Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hottest July From Dodge City to D.C.

Shortly after midnight, National Weather Service offices will be releasing their July climatological data summaries and it will be the hottest July ever at a number of them. I'll have more on that tomorrow.

It DOES Rain in Southern California

Rare Thunderstorms in Orange Co.

I'm in Anaheim for the National Speaker's Association annual meeting and am finding it fascinating. Lots of great ideas here.

Also, I'm well known for bringing unusual weather with me and today is no exception. We have thunderstorms in Orange Co. and the surrounding area.

You're welcome Southern California!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jack's Stack Bar-B-Que

Kathleen told me that radio talk show host Laura Ingraham visited Kansas City on her book tour earlier this week and visited Jack's Stack Bar-B-Que and raved about it. Jack's Stack is my favorite bar-b-que anywhere. So, if you are in KC or if you wish to order some delivered to your town it gets 5-stars from me.

Don the Dud

Many of us were hoping that Tropical Storm Don would bring generous rains to drought-stricken Texas. Unfortunately, the dry air over the Lone Star State, ingested into the storm, caused Don to weaken before even reaching land. There will be some rain from Don but it will not be widespread or heavy.
NOAA satellite image via University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
Score: Drought 1, Tropics 0. 

National 'Science' Foundation?

When I first heard about this, I thought it was a joke. I wish. The National Science Foundation funding a study in erotic nouns? The title of the 'scientific' paper in question:

That’s What She Said: Double Entendre Identiļ¬cation

From the paper's abstract:

Humor identiļ¬cation is a hard natural lan- 
guage understanding problem. We identify 
a subproblem — the “that’s what she said” 
problem — with two distinguishing character- 
istics: (1) use of nouns that are euphemisms 
for sexually explicit nouns and (2) structure 
common in the erotic domain.

You get the idea, there are other items that are not appropriate for a family blog.

Here is the NSF grant information:

Thismaterial isbasedupon worksupported 
by the National Science Foundation Graduate Re- 
search Fellowship under Grant #DGE-0718124 and 
under Grant #0937060

This has nothing to do with basic science (the charter of NSF) and it is especially galling in an era of huge federal budget deficits.

Recently, an NSF-funded scientist objected to me using the phrase "beauty contest" to describe NSF's grant process. When you see this sort of thing being funded (and there are many other examples), I'd say the description is becoming literally true, in addition to the figurative sense in which I originally meant it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meet Mindy Cook

I'm pleased to announce that Ms. Mindy Cook is the new marketing director for Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC. If you are looking for professional speaking, purchasing bulk copies of Warnings, or weather-related photography, please give Mindy a call.

Mindy will be blogging here from time to time.

Chaser Meet and Greet

I forgot to mention... as part of the High Plains Conference, there will be Chaser Meet and Greet in the north parking lot of the Wichita Marriott on Saturday morning noon to 3pm (August 6). There will be number of chase vehicles and you can ask your storm chasing questions.

There is no charge for this event.

High Plains Conference Starts a Week from Today

The High Plains Conference of meteorologists and weather enthusiasts starts at this time next week. It will be at the Wichita Marriott at Webb Rd. and U.S. 400/54 in east Wichita.

I'll be the kickoff speaker. Come and join us!  Details here.

Tropical Storm Don: Just What the Doctor Ordered?

AccuWeather has details on Tropical Storm Don which is likely to move into Texas Friday evening. Don is likely to cause heavy rain, which is desperately needed, in south Texas. Wind speeds will probably not be high enough to cause major damage.

Speaking of the heat and drought, have you noticed that when NYC and D.C. were above 100° last week it led the national news? Now, while much of the central and southern U.S. continue to broil, it is off the front pages. But, the effects of the drought and heat in the central U.S. will likely be more significant than the heat in the East.
Wichita Eagle photo of Harper Co., Kansas cornfield.
Photo by Fernando Salazar
I have driven, extensively, in Kansas, southeast Nebraska, and along the I-35 corridor in Oklahoma south to Dallas. I've never seen the crops in worse shape to the south of I-70. It is likely the drought will bring higher food prices.

And, at the Wichita airport, a partial failure of the air conditioning system is keeping things warm. Dress accordingly if you are going to be waiting for a plane there the next few days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Second Apology of the Day

The National Junior Olympics is being held in Wichita and we are thrilled to have them. Only one problem: The high temperature was 111° today. That is not the heat index, that was the temperature. The normal high temperature for this date is 94°.

One of the TV stations interviewed several parents and the ones from Arizona thought it was fine but the folks visiting from Colorado were not thrilled.

We are sorry we are having this awful heat wave.

Microburst in the Flint Hills

A microburst is descending in the rain shaft at right. 
I'm enjoying dinner and blogging at one of my favorite restaurants, the Grand Central Cafe in Cottonwood Falls. About an hour and a half ago, when I was south of Manhattan, I got some views of a microburst hitting the ground. That is it just reaching the ground, the rain shaft at the right side of the photo above.

The photo below shows the winds causing the rain shaft to spread to the north and south near the ground.

The radar shows a small cell to my west (I'm at the blue "bullseye").

The Doppler radar winds show the distinct pattern of the winds spreading out to the north and south (arrows) associated with a microburst.

I have annotated the second photo to show the wind flow in the microburst.


Apparently, my Twitter account got hacked and you got diet advice in my name.  Sorry about that!

I believe the problem has been fixed.

Sheryl Crow Helping Joplin

Sheryl Crow is a native Missourian. By auctioning a vintage car, she hopes to be able to donate several hundred thousand dollars to Joplin's recovery. Details here.

Lightning and Tornadoes

Since at least 1955, meteorologists have periodically looked at whether there is a reliable correlation between tornadoes and lightning and whether lightning can be used to predict where tornadoes might occur.

Above is a video of lightning associated with the record tornado outbreak on April 27th. Here is the description from NOAA:

On April 25-28, 2011, a large outbreak of over 300 tornadoes wreaked havoc in much of the Southeast United States. It is listed by NOAA as the fourth deadliest outbreak in United States history, and as the year with the highest EF4 and EF5 tornadoes to date. (Read more about the events of April 27 here.) Due to intense updrafts inside tornado-forming supercell storms, the lightning that occurs within clouds that are high above the ground tends to increase and the cloud-to-ground lightning strikes tend to decrease before the tornado actually forms. Knowing that a storm has a rapid increase of in-cloud lightning activity is a warning sign of severe weather, such as tornadoes, and is used to predict the onset of such events. Currently, weather forecasters can make use of the SPoRT Lightning Mapping Array systems to measure lightning activity. SPoRT is also being used as a research and demonstration testbed for the future NOAA GOES-R satellite. When GOES-R launches in 2015, it will contain the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, a new instrument capable of monitoring total (in-cloud and cloud-to-ground) lightning over the entire U.S and adjacent oceans -- a major advance over ground-based lightning detection systems that, like radar, are limited in coverage.

Imagine connecting the dots of a constellation of stars. The data visualized here are much like those stars, and represent 10,405,546 points that make up thousands of individual lightning bolts from the ground up to an altitude of 9 miles. Each frame of the animation shows all of the measured lightning points in a one minute interval, and the total time span of the animation is 24 hours, starting from 
7:00 pm CDT on April 26th. Notice that the large clusters of data points are extremely dense and are located at higher altitudes. These points coincide with observations of almost no lightning ground strikes during severe weather. The storm bringing the largest set of tornadoes during Alabama's deadliest tornado outbreak of all time begins around 40 seconds into the animation, including the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham EF5 and the Hackleburg/Madison EF5 tornadoes. A vertical rod marking Tuscaloosa has been added to provide a reference for the height of the lightning points.

I, too, have noticed that there is often a lack of cloud-to-ground lightning during major tornadoes such as during the 1991 Wichita-Andover tornado (one of the most photographed in history).

However, the Greensburg tornado had nearly continuous vivid lightning. We saw the "polarity" of the lightning flip from almost completely negative electrical charge to positive charge about the time the tornado touched down. Could the flip to positive charged-lightning be a signature of a major tornado?

So, I looked at the Joplin tornado, hoping to see a "signature" like Greensburg's and ... nothing. It stayed primarily negative the whole time.

My point is that, while I certainly support further research, there is little reason to be hopeful of a consistent lightning predictor for tornadoes in the near future.

Tropical Depression Forming

An Air Force hurricane hunter is going to investigate the system west east of Cancun. It will likely be named a tropical depression later today. It is currently moving west northwest.

More Evidence the IPCC's Forecasts are Too Warm

Presented here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tornado Warning in Massachusetts...

...not far from the point of origin of the June 1 Springfield tornado. Tornado warning is in red.

UPDATE: Some damage around Springfield with power lines and tree limbs down. Hail stones to 1" in diameter were reported. So far (6:22pm Eastern) no tornado damage reported.

Possible Storm in the Tropics?

The National Hurricane Center is watching an area of low pressure in the far western Caribbean. They are giving it a 30% of turning into a tropical cyclone.

Two Points of Interest from Bill Read

At Saturday's American Weather Conference, the director of the National Hurricane Center, Bill Read, had two points in his presentation I wish to share with Meteorological Musings readers.

  1. In the middle 1970's the average error in a hurricane forecast at 72 hours was 410 miles. In 2010, it was 130 miles. That is a remarkable improvement.
  2. In the part of the United States with the highest frequency for fires, there is a 1 in 500 chance of a home fire. In other areas, the probability of a fire is less. Across the U.S. as a whole, the chance of a home being damaged in a flood is 1 in 100. Yet, mortgagers require fire insurance. They do not require flood insurance if the statistical probability of a flood at your location is one in 125. Why?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Joe D'Aleo on the Great Drought

A drought of major proportions continues unabated. In many areas, it is the worst since the 1950's.
For those interested, Dr. Joe D'Aleo has a scientific explanation.

Via: WattsUpWithThat

Do I Take My Own Advice? You Bet!

The sixth most popular posting in the history of this blog is my Airline Crisis Survival Guide which tells people how to avoid major weather-related airline difficulties and, if you find yourself in one anyway, how to get out of it.

Yesterday (Sunday), I found myself dealing with one of O'Hare's (ORD) many meltdowns returning from the American Weather Conference in Baltimore. By the way, I had a wonderful time and I want to thank the organizers for inviting me!

Some background: Saturday, persistent thunderstorms caused flooding and numerous flight cancellations at ORD so flights were already full. I had been concerned Saturday evening about Sunday's weather in Chicago. So, the first thing I did was see if I could avoid it. I was on United.

  • I could get to Denver, but the flights back to Wichita were full. I'd have to standby. 
  • Houston wouldn't have gotten me home until late Sunday evening and I'm leaving again this morning, so that didn't work.
  • So, I decided to take my chance on ORD even though I was expecting thunderstorms.
Sunday, as I predicted and feared, there were thunderstorms! We were 45 min. late arriving but I had plenty of time to make my connection to Wichita. I walked from ORD's concourse B to F ("where the fall of Saigon is reenacted daily") to learn: Flight to Wichita cancelled. What to do?

Below is a radar image I grabbed showing the original complex of thunderstorms departing Chicago to the southeast and the new thunderstorms developing to the west and northwest that threatened ORD later in the day.

All of the flights from ORD to Wichita on United and American were oversold for both yesterday and today!  I would have to standby. Standing around chaotic gates with anxious people to maybe get on a flight doesn't appeal to me. There was no way to go from Denver to Wichita (oversold!), etc., etc. Given the deteriorating weather situation (United was delaying and canceling flights by the minute), I decided to follow the advice I offer in the guide and get out.

There was a flight leaving for Omaha in less than 30 minutes with one seat left. So, they put me on it, I hustled and made it. Drove the 5.5 hours to Wichita and got to see a truly spectacular sky and great storm between Topeka and Emporia. I enjoyed myself much more than being part of the hassle of unhappy, tense people trying to salvage their travel plans. 

The Airline Crisis Survival Guide's advice (absolutely free, just click on the above link) has been successfully used by many people. You might wish to print it out and put it with your travel materials. 

And United: Go back to flying bigger planes to Wichita!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Review

This is one of the best books I have read in years. Because there is quite a surprise (at least to me) at the end, I don't want to give a detailed review. Suffice to say, if you like a great story (narrative non-fiction), you'll love this book.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Right Stuff

Here is a photo essay on the incredible amount of training done by the Apollo astronauts.

You would have had to have The Right Stuff to get through it!

Heat Index of 117° in Baltimore

Unless I miscalculated, the NWS heat index at BWI Airport was 117° when I was unloading the car (the hotel is in sight of the airport). I thought it was extremely hot. Given the fact that we are nearly at sea level makes it worse (more atmosphere pressing down).


The hotel has put complimentary water and lemonade in the lobby which is very much appreciated.

UPDATE: Baltimore's Fox 45 is reporting the downtown Baltimore/Inner Harbor heat index was 125° at 1pm. That is the highest heat index I have ever seen -- anywhere. The 10pm heat index is still 108°!

PLEASE take it easy in this heat. If you have to be outside, drink water plus something like Gatorade.

State #48

You are probably wondering why I'm holding my camera at arm's length to take a photo of myself.

It is because I have crossed into West Virginia on my way to the American Weather Conference in Baltimore. I have a goal of visiting every state and the Mountain State is my 48th. Just have Montana and Idaho to go!

I'm now in Baltimore and I'll be speaking tomorrow afternoon. Please introduce yourself if you are attending and I'd be happy to sign your copy of Warnings. 

Why Would You Trust Scientists That Cannot Read a Graph?

Britain's Hadley Center's (PRO-global warming group) world
temperatures for the last twenty years. There has
been no warming since 1998.

If you want to watch a one hour debate over global warming, it is here:

(I watched the debate so you don't have to)

Interestingly, the pro-global warming advocate, Richard Dennis', arguments are almost entirely "who" believes in global warming (watch for yourself). Lord Monckton's anti-global warming arguments are based on scientific points and discusses the scientific method in climate science. Mr. Dennis is the former science advisor to the Prime Minister.

Lord Monckton is the former science advisor to Margaret Thatcher and has published one global warming paper in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Most tellingly, Mr. Dennis tells us, over and over, global warming "is occurring" (present tense). As I keep pointing out, temperatures have not warmed in over a decade. The graph proving that is at the top of the post.

Mr. Dennis challenges us to "trust" climate science. Exit question:  Why would you trust scientists that cannot read a simple temperature graph?

Apparently the judges, all journalists, agree with me. The judge's score: Monckton (anti-global warming) 10 and Dennis 1. 

No wonder Al Gore will not debate the issue!

Of course, a debate doesn't prove anything. But, as we know, the media (which judged the debate) is hardly skeptical about global warming yet they overwhelming judged anti-global warming as the winning side.

Amazing what happens to people when they are exposed to both sides of the issue.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Hot Is It?

According to AccuWeather, the worst in 16 years.

So Much for a 'Free' Frequent Flier Ticket

I think the airlines just enjoy seeing how far they can push the public. See also the posting below. 

American AAdvantage has changed its fees to book an award ticket within 21 days of departure. Previously, the fee to book an award flight between seven and 20 days prior to departure was $50 and the fee to book an award within six days was $100. As of Aug. 25, 2011, the airline will charge a $75 fee for all award flights issued 20 days to two hours prior to departure. Members who book flights a week out are now paying $25 less and members who book two to three weeks out are paying $25 more.

The fee for additional tickets booked at the same time from the same account has also increased from $25 to $75. So if an AAdvantage member books three tickets two weeks prior to departure, the close-in booking fee will be $225 total compared to the $100 that would have been charged under the old fee schedule.

The Sad State of Air Travel These Days

Yesterday, on the leg back from a hellish journey, I realized that US airlines are now halfway between Portuguese railways of old and the old USSR. And it makes me wonder: what is going on here?
Air travel became a nightmare around 2002.  I thought it was because the airline industry was recovering from a severe blow and restructuring, and it would get better.
I was wrong. I was actually seeing the airline at the best it would be in the next ten years. And every year after it gets worse.

The entire essay, from Sarah Hoyt, is here.

As a very frequent flier, I agree with all of this. In fact, I often refer to America's "third world airline system."

What prompted the issues in question was a hailstorm in Denver (Frontier's hub) that knocked out a quarter of Frontier's fleet. Companies like AccuWeather can mitigate the effects of these storms saving (literally) tens of millions but that is not the purpose of this post.

Sarah goes on to say,

No, the problem wasn’t hail damage to their planes. Such disasters happen. It’s why they have insurance. It’s what came AFTER that.
Since they cancelled over a dozen planes – at 10:30 am for damage incurred at 2 am – and they have our phone/email to notify us, with perhaps a little more time to react.
BUT not only did they not cancel it till the last minute. Oh, no. They ALSO accepted checked luggage. First the plane was delayed, then finally cancelled.

THIS is what drives us crazy. The airline knew it had a hail storm, why wait until the last possible second to cancel the flight?

Just last week I at was at the infamous Terminal 2 at Chicago ("where the fall of Saigon is reenacted daily" -- Joe Brancatelli) flying United Distress, er, Express. I was enjoying myself at dinner, then went to the gate at the appointed time and -- no flight crew.  The appointed departure time came and went, (while the flight is listed as "On Time") and, no flight crew. Turns out they were still in the air. So everyone is standing around, the airline people seem clueless and, well, you know the rest of the story. A seriously delayed flight that is listed as "on time."

Airlines:  This is 2011. There is a wonderful new business tool called "information technology." It should not be difficult to match the fact there is no flight crew and post the delay. You'll find your customers will be much more understanding if you treat them honestly and as adults. Otherwise, to finish quoting Ms. Hoyt,

I will not fly Frontier again if I can help it, and I will never fly anywhere I can drive. Is this the effect airlines intend to have on their customers? Why? How do they think they’ll survive?

The Weather Police

A special meeting of the United Nations security council is due to consider whether to expand its mission to keep the peace in an era of climate change.
Small island states, which could disappear beneath rising seas, are pushing the security council to intervene to combat the threat to their existence.
There has been talk, meanwhile, of a new environmental peacekeeping force – green helmets – which could step into conflicts caused by shrinking resources.

Just when you believe the 'global warming' discussion cannot get any more surreal, now the United Nations wants "global warming peacekeepers." The full story is here.

Those of us of a certain age remember "Saturday Night Live's" parody of the Secret Service protecting Gerald Ford when he was being clumsy. When Ford tripped coming down the stairs while exiting an airplane, SNL ended the report, "the Secret Service wrestled the stairs to the ground."

So, I have visions of the United Nations' weather police wresting a tornado to the ground.

Good luck with that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kitten Found 75 Days After Tornado

Heart warming news.

What Wildlife DOESN'T Kansas Have?

Below, I talk about the huge number of items manufactured in Kansas. If you haven't read it, please check it'll be surprised.

Now, animal control in the Wichita suburb are Derby are trying to catch an alligator.

Congratulations, "Warnings" Winners!

The Bookworm Society had a contest where the prize was a copy of Warnings. Congratulations to Dorine in Washington and Maria in New Jersey. The books are in the mail.

More on "Weatherman as Hero"

I've received several comments about the posting below pertaining to "weatherman as hero" mentioning meteorologist James Spann. Yes, he is terrific. The NYT article says,

In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley called James Spann, the rock star of meteorology in the state, a hero for his role when an unprecedented string of tornadoes bore down there this spring and killed nearly 250 people.
Without the rapid warnings Mr. Spann sent out via Twitter, Internet streams and television, surely more lives would have been lost.

Agree 100%. I've watched James (via internet) during severe weather outbreaks and he is excellent.

Glenn and James are two of numerous outstanding meteorologists saving lives throughout the United States.

A "Warnings" Reader Comments

This from a reader in Ohio,

I thought your book was extrememly interesting and I couldn't put it down.  It had great facts and really painted the picture of what forecasters went thru and all of the challenges involved in the weather business.

If you would like to feel what it is like to be in a forecast center when lives are on the line, you'll love reading Warnings like the thousands who have read it so far.

It is also available for Kindle and Nook.

If you have a copy, I'd be happy to autograph it for you at the American Weather Conference Saturday and I will also have copies available for sale.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Meteorologist as Hero"

From The New York Times,

ATLANTA — One evening in April, Tina Eller had the television on. Glenn Burns, the steely chief meteorologist for WSB-TV, said a tornado was three minutes away from slamming into her community.

Mr. Burns’s instructions were simple: Take cover...

...Every room in the house was wrecked, except the space that held her family.

“It was that warning we got from him that got us into the closet on time,” she said. “I never would have lived through it.”

As the nation moves through a year of remarkable floods, drought and its deadliest tornado season in half a century, the broadcast meteorologist has emerged as an unlikely hero.

The entire article is here.

Hmmm. Meteorologist as hero. Someone should write a book about that.

Hat tip: Patrick Clyne

Note: Fixed broken link

What ISN'T Made in Kansas?

We are celebrating the state's 150th anniversary this year. Here is a fascinating article by a great writer, Beccy Tanner. Enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Full Length Version, "Big Bang Theory" Theme Song

Kathleen and I look forward to each new episode of the "Big Bang Theory." I especially like it because I went to school with people just like Sheldon and his gang. In fact, I have to admit there was a time that, as a member of the University of Oklahoma's Engineer's Club, I thought young ladies would be impressed with the size of the slide rule I had attached to my belt.

I think the theme from BBT is very clever. There is the full version from the Bare Naked Ladies:

And, yes, I still have the slide rule upstairs in the Mike Smith Enterprises office. 

Reminder: Airline Travel May Be a Real Challenge Later Today

At the moment we have thunderstorm cluster moving toward Chicago and a line of thunderstorms moving southeast toward NYC and Boston.
AccuWeather radar

With severe thunderstorms (yellow) forecast over much of the northeast quarter of the U.S. today, expect widespread delays by this afternoon that will ripple outside of the region.

Be proactive. Airline Crisis Survival Guide is here.

The U.S. Map As Drawn by a New Yorker

We've all seen the classic New Yorker's "View of the World."

Now, we have "Map of the U.S. as Drawn by a New Yorker."
click to enlarge
And, yes, I'm located in the left-hand "state that has Kansas City." For enlarged version, go here. For more interesting charts, etc., go here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wow, That Was Fast. Tropical Storm Brett

Details here.

American Weather Conference in Baltimore This Weekend!

Really looking forward to the American Weather Conference which starts Friday in Baltimore. I'll be speaking Saturday afternoon. Please join us!

The Hyatt Regency Disaster -- 30 Years Ago Tonight

Kansas City Star
From time to time, I have talked about the things that had to be left out of Warnings. My first draft would have resulted in a book of more than 500 pages. Neither I, my editor, or my publisher thought people would want to read a book that long.

One of the things that was left out of the book was the story of the week I decided to create WeatherData. Throughout the summer of 1981, I had been in negotiations with my employer, KTVI of St. Louis, on a new contract. The contract I had would run out in August.

I also had an offer to go back to Wichita that would result in me fulfilling my ultimate career goal of starting a commercial weather company. After a long period of discussions, I decided to return to Wichita. I called my parents with the news on Tuesday, July 14. Dad told me they thought I had made the right decision and, while they were invited to a "tea dance" with some friends Friday evening (17th), they would cancel and come to celebrate the birth of my weather company (it didn't have a name yet) with Kathleen, Richard and me.

After the 6 o'clock news, the five of us went out to dinner at St. Louis' Pasta House Company and, after, I returned to KTVI to prepare the 10pm weathercast. Kathleen, Richard, Mom and Dad (in a second car) came back to the station for a little while. I wandered into the newsroom to check in with our 10pm producer, Dave Cleggern. Then, for some reason, I walked into the teletype room where the Associated Press and other wires were clacking away. I saw the AP wire print out, (paraphrasing)


I ripped the story and took it to Dave and Larry Conners (then and now, a very popular St. Louis anchor) and said, "for some reason, I think this is a very big deal." They got on the phone and confirmed it was a very big deal indeed. In those days, one could get on an airplane quickly and, even though it was about 8:15 or so, Larry was broadcasting -- live -- from KC at the end of the 10pm newscast.

After I told Larry and Dave, I returned to the weather department and told my parents. We didn't know the seriousness of the collapse at that point, but they were very concerned their friends might have gone to the tea dance without them (their friends were fine). They went to our home to watch the later news coverage.

Kansas City Star. Surviving third floor walkway can be seen at upper-left.
The photo is oriented along the second floor walkway. The fourth floor walkway was directly
above the second floor's (just above and out of the picture).
There were three walkways across the atrium of the Hyatt with the second and fourth floor walkways directly on top of each other. All three were filled with people listening to the Big Band music. Trumpeter Stan Kessler was playing "Satin Doll" when it happened. Due to a design change during construction (the hotel was just a year old) and a design failure, the fourth floor skywalk collapsed onto the second floor skywalk and then they both plunged to the atrium floor below.
A mis-designed washer and bolt assembly pulled through the bottom of
the metal "box beam" causing the entire structure to collapse. 

The Hyatt Regency collapse killed 114 and is the worst building engineering disaster in the history of the United States and the eighth worst engineering disaster overall.

Wikipedia has a good summary here. The Kansas City Star has an excellent commemorative web site . A graphic explaining what went wrong is here.

The Star has also produced a book about the disaster titled, "The Last Dance." You can read a chapter and order a copy here.

You might wonder why, except for personal reasons, I wrote about this in a first draft of a book about meteorologists creating the storm warning system. It is because this disaster fascinated me (I have a college minor in engineering) and kindled my interest in forensics and forensic meteorology. This led to me starting work in the field after WeatherData was created and culminated in my work in the Delta 191 crash four years later. Delta 191 is the subject of three chapters of Warnings.

Tropical Depression Two Forms

Here is the latest from the National Hurricane Center. Details from AccuWeather. The storm is not an imminent threat to Florida but should be watched as it should become a tropical storm over the next few days.

Relationship of "Wall Clouds" to Tornadoes

Below, I have a posting that talks about "wall clouds" and their association to tornadoes. Here is an excellent video from North Dakota yesterday (in the same general area where a tornado warning is in effect now) that shows the speed/scale of rotation in a wall cloud in relation to a tornado. Viewing this video will be helpful when assessing whether rotation threatens you in the absence of a tornado warning. Video by Roger Hill via YouTube.

Hat tip: Tim Marshall and Will Wilkens

Tornado Warning Already in Effect

Quick update to the posting below. A tornado (red) and a severe thunderstorm watch (blue) have already
 been issued with a tornado warning in effect for the supercell thunderstorm in eastern North Dakota.
Radar at 12:52pm, Hook echo (potential tornado) indicated by arrow.

Please Pay Attention to the Weather in These Regions

Looks like the North Central and Northeast United States will have active weather later today and tomorrow.

Here is tomorrow's outlook. If you are going to be flying tomorrow, the widespread thunderstorms forecast for several major cities and hubs has the potential to disrupt flights across the country.

If you are flying tomorrow, be proactive. Here is my Airline Crisis Survival Guide.

"Quiet" Coming to an End?

UPDATE: 1:20pm, the National Hurricane Center has upped the probability of development and is sending a hurricane hunter aircraft to investigate the system.

--- original posting ---

Earlier this week, I wrote, "It's Too Quiet Out There," a posting about the lack of weather in the tropics which suggested it would be a good time to check hurricane preparations.

I'm not liking the look of this system off Florida. While not even a tropical cyclone (TC < Tropical Storm), it is showing at least some signs of development.
NCAR image from 12:15pm CDT

Please make sure you have your bottled water, bleach (for water purification), batteries, etc. From about now through early October we are in the higher probability period for hurricanes and tropical storms.

AccuWeather is monitoring the situation. Our hurricane/tropics page is here.

The "Gipper" WAS a Genius

Today is "National Ice Cream Day" as proclaimed by Ronald Reagan in 1984.

With the widespread heatwave, ice cream seems an especially good idea. Here are some deals for the day.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Midnight Train to the Middle Ages

[I'm bumping this back up to the top because of the worldwide interest it has received and because of Dr. Judy Curry's contribution to the conversation I have added at the end.]

Once we board the train of climate science, there is no alternative to taking it wherever it may go.
---- Dr. Gary Gutting, New York Times, July 12, 2011

I genuinely dislike writing so often about 'global warming.' It is a topic that has caused much dissention and distraction in meteorology from where we should focusing (i.e., more accurate forecasts and warnings and better ways to use both to save lives and dollars). It also distracts us from more urgent and solvable environmental problems.

However, as a genuine atmospheric scientist, I feel an obligation to speak out when I read something that is terribly wrong (and, especially, if it comes from an authoritative source).

One of those were called to my attention in yesterday's New York Times. In a piece called, "On Experts and Global Warming," by philosopher (not scientist) Gary Gutting. Below is his area of expertise from his online resume:

The single best course I took in my education at the University of Oklahoma was called "history of science" and it explained, in detail, the "scientific method." Briefly, in order to be "science," an idea must follow the following process,

  1. A person has a new idea about how something works and does some preliminary investigation. It seems to hold up and seems worth pursuing. This is called a hypothesis.
  2. The person (it doesn't matter if the person is a scientist, what matters is the process in this case) does some experimentation and the hypothesis holds up. 
  3. The person publishes the hypothesis so it can be reviewed by all interested parties. Other parties must be able replicate the experimental results.
  4. If the hypothesis passes muster (i.e., the results are accurate and reproducible) then it becomes a scientific theory. 
  5. A theory is considered to be "science" until someone can show it does not work in the real world. For example, primitive telescopes seemed to show the sun rotated around the earth. When new data showed otherwise, the theory of an earth-centric universe was discarded. 
Note there is no place in the scientific method for "consensus." Science is what can be demonstrated in the real world, nothing more and nothing less. Opinions matter in many areas of human endeavor, but they are not "science."

So, one would think a philosopher of science would be passionate on the subject of demanding reproducible evidence and adherence to the scientific method. Unfortunately, Dr. Gutting's piece is the exact opposite, the following are quotations:

To answer this question, we need to reflect on the logic of appeals to the authority of experts.  First of all, such appeals require a decision about who the experts on a given topic are.  Until there is agreement about this, expert opinion can have no persuasive role in our discussions.  Another requirement is that there be a consensus among the experts about points relevant to our discussion...

Finally, given a consensus on a claim among recognized experts, we nonexperts have no basis for rejecting the truth of the claim...

There is, moreover, no denying that there is a strong consensus among climate scientists on the existence of A.G.W. — in their view, human activities are warming the planet...

He uses the term "consensus" seven more times in the article but the above is enough to give you the idea. To Dr. Gutting, the mere fact that a "consensus" exists is conclusive! This isn't science, it is anti-science.

There was a consensus in science (and religion) that the earth was the center of the universe when Galileo argued the sun was the center of the solar system.

Much more recently, the consensus in medicine (for 100 years) was that ulcers were caused by stress and spicy food. In 1982, two Australian researchers hypothesized that a bacterium caused ulcers, but their work was poorly received by the "consensus" in medicine. So, one of the scientists, Barry Marshall, ingested bacteria harvested from a patient. Five days later, he developed an ulcer. The experiment was published in an Australian medical journal.

Finally, in 1997, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control started an education program that ulcers could be cured by antibiotics. In 2005, Marshall and his colleague, Robin Warren, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

You'll note on this blog that I frequently cite data that anyone can confirm (examples here, here, here and here  just to name a few) for themselves. That is scientific.

I compare the measurements of atmospheric temperatures (for example) against the forecasts issued by the "experts" of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, the "consensus"). Comparing the hypothesis to measurements is science. [If you are new to the blog, the IPCC's forecasts, when compared to measurements, are doing poorly.] I certainly invite people to check my work against the data and point out any errors I have made. That, too, is scientific.

But, Dr. Gutting's faith in global warming consensus isn't science, it is anti-science. If others board the "train" mentioned in Dr. Gutting's article, it will take them right back to the Middle Ages.

--- end original post ---

Judy Curry has a tremendous posting which incorporates a paper by Dr. Jean Goodwin on the subject of "manufacturing" consensus which is what the IPCC has done. I urge you to read it. 

After reading these, any fair-minded person will realize the IPCC's "consensus" is phony science. I have two comments:

  • It is time to go back to square one. Disband the IPCC. Create a new group equally comprised of leading scientists in the field regardless of their political views and their views, to date, regarding global warming.
  • Reduce the inordinate amount of money going to 'global warming' and start solving some of the very solvable environmental problems we face
Thanks, Judy for a great post.  

Another Milestone in Greensburg's Recovery...

...from the F-5 tornado that destroyed the town in May, 2007.

Ground was broken yesterday for the new state-of-the-art theatre. The Wichita Eagle has details.

Woman Gropes TSA Agent

While I certainly do not condone this (the classic "man bites dog" story), it is easy to understand the level of frustration out there. It is interesting she was charged with "sexual assault." That's what I thought the TSA was doing to us!

A very significant part of the problem is that there is no logic or reasoning when you go into the security area -- and it is very frustrating. Take yesterday...

When I travel, I take a small MacBook Air which is less than half of the size (by volume) of a standard laptop. It does not have an internal hard drive. According to the TSA's web site,

Electronic items smaller than the standard sized laptop should not need to be removed from your bag or their cases. It’s that simple.

When going through security at Boston's Logan Airport yesterday, the laptop was pulled out of my case (fine), swabbed for bomb chemicals (fine), put back through the X-ray again (fine). I do not dispute the TSA's right to do those things and I had no problem up to that point.

Then, the security guard (who looked and talked like Puddy in "Seinfeld") came up to me and gave me an unnecessarily harsh lecture about how you are supposed to take computer out. I respectfully told him the TSA web site says otherwise. He said I was wrong. I, respectfully, told him he needed to look it up: that small computers do not need to be taken out of the case. He then added, "We'll we're going to pull them out every time at Logan!"

OK -- if it is essential to our national security that laptops be pulled out they should need to be taken out of the case everywhere and every time.

One really gets the impression they are individually making it up as they go along. As long as this type of arbitrary and, at times, disrespectful conduct toward the traveler continues, so will these unfortunate confrontations.

Airplane "Smoke"

A few people got slightly concerned on my flight from Nashville to Charlotte when the cabin appeared to fill with smoke.

Actually, what was flowing into the cabin was the equivalent of "seeing your breath" in the winter. The outside warm, humid air was chilled by the airplane's cooling system and the moisture in the air condensed into a cloud/fog. It is harmless.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stem Cells Used to Grow Teeth

Details here. Great news if it can be done on a large scale.


AccuWeather has details.

Were This Year's Tornadoes Caused By Global Warming?

I have been on the road this entire week giving weather risk mitigation seminars. As recently as yesterday, I was asked if this year's unusually intense tornado season was due to global warming.

I have already discussed that I believe the answer is "no." That posting also cites Dr. Judy Curry's belief the answer is no.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concurs and says,

 So far, we have not been able to link any of the major causes of the tornado outbreak to global warming. Barring a detection of change, a claim of attribution (to human impacts) is thus problematic...

But, still, the question persists.

So, I would like to cite some preliminary work done by Drs. Roger Pielke, Jr., Kevin Simmons, and Daniel Sutter comparing the tornado season of 2011 to records since 1950 when the Weather Bureau (now National Weather Service) began to keep comprehensive records of tornado occurrences.

The graph below is from Simmons and Sutter and it shows the year to year levels of tornado damage, adjusted for inflation, to December 31, 2010. You see spikes in 1953 (the season I have compared 2011's to), 1966 (Palm Sunday tornado outbreak) and 1974 ("Superoutbreak").
click to enlarge
Over the last two decades, the trend in damage is clearly down when compared to the first half of the reporting period.

If global temperatures were correlated to tornadoes, you would see a spike in the graph at 1998 and the last decade would be much higher than the high level of damages in the 1966-1978 period when world temperatures were much cooler.
World temperatures (click to enlarge) from 1950 to 2010 to match the period of the
tornado graph. From Hadley Climate Research Unit, Great Britain
A quick review of the two graphs indicates there is no trend in tornado damage (which is a good proxy for tornado numbers and strength) related to world temperatures.

However, Dr. Pielke wondered how 2011's horrible tornado season would look, if added. Roger went on to say,

The Simmons/Sutter dataset provides one means to answer this question. Regular readers will know that it is not enough to look at disaster data over time, even if it has been adjusted for inflation, for the simple reason that society is always changing. The exact same weather extreme occurring years apart will cause more damage if people build more property and accumulate more wealth in the area affected. Simmons figure shown above has no such “normalization” applied to it.

What Roger means is that inflation does not tell the whole story. For example, a tornado in 1974 could not possibly have destroyed a "home theatre" because such a thing did not exist. Roger often normalizes damage figures for hurricanes and other storms to gross national product and other measures.  So, he did a back of the envelope calculation for 1950 and 2011 to date represented in the figure below:
click to enlarge
Keeping in mind that 2011 is only just past the halfway mark, we see that it will likely be the third worst year since 1950. The level grows for 1953 (now #2) which seems accurate given the many similarities to 2011.

Interestingly, the downward tornado trend since about 1980 is even more pronounced until this year.

While this data is very much preliminary, it pretty well puts the metaphoric nail in the coffin of the hypothesis "tornadoes are getting worse due to global warming."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rotarian Article

I'm a proud member of Rotary International an organization that does wonderful work throughout the world. I just want to say thank you to The Rotarian and author Kathleen Pratt for the interview in the July issue.

It's Too Quiet Out There

Graphic and forecast from the National Hurricane Center
Sometimes, a meteorologist gets the feeling it is the "calm before the storm." That is a feeling I'm getting right now -- with the Gulf of Mexico water temperatures (the fuel for a hurricane) higher than average (meaning more fuel), I'm concerned for what August and September might bring. Now would be an excellent time to check your hurricane preparations!

Part of the reason that there have been no storms affecting the United States so far in the 2011 hurricane season is the giant high pressure center causing the heat wave.
AccuWeather graphic
AccuWeather has a story, The Heat Wave will Reload and Relocate, that explains the heat wave certainly isn't over yet.

Three Perfect Days in Wichita

With the High Plains Conference rapidly approaching and with news that the Midwest Family Conference is being held in Wichita the same time (first weekend in August), I thought it might be a good idea to repeat my "Three Perfect Days in Wichita" feature from a few months ago.

Day One is here.

Day Two, visiting the Flint Hills, is here.

Day Three is here.

I also want to add a word about the Sedgwick County Zoo, which surprises many to learn is the 18th largest in the U.S. and one of the most highly acclaimed. There are a lot of interactive features and, if you have children, they'll love it!

It will be great having you in Wichita for either of the conferences or at any time!