The Social Media Solar Eclipse

April 18, 2017 - Leave a Response

I’m calling it the Social Media Solar Eclipse. Since the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat the United States hasn’t experienced an event like this … the total eclipse of the sun.

Animation

On Aug. 21 the moon’s shadow will darken a path 35 to 71 miles wide from Oregon to South Carolina, blocking out the light from the sun. If you are in this path, it will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen.  While all of the United States will experience a partial eclipse, which is cool, nothing is like a total eclipse of the sun.

My vacation time got approved and I’ll be traveling with my family to Oregon to experience this incredible event as day turns to night. We’ll be near Salem, where the total eclipse begins at 10:17 a.m. PDT and lasts for 1 minute and 54 seconds.

The last total eclipse of the sun over the United States was in 1979.  It covered the northwestern United States.  I was in school in Albuquerque, New Mexico and my teacher gave our class special glasses to see, what was for us, a partial eclipse of the sun. I can remember the image to this day.  But to find a total solar eclipse that covers this much real estate in the United States you’d have to go back to 1918.  Some are calling the eclipse of 2017 the “Great American Eclipse” because the path of totality sweeps only over the United States and no other country.  That has never happened before.

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Twelve million people live in the path of totality, covering 21 cities. Within 400 miles the number is 174 million — half the population of our country.  For 3 hours and 13 minutes the moon’s shadow will travel the U.S. at three times the speed of sound, 2,400 mph, before moving over the Atlantic Ocean.

The most important thing to know that day, no matter where in the U.S. you live, is to never look directly at the sun. Dangerous UV light will cause severe retinal damage or blindness.  Sunglasses are not safe; you’ll need special glasses to filter out the harmful rays. The lenses are similar to a welder’s shield.  One of the companies that sells these glasses is Rainbow Symphony in Reseda, California.  There are also filters for binoculars and cameras.  If you are in the path of totality you can take off your glasses once the moon completely covers the sun because at that point the moon is your filter.

Of course the weather is extremely important this day.  Clear skies provide the best view, but a few clouds away from the sun will make for a cool affect, too.  The western half of the United States has the best weather odds, but it’s always important to follow the forecast.  There will be many people in the path of totality with overcast skies missing out on this incredible event.

The total eclipse begins in the United States along the Oregon coast at 10:16 a.m. PDT. While a sight like this would be incredible along the coast, the west coast has the highest odds for a cloudy morning.  Again, if you are near the beach watch the cloud cover forecast closely.

As the moon crosses in front of the sun, the temperature will suddenly drop causing the air to contract, pulling in gusty winds from all directions.  You may notice insects and animals acting strangely as skies grow dark. Clouds darken appearing like a storm is forming and the temperature drops noticeably.  During totality look for these incredible sights:

Eclipse Mosaic March 9, 2016 by Justin Ng – Palu, Indonesia

Baily’s Beads and Diamond Rings – As the last rays of the sunlight stream toward the earth, you may see these on the outer ring of the sun.

Diamond Ring Effect by Justin Ng, Singapore

Bailey’s Beads Effect

Prominence – This is when hot hydrogen gas rises from the sun’s surface hundreds of thousands of miles into space.  These are best seen with binoculars.

Prominence

But the highlight will be the corona, and that only occurs during totality. People who’ve seen the corona of the sun say words cannot describe how breathtaking this experience is.  You’re seeing super-heated plasma at 2 million degrees, forming what can only be described as ghost flares surrounding the sun.

Corona

If you are outside the lines of the moon’s umbra, the complete shadow, you miss the twilight skies and the exquisite views of the sun’s corona. But you will get the penumbra, or partial shadow. It is 6,000 miles in diameter and all of the United States will get a rather large partial eclipse. From Los Angeles to Houston the moon will cover approximately 60%-70% of the sun.

If you miss it, the next total solar eclipse over the United States is Monday, April 8, 2024, the shadow travels from Texas to Maine.

The sun is 864,000 miles in diameter — that’s 400 times larger than the moon. But the moon is also 400 times closer to Earth and, as a result, when their orbital planes intersect the new moon appears to completely blot out the disk of the sun.  The moon’s shadow is the umbra.  On average the total eclipse of the sun from the same spot on the earth happens once every 375 years.

You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’ll chronicle the entire event for you.

Why All the Heavy Rain this Winter?

February 20, 2017 - One Response
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12-Hour water vapor satellite loop

If you’re wondering why we’re getting so much heavy rain in Southern California, and the state for that matter, it has everything to do with what’s called an Atmospheric River. An atmospheric river is a long, narrow band of water vapor in the sky, usually 250-350 miles wide.  On their own they bring beneficial rain and increase the California snowpack.  The rain forms because as the river makes land, the glide from sea level to the mountains lifts the moisture, condenses it and turns it into rain or snow.  In a typical year these rivers account for 30%-50% of the west coast’s annual rainfall.

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But this season has been anything but typical.

On Jan. 22, 2017, 2.67 inches of rain fell on downtown Los Angeles — that’s the most rain in one day since December 2010.  And an all-time one day record rain of 3.97 inches fell on Long Beach, causing portions of I-710 to be under water. And, of course, we’ve seen what has been going on at the Oroville Dam.

We’ve seen historic flooding in the state because of a few unique factors.  First, the amount of moisture in this winter’s atmospheric river has been equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  Last week, a satellite image showed the entire atmospheric river from Japan to Northern California.  If the water vapor has its origin near the Hawaiian Islands, it’s called a Pineapple Express.  Second, since January the atmospheric river has stalled and focused mainly on the state of California. Last, the intensity of our storms has been enhanced by deep areas of low pressure and cold fronts moving though at the same time.  It all makes for record-setting rain.  But we have seen these patterns in the past.

The Great Flood of 1862 devastated Sacramento and Southern California.  This atmospheric river stalled for 30 days and brought wave after wave of heavy rain.

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K Street, looking east from 4th Street during the flood of 1862, Sacramento

And the devastating flood of 1938 killed dozens of people in Southern California and destroyed more than 7,000 homes.  This event prompted the transformation of the LA River into a series of channels.

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March 2, 1938: Flooding at West 43rd Place near Leimert Boulevard.

What makes atmospheric rivers hard to forecast from a seasonal perspective is they can arrive in El Nino, La Nina or neutral patterns.  They are most common in significantly strong El Nino patterns.  In 2016, atmospheric rivers brought record-setting rain to the Pacific Northwest and started the work getting Northern California out of a five-year drought.

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Friday’s atmospheric river aimed toward Southern California

California – The wettest start since 2010… And more on the way

January 31, 2017 - Leave a Response

I’m getting asked a lot of questions about our weather.  Why are we getting so much rain?  Why is it a year delayed from last year’s strong El Nino?  Is the drought over? What’s going on?

sofarthisyear

Four months into the water year we have the wettest start ever recorded.

To answer these questions I first have to give some perspective on climate in California and probabilities.

In case you don’t know, California is a state of extremes when it comes to precipitation.  Throughout recorded history we’ve alternated between drought and excessive rain.  Los Angeles is a good example of these extremes.  While we average 15 inches of rain a year, we are rarely near this amount.  If you look at the past 30 years, we’ve gone from extremely dry years to well above average years.  In the end, it averages 15 inches.

30yearsrain

snowpack

Next snow survey is February 2nd and we’ll near 200%.

The one question that is a little more difficult to explain is the why we’re getting the heavy rain this year instead of last year.  Last winter we were prepared for the potential of heavy rain. The reason we thought this was because in all of the significantly strong El Nino climate patterns, Southern California got soaked.  The odds were in our favor.  But the rain didn’t come.

2015_Significant El Ninos

The 2015/16 water year only recorded 6.57″ of rain.

What is fascinating this year is we are in a weak La Nina or neutral weather pattern.  Both of these patterns slant dry for the state of California and especially for Southern California.  The probability our state would be dry this year is 70%, leaving a 30% chance we’d be above average.  And, if you really study this image, there isn’t a weak La Nina pattern that is well above average for Southern California.

laninaneutralpattern

Instead what we are seeing is the wettest winter since 2010.  The storms of the past two months have recouped 37% of the state’s five-year snow/water deficits. And for the first time since January 2014, no place in California is in an exceptional drought.  Precipitation is more than 200% of average and the Sierra Snow pack is looking great!

droughtupdate2016_snowpack_update

So what gives? Why the two extremes in outcomes?  I could give the answer, “That is how the weather works sometimes.” And this reply wouldn’t be completely wrong because even with an excellent forecast for a 90% chance of rain, there are days it’s dry.

But the answer is a little more complicated.

Last year the water was so warm in the Pacific that it affected the jet stream and moved all of the heavy rain to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California.

This winter we’ve been aided by numerous atmospheric rivers or a Pineapple Express.  This type of pattern can occur at any time regardless of an El Nino, La Nina or neutral pattern.  These rivers of atmospheric moisture are responsible for much of the devastating flooding in California’s history.  And it played a big part in the flooding on Jan. 22.

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Long Beach received the most rain ever recorded in a 24 hour period, 3.97″.

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Most people don’t know about the mega flood of 1862, which was caused by an intense atmospheric river. It has a return period of 100-200 years, meaning it will happen again.

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And this leads me to climate change.  The latest research shows that in a warming planet, droughts will become more severe and heavy rain events will occur more often.  Before we started getting the rain in December, Southern California went through the driest five-year stretch ever recorded.  And, if you look at tree ring data, it may have been the driest stretch in 1,000 years.

record-dry2016_recorddry

But if you look at the history of flooding in California, intense flooding events occurred before the industrial age and atmospheric rivers are responsible for most of these events.  Attributing climate change to future flooding events may be hard to do.  Upcoming research will need to address how a warming world affects atmospheric rivers.

Going forward, the key for our drought, especially in Southern California, is we need this kind of winter pattern for two more years so we can get out of a drought cycle.  And, of course, I’ll keep you posted.

 

Hole Punch Clouds

January 22, 2017 - Leave a Response
holepunchcloud_2

Dan Gregoria, NWS San Diego, Huntington Beach, CA

A few years ago I went to a weather conference and one of the more fascinating talks was on Hole Punch Clouds.  Meteorologists know that these “holes” in the clouds are created by airplanes.  The speaker explained that the latest research shows they are created by the propellers of airplanes not engine combustion.

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Courtesy: Sean Browning, KNBC Photographer, Burbank, CA

Here is how they form:

The first requirement is the clouds have to be vertically thin.  The temperatures beneath the wings of a C-130 (seen below) are 14 degrees warmer than the surrounding environment.  This temperature difference and propeller motion creates a dry punch of air falling from the sky evaporating the clouds beneath.  This is always the case but if the clouds are too thick or the plane is above 20,000 feet a hole will not occur.  This is why Hole Punch Clouds are fairly rare to see.  But when you do get to see them, like Saturday, it’s an incredible sight!

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If you have pictures to share, I’d love to see them.  Tweet or Facebook me @anthonynbcla

To see other hole punch clouds from Saturday, click here: Hole Punch Clouds

 

Bad timing for the Geminid Meteor Shower

December 12, 2016 - One Response

geminid_2

The usually reliable Geminid meteor shower peaks Tuesday night and can be seen tonight.  The problem this year is the meteors arrive at the same time as the full Supermoon.  Most years on a clear night you can see 120 meteors per hour but the moon will hide all but the brightest streaks.

In SoCal we’ll have mostly cloudy skies Tuesday night so not a great night even without the full moon.  Too bad, the Geminids are one of the rare showers that can be seen earlier in the night between 10:00 and 10:30 PM.  The peak though is between 2:00 and 4:00 AM and by this time the fog we’ll be pretty thick.

geminid

Did you know the Geminids are the only meteor shower that doesn’t come from dust by a comet.  The streams are from the asteroid ‘3200 Phaethon.’ This asteroid ejects fragments of rock not dust. Since rock penetrates the atmosphere more than dust, the Geminids produce longer streaks.

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The Geminids get their name because they appear to originate, or radiate, from the constellation Gemini.  The small pieces of rock strike the Earth’s atmosphere at 80,000 mph.

The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight & Friday

October 20, 2016 - Leave a Response
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From the 2011 Orionid meteor shower near Mount Shasta, California

There is something magical about seeing “shooting stars” and you’ll have your chance from midnight to dawn tonight and again tomorrow night October 21st and 22nd.  Don’t get your hopes up that the Orionids will be a spectacular showing though.  The end of the full moon, or the waning gibbous moon, will wash out the faintest meteors. If you can find a spot away from the city, you may see a maximum of 10 to 15 meteors per hour.

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Halley’s Comet is really far away but we are intersecting the comet’s orbit.

What’s really cool about the Orionids is the debris comes from the most famous of all comets, Halley.  Comet Halley’s last visit was in 1986 and will return again in 2061. The comet is no where around but this time every year the Earth intersects the comet’s orbit.

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They are called as the Orionids because they appear to fan out from the constellation Orion, The Hunter. These particles, or meteors, are about the size, shape and color of Grape Nuts Cereal. These tiny pieces of debris slam the top of the Earth’s atmosphere 80 miles up.  Each meteor hits the atmosphere at 37 miles per second, creating a hot streak of superheated air that you see on the ground as a streak of light.  They burn up, never reaching the surface of the Earth.  It is inaccurate to call them “shooting stars” because they are bits of rubble.

Meteors

You don’t need any special equipment, simply go outside with an open view and away from as many city lights as possible. Lay down on a blanket or a lawn chair is comfortable too.

The Perseid Meteor Shower

August 10, 2016 - Leave a Response

The annual Perseid Meteor shower peaks Thursday night and lasts through Friday morning.  If you want to take in the show you’ll want to stay up late or wake up extra early.

Perseid

In perfect conditions stargazers can see 60 to 90 “shooting stars” per hour.  However, this year  European countries may be able to see up to 200 meteors per hour.  You can thank the planet Jupiter.  Every twelve years Jupiter passes through the comet’s orbit.  This occurred in 2014.  The giant planet’s gravity moved the particles towards the Earth.  Those particles arrive Thursday night in Europe but that is during the day in the United States so the west coast will miss out on this enhanced activity.  The east coast of the U.S. will get a little better show than most years.

Meteors

Perseids look like Grape Nuts Cereal

These particles, or meteors, are about the size, shape and color of Grape Nuts Cereal. These tiny pieces of debris slam the top of the Earth’s atmosphere 80 miles up.  Each Perseid hits the atmosphere at 37 miles per second, creating a hot streak of superheated air that you see on the ground as a streak of light.  They burn up, never reaching the surface of the Earth.  It is inaccurate to call them “shooting stars” because they are bits of rubble that were shed in 1479 by the Comet Swift-Tuttle.  This stream of Perseids orbit the Sun and every August the Earth passes through the stream.

Perseid_Vic_radiants

Any kind of light will hinder viewing of the meteor shower.  And this includes light from the moon.  The first-quarter phase moon will set around 12:30 AM PDT Friday so peak viewing will be between 1:00 and 5:30 AM Friday.  You don’t need any special equipment, simply go outside with an open view and away from as many city lights as possible.  These include street lights and house lights.  Looking northeast is a good idea but as the night goes on, if the skies are clear, you won’t miss a thing by looking straight up. Lay down on a blanket or a lawn chair is comfortable too.  If you are in a big city with a lot of lights you can still see the show by clicking this site: Bareket Observatory in Israel.  The astronomers invite you to join them August 11th beginning at 19:00 UT (12 PM PDT).

The Perseids get their name because the meteor showers “radiant” the perspective point of origin is the constellation Perseus.

perseid-meteor-kingham-620

It’s Not a UFO, But What Is It?

March 9, 2016 - Leave a Response

Lenticular_Kim

It’s not a UFO.  These clouds that look like flying saucers are called Lenticular Clouds. They are almost always seen above mountains and form when stable moist air is lifted over the peak and condenses into a lens shape that looks like a UFO. This picture was taken by NBCLA’s own Kim Baldonado in Palm Springs, Calif., on Saturday. 

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Mt. Rainer in Washington sees these unique clouds quiet often.

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This is simply gorgeous!  This was over the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico.  When they are lined up like this it is called lenticular wave clouds. (Photo by Geraint Smith )

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This is from Lord Howe Island, a volcanic remnant, in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.  (Photo by Jan Whiteman)

 

Southern California is Making a Comeback!

February 24, 2016 - Leave a Response

euro

It’s the fourth quarter and SoCal is down by three touchdowns. The clock is ticking and 17 million people are wondering if this will be a disappointing finish.  Don’t give up yet, this is the rain forecast for Sunday and Monday with more on the way.

With one month to go before one of the strongest El Ninos on record fades, the question remains: How much more rain and snow is on the way, and why has Southern California been so dry?

2015_El Nino So Far

Let’s start by going back in time and look at the El Nino rain forecast for winter. A couple of things stick out. First, notice how Southern California, Texas and Florida are all forecast to receive an above average amount of rain. The Pacific Northwest is dry and Northern California is a toss up. All of the previously strong El Ninos showed no correlation to NoCal, it was 50/50.

SoCalBust

This is what has happened so far this winter. The bonus is most of the water sheds and reservoirs, which are located in Northern California and provide water for the entire state, are filling up. But Southern California has been incredibly dry, prompting people to ask: Where is El Nino? I call this forecast the 17-million person “bust.”

What is fascinating to me is what is happening this winter in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, Washington and Portland have recorded their wettest winters ever! Record keeping goes back to 1894.  So the question is why.

SoFar

The El Nino-fueled moisture is in the Pacific, as predicted, but the jet stream has moved the rain into the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. The dry slot has been Southern California and Southern Arizona. But why is this blocking ridge of high pressure here?

Warmestwater

You’ve heard us say, “Every El Nino is different.” And that is certainly the case this year. The warmest water in the Pacific Ocean isn’t near South America like it was in previously strong El Nino patterns. The warmest water is farther west, south of the Hawaiian Islands.

RisingAir

That warmth is creating a large area of low pressure and rising air.

SinkingAir

In turn, the sinking air has created a large area of high pressure keeping the rain away from Southern California.

The rain is back in SoCal March 6th and the longer term climate models have a wet March but these same models also showed a furry of storms in February and obviously that hasn’t happened. So, what do you think will happen?  You can Tweet or Facebook me at: @anthonynbcla.

Time is running out, the clock is ticking and 17 million people are wondering if SoCal can make a come back.

El Nino & California

January 13, 2016 - Leave a Response

We are halfway though California’s wet season and in the three wettest months of the year. While we’ve been in an El Nino pattern since March, California doesn’t feel the effects of this climate pattern until late fall and winter.

2015_Snowpack_Update

The great news is Northern and Central California have been receiving a lot of beneficial rain and snow. In fact, our snowpack is more than double what it was last year at this time.  And some spots will get two more feet of snow in the next two days.  One-hundred percent is considered an “average” amount of snowpack for this date and we are right there. The below image is a comparison of the snow amounts on this date to January of 2014.

Our Northern California reservoirs are key to building up our water supply as these are the largest and provide water for the most people and land.

El Nino Rain_2

So What About Us In Southern California?

2015_MonthlyPrecip

We got our first heavy rain last week and there was quite a bit of burn scar flooding and several mud slides. We are close to reaching our monthly average halfway through the month.

No two El Ninos are the same. In 1983, most of the heavy rain and flooding in Los Angeles came in the month of March. In 1998, six storms brought more than 13 inches of rain in February. On average, we get six storms throughout an entire year.

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If you are wondering how much rain we need to erase the deficit in Southern California, we’ve got a long way to go.

2015_DroughtDeficit

Our El Nino will end up being the strongest or second strongest on record, and comparing the top five the range in rain amounts is between 20″ and 30″. So, unless we break a record, we’ll still have a deficit, but of course the more rain we get the better.

2015_Significant El Ninos

As of mid January our current El Nino is tied with 1997/98 and peaking right now.

 

El Nino Index

 

 

The Mysterous V Cloud Explained

September 30, 2015 - Leave a Response
VCloud

Courtesy: Jim Walker

Did you look up at the sky on Sunday night? If you did, you were probably looking for the Blood Moon. But many residents in Orange County were treated to more than a Lunar Eclipse Supermoon — they got to witness this V cloud. Many of the people who saw it, took a picture and sent to the NBCLA Facebook page.  Lots of people were creeped out, but there is a scientific explanation.

VCloud_6

I’m sure all of us have seen clouds like the one pictured above. They are called contrails, short for condensation trails. These are artificial clouds that form behind aircraft. They are created by the water vapor in the exhaust of aircraft engines. At high altitudes this water vapor emerges into a cold environment, and the vapor then condenses into tiny water droplets which freeze. Depending on the temperature and humidity at the altitude in which the contrails form, they may be visible for only a few seconds or minutes, or they may persist for hours and spread to be several miles wide.

VCloud_2

Courtesy: @Dalemazing

Now check out this picture. We see the same V cloud or V contrail during the day eight weeks ago in Vancouver, Canada. An airport is on the other side of the mountain. Why the V? At this moment the airplane reaches the altitude where a contrail can form. You have two airplanes coming in for landing at different times, the base of the V is where both planes converge and begin their descent. The timing is perfect.

VCloud_3

Courtesy: @k2rick4

We checked the flight patterns from LAX Sunday night and planes were coming in for landing from the east.  Notice the top part of this picture. It’s the same type of cloud pattern but a different airplane approach. The reason the V in this picture is short is because once the plane reaches a certain altitude where the temperature and humidity will not support cloud formation, the contrail disappears.  The V is the point where the two airplanes at different times come together and begin their descent.

VCloud_8

Here is the flight pattern from Sunday night for LAX, you can clearly see the V pattern as the airplanes come in for landing in red.  The conditions for a contrail to form is between 12,000 and 13,000 feet.

Stealth fighters must be keenly aware of the altitude where a contrail can form. There would be nothing worse than a stealth bomber flying a mission and everyone on the ground sees the jet.  Special thanks to pilot and meteorologist David Biggar for the help.

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Of course, there is always this explanation. Too bad this show got canceled by NBC after one season.

Last Blood Moon of 2015

September 22, 2015 - Leave a Response
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A blood red moon seen from Houston, Texas on April 15, 2014

The last of our four blood moons of 2015, or four total lunar eclipses, is this Sunday night, Sept. 27.  Typically there will be two lunar eclipses a year, and they can be partial, penumbral or total. You’ll have to wait more than two years to see the next total eclipse, which will be on Jan. 31, 2018.

To have four total eclipses, or a tetrad, in a row is an extremely rare event but not unprecedented. Between 1600 and 1900, there were no tetrads. What is also unique about this tetrad is all have been and will be seen in the United States.

A total eclipse of the moon is when the moon falls completely into Earth’s shadow. The moon turns red because all of the light from the sun is blocked, and only the color red is reflected to the moon. If you were on the surface of the moon and looked at Earth, you would see every sunrise and sunset around the world on the edge of Earth — and that color would also be red.

It will also be a supermoon or the full moon that is at its closest point to Earth in it’s monthly orbit, also called the perigee.  If you live along the coastline watch for this full moon to bring wide ranging spring tides.  That is, high tides climb extra high and low tides fall exceptionally low.  The next Supermoon/Lunar Eclipse won’t be until 2033. This full moon is also called the Harvest Moon, the moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox.

Eclipse Visibility

On the west coast, the eclipse will occur during moonrise. If the skies are clear, we’ll be able to see the moon turn a blood red early in the evening.

In Los Angeles at 6:07 p.m. Sunday, the moon will begin to move into Earth’s shadow. Because moonrise isn’t until 6:43 p.m., we will not see this.  The total eclipse begins at 7:11 p.m. with the peak at 7:47 p.m. Totality ends at 8:23 p.m., and the moon moves out of Earth’s shadow at 9:27 p.m.  This image shows it well.

BloodMoonTimes

Right now it looks like a great forecast for Southern California with clear skies. If you get a great picture of the Blood Moon, please post it on my Facebook page, or tag @anthonynbcla on Twitter or Instagram and include #NBC4You. Your picture may get on TV.

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mikemezphotography.com

This is my all time favorite blood moon picture captured by Mike Mezeul II.  This is his time lapse from the Texas Hill Country.

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This is a really good YouTube video explaining everything about the blood moons the past two years.

You may have heard how the blood moons signal the end of the world or the apocalypse. These total lunar eclipses fall on the same days as the Jewish feasts of Passover in the spring and Sukkoth (Tabernacles) in the fall. This website looks at past blood moons and attempts to make a correlation of bad things to come.

If you’re in Houston, this total eclipse will begin at 9:11 p.m. and end at 10:23 p.m. In Albuquerque, it will begin at 8:11 p.m. and end at 9:23 p.m.

Perseid Meteor Shower

August 10, 2015 - One Response
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Perseid in 2012, Photo by David Kingham, Wyoming

If you are an early riser or like to stay up really late, this is your week.  Beginning Tuesday morning you may be able to see as many as 50 meteors shooting through the sky.  It’s the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, and this year will be good.  One of the key factors is a dark sky and the waning crescent moon doesn’t come up until sunrise, so there will not be any additional light diminishing the view.

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To see the show, you need to be as far away as possible from the city lights.  The Perseids will come into view beginning at midnight and last through 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and you want to look northeast.  Tracing the paths of the meteors backward, you’ll find that they originate in front of the constellation Perseus.   If you have to pick a day, the best show should be Thursday morning before sunrise. That is the day of the new moon and the sky will be at its darkest.

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It takes your eyes 20 minutes to adjust to the night sky, so be patient if you don’t see anything right away.  You should give yourself at least an hour to watch.  Every year at this time our planet crosses the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle.  The debris from this comet slams into our atmosphere at 130,000 mph and burns up creating tails of ionized gas.  What most people don’t know is these meteors are about the size of Grape Nuts cereal, and they are about the same color and texture too (see photo below).  It’s incredible to think that a meteor this bright comes from something this small.  None of these reach Earth’s surface, but sometimes a broken off piece of an asteroid will hit the Earth.  When that happens it is called a meteorite.

Meteors

El Niño strengthening and what that means for us in Southern California

July 7, 2015 - One Response

2015_El Nino Strength

The latest El Niño forecast is in and it is looking more and more likely that we are in for a very strong El Niño through the winter of 2015-16.  There is even a 60% chance that we could experience the strongest El Niño in modern times.  So what does this mean for California and especially our drought?  Keep reading and I’ll try and answer this question.

ElNino_Forecast

The above image is the latest forecast for El Niño.  This shows the different models and what they are projecting.  As you can see, almost all of them are forecasting a strong El Niño with some even above the record El Niño of 1997.

2015_El Nino Rainfall

Of course the big question is: Will we get enough rain in the winter to get out of our horrific drought in California or at least make a big dent in it?  One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to El Niño is it ALWAYS brings rain.  There is the belief that every El Niño will be like 1997-98 or 1983-83 when downtown Los Angeles received 30 plus inches of rain during the water year.  The atmosphere is not that simple.  Some El Niño seasons have been dry, some wet, and others are somewhere around average.  Going back through 1950, we have seen 22 seasons with an El Niño, 12 had above-average rainfall and 10 were below-average.  This data shows a slight trend toward wet winters, but you can see it is far from a guarantee.  This is the part of El Niño that is impossible to predict.

2015_Significant El Ninos

However, the one strong correlation to getting the rain we need is if we get a significantly strong El Niño.  Check out the above graph and how all significant years brought well above average rain amounts.  If El Niño forecast continues in this direction I do think we will receive a tremendous amount of rain this upcoming winter.  To get out of our drought in California we need widespread amounts of two feet just to get back to normal.  If we get that in one season we’ll get flooding and mud slides.  We also need more than just rain.  We need our northern California mountains to get snow.  A concern I have is, if the temperatures are too warm, we’ll get a lot of rain but no snow.  The snow in the Northern Sierras is our year-round water supply for families and farmers.

ElNino_Compare

Check out how our July water temperatures compare to the El Niño of 1997.  That year was warmer and more widespread from the waters of South America, but the two are fairly close.  An interesting note: Hurricane Dolores was able to keep its circulation as it moved closer to southern California because the warmer waters in North America kept it from completely dying.  It was Dolores, along with a monsoonal flow, that brought about record-setting rain July 18th and 19th.

2015_El Nino Hurricane

In any El Niño season we see an increase in Pacific hurricane activity and a decrease in the Atlantic.

2015_Drought Monitor

Even with the record-setting July rain, there is no recognizable dent in the drought.  We went from 47% exceptional drought to 46%.

2015_El Nino Effects

What is interesting for Los Angeles in particular is we also don’t get as many 90-degree days in the summer.

2015_What Is El Nino

El Niño is a warming of the water off the Pacific coast of South America.  El Niño’s are categorized by their strength, ranging from weak to very strong.  This past winter was a weak El Niño.  No two El Niños are alike.

Special thanks to David Biggar for the graphics and research.

Planetary Conjunction

June 29, 2015 - One Response

A really cool sight will be visible in the skies Tuesday evening. It’s called a planetary conjunction and this one will feature our two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter. The planets will be within 1/3 of a degree of each other, appearing as one large bright star. This is also called, “The Star of Bethlehem” conjunction because Jupiter, Venus and the star Regulus (which is the star to the left) were all within 1/100 of a degree of each other in the year 3/2 BC. Many astronomers believe this is the celestial event that showed the way to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

This will be visible at sunset Tuesday, which is at 8:09 p.m. in Los Angeles. It will be low on the horizon when you look west and will only be visible for about an hour to an hour and a half. The key will be the cloud cover, and there will be some clouds around. Hopefully there is clearing for your viewing.

My friends in Albuquerque and Houston won’t be left out! Look toward the west at sunset, which is at 8:25 and 8:26 p.m.

If you snap a photo of it, please share it on my Facebook page or tag @AnthonyNBCLA in a tweet.

Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Clouds

November 18, 2013 - Leave a Response

Hotshots3 Photo by: Kathleen Dimmel, Navasota

These cloud-waves rarely occur because you need almost perfect atmospheric conditions.  Much like ocean waves, the air on the tops of these clouds is moving faster than the bottom of the clouds.  The clouds near the surface are cooler than above and the wind speeds are light, like fog.  Over the low clouds is a warmer and faster-moving layer of air creating the crest, like we see in the ocean.

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Rita Casserly sent in this picture.

 

This is probably the best example from Birmingham, Alabama.

Roll Clouds

November 18, 2013 - Leave a Response

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It’s called a roll cloud — low, horizontal, tube shaped, and completely detached from the cloud base near it. They are rare to see but when present they are located on the leading edge of a line of thunderstorms, cold fronts or squall lines.

Roll clouds form when cool air sinking from a storm cloud’s downdraft spreads out.  This is called a gust front. This outflow undercuts warm air being drawn into the storm’s updraft. As the cool air lifts the warm moist air water condenses creating this kind of cloud, which rolls with the different winds above and below.

While they look like tornadoes turned sideways, they are not and do not produce tornadoes.

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Photo by: Brian Grimm, Crosby

RollCloud_Lou

Photo by: Vanessa Rich, Vinton, LA

You can e-mail your cloud pictures to: hotshots@click2houston.com

Hotshots@click2houston.com

October 9, 2013 - Leave a Response

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How many alligators do you see?  I count five, with a special ‘friend’ also in the shot.

Photo by: Lauren Porter, Brazos Bend State Park

To see other hotshots shown on our morning show click here:

Hotshots

You can e-mail your hotshot pictures to: hotshots@click2houston.com

September Squirrel Watch 2013 Caption Contest

September 25, 2013 - Leave a Response

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A Finger Cloud

September 18, 2013 - One Response

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This is a lone a finger cloud. Specifically it’s called an undulatus cloud formed by an atmospheric wave. The cylinder you are seeing is caused by the rising/sinking air around the cloud.
Photo by: Kathi Jacobs, Dacus, Texas

To see other hotshots shown on our morning show click here:

Hotshots

You can e-mail your hotshot pictures to: hotshots@click2houston.com

Squirrel Watch Caption Contest

September 1, 2013 - One Response

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Caption contest! Person who describes this picture the best wins a KPRC Local 2 morning show mug or a KPRC shirt.
To see all of the Squirrel Watch pictures go here:

Squirrel Watch 2013

Photo by: Jonathan Dzoba, Russ Pitman Park

August Squirrel Watch 2013 Caption Contest

August 2, 2013 - One Response

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Photo by: Jonathan Dzoba, Russ Pitman Park

July Squirrel Watch caption contest

July 30, 2013 - Leave a Response

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Congratulations to Dalora Miller whose caption, “Where is Jack Hanna when I need him,” won our July Squirrel Watch Caption contest.

WHO made me laugh uncontrollably this morning

July 22, 2013 - One Response

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It was a hotshot that I knew Owen would react to, but I didn’t think it would be me doing all the reacting.  Click the image above to see what got me laughing uncontrollably.

These are not rainbows

July 11, 2013 - 3 Responses

Halo_Ric_FennellPhoto by: Ric Fennell

This is called a 22-degree halo and forms on days with cirrus clouds covering the sky.   (The 22-degrees is the radius around the sun.)  These halos aren’t that rare but occur more often in the northern United States and in colder climates.   Cirrus clouds are made of tiny ice crystals and are 20,000-30,000 feet in the sky.  The crystals refract sunlight and bend the tiny crystals into a circle.

Halo_Clay_Spence_BrookshirePhoto by: Clay Spence, Brookshire

Weather folklore states halos foretell of coming rain, but this isn’t true.  With some weather systems cirrus clouds move in ahead of a warm or cold front, but this isn’t always the case either.  They are almost always mistaken as rainbows circling the sun or moon but aren’t because these halos form on dry days.   Cirrus clouds do not produce rain.  They are a treat to see.

Halo_Emily_GibsonThis a rare double 22-degree halo.  Photo by: Emily Gibson

Houston From Space

July 4, 2013 - Leave a Response

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Texas from space. The Expedition 36 crew on the International Space Station took this picture 240 miles above the Earth with a 50mm lens. You can clearly see Houston on the bottom right hand part of the screen. Can you see Galveston, Beaumont, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas? Oklahoma city is tough to see because of thunderstorms.

To see other hotshots shown on our morning show click here:

Hotshots

You can e-mail your hotshot pictures to: hotshots@click2houston.com

Storm Shots

June 3, 2013 - Leave a Response

Water spout at San Luis Pass Sunday right before the rain hit.

WaterSpout_ElainePenick

Photo by: Elaine Penick

To see video of this water spout and other pictures click image.

Squirrel Watch 2013

May 31, 2013 - Leave a Response

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Danny Adaway who sent in this picture says, “This Squirrel has no table manners. Who is allowed to put their feet on the table while eating?”

To see all of the squirrel watch pictures we aired on TV, click here:

Squirrel Watch 2013

Squirrel Watch Caption Contest!

May 30, 2013 - Leave a Response

Congratulations to Trish Ruff-Cunningham, the winner of our Squirrel Watch 2013 Caption Contest.  Cirque du Squirrelloeil won by a big margin.

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Did you see this?

May 29, 2013 - Leave a Response

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Mercury, Venus and Jupiter all visible on the horizon — These planets won’t be this close again until the year 2026.
Picture by Nick Strawn, Katy