Guest Video: Hurricane Florence from Space Station, September 12, 2018



It’s beautiful; in a way, it makes you proud of Earth for being able to produce such a thing.

It’s terrifying, when you look at the latest NHC forecast track and realize this thing is going to destroy our stuff and to reshape the Carolinas’ coastline.


h/t to Daryl at Talkweather.com


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Hide From the Wind, Avoid the Water


Update, September 18, 2018: It’s over–the storm, I mean. Now comes the part that doesn’t make headlines, but is so very hard to deal with. If you’re in this situation post Florence, or end up in one like it in the future, take that last sentence to heart: you will make it through this.



Original post:

I lived in West Central Alabama for several years around the turn of the century. As a person from New England/upstate New York, I was clueless about hurricanes and asked neighbors what to do when one came by. They told me to hide from the wind and avoid the water.

It’s good advice, and I wanted to share it as Florence approaches the East Coast. No native or long-standing Carolinian needs such advice, of course, but there are many new people in the places that this hurricane is going to affect who aren’t familiar with such storms.

Your local emergency management experts will give you the best advice, and there is a lot of information coming from the media and reliable online websites like the National Hurricane Center, FEMA, and Ready.gov, but keep that axiom in mind for every situation.

Here are just a few things that I remember from my own experiences and think might be worth sharing.

Hide from the wind

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Guest Videos: The Winds of Mars


The hardest part of space exploration, at least for laypeople trying to keep up to date, is getting used to familiar things, like wind, in unfamiliar settings.

Mars is smaller than the Earth, but it has enough wind to support the currently ongoing planetwide dust storm that has shut down Opportunity (hopefully, temporarily). And we have seen its twisters, though they don’t look as powerful as ours.

Martian winds must be pretty powerful, though, right? After all, the planet’s surface looks like it has been scoured in places:




There are some awesome wind-made features on the Red Planet, including yardangs. To really appreciate them, we need to understand just how weak the winds of Mars actually are.

Spoiler: Not quite as strong as they are depicted in The Martian.



Those beautiful Martian dunes and streamlined rocky features must have taken way longer than it took to sculpt similar structures on Earth. But then, according to a new study, Mars may have gotten a hundred-million-year jump on the Earth in terms of this whole solid planetary crust thing.

All told, over billions of years even weak winds can have impressive effects.




Featured image: NASA/JPL.


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.

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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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