GOES 13 Satellite goes down as hurricane season nears; Partly showery weekend

Flying With Limited Visibility

NOAA’s eye in the sky for the East Coast and Atlantic went down this week for the second time in the past few months. The timing couldn’t be worse. Hurricane season begins next Saturday.

Thankfully NOAA has a backup plan. But the “bench” is getting awfully thin at NOAA.

Could the loss of any additional critical satellite data have impacts for the upcoming hurricane season? How much would the lack of daily data being fed into forecast models affect the performance of forecast models to predict hurricane tracks and intensity? How could we feel the effects of weather systems in Minnesota?

All fair questions as we approach the peak of severe weather season in Minnesota and the first hurricane season after Sandy ravaged New York and the Jersey Shore.

Meanwhile back home we fire up the doppler again, and track a few more waves of rain… just in time for the holiday weekend.


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GOES 13 Fail:

NOAA stopped receiving images from GOES 13 this week. The usual software driven fixes didn’t work this time, and the satellite has yet to respond.

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North America “IR Rainbow Composite” from NOAA’s GOES on May 24, 2013.

Image: NOAA

This is not the best situation as we approach hurricane season. Not only is “GOES East” the primary eye over the Atlantic, it feeds critical data into the forecast models that we use to track hurricanes and general weather over the USA.

Even the European Model which nailed Sandy’s track early on last fall, uses GOES 13 data in forecast mode. NOAA has a backup. but it is not an optimal situation, and any more failures could put NOAA in a serious bind as hurricane season arrives.

Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman has a nice synopsis of what it all means.

For the second time in less than a year, a key weather satellite is ailing, forcing a spare satellite into service, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The satellite malfunction comes shortly before the kickoff of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which NOAA expects to be an active one. And while the offline satellite will not impact weather forecasts now that the backup satellite is in place, it leaves weather forecasters without a fallback in the event that the backup satellite also experiences technical difficulties.

In addition, experts say, it calls attention to the erosion of America’s weather and climate observing infrastructure due to budget difficulties and poor management.

The sick satellite, which engineers have been working to fix since Tuesday, is responsible for observing weather systems across the eastern U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean, and is known as GOES-13, or “GOES East.” It is a geostationary satellite, which means that it stays in a fixed orbit at an altitude of about 22,300 miles above the equator, allowing it to keep a constant vigil over the Earth, taking many of the satellite images that are shown on TV weather broadcasts. The satellite data is also fed into computer models used for predicting the weather and observing the climate system, meaning that any gaps in satellite data could diminish forecast accuracy.

Weekend Outlook: Dodging showers again

This is not a big shock if you are at least half “Minnesotan.” Anyone who has lived here for a few years knows Memorial Day is usually wet.

In fact, “climatologically speaking” Memorial Day is the most likely of the 3 major summer holidays to be wet.

We are in the rainy season…and the next month is the peak of severe weather season.

Check out the graphic from the Twin Cities NWS charting the summer severe threat.

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Here’s an historical look at Memorial Day Weekend weather from the MN CLimate Working Group.

Historical Memorial Day Holiday Weekend Weather in the Twin Cities

Beginning in the late-1860’s, Memorial Day was traditionally observed on May 30 (at least in northern states). The congressionally-mandated Memorial Day holiday weekend (last Monday in May) commenced in 1971. The investigation was limited to the period of time since the formal designation of the Memorial Day holiday weekend (42 years of data, 1971-2012).

Memorial Day can occur as early as May 25 and as late as May 31. Given the fact that the dates of the holiday weekend float about, don’t put too much stock in the climatological significance of the statistics offered below. However, the numbers are fun to mull over. It appears that Memorial Day is often the nicest day of the weekend.

Twin Cities Memorial Day Weekend Weather (1971 – 2012, 42 years)

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A 60% chance of rain on Memorial Day weekend? Yeah, that fits.

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Timing the showers:

You’ll have to pick your spots this weekend. Heres’ a crack at trying to time out some of the rainfall.

Friday Night: Wave #1 A band of showers and a possible thunderclap in the metro and eastern Minnesota as we approach sunset lingering on and off overnight. Rainfall totals .25″ to .50″

Saturday: AM shower chance…then partly sunny PM. Many dry hours & not bad for outdoor activities late PM & evening?? High 65. Breezy SE wind 10-20 mph.

Sunday: 30% chance of a shower or T-Storm, especially south. High 65. Wind SE 10-20 mph.

Sunday evening through Memorial Day: Better chance for scattered showers & T-Storms. Some strong. High near 70. Wind SE 5-15 mph. Rainfall potential over .50″

So it will be wet this weekend…but we’ll see some dry hours and even a few sunny peeks. Best best look like Saturday afternoon & Sunday morning.

Warmer next week:

Guess what? The 80s are back once we all return to work next week.

Here’s the European numbers…which push temps toward 80 again next week.

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Monsoon Continues:

Right now I see no end in sight to the overall wet pattern. Take a look at NOAA’s 5-day precip. Northern Minnesota is the place to be for the driest weather.

No drought here!

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Looking even deeper into the Weather Lab crystal ball…the monsoon continues well into the 1st week of June on the GFS 16 day outlook.

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At least it’s warmer:

Looking at the CPC 10 day temp outlook, we’re favoring normal to slightly above normal temps.

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Was that a Metropolitan Mosquito Control District truck in my neighborhood today?

Have a great weekend!

Paul Huttner

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