Saturday, May 30, 2020

In memory of Leslie Lemon, Severe Storms researcher

OMG. I’m saddened to hear my colleague and friend passed away yesterday. I worked with Leslie (Les) Lemon for several years while he was part of WDTD’s family. He was the consummate meteorological observationalist, always enthusiastic, ever happy to share his insight, yet humble in ways. He loved our new NWS students as they came through our doors. His talks to them about tornadic thunderstorms reminded me of a comfortable easygoing fireside chat where the students were transfixed by his gift of storytelling and teaching at the same time. He routinely received the highest score of any of our workshop talks.
He was so excited to chat with me looking at this or that storm live on radar or perhaps after the fact. I remember more than one time where the excitement he was feeling began to spill over to us. If I felt like needing a break from the bureaucracy I’d just go over to his office and talk about the weather. Perhaps the most amazing one of these times was when we had one screen the live feed of James Spann on while a large tornado was going through Tuscaloosa. The other screen was the GRLEVEL2 display of the Birmingham, AL radar data. We were both simultaneously in awe of seeing the high-end tornadic radar signature and of course horrified at the visual of the tornado hitting the city. The Greensburg, KS storm was another. I know that Mike Umscheid and he wrote a wonderful conference paper on that one.
I can’t put down the impact Les had on the operational weather community. In many ways, he was like Ted Fujita except with Doppler Radar data. He has the Lemon technique of diagnosing severe thunderstorm structure on the radar. This is what every NWS meteorologist and most other operational meteorologists learn in radar interpretation courses. Much of his technique he wrote about in publications. One of those is the infamous Lemon and Doswell (1979) paper. His technique still forms the backbone of severe storms warnings decision making today, even with Dual-pol radar data. I worked with him to modify the technique with dual-pol but it remains his. So instead of the enhanced Lemon technique, it’s the modified Lemon technique but always with his attribution, just like with the enhanced Fujita Scale.
Les always seemed underemployed. He never held a position commensurate with his skills and perhaps the closest he came was either with the lab way back or with WDTD. That he seemed underemployed was our problem. As with many truly smart people, sometimes society just hasn’t figured out to tap their full potential. Les’s intelligence was in his ability to observe relationships and note trends then convert them to something actionable. He also had the ability to teach in ways that made concepts stick. He wasn’t a programmer, a statistician, or a production engine of content that yielded obviously high marks in ROI. The benefits he brought could not be easily measured but I think it’s safe to say we know it now when we see it. Isn’t this so similar to some of the invaluable weather data we use and can’t live without, like visible satellite data?
I’ll think of more to say and look for pics later. Clearly, my mind is recalling other memories, of which there are many. Of this I can say, he’s right up there with Liz Quoetone and others when it comes to impact on me in the realm of operational meteorology. I foresee that the severe storms conference coming up should be an excellent time to remember his achievements.]

I'm going to add to this post a few more memories.

First, here's a picture of him back in the Techniques Development Unit of SELS. This is in a paper on the history of severe storms research in the EJSSM:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Racial injustice is adversely impacting me, a white guy

A respected member of the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE), a professor of engineering at an R1 institution, and a member of a standards committee I chair, wrote this to me just yesterday.  His message below is directed at the leadership of ASCE, a professional organization of which he's a member.  He's anonymous in this post.  His letter clearly points to the personal threat he feels from our society and a feeling of near despair.  He wonders why he's focusing on engineering solutions to improving community resiliency when our social fabric is pulling apart.  Is the real threat from society from tornadoes and hurricanes, or is it from our huge social inequality and racism?  I think all professional societies need to speak out their positions.  This personal threat is affecting careers, work productivity, more stress, less productivity, and a threat of a continued downward cycle.  

From my colleague directed at the ASCE

Dear Glenn:
Today’s my birthday and I should be celebrating in whatever way the COVID-inspired lockdown will allow. I’m not feeling very celebratory at the moment.

I feel very much under a PTSD cloud as I saw the headline I Cannot Breathe, wondering whether this was the anniversary of Eric Garner’s murder in NYC years ago. Alas, this was a new murder, a lynching by members of the Justice System, who replaced the swinging ropes in the live oak trees of a hundred years ago with the Knee on Neck Asphyxiation Technique to end the life of Mr. George Floyd with his face flattened into the asphalt.

We continue to witness these overt racists acts of a society in decline, where this perpetrator, this police officer, who we now know from his social media accounts can meet the President of our country at a rally and receive accolades, then to proceed with that calm, smug look, to kill another person on the street in broad daylight. And yet, as we watch the demise of our politics, and the loss of any conscience and empathy from our leaders, we the public are all silent, as individuals and as institutions. Crickets can be heard over the protests from our media or from our other institutions and businesses.

After the rancor of this news cycle, all that will remain will be comments about who looked better wearing their mask or not, and how much points the stock exchange had gained. No one will remember George Floyd, the man who was killed on 26 May 2020. Because our society continues to turn away from accusing white people of their racism, or confronting our past inhumane acts or addressing the pernicious hatred for the black skin that goes unchecked. Yet we are comfortable maintaining different standards for the value of life, for blacks versus whites. If the politics fail us what then? If our societal norms are fading away why worry? What is the point of striving for the best engineering solutions if the society itself is being torn apart at its seams? Can we blissfully go on, wearing blinkers ignoring these atrocities because “they weren’t attacking engineers”? Surely our ethical and moral duties as engineers extend beyond the bricks and mortar of our daily production.
Our institutions are becoming more and more irrelevant as we ignore the inequities in our society and the daily abuses of our human rights. Imagine the black engineers in SGH who carry this millstone every day. Consider that for them every site visit into a client’s home could end badly. They wear this badge that they could be accused, attacked or killed for being black and in the wrong place. The silence of ASCE, its members and all engineering companies is deafening in the face of this outrage. ASCE is not alone of course, we all are to blame, but why are we so afraid to do what is right? Or have we all accepted two standards in fact exist, one white, one black?

Until the outrage at the murder of another black man at the hands of a police officer is universally felt and loudly expressed, these lynchings will continue. They are used for racial intimidation, and they are sanctioned by our society. Black men and women will continue to keep a wary eye on our white counterparts who may speak fondly about equality from a safe liberal enclave but when the time comes to stand up and defend our rights, they slink away. Somebody else’s problem. As I proudly wear my ASCE Fellows badge, I know it will not protect me. I know my PhD, or my years of experience, and academic research will be of no value when I am confronted by a police officer who wants to kill a black man on that day. At such time, that’s all I will become just another black man to be made an example of.

When the story of our times are written, do consider which side of this divide should ASCE be? Should we simply ignore the politics and continue our production until the American kristallnacht? Or is it time for us to take a meaningful stand? One person can change the world. One company must make a start. One profession can decide enough is enough. Let us be that profession, Glenn. I hope you and your ASCE/SEI Board will have the courage and determination to start this movement among civil engineers as we seek to make our society a livable place for all.


To say that we still continue to see great injustice in the US is an understatement. We’re seeing COVID attack disadvantaged communities more than others. Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities are disproportionately hit because their members often have to risk exposure to make ends meet. Now we continue to see black people suffer violence by police and vigilantes at a much greater rate than others.  

He's not the only one.  Every person of color (POC) I know of feels personally threatened.  I heard comments from one that worries every time his son leaves the house.  Another woman worries about her father's safety every time he's on the road. These are people that are also well respected in meteorological circles.  To paraphrase my colleague below, the unfortunate thing is that their well-deserved degrees, titles, and reputations do nothing to them when they're in a community filled with people that may not know them.  

Personally, I'm not immune to my own biases.  They're so situational.  I'm easily imagining my POC colleagues in a conference, all of whom I'm in awe of their accomplishments and productivity.  But put them on a street and in a hoodie and I'm embarrassed to say I might have a different impression.  The only thing I can do is to use the part of my intellectual brain to overcome such ill-conceived notions and reset my judgment.   I will not be that person who calls the police on a black man filling up his car.  And if I see such injustice, I hope to be that other person that can defend someone being wrongly charged.  My wife, Daphne, sent these links that point to our rights when stopped by police or to document and report any injustices we see.  

"One of the things we can do as his colleagues are to read up on our rights:

And as the white person we could find ourselves in a position to take photographs or video of the police:

'Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right—and that includes police and other government officials carrying out their duties. … The right of citizens to record the police is a critical check and balance. It creates an independent record of what took place in a particular incident, free from accusations of bias, lying, or faulty memory. It is no accident that some of the most high-profile cases of police misconduct have involved video and audio records.'"

I wish I could do more but perhaps it's best that we (as whites) just shut up and put ourselves in their shoes.  Put ourselves in the twilight zone and see what would happen if our places in society were flipped.  Maybe practice a few ideas in this article:

But at least I can advocate our professional societies to express their intolerance to intolerance.  Thus I support my colleague's letter to ASCE below and to my other friend who wrote a similar letter to the American Meteorological Society.  I also write this entry to express my solidarity with my friends and colleagues that feel the threat of racial intolerance. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Timeline of COVID March-April 8


Now we're into the stock market rising as investors are becoming optimistic that we're seeing a global flattening of the curve.  Perhaps it's time to take advantage of some relatively discounted stocks.  But as the future may look brighter to them, the death rates are peaking and will likely be at a plateau for the next week or two.  It's buckle-down time.

I did go out to Braums yesterday morning–the first that I donned one of the n95 masks I've got around.  Braums is a small convenience store attached to a fast food joint.  They make their own milk and I figured in the morning it would be relatively uncrowded.  I was right.  There were only two other shoppers and a cashier.  One of them was wearing a mask and that eased my awkward feeling of being the other one with a mask on.  After I left, I quickly doffed my mask; doffing means I removed it by the straps only making sure I didn't touch the filter.  I think I did okay though the mask did some pirouettes as I took it off.  Later I learned that I should've removed one strap at a time starting with the top.  Damn, I felt like one wrong move and that's it, I'm hosed.  At least I had my wash station in the RAV.  It was the third time I used the station.  The two other times were 2 weeks before yesterday.   My station consists of a flexible 5 gallon plastic container with a faucet that we use for camping and a liquid soap dispenser in the door pocket.  It's quite handy and I use it anytime after I touch anything public, or merchandise.

Upon coming back home, I took the products out of the bag, one at a time, to disinfect on our mobile cutting board in the garage.  Then each one goes into another bag to be brought inside.  I also took the vegetables and fruit inside to be rinsed.  The first time I did this I washed the fruits and veggies with soap but I've heard that's not advisable as soap could be absorbed.  As I'm doing this I wonder how long this will go on.  No longer do we go out on weekends and I'm the only one going out.  Also, I go in the mornings and to smaller stores.  Will this go on even after everything opens up?  I suspect I may for quite some time.

Now the latest thoughts.   I'm seeing some good news
This story shows promising research in developing an all-encompassing anti-viral medication that can be taken orally.  Called EIDD-2801(named after Emory Institute for Drug Development) has been successfully used on mice and is now going to clinical trials.  Another anti-viral called Remdesivir is another in trials.  Either one can be subject to resistant viruses but the combination can be much more powerful.  Here's to successful clinical trials.

Another good news item:  There are several stories of centenarians surviving this virus.  I see an article somewhere in the news every time another one survives.  One of them survived the 1918 flu pandemic.  How encouraging!

How about decreasing air pollution as good news?  Well, I have chosen to call this good news.  As shutdowns spread globally, air pollution has remarkably decreased.  The most noticeable areas were the most polluted areas.  This picture from northern India where residents could see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years is so poignant to me.  How is it that 30 years could go by without people in Pathankot being able to view the mountains?  Imagine residents living there from birth to adulthood seeing the mountains for the first time?  It's analogous to residents of cities traveling out into the countryside and seeing the Milkyway for the first time.  I cannot imagine what that's like.

These stories have been coming out since early March when China's pollution decreased.

Then in mid-March, it was Italy's turn to be in the news about decreasing pollution.
Imagine how many lives were saved just on the account of having a couple months of clean air.  Would there be thousands living by the end of the year that might otherwise not be?  It's quite conceivable.

Other good news comes from Germany where they have been quite successful in their testing. I think only Iceland has exceeded Germany's testing rate.  The result is a much better idea of fatality rates as well as helping to flatten the growth curve.

Now for troubling news.  This virus is tremendously infectious. And it's only because it takes advantage of our proclivity to spread droplets and aerosols far and wide  This story of a Belgian-Dutch study shows that I've got to be 10 m or more away from other runners and bikers because of the wakes we leave behind.  My take on this is 'know the wind direction' and stay out of people's wakes.  The youtube link below is even more distressing.  Using laser beams, Japanese researchers filmed the spray of particles emanating people's sneezes, coughs and even just talking.  They modeled the dispersion of these particles and showed how far and wide they travel in a closed room.  This makes me not want to ever show up to a conference again.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that blacks in the US are so worried about wearing masks that they would choose to risk being infected than to be mislabeled as a threat.  So here's yet another consequence of racism and fear.  Black people are more likely to suffer from infection and also die from COVID-19.  Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than others to not be able to telework or have health insurance.  Add that to the fear of facial protection and we're starting to see how this disease disproportionately exacts a toll on the same people like with so many other threats.

Finally, Modley resigned a day after he spent $244k to fly down to Guam to berate the crew for their loyalty to a Captain that may have saved many lives.  Yay!  Now reinstate Capt Crozier after he hopefully recovers well!


Villains in the news regarding COVID:
Our Secretary of the NAVY Thomas Modley berates Aircraft Carrier, Capt Brett Crozier, for appealing for help to unload his ship when his crew became sick.  True, Capt Crozier didn't follow through chain of command.  But I can't imagine anybody reaching his rank not knowing that.  Something forced him to e-mail 30 NAVY officers outside classified channels.  In so doing, he was removed from his post while contracting the disease himself.  Thomas Modley's erratic, expletive-laden rebuke in front of the Aircraft Carrier's crew did nothing but further alienate the crew from the NAVY's leadership.  I put Modley in the list of villains – shameful.

Another villain, or ill-advised, Dr. Drew, who spread disinformation about the virus, claiming that it was nothing to worry about, now admits his mistake.  How much damage have these people caused (45 included)?
He learned what it's like to be on the wrong side of the asymmetric penalty function of a warning.

COVID timeline:
Business Insider has an excellent timeline of this pandemic.  It starts December 31 with the Chinese notification to the WHO of a new disease.

But now there are stories that COVID-19 may have been in the US in December.  I've heard of people suffering from weeks of severe coughs and fever.  It certainly was spreading in Wuhan province since late November.

Heroes:  Grocery Store employees.
I didn't want to hear about this but it was inevitable.  Store employees are becoming sick and some are dying.  I have an amazing new outlook on the danger they face when dealing with a broad spectrum of shoppers, some adhering to social distancing while others literally sneeze in cashier's faces with perceived impunity.  Many employees demanded stores add various measures to mitigate transmission.

Two weeks ago was the last time I shopped at Sprouts in Norman.  At the time, I only saw two shoppers with masks.  One store employee greeted me at the entrance with a cart and a wipe.  I thanked him much.  I went in the morning and so the store was quiet. What shoppers there were kept distances from each other.  One shopper had to get by me in a narrow aisle.  I turned to face the merchandise and heard her speed up to get by me, much like a cat does when trying to run through a constriction.   I bought my groceries and proceeded to the checkout.   I talked with the cashier and thanked her for wiping down the conveyor belt.  She wore a mask, to which I was grateful.  At the time I didn't have one for I followed the advice of professionals that I didn't need one in a store.  Case counts weren't as high as they are today.  Anyway, I asked the cashier how shoppers were.  Her main complaint was that shoppers tended to violate the six-foot rule at checkout; markers were taped on the floor at six-foot intervals.  But she didn't mention any more severe violations of social distancing.

When I go shopping soon, I will be masked and I heard a majority of others are doing the same.

Mitigation measures:
For weeks we've been reducing our exposure to public spaces.  Even since March 16, after we got over our flu-A (yes we had the vaccine), I decided not to fly to my mother's 90th birthday family reunion; Daphne asked that I quarantine myself for five days upon coming back.  Daphne hasn't left the house in over two weeks while my outings were limited to a grocery store, the Lowes outside garden center, and Marcum's nursery.  Even there, I waited till the checkout cleared out before checking out myself.

Next time I go out I'll be wearing a mask.  But now I see that virus particles linger for quite some time on them.  But how many that are left after a day are not viable?  Who knows.

20200404 -
Popular culture-
Somebody just showed us that all of our new cultural behavioral changes have been summed up in various MASH episodes.  We've known all along.

The mask hunt
A shortage of masks has resulted in an international hunt for them, sometimes using less than honorable methods.  I just heard Canada may retaliate after Trump redirected 3M to keep all masks within the US.  So instead of helping each other, we turn into packs of wolves.

Crazy conspiracists:
Now, 5G cellphone towers are being attacked because of a certain claim that millimeter-wave radiation is dangerous for the immune system.  This article sets the record straight.  However I've not known conspiracists to be convinced they're wrong based on one article.  Hopefully, anybody wavering on the fence will lean toward rationality.

The aftermath
What about all the PTSD from going through this crisis?  Some stories come from patients in ICU that they're not the same coming out the other end.

Today's report from Jason Persoff
COVID Update 4/3

So the CDC wants people to wear masks now?  I'm uncertain about this switch in position when considering the evidence.

First off, if you're sick, YOU wearing a mask makes a HUGE difference.  Masks of any kind reduce the amount of viral particles shed into the air via droplets (main mode of transmission), but does nothing to stop aerosolized particles.  This study: Rengasamy S, Eimer B, Shaffer RE. Simple respiratory protection—evaluation of the filtration performance of cloth masks and common fabric materials against 20-1000 nm size particles.Ann Occup Hyg 2010 Jun 28;54(7):789-98, looked at the issue and concluded the following:

"The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study of the filter performance on clothing materials and articles, including commercial cloth masks marketed for air pollution and allergens, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and scarfs.

Filter efficiency was measured across a wide range of small particle sizes (0.02 to 1 µm) at 33 and 99 L/min. N95 respirators had efficiencies greater than 95% (as expected). For the entire range of particles tested, t-shirts had 10% efficiency, scarves 10% to 20%, cloth masks 10% to 30%, sweatshirts 20% to 40%, and towels 40%. All of the cloth masks and materials had near zero efficiency at 0.3 µm, a particle size that easily penetrates into the lungs."

But if you're sick, wearing a mask does reduce the particle counts, just not outstandingly.  Every bit helps.  But do aerosolized particles that are <0.3 microns matter in COVID?  This appears to be answered by an excellent study in Nature Medicine.

This study by Leung NH, et al, (h/t Alan Schenkel) found some pretty big news.  Here is the quote and I'll follow that with a summary:

"Our findings indicate that surgical masks can efficaciously reduce the emission of influenza virus particles into the environment in respiratory droplets, but not in aerosols...This has important implications for control of COVID-19, suggesting that surgical face masks could be used by ill people to reduce onward transmission.  Among the samples collected without a face mask, we found that the majority of participants with influenza virus and coronavirus infection did not shed detectable virus in respiratory droplets or aerosols...For those who did shed virus in respiratory droplets and aerosols, viral load in both tended to be low... Given the high collection efficiency of the G-II and given that each exhaled breath collection was conducted for 30min, this might imply that prolonged close contact would be required for transmission to occur, even if transmission was primarily via aerosols, as has been described for rhinovirus colds...Our results also indicate that there could be considerable heterogeneity in contagiousness of individuals with coronavirus...."

What this study shows is that by ill people wearing masks, they do reduce the risk of disease transmission.  But, just talking to someone in a room masked or not, appears not to be a big risk for others to catch the virus since the viral loads in these droplets and aerosols are pretty low.  This does *not* account for people coughing or sneezing where viral loads are very high.

So how should this apply to the issue of masks. I offer this:

#) If everyone wears some kind of mask, it WILL decrease the frequency of spreading the disease by keeping asymptomatic infected people from having a way to easily transmit it.

#) Wearing a mask to protect yourself from the disease offers very little protection unless it's a surgical or N95 (or higher grade) mask.  BUT, it does still offer SOME protection, even if it's made out of cloth.  

#) Masks may give people a FALSE SENSE of security, but they must be used properly to work at all.  You still need to socially distance.  Period.  Second, removing a mask properly requires you to know how to doff a mask.  In short--you never ever touch the front of the mask, only remove the mask with the ties in the back or elastics.  Never let your hand or any part of your body come in contact with the front of the mask.  That front side of the mask should always be treated as if it is teaming with germs.  Wash your hands thoroughly after any contact with your mask--do not doff your mask someplace you can't immediately disinfect.

#) YOU should not be using a surgical mask or N95 mask if possible--right now tons of healthcare providers NEED these.  If you wish to donate yours (which is the correct answer right now), our hospital will take those donations at  Any amount helps preserve our PPE supplies and helps us fight the disease while you stay home.

#) The fear that there is tons of coronavirus in the air is FALSE.  The study from the NEJM (which I've previously nitpicked about its artificiality in a room with no air turnover) does not fly in real life.  Studies done on real patients with COVID show very low infectivity with simple talking in the same room.  This should mean that you're safe walking about a store for short periods of time, and there's NOT a ton of virus to be found in the air in real life.  But run from anyone who sneezes or coughs ;). 

#) If you are ill with anything these days, start wearing a mask if you can tolerate it to decrease your spread to others, and STAY AT HOME.  Ideally 10 days following your last fever without the use of anti-fever medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol).

#) Better yet, just stay home except for necessities or to get some outdoor exercise. And WASH YOUR HANDS!!!  ALL THE TIME!!

Our lost chances for taking action:
Here's another excellent report on how we lost our chance to take action.  The White House was completely inept at personalizing the threat and doing something about it.  

What we need to do now to prepare for the next round
We can't stay locked up forever and neither can we afford to reach herd immunity.  So how do we snake our way from being immobile to getting somewhere where we can manage the outbreak until a vaccine appears?  You know that as soon as we go back to work once case numbers go down there will be another outbreak.  We can't get away with it as long as there are a vulnerable population and viruses lingering.  The CDC has to get out of their asses, come up with a plan to deal with spot outbreaks, and be given a blank check to do what it takes.

I am hearing that the CDC is testing antibody tests.

Updates from Jason Persoff 
Several developments that may be of concern...

#) First off, the connection to NSAIDs and worsening of disease was incorrect.  It was a ramped up rumor mill not connected to any science, but attributed to the WHO.  The WHO has no concerns about NSAIDs, so use them as before.

#) The connections with ACE inhibitors and ARBs is still not clear.  Jury's out.  However, that's not likely a connection, more of a theoretical risk.

#) We have been seeing younger people coming in and ending up on the ventilator rapidly.  We're talking late teens/early 20s.  This is puzzling given the Chinese data, and worrisome to me.  Sure, these could be just a couple of aberrant cases, but I also heard Children's Hospital has a couple of kids on ventilators there too.  So, while kids, teens, and young adults largely do well, that doesn't mean you should discount the possibility of these age groups getting very sick, very rapidly.

I'm attaching an internal document on the science of NSAIDs and ACEI/ARBs below from one helluva smart pharmacist of ours if you want the details.  More to follow....

Clinical Pearl - Ibuprofen, ACEi, ARBs, and Steroids in the midst of COVID-19

By Kyle Molina, PharmD

In regard to NSAIDs, specifically ibuprofen, there is a report that went viral online yesterday (3/18) that World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending against use the use of ibuprofen for patients with COVID-19. Initially, there was no mention of this on the WHO website or within their media releases. This claim was from external media websites and, stems from the minster of WHO, not a formal recommendation by the WHO1. The WHO minister reportedly made the claim on twitter over the weekend, as mentioned in forwarded BMJ article, based on reports of 4 young healthy French patients who had taken ibuprofen and progressed severe disease. It is important to note that although this is a BMJ article, it is a new piece which has not undergone peer review, and there are calls for retraction of the piece based on the sources of these claims. The reported incidents are attributed to an uncited infectious diseases doctor in the South of France, which per BBC reporting yesterday morning is a social media hoax.2 There is apparently a similar claim floating around on Whatsapp and twitter originating from Ireland which cite similar story, however, the Infectious Diseases Society of Ireland has confirmed that the doctor cited in this claim is not even a real person. The other claim, has been that NSAIDS have previously been shown to exacerbate viral illnesses (most people have been citing the link between NSAID use and severe cutaneous varicella complications). It is not clear to me we can extrapolate this to cutaneous varicella to COVID-19 infection. The final line of arguement, stems from a lancet publication3 examining the link of ACE expression in the role of COVID infection, and cites animal evidence that ibuprofen increase ACE expression – I address the ACE theories below. The Europeans Medicine Agency released guidance yesterday saying there is a lack of a scientific link between ibuprofen use and COVID at this time.4 In addition, WHO has provided explicit clarification that they ARE NOT recommending against the use of ibuprofen – this was posted on their official twitter this morning and represents the WHO’s first official communication on the issue.5

With respect to ACE/ARBs, given that ACE appears to be a critical site for SARS-COV entry, many are speculating on the role of the enzyme in COVID pathogenesis.  Early COVID studies showed a significant number of deaths occurred in those with hypertension, coronary heart disease, and diabetes, disease states associated with higher circulating levels of ACE and frequently an indication for ACE inhibitor or ARB. However, upon multivariate analysis of risk factors associated with in-hospital death from China, hypertension, diabetes, and coronary heart disease did not maintain their univariate association and may be just markers for advance age. Advanced age was a risk factor for in-hospital mortality (OR 1.1; 95% CI 1.03-1.17, P=0.0043) in multivariate analysis.6 ACE inhibitors are not known to prevent transmission or viral replication and may or may not bind the same epitope as SARS-COV-2 does for entry. It is unlikely that these agents prevents transmission via direct inhibition of the enzyme given these agents have not been identified in high throughput screens of related SARS-CoV previously. Another argument being made is that RAAS inhibition, ibuprofen, and TZDs may cause upregulation of circulating ACE, causing patients to be more susceptible to infection or more severe disease. Lines of evidence suggested include that Italians in general use ACEs, whereas South Koreans tend to use other antihypertensive medications, and this may relate to the difference in mortality rates seen between countries. I think we need to be skeptical as there are national differences in age, percentage of smokers, likely comorbidities. In addition, early infection prevention approaches differed significantly between the two countries, and I think we have all read about the burden on the Italian healthcare system this week. There are additionally conflicting animal models with previous SARS infections. The aforementioned Lancet article additionally proposes genetic differences between the ACE polymorphisms which might have a role, but it’s unclear at this time. The American Heart Association, the Heart Failure Society of America, and the American College of Cardiology issued a statement yesterday recommending “continuation of RAAS antagonists for those patients who are currently prescribed such agents for indications for which these agents are known to be beneficial, such as heart failure, hypertension, or ischemic heart disease”.7 With that said, Anthony Fauci, the Director of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did say yesterday in an interview with JAMA that he found these theories at least biologically plausible and should be investigated in studies before we make any changes in the use of these agents.8 There is not currently enough information to change practice, and we have no information whether modifying these drug regimens will do more harm than good.

Steroids have been an additional subject of discussion this week. A study published in JAMA last week indicated that use of methylprednisolone resulted in lower likelihood of death among those who developed ARDS.8 Notably, this was an unadjusted analysis and not the intent of the study, thus is subject to significant confounding. However, there is other RCT level evidence patients with moderate-to-severe ARDS benefit from early dexamethasone administration, therefore it is at least plausibly beneficial for our sickest patients with COVID and ARDS.9 The concern with routine use of corticosteroids in those with COVID is that steroids may diminish humoral immunity and allow for more rapid viral replication, prolonged viral shedding, as seen in some studies of other respiratory viruses including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.10,11  In contrast, corticosteroids are likely still beneficial among COVID patients with a compelling indication (e.g., asthma, COPD, septic shock, likely ARDS). The risks and benefits of corticosteroids should be carefully weighed for each patient.

This is all to say we have extremely limited data to suggest we need to change our current practices with use of these medication. In this present time, be very cautious and skeptical of information being reported as it is susceptible to false claims or based on limited evidence. Please critically evaluate recommendations for data support and authenticity.

I’ll provide updates if any of this information changes and if you have any questions please let me know.

9. Wu C, et al. Risk Factors Associated With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Death in Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pneumonia in Wuhan, China. JAMA Intern Med. Published online March 13, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.0994

10. Villar et al. Dexamethasone treatment for the acute respiratory distress syndrome: a multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet Resp Medicine.

11. Nelson L , et al . Viral Loads and Duration of Viral Shedding in Adult Patients Hospitalized with Influenza, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 200, Issue 4, 1 August 2009, Pages 492–500,

12. Moreno G, et al. Corticosteroid treatment in critically ill patients with severe influenza pneumonia: a propensity score matching study. Intensive Care Med 44, 1470–1482 (2018).  

A whole suite of websites brings the grim realizations to us.
The latest site shows in stark terms when each state will go through its own surge and how unprepared they will be.  Oklahoma looks to be short 200 ICU rooms.

Epidemiologists are the experts in a new spotlight.
We've had epidemiologists who've thwarted other outbreaks come out to give us a picture of what's coming.

Our lost chances of taking action:
This article shows how Asian countries learned how to respond to a new outbreak when SARS erupted onto the scene in 2003.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Should we be talking about the next atmospheric rivers in the southeast US?

If you haven't seen rainfall forecast for the southeast US for the next week, then you should.  The impacts from it will be in the form of flooding on all scales.   With nearly 10" of rain expected in northern MS to eastern Tennessee, between now and February 23, the Tennessee Valley Authority will have its hands full dealing with all the excessive runoff.  The national flood outlook highlights several areas of likely river flooding in the TVA's area of responsibility, and possible flooding over a much broader region from MS eastward to the midAtlantic states.

WPC's 7 day rainfall outlook made in the evening of Feb 17.

The NWS significant river flood outlook made on the evening of Feb 17.

All of this will be made possible by the advent of a nearly stationary deep upper trough in the western US and a ridge on the eastern Seaboard.  The passage of several upper-level shortwave troughs moving through the mean trough will allow several extratropical cyclones to pass through the Midwestern states but none of them will be able to sweep a cold front through the Southeast US, and at least a few of them will produce substantial atmospheric rivers.  The biggest one will occur in mid- to late week, potentially lasting up to a full day over northern AL to KY.  Water vapor transport will possibly exceed 1000 kg per meter per second.  This pattern fits closely to what Moore and co-authors found in 2015 to be associated with extreme precipitation events in the southeast US during the cool season.  It's likely this atmospheric river event will come to pass and quite soon after the last one.

The forecast integrated water vapor transport forecast from the largest of three atmospheric river events forecast over the period from Feb 18 to Feb 23, courtesy of the North American Ensemble Forecast System. 

Atmospheric rivers have been in the news lately after the flooding rains and huge mountain snows that fell on California last week.  And that's with good reason.  The sounding site at the National Weather Service, San Diego, CA just registered its highest precipitable water for the cool season.  The integrated water transport was at least 750 kg per meter per second. Perhaps the more remarkable aspects of this river was its length and depth.  Sheldon Kusselson, retired research scientist at NOAA/NESDIS and an expert in satellite analysis of water vapor,  remarked that he's seen few rivers visible all the way up to 300 mb in the layer precipitable water product (see his analysis below).  The accompanying rainfall broke the daily record at Palm Springs, CA with nearly 4".  Nearby Mount Polamar recorded over a foot of rain.  Meanwhile the Sierra added prodigious new snow accumulations to their expanding snow base.  Mammoth Mountain added almost six feet.  The floods that followed were substantial, especially around Palm Springs.  Multiple news sources mentioned atmospheric rivers, including LiveScience, Wired, the Washington Post.

The 13 Feb 2019 Atmospheric River is analyzed by Sheldon Kusselson, NOAA/NESDIS retired.  

A radiosonde climatology of San Diego precipitable water where the observed  value on 13 February far exceeds any previous precipitable water maximum (thin red trace) during the cool season.

However, I haven't heard any mention of the upcoming atmospheric river in the news media, or for any past flooding events in the Southeastern US.  In my recollection, the media only mentioned the term 'atmospheric river' when one struck California, subjecting the state to all the impacts we've heard about last week. And it's probably no surprise either.  The precipitation events occurring in the Western US, especially California, are almost completely dominated by atmospheric rivers.  As Mahoney and co-authors in 2015 pointed out, heavy precipitation events in the southeastern US, on the other hand, can come from a multitude of synoptic and mesoscale patterns during the warm and cool seasons.  They found that 41% of heavy precipitation events were matched to an atmospheric river.  I suspect that the term hasn't really caught on without the dominance of atmospheric rivers controlling southeast US heavy rain events.

But that's not to say that atmospheric rivers shouldn't be recognized as major flood producers in the southeast.  Consider the Nashville, TN flood of early May of 2010 where 12-15" of rain flooded the downtown, resulting in huge losses.  The event was big enough to trigger the National Weather Service to deploy the only service assessment team that year.  The huge rain event was fed by a persistent strong low-level jet, rapidly feeding tropical moisture into mesoscale convective complexes training over the same area for nearly a day.  That feed was identified by Moore in 2012 to be an atmospheric river drawing moisture northward from Central America.  Moore determined that this atmospheric river differed from ones existing solely over the ocean because the low-level jet was partially governed by lee cyclogenesis, and with a stationary midlevel trough to the west, the river wound up stalled.

This time may be a little different upon considering that multiple shortwave troughs will be traversing through the mean western trough.  There will be similarities too.  Each transient extratropical cyclone will have a low-level jet forming an atmospheric river with a tap deep into the tropics, particularly the central Carribean.  The moisture is already rich along the Gulf Coast with the onset of the first river.  There will be no fronts to displace the moisture and thus, little time needed for each cyclone to re-establish an atmospheric river.

The one question may be, why bother call the upcoming moisture-laden low-level jets atmospheric rivers?  Does naming them add value to the awareness of the upcoming rain event, or improve the accuracy of the forecasts?  I can't say that the forecasts will be improved.  But I do say it's important that we recognize that these processes occur globally.  Multiple papers have been written about the role of atmospheric rivers in transporting moisture from the tropics toward the poles (see Gimeno and co-authors in 2014, and Waliser and co-authors in 2012).  They've documented that there are several going on around the Earth at any one time.  Thus if so much effort has been made to name these moisture feeds into California, then perhaps we should spend the same time doing the same wherever they occur.  As Ralph and co-authors just recently documented in 2018, the AMS Glossary of Meteorology now has an official definition of an atmospheric river.  The definition defines an Atmospheric River to be:

Atmospheric river–A long, narrow, and transient corridor of strong horizontal water vapor transport that is typically associated with a low-level jet stream ahead of the cold front of an extratropical cyclone. The water vapor in atmospheric rivers is supplied by tropical and/or extratropical moisture sources. Atmospheric rivers frequently lead to heavy precipitation where they are forced upward—for example, by mountains or by ascent in the warm conveyor belt. Horizontal water vapor transport in the midlatitudes occurs primarily in atmospheric rivers and is focused in the lower troposphere. Atmospheric rivers are the largest “rivers” of fresh water on Earth, transporting on average more than double the flow of the Amazon River.

There is no mention that atmospheric rivers are confined to some arbitrary geographical location.  And so neither should anyone else.  Call them for what they are anywhere.

First edit:
Marshall Shepherd pointed out to me a comprehensive study on the climatology of southeast atmospheric resource events by Debbage and co-authors published in 2017 (including Marshall).  Their study provided more information on the frequency of these events impacting the coastline from Brownsville to Cape Hatteras.  They report an atmospheric river affects somewhere between these end points about 45% of all days where an average of 26 events per year affect each of the approximately 100 mi sections along the midAtlantic coastline to about 18 events per year along similar sections of the Texas coastline.  Their synoptic climatology of 500 mb ridge/trough positions and 850 mb flow for Gulf Coast atmospheric rivers, also shows similarities to some of the forecast events coming up the next week.

some readings

Debbage, N. , Miller, P. , Poore, S. , Morano, K. , Mote, T. and Marshall Shepherd, J. (2017), A climatology of atmospheric river interactions with the southeastern United States coastline. Int. J. Climatol, 37: 4077-4091. doi:10.1002/joc.5000

Dettinger, M.F. M. Ralph, and D. Lavers2015Setting the stage for a global science of atmospheric riversEos, Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union96
Dirmeyer, P. A., and Kinter, J. L. (2009). The maya express—late spring floods in the U.S. Midwest. Eos. Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union 90, 101–102. doi: 10.1029/2009EO120001

Gimeno, L.R. Nieto, M. Vázquez, and D. A. Lavers, 2014Atmospheric rivers: A mini-reviewFront. Earth Sci.2, doi:

Lavers, D. A., and G. Villarini2013Atmospheric rivers and flooding over the central United StatesJ. Climate2678297836

Mahoney, K. M., and Coauthors, 2016Understanding the role of atmospheric rivers in heavy precipitation in the southeast United StatesMon. Wea. Rev.14416171632

Miller, D.K., D. Hotz, J. Winton, and L. Stewart2018Investigation of Atmospheric Rivers Impacting the Pigeon River Basin of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Wea. Forecasting, 33283–299, 

Moore, B. J.P. J. NeimanF. M. Ralph, and F. E. Barthold2012Physical processes associated with heavy flooding rainfall in Nashville, Tennessee, and vicinity during 1–2 May 2010: The role of an atmospheric river and mesoscale convective systemsMon. Wea. Rev.140358378

Moore, B. J.K. M. Mahoney, E. M. Sukovich, R. Cifelli, and T. M. Hamill, 2015Climatology and environmental characteristics of extreme precipitation events in the southeastern United StatesMon. Wea. Rev.143718741, doi:

Ralph, F.M., M.D. Dettinger, M.M. Cairns, T.J. Galarneau, and J. Eylander2018Defining “Atmospheric River”: How the Glossary of Meteorology Helped Resolve a Debate.Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 99837–839, 

Waliser, D. E., Moncrieff, M. W., Burridge, D., Fink, A. H., Gochis, D., Goswami, B. N., et al. (2012). The year of tropical convection (May 2008–April 2010): climate variability and weather highlights. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 93, 1189–1218. doi: 10.1175/2011BAMS3095.1

Zhu, Y. and R.E. Newell1998A Proposed Algorithm for Moisture Fluxes from Atmospheric Rivers. Mon. Wea. Rev., 126725–735,<0725:APAFMF>2.0.CO;2