Friday, July 25, 2008

Seeing Through the Smoky Atmosphere

Things I've Seen Lately

It's a little hard to see things outside in Redding today. It's very smoky. I took this picture of downtown Redding from behind the dollar store on Lake Blvd.

View of downtown Redding 7/25/08

Normally. you can see the city from this spot.

Same view in May.
With that in mind, I am doing my sightseeing on the internet.
I watch science news videos from Scientific American .
I find this one especially informative and entertaining.

I sometimes watch the news on TV, but I can only laugh at the weatherman for so long. Channel 7 news, here in Redding, has the weather guy on for every segment. The news anchors are squeezed behind a small desk with a backdrop of the station logo. The weather guy has a great big Starship Command Center, with lots of flat screen monitors flashing videos in the background of hurricanes, charts, graphs, satellite overlays, and rocket launches. He also has a blue screen area where he gesticulates with arm sweeps, spins, pointing and bowing, all the while talking about high pressure, low pressure, inversion layers, high altitude air flow, temperature and humidity, and the expected highs and lows for each and every town in northern California.

The yearly forecast for Redding and vicinity can be summed up in one sentence.
Hot in summer, cold in winter, and relatively mild for a week or two in between.

With the advent of the wildfires, they have added air quality visual aids. There is a graph, (Color coded, of course.), that shows smoke colored pillars at various heights next to the color gradient. On the top of the smoke pillars rides a number to indicate the health risk of breathing the air in each of the towns listed at the bottom of the pillar. The highest danger is colored red and is titled hazardous. It's sort of like that color coded terrorist threat nonsense. Someone wrote the TV station and asked what the numbers meant and after explaining particulates per cubic inch, the weather guy admitted that they didn't represent anything, but that they were just for reference. Never the less, this chart is shown at least 3 times during the newscast.

I remember when the weather was covered in the last 30 seconds of the news. My favorite weather presenters would be on just before the Steve Allen show. One year it was a Jane Mansfield type in a skimpy dress, who would stand in front of a big bulletin board with hard to reach numbers that she would point to, or stretch up to change. The next year they had a guy in a clown suit. Today we have meteorologists who, with the appropriate amount of gravitas, seem to think that what they say or do will have some effect on the weather.
Bring back the gushing starlet, and send in the clown.

Meanwhile, on the internet.

UCLA space scientists and colleagues have identified the mechanism that triggers substorms in space; wreaks havoc on satellites, power grids and communications systems; and leads to the explosive release of energy that causes the spectacular brightening of the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. See this story at Sciencedaily .

From Chandra X-ray Observatory 2006

In 1619 A.D., Galileo Galilei coined the term "aurora borealis" after Aurora, the Roman goddess of morning. He had the misconception that the auroras he saw were due to sunlight reflecting from the atmosphere.

Am I the only one who noticed that there were very few, if any, protests against Obama on his recent trip? The world loves him, too bad some racist Americans are having trouble voting for a black man. Happy Obama video.

And now, presenting the Phoenix Mars Lander .

I hope you have enjoyed sightseeing with me on and off the earth.

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