Seeing red

Well, here it is, the NOAA Catalina spaghetti output for March 8th, 5 PM AST, hold the sauce:

The 564 decameter contours over Catalina and environs on March 8th at 5 PM.
The 564 decameter height contours for 500 millibars over Catalina and environs (in the center) on March 8th at 5 PM. The yellow line is the 5 PM AST model prediction, and the gray pixel in the lower left corner is what’s left of the same contour (after I cut and pasted) yesterday’s 5 AM AST prediction. They were pretty much showing the same thing.

The plot at left, with likely a Guinness record for a long, thin caption, pretty much guarantees a big trough of cold air here by then, another door opens into winter, which seems to be gone right this moment, and, being March, you might be thinking, “la-dee-dah, no more winter here in southeast Arizona.”  But as I often point out to my reader, and while trying to be a bit delicate about it, “You’d be so WRONG! I can’t even describe how WRONG you would be!”  So keep that balloon-like parka ready, heck, there could even be some snowflakes with this.

And, of course, I am a be little disappointed, well, royally, because you should have seen this coming in the red dot-plot at left for Catalina on March 8th already, and I wouldn’t have to admonish you again.  Oh, well.

BTW, the “red dot” is a baseball term used to describe the appearance of a slider coming at the batter–there’s a red dot in the center of the ball caused by the spin and where most of the red lacings appear to be concentrated because the pitcher had to grip the ball a certain way.  Seen’em, at one time.  Of course, you wouldn’t remember the great pitchers like Lee Goldammer  of Canova, SD, or Dave Gassman; the latter amassing over 4,000 strikeouts in South Dakota summer baseball league play. It was a big story in the Mitchell Republic–they keep track of that stuff there (amazing and charming).  Lee Goldammer pitched a DOUBLE header and his team won the SD State Tournament  back in the late 1960s.   (All true!)  You see, Lee Goldammer struck me out on three pitches in 19721.  Man he was good!  I had hardly gotten to the plate, and I was walking back again!

Had a nice sunset a couple of days ago, some pretty Cirrus clouds again.  Where I’m from (Seattle), Cirrus and sunsets are generally obscured by Stratus, Stratocumulus, and every other kind of cloud imaginable so that you don’t see them often because those clouds extend for thousands of miles to the west where the sun is setting.

6:28 PM, February 27th, not last night.
6:28 PM, February 27th, not last night.


1I was working that summer for North American Weather Consultants as a “radar meteorologist” in Mitchell, SD, directing up to four cloud seeding aircraft around thunderstorms.  But when it wasn’t raining, I could play baseball for the Mitchell Commercial Bank team.  The project was under the aegis of the South Dakota School of Mines,  was statewide in 1972.  Unfortunately, for the people on the ground, one of the aircraft was seeding a storm in June of that year hat dropped 14 inches of rain in the Black Hills, and the ensuing flash flood took over 200 lives.   “Hey”, it wasn’t one of my aircraft.  Ours were in the other end of the State.

Cloud seeding was absolved in the disaster, which was correct;  the weather set up that day did it.   No puny aircraft releasing stuff could have had any effect whatsoever.  However, had that 14 inches filled a dry reservoir to the top and saved a city from a water famine, what would the seeding company have claimed in that case?

I know.   It happened when I worked a project in India, the water famine there making the cover of Time magazine in 1975.  The reservoirs in Madras (now, “Chennai”), India, where I was assigned by Atmospherics, Inc., as a “radar meteorologist” whose job again was to direct a seeding aircraft around storms, were at the bottom, just about nothing left, when I arrived on July 14th, 1975.

But on the third day I was there, July 16th, 1975, a colossal group of thunderstorms developed over the catchment area of the Madras reservoirs and, naturally,  our one twin-engined Cessna was up seeding it.  It was my job to see that we had a plane up around the thunderstorms.

Five to 10 inches fell in that complex of thunderstorms with tops over 50,000 feet, and there was a flow into the Madras reservoir (oh, really?) for the first time in the month of July in about 14 years.  July is normally a pretty dry month in the eastern part of India, with Madras averaging just over 4 inches, only a little more than we do here in Catalina in July.  The main rainy season in Madras is October and November, during the “northeast” monsoon.  This is what those giants looked like:

Looking west-northwest from the Madras Internation AP at Meenambakkam, India
Looking west-northwest from the Madras International AP at Meenambakkam, India, 1975.

But as a meteorologist, I saw that a low center had formed aloft over southern India, weakening the normally dry westerly flow of the “southwest monsoon” across southern India after it goes over the western Ghats.  This weakening  allowed the moist air of the Bay of Bengal to rush westward and collide with that drier westerly flow and set up a “convergence zone” where the two winds clashed and the air was forced upward forming huge, quasi-stationary Cumulonimbus clouds.

Below, what I look like when I am in India and starting to be skeptical about this whole thing, “Is this going to be another cloud seeding chapter like the one in the Colorado Rockies, to graze the subject of baseball again?”

First row, 2nd from left.  Our pilot sits next to me.
First row, 2nd from left. Our pilot sits next to me.

As before in Rapid City, the weather set up the deluge; no aircraft releases could have made the least difference in such powerful thunderstorms.  While the leader of the seeding project did not take credit for the odd flow into the reservoir that July, it was pointed out to the media, without further comment that, “yes, we were up seeding it.”

The odd storm with that comment, sans a description of the weather set up that did it, made it too obvious to the uninformed that seeding had done it.  The Indian met service was, of course, outraged, and did their best to “fill in the blanks”, but the sponsor of the project, the Tamil Nadu state government, was unconvinced because it was obvious to them what had happened, and, after all, it was what they paid for!

I had already been disillusioned while working as a forecaster for a big, randomized  cloud seeding project in Durango, Colorado by 1975, and this project was to add more “fuel to the reanalysis fire” that I was later to be known for.  (hahaha, “known for”;  I was despised in some quarters for checking their work after they had published it and it was being cited by big scientists, and I mean huge,  like the ones in the National Academies, but like you when you thought summer was here NOW and there would be no more cold weather, THEY were so WRONG!  I can’t even describe how WRONG those national academy scientists were,  like the ones in Malone et al 1974 in their “Climate and Weather Modification;  Progress and Problems” tome.) ((I knew they were wrong because they talked about clouds and weather associated with cloud seeding experiments in the Rockies, and I was seeing how at odds those clouds and weather was with the way it had been portrayed in the journal literature by the scientists who conducted the precursor experiments to the one I was working on in Durango.))  (((Wow, this is quite a footnote, if it is still one.)))  ((((Still worked up about that 1974 National Academy of Sciences report, but don’t get me going on the 2003 updated one, which they botched royally, including not even citing the work I did correctly!  How bad is that??????))))  As the title of today states, “seeing red.”

The reason for going to India in the first place was that it had been indicated in our peer-reviewed journals that randomized seeding in Florida, that clouds like ones in India,  had responded to cloud seeding.  Besides, I had an ovwerwhelming desire to see giant, tropical Cumulus and Cumulonimbus clouds up close!  BTW, the Florida results fizzled out in a second randomized phase.

End of footnote I think….

By Art Rangno

Retiree from a group specializing in airborne measurements of clouds and aerosols at the University of Washington (Cloud and Aerosol Research Group). The projects in which I participated were in many countries; from the Arctic to Brazil, from the Marshall Islands to South Africa.