At 6pm on Sunday evening a violent thunderstorm blew through Pittsburgh with powerful wind gusts, hail and heavy rain.
Dave DiCello photographed the storm from the West End as it approached Oakland. The VA Hospital and the Cathedral of Learning are to the right of the lightning bolt.
Watching that storm roll into #Pittsburgh today was incredible. A huge hail core, tons of lightning; looked like the apocalypse coming into town. Though this wasn't the largest bolt I captured tonight, it is my favorite image. An absolute monster of a cloud. Lots more to come. pic.twitter.com/b6aqMnbPNZ
Meanwhile my husband and I watched from our 6th floor apartment as a wind gust picked up the patio umbrella from the high-rise roof next door and blew it, Mary Poppins-like, until it crashed into our building. Then we saw no more as rain and hail battered our windows for half an hour, first from the north, then the east.
The tempest left behind flooding, downed trees, power outages, and a rainbow.
Yesterday morning I surveyed the damage after the cleanup had already begun. In a short walk I found trees down at Frick Fine Arts, Carnegie Library and Museum, and two small breaks on South Craig Street.
At Schenley Park the valley around Panther Hollow Lake was spared but the lake itself was full of flood water. This is by design. A flow control gate at the outlet holds back freshwater so that storms will not flood The Run.
This morning the power was still out in parts of Squirrel Hill as I drove home from the grocery store.
My husband and I were fortunate. Our power never failed and that flying umbrella hit the wall below us and caused no damage.
p.s. The young Pitt peregrines are flying so well that they are hard to find. I saw both adults plus two of four juveniles on my Monday morning walk.
All of them have flat bottoms at the same altitude because …
The flat bottom of cumulus clouds defines the exact height at which a critical combination of temperature and air pressure causes water vapor within the rising current to condense into a visible cloud.
A NOTE about the yellow field: Rapeseed (Brassica napus), in the mustard family, is grown for its oil-rich seeds. Cultivars with very low eruric acid become canola oil. “Rapeseed is the third-largest source of vegetable oil and second-largest source of protein meal in the world,” according to Wikipedia.
The State of the Air Report doesn’t even measure the rotten egg smell — hydrogen sulfide, H2S — that’s produced by U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works and Edgar Thompson Works in Braddock.
High concentrations of H2S (widely recognized by its foul, rotten-egg odor) are registered all too often in the Mon Valley. In fact, so far this year there have already been 21 exceedances of Pennsylvania’s 24-hour average H2S standard – 13 at the Liberty monitor and eight more at the North Braddock monitor.
Twelve days ago Saint Vincent’s La Soufrière volcano began erupting after four decades of silence. Since 9 April it has blanketed the island with thick ash, forced the evacuation of 20,000 people, and ruined fresh water, homes, and farms. It has also caused a deep humanitarian crisis (see 5-minute British Channel 4 video at bottom) and killed untold numbers of local plants, animals and birds.
The volcanic plume is also devastating the air, bad to breathe and dangerous for anything that flies. Saint Vincent’s airport closed when the eruption began while NOAA’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Center provides maps of Caribbean no-fly zones for pilots. The 10 April zones match the plume graph from NASA.
Though the disaster feels far from Pennsylvania it may affect our migratory birds that have not yet crossed the Caribbean from South America. Will the birds smell the plume and find a way to avoid it?
Airplanes will soon be cleared for take-off at Saint Vincents airport. I wonder if the birds will be, too.
This 8-minute video from Britain’s Channel 4 shows the devastation at Saint Vincents.
A shagbark hickory lives up to its name in bright sunlight.
American basswood now has bright red buds that are still cautious about opening.
Cultivated European white willows have bright yellow twigs in March.
Non-native crocuses are blooming so I hoped to see native snow trillium at Raccoon Wildflower Reserve on Friday, 12 March 2021. I did not find any, not even leaves. Was I too early or did the deer eat them?
However I was rewarded with the sound of frogs! Spring peepers and a few wood frogs called from the first vernal pool.
Wood frogs quacked in the second pool joined by a few solo peepers (hear that slow “creeeek” sound). In the video you can see the surface of the water moving with so many wood frogs.
Get outside while the sun’s shining. There’s more spring to come!
Ever since the early 1980s when Luis and Walter Alvarez discovered that the Chicxulub Crater in the Yucatan and the extinction of the dinosaurs were caused by the same event, we’ve talked about the “asteroid” that killed the dinosaurs. Recently two Harvard researchers took a new look at the composition of Chicxulub rocks and the physics of comet behavior and revised that conclusion. It wasn’t an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. It was a chunk of comet!
In winter when the moon is full and the sky is almost clear with a thin layer of cirrus clouds you may see a halo around the moon. The ring has a radius of 22o so it’s called a 22o halo, a moon ring, or a winter halo.
The conditions for a moon ring are relatively rare in Pittsburgh: a full moon + a clear sky + thin cirrus clouds whose ice crystals refract and reflect the moonlight. Seeing the halo is a matter of perspective based on where you stand and which ice crystals refract/reflect for you.
That’s why, like rainbows, halos around the sun – or moon – are personal. Everyone sees their own particular halo, made by their own particular ice crystals, which are different from the ice crystals making the halo of the person standing next to you.
On Wednesday night, 27 January, the nearly-full Wolf Moon rose before sunset hidden by Pittsburgh’s overcast sky. By 8pm the clouds were breaking up and made an iridescent halo around the moon. It was not a true 22o halo but it cast enough light to make shadows. All I have to show for it is this very blurry photo.
The next morning at 4:15am the sky was absolutely clear and the moon was shining brightly without a ring. I was disappointed because the clear sky was wasted on us while Pittsburgh slept. Three hours later the sun rose in an overcast sky.
Last night was the same — a nearly full moon and an absolutely clear sky. No moon ring.
The Wolf Moon is waning and winter will too. The next full moon on 27 February is our last chance at a Winter halo. The full moon after that — 28 March — will be in the Spring.
(photo at top from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original. blurry photo by Kate St. John)