Visual thinking

In retrospective my thinking is clearly dominated by pictures.

I did VERY much case studies in the recent 10 years about weather phenomena, nothing related directly to my studies, all of them just piqued my curiousity, and studies were not such important in these moments. At these times, I tend to have a hyperfocus on special interests, I got lost in hours of performing case studies and writing explanations on weather phenomena and theories.

I could even start with the very first weeks of studying atmospheric science. I remember a screen with the current satellite imagery in a separate room of the institute. None of the students ever visited it during studying there (one year, then I changed the university). I just got caught by the progressing satellite image and all these infrared clouds on the screen forming lows and fronts, defining lows and highs. Then I started analyzing what I’ve seen in the images. I tried to analyze the position of warm front and cold front, of lows and highs, of thunderstorm areas and distinct trough axes. In the end, I made about 100 of these satellite image case studies in one year, and described in detail what I saw and what I could predict with help of additional weather maps.

I need visual thinking when I go hiking. As my short-term memory is just a pain in the ass, I photograph very much. I need these photographs to remember the time when I was a certain place. I can’t remember clock times just by looking at my watch. So pictures serve as a marker. Later on, when I write my hiking report, where I also put in the best pictures, I’m able to remember the places and clock time by the pictures. I also remember the exact trail by pictures. I almost never forget pictures and if I see a picture, I know from where it is. However, pictures are only part of the memory process. Probably much more important is the map of trails. I love especially printed maps which I can feel with my fingers, where I can denote something with a marker. Usually, I look at these maps a few times the day before hiking, to memorize the course of the trails. Don’t confuse me with a savant – I need more than just one glance! The triad, however, of memorized trails, pictures and actually going these trails enhances the memorizing effect. When I go there another time, it’s not just picture-thinking like „oh, I know this place, I recognize a certain tree or anything prominent“ but I see the map of trails in my mind and could zoom in and out, shift it, like I do it at home on the screen. Surely, I can’t identify every tiny detail of the terrain but enough to re-find the trail when seeing it again. Similar memorized thinking is present when I recognize mountains in great distance by their shape. I compare pictures of mountains or in situ views with pictures in my mind. Of course, that’s a big challenge when you see the mountains from a different angle or during wintertime when shapes are modified by snow and differently gleaming areas. I did really a large number of tours in the recent years, so my long-term memory is filled with maps, trails, pictures and mountain shapes.

Last example for visual or detail thinking: I accidently happened to get struck by thunderstorms during two walking-tours. The first one turned out to be quite embarassing for me since I got my master’s degree a few weeks before. How could that happen to a newly graduated meteorologist? Solely because he’s a nerd? Might be… I was part of a larger touring company and could not look into the latest weather maps the days before that happened. In fact, I didn’t expect that scenario and got stuck with an earlier, fair-weather scenario I had in my mind before these days. I saw different weather phenomena this day, wind phenomena, fog phenomena and especially a special kind of mid-level clouds just a few hours before a heavy thunderstorm surprised us. One year later, a similar event happened again. Hot day in summer, no model simulated precipitation in that area.  In the late morning I saw these mid-level clouds again but aligned in flat cloud streets below a – to my mind – well-defined subsidence inversion, preventing them to rise vertically. Later on, these clouds disappeared and few hours later, widespread convective clouds formed followed by another thunderstorm.

I concluded that these mid-level clouds may serve as a preceding marker for thunderstorms. It also makes sense in a meteorological way: Mid-level clouds cannot form by solar radiation but need large-scale upward motion which can only be provided by a front or trough. So if I see these clouds, I know there is large-scale upward forcing. Given all remnant ingredients for thunderstorms,  moisture and instability, thunderstorms will likely form, irrespective of what the model will promise us. As the alpine region typically gathers more moisture than the comparatively dry and flat surroundings where the vertical profiles typically originate from, I know that instabilty is more likely to be released than the stable profile suggests. And if in addition to that, mid-level clouds like Altocumulus are present, I should take the possibility of local thunderstorms into account.

I verified this theory many times in the recent years and it nearly always worked out as a preceding marker of deep-moist convection, not necessarily at a threatening thunderstorm. Whenever I’ll see these kind of clouds in the mountains, and they tend to be visible only in a short time frame in the morning, I know what could happen a few hours later and I need to be prepared or to reroute my planned tour. That’s fairly a gift in many occasions but it could lead to false alarms, too. I don’t take it too seriously: Better a false alarm then struck by a severe thunderstorm in an area where you can’t escape or seek for a shelter.

To summarize:

For decades, I did not know why I’m different compared with peers. Enhanced perception is oftentimes a burden when too many sensory stimuli affect socialising and everydaylife but enhanced detail perception in a photographic sense could be a real strength, a gift. Although too much noise is really detrimental for me, I had an advantage during playing the guitare hearing with a nearly absolute hearing. We tend to think too fast in deficits instead of looking at the pure original state: different perception – how can I use it as an advantage?

XXY is neither a disease, a disorder nor a disability.

If you want to refer to these terms, then continue with Klinefelter’s syndrome:

  • It’s a disorder because the hormone milieu is disturbed compared with 46,XY men.
  • It’s a disease as testosterone decreases faster with age then with 46,XY men and will likely cause healthy impairments.
  • It’s a disability because it causes infertility in the majority of people with Klinefelter’s syndrome.

Apart from these impairments, however, XXY is just another genetic code like in XY or XX. It can’t be inherited and happens randomly, and as the phenotype is largely different among XXY, many genetic factors influence the life of XXY men. For me personally, XXY is a neutral condition – it’s my identity, free of moral judgement and social expectations.