Archive for December, 2011

Squirrel Watch 2011 Caption Contest
December 28, 2011

Congratulations to Tara Nicole Carpenter, this month’s squirrel watch caption contest winner.  Her comment, “Trying out for the newest Cirque du Soleil show… Zoomanity” wins some swag from our Local 2 morning show.


Why Was There Ice If We Weren’t Below Freezing?
December 28, 2011

This is a good question from Steve noticing we weren’t officially below freezing Wednesday or Tuesday throughout much of Southeast Texas, but we did have a lot of frost on the ground and ice on the cars. 

Official temperature readings are taken 6 feet up so that things that occur on “ground surfaces, or any surface” doesn’t affect the outside temperature.  A car that has any moisture on the windows or roof will get what’s called evaporational cooling.  Evaporational cooling is similar to perspiration. When you work out your body sweats to cool itself. Moisture being evaporated will make a surface colder.  The air temperature may have been 37 degrees this morning, but grass or a car with moisture would have been below 32 degrees. Factors such as these are why it’s colder on surfaces than the surrounding air on a morning like this.

This is also a good example why official temperature reading are taken 6 feet in the air, away from tall buildings, with grass surrounding the weather station.  Most temperature records go back to the late 1800s, and accuracy is key to monitor how our environment is changing or not changing.  Imagine if a temperature gauge was near I-10 in the summer, we would set a high temperature record every day the sun is out. 

Track Santa This Christmas
December 23, 2011

NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has been tracking Santa since 1958.  You can watch Local2 Christmas Eve and we’ll update you as to where Santa is or you can Track Santa right here on NORAD’s website any time Saturday.  It’s a funny story how NORAD started their Santa Tracker.  In 1955 the department store Sears, in Colorado Springs, ran an ad for kids to call Santa at ME2-6681.  The problem, this wasn’t the phone number to Santa Claus at Sears, it was the number to the Colorado Springs Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD).  The people answering the phone didn’t know what to do when hundreds of calls came in asking for Santa.  The Colonel told staffers to give the current location of Santa and the rest as they say is history.  (On a side note: NORAD replaced CONAD in 1958.)  Here is the newspaper ad.     


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Past Weather Quiz Answers

Hole Punch Clouds
December 21, 2011


Earlier this year I went to a weather conference and one of the talks was on hole punch clouds.  The latest research shows they are not created by engine combustion at all.  The first requirement is the clouds have to be vertically thin.  Researchers then discovered that the clouds usually form beneath C-130 planes (shown below).  Beneath the wings of these planes temperatures were around 14 degrees warmer than the rest of the plane and surrounding environment.  This temperature difference created a dry punch of air falling from the sky evaporating the clouds beneath.            

On a side note, a big thanks to Stephen Kornblitt who took this picture and sent it to Frank Billingsley.  A lot of people said it looked photo shopped but our engineers at the station said it was authentic.  Most hole punch clouds are circular.  This one is unique because it looks like an outline of a plane or the state of Texas. 

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Past Weather Quiz Answers

Why A Total Lunar Eclipse is Red
December 9, 2011


According to atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado, “During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering. If the stratosphere is loaded with dust from volcanic eruptions, the eclipse will be dark; a clear stratosphere, on the other hand, produces a brighter eclipse. At the moment, the stratosphere is mostly clear with little input from recent volcanoes.” Also, as light passes by Earth’s atmosphere, short wavelengths, like blue, are scattered. By the time light finished its trip to the moon, only longer wavelengths, like red, remain. This is why the moon turns red during an eclipse!

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Past Weather Quiz Answers

Total Lunar Eclipse Saturday
December 9, 2011


Click image to get a really good video explanation of what to expect with tomorrow’s total lunar eclipse.

Unfortunately, we aren’t in a good spot to view Saturday morning’s eclipse.  At moon set, 7:07 a.m., we’ll see a partial eclipse but won’t get the full view because we are on the edge of moon falling into the earth’s shadow.

Saturday morning will also have some thick clouds, especially south of I-10, which will prevent us from seeing even the partial view we’ll have.  If you are reading this and live on the west coast or Hawaii, get up early because our next total lunar eclipse won’t be until April 15, 2014. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo by: Loyd Overcash
The lunar eclipse seen from Houston on October 27, 2004.

Two of the really cool things about a total lunar eclipse is the moon appears a blood red or copperish orange.  It will also appear bigger than it actually is in what is called a “moon illusion.”  Low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects.  In fact, a low moon is no wider than any other moon (cameras prove it), but the human brain insists otherwise. To observers in the western USA, therefore, the eclipse will appear super-sized.