Woo-hoo Wind!

December 30, 2008 at 10:11 am

If you read this blog, you know that I am a huge weather geek. Atmospheric Science is not only my profession, but it’s also one of the things I can’t stop talking about (weather and rock climbing!) So last night we had a great weather night!

700mb vertical velocity plot for 12-30-08

A relatively small trough, or cold front, moved over our area, and hit the front range just right to spark an awesome Chinook wind event. Check out these stats!!

Temperature (ºF) Wind Speed (mph) Relative Humidity (%)
temperature plot for 12-30-08 (degrees F) windspeed plot for 12-30-08 (mph) relative humidity plot for 12-30-08 (percent)

These are the weather conditions at the Foothills campus (my building at school) for the last two days. Check it out! Right at midnight, as the action got started, we recorded a wind gust of well over 80 mph!! The temperature spiked to near 60ºF, and hasn’t dropped down below 50ºF yet. And the relative humidity plummeted to around 10%. It’s dry out here anyway, but today I’m feeling like the moisture is being sucked out of my skin.

As I drove into school this morning, there was damage all over town. Tree limbs on the street, trash cans, gas grills, and lawn furniture scattered about, the construction trailer for our new building was laying on its side! Weather is so cool.

Christmas 2008

December 24, 2008 at 2:10 pm

We had a good week of travel through the midwest for our Christmas celebrations this year. It was an interesting holiday, full of bad weather, surprises, happy families, and some difficult times.

An Icy Christmas

We spent the first part of the week with Mark’s family in Fort Wayne, Indiana. On our trip out to Indiana, we hit bitterly cold temps in Iowa. The next morning, the check engine light came on in the yellow truck, and the engine started noticeably miss-firing. We thought we had gotten bad gas, and after looking for an open mechanic shop in eastern Des Moines for about an hour, we just put in some fuel cleaner and drove off. We found out the next day that our ignition coil had shorted, and we got to drop a chunk of change on car repairs in Fort Wayne.

The day before we arrived, northern Indiana had a horrible ice storm, that knocked out power to over 400,000 people in the region. Mark’s parents were lucky, and when we got there, the power was still on. The only pictures I took during the whole trip were of the ice in Mark’s parents’ backyard the day after we arrived. The ice was beautiful, and there’s a small set of pictures in the gallery.

Lots and lots of icicles

The day before Christmas Eve, though, high winds blew through town and a branch dropped on the neighborhood power lines, leaving us in the dark and cold. We lit candles and read or napped for the as snow fell gently outside. My parents were stuck in an ice storm on I-70 in middle Indiana at this point. They spent 5 hours sitting on the interstate that evening.

Icicles on the tree

On Christmas Eve the power was still out, and Mark, Liv and I all headed to Akron Ohio to see my family. We had a fantastic visit with my grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins in the area. Mark’s family continued in the dark and cold for another two days, and their power didn’t come on until about 10pm on the day after Christmas.

We started trekking back west on Friday. Mark’s brother was scheduled to fly out of Fort Wayne early on Saturday morning, but his flight was canceled at the last minute. The family had to drive him two hours south to the Indianapolis airport, where he stayed in a hotel Saturday night and got on a flight Sunday morning. It’s been a year of bad surprises, and it seemed like Christmas was no exception. But the family was together, and celebrating, and we all had a pretty good time regardless.

The 2008 Fall AGU Meeting

December 18, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Every year in December, the American Geophysical Union hosts a meeting in San Francisco. This year, my abstract was accepted, and I presented my work as a poster at the meeting.

The posters took up the entire floor of the Moscone-South building

The meeting is open to all members of AGU, their families and guests, and several vendors and research institutes. It has become more popular in recent years, and this year there were over 16,000 attendees! I’ve never been to a conference so large, and it was a bit overwhelming.

I had a fantastic dinner at Fallon one night

Outside of the conference, I got to spend a little time in San Francisco. I did some shopping in the crowded mall area between the Moscone Center and my hotel. I had one fantastic dinner at a seafood restaurant called Farallon, which was incredible.

Fallon had fantastic, underwater, decore

The place was decorated with tiles and low-hanging lamps that made me feel like I was in Atlantis. I had a Turbot fillet covered in butter and caviar, and it was gooood. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it!

My poster session was over on Friday afternoon, and then I flew home, arriving on time, but late at night. On Saturday morning, we hopped in the car and started our trip to the midwest for Christmas!

Holy Guacomole, It’s COLD Out There!

December 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Temp Graph from CSU

On Saturday, Katy and I went up into Rocky Mountain National Park and did some snowshoeing up to Loch Vale. It was … delightful. I hiked the whole thing in two layers of t-shirt, while carrying many pounds of arctic-worthy gear in my pack (that I used a little at the Loch)

On Sunday the air temps plummeted and inhaling (air) deeply made me cough.

This morning, Mon, my morning dog walk was at -15 degrees F. Thanks Canada for the gift of showing me how much of a wuss I am. Even my dog can’t seem to do more than short walks without picking up her feet and looking at me with a very accusing look as if I forced her to walk. She has never found a set of dog booties that she couldn’t kick off in under 5 minutes. There is exciting news on that front, a coworker has a “bootie retrieval system” composed of an X of elastic cord which is tied to each booty and the X lays (stretches) across the dog’s back. Liv took it for a test drive and it worked. You can expect some hilarious video once I get a similar system rigged.

Quote of the Day

November 20, 2008 at 2:13 pm

So, the blog has been quiet for a while now. Mark and I haven’t been outside much, and I’m focusing on getting this paper submitted at work. Plus, I’m taking a class, Mark’s got a bunch of fun video games, and we’ve been dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Yes, it’s true, our cha-cha-cha kicks butt.

I have some photos laying around that should come up here in the next few days, and we’re heading to Shelf for the weekend. So, hopefully we’ll come back around to the blogosphere soon.

For now, enjoy the weather weenie Quote-Of-The-Day (ala Matt M in my Boundary Layer class):

“So, if convection breaks out over the open ocean, and there are no weather satellites around to see it, does it form hexagons?”

Feel free to mull that bit of metaphysical mystery over. I’ve got a paper to write.

The Boundary Layer is still cool!

October 7, 2008 at 12:31 pm

So, this is an image of upper level stratus over the desert in Southern California from last November (2007). While the large scale flow could be approximated as two dimensional, the mountains and conflicting air masses in the region add in three dimensional turbulence. In class today, we had a lovely derivation of energy cascades in three-dimensional turbulent flows, and I was reminded of a poem we learned in my first year of grad school.

Big whirls have little whirls
that feed on their velocity,
and little whirls have lesser whirls,
and so on, to viscosity!

– L. F. Richardson (1922)

Energy Cascades

So my goal in the next week or so is to make a photo of three dimensional turbulence and energy cascades. It might take a while. The forecast is for generally laminar flow the next few days.

I know, I know. I’m a huge nerd.

The Boundary Layer is Cool!

August 27, 2008 at 11:36 am

It’s fall and back-to-school time! Due to the completion of my master’s thesis last winter, and teaching at Colorado College last spring, I haven’t actually taken any classes in over a year. And it’s been about two years since I took a class for … (dun-dun-dun) … a grade!

Image from Nasa Visible Earth

So, this fall, I’m taking a class called The Atmospheric Boundary Layer, where we’ll spend 16 weeks learning about that thin layer of air that lays between the surface and the rest of the sky above us.

I have had one day of class, and so far, I’m really excited about this class. I’ve known the basics of boundary layer (BL) dynamics for a while, but it will be nice to get an in-depth view. This is a part of the atmosphere that is full of turbulence. It is the part where dust and pollution is swept up, or trapped down inside. It is a place where all of the rules that we’ve learned about planetary flows (geostrophy, rossby numbers, two-dimensional kinetic energy dissipation, etc) don’t necessarily apply, or apply differently. It is the place where all weather essentially comes from, and the thin layer of air that we, as humans, experience daily.

Image from Nasa Visible Earth

On the first day of classes, the prof got us all jazzed up by looking at a series of pictures showing the importance of boundary layer processes, and in the course of this, he quickly explained something that has been beautiful and mysterious to me about the sky. When I fly, I often see clouds forming in the early afternoon. They almost always seem to form on a kind of grid, with long rows of clouds stretching out to the horizon like those in the pictures here. These are, I now know, called cloud streets, and they are formed when three dimensional convection (think warm moist air rising, forming a cloud, and cooler dry air sinking around it) is organized by the large-scale wind above the BL. So, effectively, you are seeing that thin line where the air which is mixed up by the surface is meeting the smooth flowing air above it. And the clouds all line up.

So, getting back to classes is fun. Learning is something I will never stop loving. And the sky is a beautiful and amazing thing.

Storms Passing

Big Big Storms

August 17, 2008 at 4:56 pm

It’s finally starting to dry out a bit here. I took advantage of the wet weekend and spent two days stocking up the freezer with fresh farm food from our CSA and markets around the area. I’ll be happy right now if I never see another summer squash.

Wall Cloud

Last Thursday, I was dropping off food at D-Liz’s house when the NWS came over the radio and declared a severe thunderstorm warning for our area. This was pretty obvious, because the clouds heading my way were huge, dark, swirling, ominous walls of doom.

There’s pictures in the gallery.

The wall cloud spins above me

It hailed for a good 20 minutes at Liz’s place. We sat and watched the little ice bullets shoot out of the sky and destroy her garden.

The hail lasted for almost half an hour. It accumulated in drifts nearly six inches deep in Liz’s back yard and around my tires. All of the leaves were stripped off of her lovely garden plants and splattered on the fence surrounding. It was the bad start to three days of steady summer rain. Ah, August.

The tomato plant is in really bad shape