Once in a blue moon!

May 20th, 2016: It doesn’t happen too often, but we have a blue moon coming Saturday night!

No, the moon won’t be blue (how cool would that be?!), but it is a special event. A blue moon is essentially an “extra” full moon. It has a few definitions though.

BLUE MOON1

A blue moon is considered: a) the 2nd full moon of the month (a month typically has only one full moon), OR b) the 3rd full moon in a season with 4 full moons (a season typically has 3 full moons, since we have 3 months per season). The second definition is considered the “older” or “more historical” definition, but either apply.

BLUE MOON2

This weekend features the 2nd type of blue moon.  This will be the 3rd of 4 full moons this spring.  Making this “rare” full moon a little more special is a visit from a friend: Mars! If you go out Saturday night and look at the full moon, you’ll see a red-looking bright “star” near the full moon.  That isn’t a star, however, it’s Mars!  Mars is at its closest to Earth in its orbit, which is why it will be bright in our sky.  If you have a telescope, you’ll be able to see some features of Mars, so get out and enjoy the night sky!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 20, 2016
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Thirsty lawns

May 18th, 2016: After a rainy week last week (at least 1 1/2″ of rain each night from last Monday to last Friday), we have almost the complete opposite this week: dry weather is in the forecast through next Tuesday. By this point, many of you have a garden or outdoor plants started, plus you are keeping up with keeping your lawn nice and green. This is a good time to get into good habits before the summer starts.

lawn tips

A healthy lawn needs around 1″ of rain or water per week during the spring and summer. Before you drag out the sprinklers, first: make sure to the forecast! If there’s rain coming, hold off on the watering until you see how much rain is coming. 1/2″ in the forecast? Then you only need to add 1/2″ of water to your lawn to help it out.  You can keep track on how much you have watered by putting a container like a coffee can marked to 1″ (or less, if there’s rain in the forecast). Once the water in the can gets to that 1″ mark, turn off the sprinklers and you’re done!

water in the morning

Best time to do this? Early in the morning.  Waiting until later in the day means the sun is more intense, evaporating a lot of the water as it tries to soak in. This means you have to add more water than you need to the lawn, which hurts the environment and your wallet!  You should also add water to the lawn all at once.  Watering a little at a time promotes shallow roots in the grass, which isn’t the best for your lawn.

Remember- if it gets really dry for a while this summer, it’s ok to let your lawn go dormant for a while! It might look a little brown, but it will bounce back once wet weather returns to the forecast. Your lawn won’t be harmed, plus you’ll save a little money by not trying to keep up each week.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 18, 2016
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When will we be free of frost?

May 17, 2016: We are getting close to the time of year when frost is no longer an issue, but we aren’t quite there yet.  Patchy frost may pop up again across the Stateline tonight.

Billboard 3

You may be asking yourself: “Wait a minute. How can we see frost without getting down to freezing?”  Here’s how:

Frost While Above Freezing

As the ground cools, the heat that leaves the ground floats upward to where thermometers usually are hanging. Since this is around 5 feet off of the ground, our air temperature readings measure a few degrees warmer than the ground temperature (and we have this setup because we care more about how warm the air is at our torso level than right at the ground.  How often are you lying right on the ground, that you would need the ground temperature?).

Those few degrees make a difference if we are close to freezing, resulting in frost even though the air temperature is still closer to 40°.

When will we be done with these chilly nights? Very soon! The forecast for the rest of the week has temperatures climbing into the 70’s and 80’s for highs, so our lows will climb into the 50’s. I also did a little research, just to see when our last night with 40° or colder is for the season, on average.  I found, in a typical year, that after May 21st, we usually are free of the frosty nights (we stay above 40° for the low temperature). We’ll pass that date over the weekend.

This summer should be above average for temperature, so the worst-case scenario shouldn’t happen, but just for fun, guess when the latest date we’ve ever had in Rockford with lows still below 40°? June 21, 1992! That is right around the start of summer! Can you imagine still having frost possible until the 1st day of the summer season?  We shouldn’t (hopefully) have to worry about that this year!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 17, 2016
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Project: Tornado- Put your severe weather plan in place

May 13, 2016- So far this “severe weather season”, it’s been pretty quiet.  There were a few stronger storms earlier this week, but we haven’t seen much for severe weather.  You should be ready no matter what, which is why our Project: Tornado initiative is out talking to kids through next week, to help them understand the importance of having a severe weather plan.

Is your severe weather plan ready to go?

Here’s a couple handy reminders (or tips to help you get started):

1) Know where to go: this starts at home, but also know where to go at work, school, etc. That location definitely will change from place to place.

-Pick an interior room (one that’s away from the outside walls and away from windows) that’s on the lowest level. Preferably, this is a basement, but it could be a closet or a bathroom (as long as there aren’t any windows!). Everyone should know where this place is and know that this is the “safe spot” to go to during severe weather.

-It may be handy to stock this room or area with bottles of water, a first aid kit, heavy blankets, sturdy shoes or boots, and maybe even bike helmets to help protect you from flying or falling objects.  You may even want to have a list of emergency contacts and insurance information in this area or kit too!

2) Have as many ways to get severe weather alerts as possible. This may be the TV or radio leading up to and during severe weather. You can also stream this coverage on a laptop or tablet (though make sure you can still get to the internet in case the power and Wi-Fi go out). A weather radio is a great tool to have; this will make a loud noise to notify you of a warning, read you the warning information, plus it works when the power goes out.  Having weather alerts via text or a weather app is great to have too. Finally, the outdoor warning sirens are great if you are outside.  You may not hear them over the sound of the storm or whatever is going on in your house (or while you are asleep) so don’t totally rely on them!

3) Know how to get in touch.  This may be different from friend to friend or family member to family member.  They should know how to best get a hold of you during or after an emergency, and vice versa. Sometimes sending a text may be better than trying to call. Get a system set up, so your family and friends can quickly find out if you are safe, or need help.

4) You should also have a “meet-up” spot, in case anyone gets separated during a severe weather event.

Much like you may practice a fire drill at home, practice or talk about your severe weather plan, so everyone knows it and has it fresh in their mind.  Don’t forget- severe weather can happen at any time of the year, so keep up-to-date on the weather forecast!

If you have any questions about where to go or what to do when setting up your severe weather plan, sending a message to us via email at weather@wrex.com or message us on Facebook on the 13 Weather Authority page!  I’ll write more about severe weather preparation next week.

-Alex

akirchner@wrex.com

Facebook: Meteorologist Alex Kirchner

Twitter: @AKirchner13

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 13, 2016
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Project: Tornado- Getting ready for “tornado season”

May 10, 2016: It’s that time of year again!

The 13 Weather Authority has been visiting schools every spring for the better part of the last decade, educating area students about the science behind tornadoes, and severe weather preparedness.  We are kicking off another round of schools this week, visiting at least one a day through next Friday. Our goal is to make sure the kids in our area are less scared by severe weather, since they know what to do and where to go when severe weather strikes. We also hope the students we talk to every year share this information with their friends and family, so everyone in our community knows how to respond to severe weather.

The question for you is: do you know what to do? Are you ready for severe weather season?

Throughout the week and into next week, we’ll be bringing you a variety of topics to help you get ready, plus offer a few opportunities to view us live while we are in action at the schools for Project: Tornado, in addition to having a live chat about severe weather and getting ready for the season.

For starters, a little more about tornado season itself:

calendar

We typically see the majority of our tornadoes between April and June.  This is what we consider “tornado season” around the Stateline.  The reason for the season during this time frame is due to the “roller coaster” weather we usually get around this time of year; we bounce back and forth between very cool and very warm, giving us that contrast in air masses that promotes thunderstorm development. The winds throughout the atmosphere are in the right places to help with wind shear, or winds moving at different directions at different heights.  This provides the “spin” needed in the atmosphere for rotating storms and severe weather.

Severe weather set-up

IMPORTANT: remember that we can get severe weather and tornadoes at any time of the year! Tornadoes have touched down in northern Illinois in November (the Washington tornado in 2013 is an example), or even in January (the Poplar Grove tornado in 2008). As long as the conditions are set up right, we can get tornadoes even in the winter.

Most tornadoes pop up in late afternoon to evening hours in the Stateline.  Again, don’t think we can’t get overnight or early morning tornadoes, but the majority develop later in the day.  As you may have guessed, the later afternoon hours are the hottest parts of the day, so the amount of energy built up in the atmosphere is at its highest. If we can get something to act as a trigger, storms will explosively develop and lead to severe weather.

Since we are in the middle of May, we are smack dab in the middle of tornado “season”. If you aren’t prepared for severe weather already, this is the time to do it!

The National Weather Service has a great breakdown of the steps you need to take to be ready for severe weather. It’s called PPMA, or “Prepare, Practice, Monitor, Act”.

PPMA

Right now you should be taking the “prepare” and “practice” steps.  I’ll talk more about all of these steps in the coming days, but here’s something to get you started:

Prepare:

-Start by reviewing your severe weather plan.  Do you know where to go at home, work, school, etc. if there’s severe weather?

-Do your family and friends know this plan, where to meet, and how to get a hold of one another before, during, and after severe weather strikes?

-What ways do you have to get weather information and severe weather alerts? Are all of these methods on, working, and in a place that you will be able to hear them in case of an alert?

Start going through these questions, and we’ll provide some tips and suggestions throughout the week!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 10, 2016
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Omega Pattern setting up- warm weather through the weekend!

April 12, 2016: Hard to beat sunny, quiet weather around the region! It could be a little warmer, as temperatures in the low 50’s is around 10 degrees below average for this time of year. Luckily, warmer weather is building in over the rest of the week thanks to an “omega blocking pattern” setting up by this weekend.

Jet stream pattern for this weekend

Jet stream pattern for this weekend

By the end of the week, the jet stream will feature two deep dips southward, one over the Rockies and the second over the Atlantic.  In between, a strong area of high pressure builds in over teh Midwest. This pattern resembles the Greek letter omega (Ω) , and results in the weather staying warm and quiet over the middle of the country, with wet and cool weather in the West and over the Atlantic.

We’ll have sunny and warm weather for several days in a row, as this pattern “blocks” any new weather systems from entering/exiting, so look for more wonderful spring weather at the end of the week!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on April 12, 2016
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Watching Out for a Wednesday Winter Storm in Wisconsin…

March 21, 2016: The calendar says “Spring!” but our weather will take a few days to catch up. After a day in the 60’s on Tuesday, we’ll drop to the 40’s with possibly some snow in the air by Thursday!

If you’ve heard rumors of a major storm dropping 6″ or more on Rockford during the middle of the week, you can rest a little easier.  While there’s a slight chance that may still happen, it is looking a lot more likely that we’ll see a lot of rain, some thunderstorms, and a little snow sneaking in by Thursday.

Possible storm tracks for Wednesday into Thursday (white- NAM, orange- GFS, blue- GEM, red- European

Possible storm tracks for Wednesday into Thursday (white- NAM, orange- GFS, blue- GEM, red- European

Here’s a map showing the model runs from Monday morning. While there is still some wiggle room in how the low may track (as all four models listed have a slightly different take on the storm), the average path among them keeps the heavy snow to the north, with mostly rain showers over us. Even if the storm takes the southern-most storm track, we’d still see mostly rain, with only a few inches of snow.

Possible storm tracks for Wednesday into Thursday (white- NAM, orange- GFS, blue- GEM, red- European

Possible storm tracks for Wednesday into Thursday (white- NAM, orange- GFS, blue- GEM, red- European

Regardless of how the storm performs Wednesday into early Thursday, by Thursday afternoon we should see light snow take over as the atmosphere cools off as the low pressure leaves and brings in much colder air. We’d likely see accumulations stay under 1″ during the tail end of the storm, especially with air temperatures staying above freezing.

Winter Storm Watch issued 3/21/16 for Thursday, March 24

Winter Storm Watch issued 3/21/16 for Thursday, March 24

With all this in mind, the National Weather Service has issued Winter Storm Watches highlighting where the heavy snow should fall, while keeping the “wiggle room” in the models in mind. As you can see, the watches are well to our north, so we should be in the clear.

On a side note- thunderstorms are possible within the rain showers Wednesday, a few could be on the strong side with strong wind gusts and small hail.  We’ll provide updates on the likelihood of those as we get closer to Wednesday, but be ready in case of strong storms Wednesday evening.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 21, 2016
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Windy Wednesday

March 16, 2016: Unlike last night when severe thunderstorms kicked up strong winds, today’s very strong and blustery winds have nothing to do with thunderstorms.

WREX 2016

Instead, we can look to a deep area of low pressure near Green Bay, WI, for why we are getting pummeled with high wind gusts today.  The air around the region tries to fill in the “divot” in the atmosphere, but due to the rotation of the Earth, the strong air flow, which we know as wind, rotates around the low. A few other factors come into play, but the deeper the low, the stronger the winds.

Storm Spotters 5

Today’s round of very windy weather featured wind gusts over 50 mph, which knocked down trees, power lines, branches, and even some light posts in Chicago. Driving became very difficult, and likely more than a few trash cans escaped their owners’ yards for while.

The winds will be settling down this evening, but will remain blustery for a while through Thursday.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 16, 2016
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Why do we have Daylight Saving Time?

March 11, 2016: This weekend is part 1 of our semiannual tradition of flipping the clocks ahead or back as part of Daylight Saving Time.  In this case, we “spring ahead” as Daylight Saving Time begins. We’ll be in Daylight Saving Time until November 1, when clocks will be “falling back” one hour.

2013_Daylight_Saving_Starts_Clock_USA

This is usually done at 2 am on the 2nd Sunday of March (which is this Sunday), when we move our clocks ahead to 3 am, though you can always do that before you go to bed Saturday night (or when you get up Sunday, just don’t forget!).  It’s not a bad idea either to replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, then test them to make sure they work.

So why do we do this every year? It boils down to energy usage.  The thought behind daylight saving is that by adjusting the clocks for the summer, you could take advantage of the “longer” evenings and not have to use electric lighting, etc. for a longer period.  This practice was first used in widespread fashion during the world wars to help conserve precious materials and fuel for the war effort. The US first used daylight saving time in World War 1, then stopped the practice until World War 2, when clocks were put ahead for an hour during the duration of the war.  After the war, daylight saving time wasn’t enforced, but some places still used it. From 1945 to 1966, there was a lot of confusion, as you could go from place to place and sometimes be changing your watch constantly!  In 1967, daylight saving time became the law of the land.

The practice remains controversial, however. We may save a little on energy usage with not having to turn on the lights earlier in the evening, and certain business and events like afternoon and evening sports benefit from the longer evenings.  However, we may be using our air conditioning and such more during the evenings while we are awake to stay cool, so energy savings may very little.

Daylight saving time is still in practice for the foreseeable future, so again, don’t forget to move the clocks ahead an hour on Sunday!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 11, 2016
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Will it get cold again this March?

March 9, 2016: It’s easy to get used to this week’s weather!  Temperatures soared to as warm as the 70’s by Tuesday, but now temperatures will settle into the 50’s for the next week or so, which is still at least 10° above average.

Now that spring has sprung early, will it stick around? That’s a big question a lot of people are curious about, so let’s dive into it.

First off, we aren’t looking for cold air anytime soon. In fact, the weather looks to stay above average through at least next Wednesday! That means at least another week of the 50’s, with some days in the 60’s.

That means we’ll have to look further out for signs of cold air.  Keep in mind, the farther we go out from the present, the more could change with the weather situation, so the maps I show next won’t be exactly what happens in the coming weeks:

The GFS model showing the jet stream for next Friday night, March 18th.

The GFS model showing the jet stream for next Friday night, March 18th. Click on the image to enlarge.

Here’s one computer model’s thoughts on the jet stream about 10 days out from now (next Friday). Do you see that ‘U’ shape in the wind pattern, and how far south it goes? That doesn’t look good for us.  This pattern points toward bringing in much colder air out of Canada.

Surface temperatures for Friday, March 18th, according to the GFS model

Surface temperatures for Friday, March 18th, according to the GFS model. Click on the image to enlarge.

Surface temperatures for Friday, March 18th, according to the European model

Surface temperatures for Friday, March 18th, according to the European model. Click on the image to enlarge.

These next two maps are two different computers models (the GFS model and the European model) and what they think surface temperatures will be under that possible weather pattern next Friday.  Remember, take this with a grain a salt, but don’t put away the heavy jackets yet!  While the models differ on where to put the coldest air, they both agree that we’ll see highs in the middle to low 40’s, which by that point is closer to 10 degrees BELOW average!

Surface temperatures for Sunday, March 20th, according to the GFS model.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Surface temperatures for Sunday, March 20th, according to the GFS model. Click on the image to enlarge.

If we look even farther out, the GFS model wants to bring us highs in the 30’s by the following Sunday!

Remember, a lot can change with all of this.  As the models get more information, they’ll refine their forecast, plus getting closer to next Friday gives the models much more current information to work with.

It isn’t surprising that be might see cold weather before the month is over- it is March after all! This month definitely has a lot of back and forth weather!

-Alex

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 9, 2016
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