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Archive for July 6th, 2013

The Times Are A-Changin…

| 6:10 pm July 6, 2013

“If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”
– Bob Dylan

After spending some time last week at the American Meteorological Society annual conference on broadcast meteorology last week in Nashville, I sense fear among some long time broadcast meteorologists. They fully understand the changes that are coming to our industry, and either fear for their jobs, or simply want out. I met some very young people that seem to be blind to the times; they believe if you are a good forecaster, are attractive, wear nice clothes, and have white teeth, you are on the road to fame and riches.

Let’s look reality.

*Most people do not get daily weather forecasts from television. Who in the world wants to wait until 5, 6, or 10:00 p.m. to get a weather forecast. Or, in the morning, do you really want to try and wait until the weather segment on TV before you get dressed? Nope. You simply look at the weather app on your smart phone. Quick, easy, and on demand. Who needs a TV weather guy.

*Fewer and fewer people are watching local TV news. They get the news they want, that is relevant to them, on demand anytime they want on their phone, tablet, or computer. The idea of watching a “Ron Burgundy” style newscast from the 70s is really limited to people older than 50, and that generation is shrinking as more get old and die.

Here are the problems.

*Most apps people use on smart phones are “crap apps” that are not accurate, or really helpful. They generally use raw model output statistics (MOS) data from computer models without any human intervention. You get a little picture of a sun, cloud, or storm, a high/low, and a “probability of precipitation”. This might work for San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, home of Google and Apple, but not for people in the heartland that deal with frequent weather changes that include dangerous and life threatening weather on occasion. These apps tell you nothing about the seriousness of a thunderstorm threat, or timing, coverage, and placement of precipitation when it comes.

*During tornado outbreaks (and other serious severe weather situations), people expect long form TV weather coverage, complete with helicopters, SKYCAMs, fancy radar displays, multiple live streams from the field, and experienced professional meteorologists that, when you look them in the eye, know what they are talking about and have had long years of experience in the market. All of this is very expensive, and with the daily TV news audience going away and advertising revenue shrinking, affording these tools won’t last much longer. People won’t watch our daily newscasts, but demand high end severe weather coverage.

*There is rapid consolidation underway in the TV business. Much like what radio went through 10-15 years ago. We will wind up with a handful of large corporations that own most of the commercial television stations in the nation. Newsrooms will be consolidated, jobs will be eliminated, and operations will be centralized. Most of the “radio personalities” you hear today away from morning drive are actually voice tracks, recorded by people far away from the market where you live. This means there will be a few TV meteorologists left that will, most likely, wind up doing forecasts for multiple markets within their company.

What does a TV weather person do?

*Understand if you are “TV weather person”, you pretty much have no future. There was a time when the horse and buggy business was very good, and generated great wealth for people in that business. But, times changed. Those in the horse and buggy business went belly up. But, those in the transportation business did just fine. A “media meteorologist” that creates content across multiple platforms, that match the needs of the consumer, will do just fine in the long run.

*While weather forecasts are a commodity, we do provide extremely valuable information. A sharp, well written forecast discussion by an experienced, professional meteorologist leading to a detailed, accurate forecast provides great value to the user, and they will seek it out when they get frustrated with the “crap app” they use daily.

*Understand, producing content across multiple platforms to match the needs of the consumer means sacrifice. If you do not have a servant’s heart, willing to put the needs of others before you own needs, you won’t survive this. Doing this job right means long hours and little sleep. It means responding to viewers and real engagement. It means producing some forecasts that are not, and possibly cannot be monetized initially. Maybe forever. You have to build trust and loyalty by always being there for your followers/viewers/listeners/readers. And, it doesn’t happen with some magic “eight hour shift” anymore.

*You need to develop and bring in non traditional revenue for your current TV station. Communicate with your bosses. Help them make quarterly budgets. Weather is one of the last real “easy sales”, and if you are pro active you have a better chance of surviving the changes. Make yourself too valuable to lay off. And, whatever you do, be sure and do it in a positive way. There are too many negative nellies in the TV business, and you sure don’t need to be another one. Have a passion for what you do, and it will spread. Despite the changes, tackle the challenge and help owners find a media business model. Be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

*Use social media with intelligence and patience. The followers you have there will become very valuable down the road, but you won’t have many followers unless you produce good content, respond to questions and comments, and are consistent. And, remember, many of your followers will not watch you on TV news because they simply don’t use local TV news. But, these followers will be very important currency that will make your personal brand important in the years ahead.

The broadcast television business must change or die. It will change by the nature of the beast. The change, most likely, will be painful and difficult, but something better will come when we get to the end of the long, dark tunnel. If you don’t want to deal with the bumps in the road, maybe the right choice is to get out. Work in another part of the weather enterprise, but remember the government sector has their own issues as well. But, if you hang in there, do it with a passion, integrity, and a servant’s heart, and you will survive and maybe even thrive.

Scattered Showers and Storms Persist

| 6:04 pm July 6, 2013

Over the course of the afternoon, the heaviest rain has been over eastern areas of the state. Currently portions of Randolph, Clay, Cleburne, Calhoun and Cherokee Counties are experience the more intense rain. These areas have seen several inches of rain today and several areal flood advisories are in effect. The rain has tapered off across southern portions of the state, but ample moisture continues to stream north from the Gulf. We can expect to see additional showers and thunderstorms during the overnight hours.

7-6-2013 5-47-02 PM

Most areas should see descent rain chances again for Sunday, before conditions begin to improve and become more typical for this time of year, just in time to start a new work week. With all the rain that has fallen the last several days, river flooding will become a significant threat. This afternoon rainfall runoff has caused Gate Operations to Begin at Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa River.




A Tropical Plume of Moisture

| 3:28 pm July 6, 2013

A quick radar check this afternoon shows once again, heavy rain falling across portions of Alabama. Today the more intense activity is across eastern portions of the state, especially areas east of Interstate 65. Areas along U.S. Highways 280 and 431 are being impacted as well. Some of the counties seeing the more intense rain currently are: Cherokee, Calhoun, Clay, Chambers, Lee and Tallapoosa. I would not be surprised to see some flash flood warnings issued across East Alabama this afternoon.

7-6-2013 3-25-45 PM

The reason for all this unsettled weather across the state is a deep fetch of tropical moisture being pulled north from as far away as the eastern Pacific Ocean. As it crosses the Gulf, it picks up even more moisture and heads due north across Coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The upper-level low over the Mississippi Valley that has been pulling the moisture north will begin to move out of the region on Sunday. Only then we will finally see less rain in the forecast and hopefully get a chance to dry out.

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Rainfall Totals So Far

| 12:51 pm July 6, 2013

Here is a great description and graphic put together by the National Weather Service showing some of the rainfall totals that have been received across the state this week.

Description: Here’s the latest 4 day rainfall totals across the State of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Keep in mind the rainfall contours represent estimates, not actual amounts, and some locations have observed much more rainfall than has been estimated. The heaviest rainfall has occurred throughout the northwestern and southeastern portions of the state, with extremely heavy rains across the Florida Panhandle. Central portions of the state have observed the lightest rainfall amounts, but rainfall today will begin to add up for those locations as well. Tomorrow we’ll create a 5 day total map to reflect today’s rainfall totals, as this map only goes through 7am this morning.

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A Soaker of a Saturday

| 11:02 am July 6, 2013

7-6-2013 10-53-02 AM

A trough over the eastern sections of the country continues to allow an upper-level low to sit in spin over portions of the Mid-Mississippi Valley. The Bermuda High off the East Coast is strengthening. The wind field between them has allowed a plume of moist air to develop. This highway of moisture has entrenched itself across the state and continues to be the main culprit behind the tropical rains falling across Alabama. It seems like we will never see the end of it. Moisture continues to lift north from the Gulf today and so does the widespread shower and thunderstorm activity. It looks as though most of the state will see another day of soaking rains. The flash flood watch remains in effect through tomorrow, and flash flood warnings can be issued at anytime through the day. Tropical downpours can add up quickly and many areas across the state have seen several inches of rain the past few days. Several more inches are likely and in some localized areas, if under a more intense rain band, could see 4-6 inches.

As we look at the regional radar, widespread showers and thunderstorm activity continue to head north from the Gulf. The more intense rain is along the Gulf Coast as well as portions of southwest Alabama. This activity will continue to lift north over the state through out the day. Make sure you have the rain gear handy as it will certainly be a very wet day.

The Amazing First Week of July 1940

| 9:24 am July 6, 2013

The high on Friday was 75F at the Shuttlesworth Birmingham International Airport. It was only the 81st time in 113 years that a July day didn’t get out of the 70s. It also made two straight days with highs in the 70s.

If we don’t make it to 80F today, which is a pretty good bet, it will be the first time since July 1940 that we have had at least three consecutive days without an 80F reading. That’s rare.

In fact, three consecutive days in July with highs in the 70s has only happened two other times since 1900. The other time was in July 1916, when a dying tropical cyclone brought Birmingham its wettest month ever.

The remnants of the July 5th hurricane that struck the Mobile area on July 5, 1916 drifted north and east to a position near Birmingham, AL. The Magic City received 8.84 inches of rain in 24 hours, which was the all-time daily record for nearly a century (until Hurricane Ivan). Another hurricane would make landfall near Pensacola later in the month and dump more heavy rain on Birmingham, where the monthly rainfall total reached 20.16 inches, a monthly record that still stands.

Source: Alabama State Climatologist’s Data Page.

Birmingham’s coldest July high temperature occurred on July 6, 1940. Here is the weather map from that day:


But the first week of July in 1940 was an amazing one, with six straight days in the 70s for highs at Birmingham. We did not get excessively heavy rains here, with only only 3.84 inches at the official station that was in Fountain Heights. The culprit that week was a persistent area of low pressure near New Orleans sat and spun, pumping moisture into the southeastern United States.

While Birmingham didn’t get disastrous rainfall, widespread heavy rains were reported across the Gulf States according to the Monthly Weather Review. Here is a map of the rainfalls observed:


Birmingham’s coldest July day came during that week on July 6, 1940, when the high was only 69F.