Blizzards are winter storms characterized by blowing snow, less than quarter of a mile of visibility outdoors and strong winds moving 35 mph or faster, according to the National Weather Service. The word "blizzard" once referenced a powerful cannon or musket shot, but in the 1870s, an Iowa newspaper coined the term for a snowstorm.Know More
The combination of excessive snowfall, freezing temperatures and intense wind leads to severe wind chill, making people more vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite, according to the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force. Blizzards can also cause frozen pipes, flooding, fires, power loss and road blockages, leaving many families stranded until help arrives.
One of the most memorable storms in U.S. history occurred along the east coast in March 1888. The Great White Hurricane lasted four days and left cities, such as New York and Boston, buried under snowdrifts as high as 50 feet, according to History.com. Rail, telegraph and telephone communication were completely halted; neighborhoods suffered fire and flood damage; and 400 lives were lost, including 200 in New York City. In March 1993, an infamous blizzard, known as the Storm of the Century, produced record snowfall across 26 U.S. states and caused 300 fatalities.
Emergency warning and rescue tactics established by the government have helped to reduce deaths and damages caused by harsh winter storms. For example, improvements in weather forecasting technology allowed governors to declare a state of emergency and draft basic response plans before the 1993 Storm of the Century began.Learn more in Atmosphere
Moving up from the surface, the stratosphere is the second layer of the Earth's atmosphere, beginning between 5 and 10 miles (26,000 to 53,000) feet up. There is very little water vapor present or cloud formation occurring in the stratosphere, but this layer holds about 19 percent of the total gas in the atmosphere.Full Answer >
About 78 percent of the Earth's atmosphere consists of nitrogen, and oxygen makes up 21 percent. The remaining 1 percent is a combination of argon, water, carbon dioxide and other gases. The Earth's atmosphere is the only atmosphere in the solar system where there is plentiful free oxygen.Full Answer >
Clouds may contain water in a gaseous, liquid and solid form but primarily consist of water vapor, which is a gas. Clouds form when water condenses into liquid droplets around dust, ice or other airborne particles, causing the water vapor in the air to become visible.Full Answer >
The most abundant gas in the atmosphere is nitrogen. It accounts for 78 percent of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and is the most common natural element on Earth.Full Answer >