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

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

Share this Blog
0
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 129 - 79

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9Blog Index

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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
128. Alec
2:49 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Posted By: STORMTOP at 6:47 PM GMT on May 15, 2006.
simple brains alex...

So, how would we know long range forecasts without models? Models are actually used in many other fields as well....I assume we should just dump them in the ocean too..lol...
127. atmosweather
2:45 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Yes you are right. I never denied anyone their opinion. By law I don't get one actually (I'm not a U.S citizen)
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
126. STORMTOP
6:47 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
simple brains alex...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
125. Alec
2:45 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Stormtop, I plan to get a job forecasting hurricanes one day....If i dump all the models off into the sea what do YOU see as an alternative to models?
124. StormJunkie
6:43 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
If the ssts are there and the shear is low for the majority of the season then it will be close toas active as last year, and yes we could see a storm reach 176 for a short period. Remember Wilmas intensification.

SJ
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15626
123. atmosweather
2:44 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
I don't use them at all. Period. They are very inaccurate most of the time.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
122. STORMTOP
6:44 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
you have your opinion atmos this is america the last time i checked
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
121. Alec
2:42 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Alec* I dont just go by computer models. I observe the upper air charts like you do, look at the environment and all that stuff. I DO NOT solely rely on models.....
120. TheLuckyTacoBlizzard
11:41 AM PDT on May 15, 2006
hi all this a fly by to say hi how is evere one today is evere one plying nic today in her i hop so well any way have a good day i be back soon
119. atmosweather
2:41 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Oh, and BTW, 2005 was a freak, I would be surprised if we had more than 2 Category 5s again this year, let alone 175-180 mph storms.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
118. STORMTOP
6:39 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
alex thats all you go by computer models i dont believe in them and i never will..there is just to much happening right now that the computers arent going to be able to grasp until its to late..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
117. atmosweather
2:39 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
No need to swear, I'm flagging that.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
116. Alec
2:37 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
my computer models???they aren't mine! I actually have nothing o do w/them....why would you be busy with my "inept computers" if they will get people killed???
115. 53rdWeatherRECON
6:30 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Is there a scientific reason that a storm could not have sustained winds of over 175-180mph? Why would we not call this a CAT6? I just love how all you smug little "at home weather experts" have such demeaning comments to spout out at anyone whom they determine to be idiodic. It's just a BLOG you don't have to respond.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
114. STORMTOP
6:34 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
im still working on it i was busy with your inept computers last year that couldnt predict the winner of a one horse race...somethimng you believe in religiously...computers are going to get a lot more people killed unless the nhc wakes up...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
113. atmosweather
2:35 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
The cap must be through the roof in the W Gulf.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
112. atmosweather
2:34 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
LOL I've gotta see this.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
111. Alec
2:28 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
ST!!!lol Where's your probability and squall band chart???

Posted By: STORMTOP at 3:18 AM GMT on July 27, 2005.
class will be in session tomorrow dont be late this will be worth your while...i am designing a new probability and squall band chart...it will be interesting....


110. atmosweather
2:31 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Well it does look remarkable franck, but yes, no chance. It is cold core and will be ripped apart by the shear left behind by this strong cold front.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
109. STORMTOP
6:29 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
yes franck its just a start of things to come ...no need to worry about it it will be gone just as fast as it flared up....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
108. atmosweather
2:29 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Do you mean we will see Cat 5s in the open Atlantic this year? Because any storm that gets into the Gulf will hit somewhere and maybe catastrophically.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
107. franck
6:25 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
yeah..guess cat 6 is a concept that has to be considered these days. Backing off my intensity forecast for the weather in the western Gulf. Everybody's right. The system is entering just too much shear. But I still think it will make some impressive weather.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
106. GPTGUY
6:27 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
of course its a stretch and were not going to see a landfall of a cat 5 much less anything of 175 mph its rediculous
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 391
105. STORMTOP
6:26 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
yes atmos this year will be a very bad one and we will need a 6...hopefully it will turn out to sea...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
104. atmosweather
2:23 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Are you sure we need a Cat 6? I mean if we do get a well organized storm moving into the Gulf we could see a couple of Cat 5s, but over 175 mph is a stretch. Just wondering...
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
103. GPTGUY
6:23 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
and nobody cares nobody will go by your stupid chart anybody with sense will follow what the folks at the NHC predicts
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 391
102. STORMTOP
6:07 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
STORMTOP INTRODUCES FOR 2006 HURRICANE SEASON A NEW HURRICANE CATEGORY 6 SCALE..I WILL BE USING THIS SCALE THROUGHOUT THE SEASON..THIS IS NOT FROM THE NHC ITS FROM STORMTOPS NATL WEATHER SERVICE....THIS IS THE WAY IT WILL WORK:
CAT 1 75 -95
CAT 2 96-110
CAT 3 111-130
CAT 4 131-150
CAT 5 151-175
CAT6 176-205

I MADE A FEW CHANGES IN MY SCALE BUT THIS IS WHAT I WILL BE GOING BY WHEN HURRICANE SEASON BEGINS...STORMTOP INTRODUCES A CATEGORY 6 FOR 2006 SEASON.....EXTREME MAJOR CATOSTROPHIC DAMAGE....YOU WILL BE HEARING ABOUT THIS LATER AND WHY I SAID THE COMPUTERS ARE OUT TO LUNCH,,IT WILL BE WORSE THIS YEAR ESPECIALLY WHEN A STORM ENTERS THE GULF FROM THE CARIBBEAN...YOU WILL HEAR MORE ABOUT THIS LATER ALSO..FOR NOW WE CAN ALL RELAX AND JUST WAIT...YOU CAN REST ASSURED STORMTOP WILL BE WATCHING THE GULF AND WILL POP IN AT ANY TIME DAY OR NIGHT WITH HIS FORECASTS SO STAY TUNED....OO1319.............


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
101. atmosweather
2:12 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Yeah that was great LOL
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
100. GPTGUY
6:11 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
i know i was too remember Hurricane Emily
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 391
99. atmosweather
2:10 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Yeah I know GPTGUY I was there last year as well. Had drinks out of my nose many times.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
98. GPTGUY
6:07 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
its true atmosweather and stormtop weather service will issue hurricane warnings and everything
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 391
97. atmosweather
2:06 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
LOL GPTGUY!!!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
96. GPTGUY
6:03 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
wait till may 23 any little puff of clouds out there will be a cat 5 and threaten SE LA
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 391
95. atmosweather
2:01 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
Our Atlantic wave has a fighting chance though, I think it will skirt the coast and end up in the eastern Caribbean where the shear will be very low after 4 days. As long as it can keep a circulation and modest convection we will have something worth watching later this week.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
94. GPTGUY
6:01 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
stop with the stupid stormtop weather service and be serious for once
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 391
93. atmosweather
1:57 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
ST is right, no chance of the Gulf low becoming anything.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
92. Antivanity
1:56 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
thanks for the info stormtop... THIS HAS BEEN A BULLETIN FROM THE ANTIVANITYS WEATHER SERVICE.000200
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
91. STORMTOP
5:45 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
im glad i came on because i knew you guys would blow this thing in the gulf out of proportion and i war right...first i want to tell all the people along the gulf coast this is just a cold core low and it does have a circulation way in the upper levels..i want to put all your minds at ease this will not develop in fact it will be gone within 36 hours...the shear is much to strong and the temps around where the system is located are yo marginal...so once again there is no need to worry about this it is not unusual for something to develop on the end of a cool front in may...i can assure you this will not develop...you need to start watching the gulf for real after may 23...THIS HAS BEEN A BULLETIN FROM THE STORMTOPS WEATHER SERVICE.001253
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
90. snowboy
5:44 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Yeah if it doesn't gain some latitude it is toast. Forecast was for it to skirt the coast and get into the Caribbean.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
89. lightning10
5:41 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Its looking interesting next week for the So Cal area. Looking like a cut off low might pick up a little moisture from the south. I wouldnt hold my breath however I think we average around 0.27 inches of rain on average in may. It will be interesting to see what happends.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
88. ForecasterColby
5:21 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Okay, I see what you're looking at. Not a chance. It'll move over S America anyway.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
87. Levi32
9:21 AM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Lol Alec! Catch ya later!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26543
86. Alec
1:20 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
actually should be "corresponding via net" w/you......lol! See ya:)
85. snowboy
5:15 PM GMT on May 15, 2006
Yeah, there's our wavelet Levi32.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
84. Levi32
9:18 AM AKDT on May 15, 2006
"talking to you" should be "talking with you". I hate grammar lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26543
83. Levi32
9:16 AM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Bye Alec I have to go too. Nice talking to you!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26543
82. Alec
1:13 PM EDT on May 15, 2006
i dont see it!lol well im off, nice talking you you Levi:)...........
81. Levi32
9:11 AM AKDT on May 15, 2006
If someone posted a comment at 1:07 PM Eastern time like the blog says I don't see it.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26543
80. Levi32
9:04 AM AKDT on May 15, 2006
The NHC calls it a wave. It will move into the Caribbean and into low shear.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26543
79. Levi32
9:01 AM AKDT on May 15, 2006
Look below 10n around 53w in this image Colby:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26543

Viewing: 129 - 79

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.