Astro's Blog

In Response to Stu Ostro

By: Astrometeor, 4:45 AM GMT on January 23, 2013

"Um...What is your point then?"

Obviously my reply may be one with some rather scathing remarks. My point did not lie with destruction, but rather with annoyance. So is the tone of this reply. It too, is also one of annoyance, one that is annoyed at the person who targeted someone's statement without reading the context that came before which I concur with. Understanding my dissatisfaction with The Weather Channel's choice to name winter storms.

To start things off, I do not know whether (weather if you prefer) or not this is true, but some of the bloggers on Dr. Master's blog have said that Bryan Norcross admitted the naming system was for the ratings and not so much for awareness. If this is true I do not know, however, the accusation itself points to severe negligence or perhaps nonprofessional acts stemming from TWC's producers and script-writers.

On the topic of my quote, I said the naming of winter storms is
1. not approved my NWS for good reason
2. winter storms cause annoyance, not destruction
I did not say or imply that all tropical cyclones create damage, on the contrary my implication is most, if not all "winter storms" cause annoyance, not destruction. If the public is caught unawares, it is rarely the standard meteorologist's fault. In this day and age of internet and social media and inter-connectivity, if you do not know something, even the weather, most would have a gaping-mouth expression upon their faces.

Statement from NWS:

Now while the NWS does not give any reasons for their displeasure, I am sure I could think up of some. For one thing, what is in a name? The awareness issue is bypassed here, in the sense that people will say, "Hey, what do you think of the possible snowstorm coming up?" Notice no name in there. Now I have heard the names used, "Did you hear what the TWC named this? Caesar. I mean, huh? Who names a snowstorm Caesar?!" Often from people I know, the reaction to each name is one of confusion and disbelief. Never have I heard that the naming was good. This is all without my biased input. I have heard however, things like, "Weird" or "Funny". But the names themselves are not taken seriously. Because the storms themselves happen with considerable distance between them, the public can tell the difference between the storms. Not so for tropical ones. One of the main reasons that the NWS began naming the storms in the first place (if I am not mistaken), was because often there are multiple at once, and so names are easier to distinguish between the storms. In the short time that I have been alive, I have not seen many winter storms impact the U.S.A. at the same time. Maybe I am wrong on that.

Now, perhaps my first paragraph was a bit harsh. I am willing to be lenient after thinking this through. Mr. Ostro, you construed and rearranged my words and refuted an argument I did not present. Yes, most storms of the tropical nature do not do damage (poor shipping industry!), however, when impacting the United States or elsewhere, the damage can be catastrophic. Compared with a "winter storm", whose damage can be negligible in comparison.

Mr. Stu Ostro, I hope this answers your question as to what my point is. My point, sir, is thus: the naming of a system that occurs with regular frequency and happenstance is a practice that is bound to fail. Look to the public, the poor people can't tell the difference between NWS + TWC, let alone Athena and/or Iago. I am completely against this poor excuse of "awareness". Rather it is something just for the ratings, for more viewers. Now one could argue that that will increase awareness, but that assumption deals an insult to the local news stations whom come out with the same forecasts but on smaller budgets than the media giant TWC does.

"I won't back down"- Tom Petty

2012-2013 Flu Season

By: Astrometeor, 11:59 PM GMT on January 10, 2013

Alright, so as I am writing this, the CDC is warning everyone of an epidemic and calling this season one of the worst in the last decade.

I put this blog under the category of winter weather when I created it. Main reason is of course flu season occurs in the winter as people stay indoors more often and longer. This allows the germination of the virus/germs in a household or building thanks to a higher frequency of people touching objects and each other. Specially coupled with the holidays and everyone hugging each other, even if one may not be healthy enough to do so creates a perfect environment for a little virus to find a host and take root. Symptoms do not begin to exert themselves until several days after initial infection of the host.

A little bit of context, this season is one of the earliest starting seasons on record, and so far has accelerated to one of the highest amounts of cases in recent years, with Boston declaring a health emergency and Chicago turning away people due to the hospitals being full to capacity.

In my hometown of Nashville, TN, we have experienced very few cases to my knowledge, the only things people appear to have spread around is the yearly cold, and whoever has winter allergies (me) have been sniffling and taking anti-histamines. However, to our north in Clarksville, I recall hearing about how they shut down the schools for a week in December as half the high school there was out sick with the flu.

Some statistics related to this outbreak (from the CDC's website):

During week 52, the following influenza activity was reported:
Widespread influenza activity was reported by 41 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).
Regional influenza activity was reported by 7 states (Arizona, California, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington).
The District of Columbia reported local influenza activity.
Sporadic influenza activity was reported by 1 state (Hawaii).
Guam reported no influenza activity.
Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 1 state (Delaware) did not report.
Between October 1, 2012 and December 29, 2012, 2,257 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported. This is a rate of 8.1 per 100,000 population. Among all hospitalizations, 1,924 (85.2%) were associated with influenza A and 312 (13.8%) with influenza B. There was no virus type information for 19 (0.8%) hospitalizations. Among hospitalizations with influenza A subtype information, 475 (98.1%) were attributed to H3 and 9 (1.9%) were attributed to 2009 H1N1. The most commonly reported underlying medical conditions among hospitalized adults were metabolic conditions, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and chronic lung disease (excluding asthma). Among 36 hospitalized women of childbearing age (15-44 years), seven were pregnant. The most commonly reported underlying medical conditions in hospitalized children were asthma, neurological disorders, and immune suppression. Approximately 40% of hospitalized children had no identified underlying medical conditions.

An informative article I found on FOX NEWS' home page on people and why they are not getting the flu shot: Vaccines + People
Now I present some graphs I have pulled off the CDC's flu website: CDC Flu Website

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.