Atlantic Sat Image

Atlantic Sat Image
Clouds over Atlantic

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Harvest Moon is almost here

What do you call a full moon that comes close to the first day of Fall? A harvest moon. This name comes from back in the day when there was no electricity and farmers worked their fields at night.

This "Harvest Moon" is a little different from the average full moon as it rises around the same time on three consecutive nights. This is due to the angle of the moon as it orbits the earth during the Autumnal Equinox. The angle is very shallow, so it doesn't go so far below the horizon and as a result, it comes up again at about the same time each night.

This precious extra natural lighting gave farmers some extra time to work their fields.

Typically, a regular full moon will rise about an hour later each day thus cutting back on available work time.

Here are the "Harvest Moon" facts.
  • The moon may look bigger and seem closer, but it's not.
  • The Harvest Moon will happen on Saturday
  • It will rise this year at 11:19 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Drought delivers treasures

Imagine if one of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. suddenly disappeared without a trace and all of its great treasures were gone. It would leave a huge question mark in the soul of our society.

That's what happened to Poland hundreds of years ago and only recently has Mother Nature intervened to help answer the question, "What happened?".

Let me take you to the heart of Poland and the Vistula river which sits right in the middle of the country. This is where everything is answered. 

The worst drought to hit Poland's Vistula River has yielded the best archaeological treasure for the country.

The river is at an all time low, the lowest since they began keeping records in the late 1700's.

The water has dropped so much that it has revealed a National treasure missing for 350 years!

This includes marble artifacts and stonework that once belonged to Polish nobility.

This discovery helps answer a mystery that's been lingering for hundreds of years as to what happened to the royal treasures that were part of Warsaw's Royal Castle.

Most of the treasure which includes sculpted fountains, columns, and other marbles, was stolen during a conflict known as the "Swedish Deluge", taking place during the 17th century. The loot never made it to Sweden and thus the mystery was born.  It turns out the vessel carrying the treasures sank while trying to head home.

The archaeological find has already yielded 12 tons of 17th century marble.  But Mother Nature may fight back.  It appears recent rains are slowly rising the water levels... archaeologists will have to move fast or their hopes for rescuing all the treasures will be sunk. (Sorry!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hello Houston!

You may notice the satellite picture above does not look as sharp as usual and it breaks up in the far Eastern Atlantic. This is because a very important satellite used to track storms along the Eastern Seaboard ,as well as the Atlantic, has gone on the fritz.

We are not completely blind as a second satellite unit is taking over temporary duties, but its eyes are not as good nor do they extend that far into the Atlantic.

This is what happened:

Over the weekend, a satellite known as GOES-13 (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) began to have problems relaying pictures back to earth. It got so bad with static that NOAA took the unit off line. As of this posting, engineers are working on the problem but have no idea as to when it would be put back into service.

This issue has forced NOAA to use another satellite by the name of GOES 15, which usually only covers the West Coast. They opened the lens as far as it could to capture not only its area of coverage, but also as much of the East Coast and Atlantic as possible. As you can probably imagine the detail is somewhat lost with such a big sector to cover.

This unit is not an old one as it went into space in 2006. What is interesting is that it was never used but placed in reserve until 2010, that's when it was placed into operation. Whatever the fix, it will have to be performed by computer programmers because if its an actual hardware or mechanical issue, a repair mission is not even a consideration.

We may not be completely out of luck, it seems as in the case of this unit, another satellite by the name of GOES 14 is sitting idly by waiting to take over operations if 13 dies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Too much ice melting

The National Snow and Ice Data Center is reporting that Ice around the Arctic has achieved a near record meltdown this summer with a total of 1.58 million square miles lost to warmer temps. The previous low point was 1.61 million square miles in 2007. The Data Center says the figures are based on satellite records dating back to 1979.

They also say that ice is being lost by around 38,000 square miles a day (since June) or about the size of the State of Indiana.  

As you might expect, there is nothing more normal than for ice to melt during the hottest time of the year, but typically a sheet of ice will make it through until winter. This allows Mother Nature to rebuild the ice faster, but with this extra loss, it takes a longer time for the Arctic ice to grow back.
This is problematic for many reasons:
        * It could cause major headaches for  local animal species such as polar bears and walruses.
        * The lack of Arctic sea ice allows the atmosphere to warm faster, causing land ice to melt which can raise sea levels.
        * This rise in ocean water levels could impact coastal communities world wide.

But, this could allow:
        * Easier traffic lanes for shipping, where summers free of ice will allow passage through routes typically clogged with ice.
        * It could also make it easier for detection of oil deposits.

Proponents of Climate Change say:
National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Ted Scambos ,suggests that the meltdown can be blamed mostly on global warming from man-made emissions of greenhouse gases. This sharp decline in ice could be a signal of long term climate change.

Other experts point out that if present trends continue, the Arctic will be largely ice-free in the summer in 20 or 30 years.

Proponents of  "No Climate Change" argue that an early August storm appears to have helped  break up some of the 2012 sea ice and helped it to melt more quickly.

Other scientists report that global warming doesn't fully explain what's been going on in the Arctic. A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, led by John Michael Wallace of the University of Washington, found that most of the recent reduction in sea ice is due to natural variability.

So no matter what side you are on, all of us will be impacted.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Weather enthusiasts are looking to get a type of cloud recognized by world meteorological services. It appears this new type, known by its Latin name of "undulatus asperatus" or "agitated waves" for short, is the first new formation since 1951.  Some people say it almost looks like a fluffy blanket covering an area.

It all started when a picture by Jane Wiggins of Cedar Rapids Iowa, went viral on the net in 2006. Since then, weather buffs around the globe have taken their own snap shots and are hoping to formally get it recognized. 

This is now up to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva, who have the final say in cloud classifications. The big question is, what would it be called then?  If it were to make it, it would join the ranks of other well known cloud types as cirrus, cumulus, & stratus.

This new recognition may be worthy, but it may take some time.  The president of the Cloud Appreciation Society, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, says,"the last time they did a new edition of the book was in 1975." 

I have seen these clouds in Minnesota as warm air overruns colder air, almost acting as a blanket. All we can do now is wait and see if WMO will include it in their next reference book update, whenever that may be.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Volcan del Fuego

The eruption of one of the world's most active volcanoes quieted down just a bit on Friday. Local residents were allowed to return home at the foot of the Volcan del Fuego, Spanish for Volcano of Fire, along the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.

This is a brief history courtesy the Global Vulcanism Program:
  •  Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua.  
  • The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, lies between 3763-m-high Fuego and its twin volcano to the north, Acatenango. 

  • Construction of Meseta volcano dates back to about 230,000 years and continued until the late Pleistocene or early Holocene.
  •  Collapse of Meseta volcano may have produced the massive Escuintla debris-avalanche deposit, which extends about 50 km onto the Pacific coastal plain. 
  • Growth of the modern Fuego volcano followed, continuing the southward migration of volcanism that began at Acatenango. In contrast to the mostly andesitic Acatenango volcano, eruptions at Fuego have become more mafic with time, and most historical activity has produced basaltic rocks. 

  • Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded at Fuego since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ash falls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

What happened?
The eruptions forced the evacuations of more than 33,000 who live around the volcano. This is almost half the population of that region.

A vulcanologist with the Guatemalan Government, said the eruptions appear to be in the final stages. This is the biggest activity since 1974, when the eruption was five times stronger than this one.

Villagers and farmers living at the foot of the volcano were awoken Thursday by a massive roar during a series of eruptions that darkened the skies and covered surrounding sugar cane fields with ash.

By Thursday evening, the ash plume had decreased to a little more than a mile high, partly due to heavy rain, which diminished the potential risk to aviation

Emergency workers reported that many villagers living around the slopes of the volcano had begun returning home. The Red Cross of Guatemala was winding down operations, according to Government authorities.

The silver lining to this scare, is that the eruption has turned into a draw for delighted tourists. They've been taking pictures of the nearby colonial city and are making plans to take night hikes to see glowing rivers of lava.