Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wednesday, January 20, 2016: It’s time to start talking cold turkey about the potential storm ...

"Knock it off!" 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016: It’s time to start talking cold turkey about the potential storm coming our way. I hesitated immersing myself in predictions – or, more closely, passing on predictions – until this morning, when the Euro and US “maps” began to align.

As of now, it looks like a total white-out for ever-so-close areas like D.C. -- and southwest of there. That aspect of the storm is actually not fully related to what we have to worry about. It is tapping into Gulf moisture. That snowstorm could drop snow by the foot-load. Even DC could see two feet. West of there, even a yard stick could be gasping for air.

Below: DC read: 

"D.C. area, though a period of sleet could mix in especially south and east of the District, perhaps even some rain in Southern Maryland. We have a good chance at seeing snow totals of 8 inches or more, and some chance of 16 inches or more. Can’t rule out 20 inches or more."

That said, we just won’t be seeing such a copious showing of whiteness, not with the ocean in the upper 40s just off the coast. The forecasted ENE winds could get downright mildish. As to how much white will glisten hereabouts, that’s part and parcel to the blowhard phase of the storm we have to contend with. Which leads us to the potential 18- to 24-hour nor’easter. And will it be "colossal" as some are now hyping? Nah. 

As to our snow, something called a wrap-around effect -- after winds come more off shore -- could usher in some end-of-storm snow bands able to dump from 1 to 5 inches. 

WIND AND FLOOD AND BATTTEN DOWN: This afternoon, I’ve already been on the phone with Mount Holly (NOAA) and the other side of the pond, Europe (Euro). Both forecasting heavies are somewhat on the same wavelength with the storm. The foreigners are a little more fired up regarding the massive snowfall side of things. Our Weather Service is far more focused on the coastal wind side of the yet unborn "coastal" low pressure system – predicted to “explode” off the Delmarva.

No, the low is not yet out there, not even close, thus the sheer guesswork that is involved with nailing down this weekend’s LBI wind and weather.

I’ll note here, that we can be hugely thankful there is not a blocking high pressure system to the north, at least not one in a position capable of stalling an exploded low off the coast, as happened for three days back in March of ’62.

I bring up that all-time '62 storm (far worse in intensity than Sandy) because we just might have a day’s worth of stormage near that level of intensity. But don’t overthink that. While a one-day storm of that power is no walk in Bicentennial Park, the Great March Storm really didn’t do its dirtiest damage until the third day of ceaseless pounding.

As of now, the Weather Service has winds to 50 mph; importantly, that includes gusts. Hell, we’ve all been through such blows many a time. However, a couple of the Euro models hint at gusts to 70 mph. I sure don’t see that mph level unless the storm somehow slows over the ocean.

That leads us back to the all-important duration factor. A prevailing and powerful west-to-east jet stream should be easily dominant enough to whisk the intensifying storm straight out to sea. In fact, a couple lonely computer models show those steering currents actually holding the entire off-shore system further south than is being projected by other computers.

For the past week, I had been looking (hopefully) at that possible southerly storm track. Now, though, the odds of the storm staying south have been greatly reduced, as the majority of computers begin to agree it will be close enough to Jersey to offer a real gale affair.

How much of a gale? By my thinking, an exacting wind prediction can’t be finalized until late tomorrow.

FLOOD FEARS AND MIS-FEARS: As for now, the predicted storm is forecast to produce “severe flooding.” But what does that really mean in terms of property damage?

I do not bandy about the term “severe flooding” for one simple reason: Sandy. She set the “severe flooding” bar at a whole new height level – a new “severe flooding” standard.  Her standard could now too easily imply that “severe flooding” warning means thousands atop thousands of homes being inundated or even destroyed. Ain't happenin'. Maybe the term “catastrophic flooding” should now be introduced to flood prediction language – quickly.

In this case, “severe flooding” will not mean Sandy II. So let’s revert back to the olden meaning, whereby such a warning could very well lead to the entire length of the Boulevard, from Ship Bottom to Holgate, going under. Buildings in all the wet places could experience a typically insidious water seepage. Areas around Kubel’s Too will offer its usual thigh-deep showing of backed up bay water. The the north parking lot of the Hands Store in North Beach Haven will offer the walled whales a chance to swim off. Deb and Jim can watch bayrise near the Maritime Museum. Waterpersons at Surf and Sail in Brant Beach and Farias in SB won’t have to go far to get plenty wet. And it’ll be interesting to see if the new Ship Bottom Dollar General was built high enough in that perpetual flood zone. Hopefully, someone will unplug the new display sign at the BH Fire Station. See: There's a new sign in town! There's a new sign in town! 


As to your penciled in high-water marks showing levels from the Dec. ‘92 Storm, Sandy and even March ‘62, they’re not going to be challenged.

Speaking of the Dec. ’92 storm, that’s the nearest parallel to the absolute potential for the arriving storm – if it were to explode greater than predicted (not likely).

The following (from NOAA) is as close as I’ll get to be a drama-queen storm predictor. I’m offering this info as a ain’t-happenin’ perspective. Obviously, you can read a ton more about it via the book, “Great Storms of the Jersey Shore,” at http://www.down-the-shore.com/storm.html.   

 1992 - "Great Nor'easter" or "The Downslope Nor'easter"

The Great Nor'easter of 1992 did tremendous damage to New Jersey and hit New England hard, in addition to lashing the mid-Atlantic coast with winds and waves, and causing moderate flooding in Maryland in mid-December. The New York City area saw storm tides of up to 12 feet higher than normal. The tide rose to a record height of 10.3 feet above mean lower low water on the bay side of Sandy Hook, NJ, while the tide gage on the oceanfront at the Trump Pier in Atlantic City, NJ, rose to a record height of 9.3 feet above mean lower low water. The Reedy Point tide gage located in New Castle, DE, rose to a record height of 9.5 feet above mean lower low water. About 10 people had to be rescued, while this storm was responsible for 10 deaths and total damages were estimated to be around $2 billion.

Below: This Brant Beach shot is the most famous photo I've ever taken. It came during the Dec. '92 blow. If you ever use it (non commercially), please give me photo credit. You need my signed permission for usage in a book or news story. Thanx. 


Researchers Trying to Determine if Massive Animal Die-Offs are Worsening

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The New York Times] by James Gorman - January 20, 2016

Are die-offs occurring more often?

To the casual reader, it can certainly seem that reports emerge on a regular basis of thousands of animals of a species suddenly dying.

The latest victims are common murres in the Northeast Pacific. They have been dying for months, but estimates of the toll jumped sharply when David Irons, a retired United States Fish and Wildlife Service biologist walking a beach in Whittier, Alaska, found close to 8,000 dead birds in early January.

Since then, scouting teams in boats from Fish and Wildlife, the United States Geological Survey and the Prince William Sound Science Center counted another 10,000 to 12,000 dead murres on beaches and in the open water of Prince William Sound, said Kathy Kuletz, a seabird specialist for the Alaska region with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

As with most die-offs, theories are close at hand. Murres weigh about two pounds and live in large groups, diving to feed on fish like juvenile pollock. In winter, they usually gather near the continental shelf, and they need to eat a lot to keep going, up to half their body weight in a day.

There are more than two million of them in Alaskan waters alone. But last year was not good for them.

The birds are emaciated and seem to be starving, according to the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin, which has found no evidence of disease or toxins that could cause such deaths.

When there are changes in water temperature, as has been occurring in the Northeast Pacific, food fish may disappear.

Still, this die-off has surprised experts, because it has been going on for around a year and it covers such a vast area.

Most die-offs in the past have been more concentrated in time and space, said John F. Piatt, a seabird expert with the United States Geological Survey in Anchorage.

The effects of the current El Niño, a change in ocean currents, also have not yet reached Alaska. If history is any guide, El Niño means trouble to murres.

“I still don’t think we’ve seen the worst,” said Dr. Piatt, who said it was likely that 100,000 or more birds had died and speculated that if the worst happened, the deaths could reach into the many hundreds of thousands.

A tougher question for researchers is trying to understand how one population crash fits in with die-offs of other animals and whether die-offs have been increasing in recent years.

Certainly, there are remarkable recent events, like the death of half of all saiga antelope last year. And moose, bees and dolphins off the East Coast have also had die-offs in recent years.

Samuel Fey, a researcher in biology at Yale University, was moved by news media attention of die-offs to research whether they were really increasing over time. “These individual events garner so much attention,” he said. “They have shock and awe value.”

So he and Stephanie Carlson, a specialist in environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, and a group of other researchers put together a database of more than 700 such events worldwide in 2,400 animal populations dating to the late 19th century.

Their analysis, published a year ago, showed that the magnitude of die-offs since about 1940 had increased. But in terms of frequency, all they could say was that reports of die-offs were certainly increasing.

They could not say whether the reports represented a real increase or just increased attention because, as Dr. Fey said last week after reports of the murre deaths, there is no central database of big die-offs of birds, fish, frogs and other animals.

He is, however, working to remedy this with Dr. Julie Lenoch, a veterinarian and deputy director of the National Wildlife Health Center of the geological survey in Madison, Wis.

The center does necropsies on wild animals sent to it by agencies like Fish and Wildlife and keeps track of what it finds. But, Dr. Lenoch said, “We only test samples we receive.”

And because that is their only lens on the phenomenon of die-offs, they are handicapped in trying to answer bigger questions.

“Understanding both the cause and consequence of animal die-offs is critically important,” she said, because disease may be involved, like rabies, West Nile or avian influenza, that could spread to farm animals, domestic animals or humans. Toxic chemicals may be a cause, and those can affect other animals and humans.

Or changes in climate or weather may be involved, and recognizing patterns could help prepare for future events and understand natural systems better.

Some databases exist now. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has one for oceanic wildlife. And the geological survey has a historical database of animal die-offs called Whispers that went online about a year ago. Separate databases are not adequate, however, Dr. Lenoch said. So she and Dr. Fey are hoping to have a meeting of representatives of state and federal agencies and others involved in animal care to begin work on creating a central database.

For the murres, there is nothing to be done other than observe, study and record the deaths, with an eye to understanding what they say about the effects of changes in the ocean.

The birds have a great capacity to rebound, said Dr. Piatt. From 1984 to 1985, he said, 95 percent of the common murres in the Barents Sea off Russia and Norway disappeared, apparently because of overfishing of capelin. Today, there are more of them there than ever.

On the other hand, when murres near the Farallon Islands off California had a population crash in 1983, some colonies almost vanished, and population growth was very slow after the die-off.

“Murres can rebound,” Dr. Piatt said, “but sometimes, they don’t.”

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