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Thawing Out – Details on National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

6 Mar 2014, 5:21 am

Lake Superior Approaching The Record Of 95% Ice-Covered. At last report, NOAA showed ice cover of 94.7% – very close to the all-time record set in 1979. NBC News has the story; here’s an excerpt: “..The ice cover may even eclipse the 1979 record of 95 percent with temperatures expected to dip in the coming days after “one polar vortex after another,” Jia Wang, a research ice climatologist for the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, told NBC News. “In the next week or two, the forecast is that the temperatures will be under freezing.The lake still has about 10 days to grow in ice cover — 5 percent is no problem,” he said…”
* Time Magazine has a time-lapse of Lake Superior freezing up here.



Tracking The Ice. According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory this year’s ice cover probably will not exceed the previous record of 94.76% set in 1979.


Winter Severity Index For White-Tailed Deer. We aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of a pioneer winter. The persistent cold is impacting Minnesota’s white-tailed deer population, as tracked by the Minnesota DNR: “The Winter Severity Index (WSI) is a general measure of winter conditions based on the premise that prolonged cold temperatures and deep snow can reduce overwinter survial of white-tailed deer. In Minnesota the WSI is calculated by accumulating a point for each day with an ambient temperature of 0F and an additional point for each day with a snow depth greater than 15″. End of season values less than 100 indicate a mild winter. Values greater than 180 indicate a severe winter.”


Be A Force Of Nature: National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. I know it seems odd to be talking severe thunderstorms and tornadoes with a semi-permanent glacier in your yard, but the first severe thunderstorms of 2014 are probably no more than 3 or 4 weeks away. Here are some links to resources and timely reminders, courtesy of NOAA: “In 2013, there were seven weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included five severe weather and tornado events, a major flood event, and the western drought/heat wave. Overall, these events killed 109 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, March 2-8, 2014, NOAA and FEMA will highlight the importance of preparing for severe weather before it strikes. Being prepared for severe weather doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. A few simple steps, such as having a disaster supplies kit, could help save your life. During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, we ask that you Be a Force of Nature by knowing your risk, taking action and being an example where you live…”


Storm Brings 100-Year Flood To Christchurch, New Zealand. ImaGeo at Discover Magazine has the story; here’s the introduction: “The satellite image above shows the powerful storm that brought gale force winds and 36 hours of heavy rainfall to New Zealand, triggering what has been described as a 100-year flood in the city of Christchurch. The city has been beset by flooding before, as well as a devastating magnitude 6.3 earthquake in 2011 that killed 185 people…”

Image credit above: “NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of a powerful storm swirling off the coast of New Zealand on March 4. The storm has caused what has been reported as a 100-year flood in the city of Christchurch.” (Source: NASA).


Why Snowstorms Are More Devastating Now To American Cities. An inch of snow in the 60s? No big deal. Our parents called this “flurries”. Today an inch of snow falling at the wrong time and wrong temperature can bring a city’s transporation grid to a halt. What has changed? Here’s an excerpt of an interesting story at NBC Philadelphia: “Snowstorms have become devastating to American cities — thanks to a commonplace technology: the private automobile. “The evil snow is upon us.” So wrote New York lawyer and diarist George Templeton Strong in December 1879, describing a storm that had paralyzed the city. Teams of horses pulled ploughs through the snow, piled high along the sidewalks; downed electrical lines pitched the streets into darkness. In the future, Strong imagined, things would be better. “A century hence cities will be put under glass,” he predicted, “and New York will be enclosed in a huge crystal palace…”
Photo credit above: “Slippery West Sedgwick Street in Northwest Philadelphia afer a recent storm.” Bas Slabbers – NewsWorks.org.


Ice-Covered Lakes May Be Bottling Arctic Cold For Spring. Chicago has had a very memorable winter: 3rd coldest meteorological winter with 74″ snow, more than 43″ above average, to date. They’ve experienced 2 winters in the Windy City! Here’s a recent video and excerpt from The Chicago Tribune: “With March just days away, Chicagoans can’t be blamed for looking forward to the disappearance of the polar vortex. But be warned: with the Great Lakes more ice-covered than they have been in decades, the latest blast of arctic chill is being bottled for spring. The early descent of this season’s chill forced the Coast Guard to start its ice-breaking ships sooner than any time  in recent memory and raises the prospect that all that frozen water will slow any hint of a spring warmup...”


Storm-Tracking NOAA Satellite System Gets A Technology Boost. CNET describes how these new Earth platforms may improve storm predictions by providing higher-resolution data streams into the models we use on a daily basis; here’s a clip: “A three-satellite storm-tracking system run by the U.S. government is getting some updates that will support a complete technological refresh. Raytheon said today that it has booked $185 million in new business for the Joint Polar Satellite System’s Common Ground System. The JPSS, a collaborative system between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, is a polar-orbiting environmental system designed to both track storms and other weather events and take and send back to Earth imagery showing changes in the planet’s environment over time…”

Image credit above: “One of the three Joint Polar Satellite Systems satellites.” (Credit: NOAA/NASA).


New Hurricane Model Can More Accurately Predict Hurricane Path, Intensity. redOrbit has an interesting story – here’s the introduction: “…In addition to incorporating real-time Doppler radar information, the convection-permitting hurricane analysis and forecasting system (WRF-EnKF) also uses high-resolution cloud-permitting grids, which allow for the consideration of individual clouds in modeling a storm system. “Our model predicted storm paths with 100 km – 50 mile – accuracy four to five days ahead of landfall for Hurricane Sandy,” Zhang said. “We also had accurate predictions of Sandy’s intensity...”

Image credit above: “Superstorm Sandy as it slams the Northeast in October 2012.” Credit: NOAA/NASA.


Oklahoma Congressman’s Proposal Would Extend Lead Time For Tornado Warnings. A 45-60 minute lead time for tornadoes? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. But it brings up an interesting dilemma: can you provide too warning? If I have an hour’s notice I might be tempted to run home, or pick up the kids at school – instead of heading to the basement. Here’s an excerpt from Insurance Journal: “An Oklahoma congressman has proposed legislation that would make the protection of people and property a priority for federal weather forecasters and extend the lead time for tornado warnings. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak has expressed his support for the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act (H.R. 2413), sponsored by Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), which would establish the Tornado Warning Extension Program. The resolution is aimed at funding a research program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to extend the lead time for tornado warnings beyond one hour…”

When Hurricane Sandy slammed into southern New Jersey in October 2012, it had essentially confounded both the NOAA‘s Global Forecast System (GFS) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).
Now, a new real-time hurricane analysis system being developed at Penn State University has been shown to accurately predict the track and intensity of the deadly storm.
“For this particular study aircraft-based Doppler radar information was ingested into the system,” said Fuqing Zhang, a professor of meteorology at Penn State. “Our predictions were comparable to or better than those made by operational global models.”Read more at http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1113081033/hurricane-model-accurately-predict-storm-path-intensity-022614/#ezvDvxMucTOvdtR6.99Oklahoma Congressman’s Proposal Would Extend Lead Time For Tornado Warnings. A 45-60 minute lead time for tornadoes? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. But it brings up an interesting dilemma: can you provide too warning? If I have an hour’s notice I might be tempted to run home, or pick up the kids at school – instead of heading to the basement. Here’s an excerpt from Insurance Journal: “An Oklahoma congressman has proposed legislation that would make the protection of people and property a priority for federal weather forecasters and extend the lead time for tornado warnings. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak has expressed his support for the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act (H.R. 2413), sponsored by Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), which would establish the Tornado Warning Extension Program. The resolution is aimed at funding a research program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to extend the lead time for tornado warnings beyond one hour…”


Reality Check: The Tornado “False Alarm” Problem. The last I checked 70% of tornado warnings were false alarms, nationwide. It’s always better to err on the side of safety, caution and protecting human life, but too many false alarms and the public can be apathetic. “They’re crying wolf again – just ignore the sirens”. Here’s a video clip and excerpt from a story at fox19.com: “It has been a crazy winter, filled with snow and bitter cold. Mother nature trumped the winter weather on Thursday with the first severe weather episode of 2014. The National Weather Service issued five tornado alerts. Only three weak funnels appeared -three out of five with a false alarm rate of 40 percent. Why does the Tornado Warning policy treat weak, spin-up funnels the same as it does monstrous killer tornadoes? The policy is set at high levels in the National Weather Service bureaucracy. The system needs to be fixed...”


Tornado And Severe Storm Watches Issued In 2013. Last year was relatively quiet, especially for tornadoes, with a few notable exceptions (around Oklahoma City). The upper left graphic shows the total number of tornado watches, the lower left depicts departure from the 20 year averages – showing a slight increase in tornado watches over the Middle Mississippi Valley and Mid Atlantic. The column on the right shows total number of severe storm watches (upper left), and departure from average, with a more significant spike in severe storm watches for the Plains. Source: NOAA SPC.


The Future Of Severe Weather Forecasting. Here’s a video and excerpt from News 9 Chief Meteorologist David Payne in Oklahoma City on NewsOn6.com: “…He said he’s never seen so many intense tornadoes in such a short period of time as we saw in May 2013.  He adds we took something good from the outbreak, new data models that will help us better predict future storms. “These are models that can actually model individual storms and they’re going to come up with an ensemble of forecasts of varying initial conditions,” Bluestein said. “You may be able to assign, a better probability that yes, the next day there will be storms. Of those storms, there will be a certain chain that there will be tornadoes…”


Your Joints, Pain And The Weather. All those things your grandmother taught you are true. Our bodies are (mostly) water – why wouldn’t we respond to pain sparked by continuous fluctuations in atmospheric pressure, temperature and moisture? Here’s a clip from an article at Grandparents.com. What, you don’t troll this site? “…Several medical studies—although not all—back up these suspicions. As early as the 1960s, a University of Pennsylvania physician put people with arthritis into a weather chamber and found that falling barometric pressure and increased humidity increased the perception of pain. In 2007, Tufts researchers studied 200 people with knee arthritis and found that both barometric pressure and cold affected pain. In January of 2014, Dutch researchers found that in people with severe hip arthritis, barometric pressure and humidity had a modest effect on pain perception. (Weather can have other painful effects, too: There’s evidence that lightning can trigger migraine headaches, for example.)…”


9 Things You Should Know About Your Caffeine Habit. Yeah, I’m hooked, along with most people I know. In my 20s I trained for a climb up the Matterhorn in Switzerland and tried to kick coffee altogether (to help reduce the risk of altitude sickness). I was miserable for a week and then the headaches went away. Not sure I want to go through that again. Here’s a clip from a story at Huffington Post: “…What’s the verdict? Is it good or is it bad? If I had a simple answer, it would have been a five-page book. It can be more effective than I had any idea, in terms of improving your alertness, your cognition, your athletic ability. It can have stronger more acute effects on sleep and anxiety than I’d imagined. It can be terrific. I think it’s important that everybody recognize how much is good for them, what it does for them when they take it, what they feel like when they don’t take it, and experiment…”


* graphic above courtesy of buzzle.com.

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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 startribune.com/weather And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather.

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