Using Angry Birds to explain the many ways it rains in Seattle
Earlier this month, I gave a little weather lesson to my daughter's kindergarten and preschool class and in racking my brain on how to relate something as complex as weather and storms to 3-5 years olds, I came up with something most could all relate to: Angry Birds.
No, really. It turns out, a lot of our storms that push into the Northwest off the Pacific can indeed act like our favorite flying green-pig slayers.
I'll give a few examples:
The Red Bird
The Red Bird Storms are a weather forecaster's best friend. Predictable, and steady, these storms go where they are supposed to go and maintain a constant speed with few surprises.
The Yellow Bird
Yellow Bird storms are those that can get caught up in a faster-than-anticipated jet stream and suddenly accelerate, as if the hand of God reached down and gave them a little tap.
Yellow Bird storms can take what was supposed to be a sunny Sunday and soaker Monday and instead make it a soggy Sunday.
(And yes, depending on their location, they can even unleash the dreaded Pineapple Express!)
The Blue Bird
Blue Bird Storms tend to migrate to El Nino years when there are constant splits in the jet stream. It can take what was one storm, and pull it apart, sending some parts to the north and other remnants to the south.
In the game, the splitting birds maintain their strength, but in meteorology, these storms weaken when they split, leaving our homes and buildings unscathed -- even the ones made of glass.
The Big Red Bird
Sometimes storms are slow and steady, but are much larger than their normal counterparts.
This storm from June, 2010 would certainly qualify as it covered approximately 9 million square miles while in the Pacific Ocean:
These storms can do some good damage, but at least you see them coming a mile (or 1,000) away.
The White Bird
White Bird Storms could be akin to some of our routine wintertime wind storms. Think of the bird as a fairly deep center of low pressure that steadily approach the coast but then right when they hit the shores, they unleash their fury in the form of heavy rains and strong winds that can sometimes do damage.
But once these storms have struck the coast, they typically weaken and accelerate as the move inland.
The Dual Blue Bird
Ever play the Angry Bird Rio edition? That version has a double-blue bird that sort of pinwheel around each other until it strikes.
The meteorological equivalent is fairly rare in real life but does exist in the form of a "double barrel" low.
These are two low pressure centers that have formed near to each other and they tend to of pinwheel around a center point in between them.
(You can see one such example in one of my earlier blogs)
Usually they end up weakening each other as one eventually takes the energy from the other.
The Green Toucan Bird
This is also known as the "boomerang bird" as the bird comes back around once it has passed an object and strikes from behind.
In meteorology, this is somewhat similar to a "bent-back occlusion" front -- the part of the storm that wraps around the backside of a low pressure center. So sometimes you get pummeled with rain as the main cold front of the storm passes ahead of the low pressure center, only to get a second shot from the bent-back occlusion.
Here is a satellite shot of such a storm from in December of 1995 -- note the storm activity pasing through the Puget Sound area with more activity wrapped around just offshore, ready to strike again:
The Black Bomb Bird
Of course, the most dangerous storms should share its analogy with the most dangerous Angry Bird: The Black Bomb Bird.
In the game, the bird causes mass destruction. In meteorology, we actually do use the term "bomb" to describe a storm that undergoes rapid and intense development. Most of the greatest storms to strike the Pacific Northwest have undergone "bomb" development. And yes, these storms can cause widespread destruction:
Photo of damage from Columbus Day Windstorm, Oct. 12, 1962 (Photo: NOAA)
We do our best to make sure none of these storms go awry -- who wants to live life hunkered down under a helmet? -- but in reality any of these bird-named storms can behave erratically and if the target it off just a little bit, you get the most dreaded result of all:
P.S Sorry, Star Wars fans, but there are no storms that I know of that can shoot lasers or wield a light saber as they fly across the Pacific.