First and update on the weather for today and this week. A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY is in effect for Price county through 4pm today.A WINTER STORM WARNING is in effect for Ashland county through 6am Tuesday and for Iron county until noon Tuesday. Snow amounts could be around an inch or two around Phillips, Park Falls, Three Lakes, Eagle River, and Arbor Vitae. Far northwestern Vilas county and the north half of Iron and Ashland counties could enf up with 4 to 7 inches of snow – most of which will come in the form of lake effect or lake enhanced snow this evening and overnight. For the rest of the area, the weather still looks mostly dry. Sorry snow-lovers. There might be a dusting up to a half inch in central Wisconsin this afternoon and evening, otherwise no major storms are in the works for the foreseeable future (through next week). The next chance of measurable snow will be Monday of next week. Right now it looks like an inch or so is possible.
The biggest news of the week is the cold weather heading our way. The coldest day we have experienced thus far this winter occurred on January 2nd – seems like a long time ago doesn’t it? The low temperature was -10 and the high temperature was 5. Coming up this Thursday I am forecasting a high of only 4, and that is looking generous. There might be enough wind for wind chill advisories as well so get ready to put on extra layers of clothing. At this point, it doesn’t look like the extreme cold will last very long. By Sunday highs should climb back up into the 20s.
Updates, Updates, Updates.
First some space news updates. I have been following the development of private space ventures for some time now. One company in particular that has gotten off to a good start is Bigelow aerospace. Here is a recent article from a reporter who was allowed into their manufacturing facility. It is nice to know that they have built and are already testing their “large” space hotels – the ones that will hold 6 people. They are also thinking outside of the box by plying their wares to NASA as cheap instant inflatable moon bases. Just attach three of them together and you end up with a lot of living space. Such a set-up could also be moved around to different spots on the moon. The bad news, it appears they have delayed the launch of their biggest “hotel” until 2015 at the earliest. Originally, they projected a couple of years earlier.
A rocket that could help Bigelow launch their space hotels is the Falcon 9 from SpaceX. This particular rocket passed its final safety test recently and should be making its maiden voyage in a couple of months.
Something else that SpaceX might be launching in the future are space solar power panels. I blogged about Japan’s ambitions to develop space solar power in the past. “Space Solar Power” is the concept of putting large solar panels in space and then ”beam” the energy back down to earth. The Japanese are eyeing the use of microwave radiation to beam the energy back down to the surface. Unfortunately, I think they are going to run into some resistance. Even if it can be proven “mostly” safe, I don’t think that will matter in a lot of citizen’s minds. People will not like to hear that the atmosphere and the planet is being “microwaved”. The microwave beam would be focused like a laser and would be beamed down to the surface in unpopulated areas, but the beam will still likely be a few kilometers in diameter, but I am unsure if that would be enough information to dissuade much of the public from objecting. Perhaps beaming infrared energy back down to earth would be better. EADS Astrium, Europe’s largest space company is proposing just that. This would probably be viewed as safer. They hope to put a demonstration satellite in orbit by 2015, which is a much more aggressive time frame than the Japanese who are projecting a functional space solar power plant by 2030. One problem I can envision for space solar power plants – something that is not talked about much – is space junk and meteorites. There are so many small objects orbiting the earth that there could be significant degradation of the solar panels due to tiny collisions.
Speaking of collisions with metorites, here is an amazing story. A meteorite crashed into a doctor’s office in Virginia. You can read about it ands see a picture here. It weighed a half a pound and was about the size of an adult human’s fist. As amazing as this sounds, I am surprised that more meteorite impact are not observed every year - given the large human population and all of the recording equipment we have employed around the world.
Scientists do expect more meteorite impacts in the future, particularly from large meteors/asteroids. They are on the watch for these because they could have wide ranging planetary effects if they hit the earth. The goods news is that they are looking for these near earth objects. The bad news is that they require more money in order to identify the close to 90% of the asteroids (500 feet wide size range) that have gone undetected.
One weapon in the endeavor to protect the earth from asteroids/meteors is the new WISE satellite. It has only been in operation a couple of weeks and has already spotted some new near earth objects.
Lastly, no sign of life yet from the Mars Phoenix lander. More listening efforts will be conducted in February and March.
Coming up tomorrow, new news on the IPCC and the Himalayan Glacier scandal.
Have a good Monday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.