WTF Fun Fact 13659 – Hawaii Snow

While New York City and Boston are typically associated with snowy winters, Hawaii snow has surprisingly outpaced them in snowfall this winter.

Hawaii Snow

The Mauna Kea Weather Center on Hawaii Island experienced a significant snowstorm in late November. That resulted in approximately half a foot of snow. This event occurred on the peaks of the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes.

In contrast, Boston reported only a fraction of its average snowfall, receiving a mere 0.2 inches on December 6. New York City, often pictured with winter snowscapes, has yet to see its first snowfall of the season.

Social media buzzed with images of Hawaii’s snow-covered volcanic peaks. This surprised many who associate the Aloha State solely with sun and surf. However, snow on Hawaii’s higher altitudes is not as rare as one might think.

Hawaii’s High-Altitude Snow

Hawaii’s volcanic peaks, particularly the nearly 14,000-foot-tall Mauna Kea volcano, are known for their altitude and even receive snow occasionally in the summer. Mauna Kea is recognized as the world’s tallest mountain when measured from base to peak, extending about 20,000 feet below sea level. This significant elevation means that these mountains can experience winter conditions distinct from the tropical climate below.

Skiers sometimes venture to these Hawaiian peaks for a unique skiing experience, despite the absence of traditional ski resorts in the state. Blizzard warnings are not unheard of in these areas during the winter months.

On the East Coast, cities like Boston and New York City are experiencing an unusually mild winter. Boston’s most significant snow event in January produced only 3.5 inches, while New York City’s largest was a modest 1.8 inches in February. Tom Kines, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, highlighted that this level of snowfall is atypical for these cities. Boston’s average snowfall for November is 0.7 inches, escalating to 9 inches in December. New York City usually sees about half an inch in November and close to 5 inches in December.

El Niño’s Potential Impact

The weather pattern known as El Niño, characterized by warmer ocean waters in the Pacific, might change the East Coast’s winter outlook. Following the end of La Niña in March, El Niño began this summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that El Niño could lead to near-normal or slightly above-normal precipitation for the East Coast.

This means there’s still a chance for cities like New York and Boston to catch up and experience their share of winter wonderland scenes. El Niño’s influence could bring more wet weather to these areas, potentially increasing their snowfall totals as the winter progresses.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Hawaii’s Gotten More Snow This Winter Than New York City, Boston Combined” — Newsweek

WTF Fun Fact 13137 – The Snowiest City in the World

The snowiest city in the world is in Japan. And we’re not sure why, but we really didn’t see that coming. We would have guessed someplace in Siberia or Canada. But the award for the snowiest city goes to northern Japan’s Aomori City.

More about the snowiest city in the world

Aomori City averages 312 inches (that’s about 26 feet) of snow each year! And it has a population of over 280,000 people. That’s A LOT of shoveling that needs to happen to keep a city moving.

On an island nation, you might wonder where they put all that snow. The answer is right into the bay.

If you’re interested, here’s a quite long video showing how it all goes down:

Now, there are likely snowier places on Earth, but people don’t live there. Aomori City is the snowiest place where people actually live.

Why is Aomori City so snowy?

According to CNN (cited below), “The extreme snowfall is caused by chilly Siberian winds that sweep into Japan from the northwest every November. As the cold air crosses over the warmer waters off Japan’s mountainous coastline, it gathers moisture, then rises and turns into snow.”

You may have heard of “lake effect snow,” but what Japan gets is “sea effect snow.” Since the sea doesn’t really freeze, they get thick, powdery snow until all the way up until April. And the city’s suburbs get blanketed as well.

Like so many snowy cities, residents aren’t thrilled about the snow, but they’re prepared for it. And the city makes the most of it. Things don’t close down easily, and the city takes advantage of tourism dollars from skiers and other snow-lovers. They also have amazing seafood, which is especially plentiful during the snowy months.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Aomori, Japan: Life in one of the world’s snowiest cities” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 13136 – Snow in the Desert

In 2011, Chile’s Atacama Desert in Chile got a rare snowfall. In fact, it received 32 inches of snow as the result of a very rare cold front from Antarctica. This wasn’t the only instance of snow in the desert, but it’s interesting and bizarre since the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth.

What caused snow in the desert?

According to the Washington Post (cited below), “The uniqueness of this event is that the Atacama Desert is a 600-mile-long plateau known to be one of, if not the driest and most sterile deserts on Earth. Because moisture is blocked from the east by the Andes mountains and from the west by the Chilean Coast Range, the average rainfall is just 0.04 per year and skies are almost always cloud-free.”

The 2011 snowfall occurred when an Antarctic cold front (the strongest in 30 years) broke through the region’s rain and snow shadow. It is wildly cold there (with an elevation of 10,000 feet), but it just doesn’t typically get moisture).

Other parts of Chile got a crippling 8 feet of snow, cutting off access to the area and stranding residents without supplies. The Washington Post quoted one regional governor as saying, “In four days we have had four months’ worth of snowfall.”

It’s so dry in this desert that Atacama’s weather stations had never even recorded rain, and “research suggests that some identifiable river beds have been dry for 120,000 years.”

What’s special about the Atacama Desert?

If you’ve heard of the Atacama desert, it might be related to any interest you have in NASA and space exploration. The desert is used to simulate Mars, and NASA uses it to test Mars mission instruments.

It’s also been a movie set because it simply doesn’t look like Earth. For example, it was used in Space Odyssey.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Rare snowfall on Earth’s driest desert in Chile” — Washington Post

WTF Fun Fact 12990 – The Lake Erie Mirage Effect

No one’s eyesight is good enough to be able to see Canada from Ohio. But some people looking across Lake Erie insist that they can. It’s called the Lake Erie Mirage Effect.

What’s the Lake Erie Mirage Effect?

In Northeastern Ohio, there are days when people look out across Lake Erie and see the Canadian shoreline. However, that shoreline is over 50 miles away. It’s rare to see it, but the strange phenomenon has an explanation.

The curvature of the Earth prevents us from seeing objects that far into the distance. However, under the right conditions, the Lake Erie Mirage appears.

This is due to temperature inversion and super-refraction. Temperature inversion is a phenomenon in which temperature increases with height (normally it’s the other way around). This causes density changes in the air that make sunlight bend downward (that’s the super-refraction). As a results, the naked eye can see things far beyond the horizon.

What conditions are necessary to see the mirage?

First, the lake needs to be cooler than the air above it for the temperature inversion to occur. The cold lake makes the air right above it colder, but the farther you go up, the warmer the air is since it’s not being immediately cooled by the lake.

Warm air is less dense than cool air, so it creates a “cap” that flows over the cool air beneath it. When the sun comes out, the light rays bounce off that cap and bend down towards the surface.

This lets us see around the curvature of the Earth. But to get the Lake Erie Mirage Effect, you also need calm winds, so the mirage doesn’t get distorted.

It’s all pretty rare, but Canadians can see Clevelanders driving down the street when the conditions are right on their side too.  WTF fun facts

Source: “What weather conditions allow Northeast Ohioans to see the Canadian shoreline across Lake Erie?” —

WTF Fun Fact 12191 – The Prevalence of Thunderstorms

At any given moment, there are around 2,000 thunderstorms taking place on the planet. Each year, 16 million thunderstorms take place on Earth.

What are thunderstorms?

A thunderstorm is simply a rain shower during which you can hear thunder. They are the result of moisture being lifted from the ground and into the air via a phenomenon called convection.

According to NOAA (cited below): “Three basic ingredients are required for a thunderstorm to form: moisture, rising unstable air (air that keeps rising when given a nudge), and a lifting mechanism to provide the ‘nudge.’ The sun heats the surface of the earth, which warms the air above it. If this warm surface air is forced to rise—hills or mountains, or areas where warm/cold or wet/dry air bump together can cause rising motion—it will continue to rise as long as it weighs less and stays warmer than the air around it. As the air rises, it transfers heat from the surface of the earth to the upper levels of the atmosphere (the process of convection). The water vapor it contains begins to cool, releases the heat, condenses and forms a cloud. The cloud eventually grows upward into areas where the temperature is below freezing. As a storm rises into freezing air, different types of ice particles can be created from freezing liquid drops. The ice particles can grow by condensing vapor (like frost) and by collecting smaller liquid drops that haven’t frozen yet (a state called ‘supercooled’). When two ice particles collide, they usually bounce off each other, but one particle can rip off a little bit of ice from the other one and grab some electric charge. Lots of these collisions build up big regions of electric charges to cause a bolt of lightning, which creates the sound waves we hear as thunder.”

A thunderstorm usually starts without rain and does not need to contain lightning.

Facts about thunderstorms

Each year, there are an estimated 16 million thunderstorms on the planet and 10,000 in the U.S. alone. However, only 10% of these reach the “severe” thunderstorm category in which wind, rain, and lightning can do damage.

While spring and summer are the most common time for thunderstorms, they can occur year-round.

Thunderstorms might seem innocent, but they can be deadly. NOAA notes that “Many hazardous weather events are associated with thunderstorms. Under the right conditions, rainfall from thunderstorms causes flash flooding, killing more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning. Lightning is responsible for many fires around the world each year, and causes fatalities. Hail up to the size of softballs damages cars and windows, and kills livestock caught out in the open. Strong (up to more than 120 mph) straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms knock down trees, power lines and mobile homes. Tornadoes (with winds up to about 300 mph) can destroy all but the best-built man-made structures.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Severe Weather 101” — NOAA

WTF Fun Facts 12719 – When Weather Kills

Heat waves (typically regarded as 3 or more days in a row with a temperature above 90 degrees) are a time to take special care and to check in on the elderly and those with young children who may need help. While the heat makes many of us miserable, it’s also a killer. And because it gets misdiagnosed and is considered a fact of life in the summer by many, we easily forget what a calamity it can be for some (even for those with A/C who experience increasingly frequent power outages!).

Technically, all heat-related deaths are preventable. That’s why it’s so sad that around 658 Americans are killed by extreme heat each year. And the numbers are likely much higher since heat-related deaths aren’t mandatory to report to public health agencies.

Heat deaths as well as deaths in which heat was a contributing factor are easy to misdiagnose or mislabel. Looking back at deadly heat waves in Chicago and Paris, for example, show that far more deaths were related to heat than were recorded at the time.

Here are some sobering facts from the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Between 1979 and 2018, the death rate as a direct result of exposure to heat (the underlying cause of death) generally hovered between 0.5 and 2 deaths per million people…
  • A total of more than 11,000 Americans have died from heat-related causes since 1979, according to death certificates.
  • In some years, recording has included heat as a contributing factor, and in other years it has not – but in the years where only direct heat deaths “counted,” the estimates may be twice as high as the records show.
  • There was a peak in heat-related deaths in 2006, one of the hottest years on record in the contiguous 48 states.

And while many kids do get special attention during traumatic weather events, it’s the elderly who are often forgotten. However:

  • Since 1999, people aged 65+ have been several times more likely to die from heat-related cardiovascular disease than the general population, while non-Hispanic Blacks generally have had higher-than-average rates.
  • The interaction of heat and cardiovascular disease caused about one-fourth of the heat-related deaths recorded since 1999.

According to the CDC, those most likely to suffer from heat-related illness and death include:

  • infants and children up to 4 years old
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People who are overweight
  • People who have existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease
  • People who are socially isolated
  • Those who take medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration
  • People who are poor

Behaviors that put people are at risk for serious illness or death during heat waves include:

  • Those who engage in strenuous exercise during high heat
  • People who drink alcoholic beverages during high heat

Heat is also worse in urban areas where buildings, parking lots, sidewalks, and roads absorb heat and create even hotter “heat islands” that aren’t recorded in the local weather estimates.

From 1999 to 2010, 8,081 heat-related deaths were reported in the United States. In 72% of these cases, excessive heat was actually the underlying cause of death (often in those who already had a cardiovascular condition). Only in 28% of cases was it a contributing factor.

So, what can you do to make sure everyone handles the heat?

  • Check on people at risk, such as the elderly, disabled, or homebound.
  • Never leave any living creature locked in a car. (Sometimes we don’t even know how bad the heat is getting to us until it’s too late.)
  • Limit sun exposure during midday hours, even at places like beaches.
  • Avoid sunburn and treat it right away if it happens by applying aloe vera and hot compresses – never pop blisters.
  • Drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids (and avoid caffeine).
  • Replace the body’s salts and minerals by eating fruits and vegetables (NOT salty snacks – because while your body needs salt, they have too much for your kidneys to handle).
  • Dress in cool, loose clothing (this also helps avoid heat rash).
  • Shade your (and especially children’s) heads and faces from the sun – use an umbrella if that’s all you have.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water for pets and put it in the shade.
  • Create circulation with fans if you don’t have a/c – and make there’s a fan pointing outward to push hot air out of the room.
  • Put a bowl of cold water (with ice, if possible) in front of a fan for an extra cooling effect.
  • Try closing all doors, windows, and curtains right before the sun comes up to keep cooler evening air inside longer.
  • Cover your feet and shoulders with wet towels and washcloths.
  • Create a space in the basement, if you have one, since it’s often cooler down there.
  • Turn off electronics that give off heat when plugged in (such as computers and lamps with incandescent light bulbs).
  • Try not to use the stove or oven.
  • If there’s no relief in your home, visit public buildings (such as shopping malls or libraries) with air conditioning.
  • Avoid large, protein-rich meals to keep the body from creating its own metabolic heat.
  • Lay down in a shaded area and sip water if you get clammy, pale, lightheaded, nauseous, or develop a headache – this can turn into an emergency quickly, so don’t hide away in a hot room.
  • Keep some Gatorade or Pedialyte (or any oral hydration with essential minerals and potassium) to stave off dehydration.
  • Call 911 if you experience: cramps, swelling, fainting, a temperature over 100 degrees and rising, confusion, a rapid pulse, severe nausea, a severe headache, and skin that’s warm and dry – it could be heat stroke, which can lead to coma and death.

 WTF fun facts

Sources: “Heat-Related Illness” — CDC
“Climate Change indicators” — EPA
“11 Facts About Heat Waves” —

WTF Fun Fact 12621 – No Two Sunsets Are Ever the Same

It sounds like a cliche, and some people use this fact that way, but it’s true. It would be impossible for any two sunsets to look exactly alike.

Between the tilt of the Earth and changes in the atmosphere, the conditions between us and the sun are slightly different each day and can result in major changes.

If you’ve seen some beautiful sunsets, you probably understand. Heck, even if you’ve seen two amazing, blazing, pink and blue sunsets, you’ve probably noticed that they’re still a bit different. Even the clouds are in different places.

But the biggest difference is the particles and molecules in the air. That’s what gives sunsets their color. After all, the sun doesn’t emit pink, orange, or blue light. It doesn’t even emit yellow light!

In space, the sun’s light is white.

The colors we see are the sun’s rays are just the light refracting off molecules and particles. And sometimes those particles are pollutants that we add to the air (not for sunset purposes, of course).

So if you share a sunset with someone, it’ll be special no matter what, because you’re never going to see the same thing again. While that makes us want to put down the phone and appreciate it, we’d probably be tempted to snap at least one moment real quick as well.

– WTF fun facts

Source: The Weather Channel – via Twitter