Thursday, February 21, 2008

Let's talk about the weather……

Our noon position: Latitude: 35 13.230 North Longitude: 123 06.940 West

For the last few days, we’ve had one eye on the calendar, and one on the shifting horizons - the fate of our arrival lies with the winds, which seem to rise and fall whimsically. In fact, there is a method to predicting when and from where the winds will blow. Twice a day, we receive a weather fax from NOAA, to the untrained eye, a cryptic legend full of numbers, symbols and hieroglyphics.

Fortunately, we have a few weather buffs on board. Here’s Herb, who has been painstakingly cutting and pasting these daily faxes together. Yes, he’s a surgeon, so this comes naturally…but he’s also tracing a story, to help us better understand the trends.

Here's Herb to tell you how he works his magic:


By now most of you know that the Gyre is a gigantic vortex of current, sitting beneath a barometric High Pressure System. That system is generally calm, with very light winds, and boats have a hard time getting out of its “Grip!” In fact, once trapped, all sorts of things travel around the Gyre for years and years, carried by the currents. Some of you Astronomy fans will think, “that’s a little like a ‘Black Hole.” Except there’s NO getting out of a Black Hole. Anna mentioned in her last blog that sailing ships of old were often trapped for long periods of time, and continually tried to lighten the load by dumping overboard everything possible. They called this area “the horse latitudes.” Guess who got to go overboard? Not a pretty picture, but then this is not a place to underestimate.

We used up most of our fuel in our Scientific Mission completing our Trawls to be as accurate as possible. But, now it’s time to go home, and we’re depending on our sails. Every day (and often twice a day) we download, from the web site, a “Weather Fax” that covers the entire North Pacific Ocean. It’s called the “Pacific Surface Analysis.” We get one at 00 and another at 12:00 Universal Time. These weather maps contain information about all the High and Low Pressure areas that are marching across the Pacific, from East to West. It shows the Barometric Pressures, the wind directions and wind speeds, and indicates the areas of Gales, Storms, and Hurricanes.

Anna took a picture of me at the Helm of Alguita this evening (above). I’m holding a group of the Weather Faxs from February 14th to 20th. I’ve taped these together like a hand of playing Cards. But instead of organized like a fan, they are oriented vertically, with only the latitude from 30 degrees North to 40 degrees N showing at the top of each page. Several times each day I confer with Captain Moore, and we try to pick our way across the Ocean, and choose the sails that we’re going to use.

The “H”s represent high pressure areas, and the “L”s are the low pressure areas. We try to keep the vessel above the center of the Highs, so we can catch the clockwise rotation of the winds, from the South and West. We also try to stay in front of the Low Pressure areas and on the South side of the center of the Low. Because the Low’s have counterclockwise winds, it is here that we can catch the South West winds that can also take us home.

How are we doing?

Well…. Look for our return on Friday. Captain Moore and I, as well as the entire Crew, are trusting that our calculations, our regular changes of the sails, and our careful attention to our Navigation and Ship will bring us home on time.

Aloha and gracias from the captain and crew of the ORV Alguita!

Oh, and why don’t you down load a Weather Fax like this, and see if you can tell what’s coming to California this weekend? (


weeber said...

excited for your safe return!

Yashas said...

I wanted to ask whether you guys could really depend on the fax, i am asking this because our local weather channel said that it was going to snow all day one day, but it actually did snow late in the afternoon, can you really trust this and depend on this?

Yashas said...

the gyre sounds very interesting, have any of you experienced anything like that before. you guys said that you were dependent on wind for sail, so are you guys low on fuel, what is the method you guys use if all the fuel is gone and there is no wind at the time.

Yashas said...

i am really surious about Herb, he is an allrounder, he is of great help, he is surgeon, you guys said that he was a nice cook, and he is also a weather cript reader! he is amazing. i want to know more about how to read a weather fax, can you guys send me a guide on how to do those stuff?
West Lafayette Jr/Sr High School
Grade 9
(Same for all the above on my name)

Kaisa said...

I've really found it intersting (although depressing) to follow the blog. It would be awesome if the crew came to visit my school...Were you able to see the total lunar eclipse last night? Or was it still daylight out? It was really amazing here on an extremely cold, clear Indiana night. Thank you for the blog and keep up the good work!!!!!!!!

Yashas said...

Is the Gyre ever going to stop< is it like a black hole< i did not know what you meant by "except black hle go on for ever" part, by that do you mean that gyre's dont go on forever, if not then why are going to be stuck there for a long period, so is the gyre long like 10 years or how much?
West Lafayette Jr/Sr High chool
Grade 9

Yashas said...

i just read about Captin Moore first facing a gyre, if he has any pictures, i would love to see them, please.
West Lafayette Jr/Sr High School
Grade 9