Weather

Deep Thunder from IBM in Rio

Wednesday, 10 April, 2013 0 Comments

Rio de Janeiro, the iconic Brazilian city, is famed for its natural beauty but the price is a plague of flash floods and landslides down the steep mountains that frame Copacabana Beach. Two years ago this month, a severe storm caused 212 deaths and left 15,000 people homeless.

IBM Enter IBM. It’s providing Rio with computing power for an urban operations centre to help meteorologists, police and more than 30 city departments to predict the danger of, and respond rapidly to emergencies. The high-end weather system, called Deep Thunder, combines tracking of incoming storms with a “deep computing” capacity that’s able to predict the likely intensity of an oncoming storm.

The data can then be correlated with sensor systems on hillsides that determine soil stability and landslide danger. Alerts should make it possible to warn residents in advance of storms, to close down streets, mobilize ambulances and turn off electric power to prevent electrocutions. The system is connected to the mayor’s home so that even in the middle of the night he can be in the emergency communications and command centre when danger looms.

IBM: “With the World Cup coming to Rio in 2014, the forecast for the business-of-weather approach pioneered by Deep Thunder looks bright.”


‘Tis very warm weather when one’s in bed

Monday, 25 March, 2013 0 Comments

So said the Anglo-Irish writer and satirist Jonathan Swift (1667 — 1745). Coming right up to date, “Extreme cold weather hits Europe” is the headline on a Big Picture photo feature about the deadly climate change that’s been killing people from Vladivostok to Glasgow. In Poland, the interior ministry said 20 people had died in the past 24 hours because of the freezing weather, bringing the toll there so far this year to at least 100. In Serbia, which declared a state of emergency last week, 19 people have died of cold. And for the first time in decades, parts of the Black Sea has frozen near its shores, while the Kerch Strait that links the Azov Sea and the Black Sea has been closed to navigation. According to NASA, the weather pattern is called a “Russian Winter” because the intense cold is triggered by a strong Siberian anticyclone hovering over northern Russia.

A man pushes a bicycle on a snow-covered road near the village of Cotorca, 70km northeast of Bucharest

A man pushes a bicycle on a snow-covered road near the village of Cotorca, 70km northeast of Bucharest


Blue sky, blue snowstorm

Sunday, 16 December, 2012 0 Comments

“It snowed all week. Wheels and footsteps moved soundlessly on the street, as if the business of living continued secretly behind a pale but impenetrable curtain. In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city. At […]

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October tree outside window

Sunday, 28 October, 2012 0 Comments

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?” J. B. Priestley

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“In response to the heat, residents sheltered in forests or near waterfall.”

Thursday, 3 May, 2012

It’s hot in Vietnam. No, make that unbearably hot. Here’s what happens when the temperature reaches 43C: “In Hanoi, a great number of people rushed to supermarkets, cinemas, indoor recreation centres, and green parks to avoid the hot weather. The hypermarket Big C Thang Long was packed with visitors from 9 am. The ‘escapees’ included […]

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Hanoi

Saturday, 28 April, 2012

It’s very hot and humid here. One visitor remarked that this is a city dominated by motorbikes, all of which seem to be making a mad dash for something just out of reach — all the time.


Power is the ability to turn water molecules into ice

Sunday, 5 February, 2012

His breath was ice

“Outside the window, there slides past that unimaginable and deserted vastness where night is coming on, the sun declining in ghastly blood-streaked splendour like a public execution across, it would seem, half a continent, where live only bears and shooting stars and the wolves who lap congealing ice from water that holds within it the entire sky. All white with snow as if under dustsheets, as if laid away eternally as soon as brought back from the shop, never to be used or touched. Horrors! And, as on a cyclorama, this unnatural spectacle rolls past at twenty-odd miles an hour in a tidy frame of lace curtains only a little the worse for soot and drapes of a heavy velvet of dark, dusty blue.” Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus


Seldom is Friday all the weeke like

Friday, 20 January, 2012

Friday is not like any other day, said Geoffrey Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales. In “The Knight’s Tale” section, which deals with the ups and downs of a threesome involving Palamon, Arcite and Emily, the narrator compares the lovesick moodiness of the protagonists to the changeability of the weather on a Friday, a day famous for its meteorological tantrums:

“Now up, now down, as bucket in a well
Right as the Friday, soothly for to tell
Now shineth it, and now it raineth fast
Right so can geary Venus overcast
The heartes of her folk, right as her day
Is gearful, right so changeth she array
Seldom is Friday all the weeke like.”

And it’s true. Outside the window, it raineth fast.