Today's lake level: 1065.63
Your complete online news, information, and recreation guide to Lake Lanier
Jul. 24, 2017
10:43 am


Glenn Burns weather

Be lightning aware this summer

It was certainly great to see above average rainfall last month.  Even though our Lake Lanier basin is relatively small, persistent, almost daily rainfall, has kept the lake levels from dropping too much this summer. I expect above average rainfall to continue during July with above average temperatures.
As we all know, July is the hottest month of the year. While it may be hot on the ground, it may not be the case well above ground.  I frequently see temperatures this time of year at the 15,000 foot level in the 5 to 15 degree range.  When temperatures get that cold with elevation that quickly, the atmosphere becomes very unstable.  Monster summer storms quickly evolve in this type of environment, leading to power straight line winds and large hail. While wind and hail are certainly formidable threats to your safety, it is the lightning in summer storms that proves time and time again, to be the most threatening.
Georgia Tech has been doing some amazing research on lightning and has now developed the Georgia Lightning Mapping Array.  Lightning and its behavior can now be tracked and portrayed in three dimensions and in near real time.  This lets us as meteorologists, correlate storm structure with lightning.
You might be amazed to know that a lightning bolt is about as big around as a piece of chalk. It looks much larger because it is so very hot, about 50,000 degrees! About 70 percent of all lightning strikes occur over land. However, only 25 percent of all lightning flashes are from cloud to ground. The rest are intra-cloud or cloud to cloud.  There are also two types of lightning. The most common is the negative lightning bolt that delivers an electric current of about 30,000 amps. Then we have the positive lightning strike. This is less common but mostly responsible for all the lightning fires we have every summer in north Georgia. What we are dealing with is an electrical charge of 300,000 amps! About 5 percent of all lightning is positive.
A negative lightning strike originates from the base of a thunderstorm. A positive strike originates from the top of the anvil-shaped cloud of a thunderstorm and can travel as many as 10 miles from the parent storm. Many times a positive strike will occur in areas experiencing clear skies or only slightly cloudy. This is called a bolt from the blue and can contain a billion volts of electricity! As a result of their great power and lack of warning, you can imagine why positive lightning is so dangerous. 
Objects struck by lightning experience heat and magnetic forces of great magnitude. The heat created by lightning currents traveling through a tree may vaporize its sap, causing a steam explosion that bursts the trunk. Lightning will also leap from a tree to your house.  Lightning also serves an important role in the nitrogen cycle by oxidizing nitrogen in the air into nitrates which are deposited by rain and can fertilize the growth of plants. It makes natural fertilizer.  That’s why a few days after a severe lightning storm, your lawn may look really green.
The bottom line is … be careful! Lightning is the most formidable aspect of summer storms. Be back to the dock before everyone else races back at the same time.  Use our weather app to track storms.

Our WSB-TV app also has a great lightning warning system. Be weather aware and be safe this summer.  

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

June 2017 column

June is a special month for me

June is one of my absolute favorite months of the year. It’s the official beginning of summer, that time of year when everyone stops complaining about the cold and begin to complain about the heat!  I am not trying to be humorous.  OK, maybe a little but it’s true! 
Summer officially begins at 24 minutes past midnight on Wednesday, June 21st. Do you remember the first day of summer last year and what happened?  2016 was the first time in nearly 70 years that a full moon and the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice occur on the same day. The 2016 summer solstice’s full moon rose just as the Sun set. We won’t see that again this time around but it will of course, be the longest day of the year.  
We have certainly seen some good rainfall this past spring, however the lake is still way down below full summer pool. For the next 90 days, we will see a lot of evaporation. I bet you have no idea how much water will evaporate from the lake on a single day of sunshine and 90 degree heat. How about more than 100 million gallons! If we get an extended period of dry weather, like we usually do in June, that could really add up.  
The 90 day outlook, issued by the Climate Prediction Center, gives us a high probability of warmer than average temperatures this summer. Rainfall however, remains questionable. There are too many variables, like the developing El Nino, Sahara dust coming across the Atlantic, and our own climate cycles to make a prediction. The CPC has given us a 50/50 shot of above or below average rainfall this summer. As for me, I am sticking with a “persistence” forecast. I believe we will see above average to near average rainfall. I hope enough to compensate for the evaporation with the warmer than average temperatures.  
One of the most wonderful things I have come to enjoy is being out on the lake at night and watching the June full moon rise.  It’s usually great night fishing on the full moon. At least it has been for me. This month’s full moon occurs less than one day after reaching lunar apogee, the moon’s farthest point in its monthly orbit. The moon will be in full phase on June 9. You might notice a small yellow star near the moon that night. That would be the planet Saturn. That is not however, what will make this particular full moon special. It will be the farthest and smallest full moon of the year. Some people call it the “Mini Moon.” No matter what you call it, enjoy the beginning of summer. 
June is a special month, for sure! 

May 2017 column

El Nino likely to develop this summer

I hope everyone is enjoying our spring weather. This past winter felt more like spring and our spring feels more like summer! So, are we going to have another extremely hot summer like we did last year?  That’s the question everyone is asking.
From what I have seen, we may have more of a typical north Georgia summer. If you’re wondering what “typical” means, I do believe most days will be in the 80s with our fair share of 90s through July. I do not expect record setting consecutive days of 90 degree heat. We have been very fortunate, so far, at avoiding major severe storm outbreaks this spring.  We have seen more rain events that have been more typical of July.  Slow-moving storms, large hail, and gusty winds have been the rule in a large majority of our spring storms.
Climatologists are now forecasting a weak El Nino developing right now. With that in mind, we may have more clouds than usual during our summer days. That will certainly help block the intense summer sun. As with most El Nino episodes, our rain chances will be a little higher than usual. This leads me into writing about a subject you may not want to read about but needs to be said.
OK, here goes. Do you remember those two days back in April when we had some very heavy rain from slow moving storms? In the days following, the water quality in the Chattahoochee became horrible. At one point, there were something like 8,000 to 10,000 colonies of E coli bacteria per three ounces of water! Needless to say, when the National Park Advisories were issued, no one went near the Hooch. There are no water monitoring stations – recording E coli data – that I know of on Lake Lanier. We have the same run-off, only on a much larger scale, in the Lake Lanier basin. The slow moving storms produce enormous run-off into creeks and feeder streams.  That run-off contains animal feces, pesticides, and all kinds of garbage that can make some people extremely ill. So, just a word to the wise. You might want to avoid swimming in the lake for two to three days after a big gully washer to be safe.  
Our lake, river, and stream water quality continues to decline and will no doubt be getting worse in the years ahead. Our population continues to increase at a rapid pace and home building has been skyrocketing. Shopping areas have also been expanding to support the increased housing. This means we have so many more non-porous surfaces like roads, parking lots, driveways, and so forth that there is simply nowhere for the water to go. It does not get absorbed into the ground and underground water supplies. It just runs off and takes terrible things with it. It’s not just bad for humans to come in contact with that kind of pollution. It’s also bad for your pets. My vet actually told me he’s seen a huge increase in illnesses in dogs as a result of the water pollution.
I know it’s a difficult subject and not something we want to hear about or deal with. However, it’s a health concern for us all now.  

April 2017 column

A most unusual winter is now history

After celebrating 35 years here at WSB-TV, I can honestly say the winter of 2016-2017 was one of the most unusual winters I have ever seen. We had a record number of 70 degree days in January, which ultimately led to a devastating tornado outbreak in Albany, Ga. February, according to the Climate Prediction Center, was the warmest since weather records began in the late 1800s! 
As we moved into March, I saw a massive area of high pressure build in the eastern Pacific. I knew trouble would follow. The high pressure actually originated in the south Pacific and moved toward the western U.S. As it did so, it pushed the jet stream farther north. The jet stream is a river of air that circles the globe and separates cold air from the north and warm air to the south.  The greater the difference in the temperatures, the faster the jet stream winds.
As we all learned in Physics 101, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the western U.S. jet stream was pushed north, above British Columbia, the jet stream over the eastern U.S. was forced south, all the way down to northern Florida. This allowed all the cold air that was pooling up on northern Canada to plummet southward. We here in north Georgia actually saw some of the coldest temperatures of the winter the week before spring! It could have been worse.
Here in Severe Weather Center 2, we were all looking back in time at the anniversary of the Blizzard of the Century on March 13th, 1993. At the same time, pieces of atmospheric energy were beginning to flow southbound, eventually moving east toward the mid-Atlantic coast. A nor’easter was forming and was about to lock horns with the arctic air exploding into the Great Lakes and Northeast.  Another major blizzard has formed on the anniversary date of our storm 24 years earlier. As it turned out, it affected more than 60 million people and dumped snow measure in feet. It turned out to be the biggest storm of the 2015-2017 for many areas of the Northeast.
As we head into April, one of the driest months of the year, I think we should have a pretty decent month. We got rid of most of the pollen in February and March. We should have another brief shot of cooler air, called “Blackberry Winter” but nothing major. Above average temperatures are predicted and that is always a concern. When cold fronts arrive and encounter the warming spring temperatures here, we can and do have “weather wars.” 
We will watch the skies and hope you do too, BEFORE you head on the lake.

March 2017 column

What the warm winter could mean for spring

It was late last summer when our team of meteorologists here in Severe Weather Center 2 began looking at some of the data coming in from the Climate Prediction Center. The data concerned the cooling of sea surface temperatures off the west coast of South America in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. The winter of 2015-16 was historic because of the extremely strong El Nino. Many times a strong El Nino is followed by La Nina. So we go from extremely warm sea surface temperatures to extremely cool sea surface temperatures as we go from El Nina to La Nina.
Each episode of La Nina can bring unique weather events to all parts of the world. However, for the most part, it would mean a winter that would be drier than average and also much warmer than average. That certainly proved to be the case for Georgia. In addition, I have seen what a La Nina means for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes across the country and here in Georgia over my 35 years of forecasting the weather. We all saw the devastation from the more than 13 tornadoes to rip across south Georgia in late January. Seventeen people died and more than 25 others were injured.

The damage was incredible from the long-tracked (70 miles long) tornado that ripped across Albany. This is what a typical La Nina pattern can bring. The silver lining to all this is that people with low or fixed incomes that usually have a tough time choosing between eating, health care, or home heating had it a little easier this winter regarding home heating costs. Out west, where California has been suffering from a five year drought, beneficial rains and mountain snows have been occurring on a regular basis. I will admit the rain has come a bit fast and furious at times, causing flooding and mudslides, but the overall impact to California has been positive. It’s been a while since residents actually saw green lawns or lush shrubbery.  
As we move into March and enter the peak of Georgia’s severe weather season, I am getting more and more anxious and concerned. I really have no idea what to expect regarding and elevated severe weather threat. La Nina is now fading away into the history books.  However, its effects do not come to an immediate halt. It takes a while.  We have seen the typical severe storms and tornadoes along the Gulf Coast last month. In March, the prime area for severe storms shifts northward to cover northern Mississippi, northern Alabama, and north Georgia. Will our severe weather season be enhanced by the fading La Nina? That is the question all of us who make our living forecasting the weather for our area are now dealing with. It’s a tough one. If you are looking for an answer from me based on what the usual La Nina’s effect on severe weather will be I would have to say it will be an active spring.  
However, and yes there is always a however, much of the country, not just Georgia, has seen abnormally warm temperatures this winter. Maybe, just maybe, there will be fewer “weather wars,” where cold meets warm in violent atmospheric conflicts. All I can say is, stay tuned my friends!

February 2017 column

Rainfall patterns are likely to change soon

After out little “snowstorm/ice storm/rain” early last month, we saw one of the most dramatic warming periods I have ever seen in January. For 10 consecutive days the temperature in Atlanta was at 70 degrees or above. People were asking on my social media pages if this was all due to global warming.
Remember the article I wrote last fall? I told you we were seeing a weak La Nina forming. La Nina is the opposite of El Nino. Instead of warmer sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, La Nina is ocean cooling.  El Nino causes wind patterns to change, bringing us above average rainfall. La Nina however, changes wind patterns in such a way that it brings is drier and warmer weather.  We certainly had the drier weather this fall and we are still in exceptional to extreme drought levels.  The warm temperatures last month was unprecedented. Or was it?
When was the last time we saw a string of such warm weather in January? You would have to go back to the year 1975. What was so unusual about the winter of 1974-75? It was a weak La Nina year, almost identical in strength and duration as the La Nina this winter.  All atmospheric and oceanographic “signals” indicate La Nina is now ending and we are about to go into “neutral” conditions. The atmosphere will not immediately respond to the end of La Nina so I would expect the drier than average weather to continue along with above average temperatures as we head into spring.
February is always an interesting month for us. We can and do see wild swings in temperature.  It’s pretty typical for the winter to spring transition months for that to happen. The “weather wars” begins as cold air meets warmer air, resulting in violent storms and tornadoes. This month, the weather wars begin along the southern Gulf of Mexico states. By March and April, the weather wars are over north Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. One day we can see a high temperature of 35 degrees and then three days later we will be in the 70s. February is that kind of month.  
I know many people reading this might be more than curious about our rainfall future. We certainly have a lot of rainfall to make up. Over the past 6 months our deficit is more than two feet!  OK, that’s the bad news. The good news is that La Nina is ending.  Atmospheric conditions are going to be more neutral. That means there will be nothing to stop those spring rains. So get ready for a dramatic shift in the weather from dry to wet. Great news for our favorite lake!
Happy Ground Hog Day everyone!

January 2017 column

So what is the polar vortex?

You have heard it described on many evening newscasts. Last year, it was said to be “devouring cities in the Midwest and Northeast” with cold and snow. It’s the next big thing in scaremongering and it’s called the “Polar Vortex.”
Despite some media hype, it’s not some monster coming out of the North Pole but rather a very real weather phenomenon. It is actually an area of low pressure in the upper part of the atmosphere and lies near the North Pole. (There is also one at the South Pole.) Below lies a large mass of cold, dense arctic air. The vortex weakens and strengthen from year to year. When it’s strong it is well defined, there is a single vortex and the arctic air is well contained; when weaker, which it generally is, it will break into two or more vortices; when very weak, the flow of arctic air becomes more disorganized and masses of cold arctic air can push southward, bringing with it a huge temperature drop. The polar vortex strengthens in the winter and weakens in the summer due to its dependence on the temperature difference between the equator and the North Pole. The vortices span less than 600 miles in diameter.
So how does this affect our weather? When the polar vortex is strong, there is a single vortex with a jet stream that keeps the cold air bottled up. However, when the polar vortex weakens, it separates into two or more vortices, the strongest of which are near Baffin Island, Canada and the other over northeast Siberia. This will send down a blast of cold air deep into the south toward the equator. We have seen this happen twice so far this winter. There are good “signals” computer models are now able to pick up on that and can tell days, weeks, or even a month ahead of time, when the Polar Vortex will weaken. I actually have seen signs it may be weakening for the third week of this month. I can we have seen a trend of above average temperatures this winter but that may be about to change.  
We will continue to watch the “signals” and wait for those subtle signs the jet stream is about to make a dive.  We’ve seen some incredibly cold temperatures in Siberia and Asia this winter. What goes around, comes around.
Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and let’s hope that drought we began in 2016 is just a bad memory.  

December 2016 column

A quick flashback to this year's wildfires

The date was October 16th, 2016. An approaching cold front began to generate isolated thunderstorms as it clashed with warm tropical air over Alabama. A couple of these storms began to intensify.  As the front moved into north Georgia I noticed our lightning tracker showing about five strikes in western Fannin County over a 15 minute time period. After producing a tremendous amount of lightning in Alabama, the storms were weakening here in north Georgia. However, there was one lightning strike that hit tree sending sparks into the tinder-dry undergrowth. The ember was blown into flames by the strong thunderstorm wind gusts. 
I remember saying to my fellow meteorologists here is Severe Weather Center 2 that I had wished we would see some of that rain in the metro area since we had been so dry since late August. I did not think much more about it until the following day.
The Cohutta Wilderness area was on fire. It became known as the “Rough Ridge Fire” and Georgia Forestry officials told us it was nearly impossible to reach. In addition, fire hoses had to be hauled up hill and water does not produce much pressure going uphill. Helicopters tried to dump buckets of fire suppressant on the flames but the ground was too dry and the flames were too big. It was spreading and continued to spread. Forestry officials said after three weeks they had 10 percent containment. That containment was mostly the result of back-burning, starting fires to keep the main fire from spreading. It seemed to be working but had still consumed some 25,000 acres and it was still spreading.
To the east an arsonist thought it might be fun to set the forest on fire in Rabun County. It became known as the ‘Rock Mountain” fire. The lack of rain and tinder dry brush allowed several other smaller fires to flare up around the state.  Things were getting out of control fast. Firefighters were heading to Georgia from all over the country, some came from as far away as Alaska!  
Our primary wind direction through the first couple of weeks of November was from the north and northwest. Smoke from the fires in our northern counties moved down across the metro Atlanta area, as far south as Macon and as far east as the Atlantic Ocean, east of Charleston, S.C.  The smoke was choking and students were not permitted to practice afternoon school sports outside. There was no recess for many children for days on end. Code Red Smog Alerts were being issued. The smoke of course, was much worse near the source of the fires.  That meant no one was heading to mountains to see the fall color, enjoy the fall festivals, or spend money the vendors in these communities depended.  
We are currently in an “extreme” or “exceptional” drought across north Georgia. La Nina conditions continue to keep us warmer and drier than average and the long-range winter outlook shows the drought spreading to cover most of the state. I am not too hopeful for any drought-busting rains, as most areas need nearly two feet of rain just to get back to normal. 
Time will tell and our governor has asked us all to pray for rain.   

November 2016 column

The inside story of Hurricane Matthew

It came off the west coast of Africa as a large group of thunderstorms. There was no wind shear to rip it apart. The ocean temperatures were above 80 degrees. We began to take notice of what would eventually become Hurricane Matthew on September 25th.  
Initially, the consensus of models showed it would move into the Caribbean, gaining strength as it “fed” on the warm ocean.   By the time it reached Haiti and the east coast of Cuba, it was a powerful Category 4 hurricane. Winds topped 145 mph and 40 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours. It spelled disaster with more than 800 souls lost. In its sights next were the Islands of the Bahamas. After people saw what happened in Haiti, tourists and residents headed to the middle of their islands and found shelter in the resorts. Damage was again, extensive
Florida was up next and hurricane warnings went into effect just north of Miami, north through the Georgia coast. As it neared the northern Bahamas, I was finally able to see the Miami radar and peer inside to get a sense of the structure of the storm, which was constantly fluctuating. One of the great things about dual-pol radar is the ability to see non meteorological targets, like tornado debris.
I was more than a little puzzled by what I was seeing on the radar in the eye of the storm. How could there be tornado debris when the storm was out over ocean? I finally figured out what it was. In the eye of a hurricane the wind is very calm and the skies are sunny. It was a good place to take refuge … for thousands and thousands of sea gulls! We could see them flying in the eye of Hurricane Matthew.  They must have moved out of the storm when the eye passed over Grand Bahama Island, about 55 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida.  We saw very few after that.
The National Hurricane Center was predicting the eye of Matthew would move over the Cape Canaveral area as a Cat 4 hurricane, cause catastrophic damage.  But thanks to something called Trochoidal Motion, (you can look that one up for a look at how it works) the storm “wobbled” back and forth as it paralleled the Florida coast, never making landfall. Tons of rain and winds to about 50-60 mph pummeled the beaches. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal then ordered mandatory evacuations for the Georgia coastal areas. Then the problems began.
The intensity forecast, issued by the National Hurricane Center, showed Matthew going from a Cat 4 to a Cat 2 or even a Cat 1 near the Georgia coast. Residents were breathing a sigh of relief. We were not. The winds in the storm were weakening for sure. However, an approaching cold front was bringing in cold air aloft to Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. I knew what this meant.

Extreme rainfall was going to be the main threat, not the wind.  Unfortunately, the threat for heavy rain and storm surge was apparently not communicated very well, especially to the residents of North Carolina, where 10-15 inches of rain fell, with isolated 20 inch totals.  
So what can we take away from this? When saying it will not be a “major” hurricane when it reaches the coast and hundreds of miles inland, does not mean the consequences of storm surge and flooding rain will not be as damaging as a major hurricane. 
The wind may not be as strong, but we all witnessed the flooding tragedy that might have been avoided with stronger wording and earlier warnings.     

October 2016 column

Weather service changes its mind about upcoming winter

As we all remember, as a result of El Nino last year, we had a very wet winter. As the sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean began to cool late last spring and summer, El Nino was coming to an end. Most climate scientists and meteorologists thought we were heading into a La Nina pattern this summer, which would likely continue through the winter months. La Nina winters here in the north Georgia are typically very mild and also very dry.  
Late last month NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) issued a major announcement.  There was no indication that La Nina was still developing. There was no indication of cooling sea surface temperatures in the Pacific.  This of course, was a major turn-around in the forecast. It meant we are going to have neutral conditions this winter.  
With El Nino or La Nina, we pretty much know what to expect.  With neutral conditions this winter, there is much more uncertainty. As you well know, we’ve endured a very hot summer which has carried over through all of September.  This is a fairly pronounced pattern and I think it will likely continue through October. We should begin to see our first significant cold fronts this month but overall, I think the above average temperatures will continue, along with the below average rainfall.
How long will we see these warm temperatures? That is certainly the question of the day. I know October is likely to be warmer than average but then the uncertainties come into play as we head into November and December. Nothing right now is standing out as a signal or indicator. But these signals and indicators actually occur around the globe.  Right now there is nothing that is standing out, going “look at me”! I will certainly keep you posted.
Aside from what our winter weather is supposed to be like, the second most asked question is about the fall color. Our fall color generally peaks around the last week of October through early November. I actually think we are going to have a very colorful, albeit brief, fall color season. It’s not the temperature that makes the leaves change, it’s less daylight and more dark hours. Dry weather tends to make great color while rainy weather tends to makes the leaves dull. 
That being said, the leaves are more fragile when it’s dry and therefore wind and rain can certainly take their toll. October is my favorite month of the year. No matter how it turns out, I hope it’s a great one for you too!

September 2016 column

Long, hot summer comes to close

As we all know, it was a long and very hot summer. 2016 may well turn out to be the warmest on record. However, this month we celebrate the arrival of autumn. I would not expect a big drop in temperatures this month to herald its arrival. For me, the signal that autumn has arrived is the Full Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the September equinox. The equinox takes place this year on September 22. So the closest full moon to the autumn equinox is on September 16 at 3:05 pm. There is nothing more beautiful than being out on the lake watching the glistening ripples of water as the moon rises above the eastern horizon. That my friends, is the beginning of fall for me.
As we moved into the last week of August, the questions began pouring in on my Facebook page. The questions I am referring to, of course, is what our winter will be like. There are some things I have been looking at that provide some signals or clues. You all remember last year we had a fairly wet winter but with above average temperatures. Our winter pattern was the result of El Nino. El Nino is when above average sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean change the global wind patterns, resulting in wet and cool winters for the Southeast.  There are signals right now that actually show a La Nina developing. This is where we see below average sea surface temperatures in the same area but the result is quite different. La Nina winters are generally warm and dry for the Southeast.
While we wait for patterns for emerge for the upcoming winter months, let’s not forget this is the most active month for hurricanes.  NOAA updated its forecast to say we have a high probability of an above average year. On average we see 11 named tropical storms, six of which will be hurricanes.  NOAA is predicting 12-17 named storms, 5-8 to become hurricanes, with 2-4 being major hurricanes.  This is the time of year when the big ones develop. They form from waves or clusters of thunderstorms coming off the west coast of Africa. The reason they can get so powerful is the ocean. They “feed” on the ocean and there’s a lot of ocean to cross before they get near the U.S. mainland. Where they go as they approach the mainland is largely dependent on the position of the Bermuda High. If it’s close to the Southeast coast the hurricanes will cross Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. If the Bermuda High is farther from the coast, near its usual position near Bermuda, the storms will hook around it and run parallel to the coast without too much impact. These storms do tend to hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  
We’ll keep our eyes on the skies and you can enjoy the Full Harvest Moon this month and hopefully, a little relief from the summer heat.

August 2016 column

There's something to this issue called climate change

As you well know, it has been an extremely hot summer. We are on target to have the warmest summer temperatures since we began keeping records back in the late 1880s. In addition, rainfall has been rather meager, keeping much of northern Georgia in a severe to extreme drought. Why are we having such hot weather? That is a question I have been asked over and over this summer. People ask if it’s global warming, climate change, or just a cyclical pattern.
I believe it is certainly cyclical.  We have seen many hot summers over the years. However, I do believe the hotter than average weather may be enhanced by climate change. China is the worst polluter of any country in the world. The United States is second.  We have just not seen a major effort to curtail this. 
I’ll give you one good example. Here in Georgia over the past couple of years, we had a great rebate incentive to purchase electric vehicles. Many people took advantage of the rebate, so many in fact, the program was canceled. Now, if you purchase an electric vehicle, you will be taxed even more than if you purchased a gas powered vehicle.  Does that make any sense at all?  What motivation would a person now have to purchase an electric car?
Carbon emissions continue to rise globally every year. We can see evidence in a dramatic increase in carbon emissions in tree rings and ice core samples. The increase corresponds perfectly with the industrial revolution. That being said, the oceans and trees do make a difference by absorbing a great deal of carbon. However, the nations of the world are now producing more carbon than the oceans and trees can absorb.
I know there are many skeptics reading this. I was one of them. I have done a great deal of research into this because I know weather patterns are changing. I see stranger and stranger things happening every year. I know we have naturally occurring carbon dioxide in the air. However, the carbon dioxide produced naturally is not the same as what human activity produces. It has a different isotope and different signature. That’s how we know human activity is making things worse. That is what convinced me to take a closer look.
There are many global initiatives to try and mitigate the CO2 but we are also dealing with climate change as a natural process of the atmosphere. Snowless winters and hotter summers may be the new normal for north Georgia.  There are now think tanks and others who or leaning more toward a “how to deal with it” scenario rather than trying to stop a runaway freight train. I hope the horror stories I have heard from climatologists are not even close to being right.

July 2016 column

Is it deja vu as far as drought?

As I sit here in Severe Weather Center 2, looking at the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, I am getting some flashbacks from a decade ago. Moderate to severe drought conditions are continuing across north Georgia this month. Stream flows are extremely low, lake levels are continuing to drop, and top soil moisture is all but gone. It did not help the situation in that we had a very hot June. We were not setting any high temperature records but we were frequently very close to tying them. I am hoping we see a little pattern change this month. 
July is the wettest month of the year. We average nearly six inches of rain. These tropical afternoon pop-up thunderstorms however, are generally scattered about and do not bring steady uniform rains. In fact, more often than not, it can rain so hard and so fast, the ground cannot absorb the moisture quick enough before a large majority of it just runs off.  
Another concern I have for this month is the severe storm threat. I think we are going to have a better chance for afternoon storms. I also think we may have an above average number of severe storms. As you well know, June was a blistering month from Texas to South Carolina. I don’t expect anything to change as far as the temperatures. In fact, I expect our hottest month of the year to be even hotter than average. It’s this heat that drives bubbles of air from the ground to extremely high altitudes, creating massive thunderstorms. When you have extremely hot air surround by cooler air aloft, these updrafts can rise rapidly and to great heights. Eventually, you can get a thunderstorm cloud top to rise to more than 50,000 feet.  When the storm clouds grow that high, large hail is often the result.  When you have large hail, you are going to see intense cloud to ground lightning and straight line winds of 60 to 70 miles per hour! My educated guess is we are going to see numerous severe t-storms this month.
We have also seen a fairly early start with the Atlantic hurricane season. We had Bonnie and Colin.  Both did little to nothing to bolster our rainfall. July is not known for any significant tropical development so I would not expect much, if anything this month.
Our July full moon is on the 19th and it’s called the Full Buck Moon. 
Be safe this month. Be extra careful with your fireworks, as the ground remains tinder dry. Keep a watchful eye on the skies when you are out on the lake and we’ll take a look at some signals I am seeing concerning this fall and winter next month.

June 2016 column

'Godzilla' didn't show this winter

Last fall, when we saw this “Godzilla El Nino” predicted, we thought we would see some really major rainfall through the winter and spring. There were some days in the winter where we did see heavier rains, but not to the extent we thought we would see with that strong of an El Nino. We had an extremely early start to spring. We saw near record high temperatures in March and April. Consequently, trees and plants began blooming early, soaking up the moisture from the soil. I have really been monitoring the rainfall since March 1st, the beginning of meteorological spring. 
I began noticing below average rainfall totals week by week. During the middle of last month, the U.S. Drought Monitor came out and showed much of north Georgia in moderate drought conditions.  For now, the moderate drought conditions are not having an impact on lake levels. We are in great shape going into June.  However, June is generally one of our drier months. We are now going from El Nino into a La Nina pattern. Instead of ocean warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, we are going to get ocean cooling. The cooler than average sea surface temperatures will begin to alter the normal global wind patterns in such a way that we could be in store for a long, hot, and dry summer. The Climate Prediction Center is thinking along those lines as well.
The latest June outlook is calling for above average temperatures and near to below average rainfall.  While La Nina could reduce our normal summer rainfall, depending on how quickly it forms, it will also likely create an environment more conducive to hurricane formation. The Gulf of Mexico is the region where tropical systems like to form in the early summer. Some of the tropical experts believe the Gulf could be extremely active this year. Hurricane season begins June 1st. 
Here are the names of the for the 2016 hurricane season: Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie, and Walter. We are actually going to begin with Bonnie this summer because we have already had Hurricane Alex. When did that happen you ask? Alex actually formed last winter! Hurricane Alex was the first Atlantic hurricane in January since Alice in 1955, and the first to form in the month of January since 1938. Alex originated as an extratropical cyclone near the Bahamas on January 7, 2016.
While meteorological summer begins June 1st, the official Summer Solstice is on Monday, June 20th, at 6:34 pm. Happy Summer Everyone! Be safe out there! 

May 2016 column

It's great to be back!

I want to begin this month’s column with a big thank you to everyone. I had open heart surgery to replace a faulty aortic valve last March 7th. I was off the air for about six weeks. During my recovery I received thousands of emails, cards, well wishes, and prayers. I am so grateful to our Lakeside News readers and WSB viewers for your concern. It really helped my recovery and words cannot express how grateful I am.
OK, on with the weather. You may recall my previous columns about the “Godzilla El Nino” that developed during the fall and continued right through the winter. It was supposed to wreak havoc across the country. California on the other hand, was hoping for the worst. As you well know, California has been suffering from a multi-year drought. While the Sierra saw some decent snowfall over the winter, southern California failed to get the frequent rains normally associated with a strong El Nino. The Rocky Mountain states had many major snowstorms. The skiing community loved that and ski resorts had a tremendous boost in revenues. The upper Midwest to Texas saw milder than average temperatures.

The Northeast and New England, buried by snow in the winter of 2014-2015, saw very little snow during the winter and extremely mild temperatures. Here in the Southeast, we had some cold snaps but they are very brief. We also saw a few brief snow threats but they sure did not amount to much. With an El Nino as strong as this one, a major ice storm around the Lake Lanier basin seemed very likely. In fact, the National Weather Service office discussions prior to the heart of winter suggested there could be multiple ice storms. As we all know, that did not happen either.
As we head into the heart of spring I am have been amazed at how much of an inactive severe storm season we have had.  Granted we had a couple of scares but overall, it’s been quiet … too quiet. We can only hope it lasts.
The latest prediction from NOAA is for El Nino to continue to fade away and the pattern to become “neutral.” That means no Pacific Ocean cooling or warming through the summer. A neutral pattern means we are likely to have a good old-fashion Georgia summer.  It will be hot and humid with that ever present chance of pop-up afternoon thunderstorms. 
Of course, the most active month for the pop-up storms is July. NOAA is also suggesting we may go from the neutral pattern this summer to more of a La Nina pattern by fall. If that indeed happens, we might have an extremely warm winter. We will have a lot to talk about in the months ahead.  For now, let’s just enjoy the beginning of the summer season.  

April 2016 column

Thanks for well wishes during hospital stay

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the prayers and well wishes following my open heart surgery last month. Recovery is going well and the new aortic valve is doing its job. I spent five days in intensive care at Emory/St. Joseph’s hospital following the procedure. On my last night in ICU it began to rain. I could not sleep and the night nurse came in to check on me. She saw I was awake and asked if I was OK.  I said yes and was hoping the rain would make me sleepy. I asked her if she ever got scared up the higher floors when the big spring storms rolled in.
She proceeded to tell me about the night of April 9th, 1998. I remembered that night all too well.  Early that evening we saw a massive super cell drop an EF 5 tornado on Birmingham, killing 32 people.  As the storm moved into the metro area a few hours later, two Cobb County police officers at Windy Hill Road got tangled up in the high winds and caught some dramatic video on their dash cams. My nurse said it was around midnight when she saw almost continuous lightning through the windows of the ICU. Doctors and nurses could feel and building begin to sway and could see the large plate glass windows “breathing” in and out with the extreme pressure changes. Everyone was throwing blankets over the windows. It was impossible to move patients very far but they did manage to move most toward the center of the building. 
The tornado once again began to gain more strength. Winds were howling at 150 miles per hour as it moved from Fulton into Dekalb County. St. Joseph’s was spared any major damage. As it moved into Dunwoody shortly after midnight, it devastated that community, causing $100 million in damage, killing one person. Seeing the video coming in the next morning was astounding. I was shocked even more people were not killed. People were, needless to say, in shock. It was one of the worst tornadoes to ever hit the metro area. I could not imagine how the doctors and nurses must have felt on that horrible night.

The second strongest El Niño on record was in 1998. This year’s El Niño is the strongest on record and it will continue through spring. Let’s hope history does not repeat itself.

March 2016 column

The time for 'Weather Wars' is here

What do the years 1982-1983, 1997-1998, 2007-2008, and 2015-2016 have in common? During those years we had significant tornado outbreaks. All of those years featured extremely strong El Ninos. I remember the spring of 1982 where we had several tornadoes in north Georgia. Damage was minor and there were no injuries. 
However, in the spring of 1998, tornadoes were devastating, most notably, the Dunwoody tornado.  The tornado touched down at 11:30 p.m. on April 8, just northeast of Perimeter Center and moved through Dunwoody. Its intensity increased to high-end EF2 strength with winds up to 150 miles per hour and its width to nearly a half mile damaging thousands of homes and downing tens of thousands of trees. Hundreds of homes had major damage, a few dozen were obliterated and had to be completely rebuilt. Significant damage also occurred to Georgia Perimeter College. The storm continued into Gwinnett, somewhat weakened, but still causing extensive damage in the Peachtree Corners area. It then crossed the county line one mile west of Norcross, skirting downtown and traveling parallel to Old Norcross Road at F2 status. The twister continued to Duluth, crossing the center of town and lifting briefly, shredding shingles off the roofs of houses in downtown Duluth. Many more trees were snapped along Old Peachtree Road near I-85. The tornado finally weakened and lifted five miles north of Lawrenceville. The total length of the path was 19 miles! 
I remember March 2008 like it was yesterday. It was the worst outbreak I have ever seen. It was March 14. In their 9 p.m. outlook, the Storm Prediction Center issued a slight risk of severe weather across portions of the southern United States from Oklahoma to Georgia, with a 2 percent risk area for tornadoes for the Atlanta area. There was one massive storm that appeared to be a supercell near Rome, in Floyd County. As the storm approached Atlanta from the northwest, a tornado warning was issued for Atlanta at 9:26 pm when the thunderstorm that caused the tornado was six miles to the northwest of the downtown area, although no watches were in effect for the area due to the low probability and unusual isolated nature. The tornado drifted southward as it moved eastward, whereas most tornadic storms have a strong northward component along (or ahead of) a cold front. It also was unusual because it was not associated with such a squall line at all, but was an independent supercell drifting well ahead of the main storm system.  Damage in Atlanta was massive.  There was one fatality.
A second tornado outbreak struck Georgia the following day. A moderate risk for severe storms was issued early in the morning, and maintained through the afternoon. There were at least 10 tornadoes that afternoon and several fatalities. Checks that were in a strong box in a couple’s home in Cedartown were found two days later in Blairsville! I was on the air for more than 10 hours with continuous coverage.  
So this brings us to present day.  The strongest El Nino ever recorded continues and, to say the least, I am more than a little concerned of what the warmer spring temperatures doing battle with approaching cold fronts will bring. Spring is the time for “Weather Wars.” Let’s all get prepared and make sure you and your family members know what to do and where to go when the time comes.

February 2016 column

El Nino is now upon us

Happy El Nino everyone! Wow, that was some interesting latter half of January. This El Nino winter has brought some wild swings in weather across the globe. I know on the news you see stories about floods, bitter cold, incredible mid-Atlantic snowstorms. However, you might be surprised at the actual benefits we are also seeing across North America. 

Let’s begin in Canada, where temperatures, especially in western Canada, have been unseasonably warm this winter. Residents are very happy about the milder temperatures. As you know, California has been in an absolutely horrible drought over the past five years.  Californians have seen storm after storm coming in off the Pacific Ocean, bringing good rainfall and heavy snow to the Sierra Mountains. This is exactly what they were praying for. Ski resorts in many Rocky Mountain states that have been in a snow drought for the last couple of years have seen incredible snowfall. Some ski areas have seen 10 to 15 feet of snow this winter!

There is also the other side of El Nino. Florida has been getting hammered with severe storms and tornadoes. They have not been the kind of tornadoes Floridian’s usually deal with. These are the “big boys,” the kind you would see in the spring in Oklahoma, EF3s and EF4s. Damage has been in the millions of dollars. El Nino is also affecting the California seal population. Normally, nutrient rich water with abundant populations of small fish populates the waters off California. This year, the water has been warmer and deficient in nutrients. The large schools of baitfish have avoided the warm water and the seals are having a lot of trouble finding food. In fact, there were many seal strandings as they went ashore looking for food, as far inland as city streets. Many of the seals were returned to the ocean.  Many quickly returned to strand themselves. When they couldn’t be returned to the sea, many aquariums around the world began to adopt them, including our own Georgia Aquarium. I have seen a couple of them and they are doing extremely well.
February is here and the climatologists across the country all agree that El Nino will continue into the spring. This does not bode well for us. I can remember the El Nino of 1997-98. There was a powerful tornado that ripped through an area near Flowery Branch. Several people were killed and there was enormous damage.  The tornadoes in Dunwoody were also related to El Nino. After meetings with our National Weather Service meteorologists, we are more than extremely concerned about the severe weather threat this spring. Severe storms during El Nino come in two forms, the squall line and the supercells. Both produce tornadoes, the most violent in the supercells.

This month, as we begin to move from winter into spring, the tornado season will begin erupting along the Gulf Coast and then spread northward. Stay tuned and be prepared. It is likely to be a very bad spring. 

January 2016 column

El Nino affecting weather this winter

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying this “winter.” Yes, it’s winter believe it or not. I realize it was more than a little strange seeing folks Christmas shopping in shorts. Near record highs or actual record high temperatures were occurring for many people east of the Rocky Mountains. If you are asking if this was due to the current El Nino, the answer is yes.

El Nino is the warming of sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Without boring you with meteorological jargon, the result is a change in the global winds patterns. This pattern change is what has brought badly needed rain and snow to California and the above average temperatures for much of the eastern half of the country.

I want to
Copyright © 2011 Lakeside News. Internet Marketing Company: Full Media