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Putting a Dent in the Drought ("Frankenstorm" Sandy may be a 1 in 100 year storm)

  • Blog Post by: Paul Douglas
  • October 25, 2012 - 11:40 PM

47 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday.

54 F. average high for October 25.

56 F. high on October 25, 2011.

.76" rain fell at KMSP yesterday, a new 24-hour rainfall record for October 25. Old record: .67" in 2010.

Trace of snow reported yesterday.

 

We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting....” - Jim Cisco, NOAA's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (via the Associated Press and The Capital Weather Gang). Details below.

 

Worst Storm in 100 Years for Northeast USA? Business Week speculates here.

 

"...It does worry me that most powerful nation in the world, North America, denies what the rest of us can see very clearly [on climate change]. I don't know what you do about that. It's easier to deny." - Sir David Attenborough, as quote in the U.K. Guardian. Details and links below.

 

A Quiet Week Ahead. The European ECMWF outlook shows storm-free weather into the end of next week. Right now Halloween looks dry and seasonably cool, with highs in the  mid 40s, Trick or Treat temperatures around 40.

 

Taste of Winter. Kim Twigg snapped this shot near Crosby Thursday morning - about 1 to 1.5" of snow fell.

Friday Snowfall Amounts:

4.8" reported at Orr, Minnesota

3" Virginia

2.9" Aitkin

1.3" Fort Ripley

 

Minnesota Drought Update. There was some improvement in drought conditions in the last week; the area experiencing extreme drought shrank from 30 to 25%. But much of the metro is in severe drought; the .75" of rain that fell yesterday was welcome indeed, but we still need 6-8" of rain to completely pull out of the drought in the Twin Cities, as much as 10" over southwestern Minnesota. Source: NOAA Drought Monitor.

 

 

"Frankenstorm"

Everything is interconnected, in ways we often don't appreciate. Consider this: the same surge of Canadian air that sparked slush and wind chill will suck Hurricane Sandy into the Northeast Monday.

Sandy will impact tens of millions of Americans over the next 4 days; damage from this hybrid hurricane/Nor'easter will be extensive, especially north of where the core of this (mutant) storm comes ashore. Clean-up may take weeks, and I've already gone on record predicting that Sandy may have an impact on Election Day voter turnout.

This storm reminds me of "Grace" in 1991, which mutated into "The Perfect Storm", thrashing coastal New England.

Landfall? Anywhere from Virginia Beach to Atlantic City, NJ. Washington D.C. may see significant flash flooding by Monday. Florida will be grazed tonight, the Outer Banks may see a 5-8 ft. storm surge by Sunday.

Our weather looks like an afterthought by comparison: partly sunny and 40s over the weekend; the next chance of rain next weekend. Halloween? Low 40s, probably dry.

If you have friends/family on the east coast encourage them to pay attention, and consider an evacuation plan - away from the coast. Stay tuned.

 

A More Perfect Storm. Sandy Could Make U.S. History. Here's an interesting analysis from Bob Henson at NCAR; an excerpt: "...Leading forecast models are producing spectacularly low pressures at the center of Sandy.  Here are several results from this morning’s 1200 UTC runs for approximate projected intensity in hectopascals at or near landfall. Note that 945 hPa is close to 28.00 inches of mercury on a home barometer."

         

GFDL GHM

ECMWF

NOAA GFS

           

928 hPa

936 hPa

944 hPa

           

central NJ, Tuesday AM

Delmarva peninsula, Monday PM

Long Island, Tuesday PM

"While a couple of hurricane landfalls in Florida have produced pressures in this range, most cities in the Northeast have never reached such values, as is evident in this state-by-state roundup. The region’s lowest pressure on record occurred with the 1938 hurricane at Bellport, Long Island (946 hPa)...."

Image credit above: "This forecast panel from the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory hurricane model (GFDL GHM), issued at 1200 UTC on Thursday, 25 October, shows Hurricane Sandy producing record-low barometric pressure near Philadelphia on Tuesday, 30 October." (Image courtesy NOAA.)

 

Tracking Sandy. Here is the NAM solution, showing Sandy tracking right up the east coast over the weekend, possibly coming ashore over New Jersey or even Long Island. Animation: NOAA.

 

Thursday’s Gusts

Cuba:

Santiago De Cuba -  111.6 mph (12:11 a.m. today)

Guantanamo Bay – 75.8 mph (1:56 a.m. today)

 

Bahamas:

Nassau – 67 mph (8:31 p.m. today)

Bells Cay – 65.8 mph (5:13 p.m. today)

 

Florida (rain band squalls):

Miami Beach – 60.7 mph (6:33 p.m. today)

 

Thursday’s Rain

Bahamas:

Bells Cay – 2.04 inches

Florida:

Hialeah – 2.1 inches

Miami Beach – 1.73 inch

Cuba:

Guantanamo Bay – 3.22 inches (2-day total, 0.47 inch today, 2.75 inch yesterday)

* thanks to Julie Gaddy at Earth Networks for passing these details along.

 

Election Day Weather, 2012. The long-range GFS outlook shows showery rains over Ohio (a swing state, I hear) and interior New England, showery rains and mountains snows for the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest - dry weather over much of the southern USA.

 

Could “Frankenstorm” Hurricane Sandy Impact the 2012 Elections? It’s Not as Far-Fetched as it Sounds.

 

Could Hurricane Sandy wind up being the “October Surprise” that political pundits have predicted? I’m starting to think so. Will even the threat of another Perfect Storm impact the 2012 Elections, on a local, state and national level? Research suggests that foul weather may have played a role in the 1960 and 2000 Presidential elections.

In fact a 2007 study at The Journal of Politics concluded, “…we find that, when compared to normal conditions, rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1% per inch, while an inch of snowfall decreases turnout by almost .5%. Poor weather is also shows to benefit the Republican party’s vote share. Indeed, the weather may have contributed to two Electoral College outcomes, the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections.”

I’ll stick to trying to predict the weather, but I won’t be one bit surprised if Sandy’s aftermath lingers into Election Day, with many residents of the northeast unable to reach the polls, and a predictable level of finger-pointing if the electricity is off for an extended period of time. But based on the size and potential ferocity of this 500 mile-wide storm it may take weeks for some northeastern towns, especially along the coast, to get back to anything resembling “normal”.

The biggest lesson from Hurricane Irene last year: don’t underestimate the perils of inland flooding, even 24-72 hours after a storm reaches land. The soggy dregs of Sandy will contain unimaginable levels of moisture, rain that may come down in sheets from the Shenandoah Valley to the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Hurricane Sandy is a Category 2 storm, with 100 mph winds, churning north, northwestward across the Bahamas at 17 mph. The storm will soak Florida with some 5-10” rains Friday and Friday night, but the core of the storm, strongest winds (and worst of the storm surge) will remain just offshore, a near-miss for Miami, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville.

Here is an excerpt of a report I filed this even for the corporate clients that subscribe to my company’s severe weather automated alerting and briefing service: Alerts Broadcaster:

 

Future Radar. High-resolution WRF-NMM model data showing future radar for the next 24 hours shows the core of Sandy staying east of Florida - heavy rain bands capable of some 5-8" rains over the Sunshine State. Loop: Ham Weather.

 

Florida will experience flash flooding and moderate coastal flooding at high tide tomorrow, but North Carolina’s Outer Banks won’t be quite as lucky by Sunday, a rejuvenated Sandy, by this time a hybrid hurricane/Nor’easter, pummeling the barrier islands of North Carolina with hurricane-force winds and a 4-8 foot storm surge.

The Tidewater Region of Virginia (Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News) will be impacted Sunday afternoon into Monday morning, with a potential for significant coastal flooding and beach erosion.

The latest model run seems to be nudging landfall farther north, closer to Atlantic City later in the day Monday. Keep in mind that the worst coastal (storm surge) flooding will take place north of where the eye or center of Sandy comes ashore, as it gets sucked into a larger trough of low pressure approaching the east coast.

Richmond, Washington D.C. and Baltimore may see extensive 4-10” rains with inland flooding a very real threat early next week, but the strongest winds (and highest waves) will probably come from Ocean City, Maryland northward to Cape May and Atlantic City. Sandy may push a significant dome of water into New York Harbor by Monday, with extensive flooding along coastal regions of Long Island, from Southampton to Montauk.

 

A Close Call for Florida. Most models take Hurricane Sandy 150-200 miles east of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, although the NAM model continues to “loop” Sandy directly into south Florida by Friday night. This is still possible, but you have to go with the majority of models and the trends, which keep the worst of the winds and waves out to sea. That said, it will be a very close call, with a potential for significant flash flooding across much of the Sunshine State. Map: Ham Weather.

 

Florida Flash Flood Potential. The highest-resolution 4 km. NAM model is hinting at some 5-10” rains from Daytona Beach and The Cape southward to Naples and Miami over the next 60 hours. Although the core of strongest winds and highest surf will pass east of Florida, the risk of problems from inland flooding is considerable. Map courtesy of Weather Bell.

 

Model Trends. Here is one map, courtesy of NHC and Ham Weather, which shows all the various model tracks. Meteorologists look for continuity from model run to model run, and we examine the trends. Are the models adjusting the track farther north or south over time? Right now the general consensus is for the models to nudge Sandy’s track slightly north, closer to Wildwood and Atlantic City by Monday, but coastal residents from Virginia Beach to Cape Cod need to stay alert. We expect the track to change several times, as new data initializes the computer models. Hopefully these simulations will converge around a similar solution as we get closer to landfall early next week.

 

A Rough Sunday For The Outer Banks. Here is the NAM solution for midday Sunday, hinting at hurricane force wind gusts for the Outer Banks of North Carolina, as well as Norfolk and Virginia Beach, with flooding rains overspreading Virginia’s Tidewater.

 

Solution #1. The ECMWF (European) model brings the center of Sandy, by then a “Frankenstorm”, a hybrid hurricane/Nor’easter, close to Ocean City, Maryland by Monday evening. This would imply the worst storm surge flooding and highest winds for points north of the eye or center of the storm, from Bethany Beach and Rehoboth, Delaware into coastal New Jersey. The ECMWF was the first model to “hook” Sandy inland, back on Monday of this week, so I tend to put a little more stock into the ECMWF solution than most of the other models. Flooding rains are likely 100-250 miles inland, with potentially serious flash flooding likely from Roanoke and Richmond into Washington D.C. and Baltimore Sunday night into Tuesday. Map: WSI Corporation.

 

Solution #2. The Navy NOGAPS model shows a similar solution, although farther north, with possible landfall Monday morning over New Jersey. The farther north Sandy comes ashore, the greater the threat to not only New Jersey but metropolitan New York City and Long Island. A long “fetch” over the Atlantic may result in a storm surge 5-15 feet above normal, with the greatest threat of coastal flooding and beach erosion over the southern coastline of Long Island eastward to Providence, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod. Map: Weather Bell.

 

Solution #3. The GFS model is coming into alignment with the Navy NOGAPS solution, suggesting a more northern track, one that would threaten New York City, Long Island, Groton, Providence and Cape Cod with the largest storm surge and most widespread coastal flooding. If this forecast verifies, still a big if, metro New York could see hurricane-force winds during the day Monday.

 

Solution #4. Lights out for The Big Apple? The Canadian (GEMS) model shows a direct strike on Long Island and New York City, with hurricane force gusts from Baltimore to Hartford, Worcester and Providence. The map above is valid 1 am Tuesday. Again, I’m struck by the sheer size of this storm.

One of my meteorological pet peeves is when the forecaster gives a dozen scenarios, which leaves viewers or readers more confused than ever. What’s going to happen? Odds still (strongly) favor that a hybrid storm will come ashore early next week. Monday looks like the worst day, but Sunday and Tuesday will be nearly as rough, in terms of winds, waves and inland flooding across the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England. Right now I suspect New Jersey is Ground Zero for a direct strike, but this could shift anywhere from Ocean City, Maryland to Providence. I’m leaning toward Scenario #2 above. If Sandy does strike near Atlantic City Monday night, even if it’s not a warm-core hurricane, a long-lasting fetch of high winds over the Atlantic may build up a towering 8-15 foot storm surge, especially north of where Sandy comes ashore, which would increase the threat of lowland flooding for New York City and the southern coastline of Long Island.

What’s a “Frankenstorm”? A hybrid hurricane/Nor’easter, similar to what happened on Halloween, 1991, when moisture and energy from a decaying Hurricane Grace fueled “The Perfect Storm”, a massive super storm that thrashed New England with hurricane-force winds. Technically the 1991 storm was a cold core storm, not a hurricane, but if it can sink your boat or take the roof off your house, it becomes a matter of semantics: hurricane or extreme Nor’easter? At some point it doesn’t matter if winds are roaring a hurricane force.

Summary: Florida will be spared the worst of Sandy’s wrath, but extensive flooding is likely along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, from Wrightsville Beach northward to Cape Hatteras, Duck and Corolla, on Sunday. I’m worried about lowland flooding in Virginia Beach and Norfolk late Sunday into Monday as well.

If anything the models are nudging landfall slightly north, closer to Atlantic City, which poses a greater risk to metro New York City and Long Island, as well as Providence and Cape Cod. Serious inland flooding is still expected Sunday night into Tuesday from Norfolk to Washington D.C. to Philadelphia and New York. Again, Sandy is a huge storm, and even though it may lose some of its hurricane-like characteristics, it will still deliver hurricane-force winds when it comes ashore early next week.

 

Mitigating Factor: Unusually Warm Gulf Stream Waters. Sea surface temperatures (SST) are running as much as 5-8 F. warmer than average in the Gulf Stream, just off the east coast. This warm stain of water may help to sustain hurricane strength unusually far north (for late October). Map: NOAA.

 

The 1% Is Nervous. At least the 1% of Americans who happen to have estates on the south shoreline of Long Island. NOAA NCEP is predicting some 12-13 foot waves by Monday and Tuesday from near Cape Cod to New York Harbor.


Experts Sound Alarm On Hurricane Sandy, Like To Be Worse Than 1991 "Perfect Storm". Here's a snippet of an interesting story (providing some much-needed perspective) from meteorologist Jason Samenow, writing for The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "...“The Perfect Storm deepened to 972 mb...” Why Sandy could be more powerful, Will Komaromi: “Most of the models now indicate even stronger jet dynamics will occur next week than occurred during for the Perfect Storm, and that today’s storm could potentially deepen to well below 960 mb or even below 950 mb. The fact that the Gulf Stream is anomalously warm for this time of year means that Sandy will weaken less as a tropical system...” Sandy will be worse, Jeff Masters: “The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage and I’m thinking a billion.Yeah, it will be worse.”(via the Associated Press)..."

 

Evidence Mounting For Historic Storm To Strike The Northeast. Here's an excerpt of a good post from Accu Weather meteorologist Joe Lundberg: "The weather from central and East Texas to the Florida Panhandle up to the Great Lakes is nothing short of stunning today. There is a lot of sunshine at this very hour, temperatures more reflective of early September, if not late August, and there's seemingly not a care in the world! Yet, it has turned much colder overnight down into the Texas Panhandle behind a strong cold front. Snow accumulated a few inches around Denver and Boulder overnight, and a wind-driven cold rain is mixing with snow as I write this in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Meanwhile, on the southeast coast of Florida, winds are gusting to 30 miles an hour with bands of rain rotating through on northwest flank of Sandy, a strong hurricane that only lost some of her punch in crossing Cuba early today. The cold front coming across the Plains and Sandy coming out of the Caribbean appear to be on somewhat of a collision course that many now agree could lead to an historic storm early next week...."

 

A Snowy Hurricane? Bitter air surging eastward will create the temperature contrast and high-level jet stream wind configuration necessary to intensify "Sandy" into a super storm, a massive Nor'easter capable of beach erosion and coastal flooding. Inland, enough cold air may be in place for a foot of snow for the mountains of West Virginia. GFS forecast courtesy of NOAA and Weathercaster.

 

What Are The Best Stories About People Randomly Meeting Steve Jobs? A friend e-mailed me this link from quora.com; here's an excerpt: "I'm particularly curious to know what he was like outside of Apple Inc. He had a reputation for being "difficult" to work with, or work for. I want to know about what he was like as "the guy buying coffee...", or "the customer who stopped into an Apple Store..."

30 Answers

"I dated for years a young woman whose father was Steve Jobs' neighbor in Palo Alto. I thus found myself in the neighborhood often, at dinners, or parties, etc. We would see the Jobs come and go – they have a “normal” house, no gates, no guards, no high fences, not even a big lot. Often, leaving a party at my girlfriend’s house late at night I would drive past their house and you would actually see Steve sometimes, working on a Mac."
 
Photo credit above: gizmodo.com.
 
 
First Snow. It was a "cosmetic snowfall", just enough to look out the window and do a double-take, ground temperatures too warm for any of that snow to stick. The Twin Cities high of 47 is misleading, temperatures much of the day held in the 30s with a raw wind. Nearly a third of an inch of snow fell at St. Cloud.
 
 
Weather History for October 25, courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS:

1996: An unusual outbreak of severe occurred across north central Minnesota. Intense low pressure tracking into Minnesota produced blizzard conditions over portions of South Dakota, while further east in Minnesota, unseasonably mild temperatures developed. Temperatures climbed near 70 with dew points in the 50s. 1 to 1 3/4 inch hail and strong winds were reported in Lac Qui Parle, Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, and Swift Counties. These storms produced 12 tornadoes, the largest reported were F2s. Southwest of Alexandria in Douglas County, an F2 tornado with a 9 mile track destroyed several homes. One women sustained broken bones and internal injuries when a portion of her house, with her inside, was flung 200 feet onto the interstate. This tornado also pushed over a 500 pound fuel tank. Tornadoes also touched down in Swift, Kandiyohi, Pope, Stearns, and Isanti Counties.

1985: Indian Summer across Minnesota. Twin Cities hits 70.

 

 

Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:


TODAY: Partly sunny, brisk. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 42

 

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy. Low: 27

 

SATURDAY: Bright sun, still cool. Winds: W 5-10. High: 44

 

SUNDAY: Dim sun, Few PM clouds. Low: 28. High: 43

 

MONDAY: Mix of clouds & sun, a bit milder. Low: 29. High: 46

 

TUESDAY: Sunny start, clouds stream in late. Low: 30. High: 45

 

WEDNESDAY: Some sun for Halloween 2012 - still cooler than average. Low: 29. High: 44

 

THURSDAY: Blue sky, still quiet. Low: 29. High: 46

 

* photo above courtesy of Tami Sallis in Hibbing.

 

Climate Stories...

 

Romney, Obama Avoid Climate Change Stigma, Waste Air. Here's an excerpt of a timely Op-Ed at Bloomberg Businessweek: "The cringe-inducing catfight about oil drilling in the second presidential debate reminded us how carefully both candidates have avoided the topic of climate change. Those two words weren’t mentioned once, unlike “gas” (30 times). The candidates touched on oil and gas policy in the third debate, but without voicing any concerns about the fact that fossil fuels produce greenhouse-gas emissions. That’s because well-financed voices with a big stake in America’s wasteful status quo have successfully stigmatized global warming..."

Photo credit above: "A courtyard view of the Kohler Environmental Center at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut. To achieve net-zero energy use, the building uses natural ventilation and controlled use of daylight and shade. Solar panels have been installed on the roof." Photographer: Peter Aaron/Robert A. M. Stern Architects via Bloomberg

 

David Attenborough: U.S. Politicians Duck Climate Change Because Of Cost. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Guardian: "...Asked what was needed to wake people up, the veteran broadcaster famous for series such as Life and Planet Earth said: "Disaster. It's a terrible thing to say, isn't it? Even disaster doesn't do it. There have been disasters in North America, with hurricanes and floods, yet still people deny and say 'oh, it has nothing to do with climate change.' It visibly has got [something] to do with climate change." But some US politicians found it easier to deny the science on climate change than take action, he said, because the consequence of recognising the science on man-made climate change "means a huge section from the national budget will be spent in order to deal with it, plenty of politicians will be happy to say 'don't worry about that, we're not going to increase your taxes..." Photo: Clean Technica.

 

Frontline: Did The Climate Deniers Win? Here's an excerpt of a Chris Mooney story at Mother Jones: "On Tuesday Night, PBS's Frontline aired an hour-long special on the climate saga over the past four years—focused centrally on the skeptics themselves, whom PBS's John Hockenberry depicts as victorious in stopping any policy action. Touring Heartland Institute conferences, hearing plentiful sound bites from the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell, we learn that these folks are basically high-fiving right now as the presidential campaigns studiously ignore the climate issue. And yes, they really do think the science is on their side, and that they're winning on the intellectual merits. Not that Hockenberry agrees—one of the gems of "Climate of Doubt" is a deft explanation of how climate skeptics come up with the bizarre assertion that the planet hasn't been warming lately. As NASA's Gavin Schmidt nicely explains to Hockenberry, all you have to do is go back over the noisy temperature record and "pick the endpoints" of your analysis—and you can promptly uncover numerous temporary cooling periods. "But actually, the whole thing has been moving up," Schmidt explains—warming over the course of many decades..."

 

Global Warming And Allergies. Here's a snippet from a story at about.com: "Global warming is a hot-button issue in today’s political environment. Some say that global warming, due to the man-made increases in greenhouse gases, is responsible for melting the polar ice caps and warming the oceans—the result being freakish weather patterns such as hurricanes and tsunamis, all referred to as climate change. Others say that climate change is an inevitable cycle that the earth goes through every thousands to millions of years, and that it has nothing to do with the actions of man. Regardless of your philosophy or political affiliation, there are definite changes to the earth’s climate, which may in part be responsible for the significant increase in allergic diseases in the past few decades..."

 

Antarctic Runway Succumbs To Global Warming. Here's a story I tripped over yesterday, courtesy of The Oman Observer: "Australia yesterday said it was searching for a new aircraft landing site for planes supplying its three bases in Antarctica because the current runway is melting. Australia has three stations on the icy continent — Casey, Davis and Mawson — occupied by scientists and support staff, with the Wilkins runway, carved into glacial blue ice, a vital transport link. But a melting surface has started to restrict use of the Aus$45 million (US$46.4 million) landing strip near Casey and the Australian Antarctic Division said they were looking at alternatives. They include the ice-free Vestfold Hills near Davis. “During the first few years since the introduction of Australia’s airlink to Antarctica in 2007/08 our operations have, on occasions, been hampered by glacial melt at the current Wilkins runway,” a spokesperson said..."

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