Tropical outlook, NE flooding, and more on air pollution progress and challenges

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:45 PM GMT on May 17, 2006

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The flooding in the Northeastern U.S. is easing today, with most of the rivers in flood stage expected to drop below flood stage by Thursday afternoon. No new rain is expected across the region today or Thursday, but some light to moderate rains Friday may slow the recovery efforts. A series of modest rain systems should then cross through the region into early next week. By mid-week, the jet stream is forecast to move poleward and being a more summerlike pattern to North America.

Tropical outlook for the next week
With the coming of a more summerlike pattern next week, we will need to start watching the Western Caribbean for some possible tropical development; wind shear values there are starting to fall to levels where tropical development is possible again. Wind shear is quite low (5-10 knots) over the waters just north of Panama today and will stay low the next few days, but at present the clouds there are sparse and disorganized, and I am not expecting anything to develop this week. Next week things may be more favorable, when the remains of a cold front that pushes off the coast could provide enough of an initial disurbance to kick something off--if the front can push far enough south, where wind shear is lower. Again, I am not really expecting anything to develop, wind shear should still be high enough to make tropical development marginal.

Air pollution progress and health effects
Let's continue our dicussion of air pollution this week, focusing on the health effects. Significant progress has been made in recent years in cleaning the nation's air. Between 1970 and 2004, total emissions of the six major air pollutants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped by 54 percent. This is particularly impressive when noting that the gross domestic product increased 187 percent, energy consumption increased 47 percent, and U.S. population grew by 40 percent during the same time--proof that economic growth and environmental protection do go hand in hand. However, air pollution remains a serious threat to public health and the environment. Outdoor air pollution in the U.S. due to particulate pollution alone was estimated by the EPA in 1997 to cause at least 20,000 premature deaths each year. Other estimates place this number at 50,000 to 100,000 deaths per year. A study in Southern California found that living near major roadways increases the risk of childhood asthma. Among those long-term kids studied that had no parental history of asthma who lived within 75 meters of a major road, 59% of asthma was attributable to residential proximity to the road. The annual costs of air pollution per person in the Los Angeles area were estimated at $3000-$4000 per person back in the 1970s. This cost has dropped significantly, and is now estimated at about $1000 per person. This $1000 per person amounts to $3 billion per year just for the Los Angeles area, and further efforts to control air pollution need to be looked at to see if this cost--and the human suffering that accompanies it--can be further reduced. Of course, the costs to businesses will also have to be factored in--for example, emissions control equipment can add over $1000 to the cost of a vehicle.

How to protect yourself when air pollution is high
You're exposed to air contamination any time you breathe polluted air. But when you exercise, work in the yard, or do other strenuous activities that make you breathe harder and faster, you take more polluted air into your lungs. Exposure to ozone and particle pollution is linked with a number of significant health problems. Children, people with lung disease, older adults and people with heart disease tend to be more vulnerable.

You can help protect yourself simply by changing the time or intensity of your exercise, yard work or other strenuous activities. Use the Air Quality Index (AQI) and daily air quality forecasts to help you determine when you need to make changes. These are posted on the Weather Underground web site for most major cities in the U.S., or you can get them from www.airnow.gov.

The AQI is a color-coded scale that tells you who needs to take steps to reduce their exposure to ozone or particle pollution and when. If you have heart disease, for example, pay close attention when particle pollution reaches Code Orange levels. If you have asthma, youll want to pay attention at Code Orange for particle pollution and for ozone.

Ozone pollution tends to be more of a problem in the warm summer months. Levels of this colorless, odorless gas can increase during the day, peaking in the late afternoon to early evening. At elevated levels, ozone is a threat to everyones health, but those who are most susceptible are people with lung diseases such as asthma, children, older adults and healthy people who are active outdoors.

Ozone causes cells in the lungs to swell and get inflamed similar to what happens to your skin cells when you get sunburned. Repeated episodes of this kind of inflammation may cause permanent damage to the lungs. Ozone aggravates asthma and other lung diseases, leading to increased medication use, visits to doctors and emergency rooms, and hospital admissions. Recent studies have also linked ozone exposure with premature death.

Can you tell if ozone is affecting you? You may experience symptoms like coughing, a burning sensation when you breathe, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. If you have asthma, you may find yourself needing to use medicine more frequently, or you may have asthma attacks requiring a doctor's attention.

Particle pollution can occur at any time of year. If you live in an area with high woodstove use, for example, particle pollution may be higher in your community in winter. In many areas of the eastern U.S., particle pollution may also be high in the summertime, often accompanied by high levels of ozone. People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children are considered at greater risk from particle pollution than other people, especially when they are physically active.

Particle pollution can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. Particle pollution has been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias in people with heart disease, and also to premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

If you or your children are healthy, you're not likely to suffer serious effects from short-term, peak exposures to particle pollution. But when particle pollution is elevated, you may experience irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

Reducing your exposure to ozone and particle pollution isn't hard. Just take it a little easier. If pollution is forecast to be high in your area, cut back or change the time of your strenuous activities: go for a for a walk instead of a jog, or reschedule for times when the air quality is expected to be better. If you have asthma, be sure to follow your asthma action plan with air pollution levels are high. And don't exercise near busy roads; particle levels generally are higher in these areas.

Particle levels can be elevated indoors too, especially when outdoor particle levels are high, such as during an inversion or when there's a lot of smoke outside (such as from a wildfire). Certain filters and room air cleaners can help reduce indoor particle levels. You can also reduce particle levels indoors by not smoking inside or vacuuming, and by reducing your use of other particle sources such as candles, wood-burning stoves, and fireplaces. Go to http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/index.html for more information.

My next blog will be Thursday.
Jeff Masters

Around Town, Andover Massachusetts (KDTalbot)
Fireman rescues mail from this collection box in Shawsheen Square.
Around Town, Andover Massachusetts
Ipswitch River (danversgirl)
Ipswitch River floodong over Route One at the River Gate for the Topsfield Fair Grounds.
Ipswitch River

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147. TampaSteve
6:49 PM GMT on May 18, 2006
I had an Etch-A-Sketch when I was a kid...those things are way cool. They are right about the fine aluminum powder...it acts like powdered graphite, which means it sticks to everything, and is damn near impossible to remove from any porous surface, like paper. Fun stuff!
146. JugheadFL
1:28 PM GMT on May 18, 2006
yea, I would say its definatley confused...I don't even think that would be possible!
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
144. desertdisaster
1:23 PM GMT on May 18, 2006
I think they want to test the CATS system on Hawaii with this Makani fake Hurrcan wich is now increasing in strenght...?



Hurricane and Storm Surge Damage Analysis
The CATS system estimates in real-time the population and civil resources at risk from threatening hurricanes and associated storm surge; its primary application is to assist preparation and recovery efforts in emergency planning, readiness actions, and the prepositioning of relief supplies and personnel.
The module automatically parses advisory messages to extract current and forecast hurricane characteristics. Messages are usually disseminated every six hours, and contain observation and forecast data provided by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, FL, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) in Honolulu, HI, or the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) in Guam. The National Weather Service’s Family of Services, the NOAA Weather Wire, University Internet servers, or commercial vendors of meteorological data provide access to these messages.

Hurricane data collected from the messages includes the current and forecast positions of the storm, its maximum wind speed, and the spatial distribution of winds around the storm center. At each quadrant of the storm, and for its current and forecast positions, radial profiles of dynamic pressure and wind speed are analyzed. Color-coded damage bands are then generated which display results of structural response modeling, which correlates hurricane wind gust velocity and dynamic pressure to damage to various structure types. Figure 3 presents estimates of wind damage to mobile homes calculated by CATS for Hurricane Fran (September 1996). The green area represents light damage, yellow moderate damage, and red severe damage.

The Arc/Info GIS intersects the damage bands with numerous databases created by the Census Bureau, U.S. departments and agencies, and commercial vendors, to estimate the amount of relief support required. Graphical consequence analyses are rapidly constructed by overlaying thematic data layers on the map of areas at risk. Tabular reports are automatically generated that provide estimates of numbers of meals, bottles of water, tents, cots, blankets, etc. required for effective response and recovery. Therefore, the projected exposure and risk of damage to assets and population can be anticipated; moreover, sources of assistance and logistics for prepositioning of proper resources can be identified.

The CATS Hurricane Damage Analysis Module has been used to provide accurate guidance to FEMA’s targeted disaster response since the beginning of the 1993 Atlantic hurricane season. The system was used during Hurricane Emily (August 1993) and functioned to provide estimates of damage to residences based on the appropriate meteorological forecasts. Local officials used this information to establish projections of relief supplies and to brief the population at risk. Since Emily made a grazing landfall, only a modest relief effort was required. Further discussions of the performance of the Hurricane Module are included in the PROVEN APPLICATIONS section
Link

They did it in 2004 also

Link
143. JugheadFL
1:15 PM GMT on May 18, 2006
Looks like the SW carib low fizzled out due to the front, like I thought it would, this morning....
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
142. Inyo
6:17 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
hey guys,

speaking of summerlike weather patterns, we had our first 'summer' monsoon day in the southern california mountains. There wasn't much rain, mostly wind and some lightning, havent heard yet if any fires started or not. However, it felt and looked just like August... i don't recall having seen this pattern this early in the year before.

I hope it is a sign of an active monsoon season to come beacuse we need the rain, especially in Arizona.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
141. taco2me61
4:09 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Hey All,

I love the etch-a-scetch...:0) I do remember that stuff and if I knew that it would have helped me track storms I would have a better job.... LOL


Taco:0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3237
140. louastu
3:55 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
There is a new invest in the Indian Ocean. It doesn't look that impressive to me.

139. louastu
3:34 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
LOL.
138. Califonia
3:30 AM GMT on May 18, 2006

Posted By: louastu at 3:16 AM GMT on May 18, 2006.

That is hilarious. You have way too much time on your hands.

You wouldn't happen to have a picture of the NWS forecasting rain, or snow would you?



Well, if you go back and look closely, you'll see that their model for sunshine looks exactly like their model for a hurricane - they can't tell the difference.

It kind of explains some of their weather forecasts.

Heheheheheh
137. RL3AO
3:23 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Another sign that summer is near is that the Twin Cities will hit 90 for the first time this year next week.
136. louastu
3:20 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Califonia,

That is hilarious. You have way too much time on your hands.

You wouldn't happen to have a picture of the NWS forecasting rain, or snow would you?
135. bappit
3:02 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Heck, they've got all kinds of info.

hurricanes

The etch-a-skitch is a cooler link.

Bap
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5944
134. Alec
2:57 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
I guess he likes the "accent" of it....lol Just curious....
133. RL3AO
2:56 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
I think he meant it. That's how Arnold says it I think.
132. Alec
2:53 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Califonia, did you intentionally spell your handle the way you did? Always been wondering if you meant "California"....lol
131. Zaphod
2:51 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
I am awe-struck.

It is truly amazing what spare time and sufficient motivation, however misguided, will produce.

Zap
Member Since: October 5, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 3239
130. Califonia
2:39 AM GMT on May 18, 2006

NWS computer models forecasting sunshine:


129. Randyman
2:33 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Link
Member Since: July 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 222
128. Zaphod
2:31 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Funny how an Etch-a-Sketch is actually of universal interest!

SETI@home and other distributed projects run at about 200 TFLOPS (trillion floating point operations per second). A single Pentium PC is probably a few gigaflops. So theoretically a distributed weather model would be about 1000 times more powerful than the FSU cluster.

I think it says a lot about our society that we'll dedicate 1000 times more CPU power to looking for alien intelligence than plotting the course of hurricanes.........
Zap
Member Since: October 5, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 3239
127. RL3AO
2:29 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
I know, it's kinda slow tonight.
125. mobal
2:15 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Etch-A-Scetch...lol
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 482 Comments: 5331
124. StormJunkie
2:15 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Nice Califonia. lmao.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
123. Accordionboy
2:13 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Etch-A-Scetch!!! Awsome!! I love those!!!!
122. StormJunkie
2:12 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
The SW Carib area looks pretty disorganized. I don't think it will have time to pull together before it runs in to shear. Still the most interesting feature so far and worth checking out in the morning.

Alright Ya'll I am off to bed. Added some new links to the site and modified the page size a little. Let me know what ya'll think in my blog.

StormJunkie.com Tropical Links & More




Thanks
SJ
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15644
121. louastu
2:12 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
I always wondered how those things worked.
120. Califonia
2:01 AM GMT on May 18, 2006

Posted By: Zaphod at 12:54 AM GMT on May 18, 2006.

Question: What is the current state of the art in hardware (computational equipment) to run weather model simulations?

Do models run on server clusters, super-computers, dedicated weather computers, or what?



ANSWER: Etch-A-Sketch

Hahahahahahah
119. bappit
1:57 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
There's a lot of unused cycles out there for sure. Trouble might be, too, in meeting the deadlines weather forecasters are under. Free cycles would have to be really plentiful, but yeah, I think data transport would be the worst problem. Very cool link.

Bap
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5944
118. Zaphod
1:28 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
Gotta love that Commodore 64 at the bottom!

I wonder if weather models could be run as massively parallel distributed projects, like SETI@home? Google now has a similar capability as part of their toolbar, and weather modeling would seem to fit:

"In the future Google may work with other research teams on similarly complex problems, or use the network to help improve Google and its services. The third party projects we choose to help out will be carefully selected non-profit projects, with the guiding principle being to help humanity and advance scientific knowledge. Users will be clearly notified of any such projects when they are introduced, and will maintain at all times the ability to disable or uninstall Google Compute for any reason."

If it would work (and it may not due to data transport needs) this would seem to solve chronic resource issues at university labs.

Zap
Member Since: October 5, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 3239
117. thunder01
1:22 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
i'm not sure the air at the surface is compressed by an upper high. i think the reason it is warm under an upper high is that it usually prevents clouds from forming and allows the sun to warm things up.

there are sometimes "thermal lows" in the desert, beneath an upper high, where the air at the surface has become so warm that the surface pressure drops...you know, warm air is less dense than cool air.

high pressure at the surface is usually associated with cool weather for this reason.

i may be confusing you more...i think i am confusing myself.


Warm air is always associated with low barometric pressure. The reason: as air warms, it expands and becomes less dense. This has to do with the most recognizable of the gas laws: PV=NRT (pressure X volume = number of molecules X gas constant X temperature), which implies that (basically) PV=T. This means pressure, volume, and temperature are directly related--as temperature increases, volume increases also. This is the reason for thermal lows in the desert: very hot air at the surface produces low air density and thus a shallow layer of low barometric pressure. In Phoenix, when the temperature approaches 120 degrees, small aircraft have difficulty getting off of the ground as a result of the very low air density. During the winter, the coldest nights are usually associated with surface high pressure: skies clear as a result of subsidence (sinking air), radiational cooling is particularly effective, and air molecules congregate near the surface (density is high). The low pressure we normally associate with bad weather--cold and precipitation--is almost always aloft...and relatively high pressure is actually present at the surface. I don't want to delve too deeply into midlatitude cyclone formation theory, but upper-level and surface lows are generally not vertically stacked (the higher one trails behind the surface one to the west). Any other questions? :)
115. Zaphod
1:00 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
That's my forte, Colby!

Question: What is the current state of the art in hardware (computational equipment) to run weather model simulations?

Do models run on server clusters, super-computers, dedicated weather computers, or what?
Thanks,
Zap
Member Since: October 5, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 3239
114. Cavin Rawlins
12:59 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
from the weather Channel
s of early Wednesday afternoon eastern time Typhoon Chanchu was flirting with the coast of China. The typhoon's winds have steadily weakened over the past 24 hours, but should weaken more rapidly once the system is inland tonight. The biggest threat from Chanchu immediately away from the coast is heavy, flooding rainfall.

A weak area of low pressure has formed between Panama and Colombia in the Caribbean Sea. It is moving toward the west and is expected to merge with a cold front near the Nicaragua coast. Development is not likely with this system.

The remainder of the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Basins are quiet.



It is unsual for the weather channel this time of year.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
113. ForecasterColby
12:10 AM GMT on May 18, 2006
What wonderfully pointless information..woooo!
112. Zaphod
11:34 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
From a quick Google on Makani: The boy's name Makani is pronounced mah-KAH-nee. It is of Hawaiian origin, and its meaning is "wind."

LOL,
Zap
Member Since: October 5, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 3239
111. desertdisaster
11:27 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
Colby & RL3A

Sorry! I tought Makani was some kind of forgoten lost at sea storm that some people should have been warned about !!!

Thanks
D
110. Cavin Rawlins
10:48 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
Shear forecast for later in the week 144hrs from now.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
109. atmosweather
10:45 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
Yeah that's pretty much it. In the eye region you have sinking air in response to the low pressure, which supresses clouds, and around it the air rises in strong up-drafts leading to very high and cold cloud tops.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
108. ForecasterColby
10:33 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
Quick basics of hurricane structure:

Warm air comes spiraling in at the center, eventually spiraling into a tight column at the center (the eyewall). The air cools, and the water vapor in it condenses, on its way up. The heat and vapor remain to fuel the hurricane, while the 'used' air is blown outward above the clouds (outflow).
107. seflagamma
10:25 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
Hi everyone, just a quick check in to see what is going on here. Take care and have a great evening!
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 297 Comments: 40881
106. ForecasterColby
10:24 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
I'm going to be doing the daily wave analysis on the AHC, today's is the first.
105. FLCrackerGirl
9:03 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
LOL Zaphod & RWD...
"Two Heads Are Better Than One!"

Come for the Weather, Lurk for The Laughs.
FRAN
Member Since: August 12, 2004 Posts: 47 Comments: 597
104. louastu
9:00 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
I just got a brief thunderstorm. It was not severe, but based on the gusty winds from this garden variety thunderstorm, I would say that tonight could be very interesting for me. Especially if the sun comes out again for a little bit.

I am in the 30% risk area for large hail,


and the 15% risk area for strong winds.
103. ForecasterColby
8:34 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
Desert, Makani doesn't exist, it's a CPAC advisory test.
102. turtlehurricane
8:09 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
i have updated my blog
Member Since: July 22, 2005 Posts: 227 Comments: 469
101. RL3AO
8:04 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
desertdisaster, you do know that Makani is a test storm?
100. K8eCane
8:00 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
Thanks RL !!
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3075
99. desertdisaster
7:59 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
Makani still turning towards Hawaii...



Link
98. RL3AO
7:58 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
K8eCane, here's a good site to keep updated about tropical weather. Maybe you already know about it... Navy Research Lab
97. K8eCane
7:58 PM GMT on May 17, 2006
is there a link to the new invest in indian ocean
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3075

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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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