Posts Tagged ‘National Weather Service’

 

How To Get Connecticut Snowfall Totals

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Doppler Versus Snow

This time of year there’s a steady barrage of incoming messages looking for Connecticut snowfall totals. Some folks are curious. Others want to make sure their plow contractor isn’t overcharging, or they’re plow contractors who’d like to charge more!

The info isn’t easily obtained, especially for smaller towns. If you’re looking for Connecticut snowfall totals, here’s where I go.

The most complete source is the Connecticut Department of Transportation Weather Roundup. These are collected every two hours at DOT yards across Connecticut. Because of the methodology used the cumulative snowfall total is always more than what’s actually settled on the ground.

The National Weather Service splits Connecticut between three Weather Service Forecast Offices. That makes things more difficult. You’ll have to look at all three Public Information Statements to put the info together.

Shoreline counties: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Upton, NY.

Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Taunton, MA.

Litchfield County: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Albany, NY.

Snowfall and other weather data is often critical in accidents and contract disputes. For those more exacting cases when just numbers on paper (or a screen) aren’t enough I provide forensic meteorological services for attorneys and insurance companies.

Hurricane Sandy: NWS Assesses Itself

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

www.nws.noaa.gov os assessments pdfs Sandy13.pdf-1

The Weather Service just released its Hurricane Sandy “Service Assessment.” Publications like this aren’t unusual. Every named or numbered storm gets some sort of after-the-fact scrutiny. Of course, Sandy is a special case, having affected so many people and so much property. This is a beefy report touching lots of bases.

The Weather Service and Hurricane Center did a good job–not good enough. There were weak points. That’s me speaking, though the report acknowledged them too.

I was on-the-air at FoxCT for Sandy. We used lots of NWS/NHC raw data and forecast products. A huge part of my job was assimilating the immense treasure trove of data available. Some of what we used was so esoteric, co-workers didn’t know it existed!

If there’s ever been a time my years of experience and nerdy curiosity came in handy, it was during Sandy.

Once Sandy moved north of Cape Hatteras the National Hurricane Center passed off much of its responsibilities to local forecast offices. That was a big mistake which served to confuse more than inform.

www.nws.noaa.gov os assessments pdfs Sandy13.pdfI said it then. Even worse, I’d said it before, having complained loudly and traded emails with the Hurricane Center’s director Ed Rappaport after Hurricane Noel received the same pass-off in 2007.

This Hurricane Center policy will be changed going forward. It’s about time!

For future storms like Sandy, NHC should be the principal point of contact responsible for the event, including delivery of a consistent suite of products and a unified communications protocol within NOAA, to key NOAA federal partners, and the media. NOAA/NWS websites should consistently reflect all watch/warning/advisories on websites, regardless of organizational structure or office/center responsibility. Web page design should ensure the most important message is quickly evident.

The are other recommendations, including a some having to do with coastal flooding and the current lack of definitive storm impacts. Giving a tidal flooding range in feet is worthless to most people. More important would be to say, “Lower Manhattan will be under water,” or similar specifics.

The truth is most non-professionals need a trusted voice. There’s too much for you to wade through.

I hope I was your trusted voice, leading you in the right direction. If you were watching us on FoxCT you weathered the storm without any big surprises. It goes without saying I will miss being that voice for you in the future.

The NWS assessment and its findings and recommendations should help all of us do better next time. There will be a next time.

Cutting Off The Nose To Spite The Face

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

weather_balloon

There’s an old adage that seems apropos today:

“Cutting off the nose to spite the face” is an expression used to describe a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” is a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage oneself more than the object of one’s anger. – Wikipedia

This has to do with the latest sequester threat. Understand, it comes from Dan Sobien, the president of the union representing National Weather Service employees, so there’s a good chance he’s painting a gloomier picture to bolster his case.

Sobien says cutbacks to the National Weather Service might eliminate some of the weather balloon launches which happen twice a day around-the-world. These observations of the upper atmosphere help seed weather forecast models. Even the lauded European model uses our balloon observations.

This is crazy. Is this what we really want, a return to the significantly less reliable forecasts of decades ago?

We’ve had storms not show. Forecasting isn’t perfect (heaven knows). But when was the last time you were surprised by snow, like the Blizzard of ’78?

I can’t remember the last time!

Who in their right minds slashes a budget indiscriminately, as the sequester’s terms specify?

Bad weather forecasts cost money. Being able to plan and redeploy resources because of anticipated weather is a luxury business has today for the first time in history!

Is there fat at the Weather Service? Undoubtedly. Weather Service employee schedules are environmentally agnostic. As I understand it, there are as many employees scheduled for fair weather as foul in most offices . That seems foolishly inflexible¹.

The whole concept of a sequester is pretty foolish. We elect representatives to govern, not punt. I am flabbergasted.

¹ – I am not sure about this paragraph and welcome a correction if warranted.

Another Tornado Outbreak

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

You will be excused if you don’t hit the Storm Prediction Center website especially on this idyllic day in Connecticut. They are expecting more doom and destruction in the Midwest. It’s scary. It’s sad.

Here’s how they set the plate. The following outlook was issued long before any watches or warnings. Consider it a general heads up!

PUBLIC SEVERE WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1226 PM CDT WED MAY 25 2011

…MAJOR TORNADO AND SEVERE WEATHER OUTBREAK EXPECTED OVER PARTS OF
THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI…MID MISSISSIPPI…AND LOWER OHIO VALLEYS
THIS AFTERNOON AND TONIGHT…

THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER IN NORMAN OK IS FORECASTING THE
DEVELOPMENT OF NUMEROUS TORNADOES…WIDESPREAD DAMAGING WINDS…AND
LARGE HAIL OVER PARTS OF THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI…MID
MISSISSIPPI…AND LOWER OHIO VALLEYS THIS AFTERNOON AND TONIGHT.

THE AREAS MOST LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE THIS ACTIVITY INCLUDE

CENTRAL AND EASTERN ARKANSAS
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN INDIANA
WESTERN KENTUCKY
CENTRAL AND EASTERN MISSOURI
NORTHERN MISSISSIPPI
WESTERN TENNESSEE

The map I’ve attached show how tornado watches stand as I type this. Obviously those will pop on-and-off through the night.

I am as perplexed by this vicious season as much as anyone. I understand the atmospheric set-up. That part’s no surprise.

The question is why are all the factors gelling so often this year?

Bad luck? Probably.

At this point I’m dismissing any tie-in between this severe weather and global warming. You can’t easily connect anecdotal events with climate.

I am closely watching our chances for severe weather Friday and Monday.

Weather’s Swiss Army Knife

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I try not to talk about weather too much here. I’d rather not be in competition with my bosses business. However, there is a tool I use on a daily basis–BUFKIT.

BUFKIT is like a Swiss Army Knife for weather! It’s freely distributed by the Weather Service as is the data that feeds it. I know meteorologists who don’t use this and for the life of me can’t figure out why!

BUFKIT is a forecast profile visualization and analysis tool kit. It is targeted as a training and forecast tool for the decision makers of the National Weather Service. It is also available to anyone that would like to explore very high vertical and temporal resolution model output for specific point locations.

Weather maps show a large spatial area for one specific time. BUFKIT shows single points for an extended period of time. It’s possible to turn parameters on-and-off so you can look at the atmosphere top-to-bottom as weather systems move through.

I can’t overstate this program’s importance to me.

There’s a fresh version out and since it’s free I thought I’d mention it. If the weather interests you this is a download you’ll enjoy.

The Problem With Being Quoted

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Abe Katz wrote a winter outlook story for yesterday’s New Haven Register. I was one of the ‘experts’ quoted.

Let’s just say my quotes weren’t the ones you’d put in the first paragraph.

What does this mean?

Not a whole lot, said Geoff Fox, meteorologist at WTNH. “I’m a real non-believer in long term forecasts,” he said.

My problem, however, comes with a quote deeper in the article. I’m not sure whether I was misquoted or just didn’t say exactly what I meant.

There are two problems, Fox said: The forecasts are not accurate, and people live day to day, not season to season.

“If someone said it would be 3 degrees below normal for three months, how would that change your life?” Fox said

What I meant to say, or possibly did say, was:

“If someone said it would be 3 degrees below normal for three months, how would that change your life day-to-day?”

Adding day-to-day makes all the difference, because you would notice a season that’s three degrees below normal. That small temperature difference would take marginal rain days and make them snow days. Your heating bill would be significantly higher. You just wouldn’t notice it on any particular day.

It’s a tiny difference in meaning, but a significant one.

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Know Your Source

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

I feel awful for Mark Dixon and my other meteorologist friends at Channel 3. Here’s a taste of a story about a weather faux pas from today’s Hartford Courant:

False Alarm, Toto

Photograph Of Tornado Was Actually From Kansas, Not Thomaston, WFSB Says

By TRACY GORDON FOX And JESSE LEAVENWORTH

Courant Staff Writers

July 21, 2007

A photo of a Kansas-size twister that accompanied a TV news report Thursday about an outbreak of severe thunderstorms in Connecticut actually was taken in Kansas.

WFSB, Channel 3, received the photo by e-mail Thursday afternoon from a man who said he shot it on his father’s farm in Thomaston, station news director Dana Neves said Friday. The timing of the e-mail corresponded with radar showing severe weather over southern Litchfield County and ground reports of funnel clouds and a tornado in that same area, WFSB meteorologist Mark Dixon said Friday. The totality of the situation, he and Neves said, convinced the station that the photo was legitimate.

The photo was shown on the broadcast and displayed prominently on WFSB’s website, wfsb.com.

After verifying through the National Weather Service that the photo was shot in Kansas about two years ago, the station announced the mistake to viewers Thursday evening, Neves said. They also alerted federal officials.

I’m not saying it couldn’t have happened to me – because it could have. I tend to treat any kind of unsolicited video or eyewitness account with a grain of salt, but I’m not perfect.

Just to give you a taste of what goes on, here’s an email I received Thursday:

Hi Geoff–We had a tornado touch down in Thomaston and then again in Terryville–I don’t know about damage because I don’t live there. But local police saw it and reported it. Just thought you would like to know.

Sharon

I was so busy, I didn’t see this until long after the cell had passed through Thomaston. By that time, based on an NWS report, we had sent a reporter there. He found nothing.

I wrote asking Sharon where she got her info.

Hi Geoff–

I was watching the Weather Channel when I first got home and it came across in the National Weather Service Tornado warning on the bottom of the screen. It said the tornado was spotted by local law enforcement.

Sharon

Sharon didn’t mean to be bad or misleading. She was doing what she felt was right. But, she originally passed along second hand information as if she had obtained it herself.

I try my best to make personal contact with anyone who sends unsolicited material I use, but I know there are times I haven’t stridently followed my own rule. Speaking to someone usually provides to best clues to their trustworthiness.

This stuff happens all the time. Most of the time it’s a photo that someone claims comes from a friend or relative – but it doesn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same bogus Katrina pictures!

There’s a larger point to be made here and that gets to the crux of citizen journalism. Are we ready to trust random members of the public to provide our news coverage?

Opinionated reporters (Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Lou Dobbs, Brit Hume) may choose to report only certain aspects of a story, but you know where they’re coming from and can adjust accordingly. With random citizens, who knows what they’re trying to accomplish or maybe they’re too naive, like Sharon, to even know.

A good TV station, like WFSB, steps up to the plate and admits when they are wrong. That’s what good meteorologists and good journalists do.

On the other hand, when caught sending dubious material, I’ve found unsolicited citizen ‘journalists’ often stop responding.

This is the new world. There are aspects I don’t approve of.

They’re Doing It Again

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Charlie Walsh from the Connecticut Post called a while ago. He wanted my reaction to AccuWeather’s latest pronouncement:

WINTER TO COME “WITH A VENGEANCE”

Prolonged Period of Cold and Stormy Weather Appears on the Way

Quickly, I went to Google and found one of their earlier predictions.

Threat of Major Hurricane Strike Grows for Northeast

AccuWeather.com Warns That “Weather Disaster of Historic Proportions” Could Strike as Early as This Year

Sure – there’s the chance of a hurricane hitting the Northeast any year. Of course, there was none this year.

Then, in October, AccuWeather said:

Unlike the National Weather Service forecast, Bastardi does not see this winter being warmer than normal across the vast majority of the country. Overall, the AccuWeather.com Winter 2006

Tomorrow Is Today

Friday, September 1st, 2006

We’re supposed to drive Steffie back to college tomorrow. Here’s the official National Weather Service forecast:

Saturday: Periods of rain, mainly after 8am. The rain could be heavy at times. High near 71. Breezy, with a east wind between 22 and 26 mph, with gusts as high as 43 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.

That’s not the kind of weather you want to experience while moving a semester’s worth of stuff from car to dorm!

We’re going today.

Officially we’re on thin ice. Stef’s roommate is already there and registered from summer school. This stuff can go in as hers.

Meanwhile, everything that could wait, can’t.

Quoted In The Norwich Bulletin

Thursday, October 20th, 2005

I think I’ve become the low hanging fruit of weather quotes. I was included in an article published today in the Norwich Bulletin.

Use the link above if you want to read it, though I’m attaching it to the jump should that link go stale.

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