January, 2012

NOAA launches USS Monitor 150th anniversary website

January 31st, 2012 at 8:40 pm by under Weather

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries today launched a new website highlighting the 150-year history of the USS Monitor on the anniversary of the ship’s launch.

The website http://monitor.noaa.gov/150th, takes viewers from the iconic warship’s construction through its recovery to recent science expeditions undertaken to protect its legacy. The website, also offers students, teachers and history enthusiasts a variety of education materials and a calendar of upcoming events celebrating the Monitor.

“This is a momentous year for an influential piece of American history,” said David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. “While today marks the 150th anniversary of the launching of the USS Monitor, we will continue to mark important dates throughout the year, including the Battle of Hampton Roads and the sinking of the USS Monitor, through special public events.”

Designed by Swedish-born engineer and inventor John Ericsson, the USS Monitor was a Civil War-era Union ironclad warship that revolutionized naval warfare with innovations such as its low profile, iron armored deck, and rotating gun turret. The Monitor is best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia off Hampton Roads, Va., on March 9, 1862. Their battle marked the first time iron ships clashed in naval warfare and signaled the end of the era of wooden warships.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the ship’s launch. The ship eventually sank later that year, on December 31.

USS Monitor's turret.
The USS Monitor’s turret rises to the surface in 2002 after spending 140 years on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The turret was raised from a depth of 230 feet, 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C.

High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

In addition to highlighting the Monitor’s innovations, the website profiles some of the people associated with it, including Ericsson, the captain and crew. The 1974 discovery of the Monitor is featured along with the recovery of the vessel’s turret and ongoing conservation of Monitor artifacts.

“The artifacts that are currently undergoing restoration continue to tell new stories,” Alberg said. “We are discovering new facts about her crew, and we regularly collect contemporary data on the remains of the shipwreck itself. The new website really captures the past, present, and future of the USS Monitor.”

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary also is celebrating its 37th anniversary today. On Jan. 30, 1975, the site of the USS Monitor shipwreck was designated as the Nation’s first national marine sanctuary. Creation of the sanctuary, located 16 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., has helped ensure the long-term protection of the wreck site of the famed Civil War ironclad for all generations.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


Horns still have tourney hope

January 31st, 2012 at 9:51 am by under Sports

First off, this is all assuming Texas doesn’t win the Big 12 tournament. I still feel the Horns can make the NCAA tournament despite a 3-6 record in conference play and no real quality wins on the road unless UCLA at 12-9 gets it going to make UT’s December win in LA (not at Pauley Pavillion which is getting a face lift). Texas has to get 9 wins in conference and probably 10. That means the must wins begin Saturday with Tech at home and then probably at A&M next Monday. The margin of error is so small but they could probably absorb another home loss, to Baylor, but will have to get at least three road wins. Sounds like a long shot but considering they did lead late at Baylor Saturday and in their home loss to Kansas, not out of the question.

We take a hoops break for National Signing Day on Wednesday. Texas has 27 commits and are holding hope that WR Dorial Green-Beckham will shock the recruiting world and pick Texas over Missouri and Arkansas. Mack Brown said he would rather finish out of the running than 2nd when it comes to out of state recruits, this looks like one where he will finish in the dreaded 2nd spot. We’ll have plenty of co rage on KXAN news throughout the day, but with limited time and so much to get to, check out KXAN.com throughout the day.

NOAA satellites aid rescues

January 31st, 2012 at 8:40 am by under Weather

From NOAA:

SARSAT System Overview. (Credit: NOAA)

In 2011, NOAA satellites were critical in the rescues of 207 people from life-threatening situations throughout the United States and its surrounding waters. The satellites picked up distress signals from emergency beacons carried by downed pilots, shipwrecked boaters and stranded hikers, and relayed the information about their location to first responders on the ground.

NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System, called COSPAS-SARSAT. This system uses a network of satellites to quickly detect and locate distress signals from emergency beacons onboard aircraft and boats, and from smaller, handheld personal locator beacons called PLBs.


SKYWARN spotter training Sat. Feb. 18th

January 30th, 2012 at 9:43 pm by under Weather


22nd Annual
  Lou Withrow SKYWARN
  Austin / South Central Texas
  Severe Weather Spotter Training Session

   UT Pickle Research Campus – North Austin
    (Enter through Burnet Road Entrance)
    The Commons Building – Big Tex Auditorium
   8:15 am to 4:15 pm / Saturday, 18 February 2012 (more…)

“Its Googly, just Googly”

January 30th, 2012 at 3:38 pm by under Photo/Video

A couple of weeks ago, KXAN reporter Doug Shupe and I had the privilege of touring the Google offices in North Austin. I must say that the thought of applying to work at this office, crossed my mind more then once during our tour. Take a look at our story from a couple of weeks ago, and you be the judge. Are you feeling “Googly?

What’s the best place to work?: kxan.com

Summary of last week’s severe weather

January 30th, 2012 at 11:22 am by under Weather

From the NWS:

January 24-25, 2012 Severe Storms and Flood Event

A severe storm and flood event, more typical for early spring, occurred from midday on January 24 until midday on January 25, 2012. There were three confirmed tornadoes, widespread minor wind damage (especially east of the I-35 corridor, more than a dozen hail reports (up to golf ball in size), and widespread 2-5 inches of rain east of U.S. 281, including a bull’s-eye of 5-10 inches of rain over eastern Hays, Caldwell and Bastrop counties, resulting in major flooding along a number of creeks and rivers.

The primary ingredients producing the event included an upper level trough that moved from northern Mexico across Texas. Meanwhile, a cold front that had moved into South Texas on Monday stalled and began moving back north as a warm front, which allowed moist Gulf air (dew points in the 60s) to return across the area. The general lifting of air from the approaching trough and increasing instability of cool, dry air aloft over warm, moist air near the ground was enough for thunderstorms to develop. Moderate to strong wind shear then increased the severity of the storms and brought the potential for hail, damaging straight-line winds, and tornadoes. A few severe storms developed Tuesday afternoon and produced hail over portions of the Austin Metro area. The more significant storms with damaging winds and tornadoes were part of a Mesoscale Convective System (MCS), and swept across the entire area, mainly from 10 pm to 8 am.


January recap – La Nina(ish)

January 29th, 2012 at 10:08 pm by under Weather

As the first month of 2012 comes to a close, things are looking up.  We were looking for a typical La Nina winter month of warmer than normal and drier than normal weather.   Well, we were 1 for 2 on that forecast and in the good way.    Short of us having afternoon highs of 14 and lows of -10 the next 2 days,  we are a lock for an above normal finish for temps this month.  Better news is we have finished well above normal for rainfall this month, the 2nd month in a row we have done that.   Taking a look back at the climate data from this past month, it has been a wild January.  At Camp Mabry, we have seen temps hit a high of 80 back on the 19th, and a low of 31 on the mornings of the 3rd and the 14th.  ABIA saw a high temp of 77 back on the 19th and a low temp of 22 on the 14th.  The rainfall totals were quite impressive in a month that normally sees just a little more than 2″ of rain on average.  At Mabry we will finish the month about 2 1/4″ above normal (give or take with light sprinkles in the forecast for Tuesday).   What is crazy about our 4.46″ total is that it fell on 4 days, our lowest total was only 1/20″ of rain, followed by totals of 0.4″, 0.87″, and 3.14″.   The last was a daily rainfall record at Mabry.   Of those 4 rainfall events 3 of them were thunderstorms and 1 of those events even included hail (1/24).   As impressive as those stats were, at ABIA we had an even better month in the rain gauge.  So far the total rainfall is at 6.44″ and that total was from 4 days of rainfall, with one of those four only producing a rainfall total of 0.01″.  The other three days produced 0.15″, 0.62″, and 5.66″.   The last was a rainfall record for the day, the month, the winter season, and the heaviest rainfall recorded to fall in any of the first four months of the year at ABIA.  There were thunderstorms reported on 2 of the rainfall days.   With the rain/storm event on the 25th we even had some wind damage and a small EF-1 tornado that went through the area.

As a whole though, the month was pretty tame weather-wise.  We saw only 4 recorded cloudy days so far at both Mabry and ABIA.  By contrast, 17 clear days were reported at Mabry and 9 out at ABIA.   Just for note: the Climate Prediction Center’s one month outlook for the month of February has us with warmer than normal and drier than normal month, just like December and January’s forecasts.

Wind Chill Forecasts

January 28th, 2012 at 9:14 pm by under Weather

This morning we had a very good example of what the wind can do on a chilly day.  This morning low temps fell to the mid 40s in Austin, but when you factor in the 15 mph wind, the Wind Chill value fell to about 38.  By contrast Sunday morning we will have temperatures in the upper 30s with little to no wind, so Wind Chill values will be in the upper 30s too.   If you ask me, I will always take the colder air with no wind.  I have experienced Wind Chill’s in the -40 range before, although back then it was in the -50′s.   I know, I sound like your grandparents telling the story about walking both ways to school in snow, uphill and so on.   I am not making my story sound worse than it was though, the Wind Chill formula has changed about 10 years ago.   There was some exaggeration in the way the old Wind Chill formula worked out.  It did not properly take into account the way the wind and temperature affected human skin.  In fact it was more of a formula based on the thermodynamic properties of water in a jar.   The new Wind Chill formula takes into account wind speed at 5 feet above the ground (the average height of a human face).  It also takes into effect the physical properties of a human face, and how our bodies lose heat during cold weather.   There are some things that are assumed in the formula, like that you are dressed properly.  Clearly, if you were in swimming trunks at 20 below zero, your heat transfer would be rapidly accelerated.  Also, most people wouldn’t go outside in soaking wet clothes when its cold out.  The formula doesn’t count sunlight as having an effect.   Below is the National Weather Service Wind Chill Chart.  Another thing that this new chart shows now is a color coating system to estimate the amount of exposure time needed on bare skin to get frostbite.

If you are one of those that doesn’t quite believe in Wind Chills, think of this.   If you have ever been outside at a restaurant or other setting that has the outdoor heaters, on cool/cold evenings, its pretty tolerable if there no wind, right?   Well that’s because the heaters are transferring heat to the colder air, and since the air isn’t moving it stays warmer in the area close to the heater.  When it’s windy however, it seems like those heaters aren’t working, because they give off so much heat, and the wind just quickly blows it away.   Our bodies work the same way, creating heat, and giving it off to the colder air around us.  If there is lots of wind, it will just keep bringing fresh cold air close to our bodies to constantly heat up.    Remember on cold days to dress in layers, and keep your toes, hands, face and top of your head warm and covered!

Cooler, more January-like weekend in store.

January 27th, 2012 at 10:03 pm by under Weather

After a week full of afternoons with temps at or above normal, a early morning cold front on Saturday will bring a chilly afternoon.   So far this month we have see 44% of our afternoons with highs at 70 or above, even an 80 degree day has shown up already.   77% of our afternoons have had high temps that are at or above normal so far.   So when we talk about the colder weekend coming up, we are sort of due.   The front tonight into tomorrow morning will especially have a bite because of the wind.  Morning lows tomorrow will feel 6-9 degrees colder because of a north wind that will be at 10-20mph with gusts possibly into the 30mph range.   High pressure will settle back into our area Saturday night and this will relax our winds and set us up for a cold night.  Temps will be a few degrees above freezing in the city, and below freezing in the Hill Country.   For the 3M Half Marathon and Relay Race on Sunday morning, its going to be a cold run, with temps generally in the 30s for the first couple of hours of the run.  Afternoon highs on Sunday will get back near normal at 62 in the afternoon with mostly sunny skies.


3M Half Marathon and Relay Forecast

January 26th, 2012 at 4:07 pm by under Weather

I’m really excited about this year’s 3M Half Marathon & Relay because the proceeds are benefiting one of my favorite local non-profit organizations, Communities in Schools.

For you runners, it looks like a pretty cold start Sunday morning, with race time temperatures as cold as 34-37 degrees, then temperatures will rise through the 40s over the next several hours, eventually to 55 degrees by noon. Winds should be very light, from the north, under partly cloudy skies.  Good luck!

Communities In Schools of Central Texas will receive a guaranteed $30‚000 from the 3M Foundation in conjunction with the event. Communities In Schools provides campus-based programs and special projects via a network of professional staff counselors‚ volunteers‚ social service organizations‚ businesses and community resources to empower students to stay in school and achieve in life.