Meteorology


A few weeks ago I posted on a stunning video capturing computer simulated ocean current patterns.  Today I’m posting on surface wind flow patterns over the contiguous United States.  Both show the visual beauty of these large-scale fluid flow patterns.  You have to follow this link to view live moving imagery which is based on near-term surface wind forecasts.  Do check out the moving fields, but shown below are some snap shots showing some of the patterns that get generated.

http://hint.fm/wind/gallery/

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Here’s an interesting analogy to explain the differences between weather and climate, it’s taken from the Norwegian TV series Siffer.

The video was featured in a recent New York Times blog Can Better Communication of Climate Science Cut Climate Risks? by Andrew Revkin.  The communication of climate science for public consumption remains a major task, especially in light of current political inaction.  A recent (Jan 2012) editorial in Nature urges Scientists to Reach Out about Climate stating:

 “… scientists and their organizations need to do more to help citizens engage with the issues and not be misled by travesties of the evidence.”

Climate communication outreach projects such as the website http://climatecommunication.org/ have some great resources.

As I’ve been reading through the book of Job I have been noting how the book is ladened with a deep appreciation of nature (see part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4).  At the climax of the poem/debate – God’s speech from the whirlwind, we encounter a full tour-de-force of creation.  In fact chapters 38-41 have been referred to as ‘the first great piece of modern nature writing’ (Bill McKibben).  God’s speech – really a series of rhetorical questions for Job, presumably designed to put Job (and us) in his (our) place!?, progresses from Cosmogony (38:4-11):

”     …                                                                                                                   Who hedged the sea with double doors,                                                                                        when it gushed forth from the womb.                            when I made cloud its clothing,                                                                                                     and thick mist its swaddling bands?                                      …     “

to Meteorology (38:22-38):

”       …                                                                                                                  Does the rain have a father,                                                                                                      or who begot the drops of dew?                                             From whose belly did the ice come forth,                                                                                  to the frost of the heavens who gave birth?                                    …     “

to Zoology (38:39-39:40):

”     …                                                                                                                         Do you know the mountain goats’ birth time,                                                                 do you mark the calving of the gazelles?                                           Do you number the months till they come to term                                                         and know their birthing time?                                                            …    “

and even to mythological zoology (40:15-41:26):

”    …                                                                                                                         Could you draw Leviathan with a hook,                                                                                 and with a cord press down his tongue?                                     Could you put a lead line in his nose,                                                                                    and with a fishhook piece his cheek?                                               …    ”

(Translations from Robert Alter)

The full grandeur of this astonishing outburst from God can not be fully appreciated from the limited quotes provided above, so I would encourage people to read the whole section (NET Bible).  There is so much to comment on here perhaps I’ll have time in a future post to say more.

A working group commissioned by The Pontifical Academy of Sciences [website & wikipedia entry] “to contemplate the observed retreat of the mountain glaciers, its causes and consequences” has released a report entitled Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene.  The groups consensus statement is a warming to all humanity and a call for fast action.  This is their declaration:

“We call on all people and nations to recognise the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses. We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home. By acting now, in the spirit of common but differentiated responsibility, we accept our duty to one another and to the stewardship of a planet blessed with the gift of life.

We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish. “

A pdf of the complete statement can be accessed here.  The authors recommend pursuit of three measures:

  • immediate reduction of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions,
  • reduction of concentrations of warming air pollutants such as soot, ozone, methane and hydroflurocarbons by up to 50 percent, and
  • preparation to adapt to climate changes that society will not be able to mitigate.

I’ve highlighted before (part 1, part 2, and part 3) how the writer* of Job clearly had a keen eye for the workings of the natural world.  Here is another marvelous example  this time from the realm of meteorology.

Why, exalted is God, and we know not,                                                                                        the number of His years is unfathomed.

For He draws down drops of water,                                                                                               they are distilled in the rain of His wetness,                  as the skies drip moisture,                                                                                                                 shower on abounding humankind.

Can one grasp the spread of cloud,                                                                                               the roars from His pavilion?

Why, He spreads over it His lightning,                                                                                       and the roots of the sea it covers.

For with them He exacts justice from peoples,                                                                          gives food in great abundance.

Lightning covers His palms,                                                                                                           and He commands it to hit the mark.

His roaring tells about Him,                                                                                                           His zealous wrath over evil acts.

(Job 36:26-33, translation by Robert Alter)

This theme of God’s command of weather phenomena does not end here but continues into the next chapter – you can read on here (incidentally the NET Bible linked here is a fairly recent discovery for me – great translation and very upfront and open with its translating notes for each verse, a great resource).  I like the way this passage shows both how God uses His power over the natural world for judgement, but also for sustaining life.

* I say writer, but it is considered likely by scholars that the speech of Elihu  (chapters 32-37) is a work of another poet.  Reading through the book this indeed seems plausible, Elihu’s entrance is a surprise, there being no previous mention of this character, and there is a disjoint in the arguments and language used by Elihu compared with the rest of the book.