Friday, May 28, 2010

NEQ Friday Review, V.4

Despite all the recent predictions for an extreme hurricane season ahead, never in history have meteorologists seen a run-up to a season as sobering as what we're looking at now. In fact, since the end of World War II ocean temperatures in the hurricane-prone waters of the Atlantic have never been warmer this early in the season than they currently are – not even prior to the epic 2005 hurricane season, which featured 28 named storms, including Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and several storms that pushed us into using the Greek alphabet.

With such worrisome forecasts looming, today's NEQ Friday Review will take a look back at the 2005 hurricane season to see what we might be up against over the next 183 days spanning June 1 through November 30 (and possibly longer).
  • The 2005 hurricane season was the most active in 154 years of records being kept.
  • 2005 hurricane season held the most named storms at 28.
  • For the first time since the current naming system was introduced in 1953, all 21 names on 2005 hurricane season's list were used, forcing the National Hurricane Center to name 6 later storms after letters in the Greek alphabet.
  • The 2005 hurricane season featured more hurricanes than any other season with a grand total of 15.
  • The 2005 hurricane season featured the most Category 5 storms with a total of four, including Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
  • The 2005 hurricane season featured the earliest Category 5 storm with Emily on July 17.
  • The 2005 hurricane season featured the most retired storm names with a grand total of five, including Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma.
  • Hurricane Katrina, the 11th named storm of the 2005 hurricane season, now stands as the costliest U.S. hurricane at $96 billion dollars. Hurricane's Rita and Wilma also made the top 10 list.
  • Hurricane Wilma, the 21st named storm of the 2005 hurricane season was recorded as the most intense Atlantic hurricane ever at sea.
  • The 2005 hurricane season featured Tropical Storm Vince, the only storm to ever form so far east that it actually made landfall in Spain.
  • Finally, the 2005 hurricane season featured tropical storm Zeta, which was only the second storm ever to bridge December and January.
Whew! What staggering facts! It seems that any of these would be hard to beat, and hopefully we won't do it!

Meanwhile, enjoy your Memorial Holiday Weekend and remember, hurricane season begins Tuesday, June 1!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Comparing NOAA's Hurricane Forecast to Others

It seems I've been blogging for months about hurricane season predictions and for just as long I've been mentioning the long-awaited official forecast for the 2010 Atlantic season by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. All the hype was built up leading up to the expected release of their forecast last Thursday, just to find out it was delayed until today.

So alas, here it is – the official big daddy prediction we've been waiting for...

NOAA is predicting 14 to 23 named storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Of those named storms, 8 to 14 should become hurricanes, including 3 to 7 majors. As there are only 21 names dedicated to storms in any given season, if we do reach the higher end of their forecast, we could easily push into the Greek alphabet, which has only happened once before in 2005

I'm not going to spend time reasoning why they are predicting such an active season – I think I beat that dead horse already! Here are a couple links to previous blog posts that touch on the predictors forecasters look at when issuing these seasonal hurricane forecasts:

NOAA's hurricane forecasts have been accurate in 5 out of the 10 years in this decade. Their prediction was too low in 4 years, and too high in just one year: 2006. 8 of the 10 years in the decade saw above-average activity.

For reference, here are the other predictions I've already blogged about:

Good thing I grabbed hold of some extra dry erase markers and sticky hurricane symbols for my tracking chart – looks like I'm surely going need them!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

25th Anniversary of Ozone Hole Discovery

25 years ago in May 1985, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) officially discovered the now controversial hole in Earth's ozone layer. The feature, which has expanded and contracted since its discovery, has been responsible for large losses of ozone in Earth's atmosphere over Antarctica.

The discovery of the ozone hole alerted the world to a major environmental threat as the accumulation of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in industrial solvents were found to deplete the protective layer of ozone that surrounds the Earth.

Action by governments around the world led to the 1987 Montreal Protocol and its amendments, which ensured that production and consumption of CFCs, halons and carbon tetrachloride were phased out by 2000, and methyl chloroform by 2005. All members of the United Nations have now signed the Montreal Protocol.

In good news, the ozone layer depletion seems to be on a dramatic upswing and levels of ozone are expected to continue to reach safer levels in the coming decades.

Friday, May 21, 2010

NEQ Friday Review, V.3

I am on the train this morning riding Amtrak's Northeast Corridor from New York City to Boston, as I embark on a week of business meetings. A gorgeous morning indeed, the skies are deep blue and as we pulled away from the Big Apple just about an hour ago, the sunkissed skyline was magnificently displayed in my left window while the edgy coastline of Long Island lay to my right. Check out this photo that I snapped on my iPhone as the train was pushing away from the city.

In this week's NEQ Friday Review I am actually going to review last month. Did you know that since record-keeping began in 1880, April 2010 was the warmest April EVER recorded across the globe, and the second consecutive warmest month? It's true!

For the United States specifically, it was the 14th warmest April with five states recording their warmest: Illinois, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Sixteen other states had their top 10 warmest.

Additionally, no other period from January through April has been warmer on planet Earth. This means that 2010 is on track to be the warmest year ever! Hard to believe when the year kicked-off with sub-freezing temperatures and epic blizzards, but hey... that's just here – we're talking globally now!

One other interesting fact – the decade beginning in 2000 has also been recorded as the warmest.

Global warming? Climate change? You decide...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Government's Hurricane Forecast Delayed, Chimpanzee Issues His

Weather geeks everywhere have been waiting for today to learn the Climate Prediction Center's (CPC) official 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast... but alas, the CPC has put off until next Thursday, May 27, a press conference that will bear their predictions. The suspense is killing me!

So meanwhile the National Center for Public Policy Research is questioning the government's ability to really predict the hurricane season with accuracy. They are debating it so much that this week they put a chimpanzee to the test. Check it out here...

Eyjafjallajökull's Financial Impact in the UK

I was contacted this week by the U.K.-based company Know Your Money. Although Know Your Money is a price comparison website offering help, guidance, and the latest news on a range of financial products, they contacted me as a resource who has extensively covered the Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud, suggesting that their infographic in terms of economic facts and figures, and just how the ash cloud is affecting the U.K., would be appreciated by The Northeast Quadrant readership.

After reviewing their piece, I concur! This information is pretty incredible in terms of disruption to air travel and its effects on the British economy – we're talking over £2 billion lost by the aviation industry alone. Click on the graphic above to view the information in greater detail.

Meanwhile, I too am realizing the effect the ash cloud is having on European aviation. I leave tomorrow morning for my company's Annual Meeting in Boston and although we have thousands registered to attend, and with a great majority of them traveling across the Atlantic, there have been some cancellations and concerns have been expressed for whether they will make it to the U.S. and back. Naturally, their inability to travel would cost my company money.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Climate Change Gives Greenland a Lift

A recent study conducted by the University of Miami (and supported by the National Science Foundation and NASA), indicates that Greenland's ice is melting so quickly that the land underneath it is rising at an accelerated pace.

The north Atlantic island nation, which features a rocky coast of stunning fjords formed by moving glaciers, and a dense icecap that covers much of country, is literally rising as the ice pressing down the land beneath it continues to melt. According to the study some coastal areas are lifting by nearly one inch per year and if current trends continue, that number could accelerate to as much as two inches per year by 2025.

The idea behind the study is that if Greenland is losing its ice cover, the resulting loss of weight causes the rocky surface beneath to rise, therefore literally giving a boost to the country's elevation.

Melting of Greenland's ice contributes to global sea level rise. Experts say if the acceleration of uplift and the implied acceleration of melting continue, Greenland could soon become the largest contributor to global sea level rise.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Earthquake-Ravaged Haiti Braces for Worst as Hurricane Season Nears

Yesterday I blogged about the hype surrounding the upcoming hurricane season. What was the hype you ask? Scroll down and have a peek, but all-in-all, the Atlantic sea surface temperatures are already at record warm levels and continue to get warmer. That combined with other factors, such as a fading El Niño in the Pacific may make for an interesting hurricane forecast in months to come.

However, it's not all about hurricanes. The Caribbean Island chain lies embedded within Hurricane Alley and whether or not any of these islands are directly hit with a cyclone this year, a wetter than average rainy season is certainly in store. So what does that mean for our friends in Haiti? This situation could potentially complicate difficult humanitarian relief operations following the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12.

Haiti already has a long list of tragic flooding events following just mere glancing blows by tropical storms. In 2008 alone, the country was struck by Tropical Storm Fay on August 15 – 16, by Hurricane Gustav on August 26, by Tropical Storm Hanna on September 1 and by Hurricane Ike on September 6 – 7.

As it stands now, vast swathes of the country are devoid of greenery, soil-holding roots, trees or grasses. Centuries of deforestation as a result of mother nature's beating has left the entire country a mudslide waiting to happen. And with the current Haiti rainfall outlook showing a 50 percent chance that rainfall will be above average during the period from May through July, and a 55 percent chance of above average rainfall from June through August, humanitarian experts fear that excessive rainfall would bring with it an increasing threat of disease and mudslides, among other hazards to the 1.7 million Haitians currently living in tent cities after losing their homes in the quake.

Luckily, the United Nations, the Department of Defense's Southern Command, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Red Cross and the Haitian government recognize the threat, and are racing to brace the impoverished nation for the worst.

With nothing between you and a deluge but a flimsy sheet of plastic, it's a tough time to be living in earthquake-ravaged Haiti! Hopefully things won't turn out as awful as they expect...

Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season: Why all the Hype?

On the heels of already alarming predictions of an active 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) will issue its official forecast this Thursday, May 20.

AccuWeather issued its forecast earlier this Spring, calling for an extreme season, and just last week noted we might even be looking at a top 10! Several weeks ago hurricane pioneer, Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University, issued his forecast, calling for an above average season. So with all this talk about what lies ahead in coming months, and as we prepare for this week's forecast by the CPC, let's talk about all the hype surrounding the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. After all, last year was one of the quietest in decades...

Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs)
SSTs in the Atlantic's main tropical development region have been some of the warmest recorded this early in the year. The main development region is the area where virtually all African waves turn into tropical entities. They traverse across these warm waters and generally account for 85 percent of all Atlantic major hurricanes and 60 percent of all named storms. Seeing as this area is already experiencing warmer than average SSTs, historically it does not bode well for the hurricane season.

El Niño vs. La Niña
Climate experts declare El Niño to be over. As El Niño years tend to have fewer storms than normal in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, the conclusion of this year's El Niño could mean a more active season than the previous two. So-called La Niña years, when the Pacific is colder than usual, can lead to an increase in Atlantic hurricanes.

Wind and Ocean
High and low pressure systems over the Atlantic work to slow the trade winds. The trade winds this hurricane season are forecast to be relatively light, promoting storm development. Meanwhile, when there is a strong ocean current moving to the north, as is the case this year, it is able to draw warm water from southern latitudes into the region where hurricanes form. When the two work together, hurricane seasons most definitely tend to be busier.

African Dust
A wetter than normal weather pattern in the African desert regions have kept the amount of dust that becomes airborne in the atmosphere to a minimum. Typically, when this dust enters the atmosphere and moves across the Atlantic, it inhibits storm growth, therefore affecting overall tropical storm formation. This does not seem to be a major factor this year.

Well there you have it – several major indicators supporting predictions for an extremely active hurricane season. More on this when the CPC issues their forecast this Thursday!

Friday, May 14, 2010

NEQ Friday Review, V.2

The subject of today’s NEQ Friday Review is tornado talk!

Dozens of twisters were spawned this week from violent supercell thunderstorms marching their way across the Great Plains. In the true line of fire was Oklahoma where as many as six EF-3 tornadoes were responsible for leveling houses, flipping cars and dropping hail as big as softballs. Two people (revised from five) were killed and dozens more injured.

But why?! Forecasts warned of tornadoes days in advance. They even predicted almost to the hour when the twisters might strike. How did they do it!?

Supercomputers!!! Years ago computer models were capable of forecasting storms two days in advance and meteorologists needed to rely heavily on radar and storm spotters to confirm the location, size and strength of tornadoes. But nowadays meteorologists use supercomputers that crunch large amounts of atmospheric data well in advance of an imminent threat of severe weather, and therefore provide them the power to warn of oncoming storms long before they strike – even weeks!

So then what went wrong?! In my opinion it’s ignorance. Tornadoes occur frequently in Oklahoma and severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings are almost a weekly occurrence at this time of year. Despite the advance warnings, many people disregarded blaring sirens that indicate a tornado is about to crush them! I mean, television stations even showed motorists clogging roadways as tornadoes were forming, just watching in shear awe – and never knowing what uncanny path the tornado would take. Perhaps the population has become desensitized to the seriousness of these storms. Easily they were in harm’s way.

Well, geez… come to think of it, I would be right there with them! Anything for the shot!

Have a great weekend and stay safe!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Devin's Top 5 Not-So-Natural Disaster Films

What a week it has been thus far! From deadly tornadoes raking the plains, to another violent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull; and from the grim forecast that this hurricane season could be among the top 10 worst ever, to word that that Gulf oil slick could sludge more coastlines this weekend... I think it's time for a break from reality.

That said, here's my top five not-so-natural disaster films! What are yours? Comment on this post and let me know!

1. The Perfect Storm (2000) – Who doesn't love this film!? A semi-true depiction of the late October 1991 storm-of-storms, which was actually dubbed "The Perfect Storm" by the National Weather Service (NWS). The monster storm was the result of late-season Hurricane Grace becoming absorbed by a low pressure center moving off the Atlantic seaboard, and a trailing cold front riding up the coast. The entities merged causing one new, massive unnamed storm which later became "The Perfect Storm." The tempest Nor'easter was responsible for more than $200 million in damage and the sinking of the swordfishing vessel The Andrea Gail, which is the central plot of this awesome film starring Mark Walberg, George Clooney and Diane Lane.

2. The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990) – I watched this movie over, and over, and over again when I was a child. It was one of the first natural disaster films I recall seeing and I just loved it! Maybe because it was made for television, maybe because it starred the mother from Growing Pains who in the movie was married to the father of The Wonder Years... maybe because it was just plain disastrous! In any case, it was about a massive temblor that strikes Los Angeles and it's the best darn earthquake movie out there!

3. The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – I saw this film when I was living in Germany during the summer of 2004. It was the only film playing in English, and boy was I glad! The German subtitles could not distract me from a climate-changing flick that sent the northern hemisphere into a new ice age! What!?! A series of winter-like hurricanes descending from the arctic? An epic storm surge engulfing Manhattan, causing a wolf-ridden tanker to park itself on Fifth Ave? Burning books in the New York Library to keep warm? Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid star in this film that depicts the (unrealistic) catastrophic effects of global warming in a series of extreme weather events.

4. Twister (1996) – Is it about a Great Plains tornado outbreak or the characters played by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton falling back in love? Every weather geek has seen this movie. It's the movie we love to hate and hate to love! Either way, awesome graphics, a fun ride, and a good depiction of a tornado outbreak on an instable, Spring day in Kansas and Nebraska. We have cows!

5. Deep Impact (1998) – Morgan Freeman can do no wrong when he's alongside Téa Leoni. Who doesn't love seeing a rogue comet blast through the atmosphere and crash into the Atlantic Ocean, sending a mammoth tidal wive crashing along the eastern seaboard? Enough said!

Finally, I should also mention these semi-finalists that came to mind (actually, they are pretty awful in my opinion): Dante's Peak (1997), Volcano (1997), Armageddon (1998)... shall I keep going? Probably not.

Coming Soon! Devin's Top 5 Natural Disaster Documentaries!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull Still Tapping Into Earth's Mantle

Earthquakes Indicate Volcanic Activity Persists While NASA Captures Stellar Satellite Image

With a series of earthquakes occurring this week inside Eyjafjallajökull, it seems there is no end in sight for the erupting volcano. In fact, over fifty quakes have been reported since Monday morning, which prove that magma is still flowing into the volcano from the Earth's mantle.

As for the eruption, there was a slight increase in explosive activity Monday, resulting in an ash plume at times shooting up 20,000 feet. At the same time, luck would have it that NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on its Aqua satellite captured the image above. In my opinion it's the best satellite image of Eyjafjallajökull's ash plume yet.

In related news, you can now
purchase official Eyjafjallajökull ash online! An Icelandic Internet retailer by the name of is selling the ash to support the search and rescue team responsible for safekeeping and restoring work in the area.

Apparently orders have been coming in from across the world... so ummm, get your ash today!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tornadopacalypse 2010

As most have heard by now, a major tornado outbreak took place yesterday in the nation's mid-section. At the center of what I'm dubbing Tornadopacalypse 2010 (the severe weather season's extension to the famed Snowpacalypse of this past winter) were the states of Kansas and Oklahoma. So far there have been over 35 reports of tornadoes, most of which were reported in the Sooner State, where at least 5 people were killed with over 50 injured.

It all began to unfold yesterday morning when the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma (which itself was struck by a violent, wedge-like EF3 tornado – the city, not the SPC) had issued a rare 'high risk' warning of violent, large and long tracked tornadoes. Well, that is exactly what happened once they began to develop.

So, what causes a tornado outbreak to occur? To those less versed in tornadic activity and the ingredients that need to come together to cause such an event to take place, here's some helpful information.

First, while there is no single agreed upon definition, generally more than six tornadoes in a day in the same region is defined as an outbreak. These outbreaks typically occur in the Spring months from March through June, and they usually take place in the 'Tornado Alley' section of the Great Plains. May is the most active month, averaging more than 300 tornadoes during the latest 3-year period, which is nearly 25 percent of all tornadoes observed during any given full calendar year.

There are generally three atmospheric criteria that need to come together perfectly (or not so perfectly, depending on how you look at it) for a major tornado outbreak to commence.
  • A lifting mechanism, such as an upper level trough, surface cold front, outflow boundary, dry line (or a combination of these), which acts as a focal point for storm initiation.

  • Pronounced wind shear, which is a change of wind speed and direction with height. Fast low-level winds also boost the risk.

  • A deep layer of high moisture content.

Well, yesterday all these ingredients came together at the right time (or not so right time, maybe?)across Kansas and Oklahoma, and the atmosphere became extremely ripe for supercell thunderstorms to form. Supercell thunderstorms are storms with rotating updrafts that can produce extremely large hail, damaging straight-line winds, and violent tornadoes. The result: long-lived twisters with winds up to 150 miles per hour, spouting hail the size of baseballs, toppling stores, flattening schools, ripping up towns and leaving thousands without power!

More severe weather is possible through Wednesday, including parts of Oklahoma and Kansas.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Warnings: A True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

Some of you might have read on The Northeast Quadrant how I recently lost my entire reference library of weather novels and educational materials that once sat on the shelves of my bookcase. These materials were in storage in my parents basement in Edison, New Jersey when the March 2010 Daylight Savings Nor'easter flooded the region, their basement included. All my books were soaked, ruined, destroyed!

Well, now it's time to build that library back up! Lucky for me I came across an article about a new book by author Mike Smith, called
Warnings: A True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. It tells the story of how the national storm warning system came to be and how it saves so many lives.

Did you know that absent the national warning system, the average death rate from tornadoes would be greater than 1,000 a year? Did you know that the tornado death rate has been cut by 95 percent as a result of the system?

promises to take readers on a fast-paced account of the biggest storms in recent years and how weather forecasting has developed into a true science since the 1950s. Part memoir, part science account, Smith's tale begins in the late 1940s, when weathermen were actually forbidden to broadcast tornado warnings. The National Weather Service (NWS), then known as the United States Weather Bureau, blocked storm forecasting for fear of getting it wrong.

Sounds to me like another fascinating journey inside the world of weather! I think I'll grab a copy this week!

Friday, May 7, 2010

NEQ Friday Review, V.1

I am starting something new! Every Friday I will do an NEQ Friday Review, and this is the first (V.1). Whether it's a weather-week-in-rewind, special commentary, a shared piece by guest-bloggers, or just me sharing some special news, the NEQ Friday Review will take a slightly different course than other daily blog posts. Of course, as weather permits (no pun intended... ok, well, actually pun intended), you'll occasionally have two-for-the-price-of-one Friday's, where you'll be captivated by an actual blog post and an NEQ Friday Review. What could be more fun?!?

Now, the NEQ Friday Review...

Today is a busy day for The Northeast Quadrant as I’m being interviewed for a piece by a major news outlet. I can’t give out too much information just yet, but look for an update here and there as things develop. It’s actually a pretty neat piece and promises to offer an interesting take on online weather reporting by non-professionals. Okay, that is all for now…

While I leave you hanging I want to use this opportunity to encourage you, if you are not already doing so, to follow The Northeast Quadrant throughout its various social media outlets:
  • Follow The Northeast Quadrant on Twitter
  • Become a fan of The Northeast Quadrant on Facebook
  • Check out, and subscribe to The Northeast Quadrant on YouTube
Thanks to all of you for following, re-tweeting, re-posting, liking the statuses, watching the videos and mostly for being fans! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project

Hurricane Target: NYC-Area

I recently came across the
United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project, an interactive web project co-developed by the Tropical Meteorology Research Project at Colorado State University and the GeoGraphics Laboratory at Bridgewater State College. The Project is simply awesome if you're a geek like me, and especially if you're fascinated by tropical weather and hurricane season!

When you access the fully customizable interactive database, based on the parameters you enter, it will calculate the probability of a hurricane landfalling along a particular United States region, as well as by state and county.
So using a number of variables, here's the likelihood of a tropical storm or hurricane striking the NYC-area this year and beyond:
  • 23 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a tropical storm or hurricane in 2010 (normal value is 15 percent)

  • 7 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a major hurricane (category 3 or stronger) in 2010 (normal value is 4 percent)

  • 99.4 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a hurricane in the next 50 years

  • 90 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a major hurricane (category 3 or stronger) in the next 50 years.
Nearly a 100 percent chance the NYC-area will be hit with a category 3 hurricane in coming years?! That would be incredible! I can just imagine it now... a hurricane gathers strength in the tropics, picks up forward speed as it travels across the warm Atlantic waters. It gets picked by the westerlies north of the Caribbean Islands and shoots northward up the Gulf Stream at such a rapid speed that it doesn't have enough time over cooler waters to blow off steam. It manages to drop from a category 5 to a 4, and barely holds onto 3, but slam! It hits the NYC-area just east of Manhattan and landfalls in Suffolk County, Long Island as a weak category 3 with winds near 115 mph, gusts as high as 150 mph. Absolutely devastating!

Whew... I just got so heated writing that! Time to call it quits for today, but don't you quit till you play around with the United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project. I think you'll find it pretty interesting... and fun!

El Niño, NAO Fade Fast... So What's Next?

Two Major Weather Phenomenon Losing Presence as Climate Variability Now Rules

For the past year we've blamed any and every weather extreme on El Niño and its interaction with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Wait, the NAO? Look, I'm not just talking to myself again. The NAO was really present this past winter and it, along with the famous El Niño warm-water effect in the Pacific Ocean, sent moisture-soaked air up from the Gulf of Mexico as a linebacker high pressure block kept the jet stream on a steady ride up the East Coast, therefore forcing Arctic air deep into the South and throwing a plume of wintry precipitation along the I-95 corridor.

The result: record-breaking cold east of the Mississippi, powerful and damaging tornadoes in the southern plains, dozens of snowstorms and even several epic blizzards across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and historic flooding in the Ohio Valley.

But what about this past weekend's torrent in Tennessee, which caused the city of Nashville to become water-logged, causing the famous Grand Ole Opry to flood? Well, climatologists say that El Niño has weakened so much already that it likely had very little impact on the event, and the NAO has pretty much spun itself out by now. That said, our weather pattern is now largely going to be affected by climate variability, or pretty much whatever happens, happens.

Ever-changing and unpredictable! This blog post has been brought to you by reason # 198,765,499,876,534 why I love weather! Enjoy it, it's the only weather you've got!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Paleotempestology: The History of Hurricanes

One of the best things about writing blog posts for The Northeast Quadrant is that I'm constantly learning new things about something I'm so passionate about. So naturally today when I was reading an article about long-term hurricane forecasting and came across the term paleotempestology, I was all kinds of like What?! Really??!

This crazy word I've never heard,
which by the way spell check does NOT recognize, is the study of past tropical cyclone activity by means of geological proxies as well as historical documentary records. Hmmm... interesting. Well, it turns out this science is slowly proving that hurricane activity can be predicted decades in advance.

So, how does it work? In order to gain a perspective on prior hurricanes and predict future trends, researchers study proxy data such as sand layers deposited by storms behind barrier islands, changes in coral chemistry, variations in tree-ring patterns growing in coastal areas, and historical documents that include ships' logs and newspaper accounts. These sources of hurricane information build a picture of hurricane activity for the past hundreds and thousands of years.

Last month, hurricane pioneer Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University issued his forecast for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. Gray uses 60+ years of data on sea surface temperature, atmospheric pressure and winds to make his annual predictions. He says, “We assume the future is going to behave similarly to how the past has behaved.”

However, according to a recent article, predicting the number and intensity of hurricanes before they spawn in the Atlantic has been a hit-or-miss proposition, even just a few months before hurricane season begins.

Experts in the field of paleotempestology say such predictions, should they continue to validate, could provide insurers, homeowners and policymakers an opportunity to adapt by changing land-use policies, strengthening building codes and preserving or restoring natural mitigation by wetlands, floodplains, and beach and dune systems.

Hey, maybe there really is something to this paleotempestology thing... but until I can successfully pronounce it, I'm just going with paleohurricanescience!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Severe Weather Awareness Week

Severe Weather Awareness Week kicked off this past weekend for the New York metropolitan region, and what better time than now to help explain some of the lingo you’ll often hear from weather forecasters across the nation during one of the most violent weather months of the year.

May is considered the heart of tornado season, but it’s not all about tornadoes, ya know... Over the last 20 years a variety of severe weather events has killed over 100 people in New York state alone, and has caused over three quarters of a billion dollars in damage. On average, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues 400 severe thunderstorm warnings, 17 tornado warnings and about 150 flash flood warnings each year in the Empire State. So, next time you hear word of any of these warnings, remember these definitions:

A severe thunderstorm watch is issued when severe thunderstorms capable of producing winds of at least 58 mph and or hail of at least one inch in diameter, are possible within the next few hours (typically less than six hours).

A severe thunderstorm warning means that severe thunderstorms are imminent or occurring, and could pose a significant threat to life and property.

A tornado watch means conditions are ripe for tornadoes to form and they could do so within the next few hours (typically less than six hours).

A tornado warning means a tornado is imminent or occurring, and has likely been visually spotted or indicated by Doppler radar. A tornado warning implies an immediate threat to life and property and appropriate shelter should be taken immediately.

A flash flood watch means conditions are favorable for flash flooding, which is a rapid rise (typically within six hours) of water along a stream or low lying urban area, most commonly resulting from downpours associated with severe thunderstorms.

A flash flood warning means flash flooding is imminent or occurring and flood waters can rise rapidly, if they have not already.