Bill Steffen

Severe Storms Blast North Dakota

July 21st, 2014 at 7:31 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

WW0427 Radar Severe storms hit N. Dakota hard yesterday afternoon and evening. Storms produced 80 mph winds, large hail and at least one tornado.  Wind reports of 80 mph winds in Center ND and 75 mph wind gusts in Syracuse and Wilton ND. Here’s storm reports.   The storms continued east into Minnesota during the late night.

Biggest Fire Ever in Washington State

July 21st, 2014 at 7:12 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Fire NW oneFire NW two Click on the images to enlarge. These pics. are satellite views (from NASA and Earth Observatory) of the wildfires out West. The Carleton Complex Fire near Twisp, Washington is now the biggest fire ever in Washington State since records began (and I don’t know how long that has been). The fire has consumed roughly 238,000 acres (372 square miles). That’s roughly four times the size of Seattle. It’s thought the fire was started by lightning on July 14th. 154 structures have been lost to the fire with an estimated worth of five million dollars. There are 1,622 firefighters assigned to this fire, along with 11 helicopters and 132 fire engines.   Fortunately, the heat wave has broken and temperatures are back mainly in the 70s to near 80 in the afternoon in that area.  They have a chance of a shower tomorrow and a good chance of showers on Wednesday.  Winds will not be too strong, so the weather looks good for making progress on containing this fire.   For the entire U.S., both the number of fires and the acreage burned have been below average last year and so far this year.   The total acreage burned so far in 2014 is 1,306, 163 acres – the annual average is 3,738,651.

Also, tropical depression #2 has formed in the central AtlanticIt will meander to the west and stay below tropical storm status.

Warmest Days of July

July 21st, 2014 at 1:56 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Rainfall U.S.   rainfall july 1-20 Click on the images to enlarge.  On the left, we have rainfall for the U.S. from July 1-20 (data not available for the grayed out area in the Pacific NW).  On the right, we have rainfall for Michigan for July 1-20.  Note now there has been less rain north of Muskegon and also closer to the Indiana border.  Grand Rapids has picked up 9.47″ of rain since June 1.  The MAWN agricultural weather station at Ludington has had only 0.57″ of rain so far this month, while Grand Rapids has had 4.32″ and Ithaca has picked up 4.7″.  Nationally, it’s still dry in California.  There has been a lot of rain along the East Coast, in Florida and in the Lower Mississippi Valley.

Temperature departures from average for July 1-20:  Grand Rapids -4.3° (highest 83°), Muskegon -4.9° (highest 81°), Ludington -6.9° (Ludington’s highest temperature for July 1-20 was 77° and they had 6 days with highs only in the 60s).  Cadillac -6.4° (five days in a row from July 16-20 with low temps. in the 40s), Manistee -7.4°, Gaylord -6.1°, Pellston -4.4°, Marquette -3.5° (including a high of 53° on July 15th!), Holland -4.6°, Lansing -4.5°, Kalamazoo -5.1°, Detroit -3.5°, Howell -3.8°, Ann Arbor -4.2°.      The average temperature for July 1-20 for Grand Rapids is 68.2° – if were were to end the month with an average of 68.2°, it would tie for 3rd coolest July ever in G.R.   The four coolest Julys in G.R. have all been relatively recent (2009, 1992, 1996, 2000).   July 20 BTW, is the mid-point of temperature for the summer.  Average temperatures from this point go down.   We have already lost 27 minutes of daylight since the Summer Solstice back on June 21.

Today and Tuesday will be the warmest days of the month of July – best days of the month to spend at the beach, pool or water park.  It gets cool for the last week of July.  The overnight run of the NAM gives G.R. highs of 85° Monday and 88° Tues. and the GFS is similar with 86°/88°.  I’ve got out 86°/90°.   The showers/t-storms may not move in until after sunset Tues. evening…and any leftover showers should end by mid-aftn. on Weds., so you may be able to get in evening activities each of the next five days…maybe.  The timetable for showers/storms will be Tues. after sunset thru midday Weds. and again next weekend.

The sky has been a little hazy and that’s partially due to a thin layer of smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. and in Canada.  It gives the sun an orange tint at sunrise and sunset.  Cooler temperatures and the prospect of some showers will help firefighters in Washington and Oregon.  The Buzzard Complex fires in Oregon have consumed 369,000 acres.  The Carlton Complex fire (impressive pic. at link) in Central Washington has burned 300,000 acres and 85 structures worth 3.7 million dollars.  There are 1,388 firefighters, 133 engines and 11 helicopters fighting that fire.  Despite those two big fires, the U.S. is below average in both the number of wildfires and the number of acres burned so far this year.  Last year we had the fewest number of wildfires since 1984 and the 2nd lowest number of acres burned in the last 10 years.

Sunday marked the 13th consecutive day of at or below normal high temperatures for Chicago…Downtown Sacramento records 0.01″ of rain, breaking a 75 day rain-free streak and setting a daily record…Heavy rain reported near Columbia, SC earlier this eve. 3.39″ fell in one hour, 1.53″ in 15 minutes… flash flooding in the Reno, NV area, multiple roadways closed…Spotter reported 1.10″ of rain in under 30 minutes in Gardnerville, NV, 16 miles from Carson City…Dallas tied its record low of 65 F Sunday a.m., third-straight day of record cool air…the remains of Tropical Storm Wali has produced some local flooding and minor wind damage in Hawaii.   Rainfall included 2.51″ at Hilo and 0.97″ at Honolulu.  There were four weather stations on windward Oahu that had over 13″ of rain in 24 hours!

This is an awfully long post already, but I read something interesting at CapCon…”Hemlock Semiconductor (near Saginaw) is a joint venture of Dow Corning, Shin-Elsu Handotai Company and Mitsubishi. It produces polycrystalline silicon, which is used for solar panels and electronic devices.  The company is the largest electricity customer at a single site in Michigan. According to Hemlock, at full production, it uses about 420 megawatts of electricity, which is estimated to be three times the electricity used by all of the households in Lansing and Ann Arbor combined.”     Three times the electricity used by all the households in Lansing and Ann Arbor combined??!!   That’s shocking!!


Can We Make 90°?

July 20th, 2014 at 1:30 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

muskegon glerl 2  Lots of muskegon glerlboats at the beach in Muskegon Saturday afternoon.  The water temp. at Muskegon St. Park was just 58° Sat. AM, but I’ll bet the channel was warmer.  The overnight NAM model gives G.R. highs of 83/85/88 over the next 3 days.  The overnight GFS model gives G.R. 83/87/90.  I side at least with the higher GFS numbers (I’m not waiting up for the European).   It looks like we get a t-storm Tuesday night (lingering shower at daybreak Weds.?) with the next front and then two nice days for Thurs./Fri.  – another great Park Party coming up in Muskegon and the weather will be spectacular for the G.R. Symphony Picnic Pops Thurs. and Fri. night at Cannonsburg Ski Area.  We may see a couple showers or a t-shower next Saturday.  If we don’t make 90° on Tuesday, it looks like that’s the last chance in July.  Monday and Tuesday should be great days to head to the beach, pool or water park.  Right now it doesn’t look like severe weather for us Tuesday night, but I’ll update that later today.  Happy Sunday!

Also:  Chicago has only had 2 days this month warmer than average…through Saturday, they’ve had 12 days in a row at or below average…here’s high temps. from yesterdayTyphoon Matmo will come close to the northern tip of TaiwanLatest CFSv2 model forecast for the winter looks cool over much of the U.S. east of the Rockies.  Downtown L.A. receives a trace of rain, breaking an 86-day rain-free streak and tying the daily record.  The heat is diminishing in the Pacific NW, but wildfires still a big problem.   The Carlton Fire has burned over 215,000 acres.  Spokane had 12 days in a row of 90-degree heat – average high for them is 84.   AMAZING photo of red sprites above thunderstorm in NMLots of Saharan dust over the Central and Eastern Atlantic Ocean – will prevent early season hurricanes in this area.  Tupelo, MS recorded 4.61″ of rainfall Friday.  High of just 69ºF Friday in Memphis, TN shattered its all-time record for coldest high temperature ever in July.  Look at the eye of Typhoon Rammasun as it was moving into S. China.    Haikou in N Hainan, China reported a wind gust to 101 mph and over 7″ of rain.  Port Arthur, Texas received 6.90 inches of rain Friday.  July 1-18 2014 is the coldest first 18 days in July that Indianapolis has had since 1960.  McAlester, OK reached only 67 degrees on Thurs, breaking their record for the date for the lowest max. temp. by 15 degrees!  Great shot of lightning over LondonFlooding after 6″ of rain in Austin TX.

Warming Trend Continues

July 19th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

muskegon glerl   Check out the boats along the beach at Muskegon around 4 pm.  The air temperatures inland  reached the low 80s, while the beach thermometer at Muskegon rose to only 71.4°.  There were a few random light showers and sprinkles along and east of a line from Coldwater to Saginaw.  Those have dissipated.  There could be a patch or two of fog in the central or eastern part of the state late tonight.

Here’s the latest from SPC on the possibility of severe weather Tues. Night/Weds.:  “PRIMARY CONCERN FOR ORGANIZED SEVERE STORMS EXISTS ACROSS PARTS OF THE UPPER MS VALLEY TO WRN GREAT LAKES ON D4/TUE. WITH THE LIKELIHOOD OF AN MCS TO BE ONGOING TUE MORNING…LOW CONFIDENCE EXISTS IN THE MESOSCALE EVOLUTION OF KINEMATIC FIELDS GIVEN A POSSIBLE MCV/MINOR MID-LEVEL PERTURBATIONS TRACKING E/SE AROUND AN EXPANSIVE 600 DM 500 MB ANTICYCLONE CENTERED OVER THE SRN ROCKIES. ON THE PERIPHERY OF THE PLAINS EML PLUME…STRONG TO EXTREME INSTABILITY SHOULD DEVELOP TO THE S/SW OF REMNANT CONVECTIVE OUTFLOW/CLOUD DEBRIS. AT LEAST LOW SEVERE PROBABILITIES WILL LIKELY BE HIGHLIGHTED IN LATER OUTLOOKS.”    I know that’s pretty technical.  I think the best bet for thunderstorms here in West Michigan will be Tues. night and any severe weather would be spotty (if we had any at all) and not widespread.  The main threats would be gusty winds, cloud-to-gro0und lightning and brief heavy rainfall.   I’m working today so check out 24-Hour News 8 for the latest (6 pm, 10 pm on WXSP, 11 pm).

The afternoon European model gives G.R. a high of 90° on Tues….the GFS has 91°.

Severe Weather in 2014

July 19th, 2014 at 2:13 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Tornadoes in U.S. 2014    Mi Severe Reports Click on the images to enlarge.   The first graph on the left is the number of tornadoes so far this year compared to past years.  This year and last year, the tornado count is well below average.   The map on the right shows where we have had tornadoes (in red), hail reports of 1″ diameter or more (green) and reports of wind damage (in blue).   So far this year, Nebraska has had the most tornadoes of any state (86) followed by Mississippi (75), Iowa (62) and Alabama (55).  Get this, California has had 10 tornadoes this year and that’s only one behind Oklahoma (11).  Michigan is also just one behind Oklahoma (central Oklahoma averages more tornadoes per square mile than any other place on Earth).  Michigan has had only 32 severe hail reports and we’ve had 177 wind reports.  Many of our wind reports came during the derecho of June 30, with winds up to 85 mph along I-94.    Ten states have had no tornadoes this year so far (AK, HI, OR, MA, CT, RI, NH, VT, NJ).  The biggest tornado day by far this year was April 28th (122).  We have only had 46 tornadoes so far this month in the U.S.

Arctic Ice

July 19th, 2014 at 1:42 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

north american snow cover   North Pole Ice Cover  Arctic Ice Extent Click on the images to enlarge.   The first map on the left shows in yellow the ice left in Hudson Bay.  The last ice is usually piled against or near the south shore of the bay.  It’s not unusual to have ice left in the bay in mid-late July.  You can see the Arctic icecap…right to the edge of Alaska.   You can see the ice on the Barrow, Alaska webcam – 24 hours a day in the land of the midnight sun (the sun won’t set in Barrow until around Aug. 2).  For July 1-18, Barrow’s average temperature was 39.4° and that’s 1.5° cooler than average.  The graphic on the right is the Arctic ice extent for the last four years.  We’re still well below the average extent of 1979-2000, but there’s more ice now than on this date going back several years (graphic from the Danish Meteorological Institute).  Temperatures were warmer than average this past winter north of 80° latitude, but they have been cooler than average since early MayAntarctic sea ice extent remains well above (2 standard deviations above) average.

Dry – Warming Trend

July 18th, 2014 at 12:38 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

modis lake michigan   This is a MODIS Great Lakes satellite picture from Weds. (from NOAA Coastwatch).  You can see plentiful cumulus clouds over the land areas (with the cool air aloft), but it’s mostly clear over Lake Michigan, where the cool water prevented the rising thermals.  The wind is west along the shore in W. Michigan, N-NW in N. Indiana, NNE or NE in Chicago, but the lake breeze is not penetrating inland north of Milwaukee, where the cumulus clouds drift out over the lake and dissipate.

Also, check out the meteor caught with dashcam video near Raleigh N.C.  Some pretty good thunderstorms rolled across S. England overnight.  Here’s lightning and a shelf cloud approaching LondonTyphoon Rammasun will hit far SE China and N. Vietnam today with very strong winds and heavy rain.   This storm heads inland (does not recurve toward Alaska), so the ridge can build over the Midwest and Great Lakes and we can get warm early next week.  The next tropical storm, Matmo, is a little weaker than Rammasun, and will head toward Taiwan.  Overnight, roads flooded in the Bryan-College Station, TX area. Water rescues also occurring according to law enforcement.  In 45 minutes, 0.78″ of rain accumulated near Mt. Morrison, CA, reports a NWS spotter – California needs all the rain they can get.  Tennis ball-sized hail in Alberta, Canada.

Great Lakes Water Levels

July 17th, 2014 at 9:05 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Sleeping Bear Dunes - Jack Martin July 2014   Picture from Jack Martin, enjoying the Sleeping Bear Dunes.   Lake Michigan/Huron gained another inch last week, bringing it even closer to the long-term average.  The other Great Lakes remain above their long-term averages.

Lake Michigan/Huron (one big lake for lake level purposes) is up 4″ in the last month and is up a whopping 15″ in the last year.  Since each inch of water represents 390 billion gallons, that means Lake Michigan has added 5.85 trillion gallons of water in just the past year.  This is due to a combination of above average precipitation (Grand Rapids has had 9.47″ of rain since June 1, 3.65″ above average) and lower evaporation (lots of ice this past winter).  Lake Michigan/Huron is now only 4″ below the long-term average.   Lake Superior is up 2″ in the last month and up 14″ in the last year.  Superior is now 6″ above the century average and only 6″ below the highest water level ever reached in 1950.  Lake Erie is up 1″ in the last month and up 3″ in the past year.  Erie is 5″ above the long-term average.  Lake Ontario is 4″ above the century average.  Lake St. Clair is up 2″ in the last month, up 7″ year-to-year and 3″ above the century average level.   Lake Superior’s outflow down the St. Mary’s River into Lake Huron is expected to be above average into August.  The outflow our of Lake Erie down the Niagara River is also expected to be above average.

Also, cool picturemosquito population triples (audio)…shark spotted in Lake Ontario??!!grain shipments increase on the Great LakesJuly waterspouts on the Great Lakescold water lingers in the Great Lakesheavy rains cause trash to float into Lake MichiganWSBT gets lake level story right.

Where are the Sunspots?

July 17th, 2014 at 10:56 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

sun - blank  This is a Thurs. AM picture of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Obervatory (NASA).  There is only one recognized sunspot on the side of the sun facing Earth and it’s so small that you probably can’t see it (click on the image to enlarge).  The number of sunspots has been declining over the last 20 years.  Here’s the sunspot record going back to the 1700s.  From the NASA article:  “Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715 (38 kb JPEG image). Although the observations were not as extensive as in later years, the Sun was in fact well observed during this time and this lack of sunspots is well documented. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the “Little Ice Age” when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past. The connection between solar activity and terrestrial climate is an area of on-going research.”

Also, check out the “heart rainbow“.  Here’s noctilucent clouds over Scotland at 2:28 am.  Nice Northern Lights pic. from British Columbia.  Here’s this week’s Sky at a GlanceTyphoon Rammusun intensifying and heading toward S. ChinaSignificant freeze in central South America could affect coffee prices (precursor to an earlier frost and early snow in the Great Lakes (Oct./Nov.)?