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Afternoon Update

| 2:54 pm August 3, 2014

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SIDEWALK: We are less than three weeks from Birmingham’s world class film festival. One of my favorite weekends of the year, make sure to make plans to attend several films. Click on the link above for more information and to purchase tickets.

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AFTERNOON UPDATE: Several features of interest this afternoon on the GR Earth map.

…The cumulus field is decent across Central Alabama. It is thinner to the north, where moisture levels are lower and to the south, where morning clouds kept down the heating.

…A few showers had formed in some of the same areas as yesterday. The heaviest was between Vernon and Belk in Lamar county, with others straddling the line between Marion and Lamar Counties. Others were trying to form over southern Winston and northern Walker Counties. Another was over the City of Tuscaloosa. Everything was drifting slowly southeast. Storms will rain themselves out pretty quickly since there is little wind shear.

…Temperatures across Central Alabama were in the upper 80s generally. Birmingham did touch 90F briefly.

…Tropical Storm Bertha is 689 miles south of Birmingham at this hour. It has turned northwestward and will begin to recurve to the north and northeast tonight and Monday. It is no threat to land. Top winds are still 45 mph but some modest strengthening is expected and it will stop just short of becoming a hurricane.

A Quick Check on the Tropics

| 12:15 pm August 3, 2014

Berthan 010 avn_lalo-animated

Tropical Storm Bertha is pulling through the southeastern Bahamas late this morning.

It is beginning to make the expected turn to the north that will eventually presage its recurvature away from the United States. The storm is expected to miss Bermuda as well.

It has top winds of 45 mph but is expected to strengthen some later today as it moves over warm water and encounters upper level winds that are a little more favorable for development. It should not reach hurricane intensity (74 mph or higher) though.

Bertha 11 143824W5_NL_sm

It will pass about 200 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras Tuesday morning as it accelerates northeastward. It will pass a couple of hundred miles southeast of Newfoundland Thursday morning then start the trek across the North Atlantic.

A trough of low pressure over the Bahamas (not associated with Bertha) is disorganized and does not appear to be a candidate for development.

Dancing With the Stats

| 11:11 am August 3, 2014


The upper level trough over the eastern United States continues to keep temperatures on the cool side in places to our north.

The 57F at Jackson KY yesterday was a record for the August 2nd. Roanoke and Danville VA both had record cool maximums as well with 72F.

Record cool continues across the Arklatex as well, as clouds and showers have kept readings cool the past few days. El Dorado AR and Monroe LA both had record cool maximums again yesterday with 81F and 80F respectively.

The 72F at Monroe on Friday and the 69 at El Dorado were all time record cool highs for August.

Just a few more entries in the old weather record books.

Bertha Is Born

| 10:09 pm July 31, 2014

Bertha 001 avn_lalo-animated

The National Hurricane Center has initiated advisories on Tropical Storm Bertha since showers and storms are building rapidly around the center and the plane encountered tropical storm force winds.

LOCATION…12.3N 55.5W

Tropical storm warnings and watches have been issued for parts of the Lesser Antilles.



Here is the forecast track and cone of uncertainty:

Bertha 030122W_sm

An Important Anniversary in Hurricane Forecasting

| 3:30 pm July 27, 2014

In July 1943, tracking hurricanes was a difficult business. Fewer ships were at sea because of the threat of German U-boats. Those that were at sea maintained radio silence. Britain suffered mightily from the lack of weather reports from over the Atlantic. The Brits were forced to use precious aircraft to fly weather observation missions. The U.S. feared that the West Indies would become a major theater of war if the Germans decided to attack through Central and South America.

In Bryan, Texas, Col. James P. Duckworh was in charge of the Instrument Flying Instruction School. Before the 1930s, there wasn’t any such thing as instrument flying. Everything was visual. Duckworth had been a pilot for Eastern Air Transport, the precursor to Eastern Airlines. He had resigned to go to active duty with the Army Air Corps Reserve. Duckworth said that he knew that the war wasn’t going to stop because of weather.

Weather map from the morning of July 27, 1943.

Weather map from the morning of July 27, 1943.

On the morning of Sunday, July 27th, Col. Duckworth made his way to the base to have breakfast. As he ate, he learned that there was a hurricane making landfall near Galveston. Hard to believe, since it was a beautiful morning at Bryan, about 100 miles from Galveston. The storm was expected to pass near Houston during the afternoon. Duckworth saw it as the perfect opportunity to do what no one had done intentionally up to that time: fly into a hurricane.

Joe suggested to one of his breakfast companions, Lt. Ralph O’Hair that they take an single engine AT-6 trainer and fly into the storm for fun. There were four new B-25‘s at the base, but it would be hard to justify using one of them for this unsanctioned mission. As 100 mph winds were raking the coast. Duckworth and O’Hair took off for Galveston. Enroute, they called the tower at Houston and said they were flying Galveston. The incredulous operator asked them if they knew there was a hurricane. When they said yes, the controller asked for updates so he would be able to direct crews to the wreckage.

As they flew toward the hurricane, they were in the weaker western semicircle of the storm. As they neared the eyewall, they experienced violent up and down turbulence that made them feel like a “bone in a dog’s mouth”. Suddenly, they broke into the clear air of the eye. They flew around for a few minutes and headed back to the base where they were met by the staff meteorological officer. The weatherman wanted to know why they had not included him in their historic flight. They responded by telling him to hop in, they would take him to the center. The meteorologist kept a very detailed diary of observations.

Duckworth did not immediately realize the significance of his feat. Later that year, one of his superiors summoned him to tell the pilot that he had been recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross. The unassuming Colonel did receive the Air Medal for flying into a hurricane for the first time, twice in the same day.

Realizing the benefit of more specific information on hurricanes, regular reconnaissance flights were started the next year. Weather Bureau meteorologists used the information about 1944’s Great Atlantic Hurricane to issue better warnings.

Tropics Quiet…For Now…

| 2:00 pm July 27, 2014
Tropical Storm Bertha next Saturday evening?

Tropical Storm Bertha next Saturday evening?

We are tracking a tropical wave in the far eastern Atlantic on this last Sunday of July.

Right now it doesn’t look like much, but several of the global models, including the American GFS and the UKMET are now on board with the idea that it will become tropical depression number 3 in the week ahead as it steams across the Atlantic. There is a chance it could even go on to become Tropical Storm Bertha.

It is expected to move near the northern Lesser Antilles or Virgin Islands Friday night and could affect Puerto Rico as well. After that, the GFS currently projects it curving around the Bermuda High and flirting with the U.S. East Coast, but not making landfall.

Another system will come off the African coast late in the week, but indications are that it will head toward weakness over the western Atlantic as the subtropical high shifts a little east temporarily.

Warmest Day of the Year?

| 11:53 am July 27, 2014


An impressive cumulus field was blossoming across Central Alabama on this last Sunday in July. The healthy fair weather clouds have multiplied in the deeper moisture that is over the state today. Morning dewpoint levels are in the lower and middle 70s, some 6-7 degrees higher than those of the same time yesterday.

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The fair skies are the result of sprawling upper level high pressure over the southern tier of states, stretching from Utah to Alabama. This high should again put the kibosh on showers this afternoon.

It will also allow the mercury to warm well into the middle and upper 90s across the area. It was already 91F at Tuscaloosa at 11 a.m. and 88F at Birmingham. The Birmingham reading is some three degrees ahead of the temperature at the same time yesterday.

LATE NOTE: It had reached 91F at the Birmingham Airport at noon as temperatures continue to soar.

This may allow today to be the warmest day of the year in the Magic City. The 95F yesterday is currently tie with two other July days for the warmest day of 2014.

HEAT ADVISORY: With the combination of highs in the middle and upper 90s and high humidity, the National Weather Service has issued a Heat Advisory for West Central and South Central Alabama. Places like Vernon, Tuscaloosa, Demopolis, Selma, Montgomery and Troy are in the Heat Advisory for heat index values pushing 105F degrees today. Elsewhere, in places like Birmingham, Hamilton, Cullman, Gadsden, Anniston, Alex City and Auburn, heat indices today will top out above 100F, but remain just below Advisory criteria.

A line of showers and storms storms is expected to develop by mid-afternoon near the Ohio River and push southeastward this afternoon and evening. It will arrive at the Northwest Corner of Alabama around 9 p.m. and die out as it progresses. It should be completely gone by the time it gets to Birmingham and I-20.

This activity is ahead of a cold front that has passed St. Louis this afternoon. It will arrive in Northwest Alabama afternoon midnight and clear the Birmingham area during the late morning.

Much of North Central Alabama may miss out completely on the rain and storm, with the best chances tomorrow coming south of Clanton. We note that the SPC does have much of southern Alabama in a slight risk severe weather outlook, their standard forecast.

Cooler and drier air will follow on the heels of the front, much like last week. Look for several 50s by Wednesday morning, which is record country for July 30th in Alabama

Second Driest July on Record?

| 10:18 am July 27, 2014

As we start to close this books on July this week, I thought it would be fun to take a peek back at the month that was in the climate department, especially since there have been several nice stretches of cool weather.

So, at first glance, you would think that July 2014 was going to go down in the record books as one of the coolest in Birmingham history. But not so fast my friend.

We have broken a few record lows, and more records are on the way, but as far as the month goes, there will have been 29 Julys in Magic City climate history that have been cooler.  

The average high for the month should finish around 89.2F, which is 1.6 degrees below the 30 year average high of 90.8F. The average low for the month will finish at 68.7F, which is well below the 30 year average of 71.4F. That has really helped the month to feel a bit more comfortable. Warm lows in the middle and upper 70s really make it feel stifling.

The overall mean temperature for the month will finish at 79.0F, which is two degrees cooler than the long term average of 81.1.


We have only measured 0.92 inches of rain at the Birmingham Airport, and the prospects for more out of the approaching front or from the rest of the week are not good. In fact, it looks like we will be lucky to get to one inch of rain for the month.

If we total less than 1.11 inches of rain for the month, it will be the second driest July on record, drier than the horrible drought year of 1952.

We are now nearly four inches down to average for the year in the rainfall department at Birmingham.