WEATHER REPORT

10 Thunderous Facts About Storms and Weather Patterns


Published on April 28, 2024


Credit: Nikolas Noonan

While talking about the weather might have bad press, no one can resist the awe-inspiring allure of a powerful storm or a display of lightning against a pitch-black sky. And even if this raw demonstration of the power of nature frightens you - or you just find it boring, the myriad of subtle intricacies of atmospheric phenomena are bound to catch your eye.

Here are 10 curious facts about storms and weather phenomena to quench your sense of wonder, and - hopefully - leave you a bit more appreciative of nature's grandeur.

1

Lightning Strikes

Credit: Johannes Plenio

Each year, Earth experiences about 1.4 billion lightning strikes. These bolts of electricity can reach temperatures of up to 30,000 Kelvin (53,540 degrees Fahrenheit), hotter than the surface of the sun. This violent phenomenon occurs when electrical imbalances build up within clouds or between clouds and the ground. The thunder that follows a lightning bolt is caused by the rapid expansion of air around it, and it can travel from 15 to 30 miles from the point where the strike occurred. In fact, if you count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and its sound, and divide it by 5, you can approximate the distance in miles to the source of the lightning. Just make sure you are in a safe place while counting!

2

Tornado Alley

Credit: NOAA

Tornado Alley, a loosely defined region in the central United States, sees more tornadoes than any other place on Earth. This area, stretching from Texas to South Dakota, experiences frequent tornado activity due to the collision of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cold, dry air from Canada. The combination of these air masses, along with the presence of the Rocky Mountains to the west, creates an environment ripe for the formation of these formidable wind vortexes. If you happen to live in an area prone to tornadoes, just don’t try to emulate Dorothy, or you might end up much farther away than the Land of Oz.

3

Hurricane Names

Credit: NASA

Did you know that hurricanes are given names to help with communication and awareness? The use of names for hurricanes dates back to the 1950s and helps to avoid confusion when multiple storms are active simultaneously, as names are much easier to remember than numbers or technical terms. The World Meteorological Organization generates lists of names that are rotated every six years, except for particularly destructive storms, whose names are retired forever.

4

Haboobs

Credit: Matthieu Joannon

Haboobs are massive dust storms that occur in arid regions, such as the Sahara Desert and the southwestern United States. These towering walls of dust can reach heights of 4,921 feet and travel at speeds of up to 60 mph, engulfing everything in their path. Haboobs typically form when cold downdrafts from thunderstorms hit the ground and kick up loose, dry soil and sand. These intense dust storms can reduce visibility to near-zero levels, posing serious dangers to motorists and even disrupting air travel.

5

The Fujita Scale

Credit: John Middelkoop

The Fujita Scale, developed by Dr. Ted Fujita in 1971, measures the intensity of tornadoes based on the damage they cause to human-built structures and vegetation. The scale ranges from F0 (light damage) to F5 (incredible damage), with wind speeds exceeding 300 mph for the most severe tornadoes. In recent years, the original scale has been replaced by the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF-Scale), which incorporates modern engineering and construction standards to assess tornado damage more accurately.

6

Weather Folklore

Credit: Noah Silliman

Throughout history, people have relied on old sayings and common knowledge to predict the weather. From "red sky at night, sailor's delight" to "ring around the moon means rain real soon," these sayings often contain kernels of truth based on observable atmospheric patterns. Even when most are - more likely than not - not scientifically accurate, they prove that humanity has always been intrinsically connected to weather patterns.

7

Atmospheric Rivers

Credit: Ryan Arnst

Atmospheric rivers are narrow corridors of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere that can transport vast amounts of water vapor across long distances. This phenomenon plays a crucial role in global weather patterns and can lead to heavy rainfall and flooding whenever they make landfall. Scientists believe that changes in global temperatures and atmospheric humidity will increase the intensity and frequency of weather phenomena caused by atmospheric rivers in the next few years.

8

The Coriolis Effect

Credit: JOSHUA COLEMAN

The Coriolis Effect is a phenomenon caused by Earth's rotation, which deflects moving objects, including air and water, to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. This effect influences the direction of winds and ocean currents, shaping global weather patterns. For this reason, large currents of air and powerful weather events like cyclones display either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction of motion depending on their position in the globe.

9

El Niño and La Niña

Credit: Chris Gallagher

El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which refers to fluctuations in sea surface temperatures and atmospheric pressure in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. These large weather patterns can directly influence the climate around the globe, affecting precipitation, temperatures, and storm activity. While El Niño events are marked by an anomalous warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, in contrast, La Niña events are characterized by cooler-than-average temperatures.

10

Hailstorms

Credit: Wolfgang Hasselmann

Hailstorms occur when strong updrafts in thunderstorms carry raindrops into colder regions of the atmosphere, where they freeze and accumulate layers of ice before falling to the ground. The size of hailstones can vary widely, ranging from pea-sized pellets to golf ball-sized or larger projectiles capable of causing significant damage to property, crops, and vehicles. The largest hailstone ever recorded fell on the town of Vivian, South Dakota, during an extraordinary hailstorm, and it was larger than a bowling ball, measuring 7.87 inches in diameter and weighing almost 2 pounds!


WICKED HEARTS

10 Iconic Fictional Villains We Love To Hate


Published on April 28, 2024


Credit: Cederic Vandenberghe

Every good story needs a villain. From classic literature to modern blockbusters, these nefarious characters play an important role in storytelling and are sometimes as important as the main characters. Often, villains can even be the protagonists of a story, and they captivate audiences with their complexity, charisma, and cunning schemes.

Let’s delve together into the twisted minds of 10 fictional villains that have become a memorable part of pop culture.

1

Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Credit: Tommy van Kessel

Probably the most iconic villain of the twentieth century, Darth Vader is the epitome of cinematic evil, clad in an ominous black armor and spitting orders in a distorted voice. A secondary antagonist in the original Star Wars trilogy, his tragic backstory was further explained with the release of the prequel trilogy. From Jedi Knight to Sith Lord, his gripping tale of power and redemption made him a fan favorite despite being a villain.

2

The Joker (DC Comics)

Credit: Patrick Collins

A character reinvented many times in the history of DC Comics, the Joker embodies pure chaos and unpredictability. With his maniacal laughter and sadistic sense of humor, he serves as the perfect nemesis to Batman, a hero who embodies moral correctness and order. Though his origin story keeps changing with each iteration, the Joker is the perfect villain - hard to understand, but easy to hate.

3

Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)

Credit: Emiliano Bar

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is the quintessential embodiment of the cultured psychopath, someone with as much taste as lack of empathy. His chilling intellect and incredible memory, however, should not be taken as compensatory for a physical weakness. Lecter is capable of terrifying feats of strength, as he demonstrates on many occasions in both the films and the original novels. A villain beloved for his wits, he also seems to have a certain code of honor, as he spares those who respect him.

4

Voldemort (Harry Potter series)

Credit: B K

Lord Voldemort, also known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, strikes fear into the hearts of wizards and Muggles alike in J.K. Rowling's most popular novels. His lust for power and obsession with immortality drive him to commit unspeakable acts of cruelty, eventually setting himself up for his own downfall at the hands of the Boy Who Lived. The cinematic portrayal of the feared villain solidified the character's reputation, elevating Voldemort to the realm of pop culture icons.

5

Sauron (The Lord of the Rings)

Credit: Ergo Zakki

As the Dark Lord of Mordor, Sauron seeks dominion over Middle-earth through the One Ring. His malevolent influence corrupts all who come into contact with it, including the once-noble Saruman. Sauron's relentless pursuit of power and destruction serves as the ultimate test of courage and fellowship for the heroes of Tolkien's epic saga.

6

Count Dracula (Dracula)

Credit: Igam Ogam

Bram Stoker's iconic vampire is the archetype of the seductive yet monstrous villain. Inspired by the 15th-century Wallachian prince Vlad the Impaler, Count Dracula's aristocratic charm and supernatural abilities make him a timeless symbol of fear and desire. Just as immortal as in the realm of fiction, the countless adaptations of the character attest to Dracula's enduring charm.

7

Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmatians)

Credit: Lorren & Loki

With her extravagant fur coats and icy demeanor, Cruella de Vil is Disney's most glamorous villain. Her obsession with fur drives her to villainous lengths as she plots to make a coat out of a family of adorable Dalmatian puppies. Even her name is a pun on the words cruel and devil , but despite her caricaturesque villainy, Cruella's flamboyant personality has made her a beloved antagonist for generations of Disney fans.

8

Magneto (Marvel Comics)

Credit: Dan Cristian Pădureț

As the main antagonist in Marvel’s popular X-Men comics, Magneto is a mutant with the power to control and create magnetic fields. He views all non-mutants with contempt and seeks to establish mutant supremacy. However, he is more than just a villain; he has a tragic backstory as a Holocaust survivor and a twisted sense of morality, adding depth and complexity to his character.

9

The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz)

Credit: Oxana Melis

Feared by generations of children captivated by the fantastical world of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West embodies the darkest depths of fantasy evil. With her green skin and cackling laughter, the Wicked Witch of the West is the iconic antagonist of L. Frank Baum's fantasy classic. Despite her wickedness, the Witch's vulnerability to water adds a touch of humor and tragic irony to her villainy.

10

Terminator (The Terminator)

Credit: Daniel Juřena, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Terminator, also known as the T-800, is a relentless and iconic villain from the science fiction franchise of the same name created by James Cameron. This robotic antagonist is programmed with only one mission: terminating its target, which, in the movies, is either Sarah Connor or her son. The memorable performance of the character by Arnold Schwarzenegger makes the Terminator both terrifying and believable as an unstoppable force willing to go to any lengths to achieve its objectives.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day

quibble

/ˈkwɪb(ə)l/