The Missile Launch Edition

An interesting 24 hours here in SoCal. This story about the “missile” is fascinating.  If you haven’t seen the video, here’s the report from a San Diego CBS affiliate (they do a lot of cross-work/outsourcing to their sister station in LA):

So you be the judge. Is that a missile? At first, I was flat sold on it. And to some extent I’m still skeptical it isn’t. What appears to be a rapid movement of whatever it is has me still curious. Time for the obligatory: BUT. But…sunset can do some mighty weird tricks to your eyes. I’ve seen high level clouds at sunset that were at least 100 miles offshore before. And as explained in this blog entry (based on a similar event from several months ago), it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that what was witnessed off the coast of LA was not a missile, but a contrail from a commercial jet. In fact, the author of that blog has pinned down what flight they suspect it was. The government subscribes to that theory…for what it’s worth I suppose. The chopper pilot who caught whatever it was seems to be convinced otherwise. I’m going to cautiously side with the government’s explanation for now. Like I said, weird optical tricks can be played on you at sunset, and the theory about the flight, the timing, and the flight path makes sense. Yesterday was a decent day for contrails as well, so that explanation doesn’t come off as a cop out…it seems rather legitimate. We’ll see what we find out down the line.


Damage from Mt. Merapi's Eruption in Indonesia from videographer James Reynolds:

Indonesia continues to be active. Mt. Merapi is so much of an issue right now that President Obama is having to cut short his visit to the country because of concerns about ash from the volcano. Ash and aircraft do not mix at all, so this is probably a prudent move. The image to the left is damage from Merapi as seen by James Reynolds, a videographer of all things natural disaster. Like the volcano in Iceland earlier this year, there is a webcam set up near the mountain. Unfortunately this seems to be very hot and cold, so you may want to bookmark it and periodically check it. According to the Eruptions volcano blog, the estimate is that Merapi has had a VEI (Volcano Explosivity Index) of between 3 and 4 so far. Just to put this in perspective, Mt. Redoubt in Alaska, which erupted in the spring of 2009 was around a VEI3. Our Icelandic volcano this past year (Eyjafjallajökull) was probably similar, if not a little less than Redoubt. So there isn’t anything substantially noteworthy about this from a large scale perspective at this point. For Merapi, this is a pretty typical eruption for it, where historically they’ve had VEI3-4 eruptions.

Lastly, here’s some Associate Press footage of the ash cloud from Merapi. Certainly an impressive scene:

Hitting the Links

Snow fell in Denver finally today, marking the first for them this winter season as well. Those of you snow hounds will enjoy some of the videos in that link, shot by storm chaser Tony Laubach.

A weather enthusiast in Seattle has been analyzing the satisfaction or misery of the summer and winter seasons by doing a statistical analysis. Well, it turns out the summer of 2010 was the 6th worst summer in Seattle since 1948. Summers and autumns in Seattle can be phenomenal, so this is ashame, especially since we’re in a La Nina, which climatologically favors greater than normal precipitation in the Northwest in winter.

Additional work is underway to try and secure New Orleans and surrounding areas from storm surge impacts during a hurricane.

Lastly, a fascinating blog entry…warning: long read about the scientific method and its applications in the current climate science debate. The author is a sociologist of science (awesome title), which basically means he’s studying the philosophy of science. It’s well worth a read (in fact, I am going to re-read it), as the argument about adhering to the principles of the scientific method has been a point of contention, especially since Climategate.


Catching Up: Tomas, Snow, Links, Climate Change, Hail Video

It’s been a busy few days on this end…family, weddings, etc., so the blog needed a few days off! Let’s catch up on some links and info.

– Tomas hit Haiti, but fortunately it seems that nation was spared the worst of a natural disaster for a change. Still, it didn’t help matters, and I don’t think the post-storm conditions are exactly desirable, but as I understand it, the death toll was limited to eight, which is great news considering how vulnerable that island is right now.

As a wrap, here’s some cool imagery from Tomas.


GOES-13 Water Vapor Imagery of East Coast Early Season Winter Storm, courtesy of CIMSS:


Winter Arrives

Tomas also provided some impetus for additional moisture in the storm that brought a surprise snow to parts of New England, New York, Long Island, and even parts of New Jersey today. Alright, it wasn’t technically a surprise, but I think the intensity and amount of it was. Cool image to the right is of the storm from the GOES-13 satellite…you can see the moisture feeding in on the eastern flank of the storm from the former Tomas. So this was a potent system that brought the first real accumulating snow to parts of the Northeast.

The Albany, NY area really cashed in with an average of 1-3″ of snow in and around the immediate Capital District. Parts of the Catskills ended up with 1-4″. Parts of Long Island received about 0.5″, and southwest Connecticut had about 0.5-1.5″. Much of interior New England saw 0.5-2.5″ of snow, widely varying from place to place. So winter is unofficially underway. This was not an easy storm to forecast, as the models were not quite on their A-game, and you’re dealing with a very anomalously strong storm. The combination allowed this to portray the element of surprise for a lot of people west and south of New England.

Keeping on the theme of winter, the first real lake effect snow event of the season for parts of the snow belts downwind of Lake Michigan kicked off over the weekend. Anywhere from 3-5″ of snow fell in parts of Indiana. Lake effect season is certainly underway.

And just to add on, last week’s system provided snow for parts of the South! The Great Smoky Mountains ended up with a fair amount of the white stuff.

More Links

In New Orleans, more issues regarding the levee system. This time, they want to ensure that the modeling that was done in the disaster projections was done properly. Obviously, when you’re dealing with billions of dollars in construction, you want to make sure all the I-s are dotted.

Invisible, ancient galaxies are brought to light, thanks to Einstein’s trick (gravitational lensing)! Pretty cool, as these are things even the Hubble Telescope wouldn’t be able to capture.

I don’t claim to be a volcanologist, but the amount of activity that’s gradually been building in Indonesia (in addition to earlier activity in Iceland) is intriguing. Indonesia is a powder keg though, given that it’s on the Ring of Fire in the Pacific. The latest addition to the building activity (aside from Merapi) is the new dome that built up on Krakatoa since its 1883 super eruption. Andy Revkin’s DotEarth blog has an interesting feature on a “volcano chaser.” It also has some cool volcano video.

Global Warming Fight

Some interesting articles on global warming are popping up. Since Election Day, this whole simmering battle may come to a boil over the next two years, with climate scientists possibly getting more involved in advocating policy than ever before.

Straight off the bat, the climate science community and American Geophysical Union originally came out they’re ready to fight. But they later struck a more conciliatory tone. This may just be another example of hyperbole in the media, but I think it makes a point.

In other news, the Chicago Climate Exchange is axing its cap and trade program. This is a good thing in my own personal opinion. Whether you are in favor of strict caps on carbon, or you could care less, cap and trade will not solve anything in my opinion. It doesn’t cut emissions…it keeps a cap on what already exists, which if it is causing problems, isn’t going to help things.

California may be the pioneer in alternative and new energy, but Texas is the pioneer in fighting the EPA. This furthers the battle I mentioned above.

Lastly, a pretty good blog entry from a meteorologist at WAOW in Wisconsin regarding some more of this hard line being drawn in the global warming fight.

Just a pause here for a moment for my own $0.02… this is all somewhat disturbing to see. Getting lost in this mess is actual sound climate science. And both sides are to blame in my own opinion. I think Congressional Republicans do have a right and probably a duty, given the election results, to question some of the science and actions related to the science….within reason. I think scientists have the right and the duty to defend their work. Unfortunately the line between science and policy has been blurred, and people who aren’t qualified to speak on either side of the issue are crossing lines they aren’t supposed to be crossing. In my opinion, the scientists need to be sticking to science (on both sides) and defense of their work. The policymakers need to stick to policy. In between, there should be people keeping scientists honest, keeping politicians honest, and keeping each group out of the areas they don’t belong in. It’s become too politicized (it was years ago), but now with this congressional takeover, I fear that this is going to get blown into something that will not have either group looking good in the end.


Lastly, some cool video of a hailstorm in Georgia!