Sunday, January 6, 2013

Naming Snowflakes

Ah, January in Georgia! The beginning of abbreviated winters, short flirtations with frozen precipitation, and many hours of trying to find just where you put the ice scraper last spring.  For nothing is as shocking as trudging out to the car some cold morning and finding the car covered with ice. Maybe the windshield wipers will take it off, so you sit in a cold car for 10 minutes, hoping the defrosters and the scraping of rubber against an immovable glacier, will give you some small hole to peep out of.  Woe be to the squirrels that run in front of the car that morning.  Or there's the bucket of hot water method, which, while fun, watching the steam rise from the pavement, gambles upon the windshield suddenly cracking and becoming one irritating call to the Auto Insurance instead of actually going to work.  My mom's method is using a credit card, which, amazingly, works.  Might as well use them for something other than quick runs to Taco Bell.

Watching the weather reports on the news, any time they put that little snowflake on the 5-day forecast, I know, even if it's just a few flakes on the top of Georgia's mountains, people will, without fail, drain every grocery store of bread and milk, even if they've never used milk in anything except Macaroni & Cheese.  Sure, their are hills here that, if iced over, prevents anyone from going anywhere.  But there's no need to panic if you're educated.  Snow never hits the Atlanta area from low pressure fronts coming from the north.  Even wrap around snow, when cold air squeezes the moisture out of the atmosphere, will only melt on the ground.  The ideal setting for snow (just so you know) is to have a cold front come through, with the Low riding on the Northern Jet Stream, and then have a Low riding on the Sub-Tropical Jet Stream (it splits in Winter) come from the Gulf of Mexico right after it.  For Conyers, a Low coming up from around Macon will give us several inches of snow.  The "Storm of the Century" in 1993 is the most striking example of such a storm.

People need to read radar.  Generations before us didn't have such luxuries, to stay in the comforts of the their own homes and be able to tell which direction the wind was blowing.  My stepdad was much more adept and just going outside and looking and feeling.  But since we have the technology to monitor storm systems for so many hours before they hit, it's easy to interpret Doppler radar and infrared-enhanced cloud tops to see exactly where weather is, and where it is going.   Take the spring weather, when Tornadoes are likely to strike (at least in Oklahoma, where I was born).   Gary England was (and still is) able to read the radar and pinpoint where the tornado was going to touch down, even down to the block level (yeah, in Oklahoma, they have "blocks," not windy roads).  Here in Georgia, the tornado "warnings" they issue are done by the whole county.  It could miss you by miles, so it's best to know how to read Doppler radar and track weather systems yourself.  It helps my mom with knowing when to come home, so she doesn't drive in blinding rain down the interstate.  But it's also necessary, especially when in Oklahoma, to listen to the  Meteorologists, like Gary England, because they've been doing it for a lot longer than what we have.  As a kid, I wanted to be a Meteorologist, to report the awesome power of nature to the world.  My math grades weren't so good, so that didn't work.  When we first got cable, I loved watching The Weather Channel.  24 hours a day weather, with the Tropical Update at 50 minutes past the hour (more on that in a minute).  And, in the beginning, no commercials! It was a service brought to us by the wonderful weatherpeople in Atlanta.  Well, now it's filled with "Weather-themed" shows and movies, and 30 seconds of weather with 5 minutes of commercials.  Added to it that TWC is now owned by NBC, which is now owned by Comcast.  So now it's all about ratings and shows.  No Weather! On the Weather Channel!  So if I need to see the radar or the weather, I never go to the Weather Channel, I simply get on the Internet.  Now, even if Cable goes out, we have access to weather on cell phones and tablets, unlike my childhood, where, if the TVs went out and the rain and lightning and hail pounded down on the house, we were forced to get out a small, battery powered radio and turn it to a country station to hear Gary England's reports of severe weather.  It's no wonder that I associate the band Alabama and "Elvira" to stormy nights with no electricity.

Back to the present.  I turn on the Weather Channel, because there's nothing else on, and they are talking about a Nor'easter that is bringing snow and wind to New England.  They call it "Freyer." Huh????? I didn't know if that was some obscure weather term or what, so I looked it up.  Turns out that the folks at the Weather Channel, in a ploy to get ratings, and possibly a power draw from the NOAA and the National Weather Service, decided to start "naming" winter storms.  "Freyer" is supposedly the Norse God of fair weather (possibly where we get the word "fair".)  Absolutely ridiculous!! I understand the idea of Personifying weather phenomenon, as Hurricanes have names, and you have the idea of "Mother Nature."  I've tried to keep the personification of weather out of this blog, and it's been harder than you might think.  I've been complaining for a couple of years about naming every cloud in the Atlantic, under the suspicion it might have a low pressure area and some wind.  And now they want to name winter storms as well?  Of course, there are political reasons for doing this as well.  I've long maintained the idea that the NOAA names more and more storms in an effort to increase the number of life-threatening storms in the Atlantic, and therefore pressuring Congress into giving more money to the organization.  The same thing would make sense for naming winter storms, as it becomes an easy way to refer to a certain set of damages for insurance agencies, and for FEMA to attach a personality to a set of loans, making it easier to get funding from Congress.  Let's just say that there's no scientific reason for Personifying weather systems, especially cold fronts.   If we are going to do that, why don't we name tornadoes as well??  A simple letter and number will suffice.  We could name snowflakes, or individual clouds, and they could be tracked and identified in the skies.  Oh look, there's Cumulonimbus Cloud Audrey, floating over the city!  It sorta looks like a raccoon, doesn't it?

We cannot control the weather, nor can we fashion it into our own image, giving them names and personalities.  We cannot give Nature sentience, that's God's work.  We can simply gaze at the power of nature, wonder at the sheer awesomeness of the forces at work on this planet, and feel as the Monk did, standing on the  shoreline of the sea.

Monk By the Sea by Caspar David Friedrich

From our Back Deck, 2010.

Front Yard, Colorado Pine, 2010

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