Sep 032013
 

According to the National Weather Service, August 2013 was the 11th wettest August since 1898. As I mention in earlier posts, the airport record only goes back to 1950. Looking at the airport data, August was the 7th wettest at 4.85 inches. And it looks like more is on the way.

The 6-10, 8-14 and one month outlooks for September all have above normal chances for precipitation. The 6-10 day out look from the Climate Prediction Center is below.

6-10 day precipitation outlook from the Climate Prediction Center on Tuesday September 3, 2013

6-10 day precipitation outlook from the Climate Prediction Center on Tuesday September 3, 2013

All of these outlooks build a picture that changes much of Arizona’s drought outlook. The full green areas below show that removal of the drought rating could occur. This is very rare in the Southwest.

Monthly drought outlook from the Climate Prediction Center. September 2013

Monthly drought outlook from the Climate Prediction Center. September 2013

 Posted by at 7:05 am
Aug 062013
 

I start writing this post based on an email from a friend, VC. I started to wonder about how much it really did rain at the airport last month. But The National Weather Service(NWS) in Flagstaff has rewritten the history books. Just last week, they claimed we had tied the record (See Arizona Daily Sun: Flagstaff ties record set in 1919 for wettest July. In yesterday’s NWS Month in Review post, they state, “Flagstaff in particular was hit with several strong thunderstorms, even during the early portions of the month, resulting in the 2nd wettest July of all time.” Their report also shows a drop in the previously reported amount by 1/100th of an inch to 7.57. Set aside that the record was bogus since measured in downtown Flagstaff and current measurements are at the airport, the shift in the data just looks fishy.

Here is the email that got me to thinking.

Hi Stuart,
I was tracking the rain during July , and can NOT believe that the
airport only got 1/100 of an inch on July 31. I was right outside the
gates while it was raining hard!
I think there was something weird with the recording because there was at
least a 12 hour delay in reporting rainfall after 6 pm on July 31.

I thought I would look at stations in the nearby area on wunderground.com. Two airport stations shown on WunderMap at Wunderground.com.

Two airport stations shown on WunderMap at Wunderground.com

Two airport stations shown on WunderMap at Wunderground.com

These two stations are less than 1000 feet apart. The one near the runway labeled as KFLG and corresponds to the National Weather Service Station. The other station labeled as MQFLA3 and is a Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) operated by the US Forest Service. Looking at the data they reported for July 31, they are very close 0.01 and 0.02 inches. I don’t doubt that it poured heavily at VC’s spot and managed to miss both weather stations. I drove through two downpours on my two-wheeler this last week. Both were no more that a few hundred feet across. It just wasn’t measured.

But, when I compared both stations’ daily rainfall reports for all of July, I saw sizable differences on several days. The monthly amounts were off, too. Keep in mind these aren’t the official records.

tTale of two stations. July precipation for MQFLA3 and KFLG as reported to wunderground.com

Tale of two stations. July precipitation for MQFLA3 and KFLG as reported to wunderground.com

I think it is remarkable that two stations so close together could have so many days with such different amounts of precipitation. Overall, the MQFLA3 site shows 8.8 inches on wunderground. The KFLA site showed the record tying 7.58 inches. This is a large 1.22 inch difference.

Personally, I think the National Weather Service should compare apples to apples. We set a record dating back to 1950. This is the only consistent data set to base a record on. Also, I think they should tell us why the cut the precipitation total for the month of July to below the 1919 record.

postscript: There is more strangeness to report here. Stay tuned.

 Posted by at 6:45 am
Jul 292013
 

I think we could go ahead and consider the 7.57 inches of precipitation we have received in the month of July an all time record for the month. I know it’s short of the 7.58 inches “Flagstaff” recorded in 1919. The National Weather Service office in Flagstaff has updated the monthly total with great graphics daily. Here is this morning’s update.

5 Wettest July in Flagstaff

5 Wettest July in Flagstaff

While we are 1/100th of an inch shy of the record, I’m not sure 1919 is a meaningful record to break. I have mentioned in the past that the weather record for Flagstaff isn’t as clean-cut as you might hope. The Flagstaff weather station has gotten around town. Personally, I think 1950 is the year that forms the basis of a real weather record for a single location. The text below is from a Climate of Flagstaff record provided by the National Weather Service.

A HISTORY OF WEATHER OBSERVATIONS AT FLAGSTAFF 
The first official weather station in Flagstaff was established September 9, 1898. The 
office was located at the southeast corner of Aspen Avenue and Park Street in a one-
story five-room brick building known as the Milligan Cottage. The first observer was
Miss Elizabeth Renoe, who later married a young attorney who became the first United 
States Senator from Arizona, Senator Henry Ashurst. 
On March 15, 1912, the station was moved to Sitgreaves and Ellery Streets, which was 
one-half mile southeast of the previous location. The station remained at this location 
until October 29, 1919. The station was then moved to 602 North Leroux Street. 
On June 1, 1943, the weather station was moved to the Federal Post Office Building in 
downtown Flagstaff. A first-order weather station was then established. 
On January 12, 1950, the weather station was moved to the Flagstaff Municipal Airport,
six miles south of Flagstaff. The station and the weather office remained at the airport 
until June 1994 when the National Weather Service office moved to the Camp Navajo 
Army Depot in Bellemont, 10 miles west of Flagstaff. From July 1994 to July 1995, 
the National Weather Service office was temporarily located in the army barracks, 
while a new office was constructed. On July 21, 1995, the office officially moved to 
its current location on the Camp Navajo Army Depot. An automated weather station 
(ASOS) remains at the Flagstaff Municipal Airport recording the official observations
for Flagstaff. The ASOS was commissioned July 1, 1994. 

In the summer of 1919, The station was at the corner of Sitgreaves and Ellery. By connecting the current day Ellery and Sitgreaves, it appears their intersection would have been around the Prochnow Auditorium on the NAU campus. This would put it about three and a half miles from where it is at the airport now. The station has moved to Leroux street, then the Federal building, before going to the airport in 1950. We know that a few miles in monsoon seasons can make a large difference in precipitation received.

Month to date rainfall totals at rainlog.org

Month to date rainfall totals at rainlog.org

The image above is of monthly rainfall totals reported by people to rainlog.org. A quick look shows that the monthly rainfall totals are variable by location. My site is about a mile from the down town locations and about 4.5 miles from the airport. I’m pretty confident that I haven’t missed a day. Also, I use both an electronic and a manual rain gauges. I have a had about 1 inch less rain than the airport. Most years, I seem to get more rain than the airport. How storms build and travel can cause wide swings in actual rainfall amounts. Because the station has moved around, and the location variability of precipitation amounts in the monsoon season. I don’t think the 1919 record is meaningful. I think we have set a new record which only dates back to 1950 and that is the meaningful record we have.

The problem I foresee is that we are drying out for the next few days. Even the small amount of rainfall needed to break the “record” may not fall. We will see.

 

 Posted by at 9:16 am
Feb 012013
 

We just wrapped up the coldest January since 1979. The 6th coldest since 1950. Last month was half a degree colder than 2008.  More on that this weekend on how this affects the long-term trends.

Unfortunately, the storms that were on tap for this weekend and early next week have vaporized. We may have some clouds and flurries over the weekend. Otherwise, we are looking at mild conditions for a few days.

 Posted by at 6:45 am
Sep 082012
 

The National Weather Service has posted their Month In Review for August, 2012. The report includes the graphic below comparing August 2012 precipitation to historic numbers.

Comparison of precipitation for August 2012 to historic normal. National Weather Service - Flagstaff

Comparison of precipitation for August 2012 to historic normal. National Weather Service - Flagstaff

There are very wet areas. There are very dry areas. The Monsoon Season rarely results in uniform distribution of rainfall. I think looking at rainlog.org helps show this reality of the Monsoon Season. Looking across Northern Arizona, we see wide variability. I know I kept wondering if the weather station at the Flagstaff Airport had its rain gauge under a tree. They reported less than 3 inches while the eastern and northern areas of Flagstaff reported considerably more than 3 inches. It matches the division to the south and east in the image above.

If you look down around the Prescott-Sedona area, you can note several locations above 4 inches and several locations under two inches. one spot near Clarkdale had almost 6 inches. Another site near Prescott recorded only 1.1 inches. It's just how the Monsoon Season works.

For the next few days, most of Northern Arizona will be wetter than normal. If you have ever been to the Killer Whale Show at Seaworld, you already know the saying "you will get wet, you may get soaked." If you have a chance, buy a high quality rain gauge and report your rain at rainlog.org.

August precipitation for Northern Arizona from rainlog.org.

August precipitation for Northern Arizona from rainlog.org.

 

 Posted by at 7:01 am
Aug 182012
 

Or is it just a monsoon season? When the National Weather Service publishes graphs like the one below, it makes me wonder about the quality and site of their Flagstaff equipment. In reality, I think this is just the character of monsoon seasons.

Monsoon Precipitation from the National Weather Service. August 17, 2012

Monsoon Precipitation from the National Weather Service. August 17, 2012

Flagstaff Airport is just below normal for the season. A few sites in Northern Arizona, like Walnut Canyon, are well above normal. As I have mentioned in the past, I report my rainfall totals to two sites. The University of Arizona operates Rainlog. NOAA runs CoCoRaHS . Rainlog is easier for most people to use because of the required resolution is lower than CoCoRaHS. Also, I like Rainlog’s map feature.

Here is a map of the Flagstaff area with rainfall totals from 6-15-2012 until 8-17-2012 from Rainlog. At least one site appears to have not been reporting all summer. It is right next to my site, on the map. Others may have missed data, but by and large, the people who record their data are diligent about it.

Total rainfall reported on rainlog for 6-15-2012 to 8-17-2012

Total rainfall reported on Rainlog for 6-15-2012 to 8-17-2012

Many locations have reported 5 inches or more. I have reported almost 6 inches in the middle of town. There is string of stations from Kachina Village up to University Heights, including the Airport, which are around 3.5 inches. This is just how monsoons go. The Rainlog map is fun. You can look around Northern Arizona and see how the rest of the state is doing.

It could all change with the next storm. If you want to know what is happening in your neighborhood, you can buy an official CoCoRaHS rain gauge and report your precipitation to both websites. Rainlog also sells a rain gauge, but I am not sure if the resolution is high enough for the CoCoRaHS standard.

 

 

 Posted by at 5:46 am
Aug 042012
 

The pattern for July was very strong and provided much needed, always needed, rain to most of Arizona. There were still some dry spots, but otherwise, July was wet. The middle of the US was not so lucky and is suffering an intense and extended drought.

Very intense high pressure has dominated the middle of the country. In the Northern Hemisphere, high pressure systems have a clockwise flow. This strong high pressure has ensured a constant flow of moisture from the tropics into Arizona. This wet pattern is now projected to continue into the fall.

Here is an animated gif from the Climate Prediction Center showing the precipitation outlook for the 6-10 day, 8-14 day, 1 month and 3 month periods. Notice in the fall, a slight shift to the southwest occurs. I think this is probably due to the mild El Nino effect. This is not a strong El Nino and may not have a large, lasting effect. Currently, we are in a lull with much less storm activity since the heavy storms on Tuesday evening. This shouldn't last and we will have more rain on the way.

Animated gif of the Climate Prediction Center's 6-10 day, 8-14 day, 1 month and 3 month precipitation outlooks. From Friday August 3, 2012.

Animated gif of the Climate Prediction Center's 6-10 day, 8-14 day, 1 month and 3 month precipitation outlooks. From Friday August 3, 2012.

On a separate note, my weather station software is not interfacing with my WMR200 very nicely. I may need to shift to a new software. Messing with the weather station has used up my free time and limited my time for the blog. Hopefully, I will get it resolved soon.

 Posted by at 7:58 am
May 072012
 

April was mostly warm. May is off to a similar start. April also had a very nice, almost exactly equal to normal, precipitation. The result is that things in Flagstaff are blooming. In a very rare event, our lilac tree has bloomed this spring. This is only the third time in 16 years it has bloomed.

Lilac blossom in Switzer Canyon, 2012.

Lilac blossom in Switzer Canyon, 2012.

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately, but I have had a host of other things and lots of travel going on. I just haven’t had the time. Besides, it’s been mostly beautiful with scattered wind.

 Posted by at 8:33 am
Jan 082012
 

The National Weather Service office in Flagstaff produced two very nice documents about 2011. One is a review of top weather events in 2011. It’s a pdf of a Powerpoint slide set. The second is their standard text review of 2011. Here they are:

Top 10 Weather Events in 2011

2011 Year in Review

Both pdfs are worth seeing. The only point I would like to make about the year is that overall it was below average on temperature. Sure, it was dry, but we typically don’t hear about things being colder than average.

La Nina drove the dry weather. La Nina and a cold Pacific Ocean could have contributed to the cooler weather. Also, throughout the year the solar cycle continued to underperform to NASA’s models. The Sun has been very dim.  Half a degree of temperature swing may not seem like much. The Arizona Daily Sun didn’t report on the cold year in their 2011 Year in Review: Drought in Flagstaff ends article. Keep in mind that this average temperature included one of Flagstaff’s hottest Augusts on record. By comparison, the global temperatures change by a similar amount during El Nino events. That is typically news.

UAH Global Temperature Update for Dec. 2011

UAH Global Temperature Update for Dec. 2011

It seems to me that half of a degree merits pointing out. Consider it done.

New weather prediction instrument added!!!

My family gave me an “Admiral Fitzroy’s Storm Glass” for Christmas. You can view it next to my Shark Oil Barometer.  It has a similar reported behavior. I think it is still getting acclimated. Wikipedia has Storm Glass page. About.com has a Fitzroy’s Storm Glass page. I will be modifying the barometer webpage to include a Storm Glass section. For now, here is how it should work:

  • If the liquid in the glass is clear, the weather will be bright and clear.
  • If the liquid is cloudy, the weather will be cloudy as well, perhaps with precipitation.
  • If there are small dots in the liquid, humid or foggy weather is expected.
  • A cloudy glass with small stars indicates thunderstorms.
  • If the liquid has small stars on sunny winter days, then snow is coming.
  • If there are large flakes throughout the liquid, it will be overcast in temperate seasons or snowy in the winter.
  • If there are crystals at the bottom, this indicates frost.
  • If there are threads near the top, it will be windy.

It didn’t seem to change as we had the windy system move through last night. But, we will see what it does in the future. I had to move the barometer out of the window. The storm glass should not be placed in the direct sunlight. I’m not sure where I will leave it.

Stu's weather equipment including Admiral Fitzroy's Storm Glass

Stu's weather equipment including Admiral Fitzroy's Storm Glass

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