Monday, October 3, 2005

Falling Back to Summer

Yesterday's official high of 82 was consistent with the long-term average for the early days of September, and temperatures this afternoon are approaching similar readings in the Washington metro area. Fortunately, dewpoints in the mid 50s are keeping comfort levels more in line with fall than summer.

Tonight and Tomorrow

After lows tonight in the low 60s, some clouds tomorrow should keep temperatures a couple of degrees cooler than today.

Tropical Beat

As Jason predicted below, Stan has been revived by the warm waters of the Bay of Campeche and is now a tropical storm again with maximum winds of 55 mph. An Air Force reconnaissance flight was on the way to investigate early this afternoon. Some strengthening is expected, and Stan could make landfall on the Mexican Gulf Coast as a hurricane.

The area of more interest for the U.S. is a low-pressure trough which extends through the central Bahamas. This has the potential to develop as it moves westward, and a NOAA flight is scheduled for tomorrow.

Bizarro Weather World

The WaPo, which has rarely shown much of an inclination to take science seriously, wastes an entire half-page of valuable A-section real estate today on the latest crackpot scheme for "controlling" hurricanes. This kind of idea, which normally hangs out in the sub-basement along with the perpetual motion machines, cold fusion, and the recipes for transmuting lead into gold, gets trotted out every few years, usually when a major weather disaster has captured the public's attention. This particular plan involves firing off large numbers of jet engines on barges in the path of the storm. The promoter is asking for a mere $10 million to perform an experiment.

Here's an idea: Walk over to Staples, buy a No. 2 pencil for about a dime, and do some arithmetic on the back of the envelope from your latest credit card offer. Prof. Kerry Emanuel, a meteorology professor at MIT who has actually done research on the energy budget of tropical storms, is way too polite when he says, "I hate to sound pessimistic, but Moshe's strategy requires many orders of magnitude of energy more than what he's talking about, and the backfires would have to be almost as strong as the hurricane itself." Unfortunately, even this relatively mild rebuke is buried near the bottom of the second column (second page of web version).

Note to WaPo "science" reporters: It's time to learn your Powers of 10. And while you're at it, why don't you cover something we actually can control, like, oh, I don't know, maybe CO2 emission?

Afternoon Update is taking a break tomorrow, but will resume on Wednesday.

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