Cloud

Sunlight forecasts to benefit electric utilities and … NASCAR

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 21, 2013   View Article

Race car drivers are likely to benefit from a newly-launched $4.1 million U.S. government-funded program to improve 36-hour forecasts of incoming energy from the sun.

Cloud cover impacts racetrack temperature, which in turn affects how well tires grip the pavement, researchers working on the program explained.

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.

Cloudy skies for climate science

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

As spring storms rumble across the Great Plains in the coming weeks, government scientists will have their heads in the clouds hoping to gain a better understanding of the dynamics at play so they can improve models of the global climate.

“One of the real areas of hot debate in our field these days is what happens to the strength of storms as the climate warms,” Michael Jensen, a meteorologist with the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, told me today.

Photos: Honeycomb Clouds “Communicate,” Rain in Unison

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 20, 2010   View Article

Wisps of clouds form a honeycomb-like structure (center) over the Peruvian coast.

Such open-cell marine clouds “communicate” with each other so that they constantly oscillate, or rearrange themselves, in a synchronized pattern, according to a new study from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Inside the thick clouds of the cell walls, water droplets grow, then fall as rain, and the walls dissipate. The raindrops evaporate as they fall, cooling the air, which generates downward air currents.

When the downdrafts hit the ocean surface, they flow outward and collide with each other and “force the air to move upward again” and “form new open cell walls at a different location,” explained study co-author Hailong Wang, a cloud physicist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach