Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Volcanic Sunsets and Lava Moonrises Dominate Weather

What a weird pattern! It is a feast or famine pattern out there. We go from a record-setting rainfall in parts of our area to maybe not a drop of rain until NEXT WEEKEND! I must be the Feast of the Hunters Moon. I call it the Feast jinx. I have forecast this event for the past 10 years and every year seems like a challenge I think we have had rain or storms at least 70% of the time. This could still change and for my sake it better but the long-range maps are showing a strong cold front sweeping through the area next weekend with severe weather and then giving way to a frost just in time for October. It should be interesting. The theme for today is just enjoy the next couple of weeks before this big change. Our skies will also be on fire in the evening and at night. Since we learned on the blog yesterday the moon likes hanging close to the horizon look for a brilliant lava moonrise tonight at 8:45 p.m. This should be preceeded by a volcanic sunset at 7:48 p.m. You can thank Kasatochi! That is right a volcano in Alaska should take some credit. The picture above was taken by the one and only Paul Hadfield near Decatur, Illinois and he even noticed how our sky seemed to have an extra bright glow. This volcano erupted back in August and it gave off a huge volcanic ash cloud about twice the size of Alaska. Take a look at the picture below. It looks like a regular satellite picture but the Alaska Volcano Observatory has a special type of satellite that only picks out how these volcanic aerosols have been dispersed in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

This volcanic cloud located over 60,000 feet high has already been blocking out some sunlight which in effect has had a slight cooling effect on the earth, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere. This is nothing like we saw in 1991 with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo when the cooling across the earth lasted for almost 2 years. This time around it will be less than a year and have a much more moderate effect. With that said, this will still be a factor in our upcoming winter forecast. My snowy December is looking better and better and it may even be colder than first thought. These upper-level particles also act to scatter the sunlight reaching our eyes. Since the sunlight travels through a thicker atmosphere be on the outlook for an increase in breath-taking sunsets and moonrises. I will leave the snow out for now!

Since I am all fired up after my run today I want to keep our fiery theme going and sure enough I found a way to keep our glass half full. This year I have nicknamed the year of the storm, but all this late summer rain will actually help us see more brilliant shades of red and orange. Let's take a look at why. Well remember the process of photosynthesis is possible thanks to the substance chlorophyll which gives the leaves a green color. Photosynthesis converts sunlight plus carbon dioxide plus water and produces sugar and oxygen. It is the sugar that fuels life. Remember cholorphyll production starts to slow down as we start losing daylight and when those colder fall air masses make it into Indiana. These hormonal changes in the tree slows down photosynthesis and the production of sugars. While yellow leaves remain a constant every year it is the red and orange leaf displays that can vary immensely from year to the next. These colors are produced by the amount of sugars remaining in the leaves. The more sugar the better! The two main factors controlling the sugars are temperature and precipitation. Cool temperatures slow the uptake of sugars by the branches so that more remains in the leaves. So you want crisp, chilly nights as we head into early autumn. Precipitation is necessary to produce these color-enhancing sugars in the first place so you also want plenty of late summer rainfall. This will provide the most spectacular displays of orange and red in the maples, sumacs, and dogwoods.

This time around you will not have to depend on what the woolly bear is telling you. Just tune in to WLFI. I cannot tell you to make those reservations in Parke County because this will be one of the absolute best displays in years but at least we are on the right track for one. It does look like we have the right ingredients lining up so far this year with late summer rainfall giving way to an early frost and crisp, clear nights by early October. It is the rest of October I am worried about. It could turn much warmer before the cold hits hard by Halloween. We will see how it all times out! Either way we should see the peak of at least some fiery leaves between October 17th and 24th this year. Check back on the blog on Thursday for a woolly worm and winter update. I have an update that snow-lovers may like a whole lot. Things are a changing!


Anonymous said...

We are going to the feast this year like every year Im looking forward to it! :) It is soooo nice out there right now. Nice and cool with a current temp of 70*. Great for just setting outside!

Everyone enjoy your night!

Ps. I have been watching the winter forecast how about you Mike? Im sure you have! Make sure to keep us updated :)

Night all!

Justin in Lafayette.

Anonymous said...

That is really cool Mike about the leaves! I learn something new from you everyday!

Justin in Lafayette.