Summer in February

It literally feels like summer today and tomorrow will be even warmer. Not even a strong breeze and invading clouds are able to subtract from the warmth. It isn’t even March yet, and the bulbs buried in the ground from years past are already sending up their shoots. Yet the trees and most of everything that lies fallow in winter is still fallow. The deciduous trees are bare and the grass is brown and decayed. Winter is not over. At some point, it will make an unwelcome return. The landscape will freeze into a glaze and the sky might even give us a few more snowflakes. In the meantime, this is a week that promises good running, the chance to make up some miles that were lost back when it was so cold for so long. It’s a welcome dose of spring before we actually get to spring.


It snowed

It snowed about two inches today in Mt. Juliet, but it seems like a lot more. We don’t handle our snow very well in these parts because we don’t get much of it. Nonetheless, today was the second winter storm we’ve enjoyed in less than a week. Tonight’s temperature will dip close to zero, and then it will start to warm up. Middle Tennesseans get very emotional over snow, almost on the level of religion and politics. I can’t explain it. If you forecast it and we don’t get it, people get mad. If you don’t forecast it and we get so much as a flurry, people make a big deal over it. Likewise, if the snow begins earlier or later than forecast, there is great consternation. Forecasting wintry precipitation in general is the most difficult thing we do here because so many things have to happen for the atmosphere to produce snow. So be it. I prefer to just enjoy whatever snow we do get without all the drama.

Facts about the weather

The weather is going to do what it wants to do when it wants to do it.

There are two underlying principles regarding hydrology: 1) water always flows downhill, and 2) when you get too much in one place it floods.

Wind is the result of a difference in atmospheric pressure between two points. The greater the difference in pressure, the greater the wind.

The sun is the source of all weather on earth.

Your body produces sweat in order to regulate its temperature. But it isn’t the sweat itself that produces a cooling effect, but the evaporation of sweat. On a dry day, sweat evaporates very efficiently from your skin. On a humid day, this process is much less efficient. That’s why you feel “sticky” on humid days.

The condensation you sometimes see on the outside part of your windows in summer occurs when the temperature inside your home is equal to or less than the dew point outside.

Because of the Coriolis Effect, which is the result of the earth spinning on its axis, wind travels in a curved path.

Atmospheric pressure always decreases with height above the ground. Temperature usually decreases with height, but not always.

In the Northern Hemisphere, air that circulates counter-clockwise is forced upward. Air that circulates clockwise is forced downward.

Sometimes water skips the liquid phase and changes from vapor directly into ice. This is called “deposition.” When it changes directly from ice to vapor, it is called “sublimation.” Thus, the six change-of-state processes are: condensation, freezing, melting, evaporation, deposition and sublimation.

In weather forecasting, accuracy decreases with increasing time. Thus, the forecast for tomorrow is going to be more accurate than the forecast three days from now, which is going to be more accurate than the forecast seven days from now. The farther out you go with numerical weather prediction, the closer to climatology the forecast becomes. In other words, you can produce a forecast so far out that it is nothing more than a reflection of climatological normals for a particular location, which really isn’t a forecast. Therefore, do not trust climate forecasts made years or decades in advance.

No person, entity, or government is modifying the weather. Weather modification, except on a very small scale (i.e., cloud seeding) is not possible. That’s why climate change is real, but man-made climate change is a hoax.

There are 4 methods of heat transfer: conduction (pot on a stove), convection (hot air rising), advection (cold air behind a front), and radiation (heating by the sun).

The total amount of water contained on the earth, in the ground, in the atmosphere, in oceans, lakes and rivers, and in living organisms never changes. That’s why we can never run out of water.

The difference between sleet and freezing rain is this: sleet is already frozen before it hits the ground; freezing rain falls as a liquid, then freezes on contact.

Chemtrails & climate change

It is said that if you go far enough to the right or the left, you'll eventually meet your polar opposite on the dark side of the moon.

So it goes with weather modification.

Leftists have for 30+ years been pushing a hoax called "global warming," later renamed "climate change" when the promised warming failed to materialize. In so doing, they assert that man is doing irreparable damage to the atmosphere and the oceans because of excessive carbon dioxide emissions. In response, it is up to government to "do something" to save the planet.

But the far right has its own conspiracy theorists. They assert that all (or at least many of) the contrails (and other curious cloud formations) we see in the sky are really the result of government aircraft spraying poisonous chemicals into the atmosphere ("chemtrails") and that government is modifying the weather via subversive methods.

The left says man is modifying the atmosphere and it is up to government to stop it. The right says government is modifying the atmosphere and it is up to man to stop it.

Both are wrong. No man or government can appreciably affect the weather or the climate, nor alter the state of the atmosphere or the oceans. The volume of the atmosphere and the oceans is much too vast and we're much too small.

Two contrails and cirrus vertebratus. Only this and nothing more.

New cloud types

The World Meteorological Organization has added twelve new cloud types to its International Cloud Atlas. These are all truly remarkable works of nature, rarely seen in these parts. It’s difficult to say which is my favorite of the new inductees. For pure hilarity, I’d say the (Ci) Homogenitus, just because it will get the chemtrail wackos all stirred up. But in terms of natural wonder, I gotta go with the fluctus (pictured below).

Tales from the weather office: my conversation with a school official

It snowed today in Middle Tennessee. Some parts received more than was forecast, especially north of Nashville. People in Middle Tennessee get very emotional about snow, more so than any other type of weather. It’s worse than severe storms, worse than floods, worse than heat waves.

One school system that decided to have class today was perturbed by the under-forecast to the point that they called the weather office literally every hour wanting to know how much longer it was going to last.

I spoke to them twice myself. One guy was a complete jerk, and started off the conversation, “I was wondering how much longer we can expect this snow because it’s been snowing 5 hours and there was none in the forecast. I got 35K kids in school and our back roads are a mess and I’m in a pickle.”

So I politely gave him the forecast and reiterated all measurable snow would be gone by noon. He asked the same question every way it can be asked and I gave him the same answer. I also checked the airport observations for that locale and saw that they reported snow for about 2 hours (not 5).

I figured this guy had parents & media breathing down his neck, so he figured he’d breathe down ours.

Granted we did not forecast much, if any, accumulation for his area. We did have snow in the forecast but were calling for a “dusting” at most. There is some uncertainty in snow forecasting. People have to understand this.

This same gentleman, in a separate conversation with a co-worker, sort of got put on the spot.

Co-worker: “How much accumulation do you have?”

School official: “I don’t know.”

CW: “Could you go outside and measure?”

SO: “I don’t know how to measure snow.”

CW: “You stick a ruler in the ground.”

SO: “Oh, we don’t have enough snow for that.”

CW: ?

They ended up with about a half-inch of snow in this area. It snowed for about two hours. It may have flurried off and on longer than that. But it doesn’t matter how long it snows. What matters is the impact of the snow. Flurries, by their nature, do not accumulate and have no impact. It could flurry all day without any ill effects.

There may have been some slippery places on some of their back roads. We had between one-half and one inch here in Wilson County and driving was a little tricky in places.

If you make decisions based on a snow forecast — and many people do — you must understand there is going to be some uncertainty. If a forecaster calls for a dusting and you get a half-inch, that’s not a huge miss.

The forecaster is doing the best he can with what he has. He’s trying to get it right. He doesn’t want to over-forecast snow and cause you to waste a snow day on a non-event. (It’s happened many times.) He doesn’t want to under-forecast and put you in a bind, either. But you have to give the meteorologist a little room on either side for error.

If the forecast had been for a dusting and they had gotten 8 inches, or even, say, two inches, then you’ve got a legitimate complaint. But if the forecaster forecasts light snow with little or no accumulation and you get a half-inch, you’re being a bit unreasonable if you’re upset.

As a recently-retired former co-worker used to say, the weather’s gonna do what it wants to do when it wants to do it.

(Based on a suggestion from a friend, look for more “Tales from the weather office” in the future.)

Autumn’s signs & wonders

Summer is gone. I loved this summer and was sorry to see it go, but autumn is upon us now and I really do love autumn best. The summer heat is enjoyable, but after 4 months of it (really from mid-May until mid-September), the heat does tend to wear on a person. The only lasting regret about summer’s passing is the shortening of days. I love the long days and always feel cheated after we switch back to standard time and it gets dark before 5 p.m.

I enjoy autumn’s colors and crispness of the cooler air and the peacefulness of an occasional rainy day. I enjoy sleeping at night when there’s a chill in the air and kicking off the covers is not an option. But most of all autumn means optimal running weather. I do my best running and longest miles in autumn, and again in spring. Oh, and autumn means an end to yard work. I have yet to celebrate that final lawn mowing, but there aren’t many left.

Autumn also means college football and the start of basketball season. It means jackets and long sleeves. It also means I get a year older.

Seasons change

Today is September 1. It’s the first day of meteorological autumn. Of course, the autumnal equinox is still some three weeks away. And it does still feel like summer outside (and will for a little while longer). Traditionally, we have marked the change in seasons from equinox to solstice to equinox to solstice. But perception is as much a factor in marking the seasons as the earth’s tilt. So we have what we call meteorological autumn, winter, spring and summer, which begin on the 1st of the month in which we experience an equinox or solstice. The two are offset by about three weeks. Meteorological winter begins on December 1, with the winter solstice coming approximately three weeks later. Meteorological spring begins March 1. And meteorological summer starts June 1. The reasoning is easy to explain. September feels more like autumn than summer. December feels more like winter than autumn. March feels more like spring than winter. And June feels more like summer than spring. So, yes, it’s still summer according to the astronomical calendar. But practically, today is the first day of autumn.