Friday, February 01, 2013

Weather Channel: "Deadliest Space Weather"

The Weather Channel offers a series on Thursday nights called “Deadliest Space Weather”.

On January 31, the first half hour discussed the 900-mph steady winds in the supercold atmosphere of Neptune.  The winds are explained by the mechanics of the planet’s rotation, thick atmosphere, and heat from the core.  

By the way, Neptune looks blue because of methane in the upper atmosphere.  On Earth, methane can become a greenhouse gas (if released from permafrost or methane hydrate undersea).  

A 900 mph wind could grind down the Pyramids in Egypt in about four years.

The episode stated that the highest wind speeds on Earth have probably been over 300 mph in the high spots on Antarctica.  Winds over 200 mph have been recorded on Mt. Washington, and in mountain terrain you don’t need storms for very high winds.  Sometimes the jet stream can come down to mountain tops, and Bernoulli effects can cause catastrophic gusts. 

The highest wind speed ever recorded in a tornado apparently is about 320 mph in Oklahoma in 1989.
Climate change, then, has not necessarily increased the maximum possible severity of at least localized tornadoes. (The right wing is "right" on that point.)  But it might increase the frequency, or cause major tornadoes in areas not accustomed to them. 
The film showed the destruction from the huge tornado in Joplin, MO in 2011, and estimated wind speeds at about 220 mph.

The second half hour discussed meteroids, meteors, and meteorites.  A football-field sized meteorite apparently exploded (not reaching the ground intact) over a remote area of Siberia in 1908 and burned an area the size of Rhode Island.  Such a blast could destroy any major city. 
A large enough meteorite landing in an ocean could produce a tsunami wave over 600 feet high (as in the 1998 film “Deep Impact”, which preceded “Armageddon”).  Such a wave from the Atlantic would destroy all major cities on the East Coast, everything below the Fall Line. 

The challenge is to develop the technology to detect asteroids, comets and meteors and nudge them out of collision course with Earth.

The link for the series is here.
It will be interesting to find an episode from  the Weather Channel on solar storms. 

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