Guest Video: The Ocean

I never cared all that much about the ocean until researching the book on how cats evolved. Their story goes back–well, it goes back to the general time of the K/T (K/Pg) extinction if you want to also include the evolution of carnivorans (and I do).

Over the last 66 million years, this planet has had some dramatic changes, and my key to realizing that was this paper. (Don’t feel that you must read that, though the origin story of sequoias is pretty interesting. I’ll include parts of it in the ebook series.)

Think of that as the most basic approach to the ocean and climate – reading what has happened by studying drill cores of abyssal Pacific Ocean mud.

But it’s a good introduction to recent news from the world of science that they have made computer models detailed enough to measure the interaction between ocean eddies and the atmosphere. That’s the ultra-high-definition approach that is shaping meteorology and climate science now and in the immediate future.

Most of us, though, just want a general overview of the ocean and how it affects the planet’s weather and climate.

Featured image: Gabi Agu, CC BY 2.0.


Guest Videos: What Is Lightning?

When thunder roars, go indoors! — words of wisdom from James Spann and other meteorologists.

Note that on Earth, lightning is most frequent in equatorial regions.

For almost 40 years–ever since Voyager passed the planet Jupiter–scientists have wondered why lightning is more frequent at Jupiter’s poles. It otherwise seems to work pretty much the same way as terrestrial lightning.

Thanks to data from the Juno mission, they may have figured it out now.

Meanwhile, back on Earth–
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Guest Video: Earth’s Weather in April 2018

I didn’t pay much attention to weather beyond “sunny or rain?” until the late 1990s when it tried to murder me, first in upstate New York and then in the Southeast, where I became closely acquainted with tornadoes, tropical weather of all varieties, and heat. Lots and lots of heat.

Fear turned into fascination when I began checking out how the cat family evolved and discovered that the planet’s climate has changed dramatically during that time. This complex interaction between climate and the evolution of cats (and their biological order Carnivora) is one of the reasons why the planned book has turned into an ebook series, with the first one–due out soon–a basic introduction focusing on the domestic cat. The evolutionary emphasis will get stronger in subsequent books–but I digress.

Here, thanks to EUMETSAT, is what Earth’s westher looked like from space during April 2018.

If you’re like me, after being awestruck by the beauty and complexity of our planet’s restless breath you are now wondering what makes this thing run.

Here are a few helpful sources to check out:

The UK’s Met Office: How weather works

Wikipedia: Atmospheric circulation. (Can’t guarantee accuracy–check out MetEd for more detail.)

Featured image: NHD-INFO, CC BY 2.0

A Cold Air Funnel Cloud Just Passed By!

After getting this statement, I went out with my tablet (unfortunately I lost my camera recently and haven’t gotten a new one yet) and saw this. Forgive the clumsiness, it’s my first weather video. I think the “funnel” was dissipating, but it was interesting.

Of note, I am facing roughly northeast (toward Corvallis) and the wind is moving the clouds roughly ESE.

Update: This was taken about 25 miles southeast of us, but I think it was earlier in the day. So that’s what cold-air funnel clouds look like.

The Wonder of a Cloudy Oregon Sunrise

The sun rose like this today here in Oregon, a little ways inland from the Pacific Ocean – just peeping out under an overlying wall of clouds. But at dawn, the sky was almost crystal clear.

I’m not sure about this, but we may be one of the few places in the continental US where you could witness such a change in cloud cover today.

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Ad Astra: Sprites, Jets, Elves, Gamma Rays and Antimatter

Update, July 15, 2018: I thought of this five-year-old post tonight when seeing this tweet:

No, this isn’t a pitch for the next Avengers movie.  It’s even more terrific.

Scientists have installed an instrument package called Firestation on the space station to try to better understand the things that come out of the tops of thunderstorms: red sprites, blue jets, blue elves, gamma rays and antimatter.

Lightning is apparently responsible for all of those things, including antimatter and gamma rays, and scientists would like to know how that happens. Apparently “Because Thor” isn’t a good enough explanation.

NASA Earth tweeted a video about Firestation and these upper atmosphere phenomena today:


Featured image: Gunnar Ries zwo, CC BY-SA 2.0