Thursday, June 24, 2010

How Cloud Punching Planes Affect Weather

While doing some searching around for the next posting to Candid Conversations I came across an article on I was quite surprised to learn that certain types of aircraft, in the right conditions have the ability to affect how clouds react creating a change in weather and producing some interesting vistas in the skies above.

I contacted Andrew Heymsfield, the Principle Investigator during a study of this phenomenon and was delighted to get a reply. Andy thanks for being a part of Candid Conditions.

Cliff T.: What exactly do you do at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research and what was the study you were the PI for about?

Andrew Heymsfield: My field of interest is in ice microphysics, including the processes that lead to ice particle nucleation and growth, the effects of ice clouds on the earth's radiation budget, the representation of ice processes in models from weather forecast to climate scales, and the retrieval of ice cloud properties from ground-based and spaceborne remote sensors. I am a senior scientist and have worked at NCAR for 34 years. As for the experiment to study how ice particles initiate in clouds. The subject is difficult because “ice nuclei” are relatively few compared to cloud droplets and their measurement is difficult. Also, there are processes other than “nucleation” that can produce ice in subfreezing clouds. So, our goal was to study how ice was formed.

Cliff T.: Where was the study done?

Andrew Heymsfield: The project was based out of Metro Airport in Broomfield, CO.

Cliff T.: How was this done?

Andrew Heymsfield: We flew a plane through a cloud. On the day of our penetration of precipitation that formed, we flew a C-130 aircraft that produced a hole punch cloud, we took off with the goal of characterizing snow in a cloud layer situated between about 6000 and 12000 feet. We didn’t know it at the time but we flew right through the precipitation that was first detected by radar at about 15000 feet and then eventually grew and descended to the ground where it produced 2” of snow compared to none or a trace in the surrounding area.

Cliff T.: How does such an experiment help average people?

Andrew Heymsfield: By going back to the FAA aircraft tracks, we identified the two turboprop aircraft that produced the precipitation. Our interest, of course, is in explaining how Snow precipitation begins and develops, useful information for improving weather forecast models. After identifying the snow band generated by the aircraft, our goal was to figure out why and the broader implications. Although turboprop aircraft were suspected of producing such features, many of the early reports (1960’s-80’s) of hole punch clouds were from jet aircraft. We made the connection in the paper, explaining the process by which jet aircraft can produce hole punch clouds.

Cliff T.: From the way you describe what you have done Andy it sounds like this was not just work for you but, rather that you had fun doing this styudy. And, also by the fact that you have been doing your work for 34 years it is obvious that you have had a history of interest in weather. Thank you so very much for taking the time to write back and for sharing the story of this interesting study you did.

Andrew Heymsfield is a Senior Scientist with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado. You can get the paper by following this link

NASA Earth Observatory also has information on this topic.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Smoker/Non-Smoker Skyscanner Lets You Know Where You Have To Butt Out And Where You Can Light Up

You’re a smoker, you want to travel but, many places are no-go zones for smokers. So what is one to do? Well believe it or not there are many places in the world that still welcome smokers with wide-open arms -in smoky rooms. How do I know this? I found an interesting press release from Skyscanner Ltd., a global flight search company based in Edinburgh Scotland. In addition to providing a website, , where people can find the best deals on flights, they have also found the best and the worst places for those who enjoy a smoke while traveling.

That got my attention, so I contacted Scott Carlson to find out more about this list. Scott thanks for taking time out to chat via e-mail about this unusual list for travelers.

Scott Carlson: Of course, Cliff. Thank you for the interest in our article.

Cliff T.: This is a novel idea, what prompted Skyscanner to develop the list?

Scott Carlson: I think one of our editorial team is a fan of interesting facts, so with “Worldwide, No Tobacco Day” on the 31st of May, we decided to look at which destinations cater to, and hinder smokers and non-smokers alike.

Cliff T.: One would not think that there is a large population of smokers traveling, is that myth or reality?

Scott Carlson: I guess that all depends on the perspective of the person asking the question. It has been my experience that many cultures differ in their reverence for, or aversion to, smoking-in-general. Nonetheless, I cannot say whether or not there is a larger-portion of smokers versus non-smokers traveling these days; it could make for an interesting thesis study though. Perhaps the sales volume(s) of cigarettes in duty-free destinations has something to do with it?

Cliff T.: I noticed that there are nine countries on the list and 5 are not smoker friendly 4, are there any others besides these countries that you found?

Scott Carlson: We could have included more destinations for both smokers and non-smokers alike, but then where do you stop? To be clear: any perceived slant toward, or “preference” for smoking versus non-smoking destinations was neither intentional nor intended on our part.

Cliff T.: Besides marking the annual No Tobacco Day, was there or is there another reason for making the list, like encouraging travel to a smokers and non-smoker’s paradise?

Scott Carlson: Not really, as I mentioned earlier, the criterion was based on the popularity of the destination as a whole, then we chose the most-interesting cities based on their approach to smoking. Working alongside country experts from various countries, I’ve noticed that smoking is seen quite differently from country to country and that made me wonder whether some destinations are seen as more attractive than others depending on their smoking policy.

Cliff T.: I have to ask are there any airlines that still allow passengers to smoke if so which ones?

Scott Carlson: None that I am aware of.

Cliff T.: Have you received any reaction to the list?

Scott Carlson: Yes, there has been a lot of interest from both smokers, and non-smokers alike. Like many things in life, the freedom to smoke, or not be exposed to second-hand smoke, in public venues is a very personal thing and we thought it would be interesting to highlight how different cultures perceive and regulate this freedom to choose.

Cliff T.: Were you surprised to find countries that still had no anti smoking laws?

Scott Carlson: Personally, I was not surprised. Many European cultures, as well as Japanese cultures have a different feeling toward smoking in public than some of their more “smoke-free” cousins. I think it best that, whatever side of the argument you sit on, you try and appreciate and respect the culture you are visiting…even if that means not having a smoke, or sitting next to someone who is smoking.

Cliff T.: If anyone wants to find the list where would they point their browser to?

Scott Carlson: Readers can find the article Here .

Cliff T.: Scott thanks for taking time out in your day to chat about this highly unusual list. It sounds like it was an interesting adventure searching the data.

Scott Carlson: It really was, Cliff. Thank you, again, for your interest. We like to examine the quirky-side of travel; so I hope that you find a few of our other articles interesting as well. I might suggest taking a look at our piece which examines where not to bring your knock-off, luxury items. We found that, in a few countries, you can be arrested simply for carrying a fake luxury bag or watch through customs. You can find it Here .

Cliff T: Scott Carlson is the US and Canadian Country Manager with Skyscanner: A global, Cheap Flight search engine. Skyscanner instantly compares online flight prices for over 670,000 routes on over 600 airlines. And with Skyscanner, users can just browse -without having to enter specific dates or destinations. Speak another language? Skyscanner is also available in 20 different languages: including Spanish, Chinese and French.

They came up with a list of countries that are smoker and non-smoker friendly.



Smoker Friendly


You can visit the site at and for the record I am a non-smoker. Just want to be up front with that bit of information. Anyway, the company is located in Edinburgh where Scott wrote to us from for this edition of Candid Conversations.

If you have a story to tell or know of an interesting person, product or unusual event that our readers would enjoy reading about feel free to let me know at I am always on the lookout for a good story to tell. Thanks again for reading and come back soon.

Cliff T.