Daily Archives: May 22, 2011

Live blogging a tornado

Well, that was interesting. We are having turbulent weather here in Minnesota. The current low pressure system passing across the US is sitting on us like a bullet on a bull’s eye. Almost every line of storm activity is breaking into small blobs which in turn are spinning up wall clouds and twisters, mostly small, mostly only on radar, mostly not touching down.

Except the one that is currently bearing down on Coon Lake Beach and Forest Lake. It was spotted on a traffic cam earlier, seen by some spotters, damaged a shopping mall, and hit the small airport we have down the road from here. But what happened here, at our house, was kinda cool.

A large cloud which I believe contained the tornado to our east sat over head dropping one or two inch an hour rain (but no hail). However the wind velocity was zero. The leaves on nearby trees were quivering lightly from being rained on. I heard the freight train but the air did not move.

Then, just as the sound of the tornado going by faded into the distance, with the wind still at zero, leaves started to fall. I could see them way up in the air, two or three times higher than the tops of the perfectly still trees all around me, and the leaves fell, spinning or wavering a bit, but not much, straight down to the ground. And, when they hit the ground I could see that every one of the green falling items was a small fragment of a leaf or other vegetation. Debris carried high into the air, spread out from the tornado, and gently dropped on it.

As I write this I’m hearing that dozens of homes in one area have been damaged, people are using their own axes and chain saws to cut through trees sitting on people’s houses to rescue those trapped inside. No reports of injuries from that locality right now. I don’t know where the heck the breathless reporter was calling in from … oh, wait, North Minneapolis. People are trapped in their homes and cars. We’ll keep an eye on that.

UPDATE: They’re showing traffic cam film of a twister on the ground in Forest Lake now, a few miles away from the camera, which in turn is in the sun.

Three Academic Books on Bird Migration

These are the kinds of books you get if you are either a scientists studying bird migration and related issues, or a very serious bird geek. The first two can be obtained at very low prices used, but the third will set you back at least 50 bucks US$ if you want a used copy. Note the spread of publication dates. It is not the case that the oldest book is out of date in all respects: Quite the contrary. Alerstam reviews theory and ideas that have not been revisited or revised to any great degree. Also, it is interesting to see how changes in the field develop over a decade or so. In any event, I’ve labeled the books by year of publication to make it very clear that I’m not showing you hot off the press items here.

1993: Bird Migration by Thomas Alerstam is a general overview of bird migration with an excellent overarching discussion of the context in which migration has evolved followed by a focused study of nine different ecologically defined categories of birds. There is also a detailed discussion of what was known about navigation at the time of publication.

2001: Bird Migration: A General Survey by Peter Berthold covers similar topics as Alerstam but with more focus on the evolution of migration, methods of study, bird physiology and threats to migratory species.

2005: Birds of Two Worlds: The Ecology and Evolution of Migration, Edited by Russell Greenberg and Peter P. Marra is different from the above mentioned book in that it is an anthology of scholarly papers on bird migration, covering the full range of migratory syndromes and the evolution of migration.

Ark Park Gets State Funding

The separation of church and state is dead in Kentucky Governor Beshear says he would welcome a “Mecca Theme Park” as well. He also says the Ark Park will be required to not discriminate in hiring. We’ll see.

From the Courier-Journal:

A state contractor concluded that the proposed Ark Encounter biblical theme park will draw enough visitors to qualify for state incentives, prompting the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority to grant final approval for up to $43.1 million in sales tax rebates over 10 years.

The state tourism law spells out several requirements, including the number of out-of-state visitors, that must be met for developers to recover up to 25 percent of the project’s cost through a return of the sales tax paid by visitors on admission tickets, food, souvenirs and other expenses.

Ark Encounter, which will feature a 500-foot wooden model of Noah’s Ark and the Tower of Babel from the Bible, is projected to cost as much as $172.5 million and create 500 full-time and 400 part-time jobs.

Here’s the governor trying to make it sound like he couldn’t care less about the way our system of democracy is supposed to work:

(If the video is invisible, watch it here.)

Hat Tip: Joe