People walk by Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The San Francisco 49ers will face off against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Feb. 3, 2013 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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
As many weather-minded people may know, Groundhog Day occurred Saturday (Feb. 2), when winter's fate is decided by a groundhog's perception of its shadow. But in actuality, winter's midpoint in the Northern Hemisphere occurs today: Super Bowl Sunday.
According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil emerged from its burrow on Saturday, it would leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly "see its shadow" and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks. But Phil did not see his shadow early Saturday, suggesting an early spring is right around the corner.
Saturday was also Candlemas, once regarded as the first of the four "cross-quarter" days of the year or the middle of the winter season, halfway between the December solstice and the March equinox.
The true midpoint of winter, however, will occur today at 6:07 p.m. EST (2307 GMT), just 23 minutes before kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII. Although the altitude of the Sun has been slowly climbing and the length of daylight has been increasing since the winter solstice on Dec. 21, any changes up to this point have been relatively subtle.
For example: On the first day of winter at Portland, Maine, sunset occurred at 4:07 p.m. and the length of daylight (from sunrise to sunset) reached a minimum of 8 hours and 57 minutes. On "Super Sunday" – winter's midpoint — the sun will set at 4:55 p.m. with only 64 additional minutes of daylight having accumulated since Dec. 21. (In Images: Extreme Weather Around the World)
But as an old and true New England proverb notes: "As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens." And as most people who live in the United States, southern Canada and much of Europe will attest this particular winter season, the thermometer appears to be reluctant to respond to the increasing solar altitude. Indeed, that extra hour of daylight is not enough to give us any sense of warmth; while the days have gradually become longer, the bitterness of winter with its attendant ice and snow is still the same.
Still, it's in the second half of winter that the effects of the northward shift of the sun's direct rays start becoming much more noticeable. In fact, by March 20 — the date of the vernal equinox — the length of daylight will have increased by 2 hours and 19 minutes since Feb. 3. And because daylight saving time begins on March 10 this year, by March 20, the sun will be setting just seven minutes shy of 7 p.m.
Interestingly, for many northern locales, long-term records indicate the first four days of February are the coldest of the winter. But average daily temperatures rise rapidly thereafter, so that by the last week of the month they are higher than any day in January. Meteorologists, in fact, consider that the winter season is over at the end of February; they consider "meteorological winter" to be defined by the three coldest months of the year: December, January and February.
So for all those winter weary souls, take heart: In the days and weeks to come, you’ll more readily be able to sense the greater amounts of daily light and see the more northerly position of the afternoon sunsets on the horizon. And soon the weather will correspondingly respond as well.
So, take heed that while "Super Sunday" marks the halfway point of winter, that we’re also about to turn the corner so to speak, both astronomically and meteorologically. And regardless of what your local groundhog or woodchuck forecast early on Saturday morning, spring is well on its way.
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.
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Enter NASA's Winter Weather Photo Contest
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