It’s raining again!

Manchester is famous for its rain. There is a standing joke that it always rains in Manchester. If you follow my blog, you will know that we were lucky this year to find many days of sunshine during summer. But, that is gone now. This week, the weather came back to its normal self, drizzling now and then. This week is also the start of new academic year. University campus became busy by the student arrival and registration for the new academic year. Also, students have guests or parents who visit campus as well.

It marks exact one year of my arrival at Manchester. Previous year was even worse. I arrived late and as expected, registration got delayed. I had to visit SSO several times and meet with professors to get necessary information. One of them even cracked a joke –

How do you like the weather? Nice, isn’t it! Consider it your punishment for arriving late. 🙂

But, I wonder why Manchester is so infamous for its weather. I have been to Scottish highland where it rains more. I have also been to other districts in Greater Manchester county, where the weather is colder than Manchester. The problem of Manchester weather is not the amount of rain, but the way it rains. Consider this scenario. You look out of the window to see smoky hazed sunshine. When you come out of the room, it starts drizzling. When you board bus, it stops. After next three stops, it starts drizzling again. Note, I did not mention rain, it just always drizzles!

This kind of moist weather helped massive growth of textile industry during industrial revolution in 18th century. A recent study showed that it is raining more in Manchester than earlier times. It is believed that it is due to clearer unpolluted air. Manchester is surrounded by hills or pennines. West Pennine Moors is situated to the northwest of Manchester. South Pennines covers north and northeast directions. And to the east and south east, there is peak district.

That leaves the south-west direction open for moist air from Atlantic ocean to enter. This moist air forms the cloud and when it meet the pennines, it is forced to go upwards over the pennines. With increase in height, the air becomes cooler. Subsequently, water droplets form and it rains. Due to rain and relatively lower height than its surrounding places, the temperature stays cold, but within tolerable limit. The pennines also block cold air coming from North sea from north and north-east direction.

So, the pennines are the main reason for this irritating constant drizzle. But, we must be thankful to the same pennines to protect Manchester from severe cold wave.

It’s over!

Sorry for taking a month off from blogging. I was very busy writing my dissertation. I finally submitted the dissertation report on this Friday 6th September. Although tiresome and frustrating at times, this is an experience I would remember for days to come.

My project was on an inter-disciplinary problem – to develop a visualizer for scientists to analyze sunspot appearance pattern. I am fortunate being supervised by Dr. John Brooke, who has worked with astrophysicists on solar problems for a long time. I think I did a good job in this dissertation. But, I could not have made it so much better unless my supervisor guided me through.

Several times, I was completely clueless about how to proceed, and he directed me to find alternate ways or think deeper on my hypothesis. He kept encouraging me, saying this is an experience a researcher has to go through. The highs and lows are part and parcel of every project, specially research where there is no guarantee that the actual output would match with expected result.

The project topic is to build a visualizer program which can simulate the actual sunspot appearance pattern. For any simulation, it is imperative for the programmer to understand the physical process. During this project, I learnt many astronomical details regarding solar activities, specially sunspots. The exact details about sunspot appearance is still not known. Official prediction about sunspot appearance in recent times had to be revised multiple times. More interestingly, this year solar activities are supposed to be at its peak. However, solar activities so far have been below average.

The other challenge is to extract information through which we can compare the simulation to the real output. This was the toughest part of the project. I approximated the real dataset to form a model of stochastic resonance. Basic stochastic resonance model operates with three inputs – signal, noise and threshold.

In this case, signal value is lower than the threshold value. So, it alone could not cross the threshold barrier and give any output. But, adding it with noise, the compound signal crosses threshold barrier at times, giving random output, but also adhering to base signal pattern. The reason of choosing this model lies in the pattern of real sunspot appearance.

Sunspots randomly appear on solar surface. But, if the trend of sunspot is analyzed for a long period, it seems they follow a cyclic pattern. For example, if we plot sunspot count with time, the plot forms a sinusoidal pattern with period of about 11 years. That means, the duration between two successive solar maximas and two solar minimas is about 11 years.
It is assumed that this regular pattern is caused by the base solar signal, and the randomness of sunspot appearance is caused by the noise involved in this process. With stochastic resonance model, the simulation works well to replicate approximated real sunspot dataset. Documenting all these into dissertation report is another painstaking task though.

Masters dissertation report demands high standard. To collate everything related to the project in a coherent form is tough, specially with stringent time constraint. I forgot how many times I modified my original writing. It’s always helpful to proof-read the report by somebody else, specially by your supervisor. On the first draft, I got so many comments, that it reminds of Indian roads, where potholes are easier to find than the actual road. 🙂

At the end, you would feel disgusted to look at the same report over and over again, and yet discover so many loopholes. Fortunately, it’s all over for me. The result is due to be announced on November. Hope my report gets good feedback!