Dark Snow Project: Crowd-Source Funded Science for Greenland

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:03 PM GMT on April 26, 2013

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"There's no place on Earth that is changing faster--and no place where that change matters more--than Greenland." So said 350.org founder Bill McKibben, in a 2012 Rolling Stone magazine interview. As Earth Week 2013 draws to a close, I want to draw your attention to a unique effort to learn more about why Greenland is melting so fast--a crowd-funded research project that anyone can contribute to, which aims to answer the "burning question": How much does wildfire and industrial soot darken the ice, increasing melt? The Dark Snow Project, the first-ever Greenland expedition relying on crowd-source funding, hopes to raise $150,000 to mount a field research campaign to find out. The project is the brainchild of Dr. Jason Box, Professor at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), and one of the world's leading experts on Greenland's glaciers. He has set up a website called darksnowproject.org to help raise the funds for the field campaign, and has raised about half of the needed amount as of mid-April.


Figure 1. Over the course of several years, turbulent water overflow from a large melt lake carved this 60-foot-deep (18.3 meter-deep) canyon in Greenland's Ice Sheet (note people near left edge for scale). Image credit: Ian Joughin, University of Washington.

2012: Unprecedented melting in Greenland
Watching the weather events of 2012 over Greenland made all seasoned climate watchers a little queasy. The vast ice sheet on the island holds enough water to raise global sea levels by 7.36 meters (24.15 feet) were it all to melt, and the ice melt season of 2012 gave notice that an epic melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet may be underway. According to NOAA's 2012 Arctic Report Card, the duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2012 was the longest since satellite observations began in 1979, and the total amount of summer melting was nearly double the previous record, set in 2010 (satellite records of melting go back to 1979.) A rare, near-ice sheet-wide surface melt event melted 97% of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet on July 11 - 12. While a similar melt event at the summit occurred 1889, but the 1889 event has no basis in the instrumental record from coastal Greenland. It's instead likely that 2012 was Greenland's warmest summer in at least 863 years, since the medieval warm period (see http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=677 and http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=725). The incredibly warm temperatures have been blamed on highly unusual atmospheric circulation and jet stream changes, which were also responsible for 2012's unusually wet summer weather in England. It would not be a surprise if this sort of summer began occurring more often, since temperatures on top of the Greenland Ice Sheet have been rising six times faster than the global average during the past twenty years. A May 2013 Geophysical Research Letters paper by McGrath et al., "Recent warming at Summit, Greenland: Global context and implications", concluded that by 2025, there is a 50% chance of ice sheet-wide melt events happening annually. The ice sheet reached its darkest value on record in 2012. The darkened surface was due to below average summer snow, soot particles from pollution and forest fires, and record melting. A darker ice sheet absorbs more solar energy, in a vicious cycle that raises temperatures, melts more ice, and further darkens the ice sheet. The amount of melting that was caused by soot from forest fires is important to know, since global warming is likely to increase the amount of forest fires in coming decades. However, the amount of forest fire soot landing on the Greenland Ice Sheet is almost completely unknown, which is why Dr. Box is determined to find out, via the Dark Snow Project.


Figure 2. Smoke from a fire in Labrador, Canada wafts over the Greenland ice sheet on June 17, 2012, as seen in this cross-section view of aerosol particles taken by NASA's CALIPSO satellite. Image credit: Dr. Jason Box, Ohio State University.

Greenland causing 25% of global sea level rise
In a landmark study published in November 2012 in Science, 47 researchers from 26 laboratories reported that the amount of ice being lost from Greenland and Antarctica has tripled since the 1990s, with Greenland contributing more than twice as much to global sea level rise than Antarctica. The study, "A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance", found that the two ice sheets were responsible for 20% of the global sea level rise of 3.1 mm/year during the 20-year period 1992 - 2011. The remainder of the rise was due to expansion of the water due to heating of the oceans, melting of mountain glaciers, and unsustainable pumping of ground water. Said co-author Erik Ivins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "The pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s." As of 2011, Greenland's contribution to global sea level rise on its own had risen to 20 - 25%, according to an international research group led by the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, in an article published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters on 1 June 2012. If the current exponential ice loss trends continue for the next ten years, Greenland's contribution to sea level rise will double to 1.4 mm/yr by 2022, the researchers said. Many sea level rise researchers expect global sea level to rise by about 1 meter (3.3 feet) by 2100. During the 20th century, global sea level rise was about 0.18 meters (7 inches.)


Figure 3. Monthly smoothed (purple) and unsmoothed (blue) values of the total mass lost from the Greenland Ice Sheet (in Gigatons, Gt) from measurements by the GRACE satellites between March 2002-September 2012. An approximate equivalent global sea level rise figure is on the right axis. Note that the decline in ice mass lost from Greenland is not a straight line--it is exponential, meaning that more ice loss is lost each year than in the previous year. Image credit: 2012 Arctic Report Card.

Will Antarctica be more important than Greenland for sea level rise?
Although melting from Greenland is currently raising global sea level by about a factor of two more than Antarctica melting is, that situation may change later this century. A 2013 study by Dahl-Jensen et al. looked at a new ice core drilled from the bottom-most depths of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The core suggests that the ice in Greenland may have partially survived the warm Eemian period before the Ice Age, approximately 118,000 - 126,000 years ago, when Greenland temperatures were 5- 8°C warmer than present-day temperatures. Global sea level during the Eemian was 4 - 8 meters (13 - 26 ft) higher than the present sea level, and the scientists estimated that melting from Greenland was responsible for 2 meters (6.6 ft) of this sea level rise. This implies that Antarctica was responsible for 50 - 75% of global sea level rise during the Eemian, and thus we might expect Antarctica to take over as the dominant source of sea level rise later this century, when global temperatures may to rise to levels similar to those experienced during the Eemian.

Related posts
Greenland experiences melting over 97% of its area in mid-July (July 25, 2012)
Record warmth at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet (July 18, 2012)
Unprecedented May heat in Greenland; update on 2011 Greenland ice melt (May, 2012)
Greenland update for 2010: record melting and a massive calving event

Dr. Jason Box's blog on Greenland and the Dark Snow Project is at http://www.meltfactor.org.

The http://www.greenlandmelting.com/ website looks like a great resource for following this year's melt progression in Greenland.


Video 1. Glaciologist Dr. Jason Box and 350.org founder Bill McKibben plug the Darksnow project in this January 2013 video by Peter Sinclair. There's some impressive footage of the record Greenland snow melt of summer 2012 sweeping away a 20-ton tractor that was attempting to repair a bridge washed out by the raging Watson River on July 11, 2012 in Kangerlussauaq, Greenland. The driver escaped unharmed.

Support the Dark Snow Project
One of Dr. Box's collaborators, photographer James Balog, who created the amazing time-lapse Greenland glacier footage in the fantastic 2012 "Chasing Ice" movie, puts it like this: "Working in Greenland these past years has left me with a profound feeling of being in the middle of a decisive historic moment--the kind of moment, at least in geologic terms, that marks the grand tidal changes of history." On that note, I encourage you all to support the Dark Snow Project. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Dark Snow Project Expedition Plan 2013
Prepare and gather science equipment including a field spectrometer, snow and ice coring device, and snow metrics kit.

Travel to Iqualuit, on Baffin Island, Nunavut from home locales in California, Ohio, Michigan, Vermont and rendezvous with Dash-6 "Twin Otter" ski-equipped airplane and flight crew.

Organize cold weather survival kit.

Ferry team from Iqualuit to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

Fly to and land at sampling sites high on the inland ice sheet.

At each site collect snow samples from a snow pit and obtain snow cores to a minimum depth of the previous year's snow surface, and record snow properties.

Transport of team and snow samples to Greenland's capital Nuuk, where the team will rest after hustling at field sites.

Return to Iqualuit, then to respective home locales to start the data analysis and reporting phase of campaign.

Jeff Masters

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332. DDR
Quoting pottery:


Sorry to hear this.
Only 4mm here at Freeport today. 6mm yesterday.

Hope you get some more tomorrow,we had almost 3 inches since Monday.
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Quoting DDR:

Hello pottery
Yes sir it was bad,really bad in the west.Had 3/4 of and inch on my side.


Sorry to hear this.
Only 4mm here at Freeport today. 6mm yesterday.
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Quoting SLU:


Flooded very bad. Must have been a good 2 - 4 inches in some parts today.

I was in Brasso Seco for 3 days.
Heavy up there too.

I wonder when the Insurance Companies are going to start to renege on paying for these floods.

Or will they do the right thing and start trying to lobby Government to stop the fires on the hillsides ????

2" - 4" of rainfall at the start of the season when the ground is dry is nothing compared to what's coming......
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329. DDR
Quoting pottery:

I'm now learning about this....
Coming down from the east this afternoon, the sky in the west was BLACK.
But I didn't realise town had flooded. Again.....

Hello pottery
Yes sir it was bad,really bad in the west.Had 3/4 of and inch on my side.
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328. SLU
Quoting pottery:

I'm now learning about this....
Coming down from the east this afternoon, the sky in the west was BLACK.
But I didn't realise town had flooded. Again.....


Flooded very bad. Must have been a good 2 - 4 inches in some parts today.
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Quoting DDR:

Hey SLU how are you?
I was actually in pos today when it started,south quay looked like an extention of the Gulf of Paria.

I'm now learning about this....
Coming down from the east this afternoon, the sky in the west was BLACK.
But I didn't realise town had flooded. Again.....
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Quoting TomTaylor:
12z GFS is insane. Takes the cut-off low 500hPa anomaly down to -5.9 standard deviations. -5.9 standard deviations is about as low as it gets. 18z is a little less extreme at -4.8 SDs.



What does a height anomaly like that mean for storm development at the surface and its pressures?
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325. etxwx
Not good news for the quake stricken areas in China:

Onset of flood season adds to quake zone risks
By HE DAN in Beijing and AN BAIJIE in Lushan, Sichuan China Daily - 2013-04-26 01:51

Monitoring and prevention efforts will be stepped up as secondary geological events overlapping with the flood season present a tremendous challenge for disaster relief operations in Sichuan province's quake-hit areas, said a senior official of the provincial government on Thursday.

More here.


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324. SLU
Quoting DDR:

I was working in the area when it started to flood,didn't want to stick around,barely made it out too.Yes we're going to see some more showers like August with this heat and humidity.


Yup. That's right.
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Quoting stormchaser19:
Joe Bastardi @BigJoeBastardi
MJO likely to be in hurricane phases 8-3 more often than last year! Rolling into eastern storm phases now

Man!!!!!Everything is pointing for a very active Atlantic Hurricane Season
yes at the moment things look to be interesting very very interesting
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
322. DDR
Quoting SLU:


Yes I saw the pictures of the massive floods from City Gate. That type of weather set up today make it feel like August 26th instead of April 26th. Looks like there's more rain on the way too...

I was working in the area when it started to flood,didn't want to stick around,barely made it out too.Yes we're going to see some more showers like August with this heat and humidity.
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321. SLU
Quoting DDR:

Hey SLU how are you?
I was actually in pos today when it started,south quay looked like an extention of the Gulf of Paria.


Yes I saw the pictures of the massive floods from City Gate. That type of weather set up today make it feel like August 26th instead of April 26th. Looks like there's more rain on the way too...
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320. DDR
Quoting SLU:


Lot's of flooding in Trinidad today. Saw some pics of flooded streets and was amazed. Good thing I got home just before the rain started.

Hey SLU how are you?
I was actually in pos today when it started,south quay looked like an extention of the Gulf of Paria.
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Here are the 500mb Height Anomalies the the day of and the day after formation for a few recent early-season post-frontal/extratropical low (i.e. not initiated by a tropical wave or the ITCZ/monsoon trough) tropical/subtropical developments. The storms included are Alberto, Beryl and Chris (2012); Bret and Cindy (2011), TD 1 (2009); Christobal (2008); Andrea (2007); Beryl (2006); and Bill and Claudette (1997).




This is the kind of set up you want for early season development outside of the deep tropics. Notice the positioning of the ridge to the north and the trough in the west...

Meanwhile, here's what the GEFS shows for next weekend. Notice the ridge in the west and the ridge much further NE around Newfoundland and Greenland. Result is cut-off low in the SE instead of offshore.

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Quoting Walshy:
End of the world coming to western NC next week?




*looks at snow depth map for SE MI*
GFS go home, you're drunk!
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7972
someone going to get lots of rain in the next ten days on the east coast!
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MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0559
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0759 PM CDT FRI APR 26 2013

AREAS AFFECTED...CNTRL AND ERN OK

CONCERNING...SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH 139...

VALID 270059Z - 270300Z

THE SEVERE WEATHER THREAT FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH 139
CONTINUES.

SUMMARY...A FEW SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WILL CONTINUE TO MOVE ESEWD
ACROSS CNTRL OK AND EVENTUALLY E OF THE CURRENT WATCH. A NEW WW MAY
BE REQUIRED BY 03Z.

DISCUSSION...A LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS CURRENTLY EXISTS ALONG AN
ADVANCING COLD FRONT ASSOCIATED WITH THE SHORTWAVE TROUGH. COOLING
ALOFT AND DEEP FORCING FOR ASCENT WILL MAINTAIN THESE STORMS THROUGH
THE EVENING DESPITE A RELATIVELY MARGINAL THERMODYNAMIC ENVIRONMENT
AS SEEN ON 00Z OUN SOUNDING. COUNTERACTING MARGINAL INSTABILITY WILL
ALSO BE AN INCREASING LOW LEVEL JET WITH 30-35 KT SLY FLOW EXPECTED.

THE STRONGEST CELL IS CURRENTLY ENTERING CANADIAN COUNTY WITH LARGE
HAIL AND DAMAGING WIND LIKELY. AT ITS CURRENT SPEED...THIS SEVERE
STORM WILL ENTER WRN OK COUNTY AROUND 845 PM CDT...AND DOWNTOWN OKC
AROUND 900 PM CDT WITH DAMAGING HAIL AND WIND. THIS CELL MAY
EVENTUALLY TURN RIGHT AS THE INCREASING LOW LEVEL JET INCREASES THE
PROPAGATIONAL COMPONENT OF THE MOTION.

..JEWELL.. 04/27/2013
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new kid on the block!
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Quoting Walshy:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Van-Denton-FOX8-WG HP -TV/129607027072350

I can see some similarities.

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Van-Denton-FOX8-WGHP -TV/129607027072350
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311. beell

04/26 12Z ECMWF 500mb heights, MSLP at 168 hrs.
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End of the world coming to western NC next week?



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309. beell
Today's ECMWF's look a little odd-with a weak surface low ADDED: inverted surface trough forming over the gulf on the frontal boundary (?) then traversing across FL. This feature seems to be well removed from the influence of the 500mb system located much farther north and well inland. The surface feature does make a brief appearance on the GFS 850mb vort plot over the central gulf.

GFS cuts off the mid-level low farther south before it begins to retrograde and allows an opportunity for a surface low to form off the east coast.

GFS not offering much of a tropical chance with the cold air sweeping in behind.


04/26 12Z GFS 850mb temps @ 168 hrs

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?????
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MesoWest Jurupa Valley CA US SGXWFO, Riverside, California (PWS)
Updated: 4:49 PM PDT on April 26, 2013
Clear
80 °F
Clear
Humidity: 37%
Dew Point: 51 °F
Wind: 5 mph from the West
Wind Gust: 14.0 mph
Pressure: 30.04 in (Rising)
Heat Index: 80 °F
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 3 out of 16
Pollen: 5.40 out of 12
Pollen Forecast new!
Clouds:
Clear -
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 794 ft

Forecast was 82-83 Airport got 82, here is was 81.2, now 79.6 ....
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I've been referencing that cutoff as the Great Bowling Ball of Doom/Misery lately. Definitely going to be a weathermaker wherever it sets up.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
Quoting beell:
Tom, I could not find a 500hPa std. anom. plot on the site you linked.
Yikes, nice catch. Wish they did include 500hPa. Oh well, I edited the post.
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As of right now, the biggest hindrance for development late next week is the positioning of the height field. Right now we have the low heights setting up primarily over the SE. Ideally, these low heights would be centered along or just off the East coast like we saw last year with Alberto and Beryl. Still, the potential for development is still very real and a lot of uncertainty still remains with the timing and positioning of the cut-off low. Should be a fun week of model watching ahead.

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Considerable disagreement between the 12z runs of the GFS and ECMWF on the positioning of the cut-off low. In 8 days the GFS has the low centered on the Ohio river valley, ECMWF has the low centered on Nebraska. Positioning difference really doesn't come as a surprise, GFS tends to be more progressive than the ECMWF. Interestingly, the GFS and ECMWF were in good agreement on positioning on the 00z cycle (though the ECMWF was considerably weaker). Will be fun to see who wins this battle...

12z GFS/ECMWF 500mb & MSLP Comparison and Difference (click to enlarge)



Regardless of this difference, both models suggest widespread areas of 2-5 inches of rain in the SE over the next 10 days. Favorable locations would likely see over a foot of rain and plenty of flooding.
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302. beell
Quoting 1900hurricane:

Yeah, they're only displaying 850 mb heights from what I can see.


Not to take anything away from the current anomaly chart posted. Certainly worth a mention.
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Quoting beell:
Tom, I could not find a 500hPa std. anom. plot on the site you linked.

Yeah, they're only displaying 850 mb heights from what I can see.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
300. beell
Tom, I could not find a 500hPa std. anom. plot on the site you linked.
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I hope we miss the rains here in NW Georgia guys and gals. Please no 3-6 inch rains here. I can handle a freeze as it will not last but one day and a few short hours. I hope the rains go south,where they need them!!!!!
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Quoting ncstorm:
18z GFS through 240 hours

5" for me? uggg.... I'd rather send it to the plains
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Random tornado report :P



COLD AIR FUNNEL BRIEFLY TOUCHED DOWN.
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12z GFS is insane. Takes the cut-off low 500hPa anomaly down to -5.9 standard deviations. -5.9 standard deviations is about as low as it gets. 18z is a little less extreme at -4.8 SDs.

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Joe Bastardi @BigJoeBastardi
MJO likely to be in hurricane phases 8-3 more often than last year! Rolling into eastern storm phases now

Man!!!!!Everything is pointing for a very active Atlantic Hurricane Season
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293. Skyepony (Mod)
2013 North Pole buoy Cam deployment is under way!!! Cam page..

Here is a sample pic taken April 16th from Webcam #2 monitoring UPMC's Atmospheric Buoy.



Last year they didn't deploy them for another months..the drift for what little bit of April is disturbing..
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Quoting LargoFl:
now IF the sea level rose 24 feet with the complete meltdown of the greenland ice sheet..i'd be ok, im 48 feet above sea level but..only about 4 miles from the gulf AND..i'd be living on an island..many many coastal cities in florida like miami would be gone i guess..nyc etc i dont know..some sections would be under water as would many other coastal cities....i guess thats why this Greenland ice sheet needs to stay frozen..but what can we do?..my guess is no one really knows in the short term


Long before sea levels rose 24 feet we would be out trillions of dollars in taxpayer money to deal with storm surge damage, levee construction, replacement of water sources which become contaminated with salt.

What can we do? We can quit using fossil fuels as rapidly as possible.
Member Since: September 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 134
Might as well post something, its gotten suspiciously quiet here on this blog.
%uFFFD
Severe thunderstorms in Oklahoma right now bloggers!

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Quoting VR46L:
Just Got to wonder How much of an impact would this prediction have on....




This .... Has to Near wipe drought from the East Half of the USA



there's always texas
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16225
18z GFS through 240 hours

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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Hi DDR and pottery. Surely there is plenty of moisture in that area and it appears it will stick around for a while.

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287. VR46L
Just Got to wonder How much of an impact would this prediction have on....




This .... Has to Near wipe drought from the East Half of the USA

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286. SLU
Quoting DDR:

Yes you can!
Look at Trinidad and Tobago and the se Caribbean,we are already double the average rainfall for my location.


Lot's of flooding in Trinidad today. Saw some pics of flooded streets and was amazed. Good thing I got home just before the rain started.
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Quoting SuzK:


So that is where Earth is absorbing the human-produced soot pollution! Ice core drilling must be invaluable there.

So many possibilities with this ice thing that I may not have enough life left to even think about all of them.
One very simple test that everybody can do is put your hand onto the hood/bonnet, whatever you call the parts of a car on a sunny day. The dark ones are hot the light coloured ones are much cooler.
Now if you have millions of square miles of ice with soot on it them, the soot causes the ice to melt, as it does more buried soot is uncovered. Result, larger soot covered areas, more hear absorbsion.
If the Greenland surface has got millions of years of ice, then its got a lot of soot. Very soon the soot will control the global ice melts. Period.
In about 1963 in the north of England it snowed about Christmas and stayed for weeks, There was a virtual thick smog cover so the sunlight looked at best like a dim cigarette glowing in the swirling grey mists of smog. The snow turned virtual black over a few weeks as the thousands of coal burning factories churned out smoke from burning bitumas coal in their steam boilers.
One day the wind came and blew the smog away and the next day the snow was gone and a thick layer of sticky soot covered everything.
Moral of the story, Keep cloud cover permanently over Greenland in the summer and we might have a chance!
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42277

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR PORTIONS OF BOTH CENTRAL
MISSISSIPPI AND NORTHEAST LOUISIANA.

.DAY ONE...TONIGHT AND SATURDAY...

SCATTERED STRONG TO SEVERE STORMS ARE POSSIBLE SATURDAY AFTERNOON
THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING AS A DISTURBANCE AND ASSOCIATED COLD FRONT
PUSHES SOUTH INTO AN UNSTABLE AND SHEARED AIR MASS. THE MOST INTENSE
STORMS ARE EXPECTED TO BE CAPABLE OF DAMAGING WIND GUSTS TO AT LEAST
60 MPH AND LARGE HAIL UP TO THE SIZE OF GOLF BALLS. FREQUENT CLOUD
TO GROUND LIGHTNING STRIKES ARE ALSO EXPECTED.

IN ADDITION...LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL IS EXPECTED SATURDAY AFTERNOON
INTO SATURDAY NIGHT. RAINFALL RATES WILL LIKELY BE HIGH ENOUGH TO
RESULT IN FLASH FLOODING IN A FEW LOCATIONS...WITH ISOLATED RAINFALL
TOTALS UP TO 2 OR 3 INCHES POSSIBLE. SMALL CREEKS... STREAMS...AND
LOW LYING AREAS CAN EXPECT RISES IN WATER LEVELS.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42277
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42277

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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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