Monday, May 31, 2010

May 2010 Ends As Month of Wetness & Beauty

Colorful Majesty of False Sunrise - May 25, 2010
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

The final week of May 2010 began with a false sunrise above the Tennessee Valley Divide, as captured by Wayne Riner on May 25.

[ What appears to be a sun in the above photograph actually being its reflection, as generated by ice crystal clouds high above the mountain horizon.  Ice crystal clouds being at a high enough altitude to capture and reflect light coming from a sunrise beyond the visible horizon, to generate what is often called a False Sunrise or Dawn Sun Dog ]. 

Gorgeous Sunrise Over City of Norton - May 31, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The final week of May 2010 ended with a simply gorgeous sunrise above the City of Norton, as captured by Roddy Addington on May 31.

What an awesome greeting to Memorial Day!

Wave Clouds & Rail Reflections - Norton - May 31
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The seemingly ever present wave clouds being complimented by a special lighting effect via light reflections off railroad tracks. 


Beautiful Waves & Rails - May 31, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

May 2010 ended wet in Norton and on Long Ridge, with 8.60" and 8.71" of rainfall, respectively, within their official National Weather Service rain gauges ( not including any rain falling after their 7 to 9 AM observation times on May 31 ).

Beauty of May 2010 - City of Norton - May 31
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A general 5.00" to 10.00" of rain fell across Wise, Dickenson, Lee, and northern Scott counties during May, into adjacent portions of the Clinch Valley of Russell County.

[ Getting to these hefty May rainfall tallies was locally rough, as highlighted previously on this website:

May 2010 Opens With Flash Flooding

May 2010 - Flash Flooding Strikes Again!

The final week of May offered up some tremendous events for lovers of weather, with May 28 being a day of particular interest highlighted in some detail below.

Orographic Thunderstorm Formation
of Nearly Stationary Nature

Three Initial Centers of Thunderstorm Development
JKL Doppler at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

The most significant conditions of this final May week started the Memorial Day holiday with a bang, literally, during May 28.

JKL Doppler 1-Hour Rainfall Estimate at 12:45 PM
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ Doppler radar estimated 1-hour rainfall totals of 1.50" to 2.50" were widespread from upper portions of rugged Rocky Hollow of Grindstone Dome, at the Head of Powell Valley, across much of Benges Basin and the Flag Rock Recreation Area to Legion Park and southwestern portions of Norton.  This was also verified by the official NWS rain gauge measurement at Norton Water Plant ].

Andrew Greear measured 2.29" of rain at the Norton Water Plant early Friday afternoon as vigorous and nearly stationary storms fired over northern slopes of the High Knob Massif ( some small hail also occurred with the deluge ).

Rainfall totals with this initial convective burst, in simply amazing contrast, dropped off to less than 0.10" at the northeastern end of Norton and along the main crestlines near High Knob.

But this was only the beginning!

JKL Doppler at 2:05 PM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

The three initial centers of development, over the High Knob Massif, Sandy Ridge, and near Laurel Bed Lake of Clinch Mountain, being very important as they generated rain cooled outflow boundaries which aided formation of new storms as an upper wave moved northwestward across the Appalachians ( in the bigger picture ).

Doppler 1-Hour Rainfall Estimate Ending at 2:36 PM
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ Doppler radar estimated 1-hour rainfall totals of 1.50" to 3.00" laid out almost exactly along top of the previously noted corridor of torrential rainfall, from upper portions of Benges Basin into Rocky Hollow of Grindstone Ridge Dome ( note the rainfall total graphic below and how they adjoin with little overlap ) ].

This became extremely interesting within the High Knob Massif area, as thunderstorms which fired next dropped torrential rain from High Knob Lake Basin across middle to upper portions of the Big Cherry Basin, then southwest along the great belt of calcareous cliffs to Morris Butte and Wallen Ridge ( illustrated above & below by Doppler rainfall totals ).

Doppler Storm Rainfall Total Ending at 2:36 PM
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ Although Big Cherry Lake received good run-off, it was again amazing to watch the heaviest rains flank ( or move around ) the lower Big Cherry and just barely miss Big Cherry Dam ].

It was fascinating, as I have documented many times in the past, to watch a vigorous line of storms drop torrential rains from Chestnut Flats, on the northern slopes, upwards along the main crest zone while little rain fell below into Flag Rock Recreation Area and the City of Norton.

Likewise, during the initial isolated storm case, torrential rain fell from Norton up to the level of Chestnut Flats, with little rain falling above that elevation ( also a common scenario with thunderstorm flanking and propagation along the massif ).

Most amazing to consider that such vigorous storms can impact two different elevation zones of the High Knob Massif, while leaving those adjacent ( above or below them ) essentially dry!

It becomes perhaps even more impressive when considering that these 40,000 to 50,000 foot cumulonimbus towers impacted only a small portion of the total massif.

The combination of these two different thunderstorm episodes creating a solid area of 1.50" to 3.00" rainfall totals from the base in Norton up into the crest zone ( High Knob Lake Basin to Big Cherry Lake Basin ), but with very little spillover across to southeastern slopes and the very long backslope of the massif ( on the Scott County side ).

[ For a graphical look and explanation of the structural form of the High Knob Massif, and its atypically long backslope, reference the following section of my website:

Whitewater Rolls In High Knob Massif  ].

Doppler at 3:01 PM ( Generalization Of Outflow )
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ During the next 30 to 45 minutes an arc of convection formed in all quadrants surrounding the dissipation of the High Knob Massif convection, except to the northwest where local storms along the Virginia-Kentucky stateline were also dissipating and generating rain cooled air ].

The two early afternoon episodes of High Knob Massif convection were associated with essentially stationary thunderstorms, with very little storm movement such that they rained themselves out over their formation corridors.

Upon dissipation this resulted in a spreading outflow that has been roughly generalized on the above Doppler scan at 3:01 PM.

This outflow packed some punch, as temperatures had plunged into the mid-upper 50s from the crest zone of High Knob down into parts of the City of Norton ( by contrast, afternoon temperatures in the 80s were reported at the same time in locations still unaffected by convection ).

A Severe Thunderstorm Develops
and Undergoes Storm Merger With Line

Of particular interest was the formation of a thunderstorm on the Wise-Dickenson border, which began moving southeastward in a direction opposite to that of convection developing and moving across Russell and Washington counties.

[ Reference the Doppler scan at 3:01 PM ( above ) for an initial view of this developing thunderstorm ].

JKL Doppler at 3:30 PM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

With dissipation of High Knob Massif convection, this storm over Dickenson County appeared to develop southeast along the outflow with both an increase in forward speed and intensity over time.

It turned Strong to SEVERE!

Potent Hail Core - Doppler at 3:38 PM on May 28
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

The thunderstorm over southwest Dickenson developed a rather potent hail core, at least on radar, with Doppler detecting Vertically Integrated Liquid ( VIL ) values of 55 to 65 kilograms per meter squared. 

[ VIL is essentially a measure of the amount of precipitation within a column of air, based upon reflectivity, with very high VIL values often associated with hail.  VIL was once thought to be a good indicator of hail size, but correlation with ground truth has since proven it to not be as dependable due to updraft tilting in the vertical, distance of radar from storm, cloud and precipitation physics, amount of precipitation associated with any hail, as well as various other factors ].

Thunderstorm Blasts Long Ridge - May 28, 2010
 Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

This storm was an ideal example, with alot of wet hail that was mostly below the 1" diameter criteria for severe hail.  However, Wayne & Genevie Riner reported that hail fell for nearly an hour as the storm pounded Long Ridge with torrential rain, wind, and its load of hail ( up to dime size ).

[ In this case the very high VIL on Doppler was associated with alot of hail mixed with torrential rainfall, but not really large hail as could have been the case in a thunderstorm with less rain and equivalent VIL values within drier air aloft and good vertical sampling of the updraft ( at all tilt angles ).  The lowest tilt angle in this case being poorly sampled, due to the long distance of the radar from Long Ridge and its beam overshooting lower levels ].

JKL Doppler at 3:42 PM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ Note how the High Knob Massif is now almost completely flanked by strong convection, with complete dissipation of its previous thunderstorms and their conversion to rain cooled outflows ].

By 3:42 PM the thunderstorm over southwest Dickenson County was close to merging with the strong line of convection moving to the northwest across Russell County.

Classic Look of Rain-Hail Loaded Thunderstorm
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

The thunderstorm pounded Long Ridge, with Wayne & Genevie Riner measuring 2.10" of rainfall within just under 1-hour, along with strong winds and alot of hail ( damaging their large apple orchard ).

JKL Doppler at 3:55 PM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

The merging of the southeast moving supercell with the northwest moving line of convection, as noted above, aided the deluge.

[ Storm mergers often result in enhanced rainfall and strong to severe conditions, and are a classic signature to watch for on Doppler radar ].

Hail Deposited by Thunderstorm - Long Ridge - May 28
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Rapid Configuration Changes In Storm Line
Has Orographic Connections

The now large, arc shaped line of convection possessed a general west to northwest motion upon absorption of the Dickenson County thunderstorm.

JKL Doppler at 4:12 PM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

Notable exceptions quickly developed, with a couple of rapid northwest surges in the formation of thunderstorms being seen into Wise County as the configuration of this convective arc changed dramatically during the next half hour!

JKL Doppler Base at 4:50 PM on May 28, 2010
 Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

The above being initially inferred from base reflectivity scans which showed the most intense activity developing rapidly northwestward over southwest portions of the massif and along the interface of rain cooled air near Norton-Wise.

Upon closer inspection, however, the situation is more complicated within the area near three great gorges ( South Fork Gorge, Straight Fork Gorge, and Cove Creek Gorge ).

JKL Doppler Storm Relative Winds at 4:50 PM
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

An inspection of the JKL Doppler storm relative winds, found the strongest velocities located just northeast of where the most intense rain reached the surface under the highest base reflectivities.  These being colocated with base velocities of the storm motion as well, to indicate that the storms were moving along with their outflow.

[ Storm relative radial velocity being a wonderful feature of Doppler radar that allows one to look at air flow inside storms, with the motion of the storm itself ( its base velocity ) being removed from view.  Infamous RED-GREEN couplets, indicative    of mesocyclonic rotation, being best viewed in this mode ( and if vertically deep, as observed at consecutive tilt angles, can signal a possible tornado ) ]. 

The above suggesting air flow was surging up the long backslope of the massif, with the strongest velocities located over top of Straight Fork Gorge being perhaps only due to tilting in the vertical ( since the Doppler beam is far above the ground at this distance from the radar site the strongest low-level flow may have actually been up Cove Creek Gorge, which was within the torrential rain core and beneath the highest base reflectivities ).

MRX Doppler Storm Relative Winds at 4:49 PM
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

From a different viewpoint, of the Morristown, Tn., Doppler, the storm relative ( and also base ) velocity wind field placed the axis of max speeds interestingly over the location of South Fork Gorge on the Wise County side of the massif ( and across toward the mouth of Cove Creek Gorge on the Scott County side ).

The conclusion from this information being that the great gorges of the High Knob Massif definitely played a role in this rapid northwestward surge of thunderstorms from the Clinch River Valley into southwest portions of Wise County.

It is not possible, however, given the lack of low-level data to know precisely how the air flow may have funneled within these gorges to force the observed changes ( Doppler beams hitting far above the surface and missing the critical lower levels ).

[ Funneling within the gorges having been verified at ground level during my research in the High Knob Massif ].

Lee County Thunderstorms Go Severe
Outflow Boundaries Play Role

MRX  Doppler Base at 3:18 PM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ The Morristown Doppler clearly showed rain cooled outflow boundaries moving north to northwest out of the Great Valley of eastern Tennessee, as development started over Lee County along the southwestward moving periphery of outflow from dissipation of High Knob Massif convection ].

Thunderstorms developing across Lee County turned severe, with wind damage reported from Jonesville through Rose Hill after 4 PM as outflows merged to intensify activity.

JKL Doppler at 4:29 PM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

My friend & photographer Harold Jerrell reported the following from his home near Wilson Hill:

"We received the nasty stuff!  I had 1.90" of rain.
Lots of wind that flattened my garden, and rain that washed newly planted seed into the Powell River.
Also had some hail."

In fact, the wind was so strong that it literally blew a brush pile back across a fence where it had been piled by Harold.

[ Harold prunes his apples trees every spring, and piles the brush across a fence to later be burned.  The powerful winds with these thunderstorms picked up the brush and blew it back across the fence into Harold's yard! ].

Dissipation Of Mountain Storms
Sends Outflow Boundary Across Foothills

JKL Doppler at 6:01 PM on May 28, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ A fitting conclusion to a day with so many thunderstorm outflow boundary interactions, with outflow across the Kentucky foothills now becoming aligned with the mean southeast to northwest flow field to help it race forward and downward in mean elevation ].

This day of amazing convective happenings generated yet another notable event, as storms across the High Knob Landform and along the Virginia-Kentucky border dissipated to send a outflow boundary racing northwest across the foothills of Kentucky ( where it triggered new storms ).

The outflow boundary above actually extending on to the southwest from where I have it denoted by the white line, which was that section most visible to JKL Doppler ( and not yet fully filled with new storms ).

A most incredible dance is that of convection, with an almost simultaneous fall of cloud tops above the mountains being in near synchrony with rising cumulonimbus towers over the Kentucky foothills. 

Both being intimately connected!  

Statistical Recap
for May & Spring 2010

Awesome Photograph
Storm Clouds Engulf Cumberland Gap National Park
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

May 2010 ended with above average rainfall and temperatures, to generate the following statistics and variations across the region ( with below average rainfall observed from the Great Valley eastward across portions of the Blue Ridge, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain ).

May 2010 Climate Statistics

Clintwood 1 W - Elevation 1560 feet
Average Max: 77.7 degrees
Average Min: 50.0 degrees
Mean: 63.8 degrees
Highest Temperature: 89 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 31 degrees
Rainfall: 5.76"

City of Norton - Elevation 2141 feet
Average Max: 74.1 degrees
Average Min: 48.7 degrees
Mean: 61.4 degrees
Highest Temperature: 85 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 29 degrees
Rainfall: 8.60"

Nora 4 SSE ( Long Ridge ) - Elevation 2650 feet
Average Max: 72.8 degrees
Average Min: 55.3 degrees
Mean: 64.0 degrees
Highest Temperature: 82 degrees
Lowest Temperaure: 36 degrees
Rainfall: 8.71"

Richmond, Va., ( State Capitol ) - Elevation 167 feet
Average Max: 81.2 degrees
Average Min: 59.7 degrees
Mean: 70.4 degrees
Highest Temperature: 93 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 41 degrees
Rainfall: 2.62"

Tri-Cities, Tennessee - Elevation 1525 feet
Average Max: 80.1 degrees
Average Min: 55.2 degrees
Mean: 67.6 degrees
Highest Temperature: 89 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 35 degrees
Rainfall: 2.58"

Knoxville, Tennessee - Elevation 981 feet
Average Max: 81.6 degrees
Average Min: 59.9  degrees
Mean: 70.8 degrees
Highest Temperature: 90 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 45 degrees
Rainfall: 4.22"

Jackson, Ky., NWSFO - Elevation 1365 feet
Average Max: 76.5 degrees
Average Min: 57.8 degrees
Mean: 67.2 degrees
Highest Temperature: 86 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 38 degrees
Rainfall: 7.92"

London, Kentucky - Elevation 1211 feet
Average Max: 77.6 degrees
Average Min: 56.1 degrees
Mean: 66.8 degrees
Highest Temperature: 86 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 36 degrees
Rainfall: 5.49"

Buckhorn Lake SP, Kentucky - Elevation 936 feet
Average Max: 80.2 degrees
Average Min: 54.1 degrees
Mean: 67.2 degrees
Highest Temperature: 91 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 38 degrees
Rainfall: 4.11"

In the High Knob highcountry, May 2010 temp means varied from 60s to lower 70s by day to middle-upper 40s by night within the mountain basins ( above 2400 feet ).  Mean May temps being mostly in the 50s across the crestlines and higher basins ( max readings ranging from 75 to 80 degrees in upper elevations, with mins as cold as mid-upper 20s on May 10 ).

Mountain Ridges & Morning Fog - May 2010
 Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wetness ruled May from the start, but with typically wide spreads in amounts across the very large High Knob Landform and Cumberland Block ( 3125 square miles ).

Canada Goose ( Branta canadensis )
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

May rainfall in the High Knob Massif varied from 5.52" in upper portions of Burns Creek Basin, at the lovely home of my friends Otis & Nancy Ward, to between 7.00" and 10.00" from Big Cherry Basin across High Knob and Pickem Mountain to the City of Norton.

Spring 2010 Temperature Means

High Knob Massif - Bear Food
Squaw Root ( Conopholis americana )
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Mean temperatures during the spring period of March through May averaged in the 40s to low 50s within the High Knob Massif and city of Norton ( average daily max + average daily min = mean temperature ).

March-May Temperature Means

City of Norton: 51.0 degrees
Clintwood 1 W: 53.5 degrees

Regional differences having been highlighted for the past few months, with special emphasis on variations in timing of renewal and emergence of spring flora between the High Knob Massif area and Kentucky foothills ( as well as locally within the great High Knob Landform itself ).

March-May Temperature Means

Kentucky Foothills
London: 57.3 degrees
Jackson NWSFO: 59.0 degrees

Great Valley of East Tennessee
Tri-Cities: 57.0 degrees
Knoxville: 60.1 degrees

Spring temperatures were well above average across the entire region during 2010, with the official mean of 61.5 degrees in the state capitol of Richmond, Va., actually marking the warmest spring since record keeping began in 1881 ( * ).

*An upward trend in minimum temperatures observed at the Richmond Airport recording site during the past 10 to 20 years being at least partly attributed to urbanization.

Spring Precipitation Totals
( March-May 2010 )

London: 11.12"
Jackson NWSFO: 12.96"

Tri-Cities Airport NWS: 6.88"
Kingsport: 8.34"
Knoxville: 9.61"
Chattanooga: 11.60"
Mount LeConte: 14.60"

Wytheville 1 S: 7.90"
Abingdon 3 S: 8.51"
Bland: 9.39"
Richlands: 9.74"
Lebanon: 10.20"
Grundy: 11.69"
Clintwood 1 W: 12.42"
North Fork of Pound Dam: 12.48"
Breaks Interstate Park: 12.52"
Big Stone Gap Water Plant: 12.56"
Burkes Garden: 12.86"
Robinson Knob of High Knob: 12.87"( M )
Appalachia Lake Water Plant: 12.99"
Nora 4 SSE ( Long Ridge ): 13.61"
Norton Water Plant: 15.37"

( M ) - Denotes some missing moisture in snowfall.

In the High Knob Massif area, Spring 2010 precipitation totals reached a maximum of between 15.00" and 20.00" in the corridor from the City of Norton south to southwest across the highcountry ( i.e., Pickem Mountain and Bowman Mountain into High Knob Lake & Big Cherry Lake basins and portions of Powell Mountain ).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sunday Morning Upon The High Cumberlands

In The Heavens - May 23, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Beneath starry skies, while most were fast asleep, my friend Roddy Addington took the lens cap off his camera at 5 AM on Sunday morning, May 23, to point it toward the halo of Earth's Aurora being illuminated by the first rays of a distant sunrise ( far away across the horizon )!

Horizon Glow Above Morning Inversion - May 23
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Looking northeast to the end of Pine Mountain from Birch Knob, in northern Dickenson County, a Sunday morning sunrise was beginning to unfold above distinct temperature inversions.

[ An inversion HIGH within the atmosphere, marked by the awesome color transition, can be clearly seen in addition to a rippling low-level inversion beneath the higher mountains ]. 

A Glorious Morning Sunrise!

Spectacular Setting In High Cumberlands - May 23
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Sometimes everything comes together amid the highlands of the southern Appalachians, like few places on planet Earth, to form scenes of unreal beauty and inspirational majesty!

And So It Was On This Morning!

Waves Ripple Across Top Of Inversion
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Currents of air blowing across top of the low-level inversion created rippling waves upon a sea of fog engulfing the lowlands.

[ Sunrise temperatures varied from 45 to 50 degrees amid the cooler, clear mountain valleys and basins within and adjacent to the High Knob highcountry, to middle 60s upon exposed portions of mid-elevation mountain ridges ( Pine Mountain to Sandy Ridge ) ].

The Sunrise

Sunrise - The Beginning - May 23, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

In All Its Mountain Glory!

The Middle - BIG WOW - May 23, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Can It Get Any Better?

The Climax - REALLY BIG WOW - May 23, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Past Sunrises

Morning Wave Clouds In Color - Long Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Roddy's glorious morning photography set gives me the chance to highlight some other sunrises from the past, which I have not had opportunity to display, such as this spectacular set of wave clouds from my friend Wayne Riner.

All these photographs were taken within the great Cumberland Mountain Overthrust Block, of which the High Knob Landform ( i.e., geological Powell Valley Anticline ) is its most dominant physical and structural feature.

The common aspect throughout being a seemingly endless variety of mountains and valleys that collectively generate constant motions, both tiny and very large, in the air around us.

Motions which often become most visible in the pristine light of morning!

Illuminated Waves In Morning Light
  Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Waves continuously ripple throughout our fluid atmosphere, during all seasons, and arise from many sources.  They are most common, however, above and leeward of mountainous regions in the world ( a special aspect of our Appalachian climate often taken for granted, and not understood for its impact upon our lives ).

[ Reference the following section of this website to view another special morning filled with complex wave clouds:

Sunrise Over Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Waves in the atmosphere, like those in the ocean, represent energy and its transfer from one place to another.

It is in this way that our mountains interact with each other, often over great distances far removed from where the waves originate!

Air Motions In Spectacular Morning Light
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Even great jet streams aloft are impacted by mountains, with the Andes, Rockies & Himalayas dictating the nature of long waves in the large-scale flow field around the planet ( * ).

*These great mountain ranges generate torques upon the atmosphere whose waves & fluxes of energy are part of intimate coupling between the troposphere and stratosphere ( as modern day research is coming to better understand and define ).

Natural & Anthropogenic Waves In Awesome Light 
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

The Appalachians, although much lower in elevation, also have a major impact upon the flow of air ( from night-time drainage currents to day-time thermals, and much larger orographically forced gravity waves ).

Large masses like the High Knob Landform,     with its atypically wide massif, are like a wide rock in a river that deforms the flow to force changes both up and downstream from its location.

I have explained it before
in the following way...

"The High Knob Massif generates, dissipates, and transfers enormous amounts of energy to places far removed from where it stands, with traces of this energy transfer being followed by the trails of gravity waves that ripple outward away from the massif through the fluid atmosphere in all directions."

The degree of flow alteration changing as the flow speed and volume changes, such that there arises a mutual interaction between the object forcing the changes ( topography ) and the flow field itself ( it is in this way that the HKL can impact a large region of atmosphere in complex ways which are not yet fully understood ).

TOP Of The Morning ( And Inversion Layer )
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Morning inversion layers, often marked by condensed water vapor, are especially nice to illustrate the wave nature of this fluid within which we all live ( mostly unaware ).

It is, in fact, such a dominant aspect of life on Earth that nearly everything can be mathematically described by waves ( as in the beating of your very heart! ).

Golden Morning In The Highlands
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

When you combine our complex topography with these morning inversion layers, amid this fluid atmosphere, there can only be ONE RESULT...

AWESOME Beauty, as illustrated
by all the photographs in this update!

Golden Morning In The Powell River Valley 
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Sometimes in order to see and fully appreciate the true beauty in anything one must pause, take a deep breath, step back or above ( like Roddy, Wayne, and Harold ) to view the big picture.

Golden Morning Panorama
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

All I can say is WOW,
I am sure thankful they did!

Follow Up Information
( Research Notes To Consider )

State of Kentucky MesoNet Site
Flatwoods Mountain, Ky., from Birch Knob of Pine Mtn
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

[ The strongest winds in the Bluegrass State are often recorded at the MesoNet Site on Flatwoods Mountain ( elevation 2774 feet ), with orographic gravity waves on southerly air flows typically offering the strongest gusts as they ripple outward from the High Knob Landform-Tennessee Valley Divide to Pine Mountain where its long, sharp crestline favors their downward deflection ].

Regardless of whether you believe in mankind forced changes in climate or not, my research notes on the following should be of some interest to both sides.

It begins with a single question...

The tolerable climate and natural world of planet Earth are united as ONE without possible separation ( i.e., life on Earth is not possible without a tolerable climate ), so just how is it that humans impact Earth most? 

I have explained it as follows in other writings...

Humans impact Earth most by altering its surfaces, which act like synapses of neurons in      the brain, or the interfaces of a computer, where information is selectively relayed to all other parts of the system.

You alter the surface, and the
information relayed is changed
( whether it be for good or bad )!

The surfaces of Earth are relay centers, where transfers of mass, momentum, and diverse forms of energy occur to effectively unite all components of the natural world, the collective array of which forms the climatic system.

[ In this respect, changes in the atmosphere are a direct extension of changes across the surfaces of Earth whether they be anthropogenic or natural in their forcing over time ].

Its all connected, the entire natural world is like the human brain, it is one single but amazingly complex entity, where if one portion changes the other parts must adapt or compensate for those changes. If they don't, the entire system breaks down or departs from its natural pathway.

The only CONSTANT in the natural pathway
of the climatic system being that of CHANGE.

The bottom line...

Humans impact Earth
most by changing its surfaces.

[ Examples:
Planting Trees
Building Cities
Mega-Strip Mines
Gulf of Mexico Oil Release ].

Change is the only aspect of the
climatic system which is absolute.

[ The climate of Earth has always changed,
with or without humans upon its sphere as
surfaces of the planet have always been in
a state of constant change ].

This website pushes no agendas and strives to present only the facts of WHAT IS, so it is now up to each viewer to decide for themselves ( information presented above adding to your thoughts on this issue ).

[ The above adding a new twist to the concept of Global Climate Change that varies in scale from your back yard to the greatness of Plate Tectonics ( both acting to force surface changes ) ].

Friday, May 21, 2010

May 2010 - Flash Flooding Strikes Again!

Looking To South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Hay Grass & Turbulent Skies - May 19, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Hay grass heads sway gently in cool air on the floor of Powell Valley, amid a welcomed break from turbulent conditions observed during recent days! 

[ Daytime temps varied from 44 to 50 degrees on Eagle Knob, atop the highcountry adjacent to the Valley, with 59-60 degrees being reached in Norton and Wise.  A rather chilly but refreshing respite from days of volatile May weather ].

May 14-18: A Turbulent Period

JKL Doppler at 5:22 PM on May 14, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ The above image documenting a severe thunderstorm over Clintwood, one of several with high reflectivity hail cores.  A gush of rain, driven by 40 to 50 mile per hour winds, gave way to large hail ( up to 1.00" in diameter ) forming within cumulonimbus cloud towers rising 9.5 vertical miles into the heavens! ]. 

A red flag was waved by Mother Nature to warn of upcoming conditions, as the first lines of strong thunderstorms pushed into the mountains during afternoon hours of May 14.

Doppler Rainfall Estimate - 12:04 AM May 15, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

The hail core on the Clintwood thunderstorm did not even show up distinctly within the big picture, as repetitive storms generated the highest Doppler rainfall estimates for the day via a combo of hail + torrential rains ( hail often causing Doppler Radar to greatly over-estimate rainfall due to the highly reflective nature of ice surfaces ( analogous to bright-banding with sleet ) ).

[ Hail to golf-ball size was reported east of Grundy, in Dwight, within the bright streak shown over Buchanan County ].

Mountain Valley Fog - High Knob Massif - May 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Air cooled nicely in the wake of May 14 storms, with subsidence mixing lower dewpoint air down into the highcountry to aid cooling and drainage into adjacent valleys ( with 50 to 55 degree morning minimums being felt into May 15 ). 

Streamer Off High Knob Massif - 3:27 PM May 15, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

Most of the daylight hours of May 15 were nice, with temps in the 70s to around 80 degrees.  A notable signal was observed at times during the afternoon, with Doppler detectable echo streamers periodically flowing off the High Knob Massif in the mean wind field ( from SW to NE ).

[ These have been observed many times in the past, and are indicative of an orographic-atmospheric interaction in which a cap aloft is holding back air forced upward over the massif from breaking through an inversion aloft ( i.e., the cap or lid ).

This builds up Convective Available Potential Energy, called CAPE for short, while suppressing actual thunderstorm formation ( often signaling that it will explode before the day-evening is over ) ].

Doppler Reflectivity at 6:36 PM on May 15, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

[ An adjacent thunderstorm formed over southern Dickenson County subsequent to the High Knob Massif convection, and upstream of its former streamers, to suggest that it was at least partially driven by orographic gravity wave influences rippling through the atmosphere leeward of the massif ].

Sure enough thunderstorms rapidly exploded over eastern portions of the High Knob Massif between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m., well ahead of more organized convection which had fired earlier in the day over the southern Blue Ridge and Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee.

Doppler Reflectivity at 7:28 PM on May 15, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

During the next hour, High Knob Massif thunderstorms moved off the highcountry into the Clinch River Valley as adjacent storms continued to develop near the Virginia-Kentucky stateline.

[ When thunderstorms fire over eastern portions of the High Knob Massif, such a propagation is relatively common when steering winds aloft are weak.

Since eastern portions of the High Knob Massif slope downward toward Guest River Gorge and the Clinch River Valley, there is a natural tendency for rain cooled outflow air to also follow mean gravity vectors and to flow downward off the highcountry into the Clinch Valley of Russell County ( the outflow forming a boundary which acts like a mini-cold front to sustain and reform the thunderstorms, often with intensification as they ingest the warmer, more buoyant air of the Clinch Valley ).

Merely one example of how the High Knob Massif impacts weather conditions in adjacent locations ].  

Cloud to Ground Lightning Strikes North of Wise,
as viewed from the Eagle Knob Communications Site
Image by Steve Blankenbecler - © All Rights Reserved.

[ Lights from the town of Wise, and Norton-Wise Shopping Center Complex, are visible in the middle ground past the dual blinking lights of the Blue Ridge Public Television ( PBS ) Tower.  The cloud to ground strikes are north of Wise, toward Pound.  Thunderstorms responsible are shown on the next image ].  

Simply amazing cloud to ground lightning strikes were captured from above the 4200 foot level on Eagle Knob of the High Knob Massif by Steve Blankenbecler, at 8:46 p.m., on May 15.

Doppler Reflectivity at 8:43 PM on May 15, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

The above Doppler scan was taken 3 minutes prior to the vivid cloud to ground lightning strikes captured by my friend Steve Blankenbecler.

Doppler Rainfall Estimate - 12:02 AM May 16, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

By conclusion of May 15, the big news was that much of Wise and Dickenson counties had taken a pretty good ( or bad ) late afternoon and evening hit!

A focus of heavier rainfall was noted along the Tennessee Valley Divide, and from northern slopes of the High Knob Massif into central parts of the Clinch Valley of Russell County.

[ Local rainfall totals topped 2.00", with my friends Wayne & Genevie Riner officially measuring 1.83" at Nora 4 SSE along the Long Ridge section of the Tennessee Valley Divide ].

Of special and most important significance, however, to setting the stage ( antecedent conditions ) for significant flash flooding on May 16, would be the combined rainfall totals observed during the May 14-15 period ( 2.42" at Nora 4 SSE, with locally 3.00"+ ).

Pound Area Becomes Ground Zero
for Significant Flash Flooding

Flash Flooding In Pound Area - May 16, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The daylight hours of May 16 began innocence enough, with no local activity until early afternoon.

Doppler Base Reflectivity at 12:10 PM on May 16, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

As often occurs, the High Knob Massif played a distinct role in what would soon happen as the first downpours developed just lee of its northern slopes near Norton.

A series of NASA Visible Satellite Images reveals how these clouds originated over the High Knob highcountry, which continued to feed energy into the developing convection over northern Wise County even as it missed the flash flooding rains.

First cumulus build over High Knob Massif & Black Mtn
( note vertical clouds near eye-like symbol that is Norton )

NASA Visible at 11:15 AM on May 16, 2010

Clouds continue to build vertically ( take on WHITE appearance )

NASA Visible at 11:45 AM on May 16, 2010

Clouds have a downstream orientation from the High Knob Massif
( new towers begin rising near Morris Butte & South Fork Gorge )

NASA Visible at 12:01 PM on May 16, 2010

Cloud mass continues to expand horizontally-vertically, as
new clouds arise over Big Cherry Basin to feed into mass
( also indicated by echo streamers on Doppler radar )

NASA Visible at 12:15 PM on May 16, 2010

Cloud mass merges with Kentucky convection
( extends north from High Knob Landform & Black Mountain )

NASA Visible at 12:45 PM on May 16, 2010

Clouds develop distinct back edge along High Knob Massif
( partly to mostly sunny skies on Scott County side )

NASA Visible at 1:15 PM on May 16, 2010

Doppler during this time showed that the initial convection near the city of Norton, illustrated by the previous radar image, propagated N to NW into northern Wise County to a position where some merger could occur with storms moving along the Kentucky side of the stateline.

[ Unlike orographic forcing situations, in which sustained S-SW winds are driven downslope leeward of the High Knob Landform and Tennessee Valley Divide, there can be a tendency for leeside troughiness in weak S-SW flow amid thermal instability settings into the axial zone of the Middlesboro Syncline of northern Wise and Dickenson counties ( zone of concave stratigraphy ) ].  

Doppler Base Reflectivity at 1:00 PM on May 16, 2010
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

Torrential downpours, with some backbuilding of convection, dropped a Doppler estimated 2.00" to 3.00" of rain over the Indian Creek drainage of northern Wise County during the 1-hour period ending at 2 PM on May 16.

[ It barely impacted the upper Cranes Nest River Basin, which had 2 feet of vertical rise at the river gage southeast of Clintwood ].

Doppler 1-Hour Rainfall Estimate: Ending 2 PM on May 16
Image Courtesy of Plymouth State University

This was the time period which triggered significant flash flooding in the Pound area, with up to 3.00" of rain falling upon soils already saturated ( from 1.50" to 3.50" of rainfall during May 14-15 ). 

Water Surrounding Homes In Deluge - May 16, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

It was a true deluge of torrential rainfall.

Lowlands transformed into Lakes - May 16, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

It struck so fast, with a RAPID 3+ feet of water rise!

Ready to Leave - Flash Flood - May 16, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

[ Imagine if it had been after dark, when many flash floods occur.  The water could have been around and within many homes before residents even knew what was happening ].

Post-Flood Aftermath

Tons of sand and debris

Where's the grass? - May 17, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Exposed drain pipes and gullied out roads

After the Flash Flood - May 17, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Flooding forced the closure of numerous roads, including U.S. 23, gullied secondary roads, exposed drain pipes, got into a few homes, and deposited tons of sand and debris.  The good news, no one was seriously hurt or killed.

Turbulent Period Not Over Yet

Looking Over Wise from Bear Creek - May 17, 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Flash flooding during May 16 did not end the turbulent conditions associated with this weather system, as skies over the Wise Plateau illustrate near sunset above.

The Storm Prediction Center issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for much of the area from 3 to 9 PM on May 17, with some of the strongest activity actually moving across the mountains between 9 PM & Midnight ].

Another round of showers & thunderstorms crossed the mountains May 18, with Norton and parts of the High Knob Massif picking up more than 1.00" of new rainfall during May 17-18.

[ Most interestingly, the heaviest rains during this period flanked much of the main crest zone of the High Knob Massif ( including the hard hit Big Cherry Basin of early May ), with only 1.25" to 2.50" of new rain being common during May 14-18 ].


Grindstone Dome of High Knob Massif - May 2010
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

[ Fog is a common feature amid Powell Valley of the High Knob Massif, with the wetness of May 2010 generating a bounty to give some morns a majestic Scottish Highlands flare! ].

The end result of early-mid May conditions has been wetness, with 5.00" to 8.00"+ of rainfall being common across Dickenson, Wise, Lee, and northern Scott counties during May 1-19.

Morning Sunlight Illuminates Fog-Shrouded Gazebo
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The lights are on, or so it seemed, as sunrise above mountain walls of the High Knob Massif illuminated a Powell Valley gazebo during a recent fog-shrouded morning.

What a way to wrap this update!

Post-Update Note - May 21, 2010 at 12:30 AM
Night-time Sound Wave Enhancement

A very interesting weather setting tonight has generated multiple inversions within the lower atmosphere, with a few Midnight temp readings revealing the situation:

Temps Just After Midnight on May 21
Clintwood 1 W: 53 degrees
City of Norton: 63 degrees
Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise: 61 degrees
Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 56 degrees

An inversion has formed across lower elevations, below 2000 feet, with temps in mountain hollows of the Russell Fork Basin being up to 10 degrees cooler than in the Norton Valley ( e.g., Clintwood 1 W at 1560 feet is 10 degrees cooler than the 600 foot higher Norton Valley ).

Nocturnal inversions are common, but tonight is a little different. 

Typically, the Norton Valley gets cooler than Clintwood 1 W.

Tonight mixing on S-ESE winds leeward of the High Knob highcountry is keeping the air in Norton mixed so well that Midnight temps were actually above that of Lonesome Pine Airport ( 2684 feet ) in Wise.

( Norton is often much cooler at night than the highly exposed Airport site, via cold air drainage into the Norton Valley from off the High Knob Massif ).

Breezy to gusty S-ESE winds are generating the differences, with temps cooling with elevation again into middle 50s above 4000 feet on High Knob.

So what's the point?

Sound waves tend to travel  for long distances as they bounce back and forth between the ground and low-level inversions, such that tonight its possible to hear sounds far away relatively clear if you happen to live in a location within one of these inversions.

Sounds such as the first night songs of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo ( Coccyzus americanus ) heard during 2010 on a distant ridge!

A distant low elevation ridge top, as sounds being generated above 2000 feet are being bounced and reflected upward in opposite directions at my location ( i.e., its likely that the precise elevations and thicknesses of these inversional layers vary with your location ).

[ For example, valley inversions above 2700-3000 feet in elevation are common amid the High Knob highcountry ].

One of only a few birds to sing at night ( excluding Owls ), the Yellow-billed Cuckoo is certainly interesting.

Although it can not be told where it is singing exactly, it is certain to be below 2000 feet since if it was above that elevation ( in my area ) it's song would bounce upward toward the next inversion and could not be heard below!

Many other sounds are also audible tonight, as enhanced waves transport & channel them throughout the hollows ( testimony again to the amazing fluid nature of our atmosphere ).