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 Week Ahead 6/13/10-6/19/10

We’re looking at a very west heavy week. The furthest east we go is Little Rock on a road trip. Not often something like this happens.

Monday – Road trip from Pocatello, Idaho to Little Rock, Arkansas
Tuesday – Oakland, California
Thursday – El Paso, Texas
Friday – Road Trip, El Paso, Texas to Lawton, Oklahoma
Saturday – Visalia, California

Elmira, New York to Ocean City, New Jersey

Our trip is short for Saturday, as we will only be moving from one state to the next state over. It’s a 5 hour drive that covers about 302 miles. It will be a slow way, because we won’t get to take the interstate too much, and we’ll only average 57mph. How will the day go? Let’s find out.

It’s been a very active couple of weeks to begin the summer across the northern tier of states. This won’t change for our trip through the Mid Atlantic on Saturday. Showers and isolated thunderstorms will be possible through the day, I suppose, but I wouldn’t worry about them until it’s around 1 in the afternoon, by which time we will be in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After that, some storms may follow us into Ocean City, but really, I just think it’s going to be dry and hot. Well, humid, but you know what I mean.

A smattering on the coast

The forecasts in Corvallis were bunched much better than they were in Hagerstown, and they all called for cool temperatures and some light rain through the forecast period. A trough collapsing at the coast did it’s part and brought that drizzle into town for the middle of the week. The Weather Service and Weatherbug had the top forecasts, correctly calling for the decided Pacific Northwest weather.
Actuals: Wednesday .04 inches of rain, High 66, Low 53
Thursday – .01 inches of rain, High 62, Low 51

Grade: B

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.

Summer is fleeting

Tuesday in Hagerstown couldn’t have been nicer. It was 80 degrees with clear skies, birds were singing and children were playing in the park. Then Wednesday happened. Almost a half an inch of drizzle fell through the day, and the temperatures stayed in the 60s all day. Rather unpleasant, and the bipolar weather did a number on our forecasts as well. Except the Weather Channel, who must have insight into mental disorders, because their forecast was a revelation, and they were 12 degrees better than the next forecaster, Accuweather. Well played, Atlanta.
Actuals: Tuesday – High 80, Low 56
Wednesday – .45 inches of rain, High 69, Low 60

Grade: A (for the Weather Channel, C’s and D’s for the rest of us)

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.

Seems like it should be easier

The temperature and precip totals for Elmira were exactly the same on Monday and Tuesday. So why were the forecasts so errant? Well, it wasn’t terribly cloudy, but those that were there did keep the temperatures from climbing over 70 or dropping below 45, which meant that the spreads from our vaunted forecasters were a little off on every verifying time. The Weather Channel had the top forecast.

Actuals: Monday, High 69, Low 46
Tuesday, High 69, Low 46

Grade: C

Philippines

Our journey around the world takes us to the archipelago in the far western Pacific that lies just to the north of the equator. As one could imagine, the climate is hot and humid. They are far enough north that they are in the typhoon belt and are typically assailed, particularly on the eastern shores, by an annual handful of tropical systems. With the adjustment of the ITCZ, they see a seasonal monsoon, particularly on the western islands that, as luck would have it, is going on now. They are fairly rainy on the east coast all year long.
The Philippines has the delightfully acronymed PAGASA, or Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Atmospheric Services Administration to make sure the weather isn’t threatening the island chain. Every panel on the side bar of their site opens an informative new window that will talk about their real time weather services or disaster prevention or what have you. There isn’t a radar available, but under the “real time weather” you can access satellite and city forecasts. Quite impressively, they discuss their proprietary MM5 model, which they use for forecasting in the Philippines. Perhaps that’s only cool to a meteorologist. I love a site that gives access to the numerical models for their particular region, because it gives insight into the way the forecast. A very cool feature from the Philippines. It’s not often that you see a country with it’s own model.

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