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While the Oscars...

February 27th, 2005 is Oscar night. The blogosphere is humming with live blogging of the event: over at Ann's we have Simulblogging the Oscars; MSN has "Live Blogging the Oscars"; the BBC reports about bloggers blogging from behind the scenes...

While the Oscars are happening in the background Kevin and I are examining our photographs of a very successful birding weekend.

Saturday we decided to head out to Larimar County. Reports of Bald Eagles sighted in a clump of trees on some private property. We drove up there to see what all the fuss was about. Shoo. Cars were parked up and down the street, and people were standing on the side of the road, armed with their binoculars scanning the distant banks. Kevin and I were excited - and immediately scooted over. I began scanning the trees for bald eagles. Now here is a hat tip: Bald Eagles are not difficult to spot. They are not like owls who are wretchedly difficult to spot. Just look out for a big blob, with a white head and a white tail. No problemo! After doing my scan I concluded that the eagles had long since flown off. As we walked to the car, I had this feeling, that perhaps we just witnessed an Emperor's new clothes situation. No one seemed to be admitting too loudly that they could not find the Bald Eagles.

In order to assuage our need to see Bald Eagles we turned south to Boulder County and our favorite spots where we have had excellent sightings of Bald Eagle. We were not disappointed and managed to find and photograph an excellent shot of a Bald Eagle - back again for another season. We also headed for Sawhill ponds to video our Greater Horned Owl. We got him hooting, and displaying some breeding behavior - rubbing his beak, and carrying a small rodent around.

Sunday (today) we headed off to the Wheat Ridge Green Belt to see whether we could locate an Eastern Screech Owl that had been reported only yesterday. This area is wonderful habitat - lots of big trees, thick dense bushes, and easily accessible water. We met some fellow birders who had spotted the little owl only yesterday. Luckily for us they pointed us to the tree where he had last been spotted. Disappointed that we had missed out again Kevin took a picture of the site for reference. The next second, out he popped: the most beautiful sleepy looking owl. Kevin had a marvelous time taking photo's. The owl was quite calm, and kept so still it would be quite easy to miss him. We decided to leave the little owl and walked back to the parking lot.

There we met up with 2 birders who wanted to know if we had spotted the owl. I thought it only fair to pass it on - as someone else had been kind enough to us to show us "the spot". They were delighted to find the little guy.

Out of respect for the owl I am not describing where he was hiding. If you want to know more I suggest you go here. This is a real birder's site.

Sunday - National Storm Chasers Convention continues

Kevin and I are playing hookey. AFter a wonderful action packed day at the convention yesterday we decided to sleep in and get to the convention around 11. The reason partly for this is that we are in information overload. (A tribute to the sterling quality of presentations yesterday.) The other reason is that we plan to take Tim Vasquez' Forecasting Class that is scheduled to begin at 1pm, and runs all afternoon. I don't think I could sit through a morning of presentations and be able to concentrate during forecasting class in the afternoon.

As promised here are a list of links to various websites that were referred to in the presentations.

Storm Prediction Center's Mesoscale Analysis page.

Stormtrack also look at Stormtrack's Data page.

Weathergraphics (Tim Vasquez' site)

Scott Blair's Targetarea site.

Last live blog post for the day

The last presentation is from Dr Howie Bluestein speaking on the Latest in Doppler Radar. I am quite tired and suffering from information overload. After this speaker we have a break and then the banquet. The banquet speaker is Dr Erik Rasmussen who is going to speak on VORTEX 2007 - the Latest in Tornadogenesis Theories. After that we have the BNVN Chaser Video contest, and chaser videos. We will probably enjoy the rest of this presentation, and the banquet and head off home.

I remember the videos from last year - amusing. But all go on way too long.

The convention continues tomorrow starting promptly at 8am. The convention finishes at about noon.

Tim Vasquez is offering his forecasting school. Both Kevin and I aim to go to that. I think it will be interesting and we certainly need to learn stuff.

Tim Samaras' presentation (live blogging continues)

Tim Samaras give his presentation on the latest in In-Situ tornado measurements. Tim has been interviewed on Oprah about this and the National Geographic has also featured this. Tim created an instrument called the HITPR (Hardened In situ Tornado Pressure Recovery). It looks like a squat cone, painted in cheerful orange color. The first deployment occured in 2003. Second deployment ocurred May 15th, 2003. The tornado crossed over the probe for the first time, and for the first time in situ readings were collected. In 2004 Tim constructed his probe with 7 video cameras, that is 6 cams cover 60 degrees making up a 360 degree view. The 7th camera is for the vertical observation, mounted in the tip of the cone. Tim calls this probe the "Media Probe". The video can be used to calculated debris velocities of up to 100 miles/ hour approx 12 inches above the ground. Photogrammetrics are used to calculate the velocities by separating frame to frame. Slow the video down can help identify objects. Tim showed us some video of deployment (pretty hairy stuff) and video from the probes. The slow downed version showed various farming implements and other debris in the tornado.

This video and presentation was informative. They certainly got very close to the tornado. I told Kevin - No way. We are not getting that close!

Tim Marshall's Chase Season 2004

Our next presenter was Tim Marshall. A great presentation. I can listen to Tim Marshall all day. He basically talked briefly and enthusiastically about his 2004 chase season, and showed us some pictures of some very photogenic tornados. Kevin and I are getting a little sleepy. Luckily a break was called and I got some caffeine enhanced soda.

I use Tim Marshall's forecasting exercises. They are really helpful. Will post at the end of the conference a list of contacts, and resources.

Pre Lunch speakers live blog continues...

My computer's battery started to run low so we decided to charge the battery in the mid morning break until lunch time. We are just returning from our lunch break. Conference is to resume at 1pm.

Since last entry we had 3 presentations.

The first was a commercial from Compusa telling us about technology of the future. He basically said that WiFi was the future. I think WiFI should be provided free of charge by retailers, or whatever as an added customer service. I love WiFi. In fact thanks to the joys of WiFi I am using that as we speak.

Jon Davies gave a very informative presentation about Tornado Forecasting Parameters. He emphasized the importance of taking into account various different models, and methods, and not relying too heavily on any one method in particular. He also talked about scenarios where his parameters are not applicable such as cold core tornados or non supercell tornados. Very good presentation.

The next presentation was from BNVN (Breaking News Video Network) who gave us a taste of their 2004 Severe Weather and Hurricanes DVD. I personally got bored with seeing wind cowboys playing in the Hurricane. But hey, if that is what floats your boat- knock yourself out. It is not why I storm chase. I have no interest in filming myself or Kevin fooling around in severe weather, or storm surfing either.

Kevin and I had a debate about this issue during our lunch break. Here's the thing: by using storm footage as the means of commerce and communication with the wider public don't storm chasers do themselves a disservice? Where is the respect for the phenomena? Where is the gravity? After all many many people lose their lives, livelihoods and loved ones.

Detecting Tornadoes with Atmospheric Infrasound

Next speaker is Dr Al Bedard, Boulder CO.

Sub audible sound well below range of human hearing has some promise for tornado detection and warning. Range around 1Hz. 0.1 to 10Hz tornadic sound occurs in that range. Slide of sensor. Looks like an old fashioned lawn sprinkler. Total area sampling diameter of 50 feet. Each sensor surrounded by an eddy fence about 6 feet hight. Designed to break up eddies to allow for continuous monitoring. Use 4 sensors. Infrasonic Observatory can detect other sounds such as avalanches, Fires, Earthquakes, ocean waves. In Boulder can detect sounds in both Atlantic and Pacific ocean. Could detect sounds of Tsunami in Boulder.

What can we do with Tornado Detection? Shear along the core creates freight train roaring sound. Not detecting that. Can detect the core vibrating radially. First detection in 1995. Detected sound about 30 minutes before tornado sighted, and touched down.

Talks about other examples. (Maybe this is why no animals were caught up in the Tsunami? Animals have different hearing thresholds. We know that these events create sound. What an amazing and noisy world we live in?)

Need a national network. Problem with detection is delay times and location of sensors.

Question from audience: encountered false positives? Yes.

Communicating results and analysis of signals to weather folks. Overlay on radar data a polar plot. Sites: Pueblo, Boulder and Kansas. Put on website and fed back to weather folks. Actual display WFO's - radar, radar reflexity. Not yet made public. Option of displaying 3 pass bands.

Question from audience: how do we handle sim events? Tornadic sounds are random sporadic sound bursts, and can detect both.

Technique is useful for tornado detection - update frequency and time ever 5 seconds. Can provide information on small vortices and rotation on a limited extent. Use of overlapping stations. 1 station costs about $50,000. Still in R&D. Design of network and propogation effects still needs to be dealt with.

30% related to storms with tornados, 33% represented false alarms. 36% related to severe weather. 67 signals corresponded in direction and timing with storm data reports of tornados. Challenges: need improved verification, need feedback from storm chasing community to determine type of storm. Closer signals mask more distant signals. Need to increase density of network. Weather Service not routinely using data, because need to improve how it is displayed and portrayed. Demonstrates how data may look in real time. May be other uses for this technology.

Question from audience about animal sensitivities. Anecdotal evidence about elephants detecting tsunami wave sounds. Talks about animals, birds detecting infrasound. We see the world and have limited hearing. What if the world could only be detected through sound? We would "see" objects and each other by the sounds they produce.

Question: Switch frequency so can hear it audibly? Yes. May use it as a playback option on website.