2 December 2009

Could That Smoggy Yellow Haze Have Fried Your TV Set??

Posted by Dan Satterfield

donna butcher south hsv

Image from one of my viewers- Donna Butcher of Huntsville,AL. (Yea that's a real funnel cloud too!)

Lightning kills far more people in an average year than hurricanes and tornadoes. It also fries a lot of electronics too. I speak from experience there. Back in my storm chasing days, I couldn’t hear well for two hours after being very near a big bolt. Ask any storm chaser and they will tell you that lightning scares them far more than a tornado.

So what does lightning have to do with that old truck spewing smoke that you ended up behind yesterday??

It just may have caused it!

Scientists have long known that air pollution can and does affect rainfall, but a new study in Geophysical Research Letters (AGU) this week has also linked air pollution to an increase in lightning. The paper found that lightning over the Southeast USA is more likely mid week, when pollution levels are higher! less rain and fewer bolts were seen during the weekend when smog levels were lower! The research, led by Thomas Bell of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, used data from the National Lightning Detection Network.

NASA Landsat image of New York City's urban heat island.

NASA Landsat image of New York City's urban heat island.

If you think that the weather in your community is much the same as it was 100 years ago, then prepare for a surprise. It’s not. It’s warmer and in most cases wetter. The reasons are many. Climate change from increased greenhouse gases is just one reason.

Air pollution produced by our carbon based economy is another factor, and urban areas produce their own heat islands. (In case you’re wondering, these urban heat islands ARE factored in and adjusted for when looking at global temperature changes.

I grew up in a rural area about 7 miles west of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the mid 1960’s, you could sleep with the windows open on most  summer nights, and it would be quite cool by morning.

Not anymore!

The temps. are now much warmer at night due to the heavy urbanization of the area. A 10 degree difference I would guess.

Forecasters have a lot to take into account when forecasting for large urban areas!