Category: Hurricanes

Measure rainfall, help scientists learn more about Hurricane Irene

By The Intersection | August 27, 2011 9:44 am

This is a guest post from Darlene Cavalier, founder of Science Cheerleader and Science For Citizens and contributing editor at Discover Magazine.

Scientists want you to record and share rain measurements and other on-the-ground observations in part to help pinpoint hurricane Irene’s actions, determine her next steps, and better predict and react to future storms. In addition to your help recording on-the-ground rain precipitation, scientists rely on watershed volunteers to provide important clues about the effects of storm-water runoff, carbon cycles of waterways, etc. Here’s a list of opportunities to get involved in local watershed monitoring efforts.

To help scientists record on-the-ground rain measurements, you will need a high capacity rain gauge.

Don’t have a rain gauge? Enter here to win a free one so you can join in next time! Through the Changing Planet series, a partnership with National Science Foundation, NBC Learn, and DISCOVER Magazine, we’re offering up to 20 of these gauges to our members, free of charge ($25 value).

(Note: Safety first. Please heed all evacuation recommendations issued in your area.)

Not able to collect and measure rainfall? Anyone with a computer can also get into the act. The Philadelphia Inquirer published sites where you can find real-time information from ocean buoys, bridges, area stream gauges, and even satellites. [Find list of links, below.]

Here are some opportunities for you to measure rainfall:

CoCoRaHS: Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a volunteer network of backyard weather observers. People of all ages measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in communities across the United States. The data is used by a wide range of agencies and programs.Volunteers are needed for two programs.
SKYWARN SKYWARN spotters are essential information sources for the National Weather Service with the responsibility to identify and describe severe local storms. Observations by spotters helps the National Weather Service issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods and thus save lives.
Rainlog Not on the east coast? Here’s one for south westerners. Join RainLog‘s network of over 1,000 volunteers that use backyard rain gauges to monitor precipitation across Arizona and in neighboring states. Data collected through this network will be used for a variety of applications, from watershed management activities to drought planning at local, county, and state levels.
Tracking Climate in Your Backyard Kids: Tracking Climate in Your Backyard seeks to engage youth in real science through the collection, recording, and understanding of precipitation data in the forms of rain, hail, and snow.

Here are some websites, originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, that post data and images to answer the following questions:

How fast is the nearest stream rising?
A U.S. Geological Survey site logs data from stream gauges.

Is there a storm-surge tracking map?
Developing, by the U.S. Geological Survey.

How hard is it blowing in your neighborhood?
Greg Heavener, National Weather Service meteorologist in Mount Holly, recommends this site, where people with personal stations upload their data. Searchable by zip code.

What are Delaware River observations?
Includes data from water-level sensors installed on bridges after past floods.

What’s happening offshore?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association logs ocean-buoy data, including wind speed and wave heights.
Rutgers University is part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System, which posts data on satellites and the underwater “gliders.” Has an Irene science blog.

What does Irene look like?
The National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center has the most recent forecasts, including radar images and wind-speed probabilities.

How about from space?
NASA images and video. mission_pages/hurricanes/main/index.html

Getting Ready for the Peak of Hurricane Season

By Chris Mooney | August 8, 2011 11:38 am

My latest DeSmogBlog post is a look forward to what may be coming in the Atlantic region, in a hurricane season expected to be very active (as usual), with 9-10 projected hurricanes and 3-5 intense ones. As you can see in this image, climatology says we’re just ascending into the peak of the season:

I also discuss the hurricane-global warming picture, which really hasn’t gotten much clearer in the nearly 5 years since I wrote Storm World. More here….

Cyclone Yasi Threatens a Devastating Hit on Queensland

By Chris Mooney | February 1, 2011 6:12 pm

To the right is a NASA Earth Observatory picture of the storm (click for the very large version). And here are the words the Australian Bureau of Meteorology just issued as it approaches Queensland:



Well that is the way not to mince words. Yasi is currently a Category 5 on the Australian scale, but a Cat 4 on the scale we’re more familiar with. Either way, it is a very deadly storm.


Hurricane Season Isn't Over

By Chris Mooney | October 31, 2010 9:16 am

600px-Hurricane_Tomas_2010-10-30_1429ZEven though we haven’t really felt it in the United States, it has been a hell of an Atlantic hurricane season. 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes–and now the latest, Category 2 Tomas, seems like it may become very intense in the Caribbean. Some notes on Tomas from Jeff Masters:

Tomas’ formation ties 2010 with 1995 and 1887 for 3rd place for most number of named storms in an Atlantic hurricane season. Only 2005 (28 named storms) and 1933 (21 named storms) were busier. Atlantic hurricane records go back to 1851, though there were likely many missed named storms prior to the beginning of satellite coverage in the mid-1960s. The intensification of Shary and Tomas into hurricanes… brings the total number of hurricanes this season to twelve, tying 2010 with 1969 and 1887 for second place for most hurricanes in a season. The record is held by 2005 with fifteen hurricanes, and I don’t think we’ll beat that record this year!

The formation of Tomas so far south and east this late in the season is unprecedented in the historical record; no named storm has ever been present east of the Lesser Antilles (61.5°W) and south of 12°N latitude so late in the year…

But hey, water temperatures are at a record warmth–so what do you expect? Marc Morano a few days ago made hay of the fact that no hurricanes have hit the US this year, but big deal. It has been extremely busy nonetheless, and of course this has much to do with the very warm ocean out there.

Hurricane Karl Goes Haywire

By Chris Mooney | September 17, 2010 6:36 am

533px-Hurricane_Karl_2010-09-16_1720Z (1)This storm had barely a day over the warm Bay of Campeche, but that was enough. Hurricane Karl has rapidly intensified and may strike Quintana Roo later today as a Category 4–the 5th of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. Indeed, that’s the official forecast as of now.

There have only been 6 hurricanes so far this year–and 5 of them have been Category 3 or higher.

There are also three hurricanes in the Atlantic right now, at this very moment–itself quite a rare occurrence.

This season is really shaping up to be something after all, and we need to count our blessings that we have not had a storm come into the Gulf of Mexico since June–on many, many levels.


Hurricane Julia Shatters Seasonal Records

By Chris Mooney | September 15, 2010 7:12 pm

There’s a reason Jeff Masters stands unrivaled as our top hurricane blogger. Let me just quote his analysis of Hurricane Julia, after the storm surprisingly reached Category 4 intensity yesterday:

This morning’s unexpected intensification of Hurricane Julia into a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds has set a new record–Julia is now the strongest hurricane on record so far east. When one considers that earlier this year, Hurricane Earl became the fourth strongest hurricane so far north, it appears that this year’s record SSTs have significantly expanded the area over which major hurricanes can exist over the Atlantic. This morning is just the second time in recorded history that two simultaneous Category 4 or stronger storms have occurred in the Atlantic. The only other occurrence was on 06 UTC September 16, 1926, when the Great Miami Hurricane and Hurricane Four were both Category 4 storms for a six-hour period. The were also two years, 1999 and 1958, when we missed having two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes by six hours. Julia’s ascension to Category 4 status makes it the 4th Category 4 storm of the year. Only two other seasons have had as many as five Category 4 or stronger storms (2005 and 1999), so 2010 ranks in 3rd place in this statistic. This year is also the earliest a fourth Category 4 or stronger storm has formed (though the fourth Category 4 of 1999, Hurricane Gert, formed just 3 hours later on today’s date in 1999.) We’ve also had four Cat 4+ storms in just twenty days, which beats the previous record for shortest time span for four Cat 4+ storms to appear. The previous record was 1999, 24 days (thanks to Phil Klozbach of CSU for this stat.)

WHEW. Here’s an amazing picture (again, from Masters) of the two Category 4s over the open Atlantic earlier today:

Two Category 4s

It's a Busy Hurricane Season After All

By Chris Mooney | September 15, 2010 9:47 am

600px-Hurricane_Julia_2010-09-14_1237ZBack in August, I was wondering whether this hurricane season would live up to expectations. Sea surface temperatures were at record highs, and the pre-season forecasts were dire…but for the most part, the storms themselves had not yet appeared.

Well, that’s all changed now. With Earl, Igor, and now Julia–which unexpectedly exploded into a Category 4 storm last night; pictured at right–we’re already slightly above the long term average for an Atlantic hurricane season. We’ve had 11 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). The average year has 10 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense ones.

So we’re particularly high in the hurricane intensity category already, and there’s quite a ways yet to go in the season. The strongest storm ever observed in the Atlantic, 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, occurred in October.

What all of this says to me is that we’ve been exceedingly lucky that with the exception of Hurricane Alex in June, there has not been a single hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico this year (or, for that matter, the Caribbean). Instead, they’ve all been out in the open Atlantic, and the steering currents have bent them away from the North American landmass (which will surely be the fate of Igor and Julia as well).

Given the climatic conditions out there, if these steering currents were to change–or if a storm were to suddenly appear in the Gulf or Caribbean with some ample time over water–my fear is that we could have a Category 4 or 5 in a place that could really hurt us.

Eric Berger has more analysis of how this storm season stacks up against previous ones–and how the pre-season forecasts are looking right now.


Hurricane Igor's Monstrous Appearance

By Chris Mooney | September 13, 2010 6:07 pm

Courtesy of Jeff Masters, here’s a powerful image of Igor at what may be its maximum strength, just shy of Category 5:

Igor Peak Intensity?

No apparent threat here to the U.S.–just a thing of sublime beauty over open water.


Hurricane Igor Explodes in Intensity to Cat 4

By Chris Mooney | September 12, 2010 5:22 pm

Yesss, master…I’ve been amazed at what has happened with Igor today…yesterday, master, this storm wasn’t even a hurricane, but now it is a Category 4:

Igor Cat 4

It’s certainly possible Igor may reach Category 5, master…according to the Hurricane Center, it is still intensifying, yesss. And it has plenty of uninhibited time over open water.

Welcome to the peak of hurricane season, master.


It's Cape Verde Time

By Chris Mooney | September 12, 2010 8:54 am

At the peak of Atlantic hurricane season, one usually gets a lot of what are called Cape Verde-type storms. They are so named because they develop from tropical easterly waves right off the coast of Africa, near the Cape Verde islands. A storm developing in this location then has the opportunity to travel across the entirety of the warm Atlantic, strengthening steadily all the while. Cape Verde type storms are therefore often the fiercest, and most destructive of hurricanes once they reach land in the Americas.

I point all of this out because in recent weeks, waves have been developing off the African coast quite effortlessly, and we now have Hurricane Igor opening his eye (yesss, master?) and a possible tropical storm Julia to follow. Here’s a recent satellite view of the eastern Atlantic, with Igor off to the left and what’s likely to become Julia just off the African coast:

Possible TS Julia

There’s no telling yet how these may affect land. They’re far out–and that’s the problem. They may build up a lot of strength before they arrive. Igor, for instance, is currently forecast to become a Category 4 hurricane.


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