Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A sign of the apocalypse?

I went to bed early last night to get rid of a headache, but wasn't able to sleep for over an hour due to a terrible thunderstorm.

A thunderstorm in January? Uh-huh, but that's not even the odd part.

This storm didn't deliver torrents of rain to flood our storeroom, as I had worried. Instead it dumped nearly an inch of snow.

Snow. From a thunderstorm.

Has anyone ever experienced this? Could it be the end of the world? If so, I'd like to know ahead of time so I can take the next few days off.


You must be on the east coast bcause we had here last night too. Apocalyspe? I doubt it. It's just been a very wacky winter, if we can call this mild season winter. I'll believe it's the apocalypse when Washington D.C. actually does something right. That will be a sure sign the wold is ending.:-)

Posted by: Blogger Unknown at 1/25/2006 9:53 AM

I'm just glad to have snow. I demand more, more! Or else I'm definitely moving to Canada. Or at least Buffalo, NY. Snow is my most productive weather, so maybe I could write the move off as a business expense.

Don't you know that what's been happening in DC the last five years IS the Apocalypse? Wasn't an Evil One supposed to rise to power before it all ended?

Crap, the verification words keep getting longer. One of these days they'll make us retype the Gettysburg Address backwards just to post a comment.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 1/25/2006 10:44 AM

Hehehe you do have a point. I'm one of the many people affected by Bush's medicare drug plan, and wouldn't you know he'd get it wrong. I saw my doctor the other day and told her I was off my bloodpressure medicine because my pharmacy won't fill it due to a glitch in the medicare program. She said she's heard that a lot. I'm definately not a fan of Bush.

As for the word verification, for me the hard part is reading the letters because they are shaped so odd. That's why I chose not to do word verification on my own blog. Just easier. And I have to tell you Jeri, I'm so looking forward to your first Luna.:-)

Posted by: Blogger Unknown at 1/25/2006 6:27 PM

Okay, I consulted with a close friend who also happens to be an expert on the subject of thunderstorms. Here's the deal with the whole winter thunderstorm thing:

Basically, lightning (thunder) requires electric charge separation in a cloud.

This happens when cloud particles of different sizes, carrying different charges, collide with each other, exchange charge (with one polarity going preferentially to one type of particle, the other going to the other), and then are carried apart by either wind or their own gravity. For the most part, we're talking ice particles, so the electrified region has to occur in a cold enough region of the atmosphere to support ice. In the summer, that's far above the ground surface; in the winter, it may be near or at the surface.

There's a wrinkle: the environment that this separation works best in has to have both ice *and* liquid water present (we call this supercooled water; water that retains liquid state despite the air temperature being < 0C ... water needs what's called nucleating agents in order to freeze, and these aren't always immediately available in the neighborhood of a cloud droplet).

In summer, the updrafts (vertical wind) in storms is strong enough to carry lots of supercooled water into the <0C regions of storms ... so there's plenty of charge separation going on.

In winter, there's less surface heating, and less buoyant surface air (smaller updrafts, or vertical wind) to carry this supercooled water aloft. The surface air is also colder, so it can hold less total water to begin with. The electric "generator" in wintertime storms basically lacks juice :-) ... both total water going into the cloud particle formation, and less of it occurring in that supercooled form needed for charge separation.

"Thundersnow" storms are rare exceptions where enough water survives in supercooled state to trigger the charging process.

Lightning can also happen in winter storms from very very slow electric charging in the absence of supercooled water, if the air motion is mostly horizontal rather than vertical (frontal type systems). Weak charging + long separation time can still yield strong electric fields, but the generator is working slower, so the lightning flash rate is much lower as well. (Lightning works to relax the electric fields built up by charged particle separation, by moving the charge back in the other direction ... i.e., it "runs down" the generator).

This would make sense, in that there we only heard a couple loud thunder claps....

Posted by: Blogger Andrew at 1/25/2006 6:36 PM

Thanks, Andrew. That's really interesting. We heard a lot more than a few loud thunderclaps here. It was as bad as any late afternoon in July storm, noise-wise.

Ugh, Kathy, sorry to hear of your travails with the Medicare system's pharmacy plan. Hope you get back on your meds very soon!

I had to turn on word verification to prevent blogspam. Although some of it was rather entertaining.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 1/26/2006 6:59 AM

Jeri, I'm with you on the last five years. We're into double-digits on seal-openings at last count and Max would have progressed to playing Jenga with the Pale Rider by this point.

I remember at least one occasion of thundersnow from growing up in upstate NY, but it is pretty unusual.

Fun scary-weather pastime: Stand facing the dark rolling clouds, spread your arms, and practice your Saruman impression.

Posted by: Blogger Dave S. at 1/26/2006 4:06 PM

Thanks Jeri. The worst part of the medicare program being messed up right now is I have walking pneumonia. My doctor couldn't give me exactly the antibiotic she wanted to because I couldn't afford it so I had to go with another type. As for word verification, no one goes to my blog so I don't need to worry about spam. I only really do my blog anyways as a way of sounding off on things that I either like or are really bugging me. Makes great therapy that's nice and cheap.:-)

Posted by: Blogger Unknown at 1/27/2006 3:25 AM

Welcome to the blog, Dave S.! My husband is the Saruman in our household: he wanted to cut down all the perfectly healthy trees that were blocking our view of the surrounding countryside.

Kathy, hope you feel better and that the antibiotics work. Everyone go visit Kathy's blog!

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 1/28/2006 2:25 PM

That would actually make Christian the Daniel Snyder of the household.

Posted by: Blogger Dave S. at 1/29/2006 2:54 PM

Did Snyder literally do that, or are you referring to his metaphorical defoliation? And hey, the 'Skins did make the playoffs this year.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 1/29/2006 3:32 PM

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