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52 posts from June 2016


Asteroid Day: All Thanks to Tunguska

It's June 30, 1908, and it's just after seven in the morning. A man is sitting on the front porch of a trading post at Vanavara in Siberia. Little does he know, in a few moments, he will be hurled from his chair and the heat will be so intense he will feel as though his shirt is on fire. That's how the Tunguska event felt 40 miles from ground zero.

Today, June 30, 2016, is the 108th anniversary of that ferocious impact near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in remote Siberia--and more than a century later, scientists are still talking about it. In fact, for the past few years, on the anniversary of this event, scientists worldwide are observing Asteroid Day today! The goal of the day, is increasing awareness about these giant rocks near Earth. 

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Trees downed by the Tunguska explosion. Credit: the Leonid Kulik Expedition

While the impact occurred in '08, the first scientific expedition to the area would have to wait for 19 years. In 1921, Leonid Kulik, the chief curator for the meteorite collection of the St. Petersburg museum led an expedition to Tunguska. But weather prevented his teams' attempt to reach the blast zone. 

In 1927, a new expedition, again lead by Kulik, reached its goal.  While testimonials may have at first been difficult to obtain, there was plenty of evidence lying around. Eight hundred square miles of remote forest had been ripped asunder.

Eighty million trees were on their sides, lying in a radial pattern.

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Map of damage pattern through 500,000 acres of Siberian Forest near Tunguska Russia

"Those trees acted as markers, pointing directly away from the blast's epicenter," said Yeomans. "Later, when the team arrived at ground zero, they found the trees there standing upright – but their limbs and bark had been stripped away. They looked like a forest of telephone poles."

In order to rip branches off trees like this, it requires fast moving shock waves that break off a tree's branches before the branches can transfer the impact momentum to the tree's stem. Thirty seven years after the Tunguska blast, branchless trees would be found at the site of another massive explosion – Hiroshima, Japan.

As 3

Massive deforestation after Tunguska explosion.

Kulik's expeditions (he traveled to Tunguska on three separate occasions) did finally get some of the locals to talk. One was the man based at the Vanara trading post who witnessed the heat blast as he was launched from his chair. His account: Suddenly in the north sky… the sky was split in two, and high above the forest the whole northern part of the sky appeared covered with fire… At that moment there was a bang in the sky and a mighty crash… The crash was followed by a noise like stones falling from the sky, or of guns firing.

Ast 3

The earth trembled. The massive explosion packed a wallop. Dense clouds formed over the region at high altitudes which reflected sunlight from beyond the horizon. Night skies glowed, and reports came in that people who lived as far away as Asia could read newspapers outdoors as late as midnight.

Locally, hundreds of reindeer, the livelihood of local herders, were killed, but there was no direct evidence that any person perished in the blast.

There is still some debate about what happened there, "But the generally agreed upon theory is that on the morning of June 30, 1908, a large space rock, about 120 feet across, entered the atmosphere of Siberia and then detonated in the sky."

Ast 4

Artistic rendition of 1908 Tunguska blast

It is estimated the asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere traveling at a speed of about 33,500 miles per hour. During its quick plunge, the 220-million-pound space rock heated the air surrounding it to 44,500 degrees Fahrenheit. At 7:17 a.m. (local Siberia time), at a height of about 28,000 feet, the combination of pressure and heat caused the asteroid to fragment and annihilate itself, producing a fireball and releasing energy equivalent to about 185 Hiroshima bombs. 

Today's Threat: 

Yeomans and his colleagues at JPL's Near-Earth Object Office are tasked with plotting the orbits of present-day comets and asteroids that cross Earth's path, and could be potentially hazardous to our planet. Yeomans estimates that, on average, a Tunguska-sized asteroid will enter Earth's atmosphere once every 300 years. 

In the past 3 years, 72 new near Earth-objects have been discovered. Of those, 8 are classified as potentially hazardous to our planet, and could approach or hit Earth one day. Right now, NASA's Near Earth-Object Program says there are no big asteroids at risk of of hitting Earth anytime soon. But let's take a moment to remember the damage caused by a small meteor back in February of 2013 in Russia. 1,000 people were injured in the blast.

This video below is a compilation of some of the best shots from that day. 


Video Courtesy: Artur Alves

Text information provided by Dr. Tony Phillips of NASA


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 -Meteorologist Katie McGraw


THROWBACK THURSDAY: Giant Hail Glaciers...

You look at this picture taken by Barbara Podzemny on August 13, 2004 near Clayton, New Mexico and your probably notice the cliffs in the background. Nothing special, right?


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I will tell you they are not cliffs at all. Maybe sand? Nope. Those are actually not cliffs behind the man in this photo, that is hail in a freak weather phenomena called Hail Glaciers!


A freak hail storm occurred in Clayton, New Mexico overnight on August 13, 2004. This storm was an amazing hail producer and left up to a foot of hail on the ground in some areas! While amazing, this doesn't explain the massive cliffs you see behind the man in the above picture. This hail was followed by as much as 5" of rain and the water washed all this hail downstream. As the hail came into a culvert, it began to back up and pile up. In the end, the next morning this freakish scene remained. There were mountains of hail with full cliffs as high as 15 feet lining both sides of this river! These mountains of hail are referred to as hail glaciers and they are VERY rare. Not only were there cliffs, but a tunnel actually had been cut through part of the hail mountains by the flood water. The hail remained in the area for nearly a month! UNBELIEVABLE!!! 


Here are a few more pictures courtesy of the NWS...


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Is This The Only Documented Hail Glacier?


While these hail glaciers are rare, we do have more documented cases that have occurred. Another famous hail glacier event occurred only a couple of years ago on April 11, 2012 in Amarillo, TX. A monster supercell t-storm formed in the afternoon on April 11, 2012 near Amarillo and was nearly stationary for over 4 hours! The hail piled up so much that US Highway 287 had to be closed for 12 hours after motorists were stranded! Here is a video of the wild event.




Some of the images of the 2012 Amarillo hail glacier are amazing! These are courtesy of the NWS...


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It seems like an almost unreal weather phenomena, but hail glaciers are real and when they happen it is stunning. WOW!




We are in Spring storm season and if you want to be one of my storm spotters, you can join me on my facebook or twitter page. Just follow the link below and click "like" or "follow".


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Heavy Rain and Strong Storms Possible on 4th!

While our weather couldn't be any better right now, data strongly suggests that we will see big changes occurring by the end of the 4th of July Weekend with a good bet for rain and thunderstorms.  

The latest thinking is that the weekend will start out dry with a pretty nice Saturday shaping up.  However,  things could go downhill fast as we head into Sunday night and Monday.  

Let's go over the data via the GFS...

The 12z run of the GFS shows low pressure developing to our west across the Plains with a warm front lifting in our direction.  Ahead of this front, a few scattered showers and storms will be possible over our area with an area of heavy rain possible over the Mississippi River Valley.


By morning on the 4th, low pressure deepens near St. Louis as the warm front lifts over our area with widespread showers and storms locally, with very heavy rain into Central IL and Northern IN.


Scattered showers and storms continue off and on locally with the heaviest rain remaining north as low pressure deepens over Central IL.


By evening, low pressure moves into Southwest Ohio with an associated cold front moving to near the Ohio River with the possibility of a line of storms.


The cold front slides east overnight Monday night bringing and end to the storms.


So how much rain?

If the GFS is correct, then despite numerous showers and storms in the area Sunday Night through Monday night, rainfall amounts in our area remain under control on the order of a half inch to inch in most locations.  However, nothe the swath of incredibly heavy rainfall amounts into Central IL and Northern IN/OH.


What does the Euro say?

While the GFS "amps" the surface low and pushes it much further north, the Euro keeps the low on a more southerly track focusing the area of very heavy rain much closer to our area with a swath of 2 to 4 inches located over much of the Lower Ohio Valley.


Could we see Severe Weather???

That really depends on which model is correct.  If the Euro is right, then this will be just a BIG OL' rain maker in our area.  However, if the GFS is correct, then we will have to be on the look out for the possibility of severe storms.  

The GFS wind field (below) shows a robust area of 40+ knot winds (around 50 mph) at about 5,000' during the afternoon/evening on Monday.  Should this occur with decent heating (some sunshine) then I think we can expect to be on the lookout for severe storms capable of damaging winds and possibly hail.


So what do I think? 

Unfortunately for most, I think we need to plan on some very active weather on and around Independence Day with multiple rounds of storms possible.  In addition to the possibility of heavy rain, IF, ingredients come together then we will need to be on the lookout for the possibility of severe weather too Monday afternoon/evening.  

Marc and Rick will have a full update on what to expect tonight on WDRB News. 

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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An Early Firework Show

Fireworks shows are not just confined to Earth’s skies. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured a spectacular fireworks display in a small, nearby galaxy, which resembles a July 4th skyrocket, just in time for Independence Day!

Fire works in space

Lots of people are talking about this online and I can see why! It's really spectacular! It was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, which is NASA's Orbital Observatory. 

According to NASA, a firestorm of star birth is lighting up one end of the diminutive galaxy Kiso 5639. The dwarf galaxy is shaped like a flattened pancake, but because it is tilted edge-on, it resembles a skyrocket, with a brilliant blazing head and a long, star-studded tail.

Kiso 5639 is a rare, nearby example of elongated galaxies that occur in abundance at larger distances, where we observe the universe during earlier epochs. Astronomers suggest that the frenzied star birth is sparked by intergalactic gas raining on one end of the galaxy as it drifts through space.

The galaxy, located 82 million light-years away, has taken billions of years to develop because it has been drifting through an isolated “desert” in the universe, devoid of much gas.

So, what triggered the starburst in such a backwater galaxy? Scientists say the observations suggest that less than 1 million years ago, Kiso 5639’s leading edge encountered a filament of gas. The filament dropped a large clump of matter onto the galaxy, stoking the vigorous star birth. Experts expect that in the future, other parts of the galaxy will join in the star-making fireworks show! 


Video Courtesy: Hubble Space Telescope 

Want to know more? Head to NASA's website here.

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 -Meteorologist Katie McGraw



GROSS! Thousands Of Mayflies Invade Illinois...

An invasion of mayflies in Illinois caused serious traffic problems Sunday night. Thousands of mayflies covered a bridge causing the road to become very slick and visibilities to drop. Mayflies or shadflies are aquatic insects belonging to the order Ephemeroptera. Mayflies "hatch" (emerge as adults) from spring to autumn, not necessarily in May, in enormous numbers!

On Monday morning, the Havana Police Department issued this warning on Facebook:  

"Please use caution when driving across the bridge today. Last night there was an invasion of Mayflies that has caused the bridge to be very dangerous. At one point they had piled 6 inches high and when ran over, became very slick. There were already motorcycle accidents due to this and cars stuck in the center of the bridge."


Video Courtesy: GeoBeats News 

The swarms were so large that the Detroit-Metro Terminal Doppler radar picked up on the mayflies...


Image Courtesy: NWS Detroit

Last year, the same thing happened to the bridge that connects Savanna, Illinois, to Sabula, Iowa. The mayflies were so bad that the department of transportation closed the bridge!


Video Courtesy: deisel1984 




Cool optical phenomena occurred over Louisville this morning! What is it??

Many folks witnessed some pretty cool optical phenomena surrounding the sun this morning.   

Antoinette Johnson from Louisville took this snap shot of what appears to be a large, full circle "rainbow" around the sun with two satellite "sun-like" objects on either side.  


So what exactly are we looking at here???  

Sun optics

The full circle "rainbow" is what is known as a 22° halo and can occur around the sun at day or the moon at night.  It is actually not all that rare, it's just most of the time it is so faint that it goes unnoticed.  

The two satellite "sun-like" object are known as "sun dogs" or more properly known as parhelia and can occur during anytime of the year.  


So what causes these optical phenomena?

In essence, it's the refraction of sunlight through ice crystals. 

Most of us think of ice crystals in the atmosphere as snow flakes, but you may not have known that they are more often hexagonal columns. Here is an example donalbein of what happens to the moon or sunlight as it passes through one of these ice crystals. Notice the light is bent and spread into the colors you see.

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 Image courtesy of donalbein via wiki.

The hexagonal columns are the mechanism that creates the 22 degree halo you saw last night. When the sun or moon light shines through these columns, the light is bent and dispersed. As the light emerges from the crystal, it is bent normally 22 degrees creating the 22 degree halo normally seen. Here is an example of the process as the light moves through these ice crystals from the University of Illinois website.

22 Degree Halo

The light is bent as it moves through the ice creating the atmospheric optical display known as halos! If you want to see one, just look toward the moon or sun (use caution to protect your eyes from the sun) when we have high cirrus clouds and you should see a halo! They are pretty common and some suggest we have near 100 per year in most locations.

For more reading Wikipedia has a nice article on this phenomenon

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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Dew Point Chart Says It All

From Jude Redfield...

    It will be a hot afternoon with temps nearing 90. The difference maker will be the lower humidity. After starting the morning with dew points close to 70 we now rest at 65. By this afternoon we should be closer to 60.


    The dew point temp is the temperature at which the air becomes completely saturated. In the spring and summer we can get a pretty good idea of how it's going to feel just by knowing what the dew point is. Typically anything above 60 does have somewhat of a muggy feel. When the dew point hangs out in the 50s during the summer we stop getting complaints about it being uncomfortable. Dew points the next few days drop into that comfy range...ENJOY!


    A few puffy clouds develop this afternoon, but we expect enough sunshine to keep that smile on your face. Enjoy a great pool day on the house.


    The sunrays for days forecast keeps on keeping on until late Friday when we find our next chance for a few showers and storms coming back into the picture.

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    It does appear sections of the holiday weekend will come with a rain and storm chance. Keep up to date with that if you have any outdoor plans. -Jude Redfield-


VIDEO: Testing Most Powerful Rocket EVER - NASA's SLS!


If humans are going to get to Mars, they're going to need rockets with some serious liftoff power. NASA’s Space Launch System is the most powerful rocket in the world and engineers are going to blast it, for testing purposes, of course.

Video via WIRED

At 17 stories tall and burning approximately six tons of propellant every second, NASA's SLS Rocket generates more thrust than 14 four-engine jumbo commercial airliners!

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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Spotty Showers and Storms Today

Today is going to be a scorcher! Air temperatures will be in the middle 90s today and it will be humid, making it feel even warmer. The heat index or the "feels like" will be in the upper 90s or even 100 degrees! 

6-26 pool forecast

Humidity is directly related to the dew point. Mid-morning dew points have already been increased back to the lower and mid 70s. This is going make it very uncomfortable outside this afternoon. 

6-26 dew point temps

We are smack dab in the middle of a warm front and a cold front. This area is known as the warm sector. It is a very warm and humid air mass. A cold front is positioned to our NW. It is firing off showers and storms, that are progressing NE. But more storms are expected to develop along the front during the afternoon over the course of daytime heating. 

6-26 surf sat rad

Some of these storms could be strong, but I think we will miss out on most of the action. The Storm Prediction Center has southern Indiana under a "marginal risk" for severe weather. This is the lowest level they provide of six categories. It was also shifted further to the north to exclude some of our counties this morning. SPC's discussion does not even mention the Ohio River Valley. Their focus is northern Indiana. 

6-26 marg

While severe weather cannot be completely ruled out, we are lacking several ingredients. If any storms become strong or severe, the main threats would be gusty winds, heavy rain and lightning too. The chances for storms will increase as we move into this evening and tonight as the cold front approaches. 

6-26 storm talk

Because of all the heat and humidity, we will have decent instability known as CAPE, or Convective Available Potential Energy, around 2000-2500 J/kG. 

6-26 NAM 00Z CAPE

6-26 00Z CAPE

What we are really lacking is shear or wind energy. It is only about 10-15 kts at the mid-level, which is very weak and not really conducive for severe weather. 

6-26 850 winds

Isolated showers and storms are possible this afternoon, but as mentioned above, the chances for storms become more likely throughout the evening, tonight and tomorrow morning, as the cold front approaches.  They will stay pretty scattered though. 

6-26 adv 1 pm

6-26 adv 3 pm

6-26 adv 5 am mon

Once the cold front pushes through, both our air and dew point temperatures will drop. By the middle of the week, it will be significantly cooler after we replace that warm and humid airmass with a cooler and drier one. 

6-26 cooler rick

How low will we go? And for how long? Find out tonight on WDRB this evening with Jeremy! He will also have the latest information about our storm threats for Monday morning. 

I'll keep you posted on social media as well! Find my links below. Have a great rest of your weekend! 

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 -Meteorologist Katie McGraw


Distillery Turns San Francisco Fog Into Vodka!

According to the California distillery named Hangar 1, vodka is made of 60 percent water. In the face horrible drought in those parts, the company wanted to come up with a sustainable way to make the alcohol. Their solution was brilliant! San Francisco fog has been used to produce a $125 vodka called Fog Point...


Image Credit: Wiki

In order to make this work, the distillery installed fog catchers as a means to gather fresh water. The fog catchers were placed at Berkeley Hills, Outer Sunset, El Sobrante, and Sutro Tower. According to their website: "A fog catcher consists of a precision-engineered mesh canvas that is stretched out on a frame, then erected high in the air at a location rich in pure fog. As fog drifts through the mesh, millions of beads of moisture are caught in its fibers."


Video Courtesy: Hanger 1 Vodka

The company claims that Fog Point is a an extraordinarily crisp, pure, and gluten free sipping vodka with elegant hints of pear, citrus, and honeysuckle. Thirsty? The expensive vodka can found in California, New York, and Florida or purchased online at Reserve Bar. It might be tough considering they only produced 2,400 bottles during a six-month period. Hangar 1 says that the profits are going to water conservation.