Ask Greg

Recent Questions

Question: Why does it take so long for the weather data from the airport to appear online? — R A Metheny

Answer: A recent change in operations by the data source we use for RDU observations on the "Current Conditions" page removed the ability to have the data pushed to us, and it was set up for a polled retrieval instead (along with some 2000 other weather stations). We are instituting a more frequent retrieval for the RDU observation near the top of the hour so that the data shown on our web site will be updated very shortly after it becomes available. Note that routine observations from RDU are only sent out once per hour. These are usually taken at 51 past the hour, and sent out shortly after that. We hope that the new retrieval process will make
Nov. 11, 2014 | Tags: maps & codes, wral.com

Question: Around 6:30 pm on October 27, 2014 I saw an object moving with a long orange/reddish smoke trail move very fast in a north/easterly direction. The object also had a orange/reddish glow. At first I thought it was the rocket launch from Virginia but, I later learned that the launch had been canceled. I have talked with others who also saw the same thing. Any idea of what we saw? I live in Wilson. — VF

Answer: A few other people reported somewhat similar sightings to the American Meteor Society's Fireball reporting page, mostly about 15 minutes later than you noted. There was some potential for confusion then, since there was a very bright International Space Station pass at about the time those other reports noted (close to 6:50 PM around here). However, that was simply a bright white light moving steadily across the sky and then disappearing in the southeast. However, your mention of a reddened glow and a trail of smoke makes it a little tougher to pin down. We're thinking there's a decent chance you saw a high altitude jet trailing a contrail that was lit by reddened light from the setting sun, as there was a bit of an increase in high clouds occurring just to the north and west at that time, and there could have been a flight passing through a layer of enhanced relative humidity ahead of those clouds that may have been favorable for contrail formation.
Nov. 10, 2014 | Tags: astronomy, past weather

Question: Our family thought we were watching the ORB-3 rocket launch Monday night, October 27th, when we saw a very bright, steady (not-flashing), relatively fast-moving light go arcing through the sky on exactly the path we were told to look for the rocket. Imagine our surprise this morning when we learned that the rocket didn't launch last night! Any ideas as to what that light was? Could it have been the International Space Station? Seems like it would have moving far too fast to be the ISS, but we have no other guesses! — Martha Harmening

Answer: As you know by now, the rocket indeed did not launch that evening, due to a boat that strayed into the offshore safety zone, and then was lost in an explosion the following evening. However, as you guessed, the light you saw cross the sky that night was indeed the International Space Station. It crossed the sky that evening only a few minutes after the scheduled launch time for the supply vehicle. Although we see it from over 200 miles away as it passes overhead, it does move along at quite a good pace, since its forward speed is a little over 17,000 miles per hour!
Nov. 9, 2014 | Tags: astronomy

Question: I am a freshman at Scotland High School. I am doing a report on Meteorologist and I would just like to know about what you do and how important your job is. — Makayla

Answer: It just happens we answered a related question that touches on the first part of your question (what we do) yesterday, so you could either just scroll back and read that one, or use the search function and enter "Jumbotron" to jump right to it. Regarding how important the job of forecasting and disseminating weather information is, in a qualitative sense it can be quite important for many different purposes, ranging from simply dressing for comfort and health to planning for travel, knowing when to irrigate crops or protect them from freezing temperatures, to knowing when and where certain types of military operations can best succeed, to planning road treatment and clearing operations when winter weather is expected, to maintaining safety when hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms or flooding rains threaten. How important all of those things are can be a judgement call, and can vary from person to person or application to application. In a more quantified sense, though, there have been attempts made to assess the economic value of weather forecasts and warnings, and you can turn up some of those reports with a web search with keywords like "value weather forecasts," "economics weather services," and so on.
Nov. 8, 2014 | Tags: careers & education, preparedness

Question: I am a seventh grader who takes upper level classes and my science teacher gave us an assignment where we have to ask a meteorologist these questions: 1. What does a meteorologist do? 2. What does an individual have to accomplish to become a meteorologist? 3. What would you recommend a middle schooler such as me to do if they wanted to become a meteorologist? If it is possible, will you please answer in the greatest detail possible. Thank you for your time and input! — D'Kota

Answer: 1. What exactly a meteorologist does can vary greatly, depending on the type of meteorologist, and there are research meteorologists, air pollution meteorologists, military meteorologists, forensic meteorologists and more. We are "broadcast meteorologists" here at WRAL. Our duties include analyzing weather data, including surface and upper air maps, radar and satellite images, lightning data, and computer model forecast text and graphics, and from this process making detailed forecasts of cloud cover, precipitation potential, temperatures and winds for the next 48 hours or so, and more general forecasts out to seven days in advance. We are then responsible for presenting these forecasts in radio broadcasts for the North Carolina News Network (about 65 stations), several stations in the Wilmington area, and for our sister radio stations WRAL-FM and WCMC-FM three times a day, updating weather forecasts on our web site and a number of telephone recordings 3-4 times per day, and producing graphics and presenting weather forecasts on WRAL-TV, WRAZ-TV, and WILM-TV several times throughout the day. We also occasionally record special radio forecasts for the Durham Bulls, record TV forecasts that air on HDTV, Digital Cable, WRAL.com, the Fayetteville Observer Web Site and on some Mobile Phone systems, and at times record taped video forecasts that run on the RBC Center Jumbotron during Carolina Hurricanes and NCSU Wolfpack games at PNC arena, as well as some for the Durham Bull that run on the scoreboard at the DBAP. We also frequently make presentations to school and civic groups, and appear at events like the State Fair on behalf of WRAL. Finally, there's lot of e-mail to answer, along with postings to our WRAL WeatherCenter Facebook page and Twitter feeds, the AskGreg column and the WeatherCenter Blog on our web site, and we have to take care of routine things like keeping all the computers in the WeatherCenter up and running and conducting training on new weather analysis and presentation systems (like Dual Doppler 5000, Interactive Fusion 7-day graphics and Live HD weather) and keeping up on the state of the art in meteorology through review of journal and news articles on the subject, and attendance at occasional seminars and training sessions conducted by the National Weather Service or NCSU. We also have to be prepared to work long shifts during snow or ice storms and hurricanes, and to break into programming and provide emergency information in the event of severe thunderstorms or tornadoes (the official warnings for these events are issued by the National Weather Service) or sometimes an event, like the Apex chemical storage facility fire and evacuation a few years back, that is not directly weather-related but is impacted greatly by the weather that occurs as it happens.

2. To become a meteorologist, usually you begin by attending a college that offers a degree in meteorology or atmospheric science, although sometimes people who have degrees in math, computer science, physics or engineering will attend a university to get a graduate degree in meteorology and will enter the field that way. Also, military weather forecasters in the Navy, Marines or Air Force can attend special training programs to learn their craft without obtaining a college degree. After college or training, you simply look for and apply for available positions in the branch of meteorology that you feel most interested in or best suited to.

Here are addresses for excellent descriptions of meteorological jobs and preparation for them in a broader sense. These two addresses have some good information on the wide variety of meteorology and atmospheric science careers that are available:

www.ametsoc.org/AtmosCareers/index.html

www.nssl.noaa.gov/faq/faq_careers.php

3. At the middle school level and heading through high school, we'd recommend you just work toward being a good all around student, perhaps with a special emphasis on math and science classes, geography, and it's a good idea to put some strong effort toward english as well, especially if there are some technical writing and/or public speaking classes available, since meteorologists are often called upon to deliver written or verbal reports and presentations.
Nov. 7, 2014 | Tags: careers & education, cool sites

Question: New at this. I was given a meter that has MMHg and hPa. What is this and what do I use as a reference to calibrate it? — David Coltrane, Sr

Answer: The units you noted indicate you muct have received a barometer. This measure atmospheric pressure, which can be stated in any number of different units. The ones you listed are "millimeters of mercury" and "hectoPascals." You can work out the appropriate factors for converting between various common pressure units by knowing that standard sea level pressure can be given as 29.92 inches Hg = 1013.25 millibars = 1013.25 hPa = 760 millimeters Hg = 14.7 pounds per square inch. Notice millibars and hPa are the same numerically. There's also a handy pressure units converter in the bottom right panel of the page at www.srh.noaa.gov/ama/?n=conversions.

Since the more important factor with a home barometer is the trend over time (rising/falling/steady, and how rapidly any changes occur) as opposed to the precise pressure value, you can make a good ballpark calibration by checking a recent reading from a nearby airport and adjusting your unit to the same value. The pressure you should attempt to match would be the value listed as either "sea level" or "altimeter setting." You can find such listings in the "current conditions" section of our weather web site, where the pressure is given in inches of mercury.


Nov. 6, 2014 | Tags: instruments, wral.com

Question: Why is the forecast high shown to the right of the forecast low? I find this confusing since the low for the day occurs in the AM for that day. — Don Thomas

Answer: We assume you're asking about the appearance of our 7-day forecast with the "tubes" design. The idea of having the low shifted a bit to the left within the tube for a given day was to indicate exactly what you mentioned, that is that the low temperature would typically occur around sunrise, while the high would usually be reached in the mid-afternoon. With that in mind, scanning the 7-day image left to right would take you through the expected temperature extremes in order, from afternoon high to next morning low to that afternoon high to next morning low, etc. The setup is a little different for the "vertical" 7-day forecast on our web site. There, each line shows the high for the day on the left and the upcoming "overnight" low that corresponds to the "overnight" forecast tab within the box that contains the written forecast text. In this case, the low does indeed occur (typically) around daybreak the next morning.
Nov. 5, 2014 | Tags: maps & codes, wral.com

Question: How many tornadoes have we had in North Carolina this year? — Josiah

Answer: All we can offer for now is a rough estimate that will likely be revised as more complete data is collected and posted by the Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center. Tornado reports initially come in the form of a product called local storm reports, for which a very up to date archive is readily available. However, in some cases these preliminary reports turn out to have been due to non-tornadic storms, or there may be several reports that all arise from a single tornado, so that the initial number of reports is usually an overestimate. Using that value, there were 40 tornado reports in NC for January through October 2014. The Storm Prediction Center applies a ratio of .85 as a rough correction factor to reduce potential duplicate reports, which would give an estimate of 34 tornadoes. A more accurate, final count for our state for 2014 will be available from SPC and NCDC by sometime in the spring of 2015, as by that time tornado damage survey reports from local NWS offices will have been collected and entered into databases that reflect, as near as is possible, the actual number of confirmed tornadoes.
Nov. 4, 2014 | Tags: past weather, tornadoes

Question: Once before I lost the hourly forecast brought to us by Wake Forest. This window is gone again. How do I get the hourly forecast back? I Use the graph to plan my day. — Elaine

Answer: The hourly forecast through our web site can be accessed via a link (in blue letters) on the main weather page right above the 7-day forecast, or via link fromt he "Weather resources" page, or directly at www.wral.com/hourly_forecast/1005691/.

Once you reach this page, you can type in any zip code or city, state combination to retrieve the hourly forecast for that location. If you prefer to keep that info in a separate window, you can right click on the link and request that it be opened in a new window. Also, if you are a registered user of our web site, once you switch the forecast to a town or zip code of your choice, it should default to that location the next time you return to the site.

Nov. 3, 2014 | Tags: maps & codes, wral.com

Question: Why don't you post backyard weather stations on your show or online? It would give you and everyone else a better view of the up to the minute weather. — Jeff C

Answer: While the temperature maps we present on the web site are based on observations from official FAA and/or NWS observing sites, we do actually use some personal weather stations on some of our on-air weather maps, mainly those that are zoomed in rather tightly around central NC and include places like Durham, Clayton and Cary. While some of these sites are personal weather stations, they have gone through some siting and data quality checks to try and make them as consistent as possible with those at airports and other government sites. There is also a way to see many more personal stations through our web site, by going to our "Weather Resources" section and scrolling down to "personal Weather Stations." Clicking that link brings up a densely populated Weather Underground map with personal stations in the foreground and a radar map in the background. Data shown on the station plots can be changed by clicking the gear/sprocket symbol next to "Weather Stations" label to the upper right of the map.
Nov. 2, 2014 | Tags: maps & codes, wral.com

Questions 41 - 50 of 4436.


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