Cyclone Road


Sunday, February 27, 2005

[looks like email-to-blog functionality is down so this post may appear three times; I'll delete the extras later]

I was disappointed to read that Love's truck stops lost their WiFi because in in a dispute with Sprint. Apparently, filed a lawsuit contending that Sprint was in breach of contract for failing to properly service some equipment, and Sprint responded by pulling the internet plug on all 500 access points. This is bad news for chasers. Leave it to Sprint to screw something up.

It's a small bump in the road for WiFi overall, however, which is growing explosively. In 2003, WiFi wasn't on the radar--I don't recall ever having heard the term--then in 2004, it was a legitimate option. In 2005, some chasers will find it a primary source of high-speed, widely available data. So far I've found these links the most helpful in determining WiFi locations. I'll have to paste the URLs since I'm not using the Blogger interface for this post. Here are the WiFi URLs I've found:

The last two links are pay services that I'll consider using if I'm in a pinch. It would be nice to stick with freespots since data costs can pile up quickly between XM and cell data.

I grabbed a Sony Ericcson GC83 data card on Ebay when a friend found a couple Cingular-branded and cheap. There are plenty of 83s on Ebay, but most are locked for ATT Wireless and make for nothing but expensive paperweights when Cingular customers buy them. Your Cingular SIM won't open it, and nobody knows how to unlock them. Finding a Cingular-branded card under $100 is a steal so I spent the $65.

After all the hassle of learning to tether my phone to the laptop, now I have this card. Perhaps a good March and April chase will tell me enough about the tethering option to make a decision about activating the card in May. Cingular waives their contract requirement if you have your own card, but the plan itself another $80 per month.

No change in the GFS. Sticking to its guns on the deep eastern CONUS trough and if this solution holds, chasers have another two weeks at least to plan and prepare.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Any chaser who's been around a while knows better than to count on the extended progs from the GFS, or what we used to call the MRF. It is often dramatically wrong beyond four or five days, so the output on which I'm basing this blog entry is almost numerical speculation. But.....

The trends aren't always so off-base and the trends are discouraging for early March. The active southern branch of the jet stream gives way, in the several runs I've seen, to a massive cold plunge centered on the eastern half of the CONUS (as in, where I am!), but which also drags a bitter cold front into the plains and through the Gulf of Mexico. Here, courtesy of Earl Barker's fine model page, is a depiction of critical winter thicknesses at 348 hours. Without getting too long-winded about what these lines mean, suffice to say they mean cold cold weather. At this same output, the 0C 850mb temp line is south of the Gulf Coast. Ouch.

This could mean several things. First, because this pattern has evolved repeatedly, something vaguely similar to this will probably happen. I doubt it will be as powerful or long-lasting as the GFS shows, and I don't think the polar air will plunge so far south. The reason is that the southern branch of the jet has been a stalwart for six weeks now--I don't think she'll budge so easily. More likely this front will stall somewhere in Central Texas and east along the Deep South. This could create a lifting stationary/warm front as perhaps our first chase opportunity late in the second week of March, probably in Texas and south of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Another possibility is that nothing at all like this will occur, and tomorrow the GFS will show an entirely different solution as if these past runs never appeared. I have seen this more times than I can count--a total about-face by the model--and it's part of the game. In this case, it would be welcome.

The last scenario is that the GFS is correct and a monstrous polar incursion will shut down the first half of March for any severe weather in the CONUS with a front that could leave the Gulf scoured of low-level RH for another week to ten days beyond. This would effectively delay the start of chase season into the last week of March at best, or even the beginning of April. Yikes. There goes our quick beginning.

I don't think this last possibility is likely because I believe in climatology more than the model past about 240 hours, and the climatology for a mid-March deep freeze isn't highly supportive. It's possible, but not common. Between the unfavorable climo and the past few weeks of southern jet behavior, I suspect something like a front that plunges, stalls, allows instability to build south, then returns as the first warm front we chase, sometime around mid-March. Let's hope so anyway.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Might do a little nowcasting for my chase pal Steve Miller in Texas this afternoon. He's looking at an area to the west southwest of the metroplex where MLCAPE values are over 1500 j/kg and some deep layer shear is present. Early nowcasting is an awesome way to get familiar with all the pieces of the puzzle we try to assemble during chasing, from surface obs to radar to satellite, as well as links and even the Street Atlas software. It's pretty fun if you can't be there in person.

I'm working on my thesis on the laptop and monitoring Texas weather on the desktop. Wonder how productive I'll be the next five hours?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Tires, oil change, foglight, and wash--done. With the brake check last week, this completes the vehicle prep outside a cursory exam by my favorite mechanic in town right before I leave in May. I have a 4Runner and 60k miles is early middle-age for these.

After I complete the next draft of my novel and turn it over to my director, hopefully on February 28th, I should have some downtime while he reads, and can install my gear and antennas and test the laptop with all pennants flying. I'll be ready for a chase by mid-March. What the thesis committee has in mind could be another story.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Tis the season to begin composing chase prep lists. Chasing never takes advantage of prior capital expenditures, it seems; there is always something new and expensive to buy at the beginning of every year. This year, the tires I have described earlier, and I'll need new contact lenses as well. I'm also planning on buying two new antennae for the 2 meter radios, though I may skimp some on those and find cheaper models.

Data is set: XM, Wi-Fi, and Cingular MEdia Net. I'll activate the XM on March 1. Beyond that, only common vehicle maintenance tasks, a new fog light, and tightening the Jotto Desk. As for the laptop and it's hardware problems, I believe it's related to the DVD drive, and I ordered a new one yesterday. If that doesn't work, I've got problems. In case of total disaster, I'm bringing my software CDs to the plains with me. But I won't buy a new laptop in 2005, so this one will have to struggle through.

Still cam and backups are ready, camcorder (five years old this year) is as ready as it can be at its advanced age, along with tripods and other accessories.

As for the chase season itself, there are some indications that it could start early and strong. See Brian Stertz's discussion here. My instinct is that his summation is correct, and I've heard people say that Al Moller is suggesting similar prospects for the south plains. So I want to be ready to roll by March 1, though I will only have time for a single chase in March and a single April outing.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Testing this through the cell phone connections.

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