Monday, December 22, 2008

Watching Weather

For those who regularly follow my blog, you know I am always boasting about my palace in the sky. I live way high up, in one of those lofty high rises in the city.

Aside from never having to worry about a flooded basement, one of the perks to living so high up is the view.

I can see the lake and the city skyline in the south, and way up past the city to the north. Something which is also pretty amazing about the view – watching weather.

Now, I know you’re thinking to yourself how pathetic this guy’s life must be, to actually watch weather unfold. Here’s someone – you think – who really needs to get a life.

Well, you may be right, but if you ever happen upon the chance to watch weather from way up high, you’ll probably be just as awe-struck as me.

I’m so high up, I actually can see the cloud formations, as the clear blue sky mists over into a dark haze. I can see rain and snow storms moving across the city. I can also see pockets of weather – when it may be storming in specific spots scattered all over the city, with lots of blue skies in between.

You learn very quickly, that no matter how big the city is, the raw power of Mother Nature can sprawl over the whole thing in a matter of minutes. I’ve seen the whole city go from bright sunny skies, to pitch-black in under ten-minutes.
What’s really amazing, is watching a developing storm, especially as if it starts in the south over the lake.

Water is to storms what gasoline is to cars – fuel. As the storm crosses the lake, it picks up speed and power. I’ve seen small storm clouds turn into frightful monsters, which have knocked over trees, caused cars to spin out of control, and blackout much of the city by downing power lines.

The past few days, I’ve been watching some pretty wicked snow storm weather. Snow storms are interesting things to watch develop, because they always start off with a very thick and low lying bed of layered clouds. From the ground looking up, you just see grey clouds. From my perch above the world, I see the layers of cloud, usually a dark layer at the bottom, several varying light and dark layers in the middle, and a puffy purple-ish-white top. The purple is the reflection of the sun on the snow forming in the cloud. This is also why it tends to warm up a degree or two just before a snow storm, although the sun’s visible light rays can’t penetrate through the layer of snow forming, the ultraviolet rays which contain heat do get through, causing the air to heat beneath the clouds.

When these layers streak together across the sky, the snow starts to fall. The streaking effect isn’t caused by the cloud’s movement across the city – it already is completely over the city. The streaking effect is caused by the weight of the water droplets freezing – as they freeze, and become snow, the cloud can’t hold them anymore, and they fall to the ground.

Snow storms are particularly interesting to watch, because it takes so much time for the clouds to fill with snow, that the storm clouds usually cover the entire city before it actually starts to fall to the ground.

After a snow storm, the sky is almost completely barren of clouds, because the low pressure system has moved off, and a high pressure system is usually moving in. But now that the ground is completely covered in a layer of insulating snow, all is quiet outside.

Snow acts like a sound barrier, absorbing much of the noise commonly heard outside. So everything from cars, people and their pets, to birds and even the wind all are muffled.

That’s the best part about living high up, experiencing the different effects nature has on the environment above and beneath.

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