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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267. Weather456
4:34 PM AST on January 02, 2008
Gulf of Tehuantepec Storm Event

By W456 on Tuesday...

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.

Today...
....SYNOPSIS....

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

The main story this morning over the region is very strong high pressure. As a cold front pushes westward into the Western Caribbean and Atlantic, the associated 1047 mb high pressure system continues to establish itself over Central Texas. The is bringing clear to partly cloudy skies over Texas, the Deep South, Southeast United States and the Gulf waters north of 28N. Broken to overcast cold air stratocumulus clouds cover the entire Gulf...gradually becoming deeper from 28N to the Coastal Plains of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.

QuikSCAT and surface observations indicate the high pressure system is also producing very strong winds over the Gulf of Mexico in excess of 20 knots, with some wind reports as high 35 knots. These winds are making for red flag gale warnings over the entire Gulf for dangerous seas. Small craft should exercise caution. Perhaps the most extreme wind event is over the Tehuantepec Peninsula, where QuikSCAT reveals winds well near 50 knots.

by W456


This morning's Quikscat



Visible Satellite Imagery with surface wind reports in the last hour. One station is reporting 30 Knot winds on the Bay of Campeche Side of the Isthmus.



The geography of the area is the key to understanding what causes the event in the first place. You basically have a funneling effect between two mountain ranges separated by a valley which can concentrate and strengthen the winds within a narrow area.

In the map below, the Tabasco Plain separates the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre del Sur (Southern Sierra Madre) and Sierra Madre de Chiapas.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
266. Drakoen
8:35 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Heh if it was 1977. Thats when South Florida saw some good snowfall...lol.
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265. NEwxguy
8:35 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
tonights forecast for the boston suburbs

Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 7. Wind chill values as low as -6. Northwest wind between 11 and 17 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph.
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263. hurricane23
3:34 PM EST on January 02, 2008
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
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262. Weather456
4:29 PM AST on January 02, 2008
that info is also found on my blog.
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261. Drakoen
8:28 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
259. StSimonsIslandGAGuy 8:28 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Well--you could get lucky Bob :) Feb 2, 1951, a convergent band set up over St. Augustine off the water and St. Augustine had 2 inches of snow :)


LOL.
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260. Weather456
4:27 PM AST on January 02, 2008
The forecast still holds for three major Pacific Storms to impact the West Coast of the United States and Canada from California to British Colombia starting 1200 UTC on Thursday. These storms are no joke. The first one is shown in figure 1, and will impact the Sierra Nevada slopes with 50 mph and winds and heavy snow. The second storm, will be even more powerful with winds of hurricane force starting 1200 UTC Friday. The third storm will take bit longer to arrive as seen in figure 3 which shows the storm located in the Central Pacific 1200 UTC Saturday.

Snow/Rainfall
The first storm has a 50% chance of brining near 12 inches of snow to the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Rockies of Oregon, Idaho and Washington. The chance increases to 70% of above 12 inches of snow later on Friday as the second powerful storm moves in.

2 inches of rain per hour is not out of the question for the first storm but this will be confine to isolated areas near the coast. Rainfall of 3 inches per hour possible with the second storm.

Temperatures
The coldest temperatures will be fine to higher elevations more inland. Though chilly temperatures between freezing and 10C is possible near the coast. The second low will bring even chiller air and that would increase the chances of snow.

Marine Weather
Marine weather will deteriorate and become down right dangerous. The first storm (not shown)will bring 20-25 ft swells with 30-40 knot winds. The second low (shown in Figure 4) will bring exceptionally high surf around 40-50 ft and winds of hurricane force. Marine warnings will most likely be issued for unfavorable seas.

Links to Track the Storm



Figure 1. Surface Forecast valid 1200 UTC Thursday 03 January 2008 for the Eastern Pacific Ocean.


Figure 2. Surface Forecast valid 1200 UTC Friday 04 Januaury 2008 for the Eastern Pacific Ocean.


Figure 3. Surface Forecast valid 1200 UTC Friday 03 Janaury 2008 for the Central Pacific Ocean.


Figure 4. Significant wave height and direction forecast.

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258. Drakoen
8:26 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Very well defined stratocumulus cloud cover in the Gulf of Mexico and of the eastern seaboard.
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257. Levi32
11:23 AM AKST on January 02, 2008
Oh that's great Bob I'll book you a trip to the north slope here in Alaska. Enjoy the -130 wind chills LOL. Seriously -130, freezes your skin rock hard in 15 seconds. That's when even we stay inside :)
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256. hurricane23
3:19 PM EST on January 02, 2008
The point is South Florida is not use to this kind of weather which temps like this dont happen down here across miami/broward counties that often and if proper precautions are not taken if your exposed you could put yourself in a dangerous situation.The 15-20mph will actually make the temp feel alot colder then what it really is.I totally agree with the the wind chill warning in affect.That will probably be the main highlight of this event.
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255. weatherguy03
3:22 PM EST on January 02, 2008
I grew up in the North Levi, came down after college, so I know, but I have been here for 15 years so the blood has thinned a bit:)
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254. Drakoen
8:21 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
NAM 18z Thursday morning:
The blue isotherm is the line of 32 degrees Farenheit at 850mb to the surface.
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253. weatherguy03
3:21 PM EST on January 02, 2008
Same to you and Mike!! Oh good one, when I get home I will bookmark it, thanks!!
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252. Levi32
11:21 AM AKST on January 02, 2008
Hey Bob! Happy New Year! Yeah don't worry we're all laughing at you lol. I just recently went through a day with wind chill at 30 below. I still went outside lol. You'll get used to it =)
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251. weatherguy03
3:20 PM EST on January 02, 2008
We have been alittle spoiled the last 5 to 10 years, so this is a shock for some I guess. But hey, we will be above normal by Sunday:)
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250. IKE
2:19 PM CST on January 02, 2008
My forecast for tonight...updated....panhandle of Florida...

"Tonight
Clear and very cold with a hard freeze. Lows 15 to 20 in the normally colder inland locations away from the cities...around 25 at the coast and in the cities. Northwest winds 5 to 10 mph...becoming light late.".....


I live on lake front property...helps to insulate me...my guess for my actual low...low 20's. I'll say 21 degrees.
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247. weatherguy03
3:17 PM EST on January 02, 2008
I was thinking the same thing Levi. I bet the people from the North are laughing at us!..LOL I just dont want any snow flurries here because the entire city will shut down!..LOL
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246. Drakoen
8:15 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Yep. Thats expected. I live west of the Turnpike...I'm gonna go out and buy some hot chocolate lol.
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245. Levi32
11:10 AM AKST on January 02, 2008
ROFLOL you guys are pathetic, no offense I'm kidding lol. We Alaskans here...cmon...that's a mild day for me lol! I love gloating over you guys :D I guess you're not used to a wind chill of 20....bundle up, not many of you have coats and gloves but get 'em if you can. Get a taste of a normal Alaskan winter day :)
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243. hurricane23
3:09 PM EST on January 02, 2008
Drak check this out!

Warning upgraded...

A VERY COLD AND DRY ARCTIC AIRMASS WILL CONTINUE TO SPILL ACROSS
SOUTH FLORIDA TONIGHT. A BRIEF PERIOD OF TEMPERATURES NEAR OR
SLIGHTLY BELOW FREEZING WILL LIKELY OCCUR ACROSS THE FAR WESTERN
PORTION OF THE EAST COAST METROPOLITAN AREAS TONIGHT...GENERALLY
WEST OF THE FLORIDA TURNPIKE IN PALM BEACH COUNTY...WEST OF A
SAWGRASS EXPRESSWAY INTERSTATE 75 LINE IN BROWARD COUNTY...AND
WEST OF KROME AVENUE IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY. THIS WILL LIKELY OCCUR
FOR ONLY ONE TO TWO HOURS
.
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242. Drakoen
8:07 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Yes Adrian. The winds are expect to die down a bit. The 12z Models forecast 40 degrees for Miami tonight.
If you check my blog you can see i made some close ups of the NAM and the GFS 12z runs.
The NAM 18z hasn't changed much that light of shore precip looks to try and work its way inland.
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241. hurricane23
2:59 PM EST on January 02, 2008
A VERY COLD AND DRY ARCTIC AIRMASS WILL CONTINUE TO SPILL ACROSS
SOUTH FLORIDA TONIGHT...WITH SUBFREEZING TEMPERATURES LIKELY FOR
MUCH OF THE NIGHT. A PROLONGED PERIOD OF TEMPERATURES AT 28
DEGREES OR BELOW IS ALSO LIKELY...WITH THESE CONDITIONS EXPECTED
TO PERSIST FOR AT LEAST FOUR HOURS IF NOT LONGER. THUS...A HARD
FREEZE WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THE AREA.

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT ALL INTERESTED PARTIES ACT IMMEDIATELY TO
TAKE ANY STEPS NECESSARY TO PROTECT CROPS AND OTHER TENDER
VEGETATION...AS A SIGNIFICANT AND KILLING FREEZE WILL OCCUR
TONIGHT. ALSO...BE SURE TO INSULATE OUTDOOR PLUMBING FIXTURES
THAT ARE EXPOSED TO THE COLD AIR...AND PROVIDE ADEQUATE FOOD...
WATER...AND WARM SHELTER FOR PETS.

STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO AND OTHER LOCAL MEDIA FOR
FURTHER DETAILS OR UPDATES ON THIS EVENT.


Again folks the actually temp maybe close to 38-40 degrees around miami dade but the DANGER comes with those 15-20 mph winds which will cause the temp to feel about 15 degrees colder then that on your body.

If those winds go light temps could drop even futher.

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240. NEwxguy
8:04 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
LOL,wind chill warnings for Florida,just don't seem to go together.There won't be too much walking along the beach tonight.
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239. hurricane23
2:51 PM EST on January 02, 2008
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
214 PM EST WED JAN 2 2008

...WIND CHILL WARNING NOW IN EFFECT FOR ALL OF SOUTH FLORIDA
EXCLUDING THE IMMEDIATE ATLANTIC COAST...


...WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE IMMEDIATE
ATLANTIC COAST...

FLZ063-066>075-174-031000-
/O.UPG.KMFL.WC.Y.0002.080103T0200Z-080103T1400Z/
/O.NEW.KMFL.WC.W.0001.080103T0200Z-080103T1400Z/
GLADES-HENDRY-INLAND PALM BEACH-METRO PALM BEACH-COASTAL COLLIER-
INLAND COLLIER-INLAND BROWARD-METRO BROWARD-INLAND MIAMI DADE-
METRO MIAMI DADE-MAINLAND MONROE-FAR SOUTH MIAMI DADE-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...PALMDALE...MOORE HAVEN...CLEWISTON...
LA BELLE...BIG CYPRESS SEMINOLE RESERVATION...PAHOKEE...
SOUTH BAY...BELLE GLADE...WEST PALM BEACH...NAPLES...IMMOKALEE...
MICCOSUKEE INDIAN RESERVATION...COCONUT CREEK...FORT LAUDERDALE...
HOLLYWOOD...PEMBROKE PINES...SHARK VALLEY...MIAMI...FLAMINGO...
FLORIDA CITY...EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
214 PM EST WED JAN 2 2008

...WIND CHILL WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM THIS EVENING TO 9 AM
EST THURSDAY...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS ISSUED A WIND CHILL
WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM THIS EVENING TO 9 AM EST
THURSDAY. THIS PRODUCT IS AN UPGRADE OF THE PREVIOUSLY ISSUED WIND
CHILL ADVISORY.

MINIMUM TEMPERATURES ON THURSDAY MORNING ARE EXPECTED TO RANGE
FROM THE MID 20S TO THE LOWER 30S ACROSS THE WARNING AREA...WITH
NORTHWEST WINDS IN THE 10 TO 15 MPH RANGE CONTINUING THROUGH THE
NIGHT. THIS COMBINATION OF TEMPERATURE AND WIND WILL CREATE
DANGEROUS WIND CHILL READINGS BETWEEN 15 AND 25 DEGREES FOR MUCH
OF THE NIGHT. THUS...A WIND CHILL WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THE
AREA.

A WIND CHILL WARNING MEANS THE COMBINATION OF VERY COLD AIR AND
STRONG WINDS WILL CREATE DANGEROUSLY LOW WIND CHILL VALUES. THIS
WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA OR DEATH IF
PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. IF YOU MUST VENTURE OUTDOORS....MAKE
SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES.
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238. Drakoen
7:52 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Right around the daytime high now here in South Florida of 56 degrees. Probably won't get much warmer.
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237. hurricane23
2:48 PM EST on January 02, 2008
Somewhat of a similar set-up to 2003.
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236. hurricane23
2:47 PM EST on January 02, 2008
Incredible Dew Points across florida!A sight to see for sure.



More observations on my Florida OBS page
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235. Drakoen
7:47 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
I just updated my blog on the situation in Florida.
Link
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234. NEwxguy
7:34 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
still waiting for the artic door to open up here,sitting at a balmy 28,while watertown ny is at 8 degrees.
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233. WeatherQuesting
12:21 PM MST on January 02, 2008
Thanks for explaining what went wrong in Atlanta, and how they better get on the ball for that whopping population increase coming up.
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232. LakeShadow
7:15 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
light flurries right now.
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231. thunder01
7:15 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Massive storm-the biggest in years, in fact--still on track to blast CA over the next few days. Orographically favored mountain areas near the coast could see rainfall totals approaching 12-14 inches for the three day period, with wind gusts over 90 mph. The Sierras will see 4-8 feet of snow, with some peaks seeing 10-12 feet Thursday through Sunday. Extremely powerful winds over 100 mph will probably occur on mountain tops. Southern California could see serious and life-threatening debris flows, mudslides, and flash flooding in or near the numerous wildfire burn areas of the past 2 years. Visit Weather West for more
Link
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230. Bonedog
2:10 PM EST on January 02, 2008
no problem V2


side note to all... oil broke the $100 a barrell mark today :( currently trading at $99.19 sad start to the new year
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229. weatherbro
6:52 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Accuweather.com A low tonight of 26 with windchill around 12 in Orlando FL. with a hard freeze.

Check out my weather blog weatherhop.blogspot.com
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228. V26R
7:05 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Thanks Bone
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227. LakeShadow
7:01 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
just about 2 inches in metro Buffalo. melting occured before we got a dusting last night, so less than 1 and a half inches on the ground now. I put a water bottle outside 16.9 ounces, it took only an hour to freeze completely.
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226. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
6:58 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
TROPICAL CYCLONE ELNUS ADVISORY NUMBER THIRTEEN
===========================================

At 18:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression, Ex-Elnus [998 hPa] located near 21.0S 40.4E or 1535 kms west of the coast of Reunion had 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts up to 45 knots. The depression is reported moving south-southeast at 5 knots.

Dvorak Intensity: T2.0/2.5

Near Gale Force Winds 30 Nm from the center entending up to 90 NM in the southerm semi-circle, and locally reaching Gale-Force Winds in the southern semi-circle up to 30 NM from the center.

Forecast and Intensity
======================
24 HRS: 22.4S 40.6E 25 knots (Perturbation Tropicale)
48 HRS: 23.6S 41.1E 20 knots (Depression se Comblant)

Additional Information
========================
Thunderstorm convective activity is pushed away southeastward by an important northwesterly vertical windshear in high level. Elnus is expected to keep tracking globally southward within the next 48 hours towards a weak in the subtropical high pressure belt then on recurving eastward undergoing a ridge rebuilding in its southwest. Stronger winds extend further in the south of the system due to the gradient with the subtropical high pressures.
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225. NEwxguy
6:57 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Hey, Lake how much snow did you get this past week?
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224. NEwxguy
6:55 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
I agree V26,Bone can have all the white stuff.
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223. Bonedog
1:55 PM EST on January 02, 2008
V2 here ya go

Weather Warehouse
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222. Bonedog
1:47 PM EST on January 02, 2008
yea Lake its chilly. Nothing bad though. Tomorrow morning is going to be the big chill so far this winter. Low of 8 expect with wind chills of 10 below.

Now if there was white on the ground I would feel better :)
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221. V26R
6:49 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Thats okay with me NEWX
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220. V26R
6:47 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Hey do you guys know if or how to get records from April 1974 for the NYC area???
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219. NEwxguy
6:46 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Bone,the ski resorts are off to a record year up there,doesn't look like you'll see any white stuff next week.
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218. LakeShadow
6:09 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
afternoon, BoneDog... Cold enough?

IKE...Just reading about how Led Zepplin will be headlining Bonnaroo...
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217. lawntonlookers
6:32 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Here is a link to current pressure. Usually the Higr Pressure goes with the colder temperture. I have seen -60F in a frost pocket near Wanakena, NY and have seen -65F in Alaska. Both were during an extremly high pressure. I am not sure what the pressure was, but I do remember it was COLD.

Today Surface Pressure
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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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