Thursday, February 1, 2024

A Ground Hog's Lament

February 2nd may be Ground Hog Day but this one is very different! What winter? 

We can’t have six more weeks of something that has yet to arrive. 

The Rideau Canal Skateway is "temporarily" closed, until further notice. Good luck with that! The rest of February has temperatures not far from freezing. The change of state of H2O between gas, water and ice can explain a lot of those temperatures. Then we are into March - more of the same but a bit warmer. Skating the Rideau Canal in Ottawa started in 1970 but is highly unlikely in 2024. Why? 

I was a very keen but naive "furcaster" in 1976.  So much to learn to make a difference! But along with the burgeoning science of meteorology, I was also able to witness first-hand, the impacts of global warming and climate change. I started doing presentations on those topics along with severe weather (which goes hand-in-hand with climate change) in 1988 and never stopped. The clients I served much-preferred realism in my furcasts as opposed to abstract predictions (untruths) of the environment.

The following graph summarizes what we witnessed and what the knowledgeable Climate Scientists of the Atmospheric Environment Service were accurately predicting. 

Sadly 2023 will be the latest in the string of record hot years. The following image from October 2023 highlights that the poles are warming faster than the equatorial regions just as forecast. Snow melting from the poles exposes a darker surface that efficiently absorbs the sun's energy. The weakening jet stream follows a highly meandering path along the line of latitude. Blocking weather patterns and split atmospheric flows create a different sort of weather! The public has learnt the hard way about "atmospheric rivers" (see the 2009 COMET Module - Satellite Feature Identification: Atmospheric Rivers by Singleton Philly), drought, heat and freezing rain. 

I am the last of my groundhog colony. Scorching temperatures have dried the soils so that even dirt will blaze now. There is a lot of peat and humus to further fuel the flames. The Boreal forest is comprised of spruce and pine that are loaded with resins ready to explode with the intensity of several nuclear bombs. 

Fort McMurray wildfires 2016

Even ground hogs can be educated and read! "Fire Weather" by my friend John Vaillant is essentially a textbook on the science and sociological aspects of climate change disguised as an action tale about the Fort McMurray wildfires. If you only have time to read 25 pages in 2024, please read Chapter 20. The planet is almost a quarter of the way into the Century of Fire and is on the threshold of "OnePointFive-Celsius" with full steam ahead into the Petrocene.

Be prepared for another smokey, hot and dangerous fire season in 2024. It will start early and probably not even end. 'Zombie fires' continue to burn even under thick layers of snow... only to be reborn in the spring. 

I was one lucky ground hog to make it 35-plus years in the Canadian weather service. I used satellite data to monitor the actual environment; those sensors do not lie. The Ottawa Boss Hog answer to the climate crisis was to threaten those who used the words "climate change" in a sentence. Those were apparently four letter words. 

This naive hog survived two maybe three program review purges that threatened to terminate my furcasting career prematurely.  The new Boss Hog promised change and even included the forbidden words in the name of the department. Sadly nothing has changed and Canada is racing Russia to the bottom of the heap of laggards in the response to the climate crisis. 

For those who noticed, I had a makeover
from albino to brown...  No sun or shadow at 
Singleton on the morning of February 2nd.

Boss Hogs may think of me as an activist… but Singleton Philly is just a realist who wanted to contribute positively. Now he is watching the tipping points tumble. A few developers continue to get filthy rich with one or two more big paydays using the fossil fuels of the Petrocene. 

Singleton Philly tried to make a difference from within… I was one naive little chuck - tried hard but completely failed the next generation.

The carbon footprint is very small within my Sanctuary - planting trees, looking after nature and painting pictures of my surviving friends.

Have a good day eh!

Warmest regards and keep your paddle in the water,

Phil the Furcaster Chadwick 

Friday, December 29, 2023

What Goes Up ...

Hot Air Balloon over
Watershed Farm  at the crest of
the Oak Ridges Moraine 2002
What Goes Up ... must come down. One of my topics to teach in the Training Branch of the then Atmospheric Environment Service in the mid-eighties, was the Tephigram (invented by Napier Shaw in 1915). The apparent mash of lines baffled many of the students but the Tephigram Thermodynamic Chart was really a thing of beauty. Those lines could reveal the nuances of the current state of the atmosphere that were unavailable elsewhere. The Tephigram was all about conserving energy (entropy) - not only the energy in the atmosphere but the work required by meteorologists to really understand the weather.  

I have frequently used the metaphor of "hot air balloons" to place the image of air parcels in the reader's imagination. The atmosphere's reality is even simpler and starts with the Ideal Gas Law. There will be no complex mathematics or science but at the end of this blog, you will be able to read the cloud shapes to deduce the vertical profile of the atmospheric ocean - and vice versa.  It really is that simple. 

The Ideal Gas Law states that for a parcel of air, the multiple of Pressure times Volume is directly proportional to its Temperature (PV=nRT). If we do not change the energy content of that parcel, one can follow the air in its vertical travels within the atmosphere. If the hot air balloon (of constant volume) remains warmer than its environment, it will continue to rise away from its starting point - an unstable situation. A balloon that becomes cooler than its environment must sink back to where it again matches the temperature of the vertical profile- a stable environment. This is the basis of thermodynamic graphs like the Canadian Tephigram or the American Skew-T. These graphs both have a vertical axis of height that mimics the height in the real atmosphere. 

Knowledge of the vertical profile of the atmosphere is absolutely essential if one wants to understand and forecast the weather. Here is where my favourite type of balloon was essential. For every parcel of air, meteorologists need to know the pressure, dry-bulb temperature, dew-point temperature and wind. The drift of the balloon in time and space allows the calculation of the atmospheric winds. 

Sable Island Radiosonde "Shack" May 1985 off the
southeast shore of Nova Scotia. Releasing a weather balloon
 is far more challenging than you might suspect. 

These atmospheric measurements are typically measured twice a day using radiosonde instruments tethered to a weather balloon. Similar measurements can now be more economically made using satellite data. In addition, commercial aircraft can continuously sample these quantities and relay the information to be fed into the computer simulations of the atmosphere. Times may have changed, the the vertical information about the atmosphere is still the crux of the forecast. 

Introducing the Lines of the Tephigram 

The pressure at any level of the atmosphere is just the weight of the air above that level. As one travels upward within the air column, there must be less air above and thus the pressure must be lower. Keeping the energy content of the constant volume air parcel unchanged, the temperature of the air parcel must decrease as the pressure decreases (P varies directly with T). These are adiabatic motions in which neither heat nor moisture are added to the parcel. A parcel of air that is not saturated, cools at the dry adiabatic lapse rate of 9.8 degrees Celsius per kilometre rise in altitude. The "Dry Adiabats" are straight brown lines in the Tephigram. 

But air parcels contain moisture! If the moisture in that air parcel remains as water vapour, that air parcel still cools at the dry adiabatic lapse rate of 9.8 degrees Celius per kilometre. That rate of cooling continues until the temperature of the air parcel reaches the dewpoint. At that temperature, the air parcel is saturated and can no longer contain all of the water vapour - some of which must condense out as water droplets. That precipitation falls out of the parcel and is gone... 

The dashed, brown Mixing Ratio Lines in the above graphic, start at the Parcel Dew Point Temperature. The dew point which is a measure of the amount of water vapour that a saturated air parcel can hold at that pressure has a lapse rate of about 1.8 degrees Celius per kilometre (the dashed, brown, straight lines). The amount of moisture within that air parcel is read in grams of water per kilogram of dry air. That quantity is the brown number read by following the Mixing Ratio Lines down to the bottom of the Tephigram. 

The condensation process releases the heat of vaporization (latent heat) into the air parcel which offsets some of the cooling of the dry adiabatic lapse rate.  From this point upward, the parcel of air is saturated and the excess water vapour is shed as precipitation while the latent heat energy is contained within the air parcel. 

The moist adiabatic lapse rate is only about half of the dry adiabatic lapse rate - 4 to 6 degrees Celius per kilometre. The amount of heat of vaporization released into the parcel is dependent on the amount of water vapour condensed out. There is less water vapour in the upper atmosphere so these curved moist adiabatic lapse rate lines straighten out at higher elevations to become nearly parallel to the dry adiabatic lapse rates. The "Moist Adiabats" are shaded, curved brown areas on the Tephigram. 

Note that the amount of moisture remaining in the saturated parcel rising along the moist adiabat can be read by following the Mixing Ratio Lines down to the bottom of the Tephigram. 

When saturated parcels of air start to descend, they immediately are no longer saturated and warm at the dry adiabatic lapse rate. This is what happens when virga falls from elevated clouds but evaporates before reaching the ground and becoming classified as bonafide precipitation. 

The vertical, adiabatic path of any parcel in the atmosphere can be followed or predicted using these simple concepts and the graphs that describe them. The main reason that tephigrams are used by the Meteorological Service of Canada is the property that areas contained by the curves have equal energies for equal areas. This is immensely valuable when diagnosing convective storms.

Applying the Tehpigram Concepts to a Convectively Unstable Atmosphere

The following graphic summarizes the main points of interest for a convectively unstable Environmental Temperature Profile (ETP) which is the heavy black line in the following graphic. The above concepts will be revisited and perhaps better explained using this example. 
A simplified version of the Tephigram with the Important Levels Labelled
The Wet Bulb Potential Temperature is a conservative property characteristic
of  an air mass

An air parcel rising from Level A at Pressure p0 immediately becomes cooler than the Environmental Temperature Profile, ETP. That parcel will stop rising unless the Convective Inhibition (CIN) energy is provided by some lifting mechanism like wind turbulence. 

At point D, the parcel cooling along the dry adiabat matches the dew point that was lifted along the mixing ration lines. At Level B, the air parcel becomes saturated and can hold no more moisture. The  Lifted Condensation Level (LCL) is the base of the cloud. 

From Point D to C, the air parcel is still cooler than the environment and reliant on the lifting mechanism to keep it going upward. Wind turbulence is the most likely agent to get this work done. 

At Point C the parcel becomes warmer than the environment and rises like a hot air balloon. This is the Level of Free Convection (LFC). From C to E, the parcel accelerates upward gaining kinetic energy (the red hatched area identified as CAPE, Convective Available Potential Energy) on its journey. The level of maximum buoyancy is where the temperature excess above that of the environment is maximized. 

At Point E, the parcel becomes colder than the environment but gets to spend the kinetic energy that it picked up above C and the level of free convection. The rising parcel spends all of its convective energy (CAPE)  to reach Point F - and the convective cloud is Finished. 

Vertical Stability Determined by the Orientation of the  Environmental Temperature Profile (ETP)

The concept of vertical stability on the Environmental Temperature Profile (ETP) is essential to understand the clouds. Those ideas are explained again using the relative orientations of the ETP as compared to the moist and dry adiabats. 

Now to apply this information to cloud watching:

The cloudy bases at the Lifted Condensation Level (LCL) will reveal how the air parcel arrived at that level:

  • surface heating and convective air parcel ascent
  • turbulent wind mixing 

The cloud tops will reveal:

  • how much energy the air parcels gained on their ascent
  • the strength of the inversion

The cloud depth is either:

  • for convective clouds the extent of the unstable layer from LCL through the LFC to E and finally F where all of the CAPE has been used up. 
  • the amplitude of the gravity waves in the stable environment
If the air parcels are lifted by heating from the ground, the "hot air balloons" rise in an organized fashion to reach the lifted condemnation level. The cloud bases must be level and uniform.

If the cloud tops are like cauliflower blooms, the air parcels are rising vigorously in an unstable atmosphere with lots of convective, buoyant energy (CAPE). 

If the cloud tops are flat and smooth, the air parcels have reached their equilibrium level and expended all of their accumulated convective energy (at F for finished in the above graphic). 

Towering Cumulus viewed over New York State looking south across the St. Lawrence River from Brockville. An example of an unstable  Environmental Temperature Profile (ETP). Daytime heating of the surface does all of the work to lift the air parcels to the LCL and LFC. 

Suppose the air parcels are lifted by turbulent mixing, especially over rugged terrain. In that case, the cloud bases must be turbulent. As well as the lifted condensation level is distorted by the terrain and the nonuniform mixing of the air parcels.

Turbulent stratocumulus viewed over eastern Ontario looking northwest across some fine farmland. An example of turbulent winds lifting the air parcels to the LCL.

A stable environment is where the air parcel rises into a warmer environment which encourages the cooler parcels to return to their original level - starting point. A parcel that is descending in a stable environment remains warmer than the atmosphere and returns buoyant back to where it starts. The air parcel behaves like a rubber ducky in the bathtub. If one adds a horizontal wind to blow the rubber duck, the trace of the path of the duck is a gravity wave oriented perpendicular to that wind. 

If the environment is stable, look for stratiform, layered clouds and gravity waves. The wind at cloud level must be perpendicular to those gravity waves like waves on a lake. 

Regular bands of smooth-edged clouds reveal the gravity waves of air rising into and through the wave crests and then sinking into the troughs of the gravity waves. Classic gravity wave patterns are revealed when the flow straddles the lifted condensation level. One may be able to watch the cloud form on the upwind edges approaching the wave crest and dissipating tendrils subsiding into the troughs: The entire pattern tends to shift with the wind in the atmospheric frame of reference. 

The same circulations occur with or without moisture tracers. When the LCL is above the circulation there will be no cloud created. If the LCL is below the layer of gravity waves, all that might be witnessed is the regular cloud thickening in the crest regions or thinning in the wave troughs. 

In an unstable environment, a rising air parcel remains warmer than its environment and continues to climb away from its starting level. If the environment is unstable, look for cumuliform, convective clouds and cloud streets or streaks.  The wind at cloud level must be parallel to those Langmuir-type circulations. 

Langmuir Conceptual Model of Streaks in an Unstable Environment

Since the wind parallels the cloud bands, the lines will not shift significantly in any lateral direction. Individual cloud elements will move along that line in the direction of the wind.

Langmuir streaks are most commonly witnessed as snowsqualls which result when cold air flows over a warm body of water. Langmuir streaks also parallel the jet stream if the atmosphere has an unstable layer below the tropopause. 

The next step in making the Tephigram a vital tool to employ in understanding the weather is to add the hodograph the vertical plot of observed winds to the side of the chart. The hodograph includes the earth-frame winds as measured from the surface to as high as the weather balloon goes before it pops. Shifting winds in the vertical determine many meteorological quantities like thermal advection, helicity and storm structure.  

The Tephigram provides a great deal of information about the atmosphere. This Blog just scratches the surface but provides enough to understand and appreciate the cloud shapes.  

Phil the Forecaster at Training Branch 1986

The secrets of the real atmosphere are now at your fingerprints although I much prefer the atmospheric frame of reference winds - but that is another story. 

The characteristics of the bottom, sides and top of every cloud can be deduced by keeping this simplified Tephigram in mind. The Tephigram was my friend and a vital requirement to understand the actual atmospheric ocean - along with remote sensing (satellite and radar) of course... I never put myself in harm's way of the weather when I could study even the most severe conditions from a safe distance.

Warmest regards and keep your paddle in the water,

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

PS: If you made it this far, give yourself a gold star! You are on the way to understanding the wonder of the weather. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

I Love Weather..

I recently attended a meeting of local residents considering the possibility of forming a lake association. The question was asked: 
"What do you love about the lake?"

Thirty seconds were allotted for the response so that the forty or fifty people in attendance could all get a chance to voice their favourite thing. That was not enough time. My ten-second response boiled down to "I Love Weather" Please let me explain.

As Dorothy said, "There is No Place Like Home." Place has always been vitally important to us. If you are happy in your own skin and your environment, there is no reason to go anywhere. Travel is not as much fun as it used to be anyway. We spent more than twenty years looking before finding our Sanctuary at Singleton Lake. That time and effort devoted to searching was well spent … along with all of our savings. 

The boundaries of our search area were defined mainly by the weather. As with every reliable forecast, one must start with the big picture before you can drill down to the specifics. Climate change was thus the starting point and those parameters were well established even in 1980 when the legwork began. 

Michael Mann's best estimate of global temperature trends including uncertainty - the "hockey stick' graph. The Earth was going to warm quickly as climate tipping points started to fall like dominoes.
Another way of graphing the Global Temperature variations since the days of Christ. 
There is nothing natural about these anthropogenic trends.

Looking at recent history, the global temperature anomaly
for every month from 1880 to 2021. Frankly, the data
since the Industrial Revolution is overwhelming!

Simply, the planet was going to warm with the accelerating release of greenhouse gases (GHG). Initial melting of snow and ice over the poles would result in unequal warming as polar reflective surfaces were turned into dark soils that absorbed the sun's energy. The poles would warm at rates exceeding four times that of the rest of the globe. The temperature gradients between the equator and poles would weaken. The jet stream driven by this contrast in latitudinal temperature would also slow down and evolve into a high amplitude meandering current. The weakened jet stream favours a seven-wave pattern along a mid-latitude path around the Globe. See Wave Number 7

The persistent long-wave pattern as revealed in the    
temperature anomaly chart.
Geography and the Rocky Mountains would encourage a persistent atmospheric long-wave ridge to form over the West Coast. Hot and generally dry weather would predominate in the ridge although flooding deluges from atmospheric rivers would certainly penetrate the ridge periodically. 

A long-wave trough would dig downstream over eastern North America. Eastern Ontario was right in the centre of that meteorological trough and would enjoy cooler temperatures, clouds and more precipitation than the West Coast - at least for a while. 

The macro-scale forecast pointed us to search for home in "Eastern Ontario". It was time to drill down beyond climate change and consider other important weather factors. 

Severe convection is an important concern. Having spent a career seeing what supercellular thunderstorms might do to a home, convection was a vital forecast parameter. 

The lake breeze convergence lines cast "convective shadows"   
along the shores of the Great Lakes often extending inland 
100 km from the water's edge.
The Lake Ontario lake breeze convergence line is an essential focus for summer convection. Thunderstorms need not only heat and moisture as fuels but also low-level convergence lines to initiate the convection. The temperature contrast between land and water surfaces creates lake breeze convergence lines. The one that develops along the north shore of Lake Ontario guides thunderstorms along a line that extends eastward through Lyndhurst to Athens. Near Athens, the increasing distance from Lake Ontario weakens that convergence and thunderstorms tend to turn to the right into areas of higher heat, humidity and fuel. 

Right movers coming off the tip of the Lake Ontario
convergence line tend to make the turn for
stage right and move southeastward near Athens

This Lake Ontario Lake Breeze convection line was the northern edge of our search area

Summer weather might be scary and more exciting but winter weather actually has more societal impact. I had worked long shifts during the "The Ice Storm of 1998". Freezing rain and ice accretion are not to be taken lightly. Freezing rain in the Ottawa Valley and along the St. Lawrence provide both the eastern and southern boundaries for our search area.  

Winter snowsqualls were another concern. It is best to be able to see the hood of your car when you are driving. Whiteouts are potentially lethal. The only lake-induced snowsqualls that impact eastern Ontario must originate from Lake Ontario. The Arctic air must both be sufficiently cold and the low-level winds properly aligned to generate snowsqualls. The orientation of Lake Ontario encourages westerly winds that can inundate the Tug Hills of New York State with paralyzing snow accumulations. Only southwesterly winds can direct snowsqualls down the St Lawrence River Valley. As the winds turn more to the south, the snowsqualls tend to lose their alignment and become warmer as well. Winds of 230 degrees or less are not effective snowsquall generators. Snowsqualls provide a refinement on the southern boundary of the search area. 

When all of the above climate and weather factors are considered, the resulting search area becomes the Goldilock Triangle of Eastern Ontario. The climate and weather had narrowed our search window considerably.

The summer Lake Ontario lake breeze front defined the northern edge. The right-moving supercells tracking southeast around Athens were the eastern flank of the search area. The 230-degree vector from Kingston and the west end of Lake Ontario was the limit to the south. The major highways completed or reinforced the western and southern boundaries. We did not wish to play in the traffic.

I had never explored the Goldilock Triangle of Eastern Ontario as a kid with my canoe. Not too hot… not too cold (but enough to freeze out the spongy moth at minus 29 Celsius in the winter) ... supercellular convection less likely.. . snowsqualls improbable ...  long-duration freezing rain rare if at all... The area was just right as Goldilocks would say. 

There are other considerations as well. They all seem to come down to conditions that are not natural and impact the senses. 

  • Enjoying a really dark night sky with millions of stars in view is important. A starry, starry night was important to Vincent as well. Light pollution is becoming more invasive as populations grow. 
  • No multi-lane, busy highways nearby. Sound pollution can be a problem and sound can carry great distances under a nighttime or frontal inversion (although my hearing loss might mitigate that.) 
  • Visual pollution includes almost anything that is not natural. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign was a favourite song by the Five Man Electrical Band from my youth.
  • We have been in areas where you can actually taste and smell the air you are breathing. Not good.

The area in question was also in the centre of the north-south nature corridor linking the Adirondacks to Algonquin and the wild watersheds of western Quebec including the famed Dumoine. Several groups were already active in the area. Linda and I share the missions of these organizations. 

Frontenac Arch Biosphere and the 
Queens University Biological Station

Algonquin to Adirondacks Conservation Association, A2A

The final, very limited search area had been identified. 

Singleton Lake was even absent on many of the maps we
 had been using in our search.

Linda discovered the perfect property in the autumn of 2006 encompassing the eastern shore of Singleton Lake. In fact, I credit her with everything including the design of our one-level home. Surround yourself with nature and you will find a good place to live - no need to travel anywhere. 

Our goal was to have a minimal footprint, build efficiently and green and then work in harmony with nature. That included planting thousands of trees, erecting hundreds of birdhouses, protecting turtle nests and creating habitats for all kinds of species that share the land with us. 

The Singleton Sanctuary is surrounded by unique and rare environments that deserve respect and conservation. The BioBlitz of 2010 identified almost 400 species that we share the ecosystem with. That number has hopefully increased since 2010 due to the efforts undertaken. Some disease-resistant butternut trees we have planted still have not shown signs of being infected by the canker - sadly, some have.

Eight species at risk were documented during the BioBlitz including:

            • Cerulean Warbler (SC
            • Grass Pickerel (SC)
            • Bald eagle (SC)
            • Monarch (SC)
            • Butternut (END)
            • Stinkpot (THR)
            • Map turtle (SC)
            • Ratsnake (THR)
Special Concern (SC), “species of special concern” means a wildlife species that may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
Threatened (THR), "any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range."
Endangered (END), "Endangered" – "very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future"; 

As an added bonus, the Singleton Sanctuary is also in the middle of the path of mid-latitude synoptic-scale storms... the perfect place to be for an artist and meteorologist! The weather is different and inspiring every day.

We are all stewards of the land, privileged to appreciate its beauty during our lifetime but responsible for leaving the environment better off for the future and all inhabitants...

The Singleton Sanctuary is equally special in the winter. 

"I Love The Weather.." was the short answer provided. The above was the long answer and closer to the whole truth and nothing but the truth... so help me... 

Warmest regards and keep your paddle in the water,

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Connecting with Nature

 "The Connecting with Nature, Oak Ridges Moraine" art book received the 2009 Moraine Hero Award for demonstrating remarkable efforts in protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine. Several other King artists were involved in this wonderful book that Herbert Pryke designed.

Herbert asked for submissions from artists living on the Oak Ridges Moraine to assist with this project. 

At the time we were living on the very crest of the Oak Ridges Moraine along the 12th Concession of King Township. The front yard drained to Kennifick Lake (a kettle lake), thence northeastward via the Schomberg River to the Holland Marsh and ultimately reaching Lake Simcoe via the Holland River. The back 25 acres fed into the Humber River. Watershed Farm started as an abandoned century-old farmhouse and evolved into a jewel of conservation and natural beauty - at least in our eyes. I loved Watershed Farm ... the honey bees, turkeys, deer and even the opossums migrating northward with climate change trying to find a place to live. Life was good and always very interesting. We planted lots of trees too including many black walnuts!

In 2009 the Oak Ridges Moraine was under the threat of unchecked and rampant development. Artists banded together to do their best similar to the story of how A.Y. Jackson and the Ontario Society of Artists contributed to the creation of Killarney Provincial Park. 

I submitted two plein air pieces painted on Watershed Farm for consideration by Christine A. Lynett, Manager, Programs, McMichael Canadian Art Collection. They were from the same location but completed in very different seasons. 

#0879 "The Copse" 11x14 oils on canvas

#0610 "Wild Life" 16x20 oils on canvas
The first time I froze my hands...

Christine wrote: "Congratulations on being selected for the Oak Ridges Moraine Book -I loved your work and I chose both the autumn scene (879-this one) and the winter fence (0610) scene ... the works really stood out especially the colour in THE autumn scene ... the use of brushstroke and composition in both with horizon line near top were very engaging."

 "The Copse"  as it appears in
"Connecting with Nature, Oak Ridges Moraine

Herbert remains a good friend and continues practising his altruism to the benefit of all - currently in Owen Sound. 

Sadly, the Oak Ridges Moraine is once again under attack. Investigative journalists and the Auditor General are doing their best to discover the truth behind the backroom political deals made behind closed doors. Concerned citizens from every walk of life are taking part in an effort to preserve an irreplaceable and essential environment thousands of years in the making. 

The Greenbelt is not a scam as Premier Ford claims and the issue is not about housing as Minister Clark insists. If you must, plan a sustainable city of the future instead of an obsolete suburb of the past. The Conservation Authorities that recently suffered severe budget and mandate cuts were born out of the devastation from Hurricane Hazel of October 1954. Politicians have long forgotten those valuable lessons while citizen scientists have not.  

Apparently, power does corrupt and this latest threat to the Oak Ridges Moraine is simple greed to satisfy the lust of a few at the expense of everything else. Nature does not even have a voice. Shame... 

Become informed... the issues need not be complex. Simple right and wrong suffices. It is important to separate political spin from facts and accurate history. 

The Narwhal is a reliable source for  News on Climate Change, Environmental Issues making sense of the key environmental issues in Canada. The Narwhal:

Also consider: Actions to Fight Bill 23 

Warmest regards and keep your paddle in the water,

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Friday, May 26, 2023

Artificial Intelligence.. the Weather and Art

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is epidemic. A host of mimicking software algorithms “learning“ from the volumes of recorded history will impact society - perhaps change it forever. We shall see...

There are many questions as to what those influences might be. Aldous Huxley had opinions that he documented almost a hundred years ago. Legislators in Europe are racing to get ahead of the technological curve.  Tech giants are sprinting to develop Artificial Intelligence applications and get them accepted into society before that happens thus making any legislation irrelevant and reactionary. Asking for forgiveness versus permission are very different things after the cat of AI is already out of the bag. 

2017 Was a Big Year for AI performing better than     
humans for the first time in several key categories. 

The materials used for learning include everything and anything that can be digitized. Many collaborative Artificial Intelligence algorithms team up within the huge and ever-growing black box of code to establish patterns from those enormous data sets. The software can appropriately reproduce these patterns upon request - more or less. 

Meteorological models are early examples of Artificial Intelligence. When I became a meteorologist in 1977 one of my managers told me to look for another line of work as my career path would be automated within the decade. Moore's Law from 1965 observed that the number of transistors on computer chips doubled approximately every two years. The computerization of society followed and it would appear that the impact of that digitization of knowledge has been exponential in growth ever since.

Meteorological simulations of the atmosphere leapt forward in precision and accuracy in both time and space during my career. A keen meteorologist in the early 1980s could easily improve on the barotropic model available as guidance in that era. By Y2K (the year 2000 when the world was worried about the coding of the date using just two numbers to identify the year), computer models of the atmosphere were the state of the meteorological art and they have only continued to improve in the last twenty years. 

The human hand analysis of weather maps was actively discouraged within the weather centre after Y2K. There was no time dedicated to that essential and very human effort of drawing lines and deciphering coded data into meaningful patterns. The hand analysis synthesized the wealth of coded data and human experiences into a personal understanding of the current weather situation. The important weather concerns of the day were discovered and the team got to work creating products to alert the clients affected. Producing an accurate forecast requires understanding the important meteorological forces at play. 

An AI limerick created up on the request
of my fellow meteorologist and
 friend, Jim Murtha

By the time I retired in 2011, computer simulations of the atmosphere were good enough that meteorologists could maybe not even bother conducting an independent analysis and diagnosis in order to produce a prognosis. Available time on shift was increasingly restricted and very limited for that effort anyway. Proper measurement of that forecast performance is still elusive but that is another story based on the scales of time and space as well as forecast lead-time. That Performance Measurement research of mine never got implemented... 

It took 30 years for the forecast made by my first manager to verify but his recommendation to find other work was still apparently correct. I became an artist...

My concern is that brain "muscles" only develop with some heavy lifting. If all you are doing is repackaging AI, then one can expect to become feeble-minded. Apparently, Aldous Huxley felt the same way. 

Vincent van Gogh art "created" by
The nested algorithms of AI can reproduce the genius of Einstein, Van Gogh and Tom Thomson with a keystroke. There are reasons to be alarmed and very skeptical and perhaps disbelieving. What indeed is real and what is the product of nested algorithms feeding on all of human experience? That tipping point happened a couple of decades ago in meteorology.

There are options though...

In art, the solution is to take the path not only less travelled but never trod upon before. Paint on and dam the algorithms. Maybe not even post your art because once you do, it can be assimilated by AI.

In meteorology, focus on looking at the real world. The techniques I describe in my Tom Thomson blog can be applied to any skyscape to better understand the real clouds and the actual weather. It is also fun to be outside surrounded by nature. Become a "weather walker"... 

Artificial Intelligent "Painting by Tom Thomson" is 
fortunately not even close (yet) but it tried...

It is time to re-read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley published in 1932. Aldous was right. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited published in 1958, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions."

First Edition Cover from 1932

Seeing is believing is no longer possible with Artificial Intelligence. Beware of geeks bearing gifts... Boldly go forging your own unique path through life while enjoying that ride - it might be the only thing you can actually believe and appreciate. 

Warmest regards and keep your paddle in the water,

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

PS: AI based on history often fails in situations that have not yet been observed. The now historic Progressive Derecho of Saturday, May 21st, 2022 was a bust forecast that impacted roughly 15.6 million people, representing about 41 percent of Canada's population. Strong winds downed over 1,900 hydro poles, five metal transmission towers, and countless trees along the path. There were 5 fatalities. The EC Warning Program had challenges. 

Friday, March 3, 2023

Empathetic Meteorology

#1714 "White Pine Island"
Cloud Patterns within the Atmospheric Frame of Reference
and what they mean

Empathy is important. It is vital to examine a process from the appropriate point of view in order for it to make the most sense. Humans are anthropocentric by nature - which is very unnatural! Ask Copernicus and Galileo about the challenges they faced - great minds who dared to think outside the proverbial box encountering obstacles beyond belief. 

Copernicus developed heliocentrism in 1514 that the Sun and not the Earth was the centre of the "Universe". It was published the year he died. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) the father of modern science, agreed with Copernicus. Galileo was convicted of “vehement suspicion of heresy” and under threat of torture from the Church. Galileo was forced to express sorrow and to curse his errors .. but I digress... 

Meteorology in Canada flourished out of a necessity for safer air travel - simply to avoid storms. Aviation requires a frame of reference attached to the airports and constant pressure surfaces. A fluid on a rotating, oblate spheroid like the Earth does not care much about any of that. Fluids can be better understood following an empathetic frame of reference moving with the fluid. 

Air parcels follow constant energy surfaces (isentropic surfaces) fuelled by contrasting temperatures between the equator and the poles (see "The Jet Stream - The Bind that Ties"). The average westerly winds of the jet streams in both hemispheres move the storms along but what shapes those patterns? The answer is indeed blowing in the wind and using a frame of reference attached to the storm. 

The purple local wind maximum spins up two, adjacent
 companion swirls

A puff of stronger wind (local maximum in the jet stream and the purple vector in the accompanying graphic) creates two paired vortices. The so-called "cyclonic"  or vorticity maximum (red X) is poleward of the jet maximum (in the northern hemisphere to the left looking downstream). By meteorological convention, the "anticyclonic" or vorticity minimum (blue N) is equatorward of the jet maximum (to the right looking downstream in the northern hemisphere). Use your Coriolis Hand to visualize these paired rotations - your right hand for the Northern Hemisphere and the left hand for Down-under.  

These paired circulations are simply cross-sections through the three-dimensional smoke ring blown by the local jet maximum but this blog is more about the patterns caused by the rotational swirls as viewed in the empathetic, atmospheric frame of reference. (See "What do Smoke Rings have to do with Croquet?" for the three-dimensional  approach)

The shape of the moisture patterns is determined by simple vector addition: 

  • the relative strength of the local wind maximum which determines the rate of rotation of the accompanying swirls; and
  • the speed at which the swirls are being translated along by the jet stream.

I did this work on a night shift sometime in the early 1980s. I saw a pattern in the newly available satellite imagery and simply asked "why?" The real atmosphere was the best teacher I could have hoped for. 

The following graphics are the same for whatever speed we wish to assign to the local wind maximum. The associated weather is of course more intense with the stronger jets. 

In "Rotation is the Key to Unlock Cloud Shapes" I explained how the cyclonic swirl in the atmospheric frame of reference formed an open trough in the Earth Frame. 

The open trough became deeper as either the cyclonic swirl (green vectors within the green box) increased in speed or the speed of translation of the system decreased (purple vector attached to the purple circle). Open troughs generally move quickly and are not associated with surface low-pressure areas - both observations relative to the Earth frame. Open troughs typically produce clouds in the free atmosphere but no precipitation. 

When the vectors of the rotational swirl match the 
translational vector, an incipient low is about to
form in the Earth frame of reference -
the same low-pressure area that
meteorologists analyse on weather maps. 

As the speed of the swirl increases more that the speed of system translation, the location of the low on the weather map shifts in the direction of Coriolis Deflection (to the right in the northern hemisphere). In those situations when the system translational speed reduces to zero, the low in the Earth frame of reference must be collocated with the cyclonic swirl in the atmospheric frame.

The clincher is that the centre of the swirl in the atmospheric frame of reference is exactly the centre of the moisture swirl that we witness in satellite imagery - and that is the relative vorticity centre using meteorologist lingo. That is what I discovered on that night shift while closely examining the grainy, hard-copy infrared satellite image. It was a eureka moment for me that would define most of my meteorological life. 

The swirls in the satellite imagery could be analyzed as vorticity centres. Vorticity centres were a staple of the products found in numerical simulations of the atmosphere. Comparing the location of the vorticity centres in the real atmosphere with those in the numerical, simulated atmosphere could lead to improved predictions especially when strong vortices were involved. 

It was really that simple. My goal was to teach this at Training Branch back in the mid-1980s. I was not successful then but did have some success eventually in Boulder, Colorado at COMET. Some of this work can be found within the COMET online material and it is all free - so the price is very right. I have reproduced some of that material in these blogs because it is so very important in order to understand cloud shapes. See "Cloud Shapes from Rotation" for more on this. The additional influence of wind shear that spins up swirls is required to make a cusp in the cloud formation. 

The identical process can be described for the anticyclonic swirls. 

Open anticyclonic ridge - fast-moving fair weather

Incipient High in the Earth frame of reference when the rotational
speed of the anticyclonic swirl is the same as the speed of translation

The location of the high-pressure centre shifts in the anti-
Coriolis Deflection direction (to the left in the northern
hemisphere) as the speed of translation diminishes
to zero and the high-pressure centre analyzed on the
weather map in the Earth frame of reference is collocated
with the anticyclonic swirl.

Clouds make so much more sense if we use an empathetic eye and watch them from the atmospheric frame of reference. Cloud lines and patterns shaped by the swirls can be easily understood.
The red “X” is considered to be positive or cyclonic (counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere) rotation of the atmosphere. The resultant cloud edges are actually two cyclonically curved arcs that meet smoothly at the centre of rotation. Pointing your right thumb upward at an “X” also points your fingers in the direction of the cyclonic rotation of the atmosphere.

The following animations might assist you to unlock the door of understanding for you...

The point of inflection is not smooth but becomes a cusp when speed shear rotation is added into the mix. In the following animations, the red X of the vorticity centre is between the two components of pure rotation "R" and shear "S". Both rotation and shear cause the atmosphere to swirl. 
As the wind shear component "S" increases, the sharpness of the cusp increases correspondingly. 
If you practice this just a few times and take the opportunity to watch clouds develop and move, you will quickly begin to understand cyclonic cloud shapes. Follow the cloud edges cyclonically to the cusp where the curvature of the arc changes. The cusp is your centre of rotation; the relative vorticity centre; the swirl and where you begin your empathetic view of the atmospheric moisture.
Exactly the same can be done for so-called anticyclonic circulations except that everything is mirrored in reverse.  Anticyclonic circulations are typically associated with descending air and thus fewer clouds- but the weather is still very important. 

Looking back, this work on the centre of swirls seems intuitively obvious. At the time, it was anything but and the challenges were many and varied. A background in art certainly was beneficial to visualize the atmospheric motions from its frame of reference. In the early 1990s with vastly improved satellite imagery,  I attempted to translate that data with the mean translation. The goal of "King Atmosphere Relative Display" or KARD was to further prove the concepts and assist others to see the bumper car aspects of atmospheric interactions. Some of the effort was completed at the King Radar site near Watershed Farm but again the challenges were large and  I had to resort to hand waving.  

I did so much hand-waving in my time that it became more like bad break-dancing. I never tired of attempting to explain the beauty and simplicity of the weather. I guess I have yet to stop trying as I still empathically have my mind up in the clouds within their frame of reference. I also have more time now to take my paints along with me for the ride. 

There is much more that I could explain but this is enough for now. I hope you can get outside with your Coriolis Hand and watch the clouds go by and appreciate them even more... 

Warmest regards and keep your paddle in the water,

Phil Chadwick