30 news posts related to Weather

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For weather forecasting, precise observations matter more than butterflies

Photo of a thunderstorm in Owens Valley, California. The butterflies superimposed on this photo would not matter for the forecast.

In the 1970s, scientist Edward Lorenz famously asked whether the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could lead to a tornado in Texas. During the decades since, the butterfly effect and chaos theory have sparked countless debates and pop culture references. But the question also holds practical importance: What do small, unpredictable events mean for the future of weather prediction? 

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Moon’s tidal forces affect amount of rainfall on Earth

Satellite data over the tropics, between 10 degrees S and 10 degrees N, shows a slight dip in rainfall when the moon is directly overhead or underfoot. The top panel shows the air pressure, the middle shows the rate of change in air pressure, and the bottom shows the rainfall difference from the average. The change is 0.78 micrometers, or less than one ten thousandth of an inch, per hour.

When the moon is high in the sky, it creates bulges in the planet’s atmosphere that creates imperceptible changes in the amount of rain that falls below. New University of Washington research to be published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the lunar forces affect the amount of rain – though very slightly. “As far as I know, this is the first study to convincingly connect the tidal force of the moon with rainfall,” said corresponding author Tubas Kohyama, a UW doctoral student in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. 

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Mathematical model explains huge recurring rainstorms in the tropical Indian and Pacific oceans

Angel Adames at the DYNAMO field campaign in the Maldive Islands in February 2012. He is holding a research weather balloon and a box that will track temperature, dew point, etc., at different heights.

El Niño is fairly well understood, and by now it’s a household word. But another huge system in the tropical Indian and Pacific oceans, which wreaks similar havoc in world weather, is relatively unknown and is just beginning to be explained. University of Washington scientists have published a mathematical model that could help explain and forecast the Madden-Julian Oscillation, a massive cluster of thunderstorms that plays a role in global weather. 

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Northwest winter weather: El Niño, coastal effects, no more 'blob'

A U.S. projection for trends in precipitation (left) and temperature (right) during the first three months of 2016. Washington state is expected to be drier (brown) and warmer (red) than usual, in this Dec. 17 seasonal forecast.

What some have called the “Godzilla El Niño” is now lumbering ashore, right on schedule. El Niño tends to influence North American weather after the first of January, and indeed, we’re seeing warm temperatures in Alaska and much-needed rain in California. University of Washington researchers are tracking what the season will deliver to the Pacific Northwest region. For Washington, El Niño typically brings warm, and often dry, winter weather. 

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