Video: The science of sunsets

Pleased to join some of my meteorologist friends for a Weather Channel/Google+ Hangout on Sept. 9.

The video is now on The Weather Channel’s YouTube page, and below.

Tim Ballisty, Brad Panovich, Jacob Wycoff, Maria LaRosa, Mike Bettes, Jonathan Erdman, Tim Brice and I discussed the “The Meteorology Behind Sunsets”, including the age-old question, “why is the sky blue?”

Our Hangout On-Air was ahead of The Weather Channel’s “Sunset Day” on Sept. 19.

Also fun to share some of my favorite recent sunset photos! -mp

Truly amazing flash flood video from the Southwest

David Rankin of posted this video shot (bottom) of a suddenly-appearing flash flood in southern Utah on Friday, Aug. 30.  It shows the raw power of a Southwest U.S. flash flood aided by debris damming upstream.

It truly is the most amazing video I have ever seen of a sudden impact, “wall of water” flash flood.  (And shot from several angles in HD!)

Flash Flood

He posts this caption:

“This is a rather large flash flood with a debris plug at the front heading down Buckskin Wash which eventually dumps into the Buckskin Gulch about 10 miles further downstream. If you can imagine this going though a slot canyon, probably wouldn’t be a pleasant experience.”

I’d sure agree!  Given the incredible amount of large debris on the front end of this flood and debris flow, I suspect there was some sort of event upstream — probably the release of a previous debris dam that sent all this dead timber downstream.  I also noticed an old tire.

Certainly a reason to heed Flash Flood Warnings, especially when you’re in rocky, hilly or mountainous terrain.  It may not rain where you are, but the flood can appear in moments!  (h/t Mike Smith)


Three decades of urban growth and planetary change in three seconds

Dual-photo composite of changes in Seattle as seen on Time Magazine's Timelapse.

Dual-photo composite of changes in Seattle as seen on Time Magazine’s Timelapse.

(Adapted from an article I published at

We use satellite imagery every day to view weather systems from space, but when the clouds clear, many satellites scan the earth photographing the amazing diversity of live on earth.

Many of the changes to the planet take thousands or millions of years, but not where humans are active.

Time Magazine has launched Timelapse powered by Google, a searchable and navigable timelapse of Landsat imagery across the globe from 1984 to 2002.

While our typical weather satellite imagery you see on television is viewed from geosynchronous orbit at around 22,000 miles above the earth, Landsat land imaging satellites orbit from pole-to-pole many times per day at an altitude of a bit more than 400 miles — about double the orbital altitude of the International Space Station.

A straight flight of 400 miles from Seattle would put you in northern California, but Landsat’s 400-plus mile high cameras are powerful enough to see large buildings, stadiums, highways and the growth of an urban area.

How to Use Timelapse

Head to the Timelapse website at .

Under the header, you’ll see some suggestions like Dubai, the Columbia Glacier, the Amazon and Las Vegas.

Select one of these, or “Explore the World.”

Under “Explore the World,” enter in any location just as you might on any online map site (e.g. Seattle, WA).

The timelapse will load, with a time slider at the bottom and a zoom in and out feature at top left.

Have fun! – MP

What I’ve Been Reading (Dec. 5-Dec. 11)

Football once again tops my list with an incredibly useful website for folks who get mad at US (television stations) for the “choice” of NFL game every Sunday.

(Hint: It’s not OUR choice.)

Started last week, this is the second installment of some of my “best reads” for the week gone by, as seen through my blogroll.

(I’ll try to get the blogroll up on this site soon, so you can see what I’m reading.  It’s not an easy task as my blog count right now stands at 205.) -MP

1. “So why isn’t my football game on your channel?”

Ask anyone who has ever worked a newsroom assignment desk on a Sunday (at least a network affiliate carrying NFL) and you’ll have a person who’s taken angry calls about football.

Understandably, it’s frustrating when you can’t see the game you want or you’re switched to another contest before the one you were watching concluded.

Those choices are all dictated by the individual networks (CBS and Fox) in concert with the NFL.

Individual stations don’t have control over game schedules.

While not an official NFL or network site, this is fantastic information by someone who clearly knows what they’re talking about.  You’ll see a nationwide mapping-out of which games are going to each market.

If you really want to see how complicated this all is, check out the “NFL TV Rules at a Glance.” from The 506.

2. That silo is a real “fixer-upper”

Surviving nuclear war will set you back only $1.75 million.  Deep within Adirondack State Park is a fairly modest-looking house (from the outside, considering the house has its own runway and airplane parking) built above a defunct missile silo.

Take a photo tour of the property and the “amenities” via Buzzfeed.

My thought is that if a “honey-do” list doesn’t get finished, there’s always something slightly more menacing than a doghouse to be sent down to.

Way, way down.

3. Another Hitchcock New Year’s in Beebe, Arkansas?

If that wasn’t ominous enough, the birds are back.

You may recall at the stroke of midnight (or around that time) last year, hundreds of blackbirds fell from the sky.  The theories ranged from some radio death-ray to being startled to death by fireworks.

The birds are back in incredible number, as this video spot from Accuweather demonstrates.

We’ll see if there’s another bird debacle on Jan. 1.

4. Incredible images of 2011, and an equally incredible video of the Japan tsunami

Buzzfeed has put together some of the most powerful images of the year and ITN has never-before seen video from inside a car as the great tsunami rolled in along the Japanese coast.

5. A weather geek’s Christmas carol

The great folks at NOAA used the voice of NOAA Weather Radio to produce an electronic “Deck the Halls.”   It’s clever, and the voice’s “Fa la la la la” (video)….

sounds strangely to me like the Count’s “A ha ha ha ha ha.”  

Have a good week.

What I’ve Been Reading This Week (Nov. 27-Dec. 3)

This is the first edition in a weekly series based on what I’ve been reading on the internets. 

You see, I read a ton of blogs (205 on my Feedly reader at present), websites and other items through the week.  

It’s part of my rather-disturbing addiction to news and information that has developed only in the past couple of years, largely thanks to Twitter.   And I do pass along many links there.

Picking up and reading the blog of my KIRO 7 colleague and friend Paul Balcerak, I’ve gotten turned onto Instapaper.  That’s a website that is self-described as a “simple tool for saving web pages for reading later.”  

(Apparently Pinterest is good too, but I’ve been waiting on an invite for what seems like an eternity.)

So with this brand-new personal website and blog thing I’m slowly working on, I thought it’d be a good place to list the best-of-the-best of what I’ve come across in my week.   There is a lot of great material from talented people and organizations out there. 

It won’t be a long list from me… maybe five, perhaps as many as ten.   The articles won’t be that long either (however my descriptions probably will).  

The plan is to send along every Sunday and clear out the Instapaper queue for more.  Send me your best in return!-MP

At long last, here’s installment numero uno (topics from wide receivers to wasps):

1.  Positively the easiest way to spot 12 men on the field

If you thought you were getting every conceivable television angle of Sunday’s games, think again!

There is one camera shot the NFL absolutely does not want you to see, says The Wall Street Journal.

Is it just me, or does that sound like a magician who would just prefer you kindly not videotape the performance!

2.  Facebook is not a blog!

Kelly Clay (via Lockergnome) implores you: Don’t be a Facebook blogger!

Now, I love Twitter (and to a much-lesser extent, Facebook), but we agree: please use it as a really, really”TinyURL” for all your thoughts and emotions.

As Clay also points out, for serious bloggers and especially brands, putting your blog on a site you don’t run might, just might, become a bit sticky later on.

3.  “When death feels like a good option”

In the TV weather world, we lost another wonderful talent this week: Don Harman of Fox 4 in Kansas City.   Struggling with depression, according to his family, he took his own life on Tuesday.

Watch “Don’s Family Shares His Fight with Depression” from WDAF Fox 4  

They say television is a small world, where no one is more than two degrees separated from everyone else.  The TV weather business is even much smaller than that.

Harman’s suicide reverberated around our very small world, as did the 2007 death of John Winter of WFLA in Tampa who was also struggling with depression.

Well-known Seattle entrepreneur Ben Huh of the Cheezburger network recounts his darkest days in an early-week article from the Seattle

4.  Stunning St. Helens

Ben’s words are encouraging, so please take a moment and a deep breath to reflect on his words and nature’s beauty.  

The incredibly stunning photograph was taken of lightning near Mount St. Helens earlier this year.

5.  Lots I didn’t know about campaigns

With the “suspension” of Herman Cain’s candidacy Saturday, I heard some cable news chatter about the chance he could get back in the race at some point.  I thought, “Not if he’s going to endorse someone, he can’t!”

NBC/MSNBC’s Domenico Montanaro explains it has a lot to do with debt, among some other things.

And, did you know that Hillary Clinton is still technically a candidate for president?

6.  “John, I’ll take the wasp in the center square for the block.”

I’ve killed my share of wasps and yellowjackets over time, and it’s not something I’m proud of.  In my old-er age, I realize they are beneficial, and will probably just leave me alone.

Still, the paper wasp’s sting ranks as a 3.0 on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which places it between the red harvester ant and tarantula hawk.  A 3.0 is described as “like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.”

Now in even better news: THESE WASPS KNOW WHO YOU ARE.   Or at least, they can recognize the faces of other wasps.

I would assume they could then probably figure us out.

Look at those faces.

Now, by all means, you have very pleasant dreams tonight.

Those nine wasps playing Hollywood Squares know exactly what you did with that can of Hot Shot at the house next door.

As for me, I really don’t want to meet the nice-looking wasp in the top center square.  You know, the one next to Jim J. Bullock.