Articles by Brian H. Tang
May 7, 2010
Weather plays a pivotal role in disaster responses. As we witnessed with the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, wind patterns can disperse ash into the upper atmosphere causing severe travel disruptions. Modeling the ash cloud is an incredibly hard job to do with accuracy due to uncertainties in the ash plume itself and the limited predictability of the atmospheric flow. Likewise, winds have played a critical role in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. High winds and waves in the days after the oil spill stymied cleanup efforts. Forecasted winds out of the south will continue to transport the oil slick slowly toward the coast of Louisiana.
April 13, 2010
Two groups of independent forecasters have issued their preliminary forecasts for the upcoming hurricane season, which runs from June through November. Both groups are predicting above average activity of 15–17 storms, of which 8–9 will become hurricanes.
March 2, 2010
With weather more reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest, we’ve been mired in clouds with intermittent rain and snow for the better part of a week. The wind and rain storm Thursday evening sent gusts roaring over 60 mph (97 kph) from Boston to Concord, NH knocking down trees, tearing off roofs, and even sending a shed full of snow tubes flying across I-495. While we got the brunt of the wind and rain, New York City experienced its fourth largest snow storm on record with 20.9 inches (53 cm) in Central Park. The higher elevations of the Green and White Mountains in northern New England received more than 3 feet (91 cm) of snow, a boon to ski resorts which have been desperate for natural snow.
February 19, 2010
If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you’re probably well aware of the weather problems that have plagued the outdoor Olympic venues, especially Cypress Mountain where the freestyle and snowboard events are being held. Since the sites are selected way ahead of time, there is no way to forecast how the weather will play out during the games themselves. Unfortunately for Vancouver, an exceptionally warm winter has caused a severe shortage of snow at Cypress Mountain. Snow actually had to be transported down from higher elevations in order to firm up the courses. Though there is plenty of snow to be found at Whistler, warm temperatures have caused the snow to be quite soft during the day posing an added challenge to athletes as they adapt on the fly to the changing conditions.
January 20, 2010
Meteorologists often describe snow as “wet” and “dry.” An example of wet snow is the kind we just got in yesterday’s storm. It tends to stick to tree trunks and street signs like paste, is hard to shovel, and makes good snowballs to pelt your friends or enemies with. On the other hand, dry snow is quite light and powdery, blows around easily, and makes for great skiing and snowboarding. There are a number of factors that determine whether we get wet or dry snow, but it generally comes down to the type of snowflakes that fall out of the sky and corresponding snow to liquid ratio that results.
December 1, 2009
Weather certainly has its ups and downs, and the last two months have been no exception. Comparing October and November as a whole for Massachusetts, October’s mean temperature ranked in the 18th percentile while November’s mean temperature will most likely rank around the 95th percentile. In fact, the temperatures at both Logan Airport and our campus weather station have yet to dip below freezing this autumn. The latest freeze in recorded history at Logan Airport was December 2nd in 1975 and we have a good chance of breaking that record, though it will be close call this morning.
November 10, 2009
Although this year’s Atlantic hurricane season has been a relatively quiet one, we are reminded in recent days that hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30. After going almost two months without a hurricane due to hostile conditions during the heart of the hurricane season, Hurricane Ida provided the late bloomer punch for this otherwise famished hurricane season. Spawned last Wednesday off the coast of Costa Rica, Ida lashed Nicaragua with heavy rain and waves. Unfortunately, 130 people were killed in El Salvador due to severe flooding there. Ida peaked as a category two storm, which was much stronger than anticipated, as it passed just northeast of Cancun, Mexico into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. It is projected to make landfall early today near Mobile, Alabama as a tropical storm. The main impacts will be the heavy rains — possibly up to half a foot (15 cm) — over the southeast as it makes a hard right turn and slows down after moving inland.
October 27, 2009
The end of October is usually when the Boston area sees the peak autumn colors, and this year is no different. Aided by the recent chilly nights, the transition to the colorful landscape that New England is so famous for has accelerated in recent days. It appears that peak color in the urban areas is approaching, and these next 7–10 days will likely feature the best combination of color and minimal leaf drop. If you have a chance, be sure to enjoy the colors before they fade. Popular spots that are a short distance from campus include the Arnold Arboretum, Middlesex Fells, and Blue Hills.
October 9, 2009
Chicago is frequently termed the “windy city,” but the honor, according to the National Climatic Data Center, belongs to the nearby Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, MA which has an average wind speed of 15.4 mph (24.8 kph). Boston is considered to be the windiest major metropolitan area with an average wind speed of 12.5 mph (20.1 kph) while Chicago is much further down the list at 10.4 mph (16.7 kph).
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September 11, 2009
The first ten days of September have been exceptionally nice with mostly sunny skies and temperatures near normal. September always seems to shake out this way for a good chunk of the month. It’s our short intermission from the otherwise variable weather we typically experience here in New England.