Tag Archive: atmosphere

Unseasonable weather?

Power Lines

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Across the world we’ve had plenty of “unseasonable weather” over the last few weeks and records are being broken globally. But what is the likelihood of these strange weather patterns becoming regular occurrences and no longer “unseasonable”? In the UK, it’s clear that the weather has changed. It’s nearly 7 years since we last had the stereotypical British summer filled with hot sunshine, and the winter months appear to be becoming colder and more unsettled. For example, gritting drivers across the UK had to deal with twice as many “marginal” nights than a normal winter from October 2012 to April 2013. Met Office officials met recently and believe there is a change occurring over the Atlantic and this is causing this strange weather in the UK. This change has been associated with climate change and the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but is that all it’s down to? In America, tornado season is currently in full swing as …

Extreme cold in China

snow

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With temperatures having recently plummeted across most of China, meteorologist Sally Webb explains exactly what’s going on, and outlines some of the crippling consequences for those affected. Temperatures across much of Asia are below average at the moment, but especially so in China. Generally, temperatures are about 5°C below average, but over higher ground they’re dropping to roughly 15°C below what’s expected for this time of year. Bar the south-east coast, most regions have experienced maximum temperatures in the minus numbers and Bayanbulak, a site on top of the Tianshan mountains, had a maximum temperature of a devastatingly low -31.4°C. Even in more populated areas temperatures have struggled to rise over 5°C during the day, and have dropped well below freezing overnight. Off China’s east coast, the Laizhou Bay froze when sea surface temperatures descended below 1°C and local media has reported that over 1,000 ships are trapped in the ice. In addition to this, one hundred commercial flights have been cancelled in the …

Aerosol map of the world

aerosol-map-small

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Greenhouse gases are not the only thing in the atmosphere to causes changes to our climate. This computer simulation from NASA (officially known as Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5) shows aerosols spiralling through the atmosphere. While greenhouses gases tend to have a warming effect, aerosols cool the planet by reflecting more solar radiation back into space. Dominating the picture is an orange streak of sand, blown off the Saharan and Arabian deserts. Light blues in the northern and southern oceans are sea salt particles swirling around cyclones. In the north, gray smoke from fires, and white sulphates from industry emissions and volcanoes complete the picture. Over the years, a number of calls have been made to use aerosols to fight the increasing threat of global warming. It might seem sensible to release agents that causes cooling to balance the greenhouse gases that are causing warming. But as the picture above demonstrates, the atmosphere is an incredibly complex thing. Hundreds of factors determine what our climate …

Lightning is really really fast

lightning

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In case you didn’t already know it, lightning travels incredibly fast. Although this video is 33 seconds long, in reality, this event happened in only a little over 0.1seconds. What to us look like a simple flash of light, when slowed down 300x, is really an incredibly beautiful and complex phenomenon. There are a number of theories about how lightning originates, but all involve a build up of charge in the atmosphere. This, in itself, isn’t what causes lighning. What does is the difference in charge between the atmophere and the ground. To equilise this charge differential, electrons need to flow downhill. This is what we see in the first half of the video. Electrons always like to flow down the path of least resistance, and want to find the shortest distance to the ground. However, the electrons in the cloud don’t know where this is, so we see a random, branching pattern reaching out in all directions. This downstroke …

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