Sultry Summer Nights

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You’ve heard of people who can sight read music? I can sight read weather observations.

Currently in New Haven it’s 73&#176 with a dew point of 70&#176. Relative humidity calculates out to 90%. I instinctively understand how that feels.

Bridgeport is 73/70, New London 70/68, Chester, Meriden and Brainard are all 72/70. Sticky.

The map above shows dew point and relative humidity at 11:00 PM EDT. I remember nights like tonight. Like living in a warm wet towel.

It’s not raining everywhere in Connecticut, but again, I remember nights like this. Even where there’s no rain falling it’s moist.

Visibility is down. Not fog as much as clouds and mist.

I liked sultry summer nights. Another thing to miss.

I Sure Talk About The Weather A Lot

I talk about the weather so much because of how shockingly different it is. It’s much better than I hoped for–and I knew the numbers. Granted, this was an exceptional winter.

Most easterners think of a warm climate and think Florida. It has a humidity based economy! The Los Angeles/OC/San Diego corridor is dry. Our dew point hits 60 a few times a year and then briefly.

I posted this on Facebook Thursday afternoon:

On the patio. We went to 101 today, but with 4% humidity. Down to 81, but very comfy w/little breeze and low humidity. A/C now off.

The comments started flooding back. There’d be more, but some people are bothered by all the notifications you get when you comment on my wall. I hate that too&#185.

One Facebook friend said:

Something fun and funny about your casual weather posts.

I talk about the weather so much because of how shockingly different it is. It’s much better than I hoped for–and I knew the numbers. Granted, this was an exceptional winter.

Most easterners think of a warm climate and think Florida. It has a humidity based economy! The Los Angeles/OC/San Diego corridor is dry. Our dew point hits 60 a few times a year and then briefly.

A typical winter has no cold, no snow and little gloom. Nearly all our rain falls in winter. Rainy days in SoCal cause the same tumult as Connecticut snow days.

Low humidity and relentless sunshine are our two most obvious pluses. Top-10 Chamber of Commerce days back in New England are every days here! Sky blue. Birds chirping.

My concept of temperature has to be re-calibrated. 100&#176 feels more like 85&#176.

We moved for the weather (and there’s that little thing of proximity to the child). We got what we wanted and then some.

&#185 – If you comment on my blog you won’t get notifications unless you ask for them.

The Santa Ana’s Have Arrived

Other areas get winds like this, the Chinook east of the Rockies for instance, but SoCal has the largest concentration of affected residents.

The dew point stayed in the teens all day with the relative humidity hovering near 5%. Someone posted a photo on Facebook reminding everyone nosebleed season is here!


Hot day. Hot night. We officially hit 97&#176 at John Wayne. The Santa Ana’s were blowing. They are dry winds–katabatic winds. Katabatic winds warm as they sink from higher elevations.

Other areas get winds like this, the Chinook east of the Rockies for instance, but SoCal has the largest concentration of affected residents.

The dew point stayed in the teens all day with the relative humidity hovering near 5%. Someone posted a photo on Facebook reminding everyone nosebleed season is here!

We didn’t run the a/c. I was very tempted. Maybe tomorrow.

This room, my office, catches afternoon sun. It holds heat longest. The overhead fan is silently spinning. Fans make a big difference, especially here where evaporation needs little prodding.

As moisture on your skin evaporates you feel cooler. In humid climates where evaporation takes place more slowly the same temperature leaves you feeling warmer!

Today’s heat index was actually 5-6&#176 cooler than the air temperature. On the East Coast that’s unheard of.

Santa Ana’s also raise the fire danger.

There are a few more days of this weather coming. Trust me, I’m not complaining.

Is It Ever Not Perfect Out?


I’m not going to lie. It’s January 14th. It’s sunny. It’s 87&#176!

Are you kidding me? We’ve already blown through the forecast high.

I have one of my office windows open. There’s a cool breeze. No need for a/c.

It doesn’t seem logical. 87&#176 and a cool breeze simultaneously.

This is where the dew point comes in, it’s 4&#176. The relative humidity is 4%. Exceptionally dry.

The dry breeze evaporates moisture on your skin, which cools you and makes this temperature very comfortable.

Yes, this weather is unusual. 81&#176 was today’s record at John Wayne Airport. It’s been smashed.

There are serious implications from our dry weather. Most of California is already water challenged. And, of course, fire danger is high at a time of year fire season should be done.

BuzzFeed’s home page currently has an entry titled: “19 Questions New Yorkers Ask When Visiting Los Angeles” Number 18: Is it ever not perfect out?

So far, no.

Finals Finished

I took my finals in Thermodynamics and Weather Prediction I early this morning. During the spring and fall semesters there’s a quiz due at noon every Wednesday, an extra homework test every third Wednesday and the midterm and final right after weeks six and twelve respectively.

I wasn’t worried about these tests, though I’m always interested in doing well – accomplishing for accomplishment’s sake.

I continue to surprise myself by the very strong, built-in desire I have to put the tests off as long as I can. They became available to take this weekend, but I waited. Then, last night when I cam home from work, I waited some more. I didn’t begin the first test until almost 2:00 AM.

The power to procrastinate, push it back more-and-more, sometimes seems more powerful than my conscious will. I’m not quite sure why. I wasn’t scared of these tests. Even in the courses I’ve been most confident in, I’ve still been motivated to be non-motivated on test night.

Before the test in Weather Prediction I actually calculated what I’d need to get an “A”. All I needed was a 73%. Even that knowledge, that I didn’t have to do well to do well, didn’t speed me along.

There’s not a lot about my college or high school days I remember, but I’m sure this little character quirk didn’t just spring up in time for Mississippi State. Back then I just didn’t fight it as well – much to my detriment.

With these two finals, my MSU career is now 8/9s complete. All I need are two course this summer (May 16 through the end of July), a three day trip to Alabama&#185 for some in-class seminars, and I’m done.

I will ‘officially’ become a meteorologist. That doesn’t mean I’ll be doing anything markedly different than I had in the past, I’ll just have the title.

Going to school has been more trying because of the discipline needed to complete everything on time rather than the difficulty of the course work. Maybe just as important, I’ve learned a lot about the procrastinator in me. He is persistent, but can be overcome.

I never knew that until now.

&#185 – For some reason MSU makes its students trek to Birmingham, Alabama at the end of their three years. I really wish we could have gone to Starkville, MS so I could have seen the school at least once.

School Day Blues

I was up until a little after 5:00 AM taking my two quizzes and two tests at Mississippi State.

I am still finding the thermodynamics course tough. I got an 88% last night, but should have done better. Eight of the points I lost, I lost stupidly on questions I probably knew. My fault.

For both of my two course, this last week is critically important. The quizzes I took are worth less than a point on my final grade, but the tests are 7.5% and next week’s final is 30% of my final grade. So, nearly 40% of my final grade will be decided over a very short period of time.

Why am I anguishing over these grades? No one will ever see them. Yet I do anguish.

The tests are timed, the quizzes are not, which last night almost led to a sticky situation. As I was finishing a quiz, getting set to move to a test, I pressed the button to register my answer and… nothing. I tried again with the same result.

I went upstairs to see the ‘cable’ light on my cable modem off. Comcast was doing something (probably maintenance of some sort. It was 3:45 AM) affecting my service.

If this had happened five minutes later, I would have been in the timed test – and screwed. There are lots of ‘no exceptions’ admonitions on the course websites.

I waited a half hour or so, writing a note asking Helaine to make sure I was up this morning early enough to finish my work before the noon deadline. Just before I went back to bed, I looked and the light was back on.

Sometime before Wednesday I’ll take my two finals and be done with it… only to start up again May 16th. This summer semester, a shortened period with the same number of classes, quizzes and tests, is the end of the line for me.

I’ve found lots of the work interesting, though some of what I’ve done was trivial or needless. There is much too much emphasis on severe weather (thunderstorms and tornadoes) and not enough on the challenges a forecaster faces on a daily basis.

Up All Night

I finally went to sleep around 6:30 this morning. It was test/quiz night for Mississippi State and, as always, I waited until the last minute.

This is so thoroughly ingrained in me. If there was one thing I could change, this might be it – my Achilles heel – the terrible habit I have of putting things off. I don’t blow them off, because I’ve made every assignment on time. I’m just never early.

OK – There was a time, a few weeks ago when we were going to California, that I finished my assignments a week early because I was unsure if I could do them on the road. Even then, I waited until the last possible moment the night before we left.

Last night’s big test was in Thermodynamics – the toughest course I’ve ever taken. It was a ‘homework test.’ That means the test questions were a subset of the homework. Do the homework and fill in that answer when it comes up on the test… if it’s on the test.

Early on I could just do the homework as I took the test, and as the clock ticked. These courses demand a little more work.

A large part of last night’s work dealt with Skew-t charts. These are oddball graphs used to visualize the atmosphere above a specific place at a single time. Click here if you’re geeky enough to see an example!

As part of my course material this year I was required to buy a giant plastic Skew-t chart. It came shipped in a cylindrical container. Even now I still have to tape it to the table to keep it from curling up during use. I write on it with erasable markers.

I watched the lectures and thought I knew what to do. But, when I came to the first question, I looked at the Skew-t with that quizzical, head slightly cocked look a dog gives when it’s unsure what to do.

Finally, after hours, I got the hang of it. I suppose that’s the goal of the course.

Here’s the problem. I will use this Skew-t chart as often as my pharmacist grinds his own medicines with a morter and pestle! Sure, I use Skew-t’s, and will continue to use them, but they’re computer generated – and much faster and better than I could ever do it.

This is a recurring theme of my higher education. Much of what we do, or learn, is only important to academicians. There is little practical purpose, or the practical purpose has been trumped by technology.

There’s another thing I’ve noticed. It is nearly impossible for school to keep up with the advancements of the ‘real’ world. We are being taught about some technologies and techniques that have become outmoded. These changes only happened in the last few years, but students leaving my school will be surprised that some of what they learned is old news, even as they’re walking out the door.

Loose Ends

As vacation approaches there are always loose ends that need to be tied up. Stef got her hair cut. Helaine had errands to run. I went to see why we were getting a tax bill for a car that we got rid of in late 2003.

First a word to the out-of-staters reading this. Connecticut is unusual in what gets taxed and how. When I moved here in 1984, there was no income tax. Connecticut was a tax haven. Trust me – no more.

Along with the normal property taxes a homeowner pays, Connecticut goes one step further. You pay property tax on your car. Like real property taxes, it’s assessed at a ‘fair market value’ and then a percentage is lopped off that.

Why? I don’t know. It’s ridiculous because the next step is to apply the ‘mill rate’, making any adjustments somewhat arbitrary.

Here’s what I learned today. The Assessor’s Office is different that the Tax Collector’s Office. They’re both involved in the process, but sort of like opposite arms on a dysfunctional body.

This is not to say the people in both offices weren’t very nice. They were. Nor am I implying they weren’t very helpful. They were. It’s the system that’s somewhat out of whack.

It took a nice man in the Assessor’s Office the better part of twenty minutes to explain what this bill was about. Then we went through it step by step with a calculator. It was correct. It just didn’t make sense the first ten times he explained it, and I was really trying to understand.

You may ask, as I did (to myself, under my breath) why these calculations weren’t spelled out on the bill? How come an explicit explanation of what was being billed wasn’t included? Why did the bill imply it was all about a car I don’t have, when that’s a very small part of the whole story.

It’s not like my time with these town officers was free. Every moment I spend with them is time they can’t do something more important.

Anyway, tax bill under control. Check in the mail.

Back home we’re nearly ready for tomorrow’s getaway. The suitcases, each weighed for maximum stuffosity, line the upstairs hallway. If I can borrow one of those harnesses all the folks at Home Depot wear, I’ll run them down the stairs and into Helaine’s car for the trip to the airport.

I still have to take a quiz for my Thermodynamics class (I am doing anything I can to put this off… like writing this blog entry) and pack my electronics.

By the time my carry-on bag goes through security, the x-rays will imply I’m someone who just pulled off a huge heist at Circuit City. Taking off my shoes will be the least of my problems.

Current Connecticut temperature: 33&#176

Current Los Angeles temperature: 63&#176

Beyond Midterms

I’ve been reading the bulletin board for my thermodynamics class. You can ‘hear’ the angst as my fellow students write about their midterm grades. Another brutal test.

Though I’ve been doing very well, I commiserate. The course is difficult. The tests are worse.

This is pretty representative of what’s been posted:

Upon taking the midterm, did anyone else get the feeling that, “It wasn’t that I didn’t study, but I guess I studied the wrong stuff”? I must have spent a total of three hours trying to grasp Entropy, and my edition of the midterm didn’t contain one question about the concept.

As it stands now, at least half the class is in jeopardy of flunking or not getting a sufficient grade to receive certification. It’s tough to watch that happen after 7.5 semesters of a 9 semester course. We really are approaching the home stretch.

Meteorologists, graduates of on-site meteorology schools, often complain about the MSU online curriculum – how it’s not up to par. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is a very trying course of study. As prep for on-camera weather people (which is its primary purpose) it is so far beyond what is necessary as to be laughable.

I’m glad I’m taking it. I’ll do well. Unfortunately, the certificate I’ll get when I’m done, and the AMS seal I’ll try and get after that, really don’t answer the questions they claim to ask.

The AMS used to give a seal to broadcasters solely based on their on-air performance. Is it scientifically correct? Does it properly serve the public?

That has changed. The seal now is just a way to lessen the competition by those who already have it. It’s really the Meteorologists Full Employment Act of 1980.

Pulling My Hair Out Over School

Now in my 8th semester at Mississippi State, I have settled into a routine. Two weeks of quizzes, a third week with quizzes and tests. Then, every six weeks a monster midterm or final.

The every three week quiz/test night is the toughest for me. This test is based on homework. You’re supposed to have the answers before you take the test. It is the hardest. The questions are the most demanding.

Last night was one of those/quiz test nights – two of each. I had already watched my lectures and done most of the reading before I got home at midnight. My forecasting course is easy. The thermodynamics course is unbelievably hard… the toughest course I’ve taken in a school career that goes back to 1955 (though not continuously).

I didn’t get finished until 6:15 this morning. I was exhausted. I was unsure of how I had done.

Early this afternoon I went online to see my grades. I did pretty well, but I was amazed to see how the class did as a whole. The graph on the left represents our grades. Some of the thermo questions were answered correctly by fewer than half the class. Ouch.

What strikes me as troubling is, this is a class made up of motivated students. I doubt anyone said, “let me take thermo for fun.” They’re here because they have a specific goal and this course is required. Many of my classmates are adults already working in the field.

There are minimum grades that must be attained, above the normal pass/fail, to get credit for this course in the meteorology certification process. It’s a course that’s a requirement and not given again until next year.

The midterm is next week. This is not a case of fond anticipation.

Going To School From Home

I am now in my eighth of nine semesters of broadcast meteorology at Mississippi State University. Other than driving through, I’ve never been to Mississippi. Even then, I’ve never been to Starkville&#185, home of MSU.

Of all the school courses I’ve ever taken, going all the way back to 1955, I am currently taking the toughest – Thermodynamics. It’s heavy on theory, often using examples that don’t or can’t exist in the real world.

I’ve always been good at looking a theoretical problems from a real world perspective and using that to shape my understanding. So far in this course, that doesn’t work.

I will pass this course. In fact, I hope to do well in this course. The first homework test was a killer – exceptionally tough. Because it was a homework test, I had unlimited amounts of time to formulate my answers to the questions before I opened up the timed portion, I was able to get a 96%.

Trust me, it was still crushingly difficult. I’m petrified about the midterm which is timed but without the opportunity to answer the questions in advance.

This is one course where there would be an obvious benefit to being in a classroom where I could raise my hand and say, “What the hell are you talking about?” Getting my lectures on DVD makes that impossible.

I’m not sure where my knowledge of thermodynamics will lead. There is probably a good purpose for this which will become obvious later… or not. Sometimes a school’s curriculum just doesn’t make sense. The academic and professional worlds are often far apart.

I have become more sensitive to this course and others I’ve taken, because of a proposed law in Texas. I’m not going to fool you, this proposition is already dead. Still, the fact that someone tried to push it through is pretty upsetting to me.

A Keller lawmaker’s bill regulating TV weathercasters stirred up a whirlwind of opposition in Austin. But the dust-up between scientists and TV personalities hasn’t lost speed and may show up soon on a radar screen near you.

Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, triggered a gust front when she sponsored a bill requiring math and science college studies before a person can use the title of meteorologist.

Under this proposed legislation, my 53 college level credits in meteorology and related subjects would mean nothing! Behind the scenes, it looks like this was pushed by a degreed meteorologist who didn’t feel my coursework was enough… and probably didn’t want to compete with the likes of me.

There is no doubt I am a biased observer. However, I can say absolutely, this course will give me enough knowledge to call myself a meteorologist and much more knowledge than I’ll ever need to be on TV. It was actually devised to pass the scrutiny of the American Meteorological Society and their Broadcast Seal program. Like academia, the AMS is also sometimes out of touch with the professional world.

When I first started the course, my wife asked if I had learned anything new. When I said yes, she asked, “How important could it be if you didn’t need it for the last 20 years?”

This summer, after all my courses are finished, I will head to Birmingham, AL&#178. Birmingham in August – pinch me.

After a few days of on-site seminar lectures I will be done with my schooling. Hopefully no one else will make an end around and try to change the rules.

&#185 – Here’s a town name right up there with Marblehead, MA and Peculiar, MO. Starkville is, I would assume, the opposite of Pleasantville. At some point someone looked at what surrounded him and the best word to describe it was, “stark!” Or, it’s named after someone whose last name was Stark… though my explanation is so much more fun.

&#178 – Birmingham is being used because of the size of our group. In some ways I’m disappointed. Who wants to finish their college career without once seeing the campus?

I Really Don’t Want To Talk About It Now

The Super Bowl is over. The Eagles lost. It is sad for the Fox family.

We sat together through most of the game. When things got somewhat out of control in the 4th quarter, Helaine went upstairs to watch by herself with the sound turned down. We all got back together after the Eagles brought it within three points. It was too late.

I’m sure I’ll have something to say later. Right now, I’m going to try and concentrate on happier things… like watching a lecture in my thermodynamics course.