Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thoughts After a Storm Chase; We Need to Keep Advancing Warning Technology

Monday evening I saw a tornado developing on radar on the west side of Brownsburg. The storm was moving northeast and not far from where I live. I decided to drive over and watch it pass by.

The wall cloud ended up passing directly overhead.  At the time, there was no funnel; however there was rapid horizontal rotation.  I could see a developing horizontal tube.  This was very reminiscent of a storm I chased near Sitka, Kansas in 1999.  Because of this, I knew there was a high likelihood the storm would tornado soon.

I traveled north on Lafayette Road from northwest Marion County in to Boone County.  I turned east on Whitestown Parkway in the Anson area. As I drove on the overpass, over I-65, I finally got a better view of the base of the wall cloud.  It was at this time, I could see dark clouds beginning to drop below the wall cloud.  I remember describing what I was seeing via the phone on CBS4.  Then I said I could see a tornado.  It was approximately 1-2 miles northeast of my location.

I tried to keep up, but at that point there was no chance as it had passed me by. I was having to navigate tree limbs in the road, full trees down covering the road and other drivers.

During the chase, I was on the phone with the control room and I was on-air describing what I was seeing with Chief Meteorologist Chris Wright, Bob Donaldson and Debby Knox.  While I was on the air with them, I kept hearing them talk about seeing a tornado on traffic cameras but the area they were talking about wasn't near where I was located.  I didn't think about it too much at the time.

While on the phone, I also heard my phone ding in my ear, notifying me I had a new text message. I subscribe to a service that sends me a text message every time a watch and/or warning is issued in central Indiana.  At the time, I thought they were new warnings for the current storm I was chasing so I didn't take time to read the full text of the warning.

I also received a couple Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) via the cell phone network. These are automated alerts sent by cell phone carriers when a life threatening alert is issued for your location. Again, I assumed they were for the storm I was watching and I didn't read the detailed information (I.e. where the storm was located.)

Radar imagery from Monday, August 15. Two tornado
warnings for two storms.
Little did I know that a second storm had developed south of the storm I was on.  The storm had produced a tornado south of Brownsburg and was traveling north along Highway 267.  It wasn't until Tuesday night, when I watched recorded video of our coverage on CBS4, that I realized Chris and Bob were showing live video of a tornado developing in Hendricks County.

This is a situation I have not personally encountered before.  Yes, in my previous 16 years of being a television meteorologist, I've had a storm producing a tornado followed by another storm producing a tornado, but this is the first time I have been out in the elements when this has happened.  You might have found yourself in a similar scenario.

This identifies a problem with the weather community's warning process.  If you are not watching tv, how can you easily and quickly assess that the new warning is not for the storm that just passed?

Right now I don't have an answer.  What I can say is that the warning process is constantly being evaluated by the National Weather Service and we at CBS4 also continually evaluate how we get important, lifesaving warning information to you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Overnight snow for southeast Missouri, southern Illinois and western Kentucky

The National Weather Service has issued Winter Storm Warnings for much of southeast Missouri, southern Illinois and western Kentucky in advance of a fast moving weather system that will bring snow and sleet to the area Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

Keep in mind, potential exists for sleet to develop near the Missouri/Arkansas/Kentucky/Tennessee border which could cut in to snow totals.


2"-4": South of a line from Farmington to Harrisburg
3"-5": South of a line from Cape Girardeau to Karnak, IL
4"-6": south of a line from Wappapello, MO to Paducah

One thing that could hamper snow totals is sleet formation. It will be possible to have sleet mix in along Missouri/Tennessee/Kentucky border.

Should be noted the National Weather Service in Paducah has mentioned there is the potential for a few locales seeing up to 8". I think that is entirely possible.

FREAK-OUT-METER: (Scale 0-10 with 0 being less, 10 being highest)

Cape Girardeau - 4
Carbondale - 3
Farmington - 3
Mayfield, KY - 5
Metropolis - 4
New Madrid - 5
Paducah - 5
Poplar Bluff - 5
Sikeston - 5

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Understanding the "Freak-Out-Meter"

Since my beginning of professionally forecasting weather, I’ve noticed how much people “freak out” over a simple four letter word that starts with the letter “s” - snow.  I’ve tried to find other ways to describe the word to try to keep people calm to no avail.

Every time snow would be in the forecast there would be mass runs on bread, milk and eggs at grocery stores.  Everyone knows it happens.  There are always jokes about the local weatherman having side deals with grocery store to bring in more business.  While it would be nice to make an extra buck, I’ve never had any such deal.

In my opinion, no one should freak out over storms, but I know people will.  So, in 2007 I had enough of seeing it happen.  I wanted to come up with a way to convey how big of a deal the storm would be and suggest how much they “freak out”.  I also wanted to have fun with it because for many - myself included - winter storms are “fun”.  That is when I came up with the idea of the “Freak-Out-Meter”.

The “Freak-Out-Meter” is a number given to a location in regards to how big of deal a storm is going to be.  The scale runs from 0 to 10.  0 being the lowest (non-existent).  10 being the biggest of all big storms.

The “Freak-Out-Meter” is not a number indicating how much snow, ice or rain is going to fall.  It actually has nothing to do with the amount of anything.  It is more about how much the storm will impact the locale.

Normally, the further out a weather event will happen, the lower the number because there is still much variance in what will ultimately happen.  As we get closer to the event, the number gets more tuned - sometimes going higher, sometimes going lower.

This year I have decided to make a few additions to the “Freak-Out-Meter”.  Along with the assigned number, which is the most important part of the meter, I’ve added some descriptions.  The descriptions are meant tongue-in-cheek to have some fun with the storm.
Click image to see larger version.
Let me know what you think in the comment section of the blog.  I enjoy hearing feedback about the “Freak-Out-Meter”.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Amazing data from the Europeans

The European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecast's computer models are world-renowned for their forecasting ability.  You likely hear it mentioned in current-day weather forecasts from meteorologists.  It gained a lot of attention during the days leading up to "Super Storm" Sandy.  Personally, I've been using the European computer model (ECMWF) since I first started to learn to forecast in 1997.  Since that time, it is the model I most lean on when putting together my forecasts.

It is pretty amazing the resources the European forecast office puts towards the computer model.  It is miles and miles ahead of what the United States puts towards its global forecast model, the GFS.
  • There are 21 member states and 13 co-operating states involved in the project.
  • The office has an annual budget of approximately $88-million.
  • Their system collects 40-million observations a day by more than 50 instruments.
  • Their medium-range computer model runs twice a day (morning and evening).
    • For the medium-range computer model, over 3-million points of data are ingested in to the computer model before it begins running calculations.
    • The supercomputers used operate with a sustained speed of 200 trillion floating point operations per second.
Here's a closer look at the data ingested in to just one computer model run.  Specifically, this is from the 0z June 3 run.
  • 69,627 surface observations
  • 9,296 buoy observations
  • 136,603 aircraft observations
  • 234,543 Infrared atmospheric motion vectors
  • 259,629 Water Vapor atmospheric motion vectors
  • 110,560 Visible atmospheric motion vectors
  • 1,314 Polar Infrared atmospheric motion vectors - Northern Hemisphere
  • 3,205 Polar Infrared atmospheric motion vectors - Southern Hemisphere
  • 348 Polar Water Vapor atmospheric motion vectors - Northern Hemisphere
  • 7,791 Polar Water Vapor atmospheric motion vectors - Southern Hemisphere
  • 638 balloon soundings
  • 3,340 Pilot-profiler soundings
  • 37,517 Microwave imager points
  • 700,651 AMSU-A Satellite soundings
  • 309,580 AMSU-B MHS Satellite soundings
  • 534,853 HIRS Satellite soundings
  • 511,896 SCAT Scatterometer points
  • 64,450 IASI Temp/Humidity profiles
  • 29,164 OZONE points
  • 424,882 GRAD Clear Sky Radiance points
  • 71,307 AIRS Atmospheric IR Sounding points
  • 80,789 GPSRO Precipitable water soundings
  • 57,023 Ground-based precipitable water soundings
TOTAL = 3,658,997 pieces of data

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Early look at what could come in November

I had some time to look over some loooooong range computer model data and make a few observations of what could come between October 28 - November 26 to central Indiana and the Midwest.

One thing to remember, you should take all of the thoughts with a MAJOR grain of salt. This is only one computer model's view over a long period of time and not reality. You should not get too hung up on details. Things can and likely will change.
  • We appear to be moving in to a pattern of upper-level storms coming off the Pacific Ocean and setting up show in the southwest United States before eventually moving east
    • Data suggests 5 of these upper-level storms affecting the Midwest November 2, 8, 10, 19 and 22.
  • Temperatures in the Midwest turn warmer November 3-7.
  • We have a period of above normal temperatures in the Central United States November 12-18.
    • Indiana could see above normal temperatures November 14-21.
  • Colder air arrives in Great Lakes (including Indiana) November 23-24.
  • Above normal temperatures in Indiana November 25-26.

Keep in mind, the model is just that. A computer model. The farther out the model looks, the higher the possible error rate. The key to look at this kind of data is not to look at specifics but instead trends and long wave patterns.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Change of Scenery

This post is LONG overdue.  In case you haven't already heard, I have moved to Indiana and I now working as a meteorologist for CBS4 (WTTV-TV) in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The move happened December 2014.

It is a great opportunity for me.  It is working for a great company.  It brings me back to the television station and the chief meteorologist where I interned (1997).  It brings me home.  I'm originally from central Indiana and have wanted to move back from the time I moved away.

You can normally find me on the CBS4 weekend evening news at 6pm and 11pm.  I also fill in a lot during the weekday evening news on CBS4 and also during the weekend evening on our sister-station FOX59.

Time permitting, I will continue to post information for Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky - especially for winter storm.  You can also get more timely updates from my via Twitter by following @johndissauer.  (You don't have to have a Twitter account to see the information, you can go to and read my tweets.)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Snow for Sunday and Monday

Data starting to come in from morning runs. Things are pointing to higher numbers for snow in southeast Missouri, southern Illinois and western Kentucky. 

Here's a look at what some of this morning's data suggests for snow totals through Monday night:
  • 7"-11" for Poplar Bluff
  • 8"-10" for Carbondale
  • 9"-14" for Paducah
  • 9"-14 for Cape Girardeau
  • 5"-8" for Farmington
  • 5"-8" for Mt. Vernon
  • 6"-8" for St. Louis
Things will become more clear over next couple hours as more data comes in.

  • Cape Girardeau: 7
  • Farmington: 6
  • Poplar Bluff: 6
  • Paducah: 7
  • Carbondale: 6
  • Mt. Vernon: 5
  • St. Louis: 5

Monday, November 17, 2014

Warm Water Equals Cold Air

Take a look at the sea surface temperature anomalies off the coast of Alaksa.  3°-4° above normal.  WOW!  Even off the coast of Siberia the water temperature is running 3°-6° above normal.

Why care about that?  The warmer water helps to keep large storms fueled as they move across the northern Pacific which in turn can cause an upper-level blocking pattern.  When the blocking pattern takes hold, cold air from northern Canada and the Arctic rush down the east side of the Rocky Mountains and through the central Plains helping keep the lower 48 in the freezer.

If you like reading about some of the tidbits mentioned above, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@johndissauer).  I tweet out a lot of stats, weather tidbits and thoughts on the forecast.

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