Severe storms possible again Monday

July 13, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning clipped the MA-CT line on Sunday evening, but a better chance of severe weather across Western Massachusetts is expected on Monday.  The graphic below comes from the National Weather Service’s Storms Prediction Center in Oklahoma, which is responsible for issuing severe thunderstorm and tornado watch boxes across the country.  The slight risk category indicates about a 15% chance of severe weather occurring within 25 miles.

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A trough will be slowly digging into the Northeast on Monday.  A southwesterly flow is expected to come in ahead of this trough, which will significantly raise the dewpoints and provide the atmosphere with plenty of moisture.

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Futurecast generally keeps our weather quiet through the first half of the day, with storms generally forming to the south of the region first.  The best chance of strong/severe thunderstorms in Western Massachusetts will be after 2 p.m.  Damaging wind gusts above 60 mph and vivid lightning is possible, so please plan outdoor activities very carefully tomorrow or hold them off for another day.

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The oppressive dewpoints coming in will also help water-load these storms, meaning there is a lot of moisture available to squeeze out some heavy downpours.  There have been discussions about a Flash Flood Watch potentially being issued for tomorrow as well.  Overall, expect a bumpy start to the workweek.

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June 2014 recap

July 3, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

It has been a hot start to the month of July, which is a seamless transition from our warm, dry finish to the month of June.  Temperatures finished a degree above normal, and we only recorded about four-tenths of an inch of rainfall through the second half of the month.  No daily records were set, and we only recorded one 90-degree day (June averages four 90-degree days).

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NOAA-16 polar satellite retired

June 14, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

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On Monday, NOAA made the final shut down of the NOAA-16 polar-orbiting satellite, which spent more than 13 years helping predict the weather.  The satellite was launched in September 2000, and was used as a backup satellite to NOAA-18 since 2005.

NOAA-16 made 70, 655 orbits around the globe during its lifetime.

“NOAA-16 helped our forecasters detect the early stages of severe weather from tornadoes and snow storms to hurricanes, including the busiest hurricane season on record – 2005,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

The entire press release from NOAA regarding NOAA-16’s shut down can be found here: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2014/20140609_goes16.html

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Rip Current Awareness Week

June 3, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

With many people starting to have the beaches on their mind, the National Weather Service has made this week Rip Current Awareness Week.  Rip currents are defined strong narrow currents moving away from shore.  According to NOAA, strong rip currents can attain speeds of 5 mph.  While this speed seems slow, this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint.  NOAA also says that, on average, more people die every year from rip currents than from shark attacks or lightning.

Below is a link that provides tons of information regarding rip currents.  Topics include the science of how rip currents form, how to identify them, techniques to get out of a rip current, and other interactive materials.

Rip Currents: Break The Grip of The Rip

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Spring 2014 recap

June 2, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

After a long, cold, snowy winter, it took a while for things to improve this spring.  Meteorological spring – defined as the full months of March, April, and May – finally saw our temperatures get back above normal in the end.  This March tied for fifth as the coolest March on record at Bradley International, where records date back to 1904.

As far as record go, we set one of each: one record high (May 12, 90 degrees), one record low (March 2, 0 degrees), and one record rainfall (May 1, 1.94 inches).

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2014 Atlantic hurricane season begins; Pacific already setting records

June 1, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

June 1st will forever be a historical date for the Springfield area after the 2011 tornado.  To most people in the meteorology community, however, it is significant because it’s the start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Here is the list of this year’s Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane names:

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While El Nino may make this year’s Atlantic season a little weak, the Pacific hurricane season is usually enhanced by it, and it is already starting strong.  Their season’s first storm, Amanda, set a new record for the most intense hurricane in the Pacific basin for the month of May.  One week ago today, Amanda had winds of 155 mph, close to a category 5 hurricane.

Here is a complete write-up from the National Weather Service in Taunton, MA about the preparations and potential impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes in New England: http://www.weather.gov/box/tropicalseasonstart_2014

A little more about El Nino’s global impacts

May 24, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

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NOAA recently announced it’s prediction for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.  At the top of the list of influences on this year’s forecast was the presence of El Nino.  How is it that the warming of waters in the Pacific can lead to a quiet hurricane season in the Atlantic?  Further, how does it influence a wide variety of dramatic weather changes around the world?

An article published this week by NOAA’s climate.gov website explains this phenomenon.  A lot of it is a cause-effect chain that continues influencing the next event.  Here is a summary:

El Nino develops when the ocean waters in the Pacific near the equator become warmer than normal (when they are cooler than normal, it’s referred to as La Nina).  These warmer waters promote more thunderstorm activity in this region with more of this warm air available.  This rising warm air also warms the upper-levels of the atmosphere more than normal, not just the sea surface temperatures.

This warmer air in the upper atmosphere gets carried away from the tropics by the Hadley Circulation.  With an abundance of warmer air available to be carried away, the Hadley Circulation intensifies, which causes changes in large-scale jet stream and other climate patterns.

For some areas, these changing patterns cause much drier weather.  For others, it’s a rainy season.  For the Atlantic tropics, it’s a quieter hurricane season.  Etc. Etc.

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Click here for the full NOAA article regarding El Nino’s global impacts: http://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/enso/how-enso-leads-cascade-global-impacts

NOAA predicts less-active 2014 hurricane season

May 23, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

NOAA predicts a slightly less-active 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, with the following number of named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes expected to develop (note, this does not mean “make landfall”):

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NOAA cited two main factors in their below-average forecast for this season: the return of El Nino in the Pacific and cooler ocean waters in the Atlantic.  Here is a brief breakdown of why each of those factors would prohibit the development of many hurricanes.

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Many long-range guidance expects El Nino to develop this summer.  In fact, there are signs it is already brewing.  Among El Nino’s global weather impacts, it has been linked to stronger wind shear in the Atlantic. Wind shear is the differences in wind speed and direction with height. Strong wind shear can effectively tear apart the top of developing storms before they can mature into tropical systems. Therefore, the presence of El Nino, and more wind shear, is less favorable for hurricane development.

Secondly, hurricanes begin as weak storm systems/disturbances that move off the African continent and enter the tropical Atlantic waters, as shown below.  These systems are carried by the tropical trade winds.  El Nino has also been linked to stronger trade winds in this region, which is also unfavorable for hurricane development.
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Cooler Atlantic waters
Second, something that most people are familiar with, hurricanes need warm waters to grow and sustain themselves.  NOAA forecasters expect sea-surface temperatures to be cooler than normal, which would also be unfavorable for an active hurricane season.  Waters above 80 degrees Fahrenheit are best for hurricane development, which you can see on the graphic below means that hurricanes do not frequently make it northward into New England (despite Irene and Sandy over the last few years).
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The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, and typically peaks from mid-August to mid-September.

Friday night’s rainfall totals

May 17, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Here are the rainfall reports for Friday, May 16 into early Saturday morning.  The heaviest rain occurred in the Springfield area between 2 and 4 a.m. according to automated hourly reports from Barnes, Westover, and Bradley Int’l.  Most of these reports are courtesy of the National Weather Service’s SKYWARN program.

Hampden County
Granville, MA: 2.18″
East Longmeadow, MA: 2.13″
Springfield, MA: 1.93″
Agawam, MA: 1.85″
Chicopee, MA: 1.69″
Palmer, MA: 1.65″
Westfield, MA: 1.54″
West Springfield, MA: 1.36″
Brimfield, MA: 1.04″

Hampshire County
Westhampton, MA: 2.04″
Wiliamsburg, MA: 1.80″
Northampton, MA: 1.70″
Easthampton, MA: 1.60″

Franklin County
Shelburne, MA: 1.82″
Deerfield, MA: 1.71″
Greenfield, MA: 1.71″
Colrain, MA: 1.70″
Charlemont, MA: 1.50″

El Nino starting to brew

May 10, 2014 - Leave a Response

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

El Nino, the warming of ocean waters in the equatorial Pacific, is starting to, well … warm up.  NOAA made the recent announcement which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  Long-range computer models were indicating the potential return of El Nino later this year.

Now, observations are starting to show that warm up starting to occur.  The image below is a cross section of the Pacific Ocean for mid-February and mid-April.  It shows a pool of warmer-than-normal water (shown in red) starting to migrate across the deep waters of the central Pacific to the surface just off the coast of South America.

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Above-normal sea surface temperatures are not common off the South America coast.  In this region near the equator, winds blow from west to east (think about tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic moving west to east towards us in the Atlantic).  The easterly winds pile up sun-warmed surface waters in the western Pacific towards Indonesia.  If those winds ease up or reverse direction, the warm pool of water begins a slow slosh back towards South America.

NOAA officially declares El Nino underway when the monthly average temperature in the eastern Pacific is 0.5° Celsius or more above average.

El Nino has been linked to global weather pattern changes.  One of the most notable impacts to the eastern U.S. is a quieter Atlantic hurricane season.