Weather

New NOAA visualization tool puts climate at your fingertips

November 19th, 2013 at 1:11 pm by under Weather

By Brian Kahn, Climate Central:

Sifting through the massive amount of climate and weather data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) can be daunting. However, a new tool released Tuesday brings that data to the masses and with a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the screen, creates interactive maps that clearly show natural and manmade shifts in the climate and oceans around the world.

The National Climatic Data Center alone contains over 6 petabytes of data. That’s enough data on ocean and land temperatures, cloud cover, rainfall, and other climate and weather indicators to fill more than 49,000 hard drives in the beefiest iPad Air. Other NOAA data centers house still more information on Arctic sea ice, the deep ocean, fisheries, and climate projections collected from satellites, weather stations, buoys, ocean sounds and computer models.

An animation made in NOAA View showing monthly shifts in sea surface temperatures around the globe.
Credit: NOAA

Most of that data is free and publicly available. However, just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s centralized or intuitive to access, let alone figure out what to do with it once it’s on your desktop. NOAA’s new effort aims to sidestep those issues and let the public explore cloud cover, salinity levels in the depths of the ocean, and everything in between.

The tool, called NOAA View, offers easy access to 60 NOAA datasets that go back to 1880 as well as future climate model simulations. Dan Pisut, who manages NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Program, said the initial datasets were chosen based on the data most accessed by news organizations and museums.

“We wanted to build something where somebody that doesn’t want to crunch all the numbers can still see an image,” Pisut said. “After all, an image is worth a thousand words.”

To get those images, users can browse datasets by category and time period. Behind the scenes, hundreds of computer programs churn that data into beautiful maps that can show variables for a specific period or how they change over time.

An animation made in NOAA View showing weekly changes in vegetation from May 2013 through October 2013.
Credit: NOAA

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What happened to Mars?

November 18th, 2013 at 1:27 pm by under Weather

Billions of years ago when the planets of our solar system were still young, Mars was a very different world.  Liquid water flowed in long rivers that emptied into lakes and shallow seas. A thick atmosphere blanketed the planet and kept it warm. In this cozy environment, living microbes might have found a home, starting Mars down the path toward becoming a second life-filled planet next door to our own.

But that’s not how things turned out.

Today, Mars is bitter cold and desiccated. The planet’s thin, wispy atmosphere provides scant cover for a surface marked by dry riverbeds and empty lakes. If Martian microbes still exist, they’re probably eking out a meager existence somewhere beneath the dusty Martian soil.

What happened? This haunting question has long puzzled scientists. To find the answer, NASA is sending a new orbiter to Mars called MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution).

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A new ScienceCast video ponders the question, What Happened to Mars? Play it

“The goal of MAVEN is to figure out what processes were responsible for those changes in Martian climate,” says Bruce Jakosky, Principal Investigator for MAVEN at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Scheduled for launch in Nov. 2013, and due to arrive in Sept. 2014, MAVEN is bristling with instruments to study Mars’ upper atmosphere.  That’s where many researchers believe the answer lies.

The only way Mars could have been wet and warm 4 billion years ago, is if it also had a thick atmosphere.  CO2 in the Martian atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, just as it is in our own atmosphere. A thick blanket of CO2 and other greenhouse gases would have provided the warmer temperatures and greater atmospheric pressure required to keep liquid water from freezing solid or boiling away.

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Rare November tornado outbreak kills six

November 18th, 2013 at 1:05 pm by under Weather

By Jeff Masters, Weather Underground:

A rare and deadly late-season tornado and severe weather outbreak blitzed the Midwest U.S. on Sunday, killing at least six people and leaving widespread significant damage. A tornado preliminarily rated as a violent EF-4 touched down in New Minden, Illinois, east of St. Louis, carving a path of destruction three miles long, killing two people, and blowing semi trucks off of I-64. The twister was one of only twenty EF-4s to occur in the U.S. in November dating back to 1950, and was the third most northerly November EF-4 ever observed, according to data from the Tornado History Project. The most widespread damage from Sunday’s outbreak occurred in the town of Washington (population 16,000), about 140 miles southwest of Chicago, where a powerful tornado destroyed or heavily damaged 250 – 500 homes and an apartment complex. Damage appeared to be at least EF-3. A northern Illinois man says he discovered mail belonging to Washington residents on his property in Channahon, about 80 miles northeast Washington, according to the (Peoria) Journal-Star. Three other tornado deaths occurred in Massac County in the far southern part of Illinois, making Sunday the deadliest November tornado outbreak in Illinois history. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center logged 68 preliminary tornado reports, along with 412 reports of high wind gusts and 32 reports of hail. Sixteen of the wind gusts were in excess of 74 mph (hurricane strength.)


Figure 1. A view of part of Washington, Illinois from Mackenzie Street on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 after a tornado tore through the area. (AP Photo/Alex Kareotes)


Figure 2. Radar reflectivity image of the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Washington, Illinois tornado of November 17, 2013.

A strange 2013 tornado season
Sunday’s tornado outbreak is yet another anomaly in what has been a very unusual 2013 tornado season. The top three tornado outbreaks have occurred in November, January, and October–well outside the usual spring/summer peak of tornado season:

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National drought program in the works

November 17th, 2013 at 8:30 pm by under Weather

From NOAA:

November 15, 2013

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2013—As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration today announced an interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership to help communities better prepare for future droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on livelihoods and the economy. Responding to requests from communities, businesses, and farmers and ranchers, the National Drought Resilience Partnership will make it easier to access Federal drought resources, and will help link information such as monitoring, forecasts, outlooks, and early warnings with longer-term drought resilience strategies in critical sectors such as agriculture, municipal water systems, energy, recreation, tourism and manufacturing.

In its first year, the Partnership will focus on creating a new, web-based portal to ease access to Federal agency drought recovery resources, hosting more frequent regional drought outlook forums that provide access to experts and locally relevant information, supporting the coordination of a national soil moisture monitoring network to help improve monitoring and forecasting drought conditions, and identifying a single point of contact for the public. In collaboration with local, state and regional governments, the Partnership will also undertake a pilot project in a western area hard hit by drought to create a local-scale drought resilience plan that could be applied in other areas.

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Brazos River runs dry during Texas drought, Summer 2011 (Credit: NOAA)

“Last year, the worst drought in generations devastated farms and ranches across the nation, and the Obama Administration took every possible measure to help,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “But our work isn’t done and we can always better prepare for the future. Today’s partnership will help rural residents, farmers, ranchers and business owners prepare for drought events like the one we experienced in 2012.” Vilsack also noted the importance of increased partnership to increase drought resilience at a time when climate change is projected to increase the intensity and the number of drought events that impact agriculture.

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Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix weekend forecast (updated)

November 16th, 2013 at 9:33 am by under Weather

KXAN First Warning Weather is proud to be providing the official Formula 1 race forecast again this year. As you can see below, we are expecting a very warm weekend, including a record high temperature on Sunday!

Rain chances will be low, though patchy morning fog and drizzle will be prevalent each morning.

11-16 f1 F

And below is a look at that same forecast, this time in degrees Celsius for our international visitors.

11-16 f1 celsius


Williamson Creek cleanup today!

November 16th, 2013 at 9:12 am by under Weather

In response to the recent rains (and floods), the District and the City of Sunset Valley will host a Cleanup on Williamson Creek this Saturday, November 16 from 9am-noon.

Williamson Creek is one of the many creeks that crosses the Recharge Zone and contributes recharge to the Edwards Aquifer. By cleaning up trash and debris from the creek, we help improve the quality of water entering our aquifer.  Recent rains and floods have deposited a large amount of trash along the creek. This is going to be a BIG YEAR for the cleanup!

Join us for a fun-filled creek clean-up. Participants will receive a T-SHIRT, LUNCH, and PRIZES!  Be sure to RSVP, so we know how many hands we’ll have to help and how many mouths we’ll have to feed!

More details, map with where to meet, and what to bring:  www.bseacd.org/education/creek-cleanups/

To RSVP or find out more about creek clean-ups, please email

Robin Gary at rhgary@bseacd.org


Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix weekend forecast

November 15th, 2013 at 5:28 pm by under Weather

KXAN First Warning Weather is proud to be providing the official Formula 1 race forecast again this year. As you can see below, we are expecting a very warm weekend, including a record high temperature on Sunday!

Rain chances will be low, though some patchy drizzle and light fog will certainly be possible from the low clouds that blanket the area during the morning hours Saturday and Sunday.

11-15 F1 FX

11-15 F1 FX in celsius

 


Flood victim benefit concert Sunday

November 14th, 2013 at 1:41 pm by under Weather

South Austin Flood Victims Benefit Concert Red Shed Tavern
8504 S. Congress Ave
November 17 from 12pm-8pm
$15 entry donation
www.redshedtavern.com

Join us for full day of outdoor live music to benefit the South Austin families affected by the recent floods. We welcome Joy Davis Band, The Bonfire Choir, Von Roader, Silo Road, Thrill Joy, and Shad Blair to the backyard stage. Food courtesy of Serrano’s, Don Dario’s Cantina, and Thundercloud Subs. Silent auction with items donated by Guitar Center, Samuels Diamonds, Star of Morocco, Britni Jade Essentials, The Sweetest Smile, and many more!  Kid-friendly up until 8pm – all minors must be accompanied by their parent. $15 donation (12yrs and under free) goes to the Central Texas Floods Relief Fund through Austin Disaster Relief Network.


America Recycles Day Friday

November 14th, 2013 at 12:15 am by under Weather

America Recycles Day is November 15!

When you hear the word recycle, you probably think of things like paper, plastic, aluminum and glass. But did you know that motor oil, electronics, batteries and tires can be recycled, too? Recycling common household materials reduces the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills. It also saves energy, protects natural resources, and provides materials for new products.

  • Recycling two gallons of used oil can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves the amount of energy needed to power a laptop computer for five hours or run a 60-watt CFL light bulb for 20 hours.
  • Recycling one ton of paper saves up to 7,000 gallons of water. Recycled paper can be used to make masking tape, hospital gowns, coffee filters, lamp shades, eggs cartons and more.
  • Many different metals are recovered during the cell phone recycling process – gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, tin and zinc – that can be used by jewelry, plating, electronics, automotive and other industries.

Viewer Tip: Before you toss a household item in the trash can, find out if it can be recycled. You may be surprised by some of the items that can be recycled – auto fluids, corks, computers, light bulbs and much more. Visit search.earth911.com to find out what you can recycle, how and where. Provide your city or zip code and the item that needs to be recycled to find a nearby recycling solution.

Earth Gauge® is a program of the National Environmental Education Foundation.           

 


Texas Winter Weather Awareness Day

November 13th, 2013 at 8:58 am by under Weather

It’s fitting that we see winter-like temperatures on Winter Weather Awareness Day. Wednesday’s morning lows hit the low and mid 20s in the Hill Country’s coldest valleys. Austin and the metro area saw the low to mid 30s. ABIA hit 32 degrees and tied the record low set in 1976.

So, now’s the time to prepare for winter.

New Image

The National Weather Service has put together a winter weather guide for you.


PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
812 AM CST WED NOV 13 2013

...TODAY IS WINTER WEATHER AWARENESS DAY IN TEXAS...

THE TEXAS DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT...THROUGH THE TEXAS
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY...HAS JOINED WITH THE NATIONAL WEATHER
SERVICE TO FOCUS PUBLIC ATTENTION ON WINTER WEATHER PREPAREDNESS
ACROSS THE STATE OF TEXAS TODAY.

AS THEY ALWAYS SAY IN TEXAS...IF YOU DONT LIKE THE WEATHER...JUST WAIT
A WHILE. ONE DAY IT CAN BE ICY AND FRIGID AND THE NEXT DAY NICE AND WARM.
WHEN YOU TRAVEL JUST A FEW HUNDRED MILES ACROSS THE STATE...YOU
CAN DRIVE FROM SUMMER-LIKE WEATHER INTO A BLIZZARD...TEXAS IS VERY
UNIQUE IN THAT YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED FOR JUST ABOUT ANYTHING.
THAT IS WHY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OFFICIALS AND PLANNERS
ADVISE...DONT LET THE COLD WEATHER SNEAK UP ON YOU. GET READY FOR
WINTER NOW.

...IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS...

A WINTER STORM IS AN EVENT CAUSING A SIGNIFICANT ACCUMULATION
OF ICE OR SNOW THAT CAUSES WIDESPREAD IMPACTS ACROSS SOUTH CENTRAL
TEXAS. A SIGNIFICANT SNOW ACCUMULATION MAY BE AS HIGH AS 4 INCHES
OR MORE IN 12 HOURS OR 6 INCHES OR MORE IN 24 HOURS. A QUARTER-
INCH OR MORE OF ICE OR SLEET WOULD BE CONSIDERED SIGNIFICANT.
THESE CAN PRODUCE DANGEROUS TRAVEL PROBLEMS AND MAY POSE A THREAT
TO LIFE AND PROPERTY. LOW WIND CHILL INDICES AND LOW VISIBILITIES
MAY ALSO ACCOMPANY WINTER STORMS.

WINTER STORM WATCHES ARE ISSUED BETWEEN 24 AND 48 HOURS IN
ADVANCE OF AN EXPECTED WINTER STORM. THE WATCH WILL DESCRIBE
THE KIND OF WINTER WEATHER EXPECTED...SNOW AND OR SLEET AND
OR ICE...AND THE EXPECTED ACCUMULATION. WHEN A WATCH IS
ISSUED...RESIDENTS SHOULD TAKE CAUTION...BEGIN TO PREPARE...
AND KEEP ABREAST OF THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS.

WINTER STORM WARNINGS ARE ISSUED WHEN A WINTER STORM IS
EXPECTED WITHIN 24 HOURS. AT THIS TIME...PREPARATIONS TO
PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY SHOULD BE COMPLETED. WINTER STORMS
CAN BRING PROLONGED POWER OUTAGES AND VERY DANGEROUS DRIVING
CONDITIONS.

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES ARE ISSUED WHEN LIGHT ACCUMULATIONS
OF SNOW...FREEZING RAIN...FREEZING DRIZZLE...OR SLEET ARE
EXPECTED TO OCCUR BUT CAUSE ONLY AN INCONVENIENCE TO
MOTORISTS AND RESIDENTS. A FEW OVERPASSES OR SIDE ROADS MAY HAVE TO BE
CLOSED DUE TO ICE ACCUMULATION...BUT MAJOR ROADWAYS REMAIN OPEN TO
TRAFFIC.

A WIND CHILL ADVISORY IS ISSUED WHEN WIND CHILL TEMPERATURES ARE
EXPECTED TO FALL TO ZERO OR BELOW. REMEMBER...WIND CHILL IS WHAT THE
ACTUAL AIR TEMPERATURE FEELS LIKE WITH THE WIND FACTORED INTO IT.
RESIDENTS SHOULD LIMIT OUTDOOR EXPOSURE AND OR PROTECT EXPOSED SKIN
DURING LOW WIND CHILL READINGS.

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