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Ask a Meteorologist

Severe Weather Preparedness Week is February 4-8 in Georgia and each day the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) will be sharing a few tips to follow during severe weather threats.

Fittingly, February 5th is also National Weatherman Day. To honor meteorologists that work hard every day to bring you your daily forecasts we sat down with 13WMAZ Meteorologist, Austin Chaney to find out a little more about weather. 

Q: When a forecast is given, and it calls for 70% chance of rain, does it mean that you have 7 chances out 10 to receive rain or will 70% of your area receive rain?

A: This is a tricky question. I'd like to think it means you have a 70% chance of rain at your place or 7/10 chance of rain. It's actually up for debate what the probability of precipitation really means. Some meteorologists define it as the probability within an area, some define it by coverage. It's something you get a feel for. 

Q: If hot air rises, why is it hot at the ground and colder up high?orSince you're closer to the sun, why is it colder on a mountaintop than it is on the ground? 

A: Hot air rises because it is more buoyant than the air around it or above it.  Air temperature decreases with height in the troposphere because air pressure is lower higher up. Air pressure and temperature are directly related, so as one decreases the other also decreases. 

Q: What is the difference between scattered and isolated showers?

A:  Scattered showers indicate more widespread showers than isolated showers. We'll generally say isolated when there is a 10-30% chance for rain and scattered for 40-60%. 

Q: Why does the sky appear to turn green during a tornado?

A:  A green sky may or may not indicate that a tornado or severe storm is coming. The green color comes from how sunlight is bent due to the ice and water in the clouds. 

Q: Who names the hurricanes and how do they come up with them?

A:  The National Hurricane Center names hurricanes. There is a list of names that repeats itself every 6 years. If a hurricane is severe enough or causes enough damage, the name will be retired and replaced with a new name. 

Q: When determining the temperature, is the thermometer in the shade or in the sun?  Isn't the temperature the same whether it is in the sun or in the shade?

A:  Temperature is officially measured in the shade. The temperature in the shade and the sunlight are likely the same. But direct sunlight (solar radiation) will make you feel warmer. 

Q: Does water freeze faster when the wind is blowing?   Does my car radiator get colder when the wind is blowing?  Do my plants get colder when the wind is blowing?

A:  Wind can help water freeze faster. The wind takes heat away from the water and drops its temperature faster. Same idea applies to the car radiator. Plants do not feel colder when the wind blows since they don't generate heat. They also cannot cool below the air temperature.

Q: When it's raining outside, why is it NOT 100% humidity?  And how can it be 100% humidity outside when it's not raining?

A: The relative humidity is a function of vapor pressure to saturated vapor pressure. It is a more confusing measurement than people may think. It can rain into dry air. This will moisten the air and bring the relative humidity up, but the air doesn't have to be completely saturated to have rain. 100% humidity occurs frequently during the morning hours. Colder air holds less moisture, making the vapor pressure closer to the saturated vapor pressure. Confusing, right? 

Q: Why are storm clouds black?

A:  Storm clouds appear dark because all of the ice and water droplets allow less light to pass through. 

Q: How does weather radar work?

A: Doppler radar works by the radar sending out a pulse of energy. This is reflected back to the radar. The computer can then interpret things like how heavy it is raining, how fast something is moving toward or away from the radar, or how similar all things reflected back to the radar appear. Doppler radar allows us to see inside of thunderstorms, analyze what is happening, and deliver information to keep you safe.

Austin achieved his degree in Atmospheric Science/Meteorology from the University of Georgia. He is also recognized as a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist by the American Meteorological Society. You can watch Austin deliver the local forecast for Central Georgia on 13WMAZ at noon during the week and in the evening on weekends.