170 Years of Tropical Storm Tracks Mapped
By compiling all of incidence of tropical cyclones over a 170 year period for the entire planet, the National Climatic Data Center has come up with several graphic images that show which areas of the world are constantly getting hit the hardest with storms.
They assembled data for 11,967 tropical cyclones into a single database, called IBTrACS, with information from 1842 to 2012. By showing how many times any storm track overlapped another one, the density of storms affecting a given area becomes clear.
Cyclone tracks overlapped the most in the western Pacific and Bay of Bengal (India), where typhoon season never ends since waters are always warm enough to sustain cyclone formation. The amount of storm tracks overlapping is much lower in the Western Hemisphere (picture 2) than in the Eastern Hemisphere (picture 3).
The Electrical Light Show in the Sky
Lightning strikes are electrical discharges on a massive scale between the atmosphere and an earth-bound object. They mostly originate in thunderclouds and terminate on the ground, called Cloud to Ground (CG) lightning. However, they may also be initiated from a very tall grounded object and reach into the clouds.
Although "a lightning strike" is commonly used to describe all lightning, it is rather erroneous and a misnomer, as only about 25% of all lightning events worldwide are CG. The large bulk of lightning events are Intracloud (IC) or Cloud to Cloud (CC), where discharge only occurs high in the atmosphere.
The scientific name for the complete process of a single lightning event is a “flash”, and a flash is a very complex, multiple step interaction, which is not entirely understood. Most CG flashes only “strike” one physical location, referred to as a termination. The primary conducting channel, the bright coursing light you may see and call a “strike”, is only about one inch in diameter, although to our eyes it looks much larger. They are miles long, and can be upwards of tens miles long. The entire flash lasts only fractions of a second, and most of it is not visible to the human eye.
Giant Waterspout Off Florida Coast
The above picture is one of the best caught images of a waterspout, a type of tornado that occurs over water. Waterspouts are spinning columns of rising moist air that typically form over warm water. They can be as dangerous as tornadoes, with some featuring wind speeds of over 200 kilometers per hour. Some waterspouts are relatively transparent and only initially visible when an unusual pattern is spotted on the water’s surface.This waterspout was spotted near Tampa Bay, Florida. The area of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida is arguably the most active in the world for the occurrence of waterspouts, with hundreds forming each year. Some people believe large waterspouts are the cause of the unusual disappearances and disasters suffered by planes and ships in the Bermuda Triangle.
Beautiful and Mysterious Asperatus Clouds
Although their cause is presently unknown, such unusual atmospheric structures, as menacing as they might seem, do not appear to be harbingers of upcoming storms. Asperatus clouds are known informally as Undulatus asperatus from Latin which roughly translates to “roughened or agitated waves”. They are stunning in appearance, unusual in occurrence, are relatively unstudied, and have even been suggested as a new type of cloud. Nature once again painting the sky.
Rare Atmospheric Phenomena
- Lunar corona over Villefranche, France.
- The Northern Lights over Myvatn, N.E. Iceland.
- An iridescent display over Cerro Aconcagua, Argentina.
Rare Nacreous Clouds
Also called polar stratospheric clouds or mother of pearl clouds, nacreous clouds are mostly visible within two hours after sunset or before dawn. They blaze unbelievably bright with vivid, iridescent colors. These clouds are rare and occur in the polar stratosphere at altitudes of 15,000–25,000 meters. They are so bright because at those heights, they are still sunlit.
Although incredibly beautiful, they have a negative impact on our atmosphere. They create ozone holes by supporting chemical reactions that produce active chlorine which catalyzes ozone destruction.