Capital Weather Gang: Tracton

Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 02/14/2013

Earth to narrowly escape collision with asteroid 150 feet wide Friday

Early Friday afternoon, planet Earth will be buzzed by an asteroid some 150 feet wide, identified as 2012 DA14, as it intersects Earth’s orbit just 17,500 miles above our heads.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:27 AM ET, 02/14/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Astronomy, Latest, Space, Tracton

Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 12/11/2012

Newly discovered small asteroid just misses Earth; next up is much bigger 12/12/12 asteroid

As if 12/12/12 wasn’t curious enough of a date already with the whole Mayan-doomsday-but-not-really thing, there’s also the dicey issue of tomorrow’s relatively close encounter with the huge (nearly three miles long) 4179 Toutatis asteroid, expected to pass within 4 million miles of Earth. As the author of this story puts it, “On the scale of the cosmos, that is a very close shave.”

By Steve Tracton  |  11:30 AM ET, 12/11/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Astronomy, Latest, Space, Tracton

Posted at 02:04 PM ET, 09/13/2012

Close asteroid encounter tonight exposes potential hazard

A newly discovered asteroid - called 2012 QG42 - approaching the Earth will reach its minimum distance from our planet tonight (Sept. 13-14). However, be assured there is no reason to panic, at least this time.

By Steve Tracton  |  02:04 PM ET, 09/13/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Astronomy, Space, Latest, Tracton

Posted at 11:51 AM ET, 08/17/2012

The U.S. Navy FLIP: a radical ship for ocean-atmosphere research

Imagine while cruising on a friend’s yacht somewhere in the eastern Pacific you catch sight of what appears to be the sinking of a large ship: the bow (front) begins to rise above the waves and stern (back) starts to sink below. Just 30 or so minutes later you are astonished to see the bow section standing vertical some 5-stories above the sea surface and not sinking any further.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:51 AM ET, 08/17/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Science, Tracton

Posted at 01:16 PM ET, 07/11/2012

Are we ready yet for potentially disastrous impacts of space weather?

What if the sun triggered a geomagnetic storm of historic proportions? Would we be ready?

By Steve Tracton  |  01:16 PM ET, 07/11/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Space, Tracton

Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 04/20/2012

Lyrid meteor shower and Saturn’s rings to light up night sky this weekend

Sky watchers are in for a rare treat this weekend. Sky conditions permitting, the annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks with the best observing between midnight and dawn Saturday night/Sunday morning. But that’s not all, celestially speaking. Saturn’s rings will also be at an optimal angle for viewing.

By Steve Tracton  |  10:45 AM ET, 04/20/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Astronomy, Latest, Tracton

Posted at 12:07 PM ET, 03/09/2012

Solar storm peaks at strong level; why forecasting space weather is difficult

After the sun hurled out the biggest solar flare in five years, media were abuzz, sometimes hyperbolically, about the prospective solar storm threat. Then, when a mere “minor” storm arrived Thursday with minimal impact, headlines pronounced the storm a fizzler. But, just as it was presumed dead, geomagnetic storming surged early Friday, and a strong solar storm is presently underway. The twists and turns of this recent solar event illuminate the challenges in forecasting and reporting solar activity.

By Steve Tracton and Jason Samenow  |  12:07 PM ET, 03/09/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Astronomy, Space, Science, Tracton

Posted at 10:07 AM ET, 02/17/2012

Accurately measuring snow: a critical winter weather challenge

Let’s assume there will be measurable snow on the ground by Monday morning. How do we most reliably figure out “how much?”. The answer to the question is not as straight forward as one might think.

By Steve Tracton  |  10:07 AM ET, 02/17/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Winter Storms, Science, Tracton

Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 02/07/2012

Bicentennial of the New Madrid earthquake sequence: Can it happen again?

This winter is the bicentennial (200th) anniversary of the New Madrid, Missouri earthquakes, a series of the most powerful earthquakes to strike the eastern U.S. in recorded history.

By Steve Tracton  |  10:58 AM ET, 02/07/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Environment, Tracton

Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 01/24/2012

Yes, someone has written a book about the history of snowmen. And it’s pretty interesting.

To some snow evokes hazardous road conditions, school closings and schedule changes. But for kids and kids at heart (not to mention uninhibited snow lovers) snow is the raw ingredient for a favorite winter activity: making snowmen. I’ll bet, however, that most of you have never stopped and wondered about the history of snowmen, or even knew there was a history worth knowing about. Certainly not me, until I recently came upon a positively marvelous and entertaining book, The History of the Snowman, by historian, humorist and cartoonist Bob Eckstein.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:15 AM ET, 01/24/2012 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Tracton

Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 09/13/2011

Play UK Met Office weather game and contribute to science of communicating uncertainty in forecasting

The United Kingdom (UK) Met Office has launched an online weather game to assess the most effective and useful presentations to communicate information to the public on the inevitable uncertainties in weather predictions. Players of the game will help a fictitious ice cream man, Brad, run his business – and maximize his profit - by deciding where and when to sell his ice cream treats. These decisions will depend on players’ interpretation of weather forecasts with varying levels of uncertainty (confidence) expressed in differing frameworks using probabilities.

By Steve Tracton  |  06:00 PM ET, 09/13/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Education, Tracton, Latest

Posted at 08:05 PM ET, 08/26/2011

The latest on Irene and its uncertain forecasts

Category 2 Hurricane Irene continues making progress to the north/northeast at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds remain around 100 mph and very little has changed with the storm since earlier today - it hasn’t strengthened, but it’s a very large storm with tropical storm-force winds out to 90 miles from its center. Now, let’s address why the uncertainty in Irene forecasts over the past few days?

By Steve Tracton and Dan Stillman  |  08:05 PM ET, 08/26/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Tropical Weather, Tracton

Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Perseid meteor showers peak late week; best viewing probably late tonight

There are very few instances beyond a day or two, especially during summer, that one can predict showers with complete certainty. This week is just such a case, except the showers are not rain, but the annual appearance of the Perseid meteor shower. This year, the issue is if and when the meteors will be visible. And it turns out, they may be most visible very late tonight.

By Steve Tracton  |  12:00 PM ET, 08/09/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Astronomy, Space, Tracton

Posted at 02:45 PM ET, 07/22/2011

Rare snowfall on Earth’s driest desert in Chile

As much of the U.S. suffers through oppressive and dangerous heat and humidity, many regions in Australia and South America have experienced near or actual record cold and snow (it’s winter there). Most unusual was the wintry blast earlier in July which dumped 31.5 inches of snow, the heaviest snowfall in almost two decades, on the Atacama Desert region along the Pacific coast of Chile.

By Steve Tracton  |  02:45 PM ET, 07/22/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  International Weather, Tracton, Latest

Posted at 12:40 PM ET, 07/22/2011

Heat wave and hot weather humor

The continuing heat wave, now toasting the East Coast, motivated me to open the pages of my notebook of hot weather humor. Perhaps a little levity will help you make it through the oppressive heat/humidity/haze (“triple H”) conditions. In that spirit, I submit some of my favorite hot weather jokes and humor. Please feel free to provide additional jokes, stories or videos in comments.

By Steve Tracton  |  12:40 PM ET, 07/22/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Humor, Latest, Tracton

Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 07/15/2011

Does cloudiness affect baseball game outcomes?

In the study of more than 35,000 major league baseball games, eleven performance measures from batting, pitching, and fielding were related statistically to varying levels of cloud cover. More specifically, the study evaluated whether the collective differences in offensive production, pitching, and fielding led to changes in “home field advantage”. A principal finding: cloudy skies benefit the batter while clear skies benefit the pitcher.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:15 AM ET, 07/15/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Latest, Science

Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 06/27/2011

Asteroid to barely miss contact with Earth

A newly discovered asteroid estimated between 30 feet in size and named “2011 MD” will pass by the Earth over the south Atlantic around 1 p.m. EDT today missing a direct hit by only 7500 miles. In the vastness of space of the inner the solar system, this is considered a really close call – less than about 3% of the distance between Earth and the moon and visible even with a small telescope. An even closer encounter occurred earlier this year when another small asteroid missed the earth by just 3400 miles.

By Steve Tracton  |  10:45 AM ET, 06/27/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Astronomy, Space, Latest, Tracton

Posted at 01:30 PM ET, 06/21/2011

Understanding space weather forecasts and the risk of solar storms

I recently reviewed the background and nature of the threats of space weather. I concluded that major solar storms have the potential to: 1) occur with limited advanced warning, 2) strike with insufficient means to protect vital earth and satellite based systems, 3) be disastrous to technology dependent societies and 4) leave in their wake totally inadequate resources and capabilities to recover for a periods ranging from weeks to years – at a cost of trillions of dollars. In light of the severity of threat, understanding the basics of solar weather phenomena becomes important. Such basic information is the focus of this post, the second part in my three-part series. It should help you understand the nature of the threat if and when it becomes real. Although a solar strike may not happen tomorrow, it is clearly in the realm of possibilities anytime over the next few years.

By Steve Tracton  |  01:30 PM ET, 06/21/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Astronomy, Tracton, Latest, Space

Posted at 02:04 PM ET, 06/10/2011

CNN interview on weather modification & tornadoes: the rest of the story

Just after the devastating Joplin tornado outbreak two weeks ago, I was asked and agreed to do an interview for CNN addressing the seemingly timeless question: Can we do anything to control these devastating demonstrations of Mother Nature’s fury, especially of course, when pitted against the people and infrastructure that dares to get in their way? The interview was motivated by my recent post, Killing killer tornadoes before they strike: Is it possible? What I found most interesting from this experience was less from what was aired than what was not.

By Steve Tracton  |  02:04 PM ET, 06/10/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Latest, Tracton, Thunderstorms, Media, Capital Weather Gang, U.S. Weather

Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 06/07/2011

Video: Huge explosion on sun - what does it mean?

The sun unleashed a massive solar storm today in a spectacular eruption that some have called the most impressive yet observed by the NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. The video shown below is dramatic.

By Steve Tracton and Jason Samenow  |  05:00 PM ET, 06/07/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Latest, Astronomy

Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 05/17/2011

Rare, complex flow pattern behind weird weather

Unless you’ve been trapped in the depths of a DC Metro underground station by inoperative escalators and elevators, you know the several contiguous days last week of positively delightful spring weather has been replaced over the weekend by less than totally pleasant conditions expected most of this week. In his post last week Jason asked “what’s the cause of this lovely stretch of San Diego-like weather in Washington, D.C.?” He answered “we can thank an atmospheric pattern known as an omega block”. The question now is what’s the cause of the prolonged stretch of less than perfect (icky, lousy, unsettled, crappy, etc.) conditions this week? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is the same: an omega block. How can that be?

By Steve Tracton  |  11:20 AM ET, 05/17/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Latest, Education, Science

Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 05/12/2011

On Saturn’s moon Titan, spring rains but no spring flowers

At last, spring has sprung. Heavy, persistent rains have arrived sometimes overflowing riverbeds and gullies. River and lake ice have thawed. Tropical weather systems are migrating north. And at northern latitudes, average temperatures have finally risen above the freezing point of -297 degrees F. 297 degres F below zero? Did you catch that? There is no error. I’m not talking about freezing/melting point of water, but rather methane. And the coming of spring is occurring not on Earth but on Titan, the largest moon of the planet Saturn.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:15 AM ET, 05/12/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Science, Latest, Space

Posted at 11:42 AM ET, 05/06/2011

Killing killer tornadoes before they strike: Is it possible?

With the number of destructive and killer tornadoes this year already reaching historic levels thoughts often dwell to the question whether we can subdue the beast through varying approaches for weather control. The same occurred the same occurred following the exceptional onslaught of disastrous hurricanes, including Katrina that struck the U.S. in 2005. In following years a number of proposals emerged (or reemerged) for subduing the threat of hurricanes by reducing their strength and/or steering them away from where they would do the most harm. Aside from extreme events, weather modification has been a subject of considerable interest, for example in regard to rain making to alleviate droughts, keeping rain off the Beijing Olympics and snow outside the Moscow city limits. None of these efforts have been convincingly demonstrated to be effective and probably never will (personal opinion). So what do we know about the much more difficult problem of the subduing tornadoes?

By Steve Tracton  |  11:42 AM ET, 05/06/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Thunderstorms, Latest

Posted at 01:00 PM ET, 03/23/2011

It’s World Meteorological Day

Wednesday, March 23, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), its 189 National Meteorological and Hydrological Services Members, and the worldwide meteorological community at large, celebrate WMO Day. Each year the celebration centers around a selected theme. This year’s theme is the “Climate for you”

By Steve Tracton  |  01:00 PM ET, 03/23/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Government, International Weather

Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/14/2011

Could a tsunami strike the U.S. East Coast?

As we recall the December 2004 tsunami that wreaked death and destruction in Indonesia and watch in horror the current coverage of the disastrous tsunami in Japan, a reasonable question is: Could a tsunami strike the East Coast, including one significantly impacting the Washington D.C. area? The short answer is YES, though with much lower probability and generally not as catastrophic as a tsunami hitting the West Coast.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:00 AM ET, 03/14/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Latest, Tracton

Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 03/09/2011

Space weather: Are we ready for a solar strike?

Almost two years ago I asked the question, “Do Solar Storms Threaten Life as We Know it?” The answer then and even more so now could very well be a scary “yes” - even within the next few years - as an increase in solar activity coincides with the increasing vulnerability of technology-dependent societies to a powerful solar storm. Moreover, should there be a solar strike capable of causing widespread blackouts and crippling disruptions of satellilte and radio communications, it’s likely there would be little advance notice, and currently there is virtually no capability to shield much of the planet and virtually no planning on the books to recover from the potentially disastrous consequences.

By Steve Tracton  |  12:45 PM ET, 03/09/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Technology, Latest, Tracton

Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 07/13/2010

Ball lightning: real or fantasy?

Imagine -- or perhaps you've experienced something like this for real -- you've taken shelter at a picnic table under cover with thunderstorms roaring nearby. All of a sudden you notice a ball of light appear out of nowhere floating toward you. As the ball enters the shelter, you're amazed to hear it sizzling like a burning branch but feel no heat. It appears to float undisturbed through and then out the shelter where it bounces across the ground before disappearing. You scratch your head and wonder -- was this an illusion, a natural phenomenon, or perhaps a probe from an alien mother ship circling the Earth? If you are an oldies-but-goodies fan (or just an oldie like myself), maybe your first thought is the refrain from Jerry Lee Lewis's 1957 hit song, Great Balls of Fire: "I say goodness gracious great balls of fire...oooeee, oooee". What you might have witnessed is ball lightning, a luminous orange or reddish spherically shaped object, which averages about 6 to 20 inches in diameter and lasts a few seconds to a few minutes before disappearing (much longer than a split-second lightning bolt).

By Steve Tracton  |  11:00 AM ET, 07/13/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton

Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 06/24/2010

Beyond the BP spill, a case of chronic oil pollution

There's no question that BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unmitigated disaster of yet unknown societal and economic proportions, not to mention the possibly irreparable damage to coastal and marine ecosystems. According to government estimates, as of yesterday anywhere from 39 million to 111 million gallons of crude oil has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico (that excludes captured oil). Most officials lean toward the higher totals while noting up to 2.5 million gallons more continue to spill each day -- that's an Exxon Valdez spill (nearly 11 million gallons total) about every four days. Yet, while this oil spill and others before it have dominated the news, according to a 2003 National Research Council (NRC) report, at least 375 million gallons of oil end up in the world's oceans virtually unnoticed every year from natural sources and from human activities associated with the extraction, transportation and use of oil.

By Steve Tracton  |  11:00 AM ET, 06/24/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton

Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/26/2010

World's Longest Toilet Queue

* Cool weekend coming: Full Forecast | Radar & more: Weather Wall * Now that I have your attention with the headline... Monday was the 18th annual World Water Day (WWD), a day designated by the United Nations to focus attention on the importance of sustainable management of freshwater resources....

By Steve Tracton  |  11:00 AM ET, 03/26/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Tracton

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/24/2009

Memories of the Moon Landing & Weather Folklore

* More Storms? Full Forecast | NatCast | Later: NASA Tweetup * An exhibit at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. By CWG photographer Ian Livingston. This week marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first landing of men on...

By Steve Tracton  |  10:30 AM ET, 07/24/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/15/2009

Can Wind Farms Change the Weather?

* Summer Tries to Sizzle: Full Forecast | TWC's New Morning Show * Courtesy Large-scale wind farms, consisting of hundreds to thousands of wind turbines spread over large areas for generating electricity, are likely to play an increasingly important role in providing a climate-friendly source of energy. Unlike power...

By Steve Tracton  |  10:30 AM ET, 07/15/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Tracton

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 06/25/2009

What's In a Car's Name? Sometimes Weather

* Full Forecast | NatCast | Lightning Safety | How Many 90° Days? * Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Cirrus...Hurricane...Storm...Cloud. What do these words have in common? Sure, they're all weather terms. But what else? Automobile buffs, which I am not, will recognize these as the names of current or past car...

By Steve Tracton  |  10:30 AM ET, 06/25/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton

Posted at 01:15 PM ET, 06/18/2009

The Sureness of Global Warming Skeptics

* New (6/25/09): Heartland Responds to Climate Commentary * * Related Story: Think Tank Reverses Course on Climate Lobbying * Global Warming: Was it ever really a crisis? So read the banner hanging in front of the 250 or so, including myself, attending the Third International Conference on Climate Change....

By Steve Tracton  |  01:15 PM ET, 06/18/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton

Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 05/01/2009

Weather Trivia: Think Trillions, Not Billions

* Full Forecast: T-Storms Today? | NatCast | Capitol Sunrise Photos * "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money," the late Senator Everett Dirksen is supposed to have said in the early 1960s. That was then. Now, in the context of today's federal budget,...

By Steve Tracton  |  10:45 AM ET, 05/01/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton

Posted at 12:55 PM ET, 02/19/2009

Snow With Sunshine: The Explanation

* Snow With Sun: The Pictures | Full Forecast Through Weekend * In his post earlier today, CWG photographer Kevin Ambrose displays neat photographs of the sunrise on Feb. 16 (Presidents' Day) that show snow falling from a blue sky above -- the third time this winter Kevin has observed...

By Steve Tracton  |  12:55 PM ET, 02/19/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton

Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 02/12/2009

In Darwin's Shadow: The Inventor of Forecasting

* Wind Warnings & Advisories in Effect: Full Forecast | Power Outages * Today, Feb. 12th, marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. Some 22 years later, in 1831, Darwin began his five-year voyage of discovery aboard the British Royal Navy's HMS Beagle. The young Darwin was serving as the...

By Steve Tracton  |  11:15 AM ET, 02/12/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Tracton

Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 01/01/2009

I Resolve To...

* Express & Detailed Forecast | Submit Your Inauguration Forecast * This is the time for making New Year's resolutions. Despite good intentions, most resolutions are likely forgotten or ignored by the time folks remember to write 2009 rather than 2008 on their checks (me included!). Nevertheless, here goes with...

By Steve Tracton  |  12:00 PM ET, 01/01/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton

Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 12/15/2008

Snow Jokes

The recent post by Ann Posegate, Winter Weather Joke, inspired me to review my collection of winter-related jokes accumulated from various sources over the years. As a snow lover frequently crushed by the rainy realities of winter weather in the D.C. metro region, good jokes are often the only means...

By Steve Tracton  |  12:45 PM ET, 12/15/2008 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Tracton, Tracton