Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How will I know?
-  1986 single by Whitney Houston

9:45 PM EST 12/29/11 | Now we know... weekend Alberta Clipper takes first step in pattern development leading to a significant Eastern U.S. snow event in weeks ahead. Details by Affiliate Forecaster Matt Baranowski of Storm Central are posted in our Winter Stormcast Zone and in the Western Great Lakes page.

9:45 AM EST 12/28/11 | The latest North America snowcover map from the NOAA National Ice Center shows our current winter pattern has much work remaining before snow can be delivered to hungry Powderhounds across the country. Large High pressure systems entering the U.S. continue to take up residence in the same place in recent weeks: Where snowcover is the most extensive. This "Day 6 projection" from the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center below shows that once again, another large High is set to park deep in the heart of Texas. This High will further solidify snowcover left behind by the two recent storms, both of which were covered by our Central Plains Winter Stormcast Team in facebook.

This map for Monday, January 2 shows a near-direct "Polar flow" for much of the MidWest and into the East. North winds on east side of the High, in combination with a departing weak Low pressure in the St. Lawrence River Valley, will fuel the Lake Effect Snow engine into New Year's Day. However, for those along the East coast yearning for snow, this type of pattern is great at delivering the cold air needed, but also shoves the energy needed for a storm off the coast or out to sea. So if Whitney Houston were a Powderhound, and asking, "How will I know" when we will ever get snow...

Since you're "asking us what we know about these things,"  when it comes to Winter Weather forecasting, we're passionate about procedure before releasing a grandiose storm projection. Thus, the team has reviewed latest winter weather data and set these requirements for a big coastal storm:
  • Several Alberta clippers deliver periods of snow to the Appalachians, with trailing cold fronts;
  • This introduction of cold air and occasional snow, produces consistent snowcover in all U.S. land areas from Montana to Kansas to Ohio;
  • A full latitude trough establishes in the Eastern U.S., complemented by a strong western U.S. ridge, delivering a large High pressure to the region;
  • A parcel of this high pressure arranges in the vicinity of southern Ontario, with companion dome in the Mid-south;
  • The Sub-Tropical Jet Stream begins to amplify and over-run the southern dome of high pressure.
Simply put, it is called "Cold Air Damming." This meteorological phenomena is the most sure-fire way to get a snowstorm cranking along the Eastern U.S. A wave of Low pressure can develop along a trailing front in the Tennessee Valley, and fueled by moisture transport from the Gulf, the Low would charge into a continual supply of cold air funneled down the Appalachians. 

Once those factors begin to align, then we can start talking about something like this...the February 12-15, 2007 Snow & Ice Storm. 

Until then, keep dreaming about your walks in a winter wonderland, and soon enough your dreams will come true. 

(Forecaster Foot and the Winter Stormcast Team)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

If you just believe...

‎2:50 PM EST 12/25/11 | "Yes Virginia", there will be snow this winter, for we know your dreams are calling. The atmosphere is working to get everything we need so that someday soon, we all will see "children sleeping, snow is softly falling." 


On behalf of the entire Foot's Forecast Team, our warmest wishes for all our readers on this important day. Though the history of Christmas has a variety of meanings for different cultures, we can still bid to all that the gift of this day will be a safe and productive New Year, and may the bell still ring for all those who truly believe.

"How in the Dickens 
did Charles save Christmas?"

11:45 PM EST 12/24/11 | A Very Merry Day from our team to yours | While the gift of Christmas snow was delivered in New Mexico and Texas, the Eastern U.S. revels under cool holiday sunshine. Whether you have decorated palm trees deep in the heart of Texas, or have festively-lit reindeer in rural New England...we all celebrate the history and climate of era which led to many Christmas traditions of today.

Mount Lebanon
The historical and religious reason for marking December 25 Christ's birth, was preceded by an influence of climate and geography. Even though some historians note that Jesus may have been born in November or March, not December, it is likely that nearby snow was present for the first Christmas.   "Lebanon" , which is the nearest mountain range to Bethlehemin the original Hebrew is associated with "white." At the time, the Lebanon range was generally snow-covered year round.  

Christmas was not recognized as a formal religious holiday until the 4th century. The Catholic Church reorganized late December holidays, and imported traditions from the pagan "Feast of Saturnalia" which occurred on the 25th. It is believed this compromise is the origin of present day food-related revelry during our winter holidays. However, more than a thousand years later,  Puritan settlers in the New World viewed December 25 with scorn. Records from the late 1600's show that celebrating Christmas was actually illegal in Boston, due to ancient Christmas festivals having less-than-reputable (i.e. pagan) reputation. The writings of one man in the 1800's helped change that.

A "Frost Fair" on the River 
Thames in London, 1683.
So how in the Dickens did he save Christmas? In the gritty streets of London in 1843, the date was not marked with evergreen wreaths and merriment for all. However, there was snow. A three-hundred year period from the 16th to 19th centuries was later known as  "Little Ice Age" due to reduced solar output. The height this chill, from 1645 to 1710, is now known by climatologists as the Maunder Minimum. Over 26 winters, the River Thames in London froze so thick that grand  "Frost Fairs" were held on the ice! This excellent report by AccuWeather's Jesse Ferrell details many of the climate connections to our visions of White Christmases, due in part to the wide ranging impact of the Little Ice Age. 

During Charles' early childhood in the 1810's, his Father invested considerable time into a grand celebration of Christmas. It was a major family effort, with pig, goose and capon, the best there could be; with mince pie and plum porridge, good ale and strong beer. Topping it off, courtesy of the Little Ice Age, snow was observed six years in a row in London, right on Christmas Day!  Years later, as an author, with firmly ingrained memories of all this, Charles traversed the streets of London up to 20 miles a day...taking notes for his novel, A Christmas Carol. 

In 2006, this present-day librarian-blogger  summed up how the time-honored characters of Mr. Dickens, enshrined in a red- and gold-bound book, may have "saved" Christmas. What started as an effort by Dickens to restart his literary career, cemented a holiday-themed revolution which influenced our present day visions of cinnamon sticks and sleigh rides down snow-glistened streets. Charles may have been the original "Powderhound," for the story refers to frequent winter weather clogging the streets of London, a climate truth in the height of the Little Ice Age. Now that era lives on in our wrapping paper, Currier & Ives engravings and in the music that enriches our lives for just a few short weeks.  

As we celebrate one of the most significant events in history, a recognition of December 25 being Christ's birth, we know people of many creeds and colors have shared the child-like thrill when for the first time, "it's snowing!" We hope that someday, wherever you are, you'll be able to enjoy White in the winter night, courtesy of Mr. Dickens, a little red book, and a little help from the climate.

From all of us at Foot's Forecast, a very merry holiday to you and your family. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

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Need some holiday snow?
Head to El Paso...

9:15 AM EST 12/23/11 | On this pre-holiday Happy Friday, Eastern Powderhounds are at least happy the long school and work week comes to a close. Yet, it's no consolation to those yearning for a Charles Dickens-like weekend to hear places like El Paso to central New Mexico are set to receive snow Christmas Eve. The traditional "Currier & Ives" locales of northern New England (facebook) or upstate Michigan should receive some light snow this weekend. Bu that's nowhere near the 6-10" expected (NWS) in the southern Sangre De Cristo mountains of New Mexico. 

As we've said before, that's just the hard knocks of a La Nina winter, is reasons for which are outlined in this explanation post by Affiliate Forecaster StormCentral of the Chicago area and posted on the Winter Stormcast | Western Great Lakes page (facebook). 

Hey it could be worse, in 2004 Brownsville, TX enjoyed a White Christmas while Baltimore, MD missed out again with 60 degree temperatures on the first day of winter that year. If we can pretend to be happy for those who will see snow, please visit our Affiliate Forecaster ConvectiveWeather for an overview of the southern Plains forecast. An excerpt is posted below, and many thanks to Forecaster Wesley H. for this report also available in their facebook page.

"Winter Storm Watches have been issued for portions of West Texas, including Midland and Odessa, from Friday night through Saturday. A potent upper-level low will move across the region Friday and Saturday, bringing snow and/or a wintry mix to much of West Texas. During the day on Friday, a wintry mix of rain and snow can be expected across the watch area. Little to no accumulation is expected through sunset; however, the chance for accumulating snow will increase Friday evening and overnight through Saturday as the system moves overhead."

"What happened in the Mid-Atlantic?"

The best we can say about a White Christmas in this region is much like the answer Jim Carrey got from his co-star Lauren Holly in Dumb and Dumber: The truth is it's "more like one out of a million.

See the previous post for the options our Winter Stormcast Team and Forecaster Jason originally mapped out on 12/21. But good things come to those who wait. December 1995 was a blah month for snow in places like New York City, and January 6-7, 1996 changed all that. After all, it is a La Nina winter, just like that one was.  Just sayin..."  

(Lead Advisor Mr. Foot, Forecaster Jason M. and the Winter Stormcast Team)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"So, you're telling me there's a chance?"
- Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber

7:10 AM EST 12/21/11 As we celebrate the arrival of winter today from the East to the West, it would seem Mother Nature is wanting to make up for lost time. Affiliate Forecaster ConvectiveWeather in Texas reports that on the heels of the Great Blizzard will be yet another storm system before the weekend. Talk about "Pete and Repeat." The full details of this well-written report by Wesley H. of Wylie, TX on their website. Excerpts are also posted in our Winter Stormcast Zone. 

(First posted 3:45 PM 12/20/11) UPDATE ON THE POTENTIAL CHRISTMAS WEEKEND STORM| Although we are just a few days away from the Christmas weekend, computer models are showing a wide range of possible weather scenarios. Below is the NOAA HPC projection for Christmas morning.


SCENARIO A: A storm system tracks from the Gulf Coast to New England, bringing light rain for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. In this scenario, the best chance for any snow would be mainly limited to the mountainous areas in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia.

The same storm system takes a further eastward track, from inland in the Southeast to the Mid Atlantic coast. This would also allow for rain to fall, however there would possibly be enough cold air on the backside of the system for a changeover to snow. Timing for this would also be Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, and would have a chance to bring a White Christmas to much of the Mid Atlantic west of the Chesapeake Bay and north of central Virginia.

SCENARIO C: The entire storm system does not undergo significant development, with little to no impact to the Mid Atlantic outside of increased cloud coverage.
Please stay tuned for the latest as our team continues to collaborate. 

(Forecaster Jason M.; Collaborator: Forecaster Josh O.)

(Map- NOAA HPC forecast surface weather map for Christmas Day)

Monday, December 19, 2011

There's SNOW place like home...
Photo by Cirrus Weather, 8:40 PM CST 12/19/11

10:20 PM CST 12/19/11 
BLIZZARD RAGES IN THE CENTRAL PLAINS | Affiliate Forecaster Cirrus Weather in Hays, Kansas reports over 5" of snow has fallen in the past few hours, and the snow continues to pile up across the state. The Kansas Department of Transportation will reportedly close a long section of I-70 due to deteriorating road conditions and numerous accidents. A look at current road closures from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

For on-going updates about the storm's impacts, you can view local reports at the Winter Stormcast | Central Plains page and at our Affiliate Forecaster's site: CirrusWeather. 

9:00 PM CST 12/19/11
STORM IMPACTS IN THE PANHANDLES...SEVERE RISK IN THE SOUTH | Affiliate Forecaster ConvectiveWeather in Wylie, Texas posted this report to their facebook page regarding impacts of the storm in the Texas panhandle. In addition, this report on Convective's main site details the overnight tornado and severe weather risk being produced by this storm in southern Texas and the southern Mississippi Valley.

"Light to moderate snow continues across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles this evening. Although snow rates are generally in the light to moderate range, very strong winds associated with the low are resulting in low visibilities, especially north and west of Amarillo. Numerous roadways have been shut down across the Panhandles due to the very hazardous conditions. 

Overnight, the heaviest snowfall will probably occur north of the Amarillo area; however, an additional 1-2 inches is still possible by early Tuesday morning. The big winners, thus far, have been Dalhart and Boise City which have picked up several inches of snow. The Boise City area has seen at least 6-8 inches of snow with probably a few 10+ inch report."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"There's no place like home, 
unless there's NO power."
-What Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz might have said in this storm

National Weather Service offices across in the 5-state region of from northeast New Mexico and southeast Colorado to northwest Texas, the Oklahoma panhandle and Kansas have upgraded Blizzard Watches to Blizzard Warnings. 

Computer model projections indicate that sustained winds will reach or exceed 35 mph for a period of at least 3 hours, reducing visibility to less than 1/4 of a mile at height of the storm by Monday night. Snow may begin in southwestern Kansas by daybreak and spread across the state, becoming heavy with winds increasing throughout the day. For more information on our team's monitoring of this storm, and for local public safety information, please visit the Central Plains Winter Stormcast zone on facebook.

(Forecasters Foot, Jackson and Affiliate Forecaster CirrusWx)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shopping today...Blizzard tomorrow

2:30 PM CST 12/18/11 
OVERVIEW OF PROJECTED SNOWFALL AMOUNTS | Winter Stormcaster Greg Jackson assembled this regional roundup of anticipated snow totals as reported by the National Weather Service, Central Region Headquarters in the affected areas of the Central Plains. For on going, rapid updates on this storm from our team we encourage readers to visit and like  our Central Plains Winter Stormcast Page.

NWS Dodge City, KS (Southwest & Central Kansas):
  • Along Rt. 56 (Dodge city): 6-12” | Syracuse, KS:  5-10”
  • Central Kansas: Antonino, KS: 3-6"

NWS Topeka, KS (NE Kansas):
  • Manhattan:  4-8” and a trace of sleet and freezing drizzle
  • Salina: 4-8”

NWS Wichita, Kansas (South-Central Kansas):
  • Kingman-Hutchinson-Hillsboro: 4-8”+
  • Turnpike Corridor: 2-5”

NWS Amarillo, TX (Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle):
  • OK and extreme NW TX Panhandle: 12-15”
  • Boise City, OK: 12-15” | Guymon, OK: 12-15” | Beaver, OK: 9-12”
  • Dalhart, TX: 12-15”

10:10 AM CST 12/18/11
BLIZZARD WATCH IN EFFECT | The National Weather Service has posted a Blizzard Watch across a large portion of central and southern Kansas extending to the north Texas panhandle, the Oklahoma panhandle, and includes extreme southeast Colorado and much of eastern New Mexico. 

Accumulations may reach or exceed 12 inches in some locations of southwest Kansas with up to 9 inches in the areas denoted by a Winter Storm Watch. Sustained winds of 25 mph or greater will create life-threatening whiteout conditions across a large portion of the area noted by a Blizzard Watch. Local and regional information for the affected areas is posted in our Winter Stormcast | Central Plains page. 


Pre-Holiday Blizzard?

10:45 PM EST 12/17/11 | Affiliate Forecaster Cirrus Weather in Hays, Kansas has been tracking for several days the potential of a major winter storm for the southern and central Plains. The elements necessary for a prolonged period of heavy snow, including a southward pressing cold front interacting with significant Gulf of Mexico moisture, will lead to potential blizzard conditions. These possibilities have been detailed by the Dodge City, KS National Weather Service in their multi-media briefing this evening. Blizzard Watches are already in effect for eastern New Mexico, with Winter Storm Watches spreading from the Oklahoma & Texas panhandles into central Kansas.  

The original post by Cirrus Weather on 12/16 stated "I do believe Southwest Kansas, portions of South Central, Central, and Northeast Kansas may receive the heavier snow." After a full day of observational and model analyses, and comparison with NOAA Snow Probability Maps, it became clear to Cirrus Weather that a significant to major event was in the offing for Monday into Tuesday. The preliminary snowfall projection below reflecting this thinking, which was issued a full hour (at 6:50 PM CST) before KWCH, the Wichita, Kansas local TV station released theirs at 7:50 PM CST.

On going updates and forecasts for the Central Plains will also be posted in our newest Winter Stormcast page for that region. If you have family in the area or are heading to the southern/central Plains on business or vacation, we encourage you to visit and like our Winter Stormcast page and the facebook page for Cirrus Weather.

It made us think, if Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz was a "Powderhound" she might look at this storm and say, "Toto, there's no place like home...unless there's NO POWER."  If you live in this region and are just learning about the blizzard potential, we urge you to check on your elderly neighbors or young families in advance of the storm. 

Additional updates and forecasts for the Central Plains on Sunday will be posted in the Winter Stormcast Page. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

1 comment:
Paying it forward

9:30 AM EST 12/15/2011 Long time readers remember our coverage of the 2-2011 Chicago Blizzard, led by Affiliate Forecaster Joe Puma of Puma Weather: Chicago. This event was a prime example of how our student-led Affiliate program provides hard-working forecasters in any state the opportunity to have their reports become the "lead story" on this page when breaking weather occurs in their area. 

In our team's Kevin Spacey-inspired quest to keep "paying it forward," we welcome new Affiliate Forecaster StormCentral, also from the Chicago area and acquainted with Puma Weather. Co-owner/Operator Matt B., has provided our readers with a national overview for the rest of December in our Winter Stormcast page. Please give a welcome to Matt and his staff while your U.S. Winter Stormcast Team continues preparing for paybacks. We all know it is only a matter of time before winter exacts revenge for the recent nice weather. (Lead Advisor Mr. Foot / Outreach Director Nikki B.)

The Twelve Days of "Snowless" ?

9:30 AM EST 12/14/2011 "On the first day of Snowless my true love gave to me..."  Um, oh snap, that is not how the song starts. Truth is, were the timeless holiday tune viewed in a climate context, Powderhounds in the central and eastern U.S. would agree that Mother Nature has not been showing her true love with snow of late. Recent perceptions of a snowy start to winter, such as the Mid-South snowstorm and the Northeast Shocktober storm, are unfortunately trounced by a year-to-year comparison of U.S. & southern Canada snowcover.  

Imagery from the NOAA National Ice Center: 12/13/2011 (left) and  12/13/2010 (right) shows a confounding observation of La Nina winters. 

  • Below normal snowfall in all the wrong places creates long "lead times" before "tough to snow" places in the East see Charles Dickens-type snow by the holidays. 
  • As reported in the UK Telegraph, historians believe the "Little Ice Age" aberration in the early 1800's allowed Mr. Dickens to observe six Snowy Christmases before he turned nine years old
  • This December 5th-like coincidence sparked the snowy images in A Christmas Carol and led to our Currier & Ives visions of glistening sleigh rides by the eve of St. Nick. Ah perchance to dream...why is climate data such a doggy downer?
Star Trek's Captain Kirk might say, "Don't mince words Bones, tell me what you really think."  The response from our Winter Stormcast Team might have to take a line from Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men*, and ask if we can handle the truth (*Youtube excerpts). We know many of you are looking for a little White in the Winter nightwhile lighting the Menorah or the Advent Candles.  

Snowless ski resort in December
Photo credit: Reuters
The truth? Snow for the Eastern U.S. remains possible BEFORE or AFTER the holidays, but probably not during. To be assured real holiday snow, the west remains best, so plan on outsourcing the family to areas covered by our Central Colorado page or  our Pacific Northwest page. The time-honored period between Dec 21 and 25, does not appear likely for the Mid-Atlantic, Carolinas or Ohio Valley. There is hope elsewhere, as reported by Affiliate Forecaster Matt B. of StormCentral in Illinois

A new report on the projected U.S. weather pattern for remainder of December is posted in our Winter Stormcast Zone. Until then, you might want to prepare for another "Twelve Days of Snowless..."  Good things will come to those who wait...for January. 

Many thanks to Matt B. the StormCentral staff and the Winter Stormcast Team for this report. (Lead Advisor Mr. Foot)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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The 2009-2010 Student Climate 
Collaborative of Foot's Forecast

Forecaster Greg Jackson and
Photocaster Emily Rund with the
Baltimore Ecosystem Study  
Forecasters Mike Natoli and
Connor Meehan leading a hurricane
simulation for a county government

Program Basics

The Program: This no-cost, interactive, collaborative program is an investigative research effort between high school and/or middle school science classes in Maryland, the Mid-Atlantic and with motivated students and teachers across in North America. 

Our Objective: Provide teachers in science, and their students from grades 5 to 12  an opportunity to monitor, report and collaborate on basic climate indicators over the period of one season. Only data and verification is publicly posted on 

Desired Result: A multi-class collaborative effort results in one or more class accurately forecasting a winter weather event in their region well in advance of professional scientists using widely available climate data. 

The three classes involved in the 2009-2010 Climate Collaborative were fortunate to have their work on a front page story by the Baltimore Sun in December 2009. With Science Reporter Frank Roylance from the Sun, whom had been a long-time reader of Foot's Forecast prior to launch of the Student Collaborative, saw the increasingly bold forecasts posted by our team. On a festive Friday before Christmas, Mr. Roylance left a message on our site which read, "Mr. Foot - Give me a call at the Sun." 

Mr. Roylance's interview of Mr. Foot and his students led to the ground-breaking article above. After that, it was off to a media & forecasting race which continues to this day. Examples of all the science-centered excitement which has developed in the past two years can be found in our section titled "Read about us in the media."  You can also get a three-minute overview of the Foot's Forecast team history via this Youtube video capture of a December 2010 by Meteorologist Justin Berk of Baltimore's ABC-2 News.

  Previous multi-class collaborations

January 2010: Student and teacher teams are welcome to generate their own investigations for the second winter pattern. In the interim, it would be of value to do a comparison of how the pattern may have changed following the December storm: 
  • If so, how is it different and would this suggest the outcome of our weekend event will be different than the December 19 storm? 
  • Among the interesting data sets which have changed markedly since then are Chesapeake Bay and East Coast sea surface temperatures. 
  • This will no doubt affect the upcoming storm and what impacts it has on the Mid-Atlantic

STUDENT REPORTS as of 1.8.2010

Mr. Foot's 9th grade students at the Crossroads Center  
on Thursday co-investigated liquid equivalents for selected cities in the Mid-Atlantic, and calculated projected snowfall amounts based on a general 16 to 14:1 ratio of snow to liquid. Their predictions included:

Mr. D.C.
Pittsburgh, PA: 6.4" | Phila., PA: 3.6" | Baltimore, MD: 2.5" | DC: 1.5"
Mr. D.S.
Pittsburgh, PA: 5.6" | Phila., PA: 4.2" | Baltimore, MD: 2.2" | DC: 1.7"
Ms. E.C.
Pittsburgh, PA: 6.4" | Phila., PA: 3.6" | Baltimore, MD: 2.5" | DC: 1.5"
Mr. M.H.
Pittsburgh, PA: 4.6" | Phila., PA: 2.5"| Baltimore, MD: 2.4" | DC: 1.0
Mr. C.B.
Pittsburgh, PA: 8.7" | Phila., PA: 4.8" | Baltimore, MD: 1.9" | DC: 2.2"

Ms. Gerst's 5th grade students: Perry Hall Elem.
conducted the following analysis of local media forecasts:

First, my students discussing the Friday storm information posted on the main site. Then they investigated what local forecasters were saying about the storm. We happened to think of this right when the noon news was being broadcasted! Our findings:
- Sandra Shaw from Channel 11 said 1-2 inch dusting.
- Tim Williams from Channel 13 was in line with 1-3" that everyone else is saying. He was also leaning towards 3" and possibly up to 4.

My class noted the amount of moisture associated with the storm and concluded that we would get more than 1-2 inches for sure. One student also remarked about how cold the ground is right now. The class concluded that this would help the snow to stick immediately. The cold temps would also up the snow ratios. A class poll was taken, and it was agreed a 2-hour delay would be a lock, though many students also felt school could end up being closed!   - Ms. Gerst, Perry Hall Elementary

Ms. Abrahm's 9th students at Mt. St. Joseph's HS 
report the following analyses regarding the upcoming "clipper" snow event on Thursday 1/7 and Friday 1/8:

1/5/10: Students at MSJ spent part of their class defining "Alberta Clipper" in relation to the projected path of this week's storm. The MSJ students agree with present potential of a fast moving storm lasting approximatly 4 hours and depositing about 3" of snow in central MD. They also propose that if this storm potential is realized with a 3-4 AM arrival time schools in the targeted area would experience a 2 hour delay. - Mrs. A

1/4/10: The MSJ science students have been exploring the potential for a late week storm. Significant cold will stay in place with dry conditions until some moisture, that may arrive from the Gulf of Meixco to provide the fuel needed for a potential snowfall. The negative NAO and AO certainly provide the right stage. Students agree that tracking the moisture needed for snow will be the key for a storm this week. - Mrs. A

1/3/10 Happy New Year all! With the NAO still negative and the anticipation of it dropping even more, our early thoughts are that we could be in for a major hit late this week with a cold air mass in place. As we return to school on Monday the MSJ student collaborative will be going to work to examine the potential for winter storms. With exams completed, we'll be able to assist our public school counterparts. 

    Monday, December 12, 2011

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    Welcome to the Student Climate 
    Collaborative of Foot's Forecast

    Forecaster Greg Jackson and
    Photocaster Emily Rund with the
    Baltimore Ecosystem Study  
    Forecasters Mike Natoli and
    Connor Meehan leading a hurricane
    simulation for a county government


    The Program: This no-cost, interactive, collaborative program is an investigative research effort between several elementary, middle or high school science classes from the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast with members of the Foot's Forecast Team across in North America. 

    The Process: Provide teachers in science, and their students from grades 5 to 12  an opportunity to monitor, report and collaborate on basic climate indicators over the period of one season. Student-generated forecasts, data and verification is submitted to the Research Team of Foot's Forecast by the classroom teacher. Results are posted on for viewing by our U.S. readership. 

    Desired Result: A multi-class collaborative effort results in one or more class accurately forecasting a winter or severe weather event in their region well using NOAA weather and climate data. Efforts of the students, teacher and school are then featured by the media in a local TV or print news story.  

    It all began with three classes in the inaugural 2009-2010 Climate Collaborative based in Maryland. The tracking and reporting of climate data eventually led to all three teachers and the students being featured on a front page story by the Baltimore Sun in December 2009Science Reporter Frank Roylance from the Sun, whom had been a long-time reader of Foot's Forecast prior to the Student Collaborative, saw the increasingly bold forecasts posted by our team. On a festive Friday before Christmas, Mr. Roylance left a comment on our site which read, "Mr. Foot - Give me a call at the Sun." 

    Mr. Roylance's interview of Mr. Foot, which was preceded by the Sun having following the collaborative work of students, led to the article. History will record it was the passion for student science, displayed by Ms. Melissa Gerst at Perry Hall Elementary in Baltimore County, and Ms. Pat Abrahms at Mount Saint Joseph's High School in Baltimore City, that won the day for their students. After Baltimore got pummeled with 18-21 inches, it was off to a media & forecasting race which continues to this day. 

    The section titled "Read about us in the media" is a two-year overview of all that has happened since. You can also get a three-minute overview of the Foot's Forecast team history via this Youtube video capture of a December 2010 by Meteorologist Justin Berk of Baltimore's ABC-2 News.

    Student teams in each class, under supervision from the teacher, tracked basic data such as changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation, El Nino sea surface temperature anomalies and other factors. The data was reported on this page as featured below. By December 16, 2009, the students knew in advance that a significant winter storm would develop for the Mid-Atlantic for December 19-20.  The very next day, 12/17/09, the multi-class team came out with a bold headline: "We have a situation." Using precise NOAA data as taught by the teachers, the student Stormcasters were able to publish a scientifically-supported forecast calling "final accumulations may exceed 12 inches in the metro areas of Washington and Baltimore.This forecast was published over 48 hours prior to the first snowflake falling! Not bad for the first collaboration.

    PAST PARTICIPANTS | Link to collaborations from 2009-2010


    A geographic overview of
    Climate Indicators, available via 
    email  upon request 
    Scientists, teachers and students alike in Foot's Forecast recognize is not feasible to track every climate index, as shown on this NOAA list.  To succinctly organize the key details, students track data in the five categories as explained below. 

    The outcome of the program is to teach students a "wide-angle" perspective on how to use climate data as a "decision-support tool" in identifying patterns leading to accurate predictions of winter weather events in North America...5 to 10 days ahead.

    • BIOSPHERE: Tracking seasonal and local bird migration patterns across North America. Examples include the Annenberg Program and the Climate Institute to study changes in migration trends due to shifts in climate. This locally-relevant set of data points generates simple but worthwhile data for students to compare bird feeding and visitation habits over time.  
    "Collaboration" implies that it is not just one person's viewpoint or rules. Our program is open to the innovation and insight that a new class or a fresh pair of teacher eyes can bring to our team. Any participating class can choose how much or how little to monitor,it is not a daily requirement, unless the supervising teacher prefers. For example, some data points such as the ENSO report, are only posted weekly by the US Climate Prediction Center (CPC), whereas the NAO Index is posted every 2-3 days.

    An ideal "Climate Collaborative" would be three to five classes, each representing an academic level from K-16: (1 each from elementary, middle, high, undergraduate, graduate)

    • At the initial stage, students are tracking data by the method agreed upon with their teacher--either by Google Docs, a shared spreadsheet or some other "web filter-friendly method" of which the teacher is already familiar.  
    • On Monday or Tuesday of each week, data and forecasts will be assembled by students, and are reported to the Foot's Forecast Team by their teacher via email.
    • Each Wednesday for about 6 weeks, student results are posted on and advertised to our 60,000-strong readership in Facebook across all 50 states and 100 countries. In Maryland alone, there are thousands of teachers whom regularly visit our website, so student results will most certainly be read by many people!
    QUESTIONS?  Interested teachers are welcome to submit questions or register for the project with brief statement of interest to Please include:
    • Brief description of your own scientific & teaching background, 
    • Your school, grade level taught, location 
    • Your recommendations on what "collaborative portals" would be most efficient for you and your students, in consideration of school web filters.

    Foot's Forecast believes this collaborative program is one example of the three essentials of academic achievement: Rigor, Relevance, Relationships. We seek to follow the exemplar for effective instruction set by the Common Core Standards of the Maryland State Department of Education.  Consider...
    • Rigor: Understanding interactions between atmosphere-land-ocean is not only a common core curriculum learning goal, it also is a quest humankind has pursued for thousands of years. Reliable data available from government and academic institutions, enables K-12 students to access the same information used daily by researchers and forecasters worldwide. Using this data to analyze and assess complex interactions develops important thinking and decison-making skills.

    • Relevance: Everyone is impacted by significant changes in the weather as influenced by climate. We believe students, their parents and teachers are actually the largest segment of the population on the "front lines" charged with trying to understand and explaining changes in climate...other then TV or government meteorologists and scientists.  Putting students at the helm of a collaborative project, knowing their results will be read by hundreds or thousands of people will demonstrate to the student how crucial their education is to success and integrity.

    • Relationships: Monitoring weekly climate data for half the planet requires many eyes on many targets. In Fall 2009, indications were clear that the Eastern U.S. would  face the most disruptive and high impact winter season since 2002-03. After Baltimore, MD alone received 60 inches of snow in 15 days, the collaborative project's suspicions could not have been more "spot-on." Going forward, the actions of the next collaborative may build positive peer- and mentor- relationships in untold ways.   The project also affords students teaming opportunities to solve real problems, build stronger relationships with their classmates, teacher, within their schools and with students from other regions. 

      Ready to innovate the future for your students? Send us a simple email to and let's get it started.