Friday, March 30, 2012

Mega-Million Jackpot: The Odds Compared to Other Events

The Mega-Millions lottery jackpot is now very close to the highest lottery jackpot in history. So many stories of people snatching up lotto tickets praying that their ticket answers their financial prayers along with their kids, grandkids and future generations of grandkids....assuming they don't blow their ca$h like the lotto winner from West Virginia in 2002.  He blew $100+ million in a little under 4 years!  How does that happen?

Not to burst anyone's bubble but for lotto winners who win more than $150,000 are twice as likely to go bankrupt in under 5 years than the general population!

...I'd still take my chances.

Anyway, the numbers are staggering. The odds of getting all of the numbers correct on your ticket are...wait for it...

176,000,000 to 1

So, hypothetically, at $1 a ticket, if you spent $176,000,000 in tickets, does this guarantee that you would win the jackpot?  Absolutely not!  Remember that the odds are statistical not actual.  Who is to say that the same two winning tickets with the same numbers haven't been printed?  

How about the odds of some other events:

odds of dying in a fire:  1,116 to 1
odds of fatally slipping in the bath or shower:  2,232 to 1
odds of dying in an airline accident:  20,000 to 1
odds of dying from a lightning strike:   84,000 to 1
odds of dealing a ROYAL FLUSH:   649,350 to 1
odds of being injured by hail:   5,114,000 to 1
odds of being killed by hail in a years time:  734,400,000 to 1

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Early Spring Patterns & March Heat

One prominent meteorologist recently said that the combination of elements (teleconnections) which when pieced together dictate specific weather patterns are like the elements of a movie. You can vary any one of the elements of a movie just a little (sound, background sound, brightness, character development, storyline, the way its shot, etc) and the effect can be dramatic for some movie watchers.  Yet that same change for another group of film goers could have very little effect.

The winter of 2011-12 is an example of this metaphor. The northern Pacific was cold (PDO) like last winter. La Nina was present just like last winter but it was shorter and not as strong. Yet the biggest change to a more stable arctic/north Atlantic this winter had far different results than the winter of 2010-2011.


An easier way to put it is this way: You change grandma's soup recipe by adding too little salt and pepper and skimp on the paprika and it might bear no tasteful resemblance to grandma's soup.  Got it?

This March is yet another example of how the combination of elements driving our weather patterns can and do yield different results when compared to other time frames like last year.

Here is the weather pattern scorecard so far for March
                                                        LAST MARCH        THIS MARCH

LA NINA                                        STRONG                   WEAKENING
MJO PHASE (equator)                    PHASE 3-4 (COOL)  STRONG PHASE 6 (WARM)
ARCTIC                                          POSITIVE                  POSITIVE
NORTH ATLANTIC                       POSITIVE                  POSITIVE
PDO (NORTH PACIFIC)                  COOL                        COOL
SNOW COVER                                    19%                            20%

Forget the specifics on each element  for a moment and look at the similarities.  

All but the LA NINA stage and the MJO are similar to last year. 

Last March when we were finally able to take a breath as the perpetual snow cover was melting away, the temperatures finally started to rebound but there was still some winter chill left. You probably remember if you tried to golf at Big Met around St. Patrick's Day in 2011.
This year, the trees are starting to bloom.  I hear the sound of lawn mowers.  I smell fertilizer.  I see daffodils attempting to flower.  Scary yet awesome sight and sounds in mid March.  A sensory overload to say the least. 

This week (March 14-20th) we have broke almost a thousand record high temps. We reach a high of 83 on Tuesday. That was a first in March since 1945 and only the 3rd time in a century! Its not only Cleveland but the eastern 2/3rds of the US.

Now do you see how difficult it is to compare this March and early spring to last spring? 


Has this HOT MARCH pattern happened before? You bet.  If we look at ALL 17 INSTANCES where we hit 80+ in March in the last century, the pattern (sum of the parts) looks almost identical:

Here are the patterns for the last 80 degree days in March:  1998, 1990 and 1983

How about 1945 and 1910--the last 83 degree days in March? 


I talked with the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources Agricultural R&D Office in Wooster about the growing season so far. According to Dan Herms, we are almost 4 weeks ahead of last year. He says that this early warmth--as long as the temperatures don't drop--won't harm the trees of plant. He also says that you shouldn't plant flowers just yet.

Why should we wait to plant our garden? 
Why should we stay away from Lake Erie?
And Why could Christmas trees be the most susceptible to this early spring warmth?

My next post will explain!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Some Stats: Consecutive 60 degree Days in March

It took a while to sift through the numbers for March. I found that we have had only 8 stretches of 6 or more straight days above 60 in the month of March since 1910.

The last 6 day stretch was in 1995.

The longest stretch was in 1945 when we had two stretches:  The first was 8 days, the second was 7.

As of Friday (3/16), the stretch was at 6 days. If the 8day forecast stays on target, we could reach 13 DAYS by the end of next week!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PI Day is Here! Why is PI Important To All of US?

I am sure back in 1737 when Leonard Euler first use the symbol  Π, he never envisioned the fascination with Π that developed since. There are tee shirts, PI plates (yes, I have one) and PI mugs. Novelty websites have just about every PI trinket you can think of!

What is PI?

PI is the number that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to it diameter. It works for every circle.  Most math concepts are complex. Just ask any student who is in their first year of Algebra or Calculus. Yet the PI concept is very simple to understand by all.  Just find a circle, measure the distance across and with PI, you have the rest. Take a bike tire or a cookie cutter. It works every time!
The interesting part is that PI is a non-repeating, never ending decimal. Since PI is a non-repeating, never ending number, it can only be approximated. Mathematicians have tried to find a pattern to PI but to no avail.  Throughout its history, PI has become a fascination among mathematicians and computer programmers. Since PI is a non-repeating, never ending number, it can only be approximated.  Over the years as computer processing power increases, developers use the inexact nature of PI to test out computer system efficiency and accuracy. One individual last year calculated PI to 10 trillion digits. It took one computer 371 days and 16.6 terabytes or 3500 DVDs to store them! Read about it below...its pretty amazing.

To put this number of digits in perspective, you only need 40 digits of PI to calculate the
circumference of the observable universe (assuming its a sphere...highly unlikely) to the
accuracy of a width of a particle inside an atom! Anything more is not necessary.  Yet,
the search continues for even more digits of PI.

Best of all, circle are present in every aspect of our lives. Think about it, we can't go a second without seeing a circle. More importantly, PI is used in most calculations in the fundamental development of all infrastructure, communications, quantum physics, music theory, medical procedures, DNA; propulsion systems for air travel, space and military aircraft.

Famous scientific discoveries and the math that describes them are riddled with PI components. 

* The calculation for determining the horsepower of your car has PI in it

* Einstein's famous equations that describe relativity which is now directly applied in  
   satellite calibration has PI in it. Here it is in very simple form:

* The math that determines electric force (electricity) has PI included

*  How about the speed and volume of blood flow inside the first artificial heart? You bet.  
    PI is included in that calculation too.

* Want to figure out the position of two planets nearest to the earth? Boom! PI is smack
    dab in  the middle of that equation too!

* Radio communications, cellphones, computer hard drive/processor technology were both developed using  mathematics that incorporates the number "PI"


* Airlines use PI to calculate flying distance around the earth

* Manufacturing uses PI to figure out how much of a substance will fit into a volume
   of circular or cylindrical space

These are just a few examples of how PI is ingrained in our everyday existence without
us realizing it.

The memorization of PI digits has been just as alluring for some. A guy from China in 2005
recited 67,890 digits of PI. Some unconfirmed claims put the newest records closer to
100,000 in 2006! 

PI Day is also a day to teach kids math by making it fun. Our country routinely falls behind the rest of the world in math and science. PI Day is just what we need to emphasize the importance of learning math in a way that students can grasp and hold onto as they continue with their education.

You might not like math. That's fine. You might not get PI. That's fine too. Just remember that PI (3.14159...) is integrated into our everyday life unlike any other number. Without it, your daily life would be totally different.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Internet: One Day In A Nutshell

I love graphics like this. They encapsulate copious amounts of data in pictures that convey the information in a  non-intimidating, easy-to-read manner.

One piece of trivia that stood out at me was this:


Let me do the math:  That's 3.6 MILLION YEARS of accumulated time that EVERYONE spends on FACEBOOK sending status updates and goofy pictures EACH DAY around the world! I don't know if I want to be amazed or cry. 

Why didn't I think of this simple idea 7 years ago?

A Day in the Internet
Created by: MBA Online

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Geomagnetic Storm? Solar Flare? Sunspots? What Are These and Why Should I Care?

NOAA's Space Weather Update on what could happen during the current Geomagnetic Storm. At this point, not much of an event but great Northern Lights. For more explanations, read the rest below...

What is the Earth's magnetic field?

The earth is surrounded by a magnetic field similar to a magnet in your house. Remember back in grade school when the teacher would shake some iron filings on a sheet of paper placed over a store bought magnet?  The shape the iron filings made was determined by the magnetic field around the magnet.  It looked something like this

What is a "solar flare"?

Before we answer this, we need to understand the sun's behavior a little better:  The surface of the sun go through cycles of high and low levels of activity.  These are called solar cycles which change every 11 years or so.  We are entering in an time of elevated activity.

Higher levels produce more sunspots (areas of lower temperature on the sun's surface) which produce more solar flares. 

Recently, research of the dynamically processes within the sun have revealed that these solar cycles are driven by a process called "Magnetic reconnection" or the changing of the magnetic field within the sun. This changing of the magnetic field results in a tremendous amount of energy release on the surface which can create solar flares.  Scientists can detect the beginnings of sunspots by "listening" to the "noise" produced by the motions within the sun.  The sun's turbulence creates a sound that can be detected before the sunspot forms. Currently, the sunspots are producing a flare that will impact the earth's magnetic field. 

Why do we care here on earth?

The earth's magnetic field is very similar to the magnet from grade school science class except MUCH STRONGER.  When a solar flare is ejected from the sun, it shoots out highly energetic particles that react with the earth's field.  These particles are like the iron filings your grade school teacher spilled on the white sheet of paper described above.

These particles stimulate the earth's magnetic field which can interrupt communications if the flare is strong enough and at the right angle.

One large geomagnetic storm occurred in 1989 that knocked power in parts of Canada

For sure, expect some great northern lights in Canada and in the higher latitudes and maybe here in Northeastern Ohio if the skies clear out. Below is a photo taken from the International Space Station as it passed near the highly energized atmosphere producing an awesome Aurora!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Too Many Deaths in Friday's Tornado Outbreak

It's still hard to watch the video of the cataclysmic damage in Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama realizing that lives were lost. A total of 71 tornadoes touched town according to Dr. Greg Forbes of the Weather Channel. As i write this, a confirmed 45 tornadoes from the National Weather Service which will probably rise as damage assessments continue. Here is a nice blog post from "everythingwx" that summerizes the confirmed tornadoes by state

The horror families go through after losing a loved one prematurely to a twister like what happened Friday HAS to be one of the most emotionally draining experience for a human being to endur.  I can't imagine finding the body of an 15 month old as the sun is shining the following day.  My jaw is still on the floor.

After tragic weather, I often look back at the days and hours leading up to event(s) to see if people were warned in a timely manner with appropriate information necessary to make the right decisions to stay out of harm’s way. I don't know the circumstances of these deaths.  I’m not here to judge the specifics. Not enough information is known as I write this. Yet I can't help but think that some of these deaths could have been prevented if 1), the public knew the proper terminology that describes severe weather alerts, 2) the public took the severe weather risks more seriously.

Let's first address storm alert terminology:

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH means that conditions are FAVORABLE for severe weather. This does not mean that there is a severe storm currently.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING means that a severe thunderstorm is occurring or is imminent based on doppler radar information. A severe thunderstorm becomes "severe" after it meets one of two criteria. Hail that is dime size, 0.75 inches in diameter or larger, and/or wind gusts to 58 mph or more.

TORNADO WATCH means that the potential exists for some of the severe thunderstorms to produce a tornado

TORNADO WARNING means that either a tornaado is occurring (on the ground) or the tornado rotation is detected on doppler radar. You should take cover immediately.

All severe storm watches are issued by THE STORM PREDICTION CENTER in Norman, Oklahoma.  All warnings are issued by the respective National Weather Service office covering the specific area. Northeastern Ohio is covered by the NWS office at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

Friday morning before sunrise, the SPC issued a "moderate risk" then expanded the risk area and upped it to "high risk" which only happens maybe once a year. 

The warnings were out there early on. They were on television, the internet, Facebook and Twitter. Yet people died. 

What can we do?

I think the answer is twofold. First, educate yourself on the differences between a “watch” and a “warning”! This thing called GOOGLE is great. Use it and look up the difference. I just typed in "watch and warning difference". The 5th entry in the list is what you want. I screen captured it so you can see two things: The first is the entry that explains the difference. The second is how long it took me to find the answer circled in red at the top. 0.19 seconds!  We might not have lots of time in our busy lives but we have 0.19 seconds.

If you don't have internet access, talk to your kids. I would bet a nice dinner that your kids know the difference if you don't. This difference is taught in grade school science classes as early as 1st grade in some school programs. It bothers me that many adults have no idea what the difference is between a WATCH and a WARNING. Most third graders know the difference. An adult has ABSOLUTELY no excuse. Your Life; your family’s life is worth your time and effort.

Yet there exists this mentality that quickly diminishes the severity of these warnings.  Maybe it is denial. People think that it won't happen to them. Maybe people today are inundated by information so much so that the "true, lifesaving" information gets lost or watered down in the mix. Just scanning the comments on Facebook and twitter after weather events shows how much negativity the public has toward these warnings during harsh weather.

The meteorologists in the areas hit by the tornado Friday did an exceptional job in getting the necessary information out to their viewers. This saved lives! Facebook and Twitter were lit up with information from credible sources on the tornadoes on ground. Hats off to you all. Severe weather coverage on LIVE tv is a lot harder than it looks.

The bigger question we need to address long term is how do we change the public’s perception of severe weather. A big step in the right direction would be for some television stations to rethink their coverage philosophy. I am lucky enough to work at a station where we DO NOT believe in breaking into a television show unless the weather situation ABSOLUTELY warrants it.  If a TORNADO WARNING is issued, we go LIVE. No questions asked.  Other stations feel the need to "break into programming" during any garden-variety thunderstorm. This "crying wolf" coverage creates a false sense of security.  So when a real event does occur, people think "no big deal. It won't happen here" and continue with their afternoon or evening activities.  Television stations cannot continue to cry wolf! They need to remember that their primary objective is to INFORM THE PUBLIC WITH QUALITY, SEVERE WEATHER INFORMATION as its defined by the National Weather Service and SPC not by management!

Viewers need to WANT TO BELIEVE what they are hearing yet they’re conditioned to doubt that very same information.  Television stations need to remember this and focus on their primary objective. That is to INFORM THE PUBLIC WITH QUALITY, WEATHER SEVERE INFORMATION.  No over hyping and no "crying wolf". Television stations are a conduit of information. Information is power. If that power is used incorrectly, the harm to the public can be irreparable.  I just hope the damage isn't as great as I fear it is.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Severe Storms to Sunday Snow!

We haven't had much of a winter so our awareness of early spring warmth and storms doesn't seems as heightened. This is the time of year where we see huge day to day variations--often times hour to hour--as the winter time jet stream is weakening at the same time the southern jet stream is pushing north.  The southern branch--abnormally strong this winter--is still flexing its muscle with early season severe weather. As the angle of the sunshine shifts north across the Northern Hemisphere as the seasons change, the temperatures differences along warm and cold fronts becomes greater. Even in a mild winter like this year, the southern jet--a bigger player this winter--becomes the focal point for even more atmospheric energy. All of this means severe weather outbreaks will get more numerous.

Here is the current Ohio Valley radar...Ohio Valley Radar

Speaking of severe weather. another outbreak is likely later today as another strong spring-like system will push through Kentucky and Ohio. This system will be stronger than the Wednesday's. Here is the setup:

The warm front will push northeast later this afternoon...

Moisture will increase...the humidity will be noticably higher by mid-afternoon

Air become easier to lift higher in the sky resulting in rapidly building thunderstorms. This is called "The Lifted Index"
The speed at which the air is moving up into the atmosphere will be great at the mid-levels (12,000 feet)
The jet energy as mentioned before is high with the left-front quadrant of the jet moving into western Ohio
Temps rise along the warm front...then drop quickly behind it later tonight...
60+ degree temps late this afternoon
30s late this evening behind the cold front
The composite radars of three computer projections show rain/storms mid to late your eye on northeastern Ohio to get a reference point.

All of these factors have resulted in the Storm Prediction Center placing Ohio under a decent risk for severe weather later today. High wind watch tonight and Saturday with gusts to 50+ followed by snow late Saturday night into Sunday! A little bit of everything over the next 48 hours!

I'll update you through noon. Angelica and Dick will update you later this afternoon and evening!