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 sale...at 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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229. Levi32
9:09 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Don't worry Bob Rich is just having a blast using me for his personal intertainment LOL!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
228. louastu
9:09 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
For What It's Worth
227. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
9:09 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
ForecasterColby did you get the mail on your web site?
226. Levi32
9:08 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
See ya Bob! LOL we are having one weird moment in time right now LOL!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
225. Levi32
9:07 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Interesing Rich. Why would anyone want to use an abreviation with a swear word in it? That doesn't sound right.

NOW WHAT IN HEAVEN'S NAME DOES "FWIW" MEAN? YOU ARE KILLING ME LOL!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
224. ForecasterColby
9:07 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
R0fl l00kz l31k \/\/3 r u$1|\|g 1337 sp33k 2d4y!

Yeah, I was a serious gamer for a while. Anyhow, I had a thought for an addition to my site, wanted to see what you thought of it. I'm thinking of a 'Wave Tracker', a once-daily advisory on all the waves in the Atlantic during hurricane season.
223. HurricaneKing
9:06 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
THought so.
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 71 Comments: 2485
222. weatherguy03
9:06 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Just popping in for a sec and Rich is talking about 420..LOL Rich, I always thought you were an innocent kid..LOL You are ruining your rep.!!..LOL I always thought you were a straight arrow!! Anyway, have a great rest of your day! Rain on the way!!..Woohoo!! Lets hope:)
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 592 Comments: 29708
221. Levi32
9:05 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Your kidding?!?! Who knew? In that case then I am definately NOT having a 420 day LOL!

I was so sure that had something to do with Leftyy420 lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
220. louastu
9:04 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
I am not familiar with "MMO".

I understand the rest of it.
219. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
9:04 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
hey oh want to come on to my blog
218. atmosweather
9:04 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Don't worry Levi I'll always translate them if you don't know what they mean. FWIW, I'm not a mean person LOL.

SFF - So F***ing Funny
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
217. atmosweather
9:03 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
A 420 day is a day when you smoke marajuana LOL.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
216. Levi32
9:03 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
My posts are Fran. The entire site went down for 2 minutes.

Rich don't play pranks on me just because I don't know English lol!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
215. HurricaneKing
9:03 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
The SFF one got me. What does it mean?
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 71 Comments: 2485
214. Levi32
9:02 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Oh oh this doesn't sound good LOL! What in heaven does SFF mean?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
213. FLCrackerGirl
9:01 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Anyone Else's Posts Dragging Since the Error Earlier?
Member Since: August 12, 2004 Posts: 47 Comments: 597
212. Levi32
9:01 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Thank you, now what on earth is 420 day? A Leftyy420 day when he argues with stormtop? lol!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
211. atmosweather
9:00 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
OMG this is going to be SFF!! Levi we are going to have fun with you LOL.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
210. Levi32
8:59 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Enlighten me PLEASSSSEEE lol!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
209. FLCrackerGirl
8:59 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
JK=Just Kidding
Member Since: August 12, 2004 Posts: 47 Comments: 597
208. pt100
8:59 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
hi, Frank here
Its rolling over from laughter to my opinion
207. atmosweather
8:59 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Just Kidding
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
206. Levi32
8:59 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
I DON'T KNOW WHAT A 420 DAY IS EITHER LOL!!!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
205. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
8:58 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Posted By: Levi32 at 1:48 PM PDT on May 15, 2006.
Did any of you just experience an error in this site when you refreshed just now?


yes i did see the error and have yet Aron no as well
204. atmosweather
8:58 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Levi are you having one of those 420 days LOL!!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
203. Levi32
8:58 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
And what does "JK" mean? I have seen you use it twice today.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
202. Levi32
8:57 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Yes I had a feeling that's what it meant lol

Louastu I guess people just don't want to go through the extra effort. But why would they go "ROFL when they could skip "on" and "the" and go "RFL".
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
201. atmosweather
8:56 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Louastu - go play a MMORPG and STFU!!! LOL JK
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
200. Levi32
12:54 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
ROFLSMCS

"rolling on the floor laughing and smashing my computer screen" LOL!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
199. atmosweather
4:53 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
LMAO - Laugh My A** Off
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
198. louastu
8:52 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
If it is "Roll On The Floor Laughing", Then why don't you put "ROTFL"?
197. Levi32
12:53 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
I have a feeling I know what "LMAO" means lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
196. Levi32
12:52 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Lol I don't know much of these expressions because this is the first time I have ever chatted with people via the internet.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
195. atmosweather
4:52 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
LMAOROFLOL!!!!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
194. Levi32
12:50 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
The Rocky Mountains will take care of it for me lol. I always wanted to have a hurricane on my doorstep lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
193. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
1:50 PM PDT on May 15, 2006
error i did
192. atmosweather
4:51 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Roll on THE floor laughing. Grammar lesson needed LOL!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
191. louastu
8:50 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Roll On Floor Laughing
190. louastu
8:49 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Yes I did. I have no idea what it was, but it seems to be working now.
189. Levi32
12:49 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
What does "ROFL" mean?
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
188. atmosweather
4:48 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
And just because you said that this blob of stuff in the Gulf is going to expand and form a megastorm pounding Florida with 640 mph winds and no rain. And then it will move northwest into Alaska and STALL!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
187. louastu
8:48 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
LOL
186. Levi32
12:48 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Did any of you just experience an error in this site when you refreshed just now?
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
185. atmosweather
4:47 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
ROFL!!!!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
184. Levi32
12:42 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Shhh don't scare him louastu lol. Alec sweet tropical depressions with 10 M.P.H. winds are coming your way to caress you and bathe you in their cool rain water.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
183. Levi32
12:41 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Well I hope you get the much needed rain but not any severe stuff. If this convection holds together you could be in for a good soaking.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
182. louastu
8:39 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Posted By: Levi32 at 12:36 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006.
Alec I think you should get some rain soon. Either this cold front or the next one should clip you at least. See you later have a great day!

And if you don't, well, the hurricane season is coming very soon.
181. atmosweather
4:39 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Ha this cold front will drench Florida tomorrow. 70% chance of rain for me tomorrow, and possibly severe weather.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
180. Levi32
12:38 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
You are sooooo lucky LOL! Just wait there won't be very many storms hitting Florida this year so your precious floater will be taken away to another storm somewhere else lol!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26686
179. atmosweather
4:36 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Yeah Levi I know that's the reason LOL! But its cool to be watched from space constantly LOL! I remember the 2004 season, at least 1 of the floaters had Florida on it 90% of the season LOL!

Alec, I have seen some models hint at a pretty weak front coming through on Saturday but stalling in north Florida.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265

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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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