Heard First

Clime = a region considered with reference to it's climate.

"The weather, huh? That makes sense. Do you know how to build a website," Mike queried? "I mean everyone says it's easy, but then so is 5.9, unless you have never climbed before."

"Nope, I know nothing, and I think that is a good reason to do it."

"Yeah, that makes sense," he replied. "but don't hurt yourself."

And with that, this adventure began. I honestly knew nothing. I have a very good understanding of meteorology, so the content was going to be easy. But like most of us, I click around the internet without a real understanding of the science behind the pages, mostly looking at what my friends are up to, how the world is falling apart, and what's for sale. How these pages actually came to exist was no more understood than the rules of cricket.

My first order of business was to find some internet experts. That took me to Pitch Engine, where Fabian and Matt pointed me towards two websites, Squarespace and Wordpress. They told me these websites simplify the process with templates... a base, so to speak, for a website. They also mentioned something about occasionally writing code, but that sounded scary and educated. After looking at both sites, and still being a bit confused, I contacted another smart friend, April, who reminded me that a person of my brain power should probably use something even simpler. That was WIX... "lots of carry and drop type stuff there Mr. Sam." So there it was. I began building.

A couple months later, here we are. April has helped, Mike has given feedback, and of course my wife, Liz, has supported everything. I found that building a website like this one has been made very easy. We can all do it if we have the time to learn the systems the actual smart people, those working with the afore mentioned "code", have built. I also found that the thing you must have is a sense of design and some creative ideas for content. I have put together what looked good to me, and to some degree looked acceptable to Liz, April, and Mike, but to really get it right for visitors I will need some feed back. Please feel free to tell me what you like and don't like on anything, from type-font and colors to the actual data.

I decided Lander could use this site based on the popularity of Mountainweather.com. That page, which you can get to via a link here, was started by my friend Jim Woodmency when Lebron James was still in elementary school and Hong Kong was still with Britain. I can remember skiing with Jim (Woody) in the mid 1990's, and only catching my breath when he would stop to take pictures of clouds, snowpits, and anything one might think of as related to mountains and weather.

"What are you going to do with a photo of snow on a spruce branch?"

"I'm going to digitize the slide and use the shot to explain the weather on my new website", Woody replied.

"What the hell is digitize... and what's a website?"

"You will see."

It was a different world, and Jim had the vision to see where it was going. Nearly 20 years later, Jim, a member of the American Meteorology Society and a professor of the science, is still running MountainWeather. The site see's hundreds of visitors a day and is a must for those who like to play in the mountains around Jackson Hole. And there is the inspiration for "Clime On."

Last year I wrote a book about the weather. Actually, the book was about climbing, but if you are a climber you need to have an interest in the weather, so as much of the book is about meteorology as it is about our beloved sport. Having been a climber in all genres of the sport for 30 plus years, I had a pretty good grasp on meteorology. However, to write the book I needed to really get deep in the science, so I essentially put myself through basic meteorology. I read about two dozen books on the subject, and consulted friends who teach the subject like Woody and Eric Horst.

I learned a lot, but the biggest lesson was that I did not, as a amateur meteorologist, need to reinvent the wheel. People with multiple PhD's had written programs, what they call "models", that allowed a forecast to be generated for any spot on the planet at any time. The GFS model, for instance, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, can squirt out a forecast for anyplace you ask it to. Any place on the globe. I've used it in locations as varied as Patagonia, Alaska, Thailand and the Red River Gorge, and a friend of mine has taken it's meteogram data to plot storms from his boat while 1000 miles southwest of Perth. It will combine wind data, barometric pressures, humidity, temperature, and so forth from all around the forecast area, and then squirt out a prediction that will generally be fairly accurate... "generally" and "fairly" being the operative words.

Like I said, when predicting the weather you don't have to reinvent the wheel, but you do need to reassemble it. The various models meteorologists run to get a forecast will do a good job of predicting the weather in a place like Lander or Casper. However, they don't give a forecast that is specific to the varied topography and micro climates that we climb in. Those places, as we know, generate slightly different weather from the open spaces of the nearby towns, and that's where "Clime On" comes in.

As an example, you can go to the NOAA web page and get it to generate a forecast for 42.7 degrees north, 108.8 west, and 8,000 feet. That would be Killer Cave in Sinks Canyon. The model will run and spit out the figures, but it will not know that, depending on the given solar radiation, the temperatures in front of the walls are often 10 degrees warmer than some random topography at that location. It will not know that a thin foehn cloud often forms over the canyon in January and filters out much of the warming solar radiation. If you point the curser 2/10ths of a degree south, at Wild Iris, it won't register the direction the white cliffs face, or note the Venturi Effect on surface wind as it passes through the Rocky Mountain Gap south of South Pass. That requires a person who has experience with the area and who understands the basic principles of meteorology.

I expect to be that person and hope you will come to "Clime On" for our forecast. However, I want to remind everyone that this is meteorology, not mathematics, so there is no such thing as perfection. To illustrate that, I can quote Woody, who has been forecasting the weather in Wyoming's mountains for twenty five years: "When it comes to forecasting, more detail does not mean more accurate. The problem is, the more detail we read, the more we believe in the forecast." There are not millions of bits of data that go into a weather forecast, but billions. The US Government employs thousands of people and puts hundreds of millions of dollars into forecasting hurricanes and tornadoes, yet they never get it exactly right. To say exactly where the thunderstorm will form, or where a hurricane will come ashore, can't be done until the moments just before it happens. Lightning strikes 3000 times a minute around the world, and we cannot predict a single location. What I'm saying is, all forecasts will be off a little, and that includes this one. However, I'm going to get it right more often than not.

I have provided forecasts for Wild Iris and Sinks, but also included other tid-bits of information t you might find useful from time to time. In the section referred to as The Goods, you can find links to online cameras, turbulence reports from the FAA, hydrologic output for the Middle Popo Agie, and even a pollen count. There is a link to Woody's Mountain Weather page, and even a cool tool that can tell you when a wall will go into the shade.

Also in The Goods is the link to this, my blog. I'll probably leave this essay on the site for a month or so, but after that it will be replaced with stuff I feel like writing. Ostensibly this blog will be about the weather in some way. It might explain the how's and why's of a weather event we deal with here in Lander, or I might talk about how trying to find a lost airplane would be so difficult in the storm riddled southern Indian Ocean. At times, there will be opinioned pieces about our sport, and at others I might just go off on a rant about something that has nothing to do with weather, Lander, or climbing. What can I say? It's a mixed bag. "Heard in the Wind" is my place to blog about whatever, and I only write it to, hopefully, entertain.

I hope the website works for you. Get back to me with ideas for improvement.



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