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Archive for March, 2010

Picture Of The Week

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

I know it’s not a pure weather-related picture, but with it winter ending, and spring starting over the weekend, I thought it would be nice to share some pretty flowers! I took this picture at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in 2008. During that festival, there are rows and rows of absolutely amazing and brilliantly colored flowers. It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the festival, and I miss it a lot. Happy Spring!

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, 2008. Happy Spring!

Categories: Photography, Weather Tags: , , ,

Catatumbo Lightning…Gone Forever?

March 18th, 2010 No comments

For as long as anybody can remember, where the Catatumbo River empties into Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, there has been lightning. For an average of 160 nights a year, 16-40 cloud-to-cloud strikes light the air above the waters of the lake. As many as 20,000 bolts have been recorded in a single night. But that all stopped in January 2010…there have been no strikes since then.

In an online article at The Guardian, locals are concerned about the lack of lightning :

Fishermen in the village of Congo Mirador, a collection of wooden huts on stilts at the phenomenon’s epicentre, are puzzled and anxious by its absence. “It has always been with us,” said Edin Hernandez, 62. “It guides us at night, like a lighthouse. We miss it.”

There has been lightning in the skies around here for most of recorded history :

Electrical storms, product of a unique meteorological phenomenon, have lit up nights in this corner of Venezuela for thousands of years. Francis Drake abandoned a sneak attack on the city of Maracaibo in 1595 when lightning betrayed his ships to the Spanish garrison.

“This is unprecedented. In recorded history we have not had such a long stretch without lightning,” said Erik Quiroga, an environmentalist and leading authority on the Relampago de Catatumbo, or Catatumbo Lightning.

It appears to scientists that El Niño is to blame for the disruption of this phenomenon. The theory is that El Niño has caused a drought in the area, drying up the lakes and rivers that normally exist, and which contribute to the creation of the lightning. Another theory links it to decomposing organic matter which release methane. Yet another theory links it to Andean winds blowing across marshes, generating low pressure and building up an electrical charge in the atmosphere.

The last time the lightning disappeared? In 1906 when a catastrophic 8.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Ecuador and Colombia unleashed a tsunami. The lightning returned three weeks later. But the long delay in the lightning’s return this time have locals worried.

Losing the lightning is a symbolic blow. In addition to warding off Drake’s naval assault – an event celebrated in Lope de Vega’s 1598 epic poem – it is credited with helping independence fighters defeat a Spanish fleet in 1823. The state of Zulia, which encompasses Lake Maracaibo, has a lightning bolt across its centre and refers to the phenomenon in its anthem.

Quiroga worries that when rains return the lightning may not recover its former glory. It was dwindling in frequency and force even before the drought, probably because deforestation and agriculture had clogged the Catatumbo river and several lagoons with silt.

“This is a unique gift and we are at risk of losing it,” said Quiroga, who has led scientific teams to its epicentre. He has lobbied Venezuelan authorities to protect the area and the United Nations to recognise it as a world heritage site. A Unesco spokeswoman said there were no plans to do so because electrical storms did not have a “site”.

For more information about the Catatumbo Lightning, check out this brief Wikipedia article.

Picture Of The Week

March 15th, 2010 No comments

This is a shot that I took from my roof in July 2009. Tucson sees some pretty nice thunderstorms during the monsoons of summer, and I try to get out and capture lightning shots whenever possible. This storm snuck up on me, so I really only had time to get on my roof before the rains came.

Summer Lightning, Tucson 2009

Summer Lightning, Tucson 2009

Categories: Photography, Weather Tags: , ,

Does El Niño Mean More Active Tornado Season?

March 12th, 2010 No comments

USA Today had a brief article earlier this week regarding the question of whether the strong El Niño this week will cause a more active tornado season than in past years. The article quotes Greg Forbes, a severe weather expert at The Weather Channel, as saying in past winters with similar El Nino strengths, “the average was 9% more tornadoes than a typical year.”

El Niño is a seasonal weather pattern in which warm equatorial winds that periodically push toward the West Coast send moist air to the nation’s interior.

While tornadoes can happen anytime of the year, in the USA, they are most common in the first half of the year. The 2010 tornado season has had a slow start, with 44 tornadoes reported through Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The average number for this time is 162, according to the weather service. Although data are not yet final, The Weather Channel counted 1,145 tornadoes last year, compared with 1,272 in an average year. The federal Storm Prediction Center counted 1,156 tornadoes last year, which killed 21 people.

Personally, I’m hoping for an active tornado season, but not a destructive one. I’m hoping to get out and do some storm chasing this season, but I would hate for a tornado to injure anybody or cause mass destruction. I’m looking forward to getting some awesome pictures!

Review : WeatherBug Elite iPhone App

March 10th, 2010 No comments

At this particular moment, I have a total of 10 weather related apps on my iPhone. All but a couple of them are very good, and I figured other people might be interested in benefiting from my purchases! Having an iPhone that can run weather apps is a huge bonus for me. I love weather data, and being able to whip out my phone and check the local radar is very exciting…especially during the summer monsoon months, when I want to know where the next thunderstorm will hit. As more weather apps are developed for the iPhone, I’m sure I’ll purchase those as well. That being said, let’s start with a review of WeatherBug Elite.

Clicking on the WeatherBug Elite icon on your iPhone will launch the following splash screen:

WeatherBug Elite Splash Screen

As soon as the data is loaded, you are presented with the main screen. From here, you’ll be given information about conditions in the default area you choose. For me, these are the conditions in Tucson, AZ. Current temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity and dew point are some of the data available. You also get a nice little graphic that indicates wind speed and direction. Below that is an indication of any active alerts, a synopsis of the current forecast, and buttons for other features at the bottom of the screen.

WeatherBug Elite Main Screen

WeatherBug Elite Main Screen

Clicking on the forecast button gives you a synopsis of the coming days. You can get more detailed information for each part of the day – morning and evening – by clicking on the high and low temperature sections. Not only can you get the next seven days worth of forecasts, but you can also check out things on an hourly basis.

WeatherBug Elite Forecast Page

WeatherBug Elite Forecast Page

WeatherBug Elite Forecast Details

WeatherBug Elite Forecast Details

Now comes my absolute favorite part – data on maps! I spend a lot of time on this page when storms are in the area, and when I want to know how long until we get rain! WeatherBug Elite does an excellent job displaying data on maps provided by Microsoft Virtual Earth. In addition to the radar/satellite data, you can also get local conditions of a particular area by clicking on a pushpin already in the map, or by pushing and holding on an area you are interested in, placing a pushpin there, and then getting the local data. Unfortunately, WeatherBug Elite does not work in landscape mode, so you have to pinch/pull in order to get the area you want to look at. But, the data is awesome, and this is my favorite page!

WeatherBug Elite Maps

WeatherBug Elite Maps

WeatherBug Elite provides you many different layers for your maps, including temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed, IR satellite, visible satellite, radar, tomorrow’s high temp and tomorrow’s low temp. You can adjust the opacity of the layers, and you can even remove all dropped pins with a single tap!

For those of you who like video weather reports, WeatherBug Elite has that as well. Click on the video button at the bottom, and you are presented with the latest WeatherCast from Rachel.

WeatherBug Elite WeatherCast

WeatherBug Elite WeatherCast

I’ll admit, I’ve never actually watched a WeatherCast, so I can’t yet comment on it.

Finally, on the last page, you can check out cameras for the areas you have set. I have seen up to three cameras for a particular area, and they are generally of pretty good quality. That depends largely, I suspect, on the area you live in. I think these are typically cameras that local weather forecasters use as well.

WeatherBug Elite Camera View

WeatherBug Elite Camera View

All in all, I believe WeatherBug Elite is fully worth the $0.99 I had to pay for it. I started with the free version of WeatherBug, which gives you essentially the same features, but includes ads. Spending nintey-nine cents to remove the adds, and get a few more features, seemed like a good investment to me.

If you have an iPhone, and like to stay up with the current weather, but require more information than just current temperature and high/low, then you can’t really go wrong with WeatherBug Elite. I’ve fond it to be stable, useful application, and became very quickly addicted to the maps feature. I don’t think you can go wrong by giving it a try!

Picture Of The Week

March 8th, 2010 No comments

Here is something to start your week with. I shot this in November 2008 from a friends house near Port Ludlow, WA. This is looking east across Puget Sound after a great rainstorm.

Picture of the Week - Puget Sound Rainbow

Picture of the Week - Puget Sound Rainbow

Categories: Photography, Weather Tags: , ,

Cirrus Clouds

March 5th, 2010 No comments

A couple days ago, as a storm was moving out of the area, we got some classic cirrus clouds in the upper atmosphere. These types of clouds are very high in the atmosphere, are traditionally thin with wispy strands, and can often herald the arrival of a storm (in this case they were remnants of a previous storm). Cirrus clouds like to live at levels above 26,000 feet (8000 meters), and are formed when water vapor freezes into ice crystals. The lack of moisture at such high altitudes is one of the reasons these clouds tend to present so thin and wispy.

Cirrus Clouds in Tucson, AZ

Cirrus Clouds in Tucson, AZ

A lot of times in Tucson we see hair like filaments of ice crystals precipitating out of the clouds in the form of what’s called virga. These streaks often indicate the difference in the motion of air between the upper part of the cirrus cloud and the lower air below it. It appears as though rain is coming from the cloud, but it’s actually ice crystals, most of which evaporates before it hits the ground (especially in Arizona). On some days, cirrus cloud development is so extensive that they become virtually indistinguishable from one another, forming what’s called cirrostratus clouds.

Another type of cirrus cloud that you’re already very familiar with is the condensation trails, or contrails,  seen in the sky coming from planes. These trails are basically artificial clouds formed by the exhaust of aircraft engines. As the hot exhaust gases cool in the surrounding air they may precipitate a cloud of microscopic water droplets. If the air is cold enough, this trail will comprise tiny ice crystals. On some days, with a high level of air traffic, you can see contrails crisscrossing the sky, and these contrails often hang around for some time. It’s pretty neat!

Clouds are very cool, and an obviously integral part of weather. I intend to eventually go through all the various cloud types, hopefully using images I’ve shot with my camera. If you understand why a particular cloud type is in the area, you have a good idea of what sort of weather might be on the way.

Picture of the Week

March 1st, 2010 No comments

I thought I’d start the week off with a picture that will have you yearning for summer! With all the bad weather around the country lately, it’s hard to keep in mind the beautiful days we have ahead of us. This picture was taken in July 2007, at Marina Park in Kirkland, WA. It was a truly beautiful day!

Sunset at Marina Park, Kirkland, WA

Sunset at Marina Park, Kirkland, WA