Highlights from the State of The Climate 2018

Just three days ago, on August 12, 2019, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) released the newest State of the Climate providing a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected. The State of the Climate in 2018 is the 29th issuance of this international, peer-reviewed publication that is released each summer. The report is based on contributions from scientists around the world and is compiled by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Although we can’t possibly cover all the topics in one blog post, we wanted to share some highlights with you, and we invite you to take a look at the report as well! It is full of valuable information, and we believe that an informed community is a resilient community.

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National Parks and Severe Weather

At this point in midsummer, it is hard NOT to have the outdoor bug, and many of us in the U.S. will head to our National Parks to enjoy the outdoors in a variety of ways. Did you know that Yellowstone was the first National Park, established in 1872? President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) is possibly the most well-known supporter of the development of the National Park System; during his terms in office, the number of National Parks doubled. The legislation known as the Antiquities Act, which he signed into law, gave him and future presidents the ability to declare historic landmarks and national monuments, many of which are part of the National Park System today. At our wide array of National Parks, Seashores, Reserves, Battlefields, Monuments, and Historic Sites, visitors can learn about the history and culture of our country, as well as enjoy and appreciate the huge variety of climates and beautiful scenery that exist in the United States.

Canyonlands National Park. Credit: NPS/Neal Herbert.
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Scorching Heat Stretching from the Plains to the East Coast

A strengthening upper level ridge across the Central and Eastern United States is resulting in sweltering heat and dangerous conditions across the eastern two thirds of the country. Widespread excessive heat warnings, watches, and heat advisories are in effect, with daytime highs in the 90s to above 100 are expected. These high temperatures, combined with dewpoints soaring into the mid to upper 70s will result in over 70 million people experiencing heat indices over 100 degrees! The heat index is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored into the actual air temperature.

Warmest heat indices expected through Monday, July 22.
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Surveying the Storm

Imagine that it’s late in the evening, the sun has set, and you’re a meteorologist or the National Weather Service (NWS) exhausted from working a 13–hour day providing forecasts and warnings for a significant severe weather event that moved through your forecast area. Although the powerful storm system has exited the region, the event is not completely over. As severe weather reports filter into the office, it becomes evident that the storms caused significant damage and you’ll be heading out to conduct a damage survey first thing in the morning. Get some rest…another long day lies ahead.

Damage survey team members (Jim Belles and Benton County officials) inspect homes destroyed in the December 23, 2015 tornadoes in northern Mississippi. Credit NOAA WRN
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This Week’s Roundup of Interesting Weather Stories

A massive plume of dust from the Sahara Desert has made its way all the way across the Atlantic Ocean into the Caribbean and the southeast United States! Known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), this very dry mass of dusty air normally forms over the Sahara Desert between late spring through early fall and moves out over the North Atlantic Ocean every 3-5 days. The SAL can cover an area as large as the size of the continental United States (!), and extends between ~5,000-20,000 feet in the atmosphere.

This geocolor enhanced imagery was created by NOAA’s partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere.  Its multi-band imaging capabilities provide high-resolution visible and infrared imaging of atmospheric aerosols, such as dust and sand. Photo courtesy NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory.
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Lightning Science and Safety

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin conducted his famous experiment in which he flew a kite during a thunderstorm during this week in 1752? Benjamin Franklin was looking to demonstrate the connection between lightning and electricity. In fact, we know today that lightning is a discharge of static electricity from the atmosphere. Lightning can strike from cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-ground, and even intra-cloud (inside one cloud) discharges can occur. Let’s look back into history to see how this experiment worked…

Courtesy: Franklin Institute.
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A Brief Recap of the May 2019 Severe Outbreak

Just two short weeks ago we posted a blog that looked into the severe weather that occurred on May 20, 2019. Little did we know that this was just the beginning! Over a 12-day period that stretched from May 17 through May 30, more than 285 tornadoes touched down across 22 states. The May storms also included hailstorms (including grapefruit-sized hail in Wellington, Texas!) and frequent heavy rainfall, sometimes at record levels, over areas that were already saturated. This led to extensive flooding and flash flooding, which frequently interfered with emergency efforts related to tornado damage.

Map of tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service between May 17 and May 29, 2019 over the eastern United States and tornadoes confirmed and surveyed by the National Weather Service. Map produced in QGIS with border outlines from the United States Census Bureau. National Weather Service warning outlines available from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet and tornado data available from the National Weather Service. Credit: TheAustinMan
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Great Plains Severe Weather and Tornadoes: May 20, 2019

A storm system moving into the Great Plains this past Monday resulted in an outbreak of severe weather, including flooding and some tornadoes, across portions of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Thankfully, none of the reported tornadoes did extensive damage or caused widespread injuries. This was thanks in part to the fact that the tornadic storms did not hit major metropolitan areas, but also largely due to excellent communication of risk and appropriate preparedness actions by the National Weather Service. Let’s take a closer look at how this event unfolded…

Courtesy: KWTV-KOTV.
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Odisha: A Leader in Disaster Preparedness

Tropical Cyclone Fani made landfall in India around 9:30 AM on Friday, May 3 as one of the country’s strongest tropical cyclone in twenty years. Technically Tropical Cyclone Hudhud in October 2014 was somewhat stronger, but Tropical Cyclone Fani was a vastly larger system with a lot more water being carried along with it. At Fani’s peak intensity, maximum sustained wind speeds were around 150 miles per hour with gusts to around 190 miles per hour. Wind speeds were over 124 miles per hour when Fani made landfall in Odisha – home to 46 million people. Approximately 14 districts in Odisha have been affected by Cyclone Fani, over one millions people were evacuated from the storm, and approximately 900 cyclone shelters were set up for those who were displaced.

View of Fani as seen by the Japanese Himawari 8 satellite
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