Friday, July 18, 2014

Forecasting Hurricane Intensity...A New Tool

A better understanding of hurricane development and intensity has been a primary focus for atmospheric scientists and engineers over the last several years. In Miami, home of the National Hurricane Center, operational facilities at Florida International University and the University of Miami are making 'waves' by means of state-of-the-art simulations both to help engineers build more water and wind resistant structures and weather forecasters understand how hurricane intensity forecasts can be more accurate.

For example, at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, numerical simulations are being developed and analyzed to show that changes in the physical stress at the ocean surface, such as sea spray and foam and their evaporation,  may help explain the rapid intensification of some tropical storms.

In June 2012, ground breaking on a new Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex began that promised to give scientists a new tool in simulating hurricanes within a controlled laboratory.

The large aquarium measures about 65 feet in length and 20 feet in width and 6.5 feet in height.

The simulator, called SUSTAIN, or SUrge-STructure-Atmosphere INteraction laboratory is the only facility capable of creating category- 5 level hurricanes in a controlled, seawater laboratory.

Also, Florida International University's Wall of Water (WOW) simulator cranks winds up to 157 miles per hour that helps test hurricane resiliency of varying structures from private homes to light poles. This simulator uses twelve 700-horsepower fans and  has been operational since 2012, in commemoration of the 20-year anniversary of Hurricane Andrew that devastated much of south Florida.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Special...Polar Vortex in the Summer? Why?


The July 15 weather map is located above. A blast of very cool air of Canadian origin invaded a large part of the United States early this morning, setting record lows in its wake. So far, I've counted at least 29 locations that tied or set record lows this morning, some as far south as Greenwood, MS. Joplin, MO set an all-time July record low of 50 degrees. Why, even the ice box capital of the U.S., International Falls MN, set a record this morning of 39 degrees.
This cool air looks to stick around for a few more days. For the past week, meteorologists have been advertising a Polar Vortex (where have we heard that before? Hmm) that would bring a refreshing respite from the summer heat. That's great and all. I am all for cooler weather in the middle of summer.
However, does the term 'Polar Vortex' really need to be used, especially in July? I recall not less than a few July's in my lifetime where we had a period of cooler, refreshing weather, and it was never called a Polar Vortex. Meteorologists would just draw attention to the fact that the air mass was of Canadian origin and enjoy it while it lasts.
For example, it seems many have forgotten that temperatures for the last eight days of July 2013 were well below average for many locations. Look at this map from July 28, perhaps the peak of the coolest air.
In my opinion, this map looks very similar to the one earlier. However, the core of the coolest air  does make it farther south than the one from last July. Greenwood MS, Fayetteville AR, and McAlester OK were a few of the ones from this year that were cooler than last year.
Of the 29 locations that either tied or set record lows this morning, I checked on how cool these locations were during last year's cool down. Over half reported cooler readings than this year's Polar Vortex. In addition, over 900 record lows were either set or tied during this 8-day stretch, peaking on July 28 when over two dozen locations reported all-time record lows for the entire month of July.
Yet, there was no mention of any Polar Vortex that caused this significant stretch of below-average temperatures. Why? Could it be that meteorologists were content with just reporting that the cooler weather was of Canadian origin and just left it at that?
Now, fast-forward to this year. February 2014 saw a rather impressive anomaly that produced a chunk of cold air from the Arctic regions. While it's true that temperatures were at times bitterly cold, there were not too many record cold readings that would label this event as historic. Nevertheless, the term 'Polar Vortex' instilled as much anxiety in people as Darth Vader to the Rebels. So, why not use it again, this time in the middle of summer?
I think it worked. The sexy term garnered a great deal of attention. But you know what? Big deal. Now, if I would have had snow flurries this morning when I awoke, then, yeah, that would be a big deal.
The term Polar Vortex definitely does not belong in the summertime vernacular. I think it's just a media sensationalism stunt aimed at attracting viewership. And it's a shame that some meteorologists got caught up in it as well. A blip in the polar jet stream is normal. Perhaps mentioning an anomaly in the polar jet stream is all that would be needed, or the all-familiar "of Canadian origin" would suffice. But, give the Polar Vortex thing a rest already.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Severe Thunderstorm WATCHES On the Rise Today

Just issued...A Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been posted for a part of Tennessee. A line of Watches also exist to our west and northwest.

If conditions continue to destabilize around our region, I would not be surprised to see these Watches extend into west KY and southern Indiana at the very least.

Right now, I have been looking at the SPC's instability numbers. The rains from earlier are still hampering instability in Louisville and points just east. However, the numbers in western KY and west-central Indiana are beginning to show favorable signs for supporting strong to severe weather.

Closely monitor the time. If conditions do not begin showing rapid destabilization by 4-5 pm, chances for severe weather may begin to wane. But, I would not rule out isolated warnings for the Louisville County Warning Area as at the very least, a broken line of strong thunderstorms will progress southeastward and affect the region.

Highest chances for severe weather should remain just west and north of Louisville but would not be surprised to see parts of the region including Louisville placed in a Watch box.

Updates perhaps later...


Drought Levels Ease in Some Areas of Metro Louisville

Last night's storm and early morning rainfall produced impressive amounts around the Louisville area for most locations. Of course, that means some areas received only minor amounts.. my house included.

Here's a look at some amounts as collected by area rain gauges of the Metropolitan Sewer District thru 8:05 this morning...

Valley Station (my home rain gauge) 0.33"
PRP  0.79"
Shively  1.16"
Fairdale  1.34"
Jeffersontown  1.43"
Jefferson Mall Area 1.65"
Fern Creek FD  1.91"

At the Cedar Creek WQTC about 1-1.5 miles south of the SR 841 and US 31-E ramp, a mini-deluge of 2.55" was recorded so far.

Louisville Int'l official total thru 08:00am was 1.49".

Other areas that were part of the less fortunate group like myself include far southwest Jefferson county (4 miles southwest from my house as the crow flies) where amounts measured about 0.1".

For the most part, the dreaded DROME (dry dome) is still very much intact across my part of the county, just like it was during most of the winter, at least in comparison with other locations surrounding me.