Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bad Place For Science

Two recent editorials in Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) are examples of why you don’t want to get your science from the editorial page.  The paper touts its views as conservative, but these examples are either meant to mislead or are out of ignorance.  They deserve to be put to rest once and for all.  You can read them here and here.

The first editorial attacks the notion that there is no consensus on climate change.  It uses a study published in November and can be read here.  The first red flag in the editorial is that they never mention where the study is published.  However, it did not take long for me to track down the paper.

It seems that the editorial originated with James Taylor, managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Environment and Climate News, with a post he wrote on the Forbes website.  The original post on Forbes and thus the editorial in IBD have been thoroughly debunked here, here, and here.

Brian Angliss of Scholars and Rogues writes:

“The reality is that, contrary to claims made by Taylor and others at Heartland, every serious attempt to measure the degree of consensus among scientists and climate experts has concluded that the overwhelming majority of experts agree that climate is changing rapidly, that humans are the dominant drivers of the changes, and that model projections indicate that the changes will be highly disruptive if they’re not planned for. And every attempt to disprove the reported consensus has been disproved or shown to be based on distortions. Just like this attempt by Taylor has been.”

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Snow For The Midlands

UPDATE: 1 p.m. Saturday

The precipitation that moved through the Midlands this morning was mixed with snow with more snow in the northern sections.  Daniel Bonds reported from Winnsboro that the snow fell of over an hour with only trace accumulations thanks to a warm ground.  The RPM verified reasonably well on this event.

Radar is showing a break in the precipitation for the early afternoon.  However, another band of precipitation is expected between 4 and 9 p.m. for the northern half of the Midlands. This will likely be in the form of wet snow and there could be some accumulation.  The pictures below are from the 12z run of the Regional Precision Model (RPM).  The 15z run is similar, but backs off on coverage.  It still has the same idea.

From the 12Z RPM.  Image Credit: WLTX.


Computer models began suggesting that a fast-moving weather system in the middle part of the atmosphere could bring snow to the midlands of South Carolina this weekend.  The models backed off from that forecast during much of the week, but still hinted at something.  Well, something is here.  Snow became a real possibility once the high-resolution models came into play in the short-range.

A vigorous trough with the energy moving through the Southeast valid for 18z Saturday, February 16.  The forecast uses the NAM model based on the 00z data for Saturday, February 16.  Click on the image for a larger version.  Image Credit: WSI.

A vigorous upper-level disturbance will be passing over the Midlands late Saturday.  There will be enough moisture as the cold air moves in to produce snow for the area.  The situation will be dynamic and constantly changing during the day.  Rain will begin to fall in the Piedmont before daybreak.  The air will be chilled by evaporative cooling and the rain will change to snow.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Remembering The 1973 Snowstorm In South Carolina

February 9-10, 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of the greatest snowstorm to hit South Carolina in modern times.  Snow in the South is rare enough, but this set many records across the states of Georgia and South Carolina.  Here are some of the notable snowfalls from the storm:

                        Rimini, SC                              24 inches
   Macon, GA                            19 inches
                        Branchville, SC                      19 inches
                        Lake City, SC                         17.5 inches
                        Blackville, SC                         17 inches
                        Columbia, SC                         16 inches
                        Aiken, SC                               15 inches
                        Summerville, SC                    15 inches
                        Springfield, SC                       15 inches
                        Kingstree, SC                         13 inches
                        Camden                                 12 inches

These are just a few of the totals from this remarkable storm.  Generally the snowfall was between 10 to 20 inches over much of central Georgia and central and southern South Carolina.  Winds will strong enough to produce drifts to 5 feet in Sumter and Clarendon counties.

Many refer to this storm as a blizzard and to many in the South it seemed like one.  However, I could not find evidence that it met the criteria for one.  No doubt it was a significant snowstorm which would rival storms much farther north.

Timing is everything for snowstorms in the Deep South.  Typically when it gets cold enough to produce snow the air is too dry.  The right mix of cold air, moisture, and intensifying storm are rare.  Thus, forecasting such storms is quite challenging.

The challenge was much greater back in 1973.  Knowledge about the dynamics of such storms and the modern technology to forecast them was not as advanced as today.  Geostationary satellites were not in standard use or available to local forecasters.   It would not be until the 1980s that much of the dynamics would be known and satellites would be commonplace for forecasters.  The forecast of the New England blizzard this past weekend, days ahead, would have been impossible back then.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Southeast Drought Continues

Droughts can be insidious.  Just when you think they’re gone, they’re back.  Actually it never went away in the Southeast, it just moved around.  The center of the drought began in northeast Florida in 2011 and moved to southern Georgia a year later.  Now the center of the drought is central Georgia and it is beginning to expand thanks to a dry January.

The Drought Monitor for the end of January 2011-13.  Click on the image for a larger view.  Image Credit: USDA.

The current drought began in the Southeast with the end of El Nino in 2010.  That was followed by two years of La Nina which brought drier than normal conditions particularly in the winter and spring.  The worst of the drought has been centered in central Georgia where extreme to exceptional drought conditions have persisted for two years.

However, drought conditions for southeast Georgia and northeast Florida actually disappeared this past summer thanks to two tropical weather systems (Beryl & Debby) which inundated the region with rain in late May and June.  Drought is creeping back into those areas.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Groundhog Predictions

This past Saturday (February 2) was Groundhog Day, a day of anticipation by many tired of winter.  Each year people wait to see what the groundhog has to say about the coming spring.  The most famous groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania and has the longest running record.  Predictions from 1888 to 1900 were intermittent and became regular after that time.

Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his hole each Groundhog Day, like clockwork, to tell us if we can expect an early spring or another six weeks of winter. If Phil sees his shadow, he’ll go back underground to wait out the next chilly month and half. If there’s no shadow, Phil — and the rest of us — know that spring is right around the corner.

Average temperature for Columbia, SC, from February 2 - March 16.  Image Credit: Climate Central.

The six-week period that starts on February 2nd has been getting gradually warmer in Columbia since 1887. The warming hasn’t been uniform: you can see from the graph above that some years are cooler than average and some are warmer, but the overall trend is slowly upward. This is consistent with the rising global temperatures that climatologists have predicted with increasing certainty for decades.