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March-April 2015

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From the Editor

I recently relocated from the mid-Atlantic of the United States to my home state of California, and while the culture shock is nothing to sneeze at (driving as a way of life!), perhaps no bigger change comes with the move than the weather. The day before Thanksgiving, it was in the 30s and snowing in the mid-Atlantic states, while we in California were basking in balmy, 75-degree, sunny weather. This is the weather I remember from my childhood … swimming and hiking on Christmas day, cool sea breezes, fog, and hot summers. As fantastic as the change has been in many ways, we can't help but be reminded of the high cost of this wonderful weather as we drive by drastically depleted water reservoirs, and are reminded daily of the importance of conserving water in this drought-stricken state. I do remember periods of drought and water rationing from my childhood, but the length and severity of the current drought is unprecedented. It is a good reminder to all of us that we are at the mercy of the vicissitudes of nature, and that to squander our natural resources is to place our own society in jeopardy.

Recent weeks here in California have brought much-needed rain to the area, but water deficits are so high that the state—and others in a similar drought predicament—need many more such storms to bring hard rain; this remains in question, as the fickle El Niño of 2014 stubbornly refuses to develop, despite many favorable signs. Still, there is hope for at least a weak El Niño event, and with it perhaps some relief for drought-stricken states. How far this feels from the rains-soaked greenery of the mid-Atlantic states!

While California and other states in the West and Southwest are in desperate need of rainfall, others periodically get far more than their share—namely, inland states that fall victim to the second wind of Atlantic hurricanes that make landfall in the United States, according to Jeffrey Halverson. In his article, “Second Wind: The Deadly and Destructive Inland Phase of East Coast Hurricanes,” Halverson gives us a better understanding of the extratropical transition of hurricanes over the eastern United States. He notes that excessive rainfall is just one of the potential devastating consequences of hurricanes that get their second wind after making landfall.

Meanwhile, our cover story is the latest in our Climate and Weather of the 50 States series, highlighting the highs and lows that the desert state of Arizona can experience in the span of just a couple of miles. In a state that most just think of as being hot, one can experience temperature extremes, long periods of high temperatures in the major cities at lower altitudes, altitude dependence, lightning, and occasional flooding, as well as dust storms, snowstorms, droughts, and forest fires.

Finally, we have two features that highlight the use of technology in meteorology. One is a lighthearted piece by Ed Darack updating us on how the mystery of the moving rocks of Racetrack Valley has finally been solved (hint: It involves weather!), and the other, by Greg Waxberg, gives us some insight into the newest forecasting model called High-Resolution Rapid Refresh, which is being used by the National Weather Service to provide the most skilled, accurate forecasts to date.

I hope you enjoy this issue, and as always, I welcome your comments.

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