Wunderground launches BestForecast; Giovanna kills ten in Madagascar

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:41 PM GMT on February 15, 2012

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Weather Underground's meteorologists have spent over five years developing and testing a powerful forecasting system called BestForecast, which has been used to provide all of our forecasts for non-U.S. locations for the past several years. After some final improvements made in the past year, the forecasts from BestForecast have become competitive with forecasts from the National Weather Service (NWS) over much of the U.S. As of today, BestForecast forecasts are the default on the site. What's cool about BestForecast is that we can make its forecasts specific for any site that collects weather data. We gather several years of weather data from a site and optimize the forecast to suit the unique microclimate of a particular station. Thus, "backyard meteorologists" that own and maintain one of the more than 22,000 personal weather stations that record and send live weather conditions to Weather Underground will now have a forecast specifically generated for their own backyard. BestForecast also gives the expected precipitation amounts (in inches), and provides ten days of forecast information, instead of the seven days provided by the National Weather Service.

Users can evaluate the reliability of these forecasts themselves and get a second opinion by switching back to the National Weather Service forecasts that were previously published. In some areas, the National Weather Service will out-perform BestForecast, so play around with using both, and see what works the best for your location. Web site visitors can switch between best forecast and NWS forecasts using the switch "BestForecast" ON|OFF at the top of the forecast page. To create transparency in our forecasts, wunderground.com will publish the recent accuracy of its temperature forecasts over the past 20 days for every location, alongside the accuracy of the NWS. The accuracy is given in terms of the Root Mean Square Error (RMSE), in degrees Centigrade. A lower RMSE is better. The "MaxT" number is the verification of the daily high temperature forecasts, while the "Average" number is for the hour-by-hour forecasts.

A video demonstration of BestForecast is available on the wunderground.com About Our Data page.


Figure 1. Visible image from NASA's Terra satellite of Tropical Cyclone Giovanna over Madagascar, taken at 10:45 UTC Wednesday February 15, 2012. At the time, Giovanna was a tropical storm with 45 mph winds. Note the extensive plume of runoff and sediment stirred up by the storm flowing southwards along the east coast of Madagascar. Image credit: NASA.

Tropical Cyclone Giovanna kills ten in Madagascar
At least ten people were killed by Tropical Cyclone Giovanna in Madagascar, which hit the island nation as a powerful Category 3 storm with 125 - 130 mph winds at 22 UTC Monday night. An estimated 600,000 people lived in areas that received hurricane-force winds, but the eyewall of the storm missed the capital of Antananarivo, which received peak winds of 38 mph, gusting to 55 mph. Many remote areas that were affected by the storm have not been heard from yet, so the full extent of Giovanna's damage is not yet known. Giovanna is currently in the Mozambique Channel between Madagascar and Mozambique as a tropical storm with 50 mph winds, and is slowly intensifying. Latest computer model forecasts from the GFS and ECMWF models conflict, with the ECMWF model predicting the storm will swing around and pass very close to the southern tip of Madagascar next week, and the GFS model predicting landfall in Mozambique this weekend. Meanwhile, Madagascar must also keep an eye on Tropical Cyclone Thirteen, which is gathering strength over the waters to the east of the island, and is on a course that will bring it close to Madagascar next week.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Well if you are from Philly northward, good news for you is that you get more than a foot of snow on the 18Z GFS. Bad news if you love snow and are south of there, DC gets all rain on this run...
eh, I'm not a fan of 18z runs. Or 6z runs.

0z and 12z is the only way to go.

Especially when you are looking out more than a few days out in time.
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113. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting rwdobson:


You don't seem to understand what I mean by "quality assured."

You don't just "shell out for" a quality assured station. Quality assurance involves both proper installation and ongoing things like checks, calibration, maintenance, etc.

Few, if any, PWS will be quality assured. For one thing, most people cannot erect a 10-m tower to measure winds in their backyards, and even if they could, it would probably not be free from obstructions as needed. And even if it is somehow properly installed, will the operator perform the needed ongoing QA? Probably not. Few do.


Bestforecast did indeed used to suck on my PWS cause it was 10' off the ground & data was only uploaded when my PC was on. Because of Bestcast & an invest.. I was motivated to get it uploading 24/7 & mounted 30' up in the air, free of obstacles..easier than you described (check with radio shack & other neighbors with antenna's & such). If anything it has been a motivation to keep up with it.

Bestforecast many times now bests the NWS forecast as a few miles more inland from the ocean here makes a huge difference. NWS forecast for my town is made for a spot that gets much more wind from the sea some days then here. Same thing for my place in the mountains. Bestforecast has bested NWS for all the PWSs I watch in that area.

Personal Weather Stations make Wunderground very unique in the weather community even if every station isn't 100% correct..suspect data tends to stands out. This really just makes it all just that more useful, especially in microclimates.

If you don't trust PWSs choose your closest airport or NWS...if you don't trust that data why bother?
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Quoting hydrus:
I hope you get the snow Geek...You are Jonesing hard for something wet and cold besides beer...I will summon the Snow God, and there will be snow..

Wow! Looks like I'll see a lot of some on Sunday and Monday based on that model.

Local weather forecasts and the new BestForecast don't show anything, unfortunately.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


18Z GFS was stronger and more to the west....

That kinda cancels itself out... Farther west brings the rain/snow line farther inland (bad for me), stronger means the storm generates more of its own cold, pushing the rain/snow line back (good for me)
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


But I get all rain now....



i get rain no matter what xD
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
5.2 quake in the Aleutian Islands...
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Quoting:-92. Neapolitan.
With the title of "You thought is was just Texas?"

Sorry I cant quote direct as only half the page is present from 50/101.
Anyway, I don't think its anything like as bad here in England as all of you on the ground in Texas are having but it is interesting to note that the map that Nea put up shows most of the flat and easily farmed land in England where a lot of food is grown, I would estimate that upwards of 20 million people live in the high risk areas. Plus of course being a sporting bunch, they are hosting the Olympics in London as well this year.
I am in the north of England at the moment and the ground is soaking wet here,water everywhere. One of the main risks will not be continuing drought but bush/moor/forest fires, as everywhere there are large areas of dead, dry vegetable matter.
It needs to rain heavily in the next 6 weeks to avoid big problems.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Well if you are from Philly northward, good news for you is that you get more than a foot of snow on the 18Z GFS. Bad news if you love snow and are south of there, DC gets all rain on this run...
I hope you get the snow Geek...You are Jonesing hard for something wet and cold besides beer...I will summon the Snow God, and there will be snow..
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a lot of moisture being pumped into the gulf from the East Pacific..
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The NE still gets hammered regardless.


But I get all rain now....

Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3477
Quoting WxGeekVA:


Well if you are from Philly northward, good news for you is that you get more than a foot of snow on the 18Z GFS. Bad news if you love snow and are south of there, DC gets all rain on this run...


One thing to remember on that map is that precip you see is accumulated amount through the past 6 hours. The 0 line is the actual temp for that exact hour of the run. Best thing to look at is the 70% RH line for that hour of the run and use the 540 thickness or 0 at 850 line.
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we wait as always for the next set of model runs see if depiction remains
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


18Z GFS was stronger and more to the west....

The NE still gets hammered regardless.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32870
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
I sooooo hope the GFS is right with this weekend storm... Both the 12 and 18z runs show me getting 1+feet of snow... That would be more than I've had all year! I don't think I could make it through a winter without one big nor'easter to track... The 12 and 18z runs of the GFS were incredibly consistent, which gives me hope :D


18Z GFS was stronger and more to the west....
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3477
Quoting rwdobson:


You don't seem to understand what I mean by "quality assured."

You don't just "shell out for" a quality assured station. Quality assurance involves both proper installation and ongoing things like checks, calibration, maintenance, etc.


Right. So if we have several personal weather stations with their own biases, the BestForecast is just working to match those biases. Then it produces a forecast that best "matches" your area. Unfortunatly this implies that there was a problem with the forecast that needed correcting, instead of a problem with the weather station.

There is probably more uncertainty with weather forecasts than weather stations, but without any type of consistent QC or station type used in BestForecast, the uncertainty bars for measurements is going to start getting pretty big too - maybe rivaling the uncertainty of the forecasts.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Well if you are from Philly northward, good news for you is that you get more than a foot of snow on the 18Z GFS. Bad news if you love snow and are south of there, DC gets all rain on this run...

The cold air appears to be chasing the precipitation here...like usual.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32870
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Well if you are from Philly northward, good news for you is that you get more than a foot of snow on the 18Z GFS. Bad news if you love snow and are south of there, DC gets all rain on this run...
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3477
Honestly BestForecast has performed better for me than almost anything else ever since I discovered it about a year ago. However its precipitation chances seem to be a bit too bias to the GFS model.
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I sooooo hope the GFS is right with this weekend storm... Both the 12 and 18z runs show me getting 1+feet of snow... That would be more than I've had all year! I don't think I could make it through a winter without one big nor'easter to track... The 12 and 18z runs of the GFS were incredibly consistent, which gives me hope :D
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yeah, you would've been screwed. :P


I know, thankfully we were prepared just in case, but even that gave me stitches and a scar LOL
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Quoting Skyepony:


When you've shelled out for a quality-assured station, assembled & precariously mounted it on your roof, figured out the software..get it uploading 24/7 to Wunderground..it's awesome to get a personal forecast for it.

Since your not using your own PWS & you feel your neighbor's is shoddy data.. just pick the local airport or what ever you feel is quality assured..WU might best the NWS forecast or not..atleast they give you the stats to know which you should weight more..


You don't seem to understand what I mean by "quality assured."

You don't just "shell out for" a quality assured station. Quality assurance involves both proper installation and ongoing things like checks, calibration, maintenance, etc.

Few, if any, PWS will be quality assured. For one thing, most people cannot erect a 10-m tower to measure winds in their backyards, and even if they could, it would probably not be free from obstructions as needed. And even if it is somehow properly installed, will the operator perform the needed ongoing QA? Probably not. Few do.
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And you thought it was just Texas?
Fears of British super-drought after record low rainfall in winter

--------

"When you use the word drought you become a hostage to fortune. Events can occur at the last minute to make you look silly," said Andrew Chapman, a senior environment planning officer with the agency. "But the position is becoming very serious. In simple terms, unless we get a downpour that lasts for several weeks in the very near future, we are in trouble. There could be severe water shortages in many parts of the country." Worst affected areas would include the Midlands, East Anglia and the south-east of England, say agency officials.

The impending crisis--which could have widespread consequences for farmers, food production, tourism, industry and domestic life--has been building for the past 18 months. Reservoirs were already low this time last year. Then came 2011, the driest year in England and Wales for 90 year.

In addition, we are now experiencing the driest winter on record, though this could change over the next few weeks, meteorologists have said. The crucial point is that boreholes and reservoirs are now at "notably low" or "exceptionally low" levels. At the RSPB reserve at Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk, springs have dried up and many of the birds, including populations of bearded tits, marsh harriers and reed warblers, are now struggling to find food. Fresh water plants and animals such as water voles are also suffering. "This is a very worrying situation to have at this time of year," said Grahame Madge, an RSPB official. "This is an incredibly important wildlife site that we cannot afford to have damaged. We are going to have to look very carefully at how we manage water supplies there in coming years."

In addition, rivers have dried up in several areas. These include tributaries of the Welland in Lincolnshire and the Chess in Buckinghamshire. Fish have become stranded in pools and had to be rescued by agency workers and moved to areas where water is flowing.

"We sometimes have to carry out such rescues in summer," said Ian Barker, the Environment Agency's head of water, land and biodiversity. "But we are having to do this in mid-winter, the one time of year when there is supposed to be plenty of water and rainfall. That is certainly not a healthy state."

The impending water crisis is particularly worrying for farmers. At this time of year, many build storage lagoons to hold water that they can use later in the year to irrigate crops. But to be allowed to dam up water that would otherwise flow into rivers, farmers have to be given permits by the Environment Agency.


Uh-oh

Full article...
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91. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting rwdobson:


My point is, even if BF does out-peform NWS statistically, it may not be a meaningful improvement. The ability to simulate a PWS that collects bad data does not result in a more useable forecast. It just means you can predict what the bad data will say. I'd much rather verify forecasts against a quality-assured station that uses known methods...


When you've shelled out for a quality-assured station, assembled & precariously mounted it on your roof, figured out the software..get it uploading 24/7 to Wunderground..it's awesome to get a personal forecast for it.

Since your not using your own PWS & you feel your neighbor's is shoddy data.. just pick the local airport or what ever you feel is quality assured..WU might best the NWS forecast or not..atleast they give you the stats to know which you should weight more..
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Quoting Bergeron:




POAMA shows a little different



Thank you...
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Quoting rwdobson:


My point is, even if BF does out-peform NWS statistically, it may not be a meaningful improvement. The ability to simulate a PWS that collects bad data does not result in a more useable forecast. It just means you can predict what the bad data will say. I'd much rather verify forecasts against a quality-assured station that uses known methods...


One thing that could be done to look into this issue further would be for Dr. Masters and his team to create visual representations of the RMSE for both the NWS forecast and the WU BestForecast values. If we could see it on a map, we could more easily ascertain how the error changes over a region.

Might also be helpful to see the BestForecast values in a gridded forecast just like the gridded forecast database from NWS, then we can see if the values it is producing make physical sense (like warmer temps in large urban areas, cooler temps in valleys, etc).
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Quoting StormTracker2K:




Notice how approximately half of the models start heading back towards La Nina by the middle/end of this year.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32870
87. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting rwdobson:
Skye, I looked and here's what WU is saying for forecast quality for my nearest station (KKSOVERL5):

The quality of the forecasted high temperature for this day is good. MaxT RMSE [2.10], Average RMSE [2.24]
The National Weather Service forecast quality is good. MaxT RMSE [1.58], Average RMSE [1.68]

So it looks like quality really varies from station to station even within a small area...in this case it looks like NWS is winning handily. But for some other station nearby, both are doing much worse than they are for this one.

To me, this shows a big problem with trying to tailor forecasts to a specific PWS.


I see it as a great tool..especially since it gives you the error for both Bestforecast & NWS.. Since you have several stations in a small area you can find the one that has been giving the best forecast..be it NWS or Bestforecast & give that one some weight when considering the different forecasts for the area.

It's a great weather tool.. but if all you want to see is NWS, click once & you will forever see NWS forecast. This has been available for months or more...I see now it really went unnoticed.
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Quoting Skyepony:


We do know what station is being used for verification.. It is which ever station you select..you can select the airport or the one in your neighbor's backyard. The RMSE is located on the forecast page for which ever station you selected & are viewing..it compares the Bestforecast to the NWS forecast given for that same location. That way you can choose the better.. If one has out-preformed the other the last 20 days..your right it might not out-preform it today..but chances are it will.


My point is, even if BF does out-peform NWS statistically, it may not be a meaningful improvement. The ability to simulate a PWS that collects bad data does not result in a more useable forecast. It just means you can predict what the bad data will say. I'd much rather verify forecasts against a quality-assured station that uses known methods...
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What a bust for Houston today.. We were expecting 2+ inches of rain and didn't get barely a 1/4 inch!
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25 million tons of tsunami debris floating toward US shores - Fox News 2-15-12



Now imagine a Tsunami offshore of the West Coast of North America, just as this material is moving in close. Their debris and ours would co-mingle inland, a horrific thought, but remotely possible.
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Quoting jrweatherman:


Can you post the link to the forecast of a strong El Nio? Thx




POAMA shows a little different
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82. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting rwdobson:


Do we know what stations are being used for verification of the forecasts? If they are being verified against personal weather stations, WU might have a better RMS but that wouldn't necessarily mean a better forecast. I've seen some pretty questionable temps reported by PWSs.


We do know what station is being used for verification.. It is which ever station you select..you can select the airport or the one in your neighbor's backyard. The RMSE is located on the forecast page for which ever station you selected & are viewing..it compares the Bestforecast to the NWS forecast given for that same location. That way you can choose the better.. If one has out-preformed the other the last 20 days..your right it might not out-preform it today..but chances are it will. Many locations out of the US like this one..Bestforecast is the only source. It would be better if in those places if the RMSE was still given.
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Quoting jrweatherman:


Can you post the link to the forecast of a strong El Niño? Thx

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Gotta evening of t-storms lining up upwind of our location.

Since being here in Mid TN I've noticed that any forecast beyond 48 hours is subject to significant change, I don't even look at the 7 day let alone a 10 day..

As to those cute little Madagascar Chameleons.. I bet more than a few will find themselves in Mozambique thanks to Giovanna!
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Skye, I looked and here's what WU is saying for forecast quality for my nearest station (KKSOVERL5):

The quality of the forecasted high temperature for this day is good. MaxT RMSE [2.10], Average RMSE [2.24]
The National Weather Service forecast quality is good. MaxT RMSE [1.58], Average RMSE [1.68]

So it looks like quality really varies from station to station even within a small area...in this case it looks like NWS is winning handily. But for some other station nearby, both are doing much worse than they are for this one.

To me, this shows a big problem with trying to tailor forecasts to a specific PWS.
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Quoting RTSplayer:


Just wondering.

Aren't prisons typically made of concrete and metal?

How did a fire get big enough to kill that many people? Even with them locked in their cells, I don't understand what was burning to kill that many people? Floor polish? paint? Ceiling tiles? Was there wooden flooring or wall panels?

That just doesn't make sense at all.


I have done some interior structural fire fighting. We would train in concrete buildings. Add a little fuel ( hay bails), set it on fire and then put it out. The concrete acts like an oven and it does not take long for consumables to reach a flash point. The room becomes smoke filled and very dark in a very short time. Most, probably, died from smoke inhalation and toxic fumes. BTW, when a hay bail burns, it gives off cyanide gas.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Kind of interesting to troll over the numbers of some of the concerned (that left their location) over Bestforecast.. Really showing the RMSE has been a key improvement. With RMSE the 20 day average of error the low number is the winner



Do we know what stations are being used for verification of the forecasts? If they are being verified against personal weather stations, WU might have a better RMS but that wouldn't necessarily mean a better forecast. I've seen some pretty questionable temps reported by PWSs.
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Quoting caneswatch:


Just imagine if Ike took his original forecasted path straight into South Florida. He would've been at least a Cat. 4 and the damage just as bad, if not even worse.

Yeah, you would've been screwed. :P
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32870
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Looks like an average season this year. 10 to 12 storms max as El-Nino looks like it's coming and it could be extremely strong by end of October.


Can you post the link to the forecast of a strong El Niño? Thx
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
winter ends in 35 days from now lots can happen in 35 days lots


I sure hope so, the long range GFS has some major cold shots with possible severe weather ahead of them.
But I can wait till spring for tornados, right now I wan't snow.
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73. Skyepony (Mod)
Kind of interesting to troll over the numbers of some of the concerned (that left their location) over Bestforecast.. Really showing the RMSE has been a key improvement. With RMSE the 20 day average of error the low number is the winner..


inyo~ WU wins on your max temp with NWS winning the average.
The quality of the forecasted high temperature for this day is good. MaxT RMSE [2.07], Average RMSE [2.41]
The National Weather Service forecast quality is good. MaxT RMSE [2.23], Average RMSE [1.46]

oreodogsghost~ WU wins for average temps, NWS wins high temps.
The quality of the forecasted high temperature for this day is good. MaxT RMSE [2.24], Average RMSE [1.68]
The National Weather Service forecast quality is good. MaxT RMSE [2.09], Average RMSE [2.10]

rwdobson~ Interesting both the NWS & Bestforecast are having difficult calling it for your area. You might can use both to help come up with your own forecast based on the usual error of both the models. NWS is slightly ahead.
The quality of the forecast high temperature for this day is fair. MaxT RMSE [3.07], Average RMSE [2.21]
The National Weather Service forecast quality is fair. MaxT RMSE [2.54], Average RMSE [2.01]

My place in WNC Bestforecast is rated good & NWS fair (bestforecast microclimate advantage showing). In FL they are both excellent. MS both Good. Most places it's comparable, a few better, a few worse..


Rita~ You got a point there..

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yeah, Ike was definitely a major hurricane at landfall. Gustav is more debatable.


Just imagine if Ike took his original forecasted path straight into South Florida. He would've been at least a Cat. 4 and the damage just as bad, if not even worse.
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Quoting allancalderini:
Off-Topic at least 365 prisoners had died here in Honduras after a fire start in the Penal of Comayagua.


Just wondering.

Aren't prisons typically made of concrete and metal?

How did a fire get big enough to kill that many people? Even with them locked in their cells, I don't understand what was burning to kill that many people? Floor polish? paint? Ceiling tiles? Was there wooden flooring or wall panels?

That just doesn't make sense at all.
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there will be several large events coming up to take us into spring
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
and I though winter was over for us here in NYC, BUT;


big NYC snow? rain? what do you think
winter ends in 35 days from now lots can happen in 35 days lots
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Off-Topic at least 365 prisoners had died here in Honduras after a fire start in the Penal of Comayagua.
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Quoting MTWX:

A bunch of flood and flash flood warnings going out for that area!


Need a better water management system.

With all these models able to predict where excesses and lacks of rainfall will be days, weeks, and even months in advance, we should be pumping water to and from places ahead of time to take up the slack.

A "smart water grid" would help alleviate both the flooding of the Mississippi basin and the droughts in Texas and other plain states, but pumping water ahead of time.

You don't need enough water to save every tree and blade of grass. You only need enough extra to save the livestock and the hay fields and human crops. This would require much less than say, trying to water all life.

I propose more advanced systems, including pipes and pumps, to capture run-off and pump it to lakes and ponds for storage...even if you have to pump it back up-hill in some cases.

This would also help reduce flash-flooding, because you could set up the system to pump water some place else. That wouldn't prevent 100 year floods, but it would reduce the impact of flash floods in general.

Like take 2 or 3 meter radius pipes and run them from the Mississippi at about the Arkansas/Louisiana border, across to the plains states, with junctions along the way. This way you can pump water to whoever needs it, from whoever has it, instead of farmers relying on local irrigation systems and chance to provide water.

Local irrigation systems are useless in regional droughts, so why not have a multi-regional, irrigation system managed by the member states?


I just get sick of most of these droughts and floods which are theoretically preventable, or at least reducible, in mutually beneficial ways.


This entire project would pay for itself in livestock and produce in just one year, even if it was an inter-state project between Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Now unfortunately, this requires the Federal Government because it would fall under "interstate commerce", but the point is, this is theoretically feasible, and should only cost a few hundred million to a few billion.

It would have paid for itself in 2011 alone.
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and I though winter was over for us here in NYC, BUT;


big NYC snow? rain? what do you think
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We are finally saying goodbye to Jasmine!
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting MTWX:

A bunch of flood and flash flood warnings going out for that area!


Yes Indeed! North of Houston is really getting a lot of rain today.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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