Severe weather forecast is borne out in the UK

The British Isles have been experiencing severe weather this week – a ‘bomb cyclone’ was forecast – this is defined as an extra-tropical cyclone that drops by 24 millibars within 24 hours. This Washington Post weather gang post features an animation that shows the cyclone forecast as moving from coastal Canada to Scotland, and you can see the drop in pressure to 943mb. The forecast pressure and wind map shows the cyclone with an occluded front off the coast of Scotland.

So what actually happened? The BBC reports that there has been snow, and gales with winds up to 80 miles per hour. A tornado and lightning strikes were reported for western Wales, schools were closed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and mid-Wales, and various transportation was disrupted all over. There are great photographs on this site – this one is my favorite!

Bus skidded on ice in Wattstown, Rhondda A bus skidded on ice in Wattstown, Rhondda – in Wales

National Weather Service testing for message simplification

The US National Weather Service has a notice requesting people listen/watch a broadcast and then provide feedback – in an attempt to simplify – or clarify – the hazard warning terminology they use. Check it out here:

They currently use Watch – Warning – Advisory. Watch could become ‘potential’ as in “THE NWS FORECASTS THE POTENTIAL FOR ____”

Advisory could become, “THE NWS ADVISES CAUTION FOR ____”

Warning remains warning, but is couched in more obvious language, e.g. “THE NWS HAS ISSUED A WARNING FOR A DANGEROUS______”

They are looking for feedback; you are educated and could provide it! Go take a look through the website and complete the survey!

Locust Swarm in N Africa/Middle East

Locust swarms are natural biological events – and one is spreading across parts of Egypt right now. This report describes 20 swarms, each of about 80 million locusts – where a single swarm can eat up to 100,000 tons of crops. That could mean famine or huge quantities of imported grains, potentially raising the price of grains worldwide.

Locusts are like giant grasshoppers, but they can fly, and they sometimes group together into these enormous swarms.

Aerial spraying of pesticide is the main preventative treatment for them (The Guardian)

Locusts land on a sand dune in Negev Desert, southern Israel on Tuesday.


Asteroid 2012 DA14

UPDATE: JPL is ‘streaming live’ at – so you could watch this asteroid fly past! It comes closest at 19.25 GMT (time in London, 5 hours ahead of us, so 2.25pm for us). If you look at the time stamp on this video you’ll notice that it is GMT.

Very easy to follow discussion and video on the BBC here


Check out this simple animation of the orbit of the asteroid (2012 DA14) that will come close to earth next Friday – Feb 15:

You can make it move by using the slider at the bottom of the animation, or by clicking on the arrows below: single arrow > advances one day at a time (see date) – double arrows animates it for continuous motion. Best viewed zoomed in from the default!

Earth’s orbit is clear in white. The asteroid orbit is blue, changing color as it traverses earth’s orbit. You can extend well in to the future if you change from Day to longer time periods and let it run!

You can check out NASA’s Near Earth Object Program here where you can see press releases and other information about NEOs. This page has all the ‘close approaches’ indicated!

Washington Post has a diagram, news story and shows another (in my opinion not so good) animation, all here.

Land use planning example

Governor Cuomo has suggested that New York State would be willing to spend up to $400 million on purchase of homes that were destroyed by hurricane Sandy… this is a good example of the state FORCING land use planning. Many people don’t want to give up their homes, so it isn’t a totally popular idea; however, from a ‘preparation for sea level rise and the next hurricane’ stand point, it is excellent planning.

New York Times article

Huffington Post article

Newsday article


Earthquakes this week…

I really liked this video I found on YouTube:

It starts with the ‘quake in Japan yesterday – preliminary magnitude 6.9 – very deep under land, so no tsunami warning – then goes into how many earthquakes greater than 6 during this last week… and then those greater than 4.0 elsewhere in the world.

Remember, there is, on average, a moment magnitude 6.6 earthquake every single week…

The narrator then goes on the make some predictions, and talks about preparation for an earthquake… interesting. If you were to use any of this material in a paper, I would argue that you need to know who the author is, and what his qualifications are – you are looking for any obvious bias. Having been to the website of the author, Dutchsinse, I cannot easily find any educational or occupational information. However, he is reporting things that have happened, he quotes the USGS, his facts are correct.

The USGS site is always worth looking at:

You can change the setting to have it show ‘significant’ ‘quakes, or those greater than 2.5, for varying time periods. There was a 7.5 off Alaska yesterday… you can read all about it here



Avalanche, Kashmir/Pakistan (?) – buries over 100

This is an unusual event – avalanches are generally remote, meaning that few people live/work/play in areas prone to avalanche. It is believed to be the biggest loss of live due to avalanche to date. Pakistani troops were camped near the Siachen glacier in the disputed region of Kashmir, between India and Pakistan. Surely, the reason for some many burials and presumed deaths is that avalanche conditions developed overnight?? The avalanche occurred at 6 am local time; it is described as “very massive”…  a rescue mission has been launched, although this is a difficult area to reach.

Read the BBC article here.

‘landslide repairs to beging this spring’ at Austin Ridge, Stafford Co.

I thought you should see this article – which was published on Saturday, March 17, in the local Fred newspaper The Free Lance-Star

It tells of the families who own the two houses – the main one was bought in 2003 and suffered a failure – so that a retaining wall was built – in 2005. A geotechnical study indicates that the hillside had ‘marginal stability’ before it was developed. The report includes the quote, “We believe that the slope was designed utilizing an insufficient factor of safety,” (Froehling & Robertson Inc.)

Right now, movement has stopped – tilt meters have been installed to measure movement. The plan is to rebuild the slope with gabions – mesh crates filled with rocks, so allowing water to flow through them, with layered sediments on top (I imagine coarser – getting finer – as it goes up). I assume some grading of the slope will also occur, though that might be limited by the stream behind the homes.

Pretty timely, though.

Solar Storm

I don’t think we would normally consider solar activity a natural hazard – but the sun has entered a very active phase in its 11 year cycle of geomagnetic activity. A ‘cloud of charged particles’ will reach earth today (March 8th) and is likely to ‘shake’ earth’s ionosphere and magnetic field such that satellite communications and perhaps electricity will be disrupted. I really liked the graphic on the BBC web site today!

The scientists quoted in this article say that this storm is not particularly strong, but is the biggest in years – and during those years we have put MORE satellites into space, and MORE people have come to rely on GPS and other satellite based communications systems (think about that; do you? how much? is it different from, say, 5 years ago?)

I found most interesting the impacts of earlier REALLY BIG geomagnetic storms on the sun:

In 1972, a geomagnetic storm provoked by a solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across the US state of Illinois.

And in 1989, another disturbance plunged six million people into darkness across the Canadian province of Quebec.

Sun activity cycles over 11 years; this cycle is expected to peak in 2013 – so we may see some more dramatic effects in the near future.