Welcome to Superoceras, a blog about science and natural history, slightly biased towards paleontology and zoology, but inclusive of all sciences. Started in October of 2009, my goal is to communicate scientific knowledge (and the occasional piece of nonsense) in an informative and entertaining manner. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, or criticism at superoceras(at)gmail(dot)com, and follow me on Twitter @Superoceras for all that and more in 140 characters or less!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th (August 2010)

I'm not really one for superstitions, but I figured since Friday the 13th only comes around every so often, I thought I'd try and think of something science related that I could tie into what is traditionally known as the unluckiest day of the year. Black cats? The number 13? How mirrors work? All decent topics with a scientific twist that are associated with 13th, but I think I'll save them for future Fridays. This time around I want to focus on something that could be considered very unlucky and is genuinely related to science: intense storms continuously raging through your country.

I caught wind of this YouTube video on Wednesday. This is a storm that hit the Helsinki and Pori regions of Finland at around 16:00 on 08 August, 2010. I'll let the video speak for itself.

Video posted on YouTube by Carthag0Eagle.

Now I love a good thunderstorm, but I'm not going to lie - seeing that storm cell heading my way would have evoked a serious flight response in my sympathetic nervous system. I chose that particular clip because it shows how fast the storm rolled in, but there was a lot of footage taken that day. You can catch equally scary clips here, here, and here. According to the Helsingin Sanomat, the storm was only 5 minutes long, but managed to cause significant property damage, bring down trees, ground airplanes, close roads and railways, cut off power to 70,000 households, and put several people in the hospital, two of which were in critical condition at the time of admittance. That's insane. And what's even more insane is the fact that this is the fifth "super" storm in just as many months to have torn through the country, each time with similar results. Does that have anything to do with luck? I doubt it seriously, but for the sake of the occasion lets just say it does.

In reality, the situation (as extreme as it may seem) is not really outside of the norm. In a Helsinki Times interview, Asko Hutila from the Climate Service at the Finnish Meteorological Institute says that while the frequency of storms this August seems high, in terms of the number of storms during a typical Finnish summer it is not out of the ordinary. Past recent summers with a low occurrence of storms make it look like Finland is getting hit particularly bad this year. But it only looks that way, and is generally considered on par for the area. Hutila goes on to say that the intensity of the storms is also to be expected, as high temperatures and warm air masses coming in from Russia are creating massive amounts of energy that have to go somewhere.

Just yesterday morning, I was woken by a massive thunderstorm over my home in the Washington, DC area. It was powerful enough that I could feel the vibrations from the thunder and lightning resonating through the house. The storm came with massive amounts of rain and high winds. Enough to immediately flood the streets and bring down tree limbs, making the commute into work rather eventful. While thunderstorms are common here in the summer as well, I can't help but feel that in recent years they have gotten a lot more frequent and intense. And while there is no evidence directly linking global climate change to any of these storms, there is certainly a correlation with this summers record breaking high temperatures, and the frequency at which these "extreme" weather events are taking place. Theory perhaps, but certainly not unfounded in proper science. Now where are all the pundits who cited the blizzards in the DC this past winter as proof that "global warming" wasn't real? I bet you aren't going to find them defending their position so fervently in this weather.

But before I go off on that tangent, let me go ahead and wrap things up. Superstitions and luck aside, these storms are no joke. They are stunning displays of the true forces of nature that continually shape and change our planet. And as devastating as they can be, I'm always excited to be stuck in the middle of one. To those celebrating, happy Friday the 13th. May your day be filled with terrible, terrible luck.

1 comment:

  1. That was a super creepy video.

    Also, did you know that today is Pity Your Superstitious Friends Day?