Saturday, June 16, 2012

Is Climate Change responsible for flooding in Montgomery County?

It seems that throughout our local history, flooding has occurred in Montgomery County.  The question is, is flooding occurring more frequently?

As we know the last significant flooding was caused by two back to back storms which were; Tropical Storm Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. These storms did cause damage, there were reported deaths and damage to property in PA.    I was reading articles in local newspapers (last year) and I remember that there was mention that owners of local businesses in Hatboro, PA., were not prepared for these storms and as a result there was significant damage.  I have written in the past of these events and it seems that these stories stay in our minds for a year or two and we soon forget, or because of the way that certain media depicts the weather, makes it easy for a storm to be a faded memory.  I have to admit that meteorologists have a very difficult job, they are the brunt of jokes about being paid to be wrong.  I remember that in my storm spotter classes, I have met a few meteorologists that work for the government and they themselves state that with the knowledge and tools that we have at this time, they can give a fair warning but it is difficult to be correct with a forecast.  We need support of the government and media to help give a better public view of meteorologists and meteorology as a whole.   The old saying about the boy who cried wolf should only apply in a story for children.  The public needs to understand that when they see that a forecast for a storm is mentioned  that they should check regularly be sure that there would not be a bigger storm brewing than expected.   The problem with a forecast is that in a 24 hour period, there is a good chance for error.  We should not be quick think that the error is simply the case of "it will not rain tomorrow or that storm won't do anything in our area".

What can be done to help our community to be better prepared?  Well, simple things like watching your local news really helps, better yet, I suggest that if you live in a flood prone area that you should have access to a weather alert service, like a NOAA weather alert radio (which is the best) or some other battery powered alert service. Second, we need to change the way we are educated about the weather.  I have taken classes and I enjoyed them however, I know that public safety information has evolved since we were in school.  I wish schools would teach children to show their parents about the dangers of flash flooding.  Thirdly, we need to change our negative attitude about weather forecasts, we need to stop thinking that every warning is silly or something to be ignored.  I think when a mortgage company has you sign on the X, they have you first read about the necessity of flood insurance.  Many people do not know that there are records and maps of flood prone areas.   I actually think some of this information is not made easy to find because it would hurt the Real Estate and construction business.  This too could change, I think our local government should offer loans for people to modify their homes and businesses to be better equipped for a flood.  It is an investment that could help everyone in the end.  I walked through Hatboro last year and I saw the damage from Tropical Storm Irene and I immediately thought, how do you rent or buy property in a flood prone area like near a large creek?  We cannot blame people, I think our community, our schools and our government all need to work together to find a long term solution for education and corrective civil planning.

 I know there are many distractions in our lives, teens for example have  many electronic dependent habits, that keep them from knowing about current events other than reality shows, music and frequently incarcerated celebrities.  I know that may sound a little harsh, and I know that we do not live in tornado alley, in comparison we really live in a weather comfort zone, where we rarely see storms that cause us to run for cover or to build storm shelters in our back yards. I think that this is exactly our problem, we live comfortably and this is the reason that we do not instinctively watch for storm forecasts in the news.  Instead we are doing what we normally do in our lives.  I recently wrote about the hail storm in Dallas and I know people that live there, they have a much different attitude about storm warnings and being prepared.  They know that a bike helmet is not just for riding a bike and a basement is not just where the hot water heater is located.

When changing weather is mentioned, we need to see if a storm watch is issued.  FEMA and other agencies are working on more efficient warning systems using email, websites and our cell phones to work together as a central system to bring us early and clear alerts and urgent warnings to the public.

In respect to the title of the story, is climate change causing more storm related floods in our area?

I had found a formal report that was issued in July of 2010 from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)   The report shows a list of areas in PA that have had public works projects done within in the last 30 years to correct problems with storm drainage around local creeks and rivers. I am not so sure that the work that has been done is enough, we see evidence of this every time there is a storm.  I have been in Fort Washington and other areas that have tremendous flooding and I think our government is aware of the problem and if it is a budget issue that prevents a more frequent review to fix the problems around flooded areas.   Another source is FEMA's website that shows the frequency of storms from 1955 to the present and from what I see, there appears to be cycles where we have blizzards, hurricanes and storm, but I do not see a higher occurrence from this information.  Now I have to say, I am not meteorologist or a climate scientist, I was only trained to identify a storm as they happen and record information.   I am sure there are reports that have a wider range of data to show evidence of natural and unnatural influences on our climate.  I am sorry to say that I did not find proof of that in my search.  I do know that the polar ice caps are melting, which does have me concerned. There are osculations that impact ocean water temperatures called El Niño and La Niña and we are also in the middle of a 22 year solar flare cycle. These are a few examples to show how so many things we barely understand that can influence our weather.  I do not think scientists are given enough funding to study our climate sufficiently.  We all remember Katrina, well do we?     We sponsor popular cultural events, why should be not sponsor scientists and organizations to help protect us and to better understand weather events.   We have many old weather satellites that need to be retired, we may end up having problems detecting hurricanes in the future if some of these satellites are not replaced in time. I am still scratching my head as to why the space shuttle project ended and why we now need use Russian rockets for some space missions?

I hope that my enthusiasm for studying weather and reporting shows, and helps people to think about storms floods and how we can alert and prepare us for the future.

If you are curious to read my past stories, then do not hesitate to visit my blog and look for the Blog Archive section which is on the right side and scroll down to the middle :

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Extreme Weather - Dallas TX Hail Storm

This is being reported as one of the worst Hail Storms seen in Dallas Texas which occurred today.
Automobile windows and skylights in buildings have sustained severe damage from hailstones measuring from golf ball to baseball size hail.

Just as a comparison, here is what the diameter of  hailstones could be in a storm;

Hail Stone Diameter (in Inches)

Pea size  1/4 "

Penny  3/4 "

Nickel   7/8"

Quarter     1"  (Considered Severe)

Half Dollar    1 1/4"

Walnut or Ping Pong ball   1 1/2"

Golf Ball      1  3/4"

Hen Egg or Lime  2"

Tennis Ball    2 1/2"

Baseball        2 3/4"

Large Apple  3"

Grapefruit     4"

Softball       4  1/2"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Storm Watch and Storm Warnings

Our local office at The National Weather service in Mt. Holly New Jersey, has a team of meteorologists and other highly trained staff that watch for weather events 24 hours a day and make the decision to issue local weather watches and warnings to alert the general public of severe weather.

The Storm Prediction Center is part if the National Weather Service and is responsible to watch for events throughout the United States.   As an example, here is a map of today's national outlook for weather events.

The map can show snow, ice, thunderstorm, tornado and other types of watches and warnings.

  • What is a Watch?
A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so.

  • What is a Warning?
 A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.

These alerts are broadcasted via radio, TV and the internet, however the most reliable method  is through the NOAA Public Alert Weather Radio system.   These radios are sold to the public and and they alert you of severe weather.

Thanks to our National Weather service for watching over us!

For more information, please visit the source;