Wacky Weather Words Are Quite Serious

Derecho sounds like something you would eat with chips and guacamole at a Mexican restaurant. Mammatus sounds like a distant cousin of a walrus or a hippo. And haboob sounds like something I shouldn’t be saying on this blog. But all three of these obscure words are very similar and have one thing in common: they’re unique weather terms.

Lately, people have gotten extremely familiar with derechos because of the recent lines of storms that we have seen over the past couple of months. Specifically, they’re a widespread wind storm in a straight line that is associated with an extremely fast-moving band of thunderstorms. The thing that makes

Courtesy of Discovery News

them so neat is that they can also produce hail, tropical storm force wind gusts and a devastating amount of destruction (which could potentially include snapped trees and downed power lines).

Now haboobs are a completely different story. Even though it’s really funny to say, they’re quite dangerous in dry areas, especially in the desert Southwest regions of Arizona, California and Nevada. Haboobs are a type of intense dust storm carried by a strong atmospheric gravity current. Areas that are in severe drought, in addition to areas that are sandy and rocky by nature are prone to these wind storms. The storms stir up a lot of debris and create blinding conditions along roadways. These storms make people think twice before making fun of the word again.

Mammatus clouds are a different story, however. When you look at these condensed water droplets in the sky, you might not think that they’re just hydrogen and oxygen; you might think that you’re looking at a cow’s set of udders. The clouds often group together into a set of larger clouds and then potentially could grow into an anvil cloud. This specific anvil cloud could be a precursor for things to come, potentially severe weather such as thunderstorms, high winds, or possibly, derechos.

These meteorological terms are all pieces of the atmosphere that play a large and important role in the atmosphere’s weather patterns. As funny as they sound, you want to take them seriously; otherwise, the weather may get the last laugh.

by Scott Sincoff

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