Friday, April 30, 2010

SHOCKING! EPA Says Climate Change is Real Problem for U.S.

According to a new and recently released report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), climate change is in fact to blame for the recent bout of storminess to affect the United States. From those record-breaking blizzards to summer heat waves, and from tropical cyclone development to deadly tornadoes, the EPA is officially defining climate change as a very real problem for our nation.

Surprise, surprise… right!?!? Interestingly, the report releases just as the U.S. Senate debates whether to take up a climate bill before an immigration one.

The report is said to display indisputable evidence that human activities such as electricity production and transportation are adding to the concentrations of greenhouse gases that are already naturally present in the atmosphere, therefore causing more frequent, violent storms and heat waves.

USA Today illustrated that the report's key findings included:
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are increasing. Between 1990 and 2008, there has been about a 14 percent increase in emissions in the United States.

  • Average temperatures are rising. Seven of the top 10 warmest years on record for the continental United States have occurred since 1990.

  • Tropical cyclone intensity has increased in recent decades. Six of the 10 most active hurricane seasons have occurred since the mid-1990s.

  • Sea levels are rising. From 1993 to 2008, sea level rose twice as fast as the long-term trend.

  • Glaciers are melting. Loss of glacier volume appears to have accelerated over the last decade.

  • The frequency of heat waves has risen steadily since the 1960s. The percentage of the U.S. population impacted by heat waves has also increased.

So... I'm not quite sure what impact this has on all of us. Carry on, I guess...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Feared Environmental Tragedy of Gulf Oil Spill Slowly Becoming Reality

Estimates of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico have risen from 42,000 gallons a day to 210,000 gallons a day, with some indications that the flow may even be much greater. This situation now threatens wide-scale coastal damage for four Gulf Coast states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Weather Plays a Role

Over the past couple weeks since the spill occurred the weather had been somewhat favorable in containing the oil over open waters, keeping it from making landfall, but with an onshore wind shift and a reversing weather patten, the scale of the oil spill is rapidly multiplying and could very well become an environmental tragedy.

Here are the facts from NOAA:
  • Winds are forecast to become strong (20+ kts) and blow from the southeast starting tomorrow and continuing through the weekend, which will continue to push surface oil towards shore.

  • Oil-spill trajectory analyses indicate that oil continues to move towards shore.

  • Oil-containment booms (or floating barriers) have been deployed as a precaution to protect sensitive areas in the Louisiana area.

  • The effects of oil on sensitive habitats and shorelines in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are being evaluated should oil from the incident make landfall in appreciable quantities.

  • NOAA’s Assessment and Restoration Division is evaluating concerns about potential injuries of oil and dispersants to fish, human use of fisheries, marine mammals, turtles, and sensitive resources.

Tragic Environmental Impacts

Following are some possible impacts on the Gulf environment, commercial fisheries, wildlife and tourism:

  • Fisheris – A number of fisheries could suffer as a result of the spill. The northern Gulf of Mexico is a crucial spawning ground at this time of the year for the Atlantic population of Bluefin Tuna, which is critically endangered. Their eggs float near the surface and the larvae stay there after they first hatch. So, the spill has occurred at a critical time in their life-cycle. The spill could dramatically decrease the amount of Bluefin Tuna larvae that are surviving. Losses could also be inflicted on the shrimp and oyster industries in Louisiana. Oysters are filter feeders and cannot swim to escape the slick.

  • Birdlife – Several areas that are important to bird populations could be potentially affected. According to the National Audubon Society, places it has designated as "Important Bird Areas" or IBAs that could be threatened by the slick include, Chandeleur Islands IBA and Gulf Islands National Seashore IBA in Louisiana and Mississippi; also in Louisiana, the Delta National Wildlife Refuge and Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Species at risk include, Louisiana's state bird, the Brown Pelican, which was only removed from the U.S. Endangered Species Act last year. They nest on barrier islands and feed near shore.

  • Tourism – Depending on where the slick goes, a number of beaches could be adversely impacted in areas such as the northwestern part of Florida, which has been running televised ads aimed at attracting tourists to the area.

  • Others - Several species of sea turtles are currently moving through the Gulf, as their spring nesting seasons commences and they need to surface to breathe, so the slick at the water's top could damage their populations.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Central Park: Rebuilding After the Snowicane

Remember the Snowicane? That fierce, hurricane-like Nor'easter that sat and spun for days over the New York City metro region, delivering with it wave after wave of heavy, wet snowfall, stiff winds, coastal flooding and well, you get the drift (no pun intended). You do remember, right?!?!

The epic and record-breaking storm left a path of destruction in its wake, as it took out nearly 500 trees in Central Park, causing $3 million in damage, and claimed the life of one man.

Well now as hopefully calmer weather sets in, Central Park's landscape is being restored. Last week workers started planting hundreds of pines, oaks, maples and even tulip trees in an effort to restore the park. All in all, the Central Park Conservancy expects 275 new trees, and 520 new shrubs — which were made possible, in part, by donations after the storm.

Final Expedition of VORTEX2 Hits the Road this Saturday

This Saturday, May 1 VORTEX2 [Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes], a historic, epic and ambitious project chasing and analyzing tornadoes throughout the nations mid-section, will enter its final season, which ends on June 15. The $10 million project, funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), kicked off last year and is fully nomadic with no home base. Over 150 scientists using over 40 science and support vehicles, will roam from state to state following severe weather outbreaks throughout the region. Their fleet consists of cutting edge instruments to literally surround tornadoes and the supercell thunderstorms that form them.

VORTEX2 began last year and comes on the heels of
VORTEX1, which took place during the severe weather season's of 1994 and 1995. VORTEX2 is a much expanded project and kicked off in the 2009 season and will conclude this year. The basic questions driving VORTEX2's agenda are:
  • How, when, and why do tornadoes form?
  • Why are some tornadoes violent and long-lasting while others are weak and short lived?
  • What is the structure of tornadoes?
  • How strong are a particular tornadoes winds near the ground?
  • How exactly do the winds from a tornado do damage?
  • How can we forecast tornadoes better?
  • Can we make tornado warnings more accurate, and can we warn 30, 45, 60 minutes ahead of one?

On a final note, the 2009 season of VORTEX2 started slow but ended incredibly -- and I watched it LIVE via The Weather Channel on June 8 when VORTEX2 intercepted a tornado in Wyoming and Nebraska. It was totally, amazingly and absolutely AWESOME! Check it out here...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Severe Weather with a Chance of Tweets!

The National Weather Service (NWS) is now looking to weather spotters like us to report severe weather via "tweets" on Twitter.

The NWS is most interested in reports of large-scale weather events such as snowfall, severe weather and flooding, and anyone with a Twitter account can participate. Weather tweeters are asked to briefly describe the event, when it occurred, and where if the person doesn't have geotagging capability. Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification data to various media such as photographs, video, websites, etc.

The NWS says one of the greatest benefits to using Twitter for weather reports is the capability of geotagging the location of a tweet. During last week's severe thunderstorms that stretched through several Southern states, three tornadoes were confirmed with tweets. One showed a photo of a touchdown in Howardwick, Texas.

To post a weather tweet that's accessible by the NWS, you'll take one of two steps:

1. For those without the geotagging option, you'll log into your Twitter account via the Web or mobile device and submit the tweet in the following format: #wxreport WW your location WW your significant weather report.

2. For those with geotagging, first make sure the function is turned on and then submit the tweet as follows: #wxreport your significant weather report.

For more information on weather tweets and how to access such reports for your area, visit

Monday, April 26, 2010

Environmental Disaster Looms for Gulf of Mexico

Officials Fear Oil Leak from Sunken Rig Could Damage Gulf Coast Beaches, Barrier Islands and Wetland Habitats

Efforts to clear up an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of last week's explosion and sinking of BP's offshore rig have been suspended because of bad weather, sparking further concern of an environmental disaster. Even though BP is using a robot submarine and dozens of clean-up vessels and aircraft to try to slow and stop the leaking oil, the company estimates that 1,000 barrels
(or 42,000 gallons) of oil a day are now polluting the northern Gulf, and the oil is slowly spreading towards the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines.

According to the joint U.S. Government and Oil Industry Task Force, it could take months to stop the leak. Although the oil is not flowing directly from the well, but from the damaged rig pipes, and is therefore being released at a somewhat constrained rate, the effort to stop it will be complex and difficult. If current operations fail, the next option is to drill a relief well — a process that would take at least two to three months. Experts are also looking at the "Katrina Solution." After the 2005 mega-hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast blasting through the same set of oil rigs, a dome or cone-shaped structure to corral the oil before it could make its way to the Gulf Coast was put in place.

The spill now covers about one-fifth of a remote national wildlife refuge near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and another 120 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the ultimate environmental impact is yet to be determined, the goal of the U.S. Coast Guard is to continue securing the source of the subsurface oil emanating from the well, clean the oil on the surface of the water, and keep the response well offshore
— therefore trying to eliminate any impact at the coast.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Science Behind Seasonal Hurricane Forecasts

I am almost certain by now you’ve heard the forecast for an extremely active 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. With experts are predicting 15 named storms, including 8 hurricanes, and 4 majors to develop this year, along with a 69 percent chance of at least one hurricane striking the United States coastline, it’s quite obvious atmospheric indicators are pointing towards an above-average season. But what are those indicators? What is the science behind seasonal forecasts?

Well, there needs to be sound physical arguments for how certain predictors impact tropical cyclones. The predictors in place ahead of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season were in place during the epic hurricane seasons of 1998 and 2005. Interesting, right? Those predictors are:

El Niño – El Niño produces strong wind shear, which suppresses hurricane formation. Created out of an abnormal warming of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, El Niño is forecast to fade before the heart of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season.

Sea Surface Temperatures – When the tropical Atlantic is abnormally warm, hurricane season likely will be more active. The tropical Atlantic was the warmest ever for March and is expected to continue heating up.

Wind Patterns – High and low pressure systems over the Atlantic work to slow the trade winds. The trade winds are forecast to be relatively light, promoting storm development.

Ocean Circulation – When there is a strong ocean current moving to the north, as is the case this year, hurricane season tends to be busier. This circulation pattern works to draw warm water from southern latitudes into the region where hurricanes form.

Natural Cycle
Because of a natural cycle known as the multi-decadal signal (or oscillation), warm water shifts from the North Atlantic to the tropical region where storms tend to develop. The multi-decadal signal is currently in a warmer phase.

So it seems there is very strong scientific basis supporting the forecasts that have been made thus far. But keep in mind that while one can forecast an active season, there is no real science to predict who will be affected, as this is largely determined by specific atmospheric conditions in place while the storms are actually spinning.

Only time will tell how the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season shapes up! Stay tuned, and be ready…

Thursday, April 22, 2010

40th Anniversary of Earth Day

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day!

Dating back to April 22, 1970, this annual day-long event commenced when a chorus of demonstrators around the nation came together to voice their concerns about the environment, specifically about the pollution of air and water, and its affect on our planet.

The grassroots environmental movement led to to a significant amount of federal legislation which was later passed to protect the environment, and ultimately the world we live in. Among many others, those were:

To this day the Earth Day effort continues strong and now more than ever, with climate change on our minds, supporters of the Day work diligently to increase environmental awareness and to promote urgently needed federal legislation to deal with an alarming ecological crisis.

There are countless ways to get involved and show your interest in protecting the planet and making it more sustainable for all. From monetary donations to planting trees in your community, and from purchasing and using green products to attending nationwide climate rallies, the Earth Day Network provides useful tips on ways you can support the movement, so please try and do as little or as much as possible. I am certain Earth will appreciate it...

Do you appreciate Earth?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull's Counterpart Long Overdue for Eruption

Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano has for the past week heavily disrupted European travel and with yet another blast of ash spewing from the mountain's bleeding crater, everyone wants to know – what's next!? Well, that brings up an interesting point...

Over the past couple days tremors from the active Eyjafjallajökull have sparked the interest of vulcanologist's who are studying a nearby dormant volcano by the name of Katla. Katla, located only 12 miles from the epicenter of last week's eruption, is connected to Eyjafjallajökull by a network of magma channels. Although it is currently showing no signs of an eruption, the last three times Eyjafjallajökull erupted, so did Katla. Additionally, Katla awakens every 80 years or so, and having last exploded in 1918, it is now slightly overdue.

Experts say Katla's substantial ice cap is a major worry and an eruption would be 10 times stronger and shoot higher and larger plumes of ash into higher altitudes than its smaller neighbor. This is because the dormant Katla is buried under ice 500 meters thick beneath the massive Myrdalsjokull glacier, one of Iceland's largest. That means it has more than twice the amount of ice that the current eruption has burned through, thus threatening a new and possibly longer aviation standstill across Europe – and 'perhaps' affecting the global climate.

Only time will tell if history repeats itself, but if patterns mean anything, there is a good chance a bigger, more dangerous Icelandic volcano lurks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TWC Hires a New Eye on Hurricane Forecasts

This is inconceivable! I've been watching Dr. Steve Lyons' hurricane forecasts on The Weather Channel (TWC) for 12 years, and before him Dr. John Hope's. Yes, I've been "eye'ing" hurricanes THAT LONG!

Well, the latest announcement is that Lyons will move to San Angelo's National Weather Service as Meteorologist-in-Charge, and
Rick Knabb, former Senior Hurricane Specialist at the National Hurricane Center (NHC), will be taking over as TWC's On-Camera Hurricane Expert and Tropical Program Manager. In doing so, he will help lead on-air and cross-platform tropical coverage, providing continuous updates on hurricane and tropical storm development.

TWC says Knabb will bring tremendous experience to the Channel and is no stranger to high profile hurricane activity, having worked with the NHC during the record-setting 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.

Here's hoping the transition goes well! Hurricane season begins six weeks from today, on June 1!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull vs. Pinatubo on Climate Change

Some might recall the Summer 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. This epic volcano sent an enormous volume of ash across the globe, ultimately altering the world's climate.

The eruption of Pinatubo resulted in a reduction in the normal amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface by roughly 10 percent in 1991 — 1992, which led to a decrease in northern hemisphere average temperatures of more than 1°F, and a global fall of about .7°F. Doesn't seem like much right? But on a global scale the impact was nearly as big as the volcano itself!

Well, Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano doesn't promise to be as big a deal when it comes to climate change. While the volcano is treating European sky watchers to spectacular sunsets and hampering air travel, as determined by NASA's
Aura Satellite, the amount of sulfur dioxide spewed by the volcano so far poses no threat globally. This is mostly because the current plume is below the stratosphere, where volcanic gases can have large-scale weather effects due to the lack of rain there that prohibits the removal of volcanic material. Experts verify this and expect that the destination and duration of the volcanic plume will be altered by rain and winds and it should be washed away as it continues to drift east, likely never even impacting the United States.

However, the potential for Eyjafjallajökull to impact the Earth's climate is still there if it begins to erupt more violently. An eruption of an Icelandic volcano called Laki in 1783 had large effects on climate. It created a long-lasting haze over Europe, cooled temperatures globally and altered monsoon flows that created droughts and famines in Egypt and India.

Friday, April 16, 2010

GOES-13: 'Hurricane Eye in the Sky'

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) is one of NOAA’s most useful satellites, providing a constant stream of data and imagery back to Earth as it observes clouds, ocean temperatures, winds, atmospheric properties, severe storm systems, fires and many other environmental parameters.

GOES-13, launched in May 2006, is the first of three new GOES satellites and just yesterday it became the official GOES-EAST orbiter, being called the 'Hurricane Eye in the Sky.' That is because just in time for hurricane season, in its current position, GOES-13, perched 22,300 miles above the equator, will closely track this year's tropical storms – from when they develop to when they dissipate.

In addition to monitoring tropical activity, NOAA says
GOES-13 will also be able to spot any other severe weather that could pose a threat to the eastern half of the nation.

Go GOES!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Experts Suggest Weather as Cause of WV Mine Blast

29 miners were killed in an explosion that rocked West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine on April 5, and some experts continue to suggest inopportune weather as the cause.

Looking back at atmospheric conditions in the vicinity at the time of the blast, it seems a sudden, large drop in atmospheric pressure occurred due to a massive low-pressure system moving across the eastern United States. This scenario could have allowed more methane to escape the porous coal formations in Massey Energy Company's coal mine, therefore resulting in abnormal ventilation of gas.

According to 40-year mining veteran and retired professor of engineering at Laurentian University, Lionel Rudd, it makes sense to keep an eye on the weather. He always took note to the fact that a mine’s furnace would slow down when a very cold high-pressure system went through the area. The ventilation systems in a mine are in place to dilute methane, and if the ventilation doesn't keep up with the significant increase in volume of methane to the point where it can become explosive, you have a problem.

To put it more simply, check out this video explanation I came across on YouTube. It explains how air pressure outside a mine can influence air pressure and the movement of air and methane gas inside a mine.

In any case, the true cause of the blast is yet to be determined, but it seems more and more likely that weather will be to blame.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sea Temps, Atmospheric Conditions Favor Active Hurricane Season

Last week hurricane experts predicted a 2010 Atlantic hurricane season with above-average activity. Calling for 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, 4 of which could be major, with at least one landfalling on a United States coastline, the extreme prediction could be validating.

In an
article this week released by Florida’s Sun Sentinel, it was noted that the Atlantic hurricane region is already experiencing record warm sea surface temperatures. Last month alone temperatures were two degrees warmer than average, which would support predictions of a busy season, considering hurricanes feast on warm water. Additionally, current atmospheric conditions resemble those of the 2005 hurricane season, the most active and destructive season in history.

Only time will tell what happens this hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30. For more information refer to earlier blog posts here:

New Hurricane Wind Scale for 2010 Season

'Extreme' 2010 Hurricane Season? Predictions Rolling In...

Hurricane Pioneer Calls for 15 Storms, 8 Hurricanes, 4 Major

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TWC to Launch Four New Original Series

The past year on The Weather Channel (TWC) featured the successful launch of several new series such as Wake Up With Al, Cantore Stories and Weather Proof. And now on the heels of those shows comes an announcement of four new programs for the all-weather network's 2010-2011 season.

These four original series will test, investigate and explore weather in a whole new light. They include:

Lightning Rod
, the network’s first live program allowing viewers to interact and discuss topics including climate change and global warming.

Weather: Caught on Camera, a program that reveals the most intense, violent and downright crazy weather ever captured on video

Forensic Weather, a program that shows how Mother Nature helps solve crimes with forensic meteorologists who take viewers on a fascinating step by step journey to uncover the evidence and the impact of weather on the investigation (see earlier blog post on this subject).

Storm Riders, a series that documents two maverick storm chasers on their hunt for supercells.

I personally think the new programming lineup is a great idea, especially
Forensic Weather. It will be interesting to see how they rate. In some research I did while composing this blog post I noticed that some viewers don't find the announcement to be great news as they 'miss' the old TWC that used to report on weather and only weather.

One angry viewer was quoted, "I could use a more weather focused channel that actually shows weather. TWC is something I never watch because of their political crap and the fact NBC is jamming the anemic-looking Al Roker down the viewers throats!"

Yikes, angry viewer! We will see, we will see...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Inuit’s Verify Arctic Weather is Increasingly Unpredictable

A recent study confirms that weather in part of the Arctic is becoming more unpredictable – a claim verified by Inuit elders and hunters. According to the large population of Arctic natives, the weather is not just getting warmer, it's getting weirder.

Specific climate change research in the Arctic region began as an attempt to reconcile differences between what Inuit’s were saying about their weather and what scientists were recording. Inuit hunters used to be able to count on stable weather, but were increasingly complaining that conditions were swinging wildly from day to day, making their traditional prediction skills less useful and endangering them on the land. However, such anomalies weren't showing up in the long-range studies developed by researchers.

In trying to understand the difference, the weather in two Nunavut communities – Baker Lake and Clyde River – were examined for short-term, day-to-day variability. Inuit hunters said that the greatest unpredictability was in June's spring weather. Therefore, a study was conducted that combined weather information from detailed, lengthy hunter interviews together with hourly temperature logs dating back more than 40 years. The two information sources backed each other up. Likewise, a statistical analysis showed that in the 1960s, June weather persistence was about 80 percent of the maximum rating. By the turn of the millennium, persistence had dropped as low as 20 percent. The conclusion made was that the weather itself isn't necessarily outside the normal range, but the speed with which it changes is.

This is not the first time scientists have turned to native people for information. NOAA has twice changed its report of the Arctic's whale population based on indigenous people’s report that revealed more whales than counted by the government.

Friday, April 9, 2010

European Satellite to Map Earth's Ice... or Lack Thereof

The European Space Agency (ESA) launched Thursday from Kazakhstan its CryoSat-2 satellite in an effort to map Earth’s ice cover. From its polar orbit, CryoSat-2 will send back data leading to new insights into how ice is responding to climate change. In doing so it will measure changes in the thickness of the vast ice sheets that overlie Antarctica and Greenland, as well as variations in the thickness of the relatively thin ice floating in the polar oceans.

launch of CryoSat-2 is the third in a series of ESA's Earth observation satellites now orbiting the planet. These 'Earth Explorers' as ESA calls them, are periodically launched in direct response to issues identified by the scientific community and aim to improve our understanding of how human activity is affecting Earth's natural processes.

I think it's pretty neat indeed, to see other world regions working on Earth science issues just as
NASA does here in the U.S.!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hurricane Pioneer Calls for 15 Storms, 8 Hurricanes, 4 Major

It's been nearly a monthly since our earlier blog post regarding the expectation of an extreme hurricane season. And today, April 7, we are at it again!

The long awaited 2010 Atlantic hurricane season prediction by Dr. William Gray of the University of Colorado's Tropical Meteorology Project calls for an above-average hurricane season with:

  • 15 named storms total
  • 8 hurricanes
  • 4 hurricanes that reach Category 3 or higher

The average hurricane season brings 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes.

Gray's prediction suggests a 93 percent chance that at least one named storm will make landfall on the east coast, including both coasts of Florida. Chances given for a landfalling hurricane in the same region were 78 percent.

Forecasters are almost never right on target but the Tropical Meteorology Project has been working on perfecting the science of seasonal forecasting for tropical weather for 27 years.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Link Between Extreme Precipitation Events and Global Warming?

A recently released study by global warming education group Clean Air-Cool Planet and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) indicates there may be a link between global warming and the extreme precipitation events that continue to plague the Northeast.

The study examined 60 years (1948 to 2007) of rainfall records from 219 National Weather Service reporting stations in nine Northeastern states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) and found that storms that produce an inch or more of precipitation in a day — a threshold the recent storms far surpassed — are coming more frequently.

According to the UNH, the study's results are consistent with what could be expected in a world warmed by greenhouse gases, though it would take more sophisticated studies to cement an official global warming link.

However, what is more certain is the potential economic impact should the 60-year trend continue. It would require billions of dollars in infrastructure investments to manage the impacts of these extreme weather events, i.e. improvements in roads, bridges, sewers and culverts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tornado Week on The Weather Channel

Today marks the start of The Weather Channel's yearly 'Tornado Week' – a 7-day program aimed at raising awareness and recapping the powerful force of one of the fiercest weather phenomenon.

Storm Stories to Storm Riders, and from Weather Proof to When Weather Changed History, TWC will take you into the twister and bring you inspiring tales from survivors and rescuers battling amazing tornadic weather events.

Now for the awesomeness! This year in conjunction with 'Tornado Week' you can build your own tornado online!
Into the Tornado, a virtual, physics-based tornado simulator, lets users get up close and personal with a tornado by allowing you to select the tornado's wind speed, size and objects they want to test. Using the simulator, drop in a hot rod, a locomotive or even a pig to see how a tornado impacts an assortment of objects. TWC says Into the Tornado is as close as you can get and as close as you want to be – in order to understand the science behind Mother Nature's most unpredictable and violent act.

'Tornado Week' runs April 4 – 10, and kicks off tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET with a new season of Storm Stories. Check it out!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Record Heat Pushes DC Cherry Blossoms to Peak

Given a winter with record blizzards and damaging cold, one would have thought this day was forever away, but alas, thanks to a recent heat wave the cherry blossoms along Washington, DC's Tidal Basin are at full peak! The peak, which comes ahead of schedule (see earlier blog post), is defined as the date when 70 percent of the blooms are open.

The blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin has come to symbolize the natural beauty of our nation's capital. The famous trees, a gift from Japan 98 years ago in 1912, signal Washington’s rite of spring with an explosion of life and color that leaves (no pun intended) the area in a sea of pale pink and white blossoms.

Thousands of city residents and visitors from across the nation and around the world crowd the Tidal Basin, hoping that the trees will be at the peak of bloom for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Well, friends, it's right on time! The Festival is underway and lasts through April 11.

Although I am not in DC this year, check out this slideshow of photos I've taken of the Cherry Blossoms in 2006.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

50th Anniversary of Revolutionary Weather Satellite TIROS-1

Today marks the 50th anniversary of NASA's launch of TIROS-1 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Initially delivering a fuzzy picture of thick bands and clusters of clouds over the United States, and later capturing an image of a typhoon off the coast of Australia, TIROS (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) was the first meteorological satellite to revolutionize weather forecasting.

Since the historic NOAA-NASA collaboration in 1960, meteorologists have been able to obtain greater information about severe weather and thus have issued more accurate forecasts and warnings that save lives and protect property. Throughout the 1960s, each TIROS spacecraft carried increasingly advanced instruments and technology, and by 1965, meteorologists combined 450 TIROS images into the first global view of the world’s weather.

Throughout the 1960s NASA launched a total of ten TIROS satellites, and after the turn of the decade it began launching its series of GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) orbiters which further revolutionized weather forecasting and is still to this day depended upon.

NOAA and NASA continue to collaborate. NASA is expected to launch the next generation GOES-R satellites beginning in 2015. These spacecraft will have twice the clarity of today's GOES and provide more than 20 times the information.