June 25, 2022

Two Tropical Disturbances To Watch In The Atlantic As June Rolls To A Close

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is watching two disturbances in the Atlantic basin for potential tropical development as we head into the last week of June. One disturbance in the Gulf will bring heavy rain to coastal communities regardless of development, while the other is far out in the tropical Atlantic, with plenty of time to watch before it threatens land.

Gulf Disturbance

A cluster of thunderstorms hanging out over the northern Gulf Coast has a 20 percent (low) chance of developing into a tropical depression over the next couple of days.

This disturbance is one of those situations where it's bringing noteworthy impacts whether or not it actually forms into anything more. Heavy rain is falling over portions of southern Alabama, southern Mississippi, and southeastern Louisiana.

The latest rainfall forecast from the Weather Prediction Center calls for an additional 3-5+ inches of rain over the next few days. Heavy, tropical rainfall will lead to the threat for localized flooding in some areas.

It's worth watching regardless, because this is exactly where you'd expect to see a tropical system form in June.

Speaking of where it's normal to see storms...

Tropical Atlantic Disturbance

It's a bit unusual to talk about tropical development deep in the tropical Atlantic around the beginning of the season. Early-season storms tend to form close to land, often stemming off of decayed fronts or thunderstorm complexes. We don't start seeing true tropical waves rolling off the coast of Africa until we get closer to August.

Never say never, though. The NHC says there's a 60 percent (medium) chance of a tropical disturbance developing over the next couple of days as it steadily makes its way toward the Lesser Antilles. 

It's far enough from land that we don't have to worry about it just yet. There's plenty of time to watch its potential development and where it'll track.

Source: Tropical Tidbits

There's a strong ridge of high pressure over the central and eastern Atlantic Ocean that'll steer this system. The strength of the ridge will determine how far north it goes.

A stronger ridge will push it farther south—think Aruba and Nicaragua—while a weaker ridge would allow the system to pull farther north.

Slow Start To The Season...For Once

This year's seen a much slower start to hurricane season than we've seen in the past couple of years. 2022 is the first season since 2014 that didn't see its first named storm form before June 1st.

We did cut it close, though, when Tropical Storm Alex formed south of Bermuda after drenching Florida as a will-it-or-won't-it-develop type of deal.

Forecasters across the board expect this hurricane season to see above-average activity, though, as a result of La Niña and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures across the Atlantic.

It's a cliché, but remember that it really only takes one storm to make any hurricane season a bad hurricane season for you. Some of the worst damage has resulted from tremendous flooding produced by tropical storms, tropical depressions, and unnamed tropical disturbances.

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June 15, 2022

Strong Tornadoes, Damaging Winds Possible In The Upper Midwest Wednesday

Dangerous severe thunderstorms are possible Wednesday afternoon across portions of the Upper Midwest, with the bulk of the severe risk focused on Wisconsin. Storms in and around the risk areas could produce strong, long-lived tornadoes, damaging wind gusts in excess of 75 mph, and hail the size of golf balls or larger.

Wednesday's severe weather risk is a typical side effect of a heat wave like the one parked over the eastern half of the country right now. Severe storms thrive around the edges of the ridge, which often puts the Upper Midwest right in line for multiple rounds of rough storms for the duration of the heat wave.

A low-pressure system will develop over the northern Great Lakes during the day, setting the stage for severe thunderstorms to develop across the Upper Midwest.

The Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate risk, a 4 out of 5 on the agency's scale measuring the threat for severe weather, focused on much of Wisconsin, with an enhanced risk (3 out of 5) radiating outward to include northeastern Iowa and portions of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

All modes of severe weather are possible on Wednesday afternoon. Strong, long-lived tornadoes are possible across most of Wisconsin. Storms could also produce damaging wind gusts of 75 mph or stronger, as well as hail the size of golf balls or larger.

This is one of those days where it pays to be proactive about watches and warnings. Check your phone and make sure emergency alerts are activated for tornado warnings. Scout out your home, office, or anywhere you plan to be today for safe places to take cover if you go under a tornado warning.

The threat for severe weather will shift toward the Northeast on Thursday, with a threat for tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail focused on Pennsylvania and western New York.

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June 14, 2022

Heat Index Is Real, People Didn't Survive Before A/C, And Other Heat Wave FAQs, Answered

Q: How long is it going to stay hot?

A: As you can tell by the dramatic top image of a thermometer in the sunshine, a mainstay of lazy hot weather coverage, this heat wave isn't going anywhere.

Some of us might get a brief break this weekend, but the heat is going to build back even hotter next week. 100s are possible into the Mid-Atlantic.

Source: Tropical Tidbits

An upper-level low will swing across Ontario and Quebec later this week, sending a surge of (relatively) cooler air sinking down over the eastern United States. It'll be comfortable in the Northeast, but temperatures will only fall down into the upper 80s and low 90s in the southeastern states.

Meanwhile, a newer, stronger ridge will build in behind that upper-level low, allowing high temperatures in the 100s to spill into the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. That ridge will spread east through the weekend, reaching the eastern states by Sunday and Monday with round two of this prolonged heat event.

The heat index is going to make those brutal temperatures feel even hotter. The prolonged nature of this heat event is really dangerous for vulnerable communities. 

Q: The heat index is a ratings ploy to make it sound hotter than it really is!

A: The heat index is real. Your body cools off through evaporative cooling. Sweat evaporating from your skin helps to regular your body temperature when it's hot outside. Humidity interferes with this process.

When it's both hot and humid outside, your body has to struggle to maintain a healthy body temperature. If the dew point is 72°F—which is Florida-esque tropical mugginess—and the air temperature is 95°F, the heat index is 104°F, meaning that your body is feeling the same strain on that muggy 95°F day as it would if it were actually 104°F.

The higher the heat index, the more stress your body endures in the heat. It's a real thing despite what some hipster hot-take havers want to argue otherwise. Test it at your own peril.

Q: Just open the windows and you'll be fine.

A: Opening the windows and switching on fans can help with air circulation, but it all comes back to your body's struggle to cool off when it's both hot and humid.

Keeping the windows open and fans going doesn't actually lower the temperature. It feels cooler because it speeds up the evaporation of your sweat—a process that's disrupted by muggy temperatures.

The true danger is that a heat wave's effects compound with each day of excessive temperatures and humidity. Homes don't have a chance to cool down as one sweltering day bleeds into a stifling night. The stress grows on vulnerable populations with each day of a heat wave, regardless of whether you've got the windows open and a fan cranking.

Q: This is no big deal. People survived before air conditioning! Why are we so weak today?

A: It's called survivorship bias. Lots and lots of people died before air conditioning as a direct result of not having air conditioning.

It's sort of like the folks who scream "why do we need to coddle kids with all these safety features, I grew up just fine!" Sure, you may have turned out okay! But cemeteries are too full of too many little kids who, it turns out, couldn't get by without car seats or vaccines or wall-fastened dressers or unleaded paint on the windowsill. 

Even with air conditioning all over the place today, heat is still the leading weather-related cause of death in the United States. One bad heat wave can kill hundreds of people, a higher toll than years and years of tragic tornadoes combined. Last year's awful heat wave in the Pacific Northwest was Washington's deadliest weather disaster on record, and it killed nearly 600 people up in British Columbia.

Lots of people died before air conditioning. Lots of people still die without air conditioning. Consider yourself fortunate if you don't have to worry about that.

Q: Dry heat is better than a humid heat.

A: If the humidity makes your body work harder, wouldn't that mean a dry heat is better for you than a humid heat? Not necessarily.

An actual air temperature of 110°F with very little humidity in the air still makes your body work very hard to cool itself off. In fact, you can sweat too efficiently in a dry heat, potentially leading to faster dehydration and heat-related illnesses. 

Q: Why is every piece of hot weather advice so condescending?

A: Television meteorologists and online weather blatherers like me are very aware of how condescending it sounds to say "drink water and stay in the shade" to an audience that's almost entirely grown adults.

It's really, really easy to accidentally overdo it. I walk 5 miles every morning. I get cranky if I have to use the treadmill. But, even doing what I do, I have to consciously remember that the hot weather will knock me flat if I push it too hard. "I'm fine," right up until I'm half a mile from home with an empty water bottle and growing leg cramps.

Hearing safety advice over and over is annoying, but it works. It's worth if it one construction site calls it a day to keep its workers from getting sick, or if the sweet old lady down the street decides to do her power walk on the treadmill instead of pushing it in the hot sun.

Q: I'm not thirsty, so I don't need water.

A: Dehydration sneaks up on you. It's one of those things that's better to stave off than try to correct once it's taking a toll you.

Q: I'm healthy. I'm built for the heat. What's the big deal?

A: While the elderly, folks who suffer from medical issues, outdoor workers, and children are the most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, it can happen to anyone.

Heat is the deadliest form of extreme weather and it's a silent killer to boot. To put it bluntly: someone dying alone in their sweltering apartment doesn't make as good of a headline as someone dying in a tornado, so it doesn't get much attention. 

Q: When will it cool off?

A: Probably in the fall.

Q: This article format is annoying. What gives?

A: It's a riff on this post from 2016. Meh. It's hard to be funny about a heat wave. It's strange—people lose their minds over a snowstorm like the world is ending, but they'll downplay the extreme dangers of heat even though it claims a toll many magnitudes higher than even the worst blizzard. Go figure.

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June 8, 2022

Prolonged June Heat Wave Set To Slide East Across The U.S. Next Week

A solid early-season heat wave is roasting towns from California to Texas this week, with a string of daytime temperatures easily climbing above 100°F for many areas. This pattern will slide east heading into next week, bringing a prolonged period of very hot weather to the rest of the southern states.

This week's heat wave is courtesy of a broad upper-level ridge parked over the southwestern corner of the country. Widespread excessive heat warnings and heat advisories are in effect ahead of temperatures that could soar above 110°F in some spots, including California's Central Valley and the typical heat-prone desert communities.

Phoenix is under an excessive heat warning until Sunday evening. The city can expect daytime highs in the low 110s with nighttime lows hovering in the mid-80s. It's a dry heat, we love to say, but raw air temperatures that hot—paired with day after day of nighttime temperatures offering little relief—can easily take a toll on even the healthiest individual. 

It's not as drawn-out of an ordeal over in California, but the heat will make for a couple of rough afternoons over the next few days. The most impactful heat will crank over the Central Valley on Friday afternoon, with a predicted high of 105°F in Sacramento, 104°F in Modesto, and an even 100°F up in Redding. 

The pattern leading to this heat ridge over the southwestern states will break by this weekend as a trough dips southeastward over the Pacific Northwest. That trough will kick the ridge east, setting up a prolonged heat event for the rest of the southern U.S. 

Heading into next week, widespread daytime highs in the mid- to upper-90s look likely from Texas to the Carolinas, with multiple days of 100s on tap for parts of Texas. We could even see temperatures approach the triple-digit mark as far east as the Carolinas. 

Humidity makes the heat even worse. It's not just a cliché—the extra moisture in the air makes it harder for sweat to evaporate from your skin, preventing you from cooling off efficiently. This can quickly lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke if you're not careful.

Heat kills more people in the U.S. every year than any other type of extreme weather. Prolonged heat is especially deadly because of the stress exacted by days of extremely hot afternoons followed by sultry nights that offer no relief.

Source: CDC

The compounding effect of one hot day bleeding into the next exacts a terrible toll on vulnerable populations, such as low-income households without air conditions, the elderly, and those who are homeless or work long hours outdoors.

Most hot weather safety advice sounds condescending, but it's very easy for even a fit and perfectly healthy person to overdo it in hot weather and quickly grow ill because of overexertion. Drink more water than you think you need. Put off the chores and workouts until very early in the morning or late in the evening. The lawn will forgive you if you wait a week to mow it, and using a treadmill is better than passing out on a busy street.

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June 2, 2022

Flooding Rains Likely For Florida As Tropical System Approaches

The first storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season seems like it's a lock this afternoon as a robust tropical disturbance—the remnants of Hurricane Agatha from the Pacific—grows more organized in the western Caribbean Sea. Whether or not it fully develops, the system is mighty moisture-packed and it's going to bring a ton of rain to south Florida through the weekend.

The National Hurricane Center gives this disturbance an 80 percent chance of development in the next couple of days. The disturbance is developing an intense core of thunderstorms near the center of the system, and just by the way it looks on satellite, it probably doesn't have far to go before it grows into a tropical depression or a tropical storm.

This system, which would be named Alex if it becomes a tropical storm, is on track to pass over southern Florida on Friday and Saturday, with rain likely lingering into Sunday morning for portions of the Atlantic coast. 

Regardless of development, it's going to bring a ton of rain to the region. The Weather Prediction Center's latest outlook calls for 5-10+ inches of rain falling across south Florida through the weekend. This much rain falling this quickly could easily lead to flash flooding, especially in urban areas and spots with poor drainage.

Folks around here probably don't need the reminder, but the majority of deaths associated with tropical systems occurs as a result of drowning from flash flooding. Never cross a flooded roadway. It's impossible to tell how deep the water is until it's too late, and it only takes a few inches of moving water to lift up a vehicle and carry it downstream.

As with any landfalling tropical system or disturbance, developed or not, gusty winds could lead to downed trees and power lines. The low-level wind shear associated with systems like this will also likely lead to a risk for tornadoes, especially on the eastern side of the system. Make sure you've got a way to receive tornado warnings the moment they're issued. Check your phone and ensure that wireless emergency alerts are turned on.

[Satellite Image: NOAA]

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May 29, 2022

Agatha To Hit Mexico As A Major Hurricane, Gulf Development Possible Next Week

The first storm of the 2022 eastern Pacific hurricane season is going to be a doozy for folks along the southern Mexican coast. Hurricane Agatha is on track to make landfall as a major category three storm late on Monday, bringing prolific rainfall and destructive winds to the Oaxacan coast.

From there, the system's remnants could redevelop in the Gulf of Mexico as we head into the first week of June.

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center found Hurricane Agatha on the cusp of major hurricane status. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 110 mph as it crept northeast toward the Oaxacan coast. Hurricane warnings are up for Puerto Escondido and Salina Cruz as the system's powerful core draws closer to land.

Hurricane Agatha's intensity, slow movement, and the region's mountainous terrain will combine to lead to a life-threatening risk for flash flooding and mudslides along the storm's track.

The NHC's advisory on Sunday evening called for widespread rainfall totals of a foot or more, with some areas potentially picking up as much as 20 inches of rain by the end of the storm. Most tropical cyclone deaths in this region are the result of flooding and mudslides.

Agatha is going to weaken quickly after it makes landfall, winding down to a remnant low by Tuesday. After that, we'll have to keep an eye on the hurricane's remnants for potential redevelopment in the Gulf of Mexico or western Caribbean by the middle of next week.

The NHC's tropical weather outlook calls for a 30 percent chance of tropical development over the next five days. Models are consistently showing...something...forming in the region and heading toward southern Florida.

Whether or not it's a full-blown tropical system or just a disturbance remains to be seen, but regardless of development, this surge of tropical moisture will contribute to more heavy rain over southern Florida.

The Weather Prediction Center's precipitation forecast for the next seven days calls for 5+ inches of rain across southern Florida, and that's on top of the heavy rain that's fallen in today's heavy thunderstorms.

These totals are likely to fluctuate over the next few days as forecasters get a better handle on the system's ultimate track and development. A stronger, more organized system could produce more rainfall.

While there are abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions scattered throughout the southern half of Florida, this much rain falling in such a short period of time does more harm through flooding than good through drought amelioration.

Hurricane season officially begins on June 1st. It looks like this is going to be the first hurricane season in seven years not to start in May or earlier.

Even though we didn't get a head start for the first time in a long while, forecasters expect an active hurricane season thanks to La Niña over in the eastern Pacific. Cooler sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific serve to lessen wind shear over the Atlantic basin, creating more favorable conditions for tropical development throughout the season.

This year's list of hurricane names was last used in 2016. The first storm on the list will be Alex, followed by Bonnie and Colin. The names Martin and Owen are new this year, replacing Matthew and Otto, which were retired after the 2016 hurricane season.

If we see more than 21 storms before the end of the year, we'll roll over to the new supplement list of storm names, beginning with the name Adria. The World Meteorological Organization nixed the use of Greek letters to name excess storms after the historic 2020 hurricane season.

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May 15, 2022

Damaging Wind, Tornado Risk Targets East Coast States On Monday

A widespread threat for severe thunderstorms will cover much of the East Coast on Monday as a cold front plows into the heat and humidity that's parked over the region in recent days. The storms could bring damaging wind gusts, a few tornadoes, and some instances of large hail. Make sure you've got a way to receive warnings the moment they're issued.

A trough swinging over the Great Lakes will allow a low-pressure system to develop across eastern Ontario and southern Quebec during the day on Monday. A cold front extending off this budding low will set the stage for a broken line of thunderstorms to sweep across the eastern states.

There's enough instability and wind shear for these thunderstorms to turn severe. The Storm Prediction Center issued a wide-ranging risk for severe weather on Monday, covering everyone from southern Georgia to interior Maine.

The greatest risk for severe weather—an enhanced risk, or a three out of five on the scale—will stretch from central Virginia to northern New York, including the metro areas of Washington, Baltimore, Philly, Syracuse, and Albany. The severe risk extends west to the mountains and east to include the entire I-95 corridor from Savannah up to Portland.

For most folks, the risk for damaging wind gusts of 60+ mph will be the predominant threat. However, folks in and around the enhanced (orange) and slight (yellow) risk zones could see a few spin-up tornadoes along the leading edge of any squall lines that move through.

Keep an eye out for alerts and prepare to act quickly if your location goes under a tornado warning. Take a second to check your phone and make sure emergency alerts are activated for tornado warnings.

It's worth pointing out for our friends up north that the threat for damaging winds and a tornado or two will extend into portions of eastern Ontario and southern Quebec, as well. This risk includes the National Capital Region, Montreal, and the Eastern Townships on Sunday afternoon and evening.

Conditions will calm down behind the front. Folks in the northeast will see a couple of days of cooler-than-normal temperatures before the heat starts to build back in toward the end of the week. Folks south of the Mason-Dixon line are looking forward to daytime highs in the 90s beginning Wednesday and lasting into the weekend.

[Top image created using WSV3]

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May 7, 2022

Back To The 90s: Summerlike Heat To Build Across The Central U.S. This Week

Whew. The season's first solid burst of summerlike heat will build across the central United States this week. It's already pretty darn hot down in Texas on Saturday, where highs climbed into the triple-digits for western parts of the state. The heat will spread toward the Great Lakes as the week wears on.

Much of the weather across the United States this week will be dominated by an 'Omega Block,' a type of pattern that essentially creates a stagnant upper-level roadblock.

An Omega Block, earning its name from the resemblance to the Greek letter Omega Ω on weather maps, forms when a ridge of high pressure is bookended by two upper-level lows.

Meteorologists commonly describe these blocking patterns as "what you see is what you get," as conditions remain largely the same for days on end until the block wears off and things start moving again.

Source: Tropical Tidbits

The pattern we're stuck with this week will see calm and hot conditions build beneath the ridge parked in the center of the country, while both coasts deal with cool and dreary conditions courtesy of those stubborn upper-level lows.

In fact, the low off the southeast coast will retrograde and move back toward Florida this week, bringing the Sunshine State some showery weather, slightly lower humidity, and below-seasonal temperatures toward the middle and end of next week.

The big story, though, will be the hot weather building into the central U.S.

Temperatures already soared into the 100s for a large portion of Texas, where the National Weather Service issued widespread heat advisories to alert people to the potentially dangerous heat.

It's likely that these heat advisories will spread north toward the Midwest tomorrow and early this week as daytime highs soar into the 90s.

Here's an animation showing the National Weather Service's predicted highs between Saturday, May 7th, and Friday, May 13th. This .gif switches to the next map every two seconds before looping back at the end.

Highs in the 100s will push through much of northern and western Texas again on Sunday and Monday, with daytime temperatures in the mid- to upper-90s making their way into Oklahoma and Kansas.

We'll see upper 80s and low 90s creep toward the Midwest by the middle of the week, with a high of 89°F in Minneapolis by Thursday. This would be the city's warmest temperature since September 19, 2021.

As always, be mindful of the toll the heat can take. It's easy to overdo it without realizing you've overdone it until it's too late and you're feeling ill from heat exhaustion or worse. 

Meanwhile, you can see the influence of the meandering upper-level lows on each coast, with stubbornly cool temperatures bathing the coasts. It's especially pronounced across the east, where cold air damming will keep highs in the 50s into the Carolinas on Sunday, with the immediate shoreline from Cape Cod to the Outer Banks struggling to get out of the 60s until Thursday.

The good news with a pattern like this is that it minimizes the risk of widespread organized severe weather. We'll take any chance we can get to skip through a week in May without raucous severe storms raging somewhere.

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