The Pioneer Cabin Tree, a California landmark loved by tourists for decades, has been toppled by wind.
A giant sequoia, the huge tree was 150 feet tall. The cutout in its trunk was wide enough to drive cars through and, over the years, many cars did pass under the tree.
Eventually California authorities closed access to cars, but in recent years there has been a hiking trail that leads to it and visitors could still stand in the cutout.
Located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, the Pioneer Cabin Tree – also known as the Tunnel Tree – was estimated to be over 1,000 years old. The large hole in its trunk was carved by owners of the land on which it grew in 1880.
A report in the San Francisco Chronicle explained that there is no way to be sure of the reason why the Tunnel Tree could not withstand the storm that has hit the Golden State in recent days. That storm, the worst in at least a decade, flooded Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The Chronicle explained that the Tunnel Tree’s shallow root system, typical for a sequoia, was likely a factor.
Giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum), also known as redwoods, are the world’s largest organisms by volume. They can grow to a height of 85 meters and have been known to live for more than 3,500 years.
Now that the Pioneer Cabin Tree has fallen, there are no longer any known living sequoia trees with tunnels through their trunks.
NOAA’s new weather satellite reaches geostationary orbit; promises improvement in weather forecasting
The nation’s most advanced weather satellite has reached geostationary orbit and will soon begin helping the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration improve weather forecasting.
Capable of imaging the entire western hemisphere of Earth every 15 minutes and the continental United States every five minutes, GOES-16 is expected to improve NOAA’s ability to predict and track thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes and anticipate solar activity that can impact human activities on Earth.
“The next generation of weather satellites is finally here,” NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan said in a statement released after the satellite was launched Nov. 19. “GOES-R is one of the most sophisticated Earth-observing platforms ever devised.”
Sullivan was referring to the generic name for the series of satellites to be launched in the next several years, of which GOES-16 is the first.
The key to GOES-16’s likely impact on meteorology is the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI).
Basically a sophisticated photography instrument, ABI will observe Earth across 16 bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. That is an improvement from weather satellites currently in orbit, which can only make use of five spectral bands.
ABI will also provide a four-fold increase in image resolution and transmit data back to Earth five times faster than is possible with current satellites.
GOES-16 is also equipped with a device that permits the mapping of lightning. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper detects short duration changes in near-infrared radiation, which indicates the presence of atmospheric electrical activity. GLM will operate over North America and South America and the marine areas immediately adjacent to those continents.
A device on the satellite known as Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors will detect solar flares, which will in turn assist ground-based agencies in preserving communication and navigation capability when the flares occur.
Another instrument, the Solar Ultraviolet Imager, will allow for observation of other solar activity such as coronal holes and coronal mass ejections. These events can subject satellites and even the International Space Station to risks of increased radiation and disrupt Earth-based communications, navigation, and transmission of electricity.
The GOES-16 satellite is powered by a solar array.
Clifford F. Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said that the potential of the GOES-16 satellite to improve accuracy of forecasts is significant. He explained that the challenge will be to make the most optimal use of the data it provides.
“How do you use the sensor information to create a physically consistent three-dimensional simulation of the atmosphere? That’s something that can be worked on.”
Weather satellites have been crucial to meteorology since the first, TIROS-1, was launched by NASA on April 1, 1960. Since then countries including China, India, Japan, and Russia have joined the United States in building an extensive network of weather satellites in orbit.
Geostationary weather satellites, which permit constant observation of large areas on Earth’s surface, premiered in December 1966 when ATS-1 was sent skyward. In the 1970s NOAA began deployment of the GOES series of satellites, which work in pairs to observe atmospheric conditions from the west coast of Africa to the western Pacific Ocean.
Altogether the U.S. has sent at least 58 weather satellites into orbit.
The first in NOAA’s new Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R series, the 2,800 kilogram-sized GOES-16 is now 35,800 kilometers away from Earth.
GOES-16, which earned its name when it reached stationary orbit above the equator on Nov. 29, is designed for ten years of operation. It will commence observations and data transmission next year, after testing of its instruments is completed.
The launch of GOES-16 does not address an ongoing concern among meteorologists that a gap in weather satellite coverage at the planet’s poles might occur. A 2016 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said that the risk that an existing satellite in polar orbit might fail could leave a lapse of coverage before the launch of a new spacecraft, JPSS-1, in March 2017.
The southwestern United States may be facing near record-breaking summer heat during the next few days.
According to the National Weather Service, major cities in Arizona, Nevada, and even southern California will experience temperatures of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the beginning of next week.
The forecast officially calls for Phoenix to hit 117 degrees on Sunday and 118 degrees on Monday. Las Vegas may hit 110 degrees on Monday and Tuesday, while Tucson’s temperature could reach 114 degrees on Sunday and 112 degrees on Monday.
Meteorologist Bob Henson, writing at the Weather Underground blog, thinks it could be warmer.
So does Ryan Maue, a meteorologist affiliated with Weatherbell Analytics. Maue predicts that the temperature in Phoenix will reach 120 degrees on Monday.
The all-time hottest temperature in Phoenix is 122 degrees, which was reached in 1990. At least one forecast map shows that the metropolis in central Arizona’s Salt River Valley might reach 120 degrees on Monday.
The Valley of the Sun has experienced four straight record-breaking warm days this month (June 3-7), as well as its earliest 115 degree day in recorded history. If Phoenix reaches 116 degrees on Sunday, it would be the hottest day ever recorded in the city prior to the summer solstice.
The heat record in Las Vegas (most recently on June 30, 2013) and Tucson (June 26, 1990) is 117 degrees, while Yuma’s all-time mark is 124 degrees (July 28, 1995).
Los Angeles could reach 101 degrees on Monday, June 20. That is not close to the city’s all-time record high temperature of 113 degrees.
Records maintained by the National Centers for Environmental Information, an agency of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, show that record high temperatures are much more common in the U.S. this year than are record low temperatures.
Residents of the western states and New England may face a relatively mild winter this year, according to a new prediction by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.
The agency’s U.S. Winter Outlook, released today, indicates that the coastal and inter-mountain west will likely experience average winter temperatures that are above normal.
“The temperature outlook for November-December-January (NDJ) 2014-15 indicates elevated probabilities of above-normal mean temperatures for Alaska, the far west, along the northern tier of the continental U.S. eastward to include parts of the northeast and mid-Atlantic,” the document said. “Below-normal mean temperatures are most likely over areas from eastern New Mexico to the western Gulf coast states.”
Warmer does not mean drier, though. NOAA said that higher-than-average precipitation can be expected in southern California, the desert southwest, the southern Great Plains, across the deep south, and up the Atlantic coast to southern New England.
That may be good news for water-starved California, though the drought there is not likely to end.
“While we’re predicting at least a two-in-three chance that winter precipitation will be near or above normal throughout the state, with such widespread, extreme deficits, recovery will be slow,” Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said.
An El Nino event could well happen this winter, but if it does, it is expected to be a weak one. NOAA estimated on Oct. 9 that there is a 67 percent chance of an El Nino event in the coming months.
On March 27 NASA released a video containing time-lapse photography of this winter’s storm events on the American east coast.
The imagery was obtained by the agency’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites between January 1 and March 24.
For more information about how the video was created, visit this NASA web page.