Category Archives: Story

Heat Relief Imminent?

For the better part of the last 2 months, the Central and Southern U.S. has been sitting in Mother Nature’s pressure cooker. Seemingly endless streaks of Heat Advisories and Excessive Heat Warnings have plagued the country from Texas and Kansas eastward to portions of the Ohio Valley and the Deep South. My road trip to St. Louis last week was met with their first 100 degree reading in 2 years, along with a Heat Index well above 110, and topped it again the next day. They’ve also hit 98-100 degrees the last 5 days in a row. Up here in Minneapolis we just went through our longest heat wave of the summer, cracking 90 on 5 consecutive days and hitting our summer high of 96. Wichita, KS has been 100 or higher for 12 of the last 15 days including 3 days of 108 or higher. Tulsa, OK has seen the last 2 mornings in which the LOW temperature could only cool off to 84 degrees, only the 5th time on record that’s happened on consecutive days and should this mornings’ low of 86 hold up through midnight, it would mark the 2nd warmest low on record.
Thankfully, some relief is in the way for the start of next week. A large trough is looking to dig its way into the Central US and FINALLY give a bit of a reprieve to the region. Minneapolis could see high temperatures in the upper 70s for Monday and Tuesday, St. Louis looks to “chill” into the mid to upper-80s, and see humidity levels drop down to more tolerable levels as well across the region. Hopefully this will bring a bit of a break to people’s air conditioning bills, but enjoy it while it lasts since we’ll see some scorching temperatures yet this summer.

Introducing the worst weather movie ever: Storm Cell

I happened to catch Storm Cell on TV a last weekend Sucker that I am for weather movies, I turned it on. It was probably the worst movie I have ever seen in my life, regardless of genre. But I thought I would introduce you, the readers, to this movie. In a way, it would be fun to rewatch this cinematic garbage if only to pick out the errors.
Back in 2008, the WE Network had a popular show entitled “Twister Sisters” on their airwaves that chronicled a real life pair of women who lead excursions into the Plains to hunt tornados. It was among the better tornado based reality shows out there, and the sisters got lucky, tracking a lot of tornadoes in front of the camera. Lifetime decided to get into the act, instead making a movie about a female storm chaser and replacing tornadoes and factual accuracy with familial angst and a love interest. It was a devastatingly terrible movie. Here are some of the hilariously incorrect scenes in the movie.
– Early in the movie, she takes a young interviewer out on a storm chase. She made the decision, after she opened her computer, it ran some calculations and came up with “tornado threat: WATCH”. Almost immediately after they departed, they come across a massive tornado. The storm chaser (her name was April, I believe) opened her computer which now said “tornado threat: WARNING”. Nice work, computer. She said some gibberish about lower inflow updraft jet winds or something.The storm eventually fell apart, which she thought was odd, and that there must be another tornado taking all the energy from the one they were watching. Totally. The chaser opened her computer again, and sure enough, there was another “tornado threat: WARNING” as told by her computer. “We have to call this in,” She said. “Don’t they have people to do that?” asked the anonymous passenger. “Yeah. Me,” stated the chaser quite boldly. If only the weather service had the same tornado threat software on their computer, perhaps we wouldn’t need chasers at all anymore.
– The tornado hit her daughters high school, so they decided it was time to take a vacation and went to visit storm chaser’s brother in Seattle. While watching the news, the weather report showed a warm front approaching Seattle from the west and a cold front from the east. Concerned (not that the local weatherman has no idea what he’s doing, of course) storm chaser April opens her computer and looks at a satellite image of Washington to see what looks like a hurricane bearing down on them. Increasingly concerned, she runs the tornado threat program. Tornado threat: WATCH! She puts it out of her mind though, because she’s on vacation. Later, her daughter comes in to check her e-mail and gets upset to see the program running. Mom says we weren’t here for work! Also, we’re bumped up to tornado threat: WARNING. Cut to a dock on the Puget Sound and a fisherman tying his boat up. DEAD. Tornado kills him. It wasn’t even raining. IF fact, the hole time, judging by the clothes the characters were wearing, it must have been cool and dank. There were a lot of jackets and trench coats. Perfect weather for tornadoes. Back to the brother’s house. The brother is a county sheriff, so he gets the call that there has been a tornado. Immediately, he confronts his sister, asking if she had anything to do with this. Stupid weather person, making weather happen near them. And let me just say, even if there were storms coming, there is no worse place to chase, I would imagine, than Seattle. Mountains, trees, lots of traffic. Of course, that’s only one of several logical inconsistencies with the movie.

I could only make it through about an hour of the movie. I can’t imagine there weren’t more later.

Most of Asia underwater

Lately , if you look at any news service, you’ll see stories about tragedies in India, Pakistan, and China as heavy rains have led to devastating flooding and a very high casualty rate. The meteorological issue is the Hindu Kush and Himalaya ranges that dominate the region. Typically, we don’t have to worry about such devastating consequences in the region because areas to the north and west of these ranges are typically quite dry. Unfortunately in this instance there has been ample moisture coming from the north, wrapped around the mountains through China, and a northerly wind has driven that moisture into the mountains until it is forced to formed high precipitation rain storms. Of course, given the mountains and valleys of the region, this makes the area more prone to flash flooding and land slides, which have been so devastating to the area. A look at the satellite shows a broad swath of thunderstorm activity in western China still posing a threat to the area.

Summertime rages on

This summer has been incredibly warm for most of the country. The West Coast doesn’t know it, but 5/6ths of the country is steeped in uncomfortably warm conditions. This is a result of a jet that has stayed fairly well defined and north of the Canadian border. Southerly flow and no infusions of cooler air from an occasional trough have allowed the country to bake. But at least there is the southerly flow which is introducing a great deal of humidity which, while making things stuffy, is preventing temperatures from climbing any further for the Mississippi Valley or points to the southeast. Of course, where the humidity doesn’t climb, in the Plains and in the deserts, temperatures ARE pinging in at triple digits. Pretty tough on the air conditioning bill.

A rash of new weather sites

In the past year, first Accuweather then The Weather Channel and Weatherbug all came out with new websites. For the most part, they are all essentially the same, beset with the same problems.
– Somewhat frustrating navigation. Why can’t I type in Minneapolis, Minnesota without being asked if I mean Minneapolis, Kansas? Minneapolis, MN works, but Minneapolis, Minnesota can’t be found. Or I could get sent to the airport. It seems like this should have been worked out many moons ago, but only smaller sites like Weather Underground have this figured out. It would be nice to be able to click a map for my location as well. Why did the Weather Service figure this out, but not these corporate behemoths?
– Screen to screen load times. These are all commercial endeavors, so they need their ads, but many of them have more complex adds than forecast displays, and those ads coat most of the screen. No site is worse than Accuweather which occasionally has full screen ads, though TWC’s roll out ads and Weatherbug’s sheer quantity makes those sites annoying as well.
-Each site has there own problems as well, of course. The Weather Channel still doesn’t have an easy way to get a simple text discussion, all symbols and Java script. They also don’t have hourly forecasts beyond 36 hours. Accuweather would probably be my favorite of these sites if it wasn’t for the load problems. It’s very slow to bring up whatever forecast you want to get too, say if you get into a city and want to look at the extended forecast. You can click on the days in Weatherbug’s extended forecast to get to an hourly forecast. This is a cool feature, but I only found out about it accidentally. It makes me wonder what other features I’m missing there.

These sites are all new, and their bugs and quirks will eventually be worked out. It’s also possible that the load times are because my computer was purchased in 1986. Progress.

July Forecaster of the Month

Once again, it was the Weather Channel taking charge for the years hottest month. This was no fluke, July, as there were a lot of forecasts to contend with, much more than are typical, and the Atlantans showed the world a thing or too about their forecasting prowess. It’s not just web sites in Beta and Stephanie Abrams over there. They have been forecasting like it’s their job this year.

Urban Tornadoes

There’s an age-old myth that tornadoes don’t strike urban areas, and for the most part it’s pretty true. When you take into account the relative size of an urban area, or the downtown area of a major city more specifically, it pales in comparison to the amount of area around it. The downtown area of a city might encompass 2-8 square miles, meanwhile everywhere within a 1 hour drive, say a 75mile radius, covers over 17,500 square miles. Also since tornadoes are usually very small, you can see the tiny percentage an urban area might cover. However, just because it’s tough for Mother Nature to take aim, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Minneapolis had a brief tornado roll through the downtown area just last summer. A couple days ago Fargo, ND saw a tornado hit the north side of town briefly in the middle of the night. On Sunday evening, a line of thunderstorms rolled through the New York City area and a confirmed tornado was sighted in the Bronx and rolled along for a little over half a mile, injuring 7 but thankfully no loss of life. What urban area will be the next on the list? Looks like the Dakotas are under the gun today, we’re looking at you Pierre!

The Gulf catches a break

We will still have to wait to see what a tropical storm or hurricane will do to the Gulf oil spill. Tropical Storm Bonnie developed over the Bahamas before making landfall in Miami-Dade county in Florida. It moved quickly over the Florida Peninsula, almost entirely unnoticed by most Floridians. It was simply a rainy system that brought a little bit of rain to south Florida and ALMOST knocked Jim Cantore’s hat off.
The fear, then, was that it would track over the oil spill, intensifying the whole to once again become a tropical storm before crashing into New Orleans. It was going to be interesting to see how such a system would affect the slick.
Well, that never happened. Bonnie moved through Florida very quickly, which was part of the reason it’s mark there was so mitigated. She continues to move quickly, which is preventing her from accumulating energy. Additionally, an unfavorable shear environment aloft is hampering the further strengthening of the system, even though Bonnie is over the warm Gulf waters. The result is that the system is now not expected to strengthen much beyond it’s current state. Winds are about 30mph, which isn’t an uncommon wind speed over the Gulf of Mexico even without a tropical system to contend with.
This is a huge break for residents of the Gulf of Mexico. Bonnie will merely be an inconvenience, rather than a disaster.

The Weather Channel is invading

Shortly after Anthony posted the forecast for Atlanta (apologies for the delay.. some server issues beset us last night), I took this screen capture with a very impressive, very blue side bar ad.

Thanks Google, I’m sure most readers of this site are unaware of The Weather Channel. That said, with the way they have been forecasting this year, the whole site could pretty much be described as an ad for TWC.

This forecasts almost HAS to pan out

The above image is the current SPC forecast for severe winds today. For forecasting an individual type of severe weather, seeing the 60% is extraordinarily rare. When the SPC puts out such outlooks, they generally expect SOMETHING to happen, even when there is only a 15% chance, for example, of severe weather, because technically those percentages are for the chance that one of those events happens within 25 miles of a point in the outlined area. The suggestion of that 60% area isn’t so much that damaging winds are more likely or will be stronger, it’s simply that the damaging winds are almost certain to be widespread.
Later this afternoon, Anthony will come through and post a radar still to see how the storms are doing after what is certain to be a derecho sets itself up in eastern Minnesota or western Wisconsin. Later, I’ll come back and update with an image of the storm reports of the day. Stay tuned and keep safe.

UPDATE (5:16PM CDT): Well our line of thunderstorms developed nearly right on top of the Minneapolis-Twin Cities metro area earlier this afternoon, with a confirmed tornado not too far south-southeast of the area. Now as the line heads towards the east, it’s starting to transition to a severe thunderstorm threat, albeit with some embedded tornadoes possible. And later tonight, another possible line of thunderstorms as the front itself moves through the region. Active day around here for sure.


We can now take a look at the storm reports so far today to see how things have gone. They are widespread across northern Wisconsin, but fairly absent from the area where we had a 60% chance for the severe winds. That said, there is still a line of thunderstorms along the front extending from north central Wisconsin southwest towards Omaha, and some more reports could come in to help verify that little bubble a little later tonight. So far, the forecast put forth by the SPC looks as though it was good, but perhaps it’s safe to say this wasn’t quite the event they were expecting in Norman.