Category: Weather

Measure rainfall, help scientists learn more about Hurricane Irene

By The Intersection | August 27, 2011 9:44 am

This is a guest post from Darlene Cavalier, founder of Science Cheerleader and Science For Citizens and contributing editor at Discover Magazine.

Scientists want you to record and share rain measurements and other on-the-ground observations in part to help pinpoint hurricane Irene’s actions, determine her next steps, and better predict and react to future storms. In addition to your help recording on-the-ground rain precipitation, scientists rely on watershed volunteers to provide important clues about the effects of storm-water runoff, carbon cycles of waterways, etc. Here’s a list of opportunities to get involved in local watershed monitoring efforts.

To help scientists record on-the-ground rain measurements, you will need a high capacity rain gauge.

Don’t have a rain gauge? Enter here to win a free one so you can join in next time! Through the Changing Planet series, a partnership with National Science Foundation, NBC Learn, and DISCOVER Magazine, we’re offering up to 20 of these gauges to our members, free of charge ($25 value).

(Note: Safety first. Please heed all evacuation recommendations issued in your area.)

Not able to collect and measure rainfall? Anyone with a computer can also get into the act. The Philadelphia Inquirer published sites where you can find real-time information from ocean buoys, bridges, area stream gauges, and even satellites. [Find list of links, below.]

Here are some opportunities for you to measure rainfall:

CoCoRaHS: Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a volunteer network of backyard weather observers. People of all ages measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in communities across the United States. The data is used by a wide range of agencies and programs.Volunteers are needed for two programs.
SKYWARN SKYWARN spotters are essential information sources for the National Weather Service with the responsibility to identify and describe severe local storms. Observations by spotters helps the National Weather Service issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods and thus save lives.
Rainlog Not on the east coast? Here’s one for south westerners. Join RainLog‘s network of over 1,000 volunteers that use backyard rain gauges to monitor precipitation across Arizona and in neighboring states. Data collected through this network will be used for a variety of applications, from watershed management activities to drought planning at local, county, and state levels.
Tracking Climate in Your Backyard Kids: Tracking Climate in Your Backyard seeks to engage youth in real science through the collection, recording, and understanding of precipitation data in the forms of rain, hail, and snow.

Here are some websites, originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, that post data and images to answer the following questions:

How fast is the nearest stream rising?
A U.S. Geological Survey site logs data from stream gauges.

Is there a storm-surge tracking map?
Developing, by the U.S. Geological Survey.

How hard is it blowing in your neighborhood?
Greg Heavener, National Weather Service meteorologist in Mount Holly, recommends this site, where people with personal stations upload their data. Searchable by zip code.

What are Delaware River observations?
Includes data from water-level sensors installed on bridges after past floods.

What’s happening offshore?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association logs ocean-buoy data, including wind speed and wave heights.
Rutgers University is part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System, which posts data on satellites and the underwater “gliders.” Has an Irene science blog.

What does Irene look like?
The National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center has the most recent forecasts, including radar images and wind-speed probabilities.

How about from space?
NASA images and video. mission_pages/hurricanes/main/index.html

Sounds Familiar

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 21, 2009 8:52 am
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming, Weather
MORE ABOUT: The Simpsons

The Wonders of SphereCasting

By Chris Mooney | April 3, 2009 3:16 pm

Yesterday, as previously mentioned, I was at the magnificent National Weather Center at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, giving a speech to this conference about science communication. I’m hoping that the talk—which covered anything from the work of the 18th century French philosophe the Marquis de Condorcet to the unfortunate depictions of science in Hollywood films—will eventually be available online. Meanwhile, though, I’d like to remark on a spectacular encounter I had at the event. We tend to complain and critique on blogs; this post will be the opposite.

sos_home_img.jpgIn the first floor lobby of the airy National Weather Center, where the tornado investigating devices “Dorothy” and “TOTO” are on display, there’s also a large suspended globe which acts as a spherical screen. Four projectors flash onto it simultaneously, so that it is possible to fully project the entire globe’s weather as provided by satellites. It’s called SphereCasting, NOAA’s “Science on a Sphere” program, and I can only call it magnificent. If there’s a better technology for explaining science to the interested public, I can’t think of it. And apparently there are now 30 such spheres in existence.

The sphere doesn’t merely allow one to display weather everywhere all at once. You can pretty much project anything onto it with the right program. You can make the sphere into Mars, or Jupiter, or Titan, or the Sun. The woman who gave me a brief tour of how it works even said she was waiting for the program that would let her turn it into the Death Star. And it’s hard to see why one couldn’t also project the results of global climate models up there. Frankly, the possibilities are vast, if not endless.

It was only a coincidence, but I encountered the Sphere while in the middle of reading a great early 19th century work of scientific exploration, Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctical Regions of the New Continent (South America). Humboldt, as our Princeton prof D. Graham Burnett explains, had a pioneering global vision of science. Frankly, it was far more than any single man could accomplish, but Humboldt sure tried. As he scaled mountains and thwacked his way through rainforests, he was constantly taking measurements with dozens of instruments—gauging temperature, pressure, humidity, and so on—as well as analyzing the ecological distributions of plant and animal species, rocks and minerals. Humboldt felt that by having a fully geographic picture of how all these different parameters varied, across the planet, universal laws would gradually present themselves.

Science on a Sphere is, in a sense, the ultimate culmination of Humboldt’s vision. Our instruments are vastly better–especially our satellites–and we now have so much good data that we can spatially organize it on an actual globe in real time. And then you can just go look—watching as hurricanes form, as the easterlies and westerlies flow, as the fronts move through and the temperatures change. While I’m not sure that there are any more universal laws to discover in this way, there’s still a great need to share those laws with the non-scientist public, and I can’t think of a better way of doing so.

Smokey Joe Says It Ain't So

By Chris Mooney | March 26, 2009 10:58 am

Okay, so….who’s the most anti-science member of the Congressional Republican minority? Well, it might just be this guy, “Smokey Joe” Barton of Texas, so nicknamed because of his alleged love of the utility industry. Barton was the head honcho behind a climate scientist witch hunt in 2005, and can here found tang about how we should just adapt to climate change–which, of course, isn’t human-caused in his eyes:

Barton’s deep folk wisdom: “When it rains, we find shelter; when it’s hot, we get in the shade; when it’s cold we find a warm place to stay.”

Barton’s impressive attempt at a Bushism: “Adapting is a common natural way for people to adapt to their environment.”

Unanswered questions: How do you “adapt” coastal cities to sea level rise on the order of meters, which is what we’re in for if we take Barton’s advice do nothing about global warming? Is moving the entire population of Bangladesh inland really less disruptive to the economy than the the price tag associated with controlling climate change?

A Docu Everyone Should Check Out: Owning the Weather

By Chris Mooney | March 24, 2009 5:32 pm

And not just because it features yours truly as a talking head.

This is a science- and history-rich documentary about climate and weather modification–which we may well be on the verge of. There has been much quackery in this area in the past, but when it comes to combating global warming, so-called geoengineering could wind up being the real thing–and one of our few, albeit undesirable, options.

To that end I want to alert you that Owning the Weather will be premiering on April 3rd at the prestigious Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, NC–more info here. Moreover, here’s the trailer, in which I figure briefly:

I’m hoping, time and travel permitting, to be involved in the promotional activities for this film. I really think it’s excellent–and important.

When Will Geoengineering 'Tip'?

By Chris Mooney | March 18, 2009 2:56 pm

My latest Science Progress column contemplates this question, in the wake of a spot of news that doesn’t seem to have caused any uproar (yet)–namely, that DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is apparently holding an event to discuss the prospect of geoengineering the climate.

As I write in the column:

This is newsworthy for at least two reasons: The U.S. government has, thus far, kept the subject of geoengineering at a relative arm’s-length; and one reason for that shyness is the extremely checkered past history of U.S. military ventures in weather modification, including the notorious attempt to use “weather warfare” to our advantage in Vietnam.

I’m not personally scandalized to learn of DARPA holding a conference or having a discussion. One thing about geoengineering, after all, is that not only may we want to do it, but we might also have reason to be concerned about someone else doing it–so the more dialogue, the better.

Indeed, I suspect that at some point soon this topic, currently off the radar of most Americans, is going to come up in a very big way, whether through politico-media scandal or, very preferably, otherwise.

Why? Put simply, because at least in some versions, geoengineering is likely to be cheap, and likely to work. These two attributes are already proving intellectually irresistible to many climate scientists, who at minimum call for geoengineering to be “studied,” and who are already doing so themselves in climate models. At some point, as we continue to struggle to get a handle on the global warming problem, they may also prove practically irresistible to politicians and governments.

I then call for a much broader public discussion of the pros and cons of geoengineering now, at the highest levels of policymaking and the media. We need to decide, as a society, what we think about direct and intentional climate modification before somebody goes ahead and actually tries it. You can read the full column here.

Can We Squawk About the Weather?

By Chris Mooney | March 3, 2009 11:11 am

We can if we’re Fox News. Or Matt Drudge.

These people use any snowstorm as reason to cast doubt on global warming. It’s as predictable as…well, no, it’s a lot more predictable than the weather.

I really regret that important global warming protests and actions always seem to be timed so that they coincide with winter weather. Mostly, the activists can’t help it; it’s just rotten luck. But I’ll say it again: Having the U.N. Copenhagen meeting in Denmark in December is just asking for this kind of stuff.

That doesn’t, of course, excuse the dishonesty from right-wingers who continually try to suggest that individual weather events undermine the global warming consensus.

Tis the Season of Climate Idiocy

By Chris Mooney | February 5, 2009 8:42 am

My latest Science Progress column takes on those, like right wing columnist Deroy Murdock or Lou Dobbs, who persist in trying to claim that winter weather refutes global warming. There are so, so, so many reasons this argument is dumb; and yet at the same time, who can dispute that the prevailing weather at a given time does highly influence the trajectory of the climate debate?

So while it’s intellectually silly to pretend that winter weather refutes global warming, it was also strategically silly to hold the giant United Nations conference in Copenhagen this December.

You can read the full column here.

When Weather Forecasts Disease

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 20, 2008 9:10 am

art.lightning.jpgNOAA’s Conrad Lautenbacher describes it as ‘science without borders‘: Scientists around the world are converging data on health, weather, behavior, and disasters to anticipate illness and prepare for pandemics.

It’s called the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, recognizing that patterns and behaviors all about planet earth are intimately connected. Man-made delineations aside, we truly are One World and I’m encouraged that 73 countries and more than 50 international organizations have joined so far:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyclone wrecks coastal Myanmar, spawning outbreaks of malaria, cholera and dengue fever. Flooding inundates Iowa, raising an array of public health concerns. As these disasters draw attention to weather hazards, which many fear could be exacerbated by climate change, scientists are working to be able to better predict health dangers as they forecast the weather.

Read more here.


What Was Kyrill?

By Chris Mooney | January 22, 2007 11:57 am


[Huge waves slam the port city of Wimereux in Northern France.]

Last week I griped about how various media organizations were calling the large scale cyclonic system that slammed Europe a “hurricane.” In this post, I’d like to be a bit more positive and look more closely at this weather phenomenon that was dubbed “Kyrill.” (Not Hurricane Kyrill.)

Read More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar