Monday, July 20, 2015

Tornado-Specific Alerting

In North America, tornadoes can be a real...problem. Their geographic pattern and seasonal trend is something I think a lot about here, from the perspective of understanding risk -especially on behalf of organizations that have people scattered all over the place.
Considering how many drug stores of a certain variety exist on corners across the United States, you quickly realize that at any moment in the summertime, there is probably a tornado bearing down on one -a location filled with employees and customers.

The path of a storm cell over the weekend, spawning several warning zones of relative tornado risk. These boundaries are used to trip alerting rules in the event of people and assets in their path.

Weather alerts are ok, but generally they are too general. Working with the team from Weather Decision Technologies, we've pulled in their tornado forecast cones as alertable geometries (as optional low, medium, and high-risk plumes). Based on the current conditions of a storm, the forecast-modeled zones swipe out a predicted impact area which can then be used to trigger on-site notices to employees and response teams in the event of an approaching tornado.

Here is an animation of the alerting areas as the storm cell moved east through the Midwest. These zones were used to notify folks ahead of the danger.

Tornado risk zones trigger alerting rules as a storm cell rolls eastward, notifying folks and response teams ahead of the event.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

If Earth Were The Size of This Globe...

You are beholding the magnificence that is the Churchill globe, the colossal creation of Peter Bellerby and company. While marveling at images of its hand building and painting, I wondered about the relative size of things on Earth that we consider massive and how big they would be at a scale, like this, I can actually comprehend.

The Churchill globe, by Bellerby & Co., measures 127 centimeters wide.

So if Earth were actually the size of this 127 cm diameter globe (and that by dragging my hands along its surface I would not be destroying a soft dusty lava ball, snuffing out all life), I wondered what it would feel like under my fingertips. The answer is insanely smooth.  For instance...

  • If, in the process of painting in the beautiful coastlines, one of the hairs of the paint brush fell off onto the globe, its thickness would dwarf the world's tallest building.
An electron microscope scan of the Burj Khalifa on the surface of the Churchill globe, with a hair for scale.

  • The tip of Everest would reach 0.88 millimeters above the overall surface. Like two grains of salt stacked on each other, or the height of Lincoln sitting on the back of a US penny.
The very tip of the Himalayas would rise one Lincoln tall on the Churchill globe.
  • The Mariana Trench's Challenger Deep, the deepest known location on the Earth's seabed, would be a 1 millimeter scratch. Similar to the depth of the characters punched into your credit card.
The deepest location under Earth's oceans would, on the Churchill, plunge to similar depths as the characters punched into your credit card.
  • The Troposphere (pretty much what we think of as our atmosphere), where our weather and breathing happens, would be a wispy 1.2 millimeter coating -likely not much thicker than the layer of lacquer coating the Churchill globe. This makes me feel uneasy.
  • A Boeing 747 at cruising altitude would hover 1 millimeter above the Churchill (probably suspended inside the Churchill's lacquer coating). It could fly about 97.8 cm (38.5 in) on a tank of gas.
  • All of Earth's multi-cellular organisms would live within a tenuous 3 millimeter-thick envelope. 
The troposphere would coat the Churchill globe about 1.2 millimeters thick.
  • Geography nerds like to talk about how the Earth is slightly wider, generally, than it is tall, because the spinning motion mooshes it out a bit at the belt. But how much? To accommodate that equatorial bulge, the Churchill globe would have to be 4.3 millimeters wider than it is tall. You could never tell by looking. If you wrapped a string once around the Churchill globe's equator, that string would be just under one-and-a-half centimeters longer than when you wrap it around tall-ways.
  • A dust mite (the invisible-to-the-eye little guys who feast on your shed skin scales) on the Churchill would be reminiscent of the Cloverfield Monster, only bigger.
A dust mite on the Churchill would cover much of Central Park.

Here are a couple more pictures of the construction of this 127 centimeter-wide scale model of Earth...

And my back of napkin sketch of the relative sizes of stuff...

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