UP THE CREEK

02-02-02

 

            The date above is significant for a couple of reasons. First, it resembles a good computer-killing number, like 9-9-99, which was one of the biggies in the Y2K culture, remember? Not as big as 01-01-01, of course. When I typed it in, the computer didn’t seize up and start to smoke, dang it. But the real significance of February 2 is Punxatawney Phil Day. He’s the unhappy ground hog theoretically living under Gobblers Knob who gets yanked, kicking and biting, by men wearing welders gloves, into the frigid February air to judge the probability of spring.

            A quaint ritual but totally without scientific merit. I intend to support this position by demonstrating the improvements in nomenclature which have, by themselves, enabled the advanced state of modern weather prediction. The old folks thought “Punxatawney” was impressive - hah! Take a look at these:

            GOES - Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Also known as Grossly Over-Expensive Satellite. There are three of these, GOES East, GOES West, and GONE.

            TIROS-N - Advanced Television Infrared Observation Satellite. The -N on the end is to replace the A at the beginning, which is not used for esthetic reasons. The primary instrument on board this satellite is the AVHRR, which stands for something like A Very Heavy Rolls Royce.

            These satellites are part of a committee of satellites which includes Landsat, SeaWIFS, EOSAM-1, RADARSAT (Canadian), METEOSAT (European), METEOR (Russian - we hope it doesn’t become one), and the Japanese subcommittee composed of MOS-1, JERS-1, GMS, and ADEOS (means goodbye).

            To learn of the proceedings and judgements of the satellite committee, we consult the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).

            Should we doubt NESDIS, we have recourse in NEXRAD - Next Generation Radar. The principal parts of a NEXRAD machine are the RDA, the RPG, and the PUP. The PUP fills much the same role as a ground hog, as he is periodically jerked out of his box under the RPG to provide an opinion on the radar image, which usually defies human interpretation. The outputs of the RDA, RPG and PUP are accessible through RPCCDS - Radar Product Central Collection/Distribution Service. The output from the PUP is also accessible with a shovel.

            It’s obvious that in the face of modern naming power, Phil fades into acronymity. What could he come up with, PPP - Phil’s Puny Predictions? Pathetic. But the truth is (honest) PUNXATAWNEY was ancient man’s first attempt to acronize. And it may indicate a better understanding of the science of weather prediction than we thought.

            It stood for a Procedural Undertaking Not eXplaining A Thing About Weather, Not Even Yesterday’s.

                                                                                     dh