Desierto norte de Chile

Friday, January 28, 2011

Good news, and bad news

First, the bad news: Anne Arundel County and Annapolis have decided to increase the 'assessed' value of my house by about $50,000 (evidently based on the purchase price I paid??) Anyway, that's causing my annual property taxes to go up almost $1200 (our rate is about 1.3 every 100 of value... quite high!). To compensate, and build my escrow account back up to minimum statutory levels, my monthly mortgage payment is going up nearly $200/month! Ouch.

Now the good news: I expect a hefty tax refund this year, partially owing to all these taxes I'm paying I guess. I know the adage is to not give the government an interest-free loan... but I'm reluctant to change my witholdings before establishing a baseline (and it takes at least a year to do that...) Anyway, with savings accounts earning a whopping %1/year, I'm not out too much.

Also, I heard back from the editor of Journal of Hydrometeorology- my first true USNA first-author paper has been accepted for publication (it was already accepted back in Dec., subject to major revisions... the revisions were accepted today, with only 3 small minor comments to address)!! I have two other paper ideas in the works with my current students; this is shaping up to be an exciting research semester.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nearly 7" in 5 hours- that's not a bad little snow event

I measured 6.5" last night about 9:45; other totals from around the area seem to match well: near the Target in Annapolis ("1 NNW Parole") measured 6.3", the BWI Airport had 7.6", near Crofton also had 6.5". The few totals that don't seem to match are those by the Severn River- my colleague at work measured 2.6" at the Academy, and a report from Eastport had only 3" at 9:30 last night. These weather systems will always be interesting and complex!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And the snows came down

We're currently in the waning hours of what will probably turn out to be the heaviest snow event of 2010-2011. A compact upper-low closed off directly over the mid-Atlantic this afternoon, triggering a small but intense region of precipitation that arrived in Annapolis about 3:30 p.m., changed to snow about 5:30 p.m., and has been snowing heavily since. I haven't measured my snow board, but I expect we have 3-4" on the ground now.

In addition to the snows, we've been treated to a rarity: thundersnow! I was outside shoveling the driveway about 7:15 and saw/heard 3 different flashes/claps of thunder, and then later about 8:15 saw another flash through the window. The only other time I've been in TSSN (to my memory) was in Chapel Hill in late January 2000, riding around (joy riding?) with Adam Cline about 10 p.m. at night- the snow was pummeling down, and we ended up with 20" in ~ 18 hours.

Here's the current radar image: notice the banded nature of the precipitation... that region is moving east/northeast and should be through our area by 11 p.m. (in the interim, we could get 2" more snow).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fun in the capital - MLK 2011!

To celebrate MLK day 2011, Jose, Toshiba, Casimiro and I went to Washington! We really just walked around the White House, the Mall, and then the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. It was a great time- and for Jose and Toshiba, their first time going to DC (even though they've lived in Annapolis for 4 years!),. About the only complaint we had was that it was freezing! Still, we had fun :) Here are some pics.

So maybe some snow after all?

I think it's unhealthy to follow weather events from 168 hours out- too much stress related to model variability, both intra- and inter-model differences! Nonetheless that's what I've been doing the past 72 hrs, ever since the hint of a snowstorm for the I-95/mid-Atlantic corridor started showing up in the models late last week. The upper-level trough position is really good: a digging trough that tilts negatively and pivots right over the southeast coastal plain, forcing a pretty deep surface low to bomb out just to our southeast. Unfortunately - for whatever reason - the well below-normal cold air we've had the past ... hmm ... 6 weeks is taking a vacation to Canada, leaving us with a thermal profile only supportive of rain at the onset of the precipitation. However, the past several model runs have hinted at the formation of a secondary area of precipitation, *behind* the mid-level low (I know... the forcing is strange...) However, my poor man's multi-model ensemble approach (just looking at ECMWF, GFS, NAM, and Canadian) says there's consensus for this 'secondary' precipitation region... and it might actually be accompanied by cold air!

Here's hoping: we still have 48 hrs to watch it, as it's predicted to occur at the end of the event (sometime late Wed night or Thu). Attached are the 48-hr and 54-hr 1000-500 hPa thickness (dashed contours) and 6hr precip (shadings, in inches) 00Z NAM predictions. I know HPC is discounting the NAM as being "too cold" in its thermal profile, but I'm not sure it's so prudent to completely ignore multiple instances of the same prediction across model initiations (that's called 'consensus'... it may be wrong, but it is at least consistent).

What a warmup (and a bummer!)

The models are still in pretty good agreement for a snowstorm mid-week ... just not for us. In fact it's as if the HPC duty forecaster went out of his (her) way to NOT include Annapolis in the Day 3 snowfall probability graphic last night! It'll still be interesting to see how quickly this cold air that's been entrenched here (even the Severn River was ice-covered this morning!) erodes and yields to the warm, moist air coming in off the Atlantic. If it yields as expected, a 37-degree rain is in the offing for Wednesday.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

So a snowstorm is in the forecast, but not from any of the US models

Today was an interesting day to follow NOAA's HPC products & forecasts (prepared by people) and compare them against NCEP's NAM/GFS models. If you only looked at the models, you'd think "man, looks like another near-miss for us in terms of snow"; if you only looked at HPC's products, you'd think "wow someone is in for a heavy snow event". -- see the two images below: first from GFS, second from HPC.

Reconciling the two (they're just down the street in Silver Spring, MD!) requires going abroad: to the Canadian met office model (CMC), the United Kingdom Met Office model (UKMET), and the European Centre model (ECMWF)- all 3 of which are forecasting heavy precipitation all along the US East Coast, from Virginia northward to Maine. The problem for Annapolis area is the thermal profile- the consensus in the models (the ones that actually forecast heavy precip for us) is that we'll be above freezing somewhere in the troposphere during much of the precipitation. Hopefully the model predictions are underestimating the contribution from 'dynamic cooling' (as strong upward vertical motion cools the air column as parcels rise)- and maybe we get more snow than less.

Regardless as we head toward Tue/Wed, this remains an interesting event to follow: watching which model camp turns out to have best-predicted the event (American or Int'l), and then if the Int'l suite is right, how much precipitation do we get (1.5" liquid-equivalent, according to HPC?) and in what form will it fall?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Finally something to be excited about!

So this winter we've been teased and tossed around by half a dozen winter lows here in the mid-Atlantic... it looks like we finally have something to be excited about! With each iteration of the other lows/upper-troughs, we were always one ingredient short (too warm, too little precip, etc.)... the 00Z, 06Z, and now 12Z GFS solutions have all been hinting at a coastal low with enough cold air and precipitation to give a healthy snow event for us here.

Of course with over 120 hours to go before the event really gets going, there is plenty of time for one (or all!) of the needed variables to change, not in our favor. But at this point there's at least some reason to be excited. We'll see how things turn out. Below are HPC Day 6 SLP prediction (Img 1), 108 and 120 hr GFS SLP predictions (Imgs 2 & 3), and the 60hr GFS accumulated precipitation ending 132hrs (Img 4). If all of that precip fell as snow, we'd have over a foot! (Note, however, the very tight gradient between heavy precip and nothing... a swing of only 100 nm could wipe out our chances of snow... and a 100 nm error at 120 hrs is nothing...) Still, I'll be following it over the next few days (of course).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A relative heat wave!

Since getting back from Chile on 8 Jan, our area has been locked in a below-normal temperature pattern... that is, until today! The morning temperature (and dew point temperature, too) were above freezing- making it feel quite balmy. Today's predicted high of 43 would be the first above-normal high since 4 Jan (although we did have one "normal" high day on 15 Jan). Woohoo! Of course, the forecast calls for snow again by Thu night... so I'm headed out for a nice jog to take advantage of the warmer temps.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A bit of ice before daybreak

**04Z (11 p.m. EST) Update**
NWS-LWX upgraded the counties to our NW to a winter storm warning for ice/snow accumulations - specifically ice/sleet of 0.2"-0.3", enough to give some trouble. Precip has been coming down steadily as a -FZRA -PL mixture for the past two hours; my car has a good coating of ice on it (well, it had - I went out and scraped it off).

**continue original post below**

We finally get a coastal low moving close enough to us to give us precip, but the atmosphere will be too warm for snow. Instead we're getting a mixture of ZR/IP now, to be followed by a quick changeover to rain early Tue morning. We'll see how quickly the changeover occurs; I'm personally surprised by the intensity of precipitation, as by 01Z the radar was quickly filling in with 20-25 dBZ echoes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Goings on...

My blog posting has become more and more irregular, even though, for those who've been following along/counting, I've been blogging for FIVE YEARS and 5 months... that's a long time in the world of the internet. It's weird to think that 17.2% of my life is recorded in the period of this blog (64.5 months of blogging, 375 months of living).

Anyway, a few goings-on in my world:

1- I had a great mid-year job evaluation from my boss. Those are always encouraging to hear, and motivating to keep up the good work.

2- I just got back from a 10-day trip to Chile with USNA students (we returned a week ago). The trip was fantastic, and I'll post a blog entry in the not-too-distant future (I still owe one from Mexico this summer!, and probably several others, too.)

3- The next trip on the horizon is the Air Quality conference in San Diego in March, and I plan to take one of my research students with me to that. Speaking of cool conferences, the 2012 AMS Southern Hemisphere meeting is in New Caledonia, an island in the South Pacific. I'd love to go (of course!), and hopefully one of my current proposals in with ONR or NSF will be funded, enabling me to attend.

4- Life here in Annapolis is going well- I've lined up (I think) a research student for the summer, which is great because I know him and think we'll enjoy working together, and a research student significantly increases my own productivity.

5- My colleague John Woods and I are again trying to put together SWIFT activity for May 2011; stay tuned for details.

6- For the first time in a while, I'm not sure what I'll be doing during Spring Break this year. The past two years, I'd spent the break in Norway and Venezuela. Perhaps this year it's time to take it easy, maybe save the money toward either my kitchen renovations or possibly buying a property in eastern Colorado (a perfect place to spend the sultry, oppressive Annapolis summer: as far away from water as possible!) We'll see...

Stay tuned for the Chile post... I promise it's coming soon!


Considering how much we like college football and cheering for our teams, the past 10 years or so, the Barrett extended family has participated in a bowl pick-em contest (similar to a bracket for March Madness)- and just so everything's clear, we started our annual contest at least 5 years before ESPN and other sports groups marketed their own pick-em contests. Rebecca and I set it up each year, and each year I start off with hopes of my picks doing well, only to watch them falter at the end. Until this year, where I was steadily in the middle-back of the family until New Year's Eve, then a string of good picks (coupled with some fortuitously bad picks from my competition!) catapulted me in front, where I hung on the last week of the season. Here are screen grabs of my picks and the final results. I edged out my mom by only 2 points!

A North Carolina Christmas: family, food, presents, and ... snow?!

I gave away my Kohl's sweaters to the guys in Annapolis Tue night and then headed down to NC Wednesday afternoon. It seems that no matter how I try to time the traffic, I always get stuck in a bottleneck south of DC, north of and around Fredericksburg. Why anyone would want to live in that exurb of DC and waste 20% (2-3 hrs) of their day in traffic is beyond me...the quality of life in Dale City cannot be worth it! Heck, I get upset when my bike ride takes 12 mins instead of 9 (the 2 stoplights - on Rowe and King George St - really make a difference, haha!)

Anyway, I rolled into Greenville in time to visit with Charles, Kim, Bill, Bret, and Mike and Kendra (who were all in town for funeral visitation for Adam Wall). Thursday I rode up to Cary with Dad to visit with him and Gran and hear from her financial planner. Friday, Christmas Eve, I visited my friend Amanda Wooten, visited with Aunt Carrie Dail and Uncle S.A., and helped mom cook, wrap a mountain of presents, and played with the dogs and Rhett. Friday afternoon, we went to St. James' church service, where I ran into several old Greenville friends, and then enjoyed the evening visiting with family. Saturday, Christmas day itself, was relaxing, although we started the day early - as is our tradition - because Dad goes into work around 8 a.m. (so we opened presents early). Saturday evening, several of the Browns came over for dinner (delicious turkey, ham, collards, stuffing, sweet potatoes, jello, beans, corn, a couple of pies... mmmm), and because of the forecast of 6-8" of snow, and the thought that Mike would have to work Sunday during the day, I volunteered to ride back to Clayton with them Sat. night and help drive Kendra and Rhett to Cary the next day for Barrett Christmas.

Mike's work ended up being cancelled, so we all drove to Cary together in the 4-Runner - a good thing because the roads (especially the back roads near Mike & Kendra's house) were pretty deep with snow. Barrett Christmas was fun, although Mom didn't make it from Greenville (snowed in). Mom and I visited some Sunday night and Monday morning, and then I loaded up on food (I mean loaded!! Still have 1/2 of it uneaten in my freezer now) and headed back to Annapolis Monday night to get ready for a Thursday midday departure for Chile.

Here are some pictures:

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