September forecaster of the month

Wow. What a wild month September was. Then again, September is the wildest of them all, almost every year. There are hurricanes, wild fires. every thing that can go wrong thanks to the stored heat of summer. No wonder, then, that it was, the robot army, that could keep the level head needed to secure this honor.

Outletyear wins
The Weather Channel9.5
National Weather Service4.91

A video of the extensive, long lasting Iowa Derecho

Youtube user Tyler Spiedel had a Go Pro camera set up as the now infamous Iowa derecho blew through Cedar Rapids. For those that weren’t in it, it is a good demonstration of the sustained intensity of this particular storm, and the destruction it caused. Derechos look in many ways like hurricanes more than they do tornadoes.

Fortunately for Midwesterners, human and otherwise (see: The deer at about 40 seconds) storms of this intensity are extremely rare. When they do arise, though, the devastation is widespread.

The Atlantic grinds to a halt

The main topic of conversation in the weather community over the last couple of weeks has been twofold. Either we were talking about the wildfires in the west, or the hyperactive Atlantic, which at one point had 5 active named storms in the Atlantic.

The fires are temporarily tamed, but check out the NHC’s forecast page right now.

Not only are there no active tropical features, but there isn’t even anything on the horizon. The United States and the rest of North America should have a quiet tropical week or two. Thank goodness.

Of course, this should be paired with the standard notice that we are still in late September, and while we are on the other side of the tropical season peak, we are still in a point in the year that is typically fraught with cyclonic peril. Just because it is quiet now doesn’t mean we are out of the woods for the rest of the year. Check back in by the end of the week, and I’m sure there will be something out there to monitor.

Clearing the air

Some of the most vibrant and horrible images of the last few weeks have been from the west coast, where smoke from fires had polluted the skies, turning cities from Seattle to the Bay Area an eerie, haunted shade of red.

After the conflagrations had exploded across he region, under a high pressure regime that trapped the ash and haze near the surface, reducing air quality, visibility and sense of reality. Setting aside the summer long conditions, and climatological deterioration that helped set the ground work for the fires, the high pressure was a short term weather pattern that made things worse over a broader area.

The attendant jet also spilled into the middle of the country, and brought all that smoke with it, rendering most of the country hazy. Fortunately, one feature was going to come through and help with both situations. A trough of low pressure.

Well hallelujah. Early this weekend, a weak, but still strong enough area of low pressure came through the area and scoured the atmosphere of smoke and ash and made life and the air a bit more livable. This is a recent capture from the Space Needle’s skycam.

Not only does this removed the smoke from Seattle, but also removes it from the jet stream, clearing skies through the Midwest as well.

Hopefully, the worst is over, even as fires rage in the Cascades. At least, the impact is no longer felt as severely for as far away as it was earlier this month.

There’s not enough satellite space

Above is this evening’s satellite picture of the Atlantic. Usually, when we discuss the tropics, we can focus on one storm, or if it’s particularly busy, we can look at the western Atlantic and appreciate the activity bubbling up in September.

We need an entire corner of the Earth to fully capture what’s going on, and even then, we can count our blessings that Tropical Storm Alpha has already expired over the Iberian Peninsula, otherwise we wouldn’t be looking far enough to the east to fully encompass all the activity.

Right now, the biggest and most intense storm, right in the middle of the Atlantic, is Teddy. Teddy will only be what we call a “nautical concern” for the next few days as he drifts through the Sargasso Sea. Still, he is a strong enough storm that a hurricane landfall will be possible in Nova Scotia, of all places.

Wilfried is still far enough to the east that she is not a terrible threat, and will continue to be a fish storm, like Teddy but significantly weaker. That leaves Beta.

Tropical Storm Beta stands to become the third Greek Letter hurricane in history, after Beta and Epsilon in 2005. It’s curly path may result in an extended stay off shore. A trip further inland by the middle of next week would surely accelerate deterioration of the storm. Wind and surge don’t look like the primary threats with Beta, but rather rain, like Sally in the Southeast.

There is a lot made out of the prolificity of the 2020 season, but one bit of good news is how infrequently these storms have developed into hurricanes. While there have been a bunch of named storms, and we we will surely surpass 2005 in the number of such storms, we aren’t nearly to the pace of hurricanes as that horrible year. We are on the downslope of the hurricane season now, and hopefully the back side of this peak decelerates much more quickly than it ramped up.

Forecaster (s) of the month(s)

OK, I get it. We’re in the middle of September, and I simply haven’t had a chance to circle back and name our forecaster of the month for either July or August. I’m not sure why, especially since Victoria-Weather was the forecaster of the month for July!

It was a tighter contest in August, which isn’t a bad thing, because there were more forecasts. I like to believe the convergence of forecasting values suggests a higher quality of forecasts across the board. That means WeatherNation, the forecaster of the month for August should really embrace their title.

OutletMonth winsyear wins
The Weather Channel9.5
National Weather Service4.91
Accuweather3.75 3.33
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Isaias looking for trouble

We continue with our extremely busy early season in the tropics, already reaching the I storm for the year. That means there have been 9 named storms, with the typically most active part of the season looming. Hanna, the storm before Isaias was the first hurricane of the year, landfalling in south Texas last week, causing some flood damage to the Brownsville, McAllen and Harlingen areas. Isaias also threatens US interests this weekend.

Isaias only congealed into a hurricane after making his first landfalls over Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. Shortly after reemerging over the sea north of the Dominican Republic, he strengthened into a hurricane for the first time. He still doesn’t look like your classic, well organized hurricane as he passes over the central Bahamas, but hurricane hunters have verified his status.

There are warnings out for most of the Bahamas, as well as across the east coast of Florida as well.

Calling for a hurricane warning where the hurricane presently is is just solid operational meteorology, but the warning along the Florida Coast should tell you a little something about where this storm is expected to end up. Let’s see the first spaghetti plot on Victoria-Weather of 2020!

There are two things to note about this particular track. First, the majority of the input guidance keeps the storm off the coast of Florida, save for a brief incursion around Jupiter, before strafing the coast. Second, there is a startling level of cohesion to the tracks even a few days into the forecast. I feel like now I should note that Isaias is pronounced “Eesa-eeyus” because you are going to hear about the storm for a while.

The bad news is that this storm is going to affect the US for quite awhile, but after that initial “there is a hurricane affecting the country, and it is part of an extremely active tropical season to date” news, the situation breaks towards the positive for the East Coast. First, Isaias is likely close to, if not at, it’s maximum intensity already.

This is primarily because Isaias is moving swiftly, and won’t loiter over the warm waters that will give it strength. Additionally, his proximity to the coast will deter sustained development. That swift moving factor should limit the flooding potential, though there is always that chance with a tropical feature. I would expect the flooding threat to be greatest from North Carolina to New York, where Isaias will dabble inland the most.

Winds and storm surge won’t ever really bear down on the US as powerfully as they could. The left side of a hurricane, relative to storm motion, is generally the tamest side of the storm. IF the eye remains off shore in Florida, when the storm is its strongest, then the most intense part of the storm will follow suit. Also, storm surge is greatest ahead of the storm, and since it will be moving parallel to the coast for the most part, surge will never be as big a concern as Katrina or Michael, for example.

All tropical features bring their dangers and should be met with concern. Fortunately, Isaias will deliver only a glancing blow. Hopefully, it will give enough practice to coastal residents, as the 2020 hurricane season (and 2020 year in general) don’t show any signs of becoming less relentless.

The north Atlantic is off to a fast start

Hurricane season usually peaks around early September, when the tropical seas are at their warmest. Last season, there were 8 storms that were ongoing in the month of September. That was a particularly active season, but that burst of storms happens when it usually does.

The storms started with Dorian and ended with Lorenzo (Erin came and went before September came around, while we all remember how long lived Dorian was) before all was said and done. Now, keeping in mind that it is only the 11th of July, note that the storm that clipped the mid-Atlantic this weekend was Tropical Storm Fay.

That means it was the 6th storm of the season, which didn’t come, even during last season’s intensity, until September. That’s a pretty remarkable thing. We usually don’t get to our F’s until at least late August, but the NHC has had to be particularly busy this year.

That sounds pretty dramatic, but check out this forecast map for Fay.

It was a shortwaved feature that didn’t last long, and wasn’t well organized until it had aid from the jet stream near the coast. The life span isn’t dissimilar from the rest of the storms of the 2020 season. The strongest storm of the season was Arthur, which had a 60mph max gust at his core.

In short, we have made it to July with 6 named storms, and none of them have become a hurricane. The NHC also does not have any areas being monitored for development into a tropical feature, which seems to suggest we are in the clear for a few days, at least.

Despite the brief areas of organization, this hasn’t been a terribly destructive early storm season. Sure, some of these bubbles have reached the lowest threshold to be named but nothing has approached the more significant threshold to be identified as a hurricane.

There hasn’t been a great deal of excess energy in the north Atlantic this season (in fact a fair bit less recently with that well advertised Sahara dust cloud muddling the skies), but continued improvement in monitoring and identification, as well as a slight aberration towards organization in the grand scheme of things, we have a lot of names already used, and the real meat of the season isn’t even here yet.

Independence Day Ring of Fire

We’ve made it to the middle of summer, and the biggest summer holiday of them all. Some fireworks displays are still on, while others are cancelled out of an abundance of caution with the continued coronavirus pandemic. Whether or not we will get the patriotic displays, the atmosphere is certainly going to feel as it should on the 4th of July.

It’s going to be very hot for a lot of the country for Independence day, with 90s blanketing much of the country, save for the Pacific Northwest, where significantly cooler weather will take hold.

The overall pattern isn’t terribly strong, atmospherically, given there is a mountain range between the two air masses. There isn’t a vibrant jet structure to give rise to a solid dome of high pressure, but there isn’t organized low pressure either. Instead, we are looking at a pattern that will rely heavily on lower level features, which are provided more by the physical features at the surface than patterns in the atmosphere.

There is low pressure off shore, and sea breezes and weak oceanic circulation will lead to showers and storms along the east and Gulf coasts tomorrow. Lee troughing under zonal, west to east flow will lead to enough instability to lead to strong storms in the Plains, especially the northern High Plains, as noted in tomorrow’s SPC outlook map.

Large swaths of the country are going to be able to enjoy time on the lake or at the cabin, or perhaps watching fireworks displays from their decks or balconies. Socially distanced, of course.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July, everyone.

June Forecaster of the Month

Was it just me, or did June fly by? Maybe it was the extended vacation I took in the middle of the month, huh? Well, one outlet that appreciated it was the robot army of who thrived in the shorter session. Way to go, robot army!

OutletMonth wins
The Weather Channel1
National Weather Service
OutletMonth winsyear wins
The Weather Channel18
National Weather Service3.08