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Observations and thoughts on all things weather and climate

Weather History: Ten Year Anniversary of NYC’s Strongest Tornado

Ten years ago today, an EF2 tornado roared through New York City. It was the strongest twister on record to hit the Big Apple.

NYC Tornado of 2007. Credit: NYT

With winds measured up to 135 mph, it left a trail of destruction nine miles long from Staten Island to Brooklyn with the hardest hit neighborhoods being Bay Ridge and Sunset Park. The storm toppled trees and knocked out power to more than 4,000 customers. It damaged hundreds of cars and dozens of homes, including five that had their roofs ripped off. The storm also dumped 1.91 inches of rain in just one hour, which caused flash floods and the temporary suspension of subway service during the morning commute.

Historically, tornadoes have been rare events in NYC. In recent years, however, they have been happening more frequently. Of the eleven twisters that have touched down in the city since 1950, seven have occurred since 2003.

Note: Tornado ratings moved from the Fujita Scale (F) to the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF) in 2007.

What are the Dog Days of Summer?

The “Dog Days” of summer have arrived. This popular saying refers to what are traditionally the hottest and most oppressive days of the season.

Rooted in astronomy, the phrase is linked to Sirius, the brightest star seen from Earth. As part of the constellation Canis Major, it is known as the Dog Star.  During most of July and August, Sirius rises and sets with our Sun. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed it acted like a second Sun, adding extra heat to summer days. Today, we know that light from this distant star does not affect our weather, but the name has endured.

Varying by latitude around the globe, the so-called “Dog Days” of summer typically run from July 3 to August 11 in the United States.

Sirius, the “Dog Star”.  Credit: EarthSky/Tom Wildoner

Tropical Storm Cindy Batters Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Cindy, the third named storm of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, made landfall between Cameron, LA and Port Arthur, TX early Thursday morning. It battered the area with heavy rain and winds measured up to 40 mph.

With rainbands spreading out across the Gulf Coast, flash floods were reported from New Orleans, LA to Pensacola, FL. The storm also downed trees and knocked out power to more than 32,000 customers across six states.

Moving inland, the storm was soon downgraded to a tropical depression. However, it still spawned a destructive tornado in Fairfield, AL. The NWS has given the twister a preliminary rating of EF-2.

The remnants of Cindy are expected to travel northeast over the next several days, unleashing even more torrential rain as it moves along.

Tropical Storm Cindy in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: NOAA/NWS

Severe Thunderstorms: Watches vs Warnings

A severe thunderstorm is forecast for the New York City area on Monday afternoon. In addition to lightning, it could bring strong winds, heavy rain, hail, and the possibility of a tornado. Simply put, this is the type of weather that can cause property damage and loss of life. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between the various alerts issued by the National Weather Service. They include advisories, watches, and warnings.  All should be taken seriously.

  • Advisory: Issued when significant, but not necessarily hazardous, weather conditions are likely to occur. Residents should exercise caution.
  • Watch: Issued when dangerous weather conditions are possible over the next several hours.  They generally cover a large geographic area.  Residents should be prepared to take action.
  • Warning: Issued when dangerous weather is imminent or already occurring.  They cover a smaller, more specific geographic area.  Residents should take action immediately.

Earth Muse: Art and the Environment at the Heckscher Museum

Nature has inspired artists for centuries, and today the subject seems more relevant than ever. In Earth Muse: Art and the Environment, an exhibition at The Heckscher Museum of Art, contemporary artists explore the natural world from a variety of perspectives.

Curated by Lisa Chalif, the exhibit offers a new experience of familiar landscapes and reflects on society’s impact on the environment. Artists include: Brandon Ballengée, Peter Beard, Alex Ferrone, Melissa Fleming, Winn Rea, Barbara Roux, and Michelle Stuart.

The show runs through July 30, 2017. For a full list of events during the course of the exhibition, including a gallery talk with some of the artists on April 30, please click here.

The Heckscher Museum of Art is located at 2 Prime Avenue, Huntington, NY 11743

Credit: The Heckscher Museum of Art

When to Expect the Final Freeze of the Season

Most people associate spring with flowers and mild weather. But as a transitional season, it can also produce a rollercoaster of temperatures, including serious cold spells. Wearing a short sleeved shirt one day and a parka the next, you may start to wonder when the cold will finally fade away.

The answer to that question largely depends on location. Below is a map from NOAA that shows the typical final freeze dates across the continental US. While actual weather conditions vary from year to year, the dates shown are based on climatology – a thirty-year average of temperature data.

Here in New York City, our last freeze of the season usually comes in mid-April.

Credit: NOAA

Weather Lingo: The Benchmark

Just like real estate, weather is all about location. In the northeastern US, a special set of coordinates known as “The Benchmark” (40°N 70°W) can help identify the type of impacts a winter storm will have on the region.

When a low-pressure system travels west of this position, coastal areas will see more rain than snow as the storm pulls relatively warm marine air onshore. Further inland, where the air is colder, snow is more likely.

If a storm tracks east of the benchmark, it is essentially moving away from land and less warm air is pulled onshore. Some light snow will fall along the coast, but usually not very much.

When a system moves directly through the crosshairs of the benchmark, coastal communities in the region can expect a major snow event. This is exactly what happened with the storm on Thursday that dumped heavy snow across the area.

The 40/70 Benchmark. Credit: Wx4cast

Why Today is National Weatherperson’s Day

Today is National Weatherperson’s Day in the United States. While not an official federal holiday, it is a day to recognize the work of all individuals involved in the field of meteorology – not just prognosticating groundhogs.

According to the NWS, today’s designation honors the birthday of Dr. John Jeffries who was one of America’s first weather observers. Born in 1744, this Boston-based physician had a deep interest in weather and kept detailed records of daily conditions from 1774 to 1816. He also took the first known upper air observations from a hot air balloon in 1784.

Since the 18th century, the weather industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Utilizing radar, satellites, and computer models, meteorologists today provide forecasts and warnings to the public in an effort to protect lives and property. But in the end, weatherpersons, like Dr. Jeffries, are fascinated by weather and are always seeking to improve their understanding of its complex processes.

Dr. John Jeffries taking weather measurements from a hot air balloon. Source: Wonderful Balloon Ascents.

NYC Election Day Weather

Weather does not subscribe to any political party, but it can play a major role on Election Day. Studies show that it strongly influences how many people head out to the polls, especially if poor conditions are forecast.

Here in New York City, the weather is picture perfect this year. With blue skies and temperatures in the 60s, voter turnout is expected to be high.

The exact date of Election Day varies every year, but it is always the Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Below are some interesting local weather facts about the big day.

nyc_electionday

The exact date of Election Day varies every year, but it is always the Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Credit: The Weather Gamut.

The Creative Climate Awards – An Art Exhibition on Climate Change

The Human Impacts Institute is bringing art and science together in an effort to expand public understanding of climate change. In a group exhibition called The Creative Climate Awards, artworks of various mediums explore the challenges of this pressing issue.

This annual event, according to organizers, “uses the arts and creativity to share knowledge, broaden the climate conversation, educate, and incite action.” The show features artists from around the world, including: Ellen Alt, Ed Ambrose, Carolina Arevalo, Vikram Arora, Julie Bahn, Danielle Baudrand, Anna Borie, Laura Brodie, Kenneth Burris, Yon Cho, Alejandra Corral de la Serna, Michael Fischerkeller, Melissa Fleming, Rachel Frank, Kathryn Frund, Shelley Haven, Martin Kalanda, Kaiser Kamal, Julian Lorber, Heather McMordie, Dominique Paul, Peim, Fariba Rahnavard, Clark Rendall, Alexandros Simopoulos, Britta Stephen, Shira Toren, Lars Vilhelmsen, Joyce Ellen Weinstein, and Ana Gabriela Ynestrillas.

The exhibit runs from September 27th to October 27th at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), 1 East 42nd Street, NYC. The opening reception is scheduled for Tuesday, September 27th from 6PM to 8PM. This event is free and open to the public.

For a full list of events during the course of the exhibition, please click here.

"Energy: 300 Million Years" from the Under Glass series by Melissa Fleming. Credit: Melissa Fleming

“Energy: 300 Million Years” from the Under Glass series by Melissa Fleming. Credit: Melissa Fleming