Thursday, December 07, 2006

Faith-based forecasts

Today I took a walk to Whitechapel during my lunch break. The headline of The World's Greatest Newspaper caught my eye. The article raised the prospect of millions being unable to travel home during the holidays and quoted "Piers Corbyn, director of Weather Action long-range forecasters":

We are going to see two main waves of storms, with three serious bursts in total. They will all be worse than last weekend, but we will see a steady deterioration. By the end of the month things are going to be really bad.

That caught my attention, since we're supposed to fly home to Colorado on December 30. The article quoted Corbyn saying that three storms would take place between the 13th-15th, 18th-20th and 27th-29th of December. That level of detail up to three weeks from now sounded, well, impossible, since a 2004 News Focus by Dick Kerr in Science cited Anthony Hollingsworth at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts as stating that in its nearly 25-year history, work on medium-range forecasting by computer models has extended the length of high-quality forecasts from about 2 days to about 4 days. "I hope we'll see useful 10-day forecasts by the end of this decade, in the winter at least," said Hollingsworth.

However, when I get back to my office, I read about the tornado in London. Aha - maybe that Corbyn guy is on to something! At home tonight I looked up the Daily Express article, which went on to say

Mr Corbyn said the new storms were being caused by unusual activity on the Sun, which he said influences the Earth’s weather patterns. He explained: “We are seeing extra magnetic activity from the Sun and extra particles in the solar wind.

“The strength of the Earth’s magnetic connection with the Sun determines our weather to a large extent, so we will see solar storms mirrored here on Earth.”

Oh, right, I remembered. It's this guy! More power to him if he can invent a better mouse trap, but I think I'll take my chances with my eyes being all aglow for Christmas on British Airways.

Today's 11 AM London weather: Cloudy with a chance of being snatched by gobblers

from Bloomberg: The strongest tornado to hit London in more than half a century touched down in Kensal Rise, a neighborhood in the U.K. capital's northwest, injuring at least six people and damaging buildings with winds of as much as 130 miles an hour (210 kilometers).

The tornado was ``severe'' said Terence Meaden, deputy director of the U.K.'s Tornado and Storm Research Organization. Witnesses said the sky went dark, lightning flashed and a powerful blast of wind tore through the area at about 11 a.m. local time today.

The tornado was classified T4 on an intensity scale that runs from T0 to T10, said Meaden.... Judging by television footage, today's tornado appeared to have been in contact with the ground for about two minutes, causing damage across a pathway as long as a mile and as wide as 200 yards, he said.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Plots within plots

The terrific Anne Applebaum summarizes the Litvinenko case.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A stonking good Christmas to you all

Last night, workers set up a 15-foot Christmas tree outside a nearby dorm while we drank mulled wine, ate mince pie, and sang carols. It was lovely. Unfortunately, by midnight high winds had knocked the tree over.

If I go to heaven, I hope I can watch the ten least successful holiday specials of all time, even if they were never actually made.