Blizzard stories from the National Weather Service

Mike Smith tips us to this NOAA Communications Office Summary of stories about the February blizzard. It makes for interesting reading.

As Record Snow Falls, NWS Employees Hunker Down

An Epic Storm: Tulsa, Okla.

Chuck Hodges and Bruce Sherbon, forecasters at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Tulsa, Okla., planned to arrive early for their scheduled shifts on Tuesday, February 1—six to eight hours early. Anticipating what would be a winter storm of epic proportions, the intrepid forecasters knew they would be in for the long haul and decided to get to the office ahead of the storm and spend the night there before starting what would be a marathon session of double-shifts, few breaks, and lots of snow.

Sherbon, who had planned to get some sleep at home before going into the office, was awoken by thunder that accompanied the powerful snowstorm around 11:30 on Monday night. “I knew at that time it was pretty much ‘go time,'” he said. “We had two or three inches of sleet on the ground at my house already and the roads were deteriorating rapidly.”

After he arrived at the office and had a chance to look things over and watch the weather for a while, Sherbon “sacked out on the couch for a few hours.” Around 5 a.m. he got up and started issuing Local Storm Reports—160 of them in all. “That didn’t stop for 17 hours straight,” he said with a chuckle. Breaks were minimal. “I would get up and get a Coke and get up and go to the bathroom, but that’s it,” he said. He did admit, though, that he found time to warm up and eat some of the extra food he brought in to sustain himself, including his favorite brand of microwave pizza.

Likewise, Hodges realized the day before that he needed to prepare early if he was going to make it in to work for his shift. “It became pretty obvious Monday afternoon that I wouldn’t make it into work Tuesday morning for that 6:00 a.m. shift unless I just decided to come on in,” he said. “I brought a sleeping bag, brought my pillow, brought a change of clothes, definitely brought a toothbrush—stuff like that—brought a little bit of food.”

Although he arrived at the office around 10:00 p.m., he also found himself awoken by the same claps of thunder that stirred Sherbon from his slumber at home around midnight. “I can’t say I really slept all that well,” Hodges said. “I found myself the rest of the night probably waking up about every hour and checking out the window.”

After waking up around 5:00-5:30 a.m., Hodges began his shift at 6:00 and worked straight through until 10:00 p.m. At that point, he was able to get some sleep until around 2:00 a.m., finding refuge in an office chair. “The floor wasn’t treating me all that well.” When he awoke, he assisted in the operations area some more before helping shovel out cars with a colleague and making a path to the main road. Finally able to leave around 7:00-8:00 Wednesday morning, Hodges went home and “straight to bed,” having spent nearly 36 hours at the forecast office.

Although it was not a real-time significant event, hydrologically-speaking, the Tulsa Weather Forecast Office was assisted by the staff of the collocated NWS Arkansas Red-Basin River Forecast Center, where Bill Lawrence, acting hydrologist-in-charge, was also prepared. “I came Monday night with suitcase in hand, expecting to spend several nights here,” he said.” “The forecasts verified, and the storm was really bad. There was no way my car would be getting out of the parking lot Tuesday or even Wednesday for that matter.” Lawrence, who lives in a rural area 30 miles from the office, said he was humbled by the numerous offers from coworkers to take a shower and sleep at their homes nearby. “Their kindness has been much appreciated!”

Deodorant is Important: Kansas City, Mo.

As the storm moved up through the central Plains, dumping more than 20 inches of snow over parts of Missouri, Audra Hennecke, a meteorologist intern with the NWS Kansas City Weather Forecast Office, in Pleasant Hill, Mo., also knew that spending the night at the office was a distinct possibility. “I knew that when I’d be walking in the door,” she said of her scheduled 10:00 a.m. shift, “it would be a question mark of how long I was needed.” She ended up staying at the office for nearly 24 hours.

Like her colleagues in Tulsa, Hennecke came to work prepared. “I brought an air mattress, blanket, and pillow. I brought tons of extra food, not knowing how many meals I may have to have, an extra set of clothes, basic cosmetics, a toothbrush, toothpaste, things like that, contacts, glasses—just anything [I might need] not knowing when I would be able to leave the office. Your basic essentials.”

This was not, however, your basic overnight stay away from home. As well-equipped as a weather forecast office is, it’s no five-star hotel. There are no beds to sleep on, there’s little space at all for sleeping, no room service and no showers. “Needless to say, deodorant is important, of course,” Hennecke joked. “You make it work. You do what you got to do.”

As far as privacy, Hennecke was lucky. “I slept in my boss’s office,” she said, noting that she restlessly slept for about five hours.

Andy Bailey, warning coordination meteorologist at the Kansas City Weather Forecast Office said of Hennecke, “In classic NWS style, she worked this shift with a smile on her face the entire time.” Bailey said that Hennecke was one of “many examples of dedicated employees, leaving their family at home to deal with the storm while they came in to meet their mission. Despite I-70 being closed from Kansas City to St. Louis for the first time in history, every one of our available operational people reported for their shift on time, and was prepared to stay the night.”

Forecaster Derek Deroche of the Kansas City Weather Forecast Office was prepared to do whatever it took to make it in for his scheduled shift Tuesday evening, despite having been snowed in at home. “It would have been easy and understandable for him to call the office and say he couldn’t come in due to being snowed in,” Bailey said. “Instead of taking the easy way out, after digging out his driveway, he actually dug out his street, by hand, so he could reach a…better maintained road. Have you ever heard of anyone digging their street out, with a shovel, so they could get to work in the middle of a blizzard? I haven’t, but these are the kinds of people we have in this agency.”

Kansas City is also home to the NWS Central Region Headquarters and the NWS Aviation Weather Center, both of which arranged for accommodations for essential employees who provided support during the storm. Steve Berry, an IT specialist at Central Region Headquarters, stayed in a hotel near the office in order to provide support for national NWS Web servers, which experienced unprecedented demands for Internet services because of the widespread nature of the storm. During the storm’s peak, NWS Web servers were getting as many as 15-20 million hits an hour. Aviation Weather Center employees also checked into a hotel adjacent to the facility before snow started falling, as the center had to maintain round the clock operations to meet its hemispheric and global aviation weather responsibilities.

A Team Effort: Chicago and Lincoln, Ill.

In Chicago, where the event ranked as the third largest snowstorm in the city’s history (and the biggest ever in February), the strongest impacts were felt late Tuesday, February 1, into Wednesday, February 2, with snowfall totals of nearly two feet north of the city and wind gusts of 70 mph at Chicago’s Lakefront.

As early as Monday both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois had issued declarations and proclamations in anticipation of the event, and took hundreds of actions in preparations for the storm, all based on the blizzard predictions provided by NWS meteorologists. Street and transportation departments readied extra snow clearing equipment and road salt, school districts sent letters to parents providing information on what to expect, warning shelters and homeless shelters were opened or implemented expanded capacity and hours. Equipment such as snowmobiles were brought in to aid in rescuing stranded motorists, and city, county and state emergency managers kept businesses, schools districts and others informed of weather predictions by relaying NWS decision support briefing information and incorporating NWS statements and weather story graphics into their information dissemination systems.

“Our forecast success was a true team effort,” said Ed Fenelon, meteorologist-in-charge of the NWS Chicago Weather Forecast Office, located in nearby Romeoville, Ill. “People gave up days off, came in early, and stayed late Sunday and Monday in order to pore through the model data diagnosing the situation and to respond to scores of media inquiries questioning ‘would it really be that bad?'” Like most of those who had to make personal sacrifices to keep the forecasts flowing to the public, Fenelon said he and his staff made the most of the situation. “On the up side, those who spent the night at the office enjoyed the 30 foot commute to work the next day.”

At the neighboring NWS Weather Forecast Office in Lincoln, Ill., lead forecaster Dan Smith was scheduled to work an evening shift on Tuesday, from 4:00 p.m. to midnight, but ended up working an extra six hours until 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, at which point he found a quiet place in the office to rest, since the conditions had deteriorated to the point were he would have been unable to get home. Despite the fact that his wife remained snowed in at home with the risk of losing power, Smith said he remained focused on the mission, although he admitted “that was something that was in the back of my wind while working the shift.”

One of the things Smith helped with during the height of the storm was the release of the weather balloons and attached radiosonde instrument packages, which take place every 12 hours, at noon and midnight, Zulu, or Greenwich Mean Time, usually referred to as “0Z” and “12Z.”

“The 0Z launch was kind of a tough one, because of the wind,” he said. “It barely got off the ground, but the radiosonde itself hit the ground and we lost the battery.” Smith consulted with his colleagues and, after realizing they would otherwise miss valuable data at the height of the storm, they decided to make another attempt at a launch, which was successful. “It’s usually a one-person procedure with the flight, but sometimes we needed two or three people to do this,” Smith said.

Don’t Give Birth During the Storm: Milwaukee, Wis.

About 90 miles northwest of Chicago at the NWS Milwaukee, Wis., Weather Forecast Office, General Forecaster Marcia Cronce, Lead Forecaster Steve Hentz and Meteorologist Intern Ashley Sears were all part of what Meteorologist-In-Charge Steve Brueske referred to as the “extended-stay-ride-out-the-storm crew.”

Sears, who arrived at 5:15 on Tuesday evening, was scheduled to work from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., but ended up working until 8:00 the next morning. One of her duties during that time was to go outside and take snow observations. She compared the experience at the height of the storm, with winds gusting at nearly 50 mph, to that of being in Hurricane Ike in Houston in 2008. “When I went to take the ob[servation] I couldn’t even walk into the wind. I had to turn around and walk backwards, because it stung so much.”

Hentz, who brought not only a sleeping bag, but an air mattress to the office, worked a 4:00 p.m. to midnight shift before retiring to a private office to try and get some sleep. “Initially it was not a really good sleep, so I kind of woke up a few times.” After he got up around 4:00 a.m., Hentz went back to the operations area to assist with issuing additional products. “After that I actually slept fairly well and one of the 8:00 people did make it in, so they basically let me sleep and I didn’t wake up until 9:30 in the morning.”

While Sears and Hentz were busy balancing their own duties with their personal requirements for sleep and food, they were also aware that their colleague, Cronce, had one more thing to be concerned about: she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

“We were all joking that she was going to give birth during the storm,” said Sears.

For her part, Cronce took the situation in stride. “People were saying, ‘Now, Marcia, don’t go into labor. There’s a big low pressure system coming through, you know.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,’ because that would be worst-case scenario: going into labor during a blizzard.”

When it came time for her six hours of sleep, Cronce made sure she was one of the people in her office who got to sleep on a cot. “I slept in the boss’s office, so I was away from things. It was quiet,” she said. “The cot was actually quite comfortable. We had some extra foam padding and a comforter on there and I had brought my pillow and blanket, so I was remarkably comfortable. I was surprised!”

Overall Cronce wasn’t too bothered by the experience. “It was just like staying up later at night than you normally would and just not feeling totally fresh in the morning,” she said. “As long my teeth were brushed I felt better—put a little water in my hair. It was OK.”

Cronce also won favor among her colleagues by having brought in two frozen pizzas, among other extra food, which she shared with others. “Pizzas are always a treat,” she said. “We don’t get delivery out here, because our office is very remote. So I had been to the grocery store that day and picked up extra pizza and I was hungry for pizza, so I ate some and then shared the rest.

Her colleagues seemed to appreciate it. “We can’t even get people to deliver here in perfect conditions,” Sears mentioned.

The Ice Cometh: Indianapolis and New York City

As the storm made its way eastward, as many as nine people spent a night or two at the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Indianapolis, where the main threat from the storm was ice. In the days leading up to the event, forecasters Joseph Nield and Crystal Pettet worked on the local forecast grids as part of the National Digital Forecast Database and noted the severity of the system, prompting Nield to refer to the storm in Area Forecast Discussions issued on January 31 as “potentially catastrophic,” a term that would be repeated throughout the local media.

As freezing rain and sleet and wind gusts of 40 mph began lashing the NWS forecast office in Indianapolis, the decision was made to go to generator power in case the commercial power was lost. About a half-hour later, however, employees began to notice problems with the generator. At the same time, power flashes lit up the sky as power lines arced in the wind and transformers were blowing. Electronic Technicians Dave Johnson and Christopher Denman went to work examining the flow line from the main tank into the day tank and noticed that water was freezing in the PVC valve, preventing the flow of diesel fuel into the day tank to be used by the generator. After thawing water in the valve and re-sealing the line, the office returned to generator power, which remained operational until commercial power was restored the next morning.

Ice was also a concern further east in New York City, where John Koch, deputy chief of the Meteorological Services Division for the NWS Eastern Region, deployed to the city’s Office of Emergency Management in order to make sure there was no delay between forecasters making decisions and conveying that information to emergency managers. “Decision Support is a fairly new term within the Weather Service, but the actions that it describes have been going on for decades,” said Koch, who arrived just before noon on February 1 and stayed at the Emergency Operations Center until about 1:30 a.m. on February 2. “We’ve always been there for our primary partners and customers and it’s about providing expert consultation to ensure that they have the most accurate weather information to make those critical decisions that they have to make.”

Working with Partners Across Industry

The forecasters, hydrologists, electronics technicians and others who work at the National Weather Service are part of a nationwide workforce nearly 5,000-strong who, along with thousands of meteorologists from private industry, broadcasting, and the academic and research communities, are part of what’s known as America’s Weather Enterprise.

Throughout the event, NWS employees and their counterparts in the private sector were in lock-step with one another.

“In a lot of ways we complement each other,” said Mike Smith, CEO of WeatherData, Inc., part of AccuWeather, and author of the book, Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. “By individual businesses calling WeatherData and getting their products tailored exactly to their needs by WeatherData, that allows the Weather Service to focus on the needs of the public at large and the needs of governmental officials in making the critical decisions they need to make for the public.”

Smith said that just as NWS couldn’t provide custom-tailored forecasts to individuals and businesses the way forecasting companies in the private sector can, the private sector companies couldn’t do their jobs effectively without the data and information provided by NWS. “We readily acknowledge that the infrastructure that’s provided by the National Weather Service—the radars, the satellites, the weather observations, the computer models—are essential for us to do our work,” he said. “The more we work together, the more we can grow America’s businesses and the more we can grow America’s economy and the more lives we can save.”

The nature of this storm demanded particular attention to putting it in proper historic context, and Paul Gross, broadcast meteorologist and executive producer of weather at WDIV-TV in Detroit, benefited greatly from his relationship with his local NWS office.

“Having worked here for my entire twenty-eight year career, I have developed close friendships and working relationships with many of the meteorologists at the Detroit-Pontiac NWS office,” Gross said. “One in particular, Bill Deedler [observation program leader at the NWS Detroit Weather Forecast Office], shares my passion for historical perspective. I gave Bill a call on my way to work the day the storm was to hit, and we chatted for a good twenty minutes, comparing stories about past storms, and trying to get a sense of where this one would stack up. Having this perspective helped me greatly as I prepared for many consecutive hours of live reporting out in the storm.”

They’d Do it All Again

The ability of the National Weather Service—as well as its partners in government and private industry—to ensure society stays ahead of the storm as well as it did during this event is a testament to not only the resilience and partnerships of America’s Weather Enterprise, but to the dedication and perseverance of the individuals who are a part of it.

“Everything that got accomplished that day was because we all worked really well as a team,” said Hennecke, who, along with every one of her colleagues who were interviewed for this story, said they would do it again if faced with the opportunity. “It’s part of the job and you know that going into an event,” Hennecke said. “Part of my philosophy was I’d really like to get home in one piece, so if that means working extra hours and staying at the office, then it’s totally worth it.

“Absolutely,” exclaimed Hodges. “It was tiring, but I had a blast.”

“I think it’s maybe a can-do personality type of thing,” added Cronce.

WeatherData’s Smith compared the willingness of forecasters to work long hours and go to extreme lengths to get to work—sometimes putting their own personal safety at risk—to that of a first-responder. “There’s no doubt that people being out in that storm were putting their personal safety in at least some jeopardy, but they did it because they know they have a duty,” he said. “Just like a fireman goes toward a burning building when there’s a fire and everyone else runs away, the meteorologists have to go into their office where there’s a major winter storm, because we know lives are at stake.”

NWS Deputy Director Laura Furgione, whose experience as a field forecaster is legend, said, “I’m never surprised to hear stories about our people going to extreme lengths to get to the office and do their job, but I am always amazed. You can’t help but love the men and women of the National Weather Service!”

The protection of life and property is part of the mission of the National Weather Service and it’s one that its employees, from meteorologist interns and Administrative Support Assistants to electronic technicians and forecasters to meteorologists and hydrologists-in-charge take very seriously.

“We’re dedicated to getting the information out to the public, because that’s who we’re serving,” said Smith of the NWS Lincoln, Ill., Weather Forecast Office. “Whatever it takes to get the job done and the information out to the public, we’re certainly willing to do it and I think everybody here has got that same motto: I think it’s whatever it takes, we’ll get it done.”


Forecaster Chuck Hodges of the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Tulsa, Okla., began his shift at 6:00 a.m. and worked straight through until 10:00 p.m. on February 1, 2011, during the epic witner storm that set a new snowfall record for Tulsa. (Photo: Steve Piltz) A view outside the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Tulsa, Okla. during the height of the storm, just before sunrise on February 1, 2011. (Photo: Steve Piltz) A view outside the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Tulsa, Okla. during the height of the storm. The snowplow in the background got stuck on a highway on ramp. (Photo: Steve Piltz)
Temporary sleeping quarters of Bill Lawrence, acting hydrologist-in-charge of the NWS Arkansas Red-Basin River Forecast Center in Tulsa, Okla. (Photo: Steve Piltz) Meteorologist Intern Dave Janowski of the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Tulsa, Okla., ventured outside every hour to take snowfall measurements. Seen here, he is taking the 1:00 p.m. measurement on February 1, 2011, that set a new snowfall record for Tulsa. (Photo: Steve Piltz) Meteorologist Intern Dave Janowski of the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Tulsa, Okla., ventured outside every hour to take snowfall measurements. (Photo: Bruce Sherbon)
Meteorologist Intern Dave Janowski of the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Tulsa, Okla., ventured outside every hour to take snowfall measurements. (Photo: Bruce Sherbon) GOES-East visible satellite image of winter storm, taken at 2115Z (4:15 p.m. EST) on February 1, 2011. (Courtesy: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory | High Resolution Version) GOES-East colorized infrared image of witner storm, taken at 2115Z (4:15 p.m. EST) on February 1, 2011.

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When the blizzards are circling above, is there an Al Gore carcass below?

Incredible dedication! Hats off to all of them!

John Wolf

As has been observed elsewhere, we are a pack not a herd. And given the opportunity to help, most Americans will do so to the utmost of their ability. Thank you NWS people! Six gold stars and three Attaboys.

R. de Haan

Great story, great work, great people. Thanks

Common Sense

Good job, but I’m curious, don’t weather people have the ability to work remotely? Everything is computerized I assume.
In IT, we’re used to pulling some long nights, but these days we do it from home, remotely.

Common Sense says:
February 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm
Good job, but I’m curious, don’t weather people have the ability to work remotely? Everything is computerized I assume.

From my general knowledge of radar systems and high bandwidth communications systems of the type used for marine navigation and weather…
The bandwidth of the radar systems might make that prohibitive… However, I have no particular knowledge of those systems.

Ross Brisbane

Aaron Lewis on Climate Correctly asserts :
February 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm
Lets hope that Oklahoma got enough snow to protect the drought stressed wheat seedlings in the ground from the current freeze. If they did not get enough snow, the little seedlings in the ground will freeze and die, and the wheat crop for the year will be lost. The problem is that with industrial monoculture, if one farm field frosts, then most of the fields will frost, and we will lose most of the southern plains wheat crop.
This may not happen this year, but with the loss of the polar vortex following the 2007 Arctic Ice melt, we have a new climate and our industrial agriculture is not ready. The US wheat crop may not fail in THIS year, but we are on a path where it will fail within the next few years as the weather gets more extreme. On the current path, the only thing that would prevent such crop failure is a refreeze of the Arctic Sea Ice and a return of the NH polar vortex. That is not going to happen in our life time.
We need to plan out agriculture for a climate that does not include the NH polar vortex. We need to plan out social structures to deal with more intense weather, including storms that simply wipe out crops across broad swaths of the country.
All of this is going to keep getting a lot worse until we put a good tight lid on CO2 emissions. Write your congressman.
The global climate now is showing potential in affecting the greatest area of impact – FOOD.
My friends in the US who think this ice and snow is portent of global cooling. The abnormal NH polar vortex is your greatest demon now. It is not to something to be played with lightly. Al Gore comments are simply an indicator in refusing to move on and face the reality that climate change is not a gentle subtle nudge.
In summary CAUSATIONS and indicators of a “bad omen”, a sign, an indicator of what nations at all levels will face. Super Storms, cyclones, torrential downpours, droughts, heat waves and blizzards. I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.
From climate Progress:
If there is any one out there who seriously disputes that extreme weather events were a major contributor to the run-up in food prices, please raise your hand so we can ignore your all of your analyses in the future.
The only serious debate is over the question of whether global warming played a role in the extreme events, particularly the Russian heat-wave/drought/fires and the floods elsewhere.
Scientific American notes that “Many experts have linked the series of floods and fires with climate change.” ABC news talked to 10 scientists for its stories on the subject, which concluded “Raging Waters In Australia and Brazil Product of Global Warming” and that global warming is playing a role in the extreme winter weather.
Russia of course famously banned wheat exports through the 2011 growing season thanks to an event so extreme that even the formerly skeptic Russian leadership made the link to climate — see Russian President Medvedev: “What is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past.” More extreme heat waves are one of the most basic predictions of climate science. Tamino calculated (at length) that global warming made the Moscow heat wave roughly eight times more likely: “Without global warming, this once-in-a-century-or-two event would have been closer to a once-in-a-millenium event.”
The deluge/flooding link is equally strong. Dr. Richard Somerville, a coordinating lead author on the IPCC’s 2007 review of climate science, explained to ABC bluntly:
This is no longer something that’s theory or conjecture or something that comes out of computer models. We’re observing the climate changing. It’s real. It’s happening. It’s scientific fact….
“Because the whole water cycle speeds up in a warming world, there’s more water in the atmosphere today than there was a few years ago on average, and you’re seeing a lot of that in the heavy rains and floods for example in Australia,” Sommervile said.
NOAA found that 2010 was both the hottest year on record and the wettest.
Derek Arndt, chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch in the National Climate Data Center, said 2010 was “an exclamation point on several decades of warming.”
He said NOAA is tracking disasters like the floods in Brazil and Australia. “We are measuring certain types of extreme events that we would expect to see more often in a warming world, and these are indeed increasing,” Arndt said.
In an Exclusive interview with ClimateProgress earlier this year, Kevin Trenberth, head of NCAR’s Climate Analysis Section, explained a key connection between human-caused global warming and superstorms:
“I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.”


Slightly OT, I got a chuckle out of the name Audra Hennecke in the “Deodorant is Important: Kansas City, Mo.” section.
The Lithuanian word for “storm” is “audra”.

Ross Brisbane,
Thanks for your conjectures. Unfortunately for your beliefs, severe weather events such as cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes, along with their associated death totals, have been diminishing. But I get a kick out of your alarmism. It’s fun to scare yourself, isn’t it?☺

Theo Goodwin

Ross Brisbane says:
February 15, 2011 at 3:43 pm
Are you aware that there is not the first hint of science in anything you wrote or reported? If you are, then why are you posting this junk? If you are not, which I suspect, then start with Roy Spencer’s “The Great Global Warming Blunder.” My guess is that you are rather young. This winter in the USA has been topped on several occasions during my lifetime.

Ross Brisbane

Only too happy to oblige. A documentary on SBS Australia highlights the new found awareness of positive response in that we can mitigate and change – THE PLAN.
I know you think you would rather compare statistics and theory as operatives in your re-assurance and insurance plan.
It will get down to a point that your side will keep the paper argument going as long as you can. Eventually it will cave in. Eventually going over old statements about climategates, Gore, IPCC and constant audits of the obvious will all fail.
The winds of dramatic changes are coming through the pipeline. As we see the signs I’m positive and hopeful that the spitefulness and vilification of scientists in this debate can give way to co-operation where we can join hands together and forget the argumentations of the past. Let’s move forward embracing whatever may come with solutions focused on our future and not on our past.
As for storms and violent climate events not happening try fire Storms in Israel, the Philippines records, Brazil, Australia, your violent blizzards, Canada, Pakistan’s floods, the food riots of food shortages in Egypt due to rising sea levels and drought, the record deaths of 12,000 Russians in the heat wave, the wheat crop failures worldwide. Begin to tell that to a farmer in my State QLD Australia that these events do not seem to be increasing.
Things are not just measured in swirling Hurricanes and Cyclone counts. Neither is this “witch” brewing and fuss over air temperatures going to help anyone. Another blind alley witch hunt.
The papers and conjecture by theorists contrary to AGW science and these implied non-extreme events have a track record of failure and rebuttal of the highest quality from scientists. Presently there are approximately over 10 million concerned citizens and organisations responding on the Internet – this grassroots movement will grow ever larger and will increase. It is a democratic process in the face of powerful media forces and rough handed politics that seek to entrench us in consumerism of yesterday and all in the guise of a quality of life.
I predict that a movement will be generated on the Internet so powerful from the grassroots of humanity that will it circumvent every single “do nothing” government of the globe in regards to CO2 mitigation. The world as we know it is going to change democratically. It won’t be the UN or some President or some Dictator.
It is unfortunate that a conservative theology creates the doomsday overlay and fatalism in our minds and that we can do nothing to change. It is also unfortunate that we are still locked in right-wing verses left-wing thinking that I often see. We need think think outside of this to make progress.

Ross Brisbane,
I enjoyed your rant, complete with its selective cherry-picking. Unfortunately for you, the meme of increasing natural disasters has been repeatedly debunked:
Say Hi to Barrie for me.☺

here that kind of snow is just Tuesday!


Anyone who lived in east central MN during the fall of 1991 will never forget the Halloween Blizzard. Outside of what would become an incredibly narrow band, this time is better know as “The Perfect Storm.” Alas, we didn’t get a book, or even a movie. However, it was the most amazing snowstorm I’ve ever experience in more than 55 years of life, and I’ve lived in some pretty cold and snowy places over the years.
I am a professional forester, and was working in the woods on Halloween, which fell on Thursday that year. Had been a more-or-less typical fall, some cold weather, but no snow yet to speak of. It was cloudy most of the day, and to those of us experienced in northern climates, it was a “snow” sky. It got colder during the day, and started to snow about 1400. By the time I got home and my daughters went out trick-or-treating, there was 5-6 inches on the ground and snowing hard.
Will give you the Reader’s Digest version. This storm, blocked from any further eastward movement by the trifecta of storms over maritime Canada, stalled out and dumped snow on us until finally moving out on SUNDAY morning.
In the town where I lived at the time (Cloquet), we got 45 inches of snow. If you don’t believe me, as Casey Stengel said, “you could look it up.” At that time, my wife worked as a foreman in the local pulp and paper mill, pulled a double shift because her relief couldn’t make it in from outside of town. Mills don’t shut down for just a little bit of snow.
On Monday when I went back to work, the temperature was -20 – and that is Fahrenheit for those who drink the irrational unit based metric system.
The most amazing part of this storm, is that 50 miles either side of the center line of the cold front, those areas got at most, a dusting. We had a large low pressure system anchored over Hudson Bay, with the trailing end of the cold front stuck in the Gulf of Mexico. Pulled moisture north for the better part of 3 days.

“Common Sense says:
February 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm
Good job, but I’m curious, don’t weather people have the ability to work remotely? Everything is computerized I assume.
In IT, we’re used to pulling some long nights, but these days we do it from home, remotely.”
Bandwidth requirements are just too high. Plus, there are important coordination issues with other forecasters so the forecast elements mesh correctly. When you are dealing with, for example, a tornado moving at a mile a minute, seconds matter.
Mike Smith

Jason Joice

I lived through this one. Got awakened at about 2:30 with a call from the ER. A little boy had fallen off his bed and broken his arm. The precipitation wasn’t supposed to start in my area til about 6 am. When I backed my car out of the garage, we had about 4″ of ice/sleet/heavy snow mix. I right then that it was going to be a bad one. It took me about an hour to sedate him, set his arm, get it splinted and check the X-rays. On my way home, there was about 6 inches. The wind was so strong from the North, that I almost got blown straight into the ditch driving on an East-West road. Yikes! By noon the next day we had about 14 inches.
Little of that had melted when we got about 15″ from the next blast. I’ve never seen anything like that “around these parts”. Neither has my father or my 84 year old grandfather. It truly was a 100 year event.

Ross Brisbane

Smokey you have highlighted graphs that really do not show the whole picture.
“So the debate continues. No clear consensus exists linking the frequency and intensity
of extreme weather events to changes in climate patterns, but it would be reckless to not expect that climate change will have some impact on extreme weather events. Today there are over six billion people living on the earth, often in areas that are known to be vulnerable to extreme weather events. The potential for catastrophic damage and lost of lives is enormous.
There is urgent need for a better understanding of the changing climate patterns and how they affect extreme weather events. Further study, especially on the natural variability and cycles of extreme weather events as well as data on a smaller (i.e., local) scale is required ”
And the
It is in DETAIL and experience of them and not in graphs that reveal the real die hard picture. A few years ago global warming was debated with charts plotting the temperatures. I am over the charting stages and find based on that charting there is sufficient evidence to move on to focus on mitigation rather then constantly churning over the data. I will of course track emerging trends but I have little time for fantasy and Disneyland fairy tales of data from the brink of the twilight zone.
Things have moved and so should some here. Focus on the events instead and then correlate it for your own safety and your families. Begin to track those events that are life threatening and shift your focus in educating yourself as to why they are happening and plan for the next year! Get your mind off Al Gore vilification and CLIMATEGATES – THEY WILL NOT help you!
As I said LIMITING EXTREME EVENTS to Tropical lows in the graphs is taking the “whole canvass” and snipping it up. A picture within a picture is not the whole picture.
Some imply I am a youngster here. No! I am one of millions over 50 years of age concerned by climate change and wish to be a participant in the dialog to bring about change through the Internet. And if one who considered all, finds alternative facts to be true enough then that one becomes a citizen of hope that will place pressure on all governments of the world to act and protect their citizens.

Richard Patton

Having been a forecaster for the Navy I can tell you that WxGuessers are a bit nuts too. The worse the weather got the more fun I found it.

Pamela Gray

I am a direct decedent of folks who fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. I am the great-granddaughter of a man who came West over the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon, and the granddaughter of folks who survived the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. The family history is filled, I mean FILLED with great weather disasters. And I live in a valley that has multiple, still visible moraines from advancement and retreat of glaciers and the great floods that follow. Anyone here who thinks that these current disasters are unusual as well as anthropogenic are…well…you just can’t fix stupid.

Pamela Gray

descendant, idiot, DESCENDANT! Posted and hit the spell checker after a glass of red wine, a decedent bite of 90% cacoa, and a spoonful of cold meds.

Pamela Gray

cacao you imbecile, cacao! You just can’t fix stipud.

WillR February 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm

From my general knowledge of radar systems and high bandwidth communications systems of the type used for marine navigation and weather…
The bandwidth of the radar systems might make that prohibitive… However, I have no particular knowledge of those systems.

There was only a requirement for a T1 (DS1 or a 1.544 MegaBit/sec) circuit from a WSR-88D site back to the hosting service (usually the local NWS office) … with upgrades that may have changed in recent years since there is higher-res data available now …

Ross Brisbane February 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Things have moved and so should some here. Focus on the events instead and then correlate it for your own safety and your families. Begin to track those events that are life threatening and shift your focus in educating yourself as to why they are happening and plan for the next year! Get your mind off Al Gore vilification and CLIMATEGATES – THEY WILL NOT help you! …

Thanks; good advice.
Now, about your headlong march into the sea ..

Pamela Gray February 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm
descendant, idiot, DESCENDANT! Posted and hit the spell checker after a glass of red wine, a decedent bite of 90% cacoa, and a spoonful of cold meds.

Coca (Erythroxylum coca) maybe? < grin >


@Rob Brisbane: Fire storms in Israel? How about a 14 year old boy smoking a hookah? Took about .01 seconds on Google.
I don’t have the time or inclination to debunk the rest of your rant, but it will probably get the reception here that it deserves.

Ross Brisbane,
It would be hopeless to try and educate you about the climate null hypothesis; cognitive dissonance has its iron grip on your psyche, and you’ve become a true believer in runaway global warming and climate catastrophe. But for those who follow the scientific method, the null hypothesis has repeatedly falsified the CO2=CAGW conjecture.
Nothing that is happening now is new or unusual; it has all happened before countless times during the Holocene. Ross just gets a thrill out of scaring himself with ghost stories. He’s worried about the black cat in his room… but when we turn on the lights for him, there is no black cat. And there never was. The climate is behaving completely normally, as can be shown in countless charts and graphs [available on request].
Unlike the CO2=CAGW conjecture, the null hypothesis has never been falsified. CO2 is a harmless and beneficial trace gas, essential to all life on earth. But those CO2 ghost stories are just too thrilling to resist, aren’t they?

P.G. Sharrow

Thank god for Pamela Grey! Redheads are more fun. 🙂 pg


Love these stories. I first got interested in weather by reading “Storm” by George Stewart. It may be out of date, but it’s still a classic.
Someone ought to write an updated version, I’d buy it.


Having surveyed in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley in March and April of 2004, I appreciate the gung ho magnet. The project, my project, is too important. Or not.
We all owe these scientists a thank you.
I really appreciate the ones who had to relaunch to radiosond balloon.
To all the dedicated meteorologists out there. Thanks again for all your hard work.
We do rely on your forcasts, which means my family is in your hands.
Thanks again for all you do.

Oliver Ramsay

So, who makes the most sense? Pamela after ONE? glass of red wine, or Aussie Ross straight up?

anna v

It is good to see that dedication to the job at hand is not out of fashion. Thanks for the report.

Alexander K

Aussie Ross, it’s still just weather. Go to a scary movie – has a similar effect, but you won’t feel you’ve made a galah of yourself when the sun comes up in the morning and you realise your disbelief was suspended.

Brian H

RB performs a valuable service; keeps us from forgetting or discounting just how whacked the Warm-alarmists really are. Whew!

David L

When there is major snow I connect to the corporate computer system through the internet and work from home. I find I actually accomplish more becsuse I’m not constantly being disturbed by impromptu office visits!

A C Osborn

These guys show true dedictation to their jobs. Hats off to them.
Ross B is so sad & deluded, I feel really sorry for him.

Ross Brisbane

Your response is truly unwarranted when all the factors are considered.
Lack of compassion and thoughtfulness is another. A bit of emotional intelligence would not go astray either.
From your reference:
Forty-two people died in the forest fires near Haifa in Israel. Photograph: Rex Features
Israeli police say they have arrested the “prime suspect” in the
nation’s worst wildfire –
a 14-year-old boy who says the blaze was an accident.
Let’s read it a bit more carefully next time.
Here are few more facts:
1. DROUGHT ——-
Storms hit Israel, Egypt
Cairo was hidden in fog during cold weather on Saturday
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Winds of over 100 km per hour lashed Israel on Saturday, knocking down power lines and trees and sweeping one person into the sea. Egypt closed 10 ports because of high waves and sandstorms.
In the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, a 41-year-old Russian tourist was blown off the promenade into the sea and was missing and feared dead, public radio reported.
Police were unable to search for the missing man because of the stormy seas, it reported.
The winds knocked down power lines and trees, causing power cuts across Israel, said the state-run Electricity Company. The Parks Authority shut several nature
reserves in the southern Negev desert because of the possibility of flash floods.
Weathermen warned that there could be floods in large parts of the country, especially in the area hit by last week’s devastating forest fire near the port city of Haifa in northern Israel.
The storm, which is expected to peak on Saturday night, brings the first rains of the winter about two months late and comes after a long period of drought which was one of the main causes of the fire.
2. Eucalyptus trees are not native to Israel. The first successful acclimatization of the most popular form of eucalyptus (E. camaldulensis) occurred in 1884 at the Mikveh Yisrael Agricultural School in the center of the country. Soon afterwards the trees were planted in many new settlements and villages.
Eucalyptus entered popular Israeli culture for their association with the draining of swamps in the center of the country. They were also used to line roads, create shady forests, and supply wood.
Now I hope your taking the precautions necessary for your own safety when it comes to those blizzards. Stay safe and NEVER LOSE YOUR SENSE of humanity.


@Ross Brisbane:
In Chicago we had our third worst winter snow event in over 100 years. Our worse snow event was in 1967. So, with global warming spinning completely out of control shouldn’t this storm have been our worse storm ever? Gore tells us these climatic changes will make things worse. Why wasn’t this storm even more than horrendous than previous storms from over 40 years before? CO2 is going up and up and up. The weather should be worse than 40 years ago.
If the history I was taught in school in the Chicago area was true, the land I currently live on was once covered by a glacier over a mile thick. Who was driving the SUV that destroyed those glaciers? If you ask me the weather in Chicago has been pretty nice the last ten years. Back in the early 1970’s I remember summers with multiple days above 100 degrees. I haven’t seen summers like that in 30 plus years. And yet CO2 continues to go UP and UP and UP.
What you are quoting are “weather” events. Climate is over a longer time frame. History didn’t just start when you were born. You have to look over the years before you were born to see what weather was like previously.


@RWS, you should read Mike Smith’s book, “Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather”. There are some great weather stories in there.

I’ve been wondering. When the snow melts, unless there is a huge sure in evaporation or sea ice, that’s going to absorb a lot of heat. How much are temperature likely to plummet in the next month? Is it a lot more than usual?


RE: “aaron says:
February 16, 2011 at 8:49 am
I’ve been wondering. When the snow melts, unless there is a huge surge in evaporation or sea ice, that’s going to absorb a lot of heat. How much are temperature likely to plummet in the next month? Is it a lot more than usual?”
We discussed on this site the subject of what becomes of all the latent heat released by a big blizzard, during the storms of last winter. I wound up with the sense there is no real way to measure the various transfers of energy, despite the fact they are rather huge, when you do back-of-the-envelope calculations.
It takes energy to melt and evaporate water. The energy then exists in a latent form in water vapor. When that vapor is swept up to twice the height of Mount Everest, and condensed and frozen, the latent energy is released. Much is released at an attitude where there is little “greenhouse gas” to prevent the energy from being lost to outer space. Therefore, in theory at least, a big storm would be an effective safety valve, venting excess energy from the earth’s surface. (Conversely, a lack of storms and bright sunshine would add energy.)
The problem seems to be there are no statistical blips that demonstrate the effects of latent energy. Just about the only evidence that supports my hunch that this “venting” indeed does happen is the path of cold water a hurricane leaves behind it, as it crosses the sea, and many state this is due to upwelling caused by the low barometric pressure.
Interestingly, the person who got me wondering about latent energy was Hansen himself. He was attempting to explain away the “missing heat,” and in a rather off-hand manner he stated it “might” have been used up melting glaciers and icecaps.
Latent heat is such a huge part of our H2O-based system that I think further discussion of how it works would be profitable.
Does anyone know of good discussions about the subject?


Regarding the back-of-the-envelope calculations about the energy released by a big blizzard: As I recall Lubos Motl actually did them, on his site. The results were an eye-opener.
Those inclined towards math might like to try it. Get the number for how much latent energy is released when a gram of water vapor condenses to water, and add it to how much latent energy is released when a gram of water freezes to snow. Multiply that number by how many grams of water were in a square foot of snow, after the blizzard in Oklahoma. Then multiply that by the area of Oklahoma, in square feet. Because all the snow that fell in Oklahoma was once all water vapor over more tropical places, the total amount you come up with is the amount of energy released in the transfer of that water. As I recall, it is an amount that makes a hydrogen bomb look petty.
Then realize that snow was all melted by a warm spell that followed the blizzard. At this point you have to do the equation in reverse. A huge amount of energy is consumed. (An anti-Hydrogen-bomb, I suppose.)
These are the numbers that need to be crunched in climate models. However, as much energy is released at a high altitude and much consumed at ground level, some adjustment must be made. If that adjustment is not absolutely correct, the model will go haywire, and the further into the future you go, the more haywire it will be.
It is a lot fun, if you are into mathematics, but the results are nothing I’d be willing to bet my farm on.


Bravo Zulu to all those NWS folks. Good job and here’s hoping you don’t have to do it too often.

I may be confused, but I vaguely remember a post/paper by Pielke Sr. that one of the take-aways was that temp. determines the water vapor capacity, but sunlight is the primary determinant of actual evaporation. Pressure drops from wind would also. So when it’s clear skies, the amount of GHGs would also be very high. The focus of the paper was land use change effects on regional climate.
For the life of me I can’t find it now (it was several years ago, and I might have the author wrong).

The Motl post was probably winter 2009 (I think around dec). I remember that too, ignoring changes in ice, rain, evaporation, the increased snow fall account for a full .2C or the temp. anamoly.

Sorry for all the typo, my fingers are just not working this week.

Ross Brisbane

I want to say a few things about these wild weather events.
1. When we look at the cause and the extent of these blizzards and snow falls over your nation one thing becomes very clear – the WIDESPREAD nature of those events. The same applies to the Russian heatwave, the Pakistan floods, the Brazilian floods, the Australian floods. Its the scale of these events that are indicators of climate out of equilibrium.
I’ll give an exmaple: The Rockhampton flood QLD Australia: Whilst the regional level of the river flooding did not exceed the levels of previous floods it caused massive interruption by flooding of homes. What is amazing is how high the river stayed over weeks. It was no flash event. So much water was dumped on Australia from the most entrenched La Nina ever recorded in historical records that the desert salt pan Lake Eyre will be filled a second year in a row. The Coral sea is the warmest on record. Your temperatures in Summer despite the former winter had widespread heat waves. The heat in the tropical regions of our globe is severe warming in the seas. The hot spots in some parts of our oceans are driving climate and as it is a stored energy source.
The global events are an indicator of warming not cooling. Patterns of warmer climate are showing up in winter is some of the most bizarre places. Sweden had the warmest winter temperatures on record. Canada experienced this as well.
What I find unfair from you fellow American’s is that you cannot just judge Global climate and its trends by your 2.6% of the earth’s surface. When I support the idea of global warming I look for events on huge scales. I do not just look at records here and records there. It is a giant picture and anyone with common sense will see global warming.
Look at the scale of some of these events:

The biggest worry is the ivory tower denial type papers coming out looking at and navel gazing on old graphs and climategates. This is 2011 folks – things and science moves on. Allow science to self correct itself. But please no matter old or young you are this is not set in cement.
Just be:
1. prepared and
2. start to believe the warnings
3. heed them.
4. Take action and measure you can do yourself.
Indicators of globalized warming:
1. Extra Water vapor free in upper atmosphere.
2. Record abnormal circulations of atmospheric flows
3. Extreme BLOCKING events such the La Nina record and the Russian heatwave.
4. Severe torrential downpours
All these are classified as extreme events and classical signs that the globe is warming.
I predict heat waves for your nation this coming Summer.
Did it ever occur to those who wondered about the energy released in these storms that the heat under all that snow is held in?
And all should check this out and put your thinking cap on – snow on the ground once settled plateaus the plummeting temperatures and minimum temperature rises.
Estimated 80% of radiative forcing of CO2 goes into the oceans. Ocean HEAT determines our climate NOT how the air feels in America. This ocean heat puts the water vapor up there. Your Northern Pole is bruised and is “lashing” back..

R. Ed Neck

Ross in Brisbane,
There are a couple of things that I think you have not considered. Having just returned from Brisbane, I became aware of a significant effort on your government’s part to convince its people that runaway climate change is happening, and will continue to do so. It is difficult for me alone, through the weakness of my words that will convince you of otherwise. Your conservative government makes Canada’s socialists look positively Republican by comparison.
However, I do suspect that we are better informed today through the internet. Whether that better information is the result of actual knowledge is debatable, as there is significant FUD created by those who have any opinion and access to a server. However, I know more about the weather in Beijing today than my parents did about the weather in Saskatchewan 20 years ago. The question remains as to whether or not I have actual data or if I have information that has been pre-digested.
Additionally, I can absolutely assure you – Canada has not experienced its warmest winter ever. That is bunkum that our CBC (a left leaning organization that needs to be disbanded) has propogated. Winters in the late 80’s and early 90’s were far warmer. What is unusual about this winter is the volume of snow experienced.
Finally, as a Canadian I can further guarantee you that I fear global cooling FAR greater than I fear global warming. This is not a light hearted comment. Global cooling will create issues far more wide reaching than a couple of degrees added on to mean global temperatures. Crop failures, people freezing to death, and a general slowdown of work processes will mean that the world’s poor will suffer far greater than they do already.
I won’t begin to try to understand HOW your government or any others have determined that a CO2 tax will stop the runaway heating processes that supposedly are or have occurred. The sun has far greater implications in one dayfor our world than all of mankinds contributions since the industrial revolution.
We do need to understand climate change, not by correcting our behaviours immediately, but by starting with actual causes – not some hairbrained fantasy dreamed up by those who would profit from this.
You and I will never agree on this topic, however I do applaud your courage and research. I just think that your sources have been rather tainted. And you probably feel the same way about mine. The difference is that I would not dare to suggest that I am absolutely correct – I am only suggesting that I am uncertain whether our climate change is warming.

Ross Brisbane

Just The Facts
Looks like Alaska is having a heat wave. Its called INVERSION of flow air currents in case you do not realize it.
problems in the mountains
Occasionally the wind defies all common sense reasoning and visualization. When this occurs it is usually due to one or a combination of the following:
terrain modification
valley breeze
mountain breeze
(This discussion is limited to the northern hemisphere)
A quick review of some basic weather phenomena helps make the point. Circulation refers simply to the movement of air about the earth’s surface. The sun heats the Earth’s surface unevenly. The most direct rays strike near the equator, heating the equatorial regions more than the polar regions. The equatorial region re-radiates to space less heat than is received from the sun, while the reverse is true at the poles.
Yet the equator does not continue to get hotter and hotter, nor does the polar region get colder. The only explanation is that heat is transferred from one latitude to another by the actual transport of air.”
Heatwave in Alaska in Winter?
I wonder how Canada’s doing now.
You all know that snow cover in Winter does not equate to global cooling don’t you?
I have my own hypothesis and it’s simple folks:
We are holding more energy in from the sun.
This extra energy destabilizes known patterns of climate over a century.
There is a delay as CO2 ppm increases in affects on climate sensitivity – now just below 400 ppm. The oceans drive climate as the extra energy is stored more in the oceans – not air currents, not water vapor, clouds or otherwise. These are RESPONDENTS not climate drivers.
Water Vapor and its activity MAGNIFIES the greenhouse effect and is in itself a POTENT greenhouse gas when in the water vapor state in the Upper Atmosphere. Water vapor actually IMPEDES the release of the the earth’s day light energy budget to space. We see the effect of climate and the laws of dynamic flows of energy going to equilibrium.
The root cause: The well known and provable law of physics based on the radiative collective nature of more CO2 as a result of burning of fossil fuels. The null hypothesis is nothing but a theory and that null hypothesis is useless and baseless because it is based on an implausible set of a parameters. How can I prove the earth will rise 3 degrees Celsius in 100 years. I cannot. I can only base this on present calculations and the trends we see around us. Roy Spencer’s weird cloud theory suggests they drive climate – another impossible to prove theory. Well to put bluntly how can clouds drive climate? The affect is temporal but are NOT an overarching driver. Neither is 2.6 % of global surface (USA) because you have had blizzards and snow going to do ditty squat to global warming.
So next time don’t confuse applying a Null hypothesis to AGW. It should be directed to climate sensitivity. They are not the same.

Ross Brisbane,
The climate null hypothesis has nothing to do with climate sensitivity. It simply compares past climate actions with the current climate. And there is no difference.