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

  • What is a nor’easter?

    Some East Coast storms are called nor’easters because winds from the northeast create them, explains the National Weather Service. The strongest storms usually occur from September to April, but they can happen anytime. Earlier in 2019, a May storm dropped rain from New Jersey to North Carolina.



  • What causes smog?

    The term smog originally came about in the early 1900s. Today, the term refers to any ozone pollution that makes the air hard to see through. Photochemical smog is mostly what is seen today. It happens when sunlight mixes with chemicals released from things like factories, car exhaust, gasoline, or cleaning products, according to National Geographic. Smog can make it hard for people or animals to breathe, and it can be deadly to plants. Climate change is already making smog and air pollution worsen in cities, which is bad for human health, according to the American Lung Association. 



  • Why are hurricanes getting stronger?

    The number of tropical storms that have turned into hurricanes has tripled over the past 30 years, reported the Guardian. Experts believe the warming atmosphere is heating the oceans, which makes the storms more intense. The added moisture in the air also means the storms will dump more rain that causes flooding.



  • What is a gustnado?

    These aren’t tornadoes because they are disconnected from a cloud formation. They are “a small and typically weak area of spin on the leading edge of a thunderstorm outflow,” according to




  • Why do pipes break when it gets cold?

    When it gets chilly, water in pipes starts to expand as temperatures approach freezing. When the pressure exceeds what the pipes can handle, they break. It might be possible to prevent this by wrapping pipes or letting warm air from nearby areas to circulate them.



  • What is the most dangerous kind of tornado?

    Tornadoes are classified as weak, strong, and violent. An EF4 and EF5, the most intense tornadoes, can produce wind speeds of 166 mph or more, according to the National Weather Service. Though violent storms only make up 2% of all twisters, they are responsible for about 70% of tornado deaths, according to National Geographic. Earlier in 2019, a violent tornado killed at least three people in Missouri.



  • What is a typhoon?

    A tropical cyclone that forms in the Pacific Ocean is called a typhoon. The same kind of storm in the Atlantic Ocean is called a hurricane. Typhoons only have two classifications, whereas hurricanes have five.



  • What is blood rain?

    Wind can pick up desert sand and mix it with clouds, creating rain that looks red when it falls, explains the BBC. Blood rain can coat anything outside in a layer of red or brown dust when it dries, as long as it doesn’t rain for very long.



  • What is a derecho?

    This is a wide, fast-moving thunderstorm storm with strong winds of 90 mph or higher. A derecho blew through Wisconsin in the summer of 2019, causing damage similar to a hurricane, according to the Washington Post.



  • Is there still a hole in the ozone layer?

    There is still a hole in the ozone layer, but it's shrinking, according to NASA. There has been a 20% decrease in the hole thanks to a ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). "We see very clearly that chlorine from CFCs is going down in the ozone hole, and that less ozone depletion is occurring because of it," said Susan Strahan, an atmospheric scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.



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