Stories tagged winter

Feb
05
2014

Olympic Flag rings: Olympic Flag rings
Olympic Flag rings: Olympic Flag ringsCourtesy Drawn by User:Pumbaa80; Original author: Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937)

New materials seem to make an appearance at every Olympic Games, and this 2014 Winter Games is no exception. Materials and equipment can be a major factors in Olympic competitor's success or failure, and teams are always looking to get any advantage they can.

NBC's "Science of Sports" video series profiles a wide range of science and engineering topics related to this year's Winter Games ranging from the science of snow to advances in new materials.

The video, "Stability and Vibration Damping in Alpine Skiing"
describes how engineers are redesigning skis using nano materials to increase flexibility and stability. A University of Nevada, Reno mechanical engineering associate professor Kam Leang describes how he and his team are using nanocomposite materials to reduce unwanted vibration in high performance skis.

To read more about this research visit:
http://www.unr.edu/nevada-today/news/2013/kam-leang-nbc-nsf

To learn more about nanotechnology, science, and engineering, visit:
www.whatisnano.org

To see other nano stories on Science Buzz tagged #nano visit:
http://www.sciencebuzz.org/buzz_tags/nano

Sure you've been cold during these polar vortexes. But what about that tree in your front yard? Thanks to the folks at MinuteEarth, you can learn how it's adapted to be able to survive this harsh weather.

See video

Winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere
Winter solstice in the Northern HemisphereCourtesy Mark Ryan
The December solstice is upon us once again. That's when - due to the tilt of the Earth's axis in relation to to the plane of its orbit - the apparent path of the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky and begins its journey back the other way. It marks the Northern Hemisphere's longest night of the year (and shortest day) and the Southern Hemiphere's longest day. (and shortest night). This year - for all of us lucky enough to be living in the Central Standard Timezone, the turnaround moment happens at 11:11AM CST. The exact timing could possibly be significant. Or not.

Anyway, you can learn everything you want to know about the December solstice at Earthsky.org.

It's Groundhog Day!

by mdr on Feb. 02nd, 2013

Groundhog (Marmota monax): aka woodchuck, land-beaver, and whistle-pig. Weather records show he probably couldn't predict his way out of a paper bag.
Groundhog (Marmota monax): aka woodchuck, land-beaver, and whistle-pig. Weather records show he probably couldn't predict his way out of a paper bag.Courtesy ShutterSparks via Flickr
Today is Groundhog Day, that special day when world-renown weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, (a groundhog, mind you) makes an appearance in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in order to let us all know just how much more winter we'll have to suffer through. Well, this morning, Phil came out of his rodent hole at 7:25am EST, and - for whatever reason - wasn't able to see his shadow. That's good news. It means we're going to have an early spring, and I'm okay with that - I've had it with winter. But, you might wonder, just how accurate have Phil's forecasts been in the past? According to the records, Phil's been right only about 39% of the time, which probably makes him no worse than most of his colleagues in the weather forecasting game. Anyway, if you want to, you learn all about Phil and Groundhog Day at Earthsky.org. And, happy Groundhog Day!

Physics in action

by Liza on Jan. 12th, 2012

Get out there, if you can, and watch skaters take on the insane Red Bull Crashed Ice course here in downtown St. Paul. It's a great place to watch all sorts of physics in action. And bundle up. Winter's back, suddenly, and the laws of thermodynamics apply to you, too.

RBCI_Spectator_Guide_SM_1

var docstoc_docid="110689206";var docstoc_title="RBCI_Spectator_Guide_SM_1";var docstoc_urltitle="RBCI_Spectator_Guide_SM_1";

This old man is as horrified as you are: Summer is over, sir. Time to dig out your sweaters.
This old man is as horrified as you are: Summer is over, sir. Time to dig out your sweaters.Courtesy rocketlass
So ... long-range forecasting teams are predicting that this winter will be really cold and snowy. You know, like last winter.

Commence crying ... now!

Why is another brutal winter likely? Well, for a couple of reasons:

Primarily, the punishing weather is coming because of your bad behavior. I'm referring specifically to your naughty language, and the way you've been taking fivers out of your mom's purse. Did you think there would be no repercussions? Unbelievable. Obviously you've offended Thor, or something. (Not Science Buzz's own Thor, Thor the weather god. Well ... maybe also Science Buzz's Thor.)

Another big reason for the prediction is the angry girl-child herself: La Niña. As you probably know, La Niña is a cyclical weather pattern, originating in the Pacific Ocean off of South America. La Niña also treats the jetstream like a plaything, generally screwing things up for people.

So, you know, enjoy.

Mar
14
2011

Buzzketeers, it's a big problem.

A ginormous, hulking, frozen, messy problem.

See, here in St. Paul, we've had a very snowy winter. (As of today, it has been the seventh snowiest winter on record. And the snow season isn't over yet.) When the City plows the streets, they have to put the snow somewhere. And one of the places they put it is the parking lot of the St. Paul Saints Midway Stadium, on Energy Park Drive.

The result?
Mt. Midway: Looking NNW from the few open parking spaces off Energy Park Drive. See those little bamboo fronds at the peak? Who needs Hawaii?
Mt. Midway: Looking NNW from the few open parking spaces off Energy Park Drive. See those little bamboo fronds at the peak? Who needs Hawaii?Courtesy Liza Pryor

The 550-spot parking lot is completely -- and I mean COMPLETELY -- covered with snow. It's 30, even 50, feet deep. And it goes from Energy Park Drive north to the train tracks, and from the stadium west to the end of the property. It's impressive, peeps.

It goes on...: and on...and on...I'm standing on the snow pile, with the peak with the tree to my left (west) looking north toward the train tracks.
It goes on...: and on...and on...I'm standing on the snow pile, with the peak with the tree to my left (west) looking north toward the train tracks.Courtesy Liza Pryor

And here's the problem, friends: the St. Paul Saints season opener is May 8th. And there's no way all this snow is going to melt before then. Baseball needs its parking lot back.

More pictures of Mt. Midway.

So how can we get rid of the snow? Trucking it away isn't an option, and minimal use of fossil fuels is a good thing. Buzzers, it's time to go all Mythbusters here and submit your ideas. If you've got a good one, you might get to see it in action.

Jan
20
2011

With breaking weather news like "Hey! It's the coldest week of this winter," and "We're only 30 inches from breaking the record for annual snow fall," I'm beginning to wonder why we Minnesotans live here. And it's only January 20th. We have another two months of winter to go. At least. Sheesh!

Coupled with the winter weather and winter wind chill advisories -- not to mention the copious snow emergencies! -- of this winter is the fact that I've been waking up in the dark for far too long and leaving work after dark as well. I don't think I quite have seasonal affective disorder yet, but I could sure use some good news on the Spring front, couldn't you??
You Are My Sunshine: I am depending on this photo of Camogli, Italy to get me through the next few months.  (Sigh.)
You Are My Sunshine: I am depending on this photo of Camogli, Italy to get me through the next few months. (Sigh.)Courtesy KelsiDayle

Well, here I am to brighten your day:

The sun is already setting after 5pm! It has been since this past Monday (the 17th). Your commute and evening will be noticeably brighter over the next few weeks. By February 24th, the sun will rise by 7am in Minneapolis. That's just over a month away! There will be at least two more minutes of sunlight EACH DAY for the rest of January and most of February. By February 21st, there will be over THREE additional minutes of sunlight each day. Finally, there are only 5 months until the Summer solstice, or the longest day of the year.

Hang in there Minnesota... we've got this!

(Not from Minnesota? I'm sorry; that's too bad. But, you can find your own sunrise and sunset information using this sun calculator.)

Dec
13
2010

Example of cross-bedding: Red Rock Canyon sandstone near Las Vegas, Nevada shows the effects of wind on the sand dunes from which it was formed.
Example of cross-bedding: Red Rock Canyon sandstone near Las Vegas, Nevada shows the effects of wind on the sand dunes from which it was formed.Courtesy Mark Ryan
In Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey , the ruler of wind Aeolus gives the hero Odysseus a leather bag containing all the winds except the west wind. Odyssus keeps its contents secret but his men grow suspicious that he’s withholding treasure from them so they open the bag while Odysseus sleeps. The unleashed winds nearly destroy their ship and send it off course to the other end of the world.

In aeolian geology (sometimes spelled eolian), scientists study how landforms are created by wind, either through transportation, sedimentation, or erosion. Sand dunes, dune migration, cross-bedding, and scouring are some of the ways wind can shape the landscape. On Earth, discernible wind patterns in deserts are plainly visible from space, and similar patterns have been seen on other planets, such as Mars, leading scientists to conclude that wind played a role in forming those same landscape features there.
This informative webpage illustrates how some of it works, and how wind can be a powerful shaping force.

This same force was at work this past weekend in Minnesota. As seen in the above video, a winter blizzard barreled across the state bringing with it the usual high winds, low visibility, and drifting and blowing snow.

Snow-wind patterns 1
Snow-wind patterns 1Courtesy Mark Ryan

Snow-wind patterns 2
Snow-wind patterns 2Courtesy Mark Ryan
Snow-wind patterns 3
Snow-wind patterns 3Courtesy Mark Ryan
Snow-wind patterns 4
Snow-wind patterns 4Courtesy Mark Ryan
After the weather system moved out, it left in its wake (besides a collapsed stadium and lots of white stuff to shovel) some very cool (and familiar) aeloian shapes and patterns in the snow.With the help of the low-angled winter sun and my trusty camera, I was able to capture some of these wind-borne creations.

ADDITIONAL AEOLIAN GEOMORPHOLOGY PHOTOS
Sand transport
Aeolian dunes
Dune bedding
Cross-bedding

Lily, a 3-year-old pregnant black bear, made her den near a cabin in Ely, MN. Access to electricity, etc., meant that researchers were able to install a web cam in Lily's winter quarters. And today, their efforts may be rewarded. Biologist Lynn Rogers told the Associated Press that he thinks Lily's labor started today at around 2 pm. We should see cubs in the very near future.

Watch the live video stream for yourself. (A lot of people are trying to check it out. If you can't get through, try again later.)