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Current Exhibition

The Wicked Weather Around Us: Severe Weather in the Midwest

December 2012 – March 2013

How many times have you had a conversation about the weather with a complete stranger? The weather is a subject that brings us together because it affects our daily lives in so many ways. More than just causing the annoyance of a hot and humid day or a slippery drive in to work, however, weather patterns impact our country’s agriculture, ecosystems, civil infrastructure, tourism industry, transportation networks, and energy costs, to name just a few. And yet, it is a force that few understand and many spend their lives researching.

In honor of the National Weather Service’s annual “Severe Weather Preparedness Week,” this exhibit explores some of the main sources of weather woe/severe weather in the Midwest. Those of us who live here have no doubt experienced some of the most wicked weather our region has to offer—tornadoes, super-cell thunderstorms, floods, and drought are just a few of the major events that have impacted Iowa in the past few years.  While the power of these storms can be awe-inspiring, severe weather can pose one of the largest dangers to humans and can rack up billions of dollars in damage. For example, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2012 alone 5 different billion-dollar events affected the Midwest.1 As these events prove, wicked weather strikes close to home. This exhibit aims to teach us more not only about the types of severe weather that affect us, but also about safety and preparedness measures all of us can take in order to be ready when the next storm strikes.

Over hundreds of years the weather has inspired folklore, old wives’ tales, legends, and superstitions. Perhaps surprisingly, many of these contain a hint of truth or scientific evidence. Here are a few examples: 2

CRICKETS CHIRP FASTER WHEN IT’S WARM AND SLOWER WHEN IT’S COLD.

Crickets can indeed serve as thermometers. Tradition says that if you count the cricket’s chirps for 14 seconds and then add 40, you will obtain the temperature in Fahrenheit at the cricket’s location.

WHEN WINDOWS WON’T OPEN, AND THE SALT CLOGS THE SHAKER, THE WEATHER WILL FAVOR THE UMBRELLA MAKER!

Windows with wood frames tend to stick when the air is full of moisture. The moisture swells the wood, making windows and doors more difficult to budge. By the same token, salt is very effective at absorbing moisture, so it clumps together rather than pouring out. As moisture collects in the air, there is a greater likelihood of precipitation.

LIGHTNING NEVER STRIKES THE SAME PLACE TWICE.

This is one of the most famous weather sayings – and it’s wrong. Lightning not only can strike the same place twice, but it seems to prefer high locations. New York City’s Empire State Building, for example, is struck about 25 times every year.

1 http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events
2 http://www.erh.noaa.gov/rnk/Newsletter/Fall_2010/folklore.html

Acknowledgements

Exhibition Planning
Kari Kozak, Pam Kacena, Chris Childs

Production and Installation Assistance
Bill Voss

Graphic design
IMU Marketing + Design

The Main Library’s North Exhibition Lobby provides a distinctive venue to highlight the Libraries’ collections and provide outreach opportunities to the larger community. Exhibitions focus on topics consistent with the scholarly and cultural concerns of the University and draw them from the holdings of the Libraries, supplemented when appropriate with materials from other sources.