TIME weather

Polar Vortex Could Return This Winter

Accuweather says arctic conditions will return to the northeastern U.S. this winter, though the NOAA says things won't be as bad

In spite of a gradual transition from summer to fall, forecasters report that winter is, in fact, coming with a pronounced drop in temperature and high amount of snow.

“After record-shattering temperatures and high snow totals last winter in the Northeast, a similar theme will continue into the 2014-2015 season,” said forecasters Accuweather, noting that the polar vortex, a sequel no one asked for, “will slip down into the [Northeast] region from time to time,” although it will not be as “persistent.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a more tempered projection for this winter, however. Even though temperatures will be below average in the south-central and southeastern states, it said, overall weather will not be as extreme as the winter of 2013-2014. It even forecast that the west coast will experience one of its warmest winters on record. Drought conditions are expected to improve in December and January.

The Weather Channel says that while last winter primarily hit the upper Midwest, this winter’s chill will largely impact the East Coast and Gulf Coast.

TIME weather

Severe Weather Rips Through South, Killing at Least 2

Severe Weather-Louisiana
Mike Doyle jumps over a puddle while checking on a house that was damaged in the storm in Monroe, La., on Oct. 13, 2014 Henrietta Wildsmith—AP

The devastation stretched from Texas to Alabama, leaving a path of torched homes, uprooted trees, crumpled cars and downed power lines

A violent storm system wielding tornadoes, high winds, lightning, hail and rain walloped the South and Midwest on Monday, killing at least two people, according to authorities. The devastation stretched from Texas to Alabama, leaving a path of torched homes, uprooted trees, crumpled cars and downed power lines.

The dead included a 33-year-old former Marine whose Arkansas home was hit by a tornado and a 75-year-old woman in Alabama whose home was crushed by a tree, The Weather Channel reported. Other tornadoes were reported in Missouri, where Game 4 of the American League …

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME weather

Severe Storms, Tornadoes Threaten Southern U.S.

NOAA CLOUDS
Storm clouds are seen above the southern United States via this satellite image on Oct. 11, 2014. NOAA/AP

Cities from Dallas to Chicago could experience wind gusts of at least 58 mph

Nearly 40 million Americans faced the threat of severe thunderstorms, hail and possible tornadoes on Monday, forecasters warned.

One person was killed when a strong storm damaged a house in Little River County, Arkansas, early Monday, according to the Little River Sheriff’s Office. NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported downed power lines in North Texas following heavy rain and hail Monday morning.

A large portion of the northeast of the state was under a tornado watch, according to the National Weather Service. Thunderstorms were expected to progress from East Texas through the Mississippi Valley and into the Tennessee Valley on Monday, according to…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Science

Why Leaves Change Color in the Fall

Autumn leaves
Getty Images

Some good old-fashioned science unearthed from TIME's archives

It’s time to bust out your sweaters and boots, friends, because today, Sept. 23, marks the official first day of autumn. Some people love this season for its football, others love it for its lattes — but pretty much everyone loves it for its gorgeous, vibrant colors. (If you don’t love fall for the foliage you’re a monster.)

But have you ever stopped to ask, perhaps while enjoying some cider in a leafy meadow dotted with yellow, orange and red, why the leaves change color every year? Back in October, 1941, TIME explained the science behind this annual metamorphosis. And, naturally, the anonymous writer did so in the most science-y way possible — with a poem:

Fall poem
From the Oct. 20, 1941, issue of TIME

In other words, as summer comes to a close, trees lose their green color as their chlorophyll breaks down. Once the chlorophyll disappears, other substances like carotene and xanthophyll — which have been present all along but masked by the green of summertime — begin to show. “Red appears in maples, sumacs and some other plants when slowdown of the trees’ physiological processes prevents carrying away of the sugars (made with the aid of the fading chlorophyll out of air, water and light) from the leaves,” the article continues. “These sugars turn into a class of glucosides called anthocyanins, which are bright red and purple pigments. Anthocyanins develop best where 1) soil is acid. 2) nitrates are scarce, 3) light is abundant. Thus the light-bathed tips of maple leaves and the sunny sides of apples are reddest.”

But of course, all good things must come to an end. Here’s what happens as those lovely hues begin to fade:

By late autumn, the yellow and red pigments, following the green, disintegrate in the leaves. This final unmasking reveals the dull brown tannins, which are chemically so stable that they remain till the leaf rots to powder. Unlike flower pigments, which have the vital function of attracting pollen-spreading insects and birds, autumn’s colorful foliage is just a meaningless, glorious show.

So next time you’re strolling through the park with your friends on a crisp autumn afternoon and somebody comments on the colors, hit them with some science to explain the phenomenon. Surely they’ll be so impressed they’ll buy you a pumpkin spice latte, or at least some pumpkin spice Oreos.

TIME States

California Declares a State of Emergency as Wildfires Spread

"It's been an explosive couple of days"

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Wednesday in two northern counties as wildfires spread with explosive speed.

A fire in El Dorado County east of Sacramento more than doubled in size Wednesday night, from 44 square miles to 111 square miles, the Los Angeles Times reports, and was just 5% contained by Thursday morning. A separate fire in the northern Siskiyou County that started late Monday has damaged more than 150 structures, including a churches, and was about 65% contained.

“It’s been an explosive couple of days,” CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the Associated Press. Thousands of firefighters are helping to tackle the blazes, which threaten some 4,000 homes.

Federal aid has been apportioned to cover the cost of fighting the fire that began Monday, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted a request Wednesday for additional aid to combat the fire in El Dorado.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME weather

Hurricane Eduoard Becomes First Major Storm of Atlantic Season

US-WEATHER-HURRICANE
Hurricane Edouard seen in the Atlantic Ocean. NASA—AFP/Getty Images

Atlantic hurricane season kicks off with a distant category 3 hurricane dubbed "Eduoard"

NOAA officials have declared the first major hurricane of the season, “Eduoard,” a category 3 whirlwind currently some 420 miles east of Bermuda.

Hurricane Edouard’s winds top 115 miles per hour and extend roughly 45 miles outward from the eye of the storm. NOAA says it’s moving north and west at 13 miles per hour. Officials expect the storm to lose strength as early as Wednesday, and they predict it has no likelihood of making landfall or causing damage.

TIME weather

Last Month Was the Hottest August in Recorded History

Palestine Israel Beach Swimming
Palestinian children dump water on a boy as they swim on a beach, close to the divide with Israel, near Gaza City on Sept. 12, 2014. Mohammed Abed—AFP/Getty Images

Global temperatures hit their newest highpoint since record keeping began in 1880

Global temperatures in August climbed to their highest point in recorded history, according to new data released by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies on Monday.

The data from NASA’s Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index shows global temperatures climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius above their average between 1951 and 1990, the highest recorded difference from the baseline since measurements began in 1880.

NASA researchers did note, however, that August 2014 is at a “statistical tie” with several other steamy Augusts of the past decade, The Weather Channel reports, suggesting that the heat — though unusually high — has a few precedents in recent history.

TIME Mexico

See the Devastation Caused by Hurricane Odile

125 mph winds raged with over six hours of rain as Hurricane Odile smashed the resort of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The local community was severely affected by power outages, flooding, and wind damage

TIME Gadgets

Best Weather Apps for iPhone and Android

With our high-tech tendency to watch TV using DVRs, TV on demand and streaming media, there are some things we miss: like the local news. And though we get most of that news from our favorite online news sources, the local weather report is something we sorely miss—we just don’t miss it quite enough to remember to catch the local news for the forecast every night.

Fortunately, there are quite a few apps to keep us on top of the local forecast and help us remember to pack our umbrellas—or carry our sunglasses—when we need them.

Top Pick: AccuWeather

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AccuWeather

Our overall favorite weather app is the simple-to-use AccuWeather, from the company of the same name. Specifically, we love its MinuteCast feature. It predicts when precipitation will start in your exact GPS location all the way down to the minute. And if it’s severe weather you’re worried about, Accuweather has you covered with GPS location-based push notifications. You can get forecasts for other cities too, of course, but that’s not where this app shines. It’s for when you’re most concerned about a hyper-local weather forecast for your exact location.

You can download the free, ad-supported Accuweather app for iOS on the Apple App Store and for Android devices via Google Play. An ad-free version is available for $2.99.

Top Rural Pick: Weather Underground

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Weather Underground

Whenever I’m visiting my parents’ house out in farm country, I like using Weather Underground. The well-designed app delivers data from over 40,000 professional and hobbyist weather stations to provide highly localized data for out-of-the-way places. Besides a wealth of temperature and condition data, you get air quality data and access to local webcams so you can see the weather for yourself. Another great feature is the WunderMap, a simple TV-style map with a temperature overlay pulled from the stations nearest you.

For International weather info, check out Weather Underground’s separate iPad-only WunderStation app. It collects real-time data directly from 37,000 personal weather stations across the world. You can take a look at plenty of historic data, too. And if you have family around the globe, you can set severe weather alerts for any station to stay in touch.

You can download the free ad-supported Weather Underground app for iOS on the Apple App Store and for Android devices via Google Play. You can download WunderStation for the iPad on the Apple App Store.

Top Allergy Forecaster: Zyrtec AllergyCast

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Zyrtec

If you’re an allergy sufferer, you don’t need all the details of the weather: You just want to know what the pollen forecast looks like. Zyrtec AllergyCast—by the makers of allergy medicine Zyrtec, so it’s happy to recommend Zyrtec products to help your symptoms—gives you an allergy-specific forecast, including the current temperature and predominant pollens. Swiping to the right gives you an hourly forecast and swiping again gives you a weekly forecast.

If you’re looking for an easy way to track your symptoms, AllergyCast also includes a simple symptoms log where you tell it how you’re feeling (“great,” “okay,” “not well,” or “ugh”) and select any allergy symptoms you’re suffering. We especially like this log because it doesn’t require you to type anything in. Just move your thumb to set the dial on the screen and tap the checkmark to save. Easy!

You can download the free Zyrtec app for iOS on the Apple App Store and for Android devices via Google Play.

Top Hurricane App: Hurricane Tracker

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Hurricane Tracker

When it comes to hurricanes, one of the most important details is the storm’s path. Keep up to date on brewing and imminent storms with the Hurricane Tracker app. It delivers official bulletins and maps from the National Hurricane Center in real time, along with animated satellite maps. And if you want even more analysis, the Hurricane Tracker team creates its own maps to explain each storm’s impact. It may not be a perfectly polished app, but it’s certainly a useful one.

You can download the $2.99 Hurricane Tracker app for iOS on the Apple App Store. There’s no Android version of the app, but you can still access the info by logging in to hurrtracker.com on your favorite browser (fee required).

Top Tornado App: iMap Weather Radio

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iMap Weather

The fall may not be peak tornado season, but they can and do happen in any month. Stay protected no matter where you are with the iMap Weather app. We love that it’s customizable – you can draw an area for the app to keep watch over, and you’ll get push alerts for that area only. You can also set it to track your location and give you tornado warnings for your exact GPS coordinates.

You can download the $4.99 iMap Weather app for Android devices via Google Play and for iOS on the Apple App Store (it’s called Weather Radio, but it’s the same thing).

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME weather

Hurricane Odile Hits Mexican Resort City

Strongest storm to ever hit Baja California slams Cabo San Lucas

A ferocious hurricane slammed an upscale Mexican resort early Monday with 125 mph winds and six months’ rain in just one hour.

Hurricane Odile is the strongest storm to ever hit Mexico’s southern Baja California peninsula. The Category 3 storm made a direct hit on Cabo San Lucas, a resort city popular with celebrities including George Clooney and Jennifer Aniston.

Alongside the region’s gleaming megaresorts are tiny fishing villages with flimsy homes, and Mexican authorities evacuated coastal areas and readied shelters for up to 30,000 people.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

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