Saturday, April 24, 2010

Severe Weather Outbreak Saturday

The first major severe weather outbreak occurred Saturday.  As of 10:45PM EDT, more than 49 tornadoes were reported since midnight.

Tornado watches are still in effect as of 11PM EDT

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy 45th Birthday Moore's Law

If you follow computer technology then you have probably heard of Moore's Law. Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corportation came up with his famous law back in 1965 sighting the rapid increase of circuits on a single chips. THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE IS HERE

An article on pointed out that Moore's Law is often misunderstood. The article goes to say that the paper "referred to the number of transistors that could be cost-effectively produced on a single integrated circuit, and he somewhat optimistically predicted that this number would double every year."

The full article is here:

Some highlights of the original paper published in 1965 are:

1.  That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost
will be 65,000

2.  Computer processing power would double every two years.

3.  The cost of computing is cut in half every two years.  In other words.  As the circuitry gets more complicated, the cost drops.

According to a press release from Intel back in September 2009, the new 22 nanometer chips contain the smallest SRAM cell used in working circuits ever reported at .092 square microns. You can fit 10,000 of these cells per millimeter.  Find your ruler, located the small hash marks on the metric side.  Now imagine 10,000 cells between each hash mark.

Eventually, the physical limits of microchips will be realized.  As Mr. Moore said in this article a few years ago:

"Moore reiterated, however, that there really are fundamental limits to his law, regardless of materials. Indeed, while he admitted to being “perpetually amazed” at how technologists have been pushing those limits out ahead of us, Moore said the end times are near. So when can you expect the law that has driven you to replace your computer every 2-3 years to be obsolete? You’ve got ten-to-15 years..."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Icelandic Volcano Continued

Measuring the particulates in the atmosphere from the Icelandic Volcano was critical in determining when and for how long air traffic was to be grounded.  A good friend of mine who is a pilot was flying one of the last flights out of Europe before they grounded air travel.

Astronomer Snaevarr Gudmundsson took this photo along with hundreds of others as the eruption was occuring.

He shared his incredible experience with Universe Today: 

“I stayed near the volcano from about 16:00 hours to 22:00 hours on Saturday and watched its impressive eruption,” Gudmundsson said in an email to me. “Amazing event, awesome explosions of 1200 C hot magma reaching ice and water. I shot more than 550 images during these hours of continuous enjoyment. Sounds ridiculous but its ever changing appearance was never boring.”

Yet another fantastic lightning image within the ash plume. 

This image is from a ground-based LIDAR (Light detection and ranging) using a 532 nanometer cross polarization NFOV (Narrow field of view) telescope.  The ash cloud is the brighter pocket of red and dark orange which sinks over time.

According to the SIRTA website out of France (research site for atmospheric detection--loose translation), the instrument is "capable of retrieving the optical and microphysical caracteristics of clouds and aerosols particles in the boudary layer and the troposphere (between 0.1 km and 15 km). Two wavelengths are emitted by the laser: 532 nm and 1.064 ┬Ám ; the detection system is capable of measuring the signal at 532 nm with the same polarization than the emitted beam."  In other words, instead of using conventional radar, which sends a microwave signal, this uses a laser.

A great simulation from the Rhenish Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Cologne showing the ash plume descending over Europe since last Wednesday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Icelandic Volcanic Eruption

Icelandic Volcano Photo.   Courtesy:  Snaevarr Gudmundsson

A large volcanic eruption on iceland from a volcano named "Eyjafjallaajokull" has shutdown airtraffic to an extent not seen since 9/11.  The particulates in the ashcloud have been known to shutdown jet engines.  As a precautionary measure, more than 60,000 flights have been grounded since the eruption.

While the science both volcanic and atmospheric is newsworthy, the pronounciation of the volcano's name is stealing headlines due to its phoenetic complexity and journalists' butchering of it.

NPR's website has a great writeup on how to pronounce it.   Trust me, it won't help too much but its worth a listen.

...or this youtube audio clip.

Here is a great satellite animation showing the ash plume.


The Norwegian Institute for Air Research shows the computer model ash plume dispersal forecast into Tuesday, April 20th.  You can see why given the aerial coverage of the ash why air traffic was so greatly affected.

Yet another snapshot of the ash plume moving across the Norwegian Sea

In 24 hours, the ash cloud moved southeastward into continental Europe.

A great FAQ section of the Icelandic Meteorology Office on volcanoes.

Also, a list of volcanic eruptions in Iceland since 1900