Blake Everett via Wikimedia Commons
Blake Everett via Wikimedia Commons

Storms Dump Billions of Gallons of Water Into Lake Tahoe

Blake Everett via Wikimedia Commons
Blake Everett via Wikimedia Commons

Violent storms in Northern California have deposited 33.6 billion gallons of water into Lake Tahoe, where the water level has risen by an entire foot since January 1.

The appearance of a 12-inch-high sheet of water would be dramatic in any body of water, but Lake Tahoe is massive, with a surface area of 191 square miles. And over the past six years, it’s been very, very dry.

The downpour has filled lakes and reservoirs across the region. In the last two weeks alone, storms have dumped a combined 1.3 million acre-feet of water into the 154 largest reservoirs in the state. State hydrologists say those reservoirs are currently filled to about 97 percent of their capacity. That's an impressive change from the same date last year, when the ongoing drought left them at or below 50 percent of normal levels.

In some ways the storms were right on time, as experts had begun to worry about regional water supplies. But all extreme weather events—even welcome ones—have their downside. Flooding from surging rivers has forced thousands of residents to evacuate their homes.

Jana Frazier is a tour guide for the Department of Water Resources at Lake Oroville. She says that lake has risen more than 90 feet since December, swelling above the boat ramp and edging into the parking area.

“It’s really weird,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve been in low water for so long, it seems strange to drive across the dam and see it almost full.”

Officials say it’s still too soon to declare an official end to the drought, but more storms are expected over the coming week.

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Why Does the Sky Look Green Before a Tornado?
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iStock

A common bit of folklore from tornado-prone parts of the U.S. says that when the skies start taking on an emerald hue, it's time to run inside. But why do tornadoes tend to spawn green skies in the first place? As SciShow's Michael Aranda explains, the answer has to do with the way water droplets reflect the colors of the light spectrum.

During the day, the sky is usually blue because the shorter, bluer end of the light spectrum bounces off air molecules better than than redder, longer-wavelength light. Conditions change during the sunset (and sunrise), when sunlight has to travel through more air, and when storms are forming, which means there are more water droplets around.

Tornadoes forming later in the day, around sunset, do a great job of reflecting the green part of the light spectrum that's usually hidden in a sunset because of the water droplets in the clouds, which bounce green light into our eyes. But that doesn't necessarily mean a twister is coming—it could just mean a lot of rain is in the forecast. Either way, heading inside is probably a good idea.

For the full details on how water and light conspire to turn the sky green before a storm, check out the SciShow video below.

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New Contest Will Give Kids the Chance to Become Weather Channel Meteorologists for a Day
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iStock

Not every kid dreams of being an on-air meteorologist, but for young ‘uns obsessed with storm forecasts and local weather reports, a new contest presents a unique opportunity to live out their dreams. The Mini Meteorologist Contest, sponsored by Lands’ End, will give four kids a chance to present a weather report on The Weather Channel this summer.

The nationwide contest is open to future meteorologists in the U.S. and Canada ages 6 to 16. To enter, they just have to write an essay between 50 and 500 words long on why they love learning about science and weather and why they’d like to be a meteorologist for a day. Four winners will receive a trip for them and their parents to The Weather Channel’s headquarters in Atlanta. They’ll have the opportunity to report the weather for the show on July 12, which happens to be National Summer Learning Day.

The essays will be judged based in equal parts on creativity, grammar, and the entrant’s love of meteorology. The only rules for the essays are that they can’t mention any products or brands other than Lands’ End or The Weather Channel (so no essays about how L.L. Bean inspired your love of cloud formations, kids) and has to be the child’s original work. Kids who are chosen as semi-finalists will have their on-air presentation skills judged in a Skype interview.

Should they win, they’ll get an inclusive trip to Atlanta with media training, a tour of The Weather Channel headquarters, and a $500 Lands’ End gift card to get just the right weather-reporting wardrobe.

The deadline for entering is May 21. Essays can be submitted here.

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