Goodbye Aletta, Southwest Fires Continue and a Stormy Weekend
Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Thanks to Nicholas Erwin for this picture out of Waterbury, VT. Showers and thunderstorms exceeded the severe threshold for wind (58mph) and hail (1″) in a few spots.
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For the most part, it was another fairly quiet May day (severe weather-wise). There were only 35 total severe weather reports with NO tornadoes reported.
This is interesting… pulling up the numbers for this May 2012. Statistics show that we are on track for a below (3 year) average tornado count. Through the 16th, there have only been 71 PRELIMINARY tornadoes and we are on pace for around 137 this month. The 3 year average for May is 279 and in May of 2011 we had 326 tornadoes with a staggering 178 fatalities!
Why So Quiet?
Typically, May is a transition month with cold air retreating toward the North Pole as the sun’s intensity increases and brings warmer weather back to northern hemisphere. The clash between the cold and warm air churns up storm systems that help to crank out severe weather across the U.S.. May 2012 has been plagued by warmer than normal conditions and our recent bubble of warmth out west has pushed into the central part of the country keeping severe weather chances at a minimum. Ridges of high pressure generally promote dry, sinking air, which is not conducive of widespread thunderstorm activity.
Storms Return by the Weekend
Quiet weather won’t last forever, a trough of low pressure sliding into the western half of the nation through the end of the week will eventually swing into the Plains by the weekend. This will help to promote thunderstorm activity and bring severe weather chances back into the picture.
The trough of low pressure will be associated with a surface low pressure system, which will help to trigger thunderstorms across the Plains. The Storm Prediction Center has a SLIGHT RISK of severe weather for parts of Central Plains from Oklahoma to Nebraska. There could be a few strong to severe storms along the cold front as far north as the Dakotas or Minnesota Saturday afternoon/evening.
The Hydrological Prediction Center shows heavier rain associated with this next storm system across the Central and Northern Plains through the end of the week and weekend. By early next week, the precipitation associated with this storm moves into the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes Region.
Stunning NASA Images
“This is a composite of a series of images photographed from a mounted camera on the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, from approximately 240 miles above Earth. Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit said of the about photographic techniques used to achieve the images: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.” A total of 18 images photographed by the astronaut-monitored stationary camera were combined to create this composite.”
Our first named storm of the 2012 Eastern Pacific Hurricane season developed May 15th… Aletta didn’t do much and now has been downgraded to a Tropical Disturbance.
“Tropical Storm Aletta formed on May 15, 2012, becoming the first tropical cyclone to be tracked by the National Hurricane Center during the 2012 season. A Northeast Pacific storm, Aletta is south of the Baja Peninsula and heading west with no threat to the mainland. The recently launched Suomi-NPP satellite, operated by NOAA and NASA, flew over the storm on May 15th, providing a glimpse inside the storm. The satellite’s ATMS sensor can detect subtle differences in moisture using microwave energy, allowing it to “see” through the cloud tops.“
Active Eastern Pacific
Another cluster of storms has developed and the National Hurricane Center is keeping close tabs on it… At this point, there is a 30% to 50% chance that it will grow into another tropical cyclone.
Ongoing wildfires in the Southwest have been making news, but how about the fires in western Mexico? Thanks to Earth Snapshot for the picture below:
“Fires have been burning by the western coast of Mexico, near the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, over the last week (click here for images captured earlier this month). Here, plumes of smoke from the fires can be observed just west of an area of cloud-cover. There does not appear to be much wind, or winds blowing constantly in the same direction, as the plumes of smoke are remaining confined near the source of the blazes.”
Fires continues in Arizona and Colorado. The biggest fire is east of Phoenix, the Sunflower fire, which has consumed nearly 12,000 acres.
Thanks for checking in on this Thursday, have a great rest of your week/weekend!
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-Meteorologist Todd Nelson-