Week Rumblings (Sept 18, 2013)

Cardboard skies have given way to a beautiful Wednesday heading into what looks like a dreary end of the week. This doesn’t necessarily include the weekend.

Thursday will be hot and humid with thunderstorms likely on Friday as we will reside in the ‘warm sector’ of a mid-latitude cyclone. The warm sector is a region of warm moist air that is located between the associated warm front and cold front of a low pressure system. Typically, the warm sector is a nice place to look for thunderstorm development as the cold front sweeps behind acting as a lifting mechanism. This will be the case on Thursday with hot and humid conditions in place, and an increased chance of thunder on Friday when the cold front moves through.

Forcasted surface map for Thursday evening showing Michigan in the warm sector behind the red warm-front, and blue cold-front.

Forecasted surface map for Thursday evening showing Michigan in the warm sector behind the red warm-front, and blue cold-front following for Friday.

Cooler and drier air will move in for the weekend as the cold front wipes this mess clean. An area of high pressure will dominate this weekend bringing temperatures in the mid 60s and clear skies to the area.

Tropical weather is off to a slow start as Tropical Storm Humberto wanders along disorganized out in the Atlantic. Humberto is expected to remain a Tropical Storm, and take a journey northward. A broad region of low pressure over the Yucatán Peninsula looks promising, but remains plagued by its own disorganization. As this area moves north and west, it is expected to achieve depression status, but this is over the next 48 hours.

In the Eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Manuel is docking along the Baja peninsula. Manuel is actually on the weather map above painted as a Tropical Depression in the coming days.


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!

S’all Fun and Games…Until the Power Goes Out

You tend to laugh at things when you’re so high above they pose no threat. I try not to, but we all do it.

Last week’s heat became real, when a strong complex of storms dropped power to the house and plenty of other people (close to 170,000). Some lost it Tuesday evening with storms, others in my case were in the dark early Thursday morning when a specifically strong storm with 60mph+ winds romped through from Central to SE Michigan.

It was the 1am ‘glance at radar before bed’ that made me churn out a few more hours of consciousness. Originally, I just wanted the storm to move in camera range to catch some distant lightning. As the camera shot a time-lapse, I noted the storm strengthening well and decided to ride it out and watch. I hoped it would scrape just north so we would miss a deluge of rain, but that went down the pipes as outflow caused development on the side of the storm and it eventually hit. This meant I needed to stop the camera since weather proofing only goes so far, and mine isn’t even considered weather proof. Did get these before it opened up:

And while it opened up:

Power flickered, and went out. At the time the worst thing on my mind was the weather station not reporting data to the masses! Because everyone does that, right? Since power was gone for a day and a half, I had to wait to see the differences and backlog to wunderground when I got the chance. Here is a snapshot from the software with assorted variables checked off. It’s a little busy, will need to find a good balance down the road.

Line chart showing the first power outage storm at 4:30am on July 5th, and a second round at 2:30pm. I goofed up this one, forgot to put in temperature measurement.

With the hot temperatures, we were sure to break some records right? Yup, we did, since right around 1936. The NWS Grand Rapids office has a pretty good wrap up of the event if you want to check it out.

Summer Slaps In

Top of the month of July to you.

Thursday brought the heat. While my station topped out at just over 98F, stations near Detroit did hit the triple digits. Heat indices were easily into the lower 100s across much of central and southern lower Michigan. I hit 105F.

I took some time to look up some climate information, since we seem to be a little off track this year. A quick glance at these graphs from the NWS in Grand Rapids, shows Lansing precipitation levels in 2012 a shy bug compared to 2011’s deluge. Also, you can see the unpredictable March temperatures. This year we had our heat spike into the lower 80s, last year it was a plummet into the lower 20s/teens. If you’re interested in viewing other years, check out this page.

Annual temperature/precipitation for 2011 in Lansing, MI.

The dry has been apparent. Our rough 3 inch deficit has burnt grass to a crisp and left some streams aching for life. What causes our dry spells? Some blocking features contribute to the dry weather by forcing the jet stream and other components out of our region and this complicates chances of rain. I will need to look into this further.

Below is a map of how far off we are from ‘normal’ precipitation for the month of June. Much of southern lower Michigan is in an area where just 5%-25% of normal rain measurements have been met.

Friday brought to life an interesting weather feature. Derechoes are long-lived convective systems that move fast, and provide high straight-line winds. This derecho was indeed long-lived as the path included the photo below, and eventually went out to DC. The sky was dark enough to be storm threatening from 2 counties north. A thorough review of this event can be found here including CAPE, CIN, and weather balloon analysis(oh goodie).

The outlook continues to be warm. High temps this week will remain in the lower to mid 90s. At least through mid-week, we carry a chance for thunderstorms. So perhaps some of the drought threats will be quenched, at least locally. Best chance looks to be Tuesday when a short-wave disturbance tries to fire some showers and storms.