Orbit - Episode One

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    Aira Idris Aira Idris | 22:00 PM, Sunday, 4 March 2012

    The first episode of Orbit aired on BBC Two, 4th March 9pm, and is now available to watch on iplayer. What did you think?

    In the first episode we travel from July - the height of summer in the Northern Hemisphere - to December, and the darkest days of winter. As well as following the seasonal change from summer to winter, the film explores one of the most everyday but significant aspects of our journey around the Sun - the fact that the Earth is spinning on its axis.

    We start just inside the Arctic Circle in northern Norway, on a special day. We wanted to film the day when the Sun set for the first time in more than two months - an evocative moment that captures both the seasonal change from summer to winter, and the importance of the Earth's daily 24 hour cycle.

    Through this film we wanted to find events which highlighted the importance of the Earth's spin. So Helen goes hurricane chasing to show how the Earth's spin sets weather systems rotating.

    Hurricanes was a great way to highlight spin and last years season provided many events to explore - an Atlantic season which some argued was unusual.

    Another way we wanted to explore spin was by visiting a place which has the biggest tides in the world. Kate travels to the Bay of Fundy in Canada to show how tides too are a consequence of the Earth's spin.

    Whilst back home, Helen uses the Earth's spin to explain why Britain's winter weather is so unpredictable and changeable.

    UPDATE 16:00 5th March: We've had a lot of feedback on twitter with a number of viewers asking why Episode One was not available simultaneously on BBC HD.

    comment from #bbcorbit feed

    The HD Channel tries to promote the best of the portfolio of BBC Channels, but invariably, this can at times lead to clashes in simulcasts - this was the case with the 9pm Sunday slot, where they have been simulcasting the BBC 3 series 'Being Human' for some weeks now. 'Orbit' however has been given a peak repeat slot, on Fridays at 21:00 from the 16th March.

    Other comments raised on twitter discussed the set up of having two presenters, and both female at that, which all in all seemed to be well received.

    comment from @bbcorbit twitter

    Not everyone was impressed however with all that Episode one had to offer, and, with such a landmark series as this, that was to be expected.

    comment from @bbcorbit twitter

    comment from @bbcorbit twitter

    So, what did you make of Episode one? Leave a comment on this post.

    (There are a total of three episodes in this series. Episode Two on BBC Two 11th March, 9pm.)

    UK and World weather report: unseasonable snowstorms & monster icebergs

    Distance travelled ~ 799'068'800 km

    October was a mild month - with some exceptionally high minimum temperatures for the time of year - ending with another mild day on Monday. Several locations did not dip below 15 °C all day and a top temperature of 19.3 °C was recorded at Kinloss. As the week continued into November, the mild temperatures carried on, with a high of 18 °C at Heathrow and St James' Park on Thursday.

    Rain dominated the week, with occasional rain on Monday turning into a band of heavy rain on Tuesday and widespread heavy and sometimes thundery outbreaks on Wednesday and Thursday. There were also some possible funnel cloud sightings, one of which may have touched down in Astwood Bank, just south of Redditch.

    Friday bought more wet weather, with intense rain in parts. Alice Holt Lodge near Odiham, Hampshire, recorded well over 50mm of rain between midnight and 7am, and there were numerous reports of localised flooding in the Home Counties.

    The weekend was slightly cooler, with a chilly start to both days and frost in many northern areas on Sunday morning.

    Elsewhere in the world, flooding continues in Thailand. A third of the country has now been affected by flooding after three months of heavy rain. Over 500 people are said to have died and there are fears that the flooding could worsen in the capital Bangkok.

    Thailand Floods October 2011

    Image Credit Remko Tanis

    Deadly flash floods also hit the Liguria region of Italy on Friday after heavy rain. Two rivers in Genoa reportedly broke their banks as floodwaters poured through the port city for the second time in eight days, killing six people. Much of northern Italy was affected by the heavy rain during the day, including Venice, which also suffered flooding.

    Close to two million homes are still without power after an unseasonable snowstorm hit the US east coast last weekend. The storm, which brought up to 76 cm of snow in parts, has been blamed for as many as 19 deaths. At the storm's height, three million homes were without power, while states of emergency were declared in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York.

    Scientists are monitoring the birth of a monster iceberg in west Antarctica. The iceberg is expected to break away towards the end of the year or early in 2012. Currently, the crack is 30 kilometres wide and 60 metres deep and growing every day. Researchers from NASA expect the eventual iceberg to cover 880 square kilometres - an area the size of Berlin.

    Operation Ice Bridge

    Image Credit NASA

    Path of Ice bridge

    Image credit NASA

    The week ahead

    In the UK:

    • Monday and Tuesday will be dull and cloudy and occasionally damp across the country, but temperatures will be mild. Wednesday and Thursday see more persistent rain moving into western areas, while the east may become a little brighter. Staying mild, especially overnight, with light southerly winds. As we head into the weekend mild southerly winds should bring broken cloud to many parts.

    Elsewhere in the world:

    • There is the potential for a tropical cyclone to form in the Arabian Sea. A depression was centred about 700km east-southeast of Salalah on Monday and the system is forecast to intensify further into a deep depression and move towards the Oman coast over the next three days.

    • A tropical depression formed close to Hainan Island in the South China Sea on Monday. China mainland provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, the island province of Hainan, as well as Taiwan, will be subject to the periods of heavy rain through much of the week.

    • Unsettled periods of weather look set to affect the western Mediterranean, parts of Canada and northern Russia, although nothing particularly exceptional is currently signalled.

    • Over the USA, an outbreak of potentially damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes looms for the southern Plains on Monday. The thunderstorms may ease for a time overnight and into Tuesday, but is forecast to increase once again on Tuesday afternoon with the threat zone stretching from central Missouri to East Texas and Louisiana.

    • Unseasonably cold conditions are forecast across the Caucasus', spreading to much of the Middle East through the week.

    It's been a very strange year for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season

    Distance travelled ~ 771'143'200 km

    (Here Dr. Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology, wunderground.com explores 2011's Atlantic Hurricane season. His previous post for 23 Degrees provided us with a detailed roundup of Maria, Nate and Katia's developments.)

    The Atlantic hurricane season of 2011 is nearing its end, with Tropical Storm Rina, near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, likely to be one of last storms of the season. Atlantic hurricane activity peaks near September 10, and drops dramatically during the last half of October. It's been a very strange year for hurricanes in the Atlantic. There have been a near-record number of named storms--seventeen--making 2011 the 7th busiest year for tropical storms since record keeping began in 1851. However, only six of those storms--35%--have intensified to hurricane strength. In a typical year, 55 - 60% of all tropical storms make it to hurricane strength. A rare combination of near-record warm ocean temperatures but unusually dry, stable air over the Atlantic is no doubt partially responsible for this very unusual occurrence. Another unusual feature of this hurricane season is that relatively few storms hit the U.S. During the 15-year active hurricane period from 1995 - 2009, 33% of all named storms in the Atlantic hit the U.S., and 30% of all Atlantic hurricanes hit the U.S. at hurricane strength. Based on 1995 - 2009 levels of activity, the U.S. should been hit by six named storms, four of those being hurricanes, and two being intense hurricanes. So far, 2011 has seen less than half that level of landfall activity. Two tropical storms and one hurricane have hit the U.S. this year: Tropical Storm Don, which hit Texas with 50 mph winds, Tropical Storm Lee, which hit Louisiana with 60 mph winds, and Hurricane Irene, which hit North Carolina with 80 mph winds. This is the second consecutive year that the U.S. has benefited from favorable steering currents that have steered most of the storms out to sea. During 2010, only one tropical storm hit the U.S., despite a season with the 3rd highest number of named storms, nineteen. If 2011 finishes without a major Category 3 or stronger hurricane hitting the U.S.--which is likely--it will mark the first six-year period without a major hurricane strike on the U.S. since record keeping began in 1851. The last major hurricane to hit the U.S. was Category 3 Hurricane Wilma of October 2005.


    tracks of atlantic storms 2011

    Figure 1. Tracks and intensities of the seventeen named Atlantic storms of 2011

    The strongest hurricane of 2011 was Hurricane Ophelia, which peaked as a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds and a central pressure of 940 mb on October 2 just northeast of Bermuda. Ophelia hit Southeast Newfoundland as a tropical storm with 70 mph winds on October 3, but caused little damage. The longest-lived storm was Hurricane Philippe, which lasted 15 days from September 24 to October 8. The most damaging was Hurricane Irene, which caused at least $7 billion in damage from North Carolina to New England. Irene was also the deadliest storm of 2011, with 55 deaths in the Caribbean and U.S. being blamed on the storm.

    hurricane irene as seen by nasa

    Figure 2. Hurricane Irene as seen by NASA's Aqua satellite at 18:15 UTC on August 24, 2011. At the time, Irene was a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds over the Turks and Caicos Islands.


    two new channels carved by hurricane irene

    Image credit Western Carolina University

    Figure 3. Hurricane Irene's storm surge and winds carved two new channels through Pea Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks. This cut, near the town of Rodanthe, is the smaller of the two cuts, and severed Highway 12 connecting the Outer Banks to the mainland.

    What do you think of this year's season?



    Day 272: Typhoon Nesat in pictures

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    Aira Idris Aira Idris | 12:30 PM, Thursday, 29 September 2011

    Distance travelled ~ 698'568'800 km

    "These pictures were taken on the Ocampo Street in Malate, Manila Philippines beside Rizal Stadium" by Abby Thompson.
    vehicles left at a standstill in the flooding

    iwitness image captured by Abby Thompson

    heavy rain after typhoon nesat

    iwitness image captured by Abby Thompson, Philippines

    flooding in philippine

    iwitness image captured by Abby Thompson, Philippines

    vehicles struggle in the flooded street

    iwitness image captured by Abby Thompson, Philippines

    Nesat hit China earlier today and continues west:

    satellite image of nesat

    After Typhoon Nesat made landfall near Casiguran on the east coast of the island of Luzon in the Philippines 27 September, earlier today it made landfall in the northeastern part of Hainan island, China. It is moving west towards the far north of Vietnam, where it is predicted to make landfall within the next 12 hours. Nesat is weakening and likely to be categorised as a tropical storm soon.

    This week's weather watch: UK 'Indian summer' and Nesat moves Westwards

    Distance travelled ~ 693'316'000 km

    Across Europe:


    • Much of the UK is set to experience 'Indian Summer' conditions this week as high pressure over Europe draws warm southerly winds and sunny skies north from France. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid to high 20's Celsius in many areas from Wednesday onwards. The last time we saw similar temperatures to this was in September 2006 when central and eastern England had highs of 27 or 28 Celsius widely.

    • The high pressure system is also expected to bring very warm conditions over northwest Europe, with highs of 30 Celsius expected in Biarritz, France, on Thursday while 21 Celsius can be expected in Gothenberg, Sweden.

    Over the Americas:
    • Many parts of Canada and northern USA are expected to have some very warm weather for the time of year, with the warmest conditions gradually extending E'wards by Wednesday.

    • Cool, wet and windy conditions are expected to affect Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the start of the week but conditions should improve again from midweek.

    • Winter holds on in the south of South America and the Falklands at times this week - the maximum temperature at Port Stanley is expected to be close to zero Celsius on Thursday with heavy rain and strong winds.

    Across Asia:
    • There is better news for Pakistan where the weather is forecast to be generally much drier over much of the country following last weeks flooding - however it is expected to be notably cooler than normal through much of the week.

    • Tropical Cyclone Nesat is moving steadily westwards across the South China Sea, perhaps intensifying into a Typhoon by Thursday. Nesat will bring torrential rain and severe gale force winds as it passes by.

    satellite image nesat

    More info on this image > Navy Research Lab

    For Australasia:
    • The cold and unsettled weather that has been affecting New Zealand looks set to be loosing its grip as an anticyclone area over the Tasman Sea extends a ridge of high pressure over the country bringing mostly fine weather.

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