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November-December 2014

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From the Editor

The November/December issue marks the last edition of the volume year, and with it another end to a year in meteorology. As I write this, summer is drawing to a close, schools are already back in session, and the air has a tinge of fall to it as the days grow shorter and the change of seasons approaches fast. Fall is possibly my favorite time of year—brilliant displays of red, orange, and yellow foliage, crisp air, blue skies, apple picking, and pumpkin harvesting. Sunny, cool days beckon me outdoors, and I soak up all the fresh air I can before winter drives me inside.

Fall is beautiful, but we would all do well to remember that it is also the height of fire season, before beneficial winter rains soak the ground and dampen any incipient blazes. Bradley M. Muller and Christopher G. Herbster's article, “Fire Whirls: Twisters That Light the Sky,” is a good reminder of that fact. In the piece, Muller and Herbster examine this lesser-known phenomena in which tornadic-like twisters form out of fire and can wreak destruction on a large swatch of surrounding territory. Researchers are working to learn more about fire whirls, which can form from any type of fire and can grow to sizes even larger than tornadoes, to protect both the public and firefighters from them.

One of the reasons late summer and early fall is the height of fire season in places like California is because of the large number of lightning storms that occur during those months. Lightning-sparked wildfires are an integral part of the natural life cycle of an ecosystem; so as long as a wildfire does not threaten a populated area, it can be quite beneficial. From another positive viewpoint, lightning provides those with an artistic eye an unparalleled opportunity to capture the fleeting moment of beauty when it lights up the sky and the ground in a spectacular fireworks display. In this issue, in the wake of our 2014 Weatherwise Photo Contest, professional photographer Ed Darack gives amateur photographers an in-depth lesson on how to photograph lightning in “Capturing the Elusive: Creating Stunning Lightning Images,” with tips ranging from weather apps to track storms to aperture sizes. I hope his article will help some of our readers take some great photos over the next 10 months, and we will get to see the results in our 2015 photo contest!

Finally, we have our latest installment in our Weather and Climate of the 50 States series. In “The Weather and Climate of Wisconsin,” Assistant Wisconsin State Climatologist Edward J. Hopkins and H. Michael Mogil disabuse us of the notion that Wisconsin is a frozen tundra on the prairies, noting that beautiful, mild days are interspersed with the cold extremes of winter and hot temperatures of summer. The fact that the state has the greatest range in all-time recorded temperatures of any state east of the Mississippi River, with a span of 169 degrees, is just one of many fascinating facts about the Badger State.

Yet another year of fascinating weather draws to a close with this issue, and I think we can say with confidence that 2015 will bring even more amazing weather stories to these pages.


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