Alachua Co. EMWIN Project

Alachua Co. EMWIN Project
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gust Front Funnel Cloud ('Gustnado')
June 29, 2010
Gainesville, FL

Date/Time: June 29, 2010, 5:44pm ET
Location: Gainesville, Alachua County, FL

[Image Copyright (C) Steven A. Robicsec 2009. All Rights Reserved.]

Photo by Dr. Steven A Robicsek, MD, PhD. Taken June 29, 2010 at 5:44pm, from atop the Seagle Building on W. University Avenue, looking west at the Ben Hill Griffith Stadium.

This is not actually a "tornado", but something more like a large dust devil. If you remember your spotter training, a true funnel cloud "hangs pendant from a wall cloud." Gustnadoes are actually not part of or connected to the cloud base. From the New World Encyclopedia...

"A gustnado (gust front tornado) is a small, vertical swirl associated with a gust front or downburst. Because they are technically not associated with the cloud base, there is some debate as to whether or not gustnadoes are actually tornadoes. They are formed when fast moving cold, dry outflow air from a thunderstorm is blown through a mass of stationary, warm, moist air near the outflow boundary, resulting in a "rolling" effect (often exemplified through a roll cloud). If low level wind shear is strong enough, the rotation can be turned horizontally (or diagonally) and make contact with the ground. The result is a gustnado. They usually cause small areas of heavier rotational wind damage among areas of straight-line wind damage. It is also worth noting that since they are absent of any Coriolis influence from a mesocyclone, they seem to be alternately cyclonic and anticyclonic without preference."

This is truly an amazing shot. It's difficult enough to catch any KIND of a funnel here in Alachua County; but to catch one placed perfectly right next to the stadium like this is sure to destine this particular photo for some small amount of fame in the least. Congratulations to Steve on nailing this one! This is a great shot!

I've talked to Bill Quinlan, TV-20 Meteorologist, and he advises that in talking with the NWS they thought they were seeing a convergence of two outflow boundaries in the vicinity. Bill said that he was looking at the radar when this was actually happening and he said that this funnel occured at the very outside edge of the storm, where the outflow/gust front was.

We're not exactly sure just WHERE the funnel is actually touching down...behind the O'Connell Center?...over Lake Alice? It is obviously picking up a lot of dust. We know that the point of photography is at the Seagle Building. And the funnel is located between the southern edge of the west wall of the stadium and the south end zone score board (the building with the antennas on top of it). This narrows things down a bit. But now we need someone at ground level from that area who actually saw it so that they can point to us a differrent specific direction and this will allow us to accurately pinpoint exactly where the event actually occured. So if there's anyone who lives in any of the dorms in that vicinity who actually saw this, please do contact us so that we can try to narrow this down more.

This photograph demonstrates perfectly how there are things out there which can LOOK like a funnel cloud or a tornado, but which actually are not. This is an excellent "look-a-like", and I've been hunting for these kinds of photographs for a while.

(This may well be the first-ever photograph of a gust front funnel ever taken in Alachua County.)

For more examples of severe related photography and videography, see the Alachua County Area Storm Spotter's Field Guide.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

EMWIN Downlink Frequencies Under Attack By Broadband Interests


For those SKYWARN spotter and ARES/RACES groups across the US which make use of EMWIN to distribute weather bulletins to their spotters, hams, and to their local communities, some kinda scary news...


From the EMWIN-Users listgroup: "Of special interest to EMWIN users and vendors is FCC Public Notice DA-1035 (ET Docket No. 10-123) released on June 4, 2010 calling for public comment on the extent and manner of use of the 1675-1710 MHz frequency band by non-federal users."

The FCC is calling for comments on the feasibility of the idea to share (or I'm not sure...possible take) the current frequencies now used for EMWIN downlink with broadband (cellular) services, which could interfere with (or cease) EMWIN downlink for many users across the country and other parts of the world...including the downlinks thousands of Emergency Management Agencies now enjoy across the nation and even abroad. Problem is, they've only given us until the 28th to respond. ...Of THIS month. That's right. As of today (the 11th), you have 17 days to find every possible example of EMWIN use across this country and abroad - and to have each and every one of them respond and make us look legitimitely important. Do you know how to get thousands of Emergency Management and Civil Defense Agencies - who apparently don't even at this time know that this is even happening much less that they are supposed to defend themselves - to suddenly up and grab muskets and defend the use of their EMWIN systems with comments?

EMAs and CD agencies use EMWIN to get weather and emergency information SIMULTANEOUSLY with their NWS kin. The EMWIN data downloaded directly from the GOES satellites is received and redistributed IMMEDIATELY - on the order of a whole two MINUTES faster than the NWR weather radio system does. In severe weather and emergency situations, two minutes is a LOT and allows Emergency Managers and CD agents that much more time to decide what to do. That can save lives.

In the Pacific, and even recently in Haiti where our government just GIFTED an EMWIN ground station, EMWIN is the only source of hurricane and other emergency-related information. They have nothing else.

There are many places around the country that don't HAVE cable or DSL. In these places, EMWIN is much appreciated.

Sharing with broadband could introduce interference problems which could mean loss of transmitted data and the thought that the FCC might even consider this acceptable is kind of ludicrous. What are they thinking?

There's the thought that EMWIN could be distributed by other means, such as over the Internet. I disagree with this, however. The whole reason EMWIn was originally created was to give Emergency Management Agencies and Civil Defense agencies a means with which to receive the latest weather data as early as possible to give the fastest possible reaction time. Forcing redistribution through the internet is just non-feasible. It introduces likelihoods for serious delays. The more servers you have between the satellite and the end user the more liklihood for breakdowns, downtimes, susceptibility to things like hackings and DOS attacks, or delays from just plain traffic overload. Weather data distributed via the internet could introduce unacceptable delays from hours to days, which would make EMWIN data non-feasible any longer as an Emergency Management tool, a Civil Defense tool, or anything more than a notification method of "convenience" and "curiosity" than anything that could be used to help save lives by giving the fastest possible notification times. Internet distributuion would introduce some of the SLOWEST POSSIBLE notification times.

EMWIN has been around for many many years, and it is not the same itty-bitty thing that it started out as. It has improved greatly, adding more bulletins, more useful graphics, and we were right in the middle of a transition to even FASTER downlink speeds when the FCC came along with THIS stupidity.

EMWIN doesn't just offer weather bulletins. It offers civil emergency-related bulletins such as warnings for hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, road hazards, hazardous materials accidents, telephone outages, law enforcement emergencies, nuclear hazards, attack warnings, etc. It offers varioius graphics, too, such as satellite and radar and forecast plots.

The EMWIN system costs little to set up and maintain. The software is cheap and can do many awesome things - including starting other programs on issuance of a watch or warning, or setting off external equipment such as flashers or sirens using X10 capability.

Scary is that some towns across the US actually depend on te EMWIN downlink to set off their sirens during weather emergencies.

Here is an email from the EMWIN Staff, sent to the EMWIN-Users listgroup.

Here is a link to the actual FCC Notice. Use this document's guidelines to also respond with your comments.


- Sudden odd behavior on the part of NWS employees. Emails to NWS (especially EMWIN-related-) employees with questions having anything to do with the EMWIN issue go unanswered. This is highly unusual considering that the employees emailed NEVER ignore an email and are ALWAYS otherwise VERY helpful and anxious to respond. This would seem to indicate that there is some sort of a gag order is in place. Should we contemplate requesting FOIA copies of any internal memoes so ordering employees to keep quiet?


We need to write the FCC and get as many people and orgainzations and agencies to respond as possible. Harp on our numbers - how many of us are actually using the downlink; and on the SPEED with which EMWIN allows us to receive the bulletins - on par with our NWS counterparts, often on the order of minutes before they actually go out over the NWR or are received using internet-based commercial resources. Mention how EMWIN is used in your area. Be specific.

Don't let apathy in. Don't GUESS at how this battle will go and assume that there's gonna be a last-minute cavalry rescue by someone in government who "has to know" and who will take care of the problem for us. That may or may not happen. More I ask around, more it seems NOBODY KNOWS about this in government circles!

1) Make your comments! You can mail them in, or you can make them online using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: or the Federal eRulemaking Portal: Don't just click these links first, though. READ THE FCC PUBLIC NOTICE AND ADHERE TO THEIR GUIDELINES!

2) Write, email, and/or visit your local Senators and Representatives. Danny Lloyd's blog site (People To Write Concerning FCC Docket 10-123) lists how you can do this.

3) Contact the Press,too. If you use EMWIN user (are you an emergency manager? EMWIN sysop or manager? end user of EMWIN who receives bulletins FROM the system? does your University make use of it? your TV station?), let THEM know that we could be losing the EMWIN downlinks. Why not. Couldn't hurt. What's the worst that could happen? Go for it. The more local people who contact their local Press asking them to do a story, the more interested they'll note that people are, and the more likely they'll be to do a story. Contact TV stations, and newspapers big AND small. Tell them how you've been using EMWIN and what good it has done for you. Emphasize it's importance in your community. Hit the NATIONAL networks, too! ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Headline News, etc. Again, more we request air time, more likely they will. HIT em!

4) Join listgroups like EMWIN-Users, and WxMesg to keep yourself abreast of the latest.

If you're an ARRL member:

5) Email your Section Managers so that they know what is going on. They can spread the word down into their own sections. (Note: The linked-to page only works for active ARRL members, unfortunately.)

6) Contact the ARRL's Regulatory Information Branch (ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson/N1ND, and ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay/W3KD). The more who write them, they more they'll think this matters to the hams. The hope is to get thier legal and regulatory departments to look into this and maybe at LEAST suggest ways for us to handle this, or at BEST maybe they'll even jump personally on the bandwagon, themselves.

Some other links on the subject:

- Potential L-band Frequency Sharing - from NOAA-EMWIN Page
- What' - NOAA/GOES Satellite Communications At Risk Due To Proposed Frequency Spectrum Auction. This site gives excellent description of the problem, and how vastly the auction affects things. Use this to educate yourself.
- People To Write Concerning FCC Docket 10-123 - Please carbon copy any correspondance with the Department of Commerce, NOAA or NWS to your Senator and Representive. Because of the short time span, you will want to consider also calling your Senator and Representative.
- StormReady Guidelines - You will notice that EMWIN is the second item listed, with a recommendation to use a satellite dish. The EMWIN service is such a value that it is listed right after NOAA Weather Radio.
- Emergency Management Broadcasting Frequencies - courtesy Zephyrus Electronics, Inc. - This could possibly be used as a starting point to show widespread use of EMWIN across the United States. Could also be used as a contact list to notify these groups of the EMWIN issue and to cooperate and put in their own comments - even if they're no longer "retransmitting", but still use EMWIN for other things. I count some 62 sites in here!

We've been given LESS THAN THREE WEEKS to compose comments and submit them to the FCC. That's kinda ridiculous, but there it is. So let's move on this. Spread the word fast. Compose away people. Join lists such as EMWIN-Users, EMWIN Broadcasters, and WxMesg, too, for more information, and for ideas and suggestions on what to mention in your comments.

UPDATE - 10/11/10: Hard work slowly paying off. We've got word ARRL is a sleeping giant actually researching to make their own response, but they've got a couple of ham-related frequency fights going on that they want to handle, first. As well, NOAA finally issued a PNS bulletin this afternoon acknowledging the EMWIN problem and advised that they too will be submitting a response.