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Why does lightning strike? And answers to 50 other weather questions

  • Why are thunderstorms worse in spring?

    When a cool, dry atmosphere mixes with warm, moist air, thunderstorms pop up. This is more likely to happen in the spring and summer as temperatures rise.


  • Why does global warming make blizzards stronger?

    As the Earth and oceans get warmer, the atmosphere holds more moisture. This comes down as precipitation. So when it gets cold enough to snow, there will be more of it.


  • Why is flooding worse in spring?

    When it warms up, snow melts and flows downstream. When this mixes with heavy rain, rivers can overflow and cause flooding. The Mississippi River overflowed in the spring of 2019, causing flood deaths in the Midwest.


  • Can the weather make arthritis worse?

    The short answer is: maybe. Some people say they know it’s about to rain because their joints start to hurt. However, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to back up this claim. There is no relationship between rainfall and outpatient trips to the hospital for joint and back pain, according to a study in the journal BMJ released in 2017. 

  • What are heat islands?

    Places that have many exposed surface areas, like buildings and pavement in cities, can be hotter than nearby rural areas. This is known as the “heat island” effect. These surfaces can get 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the air. Furthermore, heat islands can increase energy use, putting more greenhouse gases into the air and worsening global warming. 

  • What is acid rain?

    Precipitation that contains acidic components, like sulfuric or nitric acid, is called acid rain. Snow, fog, hail, and dust can also be acidic. While acid rain can form around volcanoes, it’s usually caused by human consumption of fossil fuels. Acid rain can damage forests and other plants. When acid rain pollutes water sources like lakes and streams, it can be deadly to aquatic animals.


  • What is a firenado?

    In 2018, a spinning tower of fire crossed a river, worsening the Carr fire in Northern California. This “tornado-strength fire-generated vortex,”—also called a firenado, fire whirl, fire devil, or a fire twister—was a combination of hot weather, unstable winds, and a cloud topped with ice, according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters.


  • Can lightning strike the same place twice?

    Not only can lightning hit the same spot more than once, but it can also do so in a short amount of time. While the chances a person will get struck by a bolt is about 1,000,000 to one, a park ranger named Roy Sullivan reported getting zapped seven times.



  • What areas are prone to flash flooding?

    Flash flooding can occur if a dam or levee breaks. It can also happen within minutes or hours after heavy rainfall, especially if the storm is moving slowly. It’s more likely to affect areas where a lot of people live and work. That’s because the ground, which usually absorbs water, is covered with buildings, driveways, or roads.


  • Where is “tornado alley” shifting?

    Tornadoes still mostly hit states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. However, since 1979, the number of tornadoes in the Great Plains has decreased. At the same time, states east of the Mississippi River, except Florida, have seen an uptick in tornado activity. If this trend continues, highly populated areas like Chicago may see more deaths and damage. Scientists aren’t sure how or if climate change is affecting the shift.


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