Tuesday, July 17, 2012

News Bits and Bytes

Some interesting coverage of weather and climate issues in the media the past couple of days.

First, from FOX13, this story on the impacts of yesterday's thunderstorms at Lagoon Amusement Park.

Of concern is the lack of discussion about safety measures taken for lightning and microburst winds.  Hopefully that was an accidental omission.  They certainly were a concern given the close proximity of strong convective cells late yesterday.

Second is this article by Judy Fahys in the Salt Lake Tribune,

Source: Salt Lake Tribune.  Photo by Kim Raff, Article by Judy
Fays.  Click here to access.  
which highlights efforts by Brian McInerney of the National Weather Service who is working with other federal agencies to evaluate hazards in burned-out areas of Utah.  All Utahns can be thankful that Brian is on the job as he is extremely capable and dedicated.  Many people see the National Weather Service as simply producing forecasts like those done by the Weather Channel and other broadcast media groups, but there is far more going on behind the scenes (Disclosure: A portion of my research funding is provided by the National Weather Service).

Finally, there is an article in the Guardian discussing an experiment in New Mexico to evaluate the possibility of combatting global warming by injecting sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.

Source: The Guardian.  Photo from Gallo Images/Getty Images.
Article by Martin Lukacs.  Click here to access.
We've inadvertently modified the climate with greenhouse gas emission.  Is planned geoengineering a reasonable response?  What are the policy, societal, weather, and climate implications?  This is an emerging geopolitical issue that will likely become more significant in the coming decades.


  1. From searching facebook, a surprising number of people I know believe in the "chemtrail conspiracy" that this type of climate engineering experiment is already occurring on a large scale. As far as I can tell, their concern that there will be damaging weather consequences is secondary to a more direct fear that the particles used will poison soil and crops. The Guardian article mentions nothing about soil quality checks, but perhaps they are included in the experiment.

    I don't think ignoring these scared, suspicious yet curious subsets of the public is a good idea in the long run. Wasn't Carl Sagan able to reach out to the UFO community and turn fear and mistrust into public support and excitement for science and the search for extra-terrestrial life? Who could do that in our field?

    1. Ian - on the climate side, there probably is no hope. Things are so heavily politicized that even Carl Sagan couldn't do the job (FYI that Sagan knew a thing or two about atmospheres and climate as he made major contributions to the study of planetary atmospheres and my advisor worked for him at Cornell in the 1970s). Some things are a shame, but that's a damn shame.

      On the weather side, ours is perhaps the only science that is on the news every night. This is a major advantage for us. Unfortunately, only about 1/3 of the people who do weather on TV are meteorologists. Although there are some non-meteorologists who do a very good job in broadcast meteorology and promoting the science, I think that's the exception and not the rule. That being said, there are many broadcast meteorologists who are great communicators and ambassadors for science. Although his impact isn't national, Bob Ryan of NBC4 in DC is a good example. He has a BS in physics, MS in atmospheric sciences, worked in research, then went into broadcasting and even served as President of the American Meteorological Society.

      On the national scale, we may not have a Carl Sagan, but there are some very good ambassadors on the local scale.

    2. Ian:

      I just got a notice about this meeting, which will be in Salt Lake, and could launch the next Sagan ;-).