Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Something Everyone Can Agree On

While I am a 'global warming' skeptic, that in no way leads me to believe civilization can continue to rely on fossil fuels without running a number of risks. So, this article about new nuclear technology should be something just about everyone can get behind.

The Volcanic Threat

Reuters photo of Indonesian eruption
When the volcano erupted in Iceland and disrupted European air travel, the threat of volcanic eruptions was briefly in the headlines. I wrote about it several times including this post regarding predictions that world was going to see more volcanic activity than we have been used to the last quarter century.

Now, another "unexpected" volcanic eruption as Mt. Sinaburg has begun erupting in the last 48 hours.  The Wall Street Journal says,

The vulcanologist said Mount Sinabung last erupted in 1600, so observers don't know its eruption pattern and are monitoring it for more activity. Evacuations on the volcano's slopes started Friday at the first signs of activity. Many of the people who fled are staying in government buildings, houses of worship and other evacuation centers in two nearby towns.
My point is: At this time last week, there was no inkling that this volcano would erupt. We have a number of active volcanos in the western U.S. For all we know, we might be a month or less from a major eruption.  
This is why we need to have an enhanced volcano monitoring, watch and warning program in the U.S. I don't know if we'll need it next week or twenty years from now, but need it we will. 

Facts and Fiction Pertaining to Arctic Ice

We continue to be bombarded with scare stories about 'global warming' melting the arctic ice.

However, July, 2010, temperatures were among the coldest recorded. As I have pointed out numerous times, the problem in the arctic isn't temperatures. It is soot, largely from China, darkening the ice making it easier to convert sunlight to heat, thus accelerating melting.

Here is a very good article on the subject.

We can cut all the greenhouse gas we wish but it will have no effect if the problem is soot. It is vital to get cause and effect correct.

Monday, August 30, 2010

That "Active" Hurricane Season is Here

That is Danielle southeast of Nova Scotia, Category 4(!) Earl near Puerto Rico, Tropical Storm Fiona east of Earl and a strong wave just west of the African coast.

All but Danielle bear watching.

Genuinely Good News About the IPCC Process -- If Followed

As Meteorological Musings readers know, I am not a fan of the IPCC. It has functioned too much like a high school clique where only scientists with the "right" views (i.e., pro- catastrophic manmade global warming) need apply.

The group investigating the IPCC process has released its report and, if this story in The Wall Street Journal is correct, the next round of the IPCC's work could be considerably more valuable than previous efforts. 

Among other things, the story states...

The investigation by the InterAcademy Council, a consortium of national academies of science, said the IPCC has been "successful overall" but called for the widely watched organization to enforce its existing procedures more, and to ensure that "genuine controversies" about climate science are reflected in the IPCC reports.

The reforms would aid in seeing that "due consideration was given to properly documented alternative views," according to a news release about the report issued Monday morning.

It also called for measures to insure against conflicts-of-interest among IPCC investigators. 

I support each of these goals.

UPDATE: 1:30PM Monday, What others are saying about the report here, here, and here.

"Best Opening Ever"

UPDATE: Los Angeles Times has behind-the-scenes details here, including that the spectacular opening number (subject of the post below) wasn't staged until the morning of the show!

Also, there are two episodes of "Glee" scheduled to air on Fox after the President's speech tonight. The first, "Home," stars Kristin Chenoweth and is one of my favorite episodes.  

We don't write much about television and entertainment because there are so many other sources for that type of information. That said, if you didn't see the live telecast of the 62nd Emmy Awards last night, go here to watch the opening number. It is sheer genius -- perhaps the best opening number ever for one of the major awards show.

Especially if you are a fan of "Glee," take six minutes to watch the number.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hurricane Heads Up!

Stories like this give meteorologists nightmares...

BILOXI, Miss. —Robert Latham spent Aug. 27, 2005, riding along U.S. 90 from Jackson County to Hancock County along Mississippi's Gulf Coast, marveling at the number of people grilling, swimming and playing volleyball on the beach. They seemed oblivious to the monster storm that churned in the Gulf of Mexico, headed their way.

By the time Katrina departed, 168 were killed in Hancock Co. and the surrounding area.

After what has been a quiet hurricane season for the U.S. in 2010 looks like it is going to turn very active from roughly Thursday of this week through the end of the Labor Day weekend.  At leas two storms could conceivably threaten the U.S.

Meteorologists know that people on vacation often problems keeping up with weather information and have problems evaluating it because some are not familiar with the geography, local TV and radio stations, etc.  For this reason, I am urging anyone planning to vacation along the Gulf or Atlantic coasts this week or next to take a road atlas (even if you are flying). Or, note this link for a hurricane tracking chart.

Finally, here is AccuWeather's Hurricane Center for all the latest!

A Heartening Story

About the refugee from Cambodia's killing fields (his mother and father were killed by the Khmer Rouge who is now a congressional candidate in Massachusetts:

After years in a Thai refugee camp, in 1986 Mr. Meas was brought to the United States by the aid organization Catholic Charities. He spent months watching "General Hospital" and "All My Children" to improve his vocabulary. Twenty-five years later—after stints as a shoe-shine boy, a grocery-bagger, and a financial adviser—Mr. Meas is learning the craft of politics. "Health care should not be in the realm of government," he tells me in carefully accented English at a Cambodian restaurant where he is something of a celebrity...

Mr. Meas, who describes this country as "heaven on Earth,

(full story )

Yes, America is "heaven on earth" when compared to most parts of the world.  I just finished reading the article at Jack Stack Bar-B-Que (gastronomical heaven on earth) in Martin City, MO when, on the way back to our hotel, I came across this stand at Blue Ridge and Holmes Roads:

Yes, only in America would one find luxury bedding sold on a street corner.

The Latest in Rain Gear

Winter is coming. Details here.

'Ghost Train' Hunter Becomes a Ghost

This story is very sad...and, so unnecessary.

STATESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A man who was with about a dozen people who were looking for a legendary "ghost train" in Iredell County was hit by a locomotive and killed early Friday morning. 
The incident happened on a train trestle at 2:45 a.m. 

And, speaking of railroads and safety, these guys get my nomination for a Darwin Award. Story here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Another Great Review of Warnings

Another wonderful review of Warnings:

More than 100 years ago, Mark Twain wrote, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Mike Smith is one person who has been doing something about it, for decades now. As he writes in Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather, from a "beginning involving spare World War II leftovers, we have developed an effective and highly cost-effective system that saves lives and dollars, nearly every week." He is writing about the system of weather tracking radar, weather spotting persons and equipment, and meteorology professionals that work together to forecast and warn of severe weather wherever (in the US) it occurs.

...and, since this is the 5th anniversary weekend of Katrina,

This thread is strongest in the chapter about Hurricane Andrew and the three chapters devoted to Hurricane Katrina. Andrew showed us just how damaging a Category 5 hurricane could be. Katrina showed us that the "powers that be" had learned nothing from Andrew. Smith is particularly disdainful of the criminally inept performance of the two governors and the New Orleans mayor. Come to think of it, this is the only major piece of writing about the Katrina disaster that puts the blame where it lies, rather than mostly upon President Bush. Though he does get his share of the blame, the President was a lesser player next to those who should have acted and either did nothing or actively hindered those who were willing to help!

The full review is here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

20 Years Since the Plainfield Tornado

Tomorrow commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Plainfield, Illinois, tornado. It is the only F-5 intensity tornado ever to occur in the month of August and it struck without warning. Because of the lack of warning, 29 people died and 353 were injured even though it occurred in mid-afternoon.

Why was there no warning? There were a number of factors but the most important was the geographic separation between the radar in Marsailles, IL and the warning meteorologists in Rosemont. The image above is from the Marsailles radar while the giant tornado was on the ground. The (likely) hook echo is not seen in this image because it is in the ground clutter (I have outlined the likely shape of the tornadic thunderstorm in pink below).
The radar "technician" in Marsailles did not know to tilt the antenna up to a higher angle to eliminate the clutter and make the potential tornado visible. Because the meteorologists in Chicago could not see the hook and because there were no spotter reports of a tornado, they didn't issue a warning. A later investigation indicated that some law enforcement agencies knew about the tornado but didn't report it to the NWS because they assumed the NWS already knew.

After this and other fiascos (Big Thompson Canyon, Delta 191) with a large loss of life due in part to the separation of the radar and warning responsibility, the National Weather Service underwent a reorganization in the mid-1990's the eliminated this problem. I tell this story in detail in Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

The Chicago Tribune has this article about the tornado and its damage and a second article about why, if the same tornado were to occur today, there would certainly be a warning. The latter article mentions Warnings.

The image below, from the NWS in Chicago, shows the telltale brown grass caused by the high winds and scouring in a major tornado.

Paul Sirvatka, out storm chasing that day, captured the initial development of the tornado.
The entire video can be viewed here. For those from outside "tornado alley" who have never seen the "green sky" associated with extreme hailstorms and tornadoes, I highly recommend viewing Paul's video as it captures the green sky well.  

We can be thankful that weather science and technology have advanced to the point where a similar event -- entirely unwarned -- is highly unlikely in the future.  

Our Modest Effort to Help New Orleans' Recovery

We are coming up on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which is this Sunday, August 29th.  For those how have not read Warnings, Katrina plays a critical role in the book. In the words of one reviewer:

Not surprisingly, the most critical event in the book is Hurricane Katrina. Among other things we learn what could go wrong with the forecasts’ timely releases, what did go wrong and why, and how they tried to get the evacuation process going while there was still time. The survivors were literally 'hung out to dry' as buck-passing and meals in high end restaurants took precedent over people. How many more could have survived if it weren't for the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo and selfishness? The night of August 31, 2005 should be etched in their memories forever as deaths of survivors began to pile up. If bureaucracy hadn't fumbled the ball, the meteorological scientists would have netted it.

After thinking it over, I and the team at Mike Smith Enterprises want to engage you in helping in the recovery of New Orleans (NOLA). After some reflection and at NOLA's suggestion, we found that the public libraries are still in need of books. Between now and September 30th, for every 20 copies of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather purchased directly from Mike Smith Enterprises, we will be donating one book to BetterWorldBooks, a fundraising arm of NOLA.

We need your help. If you don't have your own copy of Warnings, its time! And, if you have your own copy, now would be a good time to order an autographed copy for a holiday gift. The cost is the same: $30 which includes shipping and sales tax. I am happy to autograph the book with any reasonable inscription you request.

Please send your order to:  Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC, 4031 North Tara Circle, Wichita, KS 67226.

It's His Story and He's Sticking To It

Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was interviewed by Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show this morning. He again stated that he didn't order a mandatory evacuation because they didn't know Katrina was headed for New Orleans until Max Mayfield called him at home Saturday evening August 27th (Katrina struck on Monday morning). I tell the behind-the-scenes story of what went wrong during and after Katrina in Warnings.

Below are the National Hurricane Center's public forecast maps from 4am and 10am Saturday, August 27, 2005. Both show Katrina moving right over New Orleans. Mayfield called Nagin because Mayfield was shocked that Nagin had not ordered a mandatory evacuation.

Nagin should have ordered a mandatory evacuation by 11am Saturday -- he waited nearly 24 more hours to do so (10:30am Sunday)! The fact that more did not leave New Orleans is due to Nagin, not to the meteorologists!

UPDATE:  The interview can be viewed here.

I entirely agree with one point made by Nagin and former FEMA director Michael Brown: We are no better prepared now than we were for Katrina. This was demonstrated by the slow response to the oil spill in the Gulf and it will be demonstrated when the next catastrophic disaster occurs.

A Great Article About World Travel

From the Huffington Post.

Study Finds NO LINK Between Disasters and Global Warming

From the New York Times' Dot Earth.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Kim Dugger, my colleague, is a very talented actress. If you live in southern Kansas, you can see her in a new show opening tonight. Opening Friday evening.

I scheduled the post to go up the wrong day. Sorry for any inconvenience.  /s/ Mike

Brazil Fire Devil

While many are calling this a "fire tornado" it would more accurately be a dust devil made of fire. So, lets call it a "fire devil."


All of us, I'm sure, have heroes. People we look up to and hope to emulate. Mine are Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, and Mother Theresa.

Today is the 100th anniversary of Mother Theresa's birth. The things I admire about her include not only her selflessness and dedication to the poor but her practical view of the world. She understood that not everyone was cut out to lead a life like hers and admired and respected those in other fields. All she asked was that those of us who chose to use our talents in the fields of science and business give back some of our earnings so hers and other charities could do their work. Fair enough!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

AccuWeather Adds "Hurricane Center" to its Ipad App

STATE COLLEGE, PA, August 24, 2010—AccuWeather.com announced a new release of the ACCU WEATHER app for iPad, available on the App Store in time for what are typically the busiest months of the U.S. hurricane season. The new release provides a full range of weather information and radar with the valuable addition of the Hurricane Center.

"Since we’re in what’s typically the worst part of the hurricane season, we wanted to build on the success of the previous AccuWeather iPad app by adding features that would be most important to users during that time," said Michael Sylvie, director of User Experience, Interactive Media for AccuWeather.com. 

The ACCU WEATHER App for iPad is available for free from the App Store on iPad or atwww.itunes.com/appstore/. An ad-free version of the app is available for 99¢.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Warnings" Gets Another Rave Review

Here is another review of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. If you haven't read it yet, be sure and read the review. Then, go to your local bookstore and buy it... or click on the link to Amazon.

A few excerpts...

"Warnings" is very easy to read for the layman. I was shocked to learn how lacking some of the basic things we now take for granted were, such as no tornado warnings as recently as the 1950s, in some areas of the U.S. even more recently. Not a hint! How many lives must have been lost needlessly in past years? Mike Smith has done his research, has lived his research, and knows how to deliver it. The book is historical, accurate, and personal. I was hooked on the Introduction which primes the reader for the main event, or in this case events, to come in this book.

Smith gradually builds from its early beginnings the study and workings of tornadoes in terms anyone can understand. The subject is fascinating as he writes it.

This is a fascinating book, full of suspense, telling it like it is, and a great learning experience without realizing just how much of what you read will stay with you.

While this book deals mostly with the U.S., it is of global significance.

Thank You Salina Rotary and "Salina Journal"

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Rotary Club of Salina yesterday and it was covered by the Salina Journal. Check out the cool photo at the link!

Another Satisfied Customer!



Thank You Borders Books

...for the five-star rating for Warnings.

Anne Frank's Tree

The tree viewed by Anne Frank while hiding from the Nazis was toppled by a storm in Amsterdam.

Moms Zero; Little Boys 3,000,000,000

Playing in dirt is good for you!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Dreamlifter Over Wichita

This 747-on steriods is the Boeing Dreamlifter. It is flying to Wichita's Spirit Aerosystems to pick up another fuselage that will assembled into a 787 Dreamliner airplane in Seattle.

I photographed it this afternoon.

The Los Angeles "Big One" is Overdue

Earth-shaking details here.

NWS Employees Do Great Work

Here is a story about the Wichita NWS employees working with Habitat for Humanity.

Feedback on Warnings

Mike Smith Enterprises received a letter from a reader last week that I would like to share with you.

Dear Mr. Smith,

Both my husband and I just finished reading your excellent book. We are recommending it to many folks who we know are interested in weather. My husband is a retired corporate pilot, flight instructor, and FAA Designee Examiner. So knowing about weather probably saved his life on more than one occasion.

I am an old farm girl from west central Illinois. Farmers are also very interested in weather. I witnessed beautiful crops being totally shredded and destroyed more than one once by violent thunderstorms containing large hail. Very distressing to watch one's annual income being wrecked, to say the least.

But I must send you what I hope will be a constructive criticism. As I am currently a reference librarian at Park Ridge Public Library in Park Ridge, Illinois, I must point out to you the omission of an index in your otherwise very well written and documented book. While I am also a believer in the use of notes for non-fiction titles, notes are not essential, but I believe that an index is!! The lack of an index makes your volume very difficult for educators to use with students or to suggest your book be included or cited in school research papers. Please consider adding an index to future editions or paperback editions, when they are released. Your top-notch work should be must reading for all students in science classes as well as the adult reader who is interested in weather. Keep up the good work.

Best regards,

Mrs. Ward A. Solberg
Des Plaines, IL

If you haven't read Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather, I think that you will really enjoy it. You can find at bookstores everywhere or online.

Artistic Weather Maps

I used to get compliments regarding my hand-drawn weather maps. People would kid me saying that I should sell them. I never did because I doubted there was a market.

Now, thanks to a meteorological entrepreneur, you can get a hand drawn weather map for any day you wish (i.e., your spouse's date of birth, the day your child was born, etc.). Click here for more information.  

Saturday, August 21, 2010

THIS is How a Man Handles a Foul Ball

On August 10, I posted about the "world's worst boyfriend" -- dodging a foul ball leaving it to strike his surprised girlfriend.

Today, I post the video (click here) of a guy catching a foul ball with his right hand while returning from the concession stand with the other hand full of snacks.

Wichita IMAX Coming Along

The largest commercial IMAX theatre in the world is at the halfway point in its construction in northwest Wichita. It will open in December with the movie "Tron" as its first presentation.

"As a Rule, the Greener the Home, the Uglier it Will Be."

An amusing story about building a "green" home from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. (note: subscription may be required)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Attention Pilots

I have written several times recently about thunderstorm turbulence. I thought it might be useful to take a look at a thunderstorm that was likely causing moderate or severe turbulence when I photographed it earlier this evening.

This rapidly intensifying thunderstorm can produce significant turbulence anywhere in its anvil. During the day, the anvil is easily avoided. At night, infrared satellite imagery can be used by flight dispatchers to route planes around the anvils and the updraft. Compare this image (taken this evening) with the image in this posting of the storms that caused a 777 to make an emergency warning. The isolated westernmost cell is the one depicted above.

The yellow/orange/red/pink colors represent vigorous thunderstorms and updrafts and potential significant turbulence.

If you don't have a dispatcher to assist, you have to rely on your onboard weather radar. The storm's
updrafts (reddish colors) are clearly visible. However, the greenish shades depict the anvil where significant turbulence may occur.

The "20-mile rule" (avoid thunderstorms by 20 miles) should be amended to "avoid the updraft by at least 20 miles" combined with "avoid the anvil."

Showers Moving In

Badly needed rain is falling in parts of Kansas at midday.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Latest Global Warning Worry -- Refuted

Some media outlets are getting excited about hurricanes again: Not the 2010 hurricane season but as a result of 'global warming.'

Caribbean Storm Damage Costs May Rise 50% With Global Warming

Roger Pielke Jr. effectively refutes this contention here.

You may remember that, since Katrina, we have been bombarded with predictions of ever-increasing losses from ever-worsening hurricanes.  Courtesy of Florida State University's Dr. Ryan Maue , here is the ACE index which combines both number and intensity of hurricanes (click to enlarge):
The upper (green) curve is the worldwide index value. The lower (gray) is North America. The index goes back to 1979 because that is when we first had worldwide surveillance of hurricanes and is up-to-date as of July 31st. The index has steadily declined since Katrina (2005) and is heading into record low territory.

This does not say we won't have more hurricanes this year (we almost certainly will) and that they might be strong. The ocean water temperatures are high.  Hurricane Andrew occurred in a less-than-normal hurricane season.

At what point does this increasing divergence between apocalyptic predictions of increasing numbers and intensity of hurricanes and atmospheric reality start sinking in?

See You in Salina

I'll be in Salina, Kansas, Monday to present CSI Meteorology: The Phantom Crashes to the Rotary Club of Salina. The meeting with be at noon at the Bicentennial Center. I'll also be signing and selling copies of Warnings. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Compliments from Orlando

Mike gave his presentation Phantom Crashes to the Orlando Rotary Club in July. He was told after the presentation that he was asked more questions during the Question and Answer segment than anyone they could remember. We received this feedback yesterday.

If you or your group are looking for a professional speaker, Mike is a great speaker with dynamic presentations. Contact us at speeches@mac.com

More on Norah

Kim here, and I also attended the Norah Jones concert. While I thought the opening act was "interesting", I agree with Mike about the intermission. It was the longest one that I remember sitting through, and there was nothing being done onstage.
The thing that struck me with the concert was that both Norah and the opening act ( I can't remember her name) seemed to not connect with the audience. They seemed to be more into their music being "artistic" and not as "entertaining". To each his own, but , personally, I would have enjoyed it more if they had connected with us and had a little more onstage energy.

Why? Don't Know!

I enjoy Norah Jones' music and was pleased when I learned she was coming to Wichita. So, Kathleen and I bought tickets and were looking forward to the evening. Curtain was 8pm yesterday.

At 7:55 the house announcer did the usual "turn off your cellphones" announcement and ended with "Norah will be out momentarily." At 8:01, the lights came down and a young woman walked out on stage...but it wasn't Norah. It was (in my world) the dreaded unannounced opening act. She performed for 30 minutes. Then, the roadies came out and reset the stage (after solo vocalist/guitarist) for 30 minutes! Finally, at 9:07, out came Norah.

While I didn't care for the opening act, it wouldn't have mattered if it was Eric Clapton. Concert promoters should list the performers and the times. In my opinion, it is rude and disrespectful of the audience's time for the main act to keep everyone waiting for more than an hour.

If you want an example of doing it right, go see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. They arrive on stage at the appointed time and perform for an hour and fifty minutes...without a break! Frankie is an old time performer (at age 75) with far more on-stage energy and enthusiasm than Ms. Jones.

UPDATE:  Here is the man himself singing "Sherry" at the Westbury Music Fair in October, 2009.

Why You Don't Want to be Outside During a Hailstorm

The photo of the welts and story of runners caught outside during a hailstorm comes from KCCI.com in Des Moines.

The Wackiest Article About the Russian Heatwave

The United States is alleged to have caused the Russian heatwave and drought with a secret weapon!

This is preposterous and here is why: If you go to pages 34 and 35 of Warnings, you learn (in the only "calculation" in the entire book) that a single supercell thunderstorm releases the equivalent energy of a nuclear bomb with several megatons of force every minute. This is why the damage from an F5 tornado looks like a nuclear bomb -- the amount of destructive energy is about the same.

Even if this sort of weapon could be built (and it cannot, we don't know how to move the jet stream), we have no way of harnessing several megatons of energy per minute or more that would be needed to divert the jet steam.

The dust bowl of the 1930's in the United States was an unfortunate act of nature as was the recent extreme weather in Russia.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More on Arctic Soot

On July 31 I wrote this post commenting on the increasing body of evidence that it is soot that is the primary cause of the arctic ice melt (rather than arctic temperatures). Another paper has been published on this topic. The paper is here. Here is a comment on the content of the paper from the AGU.

“Controlling soot may be the only method of significantly slowing Arctic warming within the next two decades,” said Jacobson, director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program. “We have to start taking its effects into account in planning our mitigation efforts and the sooner we start making changes, the better.”

There is a genuine concern about the arctic ice: Snow white ice reflects incoming sunlight causing cooling. Darkened ice (due to soot) absorbs the sunlight causing the ice to melt which, in turn, opens up more ocean water which absorbs heat more efficiently than the snow. This could contribute to additional warming.

Hat tip: Roger Pielke, Sr.

An Unsolicited Book Review

Another satisfied reader of Mike's book, Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather, sent Mike Smith Enterprises an email yesterday.

"I read Warnings and thoroughly enjoyed it! It was an interesting and easy read. His love and passion for his work shows!" - A Reader in St. Louis

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather is Mike's book about some of the worst storms of the past 50 years, and the lives that were affected by them. If you haven't read it, my guess is that you will also "thoroughly enjoy it!"

Tornado in Hungary

Recent tornado in Hungary. As far as we know, tornadoes occur on every continent except Antarctica.

Out the Back Door -- Badly Needed Rain

Badly needed rain (look at the lawn!) falling in Wichita this morning. We've had 1.22 inches of the good stuff at the Smith House.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More on Columbian Plane Crash

I have received several inquiries with regard to the Columbian plane crash wanting to better understand what might have occurred.

At this point, the data to analyze the crash in greater detail is not available. However, there do seem to be some similarities to the 1985 Delta 191 crash in that both planes were landing and that Delta might have slid along the ground like the Aires Airlines plane with relatively few injuries had it not stuck an automobile on Highway 114 and then slid into the water tank. That impact and the resulting fire were the cause of most of the casualties.

Most other nations do not have the sophisticated weather warning systems we now employ in the United States.

The complete evolution of a downburst-related crash is covered in the Delta 191 sections of Warnings. For those with a copy of the book, you may go to the special web site (warningsbook.com), enter the code (found on the copyright page), and view actual video of microbursts and other pertinent material.

Downburst Crash in Columbia?

There may have been a microburst airline crash in Columbia. This photo of the wreckage suggests the plane was in a flat attitude when it crashed which is consistent with the microburst theory. One news report says,

There also was conflicting information about what caused the crash. The initial report from the national police said a downdraft may have shaken the airplane as it prepared to land. But Pedro Gallardo, governor of San Andres y Providencia state, told CNN en Español that lightning hit the plane. The pilot also reported a lightning strike, El Tiempo newspaper said.

Of course, a "downdraft" is indicative of a microburst. In the Delta 191 crash, there were initial reports of lightning causing the crash. Lightning was later ruled out as a cause.

The good news is that there were apparently no fatalities and that the injuries were -- for an airline crash -- fairly minor.

If you want to learn why downbursts and airplanes don't mix, click here.

UPDATE:  News reports now say a women, who survived the crash itself, died of a heart attack shortly after.

R.I.P., Hockey Stick

If there is a single icon for 'global warming,' it is the "Hockey Stick" (HS) created by Dr. Michael Mann.
The HS was featured on the cover of an IPCC report and was featured in Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Not only did the HS purport to show that recent temperatures are unprecedented but that the well-known Medieval Warm Period (MWP) didn't exist (see graph below) which, until the HS, was accepted by most meteorologists and climatologists.
From almost day one, the HS has been controversial. Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick published two peer-reviewed papers calling the HS into question. McKitrick commented,

"The Mann multiproxy data, when correctly handled, shows the 20th century climate to be unexceptional compared to earlier centuries."

In other words, the temperatures we are experiencing now are not higher than those of 900 years ago! 

If today's temperature levels have been previously reached naturally, before humans started driving up atmospheric concentrations of CO2, then the certainty that today's temperatures are due to CO2 goes away. It also tends to falsify the IPCC's hypothesis that CO2 is the driving force behind changes in climate. 

As you can imagine, this finding created a firestorm in the climate 'science' community. I put science in scare quotes in this instance because of the behind-the-scenes efforts (revealed in the Climategate emails) to keep McIntyre and McKitrick's work from being published  -- efforts which were the antithesis of science.

The firestorm rose to the level that Congress ordered an independent investigation via the National Research Council's Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate. Their report concluded there were errors in Mann's techniques and that there was low confidence in the temperature reconstruction from years 900 to 1,600 AD but found that Mann's basic work was correct. However, a major criticism of Mann's work remained unaddressed -- that the statistical techniques themselves used by Mann were not sufficiently rigorous.

In 2006, a team of university statisticians was created to review the HS at the request of Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. Ed Whitfield. The team was led by Dr. Edward Wegman, chair of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. Some findings:

  • [Mann's papers] were found to be "somewhat obscure and incomplete" and the criticisms by McIntyre and McKitrick were found to be "valid and compelling."
  • The paleoclimate community is relatively isolated; its members rely heavily on statistical methods but do not seem to interact with the statistical community. Sharing of research materials, data, and results was done haphazardly and begrudgingly.
  • Overall, the committee believed that Mann’s assessments, that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium, cannot be supported by his analysis.

This wasn't all that was wrong with the HS. Over time, it became known that a "trick" was used to create the famous HS graph because the data used to estimate temperatures from years 1000 to 1950 showed falling (declining) temperatures after 1950 when thermometer measurements showed rising temperatures. This "divergence" in the data would -- even to the most unseasoned novice -- call the entire HS into question. So, they had to, in the words of the Climategate emails, "hide the decline."
The decline was hidden by truncating the data (all lines above except red) when the divergence in the HS data begins. The extreme zoom above reveals the technique.

You might think that all of this was more than enough to call the Hockey Stick into serious question. Yet, many in climate science brushed aside these numerous troubling aspects of the HS because of its importance to their crusade against CO2.

This brings us to the present. A new paper peer-reviewed paper is going to be published that subjects Mann's work to the long-overdue rigorous statistical examination.

The next issue of The Annals of Applied Statistics will publish a paper by Blakeley McShane and Abraham Wyner titled, "A Statistical Analysis of Multiple Temperature Proxies: Are Reconstructions of Surface Temperatures Over the Last 1000 Years Reliable?" (scroll down to last paper, click on the title to download the entire paper).
I have done a screen capture of the conclusions (above, click to enlarge) so our blog readers can read it for themselves.  "Our methods of estimating model ... accuracy are in sharp disagreement [with the HS]. ... we conclude unequivocally that the evidence for a 'long-handled' hockey stick (where the shaft of the hockey stick extends to the year 1000 AD) is lacking in the data."

Their paper indicates that there were not only warm temperatures 1000 years ago (the Medieval Warm Period) but that they were approximately the same as today's. The paper does confirm that there has been a relatively rapid runup from about 1850 to present (graph above reproduced from the paper, click to enlarge) but the "uncertainty bars" (cyan colored) indicate that the runup may not be as great as indicated due to problems with current temperature measurements.

Since this is a peer-reviewed paper, the preponderance of the evidence (i.e., this paper combined with McIntyre and McKitricks') is that the hockey stick is invalid.

What does all of this mean? My interpretation is:
  • There is no immediate global warming crisis. Certainly nothing that requires us to immediately turn the world's economy upside down and to subsidize inefficient energy sources (i.e., wind energy). 
  • As I have previously written, there is an urgent need to create an accurate record of earth's temperatures for the last 150 years and there is an urgent need to get a handle on ocean heat content. 
  • We are running a chemistry experiment pumping high levels of CO2 into the atmosphere and the results may be, on balance, unfavorable. We don't know.  Smart decarbonization makes sense while we sort out the answers.
  • We will likely know in 3 to 5 years whether the IPCC's hypothesis is correct. That is soon enough that we can wait to make these critical decisions whether widespread decarbonization is necessary.
  • Tom Fuller has an excellent proposal as to where we go from here as far as the science is concerned.
I suspect you will not be hearing much about this in the media because it is technical and it goes against the pro-GW narrative that dominates their coverage of this issue. Nevertheless, the McShane and Wyner paper is an important contribution to our knowledge of climate evolution.

UPDATE:  Statistician Matt Briggs agrees

Greensburg -- The New School Opens

Built with recycled plastic and wood reclaimed from the damage of Hurricane Katrina, Greensburg's "green" high school opens this week. Another step in the town's remarkable recovery.

UPDATE:  More from KAKE TV.

UPDATE II:  Details here

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Keep an Eye on the Gulf Coast

A heavy rain-producing storm is hugging the Gulf coast. This storm is starting to move southwest over the hot water of the Gulf. There are indications that this system may turn into a tropical storm.

Can Wichita Save the American Economy?

From the Financial Times of London:

a worker inside a boeing 787 fuselage
Towards a solution? A fuselage section for a Boeing 787 being built at Spirt AeroSystems, whose operations form part of an aviation cluster in Wichita, Kansas. Washington wants the US to double its total exports in five years

When Vicki Gerbino, a native of upstate New York, was deciding two years ago whether to move to Wichita, Kansas, the Midwestern city did not seem like a model for the future of the US economy.
“My image was Wyatt Earp and the Chisholm Trail,” she says, referring to the unruly frontier town of the late 19th century that served as the final destination for cattle being driven north from Texas to meet rail lines crossing the American plain.
But the head of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition says she found a place filled with art, theatre and “smart people” – many linked to the aviation industry. “Everybody and their brother flies or knows someone who flies,” Ms Gerbino says.
Thanks to a cluster of aircraft manufacturers such as Learjet, Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft, the economic focus of Wichita – population 366,000 – is very different from the emphasis on services and consumer demand typical of 21st-century America. According to a study published late last month by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, nearly 28 per cent of the city’s gross metropolitan product is sold abroad. That makes it the most export-oriented in the country, just ahead of Portland, Oregon – noted for its computer and electronics companies – and San Jose in California’s Silicon Valley.

The entire article is here. The Washington Post recently wrote about Wichita as a great vacation spot and I summarized that article here.

So, come and see us!

The Silliness of Blaming Storms on 'Global Warming'

First, I want to give full credit to Roger Pielke, Jr. for inspiring this posting.

A few posts below, I talk about Climate Nonsense and the current round of blaming unusual weather conditions on global warming. Because weather and climate science can be so technical and the latter so confusing, it helps to use analogies outside of atmospheric science.

Suppose you were predicting that oil (which is currently trading at $75.28 per barrel) will reach $2,000 per barrel in 2050. You would probably agree that if oil traded up Monday to $75.35 it would be "consistent" with your forecast and if it traded down to $75.25 it would be "not inconsistent" with your forecast (because there are still 40 years to go until we see whether your forecast is correct and that small tick downward can be made up many times over).

It is the same thing with saying the heat in the U.S. or Russia is "consistent" with global warming and the cold currently in South America or the blizzards of last winter are "not inconsistent" with the IPCC's predictions.

That said, it doesn't matter. Day-to-day fluctuations in the price of oil have always occurred and the 2010 day to day fluctuations have nothing to do with whether a 40-year forecast would be correct.

Regardless of whether the IPCC's 2050 forecast is correct or incorrect, there will be unusual and extreme weather (see Climate Nonsense posting) and what happens to be occurring now is virtually irrelevant to the accuracy of the IPCC's forecast for 2050.


If you wish to learn more about the Russian heat wave and whether it is related to global warming, there is an article by Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. here.

UPDATE: 3pm Sunday: In a new posting, Roger Pielke, Jr. calls this type of alarmism climate porn.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It Happened Again Yesterday

UPDATE:  11:30am Monday.  Thank you American Meteorological Society for linking to this series of postings on our blog.

For the record, the seat belt signs were never turned off on yesterday's flights from Nashville to Houston and from Houston to Wichita. The former flight was smooth the entire time except on takeoff and landing. While I documented with photos, I decided not to take up more blog space with this topic.

Increasingly, as the AMS blog states, the seatbelt sign is viewed by pilots as the "anti-litigation switch." Prediction: That is going to backfire, big time, some day. You heard it here, first.

--- Original Posting ---

Flew from Washington, D.C. to Nashville yesterday and it happened again. The seat belt sign was on the first 3/4th of the flight even thought it was smooth and we were in clear air:
Photo taken one hour into the flight. While there are clouds below us we were flying in completely clear air.

Yet, the seatbelt sign is on even though the flight is smooth.

Toward the end of the flight, the pilot came on the PA to tell us that he was going to turn off the seatbelt sign so people could "use the facilities" before landing. Below is the photo I took just after the sign went off...

You'll notice the photo is slightly blurred. That is because we were now in light turbulence! Take a look at this photo out my window while the sign was off...
In fairness to the cockpit crew, they turned the sign back on a few moments later before we actually flew into some buildups, but still. They left the seat belt sign on in completely clear and smooth air and turned it off as we were getting into turbulence.

Mike's Upcoming Speeches

Mike will be busy giving presentations next week. He will speak at the Optimist Club meeting at noon on Tuesday, August 17. They meet at the Hometown Buffet in Wichita. The next day, Wednesday, August 18, Mike will be in El Dorado for their Rotary meeting. They meet at noon at the Prairie Hills Country Club. If you would like to catch his presentation "Miracle at Greensburg" , and you are in the area, stop in.

Welcome New Readers!

Not only do we have thousands of new readers in the United States, we have nearly a thousand additional readers from around the world. Here are the rankings from the past month...

On behalf of Kim and myself, thank you for reading our blog! While you are here, please click on the ad for Warnings and check it out. If you like weather or just like reading a book that has received excellent reviews, you'll likely enjoy reading it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nashville Cumulonimbus at Sunset

Aviation Madness

UPDATE 3:  7:40am Saturday. It appears the radar is functioning normally. Radars are cantankerous machines with a number of moving parts along with transmitters and receivers that must be precisely matched in frequency. In my more twenty years of operating a radar we, more than once, took the a properly functioning radar down for routine maintenance and couldn't bring it back up again. That is why routine maintenance should never be done when storms are imminent.

UPDATE 2:  Radar still down at 2:48pm.

UPDATE: 1pm Central.  Radar is still down. Note: Thunderstorms in Wisconsin are headed for Kohler, the site of the PGA Tournament.

--- Original Post ---

What is it with the aviation community these days?

Kathleen is flying to Chicago O'Hare and back out this afternoon and I have been monitoring the weather. I went to the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar for O'Hare and found...

Why is the FAA taking the radar designed to detect microbursts out of service at the height of microburst season with thunderstorms approaching O'Hare...

...and, O'Hare in the severe thunderstorm outlook?
Routine maintenance is what you do with clear skies and no adverse weather forecast.

I suspect that the complacency about thunderstorms and the threat they pose is more widespread than I initially thought.

Bye, State College

Clouds pass by Mount Nittany Thursday afternoon

The American Meteorological Society's meeting is over and was a huge success. Many interesting papers were presented about weather, climate, and society.

Shipped With Shavings!

Hand-sharpened pencils!

In New York's Hudson River Valley, craftsman David Rees still practices the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening. His artisanal service is perfect for artists, writers, and standardized test takers. Shipped with their shavings and a "certificate of sharpening," these extra-sharp pencils make wonderful gifts. 

Traditionally people mail in their pencils to be sharpened; however David now offers a new service: He will provide the pencil.

So, if you have $60, you can place your order here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

National Flood Conference

Gene Norman asked me to make everyone aware of the first-ever National Flood Conference to be held in Houston from October 24 to 26, 2010. Their web site is here.

In Warnings, I tell the story of the progress we have made with hurricanes, tornadoes, and downbursts. Unfortunately, we have made somewhat less progress with regard to floods. The good news is that some new technology, known at dual-polarization radar, will be introduced in the next 12 months. That allows radar to more accurately estimate the amount of rain and the rate at which it is falling which will likely lead to better warnings.

The conference promises to be very interesting, plus it is a great time of year to visit Houston. Check it out!

More Climate Nonsense

As I was viewing web sites in my hotel room last night, I came across this from the Carl Pope, the chairman of the Sierra Club.

August 10, 2010

Martha's Vineyard, MA -- I certainly can't complain about the weather this week. It's gorgeous on Cape Cod, a good place this summer to escape from the exceptional chill of California's summer this year. But the newspaper suggests that globally that's not the norm. Heat waves in Russia have led to massive fires in parts of the country that are usually too wet to burn, to the loss of 30 percent of that nation's wheat crop, and to a ban on grain exports from one of the world's major producers. It's either Russia's worst heat wave in 130 years or, if you believe some commentators, in a thousand.Regardless, the death rate in Moscow has doubled.

In Pakistan, the already fragile regime of President Zardari has been pushed into even greater instability by unprecedented floods that have displaced 14 million people, the worst disaster in a disaster-prone nation's history.
More people have lost their homes in Pakistanthan lost them in the Haiti Earthquake, the Indian Ocean tsunami, and the Kashmir earthquake combined.

Mudslides in northwest China have killed over 300 people.  The high desert of India's Ladakh region has been savaged by unprecedented rains and floods. And a one-hundred square mile tower of ice broke off the Greenland ice sheet -- the biggest iceberg in fifty years.

As Mr. Pope himself writes, he is not a climate scientist. An organization that should know better, the World Meteorological Organization (part of the United Nations), issued this statement yesterday:

Several regions of the world are currently coping with severe weather-related events: flash floods and widespread flooding in large parts of Asia and parts of Central Europe while other regions are also affected: by heatwave and drought in Russian Federation, mudslides in China and severe droughts in sub-Saharan Africa. While a longer time range is required to establish whether an individual event is attributable to climate change, the sequence of current events matches IPCC projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming. The Monsoon activity in Pakistan and other countries in South-East Asia is aggravated by the la Niña phenomenon, now well established in the Pacific Ocean.

With regard to this line of thinking, Roger Pielke, Jr. writes:

Even though the IPCC report can be parsed in many ways, I await the textual exegesis that supports the claim that the "sequence of current events matches IPCC predictions."  This will be difficult given that the IPCC didn't even make projections for 2010.  I welcome in the comments efforts to justify the claim by the WMO.

I am coming to the conclusion that there is something about the climate issue that makes people -- especially but not limited to academics and scientists -- completely and utterly lose their senses.  The WMO statement is (yet) another example of scientifically unsupportable nonsense in the climate debate.  Such nonsense is of course not going away anytime soon .

Let me see if I can add something additional: This is a chart of world temperatures (dashed = Hadley Center, dotted = NASA) versus record U.S. disasters. It is taken from my global warming talk.

The takeaway from this is that record weather events occur at all levels of world temperatures! The fact there are several extremes going on in the world right now, by itself, has nothing to do with proving global warming.

For example, take the San Diego hurricane. Even though it occurred with much lower temperatures than we have now, do you have any doubt that if another California hurricane were to occur next month that newspapers would have headlines screaming global warming!?

Its not just the United States where there is no apparent correlation, the worst known storm disaster in recorded history, the Bhola, Bangladesh hurricane (500,000 to 1,500,000 killed) occurred in 1970 with much cooler temperatures than now.

So, while I am glad that Mr. Pope is having good weather for his Martha's Vineyard vacation, his nice weather is no more proof of global warming than the record cold that has persisted in South America the last few weeks.