NOAA Predicts a Quiet Atlantic Hurricane Season: 8 – 13 Named Storms

The Atlantic hurricane season starts in just over a week, and long-range models are already pointing to the possibility that the Western Caribbean will be capable of brewing the season's first "Invest" during the first week of June. But so far, the major hurricane forecasting groups are not impressed with this season's potential to be an active one. They are calling for 2014 to be a below average to near-average year for the Atlantic. NOAA's prediction, issued this ...<br /><a href="">Read More</a>

Spring in the Rockies, Part II

It was just 10 days ago that we were talking about snow across much of the central Rocky Mountain region, including several inches in the Denver Metropolitan area (see It's Not Over Until We Say It's Over).  My how things have changed as yesterday a remarkable supercell thunderstorm moved through the Denver Metropolitan area, resulting in a tornado warning for an area that included the Denver International Airport.

Some great photos of the storm are available from  As of this morning, the Storm Prediction lists 9 tornado reports from the area.

The Doppler velocity image below shows the remarkable mesocyclone that accompanied the storm with green indicating flow towards the radar (lighter green indicates stronger flow towards the radar) and red indicating flow away from the radar.  A mesocyclone is a storm-scale area of strong rotation.  At this time, the counterclockwise circulation associated with the mesocyclone is centered to the immediate west of the radar (radar site in the center of the white dot), with a beautiful hook in the inbounds (green) Doppler velocities.

Significant hail accumulations were also reported in the area.  The Denver Police Department took this photo of a 5 inch hail accumulation.

The hail intensity/damage potential in eastern Colorado is amongst the highest in the United States, with $3 billion in damages during the first decade of the 21st century.  It's a good place to own a garage.

Climate Change For The Masses (Part I)

Recently a clip for Jon Oliver’s HBO show has been going around in which he addresses the ridiculousness regarding the climate change "debate."  The issue is no longer a debate within the scientific community, except for the more precise details like “will the global average temperature rise 3˚C or 4˚C?” or “which climate feedbacks will dominate, thus amplifying or dampening the rate of anthropogenic climate change?”  As Jon Oliver correctly points out, the area of dissent is less than 3% of scientists investigating the climate system, and often those scientists do little to no recent peer-reviewed research--even fewer have degrees in atmospheric sciences.

Given this fact, some important questions come to mind: Why are there are so many people who have trouble accepting the science behind a changing climate and how do we engage those people so that they can understand one of the most important scientific issues of our day?  I know many have tackled these questions before, but I just wanted to break down what I think are the important factors in why the acceptance of climate science is having such a huge problem gaining traction in this country.  Is this just something that Americans have a hard time reconciling or is it a problem in other countries too?

I would first like to address this problem by examining, as Wodehouse’s Jeeves would say, “the 
Jeeves from
psychology of the individual."  In my experience, when engaging with students and the general public in this discourse, those who deny climate change generally fall into one or more of three (not mutually exclusive categories):

1.     Those who simply don’t understand how science works.  They lack an understanding of the basic physics and chemistry that has been part of a firm body of knowledge in those fields for well over a hundred years.  More importantly they don’t understand the scientific method, nor the process of peer-review.  They don’t seem to understand how scientists confront problems and identify solutions, and how they also, through investigation, reject possible answers to a given question.  In my opinion, this would seem to point to a systemic failure in education. 

As a professor in the sciences who teaches general education courses, the science phobia among students is palpable.  Most students come into university with the idea that they are bad at science, they just want to get through it.  It is remarkable how many students I have had over the year say to me that "they are bad at science", even when they have yet to take an assessment in my course.   While many students may also be unprepared for college, their attitudes towards science also lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where they expect not to understand the material and thus don't.  Ironically these students are often in majors  for which the body of knowledge advances due to systematic investigation in accordance with the scientific method.  So in addition to a great disparity in ability amongst students in their understanding of subjects like physics/chemistry and, to a lesser degree biology (e.g. anti-vaxxers), people also seem to think science is only is found in those disciplines and applications thereof in earth sciences, engineering and medicine. The social sciences, however, seem to be perceived as bereft of scientific thinking.  It is clear to any scientist, however, that the best social scientists are ones who could do well in any field of study, should they have the inclination. I am fond of reminding people that the same science that was used to make the computer through which they are arguing with me, is used for investigating climate change, evolution and immunology.  Finally, this deficit of scientific understanding makes them unable to differentiate between good information and misinformation, or valid research vs. invalid research.

It appears that the curricula which we teach our children needs serious modification; we must provide equal opportunities for all children to learn these scientific concepts.

2.     Those who simply cannot comprehend the complexity of climate science.  The climate system involves elaborate interactions and often even people who do seem to have some knowledge of science have a hard time processing intricate climate change interactions.  If the first criteria in this list were met, this next step would be easier to overcome, but when it is not, teaching people how to understand specific information that is an application of things they should have already learned becomes even harder; it compounds the problem of having people unable to determine the legitimacy of arguments in the scientific discourse.

3.     Those who believe in conspiracy theories.These are people, in my opinion, with whom cannot be reasoned. They utilize belief-based thinking and cannot be swayed from their 
position through logical arguments.  They often talk about corruption within the IPCC, collusions by climate scientists, and talk about the big money involved with corporations interested in green technology.  What I always find interesting is that they never seem to come up with any conspiracies that involve the much more wealthy petrochemical companies.  Before climate change became a big media story, 'big oil' conspiracy theories abounded (e.g., how they are trying to make people dependent on fossil fuels in order to make massive profits, colluding with each other to never really compete to give people a better price).  In the end I feel there will always be people who want to feel like they are on the fringe and hang their hat on improbable and unproven scenarios on the off-chance they are right so they can feel special and part of the select few (there are of course many other reasons why people believe in conspiracy theories).

In a democracy in which the voice of the people has some political significance, persons in the above categories hold back our nation’s ability to pass sensible climate policy and mitigate the global impacts of climate change.  The question then becomes:  “How we can engage them in a meaningful way?”    In my next piece on this subject I would like to investigate broader factors such as media and culture.  Bear in mind I am not an expert in all of these realms and would welcome feedback and lively discussion on these issues.

Cyclonic transport of fire smoke over the Gulf of Alaska

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

McIDAS images of GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed the cyclonic transport of smoke across the Gulf of Alaska on 20 May 2014. The source of the smoke was the Funny River Fire that was burning on the Kenai Peninsula of south-central Alaska, near Soldotna. The fire quickly grew to 20,000 acres in about 24 hours.

The curved smoke plume was also quite evident on 3 separate Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images (below). Smoke was reducing the surface visibility as low as 3 miles at Homer (station identifier PAHO).

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images

Even though patchy clouds covered the Kenai Peninsula region around 13 UTC, the fire “hot spots” (black to yellow to red color enhancement) were still detectable on the VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR image (below).

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 3.74 µm shortwave IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 3.74 µm shortwave IR channel images

A Pesky Trough

A pesky upper-level trough is presently sitting over and bringing showers to Nevada.  This trough is the main fly in the ointment for the Memorial Day weekend forecast as it is expected to slowly move across the southwest United States bringing with it a chance of showers and thunderstorms.

The track, intensity, and speed of the upper-level trough has been subject to uncertainty the past few days.  Overnight runs from the North American Ensemble Forecast System (NAEFS) and ECMWF ensemble system center the trough just south of the four corners by 0000 UTC Sunday (6 PM MDT Saturday).

Source: Environment Canada
Source: ECMWF
The system is not particularly strong, but contains sufficient moisture, instability, and dynamics to bring a threat of showers and thunderstorms to the southern and eastern portions of Utah on Friday and Saturday, with a lingering threat in the far southeastern part of the state on Sunday.  Keep an eye on the forecasts and an eye to the sky.

Was there a mini-hurricane off the Northwest coast on Sunday?

This weekend there was an amazing sight in the satellite imagery off our coast, from roughly 8 AM through 2 PM.  Here is a close up shot around noon from the NASA MODIS satellite.   Looks like a hurricane with spiral rain bands. Or a spiral galaxy.

It actually was quite small.  To get some perspective, here is a wider view.  See it due west of the NW tip of the Olympic Peninsula and southwest of Vancouver Island?   It was about 60 km (36 miles) across.

A few hours later it started to dissipate but still had an other-worldly look! (again, giving you both views)

Want to see an animation of this "mini"hurricane?  Check out this animated gif (special thanks to Jeff Knecht for bringing it to my attention):

Or go to this link.

Earlier in the morning the Windsat sScatterometer satellite passed over the region (scatterometers useicrowave radiation to measure capillary wave amplitude and from that wind speed/direction).  This image, or roughly 8 AM, suggests some rotation off the northern Washington coast (click on image to make it larger)

And here is the image from another scatterometer around can see two areas of rotation, with the NE one associated with our little hurricane.
Impressively, high resolution numerical forecast models had a handle on this feature.  To prove this, here are the surface winds and sea level pressure forecast for 8 AM Sunday from the UW WRF model (this was a 3hr forecast).   Look closely and you will see the circulation, admittedly with a small error in the location.

Our little hurricane had a very week pressure signature and very modest (roughly 10 mph) winds.  The signature was limited to low clouds (unlike real hurricanes) and its origin could have been either from a weak upper level disturbance or from some kind of instability process associated with horizontal wind shear (although the amount of shear was very weak).

Anyway, an interesting phenomenon

Lunchtime Climate Series 

Finally, if anyone is interested, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce is continuing its lunchtime climate series in downtown Seattle next week.

More more information, the link is here.

GOES-14 SRSOR: Storm-centered Loop of Supercell over the High Plains of Colorado

GOES-14 0.62 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-14 0.62 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

An isolated Supercell Thunderstorm developed near Denver on 20 May and then moved eastward over the High Plains. The storm produced significant hail. GOES-14 was operating in SRSOR mode and viewing Colorado during the storm’s lifecycle, and the animation above (click image for a large animated gif file) is centered on the storm, highlighting the inflow into the storm from the southeast and the strong difluence around the updraft.

An earth-centered animation is available here. The animated gif clickable above is also available as a YouTube video, or downloadable in mp4 format here.

April 2014 Tied for Earth’s Warmest April on Record

April 2014 tied with April 2010 as Earth's warmest April since records began in 1880, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) today, making April the first month since November 2013 to set a global monthly temperature record. NASA rated April 2014 as the 2nd warmest April on record; global land temperatures were the 3rd warmest on record, as were global ocean temperatures. The year-to-date January - April period has been the 6th warmest on record for the gl...<br /><a href="">Read More</a>

Admiral Stockdale Statement

Who are we? Why are we here?

  The blogosphere is polluted with weather wannabes; those who think the shrill sound and fury of their pontifications merit attention from their readers—the more absurd the proclamations, the greater their supposed relevancy. We are not that blog. First, our “posse” is an academically certified group of individuals from an array of institutions across North America and Europe. We aren’t looking to earn a profit from our posts; we’re here to help frame the discourse on weather and climate in an appropriate, measured vein. So, please pardon us if we come across a bit nerdy at times. We’ll do our best to elaborate on complex processes at play in the atmosphere, while feeding the intellectual hunger of our more experienced readers.

   We can’t guarantee we’ll address every popular topic in the earth and atmospheric sciences, but we’ll do our best to construct blogs that are intellectually stimulating and interesting with a dash of panache. Some of our bloggers are blessed with sardonic wit and prone to toss in a dash of irreverent humor. Don’t hold that against us. We invite you to consider that we are all human, we all inhabit this Earth, and our hopes, our joys, our sorrows are all made possible and supported by a thin veil of atmospheric gases. Air is a cosmic miracle of sorts. We want to ensure that the planet belongs to future generations. By endeavoring to heighten scientific awareness and communicate the explanations for how our atmospheric systems work, hopefully more people can better appreciate the chaotic nature of this dynamic system and all the intricate surprises it can impart to us. When more persons are aware of their role in this dynamic system there is a greater appreciation for the role of stewardship on this pale blue rock, covered mostly by liquid water. Weather, water, wind – climate, cognition, communication: Let the conversation commence!

Guestimating the End of Snow

A pretty good guess for the rate of snowmelt in a mature snowpack on north facing aspects in the Wasatch Mountains in late spring and early summer is 2–2.5 inches a day.  Obviously this changes depending on the weather and snow conditions (for instance, how dusty and dirty it is) but it works pretty well in patterns like these and is a pretty good guess for the rate of snow loss this time of year.  

The gradual demise of the snowpack at Alta-Collins can be seen in the 7-day trace of hourly snow depth measurements below.

Source: Alta–Collins
The drop over this 7 day period is from 115 to 98 inches, or an average of 2.4 inches per day.  At that rate, we have 41 days until the end of snow at this site, which would be about June 27th.