Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Why are social networks popular on the internet?

maybe it helps in identity formation, decision making control (and informed decisions via data mining), or sense of community.

My opinion is self obsessed* visualization of one's status, identity, and community. How many friends you have, movie preferences, likes and dislikes, photos, groups you join, etc are all public. Its almost like a self perceived ranking amongst not only your peers, but against the local community and communities afar. A virtual popularity contest masked as a communication tool. Lets face it,the communication is one sided and delayed.

(stepping down from soapbox)

But its the visualization that I think is popular. You can see your quantity of "friends" and how you relate to them. How you organize or categorize them. Which circle they might be in with you. Plus you can meet new people and see how that relationship or connection evolves.

Its also safe from personal contact, like IM, but is more than words, thus the focus on visualization.

This epiphany I had stems from realizing that most learners of college age tend to be more visual than not. Thus the popularity of these social networking sites might be evidence that visual learners are becoming more plentiful. I don't know the stats on this to be sure, but I will attempt to find out.

*Not everyone is self obsessed. If you have more than 50 friends, your obsessed. 50 is a not-so-random random number. It is age dependent is a way that I should not attempt to quantify.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

personality type

Your personality type:

Independent, original, analytical and determined. Have an exceptional ability to turn theories into solid plans of action. Highly value knowledge, competence and structure. Driven to derive meaning from their visions. Long-range thinkers. Have very high standards for their performance and the performance of others. Natural leaders, but will follow if they trust existing leaders.

Careers that could fit you include:

Scientists, engineers, professors, teachers, medical doctors, dentists, corporate strategists, organization founders, business administrators, managers, military, lawyers, judges, computer programmers, system analysts, computer specialists, psychologists, photographers, research department managers, researchers, university instructors, chess players.

So, I am INTJ.

Judge for yourself:

Now what do I do with this information...

Friday, December 5, 2008


1. Bribe them ... oh I mean offer a reward to learn [Roland Fryer]. Paying for good grades 50 bucks for an A per 5 weeks per class. Great guy. What a stupid idea. Its not that I dont think it will work. Because lets face it, money makes things happen.

A physical reward for EVERYTHING is not something we should teach our kids. What if the reward (learning for example) ceases to be the worthy? What new innovation will have to be created? Perhaps an app from the Apple store? Maybe a discount on car insurance (oops already done). Maybe entrance into college? or the fast lane to a well paying job? damn and damn.
College's look at grades ... sort of. well paying jobs look have standards as well but I am pretty sure they are as rigorous as a university entrance exam.

Maybe you noticed my sarcasm. Please Reread. Oh ... you want a reward for reading this far. Here you ...
Sucker. Made you read.

2. Selling advertisements on exams and quizzes to pay for the copy paper its printed on. Ingenius. How is it that most people bitch and moan about taxes, but are able to donate countless dollars to charities such as schools. At this rate, after paying taxes, after paying insurance, I will need to pay a fee for
A. registering my kid to go to school
B. calculators and computers
C. fundraising for the school
D. sports equipment
E. test paper and ink
F. books
G. bribing the kids to learn

so where does the money go that we already pay?

Its true. Kids have 1 job. It is not:
1. babysitting the family
2. playing video games
3. talking on the phone
4. facebooking, myspacing, or bullying

Its going to school and learning. Learning all about the world in which we live. How it works. Whats been done before. where we can gofrom here. what we know, what we dont know but want to know.

10,000 hours is what it takes to become an expert on something or so I havent read yet.
12 grades X 180 days X 6 hours/day = 12960 hours.

Showing up and staring at T & A, or the wall or the floor really doesnt do it. It takes work, effort, motivation and FAILURE. This is where the reward system may work. Not getting the A means no reward. A punishment for not getting an A. But the reward is in accomplishment, in knowing that you were challenged, and exceeding that challenge.

its the feeling often felt as a child when you do the monkeybars for the first time. or go down the slide by yourself. Confidence. If we associate this feeling with money, and then we teach our kids this association, we will miss confidence. This is something I have seen more of in recent years when I taught. lack of confidenceand accomplishment. The previous learning came easy tothem. they forgot how to recognize and overcome a challenge because they had no confidence or worse ... fake confidence.

Friday, November 21, 2008


we need to read "outliers" by malcolm gladwell.

The TIME article on the book has a good premise ... it happens to be one I preach with a simple rule: the 10,000 hours it takes to be good at something or 10 years.

Too bad in my field, you spend 12 years getting a BS, MS, and PhD ... then you spend 1-4 getting a Post-doc. Then you are good enough to do Research and teach.

Friday, October 24, 2008

the final frontier

Its Space. Its naturally cool. Its dreamy, dark, and mysterious. And yet we avoid it like a plague.

Oh its too difficult to go there. Its too expensive. Whatever.

Miles O Brien wrote a peice on facebook that Kristi pointed me too. Maybe after some spell checking and adding some grammar, it should be posted on

His piece says one thing:
if you dare to dream, then you must be willing to meet that challenge ... but beware ... the dream is much harder than you imagined and you will need to be better than you give yourself credit for.

And that is what makes it so worthwhile. When you set the bar higher than you think you can go, you end up achieving more. And dreams are about meeting all the little challenges and when they are put together its the collection of challenges that equal the dream.

back to space.

NASA is a great representation of science. Underfunded and still overachieves. Mars rovers that last like ten times longer than planned. Mars Phoenix which observed ice, and ice clouds, and dug in the dirt. The jupiter flyby, the saturn flyby, the Mercury flyby, the comet crasher, hubble telescope. sure hubble failed but only because NASA was retasked for a mission with a lower bar. We dont need to use the moon to get to MARS.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Large Hadron Collider

Pretty awesome machine. I am excited to see what kind of discoveries will be made in the next decade. Who knows. Maybe what they learn about the early universe, quantum physics, etc. will help the world out.

I havent done too much research on the subject but I hope to do so soon. I just heard the collider is broken till spring 2009. I am patient. Lofty science projects funded at 8 Billion will turn out good science. The only real question is how US scientists will capitalize, bring home the knowledge, and train the next generation of physicists. It may be delayed but in my opinion this is one of those projects where two things can happen:
1. Physicist boom both in terms of people and investments (private and public),
2. Bust in the form of longer time till discovery.

I am sure all the nanatechnology people are eager to hear whats going on. Plus all the computer scientists will need to invent new stuff to handle not only the data, but its visualization and analysis. This latter part will fuel discovery in other areas.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike lied

rapid organization transpiring. eye to 40mi, winds right at cat 3 for the surface and cat 4 near 6500 feet. Radar imagery indicates mesovortices in the eyewall. 2 hours left before landfall.
water levels are rising rapidly, right around a foot per hour. This is outside of the eye, well tothe NE. This is with the winds blowing along the coast, once the winds turn southerly, watch out for the wall of water.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I want to be like Ike

Ike. Cat 2, insanely large wind field and yet uncharacteristically unorganized. I was almost angry that the wind max at flight level moved from 60 to 80 nmi away from the center. Then I read that the inner eyewall at 8 or 10 nmi still has not been removed.

I am blown away by the absolute lack of outflow on the east side. NHC insists there is no shear, but rather dry air. I need dropsonde proof.

I have noticed recurrent bouts of what appear to spiral bands emanating along the east side which produce brief outflow, but no channel forms aloft because the convection is short lived. But you can see these outflow bursts or waves or something. Fascinating. I recently skimmed Willoughby (2008) on inertia-bouyancy waves so I am thinking these bursts are waves or at least energy radiating away from Ike.

The 0315 satellite IR picture shows Ike transforming. The CDO has expanded eastward and the center still has deep convection (no classic eye). Notice the banded cold cloud tops encircling the center. This is probably the radius of maximum wind. Still the east side has not developed an outflow channel aloft. SIL and LCH at 00 UTC still had 20-30 kt NE winds , while TBW and EYW had 50 knots in the outflow channel. Perhaps they will launch 06 UTC soundings.

Power of Ike: Shown is from a buoy that Ike went by. 48 kt on the east side gusting to 62 kt. 60 kt on the west side gusting to 70. On the east side the wave heights were 30 feet. Notice that tropical storm force winds were experienced at this buoy for 27 hours so far.

Central pressure got as low as 947, but more recently is 956. Based on the sat image I think Ike will be cat 3 by morning. The storm is so large though, it will be hard for the wind maximum to contract enough to drop the pressure in the core for the hurricane to truly spin up 10-15 knots.
Update 0733: 20 nmi eyewall maybe forming.

Notice the huge cirrus blowoff over the texas coast. The soundings still didnt show an outflow channel to the north nor did the soundings have the cirrus layer though it appeared more towards 00 UTC (confusing since the flow agreed with both the high to the west and the outflow from the storm).

update 9-12: Eye wall at 50 nmi formed, broken to the east now but filling in prior to landfall. flight level winds stillcoming in around 107 kt, with the pressure holding at 953 hPa.

The surface wind field is changing rapidly with winds lessthan 90 kt focusing around the 50 nmi eyewall on the NE side (according to the 0130 HWIND analysis). This is one of the most confusing storms I have seen. Cant wait to see what research papers appear in the next 5 years. especially with all the research flights (2 planes simultanously sampling every 6 hours or so).

I expect surge to approach 20-25 ft east of landfall. unfortunalty a buoy has been unmoored 22 nmi out of Galveston Bay (42035). water levels at Galveston are at about 10 feet, though the pictures on TV indicate closer to 15 feet.

Lets address something controversial. Staying in Galveston. Good Luck. I would say to update your will, however it is likely your material possessions will be non-existent in a few hours. Hopefully the military will pull you out, so your greatest achievement will be to help make heroes even more heroic. Crude? Rude? yup.

Categorical strength misrepresents a hurricanes power. Wind speed, storm surge, rain, forwrad motion, angle to the coastline, and size determine a catostraphe. Andrew was small and a cat 5...I was there... it cleared some Florida areas pretty well. Gustav was bigger, weaker, but hit at the right angle and after the levy's already broke for Katrina (a weakening cat 3).

This is way too long, I will verify my gross speculation tomorrow when the damage reports come in.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


The hurricane season gets interesting:
NOLA needs to be worried if this track verifies. Like Katrina, a wall of water will approach and funnel into the area. Can the levy's hold? I hope so.

Much like Katrina, the fetch will be more important that the exact intensity. if the hurricane slows down in forward speed upon arrival, the water may well pile up along the SE coast of LA.

For a good chance at survival, the storm needs to make landfall in Texas. I don't see that quite happening now, but it is a distinct possibility.

In the Atlantic a few potential storms are also brewing. Keep an eye to the sky because something big is gonna happen this year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

taxpayers and climate change

People are so hung up on conspiracy. Global warming is real. For how long and why are still being evaluated. Two reasons for the uncertainty exist:

1. coupled atmosphere ocean models yield a wide range of scenario's and the models are not well understood due to the inherit non-linearity of the problem. One aspect is the resolution of the model. Finer resolution means a better answer. Not the best, but better. One aspect that has received little attention: model physics. There is no money for physics development. only science. Model development is good. dynamics and numerics, distributed memory computing.

2. Physical process understanding across scales and across disciplines. atmosphere vs ocean: oceanic processes impact the atmosphere and the atmosphere impacts the ocean. clouds and aerosols: clouds can be hindered or enhanced by aerosols (type, concentration, etc), greenhouse gases and their effects on radiative heat transfer, clouds, etc.

The recent joint statement on needs of the weather and climate community is nothing new. However, there is big chance here to increase scientific funding that CAN and WILL have a positive impact on taxpayers. Lets count the ways:

1. Fuel. Do you know who plows the streets, sprays for mosquitoes, patrols the streets? The government spends a lot of money to not only predict the weather to save on fuel but also to manage those resources in an emergency. That is if you anticipate a storm, you have a much better chance of saving on fuel and supplies. Now couple that with knowing in advance that you or the neighboring county will actually use a large amount of supplies, well then you get the bulk discount.

2. disaster preparedness and response. Money is usually not the answer. Supplies, equipment, and manpower are more valuable. All cost money. But rushing in supplies and poorly distributing them requires extra effort, extra manpower and more money.

3. rebuilding. Look at NO, or greensburg KS. years later and progress, but not fully rebuilt. More money needed.

4. Tornado's cause sudden and intense damage. Mitigation is not a viable option. However, you can save lives. Politicians care about lives. Hurricanes can be mitigated. Oil rigs and pipelines shutdown, facilities secured, planes, cars, boats, ships, freighters moved, people relocated temporarily, infrastructure secured, etc. short to medium term prediction is a valuable asset.
Knowing when you will need to increase item 2 budget's priceless.

This touches on a few items. I am sure there are more. The joint statement asked for 9 billion over 5 years, essentially doubling the budget over the previous 5 years. Just like oil drilling will take a decade to impact prices at the pump, so will this investment. No promises offered though.

I will say this. People are already promoting using weather data to their advantage on wind power, industry is generating forecasts to be sold for use in everyday businesses. the profits are huge for the industry that gets it right. The savings potential to customers is high. We are taking tailored forecasts here. Not NWS watches, warnings, forecasts for public safety use or recreation.

We are talking, saving on fuel by telling a truck 300 miles away to divert around a storm that will strike 4 hours hours from now along his protected path. This will save everyone money and time. best of all, a taxpayer investment will actually benefit the taxpayers for the foreseeable future. It really is that simple for the taxpayer.

the science will mature without these funds. It will take twice as long. Only twice as long because computer hardware is doubling according to Moore's law. Petascale computing is here. We need it to be here. The benefits to society will take just as long, in my opinion.

Lets say tens years with funding forthe science, another 5 for the societal benefit to be realized tangibly. had funding commenced in 02, we would be a decade away. Without funding, 12-15 years for the science, 5-7 for the tangible benefit. so by 2025, we will make progress on using weather data. thats 20 years. A 3 day forecast today is as good as a 1 day forecast was ten years ago. In ten years we should expect that to double: 7 day forecast as good as a 3 day forecast now.

But if we cant get the climate right, we have no hope of mitigation. because by 2025 people will be more skeptical of diverting funds to climate prediction when increased sea level takes out your summer vacation plans, or a hurricane ravaged your tropical vacation. maybe it was the freak snowstorm that took out power to your county for ten days. maybe it was the heat wave that knocked out power for 3 weeks, and when it was restored, you are paying a higher rate because that electricity needed to be bought from another state.

The climate changes. The funding climate must change too. It starts by asking your politicians to invest early in the science.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Seldom do we get to learn from great professors of academia AND life. This is the kind of teacher I am aspiring to be. It will take time and hard work. There will be obstacles. They will be overcome.

Perhaps the most intriguing similarity I have with Randy Pausch is his tidbits of information. I always try to come up with these when I have students struggling. I always found these valuable for learning. It makes the goal tangible, it stresses a process rather than an event, and it encourages work. Best of all, you never give up the answer. You show the point on the map marked "You are here". The tidbit could be a compass, or it could be motivation, or it could be perspective. the best part is there are no answers. That would spoil the journey.

Here are a few of Pausch's, stolen from the TIME article:

Don't complain. Just work harder.

Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough.

If you lead your life the right way ... the dreams will come to you.

The dreams live on. Thanks Randy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wind power

I like the idea of getting wind power to market. I like the idea because wind is plentiful in the US.

Can we really harvest what we need? A few issues of concern:
1. How much do the turbine networks cost?
2. How long do they last ?
3. How quickly can they be fixed and/or replaced?

The meteorology based concerns:
1. Can the turbine handle the low level jet, especially the vertical wind shear [turbine lifetime and overall "up" time]?
2. What is the probability that tornado's and/or damaging winds will occur over the lifetime of the turbine?
3. Can the turbine handle smaller scale events which may not meet severe weather criteria but may enhance the wind shear locally [outflow boundaries]?

Wind speeds need to be greater than 6.9 m/s at 80 m*. This is easily achieved in the Central US during the severe weather season. However blocking anticyclones routinely set up for spans of 1-4 weeks throughout the summer months (June, July, August). This effectively limits summer production. Turbulence in the Low level jet also affects turbine lifetime. The Plains is a turbulent hot spot. As a general rule turbines are not made to withstand strong winds. The height of the turbine and rotational and vibrational characteristics help determine the stress experienced by the entire structure*. It is possible that non-severe winds can damage a turbine. Given the data density of even surface stations it is likely that a network of turbines put upin the Plains would have difficulty being productive.

Maintenance costs are up to 3 percent and replacing blades is 15-20 percent of the initial cost of the turbine*. A German turbine had a design lifetime of 20 years ... it lasted 3 weeks*.

*some of these facts were found on the Danish Wind Industry web site.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

math education

I am a renegade math parent. I find it difficult to grasp that the author of this article did not challenge the use of calculators in grade 4. There is a time and place for conceptual understanding and elementary school is not it. Math is nice and simple and mechanistic. There is a method for solving problems using pencil and paper. If Math is to be truly intuitive then you need a database of problems (memorizing multiplication tables). This sets the stage for learning through Algebra. The first real conceptual problems arise in geometry.

The idea that the same problem can be solved in multiple ways works only for speed. Choose the fastest method for solving. this works in the grocery store, but hardly anywhere else. Concepts are usually for applied math, like chemistry or physics, or biology.

I would argue that stopping the focus on politically correct and confusing word problems is the first step. Concentrate on real world problems if you must. But keep the focus on building the database. The key to quality education is to provide math and its applications; keep them at the same pace; make the classes build together. the more you see it, the better you learn it.

Tis is fundamentally why calculators are so bad. they just punch numbers. why have the mental database when you have a calculator. Soon enough it becomes commonplace that mechanics are learned rather than the material.


Before my memory fades, I wanted to recall who got me into science fully.
1. Dad waking me up early to watch the Space Shuttle launch.

2. High school: Mr. Arpaia (sp?) demoted me to sub "college track" generalscience for the start of 9th grade. I was not pleased, but my slacker mentality landed me there and I think he knew I couldnt a swift kick to the head. Mrs. Rierra very quickly moved me back to college track where I continued to do well in her class. Mrs. Beattie in biology kept me in college prep but moved me up again for chemistrywhereIstarted to appreciate that I was indeed capable of being intelligent. It also made me believe I was smart ... something I would later need to achieve in college again.

there also were the other outstanding teacers I had: Mrs. Altieri, Mrs Ploski, Ms Nicholari, Mrs. Stellavato, Mr. Moriarty, and possibly others.

Ms Nicholari: "Jim, you have put us all to sleep with your monotone reading." her honesty made me take seriously my enrollment in the Dale Carnegie Public speaking class.

Mrs Stell: her honest, fun, inspiring classes were great. her personality really shined through,and her passion was obvious and most appreciated.

Mrs Ploski: Always happy, always proud, and very much able and willing to pass out compliments. Algebra with her was my favorite all around class.

Mrs. Altieri: funny, smart, and a great teacher.
Mr. Moriarty: A great guy. Inspiring and passionate. Someone who was animated, intelligent, and encouraging.

3. College: Dr. Vince idone, Dr. Lance Bosart, Dr. Ray Arritt, Dr. Eyad Atollah, Dr. Sheryl Honikman, Dr. H. Richter, Dr. B. Hornbuckle, Dr. S. E. Taylor, Dr. Paul Ruscher, Dr. James O'Brien, Dr. N. LaSuer.

All of these people were inspiring and motivational. They were/are dynamic, down to earth, approachable and available. They all had something encouraging to say or share, or they were able to impart some of their passion and pass on wisdom. I am lucky Ihad them as teachers. I am also lucky because having been taught by the best I have tried to acquire those same skills. Ilook forward to the day when I can teach again.

4. the storm chase. nothing better than putting your skills to the test. Its refreshing to get out and chase and put your skills to the test. A good challenge is very motivating and inspiring. Mother nature always puts on a show worthy of quantatative and qualitative analysis and enlightenment.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

random thoughts

1. sometimes we give to each, expecting to get something in return
2. sometimes we give to each, hoping to receive anything (no matter how minute) in return (probably a sign of respect, a thank you)
3. sometimes we give to each other because we owe a debt which can never be repaid and even if we did try to repay it, it would refused. sometimes this is what people call "pay it forward".

its important to teach these principles and teach when to use these principles. Hopefully option 2 increases with age while option 1 decreases. option 3 needs some help. I see it sporadically. I felt like I did option 3 by teaching ... i hope to get back to that soon.

Monday, July 7, 2008

back to modeling

The return to modeling. I have worked extensively with cumulus parameterization schemes in mesoscale and now regional climate models. No matter how good they do, there are serious known limitations to the physical schemes. The problem is that most people do not do a very good analysis on the known unknowns (the things we know we don't know) or at least the characteristics that have not been examined yet.

Cumulus schemes transport heat and moisture (vapor, microphysical species, and rain) from the lower levels to the upper levels of the atmosphere. They do not typically involve momentum transfer though there are always exceptions.

Cumulus schemes do NOT have:
1. sufficient variability to handle tropical or intense midlatitude convective heating,
2. sufficient resolution to handle MCS stratiform cloud shields including the associated coupled heating-cooling vertical dipole,
3. universal trigger function that works in the topics and midlatitudes,
4. can not generate significant heavy rainfall unless numerous non-physical scheme activations occur.

Furthermore, my work clearly shows that PBL temperature and moisture biases exist depsite resolution (4 vs 8-50 km). Vertical velocity is DAMPED when a cumulus scheme is used, not because the instability is being removed but because the cumulus scheme barely counters the destabilization, thus the vertical velocity distribution does not expand.

The cumulus scheme's are heavily untested at fine grid spacing. Good simulations with a cumulus scheme do not mean the cumulus scheme was either the cause of success or failure.
I think we need to ask the following:
1. What unique properties of a cumulus scheme contribute to the succesful components of a good forecast?
2. How does the cumulus scheme interact with other physics?
3. How does a change to the cumulus scheme impact the simulation?
4. What is the tendency of a particular series of changes to a cumulus scheme?

I would also urge that anyone using a cumulus scheme that wants to nest to fine resolution: use it to drive a seperate model run. You dont want cumulus tendencies going through multiple domains in a nested two-ay or one-way feedback.

Nesting in my opinion is not a proven concept until some more work on physics is completed. Early nesting used simple CPSs on the outer coarse grid. CPSs have been known to corrupt daughter nests. User beware.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


The latest update to the SC tornado report archive included the record 2003 season. The last 3 seasons have been below normal (10 year mean) so I guess we were due for an above normal season.

Anyway here are some observations:
1. Notice more tornado's in the early parts of the year
2. April and May have been bigger tornado producers
3. Significant numbers of tornado's appear more common in spells [this has been written up in the literature but not to my satisfaction*]

* I guess my dis-satisfaction stems from the fact that I havent written anything yet. I want more meat and potatoes than the synoptic patterns. I got only one 4-panel of the synoptic environment. The paper is great for probability. I guess I would like to see more mesoscale details. The supplements to this paper show some more synoptics to give fair credit.

I need some mesoscale details on:
1. was surface moisture above normal? or at least spatially above normal coverage?
2. what was the contribution from local forcing mechanisms?
3. abnormal number of fronts, drylines, or outflow boundaries?
4. increased frequency of short wave troughs and thus enhanced vertical shear?
5. hodographs and soundings: was anything unique about these structures?

The need has arisen for sounding classification beyond indices. I really need to work on that...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Preganancy pact

I heard about this so called pregnancy pact of high school sophomores. I have two thoughts:
1. Damn millenial generation.
2. Damn parents.

I think its more interesting to ask why girls that young would high five each other at school? Instead of seeking attention from parents, they are seeking the feeling of loving unconditionally. Only problem is, the NOW generation, feels that way NOW. They have little foresight into the future, as pointed out by many journalists. But why would these girls not seeking the attention of the parents? Perhaps, they are. The better idea, though, is that they want to be better parents than there parents. Classic teenager syndrome. "When I grow up I will be a better parent than you." The trouble is, they arent growing up at all.

I am not condoning this behavior in the slightest. Knowing how much work kids can be, how much they cost, the emotional fortitude required to take on such responsibility, and the worry. Credit my wife for the warning about the worry. I dont sweat the day to day. I sweat the next 5, 10, 15 years.

Its also clear that parents are not paying enough attention or they are and are powerless to prevent these activities. I heard a story that reminded me how strange parents can be. A kids job is to do well at school and not get into too much trouble. Thats really all we can hope for. BUT.
I heard one guy say ... "I did well at school; I didnt get into trouble; But I was drinking at 14. What were my parents gonna say or do? I did what they wanted and in exchange I did what I wanted."

Wrong. I pulled that in college, as most of us do. But in high school? Not good for long term development, as I am discovering now. All our choices have consequences. some matter, some dont, some are long-lasting and others short-lasting. Never really know which one a choice will take on.

The bottom line is think carefully about what you have done, what you are doing, what you plan to do and what it all means. I will bet that had I followed my own advice I might have made some better choices. But its practically guaranteed we dont make decisions like that. we do 2 out of 4 ... what worked last time and what we want to happen NOW. Everybody needs a friend to keep them in choice balance.

returning to the pact, I hope we all learn a lesson. We need to raise our children to make smart choices not smart concessions. That raising children is different than having children. And that we all need to be a little better at communicating rather than doing. Guess thats the pot calling the kettle black.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Food allergy

I have a food allergy. I am keenly aware that American cuisine lacks flavor outside of spice/pepper. With all the culinary training available, the rise of Food Network, the success of Gordon Ramsay, and the intelligence of Alton Brown, I expect way too much from local cuisine. I expect flavorful food ... natural flavors enhanced by other ingredients (herbs).

I am unique in that I can not eat peppers, black or white pepper, marjoram, mustard, cinnammon, and "spices". These ingredients are in EVERYTHING. Don't believe me? Lets review:
1. Salad dressing. I could eat Cataline dressing from Kraft. Not anymore. Spice has either been added recently or it was never listed before.
2. Cheetos or other cheese twists. Read on.
3. Roasted Almonds. Why??
4. Outback steakhouse "Butter for vegetables".
5. Ketchup (Heinz but not Hunts).
6. Some muffins.
7. Most if not all pre-prepared meals.
8. Most fast food meats (steaks, marinated meat and fish, and burgers).
9. pasta sauce.
10. Chocolate, in some cases.

I would like to acknowledge J. Alexanders and Anthony's as allergy friendly and allergy compliant. Few restaurants, if any, have the knowledge and communication skills required to handle allergies. I find that most problems occur because:
A. the wait staff simply trust that what they write gets communicated to the Kitchen staff.
B. The chef or staff does not know what ingredients are in the meal.
C. The wait staff ASSume the kitchen knows what they are doing.
D. The chef makes a dish one way and one way only and ASSumes s/he knows whats in the meal.

I trust no one and have tried my hardest to learn what is in all the dishes I will encounter. It is hard to learn since most people use different techniques and variations on meals which may call for different ingredients.

I try my best not to be a pain in the ass. I don't expect miracles. I expect a good straight answer. If you dont know, dont serve it. If you think you know, check all the secondary ingredients (pre-made or pre-packaged). just because pepper isnt used fresh doesn't mean it isnt in the dish. If you cant comply, tell me I cant eat there. Don't tell me you will clean the grill. You won't. tell me you will use a clean pan (a clean pan needs to be grabbed, a clean grill requires work and won't happen in a busy kitchen).

getting back to the original point, Where is the flavor? You dont need spices or pepper to make a dish good. If we have salt and pepper at the dinner table, why does it need to be added in all the dishes? Season to taste has transitioned to season EVERYTHING. I just want to eat a meal that has flavor.

Friday, June 20, 2008

climate change

Thanks to a lot of work done by Dr. Harold Brooks and collaborators, the U.S. climate change science programs report included information on severe convective storms. There was enough in the report to show the valuable work done by Brooks and collaborators. What was missing was what occurred this year with regard to severe storms:
A. Multiple EF5 tornados, and
B. Extreme Flooding brought about by severe storms

One interesting point is that the reanalysis data doesnt show changes in severe storm environments concurrent with changes in tornado reports. Either the problem truly requires a mesoscale depiction to identify the environment [reanalysis is too coarse] or the parameter relationships do not describe the potential for severe storms. This latter part means that more variables need to be considered or at least scaled, or a distributions approach needs to be taken.

While models are incapable of producing the heavy rainfall associated with severe convective storms, I have not seen a method to estimate the potential heavy rainfall associated with a severe storm environment. Obviously this would be of great interest since the US is especially vulnerable to flood (more agricultural production for food, fuel, and livestock) and drought more by economic considerations rather than true vulnerability (poor placement of cities, homes, overdevelopment in areas prone to flood). The Floods of 08 (June) and 93 (July) redefined record flooding.

20 river crest records broken in 93 were in the st louis area. Iowa set a number of records, and the recent levee breaks in and around St Louis may make breaking records tough, but no doubt this a record year for flooding.

Policy changes are needed to keep people and property sustainable. We are at more risk. Not because of increased weather, but because our society is more dependent on the status quo. More development means more risk. More risk leads to more money being spent to keep current. fewer people can handle that risk because they dont have the money. A lot of people take the chance. And a lot of people lost this year (some may have been misled into not getting flood insurance). I am thinking now that climate change may have more impact on HOW we do business, HOW we treat our planet and each other, than on actually changing the climate.

No doubt the climate is changing. The question is: how much will we?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Then and now

I was watching the show Greensberg (so named after the tornado wiped Greensberg KS off the map). They had a unique opportunity to rebuild from scratch ... truly relearning what they needed to do to survive not only a tragedy but the future. How do you maintain that level of community?

The one thing I find both good and bad about our society is how BIG and powerful corporations are. The bad things are that they are so BIG that they cant collapse. They cannot be replaced by another and thus there policies, practices, and power live as a seperate entity no matter who is in control.

Funny because this is exactly what drives our government. You cant replace these people, they are brought into the ranks, taught to play the games, and perpetuate the entity.

This is what seperates the late 30's early 40's generation from us. We are inheriting the vision of another generation no matter how distorted that original vision has become.

Without the tornado's to clear out the old and bring in the new (at least for BIG companies) there is a good chance that America's jobs will continue to be lost elsewhere. We dont need more startups, we need more startups that have an eye towards being green, solving problems, and providing good jobs. Maybe there is too much altruism in me, but with a population explosion, a global marketplace, and increasing wealth for the top 5 percent of the world and reduced wealth for the middle 40 percent, our current problems will only get worse.

The downfall of all previous empires has been the inability to stand with each other in times of desperation. WWII era Americans did it. The Romans couldnt handle it, the aztecs couldnt survive. The next few generations will have to deal with global climate change on top of reduced clean water and increasing weather severity (drought and floods; severe weather; hurricanes). I have even started on terrorism but that just takes advantage of the despair and will only add to the stress.

I am biased but SCI & TECH may be the only way to intelligently utilize our power for good job generation, problem solving, and being much more green. We can all start by removing our dependence on OIL. I dont care where it comes from. It will run out. Why are we so slow in moving away. 1979. 30 years. we should be driving electric cars en masse. we should be selling them to other countries. The state of Michigan might be better off if that were the case. The car companies need more rapid vision. Where is the next Tucker?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

June 16

Classic Day 2 outlook for June 2. Not this year. This year the upper low over the midwest set up shop in late June with a block forecast for the next 184 hours. This should put a hold on severe weather somewhere south of IA, though you can never be too certain of that (the dryline, weak disturbances, diurnal destabilization, etc).

In fact some May25-June15 daily composite geopotential height maps (2006, 2003, 2002, 2001) all indicate a ridge at 500 hPa over the Plains and these were slow years for severe storms in the Plains. The other years were biased toward SW flow with a trough hanging off the S Pac coast (2008) or a more zonal pattern across the Plains (back to 1998). We already know there are favorable patterns for convective storms but there are a lot factors that contribute to the favorable synoptic setup. One thing is certain: this year was favorable for severe storms including the "floods o
f 08".

I created a figure using the oceanographers temperature salinity diagram [I used the log of the counts rather than the counts to highlight the lower numbers]. The figure shows day of the year along the X axis, and number of tornadoes in the Y axis. Its a 2d histogram basically (using a 7 day bin and a 4 tornado count) for 1979-2007 over the CONUS. Anyway, it shows the double frequency maximum of outbreaks centered near day 130 and day 300. It also shows (via the yellow frequency band) when tornadoes are typically observed (from day 100 to 230 or April to late July). Why show this figure? To highlight the rarity of the number of days where tornado occurrence exceeds around 20. So what happened in 2008?

2008 tornado days in May above 20[4]; 30 [1]; 40[1]; 50+[5].
June 17th [3] [1] [0] [3]

These numbers will come down, but the number of days is impressive. 33 percent of the months May and June had what can be considered outbreak type days. That is obscene. No doubt the tornado counts only spell part of the story. The predominant convective mode was supercellular and thus along with tornados came heavy rain. Seems pretty obvious, but this is one year where a regional climate model should be compared to observations (not for the flood) but for detection of the cape-shear environment.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Break out the ARK

Looks like my former residence is going to be flooding again.

The ingredients for this years severe weather season have all come together perfectly. Moisture, dynamics, timing, and plenty of initiating mechanisms. Something is truly remarkable about this year compared to not only the last 3 years of ho hum seasons, but in general.

Things to look for are the areal average surface moisture bias and cape, the storm track and thus shear, and also the moisture depth. i am becoming increasingly convinced that moisture depth is just as important as variables such as cape. Doubt me? Look at the DVN sounding, which is pretty similar to the ILX sounding at the same time and the DV sounding 6 hours previous.

The bulk of the tornado's occurred downstream from these soundings. But, you say, OAX was also very similar. Well plenty of tor warned storms and plenty of mid level rotation in IA today. But the key: downdraft cape from the freezing level! OAX had a higher DCAPE but its freezing level environment was far dryer. This was an indication that the lid was "stronger" at OAX, or at the very least lower to the ground.

The variable combinations for severe weather are so hard to pick off. But I think "low-level" shear, up to the max moisture depth is important. CAPE in the lower levels is important but indicative of the lower level moisture content. The DCAPE figures in as we include the effects of the lid and any downdraft generation. The downdraft and resulting outflow must be important to the gust front dynamics of these storms since the density gradient helps determine the speed of these features. if the supercell motion and the gust front motion match (a sort of critical level) tornados form (in some circumstances). I have yet to see a full paper dedicated to the structural characteristics of the tornado environment prior to and during tornadogenesis. The focus is always on the tornado and parent mesocyclone.

Someday I hope to work these concepts out. maybe the vortex guys will beat me to it. But they seam bent on understanding the tornado and not necessarily the whole storm in context. The DRC's helped expand the view a little. So did the owl horn signature.

Maybe the Sticknet program will break out some interesting results. RFD's are important. But how and where do they form, and are they common?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Flooding in Ames, IA

With all the focus on severe weather, rain was the main damaging phenomena last night. 4 inches in some locations in 1 day. Couple that with probably as much snow as they have seen since 2001, meant soil moisture and probably the whole water table was higher than normal. Add a few rain events, and BAM ... floods. My favorite is the community pool construction site ... in a known flood plain ... which has consistently flooded for at least the last 3 wet seasons ... totally underwater.

With all the new construction, including the new Walmart which accounted for some kind of flood, we are at increasing infrastructure risk from what can be aptly described as regular, even somewhat regular events.

Here in the Tri-cities in Winter we saw a 5 inch snowfall ... last one was in 2001 I think. Pretty incredible for this neck of the woods, not to mention the 300 days of sun promise I heard before moving here. It has rained so many days (granted not much falls) since we moved in.

We shall see what the damage in Ames does on Monday ... but gear up for Tuesday when the next batch of rain is ready to go through.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why ask why?

So the question of the day appeared to be: Why have so many tornado's occurred this year. As is typical with the hype, the "answers" given were not surprising. Early season, "rare" tornado outbreaks upped the numbers. The La Nina event was also cited as playing a role in the location of the jet stream.

Severe storms require instability and vertical wind shear AND they need to be co-located if only for a few hours usually in the late afternoon. The other ingredient in this concoction is the cap, or lid. This lid serves a dual purpose: it prevents the release of this instability so naturally the instability increases as the water vapor mixing ratio and surface temperature increases AND it helps determine downdraft characteristics. This latter part is not so well understood. I will blog on that some other time.

Tornado outbreaks occur in dynamically active patterns associated with a large scale or perhaps shorter trough (low pressure). With troughs come developing fronts and the clash of air masses OR simply different air masses. Since 2005 the moisture and dynamics have not been often colocated and when the dynamics appear to be present the moisture is missing in action. This has made chasing storms rather difficult, and thus observing tornado's difficult. More than a few storm chasers, myself included, have felt disenfranchised by the atmosphere. Until this year. The moisture is plentiful. The dynamics appear in spurts regularly.

I also must say that tornado season appears to be rather consistent about being inconsistent. Some years April seems more active than May or May more active June, but I doubt there is a trend there.

The death toll this year is not surprisingly high. Rather we should remark how low the death toll has been in recent memory. Tornado's are powerful and no matter the warning lead time, someone somewhere will be surprised. We are fortunate that the country is not one giant piece of habitated concrete otherwise tornado's would almost always kill someone. The real test of our science is to sample many tornado's with radar, get good surface wind speed and acceleration measurements, and correlate that data to observed damage.

The problem with damage however is that not every house is built well, or new, or has the same code. Damage in this case is relative. This is why Tim Marshall and many others led the charge for a new tornado rating scale. It was disappointing to not hear anyone speak about housing construction when the new scale went into effect, the news widely reported that wind speeds were lower because we knew more. True. We do know more ... about how crappy some homes were built (find any number of articles on Hurricane Andrew), how old others were, and how powerful some tornado can be. But we still need to know more so mitigation of damage leads to saving lives too.

Which leads back to why have so many tornado's occurred this year. There are more people to observe them, even in rural areas. There are more storm chasers. We are more well informed about storm potential. More people are paying attention, especially small town EM's. I was amazed that Parkersberg had just recently installed another siren. After the destruction in IA in November 2005 near Ames, IA and I think the F3's in 2004 or 2003 in IA, every small town should find the money or being given federal help to get a siren. Maybe the sirens will work, maybe they wont. Who cares. If 1 life was saved, it was worth it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

split supercell

The Iowa Environmental Mesonet via Daryl Herzman (and Ray Arritt) has been doing phenomenal work in data collection for Iowa. one of these ventures has been to cooperate with the local (and not so local) TV stations to acquire web cam movies, 1 minute schoolnet data, 1 minute awos data, and a whole host of other data (GIS included). Anyhow, Daryl has control of the cameras and has some great time lapse of all kinds of convection, gravity waves or bores (wait for that publication!), tornado's, and now a stunning movie of a splitting supercell.

Its one thin to watch the base of a supercell and slowly realize the precip. shield has seperated, but its another to be behind the storm and watch the overshooting updraft for a spell, and then notice that another updraft forms to the side. Then the two updrafts split apart and two storms emerge. Truly amazing. If anything needs to be shown in current meteorology classes (beginning met included) its the collection of web cam lapses that Daryl has amassed.

Tornado's in Iowa

Parkersburg, IA is gone. No doubt the damage was on the scale of devastating or EF4-EF5. I heard ten minutes was the lead time. Sometimes lead time is the difference between saved and lost lives. Sometimes there is simply nothing you can hope for besides a strong storm shelter underground.

The pictures reminded of Spencer, SD 1998 and others commented it was like Greensburg, KS 2007. Either way, I hope the folks in Parkersburg can get some help to rebuild safer just like Greensburg. Go green with a few cubic feet of storm shelter concrete.

Incredible the number of tornado's reported this year, especially given the relative lack of May-June tornado's in the last few years. No doubt the early season tornado's really ramp up the totals, but when this last wave is added to the count, the totals will continue to be impressive.

Wish I could be out there watching some of these supercells, but the IEM webcams are keeping me on the perpetual (not-so) virtual chase. Nice way to save on fuel, but it lacks the adrenaline, the thrill of forecasting and chasing down a supercell with a tornado warning.


NASA landed the Phoenix probe. Awe inspiring. The news coverage is always disheartening, as the most horendous news takes center stage. A bunch of scientists and engineers land the craft *perfectly* with what appears to be all instruments working, pictures flowing, and science ready. Awesome. Talk about a field project ... this is no way on par with the recent Met field projects though VORTEX2 folks should take notes since the recent tornado's attracted so much attention.

Can't wait for more pictures from Mars, cant wait for the science either. Tell me all about H20 on the red planet!