The first full week of Fall is expected to feel just like that!
I’ve made a “four-panel” of some of the things that meteorologists use to determine heavy rainfall potential, and I’ll explain below how we use them.
On the upper left corner, you will see forecast-model derived Precipitable Water. The best way to explain this is to think of the atmosphere like a sponge.
This week, the forecast calls for over 2 inches of precipitable water – which is near the maximum capacity of the atmosphere – and generally means that rain is likely. If the atmosphere can continue to be “fed” more moisture as it is raining (and this is common), then heavy rain and flooding are possible.
The bottom left panel shows the Jet Stream. Generally, the most energy with the Jet stream is found just to the right of the base of the trough – which happens to pinpoint much of Central and West Texas. The trough itself sits over the Western United States and shows where the lowest pressure and coldest air are aloft.
Meanwhile, at Laughlin Air Force Base, weather technicians observe the weather from the ground - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These observations are taken hourly - occasionally more often in the case of nearby inclement weather - and much like weather balloon data are transmitted for use into weather forecast models. Since weather only exists because of how the sun heats the surface of the earth unevenly across distance - surface weather observations (which contain a significant amount of weather data, as seen below) are essential to weather forecasting.
Most surface weather observations across the United States are automatic - but these automatic stations don't always provide accurate weather data (such as clouds, visibility, thunderstorms, etc). Because of this, most weather offices and commercial airports visually report the present and approaching weather and clouds while using the weather sensor to calculate pressures, temperatures, and winds.
Due to Del Rio's somewhat remote location, accurate weather observations from Laughlin AFB around-the-clock play an integral piece in monitoring and forecasting weather across a wide region of west, central, and south Texas - and each weather observation is then ingested into global forecasting models which provide pin-point readings of weather data - such as atmospheric pressure and wind speed and direction - which is key to hurricane forecasting - even if it's over a thousand miles away.
Together, whether contracted with the National Weather Service or employed at Laughlin AFB, local weather experts are playing a much larger part in Hurricane Irma support than most Del Rioans could ever imagine.
We never know when the next hurricane may take a path up the Rio Grande and we'll be hoping that other areas of the country are looking out for us - and they will be. In the meteorology world - like many other public service careers - meteorologists are always standing-by, day or night, to observe, forecast, watch, and warn of hazardous weather - and in Del Rio Texas, you've got a great team.
Dan Schreiber is an operational meteorologist, with experience