Thursday, March 31, 2011

Drought Conditions Go From Bad to Worse

There's no secret that we have been in a drought for quite some time, dating back to last fall when we entered into a La Nina type weather pattern.

A La Nina weather set-up usually means we see warmer and drier conditions than normal. That has indeed been the case now for the past 6-8 months.

About two months ago, many of our communities in Deep East Texas were in a moderate to severe drought.

Last month, several areas were upgraded to an extreme drought, which is a stage 3 drought. Keep in mind, a stage 4, or exceptional drought, is the worst drought possible.

Due to our lack of rainfall and persistent dry conditions, all of East Texas is now in a stage 3 extreme drought. As you can see from the image above, that extreme drought stretches all the way to the Arklatex and as far south as Conroe and Silsbee in Southeast Texas.

We are not the only one's seeing the parched soils. In fact, most of the Lone Star State is in a drought of some kind.

The image to your left shows that 65% of the state is experiencing a severe or extreme drought at the present time. Over 85% of the state is in a drought, period. The only exceptions are a small section of the panhandle and a small area along the lower Texas coastline.

An extreme drought is about a 1 in 30 year drought. It is usually an indication that water shortages will be enacted soon, and crops and pasture losses are likely.

The long term climate models suggest we may not see things improve anytime soon. The climate models indicate that the warmer and drier conditions will prevail for the next few months.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Discrepancy in Computer Models Leaves us Guessing

You rarely hear me say on the air "I have no idea what the weather will do this weekend or next week." After all, that is my job, right? To forecast the weather is to know the weather and how all the forces in the atmosphere influence weather features and weather patterns.

When meteorologists like myself make forecasts, we often come away with two modes of thought. Either we are fairly confident on how the forecast will play out as predicited, or not very confident at all.

You can be confident in your forecast, but that does not guarantee that you will be accurate. The other scenario is true, however. We may make a forecast based on our instinct, or gut feeling, and could be dead on, even though we did not have high confidence from the start.

So where does our confidence in making a forecast come from? The answer is simple: the computer models that we look at on a daily basis.
A computer model is exactly what is says, a model. There are always errors in computer models due to the bad data that goes into them from the start. We also have several models to view and they each give us different outcomes.
The problem we run into is when the different computer models we look at don't agree with each other. When that happens, we say there is uncertainty in the forecast.
This is the problem we have for our weather next week, where the different models are giving us different solutions on the timing of cold fronts, and the likelihood of precipitation.
To add to the issue, the computer models I've looked at the past couple of days have been flip flopping. In other words, If model A shows solution A and model B shows solution B, those are different solutions. But when they flip flop, model A may show a solution similar to solution B and vice versa.
Alright, I'm sure you are confused by now. What I'm getting at is the discrepancy in the computer models makes a forecast very challenging. That's where going on experience and instincts takes over. It's what also makes our job more challenging.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Super Moon

Did you see the super moon this weekend? If you thought the moon looked brighter and bigger than it normally does, you would be correct in your thinking.

The full moon this past weekend wass classified as a "Super Moon" because it was the closest the moon had been to planet earth since March of 1993.

Picture courtesy of: rambo3715 from San Augustine.
The close proximity to earth allowed the moon to be 14% bigger than normal and 30% brighter than its usual appearance in a full moon setting. This close distance to the earth was a result of the gravitational pull the earth had on the moon, as well as the ellipitical orbit of the moon.
The next super moon is predicted to take place on November 14, 2016.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Temperatures Soaring into the 80's by Weeks End

If you and your family plan on hitting any East Texas lakes this spring break week, the weather should suit you quite nicely.

In looking at our current weather pattern and what may evolve over the next five to seven days, it's safe to say that no major storm systems will be headed our way anytime soon. This means the prospects for rain and thunderstorms will be virtually slim to none.

It also means our temperatures will be trending upward as well. The image above shows what the jetstream will look like by the end of the week.

A trough along the west coast will keep many of those areas unsettled, with the threat for some heavy rain likely. A ridge of high pressure, however, will be situated over us and much of the Deep South by the weekend. That area of high pressure in the upper atmosphere (20-30,000 feet) will steer any storms away from us, and at the same time, allow us to warm up significantly.

I am forecasting high temperatures the next couple of days to reach the middle to upper 70's. By Friday, many of your backyard thermometers will show low 80's, and some middle 80's will be possible by the weekend.

Needless to say, we will be warmer than normal, with afternoon highs by this weekend running some 10-14° above normal. I think it is safe to say that spring is already here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't Start Your Spring Planting Just Yet

I have heard from several of you that said you were going to start buying flowers and start your spring planting. My response: "Not so fast."

Even though we have had a two to three week stretch of unseasonably warm weather as of late, let us not forget that we are in the month of March. Our average low this time of year is around 45°. With cold fronts coming in every four to five days, we can still see a light freeze this time of year.

The front that blew through on Tuesday night allowed our temperatures to fall into the lower and middle 30's this morning.

While many of us stayed above freezing this morning, the A.L. Mangham Jr. Regional Airport southwest of Nacogdoches did show a morning low of 30°.

With clear skies, dry air, and light winds in place tonight, we will see another chilly night, with lows falling into the lower to middle 30's once again.

It should be noted that even if your community stays above freezing, tonight's chill could harm or kill the newly planted vegetation, especially if you have plants or flowers sensitive to the cold conditions.

Keep in mind that our average last freeze of the winter/spring season is around mid-March. So while we may be done with the Arctic blasts, the light freezes may still hang around for a few more weeks.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Another Storm, But Not Much Rain

Another fast moving storm will put out of the Rockies and into the Deep South on Tuesday. Even though we will have plenty of moisture to work with, we are not expecting much rainfall with this Tuesday storm.

The combination of limited instability (stable air) and the fast storm motion will keep most of us in Deep East Texas from receiving some beneficial rainfall.

Missing out on the rain and storms may not be all bad; that's because any storms that develop on Tuesday afternoon and evening could turn severe based on the atmospheric conditions that will be in place.

Right now, the Storm Prediction Center out of Norman, OK, has placed portions of Northeast Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana under a "slight" risk for severe weather.

That means any storms that develop and move through these areas have the potential to produce large hail, damaging winds, and isolated tornadoes.

If you look at the risk area closely you will notice that we are not included in the risk area. That's not to say we can't see a few strong storms, but the majority of the active weather should bypass us once again to our north and east.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rainfall Recap for February

After getting the year off to a wet start, we dried out considerably in the month of February.

Even though February is the shortest month of the year, we still only received 0.76" of rain at the Angelina County Airport, just south of Lufkin.

We typically average a little over three inches in the month of February, which gave us a deficit for the month of -2.41".

For the year, however, we are still hanging on to a surplus, albeit, it is not much of one. Of the 7.90" of rain we have received in the first two months of 2011, 7.14" of it came in the month of January.

Right now we have a rain surplus of only 0.28". If we go another week without any significant rainfall, we will have a deficit on our hands. Remember, we ended 2010 with a deficit of over sixteen inches.

As a result, severe to extreme drought conditions still persist across East Texas.