New England flooding, air pollution, and the season's first typhoon

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:05 PM GMT on May 15, 2006

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Major flooding has hit southern New Hampshire, southwest Maine, and northeast Massachussetts today, where more than 10 inches of rain has fallen in the past four days. The culprit is a "cut off low", a large low pressure system over the Great Lakes that got separated from the jet stream on Thursday, and has stayed almost stationary since since then, with no upper level winds to push it along. The counter-clockwise flow of air around the low has drawn copious amounts of moist oceanic air over New England. The rains from this moisture have brought the Warner river at Davisville and the Smith River at Bristol to flood stage this morning. With another 1-2 inches of rain expected across the region today, these rivers should crest several feet above flood stage, with moderate to major flooding. The cut-off low is expected to drift slowly northeastward today and get re-absorbed by the jet stream on Tuesday, which will finally bring an end to the worst of the rains. Howver, the weather pattern over the next week is expected to remain wet over the eastern half of the U.S., and more rain is expected in the Northeast later this week as the jet stream continues to remain in a typical Springtime active pattern.

Figure 1. Rainfall amounts for New England estimated by radar, ending at 8:30am EDT Monday May 15.

Air pollution season is here
May marks the beginning of air pollution season in the U.S., when summertime brings the hot temperatures, high amounts of UV radiation, and stagnant air that can trigger air pollution "Action Days". This week marks the annual observance of Air Pollution Awareness week, and at EPA's request, I will be writing several blogs highlighting air pollution. In particular, I'll discuss why one of NOAA's P-3 hurricane hunter airplanes will be in Texas for air pollution research this hurricane season, instead of flying hurricanes.

Quick intro on air pollution
Today, I'll present a quick summary of what pollutants we're concerned about. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates the Air Quality Index (AQI) for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Ozone and particle pollution are the two most serious pollutants in the U.S. Particle pollution alone has been estimated to cause over 20,000 premature deaths the U.S. each year, and 800,000 worldwide (although the exact mortality numbers and definition of "premature deaths" is controversial).

Ozone is a colorless gas composed of three atoms of oxygen. Ozone forms both in the Earth's upper atmosphere and at the surface. Where ozone forms determines whether it is helpful or harmful to your health.

Good ozone naturally forms in the stratosphere, a layer of air about 10 - 30 miles (16 - 48 km) above Earth's
surface. This protective layer shields us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Without this layer, we would all be blinded and sunburned. Unfortunately, human-created chemicals are destroying this beneficial layer of ozone. Over the South Pole in springtime, the ozone loss is so severe that an "Ozone Hole" forms, letting significant amounts of harmful ultraviolet light reach the surface.

Ozone from the stratosphere sometimes gets transported to the surface, particularly in high mountainous regions. Hikers on Mt. Everest who don't use bottled oxygen can be at risk of death from breathing poisonous levels of ozone near the mountain's summit in some weather conditions.

Bad ozone forms near Earth's surface when the ultraviolet light in sunlight triggers a chemical reaction with "precursor pollutants" emitted by cars, power plants, and industrial sources. These precursor pollutants consist of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic hydrocarbons (VOC). Ozone near ground level is a harmful pollutant. Ozone pollution isn't limited to big cities like Los Angeles, Houston and New York. It's also found in smaller cities like Raleigh, NC and Cincinnati, OH. It can be a problem in rural areas, including some national parks. Ozone and the pollutants that react to form it (NOx and VOCs) can also be carried on the wind to affect air quality in urban and rural areas hundreds of miles away.

Particle pollution is a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets suspended in air. This pollution, also known as particulate matter, is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust particles, and allergens (such as fragments of pollen or mold spores). Unlike summertime ozone, particle pollution can occur year-round. It is worst in summer, though, when winds are lighter and the air becomes more stagnant.

Particles come in a wide range of sizes. Fine particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. How small is that? About 1/30th the diameter of the average human hair--so small, you'd need an electron microscope to see them.

Some fine particles can be emitted directly (think of smoke from a woodstove). But most are formed secondarily from complex atmospheric reactions of gases such as NOx and sulfur dioxide (SO2), that are emitted from power plants, industries, cars, buses and trucks. These fine particles are the worst for your health, since their small size allows then to penetrate deep into your lungs.

Inhalable coarse particles are larger than 2.5 and up to 10 micrometers in diameter. Sources of coarse particles include crushing or grinding operations and dust stirred up by vehicles traveling on roads. These particles are not as injurious to your health, as their large size allows them to be filtered out more readily by your nose before they reach your lungs.

Typhoon Chanchu
The season's first typhoon, a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds named Chanchu, has turned north, and is now threatening to strike Hong Hong on Wednesday. Chanchu briefly made it to supertyphoon status on Sunday, when it had 150 mph sustained winds and a 910 mb central pressure. This was good enough for a Category 4 rating on the U.S. Saffir-Simpson scale, but not Category 5--which starts at 156 mph. A supertyphoon is defined as any tropical cyclone in the Western Pacific that attains maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. It is not unusual to get a supertyphoon in May, and this last happened in 2004, when Supertyphoon Nida reached Category 5 status with sustained winds of 160 mph. I'll have more on Typhoon Chanchu tomorrow.

Figure 2. Typhoon Chanchu at peak intensity Sunday, with 150 mph sustained winds and a 910 mb pressure.

Jeff Masters

Spicket River Rises (sabre1100)
Prime water front property for a barbain price no doubt
Spicket River Rises
York Beach flooding (SkyLazaria)
Mothers Day flooding in York Beach, Maine.
York Beach flooding

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428. Levi32
7:52 AM AKDT on May 16, 2006
How do you post those regional radar images when the entire picture is full of links?
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26754
427. Cancunguy
10:43 AM CDT on Mayo 16, 2006
We are thankful for last nights rain in the Yucatan. It helped put out some nasty fires that had been burning for a while. The tropical rainforests had been rendered dry from Emily and Wilma last year!

This kind of rain, with no hurricane strength winds and no storm surge are always welcome.
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426. TampaSteve
2:04 PM GMT on May 16, 2006
Finally getting some more, much-needed, rain here in Tampa...
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425. weatherguy03
9:52 AM EDT on May 16, 2006
Posted By: snowboy at 12:26 AM EDT on May 16, 2006.
Hey folks, not to be a nag but remember Dr. Masters' post about trying to keep chit chat off this main blog? Just logged on and scrolled through a great many posts, with not much substantive weather-related content in evidence

Do you ever have any constructive to say? It was late at night and they were having fun, leave them alone..LOL When you make the rules, then we will listen to you..LOL Have a nice day! Go Rain!
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424. desertdisaster
1:46 PM GMT on May 16, 2006
How the 2006 Hurricane Season Will Compare to the 2005 Season...

Following on the heels of 2005's record-shattering hurricane season, 2006 will feature fewer storms, but will still be a season of above-average storm frequency. "There were 28 named storms last year, and we are expecting far fewer storms during this season. But keep in mind that it is not the number of storms that is significant, it is where they make landfall that sets the tone for the season,

See the landfall prdiction here:

Full story here:

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423. arcturus
6:08 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
This years story is dry as a desert or wet as a rainforest.

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422. ProgressivePulse
6:07 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Nothing like a white out in South Fla, haha.
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421. ProgressivePulse
6:02 AM GMT on May 16, 2006

Ummmm I Think we'll finally get some rain, what do you think? lol!
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420. arcturus
5:47 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Latest radar snapshot.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
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419. arcturus
5:38 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
That's one large thunderstorm complex moving due north towards flood ravaged Rhode Island in the next hour...not good.

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418. Alec
12:43 AM EDT on May 16, 2006
417. taco2me61
4:41 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Well good nite all I will be chating tomorrow...
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416. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
9:37 PM PDT on May 15, 2006
well look likesome one love me lol
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415. taco2me61
4:31 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Can anyone tell me if the blob that is coming across Mexico going to have a chance once it gets in the Gulf???

Now I do understand that the sheer is still out there but I think some of yall said that the sheer would slow down...

just wondering
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413. snowboy
4:01 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Hey folks, not to be a nag but remember Dr. Masters' post about trying to keep chit chat off this main blog? Just logged on and scrolled through a great many posts, with not much substantive weather-related content in evidence.

It might have been better to actually take up TacoBlizzard's invitation and move the chat there. Not a big issue now, but increasingly so as the tropics heat up. Ok?
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412. taco2me61
3:56 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
You too Ryan,

I do hope you get some rain, just not flooding if you know what I mean...

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411. ProgressivePulse
3:48 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
That is the truth Taco, not all at one time, BUT, we'll take what we can get when we can get it. I am thinking we'll get a little less punch that is forcasted. In my local area anyway, south and north counties already have 3 inches today. Have to see what the day brings tomorrow, good to chat with everyone, have a good night!

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3:49 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
my home lost the roof, and had a tree fall and take out my window unit A/C which in turn pulled the window out of the house, and i lost my car..but other than that i was blessed compared to many other people!!! and all the stoplights are up and running in most places..stop signs are up where there used to be stoplights
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409. louastu
3:48 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Or to mine.

Oh wait, I haven't posted anything yet.
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408. Alec
11:49 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
darn! parts my posts are disappearing!!!Im gone for real(in the safety of my safeharbor blog) SOMEONES STALKING MY POSTS!!
407. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
3:47 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
GPTGUY how your home doing? did they get all the stoplight back up and working?
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406. Alec
11:47 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
TB- you left out the part where it said !!!lol

sorry for the off topic posts, im gonna have a timeout in my blog!.....whoooooosh!
404. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
3:45 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Posted By: Alec at 3:44 AM GMT on May 16, 2006.
WELL guys lets all come to my blog!!!lol

or to my blog lol

sorry i had to say it
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3:43 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Biloxi is doing ok revenue in the city is up as it is in Gulfport...3 of Biloxi's casinos are open so that helps...debris is about 85% picked up...its places to the west like Long Beach, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis and Waveland that are in real bad most places it looks like the hurricane hit last week
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402. taco2me61
3:43 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Yea Progressive it will blow -up tomorrow and FL does need the rain... I'm not sure if they need it all at one time...

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401. Alec
11:42 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
WELL guys lets all come to my blog!!!lol

It will be cooler than normal here in Tally till the weekend!
400. ProgressivePulse
3:41 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Not to mention rain to the much needed State of Florida
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399. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
3:41 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
i am not to bed this yet it is only 8:42pm lol
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3:41 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
yeah alec i like reading your blog and checking that water temp...especially the one 22 mi se of Biloxi
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397. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
3:40 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
how Biloxi doing
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396. taco2me61
3:40 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Hey Alec,

You are so funny too....BLAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
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395. ProgressivePulse
3:40 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Night Time Taco, wait till morning, she'll fire up again.
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394. Alec
11:38 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
another good thing about the Great lakes system is it's helped draw down cooler air to the SE into the Gulf which has helped(temporarily) cool the Gulf just a bit!
393. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
3:38 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
so what sould i do wait in tell we get a blog hurricane to talk or soul i make a new blog i may nevere get back up to 100post this to tell you i did vary good the past few night last week
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3:38 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
yeah taco's sound good right about craving taco bell we had like 8 of them down here in Gulfport/Biloxi but 7 of them were destroyed by Katrina and the 1 left closes at 9pm :O(
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390. taco2me61
3:37 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
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389. Alec
11:36 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
taco2me61 and tacoblizzard you are making me hungry!!!lol
388. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
3:37 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
oh boy
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387. louastu
3:35 AM GMT on May 16, 2006

I don't mind you inviting people to your blog, but perhaps you should try to limit it to once a day, or once every 100 posts. I don't think anybody would have a problem with that.
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3:33 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
lol i just hope stormtop doesn't see that convection in the gulf cause if he does oh no watch out New Orleans there will be a cat 6 hurricane headed there way at least thats what the stormtop weather service will report
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385. louastu
3:29 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
That Great Lakes system has been a very good thing for me. I planted grass about 2 weeks ago, and it is really growing fast now.

Another good thing that came out of this storm is it cancelled all the soccer games on Saturday, which made it so I could stay home (I hate reffing soccer, it would be so much better if the parents were not allowed to be there).
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384. taco2me61
3:28 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Hey Guys,

I just wanted to say hey and that Upperlevel Low in the gulf looks good but it want last long....

The One and Only

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383. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
3:32 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
hi Alec how are you
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382. Alec
11:30 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Posted By: GPTGUY at 3:24 AM GMT on May 16, 2006.
hey Alec i hear that stormtop is still working on his probability and squall band chart lol

-thats what he said last yr, but was too busy managing my "inept computer models"lol
381. ProgressivePulse
3:27 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Speaking of squall bands, that is quite an impressive line approaching the west coast. Nothing like a before the wake up alarm thunderstorm!
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380. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
3:27 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
you are right i am sorry for that evere one would any one for give me i this want to have a nic little talk in my blog like the old days hmmm been a long time so i am sorry
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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