Atmosphere

Weather pattern could provide early warning for catastrophic U.S. heat waves

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 27, 2013   View Article

The emergence of a newly identified atmospheric pattern is likely to provide two to three weeks advance warning that a stifling and potentially deadly heat wave will hit the U.S., according to a new study. Since current forecasts go out no more than 10 days, the additional notice could give homeowners, farmers, electric companies and hospitals critical time to prepare for severe heat.

The precursor is a so-called “wavenumber 5” pattern, a sequence of alternating high and low pressure systems — five each — that ring the northern mid-latitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface, according the research published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Smarter weather forecasts? There’s an app for that

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 7, 2013   View Article

Millions of people carry around smartphones equipped with pressure sensors that help pinpoint their gadget’s location. Atmospheric scientists have built an app to collect the pressure data in an effort to improve short-term weather forecasts.

“The big horizon in weather forecasting is high resolution; getting small-scale features like thunderstorms right,” Cliff Mass, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, explained to NBC News. “And what cripples us is we don’t have enough data to describe what is happening.”

‘Bingo!’ Wasted energy from cities explains a global warming mystery

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 27, 2013   View Article

Heat that escapes into the atmosphere from the energy used to warm homes, drive cars and run factories is altering the jet stream and causing wintertime temperatures to rise in remote, sparsely populated stretches of the Northern Hemisphere, according to a new study.

The finding helps explain a mismatch of up to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) between the observed temperature in some regions and what is produced by models that simulate the global climate. Scientists had attributed the mismatch to natural variability or errors in the models.

Hacking the climate could lead to whiter, brighter skies

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 31, 2012   View Article

Pumping a steady stream of sunlight-blocking particles into the stratosphere to fight global climate change would leave us with inescapable hazy and white skies such as those found over big cities, according to new research.

“The skies would be whiter/hazier everywhere, including on weekend getaways to the mountains,” study lead author Ben Kravitz of the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University told me in an email today.

Cutting trees to cool the planet?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 19, 2011   View Article

In a twist, a new study suggests that regularly logging forests can quadruple the amount of carbon dioxide soaked up from the atmosphere.

The trick is to use the harvested wood in place of steel and concrete during the construction of new homes and buildings and replant the forest with fast-growing, carbon-soaking trees.

How lightning shoots for the stars

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 20, 2011   View Article

On rare occasions, jets of lightning escape from the tops of thunderclouds and shoot up into the atmosphere where they pose a threat to weather balloons and other scientific instruments. New research explains how it happens.

“In some instances there is enough energy and electric charge available for that lightning to just keep propagating up and up and up and it keeps going to about 50 miles high,” Steven Cummer, a lightning expert at Duke University, told me today.

The jets come to a halt at 50 miles high because they run into the ionosphere, the electrically conducting part of the atmosphere, which “sort of shorts it out and prevents it from getting any farther,” he added.

Mystery Volcano Solves Global Cooling Puzzle

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 9, 2009   View Article

A newly detected 19th-century volcanic eruption may solve the mystery of a strangely cool decade in the early 1800s, researchers say—but the location of the volcano itself remains a puzzle.

Scientists have long blamed the 1815 eruption of an Indonesian volcano, Tambora, for a worldwide cold snap the following year—the so-called year without a summer.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach