Dangerous Air For North Texas

July 31, 2005 at 9:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Air Pollution Watch was at LEVEL RED on Sunday and that has now been extended into Monday from late morning through early evening. In other words, once the sun starts cooking in North Texas, the air becomes very unhealthy.

The problem is ground level ozone. Pollutants, but mainly exhaust from our cars have a chemical reaction with the sun and with the lack of wind, this ozone gets trapped down near the surface where we live.

It makes sense that the afternoon rush hour is especially bad given the sunlight and heat, and the amount of cars on the road.

Most at risk are very young children and the elderly; but especially those with respiratory problems. Staying in air conditioned places is best during the afternoon hours.

When we are at LEVEL ORANGE, we tell healthy people that being outside is not dangerous, but on Monday, even people in peak health should be careful during the day. For those healthy people who want to be outdoors for exercise, the early morning or after sunset is recommended.
And because of the relationship between population and driving, the counties closest to and including the metroplex are affected; those farther away from Dallas and Fort Worth do not have to worry about air quality as much.

One final way to help…Fill up your car’s gas tank after sunset and don’t top your tank off. The reason…the heat evaporates gas; bad for the air and costly to your wallets.

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Drought Update

July 29, 2005 at 11:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Everyone knows that this has been a very dry year, especially in comparison to 2004, which was so very rainy. Last year we received 47.57 inches of rain at DFW Airport; almost 13 inches above normal.

But this year has been a different story. Here at the end of July, we have received only 13.91 inches of rain so far. That is a full 7 inches below the average rainfall of 20.91 inches from January through July. And the dry weather is having noticeable effects. I was walking my dog this week and noticed a number of large cracks in the parched lawns in my neighborhood. And of course, farmers and ranchers are having a much rougher time. In fact, the National Weather Service now describes north Texas as being in an “Extreme Drought”. Here is a link to a map of the Drought Index across the country: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

The only good news is that although soils are very dry, the major lakes haven’t yet had any disastrous drop in lake level. That’s because all of the lakes were overflowing last winter after the very wet 2004. That means we have so far avoided major water restrictions. But if we don’t see the rain situation improve soon, the lakes will drop more rapidly, and we could see water rationing become more widespread in the weeks to come. And of course, until we get some significant rains, virtually all of north Texas will remain under outdoor burn bans.

Home Is Where The Heart Is

July 27, 2005 at 8:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s no secret that I am “not from here.” I grew up in New Jersey, went to school at Rutgers and have spent a good chunk of my adult life working in the big, east-coast cities of New York and Philly.
I moved here almost two years ago and I guess it’s okay to admit it now…I didn’t exactly have an easy transition to this part of the country. Any move is a big move, but this one involved a new culture, new towns and new weather concepts that I “heard” about it college, but never really got to experience as a person, let alone as someone on television trying to explain the science to someone else.
I was stubborn and tired and worn-down and longing for “home,” the place I grew up. The place where I was at ease and plugged-in. It’s tough to like a place when you don’t accept that you really live there or when you keep thinking about another place you’d rather be.
But over the last year and a half, that has slowly changed. Becoming more comfortable with the area has made my job easier and that has allowed me to begin to take in the Texas that exists once I leave the NBC studios. My life outside of work can now move forward. I can now appreciate where I am instead of being overwhelmed by it.
This all came to fruition and was solidified a few weeks back. I was sent on an assignment to Birmingham, Alabama for Hurricane Dennis. Let me begin by saying that I had a blast. I met some wonderful people and worked with some real weather and news pros. They were warm and talented and appreciated the help I was there to provide. Normally, when I’m out of town, it’s for fun or pleasure, and not work; so this was very different. Sitting at the Birmingham airport was the first time I had my “Texas Epiphany.” I actually wanted to come back to DFW; I actually wanted to come “home.” It wasn’t because Birmingham was bad in any way. It was because for the first time it hit me that Texas is home. Maybe I’ll be here till tomorrow, maybe for the rest of my life; but right now, it is home. It is where I’ve met amazing people and learned about a part of the country most New Yorkers don’t care to see. It’s where the job is challenging and the viewers demand the very best in weather forecasting. And it’s a place where I live my life, not missing other places, but where I’m content and comfortable.
I was telling this story to Chief Meteorologist David Finfrock, and with the proudest smile he kind of hugged me and said, “So you finally like Texas!” Yes, I do. (For the record, I never actually DIS-liked Texas, but I didn’t consider it home either.)
David told me I should share this story with our viewers.
I know I talk fast, and I know that I can never lose the “east coast” in my personality, but I do feel like I’m home.
Thanks for listening and welcoming me…oh, and enjoy today’s cool down…you know that Texas summer heat…

Update on Last Week’s Strange Clouds

July 26, 2005 at 1:42 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sundogs and haloes are rather common. But what we saw last Thursday was entirely different. And I was having trouble coming up with a compelling answer as to what might have caused those strange colorful clouds.

So I wrote Les Cowley, an expert in atmospheric optical phenomena. I sent him some of our viewers’ amazing photographs. And he finally gave me a definitive answer to what those strange clouds were:
“The colors are fragments of an ice halo called a circumhorizon arc. The arc is formed by sunlight refracted through horizontal hexagonal plate shaped ice crystals in high cirrus cloud.
More about circumhorizon arcs at:
http://www.sundog.clara.co.uk/halo/cha.htm
They can only be seen in summer around noon when the sun is very high in the sky.
Les Cowley
Atmospheric Optics”

I knew the photos couldn’t be of a circumzenithal arc, because the sun was too high in the sky for that to be possible. I have to admit, I had never before even heard of a circumhorizon arc. But we finally have an answer. And I learned something new! So check out the link that Les gave us, and learn more for yourselves.

Strange Colorful Clouds

July 22, 2005 at 1:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

If you were outside in Fort Worth early Thursday afternoon, you may have witnessed a very strange phenomenon in the sky overhead. Some of the clouds became a shimmering, irridescent, and very colorful display.

If, like me, you missed it, you have a second chance. We have 10 images of the cloud from different viewers in a slideshow, at: http://www.nbc5i.com/weather/4753431/detail.html

Upon seeing the photos, my first thought was that it was related to some type of parhelia, or sun dog. These are phenomena that occur as the result of sunlight being refracted by the ice crystals in cirrus clouds. In fact it looks somewhat like photos of something called a circumzenithal arc. Check out the following links:
http://www.sundog.clara.co.uk/halo/cza.htm
http://www.sundog.clara.co.uk/halo/czaim1.htm
But a circumzenithal arc only occurs when the sun is at 32 degrees or less above the horizon. And at midday on a July afternoon in Texas, the sun is much higher than that. So that possibility seems to be ruled out.

One viewer suggested that the colors may have been due to a “fuel dump” from an aircraft. The possible spray of aircraft fuel might indeed have contributed to the prismatic effect, much like oil droplets glistens on a water surface. But we have no data to back up that hypthesis. So for now the details remain a mystery, although it almost certainly was some kind of optical effect of sunlight refracting through cloud ice crystals.

Here are a number of other links with more general information, and some spectacular photos of some of the other various types of parhelia and other atmospheric optical phenomena:
http://www.sundog.clara.co.uk/atoptics/phenom.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_pillar
http://www.w7ftt.net/sundog1.html
http://asuaf.org/~johnc/SunHalos.html
http://www.photoastronomique.net/photo_us.php?nom=0408100082

HEAT ADVISORIES IN EFFECT TODAY AND TOMORROW

July 21, 2005 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dallas and Tarrant counties are under heat advisories today and tomorrow. Heat advisories are issued by the National Weather Service when afternoon temperatures soar, heat indices reach 105 or hotter, AND when overnight low temperatures do not cool below 80. Outside of Dallas and Tarrant counties, it will still feel as hot as 105+ in the afternoon, but temperatures in these areas will drop below 80 at night, therefore you are not under heat advisories.

All of North Texans need to be prepared for the heat: take plenty of water breaks when working outdoors, use sunscreen and spend as much time as you can in the shade.

Our next “best” chance for rain will be next Tuesday.

Hurricane Emily Nearing Landfall Sunday Night

July 18, 2005 at 2:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hurricane Emily is a monster storm. Saturday evening, Emily’s winds were up to 155mph (one mile per hour shy of category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). The storm will make landfall on Sunday evening near Cozumel and Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It will make landfall as a category 4 storm and may provide up to a foot of rain to some areas; and a coastal storm surge of up to 12 feet above normal.

Emily may lose some strength over land, but will re-emerge in the Gulf of Mexico and gain power as it moves toward Texas for mid-week. Current forecast tracks take the storm south of Brownsville. If the track goes further north, Corpus Christi and Brownsville could take a direct hit, but at this point, it looks like the eye will miss Texas. But as the eye goes to the south, it creates a huge on-shore flow for the southern Texas coast and that means coastal flooding.

At this point, it looks like North Texas will miss out on some very beneficial rains from the remnants of Emily. A few storms are possible, but the bulk of the moisture will slide across Mexico then up toward the four-corners region of the United States; too far to the west to bring us the precipiation that we need.

A Rainy Surprise

July 8, 2005 at 3:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wednesday evening, I expected the approaching storm complex, moving down from the Texas Panhandle, to weaken and dissipate before reaching the Metroplex. But by 10 am on Thursday, I was proved wrong as heavy rain and lightning moved into our area. Obviously this upper level impulse was stronger than those of the previous nights. But I certainly couldn’t tell that last night. And I wasn’t alone. Here is the Forecast Discussion from the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth, issued at 4:02 am, just a few hours before the MCS (Mesoscale Convective System) arrived:

DISCUSSION…402 AM MCS WILL MOVE THROUGH THE NORTHWEST COUNTIES THIS MORNING WITH SOME SKIRTING THE WESTERN METROPLEX AND MOVING SOUTH OF I-20 BEFORE MIDDAY. DOUBT IF THIS SYSTEM WILL BE ABLE TO HOLD TOGETHER AFTER LATE MORNING…THUS ONLY CHANCE POPS FOR THIS AFTERNOON. ALSO… HAVE ADJUSTED MAX TEMPS DOWNWARD A LITTLE OVER THE WESTERN COUNTIES FOR TODAY. ELSEWHERE… TEMPS WILL BE ABOUT LIKE THEY HAVE BEEN FOR THE PAST FEW DAYS.
AVIATION DISCUSSION…MCS CONTINUES TO WEAKEN AS IT MOVES SOUTHEAST. IR AND MOSAIC REFLECTIVITY BOTH SHOW A RAPID DISSIPATION OF CELLS JUST SOUTHWEST OF CHILDRESS. WE DON’T THINK THE MCS WILL HAVE ANY REAL IMPACT ON THE METROPLEX AIRPORTS. AM A LITTLE CONCERNED ABOUT SHOWERS ON THE PERIPHERY OF THE COMPLEX FROM ABOUT GAINESVILLE TO DENTON. THESE SHOWERS ARE MOVING SOUTH AND SHOULD REACH DFW AND DAL OVER THE NEXT HOUR. THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW LIGHTING STRIKES…BUT OVERALL IMPACTS SHOULD BE MINIMAL. AFTER MID AND HIGH CLOUDS MOVE THROUGH THIS MORNING…ONLY SCATTERED CIRRUS SHOULD PREVAIL THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING.

At 4 am on Thursday, the weather service was still expecting little chance of rain, and temperatures in the 90’s. So I guess I don’t feel so bad about my forecast. And to tell you the truth, I was happy to be wrong this time. We really needed the rain.

Fast Start to the Hurricane Season

July 7, 2005 at 1:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s just the first week of July, and already our fourth named storm of the season has developed. That is a record for the earliest we have ever seen four tropical storms in the Atlantic/Caribbean basin.

But Dennis isn’t just a tropical storm. Wednesday afternoon, it reached hurricane strength. And it looks like there is a lot more strengthening still to come. Tropical Storm Cindy never got above 70 mph winds before it moved onshore in SE Louisiana and Mississippi Wednesday morning. But Dennis has already reached 80 mph. And it is forecast to grow to a a Category 3 hurricane, with winds between 110 and 130 mph before it reaches the US coast. First, it will strike Jamaica on Thursday, and then Cuba Friday. There is still a lot of uncertainty this far out. But by Sunday or Monday, Dennis will likely move ashore somewhere from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle. And it will be a major hurricane by then.

If the hurricane moves along the westernmost portion of the forecast track, and moves into coastal Louisiana, then there is a possibility that it could bring some much-needed soaking rains to parts of eastern Texas. But it is probably more likely that Dennis will strike the coast somewhere farther east, between New Orleans and Pensacola. Needless to say, Dennis will be watched very closely in the coming days.

Hottest Day In Nearly Two Years…

July 3, 2005 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday’s high temperature at DFW Airport was 102 degrees; the hottest so far is 2005. This is the second time we’ve hit the triple digits this year…That means we’ve already seen more 100 degree heat this year than all of last summer then we only hit 100 once, on July 16th.

Sunday also marks the hottest day in North Texas since August 18th of 2003.

The other major problem is the humidity. Heat indeces approached 110 degrees on Sunday afternoon making the outdoors uncomfortable and dangerous. Near 100 degree heat will continue over the next five days and heat advisories are very likely.

Throughout the week, there is a very slight chance of a few very isolated storms from time to time. No heavy rain is in the forecast, but a cooling shower may pop up before the week is done.

We hope everyone enjoys the rest of the holiday weekend.

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