Ashley Baylor

Tsunami Debris

June 7th, 2012 at 11:00 am by under Weather

On March 11, 2011, a powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a deadly tsunami in Japan.  Tsunami waves reached heights of 133 feet and traveled 6 miles inland!

In total:
15, 854 people died
26,992 people injured
3,155 people missing
129,225 buildings totally collapsed
254,204 buildings “half collapsed”
691,766 buildings partially damaged

A year later, debris from the tsunami is washing up on the shores of the United States and Canada.  The debris found includes a motorcycle, a fishing boat, and most recently a 66 foot concrete dock!

This dock, from a port in Misawa, washed up on an Oregon beach this week.  The owners of the port don’t want it back, so the question for us is: what to do with it??  Officials are contemplating whether they should float it somewhere out to sea or dismantle it on the beach.

Floating it out to sea poses a safety concern for boaters and surfers.  (For obvious reasons, they don’t want to run into a large dock floating in the ocean!)  Surfers could be injured by such large debris, and it certainly could damage boats/ships.  With that said, if they float it out to sea, what would stop it from floating back or injuring someone??  It seems like option #2, dismantling it, would be the way to go!

Scientists are also concerned about the invasive species of marine life attached to the dock.  They discovered crabs and a starfish that are native to Japan.

 -Eileen Carmody, weather intern


On a Collision Course

June 5th, 2012 at 12:04 pm by under Weather

 
Four BILLION years from now, the Milky Way galaxy will no longer exist!
 
The Milky Way is on a collision course with the similar-sized Andromeda galaxy.  Over time, the galactic collision will create a whole new galaxy, one that looks like an elliptical shape rather than the Milky Way’s trademark spiral shape.  (See picture.)
 
Astronomers have known for a long time that the Milky Way and Andromeda (also known as M 31) were on a collision course.  They are moving towards each other at the incredible rate of 250,000 MPH!!!!  I can’t even wrap my mind around that.  Two galaxies….moving at 250,000 MPH….won’t hit for another for billion years….
 
This won’t be as catastrophic as it sounds.  The merger begins in four billion years, but it’ll take two billion years for the new hybrid galaxy to be complete.
 
Even as these galaxies collide, it doesn’t pose a threat of destroying Earth or our solar system.  However, our solar system will likely be shifted to a different position in the new galaxy.
 
Obviously, this collision will not affect us anytime soon, but it’s something to talk about around the water cooler..
 
-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor

Transit of Venus

June 5th, 2012 at 8:40 am by under Weather

A rare solar event will occur this evening!  Venus will pass between the Sun and Earth, starting at 6:03 PM.  It will look like a small black dot moving across the Sun.  Venus will progress along a track that will run diagonally from the upper left to the lower right.

 If you don’t get a chance to see it tonight, it won’t happen again until December 10, 2117!  Actually,North Americawon’t get a chance to see this event again until December 8, 2125!!  The last time this occurred was June 8th, 2004.  (See picture of Venus transit over Lake Erie.)

 Venus transits usually occur in pairs about 8 years apart.  This evening’s transit is paired with the 2004 transit, but the last pair to occur was in 1881 and 1889. This is only the 7th visible transit since the time of Galileo (1564-1642)!

 This evening’s transit will be used by astronomers to make calculations about exoplanets, which are planets similar to ours, but in other solar systems. Astronomers will use the information they receive today to calculate the sizes of these planets and their distances from Earth.

 Venus’ transit should take about 6 hours and 40 minutes, so we should be able to witness the beginning of this event, assuming the weather cooperates..but of course, it’s not going to!  Mostly cloudy skies will keep the most of the Northeast from seeing this rare event.  Who knows, maybe Mother Nature’s mood will shift and the skies will clear.

 BUT!

 Be aware!  Looking directly at the sun causes eye damage, so use a solar filtered telescope or eclipse glasses.  Strong welding visors are also capable of protecting your eyes.  DO NOT use regular sunglasses to look at the sun.  Another option is to view the transit indirectly by projecting the image onto a piece of white cardboard, using a telescope or binoculars to magnify the image.  You can also project the image by punching a small hole into a piece of paper and holding that up to the cardboard.  Venus will appear as a small black dot on the cardboard.

-Eileen Carmody, weather intern


May is the Month for Skywatchers

May 4th, 2012 at 9:50 am by under Weather

Courtesy: Sandy Adams

First up to bat: a “supermoon”.

On deck: the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

In the hole: the first solar eclipse of 2012.

The skywatching action starts this weekend with a double-header!

This Saturday, there will be a big, bright “supermoon”!  “Supermoon” is the nickname for a full moon that coincides with the moon’s perigee – the closest approach to Earth.  When the moon is in its full phase and at perigee, it can appear much brighter and slightly larger than the average full moon.  With the moon a mere 221,802 miles from Earth, it should appear up to 14% larger and 30% brighter!  Be sure to check it out around 11:35 PM Saturday night!!

At the same time as the supermoon, the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower is expected to hit its peak..BUT the bright full moon will likely keep you from seeing the shooting stars.  The Eta Aquarids occur between  late April and early May when the Earth passes through a stream of debris left behind by Halley’s comet.  Since this meteor shower coincides with the supermoon, only the brightest shooting stars will be visible.  NASA scientists are predicting 40-60 meteors per hour!

Courtesy: Mikael Svalgaard

And finally, the first solar eclipse of 2012 will occur on May 20th!  The eclipse will be visible from California to Texas, the rest of the US will only see a partial eclipse.  Hey..it’s better than nothing..  The moon will pass in front of the Sun, but it won’t completely block the Sun – this is called an annular solar eclipse!  Unlike a total eclipse, an annular one leaves a ring of the sun.  (See photo.)

If you take any great shots of the “supermoon”, meteor shower (what can be seen of it), or the eclipse, be sure to send them to us!  REPORTIT@WWLP.COM

-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor


Myths and Misconceptions

April 17th, 2012 at 11:18 am by under Weather

Obviously, 2011 was a very active tornado year!  Tornadoes tend to be a hot topic in the spring and summer seasons!  Since we’ve already seen a couple outbreaks this month, I thought I would debunk some tornado myths and misconceptions.

But, before I run through the laundry list, just know that no place in the US is completely safe from tornadoes.  Every single state has documented at least ONE twister..yes, even Alaska!  Of course, tornadoes are more likely to occur in the Plain states on a hot and humid afternoon, but a tornado can occur at any time of day, any day of the year!  If you want to be completely safe from the threat of tornadoes..well..you’d have to move to Antarctica!

Myth #1 – “If a tornado is approaching, you should open all the windows in your house to equalize the pressure.”

Opening your windows will not keep your roof from blowing off, nor will it keep debris from crashing into your house – so don’t waste your time!  Your time will be better spent getting away from windows and finding a safe place until the storm passes.

Myth #2 – “Tornadoes never strike big cities.”

Dallas, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Miami, Salt Lake City, and New York City..all these big cities have been hit by at least one tornado!  Closer to home – anyone in Springfield or Worcester want to stand up and argue with this statement??

Myth #3 – “Some towns are protected.”

The idea of towns being “protected” is a combination of wishful thinking and rarity of tornadoes.  Rivers, hills, and valleys have little to no effect on mature tornadoes.  Tornadoes have crossed major rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri.  ..And, ahem, the Connecticut River..

Myth #4 – “Tornadoes don’t happen in the mountains.”

It’s not often you hear about twisters in the mountains, but it can happen!  Tornadoes have passed over mountain ridges 3,000 feet high.  Damage from an F-3 tornado was documented above 10,000 feet!

Myth #5 – “Hiding under a highway overpass will protect you from a tornado.”

A highway overpass can actually act as a wind tunnel and may collect flying debris!  An informal survey of storm chasers showed 9 out of 10, felt highway overpasses were an extremely dangerous place to be during a tornado.  You’re better off abandoning your car, getting into a ditch or culvert, and covering your head.

Myth #6 – “You can outrun a tornado in your car.”

You could probably outrun a tornado by concorde, but not by car!  Twisters can move at speeds over 70 MPH and can change directions erratically without warning.  You’re better off abandoning your car and seeking a sturdy shelter.

Myth #7 – “Mobile home parks are tornado magnets.”

It probably seems that way, but only because there are tens of thousands of mobile home parks in Tornado Alley..they’re bound to be in a tornado’s path at some point!  Mobile homes offer little to no protection against even the weakest tornadoes.

Myth #8 – “Bigger tornadoes are more dangerous than small ones.”

While the large wedge tornadoes can cause more damage just by sheer size, a skinny rope tornado can be among the strongest.  The speed  of the wind makes the twister stronger, not the area it covers.

Myth #9 – “The southwest corner of your home is the safest location during a tornado.”

The part of the home towards the approaching tornado (often, but not always southwest) is the least safe part of the basement, not the safest!  Any part of your home can be damaged from a tornado!  The southwest corner certainly won’t make a difference if your house is ripped off its foundation!

Misconception #10 – Contrary to popular belief, I (as a meteorologist) don’t control the weather!

Trust me, you wouldn’t want me controlling the weather anyway..if I did, it would be sunny, warm, and humid everyday!

While I’ve given you a pile of tornado myths, here’s an interesting fact:  Before the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meteorologists used the Fujita Tornado Damage Intensity Scale which actually went up to F-12!!!!  The F-12 level only began at winds speeds exceeding Mach 1 (738 MPH at -3 degrees Celsius)..with that said, the probability of a tornado having winds of this speed is infinitesimally small.  Now, we use the Enhanced Fujita Scale and the highest is an EF-5 (winds over 200 MPH).

-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor..hoping for a tornado-free summer!


Forget the April Showers..

April 16th, 2012 at 8:49 am by under Weather

..the April tornadoes are a bigger problem.

April and May tend to be very active months for severe weather, primarily across the Midwest and Southeast.  I think we all remember April 2011 – it was the most active tornado month on record with 758 confirmed tornadoes which left 364 people dead.  The previous record was May 2004 with 542 twisters.  For the month of April, we typically see 161 tornadoes across the US.

The largest tornado outbreak ever recorded occured from April 25th-28th, 2011.  Over this 3-day period, 358 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service in 21 states from Texas to New York..even isolated twisters popped up in Canada!  In total, 346 people were killed as a result of this outbreak, not only by the tornadoes, but straight-line winds, hail, flash flooding, and lightning as well.

April 27th was one of the most deadliest and destructive days – 208 tornadoes touched down that day, four tornadoes were actually rated EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale packing winds over 200 MPH!!  316 people died that day.

Now, it’s April 16th, 2012 and the US has already seen it’s fair share of tornadoes.

I’m sure you remember those twisters that touched down in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas on April 3rd.  Remember that amazing video of a tornado tossing tractor trailors hundereds of feet in the air??  There were 17 confirmed tornadoes that day.

Another outbreak occured over the weekend – there were 135 tornadoes reported across Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Iowa on Saturday.  Another 12 tornadoes were reported in Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas on Sunday.  It’ll be up to the storm surveyors to go out this week and determine how many tornadoes actually touched down between those two days.

..and the month isn’t over yet..we’ll see what the rest of April holds.  ..and May, June, July, August..

-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor


Ewww! I’ll take the snow over this..

March 8th, 2012 at 10:19 am by under Weather

It’s not snow blanketing this Australian farm..it’s spiderwebs!!
 
Recent flooding has forced more than 8,000 residents from their homes in the city of Wagga Wagga in New South Wales.
 
Exit humans, enter wolf spiders.
 
As you can see in the picture, spiderwebs are completely covering this field.  Believe it or not, there is a term for this phenomenon – it’s called “ballooning”.  It’s typical behavior for spiders that are trying to escape from rising water.
 
Even though this looks messy and gross to those who don’t like spiders (myself included), these wolf spiders are actually being helpful!  They are eating all the mosquitoes and other insects  that have boomed with the increased moisture brought on by the rising flood waters. 
 
Lucky for the residents of Wagga Wagga, these wolf spiders will likely return to their natural underground habitat once the flood waters recede.
 
But again, I’ll take the snow over the spiderwebs.  (You ever seen a wolf spider??  They’re pretty big..not exactly your typical house spider..)
 
-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor

Just a Reminder..

March 1st, 2012 at 7:49 am by under Weather

..it’s still winter.  The proverbial March lion is roaring!  We woke up to several inches of snow on the ground this morning..and the snow is STILL falling as of Noon!

Here’s a list of our latest snowfall totals:

Hampden County:
9.0″ – Chester
7.0″ – Montgomery
6.0″ – South Hadley
6.0″ – Southwick
6.0″ – Russell
5.5″ – Holland
5.0″ – Springfield
5.0″ – West Springfield
5.0″ – Westfield
5.0″ – Holyoke
5.0″ – Feeding Hills
5.0″ – Hampden
4.5″ – Blandford
4.5″ – Chicopee
4.0″ – East Longmeadow
4.0″ – Palmer
3.0″ – Ludlow

Hampshire County:
8.0″ – Plainfield
8.0″ – Middlefield
8.0″ – Cummington
6.5″ – Westhampton
6.0″ – Huntington
5.5″ – Amherst
5.5″ – Ware
5.0″ – Northampton
5.0″ – Chesterfield
5.0″ – Worthington
4.5″ – Easthampton
4.0″ – Belchertown
3.0″ – Williamsburg

Franklin County:
9.0″ – Ashfield
8.0″ – Rowe
7.5″ – Heath
7.0″ – East Charlemont
7.0″ – Leyden
6.5″ – Greenfield
5.5″ – Shelburne
5.5″ – Whately
5.5″ – Sunderland
5.5″ – Gill
5.0″ – Orange
5.0″ – Montague
4.5″ – South Deerfield
3.5″ – Whately
3.5″ – Warwick

Berkshire County:
8.0″ – Peru
7.0″ – Pittsfield
6.0″ – Lanesborough
4.8″ – Clarksburg
4.0″ – Becket
4.0″ – Tyringham
3.0″ – Great Barrington

On/off snow showers expected through the afternoon/evening, so we could see an additional 1-3″.

Be sure to send us your snowfall totals! 
Email us: REPORTIT@WWLP.COM
or
Post an update on our 22News Storm Team Facebook page!

-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor

 


Orange Snookis and Purple Squirrels

February 8th, 2012 at 10:06 am by under Weather
Courtesy: Percy & Connie Emert

Things you will find at the Jersey shore:

The beach..the boardwalk..Funtown Pier..an orange-tinted Snooki..
 
Things you will find in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania:
The Susquehanna River..an ice skating rink..a community pool..a purple squirrel.
 
I can’t make that last one up.  The picture to the left verifies a purple squirrel was trapped in Jersey Shore, PA!  This silly-looking squirrel was found by a local couple, Percy and Connie Emert.
 
The Emerts have bird feeders in their yard and apparently the squirrels have a habit of getting into them.  (We actually have the same problem here at our station..)  Percy Emert uses peanut-baited traps to catch the squirrels, then he releases them far away from their bird feeders.
 
Connie Emert was the one who originally spotted the purple squirrel.  She kept telling her husband, Percy, that she saw a purple squirrel in the yard.  (OK, now what would your wife or husband say if you said you saw a purple squirrel??)  He checked the trap around Noon on Sunday, and sure enough, this squirrel in all his/her purple glory was sitting in the trap!
 
The Emerts insist they did not dye the squirrel purple!  I’m sure people will come up with several different theories as to why this little guy is purple: got into some purple ink, purple paint, maybe even a port-a-potty..
 
Whatever the reason behind its unusual tint, this squirrel has definitely given the other Jersey Shore its 15 minutes of fame!
 
-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor

Skydive From Space

February 8th, 2012 at 8:20 am by under News, Weather
Felix Baumgartner

Felix Baumgartner

Going to be honest with you..I’m not a fan of heights..thus, skydiving is not on my bucket list.  (I can’t bring myself to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.)

A typical skydive is nothing for renowned extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner.

Baumgartner has a laundry list of extreme accomplishments:

  • In 1999, he claimed the world record for highest parachute dive from a building when he jumped from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • In 2003, Baumgartner became the first person to cross the English Channel in freefall using a specially made fibre wing.
  • He set the world record for lowest base jump ever when he jumped from the hand of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
  • In 2004, he was the first person to base jump from the Millau Viaduct in France.
  • In 2006, Baumgartner was the first person to skydive onto, then base jump from the Turning Torso building in Malmo, Sweden.
  • In 2007, he became the first person to jump from the 91st floor observation deck of the world’s tallest building, the Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan.

Now, Felix Baumgartner will push his body to the limit and attempt to break and set world records by becoming the first person to skydive from space!  This August, he will be doing a “stratospheric free fall jump” from around 23 miles (120,000 feet) above the Earth!  Red Bull will sponsor Baumgartner and says he could be, “the first human to break the speed of sound with his own body.”

This just blows my mind.

You might ask, “how in the world is he going to pull this off??”  First, Baumgartner will be wearing a special, fully-loaded suit weighing 260 lbs.  This suit will be equiped with a chest pack that has monitoring, tracking, and communications systems.  A helium-filled balloon (similar to a weather balloon) will lift Baumgartner inside a space capsule.  Once launched, he will float at 1,000 feet per minute to 120,000 feet within 3 hours.  This helium balloon is only 1/10 the thickness of a ziploc bag, yet it weighs more than 3,000 lbs.!  Stretched out, it would cover 40 acres!

Here’s your weather lesson of the day: as the balloon ascends, the temperature decreases with height up to the troposphere.  In the stratosphere, the temperature increases with height.  The warmer air in the stratosphere comes from ozone molecules absorbing ultraviolet light from the sun.

Before Baumgartner leaves his capsule, he will wait for a “clear to jump” from mission control.  Once he depressurizes and detatches hoses, he must jump.  In an emergency, he could ride the capsule back to Earth, unpressurized and with limited oxygen.  Baumgartner is likely to reach the speed of sound within 40 seconds from 120,000 feet.  The speed of sound is 1,126 feet per second!!  This is 768 MPH or 1 mile in 5 seconds!!

As Baumgartner falls closer to the troposphere, where commercial airliners fly, the air molecules multiply which act as a gradual brake when he comes sailing through the sky at supersonic speeds.

 If all goes as planned, Baumgartner will:

  1. Be the first person to reach supersonic speed in a freefall: he’ll break the speed of sound and achieve Mach 1 in freefall, estimated 690 MPH, with further acceleration possible.
  2. Freefall from the highest altitude: expected jump from 120,000 feet.
  3. Longest freefall time: expected freefall time of more than 5 minutes.
  4. Highest manned balloon flight.

Baumgartner will deploy his parachute at 5,000 feet.  He must slow to 172 MPH before opening his parachute.  From this point, it’ll take 10-15 minutes before he reaches the ground.  His total time in the air from the edge of space to Earth: 15-20 minutes!

Well….

….I guess, best of luck to him!  Look out for those airplanes and gaggles of geese on the way down!

-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor

All of this information courtesy of: http://www.redbullstratos.com/the-mission/