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Sun goes crazy this week, your GPS might suffer.

The sun launched some huge solar flares this week which sent 3 large CME’s towards the Earth. The impact will be fluctuation of GPS, power grids and communications. Below is a model of the CME or Coronal Mass Ejection moving towards the earth.

20110802_102100_anim.tim-den

The latest on the impacts and what this all means from the NOAA Space Weather Center.

2300Z, August 4, 2011 – The first of the three shocks arrived at 2155Z, about one hour ago. So far, only slight disturbances to the geomagnetic field, but there is plenty of action still anticipated. See a video of a SWPC researcher talking about this activity and what we can expect: Video

1500Z, August 4, 2011 – Great anticipation for the first of what may be three convergent shocks to slam the geomagnetic field in the next twelve hours, +/-. The CME with the Radio Blackout earlier today is by far the fastest, and may catch its forerunners in the early hours of August 5 (UTC) — at earth.

Two impacts are expected; G2 (Moderate) to G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storming on August 5, and potentially elevated protons to the S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm condition, those piling up ahead of the shock. The source of it all, Region 1261, is still hot, so more eruptions are possible.

 

Video Briefing on Tropical Storm Emily

Taking a quick look at what might and might not happen with Emily. The system is still trying to get it’s act together and there’s a chance it may never survive it’s crossing of Hispaniola. Still lots of time to watch this storm but here’s what is going on with it right now. If you have plans at the coast this weekend stay tuned.

Model Tracks

emily models

July was 8th hottest on Record

July is in the books and it ended up being 1.5° above average. Which followed June being 1.9° above average. The summer so far has been the 6th warmest on record in Charlotte. Notice in both cases last July and the summer in 2010 was warmer than this summer.

July 2011

2011-08-01_1003

Summer 2011

2011-08-01_1003_001

(Source The Southeast Regional Climate Center)

It’s Hot, but is it just summer or something more?

Got into some heated debates(no pun intended) on Facebook last week about why we talk about the heat so much. By “we” most people mean the TV meteorologist and for that matter the news media as a whole. Even though there is a distinct difference in my opinion. While it certainly is true as broadcasters we have been known to not put things in proper perspective when it comes to the weather coverage. In this case though I think we are just doing what is necessary. Some thought that we were overplaying the heat wave so far this summer, basically hey,  “it’s just summer in the Carolinas..blah..blah..blah.” While I agree to some extent, the fatality statistics tell me we should be taking it very serious. Especially when the temperature or heat index get above 98.6°, which is our body temperature. Remember once it gets that hot you need help cooling down, more water, fans or A/C..etc. 

The hottest our average high ever gets in Charlotte is 91° over the summer. So if we are 5-10° above that it’s a big deal. Why? Well the hottest we have ever been is 104°(twice in 2007), so that’s only a 13° spread from the “normal” hottest days of summer and the most extreme case in 132 years of records.

In contrast take Winter the lowest our average low ever gets is 32° but our all time low is -5°. That’s a 37° difference from our “normal” coldest winter time temps and our most extreme temperature.

So you can see being 5-10° colder than normal in the winter isn’t as extreme as being 5-10° warmer than normal in the summer.

Then there is this. The past heat wave which was mainly last week and last weekend has already killed 33 people. Take a look at the average annual weather related deaths and notice which causes more deaths.

hazstat-chart

If you take out Katrina with over 1000 deaths from 2005 Heat still is far and away the #1 weather related cause of death in the U.S.

The 90° History in Charlotte

Seems like we are watching the 90° count again this year after the 87 days of 90° or better last year. Which by the way was the second most on record. We are lucky to have such a long and well established weather record book here in Charlotte. These records go back to 1878 when the observations were heatwavetaken in Downtown Charlotte. The airport was build in 1935 and in 1939 the weather observations were moved out there.

So far this year as of this blog post we have hit 90° or better 45 times and today we should barely make it 46. I’m forecasting around 92°. Last year we hit it 87 times and even if we hit 90° or better every single day until the end of August that only gives us 83. So we will be high on the list but not as bad as last yea or 1954 when we hit it 88 times.  WE HOPE!

 


90° CHARLOTTE, NC 1878- 2010
FIRST OCCURRENCE
EARLIEST LATEST
17-Mar 1945 8-Jul 2003
23-Mar 1907 26-Jun 1978
25-Mar 1929 25-Jun 1983
28-Mar 1907 24-Jun 1909
3-Apr 1946 23-Jun 1968
LAST OCCURRENCE
EARLIEST LATEST
2-Aug 1917 13-Oct 1954
4-Aug 1971 11-Oct 1939
5-Aug 1981 9-Oct 2007
8-Aug 1882 1879 8-Oct 1941 1884
10-Aug 1901 7-Oct 1951 1911
Streaks/Days FROM TO YEAR
33 28-Jun 30-Jul 1993
32 31-Jul 31-Aug 2007
31 4-Jul 3-Aug 1986
22 31-Aug 21-Sep 1925
19 4-Jul 22-Jul 1977
19 21-Jul 8-Aug 1955
18 28-Jun 15-Jul 1991
18 30-Jul 16-Aug 1980
18 6-Aug 23-Aug 1900
18 24-Jun 8-Jul 1954
18 13-Jul 30-Jul 2010
18 22-Jun 29-Jun 2010
17 15-Jun 1-Jul 1998
17 21-Jun 7-Jul 1911
MOST LEAST
TOTAL YEAR TOTAL YEAR
88 1954 8 1967
87 2010 9 2003
85 1925 11 1910
76 2007 1993 12 1982 1971
1931 1909
75 1956 14 1974

Heat Index Counts

The heat has been big news for the past few weeks as much of the country has baked under a large ridge of high pressure. While the temperatures and those records have been impressive.

2011-07-25_1402

I have been impressive at the Heat Index or how it feels to you and I and how that has been abnormally high. Remember I blogged about the Heat Index before and what it actually means. In this post I thought I’d look at the climatology of the Heat Index at locations that have been keeping such records since 1972. The following are all graphs of the number of hours the Heat Index value was above 100° or more at selected large cities in the Carolinas. This does include this year up through Sunday 7/24/11.

Charlotte, NC

graph892

Greensboro, NC

graph495

Raleigh, NC

graph5942

Asheville, NC (Proving once again the mountains are awesome, Smile)

graph6486

Greer, SC (GSP)graph8687

Columbia, SC

graph7355

Charleston, SC

graph6059

The Heat Index & Records for Charlotte

With another impeding heat wave bearing down on the Carolinas. I thought I’d help explain what the Heat Index really is. In it’s purely mathematical form the calculation is as follows.

Heat Index = 16.923 + ((1.85212 x 10-1) x T)
+ (5.37941 x RH)
- ((1.00254 x 10-1) x T x RH)
+ ((9.41695 x 10-3) x T2)
+ ((7.28898 x 10-3) x RH2)
+ ((3.45372 x 10-4) x T2 x RH)
- ((8.14971 x 10-4) x T x RH2)
+ ((1.02102 x 10-5) x T2 x RH2)
- ((3.8646 x 10-5) x T3)
+ ((2.91583 x 10-5) x RH3)
+ ((1.42721 x 10-6) x T3 x RH)
+ ((1.97483 x 10-7) x T x RH3)
- ((2.18429 x 10-8) x T3 x RH2)
+ ((8.43296 x 10-10) x T2 x RH3)
- ((4.81975 x 10-11) x T3 x RH3)

where T is the dry bulb temperature (°F) and RH is relative humidity (%)

Looks crazy doesn’t it? Well it is when you think about it the Heat Index is really a measure of how the human body reacts to the combination of heat and humidity. More to the point how efficiently or in this case inefficiently it cools itself. So to calculate that you need lots of data besides the temperature and relative humidity. You need to know things like the surface area of an average human, rate of heat loss through skin, evaporative cooling, sweating…etc. So you can see lots of biology is in this as well as meteorology. This calculation is about how your body cools itself and the more humidity the less evaporation of sweat from your skin. This inefficiency makes you feel hotter, thus the Heat Index.

Here’s an easier way to understand it by just using this simple chart.

heat_index

 

So lets look at some of the climatology of the Heat Index in Charlotte. Last week South Carolina set a state record for the highest Heat Index in the 20 years of record keeping at 124°. This was in Mount Pleasant, SC.

For Charlotte our worst year of Heat Indices was last summer which actually wasn’t our hottest ever for air temperatures. We’ve never gone above 114°. 2010 was more about the high heat Index values though it was plenty hot out there.

graph1560

Notice last year we heat a Heat Index of 100°-104° or more for 130 hours.

We hit 105°-109° for 18 hours

We  had 1 hour of a Heat Index of 110°-114°

 

We are way behind last years pace but we still have half the summer to go. Here’s a look at every year since these types of records have been kept. (Via The NC state Climate Office)


Heat Index Climatology: Output

Heat Index Counts for KCLT from 1972 through 2011

Year 100-104 105-109 110-114 ≥115 Total
1972 5 0 0 0 5
1973 11 0 0 0 11
1974 3 0 0 0 3
1975 12 0 0 0 12
1976 4 0 0 0 4
1977 98 5 0 0 103
1978 40 8 0 0 48
1979 34 0 0 0 34
1980 80 10 0 0 90
1981 31 1 0 0 32
1982 2 0 0 0 2
1983 52 25 4 0 81
1984 2 0 0 0 2
1985 10 0 0 0 10
1986 73 0 0 0 73
1987 64 0 0 0 64
1988 46 5 0 0 51
1989 13 0 0 0 13
1990 37 0 0 0 37
1991 76 2 0 0 78
1992 29 0 0 0 29
1993 100 4 0 0 104
1994 3 0 0 0 3
1995 44 0 0 0 44
1996 9 0 0 0 9
1997 0 0 0 0 0
1998 24 0 0 0 24
1999 56 31 5 0 92
2000 26 0 0 0 26
2001 26 3 0 0 29
2002 47 1 0 0 48
2003 11 0 0 0 11
2004 0 0 0 0 0
2005 40 6 0 0 46
2006 29 1 0 0 30
2007 44 3 1 0 48
2008 17 0 0 0 17
2009 10 0 0 0 10
2010 111 18 1 0 130
2011 30 10 0 0 40
Sum
Avg
1349
34
133
3
11
0
0
0
1493
37

Seiche on Lake Michigan

After a large Derecho passed over the south end of Lake Michigan a Lake Shore Flood Warning was issued for a seiche. Here’s a look at what this phenomenon is and a look back at a famous one that occurred on Lake Michigan in 1954.

LAKESHORE HAZARD MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CHICAGO IL
931 AM CDT MON JUL 11 2011

...SEICHE WARNING FOR THE ILLINOIS SHORE OF LAKE MICHIGAN UNTIL
100 PM CDT...

.A STRONG LINE OF STORMS MOVING ACROSS THE LAKE THIS MORNING
LIKELY WILL CAUSE WATER TO PILE UP ALONG THE MICHIGAN AND INDIANA
SHORES AND BE REFLECTED BACK TOWARD THE ILLINOIS SHORELINE. THIS
PHENOMENA IS KNOWN AS A SEICHE.

ILZ006-014-111800-
/O.NEW.KLOT.LS.W.0002.110711T1431Z-110711T1800Z/
LAKE IL-COOK-
931 AM CDT MON JUL 11 2011

...LAKESHORE FLOOD WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM CDT THIS
AFTERNOON...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CHICAGO HAS ISSUED A LAKESHORE
FLOOD WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM CDT THIS
AFTERNOON...IN ANTICIPATION OF A POSSIBLE SEICHE.

* LAKE SHORE FLOODING...ALONG THE ILLINOIS SHORELINE OF LAKE MICHIGAN.

* TIMING...THROUGH THE MORNING INTO THE EARLY AFTERNOON.

* IMPACTS...WATER LEVELS ARE EXPECTED TO RISE AND FALL...PERHAPS
  BY 2 OR MORE FEET...DURING THE PERIOD OF THE WARNING.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

RESIDENTS ON OR NEAR THE SHORE IN THE WARNED AREA SHOULD BE ALERT
FOR RISING WATER...AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION TO PROTECT LIFE AND
PROPERTY...ESPECIALLY ALONG THE BEACHES AND IN THE HARBORS. DO
NOT VENTURE INTO THE LAKE AS THE WATER RECEDES

 

 

 

Wondering what they are here’s the description of a powerful 1954 seiche on Lake Michigan from The University of Illinois.

http://www.isgs.illinois.edu/sections/engin-coast/lakemich-coastal-seiches.shtml

Seiches: Sudden, Large Waves a Lake Michigan Danger

Illustration showing the formation of the 1954 seiche

While a tsunami will never strike Illinois, the Lake Michigan coast, including Chicago, is subject to the danger presented by a seiche, a sudden, large type of wave that can cause loss of life and property damage.

Unlike a tsunami, which is caused by submarine earthquakes shifting the ocean floor, coastal landslides, or a meteor striking the ocean, a seiche (pronounced saysh) is caused by air pressure and wind. When storm fronts move rapidly from across a large body of water such as Lake Michigan, air pressure changes and strong downbursts of wind can form one large wave or a series of large waves. The wave or waves will travel across the lake until the seiche reaches shore, where it can be reflected and travel to the opposite shore. The height of the waves depends on the strength of the wind and air pressure contrasts that form the seiche. The largest seiche on record to strike the Illinois coast of Lake Michigan reached a maximum height of 10 feet, caused lakeshore damage, and drowned eight people. The illustration explains the 1954 seiche (view a larger image).

During spring and summer, small seiches with a height of a few inches to 1 foot regularly strike the Illinois shore of Lake Michigan. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association issues warnings to Lake Michigan mariners and lakeshore residents when weather conditions favor seiche development.

Photograph of North Avenue pier with an arrow showing the direction of origin for the seiche

There was no warning for the record-high seiche that struck the Chicago lakeshore at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, June 26, 1954. The seiche approached from the southeast and struck the entire Illinois coast with a wave about 2–4 feet high. Swelling as it approached the North Avenue groin, also called the North Avenue pier, the wave reached a maximum height of 10 feet. Fishermen on the North Avenue pier and piers to the north at the entrance to Montrose Harbor were swept into the lake. Many were rescued, but eight drowned. The photograph at bottom right, taken in 2000, shows the groin at North Avenue beach (view a larger image). The arrow indicates the direction from which the seiche approached.

The seiche was caused by a severe squall line that crossed southern Lake Michigan a few hours earlier, passing from northwest to southeast. The storm generated wind speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and sent a seiche toward Michigan City, Indiana. A 5.5- to 6-foot wave reached shore there at 8:10 a.m. and was reflected back across southern Lake Michigan, heading northwest toward Chicago. Unlike a tsunami, which can travel across the open ocean at hundreds of miles per hour, a seiche moves much more slowly. It took 80 minutes for the seiche to travel 40 miles from Michigan City to the Chicago lakeshore at North Avenue. That translates into a speed of roughly 30 mph.

The Non-Tornado Clouds

Every time we have strong to severe storms I get a handful of reports of funnel clouds or tornadoes. Most of the time this is due to misidentifying low clouds that look very ominous but are non-rotating clouds. This is especially easy to do with strong outflow from storms during really hot and humid days. When strong thunderstorms form on days when the temperatures are in the 90s and there’s lots of humidity. The updrafts take that warm & humid air high into the atmosphere where it cools rapidly. That cool air then becomes very dense and wants to rush back to the surface where it then interacts with the hot and humid surface air. This clash near the surface creates “arcus” or shelf clouds that look pretty awesome. These clouds can have all kinds of movement to them but it’s not often a horizontal rotation you’d see in a funnel cloud or wall cloud.

Here are some shelf clouds I saw last weekend at the Beach. Scary looking and they can lead to straight line wind damage from the outflow.

261801_1763365491765_1467948282_31466080_2447541_n261866_1763366211783_1467948282_31466082_242818_n

261879_1763365851774_1467948282_31466081_6039627_n263189_1763367091805_1467948282_31466084_8186033_n

Roger Hill has put together the Non-Tornado Home page. Which has many examples of clouds that looks like tornadoes but aren’t. The best way to determine if a tornado or funnel cloud is present is to see video and radar data in combination. Check out the page…..there are some great examples in there click on the link below.

Non-Tornado Home Page

Solar Minimum on the Way?

I’ve blogged before about solar flares and the sun starting to wake up. Well new research now shows that this brief period of solar activity may be all we see for sometime. It’s hard to say what impacts this will ultimately have on our climate because this combined with many other factors contribute to our climate. The sun though is the driving force for all life on this planet. History has show that even subtle changes in it’s output can have dramatic impacts on the global temperature and climate.

This press release was originally posted on Watt’s Up with That” Climate Blog.

 

“All three of these lines of research to point to the familiar sunspot cycle shutting down for a while.”

Posted on June 14, 2011 by Anthony Watts

I’ve managed to get a copy of the official press release provided by the Southwest Research Institute Planetary Science Directorate to MSM journalists, for today’s stunning AAS announcement and it is reprinted in full here:

WHAT’S DOWN WITH THE SUN?
MAJOR DROP IN SOLAR ACTIVITY PREDICTED

Latitude-time plots of jet streams under the Sun’s surface show the surprising shutdown of the solar cycle mechanism. New jet streams typically form at about 50 degrees latitude (as in 1999 on this plot) and are associated with the following solar cycle 11 years later. New jet streams associated with a future 2018-2020 solar maximum were expected to form by 2008 but are not present even now, indicating a delayed or missing Cycle 25.

A missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles say that our Sun is heading for a rest period even as it is acting up for the first time in years, according to scientists at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

As the current sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, begins to ramp up toward maximum, independent studies of the solar interior, visible surface, and the corona indicate that the next 11-year solar sunspot cycle, Cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all.

The results were announced at the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society, which is being held this week at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces:

http://astronomy.nmsu.edu/SPD2011/

“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network, said of the results. “But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.”

Spot numbers and other solar activity rise and fall about every 11 years, which is half of the Sun’s 22-year magnetic interval since the Sun’s magnetic poles reverse with each cycle. An immediate question is whether this slowdown presages a second Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots during 1645-1715.

Hill is the lead author on one of three papers on these results being presented this week. Using data from the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) of six observing stations around the world, the team translates surface pulsations caused by sound reverberating through the Sun into models of the internal structure. One of their discoveries is an east-west zonal wind flow inside the Sun, called the torsional oscillation, which starts at
mid-latitudes and migrates towards the equator. The latitude of this wind stream matches the new spot formation in each cycle, and successfully predicted the late onset of the current Cycle 24.

“We expected to see the start of the zonal flow for Cycle 25 by now,” Hill explained, “but we see no sign of it. This indicates that the start of Cycle 25 may be delayed to 2021 or 2022, or may not happen at all.”

In the second paper, Matt Penn and William Livingston see a long-term weakening trend in the strength of sunspots, and predict that by Cycle 25 magnetic fields erupting on the Sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Spots are formed when intense magnetic flux tubes erupt from the interior and keep cooled gas from circulating back to the interior. For typical sunspots this magnetism has a strength of 2,500 to 3,500 gauss
(Earth’s magnetic field is less than 1 gauss at the surface); the field must reach at least 1,500 gauss to form a dark spot.

Average magnetic field strength in sunspot umbras has been steadily declining for over a decade. The trend includes sunspots from Cycles 22, 23, and (the current cycle) 24.

Using more than 13 years of sunspot data collected at the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona, Penn and Livingston observed that the average field strength declined about 50 gauss per year during Cycle 23 and now in Cycle 24. They also observed that spot temperatures have risen exactly as expected for such changes in the magnetic field. If the trend continues, the field strength will drop below the 1,500 gauss threshold and
spots will largely disappear as the magnetic field is no longer strong enough to overcome convective forces on the solar surface.

Moving outward, Richard Altrock, manager of the Air Force’s coronal research program at NSO’s Sunspot, NM, facilities has observed a slowing of the “rush to the poles,” the rapid poleward march of magnetic activity observed in the Sun’s faint corona. Altrock used four decades of observations with NSO’s 40-cm (16-inch) coronagraphic telescope at Sunspot.

“A key thing to understand is that those wonderful, delicate coronal features are actually powerful, robust magnetic structures rooted in the interior of the Sun,” Altrock explained. “Changes we see in the corona reflect changes deep inside the Sun.”

Altrock used a photometer to map iron heated to 2 million degrees C (3.6 million F). Stripped of half of its electrons, it is easily concentrated by magnetism rising from the Sun. In a well-known pattern, new solar activity emerges first at about 70 degrees latitude at the start of a cycle, then towards the equator as the cycle ages. At the same time, the new magnetic fields push remnants of the older cycle as far as 85 degrees poleward.

“In cycles 21 through 23, solar maximum occurred when this rush appeared at an average latitude of 76 degrees,” Altrock said. “Cycle 24 started out late and slow and may not be strong enough to create a rush to the poles, indicating we’ll see a very weak solar maximum in 2013, if at all. If the rush to the poles fails to complete, this creates a tremendous dilemma for the theorists, as it would mean that Cycle 23’s magnetic field will not completely disappear from the polar regions (the rush to the poles accomplishes this feat). No one knows what the Sun will do in that case.”

All three of these lines of research to point to the familiar sunspot cycle shutting down for a while.

“If we are right,” Hill concluded, “this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”

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