All Weather News

Southern Downpours, Northwest USA Sizzles

17 Aug 2012, 7:08 am

141,412 cloud to ground lightning strikes yesterday as of 9:48 pm. Details from Vaisala below.

August 15 marks the start of what is, historically, the most active 30-day period for hurricane activity in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

$ 15.97 trillion dollars: America’s debt.

$ 15.3 trillion dollars: 2012 GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Source: Bloomberg. Photo: AP, Business Insider.

Weather Gone Wild. Here’s an excerpt of an excellent cover story in this month’s National Geographic Magazine: “…There’s been a change in the weather. Extreme events like the Nashville flood—described by officials as a once-in-a-millennium occurrence—are happening more frequently than they used to. A month before Nashville, torrential downpours dumped 11 inches of rain on Rio de Janeiro in 24 hours, triggering mud slides that buried hundreds. About three months after Nashville, record rains in Pakistan caused flooding that affected more than 20 million people. In late 2011 floods in Thailand submerged hundreds of factories near Bangkok, creating a worldwide shortage of computer hard drives. And it’s not just heavy rains that are making headlines. During the past decade we’ve also seen severe droughts in places like Texas, Australia, and Russia, as well as in East Africa, where tens of thousands have taken refuge in camps. Deadly heat waves have hit Europe, and record numbers of tornadoes have ripped across the United States. Losses from such events helped push the cost of weather disasters in 2011 to an estimated $150 billion worldwide, a roughly 25 percent jump from the previous year. In the U.S. last year a record 14 events caused a billion dollars or more of damage each, far exceeding the previous record of nine such disasters in 2008.”

Photo credit above: “Supercell thunderstorm near Glasgow, Montana.” Photograph by Sean R. Heavey, Barcroft Media/Landov.

Friday Severe Risk. The latest push (more like a shove) of cool, Canadian air sparks more severe storms today from Huntsville to Chattanooga to Lynchburg. Map above: SPC.

Today’s Weather Map. The WRF model, valid at 4 pm today, shows a band of strong to severe storms stretching from West Virginia to the parishes of northern Louisiana. A bubble of cool, Canadian high pressure treats the Midwest, Great Lakes and Ohio Valley to comfortable sunshine, while the west continues to sizzle under a blazing sun.

Expansive Puddles. NOAA HPC is predicting some 2-4″ rainfall amounts across much of the Deep South, the heaviest rains over the next 5 days forecast from Louisiana to Biloxi into central Florida. A dry sky lingers from the Midwest into the Pacific Northwest.

Lightning Explorer. Over 141,000 lightning strikes yesterday as of 9:48 pm (when I was posting this?) Good grief. Looking for lightning data, preferably for free? You may not be able to do better than Lightning Explorer, from Vaisala. One word of caution: data is delayed by 20 minutes. This is NOT real-time lightning information (which comes with a charge from any weather company, including my own, Ham Weather). But using Explorer you can see if lightning is nearby, and see the direction of motion of T-storm cells (the most recent strikes show up as white on the map). A useful tool.

Preparing Your Home For A Hurricane. Here’s a very timely story from The Washington Post; an excerpt: “…First, Kahn recommends buying C and D batteries. They were the first things to fly off the shelves during the derecho, he said. Then, stock up on flashlights, A-cell batteries, toiletries, fans and emergency cooking supplies such as grills or hot plates that work on propane. “As soon as something like this is projected to hit, the battery-operated stuff gets wiped out immediately the same way bread disappears when a blizzard is coming,” he said. “So it’s in your best interests to skip that step and keep a small reserve handy.” When it comes to prepping your home for a hurricane, the two biggest threats are roof damage and flooding. Claude McGavy, the executive director of the National Association of Home Inspectors, said both are severely underestimated.”

Photo credit above: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP – The Martin Luther King Memorial is seen the morning after Hurricane Irene moved through the East Coast in 2011.”

Study: Freshwater Helps Hurricanes Strengthen Faster. I had no idea – more breaking research on the hurricane front; here’s an excerpt from The Petri Dish: “…Hurricanes feed off of fresh water, according to a report from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Researchers at the PNNL, Texas A&M University and the Ocean University of China examined ten years worth of data from tropical cyclones and found that when hurricanes move over ocean regions ripe with fresh water, they can quickly intensify. While researchers believe that the probability of hurricanes moving over fresh water is only 10 to 23 percent, the impact of the occurrence is quite dramatic. In fact, researchers think that a hurricane under such conditions can become 50 percent more intense. The findings are reported in a study that will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.”

Aircraft Radar Shows Pilots Airspace In 3-D. A local firm, Honeywell, is getting some well-deserved attention over a new way to visualize weather, up in the air. I hope my next Delta flight has this innovation (especially when I’m bumping my way across the Rockies). USA Today has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…For the first time, the new radar, now being installed in business, military and commercial aircraft, allows pilots to “see” turbulence and other bad weather such as lightning and hail from nearly 70 miles away. The radar, manufactured by Honeywell, “looks at the airspace in front of the aircraft in three dimensions, which is an improvement over existing radars,” says Honeywell senior chief engineer Ratan Khatwa. Current radars used by pilots now take only a two-dimensional slice of the atmosphere, the width and length, for instance, of storms crossing an area. “It provides information to the flight crew where the real weather hazards such as lightning and hail are which is not available today,” he says.”

Photo credit above: By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY. “Honeywell’s on-board aircraft radar gives pilots a better picture of storms and inclement weather in their path.”

Enlightening. Thanks to Mulvaney Shane, who snapped this electrifying photo near Charlestown, Indiana on Thursday.

Flash Flood. Persistent thunderstorms sparked significant flooding across the New Orleans area; this photo courtesy of the local National Weather Service.

Hail And High Water. Thanks to Richard Pacheco, who drove through a severe hailstorm in New Mexico Thursday. On Twitter he wrote: “So much hail thought it was snow!!

Seattle Heat. One of our (amazing) developers, Nicholas Shipes, sent in this photo from Seattle yesterday, where temperatures were approaching 90 F. Keep in mind few people in the Northwest have A/C. The vast majority of the year they don’t need it. Pic courtesy of Twitter.

One Unusual Cloud. Ensign Brett Kruhoeffer, based in Pensacola (where he’s training to fly helicopters for the Navy) shared this strange-looking cloud on Tuesday. What the heck is that thing? Wait a minute….


Tranquility Base. Thanks to Leslie Berg, who captured the serenity of a Mission Beach, California sunset.

“Ask Paul”. Weather-related Q&A:


Our trip out west to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons was super. I experienced “dry lightning” and saw an actual wall cloud on the way out there. The wall cloud held together only about 10-15 minutes, but had a decent thunderstorm with it. You know that smell you have when rain is darn near your doorstep or during the first few minutes of a shower, usually most noticeable during sprinkles?
Well, when we actually did encounter rain out west, there wasn’t an odor with the rain.The one band of T-storms we saw on the way out had what I call a rain-cooled fresh smell. Was in the low 90s with a breeze from the south but the storm we had saw winds change from the north, and when the rain came though, temperatures fell 25 degrees. The rain events that didn’t smell were east of Rapid City, and once in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Any reason why the rain out there didn’t smell?

Aaron Coates
Hennepin County Sheriff’s 911
Golden Valley

Aaron – there is considerable debate about the source of this smell (usually found before a rainfall). The best answer I could find was from (great name for a web site, huh?). Paul writes: “the smell after rain is actually the smell of bacteria – actinomycetes. They grow worldwide in damp soil. When the soil dries out, they die. But before they die, the make spores. These spores are really tough and can survive dry conditions for years. When raindrops hit the ground they make a mist of water and dirt, which you both breathe in and smell.”

Why didn’t you smell this in South Dakota or Wyoming? It may be a function of topsoil. Here in the Midwest we have rich, deep loamy topsoil, the envy of the world in many respects. But the farther west you go the thinner the topsoil becomes (and the fewer spores available to mix with rain). That’s the only thing I can think of offhand. Thanks for a great question!



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

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