Lawmakers to push change in freezing point of water to help win battle against Global Warming, hurricanes

As we approach the start to the 2014 hurricane season, there is a new push to stem the tide of Global Warming and maybe finish off hurricanes once and for all. Is this a good idea? Time will tell. Here’s what we know.

A congressman from Georgia has introduced legislation that would take the freezing point of water from 32F to 40F. It would be the first such change in the so-called “temperature continuum of di-hydrous-oxide” in over 125 years. As you can imagine, the bill has struck a serious nerve within the climate community who argue that messing with the freezing point of water in the past has led to grave consequences.

“Just look at the Little Ice Age – man caused that to happen” said Rick Grimes, an opponent to the bill from Woodbury, Georgia. “We need to leave the freezing point of water where it is lest we trigger another round of climatic unrest that could have irreversible effects.”

Others are downright joyful of the proposed change.

Herschel Greene, an electrical engineer specializing in greenhouse gas studies, notes that “if the freezing point of water is legally raised to 40F, then America can save billions in electrical costs because refrigeration won’t require as much energy”. He may have a point.

A recent study from the University of Georgia – Woodbury, suggests that raising the freezing point of water could substantially reduce not only the energy costs but also the time it takes to produce ice. This has huge implications for outdoor sporting events which have to struggle to keep beer and other beverages cold in summer heat. Making ice less susceptible to melting by raising the freezing point to 40F means that, on average, ice will last 37% longer during a baseball game or football game. The cost savings to the beverage industry means that there is a potential cost savings to be passed along to consumers. Cheaper beer? Maybe so- if the bill can pass scrutiny.

What about the rest of the world?

The push to raise the freezing point of water to 40F is only an American legal issue right now. There is talk of perhaps suggesting a change, though not as drastic, in the UK and France. Other European Union members have no interest in such matters, especially up north where the ice business is stable and thriving.

“Why mess with something that has worked for over 125 years?” asks Sven Walker who sells ice along Norway’s Blue Fjord region – part of a generation of ice harvesters dating back 1000 years.

End of hurricanes as we know them?

The one singular benefit that lawmakers and the public can agree on is this: if the legal level at which water freezes is in fact raised to 40F, then hurricanes have almost no chance of surviving. Why? The air will be colder sooner which means more dry air from Canada to sweep south and stop Atlantic and Gulf hurricanes before they can reach land. This will save the insurance industry tens of billions of dollars annually. However, the blow back for other hurricane related businesses, such as HurricaneTrack.com, remains to be seen. Without hurricanes, there’s no need for this site or hurricane shutters, plywood, most uses for generators, fancy hurricane tracking apps, FEMA and other organizations that make a living because of the existence of hurricanes. One expert is not convinced and actually thinks that raising the freezing point of water could make hurricanes worse!

“If we have a colder base atmosphere in which water condenses and thus freezes, then we have a greater imbalance between the warm oceans and the artificially cooled atmosphere,” suggests Dale Horvath, state climatologist and paleo-hurricane specialist for Georgia. He may be right, we will have to wait and see.

The next step for the bill is for debates to begin in July. A panel of climate experts will converge in Washington D.C. to put the proposed legislation under the proverbial microscope. If it passes muster, then it may be that come next winter, snow will fall with much warmer temps than we are used to seeing. This means more snow days for the kids but since the air temperature will actually be warmer, it won’t feel as cold while playing in the snow. I guess the end of frozen fingers could be upon us.

I will keep you up date on the progress of this proposed change to the freezing point of water. For now, enjoy your April 1 and remember, don’t believe everything you read, no matter how well it may seem to be written.

Mark Sudduth

 

Winter storm coverage in North Carolina begins today

I mentioned at the end of last hurricane season that I would like to begin reporting from and studying winter storms. Good timing. This season has featured numerous such storms for the eastern United States and this latest one looks to be quite potent.

My plan is similar to that of a hurricane field mission: get to an area, set up equipment, report from that area using live streaming video. As such, my plan is to head to the North Carolina piedmont/foothills area – specifically Statesville. In fact, I will be set up where I-40 and I-77 intersect, a major traffic corridor. I feel this is an important area to report from due to the interstate system there coming east-west via I-40 and north-south via I-77. I will report on snow depth, air temperature and wind speed using our fantastic new “everywhere cam” on our Ustream channel. In addition, I will set up a “SnowCam” somewhere in the area to monitor conditions via one of our remotely operated cameras normally used to monitor hurricane storm surge. I’ll determine the best place for that cam when I get there later today. Both of these live feeds will be available free for anyone to watch or share.

I will also push video updates to our iOS/Android app – Hurricane Impact. If you have it, now is a great time to check out the video section under field missions. I can post video clips anytime, anywhere and they show up in the app within a minute or two. This is a great way to test that feature of the app and I plan to post at least two dozen video reports throughout the event.

Tune in periodically to check on conditions as I travel from Wilmington, NC via I-40 to Statesville. I will have the cam running 24 hours a day and it will literally go everywhere I do. I think you will be very pleased with the results of this incredible technology and I hope to provide some useful information about this very serious winter storm. Any questions? Email me: mailroom@hurricanetrack.com or follow on Twitter: @hurricanetrack

Winter storm taking shape with high impacts from ice, snow and wind

Winter storm to affect large portion of the Southeast this week

Winter storm to affect large portion of the Southeast this week

It’s not a hurricane but the disruption to travel and daily routines is going to seem like one for parts of the Southeast this week.

A complex winter storm is beginning to take shape today throughout the next few days as another round of very cold air makes its way south out of Canada. This Arctic air, combined with a low pressure area forecast to form off the Southeast coast, will likely bring heavy snow, periods of sleet and even freezing rain to areas that are not used to this type of event.

Since I am not a winter storm expert, I am not going to even begin to try and speculate on possible snow totals. After reading numerous National Weather Service forecast discussions from around the region, it is clear that this storm is going to be quite challenging. The main issue is how much snow falls versus how much sleet and freezing rain. The colder the air column is higher up in the atmosphere, the more snow will fall – making total accumulations potentially over a foot in some areas. However, if warmer air runs up and over the top of the cold, dense Arctic air, then it’s more likely that sleet and freezing rain will fall, cutting down snow accumulations. The bottom line is that areas within the winter storm warning are in line to receive enough snow and ice to cause major travel issues and even power outages.

Another problem is going to be the wind. A tight pressure gradient, or the difference between the Canadian high pressure and the Atlantic low pressure, will force the wind to increase across the Southeast- especially near the coast. This is the main reason behind the possible power outages as ice and snow will weigh down trees and powerlines only to be toppled by winds reaching 30 mph or higher. Coupled with the bitter cold, this issue can be a real problem for those who are not prepared to stay warm.

I am going to provide live coverage of this event from across a good deal of southeast North Carolina beginning this evening. My plan is to have a live streaming cam set up and running throughout the event. It will go where ever I go. I’ll take it with me in my Chevy Tahoe, the same one used for hurricane intercepts. I can provide live wind and temperature readings and of course, video and audio along the way.

I will also set up one weather station out near the airport here in Wilmington to capture wind and pressure readings (sorry, no temp on this one since we don’t typically record temperature readings during hurricanes). The unit will also have a live web cam image that will be posted every 60 seconds from the site. All of the data and the web cam image will be available via our app – Hurricane Impact. I will also post occasional screen shots from the app to Twitter and Facebook to keep those who do not have access to the app up to date on weather conditions.

In addition, I will post video blogs to the app throughout the event as I travel around southeast North Carolina. I will take snow measurements from time to time and will report in to the NWS here in Wilmington with that info – including wind gusts and temperature readings. This will be an interesting change of pace since I am not used to this type of weather.

I will have the live cam up and running by early this evening from my home office in Wilmington. Then, tomorrow morning, I will head out to provide live coverage of the winter storm from around the area. You may follow the live stream here: http://www.ustream.tv/hurricanetrack

Our app is available for iOS devices and for Android devices

M. Sudduth 8:40 AM ET Jan 27

 

 

The Weather Channel effect

The Weather Channel logo

The Weather Channel logo

When I was in middle school, a hurricane approached the North Carolina coast. The year was 1984. The Weather Channel was two years old, CNN was four. Both networks were covering the hurricane, Diana, with ’round the clock reports. Not only were there trained meteorologists in the studio but The Weather Channel had just as potent a team covering the storm in the field. For a weather geek like me, this was heaven via cable TV.

As the years progressed, the coverage evolved and so did my intelligence level when it came to hurricanes. By 1989 I was pretty sure I wanted to do something in the weather business though I was not sure as to exactly what that would be. This is the year Hugo smashed the South Carolina coastline. I’ll never forget the on-air schooling I felt I was getting just by watching John Hope, Rich Johnson, Jim Cantore, Mark Mancuso and others. It was like a free tropical meteorology course, just as long as my parents paid the cable bill. I was hooked. I was also not alone.

As it turns out, I know of countless other people, many of whom are in the weather business, who grew up with the same experiences as I did in regards to The Weather Channel. We each aspired in our own secret ways to become Jim Cantore or John Hope. In short, The Weather Channel inspired a generation of weather geeks. Why? Because it was the weather that was being reported on. Nothing more, nothing less. The weather, all by itself, provided the best drama on Earth. If there was even the chance that a hurricane would hit the U.S. coast or a major blizzard would strike the Northeast (and perhaps even more so, the Southeast) then The Weather Channel’s ratings would soar. People watched. It was on in hotel lobbys, bars, restaurants and in the homes of millions of Americans. Heck, The Weather Channel even made commercials about themselves and the phenomenon that they created. You remember – it was a spoof of a sports bar but instead it was a weather themed place called “The Front”. It captured the reality that most people are at least interested in the weather if not downright captivated by it.

Then, something happened. As with all things, change is inevitable. The Weather Channel became more of a news outlet, reporting on more and more content that was, perhaps, better left to CNN and other cable news outlets. Then came the global warming cause and with it, politics rained from the stormy skies. I began tuning out at about this time. It was not weather anymore but instead man-made drama which was far less exciting to me. I wanted to see Cantore reporting on a hurricane or a blizzard, not a climate scientist telling me how bad we humans are fouling things up. I don’t know when it happened, perhaps as the Internet really took off in the early to mid-2000s, but I began not watching The Weather Channel. It was as if someone took away my childhood memories. I know that sounds melodramatic, but the first 20 years had such an impact on me as to help shape my career. The changes that came as the next 20 began pushed me away. Once again, I was not alone.

As time marched on, long format programs began and had a shot of being relevant in my opinion. “Storm Stories” was at least about amazing weather-related stories featuring perhaps the best known storm chaser in all of history: Jim Cantore. That lead to more and more documentary type programming which further pushed me away. I turned to the Internet for nearly 100% of my weather info before The Weather Channel reached their 30th birthday.

I never openly criticized The Weather Channel for any of their choices for many reasons. Mainly, who am I? Just a guy with a fairly successful hurricane related website and business. I also have friends who work there. I just let it go and went about my business even in the face of such odd moves as naming winter storms. I could not believe my ears when I learned of this. I had not watched a single frame of The Weather Channel in so long that I hardly recognized it when I tuned in to see what this was all about. So many of the familiar faces were gone due to a variety of circumstances. It was like visiting a child hood town that was small, comforting and quaint growing up but had morphed in to something alien and unrecognizable.

Now we have come to the latest chapter in the venerable network’s book. DirecTV has decided, based upon customer input as part of that decision, to not carry The Weather Channel on their service. This hits home financially for The Weather Channel and the case was made by them that DirecTV’s pulling of their content could put Americans in peril during severe weather outbreaks. While I can see the value of having the talent of The Weather Channel at your beck and call when Ma Nature is about to hand out a whooping, I have serious concerns about people relying only on satellite based content for their severe weather information. Surely there must be some other source, more reliable than satellite, for severe weather information? There is. It’s called NOAA Weather Radio. You buy it once, program it, get batteries for back up, and you’re golden. I can assure you that NOAA Weather Radio does not fade out when it rains like cats and dogs. For The Weather Channel to believe that they are so important to Americans that their very survival may depend on whether or not DirecTV carries their signal is carrying it a little too far in my opinion. As I often hear on ESPN Radio with Mike and Mike when they have Chris Carter on, “C’mon Man!!!!”.

DirecTV received complaints about too much “non-weather” programming. The management changed the formula and it had resulted in people tuning out. It’s that simple, it has to be. The weather has not become any less exciting. Sure we go through periods of zero hurricanes or very few tornadoes. At the end of the day, the weather is causing some town, some where, plenty of grief and there’s plenty more coming. I say, stick to the basics.

Weather connects us in ways that few people ever truly grasp. In May of 1982 and for over 20 years, at least for me, The Weather Channel understood that concept. Weather can be a viable business but it has to be taken seriously. A return to what I believe most people truly want to see – weather – is the key to the long term success of The Weather Channel and any other enterprise trying to jump in to the weather business. Leave the politics, documentaries and silly winter storm names for vintage Saturday Night Live sketches.

M. Sudduth 3:00pm ET Jan 14

Prospects of major, disruptive East Coast storm are increasing for next week

GFS snap shot showing low pressure near Lousiana with heavy rain and strong onshore wind - valid Tuesday morning

GFS snap shot showing low pressure near Lousiana with heavy rain and strong onshore wind – valid Tuesday morning

The latest run of the GFS model paints a very ugly picture for a enormous stretch of the U.S. population from the Gulf Coast to Maine as the potential for a substantial early winter storm increases for next week.

It starts out innocently enough in the northwest Gulf of Mexico between 72 and 96 hours and then cranks up as it rides along the northern Gulf Coast. This, in and of itself, will bring strong onshore winds, heavy rain and the possibility of coastal flooding to parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The low then intensifies and brings with it copious amounts of rain in to Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. It’s what happens next that could wreak havoc on travel for millions of people from North Carolina to Maine and then in to Canada.

GFS model valid Weds afternoon showing intensfying low pressure just off the NC/VA coast heading northeast

GFS model valid Weds afternoon showing intensfying low pressure just off the NC/VA coast heading northeast

The low pushes off the North Carolina/Virginia coast on Wednesday afternoon (according to the latest GFS model run for 00UTC November 22) and quickly intensifies as it moves just offshore of the East Coast. In fact, it deepens or strengthens to 985 millibars just east of Cape Cod by early in the morning on Thursday – Thanksgiving Day.

For coastal areas, heavy rain and strong winds could lead to beach erosion issues and coastal flooding.

In the interior portions of the Northeast it looks like heavy, wet snow is in store depending on how much cold air is in place. The snow could make it down to the coast and in to the big cities but how much and for how long is impossible to know this far in advance.

GFS model plot showing low pressure area in the Gulf of Maine with a reading of at least 981 millibars

GFS model plot showing low pressure area in the Gulf of Maine with a reading of at least 981 millibars

Behind the storm, bitter cold air remains in place for the busiest shopping day of the year along much of the East Coast. This could pose problems for people who plan to stake out a spot in line for savings at the big retail locations. If there is snow cover, ground temps will be even colder.

On the other hand, the very reliable ECMWF global model shows the low considerably weaker and the energy stretched out over a larger area off the East Coast. Thus you don’t get the so-called “bombing out” of the low over the relatively warm waters of the western Atlantic. The result is less impact but still a good deal of snow possible for parts of New England.

So what’s it going to be? Which model has the right solution this far out? No one knows – it is not possible and as we know when dealing with hurricanes, things can and do change on a daily basis.

What I think is a near certainty is that we will see quite the storm system take shape over the Gulf of Mexico and progress eastward through early next week. As I mentioned earlier this week, travelers along the I-10 corridor from Texas to Florida need to be aware of this weather pattern and plan for delays etc.

Whether or not a memorable, disruptive storm for the East Coast becomes a reality is still in question. I think it is important for people to at least be aware of the potential and thus be more in tune with what is potentially brewing for next week. I know there is a fine line between all out hype and trying to make sure people are in the know. I think it runs even deeper for big ticket snow events for the East Coast where tens of millions of people could be impacted. I’m just telling you what I see on the GFS operational model – a very good, often excellent, global model. Whether or not it turns out to be right or at least on the right path remains to be seen. I guess we’ll know for sure as we sit down to carve the turkey a little less than a week from now.

I’ll be watching closely and will post more info here as it comes in.

M. Sudduth 8:00 AM ET Nov 22