Multiple Follow-Ups

November 10, 2010 0 Comments

Does anyone have any theories on the “missile” launch in southern California yesterday? After briefly reviewing the video and hearing a few explanations from others, I am 40/60 on whether it was a missile/rocket or an airplane. I can certainly understand the optical illusion argument of how a jet contrail could look like a missile launch (and this has happened before) but this is one good illusion if it is a contrail. Seeing is believing and it looks enough like a missile/rocket launch for me to give it a 40% chance. Since the government and independent sources have not come to a definitive answer yet, I doubt we will ever have anything near 100% confirmation either way.

The rest of today’s blog post is going to be follow-up material on several subjects I have been discussing over the past few years. Every once in a while, I just have to throw in a pile of continuing stories.

1. Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (BCCD). I came across this story a few years ago when the BCCD was blamed on anthropogenic global warming (AGW), just like most every negative event or change in contemporary times. Since then, more people have studied it and have nearly ruled out AGW, pesticides, and a few other things. The latest theory is that a combination of a viral and fungal infection in the bees causes the mass die-off.

2. When discussing AGW, I often bring up the point that it is very difficult to factor progress and innovation into future predictions because technology is changing so fast. Thus climate predictions often assume an unlikely “business as usual” scenario for fossil fuel usage over the next century. Finally, more people such as Dutch technologists Rutger van Santen and Djan Khoe are promoting the idea of how we can use technology to address the most pressing problems here on earth. Their new book 2030: Technology that will change the world addresses the climate as well as many other social problems. I was happy to see someone else thinking about technological progress recently and I hope it makes it into the discussion increasingly in the future.

3. Since I brought up electric vehicles yesterday I might as well mention that there was a new record for distance driving on one charge set in Germany a little while back. The Audi car with an electric engine drove from Munich to Berlin, a total of 373 miles, on one charge. That is quite impressive. When I think about purchasing an electric car, I think about some of the longer drives I might make, home to the Chippewa Valley, or to Madison for a Badger game, and these are all well under 200 miles one way. If electric cars can routinely achieve 300 miles per charge, I think they will be much more likely to be adopted in the U.S where driving distances are generally a bit longer. Staying on the EV subject, Mitsubishi has announced an American version of the i-MiEV that will go on sale next year. It won’t be in my price range but with government rebate incentives, the price should be under $30,000.

4. Peak Oil: Here we are nearing 2011 and there is still no sign of Peak Oil disrupting the world economy. In fact, there appears to be a current glut of fossil fuels with increasingly ingenious ways to extract and use them. This has not stopped talk about Peak Oil. This recent study used a new metric to assess whether Peak Oil is a disaster waiting to befall modern society – the stock markets. Looking at long term market investment and sentiment, the study determined that investors do not think alternative fuels will arrive before traditional fossil fuels will run out. Markets are usually a superior way of forecasting future trends but I think this study has too far of a time horizon to be useful.

5. Cloaking. If you haven’t heard, scientists in a few different labs around the world have create real honest-to-goodness cloaking devices, similar to what Gene Roddenberry imagined for Star Trek. So far the devices can only cloak objects in single wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation (such as microwaves) but they are getting better at it and should someday be able to cloak in visible wavelengths. The latest development is a cloaking material that is flexible.

6. Queue up Gordon Lightfoot. Today is the anniversary (1975) of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Some blog references here and here.

For those of you waiting to see if we will have a winner in the First Snowfall Contest, it still looks like a possibility of an inch or 2 of snow on Saturday the 13th which 5 people predicted. The latest computer models indicate slightly warmer air with this storm and thus there might be a bit more rain than snow and we might have to wait a bit longer to find out the winners.

For all the hunters, earlier this week I took a stab at the opening weekend (gun deer) forecast. At that point it looked like quite chilly conditions with gusty winds and perhaps some light snow or flurries. The current forecast has backed off a bit on the cold air but it still looks like there could be some precipitation on or around the 20th.

Winter Weather Awareness Tip: Always bring your cell phone when you have to drive through a winter storm.

Have a good Wednesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew

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