Invest 90L in Gulf of Mexico a Heavy Rain Threat for Mexico

A tropical disturbance in the Southern Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche, Invest 90L, is nearly stationary, and is bringing a few heavy thunderstorms to the Gulf waters and Mexican shore along the Bay of Campeche. Satellite loops show that 90L is poorly organized, with a broad area of spin that is not well-defined, and only limited heavy thunderstorm activity. Radar out of Alvarado shows the storm has developed two low-level spiral bands near the coast that bear watc...<br /><a href="">Read More</a>

Math Victory in Seattle!

Tonight, the Seattle School Board, in a 4-3 vote, accomplished what seemed impossible a few years ago:  they voted to adopt a high-quality math curriculum for elementary school, Math in Focus (the American version of Singapore Math).

Thank you to all that contacted school board members and the Seattle Public Schools administration.

Finally, Seattle students will have an opportunity to build a strong foundation in math, one that will allow them to participate in an increasingly technological society.

Finally, Seattle students will be spared  fuzzy, discovery math in which senseless group learning, essays, and excessive calculator use have been the rule.

Finally, the empirical evidence of the superiority of the Singapore Math approach outweighed the nonsense coming out of education schools (like the UW, a strong supporter of the current textbook, Everyday Math).

And we should not forgot the critical four members of the Seattle School Board who had the guts and determination to do the right thing, pushing against the pressure of Seattle district administrators, Ed School ideologues, and often greedy textbook publishers.  The honored school board members are:

Sharon Peaslee
Marty McLaren
Sue Peters
Betty Patu

We must also thank a range of community math advocates, many members of WherestheMath, including Rick Burke,  Linh-Co Nguyen, Joan Sias, Ted Nutting,  Craig Parsley, Damon Ellingston, M. J. McDermott, Kate Martin, Stuart Jenner, Dan Dempsey, Dick Padrick, Paul Hewett, Meg Van Wyk and others.  And Melissa Westbrook of the Seattle Community Forum was  a major supporter.

This is important.  But now we must turn to replacing the very poor middle school curriculum currently used by Seattle Public Schools.

A Gorgeous Summertime Halo!

There was beautiful halo with rainbow colors sitting over the University of Utah campus at noon today.

I believe this is either a circumhorizon arc or an infralateral arc, which form only when the sun is high in the sky (higher than 58º).  As a result, these types of arcs form only near noon from about April to early September at our latitude.  In this instance, I suspect it was an infralateral arc because it curved up slightly from the horizon.  More info at Atmospheric Optics.

Boris Hits Mexico; Atlantic’s First Invest of 2014 Forms in Gulf of Mexico

Tropical Storm Boris made landfall near 2 am EDT Wednesday in Southeast Mexico as a tropical storm with 40 mph winds. The storm has weakened to a tropical depression and is expected to dissipate later today, but Boris remains an extremely dangerous rainfall threat to the region. Reports from the Mexican Weather Service indicate that the city of Tonala on the coast of Chiapas has recorded 12.5" (318 mm) of storm-total rainfall, and NHC is calling for rainfall totals ...<br /><a href="">Read More</a>

Like Park City in July

The weather in the Salt Lake Valley is incredible right now.  Yesterday's high and this morning's low were 85ºF and 56ºF, respectively.  I even felt a little chill when I went out on my morning run.  In addition, here's the National Weather Service forecast through the weekend:

It doesn't get much nicer than that.  In fact, what Salt Lake City is experiencing right now, including the green, wildflower covered foothills, is pretty much Park City's summer.  In Park City, the average high in July is 84ºF.  The lows there tend to be a little cooler (48ºF in July), but I'll take the mid 50s as forecast the next few days.

So, enjoy the Salt Lake Valley in the coming days as eventually you'll need to escape to Park City to experience weather like this.

The Future of Seattle Elementary Math Education Will Be Decided on Wednesday

Yesterday, the Seattle City Council voted to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15.00 per hour.

But I would suggest an even more important vote will occur on Wednesday, one that will decide the future of tens or hundreds of thousands of Seattle students over the next decade:  the Seattle School Board's vote on the future elementary math curriculum.

As I have noted in previous blogs, Seattle Public Schools is now using a grossly inferior math curriculum, Everyday Math.   Most school districts in the area (and around the country) have dropped it because it fails to provide basic competency in elementary-level mathematics, crippling students' ability to learn algebra and higher mathematics later in their career.  Everyday Math is a prime example of "fuzzy math," with students spending much their their time inventing their own algorithms, writing long essays, using calculators, and doing group projects.  Everyday Math is a wonderful example of the tendency to jump on the latest fad, which may sound good, but fails in the classroom.

So you would think the district would be doubly sure not to make a serious mistake again.

Last month, a committee established by the district provided their recommendation of a possible new curriculum. Their rankings were:

1.  EnVision Math
2. Go Math!
3.  Math in Focus (MIF), which is a U.S. version of Singapore Math.

As I explained in my last blog of the subject, their evaluation was a great disappointment.  Math in Focus, based on the extraordinarily successful Singapore Math approach, was downgraded because it advanced student's too rapidly (compared to the latest fad, the Common Core standards).  Go Math! is glossy and weak.  EnVision, their top choice, is glossy and full of excessive reading and writing, making it a poor choice for students who do not have strong English skills.  But better than Everyday Math for sure.

Let me illustrate the differences between EnVision and Math in Focus..  Here is a page from EnVision. You write letter to families, work on your new math words, and there are suggested books to read.

In contrast, here is Math in Focus that talks about real math and has clear visuals that aid students that are not as good with language.

Several schools in Seattle have used Singapore Math with exceptional results.  Highline Schools adopted Math in Focus a few years ago, with substantial improvements in standardized math tests.  A NY Times story on Singapore Math, including its MIF version, is very positive, with parents suggesting it to be far superior to Everyday Math.

The district bureaucrats are pushing for adopting Envision only, even though public feedback was overwhelmingly in support of Math in Focus.  And Seattle schools that are currently using Singapore Math are very worried about EnVision.  One is Schmitz Park Elementary.  Consider the message sent to the district by the Schmitz Park PTA:

On behalf of the Schmitz Park PTA, we write this letter in opposition to the Math Adoption Committee’s recommendation to implement the enVision Math Program as the new math curriculum for all elementary schools in September 2014. Schmitz Park is in an advanced, and deliberate, position as one of six schools across the district currently using a Singapore Math-based curriculum to teach math and a transition to enVision will be a step backwards for our students.

A Singapore Math-based curriculum is structured to introduce, practice and master mathematics. This structure is what drew Schmitz Park to the curriculum. It was the best way to teach math. During the development of the new STEM School, the Design Team for Math was tasked with evaluating math curriculum to identify the best way to teach mastery of math. Again, the Team was drawn to Singapore Math. Public Input from the Adoption Process was in favor of Math in Focus as a curriculum desired by the community. Repeatedly, when it is the quality of math being examined we come to the same conclusion – Singapore Math.

 enVision Math will not maintain the rigor and momentum Singapore Math has created for Schmitz Park students. Since 2008, we have been building this program for our children to master math. A review of Madison Middle School placement tests will show that a Singapore Math-based curriculum has Schmitz Park students testing above grade level for 6th grade and 8th grade math placement year over year. 

The School Board should vote to adopt Math in Focus, the clearly superior choice.

A weaker alternative is to allow dual adoption:  Math in Focus or EnVision

They should NOT allow EnVision to the the sole adoption.  That is what the district curriculum bureaucrats are pushing, the same folks that have been holding on to Everyday Math while student's performance sank.

If you are a current or future parent in the Seattle School District you have a lot to lose if the wrong choice is made, so please contact your school board members and ask them to vote for Math in Focus.

Jose´ Banda, Superintendent -
Charles Wright, Deputy Superintendent -

Reducing Carbon Emissions

A few people have asked me what I think about the Obama/EPA plan to reduce power-plant carbon emissions.

I believe it is essential that society transform to low carbon energy production and it is clear that we have dithered away much time over the past two decades arguing about whether or not climate change is real and caused by humans. However, my training is in the atmospheric sciences, so ultimately my views on the Obama/EPA plan are based on my more shallow understanding (if one exists) of politics, economics, and energy.

The plan seeks to reduce power plant emissions by 30% by 2030, but this is relative to 2005 emissions.  This basically gives everyone a head start since carbon emissions in the United States peaked in the mid 2000s.

Source:, original source EIA (2012).
The graph above is for all sectors, whereas as I understand it, the Obama/EPA plan addresses only power plant emissions.  Since 2005, power plant carbon emissions are down about 13%.  That decline represents a shift from coal to natural gas for energy production (natural gas is more efficient and produces more power per unit of carbon) and a sluggish economy.  Getting the additional 17% will probably involve some increase in renewable energy production and a shift to natural gas.  Of course, that assumes the plan survives political challenges in the coming years.

Ultimately, however, addressing climate change requires not only modest reductions in carbon emissions but technological breakthroughs needed to make fossil fuels obsolete (as soon as possible).  The former represents the low-hanging fruit, whereas the latter is a much more difficult challenge, as discussed in this editorial by Steven Cohen, executive director of the Columbia University Earth Institute.  The US could play a leadership role in this area, and it would facilitate a shift to non-carbon energy sources worldwide.  My concern is that modest reductions through cap-and-trade will not spur the innovation needed to produce the stampede to non-carbon energy sources needed to put the brakes on global warming.  

Boris a Dangerous Rainfall Threat for Mexico and Guatemala

Torrential rains are lashing Southeast Mexico and Southern Guatemala as Tropical Storm Boris lumbers northwards at about 5 mph, with landfall expected to occur Wednesday in Southeast Mexico. Even though Boris has top winds of just 40 mph, and will, at worst, be a weak tropical storm at landfall, it is an extremely dangerous rainfall threat to the region, as the storm's slow motion is expected keep heavy rains over the region the entire week. The NHC forecast is for ...<br /><a href="">Read More</a>

Offshore mesovortex affecting the inland penetration of marine stratus along the California coast

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

On 02 June 2014, McIDAS images of 1-km resolution GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) revealed the presence of a cyclonic mesoscale vortex in the vicinity of Point Reyes along the California coast, which appeared to be playing a role in enhancing the inland penetration of marine fog/stratus into areas such as the San Francisco Bay region just south of the mesovortex.

An AWIPS image of 375-meter resolution (projected onto a 1-km AWIPS grid) Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel data at 21:07 UTC (below) included overlays of surface station and buoy reports, along with MADIS 1-hour satellite-derived atmospheric motion vectors within the 1050-900 mb layer at 21 UTC. The satellite cloud-tracked winds appeared to be picking up on the cyclonic circulation of the mesovortex. At this particular time, winds at San Francisco (station identifier KSFO) were southwesterly gusting to 23 knots.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel image, with surface and buoy observations and 1-hour MADIS satellite winds

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel image, with surface and buoy observations and 1-hour MADIS satellite winds

A time series of surface observation at San Francisco International Airport (below) showed the increase in layered stratus clouds (with ceilings of 1000 to 1500 feet) after the southwesterly winds began to increase around 19 UTC.

Time series of surface observations at San Francisco International Airport

Time series of surface observations at San Francisco International Airport

AWIPS images of the GOES-R Cloud Thickness product — with the GOES-R algorithm for Fog and Low Stratus products applied to GOES-15 data — indicated that the thickness of the stratus clouds moving inland across the San Francisco Bay area was only about 500 feet (below; click image to play animation). The thicker stratus clouds with depths of 1000-3000 feet remained off the coast of California.

GOES-15 Cloud Thickness product (click to play animation)

GOES-15 Cloud Thickness product (click to play animation)

The corresponding GOES-15 Marginal Visual Flight Rules (MVFR) product (below; click image to play animation) showed that MVFR probability values were generally below 50-60% in the San Francisco Bay area, with much higher probabilities existing within the offshore marine boundary layer stratus cloud field.

GOES-15 Marginal Visual Flight Rules (MVFR) Probability product (click to play animation)

GOES-15 Marginal Visual Flight Rules (MVFR) Probability product (click to play animation)

Boldest Presidental Action Ever Taken to Combat Climate Change: EPA’s New Regulations

President Obama's administration unveiled on Monday the "Clean Power Plan", a 645-page proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing U.S. power plants under the 1970 Clean Air Act. The proposed regulations would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from these plants by 25% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels, and by 30% by 2030. The new regulations would hit the nation's 491 coal-fired power plants the most, since these plants account for 74% of the electric sec...<br /><a href="">Read More</a>