Potential Nor’easter

My thoughts from yesterday are relatively unchanged. A coastal storm is looking more likely, but how close will it be to the battered coastlines of NJ to RI? This is still a tough call as we are still about 3-4 days away from the event and the disturbance is only now entering the upper-air network. This information will help to improve the model solutions and quite honestly, the models look to be in decent agreement. The Euro and UKMET models are farthest west near the Delmarva, while the GFS and Canadian models are farther east, which would still cause problems along the coast with less precipitation and wind inland.

HPC Day 4 surface forecast valid on Wednesday morning.

The latest Day 4 HPC forecast for surface features is above. As you can see, the forecaster feels that the more western solution is the best based on the Euro and UKMET performance of late. I actually agree with this idea with a moderate-strong coastal storm developing along the East Coast and paralleling the coast to a position just southeast of New England by Thursday morning. A period of higher winds will be possible from NC through NJ and into New England with my early best guess of 40-60 mph wind gusts and heavy rain. Snow will be possible with this system, but confined to the western edge of the precipitation shield.

06z GFS sea-level pressure and 6-hour precipitation accumulation valid Wednesday evening.
06z GFS snow accumulation for nor’easter.

The two images above are from the 06z GFS which shows a modest storm off the NJ coast by Wednesday evening. The GFS does print out some snow accumulation, but mainly east of the DC/Baltimore area and confined closer to the coast. Now, the GFS is on the right side of the track guidance, while the Euro (can’t show) depicts a much different story with stronger onshore winds along the coast with heavy rain, while inland could accumulate snow. I think snow should be downplayed for now and the focus should be on potential wind and coastal flooding. Either way, the Jersey Shore and Long Island look to experience strong winds, which is something that they don’t need.

My personal feeling is that we should have a good handle on this storm in the next 24 hours. I will try to post either this evening or tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

To Storm or NOT to Storm

I find myself stuck in a state of disbelief at what I have seen in photos and what I have heard from family and friends regarding the devastation from Sandy. Although I talked about the storm at least a week in advance, then really tried to hit the dangers hard in subsequent posts or personal correspondence, I’m at a loss for words. I would talk to people in NJ about the possibility that a storm like this could occur and most of the time, people would either begrudgingly agree or even scoff at the idea. On Thursday, I told my friend John (a marine biologist in coastal NJ) that if there was ever a storm that could create a new inlet in the barrier islands, this was it. Little did I know the impact of what I was saying. . . Now, there is a new inlet in Mantoloking, NJ! This is one of the many shore communities that I hold near and dear to my heart and that heart breaks seeing the ruins left behind. I love what I do and I love the weather, but I will never wish this kind of disaster on anyone. I am with you all in NJ, NYC, and beyond in spirit as we move forward. I’m just thankful that most if not all of my friends and family are safe, though shaken by this storm.

A before and after picture of Mantoloking with a bridge that now goes nowhere.

Ok, enough reflection and now on to the next potential storm.

HPC Day 5 (Wednesday, 11/7) surface forecast issued on Friday afternoon.

The Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) Day 5 forecast above for Wednesday, 11/7, shows a coastal storm moving up the Mid-Atlantic and into New England (beyond this point). Although it would be nothing compared to Sandy, the storm could deepen to 990-985 mb, which would mean more strong wind and heavy rain from NC through DC and into NJ, NYC, and Southern New England. It could also mean more snow for the mountains. Right now, I give this a 35% chance of occurring as the map above suggests. The European model which received much press shows a potent storm, while the GFS model shows a slightly weaker storm and farther offshore.

I am not going to dive into specific right now, but I will monitor model trends into Sunday and will post a new blog entry tomorrow morning. I think it would be a good idea to prepare for a storm that could aggravate an already dire situation in NJ, NYC, CT, LI, and RI. Also, the disturbance that would cause this coastal storm is still off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. We have some time before the models converge on a confident solution.

Thanks for reading!

Sandy ready to visit the Mid-Atlantic tonight

This will be a short post to update you on some incredible satellite imagery that is assisting forecasters today. Some of it is very new and due to some incredible hard work behind the scenes at CIMSS/SSEC University of Wisconsin-Madison and NASA SPoRT, we have these available for the blogs and some of it in operations at the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, the Ocean Prediction Center, the NESDIS Satellite Analysis Branch, and the Hurricane Center. Thank you everyone for your help!

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day-Night Band (DNB) composite of Sandy courtesy of CIMSS/SSEC/University of Wisconsin-Madison valid on 10/29/12.

The Suomi NPP VIIRS Day-Night Band image above shows Sandy overnight with a “visible” like image thanks to our full moon. This same full moon is already aiding in the astronomical high tides on top of the storm surge and large fetch. At last report, Atlantic City is completely underwater by a few feet and chunks of boardwalk are destroyed up and down the NJ coastline.

GOES-14 SRSO of Sandy on 10/29/12 with GLD-360 1-min lightning overlaid courtesy of Vaisala. Click on image to animate.

The GOES-14 Super Rapid Scan Operations (SRSO) is running at the NCWCP today to assist the forecasters with 1-min imagery at 1 km resolution. This could help HPC, OPC, and SAB look for structural changes in Sandy as she makes her approach to shore this evening. Note the complete lack of cloud-to-ground lightning in the core of the storm, while you see occasional lightning strikes in the bands hundreds of miles to the east. This is definitely one of the larges storms I’ve seen in my relatively short career!

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product valid at 15z on 10/29/12 courtesy of CIRA and NASA SPoRT.

Last week I started to describe some of the upper-level features that would play a role in moving Sandy towards the East Coast. Today, the red “L” indicates the approximate location of the upper-level low that is cutting off and moving Sandy towards the coast. The black “L” is Sandy and shows the proximity. The red area highlighted shows the dry, stratospheric air on the periphery of Sandy, but notice how there is no sign of that over the hurricane? Sandy has been able to re-attain its more tropical look which has led to significant deepening and increases in wind. This tool has been used at HPC to help with the placement and timing of the features when compared to model solutions.

The track guidance has not really shifted much today and it looks like a landfall will occur near or south of Atlantic City, NJ around 6-7 pm this evening. Winds have already gusted in many spots with 43 mph at my brother’s house in Toms River to 60 mph in South Seaside Park, NJ. In the Baltimore area, we have been gusting from 35-40 mph and this will only increase in all areas as the day progresses. I expect winds on the NJ shore to reach 70-75 mph sustained with gusts 95-105 mph or higher! In the Baltimore/DC area, winds will be sustained around 50 mph tonight with gusts that will probably eclipse 80 mph in spots if not higher. The heavy rain is here and I have provided a couple maps below with the rainfall and track guidance for you.

Please take care of yourselves tonight and I’ll be thinking of you all. I will try to post again later if power stays on. Thanks for reading!

12z or 8am track guidance for Hurricane Sandy.
The Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) Day 1-5 rainfall forecast valid at 11:16 am EDT on 10/29/12.

Sandy Update – Sunday Evening Edition

I hope that everyone has taking the necessary steps to prepare for Sandy’s arrival tomorrow night. Already the winds are picking up in many areas and rain is starting to fall. I’m impressed with the flooding that was experienced in coastal NJ with this morning’s high tide. . .which is definitely a bad omen. As of 7 pm EDT, I have seen a gust in South Seaside Park, NJ of 51 mph and near Good Luck Point in Bayville, NJ of 57 mph. Inland, the wind seems to be taking it’s time, but I’m sure no one is ready to welcome it yet. Unfortunately, the three weather stations I deployed with John Wnek of the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) have been turned off (don’t get me started) and I think it is to conserve/preserve resources. Hopefully I will get the data from the dataloggers after the fact, but I’m bummed we can’t monitor it live.

Sandy is about 400 miles off the East Coast and is still producing these winds well away from its center. In fact, Bermuda is in the tropical storm force winds, which would make this the first time anyone could remember a storm affecting Bermuda and the East Coast at the same time! Talk about setting a precedent! Winds are still kept at 75 mph and the central pressure has been consistent around 952 mb. That pressure could fall starting tomorrow which would mean a landfall tropical, hybrid storm that will most likely have the chance of setting a new standard for East Coast storms. Computer models have routinely had Sandy hitting somewhere between Sandy Hook, NJ to about Rehoboth Beach, DE. If I were to take my best shot, I think the landfall is very close to the NHC ideas of Cape May, NJ. This means the entire Jersey Shore is at risk of seeing northeast to east winds that will increase to 60-70 mph with gusts that could exceed 80 or 90 mph! The coast flood threat has started and will most likely get worse, to the tune of 4 to 8 feet, possibly higher. Rainfall will be to the tune of 3 to 6 inches. Imagine the snowfall if it was Winter!

18z or 2 pm EDT track guidance for Hurricane Sandy

The 18z track guidance above looks very clustered on DE or far southern NJ. The official NHC forecast for Sandy is in the same general area, but Sandy may not be purely tropical at that time, hence the reason there is no hurricane warning this far north. Does it matter? Despite my opinion, no. . .it’s going to be bad for many hours regardless of classification.

The DC/Baltimore area will see similar conditions as described above, but tempered somewhat. The rainfall will average 6 to 8 inches, possibly exceeding 10″ in spots. The winds are currently gusting to 25 mph locally, but that will start to increase overnight with gusts exceeding 40 mph likely by daybreak. During the height of the storm, I expect sustained winds of 40-50 mph with gusts that could exceed 80 mph! This could do much damage to trees and power lines, so be aware. The winds will start out north an will actually becoming southerly on Tuesday from DC to NJ! Not your typical storm for sure.

Suomi NPP VIIRS day-night band and infrared image (click to animate) showing Hurricane Sandy last night.

In time for Halloween, I thought I would show you some “eye-candy” with this very high resolution (1 km day-night band and 375 m infrared band) imagery of Sandy from last night. This satellite will help forecasters learn about the minute details associated with hurricanes and strong coast storms for years to come.

Please stay safe and I’ll try to have an update in the morning.

Sandy the Troublemaker, pt 4: the phasing begins!

Growing up on the Jersey shore, I would wonder whether it was ever possible for a hurricane to come in off the ocean and hit NJ head-on. Oh, my naive youth! I guess Sandy is about to show us that anything is possible!

Today’s post is more to show you some of the great tools we are using to help analyze the large-scale pattern interactions with Sandy. Please note that even though the latest NHC forecast philosophy calls for Sandy to become post-tropical (no longer considered a hurricane) about 120 miles off the NJ coastline, there will be winds close to hurricane strength near the NJ coastline, while farther inland hurricane force gusts are certain a good possibility!

GOES-14 visible imagery in super rapid scan operations (SRSO) with 1-min lightning overlaid courtesy of the Vaisala GLD-360.

The animation above (click on the image to open in a larger screen) shows us a special GOES-14 super rapid scan of Hurricane Sandy on 10/27/12 with 1-min lightning overlaid. Notice there is very little lightning and much of it is in the arcing band to the north and east of Sandy’s center. This imagery is being used at HPC and the Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) during this entire event to showcase future capabilities of GOES-R. This helps forecasters monitor convective trends near the core and outer bands as Sandy transitions to a hybrid storm.

For a longer loop, minus the lightning: http://tinyurl.com/955fvvd. Thank you to Timothy Schmidt from NESDIS STAR for providing the animation!

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product with features highlighted valid at 20z on 10/27/12.

The GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product above continues the story-line I started a few days ago. The shortwave (upper-level low circled in red) that is responsible to tangling Sandy with the Mid-Atlantic is now diving southeast at a rapid clip. This low (red “L”) will continue east-southeast overnight and you can see the effects of its influence on Sandy by the fanning out of the upper-level clouds to the west-northwest. As this occurs, Sandy (black “L”) will first move north-northeast into tomorrow, before being captured by the aforementioned shortwave. I highlighted in the yellow-circle some obvious dry air (red-shading) in the Sandy’s eastern quadrant. This is indicative of significant drying at upper-levels, most likely associated with a stratospheric intrusion, which has assisted in the hybrid nature of Sandy.

Although not shown today, the blocking in the Atlantic is already causing a significant atmospheric traffic jam. The large ocean storm is still moving southeast and the upper ridge will block any possible escape of Sandy, therefore allowing this highly unusual northwest-west track into either DE or NJ.

The MODIS RGB Air Mass product valid at 1828z on 10/27/12.

The final image today is courtesy of the MODIS instrument on NASA’s AQUA satellite. This version of the RGB Air Mass product is much higher resolution than the GOES-Sounder version, but it is a polar orbiter, therefore you only get a few images a day. Notice the amount of red-shading wrapping around the eastern quadrant of Sandy (yellow-circle). This shows us that the tropical to extratropical transition is underway and with the added energy coming in from the west, we will likely see Sandy deepen further from its current 961 mb pressure. This means the winds could actually increase despite the classification!

Hopefully everyone along the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England have made their preparations. Conditions will go downhill starting tomorrow. Again, the main impacts will be high wind, heavy rainfall, severe coastal flooding (4-8 feet in spots along the Delmarva and NJ), and mountain snows! What a storm!

I will try to update the blog on Sunday morning. Thanks for reading!

What to do with Sandy, pt III – the saga continues!?

It’s been a very busy day here at the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP) and it’s only going to continue on this pace through the weekend. The good news is that we have some great GOES-R and JPSS products to assist the forecasters in their forecast philosophies, separate from the model mayhem we have all been hearing about or observing. I thought I would continue on a similar path as recent days and show you the players on the field as it is now another 24 hours later and some interesting things are beginning to take shape that will ultimately define the exact track of Hurricane Sandy.

“RGB” satellite image of Hurricane Sandy valid at 2115z on 10/26/12.

If you look at the above image of Sandy, you might ask. . .is she naked? Where did the thunderstorms go? Or even. . .what’s the big deal? Sandy is undergoing some serious shear at this moment with mid to upper level winds averaging around 50 knots (60 mph) helping to fan out the upper cloud pattern and strip the “eye-like” feature of deep thunderstorms. This does not mean that Sandy is not producing hurricane force winds as has been observed today by aircraft measurements. So what happened? You ask great questions. . .

The upper low that was south and west of Sandy yesterday has gotten tangled up with the hurricane and therefore we are left with a very hybrid looking hurricane. This is still a significant threat for someone. . .but how do we get there? I will tell you!

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product with the 5 pm EDT NHC forecast track of Hurricane Sandy overlaid.

As you can see above, the playing field has gotten a bit more crowded than it was the last two days and that is due to a new feature that will dictate the path of Sandy. The white line more or less outlines the developing longwave trough (large-scale pocket of cooler air). The first shortwave (red “L” in the yellow circle) is getting ready to move out of the base of the longwave trough, but will help to push Sandy a bit more north-northeast over the next 24 hours. The new player is the red “L” in the red circle in the upper-left corner. As you can see, I (poorly) drew the projected path of this feature that will help to form a closed upper-level low to the southwest of Sandy by Sunday-Monday. This will help to steer Sandy back towards the Mid-Atlantic or Southern New England by the Monday-Tuesday time frame.

Although I did not highlight the area, there is still some orange coloring over Sandy which is indicative of the slow transition into a hybrid storm as it indicates some dry stratospheric air has gotten entangled with the storm. It will be interesting over the next few days to see how the upstream shortwave (latter red “L”) transfers energy to Sandy, effectively strengthening the storm!

SEVIRI RGB Air Mass product over the North Atlantic valid at 21z on 10/26/12.

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic has gotten more complicated as the higher latitude blocking is in full swing. The white outlined region is the expanding area of upper-level high pressure or ridge that is setting up this “blocky pattern”. The traffic jam has started and the large, complex ocean storm in the red circle with two significant shortwaves (red “L’s”) will shift southeast over the weekend, then sit and spin. . .for a while. This helps to strengthen the ridge to the north and will lead to a road-block with subsequent detour for Sandy. So, blame Greenland for being a favored location for things like this!

The black circle is all that is left of Tony. I was way wrong on its evolution as I thought the larger system to the west would absorb the system, but it is wandering harmlessly towards the Canary Islands. I’m sure they can use the rain there. Finally, the little red “L” is our wandering upper-level low that will continue to bob around the North Atlantic on its long journey west. We will talk about that little guy in future posts.

So, what does this mean for the East Coast? All that blocking, the complex evolution of the upper-level low forming over the Carolinas, and a hurricane will lead to very bad weather for many people up and down the East Coast, but the emphasis continues to be on the Mid-Atlantic. Some models bring the storm towards eastern Long Island and Southern New England, but I’m not jumping on that option just yet. Very high winds, heavy rain, severe coastal flooding (remember earlier posts about the full moon, large fetch, and storm surge), and potential thumping snow in the Appalachians still remain a strong possibility. We have another 24-36 hours to fully digest and analyze this complex situation, but residents along the coast and inland should prepare anyway.

I leave you with a couple high resolution images of Sandy from the new Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument. The first image is the Day-Night band showing a “visible-like” satellite image using light from our moon! The second images is the infrared band showing very fine details in the cloud pattern with a resolution of 375 meters! Amazing stuff for sure! A special thank you goes to Kathy Strabala for providing the imagery.

The NPP VIIRS day-night band image from 0702z on 10/26/12.
VIIRS Infrared image at 375 m resolution valid at 0702z on 10/26/12.

I will continue to keep you informed over the weekend. Expect this to get more interesting as we approach the event.

What to do with Sandy, Pt. II?

As I write this, the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction is buzzing with activity as everyone prepares forecasts for what may become a significant East Coast storm. The players are on the field (meteorologically speaking) and now it’s a matter of when the atmospheric dance begins. Hurricane Sandy made landfall in Jamaica and eastern Cuba last night, but appears to have used those landmasses as a speed bump with the current intensity still at 105 mph with a central pressure of 963 mb. The storm has accelerated some today, but is expected to slow and turn slightly northwest overnight into tomorrow as an upper-low to the south interacts with it.

“RGB” satellite image of Hurricane Sandy on 10/25/12

The satellite image above shows a compact hurricane with a cloud-filled eye-like structure this afternoon. Notice how expansive the cloud shield is to the west through north! That is a sign of strong upper-level diffluence (air escaping away from the storm to allow for ventilation), which may help Sandy maintain its strength for a while longer before big changes occur to the overall structure. Some of these changes are already evident in the overall deteriorated organization.

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product overlaid with the 11 am EDT (15z) National Hurricane Center forecast track for Hurricane Sandy. The red circle highlights the trough that could lead to a big EC storm. The black circle is evidence of baroclinic (Mid-Latitude) interaction with Sandy.

The GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product above paints an interesting picture today. The red circle highlights the trough that will play a significant role in Sandy’s evolution over the coming days. The red “L” is a vigorous shortwave that is digging into the mean trough and will help to keep pushing the entire red area east. The red-coloring in the image is stratospheric air (dry, lots of ozone) with the blue colors indicating much cooler mid-level temperatures, while the green color shows warmer mid-level temperatures (on average). Sandy is still off the screen in the lower right, but the outflow (fanning of high clouds) can be seen well to its north. The black circle highlights some orange shading that signifies the beginning of some interaction with an upper-level low pressure to Sandy’s southwest. This would suggest that some transition to a hybrid may be starting.

SEVIRI RGB Air Mass product on 10/25/12 with various features highlighted. See text for explanation.

Meanwhile, farther east over the open Atlantic. . .there are many features that will play some role in our East Coast storm’s evolution. Although models have come into better agreement on a high impact event in the Mid-Atlantic/New England, how these features interact will make all the difference.

The feature circled in red is a relatively deep upper-level low that has cutoff from the main jetstream and will be shifting southeast over the next few days. This may act to capture now post-tropical storm Tony (black circle) which will add some energy to an already deep system. (Note: The color shadings are the same as described above with red-coloring indicating stratospheric air and high potential vorticity or spin, blue is cooler mid-level temperatures, and green is warmer mid-level temperatures.) As this occurs, the expanding upper-level ridge of high pressure (blue circle) will continue to retrograde west as a large blocky pattern develops. This means the atmosphere will literally form a gigantic traffic jam (probably worse than what I experience in DC every day). In turn, this could force Sandy in whatever form north-northwest towards the Mid-Atlantic early next week.

A fun fact. . .the red “L” is a small vorticity maxima or upper-level low that will be bounced west for days under the blocking upper-level ridge. Some models have this ending its long trip in Hudson Bay, Canada after starting yesterday in Ireland. Now that’s a blocked pattern!

The weather in the Mid-Atlantic may be deteriorating early next week with high winds, heavy rain, possibly some mountain snow, and most important, the potential for significant coastal flooding. Remember, this storm will coincide with a full moon, a large easterly fetch, and of course, the storm surge with Sandy.

I will do my best to keep updating this blog each day with new imagery and an update on the various systems that will determine our weather on the East Coast into next week.

Thanks for reading!

A Halloween Tropical Troublemaker!

I’m sure a few of you have heard about the possibility of a Blockbuster East Coast Storm/Hurricane. Well, it’s a bit too early to get excited or hyped up about this scenario, but know that it is not impossible. The culprit here. . .newly named Tropical Storm Sandy. Sandy doesn’t sound like a threatening name to me, but if some of the models are correct. . .look out!

Infrared satellite image with the current positions of TS Sandy and TD #19 by the National Hurricane Center.

I’m not going to include multiple maps for this upcoming situation as it’s too early yet. I did include the current infrared satellite image with the current positions of Tropical Storm Sandy and Tropical Depression #19 courtesy of the National Hurricane Center. TD19 will stay far from land, although may flirt with hurricane strength at some point during its lifetime. TS Sandy is bound to cause major headaches for forecasters and Emergency Managers as we wait to see how it interacts with an approaching trough from Canada. This trough will have some very cold air for this time of year, so there is plenty of energy on the table, but what will happen?

As you can see, I drew three main track philosophies on the map above that represents today’s model solutions. Starting with the arrow that turns right south of Bermuda, that would be the GFS forecast which means nothing for the East Coast and Bermuda would have to be on guard. This possibility is not off the table yet, but I’m a bit skeptical as this model is notorious for recurving storms too fast. The middle arrow is from the European model and would bring a very strong storm, possibly hurricane into New England. This is a bit more likely, but historically, has never happened before. . .to my knowledge. The third track that bends to the left is down-right scary (from the Canadian, Japanese, and earlier runs of the European and GFS) as that would be a very high impact East Coast event. Although I think that is just as unlikely at this point as the recurve towards Bermuda, there is history on Sandy’s side. I included a couple historical tracks below for your amusement.

A map of the “Gale of 78” courtesy of David M. Roth and High D. Cobb III from a paper they wrote in 2000.
Track of Hurricane Hazel (1954) courtesy of Unisys Weather.

As you can see, it has happened before. . . I will have more on this situation as it develops (doesn’t develop) over the next few days.

Thanks for reading!