Seeking fun - and equality - in the weather world
Monday, July 07, 2014 5:44 AM
I've always been a bit of an in-the-closet weather geek.
This is a screenshot taken on my computer of a 'watches and warnings' screen in the My-Cast.com setup I use. Lots of green areas keep me clicking to learn of rivers and flooding.
It's my suspicion that most of us are here in the yearlong crazy conditions of the Midwest. And a lot of the time we actually carry on the activity quite openly. You won't find, for example, any 12-step meetings where a person might hesitantly step forward to say, "Hi, my name is Lisa and I'm a weather-a-holic."
With all that out in the open (yes, I know you can relate), may I share my latest - dare I say it - obsession in the realm of weather?
Our newfound monsoon season of recent years has me checking out online weather warning maps. I rise and shine (OK, I'm lying about the latter) - and soon find my way to the laptop and an obliging weather site.
My first stop is www.my-cast.com, where I have Preston oh-so-handily marked with a little "x" on the map. You can zoom in and although it is not as tight as some other sites it's good enough for my needs most of the time. (Did I just say I have weather NEEDS? Sheesh. I'm in deep.).
One can also use My-Cast to zoom out. With just a little zooming you'll quickly find yourself getting into Canada with its equivalent of our National Weather Service (NWS) called Environment Canada (I'll abbreviate that to EC). True to our perceptions of Canada and Canadians, it seems to be kinder, gentler and certainly more polite.
For example, EC doesn't take on the harsh reality of a flood. It worries about (you have to pronounce that as "aboot" to really get in the spirit if things here)... it worries about "rainfall." An example follows. Note how far you have to read before seeing the upsetting words "flash flood" or even "heavy downpour." Someone might be swept away before reading that far.
"Rainfall warning for southern Saskatchewan updated by Environment Canada at 4:20 a.m. CST Monday 30 June 2014. Rainfall - overnight to afternoon. Rain at times heavy continues. A large and intense low pressure system located over the Manitoba Interlake area gave portions of southern Manitoba and southeast Saskatchewan heavy rain over the weekend. This system has brought exceptionally heavy rainfall to parts of the warning area over the past 48 or so hours with amounts of 100 to 200 mm being reported along the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border from Yorkton through Moosomin to Redvers into the Melita and Virden areas. This system brought an additional 15 to 30 mm over portions of Saskatchewan overnight. Rain continues over the hardest hit areas with another 15 mm or so expected today. The rain should taper off later this afternoon, with only slight accumulations into the overnight period.
"Heavy downpours can cause flash floods and water pooling on roads. Localized flooding in low lying areas is possible. Watch for possible washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts. Environment Canada meteorologists will update alerts as required. Please continue to monitor your local media or weatheradio for further updates. If you would like to report severe weather you can call 1-800-239-0484 or send an email to STORM(AT)EC.GC.CA or tweet reports to (hash)SKSTORM. HTTP://WEATHER.GC.CA/WARNINGS/INDEX(UNDERSCORE)E.HTML?PROV=SK"
Another feature I like on the My-Cast site is the painless switching from the storm watch map to the radar map with one click. You can see the nasty, red storm cells and then switch to see the warning page for severe thunderstorm or tornado.
These days, the Midwest is filled with long, linear green blobs. That translates to flooding rivers. I click on the green to bring up the warning, to see how high a river might be at a given location, and when it's expected to peak, or later fall below flood stage. Sometimes it notes areas impacted by flooding at certain levels, such as minor flooding in pastures on the right side (right side??!?) of the river, or even when sewer system backups might occur.
It's really a wealth of information. I also play "guess the river." Today, I see a short river in the greater vicinity of Postville, Iowa, my homelands. I guess it is either the Yellow River (which rose over 4 feet in another recent storm) or the Turkey River? A click reveals it's the Turkey, at the Clayton County, Iowa, seat of Elkader.
I've learned a lot of new rivers in this manner. Like the Two Rivers River in northwestern Minnesota. Huh? Two Rivers River? In this type of situation I'm spurred on to seek more on this oddly named river. Hmm. A quick search revealed nothing. Maybe the warning just uses "Two Rivers River" instead of naming two rivers (one of them likely the Red River)?
It appears my wonder and affinity for weather also includes geography - I suppose geology also would be included if I could figure out a way to do that, especially on a more local basis. As far as the two "g" areas of study (geography and geology) go, we've all been taught how the Rocky Mountains affect weather, for example.
I just really like looking at maps to see what the weather is doing. Websites I check include those of local TV stations. These are very handy for seeing the projected path of individual storm cells - and if the main concern of each is heavy rain, wind or hail.
As our monsoon season takes root, I've also watched the proliferation of "fire weather" watches and warnings in the western and southwestern United States. It seems those have increased at the same rate as our area flood and flash flood watches and warnings.
It seems to me that governmental powers that be are likely - and probably should be - working on some type of control of weather patterns. But, on the other hand, can you imagine? That has all kinds of shades of real political evil and danger with it.
I do think one area should be a clear focus in the greater study of weather. And that is a way to capture heavy rainfall from storms - and get it to areas in desperate need of rain and water. I would envision the process would greatly even out flooding and drought areas, seeking equilibrium of moisture beneficial to all. Now if it only could happen. It would be taking the fun and fascination with weather to the next step to help our country and the planet.
It's amazing to think about. I wonder when it will occur?