November 30

Happy Thanksgiving! Tracking Lightning “Superbolts” and Lingering Drought Western USA

Giving Thanks For Quiet Weather

“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself” wrote Tecumseh, a 19th century Shawnee Native American leader.

In spite of viral angst and economic malaise, the glass is much more than half full. Today I will choose safety over togetherness and avoid turning Turkey Day into a super-spreader event. I’ll be giving thanks in my own way, reaching out to family, friends, preachers, teachers and mentors, thanking them for helping me along the way.

Photo credit: Paul Douglas.


Quiet Thanksgiving Day. Much of the USA will experience a dry, relatively mild Thanksgiving – downright toasty across the southern part of the nation.

A Predominately Pacific Signal. There will be cold fronts, a parade of chilly shots in the coming weeks. But that’s set against a backdrop of relatively mild Pacific for the western half of the USA and much of Canada. We will see more 40s in December, and something tells me 50 degrees in mid-December is not an impossibility.

Turkey Day Climatology. The Minnesota DNR has some timely nuggets: “…The coldest Thanksgiving Day minimum temperature was 18 degrees below zero on November 25, 1880. The coldest high temperature was one below zero on November 28, 1872. The last time it was below zero on the morning of Thanksgiving was in 2014, with four below zero. 2014 had the coldest Thanksgiving high temperature since 1930 with a temperature of 10 degrees. Measurable snow fell on 29 of the past Thanksgivings back to 1884, about every five years or so. The most snow that fell on Thanksgiving was five inches in 1970. The last time there was measurable snow on Thanksgiving was in 2015 with 1.3 inches of snow. Historically, about one in three Thanksgivings have at least one inch of snow on the ground. The deepest snow pack is a tie with 1921 and 1983, both with 10 inches on the ground by Turkey Day. In 2019 there was seven inches of snow on the ground…”

Relatively Mild November. Dr. Mark Seeley has the details in Minnesota WeatherTalk: “The recent moderation in temperature looks to prevail through the Thanksgiving holiday until the end of the month. As such it is likely that November 2020 will end up falling among the 20 warmest Novembers in state history, quite a remarkable turn around from last month, when we recorded one of the coldest Octobers in history. For the year 2020 so far Minnesota has recorded 7 warmer than normal months and 4 colder than normal months. Overall, the year is tracking to finish as another warmer than normal year but by less than 0.5 degrees F…”

Record-Breaking 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Draws To An End. Good riddance. NOAA has highlights and lowlights: “The extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is drawing to a close with a record-breaking 30 named storms and 12 landfalling storms in the continental United States. While the official hurricane season concludes on November 30, tropical storms may continue to develop past that day. NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlooks accurately predicted a high likelihood of an above-normal season with a strong possibility of it being extremely active. In total, the 2020 season produced 30 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 13 became hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or greater), including six major hurricanes (top winds of 111 mph or greater). This is the most storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes on record…”

2020 Joins List of 10 Most Extreme Atlantic Hurricane Seasons in Satellite Era. The Weather Channel has context: “The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is now among the 10 most active seasons in more than five decades following Hurricane Iota’s intensification into a Category 5 earlier this week. Since satellite detection began in the mid-1960s, Atlantic hurricane seasons have had as many as 30 named storms (2020) and as few as four (1983). Various factors in the atmosphere and ocean typically drive whether a given hurricane season is busy or relatively tame. But ranking the most extreme hurricane seasons isn’t as simple as examining the number of tropical storms and hurricanes that occurred in a given year. We need to dig a little deeper to capture the full picture...”

Graphic credit: “The ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) index takes into account not just the number, but also the intensity and longevity of storms and hurricanes.”

Word Choice Matters in Weather Communications. It turns out getting the forecast right is only half the battle. Here’s an excerpt of a press release from The University of Georgia: “…When a storm like Hurricane Zeta is heading for vulnerable shorelines, meteorologists and local officials need people to act fast. And the words they use when addressing the public can mean the difference between people getting to safety or trying to stick it out until it’s too late. Words like “violent,” “harsh,” “wild” and “unpredictable” are more likely to make people feel helpless and out of control when faced with extreme weather, according to new research from the University of Georgia. And that might put them off from making rational safety precautions. “Certain words just pack emotional associations,” said Alan Stewart, a professor in UGA’s Department of Counseling and Human Development Services based in the Mary Frances Early College of Education. “It’s important to find that middle ground where you alert the public and you empower them, but you don’t overwhelm them...”

Graphic credit: “New research from UGA suggests that some words used to motivate people to action in the face of bad weather may backfire.” (Graphic by Lisa Robbins/UGA)

Lightning “Superbolts” Can Be 1,000 Times Brighter Than Ordinary Flashes. Some breaking news, courtesy of Capital Weather Gang: “…Earlier this year, researchers confirmed a pair of ultra-long-distance lightning strikes in South America that spanned up to 442 miles and lasted for nearly 17 seconds. Ongoing research has turned to how much power these fierce discharges contain, as well as their relative rarity. A new paper published in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres found that roughly one third of 1 percent, or 1 in every 300 lightning strikes, could be classified as a superbolt…”

Image credit: “A mapped superbolt from February of 2019.” (NOAA/GOES/Michael Peterson).

Weather Service Tells Congress Radar Gaps Don’t Hurt Warning Accuracy, But Outside Scientists Disagree. Doppler works best within 75 miles of the radar site, beyond that the curvature of the Earth makes it impossible for the radar beam to see what’s really happening close to the surface. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Capital Weather Gang: “…Now, an overdue report to Congress from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which operates the National Weather Service, attempts to quantify the impacts of such gaps on warning performance. The results downplay the significance of the gaps, counter to the experience of some public- and private-sector meteorologists. Several meteorologists said the congressionally mandated report inadequately addresses the true impacts of these gaps, describing its methodology as inadequate and incomplete and its conclusions as “disappointing” and even “offensive.” The gaps, which the report identifies in some detail, occur in locations so far removed from radar sites that the beams emitted by the radar overshoot the weather they are intended to detect. The greater distance a location is from a radar site, the higher in the sky the radar scans for trouble...”

Map credit: NOAA.


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