Our trip to South Sawyer Glacier / Tracy Arm Fjord

We leave Mendenhall Glacier where we took in some amazing scenery on a rare mostly sunny day. Extensive Summer melting underway @ Mendenhall hints at more long term changes going on in Alaska and the Arctic. The most rapid and significant warming in the last 30 years has been in this region – leading to some surprisingly fast melting away of larger glaciers. South Sawyer Glacier for instance within Tracy Arm fjord has retreated by a mile in only five years time and 99% of Alaska’s glaciers shrinking.

By robmayeda

Mendenhall Glacier: Part 2 of 2 – Walking on Thinning Ice

We strap on our bolt boots and take a trip to the amazing Mendenhall Glacier. Our tour benefited from a mostly sunny, though somewhat breezy day. This provided some excellent visibility flying into our landing site and plenty of Summer sunshine to briefly accelerate some melting underway. Our snow boots were fitted with bolts along the edges insuring we wouldn’t slip or fall on the icy somewhat slushy surface. With large holes and cracks every few steps, maintaining control of your walking pace was critical and the touring company clearly had things well planned for us when we arrived. They had already zoned off a couple rather large depressions, and crevasses we wanted to part of getting too close to. However, we did enjoy a brief sampling of the most wonderful water I’ve ever tasted – pure decades old glacial melt water. My technique wasn’t the best at nearly had me tipping into the water, but the experience was certainly worth it. Many changes are underway at Mendenhall and more startlingly so at South Sawyer Glacier where we witnessed active calving underway. More on that topic to follow.

By robmayeda

Alaska Videopodcast: Mendenhall Glacier – Part 1 of 2

Nearly 12 miles long and nearly 300 feet thick, Mendenhall Glacier like 99% of Alaska’s other glaciers is receding. The Summer glacial melt was well underway on our tour of the site on Aug 16, 2010. The beautiful blue shades of ice, are due to the compressed, older glacial ice structure containing less pockets of oxygen which tends to produce whiter tones of ice – similar to snow. The surrounding rock face near where Mendenhall spills out to Mendenhall Lake reveals how much recession has occurred in the last 10-15 years. Annual snowfall in the Juneau Glacier Field averages close to 100 inches / year…as more glaciers are in retreat, the effects of a warming climate and increased heating due to the exposure of darker, non-reflective rock materials continues to encourage further reduction glacial coverage – in some cases, this process is occurring amazingly fast – as seen at nearby South Sawyer Glacier. A look at calving at South Sawyer Glacier to come.

By robmayeda

iPhone4 Blog Pt. 2 of 2: Buy, Sell or Hold?

Its been a week with my iPhone4 and what a week its been for the company that produced it.

As you no doubt know by now Apple confessed to some issues with placing the antenna band on the outside of the iPhone4 can lead to signal drop off.  They also promised free cases/bumpers for those who have bought or will buy the new iPhone4 to alleviate any concerns about the ability to use the iPhone4 when/where you want to.

Having been an iPhone user for the last 2 years (iPhone 3G version) I can tell you that the iPhone has no problem….dropping calls and losing WiFi connectivity from time to time.  Blame ATT.  Blame Apple.  Blame your zip code/city’s lack of approving new cell towers.  Long story short – what made the iPhone great to me is that despite all of these hangups and headaches, the OS is simply the best thing out there and for multimedia like Apple’s other desktop/laptop products – it’s mostly peerless.

Having experienced this for the last two years, to me the iPhone4 is a great upgrade.  Sure it still has some of the issues of the iPhone3G with respect to dropped calls (though in my experience so far its been about 50% less), but the ability to surf the web and work with some graphics intensive apps has been tremendously boosted.  The A4 style chip does seem to eat up battery life (a little more so than the previous generation despite the bigger battery size) at the benefit of having a much fast, sharper and clearer iPhone.

I’m still petrified about dropping the thing — I am counting down the days until a fully silicone case becomes available for the iPhone4, that aside the nearly resounding opinion on this product is pretty clear, especially through September 30th.  You’re getting a pretty amazing piece of technology that’s an above average cellphone with a free case.

Now in the category of excellent cellphones with solid multimedia/web surfing abilities – be sure to check out the HTC “Evo4” from Sprint and the excellent “HTC Incredible” and Motorola “DroidX” from Verizon.  The latter not only features one of the largest screens on the the market, but also doubles as its own wireless hub – linking to to the web across your other wireless devices.

By robmayeda

iPhone4 Review Day One

Thanks to a dusty Christmas Apple gift card I took the leap of faith to pick up an iPhone4.

Truth be told I ordered this thing before Antennagate came to light.  So with all the scathing reviews in the headlines my expectations were fully grounded as the device arrived at the house yesterday.

Ordering online was actually fairly easy and felt better than waiting in those increasingly crowded Airstream-styled retail stores.

Unboxing & Activation:

The build quality and packaging was mostly pristine, except for a slight dent on the black edging around the lower right glass.  Overall the device had done well on its multi-stop journey from China.

I connected the iPhone4 to iTunes and following a fairly straightforward set of instructions made Apple simple was able to activate my iPhone with 3-5 minutes.  That surprised me.  There is something to be said for that – activating your new cellphone in 180-300 seconds.  That is outstanding.

Bump(er) and Run

Before even attempting making calls and browsing the internet, I immediately slapped on the Apple-branded bumper to the aluminum siding.  The bumper fits well and apparently is the perfect foil for call/internet connectivity issues.  In fact the phone with bumper wrap looks pretty solid.  Is it worth $30 bucks?  Heck no.  But is it worth it to avoid dealing with one of the biggest gaffes in cellphone design/engineering?  Absolutely.  (Note to Apple PR: It will be even better if made free to those who purchase the iPhone4 or an iTunes/Apple store credit for $30 for those who already have the iPhone4 – cheaper than recalls and class action lawsuits IMHO).

Call Quality & Function

Let me say this – the new chip powering the iPhone4 is stunningly fast.  The screen is outstanding.  The OS is the among best in its class (I still feel Android offers more potential).  It nearly makes up for all the antenna/wireless call issues…  So far I’m thinking it does, but time will tell.

I can already clearly see the next Achilles heel on this device is the questionable choice of putting glass on *both* sides of the phone.  Its 2x the fear or breaking the phone if it drops to the ground.

I’ve already begun my search for a silicon-full body case for this thing since I’ve decided the iPhone4 might best be described as the Swarovski of cell phones.

But so far…like Steve says – it just works.  How long will it hold up worries me.  I guess time and Apple Care will tell.

By robmayeda

Oil Sick – “Spill Baby Spill” continues

From NBC Bay Area’s Rob Mayeda – Undersea video of the main rupture site shows a mix of oil and bursts of methane gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Estimates on the spill rate is near 200,000 gallons/day since Apr 21st. @ 1:10 into the video you will see the first attempt to contain the oil spill with a structure that eventually clogged with icy hydrates common to that part of the Gulf of Mexico at that depth (pressure) and temperature. A smaller dome like structure is being moved into position later today with hopes of being less impacted by icy hydrates. This will attempt the reduce the amount of oil/gas spilling out in the Gulf of Mexico…stay tuned.

By robmayeda

Is This The Day Apple Became Un-Cool?

April 29th, 2010 – Is this the day Apple became “un-cool”?

Between the Daily Show bashing, the image of a large corporation raiding the house of a blogger who said nothing but positive things about a forthcoming product, and now a personally directed letter against Adobe – the same company that stood by and supported Apple when Macs were branded “PowerPCs” and no one wanted to buy them.

I’ve used Apple since its computers were labeled IIe and toted a “portable” oversized lunchbox Macintosh around campus inside a Yoda-sized backpack @ the UofA.  I’ve gone from PowerBook G3, G4, PowerMac G5 to MacBook Pros and the iPhone.  I love these machines for what they can do, their UI – graphics and being pure multimedia monsters.  Their tech has become ubiquitous in the new age of electronic journalism.  As Apple says – their machines “just work” and they do it extremely well.

But Apple – “Who So Serious?”

Google seems willing to take on Adobe/Flash, open to all developers for Android and their online suite of apps and services.  Google moves away (for now) from Verizon and doesn’t throw them under the bus.  Now the Android Marketplace gets the shot in the arm it was looking for from developers from Adobe world looking to team with company willing to cater to their design and application interpretations.

Now Apple’s market cap has vaulted ahead of Microsoft’s, offers no dividend to shareholders and demands an asking price of $1 to $10 million to join their elite “iAd” network.

Has Apple become The Empire?  If so – who will be the new upstart company to “fight the machine”?

The beauty of living in Silicon Valley is – the answer is likely in a basement, attic or garage somewhere – just waiting for the right venture capital to help them start their run, raise their hammer high and toss it back at the screen.  – RM

By robmayeda

Mavericks’ Epic Weekend: Monster Waves — Scary surge on shore!

Swell 20-25 ft & incoming tide caused some nasty moments near the seawall/grandstand area early in the day. The resulting waves were among the largest seen @ Mavericks according to the organizers with some 40 ft. drops off the front faces… Thank goodness no one was seriously hurt both on land and ocean – it was scary rough out there – and probably the biggest on record for Mavs.

By robmayeda

Bay Area severe weather – brief tornado warning (!)

Our El Nino-infused stormy weather of the last few days reached its peak on Wednesday with more localized flooding and wind damage, and also yielded a brief tornado warning for Santa Cruz and southeastern Santa Clara county.

The National Weather Service in Monterey’s radar had shown signs of lower level rotation within a strengthening thunderstorm.  A trained weather spotter near Morgan Hill, one of the towns under the tornado warning area reported one inch diameter hail on the ground.

The warning lasted for nearly a half hour before being allowed to expire before 3pm.

So what is going on with California’s weather, this event one day after tornado warnings were issued for parts of Los Angeles County to the south?

A trip through the following slideshow shows why.  An incredibly robust jet stream is firing in across Central and Southern California with some spreading of the wind barbs noted at the 300mb level.  Wind speeds are strong and turn fairly dramatically with height down to the surface with decent available moisture and some sunny breaks to destabilize the atmosphere even more for a brief time midday on Wednesday around the Bay Area.

Our severe storms tend to be the larger hail producers (Bay Area standards that’s anything above pea-sized hail).  Once thunderstorms enter environments with strong winds moving at different directions in the atmosphere (for instance westerly high up, southwesterly mid-level and southerly/southeasterly at ground level) we can see these storms beginning to rotate and on the rare occassion drop a waterspout or tornado.

Given the current upper level wind setup, it would appear that Thursday will offer at least another chance for possibly severe thunderstorms especially for Central and Southern California.  Those opportunities for severe weather may continue into Friday for Southern California before a weak ridge of high pressure nudges in for Saturday.

As our energetic Pacific jet goes from being nearly zonal into California and heads further north again, our opportunities for severe, tornado/waterspout inducing weather should also move out of the region.  But for now, let’s check out one of the few patterns that can bring tornadic weather to the Bay Area and the rest of California.

The NWS issued tornado warning for near Morgan Hill/Santa Clara county and parts of Santa Cruz county.

Jet stream level chart just before midday: Note incredible wind speeds just offshore and turning of the jet winds near the Bay Area/Central Coast.

Good “spin” to the atmosphere as well, dynamic lift.

Lower level moisture field along and behind the cold front also favorable for strong thunderstorms.

More turning of the wind down to the 850 mb level. A narrow notch between San Jose down to San Luis Obispo appears to be in a region of directional shear between 850/300mb.

“Mammatus” clouds passing by my house in San Ramon, on the northern flank of this line of thundershowers. The southern cell down towards Morgan Hill was more isolated and showed rotation and yielded 1″ hail.

By robmayeda