03/25/2017

Pair of Systems bring Potential for Heavy Rain and Severe Storms!

We are tracking a pair of storm systems that will bring us a good bet for rain and storms over the next few days. 

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The first low, located over Missouri, will bring a round of potentially heavy rain tonight before the second storm located over the Four Corners Region arrives by late Monday with the potential for strong thunderstorms.  

Let's time it out with AdvanceTrak...

AT shows heavy rain arriving after midnight.  

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Some areas could pick up locally better than a half inch tonight alone. 

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The main slug of rain is expected to exit towards the northeast in the morning.  

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Scattered showers redevelop during the afternoon.  A few t-showers possible, but nothing severe.

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We'll need to watch Monday with the arrival of the second system.  AT is bullish on the idea of strong-severe storms late day.    

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While this is a possibility, it will be contingent on getting some good heating during the day on Monday.

The Storm Prediction Center has a Slight Risk located across much of the Lower MS Valley.  A small jog to the north would put us in the risk area.  

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We'll be watching.  Katie has a full update on the severe threat tomorrow morning. 

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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Tracking Today's Storms

Good news! After being under a marginal risk for severe weather for a few hours, the Storm Prediction Center shifted the risk back over to the west and I agree with this change. While we could still see a rogue strong or severe storm, the likelihood is pretty low.  The best chance would be west of I-65. As the storms continue to progress east later tonight, they will hit more stable air and the storms will diminish in strength. 

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We are still currently positioned in the warm sector of this low pressure system out to the west. That means we are between the warm and cold front. Why does it look like two cold fronts? That's because the warm front is shifting south as a cold front! The cold front and the low to the west will slllllowwwwly progress toward the area and pass through our region tonight and into tomorrow morning. Latest guidance suggests a later and later arrival time. 

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Currently we are just seeing  mix of sun and clouds and it is breezy and warm! All showers are residing west. The atmosphere needs to be worked over before the rain can actually make its way into Kentuckiana. 

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So why is the severe threat relatively low? That's because of the instability or CAPE, the Convective Available Potential Energy. It looks even lower than yesterday and that's because the timing has slowed, so this makes sense. It is only around 200 J/kg and is not that sufficient for severe weather. 

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We do have sufficient wind energy, about 30-40 kts, however, without the instability, the likelihood of severe is considerably lower. It will more than likely just be gusty showers with a few storms embedded within the line. 

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As I mentioned above, the latest model guidance suggests a later arrival time of the showers and storms. We could see a few isolated showers early in the afternoon, but most of our day will be dry with filtered sunshine and breezy conditions. By this evening, our rain chances spike. Notice below, by 7 pm, our western counties are seeing the rain and storms.   

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They will slowly push toward the metro area from 8-10 and linger for the rest of your night. If you have evening plans, keep this in mind. 

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Notice, the line seems to slow even more, before it pushes fully east of I-65. 

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And there are still showers and storms around the area overnight and into Sunday morning. The widespread rain should end before 8 am, however we will still have hit or miss showers during the day and evening on Sunday as well. 

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Not much has changed with how much rain we expecting. Below is the raw model data of the GFS and the Euro through Monday morning. So this includes the scattered activity on Sunday. Notice they are in good agreement about the amount of rainfall possible, just over half an inch to under the 1'' mark.

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Be sure to tune into the news this evening with Jeremy. He will have the latest information as the storms are moving through the area. You can find me and get updates on the forecast with the links below! 

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03/24/2017

GREEN ICE? What's Causing This Colorful Display...

You never know where phytoplankton will turn up next. From space, we regularly see colorful blooms of them swirling in the world’s oceans. Inland basins and waterways support them too, such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, Washington’s Hood Canal, and North America’s Great Lakes.

Even the waters off the coast of Antarctica can sustain blooms. We recently showed a satellite image in which algae in a harbor near the Ross Sea had turned the sea ice a wild shade of green. As this photograph shows, they also appear to thrive on the snow and ice capping the southern continent.

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Image Credit: NASA

“I was in Antarctica in February 2013 and saw plenty of algae happily growing in the ice (green, yellow, and red),” said ocean scientist Norman Kuring of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “I took this photo on Orne Island showing lots of green snow and ice.”

Kuring notes, however, that the type of phytoplankton inhabiting the snow and ice on Orne Island — on the opposite side of the continent, near the Antarctic Peninsula — is probably different from the species that bloomed in the Ross Sea. Direct sampling and analysis is the best way to know for sure, but that’s not always possible, especially in remote regions.

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Image Credit: NASA

 

 

-Rick DeLuca

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Saturday Storms: Timing & Impacts

A system out to our west is going to continue pushing east toward Kentuckiana and will arrive just in time for the weekend. We are currently positioned in the warm sector of this low pressure system, in between the warm and cold front. And I'm sure you have noticed! Temperatures have surged in the past 24 to 48 hours thanks to that warm front!  Tomorrow the cold front will pass through the area and bring with it showers and storms. 

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Now that we are in the spring season, chatting about severe weather is a must! For now, the Storm Prediction Center does not have us under anything other than a general thunderstorm risk. However, there is a marginal risk for severe weather just to the SW and I agree. If there was a best chance to see severe, it would be tomorrow evening and west of I-65. As the storms continue to progress east, they will hit more stable air and the storms will diminish in strength. A rogue strong to severe storm is not off the table. 

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The CAPE or instability has also been pretty low with this system, but still sufficient for a strong or severe storm. Notice on the image below, there is an area of blue to the SW. That is a higher area of instability and one of the reasons why there is a better chance for severe storms to develop south and west. 

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There is also sufficient wind energy, in Kentuckiana (30-40 kts), but once again the strongest winds are to the SW (50 kts). However, these two images do not exactly line up. The wind image is for three hours prior to the highest instability. Winds begin to weaken as the system progresses east.   

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Timing: 

The best chance for showers and storms tomorrow is going to be in the late afternoon/evening. We can't rule out a few scattered showers earlier, but the more widespread showers and storms will hold off until Saturday evening. Notice that at 1 pm, we are just seeing mostly cloudy skies and warm temperatures once again. 

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A few scattered showers will start in the late afternoon/early evening, particularly in our western counties. 

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The squall line then will progress toward the region, in our western counties and notice how more numerous they have become. This would be the time frame we could see some strong to severe storms. 

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They will continue to push east toward the metro area and will still have the potential for some gusty winds and small hail. 

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Once it crosses the I-65 line and heads into more stable air, notice the strength of the line weakens and is more of a soaking rain. 

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Speaking of rain: how much are we expecting to see with these storms? The GFS and the Euro are both below and notice they are in good agreement about the amount of rainfall possible, roughly half an inch. But there is more rain in the forecast in the coming days, that will take us over the 1'' mark. 

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So the general gist is Saturday will have dry time, mainly early. While the severe risk is not overwhelming, there is a possibility for a rogue severe storm or two and the rain will not clear out completely on Sunday. There will be a few more lingering showers then as well. 

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Marc and Rick will track out the showers for Sunday and also discuss the severe potential for Monday as well! Be sure to join them this evening on WDRB News. I will see you bright and early tomorrow morning! Until then you can find me on my social media pages. The links are below!  

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-Katie McGraw 

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03/23/2017

Has Spring Sprung: How long Will Warmth Continue?

From Freeze Warnings to Warming!

The Climate Prediction Center released their 6-10 day and 8 - 14 day outlook that takes us through the rest of the month and the beginning of April! A quick glance a the map suggests a 60% chance of above average temperatures for our area for the 6-10 day period ...

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And suggests about a 50% chance of above average temperatures for our area for the 8-14 day period ...

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Let's see if CPC's word holds true and do some investigating.  We will check the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) 2-m temperature anomaly maps. It looks as though the warmest days are in the beginning of the period, which would be Saturday and Monday. We have forecasted highs in the mid 70s for those days. Temps do look to dip just slightly on Sunday into the upper 60s. 

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But the rest of the two week period continues to show above average temperatures as well. Overall, it seems the CPC forecast of above average temperatures by the end of March and beginning of April should hold true. 

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However, there have been several runs of this model pointing to a cool down on day 14 as well. Right at the end of the period and showing BELOW average temperatures. This shows it is not safe to plant yet! Remember the age old rule for Louisville: Wait to plant until after Derby! 

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There is one more thing to note about this pattern of warmth. We may end up paying for it later, particularly in the second week of April, in the form of severe weather or at least heavy rain. While we are seeing warmth, the SW will be experiencing below average temperatures. If you look at ECMWF EPS Ensemble Mean Geopotential Height & Anomaly chart, you can see the cause of that is an upper level low. It is possible that upper level low will trek toward the Ohio River Valley and cause problems for us in the weeks ahead and is something we will be watching.

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03/22/2017

MULTIPLE RAIN CHANCES: How Much To Expect Over The Next Week...

March can be a moody month and we've certainly seen our fair share of temperature swings, but what about rain? So far this month, 2.54" of rain has fallen in Louisville, which is only a touch below the average of 2.90". Now that spring has sprung, a lot of people are trying to work on the yard. I've been asked several times about rain chances because people want to fertilize their grass. We have a slim shower chance late Thursday. Our next good opportunity for rain arrives over the weekend as the first of a couple low pressure centers move into the Ohio Valley...

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How much can we expect? At this point, not enough to cause any flooding issues and just enough to give your yard a decent drink of water. Both the GFS and EURO models are painting about 1" of rain over the next 7 days. Just wait a few more days for the soil to warm up since these last couple of night have been quite cold. You will know it's time when the grass starts to grow. If you want specific timing on those multiple rain and storm chances, make sure you join Marc and I tonight on WDRB!  

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-Rick DeLuca

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Curiosity Mars Rover: Getting Worn Out?

Uh oh. These are the breaks on Curiosity Mars Rover. After 4.5+ off-road years on Mars, wheel treads show their first breaks. But according to NASA, it's not a big problem, there is a lot of wear left.

A routine check of the aluminum wheels has found two small breaks on the rover's left middle wheel-the latest sign of wear and tear as the rover continues its journey, now approaching the 10-mile  mark.

Rovers wheels

The mission's first and second breaks in raised treads, called grousers, appeared in a March 19 image check of the wheels, documenting that these breaks occurred after the last check, on Jan. 27.

"All six wheels have more than enough working lifespan remaining to get the vehicle to all destinations planned for the mission," said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "While not unexpected, this damage is the first sign that the left middle wheel is nearing a wheel-wear milestone,"

The monitoring of wheel damage on Curiosity, plus a program of wheel-longevity testing on Earth, was initiated after dents and holes in the wheels were seen to be accumulating faster than anticipated in 2013. Testing showed that at the point when three grousers on a wheel have broken, that wheel has reached about 60 percent of its useful life. Curiosity already has driven well over that fraction of the total distance needed for reaching the key regions of scientific interest on Mars' Mount Sharp.

Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, also at JPL, said, "This is an expected part of the life cycle of the wheels and at this point does not change our current science plans or diminish our chances of studying key transitions in mineralogy higher on Mount Sharp."

Curiosity is currently examining sand dunes partway up a geological unit called the Murray formation. Planned destinations ahead include the hematite-containing "Vera Rubin Ridge," a clay-containing geological unit above that ridge, and a sulfate-containing unit above the clay unit.

The rover is climbing to sequentially higher and younger layers of lower Mount Sharp to investigate how the region's ancient climate changed billions of years ago. Clues about environmental conditions are recorded in the rock layers. During its first year on Mars, the mission succeeded at its main goal by finding that the region once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life. The conditions in long-lived ancient freshwater Martian lake environments included all of the key chemical elements needed for life as we know it, plus a chemical source of energy that is used by many microbes on Earth.

Through March 20, Curiosity has driven 9.9 miles since the mission's August 2012 landing on Mars. Studying the transition to the sulfate unit, the farthest-uphill destination, will require about 3.7 miles or less of additional driving. For the past four years, rover drive planners have used enhanced methods of mapping potentially hazardous terrains to reduce the pace of damage from sharp, embedded rocks along the rover's route.

Each of Curiosity's six wheels is about 20 inches in diameter and 16 inches wide, milled out of solid aluminum. The wheels contact ground with a skin that's about half as thick as a U.S. dime, except at thicker treads. The grousers are 19 zigzag-shaped treads that extend about a quarter inch outward from the skin of each wheel. The grousers bear much of the rover's weight and provide most of the traction and ability to traverse over uneven terrain.

For more information about the mission, visit: NASA's website.

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03/21/2017

ISS ALERT: High Altitude Crossing Tomorrow Morning!

The International Space Station (ISS) will be making a high altitude pass over our sky tomorrow morning.

At a blazing speed of 17,000 mph, it will cross our sky in about 5 minutes total time.  

Warnings

You will be able to view it rise over the NW horizon at approximately 6:30 AM EDT tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.  The ISS will appear as a very bright point of light as it moves across the sky before exiting the SE horizon at approximately 6:35 AM EDT.

Unlike many ISS crossings, this one will take it very high in the sky, almost directly overhead in fact, rising to about 88° altitude at around at around 6:32.

6a0148c78b79ee970c017c370e8365970bLong Exposure Photograph of the ISS Credit: Mark Humpage

See an amazing time-lapse video taken from the ISS here.

For information on how to photograph the ISS: http://www.universetoday.com/93588/a-beginners-guide-to-photographing-the-international-space-station-iss/#ixzz2Lll4JR00

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You can track is progress live here on isstracker.com.

With a clear sky expected, viewing should be excellent!  Enjoy:)

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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FREEZE WARNINGS For Parts Of Our Area Tonight!

...FREEZE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 5 AM TO 10 AM EDT WEDNESDAY...

The National Weather Service in Louisville has issued a Freeze
Warning, which is in effect from 5 AM to 10 AM EDT Wednesday.
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* TEMPERATURE...the mercury will drop into the 28 to 32 degree range for a few hours. * IMPACTS...very sensitive vegetation may be harmed. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A Freeze Warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely.


-Rick DeLuca

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What Does This Martian Volcano And Dinosaurs Have In Common?

New NASA research reveals that the giant Martian shield volcano Arsia Mons produced one new lava flow at its summit every 1 to 3 million years during the final peak of activity. The last volcanic activity there ceased about 50 million years ago—around the time of Earth’s Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction, when large numbers of our planet’s plant and animal species (including dinosaurs) went extinct.

Located just south of Mars’ equator, Arsia Mons is the southernmost member of a trio of broad, gently sloping shield volcanoes collectively known as Tharsis Montes. Arsia Mons was built up over billions of years, though the details of its lifecycle are still being worked out. The most recent volcanic activity is thought to have taken place in the caldera—the bowl-shaped depression at the top—where 29 volcanic vents have been identified. Until now, it’s been difficult to make a precise estimate of when this volcanic field was active.

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This digital-image mosaic of Mars' Tharsis plateau shows the extinct volcano Arsia Mons. It was assembled from images that the Viking 1 Orbiter took during its 1976-1980 working life at Mars.
Credits: NASA/JPL/USGS

“We estimate that the peak activity for the volcanic field at the summit of Arsia Mons probably occurred approximately 150 million years ago—the late Jurassic period on Earth—and then died out around the same time as Earth’s dinosaurs,” said Jacob Richardson, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s possible, though, that the last volcanic vent or two might have been active in the past 50 million years, which is very recent in geological terms.”

Richardson is presenting the findings on March 20, 2017, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. The study also is published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Measuring about 68 miles (110 kilometers) across, the caldera is deep enough to hold the entire volume of water in Lake Huron, and then some. Examining the volcanic features within the caldera required high-resolution imaging, which the researchers obtained from the Context Camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The team mapped the boundaries of the lava flows from each of the 29 volcanic vents and determined the stratigraphy, or layering, of the flows. The researchers also performed a technique called crater counting—tallying up the number of craters at least 330 feet (100 meters) in diameter—to estimate the ages of the flows.

Using a new computer model developed by Richardson and his colleagues at the University of South Florida, the two types of information were combined to determine the volcanic equivalent of a batting lineup for Arsia Mons’ 29 vents. The oldest flows date back about 200 million years. The youngest flows probably occurred 10 to 90 million years ago—most likely around 50 million years ago.

The modeling also yielded estimates of the volume flux for each lava flow. At their peak about 150 million years ago, the vents in the Arsia Mons’ caldera probably collectively produced about 1 to 8 cubic kilometers of magma every million years, slowly adding to the volcano’s size.

“Think of it like a slow, leaky faucet of magma,” said Richardson. “Arsia Mons was creating about one volcanic vent every 1 to 3 million years at the peak, compared to one every 10,000 years or so in similar regions on Earth.”

A better understanding of when volcanic activity on Mars took place is important because it helps researchers understand the Red Planet’s history and interior structure.

“A major goal of the Mars volcanology community is to understand the anatomy and lifecycle of the planet’s volcanoes. Mars’ volcanoes show evidence for activity over a larger time span than those on Earth, but their histories of magma production might be quite different,” said Jacob Bleacher, a planetary geologist at Goddard and a co-author on the study. “This study gives us another clue about how activity at Arsia Mons tailed off and the huge volcano became quiet.”

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the Context Camera. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

 

-Rick DeLuca

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