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: 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!

What to do with Sandy (10/24 version)?

As I’m sure most people are aware, there is the potential for a large, nearly historic storm for the East Coast as we head towards the early part of next week, just in time for Halloween. Much of the week, forecasters have been wondering if the models have been playing tricks on them,but as of this morning’s model runs, it appears there is a growing concern for a significant event on the East Coast starting Sunday and last through the middle of next week. How will this happen? I’m glad you asked. . .let’s look at the puzzle pieces from a satellite perspective.

RGB “Natural Color” image of Hurricane Sandy as of 1:30 pm EDT

Hurricane Sandy with 70 knot (80 mph) winds is bearing down on the eastern tip of Jamaica with a landfall expected this afternoon. Sandy will continue moving north towards eastern Cuba this evening and should emerge on the north coast of Cuba by early tomorrow morning, possibly as a hurricane, but more likely a strong tropical storm. Beyond this point, we know the Bahamas will feel the greatest effects with some rainbands and wind moving towards southeast Florida. What happens in the day 4-6 time frame depends on a couple features.

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product with the 12z tropical model guidance for Hurricane Sandy overlaid.

The RGB Air Mass image above shows the potent trough that moved ashore the West Coast this morning (circled in red). This will translate east in the coming days being further strengthened by shortwaves over the Northeast Pacific. Meanwhile, Sandy’s projected tracks are shown in the far bottom left with the 12z solutions. How Sandy interacts with this developing/strengthening trough is the real question?

SEVIRI RGB Air Mass product of the North Atlantic on 10/24/12. The red circle identifies a developing cutoff low, the blue circle shows an expanding upper-level ridge, and the black circle identifies Tropical Storm Tony.

The SEVIRI RGB Air Mass image above shows other players on the field that will play a significant role in this complex evolution. With the NAO going negative, one would expect a strong storm along the East Coast. In this case, the expanding upper-level ridge (blue circle) is retrograding northwest towards the Labrador Sea, while a large cut-off upper-level low (red circle) is going to strengthen and move slowly southeast. This in turn may capture Tropical Storm Tony (black circle) and entrain the energy producing a large ocean storm that completes a Rex Block pattern with a large ridge on top of a large low. This would impede the Sandy/trough interaction from moving out to sea and could push the Sandy towards the trough (most likely as an extratropical/hybrid storm).

One thing I’ve noticed is the very expansive easterly fetch across the Atlantic aimed at the Mid-Atlantic and New England. If this materializes, you will have astronomical high tides with the full moon, a large fetch of westward moving water, and the strong winds assisting the storm surge. This all spells the potential for a high impact event.

I will try to post an update tomorrow with another snapshot of the features.

Thanks for reading!