Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weather Matters: Whether Weather Matters?

It flat out does.  Meteorology is the only segment of local and national news broadcasting[if what transmits electronically through cables nowadays may be called broadcasting] that can either routinely save lives or cause lives to be lost.

Tragically today, as of this posting, as many as 1,000 people may be buried under tons of mud in southeastern Mexico due to landslides caused by as much as 30 inches of rain that has fallen from the remnants of the tropical cyclone Matthew which assaulted central America late last week.  The Weather Channel, despite NBC's many blunders since acquiring the Atlanta based network, continues to do awesome work in the area of saving lives routinely.  And today's reporting by them and their reporting of Matthew since it hit Central America, and of the tropics in general this season is emblematic of the staff's commitment to helping people who find themselves in the cross hairs of all types of weather phenomenon.

Unabashed Left has become somewhat of a recreational meteorologist this year, and has been blessed with many opportunities to meet some wonderful people dedicated to saving lives through weather reporting and forecasting.  Thanks to a now very dear friend, we ordered and acquired a wall-sized hurricane map and began charting tropical systems.  At the NOAA[the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is the umbrella federal agency which includes both the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center] website blank charts are available free for the printing.

Sally, my wife, just bought me an updated weather station for our 3rd anniversary earlier this month[hi honey, I love you].  In Wallingford, CT it is currently(3:48pm Tuesday September 28, 2010 according to the atomic clock based in Colorado) 74.1 degrees Fahrenheit; relative humidity is kind of stifling at 95%; the dew point is 73.4 Fahrenheit; wind chill equivalent is 74.1; heat index also 74.1; winds are light and variable out of the Northwest at present @ 2mph; the barometric pressure is on a slow downward trend at 1005 millibars right at this moment, skies are overcast and should continue be the next few hours, with the rainfall for the previous 24 hours at slightly less than one half inch.

On-air weather reporting done accurately and well, without what we've come to call the "one eye on the radar and one eye on the ratings" syndrome, can actually prevent lives being lost, injury and property damage.  Most obviously, for example, is the risk involved in hyping storms routinely, resulting in a 'crying wolf' scenario in which people in those areas prone to tropical cyclones are inured to weather events and choose to ignore evacuation orders or even protect property[board windows, batten down hatches on boats, secure lawn furniture, etc.].

Over the years our observation has been that The Weather Channel and its newly updated weather.com has been responsible in its reporting in general.  That's not to say that some individuals haven't been prone to exaggerate and enhance their own careers by doing so, even on TWC, but in general, the net effect of TWC I believe is to have saved many injuries, deaths and at least $millions in property damage. 

Since joining NBC's "family" of networks, the media conglomerate has botched some things at TWC, especially personnel-related matters.  They've dispensed with some on-air people who are highly responsible and competent at the expense of cosmetics such as youth, appearance, celebrity and demographic appeal.

In the long run, NBC will learn that these moves will not improve TWC ratings at all.  At weather.com, we've been privileged to participate in two online chats.  One involved the recent anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the other about Hurricane Earl as he posed a threat to the U.S. east coast.  These events included on-air personalities such as Jim Cantore, Jeff Morrow, Mike Seidel, Dr. Rick Knabb, Stu Ostro and Brian Norcross as well as out of camera range experts. 

As an aside, I was privileged to participate in an online chat at the White House recently with NOAA administrator Dr. Lubchenko through the whitehouse.gov website.  That chat surrounded the safety of seafood following the BP oil spill, and is a clearly indicative of the transparency of this White House and of the Obama administration in general(I was also privileged to participate in a chat 2 weeks ago at the White House involving a member of the Council of Economic Advisers following a major economic speech by the President).

These online events were informative, accessible and fun, to say the least.  Young people with interests in meteorology are stimulated by these types of events, and there is much more available at weather.com.  Kudos go out to all involved on-air and off for performing a very valuable and unheralded public service.

Of the news networks, CNN deserves a rare pat on the back these days for it's commitment to meteorology.  It is the only network with a stable of full-time meteorologists who do much more than meteorology.  In particular, Chad Myers did an awesome job on an ongoing basis explaining the technology involved in capping the oil spill sponsored by BP, and Rob Marciano + producer John Murgatroyd[husband of TWC reporter and graduate meteorology student Julie Martin-Murgatroyd] did a great service with a prime-time special recently on the people employed cleaning up after BP.  Also, Jacqui Jeras performs admirably as do several other meteorologists for CNN.

I've found that on social media, meteorologists from the two networks are accessible, real and encouraging.  One day, for example, early this hurricane season, I was wanting to chart then tropical storm Alex, and Samantha Mohr of TWC was on-air.  I facebooked her requesting that the coordinates be posted, and 15 minutes later and for the rest of the weekend there were the coordinates.  Thanks Sam!  On another occasion we observed reporting one morning on TWC of a potentially world-record breaking 8 inch hailstone submitted by photo through an I-reporter's lens.  We facebooked Jacqui Jeras at CNN about the story, she thanked us and put the story on CNN then and there and it became an almost viral report for the next 48 hours.  Thanks Jacqui!

The interactions between the on-air meteorological/scientific communities there in Atlanta is actually quite heartening.  I especially want to thank former TWC veterans Dr. Steve Lyons and Bill Keneely for their years of valuable service and their accessibility and enjoyable chats.  Dr. Steve is now performing valuable work for the NWS on the Texas Gulf coast, and enjoying mountain biking, fishing and other outdoor pursuits, his fans might be interested in knowing.

A special shout-out to a very special young aspiring on-air meteorologist who goes by the name Marina Carpenter.  She is a uniquely knowledgeable high school freshman, who has designed a facebook fan page called The Weather Explorers.  We recommend that everyone go there now!  ABSOLUTELY!  It is full of accurate weather information, safety tips, updates, essays and input from fans. 

Her mission is the most beautiful part of the whole thing.  Her mission statement is posted at TWE and can be pretty much summarized as having the sole purpose of "keeping YOU safe."  This Weather Explorer, Marina Carpenter, is an inspiration to me in so many ways I can't begin to recount them all.  Technologically savvy, she intends to begin live broadcasts via Skype soon, has begun a setup on Twitter and here on blogspot.com with her new blog page.  All in addition to her school studies.  If you visit The Weather Explorers on facebook you won't want to leave.  She is my technological advisor for Unabashed Left in all its manifestations, on blogspot, facebook, twitter, gmail, hotmail and more.  Thanks Marina!

By the way anyone may email us now at either unabashedleft@hotmail.com or at unabashedleft@gmail.com anytime.  Our Twitter page is under construction.  And of course we are always here at unabashedleft.blogspot.com for your political, sociological and comedic convenience. :)

Weather forecasting is an art ever inching towards science, and I encourage young people to consider it as a career--especially the engineering aspects.  Doppler radar, satellite imagery, oceanic buoys detecting wave motion and so much more has done much in the last 20 years to save lives, and much more remains to be done.  I am inspired by the great men, women and kids I've met in this journey who are almost all inspired well to do service to people and I wish the same could be said to the same extent of those on the other side of the news desk and those holding office.

Some simple advice.  If severe weather of any sort threatens you locally, tune in to local TV, radio or online.  Heed any and all official warnings, watches and especially orders.  Highly recommended websites include: hurricane.com, noaa.com, The Weather Explorers on facebook, theweatherexplorers.blogspot.com and, of course, unabashedleft.blogspot.com for all your political and military needs. :)

A quick prayer, if you would.  Lord, please bring Your peace to those affected by the rains in Mexico today, and if it be your will, that casualties be minimal.  And that for those who may have perished that You welcome them into your blessed arms and give them the eternity of joy for which we all yearn. And for the survivors, please grant them comfort and faith in the conviction that You are the Creator, the Prince of Peace and that Your peace, which certainly surpasses my understanding, be granted unto them.  Amen.


Marina Carpenter said...

This blog was very informative. I read it through briefly and was quite pleased with your inspirational and kind words. Meteorology is an important subject throughout the world. Many people rely on Meteorologists to pursue their daily activities. I look forward to many more of your entries.

-Marina Carpenter

Unabashed Left said...

Thanks Roxy.