The big weather show

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:55 AM GMT on February 01, 2006

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This week marks the largest gathering of meteorologists in the world—the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, in Atlanta, Georgia. The variety and depth of weather knowledge to be gained here are truly remarkable! Here are a few snapshots of what I’ve experienced so far:

What May Mayfield wants engraved on his tombstone
Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center, addressed the conference today to talk about the incredible Hurricane Season of 2005. He noted that forecast track errors were at a record low during 2005, and that we were lucky that the major hurricanes got strong well before they hit. “One of our greatest fears is that people will go to bed at night expecting a Category 1, and wake up to an Andrew or Katrina”, he cautioned. He added: “I want it engraved on my tombstone, DON’T FOCUS ON THE CENTER BLACK LINE! Pay attention to the cone of probability when looking at hurricane forecast tracks.”


Figure 1. May Mayfield tells the American Meteorological Society audience what he wants engraved on his tombstone.

Record rains in India
Sanjiv Nair from the Department of Science and Technology in New Delhi, India, analyzed the remarkable July monsoon rainstorm that drenched parts of Bombay with more than one meter of rain in 24 hours. The rain fell from an unusual small-scale eddy in the monsoon flow that only affected a 20x20 km area. Southern portions of Bombay received only 7 cm of rain from the storm!

Hurricane Stan's effect on Guatemala
E. Hardie Sanchez-Bennett of Guatemala’s Instituto Nacional de Sismolog described the devastation wrought by Hurricane Stan in that country. Stan killed over 1500 and caused $1 billion in damage to Guatemala, a staggering toll for such a poor country. Sanchez-Bennett indicated that as a result, funding for Guatemala’s first ever weather radars—one for each coast—had been procured, and the radars would be installed within a year’s time. When I talked to him afterwards, he promised to provide the radar data to the Weather Underground when it became available.

VORTEX2
Tornado scientists Josh Wurman and Erik Rasmussen outlined VORTEX2, the most ambitious field program ever designed to study tornadoes. VORTEX2 is planned for 2008, and hopes to have a armada of 40 vehicles on the ground, including seven mobile Doppler radars. A fleet of weather research aircraft in the skies will add air support, and forays by unmanned Aerosonde aircraft—like the one that flew into Hurricane Ophelia in 2005—are planned. The study may also use a swarm of locust-sized unmanned aircraft to fly through super-cell thunderstorms.



The NOAA weather ball
Finally, the exhibit area had the coolest computer screen ever—a spherical 5-foot diameter “weather ball” that NOAA featured. The weather ball hung suspended in mid-air, and displayed a variety of animations. Included were the 2005 hurricane season, El-Nino data, weather on the sun, and a rotating Mars. It was awesome to be able to walk around all sides of the sphere and check out what was going on, on the other side of the planet!

Jeff Masters

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66. TampaSteve
9:25 PM GMT on February 02, 2006
Hey Tucson...that's pretty freakin' dry...like Atacama dry...wow!
65. ForecasterColby
5:47 PM GMT on February 02, 2006
Wow...amazing stats, Tucson.

That cyclone is now at 80mph (10 minute average, more like 90 for the one-minute averages used here)
64. FtWaltonBch2Tucson
4:43 PM GMT on February 02, 2006
Well, I'm back after two days of a NASTY cold. Local weatherman here in Tucson had some depressing stats:

This is the driest January on record: since we have had /no/ rain, this is not that surprising. What /did/ catch my eye was when he stressed we had not tied a record. Since we have been keeping records we have always had at least a trace of rain in January. Not this year.

This is the driest December-January on record: Again, with only a .04 trace of rain overnight in Dec, not too surprising, but the fact that it wasn't a tie again caught my eye.

This is the second driest October-January on record. Evidently we /have/ had one year in the last 140 that has had less than .34" in this stretch of time. I had to leave the room before they said what year it was (I was on break at work).

As of today, Tucson has gone 108 days without getting more than .10" and 154 days without .25".
Member Since: January 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 21
63. dallastornado1957
2:00 PM GMT on February 02, 2006
Weatherguy- then please pass on the word, and the hat. I told LLT that I'll contribute the first $100 along with the two airline tickets.

Can you give us the details of your internship?
62. weatherguy03
1:55 PM GMT on February 02, 2006
Very nice Dallas!! I gained valuable experience during my first weather internship during college. I hope this works out!!!
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 592 Comments: 29705
61. dallastornado1957
1:03 PM GMT on February 02, 2006
Weatherunderground staff: Some of the users on the Weatherunderground blogs are folks who are mild fanatics, others are truly impressive amateur (meaning "unpaid") forecasters. Some of the old folks commented that they wanted to work in the field of weather research but lacked the money or support to study further.

We have several younger members who are very focused and dedicated to the practice of weather.

I work in business. Over the last 15 years and three jobs, all of my employers, public and private sector, have had intern programs during the summer to support continuing education in respective fields.

Does Weatherunderground have an summer intern program? If not, are you interested in setting one up? Toward that end, I am willing to donate the air mileage on American Airlines for two round-trip coach tickets in North America .

WHAT DOES EVERYBODY THINK?

DallasTornado1957
59. Fshhead
10:02 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
Curious,
Let me 1st say that was no photo op, that was a State Of The Union Address. Even though he will not be there, at least he got the ball rolling. I know that his reasons were not climate change!!! Lets be real here. I think they finallly realized the money potential this market presents. I have stated ALL the reasons I think that the switch is needed in my blog.Oh by the way, the mistake of the past, not MY mistake LOL Rest assured I will vote along my usual party lines LOL
LOL I STILL cannot believe I heard those words come out of his mouth LOL U.S.A.!!U.S.A.!!!U.S.A.!!!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
58. CuriousCat
3:51 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
To those of you (ie fsshead) who are encouraged by the State of the Union speech and who now think that G.W. is your new friend in the climate change challenge, think again! He proposed a 6 year plan. UUUH, he's not going to be in office that long. Translation: He doesn't have to deliver! He's all bark and no bite when it comes to energy conservation and research.

Plus, his JUSTIFICATION for increasing research for alternative fuels is not related to climate change. He has already turned his back on the world to the idea that we would decrease our dependence on oil for that reason. He's not one to change his tune. NO, instead he claims to want to save the U.S. economy that he broke by adding cheaper fuel alternatives, and also decrease our dependence on oil from unstable countries that don't like us (also a problem he exacerbated).

So don't fool yourselves into thinking that good ol' gas guzzling G.W. accepts climate change as a fact, and that he's ready to help. He's just trying to make you happy so you'll vote Republican in the next election. DRRRR. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past. Actions speak louder than words, folks!
57. HurricaneMyles
3:18 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
I didn't relize that storm was so small until I took a better look at it. It could spin up rather quickly being so small...or it could fizzle, but either way it will be interesting to watch.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
56. HurricaneMyles
3:09 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
Wow, looking pretty impressive on microwave; starting to develope an eye/eyewall. Looks to be either a min cat 1 or will be soon. Could be possible to see this thing blow up, that'd be cool to see on the other side of the world.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
55. ForecasterColby
2:29 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
Check out TC Boloetse!



This only regenerated a day or so ago...wow.
53. TampaSteve
2:01 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
I want a weather ball!!! Maybe one about 2 feet in diameter...I could have it on a stand next to the computer. "Hey, anyone wanna know the SSTs off the coast of Pensacola...or Miami...or Sydney???"
52. Skyepony (Mod)
1:41 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
Check out the models~ 100hrs & more out on the gfs, ukmet & nogaps hinting at a possible storm (most models look more sub-tropical) forming off the tail end of the front moving past Maine right now.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 175 Comments: 38212
51. Trouper415
1:08 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
Cyclonebuster,

I as well like your idea and think it is very inovative and has the possibility to be successful if the cards fall right. I would like it to be on a smaller scale however producing only electricity, not slowing down something of the magnitude of a hurricane. Hurricanes are the greatest forces to impact the earth that the earth creates. Hurricanes have a global impact whenever they occur, not just a direct effect on the effected area ie: by wind, waves etc. They effect wind and weather patterns thousands of miles away, so altering something of that magnitude putting it lightly is something I wouldnt dare to mess with.

Giants in 06
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 637
50. hpbear
1:04 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
i wish I was there, for more than a few reasons... but I have to admit that weather ball would be cool teaching tool not only in the meteo classes, but also in all science classes that feature the environment.

as for getting model displays on there, I would love to see how operational global forecast models would look on there. I could even see someday a multi-layered weather office with desks near the different parts of the world they were responsible for, be able to change between composite sattelites to model data to surface analyses. of course the ball would probably be larger than 5ft diameter to do it, but talk about the future of the weather office. that would be the biggest eye-opener of a weather office to have that type of view on the world and to keep the weather in its proper perspective...
Member Since: May 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
48. KatrinaRitaWilmaZeta
11:38 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
when is spring time
47. HurricaneMyles
11:12 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
Also, those of you interested in winter, its going to make a return this weekend. Should get pretty cold for those of you who like it that way. Personally I'll stay in FL where its in the 70's and perfect.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
46. Skyepony (Mod)
7:37 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
It's not quite the weatherball, but NOAA's new Real-Time Ocean Forecast System, is now available. Link ~ The options of whole ocean to gulf size maps is great (for those vince like storms). There's different graphics too. I think I like my SST forecast in 3-D. Check out the gulf stream current, salinities (went 3-D here too). Also has Heights, Mixed Layer Depths & currents. Pretty extensive with now to 120hr forecasts & many at different depths of the ocean.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 175 Comments: 38212
45. Inyo
6:55 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
cyclone, what i am saying is that if it has significant effects on our climate, i don't support it, period. i dont think we should be trying to cool areas of the ocean any more than we should be dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. if it is actually found to have an effect on the thermohaline circulation, or cool large areas of water, it could have drastic effects which could be very bad.

Like people have been saying, we don't know much about how the climate works, really. we shouldnt try to 'fix' it other than to stop doing things that may be harmful, in my opinion.

as for the mediterranean storm.. that is really neat. I once saw a satellite picture of one like that hitting San Francisco.. but i was never able to find the image again. Apparently it was near hurricane force when it hit (although it was not tropical)
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
44. HurricaneMyles
6:26 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
Very interesting. It does certainly look to be somehwat of a subtropical cyclone. Going to run out of real estate soon. These kinds of things aren't too rare, but always neat to see.

Another cool thing about that loop is that you can see a S. Hemisphere cyclone near Madigascar that is definetly tropical. In fact, it looks like a decent tropical storm to me. Probably around 55-60 mph.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
43. ForecasterColby
5:42 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
Oh and that's a cyclone off Madagascar, just so you know.
42. ForecasterColby
5:37 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
O_O

There's an extremely interesting storm in the southern Mediterrainean...it's not tropical, but it really looks subtropical to me.

**This image has been removed because it is copyrighted. Please use NOAA imagery**
40. globalize
4:55 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
sunlakedude- your comment is pretty much correct, particularly because he sits in a position of such influence. But the frenzied mindset of speculation and greed is endemic in this country, from oil to housing to gambling, to the 'Antiques Road Show'!!!
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
39. Inyo
4:50 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
i would only support use of the tunnels for electricity generation. i don't support intentional meddling in climate in any way other than to decrease CO2 emissions.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
38. OGal
4:12 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
Dr. Jeff, alot of cool things going on in your world. I agree with Dr. Max. I too get caught up in the black line. I think we all do, hoping upon hope, that we will not be hit. Well, onward and upward into a new hurricane season. Just promise you won't go anywhere from June until January of 2007. Just kidding--no I'm not!!
Member Since: August 28, 2005 Posts: 72 Comments: 19223
37. natemann133
2:59 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
lol great tombstone quote by Mayfield
35. HurricaneMyles
2:46 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
Inyo, Hawaii has something simliar to buster's idea but its for pure elctrical generation and doesn't use the temp gradient of the water. THey use the warm suface to water to power traditional turbines to make the electricity.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
34. sunlakedude
2:09 PM GMT on February 01, 2006
> Fshhead (New Energy Policies)
Are you talking about the State Of the Union address last night? If so, how about "Too little, too late"? The only way this Administration is going to get behind sustainable energy is if somebody can get rich off of it, preferrably one of his friends!


Member Since: March 13, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 84
33. Jeptic
10:29 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Purdy ball...

but Dr. Mayfield, that fear of going to bed at 8.30 with Tropical Storm Emily way down here in Grenada was realized when family woke me up minutes later to tell me there was a strong Cat 1 possibly Cat 2 hurricane coming ashore!
I really do wish there was some intensity radar


32. Inyo
7:51 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
i seriously remember my friend telling me htat a small-scale version of something like these tunnels was built in Hawaii.. i will try to get the info from him
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
31. Skyepony (Mod)
6:18 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Here's a page of what info NASA is presenting this week at the meeting. Haven't run across any more about the weather ball.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 175 Comments: 38212

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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.