ZOMG! There will be actual weather next week!

So there’s already talk of a winter storm sweeping through the nation next weekend (14th or so of December), possibly even the dreaded words “ice storm” that cause Atlantians (the ones in Georgia, not the ones Way Down Beyond The Ocean) to panic and start smashing in to each other on the perimeter and clogging up spaghetti junction with the carcasses of perfectly drive-able automobiles, even if said ice isn’t even going to hit Atlanta.   This is all part of the trend towards sensationalizing marginally bad weather, something discussed in this Washington Post (shudder) article.   While the screed starts of ok, the next to last paragraph is totally wrong.  This has a real economic and physical cost in human stress and needlessly disrupted businesses.  It’s all part of modern American society, which keeps people constantly on edge for marketing purposes.

So what’s the facts in this case?  In short, there will be weather next weekend.  Some of it will be rain.  As it is want to do this time of year, as you move northeastward, at some point that rain will change over to a “wintery mix” of ice and snow, changing over to only snow along the back side of the system as you get further north.   Here’s the current forecast precipitation types from the latest GFS model run Thursday (120 hours) which is about as far in advance as I’m willing to post a picture of …  green/yellow is rain, purple blue is a mix (the dangerous part), white is snow.

When we get closer, if it looks like anything unusual is happening will post more.  As usual with forecasts, don’t believe everything you see from 7-10 day forecasts!  I don’t get too excited until 5 days, since we really don’t have a lot of skill forecasting the exact mix more than 3 days in advance, just the “big picture”.  But that’s fine: you really only need a day or so to prepare for a winter storm.  FEMA took some time off from covering up UFO crashes and building internment camps to post some advice on the subject which is worth reviewing.  So be ready for wintery weather this season, as you should be for other events, and as always don’t panic unless you just need the cardio.  And if you live in Atlanta, by the ghosts of Rhett and Scarlet please learn how to drive …

California Fires (28 October 2019); over $25Billion in property within one mile

It’s another bad fire season in California.  Wait, you may ask, isn’t it fire season year round in Cali?  It turns out no!  There are two distinct fire seasons, with two different forcing factors.  The Santa Anna wind driven fire season runs from October through April (winter/spring).  The high winds can drive fires into a frenzy – such as is happening this weekend, where winds in California have been gusting into tropical storm levels.  The second fire season, during the driest and hottest months of the summer, runs from June to September.  So … May is nice sometimes.

Here is a satellite view of the Kincade fire as the sun comes up this morning (from GOES 17) … click to animate if you dare (it is big):

Labeled view … click to embiggen:

In all seriousness this is a bad situation.  The Kincade fire, north of San Francisco, has over $10 Billion in property within a mile of the fires.  The Getty fire near LA has another $15 Billion at risk; statewide the total is over $25 Billion of property at immediate risk, being within one mile of an active fire.


The Not-A-Tropical-Storm in the Gulf (AL162019), Friday mid-day update

Structurally TTITG isn’t a tropical storm yet, although with 50 knot winds (60mph) if it had a closed circulation it would be a healthy one.  Sort of looks like one too …

… and it will cause tropical-storm like damage across the Big Bend area of Florida and south Georgia.  Potential economic impacts jumped a bit with the higher winds speeds, up to nearly a Billion dollars, most of it indirect like canceled travel plans (grumble).

Here is the estimated impact swath based on the new (11am) forecast by NHC:

Bottom line hasn’t changed much: heavy rains, gusty winds, scattered power outages, just a wet messy day tonight and Saturday across North and Central Florida, extending in to Georgia and South Carolina Saturday.  For GA/SC, a bit more drift to the right (east) will keep the worst of it offshore, so those worried about Football in Athens and Columbia might get off a bit easier.  In short, inconvenient, hazardous to travel or be outside in the darker red areas, or south or east of the pink line on the above map, but not really dangerous except right on the Florida shoreline from maybe Clearwater around to the Pensacola area.

NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Update

Last week the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an updated seasonal forecast, and due to the waning El Nino has increased their forecast for the number of storms expected this year, now saying there is an increased chance for an “above average” season.  What does that mean to you, the huddled masses cowering in fear along the shoreline, waiting for your inevitable doom?

Exactly nothing (assuming you have a hurricane plan already, which you should no matter what the seasonal forecast says).

First, even if you knew *exactly* how many storms were going to form in a year, it tells you nothing about how bad the season will be.  There have been above average years in raw numbers with no hurricane landfalls.  1992 was a below average year – well, except for Hurricane Andrew.  So unless you know where they are going to go, even one hurricane can ruin your day, and 20 can be no big deal if they are all fish storms.

Second, the numbers used to compute the averages are becoming more and more suspect.  This year’s “hurricane” Barry more than likely would not have been classified as a hurricane in past years for a number of reasons (before anyone yelps, no, this isn’t part of the Vast Global Warming Conspiracy(tm), it’s because of better observation systems that can see small patches of possible hurricane force winds, and different classification criteria).

I really don’t like the hype around seasonal forecasts and their updates.  Dr. Mark Johnson of UCF and I used to do them (including something NOAA doesn’t do, landfall probabilities), but the media circus and subsequent fear mongering were just a bit too much.  We still generate them, and they have decent enough skill, but they aren’t really “actionable” except for narrow applications.  About the only thing they are good from a public safety standpoint is “awareness,” but there are other ways of doing that than shoveling out the statistical stables …

So if you haven’t put together a plan yet, slap yourself and go to visit the FEMA web site and get some checklists to think about, consult your local EMA for risk maps for your risk of flooding (which is by far the major threat to life; the golden rule is shelter from wind, evacuate from water), and put together a plan.  Then don’t worry about it.

Updates on Maria, Chris, Japan, Beryl, all kinds of stuff

Supertyphoon Maria passed north of Taiwan yesterday, and has now made landfall in China.  Here’s an image from this morning US time …

Taiwan seems to have escaped major damage by a northward wobble and weakening intensity.  Damage on Mainland China could be more extensive, on the order of billions of dollars, but there isn’t any reliable information as of yet.

Japan is still reeling from flooding over the last week.  BBC is reporting 179 killed, 70 still missing, 8.6 million people displaced. The landslides and other disruption from this event will continue to be felt for some time.

Elsewhere of interest, Hurricane Chris continues to speed up and will likely brush Newfoundland before it heads towards Iceland.  No major damage is expected – stuff up there is built to handle winter storms.  The remnants of Beryl are in the Bahamas, and NHC is watching them for possible regeneration into an organized storm this weekend coming up.  If it does it will most likely wander out into the Atlantic, nothing to get excited about yet.

Lots of neat science stuff going on here, hope to post about that soon!

Tropical Update; Beryl/Puerto Rico, Chris, Maria, Japan Flooding

Three tropical cyclones to talk about today.  In the Atlantic, Beryl continues to weaken as it passes over Dominica and Guadeloupe.  The major concern at the moment is that it will dump a lot of rain across the Greater Antilles (Puerto Rico and Hispaniola) Monday; Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is still rather fragile.  Off the North Carolina coast, Tropical Storm Chris has formed from TD#3.  It will meander and strengthen off the US coast for a couple days before heading north, probably becoming a minimal hurricane and paralleling the shoreline before hitting Newfoundland as a strong transitioning extratropical system.  While a further westward wobble isn’t likely, worth keeping an eye on if you live on the outer banks and Northeast.  The strongest winds should stay well offshore, but waves and some rain are possible.  Here’s the current forecast impact map for the Atlantic:

In the West Pacific, Tropical Cyclone Maria is still headed for Northern Taiwan and the Chinese Mainland, currently forecast to make landfall as a strong category 2 storm on Wednesday.  Upwards of $5 Billion in impacts are possible on this track, but a slight wobble to the south could bring Taipei in the damage swath and easily quadruple that number …

The major flood event in Japan continues – millions evacuated, over 70 presumed or confirmed dead as heavy rain continued yesterday.  Things should clear up a bit over the next few days, but the threat of landslides continues, and with the ground supersaturated it may not dry out before the next round of precipitation.

Beryl, TD3 in the Atlantic; Pacific region disasters (current and future)

So much for vacation: suddenly got awfully busy around here … starting in the Atlantic, we have two storms this morning.  Here’s the big picture …

The first, “Hurricane” Beryl, is a very compact and (most likely) weakening storm headed towards Martinique (as a tropical storm) and points west.  Naturally people in Puerto Rico are concerned about this system, but it looks like it will pass to the south as a disorganized low. That said, any system dumping rain across the island can cause lots of misery, especially given the extensive damage left over from last year.  Impacts for forecast to be less than 1/10th of that forecast yesterday, but it’s a small weird storm, hard to model, and NHC has more disclaimers in their forecast discussion than usual …

The other Atlantic storm is TD#3.  Tropical Depression #3 is off the coast of North Carolina, and is expected to meander for a bit then strengthen into a minimal hurricane and head north, staying just offshore.  No watches or warnings up for this one at the moment.

The Pacific is active as well, with a storm in the East Pacific (Fabio, well off of Mexico) that is weakening over colder waters.  There is a new typhoon near the Mariana Islands that is forecast to pass just north of Taiwan and hit the Chinese coast – it could be fairly strong at that time, more as it develops.  But the big story in the east is the massive flooding in Japan.  Here is the CFS2 model total precip across the region yesterday.

This BBC report has more detail – 38 reported killed so far, and unfortunately the rains are expected to continue.