Extreme Weather (EXPERIENCE) by John Farndon

By John Farndon

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The area relies on the annual rains to fill the water holes and streams and make the grass grow. Toward its northern edge, it gets drier and drier, and vegetation gets sparser and sparser until it merges into the Sahara Desert. If the rains fail, the edge of the desert spreads farther and farther south. Riddle of the drought Experts argue over what has brought drought to this region so often. Some link it to changes in ocean currents. Others believe an effect of the Sun or El Niño is to blame (see page 52).

The rains continue until late September. By then, the sun is moving south again and the land is beginning to cool. Temperatures between land and sea eventually even out. The southwest wind dies down, and the rains stop. By fall, the winds are blowing from the northeast and the dry weather returns. LAND AND SEA BREEZES A sea breeze is created by air rising on land by day warm A land breeze is created as the sea retains its warmth by night The monsoon is a seasonal swap of dry winds off the land for moist winds off the sea that occurs on a continental scale.

But the storm rarely lasts more than an hour, and the dark thundercloud vanishes as quickly as it came. gust front The windy, front-edge of the rain-cooled air that precedes a thunderstorm, like a mini cold front. downbursts Strong, sudden, localized downdrafts. microbursts Very localized and concentrated downdrafts. supercooled When water stays liquid well below its freezing point—32°F (0°C). 39 As the ice crystals and water drops are hurled together inside a thundercloud, some lose tiny electric particles on their surface called electrons , and others gain them.

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