Hop on the Spring Swing

Pretty interesting Spring we’ve had. With record snows in the Midwest and Plains during May, a well below average tornado count, and local heavy rains creating record river crests; this Spring continues to surprise and add variety.

What started out as nice spring showers, added up to become a spring surplus of water in major streams and rivers across central and southern lower Michigan. I witnessed the Chippewa River through Mount Pleasant crest at 10.46′ on April 19. The ASOS station at Mount Pleasant Airport (KMOP) recorded 2.57″ of rain that week, after a previous deluge of 3.02″ the week before. Combine this rainfall over a generous portion of Michigan and river banks are going to be tested. This event was #10 on a list of historical crests of the Chippewa River below Mt. Pleasant. Here is a list of the other 9 that out-measured 2013’s event. (USGS) A few photos of a night time trip to Island Park can be found on my Flickr page, or the sidebar.

Historical top-10 Chippewa River crests through Mt. Pleasant.

Historical top-10 Chippewa River crests through Mt. Pleasant.

This was only locally. The big headlines were in southwestern Michigan and east central Michigan. Saginaw County, MI declared a State of Emergency on April 24th with waters flooding much of the low lying farmland and residential areas. The Saginaw flooding is perhaps the most recognizable on the below loop I made from the Aqua polar orbiting satellite. A large hole of water appears near Saginaw, MI. Also note areas of lake ice that have been reduced, as well as increased spring foliage.

 photo 2013riverflooding2_zpsd3c91872.gif

Before and after false color Aqua satellite images. (SSEC, MODIS Today)

Other comparison images can be found on NASA’s Earth Observatory website: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=80977&src=eorss-nh

To the southwest, the Grand River flows east/west. This also was newsworthy as river levels broke records in Grand Rapids. There were some amazing photos taken in comparison, and in astonishment. Some downtown businesses had water up to the windows. At times the windows resembled aquarium tanks with fish checking out the strange invisible walls.

grandrivcrest

Historical top-10 Grand River crests through Grand Rapids, MI.

Dave Guthrie compares the flooding to a previous photo he took of downtown Grand Rapids.

Rough week in the Plains, I’m sure may of you have heard. One of the reasons I took interest in the weather was being afraid of it at a young age. Soon curiosity grew, and I wanted to find out how this force of nature was formed. Thus began this journey. It is times like these I am reminded that the weather I love to learn about can rear a really ugly face now and again.

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Springing Along

The past few weeks have proved a questionable spring. Temps failing to reach 60, frozen precipitation, a sun missing in action….can’t rely on Midwest weather to be on a consistent time-table.

At least two of these mentioned will be absent this week. Perhaps the most justifying, rain and warmer weather will arrive.

Rain is no stranger so far this Spring. A nice dose of 2+ inches across the region last week has us well above normal for the year(yellow line). Rain is again in the forecast for the week. Rainmakers will appear on Monday/Monday Night, as well as heading into Thursday when conditions may threaten for some severe weather along the Michigan/Ohio border. This will need to be looked at as the week progresses. Through next Saturday, a good two inches of rain could fall in already saturated areas, so flooding will again be possible.

Grand Rapids climate graph of 2013 so far.

Grand Rapids climate graph of 2013 so far.

At least the precipitation will be in liquid form. Sleet was reported in southern Michigan on Sunday, and Central Michigan University campus had a delayed start on Friday thanks to a sleet/freezing rain combination Thursday evening. That event may have been worse had the days leading up to the storm not been above freezing. Ground warmth did a good job at fighting off ice accumulation on surfaces. Trees don’t harbor this ability as well, and ice on the branches was evident while out and about on Friday.

Warm weather will filter into the region with our rain producing pattern. A ridge will amplify over the Midwest, and the warm air will be allowed to travel north. However, with that transport is the mentioned moisture. Temperatures will start in the lower 60s for Monday, and top out in the mid/upper 60s on Thursday. Once we have our stormy day on Thursday, the associated cold front and trough will bring in some cooler spring air, but still above freezing during the day. Yay progress! Hang in there!

Severe Weather Tips

As daylight becomes longer and temperatures get warmer, we move into our yearly cycle of weather changes. Snowstorms become rain and thunderstorms, and there is plenty to take note of as we head into another year of severe weather.

As produced by National Weather Service offices around Michigan, April 7-13 is Severe Weather Awareness week!

Earlier in March, I was remembering the unique events that launched Spring 2012 into a craze. We had record temps into the 80s, and multiple tornadoes tear across eastern Michigan. It was a very interesting start to the year, and it kept you on your toes for forecasting and figuring out just what the heck is going on up there! While Spring 2013 is moving in like a lamb, that lion could be waiting right around the corner, and being prepared is a priority.

Greg’s Tips for Severe Weather

NOAA Weather Radio
This is the single most valuable thing you can have for warning during a stormy day! We absorb weather through many sources these days; internet, TV, radio, word of mouth. When the winds start brewing and the power goes out, many of these reliable sources are cut down. Even if you have a backup generator, chances are your media services(internet/cable TV) will not be powered in your area. Having a battery-powered weather radio can keep you up to the minute warnings and weather information. The warning signal usually beats web updates by a few minutes as well. Weather Radios are also a hero at night if the house is asleep and dangerous weather is near. Keep them charged with batteries nearby!

Know Your Surroundings
This goes along great with the weather radio. While forecasters may get as specific as calling out road names and cities where the storms are near, you should also know the County names surrounding your location. Storms typically move West to East, sometimes SW to NE, sometimes NW to SE. Bottom line, know where you are relative to where the storm is. If you think a dangerous storm is going to miss you, do not take it for granted. Supercell thunderstorms are known to waver on path, and sometimes can change direction. Be prepared for anything!

Skywarn Classes (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/skywarn/)
These are great chances to learn about weather a little more in detail, and refined to severe weather scenarios. They are free, and usually run by a few forecasters from your local NWS office. That means they are run by the folks that track and watch for storms on a daily basis and know what to look for. You will go over everything from how to report weather threats to authorities, to determining if that ominous dark cloud is a wall cloud or shelf cloud(important!). Usually there is a great Spotter’s Field Guide that is handed out for quick reference, there is an online PDF version available here. Once you have learned this material, you become a very valuable resource to forecasting as you are an eye witness to the weather in your area. As useful as that is, always make sure your safety is first! NEVER put yourself in danger to get a report.

Know Your Clouds
As mentioned previously, knowing the difference between clouds can mean loads for the weather to expect. Low flying scud could prompt you to call it a wall cloud(precursor to tornadoes), but is that cloud rotating as well? Is is attached to the base of cloud above it? How about those shelf clouds that take up the entire horizon? Much of this is detailed in the Skywarn classes, but this is something that can help you out in a fix, and impress others.

Wall Cloud SE of Mount Pleasant, MI

Example of a wall cloud just SE of CMU campus back in May 2011.

Heed Warnings
“Yea, that storm is way far from my house, I don’t need to pay attention.” Always take note of Watches/Warnings. Along those lines, know the difference between a Watch and a Warning.

Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Tornado Watches mean conditions in the atmosphere are favorable for that type of weather to develop, so be ready for storms later in the day, or within the next couple hours.

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and Tornado Warnings mean a severe storm has been spotted/identified, and is tracking along the specified path.  Take appropriate action immediately if you are in the track of the storm.

Again,
Watches = be ready for storms soon/later in the day
Warnings = take action immediately if you are identified in the path of a storm

A disclaimer I must make about the blog; Greg’s Weather Blog is not a good source for immediate severe weather forecasting! Please do not rely on this page for up to the minute information on storms! Head to http://www.weather.gov for that, and type in your Zip Code to find yourself quickly and any Watches/Warnings that are in effect.

Take care out there!

Progressing through Spring

Finals week at Central Michigan, the busiest I’ve seen 7:30 am all semester.

My recent absence has been credited to studying, but we all need a break when equations, words, and sense that just doesn’t want to fit in your head anymore. Cleaned out two exams today, Cloud Physics, and Uni Physics 2. Yea,  it was a physical day. Recent learning in cloud physics had to do with cloud electrification (lightning), which was fascinating to reinforce and learn about. Another highlight was how squall lines are fueled by a rear inflow jet, and how storms will tilt given wind shear and a developing cold pool beneath the storm. To help learn, I drew a model of the process on our dorm room white board for the past week. Would say it paid off today.

Spring has been a ride so far. From the mid 80s in March, to almost constant  Freeze Warnings at night since. Daytime temps have run a good course. In the short term, I’m looking at the chance for some thunder come Wednesday.

What we get Wed/Wed night, will be left over convective cells from the Upper Midwest the same day. Perhaps by the time they reach us it will just be stratiform embedded thunderstorms, but Lake Michigan sometimes has a way with passing thunderstorms.

Another headline for the week will be the rising temperatures. As fronts shift, warm air will be brought in and a mid 80 reading for Thursday is not out of the question. Days surrounding will be in the 70s respectively. Lovely weather outdoors, just what I need to get some studying done!

A weak line of storms passed a few weeks ago and delivered some decent lightning. Moved some furniture around in the room and got some great shots! Just wish the window bar wasn’t there!

Sparkly streak connects in the distance.

Same spot?

Will have some more up on Flickr shortly. For any camera buffs out there: Shooting 6″ exposures, f/5.6, ISO-100. Used the kit 18-55mm lens on my T2i. Some adjustments were made in Lightroom, mainly for cropping.