Twitter – The New Age Storm Analysis Service

11 08 2009

Twitter. If it’s not the biggest thing next to duct tape. Seems like everyone nowadays is getting on the bandwagon from educational institutions to science researchers sharing knowledge. As for the genre I’ve always been most interested in, storm chasing & spotting, I believe Twitter has some “untapped potential”. I’ve experienced some use in the site – mixing ever so slightly with local meteorologists and scientists at the NSSTC in Huntsville, AL. Most people use the service as just a way to keep track of their friends and relatives but I see a more professional use for it. I just keep thinking, “what if?”

Storm spotters have been using radios and phone calls for so long now (not that it’s ineffective…it’s quite effective) but some of us are trailing off into a more digital presence. With the advent of portable (and small) computer systems and email services (such as that found in the iPhone, Blackberry and other PDA devices – services such as Twitter can expotentially become a great asset in field storm analysis.

So what makes Twitter great? First off, it permits instant transaction of message data into an online database which can be read by anyone with access to the internet. This includes meteorologists, news media (for damage and the like), emergency management officials, national weather service and NOAA, FEMA, storm observers and spotters as well as chasers in the field. If a tornado strikes a given location, EMA can see the message instantly without it having to be relayed. This means precious minutes or even seconds would be shaved off of the response time. Also, storm observers and chasers in the area would get a heads up on whats going on – meteorologists have an opportunity to pinpoint an exact location of the most dangerous part of the storm. NWS and NOAA, on the other hand, obtains the most valuable information – the information that often depicts whether or not a warning is issued.

Estimated Average Delay in Data Distribution using Twitter

Yes, all of this data can be used and transmitted via amateur radio or by the phone – but what’s faster? Amateur radio most might say – but 4/5 spotters don’t use it. Isn’t the spotter one of the greatest assets to warning coordinators? Other than amateur radio, digital transmission of data seems to be the best answer – Twitter has all of the aforementioned qualities plus the ability to create custom hash categories with each report such as what I and others have been using, #stormywx. Is there no expandability to it? I think so. Each storm cell is given a unique ID – “#stormywx #stormid 1.25” hail and 67mph wind @ so and so location”. The given example would be instantly sent to anyone watching the feed on Twitter. If more information was needed, a warning coordinator or whoever else needed the information critically could respond, “@originalposter #stormid Is there a funnel cloud near you? Approx. 1.5nm NE of your location.”

Estimated Average Delay in Data Distribution using Ares or Telephone

Overall, I believe a full-fledged acceptance as a great form of communication for storm analysis would be an enormous asset to all areas of severe weather response.

Please let me know what you think of this article. You may follow my tweets @skywarn256 or contact me via email at dwales@hunspot.org.

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Shared Beliefs

9 08 2009

I was just browsing around and came across a good post by a well known, albeit local, personality. Dan Satterfield is but a television meteorologist to some but an inspiration for others. Since 1995, I’ve been watching his forecasts and enjoying severe weather coverage with his excitable antics. The post I am mentioning here came from his blog, Wild Wild Weather Journal. It’s a good and startling read when you contrast today with tomorrow (figuratively).

Dan’s Wild Wild Weather Blog
Dan’s “Climate Change In Your Backyard” Blogpost





Climate Change – An Intraverted Ideology

9 08 2009

Climate change. Global Warming. Armageddon. Those are words often used interchangibly nowadays. From political lobbyists to dream-stricken scientists to megaconglomerate petroleum manufacturing corporations feeding on a constant stream of both product revenue and government grants, everyone seems to have their own opinion on what those words are, what they mean for this planet and what they mean for themselves. It seems to be a get-rich-quick card for some, unplausible and unthinkable to others – religiously cultivated God-weilding destruction for some and just another fleeting “hearsay” for the rest. What is the reality of it all? After so many debates, arguments, scientific counter-intuitive research and contradictions, who should we really believe? Everyone needs to just shut up, some might say. This may just be the answer. If one was to make a rational look at things, some parts of the planet are warming (if not every part of the world). So what if your area was colder this year, on average, than it has been in the past five decades? Does that mean your area’s particular temperature is a reflection of the world’s mean temperature? Nope. It’s called weather. Weather changes dramatically over short periods of time – it’s in the definition. Our global predicament isn’t called “Global Weather Warming” or “Weather Change” – that would be an absurd observation to attempt to raise a clamour about weather changing over a period of 5 decades. What we are faced with is a global climate change – a rapid (at least in a celestial point of view) change in the environment as a whole.

So there you have it. Your weather may be colder but 95% of the world is warmer. That doesn’t mean the planet is cooling. We hear bickering constantly on mass media headlines and in conflicting science laboratories around the world – are we heating up or are we cooling down? The truth is, we’re heating up. Rapidly. Even at a slow pace, the glaciers are melting and receding faster than at any time in our history. CO2 levels are on the increase in our upper atmosphere – you might not be able to see a noticable difference in ground-level haze because that’s not what’s causing all the problems – it’s miles up in the ozone layer.

As used in the title of my blog post, climate change is an intraverted ideology. It was once a fact, now it’s a belief. How can a fact become a belief? Mankind has bickered and found ways around every excuse or reasoning for being beside or opposed to climate change actions and information, even fact. We have found more ways to say it’s not true or it’s true or we’re all going to die that even Hollywood has cashed in. Climate change has become a mass media staple of our society and is largely becoming just another myth like Ragnarok or Armageddon, Roman gods and goddesses or Loch Ness. What everyone needs to do is sit down, analyse facts and think for themselves. Look at what’s really happening, look at what you can see, touch and taste. Take a peek at sea levels – they’ve risen. The polar caps are receding. Arctic wildlife is going extinct. And here we are, still arguing.

So what does it mean for us? We continue bickering, not really taking much of a substantial stand against it and we end up at point A. Don’t we usually start from point A and progress from there? Not end there? If we continue doing what we’re doing, we are going to damage everything on this planet including ourselves and the planet itself. We’ll be back where we started.

Sea levels will rise, sinking low-lying islands forever, Florida will disappear, California will disappear, DC will be a new Atlantis, Katrina would be commonplace and as jet streams and ocean currents shift, most of the Earth will have a dramatic and sharp weather change. The nation’s midwest will be a dustbowl, the Sahara would become a flood-stricken rainforest, the Pyramids of Egypt would be a monumental man-made island. Famine would spread all over the Earth as the strongest of nations warred with one another over what resources were left. Plague and disease would consume the large percent of the world that perished in the famine and the rest would kill each other over food, weapons, land and other resources. Most of the species on the planet would perish to unevolvable differences with their environment. Plantlife wouldn’t have it quite as bad but most too would also perish. Various aquatic wildlife would perish – most which are accustomed to a certain mean yearly temperature especially. National borders would vanish – there would be no nations, only city-states. No armies to really be had, everyone who wishes to live would have to fend for themselves.

So is all this really worth arguing about – letting time slip by while we try to boast about who’s right and who’s wrong? In the end, does it really matter? If we do nothing and it is true, we’ll all perish anyways (or live one miserable life). Why not do something about it, even if it’s not true? We can always recover from an economic slump. We can always rebuild what may have been sacrificed due to financial strain. We can survive without gas-guzzling 70’s model muscle cars and pick-ups. We can live without mass manufactured plastics and aerosols. Even if the government says do it, even if every scientist in the world all of a sudden agreed that it was real and we’re all going to perish if we don’t do something about it – even if that was the case, it won’t change anything at all! What we all need to do is look inside ourselves, find our own ideas and thoughts, brainstorming on what you can do as an individual to help – bring a though-provoking, epiphany inducing intraverted ideology to the table. If everyone would just do a little bit – bike to work one day a week, recycle at least cans only or plastics only, or carpool once a week, stop smoking, drink tap water instead of bottled water, drive a hybrid instead of a monster – find something, even small, and do it – if we can all do it, we can make an impact, regardless of who says what. It’s not the governments planet, no one owns the planet, no one owns the climate but it’s every single person on this planet’s responsibility to take care of it. It’s a birth right (or birth curse, depending on your viewpoint) to do this. As a human being, it is our responsibility to do something about climate change, even if you think it’s not real.

Why doesn’t everyone play Russian Roulette? Only a select few want to take the risk of being the odd man out. So why play it now when there are six billion people’s lives at stake?

Thank you sincerely for reading my blog post. It means a lot to me. I have put forth my ideas and philosophy on the conflict (and a certain bit influenced by Greg Craven whose own ideology on the conflict inspired me to take action myself). I would enjoy seeing your feedback on the post, hearing your thoughts on the situation.