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September-October 2011

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From the Editor

Sometimes I wish I had an eye for photography. While on a recent trip to the coast of Maine, I was surrounded by spectacular scenes—rocky outcroppings lashed by waves, verdant greenery bursting out of every nook and cranny of a quaint town, a grandfather teaching his grandson how to fish off a pier, and majestic cloudscapes wafting across a blue sky. It's easy to take a camera and point it at these amazing scenes and sometimes luck out with a photo that captures the moment in good light and at the right angle. But real photographers have an innate sense of what will work in a frame, what image will tell the most dramatic story, what feature of a landscape sets off the area in the best light. Not to mention the patience to wait for the perfect shot.

The winners of Weatherwise's 2011 Photo Contest are real photographers. Their depictions of meteorology in all its glory grace the pages of this issue of Weatherwise, and as usual, their photos are spectacular. From the grand prize winner's beautiful image of a rainbow and anti-crepuscular rays to dramatic lightning strikes, ice fingers, and iridescence, the meteorological phenomena run the gamut. I hope you enjoy the images as much as I do.

This issue of Weatherwise also features an article by Kimbra Cutlip, titled “Weather Wide Web,” which looks at how meteorology and the demand for weather data from the public helped fuel the expansion of the World Wide Web. Although the drive for the creation of computer networks came from the military, and the dissemination of the technology was driven by commercial interests, it was the weather community that really drove demand among the general public.

Then, Stanley Gedzelman takes the part of the cloud world's ugly stepsister in “Beautifying Altostratus.” At times boring, at times terrifying, altostratus is generally considered a fairly mundane cloud. But it has hidden layers that, if you look hard enough, can make this everyday cloud as fascinating as any mammatus or lenticular cloud.

Finally, Randall Cerveny takes a close look at the bizarre case of Wilheim Reich, inventor of the world's only “cloudbuster” gun. Reich had some fairly outer limits theories on meteorology and biological energy that at times interested and at times scared those in the scientific and general community. Ultimately he was imprisoned for fraud, but his legacy as one of the more colorful characters in meteorological history lives on.

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