During the 1st week of May the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) station at the Panama City-Bay County International Airport will be moved from its current location to the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. An ASOS station records vital weather information including temperature, dewpoint, wind speed and direction, pressure, cloud cover and precipitation. The move of course makes sense since weather observations are important to the safe take-off and landings of the aircraft coming and going. That said, few of us think about what this may mean when we compare our weather observations for the coming year to the data we have from the past 38.5 years at its current location.
Climataologically, we will be starting with a clean slate. We will not be able to talk about a record for the new airport... because every day will be a record for the coming year. Even though the two airports are only 10 miles apart as the crow flies... their location with respect to the gulf and the bay will have a huge impact on the weather conditions reported.
We all know that during the summertime here the beaches might reach 90, but inland it could be 100+... why? Because of the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.
For example (see above)... last night Northwest winds brought moisture off the bays by the weather stations at Destin and Panama City and kept temperatures in the low 60s at 10pm... meanwhile all other area stations were in the low 50s and even 40s!!! With NW winds in the future at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport that wind will be coming from the land... not the water. So on a night like last night it would probably be 50 degrees instead of 60!!!
I am interested to see how the new airport is impacted by the southerly sea-breeze winds. While the current airport would get the sea-breeze sooner because it is farther south... that wind does travel across a lot of concrete in Panama City which may warm the air somewhat. Meanwhile... a south wind would get to the new airport later... but it would travel across much more water and much less concrete.
What might have been a record at one airport might be shattered almost daily at the other. Lets not forget about rainfall... the new airport location which is farther inland might see much more of that summertime sea-breeze thunderstorm activity than the old location.
So, I guess you can see... we will not be comparing apples to apples... more like apples to oranges on some days. It will make for some challenging decisions as we move forward as to how we forecast the weather for the new airport location and how we describe it on the air to the viewers. For us at WJHG we will continue to do our best at describing the weather where YOU LIVE! As a forecaster we always like to be right and having a fixed location like the airport helps us test and verify our skills. In the end though... no one lives at the airport and describing the different weather in our various micro-climates is our focus. Still... it will be interesting over the months ahead as we await new visitors to the emerald coast and await to see what a new weather observation location means to our climate records.
On a side note... the current airport identifier is PFN... the new one ECP. That means EVERY SINGLE map we use that pulls data from PFN will need to be changed to ECP... there will be some very long nights ahead in the weather office for sure... sigh!
We are going to follow the moving process from PFN to ECP here at Newschannel 7... on the news and weather side. I am interested to find out what happens to a person whose car was parked at PFN, but returns to ECP... will a shuttle take them to their car or do they need to cab it?? Just one of the many stories over the months ahead.
These will be exciting times indeed.
Just a few house keeping reminders...
Also, Dr. Gray at Colorado State will release his updated 2010 hurricane forecast on April 7. Of course we will have the forecast as soon as it is released and pass it along!
Until next time!