Here’s a neat little video where they took a photograph from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and re-constructed it into a 3D image of an enormous dust devil on Mars:
An interesting thing about Mars is that because its atmosphere is so thin and its gravity so low, huge dust devils form rather easily. But for the same reasons enormous dust devils like these are also exceptionally weak; they couldn’t really do much more damage than a regular-sized dust devil here on good ol’ Earf. In fact, dust devils are claimed to be responsible for fixing two Mars rovers (by blowing all the dust off their solar cells).
What’s that you say? Cite my sources? Frak, dude, I don’t remember where I read that. Heck, maybe I’m mis-remembering something I read years ago. But it sound right, don’t it?
Stephen Fry, the lovable rapscallion often thought of alongside cohorts Hugh Laurie and/or Rowan Atkinson, has been in Louisiana for a few days doing various bits about life in the N’Orleans area for a project of his. Well, life got very interesting for Mr. Fry very quickly on Sunday afternoon, and because he is such an aficionado of Twitter, we got to see the excitement first-hand.
He tweeted again in the next few minutes (titling them simply “Uh-oh” and “Snaking its way down…”). Each tweet was accompanied by a photograph showing the progress of the tornado:
Then Mr. Fry’s tweeting ceased. This caused a bit of a sit in the Twitterverse—had he been swallowed up by the meteorological menace? Eventually, just over a half-hour later, Mr. Fry returned to reassure everyone:
Whew! And here we have another example of what a wondrous future we live in, wherein a man armed only with an iPhone and a Twitter account can give an immediate account of astounding weather phenomena. We don’t have to rely on the hope that someone caught some footage of it that might make it to the local news that evening, which might then possibly be picked up by a national news (or perhaps end up as footage in Mr. Fry’s Louisiana project a while down the road). Instead the connection is instant between the witness and the audience, without need for any pesky middle-men sticking their thumbs in it.
It also helps that I just so happen to have an incredible fascination with tornadoes.
So turns out there was actually a tornado that touched down in largely-uninhabited Enumclaw on Sunday. It knocked over some trees and fences and an old barn, and it “dropped a shed on top of a tractor.” Here’s a video that someone shot of it. It’s kinda hard to see because of contrast:
This is the first confirmed tornado in Western Washington since the one back in January 2008 near Vancouver. Learn more about this one!
I had a tornado dream a couple of nights ago! Hooray! I so heart my tornado dreams. This one was unusual in that very early on I realized it was a dream. You’ll see why:
My brother & I were looking out the back of the house we grew up in (in Kent). The sky was clouded with a pretty uniform light gray, but in the center of the sky a big swirl was starting to form. We were very excited about this, because tornadoes come from swirly clouds.
But there was something almost immediately odd about the swirl in the clouds. It was too regular. Too… fractal. Like this:
I was immediately suspicious, and told my brother, “I think this might be a dream.” But almost immediately an actual funnel cloud formed and dove for the ground. It wasn’t so much a funnel cloud, though, as it was a wiggly vertical tube cloud that descended from the spiral.
We were very pleased by this development; it seemed realistic enough. We eagerly watched as the bottom of the tube approached the ground.
But then *BOINK* the instant the tornado touched down it was, as if by magic, replaced with a gigantic orange tarp. Several hundred feet tall, awkwardly rolled up and bound by many ropes.
“Yeah,” I said to my brother, “this is a dream all right.”
My dream people valiantly tried to keep the dream going after that, which included us storm-chasing in a car a very tiny tornado (about 12″ wide) that was headed for Seattle, while simultaneously being “chased” (it was more just lazily following us) by an identical tornado. When we got to Seattle I think my dream people didn’t feel like accurately rendering the city, because it didn’t look at all like the real Seattle.
But what were they thinking? A tornado transforms into an enormous orange tarp? What the heck kind of dream is that?
Soon after that I switched to another dream entirely that was a post-apocalyptic story about an afterlife in which everybody got indestructible bodies that were exact copies of their real ones, but then had to live among the ruins on Earth. Also, there was an angel who was in charge of all of this who was kind of awkward and didn’t know how to comfort all of the horribly upset, recently-deceased people.
A few nights ago I had a tornado dream! Hooray! I ♥ (heart) tornado dreams.
There were a bunch of small, duplex-like white buildings to my right (east), and a broad sidewalk ran parallel to them. Off to the left (west) was a large, flat, grassy plain that continued on to the west for a few miles, eventually meeting up with some low mountains. All of these features (buildings included) continued north and south as far as I could tell.
Several people I know (including me) were walking south along this broad sidewalk. It was rather crowded, with various unknown people walking in both directions. The sky was an intimidating gray. I happened to look off to my left and said, “Oh, hey, look; that looks like about an F-4 to me.”
Indeed, a quarter-mile-wide tornado was silently plowing its way south through the plains to the west. Nobody seemed very concerned, though—there was nothing over there it could actually damage, and it wasn’t heading in our direction, just going steadily south at barely more than walking speed. So we all just kinda watched it like you’d watch a pretty sunset as we continued walking on.
Eventually the fact that I’ve been playing a lot of Super Mario Galaxy became apparent: a bunch of tiny (18″ wide), blue, rope-like tornadoes began to appear on the sidewalk and slowly move back and forth across the width of it so that all of the people had to maneuver their way around them.
After we got past a couple of them I guess my dream people ran out of ideas for the dream, because that’s pretty much all that happened.
Then Sunday and Monday were particularly beautiful days (apart from some morning fog). Sunny and warm on Sunday, sunny and cold on Monday.
Monday evening I finished watching The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the Q13 News at 10:00 came on with a big story about the huge winter storm that was slamming the Northwest.
“What!?” I exclaimed out loud. I rushed to the window. Completely clear. The TV was showing footage of cars struggling to drive in snow flurries and on snow-coated roads in Seattle. I let Suki out to potty in the backyard and discovered a beautiful, crystal evening with a clear, black sky and bright stars. The trees weren’t disturbed the the slightest wind.
Meanwhile in Puyallup a tree got blown over in a windstorm and smashed a garage.
This morning all the news reports were of snow, ice, and dangerous roads. Here in Tacoma it’s a beautiful, sunny day again. A little bit of ice on the ground, but not on any of the main roads at all.
It seems often that Tacoma is an anti-convergence zone. We tend to get the opposite weather that the rest of the Northwest is getting.