So Many Surprises I had to break out Gomer Pyle
First Surprise…the climate….Now the boys at the Climate Prediction Center came out with their annual winter forecast. It was widely reported by TV foofs that they “predicted a warmer than normal winter” for the Ohio Valley. Not surprisingly, the reporting was not accurate as what the CPC actually predicted was that there was a 40% chance (when you click on the link…check out the cool waterfall link) it would be a warmer than average Dec-Feb for the region, which I surmised at the time must mean that there was a 60% chance of it being either average or colder than average. Now, it sure seems like it has been cold around here. My LG&E Gas bill sure says it has. And, from the middle of November to the middle of December, it was. The average high temperatures for the last two weeks of November were fairly close to what we would normally expect in late January. But, remember, Winter didn’t begin until December 21st. The first 20 days of December saw an average high of 44.3, which is several degrees below average. But, wouldn’t you know…the last 11 days of December (or
the first 11 days of Winter) we had a warm up with an average high of 51.4, which was above average, leaving the month with an overall temperature just 0.1 degrees below average. Now, the first 8 days of January has seen average highs of 44.6 which is pretty close to the 30 year average. I think our coldest average high is late January and early February and its 41 or 42. So, where is this leading? In spite of what we know…because of that one warm week, we’re pretty close to average for our temperatures around here. And guess what? The CPC is sticking to its story! For Janaury, they still claim a 40% chance of it being warmer than average around here. Next week will be cold, so that should knock things down. There will still be two weeks left to go but I suspect that the climate prediction boys will be playing catch up and if the long wave pattern that has generally been in place since mid-November continues, they will have a hard time getting to that 40%…but then again….there is 60% the other way so maybe they’ve really been right all along…its just the TV guys who got it wrong!
Second Surprise…The Sea Ice Do you recall my previous post from last year chastisinig the media for its coverage of the polar sea ice? Remember how they trumpeted headlines that said scientists were afraid that the arctic ice cap would melt over the summer, leaving children in fear for Santa Claus? Buried deep in the article was the fact that even the most pessimistic researcher only gave it a fractional chance. Well, it turns out I’m not the only one who thought the media was typically out to lunch and writing sensational headlines. Maybe it was just trying to sell papers and get viewers or, more cynically, the 4th estate was trying to push an agenda. But, none other than the folks at the National Snow and Ice Data Center took notice. In the Jan 09 Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis, (move to January issue after Feb 09) they said that last year’s record minima of Arctic ice and the thin layer of ice caputured “the imaginations of many in the media and general public.” A very vivid imagination it was as the ice over the summer was greater than last
year and in the fall, there was a near unprecedented ice growth. That rapid growth was tempered by a week of unusual atmospheric conditions that halted ice growth. Now, on the one hand, the ice for this year is 34% below the recognized average…but on the other hand, the ice was 9% greater than last year. So, does it get reported as the second lowest ice coverage in history (which only goes back to 1979) or does it get reported that the Arctic Ice grew just under 10% from last year? If it grows another 10%, will the headline read that the ice has grown for two consecutive years or that it remains below the recognized average? I suspect that you know the answer to both questions…and the NSIDC probably knows too…regardless of the facts that they put out….the press will report it as either it wants to or how the limited abilities of the scribes will allow. Either way, odds are, the headline may not be a incorrect, but it also won’t be accurate.
Third Surprise…He’s a She! During the Civil War, it was somewhat difficult for whaling skippers to get a crew. Confederate raiders quite often took the high seas to capture and scuttle Yankee whalers. Many whale boat captains took their ships to the relative safety of the Pacific Ocean to avoid hostilities. So, with crew members either fighting in the war or not willing to risk a trip to sea, whaling captains were quite happy to get a new crewman. Captain John Luce felt quite fortunate to add a new young lad to the crew of the whaler America. George Weldon seemed to be an excellent seaman as he could climb the rigging and pull an oar with the best of them. He could not only pull his weight, he is said to have been able to dance a mean jig as well.
As most men who go to sea, George was apparently not afraid to get into a scuffle. Crewmen fighting is one thing though and striking an officer is a different matter. Seems George was spoiling for a fight with the Second Mate and went on the attack. Captain Luce could not allow such insubordination and so, on this date in 1863, George Weldon was stripped of his shirt in preparation for a flogging. But when the shirt came off, the breasts popped out! The able bodied seamen was really a stratigically bound woman. As it turns out George was really Georgiana….as in Georgiana Leonard, who was the missing child of a Confederate Cavalry Colonel Leonard. Captain Luce decided it best not to flog Georgiana. His log for the day simply said, ” This day found our George Weldon to be a woman, the first I ever saw suspected of such a thing.” Presumably, Georgiana was not allowed to stay with the crew…but I’m not certain. I’m also not certain but I bet the Second Mate never lived down that he got manhandled by a young girl!