First of December, Fifth of NoHeat

The sun returned yesterday, bringing with it a stiff south wind and pushing the day time temperature up to nearly sixty degrees. For the first time in several days, the interior of our home felt cozier for a few hours. But the sun set, the crescent moon shown briefly, and the wind continued unabated.

Several times overnight, the wind wakened me from my cocoon of quilts, throws and comforters (not to mention the four inch thick memory foam mattress topper I was stoking with my body heat). My wind chime has not ceased knelling. I gave up and pried myself from bed a few minutes past five o’clock this morning.

I surveyed the house from top to bottom using my laser thermometer, unsurprised to find the house had lost on average at least five degrees overnight thanks to the wily wind. Oddly, the garage is maintaining a temperature in the mid-fifties, but the great room, for the first time, dipped below sixty degrees in the northwest corner.

We are currently under a wind advisory until noon today.


* WHAT...Northwest winds 20 to 25 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.

* WHERE...Portions of east central and northeast Kansas and
central, north central, northwest and west central Missouri.

* WHEN...Until noon CST today.

* IMPACTS...Gusty winds could blow around unsecured objects.
Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may

I even pulled out my hooded sweater jacket from the storage cedar closet in the basement. Normally, our house is kept so warm I am comfortable in light clothes. These past few days have reminded me of growing up in an old farm house heated either by a mini-boiler under the stairs and floor radiators or a wood stove, which meant there was always a warm place to retreat to but that the bedrooms were farthest from the heat.

I opted for oatmeal with my morning tea to help stoke my internal furnace. I should probably put on a second kettle, wrap up with a mug and a good book and conserve my energy. Tomorrow the sun should return and my part for my broken furnace should arrive. I just have to survive one more day.

Article: Snow headed to Kansas City Tuesday –

Snow headed to Kansas City Tuesday –

I guess it was too much to hope for a winter without a dreadful and stressful commute. Keeping my fingers crossed for closures at work.

Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon

Jaw-dropping Photographs Capture the Sublime Power of Superstorms

Living all my life in Tornado Alley, I’m fascinated by the weather and photographing it.

Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon

Can’t See Comet for the Clouds

I work up at 4:11 a.m. (Central Time) this morning. It’s a Sunday. Why am I up so early? I have no idea.

Since I was up early, I checked my Sky Safari app on my smartphone to see when Comet Ison would rise. I was in luck. It was scheduled to rise at 4:22, a few minutes before the star Spica.

Continue reading “Can’t See Comet for the Clouds”

70s Flashback

No, I’m not having flashbacks to the decade of disco, the oil crisis, feminism, civil rights, etc. I’m talking about autumn-like temperatures in the mid-70s at lunch time here in Kansas City.  I took full advantage of the beautiful weather by walking a couple of blocks to my favorite local Italian restaurant for lunch.

WeatherAfternoon14Aug2013For a comparison, here’s the average temperatures, historically, reported for Kansas City (thanks to the Weather Underground for the stats):

August 14, 2013 Max Temp Min Temp
Normal (KMCI) 88 °F 68 °F
Record (KMCI) 113 °F (1936) 54 °F (2002)
Yesterday 80 °F 66 °F

When I first walked out of my house this morning, I knew something was different.  For starters, the sky was clear.  I felt a bit of a chill in the air, not something I expect to feel in the middle of August during a Kansas summer.  The dashboard information center in the van confirmed temperatures in the lower 60s in the pre-dawn morning air.

PreSunrise14Aug2013I took the above photograph about 20-25 minutes before sunrise this morning.  I can’t take an actual sunrise photo during the work week because the sun is rising at or shortly after 6:30 a.m. Central local time.  By that time, I’m fifteen minutes into my morning commute, picking up the last three of my vanpool riders.  I did drive into a glorious golden orange sun hanging barely above the horizon for a few minutes.  The atmosphere was pretty hazy, so I could look directly at the sun for long periods of time.  I didn’t spy any sunspots though … my eyes are not quite that good.  I’m far-sighted, but not that far-sighted.

So today I’m very thankful for mild temperatures, low humidity and beautiful clear skies.

Space Weather with Dr. Patterson

My father and I drove to UMKC Saturday evening to attend the first club meeting of 2013 for the Astronomical Society of Kansas City. We went an hour early to take in Astro 101 (topic: telescope mounts).

Astro 101 (topic: telescope mounts) Jan 2013
Astro 101 (topic: telescope mounts) Jan 2013

After sifting through club business, including some great observing awards and a new observing program for asterisms, our Education director, Jay Manifold, flashed through the observing highlights for the upcoming months.  He paused at the end long enough to introduce our special guest speaker, Dr. Doug Patterson, Professor of Astronomy and Physics at JCCC, and his topic “Space Weather: Understanding the Sun-Earth Connection.”

Dr. Patterson’s first slide, at first glance, did not appear to be related directly to space or weather.  He explained that besides astronomy and physics, his other abiding passion happened to be photographing race cars.  For the past twenty years, despite appearing quite youthful and brimming with energy, he’s been  teaching astronomy and physics at the Johnson County Community College.

Astronomy in academia really only requires a research computer and spreadsheet program.  Incredible amounts of data (terabytes upon terabytes) are freely available for astronomical researchers.

Dr. Patterson joked that he frequently tells his students that “Space is not empty!”

Highlights from his “Space Weather” talk:

  • Super Flare 1859 observed by Carrington (on 9/1/1859 around noon).  The flare took seventeen (17) hours to read Earth.
  • Birkeland and his aurora machine

Kristian Birkeland and his terrella experiment.
Kristian Birkeland and his terrella experiment. The Figure shows the whole arrangement with the new vacuum-box of 320 litres. Floor and ceiling are here made of 12 mm. steel plates, the pillars between are of bronze, and the sheets of plate-glass at the sides are 30 mm. in thickness. The experiment shows the “zodiacal-light ring”. It requires little magnetising of the globe (11.3 cm. in diameter), but a great discharge-current (up to 100 milliamperes).

  • Solar Wind discovery and proof

    • comet tails
    • Super-Sonic Model by Eugene Parker confirmed by Mariner 2 on way to Venus.
    • Voyager 1 is beyond solar wind and actually in interstellar space (first man-made ‘spaceship’ to be truly interstellar).

Dr. Patterson showed a video of the corona and sun from NASA’s solar satellites.  He also displayed an animation of a coronal mass ejection (CME).

Fluctuations in the solar wind compress our magnetic field.  Some of the effects on Earth include:

  • compression and fluctuations
  • electrical conductors embedded in Earth’s mag field
  • radiation & navigation airline flights over arctic
  • interference with GPS (and Google Maps)
  • In Mar 1989, we (the Earth) learned the hard way (Quebec w/o power for three (3) days).

As a result, NASA launched the Advanced Composition Explorer (real time plots available here of solar wind data), which gives us one (1) hour advanced warning.  This satellite is parked in a halo orbit at L1.  Real time space weather data is available at

Van Allen Belts

  • Discovered by Explorer 1, the first satellite we launched into orbit

Exporer 1 press conference
Pickering, Van Allen, and von Braun display a full-scale model of Explorer 1 at a crowded news conference in Washington, DC after confirmation the satellite was in orbit.

  • We just sent our second probe last year, a gap of over fifty years
  • Trapped radiation and particles
  • Why study the belts?
  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) very cluttered
  • GPS already in the belts

The Van Allen Probes (fka Radiation Belt Storm Probes) were launched last year and Dr. Patterson had the privilege of witnessing the launch first hand, despite hurricane Isaac.  Note to self:  Rocket ion trails make great lightning rods.

Dr. Patterson concluded with a Q&A opportunity where several ASKC members asked cogent questions and received animated responses.

Dr. Patterson during the Q&A time after his talk (ASKC Jan 2013)
Dr. Patterson during the Q&A time after his talk (ASKC Jan 2013)

Due to the warmth of the evening (upper 40s or lower 50s), the club opened up the Warko Observatory on the roof of Royall Hall for a brief time.  A haze obscured nearly everything except the full moon and Jupiter.  Dad and I skipped the climb to the roof and headed home to Leavenworth.