Tuesday, July 31, 2012

36th Anniversary of the Big Thompson Canyon Flood

One of the worst flash floods in the history of the United States. Here is a writeup I did on the blog for the 34th anniversary of that horrible day in Colorado.

End of Week Tornado Risk?

AccuWeather says yes.

Tropical Anxiety

In Warnings, I talk about the trend that started with The Weather Channel, to overreact to weather systems in the distant tropics. A week of anxiety followed by three days of actual watches and warnings.

The National Hurricane Center says there is a "low" chance of the system in the Atlantic developing in the next 48 hours.

Yet Facebook, and other social media, are featuring all kinds of forecasts and speculation about the future, if any, of this system.

This storm, if it develops, is ten days or so away. If it develops, many of the forecast tracks have it missing the U.S. altogether.

My advice? Even if you are in the Southeast, forget about this until Thursday or Friday then check back. You'll still have plenty of time to take precautions if a storm actually develops.

"The Human Element of Weather"

"Read When the Sirens Were Silent last week on a plane, enjoyed it. Mike reminds us of the human element of weather."  -- Jon Porter, Pennsylvania

Monday, July 30, 2012

Eye-Opening Presentation

Mike's new presentation, The Value of the Tornado Warning System, resulted in a nice testimonial that I wanted to share with you. It emphasizes the importance of being personally aware and prepared in the event of severe weather.

"You gave a riveting and very eve-opening presentation. It really made me stop and think."

--Jessica Emrick, Catering Sales Manager and Certified Wedding Planner, Marriott Hotel, Wichita

Speaking of Music: The Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band

Speaking of music...
My friend, Wichita Eagle photographer, and tornado chaser extraordinaire Jaime Green is the drummer for The Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band.

We get to hear them often in Wichita. On Sunday, August 5, they'll be playing the Telluride Jazz Festival.

The band is rapidly gaining a national following with their appearance on Prairie Home Companion. 

"Sherry" is 50 Today

No major weather at the moment, so we are going off-topic: 

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Four Seasons' "Sherry."
From left, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, Frankie Valli, Nick Massi
Sherry was their first big hit and the first of three in a row at #1 on the Billboard charts (followed by "Big Girls Don't Cry" then "Walk Like a Man"). According to Billboard, the Four Seasons (along with Frankie Valli as a soloist) are the ninth most popular group of all time. After many false starts, they got their name from a bowling alley:
The moment the Four Seasons got their name reenacted in "Jersey Boys"

Bob Gaudio tells how he composed "Sherry" in fifteen minutes.

They were part of the fifth class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1990) along with some of the biggest names in music. Coverage of the Seasons starts at 2:43 below:

Their music has been revived for a whole new generation with the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, which is now the 19th longest-running show in Broadway history. A friend of mine saw it for the first time two weeks ago and he posted the following on Facebook:
I've seen it 8 times and will see it for a ninth in Wichita in January. If you haven't seen it, you are missing something very special.

We lost Nick Massi on Christmas Eve 2000. The rest of the original Four Seasons are still with us. Frankie Valli still tours. Bob Gaudio still produces. Tommy DeVito lives in Vegas. You can see Tommy as a crooked card dealer when the movie Casino is on television.

Congratulations to the Four Seasons on this august occasion and for a half-century of great music!

If you'd like to make comments about the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys or where you were the first time you heard "Sherry," feel free.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Amtrak and TSA: "America, Nuthin"

Another one of the Chicago/Amtrak and TSA's finest hassling a videotaper at the airport? No! Chicago's train station!

Let us begin with the TSA's own policy regarding photography, screen captured from their web site:
Click to enlarge.
"TSA does not prohibit the public, passengers, or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at security checkpoints." You can read the entire document here.

Yet, they (second person joins during the recording) are hassling a person in a restaurant at Chicago's train station.  When the photographer replies, "This is America, I didn't think I needed a permit [fyi..he did not]" while it is hard to tell from the voices which is which one of the representatives replies, "America, Nuthin!" Video below.

That tells you what you need to know about the TSA and its regard for our rights and liberties.

The ever-expanding and unaccountable TSA needs to be an issue in the upcoming election.

Late-Summer Reading Suggestions

If you are wanting a book to enjoy while you beat the heat or to take on a late summer vacation, we hope you'll consider one of these. 

For an uplifting story of lives saved, let me suggest Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather:

Some highlights of recent reviews at Amazon:  

"This book is an amazing read and my copy has already been lent around many times." 

"I got this book as an Easter gift and immediately began devouring it. I was instantly sorry I hadn't bought it sooner."

"While weather forecasters often appear starchy and bland, Smith makes the weather into an urgent concern, and a remarkable victory. This story turns the weather into a quest, and meteorologists into the most unlikely heroes in recent literature."

Or, for the gripping story of the 2011 Joplin tornado:  

From the most recent review (July 13) at Amazon,

5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another fantastic read by a great author.July 13, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: When the Sirens Were Silent (Mass Market Paperback)
Mike Smith does a great job of reviewing what happened that horrible day in Joplin. Also at the end he provides the public with numerous ways to help prepare yourself for severe weather. If you enjoyed his first book "Warnings" you will also enjoy this one.

Of course, both are available for Kindle and Nook.  

In Global Warming News...

Official NOAA climate monitoring station with warm
air conditioning exhaust blowing on temperature sensor.
Courtesy: Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr.
While temperatures are currently hot in parts of the Lower 48 United States (Alaska is having a cold summer) comprising about 4% of the world, we now learn that temperatures over the United States are rising much less quickly than originally thought the last few decades. When the poorly sited stations (see above) are eliminated, the temperature rise the last three decades is minimal.  Anthony Watts has details.

Also in the news the last two days is that the IPCC (the folks that won the Nobel Prize) have been wrong about increasing malaria due to global warming.

A recent example is the case of malaria and climate. In the early days of global-warming research, scientists argued that warming would worsen malaria by increasing the range of mosquitoes. "Malaria and dengue fever are two of the mosquito-borne diseases most likely to spread dramatically as global temperatures head upward," said the Harvard Medical School's Paul Epstein in Scientific American in 2000, in a warning typical of many.

Carried away by confirmation bias, scientists modeled the future worsening of malaria, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change accepted this as a given. When Paul Reiter, an expert on insect-borne diseases at the Pasteur Institute, begged to differ—pointing out that malaria's range was shrinking and was limited by factors other than temperature—he had an uphill struggle. "After much effort and many fruitless discussions," he said, "I…resigned from the IPCC project [but] found that my name was still listed. I requested its removal, but was told it would remain because 'I had contributed.' It was only after strong insistence that I succeeded in having it removed."
Yet Dr. Reiter has now been vindicated. In a recent paper, Peter Gething of Oxford University and his colleagues concluded that widespread claims that rising mean temperatures had already worsened malaria mortality were "largely at odds with observed decreasing global trends" and that proposed future effects of rising temperatures are "up to two orders of magnitude smaller than those that can be achieved by the effective scale-up of key control measures."

Entire story here.

So, while many of us sweat, the threat of catastrophic global warming continues to cool.

Nothing in the Tropical Atlantic

July has been remarkably quiet in the Atlantic Basin (which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico). While August and September are the peak months for hurricanes, there is nothing out there at the present time.

Sunday Funnies: The Real Reason the Great Plains Weren't Attacked in World War II

Thanks to meteorologist Rob Dale for posting this document outlining the installation if air raid sirens.

It goes into their use and theory for warning of Japanese air raids during WWII. Of course, these are the sirens that morphed into "tornado" sirens in the central United States.

I always thought it was silly to install air raid sirens in the central U.S. because Japanese planes didn't have the range to reach places like Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago or Wichita. But, perhaps, I was wrong. Watch video starting at about 1:15.

While George's humor is great, the sirens -- intended for use by people outdoors as a signal to go inside to get more information -- still play an important role in the integrated tornado warning system.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thunderstorms from Boston to Philadelphia

At 5:15pm EDT, thunderstorm stretch from the Philadelphia Airport, through Queens, approaching Providence and into Boston. There are significant delays at all three NYC airports, minor delays at Philadelphia that will likely grow and potential delays at PVD and BOS.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch NYC to Richmond

And, for the third time this week, there are major airline delays at all of the NYC Airports.
I expect delays to begin at the Boston and Philadelphia airports within the hour.

Grasshoppers and the Drought

Taken last Saturday from inside my car in
Comanche County, Kansas
The Kansas City Star has been publishing a series of articles about the drought. This one is about the invasion of grasshoppers in some areas.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Be a Science Writer

An excellent "how to" article from Scientific American

As both a scientist and a writer I would add a caution pertaining to this part of the article:

At the same time, science is knowledge of great human benefit.  Because of the way we pay  for it, that knowledge rightfully belongs to the public.  The job of a science journalist is in part to simply take that knowledge out of the area of professional communication and science meetings, and make that available to the people. In that sense it is cheerleading. Some science writers are also advocates for investment in science institutions and prioritizing science knowledge over other kinds of knowledge or argument in public debate, and in that sense you can see what science writers do as an explicit form of  cheerleading. But the important thing that the scientists, science writers and public have to remember is that scientific knowledge, is always conditional; more research can lead to different answers than the ones we report today. So even when you are cheerleading you have to remember you may not be right.

While the cautions are appropriate, I'm very uncomfortable with the "journalist as cheerleader" mindset. That is the job of editorial writers, not journalists.

In fact, some science writers believe it is their role to "advance the narrative" on topics like global warming. Take this example from a science journalism blog:

The take home message is this: It’s not just the responsibility of scientists to reach out. It’s also on science journalists. And we need more skilled, credible, and honest storytellers doing their part to get the narrative right–particularly on topics like climate science, vaccination, and energy. Having a science background is an asset, not a hurdle for this trajectory. [emphasis hers]

"Get[ing] the narrative right" is what propagandists do, not journalists! Yet, several of the members of that group do indeed believe their job is advancing the "narrative" of global warming (scroll down to the comments).

Just this week we saw the media across this nation highlight two stories that attempt to "advance the global warming narrative" even though the climatological facts do not support the "narrative" in those cases. Links to the two stories are here and here. With regard to the former story about Greenland, even those in the pro-global warming camp believe the story, as written, is nonsense (two examples here and here).

My suggestion to science journalists is to be just that: Journalists. It is a noble, essential profession. 

Addition: This is a perfect example of being an advocate/propagandist rather than a journalist. It is quite unlikely that the current heatwave and drought are tied to global warming.

Comparing the Two Multi-State Windstorms

click to enlarge
Here is a preliminary comparison of the windstorms of this past Thursday and the derecho of June 29. Clearly, the June event had higher wind speeds and covered more ground. Both had (preliminarily) two tornadoes reported.

The Elmira, NY tornado yesterday has been confirmed. It is New York's first tornado of 2012.


We have a new DVD of Mike's facinating presentation, "The Value of the Tornado Warning System." In this exciting new presentation, Mike  puts YOU in the path of a tornado and explores whether the warning system actually saves lives.The uncut video shows the entire presentation along with questions and answers.

The biggest news lately hasn't been heathcare, politics or the economy. The biggest news has been the weather. Mike has speeches that help improve your bottom line as well as speeches that inspire and entertain. Regardless of your industry, your company or organization could benefit from one of Mike's presentations.

Contact me at mindy@mikesmithenterprises.com
 and it would be my pleasure to send you the DVD along with information about Mike's topics.

How Could the Drought Be Broken?

click to enlarge
From the USDA and National Weather Service the above map depicts the amount of rain needed to break the drought in a given climatological district.

Is there any short term (i.e., next ten days) hope for widespread relief? Unfortunately, no. While there will be periodic thunderstorms, they are not expected to cause widespread soaking rains. Here's why.

We have been dominated by a high pressure system in the upper atmosphere above the Plains and Midwest all summer. That is not unusual. What has been unusual is the strength of the high. There is no indication of the high breaking down in the next eight days. It might scoot a little farther west weekend after next which would allow some relief in the Midwest but it would be temporary.

So, what might cause widespread relief in the medium term?

Our best hope is for a Pacific hurricane or tropical storm to come ashore along Mexico's west coast and have its moisture transported into the Plains and interact with a cold front or existing low pressure center.
In the scenario above, widespread three to seven inch rains would be typical. If the system were to stall, amounts would be even heavier. These rains would be of the soaking variety.

There is nothing like this on the horizon. If it were to occur, it would be sometime from the last week of August to about the first week of November. This is something that occurs in the Plains about once every eight to ten years.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Airline Mess

This is about as ugly as the airline status gets. As far west as Kansas City there are 90 minute delays.

There are severe thunderstorm watches from western Massachusetts to eastern Oklahoma.

The blue dots are damaging wind reports. Red = tornado. Black = extreme winds (above 75 mph).

This will be the last report on today's damaging winds.

NYC and Newark: Here Come the Storms!

Very strong thunderstorms with hail (in the red cores) and wind gusting to 70 mph or more will be moving through Newark and NYC after 7pm. Power will fail in some areas and tree limbs will come down and trees may be uprooted. You'll want to be in a sheltered location by 7pm EDT.

Tornado Warning for Binghamton, NY

Threat area is in oval at 4:32 EDT. Storm moving east. It has already produced several damaging tornadoes. Cells south to Williamsport, PA are also dangerous with very high winds.

Areas within red polygons are in tornado warnings!

Take cover in this area now!

Note: Last update for the next few hours.

Tri-State Region and Philadelphia Under Severe Thunderstorm Watch

UPDATE: 4:13PM EDT: Tornado reported in Elmira.

Radar along the PA-NY border at 4:11pm. Numerous reports of damage with this cell as it moves east. Purple polygon is current tornado warning. The storm is headed toward Binghamton.


Yes, this includes NYC. Note the likelihood of wind gusts of 75 mph (64 kt) or stronger is "high." Please prepare accordingly. Scroll down for tips.

At 3:58 PM EDT, AccuWeather regional radar shows the storms are moving rapidly east. Several areas (red) including Elmira, NY are under tornado warnings.

Radar at 3:58pm EDT:

Vicious Line of Thunderstorms Moving Rapidly East

Red = tornado warning. Amber = severe thunderstorm warning. Light maroon, severe thunderstorm watch. Yellow, tornado watch. Green, flood watch. Deep maroon, extreme heat advisory.  These are as of 2:56pm EDT.

Here is the AccuWeather Regional Radar at 2:48pm EDT:

I would not be surprised to see a few tornadoes even in the severe thunderstorm watch areas, especially in southern Ohio and southern Pennsylvania. And, if I were in the southern half of Pennsylvania, I would really be battening down the hatches ahead of these storms. Preparatory suggestions here. Please take heed.

Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm Watches Out

Things Pretty Much Developing as Expected:
Tornado watch until 9pm EDT.

And, a severe thunderstorm watch for 80 mph winds in the Ohio Valley:

With regard to the flight situation, Los Angeles and Houston have 15 minute delays. LaGuardia, JFK, Newark and Philadelphia have major delays. As this line of thunderstorm grows, so will the delays.

Damaging Wind Event Getting Started?

Courtesy of the NWS Storm Prediction Center, there are two lines of thunderstorms that are candidates to intensify and produce damaging winds. Both are indicated by the yellow arrows.

The red lines on the map are relative probability of a derecho. Values are very high in western Pennsylvania (anything 6 or above is considered sufficient) and these values typically rise in the afternoon.

So, I think we can see the "whites of its eyes" for this event. Please see postings below for preparatory suggestions.

Drought Update

click to enlarge
Rains over the last four days have slightly eased the drought in parts of the Corn Belt. North Central Kansas saw its first significant precipitation in two weeks. Much more rain is needed.

Derecho Risk; Air Travel Nightmare Coming Up

Here is the severe weather rundown for the period from now until 8am EDT tomorrow. This will be a major event. 

There is a tornado risk (5% is significant in this category) in NYC and nearby areas (including Hartford).

A derecho is likely in the hatched area where winds may gust above 75mph causing power failures and downed trees. 
In the non-hatched areas, winds may gust above 60 mph with 15% (yellow) the significant threshold. 

Finally, these are the probabilities of hail ≥1" in diameter. Fifteen percent is the significant threshold.
I have safety suggestions for people living in these areas here

Air travel is already bad and it is only going to get worse:
For 7:45am, this is one of the worst boards I have seen.

San Francisco has slowed down takeoffs and departures due to low clouds.

Thunderstorms are causing delays at Newark, JFK, LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Midway and O'Hare. With many more thunderstorms expected as the day progresses, air travel will be a real mess.

If you are planning to travel today, please go to my Airline Travel Survival Guide.

AccuWeather is going to live blog the storms.

I'll have an update at midday.

Record Low July Tornadoes?

Maybe. Anthony Watts has the story.

I'll have an update on today's severe weather prospects within an hour.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Final Update of the Evening

It has been a very long day, so this will be my last update of the evening.  I will have several updates tomorrow about the developing derecho situation.

For now, here is the AccuWeather regional radar that shows the lines of severe thunderstorms moving across Michigan and Iowa at of   9:43 pm CDT.

Derecho Developing Early?

UPDATE: 9:28PM. We are now receiving reports of measured wind gusts of 70 mph in central Iowa.
At 9:26 pm the thunderstorms are rapidly intensifying. People in the path of these storms need to be prepared for very high winds. Here is a new severe thunderstorm watch ahead of this line.

I'm not liking the look of the thunderstorms developing over Iowa.

First of all, the values of "downdraft CAPE" (don't ask) are extremely high. If the storms fully develop, these values support gusts above 70 mph.

Second, organized thunderstorms are already developing AccuWeather regional radar shows these as of 9:55pm CDT

Severe thunderstorm warnings are in effect for high winds and hail in central Iowa. Maroon = severe thunderstorm watch.
These storms will likely roll across Iowa during the night and may reach into southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois after midnight.

Damaging Thunderstorm Winds Later Tonight

Quick update at 9:33: Tornado warning near Houghton Lake.

Original Posting:

This is the severe weather outlook from now until early tomorrow morning. The hatched area is where wind gusts of 75 mph may occur.

AccuWeather regional radar at 9:20pm EDT. These thunderstorms are expected to intensify and move southeast. See posting below for suggested precautions for thunderstorm high wind events.