The Eric Factor: If astronomers study the stars, why don’t Meteorologists study meteors?

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Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with the 5th Graders at Riverdale Elementary School in Port Byron, Illinois. What a great experience, especially considering this area was hard-hit by tornadoes just a week earlier. The school notified me beforehand that some of the students were directly impacted by the storms with one youngster losing his house. Luckily, they weren’t home when the tornado hit. But this begs the question “Are you ready the next time a Tornado Warning is issued?”

We had the opportunity to talk candidly about severe weather preparedness and what to do during severe weather. But also it was a chance to re-commit myself to this community, hit so hard by severe weather. We track storms at WQAD News 8…it’s why we work so hard. It’s important to get the forecast right ahead of time and track every tornado when it’s on the ground. Luckily, we have all the tools we need to keep everyone ahead of the storms. Thankfully, no one was killed in last night’s tornadoes. That is what’s most important. For that youngster, I offered some words of advice: “You made it. The stuff in your house different. But you can get new stuff. You’ll get a new room. But you can’t get a new family. So the fact that they are all together in a community that cares, you definitely beat this.”

Every school talk, I take one question to answer on the air. Here is today’s little tid bit from Lilly. She asks “Why is it called a ‘Meteorologist’ when you don’t study meteors?”

So the answer is totally Greek! Astronomy is Greek for the study of the stars. Meteorology is the study of the atmosphere. And did you know that the technical term for a raindrop is a "hydrometeor?" Yes! Rain, snow, and dew are all considered hydrometeors. So, Meteorologists do study meteors...just not the "shooting star" meteors that we usually think of.

Great question and a great visit! -Meteorologist Eric Sorensen