Weather Fair And Foul, Weekend of 4/3-5


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 Nepal is clear

The latest satellite photo shows that Nepal is clear, though there are thunderstorms in the surrounding mountains. The monsoon is months away, so most of  India is clear. Satellite image by the US Navy.

With spring blossoming in the northern hemisphere and winter still a couple of months away in the southern hemisphere, it’s not hard to find a fair weather spot.

Decoded Science has scoured the earth to find you a place that not only has fine weather, but interesting weather, too – with a world-record-holding place not very far away.

Not Normally In The News, But Still A Pretty Cool Place To Visit

If you ever wanted to visit Nepal (who hasn’t), this would be a good weekend to do so. Not only is the capital city of Kathmandu a modern cosmopolitan destination with a rich history, but it is also a convenient jumping off place from which to explore neighboring Tibet, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India. And it has interesting weather, a little schizophrenic perhaps, but particularly nice at this time of year.

At around 5,000 feet in the foothills of the Himalayas, Kathmandu has one of the most variable climates in the world. Monsoon rains usually make the journey this far from the Indian Ocean, but rainfall totals can vary by a factor of seven from one year to the next. Here are some averages by month and year, and some record years:

  • Total rainfall for 2003 was over 114 inches.
  • Total rainfall for 2001 was under 14 inches.
  • Normal rainfall for a year is 55 inches.
  • Normal rainfall for July is 14 inches.
  • Normal rainfall for April is 2.5 inches.

Temperatures in Kathmandu are very warm in the summer, and the monsoon brings rain and high humidity. In winter, the temperature can go below freezing. April is the ideal time to visit, with temperatures from daytime 80s to nighttime 60s, and the monsoon still more than a month away.

Visiting The Rainiest Place In The World

As long as you’re this close, you might as well hop over to Mawsynram, India — the Guinness-proclaimed rainiest place in the world — only a couple of hundred miles east. Annual rainfall in this location, in the direct path of the monsoon which funnels between mountain ranges, approaches a thousand inches in some years.

Rainfall For The Record

A couple of places in Colombia dispute India’s claim to rain-fame, but Guinness cites 1985 in Mawsynram as the rainiest year in any place on earth, with over a thousand inches. That’s nearly 90 feet of water! Eat your heart out, Jerry Brown.

Places You Probably Don’t Want To Visit

This weather column features conditions both fair and foul. With moderate equinoctial weather covering much of the earth, Decoded Science has had to travel far afield to find weather conditions that are truly ugly. Last week it was the planet Venus, and this week it’s Mars.

If Venus is Earth’s sister planet, then Mars is at least a cousin. Yet, though the DNA of the three planets is similar, the weather couldn’t be more diverse. Earth has a breathable atmosphere and pleasant temperatures over most of the globe; Venus has a suffocating CO2 atmosphere that would boil a lobster in ten seconds; and Mars has no atmosphere at all to speak of and is cold as (you fill in your favorite analogy).

How Did These Differences Come About?

Mars appears red

Mars appears red because of the iron oxide in its soil. You don’t want to live there. Image by NOAA.

In order to hold an atmosphere, a planet must be of sufficient size. Gas molecules typically whiz around at supersonic speeds. If the speed of the molecules overcomes the gravitational pull of the planet, the gas escapes.

First the lighter molecules — hydrogen and helium — evaporate. Thus Earth and Venus, though they have atmospheres, have very little hydrogen and helium. Then, if the gravity is insufficient to hold them, heavier molecules such as Oxygen and Nitrogen disappear.

Poor Mars suffered this fate. Its gravity is not quite sufficient to hold even the heavier molecules. In contrast to Mars, Venus and Earth are bigger — just enough bigger to retain thick atmospheres.

The Temperature On Mars

Not only are there no good restaurants on Mars, the temperature is uncomfortably — often unbearably — cold. With no greenhouse gases to retain the heat of the sun, Mars has dipped into a permanent ice age. Ok, there’s very little ice because all the water vapor evaporated into interstellar space. But at an average temperature of 80 degrees below zero, most of Mars is not pleasant — temperature-wise.

The Temperature Range On Mars

The coldest temperature on Mars occurs during polar winter — minus 195 degrees. The warmest it gets on Mars is a very tolerable 70 degrees, but this occurs only at midday at the equator. If you want to get a tan, don’t dilly-dally; the warmth doesn’t last long. As soon as the sun begins to set, the planet radiates its heat to space, and even at the equator, nights are well below freezing.

Is It Fair Or Foul?

Spring is bringing nice weather to a lot of places. Tell Decoded Science what it’s like where you are.

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