Welcome to Fall! (Wait, what season is it?)

Sep. 21, 2016: Autumn 2016 officially kicks off Thursday at 9:21 AM!

Tomorrow’s weather, however, is a good reminder that the season outside usually has trouble lining up with the season the calendar.

1st of fall

The “official” start to fall occurs during the autumnal equinox, or when the Earth is lined up straight up and down on its axis. Night and day are roughly equal, and we are at the halfway point between the solstices (the longest and shortest day of the year). That point occurs at 9:21 am this year. Because of the way light bends through our atmosphere, sunrise and sunset don’t line up exactly on this date, but within a day or two we’ll see them as close as possible before we slip under the 12 hour mark for daylight and night becomes longer than day.

1st of fall OR NOT

As you can see, we usually still have highs in the low 70’s, with some brisk nights flirting with the 40’s. At least this time around, it will still feel like summer outside. Highs should be about 10 degrees above average, and conditions will feel even warmer than that with the humidity. We can even see days in the low 90’s, if we get the right setup to set a record, like the one for Thursday set in 1937.

Cold Blast 2

So, what gives? Where did fall go? We are in the midst of a weather pattern that we typically see more during the summer months. The jet stream is arching well into Canada, allowing very warm and definitely humid air to flood the region. Right along the boundary of the warm, humid air mass are rounds of thunderstorms, which we saw plenty of today, and our neighbors to the north in Wisconsin will see plenty more of those (flash flooding will plague the area, due to all of the storms and rain they’ll get through the end of the week).

AC forecast

Starting this weekend, this pattern does break down, allowing the heat and humidity to relax a little this weekend. By next week, we’ll be getting our first good does of fall air, as there potentially may be some days in the 60’s coming soon. Hold on for now; the A/C doesn’t have to be on for too much longer!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on September 21, 2016

Not done with the 80’s yet

September 15, 2016: As the days grow shorter and cooler air appears more regularly, those summer-like days start to get few and far in between. No need to fret yet; we can see the 80’s for a while into the fall! In fact, Rockford snuck up to 80° this afternoon.

last of the 80s

On average, we see our last day in the 80’s around October 2nd. Some years, like last year, the 80’s linger well into the middle of the month. In 2007, one of our latest 80 degree days was felt on October 21st!

We usually see around 10 days in the 80’s during an average September, or about 1/3 of the month; right now, we are sitting at 8 days, with a few more in the forecast.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on September 15, 2016

Losing Daylight

September 14, 2016: You may have noticed the days getting a lot shorter lately, which is a clear sign that fall is almost here. The autumnal equinox (our “official” start of fall) is next Thursday, the 22nd. That’s when the Earth is roughly straight up and down on its axis, giving us nearly equal hours of daytime and nighttime. The tilt of the Earth is also why we’re getting shorter days; the sun is lower on the horizon, reducing the amount of time it’s “up” in the sky.

losing daylight 1

The closer we get to this date, the quicker we end up losing daylight. We’ve seen our amount of daytime shrink by about 3 minutes a day since the start of the month. It may not sound like much, but over the course of 10 days, we lose a good 30 minutes of daylight, with another 30 minutes gone by the beginning of Autumn. That’s 1 hour of daytime gone in about 3 weeks!

losing daylight 2

In total, we’ve lost nearly 3 hours of daylight from the start of summer (approximately the longest day of the year) until now. I know this isn’t fun to think about, but we’ll keep losing daylight until the start of winter. By then, sunrise will be at 7:22 am on December 21, with sunset at 4:27 pm. We’ll lose another 3 hours of daylight before we reverse course and the days slowly get longer.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on September 14, 2016

Heat Wave Over

July 25, 2016: Ahhh…that’s a little better! After 4 sweltering days, the temperature and humidity dipped down to what we usually see this time of year, giving us some relief from the very muggy weather.

HEAT WAVE RECAP

 

The humidity was the big difference in how it felt outside during the latest heat wave. While temperatures in the middle 90’s aren’t unheard of, pairing that with the almost tropical humidity added about 15° onto the heat index, pushing us to “feel’s like” conditions in the 100’s nearly every day during the latest hot spell.

The high humidity also helped fuel very heavy and intense rainfall at times, giving many spots 2″ to 4″ of rain over the last four days. Rockford usually only sees just under 4″ of rain for the MONTH, so getting a half to full month’s worth of rain in a few hours leads to plenty of headaches, like flash flooding.

Billboard 4

The dew point temperature (which shows an accurate measurement of how humid the atmosphere is) topped 78° several times, and at one point reached the low 80’s on Sunday. We rarely see dew points that high. In fact, over the last 46 years, we’ve only had dew points measure at or above 78° one quarter of one percent of the time! Wow! It was definitely “air you can wear” this weekend!

Extended Forecast PM NEW

Thankfully, for those who don’t like dealing with the excessive heat and extreme humidity, we have some relief this week. Dew points should stay below 70° (which is a lot more comfortable), and temperatures stay below 90° as well. In fact, late this week, the forecast call for conditions barely to 80° this weekend, which is a far cry from the hot and very muggy weather we’ve had lately!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on July 25, 2016

Heat Safety

July 20, 2016: With the intense heat coming Thursday and Friday, make sure you are taking care of yourself. We all know it gets hot in the summer and you have ways of dealing with the hot weather, but do be careful when conditions get this intense.

Combined, the hot air and high humidity will feel like the 100’s for much of Thursday and Friday afternoon. Here’s how you can help your body through the intense conditions:

Billboard 3

  • If you need to be outside, exercise or do hard work in the early morning or evening. These time periods avoid the heat of the day, and are a little cooler.
  • If you need to work outside, take frequent breaks, stay out of the direct sunlight as much as possible, and find a shady spot to cool off.
  • Drink lots of water! Sports drinks may help, but are also full of sugar, which isn’t the greatest for the body. Water is best.
  • Spend as much time in a cool, air conditioned place as you can. Your body gets pretty stressed fighting off the intense heat, so give is as much of a break as you can by getting into air conditioning.
  • Wear light colored, loose clothing.
  • Never leave your kids or your pets in a vehicle, even for a minute, even if the windows are rolled down. Temperatures can heat up very rapidly in a vehicle, turning the vehicle into an oven in only a handful of minutes.
  • Find a cool spot with plenty of water for your pets. Leave them inside in the air conditioning as much as possible.
  • Be careful with playground equipment and the pavement. Surfaces like the slide or the sidewalk can be very hot, and sometime burn either your kids or your dog’s paws (dogs sweat through their paws, so walk them early or late, when the pavement is cool).

Finally, know the signs of heat illnesses:

HEAT EXHAUSTION

  • Heat injuries start with heat cramps, so if you start cramping up in the heat, get inside and cool off.
  • Heat exhaustion is the next step as the body starts failing to cool off. You’ll feel very sweaty, and possibly dizzy, nauseous, and possibly starting fainting. Cramps may continue, vomiting is possible, and your skin will be pale and clammy. As before, get inside in the air conditioning, drink plenty of water, and maybe jump into a cool shower if you feel these symptoms. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if untreated.

HEAT STROKE

  • Heat stroke is a medical emergency. As with the other heat illnesses, your body isn’t able to cool off, but by this point your body temperature has reached 103° or higher. Your body can’t cool off, and will begin shutting down, with possibly organ failure or death! Symptoms of heat stroke are: no sweating, rapid pulse, fainting, pounding headache, rapid or racing pulse, and red, dry skin.  Call 9-1-1, and try to cool off as quickly as possible as you are waiting for help.

Call your doctor if you start experiencing these symptoms after being out in the heat for a while, and if you have any questions. Stay safe, and stay cool tomorrow!

-Alex

 

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on July 20, 2016

Bring on the heat!

July 18, 2016: We have a few days to get ready, but very hot weather is on the way!

In fact, the National Weather Service has already issued an Excessive Heat Watch, highlighting where and when the potentially dangerous heat will be striking this week.

Excessive Heat Watch for Thursday to Friday

Excessive Heat Watch for Thursday to Friday

Why is this heat considered harmful? Long story short, your body has a very tough time cooling off in these conditions, leading to heat stroke or heat exhaustion. These are very serious medical conditions that can lead to death. When the weather is this hot and this humid for a couple days in a row, you need to find a way to give your body a break from the heat, or heat stroke or exhaustion can set in quickly.

Have a cool place to go, preferably in air conditioning, and especially during the heat of the day (late morning to early evening). If you have to be outside, take plenty of breaks in a cool or shaded location, and drink lots and lots of water.

Why is this happening? By Thursday, a “heat dome” is setting up, meaning a massive area of high pressure is setting up in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Under high pressure, air sinks and warms up as it does so, leading to those hot temperatures. 90’s to 100’s will be in the forecast for much of the nation while under this dome of high pressure.

"Heat dome" sets up from Thursday into the weekend

“Heat dome” sets up from Thursday into the weekend

Factor in the humidity, and the heat index (“feel’s like conditions”) will be near 110° for a couple days. Find a way to stay cool!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on July 18, 2016

Severe Weather Outlook: July 7th

The threat for severe weather this afternoon/evening still remains, but it has diminished a bit. The new SPC Severe Outlook has shifted the “Enhanced Risk” far to the south and west of our area. The Stateline is now in the “Slight Risk” region for severe storms.

outlook2

This forecast has been very challenging due to models not only disagreeing with each other, but also disagreeing with themselves. Each separate model run has been different throughout the past 24 hours. I’ll use the NAM 4KM model for an example. This picture below is from the 06z model run that shows a very large system moving through later tonight.

nam 4km 0z run

Now, newer model runs came out earlier this morning, and the guidance was much different for storm activity at this time. The NAM 4kM is now suggesting this storm develops well off to the southwest of the Stateline near the Iowa and Missouri border.

4km new run

That’s a big difference between model runs. What’s more frustrating is this model I am pointing out has actually been the most consistent with handling the complex storm development expected later this evening.

Not only have the long range models been struggling, but so have short range models. We use short range models to forecast for 2-8 hours out. For 11:30 AM this morning Futuretrack (which I had displaying the guidance from a short range model) was showing strong thunderstorm develop near the Quad Cities heading NE.

futuretrack

The problem is that isn’t what was happening real-time at 11:30 AM.

radar 1130

In real time light to moderate showers where moving through the Stateline. Models have made this forecast very challenging with the indecisiveness of timing and location of storms. threattracker

The threat for severe weather still remains for this afternoon/evening though, but storms are expected to be much weaker than previously expected. Main threats will be heavy rain and strong winds. Location/timing for development of storms later this after and evening is still a little messy and is something will monitor.

– Nick

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on July 7, 2016

Another cool day, but hot, muggy weather is back very soon…

July 1, 2016: Happy Friday! We are now half way through the year! There are 183 days left to 2016.

We likely won’t be seeing cool temperatures for much longer, since the weather heats up in a big way going into next week. We get rid of the cool northwest air flow in the jet, and see southwesterly jet stream winds return.

Jet stream pattern next week

Jet stream pattern next week

The jet stream also retreats well off to the north and ridges, allowing a lot of hot, humid air back into the Midwest. We’ll likely see highs in the 90’s for a few days, with the heat index near 100. Whew!

July outlook from the Climate Prediction Center

July outlook from the Climate Prediction Center

On top of all that, the latest prediction for the month of July as a whole shows above average weather likely to stick around, and not just here, but from coast to coast across the Lower 48.  We may be seeing a lot of hot days in the near future, so soak up the cooler weather while it’s here!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on July 1, 2016

Uh, Summer? Where’d you go?

June 28, 2016: Talk about a temperature swing- Sunday was in the 90’s (10° above average), then today was only in the mid 70’s (10° below average) in Rockford. Some locations didn’t even get out of the 60’s!

Afternoon temperatures for June 28, 2016

Afternoon temperatures for June 28, 2016

Why such a difference? A simple dip in the jet stream ushered in much cooler air from Canada, providing a little “free A/C” and giving us a break from the hot conditions from the past weekend.

Northwest jet stream winds are directing cooler air into the region this week.

Northwest jet stream winds are directing cooler air into the region this week.

The cool-down was significant enough that we almost broke a nearly 60-year-old record. The coolest high temperature for June 28 was set in 1959 at 75°. The high in Rockford this afternoon did manage to warm back to 75°, which ultimately tied today’s record.

Billboard 4

We’ll get the 80’s back tomorrow as the winds in the jet stream turn a little more out of the southwest, but another kink in the jet pushes cooler air right back into the region for the end of the week.

Another cold front keeps us in the 70's later this week.

Another cold front keeps us in the 70’s later this week.

The cooler pattern will change in time by Independence Day as highs return to average, then we could see another burst of heat close to the 90’s (or into the 90’s) by the end of next week.

Enjoy the cooler weather while it lasts!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 28, 2016

Tornado wrap-up

June 23, 2016: Now that the National Weather Service has had time to analyze the damage left over from last night’s tornadoes, here are the findings:

In total, eleven tornadoes struck northern Illinois, with a lot of them clustered between I-88 and I-80. The majority were also EF-1’s, which feature wind speeds around 100 mph.

June 22 Illinois Tornadoes

Click on image to zoom in.

The tornado closest to home for all of us was in Lee County, striking near West Brooklyn. The tornado was on the ground for a little over 2 miles, and was 300 yards wide. With winds over 100 mph, this tornado was rated as an EF-1.

Click on image to zoom in.

Click on image to zoom in.

The ingredients for very strong thunderstorms and tornadoes were definitely there last night.  The warm front basically determined the location of all these nasty storms. Once we put the warm front on the map, you can see how the tornadoes (and the supercells that spawned them) basically rode or followed the warm front into central Illinois.

Click on image to zoom in.

Click on image to zoom in.

Since the atmosphere was so explosive, we were hoping the warm front didn’t make it too far north, since it would focus the intense severe weather across our area instead of mostly south of us.

Looking ahead, thunderstorms are looking possible Saturday night into Sunday, but severe weather isn’t likely right now. We’ll keep you update, as always, if we do see anything concerning!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 23, 2016