Friday, February 6, 2015

A God's Eye Flyover of Home, More Snowless Winter Weather Blahs, 2014 Precip Overview, New Horizons Update, and Awaiting PAYE Day

Behold!

The Great Northeastern Megalopolis of the United States of America -- more commonly called the Washington-to-Boston / I-95 Corridor -- as seen from the International Space Station (ISS) in the past week. I'm unsure of the exact date, though it was probably late on Feb. 3rd or the wee hours of Feb. 4th.

New York City is almost too brilliant in its radiance with Philadelphia not far behind. Baltimore and Washington practically merge into each other with only small spots of darkness (such as in and around Fort Meade).

Also visible are Fredericksburg, Va. (just to the south-southwest of D.C.); Buffalo (veiled in clouds); Montreal and Quebec City; and the cities and towns in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (including, just barely, Halifax). About 200 miles off the mid-Atlantic coastline and stretching northeastward into the Gulf of Main is a vast deck of stratocumulus clouds. New York City is almost too brilliant in its radiance.

This footage was taken by NASA astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore aboard the ISS.

In this frame, ISS is now over the Delmarva with a spectacular view of New Jersey, the entire New York City area, Long Island, and into New England. The Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are coming into view. The dark stretch of the South Jersey Pine Barrens are clearly visible.

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The ISS was brooking along northeast, cruising at a cool 27,600-km/h (17,150 MPH), that is, just about 7.67 km/sec (4.76 miles/sec). ISS was heading into the dawn, which is just visible as the spreading blue light along the limb of Planet Earth. Meanwhile, as the NASA clip notes, "just touching" the dawn were ghostly green aurora borealis dancing high in the rarefied upper reaches of the atmosphere across the Arctic mid-winter night.

Here we are directly over Long Island and looking down upon New England including the Boston area. Cape Code is clearly visible as are the Canadian Maritime Provinces. At this point, Halifax is quite distinguishable as is the Bay of Fundy and the cities St. John and Moncton, New Brunswick. Also visible is Prince Edward Island with its capital city of Charlottetown.

The brilliant splotch of light on the far left is Montreal and its suburbs while the smaller one to the right and slightly "up" where the St. Lawrence River widens into the St. Lawrence Seaway -- is Quebec City. Sorry, Ville de Québec.

Of note, I was inspired to write about this topic by this CWG entry.


Here is the actual YouTube clip "Aurora Touching Sunrise" posted on the ReelNASA YouTube channel.

Two post script issues: First, the above 15-second clip features the ISS flyover speeded up considerably. It would certainly take 2 to 3 minutes to travel the 600 to 700 miles traversed relative to the ground in those 15 seconds. Secondly, always remember that things -- including people! -- only appear weightless in the ISS (and the old Space Shuttles). There is plenty of gravity just 200 miles up -- Planet Earth is very big and very heavy (massive) at this scale. Instead, they are in a constant state of free fall, except they are moving quickly enough that the Earth is forever "dropping away" from them so that they don't fall into it -- just forever tangentially "toward" it.

It is apparent weightlessness in that accelerated frame of reference.

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I'm home as I start this entry (it's 7:14PM as I write this) doing two loads of laundry (well, the clothes are in the building's basement laundry room now in two dryers) and making a light dinner (Jasmine rice in a bag and a can of Campbell's Chunky allegedly "heart healthy" grilled chicken and sausage gumbo soup. It's "healthy for your heart," I presume, because the total sodium content is just 34% of daily recommended value rather than the usual half to two-thirds.

The weather remains in a completely boring / nothing pattern that while "wintry cold" features absolutely no weather systems of any note. Highs today reached 37F at KDCA, 35F at KIAD, and 33F at KBWI, all 8 to 10F below normal, and tonight will drop into the 20F to 25F range.

Every model-forecasted chance of snow craps out, first as a mix, then as rain, and then the rain even fails to materialize beyond, at most, 0.1 inch.

A moonlit night with a winter bare tree above a snow-covered ground beside the Tidal Basin here in Washington, D.C., in an undated picture taken by Kevin Ambrose and posted in this CWG entry (also linked below).

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To be clear, for the year, the three airports are actually running a bit above normal for precipitation, but that is quickly going to change as this dry, flat, chilly, nothing pattern continues indefinitely. (Year to date, KDCA is at 3.86" or +0.48"; KBWI is at 4.24" or +0.57"; and KIAD is at 3.46" or +0.19".)

There aren't even any chimerical mid-Atlantic blizzards portrayed on the GFS 10 to 16 day "fantasy panels" in the recent runs.

View Washington, D.C., in particular its Monumental core and downtown area, on ascent from National Airport taken on Feb. 5, 2015.

The Flickr links indicates this was taken on Feb. 5, 2015 by John Sonderman. Note the Capitol dome is covered in scaffolding and large piece of white tarp. Note also the snowless winter brown vapidity even in sunlight. Image source here (yes, CWG again).

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The Capital Weather Gang -- which really has zilch to write about for the next two weeks or so -- had an interesting piece about how Richmond is in an even worse "snow drought" than D.C., although to be factually accurate, as a result of the winters of 2009-2010 and 2013-2014, this region is not really in a snow drought in a five year average sense.

Not even KDCA with its snowboard that doubles as the hidey-hole place of Sterling LWX's pet Palka-Cabra She-Dragon.

There she is ...

ROAR!

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By the way, I never did post final 2014 precipitation stats for the four regional NWS climate stations (KDCA, KBWI, KIAD, and the Maryland Science Center (KDMH), so here they are:

KDCA
2014 Total: 44.41"
Departure: +4.67"
Annual Normal: 39.74"

KBWI
2014 Total: 52.58"
Departure: +10.70"
Annual Normal: 41.88"

KIAD
2014 Total: 46.07"
Departure: +4.53"
Annual Normal: 41.54"


These three stations are compared vis-à-vis their 1981-2010 averages. KDCA and KBWI actually stretch back -- in the pre-airport period -- to 1871 for precipitation and temperature (snowfall records started in 1888 and 1883, respectively).

KDMH
2014 Total: 52.85"
Departure: +11.96"
Annual Normal: 40.89"

The Maryland Science Center does not yet have a full 30-year normal base period but is compared versus a partial average. I think it was commissioned about 1987.

Richmond sucks for too many reasons to go into in this entry including its weather, regardless of the time of year. Indeed, weather-wise, it is just like Atlanta in that both are warmer, more humid, and less snowy versions of Washington, D.C.

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New Horizons Update!


Oh, and before we end this entry, our intrepid and awesome little New Horizons space probe sent back the above picture of Pluto and its double dwarf planet "moon" of Charon. It was taken on Jan. 27, 2015 from a distance of approximately 201 million km / 125 million miles.

Trust me, the pictures will get much better.

Above: A side-by-side comparison of a similar view taken last July when the probe was 264 million miles away.

Again, the pictures will get much better in the coming months.

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GO, NEW HORIZONS, GO!


Remember, little one, you're not out there alone. Every person back on Earth who knows and/or cares about and finds wonder and awe in these things is with you in spirit. You are not only our eyes and ears but you represent us in places -- the farthest reaches of the Solar System and beyond where it is doubtful (to me) that humans could or ever will go. At the very least, not for the foreseeable future.

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OK, that's all for now. I had planned a totally different entry about my finances including my taxes (a slightly wrinkle arose but it should not affect my ultimate refund, although I cannot file a 1040EZ as I planned).


In the entry, I was planning to liken my student loan situation to Greece vis-à-vis Germany and its moralizing political leaders and awful banksters. I was going to invoke "coercive deficiency" and all (I know, I know -- that doesn't at all apply) and excerpt Paul Krugman pieces and everything.

I won't even try to explain this tweet. Read the Coppola link above.

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However, I can hold off on that, especially since I have another 16 to 28 months before I have to deal with it, by which point I'm hopeful there have been some policy changes (read: expansion of the PAYE option).

OK, that really is all for now. I'm going to No. 9 shortly. Tomorrow, I plan to go to the gym and then get a haircut. I also intend to post a jukebox Saturday night entry.

--Regulus

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