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.
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!
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.
Yesterday, there was some severe weather in the Front Range, Upper Midwest and in Florida. Nothing that was so bad that it led to death or injury, so I feel I can make light of some of the reports. For example, they had some hail western Texas.
It done got busted out! The first number, by the way, is the time, the second is the size of the hail, in hundredths of an inch (so that is 2 inch diameter hail) followed by the location, including latitude and longitude. That in mind, check out the size of this hail:
That’ll wake you up. Almost 4 inches in diameter! That’s about the size of a softball!
In new Mexico, of course, they aren’t as familiar with sports, so they compare their hail size to other objects:
8 N BUCKEYE
HEN EGG HAIL REPORTED 8 MILES NORTH OF BUCKEYE ON SH 238. (MAF)
This is why people have garages, hail up to 4 inches in diameter. It looks like an active day again in the High Plains, so there will be many more hail reports today, I’m sure. And it’s only May! Several more months of thunder to deal with, no doubt.
Yesterday it rained here in Minneapolis, and it wasn’t exactly expected to happen. All afternoon, I had people telling me what a bunch of liars meteorologists are, since we collectively botched the forecast. And we did, I’m not denying that.
At least, though, I’m not one of those TV meteorologists who has to deal with complaints when they actually are giving important and up to date weather information. This lady just doesn’t care about that storm.
Minneapolis looks like a market where meteorologists will be receiving more complaints tonight, as a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for just north of town. I’m not lying.
I have definitely been remiss in mentioning the coolest comment I think I’ve ever received. If you’ll recall, about a week and a half ago, we featured Tonga on our country profile. In response, Mr. ‘Ofa Fa’anunu responded in the comments, providing some details on the Tongan Meteorological Service:
Just like to add that all 6 of our meteorological stations are manual (operated by humans) and are located at the 6 airports in Tonga. 65% of our work is towards aviation and the rest to public forecasts, Marine forecasts and climate. The Tonga Met Service is also responsible for tsunami warnings and for Coast Radio Surveillance. Weather Observations and reporting in Tonga started in 1929 although data is only available from 1944. There 28 staff. 6 Forecasters, 3 Climate Officers, 6 Coast Radio Operators and 13 Meteorological Observers. The Head Office is located at Fua’amotu International Airport on the main island of Tongatapu.
(see http://www.met.gov.to for further information)
keep up good work!!
Director Tonga Met Services
That’s right. Mr. Fa’anunu is the director of the TMS! You can certainly take his words to heart. Recently, he was also elected Vice President of the WMO Southwest Pacific Region, so not only is he willing to share his knowledge with our website and you readers, he is well respected among the leaders of our meteorological community. Thank you for your contribution, Mr. Fa’anunu, and best wishes to Tonga!
I just wanted to share a couple of radar stills from the tornado outbreak of last Monday. The come courtesy of Plymouth State University’s NEXRAD archive. The first shows the cell that passed through Norman. The hook is muddled somewhat by the toads and county lines, but it is still there. Other local radars, such as the one housed by Oklahoma University, have better angles on the storm, but aren’t publicly available yet.
The second comes about an hour earlier, and is a of a storm near Wakita (if you have heard of Wakita, this might be why). It has perhaps the most pronounced hook of any storm that day.
I have nothing to add, really. It’s 6 days in the past, and this was a very well documented, well warned system among people that are used to such weather. Really, I just wanted to link to these, because they are definitely images that make a full blooded meteorologist say “whoa”.
Yesterday, a dynamic system moving into the Southern Plains organized and triggered a tornado outbreak over Oklahoma, the center of the tornado universe. In fact, the scientists at the National Weather Center, home to a combination of the Storm Prediction Center, NWS-Oklahoma City office, and a meteorological research campus of the University of Oklahoma saw a tornado out their window. They self reported! Unfortunately, this marks the second deadly outbreak of the year after last month’s twister that cut across Mississippi. 5 are dead and many more are injured in Oklahoma, most in Norman, just south of Oklahoma City where the NWC is located.
The images from this storm are incredible. We will look at some radar stills next week, when we don’t have forecasts scheduled every day. Speaking of forecasts, this is technically a verification post, which is why Nebraska was mentioned. Omaha was on the northern end of the system, and they mercifully only saw rain out of it. Temperatures were kept cool by persistent wind, and clouds. The rain didn’t start until Monday, which didn’t give Victoria-Weather the victory, it merely increased the margin of victory.
Actuals: Sunday – High 62, Low 38
Monday – .59 inches of rain, High 54, Low 48
May is the time most people start to think of warm weather, sunshine, and the fun summer activities ahead. However, Mother Nature likes to sometime put a monkey wrench into our cheery outlooks. An area of low pressure is developing today over the Central Rockies and will push into the Central Plains by later this evening. A slew of moisture is streaming up from the Gulf ahead of it and will get wrapped around on the north side of it, and will result in some snowfall over the Northern Plains. In addition, as the low shifts eastward through Friday evening, another swath of snow looks to fall over northern MN and WI, with a couple inches possible. We’ve had a ludicrously warm spring we’ve had here in the Twin Cities, we haven’t had snow since February 23rd which led to our first ever snowless March and April on record, so this possible snowfall isn’t going to make people in Central MN and WI very pleased. Snowfall isn’t uncommon over the northern tier of states in early May, but after the warm spring this part of the country has had so far, it’s certainly not a welcome visitor.
When I look at a surface map, I think of it like a topographical map. The high pressure is like a mountain, low pressure is like a valley. The closer the lines are (the isobars, lines of constant pressure) the greater the change in elevation on our topographical map. The air is like, say, water. It will always try to flow downhill, and will move faster in steeper elevation changes.
This is obviously an over simplification, especially since it doesn’t accurately describe the directionality of the winds. Due to forces like friction and the rotation of the earth, the wind blows roughly 90 degrees to the right of a straight high to low pressure line. Basically, if you stand with your back to the wind and lift your left arm, you are pointing to the lower pressure. That said, it does do a slightly better job describing the speed with which the wind will blow. A steeper pressure gradient does mean stronger winds, just like my mental topographical map would indicate.
This is, by the way, one of the most fundamental things a meteorologist knows. The first thing I remember learning about in my meteorology class was high and low pressure and the immediate effect on wind. I remember walking home from that class lifting my left arm, trying to figure out where the nearest low was. Memories…