Good afternoon! Welcome to the Friday weather roundup, fortified with the precious cries of a puppy in distress. This week:
• Hurricane Maria has started to enter her "extratropical transition," a very special stage that about 45 percent of Atlantic hurricanes go through once they move north of the East Coast. During ET, a hurricane often gains a lot of forward momentum and can intensify greatly, putting landlubbers at risk. A hurricane's warm, tropical core will eventually be replaced by a core of pure coldness, and the system will join up with other Arctic storms and air currents.
Maria is racing northward over Newfoundland with such power that it is beating out the usual weakening forces of ultra-cold water. It is one of only a dozen hurricanes to make landfall in Newfoundland. Still, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect the storm to be absorbed within a frontal system within the next 24 hours. Read the forecast discussion here. This is a good, current satellite image of Maria, courtesy of MODIS.
• As prophesied in the Nerd Scrolls, scientists from NASA have found a planet that resembles Tatooine, treasured home of Duke Skywalker. (Ha, just testing you there!) According to the Star Wars fan version of Wikipedia, Wookiepedia, Tatooine "orbited two suns, Tatoo I and Tatoo II and was covered in deserts and rock formations, so the days were extremely arid and bright, especially during double noon.... The average humidity level was 5.4%." (It's the details that count.)
Well, this new Saturn-sized planet spotted by the Kepler space telescope also has two suns, though it's far from being a desert world. Kepler-16b is thought to be composed of half rock, half gas and is not conducive to any known form of life. That would make it pretty hard for Tatooine's hardscrabble moisture farmers to eke out a living there. Still, a representative from Lucasfilm Ltd. took the opportunity to announce the discovery with NASA: "There is no doubt these discoveries influence and inspire storytellers. Their very existence serves as cause to dream bigger and open our minds to new possibilities beyond what we think we 'know.'"
A bantha from Tatooine, courtesy of Wookiepedia
• PUPPY ALERT! Over in Garland, Texas, the drought-ravaged ground is so dry that giant cracks are appearing. One of those cracks just caught a puppy. It took animal-extraction experts some 40 minutes to get the chasm to release its death grip on the one-month-old dog, which kind of squeaks like a guinea pig. Enjoy the adorable video after the jump.