Sunday, April 30, 2017

Earth, Wind, And Fire

A beautiful morning here in southeast Arizona as April heads out the door. It was a month of wind, blowing dust, and the Sawmill Wildfire nearby.

Rainfall was missing in the equation and we had an April with a total of 0.00" here. This makes the fourth April here (out of 18) since my records began without precipitation. March produced only 0.06", so things along the Rillito are very dry.

Next up - May will likely bring the start of 100 F days, as summer sets in with pre-monsoon heat and more dryness.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pathetic NWS Graphic

I'm in a grumpy mood for a variety of reasons today, so when I just saw the above graphic from NWS Tucson it really rubbed me the wrong way. Why? There is a freeze warning for portions of southeast Arizona, BUT the beautiful color contours showing the NWS forecast for morning low temperatures have NO LEGEND. Thus, it is not easily apparent as to exactly where the NWS is forecasting temperatures of 32 F or colder. Sorry, but this kind of graphic just does not pass muster.

Even worse - the current grid point forecast for the airport low is 48 F while the graphic above forecasts 45 F - just more problems with internal consistency. Grrrrrrrrr.

Winter Storm For Northern New Mexico and Colorado

Clear and cool this morning here in Tucson, with a chilly northwest breeze along the Rillito. The low here at the house was 45 F, compared with middle 50s F around the airport. Even though winds were very strong yesterday, firefighters kept the Sawmill Fire contained and it did not spread eastward.

There is a cold, 500 mb closed low near the Four Corners this morning and snow is widespread to its east and northeast - so that April is closing out with wintry weather nearby. The three images below - from top to bottom - are views 1) of Los Alamos, New Mexico; 2) I-25 just north of Raton Pass; and 3) I-25 near the Air Force Academy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sawmill Fire Significantly Contained Yesterday

The Sawmill Fire expanded only a bit yesterday, growing to 47,000 acres by late afternoon. The evening incident report map is above for Wednesday afternoon (April 26th) and a NASA high-res image of the burn is shown below - also on Wednesday afternoon. The red dots were "hot" spots at the time of the image. The fire is reported 40 % contained and Highway 83 has been reopened. 

The 06 UTC 28 April WRF-NAM forecast at the bottom is valid for 04:00 pm MST this afternoon. The very strong winds will continue the challenge to the fire fighters, who obviously want to keep the fire from running up into the Whetstone Mountains, which are between the I 10 and 90 numbers on the image below.

Apparently the fire was started by an off-duty Border Patrol agent who was target practicing on public land and using illegal, incendiary targets.

Some may notice the white plume north of burn area and I'll try to discuss that later today.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two More Days Of Critical Fire Conditions

Forecasts indicate at least two more days of critical fire weather for southeast Arizona, as April draws to a precipitation-free end. The 06 UTF WRF-GFS forecast of 10-m winds above is valid at 03:00 pm MST tomorrow afternoon, when winds are expected to be strongest. The forecast sounding for Sonoita (south-southwest of the Sawmill Fire) is valid at the same time.

The fire is at least 40% contained this morning (40% number is from last evening's incident report) and I don't see any hotspots on the IR channel 2 imagery this morning. So, the situation seems to have improved some during the night. However, winds are already gusting over 20 mph this morning at both Pioneer Airfield and the Empire RAWS site.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sawmill Fire Update

The Sawmill fire has now burned over 40,000 acres, according to an updated incident report about an hour ago. The IR channel 2 fire detection image above seems to indicate that the fire is now approaching the Whetstone Mountains (bright pixels middle toward top).

Fire Footprint Last Evening

Map above is now on the Sawmill Fire Incident page - it shows extent of the burned area late yesterday afternoon. Hard to locate specific spots, since the roads are not shown. 

It appears that the fire burned eastward right along the Box Canyon Road and then across much of the Proposed Rosemont Mine site and regions along and just south of Greaterville Road. The Empire RAWS is still in operation this morning (one can still find the data on the new, top-down imposed NWS TUS website - which basically stinks - but it is difficult and takes more clicks). The Santa Rita Abbey was spared and the Sisters have been allowed to return. Apparently the fire burned over the Highway 83 Border Patrol Checkpoint. All news available appears to be about 12-hours old, so it is not clear just how far east into the grasslands the fire has burned.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sawmill Fire Jumps Eastward

The Sawmill fire spread rapidly eastward over the northern ridge-line of the Santa Ritas yesterday afternoon. Photo above, one of many taken along Highway 83 by Ron Medvescek of the Arizona Daily Star, shows the fire near the Highway 83 Border Patrol check point. The strange windmill and cell tower combo is just a bit north of the check point. The Santa Rita Abbey that we visit once a month is a bit south and the Sisters are among those who have been evacuated to Sonoita.

Shown here are two tilts from the KEMX radar, which is a bit north of the fire, from a bit before 07:00 am MST. Hard to tell exactly where the active fire is, but thickest smoke in the plume appears to be east of Highway 83 now. The wildfire incident center has no maps yet available for the fire's footprint.

The RAWS station on the historic Empire Ranch was still operating when I checked last - observation summary at bottom shows winds gusting over 30 mph there before 0:700 am - very difficult situation for all the crews on site fighting the fire.

Monday, April 24, 2017

NWS Spotters

Alexander reported:

Hi Bob, I heard this on KUAZ this morning and thought some of your readers would be interested: NWS is seeking additional storm spotter volunteers

Sawmill Fire Update

The Sawmill wildfire continues to expand today - photo above by Juanita Bellew-Mannor. Location of the fire shown below. Current size of the burn is near 5,000 acres. Current observation at airport ASOS indicates 91 F, RH 8 %, and west winds at 17 gust to 28 mph. Satellite image at bottom is IR channel 2 at 01:00 pm MST, which is used to detect both fog and active wildfires. The bright pixels near the center of image are the actively burning area of the sawmill fire.

Sawmill Fire In Santa Ritas

A wildfire was burning yesterday afternoon in the northwest foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains and continued into the night. The smoke plume was clearly visible from south parts of the City late afternoon yesterday. Fire has burned about 2000 acres and is only 5 % contained. Conditions remain critical with low RH and gusty winds - forecast for 10-m wind below is from 06 UTC WRF-NAM and is valid at 02:00 pm MST this afternoon.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day 2017 - Sad And Challenging

After decades of improvement, we have to revise Pogo's famous statement from 1971 - We have new enemies and they are Trump and his billionaire cronies he's brought into our swamp.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hot Weekend In The Deserts

Forecast models indicate a hot weekend for the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, as a 500 mb short-wave ridge passes by. The forecast above is from the 06 UTC WRF-NAM forecast run at Atmo and is for 2-m temperatures at 03:00 pm MST on Sunday afternoon.

In the longer-term, a strong 500 mb short wave is forecast into the Southwest by the last weekend of the month. Above forecast is from the operational ECMWF forecast from 00 UTC last evening.

The NWS GEFS plumes indicate a windy week (above and below from 06 UTC forecast runs), as per the 10-m winds shown above. Some members forecast quite strong speeds for next Thursday and Friday. Several of the members also forecast a bit of precipitation for the airport (below). At this point we can probably bank more on the winds than on the rain chances.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nice Morning Here In Tucson

Was quite nice at sunrise today as we head into another warm and dry day. Issues for rest of month are mainly two - will it rain before May begins?; and will it break 100 F? Looks like the high temperatures this weekend will flirt with 100 F, but outlook for rain continues dim. Since the 19th of February, it has only rained here at house on two days, with a grand total of 0.08". Photos below from my morning walk today.

Vermilion Flycatcher.

Cooper's Hawk with crescent moon above and Palo Verde tree with yellow snow below.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tornadoes Around Dimmitt, Texas

A couple of supercells did develop late yesterday near Dimmitt, Texas. They produced a number of tornadoes that danced around wind energy turbines, as per images by S. Speransky above and below.

The Amarillo 00 UTC sounding (above) continues to indicate the nasty weak wind layer, but with stronger flow above and a SRH rich environment up to 4 km. Lubbock radar about 02 UTC at bottom shows two supercells north-northwest of the radar. Chasers in the right spot had quite a show.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mid-April Weather Doldrums

The weather doldrums seem to have spread from southern Arizona across much of the CONUS for mid-April. Above map (which is blurry in all versions for unknown reasons) shows severe thunderstorm reports to SPC yesterday - April 13th. There were only two. Weak tornadoes were reported near Bend, Oregon, and Wichita Falls, Texas, and that was it.

The large-scale pattern is dominated by a split flow regime that leaves the Plains under a weak trough in southern branch, below a bent-back ridge that extends from Minnesota northwestward toward Alaska. The pattern has resulted in strange vertical wind profiles that are not supportive of organized thunderstorm systems.

The sounding from Dodge City, Kansas, this morning provides a nice example. There is considerable CAPE above 700 mb, but a strong low-level jet gives way to wind speeds of 15 to 20 kts from 500 to 300 mb. This produces the bizarre hodograph shown below - strongly veering jet below 2 km, topped by weirdness resembling an accordion. Not exactly a classic Plains supercell hodograph.

Locally, not much in sight except for some windy afternoons - rain seems far away in the model forecasts.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Latest Test for the White House? Pulling Off Its Easter Egg Roll

Guess my April Fools' Day post wasn't too far off. Below from NY Times article this am.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Short-Lived Lenticulars With Irridesence

We were at Santa Rita Abbey yesterday and I observed small, lenticular clouds forming and then dissipating, turbulently, in very rapid sequence. I had never seen anything like this and any insights much appreciated. First photo in sequence below was at 01:03 pm MST and last was at 01:19 pm (the complete sequence has about 20 photos in it). There were about 8 to 10 separate clouds involved in the sequence.