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July-August 2014

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From the Editor

On June 29, 2012, I was awoken from a deep sleep by the loudest storm I had ever heard in my life. All I could think as I lay there was that tornado survivors often describe the sound of the tornado as something like a freight train going by—and what was going on outside sounded exactly like a freight train. Why was there a tornado in urban northern Virginia? Could our brick townhouse withstand tornado-force winds? How could I protect my infant daughter, sleeping just a room away? And how was it possible that I had no idea that this was going to happen in this day and age?

I learned later that what I had thought was a tornado was actually a derecho, a long-lived convective wind storm, producing continuous, severe wind damage along a corridor at least 250 miles long. Although I work in the meteorological field, I rarely experience the more extreme forms of weather myself, and I could hardly believe that such a strong storm had made headlines on my doorstep.

When dawn arrived the next day, I could see that the damage was frightening. Over the next week, we sweated through one of Washington, D.C.'s infamous heat waves with no power. Millions of people were in the same boat.

In “A Mighty Wind,” Weatherwise Contributing Editor Jeffrey Halverson takes a closer look at this devastating storm, examining the meteorological basis for the derecho, how it was difficult to predict just how the storm would behave, and why we could see more of these storms in the future.

While frightening and violent, derechos are not among the strangest or most spectacular weather phenomena. Ed Darack can tell you a bit about which phenomena would make a list of the top strangest and most spectacular weather events. Darack has compiled an extensive list of the phenomena that make the study of our atmosphere's peculiarities so fascinating. In Part I of “The Extraordinary Sky,” Darack explores these events, from upward lighting to downbursts, and tells us a bit more about them.

Rounding out the issue, we have our latest installment in the weather and climate of the 50 states series with a chapter on Kansas, and a crossword puzzle of meteorological terms to test just how good our readers' weather know-how is!

I hope you enjoy this issue and welcome any feedback from you all!


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