March 27, 2011

Visit to China, the Great Firewall, and An Amazing Jet

You might have noticed my blog decreased in frequency a bit during the past week and there were some issues with the graphics.

The reason?...I have been in Beijing the last ten days giving a short-course on weather systems and forecasting technology to forecasters from throughout China. My colleague in this adventure was Brad Colman, head of the Seattle Office of the National Weather Service. I was really impressed with my Chinese colleagues--they want to build a first-class weather infrastructure in their country and seem to have access to the resources to do so. And they are gracious, kind hosts.

But one thing I found very frustrating was the difficulty of controlling a blog from China. The GREAT FIREWALL does not like Blogger and disconnected when I tried to access it. Using friends in the U.S. or applying VPN or proxy-server approaches were only partially successful. Anyway, I am back in the U.S. I can work again. But the restrain on communication via the FIREWALL really makes a lot of communication difficult in China.

Coming home I experienced the impact of an amazingly strong Pacific jet stream. Here is a short-term forecast of wind speed (knots) at jet stream level (300 mb--roughly 32,000 ft) while I was crossing the big ocean.
A very strong jet stream over the western Pacific! So strong that the aircraft did not follow the normal great circle route or anything like it....we headed straight across the ocean....a far longer distance. I was amazed to follow the trip diagnostics on the screen in front of some points the tailwind approached 190 mph and the speed relative to the earth's surface was nearly 800 mph!! Even going a long route we got in roughly an hour early (about 10.5 hours from Beijing to San Francisco). Our flight even passed just south of the damaged reactors in Japan.

The ride was quite bumpy at points, since we were hanging so close to the jet stream (the large changes in wind speed in the vertical can cause wind shear that breaks into turbulence).

And the airline food on United was some of the worst I have ever eaten! The snack was a "cup of soup" they poured hot water into. And that was the highlight of their cuisine in economy class! Most meteorologists can not afford business class.


  1. Business class on United stinks anyway,

  2. Cliff, glad you enjoyed your visit to China; I wondered about the relative "silence" on the blog.

    Next time, fly EVA Air. They fly from Seattle to Taipei and then you can easily connect to many locations in China from there. EVA is fantastic; even the coach class seats approach US domestic business class. There's no charge for luggage within the old-normal allowance, and the food, again, even in coach, is excellent.

    I got upgraded to First Class the first time I flew EVA to Taipei. The service was embarrassingly good, and the seat was more comfortable than any furniture in my living room!

    Anyway, the cool dirt in the garden has been calling me. Would you gaze into your crystal ball and give us a broad picture of how the spring and summer look? I'm begging for a tomato year!!


  3. First we had the YouTube hit "United Breaks Guitars" by Dave Caroll - when can we expect Prof. Mass' "United made me lose my lunch"? ;^}

  4. And you missed all our balmy weather to boot! Your trip was worth the silence, traveling with the weather must have been great, glad you are back. I'm sure you have learned much that you will share.

  5. Everything old is new again, Professor. You have to manage your own food again while traveling third class, just like you used to have to do on the old local trains 60-70 years ago. I would have asked my gracious hosts to run me past a food cart where some decent Dim Sum could have been put up for travel. It's best warm, but very tolerable cold, also.

  6. Very interesting re: jet stream flight. And also, note to self, no real food on international flights...I'll have to prepare for that! (or not take United)

  7. United's the worst! Delta would be my first choice...not sure if they fly there! I always love the jetstream when I'm flying to Florida. But coming back takes sooo long.


    Not really for comment, just to share.


  9. Yeah, airline food has certainly nose-dived. I remember a coach flight on United in 1972. It was on an almost brand new DC 10. United set up a gorgeous buffet towards the front of the aircraft for all of us coach passengers. And it was top notch. I remember the landing was so smooth in New York the whole cabin applauded.

  10. OK, back to the PNW and the weather of March: I'm a gardener, too, and live in Olympia. Finally tiring of dodging rain and thundershowers, yesterday I checked the NWS climatic records for the month to date. Although the captions for their data are highly abbreviated (coded), I think it said that Oly has had only ONE day in which no precip occurred. There's also a column labeled "S-S", with a superheading of SUNSHINE; it contains mostly single-digit numbers, of whose meaning I'm not sure.

    Have we anything to compensate for the misery of having to do our spring chores out in the cold wet-- such as records set?

  11. Air New Zealand is the best, the bad news is that you wind up in Auckland, the good news is that is in New Zealand.

  12. Echoing above comments - if you have to fly international, make sure it is on an international airline, not a US one.

    We flew Korean Air to Hong Kong a couple of years ago. The food in coach class, while not gourmet, was quite decent. We were very impressed with the service in general (except that they kept insisting we keep the window completly closed on the westbound flight over Alaska and Kamchatka in February - the sea-ice and the expanse of unbroken snow on the Kamchatka peninsula was breathtaking).


  13. You're lucky - when I flew with United last year, we didn't get any food at all, as they had run out by the time they got to us. It was a six-hour flight. (I am never flying with them again, but I didn't have a choice about that one.)


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