Superstorm Sandy and the importance of polar orbiting satellites in forecasting

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:19 PM GMT on January 03, 2013

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On the 23rd of October, the 18th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Sandy, was born in the Central Caribbean. As is common for late-season storms in the Caribbean, Sandy moved northwards across Cuba. The official forecasts from the National Hurricane Center issued on October 23 called for Sandy to turn to the northeast after crossing Cuba, and head into the Central Atlantic. This forecast was based on the output from five of our top six computer models, which all predicted that an upper-level low pressure system in the Central Atlantic would be strong enough to pull Sandy northeastwards. However, the global weather forecast model run by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) showed a disturbing possibility: the upper-level low pressure system in the Central Atlantic would not be strong enough to turn Sandy to the northeast. The hurricane would instead get caught up in the flow associated with a trough of low pressure approaching the U.S. East Coast, and Sandy would get slung into New York or New Jersey on October 29. While the ECMWF model was the best performing model for tracking Atlantic hurricanes in both 2010 and 2011, and had done very well again so far in 2012, the American GFS model had outperformed the ECMWF model several times during the 2012 season. NHC elected to discount the ECMWF forecast for Sandy as an outlier, and went with the forecast from the GFS and other models. By October 25, it was clear that the ECMWF model had the right idea all along. More models were now showing the turn towards New York, and the official NHC forecast now called for Sandy to make landfall in New York or New Jersey on October 29. The ECMWF model's early forecast of a track for Sandy into the Northeast was critical for allowing additional time for residents to prepare for arrival of the devastating storm. So what enabled the ECMWF model to make such an excellent forecast for Sandy, six days in advance?


Figure 1. This image uses the model output from the ECMWF experiment, showing where Sandy was predicted to be located five-days out with the normal satellite data inputs into the model (left) and without any polar-orbiting satellite data (right). Both position and intensity forecasts were affected--Sandy stays out to sea without the polar-orbiting satellite data, and the closer isobar lines encircling the storm also imply a more organized and stronger system. Image credit: NOAA.

Polar satellite data: a key to ECMWF model success
The ECWMF has a very sophisticated technique called "4-D Var" for gathering all the current weather data over the Earth and putting the data on a 3-dimensional grid that is then used as the initial "reality" of the current weather for the model to use for its forecast. The old expression, "garbage in, garbage out" is a truism for weather forecast models. If you don't properly characterize the initial state of the atmosphere, the errors you start off with will grow and give a lower-quality forecast. Data from geostationary satellites, which sit continuously at one spot above the globe, are easy to assimilate, and all the models use this data. However, the ECMWF model's superior technique used to assimilate the initial data allows inclusion of data from a large number of polar-orbiting satellites, which the other models cannot do as well. Polar-orbiting satellites orbit Earth at an altitude of 540 miles twice per day, circling from pole to pole. Their data is difficult to use, since the it is only available twice per day at each spot on the Earth, and the time of availability is different for each location. According to an email I received from Jean-Noël Thépaut, the chief of the Data Division of the Research Department at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the ECMWF model uses data from at least fourteen polar orbiting satellites: N-15, N-19, N-19, N-17 (ozone SBUV instrument only), Metop-A, AQUA, NPP (ATMS instrument only), AURA (ozone OMI data only), F-17, TRMM (TMI data), COSMIC, GRACE-A, TERRASAR, and the GPSRO data on top of METOP-GRAS. The data of most importance is the data collected in the infrared and microwave wavelengths, as well as atmospheric density data obtained via GPS radio occultation (as a polar orbiting satellite goes over the horizon, the GPS signals from the satellite get bent by Earth's atmosphere, with the amount of bending proportional to the density of the atmosphere. This GPS Radio Occultation data is gathered from eight polar orbiting satellites, and fed into both the ECMWF and GFS models.) You can find a nice summary of the impacts of polar orbiting satellite data on weather prediction models at this link.)


Figure 2. Forecast track error for four of our top models used to predict Hurricane Sandy, for their runs that began at 00Z October 25, 2012. By this time, the GFDL model had joined the ECMWF in predicting that Sandy would make landfall in Southern New Jersey in five days. The GFS and HWRF models made good 1 - 3 day forecasts, but failed to anticipate Sandy's north-northwestward turn towards the U.S. coast. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

As originally reported by the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, then confirmed in a NOAA press release, a study done by ECMWF research scientist Tony McNally found that if the ECMWF model did not have all of the data from the fourteen polar orbiting satellites, the five-day forecast of the model for Hurricane Sandy would have shown Sandy missing the Northeast U.S. This brings up a concern, since the U.S. polar orbiting satellite program is behind schedule. As explained by Andrew Freedman of Climate Central, the program is plagued by mismanagement, billions in cost overruns, and technical development challenges. The next polar orbiting satellite is not scheduled to be launched until 2017, and one or more of the existing polar orbiting satellites are expected to fail before then. This will result in a degradation of our ability to observe and predict the weather, and may result in poorer forecasts for storms like Hurricane Sandy. Given that the ECMWF model used data from fourteen polar orbiting satellites, the failure of just one satellite may not have made a significant difference in its forecast for Sandy. But if we lose several of these key satellites by 2017, our hurricane forecasts in 2017 may be worse than they were in 2012. To figure out how to cope with the loss of satellite-derived data, NOAA is conducting a Gap Risk Study that seeks ideas from researchers and the public on how NOAA can preserve the quality of its weather model forecasts in the event of the failure of one or more polar orbiting satellites in the coming years.


Figure 3. A tanker rests on the southern shore after being swept onto land by a storm surge due to Superstorm Sandy, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

Links
Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle has an interview with Jean-Noël Thépaut, chief of the Data Division of the Research Department at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, on why the European model did so well with Hurricane Sandy.

Jeff Masters

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Any usage of the Saffir-Simpson Scale in Overall impact is a poor way to relate the actual impact.

Ike, Rita, Katrina,Isaac and Sandy all have shown that a new way to relate Potential Impact to the Public is badly needed.


This iz the opinion of the poster.

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697. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

There's no reason to make a Category 6 or Category 7. Anything past a Category 5 is absolute destruction.



There is still a building & grass..
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I now have 28 Hurricane Eyewall Hours experienced, from Betsy in 65 to Isaac in 2012.

Betsy

Camille

Elena

Katrina

Isaac



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695. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

That's the Empire State Building.


That's what I thought.. The first video it's obviously raining (sounds windy too)..Didn't rain in Juneau today either.
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Juneau, Alaska.

It doesn't look anything like the first video that was posted here.
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Quoting LargoFl:
IF..we get another Mega sized storm like Sandy was,would they have to redefine Hurricanes not only on wind speed but tidal surge And size?..sandy's winds did damage yes BUT..the HUGE flooding etc just Has to be taken into consideration when warning people...you tell people..a CAT 6 or 7 in damage is heading in..they sure will take notice..IF they had figured in tidal surge..im guessing they would make a cat 6 or even 7 in future warnings no?,i cannot imagine..a storm thats 4 states in width or even more than that when it neared land..geez..im soooo glad i moved out of there many years ago...i just cannot imagine what it must have been like

There's no reason to make a Category 6 or Category 7. Anything past a Category 5 is absolute destruction.

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IF..we get another Mega sized storm like Sandy was,would they have to redefine Hurricanes not only on wind speed but tidal surge And size?..sandy's winds did damage yes BUT..the HUGE flooding etc just Has to be taken into consideration when warning people...you tell people..a CAT 6 or 7 in damage is heading in..they sure will take notice..IF they had figured in tidal surge..im guessing they would make a cat 6 or even 7 in future warnings no?,i cannot imagine..a storm thats 4 states in width or even more than that when it neared land..geez..im soooo glad i moved out of there many years ago...i just cannot imagine what it must have been like
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50561
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
USA Surface Loop with controls and overlays
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I was just in Juneau Alaska in early July, last year, and believe me, that is no picture or video from Juneau. Although it is the Capital, it is a VERY small city, with no sky scrapers like in the video. I agree with post # 663.
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Quoting Skyepony:


Note building in upper right with the lit up top is the same as in the second video I posted here.

That's the Empire State Building.
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
686. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Well, there was an explosion at Con Ed during Sandy.


Note building in upper right with the lit up top is the same as in the second video I posted here.
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The uploader of the YouTube video does not even live in Alaska, he lives in France. The waves of an earthquake travel pretty quickly as well, so if the transformers were going off due to the start of the earthquake, we should've saw shaking before the video ended. So it's not from this morning's earthquake.

My best guess is that the video is from NYC from Sandy. Looks very similar.
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Quoting ScottLincoln:

EVX is Eglin Air Force Base, near De Funiak Springs, FL.
OK many thanks
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50561
The era of the Superstorm
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
682. Skyepony (Mod)


Their plans for roadways include solar powered, glow-in-the dark lane lines, lanes that use magnetic fields to charge electric cars, and "dynamic paint" that transforms as road and weather conditions change, according to Salon.

These are more than just ideas. They're currently in the prototype stage. How does it all work? According to Studio Roosegaarde's website, glow-in-the-dark roads are treated with a "foto-luminizing powder" that charges during the day and lights up at night for up to 10 hours. They also use what they call "Dynamic Paint," which only becomes visible in certain weather conditions, like ice crystals that only become visible on the road when it's cold outside to warn people of the danger, they say.

Sounds like crazy talk that will never see the light of day, right? Wrong. The dynamic paint and glowing road concepts will be put to use later this year on roadways in Holland, Popular Science reported. As for some of their more out-there ideas — like roads that use magnetic fields to charge your car
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that's hilarious, the Sandy video tagged as Alaska quake footage. oh wait, no, it's pretty sad :/
sheesh folks...
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In 2003, i sensed a 6,5 earthquake here in DR, and i was stand in the balcony of my house and i saw the same kind of blink of light, in the mountains of the north of my city, and don't think this is a conspiracy LOL
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Right... but not like this.
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Well, there was an explosion at Con Ed during Sandy.

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Quoting JustPlantIt:

They flooded... they did not explode.

Well, there was an explosion at Con Ed during Sandy.
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Quoting JustPlantIt:

Eat it....
They flooded... they did not explode.
And that huge fire... didn't light up clouds.
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M7.5 - 94km W of Craig, Alaska
2013-01-05 08:58:19 UTC


Tectonic Summary

The January 5, 2013 M 7.5 earthquake off the west coast of southeastern Alaska occurred as a result of shallow strike-slip faulting on or near the plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates. At the location of this earthquake, the Pacific plate is moving approximately northwestward with respect to the North America plate at a velocity of 51 mm/yr.

This earthquake is likely associated with relative motion across the Queen Charlotte fault system offshore of Alaska and British Columbia, Canada, which forms the major expression of the Pacific:North America plate boundary in this region. The surrounding area of the plate boundary has hosted 8 earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater over the past 40 years; In 1949, a M 8.1 earthquake occurred close to the Pacific:North America plate boundary approximately 230 km to the south east of the January 5 earthquake, as a result of strike-slip faulting. In October of 2012, a M 7.8 earthquake occurred approximately 330 km to the south east of the January 5 event, slightly inboard of the plate boundary, and was associated with oblique-thrust faulting. The latter earthquake was likely an expression of the oblique component of deformation along this plate boundary system. The January 5, 2013 earthquake is related to that Haida Gwai earthquake three months previously, and is an expression of deformation along the same plate boundary system.

The January 5 event broke a fault approximately 50 km in length, and slipped 7-8 m. Aftershocks of the earthquake can be seen here.
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675. Skyepony (Mod)
~
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

That's a video of the explosion in NYC during Hurricane Sandy.
Eat it....
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Quoting pcola57:



Thanks alot Skye..
I looked and saw sooo many are completed..
Doesn't state how many, but more than I can count looking at my cheapo monitor.. LOL..
I'm hoping that funding is already in place for the completion of the Project..
If not..gonna be a long time before funding anything (sadly) would be available ..JMO

If you happen to know if funding is already there,I would love to hear about it..
Thanks in advance Skye..


I found it Skye..
They are in place and just waiting on programming..
The one in Puerto Rico will be critical..

Thanks anyway Skye.. :)
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No gas explosions??? Huge power outages there???
Quoting JustPlantIt:
Know anything about lights and a video shot in Juneau, AK?


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Know anything about lights and a video shot in Juneau, AK?
Quoting Levi32:


The Tsunami Warning was canceled. No tidal waves over 6 inches were observed after the event. The shaking was intense in southeast Alaska but there have been no reports of injuries or significant damage. Looks like we dodged a bullet.

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670. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

That's a video of the explosion in NYC during Hurricane Sandy.


Looking at Juneau news I'm not seeing reports of explosions or power outages there.
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Quoting OracleDeAtlantis:
Blue transformers blowing up? Palm trees in western Canada?

Come on, do your homework Skye.


Some kinds of palm trees can grow on the western coast of Canada, provided they are properly planted and well tended. I don't think they would start growing there on their own, but they can be cultivated there.

Be mindful, I have no idea about the authenticity of the video, I'm just pointing out that palm trees cannot confirm or disprove it either.

Link
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668. Skyepony (Mod)
A valley resident emailed the Empire to say the quake "shook my Juneau home violently enough to awaken the entire family. No apparent damage."

“It woke everybody up,” 20-year Craig resident Bob Claus said in a telephone interview Saturday morning, “It was a long one. Things were falling off shelves. It was definitely the biggest I’ve ever felt.”

Claus said he didn’t see a tsunami come into Craig. He said he lives on a hill so he didn’t have to evacuate, though dozens of people left homes nearer the water.

“There was more traffic than anybody’s seen in Craig at night,” Claus said, “And it was all heading out of town an up into the hills.”
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Quoting PlazaRed:

Possible solution:-
Lets ask Levi, hes up there in Alaska and more or less certainly doesn't work for the dark forces, Haarp or the CIA, he is the man on the ground so:-
Levi what happened with that earthquake earlier? Have you heard anything interesting to do with it?
Another point is that if there was a tsunami, was there any damage and what about that Shell drilling ship on the rocks of Kodiak island?


The Tsunami Warning was canceled. No tidal waves over 6 inches were observed after the event. The shaking was intense in southeast Alaska but there have been no reports of injuries or significant damage. Looks like we dodged a bullet.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26754
Post 666!
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Wind advisory is still in effect for all islands of Hawaii until tonight. The 1034 mb high pressure ridge northeast of Hawaii is bringing strong trade winds to Hawaii until early next week.

URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HONOLULU HI
517 AM HST SAT JAN 5 2013

...HIGH WIND WARNING FOR THE HALEAKALA SUMMIT AREA...
...WIND ADVISORY FOR ALL THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS...

.HIGH PRESSURE NORTH OF THE STATE WILL KEEP STRONG TRADE WINDS
ACROSS THE MAIN HAWAIIAN ISLANDS...AND VERY STRONG WINDS OVER THE
HALEAKALA SUMMIT AREA TODAY.

HIZ001>021-023>027-060400-
/O.CON.PHFO.WI.Y.0001.000000T0000Z-130106T0400Z/
NIIHAU-KAUAI WINDWARD-KAUAI LEEWARD-KAUAI MOUNTAINS-
OAHU SOUTH SHORE-WAIANAE COAST-OAHU NORTH SHORE-OAHU KOOLAU-
OLOMANA-CENTRAL OAHU-WAIANAE MOUNTAINS-MOLOKAI WINDWARD-
MOLOKAI LEEWARD-LANAI MAKAI-LANAI MAUKA-KAHOOLAWE-
MAUI WINDWARD WEST-MAUI LEEWARD WEST-MAUI CENTRAL VALLEY-
WINDWARD HALEAKALA-LEEWARD HALEAKALA-KONA-SOUTH BIG ISLAND-
BIG ISLAND NORTH AND EAST-KOHALA-BIG ISLAND INTERIOR-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...LIHUE...PRINCEVILLE...POIPU...WAIMEA...
HANAPEPE...KOKEE STATE PARK...HONOLULU...WAIKIKI...HAWAII KAI...
KAPOLEI...NANAKULI...MAKAHA...HALEIWA...WAIALUA.. .KAHUKU...
PUNALUU...LAIE...KAILUA...KANEOHE...WAIMANALO...M ILILANI...
WAHIAWA...PEARL CITY...MAKAKILO...KALAUPAPA...KAUNAKAKAI...
MANELE...LANAI CITY...WAILUKU...LAHAINA...KAANAPALI...KAHULUI...
HANA...MAKAWAO...KIHEI...MAKENA...KAILUA-KONA...M ILOLII...
SOUTH POINT...PAHALA...HILO...VOLCANO...HONOKAA...KAMUEL A...
WAIKOLOA...BRADSHAW FIELD...SADDLE ROAD ABOVE 5000 FEET
517 AM HST SAT JAN 5 2013

...WIND ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 PM HST THIS EVENING...

A WIND ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 PM HST THIS EVENING.

* WINDS...EAST 20 TO 35 MPH WITH LOCALIZED GUSTS OVER 50 MPH.

* TIMING...THROUGH THIS EVENING.

* IMPACTS...WINDS THIS STRONG CAN BRING DOWN TREE BRANCHES...
PRODUCE LOCAL POWER OUTAGES AND MAKE DRIVING DIFFICULT...
ESPECIALLY FOR HIGH PROFILE VEHICLES.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WIND ADVISORY MEANS THAT SUSTAINED WINDS OF AT LEAST 30 MPH...
OR GUSTS OF AT LEAST 50 MPH...ARE EXPECTED. MOTORISTS SHOULD USE
EXTRA CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.

&&

$$
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting Patrap:


Morning Pat..
You getting any of that moisture?
I've got dark clouds all around here but nada..
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Quoting Skyepony:


How about a better angle? Just bringing what's being discussed here.


That's a video of the explosion in NYC during Hurricane Sandy.
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Quoting Skyepony:


That plan is pending. Look here on Page 2.




Thanks alot Skye..
I looked and saw sooo many are completed..
Doesn't state how many, but more than I can count looking at my cheapo monitor.. LOL..
I'm hoping that funding is already in place for the completion of the Project..
If not..gonna be a long time before funding anything (sadly) would be available ..JMO

If you happen to know if funding is already there,I would love to hear about it..
Thanks in advance Skye..
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Quoting JustPlantIt:
Now that looked like an underground gas line. Not what I saw in the prior video. That first video Lit even the low groundcover clouds up. Not the same video and I appreciate that. Should be damage from this... not hearing it.


Possible solution:-
Lets ask Levi, hes up there in Alaska and more or less certainly doesn't work for the dark forces, Haarp or the CIA, he is the man on the ground so:-
Levi what happened with that earthquake earlier? Have you heard anything interesting to do with it?
Another point is that if there was a tsunami, was there any damage and what about that Shell drilling ship on the rocks of Kodiak island?
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Nearly 70F in N GA :

Beautiful, if it wont snow it needs to be warm.
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Now that looked like an underground gas line. Not what I saw in the prior video. That first video Lit even the low groundcover clouds up. Not the same video and I appreciate that. Should be damage from this... not hearing it.
Quoting Skyepony:


How about a better angle? Just bringing what's being discussed here.


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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

He was criticizing the National Hurricane Center for the forecast track for Sandy a few days before it made landfall, and he was saying they were forecasting it to be a non-event, so I took a quote from one of their discussions from the morning of the track, which specifically stated they were expecting Sandy to be very impactful to the Northeast USA coastline, and sent it to him. The guy blocked me a few minutes later after calling me an "unreal apologist".

Track forecast:



Lol. Funny. He's always been one to reject anything out of conformity with his opinion. That's one of the reasons most people have to "suck up to him" to get in his good graces. Otherwise it's hard to become friends.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26754
655. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting pcola57:


And thats only 48 miles from me..
Is this a move to carpet the GOM with them?
Man..that would be very good news if so..


That plan is pending. Look here on Page 2.

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Quoting Levi32:


Well it will probably be at the very least another week or week and a half. When this big ridge goes up into Alaska in 8-10 days, it will cause cold air to invade the west-central U.S., and this cold might have a chance to come into the eastern U.S. during the following week, but it's not guaranteed.

I should have added the other day, that while my grape hyacinths are blooming here in the Mid Atlantic, as they did last year, they aren't blooming nearly as robustly. So it leaves open the possibility in my mind that our winter here in the East won't be as mild as last year. Last year, after November, we had no winter.

I pray it won't be too mild, as we need something to kill all the ticks, fleas, and those giant mosquitos brought up from Louisiana by hurricane Isaac.
Member Since: August 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 528
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Love how Joe Bastardi blocked me for proving him wrong. To think I actually wanted to meet him one day. All he does is sit around and criticize the National Hurricane Center and other branches of NOAA and the NCDC.
On twitter? Just make a new account, it takes less than a minute lol
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
Quoting Levi32:


I must hear this story. What did you do?

He was criticizing the National Hurricane Center for the forecast track for Sandy a few days before it made landfall, and he was saying they were forecasting it to be a non-event, so I took a quote from one of their discussions from the morning of the track, which specifically stated they were expecting Sandy to be very impactful to the Northeast USA coastline, and sent it to him. The guy blocked me a few minutes later after calling me an "unreal apologist".

Track forecast:

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Quoting ScottLincoln:

EVX is Eglin Air Force Base, near De Funiak Springs, FL.


And thats only 48 miles from me..
Is this a move to carpet the GOM with them?
Man..that would be very good news if so..
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650. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting OracleDeAtlantis:
Blue transformers blowing up? Palm trees in western Canada?

Come on, do your homework Skye.


How about a better angle? Just bringing what's being discussed here.

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Quoting LargoFl:
here is the 2 nws stations getting the dual pol radars this month..................... Dual Pol Upgrade Coming - 1/7 at EVX and 1/21 at MOB...........MOB is probably Mobile..dont know the other one.

EVX is Eglin Air Force Base, near De Funiak Springs, FL.
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Quoting Levi32:


Well it will probably be at the very least another week or week and a half. When this big ridge goes up into Alaska in 8-10 days, it will cause cold air to invade the west-central U.S., and this cold might have a chance to come into the eastern U.S. during the following week, but it's not guaranteed.

Thanks Levi.
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