Monday, August 21, 2017

Meteorologist perspectives on #Eclipse2017, and what happened "out east"

Some may call it overrated.

Others a let down.

Others still, a case of bad luck.

A rain cloud in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For many of us that saw it though, it was awe-inspiring and beautiful, even if the partial eclipse was, well, partially eclipsed...

And if you didn't see the actual eclipse, maybe you saw something that you might've overlooked on "just another day." Like this for example...

Iridescence in the clouds as the sun was eclipsed, despite not seeing the eclipse itself. Photo credit: @memphisjq
With a vantage point on the roof of a roughly 50-foot tall building in south Memphis, I was able to avoid the early storms that built over southeast Shelby County, in turn harassing potential viewers in northeast and central Shelby County. While the cumulus field occasionally obscured the view, it also produced pictures like that shown below, which I was able to take, and view, with the naked eye, thanks to the filter provided by the clouds.

Occasionally a clear view provided for a phenomenal perspective of a celestial confluence that won't occur again for nearly 7 years (a brief lull compared to the recent history of such occurrences).

I didn't have professional photographic equipment, and wouldn't have known how to operate it if I did, but I was creative enough to put the eclipse glass against the lens of my fairly-advanced smartphone camera, point it at the subject matter, zoom in, then quickly tap the eclipsed sun to focus and just as quickly tap the shutter button for a quick pic. I got one "decent" shot, shown below.

While my own photographic evidence doesn't nearly stand up to the stunning imagery I have seen shared on social media (some of which I have shared with you on my Facebook and Twitter feeds), it will help me memorialize the event and reinforce my own observations of the first coast-to-coast total eclipse in nearly a century.

What does a meteorologist say "awe" at during an event of this magnitude, without having personally witnessed totality, but something very close?

The progression of the moon across the sun's face over time.

The hard-to-miss dimming of the surroundings that could not be attributed simply to passing clouds.

The passing clouds that seemed to create another inspiring moment each time they parted.

Watching a brand new satellite system, GOES-16, capture the darkness that swept across the nation over a couple of hours, each image frame only 5 minutes apart.

And when light blossoms behind the passing shadow on said satellite loop, realizing that the cumulus clouds built previously by the heat of that same sun have been snuffed out and dissipated after being robbed of their heat source for less than an hour.

Also, images produced by NASA of a space-borne laboratory and living quarters for six brave souls, dwarfed by the object that provides life to this planet, as it it turn is blocked by a moon that is 1/400th its size.

And honestly, seeing all of the excitement and wonder you shared in your pictures and knowing that, for one day anyway, the "awe" was back in science for adults and children alike.
After seeing and hearing about the experience in "totality" however, I have decided to make it my mission to be in an even more awe-inspiring position on April 8, 2024...

So what about the forecast? Why did those in eastern Shelby County get "robbed?"

Well, I must say that our forecast going into the day (which had really not changed to any degree since late last week) was not that far off from a big picture perspective. Overall, conditions were partly cloudy as predicted. And the 20% rain chance that was also predicted materialized, to some folks detriment.

What I didn't catch onto this morning, but there were hints of in morning weather model data, was how quickly the muggy atmosphere would heat up. With a heat index of 103° at the airport by 10am, it was quickly becoming obvious that the combination of heat and atmospheric moisture would result in convective clouds (cumulus - those puffy ones) forming earlier than originally anticipated. I expected some cumulus, but I didn't expect the large build-ups that would produce rain as early as noon. Once those towering cumulus built, there were some who were going to end up with an obscured view of the sky. I had expected that to occur between 1-2pm, not by noon.

I have to give credit where it's due though, even though picking out one model from the bunch to be "the model of choice" is sometimes hard, especially when all the others disagree. The high-resolution North American Model (NAM) from overnight Sunday night was onto something. I even tweeted it early this morning.

However, even it was just a bit late. (How crazy is it that I even stated that it better not "occur an hour earlier." Perhaps a jinx?) The placement of that predicted cell in Shelby County within an hour of it occurring on a 12-hour forecast is an example of just how good these high-resolution models are getting. And sure enough, if I had completely bought into that particular model run, I could've told those in eastern Shelby County when you woke up this morning to find a place a few miles to your east or west for best viewing. But alas.... pinpointing cell placement and cloud cover in a very small region like a handful of counties is still harder than the southern snow forecast.

So, though I can't tell you how much rain you will get and when the next couple of days, I CAN tell you with a high level of confidence that you will find the weather much more PLEASANT beginning Thursday and continuing into the weekend. I for one and looking forward to 60s again in the mornings and low humidity 80s in the afternoons!

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Eclipse forecast and viewing details, and an early taste of fall?

I've got some good news and some great news in the forecast... but first the forecast you're most interested in - the eclipse forecast, which is our good news!

So, are we gonna see the eclipse?

The short answer: yes!

An upper level ridge of high pressure will exercise its influence on the forecast through early next week, including Monday. What does that mean? Summer-like conditions. Heat and humidity this weekend will continue into Monday as heat indices peak in the 102-105° range each afternoon. I can't rule out a few stray thunderstorms, but not everyone will see rain. Most of these showers or thunderstorms don't really get started until 2pm or later.

So for Monday I expect partly cloudy skies (those white puffy clouds that only temporarily block the sun) and mainly dry conditions. It will be HOT with temperatures near 90° at 1:23pm Monday and a heat index above 100°. Plan accordingly.

I wrote a complete "Viewing Guide" to the eclipse that I encourage you to read if you haven't. Since then I've seen some misinformation about a few things related to eclipse viewing. My Facebook post from yesterday addresses those:

Viewing Safety

So to be clear, you only need to wear eclipse glasses when you are wanting to view the sun directly. You don't need them when you're outside on Monday for normal activities (though sunglasses will probably be in order like any other summer day!). And here in the Mid-South you should NOT look at the sun Monday (or any other day for that matter) without eclipse glasses! The only time that you can view an eclipse without eclipse glasses is during totality, and that won't happen here.

I understand that Pink Palace and American Paper Optics in Bartlett are the only places left that have NASA-approved glasses and are selling them this weekend. Prepare to pay $3-5 a pair for them and also prepare for long lines! If you can't get glasses, there are a couple of "old-school" ways to view the eclipse. My friend Ryan Vaughan of KAIT-TV in Jonesboro shows how to make a viewer out of a cereal box and meteorologist Brad Panovich explains how to use two pieces or cardboard or stiff paper to make an eclipse projector. Also, here's a really good video tip on taking pictures of the sun with a zoom lens and no filter!

Now the great news... 

A cold front will move through this coming Wednesday and it's a doozy! Unlike the fronts of the past couple weeks that provided some short-term relief but returned north and put us back in the soup, this one looks to have some staying power. Look for an increase in thunderstorm coverage a bit on Tuesday as the front gets closer, then a high chance of thunderstorms on Wednesday as it moves through. Once the front clears though, we'll see a significant drop in the humidity levels on Thursday and temperatures that also respond by falling into the mid 80s for highs, with lows that could get down to 60° outside the city by the end of the week and into next weekend.

In fact, the week 2 outlook from NOAA that I posted yesterday shows a good chance of below normal temperatures for the end of August and beginning of September! Could this be the end of 100° heat indices for this summer? I'm not quite ready to go there yet, as we can get some hot days in September, but I do think we'll be getting out first taste of early fall by the end of the week. In honor of the now-recovering Rick Flair, can I get a...

The most recent forecast details and additional cool eclipse tips will be posted on our social media feeds listed below, and you can always get the latest forecast info on our website, mobile web, and mobile app, also linked below.

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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MWN is a NOAA Weather Ready Nation Ambassador Meteorologist Erik Proseus is an NWA Digital Seal Holder

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summer takes another break, but makes a comeback this week

It's been kind of a strange summer. Certainly not overly hot other than a brief stint in mid-late July. In fact, since July 28, we've now had 16 consecutive days of below average daily temperatures and that will be extended at least three more days as we head into mid-August!

You can thank a series of fronts over the past couple of weeks that have moved over and through the metro for the additional cloud cover, periods of acceptable humidity levels, and scattered rainfall. That trend will continue as we head into the work and school week. The closest front is to our south but it is very weak, so wind direction is variable to southeasterly. As your Sunday progresses, a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV), or remnant weak low pressure left behind by a previous thunderstorm complex, will move across the Mid-South from the west as upper level flow pushes it east-northeast. This will bring a good chance of rain to the area later this afternoon and into the nighttime hours.

Simulated radar from the HRRR model through the early morning hours on Monday shows a large slug of moisture moving across the metro later this afternoon and into the early nighttime hours. You'll notice the distinct "spin" in the area of potential thunderstorms on the back side of the rain area. That is the low pressure system driving the precip, what we call a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV). (WxBell) 

A few thunderstorms are possible, mainly south of the city where a Marginal Risk (level 1/5) of severe weather exists. I do not expect to see any strong storms in the metro. Rainfall totals could rise to a half-inch to inch in some spots by Monday morning.

A low-end severe weather risk exists for the far southern portions of the metro today. I expect no severe weather for most of the metro and only a low chance of thunder north of the MS/TN state line.

The week ahead

In the wake of the rain today and tonight, Monday looks to be drier though a chance of storms is in the offing, mainly south of the city. Though humidity will be back in the "muggy" category, temperatures remain mild with highs in the mid 80s due to only partly sunny skies.

Additional scattered showers and thunderstorms will be possible nearly each day throughout the week and into next weekend, although not everyone will see rain every day. In fact, rain chances diminish some mid-week as upper level high pressure begins to build to our south and push north a bit. That will squash rain chances a bit, leaving a few possible in the heat of the day.

Speaking of heat, it's making a comeback under this high as well. We'll be back above 90° by Wednesday with dewpoints getting closer to the "miserable" range as they near 75°. That'll mean heat indices back above 100° and overnight lows that get no lower than the mid 70s. The mugginess could subside a bit by next weekend as the pattern shifts just a bit, but typical summer weather will continue right into the weekend.

Forecast temperatures for the next 10 days from the National Weather Service "National Blend of Models" (NBM), which averages today multiple models to depict the best possible forecast using them all. (WxBell)

Eclipse Forecast

I know everyone's keen interest is on the eclipse forecast a week from tomorrow, August 21. Eight days out can still be a crap shoot as far as cloud forecasts, but the overall pattern doesn't necessarily bode well. Of course, a couple hours of partly cloudy skies is all we need, but it doesn't appear Eclipse Day will be a bright sunny day dominated by high pressure at all levels. Stay tuned and cross those fingers!! Starting tomorrow, eclipse day will be in the extended range forecast on your MWN app!

For more on viewing the eclipse in the Memphis area, see our Viewing Guide if you haven't already!

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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Visit on the web or on your mobile phone.
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MWN is a NOAA Weather Ready Nation Ambassador Meteorologist Erik Proseus is an NWA Digital Seal Holder