Hi! I'm Kori Rumore, a graphic artist here at the Arizona Daily Star. Thanks for taking time to check out this chat. We'll get started at noon, but feel free to submit your summer weather question now!
Hi everybody — Thanks for participating in today's chat! We're joined by J.J. Brost, Science Operations Officer, and Ken Drozd, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, with the National Weather Service, Tucson Weather Forecast Office.
Greetings. My name is JJ Brost and I am the Science and Operations Officer with the National Weather Service here in Tucson Arizona.
Welcome! I'm Ken Drozd and I am the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the NWS office in Tucson
My job is to learn about the new science and technology in the world of atmospheric science and then bring those new ideas into our forecast operations. So I do a bit of training and research. Plus I put out the forecast once in a while :).
Thank you all for joining today and we look forward to your questions.
I'm responsible for our warning program which means coordinating with emergency management to ensure proper dissemination of warnings, for one. Also, I am the primary media contact and in charge of our outreach program. We're ready for our first question...
Shall we begin answering questions?
Ok, so a few folks asked about the outlook for this Monsoon and how El Nino plays a roll.
The latest consensus from the forecast models is that we will likely transition to El Nino by the late summer. This is not a guarantee, but the models have been trending in this direction for the last month or two.
El Nino usually brings a wet winter, which is good news for this year, but the signal is not as clear in the summer.
If you look at the past Monsoon seasons when El Nino was present, we actually tend to be a little drier than normal. However, some El Nino Monsoons were very wet. So if we had a strong El Nino, I might tend toward drier than normal. With neutral conditions in place, it really is anybody’s guess.
What we do know for sure is that we will have storms and severe weather. There will be flooding and plenty of lightning. We are just unsure if it will be more, less or near normal.
Officially, the Climate Prediction Center gave us an "Equal Chances" forecast which means their are no strong signals indicating either a wet, dry or "normal" monsoon.
Good question KL. The latest technology we have is called "Dual-Pol Radar".
Dual-Pol radar gives us the ability to not only see how strong a storm is, but also get a good idea of the type of "stuff" in the storm. For instance, it can detect rain drops, hail stones, snow flakes, ice crystals, bugs, dirt and more.
With any luck, this new radar will help us better detect the severe weather that impacts people.
Hi, KL, some of the conditions across the hemisphere look a lot like last year which might point to a slightly early or average start date for rains, either late late June or early, early July
That is a good observation KL. We like to see the dew points jump up into the 50s before we get too excited for rain. We can, and do, have rain events with lower dew points, but once we hit the mid 50s we expect more activity. This activity can start the day the moisture arrives especially in the mountains. Then it just depends on which way the winds are blowing. If we have the right wind direction in place, then these storms can drift into Tucson.
Suze, good question. Monsoon is type of season. Technically, it means a "seasonal shift in winds". So "season" is part of its definition just like "summer", "winter" or "fall". Sure, you can say, "Winter season" or just "winter". Either one is fine. It is incorrect to say, "we had a bad monsoon hit our home last night" in reference to a thunderstorm.
KL - some of these technologies are focused on the short term like the radar. However, the more we know about thunderstorm development, the better we can predict them. So the radar may actually provide us with some details that can improve the longer term forecast. Other technologies, such as new forecast models, do help us improve the longer term forecast. In fact, if you look at our verification statistics over the past decade, you would see a great improvement in our forecasts just in the last 10 years. Who know what the next 10 years brings :).
Hello Sparky. Yes, the position of the high pressure system shifted south last year. We like to see this high pressure system remain near the four corners region. When it moves south toward Mexico, we tend to dry out. We had a period in July last year where the high pressure shifted south and brought warm and dry conditions. Why did the high pressure shift? That's another great question and I'd have to go back and look at the data to know for sure. I'm sorry I don't have a better answer for that.
The topic of haboobs has come up quite a bit lately, KL. Some folks and co-workers who have been here longer than I have remember haboob being used years ago, and some don't. While it's origin is Arabic, we've probably changed the meaning or use of the word around here in AZ. We, meaning NWS Tucson, tend to use haboob to describe a large dust storm generated as a result of thunderstorm outflow winds, while we use "dust storm" for other events, large or small, that reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less (but not generally generated as a result of thunderstorms.)
I've heard similar projections about how the climate will change due to planetary warming. That could make sense if the storm track stayed well to our north, but then again, if the ocean also warms significantly (like an El Nino) we tend to get more winter precipitation. As for how long would it take to become noticeable...that's a tough one to answer, but certainly any prolonged period of drought, even a 10 year period (which is not climatologically lengthy) could certainly have repercussions for water supply, agriculture,etc....
Hello C. Hergenrother - good question. I would have to go back and look at the data. When we have warmer conditions in the mid to upper atmosphere (like at 500 mb), we have a hard time getting widespread thunderstorms. In order for air to rise, it needs cooler air aloft. Just like a hot air balloon. So these warmer conditions above the ground make it difficult for storms to rise. If our high pressure system (often noted as the 500 mb high) shifts too far to the west then it can provide those warm conditions that you mentioned.
One thing we should mention is that we will have severe weather and plenty of lightning this Monsoon even if it ends up being "below normal".
So now is a good time to start preparing for the active weather. The Monsoon brings flooding, dust storms, power outages, strong winds, and of course lightning. Get ready by making sure you have flash lights and batteries (or candles) and stay tuned to the weather when the clouds build :).
Sure JJ, we tend to start out with a lot of windy storms, with dust, then later transition to more flash flood events.
Of course, those areas which suffered the large wildfires last year are still more susceptible to flash flooding than normal, just like they were last monsoon.
Do any of the viewers today happen to know what type of weather causes the most fatalities in the United States (and in Arizona for that matter)?
Good answer KL. True, dust storms and fog events do cause a lot of accidents. Dust events typically result in plenty of traffic accidents each year in AZ and a few deaths now and then. But that is not the leading cause of death.
Sparky said Hurricanes. Another good answer. Hurricanes tend to kill people in large waves (no pun intended). In other words, one hurricane can kill 50 or 1,000 people in the extreme cases. But when you average those out over time, hurricanes are actually 4th on the list :).