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A nerdy topic, from above.

Over the past holiday period I have logged several things that fit into that snug cliche', signs of the times. Were they related to the religion 'n retail fever dreams of the period? Let's be a good sport and say the collision of heightened expectations and disillusionment makes for a fine sharpening of the senses, and occasions.

Disillusionment figures in one from this week. Aviation weather has long been something I've followed since the middle 1970's. Basically, it's visibility and cloud cover, along with the requisite temperature and dew point. A lot of numbers from the past reflected conjecture, yea, varying competence among the various airports.

Yes, in the past, someone in the tower or at least office of an airport could say the visibility was five miles with haze, or fifteen or fifty miles. The sky could be clear, or have scattered clouds at 4,000 feet, broken at 10,000 and maybe a broken or overcast---hierarchy's like no scattered above a broken layer apply---at 25,000.

There are phone numbers where these numbers can be obtained, but airports have their own frequencies on the aviation radio band which broadcast this information, in a loop, to aircraft.

During an 80's drive through the Central Valley I had the scanner in the car and heard the first of the automated stations. That day had a pretty good layer of cirrus but the robot voices announced "clear below one two thousand feet" and visibilities no greater than ten miles.

More and more stations went this route, with greatly diminishing and non-existent details when one could observe more, though the metropolitan airports often exercise the "operator assist" option. San Jose International used to even give observations of cumulous buildups well to the east over the Sierra's. Alas, judging by my phone source they've gone "robot" since early summer.

Today over the Valley we had a somewhat thin but definite cirrus layer in advance of a front but Van Nuys Airport, in whom I always took such pride with its operator observations and would have said something like 20,000 broken/overcast, was reporting clear or the dreaded clear below 12,000, at least for now with human voices. It's been a trend for a few weeks.

With lower clouds and rain there will emerge numbers but this caving in tells me things are not the same.

Oh, well, the sky and its features are there regardless of the care in which numbers are conjured. Go out and make your own flowery observations. This essay is enough to drive a reader from in front of the computer screen.

Have I been clear? Or cloudy?

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