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Friday, February 28, 2014

Sharon Middle School -- February 28

42° 06' 24" N
71° 09' 58" W 
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On the last day of what has been a cold and snowy month, the EarthView team is returning to Sharon Middle School, which we first visited last April. It is a cold but clear and beautiful day to visit a neighboring town. We included some of the interesting aspects of Sharon's geography in last year's blog post.

Actually, part of the EarthView team is not with us -- Dr. Domingo is at National Geographic in Washington, meeting with members of the U.S. Congress to promote more geography education across the country. Fortunately, Dr. Domingo will be able to join us next week, as we are visiting Sharon twice this season.

Image and more detailed explanation from
Weather Underground.
EarthView is an ideal place to learn about the Polar Vortex, a pattern in the upper atmosphere that is responsible for the very cold weather we have been experiencing both in Massachusetts and in some places much further to the south. A "ridge" of high pressure in the northeast Pacific Ocean pushed warm air very far north toward Alaska, resulting in Arctic air being pushed unusually far south in the center of the continent. The phenomenon of continentality makes the effect of this anomaly even greater. In the Atlantic Ocean, high pressure over Greenland has a tendency to block the flow of air from New England, causing cold air to be stalled in our region.

While some people have been very surprised by these patterns, geographers and others who study climate change have been expecting meridional flows of this kind to be more common. The prevailing winds across the United States are west-to-east, but they are never strictly straight-line flows. They are actually a kind of Rossby wave, which has some north-south deflection. The words "zonal" and "meridional" describe the primary orientation of this kind of wave.
Image: University of Arizona Geography Department
Team member Courtney described her recent trip to Durban, South Africa, which is officially known as the eThekwini Municipality. As she pointed out, Durban is a lot like South Beach or Ft. Lauderdale, a good reminder that Africa is not just what we see in wildlife photographs!

No lions or zebras in sight!
Image: Nomads Gallery
Feel free to explore Durban and the rest of South Africa on Google Maps! Don't forget that you can click "Earth" to see a satellite view.

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