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15 weather myths debunked–Blog by Dr. Marshall Shepherd

Dr. Marshall Shepherd was one of the speakers at our recent SRECA conference in Athens, GA.  He is also the host of WxGeeks on The Weather Channel and the head of the atmospheric sciences program and a geography professor at the University of Georgia.  Dr. Shepherd recently posted a blog entry which discusses some common myths about weather that he has seen recently in social media.  Maybe you have heard some of these myths too.  You can see the blog directly here.

Here is the text of his blog from Weather Underground:

I often see inaccurate weather information and myths propagating through my Facebook Newsfeed. In the spirit of the “Hail No” segment of Weather Geeks, the show that I host each Sunday at Noon on the Weather Channel, I decided to debunk 15 weather myths that I often see posted by friends.

1. Heat lightning is not the sky lighting up because it is hot. You are just seeing lightning from a storm too far away to hear thunder.

2. You can’t see water vapor. Water vapor is the gaseous phase of water. So when you see “fog” in shower or coming off a pond, you are seeing liquid droplets or condensate not water vapor.

3. It can and does get cold in deserts.

4. The Earth is actually at its closest point to the Sun in January time frame when we are in Winter in US. This is counterintuitive to many people.

5. And speaking of counterintuitive, even as climate warms, we will still have cold days, snowstorms and winter.
“Weather is your Mood, Climate is your personality.”

6. Hurricanes and typhoons are the same type of storm. They are just called typhoons in the Western Pacific. Oh and by the way, in the Indian Ocean they are called Cyclones.

7. Your local TV meteorologist is not reading a teleprompter like the other news anchors you watch.

8. Clouds coming out of airplanes are because of basic physics, i.e., Warm air being chilled to produce condensation like when you breathe out on a cold day. They are not chemical vapor trails used by the government to control our minds or the weather.

9. In an era of cell phone radar apps, just because the main core of a thunderstorm is some distance from you, don’t underestimate your potential to be struck by lightning.

10. Computer models solving complex equations governing fluid flow are used to make your 1-7 day weather forecasts (see #15 too).

11. Every time it gets cold, it is not because of the Polar Vortex. And contrary to some claims that it was invented 2 years ago to advance an agenda, it has been discussed for 60+ years and has long been defined in the AMS Glossary of Meteorology.

12. The Ozone Hole is a different discussion from climate change. I often hear people mix the two. It is also a good example of something many were originally skeptical of but science and policy came together to find solutions.

13. The Coriolis Force is not the determining factor on what direction the water spirals out of your bathroom tub. Its impact is minimal at that length scale.

14. Meteorologists are wrong 50% of the time aren’t they? Well, No, the forecasts are actually pretty good these days. People just tend to remember the occasional wrong forecast that impacts them and not the overwhelming majority of forecasts that were correct. Or, I find that many just don’t understand what “40% Chance of Rain” means. Brad Panovich, Chief Meteorologist NBC Charlotte, wrote a great blog on the perception of weather forecast accuracy at rspective-accuracy-meteorologists/Link. Brad will also join us this Sunday September 21st on WxGeeks. And by the way, if you want to know what % chance of means (not what you think it means), check this National Weather Service explanation: Link

15. Meteorology is an easy major in college, it’s just clouds and fronts like I learned in 4th grade, right. Wrong, the atmosphere is fluid and very complex so most credible meteorology curriculum is steeped in advance math, physics, dynamics, and thermodynamics. I have actually seen it rated one of the more difficult majors.

Be sure to catch Weather Geeks (@wxGeeksTWC on Twitter) on Sundays at Noon on the Weather Channel. We debunk many myths weekly in our Hail No section. Weather Geeks is on Facebook at

You can follow me @DrShepherd2013 on Twitter or at Facebook, d-Host-of-WxGeeks-2013-AMS-President/4426258691459 00?ref=hl&fref=nfLink