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IN SEARCH OF RAIN....

The weather is going to get more pleasant around here, but with the nice conditions also comes drier weather. And that's not something we need right now. The latest Drought Monitor came out Thursday morning and dry and drought conditions have been expanding across Iowa and other parts of the Midwest. The worst of it is centered in western Iowa where severe drought conditions exist. As an example, Carroll, Iowa has only seen 1.44" of rain in July (a month where there's normally over 4 inches). Additionally, the city is behind in precipitation for the year by about TEN inches. Compare that to Cedar Rapids, which is starting to get dry, but got 4.77" of rain in July (about normal) and is just s

THANK A TROPICAL STORM...

You won't get blasted by the winds and torrential rains but you will feel the impacts of what should at the very least be a tropical storm by the end of the weekend (perhaps a hurricane). Let me show you what's going on and why you should care. The best place to start is on the GOES high resolution satellite imagery. I've highlighted two pieces of energy that eventually will interact with one another. The disturbance dropping into the Midwest Thursday will act like an ice creme scoop as it digs southeast and scoops out a dip in the storm track. At the same time a wave in the tropical Atlantic is expected to track westward towards Florida where there is a high chance it becomes a hurricane.

STEVE'S "WILD" WORLD OF WEATHER...

When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on TSwails.com. Take it away Steve! IOWA'S DEADLIEST "JULY" TORNADO: On July 6, 1893, the weather was close and sultry across the state and the

SOME THOUGHTS ON WINTER....

Getting into the "dog days" of summer like we are now, our weather tends to grow sluggish and slow down. The jet is at its seasonal weakest as the cold air that powers it much of late fall through spring vacations in Canada. Without the strong thermal contrast to intensify cyclones, late summer storms are fewer and often far between. Severe weather (which was minimal this year) has long since peaked and precipitation episodes now become scattered and hit and miss in nature. For me this is the doldrums, my slow time of year, and while there's always weather, sometimes I have to look elsewhere to find anything exciting. It's now that I start digging around looking for clues to what lies ahead

THAT'S HOW I SPELL RELIEF...

In the world of weather, nothing brings relief from a hot steamy air mass better than a "cold front". One of those crossed the central Midwest Sunday night and boy did it do a number on the heat in more ways than one. First, look at the 24 hour temperature change from Sunday afternoon to Monday afternoon. Much of my area 9-13 degrees cooler. Then you get into the dew points and the reduced moisture in the atmosphere was even more dramatic. Many area dew points were down 11-16 degrees over that same 24 hour period. Where it becomes really apparent is in the heat index values. Sunday afternoon some were as high as 110. This sampling around 2:00 pm shows several heat indices hovering near 107 d

SWEET RELIEF IN THE NEW WEEK....

We all sweat through the weekend. It was hot, it was HUMID! Dew points in the 70s are uncomfortable enough, but dew points were near 80° on Sunday! That translated to triple digit heat index values in the afternoon.. and for some it already felt like 100° early in the day. Here's a look at the heat index values from the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities at 11 am Sunday- A cold front moves through Sunday night into Monday and will lead to showers and storms and drop the humidity. Some showers and thunderstorms will be possible early Monday in portions of Illinois and Missouri as the cold front moves through. Humidity levels will drop through the day Monday and it won't be *super* co

SIZZLING AND STORMY SUNDAY

The heat is here for the weekend and -- oof -- was it a steamy Saturday! Temperatures were in the 80s and 90s, heat index values will near and above 100°! Take a look at some of the numbers from the upper Midwest (from National Weather Service in La Crosse) And the heat gets cranked up a little bit more on Sunday... There may be a few showers and clouds in parts of Iowa Sunday morning in the wake of a complex of storms in South Dakota and Minnesota. But most likely there will be a lot of sunshine, heat, and humidity. Dew points are going to be very high (70° = uncomfortable, 75°+ = gross, gross, gross) Sunday afternoon The combination will send heat index values into the triple digits, possi

INTO THE PRESSURE COOKER...

Upper level and surface winds returned to a southerly position Friday and you all felt the difference with warmer temperatures and significantly more humidity. This is the look at 500mb. The biggest impact, dew points that were 10-12 degrees higher over my western counties in Iowa. Saturday and Sunday, we'll be swimming in the soup as deep tropical moisture gets drawn into the central Midwest. Water vapor is expected to exceed 2.00 inches just ahead of developing cold front Sunday. That's 200 percent higher than normal. All that pooling moisture will generate a steamy weekend that could conclude with thunderstorms later Sunday. First let's talk about the heat. While Saturday will be plenty b

SUMMER'S WORST BEHIND US....

We talked yesterday about the shortening days and how that's causing average temperatures to begin the ascent that leads to winter. I'm also wondering based on the latest MJO (Madden Julien Oscillation) if we have felt the worst of this summer's heat? I want to show you what I'm seeing and thinking in that regard. Let's begin with the MJO and its definition. THE DEFINITION OF THE MADDEN JULIEN OSCILLATION: The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is a tropical disturbance that propagates eastward around the global tropics with a cycle on the order of 30-60 days. The MJO has wide ranging impacts on the patterns of tropical and extratropical precipitation, atmospheric circulation, and surface tempe

THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT...

You may not have noticed it Wednesday with 14 hours and 43 minutes of daylight, but the days have been getting shorter for a month. Since the beginning of July the length of our day has shortened by 27 minutes. Sunset occurred at 8:45 pm July 1st and on Wednesday it had shrunk to 8:34 pm. Sunrise has backed from 5:35 to 5:51 am. By the official start of winter on December 21st (the shortest day of the year), the length of our daylight will be down to 9 hours and 7 minutes. The Sun will rise at 7:31 am and set at 4:38 pm. If you haven't figured it out, the lack of sunshine and its less direct rays are the reason we get progressively colder and colder over the next 6 months. Now, here is some

STEVE'S WILD WORLD OF WEATHER...

When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on TSwails.com. Take it away Steve! SOME NOTABLE JULY IOWA HAILSTORMS: July 6, 1899 - A severe hailstorm swept through Marion County around 10

SUMMER MARCHES ON...

Before I get into the forecast, I came across a graphic on the Iowa Mesonet (Daryl Herzmann has an excellent site there) which allows us to visualize the highest and lowest hourly temperature readings for any hour of the day. I ran both ends of the spectrum (highest and lowest) for Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities and came up with this side by side comparison. The hour of the day is on the left and the date of the highest or coldest temperature for that hour is off to the right. The Quad Cities data goes back to 1929. The all time lowest of 33 below was reported at 7:00 am January 31, 2019. I remember it like it was yesterday! The all-time highest 110 at 3,4, and 5:00 pm July 14, 1936. For C

SUMMER SO FAR, WHAT I EXPECTED AND WHAT'S HAPPENED....

About 6 weeks ago I wrote this statement, "With sea surface temperatures setting up the way they are I've had a change of heart and suspect much of the summer we may reside on the northern fringe of NW flow aloft. With that in mind (along with the change in the EURO weeklies) I'm amending my summer outlook downward to include near to slightly below normal temperatures". I also called for summer rainfall to end up near to above normal. Summer in the weather world is defined as June-August. Now that we're halfway through the summer we have pretty much stayed on the fringe of the storm track (the rim of fire) but the warmth is still winning out so I'm off on my temperature assessment. As you ca

TWO YEARS AGO: THE MARSHALLTOWN EF-3 TORNADO

On July 19th, 2018 multiple tornadoes touched down in central Iowa. That included twin twisters in Bondurant, an EF-3 in Pella and the EF-3 that went into the heart of Marshalltown. It's a radar image you don't see all that much in this neck of the woods. A clear hook echo and a TDS (tornado debris signature) showing evidence of a tornado and a large tornado at that. It formed after the storm producing the tornado in Pella (to the south) sent out an outflow boundary. The boundary fed the storm (essentially) and lead to stronger rotation that produced a large tornado that formed just outside of the city. A rare Tornado Emergency was issued for Marshalltown, the National Weather Service saying

HATE THE HUMIDITY? BLAME THE CORN!

It was a hot and humid day on Saturday. Some of us started off with clouds and some rain, which likely prevented it from getting even hotter... but it was still very uncomfortable outside. The air you can wear, as they say! Here's a look at the heat index values from Saturday afternoon -- The reason it felt so hot was due to the dew points (a measure of the moisture in the atmosphere)... they were in the 70s, even pushing 80 degrees in some spots! 70 degree dew points = uncomfortable. 80 degree dew points = miserable! And the reason why the dew points were so high... well.. that can be blamed on the corn. I love corn, don't get me wrong. The corn fields are beautiful, sweet corn is delicious

THE HEAT IS ON, STRONG STORMS TO FOLLOW...

Over the past 24 hours winds have returned to the southwest allowing moisture and very warm air to make a move on the central Midwest. Make no mistake about it, Saturday is going to be a burner! Here's the surface pattern Friday night showing the set-up for the heat. Notice how the return flow has allowed dew points to climb 10-23 degrees over the past 24 hours from the Plains into Iowa Temperatures are lagging a bit behind the moisture but they too are increasing. This is the 24 hour change. We'll add another 5 or 6 degrees to these numbers Saturday. Even with highs only n the 80s to near 90 Friday, the heat index reached 106 from Sioux City through Des Moines and on to Ottumwa. Saturday wa

A SULTRY SATURDAY AHEAD, BUT IT'S BEEN A LOT WORSE...

The central Midwest just passed the 25th anniversary of arguably the worst short term heat wave in its history. July 12-16th of 1995. A vicious combination of heat and humidity literally boiled the region with heat index values that reached 131 degrees in Cedar Rapids (100 temperature/ 86 degree dew point). In Chicago alone, more than 700 people died from heat related causes. At the time I was working in the Quad Cities when the afternoon of the 13th the heat index (how it feels when the heat and humidity is combined) peaked at 125 degrees. The thing I vividly remember is walking out of KWQC's air conditioned building into a wall of steam equivalent to a sauna. My body instantly began to pe

THE STEAM IS ON THIS WEEKEND...

Yesterday in my post we discussed summer rainfall and how it can vary dramatically over short distances. Something else that's unique to the season is the amount of rain that can fall in a short period of time. With the warmer temperatures of summer the atmosphere can contain more moisture, which when released under the proper conditions, can produce torrential downpours. In these graphics from the Iowa Mesonet you can see the top 10 rainfall totals over a 1 hour period for some select cities in my area. Notice the majority of these events occurred during the summer months of June, July, and August. The past 24 hours the heavy rains of 1-2" per hour have occurred over my far southern countie

THE SIGHTS, SOUNDS, AND FEEL OF SUMMER...

If you haven't noticed by now, summer rainfall is a measure in contrasts. Rain tends to be convective in nature meaning sharp delineations on the edges of the thunderstorm clusters. Simply put, it can mean dramatic swings in amounts over relatively short distances. One side of town can get an inch in a downpour while the other side hears the thunder but gets little more than a refreshing breeze. That general feast or famine type concept has never been more evident in the central Midwest than this summer. Take a look at the rainfall totals since the beginning of meteorological summer (June 1st) to the present. During that 6 week period some parts of eastern Iowa have seen 10-12 inches of rain

MORE SEVERE WEATHER TUESDAY....

A cold front will move through the Midwest Tuesday and bring the chance for strong to severe thunderstorms. Here's the outlook as of Monday evening, and it will likely change by Tuesday morning: Tuesday will start off dry across much of the area. As a result temperatures will take off into the 80s: Instability will build through the day and lead to the potential for strong storms as well as heavy rain. That will be enough for thunderstorms to be on the strong side late Tuesday afternoon and evening and through the night. Strong winds and hail will be the main threats with these thunderstorms. Along with the chance for flash flooding due to locally heavy rain. There is enough spin in the atmo

© 2020 Terry Swails