Category Archives: Phenomena

Can large cities generate their own weather?

The “urban heat island effect” refers to the increased temperatures of urban areas compared with their rural surroundings. The urban heat island is a well-documented example of inadvertent modification of climate by human activities. It is a classic example of … Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena

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Is that photo of circular lightning?

When we see a flash of lightning, it looks as though it forms all at once.

However, a lightning bolt is actually produced in many steps. The bolt occurs so quickly that it looks like a single brilliant flash, but high-speed photography can reveal several distinct bolts. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena, Severe Weather

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Why was the sky hazy on Thursday and Friday?

There have been large forest fires in northern Alberta, Canada, and the smoke has drifted over the Midwest, including Wisconsin.

Smoke can cause the sky to appear hazy, even if the smoke is high above the ground. The smoke scatters sunlight to make the sunlight diffuse and grayish. When the smoke is thick, it can cause brilliant red sunsets and sunrises, as it did on Thursday. When light beams interact with particles suspended in air, the light can be scattered or absorbed. Continue reading

Category: Phenomena, Weather Dangers

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What were those flying saucer-shaped clouds?

Thunderstorms rolled through Madison between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Thursday May 16th. Stunning “flying-saucer” clouds accompanied the dark skies of the leading edge of the storm. These dark, protruding clouds are “shelf clouds.” The clouds look like a shelf and … Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena, Uncategorized

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What is the Coriolis force?

Newton’s laws of motion mathematically describe how objects move when forces are exerted on them.

Earth is spinning like a top, even though to us who are standing on Earth, it seems that we are not moving. Newton did not account for Earth’s spin in his equations. The Coriolis force appears as an extra term when Newton’s laws are transformed to account for Earth’s spin. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena

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