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1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:19 am UTC
by Quicksilver
Image
http://xkcd.com/1126/
Alt Text:"The average error in the NHC forecasted position of a hurricane three days in the future has shrunk to a third of what it was in 1990--a staggering accomplishment. However, as you may have gathered, forecasts of future storm *strength* have proved more difficult to improve."

Sooooo...some sort of cover up about natural disasters? That's all I've got for now.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:26 am UTC
by rhomboidal
I'm not going to panic until they start using triple exclamation points. And "8O" smilies.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:29 am UTC
by westrim
I remember at the time thinking how damn weird that season was. Sure, the big storms were really big, but those are inevitable. To have so many for so long (and so many of high strength), now that was impressive to me. Seeing a hurricane in the news on New Years Day was surreal.

Also, most of the comic script really is actual transcripts. You can find them linked to here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_st ... ane_season though you'll have to hunt for the actual quotes since they can get rather long.

My question though is, how the hell did Randall end up reading them? Did he do a storm based wiki crawl and come across them, happen to read one of the stranger ones more closely, and then check the rest? I mean, this is not light reading, it's probably a solid hour of reports per storm.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:36 am UTC
by JKilo
This is actually entirely true. The last forecast is even more interesting the comic said it was:

"I SUPPOSE IT IS ONLY FITTING THAT THE RECORD-BREAKING 2005 ATLANTIC
HURRICANE SEASON ENDS WITH A RECORD BREAKING STORM. TODAY... ZETA
SURPASSED 1954 ALICE #2 AS THE LONGEST-LIVED TROPICAL CYCLONE TO
FORM IN DECEMBER AND CROSS OVER INTO THE NEXT YEAR. ZETA WAS ALSO
THE LONGEST-LIVED JANUARY TROPICAL CYCLONE. IN ADDITION...ZETA
RESULTED IN THE 2005 SEASON HAVING THE LARGEST ACCUMULATED CYCLONE
ENERGY...OR ACE... SURPASSING THE 1950 SEASON. SO... UNTIL THE 2006
SEASON BEGINS... UNLESS ZETA SOMEHOW MAKES AN UNLIKELY MIRACLE
COMEBACK... THIS IS THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER SIGNING OFF FOR
2005... FINALLY."

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2005/EPSILON.shtml?
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2005/ZETA.shtml?


Look at the discussion pages.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:37 am UTC
by AvatarIII
what happened to that guy between the 8th and 30th of December? Why would he stop shaving and combing his hair when there are no storms? hibernation? living on the streets?
If he managed to keep himself tidy during Epsilon why was he not able to tidy himself up during Zeta?

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 9:09 am UTC
by david_h
Good grief, that font was hard to read. [hinting needed!]

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 9:23 am UTC
by burwellian
By the way, if anyone's curious, the archived advisories for Epsilon are [url="http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2005/EPSILON.shtml?"]here[/url] and Zeta are [url="http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2005/ZETA.shtml?"]here[/url].

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 9:46 am UTC
by Vir4030
westrim wrote:Also, most of the comic script really is actual transcripts. You can find them linked to here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_st ... ane_season though you'll have to hunt for the actual quotes since they can get rather long.

My question though is, how the hell did Randall end up reading them? Did he do a storm based wiki crawl and come across them, happen to read one of the stranger ones more closely, and then check the rest? I mean, this is not light reading, it's probably a solid hour of reports per storm.


He probably read them at the time and went back and re-read them to do this comic. I'm also an amateur hurricane watcher, and this isn't out of the ordinary.

I was surprised to see that they were all actual quotes, even though he said they were. I found it pretty easy to look them up since he provides the times for each release, but I also know my way around NHC reports. He certainly picked out the best sentences, but I have yet to find something in the comic that isn't in the report.

Code: Select all

ACCORDING
TO THE SHIPS MODEL WHICH DISSIPATES ZETA BY 48 HOURS...THE COOLER
THAN NORMAL 200 MB TEMPERATURE IS THE ONLY PARAMETER CONTRIBUTING
TO THE MAINTENANCE OF THE CYCLONE. ON THE OTHER HAND...THE GFDL
INSISTS ON MAKING ZETA A HURRICANE IN A COUPLE OF DAYS AND IT IS
HARD TO GO AGAINST IT. HOWEVER...WITH STRONG WESTERLIES ALOFT AND
DRY AIR HEADING FOR ZETA...I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO FORECAST
WEAKENING AGAIN AND AGAIN.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:06 am UTC
by Kizarvexis
I can think of a couple of reasons for the hurricane theme. Hurricane Sandy is headed up the Atlantic coast and may merge with artic air like the so called 'Perfect Storm' of 1991. (I still can't stand that name for some reason). TS Tony just dissipated. It is Oct 26th and the normal hurricane season runs to Nov 30th. We only have Valerie and William left for storm names and then we go back to greek letters again. I wonder what they will do if they retire a greek letter?

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:14 am UTC
by Thorbard9
westrim wrote:My question though is, how the hell did Randall end up reading them? Did he do a storm based wiki crawl and come across them, happen to read one of the stranger ones more closely, and then check the rest? I mean, this is not light reading, it's probably a solid hour of reports per storm.


Randall has looked at the NHC reports before. See the blag here; http://blog.xkcd.com/2011/08/29/for-the ... out-there/

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:21 am UTC
by Waladil
I seem to recall a very similar comic. Thought it was xkcd, certainly it was xkcd-styled. A series of seemingly-professional reports that rapidly go down the drain.

Seriously, I thought this was a re-run for a moment. If anyone else knows what other comic I'm referring to, please link it. I recall it being quite funny. I can't seem to find it myself, either through Google or xkcd's search function.

EDIT: Huh, ninja'd by someone commenting with an answer to my question. Good work, team!

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:36 am UTC
by J L
Small text is small. First time I stopped reading a strip, came back later, and stopped again.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:22 am UTC
by Freiberg
The interesting thing about Zeta is that there were a number of fronts near it that would have ripped the storm apart, but it kept moving away from them and staying alive. It felt as though the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season didn't want anything silly like the fact that it was now 2006 to stop it from getting in one last hurrah.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:20 pm UTC
by squig
this comic is tl;dr

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:25 pm UTC
by thesingingaccountant
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The world is going batshit crazy. Has been for some time now. The psychotic weather is just one aspect of the descent into madness. On the plus side, it's not even slightly boring.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:32 pm UTC
by Red Hal
NHC reckons that it'll hit Delaware in the early hours of Tuesday.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:06 pm UTC
by J Thomas
J L wrote:Small text is small. First time I stopped reading a strip, came back later, and stopped again.


Why not make it bigger?

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:28 pm UTC
by LtPowers
This is spooky. My wife and I were just talking last night about whether this season would make it to Greek letters again.


Powers &8^]

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:33 pm UTC
by Patteroast
Oh man, this brings back some memories. Despite the fact that I live about as far away from the ocean as possible, I'm a total hurricane geek, and I avidly tracked every storm in 2005. One aspect of the season that really kept the excitement up, even when tracking the little storms between the giant ones was the fact that almost every storm after Dennis set a new record for the earliest formation of the nth storm. And then there was the fact that 2005 was the first time more than two category five hurricanes formed in a single season. I'll never forget watching, amazed, as Hurricane Wilma strengthened from a tropical storm to the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, all in a matter of hours. And of course, horror at all the death and destruction... Not just Katrina, 2005 was also the first season to have more than four names retired.

Even after the season finally gave up and died, it had one last trick up its sleeve; while the meteorologists were writing up the final reports, they upgraded an additional unnamed storm, making the final total 28. If they'd noticed it during the season, it would have been Subtropical Storm Tammy, and Wilma would have been Alpha, and there would be the problem of what happens when you need to retire a Greek letter...

Also, it would have been a shame to lose the poetic touch of going from A to Z with Zeta, if the last storm had been called Eta. :P

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:37 pm UTC
by rmsgrey
J Thomas wrote:
J L wrote:Small text is small. First time I stopped reading a strip, came back later, and stopped again.


Why not make it bigger?


What if we had more power?

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:45 pm UTC
by mathmannix
Patteroast wrote:Oh man, this brings back some memories. Despite the fact that I live about as far away from the ocean as possible, I'm a total hurricane geek


I was going to ask something like "where do you live, the China-Kazakhstan border" or something like that, but then I checked, and I see you are on the 26th moon of Uranus. So, well played.

Patteroast wrote:Even after the season finally gave up and died, it had one last trick up its sleeve; while the meteorologists were writing up the final reports, they upgraded an additional unnamed storm, making the final total 28. If they'd noticed it during the season, it would have been Subtropical Storm Tammy, and Wilma would have been Alpha, and there would be the problem of what happens when you need to retire a Greek letter...


Also also, I don't know about anybody else, but back in 2005 I thought that their official lists of names stopped at "W" just because they didn't usually plan on needing names that started with X, Y, and Z, but was hoping after Wilma they would go ahead and give the new hurricanes names like Xerxes, Yma, Zefram, and then names starting with the letters "Yuzz" and "Wum".

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:13 pm UTC
by geniekid
Like others, I couldn't read the whole thing because the text was too small. You can't just increase the size of the picture either because the resolution makes the font bigger but blurrier.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:21 pm UTC
by strawbearlyjamm
Thorbard9 wrote:Randall has looked at the NHC reports before. See the blag here; http://blog.xkcd.com/2011/08/29/for-the ... out-there/


Am I missing something, or are the excerpts from the blag post not real quotations, just 'jokes'?

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2007/al ... .005.shtml?
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/dis/NAL1098.005

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:29 pm UTC
by Sprocket
Must find energy to maintain as much interest in the awesomeness of everything and revel in it and learn every day the way Randall Munroe does.
...
Maybe after someone prescribes me some anti-depressants and gives me a job that doesn't involve spending 8 hours of my day doing meaningless BS.

::HOPE::

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:38 pm UTC
by rjsteg
Re: Forecasted hurricane position is better

For Sandy, I think this might *not* be the case. A few days ago all the different models had Sandy's path going from east into the Atlantic to the *current* expected path of the Atlantic seaboard. I've never noticed this before, so it strikes me as a counter-example to the above trend.

Not to say the trend is not true, of course,
Randy

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:47 pm UTC
by dukeofwulf
As someone who experienced both Katrina and Rita in south Louisiana, I have to say... this is my favorite XKCD comic ever.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:19 pm UTC
by scalziand
On a similar note, from last year during Irene:

Image
Alt:After exhausting the OED, we started numbering them. When overlapping hurricanes formed at all points on the Earth's surface, and our scheme was foiled by Cantor diagonalization, we just decided to name them all "Steve". Your local forecast tomorrow is "Steve". Good luck.

http://xkcd.com/944/

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:36 pm UTC
by JudeMorrigan
scalziand wrote:Alt:After exhausting the OED, we started numbering them. When overlapping hurricanes formed at all points on the Earth's surface, and our scheme was foiled by Cantor diagonalization, we just decided to name them all "Steve". Your local forecast tomorrow is "Steve". Good luck.

Oh.

So THIS explains the Pressures thread.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm UTC
by pjungwir
It's amazing to learn that this are truly from the transcripts, but if there's a joke other than the season's weirdness I don't get it. Instead the comic seems more like a serious commentary on the Italian scientists' being punished for their earthquake predictions.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:16 pm UTC
by Shadowman615
thesingingaccountant wrote:I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The world is going batshit crazy. Has been for some time now. The psychotic weather is just one aspect of the descent into madness. On the plus side, it's not even slightly boring.


Have you ever read the instructions on a packet of toothpicks?

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:17 pm UTC
by standingwave
J L wrote:Small text is small. First time I stopped reading a strip, came back later, and stopped again.

This. Praise the FSM for Compiz desktop zoom (accessibility).

In related weather news, Andy Borowitz just tweeted: BREAKING: East Coast Braces for Boring Conversations about Weather @BorowitzReport

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:21 pm UTC
by J Thomas
geniekid wrote:Like others, I couldn't read the whole thing because the text was too small. You can't just increase the size of the picture either because the resolution makes the font bigger but blurrier.


Oh. I increased the size and it was just fine for me. I shouldn't assume that other people's systems are like mine.

I sympathize with your misfortune.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 5:19 pm UTC
by JudeMorrigan
Also and more recently:

THE HIGH DEGREE OF BLOCKING FROM EASTERN NORTH AMERICA ACROSS THE
ENTIRE ATLANTIC BASIN IS EXPECTED TO ALLOW THIS UNUSUAL MERGER TO
TAKE PLACE, AND ONCE THE COMBINED GYRE MATERIALIZES, IT SHOULD
SETTLE BACK TOWARD THE INTERIOR NORTHEAST THROUGH HALLOWEEN,
INVITING PERHAPS A GHOULISH NICKNAME FOR THE CYCLONE ALONG THE
LINES OF "FRANKENSTORM", AN ALLUSION TO MARY SHELLEY'S GOTHIC
CREATURE OF SYNTHESIZED ELEMENTS.

http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/discussion ... =2&fmt=reg

Thanks for that, guys.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 5:19 pm UTC
by ahecht
He left out part of the 4 PM EST MON DEC 05 2005 report:

Code: Select all

THE OFFICIAL
FORECAST DECREASED THE FORWARD SPEED BEYOND 72 HOURS TO COMPENSATE
FOR THE EASTWARD COMPONENT SUGGESTED BY THE GFDL. BY THEN EPSILON
SHOULD BE A REMNANT LOW...WE WOULD LIKE.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 5:32 pm UTC
by mormonfries
Dang, these discussions are much more interesting than the public advisories. They should broadcast these instead.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:52 pm UTC
by mcdigman
Great comic! I like the increasing personification of the atmosphere: "Although the atmosphere seems to want to develop tropical storms ad nauseum..." which totally fits the increasing beard length an apparent insanity of the forecasters.

I guess you have to attribute the inaccurate forecasts to out of sample error: how could their models have made accurate predictions for something they had never seen anything comparable to before?

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:05 pm UTC
by Whitekiboko
I always hope the name list runs out, if only in the hopes of there being a Hurricane Scrambles. Probably not the best policy living a few hundred feet from the water, but that's life.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:27 pm UTC
by rigwarl
I suppose this comic might be in response to this:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/201 ... n=20121022

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:38 pm UTC
by fiveofoh
As others have mentioned, Randall has parodied these reports before. And yes, strawbearlyjamm:
strawbearlyjamm wrote:Am I missing something, or are the excerpts from the blag post not real quotations, just 'jokes'?

The blogpost is parodies, not actual quotes. The comic, however, is composed entirely of real quotes (besides, of course, the last panel).

But an interesting thing I came across in the blogpost: down in the comments, simality actually quoted one of the Epsilon reports:
simality on October 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm said:
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2005/di ... .032.shtml?

ACTUAL advisory:

ZCZC MIATCDAT4 ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM
HURRICANE EPSILON DISCUSSION NUMBER 32
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
4 AM EST WED DEC 07 2005

THE END IS IN SIGHT…YES…BUT NOT QUITE YET. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING
TO FIND A WEAKENING SYSTEM AND INSTEAD I FOUND THAT EPSILON IS
STILL A HURRICANE. AS IT HAS DONE EVERY MORNING…THE CONVECTION
HAS REDEVELOPED AROUND THE LARGE AND DISTINCT EYE….KICKING THE DVORAK T-NUMBERS BACK UP AGAIN. ALL AGENCIES SUPPORT HURRICANE INTENSITY.

Could this be where Randall got the inspiration for this comic, started digging further and found gold? Or is it just coincidence?

An interesting extra tidbit I just noticed: that comment was posted exactly one year ago yesterday (even though the blog post was posted in August). So if Randall wanted to intentionally pay homage to the comment by posting it on its anniversary, today or Wednesday were the closest options on his MWF schedule. Still possibly coincidence, but this definitely makes it a stranger one.

Re: 1126: "Epsilon and Zeta"

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:52 pm UTC
by MonkeyBoy
thesingingaccountant wrote:The world is going batshit crazy. Has been for some time now.


Yup. About 4.5 billion years or so, I'd say.