Today I'll be talking about some weird weather events and the science behind them. I'll look at two unusual weather happenings and try to explain the science that was behind them so that they no longer look weird.
First up isn't that strange, but it is unusual, at least in Regina. In June, there were some really weird clouds that showed up after a big thunder storm. These puffy, cotton ball looking clouds are called mammatus clouds. They are usually indicative of an extreme storm, and often extend from the base of cumulonimbus clouds. Aviators are extremely recommended to avoid these clouds, even more than they are recommended to avoid cumulonimbus clouds in general. If you want, you can read the news story here. You might think that this is a little too weird to believe due to the rarity of these clouds appearances, but I assure you, I myself saw them, and if it was faked, there wouldn't have been so many tweets with pictures or the news story on it.
The second event isn't really unusual, but it is very freaky. I am talking about hurricanes, specifically Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy formed on October 22, 2012 and lasted for nine days, ending on the 31st. Classified only as a Class 2 hurricane at its peak, it was still the largest Atlantic hurricane to date. It is ranked as the second-costliest hurricane after hurricane Katrina, causing an estimated 77.43 billion USD in damages. At least 253 people were killed and 15 went missing as the superstorm tore a path through 7 countries. Hurricanes begin their lives as tropical storms. As the storm moves over the ocean, water evaporates and rises until enormous amounts of heated moist are going straight up into the atmosphere. This air feeds the storm, allowing it to grow bigger and faster. What made Hurricane Sandy so destructive was its size. It gained enormous amounts of water when it passed over the warm waters south of Kingston, Jamaica. There are those that would argue that global warming caused Hurricane Sandy to grow in size enough to cause the damages that it did. So, although hurricanes aren't that rare, they are still freaky. If you ever want to read an interesting story on a man-made hurricane destroying the world (fictional of course), check out Skeleton Coast, by Clive Cussler. I found that it helped me understand how hurricanes were formed and how they grow. Anyways, see you for now! My next post will be on Weather Forecasting. (Wait until tomorrow when you
Today I'll be talking about events related to the weather. I'll let you in on a little conspiracy theory of mine; hurricane Sandy was caused not by the government, but by the weather! Crazy right? ;)
Anyways, I'll be discussing four weather events and their causes. Don't worry, I won't bother with specific instances, I'll just be general so you can actually acquire useful knowledge from this blog for once. ;)
First, I'll talk about my arch-nemesis (and occasional ally, depending on the capitalization): Blizzards. Blizzards are defined as "Severe snowstorms with high winds and low visibility." You can see a picture of a blizzard on the left. (I think that's me delivering my paper route yesterday...) As you can see, the conditions that characterize a blizzard are not very pleasant. Snowstorms are categorized as a blizzard when the speed of the wind is equal to or exceeds 56 km/h and the visibility is reduced to 400 meters or less. They are caused by a warm front colliding with a cold front (more on those later). This causes a low-pressure zone, which as all pilots and air cadets know, equals really really bad weather. (let's add a little more really really's...) The snow will be added when the low pressure zone passes over a body of water. A low pressure area creates a lot of high-powered winds. The lower the pressure, the higher the winds. Blizzards should be avoided out of a natural interest in remaining comfortable; but when one is happening on a highway, or any place where one would travel, that place should be avoided at all costs. Blizzards reduce the visibility to near zero, greatly increasing the risks of an accident. They also create slippery roads and gusts of winds that can affect your vehicle. All in all, a blizzard is weather to be avoided (or a snack to be attacked :D)
Second part of your force fed diet of weather knowledge; tornadoes. Feeling like you're not in Kansas anymore? Anyways tornadoes are really cool. They can can reach wind speeds of up to 482 km/h and can be 3.2 kilometres across and stay on the ground for more than 100 kilometres. Whoa! I'd hate to be caught up in something like that! Thankfully, tornadoes normally don't get any bigger than 76 metres across and any faster than 177 km/h. That's still pretty insane though. I haven't ever gone faster than 150 km/h my whole life! Tornadoes are defined as "a violently rotating column of air, in contact with the ground, either attached to a cumuliform cloud or underneath a cumuliform cloud, and often (but not always) visible as a funnel cloud". They are formed from a supercell storm when falling rain drags a large amount of air with it. which in turn drags a mesocyclone down to the earth. A mesocyclone is a mass of rotating air within a supercell.
Third weather event: Thunderstorms. These are my favourite. The sound of the rain and the thunder outside at night while you're inside listening... Anyways, thunderstorms are defined as "transient storms of lightning and thunder, usually with rain and gusty winds, sometimes with hail or snow, produced by cumulonimbus clouds". These storms are caused by rapid updrafts of warm moist air. If a thunder storm grows big enough it can turn into a supercell and cause a tornado. Cumulonimbus clouds are the types of clouds that characterize thunderstorms. They are big, tall, dark anvil shaped clouds. They can rise to over 20 km where their top is flattened making it look like an anvil due to high winds at that height. To a pilot, these clouds are bad news. Plain and simple. You see one, you go the completely opposite direction. Although these storms are the prettiest, they are also very dangerous. Not only are they dangerous to planes, but also to vehicles and humans. My Dad was driving to Caronport from Moose Jaw and our minivan was hit by a lightening strike. Completely fried the electronics and we had to get a new minivan. People have also been hit by lightening. So, if you are ever caught outside in the middle of one of these, then get to shelter fast! Unless, of course, you purposely chose to be outside in the middle of a thunderstorm, then I would assume that you have taken appropriate measures to protect yourself from lightening strikes.
The fourth and final event is the mysterious fog. Fog is actually pretty neat. It's definition isn't nearly as mysterious as it looks; "fog is a collection of liquid water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface". However, its definition is exactly what it is. Fog is just semi-frozen water hanging just above the surface. Basically, its a low-lying stratus cloud. It isn't created the same way a cloud would be though. Fog is generally formed from local water supplies, such as a nearby lake or ocean. It is formed when the temperature of the surrounding area and the dew point (temperature at which dew is formed) are less than 2.5°C apart. So, even though it looks the coolest out of the discussed weather events, it is the simplest to explain.
Anyways, thus concludes my Weather Related Events blog post. Check back for the next post: Wacky Weather!
So today I'm going to talk about the atmosphere. You have four basic sections of the atmosphere; the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, and the thermosphere. Together, they start at the surface and they continue for 350-800 kilometres above the surface of the Earth, with variations due to solar activity. I will now breakdown and thoroughly explain each.
The picture on the left is a good example of what the atmosphere looks like. Of course, the separations between the sections of the atmosphere aren't perfectly flat, due to the weather and how it affects those layers.
As you can see from the lovely diagram obtained from Wikipedia, the troposphere is the closest layer to the Earth. The stratosphere is the second closest; the mesosphere third; and finally, the thermosphere is last. Now, there is one more layer above the troposphere, it's called the exosphere. I won't be talking about it because it doesn't really behave like the rest of the atmosphere, mainly because it has very few particles (mostly hydrogen and helium) that are so spread out that they could travel hundreds of kilometres before colliding with each other. If you think of the Earth as an orange, and the atmosphere as it's skin, then the exosphere is the thin layer of dust on the surface of the orange.
The Troposphere is the first layer of the atmosphere. It begins at the surface of the Earth and extends 9 kilometres at the poles and 17 kilometres at the equator with some variation due to weather. It is where all of the Earth's weather happens, and it is the section of the atmosphere that planes fly through. That makes it my favourite. :) Anyways, the troposphere is heated mainly by transfers of energy on the surface, so the higher it gets, the colder it gets. The troposphere is made up of roughly 80% of the atmosphere. The boundary separating it from the stratosphere is called the tropopause.
In the picture on the left, the troposphere is the orange layer, the white layer is the stratosphere, and the blue layer is the mesosphere.
The Stratosphere extends from the tropopause to a height of about 51 kilometres. This layer of the atmosphere is where the ozone layer is located. The temperature in the stratosphere actually increases as you get higher! This is due to the absorption of ultra-violet energy by the ozone layer. It is the highest layer of the atmosphere that life can still survive unprotected. Birds will sometimes fly in it, and bacterial life makes it their habitat. The stratosphere is separated from the mesosphere by the stratopause.
The Mesosphere starts at the stratopause and continues to a height of 80-85 kilometres. Here, the temperature again decreases as the height increases. The top part of the mesosphere, called the mesopause can be considered the coldest, naturally occurring place on Earth. With temperatures as low as -100° Celsius, it's easy to see why one can't book trips to the mesosphere. ;) Seriously though, out of all the layers of the atmosphere, the least is known about the mesosphere. This is because the mesosphere is between the maximum height for aircraft and the minimum height for orbital spacecraft. Thus, all we know about it is gained from launching sub-orbital "sounding" rockets into it.
The Thermosphere is the fourth and final layer of the atmosphere (other than the exosphere). It begins at the mesopause and continues to about a height of 500 kilometres. The temperatures here rise the higher you go, but they are largely dependent on solar activity. The temperature can get as high as 2,500° Celsius, but since the energy lost by thermal radiation would be higher than the energy gained by infrequent collisions with sparsely located particles the actual temperature one would feel would be below 0° Celsius.
For a more detailed description on the atmosphere, check out Wikipedia or the video below.
Well, this is the first post, so I'll give you a bit of background on the weather. We'll start with the definition of weather. Weather is defined as "the state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc." (dictionary.com). Now, I'll give you the definition of Climate. Climate is defined as "the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years." (dictionary.com). That's a long definition, isn't it? Basically, it can be explained as the general weather that a given region will have most of the time.
Now, I'm sure you're wondering who in their right mind would want to have a job related to meteorology (the study of weather), what with all the boring and confusing terms; not to mention that half the time they don't even get it right. Well, let me tell you some of the benefits to being involved in meteorology. (That's right, there are actually benefits to being a meteorologist!)
Firstly, the demand. The environmental organizations want a piece of you, places like oceanography departments and atmospheric studies. Then there's the public that wants to know what it's going to be like tomorrow, so you could work for television or be on the good ol' radio. Then there's always important, but not public, weather work; you could work as a forecaster for the pilots that have to fly through the stuff. Finally, there's a standby if you are dedicated enough; you could teach it to other weather fanatics. Crazy right? A never-ending cycle of weather people training other weather people! What is this world coming to? ;) (source)
Secondly, the fun. OK, I'm not going to pretend that I enjoy meteorology at all, because I don't, but there are those out there who actually really enjoy working with the weather and trying to figure it out. Look at this guy:
Doesn't he look like he's having a blast? Check out this guy, seems like being a weatherman worked out pretty well for him!
Hey, Luke T here. Found out that I was supposed to be blogging about the weather for my Science a week before it ended. Yeah. My fault though, didn't even start work on the course till I was supposed to be three months through it. Ooopsy.