In every issue of Weatherwise, we try to bring to you, our readers, dramatic stories and photos of extreme weather across the country. It is exactly this drama that keeps the magazine interesting. But as a self-professed “weather weenie,” I have to admit to a bit of jealousy sometimes when interesting meteorological events pass me by: As I've said before, the D.C. area can be quiet in terms of meteorological extremes!
So when, on a recent trip to Pittsburgh, I was informed that an event I was attending would end early because there was a tornado watch in effect, I was far more excited about the possibility of seeing a tornado up close than I was disappointed about the event cancellation. The event happened to be an educational river cruise for environmental journalists, and when we heard the announcement about the tornado, several of us rushed out to the boat deck, keen on the possibility of seeing up close what we had written about so many times. In the end, although there were reports of tornadoes nearby, our boat docked safely, and the worst of the weather passed us by. But not before I was amazed to witness the most violent thunderstorm of my life seemingly come out of nowhere and rock the boat with gusting winds and lashing rain. It was a sight not soon forgotten, and I only wish I had been able to capture the violence of the storm on camera.
Of course, some of Weatherwise's readers are much more conscientious about bringing their cameras with them when they leave the house, and for that we are grateful. Each year, hundreds of amateur photographers submit their photos of extreme, beautiful weather to Weatherwise's annual Photo Contest, and our judges are hard-pressed to pick the best images. This year was no exception, and the winners of the 2010 Photo Contest, displayed in the pages of this issue, represent some of the best examples we have seen of ice crystallization, hole punch clouds, iridescence, and other weather phenomena.
Many of the images that win the Photo Contest each year are picked for their rarity as much as their beauty; weather phenomena are notoriously difficult to capture on film because they are so short-lived and can often put the photographer under stress. Such is also the case with hailstorms. In “Deep Hail: Tracking an Elusive Phenomenon,” “Weather Queries” columnist Tom Schlatter and co-author Nolan Doesken tackle the question: “What is the deepest hail accumulation over a one-square-mile area ever recorded in the United States?” Their answer, replete with impressive photos, is fascinating.
From ice in summer storms to ice all year round, Weatherwise's other feature this issue takes a look at how meteorologists track weather at the bottom of the Earth in the remote Antarctic research stations. Ann Posegate spent two weeks in Antarctica learning about how these hardy folks overcome the many challenges inherent in performing research at the bottom of the planet.
Congratulations to all of the winners of this year's Photo Contest, and thank you to everyone who entered a photo. Keep those cameras handy, because we're already accepting entries for the 2011 contest!