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Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

The Power and Presence of Ike

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Hurricane Ike made landfall at 2:10AM CST this morning at Galveston, Texas. Ike is an enormous storm, as seen in the image above taken from the International Space Station, so much so that it poses a disruption to orbital traffic above it. The damage from Ike is expected to be massive, and not because Ike is an incredibly strong hurricane but instead simply because Hurricane Ike is so expansive. has a great post on the damage models for Hurricane Ike.

Hurricanes, As Seen From Space

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Hurricane season is in full swing, so it is only appropriate to check out this incredible series of images at of hurricanes as captured from Earth orbit. These images go far in visually depicting the power and magnitude of hurricanes, something I have posted about previously. You see pretty clouds, I see the release of 600 trillion kilowatt hours of energy. The image above is of Hurricane Ivan and was taken on September 11, 2004 by ISS astronaut Edward Fincke taken from a window onboard the International Space Station. Here’s another favorite from the series of Hurricane Isabel taken from the ISS on September 15th, 2003:

North Pole. No Ice. Soon.

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

It’s true. The ice of the North Pole is melting at an exaggerated rate, so much so that we may see the North Pole lose all of its ice in the near future, like this year. While this has been making the rounds in most of the major news outlets as a story, I am somewhat surprised that it is not being reported as a much more serious situation than it seems to be. We are distracted.

Here’s the deal. If this happens, and all Arctic ice is lost, this will be the first time this has occurred in all recorded human history. To be fair, scientists give this a 50/50 chance of happening, but even 50/50 seems to be dangerous odds for something that has not happened in a very, very long time and with as yet unknown implications. If this does happen, it means that you could sail completely across the Arctic and cross the North Pole on the ocean surface, as opposed to having to travel underneath the Arctic ice inside a nuclear powered submarine. This is bad news for the already threatened species of the Arctic. It also means that the nations that border the Arctic will have ready access to exploit the natural resources (oil, minerals, natural gas) that were previously unreachable, and would probably race to do so.

The shrinking Arctic ice is not a new phenomenon, as the sea ice loss has been increasing each year. The thick ice that makes up the Arctic had been built up over many, many years. This ice has been melting, with last year’s melt being especially dramatic, and this year’s already on pace. The problem is that the melted old, thick sea ice is replaced by very thin ice that is built up in only a year. This ice is totally vulnerable, and without the ability to replace the thicker sea ice means that the ice footprint of the Arctic is very precarious. This is attributed to rising ocean temperatures and changing climate patterns.

While reading more about this I came across an EU sponsored program named that measures the environmental impact on the Arctic. Their site is packed with information and I highly suggest checking it out.

Found original story .

Phoenix is Go

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Martian Weather 5/25/08 via Phoenix Mission Control

We are at just under four hours before Phoenix lands on the surface of Mars. I am checking periodically at the website in anticipation of this event. Martian weather is clear and the landing later today is green for go. I suspect there are a lot of very excited and anxious people at JPL right now.

The above animation is of weather on Mars around its north pole from 5/16 through 5/22. The small cigar shaped outline in the upper left quadrant is the planned landing zone.

Awake After 9000 Years

Monday, May 12th, 2008

The lightning clouds of the Chaiten volcano in Chile

Incredible images recently of in Chile. This volcano is awake after 9000 years of dormancy, erupting with a fierceness this past week that has sent a plume of volcanic ash 12 miles into the atmosphere and stretching from Chile to the Atlantic ocean. The photo above is of the intense lightning that has erupted in and around the enormous plume, the result of static electricity released in incredible intensity by the density of the ash and the multitude of particles hitting each other and becoming charged. Between the earthquake in China, the cyclone in Myanmar, and the volcano in Chile it is hard to not remember how very much active our planet really is.

Heavy Weather, Too…

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Thunderstorm forming

In comparison to hurricanes, the energy the average thunderstorm releases equals about 10,000,000 kilowatt-hours. That is roughly the energy equivalent of a 20-kiloton nuclear warhead. A large, severe thunderstorm might be 10 to 100 times more energetic. All of this is only a fraction of the energy generated and released by a hurricane. The kilowatt-hours equivalent from a hurricane is on the magnitude of 600 trillion. Per day.

Heavy Weather

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Hurricane seen from orbit

That title is a riff on the of the same name, which is what I thought of when I came across the website for the , a division of the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research(OOAR), a division of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), which is a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is a division of the United States Department of Commerce. Yikes. Government.

Anyway, at the HRD site I found a very cool report about the energy created by the average hurricane. The total energy released through the formation of clouds and rain per day is equal to 200 times the world-wide electrical generating capacity. Per day. The total energy generated through the wind of a hurricane per day is equivalent to roughly half the world-wide electrical generating capacity. Again, per day. That means that a hurricane the lasts five days will generate roughly the equivalent of 1000 times the total electrical power generating capacity of the world over the same period of time. That makes me feel small, in a good way.