Mississippi State University Weather

3 Really Cool Hacks For When The Weather Gets Really Cool

It may be hard to believe but we are diving deep into fall and before we know it, old man winter will be knocking on our doors.  Not only is winter on the horizon, but this winter is forecasted to be more harsh than usual because of the El Nino.  The El Nino is expected to bring below normal temperatures from the north and more moisture from the Gulf along with it.  This means a cooler, wetter winter which could lead to some nasty conditions this winter.  But, we didn’t have to wait until winter to feel a taste of it.  This fall, we have already seen temperatures in the 30’s for overnight lows in the Southeast and even some areas up north like New York and Chicago have even issued frost and freeze advisories! So with the chilly weather coming, we have found 3 hacks that can keep you and your family warm and safe as the temperatures continue to fall. 1) Park towards the East Blakemore, Charlotte. Top tips to de-ice your car windscreen.  Web.  28 Oct. 2015. <http://www.centralcontracts.com/news/top-tips-to-de-ice-your-car-windscreen-7005> We have all been there. Running out to the car on a cold morning to scrape or defrost the ice off your car and be a burden.  It doesn’t even have to rain or snow the night before for there to be ice. Just simply having moisture in the air can easily coat a windshield. But, one trick can help with this problem. When a frost or freeze is expected, try parking towards the east before you go to bed.  The sun rises in the east.  This means when the sun starts to rise in the morning, your car will already face the same direction where the sun can insulate the windshield and start defrosting it without even having to turn on your car!  This will lead to safe driving in the morning and more money in your wallet with less gas usage. 2)  Set your ceiling fan on reverse Ceiling Fan Savings. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.  <http://www.dadislearning.com/2013/08/05/ceiling-fan-savings/> When the weather get cool at night, inside your home can easily get cool as well.  To cut back on the heating bill, this neat...

Severe Weather 101

As summer turns into fall, the state of Mississippi and the Southeast US transitions into its secondary severe weather season. While the heaviest threat of severe weather is in March through May, late October into November also brings severe weather threats and is the second highest period where severe weather occurs across the southeast. The summer months give us a break so it’s always a good idea to refresh oneself on severe weather safety and information. Luckily, I’m here to do all the work for you so all you have to do is sit down or stand, I can’t tell you how to live your life, and read this blog. First let’s go over the different kinds of severe weather and their warnings and watches. First we have a severe thunderstorm. A severe thunderstorm is a storm that is producing damaging winds in excess of 58 mph and/or hail that is at least an inch in diameter (Quarter size) or larger. Source: (WHOtv user submitted picture, NBC affiliate in Des Moines, IA) Severe Weather  Associated with severe thunderstorms are Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and are represented by large yellow polygons. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a storm is currently happening that meets the criteria of a severe thunderstorm and is represented by a much smaller yellow polygon that just covers the area near the storm. Severe Thunderstorm Watch (Source: PIX 11 New York) Severe Thunderstorm Warning (Source: Alabamawx.com) Tornado  Tornado Watches and Warnings follow the same look as Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Warnings except they’re red instead of yellow. A Tornado Watch means conditions are favorable for a forming storm or an existing storm to produce a tornado. Watches do not mean a tornado is currently happening, just that it’s possible, and to stay alert to the changing conditions and monitor local weather broadcasts or weather radios. A Tornado Watch usually covers a larger area than a Tornado Warning. A PDS (Particularly Dangerous Situation) Tornado Watch is a Tornado Watch that is issued when forecasters have a high confidence that multiple strong to violent tornados will...

Florida, The Lightning Capital of the U.S.

The Sunshine state, the prime vacation destination, and the home of the happiest place on Earth has yet another name to add to its extensive list and some may find it shocking. Florida is considered the lightning capital of the United State with an average of over one million cloud-ground strikes per year over the past 10 years. While Florida provides an excellent spot for a beach get-a-way, it also has the perfect recipe for lighting. Vaisala. “National Lightning Detection Network 2005-2014 Flash Density per sq mile”. Image. Web. 14    Octo. 2015                http://www.vaisala.com/VaisalaImages/Lightning/avg_fd_2005-2014_CONUS_2mi_grid.png The Ingredients: Moisture: Located smack dab in the middle of two major warm bodies of water, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida has some of the best weather around the U.S. In addition, it even has the Caribbean Sea to the south. All of the moisture from the surrounding water helps keep things thermally inert because of water’s high specific heat which is able to retain a large amount of heat. This is the reason that winters in Florida are warm and summers aren’t ridiculously hot. There aren’t too many places where you can celebrate Christmas in sandals rather than sweaters. While it keeps the temperatures from reaching unbearable high values, the humidity can reach extremely large values and the large amounts of moisture helps create instability. Pearson Education. Inc. Image. Web. 16. October. 2015.   <http://www.geography.hunter.cuny.edu/tbw/wc.notes/3.temperature/ocean_currents.htm> Heat: Florida being right near the tropics, specifically from 25°N to 31°N latitude, means that the sun warms the surface effectively. In addition to the direct heat that Florida gets from the sun, heat flows in from the Caribbean due to the Gulf Stream and easterly winds moving across the top of this surface current helps bring warm air directly onto the East Coast. With heat and moisture combined, the prime location within Florida for lightning to strike and cause significant damage is in the middle of Florida around Tampa and Orlando and at the southern tip near Fort Lauderdale. National Atlas of the United States. “Lightning Spatial Hazard Events and Losses for the United States,   1995-2009.” Google Maps Engine. Image. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.                Oct. 2015. <https://mapsengine.google.com/10446176163891957399- 05059728630781529877-4/mapview/?authuser=0>....

The Power of Water: Flash Floods & Flooding

When we think of water, it’s easy to picture a serene beach or an endless ocean. After all, most of our planet is covered with water. However, Mother Nature shows us its wrath when it comes to flash flooding and flooding events. In fact, based on a 30 year average, flooding has caused a higher number of fatalities per year compared to tornadoes and hurricanes. How much water does it take to cause harm? You might be surprised! What is a Flood? First and foremost, it’s important to know what exactly a flood is. According to the National Weather Service, a flood is any high flow, overflow, or inundation by water which causes or threatens damage. There aren’t specific criteria for defining a flood because it depends on the location where the flooding is a threat. Depending on nearby rivers, topography, and soil types, different amounts of rainfall or melted snowpack will cause flooding at different locations. Flash flooding is a flood that occurs in an extremely short amount of time, usually within six hours of the initial event (rainfall, etc.). The National Weather Service defines it as a rapid or extreme flow of high water into a normally dry area, or a rapid water level rise in a stream or creek above a predetermined flood level. Both flash flood and flood watches and warnings can be issued when a flooding event is likely to take place. A watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a flood to develop with the given environment, while a warning indicates a flood or flash flood is imminent and immediate action should be taken to stay safe. A Little Water Goes a Long Way It doesn’t take much water to cause significant damage to structures or to simply threaten our safety which is one reason why flooding can be so devastating. Six inches of slow moving water is enough to not only sweep people off of their feet, but also cause people to lose control of their vehicles. Two feet of water can completely move some vehicles. Even sound structures, like houses, aren’t completely safe from flooding. This past summer, I traveled to Johnson County, KY where...

Atmospheric Rivers

What are Atmospheric Rivers? Atmospheric rivers are narrow channels of tropical moisture that are drawn poleward by extratropical cyclones.  These channels of tropical moisture are typically only about 400 km (249miles) wide.  AR’s are most notable because of the heavy rainfall events that they produce.  They often occur on the western US coast, but they can also impact the southeastern US.   They are caused by the wind action in the warm sector, where moisture is drawn into the cyclone ahead of the cold front.  On the west coast, heavy rain is associated with elevation change, also known as orographic uplift, where the moisture is forced to rise and condense into rainfall.  Uplift can also be caused ahead of a frontal boundary where the moisture is forced to rise and is able to condense into clouds and precipitation, which we would expect to see in the southeast.   Since atmospheric rivers are water vapor, they cannot be physically seen until they are producing heavy rainfall.  However, they can be detected using satellites; specifically by utilizing the capability of water vapor imagery.  The IWV (integrated water vapor) value represents the total amount of water vapor present in an atmospheric column.  This value is approximately the same as the total precipitable water, or the amount of rainfall that would occur if all the water vapor in a column of air were condensed out.  The following picture shows significant AR events that impacted the west coast, with the colors representing the IWV value. Forecasting Atmospheric Rivers Along with many other atmospheric quantities, numerical weather prediction models such as the GFS can also forecast for the movement of water vapor within the atmosphere, which makes AR events apparent as much as a week in advance.  Satellite imagery can also be utilized to track the movement of water vapor within the atmosphere.  The specifics of AR’s are still challenging to forecast for, particularly the exact timing and duration of these events, as well as rainfall totals Recent Examples On May 1-2, 2010, an exceptionally heavy rainfall event occurred across Western and Central Tennessee and Kentucky.  This produced extreme flooding that caused a total of 26 deaths and almost 3 billion...

Derecho 101

What is a derecho? Compared to hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms, derechos are a lesser known atmospheric phenomenon, but they still pack quite a punch when it comes to severe weather.  The word “derecho” is Spanish for “direct” or “straight ahead,” and was originally used to distinguish between tornadic, rotating storms and storms with straight-line winds.  Composed of fast-moving showers and storms, these widespread and long-lived windstorms are characterized by wind damage covering more than 240 miles, wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour, and occasional 75 mile-per-hour wind gusts. June 29, 2012 Derecho Event. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.<http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20120629/spc_derecho.jpg> How do derechos form? Derechos begin as clusters of storms called bow echoes, which are oriented in a backward C-shape, due to the fastest winds located in the apex of the curved line of storms.  Sometimes derechos form from more elongated squall lines or, what some meteorologists like to call them, quasi-linear convective systems.   Dense, rain-cooled air sinks within these preexisting storms and spreads out when reaching Earth’s surface, leading to downbursts, which can cover areas as large as four to six miles.  Resulting winds near the ground generally travel in one direction, pushing less dense, warmer air upward ahead of the storms, producing what is known as a gust front.  Gust fronts can be thought of as miniature cold fronts and can result in an ominous shelf cloud, shown in the image below. Misialek, Brittney. About Derechos.  Web. 2 Oct. 2015.<http://www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/derechofacts.htm> Derecho impacts The downbursts that occur in derechos can cause damage comparable to that of a tornado.  However, derecho damage is much more widespread than the damage that results from tornados, due to the large scale of derechos, and damages resulting from derechos can rival damages due to hurricanes, with costs in the millions.  Some derechos have even led to flooding events.  Like with most severe weather events, people outdoors are most at risk during a derecho, due to the gusty winds that cause downed trees and blowing debris.  Mobile homes are especially vulnerable to overturning and collapsing during these wind events.  Those inside permanent homes and buildings are also at risk due to possible structural damage, especially due to collapsing roofs...