Explosive Cyclogenesis: Or Enough With “Bomb Storm” Already

Once again, the various national media outlets have taken a perfectly useful technical term and turned it into something a la “Sharknado.” Without the funny bits and parody material (OK, so I liked it when the shark ghost came out of the bucket of water at the charity car wash. I’m strange, yes.)

Bombogenesis was a technical term developed after 1945 to describe a rapidly strengthening low-pressure system. The technical term was explosive cyclogenesis. Low pressure systems in North America are all, technically, cyclones and demonstrate cyclonic rotation. Tornadoes are cyclones, but most cyclones are not tornadoes. Clear as mud? OK, moving on. Continue reading


The Cat Hills

If you drive to Albuquerque, or fly in and look from the airport to the west, you will see a trip of low lumps on the horizon, and more low lumps to the south and west. Compared to the enormous wall of Sandia Peak and the Manzano Mountains to the east, they are pretty blah, and your eye may well travel past them to the distant masses of Mt. Taylor farther west, or the Jemez Plateau/caldera to the north.

Even I can hike these mountains.

To me, the Albuquerque Volcanoes and Cat Hills to the south are some of my favorite fire mountains. They are the city’s “domestic” volcanoes, and you can climb one of the three, for certain “scramble over lump of rock at your own risk” values of climb. They certainly are not spectacular like Mt. Taylor, or Mt. Ranier, or the Jemez. You go into Valle Grande, the central caldera northwest of Santa Fe, look around, think about the hundreds of feet of welded tuff that you passed on the way in, and gulp in awe. Especially when you realize that it’s not exactly extinct. The Albuquerque Volcanoes are rather more extinct. They are “fun size,” so to speak. Continue reading

When You Want a Flood: Restoration Releases

So, what do you do when a group of naturalists, hydrologists, and other river-management people agree that a river needs more floods? Aside from blink, rub your eyes, and go back to read the lede again just to make sure. That actually began to happen starting around thirty* years ago, as we [hydrology and biology types] learned more about the mechanics of how rivers work, and what happens when you turn rivers into a long series of pools. If you want the river to act like a river, sometimes you have to open the taps again. Sort of. Ish. Continue reading


Monarchs of all they survey.

I live on the edge of the monarch migration path. We don’t see the huge clouds of butterflies moving through. However, every autumn, it seems that monarchs, queens, painted-ladies, and others suddenly erupt out of the ground, trying to rip the Buddleia out of by their roots. The big plants in the front garden get most of the attention, but the ones in the back yard do not go unvisited. In case you were wondering, the Buddleia is five feet tall. The one in the back yard is six feet tall. Continue reading

The Beauty of Industry

The folks in the van had been on the road far too long, driving to Baton Rouge for a meeting. The midnight hour was a lot closer than I cared to contemplate, and even with four drivers, it had been a really, really long day. Really long. So it was with great relief that the sign for Baton Rouge appeared beside the road.

We emerged from the trees and buildings and beheld one of the oil refineries. It was beautiful.

Like this.

Continue reading

Soil and Water Don’t Mix (Most of the Time)

Dirt matters. A lot.

In comments about my post about the Harris County problem, Luke pointed out that I’d not really looked at the soil profile under Houston and its neighbors and upstream watershed. That’s in part because I wanted to compress a lot of data into a small post, and because I’m just not familiar with all the details of the soils in that part of the state. Sand or clay, loam, caleche, all respond differently based on the physics and chemistry of the soil and its component parts. I’m not a soils expert, and I’m not a construction engineer. So this is a sort of Dirt and Water 101: The quick and dirty version. Continue reading