that brought the heat in the Pacific Northwest last month, this looks like a more traditional ridge allowing all that heat to build. Temperatures from Montana through the Dakotas and into northern Minnesota could hit triple digits through early next week.

There will be a remnant mid and upper level trough over the southern US, which will lead to several rainy days, and keep temperatures cool. If it weren’t for that trough, given the greater jet pattern, a more significant heat wave could have been in store for a bigger population.

Elsa makes her way ashore

We have already reached the 5th named storm of the tropical season, but Elsa, the former hurricane presently drifting through the southeastern United States is the first hurricane of the season, as well as the strongest storm to make landfall this year.

Elsa’s strongest appearance on land, at least in terms of wind, was last night in Key West, when the airport reported a winds approaching 50mph. The primary threat from Elsa, as with most tropical storms, was, and continues to be, heavy rain.

Flash flood advisories were out for northern Florida and south Georgia, and have now shifted to South Carolina. There were also a few isolated tornado reports, and as Elsa spins northeast, there is a tornado watch for South Carolina and surrounding areas.

Elsa has been a mild storm, so read this as a precautionary tale. It still brought flooding, strong winds and tornadoes inland. Had she taken a different course, there may he been noteworthy storm surge as well, but her path, along the course and inland in a low density part of Florida, was beneficial for local residents. All tropical storms are dangerous, including Elsa, who isn’t quite done yet. Check out the forecast for the next few days.

There is still significant weather coming for the East Coast from Elsa. There are no other areas of concern in the Atlantic, but that will change, and we will then need to continue our maritime vigilance.

June forecaster of the Month

We are now halfway through the year, and have now clearly defined a best forecaster so far this year. After a three way tie through May, Weatherbug had the best month in June, and Victoria-Weather and The Weather Channel did not, giving them the lead as we head into the dog days of summer. Hurricane season and record breaking heat are around the corner, and meteorologists are surely around the corner, so continued forecast vigilance will be necessary.

OutletForecast Wins
Weatherbug7.66
Victoria-Weather5.5
The Weather Channel4.83
Accuweather4.33
National Weather Service2.16
Forecast.io1.83
WeatherNation0.66