Thursday, December 4, 2014

Noctilucent Clouds... Nature's Shy Beauty

Over the South Pole, it is still noctilucent cloud season! Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) there are spreading and brightening. Below is an image taken at the end of November from NASA's AIM spacecraft showing the colorful display over.

Figure 1. Satellite Image over Antarctica taken on November, 27th.
The season for these beauties over the southern hemisphere began on Nov. 22nd with just a few puffy clouds over the frozen continent. NLC's can develop and multiply rapidly once they first appear. If you're unfamiliar on the type of cloud that is foreign to our area of the world, they are truly a beautiful sight. For the best chance of seeing these shy clouds, you need to look high up in the far northern & southern latitudes, usually during dawn and dusk with the aid of the setting/rising sun light display.

So, what are noctilucent clouds? Below is an image showing off one instance of its brilliant display.

Figure 2. Image of noctilucent clouds AFTER sunset. Notice how lit they are, even when the sun is WELL BELOW the horizon.

Noctilucent (meaning night shining in Latin) clouds are composed of tiny ice crystals present as high as clouds can be in Earth's atmosphere (sometimes above 50 miles or ~85 km!). They are the highest cloud group that we have on the planet.

Their domain is over the highest latitudes on Earth. The closer to the poles you travel, the better that chances of seeing them will be. But even traveling north through Canada or hiking through the Andes south along South America will not guarantee a successful sighting of these bashful clouds. They are NORMALLY too faint to be seen. There are only two, pristine times of the day to view them... around dawn and dusk (better time), assuming that the viewable sky is clear enough to look 50+ miles up.

NLC's are unique, in that they are only revealed to the observer (you) when sunlight illuminates them from BELOW THE HORIZON. Fast Fact: This is the only species of cloud that is always better to see when the sun is below the horizon.

Figure 3. Showing how to properly view NLC's. Image courtesy
Figure 3 shows how you can properly see these clouds. In fact, it all boils down to mathematics. Since these clouds are so high up the elevation scale in the sky... you could be looking well over 100 miles up and out toward the cloud, with the sunlight coming from below the horizon. Very cool!

Happy almost Friday,


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Snowy, snowy Thursday in Michiana

Thanks for driving safely this morning, everybody. Wow... very winter this morning. We just keep upping the snow total forecast. EVERYTHING came together for Michiana to see moderate to even heavy snow in those lake effect snow bands. The highest official report I can find so far is 4.5" about 2 miles away from Roseland. South Bend likely received about the same.

We'll see even more snowfall with chances of lake effect snow continuing through the morning... through the afternoon... and tonight through about the 1st half of FRIDAY. Before it's all done (and it may not be done until tomorrow afternoon), we should get some hefty accumulations. Keep it safe on the roads. Roads were not close to ready to handle the snow this morning.

-- The Rest --
It'll take about a day to get past that 'initial shock' that the first real snowfall has passed. We don't have much of a break.

Saturday does look dry... still expecting some sunshine with high pressure sliding to the south.

A chance of light, system snow still looks on track for Sunday. Models are trending light snow amounts happening mainly in the morning.

Then next week... oh, next week. It looks active. We'll be looking for another opportune set up fo lake effect snow. Timing right now looks to first happen later MON afternoon. But we have that NW wind flow possibly lasting well into TUE and perhaps even into WED morning. There's frigid air coming in with that NW wind. Highs likely fall into the 20s for Tuesday with morning lows in the teens. Watching for accumulations will be a main focus.

I wanted to end on a positive note. Long term models are still trending warmer and dryer late next week. NEXT Friday may actually get into the 40s!

Stay warm & drive safe,


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Detailed Forecast: Tuesday, November 11th... Veterans Day

-- Today --
Here comes the leading edge of the arctic air. Highs in the mid 50s will happen early... until the cold front passes through pretty much right at lunch time. Temperatures will fall fast this afternoon. We go from the mid 40s to near 40 degrees in the matter of just a few hours. Then overnight lows settle in around 27 degrees.

Precip chances are still looking very good. Rain showers look likely from late this morning with chances until the mid afternoon. We may even get a little wintry mix courtesy of some lake effect tonight. But if we see any flakes... they do look to finish up before we drive in to work tomorrow.
Veterans Day Forecast Planner
-- Hump Day --

Speaking of tomorrow, it's the first bitterly cold day that will string together in the long term.

High temps settle near freezing... around 32 to 33 degrees. That's it. It looks dry but I will have to mention the dreaded wind chill. With a WNW wind around 10 to 20 mph or so... the 'feel like' temperature will be in the low 20s at times with even wind chills in the teens during the morning. This will be the 1st time we feel that this season... dress warmly.

-- The Rest --
Cold... with chances of snow here-and-there. That's about all we can look for in the long term.

High temps will be in the low to mid 30s all the way through the weekend. Monday may be the COLDEST DAY with another surge of cold air wrapping in from the north. Overnight lows stay in the 20s with a morning or two in the teens not out of the question... especially MON morning.

There will be rounds of snow flurries and snow showers with this cold air outbreak. The next round is Thursday... potentially kick starting early in the morning. That chance will at least until Thursday night but medium range models have chances until FRI morning due to a cold, NW wind flow. Over an inch to even a couple inches of light, lake effect snow are looking likely. This definitely could slow down driving for the AM rush THU through the AM rush FRI. If that's where you drive... plan ahead already.
Snowfall forecast WED night Through FRI morning. Courtesy:

Then a little system snow still looks on par for SUN... then lake effect showers for MON. In terms of total accumulations with all this... it's still too early. But long term models have us in the 1 to 2 inch range if you just need to see the numbers. Winter is upon us! Yay... not really, haha!

Stay warm,


Monday, November 10, 2014

Polar Vortex: Here We Go Again. Bringing Back The Worn-Out, Weather Jargon Cliché.

Oh boy, here we go again. Meteorologists everywhere and certain people on the FOX28 Morning Show are face-palming themselves due to the incorrect use of Polar Vortex... Again... for two seasons in a row. Really???

Two face-palms... One for 2013-14 & the 2nd for This season
 There are already plenty of legitimate online resources that you can read on the correct use of this interesting weather term. There are a plethora of them... a myriad some may say. All it takes is your time. And it's worth it! It is an interesting weather phenomena that is a direct result of Eath's atmosphere spinning along Earth's axis. Great stuff!

I will say... a lot of funny memes came out from it last year. I'm hoping for more. It's a guilty pleasure.
2 Of My Favorite Polar Vortex Memes

Alright, let's do some learning. The Polar Vortex is NOT an event. It's not a thing us TV folks came up with to get your attention. It's been studied by climate scientists for decades. It was actually 1st identified in the 1800's.

Courtesy: Polar Vortex winds depiction.

Strictly speaking, this polar vortex that will dip down into the northern U.S. is the whirl of winds that flows west-to-east and encircles the North Pole over the northern hemisphere (NH). Very simply, the STRONGER these winds run, the COLDER they get, and the more efficient they are at keeping the Arctic-frigid air around the poles.
Courtesy: scientificamerican. General upper air patter during a Weak Polar Vortex

But... let's say these strong winds weaken... which they do from time-to-time for various reasons. When winds start to slow down, the vortex starts to waver. This in turn allows the Arctic air to break south and flow (advect) into lower latitudes while also churning warmer air from the south toward the North Pole.

Last winter was classified as a WEAK polar vortex season due to the fact these 'dips' occurred much more frequently. This allowed for a record-cold winter AND in turn resulted in record snowfall due to frequent arctic air outbreaks traveling over an 'open' Lake Michigan... resulting in more frequent lake effect snow events. The unofficial total for South Bend's snowfall last winter was 109.2 inches. Remember, it was unofficial due to missing airport data. Here's a complete look back from the National Weather Service on last winter for SBN & Fort Wayne:

More things to take out of this: the is not just 'A' polar vortex. There are two forever cyclonically rotating around Earth. They are flowing way high up in the atmosphere... almost completely free of friction to stop it. Our more familiar one over the North Pole and a second over the South Pole. There's also a polar vortex over the north pole of Saturn AND the south pole of Saturn... and Jupiter... and Neptune... and every planet. The only rule is that the plant needs an atmosphere. No wind... no polar vortex. Very simply again, it is just caused by the planet balancing out the heat budget from the equator to the poles of the planet... it's totally a normal thing. It's not weird.

Courtesy NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Obtains Best Views of Saturn Hexagon 'Polar Vortex'

So there you have it. An overused term that brought memes, the 'Winter Misery Index' and countless misrepresentations. I guess, here we go again. The polar vortex will soon weaken this week... leading to Michiana temps only in the low to mid 30s for highs and lows in the 20s. This may even lead to some lake effect snow flurries and showers. Here's our extended forecast:

Stay warm & stay safe,


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Weather Pet Peeves

1 - Saying any of the following: "thundershowers," "tornado on the ground," "frontal boundary."

1 (continued) - Instead say: "thunderstorms," "tornado," "front OR boundary."

2 - Using a 'storm track' feature on your RADAR to follow rain/snow or even NOTHING when it is clearly not a storm. No crying wolf allowed...or rename your storm track 'anything track'...or something.

3 - Superfluous Adjectives or Nouns for naming extreme 'SUPERSTORM,' 'SNOWPOCALYPSE,' or 'SNOWMAGEDDON.'

4 - Describing temperature as HOT or Cold. We're all guilty of this one.

5 - Storm Chasers that are out chasing for any reason other than research. People with a camera give the storm chasing community a bad name now. Be safe...find cover...let's do more stories on those people setting an example. Tornadoes surprise.

This is all I can think of on the top of my it's time for a relaxing Saturday...whoop, whoop!

Let's build a brighter, more meteorologically intellectual community. I implore the best weather 'jargoner' you can be! Vote for correct weather terminology 2014! You sir and madam, can do it too!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Will El Niño or La Niña be around for us through next year? It's NOT looking too great for Either...

There's still plenty of summer left...but are you interested to see if there's an early handle on what this WINTER may look like for Michiana? If we'll see more than our average snowfall in South Bend (81.8" per year with the highest annual amount being 172" in 1977-78!)...or less (lowest being 23.2" in 1948-49)...or do we not have a handle on it yet?

The Climate Prediction Center  recently came out with a report saying that El Nino and La Nina will play little or even no roll in the global weather pattern through at least the end 2013. "Neutral" conditions look LIKELY through the end of the year...and they could continue right into the summer of 2014. That means neither a La Nina nor El Nino pattern will develop. Both of which play major roles on the weather patterns across the U.S. and the entire world for that matter.

The graph below shows the ENSO (El Nino/ Southern Oscillation Index)forecast computer models that the Climate Prediction Center can use to help base their forecast. It is a number that goes either above or below zero and it represents whether the world is in El Nino, La Nina, or in a neutral stage. A neutral forecast is represented by the index not  going outside of .5°C from either side of zero. If the computer models have the ENSO diving into the negative numbers, that's considered La Nina with a -3° or lower considered to be a strong La Nina. The same can be said for El Nino which would be a positive number over .5°C with a strong El Nino above 3°.

All of these forecasting models place the ENSO within the half degree mark area
What does this mean for us? Well honestly, not much. What this does is basically makes it harder to predict long-term weather patterns like lake effect snow systems impacting the great lakes. In case you're wondering...La Nina patterns typically produce MORE lake effect snow events with cool air diving SE with a strong jet stream over the Great Lakes. 

At this point...with the amount of data we have taken from the global circulation...we can at least have a handle on the seasonal forecast for both a La Nina and La Nino. It's really up in the air if it's neutral. For example with El Nino, the southern U.S. will typically see above average rainfall while the northern U.S. will see below average precipitation. HOWEVER, that's not always the case. We use this index as a rule of thumb for climate, long-term forecasting due to typical patterns over long term data sets.  Here is a peek at some of the "typical" conditions during both of these phases across North America.

More Info: South Bend climate history:

But for those impatient readers...who must have an answer now. Here is what the 2014 Farmer's Almanac thinks: 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How A Broadcaster Should Take Care of Their Throat

You work on air and you can't speak. What do you do so the viewers won't cringe at hearing your voice!? You're on air in an hour and you need a break now. Well...I've compiled a detailed list of items that personally help me (and what you should stay away from). I also found a number of remedies toward the bottom if you need to work with a sore throat.
BREAK A LEG!                                                   



Pineapple Juice
I know, right? Don’t be so surprised. Far and away, the best choice available. Doesn't matter if it’s room temp or a bit chilled, but nothing cold. And nothing with chunks in it, those can make you cough. Pineapple juice is slick, it will instantly moisten your throat, wet your tongue – and cause you to salivate, which is the best lubrication you can find. 1 glass per show, a sip or two during breaks, that’s all you need. Remember, you’re just lubricating, not quenching thirst. Do not go overboard with pineapple juice, you will spend the next morning in the bathroom. Crazy as pineapple juice sounds, it’s the best thing you can use.

Strawberry Juice
I don’t go out of my way to get this one, but if I can’t get my hands on pineapple juice this will do in a pinch. It can be grainy, so just sip. SIP. It will also cause you to salivate, and it will make your mouth very slick. Again, don’t overdo it.

And by this, I mean pure honey. Not honey mixed in with some silly tea. If your throat really gets it, you can carry a small squeezable tube of honey around with you and use a tiny bit as needed. Salivation is instant and that’s what it’s all about.

Again, the real olive, not olive oil, though I suppose that would work in a pinch. Just nibble (NIBBLE) at one until your throat feels nice and wet.


It's the biggest lie of them all. Of course you need water…you need to live after all. But for keeping your voice in tip top shape for on-air work…there is nothing worse than water for many people; and that’s exactly why you see people drinking lots of it – it doesn’t make anything slick, it only moistens for the amount of time it’s in your mouth. In fact, nothing makes you more aware of a dry throat than water that’s just gone down it. A good lubricant LASTS. It’s not something you have to repeat several times a song. And it's not something you should even need to be thinking about more than a couple of times a set.

Tea is no different than water (unless worse counts), and nothing in throat coat tea is any more helpful than regular water. I should say, unless it is a throat lubricating tea. There are many herbal teas that are made to help your throat…especially if its sore or if you try to work while sick. Otherwise, the high temp can help a little, but you might as well just be taking hot water up there if that’s what it’s doing for you. And yes, I’ve done the hot water thing when there is nothing else I could get my hands on. It works, if only somewhat. You also need to watch out for caffeinated tea…if you can’t handle caffeine before you’re on air, you’ll be bouncing everywhere while on the air.

Milk…especially with warm milk is great when you mix in honey with other natural throat lubricating ingredients. This one is more mental. By that I mean, a lot people think their throat gets full of mucus when they drink milk. There is no study that backs that up. It’s in your head. But it would still be a good idea to drink pineapple juice instead.

Beer is about the same as milk – do not drink this within 5 hours of on-air work. If you’re a lush and can’t face the camera (you can probably guess from my tone I don't approve of this), take ONE shot of liquor, and then take pineapple juice up there with you. No beer, it hurts your voice whether you know it or not.

What if I’m sick or My Throat Hurts….and I still have to drag my butt to work (you usually do)…?
 Sore throats can be nasty. It makes speaking difficult and eating as well as drinking undesirable. With so many rushing down the store aisles seeking instant relief, we seem to miss out on the home remedies we can use to ease our pain and get us back into the swing of things. Here are some common and not so common remedies to get you started.

1. Avoid Dairy & Sugar. This is important because liquids like milk will make you think that you're increasing mucus production while sugary snacks feed bacteria. Doing this in combination with other remedies will shorten the life of a sore throat.

2. Tea Remedy. Purchase a natural herbal remedy from your local nutrition store and once hot, mix with lemon and honey.

3. Salt. A more known remedy is this one involving a mix of warm water and salt. Once prepared it's gargled periodically.

4. Mango. That's right. This fruit tastes great and is good for you too. By grinding the bark for fluid, a mango can be gargled with water and served as beverage for relief from a sore throat.

5. Apple Cider Vinegar Gargle. If you've never tasted Apple Cider Vinegar or ACV then you are in for a surprise. I won't spoil it for you. All you need is one tbs to a cup of hot water and there's your gargle.

6. Garlic Tea. I can go on and on about the benefits of garlic. It has an antiseptic effect that can cure viral and bacterial sore throats. You can prepare the tea by boiling water adding small to medium sized pieces to the brew. Set aside and drink while still warm.

7. Cranberry Juice with or without Lemonade. I know some that swear to this little trick and claim proven fast results. If you are a fan of cranberries, it's worth checking out.

8. Ginger Tea. Add about 1 cup of Ginger to 1 gallon of Water and boil. Then add about 1/2 tsp of Cayenne Pepper. Use this as your base and refrigerate for later. When you're ready to warm it up and drink add about 1/2 a lemon and 1tsp of honey. Then enjoy.

9. Peanut Butter. Who knew that peanut butter would actually be good for sore throats. But to the surprise of many, it is. Try a spoonful and you're bound to feel better. Also...try to get all natural peanut butter. Avoid the JIFF that's packed full of sugar.

10. Milk. This is an old Russian remedy. Warm up a glass of milk and a tsp of butter, honey, and a pinch of sugar. It tastes good and it soothes you.

11. Listerine. If you gargle some Listerine as far back as you can without swallowing it, it does relieve almost if not all of the pain and soreness from your throat.

12. Lemonade. Boil some Lemonade on the stove. Then let it sit just long enough for you to stand it. Then drink
13. Candy Cane Tea. This remedy is great for little ones. Take a candy cane and place it into a pot of boiling water. Cook it until it completely dissolves. Then once it's cool enough pour in glass and drink. It's yummy and it works.

14. Buttermilk. If you can stomach it, you may find some relief. Gargling cultured buttermilk has been used to aid in getting rid of a sore throat.