Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Night Hawks Back

The night hawks (sometimes called bull bats) are back,  swooping overhead at dusk last evening, hunting flying insects. This was first night that I've seen them. Their return this year is about two weeks earlier than last year. They are absolutely fascinating to watch, especially when they are flying just above rooftop level. Neighbor reports that the night hawks were back last Thursday, the 17th.

The small bats that hang out under the front porch vigas returned more than two weeks ago, also earlier than usual.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cool And Clear At Sunrise

Easter morning has dawned cool (45 F here at house), calm, and clear, after a day yesterday that produced more light showers and some thunderstorms. Here at the house there was a morning shower that produced another Trace. Most of the measurable rain was quite light and mainly to the east of Tucson, although there were some storms in central Pima County. Across the ALERT network there were 19 stations with rainfall, mostly higher elevation sites. There were also a couple of sites near the southern and western edges of the network with showers. Only one site had more than 2/10s of an inch and that was on Redington Pass (0.28"). The RAWS stations across southeast Arizona almost all had light rain amounts, but Mt. Hopkins came in with 0.24". A thunderstorm near Douglas apparently produced hail up to 1 inch in diameter.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Smell Of Moisture In The Air

There were quite a few showers, as well as some thunderstorms, over southeast Arizona yesterday afternoon, with some activity continuing through the night. Above is composite radar image from TUS a bit after 3 pm MST (Friday April 18th). Graphic below shows CG flashes detected from noon to 4 pm.

Rainfall was confined mostly to higher elevations, with many low elevation sites, including here at house, reporting Traces. Above 5,000 ft MSL almost all of the RAWS stations reported measurable rainfall yesterday but amounts were light. Only 3 RAWS stations had 2/10" or more, with Columbine (Mt. Graham) reporting the most at 0.28"

A time series of GPS PW for the last 14 days at Atmo (above) shows values values for past few hours that are nearly double the maximum value during the last 2 weeks. There was a distinct smell of rain in the air this morning, which was quite pleasant after days of very low RHs. The graphic below shows CG lightning flashes detected from midnight to 6 am - most thunderstorm activity at sunrise was in eastern Cochise county and southwest New Mexico. However, there were storms moving northward from Sonora into central Pima County.

The early run of the WRF-NAM at Atmo forecasts activity today to remain mostly to the south and east of the Tucson metro area; however, the early morning storms have developed further west than was forecast by the model. So, still some chance for storms across the metro area today. Graphic below is WRF-NAM forecast of rainfall through midnight tonight (Saturday, April 19th). The WRF-GFS forecasts appear considerably too dry for today, with hardly any activity over southeast Arizona.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dreary Morning As Closed Low Approaches Northern Baja

The upper low west of northern Baja is quite distinct this morning, having developed much as the forecast models predicted. The 13 UTC water vapor image above shows the system and the large area of thick, high clouds that has overspread the Southwest. The 12 UTC 500 mb analysis (below from NCAR RAL)  indicates the 500 mb center west of San Diego, but apparently with two short-waves rotating around it. The NAM forecasts the vorticity maximum that is over northern Baja this morning to move rapidly northward across west-central Arizona today. The the main short wave moves across southern Arizona tomorrow and tomorrow night.

The models forecast precipitable water (PW) to increase substantially today and the morning sounding for Tucson indicates about 1/2 an inch of PW - highest value in quite a while. The MIMIC PW product for 12 UTC this morning (below - from CIMSS at Univ. of Wisconsin) indcates PW values of around an inch or a bit more over the northern GoC and off northern Baja. So this event appears not to be as moisture-starved as the last few have been.

The early WRF forecasts from Atmo are similar to yesterday; however, the GFS version is now considerably drier for southern Arizona than is the NAM version. Both versions forecast bands of high level showers/virga across Pima County today, with only scattered light showers reaching the surface. The graphic above shows the WRF-NAM forecast of accumulated precipitation through 11 pm MST tonight. Note the somewhat strange and distinct maximum over the Rincons.

Below, is the same forecast, but for the period ending at 11 pm tomorrow night (Saturday, April 19th). The model forecasts what would be a nice precipitation event for southeastern Arizona, given that it is late April. Current NWS forecasts are for 30% chance of rain tomorrow at TUS, but 60% chances for Mt. Lemmon. The WRF forecasts definitely keep the more significant rain amounts at higher elevations. So, I'll be waiting to see if the gauge here at house catches anything with this system (last rainfall here was on March 1st)..

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sprinkles Or More Numerous Showers?

The early runs of the WRF model at Atmo last night have produced considerably different forecasts as another 500 mb short wave, in the southern branch of the flow, develops and moves across Arizona tomorrow and Saturday. Both the NAM and GFS bring a leading vorticity maxima north-northeastward across Arizona, followed by the main short wave on Saturday. Above graphic shows precipitation forecast by the WRF-NAM through 11 pm MST Friday night (18 April) and the same forecast from the WRF-GFS is shown below. The forecasts are quite different and leave the forecaster facing a dilemma - will the initial impact affect west-central Arizona or will it focus on southeast Arizona and the White Mountains? Note that the GFS version produces measurable rainfall over much of Pima County while the NAM version has forecast almost no rainfall for the county. Both versions forecast some additional, light showers on Saturday, mostly east of the Tucson metro area.

The difference results primarily from the initial influx of increased moisture associated with the leading portion of the short wave. The models forecast the most significant showers to be associated with the leading part of the short wave and the GFS version also forecasts development of higher values of CAPE across southeast Arizona. The situation appears to be one in which the different models have minor differences in the forecasts of development of the short wave in the southern stream of the flow and of the northward advection of moisture as this feature takes shape. The situation is further complicated by the current dryness in the southern stream. I see that the new NWS NAM forecast run this morning  shifts the main impact of this event to southeastern Arizona as the main part of the short wave passes. So each different model run seems to come up with slightly different forecasts. It appears to be a situation which will require careful monitoring of the PW tomorrow - so a tough forecast due to uncertainties that persist as the event draws near. The new WRF forecasts this morning should be interesting also.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fire Weather Zones

With a wildfire burning in the Huachuca Mountains currently (the Brown Fire, shown in photo from yesterday, credit unknown), I thought that I would respond to a comment from early in April regarding the NWS Fire Weather Zones. The comment was:

FYI... WFO Tucson recently re-drew their Fire Weather Zones (effective 4/1), so the "regular" Watch/Warning/Advisory maps should look better with Red Flag Warnings now.

The new NWS Fire Weather Zones are shown below and Zone 152 is shaded orange-red to indicate a current Red Flag Warning. I assume that before the zones were re-defined a single zone covered all of southeastern Arizona, extending to the west of the Tucson Metro area. This led to some of the graphics on the NWS web page showing very large alerts for fire weather products, even if only a small portion of the area was impacted.

So, with the new zones, the home page of the NWS at Tucson indicates the above, i.e., a Red Flag Warning for Zone 152. A click on the "Detailed Hazards" tab is still needed to view the much smaller, actual area (below) that is under the Red Flag Warning. As the comment stated, the new zones do indeed reduce the extent of the warning on the NWS home page, but continue to indicate entire zones under the warning. It is not clear why the graphics used by NWS smear the details of some products on the main page that most users see first, and sometimes last. Note that this morning's NWS "Weather Story" does highlight the details of today's Red Flag Warning, and this feature catches the user's eye much better than does the detailed hazards tab.