May Gray, June Gloom

Every area has its own weather quirks. They all follow the laws of physics, often through interaction too complex for humans to fully understand. Take this afternoons clouds.


Even Californians complain about the weather. We should be ashamed of ourselves!

We have one of those potential kvetch times on-the-way. It’s the seasonal California May gray and June gloom. We’ll be waking to cloudy skies for most of the next week. They disappear by noon. This type of weather happens sporadically through summer.

In the case of coastal California, the offshore marine layer is typically propelled inland by a pressure gradient which develops as a result of intense heating inland, blanketing coastal communities in cooler air which, if saturated, also contains fog. The fog lingers until the heat of the sun becomes strong enough to evaporate it, often lasting into the afternoon during the “May gray” or “June gloom” period – Wikipedia

We’re over 10 miles inland. It’s not as bad as for coastal dwellers. Of course, they live on the California Coast. They’d better not complain. Ever. About anything.

This weather scenario wasn’t something we were looking for in Connecticut. Here, it shows up nicely on the forecast models. At the top is a BUFKIT readout from tonight’s 00Z GFS for KSNA, John Wayne Airport in nearby Santa Ana (Clicking the image will give you a much larger, much more readable look).

BUFKIT is an amazing program for visualizing weather data. It was developed at NOAA and is free, as is the data it uses.

With maps you see a large area for one specific time. With BUFKIT you see one specific place over a period of time. Go ahead–reread that.

There’s a lot going on, but what I’m looking at is at the bottom of the image. The lines are isohumes–lines of equal humidity. The cloud producing marine layer isn’t thick. On most days it only goes up 2,000 feet. It produces low, dense overcast. Sometimes there’s drizzle.

The marine layer forms in the evening and fades through the morning.

Every area has its own weather quirks. They all follow the laws of physics, often through interaction too complex for humans to fully understand. Take this afternoons clouds.

Hurricane Bill–Wide Right!

The surf will be angry. The beaches will be empty of bathers.


Hurricane Bill is down to Category 1 at the moment. I can see that in the satellite shot. The eye has become ratty. Convection is missing from much of the western side. Most importantly, it looks like dry air is getting in toward the center.


Earlier tonight on Facebook Craig Allen posted some personal observations from Jones Beach on Long Island&#185 which was disappearing under the tidal surge.

Just got back from Jones. Not Jones Beach; Jones Ocean. THERE WAS NO BEACH! All the sand was COMPLETELY submerged under the ocean from West End to Field 6. The ocean continued under the boardwalk, splashing up from between the slats and flooded the g…olf course. Only the top 2 feet of the basketball hoops were visible. The bandshell was under 3 feet of water. Only the dunes prevented it from flooding the parkway. – Craig Allen, meteorologist

Without Long Island we’d be susceptible to all that Bill’s got. Of course that’s academic. Thanks for taking one for the team Long Island!

Offshore, NOAA’s buoys continue to see large swells even in areas without strong winds!

There will be plenty of video later today from Massachusetts. The surf will be angry. The beaches will be empty of bathers.

Close but no cigar for Bill. Connecticut gets a pass. He will be Canada’s problem now. We are happy to see him depart.

&#185 – Actually Jones Beach is south of Long Island on a barrier island called Jones Beach Island. This is one of those cases where what is true and what is commonly believed are at odds.

More Hurricane Center Tumult

Wow! Bill Roenza’s gotta go as the director of the National Hurricane Center.

I didn’t think so when I wrote an entry on Tuesday, but the Miami Herald has advanced its earlier story with additional comments from lead forecasters. There’s no internal confidence for Proenza from those guys.

‘I don’t think that Bill can continue here,” said James Franklin, one of five senior forecasters at the center. “I don’t think he can be an effective leader.”

Two others — Richard Pasch and Rick Knabb — told The Miami Herald that they concur.

”We need a change of leadership here at the hurricane center,” Pasch said. “It’s pretty much as simple as that.”

Part of what Proenza did was plead for a replacement for the soon-to-die Quickscat satellite. Then he quantified a value NHC’s accuracy would fall if Quickscat was gone.

I thought his number was way off mark then. The hurricane forecasters at NHC seem to agree.

Obviously, every piece of observational equipment is important, but by the time a storm threatens land there are better tools than Quickscat, which only covers a given area a few times a day.

If you’re NOAA, can you promote one of the insiders to replace Proenza (if he goes)? Doesn’t that just legitimize this mutiny?

This story’s not over.

Storms At The Hurricane Center

It looks like the boss is starting a paper trail on National Hurricane Center Director Bill Proenza. When Proenza criticized NOAA’s budget for anniversary celebrations, saying it was taking money away from a satellite project that affected accuracy… I think that’s when we entered the “don’t get angry, get even,” stage of employment.

I don’t know much about Proenza, but what I’ve heard has been positive. Coming to run NHC from elsewhere in the Weather Service must be tough. It is, by far, the most visible job in the Weather Service.

There is incredible pressure to forecast at levels beyond our present scientific capability. Wouldn’t that be the definition of pressure?

While all this tumult is going on upstairs, downstairs at least one forecaster seems to be throwing Proenza under the bus. This is from today’s Miami Herald in an article titled, “Pressure builds for storm chief” :

Meanwhile, for the first time, one of Proenza’s hurricane forecasters expressed public concern about some of Proenza’s actions since he took the job in January.

Lixion Avila, a lead forecaster and a center employee for more than 20 years, said he believes Proenza meant well but unintentionally has undermined public faith in hurricane forecasts.

Avila goes on to blame Proenza for something Avila acknowledges isn’t what was actually said. It’s getting messy.

Is this jealousy from a PhD whose boss is just a mister? It wouldn’t be the first time. Most of Proenza’s lead forecasters do have greater academic credentials than he does.

June and July, though part of the hurricane season, are normally quiet months in the tropics. It’s not until mid-August that things begin to get busy. I hope, by then, the Hurricane Center will be able to concentrate on hurricanes.

Rainfall Followup

The rain continues to fall – much of it heavy. I think I just heard the rumble of thunder. I’m not 100% sure, but it’s been reported nearby, so maybe.

The real reason I’m posting this is to show a static picture of the recent tide cycles. My earlier link pointed to live data, but this is what’s on the NOAA site as I type. It’s pretty impressive.

As the high tide went out, the water level rose sharply. It looks to be about three feet above astronomical predictions. The practical effect was to prolong what was probably a flooding tide to begin with.

Just in case you didn’t take Oceanography (probably my favorite course from Mississippi State), that three feet is how much higher the water level is off the bottom. Since the bottom is sloped, three feet of higher tide can bring Long Island Sound tens or even hundreds of feet farther inland! Any waves are on top of that!

Anyway, it’s pretty awful out there. Hopefully not much longer. We can’t take it much longer.

Another Reason To Hate Winter

I got this a little while ago:


I’ve been watching your forecasts for many years… and over these past few winter’s…. I have yet to see you give a satisfactory/accurate forecast! As of tonight. you just said snow is going to change to rain on the coastline.. More specifically: Stratford, CT….. What I do not understand… is CH 3 (WFSB) CH 6 (NBC) Ch 7 (WABC-7 NY) didn’t mention anything about changing to ALL rain… they mentioned a mix… also.. I’ve been monitoring the forecast(s) from… and they also do not mention rain… I think too much “faith” is put into your “Skymax” computer models.. rather than actual facts… correct me if I’m right/wrong.. but I do not understand the conflicting forecasts. Please explain?!

When he says I haven’t given an accurate forecast in years, I suppose that reveals his mindset.

Of course he could be right. I’m hoping he’s not. It’s so complex. Surely there are things I’ve missed or underplayed. Hopefully, I’ve seen the whole picture.

The funniest part is, I didn’t know the details of the other forecasts until I read this (I had some idea of NWS because I read their forecast discussions – not their finished forecasts).

So, now I sit and wait… and watch… and wait some more. The is what Tums are for, right?

Hurricane Center Disappointment

The Miami Herald has undertaken a multipart study of the National Hurricane Center and related tropical prediction facilities run by NOAA. I have just read whatever is already on line and I am shocked… maybe sickened is a better word.

Many things I thought were well taken care of, are not.

Equipment doesn’t work or isn’t designed correctly. Budgets are (in my opinion) improperly allocated. What should be considered incredibly important is allowed to take a back seat.

I know some people at NHC. They are impressive. But, predicting tropical weather is complex. A full data set is incredibly important.

Katrina was a forecasting success, but there have been so many forecasting errors. Forecast errors are costly in dollars and lives.

Here’s a good starting off point, but this story is divided into a bunch of pages and will continue through this week.

Tsunami Animation

Scientists at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, part of NOAA, have created an amazing animation which shows how the “Boxing Day Tsunami” transversed the Indian Ocean. Even if you have dial-up (and this will take a while) it’s worth the wait.

Blown Out of Proportion

I got an email this morning from a mailing list at Sky and Telescope Magazine run by Cary Oler:

It is remarkable how often the news media take scattered facts, throw

them together incorrectly and then claim authenticity. Such was the case in

abundance for the space weather storm of 24 October. Media reports that this

storm would be a “perfect storm” or the “once in a 100 year event” were

shamefully inaccurate.

I guess I was one of those taken in. But why? I’m usually pretty cynical of these things, even when the Drudge headline said ‘Perfect space storm’ coming to Earth… ” I still did loads of research on-line trying to understand what was going on.

If this wasn’t big, then NASA’s website wasn’t helping:

This week researchers have been observing an enormous sunspot the size of Jupiter. As a result of associated flares, NOAA predicts strong geomagnetic storms to hit Earth on Friday with the potential to affect electrical grids and satellite communications. Aurora may be visible as far south as Oregon and Illinois. Meanwhile, scientists are watching another large sunspot rotate toward us with potential for even more powerful and prevalent explosions.

And, from another NASA site:

Earlier this week, a large sunspot region caught the attention of many sungazers around the world. Sunspot region 10484 was associated with several powerful solar flares, including one X-class event (the most powerful category). The sunspots in the region covers more than 1700 millionths of the visible solar surface, or 10 times the surface of the entire Earth!

But hold on! Another region, number 10486, has rotated onto the solar disk, showing even more signs of activity. And this particular region caught the attention of solar physicists while it was still on the far side of the Sun! In the MDI instrument’s far side imaging pictures, it showed considerable development over a short period of time. The rapid growth was noted by KehCheng Chu of Stanford University, but the fact was not widely publicized. “The data were a bit scarce, and there was a chance that the images were influenced by this,” says Phil Scherrer, Principal Investigator for MDI.

The speculations have been vindicated by a lot of activity (including an even stronger X flare) coming from this new region. Although not quite as large in sunspot area (1160 millionths of the visible surface), it is still considered somewhat more likely to produce the most powerful flares.

I’m not upset that I got to talk about the flares and sunspots. There’s great supporting video and hopefully people got a little more understanding of what’s going on in space. I’m more worried that people in the scientific community are willing to exaggerate.

Science is the last place that should happen.