Crazy Weather — Last Minute Changes

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The Palm Springs area is known for it’s beautiful weather, especially now during ‘the season.’ For most, today was no exception. For some it was nuts!

I planned on showing a telescopic image of last night’s asteroid fly-by. It’s cool show-and-tell. I got to do that at five, but it was quickly pushed off my agenda.

My forecast yesterday called for moderate to strong winds this afternoon. By 4:30 police had closed Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs because of reduced visibility in blowing sand! I quickly worked up a graphic showing the gusts tonight.

As we went to air (and the road reopened) I got a photo of what looked like a funnel cloud. I hurriedly pushed that into my TriCaster and aired it a few minutes later.

It was probably a landspout. Conventional tornadoes come from mature storm cells. Landspouts are weak tornadoes that form early as storms are building.

This evening I got the video you see at the bottom of this entry. It’s the landspout near Desert Center (population around 150), a rural community surrounded by sandy wilderness. I showed it briefly at 9:00 and will feature it again at 11:00.

The landspout was unexpected, unforecast and unseen by Doppler radar! Luckily, It did no harm. It made for great TV.

How Random Is Life?

minorplanetcenter.net neo view date 2457133.84 label 2015 HD1 packed_desig K15H01D

A little asteroid just whizzed by Earth. Not terribly large. Estimates say 20-60 feet long. 2015 HD-1 is one of billions of rocks randomly orbiting the Sun. Tonight it came really close to us.

With asteroids, astronomers calculate the object’s closest distance from Earth and compare that with our distance from the Moon. 2015 HD-1 was only .17 LD (Lunar distances) from our planet. Roughly 40,000 miles.

Astronomers have only known about this interplanetary speck a few days. An automated sky search run by the University of Arizona found it first. It was magnitude 20.1. Very dim.

Sixty feet long isn’t enough to do the Earth in. A sixty footer would probably break up in the atmosphere. Much of it would burn, but plenty of large rocky fragments would fall to earth. And there’d be a destructive sonic boom.

When an asteroid exploded over Siberia a few years it was flying glass from the sonic boom that injured nearly 1,500.

We didn’t know it existed until Saturday. How random is life?

A Definite Maybe

rtwrfdomainsSince last Wednesday I’ve been talking about the chance of the Palm Springs area getting a few sprinkles this Thursday. In most places caring about an iffy forecast for a tiny event so far in advance would be a non-starter. Not so in the desert where long time residents look forward to our few cloudy days!

So, here we are Monday. This is the sixth day since rain was first mentioned. I’m barely closer to knowing than I was then!

First, an admission. Without supercomputers no one could attempt a seven or eight day forecast. The atmosphere’s just too complex. But computer’s have shortcomings. I use the GFS model this far out.

The entire globe is covered by the GFS at a base horizontal resolution of 18 miles (28 kilometers) between grid points, which is used by the operational forecasters who predict weather out to 16 days in the future. Horizontal resolution drops to 44 miles (70 kilometers) between grid point for forecasts between one week and two weeks.

One point every 18 miles! At that resolution mountains disappear. Everything becomes a coarse approximation.

Later today Thursday will be seen in the much higher resolution CANSAC (California and Nevada Smoke and Air Committee) WRF model. CANSAC’s WRF only sees out 72 hours, but with 2km (1.2 mile) resolution.

For the geekiest reading, here’s the hardware CANSAC uses to run the WRF.

The CANSAC WRF real-time forecast system is operated on an SGI® ICE 8200 high-performance computer. Specifications are:

256 cores (Intel Xeon X5570)
384 GB RAM memory
20 TB disk space.

In the interim lots of human expertise is needed. The mountains west of the Coachella Valley are critically important. The models might not resolve them well, but I have to. They are a major reason we see less than six inches of rain in an average year (just over two inches since this year’s ‘wet’ season began in October).

I said Wednesday the coast was much more likely to see rain than Palm Springs. That still holds true.

If we get anything it will be tiny. In the desert that’s enough to perk ears.

Experimenting in the Studio

Full Reset 33

Having a television studio in my home allows me to experiment when I get the urge. That’s what happened last night.

My control room, a Tricaster Mini, has a virtual set feature built in. With a camera and green wall you can insert the ‘talent’ in the middle. Hit a button and my non-zooming camera zooms in. It all looks so real even though none of what you see with me is with me!

That’s the problem. If there’s one thing wrong with the virtual sets, they look too good. Too expensive. Too expansive. Unbelievable because they look unaffordable.

More to explore. More to learn.

I poked my head out tonight and told Helaine, “It’s pretty cool to have a studio in the garage.”

She agreed.

Rain’s A Big Deal Here

Meteogram Generator

We do a seven day forecast at KMIR. Yesterday I mentioned Day Eight. It got a shout out (as Day Seven) again tonight. That’s because there’s rain forecast next Thursday.

The actual value to rain in the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs area) is debatable. We average less than six inches per year. The majority of our water comes from an underground aquifer. It would be long gone if not supplemented by water piped in from Parker Dam on the Colorado River. Rainfall seeping down is a small piece of our specific puzzle.

Nature doesn’t provide nearly enough to support our population and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who arrive every week during the season.

Whether rainwater helps or not, people in the valley value it. Mentioning rain here is like mentioning snow in New England. It grabs your attention.

If you break down next Thursday’s rain forecast over Palm Springs, it comes to .06″. Tiny. Hardly noticeable.

A forecast for that small amount of liquid a week away is chancy at best, especially when you throw in:

EARLY NEXT WEEK A GULF OF ALASKA LOW WILL DEEPEN OVER THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST AND SEND A SERIES OF SHORTWAVES DOWN THE WEST COAST AND ACROSS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WEDNESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. THIS UNUSUAL APRIL PATTERN WOULD BRING A DECENT CHANCE AT PRECIPITATION IF WERE TO UNFOLD. BUT THIS PATTERN HAS BEEN FORECAST SEVERAL TIMES THIS WINTER AND HAS EITHER 1) SUBSTANTIALLY WEAKENED OVER TIME OR 2) FAILED TO MATERIALIZE AT ALL. FOR NOW WILL HOLD ON TO A SLIGHT CHANCE FOR PRECIPITATION FOR THE MIDDLE AND LATER STAGES OF NEXT WEEK. – Area Forecast Discussion NWS San Diego

Wish us luck. It will get my attention on every newscast.

What I Got Wrong About Weather From My Home Studio

IMAG2555Helaine came down to my studio last night at 2:30 AM. She was wondering why I hadn’t come upstairs to change out of my suit. I was working on maps and a few tech modifications.

Nothing major. I was motivated, so I stayed and did it.

If I was working at ‘work’ I’d have thought about it in the car. It would have been done today… maybe.

IMAG2557With the studio at home and everything close at hand I find myself doing bits and pieces of job related chores when it’s convenient. As my Facebook friends know, that’s often while I’m still in PJs.

That was the case at 1:30 this afternoon when I started prepping a few maps for tonight.

Being at home certainly cuts down on commute time, but I’m not working fewer hours. I got this part of telecommuting from my home studio wrong. No complaints. It works better this way.