Report rain, hail and snow to help meteorologists!

March 25th, 2014 at 11:08 am by under Weather


CoCoRaHS is a community network of volunteer weather observers who report daily rain, hail and snow data online in order to aid National Weather Service meteorologists, hydrologists, and water planning experts.

It only takes five minutes per day, and is a great way to get involved in the weather community and learn something while you’re at it.

Join CoCoRaHS today during March Madness – a competition between states to see who can sign up more new volunteers during the month of March.

Texas won last year – let’s do it again!

Sign up here:

New study shows accelerated ice melt, sea level rise

March 24th, 2014 at 10:21 am by under Weather

Increasing air and ocean temperatures accelerated by anthropogenic climate change are increasing the rate of ice melt in Greenland. Even though that seems like a far-away problem, the ice melt could shorten the timeline of noticeable sea level rise over the next decades. Read more in the article below from Climate Central:


Stability in the rapidly changing Arctic is a rarity. Yet for years researchers believed the glaciers in the frigid northeast section of Greenland, which connect to the interior of the country’s massive ice sheet, were resilient to the effects of climate change that have affected so much of the Arctic.

But new data published Sunday in Nature Climate Change reveals that over the past decade, the region has started rapidly losing ice due to a rise in air and ocean temperatures caused in part by climate change. The increased melt raises grave concerns that sea level rise could accelerate even faster than projected, threatening even more coastal communities worldwide.

Helheim glacier in southeast Greenland.
Credit: Henrik Egede-Lassen

“North Greenland is very cold and dry, and believed to be a very stable area,” said Shfaqat Khan, a senior researcher at the Technical University of Denmark who led the new study. “It is surprisingly to see ice loss in one of the coldest regions on the planet.”

The stability of the region is particularly important because it has much deeper ties to the interior ice sheet than other glaciers on the island. If the entire ice sheet were to melt –which would take thousands of years in most climate change scenarios — sea levels would rise up to 23 feet, catastrophically altering coastlines around the world.

Sea levels have risen 8 inches globally since the start of the 1900s, and current projections show that figure could rise another 3 feet by the end of this century.

Some recent research has suggested that Greenland’s ice loss may slow, but not all researchers agree. Jason Box, a glaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, said the new study presented a novel analysis of the region and that other factors such as soot could contribute to even more rapid melt in Greenland and other parts of the Arctic.

“These new measurements show that the sleeping giant is awakening and suggest — given likely continued Arctic warming — that it’s not going back to bed,” Box said in an email.


More days of extreme rainfall possible

March 23rd, 2014 at 9:06 pm by under Weather

Parts of the country could see more heavy rain events as global temperatures climb. Here’s a look at the climate models from NOAA.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

According to the 2009 National Climate Assessment, heavy downpours have increased in frequency and intensity during the last 50 years. Models predict that downpours will become still more more frequent and intense as greenhouse gas emissions and the planet’s temperature continue to rise.

The map above shows predicted changes in the annual number of days of extreme rainfall (defined as rainfall totals in excess of the historic 98th percentile) across the United States by 2041-2070 as compared to 1971-2000 if greenhouse gases continue to increase at a high rate (A2 scenario). By mid-century, some places could experience two or more additional days per year on which the rainfall totals exceed the heaviest rains historically experienced in the area.

Climate models project increasing days of extreme rainfall in the Northwest, Midwest, and parts of the Northeast, including some populated coastal areas that are already challenged by inundation and sea level rise. Several major watersheds are predicted to have more days of extreme rainfall by the middle of the century, including the Pacific Northwest, the Ohio River Basin, the Great Lakes, and parts of the Great River and Missouri River Basin. Meanwhile, the Southwest and some other areas frequented by drought are expected to see little difference in the number of extreme rainfall days.


Where are all of the tornadoes?

March 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by under Weather

It’s been an unusually slow start to tornado season. Climate Central examines the statistics, possible explanations, and if we can expect an increase through the rest of March and April:


In terms of sheer numbers, the past two years have been one of the quietest periods for tornadoes in the U.S. since the late 1980s, that despite some terribly destructive storms.

March represents a major weather transition period. As spring spreads from north to south, snow melts, leaves unfurl, and heat returns to much of the U.S. The odds for tornadoes also increase as an influx of warm, moist air generally starts to push up from the Gulf of Mexico while cold, dry air drops down from the northwest. Those differences in winds and air temperatures are some of the large-scale factors that can give rise to severe storms that produce rain, hail and tornadoes.

An animation showing every tornado recorded from 1950-2012 by month. Data via NOAA Storm Prediction Center.

While tornadoes can happen any time of year and in any state, the Southeast is historically the first bullseye with most March tornadoes occurring in that region. From there, tornado-friendly conditions become widespread in the Southern Plains in April through June and in the Northern Plains in June and July.

This March has started relatively quiet. On average, there are 80 tornadoes reported around the country during March, but so far only four tornadoes have been reported this month as a winter chill has lingered longer than usual over the eastern half of the country and cold weather tends to dampen the conditions tornadoes need to form. Average temperatures have been 3°-6°F below normal since the start of March for Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, the historical epicenter for March tornado activity.

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Cold weather played a role in suppressing the number of tornadoes in 2013. Persistent cool temperatures in March, followed by a finicky jet stream, helped keep tornado activity low in March and April. The year ended with 908 reported tornadoes, about 25 percent below the annual average of 1,200.


Amazing shots of last week’s “haboob”

March 22nd, 2014 at 10:15 am by under Weather

Remember when a cold front last week brought 50+mph winds to the Texas panhandle, sending clouds of dust from the parched soil airborne?

Check out this amazing compilation of pictures, and analysis of the “haboob” (dust storm often brought on by thunderstorm winds) in the Discover Magazine article below:

By Tom Yulsman | March 13, 2014 7:45 pm

High Plains Haboob blows

NASA’s Terra satellite spied these streams of dust blowing south across Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico on March 11, 2014. (Source: NASA)

As a cold front blew across parts of the High Plains on Tuesday, winds kicked up a huge and intense dust storm. You can see it in the image above, captured by NASA’s Terra satellite.

The dust is streaming south out of Colorado and Kansas into Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. (Look for the streamers of pale, sand-colored stuff south of the big cloud bank.)

With winds gusting to nearly 60 miles per hour, visibility in southwestern Kansas was reduced to zero, according to the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. CIMSS also describes a pilot report of severe turbulence at 45,000 feet in the region, possibly the result of the passing cold front.

On the ground, a towering wall of dust known as a haboob rushed across a vast swath of the High Plains, enveloping towns and cities in a brown pall.

haboob tweet 1

The photo above, posted to Twitter, was taken from an airplane flying near Amarillo, Texas, apparently at 38,000 feet. And here’s the High Plains haboob enveloping Clovis, New Mexico:

haboob tweet 2


NWS and NOAA release drought outlook

March 20th, 2014 at 3:29 pm by under Weather
NWS logo

NWS and NOAA release updated Southern Plains
drought outlook: Southern Plains states entering critical drought recovery period
The National Weather Service (NWS) and its NOAA partners have released an updated Southern Plains Drought Outlook Summary for March 2014. Included among the key highlights of this month’s summary are:
- The region is emerging from one of its driest winters on record, a period that has exacerbated drought conditions in many areas of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.
- May and June are the wettest months of the year climatologically in Oklahoma and Texas; any short-term improvements in drought conditions will be critically linked to rainfall during this period. In 2011, an abnormally dry spring season preceded one of the region’s hottest and driest summers on record.
- NOAA is tracking the potential development of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean; the impacts of this event on the region’s drought are uncertain, but potentially beneficial, especially as we move into the fall season and beyond.

Click here to view the Outlook. Additional information on the Southern Plains drought early warning system is available on the U.S. Drought Portal:

For more information on the Outlook, please contact the NWS Southern Region Headquarters (SRH) Regional Operations Center (ROC) at or (817) 978-1100 extension 147. The SRH ROC is a NOAA Weather Ready Nation pilot project designed to provide weather, water and climate decision support services to regional partners.

NOAA’s Spring Outlook

March 20th, 2014 at 11:18 am by under Weather

March 20, 2014

According to NOAA’s Spring Outlook released today, rivers in half of the continental United States are at minor or moderate risk of exceeding flood levels this spring with the highest threat in the southern Great Lakes region due to above-average snowpack and a deep layer of frozen ground. Additionally, drought is expected to continue in California and the Southwest.

The continuation of winter weather, above-average snowpack, frozen ground and thick ice coverage on streams and rivers will delay spring flooding into April in the upper Midwest eastward to New England. The intensity of the flooding will depend on the rate of snow and ice melt, and future rainfall.

Continued well-below average temperatures this winter resulted in significant river ice formation and ice jams in locations further south than customary, flooding homes and businesses, and impacting river commerce. There is also an elevated risk of more ice jams this spring in the northern tier of the U.S. from Montana eastward to northern New England.

“This year’s spring flood potential is widespread and includes rivers in highly populated areas putting millions of Americans at risk,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director, NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Although widespread major river flooding is not expected, an abrupt warming or heavy rainfall event could lead to isolated major flooding.”

Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

Spring Flood Risk

National Weather Service hydrologists predict moderate flooding in parts of southern Wisconsin, southern Michigan and portions of Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa as a result of the current snowpack and the deep layer of frozen ground coupled with expected seasonal temperatures and rainfall. At risk are the Mississippi River and the Illinois River as well as many smaller rivers in these regions. Small streams and rivers in the lower Missouri basin in Missouri and eastern Kansas have already experienced minor flooding this year and the threat of moderate flooding will persist through the spring.

There is a risk of moderate flooding along the Red River of the North between eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, and along the Souris River below Minot, N.D. River ice, snowpack and significant frozen ground are factors in the flood risk for this area. Additionally, there is a risk of moderate flooding for western South Dakota because of current saturated soils.

Minor flooding is likely in the northern Rockies, parts of the Midwest, and the Great Lakes region. Minor flooding is also possible in the Northeast, the lower Mississippi River basin, and across the entire Southeast up to Virginia, including east Texas, and parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and the Florida panhandle. In these areas, spring flood risk is highly dependent on rainfall.


A cold winter for the U.S. but 8th warmest globally

March 20th, 2014 at 10:54 am by under Weather

By Andrea Thompson
Climate Central

Despite the frigid temperatures that kept those in the eastern United States shivering all winter, the period from December 2013 to February 2014 was the 8th warmest on record globally, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center reported Wednesday. That warmth early in the year could set the stage for another record or near-record warm year, one NCDC scientist said.

And February, which was the 21st warmest globally since record keeping began in 1880, was the 384th consecutive month where temperatures were higher than the global average; the last month with below-average temperatures was exactly 29 years ago, in February 1985, when Ronald Reagan was just beginning his second term as president.

While some years have averaged warmer than others, global temperatures have been inexorably rising over the past few decades as manmade carbon dioxide emissions have accumulated in the atmosphere, trapping heat.

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The high ranking may come as a surprise to those who spent the winter digging out from seemingly never-ending snow storms and blasts of Arctic air courtesy of a wonky jet stream that tipped the infamous polar vortex toward the eastern U.S. and sent cold Canadian air washing over the region. (In fact, parts of Ontario, Canada, experienced a February that ranked among their top 10 coldest in the record books.)

But those chilly areas were more than offset by the warmer-than-average temperatures that most of the world’s land areas saw, which were also caused by the way the jet stream pushed areas of high and low pressure across the Northern Hemisphere.


Flood Safety Awareness Week continues

March 19th, 2014 at 1:37 pm by under Weather



On average, flooding causes more property damage in the United States than any other weather related event. It is a threat to life and property that can occur in any of the fifty states or U.S. territories at any time of year.  In 2013, the nation watched as deadly floods from severe storms impacted the Great Plains during May and record rainfall caused devastating flooding in Colorado in September.  Last year, 85 people lost their lives to freshwater flooding. More than half of those fatalities were a result of people driving into floodwaters. On average, there are 89 fatalities and $8.3 billion in damages annually.

During National Flood Safety Awareness Week, March 16-22, 2014, NOAA and FEMA will highlight the importance of preparing for a flood before it strikes and teach the actions you should take when faced with a flooding situation. This week we ask that you Be a Force of Nature by knowing your risk, taking action and being an example where you live. Following these simple steps year round can help keep you and your loved ones safe when hazardous weather strikes. Keep tabs on the local forecast, create a disaster supplies kit, and alert others via texts and social media when a flood threat or other hazardous weather threat exists!  (more…)

Kaxan invites you to Petcasso

March 19th, 2014 at 11:29 am by under Weather

Our mascot Kaxan is a featured artist at this year’s Petcasso event, benefiting Animal Trustees of Austin. Click below to visit the Petcasso website, and make your plans to join us April 6th. You might even win Kaxan’s painting! You may also support Animal Trustees by contributing during Thursday & Friday’s Amplify Austin event:


Kaxan paints for Petcasso