Archive for July 15th, 2012
Outflow from collapsing showers and storms over East Alabama is firing up storms over Jefferson County at this hour.
Light showers were just observed in downtown.
Radar shows only light returns, but that will change shortly as composite reflectivity shows a good bit of precipitation aloft.
Expect showers growing into heavy downpours with some lightning from Brookside to between Adamsville and Forestdale to Mulga to between Hueytown and Midfield.
Brief heavy rain and gusty winds will be accompanied by some lightning.
Showers and storms have been more prevalent in Mississippi, closer to the deeper moisture as we thought.
But storms have started to develop over eastern Alabama as well, something we hadn’t anticipated.
As is often the case in summer, subtle things make a big difference in what happens.
Two things are at play. First, those high clouds you noticed this morning have kept temperatures underneath them lower than the surrounding areas. This means areas along the I-59 corridor from Birmingham on northeast have been slower to reach the convective temperature, or point where showers and storms start to form.
Secondly, the light southeasterly surface flow around the surface high centered over southwestern Virginia is rising as it flows into and up and over the foothills of the Appalachians over Northeast Alabama and North Georgia. This upslope flow is combining with the differential heating boundary produced by the blanket of high cirrus clouds to produce the showers and storms!
Headlines on the Birmingham News on Tuesday, July 15, 1980 said that Federal relief was being sought as heat deaths mounted in the Magic City. Roads across Alabama were baking and cracking in the heat. Power companies across the state were scrambking to meet extreme demand because of the high temperatures.
The death toll in Birmingham had risen to 33 while across the state, the fatality count from heat related illnesses was at 47. Nationally, the toll was at 600.
National Weather Service forecaster Harold Quattlebaum was quoted saying that no relief was in sight. He hoped that scattered showers and thunderstorms would return to the area the coming Friday and Saturday.
It was becoming obvious that some long standing heat records were going to fall in Birmingham. The standing record for number of consecutive days will 100+ degree temperatures was 7, recorded between September 3-9, 1925. The high of 102F on the 15th at the Birmingham Airport marked the sixth consecutive 100 degree plus day there. The string would extend to 8 days by the 17th and would have continued on the 18th, but the mercury stopped at 99F that day as thunderstorms formed in the heat of the day. The consecutive 100F+ day streak would stand until 2007.
It was also not obvious that the all time record high of 107F set on July 29, 1930 would make it through the 1980 heat wave. (It would and still has to this date.
Other hot highs across the state on the 15th included 103F at Tuscaloosa and Mobile; 101F at Huntsville, Decatur, Muscle Shoals, Gadsden and Centreville; 100F at Anniston, Pinson and Selma; 99F at Montgomery and 97F at Dothan.
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Looks like the summertime weather pattern is going to stay locked in for Central Alabama for the next week or so. We continue to deal with very weak features which can enhance our daily chances for showers and thunderstorms, but the bulk of the weather for the next week or so will continue to be scattered showers driven by the heating of the day and lasting into the evening hours.
For today look for isolated showers and thunderstorms with probably the best chances for rain to our west across Mississippi. Precipitable water values over Central Alabama appear to be down around one and a half inches while two inch values are showing across Mississippi. This should favor more coverage to our west and somewhat less in our area.
We are still watching a weak upper level disturbance that continues to be forecast to move into the Florida Panhandle around mid-week. This weak feature should help to bring an increase to shower coverage, however, it is weak. While it comes across South Georgia Monday and Tuesday, the upper level disturbance just to our west continues to retrograde moving into Texas on Tuesday and washing out under the big western ridge.
By Friday, the trough over the eastern US begins to sharpen a tad as the upper ridge in the west pushes northward somewhat. This sharpening of the trough should bring a weak cold front into the Tennessee River Valley. This boundary will be a focus for showers and perhaps help to increase the coverage of showers and thunderstorms next weekend.
With little change in the overall weather pattern outside of these weak features, continue to look for highs in the lower 90s – 91 to 94 – each day with lows generally in the lowers 70s. Rainfall will continue to vary widely with the daily heat driven showers and thunderstorms. Severe weather risk is confined to the northern tier of the US while the tropics remain quiet.
Looking into week two, the GFS continues with the trend of the trough along the East Coast of the US, so we stay out of the extreme heat while the Central US continues to bake under the upper ridge positioned over Kansas and Nebraska.
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