Home

Galleries

News/Blog

Technology

Media

Links

Bio

Adventure Speaking

Contact

FAQ

2008 Archive News/Blog & Recent Events - George Kourounis

Get All The Latest Expedition Updates Via:

George Kourournis on Facebook

George Kourounis on Twitter

George Kourounis on YouTube

Dec. 31 2008 - Top 5 Weather Stories of 2008 - This morning I appeared on the Canada A.M. national morning show to present my "Top 5 weather stories of the year". Each one was selected based on how unique the event was and how widespread its effects were. Here is my list:
 
5 - California wildfires
4 - Melting arctic sea ice
3 - The multiple, huge tornado outbreaks in the U.S.
2 - Six consecutive land falling Atlantic tropical storms/hurricanes
1 - Devastating cyclone Nargis strikes Myanmar
 
Let's hope for a better, less destructive 2009. Stay safe and remember - Never turn your back on Mother Nature.

Canada A.M.



Dec. 29 2008 - Heading to Antarctica! - The time has come for me to reveal the latest news.... The Angry Planet production team is heading to Antarctica in early January. I've been wanting to visit the frozen continent for many years now and it only seems natural to film an episode of Angry Planet there since it is the coldest, driest, windiest and least hospitable continent of them all. Actually, once I set foot there, I will have completed a life goal of visiting all 7 continents before the age of 40.
 
The jumping off point for this adventure will be the city of Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina. I've been there before, when I sailed around Cape Horn in 2006 but this time, the journey (by ship) will continue across the Drake passage and to Antarctica itself. The Drake is notorious for its rough seas and terrible weather and it will take several days for us to cross it.
 
After spending almost a week in Antarctica, I'll then return to Ushuaia where I will bid farewell to my cameraman. I`ll remain in Ushuaia a while longer before meeting up with fellow extreme adventurer Nik Halik, for yet another voyage south to Antarctica. Nik just finished his cosmonaut training in Russia and has his sights set on a mission to the International Space Station!! Compared to space, this will be a simple journey for him.

Antarctica

Dec. 20 2008 - After The Storm. -I chased the recent "Snowmageddon" event with a small group of other storm chasers including Mark Robinson, Jayson Mills and David Piano. We began the chase in Burlington where high winds whipped up blowing snow and made for very limited visibility. We then moved on into the Hamilton region where lake enhancement contributed to even greater snowfall levels. While there, we experienced several instances of thundersnow as we filmed numerous cars getting stuck in the deep, drifting snow. We then continued on to the shoreline to capture some of the impressive wave action that was now pounding parts of Lake Ontario.
 
 
Although it wasn't a doomsday storm, it was still impressive with heavy snow, bone numbing windchills to well below minus 20 degrees, huge waves and near zero visibility at times. Hundreds of accidents were reported, schools closed and it was chaos at the Toronto international airport. All this and the official start of winter is not even here yet.
 
 
As if this wasn't enough, yet ANOTHER storm is expected tomorrow... Let the mayhem continue!

Dec_2008_Snowmageddon

Dec_2008_Snowmageddon

Dec. 17 2008 - Snow-Mageddon Coming. - I've never heard Environment Canada use such odd wording in a special weather statement before. This must mean that the forecast series of snowstorms starting this Friday is going to be epic. Here are a few excerpts from the statement:
 
...Could this be snow-mageddon?..
Environment Canada is generally not prone to exaggeration unless there is deemed to be a real threat. We evaluate weather information and prediction models in a measured, scientific manner and couple that with overall impacts for significant events.
 
Mother nature from time to time will line up a near perfect set of conditions that generate a series of significant events. That time appears to be the coming week or so for many portions of southern Ontario in the form of snow storms.
The term 'snow-mageddon' is not meant to alarm anyone or make light of the
situation, but to highlight the cumulative effects and impacts that A series of snow storms can have on a wide region...
 
Yes, I will be out documenting this weather event so watch for more information and photos as the next few days unfold.

Dec. 11 2008 - Back From Costa Rica - The Costa Rica adventure was amazing. There is so much to see and do there that there was never a dull moment. Some of the highlights included hiking up onto the flanks of the erupting Arenal volcano with a group of scientists as they installed a series of seismometers, and getting to handle several species of venomous snakes including the deadly Fer de Lance. One bite from this snake and you'd better be rushing off to the hospital. They are so aggressive and dangerous that unfortunately, farmers in the region will always kill them on sight.
 
While in Costa Rica I also did some class 4 white water rafting, some cave exploring and canyoneering where I rappelled down waterfalls and then climbed back up them. Costa Rica is an adventurer's amusement park with lush jungles, rugged mountains, swift rivers and dramatic coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
 
Each link below will take you to a new page with pictures from the trip:
 
Arenal Volcano
Fer de Lance viper & other wildlife
Irazu volcano
Costa Rican waterfalls
Rare planetary conjunction
 
Things are going to remain hectic in the Angry Planet world over the holidays. We're putting the finishing touches on the first of the season 3 episodes we filmed earlier this year and it's full speed ahead with numerous other expeditions coming up in the new year.

Arenal Volcano

Costa Rican Wildlife

Nov. 28 2008 - Heading to Costa Rica - Away from the snow I go. Tomorrow I leave for the jungles and volcanoes of Costa Rica. This journey will make up yet another episode of Angry Planet and I'm really looking forward to my first visit to Central America. The dry season has not fully taken hold yet so there is a good chance that I'll be finding out firsthand why they call it a "rain forest".
 
I arrive in San Jose tomorrow night and from there I will be moving on to Arenal, Poas, Irazu and many other locations throughout the country. I really need to try and NOT get bitten by anything on this trip, especially since Costa Rica is home to numerous species of venomous snakes including the Bushmaster and the Fer de Lance.
 
This will be the last expedition of 2008, but there is a LOT more adventure to come. In fact, 2009 is going to start with a bang...

Costa Rica

Nov. 21 2008 - Arkona, Ontario - Wow, I've never seen so much snow come down in 24 hours. Southwestern Ontario got walloped with up to 76cm of intense lake effect snow squalls that totally blanketed the region.
 
It was tricky getting into the worst hit areas due to closed roads and terrible driving conditions but seeing the snow totals in Arkona was a sight to behold. Everywhere I looked, there were cars, buried under so much snow that the only way you could tell that there was a car underneath was from the shape of the pile of snow. In all my years of chasing snow squalls, this was the worst I've encountered.

2008_11_21_Supersquall

Nov. 20 2008 - Toronto - It was only a matter of time... The first real snowfall of the year has hit Toronto. Overnight about 8 cm of the white stuff settled in over the city causing all kinds of traffic snarls. Later today and tonight, the winds are expected to shift into a favorable position for severe lake effect snow squalls north of the city, downwind from Lake Huron. Some areas could see from 30 to 60 cm more from these squalls. I'm monitoring the situation and if the forecast setup verifies, I may go up into the snow belt to document the squalls.
 
Now, where did I leave my shovel?

Nov 20 Snow

Nov. 17 2008 - Toronto - The California wildfires continue to burn and even though the winds have died down some, the firefighters still have a lot of work to do. Close to 1000 homes have been reduced to ashes over the past few days and thousands of people have been forced to evacuate, sometimes with only moments notice. Three major fires are still burning and none of them are completely under control yet. Cooler temperatures, higher humidity and calmer winds are what the region really needs right now. I am not on location in California at this time but I am keeping a close eye on the situation.
 
I appeared on the Canada AM national morning show today to discuss the fire weather situation in California. Here is a link to the video from CTV.

Canada AM

Nov. 16 2008 - Toronto - My rabies injections are continuing and I thought they were going to be a lot more painful than they actually were. Gone are the days of nasty injections in the abdomen. The worst part was getting 5 needles in the hips and even that was not bad at all. Considering the alternatives, I'm more than happy to have to get these vaccinations.
 
In other news, California is burning again. Several large fires have destroyed over 100 homes near Los Angeles. Santa Ana winds have been whipping the flames into a firestorm and higher than normal temperatures have not helped the fire fighting efforts. It looks like there might be some cooler air coming in which might help to ease the situation over the next few days but we'll have to wait and see. This morning I did a phone interview with CTV Newsnet, commenting on the weather situation in California.

Nov. 10 2008 - Toronto - It's good to be back home after such a long trip, 3 continents, several countries and 13 airline flights later.
 
Even though I did not catch the Marburg virus from my recent bat bite in Kenya, I am required to undergo a series of rabies vaccinations. I believe there is a total of 9 needles that I have to get over the next month. Rabies can take up to a year or more for symptoms to appear and considering the alternative, this is not so bad. Sure, I say that now but we'll see how I feel after my first 5 injections tomorrow...

Nov. 04 2008 - Chernobyl, Ukraine - Hands down, the city of Pripyat is the creepiest place I've ever been. Since the 186 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Pripyat has been abandoned. It is a radioactive wasteland of empty buildings, schools and streets. I spent 2 days inside the radioactive exclusion zone to photograph the reactor and what remains of the town. Some areas were so contaminated that we could only stay there for a few minutes before were had to move on to a safer area.

Chernobyl

Oct. 31 2008 - Nukus, Uzbekistan - Well, It's Halloween and I'm still alive so that means that I did NOT catch the Marburg virus in the African cave. Whew!
 
I've moved on to Uzbekistan where I'm exploring the Aral Sea which has shrunk in size over the past few decades to only a small fraction of what it once was. During Soviet times, the water feeding it was diverted to irrigate cotton crops and the sea has suffered terribly. Ships now lie in the sand where fishing towns used to bustle with activity and it now takes hours of off road driving to reach the new shoreline.

Aral Sea, Uzbekistan

Oct. 21 2008 - Kitum Cave, Kenya - I've just returned from Kitum Cave on Mount Elgon, near the Uganda border. The cave has been carved out for thousands of years by elephants who come to the cave to mine it with their tusks. They then eat the rocks to ingest the salts they contain. The cave has also been the epicenter for several instances of Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever, an Ebola like virus which turns its victims internal organs to jello. Unfortunately, during our exploration of the cave, I was bitten by one of the bats. It bit through my glove and broke the skin so there is some risk of infection but still nobody knows exactly how Marburg is transmitted to humans. I need to watch myself closely over the next week for any symptoms. I'm going to be in remote areas will few medical facilities so the ability to get help will be slim.

Kitum Cave, Kenya

Kitum Cave, Kenya

Oct. 18 2008 - Masai Mara, Kenya - The past few days have been spent on safari, gathering footage and photos of African wildlife, including the massive wildebeest migration. We were able to document them as the herds crossed the Mara river. Crocodiles and vultures were waiting downstream for those who didn't make it across.
 
Many other species were photographed as well, including, lions, hippos, cheetah, hyenas, jackals, elephants, buffalo and many more.

Masai Mara Migration

Oct. 10 2008 - On My Way - My huge Kenya - Uzbekistan - Chernobyl voyage is now underway. This set of expeditions will end up becoming two episodes of the Angry Planet TV. One episode will be on the Kitum Cave of Kenya, home to salt mining elephants and the deadly Marburg virus and the other episode will be focused on some of the world`s largest environmental disasters.
 
I`ll be attempting to do brief updates on the Home Page from my mobile world phone. I`ve been experimenting with it and I think it will work. Therefore, this blog will be temporarily suspended during this trip and updates will only be available on the main Home Page. Regular blog reports will resume upon my return.

Oct. 08 2008 - Watching A Pacific Hurricane - Hurricane Norbert has surprised me. I didn't give this storm much thought since it was expected to be a category 1 or possibly 2 and make landfall along the the Baja California region of Mexico. Well this morning I see that the storm has grown in strength and is now a category 3, intense hurricane and it might even reach category 4 status! Now it has my attention... Even if the storm weakens before landfall, it will still bring with it a powerful storm surge that could be extremely damaging to the coastal towns in the area.
 
Normally, I would already be booking my flight to Baja, but my schedule does not allow for it. Norbert is going to strike mere hours before I have to board a plane to Nairobi so an intercept is completely out of the question.
 
There are times when I wish I had a cloning device so that I can be in two (or three) places at once. I'm still waiting for someone to invent one.
 
Preparations for the Kenya/Uzbekistan/Chernobyl trip are in full swing right now and the rest of the week will be spent packing, checking equipment, and finishing up my pre-expedition research. This will be another truly epic adventure.

Hurricane Norbert

Oct. 05 2008 - Toronto, Getting Ready For The Next Set Of Expeditions -
 
Production on season three of Angry Planet is now in full swing and the next year or so will be packed with even more exotic travel and wild adventures to some of the most spectacular and dangerous places on Earth.
 
So, what's coming up next?... October is going to be BUSY. Here are the places I'll be going to over the next month or so:
 
Kenya - Kitum Cave - This cave on Mount Elgon is the only place on Earth where elephants venture underground. They scrape the walls of the cave with their tusks and chew the rocks for the salts they contain. The cave also contains a huge roost of bats and it has been the epicenter for at least 2 outbreaks of Marburg Hemorrhagic fever, a very close cousin of the Ebola virus. I plan to be spending the night alone in the cave.
 
Uzbekistan - Aral Sea - When the Former Soviet Union diverted rivers for cotton plantations; a side effect was the evaporation of the Aral Sea. What was once a mighty inland body of water is now an ecological disaster zone where ships lie in the desert where fishing villages used to be. The closest water to these landlocked relics is now dozens of kilometers away. The area is extremely polluted, with toxic dust storms that stir up pesticides and other chemicals, and then there's Vozrozhdeniya Island, which has now become a peninsula, which was home to a former Soviet biological weapons testing facility where Anthrax, the Plague and Smallpox were weaponized and stored during the cold war.
 
Ukraine - Chernobyl - In 1986, the worst nuclear reactor disaster in history occurred here when a series of design faults and human errors led to a steam explosion which released massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. I'll be heading into the exclusion zone to get a look at what has happened to the towns and countryside near the reactor site. The area is still radioactive so I'll have to limit my exposure time there.
 
As my departure date draws closer, I'll post the latest updates on how the planning stages are coming along. I'll be doing these expeditions in succession so this latest adventure will take quite some time, especially since it spans 3 continents!

 

Kenya Map

Uzbekistan Map

Ukraine Map

Oct. 02 2008 - Toronto - Yesterday, I had a crew from Omni TV over to shoot a profile on me for one of their shows. I'm not sure when it will air, but I think it is this weekend.
 
Editing and voice recording for the last few episodes of Angry Planet season two continues. Tomorrow, I'll be doing the narration for one of the episodes we filmed in Indonesia, it features my climb of Semeru volcano as well as the Komodo Dragons and the Sidoarjo mud flow disaster. The last four episodes of this season will be airing soon, so expect to see them this fall.
 
As for what's coming up... Well I'll give more details in a few days but this morning, I was back at the travel medicine clinic, stocking up on my anti-Malaria medication. The crazy part is that where I'm heading next... Malaria will be the least of my worries...

Omni TV

Sept. 26 2008 - Gatineau, Quebec - Just a quick note. I will not be intercepting Tropical Storm Kyle in the Maritimes this weekend. I have other obligations which I will be attending to instead. I will however, be watching Kyle closely to see what kinds of impacts the storm will have on New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Sept. 25 2008 - Toronto - Tropical storm Kyle has now formed in the Atlantic and is taking aim at Nova Scotia, possibly as early as this Sunday. This doesn't give me much chance to get caught up, repair and replace broken equipment and plan ahead for an intercept. The storm may even reach hurricane strength before it eventually gets to higher latitudes and colder water.
 
Right now,I don't know if I'll be attempting an intercept of Kyle, especially since I have a full schedule this weekend.

Kyle

Sept. 17 2008 - Toronto - I am now back home after my epic chase of historic Hurricane Ike. The storm claimed my mobile phone and damaged my laptop so I have not been in touch with the outside world very much over the past few days.
 
Thank you to those who were wondering about my well being. The chase of Ike was a very difficult one for many reasons.

Ike_28

Sept. 13 2008 - Hurricane Ike - Galveston - The eye of Hurricane Ike has just moved ashore and conditions are calm. I expect the winds to pick up dramatically in about an hour as the backside of the storm approaches.
 
All day long, giant waves have been pounding the coastline here and floodwaters are starting to overtake the city. I don't know how long I'll be able to maintain an internet connection but I suspect it will go soon since we are loosing all power.

Ike_01

Sept. 11 2008 - Galveston, Texas - Hurricane Ike is bearing down on the Texas Gulf Coast and I'm already in position for the storm. The predictions are that storm surge levels around here could reach 12-16 feet above normal sea level and the fact that Ike will hit in the middle of the night and at high tide will make this intercept even more complicated.
 
What's even worse is that I'm also battling a dose of food poisoning complete with fever, vomiting and diarrhea. For now, I'm resting up but tomorrow night, all hell will be breaking loose around here. Here is the official warning:
 
GULF-FACING COASTAL AREAS FROM MATAGORDA TO HIGH ISLAND INCLUDING
GALVESTON ISLAND...12 TO 16 FEET
LIFE THREATENING INUNDATION LIKELY!
 
ALL NEIGHBORHOODS...AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES... WILL BE INUNDATED DURING HIGH TIDE. PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH. MANY RESIDENCES OF AVERAGE CONSTRUCTION DIRECTLY ON THE COAST WILL BE DESTROYED. WIDESPREAD AND DEVASTATING PERSONAL PROPERTY DAMAGE IS LIKELY ELSEWHERE. VEHICLES LEFT BEHIND WILL LIKELY BE SWEPT AWAY. NUMEROUS ROADS WILL BE SWAMPED...SOME MAY BE WASHED AWAY BY THE WATER.
 
ENTIRE FLOOD PRONE COASTAL COMMUNITIES WILL BE CUTOFF. WATER LEVELS MAY EXCEED 9 FEET FOR MORE THAN A MILE INLAND. COASTAL RESIDENTS IN MULTI-STORY FACILITIES RISK BEING CUTOFF.
 
CONDITIONS WILL BE WORSENED BY BATTERING WAVES. SUCH WAVES WILL EXACERBATE PROPERTY DAMAGE...WITH MASSIVE DESTRUCTION OF HOMES...INCLUDING THOSE OF BLOCK CONSTRUCTION. DAMAGE FROM BEACH EROSION COULD TAKE YEARS TO REPAIR.

Hurricane Ike Path

Sept. 09 2008 - Somewhere Over Cuba- Okay, that was cool. Getting the chance to fly with the famous "Hurricane Hunters" of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the U.S. Air Force Reserve was a dream come true for me. The mission today was to fly out to Hurricane Ike and see exactly where the center of the storm was located and how intense it was after passing over the mountains of Cuba. When we finally got out to the storm, it became clear that the eye was still over land in Cuba and we had to get permission from the Cubans to fly over their air space. When the eye eventually moved back out over water, we started to notice it taking on a much more organized shape. This indicated that the storm was beginning to re-strengthen now that it was back over warm water.
 
Throughout the day, we criss-crossed the storm, dropping instrumented probes called dropsondes. These devices measure wind speed & direction as well as the air temperature and humidity. The ride did get a little bumpy as we flew through the eyewall but it wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be and my notorious stomach had no problems today.
 
The planes used by the 53rd Squadron are WC-130J Hercules, specially set up for weather recon. The flight crew consisted of 5 members: a pilot, co pilot, navigator, a dropsonde loader and an aerial reconnaissance weather officer.
 
The data they collect is relayed to the National Hurricane Center in Miami where the meteorologists there use it to help determine where these storms are headed and how strong they might become. I want to extend my sincere thanks to the men & women of the 53rd Squadron for the opportunity to ride with them. It was an honour.
 
Here are a few photos for now, I'll be adding more of them when I get the chance. Now that I'm back on the ground in Biloxi, my attention turns to a ground based intercept of Hurricane Ike when it finally comes ashore in Texas in a few days...

Ike_HH_01

Ike_HH_02

Ike_HH_03

Sept. 08 2008 - Biloxi, Mississippi - Getting Ready To FLY INTO The Eye Of Hurricane Ike- One after another, the hurricanes keep coming. Hurricane Ike is currently over Cuba after hitting hard as a category 3 storm which previously raked across the Turks & Caicos Islands and parts of the Bahamas and Haiti. There are reports of widespread damage on those islands and it looks like Ike is gearing up for a U.S. Gulf Coast landfall, probably this weekend, but I'm not going to wait for Ike to come to me. Nope. In the morning I'll be boarding the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter plane for a flight INTO the eye of the storm. We depart Keesler Air Force base in Biloxi in the morning for an 8 to 12 hour flight to study the hurricane and bring back data that will help the National Hurricane Center determine where Ike is headed and how strong the storm is. Our flight will take us close to Cuban air space so it is uncertain how many times we'll be able to penetrate the eyewall.
 
Going on one of these flights with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron has been a dream of mine for years.

53rd Weather Reconnaisance Squadron

Hurricane Hunters

Sept. 06 2008 - Tropical Storm Hanna- Hanna came ashore late last night/early this morning as a strong tropical storm. It was close to reaching hurricane status but never quite got there before striking land along the North Carolina/South Carolina state line. In Myrtle Beach, there were high winds, rushing waves and significant beach erosion as Hanna struck well after dark. This fast moving system is well on its way up along the Eastern Seaboard and I'll now begin focusing my attention on Hurricane Ike.
 
These past two tropical systems (Gustav & Hanna) have been murder on our equipment. My good video camera died after being splashed by a wave and we have numerous other casualties as well, including yet another damaged camera, two dead wireless microphones, a large battery charger, a tripod and well... The list goes on. I think I'll be spending some time at the repair depot when I eventually get back to Toronto.

Hanna_01

Sept. 04 2008 - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina- Tropical storm Hanna is coming to the Carolinas and I'm here waiting for her to arrive. Hanna should strike the coastline overnight tomorrow as a strong tropical storm or possibly a weak hurricane. A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning have been put into place along the coastline but most people here seem to be taking it in stride. I consider Hanna a bit of a warm up for...
 
Hurricane Ike - This is potentially a very dangerous storm which will bad news for the Bahamas and possibly South Florida. Ike is currently Category 4 but is expected to weaken but then re-intensify as it swoops across the Caribbean. It is still too soon to say where exactly it will go but as soon as I'm done with Hanna, my sole focus will be on Ike. These certainly are interesting times from a weather perspective. So many storms lined up after one another.

Hanna_Sept_4

Sept. 03 2008 - Madison, Florida - En Route To Tropical Storm Hanna- Hurricane Hanna is currently headed for the North Carolina coastline and will likely make landfall this weekend as a weak hurricane. Since I'm down in the U.S. anyway, I will be driving north to intercept it.
 
Also - Hurricane Ike has exploded and went from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane in just a few hours. this will become a serious storm and I'm already expecting to chase it as soon as I'm done with Hanna.
 
This hurricane season continues to be full of surprises.

Sept. 02 2008 - Pensacola, Florida - Watching The Tropics- Well I'm still drying out my socks after chasing Hurricane Gustav and it looks like I might be in for a lot more hurricane activity. After leaving New Orleans this morning, I've relocated to Pensacola, Florida and the Atlantic has never been busier. There are three other names storms out there right now - Hanna, Ike, and Josephine. At least one if not two of these storms could have chase potential so I'm watching them very closely. For the time being, I'm going to catch up on some lost sleep and sort through all my equipment in anticipation of another storm intercept in my near future.
 
In other news:
 
NBC Dateline did a feature segment on our hurricane Gustav chase - Here is a link to the clip.
 
I also did interviews for CNN, Global TV, The Weather Network and numerous radio outlets.

Atlantic_Sept_2

Sept. 01 2008 - Gustav Intercept - Houma, Louisiana- It took a serious marathon effort to get to New Orleans but not long after arriving, it became very clear that hurricane Gustav was not going to deal the death blow to the city that many people had feared. The storm track shifted to the west, bringing it inland southwest of New Orleans. The town of Houma was a perfect spot directly in the path of the storm and with several sturdy buildings that would make good shelter, I targeted it. The storm weakened as it it but still packed a punch. I'll add more details later. Right now I'm exhausted, hungry and in desperate need of a shower.
 
Highlights of the storm included driving through a totally deserted New Orleans and then almost getting hit by debris twice. Once by a large falling tree branch, then by a flying gas station sign. Despite this, It was great to hook up with many old storm chasing friends.
 
More photos and details when possible... However I'm already eying the Atlantic as more tropical storm activity is brewing.

Gustav_01

Aug. 30 2008 - Gustav Growing - After a late start yesterday, I've been able to get at least some miles under my wheels. I'm currently in Ohio and will try to catch up today in order to get into position for Hurricane Gustav. The storm has strengthened overnight as expected and is now category 2 with a projected peak intensity of category 4 when it eventually gets into the Gulf of Mexico. When Gustav hits, it will likely be a very large, dangerous storm that will cause complete chaos along the Louisiana coastline.

Aug. 29 2008 - On My Way - I'm now headed to the U.S. Gulf Coast to intercept hurricane Gustav. My current target is Louisiana, near New Orleans. The exact path and intensity of the storm is still uncertain at this time but it may slow down as it approaches land which would not be good for the people living near the coastline.
 
Interestingly, it was 3 years ago today that hurricane Katrina made landfall near this area.

Aug. 28 2008 - Tropical Double Trouble - The decision is made. I WILL be chasing hurricane Gustav when it makes landfall in the U.S. next week. I'll be leaving tomorrow in order to give myself plenty of time to get into position once I finally know where it's actually headed. Gustav is currently impacting Jamaica as a tropical storm after pulling a magic trick last night and reforming to the south. The mountains of Jamaica may weaken the storm but once it spends some time out over open water, it should rebound and strengthen. In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Hanna has now formed and it might become a threat to the east coast sometime next week. If there is a chance of a double intercept, then I'll go for it but time will tell with Hanna and there's no guarantee that it will make landfall.
 
I might end up being busier than I thought ...

Overview_Aug_28

Aug. 27 2008 - Gustav Intercept Likely - Gustav has taken a beating from the mountains of Haiti and has temporarily weakened but it is expected to rebound and gain strength again tonight/tomorrow.
 
With it's current forecast path bringing it onto the Gulf Coast on Monday as a major hurricane, Gustav has the potential to be an extremely devastating storm. A lot can change between now and then and exactly where the hurricane will make landfall is still uncertain. One possible target area is the same stretch of coastline that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina almost exactly 3 years ago. Unless there is a drastic change, I will be chasing Gustav. Plans are already in the works and equipment is be prepared.

Track_Aug_27

Aug. 26 2008 - Gemini Award Nomination - Great News! I just found out that I've been nominated for a 2008 Gemini Award. The Geminis are the Canadian equivalent to the Emmy awards and celebrate outstanding achievements in Television.
 
My category is: Best Host in a Lifestyle/Practical Information, or Performing Arts Program or Series. The episode which was nominated was the Boiling Lake.
 
It's a total thrill to be recognized by the industry and we'll see what happens at the upcoming awards ceremony which is held for my category on Oct 21st. More information about the awards can be found at www.geminiawards.ca

www.geminiawards.ca

Aug. 26 2008 - Hurricane Gustav Forms - Well it looks like I may have a target storm to intercept in a few day. Yesterday, the disturbance in the Atlantic known as 94L strengthened and became tropical storm Gustav. As of this morning it has continued to develop and is now a category one hurricane, bearing down on southwestern Haiti. The current forecast has the storm possibly strengthening into a major hurricane and entering the Gulf Of Mexico in about 5 days. If this happens, then this will have the potential to be a very dangerous storm If it interacts with Cuba, then it will likely weaken but Gustav is also expected to pass over the warmest water in the Caribbean so there is a lot of uncertainty... It is still too early to say, but I'll be watching it very closely.

Hurricane Gustav - Aug 26

Aug. 19 2008 - No Way Fay - I'm glad I made the right decision not to head down to Florida to chase tropical storm Fay. It never even reached hurricane status before making landfall along the Gulf Coast, south of Naples. The storm will continue to drench the state with heavy rains for the next couple of days but that's about the worst of it. Scattered power outages and minor damage have been reported as well. My attention is now drawn to a tropical disturbance in the Atlantic designated as 94L. There is a possibility that this will grow into the next tropical storm and could even be a chaseable hurricane, perhaps next week. The computer model forecasts continue to push the disturbance towards the west, eventually approaching the U.S. coastline... Time will tell.
 
Update: Fay has surprisingly strengthened and held its shape after making landfall this morning!!! It is now possible for Fay to reach hurricane status once it exits the coast and passes over warmer, Atlantic waters off the east coast. It is then expected to turn back to the northwest and make yet another landfall along the Florida/Georgia state laine. This storm has been keeping me guessing all week.
 
Post production on Angry Planet season two continues and tonight on OLN at 9:00 will be the broadcast premiere of the Iceland: Fire & Ice episode. Iceland was one of my favorite locations to film. The whole country is so beautiful and it truly is a playground for the adventurous.

Aug. 15 2008 - Watching Fay - The Atlantic is really starting to get interesting. Tropical storm Fay has formed and although it has been struggling for a few days, it's starting to show real potential to be a relevant storm. Fay is currently over Haiti and is expected to exit over the warm Atlantic waters again soon. If it can survive the mountains there and in Cuba, then it has a good chance of eventually impacting Florida. The big question is where? Different forecasts position the storm all over the map but the current trend favors a northward turn into the Gulf of Mexico and possibly making landfall on the Florida Panhandle as a weak hurricane. The more time it spends over open water, the stronger it will become. I'm watching the situation very closely and a chase of Fay is certainly a strong possibility.

Tropical Storm Fay

Aug 07 2008 - Big Updates Complete! - The latest images from India and Indonesia are now online including my boat trip on the acid lake of Kawah Ijen, the eruptions of Anak Krakatau, the Komodo Dragons of Rinca and more.
 
To see them all, go to the Galleries page and look for anything marked as NEW
 
Also - Angry Planet has a new time slot in Canada... Tuesday nights at 9:00 PM Eastern on OLN. Brand new episodes are now airing!!!
 
This latest set of adventures marks the end of the filming for Angry Planet season two. It has been a real treat to be able to travel the world and document these forces of nature and then share my experiences with the world. But it's not over yet...
 
We are already getting ready to start shooting SEASON THREE of the show! That means: more adventures, more explorations in exotic locations and even more incredible encounters with the extremes of the natural world.
 
As always, I'll be keeping this site up to date with the latest news. Thanks so much to all you viewers out there who have been enjoying the show.

Anak Krakatau Volcano

Kawah Ijen Volcano & Acid Lake

Aug 07 2008 - Back from Indonesia - I apologize for the lack of updates but I have just returned from the India/Indonesia expeditions. They went incredibly well and I'm in the process of organizing a huge collection of images from the trip. There's two months worth of photographs to sift through.
 
The volcanoes of Indonesia were cooperative and I was able to document some spectacular eruptions at Anak Krakatau and Semeru. Another highlight included taking a small rubber boat out onto the sulfuric acid lake of Kawah Ijen volcano (ph of 0.5!). It was a bit crazy but ended up going well, other than getting some acid on my legs and having to cut off my pants with a knife.
 
I also visited Komodo to photograph the giant Komodo Dragon lizards which was amazing, that is until one of them decided to try and attack me. As soon as I crouched down to get a low angle photo, the 3 meter long male decided that I was on the menu. It took at least two of us to fend it off with thick, pointed sticks.
 
Another highlight was a visit to the Sidoarjo mudflow where a drilling operation gone wrong has let to the complete destruction of a huge area of the town. Hot mud continues to surge up from the drill hole after more than a year and it shows no signs of letting up, despite best efforts to stem the flow. Residents have resorted to picking through the mud to scavenge bricks and other raw materials from the destroyed, half buried buildings.
 
I will have more details posted over the next few days as I organize the photos and create the new web pages so expect a big update soon!

Semeru Volcano Summit

Komodo Dragon

July 08 2008 - Calcutta, India - The India monsoon expedition has gone very well but I have not been able to post anything here since I arrived since most of my time was spent in rural areas with no internet access.
 
I was able to document the heavy rains that occur in India this time of year and some of the disastrous consequences of those rains. There were roads washed out, bridges destroyed and a large portion of Mumbai were totally under water after receiving 200mm of rain in 24 hours. At one point, we came across a refugee camp where 2000 villagers had fled to the higher ground of the national highway, their homes washed away by floodwater.
 
In addition to the rain, I was able to take in many other incredible sights of India including the chaotic Rath Yatra festival, the wild water of the Arabian Sea and some of the wildlife including a cobra and an attack by hungry leeches. I've quickly put together some photographs but there will be more pictures coming, along with details from the trip.
 
Tomorrow I fly out towards Indonesia.

IMG_4094

IMG_4044

June 20 2008 - Off I Go - My latest trip is now underway. I'll be posting updates from India and Indonesia whenever possible...

June 15 2008 - Upcoming Expeditions - India & Indonesia - I'm barely home after the tornado chase but I'm getting ready to head off on Friday on my latest exotic Angry Planet film shoot. This time I'm Asia bound, specifically to India and then Indonesia.
 
In India, my mission is to document the monsoon season and its associated extreme rainfalls. Eastern India is the rainiest inhabited place in the world where annual rainfall totals can reach almost 12 meters! Some of the places I will be travelling to include: Delhi, Assam in the northeastern region, Mumbai, Goa, Orissa, and Calcutta. The rains have already begun so I'm expecting an active, and soggy trip. I hear that the monsoon rains also tend to disturb the venomous snake population there where upwards of 50,000 people per year are killed by snake bite.
 
From Calcutta, I'll be flying to Indonesia where I will be involved in a volcano expedition that will span the entire island of Java from the recently active Anak Krakatau to Merapi volcano, then to the sulfur mines at Kawah Ijen volcano and then to Semeru which is the highest point on Java. Semeru is in a state of almost continuous eruption and a trek to the summit is planned. After Java, I then head to Bali and continue on to Flores Island where I'll be catching a boat to Komodo, home of the giant Komodo Dragon lizards.
 
This will be an epic journey and the adventures will end up becoming the foundation for several Angry Planet episodes that will air this coming Autumn. It will also mark the end of filming for season two of the series.


June 12 2008 - Tornado Video - I've uploaded a video clip of part of the recent tornado chase which includes our very close encounter near the town of Collyer, Kansas on May 22nd.
 
The video cannot do justice to how this storm looked as it was circling directly overhead. To fully appreciate the power of these storms, you really need to see them for yourself, up close. Things got a little chaotic as we tried to get back in the van and get out of the way.
 
I hope to get more tornado video clips edited but I have other explorations to prepare for right now.

Close Encounter You Tube

June 06 2008 - Back in Toronto after the Tornado Chase - What an exhausting month it has been. The 2008 tornado season has been one of the busiest ever and I was right in the middle of the action as wave after wave of tornado outbreaks pummeled the central U.S.
 
In all, I was able to witness well over a dozen tornadoes, many of them at very close range. To learn more about the individual chase days, go to the daily blog reports that I uploaded during the chase. They can be found here.

Tornado Chase 2008

April 30 2008 - Getting Ready to Hit the Road to Tornado Alley - It's that time of year again... Even though I'm just fresh back from my latest African adventure, I'm now on my way to the U.S. for this year's tornado chase season. My storm chasing activities really started with tornadoes and I love heading to the Great Plains each spring to wander like a nomad, following only the wind. Of course, the ultimate goal is to get up close to the most severe storms and tornadoes that we can find. This will mark my eleventh straight year of tornado chasing.
 
A special daily blog page has been set up where dispatches from the field will be found:
 
TORNADO CHASE 2008 BLOG PAGE

Tornado Alley

April 29 2008 - Toronto - I am back home now after my incredible journey through Mali. The people were friendly and welcoming despite being one of the poorest nations in the world (about 2/3 of the people live on less than $1 per day). It goes to show you that money can't buy happiness.
 
I've now uploaded many new pictures from the trip including the sand storms, camels and other sights from the region. They can be found HERE.
 
My next adventure is only a few days away, so despite the jet lag I'm scrambling to get ready for this year's tornado chase season... Stay tuned.

Timbuktu_02

April 26 2008 - Timbuktu, Mali - It has been a while since my last update but I've been in some very remote parts of Mali. I'm heading back to Bamako now, preparing to head home.
 
The trip has gone very well. I made it to Timbuktu and the towns of Djenne, Mopti and the cliff dwellings of Dogon country. In Timbuktu, the temperature has been hovering around 43 Celsius with a few sandstorms to deal with. Once there, I explored the Sahara Desert on the back of a camel with Tuareg guides. These camels truly are the "ships of the desert".
 
Some other highlights include: seeing the largest mud built mosque in the world, downhill skiing on sand dunes, taking a boat ride on the Niger River and sleeping on the roof of a building under an African full moon.
 
Many more pictures plus a detailed report will be uploaded when I return to Canada. Mali is an excellent place if you love adventure travel. There are so many places to go and things to see but be warned, the heat here is hellish in the dry season.

Mali Sandstorm

Camels in Timbuktu

April 15 2008 - Bamako, Mali - After a very long journey, I've reached the city of Bamako... Oh but the journey is just beginning.
 
Today we did some filming in the city and arranged to go to the Bureau of Meteorology to talk to the weather forecasters there. We also took a trip down to the "natural medicine" market which is unlike any market I've ever been to. It looked more like something from Robert L Ripley's collection of oddities. On sale were monkey heads, warthog heads, well, there were heads from so many different creatures it was hard to tell what some of them were. Some of the locals believe that by using these "medicines" you can treat all kinds of ailments. I thought it resembled a voodoo wichdoctor's garage sale... Unfortunately, I believe that many of these are endangered species.
 
Tomorrow I start heading north to Djenne where the world's largest mud mosque is, from there it's up to Timbuktu. I suspect that this will be my last report for a while. If you don't hear from me, I'll probably be out riding a camel somewhere.

Bamako Market

April 13 2008 - Mali, West Africa - I'm now on my way to Mali to film the next episode of Angry Planet. I will be starting in Bamako, then continuing on through Djenne and Mopti, all the way to Timbuktu which sits on the edge of the vast, Sahara Desert. I hope to document some of the huge sand storms that the region is famous for.
 
Updates will be unlikely while I'm away and will resume upon my return...

Mali Map

April 11 2008 - Tornado Watch Issued for Southern Ontario - It looks like the spring storm season is upon us:

1:26 PM EDT Friday 11 April 2008
Tornado watch for
Windsor - Leamington - Essex County issued
Severe thunderstorms with large hail and damaging winds are likely later this afternoon with a tornado threat also.
This is an alert to the potential development of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with large hail and damaging winds.
Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements. If threatening weather approaches..Take immediate safety precautions.
 
Tornado watch..Thunderstorms are expected to develop over southern lower Michigan this afternoon along a cold front. There is a strong potential that these thunderstorms will reach severe limits as they move eastward towards the Windsor and Sarnia areas with large hail and damaging winds likely. There is also a threat for tornado development. Thunderstorms are expected to reach the Windsor to Sarnia areas around mid afternoon. The risk of severe thunderstorms will persist into the evening hours.
 
 
Also: A photo and description of my giant hail encounter in South Plains, Texas in 2005 can be found in the new book "Extreme Weather" by H Michael Mogil.
 
My preparations for the upcoming Africa trip are continuing. I depart on Sunday evening and I'm really looking forward to some quality time riding a camel in Timbuktu. The forecast is calling for temperatures in the 105-109 Fahrenheit range, that's 41-43C!

Tornado Watch - April 11 2008

Extreme Weather -  H. Michael Mogil

April 07 2008 - Next Expedition - Timbuktu, Mali - It is less than a week until my next overseas expedition, this time to Timbuktu in Mali, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. My journey will start in Bamako and from there it will be a dusty overland trek northeast along the Niger River to the fabled town of Timbuktu... which really does exist!
 
This journey will become a new episode of Angry Planet and in addition to the furnace-like heat, I'm hoping to encounter some good Sahara sand storms while I'm there. As well, clusters of thunderstorms that form in this region often continue west, out into the Atlantic and some of them even get organized enough to become hurricanes. It's too early in the season for that but it will be interesting to visit this "hurricane nursery" where many of these storms are born.
 
Also, later today I'm meeting up with a crew from The Weather Network to film a piece on driving in bad weather and emergency preparedness. The spot is supposed to start airing in May sometime. For now... The trip preparations continue.

April 02 2008 - Iceland Photos Uploaded - It took some time but I finally have photos from my recent Iceland expedition online. Iceland was an incredible place and I can't wait to return there. The landscape is so dramatic and the people are incredibly friendly. This won't be my last trip there, that's for sure.
 
The photos I've posted include:
 
- An erupting geyser.
- Ice climbing on icebergs in a glacial lagoon.
- Incredible waterfalls.
- Unique Icelandic cuisine.
- Off road travel in remote areas.
- The Blue Lagoon geothermal area.
- Eldfell Volcano.
- My meeting with the president.
 
And much more. I hope you enjoy the photos...

Iceland Expedition

Iceland Expedition

March 31 2008 - Toronto - I made it home from Iceland and it was an incredible experience. Over the next few days, I'll be compiling my photographs and uploading them here. It'll take some time to do this but I'm hoping to have them ready soon.
 
While filming in Iceland, I had the great pleasure of meeting with the Icelandic president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. I interviewed him and we discussed Iceland's role in clean, geothermal energy, research into reducing carbon emissions and the use of hydrogen vehicles.

Me with Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.

March 28 2008 - Vatnajokull Glacier - Iceland - The past few days have been so incredibly busy and amazing that I've had no time to update this site. I've barely had time to sleep. My Iceland exploration is going so incredibly well, every time I turn around the there is another incredible thing to see or do. Even now, I don't have time to go into details or upload any pictures but they are coming soon. Right now I'm getting ready to climb some icebergs in a glacial lagoon... More to come later.

Vatnajokull_05

March 24 2008 - Blue Lagoon - Iceland - After flying through and switching airports in New York, I caught the trans-Atlantis red eye to Keflavik, Iceland. From there we went straight to the Blue Lagoon geothermal area where volcanically heated water is pumped up from deep in the earth and is used to generate electricity, heat homes and serves as a soothing hot mineral bath which is popular with tourists and locals. The mineral rich water is also good for your skin and the blue and green colours are incredible to see. After a dip in the hot springs, I got to visit the actual geothermal generating station where they harness the volcanic energy of the island to make electricity using steam turbines.

Blue_Lagoon_01

March 23 2008 - Off to Iceland - In a few hours, I hop on a plane bound for the north Atlantic island nation of Iceland. I will be posting updates and pictures from the trip along the way. Even though spring just arrived, I'm expecting some rather harsh winter weather there.

March 20 2008 - Spring Arrives - The start of spring is always a good reason to celebrate. For me it means that the start of tornado chase season is just around the corner although you'd never guess with all the snow still persisting after all the recent snow.
 
This morning I appeared on the national morning show Canada AM to promote the season premiere of Angry Planet coming up on Wednesday, March 26th at 8:30 PM. I have been a guest on the show numerous times before and it was a lot of fun.
 
On Sunday, I depart for my Iceland journey, so I'm in the midst of all my last minute preparations for what will be the last of my cold weather expeditions until next winter.

Canada AM

March 19 2008 - Angry Planet Season Two - The broadcast premiere of season two of my "Angry Planet" TV series is about to air. The first 6 episodes debut in March and the remaining 7 will be on in the fall. I'm very pleased to be able to bring you all these new, exciting episodes.. And there will be more to come!
 
While many Canadians wish to evade the barrage of winter weather pummeling the nation this season, daring stormchaser George Kourounis eagerly heads into the heart of these storms - and other natural phenomena - in another thrilling season of OLN's hit series Angry Planet. Beginning Wed., March 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET/9:30 p.m. PT, season two of the series follows Kourounis as he delves deep into the wet caves of northern Vancouver Island, sustains the ferocious forces of Hurricane Dean in Jamaica, dives with Galapagos sharks in Hawaii and chases storms across Australia - of course! Throughout the 13-part series, get a behind-the-scenes look at the adventures and misadventures of Kourounis as he explores the continuing disintegration of the environment and some of the world's most natural - and unnatural - weather phenomena.
 
The first six episodes will be:
- Island Caving
- Hurricane
- Waterspouts
- Hawaii- Surf & Snow
- Hottest & Coldest
- Thunder Down Under

www.angryplanet.tv

March 15 2008 - CANWARN Training Dates - The schedule for the 2008 Ontario Storm Spotter training sessions is now set. Each year environment Canada trains ham radio operators and other weather enthusiasts how to observe & recognize severe weather features and the procedures used to report them to the weather office. If you're in the area and are interested, just show up to any one of them.
 
Note: Environment Canada does NOT endorse or support storm chasing. They train their spotters to observe from a safe distance.
- April 12th, 9 AM - Hamilton - Nash Auditorium, Wilcox Building, Chedoke Hospital, Sanatorium Road, Hamilton
- April 14th 7 PM - Sarnia - Lower Auditorium, Clearwater Arena (Sarnia Township Community Centre) 1400 Wellington St., Sarnia
- April 15th 7 PM - Chatham-Kent - Venue to be determined
- April 16th 7 PM - London - Four Points Sheraton Hotel - 1150 Wellington Road, London
- April 16th 7 PM - Kitchener-Waterloo - Carl A. Pollock Hall Rm. 1346, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave. West
- April 26th 9:30 AM - Greater Sudbury - Lionel E. Lalonde Centre, 239 Rue Principale, Azilda, Ontario (Azilda is approx. 15 km northwest of Sudbury on Highway 35)
- April 27th 9:00 AM - Orillia - Ontario Provincial Police Headquarters Auditorium - 777 Memorial Avenue, Orillia
- May 3rd - 9:00 AM - Toronto - Environment Canada Headquarters Auditorium - 4905 Dufferin St., Toronto

March 15 2008 - Tornado Hits Downtown Atlanta - Last night, just before 10 PM, a supercell thunderstorm passed over downtown Atlanta causing significant damage and about 20 injuries. It has not been officially confirmed as a tornado yet but after what I've seen of the damage and the radar imagery of the storm plus eyewitness reports, there is no doubt that it will be confirmed as a tornado, probably later today. There were two basketball games going on at the time with stadiums filled with people and even the CNN news headquarters was damaged. Some buildings also collapsed near the downtown area.
 
No tornado watches were in effect but a tornado warning for Atlanta was issued shortly before it hit the city.
 
This morning I appeared live on CTV News to comment on the storm. The segment is scheduled to air again later today.
 
*Update* - It has now been confirmed by the National Weather Service that it was an EF-2 tornado that did the damage in Atlanta AND They're under another tornado threat today. A tornado watch box has already been issued for much of Georgia.

CTVNews_March_15_2008

March 14 2008 - Toronto - Preparing for Iceland - My next adventure is drawing near and this time it will be to the north Atlantic island nation of Iceland. Iceland has a rugged, volcanic terrain that is covered by vast areas of wilderness, huge areas of rocky wasteland and about 10% of the island is completely covered in glaciers. My mission this time is to explore the island and find out about it's volcanic past, learn how the inhabitants harness the geothermal energy from the Earth itself and examine some of the geysers that are found there. In addition, I plan on visiting the largest glacier in Europe; Vatnajokull, which is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island. Visiting Iceland has been a dream of mine for many years and I'm looking forward to seeing the sights and meeting the people that live there.
 
At this time of year, the north Atlantic might be quite stormy as well... I can only hope.

Iceland_Map

March 09 2008 - Toronto - Well the big snow storm has come and gone and it was a whopper. Toronto saw about 30cm and 50cm came down in places like Ottawa and St. Catherines. I was initially targeting those areas but I ended staying close to home, filming more material for the TV show & practicing building snow shelters.
 
My sister, who lives just outside of Ottawa recieved the full brunt of the storm and this was the view looking out her front door. The cleanup effort is continuing across the entire area in anticipation of the Monday rush hour. It would've been a lot worse if the storm had struck during the week but many March break travellers did have their plans canceled.

Picture 019

March 06 2008 - Toronto - Possible Major Winter Storm On The Way - Right now there is some debate about how intense the upcoming winter storm will be this weekend, what is almost certain is that Eastern Ontario is going to get buried in heavy snow by the end of the day Saturday. This storm may end up becoming the most potent winter storm of the season and I'm keeping a very close eye on it. Blizzard conditions may occur in some areas near the Quebec/Ontario border with snow amounts of a foot or more... Stay tuned.

Snowfall Projections

Feb. 28 2008 - Lake Ontario Shore - With air temperatures around -17C, the conditions were good for steam devils on Lake Ontario and there were a few to be seen but they were out in the middle of the lake and difficult to see but the beauty of the sunrise on the lake ice made up for it.

2008_02_28_Steam_and_Ice

Feb. 26 2008 - Toronto - After arriving back in Toronto on Sunday night, the crazy pace continues. Most of yesterday was spent in the edit suite, working on several Angry Planet season two episodes (Which are looking great by the way!). Then I was off to York University where I gave a presentation to some of the Atmospheric Sciences students. Tonight I give another presentation but this time it is for the Toronto chapter of the Audio Engineering Society. The topic? - Television production in extreme environments.

York University

Audio Engineering Society

Feb. 23 2008 - Tofino, B.C. - The west coast of Vancouver Island is a great place to watch Pacific winter storms roll in and the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino is built right on the water's edge for just such a purpose. In the winter months, people come from all over to watch the storms. How could I not go there?
 
Later today I leave for Vancouver, then back home.

Tofino

Feb. 21 2008 - Tofino, B.C. - I've relocated to the west coast of Vancouver Island for a few days and I've finally had time to upload some pictures from my recent back country skiing trip in the Coastal Mountain range of B.C. The trip involved 3 days of skiing both uphill and down in a winter wilderness setting, caming alongside a frozen lake. It was difficult and painful but was an incredible journey.
 
Luckily, the weather held and we were treated to some excellent conditions that are sometiimes hard to come by in the mountains.

Garibaldi

Feb. 20 2008 - Squamish, B.C. - I've spent the past few days completely out of touch, up in the Coastal Mountains of British Columbia on a three day, back country skiing trip. It was a gruelling climb up and a frigid couple of nights spent sleeping out in -9C temperatures. When I get time, I'll post pictures from this mountain trip.
 
Luckily, we got down off the mountain just in time to catch the total lunar eclipse that occurred tonight. The Earth's shadow cast an eerie red glow to the full moon.

Lunar_Eclipse

Feb. 16 2008 - Whitehorse, Yukon - I've finally had a bit of time to get some more pictures uploaded from this current Yukon trip. The bitter cold is gone and now the region is getting back to a more "regular" winter. This recent cold snap was one of the longest in memory and the people that live here are not too interested in seeing it get that cold again until next year.
 
Pictured at right: Tossing a cup of boiling water into the air and it explodes into ice crystals at forty below zero.
 
More Yukon Photos Here

Extreme Cold

Feb. 15 2008 - Dawson, Yukon - There is way too much to write about and I don't have much time at the moment to write about it all but my current trip to the Yukon is going great. I'm still in Dawson but will be heading back to Whitehorse later today.
Since last night was going to be my last one up here in Dawson, I was really hoping to get a good display of the northern lights... Well Mother Nature smiled on me and I was able to get some great photos.
 
So many things have been going on in the past few days that I'll have to go into more detail whenever I get some time. That's it for the quick update. Cheers for now,
George.
 
Update - More northern lights pictures have just been added HERE.

Northern Lights - Dawson City, Yukon

Feb. 12 2008 - Dawson, Yukon - I've moved even further north to the old klondike town of Dawson. Right now we're waiting for the leader of the Yukon Quest dog sled race to come in to town. The Yukon Quest race goes from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon and Dawson is a mandatory stopover spot for the racers to rest their dogs. We expect the race leaders to arrive sometime tomorrow evening.
 
While we're waiting, we decided to head over to the Downtown Hotel where they serve up the most bizarre drink. The "Sourtoe Cocktail" consists of a shot of whatever drink you like (I had Yukon Gold whisky)... and a REAL HUMAN TOE! No joking, the severed toe is placed in the drink and and as you drink the shot, the toe has to touch your lips. Of course, because we were filming this for the TV show, I ended up doing it twice. Mmmmm...

Sour Toe Cocktail

Feb. 11 2008 - Whitehorse, Yukon
 
It has been a wild couple of days up here.
 
First of all, the Yukon Arctic Ultramarathon is in full swing. This is one of the toughest foot races in the world and this year it became the coldest marathon ever run, anywhere. The temperature at the start line was in the -40C range and these competitors have to run out in the cold, sometimes for up to a week if they're running the 320 mile version of the race. The 26 mile regular marathon has already finished and only one person out of a field of six was able to finish. Several runners from the longer race have dropped out as well, mostly due to frostbite.
 
I had the great honour of counting down the runners at the start line, then we followed them along the Yukon river as they made their way north from Whitehorse.
 
I've also been sampling some of the other outdoor activities they do up here in the cold winters. I tried my hand at kite skiing today, which combines skis and a giant kite which looks more like a parachute. I was blown away by the amount of force you can get from the wind in the kite.
 
After that, I met up with a group of stunt riders who do things with snowmobiles that I couldn't believe. They were doing huge jumps, wheelies and more. I even caught a ride on one of these supercharged machines... all the way up to 180 km/h!!

Yukon Arctic Ultramarathon
The start line of the world's coldest Ultramarathon. The temperature... around -40C.

Extreme Snowmobiles
Incredible stunt riders on snowmobiles.

Feb. 09 2008 - Whitehorse, Yukon - Current temperature: -41C
 
As if it wasn't cold enough here, Environment Canada has issued an extreme wind chill warning:

3.27 PM PST Friday 8 February 2008
Wind chill warning for
Whitehorse continued
Very cold temperatures combined with gusty northerly winds will produce extreme wind chill values overnight through Saturday.
This is a warning that extreme wind chill conditions are expected or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.
 
An extremely cold airmass combined with northerly winds of 30 to 50 km/h along sections of the south Klondike highway and Haines Road will continue to produce extreme wind chill values reaching minus 50 tonight through Saturday morning. Frostbite can occur in minutes in these conditions.
High pressure over central Yukon coupled with a low pressure centre tracking to the gulf of Alaska this evening will give rise to increasing northerly winds. These winds will combine with the very cold temperatures to foster extreme wind chill values in the minus 50 to minus 60 range over regions of southern and central Yukon as well as the far north including northern Dempster.
 
I spent most of today outside with sled dogs and with some kite skiers but a lot of the activities going around here have been canceled due to the cold. The Yukon Arctic Ultramarathon which is a 100 or 320 mile foot race was supposed to begin tomorrow morning but the the frigid temperatures have caused problems with the support vehicles for the race making it too dangerous for the runners if there was a medical emergency. The runners will start tomorrow but the route has been modified and we're waiting to find out if the entire race will go on or if they will shorten it.
 
Update... We just hit -44C !!

Ice_Fog_05
Ice fog in Whitehorse as the mercury dips to -40C

Dog_Sledding_05
Impatient sled dogs that want to run.

Feb. 08 2008 - Whitehorse, Yukon - There is a serious cold spell gripping the Yukon right now and the air temperature is a balmy -33 degrees right now. When you step outside, the frigid air stings your lungs when you first inhale and the snow is so cold that it creaks loudly with every step. Even our thermometer is having difficulty keeping up. The picture on the right shows that the alcohol inside is barely making it up the stem of the thermometer.
 
We started doing some filming immediately upon arrival but it didn't take long for the temperature to wreak havoc with the camera gear. The cold makes the plastic so brittle that we've already snapped the wires on a set of headphones and the metal of our heavy duty tripod keeps contracting in the cold, causing the legs to want to slide down instead of being clamped in place. Tomorrow I get to try dog sledding in this... Oh Joy!
 
Update... It's 6:30 AM local time right now and it's -40 outside.

Extreme Cold

Feb. 07 2008 - Vancouver B.C. - I'm on my way to the Yukon where the temperature right now is a chilly -34C with a low tonight expected to be -40C. I wanted cold weather, it looks like I'm going to get my wish. The journey so far has been interesting. My flight out of Toronto was canceled due to the snowstorm they recieved overnight. Luckily, I was able to squeeze onto a later flight that left before the second wave of snow came into the city in the afternoon. In total, Toronto got around 30cm of the white stuff, creating commuter chaos with a car accident every minute during the height of the storm.
 
Also. Unfortunately, the predictions came true and the Super Tuesday tornado outbreak was a bad one. In fact, it was the deadliest tornado outbreak in the U.S. in 20 years. So far, 54 people have been reported dead across Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Now comes the time for damage assessment and cleanup after this tragically historic event.

Feb. 05 2008 - New Expeditions - Lots going on right now. Tomorrow I leave for a combination of two trips, both are being filmed for "Angry Planet".
 
First up - Yukon. I fly up north to Whitehorse and Dawson to document the extreme winter conditions they get up there this time of year. Once there, I'll be meeting up with dog sledders and other outdoors enthusiasts who have to brave the frigid temperatures. If all goes well, there will be a good northern lights display too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
 
Then - Back country ski mountaineering in British Columbia. I'm joining up with a group of experienced back country skiers to do an overland mountain traverse. We'll be spending several days out in the wilderness, climbing, camping and skiing. This will be part of a western winter weather based episode.
 
Also - I expect there to be a significant severe weather outbreak today. The conditions are coming together in Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi areas for severe thunderstorms and there is also a high likelihood for tornadoes, some may be very strong. Obviously, with my upcoming travel plans, I will not be there for it but I'll be closely monitoring the situation.

Yukon Territory

Feb. 01 2008 - Lake Ontario - A much anticipated winter storm prompted winter storm warnings for much of southern Ontario. It brought snow, freezing rain, high winds and big waves to areas along Lake Ontario.Schools and universities were closed, hundreds of car accidents were reported and flights to and from Pearson international airport were canceled.

2008_02_01_Storm

Jan. 30 2008 - Toronto - Wild winter weather in Ontario. A deepening low pressure system is pulling an incredibly sharp cold front through Southern Ontario right now. Temperatures had plummeted, rain has turned to snow, the winds are wild and I expect this to go on for most of the day today. Here are some of the warnings that are in effect for parts of Ontario right now.
 
-Wind Warnings
-Flash Freeze Warnings
-Blowing Snow Warnings
-Freezing Rain Warnings
 
Damaging winds gusts to over 120 km/h have been reported and in some areas there are total whiteout conditions.

Jan. 27 2008 - Toronto - I've returned to Toronto and have been busy doing website maintenance. Over the past few days you may have noticed missing pictures, bad links and errors but it was all part of an upgrade to the site. Now that the upgrades are complete, you probably won't notice much difference from what it looked like before but now it'll be a lot easier for me to keep it organized and current.
 
Also - I'm very pleased to announce that I have won first place in the CLOUD News & Picture Agency/Olympus photography contest. The theme was "The Natural World" and the winning photograph was one of my pictures from Antelope Canyon, Arizona. The picture shows the mid day sun shining into the narrow slot canyon and illuminating the dust in the air, creating a heavenly beam of light.

Antelope_Canyon_01

Jan. 25 2008 - Venice, Italy - Homeward bound. I leave Venice in the morning and finally head back home. This Italian adventure has been fantastic and I can't wait to come back.
 
Earlier today I was doing some filming in San Marco Square and ran into a few feathered friends who were more than happy to let me take their picture.
 
Also: Yes, I know my website is full of errors right now. I'm in the middle of doing an upgrade and the problem will be resolved soon.

Venice_07

Jan. 24 2008 - Venice, Italy - The last stop on my Italian adventure is Venice, a city built on a series of islands in a lagoon that every year faces the threat of flooding from high tides, storms and rising sea levels. Today I head out to the construction site of MOSE, an elaborate system of underwater gates that will eventually help protect this historic city. The project is slated to be completed in 2012 and is currently one of the largest construction project in Europe.
 
After visiting the city, it is clear to see why they're going to such extreme efforts to protect Venice from flooding. It is the most beautiful city I've visited.

Venice_01

Jan. 23 2008 - Bolzano, Italian Alps - My time in the Italian Alps is finished but it was incredible to meet up with several of the avalanche forecasters here. We even had the opportunity to take a helicopter flight through the Dolomites and see the "Avalanche Blast". A device that uses Balloons of hydrogen and oxygen gas suspended from a helicopter to create explosive blasts in order to trigger controlled avalanches. The balloons are filled and suspended close to the slopes and then an electric igniter triggers the explosion. The shockwave from the blast then helps to bring down the snow before it gets too dangerous and comes down on top of people.
 
The Dolomites are incredible mountains, they are so jagged and formidable and they get even more impressive when you see them from a helicopter. The mountains are full of ski hills, so keeping the slopes safe is a high priority in this region.
 
Later today I arrive in Venice to document the construction effort to keep the city from flooding.

Dolomites

Dolomites

Jan. 20 2008 - Trento, Italian Alps - I've now relocated up to northern Italy, to the town of Trento in the Alps. It is a beautiful town, nestled in the mountains with a historic downtown district that looks like something out of a movie set with cobblestone streets, old churches and fascinating architecture. I will remain up here for a few days, then it's on to Venice.

Jan. 17 2008 - Mount Etna Volcano, Italy - After leaving Stromboli on the first ferry this morning, the goal was to make it up to the summit of Mount Etna, back on the island of Sicily. Well it didn't turn out quite as planned. The weather was horrible, with lots of rain at the lower elevations and plenty of snow higher up the mountain. Our little rental car with summer tires just was not up to the task of getting us up to where the gondola would've take us up the side of the volcano. It started to become excruciatingly clear that this vehicle was not only incapable of making it up the mountainside but getting back down was going to be risky as well. After a lot of slipping and sliding, we made it back down below the snow line and we've retreated to the town of Nicolosi for the night. Not much was lost though, the visibility would've been terrible at the summit, plus Etna is not currently erupting.

Etna_2008

Jan. 16 2008 - Stromboli Volcano, Italy - Last night I hiked up to the summit of Stromboli volcano which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Every few minutes there were eruptions that varied from huge ash clouds to incredible jets of lava bombs being rocketed out of the crater at high velocity. Stromboli is truly one of the incredible natural wonders of the world.
 
Stromboli is a tiny island located north of Sicily and has a permanent population of around 600 people. The only way to get to the island is to take the ferry from either Sicily or the mainland. Tomorrow morning I leave the island and head towards Mount Etna... Weather permitting.

Stromboli

Jan. 13 2008 - Pompeii, Italy - Visiting the ancient city of Pompeii was incredible. To see the ruins of this Roman city that was buried by the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius was a real look back into the daily lives of the citizens who once lived there. The highlight was seeing the plaster body casts of some of the unfortunate residents. Their bodies were covered in volcanic ash & rock before they had time to flee and as they eventually decomposed, they left an empty space behind. These spaces were filled with plaster by archeologists to create a perfect mold of the person who died there two thousand years ago. You can even see facial expressions on some of them, they almost seem like they want to sit up and tell their story of their last day in Pompeii
 
Vesuvius itself is a large volcano that totally dominates the landscape around Naples. Today it rained heavily in Pompeii but the precipitation came down as snow up on the summit. Unfortunately, the road to the top was closed.
 
Modern day Naples is currently in the same situation that Pompeii was in over two thousand years ago. The city is built perilously close to the volcano, and in some cases, houses have gone up right on the volcanoes flanks. If it were to have another catastrophic eruption. it would spell certain disaster for the people of Naples.
 
Tomorrow will be a travel day as we head south towards Sicily.

Mount Vesuvius & Pompeii

Body Casts From Pompeii

Jan. 12 2008 - Naples, Italy - Well the red eye flight last night was a lot of fun. After almost no sleep and an early morning connection in Milan, we've finally made it to Naples. So far all I've seen here is insane traffic and the huge piles of garbage that are everywhere due to the garbage collectors strike.
 
All I can say is that I can't thank the inventor of GPS enough. Without it, this would've been a nightmare. My next task is to get my body back from its jet lagged state and tomorrow, we start to explore Vesuvius and Pompeii.

Jan. 11 2008 - En Route to Italy - The roller coaster of adventure continues. Today I leave to spend a couple of weeks on location, filming in Italy for Angry Planet.This will be an "All Italian" episode featuring some of the great natural wonders of the country.
 
Of course, the Italian volcanoes are a high priority for me and I'll be visiting all the major ones including Etna (Europe's largest volcano), Stromboli (Which is continuously erupting) and Vesuvius (Which buried Pompeii in 79 A.D and looms ominously over the modern city of Naples). We will also be visiting Venice to examine the engineering efforts being put into place to try and keep the city from sinking further into the sea.
 
This will be my first visit to Italy and I'm looking forward to seeing many incredible places and also trying some of the world famous cuisine. I will post updates here whenever I get the opportunity along the way.

Italy_Map

Jan. 09 2008 - Paris, Ontario - Flood warnings were in effect for many parts of southern Ontario as overnight rains and a rapidly melting snow pack combined to bring water levels up to flood level. Roads were closed in many areas as the water crested overnight. I headed out there late in the day to try and catch the water at its highest but daylight soon dwindled which made it very difficult to document.
 
With the mild temperatures we've been having lately, all the snow that fell in December is now completely gone. It looks like we have to start winter all over again.

Rising Water - Paris, Ontario

Jan. 07 2008 - Tornado Outbreak - Right now there is a significant tornado outbreak happening across parts of the U.S. Midwest. Tornadoes have been reported in Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois and more storms are heading into some of the same regions that have already been hit earlier today. Many of these reports describe significant damage with injuries and it may not be until the morning before we understand the full scope of this event. It's hard to imaging a tornado touching down in Wisconsin in early January... Yet here we are.
 
This is the type of outbreak I'd expect to see in April, NOT January. As far as weather goes, it's starting to look like abnormal is the new normal!
 
**Update** - Tornado watches have now been issued for parts of southern Ontario as some of the U.S. storms approach the border... Incredible!! Is this really January?
 
Windsor - Leamington - Essex County
10:26 PM EST Monday 7 January 2008
Tornado watch for
Windsor - Leamington - Essex County issued
Persons in or near this area should be on the lookout for adverse weather conditions and take necessary safety precautions. Watch for updated statements.
Please refer to the latest public forecasts for further details and continue to monitor the situation through your local radio and television stations or Weatheradio.

Storm Reports

Jan. 03 2008 - Lake Ontario - I was up early this morning to get down to the lakeshore before sunrise. Why? Well, the air temperature was about -17C and that's cold enough to create steam devils on the relatively warm lake. The cold air made for unstable conditions just above the water's surface and the light breeze put a spin on the rising steam. The result... Mini tornadoes of steam, moving like ghosts across the water.
 
The sight of these is magical... If you can get up early enough and brave the cold.

Steam Devils on Lake Ontario

Jan. 02 2008 - Toronto - Angry Planet now airing down under - Last night, the Angry Planet show had its debut on the Australian Weather Channel. I've already started to receive excellent feedback and I'm glad to welcome all the Australian viewers. Expect even more wild adventures in the episodes to come!
 
Around The World -
- The Llaima volcano in southern Chile has erupted. So far 150 people have been evacuated, mostly tourists and national park employees. The 9,400-foot volcano last erupted in May, but has not suffered a major blast since 1994.

The Weather Channel Australia

Jan. 01 2008 - Toronto - Hello 2008. The new year has begun with a bang. A snowfall warning for Toronto is bringing 10 to 15 cm of the white stuff.
 
2008 is going to be a very busy year for me, I have numerous large expeditions planned for the coming months and production of season two of my "Angry Planet" TV series is in high gear. I keep this blog area updated regularly with stories and photos of all my travels so check back often to see what I'm up to.
 
Have a safe and prosperous new year!!

Jan_01_2008

An Archive of Previous Year's News Items Can Be Found Here

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

 

Any Questions/Comments?

Send E-Mail To George Kourounis

george@stormchaser.ca


All Images Copyrighted G. Kourounis

All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized Use Is Prohibited