Monthly News Summary – October 1997

October 29, 1997 | Abigail Mindock

In the News: October 1997

A record of SSEC media appearances compiled for October 1997. Direct comments, questions, and information about other SSEC references to Terri Gregory, SSEC’s Public Information Specialist.

Thunderstorm in a Box

Bill Hibbard discusses using the power of computer graphics to “see what was possible” in the new Earth magazine. The story, titled “Thunderstorm in a Box,” appears in the December 1997 issue. The article features the scientific visualization work of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, including the development of a virtual reality theater called the CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment). Bill’s Vis5D visualizations have been prominently featured in the CAVE.

SSEC on the Airwaves

WORT-FM radio featured the Cassini Mission to Saturn on its Monday evening news magazine, October 13. Sanjay Limaye explained the science implications, and Bob Paulos addressed safety issues in light of concerns about Cassini’s plutonium power source. He stressed that the chance was “next to zero” that any catastrophic accident could occur. Sanjay also appeared briefly on WISC2 (WISC-TV’s cable station) on the October 15 newscast to answer questions about Cassini.The American Association for the Advancement of Science needed answers to some seemingly simple questions—the kind that are hard to answer. For Why Is It?, a Q&A radio feature, Sanjay Limaye explained why the months closest to the summer solstice are not the warmest. It’s because of the four-week time lag between the Sun’s incident radiation and the warming of the oceans due to their immense heat capacity. The time lag is true for the earth as a whole, but “local and regional differences exist due to the geography in terms of proximity to large water bodies and the type of surface (desert or forested . . .).”

SSEC in Print

On Wisconsin magazine (September/October 1997) covered the contrail research of Steve Ackerman and colleagues in the Research Dispatches column. As reported earlier, the researchers found that contrails “can increase cloud cover—sometimes by as much as 20 percent.” Editor Niki Denison could not resist a pun to end the piece: Instruments that NASA will deploy “should allow the space scientist’s research to really take off.”Margaret Mooney, SSEC’s honorary fellow and a National Weather Service liaison, studied the effects of El Niño on local weather over the past century. According to the October 7Wisconsin State Journal, “what she found was in some cases ‘amazing.'” For example, during the strongest El Niño on record, 1982-83, “Madison was 6.1 degrees warmer than average with 6.3 inches less snow in December, January and February.”Wisconsin Week, September 24, lists Steve Barnet, SSEC’s network manager, as recipient of an academic staff award for Cisco Systems training on routing configuration. Steve said, “The training will enable us to deal with some of the issues coming down the road–greater data flow and more numerous and direct connections with SSEC’s funding agencies.”

SSEC on the ‘Net

CIMSS’ Oakfield tornado information made the Wisconsin State Journal’s Web Pick o’ the Week on October 3. The site extensively documents the 1996 tornado that “flattened Oakfield [WI].” It also has an in-depth tutorial on severe weather, particularly tornado, analysis.SSEC’s sea surface temperature image appears in the On-line News Hour forum for October 3. This forum, the Web version of PBS’ Jim Lehrer’s News Hour, features a lively and comprehensive discussion and explanation of El Niño. Some questions answered are, “Where does El Niño get its energy?” “Will this El Niño be the biggest in 150 years?” and “How does the NWS model El Niño?”Speaking of the National Weather Service, Richard Davis of the Baton Rouge NWS Office uses the CIMSS Tropical Cyclone page to keep the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness briefed during the hurricane season. He’s glad we’re out there.We spoke too soon: We reported last month that Noble & Associates would use a precipitable water vapor image in their publicity for Tamko, a maker of roof shingles. Unfortunately, our credit line made it unpalatable to Tamko.

Teaching and Outreach

The newsletter for the School of Education covered the Space Exploration workshop of the school’s College Access Program held this summer at Lincoln School on Madison’s south side. Sanjay Limaye organized the class and taught it with teacher David Wirth and others. David, Sanjay, and Rose Pertzborn are currently teaching the same program to fourth and fifth graders at Lincoln. Participants in the summer program were primarily seventh and eighth graders.Thank-yous poured in from Mr. Kotoski’s class after their night lab at UW-Madison’s Washburn Observatory: “I found it interesting that it [the telescope] is a half inch bigger than the telescope at Harvard.” “I think that we were really fortunate to see the red spot [on Jupiter].” “It was better than looking in a book.” Sanjay Limaye and Rose Pertzborn facilitated the children’s telescope experience on October 16.