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July 11, 2008

The Woodstock of weather

Posted: 11:59 AM ET

Meteorologists around the world all have the same job…to forecast and explain the weather. But depending where you are, that can mean tracking tropical cyclones, predicting snowfall totals, reporting on the environment. Or if you are a meteorologist on CNN International, it can be all three in one day!

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 36th Annual American Meteorological Society’s Conference on Broadcast Meteorology in Denver, and I am very excited to share with you some of the highlights.NOAA\'s \"Science on a Sphere\" display

The conference was not only filled with lectures given by meteorologists around the world, but the best part, I thought was the field trips to the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Both of these research centers high on a mountain in Boulder, Colorado are researching weather to study climate, air chemistry, storms, the sun and its effect on Earth and the interactions of humans and the environment.

We had the chance to meet one on one with the top scientists in weather! Since my focus is Asia and Australia, I was very interested in the research being done for forecasting these regions. One of the things I learned is that NCAR works with their counterpart’s regularly in Shanghai and in Sydney, for example, to improve techniques in forecasting tropical cyclones and drought. Dr. Gregory Holland took the time to explain to me the topography of his homeland, Australia. The climate there is really fascinating: it’s possible to have drought and floods in close proximity. He described the winter in the Southeastern part of the country as wet and cold, similar to Great Britain at times.

At one point on the tour, a bunch of us went to a dark conference room and donned 3rd glasses (I am not kidding). We were literally wowed by 3-d animations of how wildfire grows and spreads. The animation showed the patterns and movement of fires and smoke plumes depending on atmospheric conditions.Wildfires have been in the news lately in California in the U.S. and in Greece.

The next stop on our field trip was literally down the mountain, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Here we were treated to two amazing projects NOAA is conduction from Boulder.

The first is “Science on a Sphere”

Science On a Sphere (SOS) ® is a room sized global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. Researchers at NOAA developed Science On a Sphere® as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages. Animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can be shown on the sphere which is used to explain what are sometimes complex environmental processes, in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating. (NOAA)

For a meteorologist, its one think to look at a satellite image on a flat computer screen, but to see it all moving along overlaid on a huge globe of the Earth was especially cool!
Our guide was able to tilt the Earth model so we could see the North and South Poles clearly. We are also able to watch how warm water literally moves around the world. I was fascinated as warm water came into the Tropical Atlantic, for example, then “looped” into the Gulf of Mexico. That loop of warm deep water and the eddies that break off from it is one of the reasons we saw hurricanes like Katrina explode into Category Five intensity once they moved over this section of water in the Gulf of Mexico!

For all you space fans, our last stop will probably be your favorite to hear about. At NOAA in Boulder you will find the Space Weather Prediction Center.

Did you know that Polar Flights, international air travel that passes over the North and South Pole is dependent on Space Weather forecasting? I was fascinated by this and you will likely find me talking more about it soon on CNN Today Asia in my weather reports!

Some very cool images Space Weather Forecasters use come from Hawaii! From way a top the Mauna Loa Volcano.
The Mauna Loa Solar Observatory (MLSO) is located on the top of Hawaii's Mauna Loa Volcano.

Later back in Denver, we continued on in the coming days to talk about other topics: including Climate Change, Hurricanes, Tornadoes and communication tools to best display our reports, to you, our viewer.

I can tell you the technology that is coming is truly amazing and in the coming months, keep tuning into CNN International for the most interesting and cutting edge reports on the weather and environment!

It’s my pleasure and privilege to bring it to you weekdays CNN Today on CNN International and alongside my colleagues on Weather FX each month!

CNN Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider

Filed under: environment • hurricanes • meteorology • science • Severe weather • Tornadoes • Weather

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John   July 11th, 2008 12:35 pm ET

Broken link to NCAR/UCAR.

Its not

Franko   July 11th, 2008 2:27 pm ET

I would like to see weather prediction contests.
Often the weatherman is wrong from morning to afternoon.

Nice graphics, and now in 4D, but where is the accuracy ?

Donna Valentine   July 12th, 2008 12:10 pm ET

After seeing Mr Picken's commercial the first time, I was ready to vote for him, thinking the end of the commercial would provide an announcement that he was running as an Independent.
T. Boone is speaking, time to listen.

George Myers   July 12th, 2008 2:11 pm ET

Once attending "Planetary Atmospheres" classes during the Vikings landings on Mars and astronomy during the Voyager flyby of Jupiter, I thought I'd pipe up and say Woodstock, NY is a place, the festival in 1969 was dreamed up by "Three men with unlimited capital" (from the advertisement in the NY Times that made it possible and the title of the book describing how it got started and what went "down" written afterwards). I'd been to both, the town the summer before the festival working as a dishwasher at camp Timber Lake, and the music and arts fair the following summer. I think the reason may have been the "sightings" in the town of Dylan, Hendrix, The Band, maybe even Janis Joplin according to one then new real estate agent. Just my two cents on "Woodstock" metaphor.

S Callahan   July 12th, 2008 4:53 pm ET

This sounds like field trip I'd love to take my great nephews on...

Franko is so my area I think the natives with achy bones are better at forcasting than the actual paid 'weathermen/woman"

Too bad you didn't explore more of the implications on the enviroment from the fires in Greece and California......though it really must have been fascinating to see the 3d show..makes one appreciate what the many firefighters and volunteers do each day.....

Woodstock is not so far from my brothers were a part of that crazy scene...i stupidly refused the trip at the time....what a a little still sing Janis though 🙂

CNN… « TheBigMuff   July 12th, 2008 8:48 pm ET

[...] The Woodstock of weather [...]

Franko   July 13th, 2008 3:07 am ET

You have Chaos Theory, Tipping points, Runaway gasses, Regressions on Non random residuals, El Nino, La Nina, Pacific Decadel Oscillator, Tides. Moisture, Cosmic Rays, Thousand mile long waves, Dew Point, cloud cover, albedo, smog, space shuttle launch, wind turbine, volcano. All worked out, Perfectly, according to theory, on a petaflop computer.

Guess what.
A little Butterfly flaps in reverse order. A left winged insect, with no respect.
Recalculate today's forecast – and hope for negligible Mosquito Effect.

Mike   July 13th, 2008 8:49 am ET

For those who live in the Midwest, The Science Museum of Minnesota, located in St. Paul, MN also has a Science On a Sphere (SOS) ®.

For those fans of Star Wars, a traveling display of costumes and props from all six films is currently on display at the museum, along with video interviews with the series' filmmakers, scientists and engineers. Hands-on activities include building and testing speeders and robots.

Larry Lumpkin   July 13th, 2008 6:02 pm ET

I've seen several news stories in recent months about the fumes from improperly stored gasoline igniting and causing fires. If the fumes created by gasoline are so extremely volatile, I would like for you to investigate whether are not these fumes can be safely contained, compressed and then used to power vehicle engines. If this is possible, we could easily and quickly have gasoline burning vehicles getting substantially more MPG. 909.783.3080

David   July 14th, 2008 9:52 am ET

Why is there more ice in the arctic this year than last year?
aren't we supposed to have less ice? and virtually free?

Compare 2007 Arctic Ice Caps to 2008 Arctic Ice Caps

John Amaral   July 14th, 2008 10:52 am ET

I would rather give my money to Mr. Pickens than to people that want us all DEAD!! Wind, solar ocean waves are all good ways to get power. If we need a better infustructure for our electric, then we should do it, we are Americans and we CAN do it!

Franko   July 14th, 2008 3:09 pm ET

Increased ice, NASA, Bill Hansen can attribute to enhansed chaos, frying the butterfly in the cocoon. Need more petaflops, and few billion more in research funds ?

Maybe that extra wind turbine slowed the wind, past the tipping point, and the feedback to the Ice Age. Reverse those turbines !

Maybe the overall effect of CO2 is negative,
Miskolczi was a little off. Should have drank a bottle of carbonated pop.
The real experts have fallen off the tipping point. Descendants of Ghengis, there since the warm-up after the Viking cool times
"Harsh Winters Force Mongolian Horsemen to Abandon Nomadic Life"

Edward   July 14th, 2008 10:44 pm ET

I don't understand how wind-power and solar-power will curtail gas consumption, when the majority of electricity is produce by coal, followed by nuclear and hydro. It's another rich businessman's scheme in making us believe this will help out at the gas pumps. While he gets everyone on board to invest into his bank account.
Let's talk about Wind and Solar power, both are great ways of making electricity cheap. However, neither can maintain the voltage grid, this is where the american public are in the dark about electricity. Some want to go more nuclear, that's fine. So when we have another major blackout and the nuclear units trip off line, any thought on how long it will take to bring back a nuclear unit to full load capacity(Day(s). Coal power generation units can actually island themselves from the grid and restore power to black out areas within hours. We all know that fossil fuel is the major contributor toward greenhouse gases. One thing about coal is we have plenty of it here in America, hundreds of years worth. So lets put our brains into producing clean coal technology. We can go to Mars,Moon and the outter reaches of our solar system. So lets get cracking on clean coal generation, and stop the misconception of wind and solar as being the altimate savior of our future electrical needs. The Government (EPA & DOE) needs to be supporting Electrical Power Producing Company's by supporting clean coal technology. Believe me people , the technology is out there, so is the funding. The problem is you have a few people that seem to be talking the loudest but, are not really talking for me and you "The Common American". If you want cheap reliable electricity that will be there at a touch of a switch, then we better stay the course with fossil fuel generation.

Franko   July 15th, 2008 12:16 pm ET

"We all know that fossil fuel is the major contributor toward greenhouse gases."

But CO2 is not doing it's warmie job. Next, it will be blamed for the cooling.

CO2 is plant food, plants are people food. Carbo hydrates make people.
No CO2,, no plants, no O2, no people.

That is Mother Gaia's story, and she is sticking to it.

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