NOAA beefs up its computer capacity with major upgrade

Computer capacity

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

NOAA is poised to triple its computing capacity over the next two years, the agency announced Thursday.

In a news release, NOAA said it added “two new Cray computers” the so-called supercomputers from Hewlett Packard, each with a capacity of 12 petaflops, which will become operational in 2022.

“Coupled with NOAA’s research and development supercomputers in West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Colorado, which have a combined capacity of 16 petaflops, the supercomputing capacity supporting NOAA’s new operational prediction and research will be 40 petaflops,” the agency said.

“This increase in high-performance computing will triple the capacity and double the storage and interconnect speed, allowing NOAA to unlock possibilities for better forecast model guidance through higher-resolution and more comprehensive Earth-system models, using larger ensembles, advanced physics, and improved data assimilation.”

I know what you’re thinking: What’s a petaflop?

I googled it and found this definition: “A unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million floating-point operations per second.”

Does that clear it up? No, it doesn’t for me, either. But it sounds like these are some heavy-duty, ultra-high-tech, sci-fi-quality mega-machines, so get ready for some pinpoint forecasts.


RECORD WATCH: Marathon tied a record high Thursday with 86. The original record was set last year. Record warm minimum temperatures were set or tied in Miami (74); Naples (73); and Key West (77).


SPRING-SUMMER SNEAK PEEK: In addition to the new March forecast released Thursday by NOAA (see yesterday’s post), the agency also issued updated long-range predictions. Below are the forecasts for April-June, the top graphic for temps and the bottom for precip. (Image credits: NOAA/ CPC)




Key West ties 93-year-old high temperature record

Key West record

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Meteorological spring begins a week from Sunday, but spring-like temperatures are already in place across the Florida peninsula, with some 90-plus readings in inland parts of South Florida.

In Broward County, Weston hit 90 and an observer near the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport reported a high of 92.

In the Keys, Key West tied a 93-year-old high temperature record Monday with 84. And in Central Florida, Leesburg tied a record warm minimum temperature with 65.

Toasty temps are set to continue until Friday, when a cold front knocks temperatures back into the 60s and 70s for the weekend. until then, expect more record warm temperatures.

“Naples will have to be watched as the records there are mid to upper 80s and we will certainly be in that ballpark,” the National Weather Service said in its Tuesday discussion from Miami.


FINANCIAL STORM WARNING: There are plenty of pins that have the potential to pop the economic bubble that has been pumped up by artificially low interest rates set by world banks over the last 10 years. One of them is the spread of the coronavirus, which is already doing damage to the Asian economies.

Here’s another one: extreme weather.

A paper published Monday by experts at the University of California at Davis argues that there’s too much unpriced risk in the energy market due to weather-related events, especially excessively high temperatures.

“Unpriced risk was the main cause of the Great Recession in 2007-2008,” said author Paul Griffin, an accounting professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. “Right now, energy companies shoulder much of that risk. The market needs to better assess risk, and factor a risk of extreme weather into securities prices.”

Excessive heat has the ability to impact agriculture, interfere with delivery of energy and water, and disrupt transportation.

“Despite these obvious risks, investors and asset managers have been conspicuously slow to connect physical climate risk to company market valuations,” Griffin said in the paper published by the academic journal, Nature Energy. “Loss of property is what grabs all the headlines, but how are businesses coping? Threats to businesses could disrupt the entire economic system.”

He added: “While proprietary climate risk models my help some firms and organizations better understand future conditions attributable to climate change, extreme weather risk is still highly problematic from a risk estimation standpoint,” he concluded in the article.

“This is because with climate change, the patterns of the past are no guide to the future, whether it be one year, five years or 20 years out. Investors may also normalize extreme weather impacts over time, discounting their future importance.”

Warm-up begins on Monday; Phil says winter’s pretty much over

Groundhog Day Key West

RODENT REVIEW: The National Weather Service in Key West tried to set the record straight about groundhogs Sunday. See below for the full Punxsutawney Phil report. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)


It was a cool Sunday morning around Florida, but there were no freezing temperatures as of 7 a.m., even in the panhandle, where temperatures were in the 30s. The Orlando area was in the mid-40s, with upper 40s on both Central Florida coasts and low- to mid-50s on both South Florida coasts. It was 62 in Key West, according to Weather Underground.

The cold snap is forecast to last through Monday night, when winds swing around to the southeast. Thursday should be the warmest day of the week before another cold front pushes down the peninsula and temperatures return to seasonal levels.


THIS JUST IN: Hooray! Looks like an early spring for the U.S. Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow in Pennsylvania Sunday morning and did not see his shadow, a sure sign that spring is around the corner.

It was the first time on record that Phil has not seen his shadow in back-to-back years, according to the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post.

DEUCES ARE WILD: The writers also noted on Twitter that today’s date is a palindrome (reads the same backward and forward) — 02-02-2020. It’s also only the second time Groundhog Day has occurred on Super Bowl Sunday.

NOAA, through its NCEI (National Centers for Environmental Information) threw a little cold water on the forecast by noting: “In 2019, Phil forecast a ‘short winter’ when he did not see his shadow and predicted an early spring. In fact, the contiguous United States saw below average temperatures in both February and March of last year.

“The average contiguous U.S. temperature during February was 32.0°F, 1.8°F below the 20th century average. This ranked among the coldest third of the 125-year period of record and was the coolest February since 2010.”

On the other hand, NOAA is predicting above normal temperatures in the eastern U.S. in February, so the agency appears to be on the same page as Phil this year.

And the long-term CFS model sees mostly above-normal to normal temps in much of the U.S., including Florida and the Southeast, through mid-March.

Severe weather possible before weekend cold front arrives

Severe storm risk

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

More than an inch of rain soaked the Cape Coral area of Southwest Florida overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning, and more was on the way for the first part of the weekend along with the potential for some severe weather in parts of South Florida.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center put much of South Florida at a Level 2 risk — forecasters call it a “Slight Risk” — Friday night through Sunday morning with the bulk of the storms occurring Friday night and Saturday.

For Saturday, the SPC has South Florida at a Slight Risk from just south of Naples over to Boca Raton on the East Coast, down to the peninsula’s southern tip.  A slice of Level 1 or “Marginal Risk runs from around Fort Myers up through West Palm Beach. Central Florida is expecting thunderstorms.

“The main hazards with these storms look to be gusty winds, small hail, minor localized flooding, and funnel clouds,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said. “Given the instability and shear, along with the presence of the jet, a brief tornado can’t be entirely ruled out, though the most prime location for that looks to be across the far southern portion of the peninsula.”

Sunday is expected to be clear and much cooler, with highs only around 70 in Miami, headed for an overnight low of 55; 67 in Orlando going down to a Monday morning low of 46; and 66 in Tampa heading for a low of 48.

Come to think of it, that’s not bad football weather. But expect to see lots of jackets and sweatshirts at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Super Bowl Sunday with game time temperatures slipping into the 60s along with wind gusts of up to 23 mph, according to the National Weather Service.


RAINFALL REPORT: Observers for the rainfall network CoCoRaHS reported up to 1.26 inches of rain in Cape Coral, from late Wednesday through early Thursday morning. Glades and Hendry counties reported up to 1.23 inches; and Sarasota County had just under an inch.

An observer near Pahokee in Palm Beach County reported 1.10 inches, while coastal areas had closer to a quarter of an inch as a weak cold front rolled down the peninsula Wednesday night.

Northeastern Miami-Dade picked up as much as 0.81 of an inch, and around a half-inch fell on the Treasure Coast.


Severe Weather Awareness hurricanes

AROUND THE CORNER AND DOWN THE STREET: Do we need a reminder? Apparently so, as Thursday is the day to focus on hurricanes in Florida as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week. Just in case you’re keeping score at home, there are 121 shopping days until the start of the 2020 hurricane season on June 1. (Image credit: NOAA)

Arctic cold front this weekend to chill Super Bowl fans

Tornado drill

(Image credit: NOAA)

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Today, which is the middle of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Florida, the focus is on tornadoes. And in connection with that a tornado drill was scheduled at 10 a.m., when NOAA weather radios announce the drill amid live tweets. “Take shelter as you would for a real tornado, take a selfie, and tweet us using #TornadoDrill #SWAW2020,” the National Weather Service says.


SUPER COLD FRONT: A front that will push air into South Florida that’s “Arctic in nature, if not at least from northern Canada,” will cast a chill over Super Bowl Sunday in Miami, the National Weather Service says. It will feel cold after temps in the high 70s to near 80 that are expected to end the week. But Sunday’s forecast high in Miami is 70, which is 7 degrees below normal, should make it “an excellent day for outdoor activities, especially in northern Miami-Dade County.”

Lows are forecast to be in the 40s in interior areas; 50s along the coast, so you’ll see plenty of jackets at Hard Rock Stadium.

There’s a 50 percent chance of rain Friday night and Saturday in South Florida; 30-50 percent in Central Florida.


BUSY BUSY BUSY: You may think pilots who fly Hurricane Hunter aircraft kick back in the winter and smoke ’em if they got ’em, but in fact they are busy collecting data for winter storms, NOAA says.

“From the beginning of November to the middle of April, two types of aircraft, the NOAA G-IV and the USAF Reserve WC-130J, have been flying over the Gulf of Mexico, along the U.S East Coast, and even over the Pacific Ocean to gather data on winter storms that may have big impacts of wind, rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow and even storm surge,” the agency says in a story posted on the NOAA website.

“Orders come from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction in College Park, Maryland. Depending upon where the winter storm could develop, the aircraft are sent to the Gulf of Mexico, or the Atlantic Ocean off the middle-Atlantic coastline, or perhaps both. They also fly over the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California for winter storms, including atmospheric rivers, that may affect the U.S West Coast.”

As in hurricanes, the aircraft deploy dropwindsondes over the ocean areas and collect data on temperature, wind, moisture and pressure. The data go into computer models to improve forecasts for winter storms.



WET START TO THE WEEKEND: Parts of South Florida could get more than an inch of rain from a strong cold front forecast to roll down the peninsula on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Up to a half-inch can be expected in East-Central Florida with lighter amounts to the west. (Image credits: NWS-Miami, above; NWS-Melbourne, below.

ECFL precip

Sea level rise expected to displace 13 million, new study says

Thunder graphic

NEWS FLASH: The National Weather Service kicks off Severe Weather Awareness Week in Florida with a look at lightning — appropriately, since Florida is the lightning capital of North America and one of the most lightning prone areas on the planet. Florida has an average of 1.2 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year. “Most people struck by lightning are not killed, but suffer significant injuries,” according to NOAA. “On average, lightning kills 27 people each year in the United States and injures another 243. Florida averages 7 fatalities per year due to lightning and often leads the nation in lightning deaths.” There were three fatalities in Florida last year. (Image credit: NOAA)


OR YOU COULD LIVE ON A BOAT: How do Atlanta, Dallas, Denver and Las Vegas sound as places to live if you’re fleeing rising sea levels? A new study by the University of South Carolina looks at the probable impact of sea level rise and the redistribution of population that could result.

Researchers estimate 13 million coastal residents in the U.S. will need to move by 2100. Landlocked cities, especially those mentioned above, would get the brunt of the refugees, and the relocations will trigger battles for jobs, high-priced housing and other resources.

“By the end of the century, 6 feet of ocean-level rise would redraw the coastline of southern Florida, parts of North Carolina and Virginia and most of Boston and New Orleans,” according to a news release by USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.

Researchers used artificial intelligence, which analyzed migration patterns after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, to make their conclusions. They anticipate a 6-foot sea level rise.

“When migration occurs naturally, it is a great engine for economic activity and growth,” said co-author Juan Moreno Cruz, an economist and professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, who also participated in the project.

“But when migration is forced upon people, productivity falls and human and social capital are lost as communities are broken apart. Understanding these migration decisions helps economies and policy makers prepare for what is to come and do as much as possible to make the influx of migration a positive experience that generates positive outcomes.”


ECFL rainfall

ENOUGH TO WET YOUR WINDSHIELD: An early week cold front could drop a few hundredths of an inch of rain in East-Central Florida and South Florida, but nothing too dramatic. Stronger storms could dampen the upcoming weekend, forecasters said. (Image credits: NWS-Melbourne, above; NWS-Miami, below)

SFL rainfall

After chilly Sunday morning, ‘unsettled’ weather pattern next week


NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has most of the Florida peninsula at risk for thunderstorms on Monday, continuing into Tuesday for South Florida. Another storm system could wet things down next weekend. (Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

It was a chilly Sunday morning, but actually temperatures could be described as seasonably cool across the peninsula. These days, it seems like the new normal for the southern half of the peninsula is lows in the 60s, but we’re still in the coolest time of the year and average lows are in the 50s.

Average/ normal temps are now on the upswing in Florida; Orlando’s normal low edged up from 49 to 50 today. Miami kicks its normal low up to 61 on Wednesday. Tampa’s normal low gets bumped up to 53 on Thursday.

Morning temps were in the low 50s along the southeastern coast, although it was 55 in Hialeah and 55 in Key Largo, a far cry from the punch of cold air last week when both Miami and Key Largo were shivering at 40 degrees.

There were some low 40s today in interior southwestern Florida, and Central Florida was in the mid- to upper-40s. You had to go northwest of a line from around Dunnellon to St. Augustine to find upper 30s, and the panhandle was mostly in the mid-30s.


STORMS AND SHADOWS: A low forecast to develop in the Gulf of Mexico will bring rain on Monday, followed by some dry weather and then another round of “unsettled” weather for the weekend. Forecasters’ crystal ball is a little fuzzy seven days out, but Sunday is the Super Bowl at Joe Robbie Stadium Pro Player Stadium Dolphins Stadium Land Shark Stadium Sun Life Stadium Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, and the weather may not be Chamber of Commerce quality for the big weekend-long event.

National Weather Service forecasters in Miami put it this way: “Will certainly continue to the monitor the late week system as it could potentially put a damper on any outdoor activities or games planned for the upcoming weekend.” (Italics added.)

Weather Underground is calling for thunderstorms in Miami on Saturday, but partly cloudy and cooler temps on Sunday, with a high of 73. AccuWeather is forecasting cloudy skies both days.

The main question for next Sunday, though, is not who wins the Super Bowl but whether Punxsutawney Phil sees is shadow up in Pennsylvania. First peek, the forecast for Punxsutawney is for cloudy skies with snow showers, so one might assume that the prophetic groundhog won’t see his shadow and an early spring will be forthcoming.

However, in past years Phil has still managed to see his shadow, despite the lack of sun, and predicted six more weeks of winter. It could be that all the TV cameras cast a shadow, or maybe Phil just mixes environmental observations with pure meteorological instinct.

By the way, this is only the second Super Bowl in history to be played on Groundhog Day. The only other one was on February 2, 2014 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43-8. That year, Punxsutawney Phil predicted a long winter.

It certainly was for the Broncos.