Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Heat, Our Dry Ground and the July Outlook

Over the last several weeks, we've been watching the heat dome gain strength in the middle of the country. Given the ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean both in the tropical and in the higher latitudes (off of the California coast and north of Hawaii) they all strongly drive the trough/cool pattern along the west coast with a central ridge/warmer conditions in the middle of the country.

Like any recipe from grandma you try to replicate, put too much or too little of one ingredient that seems
insignificant at the time can drastically alter the taste of the dish.  The atmosphere is no different.  The conditions for a warmer than normal summer were ready in the middle of the county, cooler in the west and near normal in the east.  Throw in a newly developed condition or conditions unforeseen a few months ago and the overall pattern can change drastically for us in Ohio and in other places. 

The "newly developed conditions" this early summer originate from two completely separate, totally
disconnected regions of the world.  The first condition, the Ohio Valley drought/dry ground, is the easiest to visualize because it is effecting everyone right now and will effect more of us in the pocketbook come harvest time. How does your lawn look? Not very good I would imagine.

Look at the recent drought indicator map. Notice the two spheres of extreme drought; one out west and one in the Ohio Valley.

The dry ground in Ohio and in the state west through Illinois and south to Arkansas is getting severe. The drier the soil, the more the heat dome/ridge in the central US deepens. The hot atmosphere is feeding off of the dry soil making the ridge stronger. Highs temps on Thursday reached 100+ in western Ohio

Compare the temps for the first 24 days of June to the temps on the 24th itself. See how the heat was out west then it moved east into Ohio.
Look at last June. The drought was in Texas.

The extreme heat was in Texas in June of 2011

Remember, the dry ground isn't the primary driver but an enhancer. The bigger question will be whether or not the drought conditions in the central US into Northeastern Ohio will fuel more heat into July.

This summer, unlike 2011, 2010 and 2009, we have no El Nino or La Nina (although El Nino is showing strong signs of building). Instead of using those Pacific markers to determine overall patterns across Ohio and the US, we need to use other tropical drivers.  These are called the Madden Julian Oscillation. Every 30-40 days, tropical disturbances originate in the western Indian Ocean and move east into the tropical Pacific.

When El Nino or La Nina is present, they dampen the effects of the MJO. Absent of any El Nino/La Nina, the MJO has a chance to work its magic.  The strength and position of the disturbed MJO area greatly alters the pressure patterns in the tropical Pacific which can mimmick El Nino or La Nina conditions for a much shorter period of time. These changes cause a shift in the position of the troughs/ridges across the US and the speed at which they move across the continent

If the MJO becomes weak, the steering currents across North America can relax which can result in persistent ridging/quiet/hot weather in spots. Guess what the conditions are in the Pacific here in late June/early July?  No El Nino, No La Nina and a very weak MJO. 

This all means that we are stuck on the edge of the heat wave in the central US.

Until the MJO budges, expect the heat to continue into early July.  If the MJO comes around to a phase like we had in the middle of June, we might have a return to highs in the 70s. As of this writing, the chances are small.

Like I said earlier, long range forecasts are like trying to make your grandma's signature soup. You might have all of the ingredients lined up.  Forget to add something or add too much of another and you get a completely different soup. This summer's forecast is tasting alot like that soup! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Top 20 Movie List - Last Several Years

Since 2005, I began a huge project of creating a list of movies that I haven't seen.  The rules were simple.  Any movie can make the list--documentary, comedy, drama, it didn't matter.  Little did I know that the list would continue to grow. One movie would lead to a list of movies by the same director.  Pretty soon, I was scouring the AFI top 100 movie list for more additions.  The project snowballed and at the end, the list was almost 500 movies long!

The list was immense and intimidating. So I realized that I needed to pair down the list to a more manageable length. Over the last 2+ years, I started keeping track of the movies I watched ranking them informally as I went. The list below (not counting documentaries) is my Top 20 in no particular order.


The original 50:

Quiz Show
The Conversation
The Usual Suspects
Good Night, Good Luck

Fight Club
The Killing Fields
Old Boy
Barton Fink
Most Dangerous Man in America
2009: Lost Memories
The Ghost Writer

The Kids Are Alright
The Fog of War
I Love You Phillip Morris
The Fighter
Winnebago Man
Carlos The Jackel

American Splendor
A Film Unfinished
Inside Job
London Blvd
Synedoche, NY
The Guard

Hot Coffee
The White Ribbon
City of God
Secret in their Eyes
Harlen County, USA
Berney's Version
Win Win
The Skin I Live In

Monday, June 25, 2012

Update: Tropical Storm Debby/Heavy Rain over Florida

Earlier on this summer, I blogged about the above normal water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coastline and how these areas would be the most primed for tropical storm development. So far, this has held true with the exception of Chris

Now, Tropical Storm Debby is spinning its way closer and closer to the Gulf Coast.  The computer projections are having a difficult time coming to a consensus on its future behavior. The National Hurricane Center has 26 separate computer projections at their disposal. The plot of all these projections doesn't help much. This map looks like a spider web although the latest projections are a bit more in line with bringing Debby into the northern half of Florida.

The official NHC track is determined by picking the best possible projection that best represents the current conditions and past characteristics of the tropical storm. Below is the current NHC track which takes it over the Florida Panhandle over the next 5+ days.

The radar shows the rotation and heavy rain bands over Florida.

More than a foot of rain could fall over the panhandle of Florida.

If this drifts over Florida and back over the very warm water of the Atlantic along the Georgia/South Carolina coastline, this "might" develop further into a hurricane.  If you are driving to Florida this week or vacationing anywhere in the southeastern US.  Keep updated on the latest Debby information.

This will need to be watched carefully over the next 4-7 days!  Lots of uncertainty.

Friday, June 15, 2012

History of 90 Degrees Days In Cleveland

How many 90 degree days have we had in Cleveland since 1980?

What is the 90 degree temperature trend per decade over the last century in Cleveland?

What month are we more likely to see the most 90 degree days?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Look at June...The Outlook for July

Will July be cooler or warmer than average?  That's the $64,000 question.

Summer or winter outlooks are the most sought after of forecasts--the 8day forecast is a close second.  Face it.  People love to look into the future.  What is the first think we think of when planning an outdoor wedding reception or graduation party? The weather.  We search and search for that elusive piece of weather information that might tip the scale in favor of ordering a tent.

In the weeks and months leading up to the party, we become manic.  The seeking of that long range outlook  is tantamount to investigating what's in Area 51. We are attracted to it because we see it as a diamond in the rough.  Yet in reality, any long range outlook, much like Area 51 on a map is a gray area filled with fuzziness. 

When people call or email questions about the weather for specific days 3 or 4 weeks out, they don't care that its beyond our ability to give them specifics.  They just want weather information to hold onto even if it might be that "gray area filled with fuzziness". 

One thing to always keep in mind about "Long Range Outlooks" is that they are TOTALLY different than daily forecasts both in how they are created and the parameters used in their creation.  We can't look at the weather in Chicago yesterday and develop a long range outlook for the month ahead.  But we can study an evolving La Nina or El Nino, for example, to find linkages to overall shifts in our weather pattern that ultimately affect our weather in Northern Ohio.  For example:  Does a developing La Nina in the Pacific lead to a pattern conducive to cooler temperatures? Or does an El Nino lead to more rainfall in Ohio? We are not after specific weather conditions for specific days but a general outlook for weeks and months in the future based upon generalized patterns.  If you are looking for the high temperature 24 days from now, the Long Range Outlook isn't designed for that.

June is half over.  Conditions have rapidly dried out; temperatures through June 15th have been near normal.  Based on what we see now, what general pattern might we see in July?

Look at the disjointed nature of the upper level winds. Each one of these "buckles" in the flow allow a trough or front to move through bringing small chances of rain followed by a temporary cool down. Notice no ridge of heat...yet. 

The HEAT RIDGE across the eastern US from last year and 2010 hasn't developed.   The Sonoran ridge (SW ridge) has been weak. The Bermuda High is still out in the Atlantic.  What lies in the middle are temporary shots of cooler air. 

This dry and warm stretch through Fathers' Day weekend has been the exception.  Here, the ridge out west shifts east boosting temperatures. The red dot is OHIO.

Beyond 7 days, we need a different set of tools to determine the pattern.  Normally, computer projections lose their skill further out in time. In an effort to diminish this effect, we can run the computer projection multiple times with different initial conditions. After, say 20 runs, an ensemble forecast is created by taking the average of all 20 runs.  This ensemble smooths out the chaotic atmospheric elements making a long range projections more accurate.  Its not perfect but its a Godsend when making long range outlooks.

I've hinted at a "cool down" the last 7+ days of June.  Why?  Look at the ensemble for June 28th.  Heat shifts back west. The Bermuda high stays out at sea.  In between lies cooler and hopefully unsettled weather (we need rain!)

La Nina is gone. El Nino is showing signs of returning in the fall.  Since no large scale drivers are in place like last summer or 2010, we utilize other smaller scale, faster moving signals that originate in the Indian Ocean and move into the central Pacific Ocean.  These faster moving disturbances can create a short-lived La Nina or El Nino signal which can dramatically alter the pattern across the US.  Many long range forecasters linked these disturbances  to the heat we had in late May.  It seems that this "Indian Ocean disturbance" MJO will once again be the driver of our pattern into early July.

Based on the July years that best match the conditions this year, we came up with this:

So expect another long stretch or two with 5-7 days of heat in July with another "cooler" reprieve.  Heat will come and go.  Overall, July seems to average near normal over the 30 day period.

Let's see if this outlook hold true...

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Basics of the Early Universe

I have been working on a study of some Cleveland climate data recently. Compiling the data was very time consuming.  Patience...patience.  The results will come later on this week.

In the meantime, take a listen to this presentation about the universe from Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at Caltech. He describes the early universe in very easy-to-understand terms. The study of the early universe and the reason why EVERYTHING around us behaves the way it does has always captured my attention. It makes me think in many dimensions outside the box.

Fortunately, youtube offers a ton of information tightly compacted in video form that only takes 10 or 15 minutes to watch.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Transit of Venus TUESDAY EVENING

Venus will pass in between the sun and the earth producing a silhoutette--the dark spot shown in this video below (from 2004).  Unlike space station passes, this one will take several hours to completely pass through our view.

Why is the transit of Venus so special? 

First, planetary transits like this don't happen very often. The last transit of Venus was in 2004.  The one previous was in the 1800s.  The next one won't occur until 2117 and then again in 2125.

Second, transits like Venus allow scientists to study the sun in greater detail.  In the 1800s and early 1900s, the transits were sought after events. One explorer made the trip to Tahiti to best view a transit of Venus in the 1700s. The transit viewings back then probably didn't help in measuring planetary distance as much as they thought.  Primatative equipment and other atmospheric phenomena not known cast an even harder shadow on their results.

Still, you can imagine what it was like to see this hundreds of years ago when falling off the edge of the earth was considered modern scientific truth!

Edgewater Park in Cleveland is the place to be to properly view the transit of Venus. Never look directly as the sun! Download this map from NASA for more details

The transit starts at 6:04PM and finished when the sun disappears below the horizon at roughly 8:55PM