Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Top 5 Things People Say to Meteorologists

Since the NWS has ventured out into the social media realm, we tend to get WAY more questions and comments than back in the day. Many of these questions or comments are repeated so often that we figured we should try to demystify some of them. So here are the top 5 things people say to meteorologists and here are some facts to clear up the confusion. Enjoy!

1.  "Wish I could get paid to be wrong all the time,"

  • We know it may be hard to believe, but weather forecasting has come a LONG way over the past 20 years. Even over the past 5 years, substantial advances have been made to forecast dangerous weather. Now, can we predict exactly what is going to occur a week from now? Probably not, but we can give you a pretty good idea of what you can expect, especially over the next 48 hours. Predicting the exact location and timing of thunderstorms can be super tricky, but there are high resolution models being developed that will help us to do our job better.
  • NWS Meteorologists are evaluated at their job just like anyone else. We are also are hardest critics. We despise when we don't get it right, probably even more than you do, especially if we were forecasting an epic powder day and it just didn't work out. During widespread severe weather events that devastate a large area, a team will be brought in to conduct a case study. This usually involves reviewing the actions of the individual forecasters as well as the teams of forecasters at each office. A lot is on the line for us from day-to-day so we really do try to get it right.
  • A humorous side note on this:

2.  "Don't like the weather? It's <city, state> just wait a few minutes and it will change."

  • I am sure we have all heard this one once or twice, but the fact is that the weather constantly changes. Just how fast it changes is obviously variable from day-to-day and from location-to-location.
  • The important part of this is to remember to look at the forecast from day-to-day, even frequently during the day if you have plans outdoors! Persistence (what happened the days before) doesn't always rule, even during the summer.

3.  "It came out of nowhere" and "Unpredictable Weather Continues"

  • This one really bothers meteorologists and weather forecasters alike. In this day and age where information is readily available from multiple sources: TV, radio, cell phones, internet, you name it! Accessibility to weather information is everywhere!
  • Weather impacts us every single day. From what you choose to wear in the morning, how you feel, your commute to work, and maybe even what you decide to eat! I am definitely more in the mood for an iced latte on those hot summer days. Being proactive and following our weather updates, posts, and forecasts will help you be weather aware and also keep you, your family, and friends prepared and safe.

4.  "What about the global warming now?"
  • This comment always seems to pop up when we get the occasional snow in the Spring and Summer in the higher elevations. We get it. Someone is trying to be funny, but just because it’s snowing that doesn’t disprove the idea of global warming.  Often these same people are curiously quiet when we have a heat wave ;-)
  • Global warming is a part of a much larger topic of discussion, climate change, which is a separate topic from the day-to-day weather that affects you and me. Our expertise is in day to day weather forecasts, so we tend to shy away from questions about climate change projections. For more information on climate change check out this link.
  • This just bears the reminder that weather and climate are two different things. Here is a great short post about it from our friends at the National Ocean Service

5.  "What channel are you on?"
  • Actually that is funny you ask! In a way, we are on all of them! No really :) Here at the National Weather Service we have strong relationships with our media partners so we can all work together to get the message out about critical weather events. Whether it is the local radio host, your friendly tv meteorologist or column writers at the local newspaper, we work hard with them ahead of big events to share preparedness information.
  • The media are especially important to us at the NWS because, although we can utilize social media, NOAA Weather Radio, and our website, we don’t have the access to the public via TV and the radio that our local media partners do. The relationships with our local media are crucial to what we do, and we appreciate them very much!
  • Here is a great blog post by one of our local media partners about our working relationship.

We hope that you enjoyed this little walk through some of the things we hear on a day-to-day basis and that it gives you a little glimpse into what people say to us. Thanks for checking out the post and as always if you have questions go to our webpage, Facebook, or Twitter. Thanks!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Windy Week Ahead

Water vapor satellite imagery from June 13th.
It has been a bit of an unusual summer thus far. Although June started out hot and unusually dry, the temperatures have moderated quite a bit. As of late we had quite a bit of rain as well as snow across Mono and Mineral counties this past weekend as a cold area of low pressure trekked across the West. Southern parts of Mono County received a good dousing of rain through the overnight hours of the 11th into the morning of the 12th with some portions of the southwest part of the county recording more than 1 inch of rain. Snow was reported down to 9000 feet in the heavier showers and thunderstorms with up to 3 inches reported near the summit of Mammoth Mountain above 10,500 feet.

Webcam photos are from June Mountain (~9,200 ft), Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge (8900 feet), and Mammoth Sesame Snow Study (9014 feet).
Now we are looking at a trough pushing into the Pacific Northwest that will bring windy conditions across the Sierra and western Nevada. While gusty winds aren't that unusual for the area, it is breezy almost everyday from the afternoon Zephyr winds. These wind gusts will be a bit stronger than our typical westerly winds and will make for some unpleasant impacts across the area. Let's take a look at what will bring these stronger than usual winds, and what you should be concerned about this upcoming week.

Here is the latest GFS simulation of the jet stream (images courtesy of through Thursday afternoon. Notice the trough pushing into the Pacific Northwest with the jet dropping south into the Sierra and western Nevada. This jet stream along with tightening surface temperature and pressure gradients will allow the winds to increase across the region for Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.

Computer simulations are showing wind gusts increasing to around 30 to 40 mph for Tuesday afternoon and then increasing further to up to 50 mph Wednesday afternoon as the cold front is forecast to push though the area. Ridge winds will be between 50 to 70 mph for mid week as well. While wind gusts like this are not unheard of during the summer, they do cause for some concern when it comes to outdoor enthusiasts in general; including, but not limited to hikers, fishers, cyclists, fire folks, and boaters.

The primary impacts from these winds will be choppy lake conditions and increased fire danger. Let's first address the lake conditions, and when we say "the lake" that can be any lake from Lassen county down to Lake Tahoe, to Mono Lake or even out east to Pyramid Lake. Our forecast area covers all those areas. There are currently Lake Wind Advisories out for area lakes, and if you plan on being at any lakes this week then you should be carefully looking over that product. Another page that you can look at for information is the NWS Reno Lake Forecasts website where you can see current observations at Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake, as well as the forecast wind speeds, wind gusts, and the wave heights.

All very important information if you plan on recreating at the lakes. Conditions can change rapidly, so being prepared is crucial. ALWAYS wear your personal flotation device when out on the lakes, especially if you are kayaking or paddle boarding. There have already been incidents on Lake Tahoe this year and you don't want to become part of that statistic.

For official weather forecast information please go to

Monday, June 6, 2016

Welcome to Summer! (and soon-to-be fire season)

Wow. We have been MIA for a little while!  Hope you all haven't missed us too much ;-)

We have only just started meteorological summer and the wildfires have already started popping up here and there. Just in the past week we have dealt with at least 3 in the local area, with a couple of them a little too close for comfort to the NWS Reno office (two fires on highway 395 near the Parr exits in Reno).

Photo Courtesy of Reno Fire Department Facebook Page

So we aren't fire fighters or fuels specialists, but here at the NWS we do have to stay in tune with the fuels status so we can be ready for the fire season. Namely, if the fuels aren't ready, then we aren't issuing Red Flag Warnings. Whoa whoa whoa... what is a red flag warning? Check out this short video and it will cover the basics. So as the video stated (you should really take the time to watch it), we at the NWS have to coordinate with our local fire partners to issue Red Flag Warnings for when the fuels and weather combine to create dangerous fire weather conditions.

Although we aren't fully into fire season yet, because all the fuels aren't "ready", we are still seeing some decent fires - especially in the grasses. Thankfully, the sagebrush is still green and not quite ready to burn yet.  This will not be the case when we go into July and August because the sagebrush and grass will all be dry enough to burn at that point.

There are a few important things to remember about our behavior during these hot and dry summers to reduce the threat of wildfire. One of those things is to practice target shooting responsibly, especially during hot and dry afternoons or if there is any wind like the Washoe Zephyr.  Here are a few tips from the Bureau of Land Management in Carson City...

Here at 10 tips for safe target shooting:
  • Bring water. This may seem obvious, but shooters often forget to bring enough water to put out a fire. A five gallon bucket of water could help prevent a fire disaster.
  • Bring a shovel. Use the shovel to dig a trench around your targets before shooting. This will help ensure any fires can easily be contained.
  • Shoot at quality steel targets designed to minimize risk. Don’t shoot steel during hot, dry, and windy days.
  • Place your targets on dirt or gravel away from any vegetation.
  • Don’t shoot trash and remove your spent cartridges. Illegal trash such as couches and televisions can be a fire hazard when shot.
  • Know that all types of ammunition can start fires under the right conditions, especially steel core ammunition. Don’t use steel core ammunition, and avoid shooting in rocky areas.
  • Don’t use exploding targets.
  • Don’t smoke. You can easily start a wildfire. If you’re shooting in a dry area, make sure the cigarette butts are fully extinguished or avoid smoking.
  • Park your vehicle away from dry grass. While it may not seem like a hazard, the hot undercarriage of the vehicle can heat up the grass and cause a fire.
  • Shoot responsibly. Clean up after shooting.
Source: Bureau of Land Management
Let's all have a safe and smart summer!
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