People often ask me where to find good information on various topics. Here are some thoughts on various sources of “news”, and a bit about how I assimilate and interpret them. Be aware that a couple of these sources are blocked by the social media watchdogs so you won’t find some links here – you’ll have to type them in. Note that citing a source or reading it is NOT endorsement or belief – in fact, a few of these are outright propaganda outlets (Xinhau as an example). In other cases, they may express views that are somewhat repugnant but are important to understand what the people who sponsor those sites are thinking, or to be able to have discussions with people who get their information from them so as to be able to discuss events with them and perhaps persuade them to reconsider their views.
For hurricane and earthquake hazard information it’s easy and not controversial: the US National Weather Service is the place to go. Few news/weather sources do their own global numerical weather modeling; the rest just regurgitate, interpret (sometimes badly), and dramatize NWS and other national and regional meteorological center data (like the European Center). So if you want solid, drama free forecasts, just go to the source – you already paid for it with your taxes anyway! For earthquakes, the US Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program is the ultimate source.
On the pandemic, it gets a bit trickier. Most of the sources are pushing an agenda and/or cheerleading (even if it’s an agenda that I agree with and is mostly “good”, I’m nervous that it’s sometimes driven a lot by politics), and the reliable neutral information is often technical and requires a lot of specialized knowledge, changes rapidly, and is occasionally contradictory. The best bets are the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). You won’t go much wrong following their guidance (THEIR guidance, not what some talking head tells you their guidance is!). I also check in on what the European Medicines Agency, National Health Service (NHS, the UK health system), and the German medical authorities are saying to see what their treatment guidelines are, and how/why they differ from US guidelines.
For other news topics, sadly, most of the time my answer to “what’s the best source of news” is “there isn’t one.” Almost every source has biases, distortions, and these days outright lies of both omission and comission. That situation has changed for the worse over the last 20 years and the balance has shifted from “biased within the limits of the facts” to “pushing a specific narrative with little regard for the facts.” However, as Garek, a character from Star Trek DS-9 would say: Knowledge is knowing someone is lying to you. Wisdom is knowing the truth in the lies.
Since absolutely no-one has asked, here is a sample of what I listen to while working. I hope you find it an interesting mix … A lot of recent listening has been to metal bands from northern Europe. As an intro, hard to go wrong with Nightwish, Amorphis, Delain, or Within Temptation. Nightwish has had three lead singers – fans get in to flame wars over who is best, but each is good in their own way and worthy to listen to (even there is no doubt as to who is best, as this live clip proves 😛 … be sure to hang in there for the finale at the 9 minute mark):
After Forever, Floor Jansen’s previous group, disbanded but it has some great songs out there – “Equally Destructive” is a go to song for climate change, and “Discord” is just a great song. Look for other songs she’s done with various groups or solo – amazing vocalist and range.
I suspect that my two current second-most favorites (favorite is below the fold) are Amorphis and Sabaton. Amorphis has a variety of songs ranging from very heavy growls to near ballads. Here’s something in the middle …
Some people who don’t know any better think the Swedish metal band “Sabaton” glorify war. They’ve obviously never actually listened to most of the lyrics – even the songs that emphasize the heroic aspects of the military and war have an underlying message of “WTF was this really for?” that anyone who has lived that life will recognize. In any event, the song “En Livstid i Krig” (a Lifetime of War) is unmistakable. Here it is in Swedish …
What can be said about the events of the last week that hasn’t been said? A lot, actually, since most of what has been said on social and corporate media is either bullcrap or out of context, but I don’t think anybody wants to hear it. Not that I’ll let that stop me 😛
I’m starting to worry it’s too late, and the Russian commentator Vladimir Solovyov is right: “American is finished. Everyone knows this.” But on the off chance it isn’t, here are a few thoughts, because where this ends may be seen in places like Sarajevo …
Or Beirut …
Think that is being overly dramatic? A significant part of what I study how societies, organizations, governments, respond to disasters – often of their own making. And this society seems to be unraveling. And it shouldn’t be.
We need to keep perspective. The protest in the US Capital last week was barely even a halfway decent riot. Seriously, folks, get a grip: do a Google search for “national championship riot” and you’ll find scenes and reports of mayhem in support of a winning (or losing) sports team that are far in excess of the meager efforts of the MAGA crowd. Heck, the MAGA folks didn’t mange to overturn or burn even one cop car! As far as disrupting Congressional proceedings, again, that’s not terribly unusual, and people have even set off bombs inside the capital. That’s not to say there weren’t disturbing aspects – the collapse of security for one thing, and the President and others egging them on, but let’s not blow it out of proportion.
Which brings me to my first point: don’t give these half-assed amateurs who caused the damage more credit than they deserve; they should be ridiculed, not feared. Yet if you watch CNN, as one odious example, or read Facebook (which I have pretty much stopped doing), you will be bombarded by phrases like “insurrection” or “coup.” Well, I’ve seen a few insurrections and coup d’etats, and this isn’t anywhere near that, any more than the somewhat better organized and implemented BLM riots of last year were (and were called insurrections and worse in the right wing bubble). What we have in both cases are groups of people with legitimate concerns (such as Law Enforcement misconduct on the part of BLM, election integrity on the part of MAGA) are being exploited by a broken political system to deflect attention from their own failures and the real underlying problem that afflicts both BLM and MAGA: economic disparities and corruption. And don’t delude yourself: Democrat politicians have been exploiting the BLM destruction and violence (by excusing it) just as surely as they are by denouncing the MAGA efforts (by exaggerating it). Likewise, those Republicans who jumped on the MAGA and wagon have been playing with fire by doing the opposite, encouraging MAGA while demonizing BLM/Antifa. Both exaggerate the radical elements of the movements they dislike, and cover up or excuse those they want to manipulate, to try to get their respective agendas rail-roaded though because they can’t stand the light of a reasonable debate.
And before somebody screams “false equivalence”, sorry to burst the bubbles on both sides, but these two movements are EXACTLY equivalent in many respects: people with legitimate concerns that could and should be addressed within the normal political process are being encouraged by opportunistic elements to distrust the system and go outside the process to use disruptive, even violent protests to apply pressure to the system. Again, that is playing with fire.
I’ve tried to have conversations with acquaintances (I can’t call them friends any more) on both “sides” of this increasingly stark, largely reality free (IMNSHO of course) divide. Both sides have reached the stage where to even try to understand the other is seen an act of treason and betrayal, and the radical elements are now controlling the conversation, placing what should be a reasoned discussion of the complex but solvable problems facing this country into the starkest, most confrontational concerns possible. A similar situation arose before the “War of the Rebellion,” aka US Civil War. Both the “fire eaters” of the south and the radical abolitionists of the north wanted redemption by blood. The “other” is beyond redemption, and must be destroyed. And once it becomes a “religious” (ideological) war, reason no longer plays in to it. That is unbelievably dangerous, and has to stop. The “sides” need to communicate, understand, cooperate and compromise.
But what about tRump? Ignore him and he will go away in less than two weeks. Yes, he might continue to try to incite his more radical supporters, but the best way to deal with that is to not give them any more credit than they deserve, which is very little. By keeping the radicals fired up and making them seem important, you’re painting those who could quietly deal with Trump into a corner. It’s not likely that a lame-duck can do substantial, long term damage. The institutions are mostly in place to mitigate that. And both sides then need to do a gut check and minimize the demagogues – of which both have way too many. The media has a role here: don’t give the extremists credit, and seriously, objectively fact check everyone. “Advocacy journalism” – which is by far the dominant mode in the US – is probably the most toxic thing that can be done in this environment.
So tune down the rhetoric. Objectively listen to what your side is saying, and imagine how it sounds to the “other.” Recognize the “other” has legitimate concerns and more than likely just wants many of the same things you do, and even when it seems they don’t, often there are compromises that can be made. Be on guard for the fact that opportunistic politicians and media corporations/personalities are trying to exploit you, and are artificially ramping up the temperature of the debate. Realize there are a few individuals/groups who are just looking for any excuse for mayhem. They want to burn the existing system down. That almost never ends well. Don’t let them.
TLDR: everybody calm down and eat some fruit. I don’t have time for this political stuff. Now that I don’t have as many restrictions on my public activities, I’ve got some neat new projects (like with UNICEF and the African Risk Capacity), and am trying to roll out some cool stuff for my Patreon supporters as well as the great unwashed masses. So behave yourselves 😛
Doing some major end of year restructuring, with the ending of one era and the beginning of another and major changes in my funding and work environment coming to a head. Some announcements on that coming with the new year. While I think 2021 will present a lot of challenges for us all, and with the caveat to be careful what you wish for, a new year presents new opportunities …
Meanwhile, if you’re on twitter and not following #TarmacTheWeatherCat, you really can’t call yourself well informed about the weather.
Funny, all of the chairs in my office look like that too … now Nicholas wants his own hashtag.
In the TC world, there is a weak cyclone impacting Madagascar today, and there have been a few minor earthquakes around the globe, including a whole series of quakes along the south coast of Puerto Rico, causing some minor damage and a lot of stress in that hard hit area. Watching this carefully.
This year people are more attuned to the weather – for good reason. Given COVID19, gatherings outdoors are far safer than inside, so the weather is a bigger factor than usual. I’m getting a lot more questions like “what’s the weather going to be like next St. Swizzen’s Day” – be it for a holiday, wedding, birthday gathering, protest march, golf game, or whatever. My usual reply is “I study disasters; if I can tell you then you probably don’t want to know” doesn’t make people happy 😛 Of course I’ve got the tools here to do pretty much any kind of forecast from “nowcasts” to climate, but how does the average person answer that question without annoying their favorite scientist/blogger? Which provider is best? As it turns out, that’s an easy question to answer. Your tax dollars have funded a really great organization, the US National Weather Service, and they have some nice on-line tools for planning your holiday. Virtually all the other providers – be it big companies, TV stations, whatever, are using NWS data and perhaps “adding value” (although in most cases I’d argue they are adding FUD, but that’s a different post). So lets walk through using the NWS web site to see what tools are available, and if you can hold that Thanksgiving gathering outside, or if everyone will have to stay home and use video …
The starting place is https://www.weather.gov. Here’s what the main page looks like. Any warnings will be color coded:
The map is clickable … click on the location you’re interested in; it doesn’t have to be perfect, you’ll get the chance to refine it. But for your home location, enter the place name you want in the box on the left. You can use a zip code or place name – for example, you can enter “Ardsley Park, Savannah, GA” and the system will give you matching names …
If you click “remember me” then whenever you go to weather.gov your local forecast will pop up on the left side. Clicking “Get detailed information” and you will jump to the point location forecast … here’s where you can really get into seeing what is going on:
The page itself is a nice overview, but if I’ve got family coming over at 4pm Thursday, with dinner at 6pm, and people will probably start to go home at 8pm. How likely is it that we can eat outside at the picnic table, or will I have to set up tables all over the house inside, or just cancel? Jackets, build a fire in the fire pit, or Savannah being Savannah will we need bug spray? If you scroll down and look under the map on the right there is a box called “additional resources” …
Click the graph and you get the hourly forecast data.
You can change the date to see up to a week in the future; in this case let’s set the start point at 12am (midnight) on Thursday. Click submit and you get:
So for Ardsley Park area in Savannah, the temperature should be 70 degrees, light wind, 31% Cloud Cover. The precip chance is 18% – but if you look at the graph, it never gets above 20%, and drops to only 8% by 7pm, so chances are this is not a sharp rain producing weather system. Now that you’ve tagged this as your “remember me” location any time you to to weather.gov on that device it will have your forecast on the main page – and you can easily get the very detailed details!
But what if you are travelling? Just click on the national map … it will take you to the forecast for that point. In this case, as noted on the first map I directly clicked on Andrews NC, then got the “additional details” to see the timing and intensity of any rain:
Looks like rain overnight Wednesday (80% chance at midnight!) and perhaps Thanksgiving morning, but will clear out and be nice overnight, with rain maybe coming back Friday night (back up to 30% chance) .
When planning an event, obviously the closer in time the better the forecast. By the time we’re within three days they are pretty good; 3 to 5 days are fair, over five days takes some interpretation. I’ll try to do some more posts on that in the future, but hopefully this will get you started …
Update on Delta will be a bit late today due to ear infection … short version is it is still on track for a central Louisiana landfall, perhaps as a Category 3 hurricane. Folks there should be getting ready – conditions will deteriorate rapidly tomorrow before an evening landfall.
Hi guys – I wasn’t planning on starting this thing until the first, but storms have their own timetable. Please be patient as I ramp this thing up. On thing to note is that Patreon bills monthly with the first charge the day you sign up. Unfortunately in this case I think that means that you will get hit twice if you sign up this week – for July, then again in August. I’m going to try to do something extra for all who signed in “early” before the first and got the double hit. Again, Thanks!
So … I wasn’t planing on doing this quite so soon, but with Potential Tropical Cyclone #9 threatening the viral encrusted southeast, I’m doing a mega-juggleing act and trying to fire up the Patreon site, as well as do some much needed computer infrastructure rearranging. So please be patient with the chaos … and the brevity of this post. As for PTC9, nothing too much changed since NHC started advisories. Here’s the latest “core” track models that NHC is having to work with. I didn’t put GFS in here because the 12z run was way off and the 18z run isn’t up yet:
As for impacts, the current thinking is that this thing will remain a tropical storm until Florida landfall – but there is a yuge amount of uncertainty in that until it spins up better, so it may not even go to Florida. Way too early to freak out if you are on the mainland US. PR does need to prepare for a tropical storm, as do the USVI and northern Caribbean. More in the morning …
Enki has started a Patreon account to help fund this work – please think about supporting us if you find this valuable.
It probably looks simple, a map showing the projected impacts of a storm in plain English, a discussion of the chances that a given coastal town will face a windy day, or a life changing catastrophe:
But behind this graphic is a huge amount of infrastructure. Yes, government agencies provided the forecast track, but in order to reliably calculate the impacts in easy to understand terms like “Minor Damage, Power Out” takes a bank of computers. The analytical tools take time and money to develop. Just to keep the lights on and run the satellite, network, and computer systems costs almost $5000 a month. Unfortunately, government funding for this kind of work has become increasingly limited, and it’s not in the interest of most news outlets to say you’re not doomed – they need your eyes on their screen, or clicks on their web site. Or, better yet, download their app so they can collect data to support advertising.
Enki Research has been posting information on a blog and social media in various forms since 1990. There is a huge amount of raw data out there, and a lot of “noise” and agenda-driven reporting. We help cut through that noise and get you solid actionable information. Covering hurricanes (tropical cyclones), earthquakes, pandemics, wars, and other disasters world-wide, Enki is planning on expanding its public outreach and the information available to you directly as well as support for responsible news outlets. Here’s your chance to help support an independent, unbiased, science based source of hazard information, as well as get customized information and insider, Patreon only content. Please consider contributing.
Before discussing Cristobal … I’ve re-established the link to Facebook because so many get their information that way. While it is a problematic platform in many ways, the simple fact is many people use it. I would again caution that for real time hazards and news, Facebook can even be dangerous because it does not show you things chronologically. It also does not show you every post, because it aggressively wants corporate and even non-profit users to pay them to “boost” posts. So if you really want live data from Enki, bookmark the blog directly. Another thing I dislike is people profiting from disasters. As I get time I’m considering options like creating an app, but I may have to set up a Patreon type thing to sponsor that. Either way, I really appreciate everyone who has contacted me with well wishes and ideas for how to sort through this. Note going forward I am not reading or responding to comments on FB. This is purely an echo of what goes on to the site as a convenience for FB users.
Cristobal has re-emerged into the Gulf of Mexico, and tropical storm force winds should make landfall on the Louisiana coast tomorrow morning – but the impacts will be felt starting later today/tonight. NHC’s key messages are pretty straightforward, and there are tropical storm warnings up for the Louisiana/Florida Coast, including New Orleans. Here is the forecast damage swath …
Two things about Cristibal: first, it isn’t likely to get very strong. It has a very broad structure, and is dragging in dry air, limiting how intense it can get. Here is a water vapor image from this morning, you can see the dry air in orange … as always, click any graphic to embiggen.
The second (related) thing is how large the system is. Normally tropical cyclones get smaller as they get more intense. It’s a lot like an ice skater who spins faster as she draws her arms in, and slows down when they are extended. The circulation of Cristobal is quite large. That means the area of winds and somewhat elevated water is also large – but it also means the storm won’t intensify as fast, even given warm water. There is also some shear (winds moving in different directions in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere). Here’s the 850mb (about 5000 feet up) wind speeds … so even the Florida coast might see gusty (but not dangerous) winds. Water elevations will run a bit above normal across the Northern Gulf Coast – but only structures right on the coast are at risk. However, soil moistures are high, and there will likely be a lot of rain, meaning there will be river/creek flooding, so if you live near one along the Gulf Coast beware. Aside from the odd tree down and scattered power outages, that should be about it for Cristibal.