Sunday, October 28, 2012

2012 Halloween Storm, Perfect or Not

The big story this year around Halloween is Hurricane Sandy and whether it will become the next "Perfect Storm".

There has been a couple of names being thrown around for the situation of Hurricane Sandy such as "Frankenstorm" and the next "Perfect Storm".  "Frankenstorm" is just wrong to begin with and probably comes from one of two things, Halloween is around the corner or that it is and will continue to be a huge storm.  Either way, if "Snowmageddon", "Snowpocalypse", or any other word with "snow" in front of it can't be used then neither should "Frankenstorm".  Now the next "Perfect Storm" as compared to the 1991 Perfect Storm, that is a lot more realistic.

In 1991, a storm developed into something highly unusual and was deemed as "The Perfect Storm".  One question remains, what is the "perfect storm"?  Well, there are not any specific requirements or qualifications dubbed by any meteorological organization that would make a storm "the perfect storm".  So, how did it come up?  The name was given to the storm system in 1991 by the Boston NWS forecaster Robert Case and the author of the book "The Perfect Storm" Sebastian Junger.  Case described the situation of the storm as the "perfect situation" based upon 3 weather-related phenomenons that came together to develop the 1991 Perfect Storm.  These phenomenons were warm air from a low-pressure system, a flow of cool and dry air generated by a high-pressure, and tropical moisture provided by Hurricane Grace.  This started the topic of naming the storm "The Perfect Storm".

Does that mean that it could be the only "perfect storm"?  Will this be the end of the quotes?  Nope and not quite.  The storm in 1991 was called the "perfect storm" because it was an event where a rare combination of circumstances that aggravated a situation drastically.  It could also be described as a phenomenon that happens when such a confluence of phenomenons that result in an event of unusual magnitude.  Because of those definitions, it can be called a perfect storm.  By that definition, what we are forecast to experience in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the U.S. is considered a "Perfect Storm".  Also, if you want to look into other storms, the April 27th tornado outbreak can be considered as a "Perfect Storm" as a number of factors came together to develop a one of a kind severe weather event.

Now, the final match up!

Who will cause the worst damage?  Sandy from Grease or Grace from Will and Grace.  Hard to say for those two, but the outcome of Hurricane Grace in the 1991 Perfect Storm and what may become of Hurricane Sandy we will see after a few a days.  For right now let's do a comparison.  Here was the setup for the 1991 Perfect Storm.

Shortly after the time the observations were taken for this map, the low to the far right deepened to a 972 mb low with a high-pressure over the Montana/Dakotas region that was 1044 mb and another high-pressure to the north of the low that was 1041 mb.  The pressure difference between them was around 70 mb from the one to the north and the one to the west, but the one to the north had the largest pressure gradient which resulted in the strongest winds and highest waves which is what caused all the damage in the Nova Scotia area as well as a number of ships such as the Andrea Gail.  Now what about the setup for the storm that's going on right now.

Hurricane Sandy is out off of the North Carolina coast with a pressure of 951 mb and to the west in The Great Plains is a high-pressure of 1030 mb.  That's a pressure difference of nearly 80 mb.  So far, this storm isn't done and will be heading directly into the Mid-Atlantic and southern portions of the Northeast.  This storm also has the same relative ingredients that made the storm in 1991 very notorious.  Sandy is a hurricane with moisture and a source of heat from warm waters along the Atlantic Coastline, a powerful cold front to the west with significant dry air, and a high pressure system.  So will this be another storm to be deemed as another "Perfect Storm" like they did 21 years ago or will the NWS eventually stop calling it Sandy and start calling it Athena in their latest attempt to name winter storms?  Right now, the answer is unknown, but as Sandy continues to move north and then northwest with its very low-pressure we will see what they do with it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weather Wonder Wednesday: George and Icy Hot

September 19th holds a colorful history to it in the world of weather.  Everything ranging from hurricanes to blizzards.  One powerful storm was this guy.

Not exactly him, but Hurricane George in 1947 did have quite a punch.  Hurricane George hit Fort Lauderdale, FL Sept. 17th as a major hurricane with max sustained winds of 155 MPH.  Sept. 19, 1947, Hurricane George "eyes" New Orleans, LA as the eye passed over the city and impacting it with category 3 hurricane strength winds.

Taking a step back in the past.  Way back in the past.  In 1825 the largest forest fire in North America occurred on this day claiming over 3 million acres from Maine to New Brunswick, Canada.  Now that was a hot mess.

Fast-forwarding into more recent times, in 1983, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the U.S. experienced a substantial heat wave where Reading, PA saw a high of 95 degrees!  Other "hot spot"s were New York (Central Park), NY; Wilmington, DE; and Baltimore, MD who saw a high of 94.  This same system caused a blizzard in the Rockies and even dropped the temperature to -6 in West Yellowstone, MT. To make it even more amazing, Denver, CO went from a sunny day at 86 degrees to a chilly 35 degrees with snow in 7 hours.

I guess the Chattem Co. was onto something.

Nine years later, a ferocious surge of cold air hit The Great Plains where Valentine, NE saw a low of 17 degrees!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Eyes In The Sky

Ever had a feeling you are being watched from space?  Well wipe that look off your face because your not.  Although, there is something that is constantly being watched from space.  The atmosphere!  Satellites that fly around Earth are constantly watching our atmosphere in many different ways allowing us to see things we wouldn't normally see with the naked eye from space or even from the ground.

In general, these satellites will look down in 3 different ways: visible, infrared, and water vapor.  Visible imagery from a satellite is like our human eye and shows us what it sees with the available sunlight.  Infrared imagery from a satellite shows us how things look with regards to its temperature.  Cooler objects are seen with cool colors while warmer objects are a warmer color.  Finally, Water vapor imagery shows us how things look with the available moisture in the air.  Here is an example of visible imagery:

Pretty huh?  You can see everything clearly even the shadows of the clouds!  Now an example of infrared imagery:

It's like looking at a rainbow isn't it?  Notice that Florida and the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean are like a burnt orange color.  That's because it is really warm.  Clouds, which are the greens and blues, are much colder so they are represented with cooler colors.  Finally, an example of water vapor imagery:

As mentioned earlier this shows moisture in the atmosphere.  The green and purple colors represent areas with moisture at a specific level in the atmosphere.  The oranges and reds represent really dry areas in the atmosphere.

So are the only things that satellites can show are areas of moisture, clouds, and temperature?  Oh no, they can show so much more!  Satellites can show areas of large wildfires.

Ash from active volcanoes.

Fronts and even sea breezes and land breezes.

And even areas of fog!

Looks like veins doesn't it?  This is actually valley fog.

These are only some of the examples of what satellites can see.  There are several other things that they can see that's just fun to find out on your own.  Here is a link that will show you focused areas to look at and even a national view of the U.S. using each of the 3 different kinds of imagery.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Weather Wonder Wednesday: Hurricane Donna and Gilbert

Another new segment that was just started today is Weather Wonder Wednesday where every Wednesday a little bit of facts and history will be told about that day.  September 12 holds a lot of weather history esp. with hurricanes and typhoons.  On this day, there has been an astounding number of 8 tropical systems who hold a memorable past.  One of the most memorable hurricanes that affected the United States was Hurricane Donna.

No, no, not Donna Summers.  Although, Hurricane Donna was a bad girl because she caused devastation across the entire East Coast.  Hurricane Donna will be forever known for two reasons.  One reason is that Hurricane Donna holds the record of retaining major hurricane status (category 3 or higher) for the longest period in the Atlantic Basin.  It maintained winds of 115 MPH or greater for 9 days.  The other reason why Hurricane Donna will forever be known is because it was the first hurricane to affect every point on the East Coast from Key West, FL to Caribou, ME.  Here is the track of Donna to show you its damaging path.
  File:Donna 1960 track.png

The next hurricane that made a huge impression on this day in history was Hurricane Gilbert.  Hurricane Gilbert held the record for the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Basin from 1988 to 2005 when Hurricane Wilma surpassed it.  Gilbert went from 960 mb to 888 mb within 24 hours.  That's a 72 millibar pressure drop within a 24 hour period which estimates to be a 3 mb decrease per hour.  Now that's a bomb!  That's a bigger bomb drop than what Gilbert Gottfried's jokes on 9/11 and the Japan tsunami had on people shortly after the events happened.  Nonetheless, Gilbert Gottfried maintains a good comedic status and Hurricane Gilbert produced a maximum sustained winds of an amazing 185 MPH.

There is one other storm that holds a significant impact to the U.S., but not as recognized as the previous two, and that is Hurricane Frederick.  Frederick hit Dauphin Island, AL on this day 33 years ago with max sustained winds of 125 MPH causing tremendous damage and some casualties.  One of the largest and most significant structures it demolished that citizens of Dauphin Island will never forget was the Dauphin Island Bridge.

Residents of Dauphin Island and Mobile County, AL couldn't find words to describe this when they say it and learned that Dauphin Island residents were trapped, except by boat.

Hurricane Donna, Gilbert, and Frederick have all been retired to never be used again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 Years Later, Similar Weather

Today is the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on the U.S.  No matter how many years pass by all Americans will remember this day for a number of reasons.  I will never forget my experience on this day.  I was nowhere near New York, but I still watched the whole event unfold in high school as I switched from class to class.  I remember one of my teachers being highly effected by the event because her husband was in New York City.

Seeing the two metallic birds crash into standing statues was life changing during a beautiful fall-like day took away from the actual weather that was going on.  What was the weather like during the whole event?  It actually was a lot like it is on its 11th anniversary.  Mostly clear with a few clouds and a northerly wind.  The temperatures are about the same except for JFK Airport where it is slightly warmer today than it was 11 years ago.  The dew point, however, is much lower today than it was 11 years ago.

Weather played a big part in the event because if it wasn't as beautiful as it was from the previous passage of a cold front then it most likely wouldn't have happened.

In honor of all the men and women who perished on this day 11 years ago and all those who fought to save several lives as the event unfolded and after all the damage was done, I dedicate this to you and those who were affected by it by losing family and friends.

Go outside today and enjoy this miraculous weather that has been blessed upon us in New York City and across the nation.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New York City Twisters, Rare Or Common?

We have always heard tornadoes spinning around in The Great Plains and either staying in open fields or hitting small, residential towns, but not so much hitting large, metropolis cities like lately.  Recently, tornadoes have hit Dallas/Fort Worth, TX this year; Atlanta, GA in 2008; Salt Lake City, UT in 1999; and even Miami, FL in 1998.  So tornadoes in large cities aren't unheard of, but fairly uncommon.  On Sept. 8, 2012, two tornadoes tore through the coastline and portions of the city in New York City!  Not somewhere you would think tornadoes would touchdown being near water and as far north as it is.

One of the tornadoes were reported in Breezy Point which is part of Queens and the other tornado was spotted in East New York in the Kings (Brooklyn) area.

But wait a second, this can't be!  Tornadoes in New York City have got to be cinematic or mistaken!  Well, they are cinematic!  In 2008, this movie came out when the global warming talk was the hot topic and New York City, being the largest city in the U.S., is always feared to be the deadliest target.
File:Nyc Tornado Terror Poster.jpg

Tornadoes in New York City are also very realistic as we saw on Sept. 8, 2012, but how common are tornadoes in New York City?  Since tornado records have began in 1950, there has only been about a dozen tornadoes to strike The Big Apple.  In 1985, an F1 tornado struck the Queens area that injured 6 people.  In 1990, an F0 tornado struck Staten Island that injured 3 people and another tornado in 1995 touchdown in Staten Island causing no injuries or fatalities.  Also in 1995, an F0 tornado touched down in the Manhattan area causing about $30,000 in damage and injured 1 person.  Those are just some of the detailed tornadoes that were recorded.  Here is a map of all the tornadoes that occurred in New York City from 1950-2011.

A total of 10 tornadoes have been reported within 1950-2011.  Now 2 more can be added to that from this year and one that isn't even shown on the previous map from 1995 making 13 tornadoes have touched down in The Big Apple over a 63-year period with the strongest of those being an F2 on the old Fujita Scale.  One of the two new ones can be added to the Brooklyn area and the other in the Queens area.  Staten Island has experienced 4 tornadoes, Brooklyn has experience 3 tornadoes (one of those originating over Staten Island), Queens has experienced 4 tornadoes, The Bronx has experience 2 (one of those originated over Bergen County, NJ), and Manhattan has experienced 1.

So now the ultimate question, are tornadoes in New York City rare or common?  Neither.  On average, a tornado will touchdown in the New York City area once every 5 years.  Tornadoes in NYC are fairly uncommon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Appearances Aren't Everything

We have all heard the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" over and over again.  That holds a lot of truth to it in more ways than one.  The cover of a book could be bland and boring looking, but the story inside it could be the most adventurous story ever.  Someone could look like the Rocky Dennis kid from Mask, but have a heart of gold.  You get what I am saying.  This also goes with hurricanes and tornadoes as well!  Tornadoes are a little harder to see whether their size matches their strength or not so we are not going to focus on them.  As for hurricanes,  these are far more easier to portray this saying with.  Normally when we see a big hurricane we think of this:

If you guessed that this was Katrina then you are right!  This was Hurricane Katrina at her peak as a category 5.  Big and scary isn't it?  Let's go to some more recent storms to two of them in the Atlantic in 2012, hurricanes Leslie and Michael.

Courteous of the National Hurricane Center is a visible image of Hurricane Leslie (left) and Hurricane Michael (right).  Hurricane Leslie is a pretty big storm so she has got to be a strong storm and Hurricane Michael is really small compared to Hurricane Leslie so it must be weaker than her right?  Think again!  When this image was taken, Hurricane Leslie was a weak category 1 hurricane with max winds of 75 MPH.  Hurricane Michael, however, is a category 3 hurricane with max winds of 115 MPH!  Crazy huh?  Technically, it is because neither are in the best environment, esp. Michael, to be strong storms.  But for the most part, it isn't all that crazy.  Look at Leslie and look at Michael.  Leslie might be a large storm, but it has a lot of gaps in the clouds indicating dry air is keeping it from strengthening much.  Michael, on the other hand, is really small, but a classic structure with no gaps or even a hint of dry air near the center.

So, appearances aren't everything as proven here and this also proves that sometimes size doesn't matter.  It's simply a matter of what isn't seen with the naked eye.

To add some information on Hurricane Michael, it is the first major hurricane and category 3 hurricane of the 2012 hurricane season.