Weather in the News: July and August 2019

As we change the calendar to a new month, it seems like a good time to review how meteorology has made news headlines this summer. While the weather often makes the news as a front-page headline when there is a high-impact event, the work that meteorologists and other scientists do on a day-to-day basis can help to keep the public safe, project changes in climate that can lead to positive changes in public policy, and engage with schoolchildren and teachers to encourage learning in the field of meteorology. This week, we highlight just a sampling of the many ways that weather, climate, and meteorology has made news headlines recently:

Land-surface temperatures across Europe and Northern Africa, July 25, 2019. Courtesy: WMO.
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National Parks and Severe Weather

At this point in midsummer, it is hard NOT to have the outdoor bug, and many of us in the U.S. will head to our National Parks to enjoy the outdoors in a variety of ways. Did you know that Yellowstone was the first National Park, established in 1872? President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) is possibly the most well-known supporter of the development of the National Park System; during his terms in office, the number of National Parks doubled. The legislation known as the Antiquities Act, which he signed into law, gave him and future presidents the ability to declare historic landmarks and national monuments, many of which are part of the National Park System today. At our wide array of National Parks, Seashores, Reserves, Battlefields, Monuments, and Historic Sites, visitors can learn about the history and culture of our country, as well as enjoy and appreciate the huge variety of climates and beautiful scenery that exist in the United States.

Canyonlands National Park. Credit: NPS/Neal Herbert.
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Gulf of Mexico Tropical Disturbance/DC Floods/Flood Safety

You may have heard on the news this week that there is a potential tropical system which is forecast to form in the Gulf of Mexico over the next day or two. Satellite imagery shows a broad area of convection over the Florida panhandle and southern Alabama. This convection will be drifting slowly westward over the northern Gulf of Mexico.

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Lightning Science and Safety

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin conducted his famous experiment in which he flew a kite during a thunderstorm during this week in 1752? Benjamin Franklin was looking to demonstrate the connection between lightning and electricity. In fact, we know today that lightning is a discharge of static electricity from the atmosphere. Lightning can strike from cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-ground, and even intra-cloud (inside one cloud) discharges can occur. Let’s look back into history to see how this experiment worked…

Courtesy: Franklin Institute.
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Great Plains Severe Weather and Tornadoes: May 20, 2019

A storm system moving into the Great Plains this past Monday resulted in an outbreak of severe weather, including flooding and some tornadoes, across portions of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Thankfully, none of the reported tornadoes did extensive damage or caused widespread injuries. This was thanks in part to the fact that the tornadic storms did not hit major metropolitan areas, but also largely due to excellent communication of risk and appropriate preparedness actions by the National Weather Service. Let’s take a closer look at how this event unfolded…

Courtesy: KWTV-KOTV.
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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…weather balloon?

If you follow us on Facebook, you may have noticed the the Albany National Weather Service made regional headlines last week. Why? Because a weather balloon which was launched from the office here in upstate New York made its final descent onto a driveway in Rhode Island! Thus, we thought it would be a good time to go over what exactly IS a weather balloon (and what you should do if you find one in your driveway!).

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Wild Weather Extremes: April 2019 Snow and Severe Weather

When meteorologist educators teach students of all levels, one of the first things we do is to distinguish the difference between weather and climate. Technically speaking, weather is the day-to-day conditions that describe the state of the atmosphere, while climate is an average of weather conditions at a particular place, generally averaged over a 30 year time period. In my classes, I always say that the best way to remember this distinction is that ‘weather impacts your daily life’. Many disruptions to people’s lives were caused as a result of a very dynamic spring weather pattern which has been present over the continental United States for the last few weeks.

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The Pollen Count: How Weather Conditions Affect Seasonal Allergies

As I sit here writing this week’s blog post, I continue to hope that *writing* about springtime will mean that actual springlike weather conditions will occur outside my (deceptively) sunny window. Now that it is April, seasonal allergies are in full swing for many, even up into the northern parts of the United States where full leaf-out is still a few weeks away (see our blog post on phenology for more information on that). Although most of us allergy sufferers are fully aware that there is a seasonal pattern to allergies, it is less commonly known why some seasons are just terrible, while others aren’t as bad.

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Spring Equinox and the National Phenology Network

Spring officially began at 5:58 PM EDT yesterday, and for many of us across the country, it can’t come soon enough. Although the weather may not yet feel like spring (portions of the Northeast US may see accumulating snow within the next few days!), we can definitely notice a difference in the sun. Did you know that the sun angle we see now is the same sun angle we see in mid-October? We are also seeing the days lengthen by about 3 minutes per day in upstate New York (the exact time differs slightly from place to place).

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