With all the talk about climate and weather, I thought it might be fun to share some unusual weather terms. But first, let’s make sure we know the difference between weather and climate, as they get misinterpreted a lot in the media.
Simply stated, weather is what you get and climate is what you expect! Weather is a short-term event, measured over a few hours or days and is what we experience daily, sunny, warm, cool, rainy, stormy, etc.
Climate is the long-term average of weather, basically it represents what is happening over years, decades and even centuries. So let’s delve into the mysterious world of weather.
Jellyfish clouds, also known as altocumulus castelanus clouds, are fluffy topped clouds with long tendrils of wispy clouds, called virga, trailing beneath them, giving them the appearance of jellyfish. They are caused by moist air masses becoming trapped between dry air layers of air, and are understandably more frequently encountered over deserts. The virgas are actually small clouds of water vapour that never produce rain, as the water droplets evaporate before they hit the ground.
Pyrocumulonimbus clouds, flammagenitus or fire clouds are dense cumuliform clouds that may generate dry lightning, which is lightning without rain. They are produced by the intense heating of the atmosphere from fires or volcanic eruptions, and can form very dark and threatening clouds, billowing over these catastrophic events. The pileus cap of the cloud is formed from ice crystals, despite the heat below.
Lenticular clouds have a round disc shape, resembling a flying saucer, and in fact are responsible for many UFO sightings. Their large disc shape often lies lifeless over a forest or mountain peak, adding to the illusion.
Crepuscular rays are the "sunbeams" you see coming through the clouds, essentially the beams of light seen during the twilight hours. They appear to converge at the sun, but are actually parallel beams of light, and are formed due to the sunlight bouncing off of particulate matter and water vapour in the atmosphere.
A yowe-tremmle, meaning a trembling ewe, is an old Scottish word for prolonged periods of unusually cold or rainy weather, beginning in the last few days of June that is literally cold enough to make the freshly-sheared sheep “tremmle,” or shiver. In Ontario with all the wacky weather we’ve had the sheep are “tremmle-ing” here as well I’m sure!
Bengy is an old English word, meaning overcast or threatening rain. Its origins have been traced back to the word benge, meaning to drink to excess.
Flenching weather is weather that looks like it might improve later on, but never actually does, while gleamy weather is intermittently sunny and threatening. These events may include periods of gleen, a sudden burst of warm sunshine. During these sunny spells, you might experience a sunblink or a single glimmer of sunshine.
The smell we experience before it rains is actually the smell of ozone, created when the atmosphere is electrified. The smell after a storm is called petrichor, it wasn’t until 1964 that Australian scientists even had a word for it. They determined that it was caused by the earthy smells of decomposing plant and animal matter that are rehydrated by rain. The musty odour arises from a molecule called geosmin, a metabolic by-product of blue-green algae in water and certain bacteria in the soil.
A dirty thunderstorm is a rare phenomenon, otherwise known as a volcanic lightning, and is caused by rock fragments, ash and ice particles arising from a volcanic plume, colliding together, to generate a thunderstorm.
Did you know, a water spout that manifests itself as a tornado-like funnel of water over water bodies, actually doesn’t suck any water up from the surface, and is composed entirely of water vapour?
So there you have it. Weather and climate are incredibly complex, and the variations and variabilities of their influence and impact are myriad. Gotta run, I think I see some mammatus clouds that need some investigating!
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, ecotour 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.