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"Local" Nor'easter Early in the Week... New Satellite Instrument... "Earth Gauge": "Lighten" Up, African Dust, Flash Floods

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Updated: 11/01/2013 10:47 pm
After this weekend's cold front, the weather focus will be on a "local" Nor'easter for Mon. & Tue.  Strong high pressure will move from the Northeast U.S. into the NW Atlantic creating strong onshore winds from the east/northeast.  This pattern will make for couple of windy, cool days at the beaches with occasional rain.  Farther inland, conditions will be less harsh -- still breezy with a few showers but with temps. several degrees milder.  There is the potential for some locally heavy rain, especially from I-95 to the coast.  The Nor'easter will begin to break down by mid week.

From NOAA: 

A key instrument that will fly on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R (GOES-R) spacecraft, NOAA's next-generation of geostationary satellites, is cleared for installation on the spacecraft.

The Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, is GOES-R's primary instrument for scanning Earth's weather, oceans, and environment and is a significant improvement over instruments on NOAA's current geostationary satellites. The ABI will offer faster imaging with much higher detail. It will also introduce new forecast products for severe weather, volcanic ash advisories, fire and smoke monitoring and other hazards.

 

"The United States is home to some of the most severe weather in the world including tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, floods, and wildfires," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service. "The ABI offers breakthrough technology that will help NOAA develop faster and more accurate forecasts that will save lives and protect communities."

 

The first satellite in the GOES-R Series is currently scheduled for launch in early 2016. GOES-R's instruments will also feature improved lightning detection and solar weather monitoring tools, and will provide near real time data to forecasters during severe weather events.

 

The ABI has two scan modes. It will have the ability to continuously take an image of the entire planet, or a full disk image, every five minutes compared to every 30 minutes with the current GOES imager. It also has an alternative, or flex mode, which will concurrently take a full disk image every 15 minutes, an image of the continental U.S. every five minutes, and smaller, more detailed images of areas where storm activity is present, as often as every 30 seconds. This kind of flexibility and increased frequency of images is a boon for forecasters.

 

In early 2014 the ABI will be shipped from its developer, Exelis, in Ft. Wayne, Ind., to the spacecraft developer, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Littleton, Colo., to be installed onto the first GOES-R spacecraft. Lockheed is building the spacecraft for the GOES-R series.

 

The remaining GOES-R instruments to be delivered are:

  • Geostationary Lightning Mapper, which will provide continuous surveillance for the first time of total lightning activity from geostationary orbit over the western hemisphere;
  • Space Environment In-Situ Suite, which consists of sensors that will monitor radiation hazards that can affect satellites, radio communications and navigation systems;
  • Solar Ultraviolet Imager, a high-powered telescope that observes the sun, monitoring for solar flares and other solar activity that could impact Earth by disrupting power utilities communication and navigation systems and causing damage to orbiting satellites and the International Space Station; and
  • Magnetometer, which will provide measurements of the magnetic field surrounding Earth that protects the planet from charged particles released from the sun. These particles can be dangerous to spacecraft and human spaceflight. The geomagnetic field measurements will provide alerts and warnings to satellite operators and power utilities.

A sixth instrument, the Extreme X-Ray Irradiance Sensor (EXIS), was completed in May 2013 and was the first of GOES-R's instruments to be ready for integration. EXIS will provide important early warnings of impending solar storms and give scientists a more accurate measure of the power of solar energy radiating toward earth, which can severely disrupt telecommunications, air travel and the performance of power grids.

Photo from Lockheed Martin:


Earth Gauge: Lighten Up (and Save)

The average household in the United States spends over 2000 dollars per year on energy for heating and cooling, lighting, running appliances and other activities. Swapping traditional light bulbs for energy-efficient bulbs is one of the easiest ways to start saving energy at home and at work, especially during fall and winter, when fewer daylight hours and cooler temperatures keep people inside. Energy-efficient light bulbs typically cost a bit more at the time of purchase, but in the long run, they’ll save you money because they last longer and use less energy.

Tip: Replacing 15 traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs can save you up to 50 dollars per year in energy costs. There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing an energy-efficient bulb: energy-saving incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs). Check out these facts on how energy-efficient light bulbs stack up against traditional bulbs:

Energy-saving Incandescent

Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL)

Light Emitting Diode (LED)

Uses about 25 percent less energy.

Uses about 75 percent less energy.

Uses about 75-80 percent less energy.

Lasts up to three times longer.

Lasts up to 10 times longer.

Lasts up to 25 times longer.

 

Emits less heat.

Emits less heat.

For high-quality products with the best energy savings, look for light bulbs that have earned the Energy Star.

Burned out bulb? Contact your county solid waste division or check their website to find out how to properly dispose of old light bulbs.

Labels on light bulb packages are switching from watts to lumens. What are lumens? Learn more from ** here **.

(Sources: Department of Energy, “How Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Compare with Traditional Incandescents,”; Department of Energy, “Lighting Choices to Save you Money,”; Energy Star)

African Dust in the United States? Impacts on the Environment

Did you know that dust from North Africa can travel west by air currents and reach the eastern United States? Dust clouds move through the Caribbean into portions of North, Central and South America. This phenomenon happens every year and it is estimated that arid regions of North Africa can generate up to 800 teragrams of dust per year (one teragram weighs as much as three Empire State Buildings), making it the largest dust source in the world – six times larger than the next largest source, Asia. African dust can also travel east towards the Middle East and Arabian Sea, and north over the Mediterranean to Europe. Charles Darwin even documented this phenomenon during his trip in the 1830s on the HMS Beagle, while navigating near the west coast of North Africa.

African dust in the United States has been detected in southern states, across the northeast as far as Maine, and westwards as far as Texas. As dust particles travel across the Atlantic, large particles are lost in transit and smaller particles remain. Occasionally, swarms of African grasshoppers travel along in the cloud of dust and land in the Caribbean.

African dust can impact the environment in a number of ways:

  • African dust is a significant contributor to soil formation in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. It also supplies critical nutrients to the Amazon basin.
  • African dust contains particles such as phosphorus, which contributes to soil fertility. Deep ocean supplies of iron and phosphorus from African dust are essential nutrients for the oceanic food chain.
  • Particles in African dust can be smaller than 2.5 micrometers – for comparison, the average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – and are easy to inhale. African dust can impact air quality and constitute a major health threat. It is a potential asthma trigger and poses a risk for people with other respiratory problems.
  • Scientists believe that African dust could be a contributing factor to Caribbean coral reef decline because it transports pathogens to the area. African dust contains spores of fungus that can be destructive to corals such as sea fans.
  • Bacteria and viruses have also been detected in African dust clouds, as well as pesticides banned in the United States. More research is needed to determine the impact on human health.
  • African dust can produce haze and reduce airplane visibility, affecting the aviation industry.

Thanks to satellite imagery, scientists can watch and study African dust clouds. This technology aided scientists in detecting that African dust is transported mainly into the Caribbean and to South America during North American winters, and then shifts northwards to the southeastern United States during the summer. Watch this video of an African dust cloud traveling over the Atlantic, from NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Laboratory.

(Source: Prospero, J.M. and O.L. Mayol-Bracero. 2013. Understanding the Transport and Impact of African Dust on the Caribbean Basin. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 94(9):1329-1335. and Huang, J., C. Zhang, and J.M. Prospero. 2010. African Dust Outbreaks: A Satellite Perspective of Temporal and Spatial Variability over the Tropical Atlantic Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research. 115, D05202, doi:10.1029/2009JD012516. and Prospero, J.M. 1999. Long-range Transport of Mineral Dust in the Global Atmosphere: Impact of African Dust on the Environment of the Southeastern United States. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 96:3396–3403 and Prospero, J.M. 2013. African Dust in America. Geotimes. Accessed online 24 October 2013 and Kellogg, C. 2002. African Dust Microbiology in the Caribbean. United States Geological Survey. Accessed online 24 October 2013 and Schmidt, L.J. 2001. When the Dust Settles. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Accessed online 24 October 2013 and Science Daily. 2013. African Dust Storms in Our Air: Dust Storms in Africa Affect U.S. and the Caribbean’s Air Quality. Accessed online 24 October 2013.)

In the News: Flash Floods and Debris Flows: How to Manage Nature's Runaway Freight TrainsScience Daily, October 27, 2013Last month's torrential rains and flooding in Colorado made headlines, but there's another, far more common and growing weather-related threat western states are facing in the wake of longer and worsening fire seasons: flash floods and debris flows.

Have a great & safe weekend!

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