Friday, June 5, 2009

New type of cloud discovered?

An "asperatus" cloud rolls over New Zealand's South Island in an undated picture.

This apparently new class of clouds is still a mystery. But experts suspect asperatus clouds' choppy undersides may be due to strong winds disturbing previously stable layers of warm and cold air.

Asperatus clouds may spur the first new classification in the World Meteorological Organization's International Cloud Atlas since the 1950s, Gavin Pretor-Pinney said.

The article is here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Air France crash may show pilots can be overwhelmed by weather

By John Hughes

June 4 (Bloomberg) -- The crash of an Air France jet this week over a remote stretch of the Atlantic Ocean may show the limits of pilots’ ability to cope with severe weather even after decades of advances in technology, analysts said.

The plane was traveling in an area that lacked coverage from ground-based radar, which controllers otherwise can use to help spot storms, said William Voss, head of the Flight Safety Foundation. With less than one flight an hour in the region, there also would have been few advance reports on conditions from other pilots, he said.

The possibility that storms may have contributed to the crash is an early focus of inquiry as authorities search for the “black box” voice and data recorders that would provide more detailed information of what happened on board. While weather causes fewer crashes than in the past because of advances in radar, pilots still depend on outside guidance to steer clear of dangerous squalls.

“No captain in his right mind would drill a modern airliner through a thunderstorm,” said Jack Casey, a former airline pilot and consultant at Safety Operating Systems LLC in Washington. “It’s just not done.”

The entire Bloomberg article is here.

Russian climatologist blames global warming for Air France crash

Once again, a widely publicized tragedy is being blamed on man-caused global warming.

Warming alarmists have often bemoaned air travel saying it increases the threat of global warming, but this time they’re blaming the phenomenon for the tragedy surrounding Air France Flight 447. That flight is believed to have crashed in the Atlantic Ocean and have claimed up to 228 lives.

Alexei Kokorin, a climatologist for the left-wing World Wildlife Fund’s Russia Climate Program, blamed global warming for the crash. He told Russia Today (RT) on June 4 global warming is to blame for making the weather conditions some think is to blame for the crash more severe.

“A consequence of global warming is that the frequency and severity of such events (severe weather conditions) is higher,” Kokorin said. “Unfortunately, the risk for airplanes, especially in tropical areas above water, will be higher. This could be difficult for pilots to understand.

(Not sure I'm buying this theory, but under the heading of "don't rule anything out" I thought I'd pass this along. I fear we may never know what brought that plane down. The bottom of the Atlantic is nearly 5 miles below the surface; the black box will probably never be recovered). For the complete article click here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Upper Midwest Storm Chaser Community -

Do you have an interest in storms/weather? Here's your chance to get to know a few of the local (Upper Midwest) storm chaser that live and breathe weather. Some are meteorologist, some are not, but it doesn't matter... if you have an interest or want to know more check it out. Current members have a deep desire to share, teach and discuss all weather related and sometimes non-weather (scientific) goings on.

Check it out, you won't be disappointed... there's a lot of good information/help there!

Air France 447, a detailed meteorological analysis

Air France flight 447 (AF447), an Airbus A330 widebody jet, was reported missing in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of June 1, 2009. The plane was enroute from Rio de Janeiro (SBGL) to Paris (LFPG). Speculation suggested that the plane may have flown into a thunderstorm. The objective of this study was to isolate the aircraft's location against high-resolution satellite images from GOES-10 to identify any association with thunderstorm activity. Breakup of a plane at higher altitudes in a thunderstorm is not unprecedented; Northwest Flight 705 in 1963 and more recently Pulkovo Aviation Flight 612 in 2006 are clear examples.

Back in the 1990s I did flight route forecasting for the Air Force. One of my assignments in summer 1994 was forecasting was the sector between Mombasa, Kenya and Cairo, Egypt for C-5 and C-141 aircraft. The Sudan region had tropical MCS activity similar to this with little in the way of sensor data, so this incident holds some special interest for me as one of our C-5s could easily have followed a very similar fate. Using what's available to me I decided to do a little analysis and see if I could determine anything about the fate of AF447 and maybe through some circuitous, indirect means help give authorities some clues on where to look.

(There's a lot of erroneous information floating around out there; we're still dealing with shear speculation, but this is the best meteorological analysis I've seen yet about what MIGHT have happened on the trans-Atlantic flight and the weather conditions involved). Click here for all the details.

How I captured the perfect storm

A Jack Russell puppy was the first to sense the danger. With ears pinned back, it cowered in the corner, whimpering, trembling. Hail the size of golf balls started smashing against the windows, and then came rain, torrential, relentless, deafening. Women and children were crying and men with tattoos on their tree-trunk biceps looked anxiously about them. Thunder shook the building and rattled our souls. A lightening strike momentarily turned everything a shocking blue before plunging us into darkness.

Suddenly, a siren sounded outside. "Tornado warning!" shrieked a voice from the darkness. "OK, people, listen up!" shouted another voice behind a flickering torch beam. "Everybody, into the walk-in refrigerator. Now!"

It was May, 2008 and I was in a petrol station in Nebraska after seven weeks travelling the American Midwest pursuing tornadoes during the most active tornado season for 50 years. Already 90 people had died, but the season was far from over. As an anthropologist and geographer, I am fascinated by the complex relationship between man and nature, and wanted to get up close and personal with a twister.

Why, I wanted to know, do people insist on living in climatic danger zones? Why do they choose to coexist with natural hazards that could kill or injure them on a seasonal basis? And, as a filmmaker and adventurer, I also wanted the adrenalin buzz of rubbing shoulders with this ferocity – and capturing it on film.

(This is a terrific article, with video highlights. Click here to read the entire post).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fewest sunspots since 1928

ABOVE: A solar flare observed in Dec. 2006 by NOAA's GOES-13 satellite.

May 29, 2009:
An international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle. Solar Cycle 24 will peak, they say, in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots.

"If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78," says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

It is tempting to describe such a cycle as "weak" or "mild," but that could give the wrong impression.

"Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather," points out Biesecker. "The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013."

The complete NASA press release is here. And yes, there is a distinct possibility that the lack of sunspots may be having some impact on recent cooling trends over the arctic and much of North America. The link has not been proven, but researchers are studying a potential correlation between a dearth of sunspot activity and observed temperatures here on Earth.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Risks in rain & shine

Golf is good for your health — for the exercise, the fresh air and the socialization benefits. Heck, doing the math as you try to keep track of all the side bets is good stimulus for the brain.

But we can get too much of a good thing, and I’m not talking about hand calluses or back spasms. Dangerous extremes lurk on the golf course. Two golf hazards not discussed nearly enough are the risk of skin cancer from sun exposure and the peril of lightning.

If you play enough golf, you are regularly exposed to both.

Dermatologists say golfers are notoriously poor at protecting themselves from sun damage and frequently need treatment for harmful lesions on ears, hands and noses. And in a typical year, lightning kills more people than tornadoes or hurricanes. A golf course is an especially dangerous place during a thunderstorm because it has isolated, tall trees and wide-open spaces where golfers can be the tallest target.

Read the complete (and excellent) article from the New York Times here.