Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Storm Force

Monday, October 25th, 2010

A serious fall storm is approaching. Here is the synopsis from the offshore weather forecast from the National Weather Service:

.SYNOPSIS...A LOW PRESSURE TROUGH OF 29.4 INCHES OVER THE UPPER GREAT
LAKES WILL DISSIPATE THIS AFTERNOON AS A LOW PRESSURE TROUGH OF 29.1
INCHES EMERGES OVER THE PLAINS STATES. LOW PRESSURE OF 28.9 INCHES
WILL THEN ORGANIZE ALONG THE TROUGH OVER MINNESOTA TONIGHT. LOOK FOR
THE LOW TO DEEPEN TO 28.4 INCHES AS IT MOVES TO NEAR INTERNATIONAL
FALLS MINNESOTA BY TUESDAY EVENING. AS THE LOW MOVES ACROSS NORTHERN
ONTARIO TUESDAY NIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY NIGHT...IT WILL GRADUALLY
WEAKEN TO 29.1 INCHES. THE LOW WILL THEN MOVE TO QUEBEC THURSDAY AS
HIGH PRESSURE OF 30.4 INCHES SETTLES OVER THE PLAINS STATES. THE HIGH
WILL THEN MOVE TO THE GREAT LAKES AND OHIO VALLEY FRIDAY.

Here is the offshore forecast:

LAKE SUPERIOR EAST OF A LINE FROM MANITOU ISLAND TO MARQUETTE MI
AND WEST OF A LINE FROM GRAND MARAIS MI TO THE US/CANADIAN BORDER
BEYOND 5NM FROM SHORE-
959 AM EDT MON OCT 25 2010

...GALE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY MORNING THROUGH TUESDAY
AFTERNOON...
...STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH LATE
WEDNESDAY NIGHT...

.REST OF TODAY...SOUTH WINDS 5 TO 15 KNOTS BACKING SOUTHEAST BY
MID AFTERNOON. ISOLATED RAIN SHOWERS. WAVES 3 TO 5 FEET SUBSIDING
TO CALM TO 2 FEET.
.TONIGHT...SOUTHEAST WINDS 10 TO 20 KNOTS INCREASING TO 20 TO
30 KNOTS AFTER MIDNIGHT. A CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. WAVES BUILDING
TO 4 TO 7 FEET.
.TUESDAY...SOUTHEAST GALES TO 40 KNOTS BECOMING SOUTH GALES TO
45 KNOTS BY MID AFTERNOON. RAIN SHOWERS AND A SLIGHT CHANCE OF
THUNDERSTORMS THROUGH EARLY AFTERNOON...THEN A CHANCE OF RAIN
SHOWERS. WAVES BUILDING TO 12 TO 17 FEET.
.TUESDAY NIGHT...SOUTHWEST STORM FORCE WINDS TO 50 KNOTS. A
CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. WAVES BUILDING TO 20 TO 25 FEET.
.WEDNESDAY...SOUTHWEST STORM FORCE WINDS TO 55 KNOTS BECOMING
WEST STORM FORCE WINDS TO 60 KNOTS BY MID AFTERNOON. RAIN SHOWERS
LIKELY. WAVES BUILDING TO 25 TO 30 FEET.
.WEDNESDAY NIGHT...WEST STORM FORCE WINDS TO 55 KNOTS DIMINISHING
TO GALES TO 40 KNOTS AFTER MIDNIGHT. A CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS.
WAVES SUBSIDING TO 15 TO 20 FEET.
.THURSDAY...NORTHWEST GALES TO 35 KNOTS DIMINISHING TO 20 TO
30 KNOTS. A CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. WAVES SUBSIDING TO 5 TO
8 FEET.

Note the 60 knots of wind and 25-30 foot seas on wednesday. That is around 70mph of wind!

Here is a chart of the storm for tuesday morning from the National Weather Service:

Click on the image to see it enlarged. Note the size of the storm. It covers a huge amount of area, larger than the middle of the US from the gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border.

Now see what it is forecasted to do wednesday morning:

You can see it intensify on wednesday. Note the number of lines and how closely spaced they are, this indicates the intensity/speed of the wind. Very similar to a topo map where the lines indicate the contour/steepness of the land.

On the Beaufort Scale this ranks as a force 11, a violent storm. The next and final step is hurricane force which is over 64 knots or 73 mph of wind. Some wind scales list the effect on land of this wind as: Large limbs knocked down; powerlines knocked down; a few house shingles torn off.

This storm is stronger off shore than along the shore, thanks to the wind blowing off the land onto the lake. Otherwise, the Marquette shoreline would be an interesting place the next couple of days.

sam

Where the Wind Blows…

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

A somewhat daunting title for a book about weather in the area I am about to go paddling!  Atlantic Canada is known for it’s “fickle” weather (I am quoting from the back cover of the book) and this book offers insights into local weather conditions we may encounter on our journey along the south coast of Newfoundland.  It also provides an excellent overview of marine weather, in general.  Great illustrations, clear and easy to understand descriptions (OK, there are still plenty I don’t understand about marine weather…though I imagine meteorologists will also say they are still learning.)

But, it’s been a great book to read in prep for our trip this summer!  I purchased it from tidespoint.com.

“Whatever the weather, it is my weather and I must do my best to enjoy it.”  Tori McClure, A Pearl in the Storm (book about rowing across the Atlantic)

Nancy

Lake Superior Ice

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Its been a light year regarding ice on Lake Superior, here is a NASA satellite shot from 3-5-10:

LakeSuperior 3-5-10

Here is the view on 3-3-09:

LakeSuperior 3-3-09

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

I remember the late ’90s and early ’00s  after I moved here, spring came early. Some years I was out camping on Grand Island by mid march to late march. Recent years have seen blizzards dumping multiple feet of snow in mid april and cooler weather into late may. Needless to say, camping prior to may has been rare.

These recollections are matched by National Weather Service data. The last frost in spring/early summer is occurring later in recent years. Also the first frost in the late summer/early fall is occurring later. Climate change appears to be shifting the seasons locally.

With the light ice cover, there are some people optimistic about an early spring. Yeah right is the usual response I hear and for good reason. Living in the UP there is a storm sometime around St Patty’s Day, recent years it has been a big dump of snow.

Whatever comes, this weekend looks like a great weekend to be out doing some spring paddling. Of course, the skis are not being put away just yet.

sam

Weather – Current Conditions

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Sitting in the bunkhouse at the CPR Slip on northwestern lake Superior, I listened intently to the forecast. I didn’t expect to make it here yesterday. Thunderstorms were forecasted and then disappeared from the forecast. The 25 knot headwinds, despite my mutterings, stayed. I worked hard to get here knowing there were buildings, a protected location and a place to pull out (the photo shows wh06495_23-wb.jpgat the area’s shoreline is like). It paid off. Despite yesterdays forecast, today was not a day to be paddling. Wind rattled the building and didn’t match the forecast. Eventually by 7am the buoys on the lake told of a gale (winds over 35 knots) blowing. By 11am the forecast changed, it now called for a gale.

Everywhere I have paddled, the weather forecast includes current conditions for both land stations and buoys. As a paddler, listening to the current reports gives me information – whats the winds and wave heights currently? What are they to the west of my location? Do they match the forecast? In the case of sitting at the CPR Slip, I didn’t need to consider going out and even check on conditions. The buoys told me to stay put.

Click here for NOAA’s website with this information from sites all around the world. Click here for sites on Lakes Superior & Michigan.

Like a forecast, I usually don’t do a paddle without first checking the buoy reports. Over time and in many different places, I have found these reports to be accurate. Land stations can be more problematic. For example the USCG Station in Marquette is in a protected location, so the wind report has not been accurate. However, some unique sites like Stannard Rock and Rock of Ages are both lighthouses literally built on rocks in the lake. Their reports usually represent current conditions.

The gale at the CPR Slip appeared to blow itself out by 2pm that day. Local winds dropped and the clouds indicated the storm was clearing out. Thanks to buoy reports, I also knew conditions on the open lake were settling. It made the decision to launch and cover 10 miles easier despite a forecast for the gale to continue.

sam

Weather – Observation Skills

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

On a rugged & remote coastline, receiving a current forecast is not guaranteed. But if a forecast is one of the primary safety items, what does one do, not paddle? There have been occasions like this for me. It can be scary sitting on the west coast of Ireland or Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlottes, places where the sea’s reputation require caution and a forecast.

More common though is an inaccurate forecast, one that as soon as you receive it, you know it is wrong. I have received these everywhere, from an afternoon paddle in Marquette to many an overnight trip

Observation skills provide a chance to not only check the accuracy of a forecast, but to make a forecast in the absence of one. Here are some photos, they are thumbs so you can click on them to see a larger version.

20976_07.jpg20976_08.jpg20976_10.jpg20976_24.jpg

The clouds in these photos taken over several days tell about the storm.

Seeing those clouds descending in the first photo, shows the forecast for a storm was accurate and it was going to last a bit. When clouds descend over 12+ hours like this, it is a sign of a low pressure system, a system that generally brings stormy weather that can last days.

The middle two photos shows the progress of the storm. The second one in addition to the clouds, shows the rain, a sign of a front passing. The third one is when the storm is at its peak, note how low the clouds sit.

The fourth one shows the storm moving on as the clouds have started to lift. Note the surf.

A more threatening situation is a strong & fast changing wind called a squall line. Check out the thumb below:

06507_04.jpg

This photo was taken in the Rossport Islands on northwest Lake Superior. Note the presence of blue sky and several different clouds layers. The dark bottomed clouds just starting to pass over us brought winds that gusted 30+ knots for 20+ minutes. After the line passed, the previous conditions returned with winds around 10-15 knots. These are some of the most dangerous conditions to encounter, primarily because how fast the winds increase and how strong they can become. We saw it coming 10+ minutes before the winds struck and tucked into the protection of the shore to wait it out. These squall lines can strike anytime there is a strong, unstable weather pattern, most commonly around thunderstorms.

The photo was taken in october. Original plan was to make the 6 mile crossing out to the nearby Slate Islands. Given the instability of the forecast (it changed every 6-12 hours) and the strength of the winds, we alternated to the closer and more protected Rossport Islands.

Finally, check out this thumb:

20990_10.jpg

These were the last clouds of the system that the first four thumbs showed coming in, four days prior. Note the cumulus (cauliflower like) clouds to the west. I kept my eyes on these clouds for quite a while. They can develop into a thunderstorm. In addition to the lightning, the high winds associated with thunderstorms are also a danger. After a while, their threat receded, they neither built (grew taller & wider) nor did more cumulus appear in the afternoon. Both developments that would cause me to become more cautious.

On Isle Royale, I watched a thunderstorm build over Thunder Bay during the afternoon. The sky overhead stayed clear. After dinner around 7 or 8pm I sat watching the lightning and the towering cumulus 20-50 miles away. This is the scene in the first thumb below.

I watched some clouds come off of the thunderstorm and head straight towards my camp – a squall line! This is the scene in the blurry second thumb below. It covered 20 miles in under 30 minutes. Winds gusted to 35 knots for 20-30 minutes before the rest of the thunderstorm caught up. It rained steadily for the next couple of hours with 10-15 knot winds. By the next morning the storm had moved on leaving behind calm conditions.

06505_03.jpg 06505_04.jpg

Observational skills come with study (click here for references) and time spent on weather observation. Having a forecast is a critical safety item. Having the ability to observe the weather and make simple predictions adds to safety.

sam

Weather References

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

For years I read or should say, tried to read books to get a greater understanding of the weather. But what I found was a topic prone to a lot of theory. This means it is tough to understand how to apply it when sitting in a sea kayak. Here are three references I use because they are practical and are written for the general public, not a meteorologist. All have increased my observation skills and in turn, increased my forecasting skills.weatherhandbook.jpg

The Weather Handbook by Alan Watts

A book with theory alongside practical information. Most of the practical information is placed in the context of how it fits in with the theory. There is a lot of information included that I have not seen elsewhere and it has helped to develop my weather forecasting skills. The author is a former British meteorologist who honed his practical weather knowledge to improve his sailboat racing.

Wind, Weather and Waves by Environment Canadawindweatherwaves.jpg

A practical guide to weather in the Great Lakes with great pictures and very good information. There is information specific to the Great Lakes that helps to explain some weather patterns that are rarely seen elsewhere. But much of the information is applicable to any place near a large body of water.

Instant Weather Forecasting by Alan Watts

weatherforecasting.gifA guidebook that provides information on what the clouds currently tell you and what the future may bring. Mostly pictures with a reasonable amount of text describing the situation. Even more practical than what is found in The Weather Handbook which is a great companion for the associated weather theory.

A word of warning, some of these books maybe out of print. Best to scoop them up!

sam

Weather

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Weather Map from http://www.weather.gov/outlook_tab.phpLaunched mid morning thursday to beat the forecast’s increasing winds. The catch was, the winds had already increased. In addition, the cloud cover matched what was forecasted for later too. Conditions tell you about the forecast. In this case, the forecast was accurate but it was off time wise. In this case the storm forecasted to arrive this evening, could be expected sooner.

Weather forecasts are predictions of current & future weather. Every paddler needs to check the forecast before launching. But everyone complains about weather forecasts as being wrong so does one ignore forecasts?

Only at your own peril. There is the story of the two paddlers in a double at Pictured Rocks. They paddled into a major storm that was predicted several days ahead of time and were trapped by the rapid change in conditions. They were plucked off the cliffs by a US Coast Guard helicopter. I know a guide who had a group on the water during this time. No rescues needed there, he knew the forecast and stayed in a safe place.

A forecast is more than air temps, chance of rain, wind speed, wave height, etc., there is additional information. There are trends to expect – are the winds speeding up or slowing down, are they changing direction, etc. There is timing – when is the wind changing?

This morning I knew from the wind & cloud cover, the storm was arriving early. The rain started at 4pm instead of the forecasted 7pm. Can a paddler use this? You bet. Do you push on or hold up? Setup camp now to be ready for a storm arriving early, or push on to cover additional miles with a later arriving storm.

Having a forecast can help prevent a helicopter ride. Reading between the lines can help adjust paddling plans to any unforecasted weather changes.

sam