Monday, June 12, 2023

The "Dead Zone"?

 The dead zone is an area with low oxygen levels, leading to the death of marine life. It is primarily caused by excessive nutrient runoff from Midwest farms, specifically from fertilizer use, which eventually reaches the Gulf through the Mississippi River.

 Scientists have released their 2023 forecast for the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, predicting it to be approximately 4,100 square miles this summer. Although larger than last year, it is still smaller than the average size.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses models and data from the U.S. Geological Survey to make annual forecasts for the dead zone. Although nitrate and phosphorus discharges in the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River were below average, this season's forecast still exceeds the federal Hypoxia Task Force's goal of reducing the dead zone to 1,900 square miles or smaller by 2035. The average size of the dead zone over the past five years has been 4,280 square miles, more than double the target, and it has been consistently increasing in size over time.

Don Scavia, an emeritus professor at the University of Michigan involved in the forecast research, highlights the lack of progress in reducing the dead zone's size, suggesting that current efforts to mitigate nutrient runoff have not been effective. He criticizes the prioritization of industrial agriculture over water quality by federal and state agencies, as well as Congress.

NOAA attributes the larger forecasted size to lower river flow rates. Despite significant rainfall and flooding in the upper Midwest earlier in the spring, the discharge in May from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers was approximately 33% below the long-term average.

Lauren Salvato, policy and program director at the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association, is optimistic about the projections and emphasizes that states are working diligently to meet their nutrient reduction goals. Many states within the Mississippi River basin have developed their own plans, in coordination with the Hypoxia Task Force, to address nutrient runoff.

Salvato acknowledges the positive impact of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which has allocated $60 million over five years to the task force's action plan. Some states are utilizing their portion of the funding to implement sustainable farming practices, such as cover crops, while others are increasing staffing. However, she notes that the results of these efforts will take years, possibly decades, to measure effectively.

Although NOAA described this year's forecast as "below average," Matt Rota, senior policy director at Healthy Gulf, an environmental advocacy group, expresses disappointment and criticizes NOAA's portrayal as misleading. He highlights that the forecasted dead zone is twice the size of the reduction goal and emphasizes the need for enforceable regulatory actions or substantial federal investment to address the ongoing problem. While the funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a positive step, Rota argues that it falls far short of what is necessary to solve the issue.

Rota emphasizes that dead zone forecasts go beyond mere numbers; they have significant implications for the livelihoods of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast, particularly those dependent on fisheries that are threatened by the dead zone.

NOAA and its research partners conduct a monitoring survey of the dead zone each summer, and the results are typically released in early August.

References: NOAA,

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Climate Crisis and the Canadian Wildfires

 Political figures such as AOC and Bernie Sanders, along with leaders from the entertainment and activism spheres, issued a stark warning on Wednesday about the dire implications of the wildfire smoke engulfing the East Coast. They emphasized that this smoke is a clear indication of the ongoing climate crisis.

Drawing attention to the smoke and the recent extreme temperatures in Puerto Rico, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter, emphasizing our lack of preparedness for the climate crisis. She called for immediate action to adapt our food systems, energy grids, infrastructure, and healthcare to effectively respond to and mitigate the forthcoming challenges.

Echoing similar concerns, progressive advocate Bernie Sanders expressed on Twitter that approximately 98 million people on the East Coast are currently under air quality alerts due to the Canadian fires, and highlighted that New York City recently experienced the world's worst air quality. He stressed the connection between climate change and the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, urging urgent action to avoid this becoming our new reality.

The impact of the smoke was not limited to the halls of Congress, as prominent celebrities also shared their thoughts. Bravo TV host Andy Cohen posted on Instagram, remarking on the apocalyptic atmosphere caused by the pervasive smoke in New York City.

Scientists concurred that the wildfire incidents were unmistakable signs of the existing climate crisis and served as a glimpse into the future if necessary changes are not implemented. In a statement, the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy organization, highlighted that the record-breaking Air Quality Index (AQI) levels in New York City due to Canadian wildfire smoke were indicative of the climate crisis. The statement also pointed out that similar crises are already prevalent in other parts of the world.

Supporting these observations, Dr. Lucky Tran from Columbia University shared a video on Twitter, showcasing an unusually hazy sunrise over New York City caused by the wildfire smoke. Dr. Tran emphasized that air quality levels were significantly unhealthy, surpassing the guidelines recommended by the WHO, thus underscoring the reality of living through the climate crisis.

The entire northeastern region of the United States is currently grappling with smoke drifting south from over 400 wildfires raging in Canada. These fires have prompted mass evacuations in Quebec and Canadian officials are concerned that this could become the country's most severe wildfire season on record, with more than 6.7 million acres already destroyed.

Here are a few resources to review Air Quality Alerts for your area:  

In English:

In Spanish (En Español:

References; and Yahoo News

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thank you from The_Weather_Vane

Happy Thanksgiving from The_Weather_Vane..

I am thankful for my family and friends. I am also thankful for first responders. Doctors, Nurses, EMS and Firefighters

Here is a list of fire companies in PA

Aleppo Township VFD, Station 101
Aspinwall VFD, Station 102
Avalon VFD, Station 103
Allegheny Township VFC #1
Allentown Fire Department
America Hook and Ladder 25/53
Alpha Fire Company
Altoona City Fire
South Baldwin VFC, Station 104
Baldwin #1 VFD, Station 105
Beale Township Fire Department (Juniata County)
Becks Run VFD, Station 106
Option (Bladwin) VFD, Station 107
Bellevue VFD, Station 108
Bellwood Fire Department
Bethlehem Fire Department
Benton Fire Company
Bernville Fire Company (Berks County)
Bristol Consolidated Fire Department
Bristol Fire Co.
Bridgeville Fire Department
Cochran Hose Company #1 (Sewickley VFD)
Carnegie Volunteer Fire Department
Castle Shannon Volunteer Fire Department
Center Square Volunteer Fire Company
Cetronia Volunteer Fire Department
Chester Hill Hose Company (Clearfield County station 14)

Connellsville Township Volunteer Fire Department
Citizens Hose Company #5 (County Station #6)
Colmar Volunteer Fire Company
Crescent Township VFD, Station 129
Croydon Fire Company
Columbia Fire Company (Clearfield County station 22)

Dawson Volunteer Fire Department
Delano Fire Company No. 1
Delaware County Firefighting
Dormont Fire Department
Dunnstown Fire Company
Reliance Hose Company #1, Elisabethville, PA
Elmhurst-Roaring Brook Volunteer Fire Company
Fire Department of Montgomery Township
Flourtown Fire Company
Fort Washington Fire Company
Goodwill Hose Co., Bristol Borough
Harrisburg Bureau of Fire
Hand-In-Hand Hose Company #1
Harmonville Fire Company
Harleysville Volunteer Fire Company
Hamlin Fire and Rescue
Hershey Fire Department
Hope Hose Company #2, Lock Haven, PA
Horsham Volunteer Fire Company
Kimberton Fire Company
Kirwan Heights Fire Department
Lake Carey Volunteer Fire Company, Lemon twp. Wyoming County
Levittown Fire Company No. 2
Levittown Fire Company. No. 1
Logan Township Fire
Malvern Fire Company
Mehoopany Vol. Fire Co.
Minersville Fire Rescue
Montgomery Volunteer Fire Department
Mt. Lebanon Fire Department
Moon Township VFD, Station 197
Morrisville Fire Department
North Fayette Township Volunteer Fire Department
North Penn Volunteer Fire Company
Northmoreland Township Volunteer Fire Company
Nuremberg-Weston Volunteer Fire Company
Old Forge Fire Department
Penn Hills Fire Service
Philadelphia Fire Department
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire
Pottstown Fire Department
Radnor Fire Company, Wayne
Rangers Hose Company, Girardville
Reading, Pennsylvania Fire Department
Republic Volunteer Fire Company
Rosedale Volunteer Fire Department
Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department
Scalp Level and Paint Borough Fire Company
Skippack Fire Company
South Media Fire Co.
Springdale Volunteer Fire Department
Union Fire Company
Township of Spring Volunteer Fire Rescue
Thompson Hose Company
Tilbury Plymouth Twp 169
Trevose Fire Company 4, Feasterville-Trevose
Trevose Fire Company 84
Towamencin Volunteer Fire Company
United Fire Co., Montrose, PA
Upper Gwynedd Fire Department
Upper Darby Fire Department
Upper Saint Clair Volunteer Fire Department
West Chester Fire Department
Windber Fire Company #1
Worcester Volunteer Fire Company
Union Fire Company No. 1, Oxford, PA
Keystone Valley Volunteer Fire Company No. 08

I apologize if an fire company was missed.. 

Thank you,
Pat Saavedra
Social media manager
Storm Spotter

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Operations update 2015

A Big move, and new outlook..

I wanted to say thank you again to all the followers of The_Weather_Vane and provide you with an update regarding our voluntary news media operations.

The blog and the Facebook page was founded in 2011 based on my obsession with weather, science and photography.  I started posting publicly based on my personal experience with a dangerous tropical event that I went through when I lived in South America. When I lived down there I found out the hard way that the local news did not have an effective way to issuing a warnings about impending severe weather.  This is why when I moved back to the states I started to watch weather events in the U.S and see how the News handled issuing warnings. I thought that being in a more developed country would automatically mean superior access to news.   Then I started a blog and wrote regularly and took photos.  Originally I was not able to set up a proper weather station to provide direct data. (more about this later).   I have been trying to point out that, how informed is the general public when it comes to severe weather and being prepared.   Here are some statistics that I put together.  The United States has about 280 million internet users.  This does not show  how many people are reading the news 24/7 and would be informed if a severe weather event is unfolding.  We also have to see how we can communicate to a portion of the elderly where they may not be computer literate.

When I started writing I was in a small apartment in Horsham PA where I had several issues where I could not set up much other then a NOAA weather alert radio and a wireless thermometer.  I am grateful that I had cheap rent, decent educational opportunities and the convenience of being close to work and family.

Here is a typical picture taken from my balcony.  I took this pic back in March of 2013 which was a late snowfall day.

After meeting my wife a few years ago we patiently planned to see where we could move to provide us with more space.  We have finally and thankfully had the opportunity to purchase a home.  The good thing is that the News operations of The_Weather_Vane will stay in Montgomery County. We will be moving from Horsham to Collegeville PA.  I know this move is more of a personal decision and may not appear to be one that was to improve blog and my ability to issue weather news (that is really what the experts are out there really for).   I am a dedicated weather enthusiast and a volunteer storm spotter.  I do not issue my own forecasts however I can help by being a social media manager and with this ability I can help the public by spreading the news to more eyes than  professional sources that more often then not ignored.  This is because of peoples perception of priorities.  Ask the average teenager about what the weather forecast is for tomorrow and they would probably shrug their shoulders.  This is sad because I have checked and found that most people that follow me online are over the age of 35.  My work with issuing weather and other information using Social Media might just grab the attention of a few people and help the public.   I spoke to a few experts and some of them did not see that communication via smartphones and social media is the best way.  I disagree because we have to consider that a big portion of our public is not looking for weather alerts.  How else do we get their attention if we try to post a small important message on a cell phone or on FB, etc.?

  In the last year I have been focusing more in providing weather alerts on social media rather then posting stories on the blog.  I hope to start writing again soon and I apologize for the lack of stories.
So now that we are moving I may be able to finally set up a weather station and be able to take more pictures.  Collegeville has a long history of flooding just like the Pennypack creek area between Horsham and Northeast Philly.  I will use the move as an opportunity to reorganize and update the blog and to find new areas in Montgomery County to report about.

I want to thank Kari, my wife for her support and patience and Len Martelli who is a good friend and a great Real Estate Agent.

Thank you,

Pat Saavedra
Social Media Manager

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hurricane Awareness Tour 2015

For the last two years I have attended Hurricane Awareness workshops and because of this I was asked to call into "Barometer Bob Show"back in 2013.  No matter who or what I read or listen to in these events the common theme is to be prepared and be aware of severe weather.   Everyone on the east coast still talks about Hurricane Sandy and how it impacted the general area.

So to continue my quest to learn, I went to the Hurricane Awareness Tour on May 4th which was located at the William J. Hughes Technical Center next to the Atlantic City Airport.  This tour was a unique experience for all ages.  Not only did you get to see the Hurricane Hunter Aircraft but you got to see equipment, brief presentations and lectures from the experts in tracking Hurricanes. Sadly I learned that this tour only occurs on the east coast every 20+ years (last tour was back in 1991).

In the beginning of the tour our small group was led to a hangar where representatives from different agencies were doing lectures about forecasting and the sciences of tracking tropical storms.

Staff from the local emergency offices such as FEMA, The American Red Cross, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and the Mt. Holly National Weather Service office were there to answer questions.  (all were great in answering questions)

After leaving the hanger, our guide directed us outside to where there were several aircraft that are actually being used to track hurricanes to keep the public safe.

The first aircraft I went to was the large WC-130J flown by the USAF Reserve 53rd Reconnaissance Squadron.  There was a long line to board the aircraft and I could not pass up an opportunity like this.  I waited in the line on a nice spring day. The weather was perfect for this event and there was a nice breeze that at one point knocked my hat off my head.

As I moved forward in the line, I was able to see the shear size of this aircraft. 

After some time I was able to see the banner at the back entrance of the aircraft.

I briefly met Weather Officer Leesa Froelich who was there earlier in the day to give a tour to school students.

 Image above (I believe) is equipment used to measure storms while flying through a hurricane.

A view inside the aircraft.

Next I walked around the NOAA G-IV jet aircraft.

Outside there was a display with members of the crew explaining the missions and equipment used on board.  One instrument is a Dropsonde (see graphic below)

"Dropsonde" by NASA - modified in PNG. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
"Dropsonde U.S. Air Force" by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman of the US Air Force - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
The crew member of the NOAA G-IV answered my questions about the Dropsonde and let me hold one.  He said they drop roughly 20 of these probes when flying above a hurricane. The data is streamed live (by satellite). The device measures pressure, temperature, dewpoint, wind speed and wind direction of the tropopause (an outer layer of our atmosphere where weather changes occur).  It also has a GPS sensor so it measure its location as well as the time of the drop.  I was told that each of these probes cost roughly $700 and they simply fall into the ocean.  The discussion about this instrument was very interesting.

This was really the end of the tour however as a bonus the USAF and US Coast Guard kindly had their aircraft on display.  This is a must see tour and a great educational experience and I recommend to everyone.

Credit for this blog story must go to.  NOAA/NWS office at Mt. Holly New Jersey WFO for NJ, PA, DE and MD.  Wikipedia, 

I also read from the National Hurricane Center website and their twitter feed about the tour.

Thank you to the National Weather Service.
Photographs by Pat Saavedra, author of this blog except for the Dropsonde images as noted above.