All’s well that ends well

What a nice day yesterday was, ending with this fabulous, but run-of-the mill sunsets we get to see here in the Catalina area on a regular basis.  Yesterday was interesting because we had two graupel (soft hail) showers, the first about noon, and the second with a blast of thunder (1) at 1605 PM.   If you weren’t lucky enough to get any, measure it and report it to the National Bureau of Standards, or the NWS, here’s what it looked like on our old chaise lounge a  couple of minutes after it fell (see below).  Some of it was “conical graupel”, pointed on one side, though that is not visible here.  Graupel, soft hail form when there aren’t many ice crystals in the cloud and the cloud is chock full of droplets at below freezing temperatures.  Those droplets freeze instantly onto the ice crystal as it makes it way down to the ground, eventually losing all of its identity as it become a little snowball.  Usually, where this happens in the cloud is in a very limited region, and, it usually doesn’t last for a long time.  So, consider yourself especially “lucky” to see graupel/soft hail, hail.  I do.  If you want to relive yesterday’s clouds, as seen from the U of A, go here.   “Above Catalina” is at the left, beyond Pusch Ridge.

What’s exciting now is that something akin to an atmospheric iceberg is barreling down on us (SE AZ) from the north.  This “cold low” center, representing a column of extraordinarily cold air in this case, goes from the ground all the way up through the “troposphere.”  IN this case, the troposphere is squashed down to less than 20,000 feet over Wy0ming right now. The stratosphere is above that, and above “cold lows”,  the stratosphere dips down over them.  Usually its twice that height at our latitude.

Here’s what I am talking about, shown in this morning’s 500 millibar pressure map (about 18,000 feet above the ground) or usually half way up through the troposphere (map courtesy San Francisco State U.)  The winds flow along the green lines, ones that bend gently toward the west over the Great Basin.  That bend in the wind represents an area where a small low center amid this giant river of wind will form in the next 24 h and that little center of circulation should pass right over us!

Now, not a single model output that I saw from last night’s runs had enough moisture in this forming upper center to have snow even fall on Mt. Sara Lemmon (e.g., the U of AZ regional model from last night).

A few days ago, the Canadian model was suggesting a signficant storm here from this center. I really believe it.   Well, that’s “bye-bye” since the center is not well to the west of us as that Enviro Can model indicated it would be, but rather will end up right over us (which means much drier).    The U of WA model run from this morning’s data says that a little “L” will be right over my house on Thursday morning (see reddish map below) !  Man, it will be cold over me!    Might lose some plants in this one before its over.

However, I am going to stick my neck out and expect (hope) there will be just enough moisture for flurries around here (Catalina area) anyway tomorrow into tomorrow evening.

BTW, the U of A has just issued a special weather discussion here.  You’ll want to check this out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowball Earth? Well, maybe a Snowball Tucson on the doorstep!

The computer models are diverging significantly on the “tail of the scorpion” on this incoming front and the two troughs that pass over us in the next few days.  First, a Pacific front blows through on Monday with its upper air accompaniment racing to the northeast.  But then this monumentally strong wave disturbance barges in from Canada over the Rockies and actually deploys toward the SSW while intensifying and curling into an upper center, this center trailed by a gigantic mass of cold air that oozes over most of the US.  High pressure levels in the cold air,  1060-1065 millibars initially, may set some records here and there in the northern Rockies.

The “best/worst” full display of this predicted sequence is here from our friends at Environment Canada, and the output from last night, of which one panel is shown below.

This panel at left, from that Canadian model run, is the most exciting panel of future weather I have seen this winter!

Now, if you’re a bit jingoistic about models and want to know about our US model results for this situation, I have to tell you, sadly,  that they do not have this “good” a configuration over the SW as far as precip goes.

There is no upper vortex, Virginia, over western AZ in the US models, as in shown in the upper left panel here.

And that makes all the difference in whether AZ will get much precip out of this second of a two part event. In the US models, such an upper low does not form over AZ but rather just a bitterly cold slug of air, mainly dry, intrudes on us and that second strong upper trough just trucks on by.

So, its a dicey situation, but, because my dad was Canadian (from Winnipeg) and I really want to see some precipitation here after a rainless January, I am going to say that this Canadian model is the correct one, jingoism aside.

Furthermore, in order to have precipitation, which I believe will be rain changing to SNOW here at about 3200 feet on Wednesday, there will first have to be clouds (silly, haha), the latter my specialty at the University of Washington.

I love clouds and the way they present themselves in this gorgeous Sonoran Desert environment that we are so lucky to live in.  So, there oughta be some interesting clouds beginning today as the cirrus zipping on by begin to announce this monumental change from our mundane, but glorious weather of late.  And, of course with that fast moving river of air called the jet stream settles over us, there’ll be some windy periods, too.

The worst part of this scenario is the bitter cold that will likely get here after this mammoth upper low center goes by, and if the US models are correct, it will only get here that bit sooner.

Below, this morning’s cirrus, full of portent, over Mt. Sara Lemmon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion, p269: climate change meets cloud seeding

“McIntyre’s first step in trying to replicate a paper was to collate the data.   While data might be cited correctly and accurately in the papers, it was always possible that what had been used was different in some way to the official versions, whether due to an error in the archive or one made by the authors.”

Almost at every turn in this monumental exposé by A. W. Montford, I see parallels in the many cloud seeding reanalyses I did at the University of Washington with Peter Hobbs.  The two sentences quoted above from Montford’s book, so fundamental a step in checking results, literally leapt off the page since that is exactly where the most basic replication starts, and where we always began in our cloud seeding (CS) reanalyses.

In our re-evaluation of perhaps the most important randomized wintertime cloud seeding experiments ever conducted, those at Climax, Colorado, 1961-1970, we started with the raw data that the experimenters said they had used.  This was precipitation measurements at the cloud seeding target gage that were taken by an independent organization and archived by NOAA, thus making it publicly available.  The experimenters high lighted this independence in their publications.

But when those values from NOAA were used in the re-evaluation of those Climax experiments, discrepancies were found, just as Montford reports that Steve McIntyre found so often in his proxy raw data examinations.   In our case, the seeded days generally had more snow in the experimenters’ data at the NOAA target gage, and control days less than was actually the case according to the NOAA data.   Furthermore,  these discrepancies were only observed in the second “confirmatory” experiment (1966-1970) on the days that were supposed to respond the most to seeding.  In our re-evaluation of the second experiment (aka, Climax II) the use of the NOAA precipitation values, along with other data corrections,  degraded the results so badly that they did not confirm the first five season experiment after all.   The experimenters had previously reported that Climax II had been a confirmation of the first (aka, Climax I) experiment.

As one might imagine, the initial reports of a the “confirmation” of the earlier “exploratory” CS experiment gave those two experiments together a great deal of caché as strong evidence that snow could be increased on a determinant basis through wintertime cloud seeding.   And they were cited as having done so by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences Panel on Climate and Weather Modification in 1974.    (As an interesting aside, the NAS Panel was also concerned at that time about the “…recent equatorward shift in ice boundaries.”)

Further work “de-constructing” those experiments at Climax, that is, the discovery of more discrepancies, can be found here.

Eventually the experimenters acknowledged the source of their errors in precipitation at the target gage in a journal exchange in 1995.

Epilogue

However, unlike the situation that McIntyre repeatedly encounters in Montford’s HSI account, where climate researchers refuse to honor requests for raw data, in our re-analysis of cloud seeding experiments in Colorado, the experimenters at Colorado State University were totally cooperative in supplying data that was occasionally requested by the present writer.  They did this even though they KNEW that the requestor was a critic/skeptic, might challenge their earlier results.  To their great credit, the ideals of science were given a higher priority than their egos by those at CSU and that finding problems and discrepancies were recognized as a way of advancing science, not hindering it.

 

 

The FAA and the Ideals of Science


 


Today, its not unusual to see researchers publishing seemingly important findings in journals accompanied by a global news release at the time the article appears.  At this point, such research has perhaps been reviewed prior to journal publication by only several individuals.

However, it has become fairly common for researchers asscociated with globally impactful findings to withhold methodologies that led to them.   The natural result, particularly in the climate change domain, is a firestorm since critics in that research domain are SURE that there are misdeeds or errors due to “confirmation bias.”

An example in point is the important “Hockey Stick” paper by Mann et al. 1998 (Nature), one that was to have tremendous influence before it could be checked by outsiders on how exactly it came about.  This paper showed a sharp rise in global temperatures during the past 30-40 years, one commensurate with the thought that rising CO2 concentrations were already having a noticeable effect on global temperatures.   Eventually, a number of errors were found in this paper, and the Hockey Stick, as presented, was thrown in doubt.  It should be kept in mind, however, that just because the original paper was flawed, that there is not going to be such a rise–the author tends to agree with this proposition that global temperatures will gradually rise in the future.

This long, tortured chapter involving the “Hockey Stick” should not have happened.   It was clearly due to the original researchers believing that their results were too important for others to learn how they got them.   Sadly, in this writer’s opinion, it is a position of the National Science Foundation well that researchers can hide their methodologies and the exact data they used under a “proprietary” umbrella.  A scientific horror story in concerning the Hockey Stick has been laid out in detail by A. W. Montford, in “The Hockey Stick Illusion”, a book I highly recommend.

Withholding methodologies and data suggests that something is wrong with the outcome of the research, and, furthermore, is anti-science.  Imagine, a lab announces that it has cured cancer, but can’t tell us exactly how they did it, and so no one can replicate their results!  In the domain of medicine, this would be a ludicrous, surreal example; it wouldn’t happen.  It should not happen in the important climate change domain,  either.

On the other hand, the view that opening the door to skeptics of your work can lead to a lessening of conflict in research domains, and even more likely,  an improvement in the robustness of the orignal work, is one that is shared by numerous scientists.

Who among us as science workers, is so arrogant that we think our work cannot be improved upon?

While we depend on peer-review to catch errors, it has been this writer’s experience that hundreds of pages of peer-reviewed literature in the domain of cloud seeding research can reach the journals and stand untouched, uncritiqued for years at a time.   This is because peer-review in conflictive environments can easily fail with soft reviews by advocates of the conclusions being reached in a manuscript.  No scientist reading this doubts this.

The Federal Aviation Administration is fully aware of the hazards of “soft reviews”.  The attached statement at left concerning work on the writer’s former research aircraft at the University of Washington might well be a metaphor for our science environment.   “….there will be a paper trail.”   “…there will be an inspection by someone other than the person doing the work.”

We all know that these kinds of rules established by the FAA is to protect us from plane crashes.   But imagine, that there is no “paper trail”, no documentation of what’s in and what’s off the aircraft!  That’s how we get journal “plane crashes.”

It is the same with journal articles on scientific results.  How our results were arrived at is mandatory for purposes of replication, of which the first, most basic step is to use exactly the methodologies and data that the original researcher (s) claimed they used and see if you get the same result.

 

 

“‘Altostratus'” at 30,000?”

I’m glad you asked that question.  Has to do with rules, cloud rules.   It is true that at that altitude above the ground, 30,000 to 40,000 feet, we mostly think of cirrus or “cirriform” clouds.  But those clouds, by our cloud definitions, cannot have shading during the daytime with ONE exception, Cirrus spissatus, a thick, but PATCHY ice cloud. Cirrus clouds CAN have shading when the sun is low in the sky, say, near sunset and sunrise.  Widespread sheets of gray during the daytime, as we saw over Catalina two days ago,  cannot, therefore, be called “Cirrus” unless you want to seem quite ill-informed about clouds.  Below is an example of just plain Cirrus clouds, ones that floated overhead at about 100 mph (!) yesterday.   In the first photo below, you would not be wrong, however, by referring to that thicker patch in the center as “Cirrus spissatus”, or more colloquially, “Cis spis.”

An example of “conversational meteorology” concerning Cirrus:  you and your friend are horseback riding  (as I do twice a week, really!)  and you see this scene.   The correct thing to say to your friend (in this case, “Nora”, who, interestingly,  is not my wife)  is;  “Looks like we got us some Cis spis today.  Maybe we’ll have one o’ them great sunsets again tonight.”

Well, that’s the way I would say it, anyway.  And we DID have one of those GREAT sunsets last evening that make living here in Arizona so special.  Below are a coupla shots of “Cis spis” at sunset yesterday.   (There are some other varieties of Cirrus in these shots, but I won’t bore you with a list.)  ((BTW, as an aside, a footnote, I’ve learned as a novice rider here in Catalina, that an awful lot of the guys don’t ride but their spouses do.   One husband told me, “I don’t get on anything that doesn’t have a motor.”))


Altostratus: a misunderstood cloud and for good reason

Yesterday afternoon the clouds thickened and dimmed the sun, and our high temperature struggled only into the mid-50s.  What cloud was that?  Here it is, with Twin Peaks on the horizon.

Our names for clouds, originating with English pharmacist, Luke Howard, are based on visual attributes from the ground.  Here, “Altostratus”  (As) does RESEMBLE its lower namesake cloud, Stratus, a low fog-like cloud with little definition often found in summer along the West Coast.  See a rare example of Stratus (St) hereabouts below.  Note that it is topping the Tortolita Mountains to the west, it is that low.

However, about the only thing that these clouds have in common is that they are both relatively smooth looking clouds.  Inside them, they are totally different. Also, St is a shallow cloud usually less than 1 km (3,000 feet) in depth, while As is normally 2-3 km  6,000 to 10,000 feet) in depth.  In Stratus, you just have cloud drops and maybe, as below, a few drizzle drops (mist-like)  falling out.  OK, once in awhile in cold locales you have a few ice crystals falling out, but drops rule!  On the other hand, in Altostratus, if you were flying in them with a 1998 version of the Stratton Park Engineering Company’s Cloud Particle Imager ($130,000 or so–I’ve added a link in case some of you want to go shopping now),  you would find nothing but ice crystals for the most part.  Water droplet clouds are sometimes found in them, and, oddly, if the top is not too cold (warmer than about -30 C), at cloud top, the coldest place!  So, it is not unusual to see, even in journals, a thin layer cloud consisting of drops called, As.  Makes sense really.   (A name change of As to “Altonimbostratus” would be helpful to emphasize its internal ice and falling snow particles.)

An example of the kinds of crystals found in a As clouds is shown below, collected over Barrow, AK, in a 1998 project called FIRE/ACE/SHEBA.

These typical crystals, having grown on the way down from simple plates or tiny columns, or sphere-like  “germs”, are called “bulett rosettes.”


What’s Up with This?

Got pretty mad yesterday when I saw this overhead in some Altocumulus perlucidus clouds.  You’ll have to hold your monitor or Ipad, or cell phone, or whatever, over your head to see it EXACTLY the way I saw this because it WAS overhead;  straight up.  (Actually, doing 3 sets of 12 might be good for you.)  Also, click on images to get the full view.

As you can see, the white strip below in these clouds is a contrail caused by an aircraft, but a special one that occurs in “supercooled” clouds.   Supercooled clouds are clouds that are composed of drops, yep, they’re still liquid, even though the temperature is FAR below freezing.  Here, the clouds were likely colder than -20 C (-4 F) and yet there is no ice forming in them!  (You don’t see trails of snow coming out, do you?  No.)  Run of the mill contrails occur at cirrus levels at temperatures below about -35 C  (-31 F).

Note that except for being much whiter than the surrounding cloud, the elements are exactly the same size and texture as those around it.  That is going to change, because this white strip is composed of “horrendous” concentrations (probably thousands per liter) of ice!   You can only know this by what happens later.

In the next shot below, is an example of what happens later, trails of tiny snow crystals fall out leaving a hole in the droplet cloud, so called, “hole punch” clouds, a form of inadvertent cloud seeding by aircraft.  Note the delicate strands of ice crystals falling out of this cloud from the hole, so pretty because they are so delicate looking.  Note, too, I am one of the “trailing authors” of the journal article above, like one of those itty bitty ice crystals in the second photo which are almost evaporated at the bottom of those fine strands.

So why be upset?

Rather than looking forward to good things in the coming year, this happenstance yesterday reminded me of all the trouble we had in the early 1980s trying to get our paper published on this phenomenon; namely, that an aircraft could produce tremendous amounts of ice when flying through supercooled clouds, inadvertently seeding them.

In the SECOND rejection of our manuscript (with Pete Hobbs), the Editors words still burn; “(the reviewers) are still unconvinced by these controversial claims.”

We had to do a LOT of extra work on this to convince those reviewers.  The third version was more convincing, I guess, for intransigent reviewers, and got published.  In fact, one of the great scientists of our time as far as clouds and ice crystals go, John Hallett (yes, the same one as in the “Hallett-Mossop” ice splintering process),  speaking at the Peter Hobbs Symposium Day in 2008 called this episode, “an embarrassment for the airborne research community.”  “Hey”, he wasn’t referring to our paper!

He was referring to the fact that such a phenemenon had been overlooked and not accounted for in research studies of clouds by aircraft.  Actually ground observers had been reporting this kind of thing (ice canals and hole punch clouds) since, if you can believe it, the 1930s!

BTW, this hole is not the one from the first shot; I got distracted and forgot to follow it until it was disappearing over the horizon.

BTW#2,, this shows what happens when you introduce ice into a supercooled cloud; “stuff” falls out.  Proves cloud seeding works, though for sure in limited venues like these (non-precipitating, supercooled clouds).

BTW#3:  The second photo is a nice example of the difference between supercooled clouds composed of tiny drops (probably less than 20 microns in diameter), and cirrus-ee ice clouds, composed of much larger crystals (here probably 100 or 300 or so microns in maximum size) that tend to settle with time. (Hence, those strands in most cirrus clouds.

BTW#4:  Today’s title is cribbed off the world’s most viewed climate website, “What’s Up With That?”  Mr. Watts, host of the site, has made significant contributions to our climate network by pointing out flaws, but has no “credentials” beyond having been a TEEVEE meteorologist.  He is excoriated on this point alone by “credentialists”, as I myself was when I first began to reanalyze other folks’ cloud seeding experiments such as this one.

BTW#5, a movie about credentialism is now out, called,  “The King’s Speech.”  I highly recommend it.   In this documentary, which I just saw yesterday, it will be seen that the credentialists in the King’s Court were royally put out by the help the King got by his uncredentialed therapist.

Arizona: Colorado temperatures, Colorado clouds

It was a mind-boggling, hiking-challenging -30 F at Grand Canyon AP yesterday morning.  Overhead of Flagstaff,  at 5 AM MST yesterday it was -38 C (-36 F) and that temperature was the lowest temperature at 500 millibars in all of the US.   It is really, really rare to see -38 C over Arizona!   Temperatures in the Tucson and north area in the shallow cloud deck we saw creep over the sky from the west near dawn, were running around -15 to -17 C (5 to 1 F) at cloud top (around 11,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level) according to the Tucson sounding at 5 AM.   Bases were just above Mt. Sara Lemmon.  For those of you who think I might lie about how high the bottoms of those clouds, I present a photo of Ms. Mt. Lemmon at that time (slight hump beyond first range).

Who cares, you’re thinking?  Well, in these photos, there is a curiosity; the lack of snow coming out of the bottom of these clouds (called “virga”, and you’ll want to concentrate when you pronounce this word so it doesn’t sound like a popular drug for older males).  Normally, in the Arthur’s experience,  clouds this cold produce virga, that is,  there are natural “ice forming” aerosol particles in them that  result in snow crystal that grows and falls out of the cloud, a lot of them so that the bases of the clouds are partly obscured by falling snow.

Also there was no radar echoes around at this time.  This was to change.

Here is a 30 h loop of the radar imagery for the whole US.  You’ll have to get a microscope out or zoom in a lot to see our area of SE AZ here, but, it’ll be worth it, he asserts.  Also, turn the loop speed up to the highest level at left on this web page, or you’ll get upset over how long things are taking to view. Don’t want any “Web rage” out there!  Too, I thought it would be fun for you to see all the echoes and the things they do over a long period, in a fast loop.   You’ll see here that around AM in our area of SE AZ there is a patch of echo that develops and then kind of hangs out over us until mid-afternoon or so when it disappears.

Here’s what the sky looks like when there is widespread ice forming in the clouds and falling out, MOSTLY as virga, and when we had that little patch of radar echo over us:

Note how “smeared” the sky looks now!  Also my apologies that a bird was going by obstructing some of the sky…

Well those heavier patches that are hanging down a bit and trail off to the side is what “virga” is.  Its often more spectacular than this, I have to say.

What happened to cause this rather sudden transformation of this layer, this sky; why did all this ice begin forming in that cloud layer when it had little or no ice over most of it around dawn?

I don’t know.  End of blog.

That would be a little too honest, and so I will guess. If you’ve worked in science, and this kind of thing is your specialty, its REALLY not good to say you don/t know something.

There was a disturbance aloft that was about to come through, and I will GUESS that the tops of this layer got a little bit higher and colder as it approached.  If you saw the clearing later in the afternoon, for example, your instincts would have told you about this event.  However, after it went through, and when tops were definitely falling in height, the Tucson sounding at 5 PM MST also indicated they were slightly warmer than they were on the first sounding in the morning, and so, I am, in effect, filling in a blank, hypostulating that there was a hump in the tops that was not observed.  Oh, well. If nothing else, you might now know the difference in the appearance of the sky when ice is not present (first two pics) and when it is falling out at you (last pic).

If you want to see an action shot of all the happenings described above, here’s a movie from the U of A Department of Atmospheric Sciences rooftop of the Catalina Mountains.  My location is under the leftmost portion of this view, beyond Pusch Ridge.  This movie will take a couple of minutes to load, and is only available today (for yesterday).

The Colorado connection:  Wintertime clouds in Colorado are generally as cold as our clouds yesterday, and are constantly producing falls of ice crystals and snow when present, and so to me, a six year resident of Durango, it was a “Colorado” wintertime sky over Arizona yesterday due to the really cold air over us.

Switzerland of Arizona

…sort of.  Today’s storm ended after dumping a fabulous 1.03 inches here in “Catalina Heights.”   Though it snowed very lightly here for several hours, the ground and the air were just a bit too warm for accumulations.   However, the heavy precip dumped a heavy snow cover on the Catalina mountains just  to the east.  That  snow that will be there for awhile as we enter a below normal temperature regime for the next week or two. Below, a view of that snow on the Catalinas.  Fabulous, isn’t it?

Also, as the clouds break up and with the air so clean, you have these “quilted” views of sun and shade across Oro Valley and on the Catalinas as the cloud shadows dance across the ground, another , somehow, soul satisfying scene.

Seattle comes to Catalina

Yes, if you’re from Seattle or the west side of the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, you are going to feel especially at home today.   Its dark, even with the sun up, low ceilings and visibility, steady light rain mixed with snow, temperatures in the mid 30s to low 40s, well, that’s home in January.  And, here is that “home” right here in Catalina, AZ, for us to experience again!  Cloud type? Nimbostratus, often with an underlay of….Stratocumulus and Stratus fractus clouds to kind of provide that ragged, dark and gloomy, splotchy look.

As you may have experienced this morning, an extremely sharp cold front came through with a spectacular drop in temperature and a windshift at  6:30 A. M.   The temperature dropped from the upper 40s down into then upper 30s in only about 20 minutes, which it pretty unusual.  Along with the that temperature drop, the rains came in the “frontal band”, now totaling 0.80 inches here since the first period of rain began late yesterday afternoon (local weather station data here).  (BTW, this station’s wind data are averaged over 10 min, and gusts are 1 min averages.  Multiply gusts by about 1.5 to estimate the velocity of the strongest, few second duration puffs.)

This storm, still in progress,  brings the Catalina rainfall for December up to 1.93 inches.  Normal, based on a 31 year record provided by the folks at Our Garden here in Catalina, is 1.44 inches.  So with this storm, we have exceeded the normal AND crushed the monthly NOAA prediction of well below normal precip this month.  Yay!  Such predictions are partly derived from the effects of the strong La Nina now in progress-note colder than normal water along the Equator in the eastern and central Pacific.  La Ninas normally hedge the climate of the SW toward drought, and so this has been a great December if droughty conditions materialize later in the winter.  The December US-wide precip prediction, FYI:   (I should acknowledge a  bias here: I am overjoyed when droughty forecasts fail but also overjoyed when wet ones verify.)