Category Archives: Climate

How much water is in the atmosphere?

Sitting nearly in the middle of the vast North American continent, Madison has what is known as a continental climate. Continental climates are characterized by large annual extremes in temperature and humidity as well as very distinct seasons.

The continental nature of Madison’s climate is what makes a year’s worth of weather in Madison usually a lot more varied than a year’s worth in Seattle, for instance. There is an astounding 144 degrees difference between the all-time highest (107 on July 13, 1936) and all-time lowest (-37 on Jan. 31, 1951) temperature in Madison.

In addition, the amount of water vapor in the air can range from the barely detectable level in the midst of a deep winter cold spell to as much as 3.5 percent of every breath you take during a severe July heatwave. No matter what the season, the vast majority of the invisible water vapor in the atmosphere is contained in the lowest mile or two from its source at the surface.

At any one instant, the Earth’s atmosphere contains 37.5 million-billion gallons of water vapor – enough to cover the entire surface of the planet with 1 inch of rain if condensed. This amount is recycled, through evaporation powered by the Sun, 40 times each year in what is known as the hydrologic cycle.

In each of these 40 cycles, enough energy is expended to power the U.S. — the largest consumer of energy in the world — for 3,441 years! A truly astounding amount of energy. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Meteorology, Seasons

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What was 2017 weather summary?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has completed its scientific analysis and the globally averaged surface temperature for 2017 was the third-highest since record keeping began in 1880.

The warmest year is 2016, and 2015 is the second warmest. Since 1977 global temperatures have been at least nominally above the 20th century average. The six warmest years on record have occurred since 2010. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Meteorology

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Did climate change kill the dinosaurs?

Sixty-six million years ago, the age of the dinosaurs ended abruptly, coinciding with the extinction of about 75 percent of the total number of living species.

Evidence and climate modeling indicate that global wildfires resulted from a collision with a massive asteroid that could have lofted large amounts of soot into the atmosphere. The smoke would have plunged Earth into darkness for nearly two years, which would have shut down photosynthesis, drastically cooled the planet, and contributed to the mass extinctions as evidenced in the fossil record. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Phenomena

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What’s happening with the ozone hole?

Encouraging news arrived this week regarding the size of the Southern Hemisphere ozone hole. NASA reported that this year’s ozone hole (which peaked on Sept. 11 at 7.6 million square kilometers) was the smallest since 1988, just years after the problem was first identified.

Though a number of factors contribute to the annual size of the ozone hole, it is beyond doubt that the leading factor is the reduction of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), industrial chemicals long used for refrigeration among other things. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Phenomena

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What does the State of the Climate Report tell us?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 27th annual State of the Climate report Thursday, and it was full of attention-grabbing news.

Topping the list was the fact that analysis of global temperature measurements revealed that 2016 bumped 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of record keeping. In fact, 2016 was the third consecutive year of record warmth. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Meteorology, Seasons

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