Archive for June, 2006

Dust Devils Today
June 30, 2006

Today we had a nice dust devil, with more of a “landspout” appearance. Dust devils are caused by the air near the groud heating up to a temperature hotter than the air above it. This causes a rapid upward rise in motion and surrounding air rushes in to fill the void. As the air continues upward, the coriolis force creates the spin to the large column of air. Sometimes these dust devils can spin as high as 60 mph. They won’t do damage in most cases, but at 60, a few tree limbs and other light debris could easily be scattered. They are most visible over dry areas with loose dirt and mainly occur across the SW states. Enjoy the pics from today. Special thanks to Walter, Abbie, and James in Norman for sending these into us at!



Northeast Flooding Brings Back Memories
June 30, 2006

This week’s flooding in the Northeast reminded me of the great floods of the summer of 1993 throughout the Midwest. I was working in Des Moines, Iowa at the ABC television station, WOI-TV. Our studios were on the Iowa State campus in Ames, which is about 45 minutes north of Des Moines.

That summer was tremendously wet. I remember my forecasts (back then they were 5 day forecasts) would have storm chances every day for weeks at a time it seemed. We would have storm after storm producing 1 to 2 to sometimes 3 inches of rain. This was happening all over the Midwest and the Plains states. Finally the water had nowhere to go and the floods started.

The most memorable for me was the flood that shut down the city of Des Moines. The Racoon river runs through downtown Des Moines. On Thursday, July 8, 1993, 8 to 10 inches of rain fell in the upper watershed of the Racoon River. By the next day, downtown Des Moines was preparing for flooding.

A levee of 25 feet protected the Des Moines water treatment plant near the river. The expected crest was 19 feet. By Saturday, the river was over 21 feet and still rising.

By Saturday afternoon waster had surrounded the plant. It had become an island behind its own levee, but the water levels kept slowly climbing. Despite the efforts of an army of sand baggers, the water won the battle. The river crested at a record 26.75 feet! At 3 am Sunday, July 11, 1993, the water forced the shut down of Des Moines’ water treatment plant. A city of over 200,000 people was now without fresh water.

This was an incredible news story to cover. It was a national story for several days. President Clinton visited, and I reported on the flooding for Good Morning America.

The plant had to be drained and painstakingly cleaned and disinfected. It took 19 long and frustrating days for this process to complete. On Thursday, July 29, 1993, the water was finally declared safe.

Since our station was in the city of Ames, my wife and I were never without water. But half of our news staff lived in Des Moines. Many of them stayed in hotels, or would drive north to Ames just to take a shower.

A year later I moved to Oklahoma to start my new life. On July 5th it will be 12 years since I began working at KOCO. Man, time flies.

Who’s Zone is it Anyway?
June 30, 2006

We have had several ozone alert days so far this year, warning us about too much ozone and the dangers of air pollution, but it was not too long ago that we were worried about the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere. So, which is it? Is ozone a good thing, or a bad thing?

It all depends on where the ozone is. Ozone where we live and breathe is bad. Ozone about 30 miles up in the sky, in the stratosphere forms the “Ozone Layer”, and that is good.

The ozone layer in the stratosphere absorbs ultraviolet rays from the sun, and prevents most of them from reaching the Earth’s surface. Ultraviolet rays cause cancer, and since 1990 the risk of melanoma has doubled, mainly because of the depletion of the ozone layer. The ozone layer is gradually being destroyed by man-made chemicals including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform. Most of these ozone-depleting substances (ODS) have been banned, but they are chemicals that once released into the atmosphere take years, and decades to degrade, destroying ozone along the way. One CFC molecule can destroy 100,000 ozone molecules. So the gas from the hairspray you used back in 1974 may still be up there, destroying the ozone layer. The good news is that since these chemicals were banned in the 1970s and 1980s, the ozone layer is no longer getting smaller, and it is estimated that it will be back to full strength by 2050.

Ground level ozone is a pollutant, and the main component in smog. Ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides combine with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunshine. Stronger sunshine and higher temperatures lead to higher concentrations of ozone, which is mainly a concern in the summer. The main source of nitrogen oxides is from the burning of fossil fuels (cars, lawn mowers, etc.). Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. “Bad” ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a nifty slogan. “Ozone – Good Up High Bad Nearby”, plus a web site that has more info:

Hottest Part of the Summer
June 29, 2006

We’ll be dealing with above normal heat the next several days, but the hottest part of the year for us is from July 17 to August 12. This is when the average high each of those days is 94, and the average low is 71. After that time, our average temperatures start their slow decrease into Fall and Winter. Of course our weather is rarely “average”. We can have blistering heat well into the month of September.

Speaking of blistering heat, my forecast for the long 4th of July weekend calls for highs in the mid to upper 90s, with a few unlucky souls topping 100. We’ll be mainly dry through Monday, with a chance of some storms Tuesday and Wednesday with a cold front.


Looking for Storms
June 29, 2006

We have been searching the skies for thunderstorms to bring much needed rain to Oklahoma, and while we have not been very successful over the past 10 months, I have found thunderstorms in unusual places. The most unusual is extra-terrestrial. Last January scientists using instruments aboard the Cassini spacecraft began tracking a lightning storm that was larger than the United States, and lightning strikes more than 1000 times stronger than what we experience here on Earth.

Cassini was launched back in 1997, and as the spacecraft approached Saturn in 2004 it heard the radio noise and got the first pictures (shown above) of one of the large electrical storms that move across the planet. This first storm back in 2004 was nicknamed the “Dragon Storm”, and it was the first of many lightning storms that have been studied by Cassini. Tomorrow is the midpoint of Cassini’s four year mission to study Saturn, it’s moons and it’s rings. The mission has been so successful that scientists are meeting this week in France to discuss how to keep the school bus-size spacecraft up and running through 2010.

It is not known how these lightning storms form on Saturn. One theory is that they are related to the planet’s warm interior. Saturn’s “Storm Alley” is on the southern hemisphere of the planet… that is where most of the storms have been observed, including both the storm this past January, and the “Dragon Storm”.

Holiday Weekend In Better Focus
June 28, 2006

Our weather for the independence Day weekend is coming into better focus as we move deeper into the week. I still believe that dry and hot weather will be the rule for the next several days with highs in the mid 90s and lows mostly in the 60s.

Rain chances do increase a bit on Tuesday as a cold front drops into the state. I’m still a little pessimistic as to whether this front is actually going to make it, but the computer models keep advertising that it will, which of course means very little. Only time will tell for sure, but just to be safe, I’m going to keep a slight chance of thunderstorms in the forecast for Independence Day.

Outside of that, it will be good weather for spending time at the lake, camping, cookouts, festivals, and all of the other outdoor activities going on across Oklahoma the next several days.

By the way, I’ve checked into some of the rain totals from the recent flooding rains that have taken place along the eastern seaboard. Some Doppler radar storm total estimates have been over 20 inches, but the highest total from an actual rain gauge was 12.29″ in Bel Air, Maryland. There may be some locations that have had more since rain totals are still coming in. Keep in mind these are rain totals over the past few days.

All of that rain in the east prompted me to do some digging on what the most rainfall in a 24 hour period has been in Oklahoma City. Here are the top three heaviest totals:

9/22/1970 7.53″
6/3/1932 6.75″
5/8/1993 6.64″

Keep in mind these totals were recorded at the official rain gauge at Will Rogers World Airport. Your backyard may have received more. That’s the funny thing about thunderstorms, heavy rain can be flooding an area, and 2 miles away it could be bone dry.

Have a great day and try to stay cool.


Heavy Rain or Drought
June 28, 2006

Do you want to see just how much rain has fallen on the East Coast this week? Or perhaps see just how far behind normal we are for rain in Oklahoma? Hurry up… this is the last week to offer feedback about an experimental precipitation web site run by the National Weather Service.

This page offer precipitation analysis that can be used for flood forecasts, drought monitoring and climate trends, and has been quite useful during the current drought. The trial period of this web site ends at the end of the month, so if you have not checked it out yet, time is running out. There is also space on the site to leave feedback.

Rainfall information comes from 150 NWS radars and over 4000 rain gauges. The maps can zoom down to state level, and data can be viewed for the past day, week, month and up to the past year. The web site also allows you to download the data. Check it out before is disappears.

Dry Air And Baseball
June 27, 2006

Yesterday I commented on how nice it felt outside with low dewpoint temperatures. Dry air feels so clean and crisp compared to muggy, humid air. One might even think that moist air feels heavier than dry air.

Many people believe that on humid nights, baseballs will not travel as far due to the drag created by the extra moisture in the air. In fact, just the opposite is true. Moist air is less dense than dry air. Let me explain how that can be.

Water vapor is a relatively light gas compared to diatomic oxygen and diatomic nitrogen, the main ingredients in the air we breath. When there is more water vapor in the air, there is less oxygen and nitrogen, and therefore, the density or the moist air is lower than that of dry air.

Keep that in mind when you’re at a baseball game on a humid night, there just may be more long hits than on a night where the air was dry.

Not much happening in our weather the next several days. We’ll stay dry and seasonably warm to hot. Humidity levels will be low through Thursday, then it will turn more humid over the weekend. The next opportunity for a couple of thunderstorms will be a slight chance next Monday and Tuesday as a cold front tries to drop into the state. Daytime highs will be mostly in the low 90s in central Oklahoma, with some upper 90s out west.


East Coast Soaker
June 27, 2006

The tropical downpours are still flooding parts of the East Coast. Many places this weekend saw over 10 inches of rain. Rain continued yesterday, and much of Washington DC was shut down with flooded and washed out roadways, and mudslides.

The weather pattern has stalled out along the East Coast, and there are two weather features drawing moisture from two tropical sources. The first is the cold front that moved through Oklahoma on Sunday. This front has stalled along the Appalachians and is drawing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico northeastward to the Mid-Atlantic region. The second feature is an upper low that has been stalled off the southeast coast for a few days. This low is drawing tropical moisture from the Bahamas northward to the Carolinas and into the northeast.

A fun summertime event of my childhood was the St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester, MA. It is a religious event that includes the blessing of the fishing fleet, and many Italian traditions. It also comes with a carnival, parade and fireworks. The Fiesta is held each year on the weekend before the Fourth of July… that was this past weekend, and it was a washout. It rained for most of the weekend, and while the fiesta was not cancelled, the fireworks were.

Here are a couple of pictures from the Fiesta. The first one is the blessing of the fleet, complete with umbrellas. The second is a competition known as “the greasy pole”. Contestants must walk or run along a long pole slathered with grease. The first to grab the flag at the end is the winner… losers all take a plunge into the harbor. Rain did not discourage the runners, or the onlookers… the beach is crowded.

The rain is going to continue for the next few days. That will likely lead to more flooding along the East Coast. The upper low off the southeast coast has started to move (EDIT to add: This system has formed a surface low, and could become a tropical depression or storm soon), and the ridge of high pressure that has kept the west hot and dry for the past week is going to start to build eastward. That is eventually going to nudge the heavy rain off the coast.

How old is the earth?
June 26, 2006

A relatively simple question right? Wrong. As stated in an earlier blog, scientists predict the earth to be about 4 billion years old. But what about the scientists and creationists who believe the earth only to be about 10,000 years old? With all of the talk about global warming and the history of floods, famine, ice ages and the like, what are we really looking at here?

The implications run deep either way. For 4 billion years, evolution has time to occur. For 10,000 years, it supports creationism based off the book of Genesis in the Bible. There is so much to read on the topic, a simple search on google for “how old is the earth” will reveal more information than you could possibly have time to read in a week.

Need help to make up your mind?
Here are just a few of the websites that debate the issue and each has good evidence and theories as to why which one is correct. Who knows, maybe neither is correct and it’s a blend of the two. Do you want to learn? Then read below: