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
ABOUT THIS BLOGThe 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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