We have the first Magic Words(tm) of the Atlantic hurricane season! The latest (2pm Tuesday 31 May) NHC five day outlook shows an ominous red X and hashmark of doom pointed towards Florida …
As I frequently recommend, read the text for the graphic before getting too excited. Here’s what it says, with the “magic words” highlighted:
A large and complex area of low pressure is expected to develop near the Yucatan Peninsula and the northwestern Caribbean Sea in a couple of days, partially related to the remnants of Agatha from the eastern Pacific. Despite strong upper-level winds over the area, this system is likely to become a tropical depression while it moves northeastward over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and southeastern Gulf of Mexico late Thursday or Friday. Regardless of development, locally heavy rainfall is likely across portions of southeastern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, and Belize during the next couple of days, spreading across western Cuba, southern Florida, and the Florida Keys on Friday and Saturday. Interests inthe Yucatan Peninsula, western Cuba, the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula should monitor the progress of this system.
NHC’s Tropical Weather Outlooks follow a specific pattern. They tell you what the thing is (“A large and complex area of low pressure…”) then they will have the phrases Interests in <some place, in this case highlighted in red> should <do something, here in green>. So if you’re (someplace), do that thing – otherwise, don’t worry about it.
In this case the models seem to be showing, well, a large and complex area of low pressure, which are forecast to dump a lot of rain and maybe spin up some tropical winds. The latest GFS run did not form as clear of a center as it has previously, but any organization is still a couple of days away. Even if it does become a depression or minimal tropical storm, it probably won’t be a dangerous system until it is past the Bahamas as it treks northeast (and probably not then either). But we may get “Alex” out of it. As the TWO says, monitor the progress (if you’re in Florida) or enjoy the short work week (if you’re most other folks except me or another profession who works all the time on some crisis or another …).
During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I was able to post commentary and analysis from what many seemed to think was a fairly neutral position, pointing out how and where US policy was right and wrong in how we got there, and the mechanics and flow of the invasion. I posted links to various sources, both pro and con, as well as original analysis based on satellite imagery. It got a fair amount of praise from those who opposed the war (who thought it was a little “pro war” but fair) and those against (who implied I had “anti war” sentiments but provided a good service). It even broke a couple of stories well before the popular media. Although there were of course the occasional trolls, rarely did any of the critics resort to insults or wild accusations. Most people asked civil questions and the discussions were interesting.
What a difference 20 years makes! The Internet was a much smaller place back then, and society was less angry. When I pointed out that Saddam Hussein had started as a US ally and reformer, and that the evolution from that to despotic dictator and enemy was in part (maybe significant part) due to US policy miss-steps, no one ever accused me of being his supporter. Yet, if I point out that from his perspective, Russia and Putin have valid reasons for doing what they are doing in Ukraine, and that we bear significant responsibility for this tragedy, I am accused of being a Putin Lover and purveyor/victim of misinformation.
The biggest problem is the media environment. The US media was hijacked by the government and corporate interests a long time ago. The Pentagon and CIA spent a lot of money and resources studying how they lost control of the narrative over Vietnam. Those ideas were put in to practice by one of the (then) young officers involved in those studies who had risen to the highest levels by the time of the first Gulf War – Colin Powell. They were a spectacular success; the news media was totally co-opted through the use of tactics like embedding, selective background briefings and leaks, providing “warheads” (“former” military officers and intel agents) who have taken over expert commentary and even reporting in some cases, and so forth. The consolidation of the media and, with the advent of CNN, the change of news divisions from prestige, public service loss leaders into profitable business units dependent on engaging viewers and advertising revenues completed the transition from journalism to stenographers for the US Government or large corporate viewpoints on most subjects.
Now with Fox News and the proliferation of internet sources, you can easily find a source that matches your worldview without challenge. Fox in particular helped blur the line between news and commentary, and the advent of advocacy journalism on the left means neutral news reporting – always at risk – is now firmly a thing of the past. So today the vast majority of people who are engaged in online discussions are far too secure in their own information bubbles. Rather than think through and consider their possible preconceptions and try to understand the other side, they lash out and assume the worst about anything and anyone that contradicts their worldview in the slightest way. Rather than present reasoned arguments, ad hominum attacks and dismissal based on personality or source rule the day. Humility in the face of a complex situation with decades, even centuries of convoluted history is totally absent. As is self awareness, and considering critically actions by all actors in context.
Functioning as an independent part time commentator in that environment is almost impossible. So I’m going to scale back public analysis and comment on the subject of Ukraine and other geopolitical issues. It’s not that I’m thin skinned – I relish a good, fact based discussion of contrary views since it helps sharpen arguments and we all learn from it and evolve our positions. I’ve certainly changed positions on some subjects based on feedback. The problem is that in today’s environment it has become just too stressful and time consuming to try to moderate, respond, and keep discussions on a civil and rational level. Even with the support of my honored Patreons I just can’t keep up (I still have a “real” job, which as noted funding has declined so I no longer have as much flexibility as I used to anyway). So I’ll do what so many have asked, stick to natural disasters, with occasional commentary on the information/news dynamics and misinformation/propaganda problem (but no longer suggest sources – it seems you aren’t supposed to even *look* at anything that might contradict your worldview, even for the purpose of criticizing it!).
The biggest threat and problem is this: information dynamics, geopolitical stresses, resource limitations, and other issues have overwhelmed our systems of governance. It is clear our leaders are no longer capable of guiding our society – and society is so fragmented and delusional it is rapidly becoming dysfunctional. Democracy simply isn’t possible without some kind of shared values and basis for decision making. These have eroded to the point of collapse. I fear hard times are coming, and our leaders and the societies that select/support them are incapable of dealing with the difficult circumstances to come.
First, a Happy New Year to everyone, and hopes that this upcoming year is a good one!
I got an email earlier this week complaining about the fonts on the blog. It’s bothered me for several days now. It was angry, confrontational, and both unhelpful and depressing because it may have been a real problem with WordPress, but there was no way I was going to start a dialogue with someone when their opening message was so nasty. This seems to be a trend all across the board. I almost never get a reasoned argument or discussion with someone who disagrees with a blog post; it almost always starts with some kind of ad-hominum attack and accusation. Even what should have been a simple bug report (that, I suspect, was a problem at their end) is confrontational.
It’s horrifying scanning social media these days. People who I know to be compassionate and reasonable in person are re-posting and echoing vitriolic links that are destructive to the fabric of our society. This phenomena was well described in the recent documentary, The Social Dilemma. Please watch it before you go down this road, and I beg everyone to please think before you echo some snarky political post that converts complex issues into some meme.
Take almost any issue today, and the opening salvo starts with accusations that anyone who disagrees is evil, uninformed, or both. Debates are almost never over the substance of an issue, they are straw-man arguments over caricatures of the other side. Yet take almost any of these issues, and if you dig down you find that each side is usually just worried about different, yet valid, aspects of the same problem, and a solution that makes things better is readily obtainable, if only the “sides” would recognize that each has a point. Unfortunately, as I often rant, that approach doesn’t fit into a political and media environment that thrives on confrontation, and real solutions to problems are actually “destructive” to the engine that drives their profits and votes: your outrage.
So, as we enter a new year with multiple challenges ranging from the ongoing pandemic, a likely confrontation between nuclear armed adversaries, an economy teetering on the edge of collapse, an election that will likely be even nastier than the last, and other problems we don’t even know about yet, please don’t make things worse. Certainly the problems we face are serious, in many cases hit emotional triggers. But we will solve them using rationality and empathy in equal measure, not by spreading anger and division. If you feel you can contribute to a discussion, make civil arguments that appeal to reason and our shared humanity, and recognize that the “other” might have a valid point that needs consideration. Don’t just try to score points with people you agree with by denigrating the “other.”
Please resolve to think before you repost/retweet/email this year.
Tomorrow is hurricane awareness week in the US, and just in time a tropical storm has formed off the Pacific coast of Mexico … Tropical Storm Andres shouldn’t be a problem other than for shipping; it is forecast to remain a weak tropical storm for the next day or so then fade out by midweek …
NHC has this to say in their 11am advisory:
Andres is the earliest tropical storm on record in the eastern
North Pacific basin, just beating out Adrian of 2017.
There is a lot to talk about for hurricane season prep this year. One big change that National Weather Service is making this month across the whole range of their forecasts is updating their “climate normals” to reflect new data over the last 10 years. This has big implications for more than just hurricanes, but in that regard 14 storms is now considered a “normal” season rather than just 12. I’m working on a longer discussion about this, I have mixed feelings about how NHC is going about this.
For the Enki Blog, and particularly for Patreon supporters, some major upgrades are in store for this hurricane season. For starters, I’ve activated a new mapping system that will let Patreon supporters access dynamic real time maps of hurricanes, earthquakes, severe weather, and in the US, radar and lightning among other things. It’s a work in progress, but will hopefully be fun/interesting/terrifying depending on what is going on in the world …
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.