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AMS elects Jack as a Fellow

By Jack Williams ©2015

The American Meteorological Society (AMS)  induced Jack Williams as a Fellow at its January 2015 meting in Phoenix. Ariz. The AMS' governing Council  had elected Williams as one of 28 new Fellows at its fall 2014 meeting. The Society says members elected as fellows "shall have made outstanding contributions to the atmospheric or related oceanic or hydrologic sciences or their aplications substantial period of years." The Council selects no more than two-tenths of one percent of all AMS Members as fellows each year. The Society has approximately 14,000 members. Williams was the founding editor of the USA TODAY Weather Page when the paper began publication in... »

U.S. once had China-like air pollution

By Jack Williams ©2015

Stories about the choking air pollution in China prompted Jack to write a Washington Post Capital Weather Gang story on Oct. 25, 2013 about an episode of deadly pollution that sickened  and killed people in the small Pennsylvania manufacturing town of Donora in 1948. Jack first researched the Donora pollution disaster while writing Chapter 11 of the AMS Weather Book: The... »

Washington Science Academy honors Jack

By Jack Williams ©2015
Al Teich of the Washington Academy of Science (left) presents to Award to Jack. -photo by Darlene Shields

The Washington Academy of Sciences presented Jack a "Special Award for the Public Understanding of Science" at a dinner on May 8, 2014 at the Sphinx Club in downtown Washington, D.C. The award notes Jack's  contributions as founding editor of the influential USA TODAY Weather Page" and as author or co-author of popular books on meteorology. Al Teich... »

Jack writes section of National Geographic book

By Jack Williams ©2015

Jack wrote the weather section--one  of five--in the National Geographic Illustrated Guide to Nature: From Your Back Door to the Great Outdoors, which came out in early 2014. The other sections are: Wildflowers, Trees & Shrubs, Rocks & Minerals, and Night... »

Jack’s stories clear fog surrounding humidity

By Jack Williams ©2015

Since soon after becoming the founding USA TODAY Weather Page editor in 1982 Jack realized that many people were in a fog when they talk about topics involving water vapor in the air, that is humidity. Below are links some some... »

Jack looks at hurricanes from several angles

By Jack Williams ©2015

Jack Williams believes you can't say too much about hurricanes---but don't try to say it all at the same time. Below are links to hurricane-related stories Jack has done for the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog with the latest stories... »

Why you should care about dew point

By Jack Williams ©2015

Lately you're probably hearing more broadcast meteorologists talk about the "dew point."  In a July 8, 2013 Washington Post Weather Gang piece I explain why you too should use "dew point" as a guide to how comfortable or uncomfortable the... »

Stories update lightning safety information

By Jack Williams ©2015

Like many people,  you might think that if lightning hits you, you're done for. In fact, as I say in one my two stories about lighting safety that the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang published June 26 and 27, 2013: "approximately... »

Why, how U.S. built the South Pole station

By Jack Williams ©2015

Note: This is from Chapter 14 of  "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Arctic and Antarctic" ©2003 by Jack Williams with minor editing changes and a few updates. It adds background to my Washington Post blog story about the South Pole Station.... »

National Geographic publishes Jack’s latest book

By Jack Williams ©2015

The National Geographic published Jack's  latest book, the Field Guide to the Water's Edge, on  May 1, 2012. Jack is co-author with Stephen Leatherman, who is widely known as Dr. Beach for his annual 10 Best Beaches lists. Stephen's day job... »

Answers: Light, moderate, and heavy fog

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: I have seen heavy fog defined  as having a visibility of less than 0.3 miles. But have never see what defines a moderate or light fog. Is there some standard? Lowell, Glen Allen, Va. A: This sounds like a pretty... »

Background on Lake Vostok

By Jack Williams ©2015

The material below is from Chapter 24 of the Complete Idiot's Guide to the Arctic and Antarctic ©by Jack Williams, 2003. It offers some background on the Feb. 7, 2012 announcement that the Russians had succeeded in drilling into... »

Commentary: Don’t let facts get in the way

By Jack Williams ©2015

Journalists like to joke that one shouldn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. Some journalists seem to take this joke  as a guide to spinning a good yarn. A yarn that in the old days would... »

Using weather to teach science

By Jack Williams ©2015

Jack Williams was among the 10 men and women who offered teachers ideas for using meteorology  in the classroom at the 2011 National Weather Association Teachers' Workshop on Oct. 17 in Birmingham, Ala. Williams offered suggestions on how teachers could use... »

Answers: heating, cooling degree days

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: Several years ago, you wrote a short article for USA TODAY about heating degree days. I have depended on that article, and its links, to monitor the heating and cooling degree days in my area.  Now, I cannot access... »

Answers: Hurricane rainbands

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: Cross-cut figures of hurricanes show a structure like a jelly roll turned on end and sliced through the middle.  Are these rings all connected in a continuous spiral or are they multiple rings? (I suspect they are continuous.) Also, how... »

A companionable guide to climate change

By Jack Williams ©2015

Until I watched the preview DVD of "Earth: The Operators' Manual" a couple of weeks ago, I had never viewed a television program about climate change that I particularly liked. PBS stations began airing the show on April 10--with some showing it... »

Answers: Finding wind data

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: What is your favorite source for near real time surface wind visualizations in the mid Atlantic region. I need the information for balloon flight planning in the field. Curt, Falls Church, Va. A:  I’ve yet to find any really good... »

Washington Post upgrades Web weather

By Jack Williams ©2015

The Washington Post is jumping headfirst into using weather to attract readers; something television stations have been doing since the 1960s but that newspapers have mostly ignored. In his Dec. 10 Sunday column Andrew Alexander, the Post's Ombudsman,  said: "Many readers have... »

Suggestions for hurricane-oil spill coverage

By Jack Williams ©2015

With Hurricane Alex no longer a threat to the people and vessels working to stop and clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, reporters, newscasters, editors, and other news people can take a breather and think about ways to... »

Answers: Arizona tornadoes

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: Do tornadoes occur in south-west Arizona, including in the Yuma area? Chris,  Yuma, Ariz. A: A few tornadoes have occurred in Yuma County in the past, which means that they can  occur in the future. Nevertheless, the record shows they... »

Questions about the oil spill and hurricanes

By Jack Williams ©2015

If someone were still paying me to write about weather and science, here are some of the questions I'd ask about a possible Gulf of Mexico hurricane and and the huge oil spill. A story with the answers to even one... »

Answers: AMS Weather Book Supplementary Texts

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: Are The AMS Weather Book Supplementary Texts available as a whole, in one digital file, such as a PDF file (or perhaps even in hard copy)?  I would like to print and to keep those supplementary texts with my... »

Pilot answers: Upper air data and forecasts

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: I use RUC soundings for flight planning, but I am befuddled by the following: When I enter a station, load the Op40 soundings, and hover with my mouse over the loaded graph I see  bold numbers on the far-left... »

When seasons begin — revistited

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: Hello Jack. I was wondering if anyone ever turned in an answer on your "official seasons" proposal from last summer. I am doing my senior research project on the seasons, and would like to know what you found out.... »

Meteorological pioneer Joanne Simpson dies

By Jack Williams ©2015

Joanne Simpson, a world-renowned atmospheric scientist who led the way for today's many women meteorologists, died on Thursday, March 4, in Washington, D.C. She and her husband Robert (Bob) Simpson, who survives her, were a rare example of a wife... »

Answers: Weather balloons and airplanes

By Jack Williams ©2015
NWS weather balloon

Q: Hi, I enjoyed "Rise Up" in the March 2010 AOPA Flight Training magazine.   I wonder about  the danger of those weather balloons and noted your  comments about there being "no danger" as it's floating down under parachute. But... »

Snowy science lessons

By Jack Williams ©2015
Jack Williams shoveling on Feb. 6  as snow continues falling. The snowy lump on the right is his Toyota Carolla. To the left and behind him is a large arbor vitae tree's limbs that that broke or bent under the weight of the snow, without damaging the car. Photo by Darlene Shields

From the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 5 through the afternoon of Tuesday Feb. 9, I spent roughly eight hours shoveling snow, thanks to the record-breaking "Snowmageddon" that brought two to three feet--in some cases even more--of snow to the Washington,... »

Volcanoes, climate, and a doubtful solution

By Jack Williams ©2015
The Mount Rainier volcano (right) looms over the Seattle skyline. The U.S. Geological Survey considers it the potentially most dangerous volcano in the United States. Photo by Darlene Shields

My story on "The volcanic-Climate Connection," which was published in the January-February 2010 issue of Weatherwise magazine, focuses on how a few extremely large volcanoes in the past have cooled the Earth for a few months. At the end of the... »

Answers: Wind direction

By Jack Williams ©2015
National Weather Service surface chart showing isobars and wind directions. NWS chart

Q: In your article in the January 2010 issue of AOPA Flight Training, you say: "If the lines on a weather map showing air pressures of 500 millibars and 496 millibars were straight and parallel, the PGF and Coriolis forces... »

Science librarians honor AMS Weather Book

By Jack Williams ©2015
Maria A. Latyszewskyj presents Jack Williams with the ASLI Choice Award. Photo by Darlene Shields

The Atmospheric Science Librarians ... »

Science Stories about Arctic Blasts Missing in Action

By Jack Williams ©2015
Jan. 6, 2010 temperatures compared with average for the date. Dark blue and purple are temperatues from 5 to 10 degrees Celsius below average. Orange and red are 15 to 20 degrees above average. NOAA image

The New Year has brought us a blizzard of stories about frigid temperatures and snow storms, but I've been unable to find any stories that closely examine what's going on. I had been wondering whether I just hadn't looked hard enough... »

Science Lessons from Bitter Cold

By Jack Williams ©2015
NWS wind chill chart for +30 to -30 degrees and 5 to 60 mph winds.

The strong winds and bitter cold that the new year 2010 brought to large parts of the United States has put wind chill in the news. This, like any outbreak of cold, windy weather, offers high school physics teachers in places... »

Science Lessons from a big snowstorm

By Jack Williams ©2015
Jack Williams perpares to begin digging out from the Blzzard of '09 as the snow is still falling. Photo by Darlene Shields.

Like any big weather event the storm that spread snow from Tennessee and North Carolina along the East Coast to New England on December 18-21, 2009 is a good source of real-world science lessons. With this storm, as with most winter... »

Answers: Rising and Sinking Air

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: In your AOPA Flight Training Magazine, January 2010 article you say that the curving path of upper air winds cause air to sink in some areas, creating high pressure at the surface, and to rise in other areas creating... »

Answers: Weather Radar

By Jack Williams ©2015
Mobile, Ala., NWS radar image from the NWS Aviation Weather Center Web site.

Q: I have been reading your column in AOPA Flight Training magazine for several years and I wanted to let you know you have inspired me to become very interested in the weather and especially how it effects my flying.... »

Princely Pitfalls to Expaining Science

By Jack Williams ©2015
Prince Albert II of Monaco speaks at the National Press Club. Photo by Darlene Shields.

Prince Albert II of Monaco,whose environmental credentials are certainly as strong as those of any head of state, illustrated some of the pitfalls of trying to help people understand science during his talk and following question and answer session at... »

Answers: Inside Weather Fronts

By Jack Williams ©2015
Cold air is advancing from left to right--the blue arrow. The green arrow indicates warm air that's being pushed up. NWS image.

Q: In the November issue of AOPA Flight Training, you discuss extratropical cyclones, including the movement of cold air under warm air and vice versa. If I understand this correctly, the fronts themselves do not discriminate between the cold or... »

Science Lessons from Ida

By Jack Williams ©2015
A flooded street at the mouth of Onancock Creek in Onancock, Virginia the morning of November 13. Photo by Betty Flowers, used with permission.

Ida,  a late-season hurricane that caused serious flooding along the U.S. Northeast Coast after it was no longer a hurricane or even a tropical storm offers teachers opportunities to hitch science lessons to a big news story. Even students who say... »

Answers: Storm Winds

By Jack Williams ©2015
A satellite image of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, the day it hit Louisiana and Mississippi, clearly shows the storm's structure. NOAA image.

Q: Why doesn't an extratropical cyclone continue to rotate around a 360-degree axis, like a hurricane?  I've always wondered why a cold front begins to the northwest of the low center and then dies out on the northeast side. Why... »

Answers: Extratropical Cyclone Winds

By Jack Williams ©2015
Forecast for Oct. 15, 7 a.m. ET. Storm center forms. NWS image.

Q: My question is about your article in the November  AOPA Flight Training magazine on tropical cyclones.  I'm trying to reconcile two potentially different ideas: first, that a cyclone has swirling air (which I assume to mean the the air... »

Teaching the Science of Weather

By Jack Williams ©2015
The caption to this photo on Page 102 of the AMS Weather Book tells how the clouds in the scene are linked to the atmosphere's global circulation. Photo by Darlene Shields.

Many non-meteorologists, including otherwise well-informed adults, don't realize that weather forecasting is a science. Meteorologists who visit schools with the message, "If you want to become a weather professional, study all of the math and science you can," are sometimes asked,... »

Weather Book at Press Club Book Fair

By Jack Williams ©2015
Supreme Court Justice Antonio Scalia signs his book at Book Fair.

Jack Williams' The AMS Weather Book will be among books by 75 nationally-known authors that will be sold and signed at the National Press Club's annual Book Fair and Authors' Night on Tuesday,Nov. 17, 2009 at the historic club in... »

Wildfires: A Window into Science

By Jack Williams ©2015
A satellite image shows smoke hanging over the Los Angeles area or drifting to the east. Image from NASA.

The stunning images from the wildfires sweeping parts of the Los Angeles area offer a good way to illustrate how science helps us understand the world. Other wildfires in the future will offer similar opportunities for teachers, writers, and broadcasters. The opening... »

Ozone Story Challenges Science Writers

By Jack Williams ©2015
Nacreous clouds approximatel7 80,000 feet above the McMurdo Station in Antarctica as the sun is beginning to come up for the summer. These clouds are an important factor in formation of the ozone hole. Photo by Zenobia Evans, National Science Foundation.

NOAA's announcement on August 28, 2009 that nitrous oxide is replacing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as the most abundant ozone-depleting substance emitted by human activities offers a big challenge to science writers. Making sense of ozone and the substances that deplete it is... »

The Other Important 40th Anniversary

By Jack Williams ©2015
The aftermath of Hurricane Camile in Biloxi, Miss. NOAA photo

The Page One Cover Story in the Friday, August 14 issue of USA TODAY, "Woodstock: More of a curiosity than a benchmark in 2009?" (online) is just... »

Ask Jack: Upper Air Temperatures

By Jack Williams ©2015
Pilots, such as those of this Airbus A 380 taking off from Oshkosh, Wis., on July 31, 2009, use upper air temperature data to calculate aircraft performance. Photo by Darlene Shields

Q: I am trying to find out how many degrees Fahrenheit the temperature decreases with each 1,000 feet of elevation. Thanks for your response. -Harry, Phoenix, Ariz. A: The exact rate at which the temperature changes with elevation differs from... »

Hurricane Stories Full of Holes

By Jack Williams ©2015
NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Katrina coming ashore in Mississippi and Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005.

USA TODAY,  ABC News, and probably other news outlets have published reports that Bill Gates and others have filed patent applications... »

Journalists and Climate Science

By Jack Williams ©2015
A fjord cuts into the Greenland Ice Sheet, the Arctic's only ice sheet. Photo by Jack Williams from an LC-130 transport.

The political, diplomatic, and military consequences of climate change can be a minefield for journalists. Lately most... »

Ask Jack: Rising Air

By Jack Williams ©2015
   Latent heat supplies much of the energy for supercell thunderstorms like this one that pelted Chaparral, N.M., with two-inch hail stones in April 2004. NOAA photo by Greg Lundeen.

Q: Why does... »

Summer Begins Sunday! Really?

By Jack Williams ©2015
Areas of light and dark at the June 21 summer solstice.  U.S. Naval Observatory image.

With the (Northern Hemisphere) summer solstice coming up Sunday you'll be hearing and reading about June 21 being "the... »

Antarctic Woman Pioneer Dies

By Jack Williams ©2015
Jackie Ronne at Stonington Island in 1947.

Edith Maslin Ronne, who was one of the first two women to spend more than part of a day in Antarctica and for whom the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica... »

How Weather Might Have Caused Crash

By Jack Williams ©2015

Most news stories about the June 1 crash of Air France Flight 447 into the Atlantic Ocean mention that it was flying through an area of thunderstorms when it went down, but these stories leave readers hungry for more information. The... »

Background: Lightning and Airplanes

By Jack Williams ©2015
Rearward view showing Bruce Fisher in rear seat during lightning strike to F-106B. NASA photo

Monday's disappearance of an Air France Airbus 330 over the Atlantic Ocean has led to speculation that it was hit by lightning.... »

Hurricane Shutters and Fire

By Jack Williams ©2015

Protecting windows and other openings is vital to making a house more likely to survive strong winds. I go into some... »

A Great Time for Weather Weenies

By Jack Williams ©2015

The timely updates on severe weather events that most National Weather Service offices now publish on their Web sites are one of the reasons why I say on page 6 of The AMS Weather Book that, “We are living in... »