You will recall I talked about some unusual terms to describe weather phenomena last column. I thought I would continue in that vein and share some more that I’ve found.
Storm chasers will know, derechos are winds that strike in straight lines, often accompanying thunderstorms. The damage they cause is from a downdraft, where the winds rush toward the earth then fan out laterally on impact. Tornadoes can be referred to as twirlblasts, while sheet rain is called a pikel and a zephyr is a gentle breeze (from the word zephyros - the ancient Greek word for west wind).
Messengers (sunbeams breaking through a thick cloud), catatumbo lightning (named after a phenomenon originating in the Catatumbo River valley of Venezuela), virgae (precipitation that falls from clouds but never reaches the ground), flanking line (cumulus clouds that stream out from the side of a storm) and weathergaws (rainbows) are terms one might also use to describe features associated with weather.
Now these next few are going to sound like I’m making them up, but they are real, according to some reputable sources. No, I’m not going to tout Sharknado as a real phe-nomenon, but did you know Firenado is a term used by meteorologists, according to the US Bureau of Land Management. It’s a phenomenon created when hot, dry air rises rapidly from the ground, generally as a result of intense forest or grass fires. In the same vein, Accu-weather describes a Gustnado as a short-lived, swirling wind that may form along the leading edge of a severe thunderstorm.
Here’s one I don’t even know how to interpret, a bomb cyclone. According to an article by Brittany Bennett, on the website www.bustle.com, the Weather Channel defines this condition as “having undergone bombogenesis or bombing-out”. In short, it happens when a low pressure system drops rapidly, resulting in a bomb-like explosion of winter weather. It could cause some intense conditions, including snow, wind and ice. USA Today goes on to say Bombogenesis is a process by which the barometric pressure plummets, bringing strong winds and a rapidly intensifying storm.
Did you know, a drunken forest, according to National Geographic, is a forest comprised of slanting trees? This is reportedly caused by the differential melting of permafrost, where one side (south-facing) melts faster than the other side of the tree, and it subsequently tilts to the sunward side. This phenomenon is also evident when prevailing winds persist and force a tree to grow in the same direction the wind blows. The Group of Seven showcased this phenomenon in many of their paintings.
In the odds and sods category, hunch weather is windy and drizzly, so much so that one has to hunch over just to walk. This was first coined in the British Isles, where hunch weather is a way of life! Queen’s weather will be seen on bright sunny days, much like the kind Queen Victoria always seemed to enjoy when she made public appearances in the 1800s. A smuir refers to hot and humid weather, while, unrelated, a blind smuir is a snow drift. Speaking of snow, a blenky (not to be confused with blankie, which one uses to cuddle before a fire) means light snow that will drift down to earth, much like ashes or cinders. Its derivation likely is from the word blenks, an earlier 18th century word. A sun-pillar, caused by sunlight reflecting off ice crystals in the atmosphere, occurs when light streaks out from the top or bottom of the sun, creating a pillar-like effect. A mackerel sky is one checkered with cirrocumulus clouds that resemble fish scales, while a Whale's mouth cloud is a massive, dark cloud that literally looks like a whale’s open mouth. These clouds arrive after the passing of a shelf cloud, also known as an arcus, which mark the boundary between a downdraft and updraft of a thunderstorm.
So there you have it; weather can be strange, but weather words are stranger!
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line, at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.
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Geoff Carpentier is a published author, ecotour guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line, at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.