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We had a week of record rain here in Eastern Massachusetts. Lots of roads were closed as ponds and brooks overflowed their banks, and drainage systems backed up. At various places on Mass Ave north of Cambridge water was gushing up out of blown-off manhole covers. Traffic was backed up all over the place. Yesterday, the first after the rains stopped, many residents were pumping out basements through fat hoses that snaked out into streets. Much of this water only pooled somewhere else, since many drainage systems were filled too.

In some ways I’ve never stopped being the newspaper photographer I was forty years ago, in my first newspaper job (I didn’t have that many, total, but that was more fun than the rest of them). So I went out and looked for some actual floods worth shooting and found Magnolia Field in Arlington, near the Alewife T stop at the end of the Red Line. It’s a big soccer and lacrosse field, with with the Minuteman Bikeway at one end and a playground for kiddies at the other. It normally looks flat, but inundation by water proved otherwise. I could tell by the high debris mark that most of the field had been covered with water when the flood was at its maximum depth, but there was plenty left when I showed up and shot the photo above and the rest here.

Here’s the field on a sunny spring day, shot by Bing and revealed, too many clicks down, in its “birds eye view” under “aerial”. Here’s a link to the actual Bing view. And here’s Bing’s contribution to an iPhone app called MyWeather, which does a great job of showing a combination of precipitation and clouds, with looping animation:

I took that screen shot at the end of the storm on Monday night. You can see how it was our corner of a huge cyclonic weather system, rotating around an eye of sorts, out in the Atlantic off the Virginia coast. This winter we’ve had a series of these. As I wrote in an earlier post, it was one of these, spinning like a disk with a spindle in New York City, that brought rain to New England and snow pretty much everywhere else in February.

Now it’s Spring, almost literally. The sky was blue and clear as can be, winds calm, temperature hitting 66°. I know it won’t last, but it’s nice to get a break.

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That’s what the radar shows right now. Outside the winds range from strong to scary. The rain is steady and horizontal. The storm rotates counterclockwise. If it had an eye, it would be on Boston.

New York, as you see, is getting snow. This illustrates this winter’s weird weather pattern. Mid-Atlantic states get buried in snow and ice while New England is South Carolina. We had a couple of snowstorms this winter, but none of the big ones the states south and west of here got. Mostly we’ve had rain. Lots of it. I’m sure most of the ski areas are watching their seasons wash away.

But somehow planes are landing and taking off at Logan. No delays, it says (and shows) here. Can’t be fun in those planes, though.

By the way, Intellicast.com rocks. Highly recommended for weather freaks. Not the best UI, but great images.

[Next morning...] Clear now in Boston, but an awful time to be flying into JFK or PHL:

aviation_jfk-phl

Of the latter it says here, “Philadelphia Intl (KPHL) is currently experiencing inbound flights delayed at their origin an average of 3 hours 23 minutes due to snow and ice. (all delays).” And this new update for JFK:

John F Kennedy Intl (KJFK) is currently experiencing:

  • all inbound flights being held at their origin until friday at 09:15a EST due to snow and ice
  • inbound flights delayed at their origin an average of 5 hours 43 minutes due to snow and ice

(all delays)

All that is from FlightAware, another great site that can use some UI improvements. (Such as linkability to map sections.) Highly recommended if you want to track, say, inbound flights of persons you need to pick up at the airport.

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The mudslides we feared in Southern California didn’t materialize when I posted about the topic on January 21st. Now they are feared again, as a new wave of winter rainstorms passes through. Some slides have already happened. More will. Count on it. (And if you’re at serious risk, really please do GTFO.)

Meanwhile, back here in Boston, a winter snowstorm is headed our way, after treating D.C., Maryland and the surrounding regions to another heavy layer of snow, atop the deepest in memory, which hasn’t had a chance to melt. (One relative there went for many hours without power, looking out on a scene where his car appeared only as a low hill in snow through which only trees and houses protruded.)  We’ve mostly been spared this winter, as have the ski areas to the north. Those will probably be spared again, since this storm is expected to do its heaviest dumping south of here. Bummer, that.

On Friday we fly back to Santa Barbara for The Kid’s winter school break. There are mudslide risks there too, though not as severe as in Los Angeles. (Our hills are mostly rock. L.A.’s are mostly dirt. Think of L.A.’s hills as sponges — because that’s what they are. Place a dry sponge on a steep incline, drip water on it, and see what happens when it fills.)

Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll miss the rain there, and get treated to some of those sunsets we’ve been missing. Hope so.

[Later...] I just got a call from my wife, awakened at 3:3oam in California by a call from the school here. A snow day has been declared. Doesn’t look like it yet, though. There are details in the clouds, like scales on a mackerel. But, as we can see from the radar, it’s coming.

[Later still...] It’s now 2:30 in the afternoon, not long before school gets out, and there has been approximately no snow at all. Just a mix of light flakes and drizzle. Good, I guess.

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I love this:

despair_socialmedia

… and I hope the good (or evil, depending on your perspective) folks at Despair.com don’t mind my promoting their best t-shirt yet. (If it helps, I just ordered one.)

You’ll notice that blogging isn’t in the diagram (though Despair does feature it in four other purchasable forms). I bring that up because I think there is a difference between the social media in the Venn diagram and blogging, and that difference is akin to that between weather and geology.  The former have an evanescent quality. I’m still haunted by hearing that users get a maximum number Twitter postings (tweets) before the old ones scroll off. If true, it means Twitter is a whiteboard, made to be erased after awhile. The fact that few know what the deal is, exactly, also makes my point. Not many people expect anybody, including themselves, to revisit old tweets. The four names in the diagram above are also private corporate walled gardens. Blogging itself is not. True, you can blog in a corporate walled garden, but blogging is an independent category. You can move your blog from one platform to another, archives intact. Not easy, but it can be done. More importantly, your blog is yours. That’s why I dig Dave’s Scoble, your blog still loves you post. And why in the comments I said,

FriendFeeds and Facebooks and Microsofts will come and and go. They can be bought and sold, because they’re not human. Robert is human. Companies can’t be charming and lovable. They can, sometimes, for awhile. Ben & Jerrys did. Zappos did. But they got sold. You know, like slaves.

The only publication on Earth that’s all Robert’s is his blog. That’s where his soul is, because he can’t sell it.

It was while pondering the difference between social media and blogging that I posted this tweet today:

Thanks, @dnm54 But I still feel like my posts lately have the impact of snow on water. Too wordy? Not tweety enough? Not sure.

That got some reassuring responses, several playing with the snow-and-water metaphor. That’s one I’ve used often ever since first hearing “Big Ted”, by the Incredble String Band (from their Changing Horses album), played by the great Larry Josephson on his morning show on WBAI, back in the earliest 70s. “Big Ted” was a dead horse, about which the band sang, “He’s gone like snow on the water. Good bye-eeee.”

For a long time I harbored a fantasy about writing a history of radio, titled “Snow on the Water,” because that was its self-erasing quality. It was like unrecorded conversation that way. You get meaning from it, but you don’t remember everything verbatim, for such is the nature of short-term memory. Eight seconds later you might remember what somebody said, but not exactly. Tomorrow you might remember nothing more than having talked to the person.

Now I’m thinking “snow on the water” applies to social media as well. They’re conversational in the literal sense. They’re weather within which tweets fly and fall like flakes, and disappear into the collective unconscious.

On the other hand, blogging is geology. A blog’s posts may be current and timely, and constitute one person’s contribution to conversation around a subject or two, but each post is built to last. It has a “permalink”. Over time posts accumulate like soil deposits. You can dig down through layers of time and find them. What do tweets have? Temp-o-links?

From the beginning I’ve thought of blogging as journalism in the literal sense: Blogs are journals. Yet much of traditional journalism seems to have, on the whole, not much respect for its archives on the Web. Editorial “content” scrolls behind paywalls, doesn’t keep durable URLs, or disappears completely.

Which brings me to this comment by Tom Matrullo, left under this post about advertising. It’s way too deep to leave buried there:

There is no question that advertising requires us to be in the here and now, and not in the there and then, because it seeks to influence our desires and actions. Active repression of time, history, the past is basic to most commerce and commercial speech.

But I’d go further, because this is a large and important topic. Broadcast itself as a medium tends to put the past at a distance, even when it is about the past, because it makes it into spectacle. Something we watch from our NOW, the big now of advertising and current media.

And yet further: no media are more dis-attuned to the past than news media. It is all about the next story. That one last week that was entirely wrong? Ancient history. To be current, in news-speak, is to develop a sort of targeted Alzheimer’s in a certain direction.

Maybe this is one reason why the news media — on the whole, seems to me — have embraced social media of the temporary sort while continuing to put down blogging. Yes, they’ll set up blogs for their writers, but there’s often a second-class quality to those blogs, and the blogs willl get erased after the writer leaves — or even while the writer is still there. Dan Gillmor’s blog at the San Jose Mercury-News disappeared a number of times. Now it’s gone permanently. Dan’s columns are there, if you’re willing to pay $2.95 apiece for them.

It still blows my mind that, on the Web, newspapers give away the news but charge for the olds. Why not charge for the news and give away the olds? That would be in alignment with what they do with the physical paper. People will pay a buck for today’s paper, and nothing for one three days old. In the physical world, old papers are for wrapping fish and house-breaking puppies. If papers gave every old story a true permalink, search engines would find them, could sell advertising on them, and progressively elevate the whole paper’s authority.

I think they don’t do it for two reasons. One is that they’ve always charged for access to “the morgue.” Another is that embalming old papers has always been expensive. For many decades they bound them up like books for storage in libraries. I still have three of these, each for a whole week of New York Times papers from the ’50s and ’60s. The library at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill sent them out for recycling in 1975. The whole huge pile was rescued by buddies of mine who ran the recycling operation. The newspaper and the library at the time were modernizing by putting everything on microfilm. At the “Will Newspapers Survive” forum at MIT a couple years ago, I asked the panel (which included Dan Gillmor) about why papers charge for the olds and give away the news. Ellen Foley of the Wisconsin State Joural replied,

Speaking for the nation’s regional papers, one of our biggest problems is that today’s issues are all on microfilm tomorrow, not online. It would cost more than a million dollars to digitize our archives. It’s hard for me to make this argument to our publisher, who is trying to make money and make ends meet.

It’s not in the transcript, but I recall her adding something about how storing archives on disk drives was also expensive. That didn’t sit well with the audience, which knew better.

Anyway, my point is that, on the whole news organizations don’t care much about the past. They care about the present. I think social media tend to do the same thing. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Nor am I trying to elevate blogging into the Pulitzer sphere. (But hey, why not?)  I’m just trying to get my head around What’s Going On.

Here’s my thinking for now. What I write on blogs isn’t just for the short term. I also have the long term in mind. I’m making geology, not weather. Both have their places. The more durable stuff goes here.

Bonus link.

[Later...] Joe Andrieu has a thoughtful response.

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Check out two very provocative Baltimore Weather Examiner pieces by : Air France 447 electrical problems and the South Atlantic Anomaly and Air France 447 mystery, LOST, and The Bermuda Triangle. The latter is not as goofy as its headline suggests. Tony is a degreed meteorologist and his unpacking of weather arcana, especially in his short slide shows, provokes much thought. Some of the visuals also give me added respect for the pilots, advanced avionics and careful air traffic control in regions where thunderstorms are a daily occurrence — such as in South Florida, where plenty of planes take off and land constantly. Flying there requires navigating around dangerous hazards that can grow and move at explosive speeds. Anyway, check it out.

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Flying from Boston to Minneapolis by way of Chicago today. The second leg is through the middle of this:

Shouldn’t be much to see out the window.

But I’m looking forward to talking tomorrow morning at MinneWebCon. The title is The Intention Economy: What Happens When Customers Get Real Power. I gave a shorter talk by the same title to a small group at the Berkman Center a couple weeks back. The video and audio are here. This one will be for Web development folks rather than the somewhat academic folks that come to Berkman lunches. Should be fun.

I also expect to be hanging Monday night with other folks interested in seeing Carolina beat Michigan State in the NCAA championship game. :-)

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The soft white silence is settling outside on a cold winter mornng. I’m guessing about two inches so far, atop the eight or so that remain from last week’s storm.

The above is from Intellicast, my fave new online weather toy.

Talked to a friend in San Diego last night. He was taking a break from playing tennis. Back home in Santa Barbara, it’s been in the 80s lately. At one point a couple days ago, the temperature difference between there and here was close to 80 degrees.

Still, this is a kind of loveliness I grew up with. There’s still a 10 year old inside me who sees this and wants to go outside, go sledding down the hill, build snow forts and not do a damn thing that isn’t fun.

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Since I’m an aviation freak, I’m also a weather freak. I remember committing to getting my first color TV, back in the mid-70s, because I wanted to see color radar, which at that time was carried by only one TV station we could get from Chapel Hill: WFMY/Channel 2 in Greensboro. These days TV stations get their radar from elsewhere, and have mothballed their old radar facilities. (Here’s one mothballed TV radar tower, at the WLNE/Channel 6 transmitter, which is istself doomed to get mothballed after the nationwide February 17 switchover to digital TV — marking the end of TV’s Mainframe Era.)

Online I’ve been a devoted watcher of both Weather.com and Weather Underground. Both those last two links go to local (Cambridge, MA) maps. They’re good, but they don’t quite match Intellicast, source of the map above. Play around witht the pan & zoom, the animation and the rest of it. It’s a nice distraction from weather as ugly as we’re getting right now here: sleet and then rain atop enough snow to cancel school today,.

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