Monthly News Summary – July 1998

July 29, 1998 | Abigail Mindock

News for Weather Junkies

by Terri Gregory, SSEC Public Information Specialist
July 1998

Wayne Feltz, CIMSS researcher, explained a derecho event for WISC-TV3 on the 10 p.m. news June 1 and early morning news June 2. Wayne explained that the heavy winds that swept through south-central Wisconsin during the previous weekend were caused by a rare storm system.

The derecho is an unusually long-lived and fast-moving organized line of storms accompanied by strong winds. They do not produce tornados but their straight-line winds can cause much damage. Reporter Scott Blum introduced Wayne’s explanation with footage of storm damage and Mike Barsic (channel 3 meteorologist) plotted the wind reports with contours to show how widespread damage reports were. According to SSEC meteorologists, the derecho event occurs only under a unique set of meteorological conditions: a frontal boundary and a strong jet streak—a localized maximum wind in the jet stream.

Wayne Feltz also answered storm questions for Wisconsin Radio Network, a syndicated broadcast going to stations throughout Wisconsin.

For more information, follow the links below.

Weather Guys Wow WHA Listeners

On July 2, Steve Ackerman (SSEC) and Jon Martin (Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences) made their radio debut on Larry Meiller’s call-in show on WHA 970 AM, Wisconsin Public Radio. Diverse weather topics were covered, like possible evidence of La Niña, occurrence of normally rare weather events, NOAA’s budgetary woes and possible effects on forecasting, and the habits of local TV weather forecasters. Larry and his callers failed to stump our Weather Guys, who were unfailingly upbeat and informative.

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Doppler Draws Viewers

Doppler radar was featured on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal for June 30. Science reporter Ron Seely focused on this new technology for “weather junkies,” interviewing a Doppler watcher, a TV weather forecaster and SSEC researcher Tom Achtor. The three are united in their interest in the new forecasting tool, which shows in detail where severe weather is located , and, by extrapolation, headed. Tom was quoted as saying, “personally I think it’s good. Some of these thunderstorms can become severe very quickly.” The article emphasizes the drawing power of Doppler radar, with even the writer admitting he’s sat up at 3 a.m. watching the dramatic colors on the TV screen.

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Technical Kudos for Tropical Winds

CIMSS’ Tropical Cyclones group receives many kudos from weather forecasters for its satellite wind products. In a recent email message, Richard Pasch at the Tropical Prediction Center (formerly National Hurricane Center) said, “The shear and upper-level divergence fields derived from your GOES winds on your Web site look really good. I’ve been showing them to the other forecasters and they agree. I assume there is little, if any, model influence on the motion fields that you use to derive the shear and divergence, since they look so realistic (upper-level divergence over cloud clusters and convergence over dark areas on water vapor imagery, etc.)!! The vertical shear fields should help to quantify how strong the shear is over a tropical system and perhaps give us a clue as to the thresholds for development or strengthening. We plan to use these in our operations whenever possible, and to give credit to your group when we do.”

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In Print

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Hubble Takes First Image

Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal science reporter, interviewed an enthusiastic Sanjay Limaye and researchers from the Space Telescope Science Institute and the University of Miami for “The Hubble films birthing of planet”, May 29. Astronomer Susan Terebey, Pasadena, California, used the Hubble Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer to discover a gas giant planet like Jupiter in the constellation Taurus. Sanjay, SSEC planetary scientist, said of the discovery, “There is more and more evidence that our solar system is not unique.”

Triana FAQ

MIT Tech Talk

In Space News for June 1-7, Donald R. Johnson commented favorably on Triana, Vice President Al Gore’s proposed earth-viewing satellite for low-earth orbit. Don notes its “unique practical and scientific applications” for students, educators, engineers, and meteorologists. Pat Dasch, National Space Society executive director, commented on Don’s piece, in Space News for June 22-28. Pat lauded vice president Gore’s wish “to share his enthusiastic wonder for space and Earth’s environment,” but strongly stated that Triana resources could be more appropriately allocated. Don Johnson directs the Division of Earth Sciences at Universities Space Research Association (Columbia, Maryland) and the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Space News is a tabloid-format publication covering satellite and other space program news.

1998 AMS Annual Awards

Chris Velden received the American Meteorological Society’s Special Award at this year’s annual conference “for his special efforts in providing mesoscale satellite datasets to support field studies and operational weather forecast centers nationally and internationally.” TheBulletin of the American Meteorological Society, June 1998, noted that Chris has been project leader for six weather field experiments, including the Genesis of Atlantic Lows Experiment and the Cooperative Huntsville Mesoscale Experiment. As a CIMSS researcher, Chris is most closely identified with the Tropical Cyclones group and has led it to develop special products measuring wind shear and direction using satellite data.

AMS awards to Bill Smith, former director of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, and Don Johnson, current CIMSS director, were covered in “In the News” for February 1998.


On the Air

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Weather Channel –

Steven Lyons, Tropical Program Manager for the Weather Channel, will use wind products from the Tropical Cyclone group’s Web site. “Keep them coming,” he said, and promised to plug SSEC when he’s on the air.

Watch the Learning Channel for Earth’s Fury, a six-part series exploring dangerous natural phenomena like floods, fire and volcanoes. SSEC has provided satellite imagery to producer James Cox for his show on a severe nor’easter that developed off the coast of Greenland in the North Atlantic from September 29 to October 2, 1995.

SSEC is also providing data for a show on floods in the same Earth’s Fury series. The featured flood covered central Texas on May 5, 1993.


On the ‘Net

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SSEC Real-time Data

John Standen, who teaches meteorology at Bournemouth, England’s European College, congratulated SSEC “on the superb composite images of the Global Montage,” which he uses in lectures on the movement of the ITCZ. The Intertropical Convergence Zone is where trade winds from northern and southern hemispheres meet in a line of clouds that girdles the equator. Dr. Standen said that his students enjoy the images; he plans to display a year’s worth of monthly global montages in his meteorology department.

Tropical Cyclones

As hurricane season begins, weather forecasters in hurricane-prone areas around the world are using the Tropical Cyclones information ever more often. Christophe Payan, a forecaster in the French Weather Service, is stationed in Guadeloupe, French Antilles. After participating in a workshop for forecasting hurricanes, he started using information from the Tropical Cyclones Web page. He consults the site regularly.

Surfline Surf Report


Surfer Carl Seely depends on SSEC’s Web site to see “what storms are forming from Alaska-Mexico which cause south, north, even west swells.” He adds, “Many surf pages should be using this visual goldmine.”

Hoofers Sailing Club

The UW-Madison Hoofers Sailing Club uses SSEC weather data on their Web site for a wind charting application. You must have Shockwave installed to view the application.

Teaching and Outreach

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Madison Schools Planetarium

SSEC Outreach

Rose Pertzborn is one of several educators from Wisconsin to be designated a Galileo Ambassador, to present findings of the Jupiter mission to the general public. Rose wrote about current mission events, particularly observations of Europa, in Madison Skies, June 1998. Galileo is accumulating evidence of oceans of liquid water beneath Europa’s icy surface. After observing Europa, the mission will study water in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere and then observe close-ups of the fiery moon Io. Madison Skies is the newsletter of the Madison Metropolitan School District Planetarium. Rose, with Sanjay Limaye, coordinates SSEC’s educational outreach programs.


Kristin Fields, from Madison High School in Houston, Texas, is the single SHARP student assigned to SSEC this summer. She works as an apprentice researcher with Fred Wu and Gary Wade, investigating daily variations in sea surface temperatures. NASA’s Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program gives talented high school students the chance to participate in hands-on research experience in a scientific setting. Kristin is here till August 7, when she returns to her senior year at Madison High School.

New and Cool

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GOES Gallery at CIMSS

The Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies maintains a gallery of satellite images, all from NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. The GOES Gallery presents a variety of interesting images collected during scientific investigations. Most recent in the Gallery are images of fires in Florida from June 22, 1998, and pictures showing a Catalina eddy off the southern California coast on June 16. Scott Bachmeier and other CIMSS researchers post images with annotation as they occur in their research. Images extend back to a picture of the northeastern U.S. that shows fog lying in river valleys on September 20, 1994. Most Gallery examples are stunning. All are educational. Check the GOES Gallery weekly for new additions.

If you’d like a particular SSEC project covered in New and Cool, contact Terri Gregory.