With tornadoes in the news lately I figured it'd be a good time to post answers to some frequently asked questions about the powerful storms:
What does "EF-4" mean?
WIth the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, you'll be hearing a lot of about "EF" ratings -- that's from the Enhanced Fujita Scale that rates tornadoes on a scale of 0 to 5, 5 being the strongest.
The Moore tornado was given a preliminary rating of EF-4 ("Devastating") with estimated tornadic wind speeds of up to 200 mph, although many are thinking that rating could be increased to an EF-5 ("Incredible") once more damage assessment is done.
It had, as its opening salvo while starting to face the Earth, unleashed a moderately strong solar flare that reached us late Friday, triggering a display of the Northern Lights that reached as far south as Colorado.
The sun has been getting quite active lately, with one sun spot in particular giving off several explosive flares this week, and it could eventually bring some brilliant displays of the Northern Lights to the Pacific Northwest.
May is probably better known around here as getting ready for the upcoming Rose Festival but did you also know it's when we kick off the fire rainbow season?
Fire rainbows, or more officially (and more boringly) known as "circumhorizonal arcs" are caused by ice crystals in the thin, distant clouds being at just the correct angle to refract the sunlight into the colors of the prism.
Ron Glowen, now of Arlington, Wash., just sent me these photos that were taken in June of 2006 while visiting his hometown of Spokane.
Those of you who frequently read the blog might have noted it was on autopilot the past two weeks as I've been out of town, but now that I'm back, I've found there were a lot of fun and cool topics that happened since I was off on the other coast.
First up: Did you know a baseball game at Denver's Coors Field set a record on April 23 for the coldest game time temperature on record? Just 23 degrees. It broke the record set... the week before in Denver at 28. Chicago had held the record at 29 before that pair of chilly games.
Blog originally posted Nov. 16, 2010 You thought you'd stay informed on the crazy weather this fall by friending or following a meteorologist on Twitter.
And then come to find you're seeing re-Tweets or Facebook comments from other weather fans that look like some sort of clandestine secret agent communications with funny looking acronyms and random numbers that don't seem to make sense. It's like trying to learn chemistry from an instructor that only speaks Pig Latin.
I had someone ask me the other day: What in the world are "MOS POPS"?
A frosty organic treat to enjoy on a hot summer day? A new symphony set to debut in the rain forest? No, it's much more boring than that... It's a weather acronym.
The person found it by reading the National Weather Service Forecast Discussion which they update every 6 hours or so. That discussion was originally intended to be between other National Weather Service forecast offices so each one knew what the other was doing. But with the rise of the internet, it has blossomed into a more public discussion since anyone can easily read it now.
(And since it's more in the public eye, the restrictions for those writing it have changed as well. Not too long ago, all words in the discussion were restricted to 3-4 letters max to keep transmissions short. Now, Weather Service forecasters are free to write it conversationally. )
But the discussion is still thick with meteorological jargon that may have you scratching your head, and one of those you'll find frequently mentioned is about "MOS POPS."
To use it in a sentence from the discussion Wednesday morning:
What do you do if you're a group of science-minded middle and high school students who want to study the effects of a solar flare?
If you're part of Dr. Tony Phillips' Earth to Sky Calculus class in Bishop, California, you strap a rubber chicken to a weather balloon and send it 115,000 feet up to the Earth's stratosphere -- right on the front door to outer space.
And when the Fimmvorduhals volcano began erupting in Iceland -- one of the world's best places to see the Northern Lights -- he knew he had to make a very challenging but ultimately rewarding trek to capture both events simultaneously.
Even though technically, for Seattle at least, temperatures have been near to even a little above average since the start of February, if you ask around, many would say this spring is well on its way to being the third in a row and fourth of the past six that have gone down as cold and rainy with the frequent cloudy, drizzly days.
Well, long range models suggest this spring is about to make an about-face and warm things up a bit.
The first inkling will be much warmer weather expected for the middle of next week, with highs expected to climb well into the 60s if not some 70s amid plenty of sunshine.
Thousands flock to the Skagit Valley each April during their annual tulip festival to see the breathtaking rows and rows of colorful tulips and other flowers.
As you might imagine, playing host to the world means keeping a keen eye on the weather for all the incoming guests, while at the same time crossing fingers that Mother Nature provides the need sun and rain to make the tulips their very best.
I always wondered if the weather in March and April affected how the tulips would grow each year -- if it's sunny and warm for too long or if it rains for four weeks straight, can it damage the bulbs or, worse yet, wipe out the show? Can you gauge how well and how long the tulips will remain in bloom based on the weather leading up to and during the festival?