Sunday, October 31, 2010

Election Weather Update

People keep asking me about the weather for Election Day. Here is the National Weather Service's forecast of the amount of rain between 7am and 7pm Tuesday (Central time).

Map of World Tornado Alleys

I am often asked about tornadoes in other parts of the world. Here is a map of where tornadoes occur throughout the world. It was compiled by the National Climatic Data Center (part of NOAA) in 1995. Click to enlarge.

Tomas May Threaten Haiti

H = hurricane.  M = major hurricane. This is the forecast from NOAA's National Hurricane Center of category 2 Tomas. We continue to be concerned about the potential for the storm to affect Haiti where thousands are still living in tents and other makeshift shelters.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010


Since Google started counting in June, we crossed the 25,000 views milestone about 1pm Central time. Thought you might like to see which postings have been most popular since June 1.
It is interesting to me that none of the above are about global warming. I have grown weary of the subject, too. However, I continue to cover it because its importance to U.S. politics and the economy.

The blog's first anniversary is next month. We'll have a few more thoughts at that time. Thanks again to our thousands of readers!

-- Mike and Kim

Shary Baby!

Phonetically the same as the song that launched the career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Tropical Storm Shary has developed in the Atlantic Atlanta. AccuWeather is tracking.

While Shary is "twisting," she will not "come on" to the United States.

October: In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion

My friend and colleague Jessie Ferrell has this very interesting post about the large number of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms during October, most of which occurred late in the month.

The Latest Silliness from the NY Times

Gee, its been, what, a week since I posted about silliness in the New York Times. Here is the latest and it pertains to -- what else? -- global warming:

“Just as few people saw a moral problem with slavery in the 18th century, few people in the 21st century see a moral problem with the burning of fossil fuels,” Professor Hoffman said. “Will people in 100 years look at us with the same incomprehension we feel toward 18th-century defenders of slavery?

This statement is so wrong on so many levels.

First of all, any American history book will tell you the founders were highly conflicted about slavery and that conflict led to the horrible 3/5th's Compromise. From what I have read, a majority of Americans in 1783 were against slavery but the founders felt it was important for the South to be part of the Union. While this was a poor decision that would result, 70 years later, in the Civil War, it is hardly correct to say "few" people had a moral problem with slavery.

Second, more and more scientists are moving away from any consensus that 'global warming' is somehow settled. I have documented many of them on this blog.

Third, to compare support of slavery to doubt about a speculative scientific hypothesis is morally revulsive. There is no comparison between the two.

I can't wait for the election to be over. Maybe some of this silliness will stop.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why You Should ALWAYS Take Shelter in a Tornado

If the embedding doesn't work, click here. Click on 1080 to view in HD.

Just this morning, an acquaintance described tornado warnings in his neighborhood as a "garden party" -- everyone goes outdoors to watch the storm.

This amazing HD video (select 1080 resolution) by Jason McLaughlin, taken in Rice, TX Monday, demonstrates why standing outside watching is a dangerous idea. You can see the debris flying at speeds of 100+ mph and, if a sharp piece of metal struck you, you could be torn in half. You can see the power lines arcing. Touch a live wire and you could be electrocuted.

I can't account for the two autos that drive into the tornado. I have no idea what the drivers were thinking. After watching the video in HD, twice, it appears one car is saved by the Jersey Barrier dividing the freeway. Had the barrier not kept the car in place, it likely would have tumbled or become airborne causing serious injury.

I suggest watching the entire video to see the "elephant's trunk" stage after the slow motion portion of the video.

UPDATE:  This is only an F-2 tornado!

Election Day Forecast

No, not who is going to win or lose but where it is going to rain.  The map below is for the calendar day (central time) of the election and forecasts the amount of rain (scale at left, click to enlarge). The forecast is from the National Weather Service's GFS model.

It is said that rain favors Republicans. I have no idea whether that is true. If it is true, then the race that might be most affected is Patty Murray's Senate seat in Washington where heavy rain is forecast.

Why Read "The Right Stuff" in November?

I have previous written that this November would be a good time to read Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. With sales of more than 5,000,000 copies, the book tells the story of "how the future began" -- the breaking of the sound barrier and the early astronauts.

The first reason is that Wichita State University's Ulrich Museum will be hosting "Buz" Carpenter on November 4. Carpenter was a pilot of the SR-71 jet that flew -- literally -- faster than a speeding bullet.  Airplanes like the X-1 and SR-71 were marvels of American ingenuity.

The public is invited.

The second reason for reading TRS in November will be posted on the 14th. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sage Advice from President Obama

Excerpted from an interview with President Obama by The National Journal. Emphasis mine.

NJ You mentioned energy as an area. On the other hand, of the 20 serious Republican Senate candidates who have taken a position, 19 have said that the science of climate change is either wrong, inconclusive, or flat-out fraudulent. I’m wondering, given that, how you react to that, and also if you would be comfortable having the issue of carbon emissions ultimately dealt with by EPA, an approach that I think you’ve always viewed as second and not the preferable one. But given where Republicans are on the science of climate change, can you see any prospects for action on that, and are you comfortable with EPA being the ultimate arbiter of how we deal with it?

OBAMA I think some of the rhetoric you’re hearing on the campaign trail has to do with politics. Again, there’s a bracing reality that hits you when suddenly you’ve got responsibilities on the governance side. I do think that given the weakness of the economy, the American people are skeptical about taking any steps that cost too much or are perceived as reducing job growth. I think on the other hand, when you talk to the average American they are also very mindful that we can’t keep on sending billions of dollars to other countries in terms of foreign oil, that it’s bad for our national security and it’s bad for our economy. What’s also true is that most of the steps that we can take for our national security, for our energy independence, for our economy are ones that would have the side benefit of dealing with climate change. So my approach to Republicans would be to say, "Regardless of what you think about climate change, here are a bunch of things that are smart to do. It will save consumers money, it will save the country as much money going into foreign oil imports, so let’s concentrate on things that we just know are smart to do." If we do that, we can probably get a quarter of the way there in terms of where we need to be in terms of carbon emissions. The other thing we need to do is to make investments in new energy sources, clean-energy sources, because the unit costs for clean-energy [sources] are still higher than they are for traditional fossil fuels. I had a group of businessmen in here led by Bill Gates that said, "Probably the most important thing we might be able to do right now is to triple our R&D budget for energy," because right now it’s about a third of what the NIH gets for health research. Why not boost this so that we can make faster strides? Even when you talk to somebody like Steven Chu, my Energy secretary, who knows the science of climate change and takes it very seriously, as do I, he’s the first one to acknowledge that we’re going to need some transformative technologies in order for us to get all the way to where we need to be on climate change. The point is that there’s things that we can do short-term on that don’t require you to perfectly agree on the science of climate change in order for you to think that it’s beneficial for Americans long-term.

This is exactly right. There are plenty of good reasons to develop energy sources that are less expensive than what we have now. I was hoping that when President Obama first proposed a "stimulus" this would be what would result. Unfortunately, that did not occur. That said, smart investments in energy innovation and development could pay off big, not just for the United States, but also for the third of the world without access to reliable, affordable energy.

Hat Tip:  Roger Pielke, Jr. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

World Food Shortages?

A provocative article here. And, as I have previously discussed, these are nothing compared to the shortages that will occur if the world's temperatures cool significantly.

Warnings is Going International

Warnings is now heading to other countries! Some copies have been sent to China and to Norway. They will soon be reading a great book! If you haven't read it yet, click on the Amazon link on the right and pick up your copy today.

Major Severe Weather Event in Progress

UPDATE:  Red shading = tornado warnings in effect at 10:36am Central. Yellow = tornado watches. Click to enlarge.

A major storm is moving across the Midwest at the present time. The Storm Prediction Center has maxed out the probability of damaging thunderstorm winds in the Midwest. The hatched area may have winds in excess of 75 mph.

The position of the line of thunderstorms at 7:20am Central time. Twenty thousand homes and businesses are without power in the St. Louis area.

High winds are likely throughout the Upper Midwest and northern Plains. And, the orange in North Dakota is a blizzard warning!   (click to enlarge any of these maps)

AccuWeather continues to track all of this. Check there for updates.

Better Computers, Better Forecasts (But Not Right Away)

NOAA has announced its new computer facility which will be used to improve weather and climate models.

Meteorologists use the computer models as "guidance" in formulating the final forecasts that are seen in the media and provided by commercial weather companies. This new facility will continue the gradual improvement in day-to-day forecasts we have seen the last 15 years. One caution, dramatically better forecasts will not occur overnight. It is more of a "brick by brick" process.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Please Read This

Dr. Judith Curry is a "rock star" in the field of climate science. Her qualifications are here.

She has written an essay pertaining to her journey from global warming "true believer" to qualified skeptic.

I highly recommend her essay.

Damaging Thunderstorm Winds Tomorrow AND TONIGHT

UPDATE: 10:10PM Monday: Tornado watch in effect for the area outlined in red until 6am.

UPDATE 8:40pm Monday: Thunderstorms are starting to develop in Kansas near Salina. These storms will continue to intensify the next few hours. The NWS's Storm Prediction Center has increased the severe weather probabilities between 10pm and sunrise over Missouri, Illinois and adjacent areas. See map below (click to enlarge).
The western threat area is from around Des Moines to KC to Ft. Scott. In the hatched area, wind gusts could be 70 mph late tonight. These storms will have rapid forward motion. If you have a weather radio, tonight would be a good night to use it.


In addition to the threat of high non-thunderstorm winds from the Great Lakes to the Northern Plains (see post below), there is an increase risk of damaging thunderstorm winds tomorrow
from the Mississippi River to the Appalachians. There is also a risk of tornadoes, especially to the south of the Ohio River. The red hatched area could see thunderstorm wind gusts of 70 mph or higher.

These thunderstorms, along with the high winds in the Great Lakes, may cause power outages. Be prepared. AccuWeather is monitoring the situation. Please check there for updates.

UPDATE:  Here are forecasts of the position of the thunderstorms that may cause damaging winds tomorrow.  The map below is the position at sunrise. Think of this as looking at a television radar:

The map below is the position of the strengthened storms at 1pm Central time (approximately).

"When the Gales of November Come Early"

Very strong winds are likely in the brown-shaded areas and I'm concerned that some of the local forecasts are underforecasting wind speeds with this event along with its duration. There will be gusts above 50 mph in some areas. On the lakes, especially Lake Superior and northern Lake Michigan, gusts above 60 mph are likely and marine storm warnings are in effect. The strong winds will start tonight and persist into at least tomorrow night.

The title of this posting refers to the lyrics of Gordon Lightfoot's immortal Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The lyrics are here. It tells the story of the 1975 storm that sunk the giant ore carrier. You can listen and follow the lyrics by clicking here.

UPDATE:  Per the NWS in Chicago this storm will have lower barometric pressures (and, likely, stronger winds) than the Edmund Fitzgerald storm. Here is the list. Barometric pressure in inches of mercury (the way it is conveyed on TV) is the last column.

1030 AM CDT MON OCT 25 2010  
RANK        EVENT             DATE        MINIMUM PRESSURE   
1.   GREAT OHIO BLIZZARD     1/26/1978          28.05 IN 
2.   UPCOMING EVENT         10/26-27/2010       28.35 IN
3.   ARMISTICE DAY STORM     11/11/1940         28.55 IN
     ANNIVERSARY STORM       11/10/1998         28.55 IN
4.   CYCLONE OF 1913         11/7-9/1913        28.60 IN
5.   EDMUND FITZGERALD STORM  11/10/1975        28.95 IN  

Another View of This Winter and Global Cooling

Art Horn is a meteorologist who posts an provocative forecast here. Make sure you have a good winter coat and your car is winterized, if his forecast is correct.

Keep Up on the Weather

As expected, this week is going to be much more active than the first three weeks of the month. The image below shows a tornado destroying schools in northeast Texas yesterday.

Today, tornado (red) and severe thunderstorm (blue) watches are already out in the Southeast and there is a chance of severe thunderstorms from Wisconsin to St. Louis to Little Rock.
It is a good time to keep up on the weather. For the latest, just go to AccuWeather.

You Know You Are Intoxicated When... call 9-1-1 from the back of the squad car after being arrested for drunk driving.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

“It’s a Man Thing,” He said. “It’s a Gun, it Makes a Big Noise.”

Just in time for Halloween.

"The Climate Fix"

My friend, Roger Pielke, Jr., has written a fresh and much-need look at the politics and related issues surrounding climate change -- both natural (the climate is always changing) and man-made.

Global warming/climate change is a significant issue for our world but an extraordinarily difficult topic for the average person to understand. Anything that clarifies the issue in a non-technical manner is a most welcome addition to the discussion.

The Climate Fix is an outstanding, balanced view of the entire issue of mankind's effects on the atmosphere and its consequences.  Roger is the son of meteorologist and climate expert Roger Pielke, Sr. and has learned a lot of atmospheric science through osmosis. His full-time job is a policy researcher at the University of Colorado.

Fix takes us through the history of the global warming hypothesis and the politics surrounding it. He lightly touches on the science but Fix is not a “science book” (i.e., there is nothing technical or difficult for the non-scientist to grasp).

The first chapter is a “dinner table” conversation about climate change, both natural and human-induced, and the politics pertaining to both. From there, the book takes us a logical and interesting discussion of how climate politics play out around the world, the technologies available for decarbonization, and his recommendations as to where we go from here.

Roger accurately explains in Chapter 7 that there is no current evidence that carbon levels in the atmosphere are making storms worse, a position that I completely agree with (that it not to say such evidence may emerge in the future). That said, Roger is a strong proponent of decarbonization but not for sole concern of global warming. Roger points out that 1.5 billion of the world’s people have no practical access to electricity that keeps their standard of living insufficient. By bringing electricity to these we will have to mine carbon (i.e., coal, oil, natural gas) at an unsustainable rate.

Those who have read this blog for a while know that I believe that condemning the third world to poverty due to previously proposed decarbonization schemes (Kyoto, the original proposed agreement in Copenhagen) is immoral.

The solution, according to Roger, is a rapid and major R&D program in energy development and innovation (i.e., new sources of energy). The "fix" is to create a source of energy that is less expensive, per unit of energy, than coal (the least expensive "conventional" energy source). This is an elegant concept. I agree with Roger, although I am more of a proponent of the new generation of nuclear energy than Roger seems to be. I also believe decarbonization is desirable because of the need to preserve natural gas, oil, etc., as chemical feedstocks for future generations (i.e., there is currently no practical way to make plastic-based materials without those as raw materials).

For anyone who wishes to learn about the genuine concerns and solutions pertaining to increasing levels of CO2 in our atmosphere will benefit from reading The Climate Fix. I highly recommend it.

Roger's blog is here.

For Midwest readers, there is an event at Purdue University featuring Roger, Judy Curry (esteemed climate scientist), and Andy Revkin (climates science journalist) at Purdue University on November 3. It promises to be an enlightening and energetic evening. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thank You, National Intercollegiate Flying Association

I had the pleasure of being the dinner speaker for the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's awards dinner at Kansas State University's Salina campus yesterday.

Kathleen and I met many outstanding young people as well as the adults who volunteered their time to judge the skills of these young pilots.

By the way, if you ever get invited to an event at KSU with food, accept the invitation. Their meals are always great!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Michael Bennett - Hero

On a number of occasions I have written about airport security. If you would like to read some of my previous postings go here or here.

I've known about Michael Bennett, the ExpressJet pilot who finally had enough of the TSA's overreach, for several days. I haven't written about it until now because I wanted to hear the TSA's side of the story. Now that I have read their statement, here goes...

Mr. Bennett's side of the story is the first posting here. Basically, he was going through the checkpoint on his way to his flight (he was piloting). He went through the metal detector and it did not alarm. Regardless, they directed him to go through the porn-o-scope. He refused. Keep in mind that pilots can legally take guns into the cockpit. So, the porn-o-scope, as it pertains to the flight crew, is pure "theatre."

But, the bigger issue, for all of us, is giving up our liberties for little or no gain. The porn-o-scopes (which provide a detailed view under the clothing of airline passengers) add little to security, slow down the screening process and, in the process, violate our rights pertaining to "unreasonable search."

Now that the TSA thinks its mission has expanded to school buses and intercity buses, I view the TSA and DHS as genuine threats to our liberty. We have rights to a peaceful bus ride without 60 TSA and local law enforcement boarding and demanding ID from innocent people.

If we don't draw the line, where does it stop?

I've written my letter to ExpressJet supporting Mr. Bennett. I hope you will consider doing the same.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nobody Here But Us Rubes III

For the third time in six days, The New York Times feels obligated to hit us over the head with how stupid/uniformed/naive/fundamentalist people are in the Central U.S.

Today, they take on the good people of Indiana. Of course, Indiana is the home of two great universities, Notre Dame and Purdue. It is also home of the vibrant city of Indianapolis.  Having been to Indiana -- numerous times -- I can attest that virtually all of the people I have met are intelligent and friendly. But, you would never get that impression from the article.

I'm not going to take the time to outline all of the things factually wrong with the global warming coverage in this story (see Rubes I and Rubes II and you'll get the idea). I believe the real agenda of this story is given away by the fact it is a story classified under "Politics" (look at the very top). Interestingly, Roger Pielke, Jr., hardly a global warming "denier," has an article about global warming science/politics/and the media on his blog today.  His posting concludes...

The scientific community, particularly as related to climate change, continues to struggle with an authoritarian impulse, characterized by continued efforts to serve as gatekeepers to public debate and efforts to delegitimize views that they disagree with.  ...  In fact, if the media has made mistakes in the past, it has been in being too deferential to those in the scientific community who seek to limit debate and discussion.  


There was a time, not so long ago, when the NYT kept its news and editorial coverage separate. Based on these three stories, that seems to be a thing of the past.

In Rubes II, I pointed out that the NYT company's stock price is down more than 70% in just the last five years. If they keep publishing these offensive articles, I predict they won't see a recovery in their stock price anytime soon.

UPDATE:  Apparently, the Wall Street Journal agrees. See second item.

AccuWeather's Winter 2010-11 Forecast now available. The entire report is here.

Stormy Weather Coming

Strong thunderstorms with large hail and strong winds are likely in the southern Plains starting this afternoon. AccuWeather has more.

Above is the preliminary severe thunderstorm outlook for Friday and Friday night. There is the potential for tornadoes in the area outlined in green with even higher probabilities in yellow.

And, for your weekend planning, this is the outlook for Saturday for severe thunderstorms.

Don't let the Central U.S.'s beautiful weather of the last three weeks mislead: Keep an eye and ear out for watches and warnings if you are in these areas the next few days.

More on Wind Energy


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why Does Construction Take So Long?

In July, I wrote:

The 236-mile Kansas Turnpike was constructed in 22 months from 1954 to 1956. That is more than ten miles per month. Presumably, we have better tools today. Why in the world does it take (literally) two years replace a single bridge (I-70 near Lawrence) or 18 months to rework ten miles of roadway? Does this strike anyone else as odd?

The Los Angeles Times has a column that makes a similar point:

It took 410 days to build the Empire State Building; four years to erect the Golden Gate Bridge. The Pentagon took two years; the Alaska Highway just nine months. These days it takes longer to build an overpass.

While I have some guesses, I have no idea why construction, once started, takes so long these days. It isn't environmental regulation (once construction has started) as the Times suggests and, as I said, presumably we have better tools.

Does anyone have the answer? If you have expertise in this area, please write your thoughts in the comments area.  Thanks!

How to Disaster-Proof Your Life

Kathleen and I have done most of these.  Have you?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nobody Out Here But Us Rubes II

Inexplicably, the New York Times seems to be determined to offend its readers and potential readers. It is no wonder its stock price is down 71.5% in just the last five years (graph below).
Just last Friday, I wrote about a Times story describing a global warming quiz and how supposedly uninformed most people were when -- in fact -- the answers given by those surveyed were more accurate than the questions in the poll!

Today's offensive article deals with how some Kansans are trying to improve energy efficiency, a goal I certainly support. It also cites the leadership of Nancy Jackson of the Climate & Energy Project for separating the global warming hypothesis from the necessity of conserving energy in an intelligent manner.

So, what is the problem? The patronizing tone of the article toward Kansas and Kansans and the cliches regarding our state.

I think it is amazing they contend that a state with a Democratic governor, lieutenant governor, Secretary of State, state treasurer, and a mixed House delegation is "dominated" by Republicans. Opposition to abortion? A majority of Americans call themselves "pro-life." Kansas (for better or worse) has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the nation.

This paragraph, to me, is especially irritating:

Attempts by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gases are highly unpopular here because of opposition to large-scale government intervention. Some are skeptical that humans might fundamentally alter a world that was created by God.

I know Kansans of virtually every religious faith (as well as non-believers) and I have never -- not once -- heard any Kansan express sentiments as stated above. Could there be someone who expressed this to the reporter? Maybe, but there are outliers everywhere.

Kansans, by and large, have a very healthy respect for the land and for nature. It is in our DNA.

We love and treasure the outdoors and the environment more than most.

Kansas has numerous farms that have been in the same families for generations. The Symphony in the Flint Hills (pictured above) sells out in less than an hour each year. The fact that many of us have a healthy skepticism about environmental fads and exaggerations is a sign of good sense, not "fundamentalism."

I invite the New York Times to open a "central U.S." bureau in Wichita and rotate some of its reporters and editors through the bureau. Then, perhaps, after routinely interacting with the great people here, their coverage would not suffer from the condescension that seems to plague their stories when they venture west of Chicago and east of Denver.

WSJ: How to Raise Boys Who Read

As long-time readers of the blog know, one of my goals in writing both Warnings and this blog is to inspire the next generation of scientists.

But, it is a huge concern that many of today's young men are not reading well enough to get through school, let alone a science or engineering curricula. So, it was with great interest that I read this column in the Wall Street Journal about ways of making boys want to read. The money quote:

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.
The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.
So, what are some good books for young men that have to do with science?  Warnings, since it is a gripping story about science (rather than a "science book") is a good choice as this unsolicited email from yesterday indicates:

 Saw my former student XXXX XXXXX the other night, and he was
ranting and raving over your book. He said he read it in a single
sitting, couldn't put it down. 

I would suggest Warnings for ages 12 and older. In that same age group, consider Rocket Boys

For ages 7 to 11, you might consider Weather: A Golden Guide. Lots of illustrations and well written.  There is also Jim Reed's The Storm Chasers which is primarily a picture book-- with spectacular photos -- but there is quite a lot of text so it is appropriate to help improve reading skills.

And, for boys and girls of high school age, there is Jenna Blum's Storm Chasers. This is also the age where I would recommend The Right Stuff. The latter may of greater interest to young men (it is the story of the early astronauts and breaking the sound barrier).

So, put these on your Christmas or birthday list for the young man or woman in your life. These are all great books and you won't be sorry.  

In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Ghoul?

Normally, I leave the long range forecasts to my talented colleagues at AccuWeather.

However, it looks like October, 2010 -- which has featured nice weather across most of the U.S. (except parts of the Northeast) for a good part of the month -- may go out like a ghoul.

There are indications, using some of the long-range forecasting techniques, that the weather pattern across the U.S. will undergo a major change toward stormy conditions around October 27 to 31st.

You heard it here first.

UPDATE:  TUESDAY, 1:29pm. There is not a single storm warning in effect anywhere in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.  This is about as quiet as it ever gets!

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Warnings" Receives an AMAZING Review!

Jenna Blum, one of Oprah's "30 Favorite Women Authors," has just finished reading Warnings and says she "loved reading Warnings" and adds...

"Whether you're a weather enthusiast or a reader looking for a gripping true tale, be forewarned: you won't be able to put WARNINGS down. Mike Smith's meticulously researched book shows us the war between man and Nature--and how science is evolving to take on that most powerful and muscular of forces: severe weather. A fascinating must-read."

Thanks Jenna!

To learn more about Warnings, click on the Amazon link on the right side of this page.

See You in Salina!

I'm looking forward to presenting The Phantom Crashes to the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's dinner at Kansas State University - Salina, Friday evening.  See you there!

At First, I Thought This Was a Promotion for CBS's "The Big Bang Theory"...

Turns out it is a story about yet another silly scientific study.  Heck, even Sheldon could have explained this without spending taxpayer money.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"The Rescue of the Chilean Miners is a Smashing Victory for Free-Market Capitalism."

A fascinating article from The Wall Street Journal about how companies came together to rescue the miners in Chile.

Extreme Weather Photography

Friend Jim Reed, one of America's best weather photographers, has this podcast about photographing weather. If you would like to learn more about photographing weather, check it out!

A "Dad Joke"

My children used to (and probably still do) call my attempts at humor "dad jokes." I have one I wish to share this morning. Be prepared to groan!

As many of you know, I have been in a head and neck brace since mid-summer due to two bones compressing my spinal cord in my neck. I was told -- by two physicians, including a neurosurgeon, -- that I was one stray blow to the neck away from paralysis. So, they rushed me into the head brace that you see in the photo.  I've have to wear it continuously, including when I sleep.
I had successful surgery last month to fix the problem. However, I am still in the brace (to support the corrective work done in the surgery) and will be until around Christmas.

Because of the urgency of getting my spine protected, I never really looked at the brace in detail until this morning. When I turned it over, I saw the brand (see photo below, look closely).

So, from now on, I am going to call it my "Miami Vice."

Cue groaning.

Have We "Tamed" the Weather?

Photo of Greensburg Tornado. Copyright 2007, Rick Schmidt.

The subtitle of Warnings is "The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather."

An item was posted on Facebook Friday asking, "Science Tamed the Weather?" with a surprised icon.

Answer?  Absolutely!

For example, without today's tornado warning system, there would be an average of 1,100 fatalities due to tornadoes annually in the U.S. 

So far in 2010, there have been 36 fatalities. The total in 2009 was 21. More than 1,000 lives saved each year. We take this accomplishment for granted because we've grown up with TV storm warnings and tornado sirens and, until Warnings, the amazing story of how the warning system came to be had never been told.

And, it is not just tornadoes. Deaths have been markedly reduced in commercial aviation, hurricanes and flash floods.  The story of how this came to be is fascinating (just look at the comments at Amazon). Check it out!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why Should Climate Science Get a Pass?

I dislike writing so much about global warming because I sense readers are as tired of the subject as I am. Nevertheless, I want to bring your attention to a column that will likely be picked up by the mainstream media.

You'll remember Climategate which started 11 months ago with the hacking/release (no one knows which except the person[s] who did it) of emails and other communications between various pro-GW scientists.

This column talks about one of the least well-known aspects of Climategate, some "comments" regarding the computer code used by the British to compute average global temperatures,

When hackers leaked thousands of e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, last year, global-warming sceptics pored over the documents for signs that researchers had manipulated data. No such evidence emerged, but the e-mails did reveal another problem — one described by a CRU employee named "Harry", who often wrote of his wrestling matches with wonky computer software.

"Yup, my awful programming strikes again," Harry lamented in one of his notes, as he attempted to correct a code analysing weather-station data from Mexico.

Although Harry's frustrations did not ultimately compromise CRU's work, his difficulties will strike a chord with scientists in a wide range of disciplines who do a large amount of coding.

I read the Harry-ReadMe comments and they indicated the quality of the computer program was awful.  But here is where the above commentary completely misses the mark:  While the  comments of the programmer were released the source code (as far as I can determine) was not. Source code is the actual construct of the computer program that enters data, does calculations, then outputs a result. So, while it is narrowly accurate to state "no such evidence emerged" it would be equally accurate to say, "there may be a smoking gun in the source code." We simply don't know.

What is interesting is the author seems to recognize this later in the column...

As a general rule, researchers do not test or document their programs rigorously, and they rarely release their codes, making it almost impossible to reproduce and verify published results generated by scientific software, say computer scientists. At best, poorly written programs cause researchers such as Harry to waste valuable time and energy. But the coding problems can sometimes cause substantial harm, and have forced some scientists to retract papers.

[emphasis mine]

In this case, the source code has not been released so that others can verify whether the results are accurate. Literally trillions of dollars of spending to fight 'global warming' may be based on non-verified, sloppy computer code.  Reproducibility is one of the key tenets of science. I'm disappointed that Nature seems to be giving climate science a pass.

Why should climate science be exempt from "scientific method 101?"

"30 Rock" Live Episode

Courtesy: NBC.

Kathleen and I both loved the "live show" episode of "30 Rock" Thursday evening. There were two versions, one for most of the nation and one for the Pacific time zone. The latter was somewhat different with a different singer, some different jokes, etc.

If you would like to watch it, the West video is here. The East video is here.

And, if you are not familiar with "30 Rock," here is a brief synopsis:  Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) is the producer and head writer of a live comedy skit show called, "The Girly Show" (TGS) which is similar to "Saturday Night Live" (SNL). Liz is constantly frustrated by her love life, the big egos of the TGS stars, principally Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), and the demands of NBC in the form of her boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).

Having spent 25 years in television, the show wittily skewers the silliness of show business. There are several places to watch regular episodes online. It is on NBC on Thursday evenings. In the Central time zone, it airs at 7:30pm.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nobody Out Here But Us Rubes

The New York Times does it again, criticizing the good citizens of the U.S. about "flunking climate 101" when it is the editors who don't seem to know the science.

According to the NY Times, the following statements are unequivocally true:

As the report’s authors found, 42 percent of those surveyed “incorrectly believe that since scientists can’t predict the weather more than a few days in advance, they can’t possibly predict the climate of the future.”

climate models can accurately predict the future

How absurd.  The climate models (see a few posts down or click here), as even climate scientists themselves say are, at best, primitive. We have no way of knowing how good the predictions of climate models will be in 50 years. But, since we do know they cannot accurately predict the climate of the next year (even in the aggregate), it is absurd to state as fact that they have skill decades into the future. 

The article further goes on, regarding the results of the poll,

And one-third [of U.S. citizens] believe, incorrectly, that most scientists in the 1970s were predicting an ice age.

Since I'm not sure what "scientists" means here (all scientists, climate scientists only?), the fact is that many were. The following is quoted verbatum from Time of June 24, 1974:

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Read more:,9171,944914,00.html#ixzz12TziabLr

[side question: if it was OK for Baffin Island to be snow-free then, why is it not OK now?]

To expect the average citizen to know the exact percentage of "scientists" who were predicting global cooling in 70's (more than three decades ago) is -- again -- absurd.

Go ahead and read the Times' article. I think you'll agree with me that it reveals a citizenry that is remarkably well informed and balanced in a complicated area of science.  

Tall Cotton

The headline from Wall Street Journal online:

Cotton Climbs to 140-Year High

NEW YORK—Cotton prices are at their highest in the 140 years the commodity has traded on an exchange, as heavy Chinese buying and poor harvests are expected to keep global supplies tight.
The article goes on to discussweather conditions (Pakistan's devastating floods and heavy rains in China). Recently, wheat, cattle, and a number of other commodities have had major runs. This is partly due to the weak dollar but also due to weather conditions. It is a safe prediction that meteorology will be an increasingly important science in the years to come. 

A Hint of Winter

A report on New England snow from AccuWeather.

Mobile Phone, 1964 Version

Click here.

I recently read on a blog about a family that intentionally kept their rotary dial phone in their kitchen to watch their teenaged son's friends try to use it. He reported that most of the time the teenaged guests put their finger in the hole in the plastic dial and pressed.

Hat Tip:  Instapundit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Criticism of Wind Power

I have absorbed lots of criticism because I no longer support wind power.  Tom Fuller has come to the same conclusion.  We are wasting a lot of time, money and land on wind power. I fear that, by 2020, the Great Plains will be littered with rusting, broken down wind structures.

And, from the comments to Tom's article:
“Denmark itself has also already tried being a green-energy innovator; it led the world in embracing wind power. The results are hardly inspiring. Denmark’s wind industry is almost completely dependent on taxpayer subsidies, and Danes pay the highest electricity rates of any industrialised nation. Several studies suggest that claims that one-fifth of Denmark’s electricity demand is met by wind are an exaggeration, in part because much of the power is produced when there is no demand and must be sold to other countries.”

Your Suggestions, Please

I'm trying something new today:  What suggestions do our readers have for the blog?  Any topics you would like to see covered?  Please post your comments and suggestions.  Thank you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"October Sky"

Speaking of great movies, I happened across the last twenty minutes of October Sky on television yesterday afternoon. This is a movie that I highly, highly recommend. It is wonderfully cast and acted.

Based on the book Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, it tells to story of young men in the town of Coalwood, WV and how their love of rocketry changed their lives.

As far as I can tell, the movie is not playing on television in the next week. So, go to the local Blockbuster (they can use the money) and rent it. You won't be sorry -- four stars (out of four).

There were two books that I had in mind when I wrote Warnings: Rocket Boys and The Right Stuff. Both books tell wonderful science-based people stories.  When Tom Fuller, in his review, compared Warnings to The Right Stuff it was one of the great thrills of my life!

So, book or movie, a October is great time to watch or read the story of the Rocket Boys. And, if you have never watched or read The Right Stuff put it on your November list. On November 14th, I'll post an explanation of why you should read TRS next month.

You won't be sorry!

New Season of "Storm Chasers"

Begins tonight on The Discovery Channel.  Check local listings.

Do Not Call

Politicians exempted themselves from the "do not call list." If a politician wanted to significantly improve the chances I would vote for him/her, they would promise to allow people to "opt out" of political calls!

When is a Climate Model a "Good Model?"

Answer with today's state-of-the-art? Never.

That is not to say we shouldn't continue to develop expertise and new scientific knowledge. One day, those models might be quite good. But today, I agree completely with Pielke, Sr. -- they have been completely oversold.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Random Hearts"

I was dialing around yesterday evening and saw the movie "Random Hearts" was on AMC. Directed by the late Sydney Pollack, it is one of the few movies in which weather plays a central theme and gets it right.

Without giving away too much of the plot, a "Southern Airways" jet crashes in the Potomac just after takeoff from Washington's Reagan Airport. The two principles (Ford and Thomas, see below) are brought together by the crash.

The is the first interesting item: Southern Airways was out of business when the movie was released (1999). Southern Flight 242 crashed in a thunderstorm in Georgia 1977. It was the first plane crash I ever helped investigate.

While the movie doesn't explain exactly, it implies a downburst caused the crash. They were still thought to be common when the movie was made -- Pollack, a pilot, didn't realize the downburst mystery had been solved. I once sat across from Pollack at the Wichita Hyatt when we were separately having dinner. He was in town for flight training and I was having dinner with a business associate. He flew a Lear 25, made in Wichita.

In the background you hear things like Convective SIGMETS being read to pilots, etc. The details about crash investigations, etc., are the most exact I have seen. While this is not a pleasant topic, it does make for a gripping movie.

The movie has many stars: Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Dennis Haysbert, Peter Coyote, Charles Dutton, and Bonnie Hunt. I give the movie a solid three stars. I know that Kim liked it, too.

For more on downbursts, go to this posting. It is the most popular in the history of our blog.

Want A Great Christmas Gift?

For anyone interested in weather, science, or just a great non-fiction story.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hail of a Storm in NYC

For the second time in a month, major thunderstorms have struck the New York City area.  The photo below is from WNBC TV NYC, and is of New Jersey hail. Hail and, in some areas, high winds crossed the Hudson into NYC itself.  Click the WNBC link for more photos of the hail in NY.
The photo below is the AccuWeather radar showing the large hail in NJ with the whitish echos the largest hail. This image was captured at 8:31pm, which showed the storm when it was delaying the start of Monday Night Football.

UPDATE: More on the storm here

Two Papers in One!

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal online's often runs a feature called "Two Papers in One" where the same paper run articles making the opposite points. We have one today about 'global warming.'

Two McPapers in One!
  • "Study: Crop Failures to Increase With Climate Change"--headline, USA Today website, Oct. 8
  • "Warmer, Wetter Weather Helping U.S. Farmers Grow More Crops"--headline, USA Today, Oct. 8

If you read the first article, you learn that 'global warming' is bad. The second says it is good.

One thing is clear, the worst thing that could happen is major cooling. I wrote about this on September 26thA longer growing season and more CO2 in the atmosphere mean more food for a growing world population.

When I do one of my global warming speeches, I show this slide which shows record weather events in the U.S. versus world temperatures (using the British CRU and NASA GISS data) from 1850 to 2000.

Does anyone believe that if a hurricane hit San Diego week after next it wouldn't be blamed on global warming? The graph demonstrates that major U.S. disasters can and have occurred with little correlation to world temperatures.

I also show a graph that depicts the world's severe famine problem from about 1965 to the late 1970's. Those of us who lived through that period remember the Russian Grain Robbery, the horrible crop failures, and starvation in many parts of the world.

Note that those are correlated to cooler world temperatures!  Also, the worst storm in recorded history, the Bhola Hurricane, which killed somewhere between 500,000 and 1,500,000 people occurred with cooler temperatures. Books like the "Population Bomb" were written. Its opening sentence is, "The Battle to Feed All of Humanity is Over. In the 1970's hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." Of course, the situation was not that dire then and has improved since.

With the Green Revolution and warmer temperatures, per capita food production is up. That is not to say there are not hungry people in the world. Of course there are. But much hunger today is primarily due to political and distribution problems rather than a shortage of food as existed in the early 1960's and 1970's.

One of the questions that pro-AGW people consistently fail to answer (and I have posed the question many, many times) is "what is the optimal temperature for the earth?"  They don't know. As long as that is true, spending huge sums to battle 'global warming' seems futile. It may be that the optimal temperature for the earth is higher than today. We just don't know.

We do know: Major cooling would be an unmitigated disaster given the world's current population.