Category Archives: Meteorology

When is tornado season?

Tornadoes form in regions of the atmosphere that have abundant warm and moist air near the surface with drier air above, a change in wind speed and direction with height, and weather systems such as fronts that force air upward.

The United States provides these three ingredients in abundance, so it is not surprising that the majority of the world’s reported tornadoes occur in the U.S. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather

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How much summer is left?

The welcome respite we just enjoyed from the prolonged heat and humidity of late June and July may have inspired fond thoughts of autumn to many in southern Wisconsin.

Of course, there is still a lot of summer left, though we have just passed the climatologically warmest day of the year in Madison – July 14/15. This closely coincides with the date on which air with a temperature of 23 degrees at about 1 km above the surface shrinks to its annual minimum extent. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Meteorology, Seasons

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How fast do raindrops fall?

Gravity pulls everything downward. As an object falls, it experiences a frictional drag that counters the downward force of gravity.

When the gravity and frictional drag are balanced, we have an equilibrium fall speed that is known as the terminal velocity of the object. The terminal velocity depends on the size, shape and mass of the raindrop and the density of the air. Thus, it is worth talking a bit about the shape and size of raindrops. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology

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Does lightning add nitrogen to the soil?

Yes, lightning adds nitrogen to soil, but not directly.

The atmosphere’s composition is 78 percent nitrogen, but the nitrogen in the air is not available to our bodies. The two atoms in the airborne nitrogen molecule are held together very tightly. For our bodies to process that nitrogen, the two atoms must separated. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology

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Is warmer air ‘heavier’?

We are now in the heart of the baseball season and even the casual fans begin to tune in a bit more regularly to the summer game. One of the long-standing pieces of baseball wisdom suggests that the heat and humidity of oppressive summer heat waves render the air “heavy” and lead to a decrease in offensive power, particularly in home runs.

The veracity of this “wisdom” is testable. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena

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