December, 2011

End of year review

December 31st, 2011 at 8:43 am by under Weather

We close the books on 2011 tonight, and it was quite a year for the weather.  When its all said and done tonight, the final tally will show this was a much warmer and drier than normal year.  Much of our area is still in an extreme to an exceptional drought today.  Below is the month by month stats, I listed the temperature difference from normal, and the rainfall difference from normal.

Month Temp Departure Rain Departure
Jan -0.5 1.03
Feb 0.5 -1.51
Mar 4.9 -2.05
Apr 7.8 -2.24
May 2.9 -1.38
Jun 6.1 -1.8
Jul 5.5 -1.92
Aug 5.8 -2.35
Sep 4.4 -2.81
Oct 0.5 -1.69
Nov 0.9 -0.05
Dec -0.7 2.61

The warmest temp recorded was 112, on 8/28/2011

The coldest temp recorded was 17, on 2/02/2011

The heaviest rainfall in one day was 2.96″ on 5/12/2011

Homeland Security to oversee crowded Iowa caucus site

December 30th, 2011 at 7:22 pm by under Politics

UNI Dome, site of next week's largest caucus in Iowa (University of Northern Iowa)

If you want to know how serious the Iowa Caucus is for voters there next Tuesday, just turn your attention to the Black Hawk County Republicans. During this presidential race, they will hold the largest caucus in the state, which has come with its fair share of challenges.

“We tried it back in 2008 and it was a debacle,” Judd Saul, BHCR spokesman and Cedar Valley Tea Party leader, told KXAN by email Friday. “We expected 1,000, and 3,000 showed up. It snowed ten inches, and the candidates were blocked in snow and cars.”

This year, Saul expects 6,000 Republicans to turn out, so they will hold their caucus at the University of Northern Iowa’s UNI Dome in Cedar Falls.

Saul said, because of the sheer size of the event and concern from the Republican Party of Iowa, the Department of Homeland Security stepped in to oversee matters.

“This time, it’s at the largest venue in Black Hawk County and will be able to hold more than enough people,” he said, knowing all wards and precincts will be under one roof.

Traffic jam averted. Crowd secured. But what about the weather?

“(It’s) snowing (now) but not staying,” he added. “It’s supposed to 45 degrees on Tuesday.”

Check out the map below to see how organizers will squeeze everyone into the arena.

Cold returns for the New Year

December 30th, 2011 at 6:30 pm by under Weather

Colder temperatures will usher in the New Year.

Saturday will be warm and sunny ahead of a strong cold front. Afternoon highs will hit the low to mid 70s! Once the front moves through, after midnight,  temperatures will  drop into the 40s and 50s. Skies will cloud up overnight. You’ll probably need a jacket if you’ll be out late.

Breezy conditions will set in New Years Day.

The pattern of cold nights and cool afternoons will stick around into midweek.

2011… A Year Of Weather Extremes!

December 30th, 2011 at 11:31 am by under Weather

2011 had it’s share of weather extremes both nationally and locally and to see a synopsis of what we dealt with, as a country, see the following post from the National Weather Service…

…but to remember 2011, you might think it was all about heat, and for better part of 2011, it was, but we can’t forget how quiet and then abrupt our weather became, as our year started.

Back in January, we saw temperatures pretty much normal for the season with some days a little colder than others, but on the last day of January, we saw a temperature of 78 degrees… and then a blast of Arctic air invaded Texas and not only brought snow, but also brought temperatures down to the teens and twenties. From February 1st where temperatures dropped to 19 degrees, that night, to the 2nd when temperatures never reached higher than 26 degrees and the next day when they only reached 28, we started out with some record-breaking cold. True to Texas form, in a week, we saw temperatures back into the 70s as if our recent cold weather had never occurred.

March ushered in warmer than normal temperatures which reached into the 70s and 80s and by April, we were already seeing temperatures in the 90′s and little did we know, that the most blistering heat was just around the corner for Summer.

May 25th was our first day to reach 100 degrees and by June 21st, we had already witnessed 17 days out of 27 with 100+ degree days… and it only got worse. From June 30th to September 4th, we only saw 4 days below 100 degrees and by September 29th, and a record-breaking 101 that day, we had experienced 90 days with 100 degree days… a new record for Camp Mabry and Central Texas.

On October 23rd, we saw our last 90 degree day and that set our record for 90+ degree days at 164. Although we didn’t see any more 90 degree days for the rest of the year, we did see quite a few days with 80+ degree weather and cooler weather took it’s time arriving.

Another painful part of our 2011 weather was the Texas Drought which was hard not to notice with area lakes dropping to rare levels only experienced worse back in the 1940′s and 50′s. According to the Lower Colorado River Authority(LCRA), website…

During the Drought of Record, Lake Travis dropped to an all-time low elevation of 614.2 feet msl in August 1951; Lake Buchanan dropped to 983.7 feet msl in September 1952. During the 2008-2009 drought, Lake Travis dropped to 629.83 msl and Lake Buchanan dropped to 989.86 msl. of this blog post, Lake Travis stands at 626.56 feet and Lake Buchanan stands at 988.41 feet above MSL (Mean Sea Level).

With no significant change in our weather patterns in sight, experts believe that our drought will continue to present Central Texas residents with a continued need to conserve water.

As we end 2011, we have seen extreme cold, extreme heat and extreme drought and it is a reminder that as we begin 2012, we need to be conscious of how we consume water, electricity and treat our part of Texas, so that we can continue to enjoy it and ensure it is available for our children and grandchildren to enjoy as well.

-shawn r.

Despite rain, drought remains critical

December 29th, 2011 at 10:05 pm by under Weather

You would think after five inches of rain in December our drought status would have improved.  And, in some areas it certainly has, but as you can see in this week’s Drought Monitor, areas along and east of IH-35, including much of the Austin metro area, remain in the worst possible drought category–exceptional drought.






More Energy in a Second than the Sun in a Billion Years

December 28th, 2011 at 9:34 pm by under Weather

Gamma Ray Bursts are the brightest things to happen to the Universe since its beginning — extraordinarily intense electromagnetic events releasing more energy per second than the sun does in a billion years, and basically an excuse for astronomers to use every awesome adjective they know.
GRBs are an incredible demonstration of just how big a universe is: they’re extremely rare, only a few per galaxy per million years, and we see about one a day. They’re so interesting NASA launched a satellite just for them, the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission — a mission so advanced that “Swift” isn’t even an acronym.  They just liked the word.


GRBs are bursts of plasma ejected from the poles of dying stars but Swift observed that the central jet engine causing this emission lasted longer than the burst, and sometimes far longer than previous models could explain (almost three days).

Now scientists from the University of Leeds have put forward an explanation for how this intergalactically emitting dynamo could endure so long: it’s eating a star.

By consuming a nearby star the black hole would be sucking up an enormous amount of matter, and if it’s rapidly spinning (as many of these holes in spacetime are, a combination of concepts that really proves human language wasn’t built for relativity) it can twist it all along the intense magnetic field lines being dragged around the event. The gigantic magnetic stresses involved are what give the burst its incredible energy, lasting as long as it takes for the entire star to be consumed. (more…)

Perry, Paul: There’s a ‘campaign’ app for that

December 28th, 2011 at 5:45 pm by under Politics

The two Republican presidential candidates from Texas are going techy when it comes to volunteers and voters. Both Gov. Rick Perry and Congressman Ron Paul released updated iPhone apps this month in an effort to streamline support.

First, Perry’s app, labeled “Rick Perry Mobile” by Bridgetree, Inc., is free for download in the iTunes store, but users should be aware it is tailored for a “volunteer of the Rick Perry for President campaign,” according to its summary. Users must be registered at to proceed.

The app gives volunteers the options of setting up canvasses in their areas, donating to the main campaign, or adding voters to the campaign’s list of supporters. That last option is perhaps the most convenient and powerful, as it allows the user to rope people into constant contact with what’s happening with Perry in the presidential race.

Paul’s app is labeled “R3VOLution” by William Mottl in the iTunes store. There is a $1.99 charge to download. It urges you to “Follow The Liberty Campaign movement spearheaded by Congressman Dr. Ron Paul with just a few touches of your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

There is a disclaimer on this app that it is going back into development, but it appears up-to-date after download. While it is linked to, this app is very similar to other unofficial candidate-related apps, offering categories like news, videos, issues, and an “about” section.

Strange Hole In The Clouds?

December 28th, 2011 at 10:06 am by under Weather

Did you see this cloud formation on Wednesday morning (December 28)?

Courtesy: Amy Meeks

Hole Punch Clouds - Courtesy: Amy Meeks













From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Hole-Punch Clouds: Also known as a fallstreak hole, this type of cloud is usually formed when the water temperature in the cloud is below freezing but the water has not frozen.  When sections of the water starts to freeze, the surrounding water vapor will also freeze and begin to descend. This leaves a rounded hole in the cloud.

The theory on its creation is that a disruption of the cloud layer stability, which can be caused by a passing jet aircraft, creates a descending motion that can lead to the stimulation of evaporation, producing a hole.


Wet weather pattern likely over

December 27th, 2011 at 3:53 pm by under Weather

Our six week series of storm systems, bringing nearly five inches of rain to Austin this month, appears to be over.  A shift in the the storm track is expected to result in a more typical La Nina pattern–warmer and drier-than-average weather–into mid-January.

New Year's Eve Jet Stream

The simplest definition of a storm track is a region where cyclones – swirling atmospheric eddies that average about 600 miles in diameter – travel frequently. During winter in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes, cyclones are an important component of day-to-day weather variability. In the broader climate system, cyclones are an important mechanism for distributing heat and moisture across latitudes from the tropics towards the poles, as well as from relatively warm ocean waters to the atmosphere during winter.

An Earth Gauge fact sheet discusses the primary source regions for Northern Hemisphere midlatitude cyclones and summarizes some focus areas in storm track research, including topography and Midwinter Storm Track Suppression, and global intensification of storm tracks.

Click here to read the Winter Storm Track Variability Fact Sheet

(Content from Earth Gauge)

A White Christmas for West Texas

December 25th, 2011 at 10:14 pm by under Weather

A large swath of West Texas awoke to a White Christmas Sunday morning, with as much as 10 inches of snow northwest of Lubbock, near Littlefield.

Here is information on snowfall totals from the National Weather Service:

Map depicting the observed snowfall totals across the region from the Winter Storm that moved across the Southern Plains this weekend. As of 12:00 PM CST on Christmas Day, generally one to three inches of snowfall had fallen across the area, with locations across the extreme southeast Panhandle and eastern Rolling Plains only receiving a light dusting as warmer temperatures there kept rain as the predominant precipitation type in those areas. However, there was also a fairly sizable snow band that set up early Christmas Eve morning into the mid afternoon that produced some heavier snowfall across the western and northern South Plains. The heaviest snowfall occurred in an area stretching from Cochran and southern Bailey Counties north and east through northern Hockley, southern Lamb, and southern Hale Counties where accumulations at or in excess of six inches were common. The heaviest band of snow set up along a narrow line stretching from Littlefield to Spade to Cotton Center where between nine to ten inches of snow was measured!