TV scrambled? Blame the atmosphere

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It can be frustrating when your favorite program/newscast isn’t coming in whether on your TV or radio. Many people in West Michigan experienced it Thursday morning and it can be blamed on the atmosphere.

Under normal atmospheric conditions the temperature cools with height. Sometimes during calm, clear nights the ground will cool faster than the air above it. This will create an area of warmer temperatures aloft, a term meteorologists refer to as an inversion.

In the diagram below (Skew-T) the red bar represents the temperature with respect to height. Note how there is a quick jog to the right with the temperature just above the surface. That shows the strong inversion that developed Wednesday night. That layer of warm air sandwiched between cool air can form a duct that the radio and/or TV signal will follow.

As a result this can sometimes make the signal propagate much further distances or a much smaller distance that will ultimately impact the quality of the signal you receive at home.

With a cold front moving in Thursday night the only thing that may impact your signal is what we call “rain fade” but we’ll save that topic for another day.

Profile of the atmosphere at 6 a.m. this morning
Profile of the atmosphere at 6 a.m. Thursday.

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