Like Paul Blart, Mall Cop


At 11:15 PM PST/2:15 AM EST

Observe and report. Like Paul Blart, Mall Cop, I’m observing and reporting.

First stop, radar. It’s active. Snow, identifiable by radar only recently, is the only precipitation being seen at the moment. It’s moving west-to-east.

Meteorologists call the radar’s targets, hydrometeors. Cool name.

We can detect rain, snow, hail, sleet, whatever. If a radar beam can bounce off it, it’s tracked.

Most times the radar is amazing. Not always. I’ve seen storms develop in an unusually bright patch of ground clutter. Surprise! Where did that come from? A once every few year event.

All my observing tonight is on the College of DuPage weather website. They carry nearly every product with well chosen color tables. Highly recommended.

The surface map shows the low pulling east, leaving New England. There’s more moisture following and colder temperatures. The snow isn’t quite finished.

Before ending this morning that additional snow will cover the slushy wet mess already on-the-ground. Up to a half foot more will fall in scattered sections of the Litchfield Hills all the way to the UCONN campus. Most areas a few inches less. Even less on the shoreline and near 395.

But still, look what it’s covering!

Oh–and windy and much colder.

The amount of forecast and observational data available is immense. New tools arrive all the time. For nerds like me, this is heaven. Forecasting in pajamas!

Hurricane Info – Where To Go

This time of year, a lot of what I do is follow hurricanes. Many of the tools that are useful the rest of the year fail miserably with tropical systems.

There are a number of problems. Hurricanes… even big ones like Dennis, are often relatively small enough to fall between the cracks of the numerical weather prediction programs. So the computer models I’d normally follow aren’t particularly helpful.

Hurricanes can be very interesting when they’re far from land – away from radar and surface observations. Our government’s NEXRAD network is worthless until the storm is poised to hit land.

Here are some of the secondary sites I follow to try and get more info than would normally be available.

The spinning radar on the left side&#185 is from one of Cuba’s network of weather radars. On any given day, half of them might be out of service. In Cuba, that’s not unusual.

On the other hand, there are seven. That’s a lot for an island of Cuba’s size.

Even though the south coast of Cuba is within range of the Key West radar, there are mountains in the way. I think the Cuban radar does a better job at this position. It’s always surprised me that the Cuban images are on the net. I’ve used their sites for at least three years.

The College of DuPage, a two year college where you wouldn’t expect big time meteorology, has one of the best sites for ‘domestic’ imagery like satellites and radar images. DuPage has the full NIDS suite, meaning you can see the Doppler portion of Doppler radar – winds!

For prediction, I have been paying close attention to the MM5 model being run at Florida State by Bob Hart (originally of North Branford, CT). The MM5 was initially formulated at Penn State and runs on off the shelf hardware (though still beefier than what you’ve got at home).

What makes FSU’s iteration of the MM5 so special is its superior ability to properly see topography, ‘bogused’ data from the actual hurricane (to better set the initial parameters, and sophisticated physics.

Bob is among the smartest people I’ve ever known. It’s no surprise this forecast tool is run under his supervision.

Hurricanes are so difficult to accurately predict, especially using conventional methods. Any improvement in the state of the art becomes a possible life saver! What could be sweeter than doing your job and saving lives?

Finally, I look at the Hurricane Center‘s output. For me, seeing just the Hurricane Center’s work product removes the fun of doing it myself.

I do religiously read their technical forecast discussions. The link, unfortunately, changes each time they issue a new one. Links to NHC products are also on the right side of this webpage and on the Hurricane Center homepage.

&#185 – Because this webpage will live on long after Dennis is gone, this is a captured radar image. The link goes to the real thing.

Hurricane Alex

This link will get stale quickly, but right now, Hurricane Alex looks amazingly potent as it moves just off the North Carolina coast. The weather website at College of DuPage in Illinois has some of the best imagery for this.