Dispelling Weather Myths: Separate the Fact from Fiction
Unpredictable weather is making headlines throughout the United States this year. From California wildfires and severe flooding in the nation's heartland to early summer heat waves in the Northeast, it appears that Mother Nature is illustrating her powerful punch.
Long before we had advanced scientific satellites and meteorological systems for detecting and predicting weather, people looked to signs in nature. Today many homespun ways of forecasting weather are still being put to use. While some are accurate indicators of weather patterns, there are an equal number of falsities floating around as well.
Meteorologist Justin Lock of "Your Morning" on CN8, The Comcast Network sets the record straight on a number of these weather myths and folklore, and provides tips that can help save lives in a weather emergency.
"Today's weather is just as unpredictable as it was hundreds of years ago, before modern forecasting techniques existed," says Justin Lock. "Many of our viewers live in regions throughout the East Coast that are impacted by inclement weather conditions such as thunder storms and tornadoes, and it is important to provide them with the facts to keep them safe."
A member of the American Meteorological Society and recipient of the AMS seal, Lock reports from CN8's state-of-the-art weather center in New Castle, Del. He provides live forecasts every 15 minutes on CN8's Emmy Award-winning weekday morning show, "Your Morning," and reports on weather patterns impacting the network's more than 9 million viewers from Maine to Virginia, and Washington D.C. An expert on weather fact and fiction, Lock sheds light on common weather misconceptions.
Weather Fact or Fiction?
1. Tornadoes never hit big cities.
Fiction. In recorded history, more than 100 tornadoes have struck downtown areas of large cities. On March 14, 2008, a tornado struck downtown Atlanta, blowing out windows of several skyscrapers. On August 8, 2007 multiple tornado touchdowns occurred in Brooklyn, NY, tearing roofs off apartments and houses. "No place is safe from tornadoes--they can occur in big cities as well as in the open countryside," says Lock. "However, metropolitan areas make up a smaller percentage of total land mass, thus they statistically receive fewer direct hits."
2. Lightning only occurs when it is raining.
Fiction. Lightning often occurs on its own, apart from heavy rain -- even up to 10 miles away from where skies may appear clear. In the United States alone, lightning kills approximately 90 people each year. "To play it safe, always use the 30-second rule: if you count 30 seconds or less between a lightning bolt and a thunderclap, seek shelter," recommends Lock.
3. "Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors' delight."
Fact. "This is a common saying amongst boating enthusiasts and fisherman that has been passed on for generations. There is truth behind these words," offers Lock. A red sky in the morning implies the rising sun in the east is shining on clouds to the west, indicating a potential storm system. Whereas a red sky at night suggests the setting sun is shining on clouds to the east and conditions to the west are clear because the sun can be seen setting.
4. "Ring around the moon? Rain real soon."
Fact. "Another clever mnemonic device that very often proves to be true," says Lock. Here's how: The halo that appears around the sun or moon is actually a thin layer of cirrus clouds made of ice crystals reflecting off the moon's light. These thin cirrus clouds are the first to move in with an approaching storm system. "Rain or snow will not always follow, but there is a higher chance of it after a halo is seen, and the brighter the circle, the greater the probability."
5. "When clouds appear like towers, the earth is refreshed by frequent showers."
Fact. "When you spot large, cauliflower-like clouds that look like castles in the sky, this may indicate turbulent weather conditions inside the clouds," Lock says. These towers are caused by strong updrafts of moist air condensing into clouds. If the updrafts are sustained long enough, the clouds will get too full and rain will fall. Innocent clouds look like wide, billowy cotton with no "towers." "If clouds are taller than they are wider, watch out for thunderstorms."
6. Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fiction. According to Lock, "This is a common misconception. Lightning very well may strike the same place more than once. A strike to any location does nothing to change the electrical activity in the storm above, which will produce another strike as soon as it recharges. The previously hit location is just as likely to receive a charge as any other spot."
7. You can outrun a tornado in the car.
Fiction. "Professional storm chasers who study tornado patterns are frequently seen 'outrunning funnel clouds.' The average driver should never attempt to do this," says Lock. "Tornadoes can change directions on a dime and you don't know what the road ahead of you will look like." The safest thing to do is stop the car and seek shelter. Better yet, stay off of the road when severe tornadoes are predicted.
To receive more helpful tips and up-to-the-minute weather information from meteorologist Justin Lock, tune into "Your Morning" weekdays between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. exclusively on CN8, The Comcast Network. CN8 is the nation's leading regional cable network, producing live, original and interactive programming covering the worlds of sports, politics, personal finance, entertainment, and more. Viewers can watch CN8 programs live on air, online at www.CN8.tv and through Comcast Digital Cable's ON DEMAND service at no additional charge.