Category Archives: Story

The NWS’ far reaching, surprising scope

Since it’s Sunday, and I have pretty much discussed the two longstanding patterns across the United States, the continued pattern of showers and thunderstorms across the northern tier, and that mid level low that has dropped so much rain from San Antonio to the Ozarks (something that has been far more tragic than I’ve mentioned to date. Massive flooding events are so tragic, but nobody pays attention to them because they aren’t as dramatic as, say a tornado, for example). Since I have covered the weather, like I said, I thought I would direct you to this quiz on Sporcle: can you name the National Weather Service’s event warnings?
The Weather Service issues warnings that aren’t just for weather, since they have the best access to the government’s warning system. There were a lot of complaints in the comments because many didn’t understand that it was only for “warnings” and not advisories (such as dense fog).
If you want a more complete look at all the warnings that you could receive from the NWS, check out their FAQ page. Let’s just say I’m happy that I’ve never been under a Nuclear Power Plant Warning.

The stagnant pattern bears results

Lately, we have had a fairly constant pattern, with a west to east jet drifting across the northern part of country, with the occasional undulation rippling along it, generating weak areas of low pressure that have trekked east. For the most part, they have kicked up some streaks of showers and thunderstorms along weak cold fronts, and most of all have produced steady rainfall for the northern tier of states.
The map above is the comparison to average rainfall for the month to date. As you can see, most all regions for the northern states are at or above average for rain so far. South of the line, they haven’t seen their standard rain, because there hasn’t been the systems with enough energy to sweep boundaries that far south. Nebraska has been especially wet with large thunderstorms as the surface lows have tried to organize right on top of them. This map is a pretty good indicator of the unchanging pattern.
Additionally, check out that nice dark blue streak through east Texas into Arkansas. That is the infamous blob that brought about a foot of rain to some spots. Too bad that rain couldn’t be distributed to other parts of the country.

The blob

A massive blob of rain has slowly worked its way north from near San Antonio to Dallas and now in the Tyler area, and has dumped as much as NINE inches of rain on some locations. It certainly looks impressive on radar:

What’s even more impressive is how little forcing it is taking to generate this low. The National Weather Service described this system as an “effective rainfall producer”. It is warm core, which just means that it is tropical in nature, not unlike a very weak, very rainy hurricane. Of course, hurricanes usually show up on surface analyses, because there is lower pressure at their core. This isn’t even a blip on the surface pressure plots. It sort of shows up in the mid-levels and even then, it’s very week. It doesn’t look like much.
Until you look at the output at the surface. The crazy thing is, all models have pegged this blobby mass of rain up to this point. They have even suggested the torrential rain that has been caused by the system so far. Ignoring the fact that this is the only thing the models have handled well lately, I have no reason, then, to believe that this mid level low and it’s associated wall of water won’t track through Arkansas into southeastern Missouri by tomorrow, then slowly march its way up the Ohio to Cincinnati overnight into Saturday, as the GFS posits. The good news is, the system is actually, you know, moving now, so there is a better chance that the overall rain totals won’t be up to a foot in Cincinnati, instead around the more manageable 3 or 4 inches. So that’s good.
What a weird system.

The deal with models

Yesterday, I mentioned in my post on the Philippines how awesome it was that there was a proprietary model that had been developed by that nation. I thought I would mention a few things about models, and why this is such an interesting quirk.
Models, first off, are generated when observations are plugged into nasty, almost unsolvable calculations. They have to make certain assumptions so the calculations can be solved to some degree, and the reason that there are different models is because of the different assumptions. The models that encompass the highest area solve those equations for a larger plot of land, just so the models can generate output fast enough to be usable for forecasters.
Some models are produced to cover smaller areas and thereby have a smaller resolution. They can miss the greater picture, sometimes, but can often interpret smaller scale events. There is the one GFS model that covers the globe that we use here in the United States, and is produced at NCEP in Colorado. Additionally, the NAM is nested in the GFS and has a higher resolution and solves exclusively for North America. It does better often with southern convection, but the GFS is the superior model for larger systems. Both serve their purpose. Additionally, there are models called the RUC and WRF that are short term models that do very well with convection. For longer forecasts, American meteorologists can use models produced in Canada and Europe, colloquially known as the Canadian and European models.
It’s not often that models are seen outside of the meteorological world, though the American models are freely available if you know where to look. Many other countries keep theirs under wraps, but the Philippines put theirs out there. It was a small area, so the resolution is likely good, though it appeared to only solve for a few variables, like wind, pressure and rain, however in the tropics, that is more than enough.

This is tough to do


Here we sit, just after noon, and there is a moderate risk for severe weather just north of the Ohio River from about Pittsburgh to Ottumwa, Iowa, there is a tornado watch for Upstate New York and western New England and we have one severe report in the smallest state in the country. That is statistically improbable.
If you were wondering, Coventry, Rhode Island saw a thunderstorm roll through early this morning and blew down trees and power lines. Later this afternoon, a slow moving cold front will set off some showers and thunderstorms for the Ohio Valley, somewhat similar to what they saw in Rhode Island this morning, with the strong winds, however there is also a good threat for tornadoes, especially in central Illinois this afternoon.

An update on Agatha

As you may have heard, the first name storm of the Pacific season, Agatha, has continued to cause incredible damage across Central America, namely because of the torrential rain that the area has seen with the system. Flooding, landslides and associated problems have led to the deaths of around 200 people, unfortunately. As I mentioned earlier this week, a weak storm can even be catastrophic for a place like Guatemala given the amount of rain that can be expunged.
Of course, the most amazing images for many are the enormous sinkhole that showed up in the center of Guatemala City, consuming anything on the surface above it. The water moving through the faulty sewer systems below eroded the sub surface rocks, which led to this sinkhole when the weight of soil above eventually collapsed. Impressive imagery, no doubt.

May Forecaster of the Month

We’re already into June. Can you believe it? It seemed lie it took forever, that’s for sure. The summer months and the conversion to fall, that’s when Victoria-Weather tends to make up ground on other sites. Fortunately, we had a pretty good winter too, so we’ll be poised to win the forecaster of the year award as well. If I haven’t spoiled things already, here’s the news… Victoria-Weather was the May forecaster of the month, rather easily.

Agatha makes landfall

On the heels of yesterday’s hurricane season preview from Anthony, we have our first landfall of the Pacific season. Tropical Storm Agatha came ashore in Guatemala yesterday, and has already dropped enough rain to create a massive sinkhole in Guatemala City.
Storms in central America have a tendency to be major rain producers, given the abrupt rise in elevation along the coast. Often, the storms, even when not strong, expend all of their moisture in torrential and often tragic expedience. Flooding rains are almost always the greatest threat with storms in places like Guatemala. Here’s hoping Agatha doesn’t linger too long over Central America.

2010 Hurricane Season Approaching

With Summer soon approaching, Mother Nature’s activity will be in full swing across the US. Blazing hot temperatures, ridiculous humidity, swaths of thunderstorms on a daily basis, severe weather outbreaks, and now… hurricanes! The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 – November 30 (The Eastern Pacific season is already underway, that one runs from May 15 – November 15), and pre-season forecasts are predicting an above average season. Dr William Gray, one of the leading hurricane season forecasters, and his team at Colorado State University are currently predicting 15 named storms, 8 becoming hurricanes, and 4 of those becoming major hurricanes (achieving Category 3, 4, or 5 intensity). Normally, the CSU team is relatively close in the grand scheme of things with their seasonal forecasts, and is hoping to redeem themselves after being off last year. Their 2009 forecast had numbers of 14, 7, 3 initially, but amended it downwards to 12, 6, 2 in April 2009; Even then it didn’t pan out too well when the season finished with a below-average 9, 3, 2. Given the historical accuracy of Gray’s forecasts, I’m apt to lean towards their predictions, as opposed to NOAA’s forecast put out just a couple of days ago, where they predict 14-23 named storms, 8-14 hurricanes, and 3-7 major hurricanes. 14-23 named storms?! Really?! Why don’t they just issue forecasts of “Sunny with high temperatures of 72-94 degrees” while they’re at it?

In any event, all it takes is one storm to cause countless damage to a populated area, or set a region back many years in infrastructure. Having lived in North Carolina from 1995-1997, and living through Hurricane’s Bertha and Fran I can be the first to tell you that these storms are no joke and should be prepared for carefully and seriously. But never fear, us here at Victoria Weather will keep you informed of any impending storms coming close to the US!

Going somewhere for Memorial Day?

Well, the good news is, there shouldn’t be any widespread snow to slow down your travels! If you plan to be outside this weekend, know that there will be a chance for showers and thunderstorms throughout most of the southeast. We could be looking at severe storms for the Carolinas today, though for the most part, storms will be your garden variety thunderstorm activity.
A cold front sneaking through the center of the country will be setting off storms over the Upper Midwest, some that could be severe over the Dakotas southeast into northeastern Colorado tomorrow, then in the western Great Lakes by Sunday. By Sunday, the front will be developing its strongest storms, however, over Kansas and Oklahoma. Eventually, by Memorial Day most of the rain will be in the Ohio Valley, but the severe threat will be lessened.
A couple of waves in the northwest will mean rain in the northern Rockies through the weekend, coming back into Washington by Memorial Day, meaning Seattle wil be pretty wet to end the weekend. Expect a few showers as well over New England Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning, but an otherwise manageable weekend.
It sounds pretty wet, but I have to say that since most everything on the map is moving and not stalled, almost everyone will be able to enjoy some pleasant weather for this coming holiday weekend, though perhaps not for the entire weekend.