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July-August 2015

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From the Editor

No one could argue that this past winter was a doozy for many. Boston was inundated with record snow, while many other parts of the country suffered under arctic chills that impressed even long-time weather watchers. The weather pattern that was responsible for Boston's misery in February was actually at play even earlier than that: An upper-air trough associated with a very cold air mass sent a massive amount of snow to Buffalo, New York—a location that is normally blasé about its winter storms. But in November 2014, the area was hit by two huge lake effect storms that dumped seven feet of snow on Buffalo, stunning residents and wreaking havoc on everyday life. In “Enough Already! Buffalo's Snowvember,” Stephen Vermette takes us inside these twin storms that helped launch one of the snowiest winters on record.

One of the industries most affected by massive storms like those that hit Buffalo in Snowvember and Boston in February is the airline industry. Most of us have suffered through weather delays at the airport, and while we understand that it's important to have safe weather for flying, it can truly disrupt our plans. But did you know that airplanes actually help supply weather data as well? In “How Meteorologists Help Airlines Beat the Weather Odds,” Jack Williams gives us an insider view of how meteorology affects nearly every aspect of the airline industry.

Meanwhile, with much of the West in a record-breaking drought, meteorologists are going to be at the forefront of efforts to fight wildfires in what is expected to be a rough fire season. From lightning-sparked fires to firestorms whipped into a frenzy by high winds to soaring temperatures that present an even greater danger to firefighters, Jan Null shows us how weather will play a key role in fighting brushland fires, as it has through the ages.

Finally, in “Virginia's Smart Road: Where Researchers Make the Extreme Weather,” Tom Gibson explores what it would feel like to play God, just for a little while. The researchers at Virginia's Smart Road know, because their job is to test how some of the toughest weather affects road conditions. From freezing rain to snow to downpours, vehicles are tested on how they respond in these conditions, produced by man but inspired by nature.

Somehow it always feels like feast or famine when it comes to weather. Even as we look at the major storms that struck much of the country this past winter, I can't help but think of the devastating drought that is affecting the West, particularly California. In the fourth year of the worst drought in the state's history, California is facing water restrictions and elevated fire risks, among other problems, as the lack of rain continues. We can only hope that the El Niño that is predicted to continue into the fall brings with it much-needed storms for the area.

I hope you enjoy this issue of the magazine. As always, please contact me if you have questions or comments.

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