Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New Post-Apocalyptic Novel

41 Days: Apocalypse Underground

After the nukes fall
In a secret biohazard facility, survival may be possible
Until a knock comes at the door...

Available exclusively at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited

Monday, August 22, 2016

Advanced Hurricane Links

earth.nullschool.net via Mr. Masters

After this post, I promised to give you more links on hurricanes. Here they are!

One important factor in if a tropical wave will develop into a storm with a closed circulation--and possibly into a dangerous hurricane--is the wind sheer. Here's one map with sheer. Sheer can tear apart a hurricane.

I originally found these U/WI maps through this site, which explains in brief many of the maps you can link in the above UWisc site. The first time I looked at many of them, I thought “what am I looking at?” But the more you look, and the more you go back to explanations, the clearer the maps appear. Those of you who might watch The Weather Channel but have not dug deeply into how hurricanes form will have heard many of these terms: sheer, vorticity, convergence, and divergence. So here is that information which those forecasters look at before summarizing it for the broadcast audience. 

A great map to look at when you want to become a thoughtful amateur forecaster is this one, the depth of the 26C ocean layer. The redder, the deeper. This matters because hurricanes derive energy from hot ocean water, and because as they strengthen, they churn up deeper layers of ocean. If those deeper layers are cold, hurricanes can "turn themselves off" by doing this churning. But if the heat goes deep, they can churn and churn and still get fed. Katrina is a textbook example of one that had a deep 26C isotherm to feed from.

NOAA 22 August 2016

Large-scale weather patterns help determine where hurricanes are likely to develop in any given month. Dr. Masters at Weather Underground revisits the basics of the CCKW (convectively coupled Kelvin wave), MJO (Madden-Julian oscillation), and La Nina/El Nino,  from time to time. Here is a link to his recent post on these. I was particularly happy to see this one because I’d been watching the TIW -- that wavy cold temperature thing off South America in the top image of this post--developing and getting colder, and I had no idea what it was called. I was fairly certain “wavy cold temperature thing” was not the term the pros would use. I’m relieved that now I know: Tropical Instability Wave.

Let's return to the super-cool site earth.nullschool.net. I'm linking you here directly to the No. Atlantic. Watch the winds blow for a moment. (Soothing, isn't it?...except maybe for Floridians.) Now hit "I" on your keyboard. And keep hitting it. What this will do is take you upward through the layers of air, all the way up to the stratosphere. The redder the lines, the faster the wind is blowing.

You’ll notice that if you hunt down more and more links that explain these images and why they're important, you’ll start seeing calculus equations...and I admit, that’s where I stop my researches. If it takes calc to unpeel the next layer of understanding, I’ve learned enough for fiction-writing purposes. This ends up being a good thing, for if I didn’t have some sort of trigger to stop me, I’d do nothing but research and write no novels!

A friend wrote me an email this morning and said, "What, are you psychic? How did you know to post these hurricane links when you did?" No, I'm not psychic! If you watch African weather and do it from year to year, you learn to see them coming a long way off. To someone living in 1888 on the Gulf Coast, your or my ability to forecast hurricanes would seem like magic, wouldn't it?

And yes, there will be a hurricane novel one day to take its place beside my tornado, earthquake, and volcano novels, Storm, Quake, and Erupt. I have many ideas, and a person can only write a handful of books every year.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hurricane links

As the North Atlantic hurricane season is starting in earnest, I wanted to mention some of my favorite links that I, an amateur weather nerd, follow enthusiastically when a tropical depression has become a hurricane, particularly one that will hit land. Most of these will work for anywhere in the world, so you don’t have to be a North American to find your local storm information.

Image, NOAA/Wikimedia commons

NOAA National Hurricane Center advisories. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ The top NHC meteorologists break it down for you every three hours during an active storm.

Maps. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/satellite.php Click through the various loops: Dvorak, satellite, funktop, and others, and you’ll learn a lot simply by comparing the images. (Read up a little, and you’ll learn more) Some show cloud height in different colors and some show wind speeds in different colors, some show water vapor. Interesting stuff.

Earthnull.nethttps://earth.nullschool.net/ Surface winds, and a beautiful presentation. Being the nerd I am, I can spend an hour spinning the globe, magnifying, moving back out, figuring out what’s happening and how it all connects, watching the dance of the winds on this tiny planet we call home. Isn’t the internet cool?!?

capture 15:12UT, 13 August 2016, Pacific Ocean

Weather Underground’s hurricane update, https://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/ , often updated 2-3 times a day when the winds are blowing. Dr. Masters and the other scientists are great (link to that blog on right side of page), and the comments on the blog run from the head-scratchingly silly to the brilliant amateur with good insights and of course with plenty of needless internet bickering.

When a hurricane develops, for video storm coverage, nothing is better for me the writer, wanting to know what it feels like on the ground to normal people, than finding a local news station that streams and is covering it full-time. I can’t give you specific links, for my crystal ball is at the shop and I can’t tell you where the next hurricane landfall will be in North America. Name a big city in the area of likely impact, google that and “live streaming television” and you should find something.

Also, there are often webcams on beaches, on boardwalks, and at resort hotels aimed out to sea. Whereas live TV coverage streamed from Mexico is nearly impossible to find, webcams are common enough at resort towns, so even Mexican landfalls can often be watched. Switching between cameras at various locations can give you that feel of being there, watching the thing come at you. Often, the weather knocks out the feed when winds are over 80 mph, but until then, it’s fascinating to check in on the images from time to time. Again, googling should find some for you. Sometimes, a city’s chamber of commerce or tourism site has links to several.

You may ask me, “Lou, so after your morning hours of writing or revising or proofreading are over, how many hours can you spend moving from one of these sites to the next when a full-scale hurricane (or something akin, like Sandy) is moving in?” And the answer to that is, 12 hours, easily.

All together now. “Weather nerd!”

Stay tuned for part two, some more advanced links.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Short Story: Wendig's Flash Fiction challenge

Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds blog issues a flash fiction challenge. I was reading and laughing over his blog (he wants us to laugh, so that's a good thing), and I decided to spend an hour (okay, 90 minutes) writing to order for him. So here's my genre mash-up of Climate Change fiction (a lucky roll for me because I have a far future world built that I can fit this into easily) and Fable (a not-so-lucky roll for me because I don't typically write fables, but then maybe lucky too because it's always good to stretch one's writing muscles.)

The Careless Brothers

In The Book that is kept behind glass in the roundhouse is a picture of two men in big white costumes, a funny blue and white moon in the sky behind them, standing on a pitted wasteland at night.

And here is the tale old Hazus tells the young ones when he shows them the picture:

In the Long-ago, people were less wise than us, it is said. I am not certain I believe this, for they were able to make The Book and much else that is a mystery to us now.

But they were careless, that we do know. This is a tale of carelessness and two brothers.

The elder brother, Ahann, had waited all his life to claim his parents’ land for farming. The old man had left fields fallow every year. He had learned over a long life of farming to guess well at what would be a rainy season and what would not be, and he planted seeds that matched the pattern he saw coming in the weather. The mother had stopped her childbearing with two boys because any more would have eaten up the crops and left little for them to trade at market or to the traders. And so the four of them lived a good life, comfortable but not rich, and they farmed their happy piece of land.

When then old man died, and the old woman was so old she was tired of arguing, Ahann thought he had an idea of how to make them rich. He planted all the lands the first year he was in charge, leaving none fallow. 

The younger brother, Onder, was doubtful, and remembered what his father used to say: “So much, and no more.” But he was younger, and so he went along for now. And they did have a better crop and made more in trade. They made so much they were able to pay for the fifth daughter of a large neighbor family to come and help with the housework and cooking, so their mother could rest her weary body more hours and do nothing more than care for the chickens and cow.

The second year, Onder said, “I think this year may be dry. We should plant the dry-grains Father always did. So much, and no more.”

Ahann said, “Brother, I am going to dig a new well so deep that if it is a dry year, we can still water crops. Sweet peppers, tomatoes and peas trade for more. We will plant those.”

Onder said, “But they are thirsty crops. What if we use too much water?”

“Then we dig deeper,” said Ahann, with a big grin.

Onder wasn’t as certain, and he thought their father would say, “Take so much, and no more.” But as he was younger, he went along.

And that year, they made more in trade then ever before. They all were able to purchase a third set of clothes, made by the best tailor in town, a man who happened to love tomatoes. These clothes were only good for wearing to town, for meetings and dances, but they were hung with pride on new hooks set into the walls of their little home, even the hooks ordered new from the smithy.

The third year, Ahann said, a month before planting would begin, “We are going to cut down both the woodlots now.”

Onder was shocked. “But how will we keep the house warm, or the barn? Mother feels the cold more with every year, and if we want milk and cheese and butter, the cow must be kept warm. If we want to plow and reap, we can’t let the horses freeze.”

Ahann said, “No matter. We can trade for wood next year. Many people have a second woodlot and will trade with us. I want those fields planted with fruit--redberries and blueberries and bearberries.”

Onder was not so sure, and he remembered his father’s words again: so much, and no more. But Ahann sounded so very enthusiastic, he went along. And, Onder had to admit, his new set of clothes had turned the heads of more than one girl in town. So again, he deferred to his older brother, and with the trade of extra canned tomatoes, they got the helper-girl’s older brother out there and in two weeks took down two hundred trees. The good work horses helped them pull out half the stumps before they had to stop for planting.

That year, the crops were even larger, and trade was better still. The helper girl moved in, and they added a small room onto the house for her, so she was happier than she had been at her crowded home and was a cheerful helper for their aging mother, taking over most of the animal care, as well.

The next winter, just the two of them finished clearing the last woodlot and splitting the wood for the stoves. They hadn’t had to trade for heating wood yet, as Ahann pointed out. “So everything we plant is clear profit for now,” he said. “We can even try to buy more land from someone else.”

And that year, the harvest was the best ever.

But the next winter, their mother had an apoplexy and could no longer speak.

And the year while their mother lingered, her right arm useless, the harvest was good--still good enough to buy a new plow and two more horses and add stalls for them in the barn. They were so wealthy now that Ahann had no trouble finding himself a wife, and a pretty one, too, the daughter of a merchant.

But the wife did not like working in the house and she had not been trained to farm. After he got used to her beauty, as far as Onder could see, she was as useless as a leaky trough.

And so it went, for many years. The old lady soon died, but they kept the girl, who Onder finally married not because she was more beautiful than most but because he appreciated how hard she worked. The two of them expanded the girl’s room on the home, but kept it small and cozy, and they spent many happy nights there. The girl--his wife now--kept the animals and kept the house and worked like the brothers at harvest.

The fields, though, began to bear less soon after the old lady died. Onder said, “Ahann, they are tired. We should let them rest. So much, and no more.”

“Nonsense. They need more water. They need more manure. We only need work harder, and the fields will work harder, too.”

Onder was the younger, and though he was fully a man now, he still said nothing more.

The year after that, the fields bore less. And the next year, and the next. Ten years after their father died, insects attacked the tomato crops and ate them to the ground. Without as many green crops to nibble at, the rabbits ate many of the berries and for the first time seemed a pest. They had a harvest that year, but it was no better than the years the father and mother had run the farm. And it put Ahann’s wife in a sour mood, for none of the trinkets and treats she had grown used to were available that year.

From then on, they could not plant tomatoes but that the insects came back. They couldn’t plant potatoes or peppers or eggplant, either. They had to plant less profitable crops. Their fortunes had turned because of their greed.

But it didn’t stop there. Ahann had children by the lazy spoiled woman who learned from their parents to be greedy, too. They continued to work the land hard, as if it were a slave in a mine in the Long-ago, when there was still metal to be found in mines.

Onder still expressed his concern, and often he quoted their father: “So much, and no more,” but he still backed down from every argument.

He found his courage only when his wife became large with child. He asked his brother to divide the family farm with him so each could farm as he wished. Ahann was loathe to do it, and there were some bitter words between the brothers, but he finally agreed to give Onder a third part, if Onder would give him one day a week to help work Ahann’s farm. Onder agreed. The other six days, he worked his own farm.

And so it went, until both were old men themselves, ready to pass their farms to their grown children. And do you know what this is a picture of in The Book? Of the two brothers, whose farm do you think it is?

That’s right. It is a picture of Ahann’s farm, in his last days of life. The farm had turned to nothing but sand and rock, and the air over the worn-out fields was so bad, it turned the moon blue, and the insects were so bad, Ahann and Onder have to wear suits to keep the insects from chewing on them, too. This picture? It looks like night, but it was painted during the day. They hurt the land so badly that some days looked like night.

In the Long-ago, there were many Ahanns. Their carelessness and greed burned through many woodlots, and through magical fuels better than wood that were available then and are no longer. They dug up all the metal that was once in the ground and then let it rust at the side of the road. They worked their land until it was a wasteland, and it has taken many generations for the land and sky to become pure again.

Remember, children, and tell your children the wise father’s words: So much, and no more.