Weather Blogs

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

June 19, 2016

What does it take to boil an egg? Submerge it in hot water. What does it take to boil a continent? We are finding out with this hot and humid weather. North America is surrounded by hot water and summer breezes are wafting that hot humid air inland. This last weekend, almost everyone got to “Feel the Burn.”  The oceans are hot and that hot air is going to flow inland over the next couple of months. A major El Niño just ended. Measurements last month claimed this was the hottest May on... more

June 16, 2016

Weather satellites do more than track the Earth’s skies; they also observe the oceans and keep us safe. Quick question. Which is more dangerous? These giant killer whales … Source: NOAA Or, these itty-bitty plant cells? Source: NOAA photo courtesy Vera Trainer   You probably guessed! Those tiny algal plant cells are part of the giant poisonous bloom that closed fisheries in the West Coast. Mean Little Blooms The little Pseudo-nitzchia plants produce a poisonous chemical, domoic... more

June 4, 2016

The Atlantic Hurricane Season has been very impatient. Even before the season officially began, Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Bonnie crashed the party. Such an early start to the hurricane season is incredibly rare. In recent years, there have been warmer-than-usual waters in the Atlantic, allowing a tropical storm to start early; however, it is very rare for there to be two storms before June 1.  Since hurricane records began in 1495 (when an unnamed storm upset one of the voyages of... more

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