Thursday, March 8, 2012

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What a "Solar Storm" means to you 
(Example story our team prepared in March 2012 on the largest solar flare in six years)

"Could jolt everything from GPS to airline travel and power grids"
-London's UK Daily Mail

10:20 AM EST 03/08/12 (Meteorologist Alex Davies / Forecaster Foot) Have you noticed any interruptions or problems with your GPS or satellite TV signal today? If so, it was affected by a significant Solar Storm, the largest in six years, which ejected from the Sun on Tuesday and begin arriving at Earth late Wednesday. The video above from the NOAA Visualization Laboratory shows how a Coronal Mass Ejection, known as a "Solar Flare" or "Solar Storm" departs the sun and impacts the Earth. Read more in this article.

See the storm yourself Monitor current data output and even see the Solar energy reaching Earth in this link.

Is this going to be a problem? "Space Weather" events such as this can have serious impacts on a wide aspects of society. This NOAA video describes how the Space Weather Prediction Center monitors these potentially disruptive events, which include: Space Weather Forecasters to monitor the data and impacts of these events, which include: 
  • Interrupting satellite communications, GPS devices, ground relay stations and cell phone service;
  • Disrupting or terminating power transmission across older inter-state electrical grid systems;
  • Diverting intercontinental air travel away from polar crossings  

This moderate-to-strong Solar Storm, the arrival of which was is evidenced in this data graph of a "Corona mass cloud" observed by the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, CO.  A storm of this type is not uncommon in the Earth's history as it is associated with normal solar cycles. NOAA's report on this event stated:
"Geomagnetic storms from these kinds of space weather events can affect the power grid, navigation systems and other technologies. NOAA provides space weather forecasting for the nation, and forecasters at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center are issuing updates regularly. The impressive flare from Tuesday evening and a corresponding radiation storm are already triggering high-frequency radio outages at Earth's poles, which could last a day or more, and possible temporary outages on parts of the day-lit Earth."
You may not have heard of this phenomena before because over the past decade, the Sun's solar activity has been minimal in accordance with an 11 year solar cycle. However over roughly the next decade, the Sun is forecasted to be more active, as we approach a period of increase solar storms and increased electromagnetic discharge associated with the same 11 year cycle.

For more information about Climate and Space Weather, and what NOAA Scientists do to monitor these potentially disruptive events, please visit this overview page by the Space Weather Prediction Center. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

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Action in Pacific points to next pattern

Water vapor loop of the Northeast Pacific. What patterns  do you see?

7:00 AM EST 3/7/12 Anxiously looking ahead into the weather pattern for March, we are mindful of the tragedies inflicted on many of our colleagues and communities in the Ohio Valley and Southeast. Heavy wet snow blanketed parts of the Midwest and Mid-South recently ravaged by Friday's tornado outbreak.  Residents trying to recover from 100 twisters in just 24 hours struggled through sub-freezing temperatures and snow earlier this week. We encourage all readers to lend a hand to the recovery effort. Visit the Red Cross website on how you can help affected communities and volunteers. 

Thankfully, high pressure has settled across these areas for remainder of the week, while the next weather makers will arrive along the Pacific Northwest.  The image above is from the current water vapor loop of the Northeast Pacific. The onshore flow of moist sub-tropical air into Mexico and the Southern Plains is fueling a new upper level wind flow pattern across the U.S. 

This could be a contributing factor behind the Climate Prediction Center's 6-10 day temperature outlook projecting high probability of above average temperatures across a large portion of the U.S. in the week ahead. The unfortunate long range reality is that unseasonable warmth early in March more often than not gets shot back down again with another barreling cold front. With that front would come more tornadoes. And it's only March.

Check back later today for additional analyses from our  team of meteorologists and forecasters on the long range potential of a possible pre-Spring "heat wave," and the dangers which may lurk in a persisnently warm and out-of-season pattern. (Forecaster Foot and Meteorologist Randy Thompson)

Did you see it?
Photo credit: Earlier image by NASA during a Perseid meteor shower

8:25 AM EST 3/6/12 (By Advisor/Meteorologist Justin Berk) After Monday's snow showers and clouds dispersed along the East coast, a clear evening sky revealed the perfect venue for a falling meteor! Yes, dozens of reports from Maryland to New England came in around 8 pm with a blue/green streak low in the sky moving from east to west. Now that work and school has started, perhaps you spoke with someone who saw it. If so, please let us know in the comments. More can be found at this website for worldwide meteor sightings.  
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Sunshine and Snowflakes

Traffic cam captures by Capital Region Forecaster Nikki  of 3 or more inches in Central Virginia...again. Readers are always welcome to share their images of  weather in their area within our comment link above. 

2:10 PM EST 3/5/12 (Forecaster Jason M.) The clipper system moving across the Mid-Atlantic is tracking a bit further northward according to latest observations. Flurries and light snow are being reported by our readers in Facebook as far north as the PA/MD line, The latest NWS advisories for the Mid-Atlantic & Northeast
  • Portions of central Virginia will likely receive several inches of snow by early afternoon. View the latest NWS Sterling snowfall graphic.
  • Winter Storm Warnings were recently raised for Albemarle, Orange, and Spotsylvania Counties in Virginia. Snowfall amounts in these areas may reach 4-6 inches. 
  • Winter Weather Advisories have been extended northward and eastward to the Virginia Tidewater (Facebook) in the past hour.
  • A dusting to less than an inch is expected further towards the Washington, D.C. area. 

              Not quiet on the western front

8:00 AM EST 3/5/12  In the east, a fast-moving clipper is dropping an expanding area of unwelcome light to moderate snow on residents of the Ohio Valley and southern Mid-Atlantic in recovery from the tornado outbreak. 

East of the Rockies, Downsloping winds moving TO the east from the southern Rockies have increased fire risk in the Pandhandle area of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas. 

In the southwest, the combination of an upper level low and a surface high has fueled High Wind Warnings to take effect on Tuesday from the southern Sierras to much of central and southern Nevada.  

The trajectory and speed of these winds up to 55 mph tomorrow will produce blowing dust and downed power lines for that region, including Las Vegas. Based on these conditions, it could be said this is one time where what happens in Vegas may not "stay in Vegas." (photo by Forecaster Aaron Salter, on a Leadership Team to the west, Dec 2011; Story by Forecast Advisor Foot)