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Glenn Burns weather

Weather patterns remain stuck in neutral

These have certainly been some challenging times, to say the least. I am hoping we can all keep a positive attitude until we get back to normal. 
 
On to the weather. I am extremely happy severe storm season has been off to a slow start for north Georgia. I know the rain has been relentless but that is having both positive and negative effects. Our favorite lake is at full pool and we are not concerned about low lake levels as in the previous past five years. For those of us who suffer from allergies, the rain has certainly kept the pollen counts way down. I have been looking at the weather patterns and from what I’ve seen, we are likely to see the above average rainfall continue.
 
Most years we have an El Nino weather pattern or a La Nina pattern. Both are the result of changing sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Nino is ocean warming and La Nina is ocean cooling. El Nino will bring us colder temps and above average rainfall. La Nina brings more sunshine and above average temperatures. We don’t have either. We are in what is called a “neutral” pattern, which has resulted in this relentless rainfall and the above average winter temperatures we had this year.
 
A neutral pattern like this is fairly unusual and there’s just not a lot of data to look at. From the extended forecast models I have seen, this wet pattern will be relentless this spring. With more clouds, we will likely see a more stable atmosphere, resulting in fewer severe weather days. As cold fronts continue to become weaker by the end of the month and on into May, we just might have an entire severe storm season with only a couple of outbreaks. I am keeping my fingers crossed!
 
I have been looking at new data coming from the Climate Prediction Center regarding our summer weather patterns. The CPC is betting on the neutral pattern to break down but there’s no timing on that. If it does, we may see some good drying in June. I will keep you posted.
 


Glenn Burns is chief meteorologist for WSB-TV in Atlanta.



  



March 2020 column

We must keep an eye on the sky this month

When I visited Lake Lanier recently, it was actually pretty horrifying. The lake was almost the color of chocolate milk. There was debris everywhere. All I could picture was a bass boat speeding along and then smashing headlong into one of the huge tree trunks floating along, about three-quarters submerged. Tree trunks, tree limbs, and all kinds of shoreline debris were everywhere. Nearly 10 inches of rain for the month will certainly do that.
 
So far this season, as you may have already guessed, our winter has been very warm. By the time it’s all said and done, we might end up with one of the 15 warmest winters on record for north Georgia. We did not have an El Nino this year. El Nino is a cooling of the eastern or central Pacific Ocean. We did not have a La Nina, which is just the opposite. La Nina brings warm surface water to the eastern Pacific Ocean. Both can and do disrupt global wind patterns. El Nino usually results in colder than average temperatures and above average rainfall, or sometimes some robust snowstorms. La Nina on the other hand, generally brings drier than average conditions to Georgia. This year, we did not have either. Conditions are neutral and we have ended up with many more wet days than dry days, along with some unseasonably warm stretches.
 
The first day of spring is Friday, March 20. I am dreading it. It could be a rough go this spring. I also remember March 13, 1993. I came into my office on March 10. I began looking over the latest model guidance and could not believe what I was seeing. It was a neutral year, just like this year. The storm I was seeing on the models was unlike anything I had ever seen in winter. It was going to be like a hurricane in winter. Any and all modes of weather were going to happen and indeed they did.

Supercell thunderstorms, 11 massive tornadoes, and a 12-foot storm surge slammed the Florida Gulf Coast. Six inches of snow buried the Florida Panhandle. Dry Tortugas near the Bahamas recorded a 109 mile per hour wind gust. Winds in Myrtle Beach, SC were more than 90 miles per hour. Double digit snowfalls were measured from Alabama to Maine. Here in Atlanta, white-out conditions were recorded. Birmingham, Alabama had 17 inches of snow with six foot drifts. Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland set records for the deepest snow in history. 270 people were killed in 13 states and the damage was estimated at $5.5 billion in 1993 dollars. It was called SuperStorm ’93.
 
As we head into March, I know we’re going to see numerous tornado outbreaks in the South. You can be sure, I am also keeping a close watch on the Gulf of Mexico. Rainfall this winter has been too much for the ground to absorb. Hopefully, as trees and plants awaken from their winter slumber, they will help absorb some of this rainwater. I suspect we are going to have ongoing flood concerns this month.
 
I know we all want to get back out on the lake with the warming temperatures and get in on that spring bass bite. However, we are all going to have to be patient and extra diligent, as our weather will likely be in the extreme category this month. More flooding, more severe storms, and of course, watching intently at the Gulf of Mexico. 
 
Stay safe everyone.


February 2020 column

Keep an eye on the sky this month

I hope your holidays were great and you are enjoying this “winter” weather! On my way to work today I was thinking about what I would write about. I passed by a couple walking their two dogs along the side of the road. I could not remember when I ever saw anyone walking in shorts this time of the year!
 
When we are in a neutral pattern, that is, without an El Nino (eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean cooling) or a La Nina (eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean warming) we generally see a lot of rain. We were in a pretty good drought this fall and now we are enjoying a nice rainfall surplus! That worries me. We are heading into the wettest months of the year and the ground simply can’t hold much more rain. Many trees are still dormant and there is nothing to soak up the rain.

In February, we average 4.6 inches of rain. Our average for March is 5.5 inches. For April, we average 4.3 inches. That’s about 14 and a half inches. With a continuation of above average rainfall expected, we are going to see some flooding. Creeks, rivers, and streams have been at near flood stage or over since the heavy rain began in January. You should prepare for your home. Make sure your gutters are all cleaned out. Address any problem areas where you had flooding issues.

I know we are going to see a lot of rain in the months ahead. It may not be all rain. Thunderstorms will also be rumbling in with the parade of fronts expected. Some of these storms will likely produce tornadoes. I have seen a general uptick in tornadoes this time of year of the past several years. Cobb, Fulton, and Coweta counties were among the hardest hit. Straight line winds are also a major concern. With all rain and saturated ground, it does not take much for trees to fall. Even healthy trees can come down.
 
I want to make sure you are adequately warned when severe weather approaches. A weather alert radio is your best bet. There are many of weather apps for your phone, including ours here at WSB. Ours is free of charge and it is actually me that will alert you when severe storms are approaching. 

Be safe everyone. Severe storm season is getting under way this month.


January 2020 column

Recalling winter storms, wondering about this year

Happy New Year everyone! Hope your holidays were wonderful. We are now in 2020 and we are still in a neutral weather pattern. There is no El Nino that typically brings cold and wet weather. There is no La Nina, which generally brings mild and dry winter weather. We are simply neutral.
 
Last month we had some good cold punches but also some significant warming during the month. We ended December about 2.5 degrees above the 30-year temperature average. Now, as you know, we are entering the coldest part of winter. I was doing some research and we’ve certainly had our fair share of winter weather hijinks during January’s past. 
 
Some of you may remember the ice storm of 1973 that paralyzed much of north Georgia for a week! Then we had Snowjam ’82. It came in so quickly many drivers just abandoned their cars. In 2014 we had another similar storm. The granddaddy of them all however, came on March 13, 1993. The Blizzard of ’93 was also called the Storm of the Century. It dropped five inches of snow in the city with 30-plus inches in the north Georgia mountains.
 
Although the Blizzard of ’93 was 27 years ago, I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the Weather Center watching for the latest model data to print out. When the first run was completed, I thought it was showing a hurricane developing in the Gulf of Mexico. However, I then saw the frigid arctic air up to the north. I was not believing what I was seeing. It was an epic storm. I gave my afternoon weather briefing to the newsroom but I am not sure any believed me when I suggested the snow totals I thought we could see. Even my boss asked me if I was confident enough to go on the air and tell our viewers what I was seeing. Having spent three years working and going to graduate school in Minneapolis, I felt pretty confident. The rest is history!
 
Am I suggesting another blizzard? The short answer is no. However, in my line of work, you learn never to say never! I do believe there will be a trend toward colder weather this month. There may however, be a different dynamic at work this month. We have seen a great many “wedges” this fall and winter. The scientific name is Cold Air Damming. Cold air is thick and dense, like syrup. When a cold area of high pressure settles across New England, it will send cold air down south. The mountains of north Georgia act like a dam, funneling the cold air into north Georgia. If we were to get a storm system in the Gulf of Mexico, it could transport moisture northward, into the cold air.

Before you get your sleds out, be advised, this scenario would more than likely, mean ice. It’s been decades since we have seen a significant ice storm here. A neutral pattern can do that! I will keep you posted.
 

December 2019 column

Might want to get extra firewood this winter

Last month I was fairly confident in telling you about the weather patterns I expected to evolve as a result of not having an El Nino or La Nina to deal with this winter. I continue to look at some of the winter weather events of significance when we have had the neutral conditions that are evolving now. You may remember Snowjam ’82. I know you will remember this winter event. How about the Blizzard of ’93! Yes, that occurred during neutral conditions like we are experiencing now!
 
To answer your question, no, I am not predicting another epic, history-making, winter weather event like the Blizzard of ’93. I am also not ruling out that possibility. Look at what happened last month on the 12th. 148 record low temperature records were broken across the United States when that first blast of cold Arctic Air bore down on the nation’s heartland and spread into the Southeast.
 
I have also been seeing what is likely going to give us a colder than normal winter. It has to do with what is going on in the eastern Pacific Ocean. From time to time in the news, you may have seen reports on the abnormal heat that has been occurring from California to Washington. It seems there is this massive area of high pressure that has now taken up residence in the eastern Pacific Ocean and has been giving the western states a westerly wind instead of the usual east wind off the ocean. This westerly wind has caused record setting heat.
 
As you may know, the air around high pressure flows clockwise. While the lower half of the Pacific High Pressure is causing a westerly wind in the western states, the northern extent of the high pressure is now the steering current for cold fronts to plow down from the far reaches of northern Canada into the nation’s heartland, and eventually here in north Georgia. There is also a lot of snow on the ground already from northern Canada down into the plains. This is going to keep the air very cold as it moves in our direction. I would expect little, if any, moderation as it moves our way. I would say we are going to see many mornings this winter with lows in the teens and 20s.
 
Now, to answer the question I know you are about to ask. Are we going to see snow this winter? I would say we have a chance for several snows. Here’s what we look for. When a cold front arrives and sinks south of Georgia into the Gulf of Mexico, they will sometimes stall and become stationary. When this happens, an area of low pressure can form along the front and become a winter storm. This is what happened with the Blizzard of ’93. I am not saying we’re are going to have a “blizzard” but I would expect to see this scenario play out several times this winter. It will certainly be challenging to say this least. 
 
Winter officially begins Saturday, December 21st. I am always up for a good challenge so stay tuned! You might want to invest in an extra cord of firewood!


November 2019 column

Here's my best forecast for winter

I always keep my eye on the Gulf of Mexico in October. Last month I was actually hoping for a tropical system to develop and move our way. I was not hoping for a strong one, just one that would give us the potential of a good soaking rain. Tropical Storm Nestor filled the bill quite nicely, giving much of north Georgia 2-3 inches of rain.  With a 6-inch rainfall deficit for the year, we made a pretty good dent in our ongong drought. We still have a way to go, but I think during November we should see a pretty good uptick in rainfall with each passing cold front.
 
November is that transition month going from fall into winter. It can be beautiful with cobalt blue skies and mild temperatures. It can also be a time for strong and severe storms. November it a very volatile month in North Georgia. High temperatures average in the 60s with low temperatures in the 40s. I have also seen some signals in the atmosphere that would suggest above average rainfall!
 
Winter, as we all know begins next month. The Winter Solstice is Saturday, December 21st. I have, as usual, been getting many emails from viewers wanting to know what I expect this winter to be like. As we remember, last year was abnormally warm without a flake of snow. I have been looking at the science and have also been looking in my own backyard, to see how Ma Nature is preparing. I’ve noticed the squirrels building their nests much lower in the trees than last year. That’s usually an indication of a cold winter. However, in looking at the science, there’s a contradiction.
 
El Nino ended months ago. We no longer have El Nino nor do we have a La Nina. We have what are called Neutral Conditions. The Climate Prediction Center says there is an 85 percent chance we will stay neutral as we move into winter. Without an El Nino and without La Nina, what kind of winter will we likely have during neutral conditions? I am glad you asked!
 
I went through our climatology over the past 30 years. During the times when we have had no El Nino or La Nina, the coldest winter air has stayed well to our north with brief surges from time to time. I did not see any extremely cold weather for north Georgia that lasted more than a couple of days. What about snow? Last year we did not see any. I am not sure we will this year. I cannot say for sure but over the past 30 years during neutral conditions, it has been too warm for snow and it has been rain. Lots and lots of rain, as the southern branch of the jet stream unloads tons of moisture from the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
 
I did a lot of research on this and this is the best prediction I have for the upcoming winter. I am going to know much more as we move into December. We will begin to see more trends developing. I will be updating my winter forecast and I will also give you the official winter forecast from the National Weather Service. Stay tuned!
 


October 2019 column

Lack of rainfall becoming a concern

The summer from hell is over! That’s pretty much what everyone said on September 23rd, the first day of autumn when it was 92 degrees. After some really pleasant weather in July, the hammer came down in August with a relentless string of 90 plus temperature days. We knew for sure we would get some relief from the heat in September. Then Ma Nature lit the blow torch and it was day after day of mid to upper 90s. Records that stood for nearly a century were shattered. Last month was the eighth hottest September since they began keeping weather records in the 1870s! The outlook for October is for continued above average temperatures.
 
What is of greater concern is the lack of rainfall. As we ended September, our rainfall deficit was nearing six inches. October is the second driest month of the year for us, second only to April, as we only average 3.40 inches of rain. The October outlook is calling for below average rainfall. What could be a game changer would be a tropical weather system.
 
As you know, it’s been a very active year for tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane Dorian was the most notable. I have been going to Grand Bahama Island and Abaco since I was a kid. When the first pictures came in after the then Category 5 hurricane hovered over the island for two days, I did not recognize anything. It was a tragedy of epic proportions. It will be many years, maybe a decade, before the islands will return to the pristine paradise they once were.
 
I want to put into perspective, what the Bahamian people had to endure. Sustained winds were 165 miles per hour. Wind gusts were measure at 220 miles per hour. Rainfall was more than 10-20 inches. The storm surge on the island that is only three feet above sea level was 20-25 feet! Again, to put that into perspective, it was like being in an EF 3 tornado for two days!
 
This month the area to watch for tropical cyclone formation is the Gulf of Mexico. It does not take a strong system to bring a lot of rain. For example, Tropical Storm Imelda moved into Texas and brought devastating floods last month. Some areas saw 40 inches of rain. None of that rain, as we all know, ever moved our way. Ever since Hurricane Dorian harmlessly skirted the Georgia coast and moved along the coast of the Carolina’s, our weather pattern has been hot and dry. The massive high pressure that built in over the Southeast following Dorian’s departure has not budged. I think we are going to have the pattern continue from last month to this month. More hot and dry weather is very likely.
 
This time of year my Facebook page lights up with questions about the upcoming winter. Is it going to be colder? Is it going to snow? I wish I could say. There is no particular pattern that would suggest much of a deviation from the warm and dry one we are currently in. In fact, the Climate Prediction Center gives us good odds of above average temperatures from November through January. It also gives us equal chances of above or below average precipitation. I just don’t trust a long-range outlook this far out. They tend to show little or no skill. I also know one season really has no bearing on the next. We shall see.


September 2019 column

Heat was the word for August

August was certainly a month for the record books. Day after day of 90 degree heat. It not only been hot in north Georgia, but much of the Southeast. Records were being set from Florida to Texas and east to the Carolinas. El Nino is over and there is no longer any wind shear to rip apart the tropical waves coming out of west Africa into the Atlantic. In addition to above average air temperatures, ocean waters are also getting hot, very hot.
 
I was in Charleston, S.C. a few weeks ago. The surf temperature was 92 degrees. I have been going to Charleston for the past 10 summers and the surf temperature was as warm as I have ever seen it. In addition, when the tide went out, there were the usual tidal pools. They are about a foot deep or less. When I walked into the tidal pool water it was hot. It felt like I was walking into a hot tub!
 
That was not the only odd occurrence. Near Mount Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston, there is a beautiful creek where adults and kids swim and paddleboard. The third weekend in August was very typical with many enjoying the creek. That is, until an eight foot bull shark was caught by a fisherman, fishing for redfish. I bet you can guess the reaction from area residents! This is the first time a man-eater was found in one of the Charleston area creeks. People kept saying it must be climate change.
 
Regardless, I can tell you the ocean is very warm. This does not bode well for those of us who live in the Southeast as we approach the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. If you follow the weather, you have no doubt seen the updated NOAA Hurricane Outlook. It calls for an above average number of hurricanes. In an average season, there are 12 named storms. Of those names storms, six will become hurricanes and two to three will become major hurricanes.

The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is this month. September 10-15 is a bad time to be going on a cruise in the Caribbean! It may be doubly bad because NOAA is calling for a very active season. Its projection is nine to 15 named storms. Four to eight will become hurricanes with two to four becoming major hurricanes. A major hurricane is considered to be a Cat 3,4, or 5 with winds greater than 111 mph. NOAA says it is 70 percent confident it will happen.
 
We all know hurricanes can have a major impact on Georgia. We all remember the devastation around the lake with Hurricane Opal. Needless to say, here in Severe Weather Center 2, we will be watching intently, the tropical waves as they roll off the west coast of Africa into the Atlantic this month. In October however, the primary storm formation area will be the Gulf of Mexico.
 
2019 Atlantic hurricane season names
These are the names of tropical storms or hurricanes should they form in the Atlantic Ocean in 2019: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dean, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, Wendy. We’ve already has Andrea and Barry so the next named storm will be Chantal.
 


August 2019 column

Drying out after last month's rainfall

July proved once again why it, on average, is the wettest month of the year. We pretty much saw storms each and every afternoon, some days more, some days fewer. The rain these July storms produce is really remarkable. 
 
There is a program on our StormTracker 2 HD radar where we can use the Doppler to estimate the amount of rainfall the storms produce in an hour. July storms, feeding on tropical air, are very efficient rainfall producers. It is typical for a summer storm to produce three to four inches of rain per hour. 

However, more often than not, the storms tend to move. There are those occasions, as we have seen, where the steering currents are weak and the storm seems to linger in the same spot. Flash Flood Warnings usually follow because the runoff just overwhelms storm drains. The July storm season is now over and we are moving head-on into the Dog Days of Summer.
 
I am actually amazed at the number of people who really don’t know what the Dog Days are. Although our pet dogs probably are not as active this time of year or as playful, that is not the reason we call the first two weeks of August the Dog Days. It all has to do with a star. The name of that star is Sirius and it’s the brightest star in the sky. The Greek and Roman astrologists connected the rising of Sirius in the eastern sky with heat, drought, severe storms, and bad luck.
 
In Egypt, the appearance of Sirius in the night sky was the signal that the annual flooding of the Nile would soon begin. In Greece, it was a sign the hottest part of the summer had arrived. While many think the Dog Days are the times when it’s just so hot it drives dogs mad, that is certainly not the case! 
 
As I mentioned, Sirius is the star the ancients associated with heat and storms. It rises along with the sun every morning this time of year. It’s the brightest star in the sky. It’s nickname is the Dog Star because it’s part of the constellation Canis Major, which is latin for The Greater Dog. And now you know why, these are the dog days!
 
If you are up early and would like to see Sirius, it will be rising just before the sun. If you spot the constellation Orion, just follow Orion’s belt toward the horizon. It’s the brightest star in the morning sky. Also, another point. Stars twinkle, planets don’t. I did not want you to be confused because the light from Venus in the morning is a real powerhouse.


July 2019 column

July is the busiest month for lightning strikes

Thunderstorms have been very frequent this summer. Yes, El Nino is still with us and will likely stay through fall. This means an increased risk of summer storms along with an increased risk of them being strong or severe.  Rainfall in these storms has been exceptional as well. Tropical air contains a lot of water vapor and it does not take much for a summer storm to generate three to five inches of rain per hour.
 
While El Nino may keep us in an enhanced summer storm pattern, it is also great news for the Atlantic hurricane season. The wind shear caused by El Nino makes it much tougher for a hurricane to form.  Another bonus is the African dust layer. Over the past month we’ve see clouds of dust the size of states moving out over the Atlantic.  Wind shear and Sahara dust teaming up really reduces the risk of hurricane formation. We will see.  NOAA has predicted an above average season.
 
I know there are many people that like to head to the beach this time of year. Some of you head to the East Coast and some to the Florida Gulf Coast. There are usually major storms this time of year. 

These storms will produce intense lightning. Some of that lightning will hit the beach sand. Since a typical lightning bolt is about 50,000 degrees hot – five times hotter than the surface of the sun – the sand it encounters will melt, creating what is called a fulgurite.  I have seen quite a few on the beach after an intense lightning storm. They look like little trees with “spikey” branches. They can range in size from a quarter to a small tree. Next time you are at the beach and the opportunity of walking on the beach after a storm presents itself, do a little exploring.  Fulgurites and like snowflakes. No two are every alike. They are always fun to discover.
 
We always see trouble from lightning during the month of July.  It’s our most active storm month and the wettest month of the year for north Georgia. We average 5.12 inches but, more often than not, we usually double that in spots. Lightning is always vicious, which always concerns me when lakes and boats are involved. We have two different types of lightning, positive and negative. The negative strikes, which make up about 90 percent of all lightning, can contain 300,000,000 volts with 30,000 amps of electricity. To put that into perspective, a typical light bulb is about 120 volts and 12 amps!  However, the positive lightning bold can reach a billion volts with 300,000 amps! Positive strikes are usually the cause of forest fires, house fires and damage to planes and power grids.
 
They also can travel large distances far away from the parent thunderstorm. Some up to 30 miles from the parent storm. While only 10 percent of lightning strikes victims die from being hit, most are hit by negative strikes. The percentage of positive strike fatalities is much higher. I was working one day when a positive lightning bolt shot out of the top of its parent thunderstorm in Cobb County and hit a man on his riding lawnmower in Gwinnett County! He did not survive. 
 
The day of the week when we see most lightning injuries and fatalities is Saturday and the reason of course is fairly obvious. It’s when most people are outside enjoying the summer weather.   So a reminder for this month: Be weather aware before you head out.
 

June 2019 column

Wondering what kind of summer is ahead

Spring is just about over and summer is just beyond the horizon.The summer solstice is Friday, June 21st at 11:54 a.m. 
 
As far as spring weather, I think we did rather well. We did have several low end tornadoes causing minor damage along with some minor flooding due to heavy rain and run-off. We are heading into summer with a healthy surplus of rain and a full lake. Our long-range models are showing a continuation of above average temperatures. However, there seem to be too many variables in play to determine potential rainfall. 
 
The Climate Prediction Center is giving a 50/50 chance of above or below average rainfall for the summer. Even in this month there are too many variables to give anything else but a 50/50 chance of above or below normal rain. With a prediction of hotter weather, there will be a concern for a lot of evaporation from Lake Lanier if the rains don’t come on a regular basis. 
 
How much evaporation? It’s a tough question given all the variables in play but let’s take a closer look at what happens in a typical swimming pool. Normally pools lose about a quarter to half inch of water per day due evaporation. That would equate to roughly losing 2-4 inches of water per week. For an average size pool, that could be about 30,000 to 50,000 gallons per year. You can imagine how much water we could lose in Lake Lanier, which is 38,000 acres and 59 square miles of water!
 
If it turns out we don’t have our average monthly rainfall for June of 3.94 inches, July usually comes through. July is the wettest month of the year for north Georgia. We average 5.28 inches. Remember the rainfall outlook can’t be determined because of too many variables. We could end of with very little rain or maybe a lot. Since 1996, we’ve seen as little as half inch for the entire month. That was in the year 2008. However, we also seen as much as nine and a half inches of rain, which occurred in 2013. So, we wait and see.
 
As far as temperatures are concerned, the average high in June is 86. With an above average temperature prediction, that means we’ll likely be in the 90s. Might want to get the old A/C tuned up. It may be working overtime this month.
 
June is always a fun month. The water temperatures warm up enough for a comfortable swim. Good times for family, friends, and fun. Enjoy my friends!

May 2019 column

Prodiction for summer; Yep, more rainfall

As many of you know, I have been forecasting the weather here for a very long time. I have been the Chief Meteorologist for WSB since 1983. I have pretty much seen it all. Or so I thought.
 
It began last summer. Enormous amounts of tropical air were billowing into north Georgia. The air was hot on the surface, as we were in the low 90s. The day before I had noticed a minor weather disturbance heading in our direction. A weather disturbance in the summer is basically a pocket of cold air aloft, which causes the air to become “unstable.” Warm air and muggy tropical air will rise quickly when surrounded by cold air. As it rises, it cools, condenses and forms into giant thunderstorm clouds.
 
Our QPF model guidance (quantitative precipitation forecast) showed about an inch to two inches of rain was possible between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. The afternoon storms did blow up as expected. We were watching the estimated rainfall data coming in on our dual-pol Doppler radar. What we saw buy the end of that afternoon was astounding. Rainfall estimates, along with rain gauges, showed rainfall amounts of 4-7 inches! This has been ongoing since last summer. Astounding rainfall amounts and our climate is changing. I can tell you first hand it is happening.
 
Let’s take a look at last month. You remember that last tornado and severe storm threat we had right as we headed into Easter weekend. Again, QPF rainfall forecast showed 1 to 1.5 inches of rain for the entire event. When it was all said and done, 4-6 inches with isolated 10 inch totals were the rule. Flooding was catastrophic in many areas and flood warnings continue four to five days beyond the rainfall. Many areas saw an entire month’s worth of rain in two to three hours!
 
Lake Lanier is up two feet above full pool as we head into summer. The Chattahoochee continues to flood. We have some serious issues. We may have to lower the lake levels much more than we are doing now to prevent more serious flooding.
 
The outlook for May is calling for above average temperatures and more importantly, above average rainfall! 
 
I think we’re going to see these incredible tropical rains and continued flooding into the summer. Climate change is real and it’s happening.
     

April 2019 column

 

Spring can bring turmoil when it comes to forecasting

Spring is my least favorite season of the year. Aside from the pollen, spring storms are can be extremely violent. We saw that last month with the biggest tornado outbreak in the Southeast in the past five years. More than 23 people, some children, perished in Alabama. It was a horrific Sunday afternoon.  
 
April is a tough forecasting month. It may be difficult to believe, but April is the second driest of the year in north Georgia, behind October. The average rainfall for October is 3.11 inches. Our average rainfall for the month of April is 3.62 inches. We base this on the past 30 years of rainfall.  With fewer days of rain maybe we’ll have fewer days of severe storms. I say maybe because we still have El Nino going and there is just no telling when it will go away. If it weakens, then we’ll get a break in the “atmospheric firehose” of rain we have seen since late summer. If not, then we will continue with the rain train, and likely more severe storms.
 
While El Nino may be troublesome for us at this time of year, if it continues into summer, then we can actually benefit from it. El Nino creates a lot of wind shear.  When the shear extends out over the ocean, then tropical systems have a very tough time developing. Most will meet an abrupt demise.
This time of year many of us like to begin planting and do a little gardening. In addition to El Nino making rainfall unpredictable, it also makes temperature forecasting a bit of a challenge. I can see some late season freezes, what we sometimes call “Dogwood Winter” or Blackberry Winter.”  Many area farmers got hit hard last spring with some seriously cold weather that caused quite a bit of damage to the strawberry and peach crops. My best advice to avoid this is to plant after Easter, or at least wait until after tax day.  
 
In conclusion, in my 37 years of forecasting weather for Atlanta and north Georgia, I have seen the majority of weather in April to be rather calm. That was not the case in 2017. On April 3rd, we had a major outbreak of tornadoes.  Twenty-seven twisters touched down in Georgia and damage was extensive. Two days later, as people were trying to clean up and make some sense of what had just happened, another squall line brought another seven tornadoes to the state. It was one the most horrific outbreaks of tornadoes I have ever covered. 
 
This month, we will all hope for the best but let’s continue to prepare for the worst. Be vigilant this month and don’t let your guard down.
 

 
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