July Outlook

July 1, 2015: Welcome to July, and the halfway point of the year! Starting tomorrow, there will be less time left in the year versus time spent in the year (as in today is Day 182 of 2015, with 183 days left; tomorrow there will be 182, then 181, etc.).

We had a pretty rainy June in some spots of the Stateline, so how is July looking to shape up? First off, here’s what a typical or average July day looks like:

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

We usually see afternoon temperatures around 85°, with the nightly temperature around 63°. The total amount of rainfall for the month is typically just under 4″.  This is slightly drier than June (4.65″ for an average June).

This July is looking to be a little cool, and a little wet, at least according to the Climate Prediction Center’s forecast.

Temperature outlook for July by the Climate Prediction Center. Click on image to enlarge.

Temperature outlook for July by the Climate Prediction Center. Click on image to enlarge.

The CPC’s forecast shows below average weather across a lot of the Midwest and central Great Plains. This doesn’t mean we will be cold the entire month, or not see 90° or so every once in a while; this just means, most of the time, we may be sitting cooler than the middle 80’s for highs, and low 60’s for lows.

Rainfall outlook for July by the Climate Prediction Center. Click on image to enlarge.

Rainfall outlook for July by the Climate Prediction Center. Click on image to enlarge.

The CPC also is predicting above average rainfall for the Midwest, including a very good chance for above average rain in southern Illinois and for Missouri. Like above, this doesn’t mean we will be getting dumped on all the time, like stretches of June. It may be that we see a little more rain than usual.

Overall, cooler and rainy weather is the outlook for this month. Temperatures are looking to follow that trend for the first week or so, as our forecast has the middle 80’s only once. As for rain, we should stay dry until Monday (check out the forecast at www.wrex.com/weather). Beyond that, we’ll have to see how our rain chances shape up.

Here’s to July!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on July 1, 2015

Rainy June Wrap-up

June 30, 2015: With the last day of June wrapping up dry, here are some unofficial totals for Rockford and the Stateline (of course, can’t be official until after midnight tonight).

Rockford, of all things, will end the month a hair below average.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

You are likely thinking “What?! But this month was so rainy!”.  Yep, this month had the amount of rain that a typical June gets.

However, just because a weather sensor in Rockford records that amount, doesn’t mean it’s getting everything for the area. You can see how localized heavy rainfall can be on the following maps.

Total rainfall for June 2015 in Illinois. Click on image to enlarge.

Total rainfall for June 2015 in Illinois. Click on image to enlarge.

This month, a lot of the heavy rainfall was concentrated on Lee County, and areas to the north and west. The strongest storms seemed to have fizzled out by the time they were crossing Winnebago and Boone Counties (the areas on blue and green vs purple). Some spots of Lee Co. had over 10″ of rain (in pink) this month!

How far above or below average rainfall was in June for Illinois. Click on image to enlarge.

How far above or below average rainfall was in June for Illinois. Click on image to enlarge.

This map shows how much above average 10″ of rain is, and we are looking at anywhere from 5″ to 8″ above average.

Good news moving forward: regardless of how much rain your area received, July will start out dry for a few days, giving everyone a chance to dry out after a rainy June.

-Alex

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Posted under flooding, rain, statistics, weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 30, 2015

Cold air funnels vs. tornadoes

June 29, 2015: The conditions in the atmosphere this afternoon brought some interesting weather to the Stateline. We saw funnel clouds of a few types around our area. To help with any curiosity or confusion over what we saw today, here’s the difference between cold air funnel clouds and tornadic funnel clouds (basically, two very different set of conditions in the atmosphere):

First off, what does a cold air funnel look like?  A few viewers provided snapshots of some of the cold air funnels in our area today.

Viewer photos of cold air funnels this afternoon. Click on image to enlarge.

 

Notice a couple things about the funnel clouds.  First off, see how high they are in the sky? And how small and puny they look?  These are some of the distinguishing characteristics of a cold air funnel cloud.  They are “high-based”, as we meteorologists like to call them, or that they form pretty far off the ground and high up in the storm or clouds.  Two, they look like a much bigger problem, but only get to be about that size, and remain small, weak-looking, and are slowly rotating. Cold air funnel clouds rarely reach the ground, and if they do, there is minimal to no damage. They only appear threatening, but are basically harmless.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

How do they form? There has to be a shallow layer of cold air, BEHIND a cold front (this is a key difference from tornadoes, in that tornado-producing storms usually form along or AHEAD of a front).  There also has to be a little wind shear, or winds changing direction as you go up away from the ground. As the air from the surface rises, it spins a little in the weak shear, and if that air makes it to the cloud and fully condenses, you see a little, weak rotating cloud under the storm.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

This is different from a tornado, in that a tornado needs much stronger wind shear, as well as plenty of warm, moist air to raise the instability in the atmosphere.  Unstable air can rise very quickly, getting the base of the storm to be lower.  This allows a much stronger rotation to be close to the surface, causing damage winds.

In summary, a cold air funnel forms much higher in the sky, is weakly rotating, and doesn’t pose much of a threat. A rotating funnel cloud spinning much faster and is much closer to the ground is most likely going to result in a tornado.

Tornado Warning for Lee County this evening. The conditions were much different in Lee Co. compared to elsewhere, so this type of rotation was threatening. Click on image to enlarge.

Tornado Warning for Lee County this evening. The conditions were much different in Lee Co. compared to elsewhere, so this type of rotation was threatening. Click on image to enlarge.

We saw both of these conditions today- the air near Rockford was cooler and weakly sheared, while the air in Lee Co. where we had a tornado warning for a while was much more humid, a little warmer, and had better shear.

So, how do you know the difference, and what should you do if you see a funnel cloud? Treat all funnel clouds with respect, and keep plenty of distance between you and them. The best advice is if you see a ROTATING (sometimes clouds hang low off of the storm, look like a funnel, but are harmless because they don’t rotate) storm cloud, check in with us online, on Facebook or Twitter, on-air, etc. and etc., or check to see if you weather radio is going off, your phone has an emergency alert on it, etc. We or the National Weather Service will let you know if that funnel cloud poses a threat or not. And remember, conditions can change in a hurry, or vary from location to location. Earlier in the day, the cold air funnels to the north did not pose a threat, but later in the afternoon there was a different set of conditions that sparked a potential tornado in Lee Co.  When in doubt, play it safe, get inside, and check in with us.

-Alex

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Posted under safety, science, severe weather, tornado, weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 29, 2015

8 Lightning Deaths This Month, 13 This Year

A fear of tornadoes is a widespread uneasiness. The worry of lightning is not quite as widespread, and the severity isn’t always taken as serious.

Did you know there have been more fatalities from lightning strikes than tornadoes in the United States this year?

Did you know lightning strikes in the United States about 25 million times each year?

6-29-15 lightnings

Many people wait too long to go indoors when a thunderstorm is approaching, and do not abide by the old saying “When thunder roars, go indoors.”

In fact, the United States has had 13 deaths due to lightning just this year. 8 of those deaths happened in the last 29 days. EVERY single one of them happened outdoors.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recorded 5 women and 8 men were struck and killed by lightning, doing activities such as walking, riding a motorcycle, camping, fishing, and more. For information on where these deaths occurred, click here.

So how about reviewing some lightning safety?

If you’re outdoors, there’s not a lot you can do to substantially reduce your risk of being struck by lightning. Your safest option is to find shelter in a safe building or vehicle.

If you absolutely cannot seek safe shelter, there are some outdoor lightning safety tips that will slightly lessen your risk of being struck:

-Avoid high heights, the tops of hills, and open fields.
-Stay away from tall isolated objects such as trees-If you’re with a group of people, spread it. This could avoid the current traveling from one person to the next.
-Stay away from wet objects and metal objects. Water and metal do not attract lightning, but they are great conductors of electricity.

For more safety tips with specific locations, click here.

 

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on June 29, 2015

Pattern Change

June 26, 2015: Relief from the persistent, heavy-at-times rainfall in the forecast may be just a day or so away. Lately, we’ve been stuck in a weather pattern than looks something like this:

JET 1

Click on image to enlarge.

We have a west-to-east oriented jet stream.  This pattern means the waves that move through the jet, which help spark up thunderstorms, roll one after another through our area, leaving us with plenty of chances for rain. In addition, persistent winds at a lower level in the atmosphere provided a rich environment full of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to fuel thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.  Since we had an ignition source and plenty of fuel for storms aligning over our area, we got a ton of rain.

Now, for the change-up:

JET 2

Click on image to enlarge.

This pattern should be taking shape starting today, and lasting into at least next week.  Now, the jet stream is more north-to-south as a trough (the U-shape over the eastern half of the U.S.) settles into the lower 48. Not only will cooler, less humid air start flowing into the Midwest, but we no longer have that rich moisture source from the Gulf of Mexico.  While there are still chances for rain, we won’t be as hot and humid to ramp up the instability in the atmosphere, which should keep the explosive storms away.

So, who’s ready for a little heavy rain relief?  I think we deserve it!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 26, 2015

Soaked Stateline

June 25, 2015: Most of this month’s rain has fallen in the last two weeks. Some areas are pretty water-logged as a result, so hopefully the next few weeks lay off on the rain a little.

Surprisingly, Rockford is only slightly above average this month, overall.

coverage 5

Click on image to enlarge.

Including today’s rainfall, we reached the 4″ mark for the month. An average June has 4.65″, so we aren’t that far away at this point.

However, let’s zoom out from just one point in Rockford to see the rest of the Stateline over the last 2 weeks.

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Rainfall from June 11 to June 25. Click on image to enlarge.

Areas west and south of Winnebago Co. have seen a lot more than 4″, and some sections of Lee Co. have picked up over 10″ of rain! That’s around two months’ worth of rain in 2 weeks.

3

How much “excess” rain has fallen in the last 2 weeks (June 11-25). Click on image to enlarge.

To put this in perspective, some areas picked up an extra 8″ of rainfall when compared to the typical amounts that fall from June 11 to the 25th!

These maps also show where a lot of the rain has tracked recently, and how widely ranging precipitation totals can be at times. It would be nice to have the rain as evenly distributed as possible, but that’s not always the case.  The forecast over the next week doesn’t have any signs of heavy rainfall or constant showers, so we should get a breather for a while to dry out some.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 25, 2015

Shifting Severe Threats

June 24, 2015: As mentioned yesterday, there are plenty of time when one round of thunderstorms has a direct impact on the next rounds coming after them. This can have major impacts on possible severe weather; we may see plenty of potential for severe weather, but have to wait to see how the pieces fall into place.

Tonight, strong thunderstorms are still possible, but not as likely as areas south of I-80 in central Illinois. The reason for the shift in the severe weather areas is all do to earlier rounds of thunderstorms.

2

Click on image to enlarge

Several rounds of thunderstorms in Iowa this morning produced enough outflow to keep a warm front nearly stationary over Missouri.  The air behind that front is very unstable and would be needed to help fire off severe weather over us. However, the morning storms in Iowa plus a little activity that rolled through the Stateline this evening has kept us nice and cool, and pushed on the front enough to keep it in place.

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Severe weather chances for Wednesday night (June 24). Click on image to enlarge.

As a result, the best places for severe weather are now in southern Iowa and central Illinois, and away from us.  We could still get some strong storms and heavy rainfall, which could lead to flash flooding, but the risk isn’t as high as to our south.

3

Click on image to enlarge.

Eventually, upper level winds will direct more unstable air towards us, so the strong storms in Iowa do eventually move in, but without the extra help from the warm front being close to us, we won’t see as explosive of development.

Keep the weather radio on and handy just in case overnight, and watch out for flooded roads tomorrow morning during your commute. However, we shouldn’t have to hold our breath as much tonight since conditions are looking better for severe weather in places that aren’t our backyard.

-Alex

 

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Posted under flooding, rain, science, severe weather, weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 24, 2015

Thoughts on Severe Weather Tomorrow (June 24)

June 23, 2015: Wednesday, and especially Wednesday night, features a risk for severe weather and flash flooding. As of now, it appears the locations with the highest chances for severe would be south of Rockford in Ogle, Lee, and DeKalb Counties.

THREATTRACK

There are a few issues with the setup for severe weather tomorrow.  We would need a northbound warm front to be close to the Stateline to provide the necessary shear, or “twist” in the atmosphere, to get rotating storms. That front also has plenty of very warm, moist air to fuel severe storms.

FLASH FLOOD SETUPFor starters, thunderstorms form tonight in Iowa as very moist air surges into that state. Those storms will travel east into the Stateline, arriving by tomorrow afternoon.

2The issue here, is that the outflow, or rain-cooled air pushing out away from these storms, may push on the warm front, keeping severe weather away from our area for most of the day.

3

The front does eventually move in, but likely not until Wednesday night. This raises the risk for heavy rainfall and flash flooding, with a lower severe risk, since the air is cooling off after sunset, robbing the atmosphere of energy.  There is a lot of moisture coming with the front, and because of very soggy weather from Monday plus heavy rain along the slow moving warm front, flash flooding is possible.

FUTURETRACK RAINFALL

You can see Futuretrack does have this general idea in mind, and shows 2″ to 4″ of rainfall through Thursday morning. Of course, this is only one model solution, but this does give us a general picture that heavy rainfall may be a major issue tomorrow night.

So, in summary: thunderstorms are possible by tomorrow night, with a risk for severe weather.  This is all dependent on how the Iowa thunderstorms tonight affect the area tomorrow morning and afternoon. Stay tuned and alert, as this situation develops.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 23, 2015

Summer Solstice: June 21

June 20, 2015: The astronomical or “official” start of summer is here tomorrow! The summer season begins at 11:38 a.m., and is the longest day of the year.

SUMMER SOLSTICE

Click on image to enlarge

The Earth is tilted the most toward the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, giving us the most amount of daylight. In fact, the day is a whopping 6 hours longer than the Winter Solstice, or the shortest day of the year! The sun’s rays are also nearly 5 times stronger during this part of the summer, allowing us to heat up quickly during the day.  As we tilt away from the sun in the coming months, the sun’s rays get weaker as they have to travel a little farther through space to reach us.

Enjoy the extra rays, and here’s to summer!

-Alex

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Posted under science, statistics, sunlight, warm up, weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 19, 2015

Tropical “Storm” In Illinois

June 18, 2015: Tropical Storm Bill has been stirring up plenty of trouble with rain and wind since it made landfall in Texas earlier this week, and we may feel some of those impacts in our region. One of the advantages of living in the Midwest is NOT having to deal with tropical storms and hurricanes. However, every once in a while, one holds together just enough to provide the Midwest with a little rain.

bill path

Click on image to enlarge

You can see here that Bill started over the warm, moist air of the Gulf of Mexico, and made landfall this past Tuesday. Sustained winds were around 40 mph, but the wind gusts were in the 60 mph range. As Bill moves north, the storm will weaken, since the very warm and humid air of the Gulf won’t be feeding it any more. The storm essentially weakens into a strong low pressure system, similar to ones we get around here to bring us rain. What’s neat is that southern Illinois will be getting a taste of Bill this weekend!  The storm will not be nearly as strong, as you can see.

BILL 1

Click on image to enlarge

While Bill brings blustery winds, the bigger impact is the rainfall Bill is able to provide.  In fact, with most hurricanes and tropical storms, its not the winds that do the most damage, like you would think.  It’s the rain and flooding this storms can create. You can see in the radar image from Thursday evening that numerous flash flood warnings are out (in maroon), though a few severe thunderstorm warnings are occurring too (in orange).

bill precip

Click on image to enlarge

Here’s the 48-hour rainfall totals from the the stretch Bill has covered.  This doesn’t capture all of the rain Bill has dropped, but you get a decent picture that these storms can drop a ton of soaking rain, especially since they move pretty slow (Bill is only moving north at 11 mph), allowing the heavy showers to sit on places until they are flooding.  In fact, some areas in Texas saw 6″ to 10″ of rain, while in Oklahoma, certain areas had 4″ to 8″ of rainfall!

Bill will be much weaker by the time the storm reaches Illinois this Saturday, but a possible 2″ or more of rain may still fall as the weakening storm moves eastward.  The Stateline should be a little too far north to get rainfall from Bill, though we may get to see some of the clouds streaming off the storm over our area, which is a neat bonus.  It’s not often we get to say our weather is being influenced by a tropical system in these parts!

– Alex

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Posted under flooding, rain, science, tropical weather, weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 18, 2015