Friday, November 02, 2012

Climate Change & Hurricane/Hybrid Sandy: You Decide

I've debated on whether or not I should weigh in on the Hurricane Sandy/Climate Change/Global Warming debate circling the blog sphere.  Even saying the words "debate" in the context of Global Warming or Climate Change is tantamount to treason and a reason to fight for some. Others would argue that I've left the AGW door wide open for a huge ransack.

So rather than take a stance either way, I want to list the components that went into the development of this storm in no particular order and leave it to you to allocate what percentage of influence each component contributed to the evolution of Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent hybrid.  Is it the natural cycles or the Anthropogenic drivers or a blend of both?  One more than the other,etc.

1. Strong sub tropical jet stream along the east coast moving southwest to northeast

2. Very strong polar jet merging with the sub tropical jet

3. Greenland Block (High pressure over the North Atlantic/southern Greenland)

4. Upper level trough became negatively tilted (that is the trough was oriented NW to SE) established by the Greenland Block

5. Sea Level increase along the east coast

6. Warmer Atlantic Ocean overall - Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation cycle

7. Above normal water temperatures in the Atlantic right off of the east coast

8. Arctic Ice Loss

Am I missing any?

Your thoughts.....

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cognitive Biases: Political Ads Feed Them BIG TIME!

One of the hardest things to do is challenge your preconceived notions about any topic. Science, religion, economics...anything, especially politics this time of year.

Our brains are wired a certain way and when facts get in the way of that wiring, it tries to convince itself it isn’t wrong, even when it is. We want to be right; our brain tries to convince us that we are right. We feel conflicted.  We hate randomness. We want order. We rebel. We get emotional. We react impulsively.  All hope for rational thinking fades fast.

Mark Dow's excellent blog post lists 4 of these cognitive biases. How many of these have you succumbed to recently when talking about yourself, science, climate change, politics, foreign policy, the economy, etc?

1.       We overestimate our abilities, our uniqueness, and our objectivity, even more so when under emotional strain. We have all seen the studies: 90% of people say they are above average drivers. Rarely do people think those around them work harder or better than they do. And so on…

2.       We systematically understate the role of ‘random’. We crave order, and we are willing to torture the facts to get there. But sometime things just happen, and sometimes problems don’t have solutions. No fundamental cause, no guilty party, no concrete answers. Moreover, on the up side, when random does break our way it’s appropriated as skill.

3.       People will find a way to believe what they are intended to believe. As the saying goes, “The most dangerous place to stand is in between someone and what they want to believe”. In my experience, it’s hard to overestimate the power of this statement. Starting with the conclusion and reverse-engineering the supporting arguments is central to the human condition and, surprisingly, serves and important role in our evolution.

4.       When presented with points 1, 2, and 3, almost everyone recognizes their validity, but believes at some level that he/she is exempt. The typical reaction is “Yeah, for sure, of course that’s how [other] people act”. It is always easier to see others’ mistakes than one’s own. And this is one of the reasons we have a very hard time changing our cognitive biases. All of us.

All of the political advertisements are geared toward a specific group by catering to that group's cognitiv bias!

What do politicians say ALL OF THE TIME? Mark Dow explains....

1.       I feel your pain. Politicians need to connect, to empathize convincingly. Or, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, they need to be able to fake sincerity.

2.       You deserve more than you are getting, and it is not your fault.

3.       I’m gonna get the bastards who are keeping you down.

Just some interesting thoughts as I read articles on the topics of the day this morning...

What biases do you have? Are they strong? Have you challenged you biases as much as it might not feel right?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Historic Northern Ohio Winds/Lake Erie Waves/Snowfall

Sandy made landfall late yesterday evening along the New Jersey coast.

One image that has gone viral is the security camera photo of water inundating a subway station. Looks like a scene from a movie.

Now the center of Sandy is situated in central Pennsylvania and starting to turn to the north.

Wind gusts on the backside of this storm throughout Ohio reached 68 along the shoreline officially. I have no doubt that the winds hit 70+ at some point. A north wind pushes Lake Erie water into the south shoreline causing mountainous waves. Since Lake Erie is only 50 miles wide, the fetch isn't very long so the distance the air has to travel to push water is limited. Thus, the wave heights have a limit. Given the wind gusts observed, we just about reached that limit late last night and early this morning as the gusts pushed 60-70 mph. 

Here are a series of snapshots of the waves hitting the East 55th street Marina right after sunrise today. To get a sense of proportion, look at our live trucks in the foreground on the other side of the interstate. The truck are around 8-10 feet tall and sit a few hundred feet from the water. Notice how high these waves are compared to the trucks in the foreground.

The other component to this storm is the heavy rain and the colder temperatures to the west.

Slushy snowfall in Mansfield, Willard, Bellevue and Bucyrus where temps dropped into the lower 30s

When will the wind die down? Once the center of circulation moves north into New York, the pressure difference will drop and so will the winds.  Here is the forecast for later this afternoon.
And now the forecast for late Tuesday evening...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Making Landfall

Hurricane Sandy is now making landfall with winds of 90 mph and a central pressure of 940mB, the deepest tropical system to hit New England ever.

I hinted at the strong potential for a system that could produce some damaging winds for northern Ohio last week, The magnitude of this storm was certainly not something I bargained for. Check out the visible satellite which shows the cloud shield as far west as Lake Michigan.

As Sandy moves inland, the pressure differences between the center of the storm and right here in northern Ohio will continue to increase the winds. Reports from the Lorain buoy 16 miles off the Lake Erie shore show 12 foot waves and pressures dropping with gusts nearing 50 mph!


Lake Erie waves will be pushing 20 feet in spots (purple shades) according to this model early tomorrow morning

Hurricane Sandy - Monday Update - Northern Ohio Forecast

If you recall, early last week, we saw the potential for a super storm to develop given the setup over the last several weeks and the resurgence of a tropical storm in the Caribbean. Now this storm is a reality.

We are accustomed to seeing storms on a flat surface like this satellite image above. What is lost in translation are the elements of the storm that stretch from the surface up to the top of the atmosphere. This is where the real development gets going. 

Remember, when visualizing a storm like this, imagine that the hurricane is a wedding cake with multiple layers. Each layer of the cake represents different conditions as you increase in altitude. Moisture condenses, air rises and descends. A hurricane is a big heat engine. Moisture has to evaporate and condense into water droplets for this "heat engine" to survive. Since Sandy has been over above normal water temperatures in the Atlantic for a few days, the hurricane keeps churning along. Based upon the water temperatures and a more favorable environment closer to shore, expect some slight intensification today before it makes landfall.

One buoy forecast near Long Island is calling for 41 foot waves tomorrow morning.

Grand Central Station is a ghost town!

As of 11AM, the pressure is DOWN TO 940mB. For some perspective, this a pressure normally seen in a Category 4 hurricane. The fact that this storm is merging with the east coast trough has widened its size decreasing its overall wind speed but INCREASING ITS WIND FIELD!  Thus the high winds here in northern Ohio and the southern Great Lakes. If this storm were in the open Atlantic, the winds could reach 130-140mph.

Here is a great Ocean City, MD webcam

The latest forecast brings Sandy close to land later this evening; about 6 hours earlier than last night.

Lake Erie along with the other Great Lakes have buoys which have instruments that record weather conditions. The buoy about 16 miles from Lorain has recorded the pressure fall and subsequent increase in wind speed.

Winds in northern Ohio will continue to increase today and tonight. Gusts to 45 today. Gusts approaching 60 tonight and tomorrow as the hurricane heads into central Pennsylvania. The National Weather Service graphics illustrate the wind gusts for Northern Ohio the best for this evening until Tuesday evening.

Lake Erie waves are forecast to reach 20+ feet tonight and early Tuesday. I haven't seen a wave forecast like this in years!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Update: 3 of 3 - Northeast Ohio Impact

In my first Hurricane Sandy impact post, we focused on the impact along the Carolina coast tomorrow (Saturday). In the second impact post, the focus shifted to landfall projections from the Delaware Coast to central New Jersey depending on what computer model you look at. Over the last several days, the European Model has handled the evolution and movement of the storm with impeccable accuracy.

What makes this storm so potentially devastating is the favorable environment its entering. This great animation by Dr. Ryan Maue really shows the tight rotation and energy in the upper levels of the atmosphere which over time will translate to very high winds on the eastern flank of the storm.

You see how the trough becomes "negatively tilted" (meaning that instead of the trough orienting itself north to south, it becomes tilted northwest to southeast). So in essence, the trough due to many different atmospheric processes pulls the tropical system back to the west.

High wind warnings for all of Northern Ohio from Monday afternoon through Tuesday. Wind gusts to 60 are possible

Rainfall has already exceeded 2-3" in much of northern Ohio

Another great animation showing the wide scale nature of the hurricane over the last several days

Google has posted a crisis map for New York City and Long Island.