Posts tagged ‘Meteorology’

S.S. Marion McKinley Bovard

S.S. Marion McKinley Bovard

The East-West Homegoing crossing, from the Bay of Naples, down around Sicily and its somber dark-red-lit volcanic peaks and out into the stormy Atlantic, was a lot more exciting than the voyage out, even though we weren’t scanning for the snorkels of enemy submarines from the time of departing Port of New York to arriving at the wreckage-strewn harbor of Naples. The difference was weather. Going out in midsummer we hadn’t had any. Coming back, we had one of the worst winter storms on record.

Making the run from England to Boston a thousand miles north of where we were crossing in the bouncing, swinging little Marion McKinley Bovard, the Queen Elizabeth lost part of her bridge to wave action, nearly a hundred feet above the waterline. Months later, I ran into an Army nurse who had been on that run. When I asked her what it was like, she stared into space, shook her head and finally said, “Have you ever seen 2,400 men and women all puking at once?”

But down where we were, a thousand miles south, we were only in a brutally fierce, but not record-breaking storm. As soon as I saw a mimeograph standing idle, I had volunteered to put out a ship’s newspaper, so I had the run of the ship, barring a few places where I might hurt myself or fall overboard.

I had stationed myself in the captain’s bridge for the duration of the storm, where I kept my eyes fastened on the ship’s clinometer. We’d roll right 25 degrees, then come left about as many on the return — then 26 degrees, 30, 32, 30 — -and then a big one, 38 degrees, 42, 40, 43, 35 — and I couldn’t help myself, I just had to ask the third officer, standing next to me watching the same mad dance of the clinometer, “What if, you know. it hits a swell at the wrong time and just doesn’t come back?”

Continue reading ‘My War, Part 4: Homegoing’ »

Barack Obama

Barack Obama.

When an election is near, politicians do their best to avoid doing or saying anything unusually evil or asinine because they know that people are watching. At times like the present, though, they know that most voters are sick of the subject and aren’t paying much attention any more.

So let’s fool them and pay attention. What I am doing, for example, is writing a letter, essentially the same letter to each individual politician in an office I voted on — from President and U. S. Senator down to local councils. It goes like this:

Dear President Obama:

First, let me congratulate you on your victory in the 2012 election, and I wish you the best of luck in your task of trying to fix some of the things that are wrong with areas of our government. I know there are many important questions that must be resolved, but there is one — in many ways, the most important of all — that has fallen through the cracks. It threatens the future of our whole world. And yet in all the debate, almost everywhere in our country, it was hardly mentioned.

If we don’t find some way of lessening the violent storms, droughts, floods and other consequences of our reckless tampering with the very air we breathe we endanger everything we attempt. Nearly every legitimate scientific organization in the world has joined in the warning that the inhabitability of the Earth cannot survive our forever increasing the carbon load in the atmosphere.

May I ask, then, what new steps or plans you will offer to slow the endless burning of fossil fuels?

Yours sincerely,

Frederik Pohl



Remember the ozone hole? The hole in the atmospheric ozone layer over Antarctica that allowed dangerous solar radiation to come through to the surface of the Earth with potentially deadly effects on life there.

Starting in 1989, international agreements began to cap and then to reduce the percentage of ozone-destroying gases liberated through the use of certain refrigerants and propellants, and scientists around the world began to check on the condition of the ozone hall at the end of every Antarctic winter. This year, meteorologist Murray Salby, with Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, announced the first signs of healing of the hole. Admittedly the changes in the ozone hole are small, and somewhat ambiguous, but they indicate that the international collaboration of many countries can in fact succeed in working together to heal an environmental crisis

Now, if we could only all get together on a program of slowing … then stopping … then reversing the flow of carbon compounds into the atmosphere, why, then we’d have some hope that our grandchildren might have a pretty decent world to live in!

But, Meanwhile —

The regular run of chronic bad weather news is still with us. Eastern Europe’s summer was the hottest in more than 500 years. In Russia, there were more than 55,000 deaths related to the heat wave. A quarter of the crops failed, there were vast wildfires and meteorological models suggest that somewhat less extreme heat waves will be common over the next 40 years.

“Most deaths from building collapse in earthquakes occur in countries with high scores for corruption.”

Roger Bilham (University of Colorado)
and Nicholas Ambraseys (Imperial College London).

Clearly there are other factors — poverty for one, proximity to an ocean with the potential for a tsunami and imperiled nuclear plants for another, both as in Japan 2011. But political corruption —and thus inadequate requirements for inspection and construction of buildings — is a factor that people can do something about.

Desert (NASA photo)

Six months or so back a local outfit asked me to make some predictions about the future. That’s not my regular line of work, of course. Sf writers do not predict the future, they just speculate about what sorts of futures might come our way, but I was feeling lucky so I took a shot. “By 2050 A.D.,” I said, “the whole stretch of southwestern states from Texas through Southern California will be officially designated a desert.”

And what do you know? This Sunday’s New York Times had an interview with Richard Seagar, head analyst of Southwest weather studies at Columbus University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Asked how long he thought the Southwest drought might persist, he said, “You can’t really call it a drought. . . . You don’t say, ‘The Sahara is in drought.’ It’s a desert. If the models are right, then the Southwest will face a permanent drying out.”

Not the only place, either. The same models that show Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix at risk of becoming “ghost cities,” show the same for more distant urban places like Perth, Australia, whose city planners warn that it may be the first to go.

Want another prediction while I’m hot?

All right. By 2050 the tornado belt, which has slowly relocated closer to my own area in Northern Illinois, will inhabit Canada’s southern provinces, and you can bet on that! (Of course, you might lose.)

Hal Clement, 1965.

   Hal Clement, 1965.

When I first began reading Hal Clement stories in Astounding, I was struck by this new writer’s affection for cloud types and air masses. Had to be a weatherman, I assured myself. Nobody else could, or would bother to, get all that meteorological talk down so well.

When I learned that Clement had been with a B-24 group, I was yearning for more, for so was I; and when it turned out that his bomb group was the 457th, I was fascinated. Mine was the 456th. Near us in the Stornara, Italy, neighborhood were the 458th and 459th; since the Air Force customarily packaged its bomb groups into bomb wings of four groups each, I had always wondered what they had done with our 457th.

Now I know that it was in England, flying right across the Channel to drop its bombs instead of chugging north through most of Europe before they got to a target, as our Mediterranean Theater of Operations bombers did. But why?

Ah, there is no “why” when you talk about the doings of the military.

Even after I met Hal Clement — aka Major Harry Stubbs, not a weatherman but a pilot, he explained; “but of course we had lots of courses in weather” — he didn’t know what had happened to detach his group from its siblings either. All he could tell me was that one day around 1942 or so they’d got orders to draw desert-type clothing and hot-weather instruments, along with the other nearby groups; then the 457th’s orders were reversed, while other groups began flying to Italy, and ultimately they were ordered to England.

And what did I mean, “Why?” Whoever knew “why” anything happened in the Air Force?

Nevertheless we became good friends, and ultimately I became his agent.

More to come.

Related post:
Hal Clement, Part 2