Saturday, December 17, 2011

That Christmas Eve Thing

It's 3PM...I've been in bed for half an hour...I'm not sleepy...I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve! My alarm is set for's my first worknight of the 2011-2012 Season! I'm sipping on a stiff eggnog, listening to some talk radio. Hopefully naptime catches up with me soon.

I just got off the phone with my Boss...things sound pretty good on My Mountain, and he says my favorite BR350 is running like a Ferarri. Furthermore, when I asked he said: "Every snowcat on the hill is in fine fettle...even the 2-Ways are all installed and transmitting".

So, this turn of events is thanks to a favorable week of snowmaking conditions, and yeoman's work from our snowmakers. It's gonna be nice seeing first hand how things look...I'm beyond bored with telepresence!

Oh, webcams, PWSs, and Remote Sensors are modern miracles of the Information Age, but when you boil it down to basics, they're just an electronic fishbowl view, akin to the Chamber of Commerce-style weather forecasts that make the forecasters and their TV weatherman customers happy at the expense of the resorts, their customers, their hard working crews, and the bean counters. There's an awful lot of beans to count when you're blowing snow around the clock and Mother Nature's not chippin' in!

Looking at the AFDs and forecasts, I don't see any change to the entrenched blocking pattern in the Eastern Pacific for another week, maybe two, maybe I don't want to think about it at all for a while...

Tonight I'm just looking forward to strapping on my groomer, looking at the Work Orders, and reacquainting myself with Grooming 101, and our snowmakers' finest!

Friday, December 16, 2011

I've Got Good News and Bad News...

Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens passed away Thursday evening. Dead from esophageal cancer at 62. Godspeed Hitch. Bad news indeed...I wonder if he's still an Atheist...

A Universe away, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the Environmental Impact Report for waterfront construction for the America's Cup Regatta.

The Boss called...they've made enough snow that now they need me in my snowcat this weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Going Around In Cycles

Looking around the web for some kind of sign that Winter might miraculously appear on the West Coast, I found this Sacramento Bee story on our La Niña. The tone, or basic climate assumptions displayed by the reporter (and the newspapers still employ editors?) really fired me up! NOAA's "Year for the Record Books" isn't as scary as it sounds...Irene was the only hurricane to qualify in the Billion Dollar Club, most of the events are Springtime tornado outbreaks.

Incredibly, the reporter likens our "Pineapple Express" to hurricanes! By definition hurricanes are circular, well organized storms...think our weather makers on steroids.

There is hurricane news: We're enjoying a period of low intensity Atlantic Tropical Cyclone activity. In fact each day that passes sets a new record for Days Without a Major Hurricane landfall on the United States.

 This is born out by the historical reanalysis by NOAA of the hurricane records. No December forecast for next season's Hurricane Season was issued, and Colorado State University is not defending the long range models anymore. They noted:

"We strongly believe that the increases in atmospheric CO2 since the start of the 20th century have had little or no significant effect on Atlantic basin or global Tropical Cyclone activity as extensively discussed in our many previous forecast write-ups and recently in Gray (2011). Global tropical cyclone activity has shown no significant trend over the past thirty years."

I cooled off and found another Long Period Cycle turning to the Cold Side:

AMO begins negative (cold) phase "This is the first time the November value has been negative since about 1996. It appears the down cycle has started. This portends a cooler period, especially winters."

 La Niña will be weak to moderate through late Spring says NOAA's Climate Prediction Center's 90 Outlook issued today.

AO, the Arctic Oscillation is trending to the cold side, though NOAA has some problem with the data at present.

That's a lot of cold. It's probably bad news precip-wise. Cooler ocean temps mean less convection which is the pipeline that fills weather systems with moisture.

With my head filled with cool thoughts, I decided to stay awake to watch some actual falling snow. I watched the 10 O'clock and 11 O'clock News weathercasts...I watched Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element". Around 2AM I looked at the webcams and saw a little bit of dusting. I looked at my front porch...not a flake yet.

I fired up another SciFi Classic, Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" on Blu-ray I must have fallen asleep around 3AM. I woke up and looked outside a 0430...still no joy. When I looked again, there was a little dust on things, but it wasn't snowing anymore. Blazing sunlight burned through my blinds at 0830. Chain controls were up over Donner Summit for a time, but they'd been lifted in time to cause enough spinouts to cause CalTrans to hold westbound traffic for a time.

I missed the last morning weathercast on the TrainWreck News, so I found one online.

Thanks Channel 8 KOLO Reno!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Falling Back On History

I just watched the 10 O'clock News, and the 11 O'clock news, and both weathermen looked weary. They both said we'd get some showers Thursday, but they were displaying zero enthusiasm when it came to actual amounts of measurable precipitation. KCRA3's Mark Finan did say "Maybe a tenth of an inch"

I won't lie...this is starting to get to me...though it's been colder this week, temps are still favoring snowmaking only 15-16 hour of the day. So it's one of those good news/bad news things...Yes, we're making, we're not getting anywhere fast...just a long slow slog...

I've been watching it all happen of course. Thanks to the miracle of webcams and the internet, I've been keeping an eye on it from the cozy comfort of the DaveCave as I putter about straightening up the place in preparation for when I finally do get back to work.

Fortunately, I've been entertained, or rather cheered up by @RosiesWWII Twitter stream. She's started a Facebook page now for those not on Twitter. As I suspected she would, Rosie is introducing us to all the players in her life and neighborhood along with events from the war. As I think about it, I'm grateful...after all Rosie has undertaken a four plus year long project. That's quite the commitment. Love of history can motivate much.

I looked it up, this is CorduroyPlanet's 635th installment since I began back in August 2009. Amazingly, I've rarely had a hard time finding something that I needed to say, though today I didn't have one thing that excited me...I just put it in gear, and well, here we are...

Now that I think about it, it reminds me of those Russian nesting dolls with several layers like an onion...this commitment. Twitter...140 characters whenever events dictate. Since I've been tweeting, I've gained a new respect for brevity. 140 characters (spaces count against the 140) isn't much to declare a pithy thought...say pose a question and answer it.

@CorduroyPlanet started using Twitter three months after I began the blog. In the beginning, I used Twitter like I use the radio...I listen. Save for the 2-Way Radio in my snowcat, I never broadcast. I didn't really start tweeting for quite a while. Still, I mostly only tweet the link to each blog, and even there I'm not exactly clockwork...the rest of my tweets are baseball and satellite stuff...yeah, blowhard city...I made CorduroyPlanet's Facebook page about a month after I started the blog.

@RosiesWWII did the onion/layer thing the opposite way. Twitter, then Facebook, and now her blog Rosalind Sinclair where she fleshes out her tweets, posts photos, and videos.

Yeah, I guess I really had nothing tonight...would it hurt you to like Rosie's Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, or bookmark her blog?

Too many more of these slow weeks, and I might have nothing to say more often! Rosie's world could be your fall-back position...sorta pick up my slack, so to speak...OK?

Thanks for hanging in there today!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quick Phobos/Grunt Update 3

A Ray of Hope
All's been pretty quiet on the Phobos/Grunt front, however there's still a slim chance that controllers may regain control of the spacecraft.

@SPACEFLIGHT101 reports:
Over the past week, Russian Ground Stations continued daily attempts to restore contact with the Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft and try to command its engine to start boosting it to a higher orbit. All attempts have failed and the spacecraft continues is steady path that will eventually lead it to a destructive re-entry should further attempts fail as well.

Today, ESA's Maspalomas Station has also made new attempts to make contact with Phobos-Grunt after standing down over the weekend and on Monday. After the attempts, PG’s Orbit remained unchanged, there was no engine burn. The current orbit of the stranded spacecraft is 283 by 201 Kilometers with a period of 89 Minutes.

One last spark of hope remains however: Over a period starting today at 17:00 UTC and ending tomorrow at 23:00, Phobos-Grunt will have constant sun exposure during all portions of its orbit around Earth. Should the vehicle be in working condition and sunpointing, the odds to make contact with it are much higher because PG won’t switch back and forth between safe mode in darkness and operational or contingency mode in daylight. However, it is unknown wether 1) the spacecraft is still alive and 2) it is maintaining attitude. Russian Officials have indicated that Mission Controllers do not know if the vehicle is stable.

Satellite observers have seen fair indications of tumbling earlier in December, but there are no new sighting updates from more recent observations. Mission Controllers will try to use this phase of optimized conditions and make contact attempts via two Ground Stations in Russia and Kazakhstan. It is also expected that ESA will make further attemtps to send commands to the Spacecraft via Maspalomas and/or Perth.Still, the odds of getting the spacecraft out of Low Earth Orbit remain very slim at this point in the mission."

According to Russian Sources, attempts to communicate with the spacecraft will continue on a daily basis until re-entry. Russian Officials and personnel of NPO Lavochkin, the Spacecraft Designer, have declared the mission a failure and do not see any chance of it accomplishing any of its objectives. Teams concerned with the Entry Process and any tasks associated with Entry Response have been formed. Currently, the spacecraft is expected to re-enter on January 10, 2012 +/- 5 Days.

More when I get it, Phobos/GruntWatch keeping eyes and ears open...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spaced Out

Maybe all this waiting is beginning to take it's toll...this entrenched blocking high has limited snowmaking to around 8hrs/day most of the week. Fortunately the weather allowed for good viewing of Saturday morning's Total Lunar Eclipse.

Friday morning my alarm roused me before 6AM, up early to listen to some radio hijinx. Between programs, there's lots of "dead air" on streaming internet radio. During the silence, I heard what I thought was the Landlord on the front stairs...but wait the footsteps weren't coming down the stairs...they were loitering at the top of the stairs...weird. No sound of doors opening, garage door quiet...about then it dawned on my just awakened brain...I wonder if it's a bear?!

That's when I heard Mrs Landlord yelling from the bottom of the stairs: "Hey Bear...Get Outta Here Bear...Go Away Bear...Go Bear...Go Away Bear"

Saturday morning I thought about that bear as I crested the top of those stairs a few minutes before 6AM on my way to clear skies to view the eclipse...nobody home. Full disclosure...I didn't hear any loitering sounds as I rigged my camera stuff.

It was cold enough that the car's windshield had real ice on the windshield, not just a patina of frost. I scraped enough off with a CD case to drive the two blocks to my viewing spot. There was another skywatcher already there...bundled up, he looked comfy in the bed of his pickup truck, the crossbed toolbox doing duty as sofa cushions.

I pulled over and parked, grabbed my camera and home-made SteadyCam (my tripod is down at the Ancestral Digs) It was about five minutes from totality so there was still a bright white crescent at the bottom of the Moon. My little point and shoot digital camera didn't have enough zoom...the Moon was tiny, too tiny to post here. (The images were clear though despite the long exposure time, thanks to the SteadyCam/Tripod) It was freaking cold! I knew I couldn't sit out there for an hour waiting for the Moon to get closer to the mountaintops, so I drove up to Donner Summit for a closer look.

I pulled onto Sugar Bowl's parking garage and had a magnificent view of the Moon sinking in the West. Still in totality, the smoky red hue was beginning to fade against the deep blue dawn sky. It was at least 10°F warmer than in Truckee.

I could see the lights of the Bowl's snowmaking fans across Summit Valley...they looked lonely spread out across the slopes. They looked like they were barely making any was marginal conditions at best. They were all shut down when I looked at the webcam about 8AM. Saturday's high was the warmest in a week, high 40s.

The bells will soon be tolling for Phobos/Grunt, and the finger pointing has begun. The news is making it's way into the mainstream press now. The Washington Post has today's update.