Archive for June, 2013

Heat wave may return by July 4th
June 30, 2013

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

90-degree heat may be returning on the 4th of July, and could be sticking around the Springfield area through the weekend.  Western Massachusetts has been stuck with rounds of scattered showers and thunderstorms over the last several days.  This has been because of an upper-level trough that has been stuck over the eastern U.S., with a stationary front remaining draped over the Northeast on the right side of this trough.

The following image is a computer model forecast for 8 a.m. Monday, which shows this upper-level trough highlighted in red.  A large cutoff low pressure center is over the Ohio Valley.  One of the reasons this trough has been stuck in place is because of the high pressure center over the Atlantic, a piece of which has been highlighted in blue.  Also known as a Bermuda high, this creates an atmospheric logjam.  Just how we cannot get rid of this trough in the eastern U.S., the western U.S. can’t get rid of their high pressure center and oppressive, record-shattering heat accompanying it.

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Watch what happens as we look ahead to Wednesday morning.  The upper-level trough and cut-off low subtly shift backwards (westward) towards the Great Plains.  Meanwhile, the high pressure strengthens and moves closer to the Atlantic coast.  Instead of remaining showery as the air flows into western Massachusetts through a trough and along a frontal boundary, we will see a more substantial southerly flow develop in between these two systems.  This will deliver a straight shot of southern heat and humidity, very similar to our heat wave last week.

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Looking ahead at the computer models through the second-half of the week, this pattern stays in place.  This will keep the southerly flow coming into western Massachusetts for a few days, and possibly creating our next heat wave in the Springfield area.

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Lightning Safety Awareness Week
June 29, 2013

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

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Today concludes the National Weather Service’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week.  Below is a link for the entire Lightning Safety Page:

http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/

While there is an incredible amount of information there, I picked out a couple of facts about lightning that may surprise you:

– Lightning kills more people in July than any other month (which is why this safety week is conducted the last week of June)

– Despite jokes about golfers, lightning kills more than 3 times as many fisherman.  Boating, camping, beach activities, and soccer have each led to more lightning deaths than golfing as well.

– Every square mile of western Mass and experiences about 3 to 6 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year.  Since Springfield is about 33 square miles, that would be about 100 to 200 strikes in Springfield alone per year.

– Massachusetts averages about 25,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year.  If we ignore the winter months of December through February, that would calculate to more than 90 strikes per day across the state

– Lightning bolts can strike 10 to 15 miles away from a thunderstorm.  That means a thunderstorm over Westfield can produce a lightning bolt that strikes while skies are still clear in Springfield.

– About 5.5 million acres of forest fires are started by lightning strikes.  That is almost the size of New Hampshire.

Spring 2013 review
June 22, 2013

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

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As much as temperatures bounce around day-to-day over a 3-month period, they usually even out in the long run.  That couldn’t be any more true this past spring.  From March 20th to June 20th, high temperatures averaged out to be just five-hundredths of a degree below normal.  (Spring 2013’s average high: 66.71 degrees, normal spring average high: 66.76 degrees).

Precipitation totals ended up above normal, thanks to the heavy rains earlier this month.  The normal amount of precipitation form March 20 to June 20 is 12.4 inches, while this spring we had 17.3 inches recorded (more than half of that, 9 inches, coming this month alone).

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The Berkshire Eagle: National Weather Service office in Albany keeps citizens informed, safe
June 19, 2013

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

A couple of days ago, a well-written article appeared in the Berkshire Eagle about the importance of National Weather Service offices across the country.  For western Massachusetts, the NWS office in Taunton, MA handles Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire County.  NWS Albany handles Berkshire county.  The map of all 122 offices is at the bottom of this post.

You may have noticed that Berkshire county usually has different watch/warning and advisory times than the rest of western Massachusetts.  For example, a winter weather advisory may expire at noon for Berkshire County, but earlier at 8 am for the other three.  Yes, part of the reason is because the weather can be a little different in the Berkshires, but the other reason is because those advisories are coming from two separate offices.

According to the article, the reason why the Berkshires belong to NWS Albany is because of the layout of the Doppler radar network.  Berkshire County is situated closer to Albany’s radar than Taunton’s, so for monitoring the weather (especially for thunderstorm and tornado warnings), it is better for Berkshire County to be handled by the NWS Albany office.

Here is the link to the entire article:

The Berkshire Eagle: National Weather Service office in Albany keeps citizens informed, safe

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Sinkholes
June 16, 2013

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

A few weeks ago, the CBS Sunday Morning show aired a story about sinkholes.  Given the ridiculous amount of rain we’ve had so far this month, it got me thinking … would western Massachusetts be at the risk for any sinkholes?   8.56 inches of rainfall has been recorded at Bradley Int’l through June 15th, nearly doubling our normal amount of rainfall for the entire month, and already ranking as the 4th rainiest June on record.

The answer is … not anymore than usual.  While sinkholes can form worldwide, including here in Massachusetts, Florida is the most at-risk state for sinkholes.  The colored regions on the map below represent areas with soluble rock and soil that would be prone to natural cave and sinkhole formation.

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The CBS News video link below explains more about how sinkholes form, what can be done to prevent them, and how they can effect lives in the areas they occur.

CBS Sunday Morning: Sinkholes – The Hole Truth

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Weather satellites
June 15, 2013

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

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Earlier this week, NOAA announced that one of its weather satellites is now back online after a micro-meteoroid bumped into it and shut it down.  On May 22nd, the GOES-13 satellite went offline, leaving a temporary gap in satellite coverage for the entire eastern U.S.  NOAA positioned a backup satellite into place while engineers could examine the GOES-13.  Initial plans were to have the satellite operational again on June 6th, but NOAA postponed that idea to not cause any further data interruptions during Tropical Storm Andrea.  On Monday, the GOES-13 was brought back into service.

So what exactly is a GOES satellite, and why is its exact position crucial?  GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.  GOES-1 was launched back in 1975; now there are three GOES satellites (13, 14, and 15) in orbit.  GOES-13 is also known as GOES-East, while GOES-15 is known as GOES-West.  GOES-14 is currently in standby, but remains in orbit to be used as a backup satellite, as was the case over the past few weeks.

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GOES-13, 14, and 15 all remain at a fixed point about 22,240 miles above the earth’s surface.  This height puts it in “geosynchronous orbit” … which means it orbits around the earth at the same rate the earth spins.  This will allow it to stay in the same position above the earth, which is useful for creating the satellite loops seen on television.  Imagine watching a timelapse of a city or skyline.  The camera needs to be in the same position, holding the same shot for the timelapse to work.  The laws of physics allow a satellite positioned 22,400 miles above the earth to hold its position as well.

Satellite coverage may become an issue over the next few years as government spending cuts may delay the launch of the next series of satellites in 2015 and 2017.  This would cause the current satellites to be used beyond their expected lifetime.  Budget cuts have already jeopardized a newer series of polar-orbiting satellites, possibly causing a gap in that coverage in 2017 (NOAA has said that weather simulations done without the data from these polar-orbiting satellites would have caused the forecast for Superstorm Sandy to harmlessly move out to sea just five days before it hit.

Sunday’s damage reports
June 2, 2013

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Here is the list hail, wind damage, and flooding reports from Sunday afternoon’s storms courtesy of the National Weather Service’s Amateur Radio SKYWARN program.

420 PM: Westfield, MA: 3/4″ Hail
430 PM: West Springfied, MA: Wall cloud with rotation spotted but dissipated.
437 PM: West Springfield, MA: Large Limb and Wires Down on Rogers Avenue and Pea Sized Hail.
445 PM: Chicopee, MA: Pea Sized Hail on Burnett Road
452 PM: Ludlow, MA: Pea Sized Hail
548 PM: Windsor Locks, CT: Wall cloud with rotation spotted looking towards the west, no funnel occurred and dissipated at about 615 PM, never touched down
554 PM: Westfield, MA: 4″ of street flooding on Union Street near the train underpass
600 PM: Granby, CT: 1/2″ hail
604 PM: Chicopee, MA: 4 feet of street flooding on Prospect Street
604 PM: Chicopee, MA: Wires down on McKintry Avenue
615 PM: West Springfield, MA: Morgan Road flooded out
622 PM: Agawam, MA: Pea Sized Hail and a large limb down on River Road due to lightning
650 PM: Westfield, MA: 1.40″ of rain

Remembering the June 1st tornado
June 1, 2013

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

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This write-up was submitted by the National Weather Service’s Amateur Radio SKYWARN program, which is a very eloquent look back at the June 1st, 2011 tornado outbreak

Hello to all..

We have reached the second-year anniversary of a historic day in Southern New England Weather History. The June 1st, 2011 Massachusetts Tornado Outbreak will be a day long remembered in weather history. This announcement recaps the tornado outbreak and the lessons learned that apply today. This message is leveraged from the one-year anniversary message with some updates to include a video collage of the June 1st, 2011 Massachusetts tornado outbreak as well as other updates.

The June 1st, 2011 event was forecasted by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman Oklahoma as far as 5 days out. This is very rare for New England to be in a convective outlook past 3 days. The outlook of ‘Slight Risk’ for severe weather would continue right up through June 1st. As we got into June 1st, a fast moving area of rapidly developing severe thunderstorms ahead of the warm front affected portions of Southern New Hampshire and Northeast Massachusetts producing large hail. These storms quickly moved out of area and were a sign of things to come and how explosive the atmosphere was on June 1st. Abundant sunshine and rapid heating and destabilization coupled with extremely strong wind shear values, set the stage for a historic major severe weather outbreak in Massachusetts and other parts of New England. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman Oklahoma issued a Mesoscale Convective Discussion highlighting the need for Tornado Watches for much of New York and New England. The Tornado Watches would be issued and supercell severe thunderstorms would move into Southern New England.

Initially the supercells produced very large hail including hail slightly over 4″ in diameter in East Windsor Massachusetts, Berkshire County, which may potentially set the new record for the commonwealth as far as hail size but no tornadic or wind damage activity through 400 PM. This is when the supercell began to take shape in Western Hampden County Massachusetts and set the stage for the large, long track EF-3 Tornado that traversed the area from Westfield to Charlton Massachusetts for a 39-mile long damage path and was on the ground for 70 minutes. Three smaller tornadoes occurred in Western and Central Massachusetts from additional supercells moving through the area. Another area of supercells went through Northern Worcester County into Middlesex and Suffolk Counties producing Golf Ball Sized hail and pockets of wind damage all the way into the Metro Boston area.

June 1st, 2011 underscored how important Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters and non-Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters are to the warning process and how the timely severe weather reporting can not only help the warning process but can also help saves lives. The near real-time reporting of the large EF-3 tornado touchdown with initial preliminary reports in Westfield, and the actual spotting of the EF3 Tornado by Western Massachusetts SKYWARN Coordinator, Ray Weber-KA1JJM, helped to tell people that not only was this a radar detected tornado but that it was definitely on the ground and doing significant damage. It is quite likely that many lives were saved by this near realtime reporting of the tornado being on the ground.

Amateur Radio SKYWARN Nets were active on several Amateur Radio Repeaters including the 146.940-Mount Tom Repeater run by the Mount Tom Amateur Radio Club and with Amateur Radio members and SKYWARN Spotters from the Hampden County Radio Association also reporting into the net. The 146.970-Paxton Repeater run by the Central Massachusetts Amateur Radio Club was active for several hours as well. Both repeaters providing significant near realtime reporting for situational awareness and disaster intelligence purposes not only to the media but also to local, state and federal emergency management officials. The Amateur Radio Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP)/Echolink system on the echolink conference *NEW-ENG* node 9123/IRLP 9123 was also active with liaisons from various Amateur Radio nets reporting into the network. While not in the NWS Taunton County Warning Area, the 146.910-Mount Greylock Repeater was active with Berkshire County SKYWARN as run by Rick-WA1ZHM with Walt-N1DQU providing information from the net into NWS Taunton. Net Controls for the 146.940 Mount Tom Net were Bob Meneguzzo-K1YO and for the 146.970 Paxton Net, John Ruggiero-N2YHK. N9SC-Steve Craven provided a critical liaison link from the 146.970-Paxton Repeater Net to the 146.940-Mount Tom Net during the tornadic outbreak. Many Amateur Radio Operators and non-Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters reported severe weather conditions despite being at risk from these powerful supercells. We are forever grateful for the reporting that helped save lives. The outpouring of damage assessment pictures and videos and reports near and after the event was unprecedented. This clearly helped Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), local and state emergency management perform their duties to try and bring as many resources to bear on the significant path of destruction carved out by the tornado outbreak.

For the victims, today is likely a painful reminder of what occurred and what loses they face and in some cases are still recovering from in terms of property damage and possibly lives lost. Our thoughts and prayers remain to all those people that are affected and we hope that they’re recovery will complete as soon as possible.

For those not impacted by such a significant event as June 1st and not impacted severely by the likes of Irene, Sandy, the February 2013 Blizzard and Snowtober over the past 2 years, this is a reminder that we must all be prepared for these significant weather situations that occur at low frequency but can be with high impact. The more self-sufficient and prepared we are, the easier the situation will be if we are faced with such a significant scenario if it comes our way and potentially occurs in a more widespread way. For those SKYWARN Spotters and Amateur Radio Operators who have not witnessed such severe weather, this is why we train and prepare because we never know the hour or day where a critical severe weather report can help the warning process and save lives.

On a personal level, we never want severe weather like this to happen but if it has to happen, the level of commitment, support and reporting of the situation in near realtime on June 1st with a high level of precision and quality but also in the quantity that the reports came through in our network is a testament to all of you for remaining dedicated and supportive of the National Weather Service SKYWARN program. It is an honor and a privilege for myself and many of our Amateur Radio SKYWARN Coordinators across the NWS Taunton County Warning Area to serve as leaders of the program and we appreciate everything you do, as without all of you, we wouldn’t have the SKYWARN program we have today in our region. Having been the leader of the program for 17 years, this was our finest hour in supporting the NWS Taunton office and saving lives and it couldn’t have been done without all of your support.

We hope this remembrance makes people never forget what happened on June 1st 2011 and remind ourselves again that we must remain, prepared and vigilant especially here in New England where events such as June 1st can happen but on a low frequency basis. A June 1st 2011 video collage has been posted at our SKYWARN video page at video.nsradio.org with recordings of some of the Amateur Radio reports that came in through the network. Below is the NWS Taunton – Massachusetts Tornado Summary, the ARRL Story on the June 1st Tornado Outbreak, the NWS Taunton June 1st Local Storm Report and the Raw Storm log from the WX1BOX Amateur Radio Station.

NWS Taunton Massachusetts Tornado Summary:
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/sigevents/jun01_2011_summary.php

NWS Taunton Local Storm Reports 6/1/11:
http://www.wx1box.org/local/lsr_6_1_11.txt

ARRL Story from 6/1/11 – Central Massachusetts Experiences Rare Tornado, Area Hams Hasten to Help:
http://www.arrl.org/news/central-massachusetts-experiences-rare-tornado-area-hams-hasten-to-help

NWS Taunton-WX1BOX Raw Amateur Radio Storm Log:
http://www.wx1box.org/local/storm_reports.txt

Respectfully Submitted,

Robert Macedo (KD1CY)
ARES SKYWARN Coordinator

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