Friday, November 11, 2011

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Team remembrance of Veterans Day
by Lead Forecaster Greg Jackson, 
Three Rivers Team of Southwest Pennsylvania

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by Nick Scirico, NC State University
9:30 PM EST 11/11/11  Greetings everyone, we hope this was a good Veterans Day Friday for you. On days like today weather is an important part of our lives, but also is the least important. Today is a day to honor and remember those who have given their lives and service for our freedom we have today. 

We honor them by attending parades, visiting a burial site of a fallen veteran, or paying tribute in the calmness of our hearts. Students on our team will or already have honored our veterans by participating in school sponsored events. 

In Washington State, Mark Ingalls, our Lead Forecaster for the Pacific Northwest in Washington State attended an assembly Thursday in honor of our fallen heroes. In Georgia, Daniel Ross, our Southeast Team Director from the Metro Atlanta area, attended a Georgia Institute of Technology football game Thursday night for honoring a returning soldiers from Iraq, who saw his  family for the first time since arriving. Former Georgia Institute of Technology players were also acknowledged for their service to our country. 

In Maryland Mike Natoli, Lead Forecaster from the Bayshore Region and the Central Maryland Team, will be marching with his fellow marching band classmates in a Veterans Day parade held in Harford County. 

In Pennsylvania, Forecasters Matt Balash and Greg Jackson, of the Three Rivers Team will hear the roll call, at California University of PA, of more than 6,000 names of the service members who have served and fallen in the wars of both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Many schools and colleges across the nation will participate in this roll call and observe a minute of silence at 2 pm Eastern Time. We encourage you to take a moment and remember in your own way the sacrifices  of many whom have gone before to make our country the "land of the Free and the home of the Brave."

About the Author: 
Greg "Winterman" Jackson is a freshman at California University of Pennsylvania majoring in Environmental Science. Greg has earned the title of Lead Forecaster on our team for a long record of innovative leadership extending back to his high school days at North Carroll High in Carroll County, MD. Greg was among the first high school students to join Foot's Forecast in December 2009, and is the student responsible for the one sentence which launched the facebook revolution on our team, and may possibly have influenced the National Weather Service to initiate Facebook pages. Greg led the charge to write this article about how our team is honoring Veterans Day.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

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About that Alaska storm...

12:15 PM EST 11/10/11 HISTORIC ALASKA STORM TO IMPACT LONG RANGE PATTERNS? While many in the Meteorological community know the Gulf of Alaska is a breeding ground for major coastal storms, few people alive today can remember a time when hurricane-force driven snow struck our northernmost state with such ferocity.  Our team has posted   on the subject today because we were searching for a reasonable scientific overview from others on why this storm occurred. We wanted to provide a basis for answering two core questions we know many of our readers (and our own members)  might be asking:
  1. WHAT caused the Alaska storm to be so extreme?
  2. WHEN is the next major event? 
  3. HOW could this storm affect the winter pattern?
SYNOPSIS: Our Winter Stormcast and Long Range Teams believe the Alaska storm is another step in the "early Winter" pattern which has been evolving in the U.S. since Hurricane Irene. We anticipate a continuation of the severity and frequency of "billion dollar"  high impact events in the U.S. for the winter ahead. In 2011, fourteen events have caused over  $1 billion in reported damages,  per event.  We project the next significant to major snow event in the Eastern U.S. for the November 25 to December 5 time period. This event, if snowfall may resemble the outcome of the October 29-30, 2011 storm.  

What caused the Alaska storm to be so extreme?
OUR SHORT ANSWER: The November 2011 Alaskan Blizzard could have resulted from long term changes in the Nino-Nina pattern, as well as above normal sea surface temperatures. 
Our early hypothesis is centered on the possible global "unraveling" of energy changes in the atmosphere due to wild swings in the El Nino-La Nina pattern since Fall 2009. We combine that possible instability in the overall upper level flow with the observation that sea surface temperatures in Polar regions have been warming at a much faster rate than most other regions of the world. 
NOAA visible imagery of the blizzard
approaching Alaska on 11/8/11
Rationale: A customizable NOAA animation of how Global Sea Surface Temperatures have changed just from November 2010 to November 2011. The NOAA Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Anomaly map shown above indicates the area over which the Gulf of Alaska storm formed, prior to being designated a "blizzard," has reported SST's between 1.5 and 3.5 degrees Celsius above normal. That area of water, currently ranging in the low 50's F, would be considered relatively "cold" by most people.  However, the SST charts show the surface water temps in that region are running at least  2.7 to 6.3 degrees F above normal. Not a big difference? If you were able to bask in 70 F degree water at Ocean City, MD on Halloween, we think you would notice the water was not the normal 59-65 degree range expected that time of year.
A scientist's view: We offer this excerpt from an 11/08/11 article in Our Amazing Planet, in which Meteorologist Jim Brader from the NWS Fairbanks, AK Office stated, 
"Something that's kind of unusual in this case is that all of our computer models were in agreement of this being an extremely strong storm." 
The storm is the product of warm air in the Pacific Ocean tapping into the cold air off Siberia, picking up speed in a jet stream near there and then intensifying as it moved into the Bering Sea  –  "a place where storms typically intensify," Brader told OurAmazingPlanet.
The weird storm has an unusually long fetch length, which is the length of the wind blowing in a single direction over water. In this case it's maybe 1,000 miles (1,600 km), Brader said.

When is the next major event? 
OUR SHORT ANSWER: The Winter Stormcast and Long Range Teams still anticipate significant winter weather in the Eastern United States between November 25 and December 5. We follow the NWS definition of a significant snow as producing 4 or more inches
For comparison: Our team's criteria for a storm to be a "significant event" for the snowfall amount and resulting disruption to affect at least one metropolitan area. Although NOAA's Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) only ranks the October 29-30 event as a 1.75, it was - and remains an extremely disruptive to tens of millions. As of November 10, 2011 - thousands in New England remain without power due to a storm over 10 days prior. Our internal criteria points to the fact that a large portion of the Northeast U.S. received 4 or more inches of snow, which identifies the storm as having significant potential that falls just under NWS Winter Storm Watch criteria of 5 inches. 
For the record: We believe the next snow event to affect the Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast  will produce a similar impact and accumulations as the October 29-30 storm.  

How could this storm affect the winter pattern? 
NOAA: Hurricane Irene
August 27, 2011
OUR SHORT ANSWER: We are not surprised to see this storm pattern evolving, as the Alaskan Blizzard is the second strong event of its kind this fall in the Northeast Pacific. We hypothesize a connection in the storm pattern moving forward from the atmospheric influences produced by Hurricane Irene. As such, we believe the East coast will be targeted again within 30 days following the sequence we outlined both in our October 1, 2011 post and our October 22, 2011 post 

RATIONALE: We believe the atmosphere has been dropping many clues to the pattern ahead. Consider this sequence of events from August 2011 forward: 
  • Late Aug: Hurricane Irene batters East coast
  • Early Sep: "Atmospheric rivers" over the Northeast U.S. tap remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, producing widespread flash floods in areas affected by Irene. 
  • Mid-late Sep: Calm period in the East, stormy in the West.
  • Early Oct: Strongest storm since 2004 strikes Pacific Northwest.
  • Mid Oct: Calm period for much of the country.
  • Late Oct: Historic early season snowstorm in the Northeast U.S.
  • Early Nov: Major snow in Colorado, historic Alaska Blizzard
PROJECTIONS: Based on our expectation of a possible 30-45 day pattern in recent major events across North America, we anticipate the following sequence going forward:
  • Mid Nov: "Indian Summer" warmup in the East, increased storminess in the West
  • Late Nov: Significant West to East storm with a strong cold front reaching the East Coast by Thanksgiving Weekend.
  • Early Dec: Pulses of cold air from the Ohio Valley to the Northeast, resulting in the next significant snow event for this region by December 5. 
  • January: May end up relatively calm and mild for the U.S., similar to January 1990.
If this all plays out, Mother Nature will have given us fair warning. Perhaps hanging the holiday lights early while it is still pleasant might save you the hassle of dealing with in after things turn nasty again...because we believe it is only a matter of time before we all "go into the zone" ahead of the next storm.

(Forecaster Foot, the Winter Stormcast and Long Range Teams)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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Is it, or isn't it?

8:05 AM EST 11/9/11 As reported by Forecaster Jason in our Tropical Zone page on facebook, the 2 PM Tuesday advisory from the National Hurricane Center has redesignated once "Sub-Tropical Storm Sean" into a full tropical system. Since forming earlier today, Sean has transitioned from a subtropical cyclone to one with tropical characteristics, including increased deep convection as shown by  the "clouds blobs" in the right front quadrant. View the latest NOAA visible and enhanced satellite imagery loops

Although near-shore Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect along the Carolina and Virginia coast, primary hazards will be to shipping and cruiseline lanes. For now, Sean ISN'T expected to impact the U.S., save for some rip currents to develop along the Carolina coast in the next 24-48 hours. Maximum sustained winds are still at 45 mph with minimum central pressure of 1002 mb. This storm may strengthen slightly over the next couple days, and as a precaution, the government of Bermuda has hoisted a Tropical Storm Watch for the island. 

Now for something completely different...yet similar. 
Meet "Rolf" the hybrid tropical cyclone.  

We direct you to this link by Dr. Jeff Masters of The Weather Underground for a thought-provoking report on a cyclone which ALSO developed tropical the Mediterranean Sea! Though not a common occurrence due to overall sea surface temperatures below 80 F, tropical storms have formed in the Mediterranean. It IS presenting the classic spiraling signature of a developing cyclone. NOAA's Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS) and the U.S. Navy have designated it 99L and have classified it as a tropical disturbance, based on wind estimates of 40-45 mph. (Forecasters Jason M. and Mr. Foot)