You’ve probably seen images of towns that have been devastated by disaster. Homes flooded and ripped apart by the water and wind of a hurricane. Lines of buildings destroyed in the path of a tornado. Smoldering remnants of wildfire. These are very clear physical signs that people’s lives have been disrupted. Fast forward a couple months, perhaps a year, maybe longer. Floodwaters have been cleared, homes rebuilt – in most places, you probably couldn’t even tell something terrible had happened there. But the damage of a disaster goes far beyond the physical realm.
The stress and trauma of a disaster has lasting effects on the survivors’ mental health. One of the ways this manifests is in a sort of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, let’s say a couple’s home suddenly became part of a mandatory evacuation zone during a hurricane. This couple would have a very short amount of time to gather necessities like clothes and shoes, as well as photos, family heirlooms, and important documents. Then, they would have to fight evacuation congestion, on roads, on trains, and/or in airports. They may not even have a definite place to go once they get out of the area. All of this stress and trauma does not quickly resolve, even once the couple gets back in their home – and the next time there is a threat of a hurricane, the couple will likely experience severe anxiety.
Depression is also seen in disaster survivors. Feelings of hopelessness and loss often accompany the damage or destruction of a home, a neighborhood, or even an entire town. Survivors often have little to no control over when they can return to life as they know it, as disaster response organizations like FEMA often will not allow people back into their homes until the area is declared to be safe. They may be displaced for weeks, even months, separated from their lives and friends and routines. Additionally, the end of the rebuilding, repairing, and rehabilitation process may not be in sight, which leads to depression’s signature sadness and hopelessness.
There are a number of other “unseen” consequences of disaster. One is unique to large shelters set up for victims to stay in. In addition to the aforementioned anxiety and depression, living and sleeping in a communal space can leave people – women and children, most commonly – vulnerable to sexual abuse. Domestic abuse often increases post-disaster, as the primary breadwinner of the family feels unable to provide and fulfill their typical role – some people may take this anger and frustration out on their partner and/or children.
Fortunately, social workers are often trained in how to respond to disasters and the unique challenges they pose. In a world facing more disasters due to anthropogenic climate change, we must prepare to not only heal the physical scars of disaster but the mental ones as well.
Source: Alston, M., Hazeleger, T., and Hargreaves, D. (2019). Social work and disasters: a handbook for practice. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
©2020 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
Grape Expectations: Love in the Time of Climate Change (Photo Credit: Trade Aid New Zealand, Climate Central, Cacao Magic Costa Rica)
With just two ingredients, these crowd-pleasers are quick, easy, and a delicious fair trade dessert, using fully traceable cacoa beans.
Roses, oysters, champagne, coffee, and chocolate are all the top of most Valentine’s shopping lists. But, most of us give these gifts away without a thought of what they might look like in the future. Several chocolate manufacturers, including Mars Chocolate Inc., are tackling climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and promoting more sustainable farming from drought and deforestation. An increase in extreme weather events in the future could cause havoc for those who like to enjoy a chocolate treat every now and then.
Wine and dine? For now, rising temperatures have produced higher quality wines, but if temperatures continue to rise, this may force wine-growing regions out of their peak production climates, spoiling grape harvests. Longer summers may affect pruning timelines for florists and affecting pollination rates. Fancy a candlelight Valentine’s dinner? Increased dissolved carbon dioxide in oceans, a process known as ocean acidification, may affect shellfish industries if reductions in oyster hotspots are observed and turning the ocean into an acidic soup that eats away the shells of the molluscs. What about the morning after? Arabic coffee producers are already seeing genetic diversity of the bean becoming more limited and turning the bean bitter.
And for dessert? Similarly, the climatic sustainability for the cacao tree is changing. Cacao grows best in places where it would melt in your hand, less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. Beans from the cacao tree are the raw material used for chocolate, currently spanning about 20 degrees north and south of the equator. While cacao trees can endure high temperatures, 3.8°F (2.1°C) increase in temperature by 2050 may change regions where cacao is grown. In addition, rising temperatures could change rainfall amounts, making regions that are dry more susceptible to drought conditions, especially for West Africa’s cacao trees. A changing climate may also put regions where dairy, sugar, and almonds are grown at greater risk.
(Right): Suitability for cacao cultivation at present and projected for 2050 ; (Left): No monkeys, no chocolate. Capuchin monkey eating a cacao bean. They eat the pulp and leave the rest of the bean to ferment in the pod for a few days, changing the flavor of the bean. Good chocolate means homes for monkeys and replenishment of seeds (Cacao Magic Costa Rica).
So, what can chocolate-lovers do to support the survival of the beloved chocolate bars? It would be wise to conduct research first to see where the cacao comes from and if the company supports sustainable farming practices, says cacao genetic resources expert Brigitte Laliberté of Bioversity International. One adaptation strategy could be providing cacao growers with selectively bred seeds that have superior drought resistance. A Brazilian practice known as cabruca involves retaining other trees that may provide the cacao trees with shade, decreasing both temperature and evapotranspiration. So this Valentine’s Day, be sure to splurge a little on your favorite items, as they may not taste or cost the same in the near future.
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© 2020 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan
When you think of fall, you may think of the crisp, cool air, apple picking, and leaves changing to shades of red. But, if you’re thinking of deer hunting this fall, you might want to check the forecast before you go. Temperature, cloud cover, wind speed, and even lunar phases can play a role in how active deer may be and at what time of day.
High temperatures can limit deer movement, as they will want to conserve their energy and maintain their hydration. Just as cool air sinks, they can be found bedded down in the shade in a creek bed. Often times, deer will feed before sunrise or after sunset, when a minimum in temperatures will occur. The decrease of light into the fall months can also trigger photoperiodism- coinciding with increased testosterone levels in bucks.
Low temperatures can increase deer activity, with the upcoming rut approaching and fattening up for the winter to ensure survival. Does have to build up their body fat to ensure they have enough stored energy to sustain a successful pregnancy. Possibly, looking for food on colder days may help the deer stay warm rather than bedding down.
Deer prefer a slight to moderate wind to locate predators, food, and other deer. They will often bed down facing the wind to “see” what’s approaching them from behind. During windier days, scent is harder to register and the deer’s sense of smell is partially impaired. Therefore, stronger winds may decrease deer activity.
Deer also have an innate ability to sense changes in pressure (seeming to prefer rises and falls in pressure to steady patterns) and will adjust their activity levels accordingly. Typically, low pressure patterns are associated with high winds and precipitation, which will limit the deer’s activity. If precipitation is heavy, the deer’s sense of smell, hearing, and vision will be compromised and may leave them vulnerable to predators. They are also able to see predators better on sunny days than overcast, rainy days. Once the storm passes, deer spring back into action.
In summary, an ideal day for deer hunting would be cold, clear skies, and higher wind speeds. Even the previous summer and winter can have an effect on future deer populations. Warm, dry weather was favored during the spring and summer 2018 months across the southeast to the central Plains and cool, wet weather across the Northeast. A mild, wet spring and summer will provide optimal foliage growth. Droughts can contribute to lower deer populations, as it not only impacts their food source, but is also correlated with outbreaks of hemorrhagic disease (HD). Cold winters can be harsh on deer populations, with the young and oldest typically the ones that won’t make it through the winter. Also, a pregnant doe may reabsorb the fetus she is carrying- a physiological strategy that allows her to preserve an otherwise additional energy investment.
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©2019 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan
A rainbow appears during the 2nd inning over Isotopes Park, the home stadium for the minor league team of the Albuquerque Isotopes, in August 2016.
Ah, baseball season. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass, a hot dog in your hand, the crack of a bat hitting the baseball. But, did you know that weather has more of an impact on how well the game is played (besides having severe weather delays)? Temperature, barometric pressure, altitude, humidity, wind, and cloud coverage can all affect how far a baseball travels.
At a mile above sea level, Coors Field in Denver, Colorado has an advantage over other major league stadiums. At higher elevations, air has a lower density. This means that there is less air rubbing against the baseball to produce a frictional force, and thus, the baseball can travel farther. Air pressure can also be affected by weather patterns (i.e. high pressure or low pressure systems affecting the area).
As air warms, it expands and the molecules are spread further apart. This warming and expansion helps to lower the density of the air. Temperature ranges can also affect how a player grips a baseball, depending on how sweaty their hands are or if their fingers and cold and numb. Warmer air can also hold more water vapor. But at the same temperature, air with a higher relative humidity will be less dense. This is because as the temperature increases, water vapor displaces the heavier gases in the troposphere and the density per unit volume decreases. Humid air can also have another indirect effect on the ball by storing water within the yarn of the baseball and letting it become heavier.
Wind can either amplify or reduce the amount of friction on the ball depending on the direction of the wind relative to the baseball. Wind coming towards the baseball will act as a frictional force and slow the baseball down. Wind flowing with the baseball will help it travel longer distances. In addition, both cloudy skies and sunshine can affect depth perception from the outfield.
In conclusion, the factors for optimal baseball weather are high elevation, wind blowing towards the outfield, and a warm, humid climate like Miami. However, some precautions need to be taken in these conditions in order to prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. In a changing climate, regions that are wet may get wetter and other areas may get drier. As you warm the Earth, you are able to increase the amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can hold. Temperatures will increase across the board, but the most noticeable temperature differences may be seen in higher latitudes (meaning that even Seattle could expect more home runs in the future).
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©2019 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan
When Mother Nature seems to be getting ready to strike, many people try to prepare as much as possible. From gathering supplies to creating an emergency plan, people want to make sure that their loved ones stay safe throughout the wrath of the storm. Sometimes, these preparations include shutting down school systems at just a mere mention of severe weather of any type.
Schools often have a system of delays, closings, and early releases for such weather events. For example, on May 20th, 2019, schools in Oklahoma and Texas were shut down at the forecast for a high-risk day. This day had the potential for large hail and long, wide path tornadoes as well. One school district had this to say about the event:
So even at the mention of severe weather, schools shut down. Not just in high-risk days, but in heat waves and blizzards as well. While at first, this seems rather odd because of the idea that schools have multiple places for shelters and plenty of supplies, closing schools take some of the liability aspects off of the district. The schools, should a warning go out while classes are in session, would have to deal with a calm, massive movement of hundreds of people, causing a disruption in the learning environment. The warning may not even be near the school at all, but a different part of the county. Yet, everyone still has to take shelter as a precautionary measure. Hearing the sirens go off can cause children of all ages to wonder what is going on, causing stress.
Should a natural disaster strike the school when in session, If something were to hit the school, there would be a lot of liability issues with damage to the school and whoever occupies it at that time. Schools could close if something were to hit due to damage on the grounds and the building itself. Schools also have to make sure that their buses can safely get students to their stops to the school and back as well, which only adds to the liability issues for the districts. If a bus cannot run due to extreme temperatures on either end of the spectrum, then something has to be done.
Instead of taking these risks, schools close. The people who are affected by the schools closing are used to these events occurring and often have the supplies and shelter in place to make sure that everyone stays safe. Plus, with the wonders of technology, teachers can also send assignments to their students online to complete. Lectures can be posted online for students to view and assignments submitted as well. So while Mother Nature strikes, students can still learn and have a productive day. If some teachers are not comfortable with the idea of online work due to the chances of a power outage, then there are also other solutions as well, such as reading from a textbook or working on practice problems.
Yet, schools cannot close too much. If schools go over their allotted number of days set aside for closures, the time has to be made up. Schools could have to start a few minutes earlier, get out later, or even have off days taken away. Most schools tend to use caution when setting up delays and closures because if nothing happens, it could seem like a wasteful day, and if something does happen while school is in session, then the school could deal with liability issues, along with complaints from the families. This is a tough situation for schools to call, but when weather strikes, it is best to use caution.
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Sources: https://kfor.com/2019/05/19/moore-public-schools-closed-monday-due-risk-of-severe-weather/, https://twitter.com/MoorePublicSch/status/1130226134128504832/photo/1, https://greenwoodcalendar.com/school-closings/
©2019 Weather Forecaster Shannon Sullivan
Recently there has been talk about the Federal Communications Commission “FCC” and wireless phone companies releasing a new 5G network to improve internet speeds and reduce lag time. News outlets and media companies such as The Washington Post, CBS, Wired, The Independent, and several others have reported that the head of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “NOAA”, Neil Jacobs has told Congress that 5G interference with weather forecasting technology could set back forecasting accuracy 40 years. How exactly can this new 5G network interfere with weather forecasting technology?
The Washington Post wrote that Jordan Gerth wrote an email explaining how NOAA satellites use microwave sensors at a frequency of 23.8 gigahertz to transmit water vapor data. The FCC began selling access to the spectrum that runs 24 gigahertz band, the same part of the spectrum that is used to forecast water vapor. The 5G network is supposed to run at 24 gigahertz which may interfere with NOAA’s satellite microwave sensors because the frequencies are very close in value.
When Neil Jacobs met with Congress on May 16th, he explained that without water vapor data, meteorologists wouldn’t have been able to predict Superstorm Sandy hitting the Northeast coast in 2012 days in advance, according to The Washington Post. This emphasizes the potentially disastrous effects 5G interference will have on NOAA satellite microwave sensors should forecasting be interrupted.
CBS had their weather forecaster, David Parkinson, come on air and explain how 5G can interfere with weather forecasting. He explains that with these frequencies being so close to one another, they can cross signals. This can cause missing weather data. He says that there is concern should the FCC upgrade the 5G network to 24.55 gigahertz as forecasting for even temperatures may be negatively impacted.
Currently, the main concern for weather forecasting is that the upgrade to a 5G network will interfere with water vapor data that helps to forecast for strong hurricanes, humidity, and severe storms. Without this data, it will be more difficult to forecast these weather phenomenon, which can be dangerous.
(Credit: The Washington Post, NOAA, and CBS News)
©2019 Weather Forecaster Brittany Connelly
Weather folklore has been going on for generations and was mostly started by sailors many centuries ago and possibly even from the very beginning of time. Being from the south, it’s not uncommon to hear such folklore fairly often due to the vast amount of families there who have been farmers for numerous generations. One of the most common sayings that most people have heard once or twice before is, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.” So now the question is, is there any truth to the statement?
Before finding whether this is true or false, some basic atmospheric characteristics need to be checked over first. The sky gets its color from the rays of the sun being split into different colors along the electromagnetic spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere. This means that these rays ricochet off anything in the atmosphere, such as water vapor and dust particles (cloud condensation nuclei) and alter the color we interpret the sky to be. Not only do these particles potentially affect the color of the sky, the amount of them in the atmosphere can also be an indicator of the weather that could potentially occur that day. For example, excessive amounts of water vapor in the air creates an unstable environment and added with all the dust particles for the water vapor to condense upon, clouds can form. The more unstable the environment is, the faster these clouds can form, and the quicker air parcels are able to rise as buoyancy is increased through an increase in differential heating throughout the day.
We see blue skies more often because without an excess of dust particles, the ray is being reflected by the water vapor and blue wavelengths are shorter and quicker to breakdown than red wavelengths. Red skies are more often seen when there is more of an abundance of dust particles than water vapor. Dust particles are more likely to reflect the red wavelength as it is longer and tougher to breakdown than the blue wavelength with water vapor. With that being said, when there is a red sky, there is at least some evidence that there will be a humid day ahead with a greater potential for cloud coverage as the day goes on.
Normally, when the aforementioned conditions are present , typically a warm front approaching/already passed . When the red sky is seen at night, that means that there is a high-pressure system coming, meaning clear skies and decent conditions are ahead for at least the next couple days. Why is this a delight as the sun is setting? The layer at the surface at night is typically stable with the environment becoming less buoyant and more shear driven as the mixing layer that expanded during the day disintegrates. So even when the front comes through during the evening, the threat for severe weather/choppy waters is much less because the water cools off much faster than the land. Now seeing a red sky during sunrise is a completely different story. As previously stated, this typically suggests a high-pressure system is approaching. The problem with a front coming through during the day is that as the surface heats during the day, differential heating causes a heavily buoyant atmosphere where parcels can thrive and accelerate rapidly in the vertical and increase the instability. Thunderstorms will begin to form along the front (if not ahead of it as well) and cause choppy waters and potentially waterspouts if the ingredients are all there.
So, does this saying hold true? Statistically, it doesn’t seem to have been studied enough to find the correlation between the two. However, meteorologically it is very possible and would make sense for it to be true. Not all weather lore can be backed up by science, but this one seems to check all the boxes of a factual lore.
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©2019 Weather Forecaster Ashley Lennard
Over the course of any winter season, one of the leading issues when it comes to winter weather forecasting has to deal with understanding the limits and difficulties of day-to-day weather forecasting (and specifically during the Winter-time season). Before getting any further, it is imperative to recognize that the atmosphere is effectively a dynamic fluid which is constantly evolving and moving every second of every day. As a result of that factor, it can often be incredibly challenging to begin to try and anticipate when and where the heaviest snowfall can occur during a given winter weather event. Whether it is forecasting a given low temperature or where maximum snowfall will occur and how much there will be at a given location can often be one of the hardest things to do in the atmospheric science world.
Despite how much meteorologists will often get criticized during any given winter season regardless of what they do and how well they do their job, there is something very important to keep in mind. This key concept to always bear in mind is that weather forecasting is a challenging job which involves monitoring dozens of parameters at multiple levels of the atmosphere and being able to make sense of everything. From there, one needs to boil it all down to a single forecast for the next 3 to 5 days wherein there is a prediction of upcoming temperatures, winds, cloud clover, and precipitation. However, when trying to do a longer-term forecast one of the leading challenges is often tied to the fact that most longer-term forecasts involve prediction the future evolution of developing oceanic cyclonic systems over larger oceanic basins. Thus, in the case of North America, this deals with anticipating the future dynamic evolution of cyclonic low-pressure systems developing over the Central and/or Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Thus, when it comes to anticipating how developing Pacific low-pressure systems upwind of North America, it can be incredibly challenging to consistently generate very accurate and even localized weather forecasts for regions even across the Western and Central United States. However, as of 2016, help has finally begun to come to the rescue by way of the GOES-16 and now the GOES-17 satellite imagers. Hence, even in an age when weather and climate continue to be front and center, it is important to give due credit to your local National Weather Service forecast offices as well as your local tv meteorologist since everyone is constantly working their best to produce the best possible forecast. So, be sure to keep these things in mind the next time you have second thoughts about how and why a given winter weather forecast evolves the way it does at a given point in time.
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© 2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Records dating to 1887 show Phil predicted a longer winter 103 times, while forecasting an early spring just 18 times.
At daybreak on February 2nd of every year, Phil is awakened from his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and is helped to the top of a stump by his handlers. With the recent Polar Vortex hitting Phil's home with wind chills of -32 F and clouds in the forecast for tomorrow, will Phil see his shadow? If there was no shadow, it would mean an early spring. But, how can a groundhog predict the weather? Groundhog Day is rooted in Celtic and Germanic traditions and has been celebrated since 1887. Phil may be a popular critter, but he may not always right…
Last year, for example, Phil saw his shadow suggesting six more weeks of winter. However, February was ranked in the warmest third February’s or about 1.6°F above the 20th Century average, and March was ranked near the median value of a 124-period record. Alaska’s February and March temperatures were 8.3 F and 6.9 F above the long-term average, respectively. But, results weren’t consistent across the United States. Below average temperatures were observed along parts of the East Coast in February and in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains for March 2018.
As of 2018, Phil has made 132 predictions, with an early spring (no shadow) predicted 18 times (~14%). On average, the groundhog’s accuracy has given results somewhere around 39%. After 1969, Phil’s accuracy drops to about 36% with the availability of and accuracy of records to verify with (Wunderground). Even flipping a coin, you’d still be right about 50% of the time, which would still be better odds than going off of Phil’s predictions.
Predicting the weather 6 weeks out would require greater computational power than what is currently available. Even accuracy after about 7-10 days starts to fall of rapidly when introducing model differences. However, climate forecasts are primarily based off sea surface temperature patterns. The three-month CPC outlook for March, April, and May spring currently shows above normal temperatures for the western and southeastern United States, and above normal precipitation for the Rocky Mountains and Great Plain states. We shall see how well the remainder of February matches what would be expected based on what a groundhog named Phil predicted. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy Phil’s promise of an early spring ahead.
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©2019 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan
Discussion: Weather folklore, though based on years of observation, are simply just observations. They do not hold as much weight in predicting weather since scientific advances have become increasingly more accurate. Nonetheless, animals utilize their five senses so efficiently that they can detect incoming changes in the environment better than humans. So which animals actually help predict the changing weather and ground conditions?
Image: Elephants after the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. Credit: How Stuff Works
Elephants and cattle start hearing sound at 16 Hz while humans typically hear a range between 20 – 20,000 hertz (Hz). Earthquake shockwaves and ocean waves produce sounds in the infrasonic range (below 20 Hz). Elephants can also feel the vibrations produced by earthquakes beneath their feet. While infrasonic, or low-pitched sound vibrations, can make people nauseous and feel uneasy, animals perceive the sounds as dangerous and instinctively seek safety.
Image: Shark in the ocean. Credit: How Stuff Works
Birds, bees, and sharks are also very sensitive to infrasonic frequencies created by hurricanes and thunder. Extreme changes in barometric (air) and hydrostatic (water) pressure trigger animals’ survival mechanism. The intense drop in pressure causes severe pain to sharks and they dive to deeper waters for more protection and pressure relief. Birds react by sensing where it is safe to migrate while bees scout the environment for a safe location of a new hive.
Image: Frog in the rain. Credit: How Stuff Works
Aside from natural disasters, frogs give an indication as to when it will rain. Frogs absorb water through their skin. After they mate, they lay eggs in bodies of freshwater. If you hear more than the occasional croaking, chances are that rain is on the way. The loud, intense croaking is a result of frogs becoming excited about a soaking rain because more water means they are more likely to have successful reproduction.
Other animal behaviors that are based on weather folklore are more popularly said to occur before the weather changes or ground shifts:
Scientists do acknowledge that animals can sense environmental changes before they occur, but scientists have not come to the conclusion that these animals can detect earthquakes or extreme precipitation events days in advance. If you notice any of the animal behaviors that are scientifically-proven to detect hurricanes, earthquakes, or precipitation events, you may want to pay close extra attention to the weather forecast. Even when the other observed animal behaviors are seen, it is best practice to be alert to changing environmental conditions.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Amber Liggett