Weather: The United States

Entire shelves of books have been written about United States weather. In part, that’s because the country is both sprawling and populous. The nation’s agricultural roots and high mobility also play into its obsession with the atmosphere. But the weather itself deserves some credit. Europeans who settled America from east to west were progressively amazed […]

The great American thermometer race

Roadside kitsch is a US tradition and the country’s oversized weather extremes are a natural source of material. At least two tornado «museums» sprang up during the 1990s, for instance. On your way to Death Valley, California — the hottest spot in the Americas — it’s difficult to miss the world’s largest thermometer display. Erected […]

Weather: Mexico

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a blizzard or a tornado in Mexico. Unlike its neighbours to the north, Mexico gets few of the wild temperature swings that play out across the mid-latitudes. Hurricanes are not to be taken lightly in Mexico, however: they can cause major destruction along the east-facing coastlines of the Gulf of […]

Weather: Canada

The worlds second-largest country, Canada has the worlds most extensive coastline, fronting the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. This provides plenty of raw material for a varied climate, much like that of the United States, but colder and drier on average. Storm systems often spin up along the nations southern tier (especially in Alberta) before […]

Weather: North America

North Americas mercurial climate has something for everyone. Severe hurricanes, killer tornadoes, crippling snowstorms, torrential downpours, withering drought and a fair share of nice weather, too — all pay frequent visits to this prosperous, yet vulnerable, land that stretches from the Canadian Arctic to tropical Mexico. Hollywood has bombarded the world with films of extraordinary […]

Computer models

Your weathercaster might have more charisma, but computer models are the building blocks of almost every weather forecast you’ll ever get on TV or anywhere else. Modern meteorology would be impossible without them. A computer model that predicts the weather is nothing more or less than a miniature replica of the atmosphere. Models are each […]

Forecasting by the numbers

While employed as an ambulance-driver for the French army during World War I, Lewis Fry Richardson worked on a scheme that’s still in use today for predicting weather by computer. Richardson devised seven equations that could be used to extend the current weather into the future. He put his ideas to the test with a […]

Weather chaos

The early 1960s saw a boom in scientific studies, including meteorology, but in the background one particular sceptic was raising eyebrows. Edward Lorenz, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered what still seems to be an outer limit to useful weather forecasts.The problem Lorenz found later became famous as ‘chaos*. When […]

Let’s discuss this storm

For a glimpse into the minds of working meteorologists, the forecast discussions posted by the US National Weather Service each day are unbeatable. NWS forecasters use these to explain the reasoning behind their outlooks, acknowledging what is fairly certain and what might go wrong. Laden with jargon and sometimes sprinkled with weather-nerd humour, these discussions […]

Of hedgehogs and holidays

There’s nothing like a gloomy winter to generate the longing for a good weather omen. In certain cultures, February 2 has traditionally filled that role for centuries. It’s known in Christendom as Candlemas Day (formerly the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin). Sunshine on Candlemas Day has always signalled an ominous turn of events: […]