Remember when those crazy religious zealots disguised as “developers” wanted to build a Bible theme park in Rutherford County and failed? Then they tried to do the same thing in Wilson County and failed again? Well, a family in Rutherford Co. is suing the county for damages because they had a land deal with the developers, pending county approval. The county is ready for a fight, though, and declined a settlement offer to avoid hearings. I can’t see how the family will win this. The county had very good, completely legal reasoning for not approving the park. There was no wrongdoing involved! Via Nashvillest.

There’s a tornado watch today until 4pm, so be on the lookout. Since it’s a relatively hot topic lately, I thought I’d show you a little tidbit about how tornado warnings are issued. As you should know, warnings are only for counties or cities. They issue them when a tornado is indicated by either doppler radar or by a trained spotter, or both. Doppler radar has a unique ability to determine whether the precipitation it detects is moving toward or away from the radar site. Here’s an image from this morning from the NWS website showing the Storm-Relative Mean Radial Velocity. Don’t worry about what that means, but just know that red indicates precip moving away from the radar site, and green indicates precip moving toward it.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

The brighter the color, the faster the wind speed. The area highlighted is what’s called a “couplet” and it shows bright red and green right next to each other, indicating rotation. This is what the NWS means when they say that doppler radar indicates a “storm capable of producing a tornado.” The couplet only means there’s large-scale rotation in the storm, not necessarily a twister on the ground. That’s where spotters like me come in. We are the eyes and ears that can actually confirm that a tornado is on the ground, thus enhancing the NWS’s ability to issue accurate and timely warmings. Sorry that ended up being a little longer than I expected…

Now for a taste of what’s going on this weekend…

Tonight I’m shooting pics of Flight of the Conchords at the Ryman. It’s sold out, so I’m very excited to be photographing/seeing them.

Saturday there are a few things going on, but I have no idea what we’re going to, if anything, yet:
Pico Vs. Island Trees/And the Relatives/Elle Macho @ Mercy Lounge
JEFF the Brotherhood, The Tits, The Weiners @ The End

Finally, if you haven’t seen this video of Billy Bob Thornton on a Q TV interview with his band the Boxmasters, please do watch it NOW. It will make your day. The man is just plain weeeeird. Via Nashville Cream.

Jack White’s latest side project, The Dead Weather, will be playing their first public show in NYC @ Bowery Ballroom on April 14th. They played a private show right here in Nashville for the opening of White’s new label offices/record store/recording studio/photo studio complex back in early March. In other news via Brooklyn Vegan, AC/DC will be heading back to the US for some extended tour dates. I was under the impression that the Nashville show at Sommet Center was to be their last performance in the US… apparently I was gravely mistaken.

In case you’ve been under a rock for the past few days, Lake Fever has posted a special 5-song issue of their “Lake Fever Sessions” video series starring Superdrag. They play several tracks from their new record Industry Giants, which was recorded at Lake Fever. Pretty effin’ awesome if you ask me. I suggest reading Joe Baine Colvert’s blurb to the right of the videos about his teenage years and first discovering Superdrag. The photo to the left was taken by me when I ran into them at SXSW. Speaking of that… I FINALLY got all my pics from Austin on my Flickr, so go have a look. There are a lot of random candid shots on there that weren’t in the Scene slideshows.

For your daily dose of “awww how cute,” check out this article about a new dog that will be a strong contender for the world’s smallest dog. His owners oh-so-cleverly named him Tom Thumb. Via sister sisyphus.

While we’re on the subject of really tiny animals… might as well mention this new species of tree frog discovered in the Andes Mountains. It’s called Noble’s Pygmy Frog. How cute.

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog has a set of amazing photos of Mt. Redoubt, the Alaskan volcano that recently erupted. I knew it was only a matter of time before they had a post full of nice Redoubt imagery. I have a hard to choosing between the aerial shots and the nighttime lightning shots as my fav.

Credit: Josh Wurman, CSWR

Credit: Josh Wurman, CSWR

This May 10 through June 13, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are co-funding the greatest tornado chasing effort in history. It’s called VORTEX-2, and in classic scientific tradition, they came up with a really cool acronym, and then figured out words that would work with the acronym and also describe their project. The result- Verification Of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment 2 (VORTEX 2). As if we need verification that tornadoes rotate…. No matter how silly the name, I’d still LOVE to be right there with them!

io9’s quote of the day today: “The Best Green Technology is Population Control.” Just read this whole excerpt by author Paolo Bacigalupi. My favorite quote from the interview:

Advertising agencies and PR firms are delighted to sell us any number of “green” gizmos and they’re throwing in some nice self-esteem blowjobs for all of us, using their persuasive talents to assure us that we’re enlightened and forward thinking because we just stuffed a green X into our Prius.

On my way home from work- 31st ave north near Centennial park.

On my way home from work- 31st ave north near Centennial park. Click to enlarge.

Yesterday brought some very interesting weather to Nashville. Interestingly enough, the biggest story was the flash flooding that occurred downtown, not necessarily the (not-yet-confirmed by the weather servie) tornado that allegedly touched down near the airport/Donelson. Nashvillest had a link to a pretty amazing video of the Hillsboro Village area during the peak of the flooding. Poor Fido’s! I hope they didn’t have any real damage from the water! I barely made it home from work before the cops shut down West End due to the water. Yesterday’s incident was the classic example of flash-flooding. It was simply a case of a tremendous amount of water being dumped in one area in a very short amount of time. When this happens it simply overwhelms even the best of drainage systems, and all that water has to go somewhere. In fact, according to the NWS website, we set a record high maximum daily rainfall yesterday! Go us?

The Sun is sleeping. At least as far as sunspot activity goes. As you probably learned in middle school, the sun goes through an 11-year cycle of sunspot activity. The peak time is solar maximum and the low point is solar minimum. Right now we’re in solar minimum (the last maximum was around 2001), but this one is particularly low. So low that it has scientists intrigued as to what exactly this could mean for the next solar maximum, scheduled for 2012-2013. Universe Today has a great article on this if you’re interested in learning more.

Ok, on to some non-scientific links…

Oddee.com has some really big stuff on today’s post.

A German researcher accidently pricked herself with a needle used to inject Ebola into mice, and was given an experimental vaccine that had never been tested on humans. She’s fine now, but it’s not clear whether the vaccine saved her, or if the virus simply never enter her bloodstream in the first place. Scary…

Those crazy pranksters at Improv Everywhere pulled off one hell of an April Fool’s joke wednesday. They attempted to give someone the “best funeral ever” by finding the smallest funeral with the fewest likely relatives/friends, and sending a large group of mourners to make the family have the best funeral ever. The only thing is… it was all staged, including the funeral itself. But the local news totally fell for it and covered it as a real news story! Congrats, guys. In case you didn’t know, this same group drew some ire over a prank where they found a crappy band with almost no fans, and sent a huge group of people to one of their shows to totally rock out and act crazy as though they were dedicated fans. Of course, this ended up backfiring and really pissed off the band and a lot of youtube viewers. The group finally apologized for the whole thing.

WEEKEND STUFF!

For Friday:

Probably the coolest thing happening is The Privates’ Motion EP release show at the Basement. These guys just can’t seem to stop making amazing rock music. Opening are Hotpipes and the Garland Sisters.

Also, L.A.-Nashville transplants The Ettes are rocking the Exit/In with Wax Fang and The Whigs.

Another event worth mentioning is the Hot Rocks Dance Party at Mercy Lounge. This event is basically the same thing as the weekly Monday night rock n roll dance parties held at the 5 Spot, except they’ve jumped the river for a weekend time slot, and added in Broadway honky-tonker Heath Haynes.

For Saturday:

The Tits, Lovehog, & Sam Stewart @ the End.

Carter Administration & Power Load: an AC/DC Tribute @ the 5 Spot. Power Load is comprised of members of the Carter Admin and the Clutters.

Another local music tidbit that you probably already know by now: the full motion picture soundtrack to locally-made indie film Makeout With Violence is now available at their website. Two full CDs of music for only $15? You can’t beat that with a stick.

Image via Time.com

Apparently Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber is on the list of TIME magazine’s candidates for the 100 most influential people. You can vote to rank each individual’s influence on a scale of 1 to 100. Seriously? Everyone’s heard of the “Pitchfork effect,” but I think it has become less relevant over the past 2 years or so. It just seems to me that people start regarding over-hyped “blog-buzz” bands as “Pitchfork bands,” and rightfully so, because most of the bands they’ve hyped over the last couple years have had little staying power. Ex.- Vampire Weekend, Deerhunter, TV on the Radio, etc… Hipster Runoff has a take on this issue.

Rapper T.I. has been confirmed as the “other” headliner for this year’s Rites of Spring, and it will probably be one of his last performances before starting his 1-year jail sentence. Kinda weird but kinda cool at the same time?

In other festival news, the 2nd All Points West lineup has been announced, and it includes Nashville/Bowling Green act Cage the Elephant. These guys have a very festival-friendly live show from what I’ve heard, so it’s really no surprise, especially since they’re also playing Coachella and Bamboozle.

It had to be invented eventually… shoes that grow with children’s feet.

President Obama signed a very important environmental bill into law yesterday called the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. This protects wildnerness areas in California, West Virginia, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan, Utah, Virginia and Oregon. It also protects a thousand miles of rivers. This act has been in the works for many years, so one can only credit Obama with the final push to make it law. Still, a big win for our country’s natural beauty. Via the Daily Galaxy.

NASA unveiled a mock-up of the Orion Crew Vehicle yesterday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For some reason I can’t find any photos of this in the public domain, but it basically looks just like the Apollo modules from the 60’s. Technologically, though, it’s vastly more advanced than the Apollo modules. The new Constellation project (of which the Orion Crew Vehicle is a part) will carry astronauts to the ISS beginning around 2015, to the moon in the early 2020’s, and hopefully to Mars in the mid 2030’s. I really hope that I’m still around when that happens.

Finally, the National Weather Service in Nashville has completed their assesment of the storm damage from this past Saturday. As you probably know if you’re from here, a tornado warning was issued for western Davidson and eastern Cheatham Counties around 5:30pm. The storm that prompted this warning did indeed drop an EF1 twister that hit northern Cheatham County. Also, another storm that hit Rutherford County dropped an EF1 twister that hit very near downtown Murfreesboro. This tornado was orginally thought to be and EF0, but further damage assesment prompted the NWS to upgrade it to an EF1. They have very good aerial survey methods that can determine whether damage was caused by straight-line winds or a tornado. The Enhanced-Fujita scale uses damage to estimate the wind speeds in the tornado. There is still no direct way to measure the wind speeds inside the actual funnel, unless the tornado happens to directly hit a wind vane and it somehow miraculously survives. But the chances of that happening are slim to none. If you know me I’m sure you’re wondering whether I chased either of these storms, and the answer is yes, I did attempt to track down the one in Davidson County, but chasing in TN is very difficult, mainly because the roads are not laid out in nice, easy-to-navigate grids like they are in the plains, and also because the storms around here tend to be High-Precipitation Supercells, rather than Low-Precipitiation Supercells which are more common in the plains. This means that most of the tornadoes in TN are shrouded in rain and thus very difficult or impossible to spot from a distance. So no, I was unsuccessful in seeing/documenting this tornado.

I’ve always wondered exactly how they create the yellow 1st down line in football TV coverage. It’s something I always think about while I’m watching a game, but never dig into later. Well, the wonderful kottke.org comes through again with a link to this fascinating explanation. I always knew it had something to with a chroma-key effect, so that it only shows up on the green grass as if it’s actually under the players. What I never could understand though, is how they keep the angle correct as the camera pans, zooms, etc….

This year’s Coachella lineup has been announced, and it’s pretty awesome. I actually really wish I could go this year. But with SXSW, the possibility of covering Bonnaroo again, and another summer trip with Megan, it ain’t gonna happen. Interestingly, it’s Paul McCartney’s 1st festival appearance in the US. Via Pitchfork. Still waiting to see if the big rumor about Phish playing Bonnaroo is true.

If you know me, you know that I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Camera Obscura. You’ve probably heard me get all giddy about the time I saw them in Athens at the 40-Watt and got to meet Tracyanne Campbell (and buy her a drink!). Well, they have a new album coming out soon, and they’re playing SXSW. Of course, since I probably won’t have a badge when I go, I probably won’t get to see them, but who knows what will happen? I’m just really really happy that they worked with the same producer as their last record Let’s Get Out of this Country, Jari Haapalainen. He did wonders with that album, and matched just the right amount of lush production to their style. I’m really anxious to hear what he’s done with them on the new one. I’m also really anxious to see their US tour schedule. I have no clue if they’ll flesh out a bunch more dates around their SXSW appearance and the lone other US date on their current calendar- Mar 24th at the Bell House in Brooklyn. I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

It looks as though Mount Redoubt in Alaska is about to blow its top. The last major eruption for the active volcano was in 1989, and scientists says this eruption could be about the same or a little less intense than the last one. Luckily it’s not close to any heavily populated areas, and the small towns close enough to recieve some of the ash will just have to deal with it, but it shouldn’t cause any huge problems.

Not much to report on this looming winter storm coming monday and tuesday. The weather service hasn’t changed its forecast much, but I can see that the latest model runs show a slightly weaker storm than before, but there’s still a lot of time, and the models will probably change their minds several times. They just aren’t very reliable more than a day or two out, especially when dealing with these fickle winter systems.

Winter weather in the south

December 12, 2008

So I’m sure if you’re from the Nashville area you know how ridiculous people around here can be when even a flurry of snow is mentioned in the weather forecast. If you’ve been paying much attention in the past couple of days, you’ll also know that Mississippi (yes, Mississippi!) got a pretty significant snowfall recently…. even 2-4 inches in some areas across central Miss. That’s absolutely unheard of in the south! If you know me, you’ll also know that I’m a weather nerd- I follow the forecasts and even chase storms when the opportunity arises. Often times I hear people talking about how crazy winter weather is in Nashville, and how we never get any snow (some people like it that way, some don’t), and how the forecast is never right. I thought this would be a good time to do a little post explaining a few things about why winter weather can be such a roller-coaster sometimes, and why it’s so difficult to accurately forecast winter weather in the south.

Basically, the location of TN, especially its latitude, causes it to always be influenced by air masses created in other areas. During the winter, the jet stream is essentially split into two branches, a southern branch that resides over northern Mexico and the Gulf, and the northern branch that resides over the northern US states and Canada. (Sometimes it can actually split into 3 branches, but for simplicity’s sake let’s leave it at 2.) TN’s latitude causes it to be right in the zone where those two branches can sometimes come together, and with them comes air masses created in their respective areas. The southern branch can sometimes bring northward a warm, moist airmass from the Gulf, and the northern branch can sometimes bring southward cold, dry airmasses created over Cananda. In order to have snow you have to have A) cold air- freezing or below- and B) moisture/clouds. Because of our location relative to the track of winter storms, we rarely ever see moisture and cold air at the same time. Most often we see the moisture in the form of rain as the system/front approaches, and then the cold air comes in after the system has passed, and taken the moisture away with it. I’ve made some diagrams to help illustrate what I’m talking about. To understand these you need to know a few basic things about weather- high pressure (blue H)=calm, clear weather and has clockwise circulation around it, and low pressure (red L)=cloudy, rainy/snowy weather and counter-clockwise circulation. The blue line with teeth is a cold front, which means that to the west (left) of it is a cold airmass advancing eastward. The red line with round humps is a warm front, which means that to the south of it is warm air advancing northward. In this first diagram I’ve made, you will see the typical scenario for a winter storm in the south. You can see that the rain is in the moist sector to the south and east of the low pressure system. The cold doesn’t make it to those areas because it’s being pulled down from the west of the system, behind the cold front. Because that cold air mass originated over land (Canada), it’s fairly dry, and if you’re to the south of the low, once the cold front passes the moisture is gone. It’s only in that northwest quadrant of the system that moisture gets pulled around and mixed with the cold air, creating snow. Most of these storm systems track a little too far north or south (this diagram has it going too north) and there either isn’t enough cold air in place over the northern plains, or the warm moist air simply rides up over the cold air (we’ll talk about that in a minute). Click on the image to show the full size diagram.
winterweathermap-usualstorm

So what happens when the warm air is pulled up and then rides over the cold air? Ice. Normally this happens right along the warm front, in the northeast quadrant of the storm. The warm air is lighter and rises (we all learned that in elementary school) and creates a wedge. The precipitation starts as snow way up in the clouds, then melts when it gets to that layer of warmer air, then the rain drops re-freeze when they get closer to the ground where the colder air sits. This is called sleet. If the layer of colder air is really shallow, the rain may not freeze until it touches a surface. It will then freeze and form a glaze of ice on everything. This is called freezing rain. Another diagram to illustrate: (click to enlarge)
icestorm

Finally, this last diagram will show you what the “ideal” scenario for a heavy snowfall event in Nashville/middle TN would look like. Unfortunately if you’re a snow-lover like me, this doesn’t happen very often because the low has to track in JUST the right place for it to happen. There also has to be a very strong, very cold airmass parked over the northern plains, waiting to plunge down to the southeast. The southern branch of the jetstream also must be very active and the low pressure must be very strong- strong enough that you have full 360 degree circulation (called a “closed low”). The exact track of the low makes all the difference. It has to track just to the southeast of us so that we are in that “sweet spot” of heavy snow just to the north and west of the low. The perfect Nashville snowstorm: (click to enlarge)
winterweathermap-idealstorm

Essentially this is the great “Blizzard of ’93,” except its track is shifted slightly to the west of that storm. Ok, now that we’ve all had a full nerd-gasm, hopefully you now have a better understanding of why Nashville’s winter weather can be rather fickle and difficult to forecast. Back to the normal posting tomorrow.