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By Bob Valen 

Let's hear it for our oceans!


Let’s start off with some facts about our oceans: The Earth’s oceans cover 71 percent of its surface and contain 97 percent of the Earth’s water. Less than 1 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh water, while 2-3 percent is contained in glaciers and ice caps. The oceans contain 99 percent of the living space on the planet. Digest those numbers as we take a look at some ocean research and ocean-research tools being used today that are helping us understand global weather and the changes now occurring.

The University of Washington and citizen-scientist volunteers have been poring through old ship logs for nearly a decade now. The project is called “Old Weather.” Over the past years, logbooks have been digitized by the National Archives in Washington D.C., and most recently museums and libraries in the New England states, where the whaling fleets were primarily home ported. These old logbooks, from research vessels and whaling ships, are being “mined” for all data mentioning weather conditions on the voyages these vessels took. Records date back to the 1840s.

Here’s what has been done so far. Old Weather effort has scanned more than 500,000 handwritten pages from historic ship logs, and Old Weather volunteers have thus far transcribed almost 3 million historical weather records for use in climate and environmental research. All this work leads to a stronger knowledge of past sea and weather conditions that can be used to compare current conditions.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, a company called Saildrone manufactures a water-borne wind- and solar-powered drone, Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), which can sail an open-water, predetermined course for long periods of time. Equipped with an instrument suit, these vehicles take comprehensive environmental measurements and transmit that data real-time via satellite to researchers. If a researcher wishes to reprogram a Saildrone while it’s on a mission, that can be done. The company’s website says, “The world’s oceans are experiencing significant change, which is having a profound impact on short-term and seasonal weather patterns. Furthermore, the areas where some of the biggest changes are occurring are also some of the least measured and understood. This is largely due to their remote location and/or harsh environment, where the cost of deploying sensors via traditional ship-based methods is very high.”

Looking at the weather data for the month of May, we don’t see any new records. Here at the home weather station, precipitation was on the light side, at 0.92 inches. The all-time mean for May is 1.15 inches; the all-time wet record was 5.52 inches in 1948. We had a high temperature of 89.5˚F on the 23rd, and a low of 38.3˚F May 1. Our mean was 64.5˚F. The all-time high temperature was in 1986 at 100.0˚F, while the all-time low was 27˚F in 1954. The all-time mean for the month of May is 58.4˚F.

While we are experiencing generally clear skies at night, let’s see what the evening sky will bring during June. From our friends at EarthSky: “In June 2018, at evening dusk, Venus appears in the West, whereas Jupiter lords over the eastern half of the sky. In early June, Saturn rises as Venus sets; and by late June, it’ll be Mars that rises as Venus sets. Mercury may be seen in the evening sky, starting around mid-June.” For you moon watchers, a full moon occurs on June 28.

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