Thursday, January 29, 2009

Looking Up

13 million years ago, a nearby elliptical galaxy and a spiral galaxy collided, merging in a slow majestic dance of destruction and rebirth. At the center of the collision, a super massive black hole formed. Energetic photons, from infrared to ultraviolet, began moving out in all directions, including ours.

Meanwhile, the same 13 million years ago, back on Earth, there were no humans yet. There were, however, primates that would eventually branch off to other primates which would eventually branch off to us.

And we, being intelligent, tool-using primates, would eventually build optics and telescopes and computers that extend our human senses out into the Universe.

Fast forward to the present time. Our technologically extended vision is now receiving the 13 million year old photons from what we call the Centaurus A galaxy (our nearest giant galaxy). And here's what our technologically enhanced eyes see n

As super massive black holes draw matter in, they often form twin jets streaming out from each pole, blasting the surrounding space with unimaginable streams of matter and energy.

So when we look up at such things, we are looking back in time, back long before we and our amazing tools even existed. To be here now, and to be able to capture those ancient wave particles of light, photons that during their journey encompassed all of human history and a whole lot more, well, "awesome" doesn't even come close. And perhaps this is one of the biggest reasons why astronomy, cosmology, and all things skyward hold such an interest for me (and maybe some of you too?)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Goodbye Gray?

Maybe. We appear to be moving out of one of the longest classic Hood River inversion events in memory. And hey, my memory of such things goes back at least a year or two. 9 consecutive days of gray, boring Nothingness here at the city elevation. Escape was possible by heading to Mt Hood or braving near hurricane force winds through the Gorge to Portland, but for various reasons I couldn't escape this time.

It wasn't a total loss though. At my weather station, we set a high pressure record. January 18, the peak of the inversion, the baro hit 30.84", which surpassed the previous high of 30.83" on January 5, 2004. My station data goes back to 2000, making this a record for this century so far.

So today, it's been snowing lightly, with possibly more snow tomorrow.

At least, with this snow, things are turning a whiter shade of pale (if this doesn't date me, nothing will).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yet Another Meteor

Another relatively small rock from space plunges into Earth's atmosphere; another video cam captures it:

Too bad the dinosaurs didn't have video cams. The
asteroid that impacted 65 million years ago on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula would have been awesome posted on YouTube.

Wait... maybe they did have video cams, and we just haven't found them yet...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Misc Stuff

Some misc stuff that doesn't really warrant a new post, but combined... well, maybe still not warranted, but here it is:

First, at the extreme upper left of blogs hosted on Google's Blogger, there's a search box that searches the
entire history of that blog for any search word or phrase. I am probably the only person that never realized what that search box was for. I had thought it was a global "search the whole world of blogs" thing.

I've wasted way too much time in the past trying to find that elusive post in my blog on records, inversions, astronomy pics, garden stuff, etc. This is probably only of interest to me (regarding my blog), but it also applies to all Blogger blogs. And maybe some other blog hosting services also.

One word of advice: don't search this blog for "records". You'll regret it.

Second, Temira has succeeded in getting the PayPal "donate" button working on her local wind and recreation forecast site. If you appreciate and use the excellent service she has been providing there, and are able to do so, toss some spare change in her direction.

Third, speaking of PayPal donation buttons, I now have one on my weather site. I've removed the ads there, which I've been somewhat conflicted about for a while. I still might bring them back, especially if I can keep them mostly local.

I do have a specific goal for donations received: My current polling software subscription expires in a couple of months. I'm not really happy with it, and won't renew. I would like to use a more sophisticated survey service such as SurveyMonkey, or PollDaddy. However, the yearly Pro services are more than I can justify spending. So, if enough folks throw a litle coin at this, I'll feel better about trying it.

How's that for blackmail? Really, this is just an experiment, which as a techno person I love to perform. Regardless of the outcome. And, if anyone knows of any less expensive GOOD polling/survey services, let me know.

Friday, January 16, 2009

And So It Starts

Despite the amazing variety of weather so far this winter, up until now we haven't had what I consider the "classic" Gorge inversion event. This is the only type of weather in Hood River that I really really dislike. Day after day after boring day of gray nothingness overhead, draining all color from the world. Nothing but gray everywhere. In fact, more shades of gray than one would think possible. Cold daily temperatures that might vary 3 degrees in 24 hours (if we're lucky).

The only escape (and an ultimately necessary one) is up in elevation through the cloud layer, or west, where the east wind usually blesses Portland with sunshine and a substantial wind chill.

No need to go into the how or why of extended inversion events; that's been done quite well by others. Temira has an article on inversions from the local perspective, Cliff Mass has written Inversion 101, a more general primer on the subject, and Mark Nelsen has insightful inversion posts on his weather blog.

So far, this inversion event (only 2 days old so far) has featured some remarkable temperature variations as one goes up in elevation. Low 30's in town, mid to upper 50's in the Parkdale/Upper Valley area, and amazing multiple temperature layers at the ski resorts, from base to top. Springtime ski conditions in January!

Current predictions are for this inversion to last maybe a week, and then... either more inversion, arctic air, snow.... take your pick. Extreme winter weather typically ends by mid February, as do inversions, so we've got about 4 more weeks of one of the most interesting winters here in memory.

This time lapse Gorge video might not be exactly an inversion event (one seen from above?), but you get the idea. Beautiful above, downright evil below...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Don't Try This At Home

I was just advised of the most awesome base jumping/wingsuit video I've ever had the gut wrenching pleasure of watching. Thanks, good buddy JB in Roseburg!

Important note: always wear the proper PPE for all your outdoor activities.

Click here for a bigger screen version. Do it.

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2008 Revisited

I just finished crunching the numbers for the entire calendar year of 2008 (for our weather station).

2008 was warmer than long term, but cooler than recent years. Precipitation was lower, and wind speed was average.

The average temperature was 51.7 degrees F, 1.0 degree warmer than long term averages. On the other hand, it was 0.9 degrees cooler than more recent (2001-2007) averages. In that recent time period, 2003 has been the warmest year at 53.8 degrees F.

Precipitation was 2.57 inches below average. Average wind speed (round the clock average) for the year was 3.0 mph, matching the 2003-2007 average of 3.0 mph. Note the usual disclaimer about wind speed being lower at our station; but the comparison to the 2003-2007 average is valid, since those are all from our station's data.

High Low Average Historical Average
Temperature (F) 107.7

Wind (mph) 37


Rainfall (in) 1.44


Barometric (in Hg) 30.67

Friday, January 9, 2009

Never Mind

Regarding the previous post, scratch that. Indecision and inertia (and a brief flash of common sense) has won out. If it's not broke (too badly), don't fix it.

Plus, forcing the majority of the tolerant, kind, and long-suffering Hood River Weather visitors to change your links would be downright inconsiderate of me.

Plus, Temira has mentioned the chat window in her forecast blog and provided the link, and I sure don't want to get on HER bad side... :)

To those visitors that for whatever reason(s) prefer the original non-chat version of the site, I certainly respect that. Simply click here and bookmark that as your entry point. And the chat window has it's own separate web page here, which is good if you don't want to have your reading or typing interrupted by the weather site auto-refresh every 15 minutes.

So, once again, "it seems the more things don't change, the more they stay the same". How true. I'm not sure if Yogi Berra (or George W. for that matter) said that, but they should have.

One of the many rainbows over Hood River yesterday

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I've had 27 responses to my survey regarding the location of the chat window on the Hood River Weather site. Thanks everybody for your input, it was very much appreciated.

58% wanted it to stay exactly where it was. The rest, all over the field.

My conclusion? The current location of the chat window is definitely a distraction and a tripping point for those not interested in chat. And, as the weather gets more boring, the discussions will probably move further away from weather, which is fine with me, but maybe not so much for others.

So here's the changes coming up. Since I'm all about options, the main entry site (weather.htm) will NOT have the chat window, but a link to it. I'll also provide an identical site with the chat window in the current position. The chat window has its own site, which is here. Myself, I have mostly moved to that separate site for chat, since it isn't affected by the auto-refresh of the main weather site.

In other words, the Hood River Weather site will be an opt-in site regarding chat, rather than an opt-out.

These changes will occur in the next 48 hours. Once done, bookmark the site you prefer, and I'll see you there one way or another.

Click Here

I was just advised of this link. Trader Joe's location request form. For a long time now, I've been hoping TJ's would locate a store here in the Columbia River Gorge.

Thanks for the link, Chris.

Jan 10 update: It has been suggested that a location in The Dalles might be preferable, and I agree.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Extreme Weather: A Theory

The past 4 weeks have brought some of the most extreme and variable winter weather I can ever remember Hood River having. Arctic air, record snow depths, huge icicles, black ice, freezing rain, slush, mountain rain, sudden warming by westerly winds, spring-like days, heavy rain, and flooding. I've almost certainly left some things out.

There's plenty of theories and models attempting to explain the extreme weather this winter. I've really enjoyed the excellent links and discussions in the new Hood River Weather "Live Chat" window. Not having a strong background in weather modeling, I've learned a lot, and have had fun doing it. But, come on. All this talk of models and ENSO and ocean temperatures and ocean conveyor belts is, quite frankly, crazy talk.

I have developed my own (more sane) theory as to why our mild weather turned to extreme weather when it did. It's consistent with my observations, elegant in its simplicity, and, (due to Occam's Razor) almost certainly correct. I see the pattern clearly, and it's a perfect fit.

On Dec 13, 2008, at approximately 16:30, I created the chat room, inserted it into the site code, and turned it on. Within hours, the weather patterns started to change. Arctic air moved in. Snow. Ice. A weather pattern shift of monstrous proportions!

I am now almost certain that, by plugging in the chat room, I inadvertently opened a window into the "Extreme Weather Dimension" (EWD). And, at that moment, the "Extreme Weather Dimension Monster" (EWDM) stepped through into our world. Ever since, it (the EWDM) has been wreaking havoc on our weather.

Now... whether this was due to cosmic strings oscillating off-key, or multiple strings colliding in the d-dimension of space/time, well, I just couldn't tell you. But that's not important. It happened, and I take full responsibility for my tragic miscalculations.

It's clear to me now what I must do next. I've seen the movies. I must somehow dive into the chat room, thereby entering the EWD. I'll do this at a time when there is no one else in there; your safety is of upmost concern. Once in, I must taunt the EWD Monster (who is wreaking havoc on our weather); enraging it sufficiently so that it storms back into the EWD, where I will be ready and waiting...

Oh yes, I will be ready for it. While I engage it in battle, at the proper moment I will pull the plug on the chat room (EWD). Victory! I have lured the enraged EWDM back into the EWD and our weather can return to a normal winter pattern! I have rectified my sins! I have... oh shit...

I have trapped myself in the EWD with the enraged EWDM, and I have closed the portal.

Ok, I've got some work to do on the details. I'll let you know how things develop. In any event, enjoy the more normal winter weather coming up.

Changes ahead for the HR Weather live chat room. Stay tuned...

The EWD Monster in a more restful mood... but getting slightly irritated...

Monday, January 5, 2009

December Revisited

Compared to historical averages, December in Hood River was much colder, with average wind speed and rainfall equivalent (rain plus melted snow).

The average temperature was 3.4 degrees colder than long term averages, and 4.0 degrees colder than more recent averages (2000-2007). Wind speeds were average, with SSE winds predominating. Note that the calculation for wind direction is notoriously skewed, especially when the winds come from every which direction during the month.

The first half of the month was pretty boring, weather-wise. There was a high wind gust of 34 mph on Dec 12, as weather patterns started to shift. The second half: not nearly so boring (to put it mildly). Arctic air moved in Dec 14, followed by weeks of snow and ice. See previous posts for some of the more lurid details.

The variety of weather was also unusually capricious
. Relatively warm westerly chinook winds raised morning temperatures dramatically on a couple of occasions, only to plunge back down later. On Dec 31, we registered a chinook gust of 33, while Tom's westside weather station had a gust of 50 mph!

There was at least one official record set in December. That occurred on Dec 1, where the high of 57 surpassed the previous record (56 in 1939). Now snowfall, that's a different story. Since there was snow on the ground from Dec 15 thru the end of the month, and it was snowing/compacting/snowing more/compacting more all the time, I don't have any official daily snowfall amounts from MCAREC for that time period. Hopefully we will at some point. But I am pretty sure that new "snow depth" records were set from 12/18 through at least 12/28. This was the most amount of snow on the ground since 1980, and probably surpassed 1980 in number of days of record snow depth.

The data below is from our home weather station. The "historical average" numbers for temperature and rainfall are from the Hood River MCAREC data. Historical wind average is from our own station's 2000 to 2007 data. Note that average wind speeds include all 24 hours of the day and night, which is why they are way lower than daytime peak winds. In addition, the wind speed at our station is considerably lower than on the Columbia River.

High Low Average Historical Average
Temperature (F) 57

Wind (mph) 34


Rainfall (in) 0.98

5.57 (total)

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year, New Record

If you've followed this blog for awhile, you know that I'm all over the local weather records. Record rain, snow, temperatures (highs, lows, high lows, low highs). It's an obsession of sorts. Relatively harmless, but an obsession none the less.

And my obsession was deeply satisfied yesterday when we officially received 3.12" of rain equivalent precipitation (melted snow and rain), shattering both the local daily record for Jan 1 of 1.60" (1997), and the daily record for ANY day in January (previously 2.48" Jan 6 1948).

Except for some localized flooding and mudslides, it was a moment in weather history to be savored. You were there. Me too.

Happy New Year!