November: Primetime for “Frost Flowers”

Got your attention with that headline, didn’t I?

This morning I received an e-mail from Dick Roush of Freeport. He writes about the “Frost Flower,” and says “I’ve never seen anything like these in 80 years!” Take a look at this slideshow and see for yourself!

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Here’s how it works. The air temperature must be below 32°F with non-frozen ground. Conner says it’s likely to occur only once per year. “The water in the plant’s stem is drawn upward by capillary action from the ground. It expands as it freezes and splits the stem vertically and freezes on contact with the air.” The conditions for Frost Flowers only happen once because after it occurs, the plant’s stem is either destroyed or the expansion of the ice won’t allow it to happen again.

Frost Flowers are also referred as ice blossoms, ice castles, or crystallofolia.

This is a big reason why it’s great to hike Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin in the fall! -Eric

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Posted under news, science, weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on November 12, 2013

The Lake Effect

We had a nice light coating of snow cover the ground yesterday as a cold front tracked cross the area. That activity pushed to the south, and today we returned to bright sunshine, though far cooler temperatures. The frontal boundary that brought us the snow is now well to our south, however some places less than 200 miles to our east saw more than 6 inches of snow fall in a matter of hours this morning. That snowfall was thanks to the lake effect.Capture3

Lake effect snow isn’t something that we have to worry about near the Rockford metro thanks to our distance and location relative to Lake Michigan. But, some places actually see more snow caused by lake effect per year than they do snow caused by typical storm systems. The places that tend to see the most lake effect snow are located on the eastern and southern shores of the Great Lakes. Western and northern shorelines tend to see little to no lake effect snow thanks to their location. The key component needed for lake effect snow is a strong, cold wind that crossed a good distance over the warm water of the lake. Due to the fact that most cold winter wind blows from the west/northwest, areas that the wind reaches before it makes it to the lake will not see lake effect snow (aka western and northern shorelines). Capture2

The super cool air over the lake causes the warm air just above the surface of the lake to rise at it is blown and displaced from the surface. The farther the wind travels across the lake, the more warm air ir causes to rise, which in turn creates clouds. These clouds eventually pick up enough steam to begin producing snow, and once the snow begins, it will fall directly in the direction of the wind until the wind stops or changes direction. Thanks to the postitioning of the wind over the Great Lakes today, parts of far Northern Indiana saw their first real bout of lake effect snow this season. -GregCapture

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Posted under cold blast, science, snow

This post was written by qni_it on November 12, 2013

Windy Tonight

A cold front that passed through the area earlier on Saturday is associated with an area of low pressure near Lake Superior.  An area of high pressure located about 800 miles to the west near the South Dakota – Iowa border is pushing southeastward.

High Pressure vs. Low Pressure

High Pressure vs. Low Pressure

The air associated with high pressure always exerts a force toward the air associated with low pressure, known as the pressure gradient force.  With low pressure and high pressure relatively close together, the pressure gradient force is stronger.  The result is gusty wind.  Wind, by definition, is just the result of the difference in air pressure between multiple points.

Saturday Night Wind Gusts

Saturday Night Wind Gusts

Wind gusts topped 40mph in spots in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin Saturday night.  But as the high pressure drifts southeast and eventually moves over central Illinois on Sunday, our wind will lighten up significantly.

-Joe

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Posted under science, Wind

This post was written by qni_it on November 9, 2013

Asteroid to come between the Earth and Moon

asteroidNew information tonight about an asteroid that will pass very close to the Earth within the next hour. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the space rock is about the size of a semi truck trailer. It will safely pass Earth October 29th around 4:45pm CDT.

According to NBC News, the rock was first observed just a few days ago, on October 25th. The path will bring it inside the orbit of the moon, which typically circles Earth from a distance of 239,000 miles. The asteroid is said to be between 39 and 89 feet wide, which means it is on the smaller end of near-Earth objects that NASA monitors as threats to our planet.

This asteroid is not expected to be visible, as it will not come in contact with Earth’s atmosphere. -Eric

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Posted under science, space

This post was written by qni_it on October 29, 2013

Fewer Tornadoes in 2013: Nationally, Not Locally

Even though we are heading into the colder months, it is important to remember that severe weather and tornadoes can happen anytime during the year. 

With the main tornado season behind us, both Illinois and Wisconsin have had less tornado activity than expected. This follows the national trend.  Only 770 tornadoes (as of this blog post) have been reported across the United States, fewer than any year since 2005.

Illinois & Wisconsin Tornadoes since 2004

Illinois & Wisconsin Tornadoes since 2004

 

Just 20 tornadoes have been reported in the Land of Lincoln from January 1st through today (October 16th).  The number is even less for Wisconsin, with 15 confirmed tornadoes.  Illinois sees 54 tornadoes on average every year; Wisconsin averages 24 tornadoes.

One of the main reasons why this year’s tornado count is so low was the weather pattern during Spring.  Spring was filled with extended periods of rain and slow-moving weather systems, which helped keep temperatures down.  Tornadic thunderstorms often thrive when there is a clash of airmass and temperature, something which did not happen much in 2013.

As we transitioned to Summer, the jet stream–which drives our weather–moved well to the north along the Canadian border, keeping much of the nation in a 3 month period of drought.

Believe it or not, 40% of Illinois’ tornadoes this year occurred in the Stateline area!  With 8 tornadoes between May 19th and June 24th, we had an above average year.  Since 1950, the Stateline sees 3 or 4 tornadoes on average per year. 

In 2013, most local tornadoes were brief and rated EF-0.  But on June 12th, an EF-2 tornado touched down in western Carroll County near Savanna and Mount Carroll.  On the same day, an EF-1 tornado pushed through southern DeKalb County near Shabbona.

2013 Local Tornadoes

2013 Local Tornadoes

The year is not over, but hopefully we will not have to endure anymore tornadoes.  They can and do occur at anytime of year (Caledonia Tornado in November 2010, Poplar Grove Tornado in January 2008).

-Joe

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Posted under 13 Climate Authority, news, Project: Tornado, science, severe weather, statistics, tornado, weather

This post was written by qni_it on October 16, 2013

Strong storm system will bring an end to our summer weather

1Tuesday brought temperatures in the middle 80s to Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Paired with sunshine, it’s hard to beat this weather…especially considering our next 80 degree temperatures are likely more than six months away! We’ll still be very nice heading into Wednesday with highs in the lower 80s. Thursday and Friday’s upper 70s are still well above the seasonal norm of 69 degrees.

This is the weather map for Sunday though. Get ready for a significant chill! 2Temperatures won’t likely get above 55 degrees Sunday afternoon, even with a fair amount of sunshine! The Dakotas will stay in the 40s during the daytime! Believe it or not, this is closer to normal than the 80s we had on Tuesday. But as things change, we could get quite a bit of rainfall, and possible thunderstorms.

As low pressure ejects out of the Rockies, it will deepen. The track takes the low from Colorado toward Minnesota, putting us solidly in the warm sector. A broad southerly wind will pump in ample moisture from the Gulf of Mexico with dewpoints expected to surge into at least the middle 60s for our area. 3Depending on the timing of the cold front, we could be in a risk area for possible severe thunderstorms on Friday. However, the way things look right now, the higher threat will remain across Iowa and Southern Minnesota. Friday Night Football could be in jeopardy once again with a decent chance of lightning. Greg, Joe, and I will keep you updated right here over the next few days. -Eric

Make sure to like us on Facebook so you’ll be updated as soon as we post a weather blog!

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Posted under climate/climate change, cold blast, heat wave, science, severe weather, weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on October 1, 2013

Fall Foliage on the Way

After Thursday it appears that we are headed back into a relatively dry pattern.  The big question is if this will have an effect on how brilliant the leaves will be this Fall. 

Kishwaukee Gorge, Fall 2012

Kishwaukee Gorge, Fall 2012

There are a few things that affect the bright, colorful leaves we see during the upcoming season: the weather, of course, but also the pigments found in the leaves.  The amount of daylight we receive, believe it or not, has the main impact on the changing leaves.

On September 18th, Rockford sees 12 hours and 26 minutes of daylight.  By October 18th, that dwindles to 10 hours and 56 minutes of daylight.  As our days grow shorter and nights grow longer, the trees naturally know to slow down and eventually stop their production of chlorophyll. 

Chlorophyll is a pigment found in trees that helps photosynthesis to occur.  Photosynthesis is the process where plants use the sun’s energy to produce sugars, which nourish the plants. During Fall, the trees begin to store those sugars for the Winter months.

When trees stop producing chlorophyll—the pigment that makes the leaves green—two other pigments take over.  Carotenoids and anthocyanins become the dominant pigments in a leaf.  Carotenoids give us the oranges, yellows, and browns while anthocyanins give us the bright reds and deep purples we see in October.

Peak Color during a Normal Year

Peak Color during a Normal Year

Warm sunny days, cool nights, and near normal rainfall in the weeks just before Autumn are perfect conditions for the most vibrant colors.

Last year’s hot and dry weather kept the trees from producing enough sugars to sustain the pigments that produce the most vivid colors.  We saw many leaves turn brown and yellow and fall to the ground quickly.

This year, our rainfall has been below average since July. So the colors will not be as bright as they could be. But, they will be much more colorful than last year!  Even with the drier than normal conditions, we are still looking at the middle of October for peak color in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

Get those cameras ready!

-Joe

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Posted under First Look, science, statistics, sunlight, weather

This post was written by qni_it on September 18, 2013

What in the cloud is that?

Have I told you how much I love today’s smart phones with cameras? It seems we never leave home without them and it pays off on nights like this!

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4
I got several photos of a “Fallstreak Hole” over Northern Illinois. These “holes” are caused by aircraft, and are probably pretty rare (unless you have a busy airport like O’Hare 60 miles away
6).7

A Fallstreak Hole is caused by descending aircraft. Because a plane’s wing decreases the air pressure behind the flight path, the barometric pressure falls. This causes the air to cool rapidly which in turn increases the evaporation of the super-cooled water droplets. Cool stuff! -Eric

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Posted under science, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on September 4, 2013

Once in a blue moon!

We’ve all heard the phrase (and maybe if we’re older than 21, popped the cap on one), but have you ever wondered what the phrase means?
CaptureA blue moon is simply the second full moon that occurs within a calendar month. But Shirley Ryan in Oregon, Illinois wants to know “If a full moon occurs every 29.5 days, how can we possibly have a second full moon in August on the 21st?” That’s because this blue moon is a “Seasonal Blue Moon,” which means it’s the fourth full moon in a season (not sticking to our traditional definition)! According to Space.com, the “second full moon in a calendar month” was a mistake from a 1940s “Sky and Telescope” article that stuck!)

Let’s go further. Since the lunar cycle is different than our calendar (which determines the length of one year as 365.25 days), we accumulate extra days within the lunar cycle!

While “traditional blue moons” occur more often than the phrase leads you to believe, a “Seasonal Blue Moon” won’t occur again until until 2016!

With the added haze in the air, the moon will take on an extra-orange look during moonrise and moonset. If you don’t live in the Rockford, Illinois area, you can use this link to find the moonrise and moonset in your area.

Who’s up for a toast to the Blue Moon with a Blue Moon? -Eric

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Posted under event, news, science, space, statistics, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on August 19, 2013

Northern Lights forecast

While it’s not likely we’ll see the aurora borealis here in Northern Illinois tonight, there’s a chance for folks 100-200 miles north of here. Ever wonder how far south the aurora will go? Here’s how it works:

This is the graph that shows the KP-Index. (It’s an auto-update image so this will be accurate at any time.) The higher the level, the better likelihood of seeing auroras further south into North America. Of course, your best chance of seeing the lights are in northern latitudes (Canada and Alaska). Here’s a look at some Midwestern cities and what KP-Index level is needed to see the aurora borealis. You don’t need me to remind you that you’ll only be able to view them when the sky is clear, you’re looking north, and there’s no light pollution nearby (orange glow from cities).

KP-7 Rockford, Illinois
KP-7 Chicago, Illinois
KP-6 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
KP-6 Madison, Wisconsin
KP-5 Green Bay, Wisconsin
KP-6 Grand Rapids, Michigan
KP-7 Detroit, Michigan
KP-5 Marquette, Michigan
KP-6 Rochester, Minnesota
KP-5 Minneapolis, Minnesota
KP-5 Duluth, Minnesota
KP-8 St. Louis, Missouri
KP-8 Indianapolis, Indiana
KP-7 Toledo, Ohio
KP-7 Des Moines, Iowa

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Posted under science, space, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on July 10, 2013