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

 Posted by at 6:22 am
Dec 172011
 

First of all, I am sticking to my outlook for the weekend. Look below at Friday’s post for that.

My original outlook for this fall and winter were for them to look more like the fall and winter of 2010-2011. So far, I don’t think that is the case. From a precipitation point of view, this fall has been fairly wet. This looks more similar to 2008 than last year.

Precipitation for fall and early winter, 2008-2011

Precipitation for fall and early winter, 2008-2011. Total precipitation on top line graph. Daily precipitation on bottom bar graph.

2009 and 2010 both have dry falls and then precipitation took off in December. 2008 and this year had a steady progression of storms. What is odd to me is that 2008 was a strong El Nino year. This year is a weak La Nina year with the Pacific Ocean being generally colder that average. Also, the Atlantic is colder. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation was negative for the first November since the 1970’s. The cold ocean temperatures could explain our temperatures.

Sum of daily departure from normal temperatures, fall 2008-2011

Sum of daily departure from normal temperatures, fall 2008-2011

This is a graph of shows the summation of the daily departures from normal. Another way I could have done this is to add the heating degree days and cooling degree days. This seemed more straight-forward. Effectively, this is a running total of hot/cold variance compared to the climatological norms. Here we see 2011 seem more similar to 2009. We have had nice swaths of above and below average temperatures this fall. Most recently, Thanksgiving was well above normal temperatures, but bracketed by very cold periods. Since September 1, we are well below normal.

It’s funny to see the continued long-range outlook for our part of the world shows near normal temperatures, but dry conditions. Will it all change? Or, will we continue to see cold, wet conditions?

3-month temperature anomaly outlook for January-March 2012. Climate Prediction Center

3-month temperature anomaly outlook for January-March 2012. Climate Prediction Center

3 month precipitation outlook for January-March 2012. Climate Prediction Center

3 month precipitation outlook for January-March 2012. Climate Prediction Center

 Posted by at 7:15 am
Sep 032011
 

For Flagstaff, it wasn’t exceptionally dry. In fact, our precipitation was just about right in the historic middle. There were few stormy days, but wet when we got them. The rest of Arizona was exceptionally warm and exceptionally dry.

Prescott and Winslow set new records for August’s monthly temperature profile.

There are a couple of notes I want to make about August’s climate profile for Flagstaff. First, the hot days weren’t all that hot. We didn’t set any record high temperatures in August 2011.  Many, if not most days were above average for high temperatures. I think it is more noticeable that most days had much above average low temperatures. I think this was the true driver of the over all high average daily temperature for the month.

Weather for Flagstaff, August 2011 - Weather Underground

Weather for Flagstaff, August 2011 - Weather Underground

Another point is that several days with winds out of the southwest. From a rough eyeball count, I see 20 days where the winds were from the southwest. While the winds were heavy, it seemed like there were often days when you could watch a cloud grow, look promising, but then drift off to the northeast and dissipate.

It still looks like the Monsoon will go out with a roar over the next two weeks. It may start as soon as this weekend or Monday. We’ll see. With 2 tropical systems to the east, Katia and Lee, anything can change.

 Posted by at 6:32 am
Aug 242011
 

August started off fairly wet and near normal temperatures. But it has turned dry.

Month to date August rainfall from Rainlog.org

Month to date August rainfall from Rainlog.org

Most of the area has seen over 2 inches of rain for the month. But, in the last week, rain has been a little scarce and temperatures have been on the rise.

Rainfall for the last week. from Rainlog.org

Rainfall for the last week. from Rainlog.org

There is a good chance for thunderstorms the next few days. I think the real news for Arizona is the ongoing heat and record-breaking temperatures in Arizona.

Here is the record map from HAMWeather.com. The red dots have spread to the west from Texas. The other big news fright now is Hurricane Irene. She could end up being a huge mess. Right now, computer projections show her to take one of the worse possible paths grazing the entire Atlantic Coast of the US. This could batter the entire East coast with hurricane force winds. Time will tell.

HAMweather Climate Center - Record Events for The Past Week - Continental US

HAMweather Climate Center - Record Events for The Past Week - Continental US

 

 

 

 Posted by at 6:57 am
Aug 022011
 

July was a good month for rainfall in most places. A few folks mentioned that it seems like they keep getting missed, which is entirely possible. But, from Rainlog.org, we have the graphic below. Many locations in the area recorded over 3 inches. A few were less than 2 inches. If you have a rain gauge and an interest, you can track your rainfall for yourself and your neighbors at rainlog.org. All in all, a pretty healthy July.

Flagstaff Area rainfall totals for July 2011 from Rainlog.org

Flagstaff Area rainfall totals for July 2011 from Rainlog.org

Today just feels like it will be a big rain day to me. The cool clear morning with a very high humidity could give a good start to thermal generation of thunderstorms. Most mornings for the last few days have had considerable morning clouds and warmer temperatures to start. Also, the Weather Channel seems to think otherwise, so it seems like a good bet.

 Posted by at 6:42 am
Jul 082011
 

The monsoon season seems to be going well. My electronic rain gauge has been giving me fits, but it is finally working properly. Also, I have added a CoCoRaHS rain gauge to my measurement portfolio. CoCoRaHS is a volunteer network run by the National Weather Service to monitor rain and snow fall with greater detail. Good program.

But more important to me is the Arizona-run rainlog.org. CoCoRaHS is more rigid in what data they will except. My electronic gauge on my weather station isn’t sufficient for their standards. So, I augmented it with one of the CoCoRaHS gauges which does have higher resolution and the potential to use with snowfall. Rainlog will accept my electronic data.

 

Also, Rainlog is local. It is run by the University of Arizona Extension. Their goal is to enhance the knowledge about how much rain fell where in order to help drive more efficient use of our natural resource, water. It is a scarce and expensive commodity in Arizona.

I would like to make a plea to folks to use rainlog.org. If you have a good rain gauge, please register and report your data. If you have a garden or landscaping, please check the sight to see how much has fallen in your area, and use your water more efficiently. Here is a look at the month of July so far from rainlog.org.

Month to date rainfall for Flagstaff Area - July 2011, from rainlog.org

Month to date rainfall for Flagstaff Area - July 2011, from rainlog.org

If you don’t own a gauge, you can find links at rainlog and CoCoRaHS for buying relatively inexpensive ones.

 Posted by at 7:05 am
Jul 022011
 

It seems to me that accurately comparing wind between monthly time periods is insurmountable. The amount of data needed and local variability can be huge. But, didn’t June seem unusually windy?

I took a quick look at daily maximum wind speed, maximum wind gust and mean wind speed for June 2011, 2010 and 2009. They all show a similar trend, so I will just show the mean data. A graph of the mean wind speeds for these 3 time periods is below.

 

Comparison of daily mean winnd speed for June 2011, 2010, and 2009
Comparison of daily mean winnd speed for June 2011, 2010, and 2009

I included a trend line for each month. While they maybe not the most elaborate analysis, the trend lines show a decreasing trend throughout the month in 2010 and 2009. June 2011’s wind data show a steady to slightly decreasing trend. The decreasing trend becomes even clearer after the middle of June for 2009 and 2010. But, for 2011, the daily mean speed remained elevated. This seems like plenty of analysis for verifying the feeling of “Will the winds ever stop?”

Looking just a little deeper, here are how the averaged daily values look for the last 3 years.

Average daily max wind speed Avereage daily mean wind speed Average max wind gust
2009 23.4 7.4 31.1
2010 24.3 7.8 31.7
2011 27.9 9.6 37.0

 

In all three categories, daily maximum wind speed, daily mean wind speed and maximum wind gust, last month ruled over the others. This isn’t enough data to make a statisitical analysis. Still, compared to recent history, I think it makes sense that most of us felt like June was windier than normal. 2010 and 2009 are nearly the same when compared to 2011.

 Posted by at 7:05 am
Jun 022011
 

The preliminary look from the National Weather Service for May is out. It was chilly, in the lowest quartile of historic temperatures for May in Flagstaff.

From the graph below, you can see that the beautiful days were just barely above average, but the cold, wet days were way below average. Many days were 4-6 degrees below average. Three days were 13 or 14 degrees below average.

Flagstaff's May 2011 weather history - Weather Underground

Flagstaff's May 2011 weather history - Weather Underground

While a few warm days are ahead, the temperature profile for the next few weeks continues to have periods with temperatures below normal, too.

 Posted by at 6:45 am
Apr 162011
 

 

Preliminary March Summary

Preliminary March Summary

March was warm and dry for Northern Arizona. This winter has been a see-saw for us. February was cold and wet. January was dry, with near-normal temperatures. And, not to be left out from the oscillations, December was warm and wet. What the heck?

If I carefully pick the months I include in my definition for winter, I can get the results I want to justify my forecast from last fall. So, let’s take a look at all the data from October through March. Here are the departure from the historic averages.

 

Departure from averages for winter 2010-2011

Departure from averages for winter 2010-2011

 

 

Idare you to find a trend in that data. Maybe a trend to drier than normal, but even that’s a stretch. And look at the temperature variation. We had some unusual global conditions that drove our winter this year. I have mentioned many of them. A big factor is that with the shift in the Pacific sea surface temperatures to cold levels, global temperatures erased the global warming of the last century.

 

 

Global Temperatures - AMSU Discover Data
Global Temperatures – AMSU Discover Data

That drop in global temperatures shifted weather patterns. Also, the only place that was really warm on the planet was the Arctic. Again, this shifted the storm track farther south. This brought us our several large storms.

 

The weather service track September to September precipitation. As of March 31, 2011, they were reporting 13.17 inches since September 1, 2010. This is 1.67 inches below normal. Since January 1, they reported 4.26 inches, or 3.10 inches below normal. So, I could claim I was right about the winter, but I think that would be misleading. Especially given the drought monitor data from NOAA.

 

US Drought Monitor

US Drought Monitor

 

If I had been forecasting for any place but Flagstaff, I may have gotten it right. If you add December into the January-March data, we have had 6.5 inches of precipitation, which is roughly 1.5 inches below normal. So, less than normal, but we didn’t end up with a drought. But, the snow definitely has had staying power. Also, the word is that Arizona Snowbowl had new and better capabilities for managing their snow this year. That led to a very long season.

I think my forecast was a near miss for this winter.

 Posted by at 6:25 am
Mar 022011
 

For Flagstaff, and most of Arizona, February was a cold, cold month. Compared to the 30 year average from 1971-2001, Flagstaff’s temperature was 4.4 degrees below average. That makes it the 27th coldest winter on record since they started keeping records in 1898. Even that one Beautiful weekend wasn’t able to pull us out.

I think the excessive cold weather helped drive our precipitation in the month. We were 0.69 inches above average. This makes last month the 18th wettest February on record. A cold wet month!

With January’s very dry weather, we are still lacking water for the year. As of the end of February, we are 1.43 inches below average for precipitation. For the water year since September 1, 2010, we are 0.36 inches below average. that’s not terribly far from average. If you look at December – February, we are 0.34 inches above average. I think this makes it pretty clear that I, and just about everyone else, missed the precipitation forecast for the winter. March is still forecasted to be warm and dry. We’ll see. I’ll post more details some time soon.

Looking back over recent history since 2004, we see that December was very warm, and February marked a significant pendulum swing to cold.

Average Monthly Temperatures since 2004

Average Monthly Temperatures since 2004

 Posted by at 5:52 am
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