Earth Weather / Space Weather


By: Susie77, 12:45 AM GMT on March 29, 2008

Hi, everyone. My good friend who lives near Fairbanks is an accomplished photographer/artist who specializes in panoramas. I told him that I love this format because, to me, it is like you are actually there on the scene. A regular photo, while beautiful, is more like looking through a window at the scene. He took this one Wednesday night, as the Lights danced across the night sky. The orange glow at the horizon is Fairbanks' city lights. Just to the right of the orange you may see the constellation Orion.

I hope you enjoy. You may see more of his work -- not just aurora photos, but also land- and cityscapes -- at his Photosymphony site.

Aurora Friday

By: Susie77, 12:29 PM GMT on March 28, 2008

It's 0720 CDT here in Missouri.... the aurora are still visible in Fairbanks.

Latest image from the aurora cam:

Auroras Tonight!

By: Susie77, 10:46 PM GMT on March 26, 2008

Solar activity remainds high, and the sky remains fair in Fairbanks, AK, home of the Aurora Cam, so if you have a chance to take a peek either tonight or early tomorrow morning (they are three hrs. behind CDT), it should be a lovely show.

Auroras now!!

By: Susie77, 1:09 PM GMT on March 26, 2008

Look quick!

St. Louis Flooding

By: Susie77, 12:46 AM GMT on March 23, 2008

We went down to the flooded area near Valley Park/Kirkwood, and I got a couple of pix. This picture is in an area where we go hiking and kayaking... when the river (Meramec) is not at flood stage. Homes here are pretty upscale... but fortunately there are alternate roads so folks can go back and forth to home without too many problems. Further downstream, people are not so lucky. This photo taken about 1/4 mile from Hwy. 44, on Marshall Road.

Happy Easter!

By: Susie77, 3:11 PM GMT on March 22, 2008

May your baskets be filled!

Naked Eye Gamma Ray Burst -- Blast From the Past

By: Susie77, 12:30 AM GMT on March 22, 2008

From NASA:

Naked-eye Gamma Ray Burst


March 21, 2008: A powerful gamma ray burst detected March 19th by NASA's Swift satellite has shattered the record for the most distant object that could be seen with the naked eye.

"It was a whopper," says Swift principal investigator Neil Gehrels of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "This blows away every gamma ray burst we've seen so far."

Swift's Burst Alert Telescope picked up the burst at 2:12 a.m. EDT on March 19, 2008, and pinpointed the coordinates in the constellation Bootes. Telescopes in space and on the ground quickly moved to observe the afterglow. The burst was named GRB 080319B and registered between 5 and 6 on the visual magnitude scale used by astronomers. (A magnitude 6 star is the dimmest visible to the human eye; magnitude 5 is almost three times brighter.)

Later that evening, the Very Large Telescope in Chile and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas measured the burst's redshift at 0.94. A redshift is a measure of the distance to an object. A redshift of 0.94 translates into a distance of 7.5 billion light years, meaning the explosion took place 7.5 billion years ago, a time when the universe was less than half its current age and Earth had yet to form. This is more than halfway across the visible universe.

"No other known object or type of explosion could be seen by the naked eye at such an immense distance," says Swift science team member Stephen Holland of Goddard. "If someone just happened to be looking at the right place at the right time, they saw the most distant object ever seen by human eyes without optical aid."

Most gamma ray bursts occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel. Their cores collapse to form black holes or neutron stars, releasing an intense burst of high-energy gamma rays and ejecting particle jets that rip through space at nearly the speed of light. When the jets plow into surrounding interstellar clouds, they heat the gas to incandescent visibility. It is this gaseous "afterglow" which was visible to the human eye on March 19th.

GRB 080319B's afterglow was 2.5 million times more luminous than the most luminous supernova ever recorded, making it the most intrinsically bright object ever observed by humans in the universe. The most distant previous object that could have been seen by the naked eye is the nearby galaxy M33, a relatively short 2.9 million light-years from Earth.

Analysis of GRB 080319B is just getting underway, so astronomers don't know why this burst and its afterglow were so bright. One possibility is the burst was more energetic than others, perhaps because of the mass, spin, or magnetic field of the progenitor star or its jet. Or perhaps it concentrated its energy in a narrow jet that was aimed directly at Earth.

GRB 080319B was one of four bursts that Swift detected on March 19th, a Swift record for one day. Swift science team member Judith Racusin of Penn State University comments, "coincidentally, the passing of Arthur C. Clarke seems to have set the universe ablaze with gamma ray bursts." A fitting farewell, indeed.

Solar Cycle -- Solar Minimum

By: Susie77, 6:25 PM GMT on March 20, 2008


SOLAR CYCLE UPDATE: 2008 has been a year of few sunspots and mostly blank suns. A solar cycle update just released by NASA solar physicist David Hathaway shows why. We are experiencing the lowest ebb of solar minimum:

In the plot, the noisy curve is the International Sunspot Number measured by a worldwide network of solar observers. The smoothed curves are predictions for the future. We see that sunspot numbers may remain low for many months to come before beginning a rapid ascent in early 2009 toward the next solar maximum. It's something to look forward to. Meanwhile, stay tuned for quiet.

Gravity waves make tornadoes

By: Susie77, 7:35 PM GMT on March 19, 2008

From NASA:

Gravity Waves Make Tornados


March 19, 2008: Did you know that there's a new breakfast food that helps meteorologists predict severe storms? Down South they call it "GrITs."

GrITs stands for Gravity wave Interactions with Tornadoes. "It's a computer model I developed to study how atmospheric gravity waves interact with severe storms," says research meteorologist Tim Coleman of the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

According to Coleman, wave-storm interactions are very important. If a gravity wave hits a rotating thunderstorm, it can sometimes spin that storm up into a tornado.

What is an atmospheric gravity wave? Coleman explains: "They are similar to waves on the surface of the ocean, but they roll through the air instead of the water. Gravity is what keeps them going. If you push water up and then it plops back down, it creates waves. It's the same with air."

Coleman left his job as a TV weather anchor in Birmingham to work on his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "I'm having fun," he says, but his smile and enthusiasm already gave that away.

"You can see gravity waves everywhere," he continues. "When I drove in to work this morning, I saw some waves in the clouds. I even think about wave dynamics on the water when I go fishing now."

Gravity waves get started when an impulse disturbs the atmosphere. An impulse could be, for instance, a wind shear, a thunderstorm updraft, or a sudden change in the jet stream. Gravity waves go billowing out from these disturbances like ripples around a rock thrown in a pond.

When a gravity wave bears down on a rotating thunderstorm, it compresses the storm. This, in turn, causes the storm to spin faster. To understand why, Coleman describes an ice skater spinning with her arms held straight out. "Her spin increases when she pulls her arms inward." Ditto for spinning storms: When they are compressed by gravity waves, they spin faster to conserve angular momentum.

"There is also wind shear in a gravity wave, and the storm can take that wind shear and tilt it and make even more spin. All of these factors may increase storm rotation, making it more powerful and more likely to produce a tornado."

"We've also seen at least one case of a tornado already on the ground (in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 8, 1998) which may have become more intense as it interacted with a gravity wave."

Coleman also points out that gravity waves sometimes come in sets, and with each passing wave, sometimes the tornado or rotating storm will grow stronger.

Tim and his boss, Dr. Kevin Knupp, are beginning the process of training National Weather Service and TV meteorologists to look for gravity waves in real-time, and to use the theories behind the GrITs model to modify forecasts accordingly.

Who would have thought grits could predict bad weather? "Just us meteorologists in Alabama," laughs Coleman. Seriously, though, Gravity wave Interactions with Tornadoes could be the next big thing in severe storm forecasting.

Was: Need your help! Now: Good news

By: Susie77, 2:20 AM GMT on March 15, 2008

Thanks for your good wishes! I got a second interview next week!

Need Your Help!

By: Susie77, 4:13 PM GMT on March 12, 2008

Hey guys and gals, could I ask you for a huge favor? I went to a job interview this morning for a position I really want. Can I ask for your candles, energies, and prayers? Thank you so much!

A Beautiful Sky Weekend -- Two For the Price of One!

By: Susie77, 3:56 PM GMT on March 08, 2008

From Space

ZODIACAL LIGHT: This weekend after sunset, look west for a ghostly triangle of light jutting upward from the horizon. If you can see it, you've spotted the Zodiacal Light:

"Here its subtle glow appears over the small-town lights of Borrego Springs in Southern California's Anza-Borrego Desert," says photographer Dennis Mammana. He took the picture, a 30-second exposure, on March 2nd using a Canon 20D at ISO 800.

Zodiacal light is sunlight reflected from dust particles littering the solar system's orbital plane. (These are the same dust particles that make meteors when they occasionally hit Earth's atmosphere.) March is a good month to look because the glowing dust band is oriented nearly vertical at sunset. A trip to the countryside on a moonless March evening often results in a Zodiacal Light sighting. Try it!

And once again, check out the aurora cam

Earth is inside a stream of particles roaring in from the sun... even down here in the mid-lats we have a 40-50% chance of seeing the aurora in our own skies this weekend.

From 28 February 2008's display....

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.