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Question: I have to know the answer,and I always heard when you don't know..ask a pro, so here goes. Why don't we get those "old timey electric storms" like we use to get 35 yrs ago when I was a kid? You know,those bad storms where the sky would get black, sharp lighting that use to strike everything like houses, trees, the ground, antennas, even people, and the thunder would be so loud it would rattle the pictures on the wall and usually the lights would go out. So..why don't we get those kind of storms here anymore? — Archer5

Answer: While the number, frequency and intensity of thunderstorms certainly varies a good bit from year to year in a given location, we aren't aware of an overall trend toward fewer of them in our state, and it remains the case that there are occasions when storms here produce especially copious amounts of lightning. In fact, in recent years the local National Weather Service office in Raleigh has carried out an interesting research program to develop better methods for identifying days when storms are like to produce "excessive" lightning. We can't be certain, but we would guess that like ourselves, your perception may be based on how much more intense an experience like a heavy thunderstorm seems when you are very young, along with the fact that nowadays we tend to know more often when storms are coming, how long they will last, etc, and unless they happen to be severe cells that produce damaging winds or tornadoes, they don't carry quite the same sense of awe that similar storms might have when we were small children.
Mar. 19, 2017 | Tags: lightning, thunderstorms

Question: I have a small organic vegetable farm and could use a good home weather station. Can you folks recommend a good home weather station? I would like to track daily precip, temp, pressure, etc. It would be nice to be able to download the information to a spreadsheet so that I could look back at things over time. — David Higginbotham

Answer: There are several reputable companies (Davis, La Crosse, Rainwise, Acurite, Oregon Scientific, etc) that make complete home weather stations that range from quite basic to to very advanced (and from inexpensive to rather costly as you move up the quality/accuracy/convenience scale), to include wired or wireless installations and data transfer. Most include software for archiving and displaying the data on a PC, tablet or laptop, which would serve the function you mentioned regarding looking back at the history of your site. You can find a number of suppliers for these systems by doing a web search for the phrase "home weather station," and most of the sites include customer reviews that may help you decide on the system best for your farm. We would recommend going with one that falls in the "complete" category, so that it includes instruments to measure wind and precipitation.
Mar. 18, 2017 | Tags: instruments

Question: I work for the Town of Fuquay-Varina and I was wondering what it would take to set up a WRAL weather station here in one of our downtowns? Thanks! — Matthew

Answer: We weren't quite sure if you are asking about one of our SkyCams or if you meant you'd like to have a weather station that we can tap into to show current temperatures, wind or precipitation totals. So, we'll provide some information about both here.

Our SkyCam network requires a particular brand of camera, and we’d be happy to provide you with specifics on what some other towns have installed to become SkyCam locations. We can provide some installation assistance as well, if needed. We're contacting you separately by e-mail to keep the process going, and invite other towns that are interested to contact us as well. We do have new SkyCam sites in the works for a couple of other local cities.

As for weather readings, the majority of stations we plot in our on-air graphics are official sites operated by government agencies like the NWS, FAA, State Climate Office of NC and so on. However, there are a few sites we show that are part of the "Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System" (MADIS) that also incorporates some stations that are part of the "Citizen Weather Observer Program" (CWOP). While we can't guarantee whether we'd show your data, we'd be happy to have it as an option from the MADIS database. You can get more info on becoming a contributor to that by checking the information at madis.noaa.gov/provider_resources.shtml (see "Becoming a Provider" which includes a link to CWOP (where you'll find a "Join" link) and an alternate contact link in case you encounter any problems with the CWOP process. There are also a couple of helpful documents on getting connected as a Davis Instruments station owner, at www.weather.gov/media/epz/mesonet/CWOP-WxLinkPC.pdf and www.weather.gov/media/epz/mesonet/CWOP-WxLinkIP.pdf. Once you become a provider for CWOP and MADIS, feel free to contact us through the "feedback" section of our web site and let us know where your station is located and what your assigned identifier code is (typically, this would be a unique 5-character combination of letters and numbers). That will make it available for automatic plotting and updates on our maps if we choose to use it. Thanks for checking with us, and good luck!
Mar. 17, 2017 | Tags: instruments, maps & codes, wral.com

Question: I know we've had warm springs and cold springs in the past... but have we ever had pollen and snow at the same time in Raleigh? — Mira Abed

Answer: We doubt the combination that occurred the weekend of the 12th is very common, but it's a little difficult to check as historical pollen readings more than about ten years back are not as readily available as snow observations. We did quickly find that some measurable snow in early March 2009 corresponded to the dates of moderate concentrations of tree pollen, but the species listed were juniper and elm. While these pollens can aggravate allergies in people who have them, they are very fine grained and we usually don't notice them visually the way we do the larger yellow pine pollen grains, which were active at the time of our recent snow. We suspect that if we had more access to long-term pollen data, there would also be a couple of other rare periods when snow and pine pollen also occurred around the same dates.
Mar. 16, 2017 | Tags: past weather, pollen, snow

Question: Any chance this weekend will be like the weekend of march 11, 1993? — Paul Morgan

Answer: Due to the delay of a couple to a few days between answering these questions and the time they show up on the site, the weekend you were asking about is already over, and as expected the snow-producing upper level disturbance that brought anywhere from nothing to a little over an inch of snow to our part of the state on Sunday, March 12 was very different from the "Superstorm" of March 1993. Oddly enough, given the monster storm that one turned out to be, we actually had almost as much snow here in central NC from the modest system that passed through over the weekend as from the 1993 event. Back then, the surface low with that system followed a somewhat inland track up through the southeast U.S. compared to many nor'easters, and in the process kept temperatures warm enough over central NC that only about a half-inch to two inches of snow occurred in the Triangle and nearby areas, with just a trace to the south and east. On the other hand, that storm remains a record-setter for western NC, and some of the higher elevations in our mountain counties got as much as 40-50 inches, compared to anywhere from a trace to about 4 inches this past weekend. You can see a map of snow totals in our state from the March 1993 storm at www4.ncsu.edu/~nwsfo/storage/cases/maps/accum.19930313.gif.
Mar. 15, 2017 | Tags: past weather, snow

Question: How many times has it snowed 14 days after a thunderstorm as the old wives tale say? — Sue Jimenez

Answer: We'd usually heard that saying using 10 days, or sometimes "within ten days" as the time frame involved. Nonetheless, while it doesn't make for all that reliable a predictor, there is some truth to the idea that snow is more likely when we have recently had a pattern that produces wintertime thunderstorms. This has to do with the same kinds of very wavy (we call them "meridional flow") upper-level patterns being able to both pull warm, moist air into the region from the south to fuel instability and storms with lightning, and as the waves move along, subsequently being able to draw cold air from the north far enough south to give us a chance at wintry precipitation. When we are in patterns with flatter, generally west to east, upper-level winds (called "zonal flow"), we may have some cloudiness at times and occasionally some rain or light showers, but in that pattern our temperatures don't tend to stray too far above or below normal, and we rarely have thunder or snow.

A while back, we worked with the State Climate Office of North Carolina to look into some statistics relating to this old "rule of thumb," and found, for example, that on any given day in the winter at the RDU airport, there is about a 1 in 16 chance that snow will occur in the window of 7-10 days later. On the other hand, for a day when thunder is observed, the chance of snow 7-10 days later is about 1 in 8. So, the occurrence of thunder in the winter appears to roughly double the chance that snow occurs in the next 7-10 days. However, that chance is still low enough that many times it will not happen.
Mar. 14, 2017 | Tags: folklore, lightning, snow

Question: Not really a question but a suggestion - on the morning mini forecast given at about 7:20 after the national forecast during Today Show, the 8am temp is given and the 4pm temp is given but it's more helpful for me to know what temp will be at 12pm so I know how warm it will be for my child at recess. — Mary

Answer: There are a number of times through the morning news when we provide "day planner" forecasts that look at what to expect at 8A, Noon and 4P, and later in the morning Noon, 4P and 8P. However, as you noted we have a couple of periods when we show "bus stop" forecasts that focus on the trip to school and the ride home. We'll certainly give some thought to modifying that to add a midday "recess' or lunch break period as well. Thanks for the suggestion!
Mar. 13, 2017 | Tags: wral.com

Question: I have a paper copy of a Feb 2004 article that was after a fairly major "snow event" at that time. It has historical info on late snow falls as well as the top snow falls recorded in the RTP area over the years. Are you aware of any NWS or equivalent web sites where this type of data might be available? — Tony A

Answer: A few of the sites you may find helpful include a list of daily snowfall records for the Raleigh area maintained by the Raleigh NWS office, located at

www.weather.gov/rah/rdusnowfall

You can look up monthly and daily snowfall totals for a large number of stations using a powerful climate database query tool (in particular, with the “monthly summarized data,” “seasonal time series” and “daily data for a month” selections) located at

xmacis.rcc-acis.org/

The National Centers for Environmental Information maintains a database of the dates and locations of the greatest snowfall on record for periods of 1, 2 or 3 days for all counties in NC at

www.ncdc.noaa.gov/snow-and-ice/snowfall-extremes/NC

The State Climate Office located at NCSU has a nice page that summarizes winter storms in NC since 1950. It is searchable by time frame, county and precipitation type. You can find it at

climate.ncsu.edu/climate/winter_wx/database.php

Mar. 12, 2017 | Tags: cool sites, past weather, records/extremes, snow

Question: In the winter the jet stream brings cold air from the north in an S curve, in summer it brings warm air from the Gulf in an inverse curve. Question, in spring and fall when we have warm then cold does the jet stream "wobble" between the two curves? Is there a name for that? — Anonymous

Answer: The jet stream follows a discontinuous wavy path at all times of the year, with the wavy pattern progressive at times very slow moving or stalled at times, highly wavy (called "meridional" at times) and rather flat (a west to east flow called "zonal") at some others. It tends to migrate to the south during the fall and stays at more southerly latitudes during the winter (when it can bring both cold air and warm air depending on how it is configured at a given time - for example, we topped 80 degrees here on three occasions during February this year), then shifts to more northerly latitudes through the spring and often stays within Canada or the northern tier of the U.S. during the summer. During the transition seasons in spring and fall it can vary greatly in its orientation and in its northward or southward extent, leaving us with notable swings in temperature and with periods of quiet and active weather of highly variable lengths. The only terms we can think of for periods when the jet stream is "wobbling" between varied warm and cold patterns for us is "progressive," as opposed to times when the jet pattern is stalled, or nearly so, and we would refer to it as "blocked."
Mar. 11, 2017 | Tags: general meteorology

Question: How likely is it that the current forecast for Sunday 3/12 will change and actually have better weather in the 60s? A couple of weather stations say it could be 65. — Mark W

Answer: With this situation, it's important to note that what you referred to as the "current forecast" was that of early in the day on Tuesday March 7, and that we often answer these questions anywhere from 2-4 days before they appear on the web site. That being the case, you should check the latest updates on our web site and our TV weathercasts for what is expected to occur over the weekend. At the time the forecast you asked about was made, the major operational models from the U.S. and Europe were in reasonable agreement that a low pressure center forming along a frontal boundary in the vicinity would have the Raleigh area in cold air with high temperatures in the mid 30s to low 40s on Sunday, with a chance of wintry precipitation for the northern half or so of our viewing area and mainly rain to the south. However, the solution for that day had been showing considerable changes from one day to the next and we could not consider the forecast to be locked in and stabilized by any means. On top of that, we examine results from "ensemble" runs of those models in which the model is run 21 times (U.S.) and 50 times (European) with slight variations in the initial conditions or model formulations, to examine the sensitivity of the results to such small variations. At the time, the combined output of those ensembles showed that about 70-80% of the runs produced measurable precipitation for Raleigh, with around 40-45% indicating measurable snow, while maximum temperatures for the day indicated by the ensemble runs ranged from upper 20s to mid 60s. The probability of the temperatures near the extremes of the range were quite small compared to those indicating highs in the 40s, but nonetheless remained possible outcomes. The range becomes even more interesting toward the south due to the potential proximity of much warmer air. The range of Sunday high temperatures indicated for Fayetteville by the European ensemble, for example, spanned from low 30s to upper 70s, with upper 30s to low 50s a more probable outcome. Again, in the three days between the time of those outlooks and the time this appears on our site, things could look much the same or may have changed notably.
Mar. 10, 2017 | Tags: maps & codes, winter weather

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