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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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
178. Levi32
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!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
177. Alec
4:32 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
just a quick ~*~*~fly-by~*~*~Does anyone think a cold front may make it to FL by this coming weekend? Models are starting to hint of one...thanks....see ya guys later!:)
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176. Levi32
12:34 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Haha Rich lol! I don't think it's you lol. It's because the hurricane center is in Florida I'll bet.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
175. Levi32
12:32 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
I wish lol! You know we are getting severe weather here in Alaska the last two years. last year we had 3 severe thunderstorm warnings for my area and a few more for Anchorage. We even had a funnel cloud that almost touched down! Scary!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
174. atmosweather
4:32 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Well Florida gets its own tropical floater LOL, and the primary SSD floater (1) has been on us since December. We're SPECIAL LOL!!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
173. Levi32
12:29 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
LOL maybe! They don't think it is worth giving us the products because we don't have enough observation stations or people around the state. Can't they at least give us more radar stations? Those aren't so hard to get. We could really use some full coverage of the state. At least the SSD people were thoughful enough to give us a sat page of our own.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
172. atmosweather
4:31 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Haha right LOL
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
171. RL3AO
3:30 PM CDT on May 15, 2006
Well, I was going off of that Alaska joined the union before Hawaii, therfore should get the sat floater before Hawaii!
170. atmosweather
4:29 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
We will only get severe weather though if the cap breaks and it hasn't broken for months LOL! We've had more freezes than cap breaks since last summer!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
169. atmosweather
4:28 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
LOL maybe if there was another 10-15 million more people there then NOAA might care! JK!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
168. Levi32
12:28 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Yes Rich the SPC has a slight risk area over you tonight and tomorrow.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
167. Levi32
12:27 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Seems like we have significant severe weather almost every day now. It has been quite a tornado season so far.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
166. atmosweather
4:26 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
We might have some severe weather here in Orlando tomorrow.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
165. Levi32
12:25 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
I know we are armed and ready this year!

RL3AO lol actually it is always last and has the least weather products. Grrr I hate that. Why can't they give us the same maps and stuff? That's what I get for living in the most beautiful place in the world lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
164. louastu
8:22 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Yesterday turned into a pretty good sized outbreak of severe weather. There were 319 total reports of severe weather, including 18 reports of tornadoes.

Link
163. Levi32
12:23 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Pacific link

Atlantic link
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
162. atmosweather
4:23 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Yeah if we have to watch Gulf storms this season its gonna be awesome.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
161. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
1:21 PM PDT on May 15, 2006
where the link to it?
160. RL3AO
3:22 PM CDT on May 15, 2006
No, Alaska should be next to last to work.
159. Levi32
12:20 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
The Alaska and Hawaii sectors aren't online yet. Figures Alaska would be last to work lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
158. Levi32
12:19 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
I know Rich I love it! It even has an Alaska sector just for me lol! The new enhancements are really nice, and I am glad they finally made the other floaters available. Also did you look at the gulf of Mexico loops? Look at all the overlays my gosh!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
157. atmosweather
4:15 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
I am really excited about the new SSD imagery page. Nine different floaters and tons of different channel 4 enhancements. Its gonna be extremely better tracking the storms this year.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
156. Levi32
12:10 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Yeah it needs to gain latitude, but it looks very healthy.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
155. atmosweather
4:07 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
It really needs to move north to start spinning. But there is enough deep convection and it is decently organized.

Weatherboyfsu, they moved all their imagery to here. Its got a lot more floaters and types of enhancements.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
154. Levi32
12:06 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
That convection is the gulf is holding together still and there is a new blob of cold cloud tops popping up in the center of the mess.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
153. Levi32
12:00 PM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Yes that west Pacific wave looks good.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
152. weatherboyfsu
8:01 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
The gulf is looking interesting......whats up with the NHC satellites?
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151. RL3AO
3:00 PM CDT on May 15, 2006
Here's a shear map of the invest of the WPac. It's located at about 144W 5N.
150. sfranz
7:59 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Just a flirty wink from that convection east of Texas. Taunting us, it is.



or

link
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149. RL3AO
2:59 PM CDT on May 15, 2006
Yes it is. Another reason not to live on the coast.
148. snowboy
7:55 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Does anyone besides me consider the figure of 22 Cat4/Cat5 storms in the past 17 months to be alarmingly high?
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147. RL3AO
2:55 PM CDT on May 15, 2006
Wow, 4 degrees north? The convection looks good, but I wonder if it will get some spin.
146. atmosweather
3:53 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Looks decent. 40% chance.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
145. louastu
7:42 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Has anybody noticed the invest in the Western Pacific?
144. FLCrackerGirl
3:21 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
456 here's another Shear Map
Courtesy of StormJunkie.com
Referenced from U of Wisconsin
Member Since: August 12, 2004 Posts: 47 Comments: 597
143. atmosweather
3:22 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Some of it is memory and I have really good quick links for that kind of info. I keep all season stats for every basin (numbers and intensity) in my favorites.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
142. atmosweather
3:19 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Here is the AVN 3 day forecast for the Atlantic. Other model animations of shear can be found here. Just go to the drop down box and click 850-200 mb shear under "Field".
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
141. snowboy
7:18 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
thanks atmos, how do you pull up that info so fast?
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140. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
12:20 PM PDT on May 15, 2006
139. Weather456
3:17 PM AST on May 15, 2006
where can i find a shear forecast map?
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138. Alec
3:14 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
ditto with louastu....STORMTOP, like last yr. please learn to be RESPECTFUL to us. There are many intelligent minds on here and if we want to discuss about this cluster of clouds in the Gulf then we can..(Its a weather forum you know)
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137. atmosweather
3:15 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
There have been 22 Category 4+ cyclones since January 1st, 2005.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
136. snowboy
7:10 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Folks, maybe just see StormTop as an entertainer (when it comes to his over the top comments/predictions). But he's got some smarts, lots of experience, and has shared some remarkably intuitive predictions with us. Just don't take his "stir the pot" comments seriously and we'll all get along fine.
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135. louastu
6:55 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
STORMTOP,

First of all, you have an overdeveloped ego. I personally don't care for people who try to make themselves sound better than everyone else (whether it is true or not).

Second, how dare you try to tell people what to do. If people want to look at something on sattelite and get excited about it, that is up to them.
134. snowboy
6:52 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Atmos, you have a right to your opinion even if not American (says the Canadian)..

I have to say I am with StormTop, on the issue of possible Cat 6 superstorms. Something has changed in the atmosphere, that is allowing the explosive development of hurricanes/typhoons into Cat4/Cat5 monsters.

Anyone keeping a tally of how many Cat4/Cat5's we've had worldwide since the start of 2005?
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133. Alec
2:55 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Rich, the one thing thing about models is they were relatively reliable in terms of getting he general feelings of where systems would go last yr but YES they need some improvement...
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132. JeffK
6:54 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Air Quality along the east coast should continue to improve with controls on power plants and vehicles in the next few years. In DC, we've seen fewer exceedance days even though last year's met conditions were favorable for pollution formation. Some of this is thought to be a result of the NOx controls on power plants in the Ohio Valley.
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131. atmosweather
2:55 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
See ya later ST
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
130. atmosweather
2:52 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
I think we need to clarify the type of models. I use all models concerning steering, shear, moisture, instability and so on, but I won't look at the models for a tropical cyclone except the GFS and GFDL because they are reasonably relaible
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
129. STORMTOP
6:52 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
well ill be back when conditions warrant and everyone have a great day and remember when you see a big blob developing check the atmospheric conditios and then say what you want to say....good bye all.StormTop
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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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