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.