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Atmospheric Science

The atmosphere is the key to life on Earth. This thin layer is what protects us from the hostile environment of space. Here you can learn all about the atmospheric sciences.

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What is St. Elmo's Fire?

Sometimes a lightning storm heralds sightings of St. Elmo's Fire. What causes the mysterious glow sailors interpreted as a sign of salvation?


Is humid air heavier than dry air?

If humid air is just air plus water, then it has to be heavier than dry air, right? Sure, if it was only a matter of simple addition, but molecular physics is a lot like a bouncer at a club: Nothing gets in unless something else goes out. See more »

Is the cloud spiral phenomenon real?

Admit it: You'd be just a little freaked out if you looked up at the night sky and saw a weird glowing spiral stretching out before you. In 2009, many claimed to witness exactly such a phenomenon, but were they spinning yarns or telling the truth? See more »

What is the rarest weather phenomenon?

What is the strangest weather-related thing that could happen? Raining frogs? A triple rainbow? Or something else? See more »

10 Myths About Rainbows

Did you know no two people see the same rainbow? Or that they contain 1 million colors — not just the handful we learn in school? Find out how to make your own rainbow — or, if you’d rather, how to make one disappear. See more »

10 Scientifically Sound Weather Superstitions

Ever hear that saying that a cow lies down when rain is coming? This superstition may not be as udderly ridiculous as you think. See more »

Is every snowflake actually unique?

You've probably heard that no two snowflakes are alike, but can that be true? Find out how molecules of water vapor come together to form these winter wonders. See more »

Why does humidity make my hair frizz?

Nothing ruins a good hair day like humidity, especially if your hair is dry and overprocessed. What's the science behind the frizz? See more »

What's a polar vortex?

During the unusually cold winter of 2014, the term "polar vortex" got quite a workout, causing many to wonder if it was a new weather phenomenon. Actually, the polar vortex is always with us – just usually with a lower profile. But will that change? See more »

10 Best Spots on Earth to Watch the Auroras

Auroras themselves aren't rare, but spotting one can be tricky: You need a clear, dark sky within one of the auroral zones. What are 10 spots that up the odds a bit? See more »

Why are the auroras seasonal?

If you've ever spied a night sky splashed with vivid billows of color, either you have access to interesting drugs or you've seen an aurora firsthand. If it's the latter, your sky-gazing probably took place during spring or autumn. How come? See more »