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Kristian Dowling/Getty Images
Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

There's No Such Thing as 'the Temperature in the Shade'

Kristian Dowling/Getty Images
Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

We’re getting into that stretch of the summer when in much of the world it’s downright miserable to sit near a window, let alone go outside and let the Sun beat down on us. Pretty soon we’ll start to hear people exclaim that it’s 100°F in the shade. Talking about “the temperature in the shade” lets us emphasize how hot it is outside while also pointing out how hot it feels when you’re not in the shade. But meteorologically speaking, there is no such thing as the temperature in the shade. That’s just the actual air temperature.

When you look at a weather report during the summer, you typically see three readings reported: air temperature, dew point, and the heat index. The dew point is the temperature at which the air would reach 100 percent humidity, which is the best way to measure how muggy it is outside. The heat index is what it feels like to your body when you combine both the temperature and the dew point—a heat index of 110°F, for instance, means that the current air temperature plus the humidity has the same effect on your body as an actual air temperature of 110°F.

Bring your own shade, as these women knew to do in 1939 London when they donned their Dolly Varden Sun Bonnets, which consisted of a large non-inflammable eye shade and a georgette tie. Image credit: George W. Hales/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Direct sunlight makes those unbearable temperatures even worse. If you’ve ever seen a thermometer exposed to direct sunlight on your deck or vehicle, you know what I mean—even if the actual air temperature is only 90°F, the thermometer bathing in the sun will read dozens of degrees higher, sometimes hotter than the hottest natural temperature ever recorded (134°F in Death Valley, California, in 1913). That’s not the real temperature, of course; it’s the temperature of the air combined with the temperature of the sensor itself warming up in the sunlight.

Thermometers used in official weather stations maintained by airports and weather agencies around the world are built with plastic or wooden shelters around them to prevent contamination from sunlight. The enclosure that surrounds the thermometer allows the sensor to measure the actual air temperature; in other words—drum roll—the temperature in the shade.

Even though “the temperature in the shade” is little but hyperbole, the sun really does have an impact on your body beyond a painful sunburn. Just like your deck thermometer, standing out in broad daylight on a blistering day can make your body have to work much harder than it already does—potentially to the point that you can get sick. That 90°F temperature is already made worse by humidity (preventing your sweat from cooling you off), but standing in the sun heats up your skin and your clothes even more, making it harder to cool off unless you find air conditioning or cover from the sun.

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Even in Real Time, the Northern Lights Look Like a Beautiful Timelapse Video
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Nothing compares to seeing the Northern Lights in person, but this video shared by The Kid Should See This is a pretty decent substitute. Though it may look like a timelapse, the footage hasn’t been altered or sped up at all. The undulating green lights you see below are what the aurora borealis looks like in real time.

Astro-photographer Kwon O Chul captured the footage of the meteorological phenomenon in Canada’s Northwest Territories in March 2013. The setting, the Aurora Village in Yellowknife, is a popular destination for tourists coming to see the Northern Lights up close. In the video, you can see how the camp’s glowing teepees complement the colorful ribbon of lights above.

Even if you plan your Northern Lights sightseeing trip perfectly, it’s impossible to guarantee that you’ll get a clear view of the aurora borealis on any given night, since factors like solar activity and weather conditions affect the light show’s visibility. But if you want to know what to expect when the lights are at their peak, take a look at the clip below.

You can check out more of Kwon O Chul's photography on Facebook.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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Alaska Got 15 Inches of Snow in 90 Minutes Last Week
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Alaska is obviously no stranger to snow, but this month's white weather will likely go down in the state's record books. As The Weather Channel reports, Thompson Pass—a 2805-foot-high area in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains—received a whopping 15 inches of powder in just 90 minutes on Wednesday, December 6.

Thompson Pass sits just outside of Valdez, a tiny port city on Alaska’s south coast. Located along the Gulf of Alaska, Valdez is perhaps best known for the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and for its rich Gold Rush history. Today, it’s important for commerce, since it’s the northernmost ice-free port in North America. But ice-free doesn't mean blizzard-free: The city is regularly cited as one of the snowiest places in the U.S., if not the snowiest. On average, locals can expect to see (and smell) 300 or more inches of frozen precipitation per year. As for Thompson Pass, it very often receives more than 700 inches of the wet stuff in a year.

Still, Mother Nature truly outdid herself on December 6, when Thompson Pass was slammed with what weather historian Christopher Burt deemed to be one of modern history’s most intense snowfalls. By the storm’s end, 40 inches of heavy snow had accumulated in just 12 hours, according to The Washington Post.

Who angered the winter weather gods? Or, more scientifically speaking, which atmospheric conditions led to the storm? According to experts, a stream of warm water vapor from the Pacific Ocean hit Alaska’s coast, traveling through an aerial channel known as an “atmospheric river.” When atmospheric rivers hit land, they release this water vapor as either rain or snow, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Intensifying the phenomenon was the North American Winter Dipole, which The Washington Post’s Jason Samenow described as a “fancy term to describe abnormally warm conditions in the West and cold conditions in the East.”

"Under such a pattern, the jet stream, the super highway for storms that divides cold and warm air, surges north in the western half of the nation, and crashes south in the eastern half,” Samenow said.

Valdez residents are accustomed to snow, but last week's storm was particularly challenging for townspeople. An avalanche buried Richardson Highway, the city’s only overland route that leads in and out of town. It reopened on Thursday, December 7, according to The Cordova Times, but driving conditions were poor.

While extreme, the Thompson Pass blizzard might not be history's weirdest snowfall. For example, arid countries like Kuwait and Iraq have experienced snow. In January 1887, 15-inch snowflakes were reportedly spotted at Montana’s Fort Keogh. And in 1921, over six feet of snow fell between April 14 and April 15 in Silver Lake, Colorado—the most snow to ever fall in a 24-hour period in the U.S.

[h/t The Weather Channel]

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