Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Something in the Air


The idea of substances or exhalations that fill the air and interfere to varying degrees with visibility came up on Tuesday’s program. Some of the terms are so close that they are practically synonyms. Physicists or meteorologists will be able to fill in the gaps.

  • cloud: a visible cluster of tiny water and/or ice particles in the atmosphere considerably above the surface of the earth. [Old Teutonic, a mass formed by agglomeration]
  • fog: a cloud based at the earth's surface consisting of tiny water droplets or, under very cold conditions, ice crystals or ice fog. It is generally found in calm or low wind conditions. [Welsh, thick dry grass]
  • fume: volatile solid particles formed by condensation from the gaseous state. They may have a strong smell and are sometimes dangerous to inhale. [Latin, smoke]
  • haze: fine dust or other particles dispersed through the atmosphere which reduce visibility. Haze is distinguished from fog by its bluish or yellowish tinge. [Perhaps Old English, gray]
  • mist: microscopic water droplets suspended in the air which produce a thin gray veil over the landscape. It limits visibility to a lesser extent than fog. [Greek, cloud or mist]
  • smog: pollution formed by the interaction of pollutants and sunlight, usually restricting visibility, and occasionally hazardous to health. It is normally found in urban areas. [Blend of smoke and fog]
  • smoke: a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases emitted when a material burns. [Old English, smoke]
  • steam: the gas phase of water. It is visible, and often white in color. [Old English, an exhalation]
  • vapor: a fluid that fills a space like a gas at a temperature lower than its critical temperature. This means that the vapor can be condensed to a liquid or to a solid by increasing its pressure without reducing the temperature. [Latin, steam]

Sidebar: Weather Glossary


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