Underfunded Overachievers #8
by Hank Isaac
I was going to write to the question: “Is it even worth it?” but, you know, it’s Spring (or Autumn if you’re down under) and, either way, it’s a time of change. So…
I’m a sailor. I’ve been one for well over half a century. And the fact I can boast that is frankly a bit disturbing. I was also a pilot. So weather is something that is not only interesting, knowledge of it is essential. In fact, ignoring the weather can quickly put lives in jeopardy.
So here’s where I pass on my little bit of knowledge – as a metaphor, because I’m supposed to be a writer.
Especially on spring & autumn days, when the air is cool and the Sun heats the ground, bubbles of moist air are released and stretch skyward. If conditions are right, when the air in the bubble gets high enough, where it’s cool enough, the water vapor condenses on stuff and we can see it. We call it a cloud. The cloud is actually the top of that rising column of air. Sometimes there aren’t any clouds visible. But the column of rising air is still there.
The up-moving air can come from a just-plowed farmer’s field, a hot shopping mall parking lot, or even an entire town. It can also come from a breeze running into hills or mountains which shove it skyward. A cold front, which is like a plow made out of air, can also do that. It’s like a moving hill.
Once the air cools, it stops rising and the cloud eventually evaporates back into vapor and disappears.
But sometimes, when everything is almost just right, the cloud will continue building. It won’t need the field or the hills anymore. It begins to pull in more moist air from around and beneath it. On days like that, the puffy clouds can get pretty tall. They’re often called “towering cumulus.” They’ve become little heat and water engines, producing giant castles in the sky.
But more often than not, those guys poop out eventually.
That’s why I said, “…almost right.”
Totally right is when the cloud’s engine keeps drawing in fuel from further and further away. It pulls air from what might have become their own clouds, sucks it up, then adds it to its growing resources. It even consumes its own “waste air” – air that rolls down the outside of the cloud.
We’ll never see the little clouds who gave themselves up to the ever-growing behemoth.
Inside this engine, water is cycling through various stages. There’s condensing and evaporating going on at a frenetic pace. Thousands of relatively tiny columns of air are racing every which way inside.
As the cloud grows and grows and gets taller and taller, its upper reaches start to tickle the bottom of the Stratosphere. Up there, it’s really cold. Damn icy, actually. So now snow begins to form. And when snow crystals form under these very unique circumstances, tiny electrical charges are generated and stored.
You already know where this is going.
So now, in addition to massive exchanges of heat energy and tons and tons of water changing from one state to another and back again, all this mess is storing more and more electrical charges.
Until… BLAM! A spark jumps. Sometimes from one part of the cloud to another. Sometimes to the ground if the charge is strong enough.
But this thing is just beginning to cook.
Keep in mind, it’s original source of energy is long gone. It probably can’t even remember where it first came from or even how it got started – as that little bubble of rising air. Drawing in more fuel from distances than can span many, many miles now, the top of the cloud wanders into a place of very little air pressure and temperatures colder than any place on the planet.
And even though we’re often afraid of such power, we’re still drawn to that very same power and marvel at the display of this incredible energy. A sort of majesty that we really can’t duplicate. We can only wonder.
Sure, all that marvelous power eventually dissipates. Maybe the storm soaked that farmer’s field as a thank you. Who knows.
So now, if you’ve read this far, are you wondering what the heck this has to do with creating a TV series?
If you got the metaphor, then I have an answer for you:
Not every little rising bubble of air will become a thunderstorm, but every thunderstorm began as a little rising bubble of air.
Lilac is HERE
Next time: Who knows, maybe something interesting…