Category Archives: Meteorology

Who controls the tornado sirens?

The sirens around Dane County are not just for warning about tornadoes.

Although tornado warnings are by far the most common cause for the sounding of the alarm, the sirens are used for other hazards. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather, Weather Dangers

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How is the wind measured?

Wind has both speed and direction. Anemometers measure wind speed and wind vanes measure wind direction.

A typical wind vane has a pointer in front and fins in back. When the wind is blowing, the wind vane points into the wind. For example, in a north wind, the wind vane points northward. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology

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Does the jet stream have something to do with our winter?

Our exceptionally cold winter has been the subject of this column a couple of times in the past few months. Some readers have asked how the jet stream might be related to cold air outbreaks.

As we have mentioned before, the jet stream is a ribbon of strong west-to-east winds located approximately 6 miles above the ground. The jet exists as a result of a pole-to-equator temperature difference throughout the entire depth of the lowest 6 or so miles of the atmosphere. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology

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Is this an unusual winter?

There is no doubt that this winter’s prolonged and sometimes desperate cold has been unusual.

Interestingly, for all the talk of the “polar vortex” and our unusually prolonged cold in central North America, it has been a remarkably “warm” winter when considered from the hemispheric perspective. Unusually warm weather in the West has offset the frigid winter across the East and much of the Midwest. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Seasons

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Where do weather forecasters get their data?

Meteorology, like every other science, relies on careful and precise measurement of its subject. Weather observations are critical to both weather forecasters and computer models that predict the weather. These measurements are made at the ground level as well as in the atmosphere. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology

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