Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hello Winter

Astronomers divide the year into four seasons, based on obvious (to astronomers) benchmarks:  the two solstices and the two equinoxes.

Meteorologists use what they know - temperature.  For them, Winter is the three coldest months, December, January, February.  Summer is the three hottest months, June through August.

People who are not meteorologists and don't spend their lives looking up and who don't get outside enough tend to go with the astronomers, mostly because that is what they hear on the television.

The End of Autumn.  Hello Winter.
People who do spend their lives outside as much as possible have a third way of telling the seasons.  Like the farmers and herders of thousands of years ago, they look at nature.

When the snow starts to melt and the first green appears, it is Spring.  Putting it on a western calendar would mark it as the start of February, now called Groundhog Day, Candlemass, Imbolc.  That actually arrives half-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  It takes the Earth a while to warm up.

First growth is over and flowers appear at the start of Summer, around May 1st, Mayday or Beltane.

Fruit and grain start to ripen as the days get noticeably shorter, at the start of August.  August 1 is called Lammas, from loaf mass, the blessing of the first new bread.  Now we are in nature's Autumn.

And then, around the end of October, the colorful leaves fall, the gardens die, we celebrate Samhain or All Hallows Eve (Hallowe'en, the first harvest thanksgiving), and winter arrives.  Sometime in the next week a storm will sweep through, the trees will be swept bare.  Hello Winter.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Deadly. And coming your way.

Imagine the damage that an F5 tornado could do, with winds over 200 mph.

Now imagine that the tornado is over 100 miles wide.  

You have Hurricane Patricia, the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Pacific, now approaching the west coast of Mexico.

Besides the high winds, Patricia also has broken the record for the lowest air pressure, at 888 mB  (average air pressure at sea level is 1013 mB).

Patricia is expected to dump 6 to 12 inches of rain over the Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero. Life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides are possible. The rain will then cause flooding in Texas.

As of right now, the storm is expected to reach Connecticut by Wednesday or Thursday, bringing about 2 to 3 inches of rain. 

More information is available from the National Hurricane and just about every news station.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Different Kind of Storm

Now that we've gotten the first snow storm of 2015-2016 out of the way, here is a different kind of storm - of meteors.

Halley's comet has a 75 year orbit around the Sun.  One of many interesting things about Mark Twain is that he was born, and he died, in a Halley's comet year. 

Every October, the Earth passes through the trail of debris that the comet leaves behind.  It is happening now.
If you can get up before dawn tomorrow (October 21) you should get a treat, the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak tonight, Oct. 20-21, with as many as 20 meteors per hour. No matter where you live, the best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise on Wednesday the 21st.  Visit for sky maps and more information.

The showers get their name from the fact that they seem to be shooting out of Orion's hand.  So, get up early, face southwest, and look for Orion.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

In a Universe Without Chemicals, Nothing's Matter

There are over 69 chemicals in an organically grown chicken egg, NOT including the shell:

  1. Dihydrogen Monoxide (75.8%)
  2. Glutamic Acid (14%)
  3. Aspartic Acid (11%)
  4. Valine (9%)
  5. Arginine (8%)
  6. Leucine (8%)
  7. Lysine (7%)
  8. Serine (7%)
  9. Phenylalanine (6%)
  10. Alanine (5%)
  11. Isoleucine (5%)
  12. Proline (4%)
  13. Tyrosine (3%)
  14. Threonine (3%)
  15. Glycine (3%)
  16. Histidine (2%)
  17. Methionine (3%)
  18. Cystine (2%)
  19. Tryptophan (1%)
  20. Octadecenoic Acid (45%)
  21. Hexadecanoic Acid (32%)
  22. Octadecanoic Acid (12%)
  23. Eicosatetraenoic Acid (3%)
  24. Eicosanoic Acid (2%)
  25. Docosanoic Acid (1%)
  26. Tetracosanoic Acid (1%)
  27. Octanoic Acid (<1%)
  28. Decanoic Acid (<1%)
  29. Dodecanoic Acid (<1%)
  30. Tetradecanoic Acid (<1%)
  31. Pentadecanoic Acid (<1%)
  32. Heptadecanoic Acid (<1%)
  33. Tetradecenoic Acid (<1%)
  34. Hexadecenoic Acid (<1%)
  35. Eicosenoic Acid (<1%)
  36. Docosenoic Acid (<1%)
  37. Omega-6 Fatty
  38. Acid: Octadecadienoic Acid (12%)
  39. Omega-3 Fatty Acid:
  40. Octadecatrienoic Acid (<1%)
  41. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (Epa) (<1%)
  42. Omega-3 Fatty Acid: Docosahexaenoic Acid (Dha) (<1%)
  43. Glucose (30%)
  44. Sucrose (15%)
  45. Fructose (15%)
  46. Lactose (15%)
  47. Maltose (15%)
  48. Galactose (15%)
  49. E160c
  50. E160a
  51. E306
  52. E101
  53. Phenylacetaldehyde
  54. Dodeca-2-Enal
  55. Hepta-2-Enal
  56. Hexadecanal
  57. Octadecanal
  58. Pentan-2-One
  59. Butan-2-One
  60. Acetaldehyde
  61. Formaldehyde
  62. Acetone
  63. (E170)
  64. Benzene
  65. Benzene Derivatives
  66. Esters
  67. Furans
  68. Sulfur-Containing Compounds
  69. Terpenes

Friday, October 2, 2015

And... Gone. Maybe.

I have been very interested in Hurricane Joaquin for several reasons.

First of all, it is the most powerful (category 4) storm to approach North America in a long time. 

Secondly, it seemed to be heading straight towards me.

5 Day Prediction as of October 2
Predicting hurricanes is tough.  Unlike most weather, which follows (mostly) predictable patterns, hurricanes ride the winds, bouncing off high pressure (dense, dry air) systems and being sucked towards low pressure (less dense, moist air) systems.  And of course those high and low pressure systems keep moving.

There are about a dozen computer models that are used to predict the movement of hurricanes.  All but the European Model were consistently saying that the storm would move west and hit the New Jersey shore.  The European Model showed it moving out to sea.

The European Model has been the most accurate over the past few years, so i waited.  Sure enough, the other models have changed their predictions.  It now looks like Joaquin will be a miss for Connecticut.

As you were.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Herding Cats

While most weather in North America is relatively easy to predict (compared to the stock market or the lottery), hurricanes are like cats.  They do what they want and go where they want.

Hurricane Joaquin now has 115 mph winds and seems to be going more to the east than predicted yesterday.   As of this morning, it is headed right up the Connecticut River Valley, hitting on Tuesday as a tropical storm.  That's winds between 39 and 73 mph.

A storm like that just might close school as it blows down trees and electrical wires.

Be prepared to go without your gadgets on Tuesday.