Weather

Countercurrent Exchange in Nature

Mallards on ice (By Proch (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

or "Why Ducks Don't Wear Mucklucks"

Have you ever looked at a duck swimming in icy water and wondered how they do that without wearing dive booties? Or have you ever looked at a squirrel sitting in snow calmly eating seeds and wondered why it's not racing for the nearest heated mani-pedi spa? All animals have unique adaptations for dealing with cold, ranging from boosted fat stores to growing extra feathers and double coated fur, but some animals have developed something called "countercurrent exchange." It's a trait that animals who are active in extreme conditions have converged upon as a way to deal with hot and cold temperatures, especially in snow, ice, cold water, and even tropical rain forests.

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The Mystery of the Shape of Raindrops

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Raindrops on a window (Photo: Pixaby)

The Size and Shape of Raindrops

How many times have you seen a drawing of a raindrop as something that looks like a drip from a faucet? It's a common symbol that can be found everywhere, from children's books to lawn and garden logos. However, those drawings are  perpetuating a very common misconception, that raindrops are shaped like a teardrop.

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A very wrong, but frequently used, drawing of the shape of a raindrop (Image: Wiki Commons).

The way teardrops and faucet drips form is very different from how raindrops form, though some of the molecular principles are the same. Teardrops and faucet drips often fall from a short distance and they sometimes drizzle down a surface. Raindrops form high up in the clouds, under pressure from air, changing temperatures, cooling, and gravity.

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Weather Lab App Launches

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A screenshot of the Weather Lab app.

A Predictive Weather Modeling App for Students and Teachers

I usually don't mix my professional life with my personal blog, but I wanted to share with you a neat interactive weather app that I helped develop. It is a tool that can be useful for weatherphiles, teachers, and students. It is called the Weather Lab, an online and mobile application from the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) in association with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). The Weather Lab helps students visualize how weather is formed though the complex interactions of ocean currents and air masses in North America.

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