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What Is Precipitation, What Are The Types Of Precipitation, And How Do They Form?

What Is Precipitation, What-Are The Types Of Precipitation, And How Do They Form

It may not be such a well-known name, but once you see the different types of precipitation, you will instantly realize that you actually know it very well.

In short, precipitation is nothing more than water in all its form, that falls on the ground as a result of gravity.

It does not matter which form it takes, once water particles grow and become too heavy to stay suspended in the air, gravity takes over, and it starts falling to the ground.

In this post, we examine what precipitation is, the different forms of this occurrence, and how it is formed.

What Is Precipitation?

From the introduction alone, you already should have a pretty good idea of what precipitation is. For the sake of clarity, it is better to get a complete and formal definition.

What Is A Precipitation?

precipitation

Precipitation is water in all its different states, which formed after condensation turned water vapor into its solid form, which falls to the ground after it becomes too heavy to stay suspended in the air.

Precipitation can take the form of rain, snow, hail, or graupel.

As you will soon learn, all types of precipitation form in the same way with only a few variables making the difference. And it's mostly the type of environment (clouds), temperature, and winds that determine the type of precipitation that will reach the ground.

How Does Precipitation Form?

Precipitation is mainly the result of evaporation and condensation. The form of rain can vary according to the different variables present. Without these two processes, though, it will not be possible for any precipitation to form at all.

There is more than one way for precipitation to take place, but one of the most common ways is also the best to use to explain the process.

As the sun heats the surface of the earth, over land or water, it also warms up the air directly above it. Since warm air is lighter than cold air, it starts to rise into the atmosphere as it expands.

The heat also causes moisture on the ground and surface water to evaporate, adding to the water vapor already present in the air.

Since air temperature drops with altitude, the rising warm air starts to cool down. Once it cools down to the point where the water can no longer stay in its gaseous form, condensation takes and small water droplets form.

As a result, precipitation takes place in the state dictated by the surrounding atmospheric conditions and variables.

There is a multitude of ways for evaporation and condensation to take place, but they are all based on the key principles described in this section. 

Types Of Precipitation

Even though numerous categories and subcategories of precipitation exist, we will only focus on the eight most commonly found ones. One can classify the majority of other forms of precipitation under any one of the following types:

  1. Rain
  2. Freezing Rain
  3. Snow
  4. Graupel (Snow Pellets)
  5. Snow Grains
  6. Hail
  7. Sleet (Ice Pellets)
  8. Ice Crystals (Diamond Dust)

By looking at each form of precipitation in more detail, you will also realize that the most significant difference between them, is the manner in which they are formed.

1) Rain

Rain is the most common form of precipitation that occurs across the world and is the most significant contributor to the water cycle. Before we can examine how it forms and what its characteristics are, we first need to define what exactly rain is.

What Is Rain?

Rain

Rain is water in its liquid state. When condensation takes place in temperatures above freezing point, water vapor in the atmosphere turns from its gaseous state back into its liquid state. Small water droplets form as a result.

As the small water droplets bump into each other, combine and grow in size, it becomes too heavy to stay suspended in the air, and falls to the ground as a result of gravity.

Some classifications systems make a distinction between rain and drizzle. It is unnecessary since the only difference is the size of the raindrop. If it has a diameter of 0.5 mm (0.0197 inches) or less, it is classified as a drizzle. Any larger and the drop gets classified as rain.

A misconception exists about the shape of a raindrop. Most people view the teardrop shape as the shape of a drop of rain. It is not the real shape of raindrop at all. Learn more about the true form of raindrops and why it gets confused with the teardrop shape in this article.

2) Freezing Rain

Freezing rain very seldom starts as supercooled waterdrops. It is usually rain or snow that melt before encountering a much colder layer of air. To define what freezing rain is:

What Is Freezing Rain?

Freezing Rain

Freezing Rain forms when raindrops get supercooled as they travel through a layer of air with subzero temperatures. The resulting icy droplets immediately freeze when they come in contact with objects on the ground.

Since it creates a uniform layer of ice on the objects and surface of the ground, freezing rain can create hazardous conditions. The relatively thin, smooth layer of ice is almost invisible to the naked eye.

These slippery conditions can be lethal for road goers, as it is easy to lose control and slide on the smooth surface. It already led to numerous road accidents in the past. Pedestrians can also occur serious injury when walking and slipping on the ice-coated ground.  

3) Snow

Subzero conditions and enough water vapor in the atmosphere are two of the most important ingredients necessary for the formation of snow. But what is snow?

What Is A Snow?

snowflake

Snow is a collection of ice crystals that form around pollen or dust particles when water vapor condensates around them in sub-zero temperatures (below 32° Fahrenheit or 0° Celsius).

When the ice crystals collide with each other, they cling together and grow in size. ​When enough ice crystals join together, they form a snowflake.

As more crystals and other snowflakes get added to the main snowflake, it grows in size and weight. When it becomes too heavy, it starts to fall to the ground due to the Earth's gravity.

Snowflakes has light and soft physical nature as it is made up of a collection of ice crystals, and can easily lose its shape or get crushed on the ground.

Under perfect conditions, it has the hexagonal (six-sided) shape most people associate with a snowflake. In real-world situations, though, this very seldom happens.

4) Graupel

Also known as snow pellets, graupel is an interesting form of precipitation. It is neither a solid hailstone or a snowflake, but rather a combination of both. The way it is formed, have everything to do with its unique characteristics.

What Is Graupel?

graupel

Graupel is formed when snow falls through an area of supercooled water.

Upon contact, the water freezes around the snowflake and rime it, resulting in the formation of graupel.

Graupel cannot be classified as a form of hail or ice pellet, as it does not consist of solid, or made up of layers of ice. Instead, it is lighter and more fragile as a result of the snowflake structure inside the layer of rime.

On the ground, it creates a layer of unstable ice that can easily be crushed or deformed. 

5) Snow Grains

As the name suggests snow grains are very small pieces of ice.

What Are Now Grains?

Snow Grains

Snow grains are small flat pieces of solid ice, usually less than 1 millimeter in diameter.

They typically fall from stratus clouds or fog, and in small numbers at a time.

Due to their small size, and the fact that they never fall in the form of a shower, they are often seen as the frozen equivalent of drizzle.

6) Hail

Hail is probably the most well-known type of precipitation that consists of solid ice. Not many observers are aware of how these sometimes, golfball-sized balls of ice balls are formed.

What Is Hail?

hail

Hail is solid layered balls of ice that form as water droplets are carried up high in the atmosphere through updrafts in storms systems. At these altitudes, they are exposed to temperatures below freezing point, causing them to freeze into hailstones.

Updrafts keep carrying the hailstones up into freezing air, adding a layer of ice each time until they become too heavy and fall to the ground.

Hail commonly occur in clouds with a large vertical buildup like cumulonimbus clouds and supercells where strong updrafts are present. Hailstones also vary in size from only a few millimeters to the size of tennis balls.

Depending on the size of the hailstones, a hailstorm can be devastating and cause extensive damage to infrastructure, vegetation, and transport. It can also cause injury, and in some cases, be fatal to humans and animals.

7) Sleet

Also known as ice pellets, sleet is often confused with hail. Although there may be similarities in appearance, sleet is different in structure and the way it forms.

What Is Sleet?

Sleet

Sleet is the small ice pellets that form when snow or other frozen objects, fall through a layer of warm air.

It melts into a liquid form before falling through another layer of air with subzero temperatures which cause it to freeze again and form small pellets of ice.

Since it is much smaller than hail, it does not pose any significant threat to infrastructure, vegetation, and transport. It does, however, result in slippery conditions on surfaces like roads which motorist often underestimate.

8) Diamond Dust

Diamond dust is also known as ice crystals or ice needled and as the name suggests, very small in size. (Basically the same size as a drizzle.)

What Is Diamond Dust?

Diamond Dust

Diamond Dust is very small ice crystals that form close to the ground, and at temperatures below -30° Celsius.

It has the physical appearance of a low-lying transparent cloud.

This almost microscopic-sized form of precipitation gets its name from the sparkling effect of the sun's light reflecting off the ice crystals.

Conclusion

As you can clearly see, precipitation comes in many forms. From solid ice to light drizzle, and everything in between, the impact on the environment and the conditions it creates can also vary widely.

In this post, we defined precipitation, listed the most common forms it can take, and described their formation and characteristics.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my Mailing List to be informed whenever a new article is released, and also receive helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


The Elements Of Weather And Climate And The Instruments Measuring Them

The Elements Of Weather And Climate And The Instruments Measuring Them

Without anyone having to tell you, the vast majority of you know what the elements of weather are without realizing it. The reason is simple. You experience the different elements every single day and learned over time to associate it with the terms; weather and climate.

At any point during your day, you experience temperature by feeling hot or cold. Even though you don't recognize it, you also experience the effects of humidity and atmospheric pressure. Well, you just experienced 3 of the elements that make up weather and climate.

Let's first quickly the elephant in the room for many of you. Yes, there is a difference between weather and climate. You can read all about it here. But the elements that make up both are the same.

When I talk about weather elements throughout this article, you can safely assume that, for the most part, I include climate in the discussion. It's just faster and less repetitive to refer to weather only for the purpose of this post.

As you would have guessed by now, in this article, we look at the different elements that make up the weather. We will examine what they are, define each component, and also look at the instruments that measure each element.

What Are The Elements Of The Weather And Climate?

Weather is nothing more than the different elements it is composed of, as well as the way they interact with each to create different atmospheric conditions or weather events.

Before we can discuss them in detail, we first need to identify what the elements are that make up the weather. Eight primary elements/factors drive all weather:

Weather Elements Collage
  1. Temperature
  2. Air (Atmospheric) Pressure
  3. Wind (Speed & Direction)
  4. Humidity
  5. Precipitation
  6. Visibility
  7. Clouds (Type & Cover)
  8. Sunshine Duration

We can now look at each one in more detail.

1) Temperature

We all know what temperature is. When discussing the weather, this will probably be one of the first topics that come up. It is because we are so sensitive to temperature and quickly become aware of feeling cold or hot.

We know what it feels like, but what exactly is temperature?

What Is Temperature?

Temperature

Temperature is a measurement of the amount of kinetic energy present in the air, which manifests itself physically through the experience of heat or cold.

The scales typically used to measure temperature, is Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. The instrument used to measure temperature is called a thermometer.

In more practical terms, it means that the particles in the air move or vibrate at a certain speed, which creates kinetic energy. When the particles start to move/rotate around faster, temperature increases. When the particles begin to slow down, the temperature also starts to decrease.

Instrument For Measuring Temperature

The thermometer is the instrument used to measure temperature. They come in all shapes and sizes and dates all the way back to 1714. The mercury, bimetal, and digital thermometer are the 3 most commonly used instruments for measuring ambient temperature.

If you want to learn more, you can get more detailed information about the different thermometers and how they work in the following article.    

2) Air Pressure

Air pressure is another essential element of weather, especially when it comes to creating or changing atmospheric conditions. It is also one of the critical variables used to make accurate weather forecasts.

What Is Air (Atmospheric) Pressure?

Air Pressure

Air Pressure is the result of the pressure created by the weight of the air in the Earth's atmosphere.

It is also called a barometric pressure, named after the instrument used to measure air pressure.

Although it may not be visible, air has weight since it is not empty. It is filled with small particles of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide and a few other gases.

The weigh of the particles in the air creates pressure due to the gravitational force of the Earth. Since more air is present above the air close to the ground, air pressure is the highest on the planet's surface and decreases as altitude increases.

Instrument For Measuring Air Pressure

The barometer is the instrument used to measure air pressure. Evangelista Torricelli developed the first device in 1643.

Like the thermometer, the barometer also comes in different forms. Some examples include mercury, water, aneroid, and digital barometers.

If you need more information, you can find in-depth information about the different types of barometers, how they work, as well as their history in this article.

3) Wind (Speed & Direction)

The movement of air (wind) is one of the main driving forces of weather. The majority of major and even extreme weather events like cold & warm fronts, clouds, thunderstorms, and hurricanes are all driven by wind.

What Is Wind?

wind

Wind is the large-scale movement of air from an area of high to an area of low pressure in the atmosphere.

The speed and strength of wind are determined by the distance between the low-pressure and high-pressure areas, as well as the difference in air pressure.

Everyone has a pretty good idea of what wind is, so no need to go into more detail here. If you want to learn more about what exactly wind is, how it is formed, and its impact on the surroundings, you can find it in this article.

Instruments For Measuring Wind Speed And Direction

The anemometer is the instrument used to measure wind speed. Consisting of 3-4 half-cups on arms rotating around a central axis, you can typically find it on top of a weather station or at an elevated position.

A wind vane (or weather vane) is the instrument used to measure wind direction. It is a flat-shaped object that spins freely on an axis. Very often in the shape of an arrow or cockerel, you can also find it on top of a weather station or highly elevated objects.

It is common to see them on top of roof chimneys, church towers, and even communication towers. If you need to, you can find more information about anemometers and wind vanes in the same article mentioned in the previous paragraph.

4) Humidity

Humidity is another weather element that cannot be seen but can be felt. It not only plays a big part in weather formation but also directly influence our physical comfort levels.

What Is Humidity?

Humidity

Humidity is the amount of water vapor that is present in the atmosphere at any specific time.

Water vapor is nothing more than water in a state of gas (after the liquid has evaporated). Although humidity and its effects can usually be felt, it is normally invisible to the naked eye.

Humidity can be challenging to understand and interpret correctly. Then you also have to be able to make a clear distinction between absolute and relative humidity.

The subject is too comprehensive to cover in this post, but you can read the in-depth article covering humidity in detail here.

Instrument For Measuring Humidity

The hygrometer is the instrument used to measure wind speed. You also find more than one type of this device, like the psychrometer and the resistance hygrometer. You can find out more in the same article mentioned in the previous paragraph.

5) Precipitation

There is no argument that water in any of its forms is an absolute necessity for life on Earth to exist. Humans, animals, and plants need water to grow or stay alive, and precipitation is the only way replenish the dams, rivers, reservoirs, and the groundwater on which we rely.

What Is Precipitation?

precipitation

Precipitation is water in all its different states, which formed after condensation turned water vapor into its solid form, which falls to the ground after it becomes too heavy to stay suspended in the air.

Precipitation can take the form of rain, snow, hail, or graupel.

Precipitation is primarily the result of evaporation and condensation. To learn more, you can find out what these processes are, how they develop, and how they result in precipitation, in this article

Instrument For Measuring Rainfall

A rain gauge is the instrument used to measure rainfall. It is essentially a measured container that captures rain and measures the amount that falls over a set period of time.

To find out more about the different types of rain gauges and how they work, you can find it in the following article

6) Visibility

Visibility may seem like a very unlikely element of weather, but is especially important when discussing and measuring weather conditions like fog, mist, freezing drizzle, and smog.

What Is Visibility?

Visibility

Visibility is the measurement of the degree through which an object can be observed over a certain distance.

This measurement is crucial when conditions like mist, haze, fog, and freezing drizzle are present, which can severely impede visibility.

The importance to be able to measure this element is often underestimated. It is especially applicable in areas where visibility plays a crucial role, like airports and harbors where it can literally be a matter of life or death.

Instrument For Measuring Visibility

Visibility sensors like "forward scatter sensor" are the instruments used to measure visibility. In the past, using your own vision (eyes) to measure the degree to which you can observe an object, was the standard.

7) Clouds (Type & Cover)

It is no secret that clouds are one of the quickest ways to determine current and future weather conditions. Studying them in more detail with scientific equipment is very valuable to make very accurate assessments of present and feature atmospheric conditions.

What Are Clouds?

Clouds

Clouds are water droplets or water in different states (like ice and snow crystals), which formed after water vapor reached condensation level and could no longer remain in gaseous form.

Knowing how to identify a certain type of cloud and the weather associated with it, can prove valuable when assessing weather conditions with only visual references. You can all about the different clouds and their characteristics in this article.

Instrument For Measuring Clouds

The advanced instruments meteorologists use to study clouds in detail are weather satellites and radars. Satellite and radar images are able to accurately measure cloud density, the amount of moisture, the temperature, and movement of the clouds.

8) Sunshine Duration

The amount of sunshine the Earth receives (which is a characteristic of solar radiation) greatly influence other elements of the weather like ambient temperature, and more indirectly humidity and air pressure.

What Is Sunshine Duration?

Sunshine Duration

Sunshine duration is the length of time the Earth's surface is directly exposed to solar radiation.

It is also referred to as sunlight hours and measure the amount of exposure over a set period of time (generally in hours per day or year.)

As already stated, sunshine duration influence other weather elements, which can change the whole makeup of the weather conditions. This ability makes it a more powerful and influential factor than you might think.

Instrument For Measuring Sunshine

Sunshine recorders, more specifically Campbell–Stokes recorders, are the instruments used to record sunshine duration. Campbell–Stokes recorders basically consist of a spherical lens that focuses sunlight on a specific type of tape to make its measurement.

Conclusion

This article thoroughly explained the eight elements that make up the weather, what they are, and which instruments are used to measure each one.

There are smaller element influencing the weather and climate as well but are not as impactful as the eight elements discussed in this post.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions, or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my Mailing List to be informed whenever a new article is released, and also receive helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


Rain Without Clouds? How A Sunshower Or Serein Can Provide The Answer

Rain Without Clouds? How A Sunshower Or Serein Can Provide The Answer

We usually associate rain with clouds. No clouds, no rain. Correct? Well, as I experienced myself, there is the rare occasion where rain seems to fall out of a completely cloudless sky.

I don't know about you, but I don't like getting wet and try to avoid getting caught in the rain at all costs. There has been the odd occasion, though, that I happened to be outside on a sunny day with not a cloud in sight, only to get hit by light rain or drizzle "out of nowhere".

You probably experienced the same phenomenon at some point in your life. So what did you experience? Was it actual rain falling out of a clear sky, or did you get hit by spray from the neighbor's sprinkler or nearby waterworks as the result of a gust of wind?

You might be surprised to find out that what you experienced was probably a combination of most; a paradoxical phenomenon called a sunshower.

What Is A Sunshower?

The term "sunshower" is not that well-known on a global scale since the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and New Zealand are the only ones widely using it. The phenomenon itself, though, occur throughout the world under different names.

What Is A Sunshower?

What Is A Sunshower

A sunshower is a phenomenon which occurs when rain falls while the sun is shining, and few or no clouds seem to be present.

A sunshower usually occurs due to the presence of either strong prevailing winds, or dissipating clouds.

With the official definition out of the way, it's time to be really honest. As you will found out shortly, there is no real occurrence of rain without any clouds. We simply don't see them by the time we experience the rainfall. 

Sunshowers are often associated with rainbows, especially if the sun is close to the horizon. Since the raindrops get directly exposed to the sunlight during this occurrence, it is much easier for the light to be broken up and refracted by the droplets, resulting in a rainbow.

As you might expect, several theories exist about how sunshowers occur, but two explanations by meteorologists seem to the most logical and widely accepted ones:

  1. The presence of strong prevailing winds
  2. Rapidly dissipating clouds

By looking at each of these explanations in detail, one will quickly realize that there might be a relatively simple explanation for what we see as a strange and paradoxical phenomenon.

1) The Presence Of Strong Prevailing Winds

Although you may see a clear sky while you experience a light rain shower, it does not mean that the raindrops did not originate in a cloud system.

wind and rain

A rainshower sometimes occurs during the same time a strong prevailing wind is blowing. Especially when the clouds are of the cumulus type that is situated higher up in the atmosphere than low-lying stratus clouds, rain takes several minutes to reach the ground.

When a strong wind is blowing in the same region from where the raindrops originated, it can carry the rain several miles away from the cloud system.

By the time it reaches the ground, the person experiencing the rain may be completely caught off-guard, as there are no clouds visible in the immediate vicinity that could have warned or indicated the presence of any rain.

In summary, the rain did form in a cloud but was carried off by powerful prevailing winds, only to reach the ground several miles away in an area where no clouds are present.

2) Rapidly Dissipating Clouds

The time it takes for raindrops to leave a cloud and start falling to the ground, to the time it reaches the surface, plays an essential role in the formation of this type of sunshower.

The other ingredient needed to form this type of sunshower is a cloud which is close to dissipating. It means it has very little moisture left to form water droplets, or rising atmospheric temperatures in the cloud makes reaching dew point impossible. 

Sunshower formed by strong wind

When rain falls from this cloud system, almost no moisture is left. Combined with the inability to reach dew point temperature, it means that no further condensation can take place and no more waterdrops can form.

As a result, the cloud starts to dissipate quickly after the last raindrops fell from it. Since the rain takes a couple of minutes to reach the ground, the chances are good that the cloud will have broken up completely by the time you experience the rainfall on the ground.

And as in first explanation, you may look up to see where this unexpected light shower came from, only to see sunshine and a mostly cloudless sky.

Names and Beliefs Associated With Sunshowers

Although the name may be native to only a few countries, sunshowers occur throughout the world, as already mentioned. They only difference is that each country or culture has its unique name for this event.

Since the phenomenon of rain, while the sun is shining, is such a paradoxical occurrence, different cultures also attach specific beliefs and meanings to a sunshower.

The sheer number of different names and beliefs associated with sunshowers are too numerous to name each one. By providing a shortlist of each, though, you will be able to get an idea of the broad spectrum that exist throughout the world.

Different Names For Sunshowers

In this section, we will look at a few names given to a sunshower from different regions around the globe:

  1. Twieled Tork: The name given used in Malta which means "a Turkish baby was born."
  2. Umshado Wezinkawu: The name used in South African Zulu which means "monkey's wedding."
  3. Vitterväder: The name used in Sweden.
  4. Gribnoy Dozhd (грибной дождь): The name used in Russia.
  5. Mua Bong May: The name used in Vietnam.
  6. Nagda Paaus: The name used in Marathi.
  7. Kitsune No Yomeiri: The name used in Japan which means "the fox's wedding."

I can go on for ages, but you get the idea. It is interesting to note that the majority of these names can be translated into subjects surroundings jackals and weddings. When we look at the beliefs and folklore associated with a sunshower, this will become much more obvious. 

Beliefs And Folklore Associated With Sunshowers

The meaning and beliefs that different cultures associate with a sunshower is just as numerous as the different they give to the same phenomenon. Here are a few examples:

  1. In South Africa there is an Afrikaans saying when a sunshower occurs; "Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou" which translates to "Jackal marries the wolf's wife."
  2. In Bulgaria, it is common to refer to a "bear getting married" when this event takes place.
  3. In El Salvador, the people refer to "a deer giving birth."
  4. In Cuba there is saying; "Se está casando la hija del diablo", which translates to the "The devil's daughter is getting married" when a sunshower occurs.
  5. In parts of the United States, it is said that "the devil is beating his wife" during this event.
  6. In Poland, there is the following saying; "Słońce świeci, deszczyk pada, baba jaga masło składa", which means "a which is busy making butter."
  7. In Argentina, it means "An old woman is getting married."
  8. In Korea, the saying goes; "The fox is marrying the tiger" during a sunshower.
  9. In parts of Pakistan, a sunshower translates to, "One eye jackal's wedding."

It is clear from these few examples that marriage, the jackal, and the devil, are all common themes associated with a sunshower.

What Is Serein And How Is It Relevent?

A sunshower, however, is not the only phenomenon where rain falls while the sun is shining. Serein falls in the same category. But what is serein?

What Is Serein?

What is serein?

Serein is the light rain or drizzle that falls from a clear sky during or after sunset.

The term originated from the French word, "serein," which directly translates to "calm, tranquil, or serene."

Apart from the name and time of day associated with it, serein is no different from a sunshower in any practical terms.

Its existence is also the result of either rapidly dissipating clouds, or strong prevailing winds, which is the same way in which a sunshower gets formed, as you saw earlier in this article.

Conclusion

I will leave it to you to decide for yourself whether you consider a sunshower or serein (or any other name the phenomenon goes by) to be real.

As we discussed in this article, you can experience rain while the sun is shining and little or now clouds are present in your area. But as the post also explains, clouds are always present at the location where the raindrops initially formed.

It is a paradoxical occurrence and can be divisive. Depending on whether you see it from a practical or scientific perspective, you will either believe in the existence of a sunshower (or serein) , or dismiss it altogether.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my Mailing List to be informed whenever a new article is released, and also receive helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

What Is A Stationary Front And What Type Of Weather Is Associated With It?

What Is A Stationary Front And What Type Of Weather Is Associated With It

If you regularly watch the weather report, you will be familiar with cold & warm fronts. We already discussed an occluded front in a separate article. But there is one front that receives little attention...

Normally, either cold fronts or warm fronts dominate any weather discussion. An occluded front occurs less often, but were already discussed in detail. This still leaves us with a stationary front.

Like occluded fronts, stationary fronts do not get nearly as much attention as a cold or warm front, but that does not make it any less significant or noteworthy.

This post will examine what a stationary front is, how it develops, as well as looking at the type of weather generally associated with this front.

What Is A Stationary Front?

As is the case with all other fronts, we first need to have a clear definition of precisely what a stationary front is before one can look at its other characteristics.

What Is A Stationary Front?

Stationary Front

A stationary front occurs when two air masses come together, but neither is strong enough to replace the other. As a result, a stationary front forms which remain fixed in one location.

As soon as one air mass gains more strength and moves into the other, or the wind changes direction, the front starts moving again in the form of either a cold or warm front, depending on the dominant air mass.

Although a stationary front remains in one position, it doesn't mean that weather conditions and air movement around it come to a standstill as well. As you will see in the following sections, there is plenty of weather activity along, and on both sides of a stationary front. 

How Does A Stationary Front Form?

How Does A Stationary Front Form

As already stated in the definition, a stationary front forms when two air masses meet, but neither one of the two is strong enough to displace the other. (It usually occurs when a cold front and warm front catch up with each other.)

This stalemate leads to the development of a stationary front which remains in one location, sometimes for days on end. It can lead to extended periods of dreary and miserable weather, as you will discover in the next section.

Eventually, the front can start moving again as a result of one of the two air masses gaining strength, or a change in wind direction occur. The new forward-moving front can be a cold or warm front, depending on which of the air masses gained more strength.

A stationary front can also eventually break up and dissipate entirely, or develop into shear lines. The latter usually occurs over a large open area like the ocean. 

What Weather Does A Stationary Front Bring?

The weather that accompanies a stationary front is not nearly as dormant as the movement of the front itself. It is not uncommon to find winds blowing parallel to the direction of a stationary front.

Another characteristic of a stationary front is the distinct difference in temperature experienced on either side of this "fixed barrier." The mass of air behind the approaching warm front has a much higher temperature than the mass of air behind the approaching cold front.  

A stationary front is also often accompanied by overcast and dreary weather with persistent light precipitation that can last for days. This condition usually depends on the amount of moisture present in the air.

On occasion, a stationary front can lead to extreme events. When a high percentage of moisture is present in the atmosphere, heavy & persistent rain can lead to flooding in the region along the front.

Heavy winds called derechos sometimes develop due to strong downdrafts along the border of a stationary front. They can reach speeds of 160 km/h (100 miles per hour), which can cause damage to infrastructure and endanger human life.

Stationary Front Symbol

In the section, "How Does A Stationary Front Form?", you can get a good idea of how a stationary front looks in context, and how it may be depicted during a weather forecast.

Stationary Front Symbol

The symbol for a stationary front consists of a series of interconnecting blue and red sections. Each section has a corresponding triangle or semi-circle, which also alternates with every transition from one segment to the other.

The blue section represents the colder air mass with the same blue triangle which you will find on the symbol representing an actual cold front. The triangles also point towards the direction in which the cold air is trying to move. 

The red section represents the warmer air mass with the same red semi-circles which you will find on the symbol representing an actual warm front. The semi-circles also point towards the direction in which the warm air is trying to move.

Don't confuse the symbol representing a stationary front with the one indicating an occluded front. Both consist of a series of alternating triangles and semi-circles.

A single homogeneous purple-colored symbol indicates an occluded front. A stationary front, however, is represented by the symbol with alternating red and blue colors, as seen in this article and section.

Conclusion

From the four major weather fronts, the stationary front is the least well-known, together with the occluded front. However, as you have seen throughout this article, it has a significant impact on weather conditions.

You now know what a stationary front is and how it is formed. And you also know what type of weather conditions to expect in its vicinity.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions, or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my Mailing List to be informed whenever a new article is released, and also receive helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

Why The Arctic Is Literally Melting And Burning Away, And Why It Is Bad News For Rising Sea Levels

Why The Arctic Is Literally Melting And Burning-Away, Which Is Bad News For Rising Sea Levels

I never thought that I would start an article with a heading like this one in my lifetime. However, this is precisely what is currently taking place in the Arctic, Greenland, and Siberia while writing this post.

Just during the past three months, these regions experienced some extreme weather events and seems like it might be the start of a trend that will only persist and get worse.

At the time of writing this article, record high temperatures were recorded across Europe as heatwaves struck during July 2019. You can read more about this phenomena in this article.

The resulting dry conditions created a favorable environment for a further escalation to occur, precisely what has happened as you will find out later in the article.

In this article, we will examine how the extreme weather that hit the Northern Hemisphere during July 2019, resulted in the extraordinary occurrences of wildfires. We also look at the resulting large-scale melting of ice never seen before in Greenland.

We also look at the impact these two occurrences has on the rate at which the Arctic is melting. We finally have to conclude whether we are looking at an anomaly or a new accelerated trend?

Unprecedented Events Highlighting The Accelerated Warming Of The Arctic Regions

Wildfires in Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia

The scorching hot temperatures that the Northern Hemisphere experienced during July 2019 resulted in wildfires occurring in areas where you would never think possible.

wildfires

Satellites images were one of the first that picked up the traces of smoke and eventually revealed the real extent of the wildfires that were burning out of control in large areas of Alaska, Siberia, and even Greenland.

The record high temperatures allowed areas that would usually be covered with snow to dry out and, assisted by the warm weather, create favorable conditions for fires to start.

These conditions resulted in a combination of wildfires on a scale not seen before in these regions:

  • Alaska was battling with more than a 100 fires which already burned 2.4 million acres of land during July.
  • In Siberia, Russia, fires destroyed more than 7 million acres of land during the same period.
  • Greenland also experienced wildfires during July. (Although the rapid melting of its ice sheet is a much bigger problem.)

On their own, these fires already have a significant effect on the local environment. When combined though, these fires severely affect the entire Arctic Region.

  • It accelerates the rate at which the ice is melting (which is already taking place at an alarming rate.)
  • Satellite imagery also shows smoke covering large parts of the Arctic. It not only cause pollution on a large scale, but the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere further contributes to rising temperatures.

It is clear to see how widespread fires in the Arctic only contribute to an already dire and alarming situation in the region.

Melting Of The Greenland Ice Sheet And The Polar Ice Caps

I still get both amused and baffled when people continue to ask, "Is The Arctic melting?" It has already been overwhelmingly proven over and over again by meteorologists throughout the last couple of decades. 

Also, the sheer number of extreme events widely reported in the media, including large-scale flooding and receding coastlines, helped to reinforce this fact. Not to mention the ever-increasing deteriorating weather conditions that we are all experiencing globally.

Greenland

Greenland Ice Decline

The rapid melting of the ice sheet in Greenland can be seen as the single most crucial piece of evidence to illustrate the alarming rate the Arctic Region is melting.

Following the hottest July ever recorded, Greenland lost 11 billion tons of surface ice as it melted away into the ocean on 1 August 2019. To put it in context, this amount of water is enough to fill 4.4 Olympic sized swimming pools. And this was just one day!

If you take into consideration the fact that 82 percent of Greenland consists of ice, which is enough to raise ocean levels by 6 meters (20 feet) if it all melts, you don't need to be a mathematician to realize the severe consequences of this continuing trend.

Polar Ice Caps

The majority of the world's ice is concentrated at the polar ice caps situated on both the North and South Poles. Antarctica alone contains 90 percent of of the world's ice which is approximately 2134 meters (7000 feet) thick.

The alarming reality is that NASA is estimating that the ice caps are melting at a rate of 9 percent every ten years. It means if the current rate at which the planet continues to warm up continues, so will the rate at which the polar ice is melting increase.

If this is enough not enough to cause you to start to get more than a little concerned, you might want to consider the following.

  • The sea level will rise by 61 meters (200 feet) if all the ice in Antarctica melts. 
  • The Arctic will be left with no ice by 2040 if the the temperature on the planet continues to rise at the current rate. 
  • If enough ice melts to allow sea levels to rise by more than 1.83 meters (6 feet) at the polar ice caps, the majority of major coastal cities in the world will be flooded. 

Although none of the above mentioned scenarios is predicted in our lifetime, it does not make it any less of a reality. After all, according to weather models, the amount of ice that melted in Greenland during the week of August wasn't suppose to place until 2070...  

Consequences Of The Melting Of The Polar Ice Caps 

Arctic Sea Ice Decline 1980 2012

NASA images captured in 1980 and 2012, showing how much the polar ice caps declined.

As already mentioned, the polar ice caps are already melting at an alarming rate of 9 percent every ten years.

If the acceleration of ice melting on the Greenland ice sheet, as well as the widespread wildfires is pointing towards a new trend and not a once-off phenomenon, we are looking at two serious consequences:  

Rising Sea Levels

Yes, sea levels are already rising at an alarming rate. Whether you are a climate change skeptic or Greenpeace environmentalist is beside the point. Rising sea levels have been taking place at an accelerated pace for at least a century now.

This trend shows no signs of slowing down. On the contrary, temperatures continue to grow. If the wildfires and rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet also become the "new normal," the compounding effect will cause sea levels to rise even faster.

At the very least, you can forget about any current forecasts made which calculate rising sea levels. Current climate forecasting models will also have to be adjusted to compensate for the new variables.

Global Temperature Rise

The cold climate of the Polar Regions keeps the rest of the world cool through global wind movement, as well as cold air masses moving towards the Equator.

Polar Ice Caps Melting

Images showing the polar ice caps declining between 1980 and 2012.

As a result, if the events of 2019 indicate the beginning of a new trend, the rate at which the Arctic warms up will also cause global temperatures to rise even faster.

If the Arctic that keeps the planet's temperature balanced, keeps on diminishing at an accelerated pace, it will be hard to see temperatures able to stabilize any time soon. 

We may also be looking at a snowball effect where increasing temperatures from the Equator and the Arctic feeding each other, results in global temperature rise at an unprecedented rate.

Conclusion


Throughout this article, a pretty grim picture of the planet's future has been painted. If you take it too literally, you will be forgiven to conclude that the fate of our climate is sealed and we are headed for imminent doom. 

That is not the intention of this article at all. This post aimed to bring the extreme and unusual events of the summer of 2019 in the Arctic Region under your attention. As mentioned, it may just be an anomaly, but all indicators point towards a growing trend.

If this is the case, our global society as a whole needs to realize the increased threat. We need to double our efforts to do everything in our power to slow and eventually stop the process. Yes, the damage may be done, but it is never too late.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my Mailing List to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips by simply clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


What Is An Occluded Front And What Weather Does An Occluded Front Bring?

What Is An Occluded Front And What Weather Does An Occluded Front Bring

Almost everyone vaguely familiar with weather terminology knows what a cold or warm front is. But few, if any observers have ever heard of an occluded front and what it is.

Weather conditions often follow and are associated with a specific type of front. Whether your meteorologist discusses cold fronts, warm fronts, or stationary fronts, some atmospheric condition inevitably gets associated with it.

The same principle applies to an occluded front. Unlike the previously mentioned weather systems, occluded fronts are not that well-known. (Similar to a stationary front.) However, this does not mean it is any less important and does not require any less attention.

The focus of this article will be to shed some light on this lesser-known weather front. We examine what an occluded front is and how it is formed, as well as which weather conditions are associated with it.

What Is An Occluded Front?

Before any detail about the formation and associated weather conditions of this occurrence can be discussed, one needs to have a clear understanding of what precisely an occluded front is.    

What Is An Occluded Front?

What Is An Occluded Front

An occluded front occurs when a cold front moves faster and eventually overtakes a warm front which forms an occluded front through a process called cyclogenesis*.

The new front usually develops around the center of a low-pressure system during the formation and of a cyclone.

* Cyclogenesis is the term that usually refers to the strengthening of a cyclonic circulation around a low-pressure system. As the name suggests, this phenomenon closely follows the formation and fortification of a type of cyclone.

Although an occluded front is usually the result of the process described in the highlighted section, there is more than just one type of occluded front:

  1. A Cold Occluded Front develops when the air behind the front is colder, while the air ahead of the front is warmer.
  2. A Warm Occluded Front, on the other hand, develops when the air behind the front is warmer, while the air ahead of the front is cooler.

The newly-formed front brings with it its unique weather conditions. And even though it doesn't occur that often, an occluded front still needs to be clearly understood. As a result, it is crucial to explain how an occluded front develops in the first place.

How Does An Occluded Front Form?

Occluded Front Weather Map

For the sake of clarity, we will use the example of an occluded front that forms in the Northern Hemisphere around a low-pressure system as a cold front catches up and overtakes a warm front.

As already stated, the whole process typically takes place during the formation of a cyclonic system. As the circulation around the low-pressure center intensifies, the cold front starts to move faster than the leading warm front.

At some point during the counterclockwise rotation, the cold front catches up and overtakes the warm front. At the point where the two fronts intersect, an occluded front is formed.

At this point, the denser cold air moves in underneath the warm air behind the warm front and meets up with the cold air that was ahead of the hotter system. This process usually leaves a body of cold, dry air trailing in the wake of an occluded front.

What Weather Does An Occluded Front Bring?

Weather conditions do not always manifest itself in the same way, even when it occurs around the same type of front. Generally, though, certain types of weather patterns can be associated with a specific weather system, which is the case with an occluded front.   

One can identify these weather patterns more clearly when looking at the formation of a typical occluded front, by using the same example of an occluded front formation used in the previous section.

As the cold front catches up and overtakes the warm front, it pushes underneath and lifts the warm air behind it. Significant precipitation can take place as a result, as the warm air forced upwards, allow the moisture in it to cool down and condensates in water droplets.

It is therefore also not uncommon to find the formation of cumulonimbus and nimbostratus clouds along the newly-formed front.

The mixing of air behind the cold front with the cooler air in front of the warm front as the two merges, causes the air temperatures to drop significantly.

Combined with the majority of moisture lost along the edge of the front due to precipitation, it typically leaves a body of cold and dry air trailing behind an occluded front.

(There are variations, as already described when we explained the difference between a cold and warm occluded front. In the majority of occurrences, though, the weather closely resembles the conditions described in this section.)

Occluded Front Symbol

Occluded Front Symbol

In the section, "How Does An Occluded Front Form?", you can get a good idea of how an occluded front looks on a weather map. As it is the result of a cold and warm front combining, it is common to see the three fronts in the pattern you see displayed in this post.

On its own, the symbol for an occluded front consists of a purple line with alternating triangles and semi-circles. (It effectively combines the triangles of a cold front with semi-circles of a warm front). They always point in the direction the front is moving.

Conclusion

An occluded front is just one of many lesser-known weather systems at work in the more extensive collection of mechanisms that drive weather and climate around the world.

By now, you will have a clear understanding of what an occluded front is, how it is formed, and what type of weather you can associate with this phenomenon.

It may not occur as often as cold, warm, or stationary front, but that does not make it any less critical. The more you know about even the smallest aspect of weather, the better you will be equipped to understand the bigger picture that is our global weather system.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

What Is A Heat Wave & What Causes A Heat Wave?

What Is A Heat Wave And What Causes A Heat Wave

Since the end of the Twentieth Century, regions all around the world has been experiencing record high temperatures. It seems that every summer is accompanied by new record highs recorded at locations in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. 

As this trend continues and starts to have a more permanent impact on the environment and us humans, we are facing some serious questions that need answering.

These intense hot spells that can last anything from a few days to several weeks is called a heatwave. Very few people understand what exactly a heatwave is, how it differs from just an unusually warm day, and what causes it in the first place.

This topic will be the primary focus of this article. We will examine what precisely a heatwave is, as well as the processes responsible for its formation. We also look at the possible link between heatwaves and Climate Change.

Then we also look at some recent record temperatures to put everything into perspective.

What Is A Heat Wave?

Simply experiencing a few hot days, or an unusually warm summer does not mean you in the midst of a heatwave. There are a few minimum requirements that need to be in place for hot conditions to be classified as a heatwave:

What Is A Heat Wave?

What Is A Heatwave

A heatwave is officially declared when at least five consecutive days of sustained heat are experienced, where the daily maximum temperature is at least 5° Celsius (9° Fahrenheit) warmer than the average maximum temperature.

This classification system is defined and used by the World Meteorological Organization.

However, many countries and regions have their own classification systems which may better suit their environments.

In California, for example, a heatwave is declared when temperatures reach or exceed 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Celsius) for three days or longer. It must also occur over a large region (tens of thousands of square miles). 

In the United Kingdom, a heatwave occurs when the maximum daily temperatures reach or exceed the heatwave temperature threshold for three consecutive days. This threshold varies, depending on the country in the UK.

As you can see, there are quite a few variations, but the fundamental principles that define a heatwave remain the same.

What Causes A Heat Wave?

The most important cause of the majority of heatwaves is the presence of a high-pressure system. These pressure systems are commonly found during the summer months in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.

A slow-moving high-pressure system at heights of 3 000 to 7 600 meters (10 000 to 25 000 feet) puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the air below it. It can stay in position over a region for days or weeks, which contributes to the formation of a heatwave in more than one way.

High-Pressure System

First, the high-pressure system creates downward pressure on the air below it. As it pushes down on the underlying air, it warms it up through a process called adiabatic compression.

Secondly, the underlying compressed layer of air already heated due to adiabatic compression forms a temperature inversion above the air near the surface of the ground.

The inversion layer effectively traps the air at the surface of the planet. This warm air that would have dissipated through convection under normal circumstances now has nowhere to go as the sun warms up the earth and the air above it.

As a result, the combination of the warm inversion layer with the trapped surface air underneath it continuously warming up creates the perfect environment for the occurrence of a heatwave.

There are also other factors at play in the creation of a heatwave, and it can occur under a variety of different circumstances. However, the scenario described in this section is the primary cause of the vast majority of heatwaves.

Relationship Between Heatwaves & Climate Change

Climate Change is either the primary source of the frequent, increasingly warmer heatwaves we are experiencing, or have nothing to do with their occurrence at all. It all depends on who you talk and listen to.

The truth lies somewhere in between. The answer can be summed up in two facts that will explain the relationship between the two phenomena.

The argument raised by many that heatwaves have always been a natural occurrence throughout history is a valid one. 

Since humankind started keeping records of meteorological events, sustained periods of unusually hot weather were measured. As a result, it should be clear that Climate Change is not necessarily the cause of heatwaves.

Global Warming

But this is where Climate Change, more specifically Global Warming, starts playing a more active role. By now, there is no more dispute that human activity has activity accelerated the heating of Earth since the Industrial Revolution, a trend that is continuing today.  

As a result, average maximum temperatures keep rising almost every year as a direct result of Global Warming. Studies show that this will not only cause heatwaves to grow in severity but in frequency as well. Simply put, even hotter heatwaves occurring more often.

Some Of Highest Temperature Ever Recorded

During the time of writing this article, a heatwave swept through Europe, breaking longstanding records all over the continent. Although a coincidence, this serves as a reinforcement of the information provided throughout this article.

The United Kingdom experienced its hottest July ever in 2019. During the same period, Paris also experienced its hottest day in history. The temperature reached a scorching 42.6° Celsius (108.6° Fahrenheit), eclipsing the previous seventy-year-old record.

During this period, countries like Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany also measured record highs.

In July 2018, Death Valley in the United States recorded the hottest month ever recorded anywhere in human history. The average (day and night) temperature was 42.2° Celsius (108.1° Fahrenheit).

What makes it even more astonishing, is that this is the second year in a row that the record gets broken. The previous record was set back in 1917.

The Southern Hemisphere also saw records broken in recent times. For example, Australia experienced its hottest month ever during January 2019 when average temperatures exceeded 30° Celsius (86° Fahrenheit) for the first time in history. Daily temperatures regularly exceeded 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit)

I can continue, but you will agree that it is clear that a definite trend is emerging.

Conclusion


This article provided you with a clear explanation of what a precisely a heatwave is. You will also have a clear understanding of how different weather conditions contribute to the occurrence of this phenomenon.

Judging from the long list of record high temperatures measured across the world, it will also become evident that a worrying trend is developing.

Although Global Warming is not directly responsible for the occurrence of a heatwave, it has a significant impact on the intensity and increased frequency of these hot spells.

No to be the bearer of bad news, but we are facing a very hot future, where increasing heatwaves across the planet will become more commonplace.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my   Mailing List   to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

What Is The Real Shape Of A Raindrop And Why?

What Is The Real Shape Of A Raindrop

We all know what the shape of a raindrop is, right? But what if I tell you more than 90% of you are wrong. We examine what the real shape of a raindrop is and why. 

I am sure the majority of you thought of a teardrop shape, and nobody can blame you. The symbol of a teardrop is used everywhere to represent water. Whether you find this shape on a beauty product or a simple weather forecast, the teardrop shape always gets used.

In truth, a real raindrop falling through the sky looks very different from a teardrop shape. Raindrops also do not retain their exact original form, from the moment they form to the point where they start growing in size as they fall towards the ground.

And this will be the focus of this article. We will look at how a raindrop is shaped, and how it changes shape as it starts falling to the ground after growing too big to be held in the air.

Before we start examining the real shape of a raindrop in the air, we first need to understand the reason for our association with a teardrop shape came.

Where Does the Teardrop Shape Come From?

The answer is straightforward. A raindrop falls too quickly and is too small for the naked eye to make a precise observation.

Teardrop Shape

We have to rely on the waterdrops hanging from a faucet or tree leaf. Or observe the drops of water running down your face or a window.

In the former scenario, the skin of the waterdrop holds on to the object from which it is hanging. It creates a thin tail. The gravity causes the bulk of the water to accumulate in the lower "belly" of the drop.

In the latter scenario, the friction causes the tail to hold on to the surface of an object. The bulk of the water gets concentrated at the bottom of the drop.

In both cases, the form of the waterdrop is tear-shaped. It is also the reason we associate the shape of a raindrop with the form of a teardrop. 

What Is The Real Shape Of A Teardrop?

Although a raindrop takes on multiple shapes as if it falls through the air and accumulates additional water droplets, two forms can be associated with a raindrop:

  1. Spherical Shape
  2. Oval ("Hamburger Bun Shaped") Shape

1) Spherical Shape

Spherical Shape

When humid air in the atmosphere cools down sufficiently for condensation to take place, small water droplets form around dust, pollen, and smoke particles. These water droplets are spherical (round) in shapes, mainly due to the surface tension of the skin of the droplet.

At his point, they are still extremely small, around 1 mm (0.04 inches), and trillions of these droplets are floating around in the air.

2) Oval (Hamburger Bun Shaped) Shape

Hamburger Bun Shape Shape Raindrop

As these small water droplets come in contact with each other, they merge, and the resulting raindrop grows larger. This process continues until it becomes too large to be held in the air, and starts falling to the ground.

As it falls and picks up speed, the raindrop encounters wind resistance from the bottom which flattens the underside of its surface, deforming the spherical shape. 

As a result, the raindrop deforms into a distorted oval shape, much like the upper half of a hamburger bun. It is also the typical shape most experts associate with a falling raindrop.  

The Ongoing Deformation And Development Of A Raindrop As It Continues To Fall To The Ground

Continual Deformation And Development

Jelly Bean Shape

Although the forms mentioned in the previous section, are the two primary shapes attributed to a raindrop, it keeps on deforming as it falls towards the ground. It keeps growing in size as it merges with more droplets and speeds up as a result.

As the bigger raindrop accelerates to the ground, it encounters even stronger wind resistance causing it to deform even further. Very soon, the shape changes to one resembling a jellybean, with the heavy outer edges pointing down.  

Final Deformation And Breakup Of A Raindrop

Raindrop Breaking Up

If the raindrop continues to fall beyond this point, the wind resistance, combined with the increasing weight of the waterdrop as it gathers new smaller droplets, causes the structure to become unstable.

Eventually, this leads to the raindrop to break apart into smaller pieces. Depending on how high up in the atmosphere it takes places, the drops that were broken up hit the ground as smaller raindrops, or grow and develop in the same manner as the original raindrop.   


As is clearly obvious, a raindrop may have two primary shapes. But depending on which part of its deformation cycle it is on, or where it is in its path through to the ground, you can also find it in a variety of other different forms.

Conclusion

You will understand by now that a raindrop takes on many forms after it is created and starts falling towards the ground. One shape that it is NOT, however, is that of a teardrop. (I discussed this misconception in detail at the start of the article.)

Although primarily spherical or "hamburger bun-shaped" in form, the raindrop can deform even further. If it is allowed to keep falling to the ground, grow in size, and accelerate.

(Due to the increasing wind resistance and the larger size due to the accumulation of more droplets, the raindrop may take on a peanut-shaped form, or even become entirely distorted and break apart into smaller waterdrops.)

The aim of this article was to help you understand what precisely the shape of a raindrop is and why. Secondly, we wanted to dispel the myth of the teardrop shape that the majority of people associate with a raindrop.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

How Do Animals Survive The Desert Or Arctic Weather?

How Do Animals Survive In The Desert Or Arctic Weather

We as humans do not come naturally well equipped when it comes to coping with hot or cold weather. Animals, on the other hand, seem to have no such problem.

When it's hot, we need to remove unnecessary clothing and stay in the shadows, or air-conditioned room to remain cool. When it's cold, we sometimes need to put on multiple layers of clothing and use the heat from a fireplace or heater to stay warm.  

Polar Bear And Camel

Arctic animals spend hours in the freezing waters or ice of the Arctic, while a desert animal can stay for hours in the middle of a desert in the blazing heat, without showing any signs of struggle or discomfort.

The conditions in which these creatures live cannot be more directly opposed, but they have one thing in common. Each animal is completely at home in their respective environments, as harsh and inhospitable as they may be.

In this article, we are going to take a look at animals who call the scorching hot deserts their home. We will turn our focus to the opposite side of the spectrum, where animals live and thrive in the cold Arctic Regions.

Animals That Live In The Arctic

You will be surprised at the number of animals that live in and around the Arctic with its icy cold climate. Whether in or out of the water, most animals in these regions have the same characteristics that help them cope with the icy water and freezing weather. 

One doesn't need to examine every single animal to find out which features allow them to survive the harsh Arctic conditions. But by identifying and listing the most commonly found animals in the region, you will be able to get a clear visual image of these features at work.

Commonly Found Animals In The Arctic

You will probably recognize the majority of animals listed in this section. The aim is not to provide a comprehensive list of all Arctic animals, though, but to highlight the animals that display the features that protect them against the cold.

To stay concise and to keep the focus primarily on the Arctic animals with the necessary features which allow them to survive, the list will be limited to seven animals:

  1. Whale
  2. Polar Bear
  3. Reindeer 
  4. Walrus
  5. Musk Ox
  6. Arctic Fox
  7. Arctic Hare

As we discuss the characteristics and features that allow animals to thrive in the freezing weather, it will become clear how each animal in the list make use of one or more of these "weather-insulating" factors. 

How Do Animals Survive In The Arctic

As this section will highlight, most animals living in the Arctic Regions, share the same characteristics and habits that protect them from the harsh elements.

By examining how each of these features or habits work, you will be able to get a clear understanding of how living in subzero conditions, is not just possible but preferable for these animals.   

1) Thick Hair / Fur

Found in almost all Arctic animals, are their thick coats of hair or fur. It not only protects against cold air penetrating the outside, but it also traps pockets of warm air close to the skin. It plays a big part in keeping the body and core temperatures warm.

Musk Oxen

Some animals also grow an undercoat of hair, which helps to warm the body even further and trap pockets of warm air closer to the skin. The musk ox and arctic hair are two examples of animals who make use of these undercoats.

Some mammals, like the polar bear, also have oily hair. The oily substance helps to insulate the skin and keep the hair dry while swimming in the icy waters.

Other animals using their thick coats to protect them against the cold are the arctic fox and the reindeer. 

2) Blubber

Blubber is nothing more than a thick layer of fat, generally found under the skin of animals, specifically marine animals living in and around the cold Arctic Regions. Blubber comes in varying degrees of thickness, depending on the size of the animal.

This layer of fat is located between the animal's skin and internal organs and muscles, acts as an insulator, able to block almost any cold from passing through. A second advantage is the ability of this layer of fat to serve as a food source during scarcity in resources.

Animals with thick layers of fat include whales, polar bears, an walruses.

3) Huddling

Arctic Hares

As most of us know very well, standing closely together for any amount of time, and we all get warm very quickly. In nature, especially in the Polar Regions, making use of this very efficient behavior allow animals to stay warm in otherwise unbearable conditions.

Huddling close together allows animals to feel and absorb each other's warmth. It also cuts down, and to a large extent, eliminates the movement of cold air around the body, helping animals to stay warmer as a group.

Animals that display this behavior include musk oxen, reindeer, and arctic hares.

4) Color Camouflage

As this feature of arctic animals is not directly related to coping with the weather conditions, not too much emphasis will be put on it in this article.

It is noteworthy to note that a large majority of polar animals have coats of fur/hair that appears white. This either a defense mechanism to blend it with the surrounding, or used as a predatory advantage by carnivores.

Polar bears, arctic foxes, and arctic hares are all examples of animals that use their coats to disguise themselves.

Animals That Live In The Desert

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you will find animals and reptiles which live in regions with hot and dry climates. In this section, we are focusing on the creatures that make the hot deserts and semi-arid areas of our world their home. 

Like animals living in Arctic Regions, any animal surviving in the harsh conditions of a warm and desert, possess features and habits that not only help them to survive but thrive in these inhospitable areas.

To find out more about desert climate, you can read all about it in this article.

There are two specific conditions that desert animals have to cope with in order to survive:

  1. Extreme Heat
  2. Lack Of Water

By looking at some of the animals and reptiles commonly found in hot deserts and semi-arid regions, one will be able to get a clear understanding of what features they possess and habits they display that enables them to survive the harsh conditions.

Animals That Live In The Desert

Some of the animals named in the following list may be familiar to you. It is because they are exceptionally well-equipped to handle the hot conditions, and are well documented. As with arctic animals, the list of desert creatures will also be limited to a maximum of seven:

Addax Antelope
  1. Camel 
  2. Mexican Coyotes
  3. Fennec Fox
  4. Gemsbok
  5. Addax Antelope
  6. Gila Monster
  7. Antelope Jackrabbit

As we discuss the characteristics and features that allow species to thrive in the hot desert climate, it will become clear how each animal & reptile in the list make use of one or more of these "weather-insulating" factors. 

How Do Animals Survive In The Desert

In this section, it will become clear that many animals that live in these hot and dry areas, use the same features and habits to survive:

1) Nocturnal Desert Animals

This behavior of animals allows them to escape the heat of the day by hiding in burrows, shallows, and the shade of rocks during the day. During the cold evening, they come out of hiding to feed, hunt, and are at their most active.

The Mexican coyote and Fennec fox are two small preditors that follow these lifestyles to help them survive in the desert.

2) Thick Fur

In the same way, arctic animals have thick fur to keep them warm, some animals living in the desert do have the same thick coat, but in order to stay cool by keeping the heat out.

The thick fur of camels protects against the heat from the sun reaching the skin. Similarly, the layer of hair on desert foxes has a light color that reflects the sun's rays. The same thick coat keeps them warm during cold winter nights.

3) Water Storage

Camel

Some animals can go for days, even weeks by storing water within their bodies for later use. Contrary to popular belief, it is not actual water that is stored in their bodies.

There is a false belief that the camel store water in its hump (or humps) on its back. It is actually fat that is stored in the hump. Similarly, the Gila Monster is a poisonous lizard that also stores large quantities of fat in its tail. 

When necessary, the fat can be used as a source of nourishment when no real food is available. During this process, water is also released which can be absorbed and used by the bodies of both the camel and Gila Monster.

4) Kidney Function

On a biological level, the adaption of specific organs like the kidneys in the bodies of desert animals, allow them to use a lot less water. In some animals, the kidneys are aome dapted to prevent water loss.

For example, both the Addax antelope and camel's kidneys are able to concentrate their urine, making it possible for their bodies to retain more water. The fennec fox is another animal that has kidneys adapted to retain more water.

5) Oversized Ears

There are also quite a few desert animals that have huge ears. These vast surface areas allow the body to cool down much faster. As the creatures stay in the shade, the blood vessels in the ears allow large quantities of thermal heat to escape the body.

The Antelope Jackrabbit and Fennec fox are two animals that use these techniques to regulate their heat and keep cool.

There are other features like fur color that help both predator and prey to blend into their background. This, however, is not part of protection against the harsh weather conditions, so we will not be the focus of this post.

Conclusion

It should now be very clear how both arctic and desert animals have features and habits that help them survive and thrive in extreme climates.

It will also be interesting to keep an eye on these creatures to observe how (or if) they are able to adapt as their environments start to change.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

What Is A Blizzard, How Is It Formed, And Which Other Natural Disasters Are Caused By Weather Events?

What Is A Blizzard - And-Which Other Natural Disasters Are Caused By Weather Events

The term, "blizzard," gets tossed around and used very loosely when referring to cold stormy weather. An actual blizzard, though, is devastating enough to be classified as a natural disaster. And it is just one of several extreme events that are the result of the weather.

At the time of writing this article, the speed at which natural disasters occurs is increasing every year at an alarming rate, and don't show any signs slowing down. The majority of these events is directly or indirectly, the result of weather conditions.

With so much attention given to other natural distastes like drought, flooding, and hurricanes, the dangers and impact of blizzards often gets overlooked.

The main focus of this article will be on what a blizzard is, how it is formed, as well as the effects and consequences of this extreme event. We will also have a look at other natural disasters that are the result of weather activity.

What Is A Blizzard

Before getting into the detail of how a blizzard develops, all the variables involved, as well as the effects and influences of this intense storms, we need first need to define what precisely a blizzard is:    

What Is A Blizzard?

What Is A Blizzard

A blizzard is an intense storm, characterized by heavy snowfall and strong winds with speeds of 56 km/h (35 mph) or more. 

Visibility is limited to 400 meters (0.25 miles) or less, and the storm also lasts for a sustained period of at least three hours.

As the definition clearly illustrates, no matter how unpleasant & violent a heavy snowstorm may be, it will not necessarily be classified as a blizzard. The criteria required to declare a blizzard (intensity, wind speed, and duration), highlights just how devastating this event is.

As an indication of just how serious a blizzard gets taken, your local or national weather service will only issue a "Blizzard Warning" when all three requirements are in place. To recap, they are:

  1. A wind speed of 56 km/h (35 mph) or more.
  2. Visibility is limited to 400 meters (0.25 miles) or less.
  3. The storm lasts for a minimum of three hours.
Ground Blizzard

A Ground Blizzard

When just two of these three requirements are in place, a weather bureau will reduce the outlook and only forecast a "Heavy Snowfall Warning."  

Not all blizzards require snowfall to take place. A ground blizzard occurs when snow or ice already lying on the ground, gets picked up by a strong wind, and blasted across the surface to create complete whiteouts and deadly cold conditions. 

What Causes A Blizzard?

A blizzard can take place almost anywhere when the conditions are right. However, these conditions typically occur in certain parts of the world, like Northern Europe and the north of the United States, which are ideally situated for these conditions to occur.

Usually, the conditions needed for the creation of a blizzard are as follows:  

  1. Warm moist air from the Tropics.
  2. Cold Air from the Polar Regions
  3. A strong low-pressure system

The elements needed can also occur on a more localized level. No matter what the scale, how a blizzard form remains the same, which we will describe in the following paragraph.

Blizzards occur almost exclusively in the Northern Hemisphere as they favor the conditions necessary for the growth of this intense type of storm. As a result, the warm air originates from the south at the Tropics and the cold air from the north at the Polar Regions.    

Low Pressure System

It all starts with a low-pressure system that develops near the vicinity of the warm & humid, as well as cold air masses. As it strengthens, it draws in the cold air from the north and the warm air from the south.

The air that is sucked in by the low-pressure cell rotates counterclockwise around the center of the system. When the two air masses come in contact, the cold & dense air is forced underneath lighter warm & moist air.  

As the humid air rises, it condensates and form water droplets, which fall through the layer of freezing air below it. The cold air turns the raindrops into ice pellets, snow, or freezing rain, which, along with the snow and ice already on the ground, gets picked up by the wind. 

If the collision between the warm and cold air is strong enough, with a large difference in temperature between them, it will strengthen the low-pressure system even further, causing wind speeds to increase and create the conditions favorable for the formation of a blizzard.

These conditions are often assisted by geographical features such as mountains or valleys, which can funnel and strengthen the winds speeds to help create blizzard conditions.

Remember that a blizzard can also occur on a local scale. The warm moist air from a lake (a high-pressure system) can come in contact with freezing air over land (a low-pressure system), combine around a low-pressure cell, and strengthen to form a blizzard.  

Effects Of A Blizzard

The effects of a blizzard can be widespread and devastating. Its biggest danger, though, is the speed at which it occurs. This endangers life and causes damage on a variety of fronts. Here are just a few examples:

1) Injury And Loss Of Life

The high speed at which snow and ice are blown around, combined with the wind chill effect, can put anyone caught outside when a blizzard hits in immediate danger. It can cause frostbite and hypothermia in record time, which can often lead to fatalities.

The amount of snow and ice, able to be transported by the winds in a blizzard, can quickly cause a person, house, or even entire villages to be completely covered in minutes.

In 1972, a blizzard in Iran buried 200 houses and caused 4 000 deaths, with snowfall covering the ground up to around 26 feet (7.9 meters). This is just one of the numerous blizzards that were responsible for countless fatalities over the years.

2) Structural Damage And Destruction

The speed of the wind itself can be destructive. Accompanied by snow and ice, a blizzard has the power to blow over power lines and light structures.

The ability of these storms to move large amounts of snow in a short time means structures can quickly be covered with tonnes of snow. Especially when blizzards last for days, the weight of the snow can cause structural collapse and severe damage to infrastructure.

3) Traffic And Communication Disruptions 

Blizzard Effects - Traffic Disruption

The low visibility or complete whiteout is extremely disruptive to traffic, making travel by any form of transport virtually impossible. It can bring a whole city to a standstill for the duration of the blizzard.

Blizzards can also destroy telephone lines. In modern times it is not that disruptive since the adoption of cellular and satellite communication. Unfortunately, the strength of the storm also allows it to destroy satellite towers and severely disrupt cellular and satellite signals. 

More Natural Disasters Resulting From Weather

You will have a clear understanding of what blizzard is, how it is formed, and its effect on its environment. We can now have a quick look at some other natural disasters that are caused by weather activity, most of which have already been covered in other articles on this site.

Hurricanes And Cyclones

These devastating storms need no introduction. Both start as a tropical depression in the warm subtropical waters. As it travels north and gains strength, it turns into a tropical storm, and if the conditions are right, a hurricane is formed.

When the storm travels south, the same growth pattern occurs, only this time the rotation of the winds is clockwise around the low-pressure system.

As it develops into a major storm, in the Southern Hemisphere it is called a cyclone (as opposed to a hurricane in Northern Hemisphere.)

You can read the in-depth article about hurricanes and cyclones here.

Flooding

Flooding is the single most devastating natural disaster that can occur in a single event. During a hurricane or monsoon, it is not the wind and rain that cause the most damage, but the mass of water that wipes away or penetrates everything in its path.

You can read more about the devastating effects of flooding in this same article.

Heat And Desertification

Desert Climate

Whether you believe in Climate Change or not, you cannot deny the rising temperatures and accompanying droughts that our planet is experiencing at an increasing rate. This slow-moving natural disaster is turning previously fertile and habitable land into deserts.

This is where desertification comes in. To find out more about how our planet's increasing temperatures are changing our environment, and what desertification is, you can read the complete article here.

Conclusion

By now you will know without a shadow of a doubt what precisely a blizzard is. You also know how it is formed, as well as it effects on the environment. You will also be aware of all the other natural disasters that are also the result of weather.

The importance of knowing all these disasters is that we are seeing all them increasing at an alarming rate every year. Just be aware of this and recognize it when you see this tendency.

The first goal of this article is to help you understand what a blizzard is, as the term is so often misunderstood, and its effects underestimated. The second goal is to make you notice how weather related natural distastes are on the increase and what it means for you.

And make no mistake, it WILL affect you. To see how, just read following article.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


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