• Kyle Sooley-Brookings

7 Common Weather Misconceptions


Just as weather lore is entrenched into our society, so are several misconceptions about the weather. Here are seven of the most common ones…


1. Lightning never strikes the same place twice

2. Raindrops are shaped like a teardrop

3. Tornadoes suck up objects

4. The forecast is wrong half the time

5. No two snowflakes are the same

6. Tornadoes don’t strike cities

7. What’s the forecast for next month?


Read on to learn all about them!


1. Lightning never strikes the same place twice

Perhaps the most famous weather misconception is that lightning never strikes the same place twice. This is false. In fact, the CN Tower in Toronto gets struck several times a year. Even in the same storm, lightning can strike the same place twice. Also, lightning can occur in winter.


2. Raindrops are shaped like a teardrops

Most people think that raindrops are shaped like teardrops. Even most weather icons depict raindrops in a teardrop shape. Because they fall from the sky at such a high rate of speed, they are actually shaped like a hamburger bun. Mostly flat on the bottom with a rounded top. The reason for this is because the airflow on the bottom of the droplet is greater than the airflow at the top.


3. Tornadoes suck up objects

Despite what Hollywood movies would have us believe, tornadoes do not suck up things in their path. Tornadoes are rotating columns of air. When things are thrown into the air, it’s not from a vacuum or sucking effect but rather from a vertical velocity effect. These upward-lifting winds can throw large objects through the air.


4. The forecast is wrong half the time

This is one that people love to use. The weather forecast has come a long way in the last half a century. While the forecast can still be a bust at times, it is rare for a short term forecast to be wrong. Most forecasts are correct for the next day or two within a few degrees, sky conditions are usually correct as are wind speeds. Even the range of precipitation amounts is typically within what actually happens. Most people tend to remember the time the forecast was wrong as opposed to how often it is correct.


5. No two snowflakes are the same

This misconception has been debunked. While the likelihood that two snowflakes are alike is extremely rare, but it has happened. In 1988 Nancy Knight, a scientist at the National Center for Atmosphere Research in Boulder, Colorado, found two identical examples while studying snow crystals from a storm in Wisconsin, using a microscope.


6. Tornadoes don’t strike cities

Some people tend to think that tornadoes don’t strike large cities but tend to touch down in open fields or smaller towns This is not true. There have been instances of tornadoes striking large cities. Powerful tornadoes have hit places such as Nashville, Tennessee, Ottawa, Ontario, and Springfield, Massachusetts since 2011. Most tornadoes occur in tornado alley in the United States.


7. What’s the forecast for next month?

This is not so much a misconception as an impossible to answer question. The Earth’s atmosphere is constantly in motion and we simply do not have the technology to determine a forecast with much accuracy beyond a week or so. Some weather agencies may offer forecasts past a week but these forecasts are basically guesswork.


What misconceptions have you heard? Let us know in the comment section!

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