Another Victim of Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico’s Treasured Rainforest – The New York Times

It’s sad to read of the devastation to the El Yunque rainforest. It is a national treasure.

LUQUILLO, P.R. — When you looked up, you could once see nothing but the lush, emerald canopy of tabonuco and sierra palm trees covering El Yunque National Forest.

That was before Hurricane Maria obliterated the only tropical rain forest in the United States forest system. Left behind was a scene so bare that on a recent visit, it was possible to see the concrete skyline of San Juan about 30 miles west — a previously unimaginable sight.

El Yunque, pronounced Jun-kay, has been an enormous source of pride in Puerto Rico and one of the main drivers of the island’s tourism industry. The 28,000-acre forest on the eastern part of the island has over 240 species of trees; 23 of those are found nowhere else. Over 50 bird species live among the forest’s crags and waterfalls.

But sunlight now reaches cavities of the forest that have not felt a ray of light in decades, bringing with it a scorching heat.“Hurricane Maria was like a shock to the system,” said Grizelle González, a project leader at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, part of United States Department of Agriculture. “The whole forest is completely defoliated.”

Source: Another Victim of Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico’s Treasured Rainforest – The New York Times

Three Things You Should Know About Spaghetti Model Forecasts for Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and Developing Tropical Waves | The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel also produced a great primer on hurricane “spaghetti models” and what they show and (more importantly) leave out.

There’s a delicious-sounding term that’s about to make its way back into the weather forecasting lexicon as hurricane season ramps up, but it has nothing to do with food.Spaghetti weather models, also known as spaghetti plots, are a simplistic way of conveying a lot of tropical information quickly, but there can also be downfalls to relying on these plots.

1. Spaghetti Plots Do Not Portray Any Impacts

Although most models show possible impacts, to present many models succinctly on a single chart, meteorologists generally produce spaghetti plots that usually only show the “where” and a loose representation of “when” for tropical systems.

To get to this level of brevity, meteorologists must only focus on the center point of a tropical system, which may or may not be accurate. We’ll get to more on that limitation later, but for now, let’s focus on the lack of impacts.

Source: Three Things You Should Know About Spaghetti Model Forecasts for Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and Developing Tropical Waves | The Weather Channel

Why the Hurricane Irma Forecast for the U.S. Is Still Uncertain and Difficult | The Weather Channel

Here’s a good explanation for why one shouldn’t panic about a hurricane that’s a week away from approaching. Pay attention, yes, but there’s no need for panic.

Hurricane Irma will be a formidable hurricane for days to come in the Atlantic Basin, but its future impact in the U.S. remains unknown.Given the record-setting, catastrophic flooding, storm surge and wind damage from Hurricane Harvey, it’s understandable why Irma is making U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast residents unnerved.

You may wonder why we can’t yet nail down anything specific on Irma’s future potential impact in the U.S. Wouldn’t that help people prepare?

First, we’ll explore why that is. Then we’ll go over some atmospheric patterns typically in place that increase East Coast hurricane risk.

Source: Why the Hurricane Irma Forecast for the U.S. Is Still Uncertain and Difficult | The Weather Channel

Houston Is Drowning—In Its Freedom From Regulations

Nice commentary on how Houston’s lack of regulations might, just might have played a role in it being swamped with historic flooding.

We do value our freedom here in Texas. As I write from soggy Central Texas, the cable news is showing people floating down Buffalo Bayou on their principles, proud residents of the largest city in these United States that did not grow in accordance with zoning ordinances.

The feeling there was that persons who own real estate should be free to develop it as they wish. Houston, also known as the Bayou City, is a great location because of its access to international shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. It is not a great location for building, though, because of all its impervious cover. If water could easily sink into the ground, there would be less of it ripping down Houston’s rivers that just a week ago were overcrowded streets.

Source: Houston Is Drowning—In Its Freedom From Regulations

How Waffle House opens so fast after a hurricane

The day after 1996’s Hurricane Fran devastated Raleigh, the only place in town one could get a cup of coffee was the Hillsborough Street Waffle House. Now I know why. Waffle House engineers its restaurants to weather storms.

One of the ways the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) measures hurricane damage is by the Waffle House Index. Waffle House, a popular 24-hour fast food chain in the Southeast, has a unique ability to operate solely on gas if necessary, so a closed Waffle House is often tantamount to disaster.

And while we won’t know yet how Hurricane Harvey will fare on the index, the attitude at Waffle Houses across Texas has been calm. The company’s staff has been preparing for months.

“We have our own special disaster teams and generators waiting to be shipped,” said one Waffle House employee in Galveston, Tex. “We’re open up until the city makes us close, probably later on tonight. As soon as it’s over we’ll be right back open.”

Source: How Waffle House opens so fast after a hurricane

A Total Solar Eclipse Feels Really Really Weird | WIRED

A great account of what to expect during this month’s solar eclipse.

Have you ever witnessed a total solar eclipse? Usually when I give a lecture, only a couple of people in an audience of several hundred people raise their hands when I ask that question. A few others respond tentatively, saying, “I think I saw one.” That’s like a woman saying, “I think I once gave birth.”

What these people are remembering is some long-ago partial solar eclipse. These are quite common. They occur every few years in various places across the globe. But believe me, if you’ve seen a total solar eclipse—when the moon passes directly between the sun and the earth—you’ll never forget it.

Part of what makes a total eclipse so breathtaking has to do with invisible light. During the “moment of totality”—the minutes when sun is completely blocked—observers experience the exquisitely odd and wondrous sensation of solar emissions, both visible and invisible, vanishing right in the middle of the day.

Source: A Total Solar Eclipse Feels Really Really Weird | WIRED

Cheap Thoughts: Time of Use for Water

Falls Lake at the worst of drought, December 9, 2007

On Saturday my family and placed four tons of grass sod in our backyard. As I fired up a sprinkler for the first time in several years (a decade, perhaps?) I thought about how much our next water bill was going to cost us. The City of Raleigh has tiered water rates, meaning everyone gets their base allotment for the same price but the price quickly jumps beyond that amount. The idea is that economics will compel water customers to conserve which is a worthy goal.

But what about the times conservation isn’t needed? Right now Falls Lake is full. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from Falls Lake at a rate of 6,000 cubic feet per second, which I’ve heard is about the most it will release at any time. This onslaught of water is causing issues downstream, flooding neighborhoods that haven’t yet recovered from last month’s initial round of heavy flooding.

It doesn’t appear that conservation is an issue at the moment, so what if our water bills could reflect this? What if Raleigh residents could give The Army Corps a hand by putting that water where it could good some good: on everyone’s lawns and gardens, not just those unfortunate few who live close to the raging river? What if the City reduced water rates on a temporarily basis while the river release was underway? I know there’s more to water use than simply supply (it has to be treated, for instance) but tying water rates to our supply might make sense.
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