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February 16, 2010
Like a hurricaneBy Greyhawk
It's not the point of that piece, but I'd question the reliability of the Atlantic dataset, too.
In fact, I have questioned its reliability. Remember Hurricane Dennis from July, 2005? Probably not - even though news reports detailed the awesome power of the storm. Here's one account published in real-time as Dennis made landfall in the Florida panhandle:
That's a dramatic description, most likely you were able to imagine the scene. But in the imagination is the only place that scene occurred - the report was the product of its author's imagination.
Here's a later report, once actual "damages" could be assessed: "Some signs are down; trees are relatively intact. There is minor flooding near the McDonald's." So if you don't remember "Hurricane" Dennis - that's one reason why.
You'll find both reports (and more) here. I think the garbage in part of the equation is tragic in its own way, but at the time (and still today) I was less concerned about contaminated datasets than I was about operational impact.
But what about next time? Sensational type reporting - and exaggeration of minor storms into major stories - contributes to the lack of response on the part of many to a major storm when one does come along. People who erroneously believe they've survived a cat 3-4 storm will be in for a rude surprise when a real one moves in.
As some folks probably were when Hurricane Katrina hit a few weeks after, causing the sort of damage that real hurricanes cause.
What I didn't say at the time (but could drop hints - ah, the many perils and drawbacks of pseudonymous milblogging...) was that I had 20 years experience in operational weather (not to be confused with research meteorology) as an Air Force forecaster, including most of the 1990's (a period of "greatly increased hurricane activity") at Eglin Air Force Base on the Florida Gulf Coast. I'd "ridden out" several very real storms - along with some near misses and false alarms - and published a handful of papers on operational analysis of hurricanes/tropical storms. (Geek brag: I was the first person to witness one making U.S. landfall with a "Nexrad" Doppler radar - as it was landfalling on my position.)
Sadly, among other things I learned from all that experience is that pointing out the false alarms - even in the context of "we can do better" (unlike hurricane damage, the cost of false alarms in lives, dollars, and reduced credibility can be lowered with increased research and understanding) is not a popular stance.
Of course, that "increased research" is the realm of the research meteorologist, and outside my lane. But that doesn't mean I can't sympathize with their plight:
...back in 2005.
Posted by Greyhawk / February 16, 2010 10:07 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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