November 30, 2015

Top Ten Warmest Novembers in the Future, Ranked

If you live east of the Rocky Mountains, you don't need me to tell you that it was a warm November. Frankly, it's been a warm fall overall, and with the way things are going, we could have a similar conversation come the end of December. What's it going to be like in the future, though? I've compiled a list of the ten most memorable warm Novembers from the future.
  1. November 2015—A string of winter storms plagues the Plains as unusually warm weather bathes the East Coast.
  2. November 2017—After a long streak of 70°F+ weather, Winter Storm Crème Fraîche drops 13" of snow on New York City the day before Thanksgiving.
  3. November 2019—United States celebrates as nice weather prevails and country experiences only 620 mass shootings, the lowest monthly total in almost four years.
  4. November 2020—Kanye West wins a closely contested election, barely unseating incumbent President Jim Webb in a 271-267 race.
  5. November 2044—Puerto Rico's newly-installed Congressional delegation proves crucial in passing landmark climate change legislation, only to be inexplicably filibustered by longtime Senator Alvin Greene (D-S.C.). 
  6. November 2063—The less you remember about November 2063, the better.
  7. November 2091—First warmest November in six years after atmosphere recovers from long-awaited eruption of Yellowstone caldera; History Channel goes off-air after discovering it now has nothing left to talk about. 
  8. November 2302—Kale and quinoa, traditional Thanksgiving staples, in short supply due to record drought.
  9. November 5281—Walt Disney World Iqaluit opens to treat guests, still bitter about Florida's retreat into the Atlantic, looking for a sunny winter getaway.
  10. November 5,400,000,000 AD—Sun's expansion causes Earth to warm beyond capability of remaining microbial life; Jim Inhofe, unconvinced, holds up a glass of yet-unevaporated water to disprove the red giant theory.
[Image: NASA]

November 27, 2015

Now That's What I Call a Cold Front

Some cold fronts sweep through virtually unnoticed. Others crash through with the ugly blow of someone ripping the covers off of you in the morning. That is to say, rude.

Winds swirling around a low pressure system up near the Arctic Circle and a broad area of high pressure near the Rockies on the international border are forcing (relatively) frigid air from Canada to filter south across the western and central United States. The cold front is moving slowly and it's one of those fronts that has an incredible gradient over very short distances—at 8:00 PM CST, it was 68°F in Dallas and just 39°F in Oklahoma City. When it passes through, you know it passed through.

These dramatic fronts often have severe weather along the leading edge, as the powerful lifting created by the cold air colliding with the warm, moist air is usually enough to trigger an intense line of thunderstorms, but we don't have that today. The front is moving slow enough that a broader area of heavy rain and thunderstorms has set up along the boundary, and even without destructive winds or photogenic tornadoes, it's creating some pretty big issues on the Plains this holiday weekend.
On the warm side of the front, folks are dealing with very heavy rainfall that will almost certainly lead to flooding issues under the heaviest precipitation. Thursday night's forecast from the Weather Prediction Center showed a huge area of more than half a foot of rain falling on the southern Plains and portions of the Deep South, with the heaviest rain concentrated over Texas and Oklahoma.

A few hundred miles deeper into the cold air, though, it's a wintry disaster. The cold air is dense and hugging the ground, so it's undercutting the warmer air as it slides south and east. A few thousand feet above the ground, it's not raining, it's snowing! As the snowflakes fall into the warmer air, however, they start to melt. If the layer of warm air is thick enough, the snowflake will completely melt into a liquid raindrop before falling back into sub-freezing air.

This newly-formed liquid raindrop falls into the air that's below 32°F, causing it to cool down to freezing. Since it doesn't have a nucleus around which it can refreeze, the temperature of the water continues to drop below freezing, becoming a supercooled liquid. Once this supercooled drop hits just about any exposed surface—trees, roads, sidewalks, railings, cars, lights, gutters—it instantly freezes into a layer of ice.

It usually takes about 0.25" of ice accretion to start causing damage in the form of downed branches, limbs, and power lines. Accretions greater than one-quarter of an inch can cause even greater damage, and once you get above half an inch, it can turn into a disaster. Significant damage to trees, power lines, and even large structures like transmission towers can snap or crumple under the immense weight of the ice, affecting the area for weeks (or even months) after the ice storm.

As of late Thursday night, local National Weather Service offices predicted more than a half an inch of ice across the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma, and more than a quarter of an inch of ice from eastern New Mexico through northwestern Missouri.

This is bad news any day of the year, but especially so during the extremely busy Thanksgiving travel period. It's possible (to an extent) to drive on snow, but even the most experienced drivers driving the most well-equipped car can't drive on roads encased in solid ice. We're going to see widespread power outages just about anywhere the freezing rain falls, and if people don't heed the days of advanced warning they've had, we'll see large numbers of car accidents.

It's just the start of what could be an active winter. It should be a fun one.

[Temp. Map: Author | Rain Forecast: WPC | Ice Forecast: NWS EDD]

November 25, 2015

Major Hurricane Sandra Breaks Two More Records, Ocean Just Showing Off Now

Hurricane Sandra became a major hurricane today—as I figured it would, but who's keeping score—packing winds of 115 MPH at the 2:00 PM MST advisory. The storm broke the record for the strongest hurricane we've ever seen so late in the year in the eastern Pacific, and it's the eighth major hurricane in that basin this year, which is also a record. It could get just a bit stronger before it begins a steady weakening trend as it hangs a right and heads toward Mexico. Its moisture will continue streaming into the United States over the next couple of days, exacerbating heavy rain and wintry precipitation over the central part of the country.

Nobody likes a show-off, Pacific Ocean. We get it, you're warm. Give it a rest.

[Satellite Image: NOAA]

November 19, 2015

Winter Storm Skittlebip IV Promises Many Inches of White Doom to the Midwest

Many have asked what Skittlebip means. The legend of Skittlebip is that its legend is never fully formed. It is an ever-lasting and frequently evolving storm, a skittleblip on the continuum of time and space partially consumed by the media's insatiable appetite for every storm to be worse than the last. Perhaps by Skittlebip XVII we will have a better understanding of its deeper metaphysical position on the hierarchy of doom, but for now. it is time to deal with The Fourth One in the Midwest.

November 18, 2015

Tropical Depression Attempts to Bribe Santa, Probably Not Successful

It's satellite images like this that spawn conspiracy theories about our ability to control the weather.

Strong Fall Storm Spawns Tornadoes, Snow, Floods, General Malaise

A large storm system that continues to crawl across the United States this afternoon—officially known as Winter Storm Skittlebip III by the dennismersereau dot com naming and brunch committee—will herald the end of our unusually warm fall, bringing in colder temperatures to bathe the tornado debris, flooded roads, and generally miserable people.

You Don't Need a Vane to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

It's strange knowing that, for the first time since my last semester of college, I don't have to get out of bed and scour the skies for some interesting weather blurb to share with a few thousand of my closest friends.