First of all allow me to direct you to my girlfriend’s blog, and her post about Hurricane Sandy. In short, her parents live a few blocks from the bay on Long Island, and her childhood home flooded with about 2 feet of water last night. So if you’re the praying type, keep her family in your prayers. If you’re the thinking type, keep them in your thoughts.

I discovered this jaw-dropping, mesmerizing US wind map this morning via Discovery News. This fascinating animation is created by streaming realtime wind speed and direction data from the National Digital Forecast Database and feeding it into software that then generates the animation, graphing out the wind as lines across a map of the U.S. The image at the top of this post is a screenshot of the remnants of Sandy. When you visit it, be sure to click on the map and zoom in on the center of circulation. Get really close- it’s truly mesmerizing. Things like this have always fueled my fascination with weather.

And what would any major event, good or bad, be without some sort of meme coming from it? Please direct your browser toward the hilarity of NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s sign interpreter Lydia Calas. I was watching the weather channel last night when this address was airing live, and her face, coupled with Bloomberg’s pathetic attempt at Spanish, provided us some much-needed comic relief in the midst of all the bad news. Literally within minutes of that airing, there was a joke “Miguel Bloombito” twitter account created. I recommend following…

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Scientific eye candy

July 24, 2012

Two pieces of eye candy for your viewing pleasure today:

Over the past 40 years the US Geological Survey and NASA have teamed up on the LANDSAT mission, a series of imaging satellites that have taken some breathtaking photos of our planet. They recently posted a series of images and got the public to vote on the top 5. Those 5 can be seen in the video below, and the full gallery can be seen on the USGS website.

Secondly, I came across this set of amazing weather photos by photographer Camille Seaman last week. Feast your eyes on these simultaneously gorgeous and terrifying views of storm clouds over the great plains.

(Credit: Camille Seaman) Click through to view the full gallery.

This is some scary shit.

We have some crazy weather headed our way in middle TN (see above graphic!) so A Few Good Shows is super quick today. GO:

FRIDAY:

Vitalic Noise presents CRAVE at TAVERN in midtown: I will be DJing along with resident DJs Losici and Dali Drama. FREE, 21+ 10pm

Chancellor Warhol, Sam & Tre, Gummy Soul, and Ducko McFli @ 12th & Porter. 9pm $10

Cheap Time, Leather Nightmare, King Karl, Psychic Hotline @ The Other Basement. 8pm $???

SATURDAY:

Dr. Dog w/ Purling Hiss and PUJOL @ War Memorial Auditorium. 8pm $20

Bass Drum of Death, Cy Barkley & the Way Outsiders, Thelma & The Sleaze @The End. 9pm $10

Scale Model, A Secret Policeman’s Ball, You Blew It!, and Direct Effect @ Springwater. 10pm $5

Have a great weekend and BE SAFE TODAY! PAY ATTENTION TO MEDIA OUTLETS AND STAY ON TOP OF THE SEVERE WEATHER!!!

 

Credit: NASA

As I’ve mentioned before, our Sun is steadily heading toward the peak of its next 11-year sunspot cycle. The peak is expected in 2013. That means we can expect a steady increase in aurorae as well, because sunspots lead to solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and when those happen to be aimed at earth, we get dazzling displays near the north and south poles. Sometimes those displays can even be seen as far south as Tennessee. Over the weekend there was a massive solar flare and CME, one that released the same amount of energy as millions of nuclear bombs, and it headed straight for earth. The blast of particles reached earth last night/this morning and created an astonishing auroral display, which was captured by many photographers at various locations. Here are a few blog posts and other links I’ve come across today showing some of those photos as well as explaining the physics of what actually causes the upper atmosphere to glow when bombarded by these particles.

Spectacular Aurorae Erupt Over Norway (Discovery News) Absolutely breathtaking photos by Bjørn Jørgensen.

Huge Solar Flare Seen By Solar Dynamics Observatory (Space.com)

The Sun Aims a Storm Right at Earth! (Bad Astronomy) Good explanation of the science behind the aurorae.

Can Solar Flares Hurt Astronauts? (Universe Today) Good explanation of why the flare/CME poses little risk to astronauts onboard the ISS.

It may take many more days before NWS survey teams can finish their assessment of the damage from the April 27th tornado outbreak, but being the weather nerd that I am, I want to go ahead and share a collection of links where you can find preliminary reports on the tracks and intensities of some of the many twisters that touched down. Note that there is at least one EF-5 (the highest intensity with winds over 200 mph) tornado confirmed, and there could be more upgraded to that status as more damaged is inspected. NWS Memphis survey- covering parts of northern Mississippi. NWS Jackson, MS survey. NWS Hunstville, AL survey. NWS Morristown, TN survey. And finally, this graphic from the NWS Birmingham, AL survey. The most complete graphic I’ve seen:

So that’s the bad. Please make a donation to the American Red Cross or any other legitimate organization providing relief for those devastated by this natural disaster. Now for some good things to lighten the mood.

I will call the news of Osama bin Laden’s assassination good, but I certainly will never rejoice the death of any human being. While I am relieved somewhat, and do feel that justice has been done, I’m quite certain that the assassination itself as well as the celebrations will only give the rest of al-Qaeda even more reason to attack the US and its allies.

In even better and much much much lighter news, Moustache May has begun its final year of activity. I participated back in 2008 and am doing so again this year. Due to some very important meetings happening last week at my work, I was unable to start my stache until Friday, so I’m basically starting with a clean slate. Right now I look utterly creepy but hopefully we’ll get past that stage very soon as it fills in.

I came across this absolutely amazing new music video for the Supermen Lovers’ track “Take A Chance” and decided that it was the best thing to end this post with. Enjoy. (Via Too Many Sebastians)

So I’m thinking that some Fridays I’m gonna steal NPR’s “Science Friday” idea and write a post debunking some popular myths. Not gonna happen every Friday, but I’m gonna make a pointed effort to do it somewhat often.

Today we’ll tackle the myth about water spinning in opposite directions down the drain in the northern and southern hemispheres. This is simply not true at all. While large-scale weather systems do indeed follow this pattern due to a phenomenon called the Coriolis Effect, water going down a drain does not. Minute things such as imperfections in the angle at which a basin was installed, inconsistencies in the surface or shape of the basin, and any residual motion in the water itself are what determine the direction the water rotates when drained. Once the water begins to drain, the conservation of angular momentum takes over and any hint of rotational motion in the water, whether clockwise or counter-clockwise, gets amplified as it moves toward the drain, creating a vortex. This is the same law of physics that causes tornadoes and dust devils to behave the way they do. The classic explanation for this concept is the spinning ice skater. As he/she moves her limbs closer to their body the conservation of angular momentum forces their rotational speed to increase. They can then move their limbs further away and they will slow down again. So no, no matter what you’ve heard, water does NOT always drain counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern. That being said, experiments have been done that show the Coriolis Effect can be seen in draining water IF AND ONLY IF all other forces are completely removed. A large and absolutely perfect cylinder-shaped container with one very small hole exactly in the center was filled with water and allowed to sit untouched for 24 hours to allow any residual motion in the water to die out. The container was perfectly balanced with extreme precision. The plug in the hole was then carefully removed and the water did eventually start rotating counter-clockwise, and continued to do so when the experiment was repeated. BUT clearly this only happens in extremely controlled conditions. In your sink or toilet, a myriad of other forces are orders of magnitude stronger and completely overwhelm the minute effect of the Earth’s rotation. Snopes has a decent debunking of this myth as well.

Tornadoes are different. I was asked about this yesterday, in the wake of the massive tornado outbreak on Wednesday. The Coriolis Effect does influence the direction tornadoes spin, but in a more indirect way. There have, in fact, been clockwise (anticyclonic) tornadoes documented in many cases in the U.S. There have even been a few storms that dropped multiple tornadoes, both cyclonic and anticyclonic, at the SAME TIME. As I said earlier, the Coriolis Effect is what causes large-scale weather systems such as hurricanes, low pressure systems, and high pressure systems to rotate the way they do. Low pressure systems and hurricanes always rotate counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern. The opposite is true for high pressure (clear weather) systems. The storms which produces tornadoes are always associated with a large-scale low pressure system. The Coriolis Effect determines the rotation of that large-scale system, which in turn has an indirect influence on the structure of the supercell thunderstorms which spawn tornadoes. Tornadoes are far, far more common in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, and because the warm moist air which “feeds” these storms at the surface is moving in from the southeast, and the cooler, drier air aloft is moving in from the northwest, that setup naturally lends itself to counter-clockwise rotation, hence most but not all tornadoes in the U.S. spin counter-clockwise. This illustration from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory shows the inner workings of a tornadic storm quite well:

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science Education has a website called NEWTON, with a forum of sorts called “ask a scientist.” This very question regarding the rotation of tornadoes was asked, and I found this particular response quite helpful:

At least the great majority of tornadoes rotate counterclockwise (as do all low-pressure systems) in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern hemisphere, for the reason (coriolis force) given by Eric Peterson in response #1. But occasionally, it would seem, northern hemisphere tornadoes do rotate clockwise: S. Flora’s book “Tornadoes of the United States” cites an 1890 article in the American Meteorological Journal. Its author, a J.P. Finley, states that, of 550 American tornadoes he studied, 29 were deemed to have rotated clockwise. I have not been able to find any “modern” study of this question. But I believe it could be true. The region of swirling air that contracts to become the tornado is not itself large enough in extent to have its rotation dictated by the coriolis force; rather, it “inherits” this tendency from the great masses of air whose movement sets the stage for the storms and any associated tornadoes. If the study cited is correct and representative, on occasion the direction of rotation is set by some other factor, perhaps the topography in the area where the tornado forms, for example.

So there you have it. I won’t have as much time every week to write up a post this in-depth, so don’t expect this every Friday, but I’ll do my best.

Thundersnow is possibly the coolest-sounding meteorological term I can think of. It happens very rarely, but when it does it’s awesome. Convection strong enough to cause lighting during a snowstorm is simply amazing, as are most things that rare. Through a ridiculous stroke of luck, scientists in Huntsville, AL got a rare opportunity to study this bizarre phenomenon in-depth. As you may know, Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. There are meteorologists and other scientists there with a barrage of better-than-average instruments that monitored the inner-workings of the snowstorm that hit the area Jan. 9th. They got the most thorough data ever recorded for thundersnow, and observed one bolt of lightning that traveled a whopping 50 miles horizontally before hitting the ground. The fact that such a rare and interesting phenomenon happened right on top of a facility so well-equipped to study it is quite remarkable, and those scientists were very excited to be able to study the thundersnow in such great detail. I look forward to seeing what is learned from this experience. (Via Discovery News)

NASA has been presented with yet another viable commercial option for replacing the Space Shuttle’s role of ferrying astronauts to and from the space station, as well as carrying cargo. A U.S. company called Alliant Techsystems teamed up with Europe’s Astrium to draft the proposal for a new rocket called Liberty. This new rocket would combine research of the now-dead Constellation program with the proven components of the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 launch system. Since this collaborative effort combines mostly well-proven technology, it would be both cheap and relatively quick to build, shortening the problematic gap between the last Space Shuttle flight and the first availability of commercial access to space. If it truly will shorten said gap, I’m all for it. I hope it’s really as good as it sounds, but things like this always run into unforseen problems/delays. Right now, SpaceX still has the edge simply because it’s already had 2 very successful tests of its launch system, the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. But Liberty could give SpaceX a run for their money. Check out the promo video below. (Via Universe Today)

I’ve been holding off on blogging about this, but since I’m heading out of town tomorrow, I feel I must mention it today. There’s actually a decent chance of some measurable snowfall on Christmas day this year not only in Nashville, but in most of TN, and even some states south of TN. Here are the official statistics on a white Christmas in Nashville, from the National Weather Service:

THERE HAVE BEEN ONLY NINE CHRISTMASES WITH MEASURABLE AMOUNTS OF SNOW SINCE SNOWFALL RECORD KEEPING BEGAN IN NASHVILLE BACK IN THE WINTER OF 1884 AND 1885. THE LAST TIME MEASURABLE SNOW FELL ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN NASHVILLE WAS IN 1993 WHEN THREE TENTHS OF AN INCH WAS MEASURED. TRACE AMOUNTS OF SNOW FELL ON CHRISTMAS IN 2002. STATISTICALLY THERE IS ONLY A 7 PERCENT CHANCE OF MEASURABLE SNOW ON ANY GIVEN CHRISTMAS. THE MOST SNOW EVER TO FALL ON CHRISTMAS IN NASHVILLE IS 2.7 INCHES IN 1969.

The storm system that has been contributing to the unusual rainfall in southern California will be sliding across the southwestern states today and tomorrow, and joining with an upper level disturbance from the north. The upper level disturbance will be providing the cold, while the low pressure system to the south will be providing the moisture.  As the two combine, moisture will be spread north of the low pressure system over the gulf coast on southerly winds, which will bring enough warm air to change the precip to rain on Christmas eve day, but that night the cold air from the upper disturbance will take over and switch it back to snow, which should continue into at least Christmas morning. From what I’ve read, the models are in fair agreement on the timing of the whole thing, but not on the amount of moisture (read: depth of snow) involved. So we’ll have to wait until probably this time tomorrow, or even tomorrow night to really get a good grip on snow amounts. Even then, models can only go so far. I wouldn’t get my hopes up for any “deep” snow though, I’d be very surprised if Nashville got more than 2 inches. I will be with my family in northeast TN, so this will all happen about 6 hours later than Nashville, but naturally there will probably be a little more snow there, and I have every intention of taking a trip to the mountains where there’ll be a lot more snow. Maybe even go skiing.

I may find something to blog about over the weekend, but this will probably be my last post until next week. So Happy Holidays!

Weekend shows & weather

April 23, 2010

This weekend is actually pretty good in terms of live music in Nashville. Here’s what’s on my radar:

The biggest story tonight and tomorrow is probably Rites of Spring at Vanderbilt, featuring the awesome one-two punch of Phoenix and Passion Pit. The full lineup is at the RoS website, but the only bands I’m even remotely interested in seeing are those two, and maybe Two Door Cinema Club. I will be there taking pics for the Scene as usual.

Friday: If outdoors festivals aren’t your thing, Chicken Ranch Records out of Austin, TX is doing a badass showcase at the Basement featuring The Clutters, We Were The States, Tiger Tiger, and Jimmy Duke & the Riot.

Saturday: If outdoor festivals aren’t your thing and afterparties are, you’ll want to head to 12th & Porter where the weekly Y2K DJs Coach and Hands off Sam will be joined by none other than members of Passion Pit, who will have (or not, depending on the weather) played Rites of Spring earlier that evening. DJ Potamus is also on the bill. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Passion Pit’s DJ sets- they did at least a few of them at SXSW this year.

Sunday: Peelander-Z w/ Tim Chad and Sherry & The Man Power at Exit/In. I saw Peelander-Z there a couple years ago and it was a blast. The bass player was literally hanging upside-down from the balcony. Just be prepared for some major crowd participation if you go.

Another big story this weekend is the weather. As you can see from the NWS severe weather outlook to the right, we’re in the “moderate risk” category for severe storms on saturday. The current thinking is that some storms will beigin to roll in very late tonight, sometime between 11pm and 3am, and hopefully not drenching tonight’s Rites of Spring festivities. Then the real action will start up saturday morning and basically be a threat all day long, into the evening. This is not just a few storms with a little hail and some wind, there is also a good possibility of tornadoes, and that’s why I have a strong feeling much of saturday’s Rites activities will end up getting canceled altogether. I can only hope for their sake that the threat passes by the evening AND that no damage is done to the stage/equipment so that the headliners can at least still play.

Important weather things to remember for saturday: The Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma issues severe weather watches. A watch is for a large area of land and means that conditions are favorable for severe weather to occur, but it is not an immediate threat. Our local National Weather Service office issues severe weather warnings. A warning is usually for a county or even just a city area and means that severe weather is actually occurring and will hit your area soon, so take cover. There’s always confusion on Vanderbilt’s campus regarding the on-campus vs. the downtown Nashville tornado sirens as well. Here’s how it works: the downtown Nashville siren goes off if there is a tornado warning issued for anywhere in Davidson County. The Vandy campus siren only goes off if a tornado warning is issued that specifically includes downtown Nashville. Thus, sometimes the downtown siren will go off and the Vandy campus one won’t (example: a warning issued for SE Davidson Co./LaVergne), and frankly it confuses the hell out of people on the Vandy campus. But that’s how it works.

Please be safe and heed all warnings this weekend!

South Park may have pulled off the impossible: putting Kayne West’s ego in check. This Billboard.com article reports that last Wednesday’s episode “skewered the famously self-important rapper… painting him as a narcissistic figure so out of touch with reality he couldn’t even take a (very politically incorrect) joke.” Well done, South Park. Check out Kayne’s blog post here.

Stephen Colbert is a smart guy. The most brilliant thing he’s done recently is rally his fans to vote on an open NASA poll for the name of their next node to be added to the International Space Station. They had some suggestions- Serenity, Earthrise, etc… very typical-sounding names for stuff like that. But they had an write-in option, which Colbert exploited. The result was that the name “Colbert” won the contest for naming the node, and NASA has been scratching its head as to what to do about it ever since. Tomorrow night we’ll find out their decision in a clever way- astronaut Sunita Williams will be on the show to unveil the name. Will it really be Colbert? Only time will tell. It’ll be an interesting episode for sure…

The CIA and USAF have finally declassified a project that was based at the mysterious Area 51 base in Nevada. The LA Times interviewed 5 former employees of the facility who disclosed details on a top-secret spy plane code named OXCART. This plane allegedly has an odd shape, and was capable of flying at Mach 3. This could explain a HUGE number of the UFO sightings in that area, because according to this article there were 2,850 test flights of this thing, all conducted from Area 51. This is a bigger deal than it may seem, because up until now, the government didn’t even acknowledge that Area 51 existed. By declssifying this project they’re now admitting that it does exist. A big step forward if you ask me. I’ve always been fascinated by the place, and really want to go out there just to walk up to the signs telling you that you’ll be shot if you try to break in. I’m quite sure that there are some crazy things going on there involving technology that we haven’t even dreamed of yet, but I won’t say or believe that they’re reverse-engineering UFO’s and keeping aliens in freezers until proof of such a claim exists. Via io9.

Friday’s tornado outbreak was pretty devastating, though the vast majority of the damage was from an EF3 twister that hit nothern Murfreesboro. The official NWS survey has determined that a total of 4 tornadoes hit middle TN on friday- three EF1′s and one EF3. The report actually says “at least EF3,” so there’s a chance it may be upgraded to an EF4. One of the things that made this particular tornado so devastating was the fact that it was a multiple-vortex tornado. I will leave you with this absolutely amazing video footage shot from a tall building in Murfreesboro. (Probably the bank building.) You can easily see the smaller funnels inside the main vortex. The first few seconds are jittery but he sets the camera down and you get a long, clear look at this monster. Watch closely at about :45, 1:15, and 1:30 where you can clearly see a smaller vortex to the right of the main one.

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