photoI got back last night from an awesome trip to Colorado. I’m too busy catching up with work and life in general today to spend much time on a blog post, so I’m just gonna post a few of my favorite phone/instagram pics from the trip, and point you to my instagram feed to see the rest. FYI, I use two fantastic apps for iPhone photo editing- Afterglow and Snapeed (which I’ve just learned has a desktop application as well), so if you haven’t tried those- I highly recommend it!

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*I was going to create diagrams to go along with this post but I just don’t have time today. You’ll have to envision it in your mind’s eye. 

*For more on winter weather in general, check out my reeeeeally old post about winter weather in the south

I will go out on a limb and say that weather-wise, the past 5 days or so have been just about the ugliest, most depressing string of days Nashville and middle TN have seen in quite a while. This is all due to a rather interesting weather scenario across the whole nation. I will attempt to concisely explain the factors involved, and hopefully you’ll also see why these types of storms are so incredibly hard to forecast.

First of all, last weekend (Jan. 11th & 12th) were unseasonably warm and also very rainy, especially Saturday. This was due to a large upper level “cutoff” low pressure system that parked itself right over the southwestern U.S. Because this system was in the upper levels of the atmosphere (about 18,000-30,000 ft) where the main branches of the jet stream exist, it controlled on a broad scale which airmasses were influencing which parts of the nation. The big trough of low pressure stubbornly sat spinning over the western 1/2 of the U.S. for several days, causing the jet stream to dig southward over the west, then shoot northeastward over the midwest and on into the northeast. The southern branch of the jet stream was allowed to surge northward and pump lots of warm moist air from the Gulf and northern Mexico up across the southeast and even into the northeast U.S., bringing the soaking rain and warm temps we had over the weekend. Meanwhile, the northern branch of the jet stream was doing just the opposite, pumping dry frigid air from Canada down over the western and southwestern U.S.

Finally on Sunday Jan. 13th, the huge upper-level low pressure pushed eastward across the nation, and thus the cold arctic air across the west pushed eastward along with it, creating a very sharp cold front at the surface that moved across Nashville that afternoon. You may remember that the temp was a balmy 65F or so Sun. morning, and around 3:30pm it plummeted 15-20 degrees over the course of about 2 hours.

That was part 1 of this crazy chain of events. Now for part 2:

After that initial surge eastward, the upper-level low pressure trough stalled out yet again, leaving that sharp cold front draped roughly along the spine of the southern Appalachians. The cold airmass wedged down at the surface (we all remember from basic science that cold air sinks and warm air rises, right?) but after it stalled out, the southern jet stream was still active. Monday & Tuesday of this week we had a battle between the southern flow of warm Gulf moisture and the stubborn cold airmass that surged eastward Sunday. The warm moist air has been sliding up and over the heavy cold air at the surface and thus we’ve had sleet and freezing rain across the whole middle TN area as the two forces have been at a stalemate. Temps in the mid-levels of the atmosphere have been steadily 6-10 degrees warmer than at the surface. This is an old diagram I made showing a simplified version of how that looks as a cross-section:

icestorm

Judging exactly where that freezing line will be on the surface is nearly impossible. Thus, forecasts for this type of weather are rarely accurate on a local scale. Last night, the Nashville metro area got lucky in that the freezing line at the surface ended up being just to the west of us- the temp held at about 33 or 34 degrees. This large trough is finally going to push further eastward tomorrow, as yet another piece of Gulf moisture and energy combines with a surface-level low pressure system moving east out of Texas. That will bring the possibility of significant snow and ice to east TN, southern VA, and western NC. Nashville will be spared any precipitation from that system, though, and most of the southeast is forecast to remain firmly in the grips of that arctic airmass for at least another week or so, so keep your heavy coats handy.

Thundersnow is possibly the coolest-sounding meteorological term I can think of. It happens very rarely, but when it does it’s awesome. Convection strong enough to cause lighting during a snowstorm is simply amazing, as are most things that rare. Through a ridiculous stroke of luck, scientists in Huntsville, AL got a rare opportunity to study this bizarre phenomenon in-depth. As you may know, Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. There are meteorologists and other scientists there with a barrage of better-than-average instruments that monitored the inner-workings of the snowstorm that hit the area Jan. 9th. They got the most thorough data ever recorded for thundersnow, and observed one bolt of lightning that traveled a whopping 50 miles horizontally before hitting the ground. The fact that such a rare and interesting phenomenon happened right on top of a facility so well-equipped to study it is quite remarkable, and those scientists were very excited to be able to study the thundersnow in such great detail. I look forward to seeing what is learned from this experience. (Via Discovery News)

NASA has been presented with yet another viable commercial option for replacing the Space Shuttle’s role of ferrying astronauts to and from the space station, as well as carrying cargo. A U.S. company called Alliant Techsystems teamed up with Europe’s Astrium to draft the proposal for a new rocket called Liberty. This new rocket would combine research of the now-dead Constellation program with the proven components of the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 launch system. Since this collaborative effort combines mostly well-proven technology, it would be both cheap and relatively quick to build, shortening the problematic gap between the last Space Shuttle flight and the first availability of commercial access to space. If it truly will shorten said gap, I’m all for it. I hope it’s really as good as it sounds, but things like this always run into unforseen problems/delays. Right now, SpaceX still has the edge simply because it’s already had 2 very successful tests of its launch system, the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. But Liberty could give SpaceX a run for their money. Check out the promo video below. (Via Universe Today)

If you’re a Nashvillian you no doubt know about the massive snowball fight that occurred in Centennial Park Monday night. Snow is somewhat of rarity around here, so the young (and the young at heart) never miss the chance to enjoy it. Luckily technology has advanced to the point that it’s quite easy to make gorgeous imagery, both still photography and film, even in such low-light conditions. Behold this awesome slo-mo video created by Winston Hearn. I know, I know, using a Jonsi song is so obvious for slo-mo footage of hipsters throwing snowballs… but it really hits the perfect mood and sometimes you have to throw the snark out window and enjoy something for what it is.

I must also mention the great set of photos from the event taken by Lance Conzett over on Dixie Downturn.

In other news, local indie rock/punk staple club The End has finally joined the 21st century and gotten a website. You can also pre-order tickets to some select shows. As much as we Nashville rock promoters/musicians love owner Bruce Fitzpatrick, the guy is very old-school. The venue has been around for 30 some years, and as far as I know, he’s been the owner the whole time. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong about that.) I’m just happy that it’s now relatively easy to see who’s playing there and when. (Via the Cream)

Nashville’s Dead became a bonafide record label a few months ago, and their first two releases are now up on the webstore. They are both 7″ singles, one by Useless Eaters and the other by The Paperhead (formerly known as The Looking Glass). (Via Nashville’s Dead)

I’ve been holding off on blogging about this, but since I’m heading out of town tomorrow, I feel I must mention it today. There’s actually a decent chance of some measurable snowfall on Christmas day this year not only in Nashville, but in most of TN, and even some states south of TN. Here are the official statistics on a white Christmas in Nashville, from the National Weather Service:

THERE HAVE BEEN ONLY NINE CHRISTMASES WITH MEASURABLE AMOUNTS OF SNOW SINCE SNOWFALL RECORD KEEPING BEGAN IN NASHVILLE BACK IN THE WINTER OF 1884 AND 1885. THE LAST TIME MEASURABLE SNOW FELL ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN NASHVILLE WAS IN 1993 WHEN THREE TENTHS OF AN INCH WAS MEASURED. TRACE AMOUNTS OF SNOW FELL ON CHRISTMAS IN 2002. STATISTICALLY THERE IS ONLY A 7 PERCENT CHANCE OF MEASURABLE SNOW ON ANY GIVEN CHRISTMAS. THE MOST SNOW EVER TO FALL ON CHRISTMAS IN NASHVILLE IS 2.7 INCHES IN 1969.

The storm system that has been contributing to the unusual rainfall in southern California will be sliding across the southwestern states today and tomorrow, and joining with an upper level disturbance from the north. The upper level disturbance will be providing the cold, while the low pressure system to the south will be providing the moisture.  As the two combine, moisture will be spread north of the low pressure system over the gulf coast on southerly winds, which will bring enough warm air to change the precip to rain on Christmas eve day, but that night the cold air from the upper disturbance will take over and switch it back to snow, which should continue into at least Christmas morning. From what I’ve read, the models are in fair agreement on the timing of the whole thing, but not on the amount of moisture (read: depth of snow) involved. So we’ll have to wait until probably this time tomorrow, or even tomorrow night to really get a good grip on snow amounts. Even then, models can only go so far. I wouldn’t get my hopes up for any “deep” snow though, I’d be very surprised if Nashville got more than 2 inches. I will be with my family in northeast TN, so this will all happen about 6 hours later than Nashville, but naturally there will probably be a little more snow there, and I have every intention of taking a trip to the mountains where there’ll be a lot more snow. Maybe even go skiing.

I may find something to blog about over the weekend, but this will probably be my last post until next week. So Happy Holidays!

If you’re in Nashville you’re no doubt sitting around waiting for this massive ice-mageddon that is supposed to happen today. Make no mistake, ice storms can be extremely dangerous when they actually happen, but more often than not they end up being far less severe than initially forecast. This is because these types of storms are incredibly complex and the most difficult of all weather phenomena to forecast. Here’s how they work, and why I’m usually skeptical of forecasts involving them:

When an ice storm happens there is always a strong mass of cold air in place (just look at how cold it was yesterday and monday!). Then a low pressure system moves in from the south or southwest, creating a mid-level wind flow from the south or southwest. Mid-level in meteorology is loosely defined as 5,000-10,000 or so feet above sea level. This southerly wind flow brings both warm air and moisture with it, creating a layer of warmer air above the cold air at ground level. This means the precipitation starts out high up as snow or rain, then becomes all rain as it falls through the warmer layer, then refreezes when it gets to the stubborn layer of cold air at the surface. Depending on the thickness of this cold layer, the rain drops will freeze while falling (sleet), or will freeze upon contact with the ground (freezing rain). Usually in these situations, the surface temperature is right at or just below freezing. This freezing precipitation only lasts as long as the cold layer stays below freezing, and that surface layer always eventually warms up. Here’s a graphic I’ve posted on this blog before, to illustrate:

Based on the forecast models, and published forecasts I’ve seen, there’s no doubt Nashville will see some frozen precip today, but I have a feeling that it will change to all rain, and the surface temp will creep up to the mid 30’s by late afternoon or so. The current forecast calls for the ice to remain the longest in the northeastern counties of middle TN, so those folks may see enough accumulation to start downing trees and power lines. I doubt there will be enough accumulation for that to be a major problem in Nashville, and all areas south and west. I’m fairly certain that Nashville’s heat island effect will aid in getting the surface temps up sooner rather than later. Furthermore, most roads have been salted heavily, and even the secondary roads have some salt on them transplanted by car tires, and with the surface temp hovering right around freezing the salt will have no problem preventing ice on the roads. Since the temperature is forecast to continue rising as the night goes on, due to the warmer air in the mid-levels working its way down, there shouldn’t be any problems at all by midnight or so.

PLEASE DON’T THINK THAT I’M TELLING YOU TO DRIVE NORMALLY IN WINTER WEATHER. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION WHEN THERE’S A CHANCE OF WINTRY ROAD CONDITIONS. PLEASE BE CAREFUL, ESPECIALLY IF CROSSING A BRIDGE OR OVERPASS AS THOSE FREEZE MUCH EASIER.

What I’m saying here is that this will NOT be ice-mageddon. For Nashville at least.

As always, I must shamelessly self-promote for a minute. Tonight my band POWERBRRRD is playing at The End along with Big Surr, Diarrhea Planet, Evan P. Donohue, and Casa Castille. 5 bands? Yes, 5 bands, BUT rest assured that every band on this bill has a setlist of 30 minutes or less. In fact, POWERBRRRD’s set will probably barely crack 20 minutes. This show will be a conglomeration of insanity, I promise. And it will only set you back 5 bones. Also, Joaquin Phoenix will be there. (Oh, and sorry, Michael Eades. At least we advertised all 5 bands from the get-go!)

Now for some other shows that I recommend:

FRIDAY:

Ok, if you MUST go to something else tonight, my pick would be Howlies, with Oblio and Field Days at the Basement. 9pm, 21+ $??? Also, there’s an afterparty for that show at Mercy Lounge.

SATURDAY:

Natural Child, Ex Humans, The Cannomen, Foster Care, and Cy Barkley at Glen Danzig’s House. $5, 7pm

SUNDAY:

Cold War Kids at Third Man Records. I can’t find a time anywhere but it’s probably something like 7pm.

AXWY, Shoot the Mountain, Tallest Trees at the 5 Spot. 9pm, 21+ $5. (AXWY is an bloopy, glitchy, Postal Service-esque project started by Ryan Malina about a year ago. He put out an album that was quite good, but to my knowledge hasn’t played the material live until now.)

It’s also worth noting that the Scene has posted their yearly local Rock ‘n Roll Poll. The “outtakes and extended jams” is worth a read too.

You may have heard that Nashville is supposed to get a little snow this weekend. I’ll throw my official weather nerd opinion in the hat: DON’T FREAK OUT. It’s not going to be #snowpocalypse2010redux. What they’re forecasting is maybe an inch late Saturday night into Sunday morning. I’d say Nashville itself will get a dusting at best. This is one of those systems where the low pressure is well to the north of us, and the cold front is swinging around to the south, hitting us. There will rain/warmer weather ahead of the front as it pushed west-to-east, but very little moisture behind the front. I’d say the rain will change to snow late Saturday night as they predict, but again, no more than a dusting in Nashville. I hope I’m wrong, as I’m actually a fan of snow, but history says to take official forecast amounts with grain of salt. (Haha, get it? Salt melts snow. Haha…)

Have a great weekend!