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By Bob Valen 

Is partisan science any good?

Weather Watcher


Rain! We’ve had a decent amount of it in the past year. I measured a total of 15.21 inches of precipitation at my home weather station in 2016. Rain is just one of many forms of precipitation. It’s part of the water cycle, more properly the Hydrologic Cycle. Precipitation is water that is released from clouds in the form of rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow, or hail. It’s the main connection in the hydrologic cycle that provides for the delivery of atmospheric water to this little planet we live on, Earth. Most precipitation around the planet falls as rain. The Grand Coulee area averages 10.55 inches annually.

Now, what about that smell we all seem to like so much when fresh rainfall occurs. I want to share a fancy term with you: “Bio-Aerosol Generation.” That is what’s going on when rain falls to the surface of earth. A lot happens in that instant when raindrops hit the ground, causing us humans to exercise our olfactory sense and proclaim, “I love the smell of fresh rain!”

You may want to reconsider that smell. When a raindrop hits a porous surface, it traps ultra-tiny pockets of air. Those air pockets capture and contain micro particles from the soil, including bacterial spores. These pockets or bubbles then speed upward, like bubbles in a glass of champagne, before breaking the raindrop surface tension and releasing microscopic particles, called aerosols, into the air. These aerosols that are generated carry the “fresh” rain aroma that people like. Soil, bacteria and the surface types as well as other variables come to play in this exchange. So, there’s your fresh rain smell. Newly fallen rain may smell slightly or greatly different from one location to another.

Recent news that I’ve read has me irked. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is facing a measureable cut in a specific program that I use and follow. NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) may see a proposed 22-percent budget cut. Nothing has been fully formalized as I write this, though a budget cut will happen.

This is what NESDIS provides: “Secure and timely access to global environmental data and information from satellites and other sources to promote and protect the Nation’s security, environment, economy, and quality of life.” Some of the research of this satellite program addresses climate change. Regrettably, the current federal administration does not align itself with some scientific research such as this type. Less research weakens the science overall. Sadly, science and research have become ostracized. On April 22, there will be over 400 “March for Science” marches across the nation. Other nations are involved as well. The point of these marches is simple — tell our elected ones that objective, verifiable policy is needed. Today’s politics have created a system of loyal “believers.” That effectively places facts, derived from nonpartisan, legitimate research, in the ditch. There is a strong drumbeat that hardens these devoted beliefs. It’s constantly fortified by the voices that come from behind the shadowy curtain of Oz.

Here are some weather results including winter snowfall. I measured a total of 1.65 inches of precipitation at the home weather station for March. Also, we had a total of 1.10 inches of new snowfall early in the month. I had a total snowfall of 32.6 inches for the winter (November through March) of 2016-17. Our official weather station (Bureau of Reclamation) measured 27.2 inches. Here at the home weather station for March we had a high of 62.0˚F on the last day of month and a low of 22.7˚F on the March 6. The mean was 41.8˚F, up 00.7˚F from the all-time mean of 41.1˚F.

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