Powerful Storm Brewing

October 17, 2011

An extremely powerful early Fall weather system is brewing and will begin developing as early as tomorrow. A strong low pressure system induced by a strong polar vortex will merge and morph with a disturbance coming out of the Gulf of Mexico. This disturbance moving North out of the Gulf of Mexico will bring an abundant amount of moisture with it. As the warm and moist tropical air moves North, the warm and moist air (latent heat release) will help strengthen the morphed weather system as it travels North along the Spine of the Appalachian Mountains.

The water vapor imagery essentially tells the story this evening. You can see the large area of disturbed weather across portions of the Gulf of Mexico. The second system that will be a factor in this eventual large and phased weather system is a developing weather system across portions of Colorado. The extremely dry air across portions of Arizona and New Mexico is associated with our third player in this developing storm system and that is a very strong jet stream.

Nearly all of our forecast guidance has locked on to a solution of a strong weather system developing and moving into portions of the Midwest and Eastern Ohio Valley.

As the weather system begins to develop along the East Coast on Tuesday, strong and severe storms will be possible across the Southeastern United States. Increasing shear and an extremely tropical and buoyant atmosphere will lead to the threat of tornadoes from Florida into Georgia and eventually South Carolina.

This strengthening weather system will bomb out across portions of the Eastern Ohio Valley, strengthening possibly to as low or near 980 mb. This type of track is rare, as most storms that develop in this manner have a coastal low that transfers off the Mid Atlantic coast and tracks up the Northeast coast verses strengthening over land.

The track of his system means that a very large area will be impacted with heavy rain occurring from Florida all the way up the Appalachians, through the Ohio Valley and into portions of the Interior Northeast.

As the system reaches it’s peak intensity over the Eastern Ohio Valley and Eastern Great Lake states Wednesday and Thursday, extremely strong winds are also possible. You can see the tight wind field noted by the extremely close isobars around the low pressure.

With extremely impressive height falls as the low pressure deepens, it is not out of the question that some light snow could fall across portions of Northern Illinois, Southern and Eastern Wisconsin, Northern and Northwestern Indiana and Western Michigan. Obviously with extremely warm ground temperatures and fairly warm lower and mid level temperatures, no accumulation would occur, but the fact that some wet snowflakes are possible is definitely impressive.

Stay tuned to our facebook page for the latest on this developing storm system over the next 24-48 hours (www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers).


Was Florida hit by a Tropical Storm or a Non Tropical Gale Force?

October 11, 2011

If you were following SWAT’s updates on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers) Sunday Night, you should be well aware that a large area of disturbed weather struck the East Coast of Florida, packing heavy rain and strong winds in excess of 60-70 mph. During the day on Sunday, a weather feature began to develop over the Bahamas. This feature began to show signs of developing into a closed low pressure system within a larger, more synoptically driven weather system/pattern.  By Sunday Evening, the circulation had tightened on  radar, and velocity data was showing upwards of 70+ mph winds. A semi apparent eyewall like feature also became evident just East of Palm Bay, Florida.

There was much debate in the meteorology community as to whether this area of disturbed weather should have been classified as a Tropical Storm or not. Winds gusted to over hurricane force in several reporting stations along the Eastern Florida Coast, but the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center remained persistent that the disturbed weather was nothing more than a Non Tropical Gale Force.

Radar data/loops clearly showed a well defined center of circulation/eyewall feature as stated above off the Eastern Florida Coast. Without knowing what you were being shown, at first glance, the radar image below looks like several prior landfalling tropical systems.

So besides the well defined center of circulation off the Florida Coast, why do I believe that this area of disturbed weather should have been classified as a tropical storm? There are several reasons, but for starters, here is what I posted Sunday Evening on the SWAT Facebook page.

“I rarely criticize the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center, but this area of low pressure center has obviously gained tropical storm characteristics. The area of low pressure system has formed over warm sea surface temperatures, has organized convection over the center of circulation, has surface winds over 35 knots and the strongest winds are near the center. This all combined with Cape Canaveral recently reporting a 69 mph wind gusts is blatantly obvious evidence that we have at least a tropical depression if not a tropical storm off the East Florida Coast. Our viewers in Eastern Florida should be prepared for heavy rain, very strong winds and coastal flooding through the morning hours.”

Shortly after I published that update on the SWAT Facebook page, several reports of 75 mph wind gusts were received along the Eastern Florida Coast from the United States Air Force weather observing stations. The winds were strong enough that the National Weather Service was forced to not only issue High Wind Warnings but also Storm Warnings for the adjacent waters. Storm Warnings are extremely rare in the Southeast during Hurricane Season.

In addition to radar data and reports of winds gusting well over 70+ mph at several official reporting stations, the pressure also began to rapidly drop. Cape Canaveral, Florida saw pressures rapidly fall as the area of disturbed weather approached.

The center of circulation passed very close to Cape Canaveral and their pressure bottomed at 999.5 millibars, a pressure reading commonly found in tropical storms. Nearly all (if not all) of the characteristics needed for a storm to be classified as a tropical storm had been met, so why did the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service choose not to classify or upgrade the storm to a “tropical storm”? There is still some doubt in the meteorology community whether the area of disturbed weather attained a warm core. A definition of tropical cyclones is that they must have a warm core, which means the temperature in the vertical core of the cyclone extending up through the atmosphere is higher than in the air surrounding it. With the area of disturbed weather over extremely warm sea surface temperatures, I personally believe that at the very least, a shallow warm core was likely present.

The second possible reason that the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center did not upgrade the storm to an official “tropical storm” could be based off of the logistical nightmare surrounding a possible late evening upgrade. The following was posted by a National Weather Service Melbourne, Florida Meteorologist on an online forum.

“You probably don’t realize what a logistical nightmare this would cause our office to name this thing at such a late hour. We would have to cancel the Gale Warning, High Surf Advisory, Wind Advisory and Lake Wind Advisory that have been up now for two days and replace them with Subtropical Storm Warning. We would need to put out products cancelling the current advisories, and then issue a Subtropical Storm Local Statement, update the Zone Forecasts, Coastal Waters Forecast Hazardous Weather Outlook, our blog and Short term Forecast. Local graphics would have to be updated as well as our forecast grids.”

While I understand his point, I do not agree with the decision. If the storm truly was a tropical storm, tropical storm warnings grab the attention of the public far better than high wind warnings or storm warnings. This area of “disturbed weather/non tropical gale force” caused significant damage and as seen via multiple social media outlets, the public appeared to have had no real idea that inclement weather was likely. Granted, high wind warnings were in place, but again, tropical storm warnings have much more significance on public perception than a high wind warning does.

Needless to say, I 100% believe the area of disturbed weather off the Florida Coast Sunday Night was a tropical storm. Hopefully the system is revisited/relooked at in post season analysis. This means that the National Hurricane Center can revisit and take a second look at the storm to decide if it was actually a tropical storm and add it to the list of 2011 tropical cyclones/historical data.

 


La Niña Returns!

September 8, 2011

As I stated in my 2011/2012 Winter Forecast, I expected a return to a La Niña type weather pattern by the Fall/early Winter months. The NWS officially announced today that La Niña has returned. A La Niña type weather pattern will likely lead to another active and extreme winter across the Plains, Midwest and Ohio Valley. Here is the official press release from NOAA – Brandon

La Niña, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter. Today, forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center upgraded last month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory.

NOAA will issue its official winter outlook in mid-October, but La Niña winters often see drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.

“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.”

Climate forecasts from NOAA’s National Weather Service give American communities advance notice of what to expect in the coming months so they can prepare for potential impacts. This service is helping the country to become a Weather Ready Nation at a time when extreme weather is on the rise.

Seasonal hurricane forecasters factored the potential return of La Niña into NOAA’s updated 2011 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, issued in August, which called for an active hurricane season. With the development of tropical storm Nate this week, the number of tropical cyclones entered the predicted range of 14-19 named storms.

The strong 2010-11 La Niña contributed to record winter snowfall, spring flooding and drought across the United States, as well as other extreme weather events throughout the world, such as heavy rain in Australia and an extremely dry equatorial eastern Africa.

La Niña is a naturally occurring climate phenomenon located over the tropical Pacific Ocean and results from interactions between the ocean surface and the atmosphere. During La Niña, cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean temperatures influence global weather patterns. La Niña typically occurs every three-to-five years, and back-to-back episodes occur about 50 percent of the time. Current conditions reflect a re-development of the June 2010-May 2011 La Niña episode.

NOAA’s National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy. Visit us online at weather.gov.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook , Twitter and our other social media channels.


All Eyes On The Tropics

August 30, 2011

With Hurricane Irene causing billions of dollars of damage up and down the United States East Coast, killing at least 40 people and destroying 1,115 homes in North Carolina alone, all eyes continue to be on the tropics as Katia churns over the Atlantic and as a new potential tropical cyclone could form in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical Storm Katia continues to strengthen at a fairly rapid rate. As of the 5:00 PM National Hurricane Center advisory, Katia had winds of 60 mph and was moving to the West Northwest at 20 mph. Katia continues to look more organized and will likely gain hurricane status by Wednesday morning. Satellite imagery continues to show a much more organized Katia.

Environmental conditions ahead of Katia remain extremely favorable for strengthening. Nearly all of our forecast guidance develops Katia into a major hurricane with some of the numerical forecast guidance developing Katia into a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane.

While Katia will likely continue to strengthen, the most uncertainty regarding Katia is where she will track. Our forecast guidance generally show Katia tracking West Northwest through the short term. At this point, I believe there is at least a 60% chance Katia will likely be tracking far enough North that she will likely be impacted by a trough that will move tracking through the Ohio Valley. If this happens, Katia will recurve to the North and Northeast and will likely have little impact on the United States. There is still significant uncertainty in the ultimate track of Katia and if she is not impacted by the trough, then there is an increased chance that she will continue to move more Westerly and could post some type of threat to the East Coast. If Katia can make it to 70W, then she will be close enough to the East Coast that significant media coverage and frenzy will likely occur, especially since Katia will likely be a major Category 3 or stronger hurricane.

Another area we are watching quite closely is an unorganized area of convection in the Northwestern Caribbean.

Most of our forecast guidance is in agreement in developing this area of unorganized convection into a tropical cyclone at some point during the upcoming weekend. With weak steering currents, it will be difficult to pinpoint where this eventual tropical cyclone will track. Most of our forecast guidance indicates some type of eventual threat to the Gulf Coast. This system will have to be watched extremely closely as sea surface temperatures in the Gulf are running well above normal.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Brandon Redmond
http://www.SWATChasers.com

 


Hurricane Irene Storm Chase

August 28, 2011

SWAT began monitoring Hurricane Irene over a week before she impacted portions of the Southeastern and Eastern United States. It became apparent that Irene would impact portions of the United States and could be a fairly strong hurricane and because of that, SWAT began planning for our first ever hurricane chase!

By Wednesday, Hurricane Irene was a strong category 3 hurricane located over the Bahamas. Irene continued to move Northwest towards the Southeastern United States Coast. We began looking for a target area along the Eastern North Carolina coast.

After coordinating with friends of ours who are part of the Asheville Storm Chasers, it was decided we would chase/ride out Irene from Beaufort, North Carolina. One of the Asheville Storm Chasers, Zachary Hargrove, had connections and we were able to stay at a vacation rental right on the coast of a channel of the Atlantic Ocean!

As Irene began to speed up, it was decided that we could not wait until Friday morning to leave for North Carolina and that we would have to leave sooner so that we could get prepared and set-up before Irene began impacting the coast. The SWAT crew, consisting of Brandon, Brad and one of our colleagues from the Amateur Radio Community Frank, left Muncie, Indiana at about 12:30 AM on Friday Morning.

We traveled South throughout the day on Friday, traveling through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. By early afternoon (around 1:00 PM), we began arriving in the hurricane zones where evacuations were taking place in Eastern North Carolina. Just east of New Bern, NC we began to experience an increase in traffic going West away from the coast and saw several buildings and houses with protective plywood over windows.

By 2:30 PM, we arrived in the Morehead City and Beaufort, NC areas just in time to be greeted by Hurricane Irene with extremely heavy rain. Before hunkering down in Beaufort for the duration of the Hurricane, we picked up some pizza for everyone as a comical gesture for our “last meal.” Unfortunately, as you will find out later in this blog entry, we were without power in Beaufort from Friday Evening until we left on Sunday, so the pizza was indeed our last “hot” meal until Sunday afternoon.

In Beaufort we set up shop at the house on the coast and visited with the Asheville crew while eating the pizza and talking about the latest information on the hurricane. The house was extremely sturdy and was located on a small hill with a higher elevation even though we were right on the water. After setting up all of our computers, cameras and weather instruments, we took a stroll into downtown Beaufort where we esstentially found a ghost town. Nearly every business had been covered in protective plywood and sandbags and we saw very few people while venturing through the downtown area.

After we got back from our stroll through downtown, Hurricane Irene quickly showed her ugly face with heavy rain and very strong winds. By late Friday Evening, we began experiencing random short power outages as the winds continued to increase.

By 8:15 PM, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center had issued a Tornado Watch for all of Eastern North Carolina including the Beaufort, NC area as a line of embedded supercells was moving West towards the coast. Several tornadoes were reported just North of Beaufort and at least two of the tornadoes produced significant damage.

Hurricane Irene continued to get closer to the North Carolina coast and winds continued to increase. Heavy rain was falling and flooding was beginning to impact much of the Beaufort area. We strolled out during the storm to check on conditions across the area and severe flooding was occurring with several feet of water accumulating on several streets. Storm surge was also beginning to impact the coast with the yard of the house we were staying in being submerged in water as the surge swept in.

Winds by midnight were estimated to be gusting close to hurricane force (74 mph) with winds continuing to increase as the remnants of Hurricane Irene’s eyewall approached the coast. Just before midnight the power went out at the Beaufort house and power never returned for the duration of our trip.

With little to no sleep, both groups of chasers (SWAT & Asheville Storm Chasers) were dedicated to staying awake as Irene began picking up speed. By midnight it was evident that Irene would make landfall much sooner than anticipated, possibly as early as 6 AM.

As the outerbands associated with Hurricane Irene began to approach the Beaufort coast at 4:00 AM, both crews departed the Beaufort house to feel the full fury of the Hurricane. Wind blown rain made walking and seeing extremely difficult as winds were gusting to well over hurricane force. Both teams documented the storm with video and pictures as the winds pounded the shore. Damage was already becoming evident across the area with powerlines swaying back and forth in the wind, trees down across the area and complete darkness for as long as the eye could see thanks to widespread power outages.

After venturing back to the Beaufort house, it was decided that we would ride out the remainder of the eyewall/eye indoors due to the increasing dangers outside due to falling powerlines, trees, etc.

By 5:30 AM, fatigue continued to wear on both teams, we all decided that a couple of hours of sleep was necessary. Around 10:00 AM, I was awoken to extremely strong winds still battering against the side of the house. After walking upstairs and checking in with the Asheville Storm Chasers, I was informed that the Southern side of Irene’s eyewall was thrashing us with extremely strong winds yet again. Just prior to arriving upstairs, the Davis Mesonet recorded a 76 mph wind gust which was likely on the low side since the weather station was being sheltered in between two buildings. With no traditional forms of communication available, we utilized our amateur radio equipment to report the wind gust and our report to the National Weather Service!

The hurricane continued to produce tropical storm and hurricane force winds all day on Saturday. A reporting station in Beaufort recorded at least tropical storm force winds or higher for 23 consecutive hours!

As the rain began to lighten up Saturday Afternoon, both teams ventured out to survey the damage across the Beaufort area. On foot we discovered that the flooding situation was improving with water levels decreasing. We found lots of tree damage and noted a significant amount of debris from shrubbery and roofs lying all across the area. We also found some minor structural damage in the downtown area. As stated above, winds continued to be extremely gusty with sporadic heavy rain.

After walking across the area, we took a trip in the SWERV and found several light poles blown over in a shopping plaza, some structural damage on US 70 and more trees down across the city. Following our damage survey, we stopped at the Beaufort fire department where we were told that power outages could last for days as all three substations that powered Beaufort were completely offline.


By Saturday Night, Irene was moving away from Beaufort but the damage had already been done. We would be spending the night in the Beaufort house with limited power (only a generator running necessary equipment). After sleeping for 8 hours Saturday Night, both teams woke up Sunday Morning and began cleaning up after ourselves and packing for the trip home. We departed Beaufort and crossed into Morehead City where more extensive damage was found. Multiple large trees, powerpoles and billboards were down with more extensive structural and roof damage found.

Finally after driving for approximately an hour, we got far enough West in North Carolina to find areas with power and ate a very delicious and hot lunch at a Ruby Tuesday. Both teams departed Ruby Tuesday for home (SWAT to Indiana and the Asheville Storm Chasers to Asheville, NC).

Chasing Hurricane Irene was an exciting and once in a lifetime experience. I have no regrets, but I can tell you that I will be very thankful when I arrive home and can take a hot shower & shave for the first time in 4 days! Yes, very gross!

For more pictures we took during Hurricane Irene, please visit http://www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers. We also have several videos of Irene online at http://www.Youtube.com/SWATChasers.

On a separate note, we are monitoring a strong Tropical Wave just South of the Cape Verde Islands in the Eastern Atlantic. Some of our forecast models are developing this tropical wave into a tropical storm and eventually into a hurricane. We’ll be watching this tropical wave very closely to see if it does indeed develop and if it does develop, where it might go! Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,

Brandon Redmond
SWATChasers.com
SWATTours.com – Book your 2012 Storm Chase Tour today!


Dangerous Hurricane Irene to impact much of the East Coast

August 26, 2011

As of 8:00 AM, Hurricane Irene was a strong Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds. Hurricane Irene is likely undergoing what we call an eyewall replacement cycle (ERC) where the old eyewall dissipates while a new eyewall develops and becomes the dominate center of circulation. This is likely the cause for Irene’s weakening, however strengthening will likely resume later today and Irene will likely regain major hurricane status (category 3).

Outer rain bands from Hurricane Irene are already impacting portions of the Eastern and Southeastern South Carolina Coast. Folly Beach, SC has already reported 2,600 people without power and I’m sure that is just the beginning in terms of power outages! Increased wave heights can also be expected this afternoon along the Florida, Georgia and Carolina Coast as Irene continues to move North at 14 mph.

As Irene draws closer to the North Carolina coast, the atmosphere associated with Irene will become more favorable for tornadoes, which is fairly common in hurricane and tropical type storms. For that reason, the Storm Prediction Center has outlined Eastern North Carolina in a slight risk (5%) for tornadoes this afternoon and this evening.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for much of the South Carolina and North Carolina Coast. Hurricane Irene is a very large hurricane with a very large wind field and strong tropical storm force and hurricane winds will reach the coast long before Irene makes landfall. Rapidly deteriorating conditions are expected along the Carolina Coast by late this evening.

My forecast track for Irene is very similar to the National Hurricane Center’s official forecast track. Irene will likely make landfall between Morehead City, NC and Hatteras, NC sometime Saturday Afternoon. Irene will then move back into open waters and make a second landfall on Sunday near Atlantic City, NJ. Here is the official National Hurricane Center forecast track and the latest hurricane watches & warnings.

Besides the hurricane force winds and potential tornadoes, the other extremely dangerous threat with Irene will be the potential for massive amounts of rainfall and dangerous and deadly flooding due to the large amounts of rainfall and storm surge. Irene has a significant moisture influx feed with her and she will bring heavy amounts of rain to the entire East Coast. 8-16 inches of rain will be possible from North Carolina all the way to New York.

Our thoughts are with all of those that will be impacted by Hurricane Irene. Hurricane Irene has the potential to be one of the most destructive hurricanes and for that matter disasters to impact the United States in decades. Residents in the path of Irene from North Carolina to Long Island, New York should be taking their hurricane precautions/preparations and heeding any warnings given by public safety/emergency management officials.

SWATChasers is just now entering Western North Carolina and we are enroute to Morehead City, NC to get set-up and prepared for Hurricane Irene. We will continue to bring you live updates on our facebook page (www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers), on twitter (www.Twitter.com/SWATChasers) and you can watch our live streaming video later today at http://www.SWATChasers.com!

SWAT will also have live video coverage/interviews on the following stations:

WLIO – Lima, Ohio
Local 12 – Cincinnati, Ohio
ABC 22 – Dayton, Ohio
NBC WDTN 2 – Dayton, Ohio
Fox 45 – Dayton, Ohio
WCIA 3 – Eastern, Illinois (Champaign – Urbana)
Fox 59 – The Indianapolis News Leader


Hurricane Irene – Legitimate East Coast Threat

August 22, 2011

Irene strengthened into a hurricane overnight despite her interaction with land. Nearly all of Puerto Rico is without power as Irene battered the island with 80 mph wind gusts.

Here is a radar loop of Irene as she passed over Puerto Rico early this morning:

Our forecast guidance continues to track Irene just North of the Island of Hispanolia. If this were to occur, land interaction would be very minimal and Irene would likely continue to strengthen. With an extremely favorable upper air environment, Irene should have no problem reaching major hurricane status within the next 48-72 hours.

The track of Irene is the big question. With a weakeness in the subtropical ridge, Irene will likely take a turn towards the North or Northwest. The only caveat in this theory is the strength of the cyclone as stronger hurricanes will often exhibit or try to exhibit a leftward motion.

While some uncertainty still exists, most of our forecast models agree that a Carolina Coastline landfall is in the works.

Irene will likely have major impacts on nearly all of the Eastern Seaboard. The cyclone will likely be large in nature with tropical storm force and hurricane winds extending well out from the Central. Tropical Storm and Hurricane force winds are likely to impact much of the Eastern Seaboard with the Western part of Irene likely coming close to the Eastern Florida Coast.

Hurricane watches and warnings are in effect for much of Hispanolia, Cuba and the Bahamas.

In addition to strong winds, storm surge and extremely heavy flooding rains will be a significant threat across much of the Southeast and Eastern United States Coast. With a slow moving cyclone and a deep moisture connection/influx into the hurricane, flooding rains will be an extremely dangerous threat up and down the Southeastern and Eastern Coast. Our forecast models are already keying in on this threat with the GFS indicating widespread flooding rains from Florida to Maine.

Residents from Florida to Maine should be on high alert and be monitoring the progress of Irene. Hurricane Irene will be a large hurricane with her effects being felt well away from the center of circulation/eye wall. Irene will be a multi-facet hurricane bringing not only damaging winds, but torrential flooding rains, storm surge, strong rip currents and tornadoes.

For SWAT’s latest information on Hurricane Irene, you can follow us at:

www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers
www.Twitter.com/SWATChasers

Please take time to visit our websites at www.SWATChasers.com and www.SWATTours.com