MAweatherboy1's Blog

26W Likely To Strengthen

By: MAweatherboy1, 12:20 AM GMT on November 26, 2012

Finally some interesting tropical weather to blog on tonight! The action center tonight is the West Pacific, as Invest 91W has organized enough to be classified as Tropical Depression 26W according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. As of the first JTWC warning on the system, 26W is located about 285 nautical miles SE of Chuuk, and is moving WNW at 8kts. Maximum 1 minute sustained winds in the system are estimated at 25kts, or about 30mph. This is based mainly off of Dvorak classifications, as well as satellite appearance. It should be noted the system's current Raw T#, which is useful in determining short term intensity changes, is a 2.3, which would suggest the system is closing in on tropical storm status, which is generally indicated by a 2.5.

Forecast For 26W
The official intensity forecast from JTWC strengthens 26W, bringing it to an intensity of 90kts in 5 days, which would make it a Category 2 equivalent on the Saffir Simpson Scale. 26W is in a favorable environment, with warm waters, moist air, and very little shear. The two main factors working against it are its low latitude and the fact that it is a broad system. The low latitude (3.6N as of the first JTWC advisory) will make it difficult for the system to get enough spin going to strengthen significantly. This problem will slowly abate as the system moves WNW. Having a large, broad circulation means the system will take time to consolidate. The two major models I'm looking at, the GFS and ECMWF, show fairly different intensity solutions. The GFS has been consistent in forecasting 26W to organize quickly and strengthen significantly. The ECWMF had been showing little development until yesterday, and has steadily been trending towards the GFS since then, though it still shows a weaker and more compact system. Due to its consistency, I am heavily basing my intensity forecast off the aggressive GFS, and I forecast a peak intensity of 100kts in 5 days. If 26W forms a strong inner core, which current microwave imagery does not show happening, then rapid intensification could occur and my 100kts 5 day prediction could be too low. If the system struggles to consolidate 100kts could be too high. There is certainly potential for 26W to strengthen beyond the 5 day timeframe, but that is as far as I'll go in this blog. The main steering influence for 26W will be a large ridge which will keep the system on a generally WNW heading for the next 5 days. Because it shows a weaker storm, the ECMWF is farther south than the more aggressive GFS, and it is also a little slower. Since my intensity forecast is mostly based off the GFS, my track forecast will also favor this model's solution. Larger differences occur farther out, as the GFS has been consistently recurving the system while the ECMWF's 12z run today showed possible impacts for the Philippines in 10 days or so. The ECMWF is struggling with this system, and I feel that it is trying to come in line with the GFS, so I feel a recurve will eventually be the fate of this system. Nonetheless, residents of the Philippines should keep an eye on the system. In the shorter term, there are some small islands in 26W's path, but no major population centers. Though I expect a more northerly track than what JTWC is showing, I do not feel 26W poses any significant threat to Guam, which is on the northern edge of the forecast cone.

Figure 1: Official JTWC forecast of 26W, showing an acceleration in a day or so as it moves out from its current weak steering environment and into the influence of a large ridge. Its heading should remain fairly steady throughout the next 5 days.

Figure 2: TD 26W. The system is currently broad and disorganized, but with favorable conditions in its path it is likely to consolidate and strengthen, possibly at a rapid pace at times.

Not too much else to speak of in the global tropics tonight. Tropical Cyclone Boldwin weakened quickly and dissipated in the South Indian basin today. The Atlantic and East Pacific are quiet, with no areas currently being watched and nothing showing up on the models. The seasons for these two basins are more than likely over, and the official climatological end of the season is only a few days away.

Thank you as always for reading! I'll be releasing my end of season Atlantic recap either Friday night or Saturday. Have a great week!


Watching the Sun Today

By: MAweatherboy1, 1:48 PM GMT on November 12, 2012

I'm watching the potential for some interesting solar weather today. The most imminent threat to Earth is a potential geomagnetic storm that is possible later today and into tomorrow. A pair of relatively weak coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were released from the Sun on November 9th and 10th. Both of these plasma clouds were sent somewhat in the direction of Earth. Ordinarily a fairly weak CME giving Earth only a glancing blow would be a barely noticeable geomagnetic disturbance, however the two CMEs are expected to merge before they reach Earth, providing the potential for minor geomagnetic storming. This will provide an opportunity for auroras to be seen further south than usual, though the odds of them making it to the northern United States seem quite remote at this point. Unfortunately, we know very little about predicting this phenomenon, mostly because we are not very good at predicting the geomagnetic storms that drive them. I will provide updates in the comments section of this blog throughout the day if any major changes are detected. The main factors we will be looking at to determine impacts are the solar wind and Bz component of the magnetic field. A spike in solar wind or a negative Bz component typically indicate a storm is imminent. Currently (8:30AM EST), solar wind is low and the Bz component is nearly neutral, with just a slight positive tilt, indicating everything is normal right now.

Increasing Chance of Solar Flares Today
The weakest solar maximum ever recorded has certainly been living up to the (lack of) hype in the past couple weeks, as the Sun has struggled to muster any large, complex sunspots capable of producing powerful flares.

Figure 1: Sunspot number graph. The red line is the predicted values from NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, while the black line/dots are observed values. Solar Cycle 24 has long been expected to be extremely weak, but as this graphic shows it is currently falling well short of even these meager expectations.

The Sun may finally be waking up, however. A moderate M1 class solar flare was recorded Saturday evening from a moderate size new sunspot, numbered 1614, that has rotated into view. Several days before that, a slightly stronger flare was observed in a similar location courtesy of sunspot 1611. 1611 has remained quiet since then, however it has changed little in structure and still poses some risk for an M class flare. Likewise, 1614 has remained quiet since its eruption late Saturday, but it is slowly growing and also poses some risk for an M class event. The other sunspot I'm watching is probably the most interesting. Numbered 1610, this region didn't even exist a few days ago. It has grown rapidly in the last three days, however, and is now a sprawling sunspot that certainly looks capable of producing a powerful flare. So far, however, it has remained very quiet. 1610 is almost directly facing Earth right now, so a CME from an eruption is likely to come our way, though this may be mitigated somewhat by the spot's location on the southern surface of the Sun. Forecasters estimate a 35% chance of an M class flare today, with a 5% chance of an X class flare, the most powerful kind. I put these odds a bit higher at a 45% chance for an M class flare and a 10% chance of an X class event. I will provide further updates on the regions I mentioned in the comments section if necessary, along with information about the possible geomagnetic storm.

Figure 2: 3 day X-ray chart. The chart shows numerous low level C class flares, which are relatively weak, as well as one stronger M class flare.

Figure 3: The Earth facing side of the Sun. The sunspot in the upper left portion of the picture is 1614, responsible for the lone M class flare of the past three days. In the bottom left of the picture of 1613, which appears to be growing now, although it is still far too magnetically simple to produce a solar flare. Sunspots 1611 and 1612 are in close proximity in the left/center portion of the Sun. 1610 is the large region near the south central portion of the picture. The barely visible dot SE of 1614 is tiny sunspot 1615.

Some good links:




Thanks for reading, and have a nice day!

Why TWC Is Wrong To Name Winter Storms

By: MAweatherboy1, 1:45 AM GMT on November 09, 2012

There certainly has been a lot of fuss on the blog lately over The Weather Channel's naming of winter storms. I've laid out my position multiple times. When they first announced the idea, I took a close look at both sides of the argument, which is usually the best option. Initially, I would say I somewhat approved of the idea. But as I dug deeper, I realized what a bad idea it really was. The argument for naming winter storms is quite simple. It heightens public awareness and makes it easier to reference a storm rather than just calling it "that blizzard:". The problem is, that's where the advantages end, and where the long list of disadvantages begin. There's a lot of talk about the comparison of naming a winter storm and naming a tropical system. The difference is simple. The naming of a tropical cyclone occurs because an official United States agency, the National Hurricane Center, has a strict, inclusive definition of what qualifies as a tropical cyclone. Assigning a name then makes this system easier to track, refer to, etc. A winter storm does not have any criteria. There are all kinds of winter storms. A winter storm in the NW, like so called "Brutus", is much different from a Nor'easter that runs up the East Coast, such as "Athena". Furthermore, the NHC often carefully monitors a disturbance for tropical development for days before the development actually occurs. They will often track a named storm for 1-2 weeks after that. TWC, meanwhile, names winter storms suddenly, whenever they feel like it basically. These winter storms, particularly Nor'easters, often come and go in a matter of a couple days, not really enough time to heighten awareness and inspire storm preparation. My local TV mets up here were talking about this thing for days. Nothing changed after TWC named it. It doesn't do anything.

The likely reason for the naming of winter storms is, of course, ratings. I've stated before, TWC is, before anything else, a television channel. Without viewers, they don't exist. I have no problem with them doing things to draw more viewers. They've certainly attempted to modernize their lineup in recent years and while I'd prefer it the way it used to be, it's something I have little problem dealing with. Naming winter storms crossed the line though. This is a move that reeks of desperation. The fact is that most people don't want to watch the weather. For many, it's boring, complicated, and something that we are forced to live with. There are a select few of course, like us on this blog, who appreciate the awesome beauty and power of nature, and who have a true love of examining the processes which drive our weather. We're the TWC viewer base. Naming winter storms will not bring in more viewers. Nothing will really. The thing that bothers me is thinking about how the whole thing went down inside of TWC/NBC itself. It certainly wasn't Jim Cantore, or any of the other faces we're used to seeing on TWC everyday. It was some big doofus executive. I strongly believe Dr. Masters, as well as the majority of the real scientists at TWC, disapprove of the idea. The problem is, they're stuck with it. Obviously, unless you're a complete idiot, you're not gonna come out and publicly disagree with a major move by your boss. I sure as heck wouldn't.

I will never officially refer to a storm with a name assigned by TWC. I much prefer to stick with the opinion of the National Weather Service. I'm certainly glad (and not really surprised) that they have stood their ground and refused to acknowledge the TWC names. If anything, it will go the other way around and TWC will give up on the idea. I don't know if that will happen though. It would require TWC swallowing its pride big time, and I doubt they're willing to do that. This isn't the kind of thing that's going to make me stop watching TWC. I don't watch it as much as I used to, but I still check in from time to time, I like to keep it on in the background while I blog (like right now) and I watch it quite often during major weather events. It's just a disagreement. They have every right to name winter storms, right or wrong, and I have every right to disagree. Honestly I'm mostly just clearing my head of some clutter right now as I'm fighting a cold and a nasty little ear infection. But I felt I might as well put my opinion up publicly and back it up a little rather than get into excessive sparring on the blog. I'll be sticking to relevant weather there from now on.

Picked up close to 5 inches of snow yesterday, about a third of last years total. Most of it melted in the chilly rain we got today. I'm certainly hoping for more snow than last year, though I do feel quite guilty wishing for snow while knowing it will add further misery to those still recovering from Sandy. My wants won't change the weather though, so that makes me feel a little better...

I've been in the process of writing my end of hurricane season blog on and off for a couple weeks now. It will be out on December 1. Honestly, I'm pretty much tired of hurricane season at this point, and am ready for a nice change of seasons and tracking of more winter storms.


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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About MAweatherboy1

Average 20 year old weather nerd. Plymouth State University Meteorology, Class of 2018. NOAA Hollings scholar. Summer 2016 intern at NWS Boston.