Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Panama City Florida Fog Photo Fact vs Fiction

The tall hotels act to lift the air until the air reaches the dew point and becomes saturated. This forms fog (or a cloud). The cloud "spills" over the hotels and dissipate on the oceanfront side. Notice there's no fog between the hotels. (Chris Smith WJHG Television - Panama City) - Bogus By Line

Both Photos Credit JR Hott Panhandle Helicopter
Used with permission.

This photo has zoomed to superstar status. But along with the passed around the internet status comes misinformation.

Case in point. A meteorologist in Roanoke Virginia, posted the photo and then went ape shit with his own pretend by line and explanation.

"An odd cloud formation was captured on a Panama City television station towercam Monday morning.

What likely baffled those watching the clouds from below was equally impressive to the dozens of meteorologists who passed the photo around like a game of hot potato on Twitter and Facebook.

So what's happening in the photo?

Turns out, the tall hotels are lifting the air upward where temperatures are cooler, and eventually the air becomes saturated, or reaches its dew point.

Once that happens, fog (or a cloud) forms. The cloud "spills" over the hotels and dissipates on the oceanfront side. Notice there's no fog between the hotels. That's because there's nothing there to lift the air upward.

Mountains do the same thing around here. We get air that hits the mountains and rises, only to form clouds and in some cases, fog."

Cedar Posts was tempted to out the guy publicly, but figured I'd give him a break.

When I saw the photo with the above explanation I had to dig deeper, since much of what I was reading didn't true up.

So I called, called J. R. Hott one of the owners of Panhandle Helicopter. JR was kind enough to confirm that he took the photo from their sight seeing helo, flying about 600 Feet above the Gulf, this past Sunday around 12:40 in the afternoon.

JR says the photo has gone viral, with CNN, the Weather Channel and others calling about the strange clouds.

So the real facts are:

First the photo is from a helo not from a tower cam since there are no tower cams offshore and none that are 600 ft AGL, at least within 50 miles. The local television station does have a tower cam but it is about five miles away and a good ways inland as well.

For the record the real credit for the photo goes to JR Hott Panhandle Helicopters in Panama City. More cool photos on their web site which is here.

Also the photo was taken Sunday not Monday.

And finally the weather guy who posted the story and who has an AMS designation has the "fog" backwards.

The wind is from the Gulf side. The shallow water of the beach is warm and the air at the surface is nearly saturated as it meets the buildings along the coast. When the ocean air meets the colder land mass it condensates. There is some fog between the buildings but as the moist air that is forced against and over the buildings condensates to a greater degree and rate since the air aloft is colder still. Once the air passes over the buildings and out over land it then dissipates as our weather guy said. Just not on the ocean side.

The temp and the dew point at noon on Sunday at the airport were both 68.

This same thing happens to aircraft carriers on the bow, some will actually form a rolling cloud due to the temp difference between the deck and the ocean surface.

Much the same way an aircraft wing passing through low hanging clouds just before landing creates a visible wing vortex. (The reason that condensation former is the drop in temperature which occurs as a consequence of the drop in pressure caused by the wing. The same thing that makes the plane fly.)

So there you have it fact vs fiction.

A little more about the photo. JR Hott is flying about 600 feet off the deck. The photo is taken looking to the southeast. The green roof belongs to the ResortQuest at Tidewater Beach.

Google the address 17757 Front Beach Road Panama City Beach Florida 32413 for a street side view.

Off in the distance is the Russell-Fields pier aka the City Pier.

I haven't been to Panama City since high school. I guess my tastes have changed.

The Russell-Fields pier now charges $60.00 for a season pass. But it is only good for 20 visits. The price used to be $20.00 for the whole season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, and as many visits as you like. At 17, a girl named Becky and I both had passes. We stayed at the pier 24/7 except when her parents were at the pier.

The photo is very interesting, and equally appalling as well. Of course when I was a kid the places to stay were all single family homes and if a place was called a hotel that meant it had a pool, rather than 15 stories and a parking deck.

I liked it better the way it used to be.

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