Sixteen superb supercell thunderstorm time lapse videos

After going to the Plains this spring I’ve managed to spend many waking hours thinking about going back. It’s the tornado itself that gets much of the glory, but the supercell thunderstorm is perhaps one of nature’s finest masterpieces. The videos I’ve compiled here, after hours of sorting through examples on the Web, are all about structure. You won’t find any tornadoes in the bunch — there is a funnel cloud or two though! Even without the raw violence of a twister, the enormous power of these storms in evident throughout. Each is beautiful in its own way.

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July 13, 2009 AMAZING Supercell Time Lapse from hillnado57.

Having made our “catch” of the chase 2011 in the area this was taken, the terrain has a special place in my heart. SD/NE is perhaps some of the prettiest of the Plains. First, there’s lots of bubbling and boiling clouds as the storm matures, and by 1:30 in we’re off to the races on superb structure. Multiple striations and a big fat inflow tail. After 2:45 it’s just insane inflow. What a storm…

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Visible satellite loop of Hurricane Irene impacting the D.C. area while spinning off the mid-Atlantic Coast

Hurricane Irene caused extensive damage (amounting to perhaps around $10 billion) and loss of life (in the tens of people) after making landfall in North Carolina on August 27 as a category 1 storm. Though much discussion is already underway about whether or not Irene was “overhyped,” particularly in the New York City area, there is little denying this was a rare event for much of the coast north of North Carolina. In D.C., the effects were relatively minor, though still rather significant for a tropical system in this area. National Airport recorded a gust to 60 mph and had one hourly observation of sustained winds to tropical storm force. The daily rainfall in D.C. on the 27th was the highest August daily total in 4o years (since the similarly tracked Tropical Storm Doria) and the 3.83″ total helped boost D.C. to its wettest August in a long while. At its peak, several hundred thousand locally (and north of 5 million on the East Coast) were left without power after a number of trees (among other items) fell and toppled power lines.

2011 American Weather Conference presentations

The first American Weather Conference was held at BWI this weekend. Though it was the first American Weather Conference, it was the 7th we have put on. The prior six were known as the “Eastern U.S. Weather Conference.”

The conference is both a gathering for people who love weather to hang out with each other, and a learning experience for many involved. Over the years we have been fortunate enough to consistently line up the top professionals in the business. This year was no exception.

Following a Friday of workshops by Wes Junker and Will Schwartz (that I unfortunately missed due to work), the main event of Saturday provided quite the show. Featured speakers (in order of appearance) included Bill Read, the director of the National Hurricane Center; Brian LaSorsa of NWS Baltimore/Washington; Brad Panovich of WCNC-TV; Mike Smith of WeatherData; and a conference regular, winter weather expert Paul Kocin.

Below are videos of the presentations. They are not close to fancy, and I originally shot in HD but lowered way down to cut upload time. As far as I can tell though, they work!

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The highest low temperatures in Washington, D.C.: A look at 80F+ overnight readings

This post has been updated to cover all 80-degree or higher lows in Washington through early August 2011. Graphs will be updated to include this year once it is apparent there is no risk of further 80-degree lows.

The once rare 80F+ low has been appearing more often of late. 2011 has easily turned into the leader of the pack on consecutive days and overall totals.  Prior to 2011, there have never been more than two 80 degree or higher low temperature days back-to-back at Washington. A previous record streak of two days happened most recently in 2010, when DCA recorded 80F for a low on the 7th and 8th of July.

From July 21-24, 2011 D.C. recorded its warmest stretch of lows ever, with four days in a row 80F+. Temperatures actually spent about 128 hours above 80F, from 7:52 a.m. on July 20 through just after 4:00 p.m. on July 25. In the climate records, this will be counted as a four-day stretch — even though the hours match up to five days — due to the 80F morning low  of the 25th not standing through midnight. As an encore performance, 80-degree plus lows returned for the final three days of July 2011, bringing the record total to seven for the month and year.

The warmest low on record at D.C. is 84F and it occurred on July 23rd and July 24th, 2011 as well as on the 16th of July in 1983. There have been 42 days (including the seven in 2011) 80F+ lows going back to when daily records I have access to begin in 1872. Before 1930, there were only 3, and they all happened in 1876. The sample and averages are still quite small, with a 1930-2010 average of 0.4 days per year and a 30-year average of 0.7. But looking at the graph, and now considering 2011, one gets the sense these high-end low temperatures are becoming more of a norm, if also still erratic.

The trends do continue, and in some ways are more apparent thanks to increased data samples, into categories such as 75F+ lows and similar. In an urban environment like D.C. the question arises whether the increased frequency of such lows points to larger climate change or, more simply, a growing urban heat island effect. It is worth at least noting that Baltimore’s climate record includes much more numerous 80F+ readings during the earlier history where D.C. lacks them. In part, this may be due to the Baltimore station initially being in the city prior to moving to a more rural setting at BWI.

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High and low temperature by year at Washington, D.C.

Ok, I am being unbalanced with D.C. climo of late. It’s a mindless task when bored, and I recently finished a compilation. Here’s a graph (to scale, if not clearly marked as such) of high and low temperatures by year in Washington, D.C. The change in highs has been quite minor though the range is equally small. Lows, however have seemingly continually pressed upwards throughout recorded history.

The 81-2010 average for the highest temperature of the year was 98.8, with the long-term average coming in at 98.3. The 81-2010 average lowest temperature was 9.9, while long-term is 7.3.

This post is part of a Washington, D.C. climatology series, both on and off site, that will be maintained at semi regular intervals.

100 degree days at Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md. and Dulles, Va.: Averages, extremes and what to look for

This article has been updated to cover all 100F+ readings observed through August 1, 2011 when National Airport hit 100F and the other locations remained in the upper 90s.

While the Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Md. area averages about one 100-degree day each year, it is not a super common occurrence, and stretches of years without them are — or, someday, where? — to be expected. Yearly numbers and a few other facts for both Washington and Baltimore follow, as does a quick look at the atmospheric setup for the area’s most extreme of extreme heat.

Washington, D.C. averages 1.2 days of 100F+ or above as of the 1981-2010 climate period. The long-term average is less than one day per year, with 109 days (including five so far in 2011) at D.C. that have hit or topped 100F. The highest temperature ever at D.C. was 106F, and it was reached on August 6, 1918 and July 20, 1930. A breakdown of all days 100F+ at D.C. is heavily skewed toward the lowest numbers. 44% hit 100 on the nose, 22% made it to 101, 17% to 102, 7% to 103, %6 to 104 and 2% each to 105F and 106F. The most recent “super heat” temperature came on July 29, 2011 when D.C. reached 104F, the highest temperature observed there in over a decade and tied for 5th hottest all time.

July 19-22, 1930 make up the longest string of days 100F+ in Washington at four, also featuring the hottest temperature on record. Washington has dealt with three other 100F+ streaks of three days, most recently in 1993. The most 100-degree days in any year was 11 in 1930, when two major streaks of 100F+ lasted for the record four days and three days (with a two day break in between) each. For 10 years in a row, in 1888 through 1897, no 100 degree or higher readings were recorded at Washington. The longest streak of sub-100F years in recent times was the seven years from 1970 through 1976.

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Washington, D.C. thunderstorm days: Examining the last 30 years of data

In the July installment of a year-long series of D.C. climatology posts on Capital Weather Gang, I included a graphic showing the averages for thunderstorm days by month in Washington over the last 30 years. Why 30 years? That’s the National Climatic Data Center standard for climate normals, and they just released a new set. This information, however, comes from additional research through daily records posted on the Weather Underground.

Thus far, I have only looked at the last 30 years, but may build back as far as I can at some point. Either way, this post will be updated at least a bit with data already obtained, but see below for some of it for now:

D.C. averages 32.8 thunderstorm days per year. 18.8 occur during meteorological summer (June-August). July is barely the statistical winner, though for real purposes it is tied with June for the most thunderstorm days per year. The curve is almost surprisingly normal, with a quicker drop off in fall than rise in spring thanks to lacking upper-level cold air of the winter prior that gives spring an extra boost in both storms and severity of storms.

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Visible satellite loop of the May 24, 2011 “high risk” tornado outbreak in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas

The amazing tornado year of 2011 rolls on. Today’s tornado outbreak, on the heels of a rare “high risk” from the Storm Prediction Center, has caused many more deaths and again seemingly impacted major cities, including the Dallas, Texas metropolitan area. Here’s an 8-hour visible satellite loop showing the outbreak’s evolution as seen from space.

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Satellite loop of the May 22, 2011 tornado producing supercell that hit Joplin, MO

The tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri Sunday evening has killed at least 117 people, becoming the deadliest single tornado in modern tornado history (since 1950). Below is a 3-hour visible satellite loop of the supercell/s that spawned the EF-4 (maybe +?) [edit: confirmed EF-5 in following days] twister that ripped through the town, the frames stall briefly on the 20-minute window of the tornado moving through.

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On the road in Kansas searching for tornadoes

We’ve departed Pratt, where we stayed last night. We’re currently on the road north — not quite sure where we are headed yet but we’ll probably try to position near the triple point for now and wait out the morning rain/storms in the area (mainly south and east, but we’re in the clouds and some rain will come through). Maybe not what you look for, but it’s early enough the atmosphere should recover, and some folks like Mike Smith have talked about tornadoes following morning rain.

I’m going to keep this short for now as things are somewhat up in the air, but generally on track for big storms and tornadoes later. I did a quick writeup for Capital Weather Gang this morning on the threat and chase as a whole. There has been some concern because the initial moderate risk from the Storm Prediction Center has been dropped back to a slight risk. However, much of their mod risk was hail related and the new tornado probabilities are not much different than before.