Category Archives: Severe Weather

What is a fire cloud?

With the raging fires in Australia, you may have heard news reports of pyrocumulus, or fire clouds.

In Latin, pyro means “fire” and cumulus means “pile up.” Cumulus is a type of cloud that is common in Wisconsin, particularly in summer. Cumulus clouds are those puffy white clouds with tops that have a cauliflower appearance. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Phenomena, Severe Weather, Weather Dangers

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What is the most snow Madison has received in one day?

What a storm!

Tuesday is the 29th anniversary of the greatest 24-hour snowfall ever in Madison.

Like most storms, this one had humble origins, but, by a conspiracy of meteorological circumstances, quickly grew into a historic monster. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather

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What is the hurricane cone of uncertainty?

Starting in the 1950s and up until the 1980s, meteorologists forecast the path of hurricanes using statistical prediction based on past data and current climatological data.

Today, weather computer models are primarily used for the forecasting. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather, Tropical

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Can we modify hurricanes?

There have been several suggestions on how humans might modify the intensity or path of a hurricane.

One method suggested was to change the “energy budget” of the environment around the storm. It was suggested that this could be done by dispersing, from aircraft, carbon soot. That soot would absorb solar energy and warm the atmosphere, which would enhance the evaporation of ocean water and promote the formation of thunderstorms. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather, Tropical

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Why are there so few hurricanes every year?

We are about five weeks away from the climatological peak of the hurricane season, which stretches from early June to November.

During that period, even in a particularly active year, not many hurricanes actually develop. Forming over tropical oceans ensures that warm sea-surface temperature (SST) provides a mature hurricane with a means to warm and moisten the air that flows toward the important eye-wall convection. Thus, it is not surprising that hurricanes struggle to develop if the SST is not 79.7 degrees or warmer. Continue reading

Category: Severe Weather, Tropical

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