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How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth

July 26th, 2014 at 9:20 am by under Weather

By Jason Samenow:

Solar flare preceding CMEs on July 22, 2012 (NASA)

CME captured by NASA July 23, 2012 (NASA)

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

Via NASA: “This movie shows a coronal mass ejection (CME) on the sun from July 22, 2012 at 10:00 p.m. EDT until 2 a.m. on July 23 as captured by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial RElations Observatory-Ahead (STEREO-A). Because the CME headed in STEREO-A’s direction, it appears like a giant halo around the sun. NOTE: This video loops 3 times.” Credit: NASA/STEREO

Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth.  Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” Baker tells NASA.  “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire.

A CME double whammy of this potency striking Earth would likely cripple satellite communications and could severely damage the power grid.  NASA offers this sobering assessment:

Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket.  Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

. . .

According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

CWG’s Steve Tracton put it this way in his frightening overview of the risks of a severe solar storm: “The consequences could be devastating for commerce, transportation, agriculture and food stocks, fuel and water supplies, human health and medical facilities, national security, and daily life in general.”

(more…)


Hottest June on record globally

July 21st, 2014 at 7:43 pm by under Weather

The global temperature and rainfall summary for June 2014 was just released by the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, and the results are surprising.

Read more below:

june temps

 

Global Highlights

JUNE
2014
ANOMALY RANK
Land +1.71°F 7th Warmest
Ocean +1.15°F 1st Warmest
Land+Ocean +1.30°F 1st Warmest

Global Highlights

  • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for June 2014 was the highest on record for the month, at 0.72°C (1.30°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F).
  • The global land surface temperature was 0.95°C (1.71°F) above the 20th century average of 13.3°C (55.9°F), the seventh highest for June on record.
  • For the ocean, the June global sea surface temperature was 0.64°C (1.15°F) above the 20thcentury average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), the highest for June on record and the highest departure from average for any month.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–June period (year-to-date) was 0.67°C (1.21°F) above the 20th century average of 13.5°C (56.3°F), tying with 2002 as the third warmest such period on record

How does wet soil keep us cooler during the day?

July 20th, 2014 at 9:23 am by under Weather

A summertime ridge of high pressure is building over Texas today through the coming week.

This type of weather pattern can often send temperatures soaring over 100 degrees. But we’re forecasting highs of only 91 Sunday, and temperatures remaining below 100 through the entire work week.

What gives?

The answer has to do with soil moisture.

7-20 ID soil 1

Parts of Austin and surrounding communities received 5-8″ of rain last Thursday night into Friday morning.

Those heavy, flooding rains left the soil around the area very wet.

7-20 ID soil 2

 

Wet soil gives off moisture into the lower parts of the atmosphere, which keeps daytime temperatures cooler.

It depends on the temperature, wind speed, humidity, season, and amount of sunshine – but wet soil such as this often takes as long as 4-5 days to fully dry to the point where it is not affecting high temperatures.

So when you’re outside today and you get hot – just remember, it could be hotter.

Have a great weekend!


From triple digits to potentially flooding rain

July 14th, 2014 at 10:17 am by under Weather

After triple-digit heat in many communities Sunday and again Monday, a major pattern change is in store featuring cooler temperatures and the chance of beneficial rainfall.

Courtesy of the National Weather Service

Courtesy of the National Weather Service

An unusual July cold front sweeping down the Plains today is forecast to stall over northern Texas Tuesday and Wednesday, then progress through Central Texas Thursday and Friday.

While the front is to our north, we can expect scattered showers and thunderstorms Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rain chances will increase with the front’s passage, currently forecast to occur overnight Thursday into Friday morning.

Moisture is forecast to “pool” along the frontal boundary, setting up a tropical atmosphere and the potential of heavy rainfall.

We always welcome beneficial rain during a drought, but as happens all too often in Central Texas, the potential does exist for getting too much in too little time.

96          102

The images above show the forecast rainfall (radar) picture overnight Thursday into Friday morning.

Computer models are suggesting the possibility of a complex of heavy thunderstorms forming along the front as it moves through Central Texas.

It is important to note that much uncertainty still exists, as this event is still 3-4 days away. Stay tuned to KXAN and KXAN.com as we continue to draw a clearer picture of this late-week rainfall.


100-degree day statistics

July 13th, 2014 at 9:38 am by under Weather

Sunday is forecast to bring Austin’s first 100-degree day of 2014 – but it comes a bit later than average.

Here’s some useful ‘heat climatology’, courtesy of our local National Weather Service office.

083007_hot_thermometer

90 and 100 Degree Day Information

The average date of the first and last 90 and 100 degree days

The number of 90 and 100 degree days in a year

And the extremes

…are listed below for Austin, Del Rio and San Antonio.

This is based on daily data for Austin Mabry beginning in 1989, for Austin Bergstrom beginning in 1943, for Del Rio beginning in 1906, and for San Antonio beginning in 1885.

SUMMARY OF 90 DEGREE INFORMATION…

LOCATION, AVERAGE, 90 RECORD, AVG. FIRST, AVG. LAST, EARLIEST/LATEST DEG. DAYS

AUSTIN MABRY - 108.8 164 IN 2011 Apr. 18 Oct. 11 Jan. 30 /Dec. 25
AUSTIN BERGSTROM - 104.8 162 IN 2011 Apr. 19 Oct. 14 Feb. 17 /Dec. 25
DEL RIO - 125.3 171 IN 2011 Mar. 20 Oct. 15 Jan. 19 /Dec. 4
SAN ANTONIO - 111.8 155 IN 2011 Apr. 9 Oct. 12 Feb. 9 /Dec. 25

SUMMARY OF 100 DEGREE INFORMATION…

LOCATION, AVERAGE, 100 RECORD, AVG. FIRST, AVG. LAST, EARLIEST/LATEST DEG. DAYS

AUSTIN MABRY - 12.8 90 IN 2011 Jul. 10 Aug. 20 May 4 /Oct. 2
AUSTIN BERGSTROM - 13.6 74 IN 2011 Jul. 11 Aug. 25 Feb. 21/Sep. 28
DEL RIO - 20.8 85 IN 2011 May 27 Aug. 25 Mar. 16/Oct. 4
SAN ANTONIO – 8.4 59 IN 2009 Jun. 30 Aug. 19 Feb. 21/Sep. 28

RECORD NUMBER OF CONSECUTIVE 100 DEGREE DAYS

AUSTIN MABRY – 27 JULY 17 TO AUGUST 12, 2011
AUSTIN BERGSTROM – 23 JULY 27 TO AUGUST 18, 1951
DEL RIO – 50 JUNE 17 TO AUGUST 5, 1980
SAN ANTONIO – 21 JULY 24 TO AUGUST 13, 1962


Austin NOAA weather radio offline briefly next weekend

July 8th, 2014 at 11:40 am by under Weather

A heads-up to NOAA weather radio users: although we do not expect any severe weather next weekend, the Austin NOAA weather radio broadcast will be offline temporarily early Sunday.

Details below:

000
NOUS44 KEWX 081634
PNSEWX
TXZ172-173-190>193-208-132330-

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
1130 AM CDT TUE JUL 8 2014

...PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT...

THE AUSTIN NOAA WEATHER RADIO ALL HAZARDS STATION WXK 27,
OPERATING ON A FREQUENCY OF 162.400 MEGAHERTZ, WILL BE OFF 
THE AIR INTERMITTENTLY BETWEEN SUNDAY JULY 13 AT MIDNIGHT 
UNTIL 6 AM SUNDAY JULY 13 FOR ABOUT AN HOUR DURING THIS 
BRIEF PERIOD, TECHNICIANS WILL BE PERFORMING SCHEDULED NETWORK 
MAINTENANCE.

$$

Summer heat can be deadly for pets or children in hot cars

July 7th, 2014 at 11:26 am by under Weather

car heat

The American Red Cross offers these helpful steps to keep the family pets safe and healthy:

NEVER LEAVE PETS IN THE CAR. Pet owners should not leave their animal in the car, even for a few minutes, when the hot weather arrives. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. Pet owners are urged to refrain from leaving animals in the car, even with the windows cracked open.

HEAT STROKE is a common problem for pets in the warmer weather. Dogs with short noses or snouts, like the boxer or bulldog, are prone to heat stroke. This is also true for any obese pet, a pet with an extremely thick fur coat or any pet with upper respiratory problems such as laryngeal paralysis or collapsing trachea.

Some signs your pet may be developing heat stroke include heavy panting and being unable to calm down, even when lying down. Their gum color may be brick red, their pulse rate may be fast, or they may not be able to get up. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, take their temperature rectally. If the temperature is above 105 degrees, cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when the temperature reaches 103 degrees. Bring your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.

PLANTS CAN BE HAZARDOUS. Pet owners also need to be aware that animals may try to get out a window or door, which are more likely to be open as the weather warms. And some plants in your garden can be hazardous to animals. For instance, many lilies are very poisonous to cats.  Visit the ASPCA Poison Controlweb site to find out which plants and flowers are poisonous to animals.

Your pet is part of the family. And just like any other family member, pets deserve to be cared for and protected. Follow these important steps to help keep your pet at their best:

  • Give your pet plenty of exercise.  Regular exercise will help your pet feel better and live longer.
  • Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, cool water.
  • Get to know a veterinarian and make sure your pet has yearly checkups.
  • Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccines, especially rabies.
  • Get your pet spayed or neutered.
  • Keep dogs on leashes outside – another animal may be too much temptation.
  • Know how to perform CPR and provide basic first aid until veterinary care is available.

Animals can’t tell you when they aren’t feeling well. Many hide signs of illness until a problem is very advanced. Knowing what is normal for your pet and being able to recognize changes early, can make a huge difference in treatment success. The first step is to know what is normal for your pet – their gum color, heart/pulse rate, body temperature and breathing rate – so you can recognize when something is wrong.

Additional tips are located on our Pets and Disaster Safety Checklist. Pet First Aid courses are offered at many Red Cross chapters throughout the country. The Red Cross has also developed Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid, comprehensive guides with DVDs to help your keep pets healthy and safe. From basic responsibilities, like spaying/neutering and giving medications, to performing CPR and preparing for disasters, these guides offer information pet owners can trust. Contact your local chapter to see when classes are available or to purchase guide books. Products can also be purchased online at the Red Cross Store.


Massive dust storm overtakes Phoenix

July 5th, 2014 at 9:25 am by under Weather

Courtesy: Phoenix National Weather Service Office

July 3 2014: Dust Storm across the Phoenix area
Widespread gusty winds and blowing dustUpdated: 8 pm MST 4 July 2014

Dust Storm

Dust storm as seen from NWS Phoenix office. Credit: Charlotte Dewey

The first major event of the 2014 Monsoon took place during the afternoon and evening hours of 3 July 2014. Following a gradual increase in moisture across the region, storms developed in the mountains north/east/south of the Phoenix metro area around mid afternoon. Most of the storms dissipated as they descended from the mountains (due to a marginally stable layer of air over the deserts in the lowest 10000ft of the atmosphere), but two outflow boundaries pushed out into the lower deserts. The first boundary originated from Payson to Globe and brought isolated blowing dust and ~30mph winds to Gold Canyon and Apache Junction. The second, stronger boundary, originated in southern Pinal County and was responsble for the dust storm to affect the Phoenix area. There were numerous reports of near zero visibility within the dust storm along with winds around 50 mph.

 

Click each image for a larger version 

KIWA Radar 0116Z Base velocity imagery from KIWA radar at approximately 615 PM MST. Note the appearance of a large outflow boundary stretching from north of Fountain Hills to Florence, with a secondary boundary near Casa Grande and Eloy. The boundaries originated from separate clusters of thunderstorms, but were both traveling toward the Phoenix metro area.
KIWA Radar 0200Z Base velocity imagery from KIWA radar at approximately 700 PM MST. Outflow winds had moved through portions of the East Valley as well as Scottsdale and Fountain Hills by 7pm, however visibilities remained around 10 miles or greater. Meanwhile the boundary to the south was becoming more evident on radar. Note the area of strong winds indicated around 40+ kts southwest of Queen Creek. These winds were located around 3000ft above the surface.
KIWA Radar 0233Z Base velocity imagery from KIWA radar at approximately 730 PM MST. At this point the leading edge of the wall of dust stretched from Apache Junction to Chandler and Ahwatukee. The observation at Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport from 722pm MST indicated visibilities had dropped to ZERO, along with sustained winds around 30 mph/gusts to 50 mph.
KIWA Radar 0300Z Base velocity imagery from KIWA radar at approximately 800 PM MST. By 8pm, the dust storm was located over downtown Phoenix and Sky Harbor Airport. The dust had also moved into Scottsdale. Sky Harbor reported visibilities around 1 mile along with a gust to 56 mph.
KIWA Velocity loop Loop of Base Velocity images from 6pm – 9pm MST showing the progression of the dust storm through the Phoenix metro area. Note: Animated GIF is ~11mb.
KIWA Reflectivity loop Loop of Base Reflectivity images from 6pm – 9pm MST showing the progression of the dust storm through the Phoenix metro area. Showers and thunderstorms developed over the west valley as the dust storm collided with a southbound outflow boundary stretching from Cave Creek to Surprise. Note: Animated GIF is ~13mb.

While they do not occur every day, dust storms are fairly common across the lower deserts during the Monsoon. Nonetheless, they do make for an impressive display especially around sunset. Below are selected images from around the Phoenix area Thursday evening.

(more…)


NASA successfully launches Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2

July 2nd, 2014 at 1:11 pm by under Weather

(Space.com)

NASA has launched its first spacecraft devoted to monitoring atmospheric carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas thought to be responsible for much of Earth’s recent warming trend.

The space agency’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite (OCO-2) blasted off today (July 2) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:56 a.m. EDT (0956 GMT, 2:56 a.m. local time), carried aloft by a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket. The liftoff was originally scheduled for Tuesday (July 1), but a problem with the launch pad’s water system caused a one-day delay.

The satellite will measure carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere 24 times every second, revealing in great detail where the gas is being produced and where it is being pulled out of the air — CO2 sources and sinks, in scientists’ parlance. [NASA's OCO-2 Mission in Pictures (Gallery)]

OCO-2 satellite launch
NASA launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 on July 2, 2014 to monitor atmospheric carbon dioxide from space.
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
OCO-2 separation in sunlight
NASA’s OCO-2 spacecraft separating from the rocket that brought it to orbit.
Credit: NASA TV

“With the launch of this spacecraft, decision-makers and scientists will get a much better idea of the role of carbon dioxide in climate change, as OCO-2 measures this greenhouse gas globally and provides incredibly new insights into where and how carbon dioxide is moving into, and then out of, the atmosphere,” Betsy Edwards, OCO-2 program executive at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., told reporters during a pre-launch press briefing Sunday (June 30).

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen from about 280 parts per million (ppm) before the Industrial Revolution to 400 ppm today, the highest concentration in at least 800,000 years.

(more…)


Tropical Depression One forms off the FL coast

June 30th, 2014 at 10:25 pm by under Weather

td 1

BULLETIN
TROPICAL DEPRESSION ONE ADVISORY NUMBER   1
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL       AL012014
1100 PM EDT MON JUN 30 2014

...TROPICAL DEPRESSIONS FORMS EAST OF FLORIDA...
...TROPICAL STORM WATCH ISSUED FOR THE COAST OF EAST-CENTRAL
FLORIDA...

SUMMARY OF 1100 PM EDT...0300 UTC...INFORMATION
-----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...27.6N 79.1W
ABOUT 105 MI...170 KM ESE OF CAPE CANAVERAL FLORIDA
ABOUT 210 MI...335 KM NNW OF THE NORTHWESTERN BAHAMAS
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...35 MPH...55 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...SW OR 225 DEGREES AT 2 MPH...4 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1009 MB...29.80 INCHES

WATCHES AND WARNINGS
--------------------
CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY...

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THE EAST COAST OF
FLORIDA FROM FORT PIERCE NORTHWARD TO JUST SOUTH OF FLAGLER BEACH.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT...

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* EAST COAST OF FLORIDA FROM FORT PIERCE TO FLAGLER BEACH

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...IN THIS CASE WITHIN 24 TO 36 HOURS.

INTERESTS ELSEWHERE ALONG THE SOUTHEAST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES
SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF THIS SYSTEM.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...INCLUDING POSSIBLE
INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR
LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST OFFICE.

DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK
------------------------------
AT 1100 PM EDT...0300 UTC...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL DEPRESSION ONE
WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 27.6 NORTH...LONGITUDE 79.1 WEST. THE
DEPRESSION IS MOVING TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST NEAR 2 MPH...4 KM/H. A
SLOW WEST TO WEST-NORTHWEST MOTION IS FORECAST TO BEGIN BY TUESDAY
MORNING. A TURN TOWARD THE NORTHWEST THEN NORTH IS FORECAST BY
WEDNESDAY.  ON THE FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF THE DEPRESSION IS
EXPECTED TO REMAIN OFFSHORE AND MOVE EAST OF THE EAST-CENTRAL COAST
OF FLORIDA DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO.  THE SYSTEM IS FORECAST TO
PASS EAST OF NORTHEASTERN FLORIDA ON WEDNESDAY AND WEDNESDAY NIGHT.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 35 MPH...55 KM/H...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS.  GRADUAL STRENGTHENING IS EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT
48 HOURS...AND THE DEPRESSION IS FORECAST TO BECOME A TROPICAL
STORM ON TUESDAY.

THE ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 1009 MB...29.80 INCHES.

HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
----------------------
WIND...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH
AREA BY LATE TUESDAY.

RAINFALL...THE DEPRESSION IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAINFALL
ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 3 INCHES...MAINLY ACROSS EAST-CENTRAL FLORIDA
AND NORTHEASTERN PORTIONS OF THE FLORIDA PENINSULA WITH POSSIBLE
ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 5 INCHES THROUGH WEDNESDAY.  RAINFALL
AMOUNTS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 6 INCHES
IS POSSIBLE OVER PORTIONS OF THE NORTHERN BAHAMAS THROUGH WEDNESDAY.

NEXT ADVISORY
-------------
NEXT INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY...200 AM EDT.
NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY...500 AM EDT.

$$
FORECASTER BROWN