Posted by: pyeager | April 25, 2009

Deadlist Catch–Weather Fish Tales

We all have those dirty, little secrets. No, not those secrets. This is a family blog!

I’m talking about dirty, little secrets related to the television shows we watch–shows that we might be embarrassed to say that we watch, but we do it anyway. One of those shows for me is The Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.

The show is a reality show about crab fishermen in the Bering Sea during the heart of winter, which is the home of some of the most ferocious storms on the planet. That’s why I watch it–the weather, not to see millions of crab ripped from their ocean floors in order to keep the likes of Red Lobster stocked, the prospect of seeing men tossed into the unforgiving ocean, or the drama (real and perceived) related to the ultra-masculine crews of the ships.

Weather Fish Tale

The storms are powerful, some with winds in excess of 100-mph, swell of over 30 feet, and freezing spray that can turn a several-ton boat into a several-ton anchor; however, the storms are often called “hurricanes” by the narrator of the program.

These storms are not hurricanes; in fact, a storm could not be any more different from a hurricane than these winter monsters.

Hurricanes are driven by the heat and moisture associated with excessively warm ocean, with upper-level conditions over the storm being fairly calm. Atmospherically speaking, these are bottom-driven storms, meaning that they’re caused by what is going on in the lower levels of the atmosphere.

The powerful winter storms in the Bering Sea are driven by strong, cold upper-level storm systems, not by warm ocean water. These storms are top-driven storms, meaning that what causes them starts above and works its way down to the surface.

Drop a true hurricane into the Bering Sea in winter or drop a winter Bering Sea storm in the calm tropical waters of the late-summer, and the storms would fizzle more quickly than a souffle in Washington D.C. on a Fourth of July evening.

There are enough inaccuracies related to the weather that the Discovery Channel should not start re-naming storms, but I’ll probably keep watching. Don’t tell anyone.

–Paul Yeager

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