Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Musings about the Weather

Gustav, Hanna, Ike and Josephine.

MeteoSat Picture from September 10, 2008 showing the "Hurricane Gun"

For a long time I have been fascinated with the weather. I used to have my office at the Science Center in with the meteorologists taught math classes in the Met Lab. I was trained to use some of the equipment and teach a few of the classes. In addition I have had my pilot's license for about 16 years. So my fascination is probably understandable. The girls have grown up watching hours of the Weather Channel. Entropy’s pre-school teachers used to let her give the weather report every morning after they said the pledge of allegiance.

So I have I have been watching the weather this year – this hurricane season is pure drama (well, at least to a weather geek.) I found this image of the visible water vapor on the MeteoSat website that shows very clearly the “hurricane gun” that exists in western Africa. This is today’s image. You can see the string of storm like precipitation and clouds that form in the interior of Africa and then move west into the Atlantic. If these storms start a low pressure area from adiabatic heating and cooling, then they have the potential to become a "tropical depression" -- then with a little coriolis effect and steering winds from the troposphere, they start rotating and voila! you have a hurricane.

There was a time a few weeks ago when you could see 4 different big storms from the MeteoSat and also from the GOES satellite lined up in the Atlantic like a string of beads. (First image) This week, it seems clear -- Josephine has dissipated, but there is possibility that it may reform if it gains a bit of rotation.

There have been 7 storms this year already that have had landfall from the Atlantic. There is the probability of about 10 more. Thankfully, they have not had much punch as compared to damaging storms in the past. Maybe there will be rain without flooding and damage. We can pray for that.

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