Category Archives: Meteorology

How are clouds named?

In 1803, British pharmacist and chemist Luke Howard devised a classification system for clouds. It has proved so successful that meteorologists have used Howard’s system ever since, with minor modifications.

According to his system, clouds are given Latin names corresponding to their appearance — layered or convective— and their altitude. Clouds are also categorized based on whether they are precipitating. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena

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How is the atmosphere retained above the Earth?

The atmosphere is actually a fluid. Like water, the pressure at the bottom of a deep column of fluid is larger than the pressure near the top of the column.

Fluids move in response to differences in pressure (the pressure gradient force), always flowing from high toward low pressure. In fact, the wind is driven by pressure differences measured in the horizontal directions. Therefore, the air near the ground (at the bottom of the deep atmosphere) is compelled to move upward toward lower pressure above. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena

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What is El Niño and does it affect Wisconsin?

El Niño is a combined atmosphere/ocean circulation anomaly in the tropical Pacific Ocean in which unusually warm surface water extends westward from the coast of Peru into the mid-Pacific. One is predicted to develop this winter, which may impact our winter weather.

The warmer than normal waters support persistent tropical thunderstorms in that same region — where such storms are ordinarily rare. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena, Seasons

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Ask the Weather Guys: What causes cold air outbreaks?

Almost no one in the Midwest will be unaffected by the remarkable cold air outbreak that occurred over the past weekend. And if you think that we were paid a rather early visit by such air this year, you are … Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Seasons

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Can we see satellites at night?

Yes, you can see satellites in particular orbits as they pass overhead at night.

Viewing is best away from city lights and in cloud-free skies. The satellite will look like a star steadily moving across the sky for a few minutes. If the lights are blinking, you probably are seeing a plane, not a satellite. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology

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