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.
Continue reading “Lightning Science and Safety”

A Brief Recap of the May 2019 Severe Outbreak

Just two short weeks ago we posted a blog that looked into the severe weather that occurred on May 20, 2019. Little did we know that this was just the beginning! Over a 12-day period that stretched from May 17 through May 30, more than 285 tornadoes touched down across 22 states. The May storms also included hailstorms (including grapefruit-sized hail in Wellington, Texas!) and frequent heavy rainfall, sometimes at record levels, over areas that were already saturated. This led to extensive flooding and flash flooding, which frequently interfered with emergency efforts related to tornado damage.

Map of tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service between May 17 and May 29, 2019 over the eastern United States and tornadoes confirmed and surveyed by the National Weather Service. Map produced in QGIS with border outlines from the United States Census Bureau. National Weather Service warning outlines available from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet and tornado data available from the National Weather Service. Credit: TheAustinMan
Continue reading “A Brief Recap of the May 2019 Severe Outbreak”

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.
Continue reading “Great Plains Severe Weather and Tornadoes: May 20, 2019”

Looking back at U.S. Climate in 2018

Although most people tend to look back and on the past year around the holidays and at the beginning of a New Year, I also like to reflect back once spring has truly sprung. The sun illuminates our days even longer, the world is full of beautiful new blooms, the birds are chirping, and it seems that everything is truly “new” again. So for this week’s blog, I thought that this would be a perfect time to look back at 2018 and really take in all that happened across the U.S. weather-wise.

Continue reading “Looking back at U.S. Climate in 2018”

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.

Continue reading “Wild Weather Extremes: April 2019 Snow and Severe Weather”

California Super Bloom: The Striking Spectacle Drawing in Droves of Tourists

A wetter than average fall and winter (thanks, in part, to heavy rains from an atmospheric river event that led to flooding along the Russian River) pulled California out of its drought last month for the first time since December 2011. Above-normal snowpacks were observed along the Sierra Nevada Range and throughout much of the West as well. In fact, on April 2, 2019, only 6% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought – one of the smallest drought footprints across the continental U.S. on record. These wet conditions from the past months, combined with cool daytime temperatures and cold nights allowed for a rare super bloom of wildflowers in the Anza-Borrego Desert .

Credit: NASA/Jim Ross
Continue reading “California Super Bloom: The Striking Spectacle Drawing in Droves of Tourists”