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A Bomb Cyclone Is One of Two Major Storms Walloping the U.S. Thanksgiving Week

Climate
A Bomb Cyclone Is One of Two Major Storms Walloping the U.S. Thanksgiving Week
A "bomb cyclone" hit the Oregon coast Tuesday evening. NWS, Medford, Oregon

Two major storms are already walloping the U.S. in time for Thanksgiving.


A winter storm that has already killed one moved from Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska into the Midwest Wednesday, while a "bomb cyclone" hit the Oregon coast Tuesday evening, according to an Associated Press story published by The Washington Post.

"This is an unprecedented storm given the track and strength and will bring very dangerous conditions to the area," the National Weather Service (NWS) in Medford, Oregon, said of the second storm, according to USA Today. "High winds and heavy snow is expected to impact the area."

The first storm unleashed nearly three feet of snow on Colorado and led to one death and two injuries when a tractor-trailer collided with two trucks near Vail, Colorado, the Associated Press reported. It also forced the Denver airport to cancel around 30 percent of its flights.

The storm is expected to heap a foot of snow on a region stretching from the Plains, to the upper Mississippi Valley, to the upper Great Lakes and northern Maine, and could disrupt airports along the way, NPR reported.

It is also predicted to unleash wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour in the Midwest and Ohio Valley region, according to NWS.

Wind from the storm system could even disrupt the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: its iconic balloons will have to be grounded if forecast 40-50 mile per hour wind gusts materialize, the Associated Press reported.

The second storm already set a record for the lowest pressure for the month of November Tuesday evening, when its central pressure bottomed out at 970 millibars, according to NWS.

"In general, the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm," The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang explained.

The storm strengthened through a process called bombogenesis, when a cyclone's pressure drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. Storms that accomplish this feat are referred to as "bomb cyclones." Medford NWS staffer Tom Wright said the air pressure of Tuesday's storm dropped even more quickly than that, according to an Associated Press story published by The Columbian.

The storm is now weakening, but it has already generated sustained winds of up to 85 miles per hour in parts of Oregon and up to 34 foot seas, according to the NWS. It has unleashed heavy rains on the coasts of Southwest Oregon and Northern and Central California and heavy snow in the mountains.


It has also led to the closure of roads in Southern Oregon because of downed trees and power lines and blizzard-like driving conditions, according to the Associated Press story published by The Washington Post.

"It's blowing pretty good outside but because we're right on the coast, everything was built to ensure the safety of people," Northern California hotel manager Angela Smith told the Associated Press.

She said her Oceanfront Lodge briefly lost power.

The climate crisis is increasing the risk of both winter storms and wind damage, according to Climate Signals.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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