August 30, 2011

NW Fog Season and Media Fog on Fox News

Well, if hurricanes are on one side of the meteorological spectrum, what is on the other?
Recent fog picture courtesy of the Seattle Times
You guessed it...fog, and folks the Northwest is entering fog season.  In fact, September and October are the foggiest time of the year around here, NOT the middle of the winter.

On Sunday I got to experience fog first hand--I was heading to Bellingham to do some kayaking near Lummi Island (Elakah kayak).  Seattle was densely fogged in, but every time we gained a few hundred feet elevation on I5 we escaped the shallow fog. This was quite shallow stuff...a few hundred feet at most.  On the water near Lummi we were in dense fog until it lifted around noon.  Here is the visible satellite picture before it burned off. 
One thing we have learned from satellite imagery is that fog burns in from the sides.

The irony is that REALLY dense fog, like on Sunday, is generally a good indicator of clearing later in the morning.

So why is the fall our big fog season?  The nights are getting long...that certainly helps, allowing more time for the air to cool to saturation (the dew point).  Relatively clear skies, since the storm season has not arrived yet.  Clear skies allows infrared radiation loss to space from the us the needed cooling.  The atmosphere is relatively stable this time of the year, since the air aloft is relatively warm compared to the surface at night.  Warm air above cool, dense air is stable, and fog loves stability.

The least foggy time of the year here?  Spring!

And now a few comments and announcements.

First, the award for the absolutely dumbest opinion piece I have read in a long time--goes to for suggesting that the National Weather Service is unnecessary and should be sold off.  Here it is:

A sample of this foolish piece:  why do we need the National Weather Service when we can get our forecasts from the Weather Channel?   Folks, who do you think gathers all the observations and runs all the computer models?  Where do you think the Weather Channel gets this information from?  I could list a dozen more, but you get the idea.  We are talking completely brain dead.  How could Fox News publish such trash?

Second announcement: just a reminder I will start my new weather program on KPLU-FM at 9 AM this Friday.  And I plan to talk about hurricanes...OUR HURRICANES.  You can listen on the web, at 88.5 in the Puget Sound area, and additional frequencies at other locations (check their web site for the repeater stations--link to the right).


  1. Cliff - obviously blind allegiance to the "private sector" is all that the Competitive Enterprise Institute (employer of the authors) and its minions preach & all that Faux News echoes!

  2. It's dumb, however it maynot be "absolutely dumbest opinion piece". If you keep track, there are plenty of even dumber ones.
    When there were drought in Texas this year, some state governor's solution was more prayer. That makes you wonder...

  3. Pretty typical of Fox News to close the article to dissenting comments.

    Does "Accuweather" own, operate, and employ data collection devices such buoys and radar stations or do they just repackage information from the NWS or NOAA?

  4. The bit about the National Weather Service hijacking local TV and radio is especially precious.

  5. Wait, the talking heads said that on the air, not kooks in the comments? (I'm not going to reward Faux with a click to find out.) What's next, food comes from a supermarket (strike that, "restaurant," since the Lords of the Media doubtless don't cook like the little people), so we can pave over all that farmland to build more malls?

  6. Let me first say, I truly enjoy the weather focus of this blog. I also understand it is a personal blog.

    But, is it possible to keep the "opinions" about various news organizations out of the mix? I could spin volumes about the "accuracy" of MSNBC if we really want to go that route.


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  8. I can't believe republicans are really that dumb. When I was a kid I even knew the Weather channel got its info from the

  9. SWSDuvall-

    How far will you go to defend obviously and completely wrong information???

    This article needs to be exposed for the sham that it is.

    An article this blatantly wrong needs to be exposed and it calls into question the integrity of any news source who would post it, without some kind of rebuttal.

    Utterly pathetic.

  10. @SWSDuvall,

    Having read Cliff's blog for a while, I'm pretty sure he's going to share his thoughts as he chooses.

    And I wouldn't want it any other way.

    After all, its his blog.

  11. Hey Cliff - You mentioned in a previous post that you'd give your view refuting that global warming is caused by the sun. The latest research from CERN seems to give this veiw more legitimacy. It would be great to read your opinion.

  12. SWSDuvall, did you read the piece in question? Ordinarily I wouldn't suggest you waste your time doing so, but if you did you'd realize Cliff's remarks were exactly on the topic of weather. The piece is an encouragement to end the National Weather Service.

    You're right that it's annoying when politics and ideology are dragged into the wrong places and interfere with work that ought not to be politicized. CEI seems one of the worst offenders in this regard, give their track record of harassment of scientists who happen to be investigating the "wrong" topics.

  13. The Teahadists and Michele Bachmann really do have a point, after all.

    The weather is all parts of God's design.

    Ergo, the lack of a need for a weather service. Money saved and in the bank!

  14. Well "Unknown", I was hoping this would stay professional....

    My comment was the focus on the provider of the information. The issue should not with the provider of the message, but the "off the wall" message from Iain Murray and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    I am hoping the authors here would be as vocal on any presentation of marginal or erroneous information no matter what the source - and focus on the information, not the messenger.

  15. I don't do much radio listening, but I did like the youtube you did on weather, complete with maps. Any chance of those happening more?

  16. Such journalistic genius deserves a popular name change. How about The FogNews Corporation.

  17. Cliff, re. your KPLU segment - will it make it to their podcasts? Folks raised this in the comments on the original announcements - a lot of us get our NPR mainly from podcasts, and I for one used to download KUOW ones I didn't otherwise care about just to get your segment.

  18. We should sell all of our farm land for development since we just get food from the grocery store anyways.

    Another example though sadly this does happen though with sprawl.

  19. Hello Cliff -

    1. Would you please comment on the theory of low solar output causing more solar radiation combining with particles in the atmosphere making drops of moisture causing more cloud formation which is a greenhouse effect force.

    2. Could you please give us an idea how the NWS and NOAA and Air force meteorology and Uniiversity atmospheric science departments overlap or share or are redundant, and if maybe all of these functions could be more efficient and less costly. Also how would you spend the billion dollars each year, (serious question).

    3. What impact would a massive reforestation project in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America have on carbon sink and CO2 reduction.

    Thank you,

    Chuck W.

  20. Dr. Mass
    I'd love for you to blog about next week's anomalously high heights forecast by the GFS and Euro models. It appears to me we should expect the warmest temperatures of the season and the ridge will be firmly in place for some time!


  21. Not so fast. We have the National Weather Service. We have NOAA. We have NASA. There is overlap here, is there not? I wonder if there not a case for saving taxpayer dollars here by removing overlap.

  22. Johannes, it's worth remembering that if we try too hard to remove all "redundancy" we'll end up in the old central planning trap. Top-down micromanagement is the only way to eliminate overlap. Tempting though it it may be, such management suffers from other even worse forms of inefficiency.

    Central planning didn't work for the Soviet Union and it won't work for us.

  23. Cliff, I've been reading your blog for a while and have great respect for you. I never thought my first post would be to call you on the carpet.

    The author of that article KNOWS that the observations used by the Weather Channel and other private weather services come from the NWS and he says so in this interview on Fox Business:

    If you don't care to watch the video, Iain Murry states "private forecasters do get their data from the national weather service."

    This man is not stupid. Of course the private weather services get their data from the NWS. Why wouldn't they? It's FREE. That doesn't mean that the private services couldn't forecast weather without the NWS. They'd just have to start taking their own observations. It's a simple argument.

    You obviously disagree with this man's position, but that is no excuse to descend into vicious name-calling. As you can see from the video, he is not 'brain dead'. He has spontaneous respiration and is responding to stimuli.

    I think you owe him an apology.


  24. SWS Duvall: This blog is about weather. Why should someone like Dr. Mass NOT have an opinion about a news story regarding the NWS?

    And @ Andy, what services do you suggest cutting? Accurate weather forecasting is important for everything from saving lives to preventing property damage. I'm simply not comfortable turning over weather forecasting to private business, unless someone has a brilliant idea about how a private business could fund such coverage.

  25. Setting aside the massive infrastructure involved (land/ sea/satellite resources), there are at least two other features of the current system that are patently impossible to reproduce now. The first is longevity, i.e. that the observations have been made over a ~100 year time span in fixed or at least documented locations. Many of the computer models assume such invariance and would not work at all otherwise. The second is cooperativity. The data from distant sites are shared. Try getting private, competing entities to do that, without significant governmental involvement. When the Weather Channel has been around for 100 years and developing over that period of time an observational history of global scope that scientists have vetted, come back and we'll revisit this.

  26. "They'd just have to start taking their own observations."

    That word, "just." Four letters perched on a myriad of thorny details. :-P

    The article was penned by folks from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI has a rapidly deepening history of messing with researchers particularly in the arena of weather and climate, perhaps because observations and analysis point to some issues we have with unaccounted costs of our industrial activity.

    CEI is dragging politics and ideology into an arena best left unsullied. Who should apologize? Cliff Mass isn't the person who ought to be issuing apologies. Here's the title of CEI litigator Chris Horner's 2008 book: "Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed." Horner's slinging accusations against meteorology and climate researchers but the "fraud and deception" don't exist in our world. Where's the apology?

  27. The coast of Washington has not had ANY coastal radar since radar became a valuable forecasting tool. Did the private media step up to the plate and make the investment needed to save lives and shipments from coastal flooding? Nope. Would they ever? Nope. Because there is no way to bill the people whose lives were saved or whose shipments were not put into harms way.

    Look what a little government action can do to solve these very real forecasting problems:

    Skiers and mountaineers would NEVER have this benefit if we left it up to the likes of The Weather Channel to provide our weather data. Some bean cruncher would determine it was more profitable to forcast the weather based on existing data than invest the money required for this much needed radar in the NW corner. Instead of professional and scientific reporting we would get Faux News type cartoons. I'm a mariner and a mountaineer and I depend upon REAL weather forcasts. The latest radar station is a much needed upgrade that would never occur in a privately funded weather data situation.

    I don't believe Cliff owns anyone an apology. The idea to throw the NWS away is ludicrous.

  28. Off topic, but, oh, the beauty of the current 6-10 and 8-14 Day Outlooks. Looks like a late summer for our part of the country.

  29. For Johannes--the NWS is a part of NOAA, they are one in the same as far as weather prediction. Of course NOAA has the fisheries part, marine biology research and such--that is not part of the NWS. As far as overlap with NASA--that agency does not do weather prediction, at least not in the day to day storm tracking sense. I suppose they might have meteorologists who forecast for spacecraft launches and such, but that would be just a few individuals. But NASA does have satellites--the NASA satellites are more research-oriented while the operational NWS satellites are GOES (NASA polar orbiting satellites are not suitable for watching the development of synoptic weather systems while the GOES/geostationary satellites are suitable for weather prediction).

    In any event, all the satellite data is shared between agencies--and of course you can get it all online, either at the NWS websites or NOAA websites, and also the UW department of Atmospheric Sciences website. The cost of the data is small in the total Federal budget...practically a rounding error. Where there might be overlap, for instance too many satellite data computer servers, the cost is so small in the sea of Federal costs, you would be hard pressed to justify unplugging a few things. That is my opinion anyway.

  30. Just to clarify, Cliff didn't make the unprofessional accusation that Iain Murray is 'brain dead' because he wants to disband the NWS. He made the accusation because he claimed that Murray didn't know that private weather services get their data from the NWS, a claim which minimal research showed to be false. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with Murry. That's not my beef.

  31. Andy, read the opinion piece on which Cliff Mass based his comments. Nowhere in that essay do Murray or Bier reference the observational role of the NWS. The thrust of the piece is clearly elimination of the NWS The core of their screed is:

    Today the NWS justifies itself on public interest grounds. It issues severe weather advisories and hijacks local radio and television stations to get the message out. It presumes that citizens do not pay attention to the weather and so it must force important, perhaps lifesaving, information upon them. A few seconds’ thought reveals how silly this is. The weather might be the subject people care most about on a daily basis. There is a very successful private TV channel dedicated to it, 24 hours a day, as well as any number of phone and PC apps. Americans need not be forced to turn over part of their earnings to support weather reporting.

    Search the opinion piece. You won't find a thing about data collection or observations. Obviously the authors are skilled polemicists, have chosen their words carefully to sway opinion. If in so doing they omit mentioning one of the primary functions of NWS, they're either being deceptive in a calculating way, or less likely they're fools for not knowing what NWS does, as Cliff suggested.

    So, liars or fools? What's your preference? For my part that core paragraph if not written by fools is otherwise targeted at very foolish and gullible people. Either way, the authors have good cause to be ashamed of their words. Cliff's take was if anything more charitable; better to be a fool than a liar.

    Meanwhile, just as a reminder, the video you continue to harp on is not what Cliff was speaking of. Presumably Murray tuned his words for that appearance, or perhaps he'd just learned more about his subject? Again, either he's practicing deception when his speech is juxtaposed against his writings, or he's a fool to spout the opinions he did in the written piece. Liar, or fool?

  32. Doug,
    Liars or fools? You're over-analyzing. Yes, I searched the article Cliff referenced and he doesn't say anywhere in it that most weather data comes from the NWS. But he doesn't deny it either. Is it really 'deception' to omit something that most of the folks in this thread consider common knowledge? He also didn't mention that the sky is blue. Deception as well? Is everyone who has an idea you disagree with a 'liar or fool'? Give me a break.

  33. Errors of omission are nothing remarkable, unless they're committed by a skilled polemicist attempting to sway readers by the use of carefully constructed, exactingly artful rhetoric. In that case, we should ask ourselves whether Mark Twain's words apply:
    "Among other common lies, we have the silent lie -- the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth."

    The opinion piece Cliff criticized encourages readers to consider the virtues of ending the National Weather Service, without reminding or informing them as the case may be of the vital and irreplaceable role performed by the NWS. Readers of this blog are very likely aware of NWS' functions. On the other hand research indicates that Fox News in particular has a following ignorant (blamelessly!) of many much less esoteric things than the National Weather Service.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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