Thursday, April 17, 2014

New To My Weather Blog?

Good day everyone…

While many visitors to my blog are returning customers, the site tracker shows that I get a fair amount of new readers especially during extreme weather events. If you're new here, this post will give you an idea of what to expect.

First and foremost, I’m a data guy. Show me the data that reinforces your point on a topic if applicable and I'll listen. If its in a peer reviewed paper or presentation, all the better.  No hearsay.  No opinions that poise as factual information.  No passive aggressive comment rants.  I like hardcore data. The problem is that science and data are scary topics for most people even the most science savvy individual.  The mere word “data” has cold, dark connotations. Data is antiseptic. That’s why people have a tough time relating to it. This is why politicians steer clear of spouting esoteric numbers.  So they attach an emotional component to it--a clever narrative--to attract voters. It works. Its basic human nature. But it can grossly diminish the baseline facts of any issue. Human nature allows us to forge relationships with other people. It’s the essence of the human experience. It defines who we are. Yet it can blur our vision when we perform data driven analysis of any kind. This is where Behavioral Meteorology comes into the picture.  

When I say "Behavioral Meteorology", people think that this only refers to how the changing weather conditions alter our moods and body.  While this undoubtedly occurs (ask my surgically repaired shoulder before a snow storm), my definition of Behavioral Meteorology is the study of how we perceive weather, weather forecasts and climate through our own cognitive biases and preconceived ideas. The aim of my blog is simple: Present the weather and the data in a local context with some historical perspective. When applicable, show how our preconceived notions of the weather affect our objectivity. I revisit these ideas either directly or indirectly in posts by answering some of these questions below using a myriad of charts, graphs and easy-to-understand images.

     1) How do we “perceive” the actual weather conditions, weather forecasts and past weather events?

        2) To what degree has the proliferation of weather information over the internet and most recently smart phones skewed our view on the accuracy of weather forecasts?

     3)    Has this flood of instantaneous weather information influenced the public’s view on current weather events and their place in weather history?

     4) Do people put more credence in weather folklore than in weather science?
     5)   What are the specific psychological drivers of our weather/science perceptions?  More generally--a topic for other more qualified people to answer--how do these "drivers" lead us astray on more pressing global and domestic issues outside science?

As a reader, I hope that you take a step back and do the same.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tax Day Snowfall Photos

We always say that if you can make it to around Tax Day, we are pretty much in the clear from seeing snowfall. There are always today.  I distinctly remember the big snowfall (11") we had between the 23rd and 24th of April back in 2005.  It took me almost 3 hours to get home driving down I-71 that night. We've had 15 years with snowfall greater than ONE INCH on or after April 15th. Yet only 5 times over the last 40 years....before today. RADAR LOOP HERE

Here are some snow pictures from around northern Ohio. Not to worry, temperatures will hit 60 by Thursday. All of this snow will be history before you know it!

Snow on the daffodils in Medina, Ohio
Monroeville, Ohio

Norwalk, Ohio
Bellevue, Ohio

Canal Fulton, Ohio
Chesterland, Ohio

Lakewood, Ohio
Lorain, Ohio

Monday, April 14, 2014

UPDATE: Upper 70s to Snow in 2 Days!

Sadly, the headline is correct.  After this insanely long winter, should we be surprised? Probably not. CLICK ON IMAGE BELOW FOR CURRENT TEMPERATURES AND WIND. Notice the drop already occurring to the west...

In anticipation of this huge swing last Friday, I dug up the occurrences of THIRTY DEGREE high temperature drops in TWO DAYS OR UNDER with at least one inch of snow in April. It was far from easy. After digging up the instances of snowfall, I had to cross reference the high temperature declines MANUALLY in each of those years. I say this not to complain--this kind of esoteric statistical research still needs to be done the old fashioned way--but to illustrate the work involved. So an hour of sifting through data results in only a few tidbits of blog trivia which fit nicely in two blocks below.  For me its worth it, as I hope it is for you.  Here are the results:

30 degree drop or more in 48 HOURS resulting in least 1" of snow5 TIMES

  • 51 DEGREE DROP:  2007: 80 TO 29, 3" snow
  • 38 DEGREE DROP:  1969: 82 TO 44, 1.5" snow
  • 38 DEGREE DROP:  1921: 71 TO 33, 1.5" snow
  • 32 DEGREE DROP:  1912: 64 to 32, 6.5" snow
  • 30 DEGREE DROP:  1893: 71 to 41, 3.5" snow
30 degree drop or more in 24 HOURS resulting in at least 1" of snow: 4 TIMES

  • 36 DEGREE DROP:  1972: 67 TO 31, 1.7" of snow
  • 33 DEGREE DROP:  1940: 60 TO 27, 3.2" of snow
  • 31 DEGREE DROP:  1982: 63 TO 43, 1.7" of snow
  • 30 DEGREE DROP:  1988: 63 TO 43, 2.3" of snow
This drop will go from 78 Sunday to upper 30s Tuesday (48 hours) just shy of the 51 degree drop listed above. The 24 hour drop starting this morning (73 degrees to upper 30s) will be close to the ALL-TIME record one day drop set back in 1972 listed above!
I posted this map showing this potential more than a week ago illustrating the comparison to the snow event back in 2005.

Lake Erie is wide open meaning that some lake enhancement will occur tomorrow as the cold air filters in from the northwest.

The ground is warmer than a few weeks ago so a lot of melting will occur as the rain changes over to wet snow. That said, slushy accumulations will occur:

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

More Evidence of Building El Nino--Summer Thoughts

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the MEI or Multivariate ENSO Index and how this was a better overall measure of ocean-atmosphere conditions. It takes into account not only sea surface temperatures but sea level pressure, surface temperature, wind and cloud cover.

The update shows a significant increase in El Nino conditions. Given the neutral conditions that existed over the last several months, the events that best fit so far are indicated below. We have a way to go before we reach the MODERATE EL NINO events of 1986 and 2002 in their early stages.

Sub surface warmth continues to move eastward and closer to the surface similar to the El Nino event of 1997-98.
Will the MEI reach 1997 or 1982 levels by the middle of the summer?

Klaus Wolter summarizes the conditions succinctly here:

"I looked at the nearest-ranked Feb-Mar MEI values, and required an increase in their rankings from both the previous month and from Nov-Dec. Of the 9 cases selected in this fashion, three remained either neutral (1960) or dropped back to La Niña status within a year (1961, 1984). The other SIX cases look like a roll-call of historic El Niño events since 1950: 1957-58,'65-66, '72-73, '82-83, '86-88, and '97-98."

He continues:  "Not only does this confirm the increased odds of an El Niño in 2014 (first pointed out four months ago on this wepage), it also translates into higher odds for a moderate-to-strong El Niño" 


Using 1963, 68, 86, 91, 94, 2002 and 2006 as the best fit years taking into account the MEI and early stages of a MODERATE EL NINO, the summer temperatures versus average look like this:

If we include the years during the early stages of the STRONG EL NINO events of 1982 and 1997 weighting them the same along with the other years above, we get this:

 If the STRONG EL NINO years are weighted DOUBLE, we get this:  COOLER SUMMER!

The bottom line is this summer's temperature outlook will be determined heavily on how strong this El Nino becomes. Final SUMMER OUTLOOK will be broadcast in early May on WJW FOX 8. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

Spring Rains, Wet Snow Next Week?

I'm back from a few days off last week bringing in more rain!  At least its not snow....not yet anyway. Here are the current radar images for northern Ohio and the Ohio Valley. CLICK HERE for the current RADAR LOOP.

Rainfall will be between 1/2 and 3/4" with locally heavier amounts by Tuesday mid morning.

It should come as no surprise that the long range outlook for next week is STILL showing temperatures cold enough for wet snow. Notice how next week's cold is very similar to the last time we had 2 or more inches of snow in mid April.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Heavy Rain: Current Radar, Rainfall Estimates, NEXT WEEK'S COLD

The cold, steady rains continue. Current radar loops close up over northern Ohio and around the Great Lakes along with rainfall estimates tell the story. Remember that over a week ago, I hinted at a well below normal period during the second week of April. Since this is late in the season, colder periods don't typically last more than a few days. This one next should follow that rule of thumb pretty well. However, it might get cold enough for at the very least, melting snow!


Brief period of cold...wet snow late Tuesday into early Wednesday. Temperatures will rebound nicely by Thursday.

Graphic: Weatherbell

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cool Major League Baseball Infographics

Major Leaguers spent a combined 29,094 days on the Disabled List last year. That's 80 years!

Dimensions of ALL Major League Ballparks

Monday, March 24, 2014

Digging Deeper For Signs Of The Next El Nino

After reading several posts which posed the question of whether a "Super El Nino" will develop this summer, I wanted to find more data to shed light on what to look for in the upcoming weeks. These articles have sited sea surface temperature comparisons to 1997 both on the surface and below, ocean heat content, the building Kelvin Wave and subsequent changes in atmospheric winds.  All seem very valid. Let's review:

Comparing the sea surface temperatures on March 24th of this year to 1982, 1997 and 2002 (a weak El Nino year), each shows some warming in different locations at least on the surface. I circled the area in question in red. This is why we can't use a two dimensional sea surface temperature map as the only El Nino indicator.
Ocean Temperatures have been climbing in the western Pacific over the last 30 days. Notice the bubble of warmth between 100 and 200 meters.

Sub surface heat continues to build since the beginning of the year (see above). It compares very well to the onset El Nino of 1997. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology shows this very well.

HUGE spike in near surface ocean heat last 4 weeks

2002 was a weak El Nino year. The subsurface heating was nowhere as warm.

Comparing the sea surface temperatures on March 24th of this year to 1982, 1997 and 2002 (a weak El Nino year), each shows some warming in different locations at least on the surface. I circled the area in question in red. This is why we can't use a two dimensional sea surface temperature map as the only El Nino indicator.

The Southern Oscillation Index (Pressure index comparing sea level pressure at Darwin, Australia to Tahiti--30 day monthly moving mean) suddenly dropped into heavy El Nino territory.

Yet one index that blends together BOTH the changing ocean characteristics and the atmospheric conditions above it hasn't caught onto the least yet. Interestingly I haven't found much mention of this. This is called the Multivariate ENSO Index. The index includes several elements into its index: Sea surface temperatures, wind speed and direction, sea level pressure and temperature along with total cloud cover/fraction of the sky. Details are here on ESRL SITE.  Similar to the ONI Index, the MEI Index is calculated using overlapping 2 month periods. Since it takes into account many other atmospheric variables, the El Nino or La Nina signature may lag a bit compared to the others But in my opinion, it gives a better overall representation of the ENSO state even though it might be late to the party.

So far, the MEI is far ahead of 1982 and 1997, yet no positive numbers have shown up. Remember that The MEI is an overlapping bi-monthly indicator. So when the April update comes out (probably the first week of April), it will illustrate the conditions (ocean and atmospheric) for the FEBRUARY-MARCH overlap. If a  significant El Nino is truly developing, a SIGNIFICANT JUMP in the MEI would indicate it THIS SPRING as it did in 1982 and 1997. Check out the chart below for the past trend.

Be careful, the 1986 and 2002 MEI trends were SIMILAR to this year. Those years were weaker El Nino years.

Notice the MEI trends in 1986 and 2002.  Where will the MEI end up this summer?

So what's going to happen? Will the MEI match up with the MEI indices of the past El Ninos circled in black above. Will it mirror 2002 or 1986?

How will this effect out summer weather? 

The next 6 weeks will tell us a great deal.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vernal Equinox is today. So how COLD was this winter?

The Vernal Equinox is at 12:57PM Eastern Daylight Time.  Astronomical winter is over!

While the meteorological winter is far from following in the footsteps of the earth's tilt and position around the sun, it gives us a good time to look back at the official season of winter to determine how COLD it actually was versus other winter similar to it.

Image: Wunderground

Back in February, I mentioned 4 indicators of winter severity 1) TOTAL SNOWFALL, 2) DAYS WITH SNOW ON THE GROUND 3) AVERAGE TEMPERATURE & 4) NIGHTS BELOW 10 DEGREES.  Was this winter among the coldest and snowiest all-time? Where did this winter rank?

Each graph will show where this year resides ALL-TIME which goes back to 1871. Many have mentioned how this winter is the coldest in a generation. So I created a second graph which shows the the information over the last 40 winters (since 1975) for a more recent perspective.


 79 DAYS