20161207_polarvortex

The polar vortex: just roll with it

http://glossary.ametsoc.org/wiki/Polar_vortex

Summary:

Every winter since “polar vortex” has become a mainstream term, there have been many debates on social media as to what exactly the polar vortex is, how to classify “pieces” of it that break off and surge into the lower latitudes, and where exactly the polar vortex “lives” in the different levels of the atmosphere. Ask several meteorologists what it is, and more often than not you will get different answers.

Opinion:

Just as “derecho” is now misused during summer convection, “polar vortex” has been taken over by mainstream media to mean “really cold air be coming”. But hey now, that’s not what the polar vortex is! Like derecho, we need to let go of the more strict, by-the-books definition for the polar vortex. It’s a catchy term that the public and weather community alike can instantly associate to strong cold. If anything, that helps weather communication.

I used to be a stickler for following the strict definitions. Then I learned that once a certain meaning of a term has gone mainstream, there is no going back. We can’t correct how “polar vortex” is used, and it might be for the better. No layman cares about what’s happening at 500mb, and even fewer care about what’s happening at 50mb.

(Image SOURCE)

20161207_twc_breitbart

Countering Breitbart is noble, but you are giving them what they want

https://weather.com/news/news/breitbart-misleads-americans-climate-change

Summary:

Breitbart (a site that I recommend you never visit ever) used a Weather Channel video about La NiƱa as evidence that the Earth is not warming. The Weather Channel rebutted by making another video condemning the Breitbart article, saying the data is cherry-picked, and that they misrepresented data from a short-term trend to claim that global warming isn’t real. In fact, the long-term temperature data indicates that the Earth continues to warm.

Opinion:

Do you think that ANYONE who reads Breitbart and takes it seriously will care at all about a Weather Channel rebuttal? It’s more of a “clear conscience” move by The Weather Channel that everyone who already knows the Breitbart article is a load of crap will praise. And praise it they have. It was probably a waste of time, though. I doubt many, if any, opinions about global warming will be changed based on the rebuttal.

Instead, stop giving Breitbart the attention that they are seeking. The Weather Channel’s article links directly to the Breitbart article. All you are doing is giving them more views. I will never link to an article that I don’t want people to read, and I certainly do not want to give Breitbart the satisfaction that I or anyone gave them more views. DO NOT VISIT BREITBART’S WEB SITE.

This is the same song and dance that Trump used to his advantage to become President-elect of the United States. Adapt and change your game plan on reporting fake news and false articles. Conventional fact-checking doesn’t work anymore. Either ignore that the Breitbart article even exists, or find a different way to confront the beast.

20161202_tempanomalies

Temperature anomaly maps on social media

Note: The tweets used are just examples of what many are posting on social media. This post is not intended to single out these tweets specifically; they were just the ones that caught my eye this morning since they were back-to-back.

Summary:

From your weather enthusiast Facebook page to nationally-renowned meteorologists, everyone is starting to talk about the upcoming cold shot that will impact much of the United States next week. COLD. IS. COMING.

Opinion:

But what audience are these images and comments trying to reach? Does this audience understand how these anomaly maps translate into sensible weather? Sure, it looks pretty and it’s eye-grabbing when blues and purples take over the country, but how does it prepare me for the weather beyond “it will be colder than normal”? Are we talking lows in the 20s, 10s, etc.? Does someone in Mobile or Atlanta need to get their winter coat out?

I’m probably being nitpicky with this one, but I think posting actual forecast lows/highs would be more productive because it would be easier for most people to understand. Maybe I’m just looking at it from the wrong angle? To me it’s part of the bigger argument that meteorologists face with reforming weather communication, which is generally steering more toward focusing on the weather’s impact. You can tell me “it will be cold,” or you can tell me “it will be cold, with lows in the 10s and 20s.” I have no way of telling what “it will be cold” means without more context, but letting me know what the actual temperatures will be is much more useful.

One could say that it’s too far out into the future to provide actual numbers, and I could understand that. But it would be better to say “temperatures could get as cold as [range]” than the more vague things that are being communicated.

20161129_spcoutlook20z

SPC issues a moderate risk for tornadoes

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/outlook/archive/2016/day1otlk_20161129_2000.html

Summary:

After yesterday’s mostly-failed setup in which tornadoes were more scarce than expected in the Deep South, much higher instability today will likely result in stronger discrete storms that can mature enough to become tornadic. The SPC is targeting the 00z-04z time frame as the most dangerous as the low-level jet picks up, meaning nighttime tornadoes will be a big concern.

Opinion:

The Deep South is no stranger to these after-dark tornado setups, and I agree with the SPC’s forecast. With moisture and energy available right next door in the Gulf of Mexico, all you need is a proper storm system to move through to create a tornado threat. The winds associated with this system are fairly strong, and now the CAPE/shear combo is balanced enough where supercells can more reliably become organized enough to produce tornadoes. There are already multiple classic-looking supercells in Louisiana that are tornado-warned, and it looks like the southern Mississippi Valley will be in for a long night.

Reviving the blog

I figured out a way to make weather-related blog posts that aren’t just snowfall forecasts that is both unique and something that I can be passionate about and maintain without feeling like I’m dragging myself in to do it.

The idea: find interesting weather articles/news, provide a summary, and put my own opinion with it. It’s mostly just an extension of what I do on Twitter, but it will be more fleshed out while also providing a tl;dr version of what is going on. This will be limited to things that I am interested in, and will likely focus 100% on weather, without diving into things that are indirectly weather-related or other earth sciences.

That’s the plan, anyway. And I’ll start today.

Winter Storm Threat: February 8-10 (Only/Final Call)

This storm has a complicated setup. You have multiple surface lows within a broader upper-level trough, marginal surface temperatures, and large discrepancies in QPF placement between the models.

Temperatures along and east of I-95 are the most uncertain, which are expected to be in the low-to-mid 30s through most of the event. Areas north and west of I-95 will start above freezing, and will cool to at or below freezing depending on how strong the snowfall rates are tonight.

Snowfall rates will be one of the most important factors in determining which areas see 4-8 inches, and which areas get 1-4 inches. The best rates are likely to be along the Maryland/Pennsylvania border into southern New Jersey.

20160208-09_MAsnow_final

The intensity of the initial coastal low, the secondary coastal low development, the strength of the low over the Great Lakes, and the timing of the strengthening and weakening of these lows are wreaking havoc on the QPF output on the various models.

I tried my best to offer a realistic compromise between the differences in QPF, while also accounting for the surface temperature and snowfall rate issues. I could definitely see a tighter gradient between accumulation amounts than what I have on the map.

Winter Storm Threat: January 22-24 (Final Call)

One final update before the frozen stuff starts to fall in the southwestern corner of my map. Made minor adjustments to the fringes in central/eastern North Carolina and up around NYC, with a slight expansion of the 18″+ contours.

20150122-24_MAsnow_final

Timing and impacts from this potential blizzard remain on track to what I said earlier today.