Sunday, January 08, 2006

Weather Has Become Bogeyman, News Staple - Yahoo! News

Weather Has Become Bogeyman, News Staple - Yahoo! News

It began as a mass e-mail in a certain Seattle office building on December's first day.


Within hours, the e-mail exchange called for an early dismissal and even generated a catchy headline, the kind that television news offers up for every tempest: "Snowstorm Katrina."

A memo went out: "Please be aware that many or all of the staff will be leaving early today as snow and icy road conditions have hit Seattle." A last call was sounded for overnight mail. Copy writers and bookkeepers turned into amateur meteorologists, e-mailing hourly weather updates to colleagues, and sending links to live weather cams.

The cautious drove home after lunch. The brave stayed behind.

And the snow never came. Not even an inch.

So goes the drill in an era when weather, however routine, is associated with peril. Be it a historic hurricane like Katrina or a run-of-the-mill snowstorm, weather is news — and not good news.

And it's not just the banner headlines and screaming television graphics that attend each storm. Oil prices rise, the stores are cleared of bottled water and generators, milk and bread, and citizens become gently unglued as they engage in the interactive, televised conflict we used to call ... well, the weather.

"Television in particular has an affinity for action, suspense, drama, and danger, and 'big weather' delivers on all counts," said Carol Wilder, chair of the Media Studies Department at The New School in New York.

"The past year of the tsunami and Katrina were larger than life stories and it was mother nature, not an enemy army, who was calling the shots. Reporters Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams delivered career-making performances. Weather reporting is the new war reporting, because war reporting has become just too dangerous for journalists."

The rise of the weather as societal preoccupation, bogeyman and news-ratings staple is about several things, experts agree: the growing complexity and competitiveness of the media; our greatly improved ability to forecast the weather; the general climate of fear in which we live, which includes everything from terrorism to global warming.

This fear was bolstered by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and even by the Asian tsunami.

"There is a human tendency to generalize from one set of events to another," said Barry Glassner, a professor of sociology at USC and the author of "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things." "If the recent hurricane season has been deadly, it follows that the winter season is going to be especially deadly even though they're unrelated. There is a natural tendency to extrapolate.

"For example, if there is one heinous crime in a particular neighborhood or region, people imagine there will be more of them. If a friend has been diagnosed with a deadly disease, people imagine their common aches and pains as cancer.

"We are living in a period now when we are just as fearful about common dangers like bad weather as we are about unusually serious dangers like Category 4 hurricanes. We feel the world is out of control in many ways, politically and economically. So it makes sense to imagine the weather is out of control, too."

Our preoccupation with the weather and weather-related adventure is not limited to television news. It is reflected in the myriad of television documentary shows about tornado chasers, Coast Guard rescuers, and even crab-boat fishing off Alaska, which is exciting only because of the weather conditions the fishermen must endure.

But it is not only spectacular weather that gets our attention. While modern conveniences have insulated us from the effects of weather, advances in technology have also deepened our knowledge of it. And the more we can know, the more it seems we want to know.

Five-day forecasts have now become 10-day forecasts, thanks to a sea change in radar, satellite, and computer technology in the 1980s and 1990s.

Until about 15 years ago, weather technology was of World War II vintage. Now more powerful radar can detect not just precipitation but wind speed and circulation, and from twice as far away. Powerful computers can calculate variables and give forecasts that are twice as accurate.

A five-day forecast today is about as reliable as a two-day forecast was in 1980. Weather can be predicted for very specific areas, and for very specific events, giving people the ability to plan their lives in great detail as it relates to the weather.

"I'd say if our depth of knowledge used to be 10 feet deep, now it's 100,000 feet deep," said Dan McCarthy, a meteorologist with the
National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

The growth of the Weather Channel is also a reflection of our preoccupation. The network was launched in 1982 with much skepticism as one of cable television's first channels.

"We heard it all the time: 'Weather? Twenty-four hours a day? Who's going to watch that?'" said Ray Ban, a meteorologist with the Weather Channel since its inception. "The sophistication of our programming was modest and I'm being generous. The difference (between now and then) is black and white."

More than ever, weather is also literally money. Weather events shape stock prices and corporate profits, making it all the more newsworthy. Giant financial institutions like Merrill Lynch have their own meteorologists. Paul Janish works in Houston for Merrill Lynch's global commodities unit, preparing weather data that becomes part of the company's business strategies and decisions.

"Weather has gotten a lot more integrated into the overall business environment," said Janish, who used to work for the National Weather Service. "Companies are looking into ways to leverage weather, to better manage their resources. With energy supplies so constrained, the weather is going to become a more integral part of the business world."

In the business world, ice cream manufacturers and beverage companies wish for hot summers. Municipal budgets are made or busted on the number of snowstorms. Dry winters that produce little runoff in the summer can hurt companies that operate hydroelectric plants. The past hurricane season affected about 80 percent of the offshore gas infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico.

All these events amount to billions of dollars and can be anticipated, in some part, by meteorologists, and dealt with using financial instruments like hedge funds, insurance policies, and energy futures.

For that reason, the demand for information about the weather will only grow — as will our fear and loathing.

One of the next advancements in weather technology, McCarthy said, is a new form of radar called phased array radar. Current Doppler radar scans a storm every five to six minutes. Phased array radar can scan a storm every minute, giving forecasters a sort of live-time view of a storm. This kind of technology translates, among other things, into potentially being able to double the warning time of an approaching tornado.

It could save lives, and will certainly make for great television.

"It's the awe of the weather," Ban said. "It impacts most of what we do It's an awesome event that we try to predict but it's always bigger than we are. It creates inspiration and fascination. And there's a gravitation towards the awe of it all."

Even if sometimes the weather is more bluster than disaster.

In September, 1997, a Pacific hurricane, Nora, made its pass through Tucson, Ariz., in what, at first, promised to be a rare and dramatic event in the desert city but turned out to be a dud. A meteorologist from a local television station and his camera crew set up for a live shot on the third-floor balcony of the National Weather Service building in Tucson. He stood atop a garbage can and leaned away from the building so the wind would toss his hair.

All of this was witnessed by several amused weather service employees.

Their reaction was a mix of eye-rolling and empathy. Empathy because the weather experts all played some part in blowing the call. Eye-rolling because reporting the weather had come to this: standing on garbage cans as a way of attempting to stage and direct the weather as if it were some kind of disaster film.

"My first reaction was 'good grief,'" said another meteorologist who witnessed the live shot. He did not want his name used lest he be viewed as poking fun of a colleague. "But at the same time, I was glad I wasn't the one who had to get in front of the camera and talk about this hurricane we all predicted would be a big storm."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

TASSIE DOCTORS STILL HEADING NORTH

TASSIE DOCTORS STILL HEADING NORTH

The Tasmanian Greens today called on the State Government to get its act together and conclude negotiations with the salaried doctors before many more leave the state for better pay and conditions on the mainland.

Greens Opposition spokesperson for Health and Human Services Tim Morris MHA said that the Government has yet again failed to turn up to a negotiating session, just as they did on several occasions with the Health Professionals pay dispute; meanwhile Tasmanian hospital doctors are being lured to Queensland with better offers and an aggressive marketing campaign by that state.

“The Greens have been told that the elective surgery situation at the Royal Hobart Hospital continues to struggle because of poor government management of staff recruitment and retention,” Mr Morris said.

“If Minister Llewellyn was serious about addressing the problems at the Royal then he would personally intervene and ensure that the Enterprise Bargaining negotiations were brought to a satisfactory conclusion quickly before any more frustrated and overworked doctors decide to accept the better offers made by Queensland.”

“It is deeply troubling that Government negotiators have failed to turn up to the latest negotiating session on Doctors’ pay and conditions because this failure speaks volumes about a lack of real commitment.”

“Despite the Richardson report, extra budget allocations, and the appointment of former Premier Doug Lowe to try to fix the many problems at the Royal Hobart Hospital there are some 3500 persons on the elective surgery waiting list at a time when elective surgery will not occur for several weeks.”

“The Richardson recommendations in relation to the hospitals having full control over recruitment appear not to be properly or fully implemented, combined with an unresolved EBA and the total silence of Mr Fix It, Doug Lowe, means the Royal Hobart Hospital remains unable to meet the needs of the many Tasmanians whose lives are being seriously diminished whilst they wait for elective surgery, despite the many promises of this Labor Government that they would fix the chronic problems with our health system,” Mr Morris said.

MORE EVIDENCE OF GLOBAL WARMING ? Two men dead after three snowmobiles crash through ice in Newfoundland - Yahoo! News

Two men dead after three snowmobiles crash through ice in Newfoundland - Yahoo! News

Sat Jan 7, 3:32 PM ET

GANDER, N.L. (CP) - The bodies of two Newfoundland men have been recovered after three snowmobiles broke through the ice on a lake east of Gander.



RCMP received a call at about 10:30 p.m. on Friday after the snowmobiles fell into Soulis Lake.

The area was not accessible to a ground rescue team, so a Cormorant helicopter was dispatched from Gander.

One of the three men made it to shore and did not suffer any serious injuries, said RCMP Const. Damian Doyle.

The helicopter was used to pull the bodies of John Molloy, 27, and Wayne Molloy, 50, from the water. They were pronounced dead when they arrived in hospital.

The men were both from St. Shotts, located on the Avalon Peninsula.

Police did not identify the surviving man, who was taken to hospital and later released.

RCMP were continuing to investigate the accident, and said alcohol was not a factor.

...

[but local environmentalist, Dep de Grun, said this could possibily be more evidence of global warming]


Thursday, July 21, 2005

JET STREAMS CROSSING THE EQUATOR?


Today's sat image of australia shows a jet stream originating over peninisula Malaysia , sweeping down over north west australia and joining up with the sub-antarctic lows south of tasmania -it's really impressive when you see it over a 3 hour loop

how is it possible for a jet stream to cross the equator?

JET STREAMS CROSSING THE EQUATOR?


Today's sat image of australia shows a jet stream originating over peninisula Malaysia , sweeping down over north west australia and joining up with the sub-antarctic lows south of tasmania -it's really impressive when you see it over a 3 hour loop

how is it possible for a jet stream to cross the equator?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Copper's cleverness makes it a whole new telecoms game - Alan Kohler - www.smh.com.au

Copper's cleverness makes it a whole new telecoms game - Alan Kohler - www.smh.com.au

Apparently more than 60 per cent of the traffic on the global internet comes from copyright thieves swapping music and movies. The more the companies that sell this stuff try to stop it being spirited between computers, the more it just encourages the buggers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Complementary Symbols: Niels Bohr polarity, opera, enigma, Albert Einstein

Complementary Symbols: Niels Bohr polarity, opera, enigma, Albert Einstein

In an opera, the scenery and costumes are unmistakably artificial. We know so
and play along with the theatrics in hopes that we will be moved towards a deeper
understanding and appreciation of life. The actors and scenery are conjurors to help
us enter into the mystery of life. Spirit can be emphasized through operatic extravagance
or bare ascetic essentials. However, what really exists cannot be mapped onto any single
scene, no matter how grand or clever. To show what is true, one strives for an ingenious
interplay of seemingly irreconcilable elements, none of which directly corresponds to
what actually exists. No one likes to be pinned down with a label. ' Tis better to be an
enigma, than a number in someone's book. Reality cannot be boxed in with dogma
anymore than it can be captured with a handful of equations. We do not consequently
have to be mute. In fact, it is man's peculiar challenge to give form and expression to
ultimate reality. If part of that reality is Love, then of course we must love one another
and reconcile our differences.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis

Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis

The quality of observed data is a vital factor. Homogeneous data series are required with careful adjustments to account for changes in observing system technologies and observing practices.

Kyoto's threat to the essence of mauri - Miranda Devine - www.smh.com.au

Kyoto's threat to the essence of mauri - Miranda Devine - www.smh.com.au

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pronouncing Australian Place Names

We have got some great place names in Australia, many of aboriginal origin.

Our multicultural broadcaster SBS is really good with foreign ( exotic) names of people and places, but when it comes to our homegrown names they can fall down badly.

This week Tropical Cyclone Ingrid is hammering the North West Coast of the continent, and yesterday it hit the small town of Kalumburu


last night Mary Kostakidis on SBS TV News told us the town was Kalumboooroooo.

This was a real booobooo Mary.

Next we may get Tasmania's second biggest city pronounces LAWN-CESTON