October 05, 2012

Presidential Debate Weather

There have been a number of suggestions, particularly from ex-Vice President Al Gore, that President Obama's lackluster performance had a meteorological origin (the effects of low atmospheric pressure in Denver on the President's mental functions).   Now a number of folks criticized this explanation, and they may be right, but I have an alternative.  Something else meteorological happened during the debates that has not gotten a lot of press. 

Now, first lets consider the pressure change idea...that the President flew into Denver that afternoon, while Governor Romney spent days in the mile-high city (which the pressure is about 15% less than at sea level).   One should note that the President spent several days in Las Vegas, Nevada (altitude 2402 ft), where the pressure is roughly half way between sea level pressure and that at Denver.  Furthermore, typical commercial aircraft are pressurized to roughly 7000 ft, so all his flight time would be promoting adjustment to lower pressure.  Finally, as far as I know, there is no scientific literature even suggesting much cognitive loss for even a rapid change from sea level to 5000 ft.  

But perhaps Al Gore was on to something.  Well, if it was not pressure, something else meteorological happened  EXACTLY THE SAME TIME AS THE DEBATE IN DENVER.  The answer:  an extraordinarily strong front passage, with a 20F drop in temperature in less than an hour, a rapid increase in pressure, and winds gusting to 40-50 mph!  Here are observations at the BAO tower in Boulder demonstrating this AMAZING front.

And here are the observations at the Denver Airport at the time. Impressive!

Many presidents are weather lovers (Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln come to mind) and I suspect Obama is as well.  How can one pay attention when so much interesting and severe weather is happening outside?   I know I am greatly distracted when a storm is brewing outside....perhaps President Obama was as well. 


  1. It is not just pressure, it is the lack of oxygen. I grew up in Colorado and Montana now live in Seattle with my fiancee, a native of Seattle.

    When we go to visit my family in both states she and her family members definitely feel the altitude. Folks from sea level, like Obama, frequently get altitude sickness (which includes headaches, shortness of breath, runny nose etc) while visiting in Denver. Mitt Romney also live at Salt Lake City for several years, and therefore has much more physical familiarity with those conditions. I would also note that Denver's dry atmosphere often gives folks from wetter climates bloody noses.

    Do I think this is why he seems a bit out of it? Maybe. I would also note that the evening before the debate was the President's wedding anniversary. It is just as likely that he and Michelle stayed up way past their bedtime...

  2. I apologize for being off topic but I have question.

    With months of dry weather passed and gratuitous amounts of oil residue has been built up, how slippery will the highways and roadways be once we get a significant amount of rain?

    Is slickaggedon looming on the horizon?


  3. If Obama is so easily distracted by the weather, he belongs in the UW Atmospheric Sciences Dept, not the White House.

  4. The 2008 Democratic National Convention was held in Denver, Colorado. Then Senator Obama obviously was there to give his acceptance speech at Invesco [now Sports Authority] Field at Mile High.

    Because Colorado is considered a swing state, President Obama has campaigned there before.

    One would suspect that altitude sickness would have manifested itself before if he was susceptible. A man with common sense would plan to arrive in time to acclimate.

  5. Then again, it may be the result of the "Ion Effect". He was probably being blasted with positive Ions during the wind storm (See the book: http://www.amazon.com/Ion-Effect-The-Fred-Soyka/dp/0553255177).

    According to some research I read, 75% of the general population react favorably to negative ions but are adversely affected by positive ions, while the other 25% react in the opposite way, finding higher positive ion days euphoric and higher negative ion days boring. These people compensate for the stress caused by positive ions with sufficient adrenaline production.

    In other words, 75% of the general population goes into different ranges of depression and 25% become hyperactive. We are all affected somewhat by higher positive ion ratios. There are no side effects from negative ions.

    In a South Africa bank with 90 employees, Bank employees went from an error rate of 2.5% before negative ion generators were installed, to an error rate of 0.5% while working in negative ion enriched air.

    Ion research from around the world has proven that Serotonin overproduction stimulated by higher positive ion ratios is the primary cause for many of the problems associated with positive ions:

    In the 25% of the general population during higher positive ion ratios, short term increase in productivity occurs (attributed to hyperactive adrenaline production). After extended exposure or duration to positive ions, this increase in productivity quickly turns into poor performance (attributed to a weakened or exhausted adrenaline gland).


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

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