The News 4 team always looks forward to the warm welcome we receive in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda during the Canal Fest Parade, but the WARMTH this year was off the charts! That made it especially interesting to ride in a car with our Chief Meteorologist Don Paul during the parade and hear all the comments from the crowd about the hot weather! Still, everyone was friendly and welcoming, and we thank folks in the Tonawandas for their hospitality!
Volunteers for the 30th Annual Taste of Buffalo couldn’t have ordered better weather for the first day of this huge 2-day food fest — especially with the up and down summer we’ve had so far. The warm temperatures and sunny skies brought a throng of hungry visitors to Delaware Avenue in the heart of downtown Buffalo. The slogan has been appropriate for 30 years: it’s fun by the forkful!
A few spotty showers during this humid afternoon may become a bit more numerous later today, especially if some sunny breaks develop–at which point some rumbles of thunder may develop. Humidity has actually crept up a bit higher today, making for some discomfort even with ordinary temperatures in the 70s. A few shwrs/tshwrs with sparse coverage may still be around occasionally overnight, with continued uncomfortable humidity. The metro area morning low will be around 72.
On Wednesday, the approach of the 1st of 2 cold fronts will help trigger a couple of rounds of SCT Shwrs & TStorms. SPC continues to have our viewing area at Slight Risk for Severe Tstorms, where the primary threat (if any become severe) would be damaging straight line winds. If we keep overcast skies, the reduced heating would make the Severe risk strictly marginal. With some sunshine, the threat would increase somewhat, especially to the S & E of a developing brisk Lake Erie breeze. That breeze may “shadow” the metro area and a large part of the Niagara Frontier with less chance for tstorms due to the cooling stability from the Lake. The Shwrs & Tstorms will gradually diminish from NW to SE Wednesday evening. Thursday will be somewhat less humid, but a secondary cold front may trigger a few minor showers in the afternoon. Behind that front will be still less humid air, which will stay with us into Saturday. During the weekend, temperatures will begin warming. Saturday will be the more comfortable day to stroll The Taste, with moderate (not high) humidity beginning to build on Sunday, along with a high of 84 or 85. The mugginess will be more noticeable by Monday. However, excepting those few possible lighter showers Thursday afternoon, we should be rainfree into next Tuesday once we get by these cold fronts and their temporary relief from the humidity.
As a warm ridge of high pressure rebuilds during the weekend, temperatures will run above average beginning Sunday for most days through next week. There are no signs of a “heat wave” or anything extreme, but the temporary cooling troughiness over the Great Lakes will not be sticking around for long as 500 mb heights go back above average over much of the country, including our part of it. Initially, this next stretch of mugginess next week looks more stable and less likely to deliver large convective outbreaks into WNY. However, there is some suggestion the flow aloft may again veer from SW to WNW later next week, which would allow short waves to return some rounds of showers & tshowers to the Great Lakes. As you’d guess, there is the usual uncertainty with guesstimating precipitation 8-10 days out. But at least I’m not seeing signs of a return to that trough-to-the-west and Bermuda High to the east, pumping up huge amounts of Gulf water vapor.
At my recent American Meteorological Society conference in Nashville, I was privileged to attend a day long short course on climate change (I’ve completed several such courses), led by several of the nation’s most accomplished climate scientists. This intense and amazingly inclusive day included basic and more advanced materials on what we know–and what we don’t know–about climate change and global warming. (The scholars lecturing included Deke Arndt, Chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center; Dr. Tony Broccolli, atmospheric scientist and Director of the Rutgers Climate and Environmental Change Initiative, and Chief Editor of the Journal of Climate; Harold Brooks, reseach meteorologist and Senior Scientist in the Forecast Research and Development Division at NSSL, the National Severe Storms Laboratory; Dr. Keith Dixon, research meteorologist and climate modeler at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/GFDL in Princeton; Dr. Ben Santer, physicist and atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of California; and Marshall Shepherd, AMS President and Department Chair of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program.)
A few basics: CO2 is indisputably a greenhouse gas, which traps heat which would otherwise radiate back into space. Without water vapor and CO2, the earth would be a frozen ball. The basic physics are known, and not in dispute. CO2 has been increasing since the dawn of the industrial revolution. The burning of fossil fuels produces CO2. The increase has now taken us to 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, the highest level in at least 800,000 years and probably more than 1 million years.
Other greenhouse gases such as methane, also increasing, are much stronger as greenhouse gases. But the sheer volume of CO2 has far outstripped the capacity of methane in warming capacity. In addition, CO2 has a long, stable shelf life in the atmosphere once it’s released. Methane, which may increase more rapidly due to the melting of the Arctic permafrost and the possible release from slowly warming seabeds, has a life of just 14 years in the atmosphere.
The worst news is that a large portion of the past and future warming will be largely irreversible for at least a couple of centuries, due to that CO2 shelf life, and projected increases in CO2 from economic growth in nations such as China and India. (The US CO2 output has decreased significantly in recent years, due to the recession and even more so due to the lower cost of natural gas vs. coal and oil. Natural gas emits only 40% of the CO2 produced from burning coal.) But there is still good evidence that the size and effects of the warming can be mitigated to some extent by some element of reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. The mitigation involves social and political issues which I will not get into, since I have no more expertise on those topics than any of you…I’ll try to stick to the science.
The warming is “nonlinear” in that it will occur at an uneven pace. There can be embedded within the long term warming cooler periods, and some periods in which warming accelerates. Such a chart looks “spikey” with ups and downs, while the median continues to inexorably climb. We have, in fact, seen a slowing of the warming between 2000-2010. The best theoretical evidence on what caused that slowdown involves the oceans acting as a carbon and heat sink. That is, the ocean has been taking up a good deal of the extra carbon in the atmosphere (leading to acidification of sea water, having increased about 30% in recent decades) and the extra heat in the atmosphere. As seas have warmed, sea levels continue to rise even while atmospheric warming has temporarily slowed. Water expands as it warms, and there have been huge depositions of freshwater from the melting of the Greenland glaciers and most glaciers around the world. The reduction in arctic sea ice (the greatest) and antarctic sea ice secondarily has increased the ability of the high latitude seas to absorb more solar energy and warm, as well. Ice reflects solar energy. Dark sea water absorbs it. Global warming has been greatest in the Arctic region, just as climate models have predicted. At some point, the ocean’s capacity to absorb heat and carbon will begin to level off, and atmospheric warming will begin to accelerate again. The “spikey” appearance of global average temperatures can be easily observed in this graph: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/global-land-ocean-mntp-anom/201201-201212.png
One more basic: the evidence that human activity is responsible for the majority of global warming is overwhelming. There are more than 20 climate models, each of which can be run with different initial conditions. Every one of them when run with CO2 levels as they were known to be around 1900 show the world would have been cooling since that time. Even when natural warming forcing agents (solar input, for example) are maxed out during this time span up to the present, it is now known the globe would have been cooling on average without the human induced increase in greenhouse gases. In other words, the earth’s natural cycle at this time in its history would have been to enter a cooling period, were it not for us. Those who say “man is too puny to affect the climate” simply don’t grasp the basic, proven physics. Of course, the ultimate runaway greenhouse gas planet–with no help from civilization–is Venus. Its atmosphere is more than 90% CO2, and its surface temperature is over 900 degrees F–hot enough to melt lead. While there is zero chance than can happen here, it should at least demonstrate to those that CO2 is quite a greenhouse gas. Even strong denialists who have the mistaken idea we cannot really impact climate should at least notice the urban heat island effect. Urban areas have significantly higher temperatures day and night because of the absorbing and retaining of solar heat in concrete and pavement. On a clear night, my car themometer often drops 10-13 degrees by the time I get to my suburban home in a more rural section of my town compared to the temperature of north Buffalo. Because man’s urban heat island effect is so strong, these urban temperatures are NOT included in global temperature averages, so as not to skew the data.
Thanks for reading this far. I wanted to write this while the material is still fresh in my head. If this topic doesn’t hold much interest for you, feel free to comment on the weather. “Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get.”
After unsettled conditions at the start of the week, we will get into a drier stretch of weather which (at the time of this Sunday night posting) should extend from at least Tuesday afternoon into Saturday. Following passage of a cold front, temperatures will be on the Seasonably Cool side into Wednesday evening. A large ridge of dry high pressure will bring us abundant sunshine Wed-Saturday (excluding nights! ). Readings will begin to move back up on Thursday, and go above average on Friday into Sunday. During the weekend, humidity will increase, and a few Shwrs & Tshwrs will begin to come back into the picture, possibly Saturday night and more likely on Sunday.
Following this peak warmth, temperatures will become more moderate again, as the warm ridge of high pressure begins to drop away from us. Most ensemble means show the peak ridging and warmth returning to the western US, but these means only allow modest cooling in the Great Lakes which would bring temperatures back to near normal, rather than below normal/average. It’s difficult to discern whether or not our precipitation will go back to above average during that transition. But it does appear our Tue afternoon-Saturday dry “spell” will help get some meaningful evaporation going in the muddy fields.
In the mean, the pattern will continue to favor below average temperatures and above average precipitation for the Great Lakes and nearby regions. We will have a ridge of high pressure over the west central US, with a trough in the west and a trough over the NE. That favors a NW flow at mid levels of the atmosphere which will deliver disturbances and relatively cool temperatures.
However, it should be remembered that this is a Mean pattern to which I refer. It doesn’t mean we won’t get some warmups and some drier periods in the 2nd half of the month. But when a Mean is so well established, it’s hard for a fundamental pattern shift to gain traction with higher soil moisture and the resulting cooler boundary layer/near surface temperatures.
At the time of this posting–Tuesday night–it still appears a strong (for mid June) area of low pressure will do its worst in the Ohio Valley & PA, rather than in our viewing area during late Wed night into Thursday morning. This storm system will probably spawn a complex of long-lasting violent tstorms Wednesday night. The modeled most likely position of this low would steer such a complex (which may become a powerful derecho (http://www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/derechofacts.htm) from Illinois into PA and possibly parts of VA. We will be monitoring this storm system, in the event there is a northward shift in its projected path.
We will be drying out during a Cool Friday into a lovely Saturday. Sunday holds some question. One NWS global model (known as the GFS/Global Forecast System) brings showers into WNY during Sunday, giving us only one nice weekend day. However, the usually (not always) superior European global model keeps us dry through Sunday. Owing to its superior performance, I will go with the European on this Tuesday evening for next Sunday. Either way, even if we get 2 great weekend days there are still no signs of an extended dry period or true summerlike heat returning anytime soon.
The 56th Allentown Art Festival launched on Saturday under less than ideal weather conditions, but the crowds still came and the artists — some 400 of them — were game to show their wares as they scrambled to shore up dripping canopies. Many told me sales picked up as the day went along, and at least one tallied his best day ever at the much-anticipated annual art show.
Obviously, the heat is gone this week. But there are signs that June may end up being cooler more often than the very warm May we just finished. Certainly, there will be warm periods, but the overall pattern and another oscillating pattern favor more frequent troughing over the midwest and the NE, with the strongest/warmest ridging staying over the SW. That is a mean, and will be interrupted to be sure by variations in the pattern. But if this mean were to verify, it also would favor a wetter than average month. Having said all this, it’s only June 3rd as I post this…so much of it is subject to change.
Later this week, tropical moisture is likely to sweep up from the Gulf and SW Atlantic into the east & NE, with some of it arriving in bits and pieces before Thursday morning, and increasing into Thursday-Friday. There will be occasional rounds of showers & tshowers. Currently, the heaviest rain is likely to fall just east of us, but that’s cutting it a little close. Abundant cloud cover should keep instability limited, which makes severe tstorms unlikely. Some of this wet period may linger into a portion of Saturday, with Sunday being the nicest of the 2 weekend days. Another area of low pressure will begin to increase the likelihood of scattered showers by Monday afternoon. Some overall moderation in temperatures should be setting up by mid month. But as of this posting, there are no signs of a return to mid 80s-type heat in the ensemble means.
Recently, we had three children who live with Juvenile Diabetes make a stop at the Channel 4 studios to record a public service announcement (PSA) for the 2013 Walk to Cure Diabetes. You’ll be seeing the PSA starting this week on WIVB-TV. Join us for the Walk — which includes stops in Delaware Park and the Buffalo Zoo on June 9th! Get more information here: http://www.wivb.com/subindex/community