August Precipitation in Context

August was an uneventful month in Boise, but another story south and east in the central Idaho Mountains and the Magic Valley.  While Twin Falls recorded 5.57″ in August, we don’t have a sufficient climate record to compare with other August years, with climate data back to only 1998.  Instead, let’s take a look at the climate data from Jerome, Idaho, which extends back to 1915.

While we often present historical data in chronological order by year, it can be helpful to view the data in ascending order.  Putting the data in ascending order helps us see how unusual the precipitation was for this area and particular month. Here we look at the precipitation data for Jerome, Idaho from 1915 through 2014.

August Precipitation (1915-2014) at Jerome, ID

August Precipitation (1915-2014) at Jerome, ID

The average precipitation in August for Jerome is 0.29″ and the median precipitation is 0.125″.  The median represents the 50% value at which years are drier or wetter.  An interesting fact from looking at this data is how skewed the data is: 72.4% of the time August precipitation is below normal, and  27.6% of the time August precipitation is above normal.  Thus, if you want to look smart in front of your friends, make a bet with them each year that August will be below average, you will have a 72.4% chance of being right. Notice how the average is skewed by a handful of wet August months in the past, most notably 1968 and of course this year. August 1968 is the only August in history which comes close to the 2014 precipitation record.  August 1968 was also the highest August precipitation recorded in Boise, with 2.37″.

Severe Weather of August 13, 2014 Summary

Conditions were favorable on August 13, 2014 for large hail, damaging winds and heavy rain across portions of southeast Oregon and most of southwest Idaho.

Conditions were favorable for strong thunderstorms in the highlighted areas.

Conditions were favorable for strong thunderstorms in the highlighted areas.

With an upper level low pressure system situated on the Oregon Coast, the upper level dynamics were favorable for strong upward vertical  motion (thunderstorm development), especially over Idaho as the jet stream diverged from S. Idaho into N. Idaho, as seen in the following image.  Jet stream divergence promotes upward vertical motion.

Upper level Jet-stream at 250MB (34,000 ft)

Upper level Jet-stream at 250MB (34,000 ft)

We look at winds at different levels to examine wind shear, an important factor in strong thunderstorm development.  Wind shear is important because it helps sustain and organize the thunderstorms, which can lead to large hail development.  For more information on how thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, and lightning form, click here.

A special balloon launch was performed at Noon MDT (18 zulu). Normally, we do a balloon launch at 5am (12 zulu) and 5pm MDT  (00 zulu) daily to get an profile of the atmospheric temperature, humidity and wind up to a height of about 100,000 feet. The atmosphere profile provided from our balloon launches are used in our Numerical Weather Prediction Models to help us and other National Weather Service forecast offices forecast the weather.

Special Balloon Launch at Noon to determine the atmosphere profile.

Special Balloon Launch at Noon to determine the atmosphere profile.

BOI 8/14 00z Sounding

BOI 8/14 00z Sounding

The BOI sounding at 00z on 8/14 revealed high MU CAPE Values (1873), high SFC-6km shear (39kt), high precipitable water (PW) values of 1.12in. These values are favorable for supercell thunderstorms, storms which are favorable for large hail and damaging winds and heavy rain.  The precipitable water values also highlighted a flash flood risk from abundant moisture in the atmosphere.

Storms began to form around 2pm MDT south of our area in Nevada and spread northeastward into the Magic Valley by 3:15pm MDT.

Radar Imagery

Radar Imagery around 3:15pm MDT (Severe Thunderstorm Warnings in Yellow Boxes)

These cells quickly blossomed into severe storms knocking down trees and causing flash floods on McMullen Creek, washing out roads.  These storms produced wind gusts to 82mph at the Trail Gulch RAWS weather station, 8 miles north of Magic Mountain Ski Area.

As the afternoon progressed, more thunderstorms started to form along the southwest highlands of Idaho and the Owyhee Mountains.

Radar Imagery around 4:05pm MDT

Radar Imagery around 4:05pm MDT (Severe Thunderstorm Warnings in Yellow Boxes, Flash Flood Warnings in Green Boxes)

Severe thunderstorms southwest of Mountain Home began to form and move to the north towards SE Boise.  This storm produced wind gusts to 69mph just NW of Mountain Home as it trekked towards Boise.  Another storm by Murphy was moving NE and it was on track to merge with the storm just SE of Boise around 4:30pm MDT. By 5:00pm MDT the storms merged between Boise and Mayfield.

Radar Imagery around 5:00pm MDT (Severe Thunderstorm Warning in Yellow Box)

Radar Imagery around 5:00pm MDT (Severe Thunderstorm Warning in Yellow Box)

Supercell thunderstorm between Mountain Home and Boise (4:45pm MDT)

Supercell thunderstorm between Mountain Home and Boise (4:45pm MDT)

These storms moved into the mountains and produced debris flows across Highway 21, 2 miles southwest of Mores Creek Summit near the Hayfork Campground.  A spotter reported 0.87″ of heavy rainfall within 15 minutes with these storms just north of Boise.

Radar Imagery around 5:30pm MDT

Radar Imagery around 5:30pm MDT

Just after midnight on August 14, the Treasure Valley was treated to heavy rain, small hail and quite the lightning show!

Lightning and Radar Data at  12:25am MDT (Courtesy of Earth Networks)

Lightning and Radar Data at 12:25am MDT (Courtesy of Earth Networks)

Lightning and Radar Data at  1:00am MDT (Courtesy of Earth Networks)

Lightning and Radar Data at 1:00am MDT (Courtesy of Earth Networks)

Ada County reported 94 strikes on 8/13 which ranks as the 3rd highest count in August (since records began in 2000), and 15th highest all-time (since records began in 2000).  These storms produced heavy rain, small hail and abundant lightning throughout the night. Some areas received up to 2″ of rain according to the radar with these storms.

24 hour precipitation accumulation over southern Idaho and southeast Oregon.

24 hour precipitation accumulation over southern Idaho and southeast Oregon.

To recap, due to a unique atmospheric setup for our area, the storms of August 13th and 14th of 2014 produced wind gusts up to 82mph and 69mph in two separate storms, debris flows over Highway 21 in Idaho, flash flooding with some areas receiving up to 2″ of total rainfall and up to 0.86″ of rain fell in under 15 minutes, and a memorable lightning show for residents of the Treasure Valley.

Happy Fourth of July! Hot and Dry weather to continue…

Forecast High Temperatures for the Fourth of July

Forecast High Temperatures for the Fourth of July

Ever wondered about the Fourth of July Weather History across Southeast Oregon and Southwest Idaho? Hot and dry weather will continue through next week.  Here is an illustration of air-masses and upper level moisture for Friday July 4, 2014 and for Tuesday July 8, 2014.  The air-mass temperatures are shaded with cooler being blue and warmer temperatures being red.  Air-mass moisture is shaded by dry in reds and oranges and moist using white, green, blue and pink (most likely rain) to highlight areas of cloudiness.

7/4/14 Weather Map

7/4/14 Weather Map

 

7/8/14 Weather Map

7/8/14 Weather Map

The jet stream will stay well north of our region, thus expect hot and dry temperatures to continue with only high clouds passing by.  Later in the week the Monsoon (sunny mornings, afternoon thunderstorms) begins to move northward as the high pressure shifts over Southern Nevada.

This will bring warmer temperatures as the warmest part of the air-mass moves closer to Southwest Oregon and Southeast Idaho Tuesday into Wednesday  and the possibility of thunderstorms beyond that if the monsoonal moisture is pushed into our area.

Current Drought Situation

Here is a look at the current drought situation across Southwest Idaho and Southeast Oregon.  Most of southeast Oregon remains in severe to extreme drought with conditions in Idaho from abnormally dry to severe drought with a portion of extreme drought in the Magic Valley.

Oregon

Oregon Drought Monitor

Idaho

Idaho Drought Monitor

More information about the Drought Monitor and classifications can be found at: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/AboutUs/ClassificationScheme.aspx

Current year to date precipitation is above normal at Boise, Idaho. The drought situation has improved especially over the Idaho mountains this past winter with above normal precipitation.

Year to date Precipitation at Boise, ID

2014 Year to date Precipitation at Boise, ID compared to Normal and Extremes

Most of the reservoirs in Idaho are at full capacity as of June 17, 2014.  Southeast Oregon is another story however, with most reservoirs below capacity.  Owyhee Reservoir is just 13% of capacity.

6/16/14 SW Idaho Reservoir Levels

6/16/14 Southwest Idaho Reservoir Levels 

6/16/14 Southeast Oregon Reservoir Levels

6/16/14 Southeast Oregon Reservoir Levels

Precipitation required to end current Drought

Amount of Precipitation required to end current Drought conditions in one month

Little to no relief in sight for Southeast Oregon as no significant precipitation expected and above normal temperatures forecast. Here is the 6-10 day precipitation and temperature outlooks.

6-10 Day Precipitation Outlook

6-10 Day Precipitation Outlook

6-10 Day Temperature Outlook

6-10 Day Temperature Outlook