Thursday, April 26, 2007

European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna

I am now back from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting in Vienna. According to the conference organizers, there were 7844 participants, 420 sessions, 4186 oral presentations, and 6702 posters. Needless to say, a meeting this size is typically a disappointment because you can never get to see everything you want to see because of overlapping sessions. Indeed, there were many times that I was wanting to be in two or three locations at the same time. Then, there were times where you just sat around waiting for a good session to happen. (Actually, these times were usually taken up by checking email by the very slow wireless connection that was free for all attendees or by chatting with colleagues.)

I did attend some really well-presented and interesting sessions, especially the Dynamical Meteorology session organized by Conny Schwierz and the session on communicating natural hazards. I was even surprised by a nice session on gravity waves late on Friday afternoon.

I didn't attend the session, but there was a debate about the use of artificial (man-made) snow in ski resorts. Here is the snippet published in the daily newsletter about the conference.

"Artificial snow destroys mountain diversity and it reduces the drinking water availability. Moreover, it will take the mountains hundreds of years to recover from the damage caused by ski areas," Prof. Carmen de Jong said during a press conference yesterday. Tourism companies in the Alps produce artificial snow, because natural snow cover has decreased over the the past decades as a result of climate change. De Jong states that we must change our type of sports and adapt ourselves to the hydrological changes in the Alps. Furthermore, she is warning for environmental disasters on the long term caused by artifical snow. More research on this subject is needed."

The conference ended late on Friday, afterwhich I changed hotels and started my vacation.

Strong land-sea temperature contrast

We have a nice contrast between the Gulf of Finland and the warm land setting up now. The attached image shows the near-surface air temperatures in degrees C. Helsinki is the pink-colored urban area in the center of the image, and Estonia is the landmass to the south of the Gulf. Estonia's temperatures are in the upper teens and lower 20s.

This image is courtesy of the Helsinki Testbed.

Misc items from Mary Golden

These are miscellaneous items from Mary Golden, my Editorial Assistant for Monthly Weather Review, and frequent reader of this blog.

Finland is #3 (behind Israel and Sweden) among the top 10 countries in research spending as a percentage of GDP (at 3.49%), compared to the U.S. at #7 (2.61%).

Finland is #1 in highest percentage of 24-year-olds with science degrees (13.2%), with the U.S. at #10 (5.7%)

(TIME Feb 13, 2006, pp. 24-25)

Mirages in Finland

There are a lot of Finns in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Thoughts about being a foreigner in Finland by another blogger

Clash of Cultures 4: Vienna music I saw

  • Going to a blues/rock show in Vienna with Pertti Nurmi of FMI and seeing a German rocker singing early rock and roll songs in a voice that you could have sworn was Elvis Presley.
  • Same show, different performer: White guy singing black delta blues with an authentic sounding growl.
  • Different show, way different band: kick-ass Austrian reggae-rock-rap band at the club Flex, down by the Danube River.
  • German Queen tribute band
  • Street artists doing dixie-style music
  • Hyper street-musician/accordian-player making rock-and-roll poses while belting out opera-quality vocals that filled the walking plaza

Clash of Cultures 3: Bruce meets Finland

As the alarm went off a few mornings ago, the clock radio came alive with New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia". After the song, I heard "Blah blah blah [in Finnish] "Streets of Philadelphia" Bruce Springsteen blah blah blah [in Finnish]."

Upcoming competitions in Finland

Helsinki City Run: 12 May 2007, a half marathon

Suomi Meloo: 9-15 June 2007, Finland kayak relay from Kuhmo to Oulu. Due to travel plans to England, I won't be able to participate. :-(

Eurovision Finals: 12 May 2007: Long before there was American Idol, there was Eurovision.

Air Guitar World Championships: 5-7 September 2007 (sent to me by George Bryan of NCAR)

Wife-Carrying World Championships: 6-8 July 2007: From the web page How to Become a Master in Wife Carrying:

The wife carrying is an attitude towards life. The wives and the wife carriers are not afraid of challenges or burdens. They push their way persistently forward, holding tightly, generally with a twinkle in the eyes. . . .

You can sense the excitement in the air during the wife carrying competition. The core of the race is made of a woman, a man and their relationship. The wife carrying and eroticism have a lot in common. Intuitive understanding of the signals sent by the partner and becoming one with the partner are essential in both of them – sometimes also whipping. . . .

It is possible to train for the wife carrying competition everywhere in the middle of the daily routines: in the bath, in the super market, in the playground or in the body building centre. The wife carrying is good for your relationship.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Vienna waits for you...

Slow down, you crazy child
and take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile
it's all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize,..Vienna waits for you?

In case you don't hear from me for a while, I will be at the European Geophysical Union General Assembly next week. I have three talks at the EGU:

  • Baroclinic development within zonally varying flow (with Fuqing Zhang)
  • What causes mammatus? (with Kathy Kanak and Jerry Straka)
  • Decision making by Austin, Texas, residents in hypothetical tornado scenarios (with Eve Gruntfest, Chip Benight, Sheldon Drobot, Lindsey Barnes, and Mary Hayden)

    I am also session chair for the Dynamic Meteorology poster session.

    Finally, Prof. Markku Kulmala (see photo) of the University of Helsinki will be receiving the Vilhelm Bjerknes Medal for his research on atmospheric aerosols. This is quite an honor! (This was Markku skiing earlier this month.)

    After the conference, I will be taking five days off in Austria. No plans yet. Just will keep an open schedule.

    And you know that when the truth is told
    that you can get what you want or you can just get old
    You're gonna kick off before you even get half through
    Why don't you realize,. Vienna waits for you
    When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

    Lyrics from "Vienna" by Billy Joel from The Stranger

  • The value of weather forecasting in Finland

    Earlier this month, VTT (an impartial expert organisation whose objective is to develop new technologies and create new innovations in Finland) issued a report saying that the value of weather to society was a 5:1 ratio. That means, for every euro that Finland spends on weather, it gets 5 euro back in benefits to society. VTT estimates that the "expected total benefits with current information" is about 240-300 million euro. FMI's budget is 50 million euro, so that's where the ratio of about five comes from.

    With "perfect information", VTT estimates that the ratio could go up to 10:1.

    Further evidence that weather forecasting and research more than pays for itself.

    Spring versus Fall

    The sun has been out quite a bit over the last month or so in southern Finland. Apparently, unlike much of the US, spring is the dry season in Finland and skies are mostly clear a lot of the time. For example, in Helsinki, May is the driest month with 10 days with more than 0.1 mm of precipitation. In contrast, Albany and Oklahoma City have maxima in the number of precipitation days per month in May, with a less pronounced annual cycle.

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    The Helsinki Testbed

    This week has been a busy one for me and the other people who are working with the Helsinki Testbed. Last Monday I gave a presentation at Vaisala about my vision for the collaboration between research, operational forecasting, and the commercial sector in Helsinki. (Apparently in advertising my talk, Vaisala public affairs sent out the URL to this blog, eliciting lots of new readers from Vaisala. Hello Vaisala Readers!) The talk was well attended and well received, from what I've heard.

    This week there were two big activities for the Testbed. Wednesday was the planning meeting for Phase II, where new applications would be developed, at Vaisala. Thursday was the Testbed Workshop, where research results and the status of the Testbed were reviewed. Richard Pyle from Vaisala in Boulder had come to talk about his vision for the Testbed within Vaisala's Precision Weather initiative. As a historical curiosity, Rich Pyle was at SUNY Albany (Computer Science, SUNY 1983) at the same time I arrived in 1991. No truth to the rumor he left shortly after I arrived because I arrived!

    Anyway, I see a lot of potential for the Testbed in the next few years based on the optimism that I saw at these two meetings this week. It's an exciting time to be at Helsinki!

    The Return Of The Birds

    In the last week or two, I noticed sea gulls flocking, squawking, and flying all over Helsinki. I can't remember seeing many, if any, all winter. Guess they go to warmer climates, then return to Helsinki once the ice melts.

    I also read in the Helsinki newspaper that these birds are a real nuisance to people, and they have scientists watching them to see how they find food and whether they teach their young to do the same.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Clash of Cultures 2: British Cheddar on Taco

    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    Easter in Finland

    Unlike the US, Easter is a pretty big deal in Finland. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays. FMI and the university have seemed pretty empty this week and many people are taking next week off, too. It's been nice and sunny for the past few days, and the temperature right now is 5 deg C. Happy Easter to all!

    Tuesday, April 03, 2007

    Clash of Cultures 1: Big Texas Pulla