Sky watchers across the country will get a special treat this Saturday night. The moon will be full as it reaches its closest point in its orbit around the Earth. Scientists call this a Super Moon because it appears 14 % larger than normal.
Scientists will be capturing numerous pictures of the event. Here in New Orleans, the moon will be full at 10:36 pm. For best viewing, if you’re enjoying a few Cinco De Mayo cocktails, stay up and catch the best show when the moon sets between 3 and 4am.
This weekend is going to be HOT!, especially across the deep South.
The upper Midwest will continue to see stormy conditions as an upper level ridge continues to dominate the forecast for the central and eastern United States.
For your latest television forecast, click here!
After weeks and months of dry weather and drought, rainy relief looks to be on tap for Louisiana and Texas. The United States Drought Monitor currently has most of these two states in at least severe drought.
On the above maps, areas that are in orange are experiencing severe drought, in light red are in extreme drought, and in deep red are in exceptional drought.
That may all come to an end or at least be greatly reduced out by what is now Invest 93l in the extreme southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
Rain from the area of disturbed weather, at least initially, will be a good thing for the Central and Western Gulf Coast which has been dealing with wildfires, dying crops, and stifling heat all due to the recently extremely dry pattern. Unfortunately, though, it may be too much of a good thing. Not only will rain fall, heavily at times, beginning on Thursday, but it also could continue on Friday, and perhaps last through the weekend, and even possibly into early next week. Though folks in the Deep South and Texas need the rain, they don’t need it coming down in torrents and they don’t need it coming down all at once and unfortunately, it appears that’s what this batch of tropical moisture is set to do. In fact, government forecasters at NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center are calling for over 6 inches of rain in some parts of Southeastern Louisiana through Saturday, and that’s just potentially only half-way through the event!
The reason for this expected inundation of rain is due to the fact that the disturbance is going to initially move northwest toward the coast, accompanied by plenty of Gulf moisture, but then as steering currents gradually break down over the next several days, the system may meander or just plain stall somewhere south of Louisiana or Texas.
Another potential issue, as you can tell from several of tracks above, is the system will stay over the Gulf of Mexico for a period of time from a couple of days, with the faster models, to perhaps up to a period of nearly a week, taking into account the slower, meandering models. Even at a weaker intensity, the system will bring torrential rains, gusty winds, and possible coastal flooding to the Central Gulf Coast, but should it spend a prolonged period over the near-90-degree Gulf of Mexico, development into a tropical cyclone with more damaging effects could be possible and, in the case of the slower models, the effects could last for days. If it were to become a named system, it would be Lee.
Of course, the tracks are still in a good bit of disagreement and there is talk of some persistent wind shear over the Northern Gulf detrimental to tropical development. Therefore, nothing, by far, is written in stone, but the National Hurricane center now gives this disturbance a high chance of becoming our next tropical depression over the next 48 hours.
When I started this website, part of the intention was to throw attention to the local meteorologists from around the country; especially when it comes to covering major storm events. I have links to all the local TV forecasts right here on my website for that reason. Local forecasters really do the best job of informing the public during day-to-day and major event forecasting.
At the beginning of last week, when it became apparent that the northeast would be bracing for a rare hurricane, I started researching hurricanes that have hit New York City. At the same time, I started linking my website to other TV stations in the line of fire: Wilmington, Norfolk, New York City. I happened to watch Lee Goldberg of WABC in New York. He’s a favorite of my mother-in-law’s–and her son, my husband, is a meteorologist.
Goldberg was taking a look back at the hurricanes that have affected New York City and the northeast. There are a couple noteworthy ones; the 1821 Norfolk/Long Island Hurricane, the 1893 NYC Hurricane, the 1938 Long Island Express and the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane. Then, there are a couple of noteworthy storms of recent memory: Hurricane Donna, Hurricane Gloria and Hurricane Floyd. (For hurricane research, you can also go to the National Hurricane Center website, but storm information only goes back to 1958.)
Goldberg decided the storm that came closest to Irene was Floyd. I applaud him for his bravery. Other national outlets were forecasting Lower Manhattan, Queens and other areas would be under water. He was forecasting major power outages and flooding rains from torrential downpours. He forecast that some low-lying areas would take on water. I can’t quote him on every thing he said, his forecast was very area specific because he knows the area. I don’t. I live in New Orleans. I can look at maps, try and find elevations levels, figure out which areas face the water, figure out all the inlets and outlets, which areas are prone to flooding, which areas are better protected. I can look at the bathymetry of the coastline and try and figure out why certain areas will flood and some won’t. I’ve done it for hurricanes here.
But honestly, that kind of research can take years. When you are forecasting for a local TV market, you take the time to look up all that information, so you can give an accurate and meaningful forecast. You live in the area you are forecasting, amongst the people you are forecasting to. When you broadcast for a national outlet, you’re just trying to get viewers.
I rarely comment in this blog. But watching the misinformation provided by national media outlets made me turn the cable TV off this week, and rely on my online TV forecasters. The ones from the local markets, the ones who actually care what speed the winds are, how much rain they get, how high the storm surge will actually be. They try and give an accurate forecast because they are personally relying on it.
To track Irene, go to MWL’s hurricane tracking page. Latest track available from National Hurricane Center. You can check out expert weather bloggers on the links to your left. I’ll have more analysis of Hurricane Irene later in this post.
I’ve been researching land falling hurricanes close to the track of Irene and it appears Hurricane Floyd (1999) may be the storm with the closest track and intensity to estimate the damage residents along the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast can expect.
Floyd made it’s first US landfall in Cape Fear, North Carolina on September 16th as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. (Hurricane Irene currently has maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour. It is 265 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.)
With maximum sustained wind of 105 miles per hour, storm surge along the southeastern portion of the state was 9 – 10 feet. This caused significant destruction along coastal communities. Most of the damage from Hurricane Floyd occurred as a result of inland flooding. Rainfall totals from 15-20″ of rain fell across portions of the state. River levels were high as a result of Hurricane Dennis passing through North Carolina weeks earlier, dumping 15″ of rain. (Coincidentally, another Hurricane Irene passed by North Carolina weeks after Floyd, dumping even more rain on the state.)
Floyd continued to move north toward Virginia, crossing the Delmarva Peninsula, briefly entering the Atlantic Ocean once again before making another landfall as a tropical storm in Long Island, New York. Torrential rainfall was reported in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and other portions of the Northeast and New England. Floyd produced a storm surge of 2.8 feet in Philadelphia. The greatest threat from Floyd was widespread power outages ( close to 1.3 million people in three states) due to strong winds and heavy rains. Mudslides occurred along bluffs overlooking the Hudson River due to heavy rains.
Irene tracked due north for the past 12-hours, but as of the latest advisory has made turns to the north-northeast.
Dry air is being pulled into the storm from the south and southwest weakening the storm slightly as it makes its way toward the Carolina coast. It is still a powerful storm.
Damage impacts include 10 – 15″ of rainfall. Storm surge along the North Carolina coastline could be anywhere from 6 – 11′, similar to Hurricane Floyd. The National Hurricane Center is also warning:
"STORM SURGE WILL RAISE WATER LEVELS BY AS MUCH AS 4 TO 8 FEET ABOVE GROUND LEVEL WITHIN THE HURRICANE WARNING AREA FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA/VIRGINIA BORDER NORTHWARD TO CAPE COD INCLUDING SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY AND ITS TRIBUTARIES. NEAR THE COAST...THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE...DESTRUCTIVE...AND LIFE-THREATENING WAVES."
Storm surge is dependent on many factors; including the shape of the coastline, the terrain of the earth underwater, the shape of the inland waterways. Storm surge can wash over barrier islands if its higher than the elevation. Persistent winds can drive water up tidal bays and rivers such as Chesapeake Bay and and the Delaware River and cause inland flooding due to rising river levels.
Other storms of note for the New York area with a similar path include the 1821 Long Island/Norfolk Hurricane, the 1893 New York Hurricane, and the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane. However, when I looked back at the history and strength of the storms on their path toward North Carolina, the storm that best estimates the possible impacts from Irene is Hurricane Floyd.
My previous post has links to local TV forecasters in the impacted regions.
Dawn Brown, FOX 8 New Orleans.
Irene appears to be strengthening over the open water of the Western Atlantic south of the Carolinas. The first US landfall is expected near Morehead City, North Carolina. Tonight, I’m doing a little research on major hurricanes that have shared the same path as Irene up the East Coast. I’ll publish my research tomorrow.
You can track Irene from my website at MYL’s Hurricane Tracking page. Or go to the National Hurricane Center. You can also check out the local forecast in Wilmington, North Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; New York City, New York or Boston, Massachusetts.
Dawn Brown, FOX 8 New Orleans
Visible satellite imagery showed a better defined eye and eyewall for Hurricane Irene this afternoon. Since then, the eye has become obscured. Irene is bearing down on the Turks and Caicos with 90 mile per hour winds. In the last 24-hours, Irene’s interaction with the island of Hispaniola has had an impact on the developing storm, maximum sustained winds were at 100 miles per hour for the last 18 hours. There was also a small amount of wind shear over the island. It’s possible that wind shear has played a part in the storm not undergoing a rapid intensification.
National Hurricane Center is reporting in its latest discussion that wind shear may limit rapid intensification for the next 24-hours. Wind shear is expected to relax near the Bahamas.
The track continues to shift east. Now, the Outer Banks of North Carolina and metro areas of New Jersey and New York need to prepare for a possible landfall.
However, if you look at the latest computer tracks from Hurricane Irene, I’m starting to wonder if this storm is going to be steered away from the East Coast of the United States by a deepening trough along the East Coast.
The official track from the National Hurricane Center continues to be the outlier or the track on the edge of the computer model forecasts. Usually the National Hurricane Center track line follows the consensus of the forecast guidance from the models. The model consensus now takes the storm toward Massachusetts and New England. The storm would weaken if it moves into the far northern Atlantic because of the cooler water and interaction with the strong winds of the mid-level trough.
Dawn Brown, FOX 8 New Orleans
The National Hurricane Center has shifted the track forecast slightly to the right or east of their 10am track. This shift is most likely in response to the continued shift of computer models to the east. While the shift farther northward may allow Irene to strengthen as it would not be impacted as much by Hispaniola and Cuba, it would also steer the storm farther away from Florida. However, this could also pose a greater risk to Georgia and South Carolina, which could suffer a direct hit.
Dawn Brown, FOX 8 New Orleans
Latest track from National Hurricane Center. More tracking available from the link on your left.
Tropical Storm Harvey, the 8th storm of the 2011 Hurricane Season, is moving through central Belize tonight. It will likely degenerate over Guatemala and Mexico, but is producing quite a bit of rainfall in and around the center of circulation.
Harvey formed in the central Caribbean and didn’t pose a threat to the United States from its inception. At the same time Harvey or TD 8 was forming, a very unimpressive tropical wave was catching our attention in New Orleans, merely based on the long-range computer models.
The models, mostly notably the GFS, or Global Forecast System, was projecting a major hurricane to form as it approached the Caribbean and making landfall somewhere along the US coastline in the end of August.
In 2006, the GFS predicted a similar occurrence about 10-15 days out.
It turned into Hurricane Ernesto, a category 1 hurricane, that weakened substantially over western Haiti and eastern Cuba, before hitting Florida as a tropical storm. The only reason I bring up Hurricane Ernesto is to touch on the current unreliability of long range computer models. And really what I mean by long-range, is past 3 or 4 days. As I state this, the global computer models have improved. Last year, I noticed that the GFS was doing a fairly good job of forecasting the inception of a storm, meaning in 10-15 days, the global computer models could pick up on a closed circulation (or a tropical depression) forming. I emailed an expert the National Hurricane Center about it, and they concurred, that they had made some improvements to the GFS. What the GFS could not do and still has trouble telling us, is how strong this system will be when it arrives. However, there is another global computer model that is being heavily relied on by hurricane forecasters that is doing a fairly good job in telling us which storms will strengthen and where they will go.
Last year, while attending the annual Broadcaster’s Conference of the American Meteorological Society in Miami, attendees were privileged to meet, not only the entire staff of hurricane forecasters from the National Hurricane Center, but we also got every insight they could offer to how they put together the forecast. One of the forecasters/researchers also told us the ECMWF, the forecast put other by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts had been beating their track forecast for the past couple of years. The percentage was small, but somehow, their global forecasting model was able to beat forecasters with 20-30 years of experience. This may get some guffaws from readers, but keep in mind that the official track by the National Hurricane Center was statistically better than all of the other computer models out there. That means—don’t tie yourself to one model.
Ever since they told me that, I can’t help it. I rely on the “European”.
But then, last year, I noticed the GFDL, the United States’ global hurricane model, nailing the forecast track as well. I was hopeful, proud. I’m not sure why, but I guess it bothered me a little bit that Europe, which is barely affected by hurricanes, could forecast them better than us! Then the GFDL started really performing well on the track and intensity.
That was last year. This year, I’m back to the European. I don’t know what happened to the GFS and GFDL, but this hurricane season, it’s been having some wild swings when it comes to storm tracks. It also ratchets some storms into a major hurricanes 10-15 days out like it did back in 2006. The European only goes out 8 days, but in the last few years, I felt confident telling my viewers which way the storm was headed and relatively how strong the storm was going to be when it got there. This year, it’s been guiding me through Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don and Emily. It forecast Emily forming briefly, dying somewhere north of Hispaniola and then possibly reforming as a weak system before getting carried northeast with a trough of low pressure off the East Coast. Guess what happened? Exactly that. Now, the GFS did eventually forecast a similar scenario. And, it’s much easier to be confident with a forecast when more of the computer models are in alignment.
And the European only guides me in track and possible strength. It doesn’t give particulars, what’s causing the weakening/strengthening, how weak/strong will the storm be, what areas could suffer torrential downpours or high winds. It’s merely guidance. We still have to do all of our own analysis of the wind shear, upper air pattern, the water vapor (these tropical systems really struggle with dry air), the Saharan Air Layer, everything that tells us what kind of storm we’ll be dealing with. But, it gives me confidence to let me know if I need to be gearing up for a 5-day stretch of spending the night in the weather center. (Technically I got to go home during Gustav—I lived 3 blocks from the station!)
In terms of Invest 97L, it’s been undergoing some interaction with dry air and wind shear that has kept it from developing into Tropical Depression # 9 or Tropical Storm Irene. It looks like it’s going to be a tropical storm in the next 24-hours. It also looks like despite dry air still to its north and west and its possible interaction with Hispaniola and Cuba, it will most likely hit Florida as a tropical storm or possibly even category 1 hurricane.
It looks like the persistent trough off the East Coast will keep it from affecting the northern Gulf Coast states.
I say this in confidence at this point because of my faith in the European. Also-because the other computer models are lining up with a similar forecast.
But… since I live along the Gulf Coast and not along the beaches of the Mediterranean, I still keep my hurricane plan in place until October 15th.
Dawn Brown, FOX 8 New Orleans
P.S. This is my anecdotal account of forecasting with models, Wunderblogger Jeff Masters has a much more studious approach to explaining the performance of models in his blog, click here.
Reporting on the record snowfall across the western United States convinced me to plan a last minute trip to Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in early June. I recruited my husband, fellow meteorologist Jonathan Myers, to venture west with me, to take advantage of the late season snow! We ended up flying into San Francisco, (where my sister lives), and had to drive the looooong way around to get to Mammoth because all of the Sierra Nevada mountain passes were closed (due to the record snow). You know how something that seems likes it’s going to be a huge hassle turns out to be a big blessing? That’s the way our trip went. My Mom convinced us to go to Yosemite National Park to see how the record snowfall and melt had enhanced the waterfalls in the park. Yosemite is not that far from San Francisco-about 4-5 hours. We booked a tent/cabin in Camp Curry and drove over.
This is a picture of our cabin/tent. They have heated cabins, but since we booked at the last minute, we bundled up with wools blankets and sleeping bags with overnight temperatures in the 30s. At about 4am, I started asking if we could just get up and go hiking since I was freezing. Everybody finally got up at about 5:15am and we were on the trail to Vernal Falls by 6.
The hike to Vernal Falls is only about 3 miles round trip. In fact, by 6:40, we only had .3 miles until we got to the top. That’s about 17-18 hundred feet, right? My Mom and I had a little optimistic mid-hike meeting, saying we should go on to Nevada Falls, which is 5-6 miles round trip since we were making such good time. Yeah, no. The last .3 miles is straight up, stairs, with a mist coming off the falls that soaks you from head to foot. You’d be shivering if you weren’t sweating so much from the hike. Don’t get me wrong. It was beautiful, inspiring, something I’m so glad we did. But, it was not an easy 1.6 mile hike. We did continue about a 1/2 mile more to get this beautiful sunrise shot of Nevada Falls.
If I were to do Vernal Falls and/or Nevada Falls again, I would recommend carrying a poncho, water, and snacks! A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a little coffee would have tasted so good as we watched this sunrise! We were very happy that we got on the trail so early. When we were hiking downhill at 8am, there was a line of summer hikers headed up. It’s punishing to get up before the sun comes up to hike, but it’s worth it when there’s nobody on the trail and you get the sunrise views.
Later, we drove around and looked at some of the other waterfalls, including the famous Yosemite Falls which is the tallest waterfall in the United States. The snowfall over the Sierra this year is 178% of normal, and the output from Yosemite Falls at the time of this picture was 1600 cubic feet per second. It was beautiful.
When we left Yosemite, we had to head back toward the west, then north and then east again because the mountain pass east from Yosemite was closed. If Tioga Pass (Highway 120) had been open, it would have taken us 2-3 hours to get to Mammoth. Instead, it took about 10 hours!!! Thank goodness the views were amazing. As I’m writing this, I’m disappointed we didn’t capture the shot as we rounded the bend on U.S. Highway 50 into South Lake Tahoe and saw the incredible view of the lake, the glacier mountains and the valley floor. It was a very steep mountain pass and there was nowhere to pull over!
As we drove toward South Lake Tahoe, we saw a roadside construction sign that said Monitor Pass was open, so we headed over Highway 89 toward US 395 that would take us into Mammoth. Highway 89 is a remote highway that takes you through Markleeville, California. More windy roads without guard rails, more incredible, once-in-a-lifetime vistas. There is a bike ride that goes over these mountain passes in the summertime called the Death Ride.
We spent two days in Mammoth. Spring skiing is always a good trip because there are less people on the mountain and it’s warmer. The ski conditions were also remarkable for the time of year. The mountain is open daily until July 4th.
On the way back, we found out Caltrans had just cleared Highway 108 or Sonora Pass. A long and windy trail over the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, it passes US military training camps and freshwater rivers filled with recent snowmelt. The top of the pass still had 10-15′ of snow. Incredible.
We ran into a German couple right by this sign, we had both stopped to get pictures of the snow. Luckily, we made it to this sign just before darkness fell. It was still a long drive to the bottom of the mountain and the lights of the interstate.
Dawn Brown, FOX 8 New Orleans