Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weather, Technology, and Chasing. Part 1. Maps Maps Maps!

Hello Followers!

I thank you again for taking the time to read what I have to say. My recent blog posts have mainly been about weather phenomena and me explaining why they occur. I plan to keep providing updates, but I want to allow for some deviation so that I can talk about technology that I find interesting too.

Since graduating college and finding a job, I now have money to put aside to chase storms and experience what I learned about for four years. Chasing provides a unique coupling of technology with weather. This is what I want to talk about in this post and more to come.

Jumping in... a slight risk was issued for the state of Arizona, so my Fiance and I hit the road and drove out to Wickenburg, Arizona. There is something unique about the drive from Phoenix to Wickenburg, there is no cell service. A couple things are limited when there is no cell service: you cannot view radar and cannot view or use Google maps. The later is the worst condition as you can find yourself lost or stranded in service gaps. This really bothered me but thankfully it is a little hard to get lost between Phoenix and Wickenburg (see image).

Once returning safely from our trip, I decided that I would never be put in that position again. Granted, there are paper DeLorme maps available everywhere, but I am always on the look out to make things easier. Coming from a GIS background, I decided to address the problem in two ways: find maps that could be available offline and have GPS functionality. An additional parameter is I want this to be relevant to phones and tablets, as I do not want to go out and purchase or use a laptop solely for chasing (my reasoning is for another post).


Finding an offline map solely for chasing proved to be difficult to find. Many apps that claim to have offline functionality, came with additional baggage. A general example, most mapping apps want you to download specific tiles, instead of a map of the US. Tile example below.

*Notice the tiles?

I found this to be unacceptable, so my search continued. I found a bare bones app for the Android/iOS market. This app is called CoPilot. CoPilot is interesting because it allows you to download the entire USA road map (roughly 1.9GB, which Android uses FAT32 so as long as your file is under 4GB, it will load fine) directly to your phone. It not only provides a map, but also provides points of interest (gas stations, hotels, restaurants, banks, ect..), navigation, and GPS location while offline. It's quick too! No more waiting for maps to render, it loads as fast as your processor can render them. It has a ton of online material as well, but that is not what we are here to talk about.

To give you an idea of resolution, the last picture in the line up is unpaved (farmer tracks) roads in Kansas. No more sifting through DeLorme maps to find out where the heck you are because your cell service is out.  As long as you have a GPS connection, it will pin point your location no matter what 4G service you have or don't have. In up-coming posts, I hope to tackle the GPS service issues with phones/tablets with cool hardware that you can purchase.

Thanks again for reading, I hope you find this interesting!



ALK Technologies, (2014, 10, 7). CoPilot GPS Plan & Explore. [Android and iOS]
Retrieved from:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Storm February 4th - 5th

I've been seeing discussion on the up coming snow storm for February 4th -5th 2014 for the Indiana region. During this post, I will give a brief synopsis of current model output. Due to the complexities of winter storm forecasting, these outputs can drastically change over the next few days. These images should be taken lightly. 



To begin, The European model is usually the most accurate in weather prediction. The European model depicts snow initiation at Tuesday 02/04/14 at around 8pm. It shows a vigorous snow swath spanning from south central to north central Indiana with snow fall rates around an inch per hour. Storm is expected to end around 8am.


The Canadian is another highly sensitive model, it appears to agree with the timing of the snow event. Snow appears to be entering Indiana boundary around 8pm and dumping substantial snow amounts. Storm appears to end before 8am. Similarities can be deduced from swath path and width. Both models appear to be showing heaviest snow bands in central Indiana moving NE. Intensity of storm also appear to be in an agreement. 

Global Forecast System - American

The GFS, American model, disagrees with the Canadian and EURO models and shows the majority of the snow traveling through extreme southern Indiana and impacting Kentucky the most. It also disagrees with a widespread severe snow event and displays a more localized impact around the tri-state (Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio) location. An important factor is that timing and general location is roughly in agreement with the previous two models. 


You might be asking yourself.. Is this global warming? Are we experiencing global cooling?

These questions are normal, but this is nothing new. This is an example of a Colorado low. Colorado lows  originate from Colorado around the winter/spring time. Generally speaking, they bring about large amounts of winter precipitation with them. They can also be compared with Alberta clippers, which originate from Alberta Canada. It is normal for the heaviest snow band to be between 50-200 miles wide. Areas of heaviest snow can be seen where 700mb (A layer in the atmosphere) temperatures are between -10 and -5 degrees. Looking at the forecasted 700mb temps for this time period, it appears that the location meets the criteria as temps are between -10 and -5 degrees C. 


So as of now, conditions do look favorable for another snow storm beginning Tuesday evening 02/04/14 into Wednesday morning 02/05/14. All three major models are showing similar results of timing and intensity of the storm. Discrepancies occur on location of heaviest snow bands. Again, these forecasts are a week out as of currently. Literally anything can drastically increase or reduce these figures, so these totals should be taken with a grain of salt. 


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Monsoons and early morning weather in Tempe, AZ


It has been a few weeks since I have updated this blog. To fill you in, my life has been crazy hectic! I recently moved to the sunny state of Arizona, and got a job as a Foreclosure Specialist at Nationstar. I have also found a great place to live and have been making new friends here in the valley. Arizona has turned out to be a real gem of a state. Such natural beauty, I can hardly wait to explore more of it once it cools down.

Monsoons and Weather

Naturally, coming from a weather background, I cannot help but notice all the weather that has been going on in the area. From torrential downpours, too extreme lightning, Arizona appears to be rich with weather activity. It is monsoon season! Scientifically speaking, monsoons are classified as a change in the predominant wind direction. There are two types of monsoons: dry and wet. Arizona usually experiences a wet monsoon. As you can see from the pictures that I posted, monsoons can have a big impact on the environment and us.

So what forces contribute to wind flow changes in Arizona?
How does the National Weather Service recognize when monsoon season has started?
Lets take a look!

Forces Contributing to Monsoon Season

In order to understand wind flows, you first have to understand thermodynamic principles. The laws of thermodynamics states that energy must flow from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. In meteorology, we are all about temperatures, dew points, densities, pressure, ect. So when we talk about pressure, we are really saying that areas of high pressure can be assumed to have cooler temperatures, and areas of low pressure can be assumed to have warmer temperatures. That is why in the summertime, it is always cooler on the floor of your home, and it is always hot towards the ceiling (hot air rises, cool air sinks. Think of the air as density). 

On a broader scale (scale, another important meteorology concept), Arizona begins to experience increasingly hot temperatures leading into the summer months. Factoring in what we learned earlier (hot air rises), a thermal low pressure system begins to develop over the Arizona region. This low pressure system is the beginning phase of the wind shift. As the low pressure system develops, the subtropical high pressure ridge pushes into the central United States. When this happens, we begin to see a change in wind flow. Instead of winds coming from the west north west, we begin to get a warm and moist southerly flow of air. Humidity (dew points rise) in the desert region increases significantly, and thus storms are able to develop. 

How to recognize monsoons and the National Weather Service's definition for monsoons

Recognizing the beginning of monsoon season is not rocket science. I'm sure all of us in Arizona are used to the 101 flooding or cars washing away. 
Diving into a more scientific approach, the NWS has stated that it classifies the beginning of monsoon season when dew point temperatures are above 50 degrees fahrenheit for more than 3 days. This illustrates that a direction change in the predominant wind has had a chance to impact the region. 

So lets take a look at current weather conditions (obviously we are in monsoon season, this is just to hammer home my point). This picture shows temperature and dew points (temperature being on top and dew point being on bottom).

As we can see, dew point temperatures are at 61 degrees. So we are still in monsoon season.

Just to further illustrate how well this works, the below picture is of a graph showing dew point temperatures and rainfall patterns in the Phoenix area.

Dew Point Temperatures:

Rainfall/Thunderstorm records:

Comparing the two graphs reveal that the higher percentages of rain and thunderstorms occur when the dew point temperatures are above 50 degrees.

To wrap things up, I hope you all enjoyed my insight into what monsoons are, the forces that drive them, and some defining meteorological characteristics. While everyone says forecasting for a desert is easy, it can still pose interesting weather situations. Thanks for reading!