Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dust Devils

We are finally getting some warmer air in the great lakes region.  It has been a while since we have gotten some summerlike temperatures.  One of the things that happens when we get the warmer weather at this time of year, we get dust devils.  The American Meterological Society defines a dust devil thusly,  Dust devils are best developed on a hot, calm afternoon with clear skies, in a dry region when intense surface heating causes a very steep lapse rate of temperature in the lowest 100 m of the atmosphere. 

In English, the air just above the ground heats up fast and rises and begins rotating.  At spots where the low air heats up and rises fastest, it creates a hole through the cold air, and more hot air fills in.    They are especially visible in the late spring because the farm fields have just been plowed up creating a dark surface that heats the surface air quickly.  Then the loose dirt is easily picked up by the swirling winds, making the vortex visible.  Add a little wind and these things move across the fields like a mini tornado. 

They are usually quite harmless, but there have been some circumstances where they have caused some damage and created some havoc.  This dust devil at the Rose Bowl this last year caused some real problems and 4 people got hurt.

I was actually stuck by one while driving one time and it moved my car over a lane and sucked my hat off my head and out the window.  Wish I had that one on video.  I did catch a couple small dust devils Saturday May 2nd out in some farm fields. 

Here is a simple graphic to help visually show what is happening with a dust devil.  They don't usually last very long and often only go up about 100 feet.  Some can get rather big though with multiple vorticies.  The wind speeds can be up to 60mph which is enough to do damage when in an area with loose objects.  Often, as in my video, the only thing disturbed was the dirt and some corn leaves left over from the last harvest. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Profiting Off Misery

In light of the recent tornado that swept through N IL, and a few subsequent things since then, I am really questioning in my head whether storm chasing is ethical.  Most of the talk I have seen from the various chasers centers around the great video they captured.  What made something else painfully obvious by a mistake I made in putting together a video was that this is about money.  It is money for them, money for the news shows, fame and notoriety for the person who can get the best shot.  Is it ethical to profit off the misery and loss of others?

I see on their pages that they post their analysis of the storm, their chase log, and videos and pictures they got of the tornado.  It reminds me how the big game hunters have their picture taken with the endangered animal they just killed.  The one thing I am not seeing is the concern for you, the people of Northern Illinois, who were affected by this storm.  We are here living it day by day.  It is the people of this community and very gracious outside organizations that have come in to really do the dirty work of helping recover.  Meanwhile, these chasers are analyzing when the next great disaster is so they can be there, get the money shot and their faces on TV. 

I must confess, I have been there.  On May 25th, 2008 I was there when an F5 tornado ripped through Parkersburg Iowa.  Not long afterwards I was approached by television people who were making a documentary on tornadoes and wanted to use some of my footage from Parkersburg.  I agreed and was paid.  Frankly, it felt a little uneasy.  People had died.  A town had been wiped off the face of the map.  The survivors lives would be forever changed.  Here I was, some outsider who just swooped in, left, and took blood money for others to gawk at, ooh and ahh over the misery on the TV screen.

I was painfully reminded of that with the recent tornado, especially in getting my lesson in storm chase economics for mistakenly  putting together a timeline of events.  The bottom line is that chasers feel that they are owed the compensation for their time and efforts for documenting the misery and disaster.  They feel that they "own" their little slice of the disaster and they compete with each other over who can get the best shot that will pay them the most.  I wonder though, can anyone "own" a disaster?  Did they create the tornado?  Did they cause it to do what it did?  No.  All they did was follow a computer screen and turn on a camera.

In various video I saw, there were chasers driving in the wrong lanes, running stop signs, passing by blown over homes, glorying in the catch as homes were being destroyed.  In only one chaser video did I hear anyone even mention 911.  The hard part for me, is that I also have to look in the mirror.  I've thought about it, but I guess I have a different perspective now since it hit my area.  I know people and of people directly affected.  I know now what it is like to have all these outsiders come in for a thrill ride, leave, and profit themselves while we remain and dig out from under the rubble.

Chasers often claim they are helping keep the public safe.  I've used that line to justify myself.  They claim they give important ground truth to the weather service.  They can if they call in.  We also have other people for that though.  They are called spotters and they work with/for local authority to do the work of spotting severe weather and reporting it so the public remains safe.  Our Policemen and Firemen are often out spotting our counties and cities as well.  We really don't need outsiders for that.

Chasers often claim that they are doing scientific research.  I can't say I've used that, but I did not see one video out there where there was any evidence of scientific research going on.  A couple of the videos seemed that they had people they had brought along with them.  Whether paid or not, I don't know, but taking people on "tours" has become a popular industry.  I think there is a legitimate place for research, but certainly the majority are not out there doing that.

This really leaves on thing left.  They are ambulance chasers.  They make their money chasing down disaster so the evening news can have their dirty laundry.  Their main agenda, promoting themselves.  Some seen to want to do this too by running others down.  They have their little clicks and the gang will all come down and bully you if you don't do things their way.  In the past few days, I have been called names, bullied, and threatened by gangs of chasers.  Some of them when I engaged them, did not even know why they were doing so, only that someone had told them bad things about me.

I've been watching these antics grow for a long time.  It started when Twister came out and made storm chasing cool.  The there was Reed Timmer and the exploits of his TV show that brought on the "extreme" chasers and the taking of unnecessary risks just to get the big money shot.  Since then that seems to be the trend.  Storm chase teams with fancy names and cars filled with their logos and light bars began popping up all over the place competing with each other for the big money and the fame. 

This started catching up in 2012 on the April 14th, 2012 tornado chase.  Everyone and their brother was out that day and their were major traffic jams on rural roads, people ignoring police, speeding, parking one the roadways, arguing with officials, people hanging out of vehicles screaming like schoolchildren... it was a horrible mess and an embarrassment. 

In 2013 I was down in Lawton OK and the storm chasers were so thick that you could not stop anywhere as the sides of the roads were all filled.  Off in the field was a little F0 rotation and it veered right towards that road.  Suddenly cars were all trying to pull out in the road and get out of the way.  I nearly got hit a couple times.  The circulation came over us and moved on.  I remember telling a friend that this is exactly how someone was going to get killed in a tornado.  Then there was the El Reno disaster later that year.  Most people know of the traffic nightmares that occurred there and the deaths of 3 of the biggest names in the field, and a 4th chaser as well.

I look at my page too.  I have had a lot of newcomers and many of these based solely on the tornadic event.  I don't really want to gain followers from the exploitation of this event.  It happened in part because I did show videos taken of the event.  The drama that followed was a result of the same.  I'm not so sure I like the world that chasing has become.  Drama, competition, lies, bullying, profit off misery.  My pages goal was to be able to keep friends and family informed about the local weather and related activity. That is the focus I want to maintain. 

Now, don't get me wrong, there are some good players out there who chase for the right reasons and do the right things.  I am finding they are far and few between.  All of this has me at the point of hanging up my car keys.  And the question still lingers on my mind....  Is it right to profit off the misery of others?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cryoseisms; The Mysterious Boom Sounds

Often times, we here of stories of mysterious explosions and booming sounds that seem to emanate from nowhere and even shake and rattle homes.  These are often associated with various conspiracy type stories of secret government experiments, HAARP weather modification, and even sometimes aliens.  The frequency of reports of these have many folks baffled as to their source.

These mysterious booms and rattles do have a natural source though and they are called, cryoseisms.  A more common term for this might be frost quakes.  A cryoseism occurs  from a sudden deep freezing of the ground.  But more particularly a sudden freezing of the ground where water is present in the ground.  Water expands when it freezes.  When the water in the ground freezes it exerts pressure on the rock to the point where the rock snaps, releasing an audible boom sound and generating a very local shock wave, much like an earthquake.

Because of the very local nature of these events, they rarely are measured by a Richter scale.  Your home could get a good rattling though if you are right near one of them.  The audible boom can go out further from the ground shake.  This leaves people confused too because there seems to be no visible connection to the sound being heard.

Frost quakes have nothing to do with earthquakes, movement of tectonic plates, volcanoes and other factors are unrelated to surface temperature.  Frost quakes usually occur between midnight and dawn, the coldest part of the night.  They can occur over several hours and even several days.  They are most common after a cold rain or thaw event when arctic cold sweeps in afterwards.  They can occur anywhere where the temperatures can drop cold enough to cause a rapid freeze.  They very rarely cause any damage, but they sure can get people excited.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Weather Roundup Early August 2014

Some of the long range forecasts are starting to come out for the fall season.  The first one I saw was this visual put out by accuweather that indicates that the main general pattern that we have been in the last couple years will continue into the fall with a ridge and warmth in the west, and a trough with cooler weather in the east.  I was hoping for a change this year because I really don't want another super cold and snowy winter this year too.

Hawaii, the land of paradise, has been hit on the main Island with its first hurricane in over 20 years.  This was not a major hurricane at all, quite minimal actually.  There were some tornadoes reported in some bands and it was preceded by a mild 4.3 earthquake.  A second hurricane is heading for the region and expected to give a glancing blow to the Islands.  Throw in a volcanic eruption and a tsunami and you have just about the full spectrum of disastrous weather in the span on 48 hours.

Washington and the pacific northwest continue to literally be a hot spot with many fires burning.  Washington state had its biggest fire ever this year and the weather patterns are not going to offer them any help or relief any time soon. 

The inland southwest has been getting a lot of rain of late.  Some areas have seen some of their worst flooding in years as monsoon storms are dumping large amounts of rain and not really moving all that much.  It is a bit too much of a good thing as the area does need to have rain

Mostly the country is in the dog days of August and the patterns and storms are not really moving all that much.  August typically is a calmer month with popcorn storms being the norm over large storm systems, but usually come the end of the month into September we start to see the volatility come back as colder air starts to reclaim its territory.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

California Climate Theory

For the last almost 2 years our weather seems to have been stuck in the same pattern.  The west having a ridge and heat, from the plains to the east having a trough and below normal temperatures.  The term "polar vortex" came to be well known in the United States.

I am not so sure we can blame the "polar vortex" so much for this pattern.  In general I am hesitant to say how much influence man can have on the weather, but I think there are indications that this may be the case in the last few years.  No this is not global warming, or at least not in the sense that most people think with our carbon footprints.

The problem that I am theorizing about doesn't have anything to do with fossil fuels or our modern lifestyle, but has to do with the EPA and government regulations.  What?  how could government regulations change our weather patterns?  That seems ridiculous!  Well, maybe or maybe not. 

Before man entered the picture, the SW region was rather desert like.  Modern technology and mans ingenuity found a way to turn useless land into liveable, and more importantly farmable land.  The increased vegetation also increased the moisture in the air.  Plants do this.  It also helped retain the soil by anchoring it.  Good soil holds moisture too.  We turned many regions from deserts into gardens, from wasteland into farmland. 

This changed the climate.  It reduced the heat, over time, in the west, and allowed for more pacific moisture to come in and milder temperatures.  Moisture begets moisture.  The pattern was less up and down and more zonal.  The period from the 40s through the 60s saw some of the most perfect weather we have ever seen for growing crops. 

A few years back, and some folks may or may not remember this, the EPA made a ruling about a small fish.  They said to save this small fish from extinction, the water to the farms had to be shut off.  The farms died.  They dried up and the top soil blew away.  The dry conditions began to build and spread.  A heat dome developed over the dried out lands. 

The heat dome compounded the problem because now not only was it hot and dry, the heat dome pushed the weather patterns away from the area so the drought persisted and got worse.  The worse the drought got, the stronger the heat dome, and then the worse the drought, etc etc.  It has just built on itself over the last several years.  It is so bad now that some are warning that underground water sources may go completely dry, closing down major cities like Las Vegas.

We saw something similar to this in the 1930s dust bowl where poor farming techniques ruined the soil and nothing would grow.  Vast dust storms blew away the top soils and intense heat built in the region.  Water went away and the people moved away.  It took a couple of decades to really recover.  We learned that there is an interconnection between our farming and the weather.

The same thing is now happening in the west, and it is effecting the weather patterns around the globe.  Great floods occurred in the plains and Midwest as the storm patterns concentrated on these areas, especially north.  Record cold and snows have affected not just the eastern part of the country but other places around the world.  The amplified jet streams allowed for warmer weather and fierce storms to hit western Europe while eastern Europe got massive ice storms.  We saw snow in Japan and Egypt where it hardly ever snows.

This is certainly a condition we have seen before and something to be considered and looked into.  I doubt anyone will though, and folks like me will just get called crazy because there is far too much money to be made in the regulation of carbon.  Yes, man is causing climate change, but not in the way he thinks.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


The big weather issue this last week has been the wild fires out west.  They have gotten so bad that I am sitting 2000 miles away and I can smell smoke because it has filled the skies over much of the lower 48 states.  It has been so dry for so long out west.  It was simply a matter of if and not when.

Years ago we used to manage our forests with what is known as clear cutting.  Lumber companies would come in and clear out the dead fallen trees and thin out some of the other trees.  Environmentalists had a cow about this and thought the best thing to do was to let nature take its course and not to even touch the "pristine wilderness".

Since the time we have stopped clear cutting our forests and responsible managing them, our forest fires have grown larger, spread faster, and cost more to fight.  Instead of clearing out possible fuel for these wild fires, it is all just left there to increase the burn.

The massive amounts of extra fuel in dead timber combined with high heat, low humidity, and windy conditions were a disaster waiting to happen.  We have seen these happen many years in various parts of the west.  We could and should re institute clear cutting in our forests to at least lower the amount of fuel these fires feed on.  Interestingly enough, the only place there is still clear cutting is in Harry Reids state of Nevada. 

Our prayers go out to those affected by these wild fires both directly and indirectly.  Like I said, I am 2000 miles away and can smell it and I got a mild headache and my eyes sting. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Warming Woes

It has been a bad last several weeks for the man made global warming alarmist crowd.  Some of their dire predictions have been shown to be wrong, and even working in the opposite direction.  First you had the water level rise in the great lakes, second was the record amount of ice in the antarctic, and third you had NOAA getting caught manipulating weather data.

As the above article points out, it was only a week ago that the alarmists were predicting doom and gloom as the great lakes dried up and how it would cost billions of dollars to the economy and shortages of drinking water to millions.  Imagine the alarmists shock and surprise when the measurements came out showing the lakes had fully recovered and 3 of the 5 were at above average levels and will continue to rise.  I'm sure they will come out with a new paper on how global warming will cause the lakes to flood everything.  LOL  And here is the article for the report that came out just last week:

About a month and a half ago, the alarmists came out with another report; this one saying that the melting sea ice in the antarctic was beyond being able to come back because  so much ice had melted.  this despite the global warmists who went for the antarctic cruise to see how bad the ice had melted, only to get themselves trapped in ice.   It is getting to the point where these guys are just a joke because every time they say something, almost immediately we find that the opposite is true.  Here is the link to the alarmists trapped in ice:

This third story is one of scientific dishonesty and had it not been for some sharp eyed folks, this manipulation may have gone unnoticed.  Scientists are supposed to let the facts speak for themselves, and our government should be honest with its citizens.  This is just another example of the corruption and deceit that is necessary to keep up this global warming scam.  It hurts the integrity of the media as well who just blindly pass it along.  Even the local weathermen are just parroting out what the latest line of bologna is and it makes them look foolish and ignorant.

Down below is a video done by John Coleman, one of my heroes growing up.  He has been there from the start of television meteorology in the 1950s and was the founder of The Weather Channel.  He explains the global warming hoax and how it all got started.

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