Top U.S. weather story of 2007: the Southeast U.S. drought

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:29 PM GMT on January 01, 2008

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The year 2007 is in the record books as the driest or second driest year on record for much of the Southeastern U.S. A mere 31.85 inches of rain fell in Atlanta, Georgia, during the year, 62% of the average of 48 inches. This year's rainfall total just missed breaking the record of 31.80 inches set in 1954. Rainfall records in Atlanta go back to 1930. The drought was worse in Alabama, where Birmingham had its driest year on record--just 28.86", a full 25 inches below average, smashing the record low of 36.14" set in 1931. Huntsville was even drier--a mere 28.65"--29 inches below average. Surrounding areas of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia also experienced extraordinarily dry years (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Drought conditions in the Southeastern U.S. were at the highest level possible--exceptional drought--at the end of 2007. Image credit: NOAA.

Although the current drought is exceptional, Atlanta has had much drier 2-year periods. During the drought of 1954-1955, Atlanta received 68.23 inches of precipitation--a 28 inch deficit from the normal 2-year rainfall. The deficit for the past two years is only 16 inches, since an average amount of rain fell in 2006 (48.46 inches). Based on the climatological record, Georgia can expect a two-year drought about once in 25 years, and a drought lasting three or more years about once every 40 years. Drought is part of the natural cycle in Georgia, and it would not be a surprise to see the drought of 2007 continue until the winter of 2008. Although December 2007 saw Atlanta's first above average month of rainfall since November 2006, the coming two weeks look very dry, and the current La Nina atmospheric pattern usually brings below average rainfall.

What is causing the Georgia drought?
Two main factors are responsible for the Southeast U.S. drought. Most importantly, a persistent jet stream pattern has set up that steers storms away from the region, and into Texas instead. Texas, which suffered extreme drought in 2006, found itself awash in floods in 2007, as the jet stream pattern brought storm after storm to the state. Another contributing factor to the current Southeast drought is the absence of tropical storms and hurricanes during 2006 and 2007. These storms are an important part of the annual rainfall budget for the Southeast. For example, in 2005, 29% of Atlanta's yearly rainfall came from five tropical storms:

1.36" Arlene June 11-12, 2005
1.40" Katrina, August 29-30, 2005
5.48" Cindy, July 6-8, 2005
5.41" Dennis, July 9-12, 2005
2.94" Tammy, October 6-8, 2005


Figure 2. Over ten inches of rain fell on Atlanta in 2005 from two tropical cyclones, Dennis and Cindy. Tropical cyclones accounted for 29% of Atlanta's rainfall that year. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

There is little evidence that global warming contributed to this drought. The Southeastern U.S. has cooled by about 0.1° F over the past 100 years, even as the rest of the globe has warmed 1° F. The reasons for this lack of warming in the Southeast are not fully understood. One theory is that the cooling is due to air pollution blocking sunlight. Another theory, proposed by Georgia State Climatologist David Stooksbury, attributes the cooling to the shift from 80 percent row crops (like corn and cotton) to 60 percent forest. Land use changes like this can have a significant impact on how solar energy heats the air once it is absorbed by the soil.

Why Atlanta is vulnerable to drought
Atlanta, unlike most major cities, grew up around rail lines rather than a major body of water. Although the Chattahoochee River runs through Atlanta, the city lies on top of a watershed, with no large bodies of water upstream. The rivers and streams in the region are small, and the bedrock limits how much ground water is available. The Lake Lanier reservoir that supplies Atlanta with most of its water was constructed in the 1950s. Since that time, the population of Atlanta has quadrupled, increasing the pressure on the reservoir's limited water. Lake Lanier is at its record lowest level--more than 19 feet below average. If the drought continues into the summer of 2008, and no tropical storms arrive to break the drought, Atlanta may run out of water.

By 2030, the population of the Atlanta metropolitan area is expected to increase from 5 million to 9 million. Current water resources in the regions will be unable to support this population increase, unless planners make a concerted and expensive effort to plan ahead. The expected increase in temperatures over the coming decades due to global warming will make future droughts in the region even more severe, so Atlanta has a very tough road ahead of it.

Jeff Masters

Georgia Drought Series 2 (HurricaneIan)
Like my last series, this Series of photos concern the drought in North Georgia. These were taken at Lake Chatuge, Georgia. This is near the North Carolina Line and near a town called Hiawassee. North Georgia is experiencing a major drought. These docks are designed to float and adjust to water depth, however, now they are high and dry. The depth of these lakes varies from season to season, however, this is by far the lowest I have ever seen it. This water is not only used for drinking, this is also the primary supply of hydro-electric power for the region. The drought is causing other problems as well, the leaves are not changing properly, some look burnt and others fall off before turning. North Georgia and surrounding areas need rain in the worst way. The good news is it is raining
Georgia Drought Series 2
Scenes from Lake Lanier, GA (DadandMarcher)
Here are a few scenes from Lake Lanier in Buford, GA. We are going through a record setting drought this year. Everyday now we set a new record for the Lake level since the inception of the lake in the 1950's
Scenes from Lake Lanier, GA

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67. Drakoen
12:13 AM GMT on January 02, 2008
... Freeze watch for most of South Florida from late Wednesday
night through Thursday morning...

... Freeze watch remains in effect from late Wednesday night
through Thursday morning...

A very strong cold front will move across South Florida this
evening. The coldest temperatures of the season so far can be
expected on Thursday morning... with a freeze likely for all of
South Florida excluding the extreme East Coast. A prolonged period
of subfreezing temperatures is expected Thursday morning across
Glades... Hendry... inland Collier... and inland Palm Beach
counties... with a hard freeze possible in this region.
Frost will
also be possible... but only in wind sheltered locations.

All interested parties should act immediately to take any steps
necessary to protect tender vegetation... as a significant and
damaging freeze is likely for much of South Florida.
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66. aquak9
7:11 PM EST on January 01, 2008
hi drak and adrian! Florida folks here? talkin' about freezing weather? Go figure!

Well up here in Jax, they are talking low 20's. I don't think there's any possibility of flurries---

is there?
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65. hurricane23
7:11 PM EST on January 01, 2008
Have you see my Hurricane Archives?

Iam doing write-ups on my favorite tropical cyclones of all time.SEE HERE
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64. hurricane23
7:10 PM EST on January 01, 2008
Sure is....

Here's another piece.

FREEZING TEMPS MAY
EVEN PUSH INTO THE WESTERN SUBURBS ESPECIALLY UP IN PALM BEACH. A
HARD FREEZE IS EVEN A POSSIBILITY ACROSS PORTIONS OF GLADES AND
HENDRY COUNTIES FOR THURSDAY MORNING. A RARITY WITH THIS EVENT IS
THAT EVEN THOUGH S FL NORMALLY DECOUPLES DURING FREEZE EVENTS WITH
THURSDAY MORNING WINDS ARE EXPECTED TO REMAIN UP INTO THE 5 TO 10
KNOT RANGE.


Almost forgot Happy New Year buddy.Wish you the best in 2008.
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63. Drakoen
12:08 AM GMT on January 02, 2008
I can see you are excited as i am Adrian. That from the NWS right?
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62. hurricane23
7:04 PM EST on January 01, 2008
THU...GFS AND NAM-WRF MODELS ARE SPITTING OUT SOME LIGHT QPF AMOUNTS
ALONG THE COAST AS ONSHORE FLOW BECOMES BETTER ESTABLISHED. AT THE
SAME TIME...850MB TEMPS WILL BE -1C TO -3C. SO IF ANY PRECIP FALLS
FROM THE STRATOCU THU MORNING IT COULD VERY WELL BE IN THE FORM OF
FLURRIES OR VERY LIGHT SNOW SHOWERS ALONG THE SPACE AND TREASURE
COASTS. NO ACCUMULATION WOULD BE EXPECTED. WE SAW A VERY SIMILAR
SITUATION ON JAN 24 2003 WHEN VERY LIGHT SNOW/FLURRIES WERE REPORTED
ALONG THE BREVARD COAST.
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61. Drakoen
12:04 AM GMT on January 02, 2008
Adrian i'm getting into Freezing temps inland where i live lol. Its been a while since it got this cold...
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60. Drakoen
12:04 AM GMT on January 02, 2008
lol yea extreme236.
I want to note. I just looked at the GFS 18z and it showed some lingering precipitation on the east coast and some inland areas of Florida on wednesday and thurday. In conjunction with the cold air advection it is possible to see Flurries or very light snow as far south as Palm beach county during the night time and early morning hours where temperatures will be at or below freezing. The confidence of course is low but you look on the GFS and see for yourself
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59. hurricane23
6:57 PM EST on January 01, 2008
Temps tommmorow across miami dade and broward will have a hard time pushing a ridiculous 56-59 degrees around mid afternoon tommorow.When that suns goes down tommorow LOOK OUT!

mid to uppper 30's across miami/broward dade tommorow.Location will depend on how cold.

PS!Enjoy while its around cause come this weekend we will be back into the upper 70's.

www.AdriansWeather.com
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58. Weather456
7:58 PM AST on January 01, 2008
Happy 08 Drak
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
57. extreme236
11:55 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Happy New Year Drak! One of my New year's resolutions is to hit the "ignore" button on all trolls this hurricane season lol...hopefully that will aid in keeping some arguements down.
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56. extreme236
11:55 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Thanks for the help on the wind chill thing...found a cool calculator for wind chill also so that could help too :D
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55. Drakoen
11:50 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Hello Everyone. Happy New Year!
Looking forward to this weeks colder temperatures her in south Florida. The high is going to be around 55 with the low at or below freezing.
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54. V26R
11:46 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
VERY COLD 236
Very Cold
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53. NorthxCakalaky
11:32 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Its snowing in N.C above 3000f.t.!! 8-12 inches near mountain peakes, 3-6 otherwise.Foothills just snow showers/piedmont flurries.

Hopefully the snow will drop in elevation tonight.Dont see why mets wont say a prediction for the foothills, they just say 25degrees with snow showers.(Weatherunderground says 1inch)
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52. Weather456
7:40 PM AST on January 01, 2008
51. extreme236 7:35 PM AST on January 01, 2008 Hide this comment.
If the forecasted low temperature is about 10 degrees above zero with winds of 10-15mph, about what would the wind chill be?


-5.785F
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
51. extreme236
11:34 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
If the forecasted low temperature is about 10 degrees above zero with winds of 10-15mph, about what would the wind chill be?
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50. hydrus
10:44 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
My apologies Orca,I am trying with some difficulties to be more efficient with this computer and alot of the terminology such as(cut & paste)and abbreviations like(rotfl)i am not familiar with,and i am just learning how to type with the help of a severely fractured finger, which is slowing my progress.
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49. catfuraplenty
10:41 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Georgia is finally getting its rain. My parents are overjoyed. I've advised them to get rain barrels. No joke. We don't know what the rest of this new year will bring. Because of the volatility of the water situation, it would make sense for all of us to have rain barrels.

Use that water to water your plants or your lawns. Every bit of water we can save today can help us out tomorrow. And it's less money you have to spend on your water bill.

I'm hoping Atlanta gets a grip on itself and starts to learn to live within its means. For decades the people of Georgia have watched that place explode. A concreted, asphaulted nightmare that has almost swallowed the entire northern half of the state. If this drought leaves any lasting impression it is that you cannot have unprecidented growth without unprecidented problems.

A 5th generation Georgian.
Catfuraplenty
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48. Weather456
6:38 PM AST on January 01, 2008
CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN REGION....

Upper level anticyclonic flow continues to advect mid-upper level cloudiness and isolated showers over Central America, the Northwest Caribbean Sea, Western Cuba and the Bahamas. This flow is basically combined with activity in the Gulf and Western Atlantic. Fairly stable air remains in place over the remainder of the Caribbean in the mid and upper levels. Easterly flow at the surface continue to advect typical patches of shallow cloudiness and showers across the Islands with the most prevalent cloud bands about to impact the Leeward Islands and south of Hispaniola.

As winds tightening south of the subtropical ridges expected 6-8 ft seas over the Caribbean in general with the highest swells across the Southwest Caribbean near 14 ft. Seas west of 80W should remain below 5ft for now due to the lack of a substantial pressure gradient. But expect swift winds and increasing seas from the northwest as the cold front moves across the area.

by W456
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
47. Weather456
6:36 PM AST on January 01, 2008
....SYNOPSIS....

GULF OF MEXICO/NORTHWEST ATLANTIC OCEAN WEST OF 50W....

A stationary frontal boundary is stalled out along the Eastern Slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico from 30N/105W to 20N/97W. A cold front continues from there across the Gulf to South Florida. Strong upper winds sweeping over the fronts is producing cloudiness, showers and possible thunderstorms over the Southwest Gulf of Mexico and within 200 mn either side of the front...which includes South Florida. Meanwhile, the associated 1043 mb high pressure system is established over the Texas Panhandle producing fair weather over the state, and the Southeastern Portion of the United States. The high is also producing northeasterly gale force winds over the Gulf behind the front. These winds will begin to impact the Isthmus of Tehuantepec with storm-force winds expected over the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

A cold front goes from South Florida at 27N/81W along 30N/75W 36N/72W. A large upper level ridge over the Caribbean continues to direct a steady flow of cloudiness and showers along the front, from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic within 200 nm of the front. Patches of shallow clouds continue to be seen rotating in and around the flow of the dominant high pressure ridge now centered on a 1030 mb high near 33N/47W. This flow will continue to bring breezy weather and choppy seas to the Atlantic Coasts of Lesser and Greater Antilles...with the exception of Cuba. Another interesting feature is the remnant circulation of Subtropical Storm 95L which is now moving into the forecast region. Expect this low to continue on southwesterly track to the south of the subtropical ridge.


by W456
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
46. V26R
10:26 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Kori
Where is Prairieville???
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45. KoritheMan
10:20 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Good afternoon, everyone. It's already 50°F here in Prairieville. I'm looking for it to get at least 25°F tonight. Definitely very cold nights ahead.
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44. V26R
10:18 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Ive got a Davis Instruments which seems pretty accurate there a few others out there too

BTW still hate you for not taking me with you
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43. Orcasystems
10:14 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Storm W, or anyone who might know?
These weather stations that you can buy and setup, worth the hassle? I see people have got theirs setup to report the unformation to different websites.
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42. Orcasystems
10:09 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
41. V26R 10:09 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Happy New Year All

Okay Orca whats the countdown at???


Cancun

3 days 19 hours 49 minutes :)

Not that I am really counting :)

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41. V26R
10:08 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Happy New Year All

Okay Orca whats the countdown at???
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40. Orcasystems
9:38 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
33. hydrus 8:45 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Orca-The paste works for me but not cut.
Action: | Ignore User


Confusion is winning over here... what did you paste if you couldn't cut it?
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39. hurricane23
4:06 PM EST on January 01, 2008
FREEZING TEMPS MAY
EVEN PUSH INTO THE WESTERN SUBURBS ESPECIALLY UP IN PALM BEACH. A
HARD FREEZE IS EVEN A POSSIBILITY ACROSS PORTIONS OF GLADES AND
HENDRY COUNTIES FOR THURSDAY MORNING. A RARITY WITH THIS EVENT IS
THAT EVEN THOUGH S FL NORMALLY DECOUPLES DURING FREEZE EVENTS WITH
THURSDAY MORNING WINDS ARE EXPECTED TO REMAIN UP INTO THE 5 TO 10
KNOT RANGE. WINDS WILL BEGIN TO SHIFT TO A MORE NORTH.
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38. hurricane23
4:06 PM EST on January 01, 2008
Amazing stuff!

THU...GFS AND NAM-WRF MODELS ARE SPITTING OUT SOME LIGHT QPF AMOUNTS
ALONG THE COAST AS ONSHORE FLOW BECOMES BETTER ESTABLISHED. AT THE
SAME TIME...850MB TEMPS WILL BE -1C TO -3C. SO IF ANY PRECIP FALLS
FROM THE STRATOCU THU MORNING IT COULD VERY WELL BE IN THE FORM OF
FLURRIES OR VERY LIGHT SNOW SHOWERS ALONG THE SPACE AND TREASURE
COASTS. NO ACCUMULATION WOULD BE EXPECTED. WE SAW A VERY SIMILAR
SITUATION ON JAN 24 2003 WHEN VERY LIGHT SNOW/FLURRIES WERE REPORTED
ALONG THE BREVARD COAST.

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37. hurricane23
4:01 PM EST on January 01, 2008
Good afternoon!

56 degrees forcasted for south florida at noon hour tommorow....Thats something you dont see very often.Enjoy the cool down cause it wont be around for long.

Happy New Year to all!

www.AdriansWeather.com
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35. hydrus
8:50 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Vortfix-Your post mentioned snow flurries.We have not seen snow flurrs in Port Charlotte since Dec 24-1989.
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33. hydrus
8:39 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Orca-The paste works for me but not cut.
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32. Tazmanian
12:40 PM PST on January 01, 2008
ok 456
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30. Weather456
4:31 PM AST on January 01, 2008
Taz, I will send you an email...i have to go.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
29. Orcasystems
8:24 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
28. hydrus 8:24 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Orcasystems- could please tell me how to put a previous post in italics and then enter an answer or comment on your next post?
Action: | Ignore User


Cut and paste the remark into the message box.. highlite them again, and click on Italics in the top menu buttons, you can do the same for Bold also.
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28. hydrus
8:09 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Orcasystems- could please tell me how to put a previous post in italics and then enter an answer or comment on your next post?Like you posted number 22.
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27. thunder01
8:13 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
By the way 70kt winds at 850mb does not mean 70kt sustained winds at the surface. The 850 mb pressure plane is probably between 3000-5000 feet up with this storm, which means that these strong winds are not immediately impacting the surface. With winter cold fronts in NorCal, a good rule of thumb for maximum Valley wind gusts is to take winds at the 850 mb level and decrease them by 10% or so. So...attm...looks like max gusts in the Sac Valley for this storm will be around 70 mph (very impressive, to be sure). Ridgelines and the coast can potentially see 100-105% of 850 mb wind speeds, so for this storm 80-90 mph gusts are possible in these locations. The Sierras, which sit reside in the 700 mb presure plane, will likely see wind gusts 100-120mph with this storm. If the parent low undergoes more rapid cyclogenesis that currently forecast, even by 5-10 mb, winds would be substantially stronger. I still think it will be the biggest wind event in years for the area. Visit Weather West

for more...Link
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26. Tazmanian
12:00 PM PST on January 01, 2008
456 i am starting to see Increasing Clouds could that be the start to what to come has thing start to go down hill??

Link
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24. hydrus
7:53 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
It was an texas instruments.We have some REALLY old ones laying around.
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23. Weather456
2:48 PM AST on January 01, 2008
Southern active phase of the cold front

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
22. Orcasystems
7:36 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
21. hydrus 7:23 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Thanx Mike STL I just had one of my old calculators tell me 70KTS is 110.5MPH.
Action: | Ignore User


I think your abacus is broken :)
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21. hydrus
7:16 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Thanx Mike STL I just had one of my old calculators tell me 70KTS is 110.5MPH.
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20. Orcasystems
7:16 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Wind warning for: Greater Victoria
Issued at 10:43 AM PST TUESDAY 1 JANUARY 2008

SOUTHEAST WINDS 90 TO 110 KM/H OVER THE QUEEN CHARLOTTES WILL EASE TO SOUTHERLY 30 TO 50 THIS AFTERNOON. NORTHEAST OUTFLOW WINDS 70 TO 90 KM/H NEAR MAINLAND VALLEYS AND INLETS OF THE NORTH COAST AND CENTRAL COAST THIS AFTERNOON. SOUTHEAST WINDS OF 70 TO 100 KM/H OVER THE CENTRAL COAST - COASTAL SECTIONS AND NORTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND WILL EASE TO 40 TO 60 THIS AFTERNOON. SOUTHEAST WINDS OF 50 TO 70 KM/H OVER WEST VANCOUVER ISLAND WILL RISE TO 70 TO 90 THIS EVENING. SOUTHEAST WINDS OF 60 TO 80 KM/H WILL DEVELOP OVER SUNSHINE COAST AND EAST VANCOUVER ISLAND THIS AFTERNOON. SOUTHEAST WINDS OF 60 TO 80 KM/H WILL DEVELOP OVER GREATER VICTORIA GREATER VANCOUVER AND SOUTHERN GULF ISLANDS TONIGHT. THIS IS A WARNING THAT POTENTIALLY DAMAGING WINDS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING IN THESE REGIONS. MONITOR WEATHER CONDITIONS..LISTEN FOR UPDATED STATEMENTS.

AN INTENSE PACIFIC FRONTAL SYSTEM OVER THE NORTH COAST WILL PUSH SOUTHWARDS TO CROSS THE SOUTH COAST TONIGHT. AHEAD OF THE FRONT STRONG SOUTHEASTERLY WINDS UP TO 110 KM/H HAVE DEVELOPED OVER THE NORTH AND CENTRAL COAST WITH STRONG NORTHEASTERLY OUTFLOW NEAR MAINLAND VALLEYS AND INLETS. THESE STRONG WINDS ARE EXPECTED TO ABATE BEHIND THE FRONT THIS AFTERNOON. MEANWHILE AS THE FRONT APPROACHES STRONG SOUTHEAST WINDS HAVE DEVELOPED OVER WEST VANCOUVER ISLAND AND WILL DEVELOP OVER THE INNER SOUTH COAST THIS AFTERNOON OR THIS EVENING. WINDS WILL EASE OVERNIGHT OR EARLY WEDNESDAY MORNING AS THE FRONT MOVES INLAND AND WEAKENS. THE FRONT WILL BRING HEAVY SNOW TO WHISTLER TONIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY WITH TOTAL ACCUMULATIONS OF 15 TO 25 CM EXPECTED BY WEDNESDAY EVENING.
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19. Orcasystems
7:11 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
14. Weather456 6:32 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
Northeast Pacific Storm.....Most buoy, ships and stations are reporting winds well above tropical storm strength.


Where did you get the sat shot from 456?
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17. hydrus
7:03 PM GMT on January 01, 2008
I knew that 174KTS = 200MPH & 64KTS = 73.6MPH
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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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