Archive for the ‘storm’ Category

Live weather data & video on Stormpulse during US landfalls in 2011

This is a guest post by Mark Sudduth, owner and operator of HurricaneTrack.com.

I am pleased to announce that HurricaneTrack.com is partnering with Stormpulse beginning today. The partnership will mean an incredible hurricane tracking experience for both of our audiences. I met with Stormpulse co-founder Matt Wensing a couple of weeks ago in Florida. We talked about some ideas that grew in to even bigger ideas and before we knew it, we had hatched a plan that will revolutionize hurricane tracking. Our plan is to combine the ultra-modern look of the Stormpulse brand with the educational, informative and live data aspects of HurricaneTrack.com. It is no secret that our Java maps are showing their age. Five or six years ago, they were cutting edge, now they are dated and were in need of a complete re-design. Instead of doing that, we have decided to add a custom Stormpulse tracking map to our homepage (as seen below). The map’s functionality will evolve over time but it will give our visitors instant access to a live hurricane tracking map from the moment an “invest” is activated by the National Hurricane Center.

Stormpulse and its related tracking maps have quickly become famous the world over. Utilized by millions of people from business, industry, government agencies and of course the avid hurricane tracker, there is no mistaking a Stormpulse tracking map. We are honored to have the privilege of providing the Stormpulse brand to our visitors. In fact, we will develop special features for our version of the tracking map not found anywhere else.

As for our contribution to Stormpulse, we will develop high resolution digital data and live video streams for Stormpulse clients. The data will be plotted on Stormpulse maps generated for specific needs of their clients- ranging from personal use to large corporate and government decision making entities. The long term goal is to blanket a region with dozens of instrumented towers to provide unprecedented live data and video streams on a level never before available. This partnership will help to facilitate that goal.

Matt had this to say regarding the new partnership:

“Mark’s proven delivery of accurate, real-time storm data and video feeds during landfalls makes the HurricaneTrack team an excellent extension to the Stormpulse platform. Working together is an obvious and natural fit which will allow us to demonstrate what can be done when you bring together the right expertise.”

Today’s announcement is only the beginning to what we both see as an enormous opportunity to serve both of our user bases with the best tools available. The entire HurricaneTrack.com team looks forward to pushing the limits of what we can do with the power of Stormpulse on our side.

Locality, beauty, and speed: major updates to Stormpulse

Now with city-level coverage for thousands of U.S. locations and ZIP codes

We’ve spent the last four months working on an update to make Stormpulse.com more local, more beautiful, and faster.  And as of this morning, you can go and see for yourself.

Major highlights:

  • Home page attempts to geo-locate and route you to a local weather page.
  • Current conditions box shows current temperature, conditions, and winds.
  • Forecast box shows high and low temperature and an hour-by-hour summary for the next three days.
  • Map imagery with a resolution of 500 m/pixel–four times greater than our previous maps (so you zoom in four times closer).
  • Speed boost: the map only loads the severe weather information it needs for your current view (no loading or rendering data needlessly).
  • Map enhancements–clearer labeling and more beautiful terrain.

Those are the big items.  Other items we get excited about:

  • When viewed with an iPhone, the weather information is displayed in a friendly, readable fashion (and more mobile support coming soon).
  • The ‘Share Map‘ feature now works for U.S. Severe Weather and allows you to share down to the plotpoint for a storm.  For example, a close-up view of Katrina bearing down on NOLA.  This will work for forecast positions during an active storm as well.
  • Improved color scheme for severe weather alerts.  In our first attempt at severe weather coverage, we adopted the National Weather Service’s colors entirely.  Since then, we’ve seen a few big storms come and go, and a lot of winter storms come and go, and we’ve adjusted our colors to improve visibility on the critical alerts, and quiet down the less important ones.
  • Simplified site navigation bar.  Fewer choices with an expandable button at the end means less confusion, we believe.
  • Intelligent expanding and contracting of weather info boxes in the left column.  We are big believers in only showing what matters and hiding the rest.  We’ve tried to make some smart decisions about what to hide and what to show by default.  Tell us if you disagree!

Since so much of this is visual, I thought I’d include a few more screenshots that do this update justice.

A Winter Storm Watch in Hartford, CT:

Wintry weather in … Texas?!  Yep.

As always, we looking forward to hearing what you think.

The Stormpulse Team

Hurricane Ike sporting 105 mph winds, says Shell E&P Drilling Platform

At 2:45pm EDT, a Shell International Drilling Platform (also known as NDBC buoy 42361) recorded Hurricane Ike‘s southeastern eyewall at 105 mph at a pressure of 967 mb:

Meanwhile, a buoy stationed off the southeast coast of Galveston, TX is observing 17 ft. waves with winds out of the ENE at 40 mph, gusting to almost 50 mph. Also interesting that these are 17 ft. waves coming in on a 45 ft. water depth. Pressure there is at 995 mb, a 4.6 mb drop since the last observation.

Watch Ike make landfall with radar (NEXRAD) on the Stormpulse map

We’ve been promising it for a while, and now on the brink of Hurricane Ike‘s landfall into northeastern Texas, we are pleased to announce that we’ve added radar as a layer to the Stormpulse map.

To emphasize the feature during this critical time, we’ve placed it first in the list of layers at the top-right. Just toggle it ‘On’, and a semi-transparent layer of doppler radar observations from across the U.S. will load into view. This data is sourced from NEXRAD–the Doppler Radar National Mosaic published by the National Weather Service.

While this does not appear as high-resolution as other familiar displays of radar (“VIPIR” comes to mind), we hope you’ll agree that this layer adds a critical dimension that was heretofore lacking–namely, watching the rain bands come ashore and eventually being greeted with the eye of the monster. We also hope that, being national in scope, this layer creates interest beyond the context of tropical cyclones. Where will we go from here …

In response to many a good question about “Wind Fields”, we’ve also added labels to the Tropical Storm, Storm, and Hurricane Force wind fields, which shows you their meaning in miles per hour (39-57 mph, 58-73 mph, and 74+ mph, respectively):

To all of the many that asked us about these wind fields and about radar: thank you for helping to drive us in this direction. And to everyone: thoughts and feedback welcome.

Spaghetti served fresh: Forecast models on the Stormpulse.com map

This morning we launched a new release of our interactive map and website software.

Features and bugfixes:

  • Added forecast (spaghetti) models to the map. (See below)
  • Added a Full-Screen link from home page to display the map at 100% width and 100% height. You can find it at the top-right (above the tracking map).
  • Added hurricane category to the summary box. Now the title of the box will be “Hurr. (H2) Gustav, +120 hours” rather than just “Hurr. Gustav, +120 hours”. The H2 means a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
  • Pressure text was being chopped off occasionally in the summary box at the bottom of the map.
  • Fixed incorrect times (e.g. “+12 hours”) when clicking on points in the NHC forecast cone. This is now fixed to show the correct time difference between the latest coordinate and the time of the forecast position.
  • Removed meaningless latitude, longitude locations from the Gulf of Mexico. These were just serving as placeholders for Wind Probabilities and add no value to the display.

SPAGHETTI MODELS FEATURE

To activate the models view, select an active tropical depression, tropical storm, or hurricane and click Forecast Models: ‘On’ in the layers menu at the top-right of the map. After a brief pause (while the data is retrieved from our server), you should be greeted with a view that looks something like this (in this example, for Tropical Storm Hanna):

Click anywhere along a model’s forecast track to see the name of the model, projected position, time, and pressure (if available). Hovering over any of the points along the model’s forecast track will expose a small pop-up box that tells you the geeky acronym of the model–things like XTRP (extrapolated path if the storm continues its current trajectory), GFDL (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab), BAMD (Beta and Advection Model – Deep), etc.

To view the models for Tropical Storm Gustav, click “GUSTAV” and repeat the same step (“On” in the Forecast Models: toggle).

The data for the forecast models comes from the South Florida Water Management District, with the colors for the various paths matching the color scheme they use for their own spaghetti maps.

A special note to all of our API affiliates: we have been receiving emails lately asking how to “get a new map” for Gustav or Hanna. The simple answer is to change “current” in your URL to “tropical-storm-gustav-2008″ or “tropical-storm-hanna-2008″. This will ensure that the map automatically focuses on the desired storm. More examples available here.

Invest 94 to become Tropical Storm Gustav? The early morning report from buoy 42059.

According to a buoy stationed just east of the high-potential tropical disturbance also known as Invest 94L, steady winds of 25 mph and gusts of 31 mph were recorded out of the SSE at 5:50am this morning.  With an observed water temperature of 84.56 degrees F (before sunrise!), there should be plenty of warm water fuel should the storm develop any further.

An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft is scheduled to explore the storm later today.  Current models (something that should be coming to a Stormpulse map near you very soon), indicate a west-northwest progression, with the GFDL turning the storm north over western Cuba.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what that lonely and very useful buoy looks like, bobbing out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea (with 4,900 m of water below).  (You can click the image for complete details).

Hurricane Bertha highlights challenge in forecasting

In the National Hurricane Center’s Discussion #19 on now-Hurricane Bertha the Forecaster Rhome states:

“BERTHA’S INTENSIFICATION TO MAJOR HURRICANE TODAY HIGHLIGHTS THE DIFFICULTIES OF FORECASTING RAPID INTENSITY CHANGES.”

I wonder if this difficulty will ever go away through sheer computing power, or if something a bit more human is required. Could human-consensus forecasting address this weakness? Still unproven, but it seems worth a shot.

Tropical Storm Bertha stubbornly heads west

Tropical Storm Bertha, considered yesterday an almost certain fish-spinner, continues to head west, and her turn to the open Atlantic appears a bit delayed and a bit less severe than originally forecast.

00pm EST

Latest NHC forecast path for TS Bertha, 7.4.08, 11:00pm EST

Still, sea surface temperatures remain too cool for rapid intensification (mid-Atlantic buoy 41041 reports 79.52 degrees F), but she should hit warmer waters by Wednesday (80-82F). By that time, if she follows the official NHC forecast path, she will be approximately 1300 miles east-southeast of Miami. She is presently 2395 miles east-southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

45pm EST

Water vapor image for TS Bertha, 7.4.08, 11:45pm EST

Buzz brewing

I can’t explain why, but for some reason our site has been seeing a bump in traffic lately. My only guess is that hurricane season fever is upon us all down here; most people are coming in directly, without any kind of referring link. I’m guessing the conversation goes something like this:

Bob: ‘Hey Fred, when do you think we’ll get a hurricane this year?’
Fred: ‘Beats me, but check out this website I found the other day . . . ‘

In any event, it’s cool to see new visitors. Hope you’re finding your visit worth your while. Send us your feedback!

New features coming soon. We’re getting pretty excited in the labs. One will be the ability to create an account at Stormpulse.com, and the rest will revolve around doing some pretty neat stuff that you can’t do on any other weather websites. No, really. :-)

The failing QuikSCAT

Most of you weather enthusiasts have probably already heard about this, but since there are a fair number of you that come by here that aren’t completely absorbed in the latest weather news, I thought I’d bring it to your attention.

In short, QuikSCAT is the only instrument we have to measure surface winds over the ocean [1]. It makes images that look like this one of Hurricane Katrina. And this one of Hurricane Frances:

Hurricane Frances QuikSCAT satellite image

Due to various technical problems, it’s ability to continue transmitting data back to Earth is very uncertain. Bill Proenza, the new Director of the National Hurricane Center, has come under heavy criticism from superiors at the NOAA for speaking about the vulnerable condition of the satellite (source).

What does that mean for you and me? Larger evacuation zones (since storm intensity would be much less certain) and a measurable decline in the accuracy of forecasting tropical cyclones—some say by as much as 16%. Oh, and it may take until 2016 to replace it.

I’m not going to go on a crusade against the politics behind it; that isn’t my purpose. And I also don’t want to contribute to any doomsday media frenzy. But as someone that’s spent his entire life benefiting from this instrument I can’t help but wonder what the practical effects of this could be for those living in tropics. After all, it runs completely counter to what we hear every year: that the accuracy of our forecasting system is increasing.

Can you imagine Dr. Steve Lyons saying “well, last year we would have had a better idea, but as far as this storm is concerned we really can’t be sure”?

Better gas up early!

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