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Michele Debczak
Michele Debczak

Yosemite Falls Has Been Revived By the Drought-Ending Winter

Michele Debczak
Michele Debczak

Some of Yosemite’s most iconic landmarks—like the Half Dome and the Grizzly Giant sequoia tree—have looked more or less the same since the park was first founded in 1890. But Yosemite Falls is constantly changing, and for the past five years, the impact of California’s drought could be seen at the site, as well as other places throughout the park. Now, after a winter of above-average snowfall, ABC 7 reports that the waterfall is the fullest it has been in years. The creeks and falls reach peak flow during spring of each year. This season the streams are especially impressive, as they’re fueled by the melting of record-breaking snowpack. There’s no better place to see a waterscape in Yosemite than at Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls is among the tallest waterfalls on Earth. Waters from Yosemite Creek fall a total of 2425 feet before settling into the valley below. The falls are expected to grow heavier until May, at which point they’ll taper off in the summer heat. During the park’s driest seasons, Yosemite Falls is sometimes reduced to less than a trickle.

The flow will likely last longer this season, but if visitors wish to see it at its strongest, they should plan to head to the park sometime in April or May. This upcoming weekend the park is expected to attract lots of guests: The entrance fee, normally $30, is being waived on April 22 and 23. [h/t ABC 7]

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Weather Watch
Thanks to Desert Dust, Eastern Europe Is Covered in Orange Snow
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iStock

Certain areas of Eastern Europe are starting to look a bit like Mars. Over the last few days, snowy places like Sochi, Russia have experienced an unusual snowfall that coated mountains in orange powder, according to the BBC.

The orange snow was the result of winds blowing sand from the Sahara east to places like Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia. The sand mixes with precipitation to form orange-tinted snow. According to the BBC, the phenomenon occurs semi-regularly, turning snow orange about once every five years, but this year is especially sandy. As a result, skiers are navigating slopes that look like they're from a different world, as you can see in the video below from The Guardian.

The Sahara rarely gets snow, but when it does, the landscape can look somewhat similar, as you can see in this image of the Atlas mountains in Morocco.

Instagram is currently filled with photos and videos from Eastern Europe featuring the odd-looking snow. Check out a few samples below.

[h/t BBC]

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Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images
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Weather Watch
What Is Thundersnow?
Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images
Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images

The northeastern United States is dealing with its second major nor'easter in a week, with rain and heavy snow—and the associated power outages—cutting a path across the Mid-Atlantic and New England. But news of the adverse impacts of the snowstorm is being accompanied by an unusual buzzword: thundersnow. Thundersnow occurs during a thunderstorm that produces snow instead of rain. The mechanisms that produce rainy thunderstorms and snowy thunderstorms are largely the same, even if the air temperature is below freezing.

A band of snow can become strong enough to produce lightning through two processes known as convection and forcing. Convection occurs when an area of warm air quickly rises through cooler air above it. Convective snow is most common during lake effect snow events like those you’d find on Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, since the process requires extreme vertical temperature gradients that can result from bitterly cold air flowing over a warm body of water.

Forcing is slightly different. A strengthening low-pressure system involves fast, dynamic changes in the atmosphere, especially when one of these storm systems quickly gains strength. Such a fast-developing storm can cause large amounts of lift in the atmosphere, a process that forces air to swiftly rise like you’d see during convection. This creates intense bands of snow that can grow so strong that they produce thunder and lightning. This process is responsible for the thundersnow that occurs during blizzards and nor’easters, those powerful storms that regularly hit the eastern coast of the U.S. during the winter. Thundersnow can be pretty exciting—just ask The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore:

The name “thundersnow” can be a bit misleading. One of the most enjoyable things about a snowfall is how silent it is outside when there’s a thick blanket of snow on the ground. Snow absorbs sound waves so efficiently that you can usually only hear ambient noises immediately around where you’re standing. Snow muffles the sound of thunder for the same reason. Thunder that might be audible for many miles during a rainy thunderstorm might only be audible for a few thousand feet away from where the lightning struck. Unless the lightning strikes very close to where you are, you might only see a bright flash during thundersnow without ever hearing the thunder.

While thundersnow is a fascinating phenomenon to encounter, it does involve lightning, after all, and it’s just as dangerous as any other lightning bolt you’d see in a rainy thunderstorm. If you’re ever lucky enough to experience thundersnow, the event is best enjoyed indoors and out of harm’s way.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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