May 15, 2012, Ormond Beach, Florida. Photo by
Oct. 2, 2012 --
NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement satellite mission is working to understanding extreme weather with photos of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. But how do these storms look on the ground? NASA's GPM extreme weather photo contest highlights the beauty and ferocity seen first hand from storm-chasers before they duck for cover. Here are NASA's top five picks from over 100 submissions. This photo by Jason Weingart, a photography student at the University of Central Florida, shows a Volusia County lifeguard signaling to surfers at Ormond Beach, Fla., that it is time to exit the water. "The storm actually pushed back on shore as it moved south, and then became strong enough for tornado warnings on three separate occasions. I saw a large wall cloud, another spectacular shelf cloud, and some very tight rotation in the couple hours I stuck with the storm after I left the beach in Ormond," wrote Weingart. NASA Fun Fact: "A shelf cloud is a type of arcus cloud with a wedge shape. It is a low level, horizontal cloud formation usually associated with the leading edge of thunderstorms. The leading (outer) part of the shelf cloud appears smooth due to rising cloud motions, while the underside often appears jagged and wind-torn."
May 22, 2011 Dane County, Wisconsin. Photo by
Atmospheric scientist Grant Petty of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, was with a photography club on a farm in Dane County when he saw this thunderstorm building several miles to the east. "The storm cell dropped 1-3/4 inch hail near Sun Prairie. Fall streaks barely visible under the right side of the anvil may in fact be the falling hail,” he said.
PHOTOS: Sun Dogs, Halos, and Double Rainbows
July 5, 2011 Maricopa, Arizona. Photo by Megg
“This photo was taken in a wash that runs through my neighborhood in Maricopa, AZ. The wash runs north/south through the neighborhood and the haboob (type of intense dust storm) was rolling in from the east," reported photographer Meggan Wood. "I saw the wall of dust coming and quickly drove to the wash to get a good wide-open view of the height of the dust looming over the houses. I barely had time to get back to my car before it hit and I was engulfed! The darkness was surprising but it only lasted about 10-15 minutes before it thinned out enough to where I could drive back home, only about 2 minutes away. This was the giant haboob that made national news when it rolled through and entirely covered all of Phoenix and some surrounding cities. Maricopa is about a half-hour drive south of the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport."
PHOTOS: After the Dust Settles
September 1, 2012 Arlington, Virginia, lookin
Journalist Brian Allen with the Voice of America was at home in Arlington, Va., when this storm rolled over Washington. "The storm that blew through started off with an incredible amount of lightning and then dumped a significant amount of rain in a short amount of time -- on the other side of the river. DC got drenched and Arlington didn't see a drop,” he reported.
NEWS: Lightning Still Largely a Mystery
May 30, 2012 Kechi, Kansas. Photo by Brian Jo
Writer and photographer Brian Johnson is a also an avid storm-chaser for several Kansas radio stations. “As a large squall line moved through the area. The National Weather Service had warned about a large scale Derecho forming and moving through," he wrote. "This spawned a couple brief severe thunderstorms that dumped hail on rush hour traffic before the main line moved in. As the bigger storm moved into the Wichita area, reports were coming in of 70 mph winds and hail. There is an open farm field roughly two miles from my house that I shot lightning on the previous night. I sat there for about 20 minutes before this large squall line pushed through the clouds. I was hit with a pretty good gust front as it got closer, but as the winds increased, I decided to get to shelter. This photo was one of the last ones I took." Read more about Johnson's storm-chasing adventure here:
NEWS: Photos Catch Monster Storm's Approach: Big Pics
PHOTOS: Twilight: 15 Reasons to Watch
A scientific research program based in Alaska is shutting down, much to the relief of many conspiracy theorists who believe it has been used as a global super-weapon.
According to an article in the Anchorage Daily News:
“The U.S. Air Force gave official notice to Congress Wednesday that it intends to dismantle the $300 million High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in Gakona this summer. The shutdown of HAARP, a project created by the late Sen. Ted Stevens when he wielded great control over the U.S. defense budget, will start after a final research experiment takes place in mid-June, the Air Force said in a letter to Congress Tuesday…. Built at a cost of more than $290 million, the site has 180 antennas on 30 acres that are used to direct energy into the ionosphere, which is 55 miles to 370 miles above the Earth, and monitor changes in the flow of charged particles.”
The program had become a favorite subject of conspiracy theories suggesting it had some sinister purpose. Nick Redfern, in his book “Keep Out! High Security Facilities, Underground Bases, and Other Off-Limits Areas,” asks rhetorically:
“Is such technology already being secretly utilized on a planet-wide scale, in order to instill fear in, and exert control over, the world’s population, and also exert military control and influence over areas of strategic interest? Many conspiracy theorists say yes… Those who see HAARP as having a distinctly covert agenda point to what they consider the project’s darkest of all secrets: The earthquake in Haiti.”
Redfern suggests that the January 2010, 7.0 magnitude earthquake — which leveled much of Haiti’s urban areas and killed at least 100,000 people — “was a deliberate HAARP-induced event, designed to provide the United States government with a reason to make its presence strongly felt in an area in which it had special interests.”
In classic follow-the-money-not-the-facts conspiracy thinking, the specific special interests in this case is oil. Redfern states that “HAARP can be secretly utilized to find underground and undersea oil reserves.
How, exactly, a technology designed for studying the ionosphere — which extends high above the earth’s surface — is also used for detecting underground oil reserves or causing earthquakes is never explained.
Crass desire for oil as a reason to kill hundreds of thousands of people and devastate an already poor country might be more plausible if the United States wasn’t already one of the world’s top oil producers – getting most of the balance from Canada and South America. It would also be more likely if devastating a country’s infrastructure could somehow help instead of greatly impede the ability to access oil underneath it, and if America hadn’t donated over $1.4 billion in earthquake recovery aid.
Four and a half years later there seems to be little or no evidence of the urgent oil exploration that was presumably the whole point of the ruthless top-secret HAARP conspiracy project.
Of course it’s not just the Haiti earthquake. Conspiracy theorists suspect HAARP of causing the 2011 earthquake and the resulting tsunami that led to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Why would the U.S. government want cause an earthquake in, and irradiate part of, a close ally’s country? Oil, of course.
As for HAARP itself, Brian Dunning, writing for his Skeptoid podcast, notes:
“There’s nothing remotely secret or even classified about HAARP. No security clearance is needed to visit and tour the site, and HAARP usually holds an open house every summer during which anyone can see everything there. During the rest of the year, research is conducted. There are several other similar research stations around the world, namely the Sura facility in Russia, EISCAT in Norway, the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico, and the HIPAS observatory near Fairbanks, operated by UCLA. Sadly for the conspiracy theorists, HAARP has no potential to affect weather. The frequency of energy that HAARP transmits cannot be absorbed by the troposphere or the stratosphere, only by the ionosphere, many kilometers higher than the highest atmospheric weather systems.”
The program is being shut down because its research is done and its funding is spent. That fact that the HAARP project is over will, of course, not deter conspiracy theorists. Some will claim that the shutdown is only of the “official” work, but that “black ops” projects will continue there in even greater secrecy. Those who accept that the project truly has ended will likely proudly take credit for having helped force the government to shutter it by getting the truth out there.
Photo: The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program site, Gakona, Alaska, is pictured with Mount Wrangell in the background. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo