Friday, June 12, 2009

Don't try this at home: driving INTO a tornado

I've seen people do some pretty dumb things, and then post them to YouTube. But nothing prepared me for this video clip. These guys have reinforced and fortified a vehicle with armor, with the goal of driving INTO a tornado. I know, sounds very Darwinian, doesn't it? Talk about thinning the herd. Do not do this in a Chevy Lumina or gently-used minivan. These guys were lucky they didn't become a big hunk of airborne debris traveling at 200 mph. To see the wild video for yourself, from the recent Goshen county, Wyoming tornado, click here.

14 year old German boy survives meteorite strike

So you think you had a tough day? Check out this 14 year old, who was hit by a meteorite traveling at 30,000 and lived to tell about it. This happened in Germany, and suddenly the kid is a Super Hero in the local media! It's quite an amazing story. For the complete (eye-opening) story in Gizmodo click here.

Fickle breezes: study says climate change means lower wind speeds

Chalk up another casualty of climate change: Wind speeds in many parts of the U.S. seem to be decreasing, which could make life tougher for the wind industry.

A study to be published later this summer says that climate change has led to lower average wind speeds in the Midwest and eastern part of the U.S., AP reports.

If true—and the study goes against what most computer models predict will happen—it seems to be because rising temperatures at the poles change pressure patterns around the globe, which leads to less wind. From AP’s story:

“It’s a very large effect,” said study co-author Eugene Takle, a professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University. In some places in the Midwest, the trend shows a 10 percent drop or more over a decade. That adds up when the average wind speed in the region is about 10 to 12 miles per hour. There’s been a jump in the number of low or no wind days in the Midwest, said the study’s lead author, Sara Pryor, an atmospheric scientist at Indiana University. Wind measurements plotted out on U.S. maps by Pryor show wind speeds falling mostly along and east of the Mississippi River. Some areas that are banking on wind power, such as west Texas and parts of the Northern Plains, do not show winds slowing nearly as much. Yet, states such as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, northern Maine and western Montana show some of the biggest drop in wind speeds."

(If true this would have profound impacts, including a drastic implication on turbines as a source of alternative energy. For the AP article and a thoughtful blog in the Wall Street Journal click here).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Storm Chasers from Australia make a trip to the U.S.

Thanks to Rich Koivisto, a good friend of mine from Duluth, for this next story. Friends of his from Australia recently made a trip to the United States to catch some wild weather, see the Great Lakes and take lots of pictures! Read about their journey, which took them from just north of Mexico to Lake Superior. The 26 day road trip can be seen here

Check out day 18 when Clyve and Jane (from Down Under) see Lake Superior for the first time - a dream come true!

Want more Australian weather? Check here

As for my friend, Rich Koivisto, his pictures are featured in the Australian Storm Chasing web site here and here and here - here's one of them

Monday, June 8, 2009

Staring up into the "eye" of a tornado

(The Weather Channel caught some amazing video of a tornado in Wyoming over the weekend. They were tagging along with the Vortex2 storm chasers, a huge team of scientists trying to intercept - and study developing tornadoes, using DOW, Doppler on wheels, weather balloons, and a small army of volunteers surrounding tornadic storms with weather instruments. The goal: shed light on how tornadoes form, why some go on to intensify while others weaken rapidly. Word to the wise: don't try this at home!)

To see an amazing tornado clip on click here.

What really happened on Air France Flight 447?

The Air France 447 mystery may never be solved beyond a shadow of doubt, but there are some telling, tragic clues to consider based on what we know about the airplane systems and the extreme weather and aerodynamic conditions it encountered before it went down a week ago.

First, a bit of aerodynamics: The doomed Airbus A-330-200 was flying ever so close to its maximum altitude – in a zone pilots call the “Coffin Corner”. It refers to the edge of so-called “flight envelope” of an aircraft. At this altitude, the air is much thinner and that significantly narrows the swath of speed at which the airplane can safely operate.

Check out the complete post at

(I was always a big fan of Miles O'Brien at CNN, who did a masterful job with science and space-related stories. I was shocked when they let him go last year - to save money, I guess, but what a loss. He is starting his own blog site where you can hear he take on science, astronomy, and aviation-related stories. Here is a thoughtful post on what may have really happened during Air France #447's doomed flight from Brazil to Paris. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a very believable scenario, based on what little we know from the transcript of the last moments).

Click here to read the rest of Miles' post, including a detailed meteorological explanation of a MCS, a Mesoscale Convective System - a broad swarm of severe thunderstorms that tends to form at night. Tim Vasquez has posted comprehensive information on weather conditions encountered by the Air France flight the night of the apparent crash, another very good read.