For this week’s blog, I thought it would fun to look at some commonly accepted weather ‘facts’, and find out whether they are really true or not! Take the quiz below, and then scroll down to see how you did!
True or false?
- Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
- Being out in the cold air causes sickness.
- Flash flooding only happens near rivers and streams.
- If the car in front of you drives through a flooded roadway, it is also safe for you to do so.
- Crickets chirp frequency can tell you about the air temperature.
- Raindrops are shaped like teardrops.
- Clouds don’t weigh anything.
- You can tell how far away a lightning strike was by counting the time between the flash and when you hear thunder.
- Working out in the cold weather makes you burn calories faster.
- At any given time, there are approximately 2000 thunderstorms occurring around the world.
Did you answer the questions?
Great! Let’s see how you did.
1. Lightning never strikes the same place twice. FALSE!
As anyone who lives in New York City or any other place with tall buildings knows, lightning can DEFINITELY strike the same place more than once. Lightning will seek out the tallest object, so if you find yourself caught outside during a storm, make yourself as small as possible and stay away from tall objects such a trees. Did you know that the Empire State Building, only one of many tall buildings in New York City, is struck by lightning about 25 times per year on average?
2. Being out in the cold air causes sickness. (mostly) FALSE!
The bottom line here is that, hot or cold, you need to be exposed to a virus or bacteria in order to get sick. However, people do tend to get sick more frequently in the wintertime. Why is that? There are a number of reasons, and the answer is not so simple. People tend to stay inside more during the winter, which can mean close quarters with other people who may be sick. Additionally, the dry air which is caused by running heat inside homes can dry out nasal passages, increasing susceptibility to infection. Lastly, research has shown that common cold viruses replicate faster at colder temperatures in mice, and that immune cells may be less effective at fighting off viruses at cold temperatures. So, even if you answered true, I would give you credit for this question because the answer is not nearly so simple as it seems!
3. Flash flooding only happens near rivers and streams. FALSE!
While people commonly think of flooding as occurring near rivers and other bodies of water, flooding can occur anywhere. When thunderstorms repeatedly bring rain to the same area, that area can be prone to flooding. Additionally, as water works it way through the river and stream network, flooding can occur well removed from where the original rainfall occurred. Flash flooding, however, occurs when water rises very quickly, usually as a result of thunderstorms bringing heavy rainfall in a short period of time. This can be exacerbated in areas of poor drainage and urban areas, which is why it is important to always be aware of the weather forecast for your area.
4. If the car in front of you drives through a flooded roadway, it is also safe for you to do so. FALSE!
This one relates to the previous question! It is NEVER safe to drive across a flooded roadway. It only takes six inches of running water to knock over an adult, and only twelve inches to take away most cars. Always remember, even when it is inconvenient, our friends at the National Weather Service remind us to Turn Around Don’t Drown®!
5. Crickets chirp frequency can tell you about the air temperature. TRUE!
Crickets are cold-blooded, and you will not hear them chirping when the temperature is below about 55 degrees. To estimate the air temperature, count the number of chirps you hear in 15 seconds and then add 37!
6. Raindrops are shaped like teardrops. FALSE!
Actually, due to surface tension and the action of gravity on a falling drop, raindrops take on a hamburger-bun type of shape rather than a teardrop shape. Did you know that raindrops can range in size from less than 1 millimeter up to about 4 millimeters? Much larger than that, and generally the drop will split into two as it falls toward the ground. https://gpm.nasa.gov/education/videos/anatomy-raindrop
7. Clouds don’t weigh anything. FALSE!
While it may seem as though clouds are ‘light as air’ when you are flying through them on an airplane, they are actually made up of millions and millions of tiny water droplets and/or ice crystals. These tiny droplets are so small that they are suspended on air currents instead of falling to the ground like raindrops. In fact, if you do the math and estimate how many droplets make up a typical cumulus cloud, the water content actually weighs 1.1 million pounds!!! Wow!
8. You can tell how far away a lightning strike was by counting the time between the flash and when you hear thunder. TRUE!
To estimate how far away a lightning strike is, count the number of seconds between the flash (when you see the lightning) and the bang (when you hear thunder). Divide this number by 5, and that tells you how many miles away the strike was. Remember that if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to get struck by lightning and should seek shelter. Other lightning safety tips can be found here.
9. Working out in the cold weather makes you burn calories faster. TRUE!
This is true, but you still need to be careful working out in the cold. As it turns out, your body has to work harder to warm you up when it is cold out, which in turn burns more calories. Also, there is the physiological effect that it just feels easier to exercise in a cooler climate, and so you are more apt to push yourself harder or longer than you would if it was sweltering. With the vast array of workout wear available today, there are plenty of options to dress appropriately for workouts even in extremely cold temperatures. Runners World has this handy tool to help you determine appropriate attire for all conditions. However, working out in the cold can be dangerous and you should always take appropriate precautions. Heat loss through sweaty gym clothes happens and a very fast rate even at not-very-cold temperatures, so you need to plan to be inside and changing into dry clothes as soon as possible after a workout.
10. At any given time, there are approximately 2000 thunderstorms occurring around the world. TRUE!
At any given time, there are about this many thunderstorms happening somewhere on earth. NOAA’s GOES-EAST satellite has the amazing capability to detect lightning from space. The loop below shows lightning strikes detected from the satellite over a 24 hour period. Click here for a recent loop, and here to see what NOAA’s other geostationary satellite, GOES-WEST, is detecting!