Do you ever hear the weatherman describe a nor'easter or a microburst that caused "straight-line" wind damage and you realize you have no idea what he's talking about? You're not alone, so we took the time to breakdown New England weather terminology for you. Next
According to the National Weather Service, "black ice" is a very thin, almost transparent layer of ice that forms on roadways and sidewalks. It's very hard to see, making it dangerous for pedestrians and drivers. Black ice forms easily on bridges and overpasses because air circulates above and below the roadway, causing pavement temperatures to drop quickly.
Above: A woman crossed Congress Street during a snow storm, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Portland, Maine. Next
A blizzard describes a combination of sustained (3+ hours) wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles an hour or greater and considerable falling and blowing of snow. Blizzards typically reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less.
People began to dig out from a big blizzard. Shaun and Taleen Taylor from Boston climb a huge snow pile on Boylston Street in the Back Bay. Next
A cold front is a zone that separates two air masses. The cooler, denser air mass advances and replaces the warm one. Rain and thunderstorms often accompany cold fronts.
This NOAA satellite image taken Monday, July 07, 2014 at 10:45 AM EDT showed a cold front that was stretching a long the Great Lakes into the Ohio Valley. The front fired up some thunderstorms for that region. Next
A cyclone is a large-scale circulation of winds around a center of low atmospheric pressure. It moves counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones can be dangerous because of the strong winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge that accompany them.
Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Ita was seen approaching the far north Queensland coast of Australia, in this NOAA satellite file image from April 10, 2014. Next
A downburst is a strong downdraft current of air from a cumulonimbus (dense, vertical) cloud that often brings intense thunderstorms and damaging winds.
A late morning downburst of nearly two inches of rain in an hour, flooded several main intersections of Fall River, trapping dozens of motorists and stalling out their vehicles in 2012. Next
Freezing rain is rain that falls as liquid but freezes into glaze upon contact with gold ground. It often leads to ice, which leads to nasty car accidents. Also known as “possibly the worst part of Boston winters.”
A cow covered with ice hovered with other cattle in freezing rain in the pasture of Knochenmus Farms outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Next
Frost is the formation of ice crystals on the ground or other surfaces. It develops when temperatures of the Earth’s surface or other objects fall below 32 degrees. Frost is the bane of farmers in the Northeast because it can kill crops during the growing season. But at least it looks really pretty.
An early morning frost covered the foliage of changing leaves at the base of Mount Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 in Bretton Woods, N.H. Next
A funnel cloud is a condensation funnel that extends from the base of a towering cumulus cloud and is associated with a rotating column of air not in contact with the ground (which would be a tornado.) Funnel clouds scare the crap out of people.
A funnel cloud appeared in the Barnes Crossing area of Tupelo in Mississippi in April 2014. Next
A gale is an area of sustained surface winds of 39 mph to 54 mph.
In winter, opalescent light transformed the Race Point peninsula's dunes and flats of stunted pine into a golden-pink mirage, and on the beach, a biting gale swept down the vast, nearly deserted corridor of sand. Next
Hail is showery precipitation in the form of irregular pellets or balls of ice more than 5mm in diameter, falling from storm clouds. Hail hurts when it falls on your head and even worse when it dings your car.
Hail gathered by Evrett Lunquist of Common Good Farm which was damaged in a storm Monday, June 16, 2014, is seen in Raymond, Neb. Next
A heat wave is a period of abnormally and uncomfortably hot and humid weather. They often last more than two days and can be very dangerous, especially for the elderly.
House painter Jesus Rubela wiped the sweat from his face while restoring a home in the South Boston neighborhood, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 in Boston. Temperatures in the Boston area reached the 90's, extending a heat wave. Next
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone in the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or eastern Pacific, which the maximum 1-minute sustained surface wind is 74 mph or greater. “The Great New England Hurricane of 1938” killed 564 and decimated nearly 9,000 homes.
This 2014 aerial photo showed flooding on the New Jersey shoreline during a search and rescue mission by the New Jersey Army National Guard following Superstorm Sandy. Next
A microburst is a convective downdraft less than 2.5 miles wide with peak winds lasting less than five minutes. They can cause severe wind damage to property.
Trees are seen on the road as workers repaired power lines after a microburst storm went through Methuen, Massachusetts, July 4, 2014. Next
A nor’easter is a strong storm system that affects the Mid-Atlantic and New England states. It can form over land or coastal water, and usually produces heavy snow, rain and waves, causing severe erosion and property damage. How did the term ‘nor’easter’ come to be? From the continuously strong (sometimes hurricane-like) northeasterly winds that blow in from the ocean ahead of the storm and over the coast.
Travelers left the Back Bay train and subway station during a winter nor'easter snow storm in Boston on January 3, 2014. A major snowstorm producing blizzard-like conditions brought bone-chilling temperatures and high winds from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, with nearly 2 feet (60 cm) of snow falling in some areas of Mass. Next
A polar vortex is a large pocket of very cold air, typically the coldest in the Northern hemisphere that sits over the polar region during winter. In the 2014 winter, a polar vortex brought frigid temperatures to Boston.
The frozen mist from Niagara Falls coated the landscape around Prospect Point at Niagara Falls State Park, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. The Polar Vortex brought high winds and frigid temperatures to the area. Next
A rip current is a powerful, narrow channel of fast-moving water that moves away from the beach. Rip currents form as waves disperse along the beach, causing water to become trapped between the beach and a sandbar or some other underwater feature. Water converges into a narrow, river-like channel moving away from the shore at high speed. As you know, rip currents are dangerous for swimmers. If you are caught in one, relax, and swim parallel to the shore and swim to land at an angle.
Signs alerted beachgoers at Horseneck Beach in Westport, MA of the possibility of rip currents on July 6, 2014. Next
Sleet is pellets of ice composed of frozen (or mostly frozen) raindrops or partially melted snowflakes that have refrozen. Sleet usually bounces after hitting the ground. It’s rare for heavy sleet (1/2 inch or more) to accumulate.
Irena Tsvetkova, of Cambridge, trekked across the Massachusetts Avenue bridge during a particularly heavy squall on Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Snow teased the Boston area, dropping a scant inch in most areas and following snowflakes with sleet and raindrops. Next
Slush is partially melted snow or ice that usually makes a squelching or splashing sound when you walk through it. It’s pretty gross when dirty and can really mess up your day if it gets in your shoes.
The duckling statues in the Boston Public Garden maintained their cheery march, frozen in both time and slush, as Bostonians dug out from the wet but rapidly freezing blanket that fell overnight on Sunday morning, December 15, 2013. Next
Snow is something we see all too often in Beantown. Snow is precipitation in the form of ice crystals that are intricately branched and shaped like hexagons. When the crystals bunch together, you get snowflakes, which are formed directly from the freezing of water vapor in air. Snow can be really pretty when 5 feet of it isn’t blocking your front door.
A lone cyclist worked his way down Walnut Street, avoiding traffic but not the falling snow Thursday night, Jan. 2, 2014. Next
A squall is a strong wind characterized by a sudden onset in which the wind speed increases at least 16 knots and is sustained at 22 knots or more for at least one minute.
Dick Pantalone, of Madison, Wisconsin, climbed down from the peak of the Mount Washington as a blanket of fog overtook the Mount Washington Observatory and Museum on Thursday afternoon, June 12, 2014, in Coos County New Hampshire. The ever-changing weather system of the summit can turn a bright, sunny day into a squall of blinding fog in a matter of seconds. Next
Straight-line wind is any wind that is not associated with rotation, used mainly to differentiate them from tornadic winds.
Dot Miller looked at the damage Tuesday's storm did to her New Oxford home after the storm dropped branches and debris in the area. The National Weather Service said two tornadoes touched down in three counties in the commonwealth during Tuesday's storm, but other damage elsewhere was due to straight-line winds. Next
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air with circulation reaching the ground. They usually start with funnel clouds and are accompanied by a loud roaring noise like a freight train. They are the most destructive of all atmospheric phenomena on a local scale. What’s the difference between a “Tornado Watch” and a “Tornado Warning?” Watch means conditions are “favorable” for the development of tornadoes in your area, while a warning means a tornado has been spotted, and you should take shelter immediately.
This photo taken on June 16, 2014 from atop the Wisner, Neb., grain elevator showed a tornado approaching Pilger, Neb. A storm packing rare dual tornadoes tore through northeast Nebraska, crumpling grain bins and flattening dozens of homes. Next
A whiteout occurs when a person is surrounded by blowing snow and cannot see shadows, clouds or the horizon. All depth-of-field and sense of orientation are lost, and hikers, pilots, and drivers alike can get lost.
Dave Kerwar of Brookline jogged through whiteout conditions around the reservoir at Cleveland Circle during the early hours of a major snowstorm. Next
Yellow Snow (It’s not what you think, mostly)
Yellow snow occurs when snow is given a golden or yellow appearance by the presence in it of pine, cypress pollen, or anthropogenic material or animal-produced material (pee.)
Fresh snow dusts a mountainside where Aspen trees turn yellow each Autumn, near Copper Mountain, Colo., Friday Oct. 4, 2013. Back to the beginning
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