Showing posts with label NOAA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NOAA. Show all posts

Friday, October 22, 2010

'No Drama' For Maryland Winter This Year- NOAA Says

If you hated last winter's record snowstorms in Maryland, you should be a lot happier with the winter weather predictions rolled out Thursday by government and private forecasters.

The best news is that federal forecasters see no compelling reasons to think we'll stray far from the long-term averages for precipitation and temperatures this winter. Snow totals should look more like Baltimore's 18-inch norm than last year's record 77 inches.

On the other hand, forecasters at expect an early start to the cold weather in the Mid-Atlantic states this fall. Later in the winter, said's forecasting operations director, Ken Reeves, "you're going to find yourself with … warm air pushing against cold air in the region." That means more "mixy-type storms instead of colder snowstorms."

He guessed 20 inches to 25 inches in all at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. But he said "the bust potential is down rather than up this time," meaning that his estimate is more likely too high than too low.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center said the worst of the snow and cold this winter will fall across the northern tier of states, from the Pacific Northwest through the Great Lakes to New England.

Warmer- and drier-than-normal weather is expected across the South, with growing worries about drought conditions developing from Texas to Florida.

The forecast is driven mostly by a strengthening La Nina — a cooling of surface waters in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean.

That has replaced last winter's moderate El Nino, the pattern of above-average sea-surface temperatures that drove winter storms across the southern U.S. and up the East Coast, helping fuel the storms that dropped a staggering 77 inches of snow at BWI.

"In a La Nina, storms track to the west of [the Mid-Atlantic], and history has shown we often do not see a whole lot of snow," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. "If I were a betting man, I would be betting against a very snowy winter."

Last winter was 2 degrees lower than the long-term pattern because of sharply colder weather in February. A more nearly "average" winter in the Baltimore region would feel warmer by comparison.
Area consumers could receive a double benefit — milder temperatures and cheaper natural gas. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials said Wednesday that lower natural gas prices this winter should alone save consumers 5 percent on the gas portion of their bills. That works out to about $30 over the five-month heating season.

If's forecast proves correct, the snow we get would come early in the season. Joe Bastardi, its chief long-range forecaster, said he expects temperatures in November and December to be near or below normal.

Reeves said that would come with an expected southward dip in the jet stream, down through the Great Lakes into the Mid-Atlantic.

"If we get that kind of flow going, it probably means access to colder air and a chance for … not Snowmageddon 3, but smaller batches of snow moving from west to east," he said.

If nor'easters do form, he said, they would tend to spin up off the Carolina coast without first sweeping up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. And until we're deep into December, the odds will favor rain over snow.

Come January, the dip in the jet stream will flatten out, Reeves said. And that will mean milder weather. And when such temperatures collide with colder air to the north, Maryland can expect "wintry mix" storms that can slicken roads and bring down power lines without delivering much snow.

If you'd rather have a snowfest this winter, stick with the 2011 Old Farmer's Almanac. Its seers, using sunspot cycles and a strengthening La Nina as their guide, forecast a "cold, snowy" winter for the Mid-Atlantic, with the flakiest times in early January and mid- and late-February.

How reliable are NOAA's Winter Outlooks? The Climate Prediction Center measures its performance with a statistical tool called the "Heidike Skill Score." Negative scores are worse than random guessing. A score of 100 percent is a perfect forecast.

"Our average skill score is somewhere around 20 to 25 percent better than random chance," said Michelle L'Heureux, an El Nino and La Nina expert at NOAA.

Last year's Winter Outlook, once it was measured against the actual weather, got a score of 15 percent to 20 percent.

"While we did better than random chance, we didn't do as well as one would have hoped," she said. And that was because of a very strong negative Arctic Oscillation, a fast-changing atmospheric factor that contributed the cold air for Maryland's heavy snows. It's "always a wild card in our seasonal outlooks."

"This year's forecast is based on the expectation of a strong La Nina pattern, so as long as we don't see extreme AO values, then we should do reasonably well," L'Heureux said.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lunar Eclipse in Central and Western United States

(June 26) -- Early risers in the central and western United States were greeted with a celestial treat this morning, as the moon passed through the earth's shadow, causing a lunar eclipse.

Over half the moon was darkened this morning, starting at around 6:17 am eastern time, according to the BBC. The moon also appeared unusually large, thanks to a little-understood phenomenon called the Moon illusion.

When this occurs, low-hanging Moons appear "unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects", according to the NASA website. The reasons for this are not clear.

"The lunar eclipse was beautiful as it set over the distant Owyhee Mountains on Saturday morning!" Jared Aicher of Boise, Idaho told "The light was changing rapidly, and show was magnificent."

The next lunar eclipse is due in December.

Today's eclipse was also visible over large parts of Asia. Over 3,000 people gathered at the Singapore Science Centre's Observatory to catch a glimpse of the event.

"A partial lunar eclipse is a beautiful thing," Dr Tony Phillips said on the NASA website.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Baltimore Aquarium Helps With Gulf Wildlife

As the Gulf oil spill ensnares marine animals, the staff at the National Aquarium and the state's wildlife veterinarian are preparing for a life or death situation.

For the aquarium, the phone may ring and someone will ask for help recovering animals or if some of its pools can be converted to intensive care units for injured sea turtles. As part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the aquarium is housing four healing turtles from natural mishaps here and in New England that it would like to release in June to make room for Gulf turtles. Other facilities in the network are making similar plans.

Meanwhile at the Oxford Laboratory in Cambridge, Dr. Cindy Driscoll is on standby for a call that would send her south to help scientists determine how animals died.

Though hundreds of miles away, the spill is on the minds of Marylanders whose specialized skills will be needed if the manmade disaster overwhelms forces in place along the Gulf Coast.

"If they need experts, we'll send experts," said Dr. Brent Whitaker, the aquarium's deputy executive director of biological programs. "As hospital beds fill up in the southeast, I anticipate we'll see a greater need for our services. I suspect it's just a matter of time before we'll be called on."

While birds and fish in the path of the slick are in danger, all five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf are listed under the Endangered Species Act. An environmental disaster such as the Deepwater Horizon spill could deal a fatal blow to recovering species, scientists fear.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has documented 278 sea turtles stranded by the spill. Many were dead and 40 are at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans to be washed and cared for.

As part of the stranding network, the National Aquarium works with the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., to help injured sea turtles mend.

"Our goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and release," said Whitaker. "We can take six to 10 animals at a time. Now our challenge is, how can we gear up quickly to do more. This is an extraordinary event and it's going to require extraordinary efforts."

Federal authorities said late last week that they have adequate capacity right now, given the small number of live stranded turtles recovered, and have four facilities on standby in Florida.

"As the needs arise, we will call upon people based on the skills we need and the issues we are dealing with in the Gulf," NOAA spokeswoman Monica Allen said.

Scientists fear the turtles could contract pneumonia from inhaling toxic fumes or suffer ulceration of their gastrointestinal tracts from ingesting oil. Tainted habitat could deny turtles food sources, leading to starvation. And nesting areas — critical this time of the year to the species' survival — could become fouled.

"All of the effects are horrible," said Whitaker. "Which ones we will see, we just don't know."

Driscoll said she was asked two weeks ago to be on standby by NOAA. She anticipates she might be called on to spell colleagues as the spill's aftermath lingers.

After a pipeline ruptured and dumped 140,000 gallons of oil in the Patuxent River in April 2000, killing hundreds of animals, Maryland officials realized "you can't have the same people doing [necropsies] 24/7," Driscoll said. "They may have enough people in the Gulf right now, but that may not be true when the animals start coming in and keep coming in."
Even though the public might assume the dead animals were the victims of the spill, "they all need exams by competent people. There's lots of reasons why animals die and oil is only one reason," she said.

If the number of contaminated animals becomes overwhelming, experts on the scene will have to make heartbreaking triage decisions based on which ones stand the best chance of recovering and which ones have the best chance of reproducing.

Whitaker said part of the challenge will be to create pools to handle turtles of all sizes and with different injuries. While smaller turtles, like Kemp's ridley, are the size of a dinner plate, loggerheads can run several hundred pounds. And rehabilitators don't want to put recovering animals in the same tank as newly infected ones.

That puts a strain on budgets. Aquariums will have to increase saltwater production and waste removal systems and find a way to boost supplies of turtle food. Huge leatherbacks, for example, dine almost exclusively on jellyfish. Some turtles will probably require slings and constant monitoring to keep them from drowning while they recover.

"We'll have to raise money quickly to upgrade our system and staff," Whitaker acknowledged. "We don't know if it will be necessary, but given the fragile nature of the species, we don't have the luxury of not being prepared."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oil Spill Unlikely To Reach The Eastern Shore??

With the oil spill occurring in the Gulf of Mexico a few weeks ago, several people have been warning the oil spillage could make its way to Virginias Eastern Shore. The oil could stray north from the spill site and catch the Loop Current, which goes all the way around the tip of Florida and bumps into the Gulf Stream, which goes as far north as the Eastern Shore.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the odds of the oil catching the Loop Current, being carried to the Gulf Stream and then making landfall off the shores of Cape Fear, NC are 1 in 500. Cape Fear is about 300 miles south of the Eastern Shore, which substantially lowers the odds the oil will reach our shores.
According to the Hampton Roads Coast Guard, if the oil was to reach the Eastern Shore, it would be in the form of small balls of tar. The tar balls would be small enough to fit in between someones toes.

Well, I don't know about anyone else out there that loves the water and enjoys being around it and in it like I do but I don't find it very acceptable to be fishing, crabbing, swimming, walking, bike riding, etc. and find small tar balls between my toes!
In fact, I have my doubts about the whole truth being told. You can believe someone out there knows but in order to keep all of us from going into a panic we are being told the story one bit at a time. I think alot of questions aren't being answered properly. Time will tell.