New Weather Channel show geared toward “weather geeks”

August 2nd, 2014 at 9:21 am by under Weather
Marshall Shepherd
Marshall Shepherd, director of the UGA Atmospheric Science program and former president of the American Meteorological Society, is the host of the Weather Channel show Weather Geeks.

From Gil Golan, UGA News:

A new Weather Channel show, Weather Geeks, covers contemporary weather issues in a news talk show format. Dr. Marshall Shepherd, director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Science program and former president of the American Meteorological Society, serves as host of the Sunday morning weather forum.

“It’s a gift to hardcore weather fans,” Shepherd said.

The show focuses on key weather issues while also serving as a platform for debunking incorrect statements made about weather events.

Dr. Shepherd cited January’s Polar Vortex as a weather event where news outlets reported misinformation.

Weather Geeks is the only Sunday morning news talk show that focuses on science, Shepherd said. Each episode features guest scientists from different areas of the weather community.

“We reach out to the professional weather community because we want it to be their show,” Shepherd said.

But he said achieving high audience ratings is not the main focus of the show.

“What I’m most excited about is being able to talk about contemporary weather issues in a public media forum,” Shepherd said.


Thanks Round Rock Express fans!

August 1st, 2014 at 3:02 pm by under Weather

8-1 Fans from Fans

Thanks to the Round Rock Express fans who brought new fans to the game for Family Eldercare Friday night.  And, thanks to the Round Rock Express for giving those fans free tickets to the game!

Family Eldercare tells us they are really running low on fans and have started a waiting list. You can help make sure our seniors, those with disabilities and families with small children stay cool by donating to the Family Eldercare Summer Fan Drive.

If you didn’t make it to the game, please consider making an online donation here:

Despite Thursday’s “cold front” we are expecting hotter than normal temperatures to return next week and continue through much of August. Your donation can truly be a life-saver!


What’s the hold up, El Niño?

August 1st, 2014 at 1:41 pm by under Weather


In the July 10 update and ENSO discussion, we said the atmospheric part of ENSO doesn’t seem to be responding to the ocean.  El Niño requires that both be in sync and coupled with each other.  Why is the atmosphere acting aloof to the rather warm ocean?  This development may be especially surprising to folks given the rumors and speculation of a very strong El Niño that followed March’s oceanic Kelvin wave.

In June, the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia made an interesting observation that might shed light on the lack of coupling between the ocean and atmosphere (1).  They pointed out that an anomalous sea surface temperature (SST) gradient was not in place across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  Like the gradient of a hill on a highway, an SST gradient describes a change in temperature across the ocean surface from one location to another (2).

The maps below show the typical evolution of SST anomalies leading up to wintertime El Niño events (winter is when ENSO is strongest).  In this post, the SST gradient will refer to the difference in SST anomalies.  “Anomalies” are the departures from the average state of the atmosphere or ocean.  Blue shading shows where SSTs are below average, and red shading shows where SSTs are above average.  In this case, the gradient refers to the more negative (cooler) SST anomalies in the western Pacific (blue shading) and the more positive (warmer) SST anomalies in the eastern Pacific (red shading).

The typical evolution of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies from April through December associated with El Niño.  These maps were created using lagged regression onto the wintertime Niño-3.4 index using monthly data from ERSSTv3b from 1980-2012.  The SST gradient is shown by the difference in near-to-below-average SST (white or blue) across the far western tropical Pacific and Indonesia and the above-average SST (red) across the central and eastern Pacific.  Map by Michelle L’Heureux, Climate Prediction Center.

So who cares whether “SST gradients” in the equatorial Pacific are in place?  Well, as it turns out, the atmospheric circulation often responds to these SST gradients, and if they do not exist then it is possible that the growth of El Niño will be less energetic or reduced—like a car that will coast downhill (big gradient) on its own but not across a flat stretch of road (no gradient).


Your help urgently requested to keep seniors cool

July 30th, 2014 at 4:39 pm by under Weather

I received an e-mail from Family Eldercare that I wanted to share with you.  Please make an online donation right now if you Or, you can get two free tickets to Friday night’s Round Rock Express game by bringing a brand new box fan with you. Details here.


From: Becca McPherson []
Sent: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 11:20 AM
To: Jim Spencer
Subject: RE: Question

…..Also, we have officially run out of fans and have a waiting list. I believe that it’s been because of the cooler summer, which is deceptive, but doesn’t mean that families need fewer fans. We keep getting people who send us messages like, “I usually give $100, but since it’s been a cool summer we’re only donating $30 this year.” We’re making a big push through our social media and eblasts to see if we can’t get some more fans or funds, but wanted to see if you could also mention it on the air? Our warehouse is literally empty except for five desk fans! We are going to try to run over to Home Depot to get what they have on the shelves, but we’d like to be able to place a large order to be able to get through one of the hottest months, August. Thank you!

Late July chill setting record lows – cold front headed here

July 30th, 2014 at 2:34 pm by under Weather

We are not expecting record lows here in Central Texas, but we will get a taste of the unusually nice summer temperatures being reported in the East today. The cold front bringing record lows there will arrive here Thursday.

(Climate Central) Folks across the eastern U.S. could be forgiven for thinking they’d pulled a Rip van Winkle and woken up in October on Wednesday morning. Temperatures dipped down overnight into the 60s, 50s and even 40s, setting record lows left and right.

Temperatures across the U.S. at 8 a.m. ET on July 30. An incursion of cold, Canadian air sent low temperatures to record levels in some areas of the East.
Credit: NOAA

The chill in the air comes courtesy of yet another bout of cool Canadian air that dipped down over the area east of the Rockies earlier this week, creating decidedly un-summerlike temperatures at what is normally the hottest time of the year for many locations and spurring some severe weather, including a rare Boston-area tornado.

“We’re in the heart of that hottest normal time of the year and it’s anything but that,” Bruce Terry, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service, told Climate Central on Monday.

The cool conditions in the East contrasted, as they have nearly all year, with baking conditions in the West, which have exacerbated the effects of California’s epic drought and helped fuel wildfires. This temperature pattern is occurring over a background warming fueled by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere that are making record lows overall less likely and record highs more common. The pattern the U.S. has seen is also one scientists say could be more common in a warming world.

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Numerous National Weather Service offices and other local meteorologists took to Twitter and other media to note the astonishing thermometer readings across the East: Nashville tied its record low for July 30 of 58°F (originally set in 1965), according to the local NWS office. Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. dropped to an incredible 48°F, shattering the record low of 51°F set in 1981, while Baltimore’s airport hit 55°F, just beating the record of 56°F set in 1997, the Capital Weather Gang reported.

Other July 30 records included: 59°F at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, beating the previous record of 61°F set in 1936; 59°F in Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.; and 51°F in Pittsburgh, where the previous record of 52°F was set in 1982.

In contrast, cities on the West Coast have been sweltering. San Francisco is set to see its warmest July on record and even hit an uncharacteristic 90°F on July 25, a full 12°F above normal, Dennis Mersereau at The Vane wrote. Portland, Ore., hit an even more sizzling 99°F this month and is on track for its sixth warmest July.

The pattern behind this stark temperature divide is one in which large waves in the jet stream send a deep trough, or area of low pressure in the atmosphere, diving down over the East, while a ridge, or high pressure area, parks itself over the West. The same pattern was in play earlier in July and during much of the winter months and into spring.

While the winter and spring events were linked to an incursion of the polar vortex — an upper-level atmospheric feature of cold, low-pressure air surrounded by strong winds that circle the pole ­— southward, the National Weather Service has been reluctant to link the summer cold spells to the same cause. Other meteorologists, however, have said that the events do indeed have a polar component.

Why the country keeps seeing this particular pattern this year, forecasters can’t say.

“I don’t know why we keep seeing it, but we do keep seeing it,” Terry said.

Jake Crouch, a climatologist with the National Climatic Data Center who helps conduct monthly investigations of major climate events in the U.S., said in an email that his team will likely do a detailed analysis of the July event to be released with next month’s update.

The pattern has affected the overall average temperatures of the U.S. in 2014, with the first four months of the year ranking as the coldest since 1993, according to the most recent State of the Climate update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But the warmth in the West — where California has recorded its hottest first six months to a year ever — has balanced out the cold, putting the year as a whole in the middle of the pack for temperature records going back a little more than a century.

And the situation in the U.S. is only one part of the globe, which just experienced its hottest May and June on record. The year to-date for the planet ranks as the fifth warmest.

As the world heats up because of the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere by humans, the building warmth actually stacks the deck for record highs and against record lows, meaning the record lows seen across the East this week will be increasingly less likely to occur.

Super-close views of Mercury

July 29th, 2014 at 2:44 pm by under Weather


The MESSENGER spacecraft is now dropping closer to Mercury, and long anticipated, super-close views of the planet are beginning to come in.

Image via NASA / JHU / APL MESSENGER spacecraft

Close image of Mercury acquired by the MESSENGER spacecraft on June 11, 2014. 69.84 degrees North & 48.47 degrees East. Resolution 2.9 meters. Image via NASA / JHU / APL MESSENGER spacecraft

The image above is one of the highest resolution images ever returned of Mercury. MESSENGER acquired it on June 11, 2014. Last Friday – July 25, 2014 – MESSENGER’s periherm (closest point to Mercury) dropped below 100 kilometers / 62 miles. MESSSENGER is the first manmade object ever to come this close to Mercury.

On June 17 – around the time the image above was taken – the periherm had dropped to 113.80 kilometers / 70.80 miles. The image has absolutely incredible 2.90-meter resolution, showing a cluster of tiny secondary craters within the northern intercrater lava plains in a 3.00 kilometer / 1.86 mile wide area within Mercury’s North Polar Borealis Quadrangle.

The craters seen here are a few hundred meters at most in width, many much smaller. These are secondary craters from an impact out of this frame, where impact ejecta fell back on ballistic trajectories forming smaller craters. Many can be hundreds of kilometers away from the primary impact if the impact was large enough.

There are a handful of much smaller craters in the area too.

All of these craters in this image are of the simple bowl shaped type.

The image is a little ‘noisy’ due to the very short exposure required to prevent blurring of the image as MESSENGER was lower and faster than usual above the surface of Mercury.

On August 19, 2014, periherm will drop below 50 kilometers / 31 miles. On September 12, 2014, periherm will have lowered to 25 kilometers / 15.52 miles.

The number of such high resolution and even higher resolution images will increase as periherm continues to lower.

The fuel on board MESSENGER is expected to be depleted on January 21, 2015. MESSENGER is expected to impact Mercury during the last weekend of March, 2015.

Our next Tropical Depression? The NWS thinks there’s a good chance.

July 29th, 2014 at 8:34 am by under Weather


Tropical Weather Outlook Text

800 AM EDT TUE JUL 29 2014

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

1. Satellite images indicate that showers and thunderstorms
associated with an area of low pressure located about 1600 miles
east of the southern Windward Islands continue to become better
organized.  This system could develop into a tropical depression
later today or tomorrow while it moves westward or
west-northwestward at 10 to 15 mph.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...high...70 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...high...80 percent.



IF this storm comes together it’s forecast path has it traveling toward the Gulf!

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.”


Heat Advisory issued

July 23rd, 2014 at 5:05 pm by under Weather
(This HEAT ADVISORY includes Milam County in the KXAN viewing area)

234 PM CDT WED JUL 23 2014




Checkup says earth is running a temperature

July 22nd, 2014 at 1:54 pm by under Weather


(Climate Central) Looking at the state of the climate, you can see heat everywhere. From the top of the globe to the depths of the oceans and everywhere in between, the climate is warming and changing in ways humans have never experienced.

Last year was between the globe’s third- and sixth-warmest year on record, including record heat in Australia. The frequency of hot days in 2013 was also among the top 10 years while cold nights were among the bottom 10 years. And heat content in the upper ocean reached record highs as did sea levels.

A map showing global surface temperature anomalies averaged over 2013 compared to 1981-2010 average.

Those changes and more are chronicled in a new report published on Thursday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This is the 24th straight year of the report, which amounts to a global health checkup. Except in this case, instead of one doctor doing the exam, it was 425 scientists from 57 countries around the globe contributing to the nearly 260-page report.

It’s a massive undertaking to synthesize global climate data, which is why the report takes so long to put together and release.

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“The take-home message here is that the planet — its state of the climate — is changing more rapidly in today’s world than at any time in modern civilization,” said Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, in a call with reporters.

The global average temperature, which is a broad baseline used to measure the climate, was about 0.4°F above average according to four datasets most commonly used by scientists. That was high enough to rank 2013 as up to the third-warmest year since 1880. All 10 of the warmest years have come since, with 2010 topping the charts.

Global hot spots for 2013 included parts of Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as Australia and Northern Africa. One of the only land areas with cooler-than-normal temperatures was the eastern half of North America.

The frequency of hot days is another indicator of the world’s continued warm streak. Last year was also in top 10 territory, driven in part by the extremes in Australia and Europe. In contrast, cool nights were in shorter supply, with 2013 ranking in the bottom 10 years.

A map showing ocean heat content anomalies averaged over 2013 compared to 1993-2013 average.

Ocean surface temperatures in 2013 were also among the top 10 warmest. But more notable is the amount of heat stashed in the upper half mile of the ocean, which has increased steadily and reached a record high in 2013.

“Warming in the upper (up to 700 meters) oceans accounts for about 63 percent of the total increase in energy storage in the climate system from 1971 to 2010,” the report said.

Scientists have posited that the apparent “pause” in global warming is being driven by increased heat storage in this layer of the ocean. Ocean warming coupled with melting ice has contributed to sea level rise, which also reached record highs in 2013.

Arctic sea ice extent, glaciers and late spring snow cover all felt the heat last year as well. Each continued a trend in line with the impacts of climate change.

The other notable record, and one which connects the dots between a number of the trends outlined in the report, is atmospheric carbon dioxide. Levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that are helping drive climate change were at record highs in 2013. CO2 crossed a notable milestone, hitting 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. Of course, 2014 is on track to smash the records set in 2013, with CO2 levels spending 3 months above the 400 ppm threshold.

Beyond global trends, the year was marked by regional extremes. Australia had its hottest year on record and parts of China experienced record summer warmth. However, the biggest single weather event of the year was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 and left 2 million homeless.

At its peak, sustained winds from the storm reached 196 mph, which is 15 mph faster than the previous record according to James Renwick, a climate scientist at the New Zealand Climate Change Center (Renwick also edited one of the chapters of the new report). Haiyan’s storm surge did most of the damage. Scientists are still assessing just how high it rose but estimates put it in the  range of 24 feet.

While the connection between the rapid intensification and strength of Haiyan with climate change is still being studied, sea level rise represents a more direct climate change link. The Philippines have seen as much as 7 inches of sea level rise since 1970. To put that in perspective, the planet as a whole has seen 8 inches of sea level rise since 1900.

“Sea level rise is much higher than the global average in this part of the world, so the sea’s are already a little higher. If you put a storm surge on top of higher sea level, it amounts to a greater extent of coastal inundation.” Renwick said.

With 2014 halfway over, there are no signs that the globe’s hot streak is ending. Data through May shows that this has been the planet’s fifth-warmest start to the year on record. Jessica Blunden, a scientist who works with NCDC, said that preliminary data show that June’s ocean temperatures were the hottest on record, a sign that 2014 is  on track to be one of the hottest years recorded. Another factor tipping the scales in that direction is the impending El Niño, a climate phenomenon that usually boosts global temperatures. Other indicators like greenhouse gas emissions, Arctic sea ice and deep ocean heat are also likely to keep following suit.