Tuesday, June 1, 2021


#0828 "Standing Outside the Fire"
How do you know if you have succeeded with your art?

The best art grabs you – affects for feelings – your mood. Hopefully in a positive way. There must be an unspoken connection between the artist and the audience. If you have accomplished that even once as an artist, you are on your way. You can do it again. Keep trying.

The art can be almost anything: visual, music, dance, writing … there is a host of creative disciplines that provides the artist with an outlet for expression and maybe even an audience. What excites me is that sometimes those outlets fuse and the sum is greater than the parts. 

Leonardo da Vinci wrote “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”. My friend Marko Burrows has fused Leonardo's concepts and put them to music. 

Marko Burrows, England

Marko Burrows is a one man music machine creating a library of music in much the same way that I create a garage full of art. We are driven to create. My art connected with Marko and he reacted by writing a song… I love it and maybe you will too.

I have his songs on my playlist and I smile whenever their turn comes up. Marko was able to distill my art into the poetry and music of "It's Hot in Here" and "Painting Life". I find it truly remarkable how he actually hit the bullseye of my character. Life and the planet are fragile and we need to become better stewards of both for the sake of nature and the generations yet to come. Great responsibilities must come with the equally great rights and freedoms that we enjoy - paid for by our parents - the Greatest Generation. I do not believe in entitlement - merit is all that matters. Work, effort and learning to be better are important. We are all the same so let's strive together to make the planetary paradise better for those yet to come.  

Here is the poetry of "It's Hot in Here" by Marko Burrows.
  • It’s hot in here 
  • The weather’s weird for this time of year
  • It’s hot in here I’ve been watching steam rising from my beer! 
  • A working man 
  • My rich boss says, “Strip the land” 
  • There ‘ain’t no plan 
  • Just more and more wealth in his hands 
  • I look to the sky, and I’m in awe. 
  • However we change it, it’s so beautiful
  • It’s hot in here 

  • And the world cries! 
  • It doesn’t matter what you’ve done 
  • Like the weather you cross my face 
  • I’ll still be here when you have gone 
  • A very different place 

  • It’s hot in here 
  • Its’ raining more, the sky’s not ever clear
  • It’s hot in here 
  • My car needs oars, it’s the floods fear 
  • I look to the sky, and I’m in awe...
  • However we change it, it’s so beautiful 

  • And the world cries! 
  • It doesn’t matter what you’ve done 
  • Like the weather you cross my face 
  • I’ll still be here when you have gone 
  • A very different place 

  • It’s hot in here 
  • They say the tipping point is awful near
  • It’s hot in here 
  • From this viewpoint it’s our last frontier 
  • A working man, How we stop it I don’t understand 
  • There ‘ain’t no plan. 
  • There’s no-one out there to lend a helping hand 
  • I look to the sky, and I’m in awe. 
  • However we change it, it’s so beautiful 
  • It’s hot in here

Painting Life by Marko Burrows. Marko told me that he was not happy with his voice on "Painting Life" but it is honest and that is enough for me. This is the poetry of music, art and life explained in song. Marko wrote the words and music as inspired by my art. Here are those words. 

  • The paint on my brush keeps on flowing 
  • In small dabs and long strokes it feels right 
  • Blending, colour and texture, that’s going
  • To reflect, almost dance, in the light
  • But up close, you can’t see any structure
  • It’s a jumble of chaos and strife
  • But step back and look at its wholeness
  • A painting is a lot like life

  • You see life through the lens of a camera
  • It’s so sharp and digit’ly bright
  • But the light that you see is so filtered
  • You’re inured to the feelings of life
  • When you look at the light from a canvas
  • Made by Artists, with Brush and a knife
  • You step back and you look at its wholeness
  • A painting’s a lot like life

  • The paint flows, the brush goes
  • The shapes that it forms
  • The knife on my palette
  • And the hue that is born
  • Take what I see, with a little part of me
  • And the painting of life is formed

  • The paint on my brush keeps on flowing
  • In small dabs and long strokes it feels right
  • Blending, colour and texture, that’s going
  • To reflect, almost dance, in the light
  • But up close, you can’t see any structure
  • It’s a jumble of chaos and strife
  • But step back and look at its wholeness
  • A painting is a lot like life
I have lost track of Marko over the past few years. I guess that happens when you make friends over great distances and the linkage is as fragile as the web. 

In my mind, Marko is tremendously successful and I hope that he feels the same. This is for you Marko and I hope that you and your family are safe... best to you my friend... 

Keep you paddle in the water and warmest regards... 
Phil the Forecaster Chadwick


Monday, May 31, 2021

Dancing with the Weather

#1717 "Sunset Waves Nite"

The last couple of years of meteorological blogs can be summarized by creative, body movements – the Weather Dance. I failed at making this mainstream meteorology during my career but I do not give up easily. Perhaps this meteorological approach was too much fun?  I believe that your career should be your passion and that it must be creative and fun. A career can last a lifetime so you might as well enjoy it. You gotta laugh! By using only your Coriolis Hand and the attached arm, we can better understand the conceptual models that depict the Atmospheric Conveyor Belts, the Deformation Zone and even Thermal Advection. I call this approach "Dancing with the Weather". 

The weather is more of a ballet than a battle anyway... Weather is a balancing act that moves forms of energy all around the Globe in order to keep the earth in balance. Sometimes these motions are focussed, magnified and intensely damaging as a result. Supercellular thunderstorms, tornadoes and tropical storms come to mind. Everyone wants to see a tornado before they die... but not just before they die. I have used this line many times during my presentations and never get tired of casting out that hook.  Humans see this extreme weather as break dancing... literally. But all weather dances serve a purpose in moving energy around.

Conveyor Belt Conceptual Model (CBCM)

The Conveyor Belt Conceptual Model (CBCM) is a vital tool required to better understand the weather. Warm air rises as it is moved northward along the isentropic surfaces. Cold air sinks as it is advected toward the south. Water vapour and electrical charge are also added into the mix to make the weather.  This essential conceptual model also employs the deformation zone and thermal advection concepts. If you follow this train of thought to the end of this blog, you are on your way to really understanding the weather around you. 

For a start ... focus on your Coriolis Hand and the attached arm. This is your right hand if you are in the Northern Hemisphere and your left appendage if you are south of the equator (see  “The Solution to Cloud Swirls Can Be Found in Your Hands”). 

Coriolis Hand with
Thumb Pointing Up
If your Coriolis Thumb is pointing upward, your Coriolis arm is oriented like the cyclonic companion of the warm conveyor belt (WCB) of the CBCM. Your elbow will even bend cyclonically. What does this mean for the weather you can expect with the cyclonic companion? The answer is more weather with ascending, moist air. Embedded convection is also likely along the cold front. The following Radar Palette material was initially presented in "The Cold Conveyor Belt - The Weather Wizard Behind the Curtain". The Radar Palette did not get published but it is the equivalent to the Satellite Palette using conventional, Doppler and dual polarized radar to investigate the conceptual models of the atmosphere. 

Weather with the Rising Cyclonic Companion of the WCB

Coriolis Hand withThumb Pointing  Down
If your Coriolis Thumb is pointing down, your Coriolis arm is oriented like the anticyclonic companion of the WCB of the CBCM. Your arm will feel twisted and uncomfortable while in this orientation. Your elbow will not bend comfortably in the anticyclonic direction. The weather with the anticyclonic companion is drier with descending air. 
Weather with the Anticyclonic Companion of the WCB

The Warm Conveyor Belt (WCB) of the Conveyor Belt Conceptual Model (CBCM) is composed on both the cyclonic and anticyclonic companions. Each have their own characteristics as described which define the associated weather. 

The Dry (DCB) and Cold (CCB) conveyor belts are also composed of cyclonic and anticyclonic companions so there are at least six Coriolis arms in the ballet of each and every weather system. These flows would also be shifting with the differential thermal advections as described in "Shifting Winds? Why?". Even the most complex weather situation can be displayed and understood using your Coriolis Arm.  

Imagine the weather dancing going on especially on night shifts, trying to explain the weather patterns witnessed on the satellite imagery. The remote sensing information like satellite and radar revealed the real atmosphere and the actual weather. Trying to explain the Weather Dance was fun, funny and illuminating all at the same time. The following two collages of images are all you really need to remember so that you might better understand the atmosphere and the weather that you witness. 

Cyclonic Coriolis Arm (red for cyclonic)

Anticyclonic Coriolis Arm  (blue for anticyclonic) 

By employing the Conveyor Belt Conceptual Model and your Coriolis Hand,  you can examine and understand the three dimensional nature of the clouds and how they fit together in time and space. It helps if you know which way is north (for the slope of the isentropic surfaces that the conveyor belts follow) but really, you just need to know up from down...

Keep you paddle in the water and warmest regards... stay safe, 

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick
PS... More to come. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Warming Winds and Deformation Zones

#1906 "Sunrise Freezing Rain Deformation Zone"  
Looking East

Sometimes it is best just to enjoy and paint the weather. I often do only that. The above painting includes gravity waves and deformation zone chains along a warm conveyor belt but I was focussed more on the shapes and the colours. I painted what I saw. Each line does indeed tell a story but it can get complicated even using your Coriolis Hand. You need to know which way is north and which lines are the regular gravity waves perpendicular to the wind and which are confluent asymptotes paralleling the atmospheric frame flows. This will not be on any exam... just enjoy the weather and the beauty of nature.  As described in "The Nature Fix" by Florence Williams (2018), it is good your you. The science is always easier from the bird's eye satellite view of the weather. 

The previous two blogs about thermal advections and dynamically changing the shape of the deformation zone, have been a bit heavy for light reading. The posts developed these conceptual models from first principles using only your Coriolis Hand, your imagination and thought experiments. That is exactly how they were developed on night shifts in the weather centre. The mental images playing in my mind where the same in the satellite imagery that I was using to discover the forecast problem of the day.

Warming wind shear and the double-cyclonic deformation zone pattern are probably the most important concepts to weather watchers. Warm and moist air being moved northward is the source of the weather that we observe and forecast in the mid and higher latitudes. The graphic for the idealized, double-cyclonic deformation zone chain was made by my COMET friends in Boulder, Colorado. This two dimensional graphic does a pretty good job at portraying what happens in the actual three dimensional atmosphere. Remember that with a warming wind, only the cyclonic swirls are enhanced. 

A chain of deformation zones can be quickly sketched between a series of vorticity maxima (cyclonic swirls and the red "X's") along a channeled jet. As a result of the wave nature of the atmosphere, subtle vorticity maxima can be inferred at regular intervals even if the corresponding satellite signature is inconclusive. 

Vorticity maxima chains are typically located between the bottom of the upper trough and the downstream point of inflection (the black circle in the following graphic) where the cyclonic curvature of the trough changes to the anticyclonic curvature of the downstream ridge. Analysis of these chains is best achieved by locating poleward "bumps" in the axis of maximum winds and the cloud patterns. The lines of moisture will reveal "backward s" shaped deformation zones between the vorticity maxima in the chain. 

The satellite example was from 2003 but such a pattern happens almost every day. Your Coriolis Hand with your thumb pointing upward at every red “X” will reveal the sense of the rotation. If you are looking for weather, be it enhanced cloud or precipitation, look just downstream from each red “X” which move at about a half of the speed of the atmospheric winds – typically toward the northeast. 

Every line in the sky has a tale to tell. I spent countless hours deciphering what the atmosphere had to say and I am happy to share those stories here.  

Keep you paddle in the water and warmest regards... stay safe, 

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Monday, May 10, 2021

Cloud Edge Shapes - The "Backward S" Deformation Zone

#2065 "Summer Cirrus" (Singleton Lake, Ontario)

What does it mean if a shifting wind veers? A more global visualization is to take your meteorological Coriolis force hand and point your thumb down. I will explain...

Coriolis Hand with Thumbs Down
Warm Advection
That magical Coriolis appendage is your right hand if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and your left hand if you are down under, south of the equator.  The thumb of your Coriolis hand pointing down, will force your fingers to curl in the same direction as wind shear resulting from warm air advection. The following examples will be for the northern hemisphere as that is where I live and paint. I will try to use the more Global phrase “warming wind” instead of the more nautical and historical term "veering". 

To watch the warming wind veer, implies that the wind shift occurs over a period of time. Historically and mathematically, meteorologists have only considered what is happening when winds veer with height. The answer to both questions is that warm air is being advected by a veering wind, whether that change occurs in space or time. 

Wind Veering with Time Moves Warm Air Northward

Companion Swirls straddle the inflows
Paired Swirls see each other are across the DZ
What impact does a warming wind have on our deformation zone (DZ) conceptual model. Let’s start with the simple straight line DZ. The DZ Conceptual Model is a dynamic concept and how it changes, reveals the weather. The following graphics describe the cause and effect of how the changes in just one component of the DZ Conceptual Model is communicated to the other nine components. It takes longer to explain while the atmosphere does all of this instantaneously. These changes just come naturally. 

The only physical law that we need to apply is the conservation of angular momentum. Figure skaters conserve angular momentum all of the time. Their rate of rotation increases as they draw their body inward to a tight spindle. These same skaters slow their rotation by extending their arms and legs outward. 

Shifting inflow winds along the axis of contraction toward the DZ must impact on the shape of that DZ! As I described in “Lines and Swirls in an Unbalanced Atmosphere” a change in any one of the components of the DZ conceptual model, must be communicated to them all.

What happens to the companion swirls that border the veering wind of one of the inflows to the DZ? The cyclonic companion occupies a smaller volume while the area of anticyclonic companion simultaneously expands. I always associated the font size with the intensity or speed of the swirl  rotation. As a result the red “X” must spin faster in the smaller volume and the font size increases. The blue “N” rotates slower in the larger area and the font size decreases. The total amount of angular momentum remains unchanged for the two swirls just like for a figure skater. 

The “backward-S” DZ

The confluent asymptote adjacent to the big spinning red “X” must curl more cyclonically. The confluent asymptote adjacent to the small blue “N” must curl less anticyclonically - which is the same as saying that the confluent asymptote must curl more cyclonically. Both confluent asymptotes must curl more cyclonically relative to their red "X" swirls. Together these two confluent asymptotes are joined at the “col” to construct a single “backward-S” shaped deformation zone. 

Simultaneously the paired swirls across the confluent asymptotes must respond to the changes induced by the veering inflow. As the red X's spin faster in the smaller volumes and become larger fonts, their paired blue N's must spin slower in their enlarged areas and become smaller. There are many different ways to think about this but the result is always the same. 

The end result in a warming wind shear is a double-cyclonic deformation zone.  Both confluent asymptotes stretching outward from the col are shaped cyclonically and the red X's dominate the pattern. Simply, if the cloud lines are shaped by cyclonic swirls, the atmosphere is warming. 

In the northern hemisphere, a double-cyclonic swirl deformation zone must be shaped like a "backward S" which is the term I used in the 1990's when I first started to describe these concepts. South of the equator a double-cyclonic swirl deformation zone is shaped like an "S". I employed these ideas when I was the meteorological support for the Solar Car Race across the Australian Outback in 1996. I was not successful in explaining those concepts then either…

I played these thought experiments in my mind mainly on night shifts. The words played out like a movie in my mind’s eye. The wonderful thing is that the very same show was being played in the satellite loop of the real atmosphere... which was also my forecast concern of the day.

Double-cyclonic Deformation Zone Chain

Here are the take home concepts my weather friends. When do winds veer in the northern hemisphere atmosphere? Warm advection. Where can you find warm advection? When winds blow from the warm southern latitudes toward the pole. In the northern hemisphere that means southerly winds advect warm air toward the north and winds tend to veer with height... and with time. Lines of cloud must be shaped like backward S's or double-cyclonic deformation zones which is the terminology that I prefer. 

In #2065 "Summer Cirrus" (Singleton Lake, Ontario), the long lines of clouds whether they be a gravity wave or a Langmuir streak have a gentle double-cyclonic shape. Use your Coriolis Hand and point your thumb upward for a cyclonic swirl and you can see that the lines of clouds are a chain of double-cyclonic deformation zones as depicted in the above graphic produced by my COMET friends in Boulder, Colorado. The warming wind was over Singleton Lake on that summer day - and that is part of the story behind that painting.  

More on this in the next entry. Keep you paddle in the water and warmest regards... stay safe, 

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Shifting Winds? Why?

#1794 "July Sunrise 2016"

Why do winds shift? The answer to this simple question is important. If one witnesses a shift in the wind, then they will know what it means. Shifting winds also influence the shape of the deformation zone and that is where I am headed. If one observes a characteristically shaped deformation zone, then you will know what the weather is doing. The answer is indeed blowing with the wind! 

The proof that the above is true is interesting science and it will also allow you to refresh what backing (the wind vector turning counter-clockwise) and veering (turning clockwise) winds mean. I will also suggest a more direct and global alternative to veering and backing that leads directly to the meteorology and is easier to remember. 

One of the earliest meteorological lessons includes the phrase “BC VW”. Even scientists use mnemonic methods to remember important things. What this little ditty means is that in the northern hemisphere a Backing wind is associated with Cold air advection, while a Veering wind means Warm air advection. Apparently it also means that there were a lot of Volkswagen vehicles in British Columbia in the 1970’s when I was on Meteorological Course 33 but I doubt if that is still the case. 

But we need to take a step backward first and ask why there is any wind at all! The atmosphere moves as a wind because the temperature around the earth varies considerably. The equatorial, tropical areas are hot while the poles are cold. Hot air over the tropics is less dense and occupies great volumes and create mountainous air masses. Cold air over the poles is considerably more dense and occupies much less volume.  There is a flow of air from the mountainous air masses over the tropics toward the comparative air mass valleys over the poles. This flow of air is deflected by the Coriolis Force as explained in "The Solution to Cloud Swirls Can Be Found in Your Hands". In the Northern Hemisphere this poleward moving air is deflected to the right by the Coriolis Force. The resultant wind is called the "thermal wind" because it results from the temperature difference between the warm and the cold regions. In the Northern Hemisphere, place your left hand in the cold air and your right hand in the warm air and you will be looking along the direction that the thermal wind must blow.

The westerly jet stream is a thermal wind and its speed depends on the temperature difference between the equator and the poles. Right now the poles are heating up much faster (perhaps 10 times faster) than the equator which weakens this temperature difference and in turn diminishes the jet stream. The resultant meandering current of air still guides the weather systems but is changing the climate globally ... alas that is another story for another day - although I have written about it for decades now...  

Weather is required to stir these temperatures around and to keep the earth in balance. Warm air is generally moved northward and cold air is directed to the south by weather systems. Heat energy is just one of the quantities that is moved by weather to keep the earth in balance.

Traditionally, wind shear vectors are used to describe thermal advection. The temperature induced wind shear vector is simply the thermal wind and is the large block arrow in the following graphics. A southerly wind vector that moves warm air northward must have the thermal wind shear vector added to it as they occupy the same space. The vector addition occurs over the height of the temperature gradient. This vector addition requires that the southerly wind must also veer (wind vector turns clockwise) with height. 

Warm Advection Occurs when the wind Veers with Height

My simple graphic illustrates this well accepted principle. Warm air is moved northward. Winds veer with height. Heat energy is moved from the hot equatorial source areas to the cold Arctic. The earth stays in balance.

Cold air advection is the exact opposite. Cold air is moved southward. Winds back (wind vector turns counter-clockwise) with height. Cold energy is moved from the cold Arctic source region to the equator. 

Cold Advection Occurs when the wind Backs with Height

The weather tries to keep the planet in an energy balance. In the above graphics the wind shear is with with height. The strength of the thermal advection changes with time only as a result of the changes in the temperature gradient which must also change the thermal wind. 

The following was devised it on night shift in the late 1980s but I was unable to explain the concepts well enough to get acceptance. It is my fault that the following ideas are not mainstream meteorology. But I do not give up either. 

Let’s consider wind shear with time. If a wind vector veers with time, the change vector or wind shear must be the result of a thermal gradient at that specific level. The southerly component of the wind vector must advect the warm air northward. With time the southerly component of the veering wind will decrease along with the strength of the thermal advection. The take home message is that wind veering with time must be associated with warm advection although the intensity of that advection must also decrease with time.

Warm Advection at a Specific Height Level with Time

The same thought experiment applies equally well for cold advection. Winds backing with time must be associated with cold thermal advection diminishing with time.

Cold Advection at a Specific Height Level with Time

This veering and backing of the wind with time does not need to be quantitative in any way. I was simply looking for the qualitative nature of the wind shifts and trying to understand what it might mean.

This work further simplifies the already simple "BC VW" that I was taught on course in 1977 to remember how thermal advection works. This mnemonic was only intended to apply to vertical wind shear in space but I have shown that it applies equally well to time. Further, one can see that cloud lines in the atmosphere also play by these rules. Cloud lines changes with time can reveal many weather secrets. 

But wait, there is more. Here is a simpler and global approach to understanding thermal advections that employs your meteorological Coriolis force hand. 

That magical appendage. the Coriolis hand is at the end of your right arm if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and your left limb if you are down under, south of the equator. Warm advection shifting of winds will turn the wind vector anticyclonically so point your thumb downward to see which way warm advection will rotate the wind.  The wind vector must twist cyclonically under cold advection so point your thumb upward to view the cold rotation of the wind. Thermal advection is simple with thumbs down for warming and thumbs up for cooling. In this era of runaway Greenhouse burning of the planet, a thumbs up for cooling makes sense. Veering and backing of wind typically confused people anyway. This visual approach to thermal advections using a body part is more fun as well. 

These are powerful tools to better understand the weather. I will illustrate them in the next Blog. The answers can be found in the shapes of the deformation zone - my favourite meteorological conceptual model. 

Keep you paddle in the water and warmest regards... stay safe, 

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Lines and Swirls in an Unbalanced Atmosphere


#2277 "Singleton Summer Clouds"

I watched a buoyant cumulus rising in the spring sunshine. It reminded me that it was time for the next instalment in weather appreciation. Give me a swirl, and I will give you a line and three more swirls. Or give me a line and I will return the favour with four swirls. The weather is lyrical and understanding what those swirls and lines are saying is real meteorology. Weather is not a battle; weather is more like a ballet of forces and physics. All you need is your imagination and your right hand (for the northern hemisphere, but use your left hand if you are south of the equator). 

I typically see the lines first before swirls. The lines are boundaries between different air characteristics. One side of the line is probably warmer and more moist. The cloud elements can be witnessed as wonderful tracers of motion while the other side is cooler and drier and cloud free. The lines control the weather and they are easily understood. These lines are also created in the atmospheric frame of reference. Our 2D conceptual model is still informative regarding the processes and shapes in the 3D world of the smoke rings - but much simpler to describe in a planar world. 

The Deformation Zone (DZ) Conceptual Model of
Two opposing Puffs along the Axis of Contraction
; The DZ Line and the The Four Swirls
As described in the previous Weather Appreciation Blog “Down to Earth Meteorology” the balanced, straight line deformation zone is probably the most useful and fundamental of all conceptual models. But it can take on many variations. 

The atmospheric environment is rarely in balance. Heat, moisture, electrical charge and a host of other quantities are always being transported up and down and north and south to try to keep the earth in harmony. 

Now imagine that the puff of air that generates the smoke ring is unbalanced and strong and directed toward the deformation zone. The strong puff generates intense, adjacent, companion swirls. The angular momentum of the strong swirls of the smoke ring is a conservative property that only decay with turbulence and time. The meteorological horizontal cross section reveals companion vorticities of the same strength bordering the strong puff. I use larger fonts to depict more intense vorticity swirls. 

The confluent asymptotes that stretch outward from the col can be no longer straight. The confluent asymptote bordering the cyclonic swirl must curl cyclonically. The companion anticyclonic confluent asymptote bordering the anticyclonic swirl must be curled anticyclonically. The new deformation zone comprised of these two confluent asymptotes joined at the col, resembles a drawn  bow that is pulled and releasing the strong puff of air. The air and weather system are moving in the direction shot by the bow. The strong swirls can be easily understood in 3D by using the appropriate hand. 

The effects of the strong puff also impact the meteorology on the opposite side of the deformation zone. As the cyclonic confluent asymptote becomes more cyclonically curved, the paired anticyclonic swirl across the DZ finds itself in a larger volume of air. Like a figure skater extending their arms, the rate of rotation for that “N” decreases even while the angular momentum remains conservative and unchanged. An identical process happens simultaneously with the paired cyclonic swirl, the red "X".  

As those two swirls slow their rate of rotation, the inflow puff between them must also slow. A change in just one element of the deformation zone conceptual model is communicated to every other element and changes everything! In addition, these principles apply at all scales of motion from the microscopic to the cosmic. The creative human can watch these patterns unfold in the sky and really understand. 

A 2 dimensional look at the changing deformation zone is sufficient to explain what happens in 3D.  My friends in COMET created straw-dog animations of some of these principles, many years ago (2006 and 2007). This material was well outside my official duties but I felt it was important to get these concepts documented from night shifts many years previous. The COMET animator was gifted and gifted me with these representations of mind-wanderings  free from daily distractions. I wanted to illustrate how a change in any single component of the DZ conceptual model is communicated to influence the other components.

The curvature of the confluent asymptote reveals which of the paired vorticity swirls is stronger. This is a powerful thing to know with respect to the weather...

In the painting, each individual cumulus is a strong, nearly vertical puff with a 3D smoke ring within the visible cloud. The 3D patterns can be described by 2D lines. There are strong and bold vertical strokes in the painting linked to bumps in the cauliflower cloud head. Each links to a smaller, vertical puff of air and a smaller repetition of the same conceptual model. As I painted, I thought of Lewis Fry Richardson  (1881-1953). Lewis was an English mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist and pacifist who pioneered modern mathematical techniques of weather forecasting, and the application of similar techniques to studying the causes of wars and how to prevent them. Our lives overlapped just a few months but I would have like Lewis a lot. He wrote the following rhyme and I painted that into the cumulus clouds. 

“Big whirls have little whirls,
That feed on their velocity;
And little whirls have lesser whirls,
And so on to viscosity.”

Keep you paddle in the water (making both lines and
swirls) and warmest regards,

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Down to Earth Meteorology

#2056 "Singleton Sunset Shades"

These thoughts are designed to lead you full circle back into the planar earth world of meteorology. From my first blog entry in this meteorological series until now, I have empathized thinking in three or even four dimensions to better understand the atmosphere and the weather. Now we are going to simplify that back to the flat earth and a simple piece of paper. And that is OK!

In “Cloud Shapes and Lines in the Atmosphere” I illustrated that cloud patterns are much simpler if you examine them from the atmospheric frame of reference. Our earthly frame of observation is not where the weather lives. But puffs, swirls and lines are all part of the same conceptual model and we are going to dramatically simplify that concept. Moisture in the air makes these otherwise invisible air flows obvious. These patterns relate directly to the weather. The use of your hand and the presence of any cloud, will tell the rest of the story. 

The atmospheric frame of reference (green box in the graphic) moves with the average speed in the atmosphere (purple circle with vector). Every wind observed in the earth frame (purple box) can be expressed as this average plus a small difference from the mean (green box). 

Vector addition to get from the
Atmospheric Frame to the Earth Frame 
and back again

This simple but important example is when the west wind in the earth frame simply decreases a bit. In the atmospheric frame of reference (green box), this is represented by two small opposing puffs. The average wind in the atmospheric frame is zero. In the accompanying graphic, the dashed light purple arrows in the earth frame (purple box) on the left are added to the average wind (purple circle with vector) to achieve the purple arrows of the decreasing wind in the earth frame. The paired puffs of air in the atmospheric frame each produce a “smoke ring”. 

Each puff of smoke reveals a single smoke ring but 
there is an invisible, smoke ring paired with each of those. 

A deformation zone skin separates these opposing, three dimensional smoke rings. Typically the air on one side of the deformation zone is more moist while the other is drier. The moisture tracers can only reveal the smoke ring circulation on the moist side.  

The opposing puffs in the Atmospheric Frame
creates the Deformation Zone Conceptual Model

Imagine the complexity of the mathematics required to describe the paired smoke rings in 3D. The human mind can easily visualize the circulations and understand the weather implications but the math is much more challenging. The weather and the atmosphere are very three or four dimensional and it is actually easier and better to consider the bigger picture in the atmospheric frame of reference. My friends at COMET in Boulder, Colorado could make some terrific animations to make these concepts all come alive. Until that happens, a flat piece of paper will suffice. 

The Deformation Zone Conceptual Model
of opposing puffs along the axis of contraction

To recap in 3D: These paired smoke rings are generated by a simple decrease in the wind as measured from the earth’s surface. The pair of rings is separated by a three dimensional deformation zone skin. The relative intensity of the swirls define the shape of the deformation zone skin and vice versa.

The atmosphere is thin - thinner that the skin of an apple in a comparative sense.  More importantly, cloud layers are generally two dimensional and move parallel to the earth’s surface on the constant energy surfaces (see Isentropic Surfaces - Science and Art Merges). The quasi horizontal layered cloud intersects the 3D Deformation Zone Conceptual Model in essence making a horizontal cross-sectional. 

Meteorologists have typically just considered the quasi-horizontal cross-sections of the 3D Deformation Zone Conceptual Model. This is a rare case when it is absolutely acceptable to simplify the 3D conceptual model into the two dimensional plane because that is what the clouds do. 

The three dimensional smoke rings is thus reduced to companion X’s and N’s that straddle the axis of contraction puffs that blow inward within the cross-section. By convention the red “X” is considered to be positive or cyclonic. The blue “N” is considered to be negative or anti-cyclonic rotation. The fingers of your hand will curl in the direction of the circulation when you thumb points upward at an X and downward at an N. Use your right hand if you are in the northern hemisphere and keep your left hand for doing meteorology south of the equator. 

The Companion Vortices are associated
 with the same 3D Smoke Ring
The Paired Vortices across the green
Deformation Zone (Axis of Dilatation)
are with different Smoke Rings but still influence each other

The 3D deformation zone skin becomes the axis of dilatation line (the double headed green arrow) when the quasi horizontal cloud intersects the conceptual model. 

For simplification, we will focus on the 2D Deformation Zone Conceptual Model in the above graphic for the next few meteorological blogs. It is a powerful tool that I built my career of weather prediction around. I cannot imagine how many times I sketched that pattern and its many variations... 

So we have finally come down to earth and the simplified deformation zone conceptual model. I venture to say that this concept is the most important tool to use in understanding patterns in any fluid. This lines and the associated swirls are universal and have a lot to say… Give me any one of the five components of the Deformation Zone Conceptual Model and the others simply fall into place. 

The swirls and lines in "Singleton Sunset Shades" are easily explained. Art is science. Enjoy!

Keep you paddle in the water (making swirls) and warmest regards,

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Friday, March 19, 2021

The Solution to Cloud Swirls Can Be Found in Your Hands

#2361 "Singleton Sunset Swirl"

In the atmospheric frame of reference, every cloud shape can be considered in terms of a swirl. If you align the fingers of your hand in the direction of the cloud curvature, your thumb must point either up or down. Why and what does it mean? 

A movie played in my mind when I was attempting to explain this stuff years ago, arms flailing and pencil and paper flying. My friends at COMET turned some of those into animations and graphics. I will try again with a different approach. 

Imagine yourself at the equator with you back to the rising sun. Life is good with the warmth on your back. You can’t feel it but you are in a non-inertial frame of reference. The Earth is spinning as it orbits the “stationary” sun. Fictitious forces that result from the rotation of the Earth include the Coriolis and centrifugal forces. These forces make weather even more interesting as they shape the lines in the sky. 

Imagine I am at the equator at sunrise looking west...

Now stretch your arms outward and curl your fingers out as well. Your right arm must point north while your left arm is directed toward the south. The fingers of both hands are curled cyclonically. Both thumbs of your cyclonically curved hands must point upward. 

The previous entries in the Weather Blogs all mentioned the “right hand rule” because the selected weather examples were in the northern hemisphere.  When I participated in the Solar Car Race in the Australian Outback in 1996, I employed the “left hand rule” instead. Both rules describe cyclonic rotation. 

The effects of the Coriolis force at the equator are not noticeable - in fact, they are zero. An observer stationary with respect to the sun, could watch you standing at the equator. They would see that your back does not turn at all as the Earth does it daily spin. 

If you could stretch your arms gradually until your hands reach the poles, the Coriolis force gets really interesting. The same solar stationary observer, would see your right hand complete one entire, cyclonic rotation each and every day. Gumby standing at the equator with his right hand stretched to the North Pole would not feel any difference but Gumby is within the non-inertial frame of reference. An observer looking down on the North Pole would see Gumby’s hand rotate cyclonically counter clockwise. At the same time, Gumby’s left hand would also complete one full cyclonic rotation every day. An observer above the South Pole looking downward would see Gumby’s left hand rotate clockwise. 

My Friend Gumby
The impact of the fictitious Coriolis force increases dramatically from the equator to the poles. This explains why the swirls and deformation zones are more obvious and dynamic over the higher latitudes. 

Everything that I explained in the earlier Weather Blogs can now be employed in the Southern Hemisphere remembering to employ the “left-hand cyclonic rule" south of the equator. Cyclonic rotation has the same meteorological implications in both hemispheres but you have to use the appropriate hand. 

Another visualization is to shoot arrows from the Poles. An archer at the North Pole aiming toward the south (the only available direction) would see the arrow deflected to the right as the Earth rotates counter-clockwise underneath. The fingers of the archer’s right hand will curl counter-clockwise as well when the thumb points up. Similarly an Antarctic archer at the South Pole shooting northward (an impossible to miss shot) would see the Coriolis force deflect that arrow to the left. From the South Pole perspective the Earth is rotating clockwise in the direction of the fingers of your left hand with the thumb pointing upward. 

There are many ways to look at the fictitious Coriolis created by the spinning Earth. The take away messages are:

  • The Coriolis force increases from zero at the equator to a maximum at the poles.
  • The deflection is always perpendicular to the motion and to the right in the Northern Hemisphere but to the left in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The rotation of the Earth defines the cyclonic sense of rotation. Cyclonic is counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Differential advection of cyclonic rotation with height results in upward vertical motion as indicated by the direction of your thumb (Trust me on this one).

Rotation creates the swirls in the atmosphere. Simple conceptual models based on these swirls can explain everything you need to know about the atmosphere and the weather. The following graphic explains the weather painted in #2361 "Singleton Sunset Swirl". You can do it as well with just a few lessons and lots of sky gazing practice. 

Keep you paddle in the water and warmest regards,

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Saturday, February 27, 2021

An Interview with Phil the Forecaster Chadwick

Liana Voia from Paris, France reached out for an interview with a plein air artist. The connection came like lightning out of the blue with some guidance from the International Plein Air Painters. This is what Liana put together from our candid conversation. It is intended to be an honest observation of art, science and the natural world that we need to protect. Art is a way of life and one must live that with integrity and lots of humour too. 

Keep you paddle in the water and warmest regards,

Phil the Forecaster Chadwick