A dangerous heat wave, cold front, and tropical storm kick off summer 2017

Summer is officially underway in the northern hemisphere beginning today, June 20th. Quite the range of weather conditions are forecast across the United States today. In the East, a cold front moves offshore New England and stalls across the Carolinas. Showers and storms remain a threat near the stalled boundary from the Carolinas to the Gulf coast, while comfortable 50 degree dewpoints filter in behind the front in the Northeast. Cloudiness and rain chances will keep high temperatures near to below average across this region for the start of summer.

Residents along the Gulf Coast are watching a tropical storm brewing over the north central Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana residents are beginning to feel the effects from the outer rainbands of the storm. Flash Flood Watches are in effect from Southeast Louisiana to the eastern Florida Panhandle. Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for portions of the Louisiana and Texas coastlines.

Across the Great Plains, temperatures are near average with mostly sunny skies to start the season. While this afternoon will be warm, in the upper 80s to low 90s, outdoor temperatures will feel more comfortable than they did over Father’s Day weekend. If you live in Central Oklahoma, like me, you may recall dewpoint temperatures climbing to 75 degrees Saturday morning, and persisting near 73 degrees through mid-afternoon. Dewpoint temperatures are a measure of moisture in the atmosphere, so higher dewpoints correlate to higher moisture content and humidity. Although the actual high temperature was only 92 degrees, when you factor in the moisture and humidity, the maximum heat index was 104 degrees.

What does this mean? Heat Index calculations use air temperature and dew point temperature to determine an “apparent” temperature, which is how your body feels when you are experiencing summer heat. The National Weather Service (NWS) Heat Index calculations are for shady areas, so it’s important to know that direct exposure to sunlight can increase the “apparent temperatures” by 10 to 15 degrees. High heat index values, generally over 100 degrees, are given an heightened awareness of hazardous outdoor conditions. Local NWS offices issue special heat advisories and excessive heat warnings for moderate to extreme heat indexes, when the risk of heat-related illnesses is highest. A day with a high heat index feels uncomfortable and sometimes oppressive. Sweat is slow to evaporate and the body struggles to cool down. Direct exposure to the sun only exaggerates this. 

But, it’s not just the feel-like temperatures that are uncomfortable and dangerous. In the desert southwest, temperatures are normally in the 100s in June with very low dewpoints. The start of the 2017 summer will be no different with above average, and potentially record-breaking heat, forecast across much of the Southwest.

Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings are in effect for Arizona and portions of California and Nevada through Friday. Hot summer days in the desert can feel like you are walking into an oven! Outdoor structures, such as playgrounds, are often unusable. A recent test in Tuscon, Arizona found that a children’s slide in the sun can reach 150 degrees, which is more than hot enough to cause a second-degree burn.

Heat Safety NWS Vegas.png

Take precautions and stay safe during the 2017 summer season!

 

Tropical Low Brewing in the Caribbean Father’s Day Weekend

Chances continue to increase for a tropical low to develop in the Caribbean for Father’s Day weekend. The time-frame for any tropical formation is Sunday-Tuesday.

So the big question on everyone’s minds, will we have a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico?

ir
Infrared Satellite of the northwestern Caribbean valid for 17:00Z.

The answer is much more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no”. Storminess is beginning to increase across the northwestern Caribbean, however a disturbance has not been detected yet and Wilkens Weather is not expecting tropical development over the next 24 hours. Several factors are analyzed when forecasting tropical weather including sea surface temperatures (SST), vertical wind shear, and tropical atmospheric moisture. The sea surface temperatures in the southern Gulf are around 28°C, indicating favorable conditions for development. Atmospheric moisture, explained in a previous blog here, surges into the southern Gulf this weekend providing ideal conditions for tropical development. The third and final key ingredient meteorologists are monitoring is vertical wind shear. Light winds are vital to sustain and strengthen the structure of tropical systems.Read More »

Why we treat some Invest areas like tropical storms…

It’s critical that offshore operators are aware of tropical hazards well in advance of tropical storm development. 

Tropical Storm Bill, June 16 2015
Infrared Satellite of Tropical Storm Bill approaching the Texas coast.

Two years ago we were monitoring an area of disturbed weather near the Yucatan Peninsula. At the time, forecast models indicated that a trough of low pressure would move offshore the Yucatan within the next 24 hours and form a closed circulation as it tracked northwest toward the Texas coastal bend. Hurricane Carlos, off the southern coast of Mexico, was feeding in abundant tropical moisture from the Pacific, aiding thunderstorm development. Over the next few days, upper-level winds over the Gulf weakened, enhancing convection and improving the low-level circulation. Within 36 hours a tropical storm was designated over the northern Gulf of Mexico. About 15 hours later, Tropical Storm Bill made landfall over Matagorda Island, Texas with maximum sustained winds near 60 mph.Read More »

Tropical development in the Gulf this weekend?

With hurricane season officially underway today in the Atlantic basin, all eyes are on thunderstorms streaming northward across the Gulf of Mexico. This convection is associated with Tropical Storm Beatriz off the coast of Mexico in the East Pacific. Although Beatriz is not a direct threat to the Gulf, tropical moisture from this storm will continue to provide deep convection across the southern Gulf. This moisture will interact with an existing surface trough over the Bay of Campeche providing the potential for low pressure to develop over the weekend, but there are limiting factors for tropical development.

Regardless of tropical development, one key tropical ingredient is present: atmospheric moisture. The higher the moisture content in the atmosphere, the greater chance for deep, persistent convection which furthermore enhances development within tropical systems. Meteorologists analyze a parameter known as PWAT, Precipitable Water, to gauge atmospheric moisture content. NOAA defines PWAT as the “measure of the depth of liquid water at the surface that would result after precipitating all of the water vapor in a vertical column over a given location”. Imagine having a column of water vapor, from Earth’s surface to the top of the atmosphere, and squeezing that column of air until all the water fell out (very similar to wringing out a sponge). The resulting measure of water, calculated in inches, is a good indicator of how much rainfall a region could see.

PWAT Animated Loop
Simulation of PWAT values for the Gulf of Mexico valid June 2-4, 2017.

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Summer Shamal winds and dust begin to impact the Middle East

As we transition to summer, our meteorologists prepare to forecast longer duration Shamal events. Shamal winds are strong winds that blow from the north to northwest over the arid Middle East. In winter, Shamals are associated with the passage of cold fronts. Cold fronts still influence the region’s weather through May, but by summer the region warms significantly and fronts become less frequent. Shamals from fall through spring are typically short-lived, lasting one to two days. By June, nearly stationary thermal lows along the monsoon trough over Northwest India, Pakistan and Southeast Iran interact with high pressure over the eastern Mediterranean and Saudi Arabia to produce more persistent northwesterly winds over the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Winds strengthen between these seasonal highs and lows as the low pressure areas intensify during summer months. Rao et al. (2003) found that gale force winds and rough seas offshore Qatar are more common in June than May and July. 

36 hour Arabian Gulf wind forecast

Shamal winds are strongest during the afternoon when hot surface air rises, creating turbulent eddies that mix winds higher in the atmosphere to the surface. High temperatures, strong winds and the seasonal lack of precipitation all contribute to the formation of blowing dust during these events. Sand and dust may be carried hundreds of kilometers across the Gulf states in dust storms, producing areas of near zero visibility. Read More »

Seasonal rains anticipated as the Southwest Monsoon approaches Sri Lanka and India

As we head into the Northern Hemisphere summer, the Southwest Monsoon is making its return to the North Indian Ocean. Once the southwesterly winds become persistent and strong, this will signal the end of the spring transition period, and the region will be entirely influenced by the Southwest Monsoon. On average, the Southwest Monsoon spans from June through September. The monsoon flow creates a convergence of moisture, promoting cloud growth and convection across the region. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, western and central India receive more than 90% of their total annual precipitation during these months.

Low pressure systems that track across the northern Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, and the mainland produce the majority of India’s rainfall, which is the driving force of the Indian economy. Farmers count on monsoonal rains to fill aquifers, lakes, and surrounding rivers for efficient crop growth and production. In years with insufficient rain, the nation is forced to depend on imports from other countries, creating a loss for domestic producers. Conversely, years with above-average rainfall can destroy crops and cause a poor harvest.Read More »

On The Road: Jacob Banitt in Louisiana

What an appropriate week to discuss weather forecasting with the people who rely on it the most. Heavy rain, strong winds and flash flooding with the cold front that moved through southwestern Louisiana on Monday, caused me to postpone one meeting with a client near the Gulf coast. “Your weather report says we are expecting up to four inches of rain today,” David said to me on the phone. “If we get that much, you’ll be stuck in town for a day or two; we better reschedule.”Read More »

Tornado Diaries: May 18th, 2013

The first post in this series detailed an exhilarating and dangerous chase under cover of night in northwestern Iowa. As a storm chaser, the drawback to a night chase is the near impossibility of acquiring photos and videos of the storms. On the afternoon of May 18th, 2013, darkness was not an issue as a violent tornado tracked across the open country of southwestern Kansas.

I had just graduated from Iowa State University the week before. My thoughts at the time were not on severe weather, but that would quickly change as long range forecast models indicated a multiple day severe weather threat across the Southern Plains. Recent grads and I made the decision to embark on one last chase in Oklahoma and Kansas before moving into the “real world.”

Read More »

Wilkens Weather Welcomes Alec & Samantha!

We are thrilled to announce two meteorologists have recently joined our forecast team! With severe weather season in full swing in the northern hemisphere and the Atlantic tropical season just around the corner, it is critical that we have additional eyes on customer sites around the globe. Alec and Samantha are well-rounded meteorologists with zest for dynamic weather. Here’s more about them:Read More »

Hurricane Preparedness: Offshore Operations

Tropical cyclones have significant impacts on marine operations worldwide. Prior to experiencing tropical cyclone threats, offshore facilities must secure equipment, shut-in wells, and evacuate personnel. Operations can remain shut down for extended periods in the event that an offshore platform or rig is damaged or destroyed. Damaged pipelines along the seafloor are a common cause of interruptions to oil and gas supply.

To prevent structural damage and spills, control costs, and ensure the safety of personnel, accurate weather forecasts and advanced notification of tropical hazards are paramount. Even a weak tropical cyclone can produce hazardous weather conditions and put coastal and offshore operators at risk. Be sure to determine your exposure to the risks associated with tropical cyclones before the start of this Atlantic hurricane season.

Wilkens Weather provides a suite of online and mobile tracking tools to warn our customers of these risks. To be confident that you’re prepared this hurricane season, trust in the tropical expertise and tools provided by WWT: Read More »

Celebrating 40 Years: Thank You to Our Clients

In 1977, WWT began with a few meteorologists striving to provide offshore forecasts for the oil and gas industry. Within 40 years, WWT has grown from what once was a four-man team, to a trusted global metocean business providing forecasts and hindcasts for every major oil basin.

In addition to our daily operations, WWT has supported unique forecasts for:

  • The U.S.’s first offshore wind farm near Rhode Island
  • Tall ship races throughout several regions of Europe
  • Weather analysis for the area where the Costa Concordia tipped over offshore Italy
  • Weather analysis for Tycoon, that ran aground near Christmas Island

Read More »

WWT at OTC 2017

Wilkens Weather adapts to the future of offshore energy

WWT Technology / WWL

For 36 years, Wilkens Weather Technologies has exhibited at the annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), showcasing its products and services with professionals of the global oil and gas industry. Although oil prices have rallied in recent weeks, the demand for more cost-effective solutions continues. WWT is mindful of the challenges the industry is facing and continues to revamp its marine and tropical forecasting products to stay ahead of client demands.

At this event, WWT meteorologists align with other energy professionals to explore growth opportunities, strengthen partnerships, and foster new business relationships. WWT program manager, Ryan Fulton, shares his insight on this valuable networking experience:Read More »

Celebrating 40 Years: Memories & Successes

In the early days of WWT, meteorologists arrived at 4am to work on the morning weather forecast for the Gulf of Mexico. These reports were typed up and printed, so the person on fax duty could send them out one by one. Typically it would take forecasters four hours to complete the regional gulf report forecast and distribution. Other daily tasks included hand-analyzing surface charts and producing temperature, wind, and sea-state forecasts for coastal sites and international marine customers.

GOM Wave Model
Wave height forecast for the Gulf of Mexico behind a strong cold front that produced widespread gale force winds.

Over time, as business grew, so did the demand for immediate, operational weather information. In the early 2000s, WWT introduced customized client web pages, a tool that would provide customers easy access to weather information for their region and site-specific locations worldwide. In the late 2000s, with enhanced forecast models at our fingertips, there became a demand for long-range forecasts and historical analyses.

Read More »

Celebrating 40 Years: The Wilkens Story

WWT Early Years
Meteorologists Richard Wilkens and Tim Maystrick preparing weather reports

Our story began in 1977 with Richard Wilkens’ idea to start a weather forecast company to service the oil and natural gas industry. At the time, there was a high concentration of oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the years, petroleum exploration expanded, prompting Wilkens Weather to expand their services globally.

Meteorologist Marshall Wickman recalls one of WWT’s early business transactions, “[Richard] agreed to do one free sample forecast in the Strait of Magellan where data was sparse and told them, if it busts remember how much it cost you. If it is right remember where you got it from.” Apparently they liked what they received as it led to 20 years of continuous forecast service.

When we started, our technology consisted of fax machines that sent 8×11 inch pages at six minutes a page. Most weather reports were a few pages and included a hand-drawn, 3-panel surface map (depicting fronts, precipitation, and high and low pressure areas). Today, we have a wealth of online and mobile interactive tools that can provide quick and easy access to all critical weather information. Read More »

Celebrating 40 Years: 10 Surprising Facts About Wilkens Weather

Today, Wilkens Weather Technologies, a subsidiary of Rockwell Collins, celebrates 40 years as a reliable, customer-centric metocean forecast company. April 12, 1977 marks the founding of WWT by Richard Wilkens, whose vision was to tailor weather information to the oil and natural gas industry. For decades, highly-trained meteorologists have provided accurate weather support, allowing our customers to make timely decisions and ensure the safety of their personnel. 

During the next few weeks, we will share memories and successes from the last 40 years. We begin with the foundation of WWT – the meteorologists responsible for preparing weather reports and monitoring global assets 24/7.

Here is what you may not know about our team:Read More »

Tornado Diaries: April 9th, 2011

Most meteorologists recall a moment in their childhood that fostered their obsession with weather. My moment was in second grade, when a severe thunderstorm hit my hometown while school was in session. I vividly remember classmates being frightened, while I sat in the school’s basement thinking the situation was pretty sweet, to use with the parlance of a second grader. After that day, I was hooked on severe weather, and although that specific event did not spawn a tornado, I remain fascinated by them to this day.

Many years later while attending Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, I had opportunities to travel across the Midwest during spring and summer, in search of the elusive and dangerous tornado. There are three specific storm chases I will be detailing this spring, the first of which occurred on April 9th, 2011.Read More »

The 1982 Ocean Ranger disaster: what went wrong?

ocean-ranger-seen-from-afar-taken-by-david-boutcher
The Ocean Ranger in the early 1980s taken by David Boutcher, one of the 84 men who did not survive the tragedy. The photo was donated to the The Rooms Provincial Archives by Priscilla Boutcher, David’s mom

Thirty five years ago a ruthless nor’easter swept across the Northern Atlantic Ocean catapulting a wave of disastrous events leading to the demise of an “unsinkable” oil rig.

Located nearly 300km off the Newfoundland coast in the Hibernia Oil Field in 1982, the Ocean Ranger was the largest semi-submersible offshore drilling rig in the world at the time. The platform sat atop eight columns fixed upon two pontoons beneath the surface of the water. Stability of the platform, and overall safety of crew and operations, was achieved by the placement of water and fuel in ballast tanks inside the pontoons. According to a NASA Study from the NASA Safety Center, only two men aboard the Ocean Ranger performed the huge task of maintaining the appropriate equilibrium of the platform.  The two men operated in the Ballast Control Room, rotating on 12 hour shifts.

design
Configuration of Ocean Ranger, viewed when facing the bow.

Located only 30 feet above the surface, the Ballast Control Room contained an electric control panel embedded with lighted push button switches configuring valves, pumps, and tanks. These valves were used to pump ballast forward, backward, onboard or overboard from the tanks to account for any “list” (tilt) from various cargo loads or changing sea states. As small as a five degree list would hamper drilling production. In order to assess current sea conditions, there were four circular glass portlights (windows) constructed in the control room. These portlights would eventually lead to the disaster of the Ocean Ranger.Read More »

On The Road: Aaron Studwell at AMS

This week,  Aaron Studwell, Manager of Weather Operations, is attending the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in Seattle, WA. During the first two days, Studwell, along with Joel Siegel from the ARINC office in Annapolis, MD represented Rockwell Collins at the AMS Career Fair. Over these sessions, Studwell and Siegel met about 125 students, discussed careers in marine and aviation meteorology at Rockwell Collins, what we look for in prospective employees – a passion for weather and forecasting and willingness to learn.

WWTs Aaron Studwell at AMS 2017
Aaron Studwell discussing meteorology careers with students at the 2017 AMS Career Fair.

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A Review of Houston Heavy Rain Events in 2015-2016

April 16, 2016 Houston Flood Olivia Kintigh
Houston Tax Day Flood 2016

Houston, Texas rainfall was above average (49 inches) in 2015 and 2016. This was in sharp contrast to the 24 inch deficit in rainfall a few years prior. 2015 was the 5th wettest year on record for Houston, with 70.03 inches at KIAH and 77.13 inches at KHOU. Records at KIAH and KHOU, date back to 1889. Here’s a look back at the heavy rainfall events that resulted in these excessive totals:Read More »

Severe Storms Roll into the New Year

NCDC Level-II Data January 2017
NEXRAD Level-II reflectivity (left) and velocity (right) from 8:30am CST 01/02/17

It was a stormy and soggy start to 2017 for millions along the Gulf coast as a vigorous line of thunderstorms tracked from Southeast Texas to the Florida Panhandle on January 2nd. Sparked by an amplified trough of low pressure aloft, surface low pressure moved across Southeast Texas early Monday, causing widespread convection to form along and east of I-35. These storms moved quickly eastward through the morning hours, entering the Houston metro area after 7am CST.

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2015 Holiday Storm Retrospective

A powerful storm system tracked across the northern Great Plains this holiday season. Heavy snows and blizzard conditions were observed in the Dakotas, strong storms occurred in Kansas and Missouri, and an ice storm developed in areas between. Of significant note was a tornado report in Kansas that if confirmed would be the first tornado recorded on Christmas day in that state. In addition, wind gusts in excess of 70 mph were reportedIowa Environmental Mesonet Wind Speed Reports December 2016 in northwestern Iowa, causing structural damage in the area. These conditions are a stark reminder that like meteorologists, Mother Nature does not take the holidays off. Interestingly, a similar storm system impacted the southern plains last holiday season.

One year ago, a major storm system moved from Texas through the Great Lakes, capping off a year filled with extreme weather in Texas and beyond. Read More »

Santa’s global weather briefing from Wilkens Weather and Rockwell Collins

Christmas Eve is upon us and as we say in Texas, Santa is fixin’ to get his sleigh packed. But first, he is checking with Wilkens Weather, A Rockwell Collins Company, for the first leg of his journey around the world.  From the North Pole, his first stops will likely be in Uelen, Chukotka in far eastern Russia.  

From what Santa has entered into Rockwell Collins ARINCDirect Flight Manager, he will leave the North Pole on Friday, December 24, 1155UTC (11:55 PM in far eastern Russia).  

A low pressure center just east of Svalbard has a strong front extending just across the North Pole and across most of the Laptev Sea.  As Santa stays behind the front, he will encounter some light snow showers but will be able to take advantage of a strong northerly tailwind.  Once he is south of 78°N, winds are forecast to turn westerly, which will be ideal for his final approach into Uelen.

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Where are the Christmas Winds?

The climate of Trinidad is strongly influenced by the North Atlantic High, also referred to as the Bermuda High or Azores High, based on its seasonal positioning. During the fall season, the Atlantic High moves southward in response to the southward push of low pressure systems and their associated cold fronts over North America and the North Atlantic. The high’s southward position and lower sea surface temperatures, north of 10°N, result in strong easterly trade winds across the eastern Caribbean during winter. This increase in winds typically occurs around mid to late December, giving them the seasonal name: the Christmas Winds.    Read More »

Northern Hemisphere’s ‘Shortest’ Day of The Year

Winter Solstice is upon us…

The winter solstice is a single moment in time when the Sun is exactly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. This year that moment occurs on December 21st at 1044UTC or 4:44AM CDT.

A common misunderstanding with the winter/summer solstice regards the Sun’s distance from Earth. Distance does not create the seasons, the tilt of the Earth does. Earth’s 23.5° tilt is the reason each hemisphere receives various amounts of sunlight from season to season. The winter solstice marks the day the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the Sun.Read More »

On The Road: Aaron Studwell at AGU

This week, our Manager of Weather Operations, Aaron Studwell, is attending the 49th Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, CA.  While the core purpose of this trip is associated with Ph.D. work in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Houston, Aaron is also attending sessions ranging from the initiation of lightning in developing thunderstorms to the seasonal forecasting of winter storms across the North Atlantic Ocean to the analytic theory of wind-driven seas.

South China Sea Monsoon Low

WWT Satellite Monsoon LowOver the past several days, an area of low pressure (Invest 91W) developed within the monsoon trough/ITCZ, generating bands of showers and thunderstorms across the southern South China Sea. As a result, fresh winds extended to the Borneo coast and Malay Peninsula over the weekend. Strong to near-gale force northerly winds also occurred along the northwest side of the low when it intensified this morning. Global models often underdo monsoon winds within these lows and these systems should always be monitored closely for tropical development. Read More »

Harmattan Dust in West Africa

As we approach the end of the calendar year, meteorologists, once again, encounter a significant weather phenomena that can sometimes be a challenge to forecast: The Harmattan Winds.

Harmattan winds are derived from a dry and dusty, northeasterly trade wind that originates in the Sahara. As the monsoon trough shifts south during the boreal winter, the trade winds will travel further south reaching the West Coast of Africa. This type of wind is strengthened by low pressure over the north coast of Guinea and high pressure over Northwest African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology Harmattan DustAfrica. The Harmattans can carry desert dust into the Atlantic and the Gulf of Guinea leading to hazardous operations on and offshore. Another element to the strength of the Harmattan is eastward movement of a low pressure system over Europe and its subsequent surface cold front that will move over the Mediterranean into North Africa. While the cold air will mix and warm over Africa, the wind will continue to surge south carrying with it the blinding dust covering everything in its path. Crop soil from the Sahel, the region between the Sahara desert and humid savannas, can also be mixed up in the winds further dropping visibility.Read More »