Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

The Prospect of a Cold Guarantee is a Stone Cold Lock
January 23, 2011

Does This Look Like the Coldest Place in the United States?

Alaska Jan. Mean Min Temperatures 1971-2000

On This Date in History:  At this point in the winter season, data from the National Snow Analysis reveals that 49% of the nation is covered in snow.  Last month, that total was 44.8% but, in between, I’ve noted some days where the snow cover was as high as 70%.  We are in a weather pattern that has been persistent with a general ridge in the west and a trof down through the front range of the Rockies or through the midwest.  While there have been some big storms on the West Coast, most of the action seems to be riding up the northern part of the Rockies and then down deep, often way deep, into the South with the base of the mean trof generally in the heart of Dixie.  The mean long wave has been such that it tends to take storms just off the East Coast.  The East Coast has dodged a bullet for the most part because, while there have been a couple of big boppers nail New England, much of the Eastern Seaboard has missed out on several systems that, had they been about 100 miles further west, would have buried the I-95 corridor from North Carolina to Maine.  It’s pretty cold now but a super cold outbreak has for the most part been avoided.  While some records have no doubt been set, certainly no one has come close to all-time low temperatures recorded  in history.

Back in late 1970, there was a big high pressure ridge situated over Hawaii but, by early 1971, that big ridge shifted to the East.  A new mean ridge set up over the Bering Sea and created a strong blocking pattern over the Central Pacific. Northerly flow across the Bering Sea remained persistent but the southern part of the December trof moved east to set up a strong, broad cyclonic circulation across the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic.  All of Alaska was much colder than average that January with Fairbanks, Alaska not getting above 22 F degrees below zero for 18 consecutive days, which is a record for such cold of such duration.  The record-setting cold month in Fairbanks resulted in an average temperature for that month in that city of 31.7 F degrees below zero. 

The Prospect Creek Camp was located down this road at the bottom of the valley

About 200 miles Northwest of Fairbanks and 25 miles Southeast of Bettles, AK, one will find tiny Prospect Creek, Alaska.  It was first settled as a mining camp in the gold rush days.  Most notably, a camp was built there for the builders of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1974.  The near ghost town was transformed into the residence for some 27,000 workers and to serve pipeline station number 5.  There is not much at the location and the camp was little more than housing with some washrooms.  When the pipeline was completed in 1977, Prospect Creek was once again abandoned, though in 1992 it did serve as a base of operations for some people working on the rebuilding of a bridge along the Dalton Highway.  Not only did it serve to house workers but also their families and I’m sure that mom was happy to bring the kids along to live in the wilderness north of the Arctic circle at about 67 degrees North Latitude.  It’s so far north and so cold that it’s really more or less a desert as it only gets between 0 and 10 inches of precipitation per year.  June and July aren’t too bad with average highs of 71 and 73 respectively.  But, January and February average highs are 2 and 10 degree respectively and 6 months out of the year, the average high is below freezing.  In spite of the cold, you can find Black and Brown bears in the area as well as Bald Eagles.  But, you probably won’t find Sarah Palin wandering about as it’s about 530 miles North of the former governor’s home town of Wasilla.

Airstrip at Snag, Yukon Territory Where Lowest North America Temperature was Recorded

Aside from all of this, it’s tough to find much about Prospect Creek and most likely would not be found anywhere on the internet or in encyclopedia’s if it were not what happened there on January 23, 1971.   The big fat ridge that parked itself over the region in January 1971 and brought Fairbanks such frigid conditions affected the entire state.  I suspect that the center of the high pressure ridge must have moved directly over Prospect Creek because, on this date in 1971, the mercury at Prospect Creek, Alaska fell all the way to 79.8F degrees below zero, giving it the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in the United  States.  For all of North America, the low that day is second only to Snag, Yukon Territory, Canada that hit minus 81F degrees on February 3, 1947.  But, Snag’s elevation is 2100 ft while Prospect Creek is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 feet above sea level. 

It's Cold at Amundsen Scott but the Aurora Can Make It Worth the Trouble

 Mt. Washington, NH has the distinction of having the lowest annual mean temperature of 26.5F and the lowest mean summer temperature (51.6F) in the lower 48.  In 1954, a big old 1070mb high settled in over Montana and on January 20, the temperature at Rogers Pass in Lewis and Clark County fell to -69.7F to set the coldest temperature ever recorded in the lower 48 states. Rogers Pass sits about 150 feet below the Continental Divide at around 6000 ft in elevation.  It’s interesting that just 11 days before, the lowest temperature on the Greenland Icecap was recorded at -86.6 degrees. That is nothing compared to the all-time planet low temperature of -128.6F on July 21, 1983 at the Amundsen-Scott Station,which is just a few hundred yards from the geographic South Pole in Antarctica.  With all of this, it’s no wonder that Prospect Creek has zero population today.  But, you can mail a letter there, if you like.  The zip code is 99726.  I suppose the postal carrier that gets that mail-route is being punished because “nor rain, nor snow, nor dead of night” does not include “nor 79 degrees below zero.”  By the way, in case you are interested, you can take a tour that includes Prospect Creek.  I might suggest June or July.

Weather Bottom Line:  Well…after reading all of that, you should feel down-right warm.  Maybe not.  We have a hint of a warm up in the week ahead but it’s not much of a hint and it won’t last long.  First, we have a little disturbance wandering across that is damping out, or weakening so we may have some snow showers today and tomorrow.  Then another system comes across the south and an accompanying disturbance coming out of the midwest will also get damped out so we may have some snow showers Tuesday and Wednesday too but I don’t think it will be all that terrific.  We warm up slightly to the mid 30’s by the end of the week and may even hit 40 on Saturday but that’s about it because on Sunday, we’re back down to highs in the 20’s.  Break out the tanning butter on Saturday.

Chimp Challenges Experts For 2010 Hurricane Season Forecast
May 28, 2010

Hurricane Andrew Sequence Aug 23, 24, 25, 1992

"Dr. James Hansimian"

2010 Hurricane Season Forecast: Let us begin with the 2010 hurricane season prognastication of Dr. James Hansimian(video).   He is predicting 6 to 8 hurricanes for the 2010 season.  Never heard of him?  You probably will.  You see, he is a chimpanzee whom the National Center for Public Policy Research has put on the record in an effort to emphasize how little humans really know about the climate.  They claim that NOAA has been “wrong three out of the last 4 years and 7 of the last 11.”  They say they are not hiring “Dr. Hansimian” to ridicule  the effort and dedication of climate and hurricane specialists but instead to highlight that, even with the greatest minds, competence, tools and methodology, humans do not have a complete understanding of the climate.  They say that they will make another video in December 2010 of Dr. Hansimian and determine who was more correct.  In the meantime, let us look what some of the leading authorities have to say. 

Hurricane Headlines Used to Contain Facts, Not Sensational Hyperbole

Now, I already had a pretty good idea of what the National Hurricane Center would say.  What is amazing to me though is the media coverage.  I looked at the headline from USA Today and it says, Fierce Hurricane Season Predicted.   CNN had a story about the exact same subject but its link was a more subdued, “Hurricane Season Could be Above Average.”   Nevertheless, the actual headline to the story was a more menacing, “Hurricane Season Could be ‘Active’ or “Extremely Active.'”  AFP via Yahoo News was even more dramatic by trumpeting, “2010 Hurricane Season May Be Worst on Record.”   But, Reuters via Yahoo News had a little different spin as its headline read, “Government Warns of Worst Hurricane Season Since 2005.”   Fox News says, “Hurricane Season Could be Strongest Ever Say Top Meteorologists.”  I have yet to find any quote from anyone at NOAA or the NHC that verifies any  of these headlines except fo the one from CNN, which not-coincidentally is the least sensational.   Interestingly, CBS4 in South Florida took a different tact.  Instead of focusing on the threat to the United States, instead its headline was, “NHC Director Fears For Haiti This Hurricane Season.”  That one is right on the money.  A tropical cyclone for Haiti of any magnitude would not be good and they get nailed in one form or another very frequently.

Atlantic Hurricane Season Names 2005 to 2010 (In 2005 they ran out of names so went to Alpha, Beta...etc.)

So, what did was the National Hurricane Center 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast on May 27?   To begin with, the press release from the NHC had a headline that read, “NOAA Expects Busy Atlantic  Hurricane Season.”  Note that this headline lacks the hyperbole and extreme adjectives of the media.  As usual, they give themselves a wide berth by saying that there will be between 14 and 23 named storms.  That would be tropical cyclones of tropical storm force or more.  The difference between 14 and 23 is pretty large.  Eight to 14 of those storms are expected to be hurricanes with 3 to 7 becoming major hurricanes which means category 3 or greater.  For the past several years, NOAA taking some of the thunder from the NHC.  I believe they are in the process of changing the name of the NHC to the NOAA National Hurricane Center; I suppose it’s an effort to establish that its a governmental agency.  In any event, the initial quote from their press release is not from an NHC forecaster or the Director.  Instead, its from the Under-Secretary of Commerce, who said, “If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record.”   Notice she said “If” and “could” and related it to “one of the more active” seasons.  The reason they give is warm ocean waters, no El Nino and a decadal cycle.  The last one is the most significant.  Accepted science generally has concluded that the Atlantic season goes in cycles of about 30 years in which there is great activity and, conversely, 30 years with low activity.  Since 1995, we have been in an “active era.” 

2005 Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Tracks

Now, the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season was the most active in recorded history.  Keep in mind that it fell in part of the current “active era” and that recorded history is limited.  The first hurricane tracked by satellite was Hurricane Camille in 1969 so prior to that, only ship reports were able to confirm hurricanes and ships kinda like to avoid storms so its possible there were several over the years that were missed.  Anyway, in 2005 there were 28 named storms with 15 hurricanes including the two notable powerful storms, Rita and Katrina.  That means, in order for the headlines of some of these media outlets to be accurate, the 2010 hurricane season would have to have 5 more named storms than the top end of the forecast and one more hurricane than the extreme forecasted.  The headlines also neglect to take into account a very important and possible caveat from the press release that could put a damper on the number of storms:

“The main uncertainty in this outlook is how much above normal the season will be. Whether or not we approach the high end of the predicted ranges depends partly on whether or not La Niña develops this summer,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “At present we are in a neutral state, but conditions are becoming increasingly favorable for La Niña to develop.”

Dr. William Gray: Making Hurricane Season Forecasts for At least 27 Years

Now, for 27 years one of the leading hurricane forecasting expert has been Dr. William Gray from Colorado State University.  Until recent years, he was about the only one who tried to make a forecast.  The NHC lately has been getting into the game and diminishing the role of Dr. Gray.  Dr. Gray is now has handed over some of the duties to Dr. Phil Klotzbach and the pair lead the efforts at Colorado State.  Back in early April, the Colorado State University  team issued their 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast and noted warm ocean temperatures and a weakening El Nino as the reason for a more active season.  However, their numbers are more pedestrian.  They suggest 15 named storms with 8 becoming hurricanes and 4 of those becoming major hurricanes.  They go a step further and say that there is a 69% probability of major hurricane striking the US which is higher than the 52% of the 20th century.   Another tropical cyclone forecasting service, Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) has 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast is somewhere in between the NHC  and  CSU with 16.3 (+/- 4.1) named storms, 8.5 (+/- 2.8) hurricanes and 4 (+/- 1.7) major hurricanes.

Atlantic Hurricane Tracks 1851-2005

On average, the number of named storms in any given year in the North Atlantic is 10 (9.6) with 6 (5.9) hurricanes and 2.3 of those becoming major hurricanes.  So, both forecast teams are predicting an above average season.  It would seem that the folks at CSU might be a looking on the low end with an eye on the El Nino not diminishing completely to neutral until after the hurricane season has started.  The NHC seems to be banking on the El Nino coming to an end sooner, or at least allowing for that possibility, thus they have the substantially larger number of storms on the high end of their range.  But, again….Dr. Gerry Bell’s words make it sound as if they think that a La Nina condition developing is a real possibility.  The two forecasts are almost identical except that the NHC gives itself a wide berth so, if by chance there are a bunch of storms, then they can say they said so.  They also can avoid making any huge revisions as the season progresses as has been done with some initial hurricane season forecasts in the past.  The truth is, it’s just a forecast.  We’re in the middle of an active 30 year cycle and so its expected to be more active.  How much more active is an academic exercise.  In the first place, it’s impossible to predict so far out any specific disturbance developing in exactly the right conditions.  Remember, you need more than just warm water to have a tropical cyclone.   Also, just because a tropical cyclone develops, it doesn’t mean that it will hit land.  A tropical cyclone’s job in nature is to transport heat and moisture from the tropical region to the polar region.  They don’t really care if there is land in the way or ocean. 

Just Because It's a Headline, Doesn't Mean that It's True

And one more thing….note that nothing was said about Global Warming in either the Colorado State University forecast or the National Hurricane Center outlook.  They do refer to a warm surface temperature anomoly, but that is about as close as you get.  And, if it were due to Global Warming or Climate Change, then it would stand to reason that there would be more tropical cyclones all around the world.  As it happens, the NHC forecasts a Below Average Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season.  Beyond that, Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) has a 2010 NW Pacific Typhoon Season Forecast that is near average.  TSR also has a forecast for the Australian region for tropical activity to be about 10% below average.  Going by the forecasts…well above average for the North Atlantic, below average for the Eastern Pacific and Australian region and about average for the NW Pacific.  Doesn’t sound like a global climate calamity, does it?  So, if the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season does have a signficant number of hurricanes, get ready for the media reports that try to tie it to Global Warming.  But, don’t believe it.  And, if the number that actually does come about is less than forecast (as was the case in 2009) then look for an explainer, which the NHC has already conveniently put out there.  See, they’re pretty smart.  If the season is slightly above average, they can say, “we said so.”  If its way above average, they can say, “we said so.”  And if the number of storms is less than the predicted range, they can say, ” we warned you about a possible La Nina.”  All the bases are covered.  That’s what a lot of guys on TV do as they can always claim victory, no matter what, when they say “Variable cloudy skies and a 50% chance of rain.” 

NAM Friday Evening Precipitation Forecast

Penn's Store in Gravel Switch, KY Since 1845

Weather Bottom Line:  I had to go to Gravel Switch Kentucky to help the folks at Kentucky’s oldest store, Penn’s Store.  Actually, it’s not just Kentucky’s oldest store, it is considered the oldest country store in America.  I am told that it began operation in 1845, though I’ve seen published reports that claim 1850.  But, I think I’ll go with the word of the Penn family.   About a month ago, when Tennessee was getting relatively sparse coverage of flooding, Kentucky got even less coverage.  Of course, South Central  Kentucky only got 11 inches of rain and parts of Tennessee got 15-20 inches so I suppose that it fits that if Tennessee got slim coverage, then Kentucky got none.  Anyway, I was helping them clean up and rid the store of a snake and so I could not post on Thursday when the NHC  Hurricane Forecast came out.  So, I’m a day late.

GFS Monday Evening Precip Outlook

I did see a few towering cumulous clouds late in the day…about the time I was playing St. Patrick and ridding the Penn’s Store of a 4 or 5 foot snake.  On our return to Louisville, there were some pretty decent wind gusts and it was much cooler, leading me to believe that there were some decent thunderstorms around, which did not surprise me.  The weak boundary will still be in the area on Friday so we will see some scattered storms again with highs in the mid 80’s.  We warm a bit over the weekend with highs in the mid to perhaps upper 80’s.  We may have an isolated t’storm on Sunday but more likely there will be scattered afternoon storms on Memorial Day.

Arctic Sea Ice Shows Extensive Growth in March 2010
April 6, 2010

NSIDC March 2010 Sea Ice Extent Near 1979-2000 Average-Challenge to Conventional Wisdom?

Arctic Ice Continued Growth in March 2010

Global temperatures this winter on average were up for 2009-2010 but the March Arctic Ice Growth was perhaps unprecedented and much of Northern Asia, Northern Europe and parts of the United States had exceedingly harsh winters while Canada and Greenland were exceedingly warm.    In February, the North Pole Arctic Ice extent appeared to have continued a trend of slow growth from the 2006 lowest recorded maximum ice extent.  Back in 2004, there were several reports concerning undersea volcanic activity that could account for warming Arctic ocean temperatures, but these reports were not widely brought to the public view by the media.   Nevertheless, since the low maximum in March 2006 which followed the lowest Arctic Ice Extent minimum ever recorded in 2005.  Then in 2007, a new record low minimum Arctic Sea Ice extent was observed.   This led to trumpeting in the media that 2008 could result in an ice free Arctic.   If I recall, when I reviewed these media reports, I found that the headline did not match the rhetoric.  A few scientists had said that there was a 1 in 4 chance of that happening, which is hardly a prediction that it would occur.   Not only did that headline prove to be false, but the 2008 Arctic Sea Ice minimum was greater than the previous year.  I noted that, instead of saying that it had grown, the headline from the National Snow and Ice Data Center was that it was the “second lowest” of all time.  The headline was true but they chose the negative presentation over the positive depiction which may speak volumes.  In my mind, headlines should be absent of adjectives that may create bias perceptions one way or the other.

March 2010 3rd Consecutive March To Buck the Long Term Trend Line

Since those days of gloom and doom, the reports have consistently come forth with the reference point always being the lowest.  I”m not sure if I have ever seen a sentence that simply says the ice is growing.  In March 2010, the NSIDC reported that the Arctic Ice Extent in February “continued to track below average” and near those dismal levels of 2007.  But, the numbers were slightly higher and at the end of the month, there was a slight rise that was not noted in the text.  Later, we find that the February Arctic Ice Extent was the “fourth lowest February extent” which means it was higher than 2005, 2006 and 2007 but was lower than 2008 and 2009.   As it turns out, something happened.  As the month of March rolled on,  that little rise at the end of February that was seemingly dismissed continued on through March such that the March ice extent almost reached the 1979-2000 average that is used as a  baseline.  I do not recall the ice extent of any month coming close to that level in recent memory.  I suppose qualitative adjectives only apply for negative news because the April 6, 2010 NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent report used a more balanced headline than it had in previous reports of low ice.    Instead it simply says, “Cold snap causes late-season spurt growth.”  The text of the report does not point out but, this is the 3rd consecutive March to be well above the long term trend line.  This should bring good news of cheer, I would think.  Just 2 years ago, the media was writing about Santa Claus floating away and now we see a huge growth in the ice extent and the latest date of the maximum extent since monitoring began. 

Global Temperature Anomalies Dec-Feb 2010

Nevertheless, I find very little of a positive nature in the report and I think that is the correct approach.  It is good to be cautious in a humble silent admission that we do not have a full understanding of how the earth’s climate operates.  Just report the facts.  But, in the past, there has been a decided negative tilt.  Even in this report, there is talk of how the long term trend is still down and that the overall temperatures were still above average for the Arctic were above average, but it does note that the temperatures in Northern Europe and Siberia were below average.  It probably would have been more accurate to say they were “well below average,” yet again, they seem to pick and choose when to use qualifying adjectives.  If you look at the seasonal temperature map to the right, you notice that all of Siberia was at least 5 degrees C below average and that the rest of Northern Europe was between 3-5 degrees C below average.  That represents an enormous land mass.  Now, Canada was some 3-4 degrees warmer but much of the United States was 2-4 degrees colder.  Air temperatures over the ocean were generally warmer than average but not to the extent of the land anomalies.  For some reason, we had a long wave pattern that gave persistent cold to large land areas in the Northern hemisphere with a somewhat smaller land area covered by warmer temperatures.  Overall, the global temperatures were warmer. If you look at the map, you notice that almost the entire Southern Hemisphere was warmer during the peiriod, which is largely ocean areas.  The exception is the oceans surrounding Antarctica.  What’s up with that?

Is it possible that Undersea Volcanoes can affect the climate through warming ocean temperatures or are they insignficant?

And that last question is the real truth because no one knows.  Yes, the long term trend of Arctic Ice extent is negative but there seems to be a trend over the past 3-4 years of growth that bucks the trend.  This rapid expansion of ice in March did not fit the storyline except that it was the third consecutive year that the March Ice Extent was well above the long term trend line.  And what’s up with the land masses being so cold and the air over the oceans not playing along?  Just a coincidence or is there something at play?  And what about the undersea volcanoes?  Do they play any role at all or are they just red herrings?  And why was the Southern Hemisphere so warm this summer except for the areas around the South Pole?  No one wants to address the fact that the Antarctic did not want to go along with the warming script when the global temperature is taken for the time frame.  I know that I will be given a label for raising any questions which always puts up a red flag to me when legitimate questions are not seriously since they don’t fit a perconceived notion. 

Unfortunately, Mankind Often Takes the Wrong View Regarding Humility

I think that the proper position to take here is not one way or another. It is wrong for people to say that there is no climate change.  Most evidence suggests that there is.  It is not clear if the change though is anthropogenic or natural so it is equally as wrong to pretend like we have all of the answers.  Throughout history, man seems to learn lessons.  After the devastating 30 years war in Europe, mankind seemed to at least temporarily find that diplomacy was a far better way to settle disputes than armed conflict.  Obviously, that lesson has been lost.  But one lesson that man does not seem to learn is humility; a recognition that he currently has limited ability to reach conclusions about anything concerning the wonders of his own planet.  Constantly, what is thought to be fact is tossed on the ash heep of history when something comes along to confound that supposed fact.  Yet, we continue to behave as if we have all of the answers and persecute those who suggest otherwise.

SPC Tuesday Categorical Severe Weather Threat for Wednesday

Weather Bottom Line:  After pontificating about the need for humility, I follow up with a forecast. Nice timing.  But, duty calls.  The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center appears to be taking the more cautious position that I advocated yesterday regarding severe weather prospects in our area.  The slight risk area was expanded on Tuesday both north and south as well as farther east to the extent that it now encompasses the Louisville Metro Area.  This allows for the potential for storms that should develop to our west to hold together in the evening hours and move into our region.  We had temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s on Tuesday…but there is one fly in the ointment..that is the dewpoints.  

Tuesday SPC Severe Weather Probability for Wednesday

Tuesday afternoon we were only in the mid 40’s regarding dewpoints and we’ll have to do better than that to support some good storms around here.   Surface Dewpoints Tuesday afternoon were over 60 from Southwestern Illinois down through the Bootheel of Missouri and and down south from there.  I would speculate that we will probably see an increase in our moisture content such that it will be marginally sufficient to suppor t’storms and possibly strong storms.  Bottom Line is that Wednesday afternoon and evening will be something to keep an eye on around  here.  Not a slam dunk and perhaps not even likely, but there will be a possibility of some action..most likely if we did it would be gusty winds and small hail.  We get some CAPE in here late in the day and some sheer and Helicity…enough for conern but not enough to go bananas over either.

WWF Schedules Earth Hour During NCAA Basketball Tournament
March 26, 2010

If WWF is successful, the US will go black from the East Coast to the West Coast but the NCAA tournament will be on. Which will win out?

Candle Power Used During Earth Hour Even Though Candles Release Carbon Dioxide. These People are Leaving a Carbon Footprint to Mark Earth Hour

Earth Hour?  We’ve all heard of Earth Day as it’s been around for about 40 years.   But now, there is Earth Hour.  This is brought to you by the WWF.  Before you go looking for a picture of Hulk Hogan carrying the earth on his shoulders like Atlas, it’s not the World Wrestling Federation.  Remember a few years ago the wrestlers were sued and so they had to change their name to World Wrestling Entertainment aka WWE.  This would be the World Wildlife Fund and they are encouraging people from around the world to “…come together to make a bold statement about their concern for climate change…”  They claim that millions of people will participate and illustrate their concern by turning off the lights for one hour.  The time is to be March 27, 2010 at 8:30pm local time.  That means that if everyone did it, an observer from space would see the lights go off sequentially from east to west around the globe.   While it is a global effort, for some reason the United States is singled out and the Yanks are encouraged to show the way toward a “cleaner, more secure nation and prosperous America.”

How Thailand Was Supposed to Look Before and After For Earth Hour

This is not the first Earth Hour though as it was launched 3 years ago.  The WWF claims that last year over 1 billion people participated in 87 countries from 7 continents involving over 4100 cities including 80 million Americans in 318 cities.  This year, National Geographic is claiming 121 countries will participate.   On the one hand, it is called a “simple” gesture because all one has to do is to hit the light switch.  Yet, the WWF does direct you to  a “tool kit” to elaborate on how to participate.  This reminds of an Aggie Joke:  How many Aggies does it take to turn off a light?  What would be an event that is supposed to bring global civic awareness without having a promotional edge?  You can buy “Earth Hour Gear” if you want to express yourself by more than just turning off the lights.   I’m not sure if profit is the main motive behind this global effort but, like all good intentions, there can be unintended consequences.

Earth Hour, Earth Day, End of the World...Nothing will Prevent a UK Fan from Watching the 'Cats

Think about cigarettes.  State governments across America are raising cigarette taxes under the notion that it will discourage smoking with higher prices.  But, state budgets have become so reliant on revenue from the cigarette tax, if they were successful in their official motivation and everyone stopped smoking, then state government deficits would be such that sovereign state bankruptcy might be a real issue.  In the case of Earth Hour, if everyone participates, there might be steep consequences.  An official Earth Hour event in Thailand was cancelled due to safety concerns.  A big crowd of people at night whom the bad guys know would be shrouded in darkness?  Sounds pretty enticing or even inviting.  But it apparently was a concern about “Red Shirt” demonstrators.   Then there are technical issues.  When you have a power grid designed for certain power load and their is a sudden change, that can tax the capability of that system.  We normally think of power surges or excessive usage in a heat waver or something that disrupts the system. In this case, Earth Hour can cause complications from a sudden power drop off such that utlities have to take precautions to prevent the dark hour from becoming a dark night.  But, in some parts of the states, it seems to me that the biggest obstacle may be the NCAA.  Those guys went and scheduled the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament during Earth Hour!  They should have checked  the schedule.  I can promise that, in Kentucky, when the University of Kentucky is playing in prime time for a shot at the Final Four, no one will turn off their TV and I doubt if any UK fans will be watching the game in the dark….after all…you need to make it safe for trips to the refrigerator or bathroom.

Cave Hill Cemetery is Beautiful In the Spring

Weather Bottom Line:  Snow White and I took advantage of the fact that the clouds were chased away ahead of my schedule and so we went and fed the ducks at Cave Hill Cemetery.  It was such a nice day, Lee Squires left early and who can blame him?  Several geese and swans are sitting on their eggs which may be hatched for Easter, but we didn’t see any mallards on their nest.  I think that it’s because the mallards are too smart to put their nests where just anyone can find them.  We did have a couple of errant snow reports early this morning but, as I had warned, it was not consequential.  One thing that I did fail to mention was the howling wind overnight.  At one point, I thought that it was raining hard but instead it was just a pressure equalization occuring in rapid fashion.  It will be cool overnight and Saturday still looks to be outstanding with highs back in the mid to upper 60’s.  With that kind of turn around, a cold front must be on the way…and it is. 

SPC T'storm Chances Saturday

Our timing will work out well again as during the heat of day, the storm system will be to our west.  And, like the last system, this one will pass South.  So, if there are stronger or frequent thunderstorms, they will be west and south of the area.  Since this guy is coming through in the evening and with no sun (or lights for Earth Hour) then it will be very difficult to get sufficient lift to either form storms or keep them going.  So, perhaps some rumbles of thunder Saturday night followed by clouds and rain on Sunday.  The sun returns with mild but not too terrible conditions for the first part of the new week.

Cyclone Tomas Batters Fiji, Cyclone Ului Threatens Aussies
March 16, 2010

Vis Sat SW Pacific 130Z 16 Mar 2010

Click S Pac 230Z 16 Mar 2010 Image for Most Recent loop

Tropics Heating Up?   For our part of the world, Hurricane Season comes each summer and fall from June 1 to November 30.  But, tropical cyclones show up in many parts of the world and are called different things.  Tropical cyclones in the eastern Pacific and North Atlantic are known as Hurricanes.  In the Western North Pacific, they gain the moniker of Typhoon. To become a typhoon or hurricane, a tropical cyclone must reach sustained winds of 64 kts or greater which is 74 mph.   In the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, they are called Cyclones but only need to reach 34 kts which is equivalent to the Tropical Storm designation in the North Atlantic of 40 mph.  If a tropical cyclone forms in the Timor Sea and moves Southeast across Northwest Australia, it is known as  a Willy Willy.   Now, tropical cyclones  have to form away from the equatorial regions…typically north, or south, of 10 degrees latitude.  That is because you need coriolis forces to produce circulation and the coriolis force becomes more negligible the closer you get to the equator.    Because coriolis parameters are at play and a tropical cyclone is an area of low pressure, the lower levels of the storm flow in a counter-clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and in a clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere.

Tropical Cyclone Tracks 1985 to 2005

The average number of “named storms” in the North Atlantic is about 11 with 5 or 6 becoming Hurricanes.  Americans tend to think that active tropical weather is defined solely on what goes on in the North Atlantic but the truth is that the North Atlantic is not even close to the most popular breeding ground for tropical cyclones.  This tends to come into play these days when people look at tropical activity to determine the effects of Global Warming.  That would be short sighted.  The Eastern North Pacific averages 15 tropical cyclones,  The North Indian Ocean averages 6 tropical cyclones annually while the South Indian Ocean comes in with 11.  The Southwestern Pacific and Australia area checks in with 15 per year but the all time winner every year is the Western North Pacific.  That region of the world experiences more than 25 tropical cyclones per year with 18 becoming Typhoons.  The season in this hot bed of tropical cyclones is April to December but the frequency of off-season tropical cyclones in this region is much higher than any other part of the world.  Until recently, there had never been a tropical cyclone in the South Atlantic until a hurricane (that’s what they decided to call it) showed up off of Brazil in 2004. The map  at the left shows all tracks of all tropical cyclones from 1985 to 2005.

Tropical Cyclone Ului 12 z 15 Mar

Well, we are coming out of winter in the Northern Hemisphere but they winding up the summer in the South.  While it is speculated that the absence of land masses in the Southern Hemisphere is the reason why there are fewer tropical cyclones down South, it stands to reason that, like the Northern Hemisphere, the tail end of the summer months is probably the peak of cyclone season.  Right now, there is Tropical Cyclone Ului which is  in the Coral Sea and heading toward the Eastern Australian coast according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center report on Ului .  Authorities in New Zealand are also keeping a close eye on Ului.   High pressure to the east has weakend and so Ului  is moving South but is expected to curve it back to the Southwest as high pressure builds back in once a trof moves through. As long as that happens, it’s the Aussie’s problem, not so much the Kiwis but it is uncertain if the storm makes it all the way to Queensland or just brushes the coast and swings back to New Zealand.  By that time, it should be in a weakening stage as it enters colder waters.  Well east of Ului is Tomas.

Cyclone Tomas JTWC Forecast 00Z 16 Mar

Now, Cyclone Tomas approached the Fiji Islands over the past 24 hours and has brought havoc.  Fiji has over 300 islands as part of its archpeligo with about 106 inhabited.  Vanua Levu is taking the brunt of the storm with winds with Tomas reported at 105 kts with 130 kt gusts by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.   Video from Suva shows the rough seas and gusty winds, though though that city is well away from the center of the storm or its projected path.  It serves as testiment to how broad the windfield must be.   A report from the New Zealand Herald say there are reports of deaths and damage associated with Tomas with part of Fiji’s 1 million residents hunkering down in shelters.  Here is a more complete report that claims that both it and Ului are “fiercer than Katrina”  and it’s not too complete because communications are so poor and the storm is moving slowly.   The Fiji Meteorological Service has the latest updates and details.

Click on Precipitable Water 2:00Z 16 Mar 2010 Image for Loop and Notice how the storms rotate clockwise

Now, this report claims winds have increased to 200 km per hour. That would be 108 kts or 125 mph.  That is about the same maximum winds of Katrina, not stronger.  And Katrina’s devastation was caused by a storm surge that was enhanced by the local geography.  Further, Katrina had winds of 175 mph, or 281 km per hour, less than 24 hours prior to landfall that created a storm surge consistent with a top flight storm.  The only reason that the winds decreased at landfall was due to its going through an eyewall replacement cycle.  So, that claim is probably an exaggeration.  Nevertheless, it’s a tough storm and the surge  is apparently an issue.  Let us hope that the hyperbole is not the truth and that Fiji escapes. 

Sunday Morning Looks Lousy...Note Secondary Cold front to Northwest

NAM Wed Eve 700mb Moisture suggests we're on the edge of clouds which may inhibit temperatures

Weather Bottom Line:  I still see that upper low coming down from the north on Wednesday but so far, it appears to be content to move down to our west.  The question will be how much clouds we have in our area.  I still think it will be sufficient to keep us from getting to 60 but, either way, look for a warm up in the coming days.  Low to mid 50’s Tuesday with the sun making an appearance.  Filtered sun on Wednesday with highs in mid to upper 50’s. Low to mid 60’s on Thursday and Friday then mid 60’s, or maybe even higher on Saturday.  Then a cold front brings rain and some t’storms Saturday night and much cooler conditions on Sunday….I think it may be colder than most folks think…I say low to mid 40’s. We’ll see.

Global Warming VS US Snow Storms: No Conclusions Please
February 11, 2010

Tough To Convince These Folks About Global Warming

I have heard radio talk show hosts and politicians make all sorts of jokes about Global Warming as much of the United States get slammed by snow storms.  They could be right but, then again, it might be a good idea for them to check out the facts before they speak.  See, our opinions are limited on what we know and for people in the eastern United States, what we know is that it has been colder and snowier than normal which runs counter to what most people consider global warming.  Philadelphia, Washington DC and Baltimore all have not only exceeded their average annual snowfall totals but also have broken annual records.  The midpoint of winter was just passed about 10 days ago and spring time often produces big snowstorms.  Louisville is probably fairly representative of much of the northeastern quadrant of the US if not parts of the South as well in regard to temperatures. 

Nearly 2/3 of US buried under Snow On Feb. 11 2010

According to the National Weather Service’s  National Snow Analysis, the snow cover of the United States as of February 11 was about 63.5% of the nation with an average depth of over 8 inches.  If you look at the Louisville archived climate data, you find that Louisville has been much cooler than average going back to July 2009 when for the first time in recorded history, Louisville did not have a 90 degree day.  Keep in mind, that 3 years ago Louisville moved the official recording site from the National Weather Service to the airport after over 30 years and the airport routinely has higher temperatures.  There were bureaucratic reasons for the change but it generally will skew temperatures warmer and unless a climatologist is aware of the switch, then they might conclude that Louisville is a great example of global warming.  Nevertheless, in spite of the switch, no 90 degree temperatures in July 2009.  every month since then has been colder than average except for September 2009 and November.  In most cases, the degree of colder monthly temperatures has been pretty dramatic, such as the July 2009 departure from normal coming at at negative 5 degrees.  January 2010 featured 13 days of consistent below freezing temperatures but a week long warm up resulted in January’s departure from normal only coming in at negative 2.9 degrees.  So far, February has been some 5-6 degrees below normal with no real warm ups in site for at least 10 days. 

Arctic Sea Ice Growth of Recent Years Slowing?

What is going on is that the long wave pattern has been generally stuck.  There has been a consistent ridge over the Atlantic extending all the way to Greenland.  The result has been the eastern part of the US has been in a generally persistent trough that allows the Arctic air to spill down at times to the Gulf of Mexico and there are not the normal fluxuations.  Now, this is an El Nino year so we expect some variations to the norm.  But, here’s the interesting thing:  According to the Univeristy of Alabama at Huntsville’s data,  January 2010 was the warmest month globally was the warmest January since they began making records using satellite sourcing.    How can this be?  Europe has also been in the grips of a deep freeze and heavy snow all winter.  Dr. Roy Spencer of UAH has never been accused of being a Global Warming chicken little.  He has worked tirelessly to analyze the climate from a non-political view and so he has been the target of much criticism from the left.  So, his January report should not be dismissed by anyone.  Spencer explains that the long wave pattern has been such that the cold pattern has been over land masses while the oceans have largely been dominated by a warmer pattern.  The North Atlantic ridge I described is an example.

More Ice On Pacific Side of Arctic, Less on Atlantic Side

 I have been critical of “pro global warming” news reports based on data from the National Sea and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in recent years that always say that the Arctic ice was the 2nd or 3rd lowest when, in fact, the sea ice at the North Pole has been growing.  Yes, it’s low but it has been coming off its recorded historic lows so the headlines could say that its growing but instead they take the negative angle.  I’ve been tagged derisively as a “denier” when, in fact, I am looking for truth not trying to join a team.  In that spirit, I should note that the ice growth trend seems to be slowing for the moment.  In January, the total ice cover was greater than the lows of 2006 but, it is less than 2009 which is a break in the trend of growth since 2006.   To be sure, one month does not a trend make and nothing can be construed one way or another from this single month.  But, it is interesting in that the Pacific side of the Arctic really has an ice extent beyond the long term average.  But, it’s the Atlantic side that has come in low.  That same ridge that has given Louisville and the rest of the east colder and snowier conditions has resulted in warmer conditions, thus reduced ice growth.

Trend Has Been Down but is it Mother Nature's doing or Man's Fault?

What does all of this mean? I dunno.  And, as I’ve pointed out before, the correct response should be I Don’t Know rather than taking a position one way or another.  Because no one does know.  The earth temperatures have been rising in recent years, but they’ve done so in the past.  Is man contributing to the warmth?  It’s so hard to say especially after revelations that some of the books have been cooked.  If man is the cause can we do anything about it?  And perhaps more importantly, should governments try to do something about it?  Would the amount of difference from any treaties really make enough of a difference to justify the costs and could that money be used better for a fight against disease or world poverty?  I have suggested that perhaps we are neglecting a bigger and real threat, which is the pollution of our oceans,  waterways and water sources.  But, the lesson here is to recognize that the world is a big place and just because you are having a tough winter doesn’t mean that the world is going into an ice age.  It’s the weather…and it changes.

Sunshine should Help reduce the snowpack some next couple of days

NAM 84 hr snow map points the way to Sunday night and Monday

Weather Bottom Line:  Global Warming or not, as you can tell from the data above, Louisville has been colder than the 30 year average every month but two since last summer and most of those anomolies have been fairly significant on the down side.  I don’t see much of a change.  In fact, I still don’t see how we get above freezing Friday and Saturday or even Sunday as some forecasts suggest.  We will be close and if we do get above 32, it wont be for long and unless you are a thermometer, it won’t matter.  I think we’d get more snow loss from sublimation than from actual melting.  And it still looks like we’re going to add to our snow totals.  The models continue to be consistent with bringing a shorwave down thorugh the flow on Saturday bringing snow for us Saturday night through Monday with most data suggesting the best accumulations coming on Monday. Some want to carry flurries and light snow into Tuesday.  The range in snow totals generally are from 3-6 inches.

GFS 120 hours Shows Possible Result of Next Snow Event in Time for President's Day

If you examine the NAM and GFS graphical snow depiction you can see a striking similarity.  The NAM only goes out 84 hours to Sunday evening but you can see what looks like a finger painted line of snow pointing straight to Louisville with about 3 inches or snow pointing to Kentuckiana.  The 84 GFS map looks almost exactly the same but we have the benefit of going out 120 hours on the GFS and you can see how it carries out the scenario.  As with recent storms, there is a tight snowfall gradient from south to north.  What is interesting is that the GFS takes a sharp turn higher in Southern Indiana just north of Louisville with totals up toward 8 inches whereas louisville is in the 4-5 inch range.  As I’ve said for several days, I do think that we will get some decent snow but it’s tough to get 8 inches from a storm coming from the northwest.  Typically, you need a moisture source like the Gulf of Mexico involved or a storm coming from the Southwest to get some really good snow totals.  But, then again, if the shortwave is cold enough aloft it will squeeze whatever moisture  it can find right out.  So, we’ll see.  And I still don’t see how we get above freezing anytime soon.

Chinook Winds Can Be Phenomenal and Dangerous
January 11, 2010

Eating Snow Can Be a Problem Unless Your Name is Chinook

Winds that flow over the top of mountains will often come down the leeward side the range.  When the airflow moves from the higher elevation to lower, there is compressional warming.    If you compress air, it heats up and when it expands it cools. That is why oxygen under pressure comes out cold when released.    In the American West,  such a downslope wind is referred to a Chinook Wind.  The word Chinook means “Snow Eater” because Native Americans had noticed that when a warm wind blew down the mountains, the snow would disappear.  That would be from rapid sublimation, or the snow turning directly to vapor as a result of the influx of warm, dry air.  It is said that in places on the Eastern Slope of the Rockies, Chinook Winds are so common that houses have sliding wooden shutters to protect windows from flying debris.  Flying debris?  Are the winds that strong?  Yes…sometimes they are that strong.

Chinook Arch

On this date in 1972, The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado recorded a wind gust of 144 mph.  That is nearly category 5 hurricane strength.  South of Boulder at Rocky Flats, winds gusted to 105 mph and 90 mph gusts greeted downtown Boulder.  Stapleton Airport in Denver reported gusts to 53 mph on January 11, 1972 and 47 mph the following day.   In Boulder, more than 25 mobile homes were destroyed…some by wind and others by fire that erupted after they were overturned. 

Chinook Arch

Buildings suffered major damage, car windows were blown out, traffic lights blown away and trees, power lines and utility poles were down.  Some 75 families had to leave their apartment building due to severe structural damage.   Flying debris caused much of the damage, much as one might expect in severe weather or a hurricane.  Industrial complexes, government and private offices were evacuted out of fear of the results of flying matter and broken glass.  15 airplanes were damaged and hanger damage reported at Jefferson County Airport.   In Boulder, the damage added up to 2 million dollars and total reports for damage in the area came to about $25 million. 

Wild Pac NW Temp Swings-Daily Swings Jan 1972 Ft. Nelson BC

 So, what about the “snow eater” part.  In Denver, temperatures climbed to the mid 50’s.  It is not unusual for temperatures to rise 20 to 40 degrees in a matter of minutes.  The winds typically come from the northwest or west with the mountain crest sporting the “chinook arch.”  At the outset of a chinook, temperatures can vary wildly as warm air mixes with cold.  So, one spot may feel a 30 degree temperature rise in 15 minutes only to feel the rush of much colder air before the warming begins again.  In the Black Hills of South Dakota,  the town of Spearfish in 1943 experienced a 49 degree rise in temperature in just 2 minutes.  90 minutes after that, the mercury dropped 58 degrees in less than a half hour.  The low for the time frame was -4 F and a high of 54 F.  The system in 1972 was not isolated as on January 15, 1972 there was a 103 degree rise in temperature in 24 hours in Loma, Montana where the mercury went from 54 below zero to 49 degrees above zero.   Here are some other significant temperature rises:  Granville, ND on Feb. 21,1918 went from -33F to 50F in 12 hours, Fort Assiniboine, MT rose from -5 F to 37F in 15 minutes, Dec. 1 1896 folks in Kipp, MT  felt the mercury rise of 34 degrees in just two minutes and a total daily rise of 80 degrees and 30 inches of snow disappeared in half a day. 

The United States is not the only place to get this type of phenomena, but North America is the only place where they are called Chinook.  Elsewhere, they are known as Foehn Winds, but Chinook is much more fun.  There is some notion that the term Chinook derived from people of a region in the Columbia River Valley, the Chinooks, who first reported the winds to the white settlers.  But I like the Snow Eater story better.

National Snow Cover Still 59% of USA

Weather Bottom Line:  The Monday snow was pretty lame.  Not enough moisture.  Now, some folks may get above freezing on Tuesday afternoon as the clouds break but I suspect that the official end of the below freezing temperatures will be on Wednesday afternoon or maybe even midday.   The long wave pattern is finally changing and the cold air will retreat back into Canada.  That will mark about 12.5 days since we were above freezing in Louisville, one of the longest stretches on record, though I believe the longest such freezing streak runs to 17 days.   It’s going to be short of my early prognastication in late 2009 that we wouldn’t get above freezing until the 15th, but the 13th is close enough…or long enough.  Now, we get to the 40’s Wed through Friday.  There is still that big low that will develop in the Gulf.  The southern branch of the jet stream will swing down out of the southwest into Texas and a low will form. It will then eject into the SE US.  The jury is still out but at this time, most modeling data does not drag down cold air sufficiently to give us snow…but we’ll see.

Either We Want Clean, “Green” Renewable Energy or We Don’t
December 30, 2009

Damaging to the Desert? If not the desert, then where?

Offshore Eyesore? Looks Pretty Cool to Me

There has been a lot of effort to change the way America gets it’s energy.  At first, there was a push for ethynol but the costs to produce the corn proved to be greater than the energy it produced.  So, greater attention was given to other renewable sources such as wind and solar.   A few years ago, a proposal came about to erect a windfarm off of the Massachusetts coast.  But there is opposition from prominent residents who, among other things, complain the offshore farm would spoil the view.  One of the strongest opponents is none other than Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who says he’s an environmentalist but wrote in an op-ed that his opposition has many facets, including that the project is only feasible due to government subsidies.  I wonder if that means that he’s opposed to all projects that are feasible due to government subsidy? 

Is the entire Mojave Desert Too Pristine for A Solar Farm? It's probably all pristine's a desert and no one lives there!

Now, a United States Senator is throwing up a blockade against a huge solar power farm in the desert.  Senator, Diane Feinstein of California has introduced legislation that would create a 1.7 million acre national park in the desert.  That would prohibit plans to construct several solar projects including the worlds largest solar farm.   The growth in the renewable sector in California was spurred by targets of the Golden State to derive one-third of its electricity from renewable sources.   So, we have a US Senator from California making it more difficult for her own state to meet its own objectives.  But, this is not the first time something like this has come up.  In mid 2008, the Federal Government stood in the way of a similar solar farm in Arizona to protect the desert.

President Obama has made quite a few public pronouncements that his energy policy is centered on developing alternative energy.   But, the San Francisco Chronicle says that there has been “more talk than progress” concerning the nation’s energy policy.  Here’s the deal…either we want alternative energy or not.  I do not believe that there is a way to create energy without some required sacrifice.  Everything has a consequence.  It seems like that this issue is like so many others.  Every election, people seem to say “thorw the bums out” then go and vote for their representative…their guy is okay but the rest..well throw’em out.  People in many states want to have use of their automobiles but when it comes to drilling for oil offshore…not of their beaches.  Solar power? Great idea..but not in my desert.   Winds blow consistently in many area and if we can harness it, it would be a good clean source of energy…as long as its not in my back yard or off my coast.  The duplicity is amazing and maddening.

The Old Man wouldn't have Blogged on Christmas Week Either

Weather Bottom Line:  I haven’t been reporting much on the weather…or anything else much.  See, Snow White and I took a little break for Christmas and I didn’t feel like blogging.  Last year, we went out of town for Christmas (first visit home for Christmas in a dozen years…an upside to unemployment) but I took along the computer and proceeded to post every day.  Not a good thing to do and so I thought that blogging over Christmas was not good no matter if you were at home or not.  Anyway, I’ve been seeing rain the forecast and also temperatures in the upper 30’s or low 40’s showing up in the various forecasts and I couldn’t figure out why. 

If you noticed on Tuesday night, we had a  huge ring around the moon.  There is a folk saying of “if the ring is near, the rain if far and if the ring is far, the rain is near.”  It is generally true.  See, the cloud deck following the passage of a cold front is such that the refraction from moonlight will create a small ring.  Since the passage of a cold front typically is an end of the rain, then it works. Conversely, the high cirrus clouds associated with the approach of a warm front prior to a storm system result in a large ring.  Almost every single time I’ve noticed a big ring, rain has followed within 24 hours.   This should hold true this time.  We had our warm front, we are in the mid 40’s on Wednesday.  Then we have a cold front.  While I had thought we had a reasonable chance for a little snow with wrap around cold and moisture, the GFS only advertises a dusting on New Year’s Day and the NAM has nothing.  So, there may be some insignificant snow on Thursday but the real story will be the cold.  We will not be above freezing at any hour of any day for the foreseeable future…I think that will hold for at least the first 7 days of 2010.

2012: Doomsday Just 3 Years Away; Winter Begins Today, 1/2 Nation Under Snow
December 21, 2009

El Triunfo de la muerte(1562)-Man has envisioned the Apocalypse (and been wrong) for centuries

Click Image to See how Fitz Destroys the World!

Is the End of the World 3 years from today in 2012?  The big hit movie that is out called 2012 claims that the end of the world will be upon us exactly 3 years from today.  There have been many end of the world movies over the years.  I like the Koko the Clown animated short that shows Koko unsuccessfully keeping the world from destruction from the actions of Fitz the Dog…click the photo to the right for the film…it’s great.  No, in 2012,  there will be huge floods, a big planet crashing into the earth and the sun will burn us to a crisp among other things.  This is all based on the Mayan calendar that ends on December 21, 2012. There’s even at least one website dedicated to helping you survive 2012.  But, according to the National Geographic, it’s all nonsense.  They point out that the Mayans had a long calendar that lasted 1,872,000 days or over 5125 years.  But, according to the experts, the Mayan calendar does not mark the end of all time, but instead marks the time when the calendar simply rolls over to another enormous cycle. 

I Like Koko's Version of the End Better

Now, the movie has sparked fear around the globe with reports of people threatening suicide to avoid the trauma of the impending doom.  Some women are said to have decided that they would kill their children and then commit suicide to spare the family from the fate of an apocalyptic world.  So much anxiety has been brought forth that NASA dedicated an entire webpage to try and aleviate fears.  However, back in 2006, NASA reported predictions that the current cycle of solar activity will peak soon.  A lead scientist predicted that it would be in…2012.  But others think its 2010 or 2011.  It is supposed to be the biggest burst of solar activity in 50 years.  Many people think that climate change is connected to solar activity, so this should add to the debate. 

Who knows what will happen 3 years from now…we don’t even know what’s going to  happen this year except that one thing is for certain…

December 21, 2009 is the start of Winter, or the Winter Solstice. It starts at 17:47 UTC or 17:47 Z.  That is 12:47 pm EST.  That is when the earth is positioned such that the sun shines directly over 23.5 degree south latitude, which is the Tropic of Capricorn.  Actually, I think its 23 degrees and 27 minutes south latitude.   The day is the longest in the Southern Hemisphere and the shortest of the Northern Hemisphere.  So, why is it the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere?  It’s because the earth’s atmosphere has lots of water vapor.  What has that got to do with anything?  Well, the heat capacitance of water is rather high so it takes a while for it to warm up and cool down.  Think of a pot of water. When you add heat to the stove, the water doesn’t boil immediately, it takes awhile to heat up.  When you remove the heat, it doesn’t cool right away but takes awhile to return to room temperature.  Same with the earth.  When the radition of the sun is decreased, it takes awhile for that part of the earth to cool down.  From this point forth, the Northern Hemisphere will start receiving a more concentrated dose of solar radiation, but it will take a few months for the atmosphere to react.  Hence, spring does not come until around March 21 when the sun’s radiation is generally perpendicular to the equator.  NASA explains fully the seasons.

Heat Index Chart

The same principal holds for weather conditions with regard to geography or local atmospheric conditions.  In the desert, it is not uncommon for there to be a 40 degree difference in day and night temperatures.  But, along the coastal regions, there can be as little as a 5 degree difference between daily highs and lows.  That is because in the desert, it is dry and along the coast there is an abundance of humidity levels, or moisture content in the air.  That is why it is pretty tough for temperatures along the coast to hit 95 degrees or higher.  It does happen but there has to be perfect conditions.  People who talk about a place like New Orleans claims it gets to 95 degrees with 95% humidity.  That is simply not pragmatically possible.  But, what is quite frequent in New Orleans is a temperature of say 88 degrees with 60% humidity.  The chart on the left indicates that would create a heat index of 95 degrees.   Oh, it does happen from time to time in the middle east, particularly in the Persian Gulf.  I think Ethiopia has the record highest dewpoint at 94 degrees.  To make my point, if it were 115 degrees and the dewpoint was 94, the relative humidity would be about 54%. 

Now, one should not confuse the solstice with the perihelion.  The earth rotates about the sun, not in a circle, but instead in an eliptical orbit.  The earth tilts on it’s axis at about 23.5 degrees and when it is near its closest, or the perihelion, it is tilted away from the sun.  It’s seems counterintuitive for residents in the Northern Hemisphere, which is most of humanity, but the earth is closest to the sun not long after the winter solstice.  The earth’s perihelion is around January 3 of each year, which one in Chicago would call the dead of winter.   The aphelion is when the earth is about 152 million kilometers from the sun, or about 7 million kilometers more than it is at the perihelion.  You have a different reason to celebrate the 4th of July now that you know that July 4 is the earth’s aphelion.  I’ve always reasoned that nature shows its wisdom in this process.   See, when the earth is at its closest, the landmass of the southern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun…the region of the earth that has far less landmass than the northern hemisphere.  Perhaps we would suffer extreme global warming if the majority of landmass were closest to the sun when the tilt was toward the sun.  True perfection, this planet of ours.

Click on Image for 2 week animation of snow depth

Weather Dunce

Weather Bottom Line:  To begin Winter, the lower 48 of the United States has about a 52% snow cover.  Louisville got a bit of a dusting late Sunday night.  I typically do what weather guys do which is follow the Jackson Browne methodology and  “forget about the losses and exaggerate the wins.  But, I will break with tradition and tell you that I was a dunce.  I did not see this little snow event.  My guess is that it’s not because it wasn’t there and was a “surprise” as newscasters like to say when a forecast doesn’t come about.  No, I believe that it was probably right there in the data and I simply missed it.  I was a dunce.  But, I am confident of victory regarding Christmas.  It will not be a White Christmas.  The big storm coming out of the southwest will pass to our west.  We will have rain with steadily rising temperatures as we go through the week.  As I had mentioned the other day, there was a weird push of cold air with the low remaining somewhat stationary to our northwest, which I believe is an indication that the low is going into it’s dying stage and we have an occlusion developing.  But, I don’t think that will result in any significant snow and if anything does come about, it would be in the form of a dusting for Friday.  But, after warming above seasonal levels by midweek, we go back below seasonal temperatures for next weekend.

“We Don’t Know” is better than “Global Warming” “Global Cooling” or “They are Wrong”
December 18, 2009

This Was Truth in 1975...Is it Today?

“Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects.”

With the meeting going on in Copenhagen, one might think that the headline above was from current media.  But, it’s not.  It’s actually a quote from an article in Newsweek from April 28, 1975.  The topic was climate change but at that time, the concern was global cooling.  The concern then was from aerosols being emitted by humans, as this article partly explains.  In 1974, articles began appearing, like this one in the New York Times, that say that climate change could threaten global food production.  Another New York Times article from May 21, 1975 says that the scientific community was concerned about climate change.  It says that many thought that the earth was getting colder and we were heading toward another ice age.  But, in an interesting side note, it also mentioned that some scientists felt like man made pollution would hold  off another ice age.  It then goes on to say that just about everyone agrees that global cooling was inevitable and even cited cooling northern hemispheric temperatures since 1950 that had shortened Britain’s growing season. 

“There seem little doubt that the present period of unusual warmth will eventually give way to a time of colder climate, but there is no consensus with regard to either the magnitude or rapidity of the transition.” 

Again, some might think that is a quote from a recent global warming study that would seem to fit some folk’s world view.  But, it’s not.  This quote if from a January 19, 1975 article in the New York Times.  The Times is quoting a National Academy of Sciences report.  Now, people may jump on the parts of the article that state that says there is the potential for an abrupt end to the warmth of the interglacial period.  But, instead, I would focus attention on another quote from the article which says: “A far greater understanding of these changes is required than we now possess.”  While the article talks about the prospects of possible increasing global temperatures due to man’s activities, it also says that northern hemisphere temperatures rose steadily from the 1880’s to the 1940’s but then fell consistently from the 1940’s to the mid 1970’s.  Huh?  We’ve been led to believe that temperatures have been steadily increasing all through the 20th century. 

The Copenhagen talks have come and gone and nothing much happened.  We are in the middle of a global recession and all of the remedies proposed seem to have one thing in common: Money.  There is the cost of taxes designed to discourage fossil fuel use and encourage the development of “green” technology.  There is some sort of “cap and trade” effort which doesn’t seem to stop carbon emissions but instead shifts money around in a shell game.  And then there was the proposal that rich nations give hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries.  Some say these proposals are nothing more than a transfer or wealth and no one can tell me who gets the tax money and what it is to be used for.  Also, what assurances are there that the poorer countries that get the money from the rich ones will actually use the funding for what it was intended?  Ask yourself if you believe a third world government that is given hundreds of billions of dollars will do what they are supposed to do with all that money. 

All of this is, of course, framed in the current “climategate” scandal in which thousands of emails from a leading climate institute came to light in which the scientists involved appear to be acknowledging cooking the books to make data fit their hypothesis.  Now, apparently Russian scientists confirm that UK scientists manipulated climate data to fit their opinions.    Some people say that all of this new evidence proves that the whole Global Warming scare is all wrong.  But, that is not necessarily true.  Peter Gwynne, who authored the famous Global Cooling article in the April 28 1975 Newsweek issue says that his story was not wrong in the journalistic sense.  He reported accuratetly what was being reported.  What the difference is that scientists in the 1970’s were looking at the situation with an open mind.  They suspected that man’s activities were altering the climate but were unsure of just how it was happening.  They let the facts lead them to reach conclusions.  NASA explains that they use the term Climate Change instead of Global Warming because the latter term is suggestive of a terminal conclusion instead of merely an alteration of the climate. 

Have global temperatures risen? Yes.  Has the Arctic Ice Cap receded? Yes over 20 years but over the past two years, there has been modest ice growth at the North Pole, but most news articles use verbiage to try and obfuscate that fact.  That is the word…obfuscation instead it should be transparency.  The world should take the view of the scientists in the 1970’s that more understanding was required.  The truth is, we just don’t know for sure what is going on.  We have no idea if the proposals at the Copenhagen Summit would change the environment one bit.  We have no idea what the truth is regarding anthropogenic global warming because so many politicians, political world bodies, people who have a monetary stake in the process and countries who stand to gain politically have gotten involved.  Everyone should step aside.  Former Vice-Presidents should leave their private jets in the hanger and let the grown ups do their work.  The UN should look at the question of whether or not, if anthropogenic global warming is a certainty, if there is anything that can or should be done.  Thomas Friedman raised the question in one of his books if they money used to try and re-alter the earth’s climate could not be better used to fight disease, hunger and poverty. 

Global Cooling? Yeah…everyone just chill out and allow for a transparent, academic process to move forth that leads to a rational, precise conclusion.  The politicians can remain spectators.  The thing that gets overlooked in the January 1975 New York Times article is the subheadline:  “Scientists Warn Predictions Must Be Made Precise to Avoid Catastrophe.”   That holds true today and those at Copenhagen should paste that sub-headline to their foreheads.   So, those who act like facists and call anyone who even raises a question a “global warming denier” and attacks them with closed ears and no answers, pipe down.  For those who run around saying that global warming is a “hoax” recognize that while some methodology may be corrupt, the conclusion may in fact have veracity and the fears well founded.  At the same time, everyone should realize that developing alternative forms of energy is a good thing.  Any time you can create energy in a cleaner, more efficient manner it is nothing but positive provided it can be economically feasible.  If the United States had renewable, home grown energy independence, that would not only potentially be a long term economic benefit, but must certainly an addition to national security. 

NAM Snow Total through 7 AM Monday

Weather Bottom Line:  As for the big snow storm…its not going to be a big snow storm for Louisville.  First off, the ground is not cold enough.  The models are still in great disagreement regarding rain or snow though it will in all liklihood start as rain before turning to snow on Saturday.  The GFS keeps on claiming over 2 inches but much of that falls when the layers just above the surface are above freezing.  The NAM continues to have more rain than snow.  It’s really tough.  Remember, the difference between one and two inches of snow would be .10″ of  liquid .20″ of liquid.  That’s not much wiggle room.  Guess here is that we have rain that washes away the brine solution put on the roads (thus wasting taxpayer money again) and that we get about an inch or so on grassy areas. 

This whole pattern is typical of an El Nino year with a low coming out of the Gulf of Mexico and moving up into the Lower 48.  This can be a good pattern for Ohio Vally Snow if a low moves northeast out of SE Texas.  In this case though, it’s a low moving through the base of the trof along the Central Gulf Coast and moving up through Georgia and then exploding off the East Coast as it moves north.  The Appalacian mountains may get as much as two feet of snow.   I know that Apple Hill Farm the llamas and Alpacas are prepared, and Knox will love it…but Chi Chi will no doubt cower in fear.  As the low deepens while moving up the coast the cold front that moves through here on Saturday will catch up and there will be plenty of cold air in the Northeast Corridor to allow for the moisture tossed ashore by the low to create quite a snow storm. 

Now, its tough for moisture to come all the way from the Atlantic, across the mountains and to the Ohio Valley in much amounts.  But, there is expected to be about a half a foot in eastern Kentucky.  The next system that comes out of the Gulf for Christmas Eve has more promise, but its also possible that we get rain and maybe freezing rain.  Could be a mess…could be a White Christmas or could be just wet.  We’ll see. Needless to say, it will not be getting warm anytime soon.