Friday, June 29, 2007

A Little To Close

These storm chasers really pushed the edge of the envelop by getting way to close to this Oklahoma tornado. But in doing so, they did capture some really fascinating video. However unless there is a scientific purpose in getting close to something as unpredictable as a tornado. The footage is just not worth the risk. These chasers are indeed very lucky.

Weather Notes...

This week Central Region NWS offices started an experimental service called the Weather Story. It’s a graphical forecast product that highlights the most important forecast event for the upcoming 7 days. Usually there is going to be a short write up with each Weather Story. Here is a link to the Twin Cities office Weather Story. To see your local office, just add the 3 letter identifier to the end of the string. Enjoy!

Maritime Notes...

New Zealand – update on listing bulker

Maritime New Zealand issued a media release providing an update on the status of the listing bulk carrier anchored in Tasman Bay. Progress to date has steady, but slow. The list has been reduced to 11 degrees. It may take up to 10 days to fully dewater the cargo holds. (6/27/07).

Chaser Pix's

Great pix's from Matt Ziebell!

Here's Matt's rundown of where he chased and what he observed:

June 21: Black Hills supercell
June 22: Black Hills brief rotating cell and funnel
June 23: SK and MB supercells and tornado
June 24: Southeast MT supercell
June 25: Northeast WY supercell

Have A Great Weekend!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Taharoa Express

As we wait for the National Hurricane Center's report on Subtropical Storm Andrea. Another ship who suffered at the hands of mother nature was reported finally anchored at Tasman Bay, New Zealand.

The 902 foot NKK owned Taharoa Express (formerly known as the "Stellar Cape") a 140,000DWT ore/bulk carrier which was converted into a slurried iron sand carrier was listing some 14 degrees after its load of iron sand shifted while in rough sea about 42 nautical miles (78km) south west of Cape Egmont. Steady progress was being made to right the listing vessel as of this report. Since yesterday, the 25 member crew have been using pumps flown in from nearby Nelson to remove excess water contained in the vessel’s cargo holds. The water is used to help pump in the iron sand and is a normal part of loading operations. Additional pumps may be brought in to help speed up the process.

The pumping operation has so far resulted in the vessel’s list being reduced from 14 degrees yesterday to 12 degrees today.

As we have seen in video's posted on this blog of ship's encountering heavy seas. Wave actions can and do have mechanical effects on not just the ship's general arrangements and superstructure but especially on its cargo. Stress factors associated with these type of wave actions can do some great damage to large ships.

Now imagine a 44 foot sail boat encountering these tyoes of seas.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Lightning Safety Week:
June 24-30, 2007

Check this site for handouts, indoor safety and outdoor risk reduction tips, medical facts, history, survivor stories, photos, teacher tools and more. Our new kids page now includes a Leon the Lion Safety coloring sheet.

Summer is the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena— lightning. Safeguarding U.S. residents from dangerous lightning is the goal of this Website. The campaign is designed to lower lightning death and injury rates and America's vulnerability to one of nature's deadliest hazards.

In the United States, an average of 62 people are killed each year by lightning. In 2006, there were 47 confirmed deaths and 246 confirmed injuries. The injury number is likely far lower than it should be because many people do not seek help or doctors do not record it as a lightning injury.

People struck by lightning suffer from a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, numbness, dizziness, stiffness in joints, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, depression, and an inability to sit for long.

Lightning is a serious danger. Through this site we hope you'll learn more about lightning risks and how to protect yourself, your loved ones and your belongings. As a start, get an overview of Lightning Safety or stop by our comprehensive page of handouts, brochures, links and more.

NOAA Logo FEMA logo and link 45th Squadron link and logo National Park Service link American Red Cross Logo Lightning Injury Research Program link and logo National Lightning Safety Institute Logo Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors International, Inc. logo and
Little League Logo and link
Minnesota Twins logo and link Vaisala logo and link Lightning Protection Institute logo and link Lightning Safety Alliance link

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NOAA Satellites ready for Hurricanes


NOAA image of hurricane and satellite.June 18, 2007 — With an active Atlantic hurricane season expected for 2007, NOAA’s high-powered satellites are ready to send forecasters a steady stream of crisp, detailed images, and other important data, of any storm that develops in the Western Hemisphere.

The NOAA Satellite and Information Service operates a fleet of spacecraft that monitor the weather, including conditions that trigger hurricanes and the tornadoes and floods that accompany them. “These satellites often provide us with the first indication that a storm is forming and they play an important role in predicting where a storm will go,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NESDIS.

NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), which operate from a fixed position 22,500 miles above the east and west coasts, take constant images of hurricanes and track their movement. Additionally, NOAA’s Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES), which operate 530 miles over the Earth, orbiting the entire planet, keep an eye on storms, while providing data — including sea-surface temperatures, which is incorporated into global weather models.

Satellite data is used in combination with hurricane buoys, hurricane hunter aircraft, air-borne Doppler radar, dropwindsondes, and the experience and skill of NOAA’s forecasters to predict tropical storm impacts.

“Our satellites are in good health and are closely watching the oceans for any hint of tropical storm activity,” Kicza added. “Our top priority is to provide the satellite images and data to NOAA meteorologists, who make the forecasts that enable emergency managers to help people get out of harm’s way.”

NOAA Satellite Fleet

NOAA currently has four geostationary spacecraft: two are in operation, one is stored in orbit as a ready backup and one satellite currently used to provide better coverage of South America as part of the World Meteorological Organization’s World Weather Watch Global Observing System. GOES are the nation’s primary hurricane spotters from space.

NOAA also has five polar-orbiting satellites – two that are operational, including a spacecraft in a joint venture with Europe, with three more serving as backup satellites. POES are key in monitoring changes in the atmosphere and ocean temperatures and climate phenomena, such as El Niño and La Niña.

“We have an elaborate system in place, including back-up satellites and partnerships with other nations, that would handle any hiccups and keep monitoring storms,” said Kathy Kelly, director of the NOAA Satellite Operations and Satellite Data Processing and Distribution.

Additionally, NESDIS processes data from other spacecraft, such as NASA’s research QuikSCAT satellite, which is used in hurricane forecast models. “Our forecasters are using research tools like QuickSCAT to develop enhanced forecast models,” said Mary Glackin, acting director of the NOAA National Weather Service. “NOAA’s satellites are a key component to accurate hurricane forecasts, but our focus on next-generation technologies will ensure continued to improvement in hurricane services.”

Just last week, NOAA officially dedicated a new home for its around-the-clock environmental satellite operations. The NOAA Satellite Operations Facility, in Suitland, Md., supports a range of high-technology equipment, including 16 antennas that control more than $4.7 billion worth of environmental satellites. Each day, NSOF processes more than 16 billion bytes of environmental data from NOAA’s satellites and the Department of Defense’s Meteorological Satellite Program.

NOAA image for a larger view of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 28, 2005, at 9:15 a.m. EDT - Category 5 strength. Also shown is the NOAA GOES-12 satellite, which monitors Atlantic hurricanes. NOAA Satellites Show Moxie
During the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, when a record 28 storms developed, NOAA satellites sent a total of 11,736 images of these cyclones to forecasters at the NOAA National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla. In the relatively quiet 2006 hurricane season, the number of images was 7,380. (Click NOAA image for a larger view of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 28, 2005, at 9:15 a.m. EDT - Category 5 strength. Also shown is the NOAA GOES-12 satellite, which monitors Atlantic hurricanes. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

In New Orleans, ground zero for Hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, GOES sent 716 images of the storm between August 26 and August 30.

“During Katrina, nothing could have been more helpful to forecasters than [NOAA] GOES imagery,” said Paul Trotter, meteorologist in charge of the NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Slidell, La. “In areas where observations were limited, satellite imagery of the southwest movement of Katrina, once it began to move through and exit Florida, gave tremendous lead time of the eventual curve toward southeast Louisiana.”

Future NOAA Satellites
NOAA and NASA are planning the next generation of satellites that will strengthen the prediction and tracking of hurricanes. Known as the GOES-R series, these next generation satellites are expected to bring key improvements in data for predicting severe weather, including hurricanes. GOES-R data will result in longer watch and warning lead times and a better definition of the threat area for hurricanes and other dangerous weather.

“Since the first GOES satellite began monitoring the weather in 1975, we have never stopped trying to make this system better,” Kicza said.

Also planned for the future is the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, or NPOESS. This satellite system also will bring improved data and imagery for better weather forecasts, severe-weather monitoring and detection of climate change.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Satellite and Information Service

NOAA National Weather Service

NOAA National Hurricane Center

Monday, June 25, 2007

More Rogue Waves & Sean Seamour II Update

As we await the National Hurricane Centers report on Subtropical Storm Andrea due out this week. The above video is of a ferry encountering heavy seas.

We have a unofficial initial assessment from the NHC regarding the heavy seas encountered by the s/v Sean Seamour II. This was part of an email exchange to me by the NHC, who also asked for other details on the Seamour's location so that there Marine Branch could take a closer look;

"At first glance, buoy 41001 (located approximately 150 nm east of Cape Hatteras at 34.68N 72.66W) is closest to the ships and also reported the highest seas during this event. The highest reported significant wave height was 12.4 meters (40.7ft) with a 14 sec period early on May 07. The typical rule of thumb and theoretical bound using statistical methods would imply the potential for an individual wave to be as high as 2 times the significant wave height or roughly 82 ft. However, a somewhat higher wave seems possible in this case since, in deep water, wave height is typically bounded by the steepness. That is, individual waves will begin to break when their height/length ration exceeds 1/7.

Accordingly to my back of the envelope calculations, that would yield a *potential individual *wave height even higher than 82 ft. Additionally, the 3 ships appeared to be in close proximity to the Gulf Stream. In this case, the wind was opposing (or going in the opposite direction) of the Gulf Stream. Such a condition is known to produce extremely large seas which can exceed values from wave equations alone. Additionally, such conditions also tend to produce very steep seas (very hazardous condition). In fact, many of the accounts of "rogue waves" seem to originate in areas where the wind bucks a strong current. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the worst conditions (highest actual significant wave height) was sampled by this buoy. So it is easy to imagine conditions even worse than what I have outlined above. Still, I suspect ~80 ft is more than enough to capsize a sail boat and inflict serious damage to a cargo ship.

Caveat: Since the NHC is not officially declaring the system subtropical until early May 9, these conditions did not arise during Andrea, but rather the pre-Andrea extratropical cyclone!

I guess the question to ask is whether an 80 ft wave is capable of the damage we saw in Andrea. If the damage can be explained by such a wave, calling it a "freak/rogue" wave might not be the best term. Such a term implies a wave which defies science and thus cannot be explained. In this case, it seems to me that the conditions necessary to produce such damage can be explained. The 3 vessels, unfortunately, found themselves in near optimal conditions for
extremely large wave production."

Fascinating and we await the NHC report.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Wind, Swell and Rouge Waves

Wind, Swell and Rouge Waves

The wind not only produces currents, it creates waves. As wind blows across the smooth water surface, the friction or drag between the air and the water tends to stretch the surface. As waves form, the surface becomes rougher and it is easier for the wind to grip the water surface and intensify the waves.

Take it to the MAX! Anatomy of a Wave

In Oceanography and Seamanship, William G. Van Dorn provided an example of what the wave heights would be if a steady 33 mph (30 knot) wind blew for 24 hours over a fetch of 340 miles.
  • 10% of all waves will be less than 3.6 ft (1 m).
  • The most frequent wave height will be 8½ ft (2½ m).
  • The average wave height will be 11 ft (3 m).
  • The significant wave height will be 17 ft (5 m).
  • 10% of all waves will be higher than 18 ft (5 m).
  • The average wave height of the highest 10% of all waves will be 22 ft (7 m).
  • A 5% chance of encountering a single wave higher than 35 ft (11 m) among every 200 waves that pass in about 30 minutes.
  • A 5% chance of encountering a single wave higher than 40 ft (12 m) among every 2,600 waves that pass in about five hours.
How big wind waves get depends on three things:
  • Wind strength. The wind must be moving faster than the wave crests for energy to be transferred.
  • Wind duration. Strong wind that does not blow for a long period will not generate large waves.
  • Fetch. This is the uninterrupted distance over which the wind blows without significant change in direction.
Storms of equal size can generate much larger waves in the open Pacific Ocean as compared to the other oceans due to the long open distance of water.

After the wind begins to blow for a while, the waves get higher from trough to crest, and both the wave length and period become longer. As the wind continues or strengthens, the water first forms whitecaps and eventually the waves start to break. This is referred to as a fully developed sea.

Take it to the MAX! Beaufort Wind Scale

"Stolt Surf", North Pacific 1977

The following images are from the chemical tanker ship "Stolt Surf", built in 1970, caught in a large storm in the North Pacific Ocean. The largest waves of the storm broke over the Bridge, more than 72 feet (22 meter) high. Images © Karsten Petersen. Used by permission.

Going into the trough of a wave
Image © Karsten Petersen. Used by permission.

Riding up to the next peak
Image © Karsten Petersen. Used by permission.

Nearly at the crest
Image © Karsten Petersen. Used by permission.

Topping the crest...just to have another huge wave behind it. Image © Karsten Petersen. Used by permission.
The waves in a fully developed sea outrun the storm that creates them, lengthening and reducing in height in the process. There are called swell waves. Swells organize into groups smooth and regular in appearance. They are able to travel thousands of miles unchanged in height and period.

The longer the wave, the faster it travels. As waves leave a storm area, they tend to sort themselves out with the long ones ahead of the short ones, and the energy is simultaneously spread out over an increasingly larger area. As the waves close in on the coast, they begin to feel the bottom and their direction of travel might change due to the contour of the land. Eventually, the waves run ashore, increasing in height up to 1.5 times their height in deep water, finally breaking up as surf.

There are many sailor tales of "rogue waves", "freak waves", "three sisters" and other "killer waves". Properly called "extreme storm waves" these tales were ridiculed and mariners were accused of using them as an excuse to cover their own mistakes in wrecks. Rogue waves are simply unusually large waves appearing in a set of smaller waves.

Some of the characteristics of rogue waves are:
  • their height is greater than twice the size of surrounding waves,
  • they often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves, and
  • they are unpredictable.
Most reports of extreme storm waves say they look like "walls of water," and are seen as steep-sided with unusually deep troughs. The USS Ramapo reported one such wave with a height of 112 feet in the Pacific in 1933. Another report of a freak wave occurred with it struck the Queen Mary amidships, south of Newfoundland, at the end of World War II, rolling her to within a degree or two of capsizing.

Just recently, a series of three waves, about 70 foot tall, crashed down on the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship in April 2005. The average waves that day were 25 to 30 feet high before these monster waves struck. The watch officer on the Norwegian Dawn stated that all the waves were very large, and that all were roughly the same height. On the third wave, he said, the ship's bow took "heavy green seas", which cascaded directly over the bow and struck the forward part of the vessel’s superstructure.

What causes these enormous waves? Generally they form because of swells, while traveling across the ocean, do so at different speeds and directions. As these swells pass through one another their crests, troughs, and lengths happen to coincide and reinforce each other, combining to form unusually large waves that tower then disappear. If the swell are travelling in the same direction, these mountainous waves may last for several minutes before subsiding.

It is very seldom that huge waves over 65 feet (20 meters) are developed and normally sailors do not even see them, because ships nowadays will try to avoid such conditions by altering course before the storm hits. But they do occur.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rogue Wave traps four hikers

P.C. Lui of Freaque Waves, has a couple of good articles om rogue waves.

Rogue wave traps 4 hikers
When I first saw this title, I was a little puzzled. How does freaque wave got to do with hikers? Well, this article in the Seattle Times by Maureen O'Hagan tells what had happened to a group of hikers:

The group had set out Sunday for a weeklong hike on the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. The trail, about 47 miles long, is as beautiful as it is rugged. There is no road access. And with parts of the trail hugging the ocean, hikers must time their forays to avoid the dangers of high tide. No matter the time of day, the waves crash explosively. The area is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific because of the ships that have sunk there.

So with parts of the trail hugging the ocean, they carefully tried to avoid high tide, can freaque waves to be far behind? It almost sounds like an action movie script, but it's beyond most of the Hollywood script writers imagination:

The rest of Paul's post can be found here Rogue wave traps 4 hikers


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tornado's Destruction From Space

Image : A tornado left this scar in a forested region of Wisconsin on June 7, 2007. Image Credit: NASA's MODIS Rapid Response.

A series of tornadoes ripped across central and northeast Wisconsin on the evening of June 7, 2007, leaving a path of destruction visible from space.

This image of the track of one of those tornadoes was captured on June 9, 2007, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. The tornado track is the diagonal line running through the dark green, forested area, just left of the center of the image.

The path torn through this densely wooded area stands out quite clearly in the satellite image, as tens of thousands of trees were leveled by the devastating funnel cloud.

One of the tornadoes to strike the area was given an F-3 rating by the National Weather Service, classifying it as a “strong” tornado that causes severe damage and has wind speeds between 158 and 206 miles per hour.

For more information on the Wisconsin tornadoes:

Earth Observatory: Natural Hazards

For more information on NASA's MODIS Rapid Response:


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The rescue of the M/V Pusha Bulker

Here is another recent story of a ship running aground off Nobbys Beach (near the extrance to Newcastle Harbour in Australia) after getting into trouble, during gale-forced winds on 8 June 2007.

The m/v Pusha Bulker, owned by Lauritzen Bulkers, is a 738 foot/ 225/m, 76,741 mt, Panama Flagged Bulkcarrier, hauling coal, built in 2006 by Sasebo Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. The Salvage operations is being conducted by s Svitzer Salvage, a division of A.P. Moller-Maersk. It was reported and determined that the ship's hull was breached by the continued pounding of the waves.

As of this writing, the vessel could be stranded until late June and until tides and seas are favorable. Salvage continues, with the 22 member salvage team, stabilizing the ship, preparing it for re-float and transfering fuel and oil to tanks that are higher and not impacted by the waves.

There are some 20 marine and environmental agencies involved in the operations.

As you can see in the video, people lined the beaches in heavy rain and gale-force winds as the rescue operations retrieved the 22 member Filipino crew. Now just imagine the force of this storm that caused this vessel onto the beach.

Here ia another amazing photo, ( Courtesy of Cargolaw ).

This town will never forget the m/v Pusha Bulker. We will keep you posted....


Monday, June 18, 2007

Nine Rescue's In One Day

I have been writing about the s/v Sean Seamour II and its crew that were rescued on 7 May 2007 by the USCG. But this was not the only rescue for USCG Elizabeth City, where they had one C-130 and 3 HH-60 Jay Hawks operational. There were actually six other boaters all rescued on the same day. In total there were nine rescues on this day for Air Station Elizabeth City and its USCG HH-60 Jay Hawk helicopter crews.

The way Subtropical Storm Andrea came in and caught everyone off guard I am surprised that more boaters were not caught in the storm . However, the s/v Flying Colours and its crew are still missing.

This video (USCG Imagery) is of the rescue of the three crew members of s/v Seeker rescued at 0730hrs, 7 May 2007, in the vicinity of Diamond Shoals, N.C.

On the Illinois wether front, its been pretty boring. But the weather has been just great! You know that the weather has to be pretty boring when the main talk on the storm chaser list-serves is "food" ...

Though Storm Chaser Matt Ziebell got some great shots of a super cell and shelf cloud approaching his offiice. Shortly after this photo was taken the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) measured an outflow at 62MPH. No tornado though.... Great Shot Matt!

UPDATE 19 June 2007

Received an email from Matt Ziebell correcting my post on the 62mph outflow. Matt goes on to say the 62mph gust was inflow straight out of the east! When the shelf cloud passed, the outflow was around 70mph from the west. There were several large tree limbs that came down before the storm even hit.

NWS Glasgow MT


Friday, June 15, 2007

The Rescue of the s/v Sean Seamour II

I just can't get over the rescue operations that the US Coast Guard performed recovering the crew of the s/v Sean Seamout II. Just to recap, On or around 7 May 2007 the s/v Sean Seamour II was struck by a what is believed to be a "freak wave", during Subtropical Storm Andrea. The sailboat was broadsided by a wave that did an great deal of damage to the boat and sent the crew flying about the cabin doing 360's and causing its Master to break his ribs. The wave caused the sailboat to immediately list starboard.

After a harrowing time riding the waves a EPIRB signal was received by the USCG and a C-130 over fight located the wave riding crew. A J-Hawk Helicopter was dispatched to the area and launched a rescue swimmer, who injured his back during the insertion into the water, when a wave dropped from beneath him and he dropped some 50 to 70 feet. All of this done in 50 to 70 foot seas, with winds estimated at 80 knots.

This video was taken by the rescue helicopter of part of the rescue and though short its just amazing. Again the USCG Rescue Crew did an outstanding job!

I am adding a recent news article on the Gloucester-based dragger Grace Marie and its encounter with a rogue wave on 27 April 2007. Note the damage done to the steel hull by a wave. I have also added the latest reports (from cargolaw) on recent ships encountering rogue or freak waves. Again note the damage and injuries done to these vessels and crew by a wave.

  • Unidentified 32-foot fishing vessel, with crew of 3, was struck by wave causing damage to the vessel's bow and subsequent flooding approximately 45 miles east of Port Aransas, TX. A distress call was received by the crew of an offshore supply vessel who then relayed the message to the Coast Guard. A Coast Guard rescue swimmer and the boat's crew were able to pump water out of the vessel before it sank. A Coast Guard cutter escorted the vessel to Port Aransas for repairs. No injuries were reported. (Tues. June 5 2007)

  • High-speed 279-ton hydrofoil ferry Seven Island Ai , cruising 40 knots from Izu-Oshima Island to Kurihama Port with 207 passengers, struck by rogue wave off Kanagawa Prefecture, approximately 13 kilometers south of Jogashina Island in Miura, on May 19, causing smashed windows , significant flooding and 27 injuries. From our Sr. Correspondent Tim Schwabedissen (Sat. May 26 2007)

  • Passenger M/V Enez Sun, with 136 passengers & 7 crew -- struck by a massive wave off the coast of Brittany in western France May 19 -- 1 man & 1 woman swept off the bridge into the sea near Sein Island. The man broke his arm. They were fished alive out of the water by a trawler that had been alerted to the accident by the coast guard & airlifted to a hospital in the Brittany port of Brest. "We were on the deck, we were looking at the dolphins. We were very close to the island when a huge wave hit us from the side. The seats were ripped loose. I was very afraid," said a passenger. From our Sr. Correspondent Tim Schwabedissen (Mon. May 21 2007)

Previous Posts;
Cheating Death On The High Seas
The s/v Sean Seamour II & The Hatteras Trench
High Sea's Update On Sean Seamour II
The Story of the Sailing Vessel Sean Seamour II


Thursday, June 14, 2007

QuikScat In Trouble?

The QuikScat Weather Satellite is reported to be running into problems and could fail at any moment. This would indeed have a major impact on reporting hurricanes, as recently reported by the Associated Press.


NASA's Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) was lofted into space at 7:15 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Saturday, June 19, 1999 atop a U.S. Air Force Titan II launch vehicle from Space Launch Complex 4 West at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The satellite was launched in a south-southwesterly direction, soaring over the Pacific Ocean at sunset as it ascended into space to achieve an initial elliptical orbit with a maximum altitude of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) above Earth's surface.

Built in a record time of just 12 months, QuikScat provides climatologists, meteorologists and oceanographers with daily, detailed snapshots of the winds swirling above the world's oceans. Labeled as NASA's next "El Niño watcher," QuikSCAT is used to better understand global weather abnormalities and to generally improve weather forecasting.

QuikSCAT's predecessor, NSCAT (NASA Scatterometer), a microwave radar scatterometer, measured near-surface wind vectors (both speed and direction) over the global oceans starting in August 1996. The QuikSCAT mission is a "quick recovery" mission to fill the gap created by the loss of data from NSCAT, after the satellite it was flying on lost power in June 1997.

Winds play a major role in every aspect of weather on Earth. They directly affect the turbulent exchanges of heat, moisture and greenhouse gases between Earth's atmosphere and the ocean. To better understand their impact on oceans and improve weather forecasting, QuikSCAT carries a state-of-the-art radar instrument called a scatterometer for a two-year science mission. Known as "SeaWinds," this scatterometer operates by transmitting high-frequency microwave pulses to the ocean surface and measuring the "backscattered" or echoed radar pulses bounced back to the satellite. The instrument senses ripples caused by winds near the ocean's surface, from which scientists can compute the winds' speed and direction. The instruments can acquire hundreds of times more observations of surface wind velocity each day than can ships and buoys, and are the only remote-sensing systems able to provide continuous, accurate and high-resolution measurements of both wind speeds and direction regardless of weather conditions.

SeaWinds uses a rotating dish antenna with two spot beams that sweep in a circular pattern. The antenna radiates microwave pulses at a frequency of 13.4 gigahertz across broad regions on Earth's surface. The instrument is currently collecting data over ocean, land, and ice in a continuous, 1,800-kilometer-wide band, making approximately 400,000 measurements and covering 90% of Earth's surface each day.

The Problem

Last year, the satellite suffered a major set back with the failure of a primary transmitter used to send data to Earth about every 90 minutes. It appears that there was a software glitch that seems to happen more than NASA likes. Now QuikScat is operating on back up transmitters that could last for years or fail without warning. With the only back up being a European satellite with similar technology but with limited capabilities. There would be about a 16% loss of information. However, forecasters will still be able to predict a hurricane and its path, but it could mean evacuations over a wider area than the hurricane center normally orders when it has more precise forecasts.

But the problem does not end there. NASA is having it's semi monthly budget fights and of course we can't forget the never ending internal battles for a new design. Maybe by 2012 we will get a new bird. Maybe? Either that or if QuikScat fails like NSCAT failed and the next Cat 5 takes out another major city, we will have another satellite just as quick as we got QuikScat in the first place.


Flying Through A Thunderstorm

Ever wonder what it feels like flying into a Thunderstorm in a armor-plated airplane? This is a great video (Complements of Storm Chaser Tom Warner) of a T-28 Storm Penetrating Aircraft. This T-28 was retired last year and now resides in a museum in Ashland NE,

Here is a little history on the T-28 Storm Penetrating Aircraft.

T-28 Flies Into History

T-28 History

The original concept of a meteorological research aircraft capable of penetrating hailstorms was developed and promoted by Dr. Paul MacCready in the late 1950s. At the time, this was widely regarded as not feasible because of potential danger to pilots and aircraft. The idea of developing a storm penetration aircraft persisted, however, and began to approach reality following Project Hailswath in 1966, when the National Science Foundation provided funds to support a detailed investigation. MacCready commissioned an associate, Robin Williamson, to do the aircraft feasibility study. Williamson considered all aircraft in the military and civilian fleet of the Vietnam War era. All aspects of aircraft operation including survivability, maintainability, costs, and performance were analyzed. Strictly on the basis of performance characteristics, he concluded that the best aircraft for hailstorm penetrations would be a Douglas “Dauntless” dive bomber, a World War II-era combat aircraft. His second choice was a T-28 military trainer, developed in the late 1940s as a high-performance, prop-driven, pre-jet trainer. When costs and maintainability were factored in, however, the T-28 was judged to be the overall top choice.

Using the results of Williamson's study, MacCready successfully presented his idea to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1967. MacCready's company, Meteorology Research, Incorporated, under contract to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Institute of Atmospheric Sciences’ NSF-funded Hailstorm Models Project, acquired and registered a T-28. Williamson Aircraft Co. (headed by Robin Williamson) contracted to outfit the aircraft for hailstorm penetrations. This work began in 1968 and was carried on through 1969.

After the modifications, the T-28 was capable of performing hailstorm penetrations to altitudes up to about 25,000 feet, and was able to withstand impacts of hailstones up to 7.5 cm in diameter at 100 m/s relative speed, with minimal damage. Meteorological instrumentation was installed, and the aircraft made test flights during the summer of 1969 at Rapid City, S.D., and Flagstaff, Ariz., to determine its capacity for carrying heavy loads of structural ice. It was found that the aircraft could handle up to an inch of ice with only a relatively small increase in speed to maintain controllability. Since the T-28 was to be used in summer thunderstorms where a layer of warm air would be present between icing zones and the ground, icing was not felt to be a major problem.

At this time, the T-28 resides with the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The T-28 has participated in summer field programs almost every year from 1970 through 2004. This began with the National Hail Research Experiment in northeast Colorado and continued through projects across North America from Florida to Texas to Alberta, Canada. It even included one two-summer project in Switzerland. The T-28 has provided critical pieces to the puzzle of severe storm development and behavior.

Because of its contributions to science, the T-28 will be retired to a place where a national audience can view it, and be inspired by its work and by the ingenuity of those who developed and operated the aircraft for the past 34 years. The Strategic Air and Space Museum was chosen because of its specialized commitment to atmospheric related research.

Enjoy the ride!


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Missing Sail Boat Grendal

There are times in life when communications gets its wires crossed. This is something that happens even when you check with official regulatory agencies, information just gets miss communicated, wires get crossed. As we say in the biz, "Ship Happens". This unfortunately happened to me recently. I have redacted the names of some of the participants in this story that are not in the public domain, because of both privacy issues and lets just say, making the point I am going to make is not worth any more hassles. People just react differently for various reasons and some of them just get involved on a limited basis. I am not known for that. Once I get involved, I get involved, no holds barred, especially with a report of a missing sail boat.

As the story of the missing s/v Grendal first came to me from a sailing boat forum. The posting dated around 8 June 2007, was a strange and not a typical posting from someone searching for a missing boat and person. The party inquiring was asking for any information on the missing sail boat 'Grendal' and its owner Mr. Edward C. Judd, who was sailing from Fiji to Hawaii on or about 15 October 2006 and had not been heard from since. There was no other information posted. The poster requested anyone who knew anything about the Grendal and Mr. Judd to contact him.

We are talking about searching for someone or gathering information about someone in a span of time some eight months from the last known reported sighting in the general area between Fiji and Hawaii to when the post was published. There was no further details posted. Over the next few days the postings continued and were still limited in any details, though the forum moderator was requesting those details. The inquiry seemed very strange indeed. Why ask for assistance locating a missing boat and its owner and not provide more accurate details? So becoming peaked and after a web search and finding nothing noteworthy, I emailed the person inquiring and asked for more details. After a web search I found the company address and contact data for the person making the inquiry. Noted the companies location and assumed that this was the location or the general area where the missing boater either came from or had family. That was the correct part.

So I contacted that area's USCG Operations Office and made an inquiry with the limited details I had. After searching their data base and speaking with their own area command. They informed me that both the Grendal and Mr. Judd were located a while ago. Knowing that there were privacy issues involved and that I not being next of kin, would not receive any further information asto his exact location or well being, I dropped the issue and reported back to the forum moderator that the boat and owner were indeed located and that the posting was a false report.

Well guess who was wrong? I later received a email from the original inquiring party with much more detail than what was posted including the USCG case number. At the same time the forum moderator without even contacting me decided, I was off my rocker and revoked my entrance to the forum. Got to love people who have the same questions as you do, the same thoughts or concerns about the post in question, as you do, and then just assume your off your rocker and don't even bother to have the common decency to ask you before they react. Especially on a report of a missing sail boat, of which I take very seriously.

Well it did get my attention to say the least and I am not one to drop an issue like this, once I get involved. If I am wrong then I have to admit my mistake and take corrective action. So armed with much more details, I decided to go find out what the real story here was. I made direct contact with the USCG Area Command and also call the company where the original inquirer worked and who had contacted me by email and leaving a message to contact me.

Here are the real known facts of the missing sail boat Grendal.

As it was told to me by the United States Coast Guard this time. The Grendal was located half sunken off the Kura Atoll, North West of Midway Atoll or Midway Island. Mr. Judd was not located. When I asked if an air search had been conducted, the USCG said no, because they received the missing boat report some six or seven months after the last reported known sighting of the Grendal and Mr. Judd in Fiji. However they did launch a search party on the Kura Atoll and found nothing. Mr. Judd's personal processions, what was left of them, were on board the half sunken Grendal at the time.

I asked if there were any GPIRB or EBIRB signals sent or received or any may-days calls. The answer was very a surprising, no. A man with 40 years of sailing history in the South Pacific and no may-day calls or GPIRB signals? How very strange. Well I later found out why. Mr. Judd did not have any form of communications or electronics on his 33 foot sail boat. Nor was any found on his boat by the USCG. Not even a simple VHF radio.

Because of this and the fact that the missing boat report was transmitted so very late to the USCG, they could not even define an air search area. Forget about trying to find someone, some seven or eight months afterwards, sailing between Fiji and Hawaii. Once again even though with limited information the USCG did manage to locate the Grendal and sent a search party to the Atoll, finding nothing, they made contact with as many customs and regulatory offices in countries as they could that Mr. Judd was known to have visited. With no sign of Mr. Judd and no further information provided they closed the case.

As I was finishing my call with the USCG I received a call from the inquiring party who I had left a message for. Yes as I was informed, Mr. Judd did not have any communications or electronics equipment on board. Mr. Judd a 80 year old gentleman with some 40 years of sailing history in the South Pacific was something of a mavrick and someone who just was just care free. Mr. Judd was known to keep in touch with his family and so the lack of communications was unusual.

That did strike me as strange. If Judd had a habit of communicating why did his family wait so long? The gentleman on the line could not answer that and was surprised to find out that the report to the USCG was filed so late himself. Matter of fact according to this person. Mr. Judd had indeed communicated his sailing intentions. He originally sent a lady friend of his a post card in September of 2006 telling her that he would be departing Fiji on October 15 of 06, bound for Helo, Hawaii and was not sure how long it would take. She was asked to give this information to his brother and so she did.

Moreover, during this time there were some five or six named tropical cyclones raging havoc in the South Pacific at varying times during the period when the Grendal was sailing. Without any type of even basic electronics or communications, advanced warning would have never happened.

Tropical Cyclone Arthur - NASA

So Mr. Judd, would have had to rely on visual atmospheric and ocean sightings to determine weather. That did not work to well back in the days of Wooden Tall Ships and many ships and sailors were lost and that does not work well today either. For anyone especially a 80 year old person sailing in any ocean or even offshore without basic communications is unfortunately foolish. No matter how experienced someone is. The odds have a nasty habit of catching up on you. The likelihood of finding Mr. Judd at this time is about, well? Lets say almost impossible. Unless Mr. Judd one day makes contact. That too it seems unlikely.

As of this writing I have sent an email to a contact of mine at Fiji asking them to inquire about the Grendal and Mr. Judd at marinas he was known to harbor at.

If anyone has any information or history about Mr. Judd and his travels starting from September 2006 to May 2007, please contact me here. Just answer this post and I will receive an email.

To my mates at the sailing forum. Communications get crossed all the time and it was not hard in this very unusual case either. It was a strange tail and as I said before, "Ship Happens". You do have my apologies, but jumping without knowing any facts or just assuming someone is wrong without knowing any facts is making the same mistake I made. Next time at least make contact and find out what the facts really are before you react.

My condolences and prayers to Mr. Judd's family. I will do my best to find out anything I can.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Cheating Death On The High Seas

When we talk about the fury of mother nature, no matter if its a flood, tornado, hurricane, or a rogue wave, the mechanics of the event are normally a story in itself. But there is always, the other side of the story.

That story is the story of the rescue operations and the compelling story of the survivors.

This photograph was taken of the rescue of the crew of the s/v Sean Seamour II from the USCG J-Hawk Rescue Helicopter. It again gives us another plane of view of the monstrous sea states at the time of rescue. And this may have been the smaller of the waves that caused the sinking of the 44 foot, s/v Sean Seamour II.

At this view its difficult to estimate the size of the wave in this photograph, but monstrous maybe a understatement. There are just no words to express or define this picture. It's just an incredible and frightening picture! Note the height of the wave peak at the top in comparison to the life raft below. The waves heights were estimated by UCSG Command Pilot Lt.CMDR Nevada C. Smith ( named after the famed wild west cowboy in the 1937 movie the "carpetbaggers") piloting the USCG J-Hawk Rescue Helicopter, to be between 50 to 70 feet.

Also take note of the distance between the waves. and how close they are to each other. Just an amazing photo and a amazing tail of survival and rescue. The Hatteras Trench is definitely living up to its violent reputation here. Not just is it amazing that the crew of the s/v Sean Seamour II, who suffered from a severe case of hypothermia and injury, survived to be rescued. But the rescue itself was indeed most difficult and amazing. Hovering a helicopter in winds estimated between 60 to 80 MPH and with waves of 50 to 70 feet, was no small feat for Lt.CMDR Smith his Co-Pilot LTJG Aaron G. Nelson and Flight Mechanic Petty Officer Scott Higgens.

While deciding to launch and monitor a rescue swimmer and survivors in these conditions is entirely another difficult and painful command decision. For any rescue swimmer not just to stabilize himself in these waters, but to stabilize the rescue basket with a survivor in these types of waters, that rescue swimmer needed to be super-human, and in the case of USCG Chief Petty Officer Drew Dazzo, super-human maybe also a understatement. These USCG rescue swimmers are unsung hero's and in this case, the rescue was just not difficult, but it resulted in injury to
rescue swimmer, PO Drew Dazzo.

PO Dazzo himself had a very difficult time stabilizing himself in the water, since the steep pitch of these monstrous waves had PO Dazzo, who was tethered to a safety wire from the helicopters hoist, feeling like he was in the, spin cycle of a washer machine. PO Dazzo was hanging either very taught or very slack on his safety wire as he pitched and rolled with these waves. During his initial insertion into the stormy seas and while he was stabilizing, it is believed that one of the waves dropped from under him as he crested the wave and then suddenly dropped some 50 to 70 feet, over the other side
causing painful injury to PO Dazzo's back. .

Though injured and hurting, PO Dazzo continued with the rescue operations, saving the rest of the s/v Sean Seamour crew. The final rescue of the last crew member of the s/v Sean Seamour II became very laborious for the injured PO Dazzo and after a failed attempt in using a rescue sling, he once again called for the rescue basket. PO Dazzo then reentered the water to retrieve the
GPIRB. Once back on board the J-Hawk Helicopter, PO Dazzo laid on the floor of the helicopter in pain and was hospitalized, along with the crew of the s/v/ Sean Seamour II.

On top of that prior to this harrowing period, the Master of the s/v Sean Seamour II, being tossed around like a rag doll by the waves, had broken his ribs. Anyone who has broken ribs before understands pain. The slightest jarring is very painful. Imagine riding this roller coaster of waves and wind with broken ribs for an extended period of time? The other two crew members were tossed violently around the cabin and one suffered some back trauma, while the brutality of the wave did not just flip them in a 360 about the cabin, but caused the s/v Sean Seamour II to immediately list to the starboard.

But as I am informed, that did not deter the Master from attaching the GPIRB and freeing the raft from his stricken sail boat and struggling to care for his crew, while his crew made sure they took care of him, knowing that he was injured and weaving
in and out of semi-consciousness . The Master of the s/v Sean Seamour II, lived up to the honorable code of a Ships Master by tending to the safety of his crew during the emergency. I cannot say enough about his two friends and crew mates. Knowing that their friend and Captain was injured, they made sure that he was first in the rescue basket.

They are truly a "band of brothers" today.


Previous Posts;
The s/v Sean Seamour II & The Hatteras Trench
High Sea's Update On Sean Seamour II
The Story of the Sailing Vessel Sean Seamour II

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Bevent, WI Tornado Aftermath, June 7th 2007

Bevent, Wisconsin Tornado and its destruction near Hwy 153 and CTY J around 5pm on June 7th, 2007. (Footage Courtesy of Matt Kaskavitch and Matt Westlund)

While Chicago escaped the worst from a line of thunder storms, Thursday evening 7 June 2007, the Northern Suburbs took most of the punch. Rain totals varied from Villa at 1.38" to Grayslake at 3.60". Most of the damage was downed trees, power lines and flash floods.

Wisconsin was entirely a different story, Where five tornado's touched down. At Bear Paw in Langslade County, Wisconsin, the resort was struck by a tornado rated by NWS as a EF3 with winds estimated between 140 to 165 MPH. It lost 10 buildings with damage estimated at some $200,000.00. As of Friday AM NOAA reported a total of 292 reports of severe weather across the region. There were some minor injuries but no deaths reported in any of the Wisconsin storm reports.

Below is the summary from WCM Chicago Jim Allsopp of the storm damage in the Chicago area.

NWUS53 KLOT 081740

1240 PM CDT FRI JUN 08 2007

..TIME... ...EVENT... ...CITY LOCATION... ...LAT.LON...
..DATE... ....MAG.... ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....



0955 PM TSTM WND DMG DIXON 41.85N 89.48W




1020 PM TSTM WND DMG BYRON 42.13N 89.26W


1100 PM TSTM WND DMG DIXON 41.85N 89.48W








1200 AM HAIL CRYSTAL LAKE 42.23N 88.33W







1255 AM FLOOD 1 W BEACH PARK 42.42N 87.88W




0207 AM FLOOD MCHENRY 42.34N 88.29W


0529 AM FLASH FLOOD 2 WNW ZION 42.47N 87.88W


0702 AM FLASH FLOOD 3 W ZION 42.46N 87.90W






Friday, June 8, 2007

Another Plane Of View

As I have mentioned before, many times we view things on one plane of thought as we see them, without considering or imagining another view point. For example, the two video's (lower bottom on left) of ship's encountering heavy sea's. It is one thing to try and understand what it looks and feels like from the ships point of view or from the air looking down. Its another thing to see it from shore side.

This video is of a passenger ferry departing its port in New Zealand. This vessel is approximately 600 feet long. Watch the waves effects on this vessel and how the ship interacts with the waves from a shore-based point of view.

Consider now, the mechanical stress factors that these waves are placing on this ship and the emotional stress on the crew and passengers.
I can tell you that it took a strong Master and Crew to pilot this vessel under these conditions. Of course the passengers, I am sure had one heck of a ride.

Now imagine a 44 foot sail boat encountering these waves!

On the weather front in the Northern Illinois region last night;

Chicago got spared from much of the T-Storm damage last night.Though wind gusts, three miles offshore were reported at 60+ MPH and downtoen at 53MPH. But north and west of the city did not fair so well. There were reports of a tornado, funnel clouds, hail, downed electrical wires, downed trees and flash floods stretching from Lake, DeKalb, Ogle, McHenry, Winnebago and Cook Counties in Illinois. However, Wisconsin took a beating. In Langlade, WI the Bear Paw Inn was hit by a tornado and was totally devastated. There are no reported injuries or deaths with all accounted for.

Today the probability for widespread hazardous weather is low.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

LATEST INFORMATION - Northern Illinois

LATEST INFORMATION on significant severe weather expected tonight!

A squall line or solid line of thunderstorms is expected to develop over northern Illinois this evening. The greatest severe weather threat from these storms is damaging wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph. These storms will evolve from supercell thunderstorms that will move into northern Illinois from Iowa and Missouri this evening and then race east northeast.

Isolated tornadoes are possible with these storms as well...however the risk of tornadoes will diminsh as these storms come farther east across Illinois and as we get later through the evening.

These storms are being driven by an unusually strong storm system across the northern Plains. This storm system is winter-like in terms of its wind energy...with winds over 100 mph in the upper levels of the atmosphere. This wind energy combined with abundant moisture streaming north ahead of a cold front and high instability prompted by very warm air near the ground and colder air aloft will set the stage for explosive thunderstorms development.


Public Information Statement

Statement as of 8:35 am CDT on June 7, 2007

Live severe weather briefings to be held on NOAA weather today...

The National Weather Service in Chicago will be conducting live
severe weather briefings on NOAA Weather Radio today due to the
heightened threat of severe thunderstorms across northern Illinois
and Northwest Indiana tonight.

The first live briefing will take place around 11 am this
morning... with a second live briefing tentatively scheduled to take
place at 4 PM this afternoon. If severe weather develops near near
Illinois earlier than expected then the second severe weather
briefing may be cancelled.

Spotter Activation maybe necessary later tonight in the Northern Illinois region.

The s/v Sean Seamour II & The Hatteras Trench

This chart (my thanks to Jean) represents the last known positon of the s/v Sean Seamour II and what is believed to be the last known position of the s/v Flying Colours. As you will note the s/v Sean Seamour sank and the s/v Flying Colours is missing in what is known as the "Hatteras Trench" a part of the continental margin.

According to NOAA, the continental margin is the underwater portion of a continent that extends from the shoreline to water depths of nearly 5,000 m. Continental margins are typically comprised of three regions: the shelf, slope, and rise. Each region has distinctly different characteristics, because of its distance from shore, water depth, and steepness. In the Atlantic Ocean, continental margins have a shelf that is broad and flat and reaches a depth of 100 m. The slope is the steep transitional area between the shelf and rise, and it lies between depths of 100 and 2,500 m.

The continental margin off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina (at 35° North latitude) displays the typical Atlantic Ocean shelf-slope-rise sequence.
The continental margin off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, is a classic shelf-slope-rise sequence, while most of the southeast U.S. continental margin is terrace-like, with prominent features such as the Blake Plateau, Blake Ridge, and Blake Escarpment, as well as the Charleston Bump.

Due to the depth of the trench salvage operations, unforunately is almost impossible.

The trench has a well known history for violent seas, especially during storms. The Outer Banks itself is known as the, "Graveyard of the Atlantic". Over the years, some 600 ships have met their faith in this section of the Atlantic. Much of this is due to the fact that the elbow of the Outer Banks of Cape Hatteras, lies in the path of any hurricane and or tropical storm. This elbow acts as a partition or barrier between two oceans ( the North Atlantic and the Gulf Stream), and even a deflector, causing greater storm surges and waves.

Noted ships that have sunk off of Cape Hatteras include the Iron Clad Monitor, the USCGC Bedloe and Jackson, which sank in the Great Altantic Hurricane of 1944. This hurricane wreaked havoc on Hatteras Island actually causing residents to relocate entire villages.

As David Stick writes in his book,
Graveyard of the Atlantic Shipwrecks of the North Carolina Coast. "You can stand on Cape Point at Hatteras on a stormy day and watch two oceans come together in an awesome display of savage fury; for there at the Point the northbound Gulf Stream and the cold currents coming down from the Arctic run head-on into each other, tossing their spumy spray a hundred feet or better into the air and dropping sand and shells and sea life at the point of impact. Thus is formed the dreaded Diamond Shoals, its fang-like shifting sand bars pushing seaward to snare the unwary mariner. Seafaring men call it the Graveyard of the Atlantic."

For example on August 29 1999, along Cape Hatteras, the maxium wave hights caused by Category 2 Hurricane Dennis, as the storm, located approximately 150 miles offshore, battered the Cape Hatteras area for a week, where SWH's (Signifiant Wave Heights) were recorded by the US Army Corp of Engineers as high as 20.5 feet. Although the winds from Hurricane Dennis were not particularly strong, the duration of the effects of the storm on North Carolina's shoreline was remarkable.

Subtropical Storm Andrea had simular effects as she meandered offshore for a few days. But the duration of effects of the storm were felt along the southern coast. Very shortly the National Hurricane Center will be issuing a report of the damages caused by Subtropical Storm Andrea.

We await that report.

On a Illinois weather note;

There is going to be a CoCoRaHS training session held on Tuesday, June 26th at 7pm. The training session will be held at the University of Illinois Extension office in Grayslake. Here is more information about registering, etc on the CoCoRaHS Illinois page:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 - 7:00 p.m.

University of Illinois Extension Office (Lake County)
100 South US Hwy 45
Grayslake, IL

Register in advance with the University of Illinois Extension-Rockford Center by calling 815-397-7714 or by email at Please register no later than June 22nd.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Illinois Gustnado declared Tornado!

The National Weather Service has officially declared the reported Casey, Illinois "Gustnado" as a EF0 Tornado.

The tornado occurred during a chain of Memorial Day Weekend thunder storms. The tornado touched down on 25 May 2007 between the towns of Casey and Martinsville, Illinois. (photo by Curt Coffey).

NWS had received three different photographs of the tornado, along with a detailed account by a chaser who observed the twister for 10 minutes along its 2.5 mile path. The twister was estimated to be on the ground between 14:53hrs and 15:03hrs according to eyewitnesses. This twister was approximately 30 yards wide and stayed in open fields the whole time.

According to NWS, between eyewitness accounts, photos and radar data at the time, showed it was clearly a tornado. NWS said that, it looked like the outflow from a storm to the south was ingested in the parent cell, which increased the strength of the updraft and added aggregation of low level vorticity, which was already present because of synoptic front nearby.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Automatic Triggering of Severe Weather Forecast

NCSA Enables Automatic Triggering of Severe Weather Forecast

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) has developed tools and is providing compute resources to enable atmospheric scientists to automatically produce high-resolution storm forecasts in response to real-world conditions. Hundreds of computer forecasts have been triggered by storm watches and weather discussions over the past several months.

"The idea is that when a critical need exists, we need to provide resources quickly," said Jay Alameda, leader of the middleware development team at NCSA.

The triggered forecasting capability is being rolled out as part of the 2007 Spring Experiment, hosted by the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed. The experiment, which runs during the storm-heavy season from mid-April through June, provides forecasters with a first look at the latest atmospheric science research and technology and familiarizes researchers with the needs and challenges of forecasters in the field.

As part of the spring experiment's effort to improve forecasting of severe weather, NCSA has demonstrated the capability to trigger computational simulations in response to real-world conditions. When the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, issues a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch, or a discussion of current conditions points to the potential for storms to develop, this information automatically initiates computational forecasts using the WRF forecasting code on one of the compute systems (currently Tungsten or Mercury) that NCSA contributes to the TeraGrid.

"One of the things that's really unique about this is the unpredictability," said Brian Jewett, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is working closely with NCSA on the development of advanced tools and technologies for weather forecasting. Jewett explained that watches can come at any time, and they often come in batches. So multiple simulations can be spawned around the clock.

NCSA's Ensemble Broker software is designed to manage multiple computational jobs. To support the triggered simulation capability, NCSA enhanced the Ensemble Broker so it can submit jobs to the Moab cluster workload management package. The Ensemble Broker also stores numerous aspects of workflow submission and execution, which Jewett said makes it easier for researchers to reproduce the steps they took to get their results and facilitates collaborating with others.

Currently, a single forecast is trigged for each watch or discussion; the forecast is carried out at two resolutions -- one with a grid spacing of 18 kilometers and the other at a high resolution of 2 kilometers. Details on the triggered forecasts are available online at

Because so many variables affect weather, forecasts are very sensitive to subtle changes in conditions. Atmospheric scientists often use ensemble forecasting to account for these uncertainties, carrying out multiple forecasts with slightly different conditions and configurations. Looking at the results of all of the simulations often provides forecasters with a best estimate for the ensuing weather conditions and gives a measure of the confidence in that forecast. The Ensemble Broker was designed to manage the thousands of jobs required for ensemble forecasting and other parameter studies.

"It's exciting for me to see the capabilities," Jewett said. "It's really general, it's not weather specific, and it's deceptively powerful."

For the spring experiment, all of the triggered simulations are being carried out on NCSA systems, but work has begun toward dynamic job deployment, meaning that once a forecast is submitted the best resource would be identified and the calculations would be carried out on whichever TeraGrid resource could complete the work most quickly. This type of dynamic deployment could be key during a national emergency -- whether it's a hurricane heading for the coast or an infectious disease spreading from person to person.

NCSA's work on tools to support advanced weather modeling and forecasting is supported by the National Science Foundation. NCSA is a partner in LEAD (Linked Environments for Atmospheric Discovery), an NSF-supported effort to create an integrated, scalable framework for identifying, accessing, preparing, predicting, managing, analyzing, and visualizing a broad array of meteorological data and model output independent of format and physical location and in a dynamically adaptive manner.


Source: National Center for Supercomputing Applications