Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rain and more rain + Cali update

Impressive rainfall amounts are expected over the next three days as yet another strong system delivers with it plentiful energy. The upper NW coast is in the crosshairs this week with 6+ inches of rain possible along with up to 8" of snow in the higher elevations of northern California.

Worth noting is a small area of east Texas and central Louisiana that could receive over 3 inches of rain in the next couple of days. There is no drought to extinguish in that area.

Dents have been made in the California drought situation and hopefully this map will look even better next week for the northern 1/3 of the state. Last week's rain helped to supplement reservoir levels. The Nov. 28 Trinity, Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, and San Luis Lakes percent of capacity was 23, 23, 26, 28, and 23; on Dec. 16, they increased to 29, 32, 33, 38, and 33 percent, respectively. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A very interesting day at the lake...

I am positive that GM should purchase this video from me. Yesterday I had our Cruisers Yachts 3870 hauled out for some maintenance and an upgrade or two. Boats like these are hard enough to get on the trailer, much less pull. Once it was aligned and the Freightliner got the boat far enough out of the water for the stern to drop, all 30,000lbs was supported and the Freightliner was unable to pull.

Enter the Chevy 2500 4x4 with diesel in low gear and 4x4 engaged.

Hey GM, basically here's your :30 second commercial!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weather Bomb, Polar Vortex, Winter Storm Sally, Oh My!

It started with Frankenstorm. Then there was the Polar Vortex. Now Britain faces the "Weather Bomb".  Add in The Weather Channel tagging winter storms with proper names and all of a sudden you have completely removed the science from weather for the masses.

To standard-issue weather geek, terms like Bomb and Polar Vortex actually mean something, although they sound ominous to the layperson so they're perfect for media application. Frankenstorm, well, that was just a board forecaster having some fun in an official discussion. The NWS is still trying to shake that one off.

Weather tops the national news more often than not these days, what with climate change having been officially established even though we only have 130 years of record-keeping and 30 years of global data for a planet that's 4.54 billion years old. I digress. The weather is the weather. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad; but it's easier to talk to the masses about it when it's interesting and research shows the masses relate better to non-weather monikers than weather terminology.

So I've written all of this to basically say, stop spinning your wheels trying to fight the media machine. Naming is here to stay and extraction of only the most menacing weather terms will be the norm, and they'll rarely be used in proper context.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

California Love

Left: Estimated rainfall over the next three days
Right: Current California drought monitor
California should get some drought-denting rainfall over the next three days thanks to a pungent storm system that will bring widespread rain and snow to the west coast and continue spreading the love as it pushes east. This will supplement rainy weather along the central Cali coast from last week that served rainfall from 1-3 inches resulting in a positive impact on reservoirs in watersheds affected. 
7+ inches of additional rain would make a huge contribution to the area.

Below ground
A true measurement of drought recovery in an area heavily dependant upon groundwater is replenishment of these important water sources.

Natural refilling of aquifers at depth is a lengthy process because groundwater moves slowly through unsaturated zones. The rate of recharge is also an important consideration. It has been estimated, for example, that if the aquifer that underlies the High Plains of Texas and New Mexico was emptied, it would take centuries to refill at the present small rate of replenishment. In contrast, a shallow aquifer in an area of substantial precipitation may be replenished almost immediately. 
California has both shallow and deep aquifers.
  • A multi-agency research project led by NOAA estimated that peak summer acreage of farmland idled in California in 2014 was 1.7 million acres, almost 700,000 acres more than in 2011, a recent wet year.
  • California's groundwater provides between 30 and 46 percent of the State's total water supply, depending on wet or dry years, and serves as a critical buffer against drought. 
  • Some communities in California are 100% reliant upon groundwater for urban and agricultural use.

Where's it going?
In 2010, Californians withdrew an estimated total of 38 billion gallons of water per day, compared with 46 billion gallons per day in 2005.
Red: levels that have fallen 50'+  past 10yrs
  • Surface water withdrawals in California were 25 billion gallons per day (67%), compared with 35 billion gallons per day (76%) in 2005.
  • Groundwater withdrawals accounted for 13 billion gallons per day (33%), compared with 11 billion gallons per day (24%) in 2005.
  • About 82% of all California water withdrawals were from fresh-water sources, compared with 72% in 2005.
  • In both 2005 and 2010, about 74% of all freshwater withdrawals were for irrigation.
  • 95% of all saline water withdrawals were for thermoelectric power generation, compared with 98% in 2005.

How is it used?
38 billion gallons of water withdrawals per day were distributed among 8 categories (2005 numbers):
  • Irrigation: 60.7% (23,056 million gallons per day)
  • Thermoelectric power generation: 17.4% (6,601 million gallons per day)
  • Public supply: 16.6% (6,307 million gallons per day). Average daily gross per capita use was 181 gallons (total Public Supply withdrawals divided by population served).
  • Aquaculture: 2.6% (973 million gallons per day)
  • Industrial: 1.0% (400 million gallons per day)
  • Mining: 0.7% (272 million gallons per day)
  • Livestock: 0.5% (188 million gallons per day)
  • Self-supply domestic: 0.5% (172 million gallons per day). Average daily per capita use was 69 gallons.

Monday, December 8, 2014

SKYWARN is aging

Saturday was SKYWARN Recognition Day, an event co-sponsored by ARRL and the National Weather Service to highlight the efforts of volunteers who serve as field spotters and communications specialists during times of adverse weather. Amateur Radio is the primary source of communication and the SKYWARN program, in part, serves as a backup should traditional comm systems fail.

During the event, various NWS offices posted images of operators making point to point contacts, a primary exercise during SRD. One thing I noticed right away was the aging demographic of net controllers. Plenty of gray hair, basically. Here's a sampling:

That was then, this is now
For a few years I served as SKYWARN Net Controller in the NWS Tulsa office. I was a pup; probably operating the radios there from age 16 to about 23 years of age alongside other older operators. I was likely the youngest SKYWARN net controller on the air during that period (1993'ish) and since then I have not come across many young people in that position. Seeing the older faces and gray hair got me wondering about the future of SKYWARN.  Is getting a radio license no longer something young people are doing? Are younger individuals simply not interested in taking on a demanding role in a volunteer capacity?

A look at the numbers
Taking a look at the graph here will certainly reinforce the fact that radio is not dying. It's important to note though that drastic changes in the test question pool over the years has had a huge impact. No longer do you need to know how to decode color banded axial lead resistors or figure dummy load tolerances in order to key up as a "Tech". Now Amateur Radio tests are more about the rules and regulations in place to operate on various bands.

I was wrong
Increasing numbers is fabulous for the hobby but my question is still not answered and I'm not sure it can be. I fully expected to research and find a decline in number of operators and that this blog would go in a completely different direction. Instead, there are more operators than ever yet those involved in most SKYWARN activities are in their mid to upper years. Perhaps some of you will comment with your perceived reasoning for the cause.

SKYWARN™ Recognition Day (SRD) provides a venue for National Weather Service (NWS) offices to recognize Amateur ("ham") Radio operators for their commitment in helping keep their communities weathersafe. During every tropical weather threat, and many other major weather events, Amateur Radio operators staff local NWS and American Red Cross shelters and stand ready to provide emergency communications should standard services fail or become overloaded. Many Amateur Radio operators are also trained as SKYWARN™ weather spotters by local NWS offices, to provide valuable information during hazardous weather situations. Often, these spotter reports allow NWS meteorologists to issue severe weather warnings with greater advance notice and confidence than would otherwise be possible.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Super Typhoon Hagupit

10:30a  12/4/14
As of this post, Hagupit is about 640 miles east-southeast of Manila, moving west-northwest at 11.5 mph pushing maximum waves of 45 feet. Nearly 32 million people are estimated to be affected in some way by cyclone-force winds when the storm arrives on Saturday afternoon or evening.

Hagupit, known locally as Ruby, was expected to weaken slightly between today and Saturday's landfall but will likely maintain a Category 4/5 classification at landfall.

To the right (top) is an image I pulled at 10:30am CT. This evening I grabbed the bottom image for track and intensity comparison.
7:30p 12/4/14

White Christmas Probabilities

Tis the season for talk about white Christmas potential to start making its way across the interwebs and onto your favorite TV meteorologist's late news weather show.

So what qualifies as an official white Christmas?
The National Climatic Data Center says one or more inches of snow on the ground at daybreak on Christmas morning constitutes a white Christmas.

Locals in some areas disagree and will count as a white Christmas, any amount of snow on either Christmas eve or Christmas day. Local traditions are not factored into the map on the right.
Alright kids, this is the part where you should probably stop reading because I'm about to rain on your white Christmas - quite literally.

To the left are maps created by WDT's Ed Berry. Ed is a superstar seasonal and sub-seasonal forecaster and between he and his colleague, Dr. David Gold, they nail scary good forecasts regularly. These particular maps are distributed to natural gas interests and traders.

As you can easily see, we're expecting a warmer than normal mid December and buzz around the office is that things shouldn't fluctuate too much between the 18th and the 25th. Does this mean no white Christmas? Absolutely not! Northern, mountain, and Great Lake states will experience the same opportunity for snow as they normally do but states on the fringe of the historical snowfall map above will struggle to accomplish the white Christmas moniker.

Climatologically speaking, here are the top 5 non-mountain locations for a white Christmas in the lower 48:
Duluth, Minnesota: 97%
Wausau, Wisconsin: 93%
Marquette, Michigan: 90%
Fargo, North Dakota: 83%
Portland, Maine: 83%

Useless fact completely unrelated to weather:
The Irving Berlin song, "White Christmas", sung by Bing Crosby from the film Holiday Inn, is the highest-selling single of all time.