Monday, April 14, 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse Information

Photo Credit: George Tucker
Late tonight, actually early tomorrow morning, a TOTAL Lunar Eclipse will happen that will be visible to Region 8, if we can get the clouds out of here in time! Here are the times you need to know. Al times are CENTRAL DAYLIGHT TIME:
  • 12:58 am- the shadow of the Earth starts to go over the full moon.
  • 2:46 am- the moon is completely covered by the Earth's shadow and takes on a red glow by the light illuminated by the Earth's atmosphere.
  • 4:33 am- The eclipse ends and we have a full moon again.
We are hoping that the clouds will be gone in time to see the entire eclipse. StormCAST is looking good so far! Here is StormCAST at 11:30 PM as the clouds move out of Region 8. Notice that some parts of the SEMO and areas along the Mississippi River may still have some clouds:
By mid eclipse, we should all be clear:
Let's hope that the weather cooperates, because this could be one of the coolest things to see in the sky this year. If you want to learn more about a total lunar eclipse, watch this video:

Thursday, April 03, 2014

A SPC High or KAIT High?

When it snows, we make a forecast map showing the accumulation that we think will occur. We adjust it between shifts and make changes based on the latest data. We look at the National Weather Service's forecast to get their thinking and may or may not incorporate their thoughts into our forecast. We do not simply take their forecast and broadcast it to the viewers. We are fortunate to have some great people at the NWS offices that cover Region 8 and it's great to get their opinions on winter storms and severe storms.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we are going to try to become more intentional on making forecasts that make sense to the viewers. I want maps that my kids can understand. If my kids can understand them, then most of our viewers will be able to understand them.

I say all of this to address the thunderstorm outlook for today. The Storm Prediction Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, issues thunderstorm outlooks. They issue 1, 2, 3, and 4-7 day outlooks. They use the terminology "see text", "slight", "moderate", and "high" to communicate the threats. The probabilities of severe weather dictate whether it is a slight, moderate, or high risk. The confusing part to the viewer is that these corresponding probablities differ from Day 1, 2, and 3. To add to the confusion, they are soon breaking the terms into more categories including marginal, slight, enhanced, moderate, and high. Here are some charts explaining the changes. Click to enlarge:
Now, let's have some real talk. If I asked most of our viewers if an enhanced risk of thunderstorms or moderate risk of thunderstorms was worse, most would not know. Heck, I'm not sure I would remember! Do you know what you and most of our viewers will understand, including kids? Low, medium, and high (and occasionally extreme):
So, in an effort to make a forecast that people understand, we are doing this and our forecast will not always match the Storm Prediction Center. I will ALWAYS look at the Storm Prediction Center for guidance. The people that work at the SPC are some of the best severe weather meteorologists in the country. But, my job is to make a forecast and communicate it to the viewers in a way that they understand and can use to prepare their family.

This is nothing new. Television stations in Oklahoma City are also trying to make a thunderstorm risk map easier for the public. Thanks to Jason Prentice and Nate Johnson for this pic:

I say all of this to tell you that OUR forecast has a high risk of severe weather today, even though the terminology from the SPC is a "moderate" risk. Here's our latest severe weather threat map for today:

This SPC map looks like this:

But, if you break down the probabilities of the SPC, they also feel the threat is significant. I feel that a 15% chance of a tornado, with a 10% chance of EF2-EF5 damage within a 25 mile radius is a "high" risk, even though it does not meet their threshold to use that terminology:

When you look at their probabilities of hail and wind, the threat is also quite high:

So, our forecasts are not that different, we are just trying to communicate the threats better. 

Lastly, ALL watches and warnings come from the National Weather Service. Warnings come from the local offices in Memphis, Little Rock, Paducah, and Springfield. All watches come from the SPC. That will not change.

I hope this helps! Be safe today.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Severe Weather Possible On Thursday

It's early, but I want everyone to be aware that severe weather season appears to be ramping up this week. At this time, it looks like we could be dealing with tornado watches and possibly some warnings on Thursday. It's too early to get specific on timing and details, but here are the bullet points as of now:

  • The chance for severe weather on Thursday is becoming more likely.
  • Hail, severe winds, and even the chance for tornadoes appears possible at this time.
  • Make sure your severe weather plans are known by the entire family for the upcoming severe weather season. Put batteries in your weather radios and put the helmets on standby, especially for the kids.
  • It's early and there is a chance that the threat will go up or down, but let's plan for severe weather and hope for the best. Deal?
The GFS model has been doing very good in recent months for Region 8. On Thursday afternoon, it shows the warm front north of us, the cold front west of us, and a lot of energy (CAPE) to fuel the thunderstorms that will develop in this area called the "warm sector". I added the fronts to this map to show you the setup. The colors shows the CAPE or Convective Available Potential Energy:
In an attempt to make our maps more understandable to the viewers, we are trying a new map this year to communicate the areas with the greatest threat. Many times, the threat level will go up as we get closer to the event and our confidence in the forecast goes up. This is a summary map of the combined threats of hail, wind, tornadoes, and lightning. We use a simple scale of low, medium, high, and extreme. Here is the map as of right now. I anticipate the threat to be increased as we get closer to Thursday:
Our goal is to communicate the severe weather threats in a way that everyone understands. This new experiment is a work in progress, so if there is any way we can make our forecast more understandable, please feel free to email me at or tweet me at @ryanvaughan. Once again, as we get closer to Thursday, this threat may increase. Stay tuned.

Lastly, we are going to be doing maps that outline the timing of the storms to help you plan. We will likely issue these maps the day before the event, so look for the "timing" maps on Wednesday.

This forecast can change and I hope it does, so stay tuned to the Region 8 Storm TEAM this week.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Severe Weather Update, 3/28/2014

Good afternoon, everyone! I am off work today, but I wanted to give you a quick update on the weather. First, it's gorgeous outside right now. At my house, the sun is shining and it is nice and warm. Don't be fooled though, it will be stormy this evening. I don't expect this to be a huge outbreak, but some watches and warnings are possible. Here are some bullet points about tonight:

  • Outdoor plans this evening will be impacted. Many of you have asked about baseball and softball games. Yes, they will be impacted.
  • The greatest risk of severe weather will be south of our viewing area. Southern Arkansas has the best chance to see severe weather.
  • Lightning, heavy rain, and isolated hail is the primary threat in Region 8. 
  • I will never rule out a tornado, but the threat is low in Region 8.
  • The weekend looks GREAT!
Below is a more in-depth look at the setup or click HERE.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Coldest March On Record

It's been COLD this month. In fact, many are saying it is the coldest March they have ever seen. Well, if you were born after 1960, that's true! As of today, the average temperature for Jonesboro is 43.0 for the month of March°. If the month ended today, it would be the third coldest March on record! Of course, if the month ended today, we would have bigger problems than being cold. :)

Here are the Top 10 coldest Marches on record as of now (prior to this year):

1. 38.8°F 1960
2. 42.4°F 1915
3. 43.2°F 1965
4. 43.8°F 1906
5. 44.0°F 1896
6. 44.6°F 1958
7. 44.9°F 2013
8. 45.4°F 1978
9. 45.5°F 1924
10. 45.8°F 1912
Source: NWS, Memphis

As of now, 2014 will go down as the third coldest on record. Let's look back at the two years that had a colder March. As you know, I enjoy looking at old, handwritten, climate logs. I pulled this first one from March of 1960 (click to enlarge):

If you look closely, March of 1960 was an active month! I thought it was interesting that SLEET was a problem for them during the March of 1960. I think we would all agree that sleet was an issue for us in 2014 as well! Also, notice how warm it gets at the end of the month and notice how they had hail and tornadoes.

Now, let's look at the second coldest March on record. This is March of 1915. Click to enlarge:

As you see in the above image, it was very cold on several nights and the daytime highs never hit 70°. They also had snow on the 30th, so it's always possible!

It appears that we will end the month with temperatures above average, so I would guess that we will not end the month as the 3rd coldest, but being in the Top 5 is likely.

Stay warm tomorrow!