Desierto norte de Chile

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Believe it when I see it

The HPC QPF forecasts of late have been very generous, calling for significant precipitation over a broad region up and down the east coast. I haven't been saving the forecasts, so I can only speak qualitatively, but when Annapolis KNAK receives 0.09" during a period when HPC had called for > 1.00", that's an overprediction!

So this week, the 5-day accumulated precipitation forecast calls for between 2-3" between now and Sunday night. I know that the forcing mechanisms are there (deep synoptic-scale trough lifting out now; new one coming in behind it; large-circulation tropical cyclone lurking to the south & predicted to undergo extratropical transition over the Carolinas while interacting with a frontal boundary)... but nevertheless I'll believe >3" of rain it when I see it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homogeneity has its place, but sometimes diversity is better

Just finished skimming the "Pledge to America" released today by the Republican Party. Putting aside the policy questions (interesting proposals to "change" Obamacare and replace them with basically the same provisions!), what really struck me was the care with which the document was prepared: every other page was full of action shots, of members of Congress with their constituents, at meetings, in the workplace, and on the campaign. However, conspicuously absent in these pictures is anyone whose skin isn't the same color (or lighter!) than mine... that is, the country is 65.4% white, but 100.0% of the people in the pictures were white. Where are the blacks? The Asians? The hispanos? Like the title says, homogeneity has its place (especially when trying to discern statistical trends in meteorological data... we want the dataset to be homogeneous!)... but perhaps the homogeneity of race of the people in the 2010 Pledge is curious in its omission of the other 34.6% of America, those whose skin isn't like mine....

Monday, September 20, 2010

My thoughts, exactly!

The Yahoo! News headline today was "Generation Y Worries Carmakers", and went on to say that the 21-30 y.o. group (of which I am a proud member for the next 3 days!!) own fewer cars and don't drive much (accounting for 14% of miles driven today vs 21% in 1995... but I expect most of that statistic is simply b/c older people don't stop driving until later ages... although it could be symptomic of longer commutes for middle-age people, or of course less driving by young people... statistics are very misleading.)

Anyway, the part of the article that got me was this: "This generation focuses its buying on computers, BlackBerrys, music and software and views commuting a few hours by car a huge productivity waste when they can work using PDAs while taking the bus and train...", to which I give a hearty two thumbs up! I even find my 12-15 min bike commute to be a bore.... 3-6 mins of that is usually spent sitting at stoplights so all the people who drive from far away can go back to their far away places. Hopefully this is a good trend: higher-density living, fewer car-hours driven, more time not spent isolated inside a car. :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two are better than one

Today is only the 2nd time in recorded history (the past 160 years) where the N. Atlantic basin has had two Category 4 hurricanes in existance at the same time (the other was at 0600 UTC 16 Sept 1926). (Thanks to Jeff Masters at Weather Underground for the interesting statistic!) Igor and Julia will likely weaken to Cat 3's later this afternoon (and may already be on their way down now), but the feat stands as a very unusual event.

Friday, September 10, 2010

At the peak, and already 9 storms

Today, 10 Sept, is the climatological maximum of the North Atlantic Ocean hurricane season. As predicted by various groups (CSU, NOAA), the season has been above-normal in activity, with 9 named TCs, 3 of which became hurricanes (Igor will likely become a hurricane in 36-48 hours), and 2 of those becomming intense hurricanes (Danielle & Earl... again, Igor will likely be the 3rd). This activity compares with a longer-term average of ~10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes per year. So we're well on our way to continuing this above average season. The US has yet to be significantly impacted by a system, as Alex & Hermine made landfall south of Brownsville, Bonnie dissipated over Florida, and Earl curved out to sea only brushing Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod)... we'll see what the rest of the year holds.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I may have a Ph.D. but . . .

. . . I am not a mechanic, a plumber, or an electrician... nor are my roommates. Thus, we will be getting a new washing machine, courtesy of Sears, for $519.67.

This afternoon my roommate Inocente told me that he had had a problem with the washing machine-- namely, that it quit on him after the wash cycle. We messed around with it and got it to empty the water (starting/stopping the cycles), then let it refill, only to watch it get to the same spot in the cycle, then emit a loud buzzing/humming noise for about 10 seconds, then quit. This time we couldn't get it to reinitialize and empty the water. The whole time, I was Googling what might be wrong ("Kenmore 80 washing machine buzzing noise", and "Kenmore 80 washing machine no spin cycle", etc.) The overwhelming internet consensus for this problem was the motor coupler, the part that evidently makes it spin. Said coupler is located on the bottom of the machine, beneath the drum (and remember, ours was now full of soapy water). However, these various internet sites also offered quick fix-it advice -- and said it was "fairly easy" to fix.

So, since my roommates are good with their hands, and since I can read a web site and translate instructions into spanish, we embarked on said quick-fix. After managing to disengage the "cabinet" (who knew washing machines have cabinets??!), snapping a few probably-important plastic pieces along the way, we got the cabinet off. Then we disengaged the pump & motor from the motor coupler and proceeded to Sears- with the intent to buy the replacement coupler for $25. Only when we got there, did the lady kindly inform us that Sears doesn't sell replacement parts for their equipment- only a warehouse in Chicago does, and they have to ship them.

Remember, burned in my mind were images of the cabinet, wiring, broken plastic pieces, a half-full washing drum, and all manner of questions regarding "if we ever do get the right part, will it solve the problem (no guarantee), and even if so, can we successfully reassemble the now fairly destroyed washer down in my basement?" So, with those thoughts fresh, I decided to buy a new one: Maytag, $427+tax, delivery, the all-important haul-away (does the old machine have to be in one piece? will Sears haul away pieces???!). Evidently I'm getting a BG&E rebate of $50 off my next electric bill, and b/c the machine was over $400, I qualify for free delivery (thus $79.99 back). Final total will be about $400... so for now we get to reuse our clothes until it gets delivered on Saturday.

Here are some pics of the disaster that became our basement.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

It was a slight breeze... but nothing near a bashing

A follow-up from my post the other day about "Accu"weather and it's forecast that Boston would be bashed: the actual highest wind gust at Logan Int'l Airport (which sticks out in the bay and likely has faster winds than nearly any other location in Boston proper) was 35 mph. Incidentally, today winds gusted to 32 mph behind the cold front -- perhaps that's a "bashing" in Accuweather's book?

Nantucket (KACK) had gusts to 47 kts (54 mph), a more respectable "bashing".

Thursday, September 02, 2010

At best, poor science; at worst, deceptive marketing using weather to turn a profit

My meteo friends will find no surprise here: Accuweather's online headline today: "Hurricane Earl to bash Nantucket, Cape Cod, Boston" ... even though Boston is likely to have minimal impacts from the storm... and nothing near what will be experienced out on the Cape.

The NWS forecast is much more hedged: "tropical storm conditions possible" is the forecast headline, but then the nuts-and-bolts shows the wind might "gust as high as 34 mph" - hardly a "bashing".

Do we see profit-mongering at work? Is it worth lying to grab extra viewership by including Boston in the headline?

Pretty impressive!

Hurricane Earl is looking pretty impressive tonight!

The central pressure is down to 930 mb, the lowest it's been the entire life cycle. Several microwave wavelength satellite images are showing a secondary eyewall (at least in the southern semicircle), which could lead to weakening in the next 12 hrs. Hopefully it will pass east of Cape Hatteras and spare the island a direct impact... if not, a storm like that could easily open up another inlet, similar to what a much weaker Isabel did (although Isabel's orthogonal approach probably did much more to pile water into Pamlico Sound... and I suspect it wasn't the in-rush of water, but rather the out-rush behind the storm, that cut the inlet during Isabel... Earl won't have that same impact). For reference, the other 2 storms that passed by Hatteras at Category 2 or 3 intensity (at least those that come to mind!) are Bob 1991 and Emily 1993. Both gave a glancing blow- and Earl will probably end up doing similar things.

I also hope it will pass far enough east of Maryland so as to not spook US Airways into canceling any of their flights into DCA, where I'm supposed to land Friday afternoon. We should be in fairly calm conditions-- the "col" before the cold front that's helping to push Earl out to sea and the strong boundary layer winds of Earl himself.

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