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6 Lesser-Known Terms for Weather Phenomena

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This summer, you’re bound to hear emergency broadcasts, news reports, and videos of massive thunderstorms, with commentary and terminology you might not be familiar with. Knowing what those words mean can tell you a lot more about what’s going on than just what’s shown on the screen. Here are six lesser-known terms that are associated with the storm season.

1. Derecho

NOAA

Directly translated from Spanish, “derecho” means “straight,” and, fittingly, straight-line wind damage is a defining characteristic of this weather event. Derechos, like tornados, tend to accompany massive thunderstorms, and the storms that form them are frequently preceded by low, dark “shelf clouds” (arcus, as seen above). However, unlike tornadoes, the damage they cause is not from rotating wind or vortices. They’re formed by cold wind from thunderstorms being pushed downwards (a downburst) and rapidly spreading out in all directions once it hits the ground. This blast can lead to major damage over a large area.

Straight-line wind damage is common in thunderstorms, but a derecho is defined as a wind-damage swath that extends more than 240 miles (approximately 400 km), and which has wind gusts of at least 58 mph (93 km/h) throughout most of its length. Derechos are most common along the “corn belt” in the United States, but even where they’re most prevalent, there are rarely more than two in a year (compared to 10 to 15 tornadoes a year in the most vulnerable areas). Their rarity is due to the fact that, unlike tornadoes or hurricanes, they’re not a unified and singular event, but rather an uncommon phenomenon that was considered noteworthy enough to be given a name back in 1888. The damage and top wind speed of the derecho often varies along its length because of the fact that it isn’t a unified event, but rather a long line of individual downbursts, each with their own microbursts and microclimates.

2. Squall line

NOAA

Also known as multicell lines, squall lines develop from a common “lifting mechanism,” such as a cold front. Included in squall lines are multiple thunderstorm cells, all around the same stage in their lifecycle. They differ from other thunderstorm types, which are known as single cell (or pulse) storms, multicell clusters (where the storm cells are in different stages and don’t necessarily connect or move together), and supercell thunderstorms.

The greatest risk in squall lines tends to be the strong downdrafts, which can cause serious problems for aviation, and can cause major damage on the ground, such as in the case of derechos. Most derechos in North America develop from squall lines.

3. Virga

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From the Latin word meaning “rod, branch,” virgae often look like fuzzy rods or curtains hanging from clouds, and are a common meteorological phenomenon. These rods are shafts of precipitation that fall from clouds, but never reach the ground. They can be seen year-round, often over the desert or prairie, especially in temperate climates.

Precipitation often falls as ice crystals in the high atmosphere but melts as it falls. In the case of virga, this melted water eventually evaporates before hitting the ground. As one might expect, virga tends to develop from high-altitude clouds, when the atmosphere is somewhat warm and dry, allowing it to evaporate moisture easily. The evaporative cooling caused by virga can cause sometimes cause a dramatic temperature drop and strong convective surface winds or microbursts.

4. Crepuscular rays

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Like with virga, you’ve almost certainly seen crepuscular rays before, but might not have known the name. These rays are the “sunbeams” you see coming from the clouds, and the beams of light seen during the crepuscular (“twilight”—dawn or dusk) hours. They appear to converge at the sun, even though they’re actually parallel beams of light. The convergence is similar to how a train track appears to converge on the horizon, even though you know that it remains parallel.

These rays are formed due to the sunlight bouncing off of particulate matter and water vapor in the atmosphere. Since the sunlight passes through ten times the amount of atmosphere at dawn and dusk as compared to midday, there are many more particles for it to bounce off of before it reaches our eyes.

5. Haboob

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Despite its Arabic name (meaning “blasting”), haboobs are a worldwide phenomenon. In North America, “haboob” is occasionally used interchangeably with any dust storm, but it’s more frequently used in the context of a very intense dust storm wall that’s associated with the gust front of a severe thunderstorm. They can overtake a neighborhood or city in minutes, with wind speeds over 40 mph and dust so thick that there is zero visibility. As the haboobs can begin suddenly, be more intense than the average dust storm, and pick up any small particulate matter (such as infectious fungi and industrial metal waste) in their path, there is a serious risk posed to both transportation and public health when people don’t know how to react.

Protocol for haboobs is the same as other dust storms, but can be even more important, especially for those with chronic lung disease. If you’re outside, go inside if at all possible. If there are no indoor locations available nearby, cover your nose and mouth with fabric (such as a shirt). If you’re driving, pull over. Seriously, just wait out the dust; it won’t be that long. Despite the risk to lung health, nearly all deaths caused by haboobs are due to people continuing to drive through them, and getting into accidents.

Are you poetic? Do you understand the importance of waiting out a haboob? Maybe you can help out the Arizona Department of Transportation—this is the second year they’ve had a “Haboob Haiku” contest to promote dust storm safety.

6. Petrichor

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The storm has passed, and the scent in the air says as much. While the smell before rain may be simple (it’s ozone, created when the atmosphere is electrified), the smell after a storm is a bit more complex, and it has a name: petrichor. Coined in 1964 by Isabel Joy Bear and R. G. Thomas of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Reasearch Organization, petrichor was originally defined as airborne molecules from decomposing plant and animal matter that have settled on mineral or clay surfaces. The molecules of decay recombine with the molecules naturally on the mineral surface during dry spells, and can be smelled after a storm because the addition of water allows the mixture of fatty acids, alcohols, and hydrocarbons to be released. The term petrichor now encompasses the entirety of the smell after rain, however, not just the sharp dusty-decay scent originally described.

One of the most abundant components of petrichor gives it a musty, earthy smell. This scent is the result of the molecule geosmin. It’s a metabolic by-product of blue-green algae in water, and of Actinomyces bacteria in the soil. While it may be a beckoning call to gardeners, it’s been known for almost a century due to the problems it’s caused in winemaking—geosmin contamination leaves a wine tasting “muddy” or “moldy.”

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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink

Bella

Big Daddy

Carousel

Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Hellboy

Kagemusha

Laura

Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns

Millennium 

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

Patton

Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

Titanic

October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

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