Desierto norte de Chile

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Satellite image of the mid-Atlantic snow

I thought this was an interesting image: shows the dividing lines, both north and south, of the recent mid-Atlantic snow event. Basically all the frozen precip remained between roughly +/- 50 miles of Interstates 40 (in the south) and 70 (in the north).

Below the visible satellite image is an analyzed image of the snow/sleet totals, courtesy of NWS-Raleigh.

Winter 2009-2010 in Annapolis: Round 2

After a wholloping snow storm ("Round 1") back on 19 December, during which I recorded 22" of snow in my yard, Annapolis was hit with another fairly significant snow event yesterday. I'll remember this most recent snow event ("Round 2") not for it's ferocity of wind or for its mammoth snow totals, but instead for its surprise. I discussed early in the week with my students the possibility of 8-10" of snow by the weekend, only to have the QPF bullseye shift south in each successive model run. The 06Z NAM-WRF run of Fri 29 Jan went so far as to predict only 0.01" of liquid-equivalent for our area (granted with a fairly tight gradient of precip, with over 1" of QPF just to our south in south-central VA). I put up that image in both my classes and basically told my students to enjoy a dry Saturday. Subsequent model runs began moving the QPF maximum farther north, but even as late as 12Z yesterday, none of the reliable models indicated that Annapolis would receive significant QPF (all were then indicating between 0.25-0.5" liquid-equivalent). So needless to say when the precip began in earnest a little after 9 a.m., and lasted through 7 p.m., giving a total of 8", I was quite surprised. I think the object lesson from this event is to not be so black-and-white with a forecast, but present the summary of the model output with the nuance that it deserves. (Still not sure how you can "nuance" yourself from 0.01" to > 0.50" of QPF in 26 hrs, though!)

Here are a few pics from the event. I walked over to Jose and Juan Carlos's house in the morning to retrieve my camera and talked them into coming back to my place to spend the afternoon downloading music videos from YouTube and eating soup. We went out to play in the snow (and measure it... what would a good meteorologist be without at least taking some visual observations?!) To that end, I measured 5.8" at 345 PM (1945 UTC), and 7.5" at 545 PM (2145 UTC). Other nearby observers measured 8" in Annapolis at 8 p.m., and my observation agrees well with that, so I'm saying that 8" fell in the Annapolis area yesterday.

Finally, as a heads-up, models are showing cyclogenesis off the Carolina coast *twice* this week: once on/about Tue/Wed, and again next weekend Fri/Sat. ECMWF and CMC, two pretty reliable models, are showing strong cyclogenesis for the 2nd event, and the GFS shows low pressure formation as well, just not as strong. We'll see what falls. Already this winter has seen approx 33" of snow in Annapolis, 22" from the 19 Dec storm, 8" from the 30 Jan storm, and ~3" from various other small events.

¡¡¡POST 400!!!

Happy 400th post! What a roller-coaster 4.5 years it's been. I started blogging in August 2005, and now it's nearly February 2010. Those who are following along in the cross-posting via Facebook, feel free to check out the blog and its archive at Honor... Courage... Commitment. From Barbados to Austria to Chile to the United States, many of the posts detail travels I've had based from various places I've lived. But if there's one theme interwoven throughout the posts, it's weather. I've experienced some amazing weather events in these past years, and felt compelled to comment on other events that I didn't even experience. I haven't "tagged" my posts like other bloggers, but I'm certain weather and weather-related events would win, hands down (even more than travel, although that'd probably come in a close second!)

So I give a hearty "THANK YOU" to all my readers, especially those in far-flung places like Norman, OK, Santiago, Chile, Sandnes, Norway, Bagatelle, Barbados, and Graz, Austria. An equally-hearty thanks to all my commenters; I feel connected with you even though the distance is large.

God bless you all, and here's to the next 400 posts!

You may recognize that I have two photos at the top of my blog that I occasionally change: the banner image along with the introduction to me. Here's a look back at how they've changed, from October 2005, when I changed the background behind the blog title from orange to a picture, through today (well, earlier this fall was the last time I modified either the title image or the introductory photo).

First the title images:

Now the introductory images:

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Carolinas Crusher", 10 years later

Ten years ago, during my junior year at UNC, North and South Carolina were surprised by a sudden, and very intense, low pressure system that ended up dropping 15+ inches of snow over a large area. The NWS-Raleigh office has a great write-up of the event, so I won't rehash all the details, but to summarize, convective activity the previous day over deep south AL/LA/GA contributed to amplification of a low-latitude shortwave trough, and 24 hrs later a broad baroclinic leaf of precip had developed over the mid-Atlantic states. The NWS offices were all caught off-guard; I remember them issuing the Winter Weather advisories & warnings post-facto, i.e., issuing them like they were severe warnings with 15 min lead-time instead of the normal 24+ hr lead for a winter event.

In Chapel Hill, we enjoyed sledding on the Bowles Dr. hill (that led down from Chase dining hall toward the Dean Dome), "snow wars" between Hinton James and Eringhaus dorms, and lots of traipsing around in the knee-deep snow. Adam Cline and I went out goofing around in his jeep about 11 p.m. and ended up helping a few guys push their cars out of ditches. While we were out driving around, I heard my first (and only, to date) instance of thunder snow. It was surreal. Classes were cancelled for 2.5 days and a great time was had by all. The official NWS total for Chapel Hill was 14", which was exceeded (for my personal-best highest event-total snowfall) this past December, when I measured 20.8" in Annapolis during our mammoth storm on 18-19 Dec.

Here's a satellite pic of the event from 25 Jan 2000, 10 years ago today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Snow, computers, and dogs

First a word on the snow possibilities at the end of the week: the GFS, NOGAPS, and CMC are all hinting at possible precip Fri/Sat, but as always questions remain. QPF amounts vary from about 0.1" to 0.5", and 1000-500 mb thicknesses range from well below 540 dm to well above 540 dm (the 540 dm is a rough rain-snow line proxy). It doesn't give me much confidence that the only models runs that consistently indicate heavier precip in colder air are the 'off-synoptic time' runs (06/18Z); the synoptic-time runs (00/12Z) are drier and warmer in their solutions. Considering this is in the 120-hr time-frame, there is still plenty of time to see what ends up happening.

This afternoon I went over to my friend Oscar's house to help him configure his computer for internet. I got the internet working, and then proceeded to start uninstalling spam programs... and ended up causing his machine to not work at all: neither internet nor anything else. I'm now back here at my apt, with his laptop, and am looking at a multi-hour job to restore it back to at least marginal working condition. Ugh, that's how things go when you are smart enough to know get yourself into trouble but not smart enough to fix your own problems. I think this is called "teenager". (Doesn't help that his machine is riddled with viruses and the power cord is marginally-functiona....)

Finally, the other beagle dog that my family had while we were growing up, Penny, is on her last leg. She's 15.5 yrs old, which is quite old for any dog, and her health is finally catching up with her: she can't hear, can see only short distances, has various (cancerous?) growths on her limbs, and has stopped eating. On top of this, her heart has been weak for several years, and she's not taking any more medicine for it. This week she'll either die on her own or my parents will take her to be put down. Penny, thanks for a great 15+ years! We'll miss you and Springer!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

First-time homebuyer credit: sixteen weeks and counting

I doubt many of my friends are dealing with this, but I wanted to give an update on the supposed "quick" economic stimulus offered to first-time homebuyers. You remember that in 2008, those buyers were offered a $7500 loan, repayable in 3 annual installments, and that in 2009, those buyers were offered an $8000 credit with no need to repay. The program was extended and again modified in late 2009, for those people who'd been living in a home for at least 5 years now eligible for a $6500 credit, as long as they moved/closed on their "new" home by the end of April.

The stimulus was signed in early 2009, and the initial program allowed those 2009 buyers who wanted "quicker" access to their funds the option of modifying their 2008 federal tax returns to take the credit then. That's what I did: I closed on this place on 28 Aug, and mailed the required forms the same afternoon. They were received by the IRS in early Sept., and the clock began ticking. I think that the first filers - those in Jan, Feb, and Mar 2009 - waited only 4-6 weeks for their amended returns to be processed; however, that wait time has now crept up to 12-16 weeks according to the IRS website. I'm entering week 18, and a quick search of various internet forums reveals a smorgasborg of stories: delays, lost paperwork, denials, and a few successes (but usually still these folks had long delays).

So I thought I'd post and start an official clock, just to see how long it finally takes to arrive, if ever: in 2008 I had foreign income and a foreign address, sure-fire red flags to send my amended form into extra review. I'm hoping by Feb 1st - which would be 5 months from closing date. We shall see.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

¿Qué es un asado entre amigos?

What is a cookout between friends?

This afternoon Chun, Factor, Baltazar, Margolita, and Chilo came over to my house and we enjoyed 9 pounds of grilled beef! (That's $40 of pretty good quality meats, plus $3 of tortillas).

I enjoyed hanging out and joking around, and I think they did, too. Thank you, Lord, for this great house and for time to spend with my new friends. Here are a few pictures:


The first week of the semester has finished. And I think this one will be busier still than the last two: I have 12 teaching hours - two 5-hr classes per week and a lab section of someone else's lecture. Plus I have 5 research students I'm advising, so with our hour of face-time per week, that totals 17 hours. Not a lot of down time, especially when you throw in class preps, advising (which will hit hard in Feb/Mar), and personal research. Regardless of how busy it is, though, I love what I do and am excited to have a full week ahead.

The higher-ups have given tentative approval to my proposal for a colleague and I to take 10 midshipmen to the Plains in May for 2 weeks of storm chasing, seminars, and in-field forecasting exercises. Should be a great time, and perhaps even fully-funded for the midshipmen.

Last night my former small group reunited to say goodbye to Cam and Mary, who are heading west-northwest to Indiana for a fresh start there. I enjoyed good conversation and catching up with friends. It was sad that our small group only lasted for 3 months (well, I think they had been meeting for longer than 3 months... maybe as much as a year before I got there) before we "disbanded". Here are a few pics: Kyle and Craig sampling the yummy deserts, me with Kyle and Jen, and me with Cam and Mary.

Also last night I got a very strange text message from "Tino" (well, it popped up in my phone from Tino...) Tino was our small group leader who went back to Guatemala in December. So either he figured out how to get his US cell phone to work down there (and still show up as the same Annapolis number), or his phone is back in the US and sending text messages. I wonder if he came with his phone? That would make me happy! (I called the number back last night but got an automated message after a few rings... no voicemail setup).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nicaragua, querida Nicaragua

"Nicaragua, dear Nicaragua"

I've been back two full days now and still cannot appreciate all of the amazingness that was Nicaragua: ten days of conversation, exploration, relaxation, observation, and two rather humbling experiences intermixed with many rich emotions. I went away determined not to think about work, but I kept thinking how I might transfer these many lessons back to the classroom. Those of you who know me well will know that I am frequently intense and emotional: I commit 100% to something once I'm committed, and I try hard to live in the present (I know that's a cliche, but it means that if I have your attention I'm trying to not think about what I'm doing next). So while in Nicaragua, I gave 100%: I spoke about 5 minutes of English the whole week, didn't turn down invitations from strangers to interact with them (well, a few times, see below...), and altogether loved my stay in Nicaragua.

So, a few observations after only 10 days:

1- Nicaraguans don't mind littering, and their beautiful country doubles as their beautiful trash can. Well, at least the cities. Not that the cities don't have trashcans on the streets (courtesy of foreign aid oftentimes)... people just don't feel compelled to use them.

2- Nicaraguan food is amazing: flavorful, but not overwhelming; basic but healthy and nutritious. I loved eating beans and rice nearly daily, because they were always served with something else. As a side note, although I bought some "junk food" items (often out of curiousity for how they taste more than hunger or desire) I ate many fewer junky things in Nica than normal in the USA.

3- Bicycles are a major form of intracity transit. People double, even triple, riding aside in a bicycle. Intersections always seemed scary, but maybe those on bike have learned how to navigate them.

4- What Nicaraguans lack in material wealth they make up "in spades" with communal wealth: spirit of community was palpable and alive in each city I visited. Perhaps it was because I was a tourist, or maybe because it was holiday period and families had more time devoted together, but the family/friend unit is strong in Nicaragua. And they aren't hesitant to reach out to strangers, which I experienced several times (although, interestingly, not in Leon... even though I tried once to get myself invited to lunch by a friend... maybe he thought it would be too much an imposition?)

5- Nicaraguans generally are full of life. One of their ways to express this liveliness is baseball. It's a national past-time (well, to watch anyway... I saw few folks actually playing baseball...!) and they are passionate about their home teams, as well as a MLB team or two.

6- Nicaraguans all know about the USA. Some have strong opinions, either in favor or against. Regardless I was treated more than cordially.

7- I thought many times what it would be like to actually live in Leon. I think it would be difficult but fun. The two churches I visited were amazing: very welcoming and teeming with young people & energy.

8- I repeatedly was forced to reckon with just how rich (materially) I am: it was obvious that I have been given so much stuff (or access to buy so much stuff). This was very humbling and caused me to frequently self-assess what I'm doing with it: how am I using what I've been given to serve and bless those around me? This question was hard to answer, because unfortunately I do a terrible job of serving with what I have.

9- In line with feeling like I have a ton of stuff, I had two really humbling experiences. The first was in Granada, on New Year's Day. In the morning I walked about exploring the city, taking pictures of this church and that, and ended up down by the lake (Lago Nicaragua). I started journaling, and the two guys sitting about 30 feet away started talking with me. Over the course of about an hour, we talked at various intervals about general things: how to celebrate 2010, what the park was behind the wall over to our right, ... you know, small talk. Alfredo got this big idea to invite me back to Jose's house to eat a soup that he wanted me to try. So we walked back to Jose's house and Alfredo went to fetch the soup. Jose lives in a very nice house and has several sons in their 20s (he's probably only about 45 himself). Alfredo told me he was 29 but wasn't yet married or had any kids.

When Alfredo returned with the soup, he also had a "Safari" themed tee-shirt he wanted to give me. It's here where the story turns a little strange; I began to get the sense that the guys wanted me to give them money. Alfredo, especially, he mentioned several times how poor he was and how hard his life was. Alfredo had been a cook in a hotel, so had some experience with tourists. After eating the soup and taking various photos, Alfredo wanted me to see his house and meet his mom. He wasn't lying when he said he was poor. His "house" was open at one end (it had 3 walls and a partial roof) and he lived in one room with his mom, aunt, grandmother, nephew, and sister, and maybe others who weren't there when we visited.

Anyway, to finish up the story, they never directly asked me for money, but Jose and I left Alfredo at home when he started throwing a "fit" with his mom. I'm still not sure he was totally sane, and am glad to have left with Jose when we did, but I still feel sorry for him: he is my age but has had a very hard life. They have an "outhouse" but it's inside their wall, dirt floors, some running water, fewer beds than people... and generally Alfredo seems like a cheery person. I've decided the best I can offer him is to pray for him.

- My other really humbling experience took place my last morning in Leon. Each morning I'd been getting up at 6 a.m. to do some exercises: situps, pushups, and a 30-min walk through the city. You might be surprised to learn that by 6:30 there are hundreds of people in the streets getting ready for their day. But despite the company (or maybe because of it?) I enjoyed these a.m. walks: time to think, pray, and begin the day quietly. People in Leon do have city trash service, and they often put out two bags of trash: one with recycling and othe regular. Only the city doesn't come pick up the recycling, rather the poor - often children - come by early with sticks banging on trash bags to see whether there are cans/bottles or anything else recyclable in the bags. Then they collect them and themselves recycle them, collecting a small amount of money in the process.

Anyway I'd been collecting trash in my room for the week and decided to go find a few kids who were collecting and give them not only my aluminum cans but also my spare change (I was flying out the next day and didnt need to bring back much spare change... probably about $2 worth). The kids I gave the cans to were not as thrilled with the can as with the money; they definitely brightened up more with the money than with the can. I suggested they share it and pay for "today's food". But the whole experience really was sad: knowing the life I have in the USA, full of lots of choices and foods and leisure time (but maybe devoid of the kind of community life they have... it is a trade-off)... in comparison with them. It caused me to feel very grateful to my grandparents and parents, who sacrificed a lot for me, and to God himself who has provided me with so many material possessions. As I've been saying in the past few points, this contrast has been the hardest to process: my relative material wealth juxtaposed with their relative material poverty. I'm still working it out.

10- When we landed in Miami the American girl next to me flipped out her cell phone and called one of her girlfriends (she talked about surfing, so maybe it was LA... regardless she was planning how to get drunk and pass the weekend with her friend). Even though her vulgarity (she cussed a lot, and didn't seem to care how much in the public she was) gave me pause, one of her comments struck me as absolutely henious: she was recounting to her friend her past week of partying, evidently with a Nicaraguan friend she knew from the US, and ended her description with something like "I'm so glad to be back in the US, back among civilized people..." I so wanted to call her out on that, to point out her ignorance and insinsitivity and bigotry. In addition to the racist/classist undertone, she's just plain wrong: Nicaraguans may lack many things but they do not lack civilization. Their interpersonal bonds are probably tighter than ours here! Anyway, in the beginning of processing my powerful experiences, I didn't need to overhear some vulgar b*tch (reference) carrying on about hers.

11- I loved my host family. They treated me with utmost respect, fed me amazingly well, and generally included me in all their activities. I talked politics with Raul, learned about food and clothing from Maria Tereza, and played poker, desmoche (like Gin Rummy) and Nintendo 64 with Gustavo and Markos. It was a great family to live with and I'm sorry it was only for 1 week.

12- Nearly every Nicaraguan I met asked me when I was coming back. They were really interested in hearing not only why I came but also when I was returning. Given that I had such an amazing experience, I'm sure I'll be returning soon.

Now, for some pictures:

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