Meteorology

Weather seems to be a conversation starter. We all experience weather every day but often don’t think too hard about it. Why is the sky blue? Why don’t we see a rainbow every time it rains? What makes lightning and thunder?


Five ways lightning can strike a person

The impressive lightning and thunderstorm at the end of June hammered Boundary County with dozens of lightning strikes. The next morning I found a ponderosa pine near my house with a spiraling crack around the trunk and pieces of bark scattered around on the ground. When the storm was overhead…

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Sun halos and sun dogs possible year-round

On a hike over Memorial Day weekend I happened to look skyward and see a colorful ring around the sun. The ring didn’t last long enough for me to reach the ridgeline above the trees. The rainbow-colored circle turned out to be a sun halo, more specifically a 22 degree…

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Why is the sky blue?

When a child colors a picture of the sky, the sky is blue and the sun is yellow. Why isn’t the sky green and the sun purple? The color of the sky is determined by what is in the atmosphere. Without an atmosphere the sky would be black, like what…

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Thermometers help us define hot and cold

What does cold mean to you: 32 degrees, 0 degrees or minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit? Mid-winter temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit are balmy for someone living in Fairbanks, Alaska but frigid for someone in Phoenix, Arizona. Everyone’s idea of cold or hot is relative until it is correlated to a…

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Speed of lightning incomprehensible

Flash, boom, rumble. The night sky lights up for an instant before the booming thunder overpowers all other noises. Again and again, the lightning and thunder flash and boom until the thunderstorm passes over. While thunderstorms can occur year round, they are most common in spring and summer in the…

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No two rainbows exactly alike

Raining one minute and sunny the next, the ever changing weather of spring creates prime rainbow viewing opportunities. Just as no two snowflakes are alike, no two rainbows are alike. Rainbows can be bright, dim, a half-circle, a small sliver or be flanked by a secondary rainbow. The brightest rainbows…

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