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Hi Everyone & Happy New Year.

I hope that Santa treated you well and that Father Time will do likewise and that you have a
blessed and prosperous 2017.

As we unwind from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember that our next ALERT meeting on the 10th.

The Blount County Freezefest 2017 will be on my birthday, January 7,

The Birmingham Hamfest is only nine weeks away, March 3 & 4.
This year, as with last year, will be a Friday & Saturday affair.
This Birminghamfest is not to be confused with the Birmingham Fest, in Birmingham UK which will run July 14 through 30,
I think I’ll fire up the ALERT Lear Jet and head that way.

As we enter the New Year I think of New Year’s Resolutions and my sorry ability to keep them. Perhaps this year I should resolve to NOT eat heathy foods, NOT exercise and NOT do anything useful or noteworthy.

That way when I break all these resolutions I’ll be on top of my game.

Whatever resolutions you make, I hope 2017 is a good year for you.


73 To Jim Stefkovich

We wish to congratulate our friend Jim Stefkovich on his retirement as Meteorologist in Charge of the Birmingham Weather Forecast Office.

Jim joined the Birmingham office succeeding Ken Graham is MIC on May 1, 2005.

A native of Franklin New Jersey, Jim earned a Bachelor Of Science Degree from Penn State in 1983. He started his meteorological career in 1982 as a student trainee/computer programmer at the National Weather Service Techniques Development Laboratory in Silver Spring, Md.
He served as a meteorological observer at the Weather Service Meteorological Observation site in Waycross, GA in 1984 and became a Forecaster intern at the Weather Service Office in Lake Charles, LA, in 1985.
In 1988, he became a Forecaster at Peachtree City/Atlanta, Ga office.
In 1991, he joined Southern Region Headquarters as the Next Generation Weather Radar regional focal point, responsible for coordinating NEXRAD Radar implementation.
He served as the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Weather Forecast Office in Fort Worth, Texas from 1993 to 2000 before being promoted to Meteorologist-In-Charge of the Weather Forecast Office in Jackson, MS.
He served as MIC in Jackson from July 200 to August 2002, MIC in Chicago IL from August 2002 to May 2005, and Birmingham from May 2005 to December 2016.
Jim is the recipient of numerous local and regional awards including:

Office Unit Citations for providing weather forecasts and support to the state of Alabama, including back up services for other local Weather Forecast Offices prior to, during and after landfall of Hurricane Katrina

The Department Of Commerce Bronze Medal for superior service during hurricane and tornado outbreaks.

The Alabama Emergency Public Service Award for contributions in advancing emergency management by providing timely, accurate and life-saving severe weather warnings to the citizens of Alabama.

The Department Of Commerce Silver Medal for exemplary customer service and extreme dedication to duty in the face of unprecedented challenges during the April 27, 2011 super outbreak.

He has also assisted in national leadership courses for multiple government agencies

We have been fortunate to have Jim as our Meteorologist In Charge. Jim being a ham operator, KD5HLE, and having dealt with many, many ham operators while at Jackson & Chicago, has been very understanding & patient in dealing with our ham community. Especially during those times when we have acted territorial and quirky, if not just plain nutty, as we are oftimes prone to do.

We wish Jim the best in his retirement and look forward to supporting John De Block and Kevin Laws as they fill in as acting MIC’s until a new MIC is formally named.


Mark’s Almanac

January is named for the Roman god Janus, the god of gates and doors, and so openings and beginnings.

January receives more sunlight than December, but the equilibrium between incoming solar heat and the heat radiated into space by the northern snowfields does not peak until late January and early February, six weeks after winter solstice. So the weather continues to cool, with January 8 – 20 being the coldest part of the year.

Typically in January there is a 53% chance of up to one inch of snow and a 25% chance of over one inch of snow.

With the exception of the southern tip of Nova Scotia, all of Canada and roughly one half of the Continental US, or “CONUS”, are now covered with snow. Canada’s Hudson’s Bay is frozen, as is the ocean water between Baffin Island and Greenland.
Barometric pressure is highest in January.
Looking towards the sky, at the beginning of the month Mercury has faded from view in the glow of sunset. By mid-month it will have risen to its highest point in the morning sky, or “greatest western elongation” of 24.1 degrees above the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

Brilliant Venus, magnitude -4.4 in Capricorn, and sometimes confused for a UFO, is easy to spot as the bright white “evening Star” blazing in the southwest during and after twilight. She is climbing higher and higher in the sky and will reach peak altitude or “greatest eastern elongation” on January 12, when she reaches 47.1 degrees above the sun. In a telescope, it is a brilliant 60% illuminated gibbous disc. Both Mercury and Venus exhibit phases like the moon, since they are inner planets and we see varying degrees of their sunlit sides as they circle the sun.
Mars, magnitude +0.8 in Aquarius, glows in the south-southwest at dusk, 15 degrees upper left of Venus.

Jupiter, magnitude -1.9 in Virgo, rises around 1 AM and shines brightly high in the southeast by early dawn.

Saturn is lost deep in the glow of sunrise.

Uranus is shining at a borderline naked eye brightness of +5.8 in Pisces is high in the south after dark.

Faint Neptune shining at magnitude +7.9 in Aquarius is very near Mars in the south-southwest after dusk. They appear closest, only 0.2 degrees apart, on December 31st. Neptune will be above Mars that evening. Use a telescope at high power to try to discern its near 8th-magnitude disk, which will appear only slightly nonstellar.

This is a very rare chance to see the 8th planet, which usually is lost among the background stars.

3439 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of December 21, per NASA’s Exoplanet Archive

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower will occur overnight Sunday-Monday, January 3 & 4. This is an above average shower producing between 40 to 100 meteors per hour radiating from the constellation Bootes, in the area near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper and the head of Draco the Dragon.

This shower is a quirky shower in that it has a very narrow particle stream. Therefore, the peak time is only six hours long, and that peak varies each year. According the American Meteor Society, the 2017 peak will occur around 8 AM CST on January 4, which doesn’t help us much this year. Since the peak is six hours long, you should be able to bundle up and watch the first two or three hours in the predawn sky.

But, as with all things astronomical, one should look before the predicted time in case the timing should slip. That way even if the stream arrives earlier than the predicted time, you will see them as, they would still be zipping overhead and will appear longer in the cold sky. As Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society says “We haven’t got this one nailed down yet. It acts like it wants to.”

This shower favors the Northern Hemisphere because its radiant point, or the point where the meteors appear to originated in the sky, is so far north on the sky’s dome.

This shower is believed to be produced by dust grains from burnt out comet 2003 EH1, which may also be the remainder of comet c/1490 Y1, which was lost to history after a prominent meteor shower was observed in 1490, possibly due to the breakup of the comet.

The Quadrantid meteors take their name from an obsolete constellation, Quadrans Muralis, found in early 19th-century star atlases between Draco, Hercules, and Bootes.

The constellation Quadrans Muralis was removed, along with a few other constellations, from crowded sky maps in 1922 when the International Astronomical Union adopted the modern list of 88 officially-recognized constellations.

The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Full Moon will occur Saturday January 12, 11:34 UTC 5:34 AM CST.

January’s Full Moon is “Wolf Moon” in Native American folklore. This was also called “Wulf-Monath” or “Wolf Month” by the Saxons, because at this full Moon packs of wolves howled in hunger outside of the villages.

It has also been called “Old Moon” and “Moon After Yule”.

New Moon will occur Saturday, January 28 at 00:07 UTC, or we being 6 hours behind UTC this time of year, at 6:07 PM CST on Friday, January 27, as the Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky.
This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
The biggest astronomical event of 2017 will be a total solar eclipse which will occur on August 21 and will see will see the sun 92.54% obscured in Birmingham & 100% obscured in a broad coast to coast arc, which will be closest to us in central Tennessee.

This eclipse cut through the Florida Panhandle, but, had no visible effects in Birmingham, since it was cloudier than smoke from a witches cauldron that day.


This month’s meeting will be on January 10 at 7PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.

If for some reason you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can still participate via telephone. The teleconference number is 1-877-951-0997 & and the participant code is 741083.

Hope to see you there!

Mark / WD4NYL
ALERT Newsletter

Mark’s Weatherlynx
Weather Resource Database

ALERT / National Weather Service Birmingham Coverage Area
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