Some strong thunderstorms and intense downpours in the Savannah/Beaufort corridor yesterday afternoon/evening, with a funnel cloud sighted by the Savannah International Airport control tower, some fires triggered by lightning near Prichardville, and flooding around Okatie (near Sun City):
Locally we will likely have some unsettled weather this week, so keep your NOAA weather radio’s on standby …
In the tropics, Tropical Storm Ma-On is crossing the Philippines today as a weak storm, but should strengthen before making landfall again near Hong Kong. That may cause some damage and disruptions, more on it later. NHC has a tropical wave in the east (other side from US) Atlantic tagged with a 20% chance of formation – conditions are not that favorable. Behind that there is another system that should be emerging from the coast of Africa in about a week. The usual suspects are apparently overly excited about it; I don’t watch them so I don’t know first hand. if so, that’s absurd, the long range models just aren’t reliable enough 7-10 days out, and run-to-run consistency hasn’t been very good; some show something forming, some don’t.
Longer version: there is a trough of low pressure just off the Louisiana coast that seems to be consolidating a bit. It’s headed to Texas, and will likely dump a fair amount of rain on the Texas Coast this weekend. NHC presently has it tagged at a stomach churning 10% chance of development (stomach churning in the sense that the usual suspects will likely be consuming raw spaghetti models and getting indigestion). If you’re on the Gulf Coast, prepare for rain. If not, don’t worry about it.
That said, if you’re on the South Carolina coast, there is potential for some heavy rain and localized flooding this afternoon from a cold front that should pass through overnight. The front is the green jagged line on the map; it’s complicated, since there is an occluded front ahead of it, denoted on the map as the line with jagged edges pointing south and rounded edges pointing north. Here are some notes on fronts from UCAR (link). The area of highest potential for localized flooding extends from Charleston to the Beaufort/Hilton Head area. Not likely to impact Savannah, but Coastal Georgia will likely get some rain and it doesn’t take a lot to flood certain areas here so be careful.
Lightning is one of those amazing and scary phenomena that nature uses to try to keep equilibrium – in this case, to equalize the static charge between clouds and the ground (link to Wikipedia article). While the displays can be beautiful, the sound it produces (thunder) isn’t much fun for a lot of dogs (and a few cats), and lightning causes on average around 30 deaths a year in the US. It also causes something on the order of two billion dollars in damage, a number that is increasing. No, not because of climate change, but because of all the electrical stuff we have today. Modern electronics is sensitive to both the static charge and the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a nearby strike.
Lightning damage is often strange. This weekend we had a strike hit a power pole a few hundred feet from the office. Why there, when the office has a big metal tower that sticks up at least as high, not to mention lots of higher trees and nearby cell towers? Probably something to do with the way the power lines are run in this neighborhood and the fact the cap wasn’t grounded on the pole. In any event, despite being on a different circuit than the hit pole, I had a lot of damage, all of it seems to be from EMP (the exception is the geophone in the seismometer). Essentially every Ethernet card with a cable run over 10 feet or so was damaged. For systems with embedded Ethernet ports that’s fatal. The numerous radios and antennas were not impacted at all as far I as I can tell, but they all have special protection, and of course the cluster computer uses high speed optical fiber so it’s ok. In any event, still sorting out the damage and figuring out what to do next. A bigger problem than the cost and paperwork hassle is the layout and design. While my systems were cutting edge a few years ago, it certainly isn’t what you would implement today given the changing pace of technology. So just replacing stuff isn’t really smart or even practical – I do have some spares but not enough to replace all that was damaged. But the core monitoring systems are hardened and generating data, so here’s a tropical update.
As expected, the strong tropical wave coming off the coast of Africa is now being tracked as Invest AL97 (or 97L). NHC gives it a 40% chance of developing before it encounters unfavorable conditions in a a few days. It looks to stay north of the Caribbean Islands, nothing to get excited about yet unless you’re on TV and need something to talk about 😛
Temperatures in the UK and Europe are on track to set all time records today. Headlines on BBC are “Warnings of Heat Apocalypse (link)”, which for once are actually not far off …
France has been suffering for several days, with not just high temperatures but extensive fires in the Southwest of the country. Portugal and Spain also have extensive fires, here is one as observed by the EU’s Sentinel satellite system:
London is under its first ever “Red Extreme Heat Warning (link)” and is on track for records today. The overall high temperature record is the UK us 38.7F, or 101.7. That record will almost certainly be broken somewhere in southern England today. But records are broken all the time, given the fact our record of observations is relatively limited. So just how unusual is this? Let’s take a closer look.
The observatory at Greenwich has been collecting data since 1841. That’s a pretty good record, but it’s only 180 years. Using data from 1991 to 2020, the average high in July is 74.8F, the record is 95.5F, the all time record, set in August 2003, is 99.5F. The previous record was set in 1990 at 95F. So if the temperature does hit 106F as forecast then both the July and all time records will be shattered. So this is a pretty unusual event. Is it related to climate change? Well, that’s a more complicated question. The temperatures are likely higher due to anthropogenic (human caused) factors. Pointing the finger at any given day or event and screaming “J’ACCUSE!” is really tricky (and scientifically unsound). What we can say is that events like this are more likely, and we will see more of them going forward. That’s not a good thing.
There has been an interesting (and needed) rain event over Coastal GA (Savannah) and the South Carolina Low Country the last few days. Here is the Multi Radar Multi Sensor (MRMS) 72 hour accumulation from 8am 9 July to 8am 12 July 2022:
The gauge at the Enki office in Midtown Savannah is showing 5.99″, which is close to the MRMS estimate. Notice the very sharp gradient and the southwest-northeast line area of heavy rain running along the coast. This is caused by storm cells following roughly the same ground track during the big rain events the last few days. Saturday and Sunday night’s rain each of dropped over 2″, and 1.8″ another last night. So far in July our gauge is showing 8.08″. But compare that to the Savannah International Airport, located 8.5 miles inland, which has only had 2.15″ over the same period. For this weekend’s rain, rain totals varied from under an inch in parts of Pooler to over 6.5″ in parts of downtown, around 5.5″ midtown, 4.5 at Hunter Army Air Field, and over 5″ at Skidaway and parts of the Islands.
Rain is one of the hardest weather variables to forecast. This example shows why – sites located only a few miles apart (indeed, only a few city blocks apart) can show radically different rain totals depending on the exact track of thunderstorm cells. Winter rains (stratiform rain) tend to be more uniform. But summer rain, which is typically convective (produced by thunderstorms), can be far more localized.
Tropical Storm Blas has formed off of the west coast of Mexico. It is expected to stay offshore, becoming a hurricane later today before it encounters adverse conditions Friday and begins to decay. Other that some higher than normal waves shouldn’t be a problem. Elsewhere, two “invest” areas are being tracked by NHC, both near Central America. The GFS model shows the one off of Nicaragua (AL932022) moving across Belize/Yucatan perhaps reaching tropical storm strength. The outlook for one off of Costa Rica isn’t so clear, it will probably bring rains to the region but how organized it gets isn’t obvious yet. Here’s the map …
Some strong thunderstorms wandered through coastal Georgia yesterday, caused some scattered damage. The NWS Local Storms Report database shows quite a few trees down and power outages across the region …
Moderate to heavy snow and gusty winds are forecast to materialize along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts this evening as the low arrives off the coast of North Carolina. Some moderate to heavy amounts are also likely to spread into parts of the Central and Southern Appalachians. Heavy snow and intense winds are then expected to develop over New England on Saturday as the Nor’easter continues to intensify off the Northeast coast. Blizzard conditions are forecast from eastern Long Island through much of coastal New England, particularly from southeast Maine to Cape Cod. This will make travel nearly impossible. Significant beach erosion and coastal flooding will also be a concern.
For those in Coastal GA/SC, the chances of rain are not as high as forecast yesterday. Temperatures will be right at or just below freezing tonight, but in the mid 20’s in Savannah, and lower 20’s in Beaufort County (warmer on the islands; Hilton Head and Tybee will barely go below freezing this weekend). So nothing dramatic, but protect delicate plants, etc. However if you do need drama, it’s almost February 2nd …
Lots going on in the world, especially Ukraine. Will have some words on that this weekend. The rhetoric and posturing is insane. Watching Russian TV, reading Ukrainian sources, European news, not to mention the fantasy world of the US media bubble, is an extreme Rashōmon experience. Trying to unravel it and provide some perspective is hard, but I’ll give it a shot …
TLDR: A cold front moving through the east coast will cause a low in Florida to spin up and zoom northward, a classic nor’easter situation, so the Southeast will get cold, and the Northeast US and Canadian Maritime Provinces will get a snowstorm.
First, let’s see what a real meteorologist has to say:
Well, except that last part: I think it’s a safe bet Winter will only last until Spring. OK, now that we’ve got the required doom out of the way, let’s see what the actual data looks like. As usual, the exact track will determine how much snow the northeast will get. The various models all show a significant winter storm developing, but wobbles make a lot of difference as to which areas get the most snow. Here is what the GFS predicts for Saturday afternoon, model run as of this morning (Thursday 27 Jan). Dark blue is heaviest snow.
A couple of feet of snow is possible, which will create the usual mess. This storm will also, as usual, create flight delays. Winds are one potentially real concern with this storm – they could reach strong tropical storm force in places along the coast north from New York and northwards, especially the Massachusetts coast. Such strong onshore winds will produce coastal flooding, with surges to 2-3 feet above normal high tides (which are already above average since we’re almost at new moon).
For the Coastal GA/SC area, the storm itself won’t develop until the system is far to our north. Inland will of course be colder, east of I-95 will see a couple of nights at or below freezing, especially Saturday which will likely reach the mid 20’s Saturday night. So protecting delicate plants and making sure outside/exposed hoses are drained is a good idea. Generally pipes should be ok unless really exposed and not insulated. Soil temperatures here in Savannah are still in the mid 40’s, and you’ve got to get on the other side of Macon before you see freezing ground temperatures. But there’s nothing wrong with a slow drip if you’re worried. Just don’t forget to turn it off, and watch for the mud under the faucet 🙂 …
As the huddled denizens of the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry awaken to the dark and gloomy dawn, frantic weathercasters engage in verbal warmups and syntactical gymnastics as they stretch and bend to keep viewers and readers engaged and clicks coming despite the diminishing threat of actual winter weather … 😛 In all seriousness, doesn’t look bad, but still some precautions are smart, even if you don’t need to hoard food like this guy:
Probably just rain in Savannah, east of I 95 and south of the Broad River in SC (eg Hilton Head, Bluffton). Any icy precip isn’t likely to be significant. Temperatures are dropping all day, and will be around freezing overnight. As you go north or east from there, the chances of seeing some ice increase, and inland like Claxton, Allendale, Charleston, etc. ice may accumulate some overnight. The main risk is for slick patches on sidewalks, and on the roads for a few hours late tonight and in the morning. The main risks for any problems are north of I-26 (Moncks Corner, SC). Still, be alert even down to the Savannah area just in case. The forecast looks pretty good at this point, but it’s going to be close to freezing along the coast, and if temps are a degree or so colder, or rain persists longer than expected, in theory could get more than expected. But it’s not likely. And, of course, it doesn’t take ice for people to drive stupid around here, a little rain works just fine … already hearing about accidents.
It will be cold (well, for us, anyway). While it won’t likely go below freezing overnight in Savannah, tomorrow night will be in the 20’s, and Sunday at or slightly below freezing as well. Either way, obviously animals need to be inside both nights, and not a bad idea to protect delicate plants for the next couple of days.
TLDR: maybe some freezing rain late Friday Night into Early Saturday morning, probably not any significant accumulation in Beaufort and points south, as you get closer to Charleston the potential for significant ice increases. See the NWS Charleston Forecast office (which is responsible for both Georgia north of Darien and the SC Coast) for updates. Further south is under the Jacksonville office (their forecast is boring today). Here’s the current forecast (Thu Morning for Friday/Saturday):
As with most weather systems, once we get into the 48 hour range confidence grows quickly until, 2-4 weeks later, we have a good picture as to what happened 😛 ! But in all seriousness, what this looks like for Coastal GA and the Lowcountry is not a big deal. Sorry, no snow this time, maybe next week (but that’s too far out to get excited about). Most of the areas in light yellow (< 0.1 inch) it won’t be a problem. That band north of Charleston gets closer to the warning criteria of 0.25 inches, when you start to worry about power outages, tree limbs breaking, that sort of thing. Either way, south of that (including coastal Georgia) if you have to go out Saturday morning be careful on bridges and watch for slick spots. By noon it will all be gone. Otherwise, a couple of cold days are coming up. Hopefully it kills off some bugs since spring is coming …