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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‘Beyond the extreme’: Scientists marvel at ‘increasingly non-natural’ Arctic warmth – The Washington Post

Kudos to citizen-scientist Nico Sun who assembled the temperature graphs from publically-available weather data.

The Arctic is so warm and has been this warm for so long that scientists are struggling to explain it and are in disbelief. The climate of the Arctic is known to oscillate wildly, but scientists say this warmth is so extreme that humans surely have their hands in it and may well be changing how it operates.

Temperatures are far warmer than ever observed in modern records, and sea ice extent keeps setting record lows.2016 was the warmest year on record in the Arctic, and 2017 has picked up right where it left off. “Arctic extreme (relative) warmth continues,” Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with WeatherBell Analytics, tweeted on Wednesday, referring to January’s temperatures.

Veteran Arctic climate scientists are stunned.

Source: ‘Beyond the extreme’: Scientists marvel at ‘increasingly non-natural’ Arctic warmth – The Washington Post

Twenty years after Hurricane Fran

Last Monday was the twentieth anniversary of Hurricane Fran. I’ve written a lot about Fran here on MT.Net so I won’t geeze and do it again now. I will say, though, how much Raleigh has changed since Fran, and that I’m struck by how many people now living here have no memory of Fran because they weren’t here.

For those of us who were here, though, it will be something we never forget.

What to do During an Electrical Outage

After an extended power outage during a winter storm, your heat pump refrigerant will be sluggish when the power finally returns. To avoid damage, you should run your unit on supplementary (or emergency) heat for the first few hours. Not doing so could damage your heat pump.

Also note that in older neighborhoods, the sudden demand for electric power might cause power quality issues that might also damage your heat pump.

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If your home is equipped with an electric heat pump, special care is needed when turning the unit on after an extended outage. It takes a period of time for the lubricant in the refrigerant to warm-up. This is approximately one and one-half hours per ton of cooling capacity. This could vary from brand to brand and a call to your dealer could prevent problems. During this compressor warm up time you should use the supplemental or emergency resistance heating elements of the heat pump to heat the home.

Source: What to do During an Electrical Outage

Winter storm Jonah dumps ice on Raleigh

After watching this storm as it formed over the past week and hearing talk of potentially 13 inches of snow falling on Raleigh, all we get is ice. Sleet began falling between 6 to 9 AM before changing to freezing rain after lunch. I watched in wonder as the rain on the screen outside my window solidified into ice. I also watched he crape myrtle tree build up an impressive glaze of ice right before my eyes.

We’ve made it until 9:16 PM now without any power issues. The lights flickered a few brief times about 6:30 tonight but we’ve had no other issues. I was feeling confident this afternoon that we’d get through without any further problems but I am hearing that our neighbors down the street in Belvidere Park have just now lost power. We could be next.

I have an industrial-sized UPS that needed batteries. Anticipating power issues, I ordered a fresh set of batteries Wednesday night that got delivered less than 24 hours later. We now have two separate sources of inverter power that we can use to keep warm. The plan is to power the blower fan on our gas fireplace should we the ability to run our central heat.

It may be an interesting night. We’ll see where we stand this time tomorrow. I hope everyone else who’s dealing with the weather tonight gets through it safely and securely!

Forecasts from Winter Folklore | State Climate Office of North Carolina

How often do flakes follow thunder? The scientists at the State Climate Office ran the numbers. Science!

Along with a diverse variety of frozen precipitation, it’s not unusual to see a thunderstorm during the winter in North Carolina. At some point, that gave rise to the proverb that if you hear thunder during the winter, it will snow in 7 to 10 days. It makes some sense considering that weather systems generally take about a week to move across the country, so a strong cold front that produces thunderstorms is likely to be followed by another system within the next 10 days. But here in North Carolina, where snow is never a guarantee, how often is thunder followed by flakes?

Source: Winter Outlook 2013-14: Forecasts from Winter Folklore | State Climate Office of North Carolina

Snow daze

We’ve just gone through a string of 8 snow days over the past two weeks. The first storm was ice and sleet of about 1-2 inches. The second was a powdery snowfall that surprised everyone Monday morning and kept us hunkered down most of the week. Just when the dust cleared by Wednesday and the temperatures finally warmed up enough to allow some semblance of normalcy we got hit with another storm. When the flakes began falling Wednesday night, forecasters predicted anywhere from 2-8 inches possible, with some predictions of epic levels of snow. The blizzard predictions were largely a bust here in East Raleigh as warm air created a wet, slushy snow that started melting quickly. The end result was a week’s worth of school (and lost work productivity for the grown-ups), and a few scattered power outages in the neighborhood. I was so happy today to brave the roads and sit at my office desk again!
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Tornado, three years later

Today began for me much the same way it did that Saturday morning exactly three years ago. Then, as now, it was just the dog and me at home while Kelly and the kids were on the road.

Fortunately the similarities end there. This morning’s weather is clear, breezy and very chilly at 34 degrees F with no signs of any tornadoes. In fact, one of the last … er, signs of the tornado in my neighborhood was removed recently. Up until a few weeks ago, a “No Parking” sign stood outside St. Aug’s on a steel post that was twisted almost completely around, a daily reminder of the jaw-dropping power of violent wind.

Sadly, a day before I was to take a picture of it the city replaced the post and sign. Don’t know if I should be sad I missed it or happy the public works department is so on top of things. At any rate, life in East Raleigh is back to normal now.

Preemptive school closings and delays

Wake County Public Schools just announced they will stay closed tomorrow. This comes a week after the school system had a two hour delay for about a half-inch of snow. Tomorrow’s threat of anywhere between 4 and 8 inches of snow is a bit more serious, at least, but you have to wonder if the school system isn’t getting a bit too snow-shy.

Everyone who’s been around here long enough remembers the utter disaster of 2005, when an inch of snow at morning rush hour closed schools and sent everyone on the roads at once to fetch their kids. The roads promptly froze over, leading to colossal gridlock the likes of which I’d never seen before nor since. Certainly, no one wants that to happen again. I sure don’t. I’ll never forget it!

Even so, that incident is now nine years in the past. Raleigh has grown up considerably since then. The city now pre-treats the roads with salt brine and gets ahead of the storm. I think the city has handled subsequent storm events very, very well. In essence, I think it’s highly unlikely Raleigh will get caught off guard again.

So if the city has improved its snow response, what about the schools? Seems to me the school staff aren’t making a call based on how a given storm will impact school transportation. Rather, the school system should be deciding based on how well the City of Raleigh and NCDOT can keep the roads clear. Yes, it may be -9 degrees or, yes, it may snow two feet overnight. It shouldn’t really matter what happens if the city and state can clean it up in time for the early buses to roll.