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National Weather Service revamps winter storm warnings

Experimental forecasts will acknowledge varying threat levels at different elevations

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Graphics issued with winter storm warnings will change to make it more clear that elevation is a factor in winter storm conditions. Graphic courtesy NWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Planet Earth may be warming steadily, but a few pockets — including right here in Colorado — have been experiencing some chilly temperatures recently.

That includes Grand Junction, Colorado, where forecasters say December 2013 is headed for an all-time record low average temperature. Through Dec. 12, the West Slope town has averaged just 12.8 degrees Fahrenheit, 1 degree colder than the previous record set in 1978.

But don’t let the local cool temps fool you — NASA data released Dec. 13 shows that, globally,  November 2013 was the hottest since 1880, pretty much when accurate record-keeping started. All three record-warm Novembers have come within the past four years, putting to rest the global warming denier myth that there’s a pause in global warming.

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Anyone can be weather observer with the mPING app

Ground-based observations to be compared against satellite data to help improve severe storm forecasting

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A new website shows real-time weather observations reported by citizens via the mPING smart phone app.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In the age of smart phones, anyone can be a weather oberver, according to NOAA, partnering with the University of Oklahoma to launch a free app for users to anonymously report precipitation from their Apple or Android mobile device.

The mPING app enables users to send weather observations on the go by opening the app, selecting the type of precipitation that is falling and pressing submit. The user’s location and the time of the observation are automatically included in the report. All submissions will become part of a research project called PING – Precipitation Identification Near the Ground.

Researchers with the University of Oklahoma and NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory will use the mPING submissions to build a valuable database of tens of thousands of observations from across the United States. Continue reading

New research may help pinpoint Asian monsoon

Regional pressure fluctuations the key to unraveling monsoon mysteries

The first week of August 2010 brought extreme flooding and landslides to many parts of Asia. By August 11, floods in the Indus River basin had become Pakistan’s worst natural disaster to date, leaving more than 1,600 people dead and disrupting the lives of about 14 million people, reported Reuters. Across the border in northeast India, flash floods killed 185 with 400 still missing, reported BBC News. Floods in North Korea and northeast China buried farmland and destroyed homes, factories, railroads, and bridges. And in northwest China, rain triggered a massive landslide that left 702 dead with 1,042 missing, reported China’s state news agency, Xinhua. All of these disasters occurred as a result of unusually heavy monsoon rains, depicted in this image.

The first week of August 2010 brought extreme flooding and landslides to many parts of Asia. By August 11, floods in the Indus River basin had become Pakistan’s worst natural disaster to date, leaving more than 1,600 people dead and disrupting the lives of about 14 million people, reported Reuters. Across the border in northeast India, flash floods killed 185 with 400 still missing, reported BBC News. Floods in North Korea and northeast China buried farmland and destroyed homes, factories, railroads, and bridges. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Hawaii-based scientists say that tracking hemispheric climate patterns can help develop more accurate forecasts for the critical Asian monsoon season, which is critical to  the agriculture, economy, and people in the region.

Better monsoon forecasts have been a sort of Holy Grail for meteorologists, but season  seasonal predictions of these two types of weather phenomena are still poor. But the research done at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, shows the strength of the East Asian summer monsoon and  storm activity in the western North Pacific depend on fluctuations in the western Pacific Subtropical High, a major atmospheric circulation system in the global subtropics centered over the Philippine Sea.

When this system is strong in summer, then monsoon rainfall tends to be greater than normal over East Asia, and in the western North Pacific there tend to be fewer tropical storms that make landfall. Continue reading

New weather sites will take close look at atmospheric rivers

Coastal observatories in California will measure low-level winds and moisture to generate better forecasts

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A NOAA weather graphic shows an atmospheric river streaming across the Pacific to the central California coast.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — To get a better handle on the impacts of incoming “atmospheric rivers,” scientists are installing specialized new coastal observatories at Bodega Bay, Eureka, Pt. Sur and Goleta, California.

The coastal weather stations will measure low altitude winds and the amount of moisture moving ashore — key data that will help forecasters pinpoint how much precipitation is likely to fall during an atmospheric river event.

“California needs to know how and where it might rain or snow, when and where to expect flooding,” said Michael Anderson, Ph.D., state climatologist with the California Department of Water Resources. “The observatories will also help state officials and scientists monitor changes in atmospheric rivers associated with climate change.” Continue reading

Expert panel calls for national weather commission

Emerging technologies, private-public cooperation could boost country’s weather readiness and mitigate impact of costly weather events

A national weather commission could help better prepare the U.S. for impacts from extreme weather events that may increase as the global climate warms. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A panel of weather experts this week said the U.S. needs a national weather commission to help policy makers leverage weather expertise and shape a response to weather events that cost billions of dollars.

The commission would bridge the gap between government and the private sector to better protect lives and businesses.

“The nation must focus its weather resources on the areas of greatest need in order to keep our economy competitive and provide maximum protection of lives and property,” said Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. “Emerging technologies are providing an opportunity to create forecasts that are more accurate and detailed than ever, and to communicate them instantly to key communities and businesses,” Bogdan said. Continue reading

Weather: The problem with forecasts …

Outlook uncertain, so do your snow dance …

A complex Pacific weather pattern may send some Pacific storm energy toward Colorado next week — or, the flow may split once again, sending storms to the north and south of the state.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After a small “surprise” storm Wednesday night delivered several inches of snow to most of Colorado’s mountains, the outlook is once again murky, as forecasters struggle to decipher a complex storm track for next week.

A misleading tweet suggesting fresh snow for last weekend, while all the credible forecasts were pointing toward a classic upslope storm, with most snow falling east of the Divide. But when it comes to luring people to the mountains, reality and truth take a back seat to hype.

Bottom line: If you start seeing a flurry of tweets and other messages from the usual suspects about incoming powder, don’t hold your breath just yet. Alright, I’ll name names, what the heck – How did that 6-12 inches work out for you last week, Vail Resorts?

Of course there are always a few crystal-ball gazers and resort boosters who don’t have a problem with putting a potentially misleading spin on the forecast, like this bit, calling for a “changing weather pattern” next week.Turns out that the story is based on another popular forecasting website. But if visit that site, you’ll see that the Colorado outlook actually says something quite different from the way it was interpreted. Continue reading

Climate: NASA unraveling secrets of snow

Research aims to discover what’s going on inside storm clouds

Snow! PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Has your heart ever gone pitter-patter when you tune into the forecast and the weatherman says 6 to 12 inches are headed your way, only to have that anticipation turn to disappointment when the system fizzles?

And vice-versa, it seems like almost every year a big dump emerges out of nowhere, after forecasters call for hum-drum weather.

As it stands now, weather forecasting is still an inexact science — something that’s humbling for forecasters every day, as Colorado Avalanche Information Center director Ethan Greene recently said. Continue reading

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