Is The U.S. Falling Behind in Weather Forecasting?
Back in late August 2005, the National Hurricane Center was one of, if not the only one, the lone bright spots in terms of the federal government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. The NHC forecast performed very well, and helped save many more lives along the Gulf Coast. Overall, hurricane forecasting has improved significantly, especially in the area of determining the future track of these storms. However, in recent years, the United States has begun to yield its leading position in the world of forecasting, particularly in numerical weather prediction.
Over the past several seasons, the European Model has done quite well in a several notable storm tracks including Hurricanes Irene (August 2011) and Sandy (October 2012), and most recently with Tropical Storm Karen. Â While media outlets have begun doing a great job in depicting storm solutions from both the Euro and the GFS (American) models, there always appears to be a nudge toward the GFS. Â
At the time of the Karen’s emergence in the Southern Gulf of Mexico, the European model was spot on with Karen having it ending up as a weaker storm or depression on a westerly track into Louisiana. Â Meanwhile, the GFS had the storm taking a more easterly track, being a stronger storm, and possibly a hurricane by the time it was forecasted to come ashore in the area of Mobile, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
In the end, the Euro fared much better than the GFS as it correctly anticipated the effects of dry air and shear on Karen. Â The storm had notable success with the track of Hurricane, or Superstorm Sandy. Â Back then, the European model had indicated as early as October 22nd of last year that Sandy, which was a depression at the time, was going to come ashore in the Mid-Atlantic by the following week as hurricane, nor’easter, or hybrid type storm. Eventually, the GFS as well as the other models came in line with the Euro forecast, but it took another few days before that happened.
Prior to this season, the Euro model had gained the respect of many tropical experts. Â Many had grown to favor the ECMWF, another name for the Euro, in forecasting the development and track of tropical storms and hurricanes according to John Nelander’s Weather Matters blog at the Palm Beach Daily News. Â This development has been making many in the meteorological community wonder if the United States is beginning to lose its place as the leader in weather forecasting. Â Cliff Mass, who writes for his own weather blog, cited the lack of funding and resources, proper management, and effective leadership has caused the U.S. to fall behind the Europeans in numerical weather prediction.
With government agencies such as NOAA and the NWS receiving less and less money from a U.S. government that continues to have problems managing its money by putting more and more resources into such things as defense, there is less than adequate computer power, which is necessary for providing higher resolution models with a vast amount of data points. Â NOAA is gradually becoming more like NASA, whereÂ instead of it leading the way in its field, it is fighting with the Weather Channel and Accu-Weather among others for the attention of viewers.
Despite the increasing success of the Euro model in recent years, there are still some media outlets that give models such as the GFS the benefit of the doubt in recent storms such as Sandy and Karen. The bias brings up comparisons to the time of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 when the U.S. Weather Bureau discounted the forecasts by its Cuban counterparts, which did a better job forecasting the monster Ctaegory Four storm.
Bottom line is that it is time that we all gave the European model its due. The United States should use this as an opportunity to learn from the Euro, but also challenge itself to reclaim its leadership role in weather forecasting.
Here is video footage of windy and rainy weather that came through South Plainfield, New Jersey on Monday as a powerful cold front moved in from the west. This storm system had a remarkable history where it produced 50 inches of snow in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa late last week. Rainfall from the storm at GWC was only 0.40 inches.
Karen Fizzles Before Even Coming Ashore in Gulf
Perhaps history will show that Tropical Storm Karen was the epitome of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. As a storm typical of the season, Karen had a a lot of potential, but ultimately was done in by hostile environmental factors. Dry air and wind shear did this storm in much like it had killed Chantal, Dorian, Erin, and Gabrielle earlier in the season. Karen began falling apart as the week ended last week, and by mid-morning on Sunday, it had been downgraded to a remnant low.
The storm did its best to hang on for a good 24 to 36 hours starting on Friday evening, but the odds against it were too great. A strong westerly shear over the Western and Central Gulf blew at about 25 miles per hour, and totally separated the brunt of the convection associated with Karen away from its center of circulation. With that separation occurring, there was no room for growth and development. Being a weaker storm, Karen took a more westerly track towards Louisiana before running out of gas some 85 miles to the southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
At its peak, Karen closed in on becoming the season’s third hurricane with 65 mile per hour winds. By the time it was reclassified as a remnant low on Sunday, the winds had decreased to 30 miles per hour. Pressures with the storm had risen some 10 millibars. The European model was right on with Karen. It had indicated that the tropical system would take a more westerly track towards Louisiana as a weaker storm. Many forecasts had followed the GFS thinking of a more easterly track into Alabama and the Florida Panhandle as a more powerful storm. Another result from Karen fizzling was less significant rainfall from the powerful storm system that moved into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic on Monday afternoon and evening.
Towards the end of last week, GWC had posted about the possibility of significant rains from the combination of the powerful storm system that brought historic snowfall to the Black Hills section of South Dakota and EF4 tornadoes to Nebraska and Iowa, and what was left of Karen. Projections at that time had indicated that the one-two punch would bring anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 inches with isolated areas seeing as much as 4 inches. However, Karen’s remnants stayed more to the west, weakened, and were easily absorbed by the large frontal system. Instead of tracking northward into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Karen’s remains ended up pushing across Florida, and sparking thunderstorms there.
Consequently, there was very little rain on Monday in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Here at GWC in South Plainfield, New Jersey, there was only 0.40 inches of rain. The rainfall came in several rounds of brief downpours as the leading edge of the front pushed through. There were some gusty winds as high as 50 miles per hour. Other towns in New Jersey had more significant weather. Paramus, New Jersey in Bergen County had an EF1 tornado. with winds as high as 100 miles per hour. Places in West Jersey such as Hunterdon County had severe thunderstorms with winds up to 60 miles per hour.
With Karen fizzling out, the 2013 season remains below average in terms of the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes. While there have been 11 depressions and 11 named storms, there have only been two hurricanes, and no major hurricanes. Most importantly though, there have been minimal impacts on the United States coastline. There is still another 53 days left in the season so there’s still time for something to flare up. As a matter of fact, a new disturbance is in the Eastern Atlantic, but it is currently not in an area favorable for development this time of year.
Here is a time lapse video of weather conditions at the Greg’s Weather Center weather station on Monday, October 7, 2013. There were several waves of rain that came through on this day as a powerful cold front brought severe weather in the form of gusty winds and brief downpours. This storm system was previously responsible for 50 inches of snow in South Dakota, and EF4 tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa.
Here is a time lapse video of weather conditions in South Plainfield on Monday, October 7, 2013. On this day, a powerful cold front that was part of a storm system that brought 50 inches of snow to portions of the Northern Plains, and EF4 tornadoes to Nebraska and Iowa. In New Jersey, the cold front brought 50 to 60 mile per hour winds, and brief downpours that totaled 0.40 inches of rain.
Here is a slideshow from photos taken of the severe weather that moved through South Plainfield as well as the rest of New Jersey on Monday, Wednesday, October 7, 2013. The cold front brought winds as high as 50 miles per hour, and brief downpours. GWC received some 0.40 inches of rain, which was the heaviest rainfall since September 12th.
Storm System Responsible for Historic Blizzard and Tornadoes in Plains and Midwest Heads into Eastern U.S.
As indicated in the last Severe Weather Outlook several days ago, some heavy weather is coming this way for Monday afternoon. A powerful cold front associated with a storm system that caused remarkable weather in the Great Plains and Midwest the past several days, is moving into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and it is poised to create quite a stir here in New Jersey.
A few hours ago, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, put the entire Garden State as well as other portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast under a Tornado Watch until 5:00 PM EDT. This storm system is moving into a moist and somewhat unstable air mass over our region. Behind the front, temperatures are much cooler, and more fall like with lower humidity.
The latest radar imagery already indicates showers and storms pushing into Eastern Pennsylvania. So, this heavy weather is just a few hours away. Skies have been variable with a mixture of clouds and sunshine over GWC in South Plainfield with the winds picking up in intensity. After a cloudy day on Sunday that kept temperatures down in the upper 60s, temperatures have already moved up into the low to mid 70s this early afternoon (12:27 PM EDT). Dew point values are also already in the upper 60s to low 70s.
The most significant threat from this line of storms is damaging winds. Anywhere along the front, storms could produce wind gusts as high as 75 miles per hour with the possibility of tornadoes. This storm system has had a very significant history. It was responsible for producing up to 50 inches of snow in portions of the Northern Plains including South Dakota over the weekend while producing only the second October EF4 tornado in Nebraska history on Friday.
Sunday morning, the SPC indicated the likelihood of thunderstorms, but a low probability of severe weather. By Sunday afternoon, the SPC had modified its outlook to include a slight risk for severe weather in the Mid-Atlantic including much of New Jersey. Then, early Monday morning, a Tornado Watch had been issued. Earlier discussions from the SPC had indicated there would be plenty of warmth and moisture for the cold front to tap into, but there wasn’t any indications of a lot of instability and buoyancy.
The Tornado Watch from the SPC indicates that the buoyancy is still marginal, but there is still plenty of moisture, and even a good deal of shear to work with. The potential for severe weather is expected to increase during the afternoon, and with the sun coming out just a little while ago, there is added energy. The Tornado Watch covers an area just west of Washington D.C., up through Central Pennsylvania, and into Central New York, and then stretches eastward as far as the coastal waters of New Jersey, Delaware, New York City, and up to Albany, New York.
Continue to monitor weather reports from your local news outlets, the National Weather Service, and have a NOAA Weather Radio handy for any updates. If you see threatening weather, get indoors, and find an interior room such as a closest or one with no windows, and has another wall between you and the outside.
Isolated to Scattered Storms Across Jersey Today; More Significant Storm Coming Early Next Week
It is another warm and muggy day for this time of year in South Plainfield. As a matter of fact, high temperatures all across the Garden State are already in the low to mid 80s on this Friday afternoon. Current temperature at GWC is up to 83 degrees with a dew point of 68 for a heat index of 86 degrees. The weather outside feels much like it did during the Labor Day Weekend. A warm and muggy day consistent with the month of August rather than the beginning of October.
As mentioned previously in a blog post earlier this week, we are dealing with a frontal system that is presently lifting to the north over our region. It is expected to remain in place through the weekend. Isolated and scattered thunderstorms are possible this afternoon and evening from Newark to Ridgewood to South Plainfield and Belmar. Probabilities of precipitation are anywhere between 30 and 40 percent. Looking at the current radar, there are showers and storms in Eastern Pennsylvania, but they appear to be fading at the moment.
The more significant weather is situated far off to the south and west of our area, and will not affect us for at least another several days, but when it does, it could be a problem. First, there is Tropical Storm Karen, which has continued weakening during the course of Friday morning into early Friday afternoon. Maximum sustained winds with this system have decreased to 50 miles per hour while the minimum central pressure has risen to 1003 millibars or 29.62 inches. The satellite imagery from the Gulf of Mexico shows a very unhealthy and ragged storm that is being ravaged by westerly shear and dry air.
However, there is still a possibility that the shear will let up, and allow Karen to recoup her recent losses prior to making landfall somewhere along the Gulf Coast on Saturday night into Sunday morning. Another player in our weather for early next week is a major storm system bringing significant snows to the Rockies and Northern Plains while hitting the Midwest with a severe weather outbreak. Probability for tornadoes in places like Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, and Wisconsin is fairly high on Friday afternoon and evening. What is left of Karen is expected to join forces with this storm system as it pushes across the eastern half of the U.S. later this weekend.
Meanwhile, temperatures are expected to remain in the mid to upper 70s through Monday as the combined storm system approaches from the south and west. The National Weather Service in New York has already issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook that discusses the possibility of this storm system bringing heavy rains to our region. The National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly has not issued such an outlook, but has posted some briefings online and in social media regarding the possibility of heavy rainfall on Monday and Tuesday. Rainfall amounts possible range between 1.5 and 2.5 inches with isolated areas receiving as much as 4 inches.
Stay tuned to your local weather outlets, news, and National Weather Service for further updates on this still developing situation.
Storm Loses Some Punch As It Becomes Ragged and Disheveled in Gulf
Tropical Storm Karen has been fighting a valiant fight since it formed on Thursday morning, but the odds may be just too much for the storm to overcome. While a Hurricane Watch remains in effect for the Gulf Coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana to Destin, Florida, Karen weakened slightly to just have maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour with gusts to 70 mph. Minimum central pressure has risen slightly to 1003 millibars, or 29.62 inches of Hg.
With tropical storm force winds extending some 140 miles from the center of circulation as of the 8:00 AM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from Grand Isle, Louisiana to the Mouth of the Pearl River, and a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect from west of Grand Isle, Louisiana to Morgan City, Louisiana including the City of New Orleans, Lake Maurepas, and Lake Pontchartrain. A Tropical Storm Watch is also in effect for portions of the Florida Panhandle from east of Destin, Florida to Indian Pass, Florida.
As it pushes ahead to the North-Northwest at 10 miles per hour some 275 miles to the South-Southwest of the Mouth of the Mississippi River, Karen’s appearance looks much more ragged and disorganized than it did yesterday, and it was a lopsided storm at best before then with the bulk of its convection to the east of its center of circulation. The storm has also slowed down a bit from its forward speed of 13 miles per hour on Thursday. A turn to the right is expected to begin on Friday.
Karen is still over very warm water in the Gulf, but it continues to battle dry air and shear to the north and west of it. The wind shear affecting Karen is as high as 20 to 25 knots, or about 25 to 30 miles per hour. The intensity forecast is problematic at best due to the interaction between Karen, dry air, westerly shear, and a small upper level trough. The strengthening of this system is also dependent on whether or not it begins to make its more easterly turn over water. Some models such as the Canadian model indicate that the turn to the east will not occur until after landfall in Louisiana while the GFS has a much more dramatic turn to the right.
Right now, the European model calls for a 10 millibar drop in pressure with Karen after the turn to the right while the GFS, HWRF, and GFDL indicate much more significant deepening. Regardless of how much it strengthens, the biggest concern with this system will be the rain with rainfall amounts anticipated to be anywhere between 4 to 8 inches with isolated areas receiving as much as a foot. This much rain is the last thing that areas in the Southeast need after a very wet summer with a rainfall surplus of over a foot. Storm surges along the Gulf Coast could be as high as 3 to 5 feet.
All residents along the Gulf Coast from Morgan City to Tampa should continue to monitor the situation with Karen, and make necessary preparations.
Post-Tropical Cyclone Is Expected To Dissipate In A Couple Days
With all concerns focused on Tropical Storm Karen in the Gulf over the past couple days, what was left of Tropical Storm Jerry faded away in the Central Atlantic. After becoming a depression on Wednesday night, Jerry continued its downward spiral on Thursday as it became a remnant low by late afternoon.
Forming as a depression in the Central Atlantic late last Saturday night, Jerry became the tenth named storm of the season on Monday, but didn’t really strengthen much during its life. The storm peaked with 50 mile per hour winds on Monday night, but began to weaken in the face of hostile atmospheric conditions in its vicinity. Winds dropped to minimal storm strength on Tuesday night as it meandered some 1,300 miles to the east of Bermuda.
Jerry capped a modest month of September by Tropical Atlantic activity standards. Five depressions, four named storms, and two hurricanes formed during the statistical peak month of the season. However, there were no major hurricanes, and none of the systems made landfall in the United States. With the development of Karen in the past 24 hours, there have been 11 depressions, 11 named storms, 2 hurricanes, and no major hurricanes.
The bulk of the season is behind us now, but there still remains a secondary statistical peak in October, and another 58 days left in the season.
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