Thursday, September 7, 2017

Confessions of an Ivory Tower Meteorologist

Not so random thoughts on this Thursday.

Confessions of an Ivory Tower Meteorologist
I have something that I need to get off my chest.  Something that bothers me deeply. 

I get excited about extreme weather. 

I can barely sleep during weather events like Harvey and Irma, and I'm not even all that interested in tropical meteorology

I feel guilty about this.  After all, these storms are horrific, taking lives and destroying communities.

However, I also feel terror and nausea looking at both forecasts and the aftermath of these events.  It's a weird mélange of feelings. 

Meteorologists Are People Too
The National Hurricane Center is located in Miami.  Our nation is fortunate to have such a dedicated men and women working 24/7 to monitor and forecast tropical storms such as Irma.  Keep in mind that these meteorologists, their families, and their homes are also in the crossfire of Irma. 

Utah Alums Contribute to the Effort
I've been following the activities of an esteemed University of Utah alum and one of our current graduate students who are collecting critical data on Irma on one of the Hurricane Hunter aircraft.  Talk about living the dream! 

So Much Extreme Weather, So Little Time
One of the perks of my job is that I get to spend a lot of time looking at the weather.  A lot.  Your worst weather nightmare is my dream job. 

My preference is winter storms, but I am a weather omnivore.  I will consume whatever is available. 

Over the past two weeks, I've had a diet of all-time record heat, western wildfires and smoke, Harvey's record rainfall and flooding, and now one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes on record.  Digging into these events challenges my knowledge and provides great teaching moments, but I can barely keep up. 

Mother Nature had better calm down soon.  I've been overeating and am starting to get fat. 

Back to work....


  1. Jim, has anyone looked at a correlation (or lack there of) between Atlantic Hurricane activity and the following winter in the Wasatch?

    1. I don't.

      I would not be surprised if there was some correlation between Atlantic hurricane activity and, for example, precip in the southwest US (but not the Wasatch) simply because El Nino and La Nina affect both Atlantic Hurricane activity and southwest US precip. However, I would not expect a causal link between Atlantic Hurricanes and winter precip over the western US in general.

  2. Couldn't agree more, I feel the same way about it.

  3. I can totally relate. Watching Thunderstorms with hail got me hooked when I was a child. I was in grad school in 1982 when Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th St. Bridge and went into the Potomac River in DC during a ferocious snow storm. It was one of the most exciting times to be in the map room with my fellow students.

  4. Confessions of a 25yr retired Navy aerographer's mate: Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, gives an adrenaline rush like being on a ship in heavy weather and watching the waves bust over the foc'sle while spray washes across the bridge (and I have to go out and do a balloon release), or riding shotgun in a VW-4 P-3 Hurricane Hunter while recording and reporting the obs, or spending the winter at the South Pole and feeling the almost sensual sting of -80F, or taking obs during a scirocco when it's 116F or briefing a seal team on what to expect after they jump out of a C-130 (without parachutes), or going out on an ice recon off the coast of Greenland and getting to name the icebergs. Sweet Jeebus, how I miss that life. The researching and forecasting of extreme or rare weather events is intriguing and fun.... but nothing like experiencing it first hand. Kudos to your grad student and hope everyone stays safe during this one.