H is for Haboob

After writing a blog on derechos, I thought it could be a fun idea for a series, where I write about unique weather events that start with different letters of the alphabet! To carry on with the theme, this week’s fun weather word is “haboob,” which is an intense sandstorm or duststorm caused by strong winds, with sand and/or dust often lofted as high as 5,000 feet (!!) creating a “wall of dust” along the leading edge of the haboob.

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Book Recommendation: Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

Has anyone else been doing a lot of reading lately? I love to read, and I read all different types of books, but my favorites are historical fiction and biographies. When I came across this book, I knew I wanted to read it immediately. The National Weather Service awards the Isaac M. Cline award “to individuals and teams who have made significant contributions in support of the National Weather Service. The award is named in honor of Isaac M. Cline, one of the most recognized employees in National Weather Service history.” Although I was well aware of the award, I knew very little about the man for which it was named prior to reading the book.

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Hurricanes and Mental Health

Research shows that mental illnesses are common in the United States, with nearly one in five adults living with a mental illness. Extreme weather events can impacts mental health in several ways, both in immediate anxiety-related responses, as well as chronic mental health disorders. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD; a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically occurring in the winter months) leads to insomnia, anxiety, and agitation. Flooding and prolonged droughts have been associated with with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). Tropical cyclones are no exception and can wreak havoc beyond the images of flattened buildings, uprooted trees, and flooded streets that take over news coverage.

A home in Gulfport, Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy NWS New Orleans/Baton Rouge.
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Third Thursday Interview: Vanesa Urango

Welcome to another edition of our Third Thursdays! This week we are profiling Vanesa Urango, who works with FEMA’s Public Assistance Program and is the State Public Assistance Coordinator in New Hampshire. Vanesa and I met when we were in graduate school together in New Hampshire, although our overlapped time together was short since she was a year or so ahead of me in the program. I was excited to chat with her, catch up on how she’s been, and learn more about her position (which has always seemed so interesting to me, but I’d never gotten the full details until now!)

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History Highlight: June Bacon-Bercey

June Esther Griffith (later to become June Bacon-Bercey through marriage), was born October 23, 1928 in Wichita, Kansas, and would grow up to become a pioneer in the field of meteorology after first becoming interested in science at a young age. As an only child, she enjoyed the great outdoors through bike riding and hiking, as well as playing the piano and participating in Girl Scouts activities. When a high school physics teacher noticed June’s interest in water displacement and buoyancy, they encouraged June to pursue a career in meteorology. Although her parents supported her career choice, it was quite an out-of-the-box suggestion. Both female and African-American meteorologists were practically unheard of at this time in history, and women were traditionally looked down upon in fields of math and meteorology.

Left, a headshot of June Bacon-Bercey. Right, posing on her Buffalo apartment terrace while working at WGR TV. (Maurice Seymour; Courtesy of Dail St. Claire)
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The Famous Tuskegee Airmen…and Meteorologists

The Tuskegee Airmen were a highly respected fighter group formed in 1941. Prior to 1940, African-Americans were not permitted to fly with the U.S. military. Thanks to advocacy by civil rights groups and others, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed legislation in 1940 which prohibited racial restrictions on voluntary enlistments in the military and allowed African-Americans to serve in all branches of the Armed Forces, including the Army Air Corps (although on a segregated basis). This led to the development and founding of an African-American pursuit squadron to be based and trained at Tuskegee, Alabama.

Courtesy: Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
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Connection Between Earth’s Temperature and Hurricane Strength

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins in four days, although we’ve already had our first named storm – Tropical Storm Arthur. Tropical cyclones are among nature’s most powerful and destructive phenomena, and scientists are growing more confident that the increase in Earth’s surface temperatures is impacting the intensity of tropical cyclones. A new collaborative study that further explored this hypothesis was published last month by scientists from the Center for Weather and Climate (NOAA/NCEI) and the Cooperative Insitute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the University of Wisonsin-Madison.

A NOAA GOES East satellite captured this shot of Hurricane Dorian fifteen minutes before making landfall over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina at 8:35 AM EDT Friday, September 6, 2019. Image courtesy NOAA NESDIS.
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Third Thursday: Kristen Corbosiero

This month, I am so excited to profile one of my long-time friends and colleagues, Dr. Kristen Corbosiero. Kristen and I first met during our early days at UAlbany. We worked our way through graduate school together, taking many classes, doing teaching assistant work, and suffering through countless impossible homework assignments. After graduate school, we went our separate ways, so you can imagine how excited I was to learn that Kristen would be taking a faculty position at UAlbany and moving back to the area. Since that time, we see each other at professional meetings, meet for breakfast (though not frequently enough!), and it’s just been a real treat to have her back in the area. She is a gifted teacher and researcher, and I hope you enjoy learning about her and her work in this blog!

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D is for Derecho

Just a couple of months after a devastating tornado tore across Nashville, Mother Nature had another blow for Music City. Late in the evening on Saturday, May 1, a complex of severe thunderstorms developed across southern Kansas. They continued tracking east through Missouri and western Kentucky over the next morning before finally reaching central Tennessee by the afternoon.

Shelf cloud approaching Hwy109 at I-40 near Lebanon, TN on May 3, 2020
photo by NWS Nashville meteorologist Brendan Schaper
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Weather map symbols: What are they, and what do they mean?

This post was inspired by a fantastic article which was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) in December 2019 by Dr. Robert Houze of the University of Washington, and his daughter, Rebecca Houze.

I will never forget one of the first times I felt as an undergraduate that I had really arrived at the point where I was learning ‘real meteorology’. As an applied science, meteorology has a lot of core class requirements, including calculus and differential equations, physics, and chemistry. Thus, it is very easy to get bogged down in all of the prerequisites and lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel- learning about the science of weather that drove you into those classes in the first place. For me, that light at the end of the tunnel was an introductory weather and forecasting class which I took during the spring semester of my sophomore year. In that class, we did a lot of hands-on work plotting weather maps, which was something I really enjoyed. Actually, looking at data on weather maps and figuring out what it means is STILL one of my favorite parts of my job today!

Surface analysis at 7:00 AM on March 13, 1993 (the Blizzard of 1993). Courtesy: NOAA/WPC.
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