Ice storm cripples Houston; Yasi the 2nd costliest Australian storm on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:13 PM GMT on February 04, 2011

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A significant ice storm is in progress across southeast Texas, much of Louisiana, northern Mississippi, and southern Arkansas this morning, as the latest onslaught from the memorable winter of 2010 - 2011 continues. Houston, Texas recorded 1/10" - 1/4" inch of ice so far from the storm, resulting in a crippling of that city's transportation system. Numerous crashes have closed many area roads, and flights at local airports have been largely halted. Snowfalls of 1 - 3 inches will occur today along the northern edge of the ice storm region, in a swath from northeast Texas to western Kentucky. The storm will move into New England on Saturday, but will not bring heavy snow. The next chance for heavy snow occurs next Wednesday and Thursday, when the GFS model is predicting the formation of a winter storm capable of dropping a foot of snow in the Appalachians and inland areas of New England. However, it is too early to put much faith in this forecast.


Figure 1. Trees snapped off along the Chicago lakefront by winds from the Blizzard of 2011. Image credit: viewer uploaded photo from WGN.

Revisiting the Chicago blizzard
This week's blizzard in Chicago dropped 20.2" of snow on the city, Chicago's third-greatest snowstorm on record. But the tremendous winds that accompanied the blizzard--gusting to 61 mph at O'Hare Airport, and 70 mph at the Lakefront--made the storm Chicago's worst-ever blizzard as far as impacts on travel. Another remarkable feature of the storm were the intense thunderstorms that developed. According to an excellent write-up on the storm posted by the Chicago National Weather Service office, the Blizzard of 2011 had 63 lightning strikes, and several reports of hail. The most extraordinary hourly observation I've ever seen in a U.S. winter storm came at 9:51pm on February 1 at Chicago's Midway Field: A heavy thunderstorm with lightning, heavy snow, small hail or ice pellets, freezing fog, blowing snow, visibility 300 feet, a wind gust of 56 mph, and a temperature of 21°F. Welcome to the Midwest! Thanks go to meteorologist Steve Gregory for pointing this observation out to me.


Figure 2. Snow amounts from the February 1 - 3 blizzard of 2011 peaked at over 2 feet along the shore of Lake Michigan between Chicago and Milwaukee. Strong northeasterly winds pulled moist air off of the Lake in this region, allowing the "lake effect" to enhance the blizzard's snows in this region. Image credit: Chicago National Weather Service office.

Tropical Cyclone Yasi the second most damaging storm in Australia's history
Tropical Cyclone Yasi has dissipated, but the damage totals from the storm make it Australia's second most expensive tropical cyclone of all-time, according to Tropical Storm Risk, Inc. The storm's $3.5 billion price tag is second only to Cyclone Tracy, which hit Darwin on Christmas Day 1974, doing $3.6 billion in damage (2011 dollars.) Yasi roared inland over Queensland, Australia at 12:30am local time on Thursday as a strengthening Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds and a 930 mb central pressure. The cyclone missed the most populous cities on the coast, Cairns and Townsville, but damaged up to 90% of the buildings in the small towns near where the eye passed--Tully, Mission Beach, and Cardwell. A storm surge of 5.4 meters (17.7 feet) was observed at Cardwell, and there was substantial surge damage at the coast. Fortunately, the storm surge hit near low tide, resulting in a storm tide--the height of the water above land--of about 4.5 meters, more than 2 meters below what would have occurred had Yasi hit at high tide. Yasi moved quickly enough across Queensland after landfall so that major flooding was limited to just three locations near the coast. Yasi's central pressure of 930 mb at landfall made the storm the most intense recorded in Queensland since at least 1918, and possibly since 1899. In 1918, there were two cyclones (at Mackay and Innisfail) with measured pressures in the upper 920s/low 930s, but it is quite plausible that the minimum central pressures were lower than that. The 1899 (Mahina/Bathurst Bay) cyclone had a measured pressure (ship near shore) of 914 mb.


Figure 3. The tide gauge at Carwell, Australia during passage of Tropical Cyclone Yasi recorded a 5.4 meter (17.7') storm surge (red line). Since the surge came near low tide, the storm tide--the height of the surge above mean water--was only 4.5 meters (blue line). The storm tide would have been more than 2 meters higher had Yasi hit at high tide, and the damage from coastal flooding would have been huge. The green line shows the expected water levels at Cardwell due to the tide. Image credit: Queensland government.


Figure 4. Tropical Cyclone Yasi at 04:15 UTC February 3, 2011, as seen by NASA's Aqua satellite.

Jeff Masters

Yasi Damage Tully Nth Qld (AliHirst62)
Butler St Tully Nth Qld
Yasi Damage Tully Nth Qld
Chicago Blizzard 2011 (ChicagoMike)
Digging out....over 20 inches of snow and drifts in the 3 to 5 foot range.
Chicago Blizzard 2011
()
Snow Drifts in Central Missouri (tucktan)
Looking outside our front door in Columbia, MO.
Snow Drifts in Central Missouri
RoofShovel (luvne32)
Ice dams are forming, not good for water infiltrating walls
RoofShovel

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Not a Rush fan, sorry. I like songs like this, from Australia so marginaly on topic. Also features men dancing in lederhosen which maybe Grothar has seen before. I haven't.

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Quoting sunlinepr:

Notice the humid tropical air clashing with the cold front.
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Blackout in Brazil affects 13 million
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Quoting ColoradoBob1:
The national loop out of Australia , it is raining like hell north east of Adelaide , and it’s not moving -

http://www.bom.gov.au/products/national_radar_sat.loop.shtml

That is Ex-TC Yasi.
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Quoting bappit:
Okay, not knocked over by a bulldozer since don't see the roots. They were cut down. The stumps are buried under the snow. It's someplace where they couldn't get a bulldozer to or they don't have one.

No windstorm blew down the trees in a willy-nilly pattern like that, though.

Edit: or cut them off so neatly. There'd be tree roots sticking up on at least some of them.

Totally bogus.


OK, I respectfully offer this :)

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Okay, not knocked over by a bulldozer since don't see the roots. They were cut down. The stumps are buried under the snow. It's someplace where they couldn't get a bulldozer to or they don't have one.

No windstorm blew down the trees in a willy-nilly pattern like that, though.

Edit: or cut them off so neatly. There'd be tree roots sticking up on at least some of them.

Totally bogus.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Yeah, that image is a little suspect. They've fallen at different angles, but none toward the blue temp fence (which miraculously survived the tempest); there are no broken branches, which one would see when wintering trees crash down; the trees are neatly cut off at ground level, instead of splintered and fractured as blowdowns normally are. I'd guess these were trees intentionally downed before this week's blizzard, perhaps because of disease or to make way for construction. That's just an educated guess, though; I could be wrong.


Good obs, but where are the stumps? Just sayin :)
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http://oiswww.eumetsat.org/IPPS/html/MSG/RGB/DUST/FULLDISC/IMAGESDisplay/vR8MgejvbctiY

Yah, I've seen y'all post 'em. They are cool.
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Quoting bappit:

That is the freakiest color coding. I am awed.


Thank you. I post these during the hurricane season a lot. MiamiHurricane009 and I try to outdo each other, who can post them first. Do you want the link?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25575
Well he cant come till bridges de-iced...lol
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
You won't see many snow avalanches in Texas, so remember this one. ;-)

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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Well, at least I can laugh at myself...Thanks Grothar....I'll try to do better next time :)


I think you better spend more time with your grandson. LOL Kids can do this stuff in their sleep.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25575
I wonder if those trees were blown down in the blizzard. I suspect they were knocked over by a bulldozer into the work area bounded by the blue fence.

I call bogus!
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Well, at least I can laugh at myself...Thanks Grothar....I'll try to do better next time :)
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Quoting Grothar:


Show off! Try this on for size. LOL


That is the freakiest color coding. I am awed.
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Not trying to be alarmish but has anyone seen the euro model does for next week.
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Quoting bappit:

Like this?


Show off! Try this on for size. LOL

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25575
Quoting Neapolitan:

Yeah, that image is a little suspect. They've fallen at different angles, but none toward the blue temp fence (which miraculously survived the tempest); there are no broken branches, which one would see when wintering trees crash down; the trees are neatly cut off at ground level, instead of splintered and fractured as blowdowns normally are. I'd guess these were trees intentionally downed before this week's blizzard, perhaps because of disease or to make way for construction. That's just an educated guess, though; I could be wrong.

Also, there is a significant amount of snow on top of the upper faces of the trees... and the amount is near-uniform between all the trees. And as you mentioned, some of them are cleanly sheared at the base, not fractured and splintered.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:



lolololo...from post.....lol...thought it would be just the map......lol


OK, applause withdrawn, big sigh from the crowd. Start from the beginning:

Go back to your entry. On the bottom it reads "Modify Comment" Click on that. It may take two times.

Highlight your entry, then hit your delete buttom. Put in a period. The hit send. It should delete it.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25575

Like this?
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Quoting Grothar:


What do you mean delete it? From where?



lolololo...from post.....lol...thought it would be just the map......lol
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Quoting bappit:

Dunno. Just weird. Thought the strongest winds would have been consistently off Lake Michigan, perhaps backing a bit.

Yeah, that image is a little suspect. They've fallen at different angles, but none toward the blue temp fence (which miraculously survived the tempest); there are no broken branches, which one would see when wintering trees crash down; the trees are neatly cut off at ground level, instead of splintered and fractured as blowdowns normally are. I'd guess these were trees intentionally downed before this week's blizzard, perhaps because of disease or to make way for construction. That's just an educated guess, though; I could be wrong.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
ok tell me how to delete link !


What do you mean delete it? From where?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25575
ok tell me how to delete link !
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Quoting bappit:

Dunno. Just weird. Thought the strongest winds would have been consistently off Lake Michigan, perhaps backing a bit.
Well, are those trees among buildings in downtown Chicago? *Can* do some unpredictable things to the winds with every gust.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Link

test ;P


By George, I think you got it!!!!!!!!


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.
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Quoting Ossqss:


Wind direction also has an impact on loss.


Okay, I see a ghost-like figure with one arm raised.
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Quoting Ossqss:


Kinda Microburstish? :)

Dunno. Just weird. Thought the strongest winds would have been consistently off Lake Michigan, perhaps backing a bit.
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Quoting Grothar:


I don't recall that they ever positively identified a negative AO as being the sole cause of melting sea ice. But it was around the same time, the Arctic dipole anomaly was first introduced. Do you think the combination of the Arctic dipole anomaly and the simultaneous La Nina could be responsible for the current winter anomalies? The combination of the two could really cause problems.


Wind direction also has an impact on loss.

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Quoting Grothar:


You probably have enough to read, but let me know what you think of this article. You don't have to read it now. Just drop a note on the blog.

Link

Obviously.
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Quoting bappit:
Odd how those trees at the Chicago waterfront blew down in all different directions.


Kinda Microburstish? :)
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Significant Weather Media Release
Issued at 1351 on Friday the 4th of February 2011

More heat for Sydneysiders but relief in sight

Sydney's current spell of hot weather will extend into the weekend, but there is
relief in sight.

"Saturday will be very hot across Sydney with temperatures into the forties in
many suburbs with a very warm night to follow, but cloudy conditions on Sunday
and a cooler southerly change during the afternoon will provide welcome relief
from the heat," said Barry Hanstrum, Regional Director of the Bureau of
Meteorology in New South Wales.

"By Monday the daytime temperatures will be close to the overnight temperatures
Sydneysiders have been suffering this past week."

This week minimum temperature records have been set at a number of locations
across Sydney. February records were broken at Richmond [24.9°C, 72 years of
record] and Bankstown [26.0°C, 43 years of record].

Records have also been set for successive hot nights. For example, Observatory
Hill has had an unprecedented three nights, and Richmond two nights, above 24°C.

The prolonged heat has been due to a hot northerly airstream coupled with high
humidity, cloudy nights and high ocean temperatures.

Dr Wayne Smith, NSW Health Director of Environmental Health, said people should
consider the risk of heat-related illness.

There has been an increase in emergency department attendance for heat-related
illness in Sydney over the past few days.

"People should take simple precautions to ensure they stay healthy in the heat
by staying well hydrated, avoiding alcohol and hot or sugary drinks, limiting
your physical activity and trying to stay out of the sun during the hottest part
of the day.

"If you can, it's a good idea to spend some time in an air-conditioned building.

"Signs of heat-related illness include confusion, dizziness, fainting, nausea,
vomiting, weakness, headaches and loss of sweating," Dr Smith said.

"People showing any of these signs should seek urgent medical attention through
their GP or local emergency department.
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Quoting Levi32:


Well yes indeed a negative AO combined with a La Nina can result in a ridiculously cold winter for the continents in the mid-latitudes where most of the world's population lives. The last 2 winters have been a testament to what that pattern can do.


You probably have enough to read, but let me know what you think of this article. You don't have to read it now. Just drop a note on the blog.

Link
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Quoting Grothar:


I don't recall that they ever positively identified a negative AO as being the sole cause of melting sea ice. But it was around the same time, the Arctic dipole anomaly was first introduced. Do you think the combination of the Arctic dipole anomaly and the simultaneous La Nina could be responsible for the current winter anomalies? The combination of the two could really cause problems.


Well yes indeed a negative AO combined with a La Nina can result in a ridiculously cold winter for the continents in the mid-latitudes where most of the world's population lives. The last 2 winters have been a testament to what that pattern can do.
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Quoting Levi32:


It's just a little bit funny how they are now blaming the negative AO for melting sea ice, when just a few years ago it was the positive AO being blamed, and models predict the AO to become increasingly positive with time.


I don't recall that they ever positively identified a negative AO as being the sole cause of melting sea ice. But it was around the same time, the Arctic dipole anomaly was first introduced. Do you think the combination of the Arctic dipole anomaly and the simultaneous La Nina could be responsible for the current winter anomalies? The combination of the two could really cause problems.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25575


is it made with sunshine, unicorns and fairy dust
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Quoting Grothar:


Do you have this link. Thought you might find it interesting. Looks like a difficult season coming up to predict. Just published a few days ago.

Link


It's just a little bit funny how they are now blaming the negative AO for melting sea ice, when just a few years ago it was the positive AO being blamed, and models predict the AO to become increasingly positive with time.
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Quoting Grothar:
Is this correct?



Not usually. The typical AO patterns over the North Atlantic fluctuate much more strongly with tropospheric signals. The correlation between 70N-90N 10mb temperature and 1000mb height is insignificant in the north Atlantic, but is very significant in the tropics, where the strength of the stratospheric vortex is negatively correlated with the ENSO.

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Quoting Chicklit:
Evening, lovely soft fog over here in ECFL tonight.

Would someone explain what the system off the northwest conus is forecast to do?
That's probally the storm the models are picking up on.If this is round one,then the south could get yet another snow/ice/server weather event,and the midwest to east a snow storm.I hope one of these babies deliver me a snow event.Hopefully....but the way this winter has been,that's wishful thinking.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16456
Quoting Levi32:


A negative NAO results in weaker trade winds because the Azores High is weaker, and thus SSTs generally get warmer, which is what we had last winter.. A positive NAO/AO (which we have right now) strengthens the high and thus the trade winds, cooling SSTs by evaporation and upwelling.


Do you have this link. Thought you might find it interesting. Looks like a difficult season coming up to predict. Just published a few days ago.

Link
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25575
Evening, lovely soft fog over here in ECFL tonight.

Would someone explain what the system off the northwest conus is forecast to do?
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Quoting Cochise111:
Did you hear that Texas is having to have rolling energy blackouts because they spent billions on wind energy instead of nuclear power? There's one problem with wind power: when the wind doesn't blow, you have no power. Wonder if they are going to revisit their investment.
don't forget when the wind blows too much they don't work either or if they did at certain speeds they get ripped apart
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53308
Quoting Levi32:


A negative NAO results in weaker trade winds because the Azores High is weaker, and thus SSTs generally get warmer, which is what we had last winter.. A positive NAO/AO (which we have right now) strengthens the high and thus the trade winds, cooling SSTs by evaporation and upwelling.
Ah okay.
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Is this correct?

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25575

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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