What Causes Atlantic Hurricanes to Curve Away From the U.S.?

Dennis Mersereau · 09/18/14 01:32PM

For the past week and change, we've watched Hurricane Edouard swirl its way through the central Atlantic. Its track is thousands of miles long at this point, yet it's affected nobody but some ships and some planes and some fish. What causes hurricanes to make such grand curves out in the ocean?

Explaining This Week's Geeky Buzzword: "Precipitable Water"

Dennis Mersereau · 09/08/14 11:27AM

Going from drought to deluge, the southwestern United States is being inundated by flooding rainfall yet again today. One of the terms meteorologists are batting around to describe this record-setting pool of atmospheric moisture has people confused, but it's actually pretty easy to understand.

Here's How to Make a Map for Those of Us Who Can't Draw a Line

Dennis Mersereau · 08/22/14 02:28PM

I suck at drawing, and odds are you do, too. One of the great things about computers is that they do the work for us. We have spell check to save us from those embarrassing tyops and calculators for hassle-free math. For those of us who love maps but can't draw, there are programs that create great maps with little skill needed.

Trust No Bank (Thermometer)

Dennis Mersereau · 08/13/14 01:36PM

You're driving down the road on a warm summer afternoon. You pass your local bank and the display says it's 97°F. "Good grief," you think, "I didn't realize it was that hot." Well, it's probably not that hot. The thermometers they use at businesses with electronic displays are useless junk.

What Is the Difference Between a Cyclone, Typhoon, and Hurricane?

Dennis Mersereau · 08/07/14 03:43PM

One of the biggest sticking points when it comes to weather forecasts is the public's confusion over the terms "hurricane," "typhoon," and "cyclone." Since they're three different names, people think they're three different kinds of storm. Here's a quick explainer on what's in a name.

This Week's Buzzword: "Annular Hurricane"

Dennis Mersereau · 08/05/14 07:33PM

If you played a drinking game while watching The Weather Channel yesterday and your keyword was "annular hurricane," I hope your insurance covers alcohol poisoning. Here's an explanation of this week's weather buzzword that few people have ever heard before.

Respect the Cone: Hurricane Forecasts Explained

Dennis Mersereau · 08/01/14 02:57PM

Around this time every year, hurricane forecast maps pop up all over television and the internet — including on your favorite weather blog — but your friendly neighborhood weatherman rarely has enough time to explain the forecasts to you. Here's what those hurricane forecast maps mean.

This One Little Programming Tweak Will Save Thousands of Lives

Dennis Mersereau · 06/18/14 02:23PM

One of the best technological advances in the past year didn't involve any new technology at all — the advance is the result of an ingenious programming tweak developed by the National Weather Service. It will ultimately save thousands of lives over the coming years.

How Did The Rare Twin Tornadoes in Nebraska Form?

Dennis Mersereau · 06/17/14 03:30PM

Almost everyone now knows that an extremely rare pair of tornadoes formed in Nebraska yesterday, destroying one small town and heavily damaging another. The side-by-side tornadoes are so rare that there are hardly any records of them happening before. How did these rare twin twisters form?

Rare Heat Burst Causes Temps to Soar to 95° at Night in Kansas Town

Dennis Mersereau · 06/04/14 07:40AM

A rare event known as a "heat burst" caused temperatures in Russell, Kansas last night to soar from 85° to 93° in less than an hour. To the east, Salina hit 95° at 1:00 AM. These phenomena usually occur in unpopulated areas, so not many people have heard of them. So, what is a heat burst, anyway?

How Do You Spot a Tornado Using Weather Radar?

Dennis Mersereau · 05/05/14 10:30AM

During the recent severe storms, weather geeks were posting radar images all over social media. Since not everyone is a weather geek, one of the most common questions people asked was "what am I looking at?" Fear not — here's how you can see a tornado using weather radar.

Explainer: Atmospheric Instability Measured through CAPE and Caps

Dennis Mersereau · 04/25/14 10:30AM

There's a lot of talk about a potentially major tornado outbreak across parts of the Plains states this weekend, with tornadoes possible from Texas to Nebraska on both Saturday and Sunday. There's a good chance that the hype is just that — hype. But there is also a chance that the hype is warranted.

What Is a Supercell Thunderstorm?

Dennis Mersereau · 04/17/14 10:30AM

One of the most commonly used weather terms during the spring and summer months is "supercell thunderstorm." Most weather enthusiasts (myself included) use the term with the assumption that people know what a supercell is, but many people don't. Supercells are the miniature engines of Earth's atmosphere. They're fascinating to watch both on radar and in person, but they're also responsible for the most destructive tornadoes in history.

What Is a Derecho?

Dennis Mersereau · 04/08/14 10:00AM

The media can't survive without a scare term to make you tune in. This winter saw the not-at-all-new-but-scary-sounding polar vortex. Sandy wasn't really a "superstorm" but hey, let's just call it one anyway. And every summer for the last few years, we've seen the derecho. It sounds new and terrifying, but what is it?

Shelf Clouds: One of Nature's Most Alarming and Awesome Phenomena

Dennis Mersereau · 03/07/14 12:45PM

Shelf clouds are a stunning feature of many spring and summertime thunderstorms that often pack more bark than bite. Other than for their incredible beauty, shelf clouds are usually newsworthy because they tend to freak people out.