Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Follows Two Days Of Rain?

It is a very old joke but it still brings a smile to my face. What follows two days of rain? Why, Monday, of course.

I hate to admit but I’ve used that little gag from time to time on television following a wet, dreary weekend across South Florida. It is an admittedly weak attempt to make folks feel a little better after the weatherman spoiled their weekend of fun with lots of rain.

Our most recent period of weekend weather has been mostly good including the gorgeous sunshine, brisk breeze and cool temperatures of last Saturday and Sunday. And, according to a new study, more great weekends may be in our future.

Thomas Bell, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, discovered that storms developing during the workweek tend to produce more rain than storms that occur on the weekend.

Using data from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite (TRMM), Bell examined rainfall patterns across the Southeast from 1998 to 2005. He found that more rain fell between Tuesdays and Thursdays than between Saturday’s and Mondays. And, those weekday storms tended to be more violent that storms on the weekend.

Bell’s study reports that afternoon rainfall peaked on Tuesday’s, when an average of 1.8 times more rain fell than on Saturdays. According to Bell’s study, Saturdays saw the least amount of afternoon rain.

Of course, the obvious question facing Bell and his colleagues was why was it raining more during the workweek? The answer? An increase in pollution.

Bell compared his weather data with information from the Environmental Protection Agency on particulate matter associated with pollution across the country from 1998 to 2005. The data suggests pollution tended to reach its peak during mid-week.

“If two things happen at the same time, it doesn’t mean one thing caused the other,” Bell told the editors of Weatherwise Magazine. “But it’s well known that particulate matter has the potential to affect how clouds behave, and this kind of evidence makes the argument for a stronger link between pollution and heavier rainfall.”

That particulate matter tends to increase during the workweek, Bell says, thanks to busy roads and highways, active businesses and factories, and the pace of life in the 21st century. Bell believes that extra pollution helps “seed” the cloud, enhancing their rainfall potential.

During weekends there is lot less traffic on the highways, many businesses and factories shutdown while more people have a couple of days off from work. The result: less rain on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s eerie to think that we’re affecting the weather,” Bell said. “It appears we are making storms more violent.”

Based on Bell’s new study, it might be time to make a few amendments to that old joke about weekend rain. The new version? What follows five days of rain? The weekend.

Posted at 12:38 PM