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The Most Breathtaking Video of the Weather

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Video of the Week #107, August 29th, 2013:

From: The Most Breathtaking Video of the Weather You’ll Watch This Week by Evelyn Lamb at Roots of Unity.

Source: NOAA Visualizations

187 seconds. 3641 images. That’s all it takes to visually highlight the tension between the chaotic unpredictability of the weather and its repetitiveness in this new video from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showcasing the past 10 years of weather in the Americas. The images (one photo per day) are drawn from data collected by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite GOES-12, which monitored the weather in North and South America since April 2003. It shut down on August 16. On a day-to-day basis, we are limited in how well we can predict the weather — 14 days is the upper limit, even with ensemble forecasting techniques — because it’s such a chaotic system, but we can also assume that we’ll see certain weather patterns in certain places at certain times of the year, like hurricanes. Hurricane Sandy shows up at the 2:50 mark in the video, forming and dissipating in the blink of an eye.

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  1. 1. jtdwyer 1:12 pm 08/30/2013

    What seems most interesting is the generally linear band of equatorial East-West flow at the boundary of two turbulent polar flows – generally in the opposite direction. The turbulent flows seem to be most affected by what are likely large scale ocean currents and terrestrial boundary features…

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  2. 2. Ian Roulstone 5:22 pm 09/3/2013

    The ‘turbulent bands’ in mid-latitudes are dominated by low pressure systems (depressions), and their dynamics is governed largely by the Coriolis effect and the horizontal pressure gradient force. In the tropics, where the pattern is noticeably different, the Coriolis effect is much weaker and thermal convection plays a dominant role. It is remarkable that meteorologists devised relatively simple mathematical models (e.g. “quasi-geostrophic theory”) that described the larger-scale predictable features of mid-latitude weather systems, before the advent of modern numerical weather prediction.

    For those interested in this subject matter, please refer to my new book (co-authored by John Norbury) “Invisible in the Storm: the role of mathematics in understanding weather” (Princeton UP).

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