Saturday, September 25, 2010

Solar Surprise

I got up on my High Horse yesterday...I was saying there's more that climatologists don't know about the Sun and it's place in climate and weather, than what they do know and can model accurately.

Forgive me if I came off as bad.

Here's today's fun factoid: Who knew that Solar Storms, Coronal Mass Ejections, and Solar Flares could change direction in mid-flight? Previous to the latest observations and data crunching, it was thought that these streams of energy traveled in straight lines...(I'm tempted to believe the more accurate word is assumed, not thought.)

In a vacuum, even physicists' default position on this would be in line with Sir Isaac Newton's Laws.

It turns out that Space, near Stars anyway, isn't exactly a vacuum. The space around stars is chock full of particles that make up Solar Wind. There's so many particles that they're even being investigated by Japanese scientists as a possible power source for spacecraft utilizing so-called "Solar Sails", to sail long inter-planetary distances Tall Ship-Style!  SciFi Movie fans will recall such a craft from the 1982 Walt Disney SciFi Actioner "TRON"

TRON's Solar Sailor 1982
I get a little hair standing up on the back of my neck when I think of all the ho-hum, everyday stuff that I once read about in awe as a young SciFi reader! Personal computers, telepresence, cell phones, iPods even the Internet first existed on the pages of SciFi novels and short stories long before they were displayed for sale at the local emporia.

It turns out that JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has already launched a Solar Sailor! Named IKAROS, it launched in May 2010, finished unfurling it's sail on June 10, 2010, and JAXA confirmed that IKAROS is being accelerated by it's solar sail on July 9, 2010!

July 14, 2010 DCAM2 photo of IKAROS sail deployed
Don't mistake me now, IKAROS is not an everyday gizmo that gives me a geekthrill down my that it's SciFi Reality Come True, it's another amazing baby step on Humanity's Voyage to the Stars. (Yeah, I ate that SciFi stuff up in my formative years!)

Wikipedia's IKAROS page has all the geeky's another amazing Japanese gizmo for sure! The spacecraft even carried two tiny ejectable cameras, DCAM1 and DCAM2 Just wow!

It's just more proof of how much we still can learn about or world (and Universe)

As a kid following the first baby steps of NASA into Space, and who followed "The Space Race" as avidly as I did my '62 San Francisco Giants, I still get that thrill of discovery every time I read about the latest gee-whiz discovery or theory that becomes proven.

The Space Age is not over, rather it's been overshadowed by The Information Age. No one can say where all this is leading, though I prefer to believe that it will lead to Mankind standing on the surface of Mars in my lifetime. I'm more than a little disappointed that NASA didn't keep going after the Apollo Moon Landings of the late 60's and early 70's.

I guess it's not a mystery...the Federal Government surely has had it's plate full these past few decades. Still, all these new technologies can't help but make our understanding of our climate and the Sun's relationship with it more complete, more transparent, and ultimately more comforting.

Exploration is in our DNA. We'll work our way to Mars someday. Hopes and Dreams aside, it will be fascinating!

I say: "Let's get on with it"! Who's with me?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Early Snow

Beaver Creek
...right on schedule!

I saw the notice today. Ski Magazine let fly in their Twitter I was watching the Noon News' weatherman tout the "return of Summer Weather" for the beginning of the week. After the news, I clicked through to Ski Magazine's Early Snow Photos. All the action is in the Rockies and Banff-Lake Louise BC Canada. Dusting around 10K ft in Colorado, eight inches Tuesday in Banff!

The Banff photo was paired with a note that Mt. Norquay plans to open Halloween weekend!

The weather here in the Inland Valley, and in the Big Valley, and the High Sierra is warming a little Thursday, and the Big High moves in for the weekend bringing offshore winds, warming air and a chance of Red Flag Fire Warnings.

Maybe it's just my sunny disposition giving me this little attack of the giggles...perhaps (as I prefer to think) it's my highly evolved sense of irony, growing my snarky smirk.

These reactions are to the climate research I've been reading this week in the wake of my visit to My Mountain, where the first of this season's "What's in store for this Winter discussions" took place.

A little welcomed warming on the West Coast after seven months of below normal temps is the buzz of the weather reporters' world...against an under reported slew of climate papers and datasets that are all cold, cold, cold.

Just today I saw the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences' peer reviewed paper on Arctic Sea Ice Extant that concludes that current Arctic sea ice is more extensive than most of the last 9000 years!

     "A peer-reviewed paper published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences finds that Arctic sea ice extent at the end of the 20th century was more extensive than most of the past 9000 years. The paper also finds that Arctic sea ice extent was on a declining trend over the past 9000 years, but recovered beginning sometime over the past 1000 years and has been relatively stable and extensive since.
Although it seems like a day doesn’t go by without an alarmist headline or blog posting obsessing over the daily Arctic sea ice statistics (and never about Antarctic sea ice extent which reached a record high this year), this paleo-climate perspective takes all the wind out of alarmist sails. Satellite assessment of sea ice conditions is only available beginning in 1979 (around the time the global cooling scare ended), with only sparse data available prior to 1979. The alarmists at the NRDC fraudulently claim in a new video that due to “climate destruction,” Arctic sea ice reached the lowest in history in 2010 (actually the low since 1979 was in 2007 and 2010 was the 3rd or 4th lowest depending on the source). Probably wouldn’t bring in many donations if they mentioned the truth: the 21st century has some of the highest annual Arctic sea ice extents over the past 9000 years."

I wonder if the authors will get any time on "Sixty Minutes" or "The Weather Channel"? Big Media is the gatekeeper now for the Nanny State's "Grow Government Movement"...The Mainstream Media are "managing the narrative" now, not reporting "just the facts, Ma'm"....somehow I think you'll have to go find the paper yourselves...*Start Here*

"While I was enjoying the animated weatherfolks enjoying their jobs, I perused the Reno AFD. The forecasters promise hot days just short of last year's record highs. Could be a bit of the Ol' "Indian Summer"

Thursday, September 23, 2010


North Pole Webcam June 2, 2006
Time never stands still except in SciFi Movies or Physics Lessons...and then only to illustrate a point.

Fall has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere and the weathergeeks are stirring. I had my first conversations about the coming Winter Monday. Tuesday the newspaper here in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area featured a story about La Niña and the coming Rainy Season.

This reminded me to scan the September 16th  90 Day Outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

We entered Autumn riding a train of seven months of below average temperatures across the West Coast. La Niña is now in full command, because Eastern Pacific Sea Surface Temps have been plummeting since mid February.

La Niña is still gaining strength. The SSTs across the Pacific continue to fall. The Pacific is definitely cold. I read all the words...nobody's venturing a guess one way or another about rainfall/snowfall just yet.

Unknown is how the Sun's continued reluctance to come out of it's Solar Minimum slumber will influence the formation of Pacific Storm Systems. There's a lot more that meteorologists don't know about the Sun's influence on convection, cloud genesis, and storm system creation, than they do understand, or can model.

I've been doing some research this week, trying to draw a bead on the coming Winter's likely character...with nothing to show for my time other than even more questions!

Lots of new papers on Solar Activity (or lack thereof, more precisely) Polar Ice measurements, Temperature Datasets and the Urban Heat Island Effect, and more. I can say unequivocally... Climate Science is far from "settled".

Sorry Al.

I think the next decade is going to be so fascinating! So many new tools are in orbit (or will reach orbit in the coming decade), and so much computer processing power is extant now that some serious strides in Climatology will be made. It's going to be a bumpy ride...I can't hardly wait! This WeatherGeek is wide awake in Dreamland!

Just a word about today's milestone. Today's post is my 300th here at CorduroyPlanet.

This has become far more precious to me than I ever dreamed it would. Thanks must be paid to Blogger, the Google platform that I compose, publish, archive, and play on.

In the past Month or so, Google has added a feature to the Blogger Platform named "Stats".

Stats is a mini version of Google Analytics. Without being as intrusive as Analytics, it gives me near-real time, and historic snapshots of traffic to CorduroyPlanet. (Analytics is far more interested where the clicks Go to from websites)

CorduroyPlanet seems to have attracted almost two dozen regular readers...or more precisely, two dozen daily pageviews!

Most of you beautiful readers have bookmarked me (or type in CP's URL whenever you visit), and the rest find me via Twitter or Facebook.

The non-regulars find CP by searching something else on Google and Yahoo.

Searchers found me the first time when I wrote about the 30th Anniversary of the SONY Walkman...about a year ago. This week CP was found by searchers searching for "Reno Air Race Crash"

Thank you all...mostly Americans. Thanks too to you five Canadian regulars, you five South Koreans, and all the rest of you from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Botswana and China!

There's a new ski season on the horizon...I'll try and write more about grooming, groomers and the resort world. Grooming 101 will continue, and I'll strive to make more photos, too.

It's about time for a makeover at CorduroyPlanet...a new look (after Halloween), with the same old hen scratch...

So, thank you all again...I'm truly humbled...but not speechless.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Head Scratching Time

Thursday is the Autumnal Equinox. Our Fall begins Thursday at 8:09PM PDT, and that's when the weathergeeks will begin to stir. What will this winter bring? Another "wet year"? Drought? Deluge? What about La Niña?

It's funny...I got hauled into this discussion Monday. On my way back down the hill in the wake of a weekend of enjoying the Air Racing at Reno's 47th National Championship Air Races, I swung by My Mountain to touch bases and to find out what my "stereophonic compadres" had been up to all Summer.
I talked with the Big Boss for about 45 minutes. We both started at My Mountain at about the same time in historical terms. We've seen a lot of things change, and we helped make sure the important intangibles didn't. It was a nice meeting...we both enjoyed the shared memories.

After the laundry list of maintenance and upgrades, our conversation turned to the weather and the early season snowmaking game plan. Thankfully, I can report that the wiser heads are prevailing.

We'll be taking delivery of the Compressor Farm beginning November 15th. I ventured that we'd probably be getting good snowmaking temps early, and asked: "What are we lookin' at...weekends only until Thanksgiving?" The Big Boss said: "I'd like to be open Thanksgiving...we'll play it by ear from there depending on Mother Nature" "Yeah weekends until we can really open"

I heard what I wanted to hear....and we are taking delivery of a new BisonX in mid November. My BR350 is slated to go away after this coming season...I'm going to have to get used to the new cab of the BisonX.

I said: "Thanks and see you when the snow flies", then headed over to the Vehicle Shop to see the Guys.

I was pleasantly surprised to run into All-Star Winch Pilot, who was wrenching on the snowmaking fans. We chatted about many things, and he filled me in on which hard-mounted fans were being relocated before the snow flies. We even talked about CorduroyPlanet and La Niña, and I thanked him for being a regular reader, and for his kind praise for the Blog.

In the shop, I caught up with the Guys...who got married? How's the fishing? We had a good ol' time.

Bidding the Boys adieu, I sought out my Boss, and he related his Summer Program before we got around to the weather thing.

I ventured that we'd have cold temps early, but that I have no idea when or if Mother Nature will bring us genuine precipitation. I related my reservations about the NWS Forecast Models...they were developed during the past 30 years of the warm side of the PDO...I said that La Niña years always gave the forecasters fits, and they never seem to get the precipitation right when La Niña reigns.

Everybody was fat and happy up there, though the operation was clearly running on the "Lean&Mean" side. Several folks remarked how "relaxed and happy" I seemed. Well, duh...I'd just spent three days watching the Unlimiteds race!

Best thing...honestly? Hearing the Sound Of Freedom in the Valley Of Speed...oh, and knowing the grownups have a hold of the snowmaking plan!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Good Times/Bad Times in the VOS Sunday

Thunder Mustang "Rapid Travel" cartwheels into Stead Field sagebrush
The weather weirdness continued out in The Valley Of Speed Sunday. The high winds associated with the passing of a Frontal Band made conditions a little problematic for the racers and their aircraft. On my way out to Stead, I saw a cloud of dust blowing through the saddle atop Peavine Peak, to the West of Stead Field. I've never seen that before in 28 years going to Stead Field to see the Reno National Championship Air Races.

During Sunday's Super Sport Gold Race, the second place racer, George Giboney in the Thunder Mustang "Rapid Travel" pulled up on Lap 3 and called a Mayday. The little Mustang was smoking as Giboney traded speed for altitude and smoked again once he neared the field and turned on final. As he approached Runway 26, a 40MPH gust of wind caught him, he missed Runway 26, and landed hard at a 45 angle to the taxiway, and while trying to steer away from the Static Display Aircraft and the milling crowds, drug a wingtip and cartwheeled into the desert. The aircraft lost it's wings and the fuselage came apart to where witnesses reported seeing Gilboney's legs flailing in the wind!

Tense moments for the crowd followed before there was any news beyond the announcement of a "Situation" From my vantage point out in the Valley Of the far end of the race course, the situation was just a cloud of dust at the right end of the strip, and a vague announcement over the Public Address system which is simulcast on the Reno Air Racing Association's low power FM radio station.

Another Fenceliner who's folks were in the grandstands proper, got call via cell phone from them that related the grim scene, which he in turn shared with his neighbors at the Fenceline.

After an eternity that was really less than 10 minutes, the PA announcer broadcast the good news, pilot George Gilboney was standing in the sagebrush next to the "Rapid Travel's" debris field. When I got home to the DaveCave, I read on the Air Racing Bulletin Board that Mr Gilboney was seen in the team's hanger with his feet up on the desk enjoying a cold beer. Injuries? A cut on the head.

So relief washed over the grandstands and finally reached the Fenceliners. All that remained was to run the Breitling Unlimited Gold Race. We waited.

Over the PA system, the Announcers were introducing the Unlimited Gold Class pilots and their storied aircraft to the assembled crowd. The Race Planes were parked at Show Center, in front of the grandstands with the Breitling Home Pylon in the background. Thousands of Air Race Fans snapped photos as the intros continued. Finally the announcer said: "Ladies and Gentlemen, here are the four words you've been waiting all year for...Gentlemen...Start...Your...Engines!"

Nothing happened...

The senior announcer, the voice of the Reno Air Races chimed in: "The pilots aren't in their aircraft. Pilots it's time to saddle up!"

Nothing happened...

Finally an Unlimited Pilot came on mic and said the pilots were meeting to discuss the weather issues and related safety concerns and would deliver their verdict at 5PM.

Out at the Fenceline, it was blowing like Hell. I considered going back to the car for a long sleeved shirt and sweatpants...even though I was staioned in the lee of the substation's fencing.

At 5:03PM the announcement was made...the Gold Race was scrubbed...30+MPH gusts were just to risky should there be another Mayday. What's more, there would be no postponement! There was no contingency plan to race Monday...too many volunteers would be unavailable to safely run the Big Show. The winner on points is "Strega" winner of Saturday's Gold Heat 3A.

I was out in the VOS for about two hours...driving home I felt like a crisp potato chip...that was serious wind. I heard a traffic report on KKOH Reno's 50KW blowtorch News/Talk Station. High Wind Warnings on NV HWY395. Stead Field is right alongside HWY395.

Many stories were left unfinished Sunday in the Valley of Speed. The mundane narratives and the Cinderella Stories will have to wait until September 2011 to be told. I'll be there...with bells on!

Keep 'em flying!

Good Times/Bad Times in The Valley of Speed

I did a little better Saturday. I made it out to Stead for two of the three big Unlimited Heats. I watched the Silver Heat 3B and the Gold Heat 3A

The Silver Heat began around 1PM and was a runaway win for the P-51 Mustang "Galloping Ghost" running 373.284MPH with Jimmy Leeward at the stick. The Ghost started lapping the other racers on lap four of six. Both Tigercats were in this race. The beautiful "Big Bossman" and "Here Kitty Kitty" looked and sounded awesome in the High Desert Sun. Shining like jewels, both of the big twins are painted in NAVY livery.

I ran errands and got a tank of gas in Reno between heats. I couldn't find a DV Cable to hook my camcorder to my DVDR/HDD recorder.

I made it back out to the fenceline an hour before the Gold Heat. As forecast, the wind was freshening. I got a real Wild West feel watching the tumbleweeds blowing by. I met the weather challenge with aplomb, and a new can of Coppertone SPF30, shorts and T-Shirt, my wide brimmed fishing hat, and a folding camp chair. I had to hide from the wind in the lee of the substation fence.

The Gold Heat began late as's the last event each day, so it often runs behind the scheduled time. But as always, the Unlimited Gold pilots didn't disappoint. Lap one began with "Strega" leading from "Voodoo", and "Rare Bear" in third. It was a breakaway for the three leaders. Things stayed this way until lap 4 when "Voodoo" pulled up and declared a Mayday.

Will Whiteside, Voodoo's pilot brought the modified P-51 onto the runway without incident. Voodoo appeared to be losing fluids as it turned onto final. The fluids were probably from the radiator spraybar I learned later on an Internet Air Race Bulletin Board.

Voodoo's Induction Plenum came apart in flight, and the crew pulled an All-Nighter replacing one bank of pistons and cylinders. A valve failed and damaged one side of the supercharged Rolls Royce Merlin V12 engine.

Unlimited Heat 3A was won by Steven Hinton in "Strega" from "Rare Bear" at the speed of 473.437MPH This heat looked 100MPH faster than the Silver Heat.

Traffic was not an issue like it usually is.

I felt parched after a windy afternoon in the high desert...a human potato chip even...

I expect more of the same today. The Reno AFD says the winds could be gusting to 40MPH Sunday afternoon.