Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weather's Got A New Look For Spring!

You may have noticed that our weather graphics look a little different these days. We launched a new weather system, WSI, at the beginning of March in order to bring you even more accurate and detailed forecasts. Here is a little info about our new "weather toys!"

Afternoon Planner

Our new radar, called Titan Radar, gives us the ability to track showers and storms even better than before! We have access to 4 radars...in Jeffersonville, Peachtree City, Birmingham, and Tallahassee. This allows us to use the radar that a storm is closest to, giving us the best view. We also have the ability to look at storms in 3D...which is really cool! It shows us the structure of the storms and how tall they are, which then helps us to determine what kind of threat we are dealing with (hail, strong winds, or a tornado).

Surface Map

Our other computer, MAX, is more for show. It allows us to be even more creative with our graphics like forecast pages, surface maps, etc. The system renders out graphics in real-time, which may not mean anything to you, but saves me some time in the morning (which really counts since my alarm goes off at 1:30am!)

Interactive radar is a cool new tool we've got on 13wmaz.com. It gives you the option to zoom into your county and even community to see where the rain and storms are. There are other cool features such as road weather, temperatures, and satellite that can be plotted on the map. Be sure to check it out!

I hope you guys have been enjoying the perks of our new weather system as much as we have. All of us in the weather center feel like Christmas came in March!

Meteorologist Sonya Stevens

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cherry Blossom Weather

Well, well, well...cherry blossom time has nearly come to a close. Just a couple of days left.

All in all, weatherwise, it's been one of the better festivals in years. Our average temperature has been around 70 degrees, and so far, we've only had one rain day. Okay, one and a half if you count Monday's little sprinkles. The only other day of rain looks to be Thursday, then it's back to sunshine again.

This weekend features the arts and crafts festival downtown and Saturday looks to be the better of the two days. Speaking of Saturday and events downtown, ahem ahem, it's Street Party time!!!! Now, I got to thinkin' the other day, which is usually pretty painful for a guy like me. It occurred to me that this is the first time in at least THREE YEARS that I've been able to say that the weather for the Street Party is lookin' great! Now, you and I both know, that if you give people good weather, they'll come out of hiding. Soooooo, if I were you, I'd get advanced tickets and get there EARLY. Not only do you assure you get a place in front of a stage, but you can save a few bucks as well.

I hope to see ya downtown this weekend! Time to soak up some great spring weather!

Chief Meteorologist Ben Jones

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Remembering "The Storm of the Century"

This past weekend marked the 17th anniversary of the "Storm of the Century" as it is now known. Back on March 13, 1993 a low pressure system moving across the Florida peninsula and up the Atlantic seaboard underwent a process called "bombogenesis" (there’s a weather term for ya). Bombogenesis is when a low pressure system drops in pressure by at least 24 millibars in as many hours. That's an incredible drop in such a short amount of time. To put it in perspective, Hurricane Katrina went from a category 2 hurricane to a category 5 hurricane when its central pressure dropped by 25 millibars in 18 hours.

I remember the storm from when I lived in the suburbs of Atlanta. We picked up almost 6 inches of snow in Douglasville and the winds were very strong at around 30 mph. We called it the Blizzard of '93 although that was technically incorrect as the visibility didn't drop low enough and winds weren't strong enough, at least one of which has to occur before a storm can be truly be called a blizzard. The winds were strong enough that I remember not enjoying playing in the snow because after about 10 minutes outdoors my skin felt raw. So instead, I sat inside my grandparents' house in front of the fireplace putting puzzles together through the afternoon. We couldn't watch TV because the power was out and we didn't have running water because of so many water main breaks due to frozen pipes. School was even shut down on Monday and Tuesday, even though the snow fell on a Saturday.

Elsewhere across the southeast, tornado outbreaks occurred in Central Florida and hurricane force winds were experienced between Cuba and Jacksonville, FL. Snow totals as high as 42 inches fell across the Appalachians with snow banks as high as 35 feet! Imagine trying to make your way through the mountains with that pile in your way. As the storm churned up the Atlantic seaboard it even took on the shape of a hurricane with a well formed eye off the New York coastline. That's how it got one of its many other nicknames, the "No Name Hurricane". While it's rare to have a storm like this take on an eyewall, it happens from time to time. The last Nor'easter with an eye actually occurred this past winter. You may have heard it called "Snowmaggedon".

Whatever you called the storm of '93, I bet you still remember it. After all, it affected over 130 million people, roughly 50% of the US population at the time.

Meteorologist Jason Disharoon

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In Like A Lion...Out Like A Lamb

We have all heard the saying, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." But what exactly does it mean? Well I think of it like this...lions are fierce animals and therefore symbolize bad weather, while lambs are calm animals symbolizing good weather. The perfect example of this weather lore would have March starting out with bad weather, cold temperatures, snow or even thunderstorms and ending with warm temperatures and sunshine.

In Like A Lion...

Is there any truth in the saying? Well...not really! Late winter and early spring is usually a roller coaster ride to be quite honest. We hope that all the cold weather ends abruptly on the first day of spring (March 20th), but Mother Nature doesn't usually work like that! But climatologically speaking, temperatures are going to be warmer the later in March you go.

Out Like A Lamb...

Late March, which is considered early spring, is when we also start dealing with more thunderstorms. The reason is that there is still cold air to the north and warmer air is starting to filter into the south. The two air masses colliding serve as the perfect breeding ground for storms. This is one reason why March doesn't typically end on a quiet note.

Sometimes it just works out that March starts out cold and ends up warm or starts out stormy/snowy and ends up sunny. Bottom line, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for this saying to pan out. Instead I would tune into 13WMAZ for the latest and greatest 7 day forecast!

Meteorologist Sonya Stevens

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Up, Up and Away!

That's what weather balloons do! They go up, up, and away.(Well I guess up, up, and pop!) Weather balloons are high altitude balloons that record pressure, temperature, humidity, and winds at different levels of the atmosphere.

But how exactly do they work? The balloon provides the lift and has a radiosonde attached to the bottom of the string. The radiosonde gathers the meteorological parameters as the balloon rises through the atmosphere and then transmits them back to a fixed receiver at the National Weather Service or the agency that launched the balloon.

All the information (temperature, wind speed, etc.) are then plotted versus pressure or height to give us details on the vertical structure of the atmosphere. It is called a SkewT, but is also known as an upper air sounding. They are a forecasting tool, especially helpful for predicting severe weather and winter precipitation types. The data is also used in forecast models, which helps us put together our 7 day forecast.

There are 800 locations around the world that release balloons twice a day. It is usually the National Weather Service, but other agencies can launch them too. The National Weather Service in Peachtree City launches a weather balloon and that is the sounding that we use here in Macon.

On a related note, there was a weather balloon launched here in Macon recently. Check out the story: http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local_story.aspx?storyid=75438