Two posts in one day! How did you get so lucky?
I just came back from the Anchorage Meteorological Society meeting. The AMS is basically a club for weather enthusiasts and professionals. Our Anchorage Chapter has meetings about once a month, with a hiatus in the summer.
Anyway, this meeting was really cool. We have guest speakers at all our meetings except the special Christmas one, and today's speaker was Fred Hirschmann, who does aurora photography. He showed us a lot of really cool pictures and talked about space weather (he actually recommended the NASA link I have on the sidebar). For those of you who don't know, space weather is forecasting things like the solar wind stream, solar flares, etc. There are lots of different phenomenon that can affect us here on earth, and in ways besides producing auroral displays. For example, a solar flare can cause such an electric charge in the atmosphere that it can actually overload power grids. There was one the 70s? (not sure of the date) that actually took out most of the power on the east coast. Anyway, these things also produce auroral displays, so he talked about what levels of the different measurments (solar wind, types of flares, interplanetary magnetic field, etc) make an auroral display more likely.
We also had a photo contest. I did not win, but there were a lot of really great photographs. It was a really basic contest. Everyone just voted for the photo they liked the best, with no real criteria. It was a neat way to look at some cool photographs taken by people in the AMS.
The other really cool thing about the meeting is that I won a prize in the forecast contest! We have a contest every year that you pay to enter, and there are 5 or 6 parameters that you forecast for the winter. I actually won last year too, when I had the closest guess for winter low temperature. This year I had the closest guess for winter high. I guessed 45 F on Dec 12th...we actually hit 45 on Dec 8th and 9th. My prize was a NOAA weather radio, which automatically alerts you when there is a weather/tsunami/civil defense warning in your area. That is going to drive EAF nuts and I can't wait! :)
Anyway, winning a parameter of the forecast contest two years in a row is kind of cool. It's all kind of a guess, really, because "forecasting" specific numbers like that several months in advance is not very exact. But I looked at climatology, what the highs and lows last year were and when they occured, and compared this year's weather pattern so far with last year's to determine whether I thought the value would be similar, higher or lower. And that technique seems to be working, for now.
All in all, a good meeting!