Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Desert storms

Imagine looking over the horizon and seeing a wall of sand moving toward you.

It towers over even the tallest structure in your city. In a matter of minutes, everything around you turns pitch black. The wind is howling. It is hard to breathe as the sand pelts your face. It is hard to see as the dust stings your eyes.

It is not a Hollywood movie. It is a little-talked about phenomena called the haboob.

Haboob is an Arabic word that means "strong wind." They are common in desert areas around the world, from the Sahara to the Middle East and the Southwestern United States.

Usually you can see them coming…On average, that wall of sand can reach heights of 7,000 feet -- that is 2km high!

But because they move at forward speeds of more than 50 km/hr (30 mph) and quickly engulf everything, many are caught by surprise.

Haboobs are the byproduct of strong thunderstorms that form over or close to desert areas.

During a thunderstorm air is forced up through the cloud and then forced down again toward the ground. It is that quick downward movement of the air that forms the haboob.

The relatively cooler air slams down to ground blowing the loose sand up hundreds of feet into the air and away from the thunderstorm.

As the thunderstorm advances, the column of dust is pushed further up into the air resembling a wall of fast-moving dust.

Haboobs are just one type of dust storm.

There are also “shamals” which form by currents of air funneled over the desert regions.

And frontal dust storms which are caused by being pushed by a cold front ...

To see an animation of how a haboob forms click here:

To see the real thing click here:
Send us an iReport

You can learn more about haboobs and other sandstorms in an upcoming Weather FX on weather phenomenon. Stay tuned!

-- From Mari Ramos CNN World Weather

-- CNN Meteorologist/Producer Brandon Miller contributed to this report
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Hurricane Ike

I am still surprised when I see the images of the destruction Hurricane Ike left behind in the Texas Gulf Coast.

I still gasp when I see the debris-littered beach in Galveston that was the playground of my youth. I used to live in Houston — and Galveston was the beach we frequented every summer.

I went back to Galveston for vacation this past June. We stayed at a friend’s beach house in West Galveston. Just yesterday they were allowed in to see their property — or what is left of it -- for the first time. I still haven’t heard back from them, so I don’t know what they found …

The city had grown since the last time I was there. It was nice to share with my children and my husband a place from my childhood. My childhood companions were also there … my cousins. Now also all grown up with children and spouses of their own.

While in Galveston I also shot a story on the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. (You will see that report in this month’s Weather Effects.)

While Ike was hitting Texas, I felt very connected to the story. It is after all a place I know well.
Hurricanes, typhoons or tropical cyclones — whatever you call them — affect millions of people each year. Those in the path wrestle with the uncertainty of the outcome. How bad will the storm be? Will my house be okay? Will my life be in danger?

In this month’s show we take a closer look at tropical cyclones. How they are forecast and when to evacuate. We also show you a home that is built to survive a major storm, and show you pictures taken by a storm chaser. And of course, a look at Galveston and the Hurricane of 1900.

-- From weather anchor, Mari Ramos

Thursday, July 17, 2008
Typhoon Kalmeagi hits Taiwan
Five days of heavy rain …

Five days of rough seas ... but finally a chance to dry out and clean up in the northern Philippines as Kalmeagi moves away.

And they have plenty of cleaning to do. Heavy rains flooded low-lying areas, snarled traffic and swamped crops throughout the region.

There were some very impressive rainfall totals over parts of northern Luzon:

Laoag 662 mm (26.06")
Vigan 296 mm (11.65")
Aparri 215 mm (8.46")
Tuguegaro 138 mm (5.43")

Kaelmagi was still a tropical storm on Wednesday as it slowly drifted north-northwest over the warm waters of the Luzon Strait.

It became a typhoon Thursday and headed straight for Taiwan.

I spoke with Andrew Lee an journalist in Taipei and he told me that the storm made landfall before midnight local time. He added that while there had not been very heavy rain in Taipei, areas to the south had been inundated by heavy rainfall.

Some of the more impressive numbers include:

Jiasian 628.5 mm (24.74")
Liouciouyu 270.0 mm (10.63")
Caoling 255.0 mm (10.41")
Kaohsiung 269.0 mm (10.59")
Hualien 157.0 mm (6.18")

On average Taiwan gets hit by 4 or 5 typhoons every year.

Kaelmagi is the 8th storm to form in the Western Pacific this year, but the first to hit Taiwan in 2008.

-- From CNN Weather Anchor, Mari Ramos
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
A meeting of meteorological minds
Meteorologists around the world all have the same job … to forecast and explain the weather.

But depending where you are, that can mean tracking tropical cyclones, predicting snowfall totals, reporting on the environment. Or if you are a meteorologist on CNN International, it can be all three in one day!

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 36th Annual American Meteorological Society’s Conference on Broadcast Meteorology and I am very excited to share with you some of the highlights.

Denver, Colorado was the location for the meeting. Denver is known as the “Mile High City” because its elevation is exactly one mile high 5,280 feet or 1,609.344 meters.

The conference on Broadcast Meteorology was not only filled with lectures given by meteorologists around the world, but the best part, I thought was the field trips to National Center for Atmospheric Research / the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and NOAA in Boulder, Colorado.

Both of these research centers -- high on a mountain in Boulder, Colorado -- are researching weather to study climate, air chemistry, storms, the sun and its effect on Earth and the interactions of humans and the environment.

We had the chance to meet one on one with the top scientists in weather! Since my focus is Asia and Australia, I was very interested in the research being done for forecasting these regions.
One of the things I learned is that NCAR works with their counterparts regularly in Shanghai and in Sydney, for example, to improve techniques in forecasting tropical cyclones and drought.
Dr. Gregory Holland took the time to explain to me the topography of his homeland, Australia.
The climate there is really fascinating: It’s possible to have drought and floods in close proximity. He described the winter in the Southeastern part of the country as wet and cold, similar to Great Britain at times.

At one point on the tour, a bunch of us went to a dark conference room and donned 3D glasses (I am not kidding.) We were literally wowed by 3D animations of how wildfire grows and spreads. The animation showed the patterns and movement of fires and smoke plumes depending on atmospheric conditions. Wildfires have been in the news lately in California in the U.S. and in Greece.

The next stop on our field trip was literally down the mountain, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Here we were treated to two amazing projects NOAA is conduction from Boulder.

The first is “Science on a Sphere.”

Science On a Sphere (SOS) ® is a room-sized global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. Researchers at NOAA developed Science On a Sphere® as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages.

For a meteorologist, it's one thing to look at a satellite image on a flat computer screen, but to see it all moving along overlaid on a huge globe of the Earth was especially cool!

Our guide was able to tilt the Earth model so we could see the North and South Poles clearly. We were also able to watch how warm water literally moves around the world. I was fascinated as warm water came into the Tropical Atlantic, for example, then “looped” into the Gulf of Mexico.

That loop of warm deep water and the eddies that break off from it is one of the reasons we saw hurricanes like Katrina explode into Category Five intensity once they moved over this section of water in the Gulf of Mexico!

For all you space fans, our last stop will probably be your favorite to hear about. At NOAA in Boulder you will find the Space Weather Prediction Center.

Did you know that Polar Flights, international air travel that passes over the North and South Pole, is dependent on Space Weather forecasting? I was fascinated by this and you will likely find me talking more about it soon on CNN Today Asia in my weather reports!

Later back in Denver, we continued on in the coming days to talk about other topics: Including climate change, hurricanes, tornadoes and communication tools to best display our reports, to you, our viewer.

I can tell you the technology that is coming is truly amazing and in the coming months, keep tuning into CNN International for the most interesting and cutting-edge reports on the weather and the environment!

It’s my pleasure and privilege to bring it to you weekdays CNN Today Asia and alongside my colleagues on Weather FX each month!

-- From Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider
Monday, June 30, 2008
A lesson in flash photography
Living in the southeastern United States, it’s common to see afternoon thunderstorms in the summertime.

They happen during the hottest part of the day when the heated air from the surface rises into the cooler air above it. This causes instability in the air which can lead to heavy rain, lightning, strong winds and hail. (Unfortunately, this often coincides with evening rush hour.)

Not too bad for an amateur, right?

I have always loved watching thunderstorms. My parents and I would stand on the porch and watch the sky as they approached. (We would take cover when they got close, of course).

I love the wind, the way the clouds look and especially the lightning. One of my earliest memories was my dad, brother and I counting the seconds between lighting and thunder to find out how far away the storm was from our house.

A few weeks ago I bought a DSLR camera and was eager to test it out on anything I could find.

Soon, I found the perfect subject: A late-night thunderstorm. Storms in north Georgia usually move from west to east and north to south. This particular band of storms was unusually strong for the time of night and was moving from south to north.

It hit my neighborhood around 1030 p.m. The lightning with this storm was frequent and bright.

So, I did what any good journalist would do: I grabbed my camera and headed for the front porch. It took me quite a while to figure out how to get my camera to take a picture in the dark (no, I still haven’t read the manual.)

New cameras are so automatic they won’t let you take a bad picture. Normally I appreciate that.

That night, I was frustratingly fumbling with the dozens of settings to make the camera bend to my will.

Every few seconds, lightning was lighting up the sky and the time between the lightning and the thunder was getting smaller and smaller. I was running out of time.

Finally I found the night setting, disabled the flash, switched the focus to manual, and started snapping.

I quickly discovered how hard it is to take pictures of flashes of light. Needless to say, my response time was slower than the light speed and I ended up missing the lightning by fractions of a second.

By the time I saw the lightning and pressed my finger on the button, it was gone. I was left with boring pictures of bright sky. So, I decided I would try picture roulette: The art of taking pictures at random.

This method proved more effective than the wait-and-snap method. I took pictures until the rain started and then came inside to examine my work.

The wonderful thing about digital pictures as opposed to film is that you can delete digitals without wasting anything but time and battery power! It’s a good thing too, because I took 40 pictures and only 2 came out worth showing.

I have a whole season of storms to get good

They’re a bit blurry, but I thought I would share them anyway. Not too bad for an amateur, right? Luckily I have an entire season of thunderstorms to get good at it.

What’s the weather like where you live? Every month we have some of the best iReports on the show. Send us your pictures so we can put them on the show. Click here to share your pictures or video.

-- From Jenni Watts, Producer, Weather FX

Monday, June 23, 2008
Fengshen update
Fengshen is now a tropical storm over the South China Sea. It is moving away from the Philippines.

The weather in the hard-hit areas will slowly continue to improve, though it will take days for the water to recede.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center has the storm tracking to the north and through the Taiwan Strait.

Hong Kong should not be affected directly, but could get some strong thunderstorms in the next day or so.

Northeastern Guandong, Fujian and Taiwan are still within the “margin of error” and could have a direct impact.

According to the most recent forecast, Fengshen is not expected to regain typhoon strength.

Here are some of the rainfall totals reported so far:

Roxas 376 mm (14.80”)
Ninoy Aquino Inter-National Airport 168 mm (6.61”)
Alabat 169 mm (6.65”)
Calapan 170 mm (6.69”)
Tanay 160 mm (6.30”)
Subic Bay Weather Station 149 mm (5.87”)
Borongan 154 mm (6.06”)
Guiuan 167 mm (6.57”)
Tacloban 212 mm (8.35”)
Sangley Point 199 mm (7.83")
Tayabas 184 mm (7.24")

IReporter John Layson Guevara sent these images from the Iloilo City in the Philippines

I spoke with John early this morning. He said they were not expecting the typhoon to hit. He lives in an area usually sheltered from such storms.

Most of the damage is from the rain that came fell on the mountains triggering flash floods, he says. His house was not damaged but there are sporadic power outtages.

Many of the bridges that link the city to outside provinces have been washed away and are impassable due to high water.

John is a professional photographer/videographer.

-- From CNN Weather Anchor, Mari Ramos
Friday, June 20, 2008
Typhoon Fengshen
“The storm has also gone against all computer guidance and tracked farther west rather than turn north.”

-- Ross Hayes Jr, CNN Weather Producer

Not much advance notice here, but Typhoon Fengshen made landfall in the central Philippines late Thursday afternoon.

Maximum sustained winds were near 140 km/hr with gusts of 170 km/hr.

Hardest hit was Samar where torrential rain and the highest winds have been reported. Waves between 4 and 6.5 meters are pounding the shores of Samar, Visayas and Mindanao.

Authorities issued warnings to people living in areas prone to flooding and mudslides. As Fengshen moves generally north across the country, heavy rain will continue to affect the region, including the capital Manila through the weekend.

IReporter Onyl Malaban sent these pictures from Manila yesterday afternoon.

More heavy rain is expected today, and PAGASA is forecasting winds up to 75 km/hr in Metro Manila.

Fengshen is called "Frank" in the Philippines.

-- From CNN Weather Anchor, Mari Ramos
The CNNI Weather Team is on call every hour of every day to make sure viewers have the weather information they need. Weather FX goes beyond the average weather segment for an in-depth look at what causes weather phenomena around the world. From hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons to devastating droughts and sandstorms, weather affects all of our lives. Weather FX is an exchange of ideas involving the viewer through iReports and Q&As with viewers. Join the CNN Weather Team as they show you how the world is connected by the effects of weather.
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