Careful! It’s Slippery Out There!
November 28, 2016
I love the winter! It’s always fun to play in the snow. But did you know that the winter can bring other types of precipitation besides snow? Other forms of wintry precipitation include freezing rain and sleet.
One really cool weather fact is that water can be liquid below 32°F, when it is supposed to freeze! This is called supercooled water. Freezing rain can happen when snow falls through warm air (above freezing) and melts into rain before it falls into cold air right at the surface. It is supercooled, so it stays liquid even through the cold air until it hits the ground. Upon hitting the ground, freezing rain immediately turns into ice. If there is a significant amount of freezing rain, with more than ¼ inch of ice on the ground, it is known as an ice storm.
When it freezes, it can make driving or walking dangerous because it makes everything slippery. Freezing rain can also be dangerous because it is very heavy, and can snap tree branches or power lines, causing a power outage. Also, when it’s still falling from the sky, freezing rain can be hazardous to aircraft.
Sleet is similar to freezing rain except it falls through more cold air before it hits the ground. While freezing rain doesn’t actually freeze until it hits the ground, sleet freezes before hitting the ground, turning into a slushy pellet. Once it hits the ground, it can also be very slippery.
If a freezing rain advisory is issued for your area from the National Weather Service, avoid driving and make sure you have your flashlight and NOAA Weather Radio handy!
World Tsunami Awareness Day
November 1, 2016
Tsunamis are among Earth's most infrequent hazards. But even though tsunamis do not occur very often, and most are small and nondestructive, they pose a major threat to coastal communities. A tsunami can strike any ocean coast at any time and they cannot predict where, when or how destructive the next tsunami will be.
I recently learned that the United Nations has designated November 5 as World Tsunami Awareness Day and is calling on people and organizations around the world to recognize the day. Join me in helping to raise tsunami awareness!
November 5 was chosen to honor the actions of a brave Japanese farmer and village chief who saved hundreds of lives from a tsunami in 1854. After recognizing the signs of a tsunami, he set fire to his harvested rice to attract the attention of villagers near the coast. As the villagers rushed to help, he told them to keep moving up the hill to safety, where they watched the tsunami destroy their village. Afterwards, he helped his community rebuild so that it was better prepared for future tsunamis.
To learn more about World Tsunami Awareness Day, watch the video or visit the official website. Also, check out information about tsunami safety from my friends at the National Weather Service. Be a Force of Nature! Educate yourself and share what you learn with others. As this story teaches us, knowledge saves lives.
|Photo: Hurricane Isaac, August 28, 2012/NOAA
The Recipe for A Hurricane
August 25, 2016
When I visited the National Hurricane Center, I learned all about hurricanes and how they forecast them! It’s hard to believe that a big and powerful hurricane starts off as a few thunderstorms out in the middle of the ocean, but it does!
Hurricanes need a couple of ingredients to grow from a group of thunderstorms into a hurricane:
- Warm ocean water, at least 80°F. This is where they get their energy.
- Winds to be almost the same speed from the ocean to the top of the atmosphere.
- A location away from the Equator. Remember when we talked about how the Coriolis Effect makes hurricanes spin? Well, there is no Coriolis Effect near the equator so the hurricanes can’t spin and get stronger.
If the thunderstorms over the ocean have all of these things, they can start to grow into a hurricane!
Those thunderstorms, called a Tropical Disturbance, start to cluster together, drop in air pressure, and become a Tropical Depression. Wind speeds in a Tropical Depression are only about 38 mph. As the Coriolis Effect makes the Tropical Depression spin, it becomes a Tropical Storm. This is like a mini hurricane, and its winds are 39-73mph. As it continues to spin, it gets more energy from the warm ocean water below and gets stronger until it is a Hurricane! If it keeps growing and getting stronger, major hurricanes can reach wind speeds of 111 mph or faster. That’s as strong as a tornado!
The National Hurricane Center Forecasters said that it’s hard to get all of the ingredients together. Lucky for us, not all thunderstorms or Tropical Storms become a Hurricane! For more information on hurricanes visit http://www.srh.noaa.gov/srh/jetstream/tropics/tropics_intro.html and http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.
Every Little Bit Helps! The Effects of Drought
August 12, 2016
I often hear a lot about the drought, especially in California. They are currently in their fifth year of severe drought! A lot of their lakes are running dry and the government is now asking people to use less water. In fact, you can be fined if you are using too much water. Drought usually happens when people are using too much water over a long period of time or there is not enough rain or snowmelt.
Drought can cause plants to dry up, creating a greater risk of wildfires, and lower water levels in lakes, ponds, and streams. It can also cause stress to animals and plants because they have less food and water. If you want to find out if your area is in a drought, you can check out the The U.S. Drought Monitor. The U.S. Drought Monitor publishes a map once a week that has five drought categories from “Abnormally Dry” to “Exceptional Drought” and shows the areas where drought is happening.
Did you know that the average person uses 50-60 gallons of water a day? If your area is in a drought, there are lots of things you can do to help:
- Turn off the water when you wash your hands or brush your teeth
- Take shorter showers or take baths instead
- Wash your bike/car with a bucket and sponge instead of a hose
- Drink tap water instead of bottled water
Learn more: visit http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/drought/
Boy, It’s Hot Outside!
July 28, 2016
This thermometer says 88°F on the thermometer, but it feels a lot hotter! This is called the heat index. When the air has a lot of moisture in it, it makes it harder for us to sweat and cool down, so it feels hotter outside than the thermometer says.
To help us understand how moist the air is, we use relative humidity. Relative humidity is how much water is in the air versus how much water the air can hold. So if the relative humidity is really high (like 90%) it is going to feel more humid than if the relative humidity was lower (like 60%) on a hot summer day. The higher the relative humidity, the hotter we feel.
Check out this cool chart that I use to calculate the heat index! It’s from the National Weather Service. When I was playing outside with my friends today, the thermometer said it was 88°F, so I checked the relative humidity and it was 65%. Even though the thermometer said 88°F, with the relative humidity, it felt like 98°F! Time for a break in the shade! When you’re playing outside, wear sunscreen, drink lots of water, and take breaks inside or in the shade when it’s wicked hot out!
Stay safe in the heat! Visit www.weather.gov/heat for more information.
Be Rip Current Ready!
July 7, 2016
I love going to the beach! I like to build sand castles, swim, and go boogie boarding!
When I go swimming in the ocean, I always remember how powerful waves can be. Rip currents are strong currents going away from the beach that can pull a swimmer away towards the ocean. How do they form? Well, when waves crash on the shore, they force the water to flow back towards the ocean. If the flow towards the ocean becomes stronger than the waves coming in, a rip current is formed.
I pay attention to when waves are above my head, so I know when it’s time to move closer to shore. Before I head out to the beach, I always check out www.weather.gov to see if there are rip current warnings or high waves forecasted for my beach.
When I get to my beach, I look to see if there are beach warning flags out and check in with my lifeguard. And I always swim with a buddy, like my friend Sanctuary Sam! We stay safe by visiting www.weather.gov/ripcurrents and so should you! See you at the beach!
Owlie and Sam’s Spring Break Adventure
March 21, 2016
Did you miss following along with my friend Sanctuary Sam and I as we went on a spring break adventure? Last week, we traveled from the mountains to the sea! We had a blast learning about the water cycle, marine life, and weather hazards!
Here are some pictures of my favorite moments from the trip:
|Sam and I hiked up part of a mountain and saw the water cycle in action!
We learned about how to protect estuaries and how to be prepared for all types of weather during our travels.
The day at the beach was very exciting! Not only did we get to enjoy the water (it was a green flag day) but we also learned all about the national marine sanctuaries. It was amazing to see all of the beautiful creatures and habitats that live in the sanctuaries.
We were so sad to see our adventure end. For a recap of what we saw and learned along the way and additional related materials, visit our blog at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/owlieandsam.html.
Spring is here!
March 3, 2016
I can’t wait for rain showers, blooming flowers, and outdoor activities to start again! Did you know that scientists have different start dates for spring?
March 1 marks the first day of meteorological, or climatological, spring for the Northern Hemisphere. Meteorological spring is a transition season of warming temperatures that occurs from March through May.
Astronomical spring starts on the evening of March 20 with the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox is when Earth’s tilt on its axis is neither toward nor away from the sun. On this day, night and day are nearly the same length.
Since spring marks the return of many weather hazards, I will be going on a weather-ready spring break trip later this month! My friend Sanctuary Sam, the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary’s resident California sea lion, and I are heading out on a grand adventure from the mountains to the sea. Follow us at our blog every day and on Facebook and Twitter (@NWSOwlieSkywarn)
|Owlie and his NOAA Weather Radio
All I Want for the Holidays is a NOAA Weather Radio!
December 22 2015
All I want for the holidays is a NOAA Weather Radio...a NOAA Weather Radio...a NOAA Weather Radio...All I want for the holidays is a NOAA Weather Radio so that I can stay aware of the weather and keep my friends and family safe!
Wherever I am, I can get the local weather forecast from the National Weather Service with one tap on my mobile phone’s home screen. I bookmarked mobile.weather.gov to make sure that I have the latest weather news and information on-the-go. This will keep me safe and prepared.
NOAA Weather Radios broadcasts warnings, watches & forecasts around the clock. If I am lucky enough to get a NOAA Weather Radio, no matter where I am in my home I will hear an alert for hazardous weather. I can even use the radio with batteries for when I go camping so that I can stay informed about the weather. This is at the top of my list and will make a great gift for everyone! This would make a great gift for everyone on your list. You can buy weather radios in-store and online from many retail outlets such as electronics, department, and sporting goods stores. Learn more about NOAA Weather Radios at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/
NOAA Weather Radios save lives! They make the perfect gift this holiday season. Add it to your wish list today! Happy Holidays!
|NWS Weather Forecast Office in Buffalo New York
Like Snow? Fly to Buffalo!
December 11 2015
Hello from Buffalo! I am visiting my friends at the National Weather Service (NWS) Office in Buffalo, New York! They have the tough job of forecasting lake effect snow for their region. If you live in Buffalo, you know what lake effect snow is - last winter, they received more than 100 inches of snow!
Lake effect snow happens on the coast of all of the Great Lakes, like Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. My friends at the Buffalo office forecast for lake effect snow from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Lake effect snow happens in the late fall and early winter when the lake is still warm but the air is getting cold.
When really cold air from the north comes down over the lakes, the warm lake below acts as a source of energy. The cold air sucks up warmth and moisture from the lake through evaporation. How long the air spends over the lake is called residence time, and how far it travels over the lake is called fetch.
Residence time and fetch are very important because if the air doesn’t spend enough time over the lake, it doesn’t get enough energy or moisture to make lake effect snow. The wind must be coming from the right direction over the lake.
When the air reaches the shore, it dumps all of that moisture in snow form. These snow storms form in narrow bands that don’t really move, so five miles away it could be sunny, but in the storm you could get feet of snow. Last year, my friends at the NWS Office in Buffalo got over seven feet of snow in one storm!
So, if you like snow, Buffalo is for you! Remember, Be A Force of Nature this winter
|Visiting the operations floor
|NWS Weather Forecast Office in Buffalo New York
|Owlie accessing the NWS’s mobile site with one tap on the phone’s home screen.
Know on the Go! Always be Weather-Ready!
November 3 2015
Know before you go is what I always say! In my quest to be Weather-Ready and make sure my friends and family are as well, I am shouting from the treetops and letting everyone know about a great way to access the latest National Weather Service forecasts.
Wherever I am, I can get the local weather forecast from the National Weather Service with one tap on my mobile phone’s home screen. I bookmarked mobile.weather.gov to make sure that I have the latest weather news and information on-the-go. This will keep me safe and prepared.
It’s simple and easy! Learn how to add the mobile version of weather.gov to your iPhone or Android phone. Follow these three steps like I did for one-click access to your local forecast. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/mobilephone.html
Know Your Risk, Take Action, and Be a Force of Nature just like me!
| Owlie at the National Hurricane Center in Miami Florida
The Eye of a Hurricane: A Visit to the National Hurricane Center
September 14, 2015
I visited the National Hurricane Center in Florida this week! I learned a lot about tropical storms and hurricanes and how meteorologists forecast such powerful and destructive storm systems! The meteorologists are quite busy right now because we are currently in Hurricane Season. Hurricane season started on June 1 and runs through November 30. The National Hurricane Center issues watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of hazardous tropical weather.
When the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center see a storm is forming in the tropics, they work really hard to investigate the growing storm and learn how strong it is, where it is going, how long it will last, and if it will hit land. They use a lot of instruments to get observations and information about the storm and gather data from numerous sources. They use satellites, radar, and ocean buoys with weather instruments on them. My favorite to learn about was the Hurricane Hunter plane. If a tropical storm or hurricane is heading towards the United States, they can fly the plane right into the storm! They can collect a lot of data and information about wind speeds, the storm’s structure, and other observations that can help them make their forecast. When they fly through, their plane takes observations, but they also drop instruments into the storm to gather data. It sends back wind speed and direction, air pressure, and moisture information. Using all of these observations and information, they make their forecast!
You can check out these videos to see what it’s like to fly through a hurricane!
Also, take a virtual tour of the National Hurricane Center! http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/nhctour.shtml
Remember, It only takes one storm to change your life and community. Tropical cyclones are among nature’s most powerful and destructive phenomena. If you live in an area prone to tropical cyclones, you need to be prepared. Even areas well away from the coastline can be threatened by dangerous flooding, destructive winds and tornadoes from these storms.
| Owlie celebrating Labor Day
Summer’s Last Hurrah! Labor Day Weather Safety!
September 3, 2015
Labor Day isn't just a day for barbecues, parades, and road trips. It's also a day to reach out to those who make your everyday life easier and thank them for their hard work. I would like to thank all who work or have worked hard to make our country great!
This Labor Day weekend I’m going on a short trip to visit friends. Before I head out on my travels I’m going to make sure I’m Weather-Ready! I always check the National Weather Service’s homepage www.weather.gov first to see if there are any weather watches or warnings out along my route or at my destination. I check the National Weather Service’s website every morning to make sure I know my risks and am prepared for any type of weather I might encounter.
Also, I visit the NWS Seasonal Safety Campaign website so that I can check the hazards I could possibly encounter on my weekend trip. Whether you are traveling to the ocean, mountains, or anywhere in between this upcoming weekend, you need to be aware of the different hazards you might encounter and how to stay safe! This time of year across the country you could encounter both summer and fall hazards, so be prepared!
| NOAA’s Partner Resources
Staying Safe with NOAA’s Partners
August 11, 2015
I’ve had a lot of fun this summer learning about weather and preparedness with some of NOAA’s partners!
One of my favorite places to visit when I want to learn while playing games is SciJinks. I also think their bad weather joke generator is a hoot! Another site with fun games is the UCAR Kids Page. It even has lesson plans for teachers so these games can be used in the classroom! For those looking to dig into the science behind the weather, the NASA Earth Science site has a lot of really interesting weather information.
The Red Cross has a really fun app called Monster Guard that will help kids learn to prepare for potential disasters. I learned all about how to prepare for real life emergencies in my house and other places I go. Also, I get to practice what I learn as I go through lots of fun, challenging levels in the Monster Guard app. Another really neat place to visit is the Smithsonian Weather Lab where you get to take on the role of a meteorologist! The Smithsonian’s Science Center created this online tool that lets you predict spring weather and how people should dress for it in particular parts of the United States. Let me tell you, suggesting wearing shorts in Alaska in April is wrong. Brr!
Spend some time this school year learning all about science and preparedness with some of NOAA’s partners! Stay safe my friends!
|Owlie camping in the great outdoors
Be Weather-Ready, Be Firewise!
July 30, 2015
The sound of a crackling campfire, the smell of roasting marshmallows, snuggling into my comfy sleeping bag after a day of hiking...I love camping! It is one of my favorite summer activities. As I pack for my trip and double check my supplies, I also check the weather forecast at weather.gov and check with the local Park Service so that I know if there is a risk for wildfires.
Wildfires are fires that happen in wooded areas and can start from lightning or from people who do not carefully handle flames. Winds and dry plants can spread a fire very quickly. When I am camping, I make sure my fire is built in a location where it can easily be contained, away from loose brush or other items that could easily catch fire and spread the flames. I am never far away from my fire once it is lit and I always have water on hand. Before leaving the fire I pour water over the ashes, even if it already looks like it is out. All it takes is one ember catching nearby brush or grass on fire to start a wildfire.
If you spot a wildfire, you should walk or drive away from the fire immediately and call 911 to report it. Weather conditions and the type of ground cover can make the fire change direction quickly so it is important that stay far away from the fire. If you live in an area that is near woods, it is important to have a plan of action and emergency supplies in case a fire starts, and to always listen to officials when a wildfire is happening in your area.
To learn more about fire forecasts and wildfire safety and prevention, check out the NWS Wildfire Safety Page. Also, visit my friends at Firewise Communities to learn all about all of the risks of wildfires and how to be prepared for a wildfire.
|Owlie staying safe in the heat.
Beat the Heat!
July 10, 2015
Summer is one of my favorite times of year! It is full of vacations, outdoor activities, and fun in the sun! The warm months and long days mean that there is plenty of time for baseball games, pool parties, and barbecues. But, don’t let the hot sunny days fool you. Heat waves can be dangerous and heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses.
Heat waves are dangerous because your body cannot cool itself properly when exposed to an extreme combination of heat and humidity. Even though I enjoy being outside during the summer, there are things I do to keep myself safe from the heat:
- I slow down. I will reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day.
- I dress for summer. I wear lightweight, loose lifting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight and a wide brimmed hat.
- I drink plenty of water and decaffeinated fluids, even when I don't feel thirsty.
- During the hottest time of day, I spend time in air-conditioned locations such as malls and libraries.
- I stay out of the sun. Sunburn reduces your body's ability to dissipate heat.
- I take a cool bath or shower to help keep my body cool.
For more information on Heat Safety, visit the NWS Heat Safety page. Stay safe this summer: Know Your Risk, Take Action and Be a Force of Nature!
|Owlie is Weather-Ready and ready to hit the road for a fun summer-time trip!
Summer Travel: My Weather-Ready Road Trip!
June 26, 2015
I’m going on a road trip! After I pack my sunscreen and my camera, I’m going to make sure I’m Weather-Ready! First, I will check the National Weather Service’s homepage www.weather.gov to see if there are any weather watches or warnings out along my route or at my destination. I check the National Weather Service’s website every morning to make sure I know my risks and am prepared for any type of weather I might encounter.
I will also double check my Weather-Ready driving emergency kit to make sure it is stocked! It has bottled water, nonperishable snacks, a first aid kit, an extra car charger for my cellphone, a blanket, extra clothing, and extra medicine in case I need it.
The last thing I will do before I leave is make sure my cell phone is fully charged. I put it away when I drive, but if I hear a strange chirping noise, I know to pull over safely and check it out. The chirping noise is a Wireless Emergency Alert and will tell me if severe weather, such as a tornado or a flood, is happening in the area I am traveling. Once I am Weather-Ready, it will be time to hop in the car and go and have fun!
|Owlie holding the “When Thunder Roars Go Indoors” sign
When Thunder Roars Go Indoors!
June 23, 2015
Did you know that if you hear thunder, you are in danger? Don’t be fooled by blue skies. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose an immediate threat. There are about 25 million lightning strikes in the United States each year. I think lightning is fascinating to watch, but I never forget that something so fascinating can also be very dangerous! About 50 people are killed each year in the United States by lightning, but hundreds are permanently injured.
Lightning is a giant spark of electricity that occurs either in a cloud or between a cloud and the ground. Thunder is the sound made by lightning as it heats the air to as hot as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Did you know that is 5 times hotter than the sun?! This makes lighting very powerful and very hazardous. When lightning strikes a home, it can create enough heat to ignite a fire. There is enough electricity in a flash of lightning to power a 100 watt light bulb for about three months. So, even if it means you have to take a break from playing, swimming, or working outside, play it safe. No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!
Here is how I keep myself safe from lightning:
- When I hear thunder, even a distant rumble, I know lightning is likely within striking distance. Lightning threats can extend 10 miles from the storm! I go to a safe place immediately including a house, large building or a car with a metal roof to protect me from lightning.
- When I am inside, I stay away from windows and doors and I do not touch anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet. I also stay off my corded telephone.
- I stay away from sinks and do not take a shower or bath during a thunderstorm.
- I never go back outside until 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder.
As my friend Leon the Lightning Safety Lion always says “When Thunder Roars Go Indoors.” You can find more facts about lightning and lightning safety and play Leon’s Lightning Safety game at NOAA’s Lightning Safety Web Site www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov
|I always swim at beaches with lifeguards on duty!
Ready for a trip to the beach!
June 9, 2015
I love going to the beach! I like to build sand castles, swim, and go boogie boarding! But when I go into the ocean, I always remember how powerful waves can be. Rip currents are strong currents moving away from the beach that can carry a swimmer towards the ocean. When waves crash on the shore, the water flows back towards the ocean. If the flow towards the ocean becomes stronger than the waves coming in, a rip current is formed. I also pay attention to when waves are above my head, so I know it’s time to move closer to shore. Before I head out to the beach, I always check out weather.gov
to see if there are rip current warnings or high waves forecast for my beach. When I get to my beach, I look to see if there are beach warning flags out and check in with my lifeguard. And I always swim with a buddy! Visit weather.gov/beach
for more safety tips!
|The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 - November 30 and the Pacific Hurricane Season runs from May 15 - November 30. Storms can happen outside of these dates, but this is the most likely time that tropical storms and hurricanes will happen.
Hurricane Season is almost here!
May 22, 2015
Are you prepared? I am!
It only takes one storm to change your life and your community. Hurricanes and tropical storms are among nature’s most powerful and destructive storms. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, it is a good idea to be prepared. Remember, even if you live well away from the coastline, your community can be threatened by dangerous flooding, destructive winds and tornadoes from these storms.
Here’s what I’ve done to make sure I’m ready for a tropical storm or hurricane:
- I identified my hurricane risk. I know that storm surge and strong winds could pose a problem for my home. I also know that if I have to evacuate I need to keep an eye out for inland flooding.
- I know my evacuation zone information and will be prepared to leave if asked to do so.
- I created a communications plan so that my friends and family will know that I am ok and will know how to contact me. My cousin who lives in Ohio will be my primary point of contact since she likely won’t be located along the coast.
- My preparedness kit is up to date. I replaced expired items and made sure I had enough food and water to last 3 days.
Even if you don’t live near the coast it is important to at least understand the dangers of these tropical storms. You may visit the coast and need to evacuate if a storm heads your way. Understanding your risk will help you and your loved ones stay safe.
Stay safe this hurricane season! For more on hurricane safety and forecasts, visit the NWS Hurricane Safety page.
A tornado shelter that was built into a home in Oklahoma. (photo credit: C. Kerr)
Storm Shelters: Know Where to Go!
March 27, 2015
Last week Oklahoma was hit with the state’s first tornadoes of the season. I saw lots of great stories about people taking shelter from the severe weather. Do you know where to go for shelter in case of a tornado? It’s a good idea to find out where your storm shelter is at home and at school, well before a tornado strikes. Ask your parents or teachers where you should go to shelter and learn how to get there. Doing so will help you stay safe during severe weather. A storm shelter is an underground or interior room with no windows that you can go to during severe weather.
Once you know where to go, you can help make sure the shelter is ready for an emergency. Here are a few things the experts recommend doing each year before the start of severe weather season:
- Make sure the shelter is stocked with supplies you might need during an emergency, such as water and food. Check expiration dates on items in your emergency kit and replace any outdated items.
- Remove clutter so that everyone who needs to shelter can fit inside. Don’t let it be used to store junk - it’s a room for people to use for emergencies only.
- Clean out the dark corners so that it’s comfortable for people to use. If bugs are a concern, ask your family to call a professional to treat the area. If they treat for bugs themselves, ask that they be sure to follow all safety precautions listed on the packaging.
Practicing evacuation at the beach: follow directions and head to high ground or inland!
March 23, 2015
Tsunami Preparedness Week is traditionally the last week in March in a number of states because of the devastating Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunamis, which occurred on March 27, 1964. But, I learned from my friends with the NOAA Tsunami Program that there is no season for tsunamis, so coastal communities hold tsunami preparedness activities all year round.
Some people get prepared by attending presentations and workshops to learn about tsunami safety. Others practice their evacuation routes. A few communities actually hold a fun run that follows their evacuation route. Folks can walk or run and have some fun outdoors while learning how to get to safety!
I encourage my friends who live, work and play on the coast to take part in tsunami preparedness activities and take action to protect themselves and their loved ones from tsunamis. The National Weather Service’s Tsunami Safety website has information about what to do before, during and after a tsunami.
TsunamiZone.org is a good website to visit to find out where and when activities are taking place. Local emergency management offices and NOAA National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices are also knowledgeable about tsunami preparedness activities in their areas. Be a force of nature! Make sure you know what to do if a tsunami happens while you’re at the coast.
Owlie Tornado Myths
Tornado Myths Get Untwisted
March 1, 2015
Some of the United State’s wildest weather happens during the spring. There are thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods, and more! Today is March first and that means that meteorological spring is upon us! Most people will observe spring as starting on March 20th this year because of the position of the sun. However, meteorologists think of the seasons based on the types of weather typically seen during certain months. In March we usually see the number of thunderstorms increase. My meteorologist friends have put together a really cool Tornado Myths article that I’d like to share with you! You can find out why it’s not safe to take shelter under a bridge or overpass, whether tornadoes really dodge big cities, and more!
For more spring safety information, visit the NWS Spring Safety page!
|NOAA Weather Balloon
It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No! It’s a NOAA Weather Balloon!
January 15, 2015
In order to predict the weather, we first need to observe the weather. Did you know that every day, NOAA’s National Weather Service launches weather balloons twice a day from 102 sites throughout the United States, the Caribbean and the Pacific to help with weather forecasting? I got to help launch a weather balloon at the Baltimore/Washington D.C. Weather Forecast Office while I was visiting last fall! It was a little windy so I had to make sure it was let go in an area where it wouldn’t get caught on a tree or other tall object during takeoff!
Each balloon has a sensor package and a parachute attached to it’s string. As the weather balloon rises through the atmosphere, the sensors measure air pressure, temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction from the Earth’s surface to about 20 miles high in the sky. This information is sent back to the surface using radio signals, where it is included as a starting point for weather forecast models. Forecasters then use the information when making their forecasts.
When the balloon gets to around 20 miles high in the sky, it will pop and the sensors fall to the ground. The parachute will open as it falls so the sensors and popped balloon come back to Earth slowly. It can land in a wide variety of locations, such as in trees, on bridges and in backyards — sometimes more than 200 miles away from where it was launched!
Once it lands, if found, it can be returned to the National Weather Service. Each one has its own addressed, postage-paid return mailbag. Returning them benefits the environment and saves taxpayer dollars by recycling the units for reuse. So, if you happen to find a weather balloon and its sensor package in your neck of the wood please return it to NOAA’s National Weather Service. I hope to find one some day!
| Tsunami damage in Banda Aceh.
Remembering the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
December 26, 2014
Today I’m taking a moment to reflect on one of the most destructive tsunamis in recorded history. On December 26, 2004, a large earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean sent a series of waves across the ocean that flooded the coasts of 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. Around 1.7 million people who lived on these coasts had to move because of the destruction. Nearly 230,000 people lost their lives.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its partners have done a lot in the last ten years to make sure that people who live near the coasts around the world are better prepared for the next big tsunami. My friends at the National Weather Service have taught me that even though tsunamis do not happen very often, they pose a major threat to coastal communities, particularly in the Pacific Ocean. No one can prevent tsunamis or predict where, when, or how destructive the next tsunami will be. But, there are things that can be done to prepare for one. The National Weather Service has a lot of great information online, including a new tsunami safety website and this short video.
After learning about the Indian Ocean Tsunami, I made sure to teach my friends and family about how to stay safe. I don’t live or work at the coast, but I have friends and family who do and I visit them often. It is important that anyone who is ever near the coast understands and is prepared for tsunamis and knows how to respond to a tsunami warning.
Tsunami warnings are broadcast through local radio and television, wireless emergency alerts, NOAA Weather Radio and NOAA websites (like Tsunami.gov). They may also come through outdoor sirens, local officials, text message alerts and telephone notifications. These official warnings give directions for what to do. However, there may not always be enough time for an official warning so it is important to understand the natural warning signs. These signs include a strong or long earthquake, a sudden rise or fall of the ocean, and a loud roar (like a train or an airplane) from the ocean. Even just one of these signs means that a tsunami may be coming. I hope I never experience these things, but you can bet that if I do, I will go quickly to high ground or head inland away from the water!
| Practicing evacuation at the beach: follow directions and head to high ground or inland!
Becoming a Meteorologist
December 4, 2014
I have always been interested in the weather. In fact, most people who become meteorologists have been fascinated by weather since they were very young. Meteorologists across the world get to predict some of Mother Nature’s wildest weather! From tornadoes to blizzards and heatwaves to hurricanes, a career in meteorology will keep you on your toes! One thing I’ve definitely learned is that while meteorology is a fun and exciting career choice, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work that start with going to school.
The basic requirement for becoming a meteorologist is a 4-year Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology or Atmospheric Sciences. To become a meteorologist, you need to be good at math and science. Some of the classes that you'll be taking to earn your degree include calculus, physics, atmospheric dynamics, synoptic meteorology, and even computer programming courses. Meteorology is not an easy degree to get, but it one that is very worthwhile! My advice is to take as many math and science classes as you can in high school, including calculus and physics if they’re offered because they'll help you a lot once you get into college.
Whether you already know you want to become a meteorologist or if you're really not sure, the best thing you can do is shadow or intern with local meteorologists. This is extremely important because it allows you to experience the job of a meteorologist and really get to see how we forecast the weather. For more information on careers in weather and how to become a meteorologist, visit NOAA’s National Weather Service at http://www.weather.gov/careers.
| Measuring snow
November 26, 2014
It looks like there will be some pretty messy weather in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast leading up to Thanksgiving. Since I’m spending the holiday with friends, I’ll be sending in snowfall reports from New York.
I have my snow measuring equipment ready to go! My snow board (the kind used to measure snow depth, not for sliding down a snowy slope) has been placed on a spot in the yard far away from trees and buildings. That way none of the falling snow is blocked from reaching the board. I have a yardstick handy so that I can take an accurate measurement! Also, I have my cold weather gear ready so that I can bundle up and stay warm while venturing out to take each measurement. I am ready for Mother Nature to bring on the snow!
Want to measure snow depth along with me? Visit my friends at CoCoRaHS to learn more about the equipment I’m using and get tips on how to accurately measure and report snowfall amounts. http://bit.ly/1coFRpO
To report your snowfall amounts to the National Weather Service go to www.weather.gov and click on your location on the map. The page will open to your local office. Scroll down and there will either be a link to submit a “storm report” directly on that page or you can click on the “Contact Us” section and send your report via e-mail.
| Visit to the Grand Canyon
Visit to the Grand Canyon
November 5, 2014
I recently visited the Grand Canyon and was absolutely wowed by the size of the canyon and the beauty of the rock formations. But one of the most interesting things to me about the Grand Canyon is that it affects the local weather! Whoo knew that the depth of the Grand Canyon and its rocky terrain greatly influence temperature and precipitation?
Chilly at the top? Just head down into the canyon and you’ll notice the temperature gets an average of 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer for every 1,000 feet you climb down. The Grand Canyon is 6000 feet deep at its deepest point so depending on where you are hiking, you may experience a warm-up of 30 degrees or more. That sounds great on a day like today, but during the summer when high temperatures at the Southern Rim average in the 80s, it can get pretty toasty down in the canyon!
The geography of the Grand Canyon makes some areas much wetter than others. The north Rim has much more rainfall during the year than the south. The depth of the canyon also affects precipitation. During the winter it will snow at the rims of the canyon but by the time the flakes reach the bottom of the canyon, they often have melted and will hit the canyon bottom as raindrops. Only about an inch of total snowfall will make it to the bottom of the canyon each winter!
| National day of action.
National Day of Action
September 30, 2014
I had so much fun this past spring building an emergency kit with Laura Furgione, the Deputy Director of the National Weather Service. Today I re-checked the items in the kit to make sure they hadn’t expired. I replaced the water and medications to ensure they would be good if I need to use the kit in the coming months but everything else was still up to date. I also checked my family communications plan to make sure all of the phone numbers were still up to date. My aunt Sue got a new phone number about a month ago so I updated her information on my plan and also gave her a call to touch base. We had a great conversation about where to meet if we are ever in a situation where our phones are not working.
As part of the National PrepareAThon, there is a National Day of Action each Spring (April 30th) and Fall (September 30th). I have the dates marked on my calendar to remind me to check my kit and communications plan to make sure
I am always prepared!
|The Water Cycle
The Water Cycle
August 14, 2014
Today I was hanging out in a tree next to the Snake River in Idaho, just watching the river flow below me and puffy white clouds float above me when I realized, both are made up of water, just in different forms. This got me thinking about all the ways I use water every day…to drink, bathe, wash clothes and dishes, and even sometimes for play, like running through the sprinkler! But where does the water come from? To find out, I visited one of my friends who is a meteorologist and here’s what she had to say:
The amount of water on earth does not change, but water itself is always moving and changing. Water can be in any of three forms: solid, liquid, or an invisible gas called water vapor. It changes between the three forms and moves all over the world in an endless cycle called the water cycle, which is powered by the sun. The Sun’s energy causes water to warm or change from a liquid to a gas - a process called evaporation. Once it evaporates, it becomes part of the air around us.
When air rises in the atmosphere, it becomes cooler and the water vapor in the air can turn back into tiny droplets of liquid water – a process called condensation. Condensation is also how clouds form. The tiny droplets can collide to form bigger and bigger droplets until they are too heavy and fall from the cloud. Water that falls from the sky is called precipitation. Rain, snow, hail, and sleet are all forms of precipitation. Should precipitation fall in colder climates, it will take on the solid form of snow or ice. As the ice melts, the water returns to its liquid state and with the Sun’s continued energy, it may even evaporate, turning once again into water vapor. The water cycle is never ending!
|Owlie with the radar dome for NWS Baltimore/Washington located in Sterling, VA.
Inside the Radar Dome
August 1, 2014
I think radar is one of the coolest tools used to predict the weather. We can see when rain or snow is expected to arrive, figure out how heavy that rain or snow may be, and even get wind information that helps National Weather Service Forecasters issue tornado warnings! I love flying by a forecast office and seeing the big radar dome outside…but I always wondered how it worked. How does that big white ball sitting way up in the air help create the radar pictures we see on the computer screen and tv?
I finally got a look inside! There is a massive satellite dish that is housed in each one of those domes. This huge dish sends out pulses of energy that travel almost at the speed of light into the atmosphere. When those pulses encounter an object, like a rain drop or snowflake, they bounce back to the radar. The radar can figure out how far away it is and how large the object is based on the amount of energy that comes back. It can also figure out the direction the object is moving. The dish inside the dome rotates 360 degrees to give us a full look at the surrounding area. This is also why radar domes are located so high in the air and are typically built outside of cities with tall buildings. If the beams hit any buildings or trees you wouldn’t get a clear reading of the weather.
| Inside the radar dome.
|Image from the radar located at the NWS Lake Charles Forecast Office.
|Earth day activities at Union Station
Earth Day at Union Station
The National Weather Service and the NOAA Climate Program Office joined forces and participated in Earth Day activities at Union Station, in Washington D.C., on April 22. NWS promoted the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors initiative, NOAA Weather Radio, as well as the JetStream and Young Meteorologist Program educational websites. In the spirit of keeping the event "green," NWS relied on an iPad to showcase the NWS products and services and answer questions from visitors and minimized the number of handouts available.
|Owlie Visits NWS Baltimore/Washington
Owlie visits NWS Baltimore/Washington
Owlie and his handler visited the NWS Baltimore/Washington forecast office, in Sterling, Virginia, to take some promotional photos with the staff there. In addition to photos at the AWIPS terminal and other locations inside the office, Owlie posed for photos outside, while checking the rain gauge and "preparing to launch" a radiosonde .