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Clouds form at different heights in the atmosphere.

As summer approaches, temperature and humidity also increase rapidly. Hot and humid days lead to an increase in outdoor activities, but they also lead to a meteorological phenomenon that streaks the sky light up and makes itself known with a loud hum in the distance.

Some people find thunderstorms calming, inspiring, and beautiful. Some people walk on the porch to watch the lightning strike in the sky. I am certainly not one of those people. If you’ve ever had an animal that gets stuck behind or under the couch during a thunderstorm, I am with them in mind. Rationally, I know that there probably isn’t going to be anything terrible happening during your average thunderstorm, but my brain always sends out a danger alert, especially during those really loud thunder booms, even though the noise is the least dangerous part.

Thunderstorms and rainstorms are the result of the rapid upward movement of warm, humid air, which is why they tend to occur in the summer for those who live in generally cooler climates and often occur in the evening. when the day gets colder. As the humid summer air is swept upward, it cools and condenses. The condensation of water in the atmosphere is what forms clouds and in certain circumstances forms those giant columns of dark clouds in the sky that indicate a storm or at least a lot of rain in your path.

Lightning and thunder are the progression of this process. As water droplets move up and down in the cloud, smaller charged particles also move. The rearrangement of these electrons causes lightning. The accompanying noise which is very reminiscent of drums or bowling pins falling and which we call thunder is actually just a sound created by the rapid heating of the air due to the passage of lightning followed by cooling. fast air.

Like many people, I went into the woods as the rain and a thunderstorm started to approach. I found myself lying in a tent at night as the ground shook beneath me with the roar of thunder. While it’s much harder to predict a storm coming in the middle of the night, you can often tell that a storm is coming during the day if you pay attention. Keeping an eye on the sky can be just as revealing as checking an app on your phone.

What do you see when you look at these clouds?

There are always exceptions and there are places where the weather is known to change faster, such as mountains and large bodies of water. It’s always good to be prepared if you plan to stay outdoors away from a vehicle or building for a long time, even if it’s perfectly sunny when you start. Some days you get more warning, but even if the storm is moving quickly, there are still signs that will alert you that it might be time to find shelter.

Of course, there are a multitude of variables to take into account when forecasting the weather, but you don’t have to be a meteorologist to make an educated estimate of the weather over the next few hours. It only takes a few continuous observations, which many people do unconsciously all their lives. It doesn’t matter whether you spend your days in a city office or work outside all day, almost everyone is concerned about precipitation and temperature affecting how they structure their day or how they work. dress.

Sometimes you can tell that a storm is coming by calm air or a change in wind. Clouds are an excellent indicator of precipitation and weather conditions. Shapes, sizes and color can alert us of impending time. These towering dark cumulonimbus clouds can warn you of an impending storm or at least heavy rain. Fluffy cumulus clouds and wispy cirrus clouds remind us of sunny days and blue skies, although they can move forward and expand to cause rain elsewhere. They are also ideal for observing clouds and imagining shapes as they float. Watching the clouds move and change shape can help us decide if we need a raincoat on our next step outside or even if we need to start turning around and heading for the car. . Then again, unless you’re a meteorologist yourself, there is an abundance of websites, new stations, and apps to help you predict the next storm.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and maintains connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are always open from dawn to dusk, but Liberty, the bald eagle, is not currently on display during the construction of the Pamela A. Westrom Wildlife Habitat. You can visit him on his Facebook page. The nature center is partially open, including restrooms, the Blue Heron gift shop, and some exhibits. More information can be found online at or by calling (716) 569-2345.

Chelsea Jandreau is an in-kind educator at ACNC.

When dark gray clouds fill the sky, watch out for the rain.

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