The top of Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, is one of the windiest places on Earth. In 1934, a windspeed of 231 mph was recorded -- a record that stood until a typhoon-powered wind topped 254 mph in Australia -- and the wind chill value on a January day in 2004 was -102.59 °F. So, it's a cold, windy place.
Wind on the summit is an experience that you can't just describe to understand. It makes you fully appreciate that air is in fact a fluid and not empty space. It is really impossible to safely face down hundred-mile-per-hour winds almost anywhere else; you'd either be risking your life trying to hike into them (I was exhausted after several minutes of playing in the wind) or risking your life in a hurricane, where flying debris and shrapnel poses a huge threat.
The forecast high temperature for Christmas Eve in New York City is 66°F. What the hell is going on? Climate change? Yes, but mostly the balmy East Coast temps are due to a super-strong El Niño.1 In the video above, Vox explains what El Niño is and how the Pacific weather pattern affects weather around the globe (including the East Coast of the US).
El Niño is a weather phenomenon that occurs irregularly in the eastern tropical Pacific every two to seven years. When the trade winds that usually blow from east to west weaken, sea surface temperatures start rising, setting off a chain of atmospheric impacts.
El Niños can be strong or weak. Strong events can temporarily disrupt weather patterns around the world, typically making certain regions wetter (Peru or California, say) and others drier (Southeast Asia). Some countries suffer major damage as a result.
The team behind SunsetWx has already published a thorough methodology of its algorithm and a case study of successfully predicted "vivid" sunsets its first day of forecasting last week. Basically, the model blends high-resolution forecasts of humidity, pressure changes, and clouds at various levels of the atmosphere, weighting wispy upper-level clouds the strongest and penalizing for thick, low-level clouds or average clear sky evenings.
Average delay is about 3-5 seconds. Make sure you turn the sound up too. That's the North American map...there are also maps for Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America, although only NA, Europe, and Australia seem to have detectors in place.
The detection system is volunteer community effort. Anyone who wants to can buy a detection kit (for around 200 Euro) and hook it up to the Internet to provide strike data. In turn, the data collected from stations is made available to any station owner. See also the wind map of the Earth and the realtime map of global ocean currents.
The stereotypes that underlie these judgments are subtle and not necessarily hostile toward women -- they may involve viewing women as warmer and less aggressive than men.
Then again, maybe this study blows... (If your first name is Hurricane, I don't even care what your last name is.)
Other aspects of the team's analysis didn't make sense to Lazo. For example, they included indirect deaths in their fatality counts, which includes people who, say, are killed by fallen electrical lines in the clean-up after a storm. "How would gender name influence that sort of fatality?" he asks. He also notes that the damage a hurricane inflicts depends on things like how buildings are constructed, and other actions that we take long before a hurricane is named, or even before it forms.
According to the National Climate Assessment, climate change has already affected the US in significant ways. This map from the NY Times shows the change in temperatures from around the country, specifically the "1991-2012 average temperature compared with 1901-1960 average".
Among the report's findings? As I've notedbefore, weather is getting weirder and more bursty, not just hotter.
One of the report's most striking findings concerned the rising frequency of torrential rains. Scientists have expected this effect for decades because more water is evaporating from a warming ocean surface, and the warmer atmosphere is able to hold the excess vapor, which then falls as rain or snow. But even the leading experts have been surprised by the scope of the change.
The report found that the eastern half of the country is receiving more precipitation in general. And over the past half-century, the proportion of precipitation that is falling in very heavy rain events has jumped by 71 percent in the Northeast, by 37 percent in the Midwest and by 27 percent in the South, the report found.
So when I'm looking at data, or working on an explanatory graphic, these are the moments I'm looking for. Little "Aha!" moments that I can point to, and say "Look here, something happened," and then try to explain. Often those small moments can help lead a reader into the graphic, or help to explain the whole.
The actual non-metaphorical weight of rain is surprisingly heavy; an inch of rain on an acre of land weighs 113.31 tons.
It sounds odd that a city would be digging out from a few inches of snow. But Atlanta residents were faced with a whole lot of chaos (and even more traffic) when they were hit with some unusually white weather.
We're talking about kids spending the night their schools, commutes a few miles that took more than ten hours, helicopters searching for stranded drivers, and a call to the National Guard for help.
From InFocus, here's a collection of photos that will give you a good idea of what happens when snowstorm hits a population not accustomed to that kind of weather.
But if you're making light of the situation, or more realistically using it to reinforce your view of the South and the people in it as full of backwards blubberers, you are an asshole. It's hard to remember sometimes, but things are different in places you do not personally live.
When it snows where you live, the salt and the snowplows are out on the streets before you even wake up. When you talk about six inches of snow in your city, you are almost definitely talking about six inches of snow on the median strip and shoulder, and highways that are slick, but clear. I'd take that over two inches of snow and ice on every major road any day.
When it snows where you live, it is the latest in a string of snowfalls that date back centuries. You own a car with four-wheel-drive for that very purpose. You may even own snow tires. This is great! You are prepared. But waking up in Birmingham to snow is like waking up in New Hampshire to quicksand.
Technically, the storm is a nor'easter but is looking more like a tropical storm in the computer models:
At this point, the most likely scenario would be cold, wind-driven rain in the big coastal US cities, with up to a foot of snow stretching from inland New England as far south as the Carolinas. The cold would stick around after the storm exits, with high temperatures in the 20s and wind chills possibly in the single digits as far south as New Jersey on Black Friday.
According to this afternoon's iteration of the Euro model (a meteorological model that famously predicted superstorm Sandy's rare left hook into New Jersey six days out), at the storm's peak, wind gusts on Cape Cod could approach hurricane force.
We're still a ways out, so things might change, but travel safely next week, folks. (via @marcprecipice)
From the team that brought you Dark Sky, an app that has saved (or at least kept dry) my bacon more times than I can count, comes Forecast, a weather web site that incorporates several of the features that made Dark Sky great. From the announcement:
Rather than cram these things into Dark Sky, we decided to do something grander: create our own full-featured weather service from scratch, complete with 7-day forecasts that cover the whole world, beautiful weather visualizations, and a time machine for exploring the weather in the past and far future. You can access it from all of your devices, whether it be your laptop, iPhone, Android phone, or tablet.
On top of all that, we're providing this data to other developers, in the hopes that a truly independent weather community can thrive in the era of increasing corporate consolidation.
There's a blizzard bearing down on the northeastern United States and here's some essential information you need to know if you live in an affected area:
But seriously, you should follow @EricHolthaus for the latest storm info. (Ok, so we have our first celebrity Twitter weatherman. Weather and climate are going to become a lot more important in American pop culture...at what point do Gawker or Buzzfeed launch their climate verticals?)
Britons may remember 2012 as the year the weather spun off its rails in a chaotic concoction of drought, deluge and flooding, but the unpredictability of it all turns out to have been all too predictable: Around the world, extreme has become the new commonplace.
Especially lately. China is enduring its coldest winter in nearly 30 years. Brazil is in the grip of a dreadful heat spell. Eastern Russia is so freezing -- minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and counting -- that the traffic lights recently stopped working in the city of Yakutsk.
Bush fires are raging across Australia, fueled by a record-shattering heat wave. Pakistan was inundated by unexpected flooding in September. A vicious storm bringing rain, snow and floods just struck the Middle East. And in the United States, scientists confirmed this week what people could have figured out simply by going outside: last year was the hottest since records began.
It wasn't a decision we made lightly," said Dean Baquet, the paper's managing editor for news operations. "To both me and Jill [Abramson, executive editor], coverage of the environment is what separates the New York Times from other papers. We devote a lot of resources to it, now more than ever. We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter."
This seems like a step in the wrong direction. Which prominent national publication will be brave and start pushing climate change coverage alongside that of politics, business, and sports? At the very least, the Times should have a weekly Climate Change section, the New Yorker should have a yearly Climate issue, Buzzfeed should have a Climate & Weather vertical, etc. (via @tcarmody)
Nobody really knows what'll happen more than a week in advance, of course. But if we assemble these major climatic trends, a rough snapshot of New York's future begins to emerge.
First off, El Nino will keep our winters reasonably mild and reduce hurricanes in the immediate future, possibly until as late as 2008, because El Ninos usually last for only one or two years.
Meanwhile, the AMO will remain in its warm phase, charging up storms and hurricanes off our shores, for much longer, probably another twenty years. So while El Nino may be driving a temporary reprieve in our nasty weather, once it dissipates, the long-term trend is back to tumultuous hurricane seasons.
The final ingredient in the mix is global warming. In the past century, the average temperature in New York has risen by two degrees, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, the computer models reviewed in the "Metropolitan East Coast Climate Assessment" -- a 50-year prediction of New York's changing climate, developed by nasa and Columbia University -- suggest that the city will continue to heat up by as much as one degree by 2010, two degrees by 2020, and accelerate on a gentle curve until we reach as much as nine degrees warmer than now in 2100. It doesn't particularly matter whether you believe the warming is man-made or a natural cycle (most, but not all, climatologists believe the former). The point is, pumping that much extra energy into the system is bound to have some effect.
The impact on our daily life, though, is the big question. A few degrees of warming won't turn New York into a Miami-class shirtsleeves town. The effect will be more subtle: Climate scientists suspect that a warmer climate will produce more weather volatility. It's not that we'll have more rain overall, more snow overall, or more storms overall. But each event will be more intense than before.
"We're more likely to get hotter heat waves," says Mark Cane, a climatologist at Columbia University. "And increased storminess" adds Cullen. Both effects are due to the additional energy that global warming pumps into the "hydrological cycle," the water and energy that circulates through the atmosphere -- and it's water that creates weather.
As they say, "nailed it". The term "global warming" continues to be a misleading when it comes to the effect of the Earth's increasing temperature on our weather; as Thompson notes, it's not that it's just gonna get a little hotter in the summer or a little less snowy in the winter, the weather's gonna get weirder. Which is a problem...it's difficult for society to measure and talk about "weird".
(Jason and family are fine, but without power, unsure of when it will come back. Aaron will be updating this throughout the day.)
Hurricane Sandy went through New York City yesterday causing massive flooding and power loss all over the city. While expectations for the storm had ranged across the spectrum, most observers seemed to be caught off guard at the amount of destruction. Here is the Kottke.org Hurricane Sandy link from yesterday and the one from the day before.
Updated Wed 12:15am ET:
22 deaths reported in New York City, 40 total in eight states combined. Several dozen more in Haiti and the Caribbean. This in the NYTimes, talks about two of NYC's fatalities.
I asked my friend Kevin for a few words on how a new New Yorker rode out the storm.
During the worst of the storm, around 9 p.m., I was huddled in my bed watching Homeland on my laptop, scanning Thought Catalog's surprisingly good Hurricane Sandy Liveblog, and checking Twitter, which was probably in the finest form I've seen it in a long time: a terrific balance of helpful updates, links, GIFs, and personal communication. Even misinformation, which spreads like wildfire via retweet, was quickly debunked, like CNN's report that the NYSE was under three feet of water. My one disappointment was Twitter's fake satirical accounts, which were mostly uninspired, with the bold exceptions of @ElBloombito and @RomneyStormTips (which was mysteriously shut down).
This might be a dark cloud for many New Yorkers still digging out. Disney has purchased Lucasfilm and plans to release a new Star Wars feature film every 2-3 years. Star Wars 7 comes out in 2015. This information is being delivered to Jason by land line telephone, like in the old days.
I've not been able to find much information about the impact the storm damage in NJ, NYC, CT, and DE will have on the election. Not on the politics of it, which have been interesting, but will people actually be able to vote? I just heard a radio report on All Things Considered that officials in NJ and CT, at least, are assessing the issue now and considering all options such as loosening absentee ballot rules, paper ballots, generators in voting locations, etc. While states have the responsibility of managing the elections, the date of the election is mandated by the Constitution as "the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November." It's unclear whether states have the power to move this date, but preventing citizens from having to vote after most of the votes in the country have been cast is the priority at this point.
Up here in Boston, things seem to be OK. My neighborhood experienced high winds and whipping rain, but fairly low damage. My street, which floods once or twice a year in heavy rain, was fine. There are reports of branches and trees downing power lines around Cambridge, Somerville, Boston, etc, but most friends that lost power got it back after a relatively short period.
New York death toll updated to 15, 10 in the city.
Mayor Bloomberg spoke earlier this morning to update the city. "This was a devastating storm. Maybe the worst that we have ever experienced." (This video seems wonky, you might have to scroll forward to get it started.)
As of last night, seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded. Metro-North Railroad lost power from 59th Street to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson Line and to New Haven on the New Haven Line. The Long Island Rail Road evacuated its West Side Yards and suffered flooding in one East River tunnel. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel is flooded from end to end and the Queens Midtown Tunnel also took on water and was closed. Six bus garages were disabled by high water. We are assessing the extent of the damage and beginning the process of recovery. Our employees have shown remarkable dedication over the past few days, and I thank them on behalf of every New Yorker. In 108 years, our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now. All of us at the MTA are committed to restoring the system as quickly as we can to help bring New York back to normal.
It's about 1:30 pm here in NYC and we're starting to see the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Rivers are overflowing their banks, wind is whipping, and residents are either hunkered down or scurrying around picking up last minute supplies. I'll be updating this post when I can, here and there, during the course of the day.
Updated Mon 7:42pm ET:
Kids are way worse than the hurricane today. FEMA, NYPD, FDNY, need emergency parental evac now!
The storm's quicker-than-expected forward motion means it will make landfall about two hours sooner than previously anticipated. Landfall is now expected around 6 p.m. this evening, near or just south of Atlantic City, N.J. This doesn't change the forecast much for coastal New Jersey, but it could greatly complicate coastal flooding projections for New York Harbor.
Not from The Onion, but this report on how Williamsburg residents are coping with the storm sure reads like it:
"I just got these kick-ass new stereo speakers and I am going to listen to those until the power runs out," Jim Butler, another Edge resident, said, tugging on the doors of the CVS that is part of the complex-it had just closed a few minutes before 5 p.m. "Then I'm going to read and look at my art books. I'll live by candlelight, get in touch with my 19th century self."
From just now on the TV: Con Ed has taken down the Bowling Green and Fulton electrical networks in lower Manhattan. Likely area hit is "east of Broadway btwn Wall St & tip of Manhattan & from Frankfort to Wall btwn William St & East river."
He took a camera crew to the U.S. Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) office in downtown Galveston, which featured a cutting-edge WSR-57 radar console. He convinced the bureau staff to let him broadcast, live, from the office. He asked a Weather Bureau meteorologist to draw him a rough outline of the Gulf of Mexico on a transparent sheet of plastic; during the broadcast, he held that drawing over the computer's black-and-white radar display to give his audience a sense both of Carla's size and of the location of the storm's eye. As CBS plugged into the broadcast, that audience suddenly became a national one.
Tappan Zee Bridge closed as of 4pm. And all bridges/tunnels in and out of Manhattan are closing at 7pm...or so I've heard on TV/Twitter. Is that right? Has anyone seen the Batman?
More footage of the 1938 hurricane that hit the northeastern US.
Updated Mon 3:07pm ET:
Is TV news and Twitter whipping everyone into a hurricane-like froth with its incessant coverage of Sandy? Well, E.B. White has similar complaints about radio and Hurricane Edna back in 1954.
The radio either lets Nature alone or gives her the full treatment, as it did at the approach of the hurricane called Edna. The idea, of course, is that the radio shall perform a public service by warning people of a storm that might prove fatal; and this the radio certainly does. But another effect of the radio is to work people up to an incredible state of alarm many hours in advance of the blow, while they are still fanned by the mildest zephyrs.
The National Weather Service in Atlantic City, NJ said that isolated record storm surge flooding already occurred along portions of the New Jersey coast with this morning's 7:30 am EDT high tide cycle. As the tide goes out late this morning and this afternoon, water levels will fall, since the difference in water levels between low tide and high tide is about 5'. However, this evening, as the core of Sandy moves ashore, the storm will carry with it a gigantic bulge of water that will raise waters levels to the highest storm tides ever seen in over a century of record keeping, along much of the coastline of New Jersey and New York. The peak danger will be between 7 pm - 10 pm, when storm surge rides in on top of the high tide. The full moon is today, which means astronomical high tide will be about 5% higher than the average high tide for the month, adding another 2 - 3" to water levels.
The Holland Tunnel and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel will be closing at 2pm today.
The National Weather Service in Upton, New York mentioned today that the predicted maximum water level of 11.7 feet at The Battery in New York City, which is expected to occur at 8:13pm ET on Monday, would break the record of 10.5 feet which was set on September 15, 1960 in Hurricane Donna.
The storm's barometric pressure is going to be historically low:
Sandy should have sustained winds at hurricane force, 75 - 80 mph, at landfall. Sandy's central pressure is expected to drop from its current 953 mb to 945 - 950 mb at landfall Monday night. A pressure this low is extremely rare; according to wunderground weather historian Christopher C. Burt, the lowest pressure ever measured anywhere in the U.S. north of Cape Hatteras, NC, is 946 mb (27.94") measured at the Bellport Coast Guard Station on Long Island, NY on September 21, 1938 during the great "Long Island Express" hurricane.
Masters says that part of the NYC subway system may flood:
The full moon is on Monday, which means astronomical high tide will be about 5% higher than the average high tide for the month. This will add another 2 - 3" to water levels. Fortunately, Sandy is now predicted to make a fairly rapid approach to the coast, meaning that the peak storm surge will not affect the coast for multiple high tide cycles. Sandy's storm surge will be capable of overtopping the flood walls in Manhattan, which are only five feet above mean sea level. On August 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene brought a storm surge of 4.13' and a storm tide of 9.5' above MLLW to Battery Park on the south side of Manhattan. The waters poured over the flood walls into Lower Manhattan, but came 8 - 12" shy of being able to flood the New York City subway system. According to the latest storm surge forecast for NYC from NHC, Sandy's storm surge is expected to be at least a foot higher than Irene's. If the peak surge arrives near Monday evening's high tide at 9 pm EDT, a portion of New York City's subway system could flood, resulting in billions of dollars in damage. I give a 50% chance that Sandy's storm surge will end up flooding a portion of the New York City subway system.
On a warm June day in 1978, William J. LeMessurier, one of the nation's leading structural engineers, received a phone call at his headquarters, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from an engineering student in New Jersey. The young man, whose name has been lost in the swirl of subsequent events, said that his professor had assigned him to write a paper on the Citicorp tower, the slash-topped silver skyscraper that had become, on its completion in Manhattan the year before, the seventh-tallest building in the world.
LeMessurier found the subject hard to resist, even though the call caught him in the middle of a meeting. As a structural consultant to the architect Hugh Stubbins, Jr., he had designed the twenty-five-thousand-ton steel skeleton beneath the tower's sleek aluminum skin. And, in a field where architects usually get all the credit, the engineer, then fifty-two, had won his own share of praise for the tower's technical elegance and singular grace; indeed, earlier that year he had been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the highest honor his profession bestows. Excusing himself from the meeting, LeMessurier asked his caller how he could help.
The student wondered about the columns--there are four--that held the building up. According to his professor, LeMessurier had put them in the wrong place.
"I was very nice to this young man," LeMessurier recalls. "But I said, 'Listen, I want you to tell your teacher that he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, because he doesn't know the problem that had to be solved.' I promised to call back after my meeting and explain the whole thing."
Those living above the 10th floor in skyscrapers may want to find shelter in lower floors. Winds increase with height in a hurricane and could be significantly stronger than on ground level. Be cautious about sleeping near a window on Monday night. Do not walk outside on Monday evening, as there could be significant amounts of airborne debris flying around. Rain totals 4-8 inches.
Not a sight you see that often: Grand Central is closed.
If the surge runs as high as forecast, Con Ed will shut off two electrical networks in Lower Manhattan, known as the Fulton and Beekman networks, the official said.
I looked all over the place for a map that showed which parts of the city are served by the Fulton and Beekman but couldn't find anything. I'm assuming the Fulton station is near the World Trade Center and the Beekman is on Beekman St by Pace University. So way Lower Manhattan?
Subway, bus and railroad services in New York and New Jersey are being shut down starting at 7pm tonight. Probably won't be back open until sometime on Wednesday.
NYC schools are closed on Monday. And probably Tuesday. And if public transit is closed on Wed, schools with probably be closed that day too.
Did tu packo el vamos bag? No forgeto el casho, los medicatioño y tamponitos.
The WSJ has a great post comparing Sandy with Irene from last year. Sandy is much more potentially damaging in almost all respects.
On Saturday, Sandy became the largest storm in recorded Atlantic basin history, with a diameter of gale force winds of over 1000 miles. Tropical storm warnings were in place Saturday simultaneously for North Carolina and Bermuda, a sign of the storm's massive geographic sweep. Those winds will follow Sandy northward, potentially encompassing more than 50 million people at once from Virginia to New England.
The drop is now falling at 90 meters per second (200 mph). The roaring wind whips up the surface of the water into spray. The leading edge of the droplet turns to foam as air is forced into the liquid. If it kept falling for long enough, these forces would gradually disperse the entire droplet into rain.
Before that can happen, about 20 seconds after formation, the edge of the droplet hits the ground. The water is now moving at over 200 m/s (450 mph). Right under the point of impact, the air is unable to rush out of the way fast enough, and the compression heats it so quickly that the grass would catch fire if it had time.
Fortunately for the grass, this heat lasts only a few milliseconds because it's doused by the arrival of a lot of cold water. Unfortunately for the grass, the cold water is moving at over half the speed of sound.
Nice cumulonimbus mammatus in #s 4, 14, and 16. And by coincidence, the NY Times Lens blog also featured Seaman's work yesterday, an earlier project that entailed shooting portraits of icebergs.
I like Seaman's portraiture approach to things like clouds and icebergs:
"They are like humans in that each one reacts to its environment and its circumstances in its own way," Camille Seaman, 42, said. "I've come across icebergs that were very stalwart and just refused to dissolve or break up. And there were others -- massive, massive icebergs -- that were like 'I can't take it anymore' and in front of my eyes would just dissolve into the sea. There's so many unique personalities. There's a sadness to them."
If I could package a cool breeze into a newsletter, I'd do it. Because a lot of you are hot. How hot? In towns across the U.S., 942 temperature records have already been broken this month. In June, 3,282 temperature records were broken. And since the beginning of the year, 23,283 daily high records have been set. These two maps tell the pretty amazing story of the 2012, the year of the heat.
Predicting the weather is really hard...butterfly wings flapping and all that. But often we only care about the very short term weather: Do I need to take an umbrella to the store? When's this rain gonna stop? Is it going to start snowing before I get home? Enter Dark Sky, an iOS app currently in development.
Dark Sky is an app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch that predicts the weather.
Using your precise location, it tells you when it will precipitate and for how long. For example: It might tell you that it will start raining in 8 minutes, with the rain lasting for 15 minutes followed by a 25 minute break.
How is it possible predict the weather down to the minute? What's the catch?
Well, the catch is that it only works over a short period of time: a half hour to an hour in the future. But, as it turns out, this timespan is crucially important. Our lives are filled with short-term outdoor activities: Travelling to and from work, walking the dog, lunch with friends, outdoor sports, etc.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) manages a few satellites in low earth orbit. There are three actively transmitting APT signals at the moment, NOAA15, 17, and 18. Each of these satellites passes overhead a few times a day. I've been interested in learning how to receive their signals for a while now, and I've finally succeeded!
I've been staring at Edlundart's weather wheel for 10 minutes trying to understand exactly how to read it. It shows relative temperature, precipitation, and wind speed, and it's just gorgeous. Bonus points for including Boston.
The Weather Wheel is based on widely available weather data, but does not display the actual numbers. Things like millimeter precipitation readings are not very meaningful to most people, so thinking of and showing these metrics in a relative way instead seemed like a clean and elegant approach.
Before looking, see if you can guess the only US state currently without snow on the ground. The answer, from the NY Times:
With the arrival of snow in New York and the unusually severe storm in the South - which dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas -- the National Weather Service said an unusual nationwide occurrence had taken place. There was now snow on the ground in all 50 states - including Hawaii, where snow fell on a volcano -- except for Florida.
Using journals kept aboard ships and the sweat of volunteers (that's *you*), Old Weather is attempting to compile a more accurate look at our planet's recent climate.
Help scientists recover worldwide weather observations made by Royal Navy ships around the time of World War I. These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections and improve a database of weather extremes. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and the stories of the people on board.
Recent evidence suggests that bacteria in clouds may have evolved the ability to make it rain as a way of dispersing themselves around the globe.
The theory-called bioprecipitation-was pioneered by David Sands, a plant pathologist at Montana State University, in the 1980s. But little information existed on how the rainmaking bacteria moved through the atmosphere until Christner and his colleagues began their work in 2005. Sands told National Geographic News that the critters may even employ creative means of transportation: For instance, they could "ride piggyback" on pollen or insects. "We thought [the bacteria] were just plant pathogens [germs], but we found them in mountain lakes, in waterfalls, in Antarctica-they get around," Sands said.
It's still unknown exactly why this area -- and this area alone -- should produce such regular lightning. One theory holds that ionized methane gas rising from the Catatumbo bogs is meeting with storm clouds coming down from the Andes, helping to create the perfect conditions for a lightning storm.
With a total of roughly 1.2 million lightning discharges per year, the Relampago del Catatumbo is thought to be the world's greatest producer of ozone. As the lightning rips through the air, it produces nitrogen oxide, which is later converted by sunlight into ozone, which ends up in a protective layer high above the planet.
I learned about this storm from the description of a course that Geoff Manaugh is teaching at Columbia about...what would you call it...geoarchitecture?
The studio will be divided into three groups -- one designing glaciers, one designing islands, one designing storms. Each group will mix vernacular, non-fossil fuel-based building technologies with what sounds like science fiction in order to explore the fine line between architectural design and the amplified cultivation of natural processes.
The Tempest Prognosticator is a barometer filled with leeches. When the leeches become agitated because of a change in pressure, they wiggle around, causing a bell to be rung. Ringing bell = storm's a comin'. Reminds me a bit of the weather rock..."if rock is wet, it is raining". (thx, shay)
Will this all work? Who knows, but it only took me two months to make, and I wanted to find out.
Unlike so many other types of information, the web has had little impact on how weather reporting is done (the Weather Channel stuff is still rudimentary), so it'll be interesting to see if this works.
The logic of catastrophe is very different: either no one is affected or vast numbers of people are. After an earthquake flattens Tokyo, a Japanese earthquake insurer is in deep trouble: millions of customers file claims. If there were a great number of rich cities scattered across the planet that might plausibly be destroyed by an earthquake, the insurer could spread its exposure to the losses by selling earthquake insurance to all of them. The losses it suffered in Tokyo would be offset by the gains it made from the cities not destroyed by an earthquake. But the financial risk from earthquakes -- and hurricanes -- is highly concentrated in a few places. There were insurance problems that were beyond the insurance industry's means. Yet insurers continued to cover them, sometimes unenthusiastically, sometimes recklessly.
Projected climate map of Europe in 2071. The map is a bit confusing...the cities are placed on the map according to their projected new climate, not their geographical location. So, in 2071, Berlin will find itself in the same climate as circa-2007 North Africa.
Noctilucent clouds (really high whispy clouds) were so common where I grew up in WI that I thought they were normal. Turns out they only appear in higher latitudes, at least until recently when global warming has caused them to appear more frequently and further south.
Do very large snowflakes exist? "Now, theorists, weather historians and field observers are concluding that most of the reports are true and that unusually large snowflakes two to six inches wide and perhaps wider fall regularly around the globe, surprisingly big and fluffy, if seldom witnessed or celebrated." During a snowstorm when I was in college, I saw puffy snowflake balls about 1-2 inches in diameter falling from the sky...it was the coolest thing.
Sometimes I think that what Americans are best at is inventing new forms of conspicuous consumption. A man who sells snow guns for personal use (so that the kids can play in the snow even when the weather doesn't oblige) says, "New Jersey is a big area for us. There's no snow, and lots of disposable income."
Right now, "Unknown Precipitation" is falling from the sky in NYC:
They must have some idea what this stuff is. Maple syrup? Soylent green? Pepsi Cola?
Update: Alright, this calls for some intrepid investigative reporting. I just stuck my hand out the window of my apartment and can tell you that the mystery liquid is not hydrochloric acid. I repeat, not hydrochloric acid...I still have the full use of my hand.
Update: Feeling emboldened that my hand didn't melt off, I stuck it out the window again and let some of this unknown liquid pool in my palm. The liquid is clear and flavorless, which rules out whiskey, transmission fluid, honey, and pig's blood. It's too soon to tell for sure, but I'm guessing the precipitation is some form of water.
Please consider this letter notice of your termination, effective immediately. Despite clear expectations and requirements -- January temperatures not to exceed 40° F, consistent snow and blustery conditions, minimum of one blizzard with white-out per annum, &c. &c. -- you have failed to date to meet expectations and deliver even rudimentary winter weather. A forecast high of 72° today in New York City is clear proof of your failure to do your job.
A replacement will be appointed immediately. Perhaps we will try a young go-getter for this role, someone who is willing to take on the many weather challenges of this magnificent season rather than rest on his "Great Winter of '02-'03" laurels.
It's that time of year again...or at least it will be when it stops being so damn warm out: make your own snowflake. (Apologies to those in the southern hemisphere...bookmark this for 6 months from now.)
Could global warming kill the internet? "The internet is a big network of servers, and servers are hot. They devour electricity, they run hot and they mainline air conditioning. When the global thermostat goes up, the servers start going down." (via migurski)
You know how when everyone knows something you don't know and after a little bit you get a funny feeling that you know that they know something but you still don't know what It is and you end up with your palms outstretched and your shoulders slightly hunched generally feeling like a dope while everyone chuckles at your ignorance? Getting caught in a tropical rain storm is like that, except that instead of everyone chuckling at you, you just get massively wet.
I was out walking the other day, heading to the travel agency to arrange our daytrip to the Mekong Delta. People generally don't walk large distances in Saigon like one might in NYC. The sidewalks are crammed with motorbikes (motorbike parking lots are right on the sidewalk instead of dedicated structures), people selling things, and cracked or otherwise uneven pavement. But old habits die hard, so I was out walking.
All of a sudden, there was a flurry of activity. Motorbikes started driving all over the sidewalks, routing around the traffic jam that had developed in the intersection. The sidewalks cleared. I was a bit too busy trying to negotiate the sidewalks with all the motorbike coming at me and from behind me for me to register that something was afoot -- it was only afterwards that I put it all together. Then it started to rain, just a sprinkle at first. A man selling something out of a basket by the side of the road produced a plastic poncho seemingly out of nowhere, slipped it on, covered his basket with a plastic bag, and quickly took off around the corner, leaving his basket there on the street.
And then it really started to rain. Big huge drops falling fast. I looked around and found myself on one of the few streets not lined with awninged shops so I sprinted for cover under a tree. The traffic was as thick as ever, but I noticed that as soon as the rain started, all the motorbike drivers and passengers magically had ponchos on. Stupid prescient locals. Meanwhile, my tree was not up to the task of stopping a torrential downpour. Already soaking, I sprinted for a nearby (thankfully unoccupied) pay telephone, above which was a small awning, just big enough for one skinny kid from Wisconsin.
Ten minutes later, the rain slacked enough for me to run the remaining 100 yards to the travel agency. Dripping like a wet dog all over their floor, the woman asked me, "you get here by taxi or walk?"
"Walk," I replied.
She shook her head in pity. Turns out there's another reason why people probably don't walk much around here.
Suroweicki on gas prices and Katrina: "Americans are happy with the free market when it allows them to buy cheap T-shirts and twenty-nine-dollar DVD players, but they tend to like it less when they have to pay fifty dollars to fill up their gas tanks."
When the tsunami struck Asia last year, Amazon.com was quick to post a donation link on its front page. Don't you think they should do the same for the victims of Katrina? How about using that platform of yours to apply some leverage to Jeff and the crew to get a link up there?
Amazon's lack of a donation link was noted in our household this morning as well. How about it, Amazon? (thx scott)
Update: Please stop emailing me about the tsunami/Katrina comparison thing. I don't wish to debate the relative scale of natural disasters or who deserves more attention and aid when bad stuff happens. Individuals and corporations alike need to determine who they wish to aid on their own terms. In the past, Amazon has been a place to go to give aid...it's the first place I thought of going when I heard of the escalating problems in the Gulf states (and I don't think I'm alone here) because if they had a donation mechanism, it would be a fast link and easy for people to donate. That Amazon has chosen to not to set up a donation mechanism in this case is their choice and I certainly don't fault them for it.
Katrina Check-In is "place to connect people affected by Hurricane Katrina to those their loved ones". If you're out of danger or looking for someone in the affected area, you may want to check-in here.
One of my favorite Dashboard widgets is the Weather widget. It's been pretty hot and sunny for the last few weeks here in NYC so I've been seeing quite a few pictures of my favorite yellow celestial object depicted on the widget. I recently had a chance to sit down with Mr. Sun, a long-time resident of both our solar system and the blogosphere, and I asked him about his Weather widget representations. Here's a portion of our interview:
Jason: How did the Weather Dashboard widget project come about?
Mr. Sun: Funny story. I'm kicking back, combustin' some rhymes, and this spacecraft approaches me. I'm about to throw a flare upside its flimsy-ass hull, when I notice it is sending a message out into the heliosphere.The damn thing is in Apple format, and I have Windows - so I have to download a special viewer. I finally decode the thing, and it's from Steve Jobs about an "insanely great" idea. I vaguely knew about him, because I'd been doing some advance work for Satan on how best to burn Gates for eternity. I'm a special consultant, basically. Anyway, I figured -- what the heck? So, that's how it started. Look, what network are you with again? I don't recognize you.
Jason: Is this the type of work you want to be doing at this point in
your 4.5 billion year career?
Mr. Sun: Look, I'm not going to radiate sunshine up your you-know-what. I'm struggling. Back in the day, I had a great agent -- Nicolaus. Not the brightest guy in the cosmos, but totally devoted to me. He made me feel like I was the center of the universe. I remember I worked with Frank Capra on Our Mr. Sun. Just between you and me, that guy was a little too sunny even for me -- ringing bells and angels wings -- whatever. Then, there was the "Pee-wee incident" involving an unfortunate choice I made in a public setting. I know it's no excuse, but I've warned you people to wear those glasses. I was in a slump. I started to get mean, sloppy, and pathetic. I wasn't combusting properly -- I had bad gas. So yes, I agreed to lend my likeness to the OS X weather widget. Is it where I want to be right now? No. Is it an honest gig? Yes, I think so. I've been thinking about starting a blog anyway; someone needs to let those other Sun Shadys know they are just imitating.
Jason: But do you really need any more exposure? You've got the most prime advertising position in the world -- 5 or 6 billion people a day can see you by just looking up -- what more are you looking for?
Mr. Sun: Eyeballs. Is that all you Internet types ever think about? You want to know who had a lot of eyeballs on him? Mahir. Do you want to be that guy for even one minute? I KISS YOU !!!!! You ask me how I can want more. Let me tell you a story that may help you understand. When I was younger, I watched Daedalus and his son fly just beneath me, soaring out of captivity on wings made of feathers stuck with wax to a flimsy wooden frame. Drunk with freedom, Icarus looked directly at me. I felt the panic of his watchful father, but I was mesmerized by his youthful passion. I met his gaze. He moved toward me and the rest they call myth. I made a vow that day to never stay still. Yes, I am fixed in the sky -- but not at my core. The fire that sustains me is fueled by the memory of what it took for Icarus to make his way to me, and the debt I owe for my part in his fall to earth. I can't repay that debt from 93 million miles away, but sitting on your desktop, I can at least start. I am also told the Internet is basically just one gigantic Porn Delivery Device, and I haven't had any good jacking material since the Soviets from Mir jettisoned their garbage. Did you ever say where you are from? Was it the Wall Street Journal? I'd love to have one of those stencilled sketches of me.
Jason: The photography in this shoot looks more candid than in past shoots by NASA, ground-based astronomers, or vacationing amateurs. In one photo, it looks like you're crying and in another you appear to be surrounded by a haze of marijuana smoke. Are we finally seeing the real you?
Mr. Sun: Looks can be very deceiving. In this case, however, they are not. Last year, I cried nonstop for three of your earth months. I cried because I burn anyone who comes close to me. I cried because I shine alone in the blackness of space. I cried because just once, I'd like to feel pretty and I know that will never happen. As for the haze of smoke around me, I am made of gas. If I wasn't churning gas around, you'd all be as frozen as Ted Williams head, so maybe you should think twice before demoting me from life-sustaining star to orbital stoner. Look, I've been around the block a time or two when it comes to humanity. At first, you were fearful of me. Later, you worshipped me as a god. Now, you ask me these cynical questions. Fine, no problem. I'll be around to see the cycle repeat itself a few thousand more times. I'm just a star, an ordinary star. Deal with it.
On lightning strike survivors. "Because strikes are so rare, and because their symptoms are so obscure, victims are often dismissed by doctors, not surprisingly, as malingerers or told they have psychosomatic disorders."