Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category


Two scientists from the University of Washington studied 15 years of climate data to confirm their suspicions about how the moon influences rainfall on Earth.

By Story Hinckley

When the moon is directly overhead, less rain falls, scientists from the University of Washington (UW) recently discovered.

UW doctoral student in atmospheric sciences Tsubasa Kohyama suspected there might be a correlation between atmospheric waves and oscillating air pressure. To confirm his suspicions, Kohyama and his atmospheric sciences professor John Wallace began studying years of data.

And 15 years of data from 1998 to 2012 collected by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) confirmed the scientists’ assumption: Earth’s rainfall is connected to the moon.

“When the moon is overhead or underfoot, the air pressure is higher,” Kohyama explained in a statement, allowing for more moisture. “It’s like the container becomes larger at higher pressure.”

In other words, when the moon is high overhead – or at its peak – its gravitational pull causes the Earth’s atmosphere to bulge towards it, simultaneously increasing atmospheric pressure. Higher pressure increases air temperature, and warmer air can hold more moisture, making it less likely to dump its moisture contents.

An earlier study by Kohyama and Wallace published in 2014 confirmed that air pressure on the Earth surface rose higher during certain phases of the moon, specifically when it was directly overhead or underfoot.

But the recent study published Saturday in Geophysical Research Letters is the first of its kind.

“As far as I know, this is the first study to convincingly connect the tidal force of the moon with rainfall,” Kohyama, a UM doctoral student in atmospheric sciences, said in a statement.

But the recent discovery may only be relevant to academics in the field because the average person will not notice a difference. The change in rainfall from lunar influence is roughly one percent of total rainfall variation, hardly enough to warrant attention.

“No one should carry an umbrella just because the moon is rising,” Kohyama tells Tech Times.

But atmospheric scientists can use the data to test climate models, says Wallace.

The study also proves the importance of the TRMM collaboration, because without its 15 years of data Kohyama and Wallace’s discovery would have been impossible. Launched in November 1997 and expected to last only three years, the TRMM satellite continues to produce valuable atmospheric data each year.

And while the change may be small, the authors say the moon’s position directly correlates with precipitation levels.

“The analysis of the relationship between relative humidity and [changes in precipitation rate] serves as a concrete illustration of how the quantitative documentation of the observed structure of atmospheric tides can be used to make inferences about atmospheric processes,” the authors explain in their paper.

Wallace says he plans to continue studying the relationship between rainfall and the moon. Next, he wants to see if there is specifically a lunar connection between certain categories of rain like torrential downpours.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2016/0201/Does-the-moon-influence-rainfall-Scientists-reveal-odd-link

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

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A study published Monday suggests Americans are less afraid of hurricanes with female names.

This is a real study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — not The Onion.

Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State looked at deaths caused by hurricanes between 1950 — when storms were first named — and 2012.

Even after tossing out Katrina and Audrey, particularly deadly storms that would have skewed their model, they found that hurricanes with female names caused an average of 45 deaths, compared with 23 deaths from storms with male names.

In order to back up their findings, the scientists surveyed hundreds of individuals and found that, even on paper, they were less fearful of storms they thought would hit like a girl.

“People imagining a ‘female’ hurricane were not as willing to seek shelter,” said study co-author Sharon Shavitt in a statement. “The stereotypes that underlie these judgments are subtle and not necessarily hostile toward women — they may involve viewing women as warmer and less aggressive than men.”

Hurricanes were traditionally given women’s names, but the National Hurricane Center began the practice of alternating male and female monikers in 1979.

The study suggests that changing a hurricane’s name from Charley to Eloise “could nearly triple its death toll.”

Not everyone is buying it. No two storms are alike, and there could be plenty of other factors that determine how people respond to them.

Hugh Gladwin, an anthropologist at Florida International University, told USA Today the results are “very problematic and misleading.”

But Laura Wattenberg, the creator of the popular naming site BabyNameWizard.com, notes that names do have subtle psychological effects on behavior.

“With a hurricane, you can have 40 million people affected by the same name at the same time,” Wattenberg says. “Even a tiny difference that’s spurred by the reaction to a name could end up having an effect.”

Although a great deal of care is devoted to choosing names for practically everything that has one — babies, consumer products, movies — nothing is as randomly named as a hurricane. Names are selected months and years in advance and then assigned in alphabetical order. There’s no telling which named storm will prove to be a real menace.

Wattenberg suggests choosing names that really pack a punch, “names of villains or markers of fear and evil to get people to act.

“Perhaps our public policy is that we should be naming all the hurricanes Voldemort,” she says.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/06/02/318277196/study-americans-less-fearful-of-storms-named-after-women?sc=17&f=1001&utm_source=iosnewsapp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=app

Zeus, God of the Sky, may be out of work, as scientists at the University of Central Florida believe they’ve developed a technique — which involves pointing a high powered laser at the sky — to induce clouds to drop rain and hurl thunderbolts.

Scientists have known that water condensation and lightning activity in storm clouds are associated with large amounts of static charged particles. In theory, stimulating those particles with a laser is the key to harnessing Zeus-like powers.

The hard part, scientists say, is creating a laser beam with the right combination of range, precision and strength.

“When a laser beam becomes intense enough, it behaves differently than usual — it collapses inward on itself,” explained Matthew Mills, a graduate student in the UCF Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers. “The collapse becomes so intense that electrons in the air’s oxygen and nitrogen are ripped off creating plasma — basically a soup of electrons.”

But students at UCF’s College of Optics & Photonics have collaborated with researchers at the University of Arizona to create a “dressed laser” that they think might be up for the challenge of controlling the weather.

The dressed laser is a high-power laser beam surrounded by a second beam, which acts as a refueling agent, sustaining the strength and accuracy of the central beam over longer distances.

“Since we have control over the length of a filament with our method, one could seed the conditions needed for a rainstorm from afar,” said Mills. “Ultimately, you could artificially control the rain and lightning over a large expanse with such ideas.”

The students recently published their research findings in the journal Nature Photonics. Their efforts were supported by a $7.5 million grant from the Department of Defense.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2014/04/19/Giant-lasers-could-control-the-weather/1691397928851/#ixzz2zRZl9YTP

Thanks to Da Brayn for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

irish volcano

By Matt McGrath

Environment correspondent, BBC News

Researchers have been able to trace the impact of volcanic eruptions on the climate over a 1200 year period by assessing ancient Irish texts.

The international team compared entries in these medieval annals with ice core data indicating volcanic eruptions.

Of 38 volcanic events, 37 were associated with directly observed cold weather extremes recorded in the chronicles.

The report is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

In the dim light of the Dark Ages, the Irish literary tradition stands out like a beacon.

At monastic centres across the island, scribes recorded significant events such as feast days, obituaries and descriptions of extreme cold and heat.

These chronicles are generally known as the Irish Annals and in this report, scientists and historians have looked at 40,000 entries in the texts dating from AD431 to 1649.

The researchers also looked at the Greenland Ice Sheet Project (GISP2) ice-core data.

When volcanoes erupt, they produce sulphate aerosol particles which down the centuries have been deposited on and frozen in ice sheets, leaving an extremely accurate temporal record of the event.

Scientists say these particles reflect incoming sunlight and can cause a temporary cooling of the Earth’s surface. In a country with a mild maritime climate like Ireland, these colder events would have a significant impact.

When the weather that is cold enough to allow you to walk over a lake in Ireland, it is pretty unusual,” lead author Dr Francis Ludlow, from Harvard University, told BBC News.

“When it happened, it was remarkable enough to be recorded pretty consistently.”

The scientists in the team identified 48 volcanic eruptions in the time period spanning 1,219 years. Of these, 38 were associated closely in time with extreme weather events identified in the Irish texts.

“These eruptions occur and they override existing climate patterns for a period of two or three years,” said Dr Ludlow.

“And it is clear from the sources that they cause a lot of devastation among societies at the time – whether it was the mass mortality of domestic animals or humans, or indirectly by causing harvest failure.”

The research team believe the texts are accurate as the annals also record solar and lunar eclipses which can be compared with other contemporary sources.

The keen recording of weather though had another motivation.

“A lot of these scribes are working in monasteries, in some time periods they are interpreting these weather events as divine omens or portents as signals of the coming of the last days,” said Dr Ludlow.

“That was one of their motivations so we are able to use the records that were created for a completely different purpose that the scribes would never have conceived.”

The researchers say that one expected effect of volcanic eruptions that occur in tropical regions is to make for milder winters in northern latitudes.

But in this study, they found several instances of these type of eruptions causing extremely cold winters in Ireland. The team believes their work shows the complex nature of volcanic impacts on climate, and they say there are lessons for the future in the ancient texts.

“That tells us a lot about what sort of weather we might expect in the British Isles when the next big eruption goes off,” said Dr Ludlow.

“We might want to buy a bit more salt for the roads.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22786179

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

sn-atmosphere

Each year, hundreds of millions of metric tons of dust, water, and humanmade pollutants make their way into the atmosphere, often traveling between continents on jet streams. Now a new study confirms that some microbes make the trip with them, seeding the skies with billions of bacteria and other organisms—and potentially affecting the weather. What’s more, some of these high-flying organisms may actually be able to feed while traveling through the clouds, forming an active ecosystem high above the surface of the Earth.

The discovery came about when a team of scientists based at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta hitched a ride on nine NASA airplane flights aimed at studying hurricanes. Previous studies carried out at the tops of mountains hinted that researchers were likely to find microorganisms at high altitudes, but no one had ever attempted to catalog the microscopic life floating above the oceans—let alone during raging tropical storms. After all, it isn’t easy to take air samples while your plane is flying through a hurricane.

Despite the technical challenges, the researchers managed to collect thousands upon thousands of airborne microorganisms floating in the troposphere about 10 kilometers over the Caribbean, as well as the continental United States and the coast of California. Studying their genes back on Earth, the scientists counted an average of 5100 bacterial cells per cubic meter of air, they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Although the researchers also captured various types of fungal cells, the bacteria were over two orders of magnitude more abundant in their samples. Well over 60% of all the microbes collected were still alive.

The researchers cataloged a total of 314 different families of bacteria in their samples. Because the type of genetic analysis they used didn’t allow them to identify precise species, it’s not clear if any of the bugs they found are pathogens. Still, the scientists offer the somewhat reassuring news that bacteria associated with human and animal feces only showed up in the air samples taken after Hurricanes Karl and Earl. In fact, these storms seemed to kick up a wide variety of microbes, especially from populated areas, that don’t normally make it to the troposphere.

This uptick in aerial microbial diversity after hurricanes supports the idea that the storms “serve as an atmospheric escalator,” plucking dirt, dust, seawater, and, now, microbes off Earth’s surface and carrying them high into the sky, says Dale Griffin, an environmental and public health microbiologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Petersburg, Florida, who was not involved in the study.

Although many of the organisms borne aloft are likely occasional visitors to the upper troposphere, 17 types of bacteria turned up in every sample. Researchers like environmental microbiologist and co-author Kostas Konstantinidis suspect that these microbes may have evolved to survive for weeks in the sky, perhaps as a way to travel from place to place and spread their genes across the globe. “Not everybody makes it up there,” he says. “It’s only a few that have something unique about their cells” that allows them survive the trip.

The scientists point out that two of the 17 most common families of bacteria in the upper troposphere feed on oxalic acid, one of the most abundant chemical compounds in the sky. This observation raises the question of whether the traveling bacteria might be eating, growing, and perhaps even reproducing 10 kilometers above the surface of Earth. “That’s a big question in the field right now,” Griffin says. “Can you view [the atmosphere] as an ecosystem?”

David Smith, a microbiologist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, warns against jumping to such dramatic conclusions. He also observed a wide variety of microbes in the air above Oregon’s Mount Bachelor in a separate study, but he believes they must hibernate for the duration of their long, cold trips between far-flung terrestrial ecosystems. “While it’s really exciting to think about microorganisms in the atmosphere that are potentially making a living, there’s no evidence of that so far.”

Even if microbes spend their atmospheric travels in dormancy, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a job to do up there. Many microbial cells are the perfect size and texture to cause water vapor to condense or even form ice around them, meaning that they may be able to seed clouds. If these microorganisms are causing clouds to form, they could be having a substantial impact on the weather. By continuing to study the sky’s microbiome, Konstantinidis and his team hope to soon be able to incorporate its effects into atmospheric models.

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/01/microbes-survive-and-maybe-thriv.html

Residents of New Haven, Conn., got an eerie Halloween surprise when a famed tree uprooted during Hurricane Sandy, unearthing the bones of a woman who died nearly 200 years ago – and maybe from others who died during the same period.

Around 6 p.m. on Monday the famous tree at New Haven’s Upper Green, named the “Lincoln Oak” after President Abraham Lincoln, was uprooted as Sandy swept through. New Haven resident Katie Carbo was passing by when she saw the back of a skull in the 60- to 70-foot-tall tree’s roots, police said.

Carbo quickly contacted the New Haven police, and soon after detectives were on the scene as a crowd of onlookers formed. Officer David Hartman with the New Haven Police Department told ABCNews.com that the timing of the discovery was particularly striking.

“I found myself standing there, among onlookers saying, ‘Wow this is really cool, the day before Halloween,’” he said.

Detectives from the NHPD’s Bureau of Identification and the state Medical Examiner’s office came to collect the bones, which Hartman said included a spine and rib cage.

New Haven police also contacted staff from Yale University’s anthropology department, Hartman said, and the New Haven Independent shot some images.

The NHPD said that it had not launched a criminal investigation into the discovery, and that the remains were being taken to the medical examiner’s office.

“What we haven’t yet determined is what will happen with the remains,” Hartman said. “This archaeological event that is going on will last for probably about a week, they’re estimating.”

New Haven police said that the bones belonged to a probable victim of yellow fever or smallpox, who likely was buried between 1799 and 1821, when the headstones were removed to New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery, but the bodies were never relocated.

Later, the New Haven Independent, citing an initial investigation by an anthropologist and a state investigator, reported bones at the scene actually may be from two or more centuries-old skeletons – not just one.

The Lincoln Oak was planted at the town green by Admiral Andrew Hall Foote’s Grand Army of the Republic post, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday in 1909, according to the New Haven police.

Robert S. Greenberg, a local historian, said that the town green is the burial ground for as many as 5,000 to 10,000 bodies.

Hartman said that he learned today that this is actually not the first time this has happened on the historic Upper Green. According to a local historian, the same situation occurred in 1931, when an uprooted tree brought up skeletal remains, he said.

New Haven is not the only place where the dead were unearthed in Sandy’s wake. The Associated Press reported that at a cemetery in Crisfield, Md., two caskets were forced out of their graves, making their sides visible from the grass, after the cement slabs covering the graves became dislodged.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/10/superstorm-sandy-unearths-bones-caskets/

Thanks to Mr. C for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.