Spring cleaning this weekend? Make safer environmental choices

March 29th, 2015 at 7:54 am by under Weather

Ah, there’s nothing like the warm weather this weekend to wake you up from the wintry months! Does that mean your house needs a fresh sweep? If you’re planning to do some spring cleaning, check out this website, called Earth Gauge.

Earth Gauge says, “Surfactants, key ingredients in detergents, can be toxic to aquatic animals. At high concentrations, inorganic phosphate, an ingredient that helps detergents work better and an essential nutrient for plant growth, can spur algal blooms and dead zones in waterways. And, some cleaning products can pollute the indoor air that we breathe.”

KXAN reports algae blooms created bad-tasting water in mid-March this year in Austin. Check out the full story here. Though this event occurred naturally, most folks would probably wish to avoid fishy-tasting, musty-smelling water in the near future!

Earth Gauge suggests that you make healthier cleaning choices by checking out the Environmental Protection Agency’s website on safe household products, called “Safer Choice.” The EPA rolled out a new type of label in early March 2015 to make shopping easier on families, called the Safer Choice label.



Even if there isn’t a Safer Choice label on your favorite products yet, just remember that many labels will be going up later this spring and early in the summer. Until then, you can check out the EPA’s other resources on safe household cleaning (like those pictured below) by clicking here.

2 3


Good luck and happy spring cleaning from the KXAN First Warning Weather Team! (And hey, if the warm temperatures simply persuade you to hang around outside of the house this weekend, that spring cleaning can always wait!)

The science behind Oklahoma’s recent tornadoes

March 28th, 2015 at 7:41 pm by under Weather

moore tornado

Below is a detailed meteorological analysis of the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma, courtesy of US Tornadoes. The analysis presents the scientific reasoning of why the tornadoes formed, even in a less-than-ideal environment, and why they were not much more powerful:


Map displaying the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) Convective Outlook issued at 8:00 am CDT March 25, 2015, and preliminary reports of tornadoes (red dots), large hail (green dots), and strong winds (blue dots) for the period of 8:00 am March 25 to 7:00 am CDT March 26, 2015. Note that the reports have not been filtered for duplicates. Image source NOAA/Storm Prediction Center 

On March 25, 2015, a round of severe thunderstorms struck portions of the Southern Plains and Ozark Mountains after a surprisingly tornado-free first 24 days of the month.

The storms spawned at least eight tornado reports as of this writing – three in northwestern Arkansas, three in northeastern Oklahoma near Tulsa, and at least two in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore – along with at least 178 reports of large hail and 52 reports of strong, damaging winds.


Recent scorecard still points warmer for west/east US temperature split

March 28th, 2015 at 10:46 am by under Weather

The folks at Climate Central have released an update on spring temperatures in the U.S., which they call the “spring swing.” In the ongoing divide between west/warmer and east/colder, it’s interesting to take a look at their facts and figures:



Temperatures this weekend are a reminder that spring is a season of transitions, and those transitions are often dramatic.

  • Temperatures Saturday will be 10 to 20° below normal in most locations east of the Mississippi River, while from the Rockies and westward, temperatures will be 10 to 20° above normal.
  • The heat extremes have been more recently pronounced along the immediate West Coast, as Record Highs were set from Seattle to Los Angeles on Thursday.
  • Los Angeles recorded its fifth day at or above 90° this March. The previous record was three days (set in 1934, 1988, 1997).
  • Most of the Northeast, Appalachians, and Great Lakes will have a difficult time getting out of the 30s on Saturday, while 80s will be common along the Front Range of the Rockies.

Despite the cold spell in the eastern U.S., the overall scorecard still tilts warm for the nation as a whole. With the data that are in through March 24:



  • Record highs are outpacing record lows 3 to 2.
  • When also considering the Record High Minimums and Record Low Maximums, the ratio is a little less dramatic, but the warm records are outpacing the cold records 5 to 4.
  • And even though there have been several individual snowfall records established, like this year in Boston (110.3”), there have been no new snow depth records this calendar year.

  Climate Central:



  • From just a year ago. Cold stretches in perspective:



Further Resources:



Central Texas drought update

March 27th, 2015 at 7:13 am by under Weather

3-27 omni drought


This week’s update courtesy of the US Drought Monitor shows that nearly all communities along and east of I-35 have been removed from soil moisture drought conditions due to recent rainfall. While this is welcome news, areas of Gillespie County in the Hill Country remain in the most severe level of drought — “exceptional”.

Only 50% of Texas is currently under some severity of soil drought. At this time last year, that number was 85%.

El Nino to blame for slow start to severe weather season?

March 25th, 2015 at 7:21 am by under Weather

(Capital Weather Gang) – Not that we’re complaining, but it’s been a really slow start to this year’s severe weather season in the United States. More than really slow — record slow. Slow enough for the Storm Prediction Center to call it “uncharted territory.”

But just four years ago, in 2011, we were dealing with uncharted territory on the other end of the spectrum. “The 2011 tornado season wasn’t supposed to happen, not in our modern era of advanced technology and storm warnings,” said Climate Central’s Andrea Thompson. “But the 1,691 tornadoes in 2011 — the second most for any season going back to the 1950s — included outbreaks that killed hundreds, something not seen since the 1970s.”


Solar eclipse stalls Germany’s solar power production

March 24th, 2015 at 7:42 am by under Weather
(Courtesy: https://energy-charts.de/power.htm)

(Courtesy: https://energy-charts.de/power.htm)

(New Scientist) – The sun went out, but the lights stayed on. Last week’s partial solar eclipse in Europe provided an ideal stress test for the world’s most solar-powered country, Germany, and so for the future of solar power itself. It passed.


How Central Texas’ recent storm will help drought

March 22nd, 2015 at 9:23 am by under Weather

Thanks to the storm that brought rain on Friday, March 20 (the first day of spring 2015) and Saturday, March 21, beneficial rain flowed into area gauges. Here’s a look at storm totals, as calculated by the Lower Colorado River Authority (highest total highlighted in green):

Eastern counties, including Caldwell, Lee, Bastrop and Fayette:

3-22 T1


Metro counties, including Williamson, Travis and Hays:

3-22 T2


Hill Country, including San Saba, Lampasas, Mason, Llano, Burnet, Gillespie and Blanco counties:

3-22 T3


Here’s a look at storm totals for Camp Mabry and Austin Bergstrom International Airport in the city of Austin:

3-22 RA


The NEW weekly U.S. Drought Monitor update will roll out on Thursday, March 26th, but as it currently stands, there have been big improvements in the drought for Travis, Bastrop, Lee, Milam, Williamson and Fayette counties. In fact, the “dominant impacts” line across the U.S. has crawled westward in previous weeks thanks to a wet January and wet first half of March, including only the Hill Country in Central Texas now. Unfortunately, Gillepsie County still registers “Exceptional” drought, the most severe type. It’s followed closely by southern halves of Mason and Llano counties, with “Extreme” drought characteristics.




The Hill Country has been excluded from many recent Central Texas rains, due to its increased elevation, which can shift weather patterns. Rain totals from this recent storm system were high enough that small portions of the Hill Country’s drought will likely be chipped away, especially if this wet March pattern continues. The first areas to see improvement will likely be the eastern edge of the Hill Country, in Lampasas, Burnet and Blanco counties. The KXAN First Warning Weather Team will continue to monitor this progress.


Lake Travis at lowest pre-summer level during current drought

March 21st, 2015 at 7:57 pm by under Weather

lake analysis


Recent rains of up to 2.5″ in the Highland Lake inflow region are not having a significant impact on lake levels, and the level of Lake Travis as we head into summer is currently lower than it was during previous years of the ongoing drought.

Lake Travis may see continued (only minor) rises through the next two days as inflows from creeks and rivers continue.

Where the lake levels go from here of course depends on rainfall frequency, amount, and geographical distribution. Here are the latest projections from LCRA hydrologists for the various scenarios:

lcra projected levels

Parts of Central Texas in NOAA’s 2015 spring flood risk

March 21st, 2015 at 11:23 am by under Weather

On the official last day of winter, March 19, 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its spring 2015 flood outlook, which includes far eastern portions of Central Texas, such as Bastrop, Lee, Caldwell and Fayette counties. Here’s what NOAA had to say:

Risk of moderate flooding for parts of central and
eastern United States

No drought relief in sight for California, Nevada or Oregon this spring

March 19, 2015


U.S. Spring Flood Risk Map for 2015. (Credit: NOAA)

According to NOAA’s Spring Outlook released today, rivers in western New York and eastern New England have the greatest risk of spring flooding in part because of heavy snowpack coupled with possible spring rain. Meanwhile, widespread drought conditions are expected to persist in California, Nevada, and Oregon this spring as the dry season begins.

“Periods of record warmth in the West and not enough precipitation during the rainy season cut short drought-relief in California this winter and prospects for above average temperatures this spring may make the situation worse,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief, Operational Prediction Branch,NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

NOAA’s Spring Outlook identifies areas at risk of spring flooding and expectations for temperature, precipitation and drought from April through June. The Spring Outlook provides emergency managers, water managers, state and local officials, and the public with valuable information so they will be prepared to take action to protect life and property.

Spring Outlook 2015. (Credit: NOAA)

Spring Flood Risk

Record snowfall and unusually cold temperatures in February through early March retained a significant snowpack across eastern New England and western New York raising flood concerns. Significant river ice across northern New York and northern New England increase the risk of flooding related to ice jams and ice jam breakups. Rivers in these areas are expected to exceed moderate flood levels this spring if there is quick warm up with heavy rainfall.

There is a 50 percent chance of exceeding moderate flood levels in small streams and rivers in the lower Missouri River basin in Missouri and eastern Kansas which typically experience minor to moderate flooding during the spring. This flood potential will be driven by rain and thunderstorms.

Moderate flooding has occurred in portions of the Ohio River basin, including the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers from melting snow and recent heavy rains. This has primed soils and streams for flooding to persist in Kentucky, southern Illinois, and southwest Indiana with the typical heavy spring rains seen in this area.

Minor river flooding is possible from the Gulf Coast through the Ohio River Valley and into the Southeast from Texas eastward and up the coast to Virginia. The upper Midwest eastward to Michigan has a low risk of flooding thanks to below normal snowfall this winter. Though, heavy rainfall at any time can lead to flooding, even in areas where overall risk is considered low.

Drought Outlook

El Niño finally arrived in February, but forecasters say it’s too weak and too late in the rainy season to provide much relief for California which will soon reach its fourth year in drought.

Drought is expected to persist in California, Nevada, and Oregon through June with the onset of the dry season in April. Drought is also forecast to develop in remaining areas of Oregon and western Washington. Drought is also likely to continue in parts of the southern Plains.

Forecasters say drought improvement or removal is favored for some areas in the Southwest, southern Rockies, southern Plains, and Gulf Coast while drought development is more likely in parts of the northern Plains, upper Mississippi Valley and western Great Lakes where recent dryness and an outlook of favored below average precipitation exist.

Current water supply forecasts and outlooks in the western U.S. range from near normal in the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, and Upper Colorado, to, much below normal in California, the southern Rockies, and portions of the Great Basin.

If the drought persists as predicted in the Far West, it will likely result in an active wildfire season, continued stress on crops due to low reservoir levels, and an expansion of water conservation measures. More information about drought can be found at www.drought.gov.

Temperature and Precipitation Outlook

Above-average temperatures are favored this spring across the Far West, northern Rockies, and northern Plains eastward to include parts of the western Great Lakes, and for all of Alaska. Below normal temperatures are most likely this spring for Texas and nearby areas of New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

For precipitation, odds favor drier than average conditions for parts of the northern Plains, upper Mississippi Valley, western Great Lakes, and Pacific Northwest. Above average precipitation is most likely for parts of the Southwest, southern and central Rockies, Texas, Southeast, and east central Alaska. Hawaii is favored to be warmer than average with eastern areas most likely wetter than average this spring.

Now is the time to become weather-ready during NOAA’s Spring Weather Safety Campaign which runs from March to June and offers information on hazardous spring weather — tornadoes, floods, thunderstorm winds, hail, lightning, heat, wildfires, and rip currents — and tips on how to stay safe.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and our other social media channels.

Threat of dangerous flash flooding late Friday/Saturday

March 19th, 2015 at 9:45 am by under Weather

3-19 ff threat

An approaching cold front is forecast to stall over Central Texas late Friday while a Pacific storm system sends copious amounts of moisture to Texas. The moisture will be lifted along the front, focusing heavy rain in Central Texas late Friday through the day Saturday.