Alida's weather blog

Looking Ahead....

posted Apr 7, 2015, 7:09 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Apr 7, 2015, 7:26 PM by Michael Baldwin ]

Currently, later on in the week we have a severe weather threat. First of all, I'm going to focus on Thursday evening, around 10 p.m. Also, I'd like to add that I got all my images from the College of Dupage Meteorology numerical model website.  Looking at the NAM, North American Model, 18z (about 4pm) run, it predicts that we will have rain around 10pm.

(The last screenshot)

The Blue lines with values near 1000 are mean sea level isobars. All pressure data is normalized by being placed at sea level, which the height equals zero meters. This makes sure that geographical features are not interfering with the models. The yellow value of 5640 meters is the height of the 500 mb contour. The 500mb level is commonly used because it is half way through the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere where all weather occurs. 

(The first screenshot)

We can take it a step further and look at if this precipitation is going to be convective or 
not. Convection is when vertical transport of heat energy through mixing of the different levels of the troposphere. According to this model, all the precipitation we will be receiving will be of the convective type. A storm being convective is one of the ingredients to produce a thunderstorm potentially a severe thunderstorm.

(The middle screenshot)

Taking it a step farther, we can look at the Mixed Layer Convective Available Potential Energy plot. This map is taken from near 7pm on Thursday. This shows how much energy is available to a storm system as it moves into the area and it's the most realistic option for how the atmosphere actually works. The CAPE value is the value we would find in the worst possible scenario, so it's usually an overestimation of how much energy is available to a storm. This value can be inserted into a very simple equation to calculate the strength of the updraft within a storm. The stronger the updraft, the more likely it is to be a more severe storm. 

So looking ahead to later on this week, we can tell that we have the potential to have severe storms Thursday night. So make sure you're safe when on campus and at home this upcoming Thursday. 

Climate Change now a Woman's problem?

posted Mar 10, 2015, 3:00 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Mar 10, 2015, 3:00 PM by Michael Baldwin ]

    The American Meteorological Society sends out an email every week to its' members giving them a variety of weather related articles to read from. This week, one of the articles stood out to me because of its interesting title. It was definitely a headline to grab attentions. The article is titled "'Man-made' climate change a major woman's problems." 

    This could be offensive to some feminists out there, but to me, it was definitely eye catching. I was curious to find out why anthropogenic climate change is a woman's problem. And what deems it to be a woman's problem. So as I read the article, their main reason for why it has become a woman's problem is that natural disasters tend to kill more women than men. Now, my offense to this is cause women are not as able to swim away in a tsunami, also known as an impossible feat, or climb trees to survive. At least in western cultures, tree climbing ability is developed as a child, and most women tend to lose upper body strength as their age increases. In many other cultures, the women wait for their spouse to tell them to go for safety.

    Personally, I feel like there are many issues with always expecting a man to tell you what to do. And in the case of a natural disaster, it is an issue of if the woman live or dies. The World Meteorological Organization, which is a part of the United Nations, has a special convey to specifically look at how to help women that observe the subservient culture save themselves in a natural disaster. Because honestly, no guy is going to look out or worry for them when a typhoon or tsunami comes rolling in. Education is a super important to understand the reasons behind why fresh water is becoming less and less available. These cultures tend to also value education more for a man then a girl. 

    In conclusion, I think climate change could be a woman's problem depending on where the woman is located and what culture is observed. 


    Here's a link to this article: https://news.yahoo.com/man-made-climate-change-major-womans-problem-061201748.html

Heart of Tornado Alley Quiet?

posted Mar 4, 2015, 4:48 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Mar 4, 2015, 4:48 PM by Michael Baldwin ]

    It can't possibly be so. Tornado Alley is the heartland of all tornadic activity. If anything, that should be where the highest number of tornadoes occur annually. According to the article, "there were only 40 tornadoes last year in Kansas. And most of them were gustnadoes." That's absolutely astonishing.

    Over the past couple of years, the citizens of Wichita, Kansas, which is in the center of tornado alley, have not seen many tornadoes. The state government of Kansas and Wichita believe that many residents have become compliment with the new norm of no tornadoes. However, since spring is right around the corner, they do not want the residents of Kansas to forget how dangerous tornadoes are. And how often they usually occur in the spring. Last year's number wasn't even close to the average, which is "about 80 per year over the past decade." Personally, I think that average is even low considering Kansas is in the heart of Tornado Alley and Texas is the only state that tops them in natural disasters. 

    The experts in the field believe this year will be similar to the 2011 season. That season started off very cold, and the cold wasn't giving way in the early spring. And once the cold does subside back northward, there's an explosion in the number of super-cells and those cells that have the ability to produce tornadoes. However, that season produced one tornado that will be infamous for the rest of time. The Joplin, Missouri Tornado. This tornado occurred in May, which is extremely late for most tornadoes in tornado season; however, it was one of the most deadly in "half a century." 

    Hopefully, not many deadly tornadoes occur this year once tornado season starts ramping up the intensity. Remember your tornado safety drills, and make sure if the sirens do go off, to seek shelter immediately.


    Here's a link to the article: http://www.kansas.com/news/weather/article11863763.html

Could there actually be a link between temperatures and crime rates?

posted Feb 23, 2015, 3:50 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 23, 2015, 3:50 PM by Michael Baldwin ]

    This NBC article seems to think so. Crime could range from small misdemeanors, like theft of a pair of gloves, to large federal crimes, like murder, grand theft auto, etc. For example, the article has this shocking fact, "New York celebrated 12 consecutive days without a murder -- the longest stretch since the NYPD started keeping records in 1994." To me, this is startling. It's also been a topic among researchers. This article talks to one, who has recently published a journal article, and he along with many other researchers within this field are interested at this link. The threshold temperature where the crime rates in all categories of crime begin to drop around 50. This continues downward until about -10, which is where the rate in grand theft auto rises again. I'd assume this is so because it's people trying to find warmth on an extremely cold night. All of these researchers look at how crime rates will change with the rising temperatures globally. Almost all crimes are expected to rise when the temperatures rise as well. On the contrary, the article says that crime rates have absolutely no correlation with temperatures, but with seasons. The article provides the example of summer, and how students are off. 

    Personally, I'd agree with the NBC article. Back home, I watch the news with my mom after she gets home from work. During the winter, there seems to be a lot less general crime stories. In the summer, it seems like out of the top 5 stories, 3 or 4 are about shootings on the south side of Chicago or the deaths of either innocent bystanders or targets or shooters within these shootings. However, on the seasons part of it, I'd completely disagree. Most of the shootings back home are gang related and those participants drop out of school to become a full time member. These members do not just go back to school once the months of August or September; these members continue to be on the street, plotting numerous scenarios of how to take out rival gang members. I think that it is somewhat based on temperatures and when people are outside. A majority of the murders in Chicago are those of innocents being at the wrong place at the wrong time and they are mistaken for someone else.


    Here's a link to the article: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/does-cold-stop-crime-it-seems-so-n309856

More Snow to Come, More Saturday Classes?

posted Feb 17, 2015, 8:04 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 17, 2015, 8:04 AM by Michael Baldwin ]

    Late last week, I came across an article talking about what the universities in Boston are going to do about the record breaking amount of snow that they will be receiving in the next couple of days. Boston has the highest concentration of universities in the smallest amount of area. MIT, Boston University, Northeastern University, Tufts, and Havard are all either within the city limits of Boston. Currently, there's been about 6 feet of snow that has fallen in the Boston area over the last two weeks. 6 feet of snow. I'd be completely buried in snow and it would still be like 10 inches taller than me, if I was standing next to a pile.

    These schools currently have missed 5 days so far due to the insane amount of snow that has fallen. This record breaking total amount of snow has forced some of the best universities in the country to look at holding Saturday classes for a month or the rest of the semester to make up for the cancelled classes in result of the amount of fallen snow. If I was attending any of the numerous schools in and surrounding Boston, I'd be thrilled for having the snow days, considering the fact that snow days are rare past middle school. On the contrary, I'd be absolutely dreading the amount of material I would be expected to know for exams, yet they were never covered during a scheduled lecture time. 

    Personally, I think scheduling Saturday classes for these universities that have lost a week, so far just to the massive snow totals, is a good idea. I'd hate to be a student and have to teach myself fairly complicated material just to make sure that I wasn't screwed for an upcoming exam. However, these schools may be missing more classes. There's another storm that's projected to dump another foot onto these already heavily buried areas. 

  If you're attending school in Boston currently, pack a shovel and some ski googles cause you might just have to dig yourself a tunnel just to get through all the snow to trudge your way to your classes if it hasn't been cancelled. But I'd expect it to be cancelled. However, building snow tunnels o



    Here's a link to the article, http://college.usatoday.com/2015/02/12/record-breaking-snowfall-shuts-down-boston-schools/

More Advanced Forecasts to come?

posted Feb 10, 2015, 12:54 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 10, 2015, 12:54 PM by Michael Baldwin ]

    Today, I came across an article, from the YaleEnvironment360 website, talking about the push from meteorologists and the general public alike for better forecasting. This article uses the example of the Pineapple Express phenomena that dumped a ton of rain onto the drought stricken state of California in December.

    The article focuses on the increase of extreme weather events projected to occur along with the rise in global surface temperatures, which is a result of anthropogenic causes of climate change. Climate change is a threat multiplier because it is so intertwined with numerous other societal problems. Increased temperatures leads to higher evaporation rates, which means a higher humidity in the atmosphere. The result of higher humidity can lead to more tropical diseases being found in the mid-latitude areas. A crazy example of this would be Malaria being found in Iowa.

    Another problem with climate change is the increased potential of nations that have nuclear weapons going to war with each other over a water resource. The perfect example of this is Pakistan vs. India and the Kashmir region. Kashmir has a portion of the Himalayas within the state, and the snow that falls in the mountains, during the wet season, provides the water source for southern India for the following dry season. Pakistan thinks this state is a part of Pakistan and India thinks it's a part of India. The area has the most armed border for the entire world. Anyways, a warmer Earth will leader to less snow falling in the mountains, meaning less buildup during the wet season to provide water for a majority, if not all, of the dry season. 

    Back to the article now. At the present time, models are accurate for only a few days in advance. After about 3 days or so, the accuracy of the models is around 50 percent, which is not good at all. At NOAA, they are making an upgrade to the super computer, which would lead to better forecasting for more than a few days in advance.

    Personally, an upgrade to the super computers will be a good forecasting tool for up and coming meteorologists, like myself. It will be super helpful to have more reliable models to help improve my forecasting skills. I am actually content about the possibility of better forecasting tools in the future.

    Here's a link to the article: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/as_extreme_weather_increases_a_push_for_advanced_forecasts/2845/

Groundhog's Day

posted Feb 3, 2015, 3:24 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 3, 2015, 3:24 PM by Michael Baldwin ]

Every year, when February 2nd rolls around, the little town of Punxsutawney, PA, awakes from it's hibernation. They throw a week long celebration in anticipation of upcoming Groundhog's Day. On the second, they let Punxsutawney Phil, crawl out of his den, where he's been hibernating, to see if he can see his shadow or not. And that predicts if winter will last another 6 weeks, or spring is coming early that particular year.

Personally, their set up with the groundhog is absolutely unbelievable. They aim spotlights on the groundhog's den, and as soon as he emerges, he's immersed in a blinding set of lights. Of course, a groundhog is going have a higher probablity, or even will, see his shadow if you aim spotlights on him. Since 2008, so 7 years, the groundhog has only been accurate twice. Yes, just two times, in seven years. Which is more appalling. Why does everyone get all worked up over his prediction when the statistics show that he's been right only 28% of the time?

That's right, he's been correct under 30% of the time, and yes that makes him one of the worst weather forecasters ever. However, his accuracy percentage increase some if you look at the past ten years, where it's 30%. Still, being accurate only 30% of the time could be a testament to how old this practice is. To disagree with my calculations, the article that I read says that he's right 44% of the time. Still far below industry standards of 60% though. According to the article, the groundhog could have a few personal problems with the humans, which would give him a bias against predicting the correct forecast. Fun fact, there have been 16 different groundhogs used for this tradition since the beginning

In this day and age, most forecasters would be fired if they were only correct 30% of the time. Maybe this is just my personal opinion, but I think it's time to not aim spotlights on the groundhog, and see how well he does after that. The fact that spotlights are even used in this scenario is absolutely appalling because any animal is going to have a shadow if you aim lights at it. Another issue, with this tradition, is that there have been a total of 16 different groundhogs predicting the winter outcome. How are these groundhogs trained, if they even are, to predict the winter weather for the next decade or so?

There are two solutions to fix this dilemma. Either remove the spotlights and try it the old fashioned way, or just retire the tradition and say it's just gotten too out of hand. I think they could end the tradition; however, if they want to continue this outrageous tradition, can we please fix the spotlight flaw?


Here's the link to the article I found: http://www.vox.com/2015/2/2/7963267/punxsutawney-phil-accuracy-evil

La Nina Study

posted Jan 30, 2015, 10:45 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jan 30, 2015, 10:45 AM by Michael Baldwin ]

i was looking through my NBC news app last night and i came across a study that was recently published. Here's a link to the story I read: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/global-warming-may-lead-more-frequent-la-nina-events-study-n292451

Anyways, I thought it was extremely relevant that this would be published now. Last winter, we were predicted to have a strong El Nino forming in the later portion of 2014. It was so close to being formed, until the temperatures were not too much above average in October, which was the predicted date. Typically after a strong El Nino year, a strong La Nina occurs the following year. This study that was published says that the frequency of strong La Ninas is predicted to increase to one out of every ten years instead of one out of every twenty due to global warming. This affects the United States in many ways. The current drought in California would not have much time to recover before another extreme drought sets in. That's harmful to all the produce grown out in the valleys of California which is then shipped to the rest of the country to eat. Avocado would experience another large price increase which would force Mexican restaurants, like Chipotle, to charge customers more for it. I'm not a fan of guacamole so anything regarding avocados is sort of irrelevant to me personally. But I digress. 

The article provides the example of the La Nina of 1998-1999, which followed the massive El Nino year of 1997. Just think, in the future, thanks to climate change, we could have more extremes in weather which would make Hurricane Katrina of 2005 look like a normal hurricane. Is that the world you're ready to live? I sure don't want that. Weather is hard to predict, but the more we change the climate patterns, which are long term averages of weather and temperature; there's a larger chance for a change to weather which could be deadly. 

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