Friday, August 30, 2013

Examining Earth Hazards 
A public interest assessment of significant natural and non-natural hazards 
of concern to  scientific and emergency management communities

(September 1, 2013 - Baltimore, MD)  When out-going Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke to the National Press Club in late August 2013, (C-Span Video) she shined an important light of situational awareness onto several high-risk hazards which for some, usually fall into a "low probability" column. That is, until major weather events of the past several years changed that perspective for many. Even in 2013, nations around the world continue to experience catastrophes ranging from massive floods and devastating wildfires to a historic meteor explosion in Russia and numerous other parts of the globe.

With September being National Preparedness Month in the United States, our team is bringing attention to the Secretary's presentation as evidence our government officials are paying much closer attention to the increasing threat of "Earth hazards."  Concurrently,   use of "probability" in decision-making appears to be gaining important ground across the Homeland Security enterprise. In weather forecasting and climate science, as in many scientific and governmental venues, probability plays an influential role in how intelligence is presented, and how policymakers or leaders act on the information. 

In Secretary Napolitano's remarks, she notes the following about national efforts to secure the homeland against future hazards:
"In a world of evolving threats, the key to our success is the ability to be flexible and agile, and adapt to changing circumstances on the ground – whether that is across the globe, or here at home. It means taking every necessary step to prepare for a range of potential outcomes, and understanding that if things don’t go according to plan, or the unexpected occurs, we are ready and able to shift resources and adjust operations, learn from our mistakes, and put ourselves in a position to succeed in the future."
Later in her remarks, the Secretary maps out several critical points in an "Open Letter To My Successor." Among these include references to two types of hazards, which may at first seem to be unrelated, unless the events have a single point of origin.
A major cyber-attack  "Our country will, for example, at some point, face a major cyber event that will have a serious effect on our lives, our economy, and the everyday functioning of our society."  [see 2012 DHS statement: Cyber Threats]
Severe weather events "You also will have to prepare for the increasing likelihood of more weather-related events of a more severe nature as a result of climate change, and continue to build the capacity to respond to potential disasters in far flung regions of the country that could occur at the same time."
How is this related to weather forecasting? 

Since our founding in 2004 as a "common good enterprise," the Foot's Forecast team has always strongly advocated a supportive relationship with local, state and federal emergency management. Our role is to augment and repurpose existing weather intelligence data into a format that is appropriately sourced, verifiable, peer-reviewed and guided by the scientific method.

Our approach has repeatedly earned invitations to work side-by-side with local and state government officials to assist during their darkest hours, such as Hurricane Sandy, as well as to collaborate and celebrate in their ground-breaking successes, such as the Baltimore Grand Prix.
When our information is presented to or requested by officials and policy-makers, it is done so in a manner to support public safety, strengthen understanding of scientific data, and scaffold around the tireless, heroic work of those who put their lives on the line to secure our nation and its institutions. We are encouraged to see how agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security have a renewed appreciation to understand and plan for Earth Hazards, as evidenced by the Secretary's remarks. 
What hazards are being examined?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ready For A New Comet?
Our interdisciplinary effort to track the latest imagery and analyses of Comet ISON, 
which has potential to be the most significant celestial event in a century. 

Alternative hypotheses on ISON at the Youtube channel BPEarthWatch

9:30 AM EDT 8/24/2013 (Forecaster Foot) ""The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." This quote attributed to Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England in the mid-20th century, is applicable today as we prepare for a major celestial show this fall. From August 2013 to January 2014, the Comet ISON (technical name C/2012 S1) will complete what some astronomers believe is its first trip into the inner solar system. ISON is one of many intriguing events in astronomy coming up including a possible impact between Comet Siding-Spring and Mars in 2014. (NASA article)

For now, we focus on the next-up thrill of ISON's gravitational adventure with a potentially spectacular fly by of Mars in October, a sling-shot around the Sun in late November daily revelry by the Winter holidays for skywatcher parties and researchers alike.

Where is the comet now? If you just want to cut to the chase, we offer these links to resources we will review and present for credible authenticity to be featured on this site: 
  • Where is Comet ISON?  A month-by-month play on the location of ISON starting in August, written by the director of Armagh Planetarium in England
  • ISON to fly by Mars October 1  A brief Youtube from Science@NASA on the comet's expected near-brush with the Red Planet.
"Wait...there's a comet coming?"  No worries, this is a standard reaction we have received from just about everyone we've asked, which is encouraging evidence that many of our readers are going about their daily lives in normal fashion, and not spending too much time on a distant celestial object! That's what our Comet ISON tracking team will do for you. For a quick glance at what main stream media has said, here's a clip from NBC Nightly News in October 2012.

Source: Mirror video of NBC News report from 10/4/2012

Interested in joining our ISON journey? Over the next 5 months, we hope you will accompany us on this interplanetary journey as we will provide in this section a weekly mosaic of the best tracking and observing resources for skywatchers, new and seasoned alike! We also welcome any readers or researchers, professional or amateur, who would like to collaborate with us in this effort. We welcome analyses, links to resources you recommend, or noteworthy studies that can help us all understand the origins, path and future of this newly discovered participant in our Solar System.

NASA simulated image of ISON for December 11, 2013 
as expected for observers along the U.S. East Coast

The relationship to climate and weather? 
The Foot's Forecast team employs an interdisciplinary "Earth Systems" perspective when conveying the latest research and observations on how global and solar system forces interact to drive our climate and weather. The upcoming comet is just one example of how we can promote celestial events to raise the public's scientific awareness about the Earth-Sun system.  

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) was first discovered in September 2012 by two Russian astronomers conducting a night sky survey titled the International Scientific Optical Network (hence the name, ISON). From late August to late October, the Comet's first big introduction to Earth observers will approach to within 6 million miles of Mars, followed by ISON's perihelion to the Sun in late November.  This period of closest approach is also expected to coincide with an anticipated "flip" of the Sun's electromagnetic fieldAs part of our Long Range Team's customary data preparation for the winter forecast, we will be examining these factors as we look ahead to the seasonal transition and what weather challenges may come.

ISON Resources For Educators 
Just as important as the long range scientific connections, is the potential educational value of this global experience. We encourage all teachers at all levels of instruction to consider ways they can leverage this opportunity to raise student awareness about interactive natural forces, with ISON blazing the trail of knowledge forward for all of us.

For starters, we offer these excellent and informative Youtube videos from a variety of reasoned, appropriate or official sources:

  • NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Orbital simulators of ISONs journey, from the JPL Near Earth Object Program.
  • NASA Eyes on the Solar System Downloadable desktop visualization lab to explore near space, the Solar System, Comets and other celestial features.
  • BPEarthWatch Informative and investigative astronomy enthusiast on Youtube. Presents an overview of 3D model simulators of the Comet and inner solar system, analysis of latest ISON photography from the Hubble Space Telescope. Explores a variety of thought-provoking observations on the Comet's recent activity.
  • Comet Imagery Viewer Interactive portal of Hubble images from ISON, where you can adjust settings to view the Comet from different perspectives.
  • Solar System Scope Free online simulator, provides visually striking and high-detail user controlled interactivity of all planets in the Solar System, with thematic music. Useful for showing relationships between planets, orbits and ISON's path.
What are next steps for interested skywatchers?
If you have interest in participating with us on this fascinating journey of interdisciplinary science, with ISON as our literal and figurative backdrop, contact us:  and we will put you in touch with our Space Weather Team.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Commemorating Forecaster Greg "Winterman" Jackson
At the 2013 Maryland State BBQ Bash in Bel Air
4:15 PM 8/16 (Senior Advisor & Founder Mr. Foot) As we approach the start of school for grade level and college students alike, it is with mixed emotions that our Mid-Atlantic Team wishes to update our readers on a change in leadership. 

Greg Jackson, our Mid-Atlantic Director, and long-time member of the Foot's Forecast Team, has been offered a promotion from his summer internship to into what will become a full time position with an Environmental consulting firm. Thus, he is resigning from his role with us to prepare for this exciting and major career-building opportunity. Our Leadership Team was first notified of Greg's decision on Friday, August 2 and we have prepared this special statement to accompany his resignation letter below.

A rainy outdoor video forecast in March 2011

Our mixed emotions over Greg's departure stem from the fact he is one of the original founding members of our team, joining just days before the historic December 2009 Blizzard. Those of you who have been long time readers, or only recently joined us may also know him as "Forecaster Winterman." His dedication to building collaborating across our entire team has strengthened the foundation that started with the Maryland Team, and has now grown to a membership nearing 100 across over 30 states. 

A meeting with Founder Mr. Foot and Carroll County Public School Officials

Greg's life example should be a motivator for all students whom have had an interest in joining our team. He went from a mild-mannered high school junior in 2009 to providing consult to Maryland Emergency Management, Ocean City, Baltimore County,the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, and countless other organizations which have followed our website and Facebook updates over the years. Not too bad a resume for someone under 21. Greg had the fire to learn science and serve the public. We think there are many more like him just waiting for an opportunity to shine. Greg would say, "Don't wait-- go get it now, while you have the chance."  

Below, we have included the text of his resignation letter as well, but we keep reminding him that it is a "promotion" not a "reduction" ! Being offered an advancement from an internship at an environmental firm within his major is a 100% fulfillment of the mission of the Foot's Forecast Team.

That mission is to create career opportunities for young professionals who have a passion for communicating science to the public. Greg is a living testimony to that mission, and our entire team salutes him on this next step forward in his journey to securing a future among professional scientists. 

Rich Foot, Founder and Advisor
Keith Krichinsky, Executive Director 
Brad Lear, Chief Financial Officer/Senior Advisor

Thursday, August 15, 2013
Dear Friends and Readers:
This is a message I never wanted to write, but right now is unfortunately necessary.  As of Friday, August 16, 2013 I will have resigned from all positions within Foot’s Forecast. 
Over the course of this summer I have had an environmental internship, and this past week was offered a continuation to work part time at school over the fall semester.  With this continuation my semester will be extremely busy with classwork, starting research, and working as a student ambassador.  In turn, I must make this sacrifice to accept this continuation in the career field I am pursuing.
Over the past 4 years I have been with Foot’s Forecast I have been given the opportunity to grow in my roles as leader, forecaster, and also as a person. Every day was a new day, and with those new days presented new challenges.  These challenges ranged from a tough morning forecast for afternoon storms, or managing forecaster staffing needs for a busy weather weekend.  
I can’t say every challenge was easy, but almost every challenge was made easier because of all of you, our fans.  You all were the motivation for the mornings I woke up 30-45 minutes earlier in high school to assemble by 6:30 AM a thorough morning forecast for anyone heading out the door.  You all were the reason our team came together for so many weather events to keep you informed so you could make the safest decision possible.  
There are a few events on our team that I will never forget. One is January 28, 2011 in Central MD where over 6 inches of snow fell in less than 3 hours, This left the major highways at complete gridlock with many thousands of commuters immobilized. The Foot’s Forecast Maryland Team collaborated from early in the morning to late that night, including an important message to our fans to be “off the roads no later than 4pm." By 5pm many roads were impassable, and much of the Baltimore metro region shut down. After the event we heard from so many of you who heeded our warnings.
Another memorable event Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Our team worked for 48 hours+ with emergency managers around the region, and stayed up with all of you while the storm was in progress. I personally stayed up overnight to work with our staff and to assure all our readers being affected were kept informed with the most updated details.  
It's clear to me that those we have to thank the most are our readers and fans. As a company devoted to the common good, we would not be where we are today. 
Your support has allowed me to grow as a leader in this organization over the past 4 years. Through the opportunities I have been given, from starting in December 2009 as Forecaster Winterman in through Central Maryland Lead Forecaster, to Pennsylvania Team Leader, and more recently, Mid-Atlantic Director position, I thank all of you for the motivation to take risks when needed, and be ready to take the next step. 
Today, I take that next step towards my career, though I shall never forget the years with Foot’s Forecast. It will be exciting to watch how the company will continue to expand and grow in the years ahead, and I know all of you are in good hands with an excellent team, while will cherish the many great moments that led us all here, together.
Best wishes,
Greg Jackson
With Fusion Photographer Emily Rund, Strategic Media Director Diandre Williams
 and Company Spokesperson Aaron Salter at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County