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


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).



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

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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!



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!


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

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


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, 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


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


Posted under science, space, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on July 10, 2013

Major jump in temperatures by the weekend

 CaptureGet ready for summer! Officially, the season begins on Friday when the solstice arrives. This means that more of the sun’s rays are pointed toward the Northern Hemisphere. This will also be the weekend with the most daylight of any weekend in the year! On Friday, the sun will rise at 5:20 in the morning and not set until 8:36pm. This will give us 15 hours, 16 minutes, and 26 seconds of daylight to enjoy.

Capture2Compare that to the shortest day of 2013 which will arrive this December when we will only receive 9 hours and 5 minutes of daylight! Have I given you enough of a reason to make your outdoor plans for the weekend?

1Well, if I have be ready for some extreme warmth. In fact, it looks like we could be seeing back-to-back 90s beginning this weekend. Quite a far cry from the upper 40s and lower 50s coming early Wednesday. If we dip into the 40s in Rockford, it would near the record for the date. But with the beginning of summer comes the serious heat this weekend. With high temperatures in the upper 80s and dewpoints in the 70s, heat index values will be in the 95-100° range!

On top of that, some scattered thunderstorms will be possible. Due to the 40% chance, and the fact that this far out I can’t assure that these will happen after the full daytime heating, I’m going to be a bit conservative with upper 80s. However, if the rain holds off until the afternoons or evenings, leaving the morning hours sunny, some lower to middle 90s will be possible! In other words, this is a HOT airmass! Welcome to summer 2013! -Eric


Posted under climate/climate change, heat wave, science, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on June 18, 2013

Rainy trend could continue for several weeks!

CaptureApril has been quite a rainy month so far with 1.75 inches falling at the Chicago/Rockford Int’l Airport through 3pm Wednesday. That amount is 160% of normal! While 2/3 of an inch of rain falling as a surplus is a good thing to bring our drought to an end, the forecast is not.

The forecast from the National Weather Service’s GFS model shows 2.41″ of rainfall coming in the next 16 days. That amount is more than we should receive in a typical April, 135% of normal.

Capture2Of concern is this pattern of repeated rainfall. With our rivers now flooding in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, we need this pattern to change in order to get the river levels to level off.

Meteorologists refer to this type of situation as “high evaporative feedback.” Because our ground is saturated, it will lead to increased evaporation in the days and weeks to come. This will cause storm systems to be wetter than normal, with our models possibly underdoing the rain forecast for the next few weeks. Signals show this pattern will persist for a few weeks, possibly well into May.

With a barrage of storm systems coming through the center part of the United States over the next 1-2 weeks, prepare for rising river levels and increased flooding. Below are a few of the river gauges from this afternoon. You can see all of the levels on the National Weather Service’s Rivers and Lakes Page here.  

capture5 capture4 Capture3


Posted under climate/climate change, flooding, rain, record weather, safety, science, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on April 10, 2013

Two Year Anniversary: Japan Tsunami

Today, March 11th, marks the two year anniversary of the worst earthquake and worst tsunami to ever impact Japan. The earthquake occurred 43 miles of the northeast coast of Japan and was 20 miles deep. This produced a 133ft tsunami that traveled 6 miles inland. Monumental property damage was sustained from both the quake and the tsunami, with thousands of lives lost. Despite Japan’s amazing response to the detection of the earthquake with prompted a tsunami alert live on TV within minutes of the quake, given the short distance it still wasn’t enough time. Here is a look at the tsunami alert which had estimated wave heights on screen within minutes of the first tremor. -Greg


Posted under earthquake/tsunami, science, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on March 11, 2013