Jim Spencer

Severe storm risk and heavy rain expected Saturday

November 21st, 2014 at 2:51 pm by under Weather

Here is a breakdown of the potential severe weather threats for this Saturday, November 22nd. The greatest severe threat will be large hail, but damaging straight line winds and a few tornadoes are also possible. Some storm training is possible with locally heavy rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches possible. The severe threat will be primarily along and east of a Rocksprings to Carrizo Springs line and between the hours of Noon and 9 PM CST.

Rainfall totals through Saturday night are expected to range from light amounts across the western counties to near 1-2 inches across the northeastern counties. There could be isolated 4 inch rain totals for locations near Austin, Burnet and La Grange.
From National Weather Service:
Click here to see the NWS morning briefing regarding Saturday’s storm.
…Strong to Severe Thunderstorms Possible across South-Central Texas Saturday Afternoon and evening….Locally Heavy Rain Possible…
All of South-Central Texas
  • Strong to severe thunderstorms with large hail, damaging winds and heavy rainfall.
  • Isolated Tornadoes with a few Supercells possible.
  • Rainfall totals 1-2 inches, isolated 4 inches possible. Rain Rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour in heavier storms.
  • Mainly minor urban flooding possible. Higher totals may cause isolated flash flooding concerns.
Showers along with a few thunderstorms will likely be ongoing across most of South Central Texas Saturday morning. Thunderstorms will become more widespread through the morning hours across the Hill Country, and during the afternoon hours along the Interstate 35 corridor and areas east of I-35. Main impact time of this system will be from Noon to 9 PM Saturday as strong to severe storms move east across the area. Threat will end along the I-35 corridor by 6 PM Saturday…while the threat will linger through the evening for the far eastern areas of South Central Texas.
Moderate to High.
An approaching upper level storm system will interact with increasing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to produce widespread showers and thunderstorms across South Central Texas on Saturday. Rain showers and even isolated thunderstorms are possible later tonight ahead of this system. The chance for rainfall and strong to severe storms will be greatest during Saturday afternoon and evening as forcing from an upper level disturbance moves across the region. Severe storms, some of which may be supercells, may produce large damaging hail, damaging wind gusts, and isolated tornadoes. All of South Central Texas is under a Slight risk of severe weather. Weather watches and warnings may be issued on Saturday. Be Prepared.
While it is rare to have severe weather in November, South Central Texas has seen its share of late Fall severe weather outbreaks. How significant this event becomes will be partly determined by how much sunshine we get on Saturday. If it stays cloudy and cooler, the threat for severe weather will go down. If temperatures warm due to a good amount of early sunshine, storms will be bigger and stronger, also leading to higher rain totals.
Additional updates will occur Saturday Morning.

Severe storms possible Saturday

November 20th, 2014 at 4:19 pm by under Weather

If you missed our KXAN First Warning Weather in-depth report on the new winter outlook, watch it by clicking here.

Here is a look at the system that is going to bring us widespread rain and the chance for severe weather. Currently, the potent upper low is over the northern Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. By Friday morning, the upper low will be over Southern California and by Saturday morning the low will be over West Texas.

Here is the Storm Prediction Center’s convective outlook for Saturday. There is an enhanced risk for severe thunderstorms across the eastern half of South Central Texas. The main threat will be damaging wind gusts with a chance for tornadoes and large hail.
From the National Weather Service:
…Strong to Severe Thunderstorms Possible across South-Central Texas Saturday Afternoon through early Saturday evening…
All of South-Central Texas, especially along and east of Highway 281.
  • Strong to severe thunderstorms with large hail, damaging winds and heavy rainfall.
  • Isolated Tornadoes with a few Supercells possible.
  • Rainfall totals of 1/2 to 1 inch. Isolated totals to 2 inches. Rain Rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour in heavier storms.
  • Mainly minor urban, nuisance type flooding for the San Antonio and Austin metro areas expected at this time. However, we will need to watch areas along and east of I-35 carefully for heavier rainfall amounts.
Showers along with a few thunderstorms will likely be ongoing across most of South Central Texas Saturday morning. Thunderstorms will become more widespread through the morning hours across the Hill Country, and during the afternoon hours along the Interstate 35 corridor. Main impact time of this system will be from Noon to 6 PM Saturday as strong to severe storms move east across the area.
Moderate to High.
An approaching upper level storm system will interact with increasing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to produce widespread showers and thunderstorms across South Central Texas on Saturday. Light showers are already forming this afternoon over areas generally along and east of Highway 281…this will continue into Friday with a few isolated thunderstorms also forming. The chance for rainfall and strong to severe storms will be greatest during Saturday afternoon as forcing from an upper level disturbance moves across the region. Severe storms, some of which may be supercells, may produce large damaging hail, damaging wind gusts, and isolated tornadoes.
Additional updates will occur on Friday and Saturday as the timing of the upper level system are fine tuned.
You can see the latest forecasts and watches/warnings/advisories by going to the Austin-San Antonio National Weather Service website at www.weather.gov/austin

Is the jet stream getting weird?

November 20th, 2014 at 1:15 pm by under Weather

The following is an excerpt from a Dr. Jeff Masters blog post on Weather Underground:

This week’s intense cold blast is being triggered by an unusually extreme jet stream pattern, featuring a sharp ridge of high pressure along the U.S. West Coast and a deep trough of low pressure diving to the south over the Central United States. This configuration allows cold air to spill out of the Arctic behind the trough into the Central U.S., and be replaced by anomalously warm air flowing northwards along the West Coast of the U.S. deep into the Arctic. This extreme jet stream pattern is due, in part, to the influence of Super Typhoon Nuri, which caused a ripple effect on the jet stream after the typhoon became one of the most powerful extratropical storms ever recorded in the waters to the west of Alaska eleven days ago. However, we’ve seen an unusual number of extreme jet stream patterns like this in the past fifteen years, which happens to coincide with the period of time we’ve been observing record loss of summertime Arctic sea ice and record retreat of springtime snow cover in the Arctic. Could it be that these changes in the Arctic are causing the wacky jet stream behavior of recent years? That’s the theory being advanced by a number of prominent climate scientists. I’ve written extensively about the topic, and my most recent post on the subject was in April, California Drought/Polar Vortex Jet Stream Pattern Linked to Global Warming. A updated story that I wrote for the just-published December issue of Scientific American discusses the theory and its detractors, and you can read it on-line for $6 (or buy a copy at the news stand.) My conclusion in the article: If Arctic changes are truly to blame for wacky jet stream behavior, losing the remaining 50 percent of the Arctic sea-ice coverage between now and 2030 will bring even greater antics. If the Arctic is not involved, that is worrisome as well—because that means jet stream changes are due to an unknown mechanism, leaving us with no idea how the jet stream will respond as climate change progresses. Thus, my forecast for the next 15 years: expect the unprecedented.

LCRA seeks to suspend lake releases for fourth straight year

November 19th, 2014 at 2:43 pm by under Weather

Historic Action Prompted by Record-Setting Drought

With parts of Texas in the midst of a persistent, severe drought, the Lower Colorado River Authority will seek permission from the state to curtail releases of interruptible stored water from the Highland Lakes for downstream irrigation for the fourth year in a row.

LCRA also will ask permission to reduce the amount of water required to be released in spring 2015 to support the habitat of the blue sucker, a threatened fish that lives in the river downstream of Austin.

“This was not an easy decision, but we must protect the region’s water supply,” said LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson. “More than a million people depend on water from the Highland Lakes, and right now, there is just not enough water for everyone to have all they want.

“This is a significant drought. At times, it’s been even more intense than the worst recorded drought in this region’s history, and we don’t know when it’s going to end,’’ Wilson said. “This action will help us manage our limited water supply to meet the essential needs of the region’s communities and industries.”

On Wednesday, the LCRA Board of Directors voted 11-2 to ask permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to curtail releases from the lakes in 2015.

LCRA is requesting drought relief identical to the relief approved by TCEQ for 2014, which cut off releases of interruptible water supplies for most downstream irrigation.

The Board said it also would continue limiting outdoor watering by LCRA firm customers and their customers to a maximum of one day a week. Firm customers include cities in Central Texas that depend on water from the Highland Lakes.


October 2014–yet another warmest month on record

November 19th, 2014 at 1:17 pm by under Weather

(Climate Central)

For the third month in a row, global temperatures reached record territory according to newly available data from NASA. And if one global temperature record isn’t enough, the Japanese Meteorological Agency also provided new data on Friday that showed the warmest October on record.

Global temperature anomalies for the month of October compared to 1951-1980 average.

Data from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) show this October was 1.4°F above the 1951-1980 average they use as their baseline. That didn’t set a monthly mark, as did August and September, but rather tied 2005 as the warmest October since 1880. That keeps 2014 on track to be the hottest year on record.

While individual hot years or months don’t necessarily stand out, it’s notable that all 10 of the warmest years on record have all come since 1998, one of the clearest signs that the climate is warming due in large part to greenhouse gas emissions.

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NASA data reveal that far eastern Siberia was an eye-popping 10°F above normal for October, but western Europe, northern Africa and western North America also saw temperatures up to 7°F hotter than average. The data also comes a day after the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released its October numbers for the U.S. that showed the lower 48 had its fourth-warmest October on record.


November bird forecast

November 18th, 2014 at 6:00 am by under Weather

What to watch for in November: Species on the move

Here’s the Central Texas bird forecast for the month, courtesy of Travis Audubon. Learn more about Central Texas birds and bird-related events for all ages at travisaudubon.org or by calling 512-300-BIRD. Travis Audubon is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @TravisAudubon and give us a like at www.facebook.com/travisaudubon.

Welcome, winter Texans

Certain species will continue arriving in Texas over the coming weeks to spend the winter here. North winds make their journeys less energy-intensive. Texas provides critical habitat for these “winter Texans.”

Songbirds arriving include the Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, Chipping Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow and American Pipit. Ducks are also winging south. Watch the duck populations swell on area lakes and ponds. Look for Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Gadwall, Redhead and Canvasback.

 Hermit Thrush photo by John Benson via Creative Commons

Hermit Thrush photo by John Benson via Creative Commons


The Hermit Thrush can be found in thick undergrowth, rooting through leaf litter — a good reason to keep parts of our parks wild. You’re not likely to see it at a feeder but you might spot it on the ground along trails and in openings in wooded areas. It is related to the American Robin and has the same pot-bellied look. The Hermit Thrush is smaller than an American Robin, though, and it has a rich brown upper body, smudged dark spots on the breast, and a reddish tail, according to All About Birds. It’s the only member of the thrush family that stays in the U.S. for the winter.


Ring-necked Duck photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service--Midwest Region

Ring-necked Duck photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–Midwest Region

The Ring-necked Duck is oddly named since the ring is not around the collar but around the bill. The males of these diving ducks have jet-black heads. The females are more tan and gray, but both have gray bills with white ring near the black tips. Both also have sloped foreheads and flattened crowns, which gives them a pointy-headed look. Look for them on smaller ponds, not large bodies of water.

Monthly Meeting — Photography as a Conservation Tool in Texas
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20
Speaker: Jeff Parker
Location: Hyde Park Christian Church, 610 E 45th St., Austin, TX 78751
Come prepared to enjoy some great wildlife photos as photographer Jeff Parker talks about the value of wildlife photography and photo contests in increasing awareness of our natural heritage. Parker, an award-winning naturalist photographer and certified wildlife guide, will talk about how wildlife photography has opened the eyes of some landowners to other wildlife on their property, giving them an incentive to protect the native wildlife of our state.

Field Trips — Beginners welcome. Check the Travis Audubon website for details.


Indiangrass Wildlife Sanctuary with Robert Reeves and Rene’ Barrera
Saturday, November 8, 8 to 11 a.m.

Monthly Bird Count at Hornsby Bend
Saturday, November 8, 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Balcones Canyonlands NWR
Sunday, November 9, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Super Tuesday at Northeast Metropolitan Park, led by Dan Callaway
Tuesday, November 11, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Hornsby Bend Monthly Bird Walk
Saturday, November 15, 7:30 to 11 a.m.

Super Tuesday at Pedernales Falls State Park, led by Terry Banks
Tuesday, November 18, 6:30 a.m. to noon

Balcones Canyonlands/Water Quality Preserves-Part 3
Friday, November 21, 8 to 11 a.m.

Laguna Gloria with Dennis Palafox and Jane Tillman
Saturday, November 22, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Super Tuesday at Tejas Camp, led by Ray and Ginny Steelman
Tuesday, November 25, 6:45 a.m. to noon

Commons Ford Monthly Walk
Sunday, November 30, 7:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Compiled by Travis Audubon volunteers Jane Tillman and Raeanne Martinez

Leonid meteor shower peaks early Tuesday morning

November 17th, 2014 at 2:15 pm by under Weather

The annual Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak in the early morning hours Tuesday, Nov. 18.  Everything you need to know is below, courtesy Deborah Byrd and EarthSky.org:

Leonids via NASA
Leonids via NASA

Leonid meteors, viewed from space in 1997. Image via NASA

The image at right shows Leonid meteors striking Earth’s atmosphere and creating shooting stars in Earth’s night sky. The Leonid meteor shower takes place every November, as our world moves through space, crossing the orbital path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, the parent comet of the Leonid meteor shower. In 2014, the peak night of the shower is expected from late evening November 17 to the morning of November 18. Fortunately, the rather unobtrusive waning crescent moon won’t really dampen the view on the shower’s peak night. The days before and after the peak might feature meteors as well, as we pass through the Leonid meteor stream in space.

How many Leonid meteors will you see in 2014? The answer of course depends on when you watch, the clarity and darkness of your night sky, and on whether or not you can avoid the moon. This shower has been known to produce meteor storms, but no Leonid storm is expected this year. The Leonids are usually a modest shower, with typical rates of about 10 to 15 meteors per hour at the peak, in the darkness before dawn.

A meteor during the peak of the 2009 Leonid meteor shower. Photo via Navicore via Wikimedia Commons.

When should you watch for Leonid meteors in 2014? Knowing what time to watch is easy. As with most meteor showers, the best time to watch the Leonids is usually between the hours of midnight and dawn. The expected peak night is November 17-18, and fortunately, the waning light of the lunar crescent moon won’t seriously jeopardize the view of this year’s production in the morning hours.

Where should you watch the meteor shower? We hear lots of reports from people who see meteors from yards, decks, streets and especially highways in and around cities. But the best place to watch a meteor shower is always in the country. Just go far enough from town that glittering stars, the same stars drowned by city lights, begin to pop into view.

City, state and national parks are often great places to watch meteor showers. Try googling the name of your state or city with the words city park, state park or national park. Then, be sure to go to the park early in the day and find a wide open area with a good view of the sky in all directions.


Climate change will mean wet areas get wetter, dry areas get drier

November 17th, 2014 at 1:46 pm by under Weather

The twenty-first century may bring the United States more of the weather it’s already got, whether wet or dry. The U.S. National Climate Assessment, issued in May 2014, examined multiple model projections of seasonal precipitation over the rest of this century. In general, precipitation is projected to increase in the northernmost parts of the country, and decrease in the southwestern United States.

These maps show projected seasonal precipitation changes for the final decades of this century (2071-2099) compared to the end of the last century (1970-1999) depending on two possible scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions. One scenario assumes that greenhouse gas emissions peak sometime between 2010 and 2020 and rapidly decline afterwards. The other scenario assumes that greenhouse gas emissions continue increasing throughout the 21st century.

Climate change and precip

Precipitation increases appear in shades of blue-green, and decreases appear in shades of brown. The darker the color, the greater the departure from 1970-1999 precipitation levels. White areas mean that any porjected changes are not larger than the existing range of natural variability. Not surprisingly, continually increasing greenhouse gas emissions are projected to produce greater changes (positive and negative) in seasonal precipitation.

With either rapid emissions reductions or continued emissions increases, changes in projected precipitation vary by season and especially by location. Although the effects are milder under a rapid-reduction scenario, all the projections show more precipitation in the North. In most cases, precipitation in the southwestern United States decreases. A notable exception to this general pattern is the summer seasonal projection for increasing emissions; in this scenario, precipitation also decreases in the Pacific Northwest.

The contiguous United States spans the transition zone between the relatively dry sub-tropics and the wetter high latitudes. Although models agree on wetter conditions in the north and drier conditions in the southwest, pinpointing the exact boundary where more or less precipitation will dominate is tricky for some parts of the country. In general, though, the National Climate Assessment authors warn, “The contrast between wet and dry areas will increase both in the U.S. and globally—in other words, the wet areas will get wetter ,and the dry areas will get drier.”

Source: Climate.gov


Walsh, J., D. Wuebbles, K. Hayhoe, J. Kossin, K. Kunkel, G. Stephens, P. Thorne, R. Vose, M. Wehner, J. Willis, D. Anderson, S. Doney, R. Feely, P. Hennon, V. Kharin, T. Knutson, F. Landerer, T. Lenton, J. Kennedy, and R. Somerville, 2014: Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 19-67. doi:10.7930/J0KW5CXT.

News of Obama Climate Pledge Caps Epic Week

November 14th, 2014 at 7:14 pm by under Weather

Climate CentralBy

If you blinked, it would have been easy to have missed a lot of big news on efforts to tackle global warming this week.

President Obama.
Credit: White House/flickr

It’s being reported that President Obama will announce that the U.S. will pledge $2.5 billion to $3 billion over four years to the Green Climate Fund. The news on Friday comes hot on the heels of an earlier agreement struck between China and the U.S. to curb the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that each country pumps into the air in the coming decades.

“What a week!” said Jake Schmidt, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international program director, when we reached him by phone on Friday.

The rapid-fire news comes just weeks before negotiators representing nearly 200 countries sit down in Lima for major talks before a global post-Kyoto Protocol treaty is finalized in Paris next December.

Here’s the lowdown for everybody who blinks.


What You Need to Know About U.S.-China Climate Pact

November 13th, 2014 at 2:33 pm by under Weather

It’s been a busy few months for international movement on climate change. Following a September climate march and meetings at the United Nations and an announcement by the European Union to cut greenhouse gas emissions, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping topped it all by announcing a new joint climate commitment late on Tuesday.

“As the world’s largest economies and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a responsibility to lead the world on climate change,” President Obama said in a joint press conference with President Xi in Beijing.

In short, it’s a landmark deal, and provides a ray of hope for limiting global carbon emissions and securing a new global treaty on climate change.

Credit: Whitehouse.gov

So wait, what’s the deal?

The U.S. has agreed to cut carbon pollution by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, doubling its previous commitment and building on Obama’s previous pledge.

“This is an ambitious goal, but this is an achievable goal,” Obama said.

On the Chinese side, it’s even more ambitious and more groundbreaking. For the first time,  China said it would see its emissions peak by 2030, and increase its use of clean energy to around 20 percent of its total energy production by 2030 as well.

Top fossil fuel emitters in 2013.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: Global Carbon Project

China and the U.S. are the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, accounting for roughly 40 percent of the world’s total emissions annually. Each percentage point they reduce (or at least slow) their emissions will have an outsize impact and move the world closer to limiting the global warming below the 2°C (3.6°F) threshold scientists and policymakers have set as a “safe” limit.

OK, cool. How are they going to do it?

The countries propose a teamwork approach that mixes clean energy advancements, phasing out harmful hydrofluorocarbons, investing in low carbon cities and carbon capture and storage and green trade. Much of the energy work will be done through the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, which according to its 2012-13 progress report is running 88 projects that look at improved building efficiency, cleaner transportation and carbon capture and sequestration at coal plants.

One of those carbon capture projects will sequester 1 million tons of carbon dioxide while also producing about 370 million gallons of freshwater per year. This part of the plan is likely appealing to China, which burns 4 billion tons of coal per year and is projected to burn even more coal over the next 30 years. The U.S. will also help build a 380-megawatt concentrating solar plant in China, comparable to one that went online in the Nevada earlier this year.

The hydrofluorocarbons initiative builds on a previous agreement between the two countries to reduce emissions from chemicals developed for use in refrigeration that have also been proven to be potent greenhouse gases.

The clean cities initiative will focus on the growing urban populations in both countries and sharing information about planning, improving energy efficiency and reducing air pollution.

Finally, the green trade work will focus on ensuring information about clean energy technology and infrastructure are shared between high level delegates in both countries.

About that 2°C thing. Does this agreement get us there?

Sorry to ruin the good vibes but not even close. Some analyses indicate China’s emissions would have to peak by 2025 for the world to have a chance at meeting the 2°C limit. And the U.S. announcement is less ambitious than the plan the European Union agreed to last month of slashing carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

To really avoid the worst effects of climate change from runaway sea level rise to increasing heat waves and ocean acidification, not only will emissions need to be cut, but a lot of fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground (or at least unburned). The concept of a carbon budget isn’t a new one, but at last year’s international climate talks in Warsaw, negotiators ignored the budget drawn up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change so something’s going to have to give.

So that’s kind of downer

Not so fast. It’s not all kumbaya, but it’s a definitely a step in the right direction. The new pact is very likely to be a huge boon to international climate negotiations coming up in Lima, Peru next month and the even more crucial negotiations in Paris in 2015. President Xi said that the U.S.-China pact should help spur a replacement to the current international climate agreement in place, the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire at the end of 2015.

The White House announcement of the plan also indicates that China has the “intention to try to peak early” so a 2025 peak isn’t entirely out of the question.

“The U.S. and China should be commended for putting their initial pledges on the table so early. This should inject a jolt of momentum in the lead up to a global climate agreement in Paris,” said Andrew Steer, head of the World Resources Institute in a press release.

It remains to be seen if that jolt will happen and if countries will follow through, but Tuesday’s show of solidarity between China and the U.S. means the world is closer to the goal of minimizing the impacts of climate change than it was on Monday. So hey, progress.

Source: Climate Central – By