Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 3:10 pm
Credit NASA GOES Project
It was not a good year for people, weather and climate. The winter was strangely warm in many places and the summer ridiculously hot. As a large fraction of the country suffered through extreme or even extraordinary drought many folks naturally wondered, "Is this climate change?" Then along came a presidential election in which the words "climate change" disappeared from the dialogue. Now, just a week or so before voting day, the convergence of westbound Hurricane Sandy with a eastbound cold front is creating a massive storm, a Frankenstorm even, that is threatening millions of Americans.
It's still unclear whether Sandy will be a devastating storm or just a bad one.
It is clear, however, that Sandy will be remembered as the storm that broke all the rules and baffled the nation's top weather forecasters.
Early Saturday morning, the National Weather Service downgraded the storm from a hurricane to a tropical storm — only to return it to hurricane status a few hours later. Either way, forecasters warn, "widespread impacts" are expected along the coast.
One place you don't expect to see waves lapping against the shore is in the middle of a desert. But that's exactly what's happening deep inside the United Arab Emirates, where a recently formed lake is nestled into the sand dunes, and a new ecosystem is emerging.
Drive through the desert in the United Arab Emirates, and all you see mile after mile are red, rolling dunes. Maybe some occasional trees or shrubs, but otherwise a dry, red sandscape.
And then, suddenly, a bright blue spot comes into view. It must be a mirage, you think. But it's not.
If you've ever found yourself anxiously wondering where a hurricane might make landfall, then you're probably familiar with "spaghetti charts" — the intertwined web of possible storm tracks put out by many forecasters.
Those lines represent hundreds of millions of observations from satellites, aircraft, balloons and buoys, all crunched from complex forecasting equations on some of the world's most powerful computers.
Time for our monthly meeting of the SCIENCE FRIDAY Book Club. Here with me are SCIENCE FRIDAY's multimedia editor, Flora Lichtman, and our senior producer, Annette Heist. And this month we have the physics - physics on our to-do list, right? A classic book by Richard Feynman, Annette?
ANNETTE HEIST, BYLINE: That's right. It is called "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character."
Social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, have been important parts of this year's presidential campaigns. As Americans prepare to head to the polls, experts discuss social media's influence on politics, and whether Twitter can predict who will win the election.