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March-April 2011

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From the Editor

This holiday season I was fortunate enough to experience two wildly different climates in the space of just a few days: I celebrated Christmas in the festive but decidedly chilly weather in Washington, D.C., where I enjoyed my first “white” Christmas when a few flurries graced the region on Christmas day, and then spent the week prior to New Year's in sunny, warm San Diego. The contrasts were impressive. A holiday walk in a local park in Washington, D.C., required many layers of protection against the frigid wind-chill temperatures, while a leisurely stroll along the harbor in San Diego actually made me wish I had brought my summer wardrobe. Each weather regime has its own benefits, and I always enjoy the ease with which we can travel through different climates here in the United States.

One climate that I have not spent enough time in is West Virginia's, the subject of this issue's installment of the “Weather and Climate of the 50 States” series. I always thought of West Virginia as an extension of my state of residence, Virginia, but it turns out there's a lot more to this mountainous region than I knew. For example, as a native of California's Central Coast, I thought we had the lock on fog, but it turns out West Virginia's own fogginess is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, West Virginia actually has more overcast days than most other states. I hope that you read this article and find as many interesting and new pieces of information as I did.

Accompanying the “Weather and Climate of West Virginia” is a pair of features about heat. In one, Weatherwise contributing editor Tim Vasquez takes a look at the unusual weather patterns that contributed to Russia's intense heat wave and subsequent wildfire disaster in 2010. The unprecedented heat wave that struck much of Eurasia during the summer of 2010 sparked a series of fires that proved devastating for an unprepared government and fragile countryside. We can only hope that this disaster provided lessons for those who must prepare for future wildfires in Russia.

And from a specific heat wave to a more general look at record temperatures: Christopher Burt, author of Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book, examines what it takes to measure a record temperature and where some of the hottest readings on the planet have been made. How does a maximum temperature of 136.4°F sound to you? Well, if you'd been in Al Azizia, Libya, on September 13, 1922, you would know. From Africa to the United States, Burt shares how some of the most extreme locales on earth have yielded record-shattering highs.

I hope you enjoy these glimpses of weather from around the globe as we head into the spring season. It still remains to be seen what summer will bring here in the Northern Hemisphere, but with a little luck we might see one of those record heat measurements broken again!

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