Desierto norte de Chile

Saturday, August 30, 2008

No doubt! -- "hurricane" predicted in New Orleans

If there was a doubt in the residents of New Orleans that the NWS is forecasting Gustav to hit, they should visit and view the local forecast.

Gustav and the "wow" factor

The satellite presentation of Gustav this afternoon is absolutely incredible. Unfortunately Isla de Juventud y La Habana, Cuba, are going to get pummeled with a very powerful hurricane. In the 24-hr period ending 200 pm today, Gustav's minimum pressure dropped from 984 to 945, or 39 mb in 24 hrs. Additionally, the track has been slightly right of forecast-- right of all the available guidance (except, curiously, climatology CLIPPER, haha!) This wobble (if it is a wobble!) bodes poorly for both Cuba and New Orleans. Without a compensating left-of-track (westward) wobble, the storm will come closer to MSY than previously predicted.

I attach one of these very impressive satellite images. Wow, indeed.

Gustav evacuations !!

My GTD Manquehue cable system gets the US version of Fox News (we also get CNN Espanol), and the top stories this Saturday afternoon are typical: McCain's running mate selection, the upcoming Republican convention, continued reaction to Obama's acceptance speech, etc. And the possible landfall of Gustav in the Gulf coast early next week. The reporter on the scene at the Superdome reported that people are lining up to board buses bound for Shreveport & Memphis. I don't know if you can be picky as an evacuee whose transport is being paid by the gov't, but I for one would search for that bus to Memphis (or, if it existed, one to say Pensacola or Columbus GA). Depending on (1) the eastern extent of the landfall, (2) how far inland Gustav gets before the expected slower westward motion, and (3) its intensity at and after landfall, Shreveport could see quite a bit of action!

Regardless, it's good to see people taking precautions, and while psychologically I hope the efforts end up necessary (to avoid the 'cry wolf' mentality that plagued N.O. between Hurricanes Betsy in '65 and Katrina in '05), it's definitely better if the city doesn't end up flooded and people evacuated "for no reason"!

Friday, August 29, 2008

President Obama? Vice President Biden? or President McCain? Vice President Palin?

Last night I watched - although I was very sleepy! - Barack Obama accept the Democratic party nomination for president. I have to admit I was disappointed with his speech though. In earlier speeches, he was "Mr. Optimist", ready to transcend the country's problems with hope for the future. Last night, though, he was "Mr. Democrat", attacking John McCain at points where I thought he could be more positive about himself. It's thus not surprising to me that multiple tracking polls have the two candidates about even. The Republican convention should be interesting to watch, too, especially with that surprising VP pick of McCain. I was reading about the pick and racking my brain to remember if I'd ever even heard of Sarah Palin before. And the honest answer is ... well maybe. The news article I was reading mentioned some of the more recent problems in Alaskan politics, and I probably read about her there (in replacing one or more of the senior politicians / political families as governor). Plus with the impending landfall of Gustav (question, readers: if Gustav looks to come ashore at least 200 miles west of MSY, should New Orleans evacuate anyway?), next week looks busy.

Here's the front-page photo of Obama in El Mercurio. (Also, quick question readers: when's the last time you've seen another world leader splashed across your newspaper's front page? I should correct myself here as well by saying "potential world leader", because Obama is only a candidate!) El Mercurio is the conservative paper in Chile, and probably the editorial board supports McCain, but nevertheless they have covered the democratic race quite fervently!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A parade of ... tropical cyclones?

This week looks to be quite busy in the North Atlantic basin. Gustav formed at the end of last week, weakened over Haiti at the beginning of this week, and is now traversing the high terrain of Jamaica. By the start of next week, it will likely be somewhere in the vicinity of southern Louisiana, definitely not a good omen for that state (after their disasterous encounter with Katrina, and to a lesser extent, Rita, in 2005). The timing also looks to coincide with the Republican Nat'l Convention in MSP, and no doubt if there's a disaster, multiple pundit comparisons will be made between the reaction / recovery from Katrina & whatever Gustav brings.

Hanna formed in the west-central Atlantic today and is currently interacting unfavorably with a mid-tropospheric upper-low just to its west... thus while immediate development is unlikely, Hanna will most probably pass within my 70/30 benchmark and thus will also threaten the US (my personal experience after 10+ years of observing & studying TCs is that if a TC passes southwest of the point 30°N 70°W, it more often than not impacts the SE coast somehow.)

Finally, in the Bay of Campeche and just off Africa, two additional tropical disturbances have formed and could develop over the coming days. It will make for great tropics-watching, and if I was teaching a course, I would certainly include these events in my lectures!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A parade of ... Taxis?

I've seen many a strange thing pass down Blanco Encalada, the street in front of our department, including student protests, several funeral processions, thousands of buses, cars, converted delivery bicycles, and the like. Just now I witnessed 20 taxis moving slowly down the middle lane, honking their horns and covered in white writing, signs, & yellow and black balloons. One of them said "Viva el Transantiago", which is curious because transantiago (the transportation reforms that were implemented 2 yrs ago here to standardize bus routes & convert to card-payments in the metro) is normally vilified. But again what do I know, a gringo in Santiago?! Haha.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fay makes it to Florida

I posted last week about a possible SE coast hurricane, and the wave that was of interest eventually developed into tropical storm Fay and tracked farther south & west than originally predicted. Fay formed near Haiti, moved along the south coast of Cuba, and is now tracking northward through Florida. This was a classic example of the difficulties which remain in forecasting tropical cyclone genesis, and also of the uncertain nature of TC-land interaction (in particular, mountainous terrain). I hope to work on a project or two exploring these issues. Fay looks to continue tracking NNW, eventually turning westward... will be interesting to see if she re-emerges in the Gulf of Mexico (or the Atlantic) and restrengthens. It's worth noting that Fay's structure from radar just after landfall was very impresssive for a 60 mph tropical storm... a rain-free eye enclosed by 30-50 miles of intense convection. It's possible the intensity will be revised upward in the post-storm analysis.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

67.6 mm (2.66 inches) of rain!

Looks like the models were reasonably correct in predicting the heavy rain event here in Santiago this weekend. Since Friday morning, we've received about 67 mm of rain (over 2.5"), and for a 24-hr period, this total is quite impressive. It also represents > 20% of the average annual rainfall! At 10:15 am, the sun is peeking through the clouds, evidence that the front has passed and we're now in the cold (but still slightly unstable) post-frontal airmass. Hopefully it will clear up and we'll have some great smog-free views of the mountains and city!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Buenos Aires and Montevideo, here I come!

Next weekend (Aug 21-24) I'm going exploring again, this time to the cities of "Good air" and "Visible Hill." Should be exiting, and I'll be sure to take my camera.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A possible hurricane approaching the SE coast early next week?

In keeping with the weather theme, this time in the opposite hemisphere, another interesting feature to watch in the next few days will be the potential development of TD 6 / TS-Hurr Fay near the Bahamas. Currently the disturbance is passing just north of the leeward islands, and its mid-level circulation is really evident from satellite & Guadeloupe radar. Nearly all the NWP models develop it into a tropical storm (and some a hurricane), and all but the NOGAPS model curve it poleward - towards the SE coast - as it tracks through the Bahamas (NOGAPS tracks it along the north coast of Cuba and into the GoM). However, serious questions remain with the evolution of this disturbance (including "will it develop?", "How strong will it get?", and "Where will it go?"). Regardless, the mid-level vorticity center is much better organized than at any other time in its westward track across the Atlantic, and as such will be interesting to watch.

Va o no va a llover? Will it, or won't it, rain?

The big question for this weekend in Santiago is just how much rainfall are we going to receive. The numerical models (well, MM5, GFS, and NOGAPS) have been in very good agreement the past several runs in bringing a strong trough system through central Chile tonight and tomorrow, resulting in a very heavy - and prolonged - period of valley rain and mtn snow. The attached 2 figures are from the 12Z run of the GFS and the 00Z run of our in-house MM5. The GFS is predicting over 100 mm, and the MM5 over 50 mm. While I want to see a really good rain event (esp after my friends back in Norman got a right good deluge last weekend... 3" in about 6"), I don't want to see the city wash away! If we get 110 mm, that would be 4.33", and would represent nearly 40% of the annual rainfall. Stay tuned. It's already been sprinkling here, and the cloud bases have been lowering all day. Should be fun!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Cajon de Maipo (Maipo Canyon)

This weekend I joined my DGF colleagues, and their families, at a refugio (cabin) up in the Maipo Canyon to celebrate 2 retirements and generally have a good time. Ricardo and I left Santiago about 8:45, and we rendevouxed with the others at the country home of Pepe -- about 2 hrs SW of Stgo. into the Andes. We were initially dismayed when we heard the Carabineros (police) had closed the road due to heavy snow. But we waited a few more hours, and rented a different form of transport (trading our large bus for 2 small vans), and made it up the mountain to the refugio.

When we arrived, we were treated to a spectacular display of heavy wet snow! Probably 20" of it still on the ground (I would not be surprised if the official total was more than 30"... the liquid water content was high and a lot of it melted). We ate a leisurely lunch and headed out for a short hike around the refugio. Now you can imagine if you have 20" (about 50cm) of fresh powder, a large playful group, and 7 kids ages 14 and younger, it didn't take long for the first snowball to fly. And what a "guerra de la nieve" it was (snow war!) I was dubbed "el gigante" and frequently targeted ("ataque el gigante!!"), but I also created my fair share of mayhem!

After the snowball fight, we settled down for a grand feast of meat and drink -- which we had brought from Santiago. My task was to buy a cake and take it to the refugio -- a task made harder by the fact that (1) the cake "box" was not very sturdy nor suited for long-distance travel; (2) the cream on the cake top started to melt after removed from the refrigerator; and (3) the furrgon (small minibus / van) that took us from San Gabriel up to the refugio (past the pueblo of "El Volcan") wasnt able to climb the icy driveway, so we had to walk carrying the cake that final 500 yards -- through knee-deep snow, icy patches, and small lakes in the driveway. But the cake - and all the other stuff, along with us! - made it, and we consumed all with gusto. After eating, we watched a slideshow of the 2 professors who are retiring, and then played a dice game called "dudo" (doubt).

In the morning, we were treated to some spectacular scenery as the sun glimmered off the snow-capped mountains. We hiked down to a small lake near the refugio - where we fought the Second Battle of La Guerra de la Nieve - and took some pictures. The weekend wrapped up with us waiting a few hours for our transport to come back to get us, and I returned to my department here in Santiago about 8:30 pm. I think everyone had a great time - and I definitely know I did!

**Photo captions are ABOVE the figure**

Professors gathered at Pepe's house, as we decide what to do about all the snow up in the mountains. Clockwise, from L to R: Rene (purple coat), Humberto, Pepe, Ricardo, Rodrigo.

The view from Casa Bosque (where Pepe's house is ... his house is in front of me, not the one in this picture). We're about 1 hr outside of the center of Santiago.

A map of the region where we went. The main city is San Jose de Maipo, and we went all the way up to and past "El Volcan." The large volcano in many of the subsequent photos is called "Volcan San Jose" and is over 5800 m tall (that's about 19000 feet!)

Ready to head up the mountain, from the Plaza San Jose de Maipo.

The road was one-lane at times.

The snowline. At this point we're about 900 m in elevation, headed to about 1800 m. (3000 feet, going toward 6000 feet).

The final rendevous point, San Gabriel, where we left behind our cars and piled into Furrgones (mini-vans).
Here we have Vivi and Mark, with Catalina, Bernardette, and Patricio in the background.

Vivi, Cata, and Berna, ready to go.

Me sporting my indigenous-meets-euro look.

Above the snowline now. About 1" of precip fell in Santiago the night before we went up, and that translated into 10-30" of snow, depending on the valley.

One of our furrgon transports, the yellow school mini-van in front.

Piled in and ready to get there!

The snowpack increased as we continued up the mountain.

Eventually the furrgones couldn't make it up the driveway (it was too steep & icy), so we got out and walked.

Excited to arrive for sure!

Finally, the entrance. Only a few hundred feet to go. Thanks, Mark, for carrying the cake!

Lunch and rest at the Refugio (basically a log cabin).

The pueblo (small town) of Lo Valdes below the refugio.

The skies began to clear but the snow remained.

A short hike up above the refugio ... and Andrés begins the "guerra de la nieve" (snowball fight).


Amazing contrast... blue, white, and gray! The mountain in the distant, on the right, is the Volcano San Jose (19,000 feet).

Sunset in the mountains.

Mmmm. Our dinner. Lamb, beef, and pork "asado" (grilled).

The side dishes: salad, potatoes, and bread.

Ready to eat!

Feliz cumpleaños, Pepe!

Who ate more? Me or Catalina?

The retirement presentation, to honor Humberto and Pepe for their 40 years each.

Sunrise in the mountains!

Breakfast: bread, jam, butter, and eggs. Coffee and tea to drink.

Outside the refugio. One night cost about $20. (The total weekend cost for me was $100, which included lodging, all meals, and transport there & back again).

Sunrise over the volcano (on the right... no that's not smoke, just a cloud!)

Mark, Vivi, and me.

Getting ready for the official group shot (taken by Rodrigo's camera).

A short hike down to the small pond (laguna). Fortunately, although the snow was deep, the air temps were quite mild... 50s to higher, depending on the sun.

Ready for a nice hike ... and round 2 of the Guerra!

The frozen lake... obviously it had been colder in the previous days & nights.

I really like this view... up-valley toward the volcano. Both of those peaks are on the border of Chile & Argentina, so we were probably only 20 miles from the border.

Catalina catching some sun before lunch.

Lunchtime. I had soup & leftover meat from the previous night's cookout.

Of course we'd make some snow people.

Final view, as sun is setting, of the volcano.

Tired, a little sunburned, and waiting for the transport to come get us & take us back to the cars.

Last view as we descended the mountain.

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