Climate & Weather

Atmospheric sciences help us understand and predict the weather. Learn about topics such as the seasons, why it snows, and how rainbows are formed.

Topics to Explore

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Weather Bombs Are Spectacularly Destructive

Weather bombs have produced some of the most destructive storms on record. So what is one exactly?

How a Single Lightning Strike Instantly Killed Hundreds of Reindeer

Herd animals stick together, but when there's a lightning storm, there may not be safety in numbers.

200 Years Ago, We Had a Year Without a Summer

More than two centuries ago, the biggest volcanic explosion in human history occurred. And it had far-reaching effects.

You Haven't Seen Lightning Until You've Seen This Slow-motion Lightning

Florida Tech filmed lightning strikes with powerful cameras that show the strikes almost 30 times slower than real life.

Tiny Louisiana Community Is Rapidly Vanishing Due to Rising Seas

Once 5 miles wide, the Isle de Jean Charles has shrunk to be a spit of land barely a quarter mile wide. Soon it will no longer exist.

How El Nino Works

El Nino is anything but child's play when it comes to affecting the globe's weather — and, in turn, our economies, health and safety.

The Aurora as Seen From Space Is Prettier Than You Ever Imagined

Just because astronauts are in space doesn't mean they can't use Twitter. These images of the Northern Lights were shot by International Space Station crewmembers.

10 Times It Has Rained Something Other Than Water

Frogs! Fish! Birds! A surprising number of things have rained down from the sky besides water. But how?

'Fire Rainbows' and 'Sun Dogs': Weird Weather in the Smartphone Age

Smartphone cameras enable us to take striking pictures of strange atmospheric phenomena—though we don’t always know what we’re seeing.

Does thunder in the winter mean snow is coming?

Thunder in the winter is a pretty cool phenomenon. It's unexpected, plus some say when you hear it, snow will arrive within seven days. If you hear thunder during the winter, should you get your snow shovel ready?

How rare are double rainbows?

A double rainbow, man! Just the sight of one can send us babbling into happiness. And why not? Rainbows are beautiful. And two rainbows at the same time? Even better. But just how rare are these colorful arcs?

Does lightning really never strike the same spot twice?

You've always heard that lightning never strikes the same spot twice. So if that tree stump in the yard was struck during a storm, why not just go sit there during the next storm? You're safe, right? You might want to rethink that.

Is It Dangerous to Bathe During a Thunderstorm?

There's nothing quite as relaxing as a nice bubble bath at the end of the day. However, take one during a thunderstorm and you may have a shocking experience instead.

How big can hail get (and how is that even possible)?

The longer ice bounces around in storm clouds, the bigger the hailstones will be when they fall to Earth. Drag that process out for a while, and comparisons to mere golf balls just won't cut it.

Could there be a triple rainbow?

If the legend is true, at the end of every rainbow is a pot of gold. Does that mean if triple rainbows exist, you'll find three pots of gold?

Does a wet summer mean a brilliant fall?

One of the best things about autumn is watching the leaves change color – fiery hues lining the landscape, ushering in cooler weather. Some say a rainy summer leads to an extra-vivid leaf show. Is that true?

Do rubber tires insulate your car from lightning?

To paraphrase the band Queen, thunder and lightning are very, very frightening. Especially when you're stuck in a car in the middle of nowhere. But can your rubber tires protect you from a lightning strike?

Are you safe from lightning if you haven't heard thunder for 30 minutes?

Ah, lightning. Nothing like millions of volts of electricity skittering around your neighborhood to get the old heart rate up and send you scrambling for cover. Of course, no one can stay hidden forever, so when's it safe to come out?

Are you safe from lightning if the storm hasn't hit yet?

In the distance, storm clouds are gathering. The air feels alive — almost electric. Even the animals are getting restless. Yep, no doubt about it: a storm's brewin'. So should you stay and watch the light show, or should you take cover?

Are you safe from lightning if the skies are clear?

In the days of Ancient Greece, it was easy enough to chalk up a bolt from the blue to Zeus, the great curmudgeon of Mt. Olympus. But while Ancient Greeks probably never felt safe from their grumpy god, today we know a bit more about lightning safety.

Are you safe from lightning if it's not thundering?

Simon and Garfunkel. Peanut butter and jelly. Thunder and lightning. Some things are just better when they roll in pairs. But while we know that '60s folk singers and classic foodstuffs can also roll solo, what about these stormy BFFs?

Can you predict winter weather based on summer weather?

Your grandfather may swear that he can feel the onset of a harsh winter in his bones — and your family may swear it's true — but a lot of us would prefer a more scientific method for predicting what the winter may have in store for us.

Does a ring around the moon mean rain is coming soon?

We humans have figured out a lot of strange ways to measure the weather. A cricket's chirps can tell us the temperature. The open scales on a pinecone signal a dry spell. But can a ring around the moon really predict rainy days ahead?

How does the Farmers' Almanac predict weather?

It sure would be handy to know what the weather is going to be like for the next year. Unfortunately, there's just one problem: Weather is notoriously difficult to predict. So is the Farmers' Almanac accurate, or is it just blowing hot air?

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.


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