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January-February 2012

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From the Editor

Weatherwise's pages are always filled with stories and analyses of interesting weather events. Wind storms, dust devils, floods, extreme heat, rain storms … while always slightly varied and interesting to study, they are par for the course for a magazine that covers meteorology. But what if these meteorological events were taking place not here on earth, but in outer space? What might seem almost mundane to a seasoned weather enthusiast suddenly becomes new and different.

In this issue, Michael Carroll takes a look at “Weather on Worlds Beyond.” Rain showers of liquid methane fall amid orange fog on Saturn's moon, Titan. Dust devils spin and snow storms blow on Mars. Decades-long storms of ammonia and methane ice crystals rage on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These images, while bearing a distinctive similarity to weather on earth, also have elements of the fantastical to them. Outer space has long been fodder for the human imagination, resulting in popular science fiction movies and books that speculate about what could be out there, and the idea of methane rain showers seems no less incredible than the events portrayed in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The images that accompany Carroll's article take reality on a ride into our imaginations, showing a world most of us have never glimpsed in a riot of color and drama rivaling or exceeding anything here on earth. I hope you enjoy both the article and the images as much as I do.

While weather on other worlds can spark the imagination and provides a good change of pace, that isn't to say that our weather here on earth—and in the United States in particular—is any less fascinating. In Part II of the “Top U.S. Weather Events of the Twentieth Century,” Don Lipman once again uses the prism of modern technology and knowledge to re-examine some of the biggest and most dramatic weather events of the last 100 years. From the great Mississippi Flood of 1927 to the modern era and Hurricane Andrew in 1992, there has been no shortage of spectacular events.

More recently, the March 2011 incident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant shined the light on how vulnerable we really are in the modern era when natural disasters—in this case, a tsunami—hit. In the aftermath of the disaster, a group of scientists at the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) were deployed to track the potential radiation in the air from the incident and determine danger to surrounding areas. As told by Jan Null, NARAC's crucial role in the world's post-disaster responses illustrates how important it is to understand air currents and other meteorological phenomena.

Finally, stepping back in time, weather played an equally important role in some of the biggest events in our nation's history. In “Friend and Foe: Weather and the War of 1812,” Stephen Vermette takes a look at how weather affected the outcome of campaigns in the United States' “forgotten war” and might have even influenced the outcome of the war itself.

We have a little bit of everything in this issue of Weatherwise, and I hope all our readers will find something to enjoy and learn from in this issue.

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