Authorities said the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon now covers an area of ??976 square kilometers and is largely uncontrolled.
Forecasters said that dry, unstable and windy conditions are expected to continue to fuel large-scale wildfires in Oregon, as firefighters are fighting a fire that is currently larger than New York City.
More than 2,100 firefighters once again tried to control the huge Bootleg fire that raged in southern Oregon, which borders California, and as the fire spread during the fourth intense summer heat wave, some were forced to retreat.
California, hit by its own wildfire, vowed to send firefighters to Oregon to help.
Preliminary review on Friday reveals the fire of piracy 67 houses and 117 outbuildings were destroyed Overnight in a county while forcing 2,000 people to evacuate. Fire spokesperson Holly Krake said another 5,000 buildings, including houses and smaller buildings in rural areas north of the California border, are also under threat.
She said that active flames are surging along the 322 kilometers (200 miles) of the fire site, and it is expected that by nightfall, the fire will merge with a smaller but equally explosive fire.
According to the InciWeb website, Bootleg Fire now has an area of ??976 square kilometers (377 square miles)-larger than the area of ??New York City-and still only controls 7%.
The official website said: “Due to hot, dry and breezy conditions, the fire is still very active and its area has increased significantly.”
“We are likely to continue to see fires grow over miles and miles of active lines of fire,” Clark said. “We continue to add thousands of acres of land every day, and every day has the potential, looking forward to the weekend, continue those three to four miles of running.”
The area issued a red flag weather warning on Saturday night.
Suzanne Flory, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, told the Oregon newspaper: “We have experienced record high temperatures, and this is the worst possible scenario.”
In recent weeks, extreme heat and drought conditions have fueled wildfires in the western United States and Canada and pushed firefighting resources to the limit.
Canadian provincial authorities announced that Canada will bring in about 100 firefighters from Mexico to support their exhausted firefighters in northwestern Ontario.
Canadian officials expect high temperatures from Alberta to Ontario in the next few days-despite the record of 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49.6 degrees Celsius) set near Vancouver three weeks ago.
That heat wave Caused hundreds of deaths Authorities say that only in British Columbia.
At the same time, four provinces in western Canada issued air quality warnings.
Scientists say that without man-made climate change, the current heat wave is “almost impossible”.
The Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon is now 976 square kilometres and largely uncontained, authorities say.
Dry, unstable and windy conditions are expected to continue fuelling a massive wildfire in the US state of Oregon, forecasters said, as firefighters battle the largely uncontained blaze that is now larger than the area of New York City.
More than 2,100 firefighters were again struggling to contain the vast Bootleg Fire raging in southern Oregon, near the border with California, while some were forced to retreat as the fire spread amid the fourth intense heatwave of the summer.
California, hit by its own wildfires, vowed to send firefighters to help out in Oregon.
An initial review on Friday showed the Bootleg Fire destroyed 67 homes and 117 outbuildings overnight in one county, while forcing 2,000 people to evacuate. Another 5,000 buildings, including homes and smaller structures in a rural area just north of the California border, are also threatened, fire spokeswoman Holly Krake said.
Active flames are surging along 322km (200 miles) of the fire’s perimeter, she said, and it is expected to merge with a smaller, but equally explosive fire by nightfall.
The Bootleg Fire is now 976 square kilometres (377 square miles) – larger than the area of New York City – and remains just seven percent controlled, according to the InciWeb website.
“(The) fire remains very active with significant acreage increases due to hot, dry, and breezy conditions,” the official site said.
“We’re likely going to continue to see fire growth over miles and miles of active fire line,” Krake said. “We are continuing to add thousands of acres a day, and it has the potential each day, looking forward into the weekend, to continue those three to four-mile runs.”
A red flag weather warning was issued for the area through Saturday night.
“We have had record heat, and just all the worst possible conditions at one time,” Suzanne Flory, a US Forest Service spokesperson, told the Oregonian newspaper.
Extreme heat and drought conditions have fuelled wildfires in the western United States and Canada in recent weeks – and stretched firefighting resources to their limits.
Canada is bringing in some 100 firefighters from Mexico to bolster their exhausted counterparts in northwestern Ontario, provincial authorities announced.
Canadian officials anticipate high temperatures in coming days from Alberta to Ontario – though nothing like the record 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49.6 degrees Celsius) recorded near Vancouver three weeks ago.
That heatwave contributed to hundreds of deaths in British Columbia alone, authorities said.
Meanwhile, air quality alerts were issued across four western Canadian provinces.
Scientists say the current heatwaves would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change.
Blood pressure is subject to crests and troughs due to a myriad of factors. Chronic sufferers may question whether sweltering 28C highs could prevent them from enjoying time outdoors ahead of Freedom Day. But fear not, as Express.co.uk has arrived with a selection of the most infamous blood pressure irritants.
What causes your blood pressure to rise?
Raised blood pressure is known in medical circles as hypertension, which specifies when levels of mercury breach “normal” systolic levels of less than 120mm Hg and less than 80mm Hg diastolic (120/80).
Health officials characterise “at-risk” levels as 120 to 139 mmHg over 80 to 89mm Hg (120-139/80-89).
Hypertension’s minimum limit is 140/90 or over and can come about due to several individual or interlocking factors and other conditions.
READ MORE: High blood pressure: Three condiments to avoid or risk hypertension
Does hot weather raise blood pressure levels?
Temperatures in the UK will spike towards 30C several times over the weekend and coming week, leaving hypertension sufferers concerned about potential effects on their health.
But extreme heat conditions tend not to affect blood pressure as they cause vasodilation, which broadens vessels and helps blood pass through the body.
In winter, the same vessels will narrow, and blood pressure is more liable to rise.
China’s key urban centres, including the capital Beijing and its most populous city, Shanghai, are expected to face hotter and longer summers, as well as wetter rainy months, a new Greenpeace study mapping extreme weather conditions due to climate change warned on Wednesday.
Greenpeace East Asia said the risk of extreme heat and rainfall is now highest in densely-populated city centres but is growing fast in communities that are becoming more urban on the outskirts of the country’s large cities.
That could mean more exposure to dangerous heatwaves for the elderly and those working outdoors as well as heavier flooding in cities such as Shanghai, Liu Junyan, the climate and energy project leader for Greenpeace in Beijing, said as he called on the authorities to adopt more effective measures to prepare for such conditions.
“Urban areas still don’t fully understand the variety of changes, and which ones will impact which areas and how, enough to be ready for them,” Liu told Al Jazeera.
The study found that Beijing is experiencing the “greatest increase” in average temperature, rising at a rate of 0.32 degrees Celsius (0.58 degrees Fahrenheit) every 10 years, with the frequency of heatwaves increasing “considerably” since 2000.
Factoring in the expected peak of global emissions around 2040, the increase in temperature in some parts of Beijing could exceed 2.6C (4.7F) by 2100, and summers would become longer by 28 days, the study added.
“For Beijing, we know this temperature rise will look like more days with temperatures at 35 degrees [Celcius] or hotter temperatures,” Liu said.
“Crucially, a 2.6-degree rise means more exposure to heatwaves. The elderly are at risk, as are people doing strenuous outdoor labour, like construction workers and delivery drivers.”
In February this year, the temperature shot up to 25.5C (78F) in some areas – the highest recorded during the winter season – according to several weather monitors and news reports.
Greenpeace said summers would also lengthen by between 24 and 28 days in Shanghai and to more than 40 days in the southern Guangdong province. Some parts of the Shanghai and Guangdong province would also experience a more than 25 percent rise in extreme rainfall, while the area’s northwest would experience more drought.
The Greenpeace warnings follow similar studies showing an increased risk in China from extreme heat related to climate change.
A July 2018 study published in the journal Nature Communications noted that the frequency and intensity of heatwaves observed in China have “increased significantly” during the last 50 years. It also warned that as many as 400 million people in northern China, including Beijing, could be affected by deadly heatwaves by 2100.
A December 2020 report published by The Lancet, a respected medical journal, said that heatwave-related mortality in China had risen “by a factor of four from 1990 to 2019, reaching 26,800 deaths in 2019.”
On Monday, the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Cities said Beijing and Shanghai were among 23 Chinese cities in the top 25 urban hubs around the world that produce 52 percent of the climate-warming gases annually.
The list also includes Tokyo and Moscow. Cities in the US, Europe and Australia still lead in the list in per capita terms, although several Chinese cities such as Yinchuan and Dalian as well as Urumqi in Xinjiang also recorded per capita emissions approaching the level of developed nations, according to the authors from Sun Yat-sen University and a Guangdong province pollution monitor both in Guangzhou.
In September 2020, President Xi Jinping said China aimed for carbon dioxide emissions to peak before 2030 and net-zero emissions before 2060, as part of the country’s commitment to curb climate change.
The sprawling urban area of Guangzhou, on China’s southern coast. figured prominently in the Greenpeace East Asia study, which found that 73 of the 98 heat waves in the past 60 years in the area occurred after 1998.
Guangzhou’s average number of days with extreme heat (35C/95F or higher) has risen from 16.5 days per year to 23.7 days per year since then, it noted.
The Greenpeace study predicted that the average temperature change for the southernmost areas of the Guangdong province would be up to 2C (35.6F), effectively extending summer by more than 40 days.
In May of this year, rising temperatures led to an electricity shortage in Guangdong, prompting local authorities to curb power usage, thus also affecting the productivity of the manufacturing sector.
“We were informed to stop production for two days a week, according to the electricity limitation policies,” a staff member surnamed Miao at a copper factory in the province told the state-run Global Times newspaper. As a result, the factory’s scheduled delivery dates were delayed.
From extreme heat to devastating floods
From extreme heat, Guangdong province is also predicted to face more intense flooding during rainy months. In the southeastern part of the province, where the city of Shenzhen is located, extreme rain would increase dramatically, with the hardest hit areas having more than 25 percent more extreme rainfall, Greenpeace said.
Similarly, Shanghai and its region, where the Yangtze Delta flows also face the dilemma of extreme rainfall leading to considerable flooding.
From 1961 to 2019, the average accumulated rainfall for the Shanghai Yangtze Delta was 1225.6 mm (48.3 inches). Although it has fluctuated over the years, Greenpeace said that it has been “steadily increasing” at an overall rate of 34.6 mm (1.4 inches) every 10 years.
The year with the highest rainfall was 2016, with 1666.9 mm (65.6 inches) of total accumulated rainfall.
According to Greenpeace, the cities of Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, and Ningbo – cities that have the highest density in terms of population and economy – are particularly at risk of hazards from extreme rainfall.
“Flooding is already a serious problem in Shanghai, and we can expect more flooding in the future and more devastating impacts from floods,” said Liu.
Other parts of China that have not historically experienced much flooding, like Hotan, also known as Hetian, in Xinjiang, were also hit, Liu noted.
The Shanghai metropolis and surrounding urbanising areas have also seen rising temperatures.
In Hangzhou just southwest of Shanghai, temperatures have reached 35C (95F) or above 429 times in the last 60 years, with 177 (41 percent of the total) occurring since 2001.
The highest recorded temperature at the Hangzhou Weather Station was 41.6C (106.88F) in 2013, followed by 41.3C Celcius (106.34F) in 2017.
Greenpeace’s Liu said big Chinese cities should anticipate and prepare for weather interruptions, adding there was a need for “scientific and systematic investigation” on the effect of climate change.
He also said that smaller cities, where extreme weather risk is growing the fastest, also need to be better prepared for different types of climate risks.
“Cities need comprehensive monitoring to develop early warning systems for vulnerable communities and vital infrastructure. The interface of science and policy will determine whether vulnerable communities can receive proper attention and care in the face of this risk,” Liu said.
Search teams have been recovering victims more quickly now that a portion of the tower that remained standing was demolished and is no longer a threat to collapse, according to Florida Fire Marshall and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
On Monday, a day after the demolition of the standing portion of Champlain Towers South, the death toll stood at 28. The building partially collapsed on June 24.
By Saturday morning, the toll reached 86 after more victims were recovered from the rubble, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a news conference.
Sixty-two of the 86 victims have been identified and 61 next of kin notified, with 211 people accounted for and 43 others potentially unaccounted for, according to the mayor.
Authorities have been cross referencing names from a list of residents with US Postal Service and driver’s license information, Levine Cava said.
“We can only truly account for a missing person who is deceased once an identification is made,” the mayor said.
Crews at the site paused their work briefly Saturday morning because of lighting, but recovery efforts resumed within an hour, Levine Cava said. The work will continue despite rain that is expected throughout the day.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department Chief Alan Cominsky said the timeline for completion of recovery efforts was 14 to 21 days.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said crews removing rubble from the recently demolished section of the building may complete their work “a lot sooner than many expected.”
Burkett described the progress in removing debris as intense, saying “much of the original pile is at ground level or below. “
The city is setting up a fund for downtown businesses affected by recovery efforts, Burkett said.
Patronis said the crews are paying the same attention to the importance of the task.
“One thing I can assure you is the dogs are still on the site. The infrared equipment is still being used. The cameras are still being used. The task forces that are here … are the same level of skills that were here with FEMA task forces,” he said. “They’re all still working. What’s happening right now is no different than five days ago.”
In an interview with CNN, Chief Nichole Notte of the Florida Task Force 2 said there has been an emotional toll for all the workers.
“I feel like I’m physically digging, but I’m also emotionally digging for more strength to continue,” she said.
Focus on the investigation
Meanwhile, officials have turned more of their attention to the investigation and to ensuring other structures in the area are safe.
Experts have already begun their investigation by examining Champlain Towers North, a sister building that is “substantially the same as the building that came down,” Burkett said.
“We have been in there several times now. We have taken out samples. We’ve done the ground-penetrating radar. We’re trying to determine the amount of steel, the thickness of the slabs, so we’re trying to compile all that information and see exactly if there is some indication of weakness,” Burkett told CNN on Friday.
“I talked to the engineer today, and he’s ready to make a determination as soon as he gets results back and let the residents of that building know whether he feels they are safe or not.”
The north towers building was evacuated for safety concerns.
Burkett said he urged other condo board members in the area to inspect their structure.
“We’ve given them a series of boxes to check in order to make sure that their buildings are as safe as they can be, given especially we don’t know why this building fell down,” Burkett said.
Patronis said that he thinks it’s important for investigators to compare North and South Champlain Towers.
“I’ve advised them to pull the minutes of Champlain Towers North board over the last 40 years and compare to the minutes of South and see if both boards have made the same investments over the last 40 years.”
More structural concerns elsewhere
Employees at a local government building have been advised to work from home for safety reasons.
All staff at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse were directed to immediately begin a work-from-home protocol on Friday following safety concerns revealed in an engineer’s report of the building, according to a statement from local officials.
The report found safety issues with various floors and recommended floors 16 and above be closed to staff while repairs are completed, Levine Cava, Circuit Court Chief Judge Nushin G. Sayfie and Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin said in a joint statement.
“Following this report, we are taking all necessary precautions and directing all Courthouse staff at 73 W Flagler Street to work from home beginning immediately while the repairs can be completed,” Miami-Dade officials said in the statement. “Over the last year throughout the pandemic all Courthouse staff was already working remotely and only recently returned to the building, and we are moving quickly to re-activate our remote work plan.”
Last week, residents in Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach were also asked to evacuate after a report determined the condo building was structurally and electrically unsafe based on a delinquent recertification report for the almost 50-year-old building, City Manager Arthur H. Sorey III previously said.
How the engineer is examining the building
Allyn Kilsheimer, a structural engineer hired by the town of Surfside to investigate the collapse took CNN on a tour of Champlain Tours North on Friday.
Kilsheimer said his team has been at the north tower for two days, using ground-penetrating radar to check the thickness of the concrete and collecting samples.
Kilsheimer said he has not seen anything that concerns him.
“The thing that I’m looking for is anything that would warn me … to get people out of the building,” he said. “I’ve not seen anything like that at this point in time.”
Other buildings in the area will soon receive letters from the mayor advising them to take the necessary steps to assure residents their buildings are safe, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN.
Regardless of the age of the building, the city is recommending the hiring of an engineer to review structural drawings and review basements, as well as a geotechnical engineer to examine the foundation.
“The recommendations are made in an abundance of caution based on the current status of the investigation,” the letter said. “They are intended to serve as an interim methodology to afford residents some peace of mind until the forensic investigation progresses further.”
CNN’s Deanna Hackney, Raja Razek, Gregory Lemos, Amanda Watts and Rosa Flores contributed to this report.
UK holidays are already in full swing and with international travel restrictions ongoing, many Britons may be looking to book something closer to home. Unfortunately, as is often the case with the great British summer unexpected weather can often ruin the experience.
However, there are some destinations across the nation that boast their own climate which can often be completely different to that of just a few miles away.
This natural phenomenon is called a microclimate.
A microclimate is a local set of atmospheric and weather conditions that differ from those in the surrounding areas.
This area can span anywhere from a few meters to miles.
Though a microclimate does not always mean weather will be hotter, with some microclimates resulting in wetter or chillier weather, in many cases it does have some promising results.
Below are five destinations in the UK known for having their own microclimate often boasting more sunshine and warmer temperatures throughout the year.
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — The Saturday evening storms are turning strong to severe in parts of southeast Texas.
The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Austin, Colorado and Waller counties but it was allowed to expire at 10 p.m.
Authorities in Spring sent a warning out after a house in the Birnham Woods area caught on fire when intense lightning sparked flames Saturday afternoon. Neighbors in that area told Eyewitness News that they heard a loud boom before the fire started. The people who live in that home were able to get out safe, but will have to stay somewhere else for the night.
There were also reports of smoke inside a Kroger located in the 2300 block of Rayford.
A power outage is affecting the Rayford Road corridor. Please treat flashing intersections as a 4 way stop. @CenterPoint is working to restore power as soon as possible.
Much of the deepest tropical moisture that’s been giving us so much rain lately is slowly pushing east into Louisiana. There will still be enough moisture left over for heavy downpours on Sunday and Monday.
As high pressure builds over the area, somewhat drier conditions will prevail. Scattered showers and storms will be possible through the middle of the week with drier conditions by the end of the week.
It sure has been raining a lot, hasn’t it? Yes it has! We saw over 11 inches of rain in May at IAH. That accounts for more than half our rainfall total on the year.
Will the rain chances continue into next week? Yes. There’s still a 60% chance for rain in the forecast Monday as a disturbance moves through our region. Tuesday and Wednesday are at 40%. We should finally dry out late next week.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — As summer months draw near and temperatures rise, so do the odds of snakes coming out to hiss — or deliver a dangerous kiss!
While snakes serve valuable functions to their habitats (more on that below), it’s important to know what to look out for – for their safety and yours.
Many types of venomous snakes call Texas home: here’s how to spot them and what to do if you find yourself on the receiving end of a nasty bite.
Lone Star Snakes
These serpents are among the most common found in Texas, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. There are 10 species found in the state — including the Western diamondback, the most common venomous snake in all of Texas.
You can spot a Western diamondback by the brown, diamond-shaped marks down its back and white and black rings near the tail. They can reach up to seven feet, TPW says.
Other rattlers include the Timber rattlesnake, Mottled Rock rattlesnake, Banded Rock rattlesnake, Blacktail rattlesnake — many are found in the western parts of Texas.
Copperheads can be found all across Texas, with three subspecies claiming different territories for themselves.
The Southern copperhead can grow up to 20-30 inches long and is found in the eastern one-third of Texas. The Trans-Pecos copperhead is about the same size and can be found in the area of its namesake. Meanwhile, the Broadbanded copperhead can be found in central and western Texas and can be up to two feet long! No internet connectivity, despite its name.
These are also commonly known as “water moccasins.”
These can be various shades of brown, green and even black. You can spot them by distinct colored bands across their bodies. There’s only one recognized subspecies found in Texas: the Western cottonmouth. This snake, TPW says, is the world’s only semi-aquatic viper, which is a family of snake species.
The cottonmouth’s name comes from the white tissue that can be seen inside its mouth, which can be seen when it’s threatened.
Cottonmouths can be up to 3 1/2 feet in length and found in eastern Texas swamps, waterways, marshes and other bodies of water.
Texas Parks and Wildlife says these are the only snake in the state that’s brightly colored: red, yellow and black rings encircle its body. Venomous Coral snakes are dangerous for several reasons: including that they look similar to other non-poisonous snakes.
But there are ways to tell the difference — an old rhyme you may remember: “Red next to black-friend of Jack; red next to yellow will kill a fellow.”
Rings on non-venomous snakes, like Texas scarlet snakes, also stop near the upper body.
Coral snakes are generally not aggressive but can deliver a serious bite if threatened. They tend to eat other snakes and reptiles.
Snakes in Your Home
No one likes uninvited house guests. The Austin Animal Center has previously reported fielding large numbers of calls of snakes being found in area homes during warmer temperatures.
A few tips the center offers:
Keep lawns trimmed. Snakes love hiding in tall grass and brush piles.
Keep rodents away. While snakes are great mouse and rat catchers, you also likely don’t want snakes in your home, either. Keeping your home rodent-free will decrease the likelihood a slithery friend may come searching for a snack.
Keep competition. Austin Animal Center says snakes are competitive and don’t like to share food between venomous and non-venomous types. Keeping a non-venomous rat snake around the house could deter a rattler or a copperhead from taking over.
If you happen to get bitten, Dr. Jeremy Kenter, with Ally Medical Emergency Rom in Bastrop recommends acting as soon as possible.
“The most important thing to do if you are bit by a rattlesnake is really get to your closest ER. Rattlesnake bites are extremely dangerous,” said Kenter. “One thing you should do if you are bit is call ahead to make sure they do have the antivenom.”
Wanting to treat your bite immediately may also tempt you to try a home remedy you may have heard, like sucking out the venom. But St. David’s Round Rock nurse Kristen Hullum says not so fast.
There are some cowboy movies suggesting to suck the venom out,” said Hullum. “You don’t want to do that.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife also recommends keeping victims — or yourself — calm, while keeping the bitten arm or leg below heart level. Next, clean the bite with soap and water. Remove tight-fitting clothes and jewelry since swelling may occur.
If possible, you should try to identify the snake that bit you, but if it will take too much time, you should call 911 immediately.
While many of us share a common fear of snakes — also called Ophidiophobia — they creatures don’t prey on humans and generally like to avoid us altogether. Most snake bites are the result of humans being reckless or threatening to snakes, TPW says.
Snakes have historically been maligned, write University of Illinois’ Wildlife Epidemiology Laboratory students Katie V. and Kennymac, in their article, “Why YOU Should Care about Snakes.”
Snakes have been the victim of many unprovoked attacks and killings, but it’s important for humans to know how much good the animals provide to their habitats. One big help snakes offer is by controlling pest populations — and controlling the harmful diseases they can carry.
The Circle of Life: while snakes are predators, they’re also prey for other animals. This, according to the Wildlife Epidemiology Lab, is what’s called being a “mesopredator.” Larger predators like foxes, birds of prey, and bigger snakes are quick to snatch up a smaller snake.
Overall, snakes serve critical roles in sustaining Earth’s ecosystems. So keep your distance and let snakes do their work!
Author: Russell Falcon
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin
It sure has been raining a lot, hasn’t it? Yes it has! We saw over 11 inches of rain in May at IAH. That accounts for more than half our rainfall total on the year.
Will the rain chances continue into the weekend? Yes! We actually brought up the rain chance to 70% for Saturday and 60% on Sunday. On Saturday, we’re also going to really have to watch for heavy rain which could lead to flooding.
Here’s an experiment I’d like you to try over the next day or two. Check out a weather forecast on the Internet. Zero in on anything it says about the wind. How strong is it, what direction is it coming from? Then step outside. I guarantee that the wind you feel will be totally different to the one that was forecast. But why?
The wind that is forecast belongs to a different weather world to the one we live in. The forecasted wind is there, but it’s blowing about one hundred feet above your head. The wind you actually feel is made up of a cast of different characters, breezes that are much richer and more colourful than anything that is bland enough to be true over a whole forecast region. Six new winds are born every time a breeze hits a building in the city.
In a walk of ten minutes, you should expect to meet ten different winds – and none of them will appear in a forecast. This diversity is true of every aspect of weather. There are hundreds of clues and signs that reveal this hidden world and they lie in clouds, plants, animals, streets, frost hollows, and sun pockets. They are there, waiting to be discovered, but you’ll miss them if you don’t know where to look. Because they are too local, too personal, to ever appear in regional reports.
Once you get to know what to look for, the signs take on a personality and every minute outdoors is like meeting old friends. Even the less friendly elements are worth getting to know. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of rain characters from The Secret World of Weather:
When we walk through woods after rain there will always be secondary showers, as some of the rain that is being held in the canopy is shaken loose by the wind. We can hear the breeze responsible, as it shakes the tops of the trees. But there are other even gentler secondary showers that sound and feel different, and they encourage us to look up.
When the rain stops, the water on the upper branches accumulates in a precarious equilibrium. The leaves hold the perfect amount of water for that moment, some drops sitting on the leaf surfaces, others hanging from the tips. The water will sit there until it dries or is disturbed, and because the balance is finely tuned, it doesn’t take much of a disturbance to shake it free.
I first started to notice the showers caused by birds taking off when I paired the loud flapping of wood pigeons with the fat dollops of rain that fell onto my head. But since I spotted the racket and rainfall of these rambunctious birds, I have learned to sense the odd lighter shower that is too local, too narrow, too delicate for a breeze. Looking up, I have seen woodpeckers, corvids, and even small songbirds landing or taking off.
Shapes, Patterns and Time
Look at the tips of the broad leaves on the trees you pass. Did you know that the more pointed the leaf tips are, the rainier an area is? Leaves with distinct points have evolved to channel off the rainwater more efficiently via a central rib that leads to this point. Tropical rainforests are packed with pointy leaves.
Rain stipples the softest ground, leaving familiar pockmarks in mud, sand, silt, or snow. They tell us about the character of the rain: hard or soft, short or long. The bigger the gaps, the shorter the rain. In soft mud or sand, try to notice the difference between regular, lighter prints of rain and the deeper, less regular marks of secondary showers. These imperfect, cruder raindrop prints show us where a breeze or bird has shaken down the heavy drops. An hour ago, a crow took off from a branch fifty feet above our path, yet that story, written in rain, is still fresh by our feet.
Is it going to rain? What a popular question. The key to longer-term forecasts lies in the earlier chapters about clouds and fronts, but we will often find ourselves looking at an individual cloud and wondering if it’s about to soak us.
Rain rarely falls from small cumulus clouds, and if they’re wider than they are tall, it’s very unlikely indeed. But we can be a bit more forensic about this by studying the bottom of the clouds. As we have seen, the bottom of all clouds marks the height at which the temperature is cool enough to condense the water vapor in the atmosphere, the dew point. Since this level tends to be consistent, it leads to flat-bottomed clouds. It follows that a cloud with a ragged bottom is trying to tell us something.
We’re all used to the idea that clouds give us rain. It is less well known that rain creates clouds. When rain falls, it cools the air just below the cloud. This leads to more condensation and creates jagged areas of new cloud just below the main cloud, which gives the base a ruffled, rough appearance. Hence, smooth bases on cumulus clouds mean no rain falling, and ragged bottoms indicate rain falling. These craggy, uneven fragments of cloud are known in formal circles as “pannus” and are described as “accessory clouds.” They are rain’s footprints and can be seen under all clouds that rain falls from.
However somber a cloud appears, if it has a neat horizontal base and good visibility below, it is unlikely to rain on you.
From time to time you may see what look like thin streaks falling from the base of clouds: virga. This is rain that evaporates before it reaches the ground—rain we can sometimes see but never feel. Virga consists of droplets or ice crystals that are just large enough to fall but not substantial enough to make the journey through the drier air below to the ground. If there is a strong wind at cloud level, the streaks can be seen falling behind the cloud as they drop into the slower wind below them. Although most common in hot, arid regions, virga can be seen trailing from the base of clouds anywhere.
Virga is an in-between sign: Conditions are nearly right for rain, but there isn’t enough water in the air yet. Like so many weather signs, virga is most useful in noticing a trend. Virga after heavy rain is common and is part of an improving situation; after clear skies, it means rain is not far off.
The way the rain trails behind the parent cloud reminds me of cartoon ghosts that float above the ground, trailing their lower bodies behind them. This, combined with the way virga clouds are both raining and not raining, has led me to think of them as rain ghosts.