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snow plow on snow covered road

Is it ever too cold to snow?

Winter is here, and probably by the time you read this, we will have had one or more significant snow events. When it gets really cold, you may hear someone say “it’s too cold to snow.” But is that true? Air temperature, water vapor and humidity work together The first thing to know is that the...
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a tornado off in the distance surrounded by dark gray clouds

Is Illinois part of a new tornado alley?

As of mid-September of this year, guess which state has had the most tornadoes for the year. Texas?  Kansas? Oklahoma? Alabama? Nope, it’s Illinois! As of September 11, Illinois has had 135 tornadoes. The state annual average is 54. Is this part of an ominous trend? What is “...
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Blue sky with smokestack further away releasing cloudy emissions.

Was the climate quiz challenging?

We tested your climate knowledge. How did you do? In what century were the processes that created the greenhouse effect discovered? ANSWER: The 19th century, which would be the 1800s! John Tyndall published his results of several experiments that showed certain...
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smoky, hazy scene over lake front and city scape.

Why are we getting smoke from Canada?

Much of the Midwest has experienced very hazy and smoky conditions the past few days. This is caused by a combination of several atmospheric conditions along with an extreme natural event at the same time. What is the atmosphere doing? Currently, the U.S. is being affected by...
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Stormy clouds over country roads

What is atmospheric stability?

As I reflect, it was Severe Weather Preparedness Week— March 6-10, 2023. We have already had severe weather this year, but it will become more frequent now that spring is around the corner. Sometimes when thunderstorms are forecast, you will hear weathercasters talking about the atmosphere being...
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fog covering over grassy area and small lake

No two fogs are the same

We are bound to have fog from time to time. I still remember when I was in my late teens and insisted on going to see some friends when I could barely see the edge of the road. My parents were not happy. Some areas, such as San Francisco or London, have fog more often. The cause of fog can depend...
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Raindrops hitting top of clear umbrella

Rolling on an atmospheric river and the Pineapple Express

California has recently been slammed with extreme rainfall and snow in the high elevations, along with high winds. Media have attributed these events to an atmospheric river, but what does that mean? What is an atmospheric river? The ones that affect California occur when the polar jet stream...
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Glowing sun behind trees spilling rays of light over a grassy late summer meadow

What are the Dog Days of Summer?

As we move through August, some folks will reference it as being the “dog days.” What are they talking about? We associate these “dog days” with hot weather. But it does not refer to living dogs being uncomfortable in the heat. Instead, the term is associated with a bright star called Sirius (not...
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quiz icon

Let's see whether you know your weather: Take the quiz

It's scorching outside. Stay inside and take our most recent weather quiz.  T or F: Due to the Greenhouse Effect, the Earth takes in more heat from the sun than it gives off. An increase in temperature the higher you go in the atmosphere is called a ____ ____. The eye of a hurricane has calm...
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Two rows of seats in a sports stadium.

Hitting the long ball: What weather is best?

It’s summer. It’s baseball season. Millions of people attend Major League games, just waiting for their favorite hitter to knock one into the seats. Fans contend with afternoon games that may be hot and muggy or just simply hot. I once went to a Rangers game while attending a conference where the...
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Rays of light from the sun above a layer of clouds over the earth.

Ozone, protector of life on earth

Earth’s atmosphere, while it appears to go forever, is actually a very thin layer of air. Technically the atmosphere reaches out for thousands of miles, but over half of the atmosphere is within 4 miles of the earth’s surface. Think about driving 4 miles- it’s not very far. By the time you’re 16...
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Can't rule out late frosts

I don’t know about you, but this April was not what I was expecting or hoping for. Many days were 5 to 20 degrees below average, and below freezing temperatures occurred even during the last week of the month. How can we have such a cold spring when we are increasing global temperatures? There are...
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tornado over field

Meet the man who defined tornado intensity

Mississippi and Alabama were recently hammered with severe storms and large-scale tornadoes. The damage that large high-speed tornadoes can cause is phenomenal and life-threatening. Many have heard of the “F-Scale” or “EF-Scale” of tornado intensity. The F stands for Fujita, last name of the...
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cumulous clouds

Look up: Puffy clouds are here

If you ever take a few minutes to watch what happens to clouds in the sky, especially in March, you’ll see many puffy shaped clouds form and fall apart. You’ll see these clouds at other times of the year, but they are around a lot in March and April. What clouds are puffy? Cumulus clouds form...
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Beware the High Dew Points of March!

The title doesn’t work as well as Beware the Ides of March, but the sentiment is the same. If we experience dew point temperatures in the 50s or 60s in March, just be wary that the chance for severe weather is high. What is the dew point? Air can only hold so much water vapor, which is the gas...
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Yellow siren on roof of brick building

What does it mean when warning sirens go off?

Ominous clouds and an approaching storm may be accompanied by the wail of a community siren. Other times they can be heard in the morning on what may be a nice day. What do the different blasts of the siren mean? Sirens are part of the Public Alert System to let those outdoors be aware of a local...
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gray volcano erupting plume of smoke and ash

How do volcanic eruptions affect climate?

A large underwater volcano recently erupted in the South Pacific. Volcanoes can send huge amounts of gases and ash into the atmosphere. Very large eruptions can affect the climate. In 1815, one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in the last several thousand years occurred in the South Pacific...
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man and woman walk dog as sun sets over frosty field

Perihelion is a day to celebrate

If someone is sad that holiday season is over, here is something to celebrate.  The earth is the closest it will ever be to the sun for the year!  We all know the earth revolves around the sun. It takes about 365.25 days to do this, or one year. However, that revolution (or orbit) is not a...
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house with torn shingles from a storm

Can you make your home withstand a tornado?

Seeing the tragic consequences of the December tornado outbreak in the Midwest, I’m sure many folks are wondering if there are ways to make homes more resistant to wind damage, whether it’s straight-line winds or tornadoes. The answer is yes. How winds interact with buildings Homes affected by...
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La Nina weather model from NOAA

What really is La Nina?

You’ve probably heard these weather terms many times - El Nino and La Nina. They seem to affect our weather and they come and go. Are they normal to occur? Where do they occur? Why does it affect our weather? What is La Nina? In this post, I’ll focus on La Nina since that is what will likely...
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a microburst storm in the sky

What is a Microburst?

As I write this, folks just a few miles away are sawing up downed trees and clearing debris from severe wind damage that occurred during a round of thunderstorms passing through the area the night before. No tornado was observed either by eye or on radar, so it appears to have been caused by...
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Fall and winter forecast looks mild, but keep mittens close

We're moving into fall and looking ahead, the outlook for winter temperatures continues the trend toward warmer temperatures.                     La Nina  One of the drivers could be a return of La Nina, which you hear about every few years. A La Nina event occurs when there is a...
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fall leaves during sunrise

The fall equinox marks the transition from summer to autumn

The passage of summer to fall happens this year on September 22, which is called the September or Autumnal Equinox. What is an Equinox and why do we use it? Equinox basically means “equal night.” It comes from a couple of Latin words. We have two equinoxes yearly, one in March (the March or...
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aerial photo of hurricane moving toward east coast of United States

Hurricanes are nature's heat pumps

At the writing of this post on September 2, we are in the average peak week of hurricane activity for the Gulf of Mexico. Remnants of hurricane Ida are drenching the East Coast, and a new hurricane is currently out in the Atlantic. The Earth’s weather is a complex system of winds, moisture, and...
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hazy sky

What is that lazy, crazy haze?

Growing up, we would listen to the local radio station at breakfast. In addition to the news, they would play songs from the great crooners of the time, including Nat King Cole. One of his songs is The Lazy, Hazy Crazy Days of Summer. As I look out my window, the sky has a milky, hazy...
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cloudy skies over town

Some myths about the weather

When I talk to groups about the weather, I usually first open things up for any question someone may have on the subject. A lot of times I get similar questions, so I thought I would address some of those questions in this post. How do landscapes affect storms? One question I get is whether or...
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Corn Field

How does corn affect Midwest weather?

As I write this article, corn has tasseled on about 80% of fields in Central Illinois. Apologies to those with corn pollen allergies! Corn, just like other plants, experiences evapotranspiration (ET)Evapotranspiration is when water is taken up by corn plants,...
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What are feels-like temperatures?

I have some pet peeves about weather casts. Temperature is one of them. During the summer when it gets hot and muggy, we start seeing weathercasters talk about “feels-like” temperatures. Media folks assume we know how they got those temperatures, which are always higher in summer than what the...
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photo of weather map

Quiz: How well do you know weather?

Game shows are on the rebound. Shows that were around in the 1960s and '70s like "To Tell the Truth" and "Match Game" are back on air, along with "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" from the ’90s and the solid, never-went-away "Jeopardy."  Since there seems to be a renewed interest in trivia, this...
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How to read a weather map

We watch the news, search the web, or go to the weather app to see what the great outdoors is like at the moment and what it will be for the next few days. You may go ahead and look at the weather map. It typically has many lines, symbols and colors. Any idea what it all means? A few years ago I...
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raindrops on puddles

Breathe in that sweet smell of rain

If you’ve been outside and experienced those first drops of rain, especially after a dry spell, you know that smell. You might even be able to sense the smell a little before it starts to rain, a signal that rain is coming. Even after a rain, a sweet musty odor will linger for some time. A few...
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Tornadoes may be moving to a town near you

During a storm, no one likes to hear the sound of the community tornado siren or weather alert going off. Everyone living in the Midwest has experienced those warnings, but few have experienced an actual tornado. My closest call with a tornado occurred when I was little, and it was actually in...
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What makes supercells super?

There are several types of thunderstorms, from the single cell “pop-up’ thunderstorms that occurs on warm summer afternoons, to multi cell thunderstorms that move along like a train (hence the name training thunderstorms) to squall lines. Supercell thunderstorms are a much different storm. A...
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green grass is greener after a rainstorm

Why is my grass greener after a rain?

Have you ever noticed grass looking greener after a spring rain?  Hold that thought. As you look into how nature works, you see a lot of plant nutrient cycling taking place. Makes sense since the earth isn’t getting any deliveries from Mars. Nitrogen is an essential component of proteins, which...
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storm from two jet streams overlaping

What to expect when jet streams overlap

Early spring in Illinois can be a battle between the last of cold winter weather and the mild air of spring. On relatively rare occasions in March, we can experience warm, muggy air that normally doesn’t reach us until April or May. When this occurs early in spring, it’s best to be on guard for...
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Winters in the late 70s were ones to tell your kids

I’m now at the point in my life where I know others look at me and think I’m old. For truth in advertising, I’m currently 61; actually 61 ½, but the pleasure in saying the ½ left many decades ago. I can talk about my weather experiences with a sense of sage nostalgia. Case in point, I lived...
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weather chart

Are average temperatures 'normal'?

You’re watching a local weather forecast or checking it online when you notice it says temperatures will be 'above normal or below normal.' But what does this actually mean? Normal is Average In most cases, the word 'normal' is used in place of 'average.' Average Daily Temperature...
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snow-covered polar vortex rural scene with trees

Do we need to fear the polar vortex?

Two words people have learned to dread in the past few years is "polar vortex."  People may not know a lot about what that is, other than it usually means we may be in for some bitterly cold temperatures.  The worst outbreak in my experience was December 23, 1983. I had just finished my graduate...
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