Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quotation from Climate Change Studies

"We don't believe what we hear and see. We hear and see what we believe." - Tom Beers

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

End of the Primal Challenge - Results

So it has been just over thirty days since I began my Primal Blueprint Fitness Challenge, and let me say it wasn't easy. I definitely cheated on multiple occasions, unable to resist ice cream, beer, cookies what have you. But today I had a conclusive body composition test done, and the results are in.

Body Weight at the beginning of the challenge: 132.8 LBS
                                at the end of the challenge: 134.4 LBS

Body Fat % at the beginning of the challenge: 13.49%
                             at the end of the challenge:  9.2%

According to the results of these two tests alone, I increased my body weight by 1.6 lbs and decreased by body fat by 4.3%.

Reflection to come later this evening....after a big ice cream cone :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cross-Training Swim Workout

I've decided to post the workout that we did in my intermediate swimming class today. It's a cross-training oriented workout that I found to be very invigorating. I think that emphasizing cross-training is extremely important for all-around health and fitness. 

-200 Swim (Choice of Freestyle, Breast, Back, Fly)
Warmup -200 Kick
-200 Pull

Cross-Train    -15 Push ups    
      (x3)   -50 Crunches

First Set   -6x100  with 20 seconds rest between sets
Descending 1-3, 4-6

Cross-Train   -1 Lap of Lunges around Pool
     (x2) -1 Minute Plank Position

Second Set -8x50 with 30 seconds rest between sets
1st 25 under water, 2nd 25 easy freestyle

Cross Train - 20 Squat Jumps
    (x3) 20 Leg lifts (lying on back)

Although this is not an all-inclusive workout it does a pretty good job of using all of your main muscle groups.

Let me know what you think.

- I've enabled comments from non-members, a login is no longer required to post - 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Ethics of Technology

I think that Daniel Pinchbeck said it best when he said that at times our lives seem controlled by 'little glowing screens'. Everywhere I look on campus I see people checking their phones, texting (often times while walking...into things) checking e-mail, twitter, facebook, google+ and whatever else the newest social networking fad may be. We had an interesting lecture in my Ethics course today. A lecture that I think is very relevant to society and my generation in particular. The topic was technology, and was spurred when the recent death of Steve Jobs (of Apple) arose in conversation. Thanks to our new found technology, we are constantly bombarded with new information, communication, and entertainment. Many of my generation feel as if they must  have their 'smartphones' with them at all times, equating going without a phone nearly to going without clothing. It has be come almost unimaginable to go a day without checking your Facebook or Twitter...I mean, you might miss something! Right?
The questions that come up when addressing this new technology are many: Are we any better for it? Are people using this technology to learn, to further themselves as intellectual beings, or simply for distraction? Will be continue to empty our pocketbooks for that new piece of mobile technology in fear of becoming obsolete?
We have all heard the praises of the mobile communications revolution, and most of us (myself included) appreciate the ability to communicate more easily with people on a day to day basis. Ideas can now be spread faster than ever before, and that is truly amazing to consider. This technology we possess is very powerful, and as such we must respect it and not abuse it. This is where I feel ethics come into play.
I have noticed on a personal level that I spend more and more time checking things on my phone, my laptop, texting, e-mailing etc. - If I am spending time doing that, I am taking time away from other things I could be doing. Most importantly (and tragically) I am taking my awareness out of my present surroundings and focusing on a 'little flashing screen'. I no longer own a television, and as such I have taken up reading to a much greater extent than I have before. But I also can't deny that I spend more time on the computer (and the internet) than I feel is truly healthy.
When we become accustomed to having new information in front of us at every moment, it's hard to break away and simply exist. To read. Write. Meditate.
We cannot put this blame on Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak or any of the other innovators of technology. They create the technology, it is the end user that must responsibly use it.

In writing this post I simply want to make others think about this topic. How much time do you spend on your cell phone, laptop, or watching television? It might surprise you.

In my quest to simplify life I am going to strive to spend less of my time engaged with these little screens, and spend more time with the people I love, and the simplicity of just living life.

Thoughts, questions, rants? Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Half-way through the Primal Challenge

Today is the 28th of September, making it the 16th day of my 30 day Primal Challenge. Just over two weeks in and I've already had my fair share of highs and lows. My energy levels have been slightly lower in the past week, and yet I've had problems sleeping at night as well. I think that these problems are related to a perpetual state of under-recovery (I don't like the term overtraining) due to my work-out schedule. Mondays and Wednesdays I have a swimming class from 1-2 PM. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a mountain biking class from 2-4PM. On the weekends I usually do a short, but intense body-weight workout as prescribed by the Primal Blueprint. I have been doing research on  recovery periods after intense work-out sessions, and I believe that your body requires 2-7 days rest for the given body section that you're utilizing. Swimming rips my upper body pretty well twice a week, but overall is an all-body cardiovascular workout. Mountain biking on the other hand really does my legs in twice a week, with only one day of recovery (and only semi-recovery because I have swimming on Wednesdays) in between. The class generally consists of about an hour and a half of climbing, with the remainder of the period downhilling and riding back to campus. All of this is simply part of my school schedule, and does not include cycling for transpiration around town or for recreation on the weekends. 

A high resting heart rate, trouble sleeping and appetite loss are all signs of under-recovery. There is no way to measure if this will impede my fat loss during this 30 day challenge, so I can only 'tough-it-out' until this challenge is over. My mountain biking class is done mid-october, which will give my perpetually sore legs a much needed chance to heal.

Attempting to 'forage' the Food Zoo (our school cafeteria) for Primal foods has proven to be a challenge. As such, I have made a few exceptions - pizza on occasion, veggie wrap etc. I think that being as active as I am, a few extra carbs probably won't hurt, and may actually help with my energy levels. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Food For Thought

Philosophy is a ticket to nowhere, but a door to everything.

-Albert Borgmann

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Primal Challenge

So every year Mark Sisson over at MarksDailyApple has a 30-day "Primal Challege" to encourage people to devote themselves to becoming healthier, or re-applying the Primal Blueprint to their lives. Although I had been attempting to eat fairly primally over the past few weeks, I decided to really buckle down and give the challenge a shot.

To give you a bit of background on my own personal health I'll go back to this past spring. The spring of 2011 was probably one of the most unhealthy times of my life. I practically gave up exercise, ate a LOT of pizza and fast food (meals were not provided over the weekend at the fraternity in which I was living) and drank my fair share of Budweiser and Whiskey sours. I hit a personal high as far as my weight, topping off at around 150 lbs (I'm 5'5 on a good day). My sleep at night was poor, my classes were stressful and on top of that I was preparing to transfer schools in the Fall to my new home here in Montana. So there I was, 20 years old at 5'5 150 lbs with around 18-19% body fat. Not too overweight by many peoples' standards, but far from where I wanted to be and far from the lean cycling physique I had just two summers before.

For those of you that don't know, the basis of the Primal Eating plan is to cut out all refined/processed sugars, carbohydrates and highly processed meats. Basically eat whole foods. You strive to reduce your carbohydrate intake to 150 grams per day or less, and derive those carbohydrates from plant or vegetable matter. The Primal Blueprint takes the evolutionary stance that humans have not yet evolved to deal with grains in their diet since we have only been eating them for about 10,000 years since the advent of agriculture. Replacing your traditional high carb load with healthy animals fats (Yes, saturated fat is your friend!) allows you to reduce systemic inflammation and effortlessly lose fat and maintain a healthy weight. If you want to read more about The Primal Blueprint head on over to MarksDailyApple or pick up a copy of The Primal Blueprint at your bookstore or on Amazon (I bought my used copy for under 15 bucks).

Getting back to my own personal challenge - I am now on day 4 of 30 on my Primal Challege to cut out all grains, processed foods and eat lots of plant and animal matter. I dabbled with this eating style over the summer and dropped to 132.8 lbs and 13.5% Body fat (I had it checked on day two of my challenge). I find that hunger is not nearly as much of an issue as it used to be when I eat a lot of carbs. Because carby foods cause a huge spike in blood sugar and then the resulting crash, when you eat a lot of carbohydrates you often are hungry every 3-4 hours. It takes a few days to adjust to eating fewer carbs, as your body learns to use stored body fat as its main source of fuel instead of carbs, and in those first few days I was SUPER hungry, but I kept with it and just doubled my intake of vegetables and meat, especially fatty meat.  I plan on having my weight and body fat checked at the end of my challenge, and am excited to see the results.

I am personally adding an additional challenge for myself as part of my quest to become more aligned with my Primal way of living. I am going to attempt to not use my Truck for personal transportation until the challenge is over. Missoula is a very bicycle and pedestrian friendly city and the money that I save and the extra exercise that I get will surely be good for both my wallet and my body.

Until next time, get outdoors!

Bonne Journée

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From the Peak of Sentinel

Day Hike to the Peak of Sentinel from Grant Schooley on Vimeo.

I took this video last Friday from the peak of Mount Sentinel, overlooking the Missoula valley. It was (and still is to some extent) extremely smokey from the wildfire in Bonner/West-Riverside.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wyatt's Ice Cream Challenge

An excerpt from when I moved to Montana.
Definitely a highlight of the trip up.

American War Machine

This video is worth watching if you have a few minutes.

Food for thought

Over the past couple of weeks I have come across some really great quotes that I have jotted down in my journal. I think this is a good place to share them.

"Value doing and being more than buying"
  -Leo Babauta - You can find more from Leo at his Zen and Minimalist blogs.

"Throw away your Ipods and start reading"
  -Albert Borgmann - My current Philosophy teacher at the University of Montana. There's a wiki page                     
about him here

Monday, August 29, 2011

A month of travels

So it has been over a month since my last blog update. I have spent the last weeks traveling all around the Northwestern section of North America. I began by driving from Columbia, Missouri to Missoula, Montana (my new home) stopping with several friends along the way. Once there I joined up with a group from school and did a two-week tour around southern Alberta, British Columbia, and Washington. Finishing up the travels with a trip to Glacier National Park with my mother. The last month has been quite an adventure, as will be this upcoming school year. Today was my first day of classes here at the University of Montana, so far so good. I'll make sure and post pictures as soon as I have time.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

I figured I would post another picture for all to enjoy. This is another one from Glacier National Park, taken while on a 14 mile hike on the Highline Trail. The 'going to the sun road' is the road on the bottom right.
As always - Taken with a Canon Powershot
July '10

(Click the image to see it in original size)

The Smokies

So Allison and I departed Columbia last night to head down to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We're planning on staying in a cabin near  Smoky Mountain national park with my parents. Now, I've been fortunate enough to see many different mountain ranges in my short 21 years, but I have never laid eyes on the Smokies. At the current moment Allie and I are at a coffee shop in the small town of Alcoa, just outside of Knoxville. I was amazed at how flat Southern Illinois was, nearly like driving through Western Kansas! There was a recent bear mauling here in the park that has both mothers quite worked up, but I think with a bit of precaution and knowledge of the area we should be alright. I brought along my new HD video camera that Allison got me for my 21st birthday, so I'll be uploading some videos if I get the chance.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Last Week in CoMo!

Coming up on my last week living in Columbia, and I have no idea where the time has gone. It seems like I've been so busy this summer, constantly packing and moving things around. I have most of the furniture out of my apartment, but I have a few pieces to move over to Allison's new place before I head out. I gave my bed to one of Allison's roommates, who was in need of a place to sleep. So I have been sleeping on the floor where my bed used to be. I placed a pillow-top and memory foam pad down and have been sleeping like a baby. Maybe there's something to this sleeping on the floor thing that I read about on Everyday Minimalist....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

You're getting paid for what?!

So tomorrow I go in to the psych department at Mizzou for a study on the effects of caffeine and alcohol... feels like I'm back in school already! Apparently I will be given a drink containing alcohol, caffeine, both or neither and they are going to hook me up to a computer and study my brainwaves as I perform tasks on a computer. I can only hope they serve me some fresh brewed Flat Branch Brown Ale or Moose Drool, but I'd say those chances are slim. Twelve bucks an hour for drinking a bit doesn't sound too shabby to me, I'll update tomorrow on how it goes. Cheers.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail? 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My Minimal Desktop

Going along with my developing minimalist lifestyle, I've recently reorganized my desktop on my MacBook Pro. I was inspired by the Minimalist Mac Setup on

To begin, I first had to go about reducing clutter on my desktop, I deleted all icons that I did not use - old folders, school papers etc. that were haphazardly saved on the desktop. Having many icons on your desktop can severely increase computer start-up time, especially on windows machines ( from my own previous experiences).

I then chose a simple blue wallpaper that was visually pleasing, which for some reason seems to make the screen actually look larger. I chose one with a phrase on it that I am always trying to be mindful of:

With no icons on my desktop for quick access, and very few active icons on my dock I decided to download Quicksilver - a launching program that allows you to open programs, documents, files...pretty much anything - without the use of a mouse -. You simply assign quicksilver a two-keystroke code that opens the program and then begin typing what you're looking for. My keystroke code is (space)+(up arrow), so if I want to open Opera, my web browser, I simply hit (space)+(up arrow) and begin typing. By the time I've entered the letters O and P the opera logo pops up and I hit return (enter key) to open it.
I have to say that it takes a little getting used to, but I've come to love it already. It works in a similar fashion to Spotlight (Mac OSX) if you're familiar with that. There are other various launcher programs on the net, this just happens to be the one I'm using, a simple google search will turn up several.

Opening Opera with Quicksilver:

I also chose to hide or simplify most of the program icons on the menu bar (upper right), which can usually be done in the individual programs' preferences menus. As well as auto-hiding the dock.

I have found that this simplification of my desktop has not only helped speed up my computer, but helped me effectively become more efficient at finding and utilizing the programs that I need.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Picture of the Month

Highline Trail - Glacier National Park, MT
Picture taken on a Canon Powershot - July 2010

The beginnings of summer

June has come and nearly gone seemingly in the blink of an eye. I celebrated my 21st birthday on the fifth, which was a trip to say the least. I spent a week and a half on the beach near Gulf Shores, Alabama with loved ones. Relaxing, meditating and simply enjoying the essence of coastal life. Over the past few years I've noticed that when I get to Alabama (specifically Southern Comfort - the name my mother gave to our beach home) - things simply slow down. I stop worrying so much about things, I go shirtless, I sit on the porch for hours on end, I take long walks with no particular place to go. It is this sort of relaxed mindset that I try (without avail) to bring home with me. I think being away from your physical belongings often has a relaxant effect, you have fewer objects to interact with, and so your mind is at ease. Since I am in the process of packing to move I thought this would be the best time to downsize my personal belongings, and have been doing so for the past couple of months. I get an extremely freeing feeling as I look around my apartment with less clutter, less furniture and more space day after day. Slowly ridding myself of attachment. June has come and is nearly gone, just as "things" are leaving my life every day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Picture of the Month - June

Natural Bridges NP - Utah, May 2010

Photo Taken on a Canon PowerShot

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Twelve By Twelve - A One Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream

Twelve by Twelve was written by environmental and humanitarian activist William Powers. After spending the better part of a decade in the global south working on humanitarian efforts and protecting the rainforests, William has a hard time reintegrating into American society. Fate strikes when his mother tells him about a co-worker: Jackie, that lives in a 12' by 12' cabin in the backwoods of North Carolina. Without running water or electricity, Jackie has made her carbon footprint the size of a Bangladeshi's. This book tells the story of the 6 weeks that William spends living in the 12x12 alone, and the life-changing experiences he encounters there.

This book deeply examines and questions the nature of living within a consumerist society - What do we really need? What can we do without, and how can living with less help us as a whole?
 If you can get a copy of this book, I definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Picture of the Month - May

Bryce Canyon, Utah - May 2010

This picture was taken on a Canon PowerShot

Minimal Living

    I came across the concept of minimalistic lifestyle a while back while searching for more information on alternative nutrition. After stumbling upon The Primal Blueprint and Mark's Daily Apple I became interested in modern day 'primal' living (hence the title for this blog - Primal Insomniac). I've always been interested in alternative lifestyles, this interest being enhanced by my passion for and study of the natural world, environmentalism, and alternative medicine. My studies specialize in sustainability, of which a common theme exists: living with less. In a society where wanting more and more material possessions is the norm, it was refreshing to hear there were people willing to grow against the grain.
Now I'm no where close to being what you could call a minimalist, but I have been applying minimalist strategies to my own life (strategy post coming soon!), working towards having less.
   "Why would you want less?" you might ask. There are many answers to this questions, and I have several that apply directly to me:
      Fewer possessions means:
  • less attachment to material goods
  • more free time to enjoy life - less time maintaining possessions/cleaning/organizing
  • more money for the future 
  • smaller ecological footprint

There's no doubt that this journey I am embarking on will not be easy, and although I'm downsizing my list of "things", there are many that will be hard to give up.

Some of my favorite minimalist blogs are

mnmlist - A minimal blog, about minimalism and its purpose/meaning
Becoming Minimalist
Everyday Minimalist

For the difference between simplicity and minimalism check out - ZenHabits


Monday, April 11, 2011


Well I've finally gotten around to uploading some of the pictures from my visit to Missoula, MT over spring break. It was a breath of fresh air from my Winter in the midwest. I'm truly excited to move there in the Fall.

The Grizzly - The Mascot of UMT

This is a view from part way up Mount Sentinel, which is right behind campus. Looking across Missoula to the mountains beyond. 
 They Call this Big Sky Country for a reason....
Looking out over the Clark Fork river, which flows right through town.
Fly fishing abounds in this area.

The Flathead Indians

So I'm taking Native American Culture (SCA 230) this spring, and I was given the assignment of writing a paper about a specific Native American tribe, and an issue involving them. I chose to write my paper about the Flathead Indians, and their relationship with the surrounding communities. I wrote this paper from about 10 PM - 4 AM the night before the paper was due. I was AMAZED when I received a 40/40 grade.

                                             The Flathead
    Relations between contemporary U.S. citizens and Native Americans have always been weak at best. From the time Europeans stepped onto North American soil, they have been trying their best to push the natives to different locations, away from their sacred customs and religions and into a more Eurocentric American culture. I feel that within the last 50 years, much progress has been made to help Native Americans get back to their cultural heritage, and many people’s beliefs and opinions about them have been changed dramatically. For the purpose of this paper, I will be specifically studying the Flathead Indian nation and their relationship with their surrounding community.
    To begin, I think we must look a brief history of the Flathead tribe, and their first exposure to Europeans.Although the first recorded contact with the Flathead tribe occurred in 1806 when Lewis and Clark came upon the tribe on their journey up the Missouri River (1), it is possible that they had contact with French trappers before this. At this time, the Flathead became known as the Bitter Root Salish, because of their geographic location within the Bitter Root valley of what is now western Montana. “Salish”, their name for themselves, means ‘people’ in the native Flathead language (2). In 1841 the St. Mary’s Mission was constructed and established within the Bitter Root Valley. This Catholic mission encouraged Flatheads to abandon their native religion and convert to Catholicism, and by 1853, the United States government ended it’s official relationship with the sovereign nations of the Flathead, refusing to recognize them as self-governing. Because of this early influence by the Catholic church, Catholicism is the main religion of the Flathead people today.  Relations between Europeans then settling in the Bitter Root valley and the Flatheads continued to decline for the next 40 years, with the Flathead slowly being pushed onto less and less of their native lands until 1890, when they were ordered to move to the Jocko Reservation (2). Despite this, the Flathead affirmed their trust with the American government when they refused to assist the Nez Pierce when they looked to the Bitter root valley for refuge. Chief Charlo of the Flathead was said to have questioned Chief Looking Glass of the Nez Perce “Why should I shake hands with men whose hands are bloody? My hands are clean of blood.”  “If you kill any of my people or the white people, or disturb any of the property belonging to my people or the white people in my country, I will fight you.” (5) One would think that this display of willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government would help the Flathead in the long run, sadly this was not the case. While not as large a distance to move as say, the Trail of Tears, the move to the Jocko reservation still had a significant impact upon the Flatheads’ already diminishing opinions of their new white neighbors. Jocko Reservation is located just north of current day Missoula, Montana. (3) Although containing only a small part of their native lands, the reservation was considered to be quite large for the number of Flathead to which it was given (an estimated 10,000 at the time), covering about 1.2 Million acres of both alpine forested and open plains land. The Flathead were given their name ironically because while many of the surrounding tribes made their young children wear conical headdresses made of cedar wood that caused their heads to become slightly flat and pointed, the Salish themselves did not (2).
    Today out of the 7,005 registered members of the Flathead tribe, an estimated 4,500 live on or near the Jocko reservation (4). The governmental head of the tribe is located in Pablo, Montana and is listed as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, as they were forced to live on the reservation with several other surrounding groups and now consider themselves as one united population (6). Unfortunately, as is the case with many  Native populations within the United States today, many of the Flathead economically fall beneath the poverty line. It is estimated that over one third of the population of Pablo, Montana are impoverished. “Over 20% of Native American reservation households have annual incomes below $5000, compared with 6% for the overall U.S. population.” (7) Considering that the average American citizen spends around $6,133 annually on food alone, this is a truly staggering statistic (8).
    Despite this fairly extreme economic disadvantage, the Flathead do have several lucrative operations currently underway. As a tribe, they run Flathead Timber company, a successful logging operation. Due to the large amount of forested land located on the Jocko reservation, logging is a wise use of the Flatheads natural resources as a means of profit. Another way that the Flathead are making money is through the use of ‘Indian Casinos’.  The tribe currently owns more than sixteen casinos, and two resort-style casinos within the Jocko Reservation and in the immediate surrounding areas. As a recent visitor of Missoula, Montana I can personally attest to the amount of publicity and number of casinos within the Missoula area.  With the invention of video-slots, the Flathead have been able to implement gambling much more easily into communities that may have been against it originally. The tribe also collects income as a whole from NorthWest energy. NorthWest energy operates the Kerr Dam facility that produces hydro-electric energy for the surrounding communities within Montana (4). Much of this tribal activity is monitored and controlled by S&K Holding, a Flathead corporation that also offers business loans to tribal members to encourage economic growth and Native entrepreneurship (4).
The gambling industry of the Flathead appears to have the biggest overall impact on relations within the surrounding communities, although I could find no specific study to support this idea.
    With the Flathead community in such close proximity to the city of Missoula, the home of the University of Montana, the state’s largest University, Native American studies has become a specialty of the school. The enrollment of Native Americans to the University has more than doubled within the last twenty years, suggesting more state aid being offered to put the Flathead and other tribes through the higher education system (9). The University, through a large private donation, recently constructed The Payne Family Native American Center, focusing on Anthropological study of Native Americans and the betterment and conservation of Native cultures (10). This drive to educate people about Native Cultures, specifically those found within close proximity to the University (I.E. Flathead) show a large improvement in the attitudes of contemporary Euro-Americans towards the Flathead Nation. It has been the willingness of the people of Montana to allow the Flathead to create their casinos, to become more educated and to finally assimilate into society while retaining their strong cultural traditions that proves that relations between these two diverse groups have improved dramatically, especially within recent years. While there is still much progress to be made in regards to becoming a fully egalitarian society, things are looking up for the Flathead Nation.

Works Cited

(1) "Flathead Indians." Family Search. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(2) Ryan. "The Flathead Indians." Cesa10. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(3) "google maps." google maps. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(4) "Flathead." Visit Montana. Available from     Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(5) Ojibwa. "Removal of the Flathead Indians." Street Prophets. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(6) "Montana Casinos." 500 Nations. Available from Internet; accessed 31     March 2011.

(7) Anderson, Terry L.. "How the Government Keeps Indians In Poverty." Perc. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(8) "How the Average American Spends their Paycheck." Visual Economics. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(9)"UM Native American Center." The University of Montana. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(10)"Native American Studies." University of Montana. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

Essay -Tornadoes

Just finished a very very basic essay on Tornadoes for my Weather and Climate class. Figured I would post it for anyone who is interested in a primer on tornadoes...

        Tornado Alley - Cyclones in the United States

    Growing up in the mid-west United States, one generally feels pretty protected from most of the natural disasters that you hear about on the news; landslides in California, Avalanches in Colorado, Hurricanes along the coasts. But there are two natural disasters, or occurrences as they are not always disasters, that happen almost every year: tornadoes and flooding. And while floods are fairly predictable, as they happen along river ways and streams generally in the Spring months, tornadoes are a bit more unpredictable. Still, to this day tornado prediction is quite difficult even for highly trained storm chasers and meteorologists (4). Even when the conditions are perfect, a tornado may not occur...  other times, a tornado may form in minutes, seemingly out of nowhere. It is this fascinating event, known by many names: tornado, twister, vortex, cyclone that is the basis of my research.
    A tornado can be described as a rotating column of rising air that is in contact with both the ground and a cloud. This  can either be a cumulonimbus or on occasion a cumulus cloud (cumulonimbus clouds form from cumulus clouds are are the typical cloud invisioned when one thinks of a thunderstorm)(3). Tornadoes usually run across the ground for several miles and can span from several yards to 2-3 miles wide (3). The winds produced by a tornado have been known to reach 300 miles per hour (1), but typically blow at around 100 miles per hour or less (3). Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and are traditionally imagined as a funnel shape, with the smallest end of the funnel at the ground. They can also form to look like long skinny ropes attaching the ground to the sky, or have multiple vortices - smaller tornadoes rotating around a central location (3). They can also vary in color, generally depending upon what debris the tornado picks up, or may be nearly invisible at other times (3).
    The formation of a tornado generally occurs during a thunderstorm. “Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts”(1). Tornadoes are produced when the two air masses with different characteristics run into one another (5). Within tornado alley (most of the mid-west United States), this usually means dry continental air from the west meeting warm moist air in the central plains (5). Along where these air masses meet, a ‘dryline’ is formed. Many tornadoes and severe storms develop along a ‘dryline’ (5). Clouds are formed when air rises, causing water to condense in the air. This physical state change releases heat, fueling the thunderstorm, particularly the ‘updraft’ (6). Supercell thunderstorms have particularly strong updrafts, which can create a vortex known as a mesocyclone, the prelude to a tornado. These are generally 2-6 miles wide and once one forms, there is approximately a 1 in 2 chance that the storm could become a tornado within half an hour (6). Mesocyclones can exist as early as 20 minutes to one hour before the creation of a tornado (7). The cyclone (tornado) itself is formed when the lower, warmer air mass punches a hole in the cooler air mass above it. It does this because the warmer air is less dense and naturally rises. The warm air then rises dramatically, as it pushes through the cooler layer above it, and, much like in the bathtub when you pull the drain, a vortex forms. As the air moves upward, a low pressure system is created, pulling air towards the tornado in all directions. Tornadoes in the northern hemisphere usually spin counter-clockwise due to the coriolis effect, which is caused by the rotation of the earth. On rare occasions tornadoes in the Northern hemisphere spin clockwise due to specific wind shear characteristics in certain storm conditions, but this is considered quite rare (7)(9).
    This main type of tornado is created from a supercell thunderstorm (a long lived storm feeding off an updraft that is tilted and rotating), and is the most common type of tornado (7). There are several less common types of tornadoes that occur without the presence of a supercell storm: gustnadoes, landspouts and waterspouts (7). Gustnadoes are what many people would call a ‘dust devil’ - small whirls of dust or debris near the ground without the presence of a condensation funnel. These usually originate with the gust of wind in front of a storm (7). Landspouts are skinny, long, rope-like tornadoes that form when a thunderstorm is still growing and there is not yet a rotating updraft. Instead, the spinning motion begins at the ground instead of in the sky. Waterspouts are much like landspouts, but they occur over water (8).
    In the United States, on average nearly 800 tornadoes are reported, resulting in around 80 deaths per year (1). In 2008 1,691 tornadoes killed at least 120 people, resulting in one of the most active tornado years on record (2). As population in the midwest expands, and people continue clearing forested areas for farmland and development, the human-tornado incidence rate is bound to increase. Only through the advancement of tornado detection technology and advanced warning systems,  are we able to alert people faster than ever of coming storms. Even with millions of dollars being spent each year on tornado and weather research, predicting tornadoes accurately is still extremely difficult, and even basic questions about how tornadoes form are still being asked to this day. It is on this basic level of cyclonic knowledge that we will base our research on for years to come.

Works Cited

(1)"Tornadoes...Nature's most violent storm." NOAA. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(2)Gray, Will. "Stormchasers: Studying twisters up close." New Scientist 205 no. 2749     (2010): 40-43.

(3)"Storm Encyclopedia : Tornadoes." The Weather Channel. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(4)Frankel, Leora. "Funnel Vision." Discover 30 no. 5 (2009): 34-39.

(5)Oblack, Rachelle. "The Fujita Scale." About. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(6)Marshall, Brian. "Tornadoes and Thunderstorms." How Stuff Works. Available from     Internet; accessed 11 April 2011.

(7)"Tornado Basics." National Severe Storms Laboratory. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(8)"Understanding Waterspouts." USA Today. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(9)"Inside a Tornado On the Road, In the Lab." National Geographic 205 no. 4 (2004):     29-31.

Spring 2011

It's been nearly a year since my last post, time certainly flies when you're in college. My sophomore year has been somewhat enjoyable, but this spring semester has been a TOUGH one. Looks like I'll be headed to the University of Montana this Fall to attend school, and I'm hoping that Allison will come with me. The school is located in Missoula, Montana in the mountains and I'm truly excited to live there. I've got about three more weeks of school left this semester, and then three weeks of a post term class - macroeconomics. I'll be taking that class from 9-Noon every day for the three week period, and then I'm off for the summer. My 21st birthday is coming up on June 5th, which is exciting and scary and the same time. Hopefully I'll get to spend some time in Gulf Shores around then, and then I'm taking a trip to the Northwest in July, should be a hell of a time.