Saturday, February 13, 2010

Official N.R.O. Response to Recent Criticisms

The N.R.O. generally does not comment on public criticisms of its work. We feel that the quality of our science (1) speaks for itself. However, due to a delayed flight, we have decided to respond to two recent criticisms.

Below is a criticism by Chicago Boy. (Editors Note: We would like to thank The Hook (2) for the shout-out).



We thank Chicago Boy for his interest in our work. Unfortunately we are unable to verify his claim that we are stupid. As PhD students at a prestigious university we have been too busy publishing papers to consider that we may be stupid. This is a valid hypothesis that deserves further investigation.

We are flattered that Chicago Boy compares us to the Onion. Unfortunately I (the senior author) don't read the Onion. Thus Chicago Boy is mistaken if he is suggesting that we are imitating their material. A number of our collaborators are at UW-Madison. We will ask these collaborators for reprints of the Onion's papers in order to review them in ongoing efforts to improve our own work. We agree with Chicago Boy that we are "junior league." Unlike the Onion, a multi-state for-profit news organization (3), we are a non-profit research organization with no full time educational outreach staff. It is not clear what Chicago Boy's motives are. It is clear that his criticisms are misguided; he tries to compare institutions with contrasting missions.

The below comment is by Jim (4)(Editors Note: Thanks again Daily Progress).



We are unsure why children climbing on Mount Chipotle has a negative connotation. The literature has shown that most American children (5) are not athletic enough to scale Mount Chipotle. Coincidentally the literature has shown that most American adults (6) are not athletic enough to scale Mount Chipotle. Those children who are physically capable of scaling the mountain should be rewarded by being allowed to take in the majestic view from the summit.

(Editors Note: We applaud the athletic prowess of the mountaineers from William Monroe High School. Do you like science? Can you take some samples for us next time you're up there?)

Dance Troupe to Perform at Mount Chipotle Regional Library

The Palo Alto dance (1) troupe "Hysteresis!" will be performing at the Mount Chipotle Regional library at 7 pm on Monday, February 15th. The show aims to interpret the native heritage of the Mount Chipotle region through modern dance. Tickets cost $15 at the door.

"We show the tension between multiple attractors that the native society experienced when the Europeans arrived in the Mount Chipotle Valley. The native populations had to chose between their peaceful, mathematically enlightened society or enslavement and eventual death by smallpox (2). The natives stuck with tradition for years until continued exotic disease outbreaks reduced their resliance leading to a rapid change in the structure of their society (3)" troupe leader Jon Frum said. "Our dance shows the struggle of the Native people rebuild their great society, a struggle that removing the European influence alone couldn't solve."

The troupe spent months rehearsing their routine. "It's difficult to simulate (4) this complex story" Frum said. "There isn't necessarily an explicit solution."

All proceeds from the show will benefit the Mount Chipotle National Research Observatory's educational outreach program.

Mt. Chipotle is scenic backdrop for new commercial

The northern face of Mt. Chioptle will be closed for the next two days while it is being used as a scenic backdrop with rugged terrain to film a commercial featuring Fjord's new model of pickup truck, the J-150. Film crews will be escorted to the site of the commercial by snowcats and a professional driver will navigate the J-150 through a course from the north face through Barbacoa Ravine, which tourists have claimed is one of the most scenic vistas in the region. Pictured here is the truck being transported up the mountain.


Mount Chipotle Avalanche Forcast

Carnitas Ravine has MODERATE and LOW avalanche danger today. The Bowl, Headwall and Lip have Considerable avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are possible but not probable. Unstable slabs are probable in steep terrain. Be increasingly cautious in steeper terrain. Hillman's Highway, the Lower Snowfields, Left Gully and Right Gully have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. Use caution in steep terrain. The Little Headwall has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised.

Barbacoa Ravine has LOW avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely although human triggered avalanches are possible. Unstable slabs are possible in steep terrain. Use caution in steeper terrain.

New ski resort on Mt. Chipotle draws crowds, criticism

Record snowfall amounts in the Mt. Chipotle region have been drawing large crowds of ski tourists to the newly opened Mt. Chipotle Ski Resort, much to the dismay of NRO scientists and Friends of Mt. Chipotle (1). A spokesperson from the local NGO claims that "not only will skiers undoubtedly harm the delicate balance of the Mt. Chipotle ecosystem, this ski resort aims to fundamentally alter the rich culture and heritage of the Mt. Chipotle region."

The owner of the ski resort declined to comment, but we were able to discern that the land for the ski area is on indefinite loan from the Mt. Chipotle National Trust and that the permit was approved in hopes of bringing more visitors to the area to explore and enjoy the beauty of the region.

Mt. Chipotle Ski Resort (2) features over 3,100 vertical feet of terrain, over 150 named trails, and 28 lifts including 9 high-speed quads and a high speed gondola. Visitors will also be able to take photos with the resort's friendly snowboarding mascot, Wooly the Mammoth.



N.R.O. Featured in Local Newspaper

The following story is from the Charlottesville Daily Progress Newspaper. Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the N.R.O. The views and opinions of the Daily Progress Newspaper expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the N.R.O. or its funding agencies (1) and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.


The N.R.O. is pleased to announce that its scientists have been featured in a local newspaper, the Charlottesville Daily Progress (2). (Editors note: Thanks Megan and Ted).

"It is often difficult for small, private institutions like the N.R.O. to connect with members of the community" said Senior Scientist Luke Cole. "We hope that the added awareness this story creates will help improve our outreach to the community and our efforts to educate the public about the science and heritage of the Mount Chipotle region."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cvilledrinkspecials.com Endows Research Chair at N.R.O.

The Mount Chipotle National Research Observatory is pleased to announce that Cvilledrinkspecials.com (1) has endowed a research chair to study basic (2) science on the slopes of Mount Chipotle.

The Mount Chipotle National Research Observatory has appointed Dr. Phil (3) Stachman, an eminent ecologist, to the newly established Cvilledrinkspecials.com Endowed Chair in Ecology.

The endowment provides funds to support and encourage research and teaching in the area of alpine ecology, including studies of human impacts on plants, such as global warming, introduction of invasive plants, and ecosystem destruction.

The Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow bars to advertise their drink specials. Cvilledrinkspecials.com has collected and published an extensive database of food and drink specials at Charlottesville bars so that citizens of the Mount Chipotle region can make informed choices as to where they socialize. Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the N.R.O. The views and opinions of Cvilledrinkspecials.com do not necessarily state or reflect those of the N.R.O. or its funding agencies , and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Breaking News: Government Fortifies Mount Chipotle, Cuts Access to Scientists

Breaking News: The government has fortified Mount Chipotle and the surrounding valley. Access to scientists has been cut. It is unclear what has caused the sudden change in government policy. The Pentagon press secretary was not available for comment. The N.R.O. speculates that access may have been cut due to a recent terrorist threat (1). (Editors Note: see our past coverage on the terrorist threat at 2). A fort has been constructed at the base of the mountain (see below) and armored vehicles (3) have been spotted in the area. The N.R.O. may see its long term data sets, some with up to 25 years of continuous data on a variety of ecological parameters, disrupted. The N.R.O. will continue to release updates on the fortification of Mt. Chipotle and the impact on the science and heritage of the Mount Chipotle region.

Mount Chipotle: 11 February 2010

The view of Mt. Chipotle on 11 February 2010 at about 10:30 PM as seen by Observatory staff.



For those who have not joined the GSA pool for guessing the melt date the deadline is tomorrow at noon.

Official N.R.O. Comment on Tumblegate 2010

Earlier today, the Associated Press reported that a Mount Chipotle National Research Observatory scientist, Dr. D. Wilson Strayman, pictured below, purposely introduced the invasive tumbleweed plant into the Mount Chipotle ecosystem in order to further his own research career.



It is with great regret that the N.R.O. administration confirms the accuracy of this report. Dr. Strayman, a popular (1) terrestrial ecologist (2) has been dismissed from his position on the N.R.O. staff. Apparently Strayman introduced the species in order to purposely disrupt the lower slopes of the Mt. Chipotle ecosystem. The N.R.O. maintains a long term (20-25 year) data set on many aspects of the Mt. Chipotle ecosystem. The before and after invasion comparisons that Strayman would be able to draw after the tubmleweed invasion would result in career making publications in prestigious scientific journals (3). The N.R.O. administration has began a formal review process of Strayman's work. We have already identified two articles that contain "questionable" conclusions (4, 5). In order to maintain transparency the N.R.O. will continue to issue press releases regarding this unfortunate incident.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Invasive Tumbleweed Plant (Salsola spp.) Found in Mount Chipotle Ecosystem



The invasive tumbleweed plant (Salsola spp.), pictured above tumbling on the shore of Lake Chipotle, has been found by N.R.O. staff on the lower slopes of Mount Chipotle. The tumbleweed plant has no known predators in the Mount Chipotle region. It is expected to devastate the fragile ecology of the region.

"The tumbleweed has the potential to be an ecological disaster, similar in scale to the zebra mussel invasion of US fresh waters during the early 90's" according to UVa terrestrial ecologist Owie Hepstein. "As the tumbleweed tumbles it disturbs the delicate balance between atmosphere and soil, potentially disturbing below ground production. Below ground production is just as important as above ground production but is rarely measured. Because we have no baseline data we may never know the true extent of the damage" the 'popular' environmental science professor added.

Once a tumbleweed begins tumbling it rarely stops. Unfortunately the tumbleweed appears to have been introduced to the region by a N.R.O. research staff member. The tumbleweed was being transported from a meeting (1) in New Mexico on mountains (2). The tumbleweed was destined for a museum exhibit at the N.R.O. visitors' center. While on a plane the plant tumbled down the center aisle disappearing until it was later spotted rolling along the lower slopes of Mount Chipotle. Community leaders are holding an emergency meeting to develop a response to the tumbleweed invasion.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Seismic activity detected in Mount Chipotle region


NRO scientists have observed unusual seismic activity in Mt. Chipotle and Barracks Valley.

Recent photographs indicate that Mt. Chipotle moved 40 ft to the north during the white out, as measured from the nearby lamp post. Photographs from the Mt. Chipotle NRO archives—taken after the historic first ascent of Mt. Chipotle—show Shirpa Dirka taking his first meal at the summit directly under the lamp post in question.

NRO scientists are troubled by the lack of a clear path to the summit in the mountain's new location and form. However, an RV—believed to have been previously buried under the mountain—has appeared at what is now the base of the mountain. Scientists suspect that Mt. Chipotle may be accessible by climbing through the window of the RV.

Other mountains in the Jefferson Range have been affected by the recent events. Both Mt. Teet and Mt. Banana have disappeared. Also missing is NRO staff member A. Jay. Last contact from Jay was 2 days ago when he checked in from his post at the recently built Fort Banana, atop Mt. Banana. The companion mountains to Mt. Chipotle are thought to have disappeared at the same time Mt. Chipotle moved.

Cause of the seismic activity is as yet unknown. However, frozen wheels on nearby vehicles—affected by the recent anomalies in local climate—are suspected as a possible cause.


Whiteout conditions reported at summit of Mt. Chipotle


Monday, February 8, 2010

Photos of Mount Chipotle 08 February 2010

Some recent pictures of Mount Chipotle taken by N.R.O. senior research scientist K. Ho.



Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mount Chipotle Avalanche Advisory

Carnitas Ravine has MODERATE and LOW avalanche danger. The Lip, Bowl, Headwall and Right Gully have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. Use caution in steeper terrain. Left Gully, Hillman's Highway, the Lower Snowfields and the Little Headwall have Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised.

Barbacoa Ravine has LOW avalanche danger.
Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised.


It is important to understand that our advisories are intended to be used as a tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. They should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather's effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.

The N.R.O.'s mission includes educational and research (1) components. Below are examples of our recent research on avalanches.

Ho, K. (2010). The Importance of Micro-Scale Avalanche Forecasting in Mount Chipotle's Barbacoa and Carnitas Ravines. Proceedings from the International Snow Science Workshop, February 2010, Mammoth Lakes, CA.

ABSTRACT: For over fifty years Mount Chipotle National Research Observatory research staff have patrolled Mount Chipotle and issued avalanche advisories. The focus of these activities has occurred in Carnitas Ravine, a popular steep skiing destination and Barbacoa Ravine, renowned for alpine ice climbing. The Mount Chipotle National Research Observatory Avalanche Center is tasked with educating these users through forecasting for avalanches, icefall, crevasse problems and communicating these in an advisory. High visitation in a concentrated use environment paired with Mount Chipotles's spatial variability has made micro-forecasting critical for successfully conveying stability issues to the public. Avalanche forecasting occurs on a micro-scale through the issuance of ratings for 16 independent areas. Stability may vary by one to three ratings within this relatively small area due to the intense spatial variability caused by Mount Chipotle's extreme wind, high tensile strength hard slab, and the associated bridging over weak layers. Winds between 160 and 225 kph occur on a regular basis through the winter and provide the dominant forecasting variable. This micro-scale focus gives more detailed point specific information to visitors so they may better mitigate risk in a heavy use environment.

Ho, K. (2010). Avalanche Terrain and Conditions in the Jefferson Range, Virginia, US. Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop, Mammoth Lakes, CA 2010.

ABSTRACT: The Jefferson Range in the Chipotle Mountains of Virginia has the greatest concentration of avalanche terrain in the United States. Mount Chipotle, the highest summit in the country (12 m), has a fierce reputation. Harsh winter weather and a high accident rate have earned Mount Chipotle the distinction of having the worst weather amongst the seven summits and as the most dangerous mountain in the world. Hurricane force winds (>121 km/h) are measured on average of 110 days per year. While the notoriously severe winter weather of the Jefferson Range is commonly acknowledged, much less is known about the avalanche terrain, snowpack and weather conditions which characterize this mountain range. The consistently high winds and their influence upon avalanche conditions are unique to avalanche prone areas in the United States. Winter recreation use of the Jefferson Range, including Mount Chipotle is intense. Since 1954 there have been 327 avalanche fatalities and many other avalanche accidents in the Jefferson Range. Historical data indicate that avalanche accidents have increased in the past decade, mirroring the national trend in recreation related avalanche accidents in the United States.