Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Boxtops

Few folks, even many of my generation, will remember the Boxtops. A late 60's group. I didn't know who they were let alone their music. I had heard it on the radio, I just didn't attach the songs to the group. Naive about the music then is an understatement. I knew what I liked, bought albums what I really liked, and ignored the rest.

Anyway, a friend in my technical class in the US Air Force invited me to stay at his parents home in Poulsbo, across the Puget Sound from Seattle (Bremerton-Seattle ferry). I had never been to the area and had a week off between school and my first station (McClellan AFB outside of Sacramento, California). I thought, "What the hell."

Well, my friend grew up there. We travelled around the area, especially into Seattle on Saturday night, doing the obvious, trying to score some grass (you figure it out). Well, we did, but it turned out bad stuff and while it kinda' worked, it left me with a headache for the weekend. Anyway, while coming back from Seattle on the ferry, he decided to stop by a local club with live music.

I'm not sure where we were the whole time I spent there, especially that Saturday night, but it didn't matter. The club was typical of clubs then, and many still, but less fancy. It had one door at one end to enter and exit but no one checked anyone. You simply walked in. On one end near the door was the bar, full of people.

A little way in pass the bar you went through an opening which opened to a big dance floor, again full of people, with a stage on part of one of the longest sides opposite the entrance. On the stage were the group The Box Tops. I only remember a few songs which I later looked up on their records. There were a pop 40 and more a bubble gum band.

After a set we left and went home. The rest of the week was a blur and lost to forgetfulness. All these years later the only thing I really remember is the music. But sure making listening to it fun. That and being 20 in my mind again.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Water Temperature

I spent the first 13 years of my USGS career as a field technician, the first 6 as a hydrologic technician and the next 7 as a professional hydrologist. All of those years were in what was called the basic data section or in a field office, first Eugene, Oregon, next Phoenix, Arizona and last Tacoma, Washington. The USGS requires all field people to have a thermometer to measure water temperature.

It is a requirement during every visit to any surface water (creek, stream, river, etc.) site or gage to measure the water temperature and record the date and time associated with the measurement. This goes back to the 1950's and the information is available on every field inspection summary (from 9-207) for every site or gage.

At some of the sites, the USGS operates a water temperature recorder. The technology of the water temperature instruments has obviously evolved from the 1950's thermograph, to digital sensors with paper tape recorders, to fully electronic sensors and recorders. The data is published in the Annual Data Reports for each state.

At the end of the water (also government fiscal) year (October 1 to September 30) the data is reviewed and published. The water temperature data was produced and reviewed under some rules which the USGS felt at the time were reasonable. It's safe to say now, it wasn't right, just reasonable to avoid conflicts in the data. Some of those rules still exist, which are based on some assumptions which aren't entirely accurate or correct.

Really? Yes, the USGS thought they were common sense and they weren't interested in getting embarrassed with the data. So during the production and review process there were checks for these rules and the data was "adjusted" to accommodate the rule. The adjustment wasn't great and really insignificant, but still an adjustment. And they were?

First, flowing water freezes at 0 degrees C (water temperature was always published to degrees Centigrade for international standards). This isn't exactly true and flowing water can be colder than 0.0 degrees, even as much as -1.0, but that's extreme. It's common to measure and record temperatures up to -0.3 degrees when there was sufficient flow to keep the water from freezing.

I know this to be true because I measured it one day at one of the gages on my field trip. Winberry Creek near Lowell, Oregon (12-150800). It was a cold January day, where everything was frozen. I got to the station about 8 am and after checking everything I went down to the bank to read the outside gage and take the water temperature. I measured -0.2 degrees.

The air temperature, something we also measured, was far colder (can't remember exactly, but very cold, in the ten's). Since I had my wading boots on, preparation for making a discharge measurement, I waded into the stream and up and down the stream taking more measurements to check.

And sure enough, while there was ice in the stream near the banks, the entire stream was at -0.2 degrees. The recorder also recorded this value. We later changed the value to 0.0 degrees to fit the rules for publication. So, when you see 0.0 degrees in the USGS data, it could be from -0.2 (or colder) to 0.05 degrees. Trust me. As they say, been there done that.

The other two rules I think have been either revoked or ignored in recent years because it doesn't make sense or match reality. It never did, the USGS only decided they didn't want to publish data that seened odd. And how so odd? The rules were simple.

The first is that the lowest (coldest) recorded temperature of any day couldn't be higher than the highest (warmest) temperature of any adjacent day. The second is the corollary, the highest temperature of any day couldn't be lower than the lowest of any adjacent day.

This rule breaks down under two situations.

First is when the weather changes dramatically across midnight from either a cold spell to a warm spell (storm or cold fronts) or the reverse. This happens in the data because you're recording data at 11 pm, the last measurement, for one day and midnight for the next, the first measurement for the next day. The water temperature for the last value of the day (11 pm) could be lower than or higher than the opposite extreme of the adjacent days.

The second is at gages below reservoirs where adjustments are made in the outflow from differents parts of the reservoir. Normally there is adequate vertical mixing in small to moderate reservoirs where the water temperature isn't so extreme, but for larger reservoirs there can be significant differences in the vertical profile from the different inlets to the dam and in the subsequent outlfow.

This means changes in those outflows can significantly change the water temperature of the river. This is seen in the data for large reservoirs where the water temperature will jump several degrees in a short time, usually hours. This, if timed right such as overnight, will cause the temperature anamoly in the data between adjacent days.

The USGS overcame this rule by making every day 25 hourly values and including both midnights in the dataset for the day. This avoids this conflict, but it will happen occasionally that the same value (midnight) could be recorded as the extreme for both days, which is another conflict, but one they'll live with the rarity of it.

Anyway, this is just my experience and thoughts on water temperature.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Blood Sweat and Tears

The 1960's group, not life or the related substances of life. It's was a popular group in 1969 when I enlisted. I remember in basic training when when got two Saturday passes. The first one was a town pass, which I learned to regret. A group of us decided to catch the bus downtown (from Lakeland AFB to San Antonio). We ended up on the river walk which was relatively new then.

We walked the distance of it before crossing and walking. Some in the group wanted to go to a porno movie, common then before it took off as a commercial development. Two of us declined saying sitting in a theater was the last place we wanted to be on our afternoon off. So we kept walking until we met the bus back.

The second time is the one that sticks in the mind the most. We had the Saturday afternoon off and I found there was a dance going on at the on-base hall, which was a converted bomber hanger, meaning it was huge, on par of a large convention hall commonly found in downtown centers.

And in the center of it was a huge wooden dance floor. There was hundreds of airmen standing around the floor listening to the music and watching the lucky ones who got a dance with the few hundred young women bussed in for the dance. I don't recall where they came from, all were older high school, young college or just young (18-24) women.

It was kinda the old USO type event. The music was from the sound system by the DJ there to spin the records. All I really remember was walking in the main entrance door which replaced the hanger door to another set of doors to the dance hall from the foyer, probably to help keep control the temperature.

Well, walking into the large dance hall, the first song I heard was Blood, Sweat & Tears song, "You make me so happy." The opening organ and the singer. I don't know why but that song has been with me the whole time, because not long after the song started and I walked to the edge of the dance floor when a young women asked me to dance.

I accepted. So we danced. At the end we parted, I said thanks and she went on to another man to dance. But I still remember and wonder why she picked me out of hundreds just standing there waiting to be asked. Me. A shy, partly stuttering, can't dance young man.

When I finished basic training, and then technical training, and was assigned to McClelland AFB north of Sacramento, CA, I bought a simple stereo system. And their album was one of the first in my collection. For one song, and then liked the whole album, but mostly just one song, a memory and a long-forgotten woman who danced with me when I most needed it.

I don't remember her, obviously, but I remember the song. I stayed until they played it again, never got to dance again, and left. And yes, the song and her made me so happy. If only for an afternoon. It has lasted a lifetime.