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IQ Weather Homeschool Extra: The Skies Tell A Stormy Story

At IQ Weather, we like to teach you new and different ways to look at weather!

In our 24-lesson video- based course, we talk about clouds and how they are formed. Today I want to talk about visual clues you can use to tell whether or not the atmosphere is becoming more favorable for storm development…using the look of the sky!

If storms are in the forecast for a particular day, often the air has to become unstable before strong storms can form. When we say the air is unstable, we simply mean that the air is rising, which helps promote the formation of precipitation and storms.

If the air is stable, it means that there is little or no vertical motion.

The clouds that form in stable air are usually stratiform in nature…in other words…flat and fairly uniform. It is quite common to see a lot of stratocumulus clouds during the morning hours before a storms form. Stratocumulus clouds look like this:

As long as the air remains stable, the clouds will look that way....

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IQ Weather Homeschool Extra: Storm Development Indicators

Have you ever wondered how weather forecasters can tell if the conditions are primed for a storm? How do they tell the difference between a severe storm situation and a situation where only regular thunderstorm are expected?

Like many other scientific disciplines, the key to making judgments about storms is to measure everything you can in the developing environment. There are many tools that meteorologists use, and today IQ Weather talks about a couple of things you can check on your own! We’ll discuss more of them in the future so you can become a severe weather expert!

The first and most basic item to look for is a high dew point.  Typically, for severe weather to occur, the dewpoint needs to be above 55° across the area where you suspect storms to form.  The dew point temperature is defined as the temperature to which the air would have to cool (at constant pressure and constant water vapor content) in order to reach saturation. The higher the dew point, the...

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IQ Weather Remembers the Andover Tornado

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Andover, Kansas tornado. On April 26, 1991 there was an outbreak of severe storms that produced this famous F-5 tornado. At the time the Enhanced Fujita Scale or EF scale had not been developed so it was not rated an EF-5.

This tornado was part of a TORNADO WATCH that was only the second in the United states to use “strong language” to described the potential for sever weather, including tornadoes. Now, in 2021, that is a common practice whenever a particularly dangerous weather situation is expected to develop.

Mike Smith is a meteorologist who was working that storm on television that day. Here is a link to his blog about the event.

The Andover tornado demolished parts of the small town of Andover, located east of Wichita, Kansas. The tornado was quite easy to spot, as this area is out in the plains near the Flint Hills of Kansas where there are not a lot of trees, or large building to block the view. 


A total of 17...

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IQ WEATHER: The Warm Pacific Weather Pattern

In IQ Weather course, we talk about how ocean water temperatures influence our weather patterns!  Homeschoolers need to understand that water has a powerful impact on how energy is distributed around the planet!

Remember, the ocean covers a little more than 71% of the Earth’s surface. Water heats and cools at half the speed of the air. So, it takes a long time for the water to heat up…and a long time for it to cool off.

As a result, once an area of the ocean becomes warmer than a surrounding area, it stays that way for quite a while before it cools off and changes.

In the picture below, you can see where the warmer than normal water is located around the earth today. You might notice a large area of warmer water over the central and western Pacific Ocean. Right now, that warm water is lowering the atmospheric pressure in that region and creating a large area of low pressure that is “stuck” over the warmer water.

Until that water pattern changes...

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IQ WEATHER: Weekend Update-Tornado Season Detour

For severe weather to occur, you need heat and humidity. Typically, by mid-April, we are starting to see storm season kick into gear. But this April has turned cold in the plains states where tornado season should normally be getting underway.

First, look at the normal expectation for severe weather on April 17:


Now look at how much colder the temperatures will be today (April 17th) in about the same area:


Some spots will be nearly 30° below average today!  This chilly pattern will persist for the next week before it turns around!

While frost may be a concern for the early spring flowers…tornadoes will take a back seat a while longer!

IQ Weather homeschool learning, severe weather season, severe weather climatology, weather update, weather class at home, homeschool weather curriculum, cold April weather

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IQ WEATHER Homeschool Extra: Avalanche!


On February 7, 2020,  in the Tapovan-Reni area of Uttarakhand's Chamoli district in Nepal, campers witnessed a huge glacier break that triggered an avalanche.

 IQ Weather is constantly looking for videos that gives homeschool students a sense of the power of nature. The avalanche starts at the top of the mountain, and as the snow plummets down the mountain valley, it morphs into a mass of snow and condensation that makes it difficult to tell whether or not it’s actually snow or just a cloud!  Watch the video to its conclusion to find out!

 This also illustrates what happens when a large object forces air to move in one direction. The result is similar to what happens in a wet microburst! IQ Weather covers microbursts in one of our online video classes. If you have a chance to take our homeschool course, you will understand more about how this sort of phenomena happens!

Watch...it's amazing!

IQ Weather Homeschool weather course, homeschool learning, 4th...

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Storm Season Is Here: A Lightning Safety Lesson

Lightning safety should be a part of every family’s homeschool curriculum!  Especially as we head into spring severe weather season!

Thunder can be quite frightening to children, but understanding how the sound is made might help with those fears.

Lightning heats the air in a small narrow column (about the size of a pencil) to 50,000° F. Because hot air expands, the super-heated tiny column of electricity causes the air to expand rapidly. This expansion creates a sound shock wave that is heard as thunder.

A lightning strike is not just one giant electrical spark. It’s actually a series of electrical sparks that start from near the ground, and work up. All of that happens in a matter of milliseconds.

There can be a number of “connections” between the positive and negative electrical charges that create a lightning bolt. And, each connection happens at different distances from the person who will hear the thunder. That is why the sound of thunder may...

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Volcanic Eruptions: Another Piece of the Climate Puzzle

climate Apr 12, 2021

With the recent eruption of the volcano on St. Vincent island in the Caribbean, people are once again paying attention to how powerful volcanoes can be.

Volcanoes inject huge amounts of ash, debris, and gasses high into the atmosphere, and help to block the incoming solar radiation for some time!

The biggest volcanic eruptions have a history of altering the planet’s weather patterns for up to four years! But, for an eruption to have that kind of impact, it needs to be in the right location, and it needs to propel ash into the stratosphere.

Generally, volcanoes in the tropics have a far better chance of impacting global weather, that volcanoes located in higher latitudes. Tropical volcanoes can spread ash onto both the northern and southern hemispheres, of the ash reaches the stratosphere.

Higher latitude volcanoes tend to impact only one hemisphere, and are far more influential on the winter weather patterns.

The reason that ash reaching the stratosphere is so important, is...

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A Mid Winter Forecast Snapshot

Each year I like to look at comparisons of snow cover across the U.S., the ocean temperature anomalies, and the upper air flow to find good ways to correlate these three seemingly unrelated factors in our winter weather.

The best way to do this is to take a snapshot of all three conditions on the same date for separate years. That way you are comparing apples to apples.

This winter we have a developing strong La Nina…cold water across the equatorial Pacific…with a stripe of warmer water extending across the northern Pacific Ocean…pointing to the NW coast of the U.S.

Take a look at the ocean temperature anomalies, snow cover and upper air flow for this year:


Now, go back to 2016, which was a snowier winter. Here are the three maps for that winter, which was dominated by an El Nino…warmer than normal water in the equatorial Pacific:


If we go back yet another 5 years to 2011, another La Nina winter, you can see the three maps:



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IQ Weather In 2021


Teaching people about weather should not be stuffy and boring. Weather is exciting and dynamic! And, our video based lessons bring meteorology to life! 

Just this morning, we released our latest lesson on Tropical Weather, and the video is stunningly beautiful. I had to watch it twice...once just for fun! We think you will find a lot of value in the content of each lesson...and we have 24 lessons in all! Take time to watch our preview of the Tropics lesson on this blog. You will see what I mean!

On another note...on  this last day of 2020, yet another storm is brewing in the southern plains, and it will turn into headaches for New Year's Day across a big part of the eastern United States. 

Our course provides the fundamentals to enable our students to understand how and why storm systems form and behave the way they do. We want our students to be able to use the information they learn through IQ Weather for the rest of their lives! And. we have designed our...

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