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Category: Hodgepodge

Storm Alert Xtreme 2013

| 7:02 am November 24, 2013

Thanks to all for attending Storm Alert 2013 yesterday at the BJCC… another huge crowd. Special thanks to Brian Peters for putting it together, and to the Birmingham Automobile Dealers Association for their partnership.

If you missed it, John Brown was there to capture it via Google Hangouts. The morning and afternoon session are in separate segments.

Storm Spotter Training Is Tomorrow!

| 7:05 am November 22, 2013

Our annual storm spotter training called Storm Alert Xtreme is tomorrow at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center… and we are delighted to partner again this year with the Alabama International Auto Show

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We will begin at 9:00; you might to come a bit early to get a seat. We have had over 500 people in attendance the last two years.

Brian Peters will be the primary trainer again this year. I will speak, and we will also have a meteorologist from the NWS in Birmingham with us again this year.

By your attendance, you automatically become an “ABC 33/40 Skywatcher” and will have access to our chat session, that runs 24/7.

WHY? We have a great need of more trained weather spotters in Alabama. Radar is great, but we need more trained eyes looking at storms. The more trained spotters we have, the better the warning process. The need for trained spotters is especially high in rural areas.

I HAVE BEEN TRAINED BEFORE. DO I NEED TO COME? YES. We advise that all of our Skywatchers be trained every year. We learn new things over a 12 month period, and love to share the knowledge.

COST: The training is absolutely free.

REGISTER? No need to register, you just show up. We want to make it easy.

HOW LONG? We have a morning session, followed by a lunch break, then an afternoon session. We are usually wrapped by 2:00. And, the cool thing is that you get free admission to the Alabama International Auto Show when we are done.

WHERE? Look for the signs around the BJCC… we are in the level right above the car show; same place that we have been in recent years. Come in the entrance to the EAST Exhibition Hall.

AGE LIMIT? No. I would say any child over 10 would enjoy it and be able to learn. For older kids with a phobia of weather and severe storms, this actually might help them. Knowledge is very powerful.

WHAT DO I BRING? You might want to bring a tablet, smart phone, or something for note taking. Otherwise, just bring yourself and be ready to learn.

Spread the word and plan on being there. See you tomorrow!

Super Typhoon Haiyan & Hurricane Katrina

| 4:30 pm November 14, 2013

An interesting image created by our friends at the Cooperate Institute of Meteorological Satellite Studies in Madison, Wisconsin. The have superimposed Super Typhoon Haiyan into the Gulf of Mexico at the same location as Hurricane Katrina. Haiyan is on the left and Katrina is on the right.

A neat comparison of the two showing their similarities and differences. In the image, Katrina appears to be the better organized system with a very large eye, while Haiyan appears to be more compact with the smaller eye. Both systems are at a category 5 intensity right before landfall. Luckily for the Gulf Coast Katrina weakened before moving onshore. Not such great news for the Philippines as Haiyan maintained intensity at landfall. Both systems were responsible for widespread destruction and great loss of life.

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Hey Verne….

| 8:11 am November 10, 2013

Most of you know I work weather support for many college football games in Alabama, and I was, as usual, as Bryant Denny Stadium last night watching the radar and providing updates. So, I don’t watch the games on TV, but many called to my attention the fact that CBS announcer Verne Lundquist was trashing weather people. This was from Mike Smith’s blog, a world class meteorologist who was watching the game from Kansas…

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Sounds like Verne was using one of the 10.7 million “crap apps” people have on their phone, that spits out automated weather forecasts based on computer model output only. Or, maybe he pulled up “weather.com” or some site like that. I don’t know where he got “20 percent”… I don’t even use percentages in most of my weather products because they are so confusing.

Verne, you need the James Spann app, which is powered by human meteorologists that understand the people, culture, and geography of Alabama. We don’t have to look at a map to find Andalusia, Eastaboga, Wedowee, Nanafalia, or Benevola.

I got up early yesterday, and it was clear through surface and upper air data, and radar and satellite trends, that we needed to mention a chance of light rain or sprinkles during the game. I wrote this long blog post at 9:35 to let the world now.

All of our blog posts are in the new James Spann app, so those with the app got the word.

I pushed it out those that follow me on social media at the same time… over 107,000 on Twitter, and over 113,000 followers on my Facebook account. Google Plus too, with over 10,000. Updates like this were sent through the day…

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I even sent this text message over to Eli Gold and Tom Stipe in the Alabama broadcast booth so they would know…

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Bottom line is that those connected with me should have known there was going to be light rain or sprinkles at the game, which happened. And, as expected, the light rain in Tuscaloosa was not enough to measure; only a trace was reported…

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So, Verne, next time you come to Tuscaloosa, please don’t pull out the crap app, just download James Spann 24/7 here. No, I can’t promise I will be right every time, but I will beat the automated apps 95 percent of the time. Or, better yet, just come over to my post at the stadium and I will be glad to give you a personal briefing. Will be looking for you next time, so you won’t be giving out bad information, at least about weather. I can help.

Daylight Saving Time Ends Tonight

| 8:00 pm November 2, 2013

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A friendly reminder that Daylight Saving Time ends tonight. We fall back on standard time at 2AM in the morning. Don’t forget to set your clocks back before heading to bed, and gain that extra hour of sleep tonight.

With the time changing, that means more sun in the mornings, while evenings will be dark. It will be getting dark closer to 5PM as the amount of daylight hours continues to get shorter until we reach the Winter Solstice just before Christmas.

We will stay on Standard Time until March 9th, 2014.

Fireball Over Alabama

| 6:20 am September 10, 2013

Thanks to Bill Cooke of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville for the details concerning last night’s event…

Monday night, at 8:18 PM Central Time, a baseball size fragment of a comet entered Earth’s atmosphere above Alabama, moving southwest at a speed of 76,000 miles per hour. At such speeds, fragile cometary material will not last long – Just 3 seconds after hitting the atmosphere, the meteor disintegrated 25 miles above the town of Woodstock, producing a flash of light rivaling the waxing crescent Moon. Because it penetrated so deep into Earth’s atmosphere, sonic booms were produced, which were heard by some eyewitnesses.

A montage of the fireball as seen by 5 NASA cameras in the SouthEast is attached, along with the meteor’s trajectory, which lies south of Birmingham. Also attached is a diagram showing the meteor’s orbit, which extends well beyond the orbit of Jupiter and is similar to those of comets. It was not a member of any known meteor shower.

A fireball is a meteor brighter than the planet Venus – the fireball seen Monday night was 15 times brighter than Venus.

The NASA cameras observing this event are located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville; the James Smith Planetarium near Chickamauga, Georgia; the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville Georgia; and the North Georgia College Observatory near Dahlonega, Georgia.

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Severe Weather Expert Greg Carbin will be Speaking in Hoover Tonight

| 9:05 am September 9, 2013

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The day has finally arrived and excitement is bubbling over as another prominent meteorologist will be speaking to the Central Alabama NWA Chapter. Greg Carbin, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, will be the guest speaker at tonight’s Chapter meeting.

The meeting is from 7:00-8:30PM tonight at the Homewood Suites in Hoover, Alabama. The hotel, which is located in the Riverchase community of Hoover, is thrilled to partner with the Chapter for this event. The Homewood Suites is located just off Valleydale Road at 121 Riverchase Parkway East, Hoover, AL 35244. There is ample free parking at the hotel and doors will open at 6:30PM.

The Central Alabama Chapter of the NWA is looking forward to a big turnout to hear about Greg’s latest and ongoing research on severe weather and tornadoes. The event is free for Chapter members and guests may attend for $15 each. RSVP for this event and join the Chapter by visiting the Chapter’s Homepage .

Local dues are just $25, which allows members to attend all events. Dues can be paid online with credit card or PayPal ($1.06 processing fee), or by check or cash in person at a meeting or by mail.

Along with speaking at the Chapter meeting during his visit, Mr. Carbin, will also visit the local National Weather Service Office in Birmingham.

Heat Lightning – No Such Thing

| 9:31 am August 30, 2013

I never know this would be such a touchy subject.

After years and years of getting reports of “heat lightning” in the summer and not really saying anything but “thanks for the report”, I have decided to go on a campaign for truth.

There is no such thing as heat lightning.

Some have told me that is almost as bad as telling people there is no Santa Claus. I have heard many stories from those that remember sitting on the porch with their grandmother as she pointed out “heat lightning” in the distance on a humid summer evening. Yep, I have lived in Alabama for 55 of my 57 years, and the term “heat lightning” is just part of our culture. The other two years were spent in Dallas, and yes, they say it in Texas too.

But, there is no such thing.

Lighting is produced by a thunderstorm. No thunderstorm, no lightning. Here is the deal… in the summer months, thunderstorms can tower to heights in excess of 50,000 feet. Lightning generated by those storms can be seen as far away as 100 miles, and at that kind of distance you can see the lightning, but not hear any thunder. And, you can look up and see stars. Because these kind of storms tend to form on hot summer evenings… the name “heat lightning” was born along the way.

But all lightning, cloud to ground, cloud to cloud, and in cloud, must come from a thunderstorm.

Don’t believe me?

How about the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

Or, Accuweather…

So, what is the problem?

When most say “heat lightning”, they believe that the lightning in the air is simply the result of summer heat with no thunderstorm, and no rain. And, no danger. That is the problem. There is a real lightning danger near the storm, and we have to respect that risk. The mythical “heat lighting” isn’t dangerous, and nothing to worry about.

Lightning kills more people than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or any other kind of bad weather. But because lightning usually kills people one at a time, it tends to be underrated as a hazard, and doesn’t get much media attention.

I will confess that is the only weather phenomenon that scares me. Every storm has it, and you never know when or where the next ground strike will come. Lightning is always the most dangerous element of summer storms. In the words of the great American weather legend, J.B. Elliott… “lightning is frightening”.

LAST NIGHT: The “Spann Twitter Army” is well aware of my campaign for truth on “heat lightning”, and usually if it is used by a journalist/reporter/media person, they bring it to my attention. Some forwarded a tweet from an ESPN employee last night… which reported “heat lightning” at the North Carolina/South Carolina game in Columbia. Of course, it was lightning from a nearby storm… the lightning was very dangerous, and approaching the stadium. Soon, the game was halted. And, by the way, the SEC now does a marvelous job with severe weather safety at their events. Hats off to them for the right call at the right time last night.

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So, I corrected the ESPN employee, which led to a minor Twitter spat with some others about “heat lightning”. My concern was that ESPN was suggesting it was “only heat lightning” implying there was no danger to fans at the game. Thus, the attempt at a correction.

Turns out the ESPN employee was not an on-air person, but one that is a “PR gal” (in her own words)…. Keri Potts. So, Keri, I apologize; I came across way too strongly, and you didn’t need to be bothered by me. To my knowledge the on-air people that worked the game on ESPN handled the situation well with good weather information. Next time she is in Tuscaloosa for an Alabama game I hope she drops by my perch at Bryant Denny stadium where I do the jumbotron weather updates for a visit. Like some, she probably mistakes my passion for being a jerk. I am actually pretty laid back. I am just very serious about weather safety.

But, the quest for truth in weather will carry on. Weather is serious business around here, and there have been way too many funerals on my watch over the last 35 years. Yes, most of the deaths have been the result of tornadoes, but many of them have also been the result of lightning. Some very tragic deaths. We have to respect it, and get inside when it begins. “When thunder roars, go indoors”.

Yep, no such thing as “heat lightning”… it is all lightning. And, all of those lightning strikes are very dangerous.

Don’t even get me started on the reports I get of “lightening”… we will hold that rant for another day, but the graphic below says it all…

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