Michelle's Blog

Who is Michelle?
Michelle is studying atmospheric science with a focus on wind energy. She hopes to find real-world solutions to environmental issues.


Michelle's College Blog

Severe Weather: How to Help
Apr. 25, 2011

As I mentioned last week, there was some pretty severe weather out this way! This is exciting to meteorologists, but can also be very damaging. We love to see the weather, but hate to see the negative effects. We all wish a tornado would just travel through an open field and dissipate before it hits anything, but this is rarely the case. Unfortunately, when tornadoes and extreme weather ravage an area, many people have damaged homes, and lose a lot.

This past week was one of the largest tornado outbreaks in North Carolina's history!

Two of my meteorology student friends went out this weekend to help organize food and supplies for those who have lost their homes. Unfortunately, it fell at a date and time when I was unable to participate.

There are a lot of ways you can help with a community though, especially when tragedy strikes. I plan to donate food, and if there are any more drives, I hope to help. These are usually well-publicized, and easy to participate in. Check out your local news and they will likely be publicizing ways the community can help.

So if you are a "weather nerd" like me, enjoy the severe weather, but always remember that it can have consequences. When there are consequences, it is always a good idea to find little ways to help out. It can really make a huge difference to a lot of people!

Lightning Lessons
Apr. 18, 2011

We just had a big storm this weekend, which can be pretty exciting for people like me who study the atmosphere! One of my good friends in school is actually doing research that will relate to lightning prediction for forecasters. Lightning in general is a subject that is intriguing for forecasters and the public alike.

Lightning can be really dangerous if it strikes the ground -- or people. Even though it can be quite beautiful to watch, be careful! Getting struck by lightning is very, very dangerous. I often watch out the window from my apartment, and make sure I stay up to date with the watches and warnings.

The phenomenon of lightning is a very interesting subject. It is described in detail on this National Geographic page:

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/lightning-profile.html

There is another type of lightning not described in that article that is especially dangerous (and especially loud)! It is called positive lightning. This usually comes from higher up in the clouds, and has more powerful charges than negative charges. People often describe the sound of positive lightning as similar to an explosion. It is much louder than the regular and more common negative lightning.

There is lightning that doesn't reach the ground, and lightning that reaches the ground (cloud-to-ground lightning). The National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) is a way to measure cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.

That is what my friend is using in her study to compare "simulations" of lightning forecasts with measurements.

Have a fun and safe week!

Climate Links
Apr. 11, 2011

There is a pretty cool website that I am a fan of called Real Climate: http://www.realclimate.org. This website was formed by a group of scientists who are a major part of the research that goes on looking at our climate. They write a blog and have links to many other things related to climate.

Climate change can be a very politically charged issue in our society today. Many people argue about what is happening and to what extent. That is why I love this website so much. It's nice to read about what is going on with our climate and know that it is from the scientists who research such issues.

Many of you may not know anything about climate. If you are interested, there are a lot of sites that are linked from this page. They give you anywhere from the very basics, like the difference between weather and climate, to more complicated topics. If you want to know about climate change basics in particular, NASA has a great outline of climate change and why scientists think this is going on: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/

If this subject is of any interest to you, then I hope you enjoy the links.

Weather Experiments
Apr. 4, 2011

In one of my classes, Applied Numerical Weather Prediction, we are running experiments this week. In weather forecasting models, there are many parameters that go into the forecasting values that generate the weather. To run an experiment, we are changing things in the model to see how the alterations will change the outcome.

The experiment I am doing involves the fall speed of rain. Within the model, there are equations that determine the fall speed of the rain, which is important when it comes to forecasting rain amounts and rates. Really small drops may evaporate or remain in the cloud if they are not heavy enough to fall. For the rain that does fall, it is programmed to fall at a certain rate. Here we are changing that by a factor of 10 (multiplying it by 10) to see how that will affect the outcome.

The changes one might expect would be in the rain accumulation (how much rain was received), what happens to the storm (the rain could fall out quickly causing the storm to "fall apart"), or what happens to the heat exchange due to phase changes.

There are many things to look at and it is hard to know how the effects will alter the outcome. Other students in the class are altering different parts of the model, so it should be really interesting to see what happens and better understand the model.

That's why experiments can be such a good learning experience! Sometimes you can't always find answers in a book, but you can by performing an experiment.