Thursday, July 18, 2019

The National Weather Service To Further Complicate Flood Warnings In the Name of Simplification

I can hardly believe what I just read: the National Weather Service (NWS) is going to extend its awful 'impact-based' tornado warning concept to its flash flood warnings. There is so much wrong with this, I hardly know where to begin.

Before we go further, I am basing what I am writing about the new flash flood warnings on NBC News' and The Washington Post's coverage of this announcement.

"Impact-Based" (paraphrasing: 'you will die if not in shelter') tornado warnings (IBW) were/are designed to scare people into taking action (since their introduction, they've toned down the language just a bit). The motivation for IBW was the National Weather Service's failure to grasp what actually went wrong in the Joplin Tornado catastrophe. In the wake of the worst death toll in more than sixty years, the worst of the tornado warning era, the NWS issued a highly flawed report (and that characterization is giving them the benefit of the doubt) about the disaster which has misguided them ever since. What really went wrong in Joplin was the subject of my second book.

With IBW, the NWS went from one type of tornado warning to three.
  • 'Ordinary' tornado warnings 
  • Particularly dangerous tornado warnings
  • Tornado emergency (the 'you will die'-type)
The problem is that we did not, and still do not, have the scientific skill to do these with any consistent quality. Plus, in may opinion, all tornado warnings are emergencies and should be treated accordingly. By creating unreliable sub-types of tornado warnings, it is possible we are training people to, at their peril, ignore 'ordinary' tornado warnings. 

And, as some of us predicted, with the added complexity, NWS tornado warnings have become less accurate.

So, with the new flash flood warnings, a lot is going to change. We will have,
  • 'Ordinary' or 'base' flash flood warnings. 
  • 'Considerable' flash flooding.
  • 'Catastrophic' flash flooding. 
Keep in mind, these are on top of areal flood warnings, flood warnings, arroyo flood warnings, urban and small stream flood warnings, et cetera. 

As NBC News reported, 

The impact-based warnings will fall into three categories: base, considerable and catastrophic. The latter two, considerable and catastrophic, which warn of floodwaters that could severely impact lives and property, will be the approximately 20 percent of warnings that the NWS will push out to people’s phones.

Question #1: if the flooding isn't expected to affect property or lives, why is a flash flood warning being issued in the first place? This is the root problem: the NWS issues way too many flood warnings under too many classifications (no one knows what an 'areal' flood warning is). And, this problem is exaggerated by the fact there is little or no consistency in warning thresholds between NWS offices when it comes to tornado or flash flood warnings. For example, what prompts the Springfield NWS office to issue a tornado warning is quite different from what prompts the Wichita office. And, while there should be, there are no "best practices" or quality standards.  

So, to 'fix' the "overwarning" and confusion issues, the NWS's plan is that only the "considerable" and "catastrophic" flash flood warnings will be pushed out to our smartphones under the, often flawed, FCC's WEA ("wireless emergency alerts") system. This is doubling down on failure rather than fixing the root problem. 
Question #2: Given it has taken decades to educate the public on the difference between watches and warnings, how does the NWS possibly hope to immediately educate people on the difference between these new types of warnings? Time is of the essence given the life-threatening nature of flash floods.

The ultimate irony is that the NWS is doing this under the rubric of "warning simplification" and it will begin in less than 90 days. 

I'd love to be able to end this piece on some type of "up note" but I don't have one. The NWS is an organization with increasingly serious issues that seems to have lost its way. 

The Heatwave Will Break Soon

click to enlarge
I'm happy to report the heat wave of 2019 will break soon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Bringing The Electric Grid into the 21st Century [Or Not]

The good news is that Saturday evening's power failure in NYC was relatively small. The bad news is that we are building windmills rather than upgrading and securing (from terrorism) the United States' electrical grid. In fact, renewables make the grid less reliable.

There is a good essay on the subject here. The bottom line: we need to get started.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

In Concordance With the Tweet Below...

Posted on Twitter a few minutes ago.
Notice how the tweet states that global warming will (no doubt expressed) make hot droughts worse. Yet, if you go to the actual Abstract of the paper, it states something very different.
Although the link between droughts and heat waves is widely recognized, how climate change affects this link remains uncertain. This seems hardly seems as certain as the tweet would indicate. The Abstract goes on to state:

Applying a statistical model that is based on pair-copula constructions, we find that anthropogenic warming leads to enhanced soil moisture–temperature coupling in water-limited areas of the southern Great Plains and/or southwestern United States and consequently amplifies the intensity of extreme heat waves during severe droughts. 

The above stated another way: during a drought, daily temperatures are raised due to baked soil (something every Great Plains farmer has known since day one) per another climate model study. The climate models have been shown to run warm and have shown no demonstrable skill in forecasting climate on a regional basis. Regardless, the hypothesis inferred from the Abstract is that warmer global temperatures tend to create worsening summer ("hot") droughts, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest. So, let's actually do some science. If there is a genuine link between global warming and summer ("hot") droughts, then droughts should worsen as world temperatures rise, especially in the Southwest and Great Plains. 

Here is the Palmer Drought Index (a widely accepted measure of drought) for July, 1934, 85 summers ago. You'll recall the Dust Bowl lasted through most of the 1930's. 

Here is a comparison of global temperatures in 1934 (arrow) versus 2019 (circle):
Obviously, world temperatures have warmed considerably in 85 years. So, if the hypothesis is correct, summer ("hot") droughts and associated temperatures should be worse or more widespread now than droughts of the era were when world temperatures were cooler. 

Here is the July 2019, current, Palmer Drought Index.
Not much resemblence to 1934, is there?

But, it is possible that this is a fluke. Let's look at 2018. 
Okay, that is a worse drought situation than 2019. Let's look further. 
One doesn't have to be a climate practitioner to read these maps and learn the much higher global temperatures of the late 2010's have not lead to droughts anywhere close to what was experienced in the 1930's Dust Bowl Era. That would refute the hypothesis, especially as expressed by NOAA's propagandistic tweet that indicates they are certain about future temperatures and droughts. 

Prince Charles: Another Global Warming 'Tipping Point'

The Biggest Bust in the History of Science??

Oh, good grief. Noted climatotologist, Prince Charles, tells us we only have 18 months to save the world. Yet another global warming "tipping point."

Six years ago, I wrote a piece for the blog called Tipsy From Tipping Points.
As that article documented, the global warming doomster tipping points go back to 1989. Yet, here we are:
  • Agricultural production sufficient for the world's population.
  • The lowest level of extreme poverty in the history of the world. 
  • Weather and climate deaths at the lowest level ever.
In the history of science, has there ever been a bigger bust than the forecasts of doom of the last 30 years??

Monday, July 15, 2019

Finally: President Trump is Dispersing the Federal Government

After the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is moving its agricultural research division from D.C. to Kansas City, the Bureau of Land Management announced today that is is moving its headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado.
Western Colorado near Grand Junction
For many years, I have advocated dispersement of the federal government (the most recent essay is here). While these are small steps, I'm pleasantly surprised the Trump Administration is actually doing it.

Think about it: Why in the world should the people who research agriculture and interface with land-grand colleges be in DC? BLM manages land in the West; that is where it should be.

Now, if we can move Transportation to Chicago, Health and Human Services to Atlanta, the rest of Agriculture to Wichita, etc., we'll really be on our way.

Rainfalls From Hurricane Barry

Here are the storm total rainfalls from Hurricane Barry as of 7am.

The rains loosened soils when, combined with the winds, caused trees to topple into power lines. There are still about 150,000 people (44,380 customers where one customer equals one electric meter) without power.

A Fascinating View of Foreign Policy

I highly encourage you to read this article with regard to America's relations with Russian and China.

If You Want My Entire Content...

...please follow me on Twitter @usweatherexpert. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Outstanding Hurricane Coverage Commentary Out of New Orleans

I recommend reading the entire piece. I agree the Times-Picayune did an outstanding job.

Some comments: When the New Orleans office of the National Weather Service and the New Orleans office of the Army Corps of Engineers tells us the river is going to crest at 20 ft. and risks overtopping the levees, I believe it would be irresponsible for me to fail to pass that information along. So, I did.

As to the weather brought by Barry, my original forecast, made Tuesday morning both before and independently of the National Hurricane Center's first forecast, was accurate (Barry's eventual landfall at the star, below).
However, you'll notice you did not see the usual evacuation and preparation suggestions for a hurricane in this blog. Why? It was clear to me they was not necessary and I did not wish to encourage evacuation from New Orleans or surrounding areas. And, while I passed along the NWS's too high rainfall forecasts, they were not accompanied by exhortations regarding flash flooding with the exception of the area around Baton Rouge.

My big concern was power failures and I said the inland winds would be strong enough to cause them as far north at I-20. Here is a map from a few minutes ago, with the approximate location of I-20 in white, and that forecast is looking good, unfortunately.
Why was that aspect so important? As I wrote Thursday:
Without air conditioning, the mid-summer heat will be life-threatening as opposed to a more seasonal September or October hurricane.

So, I believe the forecasts on this blog added considerable value and avoided some of the errors made by the national media. As always, comments are appreciated.

H/T: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Sunday Fun: Traffic Circles [Do Not] Cause Tornadoes!

I hate traffic circles as much as the next guy. I was in north Raleigh and nearly had a catastrophic wreck when a speeding, out-of-control driver went over the top of one and nearly collided with my car. Only a panic stop prevented it.

But, my dislike of traffic circles does not extend to blaming them for tornadoes.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Forecast Rainfall Through Thursday Evening

Torrential rains forecast along the Mississippi River which will reignite the seemingly perpetual Mississippi flooding this year.

Three Years Ago Today

Near Nickerson, Kansas, three years ago today. Unique, but brief, drone video of a tornado.

Note: Same posting as earlier. I bumped to the top because of hurricane coverage.

Update on Hurricane Barry

Now Hurricane Barry is inland but it makes no real different to the forecast.

This is a map of forecast wind gusts inland.
Extensive power failures will occur due to the winds causing trees to topple into power lines.

 Flash flooding will be a major problem the next three days.

8:45am Saturday Update On Barry

The poorly-defined center of this lopsided storm is just off the Louisiana Coast ("B"). All of that rain is moving north and the map below is the forecast additional rainfall.
There is good additional information here.

Also, the storm surge + flood threat for the Mississippi River at New Orleans does not look anywhere near as serious as it did two days ago.
I will update again in the mid- to late morning.

However, catastrophic flooding is now forecast for Baton Rouge. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

8:20am Update on (Forecast) Hurricane Barry

Extreme Flooding and Power Failures Are
Likely in Louisiana and Far Western Louisiana

Here is the National Hurricane Center's Forecast:
The yellow tinting is the area with sustained 39 mph or higher winds. The red is a hurricane warning. Blue is a tropical storm warning. S=Tropical Storm. D=Tropical Depression.

The storm is expected to be right at hurricane strength (sustained 75 mph winds) at landfall. Here is a rough forecast of peak winds as the storm moves inland.

Here is the forecast rainfall from Barry.

The already wet ground + flooding + strong winds = trees toppling into power lines and extensive power failures...some that could last for days. Please prepare accordingly.

Maybe It Is Just Me...

..but, is anyone one else sick and tired of attorneys smiling and literally rubbing their hands in glee over scenes of carnage?

I suppose Patterson Legal Group (and the others, they are hardly the only offenders) have to make a living but, please, for everyone's sake, tone down the glee!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Torrential Rains and Severe Flooding Are Forecast For Louisiana

My 9am forecast (below) still looks pretty robust. However, the rainfall from Tropical Storm (likely Hurricane Barry at landfall) is now forecast to exceed 20 inches.
Given the saturated ground and already high river levers, the severity of flooding can hardly be overstated. 

Ever Wonder How All of The Data and Planes and Balloons and Buoys and Meteorologists...

...combine to create vital, life-saving warnings of hurricanes, tornadoes and other storms? The story is a page turner
click to enlarge
Now is a perfect time for a great summer read that will both uplift and inform.  
To read its great reviews and learn more: Barnes & Noble or Amazon or stop by your local bookseller.  

Our Garage Doors Are So Great They Will Blow You Away...

Seen in Ft. Lauderdale..
Given the threat of Hurricane Barry, their business may be doing well. 

9am Update on (Forecasted) Hurricane Barry

Life threatening flooding and 
power failures are likely. 

Scroll Down For Updated Information For
New Orleans as of 12:30pm CDT

The weather system that is forecasted to become Barry is still a mess this morning.

However, conditions are still very favorable for strengthening. The National Hurricane Center is still forecasting the system to reach hurricane strength and move inland along the Louisiana coast.
H = hurricane. S = tropical storm
Torrential rains will cause major flooding, especially with the already wet conditions.
New Orleans is in a perilous situation potential Mississippi River flooding magnified by the heavy rains and likely storm surge if this is an accurate forecast.

I've also noticed something that concerns me. It comes from the ECMWF model which is usually the most accurate in these situations and that is the winds do not decrease as the storm moves across Louisiana. Below is a map of the forecast wind gusts.
There are several areas of gusts in the 75 to 85 mph range both along the coast and inland. In New Orleans, again stipulating a perfect forecast, the gusts are expected to be around 60 mph.

Given the already wet conditions and forecast heavy rains, large numbers of trees will be blown over and power failures could be both geographically widespread and could last for days. With the mid-summer sun angle and humidity, heat stress will be a serious issue in the wake of the storm without air conditioning. With rainfalls of 15+" in some areas, there will be extensive flooding which will make repair of the electrical grid extremely challenging. Please prepare accordingly.

--- Updated Mississippi River Data ---
The NWS and the Army Corps of Engineers has lowered the forecast Mississippi River crest from 20'  (the height of the levees) to 19 feet. While New Orleans is not out of the woods completely, let's hope this trend holds. That stipulated, please note the cautions, below:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Downburst Very Near DFW International Airport

At 5:20pm, a downburst hit the ground near DFW International Airport (blue area).
The downburst was captured in the wind display of the
Terminal Doppler Weather Radar for DFW Airport.
This is a key part of the downburst warning system for aviation. 
The FAA is holding departures from the airport right now. The delay is 15 min. and increasing.
In the past, this might have resulted in a catastrophic airline crash but the warning system appears to be working as it should. Last week was the 25th anniversary of the last airliner crash due to a downburst. My story, written for the Capital Weather Gang, is here.