Those without a raindrop of meteorological background have a new source for bare-bone-basic answers to weather-related questions: "Ask the SOO," a new YouTube feature from the National Weather Service Upton office.
The idea is to use social media to "engage people who are interested in weather," said Jeffrey Tongue, the weather service SOO (science and operations officer) himself.
In the debut posting Nov. 13 he addressed questions on weather modeling systems, thunderstorm dissipation on Long Island and negative tilting troughs -- all in just under five minutes.
In response to the question on why thunderstorms tend to weaken when they reach Long Island, Tongue said that the storms start absorbing the cooler, denser ocean air, "so it's like trying to pull lead up into the thunderstorm," which doesn't have the energy to lift it so, "It's like 'that's it, I can't lift you anymore. And I'm going to dissipate.'"
While this feature may be brush stroke in nature, it's just one element of the service's mission to help create a "weather-ready nation," said Tongue, also assistant professor of earth and space sciences at Suffolk County Community College.
As for the social media aspect of the new YouTube feature, which had close to 200 views as of Monday morning, "It's a new form of outreach for us," said Joey Picca, one of several meteorologists on the office's social media team, which also manages its Twitter feed and Facebook page. "It's becoming a bigger vehicle to connect with the public" in both issuing lifesaving warnings and doing such "educational outreach."
So, how about the video's special effects -- such as the SOO's sidekick, a stuffed toy groundhog that shares ballooned side comments?
"We want to show the human side of forecasting as much as possible," Picca said. The goal, he said, is to "combine good weather information with something people want to watch. . . . It can't be dry and boring."