Just a few hours ago (0948 UTC), 13 stories worth of Delta II rocket lifted [video] the newest weather research satellite into polar orbit on a mission to provide the beginnings of the next generation of Earth observing and monitoring from space.
This new NPP (NPOESS Preparatory Project) satellite combines weather monitoring and climate observing in the same platform. It’s also a crucial step in building the next generation weather system. From its monitoring station 512 miles above Earth, the new satellite will be able to observe everything from the ozone layer to land cover, from atmospheric temperatures to ice cover and even vegetative productivity. All told, there will be more than 30 variables observed and measured. The five instruments aboard the satellite are the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES), the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS). NPOESS will have the ability to send 800 DVDs’ worth (about 4 terabytes) of data home each day. It’s service life is expected to continue through 2016 though as we’ve seen with many previous Earth science satellites, it may very well continue beyond that time frame.
James Gleason, NPP project scientist said, “NPP is a continuation of existing Earth Orbiting Satellites. For monitoring purposes, you need to have continuous observations. NPP continues the data record started by NASA satellites and improves on the instruments that are used for numerical weather forecasting.”
Delivering even more bang for the buck, today’s launch included six CubeSats — tiny satellites measuring just 4 or so inches (10 centimeters) across. The CubeSats were designed by students from several different universities and flew as part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program.
Despite being nearly scrubbed in favor of the Space Shuttle program, the Delta II rocket persevered and has been instrumental in its 20+ year history. Now, with the end of the Shuttle program, the Delta II rocket has become the rising star in NASA’s space program for the near future. The first Delta II launched in 1989; to date there have been 146 launches and they’re considered the world’s most reliable launch vehicles currently in service. This morning’s ride on the Delta II of the first of the next generation of weather satellites was preceded by the Mars Lander in 2007, the Mars Rovers in 2003, and the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1998 among many others.
It was 54 years ago this month (October 4, 1954) when Russia launched the first artificial satellite into Earth orbit.
* Dawn spacecraft (as mentioned in Delta II photo above).
[Originally published on October 28, 2011]
[Originally published December 24, 2009.]
Earlier this week a strong cold front that moved off the Atlantic has been taking temperatures unusually low and making snowfall accumulations unusually high from Milan to Minsk. As many as 100 deaths have been blamed on the cold. In Germany, temps fell to -33C while icy runways and rails cancelled flights and trains across the continent. In Moscow, where frigid temperatures and snowfall are not unusual this time of year, the heaviest snowfall in 100 years (say local meteorologists) brought traffic to a stop – just slightly slower than normal Moscow traffic. Temperatures today are warm enough to allow rain, as opposed to snow in many areas – including Milan.
[Originally Posted December 21, 2009.]
All eyes the past few days have been on the Northeast snow event. The slow moving storm started in the Gulf of Mexico and moved through the Southeast Friday causing flooding in Florida and knocking out electricity to more than 85,000 customers in the Carolinas. Rain turned to snow as the system moved up the East Coast and caused at least five deaths and travel problems, and left stores normally filled with holiday shoppers empty. Many airports in the Northeast, after several canceled flights and delays, are trying to get back to normal. At the New York City area’s three major airports this weekend nearly 800 flights were canceled. If headed that direction you may want to check ahead.
Snowfall amounts were very impressive. Amounts in the Northeast ranged from just a few inches to over 20 inches in isolated locations. Below you can see a map with actual amounts of snow that fell in the Philadelphia and D.C. areas.
Farther north, snowfall totals are coming in around 15 inches in the New York City area and up to 8-12 inches in the Boston area.
The low pressure system that brought all the snow continues to move away from the East Coast and will allow the Northeast to dig out and clean up this week as the next storm system gets ready to move into the Plains States with the threat for snow around Christmas. Below is an outlook prepared by ImpactWeather Meteorologist Fred Schmude for possible snow Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
[Originally published December 12, 2009.]
ACTIVE WINTER PATTERN FOR THE GULF COAST
Much of the longer range weather data we are looking at indicates more surges of very cold air will be building south out of Canada over the next 10 days to two weeks. Not only will there be a threat of a hard freeze sometime over the next 10 days to two weeks over much of the Deep South and Gulf Coast, but there also may be some wintry precipitation as well thanks in large part to a very active southern storm track. Of course to get really cold air down to the Gulf Coast temperatures over the source region of Canada need to be at least normal, and at best below normal. Also a decent snow cover well southward into the U.S. Great Plains is also a big plus considering less modification of any air pouring southward out of Canada would occur. Let’s take a look at the current conditions followed by the long-range forecast.
- Current Snow Depth
- Current Temperature Anomalies
Note most of western North America is currently well below normal. Even parts of central and northern Canada have cooled way off and are currently averaging near to slightly below normal. Based on the two maps above we have in place the two major ingredients required for a hard freeze on the Gulf Coast.
- Temperatures over the Source Region
The map above indicates the source region of western Canada will remain well below normal over the next week meaning there is plenty of cold air poised to move southward if the opportunity is right.
- Blocking To Continue…Hard Freeze Threat to the Gulf Coast?
All of the computer model ensemble trends continue to advertise a large amount of blocking across the Northern Hemisphere over the next 10 days to 2 weeks (see map below).
As a result more very cold air from Canada will be reloading over the next 1-2 weeks. In addition since there is already a snowpack down to the northern Texas Panhandle expect less modification with time as future surges of very cold air build southward. The combination of these factors may result in a hard freeze for the Gulf Coast sometime over the next two weeks. Confidence in the timing of such an event is very low right now; however, several ingredients are coming together which does favor a very cold weather pattern down to the Gulf Coast. Right now we think the best chance for a hard freeze on the Gulf Coast will be in between the 19th and 25th of December based mainly on ensemble forecasting during that time frame.
In addition to the colder air, we continue to see strong evidence in support of a stronger than normal southern storm track over the next two weeks (see map above) resulting from a fairly strong El Nino over the Tropical Pacific. Moisture associated with the southern storm track could bring a risk of more wintry type of precipitation for parts of the Deep South as well during this time frame, if moisture interacts with the colder air at just the right time.
We will have more later on this potential wintry weather for the Gulf Coast over the next week or two.
Meteorologist: Fred Schmude
What kind of barracuda can cause a total blackout for a town of 400? A flying barracuda.
Last November, from out of the clear blue Florida sky, a three-foot long barracuda took power down for the residents of Florida’s Duck Key. With the scent of seafood in the air, life returned to normal without much fanfare about an hour later. Seems an osprey plucked the fearsome-looking ocean fish out of the Atlantic and then accidentally (we assume) dropped the fish. Whether the ‘cuda was alive or dead on the way down is unknown, but its fate was sealed when it landed across all three phases of the Florida Keys Electrical Coop’s power system.
- Though this happened in November of last year, it remains a key lesson in business continuity. Can you plan for a large bird to drop a large fish onto your electric power generation facility which, in turn, causes a total blackout for all of your customers? No. Can you plan for the unexpected power outage, no matter the reason? Yes. Our experts at
ImpactReady can provide just such guidance to help you prepare just such plans.
Earlier this week I posted about blackouts and how they seem more prevalent on the east coast of the United States than other areas such as the Midwest. As an example, power utilities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York average 214 minutes of non-weather or disaster-related outages per year with the national average being 202 minutes. Despite the occasional barracuda, the Florida Keys Electrical Coop averages just 45 minutes of power interruptions each year.
[Originally published July 29, 2010.]
Some would say it’s raining meteorites. There are literally tons upon tons upon tons of space rock floating around in space and it’s only a matter of time before a chunk of it lands on your car, your home or your noodle. In fact, it’s been happening since the beginning of time and will continue to happen long after we humans move on to someplace else.
According to astronomer Alan Harris, a person has a one in 700,000 chance of being killed by a meteorite, or experiencing a fatal “asteroid impact,” as he puts it, in the course of his or her lifetime. Fairly small odds, no doubt, yet those odds are better than winning the lottery and folks win the lottery every day (just not you). According to the book “Death from the Skies,” the Earth is pummeled by 20-40 tons of meteors each day — enough, according to the book, to fill a 6-story office building each year. On the other hand, humans don’t actually occupy that much of the Earth’s surface: three quarters of the Earth’s surface is water, while quite a bit of land is either lightly populated or not populated at all. You’d think most of the space rock would rarely have an impact on humans. For the most part you’d be right.
However, after having his home on the business end of falling meteorites six times in almost four years, Radivoje Lajic would disagree. In fact, he would argue that his house has become a target for meteorite-pitching aliens and he’d like to know what he’s done to annoy them (the aliens). Even a non-statistician knows that once you’ve been targeted by aliens hurtling meteorites in your direction, you have to remove yourself from the 1/700,000 statistically random ratio. Ain’t nothing random once you’re a target.
Why is YourWeatherBlog, a blog devoted chiefly to blogging about the weather, writing about meteorites? Because Mr. Lajic states that the meteorites only strike his house when it’s raining. He says he can’t sleep during a rainy night for fear of the next meteorite strike. Whether a rain event would lessen or increase the odds of a strike for Mr. Lajic is still being discussed by the statisticians. As a meteorologist, I’m left to ponder WHY the rain would lead to a meteorite strike. In last week’s blog about “raining marijuana” I thought it was unlikely but possible that small bits of marijuana might act as condensation nuclei at the center of a raindrop. If so, then technically it could “rain” marijuana. However due to their size, the cosmic stones raining down upon the Lajic household cannot be considered condensation nuclei. There must be some other meteorological connection between the rain and the meteorites. Or maybe not (most likely). Let’s not forget that Mr. Lajic is already a target; the aliens already know where he lives. Perhaps the aliens are simply using the cover of the stormy skies to conceal their presence and the windup — two fingers on the top seam for a curve; fingernails of the first three fingers dug into the seams, thumb at the bottom, pinkie to the side for a knuckle; or index on the trailing seam and the other fingers on the laces for a nice, tight spiral.
Finally, meteor vs. meteorite vs. meteoroid. What’s the difference? A meteor is the visible trace of a meteoroid in space while a meteorite is a former meteoroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere and survived the impact with the Earth’s surface.
[Originally published July 22, 2010.]
Raining marijuana? In a new spin on Depression-era song “Pennies from Heaven,” residents of the east Texas town of Caddo Mills are wondering if they should keep looking to the sky or begin planning the party.
It started early Monday morning when local police were alerted to a low-flying airplane, which was later found abandoned near the local airport. Meanwhile, residents began phoning police to report large black duffle bags landing on their roofs — duffels, it turned out, full of high-grade marijuana.
Meteorologically it’s nearly impossible for it to rain marijuana, though with conditions being just right I wouldn’t rule it out. It’s rained locusts and frogs. It’s rained mud. Of course, it’s rained cats and dogs before. And, according to Aretha Franklin, the Weather Girls and more, it’s even rained men.
Rain forms when water vapor condenses upon condensation nuclei forming liquid droplets. Condensation nuclei are small liquid or non-liquid particles about 1/100th the size of the forming rain droplet, or nearly .02 micrometer (.0002mm) in size. They are typically composed of dust, a variety of pollutants, salt (sea salt), or even volcanic ash. Without condensation nuclei water vapor would not be able to move from a gaseous state to a liquid state. As these droplets move through the atmosphere they fuse with other droplets, eventually becoming heavy enough to fall to the ground.
In the case of the raining marijuana in Caddo Mills, I don’t think a duffel of marijuana qualifies as a condensation nuclei (high-grade, or not). However, given the right circumstances — perhaps a distant burning field of pot — it’s entirely possible that falling rain could have a particular smell that might seem a bit unusual.
A) Raindrops are not tear-drop shaped.
B) Small raindrops are typically round in shape.
C) Large raindrops become flattened on the bottom due to air resistance.
D, E) Large raindrops have a large amount of air resistance and will eventually break apart.
* Supercooled droplets can form without condensation nuclei transitioning from vapor to droplet spontaneously. Also, droplets can form without condensation nuclei in a super-saturated environment (400% RH).
Only seven percent of the U.S. population has taken basic preparedness steps at their house? Seriously? Does the other 93% think they’re mysteriously immune when – not if – life gets difficult? “Some of the statistics are shocking,” according to Mike Thomson, our Business Continuity Services manager.
As the tropical season begins to wind down but well in advance of this winter’s more significant impacts, take advantage of the ‘down’ time to consider the potential non-weather impacts on your business, organization, personal livelihood or family. Here’s two great ways:
- Listen to Mike Thomson’s recorded interview on the Disaster Recovery Hour radio show hosted by Chris Plunkett. Mike joined Chris for 35 minutes (we edited out the commercials for you) and the conversation covered a range of different events you need to be prepared for and specifically the value of joining the Association of Contingency Planners regardless of whether your organization is a large one or a small one. Of particular interest is the discussion contrasting Mike’s experience effecting productive response programs while in the military versus the ‘speed’ of adopting new ideas in the private sector. You’ll be surprised to learn the difference – it’s probably not what you think.
- During the interview, Mike and Chris also discussed the inestimable value of CERT training. Community Emergency Response Team training is Eagle Scout equivalent of achievement for civilian community responders but few know how much it can benefit their professional skills and personal value. And as Mike reminds us, “One of the best things a company can do to ensure that it’s genuinely prepared is to sponsor CERT training for its employees and establish a CERT team(s) within the company . . . and it’s free!”
And if you’re the one responsible for your organization’s readiness capabilities, you should also take advantage of FEMA’s Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Accreditation and Certification Program (PS-Prep). Why? Again, it improves the ability of both your organization and your employees to respond when disaster, large or small, strikes. And, again, it’s free.
Only 25% of companies even think about whether their own employees are prepared for a disaster at home. The point? When employees aren’t prepared at home they spend much more time responding to their own problems instead of helping the company recover, return and re-open.
And remember that on 9/11, out of all the people who worked in emergency rooms – doctors, nurses, technicians and other essential staff – 73% of them were married to other first responders. Imagine the impact, in addition to being overwhelmed otherwise, that has on the ability of those responders to maintain a sustained response effort. Certainly 9/11 is the defining disaster response event of our time but it reminds you that few other things even begin to approach the importance of mastering your self-sufficiency.
To learn more or to find out about CERT training, contact Mike at 877 792-3220.