Indeed, the heavens, the elements, all the meteorological influences, have run riot for weeks past

weather04.jpg
In the paper edition of the May 2006 edition of Wired magazine one of their mini-articles is entitled Freaky Meteorological Phenomena in which they take a look at katabatic wind, pyroclastic flow, ball lightning, sprites, and raining frogs. This article may eventually find its way into the on-line edition, until then I thought I might put up the Long Goodbye version.
1. Katabolic wind

The wind that forms when a cold dense mass of air slides down a mountainside under gravity to the valley below is called a katabatic wind.

Its name comes from the Greek, ' kata' meaning downwards, and this type of wind can be found across all parts of the Earth.

….The most famous katabatic wind in Europe is the Mistral, which blows down the Rhone valley in southern France and out into the Mediterranean. It can become a very strong wind reaching speeds of 80 miles an hour as it funnels down over the Rhone delta and is generally at its strongest in winter and early spring.

But one of the strongest katabatic winds we experience on this planet blows in the Antarctic. Here the lowest layers of the air, sitting on some of the high plateaux, come into contact with the cold dense ice sheet. The air cools to very low temperatures and spills over the mountain ridges as a katabatic wind. These Antarctic winds have been measured at over 200 miles and hour and are some of the strongest winds measured on our planet at ground level, outside those in some tornadoes.

So imagine you're at the bottom of one of these mountains, its cold , the wind is blowing, but nothing you can't handle, suddenly instead of someone throwing a big bucket of freezing water on you a freezing wind ranging from 80 to 200 mph swopes down from the mountain. A riddle solved, so this is what its like to be a human popsicle.

2. Pyroclastic flow

Pyroclastic flows are high-density mixtures of hot, dry rock fragments and hot gases that move away from the vent that erupted them at high speeds. They may result from the explosive eruption of molten or solid rock fragments, or both. They may also result from the nonexplosive eruption of lava when parts of dome or a thick lava flow collapses down a steep slope. Most pyroclastic flows consist of two parts: a basal flow of coarse fragments that moves along the ground, and a turbulent cloud of ash that rises above the basal flow. Ash may fall from this cloud over a wide area downwind from the pyroclastic flow.

Pyroclastic, sounds like a toy made of some new polymer, except, "A pyroclastic flow will destroy nearly everything in its path. With rock fragments ranging in size from ash to boulders traveling across the ground at speeds typically greater than 80 km per hour, pyroclastic flows knock down, shatter, bury or carry away nearly all objects and structures in their way. "

3. Ball lightning. Tthere is some disagreement here as to whether this is a distinct phenomenon different from arch style lightning. Various personal accounts have tended to conflict and some very special conditions would have to come into play to produce an actual ball.

Difficult features of the lightning include its persistence and its near-neutral buoyancy in air. There has been no convincing laboratory demonstration of ball lightning, although in February 2006 Israeli scientists announced that they had created a short-lived effect using the same technology found in microwave ovens.

A popular hypothesis is that ball lightning is a highly ionized plasma contained by self-generated magnetic fields: a plasmoid. This hypothesis is not initially credible. If the gas is highly ionized, and if it is near thermodynamic equilibrium, then it must be very hot. Since it must be in pressure equilibrium with the surrounding air, it will be much lighter and hence float up rapidly. Magnetic fields, if present, might provide the plasmoid's coherence, but will not reduce this buoyancy. In addition a hot plasma cannot persist for long, because of recombination and heat conduction.

There is some more information here with quite a few links. As far as creating your own ball lightning in a microwave; make sure your homeowners insurance covers losses due to crazy personal experiments.

4. Sprites. They're the bright neon like show that we can sometimes see above a storm. The basics of sprites

Red sprites, which frequently occur in clusters of three or more, soar up to 59 miles (95 kilometers) into the atmosphere, above thunderstorms. Their flash is incredibly brief — just 3 to 10 thousandths of a second. The flashes expand to cover a wide area but are weak in electrical energy. Their brightest portions exist 40 to 45 miles (65 to 75 kilometers) up, above which wisps and glowing regions often extend.

Blue tendrils have been spotted extending below the sprites. These tendrils are not to be confused with blue jets — a separate phenomenon that shoots upward more slowly, and not as high.

Red sprites also have on occasion been preceded by lower-altitude flashes known as elves, which are produced by the widespread heating of the atmosphere, caused by lightning.

Grasping the extent of red sprites, and their physics, could bear on the understanding of upper atmospheric chemistry and even on high-energy particles known to affect satellites. Researchers also say there may be similar phenomena that occur above other planets, though interplanetary comparisons have not yet begun.

Photo and more info here.

5. Raining frogs. As in mixed with the wet stuff is some frogs raining down. Myth or fact. Apparently it has happened and has included other critters as well. Freak Incidents

Over the years all sorts of animals and plants have showered down during thunderstorms, possibly sucked up from rivers and lakes by tornadoes (or their watery equivalents – waterspouts) into thunderclouds and then dumped miles away in heavy rain. Tornadoes pick up anything they find in their path but some scientists think that many animals of the same type or size may fall during a storm because as the wind travels, heavier items will fall first. Then when the smaller items drop from the tornado, things that tend to weigh the same will drop together.Dozens of dead birds have occasionally been seen plummeting out of the sky, sometimes partly frozen. These poor animals were probably swept up high in the powerful updrafts of a thundercloud, then frozen like hailstones before gravity took over. Even stranger, a report in a 1930 issue of the magazine Nature tells us about a severe hailstorm in Vicksburg, U.S.A. where a gopher turtle, 6 inches by 8 inches, and entirely encased in ice, fell with the hail.

When is it ok to leak. When you're a conservative, when you're a conservative president, and apparently when you're conservative Senate Intelligence Committee Intelligence Cover-up Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas. Is There A Double Standard On Leak Probes?

But three years ago on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Roberts himself was involved in disclosing sensitive intelligence information that, according to four former senior intelligence officers, impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States.

On March 20, 2003, at the onset of military hostilities between U.S. and Iraqi forces, Roberts said in a speech to the National Newspaper Association that he had "been in touch with our intelligence community" and that the CIA had informed President Bush and the National Security Council "of intelligence information from what we call human intelligence that indicated the location of Saddam Hussein and his leadership in a bunker in the suburbs of Baghdad."

The former intelligence officials said in interviews that Roberts was never held accountable for his comments,….

These are not the best of times when the country's ruling party after looking up the word accountability in a dictionary would each stretch their head in dazed confusion.

Indeed, the heavens, the elements, all the meteorological influences, have run riot for weeks past. Such caprices, abruptest alternation of frowns and beauty, I never knew. It is a common remark that (as last summer was different in its spells of intense heat from any preceding it,) the winter just completed has been without parallel. It has remain’d so down to the hour I am writing. Much of the daytime of the past month was sulky, with leaden heaviness, fog, interstices of bitter cold, and some insane storms. But there have been samples of another description. Nor earth nor sky ever knew spectacles of superber beauty than some of the nights lately here. The western star, Venus, in the earlier hours of evening, has never been so large, so clear; it seems as if it told something, as if it held rapport indulgent with humanity, with us Americans.

from The Weather—Does It Sympathize with These Times? by Walt Whitman