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<   No. 4378   2020-11-04   >

Comic #4378

1 Wendy: Hmm. Be lookin’ at those clouds. There be an ill wind astirrin’ in the east.
1 Higgs: Nasty weather, Miss Wendy?
2 Wendy: Could be serious. What the Caribs be callin’ a huracan.
3 Wendy: I reckon we be tappin’ one o’ these barrels o’ distilled grape spirits to be fortifyin’ ourselves.
4 Higgs: Which one, Miss Wendy?
4 Wendy: Any port in a storm, Bosun Higgs.

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There was recently an update to Photoshop that included a new feature: Sky Replacement. It automatically detects regions of sky in an image and allows you to substitute in a sky from a different image. In fact it simply lets you substitute in any image you want as the "sky" - it doesn't need to be a photo of a sky; you could just as easily turn the sky into patterned wallpaper, for example.

Now, my Lego set photos don't normally have any sky in them at all. I photograph them mostly in front of a blank wall, and do my own selection of the wall and replacing it with a sky pattern. I was curious how the Sky Replacement tool would treat the blank wall, so I tried it. And lo, it just worked, without me having to do anything special! Presumably it's designed to work with blank overcast skies, and this was enough to make it work fine with a blank wall background too.

Replacing that wall with a sky is the sort of thing I would do manually a lot, and so I'm really liking this new functionality, as it speeds up the work making strips like this immensely. It comes with its own small library of different skies that you can substitute in, and it also allows you to add your own sky photos. For this strip I used a photo I took myself of storm clouds gathering over Sydney.

Here's an article about the sky replacement feature, if you're curious to know more. (Just avoid the user comments at the bottom; they're mostly derogatory and wondering why the hell anyone would want to replace skies in a photo. Well, I happen to have a very good use case, and think it's great.)

On another topic, the modern English word "hurricane" comes from the Spanish huracán, which comes from the Taíno word Hurakán, which was the name for the Taíno god of storms. The Maya also had a god of wind and storms named Huracan, so presumably there was some strong cross-pollination between the Taíno and Maya peoples. This was the first region where European explorers encountered such monstrous storms, so adopting a local name for them makes sense. Interestingly, the English were using the word "hurricane" by 1650, with some variant spellings being thrown around. Which is just two years before the canonical year in which the Pirates theme is set.

The Caribbean region is extremely favourable for the formation of cyclonic tropical storms (the strongest ones known as hurricanes in the Americas, typhoons in Asia, and tropical cyclones in the South Pacific), due to the mass of warm sea water that accumulates there in the northern summer. As heat-induced convection forces air upwards, producing sea level low pressure cells, the incoming winds attempting to equalise barometric pressure are deflected sideways by the Coriolis force, causing them to spiral around in an anticlockwise direction in the northern hemisphere (and clockwise in southern hemisphere storms).

Prevailing winds near the tropics are to the west, so after forming these storms almost always move westwards, at least initially. So seeing a hurricane to the east of your current position is bad news, as sailors of the era would have worked out very quickly. The storms also slowly drift away from the equator, and as they move to higher latitudes they start to curl in track back towards the east. This produces the characteristic curved track of tropical storms which can be seen on forecast and historical track maps.

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
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