Heading To Florida

harold-and-betty

Bad time to have a cold. I’m flying this afternoon. Stef and I are heading to Florida to get my parents ready to move. My sister and brother-in-law are already there.

My parents are on their way to Wisconsin where my sister and her family live. There are grandchildren and great grandchildren there too.

It’s a bittersweet move, but it’s necessary. They’re taking an apartment in an assisted living community near Milwaukee. My folks need the reassurance that comes with having help in the building and family nearby.

My sister says it’s an active community. When she visited there were lots of people socializing.

My dad’s already sold the car and their condo. There’ll be a lot more purging this weekend.

Helaine and I went through the same ritual when we moved here from Connecticut. It’s tough. Who wants to throw away all those things you wanted to save. All those memories.

If everything goes according to plan my parents will be in Milwaukee in a few weeks. Winter in Wisconsin is harsh, but they won’t have to deal with it. Nearly everything they need will be footsteps away.

My Wisconsin Fight Song

After the budget tumult in Washington I’d like to think these tiny elections will signal a change in the electorate’s thinking.

I’ve become way too politically obsessed! Six elections were held today in Wisconsin. I am anxiously awaiting the returns. I don’t know any of the candidates. There are no individual issues involved. It’s really bloodsport now–Republicans versus Democrats after collective bargaining for Wisconsin state employees was eliminated earlier this year.

This is the “Steel Cage Death Match” of the early 2011 election season!

I’m usually checking poll numbers around now. There are few to find.

Nate Silver in the NY Times writes:

Most of the polls have either been conducted by partisan groups, have unorthodox methodologies, or both.

After the budget tumult in Washington I’d like to think these tiny elections will signal a change in the electorate’s thinking. Maybe the take-no-prisoners orthodoxy of the most radical political partisans has passed its prime? Maybe not?

I can’t wait to see.

Webinar World

Is there something missing? Yeah. There were probably a dozen others attending, but I had no contact with them at all.

I took my shower and got ready for work early because I had a webinar today. I shouldn’t be excited about this kind of stuff, but I am.

In this case the webinar was from a vendor with some lessons on how to display winter weather. You know, little tips and techniques.

A few years ago I flew to Madison, WI for this same type of lecture. Today it was at the kitchen table. Someone’s saving a lot of money.

The session was hosted on Webex who claims to have an iPod webinar app. I downloaded and tried it, but halfway through it stopped receiving one part of the presentation. It was also very difficult to see small on-screen text on the smaller screen iPhone.

So there’s now an iPhone app I have installed which will probably not be used again.

Is there something missing in webinar world? Yeah. There were probably a dozen others attending, but I had no contact with them at all. At a ‘press-the-flesh’ meeting there’s always time to talk, kvetch and learn from the other attendees.

A friend who was monitoring the session from the vendor’s side sent me a text message. “What would the 20 year ago Geoff think of Geoff today?”

He’d be impressed with the technology and it’s ubiquity. He be amazed by my laptop and iPhone and high speed Internet access–things I could only dream about 20 years ago (and believe me, I did dream about them).

There’s another session Thursday. I’ve already tipped off the guys I work with that this might be a good idea for them too.

Interesting Weather Story

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea

I hadn’t heard about Reid Bryson until I received an email this morning. My partner at work, Dr. Mel Goldstein, knew of his work. Bryson was a pioneer in meteorology.

So much of what academicians look at is theoretical – Ivory Tower stuff. This is a story about practical meteorology, practiced before computers and voluminous data made it easy… even for guys like me… to tackle.

This was forwarded to me by a friend who reads the highly regarded (and impossible to get on) Tropical-storms mailing list:

I have the sad news to report that Professor Emeritus Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin – Madison passed away in his sleep Wednesday morning. Reid founded the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1948 . Although Reid is most well known for his work in Climate,People and the Environment,it is less known that Reid was also a pioneer in tropical meteorology and hurricane forecasting. As U.S. Army Air Corps meteorologist out of Saipan, Marshall Islands during World War II (December, 1944),

Reid pieced together evidence that a typhoon was apparently developing in harms way and commissioned reconnaissance of the storm that he believed surrounding observations suggested must exist in one of the many data void regions. The reconnaissance that he ordered found the storm, encountered 140 kt winds and aborted an apparent eye wall penetration.

Reid then identified a trough of low pressure in the storms path and predicted to his superiors that the storm would recurve into the path of the US Third Fleet. Believing that typhoons never recurve so far to the east, Reid’s superior officers chose to not believe his forecast.

Reid pleaded that this was not a guess, they actually flew into the storm and measured the winds! His superior officers conceded to watch it closely but did not act to move the fleet. Reid tells me that he went so far as to place unofficial warnings (off the record) of his own which he is convinced did save lives.

Then 36 hours later the storm began the recurve, just as Reid predicted and they tried to move the Third Fleet out of the way, but it was now too late.

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea (see Henderson, 2007: Down to the Sea, ISBN978-0-06-117316-5 for a detailed account of this incident).

I suppose that this experience went a long way to shape Reid’s views on conventional thought and to compel him to dedicate the rest of his life to the science of weather and finding truth.

Greg Tripoli

Professor

Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Reports Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Dan Desjardins, from Weather Central in Madison, WI, called me. He was worried, because word was out I’d been fired!

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. -Mark Twain

Though this story starts back in May, I didn’t even know there was a story until yesterday. Dan Desjardins, from Weather Central in Madison, WI, called me. He was worried, because word was out I’d been fired!

A website called tvjobs.com listed me as “on the beach.”

Had they called and asked, or sent an email? No. It’s not like I’m that difficult to find.

I went to see my boss. “Uh, Kirk, have I been fired, but no one’s told me yet,” I asked? He smiled… but it was a good smile.

Truth is, back in the early 70s I received a call from my friend Bob Lacey. He’d heard I’d been fired from my job in Cleveland. Only, it didn’t happen until the next day!

That was a pretty crappy day.

So, how does this happen? In this case tvjobs probably took a shortcut when they saw WTNH’s website change. For some odd reason, my picture disappeared from its page with the other meteorologists.

Our webmaster, Jeff Bailey, said, “Looks to me like it was accidently archived at the end of May.” As big an ego as I have, I don’t look to see my picture on the station’s website. Who knew?

My boss, Kirk Varner, fired off an email.

To whom it may concern at TVJobs.com:

We don’t subscribe to your site, so I can’t verify this personally—but I have it from multiple sources that you are listing WTNH staff meteorologist Geoff Fox as being no longer employed by WTNH (as in “On The Beach”.)

Assuming you are not referring to Mr. Fox’s recreation choices, this information is incorrect and needs to be updated immediately. Mr. Fox is still in the employ of WTNH as he has been in the last 24 years, and a simple check with his employer (that would be me) would have verified this information in less than five minutes.

As I can find no press or internet posting suggesting that Mr. Fox’s employment status has recently changed, perhaps you could also enlighten us as to the source of your information as part of your apology and retraction to both Mr. Fox and this station?

As far as I know, Kirk hasn’t heard back. However, as of today tvjobs requires readers to click through an advisory. Dan, who first brought this to my attention, found this change today. “Now they make you click on a disclaimer about “on the beach” listings before you can look at them. They “clarified” that on-the-beach means the individual has “dropped off the stations web site” And, they’ve changed the text with my photo.

I’ll let you know when my apology arrives. Don’t stay up.

The Snowy Prize

The subject turned to snow and then a little friendly pool the guys were were having. Each threw in $5, with the winner getting the bundle for predicting the January snowfall at Madison’s Dane County Regional-Truax Field Airport.

I am lucky enough to be friendly with a bunch of the service techs at the company we buy our weather equipment from. They are squirreled away in Madison, WI, figuring out ways to make weather a more compelling story on TV.

Last month I was speaking with Bruce, one of those techs, and the subject turned to snow and then a little friendly pool the guys were were having. Each threw in $5, with the winner getting the bundle for predicting the January snowfall at Madison’s Dane County Regional-Truax Field Airport.

I asked in. I know nothing about winter weather in Wisconsin, except it’s cold, windy and snow filled.

My guess was 16″, which led Bruce to post this.

Thought I would give everyone a quick update on the KMSN January snow pool. Geoff Fox jumped in at the last second with a prediction of 16″. So the revised winning snowfall ranges are as follows…

Pat 4.2″, Brian 7.7″, Chris 8.2″ and John and Bruce both picked 8.7″ and Geoff at 16″

So the breakdown is as follows:

5.9″ or less Pat wins

6.0″ – 7.9″ Brian wins

8.0″ – 8.4″ Chris wins

8.5″ – 12.3″ John & Bruce win

12.4″ and higher Geoff wins

After 13 days, KMSN currently stands at 4.5″

My guess was way too high. It was obvious these other (mostly) meteorologists were more attuned to their local climatology than I was.

I sent Bruce $5 via PayPal and forgot about the whole thing until last night. Curious, I fired off an email with just two words: “How bad?”

Smarty pants…you smoked us…everyone else picked less than 10 inches. We are smarting from that.

We got 23.2 inches…which is was the eighth snowiest January on record. December-January of this year was the second snowiest 2-month period in Madison records…which go back to the 1880s. Since we got hit so hard in December, the thinking was that the odds were against back-2-back snowy months. However, La Ninas—if they have any trend at all–tend to make winters over the upper Midwest a bit more potent…whether that be cold or snow…or both.

In forecasting, as in life, it is much more profitable to be lucky than skilful.