It’s Not Just the Beach!

June 27, 2010

The broadcaster’s conference is all over now, plenty of time left to sit in the airport and blog.  Now you might think this is just a travel junket for the tv weatherman…not quite the case, in spite of the great view out the window.  By the way, the ocean is 85 degrees, and when you get out you don’t even get briefly chilled!  That never happens in Oregon, even on the hottest summer day.  It is a hot and sweaty climate, which I don’t like; however, it’s real nice in the early mornings and the evenings when the sun goes down.  Warm breezes after dark are great, and a walk along that beach path at 7am was wonderful as well.  I suppose that’s why they invented the Siesta?

Yesterday was the  field trip to AOML and NHC/TPC.  The first was the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.  That’s a sister research organization to PEML in Seattle.  They do lots of different things.  They explained how hurricane research is done (they get 700 hours/year of flying time for example).  The little  dropsondes that are dropped into the hurricane to get all sorts of meteorological data from NOAA aircraft?  $700 a pop!  Something akin to those $600 toilet seats.  There was also a talk about water quality and how that’s going to change in the future…the 3rd stop was a global map showing how we are finally just now beginning to study/understand our oceans and their affect on weather.  Consider that 3/4 of the globe’s surface is covered by water and until recently there was very little in the way of instrumentation.  Now there are thousands of buoys, drifting buoys, ARGO instruments and ship reports coming in daily from all over the globe.

Then it was on to the National Hurricane Center.  This is THE spot you see on newscasts and The Weather Channel when storms threaten the USA.  Pretty neat to actually sit in the chair the NHC folks use for all their national live shots.  There’s a blurry image here of my hind end trying it out.  They sat all 150 television meteorologists down and there was a question/answer session with Bill Read, the director of the NHC.  Real personable guy running a very critical part of the NWS.  Here’s something for you…have you ever heard that Anthropogenic Global Warming would cause more and stronger hurricanes in the future?  Not quite true.  Research shows that that actual NUMBER of tropical cyclones may actually go DOWN with a warming ocean/climate.  The reason is models forecast stronger shear in the tropics which would tend to inhibit formation.  However, storms would likely be a bit stronger…one study says 3% higher windspeeds.  So no, there is no forecast of “catastrophic” storms in the future.  That was interesting.  Also, they really want TV meteorologists to focus more on the storm surge…that’s the big killer.  For example in Hurricane IKE (Galveston/Houston), the surge went 40-60 miles inland up the ship channel.  People down there assume they’ll be just fine if they live a few miles inland.  Of course none of this affects us, but good info.

There was a talk yesterday about future  satellite improvements.  The current line of GOES satellites is about to come to an end.  Or more accurately, the first of a new series of satellites will be launched in a couple years.  They will have more sensors, higher resolution (both spatially and temporal).  For example, the current 1km visible imagery will go down to 1/2 km!  4km IR imagery will go down to 2km.  Water Vapor will improve as well.  Right now we get 15  minute imagery from each goes satellite; that will improve to 5 minutes.  Those satellite loops are going to get smoother.  The one big change will be a new optical lightning sensor.  Not sure how, but for the first time lightning will be detected from orbit.  That’s cloud to cloud (don’t know about cloud-ground).  So we’ll be able to see lightning strikes over the ocean and remote areas.  That should be neat with our incoming Pacific systems.

Alright, that’s all for now, about time to head home.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen