I find it interesting that while this July is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record (duh, just walk outside), just 1 year ago we were experiencing one of the coolest Julys on record. More on that at the National Weather Service.

That cool summer was followed by a cool winter as well, and though it’s hard to even think about snow right now, it was also one of the snowiest winters on record for most of the eastern US. I mentioned this once before, but a new study confirms the findings that last winter’s brutality was due to the convergence of 2 things- El Nino and a negative North Atlantic Oscillation. The former usually brings more precipitation to the southeastern US, and the latter usually brings colder air to the southeastern US. (Via EurekAlert)

I haven’t mentioned beer on this blog in a while… so here’s whats up with my homebrewing endeavors: I currently have a batch of northern English brown ale in the bottles carbonating. Haven’t tasted it yet but they should be ready to drink this coming friday. I’m about to start another batch of the ESB/Pale Ale hybrid that I made in May. That was by far the best batch of beer I’ve made, and it will be the first one I’ve repeated. I’m still not to the point of all-grain brewing yet, as I haven’t built a mash tun. It’ll happen soon though.

Warning: I’m about to rant.

If I hear one more person say “look at this winter and all this snow… global warming… yeah right” I’m going to punch them in the fucking face. If you believe for one second that this winter’s excessive snow and cold weather in the southeastern US proves global warming is a myth, then you are simply solidifying your incredible ignorance and utter stupidity. There is a big difference between the terms “weather” and “climate.” Weather refers to the day-to-day changes in precipitation, temperature, barometric pressure, wind, etc… Climate refers to long-term, general trends in weather. We’re talking decades and centuries. That’s why global warming is referred to as “climate change,” not “weather change.” We will still have variations in seasons, even as global warming continues. Some winters will be colder and snowier than others, and some summer will hotter and drier than others. Some springs will be stormier, and some falls will have more hurricanes. These small-scale variations can be affected by long-term climate change, but there are many MANY other factors that come into play with small-scale weather events. One thing you may not realize about this winter (if you’re from anywhere east of the Mississippi) is that while we’ve had a cold, snowy winter in the east, most areas in the American west have had a very warm, dry winter. This is why there have been so many problems with Olympics. The mountains around Vancouver have not had as much natural snow as usual, and it’s also been warmer than usual. The direct reason for this winter’s weather is best described as a perfect combination of El Nino and the Arctic Oscillation. The AO is in a more negative phase this year than it has been in decades, which means the cold air at the northern latitudes is dropping farther southward into the US. This, combined with the very active and moist southern jet stream (which resides mostly over Mexico, Texas, and into the Gulf states), has resulted in a snowy winter for the southeastern US. This does NOT mean global warming is false! The average GLOBAL temperature is still warmer than normal. All this is explained in a much-less rant-y fashion at the Weather Underground blog. More details about the negative AO can be found in this AccuWeather article. Hey, Sen. James Inhofe, you just proved your massive ignorance and incompetence with your little igloo stunt next to the Capitol.

Rant over. Now for some much more pleasant science goodies…

The latest shuttle mission to the ISS, still in progress, delivered the new Tranquility node with a huge 7-panel window called Cupola, which was officially opened on Wed. Check this article on Universe Today for more details and to see pics of it. Look for many spectacular photos from this window to be released soon.

What would normally be a fairly unimpressive, routine rocket launch turned into a spectacular event last Thursday. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite launched on top of an Atlas V rocket. What makes this so special is the amazing coincidence of the rocket’s sonic boom (created as it surpasses the speed of sound) with its passage through the cirrus cloud layer. The weird looking ripples you see at about 1:50 into the video below are REAL. It looks like some kind of computer effect, but it’s NOT. There are still shots of them as well. What’s even more amazing is that another atmospheric phenomenon called a sun dog was happening at the time as well, and it appears that the sonic boom disrupted the ice crystals in the cloud, destroying the sun dog. All this via Bad Astronomy.

Not much in the music realm today: The biggest thing I read was that Jack White is planning a solo album…. I swear the guy must be a glutton for punishment. How can anyone be in 3 bands, run a record label, and still have time for a solo project? He’s a machine. That’s the only explanation.

Also of interest- How I Became the Bomb will be teaming up with Kindercastle for quite an undertaking: covering ELO’s Out of the Blue in it’s entirety on June 26th at Mercy Lounge. Obviously these two local bands are heavily influenced by ELO- HIBTB in the use of vocoders and Kindercastle in their use of thick orchestral string arrangements. According to the calendar both bands will be onstage along with an eight-piece string section. That means 16 people onstage y’all. That means this will be seriously EPIC y’all.

If you’re a Twitterer, you might find Tweemap interesting. It plots all of your followers on a map for you. Kind creepy but kinda cool…

EcoGeek reports on the first easily attainable wind power generator for the home. It mounts on your roof and generates 2,000 kWh per year, which is about 18% of the average household’s energy requirement. It ain’t cheap ($4500 plus up to $1500 installation) but apparently you can get some serious tax credits and discounts due to the stimulus bill and other statewide incentives. This makes me very happy. If I owned a house and could even come close to affording the unit, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

The National Weather Service has said that conditions are favorable for an El Nino pattern to form over the equatorial pacific ocean this summer. We haven’t had a strong El Nino in a while, so I fully expected one to develop this fall. The good thing is that El Nino ultimately leads to more wind shear in the areas where hurricanes normally develop, which makes it harder for them to develop/strengthen. But it also means more rain in the US southeast, and slightly above-average temperatures during the winter. However, most areas of the southeast have been experiencing a drought for many years now, so more rain is not necessarily a bad thing. For more info on exactly how El Nino works go here.

I love dinosaurs. We all love dinosaurs. They’re pretty awesome because they ruled this planet for several million years, compared to about 200,000 for humans. When we first discovered their remains, we thought they were related to reptiles. Then after some more discoveries and research, we thought they actually had more in common with modern day birds, and even that modern birds may have descended from dinosaurs. Now that last theory has had some pretty big holes shot through it. Turns out the bone structure of birds’ femur provides a major clue that birds simply evolved parallel to the dinosaurs, not from them. Via Science Daily. Read more if you’re interested.

Back tomorrow, and then that will be it for a while as I’ll be photographing at Bonnaroo all weekend.