Eastern U.S. may see stormy, wintry weather pattern next week

The first storm, which could be particularly intense, is projected to take an inland track early next week, from the Gulf of Mexico toward the eastern Great Lakes. Such a track would draw up enough warm air for mostly rain along the East Coast. But interior locations in the Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes could see their first significant snow.

There’s some chance for a second storm to develop slightly to the east of the first one around Dec. 3 or 4, opening up the possibility for wintry precipitation closer to the East Coast.

The first storm: Early next week

An upper-level disturbance ejecting from the Desert Southwest will help spark the development of a storm system near the Louisiana Gulf Coast late in the weekend.

Computer models agree that it will tap substantial moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and produce heavy rainfall in the South and Southeast from Sunday into Monday.

The plot thickens Monday when this gulf storm turns north and merges with jet stream energy diving south from the Upper Midwest. The storm may intensify and draw in very cold air on its western side, while funneling heavy rain northward to the east.

The European (ECMWF) weather model forecasts a powerhouse storm, possibly meeting the criteria for a bomb cyclone because of its rate of intensification (a pressure drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours), over eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania by Monday afternoon.

Near and east of the storm center, including much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, heavy rain is projected. To the west, heavy snow is shown in western Ohio, eastern Indiana, Michigan and eastern Kentucky. A storm this powerful would also be a big wind generator, creating the possibility of blowing snow and power outages.

The model suggests that the storm could linger over the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes into Wednesday or Thursday next week, resulting in a prolonged period of windblown snowfall.

The Canadian and American models also whip up a storm that tracks slightly to the east of the European model and that is less intense.

The specifics of how strong this storm will be and the location, timing and intensity of rain, snow and wind will come into better focus over the next several days.

In the wake of this storm, models predict lower-than-average temperatures in parts of the East, but not frigid Arctic air.

A second storm?

Between Dec. 3 and 4, some models are showing the potential for a second storm to develop in the South, near the Gulf Coast, and again tracking north.

With cold air better established in the eastern United States by this time, this storm would probably track to the east of the first one if it materializes. A track closer to the coast would open up the possibility of frozen precipitation closer to the East Coast; however, cold air may still only be sufficient for snow in interior areas and especially the Appalachians.

As this potential storm system is more than

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Here’s Your Sonic Boom Weather Forecast!

Success for business aircraft maker, Aerion, hinges on the ability of its AS2 bizjet to fly in excess of the speed of sound over land without delivering a sonic boom. To do so, AS2 operators will have to account for, avoid and overcome weather conditions that could allow supersonic shock waves – the boom that humans hear – to reach the ground.

That means that AS2 owners/crews will need a sort of sonic boom weather forecast to be able to plan for boom-less flight over the U.S. or other territories.

Aerion says it has just the thing thanks to an agreement with micro-satellite operator, Spire Global, whose weather data and forecasting capabilities will allow the AS2 to boom along over land without delivering a sonic boom to ground level.

Weather Matters at Mach 1

NASA has done a good bit of research on the impact of weather on sonic boom propagation, both for its Low Boom Flight Demonstration which aims to reduce sonic booms to about 70 decibels at ground level, and on “Mach Cutoff” where the boom doesn’t reach the ground.

Aerion is guaranteeing that its AS2 will achieve Mach Cutoff.

“Our Boomless technology prevents a boom from hitting the ground completely,” Steve Berroth chief operating officer and vice president of Aircraft Development at Aerion claims. In addition to the aerodynamic design, flight control system and operating envelope of the AS2, accurate weather forecasting and flight planning will enable Mach cutoff.

“What plays a role in that are winds – strong headwinds or tailwinds have a big effect,” says Larry Cliatt, NASA’s Sonic Boom Research Tech Lead. Sonic boom propagation is based on the speed of sound but it’s not speed-over-the-ground that matters. It’s airspeed.

A strong headwind effectively increases airspeed, lowering the threshold for going Mach 1 while increasing the speed of boom propagation to the ground. “If you have a headwind, your speed of propagation is going to be faster than if you have a tailwind,” Cliatt affirms.

You can reduce the speed of propagation in such a situation, Cliatt says, by flying higher, increasing the distance to the ground. So faced with a strong headwind, a supersonic AS2 may want to climb to prevent its boom from reaching the ground.

“You can also fly slower. You’re going to sacrifice speed to mitigate the boom,” Cliatt adds, likely to the consternation of speed-loving potential AS2 buyers.

Boomless flight or Mach cutoff also depends on the temperature in the local atmosphere Cliatt says. The speed of sound changes at different temperatures so attention to the thermometer at different altitudes is important.

Humidity plays a more subtle role, affecting how loud a boom is – i.e. how our ears perceive it. NASA has found that higher

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Lone Star College will buy new generators to weather hurricanes

In an effort to prevent power interruptions from hurricanes and other storms, the Lone Star College System is set to spend as much as $890,000 on new generators.

While the winds from Hurricane Laura did not directly hit the Conroe area in August, its impact was felt when the storm interrupted energy service for thousands of customers in the area, including Lone Star College administration offices in The Woodlands.

At its November Board of Trustees meeting, the LSC board passed a resolution authorizing the negotiation of a contract for the installation of new natural gas generators, capping the cost of the potential contract at $890,000. While the sum may seem high, the job won’t just include the installation of the new generators.

Currently, the generators that are already installed are not connected, so when one fails the other is not an automatic backup. With the installation of the new generators, this will be corrected.

Related: Pandemic accelerates Lone Star College System’s plans for online degrees

When the generators failed after Hurricane Laura, the college system faced not just an energy problem, but an IT problem.

“We sustained significant damage to our IT,” chancellor Stephen Head said. “It was what we call a hard shutdown. We didn’t have any warning.”

The replacement of the generator was requested by the LSC Office of Technology Services because of the issues caused by the brownouts. After the storm, the college system had a hard time getting the old diesel generators repaired because of the high demand for generator repairs after the storm. The offices had to shut down for several days.

“When we go down like that and we’re closed, you’re not talking about just a few dollars that we lose and a lack of productivity,” Head said.

The disconnected generators are outdated technology and this project will address that, connecting the generators, and adding backups and redundancies. Earlier this year, an engineer was hired to begin the design and planning for the project.

“Options have been in discussion, an assessment was made, electrical peak demand loads confirmed and coordination with Center Point Energy was conducted,” Jennifer Mott, Lone Star College chief financial officer said in an email.

One of the new natural gas generators will become the main generator and will be located at the Lone Star Community Building.

“The new generator will provide backup power for the data center, LSC police dispatch call center as well as emergency power and lighting for the Lone Star Community Building, Woodlands Leadership Building, Star Building and the Training and Development Center,” Mott said. “In addition, the diesel generator at WLB will get a complete rebuilt overhaul. The generator will remain at existing location and become the back-up generator. There will be two different fuel sources, diesel and natural gas.”

The college system isn’t sure exactly how much the project will cost but have put it out to bid. Head said they have put the project out for bid now because there is a backlog right

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Weather Service tells Congress radar gaps don’t hurt warning accuracy

Using these radars, forecasters can spot the existence of a tornado by detecting airborne debris lofted by the twister’s circulation. They can track the all-important rain-snow line in winter storms and even spot smoke plumes from severe wildfires. But as capable as the U.S. radar network is, gaps in coverage have drawn consistent complaints from meteorologists and lawmakers frustrated by unwarned-of severe weather.

Now, an overdue report to Congress from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which operates the National Weather Service, attempts to quantify the impacts of such gaps on warning performance. The results downplay the significance of the gaps, counter to the experience of some public- and private-sector meteorologists.

Several meteorologists said the congressionally mandated report inadequately addresses the true impacts of these gaps, describing its methodology as inadequate and incomplete and its conclusions as “disappointing” and even “offensive.”

The gaps, which the report identifies in some detail, occur in locations so far removed from radar sites that the beams emitted by the radar overshoot the weather they are intended to detect. The greater distance a location is from a radar site, the higher in the sky the radar scans for trouble.

The Charlotte metro area, home to about 2.6 million, is served by a Doppler radar 80 miles away in Greer, S.C., and the radar beam intersects clouds at about 5,000 feet or more above the city, missing some of the most important low-level weather features that can determine whether a storm will spawn a tornado. During the winter, some snow and ice events can take place largely below the height of the beam.

Other cities have far more coverage, including Washington, for which there is a Weather Service Doppler radar in Sterling, Va., as well as less powerful radars situated near the region’s three major airports and Joint Base Andrews. With radar beams reaching clouds at altitudes below 3,000 feet over the city, meteorologists have the ability to see the lower levels of storms, which is where tornadoes tend to form.

Radar gaps have been a contentious issue in the weather community for years, not only in Charlotte, but also in the Pacific Northwest, where spotting dangerous weather moving in from the Pacific is especially important.

Weather Service finally responds to Congress but says there’s no problem here

In a 2017 bill, Congress directed the Weather Service to examine how radar gaps affect warning accuracy and report to Congress within less than a year. Separately, Congress asked for a report on warning performance associated with radar coverage where the beam is 6,000 feet above ground level and higher.

Long past congressional deadlines, the radar gaps report was released in September to address both congressional requests, and it contains some surprising findings.

Instead of concluding that radar gaps make a difference in severe weather detection and warnings, as many meteorologists strongly suspect, the Weather Service told Congress that they make little to no meaningful differences in warning performance.

“Poor radar coverage is never the single contributing

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Slump in Air Travel Hindered Weather Forecasting, Study Shows

Government researchers have confirmed that the steep decline in air traffic during the coronavirus pandemic has affected the quality of weather forecasting models by sharply reducing the amount of atmospheric data routinely collected by commercial airliners.

In a study, researchers showed that when a short-term forecasting model received less data on temperature, wind and humidity from aircraft, the forecast skill (the difference between predicted meteorological conditions and what actually occurred) was worse.

The researchers and others had suspected this would be the case because atmospheric observations from passenger and cargo flights are among the most important data used in forecasting models. The observations are made by instruments aboard thousands of airliners, mostly based in North America and Europe, as part of a program in place for decades. They are transmitted in real time to forecasting organizations around the world, including the National Weather Service.

During the first months of the pandemic, when air traffic declined by 75 percent or more worldwide, the number of observations dropped by about the same percentage.

“With every kind of observation that goes into weather models, we know they have some impact on improving accuracy overall,” said one of the researchers, Stan Benjamin, a senior scientist at the Global Systems Laboratory, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in Boulder, Colo. “If you’ve really lost a lot of observations of some kind there could be some stepping back in skill overall.”

While the researchers showed that the data loss contributed to making the model less accurate, NOAA said that so far it had not seen an impact on the type of short-term forecasts that companies use to make business decisions or a person might use to decide if they need to take an umbrella when going out.

“We are not directly seeing a readily apparent reduction in forecast accuracy as we continue to receive valuable data from passenger and cargo aircraft along with numerous other data sources,” an agency statement said. Those other sources include satellites, ocean buoys and instruments carried aloft by weather balloons.

The amount of data from aircraft has also increased in recent months as air travel has picked up, the agency said. The daily number of flights by passenger aircraft in the United States is now at about 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Flights by cargo aircraft were not as affected.

Dr. Benjamin, along with two colleagues working at the laboratory, Eric P. James of the University of Colorado and Brian D. Jamison of Colorado State University, simulated conditions during the pandemic in April by taking data from 2018 and 2019 and eliminating 80 percent of it before feeding it into a forecasting model developed by NOAA called Rapid Refresh.

They compared the errors that resulted to those if the model included no aircraft data.

“We had to look to see if 80 percent gives 80 percent of impact,” Dr. Benjamin said. “But it’s not quite that much.” They found that eliminating 80 percent of the data produced errors

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Newly signed law aims to limit the damage from space weather

Space weather like solar flares could seriously disrupt electronics and satellites, and the US government might soon mount a better defense. President Trump has signed the PROSWIFT Act (Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow), a bill that will help to predict space weather and limit the damage when it hits. The newly-minted law orders federal agencies like NASA, NOAA, and the Defense Department to coordinate with private companies to study the potential impact of this weather and spur research for both forecasting and the technology to withstand effects.

The agencies also have to develop a backup for the 25-year-old Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite.

The measure was a bipartisan effort sponsored by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Michigan senator Gary Peters.

It could take a long time for PROSWIFT to lead to meaningful measures. Politicians believe it could easily be worth the cost, mind you. Gardner pointed to a Lloyds of London estimate that a sever space weather incident could cost up to $2.6 trillion through blackouts, satellite disruptions and air traffic issues. What money the US spends now could reap dividends if the country can bounce back from the Sun’s more extreme behavior with relatively little trouble.

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College Football Picks: Big Ten returns to Big Ten weather

FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (1) runs with the ball against Wisconsin during the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, in Indianapolis. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC have been playing anywhere from three to five weeks amid the pandemic, and all the players and coaches around the Big Ten could do is watch. “Most of it's been torture, just not being able to play games,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.

FILE – In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (1) runs with the ball against Wisconsin during the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, in Indianapolis. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC have been playing anywhere from three to five weeks amid the pandemic, and all the players and coaches around the Big Ten could do is watch. “Most of it’s been torture, just not being able to play games,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.

AP

Just as Big Ten weather hits the Midwest comes the start of the Big Ten football season.

The conference that called off fall football in August only to reverse course a month later kicks off a nine-week season with no breaks and five teams already in the AP Top 25.

No. 14 Wisconsin and Illinois get things rolling Friday night at Camp Randall. “Jump Around” won’t be the same between the third and fourth quarters without fans in the stands, but with a high of 49 degrees and showers forecast for Madison, it will be a perfect setting for Badgers-style bully ball.

No schools pushed harder for the Big Ten to play through the pandemic than Ohio State and Nebraska. The fifth-ranked Buckeyes open at home against the Cornhuskers as a huge favorite. The forecast calls for 54 and mostly cloudy in Columbus.

The Huskers drew the toughest early season schedule in the reboot, getting Wisconsin next week and No. 8 Penn State in the Big Ten’s week four. Nebraska was also the most openly critical of the Big Ten’s decision to postpone. Coincidence?

The Nittany Lions open at Indiana, a scrappy team coming off an eight-win season. It will be 55 and mostly cloudy in Bloomington.

The showcase game in primetime is No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota in the Little Brown Jug game. The temperature in Minneapolis is expected to be in the mid-20s.

Let’s not forget the Mountain West also starts this week to provide some late-night viewing that has been sorely lacking in a season that so far has mostly played out in the Eastern and Central time zones.

Kicking off at 10:30 p.m. ET will be UNLV at San Diego State and Air Force at San Jose State.

Grab a blanket and a warm drink, sink into the couch, and enjoy the first long and chilly day of the college football season.

The picks:

FRIDAY

Illinois (minus 19 1/2) at No. 14 Wisconsin

Badgers have won their last three openers by a combined 129 points … WISCONSIN 35-14.

SATURDAY

Syracuse (plus 46) at No. 1 Clemson

Orange have allowed 701 yards rushing in the last two games; RUSHING! … CLEMSON 52-10.

No. 2 Alabama (minus 21) at Tennessee

The Crimson Tide winning streak against the Vols is 13, including the last four by an average of 34 points … ALABAMA 47-13.

No. 3 Notre Dame (minus 10 1/2) at Pittsburgh

Irish have played Pitt 15

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Big Ten returns to Big Ten weather

Just as Big Ten weather hits the Midwest comes the start of the Big Ten football season.

The conference that called off fall football in August only to reverse course a month later kicks off a nine-week season with no breaks and five teams already in the AP Top 25.

No. 14 Wisconsin and Illinois get things rolling Friday night at Camp Randall. “Jump Around” won’t be the same between the third and fourth quarters without fans in the stands, but with a high of 49 degrees and showers forecast for Madison, it will be a perfect setting for Badgers-style bully ball.

No schools pushed harder for the Big Ten to play through the pandemic than Ohio State and Nebraska. The fifth-ranked Buckeyes open at home against the Cornhuskers as a huge favorite. The forecast calls for 54 and mostly cloudy in Columbus.

The Huskers drew the toughest early season schedule in the reboot, getting Wisconsin next week and No. 8 Penn State in the Big Ten’s week four. Nebraska was also the most openly critical of the Big Ten’s decision to postpone. Coincidence?


The Nittany Lions open at Indiana, a scrappy team coming off an eight-win season. It will be 55 and mostly cloudy in Bloomington.

The showcase game in primetime is No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota in the Little Brown Jug game. The temperature in Minneapolis is expected to be in the mid-20s.

Let’s not forget the Mountain West also starts this week to provide some late-night viewing that has been sorely lacking in a season that so far has mostly played out in the Eastern and Central time zones.

Kicking off at 10:30 p.m. ET will be UNLV at San Diego State and Air Force at San Jose State.

Grab a blanket and a warm drink, sink into the couch, and enjoy the first long and chilly day of the college football season.

The picks:

FRIDAY

Illinois (minus 19 1/2) at No. 14 Wisconsin

Badgers have won their last three openers by a combined 129 points … WISCONSIN 35-14.

SATURDAY

Syracuse (plus 46) at No. 1 Clemson

Orange have allowed 701 yards rushing in the last two games; RUSHING! … CLEMSON 52-10.

No. 2 Alabama (minus 21) at Tennessee

The Crimson Tide winning streak against the Vols is 13, including the last four by an average of 34 points … ALABAMA 47-13.

No. 3 Notre Dame (minus 10 1/2) at Pittsburgh

Irish have played Pitt 15 times as a top-five team and are 14-1 … PITTSBURGH 24-21.

Nebraska (minus 26) at No. 5 Ohio State

Prepare for a tsunami of snarky social media comments about why the Cornhuskers were so adamant to play this season when they fall behind by three touchdowns … OHIO STATE 42-21.

No. 17 Iowa State (plus 3 1/2) at No. 6 Oklahoma State

Cyclones could grab early inside track to the Big 12 title game … IOWA STATE 28-24.

No. 8 Penn State (minus 6 1/2) at Indiana

Hoosiers’ last

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New Space Weather Network Extends over Africa

A new network of dedicated antennas in Africa will lend insight into the havoc that storms of charged particles from the sun wreak on satellite and radio communications. Zambia set up its first such sensor in March—one of eight multifrequency receivers being deployed around the continent, in addition to four already operating in South Africa. Kenya and Nigeria will install their receivers by the end of the year.

Feeding into an upgraded space weather center scheduled to open in South Africa in 2022, the network will provide real-time data on how solar storms distort the ionosphere, the charged outer layer of Earth’s atmosphere. This distortion can have dangerous consequences, says Mpho Tshisaphungo, a space weather researcher at the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). Signals between crucial satellites and the ground pass through this region, where charged particles can cause interference. Also, high-frequency radio signals (often used in defense and emergency services communications) have to bounce off the ionosphere; Tshisaphungo notes that when solar storms alter the layer, “the radio signal may either be attenuated, delayed or absorbed by the ionosphere.”

South Africa has already been providing global networks with information about the ionosphere above the country in periodic batches, relying on satellite and ground data from international space weather programs. The new network will give Africa its first access to 24/7 local details on how the sun’s behavior is affecting the atmosphere overhead, researchers say.

“While there are international data available, if you want to look at what’s happening on the African continent, then you need to take measurements in Africa,” says John Bosco Habarulema, a space scientist at SANSA. Habarulema, researcher Daniel Okoh of Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency, and their colleagues developed a model last year that maps electron density in the ionosphere and fills in measurement gaps. (Tshisaphungo is also a co-author.) The new local receivers will boost this model’s accuracy and let it describe fluctuations over the full continent.

“We need to have the global perspective and put that [data] into our global models,” says Terry Onsager, a physicist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center. “But at the same time, space weather disturbances can vary enormously from location to location.” And it is becoming increasingly important to model the ionosphere’s behavior, he says, because “we’re getting more and more reliant on technologies that are reliant on space weather.”

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Forecasters: California’s winter weather prediction

The La Niña climate pattern is expected to worsen existing drought conditions in California in the coming months, according to a new outlook published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. The forecast covers the period between Dec. 2020 – Feb. 2021.

La Niña refers to the cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator that impacts wind patterns and weather. It means that most of California has a good chance of a warmer-than-normal winter temperatures, according to the forecast. This is coupled with a greater chance of drier conditions.

This 2020-2021 U.S. Winter Outlook map for precipitation shows wetter-than-average weather is most likely across the Northern Tier of the U.S. and drier-than-average weather is favored across the South. (NOAA Climate.gov, using NWS CPC data) 

 

These conditions would worsen ongoing drought in the state in the near term. In fact, drought is greatly impacting large areas in the West as a result of the weak Southwest summer monsoon season and near-record-high temperatures, according to the report. The brutal wildfire season in the West is also a byproduct of this.

 

This seasonal U.S. Drought Outlook map for November 2020 through January 2021 predicts persistent drought across much of the Western U.S. in the months ahead. (NOAA Climate.gov based on NWS CPC data) 

 

The NOAA report includes forecasts for the entire continental U.S., and predicts cooler, wetter conditions in the northern parts of the country, in part due to La Nina.

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