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Jason English
Jason English

15 Surprising Facts About Winter Weather

Jason English
Jason English

Whether you enjoy bundling up in your coziest gear or are already counting down the days until spring, here are 15 facts about what’s happening outdoors this time of year.

1. IT SOMETIMES SNOWS WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT.

You wouldn’t be shocked to see snow on the ground of Siberia or Minnesota when traveling to those places during the winter months. But northern areas don’t have a monopoly on snowfall—the white stuff has been known to touch down everywhere from the Sahara Desert to Hawaii. Even the driest place on Earth isn’t immune. In 2011, the Atacama Desert in Chile received nearly 32 inches of snow thanks to a rare cold front from Antarctica.

2. SNOWFLAKES COME IN ALL SIZES.

The average snowflake ranges from a size slightly smaller than a penny to the width of a human hair. But according to some unverified sources they can grow much larger. Witnesses of a snowstorm in Fort Keogh, Montana in 1887 claimed to see milk-pan sized crystals fall from the sky. If true that would make them the largest snowflakes ever spotted, at around 15 inches wide.

3. A LITTLE WATER CAN ADD UP TO A LOT OF SNOW.

The air doesn’t need to be super moist to produce impressive amounts of snow. Unlike plain rainfall, a bank of fluffy snow contains lots of air that adds to its bulk. That’s why what would have been an inch of rain in the summer equals about 10 inches of snow in the colder months.

4. YOU CAN HEAR THUNDERSNOW WHEN THE CONDITIONS ARE RIGHT.

If you’ve ever heard the unmistakable rumble of thunder in the middle of a snowstorm, that’s not your ears playing tricks on you. It’s likely thundersnow, a rare winter weather phenomenon that’s most common near lakes. When relatively warm columns of air rise from the ground and form turbulent storm clouds in the sky in the winter, there’s potential for thundersnow. A few more factors are still necessary for it to occur, namely air that’s warmer than the cloud cover above it and wind that pushes the warm air upwards. Even then it’s entirely possible to miss thundersnow when it happens right over your head: Lightning is harder to see in the winter and the snow sometimes dampens the thunderous sound.

5. SNOW FALLS AT 1 TO 6 FEET PER SECOND.

At least in the case of snowflakes with broad structures, which act as parachutes. Snow that falls in the form of pellet-like graupel travels to Earth at a much faster rate.

6. IT DOESN’T TAKE LONG FOR THE TEMPERATURE TO DROP.

Don’t take mild conditions in the middle of January as an excuse to leave home without a jacket. Rapid City, South Dakota’s weather records from January 10, 1911, show just how fast temperatures can plummet. The day started out at a pleasant 55°F, then over the course of 15 minutes a wicked cold front brought the temperature down to 8 degrees. That day still holds the record for quickest cold snap in history.

7. THE EARTH IS CLOSEST TO THE SUN DURING THE WINTER.

Every January (the start of the winter season in the northern hemisphere) the Earth reaches the point in its orbit that’s nearest to the Sun. Despite some common misconceptions, the seasonal drop in temperature has nothing to do with the distance of our planet to the Sun. It instead has everything to do with which direction the Earth’s axis is tilting, which is why the two hemispheres experience winter at different times of the year.

8. MORE THAN 22 MILLION TONS OF SALT ARE USED ON U.S. ROADS EACH WINTER.

That comes out to about 137 pounds of salt per person.

9. THE SNOWIEST CITY ON EARTH IS IN JAPAN.

Aomori City in northern Japan receives more snowfall than any major city on the planet. Each year citizens are pummeled with 312 inches, or about 26 feet, of snow on average.

10. SOMETIMES SNOWBALLS FORM THEMSELVES.

Something strange happened earlier this year in northwest Siberia: Mysterious, giant snowballs began washing up on a beach along the Gulf of Ob. It turns out the ice orbs were formed naturally by the rolling motions of wind and water. With some spheres reaching nearly 3 feet in width, you wouldn’t want to use this frozen ammunition in a snowball fight.

11. WIND CHILL IS CALCULATED USING A PRECISE FORMULA.

When the weatherman reports a “real feel” temperature of -10 degrees outside, it may sound like he’s coming up with that number on the spot. But wind chill is actually calculated using a complicated equation devised by meteorologists. For math nerds who’d like to test it at home, the formula reads: Wind Chill = 35.74 + 0.6215T – 35.75(V^0.16) + 0.4275T(V^0.16).

12. CITIES ARE FORCED TO DISPOSE OF SNOW IN CREATIVE WAYS.

When snow piles up too high for cities to manage, it’s usually hauled away to parking lots or other wide-open spaces where it can sit until the weather warms up. During particularly snowy seasons, cities are sometimes forced to dump snow in the ocean, only to be met with criticism from environmental activists. Some cities employ snow melters that use hot water to melt 30 to 50 tons of snow an hour. This method is quick but costly—a single machine can cost $200,000 and burn 60 gallons of fuel in an hour of use.

13. WET SNOW IS BEST FOR SNOWMAN-BUILDING, ACCORDING TO SCIENCE.

Physics confirms what you’ve likely known since childhood: Snow on the wet or moist side is best for building your own backyard Frosty. One scientist pegs the perfect snow-to-water ratio at 5:1.

14. SNOWFLAKES AREN’T ALWAYS UNIQUE.

Snow crystals usually form unique patterns, but there’s at least one instance of identical snowflakes in the record books. In 1988, two snowflakes collected from a Wisconsin storm were confirmed to be twins at an atmospheric research center in Colorado.

15. THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FREEZING RAIN AND SLEET

Freezing rain and sleet can both have scary effects on driving conditions, but their formations differ in some key ways. Both types of precipitation occur when rain formed in warm air in the sky passes through a layer of cold air near the ground. Thicker layers of cold air create sleet, a slushy form of water that’s semi-frozen by the time it reaches the Earth. Thinner layers don’t give rain enough time to freeze until it hits the surface of the ground—it then forms a thin coat of ice wherever it lands.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
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Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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13 Forgotten Sequels to Popular TV Shows
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NBC

While sequels can promise bigger and better things to come, sometimes they fall short ... really short. Here are 13 sequels to popular TV shows you probably forgot existed (if you ever even knew they existed at all).

1. THE BRADYS (1990)

After the success of The Brady Bunch during its five-year run on ABC during the early 1970s and in syndication throughout the 1980s, rival network CBS commissioned a sequel series after seeing positive ratings from A Very Brady Christmas, a 1988 made-for-TV reunion movie. Two years later, The Bradys debuted with its original cast, except Maureen McCormick, who declined to reprise the role of Marcia Brady. She was replaced with Leah Ayres. While the original Brady Bunch was a 30-minute comedy, The Bradys was a soapy, hour-long “dramedy,” with adult-themed storylines like Mike starting a career in politics, Marcia battling alcoholism, Bobby becoming paralyzed after a race car accident, and Peter dating an abusive woman. Yikes!

Considering The Bradys's harsher subject matter and themes, the new TV show only lasted for a few episodes in early 1990. CBS aired The Bradys on Friday nights against ABC’s TGIF juggernaut lineup of Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, and Full House. Including A Very Brady Christmas and The Bradys, there were whooping seven TV spinoffs and sequels for The Brady Bunch, including The Brady Kids, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married, Day by Day: "A Very Brady Episode," and Kelly's Kids—which was a “backdoor” pilot that never became a new TV series.

2. THE NEW GIDGET (1986 - 1988)

After the high rating numbers for the 1985 made-for-TV movie Gidget's Summer Reunion, original series producer Harry Ackerman launched a sequel the following year called The New Gidget with actress Caryn Richman in the titular role instead of Sally Field. It still followed Frances Elizabeth “Gidget” Lawrence, who was now grown up and married to her longtime boyfriend Jeff “Moondoggie” Griffin. The pair lived in Santa Monica and still made it to the beach once and a while, despite their busy lives as a travel agent (her) and an architect (him). The New Gidget only lasted for two seasons, which is actually double the original 1960s series. However, the latter is far more popular because it was Sally Field's breakout role.

3. THE MUNSTERS TODAY (1987 – 1991)

After a made-for-TV reunion movie called The Munsters’ Revenge failed to get off the ground, producers Lloyd J. Schwartz and Bryan Joseph created The Munsters Today instead. The new TV show was in full color and took place in 1988, which was 22 years after the black-and-white original went off the air. However, CBS passed on the sequel, so it aired in first-run syndication. The Munsters original cast Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) and Yvonne De Carlo (Lily Munster) declined to appear on the new TV show, while Al Lewis was not happy he was not considered to reprise the role of Grandpa.

In 2012, NBC commissioned Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) for a new TV reboot starring Jerry O'Connell as Herman Munster and Portia de Rossi as Lily Munster called Mockingbird Lane. The reboot was eventually canceled, but the broadcast network aired the failed TV pilot as a Halloween special later in the year. In 2017, it was reported that Seth Meyers was reportedly working on an all-new reboot of The Munsters for NBC.

4. THE NEW WKRP IN CINCINNATI (1991 - 1993)

In 1991, nine years after the original WKRP In Cincinnati left the airwaves on CBS, its sequel series called The New WKRP In Cincinnati debuted in syndication. The new TV show brought back many of its original cast, such as Gordon Jump, Frank Bonner, and Richard Sanders, while other cast members dropped in for special guest appearances, like Loni Anderson and Tim Reid. However, with a mixed critical response and the numerous problems of first-run syndicated TV shows (including inconsistent time slots and air dates), The New WKRP In Cincinnati was canceled two years later.

5. NEW MONKEES (1987)

In 1986, The Monkees were at the top of pop culture (again) after MTV aired reruns of the classic 1966 TV show for a new audience. Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones reunited (minus Michael Nesmith) for a special 20th anniversary tour, while their albums were reissued and a new one was released. In fact, there was so much excitement over The Monkees's revival that Columbia Pictures Television announced a new sequel TV series with a nationwide talent search to find the New Monkees.

After auditioning thousands upon thousands of young hopefuls, Jared Chandler, Larry Saltis, Konstantinos "Dino" Kovas, and Marty Ross (who also played guitar for a power pop band called The Wigs) were selected to star, as well as release a new synth pop-driven, self-titled album to coincide with the premiere of New Monkees in syndication.

Much like the original, the new TV show followed the adventures of a struggling young band that lived together, but the difference being they lived in a giant mansion with a butler, many unexplored rooms—which was the source of said adventures—a diner with a sassy waitress, and a talking computer named Helen.

However, by the time the new TV show and album were released to the public in 1987, The Monkees had become passé again. New Monkees was canceled after just 13 episodes, despite a 22-episode series order. The new album also bombed and failed to garner a single hit.  

6. SANFORD (1980 - 1981)

During the 1970s, Sanford and Son (a remake of the BBC’s Steptoe and Son) was a smash hit for NBC. Although the series was widely popular, it was canceled in 1977 after Redd Foxx left to star in The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour for rival network ABC (which was eventually canceled after only four months). Foxx later came back to NBC for the return of Sanford and Son in 1980.

However, Demond Wilson, who played Lamont Sanford, didn’t want to return, so NBC just centered the sequel series around Fred Sanford and his new business partner Cal Pettie (Dennis Burkley). It was simply called Sanford, while his son Lamont was written out of the show with the explanation that the character moved away to work on the Alaskan pipeline. Unfortunately, Sanford was not nearly as popular as the original Sanford and Son, so it was canceled after two seasons in 1981.  

7. THE NEW LEAVE IT TO BEAVER (1986 - 1989)

After ABC canceled Leave It To Beaver in 1963, rival network CBS brought The Cleavers back in the 1983 made-for-TV reunion movie Still The Beaver. The movie had such positive reviews and ratings, the Disney Channel picked it up for a sequel series the following year, but ultimately, it was canceled in 1985. Cable network TBS later picked up the series and renamed it The New Leave It To Beaver in 1986. It ran for an additional three seasons before it was canceled for good in 1989.  

The New Leave It To Beaver followed a middle-aged Wally (Tony Dow) and Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers ) with their own families and children. After The Beaver divorced his wife, his widowed mother June (Barbara Billingsley) moved in with him to help raise his two sons. Fan favorite Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) also returned with his sons, Freddie and Bomber, who were played by Osmond’s real-life sons, Eric and Christian, respectively. Fun fact: A young Giovanni Ribisi also appeared on The New Leave It To Beaver as the character Duffy Guthrie; he was credited as Vonni Ribisi at the time.  

8. TEAM KNIGHT RIDER (1997 - 1998)

In 1997, NBC created Team Knight Rider as a sequel to the hit early 1980s TV show Knight Rider. Instead of a man and his high-tech car, it featured a team of five members with their very own high-tech vehicles called the Foundation for Law and Government (or F.L.A.G.). Although the original was a pop culture hit back in the early 1980s, Team Knight Rider failed to live up to expectations in the late 1990s. It was canceled after one season in first-run syndication in 1998.  

9. MELROSE PLACE (2009)

In 2009, more than 15 years after the massive success of the original Melrose Place on Fox, The CW and producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer debuted a new TV show with the same title. The new primetime soap opera, much like the original, followed the lives of several 20-somethings living in a fictional apartment complex in West Hollywood with a cast that included then-pop star Ashlee Simpson-Wentz (now Ashlee Simpson-Ross).

While cast members from the original series—including Josie Bissett, Thomas Calabro, Laura Leighton, Daphne Zuniga, and Heather Locklear as Amanda Woodward—appeared as special guest stars, Melrose Place couldn’t find a devoted audience and it received a mixed critical response. It was canceled after one season.  

10. WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW!! (1985 - 1988)

In 1985, six years after ABC canceled the original What’s Happening!! in 1979, screenwriter Eric Monte created a sequel series called What’s Happening Now!! The new TV show still followed Raj (Ernest Thomas), Dwayne (Haywood Nelson), and Rerun (Fred Berry) living in the neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles, but now the characters are in their mid-20s instead of teenagers. Both TV shows, which were based on Monte’s coming-of-age film Cooley High, lasted for just three seasons each. Both received higher ratings in syndication than their original runs. Fun fact: Martin Lawrence made his TV debut in What’s Happening Now!!; he played a recurring role during its final season in 1987-88.  

11. DALLAS (2012)

While the original Dallas aired for 13 seasons on CBS from 1978 to 1991, its follow-up of the same name only lasted for three on TNT, from 2012 to 2014. Dallas followed the next generation of Ewing Oil’s family feud with many of the original cast members returning for another go-around. The original Dallas had a big influence on pop culture during the 1980s with its “Who shot J.R.?cliffhanger and ad campaign that fueled its popularity for 13 seasons.  

12. SAVED BY THE BELL: THE COLLEGE YEARS (1993 - 1994)

From the late 1980s through the 1990s, young Americans watched the many adventures of Zack Morris and his friends throughout junior high and high school. While Good Morning, Miss Bliss and Saved By The Bell were staples of Saturday morning programming, Saved By The Bell: The College Years premiered in primetime on NBC in 1993.

Instead of taking the original cast to college, the sequel only followed Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez), and Screech (Dustin Diamond) as freshmen living in the dorms of the fictional California University. However, Tiffani Amber Thiessen reprised her role as Kelly Kapowski after the pilot received poor ratings. Executive producer Peter Engel regretted the decision not to involve the original cast.  

“I should’ve taken all the six kids to college. I should’ve insisted we take them all and I didn’t. It was my decision and I made a mistake,” Engel admitted to The Wrap in 2016. “I was trying to make it different than Bell and I think we made it too different,” he concluded. “I think we lost some of our—what’s the word?—innocence.”  

Saved By The Bell: The College Years was just too different for longtime fans and young viewers, while also too cheesy and cornball for mature audiences during primetime. It was canceled after only one season in 1994.

Meanwhile, Saved By The Bell: The College Years wasn't the only new TV show from Peter Engel in 1993. Saved by the Bell: The New Class debuted a few months later and was a hit on Saturday mornings for NBC; it lasted for a respectable seven seasons.  

13. STAR TREK: PHASE II (1978)

While Star Trek: The Next Generation is the official sequel to the original series, Star Trek: Phase II was the first planned follow-up, which ultimately went unproduced and unaired. After a growing Star Trek cult following and the surprise success of Star Wars in 1977, Paramount Pictures wanted their own science fiction phenomenon on the big screen, so executives asked Gene Roddenberry to adapt Star Trek into a feature film. However, plans for a movie were later scrapped when executives believed interest couldn’t support two big sci-fi movies, so instead, Roddenberry started working on a new TV series for Paramount Television Services (PTVS was slated to be the “fourth” television network), which ordered a two-hour pilot and 13 episodes that would premiere in 1978.

Many of the original cast members from Star Trek agreed to return, including DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig, while Leonard Nimoy turned down the series altogether and William Shatner was just too darn expensive to cast at the time. New characters including a Vulcan named Xon and Captain Willard Decker were created to fill the void. But due to production problems, budget concerns, and the demise of PTVS, the Phase II project was canceled, as its story elements and characters evolved into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was released in 1979. Luckily, Roddenberry eventually got his sequel TV series with The Next Generation in 1987. Check out test footage from Star Trek: Phase II above.

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