Weather Blogs

September 27, 2016

One of the joys of fall is the beautiful fall foliage—the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. How will weather affect their color? Is it a good year for pretty leaves? How Does Sunlight Affect Autumn Leaves? Surprisingly, it is not the weather that is the primary factor that determines when the leaves turn. It’s the amount of sunlight. Leaves manufacture chlorophyll, which stores the energy of the sun. It’s chlorophyll that gives leaves their green color. When the days grow shorter during... more

September 20, 2016

As this busy hurricane season reaches its halfway point, it would be nice to know—where do hurricanes occur most and where are you most safe? It turns out that that is a major question. Not even Las Vegas, Nevada is totally safe! And if you live in Florida, forget about it.  From 1842 to 2012, tropical storms (green) and hurricanes (purple through yellow) have battered large areas throughout North America. Source: NOAA As the map above shows, the US, east of the Mississippi is the parade... more

September 13, 2016

Why do hurricanes like to bunch up? If one’s coming, get prepared for more. Hurricanes are social creatures that appear in groups. So are their West Pacific relatives, typhoons. Indeed, most hurricane seasons have busy periods and then lulls. (An exception was the busy 2005 season with Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and even Tropical Storm Zeta!) Normally June and July are fairly quiet, while early September, with the North Atlantic at its warmest, is usually quite stormy. The period of time from... more

August 14, 2016

As Louisiana, East Texas and the Midwest floundered in floods, satellites showed a startling picture. A double-decker river is flowing up the Mississippi! Hovering over the rolling waters of the Mississippi River is a giant atmospheric river!  A giant atmospheric river stretched from South Texas to New England. Welcome to the schizophrenic nature of La Niña conditions in the Tropical Pacific. Typically, when La Niña conditions dominate the Pacific, we see more extreme weather – more droughts... more

August 2, 2016

Recent satellite data shows that clouds have been retreating toward the poles, and that they’re also growing higher. Find out what these changes mean for your cloud watching afternoons! If you are a weather addict like me, one of life’s simple pleasures is cloud watching. (This one looks like a bunny. This one looks like a pony. That one looks like a cumulonimbus—get out the umbrellas!) Scientists have also been watching them, with decades of records from satellites. Clouds Shifting Toward the ... more

July 19, 2016

During the summer thunderstorm season, not all of the fireworks you will see this month are manmade. The skies will be filled with light—and many types of lightning! As my previous post on lightning noted, those lights are spectacular electric sparks. The collision of ice and slush churning in a thundercloud builds up static electricity. The slush near the bottom of the cloud builds up a negative charge while the tiny ice crystals carried to the top become positive. Finally, the charges equal... more

July 18, 2016

You might not believe it, but it snowed in four states this July! While summer snow in Alaska is hardly unusual (they leave year-round snow in the mountains just to impress the tourists), it was unexpected in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. ♪ Dashing through the snow ♫ In July!? On what is usually the hottest week of the year, a cool front lowered temperatures to the 40°s and dumped snow on the higher elevations. If you were above 10,000 feet at Yellowstone National Park, you had enough to build a ... more

July 17, 2016

I love watching lightning—nature’s light shows—but, yes, it can be dangerous. Here’s some background on lightning and basic lightning safety rules. Lightning strikes more than 40 to 50 times a second during June, July and August. What you are watching are spectacular electric sparks. Just as you build up static charges when you shuffle your feet along a carpet, so the collision of ice and slush churning in a thundercloud builds up charges. The slush near the bottom of the cloud builds up a... more

July 10, 2016

Welcome to a whole lot of Nothing, or La Nada, a climate phenomenon that causes relatively normal weather in between El Niño and La Niña. What is La Nada? The giant, warm El Niño that brought a mild winter and wet spring is gone. The cool, dry La Niña is coming. In between these two types of weather is La Nada: “The Nothing”. The waters in the Tropical Pacific are, to quote Goldilocks, “Not too hot, not too cold—they are just right.” Find out more about the El Niño and La Niña climate... more

June 29, 2016

Most everyone is fascinating by rainbows and how rainbows are formed. Did you know that there are 12 different kinds of rainbows? On December 17, 2015, Jean Ricard, a serious rainbow scientist (what a fun job!), reported that there are 12 types of rainbows and why. A rare winter rainbow SOURCE: Old Farmer’s Almanac   How Are Rainbows Formed? Rainbows are wonderful reflections of sunlight off raindrops. As the light is reflected, it is refracted, which changes the direction on the light... more

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