Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Paul Kocin: The Authority in Northeast Winter Weather

There's only one voice I trust when it comes to Northeast winter weather! Here's a recap of my interview with Paul Kocin.

I recently had the opportunity to go one-on-one with meteorologist and winter weather expert, Paul Kocin. Paul, a Long Island native and resident of The Northeast Quadrant, is unquestionably the authority when it comes to forecasting Nor’easters and analyzing their impact throughout the region.

Paul’s professional experience ranges from NASA’s Spaceflight Center to the National Weather Service, and from The Weather Channel to NOAA, where he now works for their Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, and focuses on Alaska weather.

I became a fan of Paul from about the late 90s through the mid 2000s when he worked for The Weather Channel as an on-air personality. Much like me, Paul was interested in weather from a very early age. Growing up in the Tri-State region he faced many exciting weather events – from notable winter storms where he found his niche, to glancing blows by hurricanes and other fascinating meteorological phenomenon that plagued the area.

In speaking with Paul I was able to feed my passion for reminiscing about major winter weather events. We shared stories of major Nor’easters we both personally faced. From the
Blizzard of 78 (the year I was born), to a quiet pattern in the 80s, and from an active 90s featuring two blockbuster record-breaking snowstorms, to the super-sized blizzards of this past winter, Paul and I sounded off back and forth about how these winter weather events affected us.

Paul co-developed the
Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS), which categorizes significant Northeast United States snowfalls from category 1 (notable) to category 5 (extreme). We spoke briefly about his role in developing the scale, as well as him authoring the two-volume book, Northeast Snowstorms," available through the American Meteorological Society; and how this year’s snowstorms have him working on a third volume tentatively called "Northeast snowstorms: The 21st Century." But what I was really curious about is how the recent snowstorms of this past winter measured up on the NESIS.

I learned that in all history only two storms ever reached category 5 status – and I was happy to find out that I personally lived through both: the
Superstorm of 1993 and the Blizzard of 1996. As far as this past year is concerned, it turns out the highest-ranking snowstorm was the strong category 3 record-breaking blizzard for New York City on February 23 – 28. Behind that was the mid-Atlantic blizzard on February 4 – 7, which also ranked category 3, but fell somewhat weaker in that category. The second blizzard that month, which stretched from Virginia to Massachusetts on February 9 – 11, ranked category 2. The December 18 – 21 blizzard, the first major snowstorm of the season, ranked category 3.

So what is the likelihood that an epic winter season like the one we just experienced is repeated? Well, while the chances are not likely, Paul says, “One should be more optimistic!” Looking back in history the past ten years have featured some of the biggest snowstorms for the northeast, and this past winter featured some of the biggest ever. “No matter how you look at it, we are in a general period of more spectacular winter storms!”

Paul ended, “The storm is always better somewhere else, for someone else. It just so happens that this year that someone else was us, and the somewhere else was in our own backyard!”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nor'easter Madness: Winter 2009 – 2010 Radar Rewind

This is one of the most AMAZING things I have EVER seen! This is pure Nor'easter Madness!

Check out this radar rewind, courtesy of AccuWeather.com. You will see 22 major storms that doused the northeast in a four month radar animation from December 1 through today.

* Note: This video is best viewed in Firefox, Chrome, Safari or any web browser other than Explorer (go figure) and it's totally worth launching those browsers if you have one of them, because this is just awesomeness!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fierce March Lion Still Roars

March doesn't seem to be ending like a lamb, does it? With major snowfall, rain and wind for a good portion of the northeast, the month surely roared in like a lion, but that pattern seems to be repeating itself as we close out the first 31 days of the meteorological spring.

As we turn the corner on the last 60 hours of March, here we are enduring another major coastal deluge. At a time the weather should resemble the peacefulness of a lamb (actually, I really don't know how peaceful a lamb is), we are looking at several more days of windswept rain, wind, and coastal and urban/river flooding, as well as disruptive snow in northern New England. Sounds familiar right? It's Déjà vu for NYC-area residents who experienced a similar storm a few weeks ago that left in its wake plenty of coastal and structural damage due to high winds and rising waters.

Well, the good news is if you like lambs, you'll be bleating bahh bahh bahh by the end of the week as a much drier, warmer pattern overtakes the eastern third of the nation. But remember, April showers bring May flowers, so rainy days could and will once again reappear.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Earth Hour: Tomorrow, Saturday, March 27, 8:30 p.m.

The Northeast Quadrant reminds you of the yearly global Earth Hour, taking place tomorrow, Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. local time. For the past three years at this time, for one hour, communities across planet Earth are asked to join forces in flipping the power switch to off. By participating in this movement you'll be showing your support of an action toward climate change.

According to the World Wildlife Fund's myearthhour.org Web site, last year 80 million Americans and 318 U.S. cities officially voted for action with their light switch, joining iconic landmarks from around the world that went dark for Earth Hour, including:
  • Empire State Building
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Broadway Theater Marquees
  • Las Vegas Strip
  • United Nations Headquarters
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Seattle’s Space Needle
  • Church of Latter-Day Saints Temple
  • Gateway Arch in St. Louis
  • Great Pyramids of Giza
  • Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens
  • Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro
  • St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City
  • Big Ben and Houses of Parliament in London
  • Elysee Palace and Eiffel Tower in Paris
  • Beijing’s Birds Nest and Water Cube
  • Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong
  • Sydney’s Opera House

Don't be left in the dark alone! Join the global community in raising awareness for the compassion of our planet, tomorrow at 8:30 p.m.!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weakening El Niño's Last Punch

Recent ocean satellite imagery continues to indicate a weakening El Niño, but one last punch by the warm Pacific-driven weather phenomenon is likely to impact our weather in coming weeks and months.

According to sea-level height and temperature data, another strong, eastward-moving wave of warm water, known as a
Kelvin wave, is heading towards the United States west coast.

Now in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, this Kelvin wave is not expected to impact global weather events as the full-fledged El Niño has for the better part of the past year, but this could be the
last hurrah before El Niño's dry sibling, La Niña, takes over.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Art Installation Draws Attention to Climate Change

A Dutch artists has found a unique way to draw attention to climate change. His recently debuted art installation sits atop a melting iceberg near the town of Uummannaq in western Greenland.

The 45-year old artist, Ap Verheggen, from The Hague, said he had built the swirling metal sculptures, which represent a dog sled, to highlight the impact of a warmer climate on the Inuit people, who struggle to move around on thinning ice. The sculptures are expected to drift southwards on top of the ice and ultimately end up in the ocean as the ice melts.

As climate change means culture change, Verheggen believes that global warming has affected Inuit culture, and melting icebergs threaten its survival.

To raise awareness for their cause globally, the sculptures are fitted with monitors enabling a worldwide audience to follow their journey atop the iceberg. The project can be viewed
here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

World Meteorological Day 2010

Today is a very special day for weather forecasters, weather broadcasters, atmospheric scientists and weather buffs like us – it's World Meteorological Day!

Each year on March 23 we pay tribute to the global meteorological community who continuously works together beyond all borders to save and protect people, their homes and their livelihoods. Today marks the 60th anniversary of that tradition – and the establishment of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Founded in 1950, the WMO, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, became the United Nations' voice on the state and behavior of the Earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.

Happy World Meteorological Day!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Uncertain Future for Arctic Summer Sea Ice

The Arctic could be ice-free by summer 2035

NOAA reports the Arctic is losing summer sea ice faster than originally anticipated – by as much as 30 years! With computer models predicting the planet's coldest water refuge could be ice-free within 25 years from now, coastlines could be at major risk due to rising sea level.

Although there is considerable variability in computer model predictions, many
show an accelerating decline in the summer minimum sea ice extent during the 21st century, and satellite images prove this trend is already underway.

A new study by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, tells that contrary to popular belief, much of the record breaking loss of ice in the Arctic in recent years is a result of the region's swirling winds and is not a direct result of global warming. Even so, the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

Watch this!

video

Maybe it's not all bad news. If you sell your coastal property and invest in shipping, you might be able to take advantage of short cuts through the Arctic, which contains enormous reserves of oil and natural gas. See, it's not all that bad...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

China Shrouded by Rare and Extreme Early Season Sandstorm

A massive and blinding sandstorm in China this past weekend engulfed the region in towering rust-colored clouds of sand that darkened skies from westernmost Xinjiang province to Taiwan, including Beijing where China's National Weather Bureau issued a rare 'hazardous level' air quality warning. Throughout the region people are being instructed to cover their mouths when outside and keep doors and windows closed while inside.

The extreme and early season sandstorm is the strongest in years and is a gritty reminder that China's expanding deserts, now covering one-third of the country because of overgrazing, deforestation, urban sprawl and drought, have led to a sharp increase in the storms.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences has estimated that the number of sandstorms has jumped by six times in the past 50 years to two dozen a year. Such sandstorms can affect the weather globally and grit from these storms in particular can travel as far as the western United States.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pollen Counts and Forecasts Explained

Spring is inevitably on its way, which means allergy season isn’t far behind. Fortunately for seasonal allergy sufferers, the awesomeness of science helps to provide some relief.

Polle
n counts enable pollen forecasters to provide allergy sufferers an opportunity to mitigate their symptoms. A pollen count is a measurement of how much pollen is in the air. This count represents the concentration of all the pollen (or of one particular type, like ragweed) in the air in a certain area at a specific time. It is expressed in grains of pollen per cubic meter over a 24 hour period.

To do a pollen count, a pollen sample is taken using an air-sampling device. These s
amplers collect particles from the air onto a transparent, sticky surface. The sample is then examined under a microscope, where the pollen grains are counted and identified. Since pollen travels long distances through the air, this count is relevant to a large area, and a count from one sampling site is typically used as data for an entire city.

A pollen forecast is a prediction of what the pollen levels will be in the future, like a weather forecast. Pollen forecasting often has greater value for allergy suffers than a pollen count, because they can use this information to plan their day, including whether or not to take medication.

Pollen forecasting methods consider natural events, besides the recent pollen counts, that will affect future pollen levels. We consider historical pollen counts (which provide predominant pollen and seasonal trend information for a certain area) temperatures, precipitation, and weather forecasts.

Pollen forecasts are geographically specific down to the city. For the pollen forecast in your area, visit pollen.com.

Achoo!

Interview with ‘America’s Wittiest Weatherman’

Shooting the Breeze with AccuWeather’s Northeast Weather Expert

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Elliot Abrams, senior vice-president and chief forecaster for AccuWeather. Billed on the Accuweather.com web site as ‘America’s Wittiest Weatherman,’ Elliot joined the State College, PA-based weather broadcasting outlet in 1967, and was a co-founder of their radio service in 1971. Elliot is himself a blogger, publishing northeastern weather-related posts on Accuweather.com. His voice can also be heard real-time on some of the many radio news stations throughout the region.

AccuWeather Forensic Meteorologist, Steve Wistar, who I interviewed a couple weeks ago, suggested that speaking with Elliot would be the perfect compliment to the mission of The Northeast Quadrant blog. In addition to pure reminiscing of past storms that both Elliot and I have experienced, this proved true as we spoke of recent and historical weather patterns and trends the northeast U.S. has experienced; how this past winter compared to others for the corridor stretching from Washington, DC to Boston; the effect El Niño now has on the region; and what we can expect over the next several months.

I asked Elliot why we experienced such a harsh winter and he confirmed what we’ve all heard – it’s El Niño! Comparable to the winter of 1977-1978, this past winter featured a very active southern storm track with a sharp northward component along the Atlantic seaboard. That, combined with a steady feed of arctic air pouring down over the eastern third of the nation resulted in historic storms for many mid-Atlantic and northeastern cities. Elliot says, “What was so noticeable this year was the cold and snow. During a typical El Niño similar storms regularly affect these coastal regions, but when you add sub-freezing air to the equation, you’re looking at snow and not rain. And a lot of it!”

If you’re as observant as I am you would have noticed a majority of the storms from December 2009 through late February 2010 began on a Friday and lasted through much of the weekend, with the height of the storm on a Saturday. Little did I know this type of pattern actually makes sense! I discovered that oftentimes weather patterns repeat on a weekly basis. Elliot says, “Given the typical atmospheric environment, if an average sized storm moves at an average speed, a storm will hit every three to four days. If you throw a larger than average storm in the mix you can double that to every six to eight days, and that’s exactly what we saw this past winter.” I learned that such trends are typically broken when a far more intense storm comes through and changes the overall pattern. An example of this is the Snowicane that just a few weeks ago battered the northeast with wind, snow and a colossal coastal pounding.

Could such a dramatic winter reappear next year? What about the year after? How about again in our lifetime? Some of us could only wish! But it doesn’t appear likely. According to Elliot, “In some places this has never happened before so that’s pretty convincing that it may never happen again. If you go back 100+ years and there has never been a winter like this past one, chances of most people experiencing it again are quite low. But all things being equal, sometimes you have a ‘storm of the century’ every few years – sometimes more than once in year – but an overall constant pattern like we just experienced is not very likely.”

What about looking forward? Although Elliot doesn’t focus on long-range forecasting there is evidence as suggested by computer models and noted by the AccuWeather team, that the overall wintry pattern is changing with a flip to a much warmer trend come April and May. This could set mid-Atlantic and northeastern cities up for a much warmer spring and hotter summer than last year – which comparable to the summer of 1976 wouldn’t be too difficult considering last year was quite cool and comfortable. Elliot says, “AccuWeather’s hurricane expert, Joe Bastardi expects a more active hurricane season, especially for the east coast, and that could include the mid-Atlantic and northeast. But again, that wouldn’t be too difficult considering the past few hurricane seasons have been very quiet for the east coast.”

Well, there you have it – a recap of my conversation with ‘America’s Wittiest Weatherman,’ Elliot Abrams. Elliot, thank you again for taking the time to speak with me and sharing your northeast U.S. weather expertise with The Northeast Quadrant!

To our readership, stay tuned to future blog posts as we continue to expand our series of interviews with the most trusted minds in weather!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vernal Equinox - March 20

Vernal Equinox begins Saturday, March 20 at 12:32 p.m. EST

“Equinox” comes from the Latin “equal night.” An equinox occurs when the Sun crosses the celestial equator, making the length of time of daylight equal to (or nearly equal to) the length of nighttime.


Due to the sun's angle and path across the sky during an equinox, days are longer than nights the further you are from the equator. Furthermore, the sun takes longer to rise and set farther from the equator because it does not set straight down - it moves in a horizontal direction.

Cultures around the world mark the vernal equinox in different way. Here’s just a few:

  • The March equinox marks the first day of various calendars including the Iranian calendar and the Bahá'í calendar.
  • The Jewish Passover usually falls on the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox, although occasionally (7 times every 19 years) it will occur on the second full moon.
  • World Storytelling Day is a global celebration of the art of oral storytelling, celebrated every year on the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, the first day of autumn equinox in the southern.
  • In Annapolis, Maryland, boatyard employees and sailboat owners celebrate the spring equinox with the Burning of the Socks Festival. Traditionally, the boating community wears socks only during the winter. These are burned at the approach of warmer weather, which brings more customers and work to the area. Officially, nobody then wears socks until the next equinox.
  • Wiccans and many other Neopagans hold religious celebrations of "Ostara" on the spring equinox.
  • In Japan, (March) Vernal Equinox is an official national holiday, and is spent visiting family graves and holding family reunions.

British Government's Jack & Jill Climate Advert Rebuked

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.”

A British government ad campaign sponsored by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is facing scrutiny by the UK government watchdog, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Two of the ads, which are intended to warn about the purported dangers of man made climate change, were found to have unsubstantiated claims in them. The two offending ads were based on the nursery rhymes of ‘Jack and Jill’ and ‘Rub a Dub Dub’, and warned of the effects of extreme weather, a claim which has long been disputed.


"Rub a dub dub three men in a tub, a necessary course of action due to flash flooding caused by climate change."


The ASA says the DECC made exaggerated claims about the threat to Britain from global warming and the ads were beyond mainstream scientific consensus.

When asked about the claim, a spokesperson from ASA noted that, "Many of those who complained found the ads would be distressing to children and many objected to the implication that climate change is caused by human activity."

Two other not-so-controversial ads facing less scrutiny are based on the nursery rhymes of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,' and 'Hey Diddle Diddle,' and read as follows:

"Twinkle twinkle little star how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, looking down at dangerously high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere."

"Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon on discovering just how easy it was to reduce our CO2 emissions."

Whatever the claim, whatever the scrutiny... aside from the fact that the ad agency responsible for creating these ads is horrible at rhyming and could really (i mean, really!) use some more creativity in keeping with the theme, I absolutely love them!

If you are interested in viewing the controversial advertisements, click here and enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

National Flood Safety Awareness Week

The third week of March [this year, March 15-19] is designated by NOAA and the National Weather Service as National Flood Safety Awareness Week – a time where communities come together to alert people of one of nature’s deadliest forces! In doing so we highlight some of the many ways floods can occur, the hazards associated with floods, and what you can do to save life and property.

Flooding is a coast to coast threat to the United States and its territories in all months of the year, and each year flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather related event – an average of $5 billion. Since people generally underestimate the force and power of water, floods are also blamed for more deaths than any other severe weather related hazard. More than half of all flood related deaths result from vehicles being swept downstream. Of these, many are preventable.

Turn Around Don't Drown™!
This year, as part of its ongoing
Turn Around Don't Drown™ (TADD) campaign to save lives as a result of flooding, NOAA and the National Weather Service are continuing to warn people of the hazards of walking or driving a vehicle through flood waters.

Whether it’s from heavy rainfall, tropical cyclone storm surge, heavy snow melt, swollen rivers and streams, ice jams or debris flows, follow these important safety rules if you’re ever confronted with a flood or flood threat:
  • Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information.
  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
  • Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. Never drive through flooded roadways.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

Check out these TADD success stories, including Awareness Week news from around the country!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daylight Savings Nor'easter

The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast is once again taking a beating from a major coastal storm! The storm, which I am now dubbing the "Daylight Savings Nor'easter," began Friday morning and promises to deliver wind and rain through Monday. That's right, rain! Not snow this time! Temperatures have warmed since the last Nor'easter (the Snowicane) and much of the area is now looking at a heavy, wind-driven rain, as opposed to the heavy blizzard snows that have dumped record snowfall across the area since late last year.

This afternoon we entered the peak of the Daylight Savings Nor'easter and in true form I headed right out in it and battled torrential flooding rains, near hurricane force winds and sub-freezing wind chills to bring you this report!



As of 7:00 p.m. the storm continues to rage. The constant easterly fetch off the Atlantic is bringing the ocean onshore and raising wave heights to near 20 feet. Coastal communities are experiencing damaging hurricane force winds and the heavy rains continue to push inland across New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The wind is knocking down power lines across the area and the rain associated with this storm, combined with the melting snow pack, is leading to hazardous flood conditions.

Stay tuned to your local news outlets on the latest effects regarding the Daylight Savings Nor'easter. Oh, and speaking of daylight savings, if you still have power don't forget to set your clocks forward one hour before you hit the sack tonight!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The March Superstorm of 1993

What happens when a cold front plunges into the deep south while three strong jet streams merge along the Atlantic Seaboard? A Superstorm!!!

Today marks the anniversary of one of my favorite snow events I've lived through -- the
March Superstorm of 1993. This epic winter weather event, also known as The White Hurricane or The Great Blizzard of 93, was unique for its intensity, massive size and wide-reaching effects.

Bringing with it three days of crippling snow, whirling seas, coastal flooding, blizzards, tornadoes and bone-chilling cold, the March Superstorm of 1993 was definitely a freak of nature. It all started on Friday, March 12 when a cluster of powerful thunderstorms formed in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico and then merged with a narrow band of snow and rain that was pushing in from the West Coast. The two storm systems collided with the jet stream causing this to happen...

The amount of snow and rain that fell during the storm was nothing short of incredible! Areas as far south as central Alabama and Georgia received 8 inches of snow and areas such as Birmingham, Alabama, received up to 16 inches. Even the Florida Panhandle reported up to 4 inches, with hurricane-force wind gusts and record low barometric pressures.

Between Louisiana and Cuba, hurricane-force winds produced high storm surges in the Gulf of Mexico, which along with scattered tornadoes killed dozens of people.

Northward up the Atlantic Seaboard and Appalachian Mountains, and extending all the way to the Canadian Maritimes, there was over 40 inches of snow and ice, absolutely crippling everything in its path.

This winter storm is the largest one-piece storm in recorded history!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Early March Snow as Seen from NASA's Terra Satellite

By early this month several winter storms had left snow cover over much of The Northeast Quadrant. Mostly clear skies over the eastern United States and Canada allowed the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite this unobstructed view on March 6.

The navy blue of the eastern Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean contrasts with the snow cover in this true-color image. South of Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes resemble giant claw marks in otherwise snow-covered New York. Snow appears the most opaque in Ohio, central New York, and between Lake Huron and its neighboring lakes to the east. In Canada, the mottled appearance likely results from a combination of snow cover and forest.

Terra, which launched ten years ago on Dec. 18, 1999, is a multi-national NASA scientific research satellite in a sun-synchronous orbit around the Earth. It is the flagship of NASA's Earth Observing System. Terra carries a payload of five remote sensors designed to monitor the state of Earth's environment and ongoing changes in its climate system. In the decade since Terra launched, scientists have gained insight into the intricate connections that shape our planet's climate.

Congratulations to NASA on this Terra-ific decade in orbit!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'Extreme' 2010 Hurricane Season? Predictions Rolling In...

Weakening El Niño may not protect coastlines and may support the formation of more frequent and stronger storms!

As we move closer to the start of the 2010 hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin (i.e., Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico), expert predictors are getting ready to broadcast their long-range forecasts.

One of the most eagerly anticipated forecasts comes each year on April 7 from the notable
Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project, as well as the official prediction from NOAA and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in May. Both of these outlets adjust their predictions as the season nears and progresses.

Today, however,
AccuWeather's chief long-range meteorologist and expert hurricane forecaster, Joe Bastardi, who I hope to interview someday soon, issued his official forecast for the 2010 season. Bastardi says, "This year has the chance to be an extreme season!"


Bastardi is calling for 16 to 18 tropical storms in total, 15 of which would be in the western Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico and therefore a threat to land. He is forecasting seven landfalls. Five will be hurricanes and two or three of the hurricanes will be major landfalls for the United States.


Why the increased activity? As the June 1 - November 30 hurricane season approaches, a rapidly weakening El Niño, weakening trade winds which reduce the amount of dry air injected into the tropics from Africa, warmer ocean temperatures in the typical Atlantic tropical breeding grounds, and higher humidity levels which provides additional upward motion in the air and fuels tropical storm development, all will be significant factors for tropical cyclone development.

Stay tuned for Dr. Gray's prediction next month and the NOAA/NHC prediction in May. This could certainly be an interesting hurricane season. And don't forget, this season will feature a brand new Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Too Cold For Fast Food? You Betcha!

So it turns out that fast food junkies don't like severe winter weather! Who knew!?!

Burger King
announced this week that its North American sales were negatively impacted during the past two months as a result of 'adverse weather conditions' in the Central and Eastern portions of the United States. I guess that is what we are calling the back-to-back-to-back Nor'easters?!?

BK says sales declined 8.2 percent in the two-month period that ended February 28, compared to positive 3.1 percent in the same period last year. More than 75 percent of BK's restaurants are located in the snow weary regions.

Other fast food chains are also reporting that extreme winter weather impacted sales. Among them are Wendy's, Arby's, McDonald's and
Ruby Tuesday.

Meanwhile, sporting goods retailers such as
Dick’s Sporting Goods are posting better-than-expected quarterly profits on strong demand for cold weather gear. Hmmm... I foresee some opportunity here. Perhaps the fast food giants can partner with the sporting goods retailers to offer hamburger hand warmers!

Speaking of fast food and severe winter weather, Mint Oreo® Blizzard® is DQ's Blizzard® of the Month!
Yummz!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Recent Earthquakes Connected?

The past couple of months have featured some of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). From the Pacific Rim and across Asia, to South America and the Caribbean, and from North America eastward to Europe, it now seems that a major earthquake is becoming an almost daily occurrence. Since early January massive tremors greater than 6.0 and as high as 8.8 have rattled Haiti, California, China, Japan, Indonesia, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Taiwan, and now Turkey.

Why is Earth so active and is there a connection between all these events?

Geophysicists say there is a connection and that major earthquakes such as these tend to come in clusters. Back in the early 1960s similar events took place, ending with the great Alaskan quake which triggered a significant tsunami. Dr. Gerard Fryer with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says “plate tectonics are working all the time, constantly grinding together and causing strain to accumulate more and more until suddenly, wham!” The outcome is a cluster of major earthquakes like we are seeing now.

Here’s an interesting fact: the USGS expects that 17 major earthquakes, those between 7.0 and 7.9, and one great quake 8.0 and higher, will affect the world in any given year. So it seems we’re right on target, eh? Well many times these quakes happen well below the surface of the earth, or often times over water where they are hardly felt. Despite the statistic, the USGS is calling the recent spate of quakes unusual.

I’m going to end here by expressing how glad I am that I finally found some information about the recent quakes because each time I get a CNN Breaking News alert on my phone I’m like, AGAIN!?!?! If you’re interested in learning more about these quakes or seismology in general, here’s some fun information I came across in my research…

→ Latest Up-to-the-Minute Earthquakes » click here
→ Earthquake Facts » click here
→ Today in Earthquake History » click here
→ Animations for Earthquake Terms and Concepts » click here

Friday, March 5, 2010

NASA, NOAA Successfully Launch GOES-P Weather Satellite

NASA yesterday launched NOAA’s latest GOES-P meteorological satellite, which promises to deliver the most awesome global images of storm development [and more] known to man!

GOES-P, which is scientifically known as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, lifted off Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral and is the third and final launch in the GOES N-P series. It will join four similar spacecraft aimed at improving weather forecasting and monitoring of environmental events in North, Central and South America, and the surrounding oceans. In doing so it will detect ocean and land temperatures, monitor space weather, relay communications and provide search-and-rescue support.

GOES-P promises to provide meteorologists with nearly continuous satellite images, as well as temperature and moisture data, enabling more accurate weather forecasts. GOES-P will also add to the global climate change databases of knowledge embraced by worldwide forecasting organizations that work to benefit people everywhere and help save lives.

I can’t wait to see these out-of-this-world images… no pun intended!

Over, Roger.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Man vs. Nature: Interview with a Forensic Meteorologist

As many of you already heard, earlier this week I had the chance to interview AccuWeather Forensic Meteorologist, Steve Wistar. From the basics of forensic meteorology to the intricate weather details that help solve civil and criminal legal cases, we had a highly informative and instructive conversation, and I’m excited to share what I learned.

First I discovered Wistar has been an avid weather buff since the age of five and as a previous member of the Future Meteorologists of America, he has been studying meteorology since the sixth grade. He graduated from Penn State University where one of his professors was AccuWeather founder, Joel Myers. Wistar officially joined the State College, PA-based AccuWeather team in 1976, and proceeded to forecast the weather through major radio and newspaper outlets. In 1995 Wistar joined AccuWeather’s forensic meteorology initiative. Contributing his expertise and acting as an expert witness in some of man vs. nature’s most interesting cases, he’s been a consulting meteorologist in that department ever since.

Wistar explains, “Forensic meteorology is the process of reconstructing past weather conditions at a particular time and place to determine what happened in a given location.” Using all the data at their disposal, i.e. satellite, Doppler radar and real-time weather reports, as well as knowledge of an actual site, forensic meteorologists provide analysis to law enforcement in cases where weather could be a significant factor. Most of the cases AccuWeather works on are civil, such as roof collapses, slip-and-falls, severe wind damage, and car and plane crashes. However, on rare occasions they are called on to testify in criminal cases.

In a typical case of homeowner vs. building constructor, Wistar walked me through the analysis of common roof collapse as a result of heavy snow accumulation. The first determination comes from actual weather reports at the time and place of the event. Forensic meteorologists then reconstruct the weight of the snow, which is generally based on water content, and is determined by looking at the period of time the snow built up, as well as sublimation on the top layer of the snow, if rainfall occurred, and if there was snow drifting that would lead to uneven placement. After this is determined, engineers are called in to provide critical information as to whether or not the roof would have been able to handle the weight. Wistar says, “In many cases where snowfall is at historic levels, such as last month, many roofs just are not able to handle the weight. At times like this the weight simply exceeds the building code.”

In what was likely one of Wistar’s most challenging experiences as a forensic meteorologist, he was called on to visit the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Over an 18-day period he analyzed more than 250 cases of damage, trying to determine the major source of destruction. In a time where the blame was mostly placed on the 20 + foot storm surge [and breached levees], Wistar and his team were able to tell the difference between homes damaged by the surge and those damaged hours earlier by 100 + mph winds from a tornado or microburst. This information proved invaluable to the homeowner in filing insurance claims unrelated to flood damage.

When asked for specifics, Wistar mentions, “By looking at Doppler radar we were able to tell when intense, rotating thunderstorm cells moved over a particular location, and in some cases, it was well before the storm surge arrived. This really changed the equation, especially for the insurance companies.”

Now if you’re like me, you probably want to hear the details on how forensic meteorology has been used to solve criminal cases. Wistar shared two stories, one of which was documented by CourtTV and the Discovery Channel. The case surrounded a domestic dispute between a dentist and his wife, which led to the wife’s death. The crime was largely solved by the expert knowledge provided by the AccuWeather team.

Panicked about what to do and how to appear innocent, the dentist [the alleged killer] consulted with his brother and devised a plan to make the scene look like a burglary. After ransacking their second floor apartment and setting a ladder up against their window, the dentist called the police and informed them of the ‘murder.’

When the police arrived, something just didn’t add up. It was a damp autumn night and there was dew on everything – the grass, the trees, the cars. However, there was no dew on the ladder, and one of the cars in the driveway didn’t have dew on it either. The scene made no sense. That is where forensic meteorology came in and that is when AccuWeather was called. Passionate about AccuWeather’s input in the case, Wistar acknowledged, “We were able to help them understand the timeline of what happened and why there wasn’t dew present on these objects, and the case was solved! And hey, that was pretty cool!”

Wistar and I spoke about several other cases, both civil and criminal. I must say I learned a great deal from our conversation. As if I didn’t already have an enormous appreciation for weather, I now have a new found admiration for these experts who are able to tie in the complex elements that bind the science of meteorology with forensics.

I am so grateful to you, Steve, for taking the time out of your busy weather predicting/reconstructing, and crime solving day to speak with me. And thank you in advance for the invitation to visit the AccuWeather studio. I will definitely be taking you up on the offer!

I hope that everyone who reads/read this blog post is by now as fascinated as I am. In looking to the future I hope to learn more about other corners of meteorology by speaking with a variety of professionals in the field.

Stay tuned!

Oh Hai Cherry Blossoms

The National Park Service predicted today the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC to be at peak bloom on April 8. The peak bloom date is defined as the day in which 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) trees that surround the Tidal Basin are open. The date when the Yoshino cherry blossoms reach peak bloom varies from year to year, depending on weather conditions.

This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 27-April 11. Festival dates are set based on the average date of blooming (April 4), but nature is not always cooperative. Unseasonably warm and/or cool temperatures have resulted in the Yoshino cherries reaching peak bloom as early as March 15 (1990) and as late as April 18 (1958).

The Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of Japanese cherry trees from the people of Japan to the city of Washington. Hanami (literally meaning “flower viewing") is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers. In Japan, thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the flowering trees, and sometimes these parties go on until late at night.

More information about the National Cherry Blossom Festival can be found
here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New AccuWeather.com Website

AccuWeather.com launched its new website earlier this week and it's already proving to be far greater than what I expected. According to AccuWeather, the new site has all the same great weather you are used to, with a navigation that makes it easier than ever to get around.

The new site is pretty darn awesome -- I love how they format their news stories, and feature blogs and videos in a more professional setup than before. AccuWeather.com now truly offers 'Weather for Your Life' with forecasts that connect the dots between you and the way you use weather for your health, home and garden, travel and more.

Delivering on its promise with a new homepage, new navigation, new forecast page tabs, radar and satellite images, AccuWeather.com continues to contribute to the future of weather broadcasting.

It was only fair to give props to these guys for a job well done. After all, The Weather Channel hopped on board with a new local forecast page earlier in the winter. See previous blog post
here.

Oh, and speaking of AccuWeather... stay tuned for the official blog post later this week recapping my interview with AccuWeather Forensic Meteorologist, Steve Wistar. You won't want to miss it!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Time Bandit Earthquake Shifts Earth's Axis

Feel like there isn’t enough time in the day??? Well now there is less.

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile over the weekend — killing hundreds, and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless — may have shortened the length of each Earth day,
according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist, Richard Gross.

Dr. Gross computed how Earth's rotation should have changed as a result of the February 27 quake. Using a complex model, he and fellow scientists came up with a preliminary calculation that the quake should have shortened the length of an Earth day by about 1.26 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second.) This might not seem like much to you and I, but consider supercomputers that operate millions of times faster where even a few of nanoseconds came make a difference. So much for sleeping in during precious microseconds we just lost forever.

Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth's axis. Gross calculates the quake should have moved Earth's figure axis (the axis about which Earth's mass is balanced) by 2.7 milliseconds (about 8 centimeters, or 3 inches).

Earth's figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis; they are offset by about 33 feet. Now consider the earth has shifted, but the GPS satellites have not, which means due to the angles involved there are some positional errors, not to mention that any scientific experiments requiring accurate time will need to take it into account.

Our Daily Routine!

This cartoon appeared this week in the New Yorker magazine. Spending the last couple months managing workload and the blog, especially during all the recent exciting wintry weather, this image pretty much depicts our daily routine!

Today marks two months The Northeast Quadrant has been online! Thanks for following, and stay tuned later this week for an exciting blog post recapping an interview we are doing with an Accuweather.com Forensic Meteorologist!

Awesomeness!

Monday, March 1, 2010

NASA's New "A Warming World Page"

Years ago Al Gore changed the world by inventing the Internet. Then he wowed us all by explaining global warming with some power point slides. Well now our good friends over at NASA found a way to use the Internet to help people better understand the causes and effects of Earth's changing climate and global warming.

The new "A Warming World" page hosts a series of news articles, videos, data visualizations, space-based imagery and interactive visuals tha
t provide unique NASA perspectives on this evolving topic of global importance.

The page includes featured articles that explore the recent Arctic winter weather that has gripped the United States, Europe and Asia, and how El Nino and other longer-term ocean-atmospheric phenomena may affect global temperatures this year and in the future.

A new video, "Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle," illustrates how NASA satellites monitor climate change and help scientists better understand how our complex planet works.

The page also contains a section just for kids and one for educators which seems ideal for classroom. Good stuff!

Check it out at
http://climate.nasa.gov/warmingworld.

From February Fury to March Madness

We all know that February was one of the harshest winter weather months the Eastern third of the country has seen in many, many years. Just look at the following two graphics supplied today by The Weather Channel.

In the first graphic, check out the temperature extremes and just how much of the nation was affected by temperatures running well below average. That, coupled with unusual heavy snowfall amounts as a result of back-to-back-to-back Nor'easters, left major U.S. cities from the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast with record setting Februaries. The second graphic shows the states that reported their all time greatest snowfalls for the month of February, as well as those that reported their all time snowiest month ever!



Now as we enter the official start of the meteorological spring (March 1), we also enter tornado season! March tends to host some of the year's most volatile weather across the lower 48. The transition month welcomes cold surges from the north and more frequent warm surges from the south. The clash of these air masses typically sets up across the plains and southeast states before migrating northward and westward later in Spring.

Here's to a crazy Winter and a hopefully crazier Spring!