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Mostly rain-free weekend, nice week ahead

   The weather service says the bulk of the weekend will be rainfree, with Sunday looking to have the lower chance of precipitation.

   After the weekend, the week ahead looks like one of the nicest ones we've seen all summer, perfect for those taking the now-popular "staycation."

   There is a 30 percent chance of precipitation Monday, but dry, warm weather is set to remain through at least Thursday.

   --- John F. Bonfatti

Nasty stuff

   Radar screens lit up this morning as thunderstorms rolled across the western third of the state.

   The storms swept through metro Buffalo around 10 a.m., but about a half hour later, the radar showed a violent thunderstorm around Jamestown. An even bigger storm of similar intensity was centered around Dansville. There was also a line of pretty intense thunderstorm activity stretching from roughly Buffalo to Wellsville.

   The rain in Jamestown came on top of some pretty good rains in Chautauqua County overnight, so weather service forecasts remained concerned about the flood threat there.

   --- John F. Bonfatti

Be Careful What You Wish For

It's another partly sunny, partly dreary, partly rainy day around here, and some folks are beginning to fear that the summer of '08 might be a wash-out. Not totally, mind you, but there's been enough rain for people to complain about one too many canceled outdoor events, soggy picnics, and trips to the beach cut short by thunder and lightning.

Well, folks, at least our lawns are lush and green and our lakes have water.

The same cannot be said for the western part of the country.

Having just returned from a trip to California, I was shocked to see the state's hills and fields a sad shade of yellow or a scorched shade of black.

Everything is dry as a bone and fires rage all over the state. I was in Palo Alto, an area safe from fire (for the moment), but the morning air was still thick with smoke.

While flying toward the San Francisco Bay Area, the pilot told passengers that the fluffy white plumes seen below were not clouds but smoke from the fires ripping across Northern California. So much smoke, we could see it from 35,000 feet.

A week later, flying back into Buffalo, the land below looked beautiful - green, clean and fire-free.

It sure was good to be home.

--- Susan LoTempio

Messing with the weather

     With the 2008 Summer Olympics coming up, I'm intrigued by the weather headlines coming out of Beijing in recent months:

  China Planning Massive Weather Modification for Olympics.

  Beijing to Shoot Down Rain for the Olympics.

  China Moves to Enslave Mother Nature.

   China Plans to Halt Rain for Beijing Olympics.

These are stories about weather modification going on in Asia to keep the environment dry and sunny for the Olympic games. And they're not from some crackpot Web sites, the stories are appearing in respected media outlets such as CNN and the Los Angeles Times.

"Cloud-seeding is a relatively well-known practice that involves shooting various substances into clouds, such as silver iodide, salts and dry ice, that bring on the formation of larger raindrops, triggering a downpour," reports the LA Times. "But Chinese scientists believe they have perfected a technique that reduces the size of the raindrops, delaying the rain until the clouds move on."

  My question is: Where does that rain move on to?

Across the ocean and over parts of North America, perhaps, where the Midwest has been deluged most of the summer and the weather around these parts has been soggy since May.

If you subscribe to the butterfly effect -- the notion that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can cause a tornado in Kansas -- then this major attempt at weather modification half a world away could conceivably have an impact on the skies of Western New York.

According to the USA Today report on China's bid to control the skies: "It's a bold -- and, according to international scientists, dubious-- bit of stage managing."

Anyway, Buffalo's precipitation so far this year is above average (by almost 1 1/2 inches), and it's been a somewhat disappointing summer from the standpoint of local sun worshipers.

Who can we blame for that?

     -- Rick Stanley

Winds of Change?

  I have a theory: The precipitation and storm belt has shifted from the favored South Towns into the Tonawanda-Amherst-Clarence corridor during the past decade. Or so it seems.

   Some of the biggest meteorological events of the past 10 years in Western New York have focused on the northern suburbs. There was the pre-Thanksgiving freak blizzard of 2000 that paralyzed North Buffalo, Williamsville and Clarence for a day. That was followed in 2001 by the incredible Christmas Week 7-foot dumping in the North Towns. This past winter and spring, howling wind storms took down many pine trees in the northern suburbs. And most famously, the October Surprise storm focused most of its fury in areas north of Buffalo.

   Even the forecast for this Saturday is for clouds and storms in areas north of Buffalo, while those in the Southern Tier and South Towns will enjoy a sunnier day.

   A co-worker who lives in Elma has been coming in lately saying, "Wow, it looked pretty ominous up your way last night. Looked like you were getting some rain. We sat out on the deck most of the evening. It was pretty nice."

   The other day a co-worker who lives in Williamsville said he was driving to a sunny golf outing in the South Towns and noticed black clouds looming in the rearview mirror.

   So what gives? Is this a fundamental change in the way the lakes are channeling clouds and storms? Is anyone else noticing this trend?   

-- Rick Stanley

Sunnier than Orlando?

Buffalo sunnier than Orlando?

At least so far this year, that's true, according to weather service statistics.

Heading into today, Buffalo had 100 days with at least 50 percent  of the available sunshine. Orlando had 57.

I checked with the Buffalo office of the  National Weather Service and meteorologist in charge Tom Niziol told me that the office's sunshine figures are based on a photo sensor at the office, which is supplemented by observations by the forecasters.

The Orlando figures, according to a meteorologist I talked to at Accuweather, which assembles The News' weather page, come from the daily climate reports the National Weather Service puts out.

Of course, they'll have a chance to catch up toward the end of the year, when the clouds of fall and winter arrive.

--- John F. Bonfatti

Windy waterfront

It was breezy this afternoon at the newly opened Erie Canal Harbor downtown, and that was fine with retired postal worker John Cronin of South Buffalo.

"As long as we've got that breeze, it's nice," said Cronin, who was touring downtown's newest attraciton with his wife and brother.

Not long after I talked with Cronin, though, clouds rolled in quickly. Still, forecasters see another nice day Tuesday before mid-summer heat and humidity takes over for the last part of the work week.

--- John F. Bonfatti

Weekend outlook: up and down

After a warmer and more humid night tonight, the weekend is shaping up to be a bit of a mixed bag.

Saturday looks to be hot and humid but mostly rain-free. High temperatures will be in the mid to high 80s close to the lakes to the low 90s further inland.

A cold front is forecast to sweep across Western New York early Sunday morning, dropping daytime highs a good 10 degrees from Saturday. The best chance for showers looks to be in the morning.

The weather service foresees very nice summer weather for the middle part of next week.

--- John F. Bonfatti

Perfection?

Anytime I write about our winter weather in a less-than-positive tone, I inevitably receive e-mail from people telling me they love winter weather and that I shouldn't be so negative.

I grew up in New England skating and skiing, and I still do both. I enjoy being in winter weather - up to a point. Otherwise, I tolerate and accept it as part of the deal when you live in Buffalo. I don't think I've ever said (or thought) that I love winter.

The weather I love is occurring today: sunny skies, temperatures in the mid-70s and low humidity. It's the kind of weather I brag about when people outside of the area bring up (as they inevitably do) Buffalo's "awful" weather.

For me, today is about as close to weather perfection as it gets.

--- John F. Bonfatti

Brief cool down

Temperatures are about 10 degrees lower this afternoon than they were Tuesday afternoon, and the weather service forecast calls for more comfortable weather tonight and tomorrow.

The forecast also calls for the heat and humidity to return by Saturday, so enjoy the cool down while it's here.

--- John F. Bonfatti

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