Category Archives: Severe Weather

Has there been a sudden stratospheric warming this year?

The stratosphere, which begins approximately 6 miles above the cold poles and 10 miles above the tropics, is where the temperature increases with altitude. Temperatures increase because ozone molecules in the stratospheric ozone layer absorb solar ultraviolet energy within the stratosphere. Air flow in the stratosphere is much less turbulent than in the troposphere. For this reason, jet aircraft pilots like to cruise at stratospheric altitudes so the flight is less bumpy. In polar regions, the top of the stratosphere extends upward to around 30 miles.

The polar vortex is a band of strong winds high in the atmosphere that spins counterclockwise around the North Pole. At the southern edge of the vortex is the polar jet stream, which separates warm air to its south from increasingly colder air to its north. Continue reading

Category: Phenomena, Severe Weather

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Are drones used in meteorology?

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have been used to make weather observations for half a century. Over the past decade there has been a wider application of drones in meteorology due in part to technological developments.

Drones can provide critical research observations of weather systems. For about a decade, NOAA has partnered with NASA to fly the Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned aircraft to observe and study how hurricanes form and intensify. High-resolution photographs from low-flying drones are used to understand and document wind and flood damage associated with severe weather. They also help to better assess storm intensity based on the damage. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather

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What is the National Climate Assessment?

The U.S. National Climate Assessment is mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The assessment is conducted about every four years and is an authoritative scientific analysis of climate change risks, impacts and responses in the U.S.

The nation this month completed the Fifth National Climate Assessment, or NCA5. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the administrative agency for NCA5 and certifies that the report meets Information Quality Act and Evidence Act standards. The assessment is an extensive process that includes internal and external review from federal agencies, the general public and external peer review by a panel of experts. Continue reading

Category: Climate, History, Seasons, Severe Weather

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What is a gale wind?

A gale is a strong, sustained wind impacting maritime weather.

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Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather

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Do hurricanes affect Wisconsin?

A tropical cyclone is a rotating low-pressure system that has organized thunderstorms but no fronts. When a tropical cyclone’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it is called a hurricane. Hurricanes have never directly impacted the Upper Midwest region of the U.S.; however, the remnants of a hurricane or tropical storm have impacted the weather in the Midwest, including Wisconsin.

If a hurricane is particularly strong at landfall, it can move far enough northward to cause a significant rain event for areas in the Midwest. For the most part, such storms originally make landfall in Texas, Louisiana or Mississippi. These storms can be tracked by satellites or surface weather observations because they maintain an identifiable circulation pattern along their entire path. Continue reading

Category: History, Meteorology, Severe Weather, Tropical

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