Cars vs. Lightning

Although it’s winter, many parts of the United States have been seeing some nasty thunderstorms lately.  To make things worse, many people are traveling during these storms for the holidays.  When driving through a thunderstorm, people feel some relief because of the myth that “cars are the safest place to be during a thunderstorm.”

Part of the reason that this myth would seem correct is that cars have rubber tires, and rubber cannot conduct electricity very well. Therefore, lightning would not be attracted to a car. However, that is not the case.

Lightning strike

Courtesy of NOAA

Lightning is the product of buildup and discharge of electrical energy during cloud formation [1]. Clouds are formed of water vapor molecules, which can affect the electrical charges in clouds. When the ground or opposing clouds have a corresponding charge, it creates an environment that allows the clouds to discharge.

When lightning strikes, the surrounding air can reach up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (hotter than the surface of the sun), and has enough electrical energy to power an average home for a week [2]. No wonder people would like to steer clear of thunderstorms.

With all that energy, several inches of rubber is no match for a lightning strike, yet a person can still stay safe in a car with the windows up. The reason is cars are made of metal.

SUV lightning strike

Courtesy of PDClassics

Although metal is a better conductor than rubber, it redirects the electrical energy from a lightning strike. Lightning strikes to the ground start from the bottom up. An invisible channel starts from the cloud and makes its way to the ground. Once it nears the ground, a surge of electrical energy rides the channel back up into the cloud, and produces visible light.

Hence, the car acts like lightning rods used for buildings. If lightning strikes the car (assuming the roof is made out of metal), the electricity will channel outside the metal body and redirect towards the ground. It will not affect the contents in the car dire­ctly [2].  A person may be unscathed, yet the car will most likely receive some damage, and in some cases ignite fires.

Cars are pretty safe during a thunderstorm, yet the safest place to be is in a large and enclosed building.

[1] “Facts About Lightning.” National Weather Service. NOAA, 16 May 2001. Web. 22 Dec. 2013.

[2] “Lightning and Cars.” NWS Lightning Safety: Cars. NOAA, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2013.

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College Football Forecast

Posted by Raquel Nicora

Good morning everyone,

Are you ready for some football?! As many alumni will be watching their respective colleges play today, tonight’s big game will be the FSU Seminoles vs. UM Hurricanes game!

They are 2 of the top 10 football teams in the nation, and Tallahassee is already buzzing with excitement.  ESPN is also holding their College Gameday in the teams’ capital, and the students woke up bright and early to participate.

Just in time too, another cold front made its way through Tallahassee yesterday evening.  The cold front pushed the rain through the Big Bend region, leaving cooler temperatures and clearer skies.  The temperature at kickoff will be 68 degrees, and the skies will be mostly clear.

FSU vs. UM - Courtesy of Tomahawknation


Wherever you are watching your favorite college football team, you will be glad to know that most of the games today will be under clear and cool conditions! Some games today will see some rain or snow, hopefully the home teams can overcome the conditions!  Places along the Great Lakes, parts of Pennsylvania, and New York will see some rain during kickoff.  The Idaho Vandals and Texas Bobcats will also see rain today in Moscow, Idaho, yet for the Utah State Aggies, they will not have rain today in Logan, Utah!

Have a good one!




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Post-Tropical Cyclone Humberto

Posted by Tyler Castillo

Currently, post-tropical cyclone Humberto is out in the middle of the Atlantic moving very slowly to the northwest (about 15 mph). Conditions have changed very little over the past several hours, although the National Hurricane Center has given it an 80% chance of developing back into a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours.

As it continues to track northwest, it will move into an area of saturated air, which will help it regain its strength. This new moisture mixed with the relatively light winds aloft will enhance the cyclone as it is projected to re-curve back out to sea.

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A Tale of Two Regions

Posted by Raquel Nicora

August was quite an interesting month, at least in a meteorological way.  The Atlantic Ocean was considerably inactive; the Rim Fire started and still continues to burn in Northern California; and the story for tonight: Unseasonable temperatures for the Northeast, Southeast, and Alaska.

Aug. 17, 2013 - Courtesy of NOAA

August brought some abnormal conditions for the East Coast, and Alaska.  While a summer in Atlanta feels like running into a wall of heat and humidity, they experienced a week of temperatures below 80°F.  Not impressed?  How about having two consecutive days with temperatures reaching the upper-60s?  Atlanta experienced highs of 68°F and 66°F on the 16th and 17th respectively.  This is 20°F lower than their typical high temperatures for August.  Atlanta isn’t the only city that experienced these abnormally cool temperatures.   Charlotte and Asheville, N.C., Augusta, Ga., and Greenville, S.C. experienced at least one day with a high temperature less than 70°F in August.

While the South cooled off, the Northeast warmed up.  Minneapolis, MN., for example, experienced high temperatures in the upper 90s for a week!  Usually the city’s average high is 80°F.  They could not escape the heat at night either.  For two nights, temperatures refused to dip below 80°F.

Fairbanks, Alaska also experienced an abnormally warm summer.  Usually the city sees temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s during the summer months.  For 36 days, this Alaskan city recorded temperatures that reached or were above 80°F!


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Labor Day Weekend Forecast

Posted by Raquel Nicora

Hope everyone will have a fun and safe Labor Day weekend!  Here’s the latest forecast for this weekend:

The Rim Fire has burned through 200,000 acres of land.  32% of the fire has been contained.

Out in the Atlantic, there is a 50% chance that a disturbance off the coast of Africa will develop into a tropical system within the next 48 hours.

Courtesy of the NHC

There are two frontal systems that will be moving their way eastward this weekend.  The first front, a cold front, will bring strong to severe storms for the Lower Great Lakes Friday night.  The second front will bring relief to the Mid-West this weekend, especially Iowa, with some rain and thunderstorms ahead of the front.

Arizona and Southern California will continue to receive monsoon moisture, which may trigger more thunderstorms for the region.  On the East Coast, New York has a good chance to see some thunderstorms this weekend.  The Florida Panhandle will also see an increase in moisture due to a trough moving northward from South Florida.

Courtesy of the WPC


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