Redesign & Updates Coming Soon

22 07 2013

Just throwing it out there – I’ll be redesigning a few things and adding a bunch of new content and articles to the site soon! It’s been awhile… Requests?

Weather Pix – 08-Feb-2010

8 02 2010

Summary: Approximately 2.5 inches of snow fell in the early to mid morning hours. Photographs taken by Derrick Wales at approximately 10:00am 6 miles southwest of Prospect, TN, just north of the AL/TN stateline.

The Aftermath: Haiti

16 01 2010

In the waning afternoon sun in Haiti, at approximately 4:53pm on January 12, 2010 – a violent earthquake struck the island. Registering as a 7.0 on the Richter scale, the quake caused widespread destruction all across the island and sent tremors outward felt as far away as Tampa, Florida, eastern Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Jamaica. Damage and casualties were especially prevalent in the Port-au-Prince area where death tolls still rise and thousands upon thousands are missing. At last check, preliminary tolls appear to be near if not over 100,000 in dead and missing, although alternate estimates range from 30,000 to 50,000. Being so close in time to the event, actual numbers are quite uncertain.

Magnitude 7.0
Date-Time Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:53:10
Location 18.457°N, 72.533°W
Depth 13 km (8.1 miles)
Distances 25 km (15 miles) WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti
  130 km (80 miles) E of Les Cayes, Haiti
  150 km (95 miles) S of Cap-Haitien, Haiti
  1125 km (700 miles) SE of Miami, Florida
Parameters NST=312, Nph=312, Dmin=143.7 km, Rmss=0.93 sec, Gp= 25°,
  M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=9
Event ID us2010rja6

The earthquake was caused due to a sudden shift in the fault separating the North American plate and the Caribbean plate. Haiti sits on the invisible boundary between the two. Although the normal slip, or movement, of the plates is only about 20mm per year, the sudden shift resulted in the catastrophic event that unfolded that day. The shift was not a large shift to basic perception, but even the smallest sudden shift in plate tectonics can have deadly consequences.

The region is not unfamiliar to quakes in general. Although quakes of this size haven’t occurred in over a hundred years, it is not uncommon. Below is a list of notable quakes which have occurred in Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean.

Martinique region, Windward Islands 11/29/2007 Magnitude 7.4 Deaths: 1 Info
Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean 09/10/2006 Magnitude 5.8 Deaths: 0 Info
Cayman Islands, Caribbean 12/14/2004 Magnitude 6.8 Deaths: 0 Info
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 11/21/2004 Magnitude 6.3 Deaths: 1 n/a
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 10/08/1974 Magnitude 7.5 Deaths: 0 Info
Guadeloupe, Leeward Islands 12/25/1969 Magnitude 7.2 Deaths: 0 n/a
Samana, Dominican Republic 08/04/1946 Magnitude 8.0 Deaths: 100* Info
Mona Passage, Caribbean 10/11/1918 Magnitude 7.5 Deaths: 116 Info
Kingston, Jamaica 01/14/1907 Magnitude 6.5 Deaths: 1,000* n/a
Puerto Rico region, Caribbean 11/18/1867 Magnitude n/a Deaths: n/a Info
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 02/08/1843 Magnitude 8.3* Deaths: 5,000* n/a
Puerto Rico region, Caribbean 05/02/1787 Magnitude 8.0* Deaths: n/a Info
Jamaica region, Caribbean 06/07/1692 Magnitude n/a Deaths: 2,000* Info
* Denotes Estimated

International efforts have began to take influence in the region. Former United States president, Bill Clinton, has spent time in the area devastated by the quake – inciting that people from the United States and around the world pitch in and help with what they can. He asked everyone to get in contact with relief agencies and donate what they can – but stated that what is needed most is not food or supplies, nor clothing or aid in rescue efforts – but to donate money to the relief agencies. He cited that money is what is needed most at this time. Clinton also beckoned other world leaders to do what they can – to donate aid in any way they could be it helicopters, doctors, equipment to dig through rubble – anything.

Current United States president Obama has made several remarks regarding the devastation, promising a “swift, coordinated and aggressive response” from the United States. Obama also asked other world leaders to fulfill obligations to donate aid to the country in peril.

A parallel statement by former president Clinton stated, “Most countries are way behind on fulfilling it. … If you can provide any emergency help, if you can give us helicopters or basic medical supplies — we need that.”

Although the grinding of these two plates don’t affect most of the United States in ways like it did Haiti, North Americans are still quite vulnerable to earthquakes. Another blog post I’ve done outlines one of the potentially devastating fault zones in the U.S., the New Madrid Fault Zone. View This Article.

For those which have loved ones in the region: President Obama is urging Americans trying to locate family in Haiti to telephone the State Department at 1-888-407-4747.

For any parties which know more about the situation than is posted here: I would love to hear from you. If you have any additional, credible information or a way for non-American individuals to find family in Haiti, send me an email with what you know and I’ll gladly append it to this post and credit you. For others, I would love to hear your feedback on the information posted here. Was it helpful to you? Was it accurate? Just use the comment feature and let me know!

Autumn 2009 Climate Report – Huntsville, AL

5 12 2009

I’ve once again compiled recorded temperature data to create this chart which plots both average and actual high/low temperatures during the months of October, November and the first week of December 2009. The data shows that, for the most part, October 2009 was below average for high temperatures – arriving at up to 19 degrees below normal at one point during the month. November, however, showed a rebound in temperatures – recording above average temperatures for the most part of the month. You may click on the graphic below to show a larger, more readily readable version of it.

Autumn 2009 Climate Report - Huntsville, AL

Data was recorded at the Huntsville International Airport in Huntsville, AL. Please comment and describe any additional details you would like to see on future climate reports. I will be posting a climate report every 3 months until further notice. Any comments or suggestions? Post them. I will get back to you as soon as possible. Also, you may feel free to send me an email with the aforementioned suggestions if you want. My email can be accessed by clicking here.

The Botanical Advantage to Climate Change

5 12 2009

According to a new research article published in the journal, Global Change Biology, researchers from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and the University of Minnesota – Morris conclude that evidence extracted from local Aspen and Birch trees suggest that the impact of inflated amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased the trees’ growth rates. This comes after researchers sampled the rings within the trees and compared it’s growth rates with the increase in carbon dioxide. The two seem to be in near perfect symmetry with one another. All plant-life absorb carbon from the atmosphere and convert it to energy for the plant to survive – a process known as photosynthesis.

A strand of Aspen.

“Trees are already responding to a relatively nominal increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 50 years,” says Rick Lindroth, a UW-Madison professor of ecology and an expert on plant responses to climate change.

It seems the two species of North American tree have taken the increase in carbon and in itself increased it’s rate of growth. Aspen and Birch trees, particularly in the American Midwest, are considered “foundation species”. These particular species impact every other plant around them. The concern that is impacting the researchers’ interests as well as the rest of the science world – is what effect will the increased growth of these species have on their symbiosis with other plants. Some plants which grow slowly may be overtaken and consumed by the rapid growth of these trees.

Ecological impacts involving the vitae of plant-life and the effects the plants themselves have on each other and their locale is a big question. Ecology is an ever-changing field and it’s very hard to predict what impacts factor A will have on factor B and vice versa.

“We can’t forecast ecological change. It’s a complicated business,” explains Waller, a UW-Madison professor of botany. “For all we know, this could have very serious effects on slower growing plants and their ability to persist.”

To the surprise to many, the growth rate of these particular species has increased phenomenally – as much as 50% faster growth than 100 years ago. The next question is, how much more carbon can the plants absorb? The plants can only handle so much carbon and can only grow to a certain point.

“Forests will continue to be important to soak up anthropogenic carbon dioxide,” says Waller. “But we can’t conclude that aspen forests are going to soak up excess carbon dioxide. This is going to plateau.”

“Aspens are already doing their best to mitigate our inputs,” agrees Cole. “The existing trees are going to max out in a couple of decades.”

The new study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Minnesota – Morris.

The Rules of Formation

5 12 2009

What is rain?
Rain is formed by water vapor molecules as they rise in the atmosphere (by a force such as a low pressure system, cold front, etc). As the molecules rise, they cool and condense and merge together to form a droplet of liquid water. As the droplet gets larger, it gains weight and drops to the ground.

What is Freezing Rain?
Freezing rain is much like sleet – however, the layer of colder air which refreezes the liquid is shallow and very close to ground level. When the liquid passes through this layer, it freezes. The layer can even be shallow enough to where the rain drop will already be splattered on the ground before it freezes.

What is sleet?
Sleet is formed as snowflakes are but travels through a layer of warmer air midway down and melts. When the liquid refreezes, it turns into a tiny bead of ice by the time it hits the ground.

How atmospheric layer temperatures determine precipitation type.

What is Snow?
Snow is formed when liquid vapor molecules freeze and gain weight (ice is heavier than vapor) and fall. Individual snow crystals have 6 sides – many snow crystals form or merge together to form elegant flakes of snow. Their size is determined by the amount of liquid water coating the flakes. In order for snow to form and successfully fall to the ground, temperatures where they form all the way to ground level must remain above freezing.

Dry Snow vs. Wet Snow – The Difference
Dry Snow is formed when temperatures in the troposphere are well below freezing. This is commonplace in the northern US during the winter and more often in Canada. Dry snow can be identified easily – the snowflakes are very small and don’t stick together very well. Try making a large snowball from dry snow and it will fall apart. Wet snow, on the other hand, forms when temperatures in the troposphere are at or just below freezing or there is an unbalanced temperature range in that particular atmospheric layer. Wet snow flakes tend to be larger than dry snow flakes and stick together very well. Wet snow is the best type of snow to use to build snow-men (or snow-women, I won’t discriminate). Wet snow is formed when snowflakes fall and partially melt. This forms a thin layer of liquid water on the snow flake – cold enough to prevent the total melting of the flake but warm enough to not freeze itself. This tends to make the flake sticky. For this reason, wet snow is usually larger. Snowflakes stick together, if wet, as they are falling. This can lead to some snowflakes to appear to look like little snowballs falling from the sky. Some snowflakes have been recorded to reach a half-dollar in size or even larger. The only problem with measuring such immensely sized snowflakes are that they crumble when they hit the ground- eye witness reports have shown flakes to be the size of baseballs or even softballs but it remains unproven. Flakes of great size are infrequent and usually only form when there is a gentle breeze. No wind at all will force the flakes to break apart due to changes in air pressure and resistance. A hard breeze will have the same effect – a shearing effect more or less, but a light wind will keep the flake floating down more slowly but be gentle enough to not shred the flake.

Guide to Collapsing Raindrops

Why are some raindrops large while others are small?
Raindrops merge and grow larger infinitely – all the way until they are on the ground (and even after, research flooding/flash flooding). As they fall, they grow larger until some force breaks them apart – usually air resistance. As the raindrop grows, the resistance from the air forces it to ‘parachute’ itself. The raindrop begins to form a dome shape which eventually ‘pops’ and the raindrop breaks into several smaller raindrops. Small raindrops form from rainclouds that are very high in the atmosphere. They have a longer amount of time to gain speed, merge and break apart. Thus, this is how mist, sprinkles and other tiny drops are formed. Large raindrops are formed from storm clouds which are closer to the ground. They don’t have very far to fall and thus less air resistance to move through. Winds are also a variable in this sense. If winds are strong, the drops will not fall vertically, but at an angle. This slows the drop’s descent somewhat, leaving a little less shearing stress on the drop itself, although strong enough wind can shred the drop itself.

Hope you enjoyed the article and it helped you to better understand why it pours one precipitation sometimes and others at other times. It’s easy to get confused with sleet, snow and freezing rain – especially in our area. Feel free to post any comments, suggestions, questions or concerns. I will respond as soon as I get a chance.

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Solar Chemistry a New Key to Finding Exoplanets

12 11 2009

For many years researchers have pondered why our Sun has a negligible amount of lithium compared to other stars in our galaxy. In comparison, our Sun actually has less than 1% of the lithium present in most other stars. Researchers using the ESO’s HARPS spectrograph analyzed over 500 different stars, 70 of which are planet-bearing star systems and compared each one’s lithium content, as well as other light chemicals (in comparison to the atomic weight of iron). It was revealed that star systems which bear planets contain far less lithium than those systems which bear no planets.

Artist's impression of a baby star still surrounded by proto-planetary material in which planets could form.
Artist’s impression of a baby star still surrounded by proto-planetary material in which planets could form.

Somehow, it seems that systems which host planets provide a way to destroy the lithium over the years. Lithium is thought to have been an abundant element since the big bang and is present in most every star. The anomaly of chemical amounts that vary from star to star has bewildered researchers for over 60 years. So can planets and other planetary bodies affect the star in a way enough to destroy and realign chemical composition within that star? It seems that way. Theoreticians have their work cut out for them trying to figure out what causes the anomaly.

Researchers have undergone this project of measuring and analyzing lithium content in hopes of finding a way to detect star systems which bear planets in a way easier and faster than the current method using the HARPS device. For reference, HARPS is a device attached to the La Silla 3.6″ ESO telescope and studies the “wobble” of gravity and light from stars to detect if the star hosts a planet. If the current research is right, researchers may now use the HARPS device to detect lithium content from a star to determine the likelihood of the said star hosting planets.

The team of astronomers and researchers primarily involved in the project are: Garik Israelian, Elisa Delgado Mena, Carolina Domínguez Cerdeña, and Rafael Rebolo (Instituto de Astrofisíca de Canarias, La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain), Nuno Santos and Sergio Sousa (Centro de Astrofisica, Universidade de Porto, Portugal), Michel Mayor and Stéphane Udry (Observatoire de Genève, Switzerland), and Sofia Randich (INAF, Osservatorio di Arcetri, Firenze, Italy).

Journal Reference: G. Israelian et al. Enhanced lithium depletion in Sun-like stars with orbiting planets. Nature, November 12, 2009. Adapted from materials provided by ESO.

…and Thou Hast Returned

6 11 2009

Hey readers. Sorry for the absence, I’ve had a hectic life the last month but I’m back. Wow, it’s been since the beginning of the last week of September since I’ve posted anything. Well, I apologize for that. There has been so much in the news lately in regards to climate change and immediate impacts such as Mt. Kilaminjaro – there’s been a lot of news regarding the events taking place there. There are so many other stories that I’d never be able to post them all in this post so you can look forward in the coming days for plenty of fresh material – great material – to be posted. I eagerly await your feedback, comments and the like.

~Derrick (aka, Skywarn256)

Accumulated Rainfall – Tennessee Valley Flooding

22 09 2009

I’ve gathered some stats for your guys regarding the accumulated rainfall and flash flooding occuring all around the Tennessee Valley area including northwest GA. Be reminded that these are radar estimates and could be a little off but for the most part, it’s accurate. It is a storm total rainfall for rain which fell over the course of the last 7 days.

Accumulated Rainfall Rates

Examining Global Warming’s Best Friend, N2O

29 08 2009

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are out of the way – a major success story in the fight against ozone depletion but a new menace is quickly becoming the top dog in the crowd of global warming fugitives. It took more than 20 years, but CFC’s are finally down and still sinking but nitrous oxide is hastily becoming our new arch-enemy. Nitrous oxide is now, according to a new report from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (NSRL), the most destructive and abundant man-derived greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Where CFC’s were in our minds and in the environment now lies Nitrous Oxide.

“The dramatic reduction in CFCs over the last 20 years is an environmental success story. But manmade nitrous oxide is now the elephant in the room among ozone-depleting substances,” said Ravishankara, lead author of the study and director of the ESRL Chemical Sciences Division in Boulder, CO.

The gas is quite common, even it’s natural occurrences, but never in this quantity. The gas is derived from the fertilization of agriculture, mainly, but can also be found in animal dung, dentists’ offices (“Laughing Gas”), sewage treatment, combustion engines, and the rearing of livestock.

CFC’s were abundant in use, especially in aerosol cans in the 70’s and 80’s but scientists soon found that it’s effects on the environment were to harmful to be allowed to continue. In an international agreement, the Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to reduce the CFC input into the environment world-wide. The plan was a huge success, now 22 years later, as we can see the incredible reduction of it’s concentration in the atmosphere. Although this is true, even the scars left behind are still mending; in particular the gaping hole in the ozone layer situated above the South Pole. Will nitrous oxide be as dangerous to the environment as the CFC’s were? In short, yes.

Examination of Atmospheric Layers

If left unchecked, the concentration of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere would continue to climb exponentially. We still have time to correct the problem before it gets out of control but it would take control to do it. The main target would certainly have to be the control of agricultural fertilization – fertilizers highly concentrated in the chemical. Although it does help the soil to produce more abundant (and vivacious) plants, it destroys the ozone layer – thinning it more and more.

What happens when the atmosphere gets thinner? More radiation enters the earth’s lower atmosphere which in turn actually harms the plants (and us). Imagine the worst sunburn you ever had. Multiply it. No one really wants to deal with the effects of global warming. “I don’t believe in it”. I guess it really doesn’t matter if you believe or not. It’s a decision that you’d have to make. A) Live with the changes you have to make today and be a little less “wasteful” or B) Ignore the warnings and live in a hotter, more naturally violent world potentially full of disease and famine. It’s up to you really….

Information derived from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Image derived from
All information retrieved Saturday, August 29th, 2009