Friday Fotos with a Dangerous Twist

May 31, 2013

Tornado AlleyAs we post this the U.S. has been dealing with multiple tornadoes touching down across the central plains. Spring and early summer are typically the most active months (esp. across Tornado Alley) and, to be honest, 2013 has been fairly quiet … until the past few weeks.

America has more tornado sightings than any other place in the world and averages about 1,300 tornadoes each year. And tornadoes happen year round across the continental U.S.

Although twisters are dangerous and potentially deadly, they also have a certain type of beauty that makes one appreciate the power of Mother Nature.

Below are some fascinating tornado pics for this week’s Friday Fotos segment…

tornado nguyen via nasa pod

Tornado and Rainbow Over Kansas Image Credit & Copyright: Eric Nguyen (Oklahoma U.) via NASA

NASA Explanation: The scene might have been considered serene if it weren’t for the tornado. During 2004 in Kansas, storm chaser Eric Nguyen photographed this budding twister in a different light — the light of a rainbow. Pictured above, a white tornado cloud descends from a dark storm cloud. The Sun, peeking through a clear patch of sky to the left, illuminates some buildings in the foreground. Sunlight reflects off raindrops to form a rainbow. By coincidence, the tornado appears to end right over the rainbow. Streaks in the image are hail being swept about by the high swirling winds.

tornado moore ok Nicholas Rutledge via National Geographic Your Shot
Photograph by Nicholas Rutledge via National Geographic Your Shot

NatGeo Explanation: Nicholas Rutledge snapped this picture of the devastating May 2013 tornado as it gathered strength in Newcastle, Oklahoma. It later intensified before smashing through suburbs surrounding Oklahoma City, including the city of Moore.

tornado South Dakota EF3 Tornado / Photograph by Carsten Peter via NatGeo

South Dakota EF3 Tornado / Photograph by Carsten Peter via NatGeo

oldest tornado photo per noaa

Above is one of the oldest known photographs of a tornado per NOAA. It is probable this image has been “doctored” from the original. Source: NOAA’s National Weather Service Collection Location: South Dakota, 22 miles southwest of Howard Photo Date: August 28, 1884

tornado photo by noaa

Our favorite photo by NOAA

As we mentioned in our Tornadoes don’t usually happen in December … or do they? post, the most important thing to do year round wherever you live is to pay attention to forecasts, keep a NOAA Weather Radio handy when nasty weather is brewing, and learn what to do before, during and after various types of emergencies and disasters.

Feel free to download and share some free preparedness and safety tips about tornadoes, flooding, evacuations and more from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book

Our thoughts are with all those dealing with and recovering from the intense storms … and hope everyone has a nice, safe weekend, j & B


Remember our Nation’s Heroes this Memorial Day

May 24, 2013

memorial dayMemorial Day is a day of remembering and honoring the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

Communities around the country will be holding events all weekend from parades to memorials to honor those who have died in military service. And many volunteers including active duty military, Boy Scout troops, American Legions and others will show their respect for the fallen by placing a small flag on each grave in 146 national cemeteries across America.

For example, each year for the past 40 years, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) has honored America’s fallen heroes with the “Flags In” tradition by placing American flags before the 260,000 gravestones and 7,300 niches of service members buried at both Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery just prior to Memorial Day.

memorial day 3d Infantry Regiment Flags-in tradition at Arlington Cemetery

memorial day flags in ceremony arlington cemetary army photo klinton smith

Below: A mourner, believed to be Air Force Reserve Captain Teresa Dutcher, lies at the grave of her son Corporal Michael Avery Pursel at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. She visited the cemetery at the conclusion of the “Flags In” event on May 24, 2012 per PDN.

Photo by Jemal Countess Flags In Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery

© Jemal Countess/Redux via PDN

The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. It is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but has never been officially named. The tomb guards are soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment. It is considered one of the highest honors to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Fewer than 20 percent of all volunteers are accepted for training and of those only a fraction pass training to become full-fledged Tomb Guards. One of the most solemn ceremonies that occurs at the Tomb of the Unknowns is where the president or his designee lays a wreath to mark the national observance of Memorial Day.

memorial day Tomb of the Unknowns

An amazing photo that went viral a few years ago was taken by amateur photographer Frank Glick was on his way to work. He drove through Fort Snelling National Cemetery early one morning and spotted a bald eagle through the mist, perched on a gravestone, and snapped shots with his aging but ever-present camera, according to the Star Tribune. An acquaintance saw the photo and suggested that he see if the deceased soldier had any living relatives who might want it. Indeed, Maurice Ruch’s widow was alive and well and delighted to receive a copy of the eagle watching over her beloved husband.

Frank Glick photo of eagle on headstone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery

 Words cannot properly express the gratitude for all those who have sacrificed so much… but please remember to take a moment this long weekend to honor our nation’s fallen heroes.

memorial day thank you

Stay safe,  j & B


Friday Fotos: Nazca Lines (Mysterious Geoglyphs in Peru)

May 17, 2013

Nazca imagesAccording to LiveScience.com the Nazca lines are enormous geoglyphs in arid coastal Peru that cover an estimated 170 square miles (450 square kilometers). Thousands of geoglyphs include creatures from the natural world and the human imagination.

National Geographic explains the drawings on the ground are made by removing rocks and earth to create a “negative” image. The rocks which cover the desert have oxidized and weathered to a deep rust color, and when the top 12-15 inches of rock is removed, a light-colored, high contrasting sand is exposed. Because there’s so little rain, wind and erosion, the exposed designs have stayed largely intact for 500 to 2000 years.

Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes; more than seventy are zoomorphic designs of animals such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguar, monkey, or human figures. Other designs include phytomorphic shapes such as trees and flowers. The largest figures are over 200 metres (660 ft) across per Wikipedia.

The vast majority of the lines date from 200 BC to 500 AD, to a time when a people referred to as the Nazca inhabited the region. The earliest lines, created with piled up stones, date as far back as 500 BC.

LiveScience.com says no one knows why the prehistoric Nazca culture went through the effort of making the geoglyphs, though they may have had a ritual role or linked up to constellations in the sky. Another idea is that the lines play a role in pilgrimage, with one walking across them to reach a sacred place such as Cahuachi and its adobe pyramids. Yet another idea is that the lines are connected with water, something vital to life yet hard to get in the desert, and may have played a part in water-based rituals.

Whatever the case… the Nazca Lines are fascinating and mysterious.

Nazca Spiral

Photo: WorldMysteries.com

nazca hummingbird

Photo: LiveScience

Nazca monkey

Photo: Wikipedia

nazca figures

Photo: PeruAdventureTours.com

nazca spider

Photo: LatinAmericanStudies.org

Have a great weekend everyone! j & B


Friday Fotos: Spectacular cloud formations

May 3, 2013

Living in southern Arizona makes one appreciate clouds since we don’t get to see them very often. We average almost 200 sunny days and about 100 partly sunny days a year and, when we are lucky enough to have clouds – esp. late in the day – we get some absolutely gorgeous sunsets.

Clouds are an intricate part of our existance on our little planet and most people probably don’t pay too much attention to them, but sometimes the right conditions can create some incredible formations and visuals.

We hope you enjoy today’s Friday Fotos and some explanations about each … and keep your eyes on the skies since nature can provide some spectacular views.

shelf cloud

Shelf cloud in Florida by Jason Weingart  via Accuweather

Accuweather explains shelf clouds often form at the leading edge of a gust front or outflow boundary from a thunderstorm, or strong winds flowing down and outward from a storm. The outer part of a shelf cloud is often smoother with a notable rising motion exhibited by a tiered look (hence, the name shelf cloud). Underneath, a turbulent, unsettled appearance is often the case. A shelf cloud should be seen as a harbinger of strong winds, so take caution.

asperatus clouds

Asperatus Clouds Over New Zealand
Image Credit & Copyright: Witta Priester via NASA

NASA Explanation: What kind of clouds are these? Although their cause is presently unknown, such unusual atmospheric structures, as menacing as they might seem, do not appear to be harbingers of meteorological doom. Known informally as Undulatus asperatus clouds, they can be stunning in appearance, unusual in occurrence, are relatively unstudied, and have even been suggested as a new type of cloud. Whereas most low cloud decks are flat bottomed, asperatus clouds appear to have significant vertical structure underneath. Speculation therefore holds that asperatus clouds might be related to lenticular clouds that form near mountains, or mammatus clouds associated with thunderstorms, or perhaps a foehn wind — a type of dry downward wind that flows off mountains. Such a wind called the Canterbury arch streams toward the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The above image, taken above Hanmer Springs in Canterbury, New Zealand, in 2005, shows great detail partly because sunlight illuminates the undulating clouds from the side.

lenticular clouds near mountain

Lenticular Clouds Over Washington
Credit & Copyright: Tim Thompson via NASA

NASA Explanation: Are those UFOs near that mountain? No — they are multilayered lenticular clouds. Moist air forced to flow upward around mountain tops can create lenticular clouds. Water droplets condense from moist air cooled below the dew point, and clouds are opaque groups of water droplets. Waves in the air that would normally be seen horizontally can then be seen vertically, by the different levels where clouds form.

Iridescent cloud

A Pileus Iridescent Cloud Over Ethiopia
Image Credit & Copyright: Esther Havens (Light the World) via NASA

NASA Explanation: Pictured, behind this darker cloud, is a pileus iridescent cloud, a group of water droplets that have a uniformly similar size and so together diffract different colors of sunlight by different amounts. The above image was taken just after the picturesque sight was noticed by chance by a photographer in Ethiopia. A more detailed picture of the same cloud shows not only many colors, but unusual dark and wavy bands whose origins are thought related to wave disturbances in the cloud.

supercell or mothership cloud over Montana

Supercell Thunderstorm Cloud Over Montana
Credit & Copyright: Sean R. Heavey via NASA

NASA explanation: Is that a spaceship or a cloud? Although it may seem like an alien mothership, it’s actually a impressive thunderstorm cloud called a supercell (sometimes called a mothership cloud). Such colossal storm systems center on mesocyclones — rotating updrafts that can span several kilometers and deliver torrential rain and high winds including tornadoes. Jagged sculptured clouds adorn the supercell’s edge, while wind swept dust and rain dominate the center.

Morning glory or roll clouds over Australia

Morning Glory Clouds Over Australia
Credit & Licence: Mick Petroff via NASA

NASA Explanation: What causes these long, strange clouds? No one is sure. A rare type of cloud known as a Morning Glory cloud can stretch 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) long and occur at altitudes up to two kilometers (1.2 miles) high. Although similar roll clouds have been seen at specific places across the world, the ones over Burketown, Queensland Australia occur predictably every spring. Long, horizontal, circulating tubes of air might form when flowing, moist, cooling air encounters an inversion layer, an atmospheric layer where air temperature atypically increases with height. These tubes and surrounding air could cause dangerous turbulence for airplanes when clear. Morning Glory clouds can reportedly achieve an airspeed of 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph) over a surface with little discernible wind.

cloud caused by sonic boom

A Sonic Boom
Credit: Ensign John Gay, USS Constellation, US Navy via NASA

NASA Explanation: When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane cannot precede the plane, and so accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears all at once the sound emitted over a longer period: a sonic boom. As a plane accelerates to just break the sound barrier, however, an unusual cloud might form. The origin of this cloud is still debated. A leading theory is that a drop in air pressure at the plane described by the Prandtl-Glauert Singularity occurs so that moist air condenses there to form water droplets. Above, an F/A-18 Hornet was photographed just as it broke the sound barrier.

Stay safe and have a great weekend! 🙂 j & B


Friday Fotos: Twinkle, Twinkle Little… Glowworm?

April 26, 2013

glowwormsThere are so many glowworms that live in New Zealand’s Waitomo caves visitors will feel like they’re looking up at a night sky rather than cave walls.

The 300 cave system has been around for millions of years, and the starry night vibe is there thanks to the Arachnocampa luminosa, a glowworm species only found in New Zealand, GrindTV reports.

Waitomo.com explains the Waitomo Glowworm Caves were first explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau accompanied by an English surveyor Fred Mace.  They built a raft of flax stems and with candles as their only lighting, floated into the cave where the stream goes underground.

As they entered the caves, their first discovery was the Glowworm Grotto with its myriad of tiny bright lights dotting the cave ceiling. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they saw a multitude of lights reflecting off the water. Looking up, they discovered that the ceilings were dotted with the lights of thousands of glowworms.

New Zealand glowworm cave

Photo: Spellbound Tours

According to The Visa Centre, the easiest way to travel the caves is by boat or you can also walk through the caves along well-formed paths and stairways. And, if you’re a thrill seeker, you can experience the thrill of black water rafting or zip lining through the same caves.

New Zealand Waitomo glowworm cave

Photo: Waitomo.com

Spellbound Glowworm & Cave Tours says these glowworms live all over New Zealand; they’re very common and found in forest settings, usually under overhanging stream banks . Where conditions are suitable they live in caves and can colonise cave ceilings in impressive numbers. Glowworms can turn off their lights when there is too much bright light from another source, or to ‘hide’ if disturbed.

Image by James Dooley

But the glowworms are best known for their magnificent luminescent displays as visitors meander through the Waitomo caves.

New Zealand Waitomo glow worm cave

Photo: SpotCoolStuff.com

New Zealand Waitomo glowworm cave

Photo: Spellbound Tours

Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂  j & B


Um … oops … hazardous materials accidents (and a link to some safety tips)

April 19, 2013

Major chemical accidents like the recent fertilizer plant explosion in Texas seem most threatening because they often kill people outright, however it is the smaller, more routine accidents and spills that affect most people.

Some of the most common spills involve tanker trucks and railroad tankers containing gasoline, chlorine, acid, or other industrial chemicals. Many spills occur during the transportation of hazardous materials. For example, in 2012, spills from 12,995 highway and 665 railroad accidents resulted in 11 deaths, 160 injuries, and damages exceeding more than $73 million.

The Spills and Accidents database contains statistics on toxic chemical spills and other accidents reported to the National Response Center (NRC … formerly called ERNS, the Emergency Response Notification System). The database shows that 28,591 accidents involving toxic chemicals were reported to the NRC in 2012, meaning that on average, some type of toxic chemical accident was reported 78 times a day in the U.S., or nearly 3 times per hour.

Did you know…

  • as many as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards and can be defined as “hazardous materials” and over 1,000 new synthetic chemicals are introduced each year?!
  • each year about 400 million metric tons of hazardous wastes are generated worldwide?!
  • according to FEMA, varying quantities of hazardous materials are manufactured, used, or stored at an estimated 4.5 million facilities in the U.S.?!

Hazardous materials can range from waste produced by a petroleum refinery to materials used by the dry cleaners to pesticides stored in your home. And, although the chemical industry has a good safety record, accidents and chemical spills happen and toxic materials may be released into the air and water.

Visit USFRA to learn what to do when a hazardous materials incident affects your community and scroll down to see some hazmat related photos.

Explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas – on Wednesday the explosion killed 14 and injured about 200 with 60 people still unaccounted for as of today. Following the accident, one of the immediate fears was that the accident had released large amounts of ammonia gas, which can cause breathing difficulties or suffocation. (Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this tragic accident.)

West Texas fertilizer plant fire

REUTERS / Mike Stone

Texas City disaster – the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history took place on April 16, 1947, and began with a mid-morning fire on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp which was docked in the Port of Texas City. The fire detonated approximately 2,300 tons (2,086,100 kg) of ammonium nitrate and the resulting chain reaction of fires and explosions killed at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department.

The blast leveled nearly 1,000 buildings on land and sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings shorn off, forcing them out of the sky. Ten miles away, people in Galveston were forced to their knees; windows were shattered in Houston, 40 miles (60 km) away. People felt the shock 100 miles away in Louisiana. Source: Wikipedia

Cataño oil refinery fire – a massive fire and explosion sent huge flames and smoke plumes into the air at the Carribean Petroleum Corporation near San Juan, Puerto Rico. Amazingly there were no fatalities, but 3 people were injured.

Catano oil refinery explosion and fire in Puerto Rico

Train derailment in NJ – four cars (including 3 in the water) contained vinyl chloride which can induce respiratory problems, dizziness and other health effects after short-term exposure — and liver problems and other complications after high levels of exposure over time.

chemical spill due to NJ train derailment

Deepwater Horizon oil spill – Following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which claimed 11 lives on 20-April-2010, a sea-floor oil gusher flowed unabated for 87 days, until it was capped. The total discharge is estimated at 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gal; 780,000 m3). After several failed efforts to contain the flow, the well was declared sealed on 19-September-2010. Source: Wikipedia

Again .. find some more resources below … and have a safe weekend! j & B

Additional Sources:

US Chemical Safety Board
DOT PHMSA Hazmat Intelligence Portal
Right to Know Network
PollutionIssues.com


Friday Fotos: Fire in the sky (old nuclear weapons tests in Bikini Atoll and Nevada)

April 12, 2013

nuclear missileWith all recent rhetoric by North Korea about their potential nuclear capabilities, we felt this might be a good time to do a few posts about nuclear threats. (See also How to protect yourself from nuclear fallout)

These Friday Fotos show some fascinating old footage of nuke testing by the U.S. military, and tomorrow’s post will discuss some sheltering tips that could save your life in the event of a nuclear incident.

From 1946 to 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands (also known as the Pacific Proving Grounds). The total volume translates into 7,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs detonated at the pace of 11 a week.

The below 3 photos are tests performed on Bikini Atoll, however tests were also done on Enewetak Atoll and other islands in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

nuclear weapon test Romeo

Romeo / Photo: U.S. Department of Energy

Nuclear weapon test Romeo (yield 11 megaton) on Bikini Atoll on March 26, 1954. The test was part of the Operation Castle. Romeo was the first nuclear test conducted on a barge. The barge was located in the Bravo crater. Operation Castle was a United States series of high-yield (high-energy) nuclear tests by Joint Task Force 7 (JTF-7) at Bikini Atoll beginning in March 1954.

nuclear weapon test Baker explosion

Baker explosion / Photo: U.S. Navy

The “Baker” explosion was part of Operation Crossroads weapons test at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia, on 25 July 1946. The wider, exterior cloud is actually just a condensation cloud caused by the Wilson chamber effect, and was very brief. There was no classic mushroom cloud rising to the stratosphere, but inside the condensation cloud the top of the water geyser formed a mushroom-like head called the cauliflower, which fell back into the lagoon. The water released by the explosion was highly radioactive and contaminated many of the ships that were set up near it. Some were otherwise undamaged and sent to Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, California, for decontamination. Those which could not be decontaminated were sunk a number of miles off the coast of San Francisco.

Castle Bravo nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll

Castle Bravo / Photo: The Guardian 

Castle Bravo was the code name given to the first test of a dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb, detonated on March 1, 1954, at Bikini Atoll, as the first test of Operation Castle. Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the U.S. (and just under one-third the energy of the most powerful ever detonated), with a yield of 15 megatons of TNT. (Basically it had an explosive force equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.) That yield, far exceeding the expected yield of 4 to 6 megatons, combined with other factors, led to the most significant accidental radiological contamination ever caused by the United States. Fallout from the detonation—intended to be a secret test—poisoned some of the islanders upon their return,as well as the crew of a Japanese fishing boat, and created international concern about atmospheric thermonuclear testing.

Nevada Proving Grounds (also called Nevada Test Site) was established on 11 January 1951, for the testing of nuclear devices and is composed of approximately 1,360 sq mi (3,500 km2) of desert and mountainous terrain. Between 1951 and 1992, there were a total of 928 announced nuclear tests at NTS. Of those, 828 were underground.  The Nevada Test Site was the primary testing location of American nuclear devices; 126 tests were conducted elsewhere (many at the Pacific Proving Grounds mentioned above).

Operation Teapot Met Shot nuclear weapon explosion at Nevada Test site

The Met Shot / Photo: U.S. Department of Energy / Nevada Test Site

The Met Shot was part of Operation Teapot — a series of 14 nuclear test explosions conducted at the Nevada Test Site in the first half of 1955. The aims of the operation were to establish military tactics for ground forces on a nuclear battlefield, and to improve the nuclear weapons used for strategic delivery

US nuclear test George of Operation Greenhouse

George / Photo: National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Test Site

U.S. nuclear test “George” of Operation Greenhouse  was a “science experiment” showing the feasibility of the Teller-Ulam design concept test series, 9 May 1951. Operation Greenhouse represented new and aggressive designs for nuclear weapons. The main idea was to reduce the size, weight, and most importantly, reduce the amount of fissile material necessary for nuclear weapons, while increasing the destructive power.

nuclear test Badger of Operation Upshot-Knothole

BADGER / Photo: National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Test Site

A 23 kiloton tower shot called BADGER, fired on April 18, 1953 at the Nevada Test Site, as part of the Operation Upshot-Knothole nuclear test series.

Stay safe and review some safety information about nuclear incidents. j & B


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