“Over the past year, devastating storms have tested the fabric of our Nation. From Tuscaloosa to Joplin, the Midwest to Appalachia, tornadoes have leveled communities and left profound suffering in their wake. Thousands of Americans have endured the pain of loss – loss of a home, a job, a dream, a loved one dearly held and forever missed. Yet, as winds have died and rains eased, communities have banded together and demonstrated a simple truth: that amid heartbreak and hardship, no one is a stranger. (more…)
Sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean swing back and forth every few years (sometimes more) like an irregular pendulum. The warm phase is known as El Niño; the cool phase—which it has been in for the past two winters—is called La Niña. According to NOAA’s April 2012 ENSO Diagnostics Discussion, La Niña is fading and will likely be over by the end of April.
The pair of maps shows the difference from average temperature in the tropical Pacific near the winter peak of the La Niña event on January 12 and on April 15. Places where the ocean was up to 5 degrees Celsius colder than the 1981-2010 average are dark blue, average temperatures are white, and places where temperatures were up to 5 degrees C warmer than average are red.
Although one climate pattern can’t explain every bit of wacky weather that happens on Earth, when it comes to making seasonal forecasts, the occurrence of an El Niño or La Niña event is the single most useful predictor that climate scientists have for forecasting if seasonal precipitation and temperature are likely to be above or below normal.
What a Sunday most of us experienced! This morning low temps fell down to levels that are typical during the Winter, and afternoon highs today that were more typical of late Spring or early Summer. We fell a few degrees short of the record high this afternoon out at Camp Mabry with our high of 91. We have to go back all the way to last year to find the record for the date at 94 degrees (also set in 2009). When you do the math though, today ended up being a pretty normal day. The morning low was 9 degrees below normal and the afternoon high was 10 above, giving us a average temp for the day 0.5 degrees above normal. Below is a map showing the giant temperature swings across our area from morning lows to afternoon highs today.
A few things helped the temps swing so large today, the biggest being the very warm spring sunshine. Also, we had clear skies, very light winds all day long, and abnormally low humidity in the air. In fact, relative humidity levels fell into the teens into parts of the Hill Country today, and low 20% range elsewhere. I also think our resurgence of dry weather has helped the ground to dry out considerably which is only making matters worse. Its pretty clear if you drive along area highways that we need more rain again. And if you remember when we were in our crazy drought last year, when the ground it hard and bone dry, it heats up very quickly, and cools nicely too. That’s why a desert has huge temperature swings, where tropical locations (like along the coasts) have very small temperature changes during the summer. This year we are still just barely 5″ above normal for rainfall here in Austin, but when you plot out where the rain has fallen, you notice the trend the last few weeks of very dry air. On the chart below, I charted rainfall for every week so far this year as it adds to our total. Every time you see a jump, it means we had a wet week. Notice where the longest stretch of almost flat-lining is.
The past 4 weeks have been abnormally dry across our area even though we have seen a few moderate cold fronts blast through our area. Most of them have been more bark than bite for us, however, the bark has been felt to the south. The coastal sections of Texas have been taking some big hits from these fronts, with severe weather, and heavy rainfall. Our chances of rain look slim to none over the next 7 days with some hope near the end of next weekend Sunday into Monday. The latest Climate Prediction Center forecast for days 8-14 forecasts an above normal chance of seeing wet weather in our area over that time period. It is picking up on a few disturbances kicking across the southern Plains for the start of May. Remember a lot can change between now and that time, so we will be keeping our fingers crossed for that wet forecast for the start of May. I’ll go out and wash the car too
I wanted to pass along that there will be a SKYWARN storm spotter training course in Llano Monday evening. The event is free to attend, and everyone who is interested in weather and would like to become a trained storm spotter is encouraged to attend. Below is the information on the upcoming local SKYWARN training courses.
301 W. Main St. City Hall 2nd floor Council Chambers
Jourdanton Community Center 1101 Campbell Ave
Saint James Lutheran Church in Harper 23932 West Highway 290
East Williamson County Higher Education Center 555 Limmer Loop Round Rock Please RSVP to SafeHutto@Huttotx.org
Tonight’s weather should provide nearly perfect conditions to view the annual Lyrid meteor shower. The current moon phase is a new moon, meaning that during the nighttime hours the moon will be in the same part of the sky as the sun. This means no moon light cluttering the night sky. Not only that, but we have a very dry airmass in place this evening with the center of a ridge of high pressure centering in over us. This should make the backdrop of the night sky especially dark looking tonight which should enhance meteor showers tonight. The Lyrid shower should peak in the 2nd half of the night tonight into the early morning hours tomorrow. Typically there are 15-20 meteors per hour, but as the folks at NASA have noted, its not uncommon for the Lyrid to produce 100+ per hour as happened back in 1982, and there is really no way to forecast this burst.
The Lyrid meteor shower occurs each April when the Earth passes through the trail of the comet “Thatcher” that follows a 400+ year orbit around the Sun. When we pass through this stream, the little bits of junk that are left in the trail of Thatcher burn up as they collide with the Earth’s atmosphere at more than 100,000 mph!!!
NASA has some live feeds set up for tonight, but again with ideal viewing conditions in our area, your best view might be out your back door.
Here is the link to NASA’s live feeds http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/allsky.html
By the way, while you are out tonight look for a little planet show as well. Mars will be bright in the east sky after sunset tonight, with Venus the bright planet in the west at sunset and shortly after. Saturn will also be visible all night tonight as it is at “opposition” tonight. This means the planet is nearly opposite to the sun in the sky. So when we see the sun setting, Saturn will be rising in the east sky.
Another cold front, another lackluster effort for rainfall from mother nature. The majority of our area received little to no rainfall with this latest front. Out at ABIA we picked up just a trace of rain, and out at Camp Mabry a whole 0.02″. To put that into perspective put a dime on a table, and measure about 1/3 of the thickness and that is how much rain we received in Austin. Some spots in our area did do a little better, La Grange picked up about 0.17″, and that was the winner. Overall April has been a very dry month in what has been a wet year. In April Mabry has picked up 0.22″ and ABIA only with 0.09″. We also did have a few small hail reports today as the front rolled through.
1″ diameter hail (quarter sized) was reported 4 miles east of Fischer in Hays county around 1pm this afternoon, and then in Cistern in Fayette county around 1:45pm this afternoon. Those were the only storm reports in our area thankfully, but there were a lot of gusty winds that came with the front as well.
Our friends to the east and southeast did pick up a lot more rain than us this afternoon as the front intensified as it approached the coast. It brought much heavier rain, stronger winds, much larger hail, and even a couple of tornadoes.
The 2 tornado reports on the map were brief touchdowns and there was minor damage reported with one of the tornadoes, but no injuries were reported thankfully. The hail reports in the Coastal Bend and Deep South Texas ranged from 1″-2.75″ (quarter to baseball sized) with one report of 4.5″ diameter (softball sized hail) at the McAllen High School. Most of the high wind reports were for winds of about 60mph.
On the tail of that cold front much drier air moved into the region. This cleared out most of the cloud cover and humidity. The next few nights are going to be nice and cool, great weather to keep a window open and give the a/c a break!
April’s lack of rain here in Central Texas mean little change in our current drought status. Here’s an update from the National Weather Service.
DROUGHT INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
1241 PM CDT THU APR 19 2012
...PORTIONS OF SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS...THE HILL COUNTRY AND
RIO GRANDE PLAINS REMAIN IN MODERATE TO TO EXTREME DROUGHT
AFTER SEVERAL MONTHS WITH ABOVE AVERAGE RAINFALL...APRIL HAS SEEN
DRIER CONDITIONS ACROSS THE REGION. SHORT TERM IMPACTS HAVE BEEN
SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED FOR THE TIME BEING. WITH THE WETTEST TIME
OF THE YEAR FROM NOW THROUGH JUNE...ANY ADDITIONAL RAINFALL WILL
CONTINUE TO PROVIDE IMPROVEMENTS IN LAKE AND RESERVOIR
LEVELS...THUS REDUCING THE LONG TERM DROUGHT IMPACTS AND
CONTINUING TO MINIMIZE ANY SHORT TERM IMPACTS.
THE CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER (CPC) IS CALLING FOR THE TRANSITION INTO AN ENSO (EL NINO SOUTHERN OSCILLATION) NEUTRAL PATTERN FROM
NOW THROUGH SUMMER AND INTO THE FALL. WITH AN ENSO NEUTRAL PATTERN
EXPECTED WE SHOULD CONTINUE TO SEE A MORE TYPICAL RAINFALL
THE US DROUGHT MONITOR (USDM) VALID APRIL 17TH AND ISSUED ON APRIL
19TH...SHOWED MOST OF THE REGION HAD LITTLE CHANGE DUE TO LACK OF
RAINFALL IN APRIL. THE MAJORITY OF THE AREA IS CURRENTLY IN
MODERATE (D1) TO SEVERE (D2) DROUGHT STATUS. PORTIONS OF THE
WESTERN HILL COUNTRY AND RIO GRANDE PLAINS FROM VAL VERDE COUNTY
NORTHEAST TO KERR COUNTY AND SOUTHWESTERN GILLESPIE COUNTY REMAIN
IN EXTREME (D3) DROUGHT STATUS. A LARGE PORTION OF THE AREA ALONG
AND EAST OF I-35 FROM AUSTIN TO SAN ANTONIO IS NOW IN ABNORMALLY
DRY STATUS (D0). CALDWELL...LEE AND BASTROP COUNTIES ARE NOW OUT
OF ANY DROUGHT CLASSIFICATION. AS WE SEE ADDITIONAL RAINFALL THEN
MORE IMPROVEMENTS ARE LIKELY.
CURRENTLY 64 PERCENT OF THE STATE IS IN MODERATE DROUGHT (D1) TO
EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT (D4). ONLY 10 PERCENT OF THE STATE REMAINS IN
EXCEPTIONAL (D4) DROUGHT STATUS. THERE ARE LOCATIONS ACROSS NORTH
CENTRAL...NORTHEAST TEXAS AND A SMALL PORTION OF SOUTH CENTRAL
TEXAS JUST EAST OF I-35 BETWEEN GEORGETOWN AND SAN MARCOS WHERE
DROUGHT IS NO LONGER A PROBLEM. AS ADDITIONAL RAINFALL IS
OBSERVED ACROSS THE STATE CONTINUED IMPROVEMENTS WILL BE NOTED IN
THE THE DROUGHT SEVERITY.
This weekend, NASA scientists, amateur astronomers, and an astronaut on board the International Space Station will attempt the first-ever 3D photography of meteors from Earth and space.
“The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks on April 21-22,” says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “We’re going to try to photograph some of these ‘shooting stars’ simultaneously from ground stations, from a research balloon in the stratosphere, and from the space station.”
Lyrid meteors come from Comet Thatcher. Every year in late April Earth passes through a stream of debris from the old comet, which has been bringing Lyrid meteors to our planet for at least 2600 years. Specks of Thatcher’s dust hit the top of atmosphere at 110,000 mph and disintegrate in a flurry of meteors. Most years, the shower produces about 15 to 20 Lyrids per hour.
This is a good year to look for Lyrids because the Moon will be new when the shower peaks. Dark skies favor sightings both from Earth and from Earth orbit.
“Even though the Lyrids are not noted for spectacular rates, the combination of a New Moon and a very favorable viewing geometry from the International Space Station (ISS) presents a unique opportunity to simultaneously image shower meteors from above and below,” says Cooke. (more…)
It’s been a pretty dry April so far. We’ve seen only 0.20″ of rain at Camp Mabry and less out at the airport. The good news is we’re still ahead for the year and there’s a chance for rain to round out this week of sunshine.
An upper level low diving into the Midwest will push a cold front through Texas Friday.
As it moves through the Austin area by the afternoon, there’s a chance for showers and thunderstorms to develop along the front. To our east, there is better moisture and even some support for isolated strong to severe storms. The Storm Prediction Center has put the region stretching from Austin to the Gulf coast in a slight risk for severe weather. Hail and damaging winds are the primary threats.
The City of San Marcos will enter Stage 1 water restrictions on Monday, April 23 as the Edwards Aquifer continues to decline due to insufficient rain and high aquifer demand.
Stage 1, which limits lawn watering to once a week on designated days and other restrictions, will take effect on Monday, April 23, 2012 following the publication of a legal notice in a local newspaper.
“Even though we have experienced good rainfalls this winter and spring, it has not been enough to help the Edwards Aquifer recover from nearly two years of extreme drought conditions,” said Tom Taggart, Executive Director of Public Services.
He issued the order to implement Stage 1 Wednesday after the index well in San Antonio reached a daily level of 657.1 feet above sea level, bringing the 10 day average to 659.9. The aquifer has been dropping at a rate of a foot or more a day recently. (more…)