Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Just Another Weather Story?

In the near term, the weather here in the Inland Valley will continue it's cool theme. Bill Martin, KTVU's Senior Weatherdude noted that:
"Our cool summer pattern continues. The Jet - Stream continues to sag south over the west coast. If this were winter we would be wet, wet , wet. Instead the summer version is fog, fog, fog".

After I spent some time this afternoon in the Ancestral Diggins, I found some interesting weather stories on Anthony Watts' Blog today...

"July in San Francisco coolest since 1970"

"NOAA to Issue Updated Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook"

"Mallory and Irvine on Everest: Did extreme weather cause their disappearance?"

I wrote in this space about the Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook when NOAA issued their original Outlook. I noted the ENSO/La Niña coupling and it's usual effect on Atlantic Hurricane numbers, and opined that this season wouldn't be as vigorous as their outlook was promising. I cited the rapidly falling Eastern Atlantic Ocean Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) to justify my position.

I won't talk out of school, and NOAA issues their update Thursday morning, August 5, 2010...I will say that it seems like a quiet hurricane far.

Back in May, I wrote about my month of May fascination with Mount Everest...May is a big month in my world. Done grooming for another season, May is alive with outdoor things and the beginning of my Summer-long Motorsports Marathon. Even though I indulge in a near orgy of racing, I always keep an eye on the Himalayas and Mount Everest every May.

May is the most favored month to attempt the summit of Everest, fitting nicely between Winter and the arrival of Monsoon Season. It helps that the days are nice and long, too.

George Mallory was what we'd call a "Rockstar Mountaineer" in today's jargon. Seasoned and confident, with a killer skilset, his death was a mystery for 75 years. In 1999 the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition climbed Everest in search of remains of the man who uttered the three most famous words in Mountain Climbing..."Because it's there"

The unknowable details of Mallory and Irvine's demise had been Everest's greatest mystery. The new research postulates a fate far worse than any my imagination conjured up since I first read about Mallory when I was a kid...Mallory and Irvine were last seen disappearing into a blizzard near the summit atop the Northeast Ridge. The new study of the historical weather data from the day cites some truly terrifying conditions:

“We analyzed the barometric pressure measurements and found out that during the Mallory and Irvine summit attempt, there was a drop in barometric pressure at base camp of approximately 18mbar. This is quite a large drop, in comparison the deadly 1996 ‘Into Thin Air’ storm had a pressure drop at the summit of approximately 8 mbar,” said Moore. “We concluded that Mallory and Irvine most likely encountered a very intense storm as they made their way towards the summit.”

“Mount Everest is so high that there is barely enough oxygen near its summit to sustain life and a drop of pressure of 4 mbar at the summit is sufficient to drive individuals into a hypoxic state,” said Dr. John Semple an experienced mountaineer and the Chief of Surgery at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

"Into Thin Air" is John Krakauer's bestseller on the 1996 Everest disaster that took eight lives on a single day near Everest's summit.

Mallory's remains were found by the expedition about 1000ft below the Ice Axe that belonged to Sandy Irvine. Examination of the well preserved remains shows Mallory was alive for most of his slide off the ridge. Cause of death appears to be a puncture wound to the forehead of Ice Axe size, that might indicate that Mallory was attempting to self-arrest with his Ice Axe but it hit rock causing the fatal injury. Aside from a rope-jerk injury around Mallory's waist, his body didn't have the characteristic damages of a big fall from the Northeast Ridge. (There have been too many examples)

I've stood outside on the top of my mountain in ferocious's violent and scary, even though I'm only a foot away from the door of my BR350 Groomer. Being out in that on the Real Top of the World, wearing the state of the art garments from 1924, and standing on a knife edge ridge with thousands of feat of sky below you on either side is quite another. I would have preferred to believe that the sudden, severe drop in barometric pressure rendered them unconscious so they didn't endure the incredible fall into the abyss.

Alas, my beliefs had to succumb to the fact the way they went wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared as a kid with a hyperactive imagination. The mystery will endure, as there was no conclusive evidence on Mallory's body to prove if they made the summit or not.

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