Is El Niño Coming Back?!

sstanomalies-1-680x380The short answer is: Yes. But not until the Summer or Fall will it really be in effect. We are currently in an ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) neutral state but the eastern tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures are rising in most of the El Niño regions studies (Figures attached).

Though there is quite a bit of discrepancy in many of the climate models, some are actually forecasting a very strong El Niño developing this Summer/Fall. So we will be keeping our eye on the forecasts and actual conditions watching as the El Niño develops. The strength of the El Niño will also determine how much it affects the weather. The general consensus of a typical El Niño on global weather during the Northern Hemisphere Summer and Winter times are shown in figures below.

The global overall view is really just a very coarse view of things and really doesn’t do justice for regional areas. For those on the west coast of the U.S., where WeatherExtreme is located, El Niño generally means warmer and drier in the northwest up into western Canada and portions of Alaska and wetter (usually warmer to) conditions in the southwest. The wet/dry dividing line fluctuates and usually falls somewhere just north of the latitude of the Lake Tahoe Region.

An Analysis of Tornado Touchdown Reported in California’s Sacramento Valley

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Wild weather was reported in the Sacramento Valley on March 26, 2014. According to ABC News, multiple tornadoes and funnel clouds were reported, including a touchdown in the western stretches of Roseville that damaged at least a dozen homes. Most of the damage was minor and none of the residents were displaced, but it was still an eventful afternoon across the region.

Very cold air aloft provided increased instability, and strong upper level winds were present over Northern California. Scattered showers and thunderstorms began developing as early as midday, and persisted into the late afternoon and evening hours. Some storms reached severe limits, producing frequent lightning, large hail, gusty winds, and brief heavy downpours.

The storm that prompted a tornado warning for southwestern Placer County, including Roseville, is dissected in the four-panel view below. The nearest Doppler Radar was KDAX in Sacramento, CA (southwest of Roseville). News reports stated that the tornado was on the ground around 6:15 PM Local Time (Pacific Daylight Time), which for reference is 0115 Universal Coordinated Time (time used in labels for NEXRAD radar imagery).

The upper-left window shows base reflectivity. Some reflectivities in this storm impressively exceeded 60dBZ (rainfall rates as high at 5.67″ per hour!). The upper-right window shows the vertical integrated liquid in the storm, where a maximum of 3.2 kg/m3 is measured (green pixel) where these highest reflectivities were.

The lower-left window shows the storm relative velocity. While fairly small, the signature of the rotating thunderstorm can be seen where the red/pink and green pixels meet. This color difference is indicative of winds flowing in opposite directions (green is towards the radar, and red/pink is away from it). And finally, the lower-right window shows the rotation detected. The tornado is likely present where the green and blue colors touch, and this is consistent with the location of the rotating winds on the storm relative velocity analysis.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento, CA was able to give advanced warning when radar detected this rotating thunderstorm. On this same afternoon, the forecasters also issued tornado warnings for cells that developed farther north in the valley. Even though quieter regions like Northern California do not experience this type of weather very often, it is still helpful and wise to have access to excellent Doppler radar coverage over almost all of the lower 48 states.

House of Representatives passes Weather Forecasting Improvement Act

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On Tuesday the House of Representatives passed the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act. Approved by voice vote, this bipartisan bill aligns the R&D activities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) with the National Weather Service.

“Saving lives and protecting property should be the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s top priority. This bill codifies that priority,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) as he explained the objectives of this legislation to his House colleagues. Bridenstine introduced this bill, H.R. 2413, in June 2013. The month before Moore, Oklahoma was hit by a massive tornado that killed 24 people and injured 377. Joining Bridenstine in cosponsoring this bill and reflecting its bipartisan nature were twenty other representatives, including the chairman and ranking minority member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

The Science Committee voted to send this legislation to the full House after a quick markup session in early December. Then, as was true during Tuesday’s floor action, the bipartisan nature of the bill was emphasized. The bill has now been sent to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Selections from the House floor debate, in the order of presentation, follow:

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (T-TX):

“Severe weather routinely affects large portions of the United States. This past year has been no different. The United States needs a world-class weather prediction system that helps protect American lives and property.

“Our leadership has slipped in severe weather forecasting. European weather models routinely predict America’s weather better than we can. We need to make up for lost ground. H.R. 2413 improves weather observation systems and advances computing and next generation modeling capabilities. The enhanced prediction of major storms is of great importance to protecting the public from injury and loss of property. and advances computing and next generation modeling capabilities. The enhanced prediction of major storms is of great importance to protecting the public from injury and loss of property.”

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR):

“Members on both sides of the aisle can be assured that this bill represents a truly bipartisan effort and is built on extensive discussions with and advice from the weather community.”

“We drew on expert advice from the weather enterprise and from extensive reports from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration. Experts told us that, to improve weather forecasting, the research at the Office of Oceans and Atmospheric Research, or OAR, and the forecasting at the National Weather Service had to be better coordinated. This legislation contains important provisions to improve that coordination. This bill encourages NOAA to integrate research and operations in a way that models the successful innovation structure used by the Department of Defense.

“The bill we are considering today also creates numerous opportunities for the broader weather community to provide input to NOAA, and their insights as well. At every opportunity, we charge the agency to consult with the American weather industry and researchers as they develop research plans and undertake new initiatives. We also press NOAA to get serious about exploring private sector solutions to their data needs.

“The bill makes clear that we expect the historical support for extramural research to continue. The engine of weather forecasting innovation has not always been found within NOAA, but is often found in the external research community and labs that work with NOAA. That collaboration must continue and will continue under this legislation.

“I can assure Members on both sides of the aisle that weather research is strengthened in this bill but not at the expense of other important work at NOAA. During the committee process, we heard from witness after witness who stressed that weather forecasting involves many different scientific disciplines. This integrated multidisciplinary approach reflects an understanding that we cannot choose to strengthen one area of research at OAR without endangering the progress in the other areas because they are all interconnected. Physical and chemical laws do not respect OAR’s budgetary boundaries of climate, weather, and oceans, and this bill only addresses organizational issues in weather at NOAA.”

Source: Space Ref
American Institute of Physics

Sholto Hamilton “Dick” GEORGESON- May 7, 1922 – March 27, 2014

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Sholto Hamilton “Dick” GEORGESON
May 7, 1922 – March 27, 2014

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog posting. On Thursday March 27, 2014, the world lost a lovely man, Dick Georgeson. His full name was Sholto Hamilton Georgeson but everyone called him “Dick”.

Dick grew up in New Zealand and was a pioneer New Zealand glider pilot. He discovered the potential of the Makenzie Country (near the center of the south island of New Zealand) mountain wave system and even diagrammed it out on paper.

On December 16, 1960, Dick set a world height record and soared his wooden Skylark 3F Glider, registration ZK-GCF, to 34,395 feet (10,484 meters). For the next twenty years Dick went on to set many more world records and New Zealand records in various gliders.

Dick was so enthusiastic about the weather, discovering new things and was always sending me unusual cloud formation photos that he and I would then spend time trying to figure out how/why they formed.

Dick was so excited about the Perlan Project and had such wonderful insight into the mountain wave when we were flying out of Omarama New Zealand.

Einar Enevolson, the Perlan Project Founder, and I were talking about Dick on the phone yesterday and Einar made a wonderful comment that pretty much sums things up. He said “Isn’t it great that we knew Dick!”

My thoughts and best wishes go out to his family including his children, grand-children and his wife, Anna Wilson. He will be missed dearly!

Elizabeth Austin
President, WeatherExtreme Ltd.