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Posts Tagged ‘meteorology

“Men argue. Nature acts.”*…

 

Scientists have converged on climate change predictions that a growing majority of Americans accept.  Still, it can be hard to understand– at a visceral level– what a warming globe might mean.  Here’s some help: a clever tool from Greg Schivley, a civil and environmental engineering PhD. student at Carnegie Mellon University (with help from Ben Noll; inspired by Sophie Lewis).  Enter some key birth dates to project how the climate will have changed from your grandma’s birth to when your kids retire.  The chart’s temperature changes are based on NASA’s historical and projected climate scenarios.

Climate change and life events

* Voltaire

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As we sweat it out, we might send temperate birthday greetings to Sir William Napier Shaw; he was born on this date in 1854.  A meteorologist and member of the Royal Society, he developed the tephigram, a diagram of temperature changes still commonly used in weather analysis and forecasting.

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Written by LW

March 4, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The endless repetition of an ordinary miracle”*…

 

Snowflakes under a microscope

In 1611 Johannes Kepler wrote a scientific essay entitled De Nive Sexangula; commonly translated as “On the Six-Cornered Snowflake.” It was the first investigation into the nature of snowflakes and what we’d now call crystallography. Since he was a gentleman and a scholar back when you could be such a thing without being ironic or a hipster, Kepler gave the essay as a New Year’s gift. As Kepler wrote on the title page:

To the honorable Counselor at the Court of his Imperial Majesty, Lord Matthaus Wacker von Wackenfels, a Decorated Knight and Patron of Writers and Philosophers, my Lord and Benefactor.

As the title suggests, Kepler’s main concern was the question of why snowflakes are almost always six-pointed…

Follow the train of thought from the stacking of spheres to the intricacies of tiling at “Snowflakes and Cannonball Stacks.”

* Orhan Pamuk, Snow

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As we pause to ponder patterns, we might recall that it was on this date in 1891, about 20 miles outside of Midland, Texas, that the first rainmaking experiment in the U.S. was conducted. Robert St. George Dyrenforth, a Washington patent attorney and retired Army officer, led a team that used “mortars, casks, barometers, electrical conductors, seven tons of cast-iron borings, six kegs of blasting powder, eight tons of sulfuric acid, one ton of potash, 500 pounds of manganese oxide, an apparatus for making oxygen and another for hydrogen, 10- and 20-foot-tall muslin balloons and supplies for building enormous kites” to create enormous explosions meant to help clouds form.  Their efforts– which were based more on Dyrenforth’s instinct than on anything resembling scientific evidence– were entirely unsuccessful.  Still, at a time of extreme drought, it’s likely that almost anything seemed worth trying.  (The full– and very entertaining– story, here.)

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Written by LW

August 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing”*…

 

If you’re planning to relocate but want to live somewhere with a near-exact temperature profile, where should you go?

That depends: Folks in San Francisco might choose San Luis Obispo 200 miles south, or Portugal’s Cabo Carvoeiro 5,600 miles east, as these locales have 99 percent similar monthly temperatures. Chicagoans could go to Ottawa or Dalian, China, whereas New Yorkers will feel at home in Dover, Maryland; Milford, Delaware; or Makhachkala, Russia.

That’s according to an engrossing map tool from Codeminders that compares places with equivalent climates…

More at “A Guide to Finding Cities With Nearly Identical Temperatures“– and try it for yourself here.

* “Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me quite nervous.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

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As we ponder the differential impacts of climate change, we might recall that it was on this date in 1900 that a massive storm spread record snows from Kansas to New York State. Snowfall totals ranged up to 17.5 inches at Springfield IL and 43 inches at Rochester NY, with up to 60 inches in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State.

Central Park, after the storm

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Written by LW

February 28, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on”*…

 

Why do archaeological fraudsters work so hard to deceive us?  Because bad science makes for good stories: “What Lies Beneath.”

And for run-downs of archaeological hoaxes both amusing and illuminating, visit here and here.

[image above sourced here]

* Terry Pratchett, The Truth

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As we dig, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt; he was born on this date in 1769.  The younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher, and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, Alexander was a geographer, naturalist, explorer, and champion of Romantic philosophy.  Among many other contributions to human knowledge, his quantitative work on botanical geography laid the foundation for the field of biogeography; his advocacy of long-term systematic geophysical measurement laid the foundation for modern geomagnetic and meteorological monitoring.

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Written by LW

September 14, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The score never interested me, only the game”*…

 

The story of the exotic Belgian import that is the most mystical, magical sport on Earth…  and of the Detroit lifer who became its King… and of an art heist:  “Believe in Featherbowling.”

* Mae West

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As we take our seats, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that Holt, Missouri set the world’s record for the fastest accumulation of rainfall: 12 inches (300 mm) of rainfall in 42 minutes.

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Written by LW

June 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky”*…

 

 click here for zoomable version

In between Earth and space lies an ocean of air. That “great aerial ocean,” as biologist Alfred Russel Wallace (the other natural selection guy) called it, is an extremely thin envelope of gas and suspended particles that encompass our planet. To get perspective on just how thin, there’s this very rough equivalency: The atmosphere is to the Earth as an onion’s wafer thin outer skin is to an onion. But while it may be just a sliver, it’s critical to life on Earth.

Without our atmosphere, there wouldn’t be rain for our plants and vegetables to grow—and feed us. There’d be no greenhouse effect keeping the planet temperate enough to sustain life. There’d be no talking or music-playing because sound wouldn’t exist as we know it—without a medium like air, sound waves can’t travel and thus don’t create vibrations that hit our eardrums allowing us to hear. And there wouldn’t be the oxygen we need to breathe. Bottom line, without it, life on Earth would be nada…

More on the extraordinary envelope that surrounds our planet at World Science Festival’s “Rethink Science.”

* Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

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As we take stock of what we take for granted, we might send sunny birthday greetings to Alexander Buchan; he was born on this date in 1829.  A Scottish meteorologist, oceanographer and botanist, he is credited with establishing the weather map as the basis of weather forecasting (after tracing the path of a storm from North America, across the Atlantic, into northern Europe in 1868).

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Written by LW

April 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The nature of things betrays itself more readily under the vexations of art than in its natural freedom”*…

 

Ernst Haeckel’s 1879 diagram of human evolution

The British Library is hosting “Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight” in its Folio Society Gallery from now through May 26th.  The show features selection’s from the Library’s extraordinary collection of scientific visualizations, charts, and maps.

Turning numbers into pictures that tell important stories and reveal the meaning held within is an essential part of what it means to be a scientist. This is as true in today’s era of genome sequencing and climate models as it was in the 19th century.

Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.

The exhibit features classic illustrations dating back to 1603, including John Snow’s map of London’s SoHo that’s credited with revealing a contaminated water pump as the source of a 1854 cholera outbreak; and it extends forward to beautiful modern visualizations of data from satellites and gene sequencers.

“Circles of Life,” specially commissioned this year for the exhibit, illustrates the genetic similarities between humans and five other animals (chimpanzee and dog are shown here). See the full diagram.

Read more, and see more examples for the show, at the British Library’s site and at Wired Science (from whence the images above).

(Special bonus:  Florence Nightingale’s extraordinary “rose diagram” infographic, demonstrating that more soldiers died of preventable diseases than in conflict during the Crimean War.)

* Sir Francis Bacon

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As we delight in the distillation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1870 that Congress authorized the formation of the U.S. weather service (later named the Weather Bureau; later still, the National Weather Service), and placed it under the direction of the Army Signal Corps.  Cleveland Abbe,  who had started the first private weather reporting and warning service (in Cincinnati) and had been issuing weather reports or bulletins since September, 1869, was the only person in the country at the time who was experienced in drawing weather maps from telegraphic reports and forecasting from them.  He became the weather service’s inaugural chief scientist– effectively its founding head– in January, 1871.  The first U.S. meteorologist, he is known as the “father of the U.S. Weather Bureau,” where he systemized observation, trained personnel, and established scientific methods.  He went on to become one of the 33 founders of the National Geographic Society.

Cleveland Abbe

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