Weather Wow

It’s been a while since the last Wednesday Wow. Life got strange the last several months; every day had some sort of real life wow. (Not that we’re out of these weird woods by any stretch.) It made ephemera like this fall by the wayside.

But we must soldier on, one foot in front of the other. Speaking of which, on this morning’s walk, at 6:30 (AM, of course), it was 59° (Fahrenheit, of course). We had a heat advisory Saturday — temps in the high 90s with equally high dew points.

That’s one beauty (and insanity) of Minnesota: the weather!

Winters can get down to -20 easily, and sometimes lower. (A week straight of -20 is seriously painful, but thankfully it’s rare.) In the summers, the mercury can reach 100.

Which, speaking as a former desert dweller, isn’t the killer — it’s the damn dew point that kills you. A lot of my morning walks these previous weeks haven’t had terribly high temps — low 70s typically — but the dew point has been just a degree or two below the air temperature.

When the air temp is, say, 73, and the dew point is 71, the relative humidity is 93.47%, and that makes it feel like walking through soup. Sweat can’t evaporate, so exercise leads to getting soaked. Most mornings I’d get home looking like I’d been walking in the rain.

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The upside is that having that much water in the air leads to some spectacular rainstorms and thunderstorms, and I love a good storm.

Weather, in general, fascinates me on many levels: The chaotic mathematics involved, the power of Mother Nature, and the sheer beauty of it all. It appeals to me on many levels. (I include volcanoes and earthquakes as a form of extreme weather.)

The variability of Minnesota’s weather comes, in part, from being roughly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. We’re subject to northern cold and southern heat, literally depending on which way the winds blow.

There is also that we’re distant from any moderating sea. Huge bodies of water act as heat sinks — water has tremendous heat inertia.

Finally, the basic global weather pattern and general geology of the central part of the USA makes it a fertile region for summer storms. A large swath of it is known as “Tornado Alley.”

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There are those, professional and amateur, who devote large parts of their life to the study of weather in one way or another. Among them are those known as “storm chasers” — I’m sure I don’t have to explain; we’ve all seen Twister.

One of them is Mike Olbinski, who has his own YouTube channel. (Well, who doesn’t these days, but his is well worth checking out if you like weather.)

He’s done some very polished videos in the past few years, and he just released a new one, Vorticity 3. For this Wednesday Wow, I thought I’d show you all three in that series.

Enjoy! (You’ll want to use the biggest bestest monitor you’ve got for this and use the highest data rate you can manage.)

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This first one (6:23 minutes long), from 2016, involves footage from mid-April to mid-June and nine Midwestern states (20,000 miles traveled):

Olbinski specializes in time-lapse photography, which really shows off the complex (chaotic!) fluid behavior of the weather system. I just love these videos!

The next one (7:34) is from 2019 and involves 40,000 miles traveled over 54 days in 2018 and 2019:

Storm-chasing is a dangerous hobby. People die. But one can certainly see the attraction — the footage is spectacular.

And it’s a little like fishing. One puts in the effort (massive effort, in some cases) but there is always an element of luck, of being in the right place at the right time to capture the prize. (Life is like that, in general, isn’t it.)

This last one (9:43) was released about a week ago:

Mr. Olbinsky has certainly caught some lunkers. There is some truly gorgeous footage here. I’m impressed by the visual phrasing, the overall structure, and the scoring. These are excellent short films.

I hope you watch and enjoy all three. Definitely worth the time, in my book!

(There is the same element of complex visual randomness as one gets watching waves or a campfire. It makes it possible, and worthwhile, to watch these repeatedly. They’re very soothing.)

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Keeping to the weather theme (the storm theme, in particular), The Slo Mo Guys (another great YouTube channel) did a video that goes the other way — high-speed photography.

Very high-speed photography. Of lightning. It’s awesome:

The whole thing is 10:05 minutes. If you’re impatient, the carne begins at 4:45, but you might want to start at 3:30 to see them running to switch hotel rooms because the storm is on the other side (once again the element of chance with storms).

They did a followup video (11:23) involving a Van de Graaff generator that gets more into the details of lightning (including an examination of the footage they took in Singapore). Worth seeing if you’re into lightning (and Dan getting repeatedly zapped is pretty funny).

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Lastly, Leigh Orf’s Thunderstorm Research YouTube channel features videos demonstrating leading edge computer modeling of tornadoes.

These are longer and more technical. Many are the visuals for talks by Leigh Orf. They are mainly of interest to those of us interested in computer modeling.

This one is fairly short (16:20, the impatient can jump to the 5:00 mark) and has some amazing 3D renderings:

To me, it’s fascinating to see where we are in terms of modeling weather. They’re simulating tornado systems at a 10-meter resolution (lots of data points)!

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It was partly cloudy this morning, now it’s clouded over and still only 64 (with a dew point down to 56). Hard to believe we were busting 100 last week.

No doubt we will again, but here in the Twin Cities we’re right on the 45° latitude, so exactly halfway between the equator and pole. Our weather depends on whither the jet stream blows.

Right now a low over Lake Michigan has a counter-clockwise wind around it that’s sucking cold air down off Lake Superior into our area. So I’m wearing a sweater and sweat pants rather than shorts and a tee-shirt.

I love the crazy weather here!

Stay chillin’, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

10 responses to “Weather Wow

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Forecast for tomorrow at 6 AM is 55 degrees with 55 degree dew point — 100% humidity! (All that moisture from Lake Superior, no doubt.)

    Sounds clammy — clam soup! (In a clear broth; ew!!)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Wasn’t as bad as I thought, 59° air temp and 59° dew point, but my tee-shirt after an hour’s power walk was so sodden I could have wrung it out.

      And apparently there’s another heat advisory for tomorrow afternoon. Whadda crazy state!

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Man I’m jealous. 59F? And 64 in mid morning!

    I think the low here in the early morning is in the upper 70s. The high today is 94, with the heat index at 106. I have to put on sandals to walk to the mailbox so my feet don’t get burnt by the concrete and road asphalt. At least I’m at home and not having to go anywhere.

    I’ll be substantially less jealous when you’re dealing with -20 and shoveling snow. But right now: jealous jealous jealous!

  • Astronomer Eric

    I saw the latest Slow Mo Guys video a day or two ago and was going to recommend the channel to you the next time it crossed my mind. Looks like you’re already enjoying it! 🙂 Such an amazing channel.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah, I’ve been watching those guys for years.

      Latest video… You’re talking about the one with the thermite? That was pretty good. There’s a Mythbusters video out there where they used a bunch of thermite to cut a car in half lengthwise. Didn’t take long, either.

  • Astronomer Eric

    Yeah, the thermite one. The ad at the end for Mio has to be the best ad in existence. I just watched the Mythbusters one. Dang…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Impressive stuff, thermite. I looked into it a little way back when I was debating some 9/11 conspiracy kooks who claimed “they” used “nano-thermite” to bring down the towers. There are just so many things wrong with that idea…

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