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Brad Goddard
Brad Goddard

9 of the Most Beautiful Weather Photos of the Year

Brad Goddard
Brad Goddard

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather in Focus contest recognizes the best weather photography of the year, highlighting the best photos from storm chasers and star gazers across the country, including epic snapshots of fog, lightning, ice, and more. 

Judges selected from 2,000 entries of images related to weather events and the scientific instruments used to understand and predict the weather. The winners range from snowy scenes to shots of dramatic tornadoes to calm images of the night sky. 

Brad Goddard, a photographer based in Orion, Ill., who specializes in storm photography, swept the professional category, taking home the top three prizes. 

Here's the full version of his image above, called "Stars Behind the Storm."

His second place entry is called "A Tornado Churns Up Dust in Sunset Light Near Traer, Iowa."

Goddard's tornado hunting yielded another spectacular image called “A Tornado Crosses the Path, Reinbeck, Iowa."

Honorable mention in the professional category went to the photo “Fog Rolls in From the Ocean on a Hot Summer Day, Belbar, New Jersey,” by Robert Raia of Toms River, N.J. 

“Snow Express” by Conrad Stenftenagel of Saint Anthony, Ind., took first place in the Weather, Water & Climate category. 

“Proton Arc Over Lake Superior” by Ken William of Clio, Mich., got second place in the same category. Auroras are caused by charged particles coming in contact with the gases of the Earth's upper atmosphere. While most of these lights are caused by electrons, some are produced by protons. 

“With a Bang,” which Bob Larson shot near Prescott, Az., was awarded third place. 

“Spring Captured: Freezing Rain Attempts to Halt Spring” by Mike Shelby, Elkridge, Md., took second place in the iMoment smart phone image category. 

“Green Bank Telescope in WV” by Mike Zorger of Falls Church, Va., was selected as the best photo of weather or climate science in action. The West Virginia telescope is the world's largest steerable radio telescope. Nearby residents have to forgo electronics so as not to interfere with its signals. 

The images will be showcased at an exhibit at NOAA’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., later this summer. 

[h/t: CityLab]

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Health
Watch a Tree Release a Massive "Pollen Bomb" Into the Air
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In case your itchy, watery eyes hadn't already tipped you off, spring is in the air. Some trees release up to a billion pollen grains apiece each year, and instead of turning into baby trees, many of those spores end up in the noses of allergy sufferers. For a visual of just how much pollen is being released into our backyards, check out the video below spotted by Gothamist.

This footage was captured by Millville, New Jersey resident Jennifer Henderson while her husband was clearing away brush with a backhoe. He noticed one tree was blanketed in pollen, and decided to bump into it to see what would happen. The result was an explosion of plant matter dramatic enough to make you sniffle just by looking at it.

"Pollen bombs" occur when the weather starts to warm up after a prolonged winter, prompting trees and grasses to suddenly release a high concentration of pollen in a short time span. Wind, temperature, and humidity levels all determine the air's pollen count for any given day, but allergy season settles down around May.

After determining that your congestion is the result of allergies and not a head cold, there are a few steps you can take to stave off symptoms before they appear. Keep track of your area's pollen report throughout the week, and treat yourself with antihistamines or nasal spray on days when you know it will be particularly bad outside. You can also keep your home a pollen-free zone by closing all the windows and investing in an air purifier. Check out our full list of seasonal allergy-fighting tips here.

[h/t Gothamist]

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environment
The UK Wants to Ban Wet Wipes, And Parents Aren't Happy About It
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The United Kingdom has grown determined in recent years to reduce consumption of single-use products that pollute the environment. In April, fast food restaurant fans were dismayed to hear that plastic drinking straws are being phased out; plastic cotton swabs are also on the chopping block. Now, users of wet wipes that remove makeup and clean infant bottoms are looking at a future where reaching for one of the disposable cloths may not be so easy.

The BBC reports that wet wipes containing non-biodegradable plastic are being targeted for elimination in the coming years. The wipes contribute to “fatbergs,” giant impactions of waste that can slow or block movement in sewage systems. By some estimates, 93 percent of blockages are caused by consumers flushing the wet wipes into toilets despite package instructions to throw them in the garbage.

Not everyone is backing the move, however. Jeremy Freedman, who manufactures the wipes under the name Guardpack, says that the wipes are useful to health care workers and food preparation employees. He argues their use also conserves water normally reserved for handwashing.

The most vocal critics might be parents, who use the wipes to clean their baby’s bottom following a diaper change. Sentiments like “ban the fools that flush them!” are circulating on Twitter. The UK is looking to phase out the wipes and other problematic plastic products over the next 25 years.

[h/t BBC]

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