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22 Interesting & Important Facts About The Weather You Should Know

22 Interesting And Important Facts About The Weather

As much as you already know about the weather and climate, there are still a few interesting and important facts about the weather that you should be aware of. 

After years or even decades of closely following weather reports and discussing it with friends & family, you may already have a good grasp of how it's general behavior and the atmospheric conditions that characterize it. 

Unfortunately, there are quite a few myths and misconceptions that stubbornly keep doing the rounds in modern culture, as well as some essential weather facts that don't get emphasized enough. We address a few of these important facts in the following list.

22 Interesting & Important Facts About The Weather

The following list describes some interesting as well as crucial facts about the weather that you may already know, while others might be misconceptions or myths that are so widely accepted that you will be surprised to learn the truth.

After listing all 22 facts, we will take a close look at each individual one to get a better understanding of what it means as well as its possible implications:

  1. 1
    Weather Is Unpredictable, Always
  2. 2
    Climate Is What You Expect, Weather Is What You Get
  3. 3
    Wind Blows From Areas Of High To Low Pressure
  4. 4
    Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, Is The Windiest Place In The world
  5. 5
    Lightning Can Strike Twice
  6. 6
    The Entire Length Of The Mississippi River Froze Over In 1899
  7. 7
    Hurricanes And Typhoons Are The Same Types Of Storm
  8. 8
    Mawsynram, India has the highest rainfall on the planet.
  9. 9
    The Average Speed Of A Raindrop Is 9 Meters (29.6 feet) Per Second
  10. 10
    One Billion Tons of Rain Falls On The Planet Every Minute
  11. 11
    Lightning Strikes The Earth's Surface 100 Times Per Second
  12. 12
    Snowflakes Can Take Up To An Hour To Reach The Earth
  13. 13
    Ozone Is Hazardous For Your Health
  14. 14
    Tornadoes And Waterspouts Are The Same Weather Phenomena
  15. 15
    Antarctica Is Completely Covered By A Glacier
  16. 16
    Why Hurricanes Have Female Names
  17. 17
    The Air Is 78 Percent Nitrogen
  18. 18
    Antarctica Is The Largest Desert In The World
  19. 19
    A Raindrop Is Not Tear-Shaped
  20. 20
    The highest temperature ever recorded was in Death Valley, USA
  21. 21
    A Warm Front Can Cause Rain
  22. 22
    Never Drive Through Flood Water

1) Weather Is Unpredictable, Always

the difference between weather and climate

This statement is no criticism of any weather service or meteorologists. Weather forecasts have become remarkably accurate over the last few decades with weather sensors spread out over the Earth's surface, the oceans, atmosphere, and in space.

A wealth of historical weather and climate data, combined with advanced forecasting models, make modern-day weather predictions very reliable.

But as we all know, sometimes the weather turns out completely the opposite than was predicted. It usually is no fault of any meteorological service, but simply due to the fact that there are just too many atmospheric variables that can change in a short space of time.

For example, on the coast, the ocean or land temperatures can rise or drop quicker or slower than expected. Ocean currents can unexpectedly change and dramatically influence the weather. Jet streams in the upper atmosphere can slightly shift and have a large impact.

These are just a few examples of the large number of variables in the atmosphere that can come into play and influence the weather unexpectedly and quickly. 

2) Climate Is What You Expect, Weather Is What You Get

This statement is basically the very definition of the primary difference between the weather and climate. (It is very easy to confuse the two, which often lead to many misunderstandings and debate.)

Climate is the average weather conditions that are expected during a specific part of the year or season, calculated over a period of at least 30 years. Weather, on the other hand, is the specific atmospheric conditions at a particular location at any given time.

For example, the climate may dictate that a day in the middle of summer will be warm and sunny. On one particular summer's day, though, the weather can be cloudy & rainy, with temperatures dropping below 15° Celsius (59° Fahrenheit).

Read more about the difference between weather and climate in this article.

3) Wind Blows From Areas Of High To Low Pressure

Wind Blows From Areas Of High To Low Pressure

Low and high-pressure systems are what creates the majority of winds, and it always flows from an area of high to low pressure.

The best way to describe it is to use the analogy of a party balloon. As you blow it up, air fills the balloon, and the pressure inside also starts to build. When it is fully inflated, the air pressure inside the balloon is much higher than that on the outside.

As soon as you open a hole in the balloon, the air immediately rushes out to equalize the pressure inside and outside. Wind acts exactly the same way as it flows from a high-pressure to low-pressure region.

4) Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, Is The Windiest Place In The world

The windiest place in the world is also one of the coldest. With winds reaching an average annual wind speed of 80 km/h (50 mph), Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica holds the record for windiest location on the planet.

Wind gusts also regularly exceed 241 km/h (150 mph) in this region, and the windiest hour here was recorded on 6 July 1930 at Cape Denison with a speed of 153 km/h (95 mph).

You can read more about the windiest places on the planet in this article.

5) Lightning Can Strike Twice

Lightning Can Strike Twice

One of the most common and dangerous myths is that lightning does not strike the same area twice in one thunderstorm. This misconception most probably arose out of reassuring someone that a negative or dramatic event in their life will not occur again.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that lightning can and most probably will strike the same location more than once. If it does not happen during the same thunderstorm, it can happen during an upcoming one.

There is just no scientific evidence whatsoever to support this myth. You can read more about lightning, how it forms, and its characteristics in this article

6) The Entire Length Of The Mississippi River Froze Over In 1899

The southern state of Louisiana in the United States is not exactly known for its freezing cold winters or icy conditions. However, this all changed in February 1899.

New Orleans experienced 3-4 inches of snow during this period. But that was just the beginning. The entire length of the Mississippi River froze over all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and even extended partially into the Gulf.

This may have been a freak occurrence or once-off, but don't be too surprised if something similar happens in the near feature as Climate Change is wreaking havoc across the world. 

7) Hurricanes And Typhoons Are The Same Types Of Storm

hurricanes and typhoons

You may be getting confused when meteorologists talk about hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones during forecasts, but each time you see the same type of phenomenon on the satellite image.

Well, your eyes are not deceiving you since hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones, are all tropical storms that originate in the warm waters of the Subtropics. They form in the same way and have exactly the same characteristics.

The only real difference between these weather phenomena is the location on the planet where they occur:

  1. 1
    The term "hurricane" is used when the storm occurs in the Central & Eastern North Pacific, as well as the North Atlantic.
  2. 2
    The term "typhoon" is used when it occurs in the Northwest Pacific.
  3. 3
    The term "tropical cyclone" is used when the storm occurs in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

8) Mawsynram, India has the highest rainfall on the planet.

Although many regions around the world occasionally experience periods of heavy rains or sometimes even microbursts, there are a few locations whose average annual rainfall is so high that it almost defies belief.

Mawsynram, a small village in the district of Meghalaya, India, is the rainiest place in the world with an average annual rainfall of 11 871 mm (467 inches).

You can find the list of the 12 rainiest cities/towns in the world in this article.

9) The Average Speed Of A Raindrop Is 9 Meters (29.6 feet) Per Second

Average Speed Of A Raindrop

Different types of precipitation fall at different speeds towards the ground, depending on size, density, and weight. For example, a snowflake falls slower than a raindrop, which in turn falls slower than larger hailstones.

Raindrops, the most common type of precipitation, falls at an average speed of 9 meters (29.6 feet) per second or approximately 20 mph.

10) One Billion Tons of Rain Falls On The Planet Every Minute

In the two previous points, we discussed various aspects of rainfall, including the naming of the rainiest place in the world. Therefore it should come as no surprise that a lot of rain falls on the planet's surface every day.

What might be surprising, though, is precisely how much rain actually falls. Every minute, one billion tons of rain reaches the planet's surface.

11) Lightning Strikes The Earth's Surface 100 Times Per Second

Lightning Strikes The Earth's Surface 100 Times Per Second

At an earlier point, we debunked the myth that lightning cannot strike the same place twice during a storm. Add to the fact that it can heat the air to 27 700° Celsius (50 000° Fahrenheit) and generate up to 1 billion volts of electricity, and you understand the danger.

But what can really be startling is the fact that the Earth's surface gets struck by a lightning bolt 100 times every second.

12) Snowflakes Can Take Up To An Hour To Reach The Earth

From all the different types of precipitation, snowflakes take the longest to reach the Earth's surface. It is not uncommon to observe it almost floating in the air or being blown around by a gentle breeze.

In Fact, depending on atmospheric conditions, it can snowflakes up to an hour to reach the planet's surface.

13) Ozone Is Hazardous For Your Health

Ozone Is Hazardous For Your Health

Even readers who know just a small amount about the weather and recent climate history most probably heard about the hole in the ozone layer and how vital this gas is for our survival on this planet.

Situated about 15-30 km (9-18 miles) above the planet, ozone is responsible for absorbing the vast majority of dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays that enter Earth's atmosphere. Without if, life on Earth will not be possible.

The gas itself is toxic and can be deadly if any human comes in direct contact with it. If inhaled, ozone can lead to severe respiratory conditions and damage the lungs.

14) Tornadoes And Waterspouts Are The Same Weather Phenomena

Although they are given different names, tornadoes and waterspouts are essentially the same weather phenomena. Both occur as a result of a column of fast rotating air that is strong enough to lift objects on the surface into the air.

In the case of a tornado, not only soil and vegetation but also solid objects like building debris, and other manmade objects are picked up and tossed around, which makes them so dangerous and visually intimidating.

Waterspouts, on the other hand, are very seldom seen since they mostly occur over water. As they only pick up surface water, the amount of damage they can cause is also much less than that of a tornado over land.

As a result of the different levels of dangers involved, combined with most observers' familiarity with tornadoes, it is easy to assume that the two occurrences are entirely different weather phenomena.


15) Antarctica Is Completely Covered By A Glacier

Antarctica Is Completely Covered By A Glacier

It may be hard to believe that a single glacier entirely covers a continent with a surface area of 14.2 million square kilometers (5.5 million square miles). However, Antarctica is completely covered by a continental glacier.

A continental glacier should not be confused with the more recognizable valley glaciers most readers are familiar with. You can find out what continental glaciers are and how they form in this article.

16) Why Hurricanes Have Female Names

In 1950 the United States National Hurricane Center initiated a system for using the phonetic alphabet to name hurricanes and tropical storms after realizing that human names are easier to remember than latitude-longitude coordinates.

In 1953 the National Weather Service revised the system to naming hurricanes after women to avoid repetitive naming. To avoid possible claims of sexism and discrimination, the system was changed again in 1978 to include both male and female names.

The practice of using female names dates back centuries and is rooted in maritime customs. In ancient times, sailors used to dedicate ships to goddesses, and in recent centuries, vessels were seen as mother figures by ship's captains and mariners.

You can get more in-depth information describing the past and present use of hurricane names in this article.

17) The Air Is 78 Percent Nitrogen

The Air Is 78 Percent Nitrogen

Since all living organisms (except a small aquatic parasite called Henneguya salminicolathat) need oxygen to survive, it is only logical and understandable to think that the air we breathe mostly consists out of oxygen.

Surprisingly, though, only 21 percent of the air in the troposphere* is made up out of oxygen. The vast majority of the air we breathe consists out of nitrogen, which makes up 78 percent of the air in the atmosphere.

*The lowest layer of the atmosphere in which all life exists.

18) Antarctica Is The Largest Desert In The World

With a surface area of 14.2 million square kilometers (5.5 million square miles), Antarctica is the largest desert in the world.

This fact will definitely come as a surprise to most readers since it is hard to imagine a continent entirely covered by ice to be seen as a desert.

However, a desert is defined by the amount of rainfall it receives, which must be less than 250 mm (15.26 inches) per year to be considered a desert. With an annual rainfall of less than 200 mm (7.87 inches), Antarctica is the largest desert in the world. 

If you are interested in finding out more about the desert climate and its characteristics, you can read about it in this article.

19) A Raindrop Is Not Tear-Shaped

The Real Shape Of A Raindrop

The popular tear-shaped form of a raindrop is so widely used that it is no surprise that it is commonly viewed as the real shape of rain as it forms in a cloud after condensation.

In reality, a raindrop is spherical (round) in shape when it first develops as microdroplets cling together after they collide to form larger drops. As it starts to fall to the ground, air resistance forces its bottom to flatten out before it eventually changes shape completely.

The teardrop shape of a water droplet comes from the form it takes as it flows down a surface like a window, a person's face, or a cold glass of liquid. Since most people see waterdrops in this form, they simply assume that this is the natural shape of rain.

Learn more about the shape of a raindrop in this article.

20) The highest temperature ever recorded was in Death Valley, USA

Locations around the world are recording record-high temperatures, especially in recent years, as Global Warming is causing a steady rise in warm weather around the planet.

However, the highest temperature ever recorded occurred in Death Valley, USA, on 10 July 1913 when the mercury rose to 56.7 °Celsius (134.1 °Fahrenheit).

21) A Warm Front Can Cause Rain

A Warm Front Can Cause Rain

A common belief exists that a cold front is associated with cold and wet weather, while a warm front is more commonly associated with warm & dry weather.

One of the main reasons for this association is that a warm front is accompanied by a high-pressure system, which is characterized by warm and dry weather.

Although it doesn't produce the same stormy wet weather that abruptly arrives as a cold front moves in, a warm front does create a more gentle and sustained form of rainfall when enough moisture is present in the air.

The softer but persistent rain is a result of the gentle slope on which the warm air rises on the back of the preceding cold air.

To get a better understanding of how a warm front develops and how it differs from a cold front, you can read more about the differences between the two in this article.

22) Flood Water Are Deceptively Dangerous

Extreme weather phenomena such as hurricanes, monsoons, and microbursts can result in widespread flooding. (Flash flooding is some of the more dangerous types of flooding that can occur.)

Floodwaters, more often than not, appear much calmer and not as deep as they really are. It is one of the main reasons they get underestimated so often, and many people get in trouble or even lose their lives as a result.

A flooded road is especially dangerous and one should never attempt to cross it. Not only can it be much deeper than expected and wash a vehicle away, but it may also hide dangerous obstacles just below the surface.

Flooded streams and rivers are just as dangerous to try and cross. They may appear relatively shallow and slow-moving, but it takes a depth of less than waist-high to wash you or your vehicle away.

In fact, a fast-moving stream only needs to be 152 millimeters (6 inches) in depth to knock a person off his/her feet, and 0.61 meters (2 feet) deep to wash a vehicle away.

Conclusion

In this article, we highlighted a wide variety of facts about the weather. Some are interesting and surprising, while others may be alarming but important to know.

These are just a few of the countless and interesting facts around meteorology. If you are interested in more, the articles below add more fascinating facts, as well as addressing some of the common misconceptions surrounding atmospheric conditions.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

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Rainiest Cities In The World: 12 Places With The Highest Rainfall In The World

Rainiest Cities In The World

Staring out into the relentless rain pouring outside your window, you would think you live in the rainiest place in the world. There are a few cities on the planet, though, which annual rainfall defies belief.

If you don't live in an arid or semi-arid region of the world, the chances are good that you already experienced spells of persistent rain that seems to go on forever. It's hard to believe that some locations on the planet receive more rain in a week than most places do in a year.

Although many places experience a large volume of rainfall over a short period of time (as is the case with a microburst), the best criteria to use to accurately determine the rainiest city/town on Earth is to look at its average annual rainfall.

Mawsynram - Meghalaya, India is the rainiest place in the world with an average annual rainfall of 11 872 mm (467.4 inches).

In this article, we take a look at the 12 wettest locations around the globe. When listing the cities, we include more densely populated areas such as towns in villages to be more inclusive and accurate.

As one can imagine, the title of "Rainiest Place In The World" has been passed around between cities and varies over time. The locations in this article, though, consistently recorded record-high rainfall averages throughout history. 

12 Cities With The Highest Rainfall In The World

The following list looks at the 12 rainiest cities in the world, starting with the wettest location on the planet first and working our way down. We then take a closer look at each individual city/town:

City / Town

Average Annual Rainfall

Cell

Millimeters

Inches

1

Mawsynram, India

11 871

467

2

Cherrapunji, India

11 777

464

3

Tutunendo, Colombia

11 770

463

4

San Antonio de Ureca, Equatorial Guinea

10 450

418

5

Debundscha, Cameroon

10 299

405

6

Quibdó City, Colombia

7 328

289

7

Buenaventura, Colombia

6 276

247

8

Mawlamyine, Myanmar

4 772

188

9

Monrovia, Liberia

4 540

179

10

Hilo, Hawaii

3 219

127

11

Singapore

2 340

92

12

Bergen, Norway

2 250

89

1) Mawsynram, India

Location: Meghalaya, India

Average Annual Rainfall: 11 871 mm (467 inches)

Mawsynram, India

Mawsynram is situated in the Khasi Hills, which forms part of the district of Meghalaya, India. At a latitude/longitude of 25° 18′ N, 91° 35′ E, it is also located close to the Equator, a factor that many rainy cities have in common, as will be illustrated in this article.  

(The intense solar radiation that the ocean waters receive at the Equator results in mass evaporation at the surface. The moist air rises & cools down, leading to condensation taking place, which is the leading cause of the heavy rainfall that characterize Equatorial regions.)

Although it is technically a village and not a city, there is no disputing the fact that this small populated region in India is the rainiest place on the planet, with an average annual rainfall of 11 872 mm (467.4 inches).

2) Cherrapunji, India

Location: Meghalaya, India

Average Annual Rainfall: 11 777 mm (464 inches)

Cherrapunji, India

Situated only 13.6 km (8.4 miles) away from Mawsynram, it is literally a stone-throw away. It should come as no surprise that it is just as rainy and even carried the title of the rainiest place in the world on a few occasions.

In fact, Cherrapunji is the current record holder for the highest rainfall during both a calendar month and year.

Both Mawsynram and Cherrapunji are in the Meghalaya district in India, which unsurprisingly have been consistently the rainiest region in the world in recent history.

3) Tutunendo, Colombia

Location: Quibdó Municipality, Columbia

Average Annual Rainfall: 11 770 mm (463 inches)

Tutunendo, Colombia

Tutunendo lies in the municipality of Quibdó, the rainiest region in Columbia and South America. It is also situated only 13 km (8 miles) from the City of Quibdó (which also disputes & claims the title of the rainiest location on the planet).

With an average annual rainfall of 11 770 mm (463 inches), Tutunendo deserves its title as the rainiest place in South America. 

4) San Antonio de Ureca, Equatorial Guinea

Location: Bioko Sur, Equatorial Guinea

Average Annual Rainfall: 10 450 mm (418 inches)

San Antonio de Ureca, Equatorial Guinea

San Antonio de Ureca is located on the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea.

As the name suggests, at a latitude/longitude of 3°16′N 8°31′E, it lies almost on top of the Equator. Like the Meghalayan district in India as well as Tutunendo in Colombia, it is this close proximity to the Equator that largely contributes to heavy rainfall in the region.

San Antonio de Ureca also carries the title as the rainest location on the African continent.

5) Debundscha, Cameroon

Location: Southwestern Region, Cameroon

Average Annual Rainfall: 10 299 mm (405 inches)

Debundscha, Cameroon

Located on the foothills of Mount Cameroon and facing the South Atlantic Ocean, Debundscha is another example of a country with an exceptionally high rainfall that is situated at or close to the Equator.

As its ranking on this list illustrates, it is also widely recognized as one of the five rainóiest destinations in the world, with an average annual rainfall of over 10 000 mm (394 inches).

6) Quibdó City, Colombia

Location: Quibdó Municipality, Columbia

Average Annual Rainfall: 7 328 mm (289 inches)

Quibdó, Colombia

Quibdó City is situated in the municipality of Quibdó, which forms part of the Chocó Department. It lies on the banks of the Atrato River in the western part of Columbia.

As previously stated, there is a great debate and pushback from observers who strongly believe Quibdó should be acknowledged as the rainiest location on the planet.

Since it receives rain 309 days out of the year and is also regarded as one of the cloudiest places in the world (only 1 276 hours of sunlight a year), these observers may have a point.

7) Buenaventura, Colombia

Location: Valle del Cauca, Colombia

Average Annual Rainfall: 6 276 mm (247 inches)

Buenaventura, Colombia

Buenaventura is a coastal city which forms part of the department of Valle del Cauca in Colombia. It is also the primary seaport of the country, handling around 60% of all goods entering and leaving the country via sea.

Its location close to the Equator, combined with the fact that its located at the coast, are the two main driving forces behind its average annual rainfall of 6 276 mm (247 inches).

8) Mawlamyine, Myanmar

Location: Mon State, Myanmar

Average Annual Rainfall: 4 772 mm (188 inches)

Mawlamyine, Myanmar

Mawlamyine is located in Mon State, Myanmar. Like Buenaventura, it is also a coastal city and one of Myanmar's major seaports. It lies on the banks of the Salween (Thanlwin) River.

In this region, the rainy season starts around 6 May and lasts until 14 October, approximately 5.2 months. The majority of its 4 772 mm (188 inches) average annual rainfall occurs during this period.

9) Monrovia, Liberia

Location: Montserrado County, Liberia

Average Annual Rainfall: 4 540 mm (179 inches)

Monrovia, Liberia

Monrovia is a coastal city on the West African coast bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It is also the capital of Liberia and the largest city in the country. It currently holds the title as the wettest capital city in the world.

The flooding that occurs as a result of the heavy rainfall is a significant problem in the city. The water mixes with the city's excess waste, causing blocked sewers and drains, which leads to standing water and generally unsanitary conditions.

10) Hilo, Hawaii

Location: Hawaii, United States Of America

Average Annual Rainfall: 3 219 mm (127 inches)

Hilo, Hawaii

Hilo is located on the east coast of Hawaii in Hilo Bay. It sits at the foot of two volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Its location close to the Equator is responsible for its tropical rainforest climate, which results in the heavy rains that characterize the region. It is also widely regarded as the rainiest city in the United States Of America.

11) Singapore

Location: Southeast Asia

Average Annual Rainfall: 2 340 mm (92 inches)

Singapore

Singapore is a city-state situated in Southeast Asia. The city lies on the main island, which is located about 137 km (85 miles) north of the Equator, which explains the high rainfall averages recorded in the city each year.

With no clear distinction between the seasons, the rainfall in the city is pretty evenly spread out throughout the year. It also rains for approximately 167 days out of the year.

12) Bergen, Norway

Location: Vestland County, Norway

Average Annual Rainfall: 2 250 mm (89 inches)

Bergen, Norway

Bergen is located on the west coast of Norway in the county of Vestland. It has an oceanic climate with rain evenly spread out throughout the year. 

Although this city is last on this list and its average annual rainfall is dwarfed by the Meghalayan District of India, its 2 250 mm (89 inches) of rain is still pretty impressive.

It is not called "The City Of Rain" without reason. With rain falling 270 days out of the year, it is the rainiest city in Europe.

Conclusion

Determining the rainiest city in the world is no easy feat, as this article clearly illustrated. It varies from time to time, but the cities listed in this post routinely measured record-high rainfall figures throughout history. 

What is evident, though, is that the vast majority of rainy locations around the planet are situated in and around the Equator. This location is responsible for the tropical rainforest climate that results in the record-high rainfall these regions routinely experience.

This article highlighted the 12 cities/towns that consistently record the highest rainfall around the planet. 

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

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Windiest Place On Earth… A Look At Locations Around The Globe Experiencing Extreme Winds

Windiest Place On Earth

There may be some debate about the location of the windiest place on Earth. There are a few locations on the planet, though, where extreme & sustained winds simply eclipse just about everything else.

Most of us have experienced strong or even gale force winds at some point during our lives. In most cases, these were exceptions to otherwise much calmer conditions. There are a few places on the planet, though, that continually experience extreme windy conditions.

What Is The Windiest Place On Earth?

Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, is recognized as the windiest location on Earth. While the average annual wind speed is approximately 80 km/h (50 mph), gusts from katabatic winds can reach speeds of 241 km/h (150 mph).

Declaring the "windiest" place on Earth is not as straightforward as one might think. Some criteria may look at maximum wind speeds, others will look at average sustained velocity, and some at how often these atmospheric conditions occur.

The following section describes which criteria are most suited to define a location with extreme wind activity, as well as the actual areas that fall within this category.

Windiest Place On Earth Defined

Over a short period, wind can reach high velocities. These strong gusts are often found in extreme weather phenomena like hurricanes and tornadoes and don't last for very long.

For any location to be acknowledged as being windy, it must experience continuous strong winds over an extended period. It is for this reason that using the annual average wind speed is such a good indicator of sustained heavy wind activity.

By using these criteria, it is much easier to locate and define the region that qualifies as the windiest place in the world:

What Is The Windiest Place On Earth?

Commonwealth Bay

Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, is recognized as the windiest location on Earth. While the average annual wind speed is approximately 80 km/h (50 mph), gusts from katabatic* winds can reach speeds of 241 km/h (150 mph).

*Katabatic (drainage) winds are winds blowing from elevated to lower-lying areas.

To put this into context, a storm is classified as severe once wind speeds exceed 93 km/h (58 mph). Furthermore, The Beaufort wind force scale classifies winds as having gale force strength at speeds of 62 - 74 km/h (39 - 46 mph).

(In other words, the average annual wind speed in Commonwealth Bay exceeds the threshold for a wind to be classified as a gale force.)

The reason that winds reach such high velocities in Commonwealth Bay is a direct result of the slope of the Antarctic Continent as well as the shape of the Bay.

  • Antarctica is entirely covered by a continental glacier, causing it to have a dome shape. This leads to the formation of catabatic winds that blow down the slopes of the continent towards the ocean. The icy temperatures further contribute to the strength of these winds, as gravity forces the cold heavy air at the surface to accelerate towards the coast.
  • The strength of these katabatic winds is further enhanced by the half-moon shape of the Bay, which causes the air to funnel through the center, resulting in a dramatic increase in wind speed

As mentioned, extreme weather is capable of producing much higher wind speeds. For example, in 1961, Typhoon Nancy let to sustained winds of 346 km/h (215 mph), while the highest wind speed in a tornado was recorded at 486 km/h (302 mph) in Oklahoma in 1999.

Commonwealth Bay

These high wind speeds, though, occurred for short periods of time in weather phenomena that do not occur very often. In the case of Commonwealth Bay, though, winds consistently reached gale force strength throughout the year.

Although a few other spots around the world may lay claim to the title of "windiest place on Earth," Commonwealth Bay is the one location that keeps popping up in conversation and is acknowledged by both The Guinness Book Of World Records and National Geographic.

It is worth, though, to take a look at a few other global locations that are notorious for their windy characteristics.

Top 11 Windiest Places On Earth

The following list describes the top 10 cities and locations throughout the world, which are continuously subjected to severe wind conditions.

  1. 1
    Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica
  2. 2
    Wellington, New Zealand
  3. 3
    Barrow Island, Australia
  4. 4
    Mount Everest, Nepal
  5. 5
    Patagonia, Argentina
  6. 6
    Dodge City, Kansas, United States
  7. 7
    Saint John's, Canada
  8. 8
    Mount Washington, New Hampshire, United States
  9. 9
    Baku, Azerbaijan
  10. 10
    Gruissan, France
  11. 11
    Ab-Paran, Afghanistan

1) Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica

As this location has already been extensively covered throughout this article, there is no need for additional information. One can re-iterate the fact that the 50 mph average annual wind speeds and 150 mph gusts cements its status as the windiest place on the planet.

2) Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington - New-Zealand

Wellington is not only the southernmost capital city in the world but also carries the title of the windiest city on the planet. It is situated in the "Roaring Forties" (latitudes of between 40 and 50 degrees south of the Equator), which are infamous for its extreme winds.

The highest recorded wind speed at this location is 248 km/h (154 mph). With winds blowing for 233 days out of the year and average wind speeds of 43 km/h (27 mph), it is clear to see why this city is widely accepted as the windiest.

3) Barrow Island, Australia

Barrow Island is situated on the northwestern coast of Australia. It is widely exposed to wind activity since it doesn't have any natural protection.

What sets it apart, though, is that it currently holds the record for the highest recorded surface wind speed in the world. An unmanned station measured a speed of 408 km/h (253 mph) on 10 April 1996. 

This gust of wind occurred during tropical cyclone Olivia, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recognizes it as the highest surface speed ever recorded.

4) Mount Everest, Nepal

Including a mountain top in a list of the windiest places on Earth may seem a bit odd, but the extreme winds at the top of Mount Everest have a lot more to do with its altitude than its physical location.

Mount Everest

At a height of 8848 meters (29 028 feet), the peak of Everest is directly exposed to jet streams, strong narrow bands of winds that flow in the upper atmosphere. Although they are not permanent, these winds usually blow for sustained periods at high velocities.

Climbers may experience brief periods of calm weather, but it's usually short-lived. Winds regularly reach speeds of 161 km/h (100 mph), while the highest wind speed ever recorded occurred in February 2004 and measured 282 km/h (175 mph).

Jet streams usually get very little attention as it occurs so high in the atmosphere, but the sheer height of the mountain takes it right into the domain of these dangerous winds.   

5) Patagonia, Argentina

Patagonia is a strip of land situated on the southernmost point of Argentina. Like Wellington (New Zealand), it is also exposed to the "Roaring Forties," which are characterized by the sustained heavy winds.

The city of Punta Arenas experiences so much heavy wind activity throughout the year that authorities erected ropes between buildings for people to hold on to during heavy gusts. With winds reaching speeds of up to 129 km/h (80 mph), it is perfectly understandable.

A contributing factor to the severe wind conditions that characterize the region is the physical geography around Cape Horn that causes the wind to funnel around it and increase in speed.

6) Dodge City, Kansas, United States

Dodge City is one of the windiest towns in the United States. It is situated in the infamous "Tornado Alley" on the American Midwestern Plains, which experiences an exceptionally high number of tornadoes each year.

Dodge City

Winds blowing from the neighboring Rocky Mountains onto the flat plains of the Central United States are the biggest contributing factors to the consistent winds experienced in this part of the country.

The resulting winds have an average speed of approximately 23 km/h (14 mph), which blows almost continuously for the majority of the year.

7) Saint John's, Canada

Saint John's is situated on the east coast of Newfoundland, Canada. It carries the title of the "Windiest City In Canada." And for a good reason.

Winds persist for the largest part of the year and have an average speed of 21.8 km/h (13.6 mph). To top it off, winds reach and exceed speeds of 48 km/h (30 mph) for an average of 47 days out of the year.

8) Mount Washington, New Hampshire, United States

Mount Washington

Before Barrow Island in Australia was crowned the windiest place on Earth, the title belonged to Mount Washington with a recorded speed of 372 km/h (231 mph).

It is still one of the windiest locations on the planet, with an average wind speed of 51 km/h (32 mph). It is also the windiest region in the United States.

9) Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city in the country, gets its reputation as a windy city from the cold northerly winds blowing from the Caspian Sea (called the khazri), as well as the warm southern winds flowing overland (called the gilavar).

These winds cause Baku to experience strong winds throughout the year, with the khazri reaching speeds of up to 144 km/h (89 mph) per occasion. It should come as no surprise that the city carries the nickname, "City Of Winds."

10) Gruissan, France

Gruissan - France

Gruissan is a coastal commune situated in the south of France. The traditional fishing village is built around the remains of a 10th century-old castle, and circular in shape.

Winds blow for approximately 300 days out of the year with an average speed of 29 km/h (18mph). The strong northwesterly Tramontane is the dominant wind in the region.  

11) Ab-Paran, Afghanistan

Ab-Paran has a history of heavy storms accompanied by strong winds. What makes it stand out, though, is the wind speed of 328 km/h (204 mph) recorded in 2008. This more than justifies its position as one of the windiest locations on Earth.

Conclusion

As this article clearly illustrated, there are quite a few places around the world that can lay claim to the title, "Windiest Place On Earth."

When one looks at the criteria, though, it becomes evident that Commonwealth Island in Antarctica deserves the crown. 

This article not only highlighted the windiest location on the planet but also looked at regions around the world that experience extreme wind conditions throughout the year.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

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Warm And Cold Fronts: What They Are And How They Differ From Each Other

Warm And Cold Fronts

If you follow weather forecasts regularly, you will be very familiar with warm and cold fronts. But exactly what they are, how they form, and their impact on the surroundings may not be that clear.

The fact that cold fronts are usually closely associated with low-pressure systems, while warm fronts are more commonly associated with high-pressure systems, can create or contribute to some of the confusion that reigns between the two phenomena.

Low-pressure systems are synonymous with cold & wet weather, while high-pressure systems are closely related to warm & dry weather. One can argue that their corresponding frontal systems will have the same characteristics. This is not always the case, though.

By making a direct comparison, but also looking at each meteorological phenomenon separately, it will be easier to gain a better understanding of each frontal system, and how they differ from each other.

The Difference Between A Warm And Cold Front

Both warm and cold front are complex weather systems that require a detailed explanation to properly understand the similarities and differences between the two.

It is important, though, to first gain a clear and concise understanding of the primary difference between the two to establish a proper starting point:

Difference Between A Warm And Cold Front

The-Difference Between A Warm And Cold Front

A warm front occurs on the boundary of a mass of warm air as it advances into an area with cooler air, while a cold front occurs on the boundary of a mass of cold air moving into an area with warmer air.

This definition may sound a bit abstract, but some very clear differences set these two advancing air masses apart.

In a nutshell, a cold front is normally characterized by the abrupt arrival of stormy, rainy weather that makes a significant impact on a region. In contrast, a warm front takes longer to build up and usually produces more gentle precipitation for more sustained periods.

This fairly broad statement does not apply to all frontal occurrences. Still, these types of atmospheric conditions are typical behavior of weather generally associated with the arrival of warm and cold fronts.

The two weather systems can further be distinguished from one another by the warmer air that follows in the wake of a warm front, while a body of colder air closely follows the arrival of a cold front.

The cloud type that accompanies each front is also indicative of the kind of frontal system. Warm fronts are associated with uniform low-lying stratus clouds, while cold fonts are accompanied by storm clouds with a significant vertical buildup like cumulonimbus clouds. 

With a basic description of each frontal system out of the way, individually focussing on each weather phenomenon will provide a clearer understanding of the differences and similarities between the two.

Definition Of A Warm Front

The previous section already highlighted the primary differences between warm and cold fronts. However, by taking a more detailed look at a warm front, one will be able to gain a better understanding of why and how these differences occur.

What Is A Warm Front?

what is a warm front

A warm front is the leading edge of a large body of warm air as it advances into a region of cooler air. Warm fronts are also closely associated with high-pressure systems.

One of the biggest misconceptions about warm fronts is the belief that the weather conditions that characterize the phenomenon is always warm and dry.

Very often, the air following this front is not only warmer but also more humid than the cold air preceding it. This creates the ideal conditions for the formation of gentle and persisting spells of precipitation.

(This type of rain is very welcome in the agricultural sector, where crop growth relies on gentle sustained bouts of rain.)

Warm fronts are also associated with a high-pressure systemAs the frontal system approaches, the air pressure drops. However, once the leading edge of the air mass passes over an area, it starts to level off and continues to rise as the air behind it fills the region.

warm front symbol

A warm front is further symbolized by a curved red line with semi-circles, which makes it instantly identifiable on any weather map. The semi-circles face the direction in which the front is moving.

Since a warm front moves much more slowly than a cold front, it often happens that the cold front catches up with the warm front, resulting in an occluded front.

Understanding how a warm front develops will help to explain why these frontal systems exhibit the characteristics that make them unique:

How A Warm Front Develops

  1. 1
    A warm front starts to develop when a body of advancing warmer air encounters a region with colder air.
  2. 2
    Since warm air is less dense than the cold air, it cannot displace it. Instead, the leading edge of warmer mass gradually rises over the boundary of the prevailing cool air.
  3. 3
    As the air continues to rise on the back of the colder air mass, it starts to cool down until the water vapor can no longer be contained in gaseous form, and condensation takes place.
  4. 4
    The gentle gradient at which the air rises leads to the formation of uniform stratus clouds that are responsible for producing prolonged spells of soft precipitation.
  5. 5
    As the warm front passes, the atmospheric conditions are characterized by warmer temperatures and a rise in air pressure.

Definition Of A Cold Front

As is the case with a warm front, one will get a much better understanding of how a cold front works by looking at it in more detail. Before getting to the details, one first needs a clear and concise definition of what a cold front is.

What Is A Cold Front?

what is a cold front

A cold front is the leading edge of a large body of cold air as it advances into a region of warmer air. Warm fronts are also closely associated with low-pressure systems.

Cold fronts are generally associated with heavy precipitation and stormy atmospheric conditions. Extreme weather conditions such as hail and lightning often accompany the arrival of a cold front.

The air behind a cold front is much denser than the region of warmer air it is moving into. As a result, it quickly lifts the light warm air into the atmosphere, causing it to cool down and condense rapidly.

The rapid lifting and condensation of moist warm air create the ideal conditions for the occurrence of heavy downpours and the formation of thunderstorms.

(These severe weather conditions are characteristic of the arrival of a cold front.)  

Cold fronts are also associated with a low-pressure system. As the frontal system approaches, the air pressure starts to drop. The pressure reaches its lowest point as the front passes and then starts to climb in its wake.

cold front symbol

A cold front is further symbolized by a curved blue line with triangles, which makes it instantly identifiable on any weather map. The triangles face the direction in which the front is moving.

Cold fronts are also characterized by the speed at which they move, sometimes up to twice the speed of a warm front. This is part reason why this type of frontal system often catches up and "collide" with a warm front, which can result in the formation of an occluded front.

Warm and cold fronts have some clear similarities, but also a number of differences that set them apart. By laying out the steps in the development of a cold front, these difference will become even more apparent:

How A Cold Front Develops

  1. 1
    A cold front starts to develop when a body of advancing cold air encounters a region with warmer air.
  2. 2
    As the frontal system approach, the air pressure continues to drop. It reaches its lowest point as the front passes, and starts to climb again in its wake.
  3. 3
    Cold air in the frontal system is much denser than the preceding warm air. As a result, the leading edge of the cold front easily pushes underneath the prevailing warmer air, lifting it into the atmosphere.
  4. 4
    The speed and abruptness with which the warm air is forced to ascend, allow for the rapid condensation of water vapor and the formation of storm clouds.
  5. 5
    This rapid development creates ideal conditions for the creation of heavy downpours and thunderstorms. It is in these storm systems that severe weather conditions such as hail, lightning, and thunder can occur.
  6. 6
    Air temperatures also start to drop substantially as the cold front approaches, reaching its lowest point as the front passes. It remains cool as the body of cold air moves in behind the leading edge of the frontal system.

The following section draws a direct comparison between a warm and cold front to highlight the specific differences in their development and characteristics.

Warm Front Vs Cold Front

Warm Front

Cold Front

A mass of warm air moves into an area of cooler air.

A mass of cold air moves into an area of warmer air.

The warm air cannot displace the denser cold air and gently rises over its boundary.

The cold air is denser than the preceding mass of warm air and displaces it at the surface, forcing it into the atmosphere.

Warm fronts are usually associated with high-pressure systems. 

Warm fronts are usually associated with high-pressure systems. 

Accompanied by a rise in temperature.

Accompanied by a drop in temperature.

A warm front moves more slowly than a cold front.

A cold front moves faster than a warm front.

Associated with a slow and gradual change in weather conditions.

Associated with an abrupt and dramatic change in weather conditions.

Characterized by storm clouds with significant vertical buildup like cumulonimbus clouds.

Characterized by more uniform low-lying stratus clouds.

Conclusion

Warm and cold front are two of the most well-known frontal systems used in weather forecasts and viewed by millions worldwide. Other types of fronts like occluded fronts and stationary fronts also play a significant role in meteorology but get a lot less attention.

As this article clearly illustrated, both warm and cold fronts have quite a few similarities, but also so major differences in both their development and characteristics.

This post highlighted these similarities, but paid specific attention to their differences, and what role they play in creating different weather conditions. 

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

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Freezing Rain vs Sleet: Understanding The Differences Between The Two

Freezing Rain Vs Sleet

They are both occurrences of water rapidly cooling down, but that is where much of the similarities between freezing rain and sleet end.

If you live in a region where temperatures frequently drop to below freezing point, you are probably already quite familiar with the terms "freezing rain" and "sleet."

Unfortunately, these two weather phenomena often get mentioned during weather forecasts and meteorological discussions, without a proper explanation of the meaning of each event. This can lead to confusion and make it hard to distinguish between the two.

The Difference Between Freezing Rain And Sleet

As will be illustrated throughout this article, there are several similarities, but also some clear differences between freezing rain and ice. Before delving into a more in-depth discussion, one first needs to establish the core differences between the two events are:

What Is The Difference Between Freezing Rain And Sleet?

The Difference Between Freezing Rain And Sleet

Freezing rain does not travel far enough through a layer of cold air to freeze, while sleet travels a longer distance through the freezing layer, which allows it to turn into solid ice.

As a result, freezing rain reaches the ground in liquid form and turns into ice on contact while sleet falls on the surface as solid pellets of ice.

Although both freezing rain and sleet fall through a layer of air with sub-zero temperatures, it is clear that they have very different characteristics, with each one also having a contrasting impact on their surroundings.

The most significant visual difference is that freezing rain falls on the ground in liquid form while sleet reaches the surface as ice pellets. A common misconception is that sleet as a form of ice will pose the most significant danger, but it is not that simple. 

The best way to understand the similarities and differences between these two meteorological phenomena is to take a closer look at each one.

Freezing Rain: What It Is And How It Forms

Although sleet has already been briefly defined earlier on, it is important to clearly and concisely state what it is before looking at how it forms:

What Is Freezing Rain

Freezing rain occurs when raindrops travel through a layer of freezing air too shallow to turn it into ice. Instead, it turns the precipitation into supercooled (cooled to below freezing) waterdrops, which instantly freeze when coming into contact with any object on the ground surface.

It is this last characteristic of freezing rain that makes it especially dangerous for humans, as will be explained in more detail shortly. The attributes of this phenomenon can largely be attributed to the way in which it forms.

How Freezing Rain Form

Freezing rain is often closely associated with the arrival of a warm front, which creates the ideal conditions for the formation of this occurrence. This is especially evident when this front moves into a region that already experiences subzero temperatures.

  1. 1
    Warm air aloft that accompanies a warm front, in combination with a layer of subfreezing air (air with temperatures below freezing) near the ground, forms the critical components for freezing rain.
  2. 2
    During cold winter months, precipitation often occurs as snow or other solid forms in regions experiencing freezing temperatures.
  3. 3
    As snow travels through the warm air, it melts and turns into raindrops.
  4. 4
    As it continues to fall, the raindrops encounter the subfreezing air near the ground, which cools it down rapidly. 
  5. 5
    However, the layer of cold air is too shallow to allow for the formation of ice, and the rain continues to the surface as supercooled waterdrops.
  6. 6
    As it reaches the ground, the raindrops instantly turn solid as it covers the surface it comes into contact with with a layer of ice.

It is this last step in the formation of freezing rain that makes it so dangerous to human activity in affected areas. As it comes into come into contact with a surface, freezing rain covers it with a layer of ice that is almost invisible to the naked eye.

The layer of ice is extremely slippery, which makes any movement over it very hazardous. On icy roads, it can lead to vehicles losing control and causing potentially fatal accidents. On sidewalks, pedestrians are at danger of slipping and serious injury. 

Sleet: What It Is And How It Forms

Before shifting the attention to the steps involved in the formation of sleet, the following summary will help to understand how sleet differs from freezing rain.

What Is Sleet

Sleet occurs when raindrops travel through a deep enough layer of freezing air to allow it to form ice. As a result, the frozen precipitation reaches the ground in the form of ice pellets.

Sleet follows the same process that is responsible for the formation of freezing rain, with one exception. The only notable difference between the formation of freezing rain and sleet is the depth of the layer of cold (subfreezing) air it has to travel through.

If the layer is too shallow, freezing rain occurs. A deeper layer, however, allows raindrops to travel further, leading to the formation of ice (sleet).

How Sleet Forms

The following steps will illustrate just how similar the process of forming sleet is to the one responsible for the creation of freezing rain:

  1. 1
    Warm air aloft that accompanies a warm front, in combination with a layer of subfreezing air (air with temperatures below freezing) near the ground, forms the critical components for freezing rain.
  2. 2
    During cold winter months, precipitation often occurs as snow or other solid forms in regions experiencing freezing temperatures.
  3. 3
    As snow travels through the warm air, it melts and turns into raindrops.
  4. 4
    As it continues to fall, the raindrops encounter the subfreezing air near the ground, which cools it down rapidly. 
  5. 5
    The layer of cold air is deep enough to allow the raindrops to travel further and freeze again. 
  6. 6
    As a result, the precipitation reaches the ground in the form of ice pellets, better known as sleet.

From these steps, it is clear to see how both freezing rain and sleet follow the exact same path up until point five. It is the depth of the layer of subfreezing air that allows raindrops to travel far enough to form ice pellets (sleet). 

Like freezing rain, sleet is responsible for creating dangerous conditions on roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces it accumulates. Fallen sleet is already quite hazardous, but as it starts to melt and mixes with snow, it becomes very slippery and potentially deadly.

Conclusion

Freezing rain and sleet are two weather phenomena that have several similarities, but also some core differences that set them apart. This post clearly highlighted these differences.

The article also illustrated how a simple variable, such as the depth of the layer of subfreezing air, completely change the characteristics of precipitation and result in two completely different weather occurrences.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

What Is The Most Deadly Weather Phenomenon On Earth? List Of The Most Dangerous Weather Conditions On The Planet

What Is The Most Dangerous Type Of Weather

You don't need to be a meteorologist to know how dangerous and deadly the weather can be. Hardly a day passes without some news report of a destructive storm occurring somewhere around the world.

This inevitably raises the questions as to what the most dangerous weather phenomenon in the world is. It may seem like a fairly straightforward question, but the answer is not.

Determining the most deadly weather phenomenon on the planet mostly depends on time and scale. And depending on which criteria gets used, the outcome may vary dramatically.

For example, some atmospheric occurrences (e.g., hurricanes) are hundreds of miles in diameter and last for several days. Others (e.g., tornadoes) are less than a mile wide with a lifespan fewer than 15 minutes.

As a result, there is more than one atmospheric condition that can claim the title of the deadliest weather phenomenon. This post demonstrates how it depends on the lens through which you view each occurrence and what factors you use to measure its impact.

The Most Deadly Weather Phenomenon

As the introduction eluded to, there is no clearcut answer as to which meteorological occurrence can be regarded as the deadliest or most dangerous. Each one has to be viewed in the context of time and scale.

With this said, the following weather phenomena are arguably the most deadly weather occurrences as defined by their size, duration, and severity:

What Is The Most Deadly Weather Phenomenon On Earth?

What Is The Most Deadly Weather Phenomenon On Earth

In terms of immediate danger, destruction, and threat to lives, tornadoes are considered the most deadly weather phenomena.

In terms of total fatalities measured over time, drought and flooding are by far the most deadly and devastating.

Although it is accurate and concise, one needs to properly unpack this summary to gain a thorough understanding of how and why these weather occurrences have such an impact on the environment and human lives. 

As already mentioned, no one phenomenon can claim the title as the deadliest regardless of context. Depending on the scale, duration, and intensity of the occurrence, several weather conditions qualify as the most dangerous and destructive.

Dangerous weather conditions vary from occurrences a few feet to hundreds of miles in diameter and lasting from less than an hour to longer than a week. 

The following list provides a clear and detailed explanation of the deadliest weather phenomena on the planet and the circumstances under which they occur.

List Of Deadly Weather Phenomena

The weather phenomena in the following list are not all independent weather systems. Some are part of a larger storm system, some are the direct or indirect result of another weather occurrence, while others are completely self-contained weather systems.

Although they do not appear in any definitive order of importance, the atmospheric conditions that are generally accepted to be the most deadly and destructive, receive priority at the top of this list:

Deadly Weather Collage
  1. Tornadoes
  2. Tropical Cyclones (Hurricanes, Cyclones, Typhoons)
  3. Lightning
  4. Extreme Heat
  5.  Droughts And Flooding
  6. Hail

Each of these weather conditions proofs uniquely dangerous when we take a closer look at each phenomenon and view it within the context that they occur:

1) Tornadoes

They are not the biggest in size, nor the most longlasting, but tornadoes are by far the deadliest and most destructive weather phenomenon that occurs over a small area in a relatively short period.

Tornado

They are not independent storms and are usually produced by massive thunderstorms called supercells. (The latter is commonly found in the Great Plains of the United States where cold and warm air masses meet to develop these large-scale storm systems.)

The deadliest tornado in recent history occurred in Bangladesh in 1989 and resulted in approximately 1300 deaths.

What Makes A Tornado Dangerous

  1. 1
    A tornado can appear with very little or no warning, which leaves a very limited time to seek shelter. (The average tornado warning time is about 13 minutes.)
  2. 2
    Although it only lasts for approximately 10 minutes or less, the amount of energy released by a tornado during this period is unmatched by any other storm system.
  3. 3
    Wind, the primary force of this storm, can easily exceed 480 km/h (300 mph) in a tornado. This is powerful enough to flatten most structures in its path.

These factors combine to contribute to the devastation of structures and loss of life that occur over a short period of time. You can find more in-depth information about tornadoes in this article

2) Tropical Cyclones (Hurricanes, Cyclones, Typhoons)

Moving up in scale and duration, few things come close to the destructive power of a tropical cyclone. With an average size of 200 miles in diameter and lasting for approximately six days, hurricanes are by far the deadliest and most destructive force on this scale.

("Tropical Cyclone" is the umbrella term used to describe hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones. These storms are basically identical, with the only difference being the location where they occur, as well as their direction of rotation.)

Hurricanes and typhoons start as a small tropical depression over the warm waters of the Tropics. Over time it grows into a tropical storm, which eventually turns into a hurricane or typhoon under the right conditions.

The deadliest hurricane in recent history is Hurricane Mitch, which resulted in 11 374 deaths in 1998. It occurred in Central America in the regions of Honduras and Nicaragua.

What Makes A Tropical Cyclone Dangerous

  1. 1
    The most dangerous aspect of a tropical cyclone is the large-scale flooding that occurs as a direct result of heavy downpours. It is the leading cause of fatalities during and after a hurricane.
  2. 2
    The strong winds that accompany the storm systems can reach sustained speeds of over 260 km/h (161 mph). This enables them to cause damage in the outer bands, but are especially destructive in the storm's eyewall. 
  3. 3
    The sheer size of a cyclone results in widespread damage over an extensive area. Large regions get subjected to constant heavy rains and strong winds, which often leads to individuals being trapped in place and unable to get out of harm's way.
  4. 4
    The "eye of the storm" is a unique feature of hurricanes that makes them especially dangerous. It is a deceptively calm, cloudless area in the center of the storm that creates a false sense of security and causes residents to leave their shelters.
  5. 5
    Damage and fatalities as a result of a hurricane sometimes only materialize days (in some cases weeks) after the actual storm already passed. For example, water from high-lying regions can take days to reach valleys and cause widespread flooding.

Tropical cyclones are complex storm systems that require a complete and separate article to grasp a better understanding of how it functions. You can find more in-depth information about tropical cyclones/hurricanes in this article

3) Lightning

They may not cause as many fatalities and damage as tornadoes and hurricanes, but lightning is uniquely dangerous. It's unpredictability, and the power with which they hit makes a lighting strike deadly to humans and animals.

Lightning

It is hard to get a precise number, but lightning is responsible for roughly 24 000 annual fatalities worldwide. In the United States, a relatively "underwhelming" number of 51 yearly deaths get reported. 

These figures may create the impression that lightning is less deadly than it really is, which will be a wrong and very dangerous assumption.

The worst incidents of lightning damage & deaths are caused by secondary events. One of the deadliest lightning strikes in history occurred when a church in Brescia, Italy, was struck in 1769. It ignited 90 tonnes of gunpowder, killing 3 000 people and destroying half the city. 

What Makes Lightning Dangerous

  1. 1
    Lightning is essentially a massive electrical discharge, able to generate up to 100 million volts. As a result, even if a human or animal suffer an indirect lightning strike, it is still more than powerful enough to kill or cause severe injuries.
  2. 2
    Lightning bolds also reaches extremely high temperatures of up to 27 700° Celsius (50 000° Fahrenheit.) This can lead to serious burn injuries & fatalities but is also responsible for starting deadly fires in urban and rural areas.
  3. 3
    The unpredictability and speed with which a lightning strike occurs make it especially dangerous. Although thunderstorms are predicted with a fair amount of accuracy, an actual lightning strike occurs without warning within milliseconds.
  4. 4
    Lightning strikes are not confined to thunderstorms. They also form part hurricanes, occur during volcanic eruptions, and are even produced during large forest fires.

For lightning to occur, the right atmospheric conditions need to be in place, which justifies a more elaborate explanation that falls outside the scope of this article. You can find more in-depth information about lightning in this article

4) Extreme Heat

Surprisingly, one of the deadliest phenomena that go by almost entirely unnoticed right in front of our eyes is extreme heat. One of the reasons this silent killer occurs almost unnoticed is as a result of the time over which it occurs and the absence of warning signs.

"Heatwaves are responsible for more human deaths per year than any other weather event"

Extreme Heat

For example, the heatwave that struck Europe in 2003 resulted in around 70 000 deaths. In 2010, the Siberian Heatwave that lasted 44 days, caused 56 000 deaths in Russia. Finally, more than 600 people die each year in the United States alone due to heat-related illnesses.

Conditions are classified as a heatwave when unusually hot temperatures persist for two days or longer. These types of events are on the increase due to no small part in global warming. It is no surprise then that extreme heat and drought go hand-in-hand.

(Both are the result of extended periods of solar radiation, as well as the prolonged absence of cold and wet atmospheric conditions.) 

What Makes Extreme Heat Dangerous

  1. 1
    A heatwave doesn't occur suddenly, but build up over several days and can last for over a week. Its deadly impact slowly takes its toll on both human and animal health with fatal consequences.
  2. 2
    Extreme heat does not have an early warning system in place compared to those developed for dangerous weather occurrences like hurricanes, lightning, and tornadoes.
  3. 3
    The relative quiet and uneventfulness that accompanies a heatwave, combined with little awareness of the immediate danger, allow it to do most of its damage without much notice.
  4. 4
    As more people move to urban environments like cities and other metropolitan areas, the Urban Heat Island Effect contributes and exasperate the effect of an already rapidly-warming planet.

Extreme heat should not be viewed in isolation, as it is usually part of a more extensive system and closely linked to global climate trends. It usually takes the form of a heatwave, of which you can find more detailed information in this article.

5) Drought And Flooding

The leading cause of human fatalities, measured over an extended period and regardless of scale, is drought & flooding. Although neither are independent meteorological phenomena, they both occur as a result of the presence or absence of specific weather conditions.

Drought

For example, as a result of climate change, a rise in global temperatures combined with the extended absence of rainclouds are causing certain parts of the world to experience extreme droughts.

Similarly, the heavy rain that occurs during and after large storms like tropical cyclones and monsoons can lead to largescale & widespread flooding in valleys & other low-lying regions.

Of the two, drought is by the most deadly with food shortages causing entire countries and vast regions to experience severe famine. In 1922, China experienced the worst drought in recorded history, with a death toll of 3 million human lives. 

(This drought is closely followed in severity by the Bengal famine of 1943 which claimed 1.9 million lives in Bangladesh, as well as the twin droughts that struck India in 1965 and resulted in 1.5 million fatalities.)

Flooding is not as deadly as droughts in terms of total numbers, but are also responsible for a large number of deaths due to drowning and food shortages. China again fell victim in 1887 with the Yellow River Flood, resulting in an estimated 900 000 - 2 million deaths.  

What Makes Drought And Flooding Dangerous

  1. 1
    Since all life on the planet depends on water, drought affects everything. Famine, a direct consequence of drought, are one of the leading cause of death in developing countries. (Developed countries are not exempt from the effects of drought!)
  2. 2
    Flooding that occurs as a result of a hurricane, monsoon, or another large storm, do not necessarily take place at the same time or location as the original event. It can happen days later, at a much larger scale, and at a distant location.
  3. 3
    The strength of the volume of moving water during flooding is especially deadly. Not only does low water levels create a false sense of security, but its ability to weaken and destroy structures adds an additional layer of danger to human life.
  4. 4
    Drought also has a severe economic impact that can be more destructive than drowning or food shortage. Extended periods of drought can cripple entire economies and destroy the livelihood of people involved in the agriculture sector.

To illustrate the economic impact of drought mentioned in this last point, it is worth noting that in the United States alone, annual losses due to this phenomenon are approaching the 9 billion dollar mark. It is easy to see how this will result in serious financial hardship. 

6) Hail

Hail is not an independent weather system, but form part of thunderstorms where the updrafts in cumulonimbus clouds are responsible for the formation of hailstones. It is also a direct result of a thunderstorm, which makes it easier to calculate its immediate impact. 

Hail

As a result of its visually striking physical attributes and familiarity among the general public, the real danger that a hailstorm pose is generally slightly exaggerated. This does not mean that it poses no threat, but it is not as deadly as commonly perceived.

Exactly how deadly hail is, mostly depends on the size of hailstones. It can vary in size from as small as a pea to the size of a grapefruit. The bigger the size of the hailstone, the more deadly and destructive a hailstorm will be.

The average size of a hailstone varies from 2.5 - 4.4 cm (1 - 1.73 inches) in diameter. Once the size exceeds 2 cm (0.80 inches), it starts to cause notable damage. Hailstones the size of grapefruits (10 cm or 4 inches) are considered very dangerous and deadly.

However, it is important to note that hail the size of grapefruits or tennis balls occurs very rarely, and the vast majority of hailstorms are harmless.

The deadliest hailstorm in history occurred close to Moradabad, India. Hailstones reportedly reached the size of goose eggs (7 - 11 cm or 3 - 4.5 inches) and killed 246 people on 30 April 1988.

The largest hailstone ever documented was 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. It fell in South Dakota, United States, in 2010. To put it in context, it was the size of a volleyball and just under 2 pounds in weight.

What Makes Hail Dangerous

  1. 1
    Apart from the size and frequency of hail, the speed with which hailstones fall can make them deadly. Wind speeds can increase the velocity of a hailstorm and turn otherwise harmless sized stones into lethal projectiles.
  2. 2
    The abruptness with which hailstones fall without any or little warning makes it hard to shelter in time. Although hail is associated with large thunderstorms, it is hard to pinpoint where and when it will take place.

Hailstorms are not independent weather phenomena but form part of large thunderstorm systems with strongly developed updrafts. You can learn more about hail in this article.

Conclusion

As this article clearly illustrated, there is no clear weather phenomenon that can be considered the most deadly. It all depends on the size, severity, and scale of the event.

For example, nothing can compare to the destructive power of a tornado on a relatively small scale and duration. Move up to several hundred miles in size and measured over days, the strength and danger of a large hurricane are unmatched.

This article highlighted the most deadly weather phenomena on the planet, as well as the circumstances under which they occur.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!


Wessel

Understanding Weather Symbols Used In Forecasts To Know What To Expect From Future Atmospheric Conditions

Understanding Weather Symbols heading

Most of you have seen the familiar weather symbols used on television and online meteorological forecasts, our mobile weather applications, and even in traditional newspapers. Still, many of us don't always understand some of these symbols and the descriptions that accompany them.

And you know what? You are definitely not alone and have absolutely nothing to feel embarrassed about! In fact, a huge percentage of people regularly watching weather forecasts, are often confused by the different symbols and terminologies used by the various weather services. 

The goal of this article is to help you better understand the most widely used symbols in weather forecasts, as well as the information that normally accompanies them.  

To keep things as simple as possible, we will focus on the weather symbols, illustrations, and terminologies use specifically in weather forecasts. We focus on the symbols, elements, and graphs used in weather maps, which you find in this article.

Weather Forecasting Symbols

It only makes sense to start with the elements most widely associated with weather forecasts, which are off-course the weather symbols. Let's take a look at the most commonly used ones and what they mean.

As you will soon see, the same symbols can be displayed to describe different weather condition by various applications and services. This can be very confusing, so I attempt to the most important weather conditions associated with them.

Sunny Symbol

Sunny Conditions

The most well-known of all the weather symbols. This symbol, indicating sunny conditions and clear skies, is also pretty straightforward and rarely used in any other way than to display exactly these conditions.

Partly Cloudy Day Symbol

Partly Cloudy (Day)

The day will be mostly sunny with patches of cloud cover during the day. The cloud cover my grow larger or dissipate throughout the day, depending on future atmospheric conditions, or simply put, "the way the weather is headed in".

Partly Cloudy Night Symbol

Partly Cloudy (Night)

The night will be mostly clear with patches of cloud cover during the day. The cloud cover my grow larger or dissipate throughout the night, depending on future atmospheric conditions, or simply put, "the way the weather is headed in".

Cloudy Symbol

Cloudy

The day/night will be mostly overcast with no or very little clear skies visible. The light color of the symbol normally indicates that no rainfall is imminent (yet).

Overcast Symbol

Overcast

An indication that heavy cloud cover is expected throughout the day/night. This dark symbol is often an indication that rainfall may be possible, but not expected.

Cloudy With Light Rain Symbol

Cloudy With Light Showers

This symbol normally indicates cloudy conditions with light showers scattered throughout the day. These conditions may continue to persist, dissipate, or grow into heavier rainfall later on. 

Cloudy With Showers Symbol

Cloudy With Showers

Slightly heavier and more persistent showers are associated with this symbol. Normally these conditions also last longer and can be expected to last the duration of the day, depending on the season and type of weather system.

Cloudy With Heavy Showers Symbol

Cloudy With Heavy Showers

As the symbol and description indicate, heavy persistent showers can be expected. As with normal showers, its duration will largely depend on the season and type of weather system. 

Attention should be paid to additional information, like storm and flood warnings, as these conditions can occur during very heavy downpours.   

Partly Cloudy With Light Rain Symbol

Partly Cloudy With Light Showers  / Cloudy With Light Showers (Day)

These are one of the first symbols that can be very confusing, hence the dual description. Usually, it means the weather will be partly sunny, with some cloud cover & light showers to be expected. 

Some weather services are now using this symbol to indicate cloudy conditions with light rain, and use the sun to show that the conditions occur during the day. (In this instance no distinction is made between cloudy and partly cloudy weather.)

The best advice to follow when you see this symbol is to read the short forecast summary that usually accompanies any weather symbol.

Partly Cloudy With Light Rain Night Symbol

Partly Cloudy With Light Showers / Cloudy With Light Showers (Night)

Another symbol with a confusing dual personality. Usually, it indicates a partly clear night sky, with some cloud cover & light showers to be expected. 

Some weather services are now using this symbol to indicate cloudy conditions with light rain, and use the moon to show that the conditions occur during the night. (In this instance no distinction is made between cloudy and partly cloudy weather.)

Follow the same advice that was given in the previous section when you see this symbol.

Partly Cloudy With Rain Night Symbol

Partly Cloudy With Showers / Cloudy With Showers (Day)

And yet another symbol with a confusing dual personality. Usually, it means the weather will be partly sunny, with some cloud cover & showers to be expected. 

Some weather services are now using this symbol to indicate cloudy conditions with rain, and use the sun to show that the conditions occur during the day. (In this instance no distinction is made between cloudy and partly cloudy weather.)

Follow the same advice that was given in the previous section when you see this symbol.

Partly Cloudy With Rain Night Symbol

Partly Cloudy With Showers / Cloudy With Showers (Night)

Another symbol with a confusing dual personality. Usually, it indicates a partly clear night sky, with some cloud cover & showers to be expected.

Some weather services are now using this symbol to indicate cloudy conditions with rain, and use the moon to show that the conditions occur during the night. (In this instance no distinction is made between cloudy and partly cloudy weather.)

Follow the same advice that was given in the previous section when you see this symbol.

thunderstorm Symbol

Thunderstorm

Thunderstorms with strong winds, lightning, and heavy rain can be expected. These are one of the symbols that you should not ignore, simply due to the dangerous conditions that accompany a weather event. 

hail storm Symbol

Hail Storm

This symbol indicates a hail (water in its frozen form) storm. Hail is very often associated with thunderstorms due to the similar weather conditions that produce both. If you are interested, you can read more about hail in this article.

light snow fall Symbol

Light Snow Shower

A light shower of snow (a cluster of ice crystals) is expected to fall. In areas familiar with regular snowfall, this won't cause any concern.

If it takes place in a region that very seldom experience any snowfall, care should be taken to account for conditions that normally accompany snowfall, including a sudden drop in temperature and slippery conditions.

heavy snow fall Symbol

Heavy Snow Shower

A heavy shower of snow (a cluster of ice crystals) is expected to fall. Regardless of the location of familiarity, care should be taken to account for the potentially dangerous conditions that accompany heavy snowfall.

mist Symbol

Mist

Mist is nothing more than a high concentration of micro water droplets in the air near the surface of the ground. When mist is forecasted, this usually indicates damp conditions with variable degrees of low visibility. You should take this into account, especially when you plan on traveling. 

drizzle Symbol

Drizzle

When a drizzle is predicted, it usually means a very fine form of rain will occur. The water droplets can be very small, almost unnoticeable. It should not be ignored, however, as it is often very persistent, and can thoroughly drench you over time. 

sleet symbol

Sleet

When sleet is forecasted, it usually means a combination of rain and snow, and even small ice pellets are expected to fall.

The formation of sleet is a little more complex than you may think. For a complete explanation, you can read more its formation and characteristics in this article. (Simply search for "sleet" in the text.)  

tropical storm symbol

Tropical Storm

This symbol, predicting a tropical storm is not often used in a weather forecast. When you do see it, however, you better sit up and pay serious attention. A tropical storm is destructive enough on its own. (You can find in-depth information about tropical storms, hurricanes, and cyclones in this article.)

However, a tropical storm can quickly turn into a hurricane. I don't think I need to tell you just how devastatingly powerful and destructive a hurricane can be. If you are unsure, read the article I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Please Note 

All the weather forecasting symbols used in this post are just examples of what each symbol means in principle. 

Every weather service and application have their own version of each weather symbol which may look very different from the ones you have seen here. Some may be more elaborate and artistic with almost a photo-realistic look. Others may be extremely simplistic and in monochromatic color.

Some services and applications use symbols that have two drops or snowflakes to indicate light rain or snow, and multiple ones to indicate more severe versions of an event.

The point is, every service and application is different. Use the accompanying descriptions and your own discretion to interpret each symbol correctly.

The symbols used in this article should serve as a basic and accurate guideline to help you get a good overall understanding of the general meaning of the different weather forecasting icons and the weather conditions they represent.

The weather forecasting symbols used in this article, are an accurate reflection of the most commonly used icons in forecasting. 

A few minor symbols may be missing and, as already stated, there is a broad interpretation of these icons by different weather services and applications. 

Despite this fact, you are now much better equipped to correctly interpret and understand all the different shapes and sizes these symbols come in. 

Additional Forecast Information & Descriptions

The weather forecasting icons are the backbone of any weather forecast and help to quickly summarize future atmospheric conditions.

Often though, they are accompanied by additional information and a short text summary of the forecast to give you a better understanding of upcoming weather conditions.

Weather Forecast Example

Simple Example Of Weather Forecast With Additional Information

The forecast example above is just one of countless variations in the way weather predictions are displayed. I chose this specific one as it contains some of the most important supporting information needed to help you best understand how the weather will behave.

temperature symbol

Minimum/Maximum Temperature

Apart from the weather symbol itself, the maximum/minimum temperature is probably the best indicator of what future weather conditions will be like. It is also the part of the weather report most people pay attention to, as most of us would like to know how to dress and plan our day.

Therefore, temperature is clearly a vital part of getting an overall picture of the predicted atmospheric conditions. It normally measured in degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius (depending on your country's system of measurement).

To find out more about temperature, how it is measured, and its influence on the weather, you can find all this information in this article.

rainfall symbol

Likelihood Of Precipitation In Percentages

Almost as important as the temperature, is the predicted likelihood of rainfall. Who of us does not want to know whether it is going to rain and what the chances of actual rainfall are?

Like temperature, your country's system of measurement will determine whether rainfall is measured in inches or millimeters.  

wind speed symbol

Wind Speed And Direction

Wind speed and direction indicators are not that widely used, especially by weather services aimed at providing forecasts for the general public.

It is no less important though, and an important measurement for both weather enthusiasts and professional meteorologists. 

text description symbol

Short Text Summary

An often overlooked but very valuable part of a compact weather forecast, is the text summary. You may understand some (or even all) of the symbols and additional information supplied with the weather symbol/icon. 

An accurate text summary, however, rounds off the forecast by putting all the information into words to make sure everything is correctly understood.

iPhone Weather Symbols And Their Meaning

Just like all other smartphones and tablets, the popular iPhone and iPad also make use of weather symbols and icons to display weather information.

Although their icons may look slightly different than other devices, they serve the same purpose, and one won't have any difficulty understanding the meaning of each symbol.

The following list showcases some of the most common iPhone weather icons: 

iphone weather symbols

The illustration above shows some of the commonly used iPhone weather symbols. Click on the image for a larger view.

Conclusion

If all the symbols and information displayed in a weather forecast didn't make sense to you before, you should now have a much clearer picture of what all the different elements mean and how to interpret them.

The primary goal of this article was to make sure you get a better understanding of the different weather forecasting symbols and elements to help you be better prepared for upcoming weather conditions.

The focus in this post was more on forecasting, and all elements associated with it. For this reason, I didn't pay much attention to the details of an actual weather map. I am addressing all the features, symbols and lines found in a weather map, in this 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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Does The Moon Affect The Weather? How Earth’s Only Satellite Is Influencing Our Atmosphere Conditions

Does The Moon Affect The Weather

Sitting approximately 380 000 km (236 000 miles) away from Earth, it's hard to imagine that the moon can have any influence on the planet's climate and weather.

One can easily assume that a "piece of rock" this far away from Earth, and a quarter of its size will have very little if any influence on the planet's atmospheric conditions. But you know what they say about assumptions...

In short, the moon does impact the planet's weather, but not in the way you may think.

This article explains how and why the moon impacts the weather and examines the mechanisms involved in the process.

Does The Moon Affect The Weather?

Clearly, a much broader explanation is needed to fully understand exactly how the moon impacts the planet's atmospheric conditions. But first, we need a more concise and precise answer to the primary question this post is addressing.

Does The Moon Affect The Weather?

How The Moon Affects The Weather

The moon does affect the weather, but indirectly. Through its gravitational force, it mainly has a direct effect on the ocean's tidal activity, which impacts the flow of the ocean currents in return.

And it is the flow of cold and warm ocean currents that largely determines weather conditions in most parts of the world.

From this cryptic description, it is evident that the moon's gravity, its tidal activity, and the ocean currents are the key components involved in the manipulation of weather activity in the atmosphere. The upcoming section will lay out exactly how this process takes place.

The primary way in which the moon affects the weather is through the indirect manipulation of ocean currents. The type of weather introduced to a new region, as a result, will largely depend on the properties of the ocean water present in the affected current.

(Warm water will favor cloud formation and is almost synonymous with tropical Cyclone development. Cold water, on the other hand, is more conducive to the creation of dry weather conditions.)

A second notable effect of the moon on atmospheric conditions is its impact on polar temperatures. Measurements taken by satellite showed that temperatures at the Poles are higher during Full Moon than New Moon.

On average, temperatures during Full Moon are 0.55° Celsius (0.99° Fahrenheit) higher than New Moon. These temperatures may seem small and insignificant, but even at this scale, it still has a significant effect on weather.

A less significant effect of the moon is its ability to increase air pressure at the edge of a tidal bulge, as the increased water height causes the air to compress slightly. In this case, the increase in atmospheric pressure is not large enough to have any impact on the weather.

How The Moon Affects The Weather

This section describes how the moon affects the weather on our planet. To understand the steps involved in this process, one needs to clarify two of the key components:

  1. Gravity  
  2. Ocean Tides

As already stated, gravity is one of the primary factors allowing the moon to influence weather and climate. In fact, it is ONLY the moon's gravitational force that enables it to have any impact on the Earth's atmospheric conditions.

As a result, it is essential to understand how gravity works and how it allows the moon and other celestial bodies with mass to exert force on different objects.

1) Gravitational Force Of The Moon On Earth

Gravity is the strength with which the planets and other large celestial bodies attract objects to their centers. All objects with mass also have gravity. And it is the large mass of the moon that enables it to display the strong gravitational force that even influences objects on Earth.

Gravitational Force Of The Moon On Earth

Diagram showing the impact of the moon on Earth's oceans, showing the tidal bulge that forms during High Tide.

The moon's gravity primarily influences the ocean tides on the planet's surface, which impacts the ocean currents and the weather in return.

(The moon's gravity influences all bodies of water, even the fluid in a cup of tea. The only reason the latter is not visible is that it occurs on such a small scale that it is visibly unnoticeable.)

And this brings us to the subject of ocean tides, the big disruptor that impacts ocean currents and helps to shape the weather:

2) How The Ocean Tides Affect The Weather

Tidal activity refers to the rise and fall (height) of water levels in a body of water like the ocean. The part of the sea directly underneath the moon's location experiences the largest "pull," causing water levels to expand vertically and rise. This rise is called a tidal bulge.

As the moon orbits the Earth, the tidal bulge follows it along the surface of the ocean. This horizontal movement is responsible for the creation of tides. And it is the creation of tides near the coast that largely impacts the flow and direction of ocean currents.

As previously mentioned, ocean currents are one of the primary drivers of weather activity. Their flow is mainly determined by three factors:

  1. Tidal Activity
  2. Wind Movement
  3. Thermohaline Circulation (A change in water density as a result of temperature and salinity.)

Ocean currents that are formed by tidal activity are known as tidal currents. Depending on the characteristics of the water present, these currents can result in rainy weather (in the presence of warm ocean water) or dry weather (mostly as a result of cold water).

Full Moon

During full moon, the moon's gravity is at its strongest, resulting in Spring Tide, where water levels are at its highest and sea levels at the coast rise more than at any other point. During this period, atmospheric readings are now also able to clearly show an increase in rainfall.

The moon does not influence the weather directly, but the thorough explanation in this segment of the different objects and occurrences involved makes it easier to understand. 

The complete process through which the moon impacts the weather on Earth can be summarized in the following steps:

  1. 1
    All objects have gravity, which increases with mass. The large mass of the moon allows it to exert more gravitational force on Earth than any other celestial body.
  2. 2
    The part of the ocean directly below the moon's position above the planet experience the biggest gravitational pull.
  3. 3
    Similar to a magnet attracting another metal object, the moon pulls at the surface of the ocean, causing it to expand vertically and increase in height. 
  4. 4
    This vertical expansion is known as a tidal bulge, which sweeps across the ocean's surface as it follows the moon orbit around the Earth.
  5. 5
    The tidal bulge is responsible for creating new and manipulating/redirecting existing ocean currents. Ocean currents affected by tides are called tidal currents.
  6. 6
    Ocean currents are one of the main driving forces of weather. As a result, the influence of tidal activity on these currents leads to the creation of new weather patterns, which depend on the characteristics of the water the currents carry.

In summary, this section explained how the moon affects the weather indirectly through gravity, which leads to the creation of ocean tides. In turn, tidal activity drives & shapes the ocean currents that are largely responsible for the formation of specific weather conditions. 

Conclusion

As this article clearly illustrated, the moon does affect the weather, but not directly. Through gravity, it is responsible for the creation of tides in the ocean directly below. In return, the tides influence ocean currents, which directly drive weather activity around the world.

The moon's impact on atmospheric conditions can seem insignificant. It does, however, have a big enough and noteworthy influence not to be ignored when gathering meteorological data or making a weather prediction. 

The primary aim of this post was to describe the effect of the moon on the Earth's weather, how it occurs, and also look at the different factors and processes involved. 

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


Arcus Clouds: What They Are And How They Form

Arcus Clouds - What They Are And How They Form

Clouds literally come in all shapes and sizes, but there is something unique about the appearance of arcus clouds. And they have more meaning than simply putting on a spectacular display.

Under the right conditions, many cloud formations make for some of the most striking photographs you can take. Some clouds, though, are so visually impressive and awe-inspiring that a picture doesn't do it justice. Arcus clouds are one such example.

This article focus on what arcus clouds are, how they form, as well as the different types of arcus clouds.

Arcus Cloud Definition

It is clear that arcus cloud formations are responsible for some of the most spectacular views one can observe from the planet's surface. But there is more substance to this meteorological phenomenon than merely looks.

What Is An Arcus Cloud?

what is an arcus cloud

"Arcus Cloud" is the umbrella term used for low-lying clouds that spreads out horizontally, usually from the boundary of a larger storm system like a thunderstorm.

These visually striking cloud formations usually appear in the form of shelf clouds or roll clouds.

The summary provides a concise but cryptic definition of what an arcus cloud is and how it forms. A broader definition is needed to fully understand this type of cloud formation.

Arcus clouds are low-altitude clouds with the cloud base forming at the height of approximately 2 kilometers (6500 feet).

Arcus clouds are divided into two main categories: Shelf Clouds and Roll Clouds. As a result, arcus clouds are either wedge-shaped or in the shape of a horizontal tube-shaped column (depending on whether a shelf or roll cloud develops).

The two major types of clouds associated with the formation of arcus clouds are Cumulus and Cumulonimbus. Notably, the severe updrafts and downdrafts present in cumulonimbus clouds are responsible for the creation of many spectacular arcus formations.

Unlike the cumulonimbus clouds that form the basis for the formation of many arcus clouds, arcus clouds themselves develop and spread out in a horizontal fashion.

Arcus clouds pose no direct danger in the form of precipitation or strong winds, but in many cases, act as a precursor for approaching thunderstorms and severe weather.

How Do Arcus Clouds Form?

Although the two types of arcus clouds, shelf and roll clouds, have unique characteristics and a specific way in which each one develops, they both have a similar origin.

Arcus Cloud Formation

Cold air flow out from the storm front and spreads horizontally, forcing the warmer air at the surface into the air. The arcus cloud forms along this border of rising warm air and advancing cold air.

The principle way in which arcus clouds form can be summarized in the following steps:

  1. 1
    Thunderstorms are characterized by strong updrafts and downdrafts in the stormcloud. It is the strong downdrafts present at the leading edge of a thundercloud that is primarily responsible for the creation of arcus clouds.
  2. 2
    Cold air, cooled down by altitude and precipitation, is carried to the ground by downdrafts from where it spreads out horizontally in front of the storm system. 
  3. 3
    The heavier cool air spreads out quickly over the ground and pushes underneath the warmer moist air, lifting it into the atmosphere.
  4. 4
    As the warm air rises and cools down, condensation takes place, which leads to the formation of arcus clouds with their unique shape & characteristics.
  5. 5
    Depending on the specific atmospheric conditions and location, this process leads to the formation of the familiar wedge-shaped shelf clouds, or the round cylindrical-shaped roll clouds.

Both shelf clouds and roll clouds each have a unique appearance with characteristics of their own, which we will address in the following section. 

Types Of Arcus Clouds

As stated in the summary, arcus clouds can be divided into two primary types of formations: 

  • Shelf Clouds
  • Roll Clouds.

These two types of arcus clouds may have a similar origin, but appear substantially different with different characteristics which can be best understood by looking at each cloud formation individually. 

Shelf Cloud: The Best-Known Arcus Cloud Formation

The most common type of arcus cloud is the ominous-looking shelf cloud that usually precedes large thunderstorms. When discussing arcus clouds, this is the type of cloud formation that generally springs to mind. 

What Is A Shelf Cloud?

what is a shelf cloud

A shelf cloud is a type of arcus cloud that is characterized by its wedge shape and horizontal development, which usually forms at low altitudes at the leading edge of storm clouds.

Shelf clouds usually develop out of the parent cloud called a cumulus congestus cloud. Congestus clouds are cumulus clouds which are taller than they are wide, in other words, with strong vertical development. They are also often a precursor to cumulonimbus clouds.

The familiar ragged-looking underside of a shelf cloud is a result of turbulent winds, as well as wind shear caused between the updrafts and downdrafts.

Arcus clouds in the shape of shelf clouds are synonymous with a derecho, a widespread and potentially devastating storm system you can read all about in this article

Shelf clouds appear at the leading edge of this dangerous storm front, and although they pose no danger themselves, their appearance point to the looming threat of the derecho that follows close in its footsteps.

As a shelf cloud passes overhead, it is usually followed by a dark tumultuous section of sky, commonly known as the whale's mouth in meteorological circles. This stretch of weather slots in between the appearance of shelf clouds and the arrival of the thunderstorm.

(The dark, turbulent stretch between the edge of a shelf cloud and a thunderstorm is sometimes characterized by a distinct wavy appearance, known as asperitas clouds. These clouds don't appear that often but are almost as spectacular as the shelf cloud itself.)

Shelf Cloud Formation

The formation of a shelf cloud is identical to the process described earlier in this post. From the fifth point, though, the process is unique to the development of shelf clouds:

As the cold air from the outflow boundary (leading edge of the storm) moves forward, it tilts the rising warm air along its boundary.

It is along this boundary between the warm updrafts and cold downdrafts that shelf clouds form. As the warm air keeps rising along this border, it cools down, and condensation takes place, which results in the formation of a shelf cloud.

Roll Cloud: Shelf Clouds' Less Famous Cousin

A lesser-known type of arcus formation is called a rolling cloud. It is the second of the two types of arcus clouds.

Although a roll cloud is classified as an arcus cloud, it differs significantly from its more famous cousin, the shelf cloud. One needs to take a closer look to understand its unique characteristics, but one first needs to define it more clearly: 

What Is A Roll Cloud?

what is a roll cloud

A roll cloud is a rare type of arcus cloud that is characterized by its round tube-shaped formation, which forms at very low altitudes and appears to rotate on its horizontal axis.

It acts as a single wave known as a soliton and, unlike a shelf cloud, develop completely independent from other clouds.

As already stated, the appearance of roll clouds is a rare occurrence. It is no less spectacular than well-documented cloud systems but is a relatively rare occurrence. The biggest reason for their scarcity, is that the weather conditions has to be close to perfect for them to occur.

In the WMO's Cloud Atlas, it is now officially called volutus clouds. Although it is still viewed as a type of arcus cloud, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently classified it as an entirely separate cloud species.

What makes a roll cloud unique is that it appears as a solitary independent cloud, completely detached from any parent cloud. On very rare occasions, one can view several roll clouds appearing in succession.

Roll clouds also act like a soliton when it comes to its motion. A soliton is a single wave with a single crest that moves ahead without changing its speed or size. (Which sums up the movement of a roll cloud.)

It is evident that roll clouds have some characteristics that clearly distinguish it from shelf clouds, even though it still falls within the same family of clouds. 

Difference Between A Shelf Cloud And Roll Cloud

The biggest difference between a shelf cloud and a roll cloud is the fact that a shelf cloud forms part of the larger storm cloud from which leading-edge it develops, while a roll cloud is an entirely independent cloud, detached from any cloud formation.

The well-known Morning Glory Cloud formation is arguably the best example of a roll cloud formation. It is the only type of roll cloud that can be predicted with any amount of certainty, and occur mainly in Northern Australia and The Gulf OF Carpentaria.

Roll Cloud Formation

Although the formation of a roll cloud generally forms in the same way as the process described earlier in this post, it also differs in a significant way: 

A roll cloud forms completely independent from any bigger cloud system. In many cases, it occurs without any other significant cloud development even in sight. 

Although not physically attached to a parent cloud, a roll cloud still forms at the leading edge or gust front of a storm system.

In some instances, the downdrafts that accompany a storm system forms some distance in front of the stormcloud's edge. As a result, a roll cloud can form at the border between updrafts and downdrafts, without the presence of the larger storm cloud formation.

Sometimes, though, a thunderstorm will clear up and dissipate completely, leaving only the updrafts and downdrafts behind. In turn, they can lead to the formation of roll clouds in otherwise clear and fair weather.

Conclusion

It is clear that all arcus clouds follow a similar pattern when it comes to their development and factors involved in the process. The physical manifestation of the two types of arcus clouds, however, are dramatically different.

Shelf clouds develop their familiar ragged wedge-shaped form, while roll clouds are characterized by their round, tube-shaped formation. Shelf clouds further develop at the leading edge of a storm cloud, while roll clouds form independently from any other cloud.

In conclusion, this article focused on explaining what an arcus cloud is, how it develops, and highlighting the different types of arcus clouds. 

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


The Fogbow: Rainbow’s Less Glamorous Cousin

Fogbow: Rainbow's Less Glamorous Cousin

Whenever you see a fogbow, you will be forgiven for thinking you are observing a form of rainbow. Though you won't be completely wrong, fogbows are the result of a different meteorological occurrence.

Although they are both the result of the same meteorological process, a fogbow appears during foggy/misty conditions while a rainbow occurs in the presence of a rain shower (as the names suggest).

It may not seem like much of a difference, but the characteristics of fog results in a ghostly white phenomenon not too dissimilar from a rainbow stripped of all its color.

This article examines what a fogbow is, look at its characteristics, as well as how it occurs. 

Fogbow Definition

As the introduction already eluded to, in the simplest terms, a fogbow appears as a completely desaturated rainbow with its predominantly white appearance. 

Before delving deeper into why and how it occurs, one first needs a clear and precise definition of what a fogbow is.

What Is A Fogbow?

What Is A Fogbow

A fogbow is a predominantly white semicircular bow that appears in the presence of fog when sunlight is reflected by water droplets within the fog bank.

Unlike the luminous spectral colors of a rainbow, a fogbow appears primarily white as a result of the way in which the microdroplets in fog reflects sunlight.

This summary provides a concise explanation of a fogbow, but to better understand why it occurs and how it differs from its more glamorous cousin, the rainbow, a broader clarification is needed. 

Although the name "fogbow" is the most commonly known and widely used name for this phenomenon, a few other terms are also synonymous with this occurrence:

  1. White Rainbow (Aptly named after its predominantly white appearance.) 
  2. Circle Of Ulloa (Named after General Antonio de Ulloa, who first draw attention to the phenomenon in the 18th century.)
  3. Ulloa's Ring (Another variation of the name used in the previous point.)
  4. Ghost Rainbow (Named after the ghostly white appearance of a fogbow.)

A fogbow is a relatively rare sight compared to rainbows, and do not occur that often. What makes them even harder to spot, is the fact that they can appear almost indistinguishable from the surrounding fog with only a hint of contrast that makes visible.

white rainbow

Since a fogbow appears at the antisolar point, the sun needs to be approximately 20 degrees or less above the horizon for it to be visible as a semicircular ring. Any higher and the phenomenon will theoretically fall below the horizon and disappear from view. 

(An antisolar point is a position on the celestial sphere situated directly opposite the sun from the observer's point of view.)

The semicircular ring visible above the horizon is only part of a full circle, which can be viewed in its totality if the observer is situated at an elevated position like a mountaintop.

Fogbows are almost as big as rainbows, but the ring (or bow) is much broader in size due to the amount of diffusion and light scattering by the small size of the droplets present in fog.

The following section will detail the process through which a fogbow occurs. 

How A Fogbow Occurs

Like a rainbow, a fogbow is observed with your back towards the sun while looking directly into a bank of fog in front of you.

  1. 1
    The microdroplets in fog diffract (bend) and break up the sunlight into its constituent spectral colors, which results in the familiar color pattern that is so unique to a rainbow.
  2. 2
    However, as the microdroplets in fog are a fraction of the size of raindrops (up to a hundred times smaller), they react and scatter sunlight differently than rainbows.
  3. 3
    The size of the droplets results in the formation of multiple smaller beams of spectral light reflected and scattered in all directions. Many of these smaller beams of lights come together, overlap, or merge to display a combined color of white.
  4. 4
    This process explains why a fogbow appears as a predominantly white ghostly semicircle. (Sometimes displaying spectral colors on the extreme side of the spectrum with a shade of red on its outer edge and blue on its inner edge.)

Fogbows Are All About Diffraction

The formation of a fogbow is also impossible to take place without the occurrence of a process known as diffraction.

spectral colors

As white light passes through a raindrop (as illustrated by the prism), refraction causes it to be broken up into its constituent spectral colors.

Diffraction is defined as the bending of light as it travels around or through an object. The diffraction of light as it passes through a raindrop is responsible for the breaking up of light into its spectral colors. We view these diffracted colors whenever observing a rainbow or fogbow.

The larger waterdrops in rain acts as a prism and break up (diffract) the sunlight into its constituent spectral colors, which is clearly visible in the resulting luminous rainbow.

Unlike rain, however, the smaller-sized droplets in fog cause less diffraction (bending) of light, which means a smaller separation into constituent spectral colors. 

This means the light viewed by the observer is seen as primarily white (the combination of all spectral colors).

The conditions and specific characteristics of any fogbow may vary from one occurrence to another. However, the process described here, as well as the requirements that need to be in place for the phenomenon to occur, always remains the same.

Conclusion

As this post clearly highlighted, the process that is responsible for the formation of a rainbow is identical to the one that creates a fogbow. The only real difference is the size of the droplets in a fog bank.

The size of these micro-droplets, though, completely changes the characteristics of a fogbow, displaying a semicircular ring stripped of all its color. It is unique and eyecatching in its own right and can produce a spectacular display under the right conditions.

This article explained what a fogbow is, described its characteristics, and went on to explain its formation in detail.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


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